Godspeed You! Black Emperor @ Rams Head Live

BALTIMORE, MD—A chance to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor live has been a dream of mine ever since I was turned on to them by a good friend of mine. In the very beginning weeks of the springtime, my dear girlfriend sent me a picture she took off her computer with an update saying that GYBE would be performing as a reunion in early October, and I nearly vomited with excitement. There were three shows brought to my attention that they would be playing, and she surprised me one night with tickets to their Baltimore show.

Upon my arrival to the venue in MD after a four-hour drive, I went right for the merch table and found that the rumors were true: GYBE have recorded and produced a new record without anybody knowing about it. I immediately purchased it on vinyl because the only way it was available at the time was on wax and you had to get it at their show. With hopes that they would be debuting some of the new material live, I made my way as close to the front of the stage as possible.

The opener was good, but I simply couldn’t care less. All I wanted was to see Godspeed play. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. As I was standing there next to some guy swapping stories of all the great bands I had seen this past summer, the lights suddenly went out in the venue. A very deep and dark drone progressively got louder, and I realized that it was the exact same sound heard in the beginning of one of their early records, F# A# Infinity. I expected to hear one of my favorite tunes, but boy was I wrong!

Godspeed opened the set up with a new track. My jaw dropped and I could not believe what was going on in front of me. The song was just one huge build up, done in the typical Godspeed way. After the opening track they played what was probably one of the best songs ever written by them. The voice of an old man came through the speakers reciting an adage about Coney Island, and they started playing “Murray Ostril: ‘….They Don’t Sleep Anymore On The Beach.’” This song was actually a huge disappointment for me. It’s not that they played it poorly or that it sounded off, but they cut out the whole end of the track. To me, the ending of that song is the best part, and I felt like it was robbed from me. After the minor setback, some more new songs were played. The one that got me the hardest was “Mladic.” This song has a breakdown and an ending that crushes so hard that even listening to it as I write this review has me in tears. The set ended with another older piece in “East Hastings.” I’ve only dreamed of what this song would be like live. Thanks to GYBE, those dreams kind of came true. Everything was passionate and constructed in such a beautiful manner that it sent chills up my spine. Once all of the crescendos came to their peak at the end—watching two guitarists play with screwdrivers to my left and another hunched over his instrument rocking harder than ever to my right— the sound exploded and winded down.

I left the venue knowing there was no way in hell they would do an encore after such an intense set. Godspeed played five songs that night, and it took up nearly three hours. Although my back and my legs were destroyed from standing still the entire time, my heart and ears were throbbing for more. I thank my lucky stars that I got to see such life-changing musicians in the flesh, and that I was able to take home a piece of their hard, long-awaited work with me on vinyl. Thanks again for an amazing evening Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and as they say in your homeland, au revoir!