Live Review: Backwoods Payback, Lo-Pan and ChromeLord in Philly, 05.19.11

Posted in Reviews on May 20th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

I fucking love Philadelphia. Of the pitifully few major urban centers I’ve seen in this world, Philly is the one where I’ve always wanted to stay. Nonetheless, as Delaware trio ChromeLord took the stage last night at The M-Room and I flipped my camera’s “on” switch and realized the memory card was missing, I really could have used one of NYC‘s ubiquitous Duane Reades. I jumped into my car around the corner and phone navigated to a Drug Fair and bought not one, but two memory cards, I guess under the theory that I might want a second… in case… the first… didn’t work? I don’t really know. I was panicking by then.

But I got back to The M-Room, which is the kind of bar I dream of owning — townie joint on one side with good-looking food, small rock venue on the other side of a decently thick wall — in time to catch ChromeLord‘s last couple songs. They were stoner in the truest sense of the word, and by that I mean I think they were stoned. Some kinks to work out there, but the riffs were cool and dreamy in a half-speed Nebula or Dead Meadow kind of way, and the band had handmade stickers to give out, so they earned no shortage of points on charm. I wished I’d been able to see more, but as they’re friends with Clamfight (Andy and Sean came down for their set), I’m relatively sure our paths will cross again.

The reason I drove the two-plus hours to Philadelphia last night (and the two hours home) was to see Lo-Pan and Backwoods Payback play together. Somehow I’d got it into my head that the days of these two acts doing shows like this are numbered. Lo-Pan‘s album (Salvador) is incredible, and the rough versions I’ve heard of Backwoods Payback‘s forthcoming Small Stone debut kick considerable ass, and I’m not sure if it was thinking they’d be playing bigger places, or not touring together anymore or what, but when these shows were announced, it occurred to me that whatever happens with these two bands from here on out, it’ll never quite be like this again, and that years from now, I wanted the memory of seeing them at this time, together, enough to justify the trip.

They were clearly comfortable sharing the bill with each other. They’ve done tours and shows together before, and have the kind of camaraderie one might expect from two bands parking their vans outside the same places so often. Lo-Pan went on second. It was easily the tightest I’ve ever seen them play, and at this point I’ve seen them a few times (at least once with Backwoods Payback, come to think of it), but the chance to catch new material from Salvador wasn’t something I was about to miss. It was a short set, but “Chichen Itza” and “Bird of Prey” were highlights, along with “Kurtz” and “Dragline” from the Sasquanaut record, but even more, it was just refreshing to see a band so clearly firing on all the proverbial cylinders.

Lo-Pan‘s extensive touring has started to pay off. With bassist Skot Thompson, guitarist Brian Fristoe and drummer J.Bartz out front and singer Jeff Martin behind, it’s easy to think of them as two separate entities — the music and the vocals — but even in the small M-Room, everything meshed together excellently, and I was that much gladder for having driven to see it. I could have dealt with a few more songs, but I guess the porn on which the set list was scribbled could only hold so many titles. Maybe next time.

Time was getting on as Backwoods Payback started setting up their gear. I bought a book from frontman Mike Cummings before they started, and told myself I’d just stay for a couple songs, snap some pictures, then split, but I wound up there for the whole set and regretted not a minute of it. Like Lo-Pan, they’re really just getting to where they want to be in terms of their sound, but the interplay between bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Steve Curtiss was right on, and the guitars of Cummings and Rylan Caspar set a burly tone of riffs and grooves for the former to lay his soulful vocals on. True to every time I’ve seen them, they closed with “Mickey Morandini,” in which Cummings reminded the crowd once again — who didn’t seem to have forgotten, since they were singing along — that he’s a motherfucker. Good times were had.

I split out almost immediately after Backwoods Payback‘s set to begin the ride back north, which put me back in my river valley just a couple minutes before 2AM. Lo-Pan and Backwoods Payback are in Long Island tonight with John Wilkes Booth and Borgo Pass, which makes me more than a little jealous of all parties involved, but the tour rolls on. If they’re coming through your neck of the woods, either together on this run or separately, go, because what you’ll find at the show is some of the strongest American stoner rock being made right now. It’s exciting. Seriously.

Extra pictures after the jump.

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