Though he doesn’t have the energy he had in his 20s, Bobby Liebling, the creator and longtime frontman for pioneering metal band Pentagram, says he still feels like a 25-year-old at heart.
“I didn’t grow up,” the singer and songwriter says, speaking over the phone from Mesa, Arizona, where his band is gearing up to perform for what they anticipate will be a packed house.
According to Liebling, his band’s current tour has been going great—drawing crowds that are equal parts men and women from the ages of “6 to 60.”
All of this makes sense, considering. Liebling, who started Pentagram 47 years ago, is 62. With recorded demos dating back to 1972, he has fans that have been into his music as long as he has been making it. There is an entire Gen X subset of his fan base, who discovered his band in the late ’80s and early ’90s; those fans hopped on the bandwagon during a spate where Pentagram was active, signed to multiple labels and touring.
Many of the youngest generation of Liebling devotees—who occupy the coveted 25-to-35 demographic—discovered the band online, where bloggers have identified Pentagram as a seminal, if obscure, group responsible for creating music that would ultimately pave the way for what is now called doom metal: a sludgy and plodding, yet melodic, branch of the many headed serpent that is modern heavy metal music.
For his part, Liebling dismisses the label, noting that all the doom bands he’s heard have growling, “cookie monster” vocalists, while he prefers to keep his vocal lines clean. Nevertheless, the Virginia-born musician is grateful for his group’s newfound fame, which came about thanks to file sharing, YouTube, blogs and a 2011 documentary, titled Last Days Here.
The documentary debuted at South by Southwest, and was quickly snapped up by Sundance. The film follows Liebling through some of his darkest days—beginning with footage from 2006, when the 50-year-old was using heroin, smoking crack and living in his parents’ basement, and ending with the singer straightening out as best he knows how and hitting the road with his band.
“I’ve relapsed here and there,” says Liebling, recalling the years since 2009, when things started going his way. But, he maintains that he stays clean when he’s busy with music—touring and putting out records, like the band’s 2015 LP, Curious Volume. “When I’m on the road, I don’t use anything at all,” he says. “I like knowing what I’m doing. I’m trying to live.”
May 28, 8pm, $20-$23
The Ritz, San Jose