A Beautiful Voyage: Devin Townsend, Animals as Leaders, Monuments


I hadn’t heard a single positive word about Gas Monkey Live. I’d heard you could hear movies playing at Studio Movie next door, I’ve heard the sound system sucked, and I’ve heard the staff were less than hospitable. My expectations could not have been further from reality. This place is clean, well-run, and one of the most gorgeous venues to open in DFW in the last four-five years. But for these reasons and so many more, I was nervous to review such a massive, exciting show. The Devin Townsend Project had recently disembarked from their voyage across interstellar space to tour North America with prog-djent masters Animals As leaders, and they’d brought encouraging upstarts Monuments to ease our gentle minds into the intense evening ahead for all of us, and my excitement mingled with some legitimate fears of failure as I walked into this momentous occasion. I don’t think I could have been more satisfied with the results.



Monuments opened their set with a less-than-promising sound issue: massive feedback tore through the speakers and everyone looked around to check their neighbor for bleeding ears. With this abrupt entry, I don’t think anyone was expecting the experimental, massive, djent-y music that unfolded before our eyes. I remember thinking, “it is absolutely absurd that this magnitude comes from only four instrumentalists.” Including the omni-talented vocalist, Chris Barretto, this five-piece proceeded with a thorough schooling in dissonance and discord. Barretto is a righteously skilled vocalist who could hit every single note consistently (whether it was growling metal grunts or harmonious clean singing), but he excelled as a front man. He coaxed the early crowd into an uproar, and even led a very curious crowd moment where he had everyone squat down before a song began, only to have everyone jump exuberantly into the air once the song kicked in. The guy even legitimately played the saxophone onstage during part of their set. My mind was blown, and there were still two phenomenal artists ahead!

Animals as Leaders

Animals as Leaders

“Tosin Abasi is ripped,” I quipped to a nearby spectator as Animals As Leaders took to the stage as Gas Monkey Live and for the third time this year, my world was reset into a joyous motion. Before delving into AAL too deeply, I want to discuss the glory of the newest venue in the DFW- Gas Monkey Live. A new division from the cell of the Gas Monkey Garage, GML might be one of the nicest small venues I’ve ever been to. There is no bad vantage point, and even if there happened to be a bad place to stand, the massive, live-feed HD screens that adorn either side of the stage would allow even those with the poorest of vision an ability to see. The staff was amicable, and my only feasible complaint is a typical one for venues large and small- absurdly high drink prices (which really doesn’t matter when music is your intended main intoxicant). But I digress- Animals As Leaders methodically picked through their harmonious rhythms, bringing with them a new level of creativity and intensity. Drummer Matt Garstka peeled off onto various solos, prodded along by the 8-string wizardry of Tosin and Javier Reyes (read the Static Magazine Exclusive interview with Javier here), and their medley of classic AAL tracks flowed like the waters of the Nile. Chris Barretto even joined them onstage with his saxophone for a rousing last half of the song “Physical Education.” As Animals’ set wound down, I was catching onto the distinct notion that tonight was special, and that we were witnessing a show we’d tell our grandchildren about.

Devin Townsend Project

Devin Townsend Project

When I think of the words “all-encompassing grandiosity,” The Devin Townsend Project immediately comes to mind. Their set was visually stunning- an ethereal and eternal piece of evidence towards Devin’s higher powers. Words are quite literally escaping me as I’m attempting to describe to you, dear reader, the ultimate voyage of musical mastery displayed onstage. From his beautiful guitar, with its “Z” shaped, glowing-red inlays, to his provocative facial expressions, Devin Townsend and his merry band of pranksters took us to the far reaches of the universe and back with its lyrical and musical precision. This was a concert that reminded me of why I started going to shows in the first place. My inner child came out and pranced around, care-free and with hair flowing, as the ring-leader led the circus. The man even brought pre-recorded fart noises into the mix, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. I was absolutely baffled by the sheer brilliance of the set unfolding before me, and as usual, it was over far too quickly. This wild man from the great white north had torn the roof off of Gas Monkey Live, and the greater DFW Metroplex was a better place for it.

[       P H O T O    G A L L E R Y      ]

Photographs taken at Gas Monkey Live on December 11 of 2014 – Devin Townsend, Animals as Leaders, Monuments

Disclaimer: All photographs are copyright Chantelle Renee Photography and cannot be used/cropped/printed without the consent of the owner.
Please contact chantelle@staticmagazine.net for inquiries.  

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