A sea of heads fell forward and back rhythmically, worshipping the beat of the unrelenting crash cymbal. The display was extremely loud. Reverberations could be felt from the ground all the way up to the waists of concertgoers. When my phone vibrated, I didn’t notice. This was the scene at High Noon Saloon for much of Bongripper’s hour-long set on Wednesday night. The Chicago-based doom quartet released a heavy dose of ceaseless noise upon their admirers. Formed in 2006, Bongripper regularly feature wordplay and references to marijuana in their titles — "Reefer Sutherland" is the first track on their Spotify profile.
The free concert was listed as an after-party for the Grassroots Art Show. Much of the crowd, dressed almost exclusively in black, arrived early. Many smoked cigarettes on High Noon’s outdoor patio prior to Bongripper’s shredding.
The show commenced about a quarter after 10 p.m. with several minutes of loud, continuous feedback, which foreshadowed the recurrence of this theme when ending the set. As an instrumental-only group, Bongripper had no microphones set up before them. They barely addressed the audience throughout the show. Bassist Ronald Petzke took center stage, flanked on his left by lead guitarist Nick Dellacroce and backing guitarist Dennis Pleckham on the right. Drummer Daniel O’Connor anchored the band. All four members sported modest beards. Dellacorce featured a smoothly shaved head, O’Connor wore flowing locks and the other two members rocked buzz cuts. Unlike the crowd, no tattoos or piercings were visible from the bandmates.
Dellacroce provided visual cues to stage mates to inform them of transitions and used outbursts of noise from his golden guitar for the same purpose. O’Connor’s heavy beats directed sonic passages. The volume and sound were mostly uniform. Bongripper primarily emitted their trademark down-tuned and down-tempo sludge with little variation. Occasionally, the band would increase the pace and join audience members in ferocious headbanging. They did such at the end of their near 14-minute track, “Hail.”
Toward the end of the set, the musk of marijuana permeated from the front row of the audience. I left the concert with ringing ears. It lasted for several hours afterward and was even painful at times. For the first time, I questioned my decision to not protect my ears at a concert. Plenty of audience members arrived with earplugs. All of them left with sore necks.