Allow me, dear reader, to briefly enthral you with the story of how my introduction to Chicago-based alt metal trio Chevelle came about. As I sat in my office on a slow day in November of 2011 as the Irish rain beat ferociously against my window, I decided to turn off the sleep-inducing online local talk show I had been listening to, as an overwhelming urge to listen to some new music overcame me. Following a hasty Google search I stumbled upon a website that offered links to every international online radio station under the sun. Glancing quickly down the list I chose a station at random and, content with the song that was playing, went about my work as usual. Thirty-odd minutes or so later a song came on that disrupted my “I will be productive today” mantra. As the song came to an end, the DJ informed me that I had been listening to Chevelle’s “The Red”. Without hesitation I did some research on the band and over the following few weeks, one by one, downloaded all their albums.
Almost a year later, I was greeted at the Commodore Ballroom in the heart of Downtown Vancouver by a heated band of followers who, just like me, were impatient for the show to begin. As I anxiously took my place directly in front of the stage and chatted briefly with a fellow photographer, myself and my stomach went into doped-up acrobatic overdrive with girlish groupie excitement, all while remaining the epitome of professionalism on the surface, naturally. A roar that must surely have been heard two blocks away erupted from the crowd as the lights dimmed and 35-year-old Pete Loeffler walked to centre stage and greeted the band’s dedicated followers. His brother Sam took his seat at his drum set as bass guitarist Dean Bernardini placed himself stage left during their thunderous welcome.
As the band tore into their first track of the night and I attempted desperately to catch stills of the performance, I took proper notice of the large, foreboding and very well-endowed statue of a bull that flanked the back wall, standing beneath the large simple lettering of the band’s title on black drapes. The beast had nothing to do with astrology and everything to do with Chevelle’s newest album – Hats off to the Bull.
Despite snapping more duds than would your Grandma with an iPhone camera as the band energetically moved around, I suppressed the urge to sing (scream) along with the first three songs of the night as I worked. Once my camera duty was complete however, I was free to thoroughly enjoy the night along with everyone else. The band was on top form despite the wear and tear of being on tour, Pete’s automatically recognizable and listener-friendly voice carrying out over the head-banging, heavily moshing crowd in flawless fashion for 90% of the show, becoming lost only once during “Comfortable Liar”. During this song, despite having listened to it a countless number of times over the past 10 months or so, it took roughly 30 seconds to recognize the track.
Standing between two very burly and very intoxicated gentlemen, I sang and head-banged to my heart’s content as Chevelle ticked older songs such as “Send the Pain Below”, “Vitamin R”, “Forfeit”, “The Clincher” and newer songs such as “Face to the Floor” and their album’s title track “Hats off to the Bull” from their set list.
What really made the night for me was that despite wishing to promote their newest efforts, the guys did ensure to satisfy by playing songs from older grittier albums where similarities to influences such as Tool and Helmet filter through. The only and probably completely irrational downside of the night in my opinion was the absence of Joe Loeffler, brother to Pete and Sam and former Chevelle bass guitarist. Although it has been over seven years since his far-from-amicable departure from the band, and Bernardini’s obvious talent as replacement, it still did sadden me slightly.
A good friend mentioned during the week that he despised the almost ritualistic way that artists end their sets by departing the stage and then reappearing approximately 30 seconds later to begin their encore. “Why can’t they just end the set and leave it at that?” he wondered aloud. In a way, I do agree with him –HOWEVER, when the beautiful Pete Loeffler made his way back to his mic with his guitar at his side and launched into what I initially thought to be an acoustic version of the very song that had me hooked on Chevelle in the first place – “The Red”, I can honestly say I have never been happier to see a band oblige their fans with an encore.