As I made my way into the Trocadero on Philadelphia‘s Arch Street (apparently right in Chinatown), I asked the mostly-disinterested girl working the ticket window if anyone had gone on yet. Her eyes lit up and she said, “Everyone but Kyuss!” It was a little before 8:45PM.
I didn’t remember having been at the Trocadero before until I saw the place, then flashes of Fireball Ministry, Clutch and Strapping Young Lad came to mind, though no recollection of how many shows that actually was. One or two, anyway. The place was decently crowded but not overly packed considering the headliner was about to go on, and I made my way up toward the front of the theater to wait for the set to start.
And wait I did. Kyuss Lives! — the remarkable three-quarters reunion of desert rock gods Kyuss that features vocalist John Garcia, bassist Nick Oliveri, drummer Brant Bjork and guitarist Bruno Fevery — wouldn’t go on for another half an hour at least. I wasn’t especially bummed at having missed MonstrO or The Sword, but the crowd spent an awful lot of time spent waiting for Garcia to come on stage and tell them they don’t seem to understand the deal. And just like when you’re so hungry at a restaurant and you’re waiting, and you think maybe your order is screwed up somehow, that you’re going to get the wrong food, or nothing at all, that the little slip with your meal written on it fell off the thing and is sitting on the dirty kitchen floor, I started to worry something was amiss, that Brant Bjork had slipped on a banana peel or something and pulled a calf muscle and couldn’t drum or something equally ridiculous and unlikely/likely as that.
Guess that means I fell for it. Granted, on the scale of the 15 years it’s been since Kyuss last toured, the wait for Kyuss Lives! to take the stage last night wasn’t all that bad, but the anticipation was excruciating. And not just for me. The whole audience — a mostly-dude mix of stoners, rockers, guys who were there the first time and younger-types who weren’t, peppered with the occasional patient girlfriend and/or female actually there to enjoy the music — seemed tense with it. Maybe that’s me projecting.
They opened with “Hurricane” from 1995′s …And the Circus Leaves Town and sounded right on from the start. They could’ve played anything and it both would have been perfect and not enough, but it was a solid set — more than an hour, not quite 90 minutes, if I timed it right — and though there was no “Demon Cleaner,” cuts like “El Rodeo” and the more expected “Gardenia,” “Thumb” and “100 Degrees” covered a lot of ground.
Oliveri took backing vocals on “El Rodeo” and several others, and though he was a little loud in the mix initially, his voice meshed well with Garcia‘s. His legal problems notwithstanding, he sounded good and looked good on stage and seemed glad to be there. He and Bjork were practically a band unto themselves in the rhythm section. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but Brant Bjork is the Godfather of Desert Groove, and playing drums in Kyuss Lives!, he made it look almost effortless, like at any moment, he was about to kick his feet up and take a nap while also ripping through “Allen’s Wrench” in the encore. Solid doesn’t even begin to cover it. The dude is something special.
Presumably, Garcia knows that, and likewise for Oliveri and guitarist Bruno Fevery, otherwise he’d have gotten other people for the project. For his part, Fevery held down the songs well. His hair hanging in front of his face for most of the set, the Belgian six-stringer kept a low profile compared to the draw of the other three in the band, and while he seemed impatient in the several extended jams the band took, his sound fit well with the songs. No complaints, is what I’m trying to say. Invariably, he didn’t have the sense of freedom with the material as might the dude who helped write it initially, but it was a more than respectable showing, and I think he won over most of the crowd as the set wore on.
The high point, for me, anyway, might have been “Whitewater” from Welcome to Sky Valley, if only because I didn’t expect it. I mean, you pretty much know you’re going to get “Green Machine” — and we did, in the encore — but I didn’t see “Whitewater” coming, and the crowd singing along to Garcia‘s “Aah-ah-ah, I am home” chorus made it seem like that was all the more the case. It was beautiful, and a little lonely, and more beautiful for being a little lonely — much as I’ve always imagined the Californian desert to be. I missed my wife and wished I wasn’t there alone.
It would be pretty easy for me to slip into wax poetics and talk about the grandeur of getting the chance to see these guys play these songs, since I never thought it would happen, but I think it’s important to remember it’s a rock and roll show, even if one that obviously meant a tremendous amount to the crowd assembled to see it, myself included. I will say that a telling moment came about during the break before the encore. The audience was chanting “KY-USS! KY-USS!” and it went like that for a bit, but was gradually overtaken by the even louder “KY-USS LIVES! KY-USS LIVES!” I was glad to have seen it.
Oliveri introduced Fevery to the crowd during the encore saying something to the tune of, “This dude rules and he’s from Belgium.” They jammed out “Molten Universe” before Garcia came back out to close the night with “Allen’s Wrench.” I remembered being on the side of the stage at Roadburn and watching as Orange Goblin‘s Ben Ward joined Garcia Plays Kyuss for the song. This was a different experience, being in the audience in Philly, but more than a thrill, all the same. I was a little surprised when it was over, but the house lights came up at about 10:35 and the place cleared out.
I made my way back to the lot where I’d parked, shelled out a whopping $7.50 for what in Manhattan would’ve cost me $20 plus a tip and hit the road back north with the ball game on the radio. I was in the driveway before 1AM, which is rare to say for the return from Philadelphia, but even if it had been five in the morning, it would be worth the trip. Say what you want about hating reunions, the dudes just being in it for the money, or whatever. I saw John Garcia, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork do a set of Kyuss songs last night, and I don’t care what else was happening in the world, it’s not gonna beat that.
Extra pics after the jump.
Tags: California, Kyuss, Kyuss Lives!, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia