godspeed.

What happened next remains the single most incredible thing I’ve ever witnessed.  At least musically.

Godspeed took the stage.  

With a ferocity and a violence and an aggressiveness that I have never, ever seen in a band.

As David mentioned to me, they now had two bass players, so the bottom end of their music was enormous.  As they began their set, my insides immediately began to pound along with the basses – I could feel it throughout my entire body.  The drums were equally pummeling.  Within seconds, people began moving back from the stage because the music was so loud.

And then David Blanche raced onto the stage.

I only met the guy once, but he struck me as being small.  But once he got up there onstage, he was positively manic.  He compared himself to David Yow of The Jesus Lizard, but I felt he was more like Iggy Pop in that he was totally into the music, totally spastic, and almost athletic in his actions onstage.  By the end of the first song, sweat had soaked through his shirt completely, and he had come down off the stage into the crowd and began moshing and slamming into people.  More people moved away from the stage, as the entire crowd began edging slowly toward the door.

Godspeed was actually scaring people away.

The intensity of the next few songs is impossible to describe with words.  I’ve been trying to describe it for fifteen years, and the only people who understand are the people who were there.  This was the loudest, most aggressive, most intense band I’d ever heard.  When someone plays me the latest Godsmack, Korn, or Disturbed record, I tell him “Those bands never saw Godspeed.”

Halfway through the set, Tommy, the guitar player, fell off the stage onto the floor.  Nobody was there to pick him up, and I could tell it hurt.  He just kept playing, and climbed back onstage.  His hair was in long dreads, or maybe it was just messy, and he had a long, full beard.  The band finished their song, and Tommy reached down onto the floor and grabbed a bottle of Budweiser he was drinking, and began guzzling it while the Timmy and the bass players launched into the next song.  

And then he smashed the bottle to bits over his own head.

When the bottle broke, he stumbled a bit and went down on one knee.  He tried getting up, but stumbled again.  Blood began trickling down the side of his face from somewhere on his head, and he managed to get himself upright again and resume playing.

At this point, what was left of the crowd had either moved to the door, moved out the door, or rushed to the front of the stage.  The band raced into “My Brother,” which was an extended, ridiculously heavy jam that featured a long, screaming sax solo that was more free jazz than punk.  While the sax solo was going on, Rob, the “original” bass player from the band, climbed up on the bass cabinet and began rocking it back and forth, while he was standing on it.  It would teeter dangerously to one side, and then he would shift his weight and rock it back to the other side.  Each time, he looked as if he was going to topple over.

While he was doing this, it occurred to me: that was a rented cabinet.  If he went over, I was going to have to buy it.  I started yelling “Get down!” but quickly realized that was futile – the music was too brutally loud for him to hear me, and even if he did hear me, these were the kinds of guys who smashed beer bottles over their own heads.  I doubted they’d listen to me asking them to climb down off the amps.

During the extended jam at the end of “My Brother,” David danced, trancelike, at the front of the stage.  He was completely drenched in sweat.  His hair – which was short – was matted to his head.  His shirt was completely plastered down to his chest.  He literally looked as if he had been swimming.

All this in twenty minutes.

The band finished their set, right on time, and left the remaining people in the club with their jaws agape.

I wouldn’t approach David after their set.  He had the most intense look in his eyes that I’d ever seen; I was afraid he’d try and kill me if I spoke to him.  Timmy, the drummer, on the other hand, was laughing.  I walked up to him and he showed me his hands – they were covered with blood.  “I’m fuckin’ bleeding, just from playing the drums, man!” he said, with a big smile on his face.  “Can you believe that?  I’m bleeding from playing the drums!”

I tried to figure out where the blood was coming from, but it just seemed like it was coming from everywhere.

I searched around for Tommy, but he was already gone.  I was never introduced to Rob, the bass player, or the sax player.  They all left.  They were like a fucking cyclone.  They came into the club, scared the shit out of everyone, played for twenty ferocious minutes, and just as quickly disappeared.  They had no manager, no candelabras, no egos.  They didn’t need a half hour to set up, they didn’t need to disparage the compilation, and they didn’t need to play for twice as long as they were asked.  By the end of the first song, they had accomplished everything they needed to.  The rest was just a reward for hanging out so long.

I finally got up the nerve to go talk to David.  “Holy shit,” I said. “That was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”

He gave me a big, sweaty hug.  “Do you think so?” he asked.

“Jesus, yes,” I said.  “My ears are bleeding.”

He smiled.  “I’ll call you this week.”  And then he was gone.

Anybody reading this who was there that night and saw Godspeed’s set: can I get a witness?

Here’s Godspeed playing “Not Enough,” from a demo they recorded in early 1993.

Rosary set up – pretty quickly, I might add – but every spare bit of energy had been sucked out of the room already.  When they took the stage, they did the best they could, but almost everyone was gone.  The club had turned on the house lights in the back of the room.  Rosary’s bass player was playing in his underwear.  They played well, but ultimately there were only about 20 people left in the club when they took the stage.

We packed up our gear during Rosary’s set.  I was on Cloud Nine.  All our friends had already left; we’d given Frank the key to our apartment so he could go open it up for everyone.  We loaded our remaining records into the car, along with our T-shirts and stuff.  Mike Fresh had already gone home, and the bartenders were cleaning up.  I felt bad, but it was 2AM and I still had a long night ahead of me – I thanked the bartenders, gave them a nice tip, and left.  Rosary was still playing.

In the car, we did the math.

Nearly 500 people had come to the show.

~ by Al on January 26, 2009.

5 Responses to “godspeed.”

  1. I’m pretty sure at some point David’s eyes may have rolled into the back of his head. I think he did this at will.

    Walt

  2. that was some night huh???

    hahaha!

  3. […] Aside from exchanging a few letters, the only time I ever met Tommy was the night he smashed a bottle over his own head. […]

  4. Absolutely the most intense live act I’ve seen in my years of attending shows. They blew everyone away. You’re right the audience had backed up- the music was an assault, the dual basses just pounded the senses. When the guitarist smashed the bottle over his head not 10 feet away from me, I knew this was the most real rock n’ roll I’d ever seen.

  5. […] Godspeed released their debut album on Atlantic, toured Europe with Black Sabbath, played with Dio, released a collaborative track with Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickenson on vocals, appeared on Beavis and Butthead…and broke up.  Guitarist Tommy Southard reconnected with us through this blog – he and bassist Rob Hultz now play in a band called Solace, who have released five albums and a number of seven-inches and compilation tracks over the years, and played shows all over the world.  They are tremendous and we love them.  Tommy also is the keeper of the blog The Devil’s Music, a fantastic resource for garage rock and obscure 7″ tracks.  He also does a radio program called Forward To The Caves on WLFR, the radio station at Stockton State College in New Jersey, where he plays more fantastic, obscure rock and punk tracks. […]

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