Witch Mountain. Larimer Lounge. 06.20.12

Standing among the few who ventured out to Larimer Lounge on a Wednesday night, I couldn’t help but reflect on the confession of NPR intern Emily White, and (even more so) the incredibly thought provoking response from David Lowery. While the opening acts were thrashing away, threatening to exceed ‘safe’ decibel levels, and mashing vocal chords to pulp, I couldn’t help but be comfortably smug that I have grown up over the past few years — finding myself on the ‘right’ side of the this conversation.  So, before we get into the actual show, let me explain…

I was an early adopter of Napster. I had a Napster server running in my bedroom in college. I not only jumped on the mp3 bandwagon, I drove that wagon around the globe and back. I even went as far as to rip all of my CDs onto my hard drive (at a shitty bitrate) before I sold them to an independent record store and used the proceeds to buy faster hardware. Now, not only do I regret parting with my physical music collection, I now regret that I used the same argument Emily did – ‘I go to shows and buy t-shirts, so it’s ok!’ And although it’s true I was attending close to 100 live shows a year, as was evident at Larimer Lounge last night, that is not enough. In getting to know artists such as Chelsea Wolfe and Deafheaven, as well as label owners such as Greg Anderson, Chris Bruni and Caleb Braaten, I haven’t been able to use the ‘I go to shows’ argument for some time now.  So, what I do today is use Spotify and other streaming sites (and occasionally a newsgroup) to listen to an album. If I like the album, I buy it directly from the label or from an independent record store.  I listen to hundreds of albums a year (most only once),  so I can’t buy everything, but streaming music on label websites, blogs and subscription services really does provide a way of sampling that does away with any excuse to not pay for the stuff I keep on regular rotation. Stuff like Witch Mountain…

Witch Mountain are a doom metal band with a sexy, sultry, bluesy front-woman with a beast of a voice. They are from Portland, OR and they travel by van. They work hard. Much harder than they are compensated for by performing for a handful of people on a Wednesday night. Witch Mountain are on Profound Lore Records. Profound Lore is a one-man label out of Canada, and that one-man does compensate his artists fairly. For that reason, he does not make the music available on streaming services such as Spotify. Profound Lore has built a business around physical music sales. I believe so much in what this label does that I buy every release unheard. In fact, this year every time a preorder is available, I pick up the new music along with one release from the back catalog. I do this because I know I am going to like 80% of product that wears the Profound Lore stamp, and because I want this label to stay in business. Without labels and artists like these, the world of music would be regulated to Black Eyed Peas and Goytes. And that’s not a world I want to live in. The world I want to live in is one where I can go down to the local dive on a Wednesday night and see an incredible band and grab a couple beers for $20 and change.

The band took the stage just after 10:30pm.  It was Uta Plotkin’s first time in Denver and she said she’d been warned about the altitude, but that didn’t stop her, or the band, from diving headfirst into the blazing hot demonchild ballad that opens the latest album. The crowd swelled from 10 to around 25 during the epic “The Ballad of Lanky Rae”, but if the lack of faces in the venue discouraged the crew from Portland, they hid their disappointment behind stone carving riffs and ground shaking percussion. ‘maybe this lack of air ain’t so bad’ was Uta’s understatement of the night, but as if to prove the thin air was no match for her vocals, “Beekeeper” was a display in diversity worthy of a gold medal.  Ranging from Ann and Nancy Wilson’s long lost sister, to drowning guttural growls reminiscent of John Haughm, to channeling the ghost of Ronnie James Dio, she really is the draw to this band.  But it wasn’t just Uta that made this a show.  Rob Wrong is an absolute wizard on the guitar, shredding his strings like he was an arena rock star just performing another night under the big lights, and although Neal Munson and Nate Carson were a little more subtle in their delivery, they are the granite which makes the Witch Mountain a formidable force.

“Shelter” came next, just as it does on the album. This track really showcases Uta’s talent for singing the blues, and once again Rob was as fluid as I’ve ever seen anyone. “Veil of Forgotten” had me thinking they were going to perform Cauldron of the Wild front-to-back, but instead “Wing of the Lord” from last year’s South of Salem was announced as the ‘last song of the evening’. Uta transformed herself into Janis Joplin as the band went more Zeppelin than Sabbath, and it would have been a great closer, but the small, rabid crowd wanted ‘just one more!’ So after a little parley between Uta and Rob, the decision was made to give us one more.  After a quick thanks to the females in the crowd, we were treated to the night’s highlight, “Never Know”. ‘I never know if you’re dead…’ It was obvious those in Larimer Lounge were very much alive! ‘oh baby, what’s your doom?’ Last night, it was Witch Mountain, and oh, what a sweet doom it was!

It’s because of my loyalty to Profound Lore that I know about Witch Mountain. Their latest CD is an incredible slab of ‘Sabbath-influenced’ doom with ‘Zeppelin meets early-Heart’ blues. And you have a few choices on how to get your hands on it. You can buy it from your local record store…you can buy it direct from Profound Lore….you can buy it at one of their shows….or, you can steal it from one of the many illegal download sites out there.  But if you were to see them live – if you were one of the few in Denver last night — the last option would be no option at all. Once you get up close and personal, it’s just too hard to steal from someone.

The Ballad of Lanky Rae
Veil of the Forgotten
Wing of the Lord
Never Know