Witch Mountain, Yucca Tap Room, 11/12/12
Witch Mountain @ Yucca Tap Room|11/12/12
I've always felt troubled by the psychological exercise of word association, that each response would reveal some flawed abnormality about my character. If you were to say doom metal in such an exercise, my response would most likely be "relaxation" or "easy listening."
Doom, as well as its derivatives of sludge and stoner metal, and the proto-metal bands like Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult that inspire it have been my escape from the fast-paced hardcore punk I grew up listening to. While the music is not subtle by any means, often defined by the bassiest and fuzziest of riffs , it is like Enya to me. I usually listen to it when I am winding down, drinking chamomile, and reading a good book. This is also telling of my abnormalities of character, because most people listen to it while smoking weed. That said, it's not a genre I normally seek out in a live environment. However, the prospect of seeing Portland-based doom act Witch Mountain for free at Yucca last night was hard to turn down.
Thankfully, Witch Mountain did not put me to sleep and turned out to be one of the most engaging heavy acts I've seen in a while. Part of their appeal to me on record is that their music is super dark and foreboding but has this soulful, almost folk-like quality to it. This is not lost in the live performance at all. Vocalist Uta Plotkin sings in a way that does not need to be covered by vocal distortion, like a lot of similar bands, but sounds great accompanied by distorted instruments. She was sick and claimed not at her peak that night, which makes me wonder what the full potential of Witch Mountain is because they were insanely good even when their vocalist had a cold.
The majority of Witch Mountain are foodies, with at least two members working in the culinary industry. Bassist Neal Munson makes pies at a Portland pizza joint called Sizzle Pie which is owned by Mark Jacobson of Relapse Records.
"He started this place because he didn't think the pizza in Portland was any good and he wanted to start and east coast pizza place. He had pizzas called "Pig Destroyer" and "South of Heaven," "Napalm Breath", all sorts of stuff like that."
Sizzle Pie even released a limited edition (one day only) Witch Mountain pizza.
The band is currently embarking on a "healthy metal tour", using their Yelp! apps on their phones to find the best healthy foods on each stop.
"Everyone's really concerned with eating well on the road, which is really nice because a lot of bands eat nothing but fast food. So, I really appreciate that because I want to stay healthy. It's hard to stay healthy on the road because you are just sitting for 8 hours at a time and then you get to a bar and drink and then sit some more. So, we eat pretty well. We try to eat salads and stuff. I do pushups and other stuff," says vocalist Plotkin on her band's efforts to stay in shape.
Healthy metal living was a general theme with the other bands that performed that night too. Mat Davis guitarist of the San Francisco based metal act Castle outlined some of the geographic trouble areas of our great nation.
"Once you kind of hit Idaho, Utah, kind of the 80 until you get to Chicago, you're eating crap on the road. You're luck to get a Wendy's or a Subway, that's the best you're going to get."
With the two Chapel Hill, North Carolina bands, the proggy and psych Black Skies, and jammy and bluesy Caltrop, I talked about the peculiarities of southern cuisine. They informed me of a saltwater fish called the mullet (belonging to the family Mugilidae, for all you taxonomists) that is generally consumed by the poor in the south, but will by their estimates become the next big thing.
"One day, you will find them at Whole Foods being sold as the best fish, because they have no mercury content because they don't eat other fish," says Caltrop guitarist Adam Nolton.
Still, he and bassist Murat Dirlik can't agree on the branding
"The thing about mullet is that they taste gamey,"
"They taste how my dog's foot smells"
"They taste like earth"
Black Skies bassist Michelle Temple, who has transitioned from being a vegetarian to including seafood in her diet, even knows how gut and clean the fish, although she only claims to have done it once.
"If you went to McDonalds to get a burger, but you had to kill the cow, most people wouldn't eat meat. So, I feel like, if you're going to eat it, you should be able to kill it." Temple says.
All the bands last night, although slower in tempo than what I am used to, played with an abundance of energy. I attribute this somewhat to the healthy metal lifestyle, that eschews the strictly meat and whiskey diet (while still indulging occasionally) of someone like Lemmy Kilmister, in favor of more healthy alternatives. It lacks the glamour of previous generations of metal, but when the music is this good, it doesn't really matter.