This was a tour that I was excited about as soon as I heard about it, but for the first time, it was for the opening bands, not the headliner. I've been a Devin Townsend fan for about five years now, but had never been able to make it to a show when he was in Chicago with either The Devin Townsend Band or Strapping Young Lad. In those five years, Townsend had become one of my favorite musicians. I've gotten into Cynic and Scale the Summit fairly recently, but both were touring on really good albums and both had some serious potential to put on a great show, so I was really excited to see them too. Between the Buried and Me wasn't really on my radar, so I figured if they were good, it was just a bonus. If not, I had no complaints about dropping $27 ($15 plus Ticketbastard fees.... yes, I'm serious) just to see StS, DTP, and Cynic at the House of Blues.
We got to the House of Blues about 4:30, doors opened at 5:00, and we were inside by about 5:10. I saw Black Label Society in 2005 at the Chicago House of Blues, but I had forgotten how small it was. With as small as the floor is at the HoB, we decided just to stand back in the corner of the main floor. That way we weren't near the moshpits (I can't stand moshing... what's the point?) nor right next to the PA, as I was just getting over some ear ringing and didn't want to have that happen again. After making two quick trips to the bar (including the soon to be traditional shot of Jagermeister), we were ready for the show to begin. The House of Blues has a no camera policy, so no photos from this one.
Scale the Summit began promptly at 5:30. They're an instrumental band from Austin, Texas. They played for a half an hour, and were great. All the members in the band (two guitars, bass, and drums) are pros on their instruments. I don't remember the songs that they played (I listen to their albums while I'm working, so I'm not conscious of song titles), but I was impressed. They do some really intricate harmonies, and both guitarists are very capable of soloing. They didn't have a ton of stage presence, but that is to be expected considering the style of music.
Up next was The Devin Townsend Project. Under normal circumstances, Devin Townsend could have easily headlined this show. However, with his two years out of the touring business, he wanted to get back into it slowly. Devin is a goof, and I'm not sure that the people in the audience who weren't familiar with him were quite ready for it. He started off his set by saying that the audience was in for "30 straight minutes of pure, unadulterated nerdcore," before going into to a heavied up version of Disruptr (from another show). After that, the band went into Supercrush! with Devin handling the verses, and singing it flawlessly (studio cut). He did this because Anneke Van Giersbergen, who sang on the album, didn't go on tour. One of the things that Devin likes to do is make fun of the crowd (and the stereotypical metalhead), and it was at this point that he pointed out that "there were 10 men to every man" in the crowd and that the next song was dedicated to the "Ladies.... all six of you out there." This was Kingdom (studio cut), which had myself and Bruno looking in amazement at each other on how good the drums sounded. It was easily the most brutal drum sound I've ever heard live. They cut right the mix and were loud, but crystal clear. The guy on the mixing board was AWESOME! Next was Truth (live in '99), which got me chuckling with some of the faces Devin was making during it and also got the hair on my arms to stand up when the "Hallelujahs" kicked in midway through. He played part of OM and finished his thirty minutes with By Your Command (studio cut), which was pretty cool. I thought that The Devin Townsend Project would be great, and they certainly did not disappoint.
Next up was Cynic. Cynic's music is a really hard to explain, and they're even harder to explain live. Their music is really technical and they have two vocalists: one who sings into a kind of vocal processor and another who does death metal style vocals. It's a really strange combination that's very unique. I don't remember the setlist, as the lighting, the music itself, and the atmospheric quotes floating through the PA really just mellowed me out for their set, even when it was heavy. Cynic is the kind of band that I'd imagine would be great to see with one's mind "expanded," if one was into that kind of thing. I do remember being asked by the band to do some yoga midway through their set. The sound was absolutely killer during Cynic as well (either this tour brought along a hell of a sound man or the HoB employs a great one). Everything was crystal clear throughout. I was really blown away by how good they were live, and I would love to see them again. Because even the studio cuts don't really show how they are live, here are two live clips from other shows on the tour: Evolutionary Sleeper and Nunc Fleuns/The Space For This
During Cynic's set, there were some people who wanted them to go heavy the whole time, including one person who kept screaming, "Slayer!" I thought it was strange until Cynic finished, when I saw most of the older part of the crowd leave the front area, and a bunch of younger kids fill it up quickly. This younger group was obviously going to be more rowdy. That, combined with the thought of getting back to Union Station for the 8:40 train (the next train didn't leave Chicago until 11:40) had us thinking that we may skip early if we didn't like Between the Buried and Me. All it took was three minutes of BtBaM and we were out the door. I don't really want to waste the space writing about them, as I want the memory to be Cynic headlining the show. It's the first show that I've been to where there was almost two different demographics there to see the opening bands and the headliner. It was a strange combination. After the awesome sets by DTP and Cynic, BtBaM was not going to cut it for me.
Overall, it was a really good show that highlighted some of the bands on the periphery of the metal world. I'm glad that shows like this still happen. Hopefully The Devin Townsend Project and Cynic will come back in the near future as headliners, so we, the audience can get a full length set from both of these great bands.