To say I have been looking forward to this evenings performance by the mighty Sunn O))) at the Fillmore, would be an understatement. A couple of months ago when I heard about the band playing at the historic Fillmore Theater in San Francisco I was very excited to find out what the buzz was all about in regarding a live show with Sunn O))). I will admit that I may not be that knowledgeable about the music of Sunn O))). I can’t really tell you much about them or anything, but it has always been on my bucket list of bands to photograph ( even though I knew to go into this it would be a tough shoot) but I was willing to try my best.
Sunn O))) consists of the brainchild duo of Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson. The band is known for a heavy and slow sound that blends diverse genres including drone, black metal, dark ambient, and noise rock, and for very loud live performances. Prior to seeing Sunn O))), the loudest band I have ever seen is Neurosis, so that is saying something.
Additionally, the band is known for using resonant feedback to create monolithic soundscapes and eerie atmospheres. Percussion is almost never incorporated, with a lack of any discernible beat.
As I arrived at the venue around 8:30, the first band had already played, and they were setting up for PAPA M, who went on around 9:15 and playing solo with just a single lightbulb on a table beside him. PAPA M is an American alternative rock musician. He has played a wide variety of music, loosely fitting into several other genres such as hardcore punk, math rock, post-rock, electronica, folk-rock, and indie-pop. Though a multi-instrumentalist (including guitar, bass guitar, banjo, and drums), he is best known for his guitar work. He played a quick and quite enjoyable set for about 30 minutes.
This is where the evening got quite interesting. About 15 minutes prior to hitting the stage the fog/smoke machines were turned on. Bellowing a thick cloud of creepy atmospheric fog throughout the Fillmore. At 10;15 the 3 robed figures took to the stage, which had the heavily loaded amplification, set in the middle of the stage in a half-circle stage setting.
The Sold-Out Fillmore started to roar as the band took their place on stage. From the first bellowing chord that felt like it would go on forever to the rumbling, thumping droning chord from the bass. That went on for about 10 minutes until the show came to a sudden and abrupt halt for the next 15-20 minutes due to the fire alarm going off due to the excessive amount of fog/smoke the band had been pumping out steadily for about 45 minutes. The power to the stage was cut, and shortly after that, the Fire Department showed up to make sure everything was alright.
Then the robed members came back out on stage and continued their monolithic performance. The setlist for tonight’s show was not necessarily comprised of songs but based more on musical keys.
One of the highlights of the show for me was about 3/4 of the way through the show another robed figure came out on stage and did a Trombone Solo, which was quite cool and very unexpected. With this being my first real experience with Sunn O))), I was extremely impressed by what I saw and heard. I found it be quite relaxing and soothing listening to the droning of the instruments. This was my first time seeing them, and not going to be the last.
- Between Sleipnir’s Breaths
- Trombone solo
- Hunting & Gathering (Cydonia)