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Sleep @ the Regency Ballroom

23 September 2010 No Comment

9/12/10 @ Regency Ballroom
San Francisco, California
Written by  Josh Kutras
Photos by Raymond Ahner
Edited by Jeff Longo

In 1993 Pearl Jam ruled the airwaves with their number 1 album VS, people were going to the movies to see Carlito’s Way in their flannels and torn jeans; and a Black Sabbath inspired trio out of San Jose CA called Sleep would forever change the face of heavy music with their ground-breaking release Holy Mountain. A sludge drenched, skull crushing, masterpiece of Toni Iommi riff worship played at quarter speed, that would ultimately go on to inspire it’s own worship (see Stoner Metal)

Seventeen years later guitarist Matt Pike, and bass player/vocalist Al Cisneros reunited for a ten day tour of the US performing Holy Mountain (Earache 1993) in its entirety.  Joining them will be Neurosis drummer Jason Roeder filling in for Chris Hakius. Stubble was there to witness and ultimately document this prestigious event on the first of two sold out shows at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco CA.

1. Dopesmoker Intro
2. Holy Mountain
3. Evil Gypsy / Solomon’s Theme
4. Dragonaut
5. Aquarian
6. Inside the sun
7. From Beyond
8. The Druid
9. Over The Mountain (Ozzy Osbourne cover)

We arrived at the Regency Ballroom late missing the opener Thrones, because some stupid bitch of a twenty something girl was busy texting and riding in my blind spot making me miss my exit. There was a line from the front of the venue that stretched around the block and down the hills of SF, filled with the metal faithful drinking tall cans from paper bags and passing joints to and fro. When we got inside the theater it was packed, floor and balcony alike, a thick cloud of marijuana smoke hung loftily in the air above the crowd like a warning for an approaching storm of feedback laden doom. Behind the drum riser was a giant screen sporting a picture of the great Tony Iommi in a frilly outfit with his signature Gibson SG, the lights went down, the crowd went wild and out walked the architects of the modern stoner rock sound.

The trio walked to each of their spots on the stage sans instruments, and sticks and stood stoically staring into the crowd for what seemed like 5 minutes, the crowd alternated between cheering and standing quietly in anticipation. Then the marijuananaut, a man in astronaut gear and presumably very high, walked out and handed each member their given instruments, and then they began to tune up. This was classic Sleep, a band that was in no rush to get where they’re going, stoned into oblivion and running at their own pace. Matt Pike all tuned up and plugged in struck the opening chord of Jerusalem/Dopesmoker, a sound so fucking loud I began looking around at the structure of the Regency to see if I could spot any cracks, I mean I’ve seen Motorhead and thought they were the loudest but I do believe Matt Pike has them beat by leaps and bounds.

The hessian warriors belted out the first 10 or 15 minutes of Jerusalem/Dopesmoker with footage of the moon landing and close ups of buds playing behind them, hence bringing a visual to the idea that they were exploring space and time through doom and marijuana. When Jerusalem/Dopesmoker ended the crowd was going fucking apeshit and the cloud of pot smoke dawdling in the rafters had grown much larger, and much, much thicker.

The sheer volume of the band playing together was amazing and physically exhausting. It was much like exercising your ass off and feeling good yet a little spent; but this wasn’t over by a long shot, the night was young. The stoned messiahs then ripped into their seminal recording Holy Mountain, and holy shit! Breaking out Dragonaut, Some Grass, Evil Gypsy-Solomon’s theme, The Druid and more; the band was pussy tight (to quote the great Pantera) and the sound for as loud as it was, wasn’t muddy at all each instrument was clear, and fucking loud did I mention that? During the song Inside the Sun, the band took two pauses in the middle to let their instruments feedback, the first time for a minute or two and the second time for what I’m guessing is pretty close to five minutes, did they do that on purpose or were they just really high? Yes to both, it’s fucking stoner rock for Christ sake!

The show was amazing, I don’t know what else to say, except for oh yeah, for an encore they busted out Ozzy’s Over the mountain at about quarter to eighth speed, awesome. One of the best shows ever from one of the best bands ever, a lot of bands and artists these days claim underground and DIY while wearing their free converse, and doing interviews with Carson Daly; but Sleep is the real thing. A band that began their own movement, bucking all the trends, and gaining notoriety through word of mouth, touring and just kicking ass, true independents, trail and bowl blazers indeed. Days before I had seen Slayer/Megadeth perform both Seasons in the Abyss, and Rust in Peace in their entirety, and now the same for Holy Mountain, though this was more special as Sleep are not a functioning band year round, it was like Christmas for fans of heavy music and each gift opened was a new bike and a bb gun, or perhaps a jar of weed and bong would have been more appropriate for this occasion.


Written by Josh Kutras
Photos by Raymond Ahner
Edited by Jeff Longo

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