Coheed and Cambria, Avalon, Los Angeles, CA- 11/7
It’s Friday night in Hollywood, and I am in the eye of the perfect storm. You know what I am talking about; that magical place where the venues best sound drifts down between the young shirtless teens in the circle pit and older stoners who exchange pipes filled with California’s finest herbal medicine. The smell of the sweat mixing with smoke is something you can find at many shows across the 31st state to join the union. However, this is not just any Friday night rock and roll extravaganza. This, my friends, is an epic four night event billed as Neverender and our hosts, Coheed and Cambria, are destroying the memories of the 300+ rock shows I have seen over the last 15 years.
Hailing from upstate New York, Coheed and Cambria could be billed as the world’s first emo-prog-buttrock band. With their Iron Maiden meets Yes prog metal riffs, poppy melodies that get stuck in your head for months and falsetto vocals that make Geddy Lee sound like Barry White at times, one may wonder why this four piece band has popped up here in news stories over the last few weeks. After all, the only song they ever “jam” on is the last track from their 2005 album Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Volume 1: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness. “The Final Cut,” an epic fan favorite in the Coheed catalog, is a song whose lyrics cover abandonment, violence and a love that never dies. It was somewhere around the 7 minute mark of drummer Chris Pennie’s solo on that Friday night that I realized the obvious: Coheed and Cambria could be the biggest thing to hit jam band nation since The Flaming Lips.
If Mastodon, The Mars Volta and previously mentioned Flips could all win over the Bonnaroo fan base, then clearly Coheed and Cambria could do the same. After all, while some bands may record a concept album at some stage of their career, this band is a concept in itself. It is the story of Coheed and Cambria, a married couple who are forced to kill their own children in order to save the universe. One part comic book, one part slasher flick and one part Sci Fi adventure, I can’t fully explain to you the story despite being a rabid fan. I also know I am not the only rabid fan with this issue.
While Phish may have set the bar for playing an entire album live, the fall, Coheed and Cambria has taken that bar and placed it 312 miles north of heaven. Over four nights in New York City, Chicago & Los Angeles (with London still to come) the Warped Tour veterans have packed small theatres with Neverender. Named after a song from their debut album The Second Stage Turbine Blade Coheed and Cambria have played one of their four albums each night in its entirety. To anyone familiar with the Coheed and Cambria catalog, you don’t need me to tell you what an undertaking this is. After all, this band is so good, that The Howard Stern Show sidekick/heavy metal drummer Richard Christy wears a diaper when he sees them live. As he told the sold out crowd during his brief Neverender opening set, Coheed and Cambria are so amazing, they have no bathroom break songs. While I manage to hold my overpriced drinks in, I can’t argue with Christy’s rather radical way of thinking.
Something strange happened inside the walls of Avalon during these four shows. With fan VIP passes being sold by the band (helping to avoid those evil Ticketmaster fees) to at least half of the crowd, a community not usually seen at emoprogbuttrock shows formed. By Friday night (the third night of shows) it felt more like summer camp then a rock and roll show. Your heart went out to the Manny Ramirez look-alike who clearly drank too much and was feeling less then stellar. After all, he was the only reason you got decent pictures the night before. You ran into the gal you rescued on Wednesday night, still hanging onto her useless 95 pound emo boyfriend who couldn’t save her from the sweaty guy with the tree tattoo on his back. Most important, you all knew that what you were witnessing were not just average, everyday shows. What you were beholding was legendary. It didn’t just equal up to Phish’s 98 Halloween run or the inaugural moe.down. It blew these gigs out of the water like a pre tummy tuck John Popper doing a cannonball into a pool filled with third grade exchange students from Outer Mongolia.
I could tell a million memories from my four day stay at Camp Coheed. From the acoustic sing-along Saturday afternoon, to the depressed bar tenders who couldn’t serve the largely underage crowd. From hanging backstage with the band Saturday night to watching living Guitar Hero Wayne Kramer join them onstage. While they may never play a 35 minute version of “Mother Superior” to glowstick chucking hippies, Coheed and Cambria (with the announcement of their participation of this year’s Warren Haynes Xmas Jam) are On The Brink of making waves within the jam nation. Consider this your warning.