Review and Photos by David Feltman
The best concerts always include at least one surprisingly good band you’ve never heard of before. And by that standard, the Gojira/Devin Townsend Project show at The Masquerade on February 5th was a great show. The opening act, The Atlas Moth, was a complete question mark on the roster, but by the end of the set, the band had me heading to the merch table to look for their albums.
The band played a quick set between 30-to-45 minutes in near darkness. With nothing more than a little red tinted backlighting, The Atlas Moth used the lack of lighting like a sensory deprivation tank. Perhaps inspired by Devin Townsend’s own “metal ocean” concept or band’s like ISIS who have since expanded on the idea, The Atlas Moth’s brand of post metal played like squalls and crashing waves. The biggest surprise came from the way the band toyed with the notion of “voice as instrument” by filtering yelps and screams through looping and echoing effects, creating layer upon layer of heavy ambient sound.
A headliner in his own right, the Devin Townsend Project was next on the night’s lineup. Always the consummate showman, Townsend kept the audience entertained even while his crew was setting up. Obscure YouTube videos and repurposed movie posters featuring amusingly unflattering pictures of Townsend were projected on a screen over the stage. The strange slide show kept concertgoers guffawing until curtain time.
Townsend is an act that must be seen live. He goofs and mugs for the fans between songs, but he also conducts and commands his audience in any manner he pleases, from sing alongs to mass “jazz hands.” His stage presence is electric and it’s impossible to resist his massive energy. Everything about his show has been carefully crafted around crowd interaction and to that end, Townsend is one of the most generous and obliging artists you could hope to see in person.
Despite being quite visibly exhausted and dripping in sweat, Townsend hopped up on top of the barrier and worked his way slowly across the audience from right to left until every extended hand was shook and every question and compliment had been addressed.
Where as Townsend’s set was imbued with passion and gusto, Gojira’s set was utter savagery. The audience wasn’t so much warmed up as over heated by the time Gojira went on. A fog of sweat hung discernibly below the rafters three songs into the set. True to the savage child of Gojira’s new album title, many of the males stripped off their shirts despite the cool February weather outside. The crowd was a sea of bobbing and flailing limbs. Bodies surfed over the top and collided with the photographers beyond the barrier. One young man, holding his long hair back, took a few steps vomited on the floor, took a few more steps, vomited again. The methodical dipping of his head between steps appeared to be in time with Gojira’s trudging tempos. Another young girl, who couldn’t have weighed more than 90 lbs., took three long, hard drags off of a joint before collapsing unconscious into the arms of a stranger.
Whether the result of youthful excess or madness motivated by the band’s tribal rhythms, the audience was radiating wild amounts of energy. After “Oroborus,” Gojira cooled the crowd down with Mario Duplantier’s drum solo before wrapping up the last two-to-three songs of the show.
The band closed with “Vacuity” and saved “Gift of Guilt” as an encore. The fatigued audience deflated like an old birthday balloon as the show ended. Someone presented Joe Duplantier with a large “Thank You” poster and there was a moment of shared, albeit weary, appreciation between artist and audience. This is a show with no weak spots, no low points and guarantees that you will come away tired, sweaty and satisfied.