By Renee Trotier
Good things come to those who wait, or so the adage goes. It’s meant to extol the concept of patience as a virtue, but patience doesn’t come in infinite supply. Sometimes you’ve got to take action. For these situations I have another saying: good things await those who seek them. Graveyard taught me that.
I first heard about this tour back in July when, hot off the heels of tremendous crossover success and critical acclaim in the form of their sophomore album Hisingen Blues, Graveyard announced via their Facebook page that they were planning a “proper North American tour”. When the dates were finally revealed in November, the fact that a full tour had been reduced to U.S. only markets was a disappointing blow. Prior to this they had played shows in the U.S., but never in Canada and never any closer to home than New York City. I had been waiting for a Canadian date but my patience had worn as thin as gauze. If they wouldn’t come to me, I would have to go to them.
This is how I found myself in Detroit on a snowy Monday evening, enjoying the warmth and refuge of The Shelter, an aptly named venue if I’d ever heard one. Located in the basement of the larger St. Andrew’s Hall, the surroundings evoked a strange sense of familiarity despite having never been there before. The low ceilings, dim lighting and knee high stage were not unlike the small clubs I frequented for metal shows in Toronto or Hamilton, and the crowd wasn’t much different either. It was a nice contrast to the drab and sketchy city streets I had just escaped, and for the first time since arriving in Detroit I felt right at home.
With no local openers, California’s The Shrine was the first band on stage. Playing a fast and loose combination of stoner rock and skate-punk, they struck me as a laid-back, west coast version of Barn Burner. With music tailor made for long nights of drinking in biker bars and getting into fights, songs like the fun-loving “Zipper Tripper” and raucous “Deep River (Livin’ To Die)” had an air of reckless celebration. Guitarist/vocalist Josh Landau shredded his guitar in a manner that suggested it might catch on fire at any moment, while bassist Court Murphy and drummer Jeff Murray maintained energetic levels of low end fuzz and rhythmic debauchery. Graveyard might have been the major draw for the night but it’s fair to say that The Shrine left the swelling audience suitably impressed.
With a full capacity crowd finally in place, there was a discernible level of anticipation in the room. It seemed I wasn’t the only one with a hearty fondness for Graveyard. When the opening siren call of “An Industry of Murder” from 2012’s Lights Out sounded, the crowd erupted with joyous fanfare. In reciprocation, the Swedes stomped through a magical 60 minute set that ranged from 70’s influenced rock ‘n roll scorchers (“Seven Seven”, “Ain’t Fit To Live Here”) to swirling blues ballads (“Uncomfortably Numb”, “Hard Times Lovin’”) and everything in between (“As The Years Pass By, The Hours Bend”). Each song was encompassed by a layer of warmth and richness, the buttery tones proving a perfect complement to the plush velvet of Joakim Nilsson’s vocals. His voice was just as powerful as on record, something I expected, but live it dripped with a new level of emotional intensity that gave me chills. As a band, Graveyard plays with near telepathic ability, silently communicating through fleeting looks and nods. When they’d lock into a groove or wander into a jam they did so with an ease of comfort that was truly mesmerizing. It all culminated into an unforgettable, show stopping performance highlighted by an encore rendition of their bluesy masterpiece “The Siren”.
When it was over I stood by the stage for several moments, unable to speak. It felt like every emotion had just been exercised; happiness, love, sadness, regret. I realized that it doesn’t matter whether you’re on stage or in the audience, when you strip everything back we all have the same beating heart, the same vulnerability. Graveyard had tapped into a human condition that made a roomful of strangers no longer seem strange. It’s not something you can experience every day, but it’s certainly something worth waiting for.