Seems a bit excessive to do a second full live review for The Midnight Ghost Train and Truckfighters in two days, though I’ll admit to wavering back and forth on the idea before finally settling on this as a compromise. The show, held at Piano’s in one of Manhattan’s several no-one-can-afford-it playground neighborhoods, SoHo, was an afterthought to the tour — a secret Tee Pee Records-sponsored gig featuring the two touring acts and NYC’s Mirror Queen opening up. I’d heard about it Friday and, the familial obligations that kept me from Brooklyn having been gladly and dutifully fulfilled, knew it wasn’t something I wanted to miss.
A few general observations before we get into the band-by-band: Everyone was tired. Apparently Brooklyn had been a bit of a to-do. End of the tour, that’s to be expected. Nevertheless, there was a plague, and it was called “hangover.” Not even La Otracina‘s Adam Kriney, who was in attendance having played the night before, was spared.
Also, the crowd was minimal. To me, that’s ideal. It was a free show, a secret show, and to my estimation, it was likely happening because Mirror Queen guitarist Kenny Sehgal wanted it to happen. Sehgal‘s involved with Tee Pee and Mirror Queen grew out of his former band, Kreisor (formerly Aytobach Kreisor, if you’re up on your NYC heavy lore; I still can’t pass by without missing going to shows at The Continental), so it’s not unreasonable to assume he put it together.
In any case, I was glad I had the chance to see Truckfighters and The Midnight Ghost Train again, and I’d yet to catch Mirror Queen since their debut, From Earth Below came out last year — on Tee Pee, of course — so they seem a good place to start:
There had been an earlier show in the Piano’s back room, and the start time was listed as 10PM at the door, but the “last” band went long and Mirror Queen didn’t get to start on time. No one seemed especially put off by it, and I wasn’t nearly as perturbed by that as I was by the fact that I’d been hit up for cash at the door for a free show. When I went back to talk to the guy sitting at the desk at the door after confirming that, indeed, there was no cover, he was gone. Welcome to Manhattan. Anyway, Sehgal (above) led the charge in Mirror Queen, joined on guitar by recent NYC transplant Thomas Bellier of Blaak Heat Shujaa and Ehécatl, and also serving as the vocalist for a surprisingly subdued set of classic-style heavy rock. It was a similar vibe to watching John Brenner and Against Nature on stage, where it rocks, but it also kind of calms you down. Sehgal laughed at one point that he was going to play really quietly — perhaps he’d been taken by the aforementioned plague — and indeed his guitar was somewhat out of balance with Bellier‘s, but the songs carried warm, laid back vibes and were familiar enough to get their point across. Bassist Roman and drummer Jeremy O’Brien (also formerly of Kreisor) made for a solid rhythm section, and they finished off with a cover of Captain Beyond‘s “Mesmerization Eclipse,” so I had no complaints whatsoever.
The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Steve Moss had his mother and fiancée in attendance (you could tell who they were because they were ladies, and though I didn’t say hi to either of them, they seemed lovely; Moss could be seen dancing with his betrothed after the band’s set), so what already was perhaps a special night for the circumstances that brought it about had another level of emotional involvement for the singer/guitarist. They were the only band of the three not confirmed to yet be working with Tee Pee in some capacity, but it wouldn’t really surprise me if the label was convinced by their performance to bring them on board for their next album. They were tight and crisp, but still really open sounding, and bassist David Kimmell (above) locked down thick grooves with drummer Brandon Burghart just as they’d done in Philly Friday night while Moss went off on raving bluesman rants, barely decipherable through the substantial Piano’s P.A., but no less entertaining for that. His energy level was probably closest of anyone’s to what it was at The Station, and the set once again made me hopeful for what they might be able to accomplish on their next album. I don’t think I was the only one they impressed, either.
Understand that when I say “everyone was tired,” that doesn’t necessarily mean Sweden’s Truckfighters didn’t still put on one of the most energetic sets of desert rock I’ve ever seen. They started off with guitarist Niklas Källgren (above) running to the front bar of Piano’s in an effort to push people to the back, all the while playing the opening riff to “Desert Cruiser” through his wireless setup. That was a fair bit of brilliance, and somewhat effective, but while they may have started out in similar fashion in Philly, the setlist took a different turn, setting crowd interaction off more atmospherics with “Kickdown” and extending the jam in “Monte Gargano” in a way that seemed to surprise even bassist/vocalist Oskar Cedermalm, who nonetheless had no trouble giving Källgren the necessary room to roam, physically or musically. Heavy-smoking drummer Oscar Johansson, once more in his skivvies, sounded especially good, and though the recent documentary about the band paints him as somewhat unreliable and perhaps less dedicated to Truckfighters than Cedermalm or Källgren, it was plain to see why they remain dedicated to him, and though they didn’t jump around as much — they still jumped around plenty — as they had two nights earlier, I relished the chance to watch them play what was at times a more subdued set and see the adrenaline overtake them near the end of “Helium 28″ from their 2003 split with Firestone and even more so “Chameleon” from 2007′s Phi, which made for a super-thick closer. As it would be the last song they played in America this go around, its build and payoff were utterly engrossing to the point that, even after all the Truckfighters I’ve been hearing lately, I still broke out the track to listen as I wrote this.
There was a point after they finished at which I looked up at the clock, saw it was 1:30 in the morning, and said “holy shit” out loud. I was talking to Bellier about some of his upcoming projects, etc., and the full weight of the work week that would ensue whether or not I was ready hit me — hard. Not five minutes later, I was out of Piano’s, back around the corner to the car and en route to sit in Holland Tunnel traffic. Gotta wash that tunnel every night or it might not sparkle.
Hey, at least it creates jobs. The Patient Mrs. was long since asleep when I got in, about 90 minutes later, and I commenced staying up until five for no good reason, trying to blind myself to the notion of needing to be up for work at eight, and ultimately failing. But seriously: Truckfighters. I’m proud to say I’ve seen them three times now and it’s been worth the loss of sleep for each show. This one was the same story as the last one — no regrets whatsoever.
More pics after the jump.
The Midnight Ghost Train
Tags: Mirror Queen, New York City, The Midnight Ghost Train, Truckfighters