YOB, Voivod and Amenra played a show at Thalia Hall in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
Date: Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Place: Thalia Hall (1807 S. Allport St.; Chicago, IL 60608)
Ticket cost: $36.59 after taxes and fees (general admission)
The doors to the show opened at 7 p.m. I took the train to get to Thalia Hall. Walking through Pilsen is cool because there’s so much art and graffiti on literally every building and alley you look at. In some weird way it probably drives up the rent so you probably cannot afford to live there anyway. Underneath these imaginative cosmetics there are a lot of interesting local businesses and restaurants around there too.
I knew I was guaranteed an awesome night of music based on the bands. YOB are still supporting their “Our Raw Heart” album released on Relapse Records in June 2018. Voivod is out on tour for “The Wake” album that released last September on Century Media Records.
Thalia Hall is a great place for concerts. It was my first time there. It’s a nice theater venue with an old school feel to it. It has a wide, oval-shaped room with balcony seating. The concert stage itself was expansive, with designs on the wall panels. The room’s sound was solid and wasn’t muffled. It was seriously loud but also clear.
All the bands had good merchandise. They had this entire separate room dedicated to the bands. Voivod and YOB t-shirts were $20 each. Voivod even had some guitar tab books of their albums for sale, which I haven’t seen a band sell at a show before. I picked up a Voivod shirt. They were selling their new CD for $20, which is way overpriced. Usually that’s the price of an LP. Amenra’s lead singer was selling his band’s merch. He seemed like a cool guy.
I try to get up front for any show I go to so I got there shortly after the doors opened. It was packed. Most of the general admission on the ground floor was filled up by the time Amenra opened the show. If I had to guess there were around 700-800 people there. I don’t know what the building’s capacity is but it’s probably a few hundred more than that.
Amenra came on stage just around 7:57 p.m. I had never heard of them before. They are a five-piece group from Belgium. The band is pretty heavy. For listening and seeing them for the first time they made a good impression. Without getting too detailed they play a doom metal style. The first song they did was like 12 minutes long, ending around 8:09. The second song didn’t finish until around 8:17. The songs would either start gloomy or slow for a few minutes then eventually break out into some heavy riffing, drumming and yelling. They had black and white visuals playing on a big backdrop behind them that went along with each song. There was waves crashing, water flowing, mountains, clouds, a young girl roaming around in nature, old cathedral-type buildings, and that young girl crushing a scorpion (I think) in her hand. This was pretty cool. The singer was seriously into the whole set. There was a lot of passion put into it. Half the time he had his back to the crowd as the music played or he sang. He also sang clean at times and actually had a good voice. Amenra sounded pretty tight. I liked them. Their set ended at 8:45.
I was mainly excited to see Voivod live because I haven’t seen them before. Voivod has always been an original and unique band. I actually cannot name anyone that sounds exactly like them from that ’80s era, or even now really. They had so many elements coming together, with this thrash metal, punk and progressive infused sound featuring crazy tempos/riffs, futuristic/science fiction/dystopian lyrics and bizarre artwork for their albums. Each guy in the band had their own nickname too. The band’s singer Denis “Snake” Belanger still sounds fantastic in person. Him and Michel “Away” Langevin are the band’s original members, which started in 1982. Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, who was the band’s original guitarist and songwriter, passed away from cancer in 2005. Now with Voivod are bassist Dominic “Rocky” Laroche and guitarist Dan “Chewy” Mongrain who have been in the band for several years already.
Voivod started playing at 9:04. The guitar sounded low and dull at first but improved after a song or two. I haven’t gotten deep into the band’s catalog but always really dug “Killing Technology” from 1987. Voivod played a few awesome songs from that album like “Ravenous Medicine” and “Overreaction.” Snake joked a few times about their new award-winning album, which legit won a Juno award on March 16 for Canada’s best metal/hard rock album of 2018. The new song “Iconspiracy” sounded great live. Snake teased playing some “rock and roll” midway through the set. They started doing the opening riff to Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Snake said it wasn’t that type of rock and roll, and then burst into “The Prow” from “Angel Rat” (1991). It’s this cool, haunting, more alternative-styled song that sounds a lot different from the other stuff they played.
Snake is a charismatic frontman. You can tell he’s a funny dude and would be cool to hang out with. Michel “Away” Langevin hammered away on the drums and didn’t let up. He’s still such a killer drummer. For two guys being in their 50s, Snake and Away were great. Like with Amenra earlier in the night, there was a lot of sick art on the backdrop as the band played different songs. Voivod ended at 10:05, their last song being “Voivod” from their first album “War & Pain” (1984). There wasn’t an encore. They had a bit of a small mosh pit going at some points since their songs are thrashier than the other two bands.
YOB is a three-man doom metal band from Oregon. They came out to play at 10:32. I got into them last year after buying “Our Raw Heart.” I saw them for the first time last July here in Chicago and they blew me away. They’re probably one of the best live bands I’ve seen.
YOB had another real heavy set. Right out of the gate they started to rip it up with “Prepare the Ground.” This was such a killer opener. Their songs are lengthier but still keep up the intensity. The way YOB goes from these softer, mellower segments to heavier parts is phenomenal. It’s such a fantastic contrast that works so well.
Mike Scheidt is a great frontman. What a cool dude. He plays guitar with so energy and passion. He also headbangs like no other. Travis Foster is a terrific drummer and great to see live. They did “Beauty in Falling Leaves” from the latest album that Mike said they don’t play too often but gets requested a lot. It has more of slow tempo. The backup singer/bass player for Amenra came out during the set and did a song with them too. Talk about an intense dude. He could really yell.
They played for close to an hour and a half. A small mosh started going during the last song, with several people kind of just jumping and floating around to the groove. There wasn’t an encore from them either. YOB ended their set at 11:52.
YOB is one of my favorite bands to see live now. I don’t think it’s possible for them to suck live. Voivod and YOB is a fantastic combination for a tour.