Hearing Sleep’s message for the first time changed everything. By far the most fateful click of the play button. Bearing no expectations, I began to absorb the then-unfamiliar sound.
The cogs started to click. The machine was coming to life.
Ride the dragon towards the crimson eye
Zero to hundred faster than a sports car. Nothing was ever the same.
T’was an incredibly warm, sunny day, year of the Lord 2019, just two days before the greenest holiday celebrated by everyone who has found the truth in the holy smoke. Three most dedicated members of the order set out on a long and perilous pilgrimage of the highest sanctity. Sleep was calling and we answered.
The day of the most awaited concert of the year so far was finally here so we made our way to the small but culturally rich Slovenian capital. The legendary Californian trio was to perform at the medium-sized venue of Kino Šiška. The less informed reader might now ask, “What’s so holy, so divine, so monumental about this band?”
Well, let me tell you. Sleep was founded in 1990 and changed the world in 1992. When was the last time your favorite band changed the world? “Holy Mountain” is a music album with its own gravitational field. They pulled us all in, then left to create another planet, a stark opposite where gravity is an unknown concept. Since their following is more akin to that of a cult rather than a band, we follow wherever they go. Even the farthest reaches of outer space.
The concert was sold out and the merch stand was torn apart before it even began. That should tell you enough. Eyes red and feet in pain, after plenty of detours and even more obstacles tackled, we arrived at last to the gathering of our people. Nobody was a stranger, it was the most relaxed crowd. Hundreds and hundreds of people, all in a good mood, you can’t help it but join in. Our excitement growing with every passing minute, we made our way to the upper floor and prepared physically and mentally for what we were about to witness. The choice of the supporting act was not bad either. It wasn’t amazing, but it definitely wasn’t bad. A stoner rock quartet from Zagreb, rocking and rolling since 2006, more focused on live shows than studio work (which is perfectly reasonable).
Cojones started to warm us up around 8:15pm, right on schedule. Now, the only problem I personally have with this band is, yup, you guessed it, their vocal. It just doesn’t fit with their music. It reminds me of so many punk rock bands I’ve heard on MTV in 2008. I’ve never seen High School Musical but this guy sounded like that could be it. However, he can pull a pretty cool screamy vocal when he wants to and it completely eludes me why doesn’t he use it more often. Not everyone’s clean vocal sounds very stoner.
On the other hand, their bassist is a known Sleep fan so I was curious to see how he handles what’s probably the honor of a lifetime. The man was out of control. He didn’t look like he was in the same band with these other dudes. I was wondering if they’re even playing the same gig right now. This was a demonstration of pure, unadulterated happiness and I’m always here for this kind of energy.
As the final wait began, time ceased. That dimension was entirely removed by the between 12 and 18 minute long intro, a mostly incomprehensible audio recording of a mission control space landing. It was surprisingly intense, the signal kept getting lost and the static was playing around. We were in a mental limbo, this was going on forever. Will the concert ever begin? Or is this our fate now? Does the astronaut die? I lift my head and look to the green light for answers. Suddenly, there he is. Looking upon us is Matt Pike, arms open welcomingly. Then I thought I had an actual vision of God, but that was just Al Cisneros. The great mass could begin.
My bet was that the first Sleep‘s song will be “Marijanaut’s Theme”. That was the second song. Close enough. That was also when the microphone problems began. Cisneros spent a good portion of the show playing bass better than most and glaring at the sound technician furiously. The vocal could be heard properly during two tracks at most, which was a massive let down for a vocal-obsessed fan like me, but it also motivates me even more to see them again, and soon. The sound was otherwise impeccable, or was that just their playing? The solos heard could only be described as insane.
Perhaps foolishly, I expected to hear at least one more old track but we were entertained by mostly new material instead, with the exception of most important “Holy Mountain” classics.
The full setlist is as follows:
1. Leagues Beneath
2. Marijuanaut’s Theme
3. Holy Mountain
4. The Clarity
5. Sonic Titan
6. Giza Butler
7. The Botanist
This is by no means a criticism, the new material is drop dead fantastic, I’m just sentimental. The show ended when it ended and there was no encore. When Pike started to share the loot, I was convinced I was standing too far. Turns out I vastly underestimated his throw when a shiny “High on Fire” pick hit me in the arm. Today was everyone’s lucky day.
Whatever happened after the show didn’t really matter. We got what we came here for, and more. To experience a band with this kind of history and influence isn’t an ordinary occasion. The best moments in life aren’t yesterday or tomorrow. They are now.