I was told I was to be attending the Machine Head gig the day before the event. Nothing like the last minute thrill of shooting a band I’ve respected and admired for over a decade. Even with this late confirmation, everything was going to plan. I drove to Glasgow, I was early, smooth sailing. Throughout the day, I’d heard rumours that the opening act, Heart of a Coward, would be onstage as soon as the doors were open. Added pressure. I made sure to be ready and waiting at the press office to get in on time… waiting… waiting… doors open… still waiting.
With the late opening of the press office, I ran, diving over railings, around plump metal fans, into the photo pit to catch only two songs of Heart of a Coward’s set. With very limited lighting. Gutted. Although I have seen these guys a few times before, the O2 Academy in Glasgow was by far the biggest venue I have seen them in, and it was incredible to see how these guys have grown in the past two years.
On the positive side, I did manage to catch the song Psychophant which features Scott Kennedy of Bleed From Within. Being Glasgow based, Kennedy made an appearance to add his lighter dynamic to the brutally heavy track. Finishing up the set with Deadweight, it was clear that these guys had won over the crowd (which was still slowly filling up the venue).
With the show running like a well oiled machine(fucking head), it didn’t feel long at all until the stage was ready and Darkest Hour were treating the audience to the groovefest which is Wasteland. The perfect way to introduce yourself to the rowdy Scottish crowd. The atmosphere had kicked up a few notches and it was a clear sign that this was only a taste of things to come tonight.
I tried to watch the band, but I couldn’t stop staring at the drummer, Travis Orbin. Anyone who could see him either wanted to be him, or bed him (see accompanying photo for proof). He’s also a BEAST of a percussionist, with a constant power that didn’t falter once throughout the set. When I wasn’t oggling muscled topless drummers, my attention was drawn to Lonestar, who could only be described as Darkest Hour’s ADHD guitarist. Not in an annoying twat way, he was using the large space. Keeping track of where he was proved to be a challenge. Especially as I was trying to photograph him.
I couldn’t tell if they played a very short set, or if time was flowing fast, but it felt like they had finished as quickly as they had arrived. I couldn’t really grumble though. Machine Fucking Head were up next.
The stage appeared to display an epic arrangement of lighting. As a photographer this send both nervous joy and fear down my spine. Camera poised, ready.
What other track would start Machine Head off but the mighty Imperium. One of my favourite tracks in their large discography spanning over 20years. But no head banging Downie, you have a job to do.
We’re not even 20 seconds into the first song and the whole venue is going crazy. Amongst the excitement, bassist Jared MacEachern drops his plectrum mid-song. He thinks nobody saw… but I totally saw. There’s a certain crowd reaction which I only seem to see at Machine Head shows. A ferocity and excitement, like being at a house party with 2499 of your nearest and dearest. There’s an ever present humility from the band which the crowd seem to love, and thrive on. It’s clear that Robb Flynn is genuinely a fan of Scottish fans, he looks to the crowd as if he’s having the time of his life and constantly thanks everyone.
Playing a diverse range of songs from throughout their whole career, I’m immensely happy to hear the intro to From This Day. Moving on from their somewhat dubious rap metal past with even more dubious hairstyles and fashion sense, the song has been slightly updated to incorporate their heavier sound.
Bringing the pace down a bit, Robb brings an acoustic guitar onto the stage. They are mid way through a set which will be over 2 hours long… I don’t blame him for taking the time to chill and have a wee natter with the crowd. We are then treated to the angsty yet melodic Darkness Within, again showcasing this bands diverse range of music styles.
Robb also takes a break to include the crowd in some audience participation, which is common at Machine Head shows. With an endless supply of vodka & colas, drinks are skilfully hurtled into the audience, even those in the balcony. I lose count of how many times the crowd fails to catch these airborne beverages. No wonder the majority of us voted no in the referendum, we can’t even grasp fucking flying alcohol.
Has it been two hours already. It seemed to whizz by. The band get to the encore, no fucking about. Why make the crowd wait? We know how this works.
But first… let’s try that drink thing again.
I can feel a bead of sweat run down my brow. C’mon Glasgow, please don’t let us down. Not again, not in front of Machine Head. Three more failed attempts and I feel like just grabbing my jacket and driving home.
A drink flies towards the balcony and is CAUGHT! I’ve never seen such widespread joy. Robb starts singing a croaky version of Queen’s We Are the Champions. It’s short lived as the crowd have their own celebration song to sing. Flower of Scotland is belted out throughout the venue and it’s deafening. It sounds like I’m making this up, but Robb is now centre stage wearing a saltire flag as a cape. WE CAUGHT THE DRINK! WHY DIDN’T WE VOTE YES?
The band looks like it’s their birthday while 2500 people serenade them with the patriotic call and answer anthem. With a massive cheer and applause the band end of the night with Halo. A great end to an incredible night. I have no idea where they get their endurance from to carry out such a huge sounding encore. I’ve been sitting in the balcony and I’m fucking knackered.