Periphery rocking the Majestic - photo by Sal Serio
Often, I have unease and doubts when a metal show is brought to Madison, as far as whether there truly is an audience that will turn out to show their support. Especially if it’s a progressive and mega-heavy band, as opposed to the more generic pop-metal heard on the radio. The Periphery concert at the Majestic provided some welcome relief to this trend, in both the music’s challenging aesthetic, and the solid turnout there to appreciate it.
The openers of the four-band bill, Toothgrinder, from the Boss’ homeland of Asbury Park, New Jersey, had the mosh pit active from the get-go. Their 25 minute set was defined by indiscernible lyrics growled out to fairly aggressive and intellectual metal riffs, which at times resembled a soundtrack to a European horror film. Their singer spent ample time crowd surfing the audience, and their short but energetic set ended with an opus that showcased an instrumental section colored with Santana or reggae overtones.
Intervals, hailing from both the Toronto and Baltimore areas, showed more diversity in their approach. For starters, there was no bass player. Instead, impressive drummer Anup Sastry wore headphones to cue up to bass and atmospheric backing ambiance, courtesy of a click track programmed in to the mix. Intervals had much more melody to their set, and their two guitars sometimes chimed in on duel leads in the “New Wave Of British Heavy Metal” vein. The overall sound of Intervals was sparse and less “angry” than the other bands on this bill, and I felt their showing benefited from those qualities… even though they also played for a mere 25 minutes.
In between the opening bands, really bad 80s music like Glenn Frey played on the P.A. during changeovers. The sound guy must have thought he was a real cut-up. Third up to bat, The Contortionist, were rewarded with a 40 minute set, but truthfully, they were my least favorite of the night. With a fairly large ensemble (singer, two guitarists, bass, drums, and keyboards) they just seemed to mine the same emo-meets-crust territory over and over again. The vocalist couldn’t decide whether he wanted to be a whiner or the cookie monster, and one song even started with a note-perfect U2 jangly-type guitar riff. Oh well, at least their merch guy seemed to like it! However, most of the crowd seemed as bored as I was, save for a couple of amped-up meatheads right up in front of the band.
Washington D.C.’s Periphery was without doubt the reason why everyone was in the room, and after the road crew ensured everything on stage was set up to exact specifications, the six-piece, twelve-armed juggernaut known as Periphery hit the stage in a blaze of decibels and blinding strobe lights. Oddly, enough, it was only 10:00 (but granted, a Sunday night) and I’d say the turnout was down to maybe 200 faithful followers by this point in the evening. Band leader and acclaimed producer Misha Mansoor stood in front of the stage, house right, usually head down, concentrating on his guitar work, and typically more in the shadows than the spotlight. Singer Spencer Sotelo made tracks all over the Majestic’s stage, keeping the audience in the front trenches engaged and entertained throughout the aggressive and extremely loud set. The Majestic’s space often seemed too small for this act. I hope that the next time through, the band gets to play an open-air festival in a night-time setting, where their talents can convert more heavy music aficionados. Periphery live up to their reputation as a band that breaks the mold, and mixes up the metal their own way. Look for many more good things to come from this impressive young musical group.