New York City got its ass kicked last night, when a killer three-band bill -- including Saddle Creek indie-shredders Cursive, Gainesville punks Against Me! and Atlanta metal kings Mastodon -- descended on Roseland Ballroom. Each group turned in quick, knockout sets, but the clear highlights went to the two top-billed bands.
Against Me! proved once again that they're one of the most versatile hard-rock bands around these days. A rock-solid version of the new song "Ocean" sounded like a jacked-up version of Modest Mouse, even down to frontman Tom Gabel's nautical-themed lyrics. Later on, "Problems" mixed goth-punk scuzz -- that riff totally rips the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Honey" -- with the reckless fury of a punk anthem.
Mastodon turned in an equally ear-splitting set of glorious metal doom-and-gloom. For just over an hour, they churned out songs from their three albums, including one of 2006's best metal records, Blood Mountain. Don't let the tats and beards fool you. With this kind of musicianship, the group proved they're basically a classical orchestra on tunes like the killer "Colony of Birchmen": songs changed time signatures every couple bars, and Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher's textured, sludgy riffage sounded like symphonic strings with gobs of distortion piled on. But the crowd of shirtless dudes (and a couple of brave chicks) was too busy whipping itself up into a moshing, crowd-surfing frenzy to notice such details.
Mastodon barely acknowledged the audience, except at the end when bassist Troy Sanders shouted, "Thanks for making this a dream come true," before launching into the nuclear "Blood and Thunder." When the lights went up and Mastodon exited the stage, the sweaty crowd filed out to the soothing strains of -- shit you not -- Lucinda Williams' "Are You Alright?"