A Celebration Of The Life & Music Of Caleb Scofield – The Wiltern; Los Angeles, CA
As pictures and video started appearing online on the night of June 13th, I was on my phone refreshing and searching hashtags and locations. What was I lusting after? Live updates from The Rialto in Boston. Why? I needed to see what those in attendance saw during the benefit concert for the late Caleb Scofield. I wanted to hear what they heard: Converge. Cave In. Old Man Gloom. The Cancer Conspiracy (Burlington, VT’s own! I think I was still at UVM when The Audio Medium was released). An incredible lineup of artists who played with Caleb through the years had come together to raise money for the Scofield family. In addition to playing for a great cause, the bands on the bill that night were playing for a crowd of diehard fans. The next day I watched the footage from the show, which was posted in its entirety on YouTube. It kind of felt like being there.
The day before — June 12th (if I recall) — a second benefit concert was announced. It was to be held here, in Los Angeles. And much like the Boston show, this lineup was an absolute stunner. In addition to Hydra Head stalwarts 27 and Pelican, Old Man Gloom was going to be performing for the first time in LA since 2015. Cave In — a band kind-of-sort-of on double-secret hiatus since 2011 — hadn’t played Los Angeles since 2009. And Isis?! Isis called it quits in 2010, and hadn’t played anywhere since disbanding.
The words “must-see” could not begin to describe this event. I was online the moment tickets went on sale hoping to score a pair. Although they sold out within seconds, I was lucky enough to nab a couple, ensuring my attendance at the show. Four long months later, the night of the benefit finally arrived.
Getting into The Wiltern on Saturday night was an absolute shit-show. I’ve attended my fair share of concerts there before, but this one was very poorly organized. Tickets stated that doors opened at 6:30 pm. We waited down the street at Beer Belly before walking over to the venue maybe thirty minutes after doors theoretically opened. When we approached we noticed a long, long line being funneled into a tiny area with two metal detectors outside the front entrance. The line stretched the length of Wilshire Boulevard between Western and Oxford Avenue hung a left on Oxford and stretched all the way to the Ralphs in between Wilshire and 7th Street. It took 45 minutes (!!!) to get in the front door. By that time, 27 had already begun their set. We were lucky enough to hear the last two songs, which sounded nice enough. I’m only peripherally familiar with their records, so I don’t know what songs they played. Sorry!
Old Man Gloom was the first band I was super stoked to see live. I was not disappointed. Stephen Brodsky stepped in to play bass during the set, which featured a dozen songs spanning the band’s career. There was almost a perfect mix of songs from Ape Of God, Christmas, No, and the bands first two records. Never having seen OMG live before, I was immediately taken with Nate Newton. What a beast! His stage presence and playing are ferocious. I should point out now, the sound at the Wiltern during the benefit was incredible. It was interesting to see how all the different heavy bands sounded while using the same backline (which, I believe, was all Aaron Turner’s gear). Old Man Gloom delivered the most crushing volume of the night. To say that I was really stupidly giddy watching them perform would be a severe understatement. If you are unfamiliar with Old Man Gloom, do yourself a favor and listen to Ape Of God or No, although Swan Fungus Metal Guru™ Ian recommends first-timers start with Christmas.
Old Man Gloom Setlist:
Sleeping With Snakes
To Carry The Flame
The last time I saw Pelican live was probably ten years ago. I’ve seen them a lot over the years. I think the first time might have been in Chicago, at the behest of my friend Jet, who also introduced me to Australasia one night at her apartment. I was maybe kind of supposed to meet Trevor way back in the summer of 2005 to talk about my book, but it never materialized. He seems like a really interesting guy, and I have long regretted not being able to interview him for that project. My point is, I’ve seen Pelican live many times. This is the first time I’ve seen them with Dallas Thomas (not Laurent Schroeder-Lebec) on guitar. Whether or not that is the reason for their mightier sound at The Wiltern, I have no idea. This was easily the most impressive the band has sounded (live) in all the times I’ve seen them. Search the archives of this website and you’ll see, I’ve given them a lot of shit on this blog for sounding “soft” on stage compared to how their sound jumps out of stereo speakers. Perhaps the reason they sounded better is rooted in their song selection. Three songs from 2013’s Forever Becoming — which I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard before — two new songs, and “Midnight And Mescaline,” which to this point is a live-only tune. I don’t know if it’s hard to be the band that plays before Isis…but Pelican stepped up and performed more than admirably.
