It was going to start early and I knew that, so I split out of the office a couple minutes after 5:30PM to get to The Grand Victory in time to catch openers Tarpit Boogie kick off the evening’s lineup, which also featured Infernal Overdrive, Black Thai and Mighty High. Even so, I was late. I rolled in around 8:15 for an 8PM start and managed to catch most of the NJ-based instrumental trio’s set for what I later confirmed was their first show.
Their tones and general ethic was pretty familiar to me, seeing as how bassist John Eager and guitarist George Pierro and I used to be in a band together, and though I thought it might be strange to watch them on stage playing different songs as Tarpit Boogie, actually, it was a reminder of what a fan I always was of their playing in the first place. Rounded out by drummer Chris Hawkins and reportedly in the process of hammering out material with a new vocalist, Tarpit Boogie set right to skirting the line between funkified stoner riffing and sludged-out slowdowns.
Of course, it being their first show, they were obviously getting a feel for their approach, but songs like “AmanaplanacanalpanamA” and “Hackman Caine Theory” showed the two sides at work in their sound, and the unpretentious heavy riffing went over well with those early assembled at The Grand Victory, myself included. All the bands on this bill were acts I’m pretty friendly with on a personal level, but getting to see the first Tarpit Boogie gig made the night even more special, and I was glad I made it in time to catch them. To hear them tell it later, it was a close call on their making it for the start of their set as well.
The whole night was slated to end early — I think The Grand Victory had a DJ coming in or something like that (which I don’t begrudge a club that puts on good shows; gotta make your money) — but as I had a drive to Massachusetts to make the next day, that was only a convenience from my angle. Infernal Overdrive, who’d also trekked in from Jersey, or Black Thai, come down from Boston, might have felt otherwise, but if they did, they didn’t show it. The two bands with very different takes on heavy rock were doing a weekender together, playing in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, the next night with Wasted Theory, and they both featured new material from forthcoming releases.
In the case of Infernal Overdrive, most of what they played was new, and while I recognized “Viking” for the several times I’ve seen it live now and “Duel” from their Last Rays of the Dying Sun debut (review here), a lot of the set was unfamiliar and moodier, taking some of the brazenness of the first record and making it more melodically complex and pulling back on some of the tempo. A four-piece on a small stage, they were tight in more than just how solid they sounded, but still made good use of their time in belting out tunes that they’ve obviously been busting their collective ass writing, and even though their set seemed short, they showed that the time since their first batch of songs made their way to the public hasn’t been misspent. Before they were through two songs, I was reminded of how much I’m looking forward to their next album.
Like their touring partners, Black Thai have only grown more stylistically diverse. The double-guitar foursome made their debut in 2010 with the Blood from on High EP (review here), a potential-loaded five-songer from which only two of the total five songs played came, and while elsewhere the band — guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey (known for both his solo work and formerly of We’re all Gonna Die), guitarist Scott O’Dowd (also of Cortez), bassist Cory Cocomazzi and drummer Jeremy Hemond (also of Cortez and Roadsaw) — dug deep into riffy grooves and bluesy solos, it was the ultra-dark centerpiece of their setlist that stood out. Centered around what might easily have been a black metal progression if not for Healey‘s delivery, which, even at his shoutiest, retains a sense of melody, it was an immediate shift from everything I’ve heard to date from Black Thai and a genuine surprise.
The good news? It worked. They not only were able to execute the more extreme feel crisply and emphatically, but they tied it together with the rest of their material as well, which might have been even more impressive. Returning to the EP, they finished with “333,” which also closed Blood from on High, and went from a brooding tension to maddening swirl with an efficiency that betrayed the song’s actual tempo. For the unexpected elements at work, Black Thai were a thrill, but what made it even more enjoyable was to see how well they’ve come to work together in the last few years. Save for Hemond — who brought his Vistalites for the occasion, where both Tarpit Boogie and Infernal Overdrive had used the house kit — their stage persona is pretty subdued, nobody thrashing around not that there’s much room for it at The Grand Victory anyway, but they’ve only gotten tighter in the now handful of times I’ve seen them and this was no exception.
It was left to Brooklyn’s own Mighty High to round out the evening, and the stonerly punkers did not at all disappoint. Fronted by Chris “Woody” MacDermott, who contributes the Spine of Overkill column to this site, Mighty High released their Legalize Tre Bags (review here) full-length through Ripple Music last year, and they continue to blaze out short, speedy blasts of Motörhead riffs in a public service reminder to the world that it takes itself way too seriously and should probably just get over it. “Chemical Warpigs” showed up early in the set, shouted out to the recently departed Jeff Hanneman of Slayer, and familiar cuts like “Breakin’ Shit,” “Cable TV Eye” and “High on the Cross” were delivered on time and in style, guitarist Kevin Overdose taking the lead vocal for the beginning of the latter, which Woody shouted out to “any Blackfoot fans out there.”
By then, people had started to make their way into The Grand Victory, but Woody, Overdose, bassist Labatts Santoro and drummer Jesse D’Stills didn’t come on quietly and they wouldn’t go that way either. “I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes” continues to be high on my list of favorites, and the brand new “Two-Hour Lunchbreak” hit pretty close to home, in overall attitude if not chemical consumption. “Kick out the Jams” ended the set, as ever for Mighty High, and with their painted leather jackets hung up behind them, they treated the MC5 classic like the manifesto it has become, throwing it in the face of, well, everything and everyone there. I didn’t see it to be sure, but it’s almost certain that, whoever the DJ was coming in, he promptly went home to rethink his life and meditate on Stooges albums. One would have to expect, anyway.
Between a new band, two acts working the kinks out of new songs ahead of recording and Mighty frickin’ High topping it off with some recent creations of their own — not to mention the chance to see good friends kicking ass — I left The Grand Victory feeling refreshed and reminded of just why it is I continue to go to shows in the first place. It wasn’t about being seen, or about some buzz act who’ll disappear in six months or a year, it was about unbridled, unfettered enjoyment of the process and about four different takes on the single idea of “heavy.” Even after four bands one into the next into the next into the next, I got in my car and put on a CD for the ride home.
More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.