When I heard Sleep was coming to Albuquerque I was pretty excited, I had known they had broken up for a period of time and had not realized they were back together. So when the Saturday night arrived I hopped in the car to go and check them out with a couple of my friends. This was our first concert of 2014 (January fourth I believe) so I had high hopes for starting off the next year of concerts right. Knowing the legend of the Dopesmoker, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Would the entire show just be one song, or even just one solo? It wasn’t sure, but I can assure you it was not a disappointment.
They were playing at the classic Sunshine Theater. For those who don’t know Sunshine is the main concert venue of Albuquerque for decent sized acts. Sunshine holds about one thousand people legally, fifteen hundred on a sold-out night, and five hundred, if I am generous, the night I saw Sleep.
My friends and me showed up a little bit after the opener had started. I wish we had gotten there earlier, but you know how it is. Helen Money is up there as one of the best unknown opening acts I have seen. She was the only one on stage, just her and her cello. The easiest way to describe her music is doom cello, why she doesn’t brand herself with that awesome term, I don’t know. Anyways, she played very heavy thick doom metal pieces with plenty of distortion. On a few songs she triggered intense drum parts that were on her looper. I wish I could have gotten closer to see her pedal set up, but again you know how it is at concerts. Overall she put on a very enthralling live performance, but like with many opening acts, not very many people were paying attention. It’s aggravating to try and get into an opening act when the people around you are talking. The one thing she could have done was maybe crank the volume up a bit. The best way to get people to pay attention is make sure they can’t hear each other when they try and talk.
Once Helen Money was finished we waited around a reasonable amount of time and then, on walked Sleep. Al Cisneros came out shirtless rocking his sweet back tattoo and Matt Pike and Jason Roeder had the classic metal head look about them. Then it begun the slow heavy mettle, they built from the single notes into thick swirling tracks. The opening portion of their performance was really great; trudging ahead they got the crowd moving. We melded left and right, in a very gentle mosh pit swaying and knocking into each other. Yes, I did say gentle mosh pit, I am not trying to contradict myself, the pit mirrored the music, heavy, slow and peaceful.
Gradually the crowed slowed with the music. This was when they entered the drone section of the show. I would love to say I remembered it, but honestly, I was completely gone, lost in the depths of their music. I just remember going from fairly constant movement to the entire crowd being motionless. It was as if Sleep had slowed down time. Every note, every chord, every drum beat, stretched and lingered longer and longer. At one point, locked deep inside my mind I started assigning each note a color. The seemingly infinite drone section finally broke once they finished about half of Dopesmoker (which is the only song I recognized that night).
The entire crowd was completely lost in the trance. The only thing that woke us was when a very drunk participant started the mosh pit up again. I saw the most hilarious mix of non-moshers enter in attempted to wake themselves up. Throughout the rest of the show I felt completely disoriented and when the encore finally closed, I must admit I was quite glad. I don’t think I could have handled anymore of the onslaught. What felt like at least three hours barely pushed an hour and a half.
Afterwards as I was chatting with Helen Money, who was very nice and gracious, I caught a picture of the set list from the guy who snagged it. To be completely honest, I did not think they were playing structured songs let alone an entire set list. As my friends and me drove home we agree that this was one of the more intense, mind alternating shows we had attended. Something about what those three guys do places you beyond consciences.