I tagged along with England’s Dragged Into Sunlight for their first journey across America in 2012. I did so again for their second American tour last summer that spanned 27 cities. Comparing crowd sizes to their initial go around (about 50 to 75 people per show) to this time (100 to 400), it’s obvious that their profile has increased immensely, quite surprising considering the nature of their music which is just as coarse and unhinged as their banter during long van drives. Their humor is absolutely void of PC sensibilities, but no harm, no foul, in the sense that at the end of the day, it’s simply dark, “inappropriate” humor, something lost on many of today’s prim and proper metalheads.
Dragged Into Sunlight’s music, since their inception, has been oppressive, aggressive, dark, ominous and most definitely overflowing with an unmistakably hateful energy. Intuitively enough, then, Dragged Into Sunlight—and any band whose music entails the latter descriptor, for that matter—can be appealing to people who affiliate themselves with extremist ideologies. Judging by the garb and recognizable nazi-like appearance of some showgoers, I saw a few handfuls of these folks on this tour. And some of these people in particular were apparently previously unaware of the ethnic backgrounds of the band and crew. Upon realizing that the Dragged Into Sunlight crew included several visible minorities—or “people of color,” if that is still the PC phrase du jour—the reactions of some of these far-right leaning folks were both obvious and amusing. It wasn’t as much a case of anger, dismay or disapproval as it was a state of shock. Jaws literally dropped, and glazed stares remained frozen.
New Haven, Connecticut
Venues are commonly downtown, and a great pleasure of touring is driving through the streets of major metropolitan centers allowing one to take in the sights of things as iconic as the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately when it comes to metal, especially the dirty underbelly of underground extreme metal, while you may be driving through some posh streets one moment, the final turn toward the venue finds you in a less than savory downtown area nine times out of ten. (While touring with Cephalic Carnage years ago, I saw a homeless junkie piss on the band’s van, and in response to being called out for doing so, the man asked for change.)
With that said, the venue in New Haven was nestled within a charming, upscale neighborhood in which the homeless were roaming the streets amongst the city’s more fortunate residents. A friendly, older homeless woman engaged in conversation with us and noticed we were in the midst of parking our vehicle. She took it upon herself to intervene, get in front of the vehicle and direct us step-by-step. In the most odd, nasally loud voice, she bellowed, “Just a notch, Just a notch. Just a notch. And…stop!” Repeating her phrases became a recurring mantra during the most mundane of moments during our travels in the van.
New Haven was also the initial night for Churchburn, featuring Dave Suzuki (ex-Vital Remains) and Ray McCaffrey (ex-Grief), whose gargantuan, melodic, sludgy, blackened doom encapsulates the very essence of melancholy and misery in the most sonically tasteful and heavy manner that fans of the genre would want and hope for. They also performed in Cambridge; however it was too bad that they had to drop off the Brooklyn gig, which was set to be their final show of this tour, due to van problems. This is a band to keep an eye out for, no doubt. The tour’s support bands for the bulk of the jaunt was Salt Lake City’s incredibly unique, blackened, metallic hardcore band Cult Leader and Denver’s raw and sludgy doom band Primitive Man.
Ithaca, New York
There were other “interesting” characters emerging throughout the tour, as they always do, like the crust punk hosting an after party at his rotting, filthy house one night. This fine gent chose to make a scene by stopping his basement fan by jamming his finger in it, looking at me with his logical explanation. “You’re a big guy. Just in case you wanted to kick my ass. So I just, you know…” Dragged Into Sunlight’s merch guy simply responded with an adequate, sarcastic summary. “Alpha established.”
Following Dragged Into Sunlight’s set at Jesse Fuentes’ Ithaca installment of his One Fest series, one such character—a dude who was frequently talking and laughing to himself—tagged along with the band to a party out in the woods along with the same amp that he brought to the show for Dragged Into Sunlight to use, which they didn’t. His odd demeanor was unsettling and off-putting. He’s lucky he avoided a beating. Within our own crew there was nearly a beating amidst the madness and debauchery. At some point I tapped into my inner caveman and smashed small trees and branches down to further fuel our mini bonfire. The forest did not burn down. Great success.
