It’s about eighteen degrees Fahrenheit outside with only a slight windchill brushing against your face. You’re rocking your old-school Canon EOS30D hanging around your neck with a 50mm lens tonight. It’s time for the doors to The Hall to open…You make your way from the parking lot into Fargo Brewing Company with your friend Corey, who plays guitar in the local Metal band, Anomic. The bar area is jam packed with a handful of regular bar patrons sipping one of Fargo Brewing’s craft beers on tap, alongside all the Metal Heads here for Machine Head, who released their tenth full-length album over the Summer called, Of Kingdom and Crown, through Nuclear Blast Records on August 26th.
You walk through the pop-up ticket counter in front of the glass wall that’s on the other side of the motorcycle themed barbershop that shares a space in the building, called Nice Barber Co, to pick up your credentials. Soon after, you pass through security and enter The Hall, equipped with another small bar inside with all the beers on tap…You immediately notice how warm it is in this part of the building… It seems as if it’s at least 10 degrees warmer than in the bar area. And wow, does it feel good after walking in from that cold! You make your way to the front of the barricade to grab a spot up close, front row because when you exit that photo pit tonight, oh fuck yes, you’re going to be headbanging like crazy!
You say hey to your friend, Jake, the security guard, who informs you that the band wanted to crank the heat so people would sweat tonight and advises everyone to drink plenty of water. You see another friend of yours who is a die-hard Machine Head fan walk in, Scot! We all stand there chatting for a bit as the concert floor starts to fill up with people and before everything gets too crowded, you walk over to the merch booth, take a look at everything, and buy a patch.
The lights dim….The crowd’s chatter suspends for a brief moment as everyone in unison realizes it’s about 15 minutes before Machine Head is set to walk on stage…. You stand there, feeling the excitement of what’s about to happen as time suddenly takes a strange twist, everything slows down….You haven’t even smoked weed, but it feels like you have as fifteen minutes soon feels like an eternity… You’re there. In the moment. All you can think about is how you are so excited for the show, yet you don’t want to think at all, you are there in the moment to make every second last as long as possible, and are ready to embrace and give your full attention to Machine Head, and forget for the next two and a half hours there is even a world that exists outside of the The Hall at Fargo Brewing Company.
You see there’s ten minutes to go, and head to the edge of photo pit and wait….Standing there, looking around at the crowd in silence for the next several moments, almost as if you’re in a meditative trance… The lights on the stage begin to flicker, and you walk as fast as you can to the front of the stage. Everyone, it is time for the Electric Happy Hour with Machine Head live in Fargo, North Dakota at Fargo Brewing Company, put together by Jade Presents! The crowd starts chanting “Machine fuckin’ Head, Machine fuckin’ Head, Machine fuckin’ Head” and you watch drummer Matt Alston, guitarist Reece Scruggs, bassist Jared MacEachern, and vocalist & guitarist Robb Flynn step onto the stage…
An eruption of screams overtakes the crowd as the first notes of Imperium begin, which is from their 2003 album, Through the Ashes of Empires. The bright beams strobe along with the drumbeats, and the demonic side of Jared emerges. You look at your camera for a quick preview of what kind of pictures you’re getting with the crazy lights and see a white light taking over the entire screen. You play with your ISO settings as the lights spazz out even more and start laughing. You acknowledge you’re at the mercy of those lights tonight and you may as well just wing it, keep on clicking, something’s gotta come out!!!
The band rolls into the next song, Ten Ton Hammer, from their second album in 1997, The More Things Change… You try your hardest not to headbang in the photo pit, but it’s too damn hard and you break loose for a few seconds in between shots. You feel someone’s hair hit the back of your shoulder and hear some crazy roars coming out of the crowd. The band then plays Take My Scars, also from the same album. You immediately notice the lighting isn’t as crazy, and then it fucking happens…. Your camera batteries are so old, they flat out die in the first 20 seconds of the song even though they were charging all night. You try everything, switching the batteries around, turning it off and on several times, and nope, they are freaking caput! You’re not about to leave that epic spot in the photo pit or stand to the side awkwardly through the rest of the song though, so you keep on clicking that button, knowing that you’re not getting any one of those shots. HAHA! But hey! You’re literally up against the stage and hope you got a few good shots!
You make your way back to the spot your friends are saving for you after the song ends, and we all hear Robb ask, “Are you feeling alive tonight, Fargo?!” everyone screams, as they play a song off their new album called Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate. Every human being in the venue suddenly becomes possessed by the Music…We start going crazy, everyone around you is headbanging…We’re all feeling alive… It’s chorus time and we all shout out, “CHOOOOOOOKE ON THE ASHES OF YOUR HAAAAAAAATE!!!!!!!”
Next up is the song Now We Die, from their 2014 album, Bloodstone & Diamonds. The band then plays The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears – which on the set list is read out as “Blood Sweet & Beers”, it is from their 1999 album, The Burning Red. Robb raises his cup and calls to Junior, his official beer aid, to bring him some more of the stouts at Fargo Brewing he’s been sipping on all night, says that this is the greatest concept ever, having a concert venue inside a brewery, and comments on all the ladies headbanging in the front row. The crowd starts chanting, “let’s go Junior, let’s go!”, Robb gets his cold new beer, and the song kicks in….Everyone starts jumping and singing along, “It’s all about the blood! The Sweat! The Tears!!!! A tribute to the strength, built through the years!!!!!”
