The Coming Dawn, Tattermask, Musket King, and The Reticent @ Tremont Music Hall, Charlotte NC
I’m always a little nervous before the start of a concert that I am there to review, especially if it is a show that I’m personally very eager to see. I don’t know why. I’m not performing. I’m definitely not front and center or on display in any way. I guess the feeling has to do with the fact that I know I’m going to be sharing some intimate thoughts for public consumption on something that is a very personal love of mine. So personal, in fact, that it is an integral part of who I am. I love music. I love live music, and I love having the off-hand chance of meeting the artists whose work I highly respect and admire-even if I make a dork out of myself at first.
One thing that was very obvious about The Coming Dawn’s first show in two years at Tremont Music Hall on May 29, with Tattermask, Musket King and The Reticent, was that I alone was the only one there who was nervous, or at least appeared to be. For their first time on the stage in two years (and with new guitar player Dru Ross), The Coming Dawn displayed zero sense of unease or tenseness. Also, the interactions between the bands playing and the crowd was so relaxed and fun, that it was easy to quickly feel at ease once the show started, even if I knew I was going to be battling with myself later on to not come off as a complete dork and fanboy when I wrote this review.
The Coming Dawn’s performance, lead by mastermind Matthew Grant, had a few minor hiccups, but for a band that, again, hasn’t performed live in two years, their set was striking in its completeness. Some muddied vocals — vocals that were at times overwhelmed by the band’s sound — and a few false starts to “Every Man for Himself,” their standout performance of the night, remain as minor footnotes to their overall performance, and only worth the minor mention here because of their ability to overcome them.
The Coming Dawn is composed of some brilliant musicians who bring their songs to life in a powerful way without compromising their recorded sound. The band managed to pull off the great sonic moment of ascent present near the end of the excellent “The Getaway,” even if the acoustic guitar break in the middle of the song was here electric instead. Their opening sci-fi sound laced (outer space/sci-fi was the theme of the night for The Coming Dawn) and experimental instrumental arraignment really set the tone and alerted the audience that they were in for something special and unique.
Wearing a hooded mask that, for some reason, brought to mind Klytus from the 1980 sci-fi cheese fest Flash Gordon, and lighted rings which brought to mind the many different emotional spectrum Lantern Corps (from recent Green Lantern comic book stories), Matt Grant coaxed otherworldly sounds out his bass guitar with what looked like a large hacksaw. There was nothing cheesy about the band’s sci-fi themed performance though. It was solid, compelling, and uplifting prog/hard rock through and through.
Speaking of sci-fi, and the relaxing atmosphere, one of the highlights of the night came not during Tattermask’s set, but before it when Amanda Tattermask, who greeted me warmly as my brother and I arrived at the venue, and gave an awesome shout out from the stage just before playing my favorite Tattermask song “Asylum” (a song I begged for them to play just before the show) gleefully kicked around the balloons littering the floor just before the stage.
Harley Tattermask Quinnzel used her red lightsaber to whack balloons around the hall, baseball-player-style. Tattermask’s joyful energy and playfulness was catching and continued once the band took the stage. Tattermask’s music is heavy and hard at times and the obvious joy they displayed on stage did nothing to distract from their performance’s sonic hard rock/metal punch.
Everything about Tattermask is special: from their music, to their musicianship, from their stage presence to their choreography, from their connection to their fans to their willingness to mingle with their fans-they are one of the best rock bands, not only in Charlotte, but the region. I have no doubt that they can be one of the best rock bands nationally as well. Especially if what Amanda teasingly hinted at just before their performance of their hard rocking new song “Man Up” happens soon: there might be some new recorded Tattermask music on the horizon. We can only hope. As my brother, and newly won Tattermask fan, stated to me after their set, “Why isn’t this band huge? They are really talented.” ‘Nuff said.
As loud and heavy as Tattermask was, Musket King was louder. In fact, The Reticent’s singer/songwriter/leader Chris Hathcock referred to them as the “loudest band playing tonight.” That, Musket King was. They were also the most grungy, sludgy, funny, fuzzy and flat out physical band of the night as well. Lead singer and bass player Matt displayed the kind of roll around on the ground, finger slam riffing, head banging energy I haven’t witnessed since my early concert going days back in the mid 90s. In fact, much about Musket King reminded me of 90s grunge.
I’d seen the guitarists from Screaming Trees roll around while playing like Matt did while accidentally ripping their cables out of their instruments as they thrashed about. Their tribute to Kyuss, “Readers Digest,” was a highlight of their performance. Matt’s banter with the crowd, some of which he obviously knew, was hilarious and good natured. They were a pure, sweaty, emotional release after the powerful, yet somber, opening set by The Reticent.
Powerful and somber, but hopeful, best describes The Reticent’s set. Hathcock and his backing band played all electric metal songs, with “Silence” (their closing song) completely flattening the crowd with its significance and heft. Hathcock obviously takes his artistic cues and pays solemn respect and homage to artists like Trent Reznor and TOOL as far as his band’s stage setting is concerned.
Projecting shots of World War II footage mixed with silent movie horror and historical film footage (interspersed with educational film clips on insects) onto a screen to the left of the audience’s view of the stage, Hathcock and his band remained shrouded in darkness, fleetingly lit by the light from said screen. The set up masterfully deflected attention away from himself as the artist and instead focused the crowd on the artistic product he was presenting.
Hathcock’s wonderful voice was showcased during his cover of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion,” a song that was radically different from the rest of the material Hathcock performed, but seamlessly fit in with the rest of the songs thematically and emotionally. The Reticent’s first two albums are comprised of acoustic guitar songs, and I was a little disappointed that a few of them, performed as such, didn’t make the set. The Reticent set the stage for the rest of the night though with their dark, yet spiritually uplifting, performance.
The Coming Dawn, Tattermask, Musket King and The Reticent’s performances at Tremont Music hall celebrated not only the return of The Coming Dawn to the live stage, it celebrated everything that is powerful and fun about live performance. Most of all though, it celebrated the emotional release, joy and camaraderie that exists between local musicians and their fans, no matter how long you’ve been a fan or how personal the musical experience is to you.