Mount Everest stands 29,929 feet at its highest peak. It is the most impressive and tallest mountain on Earth. Through its confines runs the border between Nepal and China, two countries of contrasting vision and thoughts on life. Every year many try to conquer the great mountain so that they may say they were once on top of the world. It is both a literal and a metaphysical feeling. As those that survive the travails of the arduous journey, they weeks before had embarked upon, there is a sense of relief, sure, but also excitement and joy knowing that whatever stands in your way you can beat. It is a feeling the band Everest must be feeling these days as well.
Joel Graves and his guitar were in the air and Russ Pollard was screaming, in tune, as he held the microphone in his hand at the Independent, in San Francisco, Wednesday night. They were launching full force into “Ownerless”, a song about losing some semblance of the control we think we have and yet the crowd was in a trance-like state, mesmerized by their raucous sounds. Pollard was in a zone. He moved about the stage like a man in need of an exorcism and Jason Soda, dressed in faded jeans, a white t-shirt and a blue hoodie wailed on the guitar like he taught it how to talk himself.
The theater lights changed colors from green to blue to red and the faces of the crowd were illuminated; with each passing light a new color of astonishment shown through the man-made smoke that floated through the ether of the 200 plus people in attendance. The music, that for so many people has shown how good this band could be, permeated through the dense layer of illicit haze and straight into the souls of those that could still comprehend the brilliance they were witnessing.
We knew this was going to happen though, didn’t we? After we listened to that album, Ownerless, and realized that this is it, this is the album that should put this band on the map. Yet, they’re still opening for the medical miracle son of Shannon Hoon and Jack White, Alberta Cross. Alberta Cross isn’t bad, but they were certainly outdone on Wednesday and it wasn’t even close. They knew it too; when they came to the stage they played a few songs and said, ‘Wow, Everest was fucking amazing. Tough act to follow.”
It was a tale of two bands going different directions. Alberta Cross, a band that headlined yet, when they stepped to the stage the sparse crowd barely turned their heads as they put in their ear plugs and mimed conversations back and forth. And Everest, the band on the rise, had cute girls dancing like it was an audition for a Bud Light commercial. This was a band that showed the enjoyment of music in its most idealistic context. There was minimal banter and maximum music.
As Everest neared the end of their set, Pollard leaned into the mic and as most bands do he told everyone where the merch table was and what they had for sale, but instead of pimping all the wares he simply said, “Buy the vinyl. We like the vinyl, vinyl is important.” He then smiled, took a breath and the last song began. Everest a band that, like so many climbers, had once thought of giving up half way into their journey, stood there, a throwback to a bygone era, and told this group of misanthropic San Franciscan youth to not simply buy their album, but by it the way music was intended to be heard. It was another instance of them distancing themselves from conventionality and simply doing what they do best: tower above the rest of the Earth.