Words by Jon Garcia // Images by Maurice Nunez
Some concert nights feel more like an event than others. There’s a charge in the air that starts outside and follows attendees into the venue. Maybe the buzz is because of who’ll be taking the stage at the end of the night. Sometimes it’s because of who’ll be going on first.
On a recent Tuesday night in Nashville, it was both.
The Mega-Monsters Tour brought together Mastodon and Gojira – two of the genre’s elite, who’ve each been crushing skulls now for over two decades – as well as deathcore standouts Lorna Shore to Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium during a stop on the first leg of the tour.
There was a palpable excitement for both of the headliners, but you could hardly take 10 steps through the line to the venue without hearing Lorna Shore’s name mentioned. The lineup brought together longtime fans and newcomers alike to share an evening with some of the best bands metal has to offer.
The entrance line was still wrapped halfway around the venue when Lorna Shore took the stage. Though the venue was just over half full, it didn’t stop the New Jersey quintet from unloading everything they had on the people that got there early. Virtuoso guitar playing meshed with over-the-top symphonics and pulverizing drums, accentuating riffs that bludgeoned everyone in blast radius.
Though some parts got muddled by the venue’s sound, there was no mistaking Will Ramos’ impressive voice. From low gutturals to high shrieks and everything in between, he sauntered across the stage like a demonic beast, showing everyone he’s the real deal.
Lorna Shore said goodnight after a quick 35 minutes, walking off stage to a warm reception. It’s clear there were several people in the crowd still a little stunned at what they saw.
There are some bands that change the atmosphere in a room the second they start playing. Gojira are one of the bands.
As soon as the curtain dropped and they ripped into “Born for One Thing,” we’re reminded why they’re one of the greatest metal bands going. The music cut through everything in its path, uprooting everyone in the audience from whatever trials and tribulations going on in their lives and commanding them to be present for an hour.
And present they were. Despite two recent stops in Nashville – including a gig with Deftones at this very stadium almost exactly a year ago – the crowd savored every second. They hung on every chord, vocal line, and drum fill.
So much so, in fact, that when a hush fell over the crowd as they eagerly awaited the next song, guitarist and vocalist Joe Deplantier had to jolt them out of their hypnosis.
“Make some fucking noise!” he laughed. “You can hear a pin drop in here!”
It’d be hard to blame them for being a little awestruck: Gorjira knows how to put on a production. Not only are they just fun to watch on stage, they expertly unleashed pyro, air cannons, streamers and confetti cannons at the perfect moments, all in front of a hulking video wall that practically surrounded all sides of the stage.
It offered rich, visual narratives to their songs, like when they played along with the video for “Another World” or were surrounded by virtual flames during “Amazonia.” Even on songs that didn’t have their own full animation, they still provided texture and atmosphere. Like during “Flying Whales” where it looked like the entire venue was floating underneath the ocean.
Perhaps the best moment of the night came before the penultimate song, when Joe Deplaintier led a brief vocal lesson to teach the crowd how to sing “The Chant.”
“The lyrics are easy, it’s just ‘aaahhh,’” he quipped.
After a couple of trial runs, the band launched into what will certainly be a setlist staple for the rest of their career. Thousands of people all chanting in unison, joined together in emptying their worldly worries for just a few minutes, is a transcendent experience.
It would have been so easy to be content and call it a night after Gojira left the stage, but there was still one more band on the horizon.
With confetti still falling from Gojira’s set a half-hour before, the lights dimmed and the schizophrenic drum opening of “The Wolf Is Loose” cracked through the arena, and the sludge masters in Mastodon were off and running.
Like Gojira, they took full advantage of the monstrous screens behind, around and above the stage, blasting the crowd into a psychedelic journey with every track.
After wrapping up over a year of support for their excellent album Hushed & Grim, Mastodon dove into their back catalog and offered 16 tracks across their discography, leaning heavily on Leviathan, Blood Mountain, and Emperor of Sand.
The crowd was treated to several songs sparingly or sporadically seen in their setlists in recent years. “Andromeda,” “Circle of Cysquatch,” “Iron Tusk,” “Divinations'' and Medium Rarities single “Fallen Torches” all got to enjoy their time in the spotlight.
The band said few words between songs, opting to let the music be the focus. Given the amount of tracks they crammed into their set time, its fair to say this was the wise choice. Mastodon is a well oiled machine, and they showed their expertise as they deftly bounced between each member's vocal parts. Brann Dailor sounded as good as ever, deftly keeping time while crooning some of the most memorable lines in the chosen songs.
When not in front of the mic, bassist Troy Sanders confidently roamed the stage, engaging with the crowd and looking like a man enjoying every second of being on stage. Guitarist Brent Hinds had several moments of tastefully noodling between songs, an homage to the 80s guitar heroes of yore. Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how good of a guitarist he is, but never when Mastodon is playing live.
By the time the familiar opening riff to Blood and Thunder signaled the end the set, they’d hit every point a Mastodon fan could have wanted; even if it seemed like they could easily stay on for another hour.
The remaining dates of the Mega Monsters Tour can be found below. Get tickets - HERE
May 10 — Baltimore, Md. @ Pier Six Pavilion
May 11 — Reading, Pa. @ Santander Arena
Aug. 09 — Cincinnati, Ohio @ MegaCorp Pavilion
Aug. 10 — Cleveland, Ohio @ Jacob’s Pavilion
Aug. 11 — Pittsburgh, Pa. @ Stage AE Outdoors
Aug. 12 — New York, N.Y. @ Coney Island Amphitheater
Aug. 13 — Syracuse, N.Y. @ OneCenter
Aug. 15 — Detroit, Mich. @ Masonic Temple
Aug. 17 — Toronto, Ontario @ RBC Echo Beach
Aug. 18 — Laval, Quebec @ Place Bell
Aug. 19 — Portland, Maine @ Cross Insurance Arena
Aug. 20 — Boston, Mass. @ MGM Music Hall
Aug. 23 — Milwaukee, Wis. @ BMO Pavilion
Aug. 25 — Hammond, Ind. @ Horseshoe
Aug. 26 — Omaha, Neb. @ Westfair Amphitheater
Aug. 27 — Minneapolis, Minn. @ Waite Park Amphitheater
Aug. 29 — St. Louis, Mo. @ The Factory
Aug. 30 — Kansas City, Mo. @ Azura Amphitheater
Sept. 01 — Salt Lake City, Utah @ USANA Amphitheater
Sept. 02 — Denver, Colo. @ Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater