However long it had been since Acid King hit NYC for a show, it was too long. Probably long enough that the last time they did, it was Manhattan they were playing and not Brooklyn. We’re talking pre-economic collapse, possibly around the time the San Francisco trio (ding ding!) put out their latest album to date, III, on Small Stone in 2005. If that’s the case, and I think it might be, then golly, that’s a long time. That would mean that the last time Acid King came through NYC, neither of the bands who opened for them — Blackout and Kings Destroy – nor the venue they played — the St. Vitus bar — existed yet. Pretty wild.
And Brooklyn was excited to see them, at least judging from the packed house at the sold-out Vitus bar and the people outside who couldn’t get tickets. I had a feeling it might work out like that, and wanting to catch Blackout for not having seen them before, got there early and headed almost immediately to the front of the stage where I’d remain for the duration. It wasn’t long before Blackout went on and recognizing Justin Sherrell of Bezoar (who play the same venue with Samothrace this coming Friday), was surprised to find him handling bass in the trio, which also includes drummer Taryn Waldman and guitarist/vocalist Christian Gordy.
I was thinking of Blackout as a new band, but they’ve been kicking around Brooklyn since 2011, so I guess it isn’t a surprise they were as tight as they were, playing a thick, riff-led heavy psych that blended Sleep‘s stoner heyday and classic Melvins stomp with a touch of Rob Crow‘s vocal compression in Goblin Cock and even, when Sherrell joined in, some of Fu Manchu‘s inherent movement to go along with that Naam-style Brooklyny Brooklyness. You know, the kind you get in Brooklyn? Riffs were familiar and steady, well-punctuated by Waldman‘s drums, and straightforward enough that they never really departed from their central groove despite changes in pace and volume and shifts into and out of verses. They didn’t seem so much concerned with breaking new ground, as with bringing something of their own to an established form.
Gordy came across more as a rhythm player than one to kick out a showy solo, but I could see at one point he was just on the verge of breaking out a stoner rock softshoe while riding a particularly funky line. Go for it, man. No way to lose on that one. Blackout‘s last song, “Seven,” had their most potent start-stop and a memorable one-two shout to go along with it, repeated early and repeated often in a killer jam. They were a cool band and a good fit for the bill, since you could just as easily point to Acid King as an influence for their driving, tone-minded roll. If that left Kings Destroy as the odd men out, they were just fine with that.
The thing I enjoy most about seeing Kings Destroy at this point — and I enjoy a good bit about them and I’ve had plenty of occasions to enjoy it — is watching them demolish people’s expectations. Whether people in the crowd heard them through picking up their And the Rest Will Surely Perish debut (a Maple Forum release) or just from checking out random videos along the way, there’s little that can prepare either for the focused intensity in their performance at this point — not so much a holdover from the members’ NYHC days as an evolution of it — or the free aesthetic range of the newer, post-debut material from their forthcoming second LP. However they manage to do it, Kings Destroy are always catching someone off guard.
I’m hardly an impartial observer, but fun is fun. Despite throwing in weirdo cuts like “Blood of Recompense” and the closing “Turul” from the new album, due out this year on whichever label is bold enough to pick it up, Kings Destroy also went back to their roots, playing both sides of their initial 7″ single with “Old Yeller” and “Medusa.” The blend was right on, and if they had it in mind to play the simpler, more directly riffy material for the heads out to see Acid King, they probably weren’t wrong in doing so. The room was more or less full from what I could tell as they kicked off with “Old Yeller,” and the crowd was already drunk and already rowdy. Or at least a couple dudes were who decided to spread it around after already being led forcefully to but apparently not through the door once during Blackout.
My pick of the Kings Destroy set? Well, I’m a sucker for “The Toe” and a sucker for “The Mountie,” so take your pick. From the start of “Old Yeller” on down, the band showed how far they’ve come, adding a dangerous sense of energy to the older songs. Both cuts from the 7″ also appeared on the album, so “The Mountie” wasn’t alone, but the push was still clearly geared toward the newer stuff, and rightly so. While I love that record as much as you’d think someone would have to in order to decide to put their “label” stamp on it — and if they came to me today with it, I’d still be up for helping to put it out — Kings Destroy 2013 are miles ahead of where Kings Destroy 2010 were, bolstered by road-time in Europe, more songwriting and a greater sense of what influences they want to bring into the band. Their confidence bleeds through everything they do, and they don’t just know they’re kicking your ass on stage, they actually kick your ass too. It had been a couple months since I last saw them (review here), so the refresher was appreciated.