Midnight And Mescaline
Deny The Absolute
Night Time Stories
“Celestial” (nèe Isis) was clearly the biggest draw of the event. Before the band took the stage, people around us were comparing the length of distances they traveled to be here just for this set. There were people who came from as far as Tucson, Boston, and even Germany (at least in my general vicinity). I guess when a band calls it quits in 2010 and the main force behind it calls it a ONE TIME ONLY reunion (“In fact, that was one of the conditions for us going into [it]”), it’s going to entice fans all across the world. Those fans certainly rewarded the band with the most raucous response of the night. I’ll be honest, I was trying not to get lost in the moment but it was absolutely impossible not to. The vibe in the room during the band’s set was absolutely bonkers. I’m pretty sure I had a huge grin plastered to my face for the entirety of the performance (well…actually I know I did, because I was told so). They sounded mammoth. The roar of the crowd after each song reached equally impressive decibel levels. While this night was intended to bring fans and artists together with the singular purpose of celebrating Caleb Scofield and raising money for his family, for at least 45-60 minutes it really felt like this was the pinnacle of the evening from a music standpoint.
So Did We
The Beginning And The End
SGNL > 01
Celestial (The Tower)
I love Cave In. I have no shame about enjoying their earlier recordings. As much as I love White Silence and Pitch Perfect Black, I can also get down with the RCA album (Antenna) and the early Hydra Head stuff (like Jupiter). Hell, one of my favorite start-to-finish Cave In records is the Tides Of Tomorrow EP. That said, my excitement level about seeing Cave In was pretty much equal to that of Isis. Seeing Isis might have felt more special in terms of uniqueness, but Cave In was the band Caleb Scofield was most well-known for and closest to. It was only fitting — perfect even — that Caleb’s brother Kyle Scofield joined Stephen Brodsky, John-Robert Connors and Adam McGrath for the first half of their set. Not only did he seem to relish the opportunity to honor his brother by performing his songs, afterward he stood off to the side of the stage singing along and rocking out for the rest of the set. Starting with “Dark Driving,” Nate Newton took over on bass. The remainder of the songs skewed heavily towards Pitch Perfect Black and White Silence material, and Newton channeled Caleb’s warrior-like voice admirably. It was hard not to get a little emotional listening to “Sing My Loves,” a song where Caleb’s vocal contributions would be front and center. Again, as happy as I was to witness that Isis performance, seeing Caleb’s music celebrated during Cave In’s set was the highlight of my night. I might be mistaken, but it really felt like what was left of the crowd came together most fully during the latter half of Cave In’s performance. And that, I hope, was what most fans in attendance wanted for the evening.
Cave In Setlist:
Harvest Moon [Neil Young]
Tension In The Ranks
Off To Ruin
Sing My Loves
Following “Sing My Loves,” Brodsky switched to bass and Aaron Turner took the stage to say a few words. The group almost immediately launched into “The Cruelest Cut,” a song written by Scofield and recorded by his side project Zozobra. For the next song, “Emanate,” Aaron Harris of Isis took over on drums and Jacob Bannon of Converge sang. The next several songs honored Caleb’s memory and art in a way no other band really had to that point. It was his friends getting together to play his songs. In its simplicity — a group jam session featuring one guy’s songs — it had the biggest emotional impact of the night. It was a beautiful, memorable, perfect way to end the evening.
The Cruelest Cut (Brodsky, McGrath, Newton, Connors, A. Turner)
Emanate (Brodsky, McGrath, Newton, A. Harris, J. Bannon)
Heartless Enemy (Brodsky, McGrath, Newton, A. Harris, J. Bannon)
Soon To Follow (Brodsky, McGrath, Newton, S. Montano, A. Turner)
Invisible Wolves (Brodsky, McGrath, Newton, S. Montano, J. Bannon)
A Distant Star Fades (Brodsky, McGrath, Newton, S. Montano)
Silver Ghost (instrumental snippet)
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