Last Friday night I braved the elements of torrential downpour, lightning and slick roads to eventually arrive at the El Rey theater in Los Angeles, California. A metal band named High on Fire, who claim Oakland, California as their home, was featured. High on Fire's music and album covers* contain themes surrounding medieval topics and songs with titles like "Cometh Down Hessian", "Brother in the Wind", "Cyclopian Scape" and so on.
Need I say more? Okay, I will.
The singer has a gravelly voice that's not quite as cookie-monster-ish as the Grindcore music, but it's in the same neighborhood. I'd seen a picture of the band somewhere before, so I had some idea as to what they might look like and perform like onstage.
I had imagined some longhaired bearded black-shirted with matching black-wristbanded singer/guitarist guy who shunned the whole rockstar thing so that he could concentrate on sounding like what a gargoyle might sound like as he plucked crushing thunderous riffage out of his axe (guitar), all the while staring out into the crowd and seeing only orcs and piles of dead where the fans should be. Man, was I wrong.
Instead, the signer/guitarist guy came out with no shirt on, sporting tattoos on sculpted muscles that you get from going to a modern gym, probably not from going back to the middle ages and carrying boulders to mountaintops. And he definitely embraced the rockstar thing with open arms: strutting, posing, and repeatedly pointing at the crowd for a quick second before banging his head to the beat.
But what did I care? The music sounded the same. They didn't start singing in falsetto and do the power-ballad guitar windmill dance. They didn't change the lyrics to be about chasing bimbos and guzzling beer. But I think I almost would've rather had GWAR appear onstage and finish the set by lip-synch. That would be more like what I had in mind.
And why is it like that? I can (and you can too) probably name more than a dozen bands whose look/performance doesn't match the look/performance in your head.
Arcade Fire: Didn't know the lead singer was a goofy giant who dances goofy and dwarfs the rest of the band
The Shins: Balding bearded emo-guy anyone?
Death Cab for Cutie: Not a cutie
Luckily for most of these bands, people listen to them more than they watch them. After all that, I went back to listening to High on Fire and the mental picture went back to where it was in the first place. Gargoyle with axe in front of piles of dead. Rock on.