Thursday, September 23, 2010

Field Report - Sleep Reunion in Brooklyn 9/8/10


The Brooklyn Masonic temple was erected in 1907 and sits in Brooklyn’s beautiful and historic Fort Greene section. About 3 years ago various promoters began renting it out and having concerts there. Everyone from Neurosis to Big Star have performed inside the historic space and was the perfect venue to catch one of the few Sleep reunion shows. Sleep’s unique blend of heavy music, spirituality and massive weeed consumption was well served on the majestic altar.

Sleep played 2 nights in Brooklyn, Monday Zeptember 6 and Wednesday Zeptember 8. The Wednesday show was the first one announced and sold out so quickly another show had to be added. The Masonic Temple also hosed a concert of Boris and Sunn O))) performing as Altar on Tuesday Zeptember 7. I was told that the Monday Sleep show was a complete fog of pot smoke and that the Boris/Sunn O))) show was cut short by a visit from the police, while others claim there was a problem with the power. The Temple has no air conditioning so it was pretty fragrant with the scent of b.o. and swampy air.

All of these events contributed to tighter security and stricter set times. It was posted that Sleep would start the Wednesday show at 10PM and they hit the stage at ten on the dot. The crowd went berserk as guitarist Matt Pike started the opening droney riffs of “Dopesmoker.” When bassist Al Cisneros and guest drummer Jason Roeder of Neurosis came thundering in for “Holy Mountain” the sound was truly overwhelming. As someone who’s been going to see really loud music for over 25 years, this was easily one of the loudest shows I’ve ever witnessed. I was towards the back of the venue near the soundboard and the beer stand. When it was time for a freshie there was no chance of telling the bartender what you wanted. You just had to point to what you wanted and hope they understood. Unfortunately the tighter security totally harshed the mellow of those trying to let Mother Nature fly free. A few people were kicked out but plenty of sneaky weedians were able to sneak a puff or two.

Back in Sleep’s original 1990’s heyday they were know for playing massive Green Amps but it seems that they were using borrowed or rented gear on this tour. Matt played his cherry burst Les Paul through two Marshall amps and four Orange 4x12 cabinets. Al’s Rickenbacker bass was powering two Ampeg amps with matching 8x10 cabinets plus a Marshall amp and two 4x12’s. The PA system was excellent allowing Jason’s drums and Al’s vocals to be heard over that inanely hellish crossfire of sound.

For the main set, they played everything from the classic Holy Mountain with some parts of the epic “Dopesmoker” mixed in. The band was very tight but took plenty of liberties with the material and stretched out on some incredible jams. The zonked out crowd loved it. Behind the band a huge screen projected space footage, pot leaves, fire and other hallucinatory images. It’s hard to pick any standout songs because everything was played so well but the jam during “From Beyond” was especially Grand Funk-esque.

After a short break, the band returned to play a cover of Ozzy’s “Over The Mountain.” It was a good choice since playing a Black Sabbath cover would be completely redundant since all of Sleep’s songs owe such a huge debt to them. It started off at Ozzy’s tempo before dropping to a slower pace for the verses. During the guitar solo the band got faster and slower a few times, but I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. The last two songs of the night were the unreleased “Antarcticus Thawed” and “Cultivator,” both of which were massively heavy.

Without a word, the band left the stage and the stunned and deaf crowd filed out of the Temple and went in search of munchies and fresh air.


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