Lake Trout, Station 2, Norfolk, VA- 12/11
If the evening before in Kill Devil Hills was Lake Trout's pre-Christmas stopover at the cousins', their show the next night in Norfolk, VA was the family feast. Since the five musicians first started touring outside of their native Baltimore, Norfolk has always left them a place at the table. Just as in any family, tensions and overblown expectations can descend into a brotherly tusslecalls for older material are uttered with a bit more vehemence down herebut both sides always shake it off and eventually get down to devouring what's actually on the table, which consisted of a full-band set from Sleeper, filled out by frontman Ned Ascher's John Spencer-esque gospel explosions and the now complete band's spastic, ambivalent prog-reggae blues punk, all topped off by a masterfully fierce performance from the headliners, who added some old favorites to their latest material and showed exactly what they can do in front of a rowdy, appreciative audience.
The bar cleared as the familiar opening waves of ambience began crashing onto the audience, pulling them in and pushing them out while sinister currents churned beneath the surface. James Griffith's fiendish, dirty bass growling the opening notes of "Stutter" was the big one that everyone had been waiting for, and it shook the floor with the force of a full ton of moving water.
Several songs repeated from the previous night took on new urgency: Woody Ranere's screaming slide propelled the relentless thud of Mike Lowry's drums on "Pill," while the hesitant, stuttering "Say Something" was prodded forward by Lowry and Griffith's eager shoving, finally finding a blissful peace before the more straight-ahead rock of "Boots" showcased the band's songcrafting abilities.
"A Forest" was the first of several bust-outs, Matt Pierce's throaty screams adding a little ferocity to the Cure's mope, and the return of "Let Me Show You" promoted as much head-scratching as head-banging, as some in the audience stood stock still, waiting for the marble floors to crack beneath the weight of Lowry's crushing beats. Several more numbers, including "Bliss" and "#2" resurfaced, but the real surprises were reserved for the bitter end.
After a surprisingly loose "Bully," complete with jungle-beat hand-clapping, and a spotlight moment for Griffith, the boys from Baltimore pounded the nail on the head of Helmet's classic, "Unsung," and left the stage as peripheral feedback and spare string and snare rattles stumbled drunkenly into the stunned crowd. With only Ranere and Lowry left, the opening notes of "Sounds From Below" brought the audience back to consciousness and the full band retook the stage and ran through the old-school number with a confidence and swagger that wasn't there in the past.
The back-to-school vibe of the closer, a cover of the Pixies' "Wave of Mutilation," was a fitting end to the weekend. Faces old and new reunited in familiar places, sharing memories of the past and plans for the future. It's a testament to Lake Trout's casual love affair with Norfolk that this evening was Station 2's formal grand openingthey've played every hole and every palace in the city and are as qualified as any local outfit to kick things off in the next club to come down the line. Much of Lake Trout's history has passed in and around the swampy marshes of the Tidewater, and this night added another chapter between the worn covers of both their books.