Whilst laundry was being taken care of, I cut out to a neighboring barber shop for a head and beard shave. The barber was the business’ owner, a young man from war-torn Bagdad who moved to America with his wife to ensure their family would have a more safe and prosperous future. He was proud of his work, he was chatty, gregarious and open about his life’s turmoil and more comfortable current state of affairs. The barber was also candid about his frustration with the more ignorant segment of American culture that demonizes Middle Eastern people. As cliched as it may seem, he truly fits the mold of the American dream. There’s nothing radical about him. The only thing that would drive him to violence would be the need to protect his family, and everything he does, daily, is for their happiness and future opportunities. The throng of customers and friends sitting around conversing clearly respected the barber as an opinion leader of sorts. They all opened up about their experiences as Middle Eastern or Islamic men in America, reflecting a collective notion that while they are treated well personally, they shared the barber’s frustration. The general tone of the conversation was positive, in a nutshell, other than the last statement an Uzbekistan man offered as I was paying my bill. “America and the West are great, but all of the problems come from the jews.” It would have been nice if he hadn’t capped off the experience with that caveat, but, in any event, my interaction with the young men was favorable and memorable overall.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Local openers are hit or miss on tours. Generally speaking, I expect them to be shit, once in a while I am pleasantly surprised, as with the solid black metal band Vastum in Oakland. I was surprised in Salt Lake City, too, but not in a good way. The horribly named Portal to the God Damn Blood Dimension was a two-piece act that had lackluster, previously recorded backing music and god-awful vocals from two guys. It was beyond cringe-worthy. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” This was as stereotypically emo and pathetic as these lyrics make it sound. It wasn’t even a bad bedroom black metal band. It was like a high school art project from goth kids gone horribly wrong.
Born and raised in England, like the rest of the band, one of the guitarists finally had the opportunity to meet his aunt and grandma for the first time in the Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles where they reside. Following the sold out LA show, our ventures led to Sky Valley, California, meaningless to anyone who doesn’t live there as well as anyone who isn’t a fan of Kyuss. For those in the know, the highway sign was the cover of the band’s Welcome To Sky Valley album. Several of us are Kyuss fans, and we were on top of the world. We took multiple pictures in front of the sign and set off fireworks, one of which smacked me in the face while I was posing and trying to look pretty.
In the midst of our brief visit, we noticed a vehicle stationed on the road at a nearby cross street. The woman driving the vehicle eventually pulled up and told us we shouldn’t be there. We had our fun under the sun and were in the process of leaving, but the unnecessary intervention was annoying, to say the least. She had been watching us for at least 10 minutes. She was basically a small town person with too much time on her hands.
Prior to the Tucson show, there was an element in the Gatecreeper camp, the evening’s local band that was supposed to be the opener, trying to jockey for position to either headline or play directly before Dragged Into Sunlight to presumably improve the likelihood of a significant crowd for a video shoot. They were quite good, a hybrid of classic Bolt Thrower and modern hardcore. Unfortunately for the music video producer or directer or whomever was behind such requests for the show’s lineup to be shuffled, the only options available were to open or conclude the show so as to not interfere with the backline set up and regular activities of a touring package. Boo hoo. There were more than a handful of glances and grimacing, “tough guy” looks in our direction, and, personally, I didn’t give a flying fuck.
The Dragged Into Sunlight crew is always apt to throw down and party, and this night was no exception. We closed down a bar adjacent to the venue. It’s common sense for bar staff and patrons to expect the bar to inform people when it’s last call and allow for a brief period of uninterrupted drinking. Not here. The bartender ripped one of the Dragged Into Sunlight dude’s drinks out of his hands as he was finishing it off, nearly smacking his mouth and spilling the drink on him. We collectively took issue with her reckless and unprofessional behavior, and a bartender from the associated venue’s bar attempted to downplay our concerns, going as far as suggesting the Dragged Into Sunlight member spilled the drink on himself. We didn’t take too kindly to this. Our group stood up screaming. We nearly came to blows with the wonderful human being, I sent a few chairs in flight, and we returned to our hotel room where an unrelated scuffle nearly sent two people out of the second story room’s window as shards of glass went flying.
Raleigh, North Carolina
The tour had clearly been a success, and we had arrived at the home base of our friends in Make—tour mates with Dragged Into Sunlight in America in 2012—who hopped onto the tour in Atlanta. But the final stages of any tour can be draining and trying in a variety of ways, probably the reason that one of Dragged Into Sunlight’s members reflected upon things from a momentarily down-trodden perspective while we awaited dinner at a quaint diner a few doors down from the venue for the tour’s second to last show. “This looks like one of those proper American diners you see in the movies where the character drinks coffee and hates his life. Perfect for me, sitting here, waiting for dinner, living my shit life. Waiting for the next shit day.” Quite literally, many of us did have a shit evening and following few days.
Perhaps it was old hummus? Whatever the case may be, members of our crew and Primitive Man suffered from nasty cases of food poisoning. I was expelling waste from more than one orifice several times that night at the home of Make’s Scott Endres. I had five trips to the bathroom? Ten? I’m not sure exactly. Pain and discomfort were the only things I knew for certain. Since I was well aware of how disturbed my stomach was, I hoarded the toilet paper, not aware that several others in our party were afflicted with the same stomach demon. The lack of toilet paper meant one of Dragged Into Sunlight’s members had to use post-it notes to clean himself up. Ah, the beauty of touring!
I parted ways with the Brits following the final show in Richmond, Virginia, and the band drifted northward for their flight home, puking all over the van and in overflowing cups along the way. It was all as absurdly disgusting and vile as their music is. And they’re about to do it all over again now in Europe as the opening band for Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas tour.