Stranger Fruit

This was fun!

Something I have been wanting to do for quite some time…Tell a friend that I was going to take them somewhere only telling them what time I would pick them up and a general idea of what to wear. A good friend from work, Chelly, was going to be my willing abductee on this adventure…

Originally, my wife was going to join us, also knowing very little about the show but she came down with something and was starting a new job the next day so she thought it best to bow out for the evening.

I had bought the tickets about a month before the show and I wanted to spill the beans on what the show was, but I couldn’t, I wanted the night to be a true surprise. Chelly, the willing participant played along and knew not to pry too much because she knows that I am “such a good liar”.

I was coming down with something a couple of days before the show but there was nothing that was going to stop me from seeing Zeal & Ardor at Neumos. Nothing. I had spent the last month watching videos on YouTube to kinda see what I should expect from the performance. Nothing that I watched online could have prepared me for the evening I was going to have. We’ll get to the actual show in a minute but first…the pre-game. We finished work at 5:00 and headed out to have the Uber pick us up. Chelly still didn’t know where we were going, she had guessed wildly incorrectly and I didn’t let her call an Uber as to not give our destination away. Besides, it was only a short 8 minute ride from work to our dinner destination, The Lost Lake Cafe.

Scoped out the menu beforehand and knew they had reasonably priced and good tasting eats. Got there early enough to get the Happy Hour menu. Little did I know that would have a cheeseburger and fries for $3.50. Let that sink in for a sec, a flame-broiled burger with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and fries for $3.50! There’s nowhere in Seattle that has a deal like that, especially one that is as palatable as a freshly grilled cheeseburger. Whenever I have gone out with Chelly, she’s always had either a cider or a beer & a shot. Beer & a shot…must be a Pacific Northwest thing.

At dinner, we talked about the show a little bit, not giving too much away. Just enough to wet the appetite. Neumos is right around the corner so it wasn’t too much of a deal to go and wait in line for the doors to open.

After dinner, we walked over to Everyday Music and browsed the CDs and DVDs for a bit. Looking for a copy of Singles on the cheap, we came up with nada. Bounced over to The Elliott Bay Book Company and picked up a greeting card and a pair of socks for the wife. We talked about how we could spend so much time and money in book shops but were not really readers at all. By now it was time to head over to the venue and wait in line for the doors to open. And that’s when I let Chelly know that we were on our way to see a Norwegian black metal, gospel, blues band. She looked at me and said, “OK”.

There weren’t too many people in line, maybe 50, so we grabbed a spot at the end and bided our time quietly judging people in line. The line slowly trickled into the venue after showing our IDs and tickets. Surprisingly, not much of a bag check for us on the way in. Maybe we didn’t look to threatening in our lack of leather and death metal band t-shirts.

Doors open and Chelly makes a bee-line for the bathroom as the club is filling up. I am beginning to think she has the bladder of an infant or maybe she broke the seal too early. I hang back and wait for her at one of the three bars. This is both our first times at Neumos and I notice the venue is not that big at all. Capacity is maybe 650 max…and I begin to get excited. Why? I had seen the videos online of Zeal & Ardor live and saw that the crowd sizes were much bigger. This, dare I say, was going to be intimate and something that I had been wanting to cross of my bucket list. To see a great band (discovered or not) at a small venue.

Chelly met me back at the bar and ordered, you guessed it, beer & a shot. I joined her in a shot of Maker’s Mark and chased that with a Diet Coke. We hung out by the sound board at the back of the room, close to the exit. No particular reason other than we wanted to be comfortable and not nose to armpit of the person next to us.

Astronoid opened the show and the sound wasn’t great. Good thing we brought ear plugs as it was loud, painfully loud. Small clubs can get loud, but this was a few seconds into the show and I thought that if I continued without the plugs I could do some actual damage to my hearing. I was familiar enough with Astronoid’s music to recognize some of the songs and bounce along with them. Chelly had an extreme case of hair envy when she saw the mop of Casey Aylward. Not going to lie, it was a glorious mop of metal that would dance around with the music as if it were a bouncing ball enticing you to follow its every whim. As they were wrapping up the show, they gave the usual nod to the headliner, “…Zeal & Ardor’s coming up next and they’re going to kick your ass.”

After a brief intermission, another bathroom break and another beer & a shot, the lights went down and the pre-show “Sacrilegium I” began to play. I had heard it loud in my car and in my headphones but hearing it with enough bass to make my man-bits tingle…wow! Chelly turned to me and mouthed the word “wow” back to me. I was excited. Excited for me. Excited for Chelly in what she was about to hear I knew was amazing. Excited that I was able to share this experience with her, too.

The band comes on stage in blackness wearing hoodies up and a single guitar note just ringing out…the beginning of “In Ashes” from Devil Is Fine. I wanted to watch the show, but I also wanted to watch Chelly’s reaction. At this point there was a little head bobbing, nods of approval. I turned back to the energy pulsating from the stage and began to lose myself in the show. Yes, I had seen the same setlist many times online but there was something about it being live. So. Much. Energy.

One of the great things about the night is that I do something that I rarely do. I stopped caring for a bit. Things happening at work didn’t matter. I was taking a mental evening, with a friend, and I was going to have a good time. And fuck did I ever. Took the earplugs out and the show sounded awesome, better than I thought it would. I was singing along and pumping my fist in the air. I was relaxing and having a really good time.

About 2/3 of the way through the show, Chelly turned to me and shouted, “The band is really good, I wanna go buy some merch.”

Who was I to say no? We hugged the outer wall and made our way to the merch table by the bathrooms. On the way I bumped into someone and they hugged me. I think they think they knew me but I couldn’t remember them for the life of me. So I just mouthed a “How are you?” and they said something and moved on.

Chelly hit the bathroom one more time and we hung out by the side of the stage which was an odd juxtaposition to standing in the back of the club. It was quieter but we were much closer to the band. When Manuel Gagneux would turn around we could see his face away from the crowd and it was a nice intimate moment. Chelly picked up a hoody on the way back to our original spot. We made it in time to hear the encore with one of my new favorite tracks, “Baphomet”. I heard the album version just recently, but hearing it live took it to a whole new level.

With new bands, sometimes there are songs that are absolute bangers and others and kind of sleepers. Not with Zeal & Ardor. Every song I have heard is a belter. Fresh, raw, and powerful. As the show ended, I was happy and sad. I was sad that the show was over, but I was happy for a couple of reasons…I was able to see Zeal & Ardor live, the show blew me away, and I was able to share it with a willing abductee to who was almost as excited as me to get home and listen to Stranger Fruit again.

2.Gravedigger's Chant3:11
4.Don't You Dare3:29
5.Fire Of Motion2:28
6.The Hermit2:42
7.Row Row3:06
8.Ship On Fire3:33
10.You Ain't Coming Back3:19
11.The Fool2:25
12.We Can't Be Found3:32
13.Stranger Fruit3:29
16.Built On Ashes4:35