Devin Townsend Project, Between The Buried And Me and more at Marquee Theater (2016)

Marquee Theater (Tempe, Arizona, US)

Devin Townsend Project, Between The Buried And Me, Fallujah
  *Photography: Eyeonacone Creative Portraits October 7th marked one of the many times that I […]
By Kyle Harding
October 7, 2016


*Photography: Eyeonacone Creative Portraits

October 7th marked one of the many times that I attended the local Marquee Theater, one of the most popular concert venues in Tempe, Arizona for bands of many backgrounds. And it may be my most frequented venue, too, having attended shows for LAMB OF GOD, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, CANNIBAL CORPSE, ARCH ENEMY, and even NIGHTWISH. And tonight, gracing its stage would be a prog powerhouse of FALLUJAH, BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME, and DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT on the aptly-dubbed "Transcending the Coma Tour" (a mix of the 2 latest releases from BTBAM and DTP. Being a prog nerd myself, I had to go- no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I figured I'd document this wonderful night of spacey musical experiences while I was at it.

But first… the wait. Doors were opened at 5:30 and the show didn't start until 7. This isn't something I can really pin on the bands, only the venue or the promoter. Fans tend to get a little itchy, bored, or even tired before the show even starts if they're made to wait for so long (that or a way to get them to buy more beer). Nevertheless, about a hundred people or so had trickled in just before the opening act took the stage- FALLUJAH. By then, the barrier was packed with the few-dozen people who had arrived for the meet & greet.


The show started uncompromising and loud with the brutal guitar mixed with proggy overtones and hanging ambience by FALLUJAH, whose two stringsmen, Scott Carstairs and Brian James worked together to not only create this sort of larger environment, but deliver technicality and original, complex riffs while their vocalist, Alex Hofmann played atmospheric rings on his keyboard over the solid, yet elaborate, drumming by Andrew Baird. Not just keeping up with the fast-paced band, but complementing the driving instrumentals, was Rob Morey on bass.


For the entire first song, "Sapphire", the mixing seemed to be drawn back a bit in the way of the vocalist, making it difficult to hear him over the guitar's emanating rings. Though he was turned up and fit in well with the band by the time they played the powerful "Amber Gaze". Alex Hofmann kept egging us on to move around and open pits which, I believe FALLUJAH totally deserved, but I found myself not inclined to do so- parts of the set elicited a kind of contained moment that I wanted to revel with, taking in all of this wonderful atmosphere.


FALLUJAH's featured female vocalist, Tori Letzler, made an appearance for songs that she contributed in the band's previous studio releases- and now, she toured with them for supplemental vocals on her original, recorded parts. This isn't something many units, especially smaller groups, do often by bringing a featured singer along, but definitely promotes the overall performing status and reputation of the band. She made her entrance on "Alone With You" and sang with FALLUJAH for the remainder of the afternoon, save for one or two songs. Her singing was mainly in the way of highs and ambient tones amidst the powerful instrumentals, adding to that atmospheric effect just that more to bring it to a whole new level. Finally, they ended with "The Void Alone", leaving us only wanting more.


A performance of such fine quality was only the appetizer for something bigger and more personal to my musical tastes- BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME, who had intended to play the entirety of their latest album, "Coma Ecliptic", that night. To be honest, I doubted this decision at first. When bands play a full release in their set, they don't have the time to continue and can deprive their fans of broader material that they want to hear. And, on a more personal note, "Coma Ecliptic" had never resonated with me like other BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME albums have in the past. But that's only because I've never heard it live in its entirety before. And by now, with a packed house of a few thousand guests, it was time to enjoy it in the company of many.


The slow intro with "Node" and build into "The Coma Machine" let on exactly how the night was going to go- energetic, thrilling, and that trademark BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME personal touch. There was plenty of movement from the audience and personal connection between the band and their fans, something that can be kind of rare for a group that plays in various progressions and with some of the most intricate composition in the musical niche. And, of course, the most hardcore fans in the pit, being the EXACT same people I had seen over a year ago at the Tucson show.


On a dime, the patrons would move between dancing, twirling, singing, gesturing, and moshing with the utmost commitment and deep emotion all the way through… including myself. The music connected through the syncopated riffs by Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring, driven by the polyrhythmic force of warrior-drummer Blake Richardson and wizard-bassist Dan Briggs. And, finally, the sweet serenades and guttural inflections of Tommy Rogers while tinkling the plastic ivories of his small synthesizer. And all of this manifested in the way the mosh pit moved, not as chaos, but like a living, breathing being.


What's more is that I had a kind of epiphany during this set where I finally understood the meaning of "Coma Ecliptic"- on how it focuses upon the realities rooted in our subconscious rather than the realities rooted in our full conscious, like their previous works. This music, in a way that's unorthodox for the likes of BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME, over time deteriorates and loses complexity, becoming more melodic like in the tune "King Redeem / Queen Serene", and then smoothing out into a flat, black, empty landscape in "Rapid Calm". Finally, the journey builds back up with "Memory Palace", reconstructing our perception unhindered by things before, yet able to look back and reflect in a whole new light. Speaking of light, the set comprised only of natural lighting, using warm glows to accentuate growth and silver, bleak rays to enforce the deterioration.


Coming out of this experience can be a little taxing, and I didn't know how I was going to cope with the zany, comical performing style of the mighty Devin Townsend. But, to be honest, I'm glad he headlined, as his set was kind of breath of fresh air from the heaviness BTBAM can bring about. BTBAM's set was more contained to the mind and personal-enclosed, but Devin's show kind of grabbed the entire audience and shoved them all together- more broad and connecting between the other concertgoers.


And, of course, Devin played as wonderfully as expected, if not better. His stage presence seemed much more prominent than my previous experience at the Nile Theater a few years before. He seemed much more in-tune with his music and the reactions from the audience, doing what he loved with his latest effort, "Transcendence." And yet, he only played a few songs from the newest release, as he explained, needing to "compress almost 30 years of musical experience into a 75-minute set." Devin Townsend Project played tracks off "Ocean Machine", "Addicted", "Epicloud", and even BOTH "Ziltoid" albums. This set was a clear reminder as to why we appreciate Devin as one of the most prolific, but consistent artists in modern metal.


Fast and slow, heavy and soft, skull-crushing and soul-mending, the Devin Townsend Project had it all and more. The guitars by Devin and Dave Young were clear, tonal, and sometimes brutal when needed, supplemented by some insane bass by Brian Waddell and magical keyboarding by Mike St. Jean- all of which was moved by Ryan Van Poederooyen's skillful drumming. Most of this band of merry musicians have been with Devin for 13 years and keep coming back to collaborate with this master of his own universe. Devin continued with his usual way of connecting with his audience, making little points about his day in Arizona (seeing a 20-foot cactus and getting phallic thoughts). He even stopped his solo performance of "Ih-ah!" midway just to hear a solitary fan scream his name as loud as possible… and the thousands of attendees all had a laugh when she made him say into the mic that her boyfriend (whose name escapes me) was his biggest fan.


The night was filled with passion, pain aggression, and newfound comradery between complete strangers, with the strong setup by FALLUJAH, the miasmic trance by BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME, and the sudden awakening by DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT. This show is definitely in my top-3 shows of this year, and maybe in the top-15 I've ever attended- an experience I'll never forget, asleep or awake, within comatose realities of my mind or the breathing realities of my consciousness.
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