Wooly Mammoth @ the Talking Head

This review is a little late. Sorry. I’ve got another one sitting and waiting in the wings, that will hopefully be up shortly.

Wooly Mammoth doesn’t play nearly enough shows in the area. The DC-hailing rockers come up here once a month during a good stretch; and part of that is due to their self-imposed sabbatical starting late 2007.

Since then, they’ve emerged for a few scant shows in DC.  I’ve had their debut LP The Temporary Nature in intermittent rotation since I first got my hands on it over a year ago, and the moon and stars had yet to align and allow me to experience them live.

Their performance at the Talking Head June 23 was to be my first exposure and I had high expectations.  A number of things conspired to prevent these from being met.

The first was the abysmal attendance.  By all indications only a few dozen people showed up and stuck around for Wooly Mammoth’s set.  And that’s being optimistic.

Secondly, half the crowd were either friends, acquaintances or other band members.  This does not bode well…

Third, and finally, the band’s performance was sub-par.  This was due in part to a bit of indignation (lead singer Zac Eller jeered at the small crowd, poking and prodding in a clear and vain attempt get a rise or burst of energy out of them), and a bit of self-indulgence.  Playing to what seemed a roomful of friends led to some odd, clichéd and machismo-filled jams taken straight out of the mediocre modern metal playbook.

I say all this because there is little doubt these guys are mammoth musicians (forgive the pun and alliteration).  When things went right, and the band was into it, the alchemy of psych-and-blues drenched heavy metal and rock found on their recorded output was realized and built upon with live urgency and electricity.  Feeling the grooving, galloping bass line laid down by Jason Daniloski and driving drums of Phil Adler, soaking in the acid-fueled scorched earth visions constructed by Eller’s soaring, tastefully reverbed and enhanced vocals and thrashing, sludging, distorted guitars.  They work best when approaching metal and hard rock through the lens of soulful blues and expansive psych; and it truly is a fantastic product.

Unfortunately on this night, the approach took a back seat to a bit of self-indulgence and stereotypical modern metal tendencies.  But these guys made it through with an above average performance, despite the clichés weighing them down. That should say something…hopefully next time, they’ll get the audience they deserve, and play the show they are capable of, blowing me away in the process.  Looks like the next chance is when they open up for Baltimore’s own sludge-and-doom masters OAK, again at the Talking Head, July 24th.

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One Response to “Wooly Mammoth @ the Talking Head”

  1. the grid says:

    that’s a shame no one showed. They are definitely capable of putting on a good show as I’ve seen it.

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