Gig Report: Carcass, Crowbar, Ghoul, Night Demon
Granada Theater, Lawrence, KS on July 17th, 2016. The dog days of summer can be grueling in the midwest, when the air is so chokingly thick with humidity that there is seemingly no place to hide from it. This is a time period when the earth is so scorched and disgusting that living underground seems like a good idea. You become a sluggish sack of goop, everyone reeks of sweat and body odor, and doing anything outdoors (even breathing) sucks. Appropriately, this is exactly when kings of rot Carcass chose to come to Kansas, on the very first stop of their One Foot in the Grave tour, along with support from Crowbar, Ghoul, and Night Demon.
The Granada Theater in Lawrence, Kansas, is a cozy but substantial 1000-capacity venue that usually fills up quickly and tightly for popular acts (Amon Amarth and Entombed A.D. played there to a sickeningly large crowd recently), so it was a little surprising not to see a long line of people filing into the place just before the show started, especially on a weekend. Maybe the heat was too much to bear (at 7:30 pm it was still 95 degrees and swampy). Maybe the threat of Monday’s long claws frightened off potential showgoers, or on the flipside, maybe it was still too early for people to care. Whatever the reasons, The Granada was way less full than it should have been when the bands started.
California traditionalists Night Demon opened the show. They were an interesting choice for the One Foot in the Grave lineup, being a lot less extreme than their tour mates. With an early set time and a severe lack of people standing before them, they ripped into their set with “Ritual,” and mesmerized, confused people flocked to the stage post haste (“bro I thought we were at a fuckin’ Carcass gig, why is Elvis up there singin’ Judas Priest”). Their mean, Motörhead-meets-Priest vibe translated perfectly onstage, genuine and contagious, and their sound didn’t suffer from it. They played themselves into a sweaty frenzy and people dug it, especially when mascot Rocky made his appearance during “The Chalice” and drenched people up front with presumably booze and not bodily fluids. While Night Demon’s spot as opener on the tour package kept their set short, they were perfectly placed for getting the show off to a lively start.
After a short and humid wait, and following an intro from a weirdo paperboy, Ghoul hit the stage next with trademark bloody sacks over their heads, and kicked right into “Ghoulunatics” from their new album, the aptly-titled Dungeon Bastards. It was then that The Granada learned the meaning of splatterthrash: while the Ghouls thrashed onstage, a fine mist of blood spurted out from the paperboy (who had obviously pissed them off), and things got weird and fun fast. A bevy of GWAR-like monsters soon made their way onto the stage, coming and going throughout the set, stomping around and mocking society (including a disgusting mutant Bernie Sanders clone named Bernie Fussbottom, who sadly lost his guts), dripping entrails and oozing gore as they went. Ghoul tore through filthy tunes like “Brain Jerk” and “Off With Their Heads” with surprising ease, battling the creatures relentlessly, and it made for a killer (no pun intended…maybe) time. Ghoul were surely the crowd favorites at that point, and everyone close to the stage left with blood stains as souvenirs.
Direct support for Carcass was Crowbar. They’ve been around for close to three decades and thus deserved respect and a preferable spot on the lineup. But once they started playing their slow, angular, angrily hypnotic Southern sludge, it was pretty apparent that the momentum built up by Night Demon and then Ghoul had run its course. The vibe that they brought to the Granada was completely different from that emanated by their tour companions, but that was probably the whole point of the package. I’ll admit that I have secretly never been able to get into Crowbar, but I kept an open mind going into their set, because the older I get the more jaded and cynical I become and the more really heavy shit appeals to me. I was not disappointed, though maybe a bit sleepy. Their heavy riffs and anguish were palpable, and despite my previous ideas about their sludginess, I couldn’t help but be a little into it, especially once they played the super-somber “Planets Collide.” The sheer heft of their music was enough to incite the first proper mosh pit of the night, too. A young boy near the stage sat on his dad’s shoulders during their set, wearing giant ear mufflers and wide eyes, looking like he might have been a little terrified but also enjoying himself. He essentially summed it all up: terror and pleasure at the same time.
The arrival of Carcass onstage was much anticipated, and the lower part of the venue was essentially out of breathing room by the time the lights dimmed. Intro “1985” came on and the gods of grind graced the stage, quickly sweeping the crowd up with “Unfit for Human Consumption,” from 2013’s Surgical Steel. It was obvious right away that they were in fine form: the signature Carcass fluid riffs and punctuated crunch flowed forth freely, accented by perfectly nasty vocals and solid drumming, courtesy of Jeff Walker and Bill Steer and Co. The sound in the venue was better than expected and Walker’s stage banter could actually be understood. At one point, he pulled a shirtless stage diver to the mic and demanded he sing along with “Keep on Rotting in the Free World.” Unfortunately for this guy, he didn’t know the song and had no sense of rhythm, which made for a painful but amusing interlude. The rest of the set contained a pretty even distribution of tracks from each album (with the exception of Reek of Putrefaction), including “Incarnated Solvent Abuse” and “Heartwork” among others, and everything was true to its original form. Carcass closed the show with “Carneous Cacoffiny,” said their thank you’s, threw some picks into the crowd, and then bid the audience farewell. It was a really satisfying ending to a great show.
If you get the opportunity to see the One Foot in the Grave tour this summer, do it. Don’t miss out; you’ll regret it if you do. The stop at the Granada was a great gathering of diverse bands (within heavy metal, if that means anything at all) and probably one of the best shows of the summer. So get your tickets, head out to your local venue, and for god’s sake — be respectful of the bands who’ve come so far to play for you and put your phones away while they’re standing right in front of you. The Pokemon will be there later, I promise.