Whiplash
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Whiplash

Gainesville, Florida, United States | SELF

Gainesville, Florida, United States | SELF
Band Rock Cover Band

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"Whiplash with Azmyth: Live at the Backstage Lounge"

Saturday, Sept. 11 in Gainesville, FL

There’s something oddly heartwarming about a bunch of black-clad headbangers chanting “DIE!” in unison as five relatively clean-cut dudes on stage lock into a throbbing metal stomp. Don’t get me wrong – I’m for peace and love as much as the next guy. But sometimes after a long week of white-collarhood, it’s just nice to let your hair down (to your lower back in some instances), lace up those leather commando boots, and mosh violently with your bros to the unchill vibes of “Creeping Death.”

Greatest heavy metal song ever, no?

I’m guessing Gainesville’s Whiplash feel similarly. They were, after all, the aforementioned clean-cut dudes tearing through an assortment of classic Metallica covers Saturday night at that pit of sweaty grime (and bang-up recording tech!) that is the Backstage Lounge.

Having seen the real thing once before, I can say with some measure of credibility – despite my lack of tats – that this thrash-happy quintet acquitted themselves particularly well. And by “well,” I mean loudly, on-key and fast as hell.

The brothers Amir, guitarists Simon and Jamie, fronted the sledgehammer attack, ripping through fleet-fingered solo after fleet-fingered solo while drummer Tobin Wagstaff made a night out of assaulting his double bass drum. Lead singer Shawn Manley, for his part, capably mimicked the early ’80s growl of a pimply, young James Hetfield and rocked the getup to match: black leather pants, “Ride The Lightning” T, long hair.

He also worked the crowd, egging on the moshers up front and failing not once to flash the devil horns at the omnipresent photo-op.

The one-two opening gauntlet of “That Was Just Your Life” and “My Apocalypse” – both from 2008's redemption song Death Magnetic - showed in equal measures the band’s deftly agile talents and the extent to which their iconic forbearers still appeal to the kids. For Metallica, Magnetic was a stunningly effective return to thrash metal form (if not a full-fledged return to the glories of their lionized ’80s work). That Whiplash both chose to lead with “the new sh*t” and culled such an aggressively positive response from a crowd of metal traditionalists speaks volumes to Metallica’s post-St. Anger comeback.

The Amir brothers (or close relatives).

That said, it was the generation-old staples that cranked the band and its descendants into high gear. The back-to-back onslaught of “Creeping Death” and “Master of Puppets” – the genre’s dark pope and high priest, respectively – proved the band quite adept at shifting signatures, turning riffs on a dime, and in general, melting all kinds of face.

They carved through “Trapped Under Ice” searingly fast and endowed … And Justice For All’s “Harvester of Sorrow” with the methodically-paced menace of the original. “Blackened’s” guitar tempo didn’t quite synch up with the firing-squad drumming, but Manley barked out the classic chorus (“FIRE! To begin whipping dance of the dead…) with enough bile to incite something of a minor riot on the floor below.

“Blackened”

The half-full audience didn’t take to the Black Album material especially well - play the hits! - but its hard to argue “Through The Never’s” herky-jerky melody or that busting out Gulf War pseudo-commentary “Don’t Tread on Me” on 9/11 at least means something.

New bassist Matt Weisman held his own on Pantera’s lightning-quick singalong “F****** Hostile,” but the tune was quickly disposed of by its eviscerating chaser, Metallica’s pantheon-worthy “Ride The Lightning.”

Manley yelled out “Baddest riff ever” before his backers launched note-for-note into the track’s mammoth bridge. And in that moment of eardrum-blistering communal hero worship, all I could think is, “Bro, you’re so right.”

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From L to R: Azmyth's Tim Downey, Jr. and Alex Noles.

Orange Springs’ Azmyth opened the show, putting on a cocksure display of ’80s-flecked hair rock, the likes of which made me wanna rock Slippery When Wet on the car ride home. A bass-free power trio (for now anyway), Azmyth comes on like a balls-out cross between Diamond Dave-era Van Halen, your way-older brother’s favorite Sunset Strip band, and a Daytona Beach spring breaker.

Random shredding.

They’re a throwback to the days you don’t necessarily want to be thrown back to, but their unabashed enthusiasm, anthemic choruses and effortless dexterity – good lord, can these guys shred – are enough to put a nostalgic smile on the lips of even the most jaded hipster. Originals “Dancing With The Saints,” “Rock ‘n Roll Disease” and “I’m Livin’ Life Again” showcased both lead singer/guitarist Tim Downey Jr.’s knack for a big, fat hook and drummer Tyler Downey’s adrenalized Keith Moon turns. Tyler looks a dead ringer for Adam Yauch, but I was more impressed by rhythm guitarist Alex Noles… who’s either the body double or second coming of Richie Sambora. Poke fun of his hairsprayed/bleach denim ensemble at your own peril – the guy plays like Sambora, too.

Alex Noles

Speaking of technically impressive players, Downey Jr. knocked out “Eruption” with all the flair and finger-tapping finesse of its pioneering composer. He made the guitar neck his personal whipping boy, then did his flamboyant frontman predecessor proud with a cover of VH’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love.”

The cougars up front had a ball. Band drinks free tonight.

“The Fountain”

- Robbie

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Notes: Whiplash donated concert proceeds to a fund for Ground Zero workers. Check the band out on Facebook. - Sports Casualties


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Its 10AM on Friday. Tobin's teaching a kid how to play a beat; Shawn's prepping for his radio show; Simon is bloody, with someone's tooth in his hand; Matt is overseeing a wall full of TV screens of cars racing by; Jamie is slicing open somebody's gums. 12 hours later, all five will be together on stage banging their heads to the greatest hard rock and metal tunes there ever were, while the crowd moshes and the guitars crunch to the ripping bass and furious pounding of the drums.