The band introduced a new song in their setlist tonight, also from Through The Ashes Of Empire, called Bite The Bullet. You decide it’s time to check out what’s going on in the pit, and notice there’s so much spilled beer and water that everyone’s taking it a little easy, being careful to not slip…So, you lightly push the few people in it around for a minute, then head back to your spot up front and keep headbanging in sync with the band and everyone in the crowd and realize, fuck it’s getting hot in here, and Jake hands you a bottle of water. The next song they play is No Gods, No Masters, also from Of Kingdom And Crown. Followed by Locust, from their 2011 album, Unto The Locust. Reece goes into a trance performing the solo as everyone up against the barricade reach toward him air guitaring along.
Unhallowed is the next song they play, also from their new album, followed by the time of the evening where they throw in a cover song, which this is the first of four they performed of the night. The song is Iron Maiden’s Hallowed Be Thy Name, which the band released in 2007 as a bonus track on their deluxe edition of The Blackening. It’s a foreshadowing of what’s to come later in the evening with more covers. The next song they play is dedicated to the fans, the friends who have been with Machine Head since day one, titled Old, from their debut album, Burn My Eyes in 1994. The band then charges into I Am Hell from the Unto The Locusts album.
Robb stops to chat with the crowd for a moment, and teases the riffs for Aesthetics of Hate, a song from The Blackening, as he starts a “Dimebag, Dimebag, Dimebag” chant and goes harsh into the opening riffs…We all go fucking crazy, especially during the chorus, “FOR THE LOVE OF A BROTHER, I WILL SING THIS FUCKING SONG, AESTHETICS OF HATE, I HOPE YOU BURN IN HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!”
The song ends….The band walks off stage for a minute to re-center from all the beautiful, sweaty chaos going on in the room…. Robb emerges back on stage with his acoustic-electric guitar, even though we all could hear the sound, the cord was malfunctioning through his ear-monitors. So, he let go of the acoustic and gives the fans of Fargo a treat by playing a song called Darkness Within, off their Unto The Locusts album, with his Flying V instead…It’s a song Robb says brought him out of a dark place, something that Music does for him, and for all of us, which is what brought us all together for the evening. Throughout the whole song, almost everyone in the building sang the lyrics word-for-word in unison, you could even see behind the stage, the guy running one of the laptops was vibing out listening, closing his eyes, taking a break from whatever he was working on for those few moments.
The show goes back into full-force Heavy Metal mode with a performance of Catharsis, from their 2018 album with the same title, followed by Bulldozer, a song off their 2001 album, Supercharger. From This Day off of The Burning Red is the next song, everyone jumps up and down as Robb raps the first verse, and then we all start headbanging once that chorus kicks in. The next song, Robb says the biggest circle pit of the night is going to happen…You immediately hear those first riffs of Davidian and realize, fuck, there’s no way you’re missing out on this pit, no matter how slippery it is! You run to the pit, and start circling then moshing…The circle pit calms down a bit and everyone starts headbanging like crazy and jumping, then all of a sudden we start grabbing each other’s arms like we’re square dancing and dance around freely in the pit, and then start jumping and headbanging again, in between moshing….
You make your way back up to the front again, chug what’s left of that water bottle, and oh hey! It’s that time of the night where they perform more covers! They said they just learned this song today, and it could be a train wreck, but who cares, it’s fun… That song was Whiplash by Metallica, and everyone in the front row headbanging are probably thinking the same thing, “yep, I’ve self-induced whiplash on myself tonight, FUCK YEAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!” Next song they play is kind of an unexpected surprise, Twist of Cain by Danzig! And then we get to hear some FUCKING SLAYERRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!! The band plays South of Heaven, Reece kills those solos, along with Matt jamming perfectly to the beats, and Jared going into his demonic mode, as Robb screams out the chorus, “ON AND ON SOUTH OF HEAVENNNNNNNNN” as everyone else in the band mouths the words.
And alas, it has come for the last song of the evening…. Your legs and neck feel like jell-o from the moshing, headbanging, and all the jumping, but you still have that last bit of energy left inside you to lose your fucking mind one last time for the night and solidify your existence as a certified, living, breathing Head Case for eternity. Machine Head closes their two and a half hour long set with Halo, also from The Blackening album… We headbang, we sing the words together with Robb, making it feel like we’re at a family gathering of the evening, connecting with all the lyrics, all the melodies, the beats….The vibe of it all…
The song ends….And the crowd clears out….You’re dripping with sweat from head to toe… You hang around the venue for a little while as everyone loads up…And the second you walk outside, that brisk, freezing-cold air hits your light-headed brain, you inhale and realize you were at one of the most special shows ever held at Fargo Brewing Company.…And you also realize, yep, you’re going to be sore for the next few days, but who gives a fuck, you were lost in the moment, enjoying and losing your mind to Machine Head with your best friends and die-hard fans you’d never met before, that ultimately became family, even if you never see them again, or see them at the next show, because we all connect to their Music.
“So pray to music, build a shrine,
Worship in these desperate times,
Fill your heart with every note,
Cherish it and cast afloat,
‘Cause God is in these clef and tone,
Salvation is found alone,
Haunted by its melody,
Music, it will set you free….
Let it set you free….
We build cathedrals to our pain,
Establish monuments to attain,
Freedom from all of the scars and the sins,
Lest we drown in the Darkness Within.”
You can catch the Electric Happy Hour live with Machine Head on the dates below, the tour goes all the way through December 23rd, hitting more parts of the Midwest, the East coast, and the West, where the tour ends in Sacramento, CA! Click the link below the image for tickets!
PS: Machine Head are having a Black Friday sale that starts November 25th at midnight EST!! However, because Machine Head are so fucking amazing to their fans, they’re kicking it off a little early, so you can save 15% right now on the following merch at this link!