The sender of the mass text was Tim Dohms who was announcing to all of his friends, the return of Valient Thorr to Pensacola, Florida. The show was presented by Volcom and local surf/skate shop, Waterboyz as a benefit concert for the Emerald Coast Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to “the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches.” The Emerald Coast Chapter has been active in organizing monthly beach cleanups as well as fighting against legislation that would endanger the coastal Panhandle environment.
I had never been to The Break on Pensacola Beach and by the time I made it to the club, opening act Caltrop had already blanketed the crowd with thick sheets of heavy stoner rock. Almost trance-like, the quartet from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, methodically cooked up the remainder of their set with instrumental explosions by Adam Nolton (guitar) and John Crouch (drums) and laced them with brief vocal interludes by Sam Taylor (guitar) and Murat Dirlik (bass).
After the set, Tim and I got a drink and he told me about the last time he saw Valient Thorr perform. I was prepared for him to drop some musical science because Tim knows music. He is responsible for turning me onto The Misfits by letting me borrow his “Earth A.D.” cassette and showing me that there was more to Led Zeppelin than what our tie-dye wearing classmates of 1989 led me to believe. Our friendship started on my first day of public school, in a sea of unfamiliar 9th grade P.E. students wearing Air Jordans, Billabong, and assorted mall gear, this kid, fresh from California, was sporting black Converse Chuck Taylors, black denim jeans and a black t-shirt displaying the “Odd Man Out” logo which happened to be the band formed by one of my favorite skaters of that time, Steve Caballero.
We’ve been friends ever since and we’ve had our share of disagreements, but I’ve accepted the fact that he is Google in human form; recalling and reciting obscure references about, literally, everything with such deft ease, precision and speed that it has always made me wonder why he has never been on “Jeopardy” or “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.” His uncanny knowledge of all-things goes beyond comprehension, but his ridiculously crazy passion for music is one of his most endearing qualities and when he talks about it, I’ll listen like a Reagan-era baby boomer grooving to tracks by DJ E.F. Hutton.
On this post-millennium night, Tim proceeded to tell me of a wild night where Valient Thorr played an extended set for hours to the appreciation of a raucous Pensacola gathering. With this story, I finished my drink and prepared for the show.
As the band took the stage, It was immediately evident that these guys were for real and everyone in the bar should hold on for dear life. They were armed with Marshall JCM 800 heads on top of two full stacks of Mesa Boogie cabinets, road-worn denim jackets, back patches and full beards. Not the Brad Pitt/Robert Downey, Jr. facial hair adorned by Esquire magazine devoted hip dudes, but the full-on, Lord of the Rings face-locks that make you want to shout “You shall not pass!” until your throat bleeds.
Led by Valient Himself (vocals), Eidan Thorr (Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar), Dr. Professor Nitewolf Strangees (black glasses/bass), Sadat Thorr (Gibson Flying V guitar), and Lucian Thorr (red beard/drums) the band wasted no time slaying everybody in The Beach with their high energy onslaught. Within two songs, Valient Himself had stripped off his shirt and proceeded to make it rain metal. During the set, the sweat soaked lead singer took a moment to talk about the reason for tonight’s concert, showing respect for the Surfrider foundation, his love for the earth and his displeasure with those that try to harm it, namely the BP Corporation.
Continuing with the heavy sonic assault, Valient Thorr relentlessly fired off song after song leaving little time in between for breaks, with the exception of the time when Valent Himself stepped off the stage and got everyone in the front to sit down and mimic the oar rowing motions of a Nordic warship crew. Even I got into the spirit, privately shouting in my head, “Valhalla, I am coming!”
Unfortunately, the night had to come to an end, but before the band packed up their gear, they made it a point to spend time with the crowd, share stories, shake hands and pass out high fives. The massiveness of their metal performance was only matched by the heart they displayed when the show was over.
Valient Thorr are road warriors that maintain a crazy touring schedule. When they come back to the area, I strongly suggest that you eat your veggie dogs before the show, bring Uma, a spare pack of dry clothes and prepare to enjoy a wild night.
-Michael L. Smith
P.S. For more information on the Emerald Coast Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation go to http://www.surfrideremeraldcoast.org/