I’ve seen Periphery quite a few times, but sadly I hadn’t picked up the new album yet.  Every single time I looked at the tour flyer or the merch on site, I saw “HAIL SATAN.”  That is what my brain saw every time. So when Veil of Maya cleared the stage, I saw “HA IL” on the left side of the stage and “ST AN” on the right, and I wondered if they forgot a letter.  I definitely should lose my metal card for 30 days.  (Note, I ordered “Hail Stan” immediately off of Amazon when I got home).

I’ll start at the beginning.  I arrived to a massive line that ran down the street for a block and then some.  The rain had stopped so we were lucky.  I passed a co-worker mid-point in the line and greeted him quickly.  I didn’t want to intrude on his night so I made the long trek to the end of the line.  He texted me promptly and said, “Come up here with us,” so I did.

Due to a little snafu with the guest list, I waited in the lounge until the line dwindled down.  I was slightly disappointed because that meant I could not be up front, but truth be told, I didn’t really feel like braving the mosh pit anyway.  I’ve seen both Veil of Maya and Periphery a handful of times, and the mosh pits they inspire are intense and scary.  I went upstairs to the newly upgraded bar at the Hawthorne Theater and looked around for a spot.  I sat at a table for two by myself in the back and soon spotted a man sitting by himself, smack dab in the front center table.  I don’t like to intrude, but I do like to see…so I got my courage up and walked over and asked if I could join him.  He tapped the seat as if to say sit, and I did.

I walked in while Covet was playing.  I love that Covet’s bandcamp page says: “We are 3 friends that just want to play music, travel, and have fun.”  I believe they accomplished all three when they were here in Portland opening up for the two heavy hitters.  I say I love that their page says that because I believe that is truly what they mean.  I found them to be a little weird, but really talented.  Slightly hard to follow if you weren’t intimately familiar with their music, this instrumental trio proved extremely gifted.  The twists and turns, unique blending of math and progressive rock and jazz, and their comical outfits made it fun, but the lengthy “jam session feel,” was slightly unpleasant.  It’s my own issue…I find it frustrating not to be able to tap my toes or nod my head when I’m not familiar…but that’s my fault for not being familiar.

Guitarist Yvette looked like Cinderella, complete with a big bow in her hair, and David was dressed in a onesie.  I couldn’t see the drummer, but he was no-doubt also dressed fashionably weird.

There set was short and I was sort of glad…but that’s just because I was excited for Veil of Maya and Periphery.

The theater was sold out and packed.  I mean packed.  The upstairs had a sign posted “limit 49” and I’d guess there were 49 x 2.  From my vantage point I could see the sea of people and the sound from my position was spectacular.

Chicago’s Veil of Maya took the stage and after the first song I wrote in my notes “Veil of Maya is one of those bands that does it right,” and “by the end of their set I felt assaulted by their machine gun riffs and bouncy grooves.  They are heavy with properly placed breakdowns, clean and dirty singing done in the right way.”  You have to admit there are some metalcore bands that don’t do it right and sound like 90’s boy bands or whinny off key bitches.  All members of Veil of Maya performed brilliantly but you couldn’t take your eyes off of guitarist Marc Okubo. Off in his own world, he provided excellent machine gun riffs, killer grooves, amazing breakdowns, all while moshing around by himself with the fervor of a hurricane, and not missing a note.  The crowd sang back to Lukas as he commanded the stage, encouraging us to “jump” both by example and by words.  I remember thinking, ‘I don’t think there is a band that does this genre better.’  While that sentiment was correct at that point of the night, I’d soon be reminded that Periphery does it better…better than anyone; but there is no shame in holding the number two spot.  Veil of Maya were the perfect band to partner with Periphery; they riled us up and properly gave us a course in American metalcore done right.

Periphery is one of those bands that those of us who covet it (yes, that was intentional) we tend to relish in our past experiences and knowledge of the band.  In a way, we bond by knowing more than others, (or thinking we do) and we sort of possess a calm before the storm, smug confidence of knowing what is coming, and feeling a little sorry for those who came for Covet.

First, let me go on record by saying that:  There is no band that does this better than Periphery.  I left feeling like I had just been through war.  The lights, as my friend Nicole said after, “raped my eyes,” and I heard the pummeling in my head long after I left the venue.  In a brilliant display of strobe and blinding lights perfectly programmed to the music, Spencer sang with precision.  I sat in awe, earplugs in my hands, wondering how he manages to hit each note with such perfection.  A slight moment of technical difficulty is the only thing that wasn’t perfect, but Sotelo handled it with ease.  Nearly 15 years into their career, they just keep getting better and better, and they were great to start with.

I sat there mesmerized by the sound and the blinding lights thinking how lucky I am to know that Periphery exists.  As a journalist I wondered how they go about making this unique and precise music collectively, as a fan I wondered what it felt like to be a member of Periphery and be so in tune with your band mates and songs to provide us with the music that feels like we need in order to breathe.  While my eyes were closed tightly at times due to the blinding strobes, I was on the edge of my seat wishing I was closer.  Four songs in I couldn’t stand it any more and I made my way downstairs to properly feel Periphery.

When I see or listen to Periphery, I feel smart.  In the same way as I feel smart when I understand the intricacies of Swedish Extreme metal band Meshuggah, or French progressive masters Gojira, or American technical death metal outfit Revocation, or Canadian rockers Rush.  All stellar bands.  All special bands.  All bands that require knowing the music intimately to “get it.”  Periphery gave us a brilliant night of flawlessly beautiful music that felt like a virus entered our body through our ears and made us somehow better.  Periphery elitists and metal fans united on this night, and I remembered that Periphery is, without a doubt, the masters of this genre.

Periphery’s set included:

  • Reptile
  • Garden in the Bones
  • Follow Your Ghost
  • Scarlet
  • Marigold
  • It’s Only Smiles
  • Psychosphere
  • Blood Eagle
  • Encore: Lune