Last night’s Corrosion of Conformity show at Grand Central in downtown Miami wasn’t exactly packed. Blame it on the fact that it was a Monday night, or more likely, on the band’s extended absence from the area (and, recently, the Billboard charts). The group’s last show in Miami was in 1997, and if you’re an underground band, live shows are your currency. A decade and a half is a long time to stay away. Still, for the serious metalheads — and a few hardcore lifers who appeared most interested in the band’s earliest days — who turned out, the performance was one of those rare up-close experiences with an influential act.
It also gave a handful of the area’s best sludgy and loud acts, of varying microgenres across the spectrum, a chance to take advantage of the club’s stellar sound system. Openers Shroud Eater, Consular, and Holly Hunt are usually confined to places like Churchill’s and the like, so it was an interesting change to see them on a proper stage, with proper lighting. The act that surprised most was Consular, an act usually found on the fringes of the hardcore scene but with a sound much more slow and guttural.
Frontman Matt Cleer always appears as though he might split a seam or just snap — as he growls, the effort seems to take over his whole body, exorcism-style. It was also pretty punk rock that he couldn’t be bothered to gussy up for this fancy club. Instead, he took the stage barefoot, even jumping down naked-soled onto the club floor for the band’s final few numbers, getting up close and personal with the crowd and screaming through a megaphone.
Headliners Corrosion of Conformity were similarly stripped-down and no-nonsense, though in a way clearly polished by 30 years of playing together. The big change for longtime CoC followers, of course, was the absence of longtime vocalist Pepper Keenan. Now, vocal duties are handled by bassist Mike Dean, and though fans of the band’s ’90s sound may disagree, it works just fine that way.
In fact, this iteration of the group may be better, depending on your personal subgenre predilection. The three-piece lineup of Dean, drummer Reed Mullin, and guitarist Woody Weatherman is, technically, its original one: the formation that first established the group as one of the few true hardcore acts of the early ’80s. Keenan’s joining in 1987 is largely thought to mark the beginning of the group’s later Southern, melodic, groove-laden flavor.
On songs from the group’s new self-titled album, those inflections are still there. Weatherman’s was often circular, meaty, and rhythmically slow. But, often, the group’s roots showed through. Among the early highlights of the set was, in fact, a new song, “Psychic Vampire,” which seemed to condense all of the CoC sound in one song. There were sludgier passages, swampy riffs, slow growls from Dean — and then faster, almost thrash parts. It was then, and during other brief trips through the group’s older fare, that the music and the crowd really lit up. No matter how much one might consider oneself grown up, there’s something still exciting about a blast of loud, fast, fuck-it-all guitar, especially from a group that helped invent that style.