Walking into the Austin 360 Amphitheatre as a photographer, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I’d been there many times before to attend shows, but this was my first opportunity to shoot there. Not a bad first gig shooting Every Time I Die, Mastodon, and the almighty Coheed and Cambria.
Every Time I Die opened the early show with a blistering set, tearing through tracks all over their discography. Looking like he had a point to prove, vocalist Keith Buckley bolted around the huge stage singing and screaming at the top of his lungs- at times smiling and at times grimacing, enticing the growing crowd to go crazy along with him. Not two songs in and the venue’s pit staff were already helping moshers and crowdsurfers safely over the barrier. The entire band looked and sounded amazing, and though it’s been a few years since I last saw them perform, I was nevertheless blown away with their intensity, musicianship, and raw talent.
It is a little embarrassing to say, but I had a limited knowledge of co-headliner Mastodon’s oeuvre going into this show. What I can say definitively is that this band blew my damn mind. Bassist and stage frontman Troy Sanders looked like a Metal God as he and guitarists, Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher; and drummer, Brann Dailor, ripped through an almost hour-long set. Something that really caught my attention was the effort each member made to connect with the audience on a personal level. It was beautiful. I saw smiling, fun, and joking around, all while masterfully navigating each song’s intricate structures and parts. It looked like a group of musicians that have mastered their craft and now enjoy nothing more than reaping those benefits in front of thousands of people. The energy was palpable. After the set, Dailor took the stage center mic and addressed the huge crowd directly, saying that it was actually a show in Austin where, after one of their very earliest sets as a band, they left the stage for the first time feeling like the audience got it, and liked it. Tonight, that would’ve been a most egregious understatement.
Closing the night was Coheed and Cambria. Full Disclosure: I fell in love with this band in 2001 and even learned one of their songs on acoustic guitar during my junior year of high school as a class assignment (Shout out Mrs. Creelman). I’ve seen Coheed perform in stadiums and I’ve seen them perform in small clubs. I say that to say this: I was really, really excited to shoot this band. And their set? It was glorious. Touring in support of their most recent album, “The Unheavenly Creatures”, Coheed opened their set with new material to get the crowd energized before unleashing a few tracks from the iconic album “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3”. Singer/guitarist Claudio Sanchez, known for his ability to play dizzying guitar parts while simultaneously performing counter-melodic vocals, was truly on another level. Putting down the guitar for a song to solely take on vocal duties, Sanchez effortlessly captured the energy and attention of the entire audience. The crowd roared after every song, dripping in sweat, fandom, nostalgia, and the want for one more song. Coheed and Cambria will be a band that I love until I’m old and gray, and their performance at this show is exactly why.