It was Saturday night, and after a quick stopoff at Vintage Vinyl, I made my way even further south on the Parkway to Long Branch‘s famed Brighton Bar. Once the centerpiece of the vibrant NJ stoner scene (on the wall are scrawled names like Monster Magnet, Lord Sterling, Halfway to Gone, among many others), I haven’t been there in a while that it wasn’t more or less empty. Clamfight, recently come aboard the good ship Maple Forum, were playing with some rapcore — there’s a word you don’t see every day — band and opening, so I figured it was well worth the drive to see them. And it was. A decent crowd, too.
Clamfight guitarist Sean McKee had promised me a demo tape of new material, and my favorite DIY duo in the world, Rukut, also handed me a CDR of new mixes (they weren’t playing but came out to support), so that was a bonus, but Brighton shows have a long history of starting late, and with a total three bands on the bill, Clamfight got going at about 10PM. It’s just one of the many ways in which the venue holds fast to rock traditions the rest of the world either forgot about or decided there was more money in ignoring. Don’t ask me which. Good fun, in any case.
This is probably the last time (or one of the last times, if not the last) I’ll feel comfortable writing about Clamfight in an editorial sense. They haven’t started recording their new album yet, and I listened to that tape and it rules, but in terms of reviews and stuff, it’s not something I can really do for a band I’m going to put out and claim — at least in my mind — any credibility. I don’t know. I was just glad to go to the show and hang out with friends.
Icing on the proverbial cake was that Clamfight killed. They played three songs from Vol. 1 and the rest was new material. Their mixture of stoner riffs and thrash aggression has only gotten more potent, it seems, and on the more recent cuts, “I vs. the Glacier” “The Eagle” and “Sandriders” (video below), they showed hints of a newfound diversity that wasn’t there on the first record. Frontdrummer Andy Martin even threw some clean vocals into “Stealing the Ghost Horse,” contrasting them with bastardly growls that cut in and out on a bad mic cable. The point got across anyway: the band is growing.
Both McKee and fellow guitarist Joel Harris played through Dual Rectifiers and Mesa cabs, and I don’t know if it was just the Brighton mix or what, but the thought occurred to me that I wanted more disparity of tone between them. There was plenty enough crunch to their sound — underscored by the well-pocketed bass work of Louis Koble — but their material has developed to the point where McKee‘s leads need to be able to separate themselves from Harris‘ rhythm tracks more, and when the two lock in on a huge riff, as they do with great regularity, it could hit even harder meshing different tones.
One man’s opinion. I know that equipment is a huge investment and establishing “a tone” takes years, but Clamfight are getting to where it’s time for them to do so. They’re more of a “real band” than they know.
And I guess that’s why I’m so excited to be working with them on The Maple Forum for their next record. Their songs still have that demo-band intensity to them, but they’re clearly past that stage in their growth. They’re more than capable songwriters — the cassette I got bears that out, as did the first album — and after seeing them integrate new songs into their live set, and be genuinely willing to try new things on those songs, I’m all the more stoked for what’s to come. It’s going to be a monster.
You can check out Clamfight here and see the video of “Sandriders” below. Apologies for the audio. I need to see if I can adjust the rec volume on that camera. Still figuring that whole thing out.
Tags: ClamFight, New Jersey, The Maple Forum, Westmont