I would be lying if I said writing about a show like this is easy. I’m sure you’re thinking, it’s Neurosis, how can it not be easy, they are amazing. And to some extent you are right. But I have been a huge fan of these guys for well over ten years, probably chasing down fifteen at this point. I can remember the very first time I heard them, I can remember, almost painfully, the emotions that their music brought forth. For that reason, this is difficult to write, because Neurosis is the type of band that I believe everyone has a very specific thought or story about. Each fan holds them dearly and to write about them, in a way, you have to write about yourself. So if you will be so kind to walk with me, I will take you down a little path to the night I almost died.
I have had many lengthy discussions with friends regarding Neurosis, and in my opinion they are a band you can only truly appreciate after going through your darkest times. I was at this point the night I heard them for the first time. I was driving through the night with my boyfriend on a weekend road trip. We were, in essence, just kids. I had dropped out of art school for the time being and spent my days working at a bar, listening to music, and doing drugs in a small, one stoplight town. It was not uncommon for my roommate or boyfriend to come home and find me sprawled out on the floor having finished a bottle of Jim Beam and smoked myself into oblivion. In my head, I never thought it was a problem. In my head, I was learning about myself, expanding my mind and my creativity through the use of various drugs and alcohol. I had already seen firsthand what alcohol could do to a person, so I always had that in the back of my mind.
It wasn’t an issue for me to just stop, to not take something anymore, to have limits. For example, heroin, crack, no way. Never ever. Being young and not knowing much about the makeup of other people, it didn’t occur to me that not everyone could stop. My boyfriend at the time was sadly one of those types that couldn’t stop, and by the time I realized that alcohol was more important to him than anything, it was too late. My realization came as I sat on the side of the highway, my boyfriend passed out, drunkenly unaware that he had almost made me crash my car by grabbing me in his sleep and forcing me to take the car off the road. I was shaking, scared, angry, and stunned. Even as I recall this, my hands have begun to tremble. He would have no recollection of it. He would wake up when we were a couple hours from our destination, put on A Sun that Never Sets, and pass out again.
I sat in silence, watching the sky begin to lighten as I drove and I listened to this album for the first time. I felt like a knife was being shoved into my chest. I felt like every ugly thing in my life was being prodded and stirred. As I listened to “The Tide,” which to this day is my favorite song, I wanted to cry but I was in so much pain I actually couldn’t. My demons were singing to me and telling me that life had gone sideways and it was time to pick up the pieces. As painful as this album was for me to hear, it was what I needed.
It wasn’t until I had packed my car for the last time and drove away from everything in that small town, about six months later, that I was able to listen to Neurosis again. I was finally away from the negative relationships, the drugs, the alcohol, and the parties. Of course, there are moments when everything feels like it falls apart again, as life dictates, but now, Neurosis is something I hold dear for so many reasons. Emotional dichotomy is an important component in the development of my work. In order to create any work of art that is worth a damn, an artist must be able to balance the light and dark that resides within them. Neurosis is a band that can take pure raw emotion and put it into the form of music, something I think many musicians are unable to do.
As I stood in the center of the sold out Regency Ballroom in San Francisco on a rainy March 5th, all of these memories came flooding forward. I flew across the country to stand in that room on that given day and as fate would have it, Neurosis played “The Tide.” My entire body froze when it happened and I immediately choked up. I had never heard this song live and honestly never thought I would. I put the thought out of my head that they could play this one particular song given that they have 30 years worth of songs to choose from.
I was unable to move the entire song, I could only close my eyes and be prepared for it. Steve Von Till’s voice filled the hall, slowly, wrought with emotion. The beginning tempo of this song is so heavy and deliberate it’s impossible not to become trapped. It was the same thing that captured me the first time I heard it that fateful night driving east.
As Scott Kelly joined in on vocals, “The Tide” became a crushing tsunamic wave. At this point I was literally fighting back tears. There is so much power between Kelly and Von Till’s vocals it’s like trying to hold on in vain during a hurricane. Pardon the weather metaphors, but my internal projection screen has me being flung to and fro on the bow of a ship trying not to go overboard.
Everyone at Regency Ballroom was part of something special to say the least. Neurosis has been together for 30 years. 30 years, without compromising on their growth, their musical experimentation, or their vision. They bravely forge ahead, never concerned with fitting into any mold. Most importantly they are undeterred by anything outside of the five of them, brothers through and through.
Alaric and Shellac opened for Neurosis on the night we attended. Shellac primed the crowd with songs like “Wingwalker” and one of the best performances of “Prayer to God” I have seen from them. Steve Albini has a long history with Neurosis and is currently the producer on their latest album, which they just wrapped up recording about a month ago. It is easy to see how much respect fellow musicians have for Neurosis when bands like Shellac, Sleep, and Converge join the stage to celebrate their anniversary and express how honored they are to be a part of it.
Neurosis will continue their thirty year anniversary shows next in the Netherlands with Roadburn Festival. They will be playing on April 16th and 17th so if you have the chance, don’t miss this opportunity. It really is a once in a lifetime event.
Check out the photos below!
-Written by Thalia Gore-
-Photos by Skc Photo-