Friday night, man. Traditionally you’re supposed to go out after work, get fucked up, party your ass off and all the rest of it. All I want to do on a Friday night is sleep. And usually, that’s how it goes. But when Cortez is making the trip down from Boston and hooking up with Mighty High for a show in Brooklyn that’s not even in the middle of hang-yourself Williamsburg, well, showing up is the thing to do. So it’s the thing I did.
Last time I was at Hank’s Saloon was just over a year ago, to see Black Thai (which boasts two members of Cortez in its ranks) hit up a gig with Thinning the Herd, and as low key as that was, I knew that with Mighty High on the bill, good times were bound to be had. When I rolled in, there was what had previously been described to me as an “alt country” act on the stage. It was a little white girl, soul-singing like little white girls do, accompanied by some dude who seems to have found Les Claypool‘s tailor on guitar. Striped pants, silly hat, and — inevitably, predictably, excruciatingly — a kazoo. Hell, it was bound to happen, but they were about half done when I got there, so it could’ve been worse. They covered Spinal Tap‘s “Gimme Some Money,” and that was a fun reference.
They’d been put on the bill by the venue, which as I understand it, is for sale. Bar-ownership being something of a long-term fantasy of mine, as Cortez set up their gear on the small stage, I looked up at the ceiling beams, down at the dirty floor, over at the walls full of pictures and stickers and post-its with cabbie phone numbers. I inhaled the smell of mold and thought to myself, “Yeah, I could do this.” The Patient Mrs., joining me for the night on the town, seemed less thrilled at the notion.
Cortez frontman Matt Harrington would soon blow out the Hank’s P.A., but as soon as they got going, they were on the ball. They hit up a few songs from their forthcoming self-titled (vinyl master is on the way, reportedly), including highlights “Monolith,” “Johnny” and the catchy “Until We Die,” with bassist Jay Furlo adding backups to Harrington‘s melodies while Scott O’Dowd, aka Scotty Fuse, let fly carefully constructed riffs and drummer Jeremy Hemond (also of Roadsaw and Black Thai) managed to do some equipment damage of his own. I can’t remember ever seeing him play that he didn’t require a new snare at some point in the set, and Hank’s was no exception.
They rocked in spite of any and all technical difficulties, and much as I’d hoped, the night played out as sans-bullshit as possible. All I wanted was a rock show with some good bands, good people, decently-priced beer and no Friday night fashion show, and that’s basically what I got. Mighty High‘s boogiethrash blend of Slayer, Black Flag, Motörhead, Sabbath and any number of ’70s obscurities I’m not qualified to name was the perfect finale. Decked out in a Foghat Live t-shirt, guitarist/vocalist Chris “Woody High” MacDermott introduced the native Brooklynite act by saying, “We’re The James Gang from Ohio,” and it only got better from there.
The thing about Mighty High, though, is that as much as songs like “Chemical Warpigs” (a highlight) “I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes” (another highlight) and “Breakin’ Shit” (always a highlight) are about getting high and having fun, they’re also maddeningly good. Mighty High hit like a megaphone yelling at stoner rock to get its head out of its ass, but they have the chops musically to back it up. I’m not going to say they were perfect up there, but even where they stumbled, they did it right, guitarist Kevin Overdose, drummer Jesse D’Stills and bassist Labatts Santoro seeming to take the instruction to heart as Woody led the way through the opening cover of “Kick out the Jams.”
When they were done, I walked out with the “Hands Up!” chorus still in my head, where it stayed for much of the weekend, and — now that I’m thinking about it again — remains. The Patient Mrs. had already filled her rock quota for the evening and retired to the car, so I said some quick goodnights and we headed back to Jersey, where I happily checked off the first of three shows in a row and fulfilled my Friday destiny by crashing out as quickly as possible. Good fun.
Extra pics after the jump.
Tags: Boston, Brooklyn, Cortez, Massachusetts, Mighty High, New York City