This past week I went to see Enslaved play Terminal 5 in New York City. I’ve had similar experiences with shows in bigger and smaller venues before, but I mention this one specifically because I’m writing this article in lieu of a live review, which had been my original intent. Understand I don’t hold Terminal 5 or whoever owns it in any lower esteem for this having happened; it’s an issue of the larger culture much more than the actions of any person, place or corporation.
I’d been dying to see Enslaved. You might remember I interviewed their guitarist a couple weeks back in my column, The Heavy, and their album, Axioma Ethica Odini, is one of the best records I’ve heard this year. Catching them on their first US run supporting it was an absolute must.
They were playing with Dimmu Borgir, of whom I’ve never been a fan, as well as Blood Red Throne (meh) and Dawn Of Ashes (who?). Dimmu was headlining, so I figured I’d stay for a bit after Enslaved, see enough to mention the top billing in my review, then splittsville. I got out of class at eight in Newark, met a buddy of mine at his work in Weehawken, and into Manhattan we went, figuring 9 p.m. was the perfect time to catch Enslaved at the start of their set.
As I checked in, got my boozin’ wristband and received a not-at-all subtle squeezing of my gentlemanly bits from the security guard, I heard the strains of the title track of Enslaved’s 2004 opus, Isa. No way they’d open with it—it’s one of their biggest songs. Then I looked at the sheet of paper on the wall with the set times. They’d started at 8:10. “Isa” was their last song. I saw half of it.
Knowing what I know about the world of heavy metal tour cycles (i.e., they’ll be back), it’s hard for me to be completely heartbroken, but man, was I bummed to have missed that set. The show apparently got going at six, and as I was still sitting in Newark when Enslaved began their set, there was really nothing I could do, but it made me think about early shows and how they’ve really had an impact on concert culture in the US. There’s a big difference between a show that ends at 11 p.m. and a show that ends at 1 a.m.
Sure, it’s convenient for getting up and going to work the next day, but seriously, is rock and roll supposed to be convenient? Should I be thinking about what the weather’s going to be like tomorrow morning and whether or not I’ll have to bring an umbrella while trying to enjoy a band’s set? Isn’t the whole point of going to shows to get away from these mundane aspects of everyday life? And if you have to be out a little later, isn’t the memory all the more special for the sacrifices you made to make it happen? “Yeah man, I was so tired the next day I could barely keep my eyes open” sounds a lot more badass to me than, “I was home by 11:45 and took the garbage out.” Maybe I’m wrong on that one.
It reminds me of something Monster Magnet frontman Dave Wyndorf said when I interviewed him recently: “The laws here have become so stringent that a lot of the elements that make for exciting rock shows and make for very, very dedicated fans for the rest of their lives, are out of it. Volume. Decibel limits. They turned it down. Age restrictions. Times for shows. Getting DJs in later at night. They basically started to set up the system for convenience, which is what America’s all about. So all the elements that made for really passionate rock and roll fans were being taken away, and the music followed.”
Basically what it becomes is a question of whether or not you’re willing to put yourself out to see a band you supposedly feel strong enough about to leave the house. I’m not going to say, “Things were better when,” because that’s just not my style, but I can recall plenty of late nights and I have more fond memories than I can count of slumping over omelets at two in the morning on my way back from wherever. I’d gladly have taken another from Enslaved last week.
And if the choice is going to be between that kind of memory and showing up before nine o’clock and already missing the band I want to see, well, the answer seems obvious as far as I’m concerned.