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Mastodon at Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Mastodon hasn't been around for all that long -- and certainly not as long as the prehistoric creature it's named after.

Next year will mark the Atlanta heavy rock quartet's 20th anniversary, but it's certainly conscious of its history. In fact, it's on the road this year celebrating the 10th anniversary of its fourth album, "Crack the Skye," a landmark for both band and fans that gave Mastodon its first Top 20 (No. 11) album on the Billboard 200 chart. It also marked the debut of drummer Brann Dailor as one of the group's lead vocalists.

The troupe is also still basking in the wake of its Top 10 latest album, "Emperor of Sand," while Dailor tells us there's more coming...

• Mastodon played "Crack the Skye" in its entirety when it was first release. Doing it now, Dailor, 44, says by phone, allows the group to approach it with a different perspective. "The opportunity to present it as a full piece again is something we've always been interested in doing, so for the 10-year mark it makes sense. We felt pretty strongly about how it is as one big, cohesive piece -- that's why we did it like that the first time around. We really like playing it like that. I’m not sure what's given it such legs; It's, like, the first time we dug a little deeper emotionally, so there's a combination of things going on it. It just felt deeper, somehow. Years later we can come back and say, 'I really understand this song and can play it live a lot better than I did back then.' I think that's what's happening this time around."

• A decade and four Grammy Award nominations (with one win) later, Mastodon is also able to do a more extensive video presentation to accompany the "Crack the Skye" performance. "We have a revamped visual show from this company Hey Beautiful Jerk that's done a few things with us -- a couple of videos, all our visuals for the last couple of years. They’re really sinking into 'Crack the Skye' stuff, and we have bigger screens this time and it just looks insane. I really like being out on tour in the summer time, anyway. It's a lot of fun playing the amphitheaters. It definitely beats the European winter tours, I can tell you that."

• As for new music, Dailor says Mastodon is "always sort of writing. We wrote and recorded a new song, 'Torches,' when we get our studio up and running and we were going to release it, but I don't know what happened -- bureaucracy and red tape, probably. But we'll figure out a way to release it at some point. But everybody's got some cool-sounding new stuff. When we have a tour it's hard for us to be in two different minds, so we'll probably going to ramp up (in the studio) after this tour finishes. So some time in mid-July or so we'll really start hitting it."

• Mastodon did release a cover of "Stairway to Heaven" for Record Store Day in memory of the group's longtime manager Nick John, who died from pancreatic cancer in September. Proceeds from the track are going to the Hirschberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. "Nick was, like, a total freak about Led Zeppelin, so at his funeral we were asked to play 'Stairway.' It just made the most sense. Even though none of us were in a place to admit the fact that he was gone, we knew we had to do something at his funeral to honor him and send him to heaven. He did so much for us it was the last we could do. It came out really good, so we said, 'Man, since we took the time to learn this in the first place, why don't we just go in and cut a studio version of it,' and that would be another tribute to our buddy."

• Members of Mastodon were cast as extras in two episodes of "Game of Thrones," which Dailor says were highlights. "It's been cool to be part of it. It's definitely some big ol' bragging rights, that's for sure. They don't have a lot of bands on there -- Bon Iver did one, and Ed Sheeran was on there, but too out in the open about it for my liking. And we got to do it twice. It's just another nice little feather in the cap and another one of those amazing thigs that has happened to me as part of Mastodon. I just go, 'Thank you, Mastodon. Thank you again...'"

Mastodon, Coheed and Cambria, and Every Time I Die perform at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, at the Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway at Schoenherr, Sterling Heights. $25 and up. 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.

Web Site: www.313Presents.com

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