Vocalist Steve Murphy hopped off the stage into the crowd during the quiet ending of “Blood of Recompense” and stood on some kind of box on the side of the stage during part of the oddly progressive “Turul,” marching in isolated place while guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski, bassist Aaron Bumpus and drummer Rob Sefcik locked in the chugging chorus that brought the set to a finish, so even to the presentation of the songs itself, there was a sense of not knowing what the hell might come next.
What was next, however, was Acid King.
And I’ll say this about Acid King: That is a band who are ready to let the riffs do the talking. The case was roughly the same when I last saw them at Roadburn in 2011, but perhaps accentuated all the more for a headlining set in Brooklyn. Still, even without whooping up the crowd, the crowd was in their pocket… and all over the floor of the St. Vitus bar. Moshing during Acid King? Really? The songs have like 30 beats per minute. Q: How do you mosh to that? A: Sauced. I stayed up front the whole show, and for most of Acid King‘s set, my side of the stage didn’t seem to be getting it as bad as the other one, but really, I didn’t expect that kind of thing to happen. It’s fucking stoner rock, not Converge.
But I’m old, and the generation has shifted, so if Acid King inspire enough devotion in a Saturday night Brooklyn crowd despite not having put out a new album in eight years to result in moshing at their show, well, that bit of “this is fun because I’m wasted” goonery and “let me cover you in my shirtless man-sweat” latent homoeroticism I guess is the price to pay for seeing the three-piece in the flesh. It’s a small one in the long run as compares to actually watching Acid King play (though I can’t help but wonder if the girl on the other side of the stage who kept getting grabbed on by Dipshit McGee would argue), who arrived on the stage with as little sense of fucking around as they’d soon bring to their set, which covered mostly III songs and classics from 1999′s genre landmark Busse Woods but left room for new material as well in the form of “Coming Down from Outer Space,” “Red River” and a third yet untitled.
Yeah, that’s right, new Acid King. They’ve been kicking around “Red River” for a while — also happens to be the name of the street in Austin, Texas, where I first saw them in 2004, half-passed out sitting on the upstairs balcony at Room 710 while they headlined the Small Stone showcase at SXSW — but everything’s relative. Really, they could’ve played just about anything and I don’t think anyone would have complained. The place was just excited to see they were there, and the band — guitarist/vocalist Lori S., drummer Joey Osbourne and bassist Mark Lamb — were well into it as well, not thrashing around or anything but ensuring the delivery of the tightest set possible of some of heavy rock’s most underrated riffage.
If you were so inclined, you could probably write a dissertation on Lori‘s guitar tone. Under the red lights at the St. Vitus, she led the band through the fuzz of “Busse Woods” and “2 Wheel Nation” like it was a guided tour, Lamb’s own low end providing a fitting answer back, resulting in a consuming wave of groove that was, I shit you not, right up there with the heaviest sounds I’ve ever heard come through that Vitus P.A. It was clear immediately that it would be a great set, and as they nestled into the pocket of riff after riff, not overly animated but not still-life-with-fuzz either, Acid King reminded Brooklyn of just what it had been missing in the time since they last stopped through.
When the crowd got unruly between songs, shouting requests or nonsensicalities like, “You’re in Brooklyn now,” as though they (1:) didn’t know or (2:) were concerned they’d set up their gear in Queens instead, Lori simply hit her foot pedal on for the next song and all the rest disappeared in a hum of feedback, Osbourne smiling behind. “Silent Circle” was a highlight, but “Electric Machine” — which followed the unnamed new song and “Coming Down from Outer Space” — made the whole set for me personally. That’s a song I’m lucky I get through a day without it showing up stuck in my head at some point anyway. To be that close to it was something special.
Their regular set wrapped with III closer “Sunshine and Sorrow,” on which I’d apparently never properly appreciated Osbourne‘s drum fills, as Lori put her guitar down and adjourned to the side of the stage — nowhere else to go — to watch Lamb and Osbourne finish off the song and nod on the groove. They couldn’t leave before the encore, so after a minute or so, they launched into an encore of “Teen Dusthead” and the extended, hypnotic “War of the Mind,” finishing huge, sick and unpretentiously righteous as they’d started. It was a monument to riff-paganism equal parts huge and awe-inspiring, and I felt dazed when they were done.
Consciousness returned on the slow march out enough to get me to my car and back to Jersey, whereupon I crashed out so thoroughly that three days later I’ve yet really to come fully awake. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. One thing’s for sure: If Acid King came to the East Coast for the first time in more than half a decade — one show, not even touring — it probably wasn’t without a reason, and if they were testing the waters for a new album prior to recording, the interest and the fanbase is definitely there. Acid King were welcomed to the St. Vitus like the stoner royalty they are, and though I might stand in back next time around, my only hope after this show is that there is one.
More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.