Crack the Skye tour in New Orleans with Mastodon

My friend posted on Facebook, “Going to New Orleans for Mastodon’s Crack the Skye tour opening show. Share gas and hotel expenses, leave Friday, show Saturday, back Sunday. Free VIP tickets to the show. Who’s with me?” I was in! Our group was Jessica, who worked for a record label, and Justin, who was a really great guy.

I drove up the night before and met Justin out at Lou’s bar. We wound up meeting others and drinking well into the night, 3-4 am. We had decided the day before to leave promptly at 8 AM to get there before five o’clock traffic. I don’t think we slept, the rational being, we can sleep on the 7-ish hour drive down. I called in sick from the road. I’m sure my supervisor knew I wasn’t sick, I just wasn’t going to be there that day. Such would be the theme of the weekend: a seemingly bad idea or event turned into one amazing event after another.

We arrived to NOLA in the early evening and found the hotel downtown. I like the cool ocean breeze the city gets off the Gulf. It’s magical place and continues to call me back. A very laid back city, I’m amazed anything productive ever happens here because most are here to party, to hang out, to listen or play music, to have a good time, all the time. Laissez les bon temps roulez, “let the good times roll,” indeed.

We went out to a fancy spot for seafood dinner. Then we hit up Bourbon St. winding up at the Pirate Bar at the end of the street. It was the oldest bar in NOLA and was illuminated by candlelight. There was a lady playing piano and people sat around her, placing their drink on the closed cover. It is a great place, but this night it was also a sad reminder of what really goes on sometimes in the Big Easy. My friend’s wallet was stolen with her cards and cash. She had to leave to call banks, card companies and try to beat the thieves before they could use her cards. We offered to keep her afloat with cash as we owed her for the ride and hotel anyway, so it worked out but it had to suck to spend a few hours canceling all cards.

We were out in a shot bar, jello tubes for a buck or two. This is where I first encountered twerking. To the sounds of ‘Gasolina,’ a girl got down on all fours, ass in the air, hiked up her denim skirt and bounced her ass to the music. I was stunned. There was ass all over the place. It is quite a sight in person. I ended up making out with a Czech waitress due to my Do For It Records shirt logo which has a thumb and first two fingers extended. Big meaty fingers I must add. This hand sign is also the national sign for Czech Republic. She told me, ‘that hand sign is Czech! It means home to me!’

Back to the hotel to check on how the card canceling was going, see if she wanted to go out or hang out. She was done but upset and frazzled. I borrowed a video camera from my roommate and felt like walking down Bourbon Street at 3 am and film the activities. Smart idea man, very good yup. Bad ideas turned into great ones this trip. No sooner had we stepped out into the hall I had to record. A man was splayed out on the carpet near the elevator, faced down on the ground, just gone. Blitzed, out, over. We found Bourbon Street, still full of revelers. Crazy yelling ladies, vomiting by all genders, couples making out, and cops, all were witnessed on our walk.

My friend was hungry and asked around to see what was open.  Open 24 hours a day. Krystal, was the overwhelming vote by locals. This is actually the southern equivalent of a bad idea that started in the north, boiled hamburgers with onions, bka White Castle. The smell is rather pungent. They do have fried chicken sliders so it is possible to eat there, but I am firm that I’d rather eat the cardboard the sliders come in vs. the actual burger at either place.

As we walked up to Krystal we saw a couple youths posted out front. They made little effort to conceal they were shaking a lot of hands and passing small baggies of grass with each handshake. I was still filming and so I pointed the camera at the ground. Sorry we are cool? I won’t film you guys. The one standing closest to me offered me his blunt and I passed him the camera. He filmed his friend rapping, he may have also rapped a bit, but he turned it off and we traded back. We passed the blunt several more times and then talked about the Wire. I had just finished this show and felt he may like it. I hope he checked it out; he reminded me of one of the characters.

The next morning we got up and had breakfast. Jessica’s label sent her to NOLA for promotions and to make contact with venues so she could get tickets and access to most metal shows. This show was at House of Blues, near the water, a beautiful location. It was also one of the first shows of Mastodon’s latest record, Crack the Skye. I don’t think it was out yet, it may have been on torrent sites, pretty much all new tunes. They had announced they were to play the entire record all the way through as they felt it was one piece of music. The second set would be older classics. Lineup was Intronaut, Kylesa, and Mastodon.

