Event: Oceans of Slumber – The Lighthouse East Tour
Venue: Sanctuary Detroit, Hamtramck, Michigan
Date: September 7, 2022
Artists Performed: Wasteland Coven, Oceans of Slumber
Sometimes the most memorable shows are the hardest to write about. If enough time passes between the performance and a writer’s ability to properly articulate the experience there is a temptation to leave the words behind. It remains a lone-dwelling memory, distorted by unintentional distance and set out to tempt the all to human desire for exaggerated storytelling. This mass gaslighting effect has become part of American popular culture. Near constant conflict between what actually happened and what we’d prefer people to have seen. “No! The fish was this big!” Or “No! There were this many waves!” Or “No! What happened was this…” Is it in our nature to second guess our own eyes or everyone else’s perception of how we’ve used the gift of sight? There isn’t an easy answer, but a question worth pondering when it comes to events we’re personally better off remembering with un-fractured hindsight. But I don’t want to leave this one to the vultures. I had been looking forward to seeing Oceans of Slumber for a few years, and I could feel the excitement in my bones as I walked into the club.
Sanctuary Detroit is a special place, as I’ve written before, with it’s entirety welcoming atmosphere that always seems to have enough room for everyone to sit with their arms on the table, so to speak. A home away from home sort of vibe, and upon seeing my buddies in Wasteland Coven getting ready for their support set for that evening, I felt even more at home. Glass City Doom, ladies, and gents, getting spookier and spookier every time I have a chance to check them out. Twice now since they added a bass player, which was a great call, filling out their sound nicely. Will they have an organist next time, perhaps?Even more atmosphere, or an embrace of the natural shyness most of the band’s members tend to exhibit? One can never be too sure. Wasteland Coven definitely has something up its sleeve, I promise you.
Both Wasteland Coven and Oceans of Slumber play the kind of music that’s enhanced, not defined, by the electricity they use to amplify various elements of rage. As loud and riff-heavy as any traditional doom can be, yet blooming with extremely organic beats and breaths.
When Oceans of Slumber hit the stage, I was immediately hypnotized by singer Cammie Gilbert’s honest and commanding presence. She just stopped me in my tracks, and I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by that. There is no other voice quite like hers in metal, after all. But when she started to sing two feet in front of me… I began to re-examine my definitions of “soulful” and “expressive”. The amount of emotion conveyed in “Red Forest Roads,” or “House of the Rising Sun,” for example, left the room in pin-drop silence.
The band played “Hearts of Stone,” “A Return to the Earth Below,” and “The Lighthouse,” leaving Cammie’s voice room to both keep pace and soar above. Powerful. Feminine. So much strength and pain. Love and anger. There was a buzz about her, like the air around a mountain, not asking for permission to change the temperature. But, like a mountain, pride never entered the equation.
When the band was partway through “Salvation,” I was pushing back tears. I truly felt like I was witnessing something special and potentially life-changing. That may sound dramatic, and so be it, because I had to sit down, man. I took out my notepad and wrote the following:
“She is soft-spoken between songs if she decides to speak at all, and everyone is listening to everything. In this room right now silence has a sound, and it is not lost on me that today… the Obama portraits were hung at the White House. This is me, an overly privileged straight white male in America, not asking for permission to tell anyone who’ll listen that this woman is giving me strength I did not have when I walked in here tonight.”
I wish I could tell you why it took me so long to feel comfortable sharing that bit. Sometimes, and perhaps this is part of the problem, we’re often so concerned about being offensive or off the mark in some obnoxious way that we end up not saying anything at all. Either that or an extremely compromised version of our original thoughts, which we touched on earlier.
Because here’s a hard truth; we should all be more outspoken when we see a woman do something incredible and transformative. I don’t know the first thing about what made Cammie Gilbert the person or artist she is. I don’t know what her struggles have been, or how far deep she needs to dig in order to sing what she’s feeling, but I do know voices like that don’t sound the way they sound because life has been a fuckin birthday cake. What’s even greater, perhaps even haunting, is the ease with which she shares this voice with her audience almost supernaturally. It’s as if she’s saying, “Here I am, and this is why.” She’ll hold out her hand, and we’ll take it no questions asked.
Oceans of Slumber is not a band to be missed in a live setting, to put it mildly, and I suspect seeing them perform will remain an ever-evolving pleasure that makes good use of the quiet parts.
The band will be in Canada at the beginning of November, traveling back down towards the east coast for shows in New York, and Maryland, then they finish out the year back out west in Texas and California. Here’s hoping their 2023 has some big things in store.