One of the most exciting developments in the music industry to have taken place this quarter was the unexpected arrival of Matador recording artists Early Man. Hailing from NYC, but raised in the Buckeye state of Ohio, Early Man extracts the best elements of heavy metal and strings them together in one cohesive line. The duo, Mike Conte and Adam Bennati, allegedly found rock at age 19 after having lived extremely sheltered lives as Pentecostalists. Their '80s metal rock revival is inspired by greats like Judas Priest, Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Celtic Frost. However, it was their arrival in Chicago on Thursday that made an impact on my impressionable young mind.
The band’s album has an array of excellently recorded anthems, however it is in a live show that these songs are given a context and are allowed the chance to take on additional meaning. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity for two openers to complete their set, Early Man quickly took stage. Thundering stacks stood shoulder high behind each member of the band. An enormous clear drum kit brought a sense of nostalgia along side Conte’s V-shaped guitar.
I was so giddy with anticipation. I felt as though I had been reduced to a character on Beavis and Butthead. I wanted to rip holes in the knees of my jeans and wrap a flannel shirt around my waist. Long sweaty hair that fell into each members' eyes accompanied black shirts, creating a familiar aesthetic I hadn’t seen since my short stay in the late '80s. An extra performer was present for the show to help capture the magic of the recordings, which feature a series of layered guitar tracks by Conte. The band looked straight off the set of Wayne’s World and truthfully, I was completely entrenched by their '80s rocker sensibility.
The band jumped into their set and immediately electrified those people in the audience who had yet to experience an Early Man moment. Fewer than twenty people had made it out that night, but what I witnessed was a show large enough for thousands - three heads of hair violently shaking in unison to galloping rhythms that were immediately followed by palm muffled power chords. Between the first two songs I hugged the stage and yelled furiously, “more vocals, more vocals.” All I could hear was instrumental, but Conte came to the mic and admitted to suffering from laryngitis. His lips were moving as hard as they could but the faint sound wasn’t enough to register. Regardless, the band unloaded an onslaught of hits from their album that mesmerized everyone in the room. For the closing song, Conte asked for assistance as he leaped into their single, “Death Is The Answer.” I screamed as loud as I could and may have perhaps been the only one present who actually knew the words.
The band has embarked on a national tour that will take them to the West Coast and then sweep back across the Midwest as they make their way home to NYC. Their first Chicago show landed them an incredible night of metal mayhem at the notorious Abbey Pub, and the remainder promises the same. Fatigued from shaking my head and stomping my feet harder than usual, I left the venue with ringing in my ears. Since having received a copy of Closing In, I have been in awe of Early Man and look forward to their return in several weeks.