We met up with the guys of Intronaut near the House of Blues. We hung with them, collected our passes so we could get in, we also got firm set times so we could plan accordingly. We had a few beers then they had to go play. We finished up and went inside. It was under 1,000 capacity, two story club. I liked the set up. We went upstairs for best view and my female friend rightly didn’t want to be in the pit, most of Mastodon’s set the whole floor was a pit. Cool to see, but you have to fend off flying bodies for over an hour. That is not cool.

Intronaut was cool, I hadn’t heard them before. They called to the crowd that they were hunting for green smoke, find them after the show. A few joints found the way to the stage in a few moments. Kylesa, the second band, was also much cooler than I anticipated. Heavy rock guitars, two drummers, which is a dangerous proposition, but they pull it off. They sometimes play the same things, but most of the time was counter rhythms.

The Mastodon show was visually amazing, the whole back of the stage was lined with TVs that showed crazy images of what appeared to be Rasputin in various situations , clouds, trippy images that paired well with the new songs. All were very long and intricate pieces with many guitar solos, they were going all in on carrying the prog rock mantle. They didn’t talk during this part of the set, so it was over an hour straight of music.

After Crack the Skye was finished, they broke into older songs. They played a good selection of tunes from all their past records. I recall March of the Fire Ants was especially heavy live. They didn’t play their last big hit, Blood and Thunder, which was surprising but they proved they were a whole lot more than just that song tonight.

We went back to the bar we were at before the show to wait on the Intronaut fellows to load in and then we’d walk the streets. I had a sampler CD of DFW bands and decided to give a copy to anyone with a cool t shirt, soon after deciding this I saw a guy with a Mr. Bungle shirt so he was the winner. As it turns out wearing a cool band or interesting shirt generally leads to cool people. Or they could just be homeless. This guy and girl joined us and we talked music awhile. They soon told us about another show a few blocks away. Then the Intronaut guys walked up and said, ‘Hey there is a show down the street we are going to. Come with us.’ So two different sets of people told us about the same show so we knew it was going to be good. We got roadies and walked a few blocks to another club. We waited in line, but it was a lot of cash to get in. More than we wanted to spend on another show. Suddenly Justin pointed, “Hey that’s Josh Brolin.” I’d heard he was a metal fan, but this was physical proof as he was standing out front of a metal show. I walked over and shook his hand, told him I was a fan. I sauntered back after a few moments as I saw most of Mastodon walking over.

Brent, Troy and Brann were with their keys player and a couple others. The door guy definitely knew them. How many he asked. Brann gave the home run circle motion, ‘All these guys. With us.’ We had just gotten into a show with Mastodon. Amazing. The band everyone was here to see was the Obsessed maybe even Crowbar opened. I do recall Phil Anselmo from Pantera sang on a song or two with the band. Very excellent to see that this seemed to be a regular event for bands to collaborate and play together.

I bought everyone that wanted a shot of whiskey and then had a beer with Brann. We talked about music and travels as I wanted to hear where he liked to go and he said home, Atlanta. Soon my fandom was too much to bear (more likely that shot kicked in) and I had to tell him how much their music meant to me, that I was a big fan of his drumming.

‘Let’s hug it out. Come on in,’ he said as we embraced. ’yeah man, tell me how good a drummer I am, tell me what an awesome band we are,’ He whispered in my ear. It was a great moment. I backed away as he had some friends that wanted to hang so I headed outside. I ran into one of the other bands and crew and that was a tough conversation. I am not sure what they were on, probably mushrooms, as you would say something, but had to wait a few beats before a reply if one came at all.

We all headed back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep. The next mooring we all, friends and Intronaut, went to breakfast at a two story joint just off Bourbon St. We looked down on all the people still milling around from the night before, still drinking, still trying to keep the party going just a little longer. We knew that the party was over for us this weekend. Clouds had moved in, dark ominous ones, too. It poured rain hard the entire drive back.

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