Gig Report: Nile (San Francisco, California)

What happens when you discover a new band? You go see them play — that’s what. Noel Holmes discovered Nile and soon found himself at one of their live shows back in March 2013. This is what happened.

by Noel Holmes

The first time I had ever heard of Nile, I was hanging out in a corporate office, involved in a meaningless work discussion. As the obligatory water cooler smiles concluded, I walked over to the section of the office that offered infinite Clif bars for free, and ran into Teeth’s well-known metal journalist: Jordan Itkowitz.

“Dude – the new Nile album just came out! I want to get it, but I don’t have time to pick it up!” he exclaimed in a panic.

I wasn’t sure why it was necessary to purchase a CD in the real world, rather than iTunes, but I offered to stop by the record store later that day. Once inside Rasputin, I went straight to the “Metal” section, but the new Nile album was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, this was merely an excuse for me to hit on one of the employees. I searched around for the girl with the greatest number of piercings, and made my move.

Nile? What is that?” Is that the whole name of the band?” she asked, clicking her plastic-covered mouse and typing things on the keyboard.

“It’s a metal band,” I said, attempting to exert the required levels of confidence and comfort, “they’re pretty legit. I think they’re from Europe,” I said, pretending to be completely uninterested in the interaction.

She found nothing. Neither the band, nor the album album were in the database. I walked away without the CD. For a moment, I was afraid that I would have to go without hearing the album, before realizing I could buy it on my phone, instantly. Through modern technology, I would have the chance to pass through the Gate of Sethu while riding the train home. This was when my indoctrination began.

A few months later, the announcement was made that Nile would be coming to San Francisco. I informed Jordan, but due to his lifestyle, he was forbidden from partaking in the sacred art of devil worship and self-pain infliction. Instead, I found a local fan, and offered to buy them a ticket in exchange for holding my camera for a few songs while I fought in the mosh pit.

The night of the show came quickly. At the exact time the show was supposed to start, a group of dudes with curly hair and beer bellies hit the stage and began playing generic “Mosh now!” songs. Since no opening band was announced, I assumed that this was Nile.

I walked over to the merch booth and attempted to make conversation with the young, attractive woman that slouched behind a stack of 12 extra large black t-shirts.

“SO, IS THIS NILE?!??!!?” I asked, attempting to yell over the atonal 16th notes of the rhythm guitarist.

“What?! No! This isn’t Nile!” she exclaimed, almost offended. I guess I blew my cover.

The opening band, which I couldn’t find the name of, continued to play their repetitive riffs until they stopped to make an announcement.


“For those of you who remember us, we have been around since the TRUE days of metal, back when…”


This point, they proceeded to name drop a few bands which I presumed were important during the early era of metal, though I elected not to pay attention. I came here to hear music (well, actually, to take photographs), not to hear a history lesson.

“Yeah, we used to play with…” they continued on, name dropping more bands which were probably embossed on the patches of half the crowd, which was cheering vociferously at the announcement.

Then, they continued to talk even more.

“Yeah, two guys in our band are dead. That’s because we… we… we….. we PUT THE DEATH IN DEATH METAL!”

That’s cool – I guess? Maybe? I don’t know. They didn’t really put that into any context. From their point of view, having people in your band die makes you death metal. Can’t argue with that. I guess.

“Now we’re gonna play some NEW STUFF that was actually written in the last ten years!” they yelled. I wouldn’t sure if they were being intentionally ironic, or if something written within the last ten years was actually new to them.


Finally, they stopped playing and said their “Thank you! Now buy things!” speech, and the real work began.


The setup took an inordinate amount of time. Rows of guitars were lined up on the stage, as if they were disposable. Computer monitors were placed at the front of the stage to manage electronic elements, and a giant, Egyptian-themed drumset was placed upon an elevated platform.



The 4-piece stepped out casually; no fanfare or acting was involved. Their faces held the charismatic smiles that you generally only see from those friends of yours that say they are “living life to the fullest” and mean it. Without attempting to be dark and evil, or bad and sexy, they stepped out, beerbellies hanging out without tension, and began to play.


Everything was forgotten. Immediately, one could notice that the digital output from the pre-recorded electronic elements was perfect. It filled the concert hall with a haunted, echoing theme that inspired both silence and reverie.



In regards to lighting, sound, and musician performance, the entire production was without error. The band continued on as local musicians in the audience made insightful comments along the lines of “YEAH ITS PRETTY GOOD,” and “THESE GUYS ARE GOOD AT PLAYING GUITAR.”


The performance consisted of orchestrated elements that rose and fell with the music. At the peak of intensity, the performers would tense up in zen-like focus, picking at advanced solo melodies at a speed beyond measurement. Between the high moments of rock intensity, electronically lead soft sections would serenade the audience into a trance, the lights dark and dim.


Letting my dress-code-appropriate guitarist friend hold my camera for a moment, I gave into the resistance to join the center of the pit. Fighting against metal heads, misled teenage girls, and backwards-cap bros, I dodged, rolled, slammed, gyrated, and banged my body into complete and total exhaustion as Nile maintained their enthusiasm. Strangely, a part of myself hoped that they would notice me. Photographers can be a nuisance to performers sometimes, and I wanted them to know that was giving my all to support them.

The overall experience was satisfyingly lengthy. Playing through a large selection of songs, Nile gave the audience an experience that was well worth their money. That, and Slim’s also offers free water at a cooler in the back of the room. Win!


Set List:



  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    crap I should have gone to this… entertainng read, Noel

  2. Commented by: Shockwave

    Wow, this story raises more questions than it answers.

  3. Commented by: Rigid

    This story was a waste of time

  4. Commented by: Broaden City

    …haven’t heard of Nile, or any of their music. Interesting.

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