Article & Photos by Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
The first time I went to see a concert at the famous Hollywood Palladium in Hollywood, Calif., I saw heavy metal icons Lamb of God and Anthrax. From the outside, the Palladium did not look that big. When I stepped into the venue, I was astounded by its breathtaking architecture and its huge stage setting. Not only that, I was amazed at how many people go there to enjoy music. So much music history has taken place at the Hollywood Palladium. This is the same concert hall where they filmed the final concert scene in the hit comedy, The Blues Brothers, and where Megadeth shot a concert, where they played their classic album, Rust In Peace, in its entirety for its 20th anniversary since its release. On April 20th, 2017, I made the trip back there to see one of my all time favorite metal groups, Mastodon. Touring with Russian Circles and Eagles of Death Metal, metalhead were ready to lose their minds.
First to hit the stage was Chicago, Illin., instrumental heroes, Russian Circles. I did not know much about this band except that they are a three piece post-metal band, who is very complex and eclectic. They are very talented musicians who effectively transported the fans into another dimension with their sound. Guitarist Mike Sullivan leads the charge with some very weird riffs, but they are very exhilarating. I could take my eyes off of bassist Brian Cook and his hypnotic beats, along with drummer David Turncrantz and his solid drum kicks. Russian Circles uses a light setting on the bottom of the stage to give them a silhouette look. That was actually clever and mysterious. As bands have increased years behind them, belting out the tunes, evolution is not an exclusive thing to only a few. It will be interesting to see just how Russian Circles hones their craft in the future. I cannot deny their gift for challenging the audience to look beyond the forum of standard heavy metal with songs like “Afrika” and “Deceit.” Given Mastodon’s reputation for embracing the bizarre, Russian Circles fits into their agenda.
Eagles of Death Metal are one of those groups I have been curious about for some time. Led by the charismatic Jesse Hughes, he comes strutting out to the stage wear a white suit with red suspenders. The desert rockers of Palm Desert, Calif., started things off with their classic hit, “I Only Want You.” Hughes has a smooth voice the soothed every metal soul in the building. Mastodon’s own Brent Hinds joined them on stage to play the solo for song, and he killed it. The touring company for Eagles of Death Metal included guitarist Dave Catching. Looking like Santa Claus, this guitar plays like Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, just very suave and devilish energetic. Bassist Jennie Vee plucked on some cool bass beats, especially on “Silverlake (K.S.O.F.M.).” This band has been through a lot in the past couple years, including being inside the club in Paris, France that was attacked by terrorists 2015. It is rewarding to see that despite experiencing that horrendous ordeal, their rock ‘n’ roll spirit was very much alive and kicking. The best song was “Stuck in the Metal,” which featured a guest appearance by songstress Elle King. Now that I have seen them, the heroes of the desert rock scene have peaked my interest.
Now came out the band that I have not seen since 2014. The mighty Mastodon poured out their guts to the crowd with the opener from their new album, Emperor of Sand, entitled “Sultan’s Curse.” Bassist Troy Sanders and Hinds preached to the congregation with roaring vocals. The both of them and drummer Brann Dailor took turns sharing singing duties. Hinds was spellbinding every time he would bust a new solo. Rhythm guitarist Bill Kelliher was propelling out killer guitar licks that made me air guitar to what he was playing. Dailor crushed it with his impeccable drumming technique. What made their performance unique was that they performed a grand total of 22 songs, 8 from their newest record. Even though a majority of the songs were from Emperor of Sand, they did a good job mixing it up with their older records. From “Chimes at Midnight” to “The Wolf Is Loose,” Mastodon put on a flawless performance. Even their radio friendly, “Show Yourself,” sounded good live. The fans reaction to the new songs being played live was staggering. Unlike the last time I saw them play, they actually used some light screens that would play colorful sequences with each new song. It was like taking an acid trip for me. They have not lost their touch.
I was fortunate to capture took some amazing shots of these amazing bands that night. Mastodon stampeded the audience with some exceptional progressive metal. Eagles of Death Metal entertained the night with their blend of desert rock and garage rock. It was good to see them, and the fans made them aware that they were loved and respected. Russian Circles was definitely the oddball group of the night, but it was still interesting experience getting to know what their sound is like. The Hollywood Palladium came alive with excitement, in response to some great musicianship. If fans of rock music or any music in general are seeking a high-quality venue to attend, then I would recommend the Palladium. To Mastodon and friends, I salute you. Horns up!!!