I tried to get MetalSucks, RollingStone, and PitchFork pay me for this, but they didn’t even respond. So, as far as I know, this dumb blog gets the longest (and totally coolest) scoop on the debut Gone is Gone show at the Dragonfly in Hollywood. You, my lucky four readers, are in for a treat! I got drunk, snuck into VIP, and generally had a good time. I also complained on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/p/BEOqXZhx5DF/?taken-by=makuch.alex) about how fucked the service fees were (an additional 50% cost). Someone from Dragonfly was cool and hooked me up with some drinks (a couple Sierra Nevadas from the VIP party and a *powerful* bourbon and ginger), a gesture that was very much appreciated on my end. But, here and now, without further ado, I present:
Alex Grim Got Drunk, Made Friends, and Saw an Awesome Pair of Bands
I saw Gone is Gone, the “supergroup” (they hate that word) composed of Troy Sanders (Mastodon), Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens of the Stone Age, A Perfect Circle), Mike Zarin (film and video game music), and Tony Hajjar (At the Drive-In), at the Dragonfly in Hollywood, and holy shit did it rock. I’ve been a huge Mastodon fan for years and Troy Sanders is one of a small number of men I would go gay for (whoever plays Daario on Game of Thrones and Papa Emeritus III are the other two).
I’ve also dug QotSA and A Perfect Circle enough to be excited about Troy Van Leeuwen. While I knew about At the Drive-In, I never really listened to them, and I had never heard of Mike Zarin. That notwithstanding, I was sold the moment I heard the band existed. The 29 second sample on YouTube just confirmed everything I suspected: that this band would rock.
And rock they did, but not until New Language rocked ahead of them. This was their first show, too, which hopefully gives them a good place to jump off from. I ended up talking to a couple of the guys from New Language afterwards and found out that Tony Hajjar had produced their first record and apparently gotten them on the bill.
It was a great fit; New Language reminded me a lot of A Perfect Circle and banged out a great, heavy alt-rock set. Their drummer even looks a lot like Maynard (and had “Dump Trump” written across his chest). I can’t remember specific songs very well, but they came across as musicians trying to get deeper into what cool alt-rock is, but not necessarily expand upon what it could become. I don’t mean that as a negative thing; the world needs more great rock bands and these guys literally just had their first show. I’m stoked to see where they go and it was great to hang with them. They have a lyric video for their single “Wake Up” on their website, and it’s probably the coolest lyric video I’ve seen, so definitely check them out here: http://www.newlanguageband.com/.
But we were all there for Gone is Gone. It was actually a weirdly mellow show for being sold out. In comparison, I saw Ghost in El Paso the weekend before at a sold out venue and got lifted off of my feet and moved around a few times, and I weigh 200 pounds. Here, though, everyone had tons of space and people actually encouraged me to get in front of them for a better view. Maybe it was the eight dollar beers or maybe it was because half of the people there were VIP guest list people, but it was one of the most laid back rock audiences I’ve seen. Whatever; I had a great spot.
When the band walked on, it seemed like most of the people there were there to see one of the Troys (sidenote, I saw on the internet somewhere someone say that they should have called the band “Troy Story.” That would have been great). There was some decent At the Drive-In love for Hajjar, too. Mike Zarin (guitars, bass VI, keys, more vocals…dude is a monster) isn’t someone anyone has ever heard of, but his music is all over movie trailers and video games. While writing this, I found an AMA on Reddit with Troy Sanders and Mike Zarin that got almost zero attention, but was still pretty cool and they talked about the genesis of the project and how Zarin and Hajjar had been collaborating on a sound for movie trailers and decided they needed to start a rock band to pull it off (https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/4fox79/we_are_troy_sanders_of_mastodon_mike_zarin/). It’s kind of cool how much this band has been kept on the down-low, but it’s also super frustrating to find out I could have been best Reddit friends with Troy had I only checked r/IAMA more often. The upside, of course, is that I and about 350 other people found ourselves within touching distance of four amazing and famous musicians on a Wednesday night.
Then they started playing. Holy fuck, they were loud. The good kind of loud. The mix was great: Sanders’ bass tone was big and meaty, Van Leeuwan’s guitar cut through with a sweetness that isn’t always associated with tones that cut, and Zarin was all over the place, switching between keys, guitars, singing, doubling Sanders on a bass VI, and probably some stuff I forgot because the one of the bartenders at the Dragonfly pours a hefty bourbon and ginger. The only thing that was hard to hear were the vocals, but I think that’s because I was front and center and the venue didn’t have center fill speakers. I’m sure the sound was better about 20 feet behind me, where the sound man was sitting.
I didn’t know any of the songs except for “Violescent,” which had premiered before the show (listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPvaFE7VOaM), so I can’t really give a blow-by-blow breakdown, but my overall impression was more than merely favorable. Troy Van Leeuwen’s guitar playing was never overtly flashy, but it was always right where it needed to be, and he had a lot of melodies with these perfectly bent notes that I loved. This band is really much more about the music as a whole than the mighty talents of the individual members and in that way you could really feel the composer instinct behind the songwriting. The songs all felt very broad, like the music was stretching itself out to see what it would find. It never really seemed to find a limit, either; it’s easy to say what kind of band Gone is Gone is not, but much harder to say what kind of band they actually are. They exuded an air of art without being pretentious or inaccessible, and I’m stoked as fuck to hear their EP.
Just a little closing note: I snuck into the VIP section after the show and overheard that every one of the nice big laminated lyrics sheets Sanders had been using had been stolen, and I talked to the guys form New Language a lot. I also got to shake Troy Sanders’ hand when he was leaving and tell him he was the best. I had, of course and like any good excited metal fan and musician, intended to try to make him listen to my band, but I was drunk and just happy to say hi. He was super cool and even told a security guy that I wasn’t bothering him. That’s not really important to the show or the music, but it meant a lot that he’s the kind of guy who still has time for fans, even when he’s trying to go home.
Gone is Gone’s self-titled EP is scheduled to come out on July 8th. Details on their website http://goneisgoneofficial.com/
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