By Rosie Walker
(photos by Brian Wyner)
February 18th 2017, The Warehouse, Clarksville TN: Clarksville, the fifth largest city in Tennessee, is known for being quaint and rather historic. Yet the town draws more than just antique shoppers. In the last couple of years, The Warehouse has become a prominent venue that hosts a lot of heavy metal acts. Though Trip Advisor only rates the venue at #7 out of the fifteen bars in Clarksville; it is a pillar that supports the Tennessee and Kentucky heavy music scene. Saturday night was a prime example.
The ‘Conformicide’ tour is conjured of three bands from California, Colorado, and New York. Though they all march under the banner of thrash metal, this line-up. being from different parts of the country, makes for a more dynamic show. On Saturday, the Bud Light was flowing and everyone was on their second pack of Marlboros when local band Corpus Malum took the stage. (Maybe that’s why they’re rated at #7, because you instantly smell like an ashtray when you walk into the joint). Playing 5 minutes over their scheduled slot didn’t stop the Kentuckian metal outfit from taking their precious time to get off stage. But no one was in a rush that night. Even the sound guy seemed to be floating in his own little world while the touring acts, after sizing up the small crowd, decided not to care that much. It’s a humble venue with a capacity of 500 people. It shouldn’t take 25 minutes for a change over, but that’s exactly what happened.
Extinction A.D. acted like they wanted to be anywhere else but The Warehouse. A dark cloud seemed to be hovering above the stage when a dramatic narrative came through the speakers as their “edgy” intro, and with no other platitudes, the band ripped into their first number, diving deep into pools of angst and fury. The crowd slowly started to jive with these guys from New York. The tension from the long delay seemed to be appeased, but after the second song, singer and guitar player Rick Jimenez, announced they’d just be playing two more songs. It was obvious they were frustrated and decided to take it out on the crowd by playing only 20 minutes. The attendees were gracious, but disappointed. When they asked for more, Jimenez quickly swatted down the possibility and proceeded to lecture the front row on how horrible things were running. Not standing close enough to hear the heated conversation, it was still pretty clear he wasn’t using family friendly language. Extinction A.D. exited the stage and left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.
The next changeover trudged on forever and we twiddled our thumbs till Exmortus could come save us. The lack of communication between the bands and house was comical. For over 20 minutes the crowd endured the agonizing radio rock blasting through the speakers as the ‘professional’ sound guy attempted to ‘set up’ for the next act. Just before 10 PM, Exmortus finally strummed their opening cord, instantly making it worth the wait worth. The small crowd excitedly gathered in the front and were surprisingly vocal with their constant cheering. These West Coast boys are an act to see live. They got up there loaded and ready to fire. The fervent dueling guitars of Jadran Gonzalez and David Rivera memorize and enchant. The flawless fluidity of their playing provoked the crowd to engage and enjoy. Their shredding soared meticulously and the pride they take in delivering their craft was evident. Their exquisite piece ‘Moonlight Sonata’ confirms that Exmortus is a classic ‘pump up’ band. With fists high, Jadran screams ‘Tennessee’ in the mic and everyone responds with cries of amusement. Their genuine love of jamming fed the crowd. In their transparency it was exceptional to see the fans and the band enjoy the music together. The sad looking dudes who sat at the bar all night actually got off their stools and watched in fascination. Witnessing their furious flying fingers as they caressed their instrument strings was hypnotizing to say the least. Exmortus sets themselves apart by the perfection they put into their craft. These fellas display such substance and heart that unlike the band right before them, everyone had huge smiles on their face when Exmortus got done playing.
Then we waited for the headliners Havok. We stood restless while digesting the goodness we just consumed. A ‘prompt’ 25 minutes later, the lights dimmed once again. After their movie trailer music intro, Havok slung into song. They kicked up the crowd’s attention with their deliberant drive and delivery. Though a little clumsy, the band took hold of the audience with their constant crushing of thunderous thrash. Beer bottles stacked on the amps may have been a sign why they got a little sloppy, but they were obviously having fun which seemed to make it okay. The band saluted Slayer with their old school thrash vibe warping it with this cool relaxed enthusiasm. The crowd became even more engaged when vocalist/guitarist David Sanchez decided to abrasively share his thoughts on politics and religion. The zero concern about being ‘politically correct’ made for a entertaining, refreshing performance. Half way through their set, bass player Nick Schendzielos left the stage. The rest of the band told terrible jokes and half played AC/DC’s ‘TNT’ to fill in the time while he was gone. So many questions were raised when he came back minutes later. David, who already proved he likes to run his mouth, had nothing to say when it came to his bass player leaving and stopping the show for 10 minutes. Yet we moved on and were quickly distracted with the band playing new material off their upcoming album ‘Conformicide’. Their single “Hang Em’ High” was a huge hit, bringing the energy level of the place to a new high. After a few songs in, the stack of beer bottles got impressively large and the later it got, the slower the band went. From just aimlessly talking or fumbling over tuning their instruments, Havok proved to be the ultimate ‘chill’ band. They decided to take more than 2 minutes in between songs which kind of killed everybody’s metal buzz. It was a weird night, but overall generally enjoyable. The band ended after playing just 50 minutes. Yet they did seem to be genuinely grateful that the crowd stuck around.
A lot of people left that night scratching their heads, but things never run perfectly at a live show, right? It would just be boring if that were the case, and last Saturday night was far from boring. When things go wrong, it reminds us that no one is foolproof. The music happened, and thrash was enjoyed by all. That, at the end of the day, is what matters.
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