If you weren’t fortunate enough to catch this inferno of a gig then, man, you seriously lucked out. I didn’t know anything of Beartooth until Download Festival last year where I was working security on the third stage. Disappointingly for me there had been very little in terms of crowd activity and as quite often is the case with static security work I was running the risk of death by boredom. Now, all of a sudden my supervisor is gathering all the barrier staff together and is briefing them with his exact words being “This is about to go Tonto”.
For the benefit of readers not from the fine city of Glasgow, that basically means there was going to be a sudden and dramatic increase in crowd activity. The rapidly amassing crowd for the third stage was apparently going to go nuts.
Boy, was Andy’s prediction accurate. Beartooth bulldozed onto stage and the security team I was part of went from standing still for the previous three hours to hardly being off the pit barrier catching a tidal wave of crowd surfers. And you know what, I couldn’t have been happier!
As some of you already know I attended this year’s Download Festival as Pit Troll and not in a security uniform. In a pleasing show of the band’s inevitable rise in popularity, Beartooth were one of the opening acts on the Lemmy (Main) Stage on Sunday morning. Due to my own poor self admin on that day I was only able to catch the last three songs, but if you spoke to me straight after the set was finished you would think I’d just done a body conditioning circuit with someone like UFC champ Connor McGregor.
As soon as it was announced they were playing the Glasgow Garage I made sure I was available and I have to say it was an ideal choice of venue, allowing for a much closer and intimate feel that the vast majority of metalheads crave at a gig.
I do the occasional bit of work for M.A.D crew, the company who provide stage crew for the Garage, and whenever there’s a metal gig I’ll be attending there I always arrive at the venue early and provide whatever help I can on a volunteer basis. This isn’t an official arrangement and the M.A.D staff would cope more than fine without me but it’s something I like to do as I feel it buys me a little bit of grace later in the evening when I start firing people over the barrier. The M.A.D crew have the fun job of catching crowd surfers and I was going to keep them very busy that evening if my previous two experiences of Beartooth were anything to go by. The excitement was reaching fever pitch, I don’t mind telling you.
Some friends from Download had given me the heads up about opening band Trash Boat who are a pop punk band from St Albans in Hertfordshire. From what I gather they were a last minute addition to the tour as original openers Fit For A King had to withdraw for reasons that, as of yet, I have not been able to find out. If the samples I listened to on Spotify are anything to go by, hopefully it wont be too long till we see some FFAK UK shows announced. Due to an urgent phone call, I was only able to catch the last part of Trash Boat’s set and while pop punk isn’t my ball game it was really good to see quite a few of the audience members bouncing and singing along, rather than giving them a hostile reception simply because “It’s not metal”.
In terms of musical style I really don’t think Trash Boat and Vanna could be any further apart. Being as this was the Aggressive album tour then I think Beartooth choose well with Vanna for support as that’s exactly what their music is. With a look in his eye that suggested he was scanning the audience in search of someone willing to be flying-headbutted, frontman Davey Muise screams “We’re Vanna, start the f**king craziness!”
With Glasgow having a reputation the world over for producing some of the most boisterous concert crowds known to man, you can imagine their reaction to Davey’s instruction. If the audience thought they could slack off at any point during Vanna’s set, which wasn’t likely due to Vanna’s music having balls of steel, then they were in for a shock as Davey was on top of them. Literally. I was abusing privilege at this point, watching from side of stage, and I had a good laugh when I had to rescue Davey from atop the crowd and put him back on stage.
He later thanked me for as he put it, “Cradling him like a child.” He’s actually a super nice dude despite him and his bandmates having such a fearsome onstage persona. In amongst all this hardcore, in-your-face metal there was also a real tender moment when Davey spent a whole song sitting on the barrier engaging with audience members. Let’s see more of the same next time you come to Scotland, Vanna!
The lights went out and, like the growl of a thousand grizzlies, the strumming of guitar strings signified the moment we’d all been waiting for was here. There was no side of stage for me now. When Beartooth took to the stage I was in my very own den and ready to beat my chest. By this of course I don’t mean I’d gone all Ray Mears. I mean I was centre dance floor, prepping to open up the pit and respond to the first of what would be many commands from Caleb Shomo.
As soon as opening number “Burnout” was done, the intro chords of “Aggressive” began to play and Caleb made it clear to the crowd what was expected of them for the remainder of the set: “You’re gonna jump, you’re gonna mosh, you’re gonna crowd surf and you’re gonna sing at the top of your lungs!”
It’s enormously inspiring to see a band give one hundred and ten percent to their performance and demand the same in return from everyone attending. This is especially true in a climate where many metal bands have unfortunately had to kowtow to promoter imposed rules about “safety” just to avoid being sued, probably by some killjoy unaware of what the reasonable expectations of a metal gig were in the first place.
I wanted to help make their Glasgow gig a memorable one so during “Aggressive” I had my own starring role in the show when, in a pre-arranged stunt, I carried rhythm guitarist Kamron Bradbury into the middle of the pit on my shoulders. There’s decent footage of this shot by various different people on You Tube, Twitter and Instagram where conveniently you can also find the Moshville Times (*cough, cough Royalties*).
Another personal highlight of the show for me was “The Lines” from Beartooth’s second album Disgusting. Preceding this, Caleb had all the audience members sit down on the floor “For their own safety” right before asking “Is it OK if we play some old songs?” When the music kicked in I swear some of the crowd could have touched the ceiling, they jumped that high.
The climax of all this craziness was of course, as any die hard Beartooth fans would expect, “Body Bag” – arguably the band’s biggest tune. When Caleb screams “One Life” that’s your cue to scream back “One Decision”. When an entire room full of people do that in unison then it’s a feeling that I find difficult to describe. To say that it’s awesome just doesn’t do it justice, it’s better than awesome. That song was my own personal cue to start the heaviest pits and try motivate the moshers to give it all they had one last time. They didn’t need a lot of encouragement, believe me!
I speak for everyone that was there that night when I say please come back real soon Beartooth. PLEASE!