The Patient Mrs. decided at the last minute to tag along to the Friday night show at Radio in Somerville. I knew she wouldn’t last too long, but frankly, it had been a long week and I wasn’t sure how long I’d last either. All I knew was it had been way too long since the last time I saw Cortez. They were playing second on a four-band bill with Brooklyn’s Pants Exploder opening, and Jack Burton vs. David Lo Pan and Automatic Death Pill third and fourth, respectively. I didn’t know too much about the latter, but had heard good thing about Jack Burton vs. David Lo Pan, so thought if I got to see even a little of their time, I could probably mark it a win. I didn’t, but I’ll mark it a win anyway, since it was a low-key, no-bullshit way to spend a couple hours and, really, there’s only so many evenings you can stay home and watch Donnie Yen movies on Netflix, no matter how furious his fists might be.
We rolled into Radio having found parking on the next block our second time around (not bad) and the show was a couple minutes from starting. It wasn’t crowded, but there were people there who weren’t in the bands, so I’ve definitely seen emptier. Radio‘s red lights and red walls, wood floor, small, low stage give an immediate sense of warmth. It’s out of the way enough to be off Somerville’s main drag, but still right in the thick of things. The more I go there, the more I like it. Pants Exploder went on with little ceremony and reminded right off what it is in their sound that earns them their name. I saw them almost a year ago at The Grand Victory in Brooklyn and they only sounded thicker this time around. A guitar, bass and drums trio, they didn’t need much space, but they worked quickly and efficiently to blast through ultra-heavy tones in the newer school vein — thinking post-Torche bomb-rumble, no less able to move when they want to do so — but with shouty vocals from guitarist Grady Walker that gave an almost post-metal feel. I asked later on if they had any CDs. Indeed, no dice. Maybe next year.
My green khakis remained as intact as they were when I got there, but Pants Exploder impressed all the same. I could tell there’d been some development in their sound over the last year, which is what you want for a new band, and they seemed to be coming into their own in a stage presence light on frills in a punkish kind of way but tight and engaged all the same. Bassist Jason LaFarge and drummer Robin Fowler looked content to be as locked in as they were, and while Walker was hardly fronting the trio in the sense of whooping up the crowd and showing off, I don’t think it would’ve worked with their sound if he had been. They may yet get to a level of heft that poses a threat to trousers — somehow I think that would require more amps — but they showed promise all the same and gave Cortez a plenty-high standard of volume to reach.
Cortez, however, are pros. Between sets, I ran out to the car, where The Patient Mrs. had resigned herself, and we took the little dog Dio — who also came along for the trip — for a walk up and down the block. When I got back in, Cortez were just about to kick off their set with “Johnny” from their 2012 self-titled (next time I see them I need to buy that CD; only reason I didn’t was I thought I already had it), which is up there among the catchiest heavy rock songs I’ve heard in the last five years. Just a perfect hook and every time I’ve been fortunate enough to see him do it, vocalist Matt Harrington absolutely nails it, this one included. A surprise that underscored how many moons had passed since last I caught Cortez came in the form of second guitarist Alasdair Swan. I knew Cortez was a five-piece in the long, long ago, but hadn’t realized they’d brought in someone else to play guitar alongside Scott O’Dowd, bassist Jay Furlo and drummer Jeremy Hemond. Like I say, it’d been too long.
So although they were coming from somewhere entirely more rocking than Pants Exploder, who probably belong to this or that expanded definition of stoner metal, Cortez had no trouble providing a voluminous onslaught of their own, and as they move past the songs on the self-titled, some of which were several years old when they were recorded, they’re only developing more of a sonic personality. Last time I saw O’Dowd play, it was with Black Thai, and it seems like as that band has gotten darker and heavier, Cortez have been freed up to boogie a little bit. New song “Vanishing Point” had more than a touch of classic rock shuffle and I was glad to hear that emerge in their sound among their many comfortable mid-paced grooves. Harrington said from the stage they were getting ready to record this week, and it turns out they’ll be at Mad Oak Studios with Benny Grotto, so I’ll look forward to what comes out of that
By the time they closed out with “Wormwood,” The Patient Mrs. had gone out again, and between that and the dog being in the car — you’re just going to have to trust me when I say the dog would rather be in the car than left at home, and being nighttime and October, I wasn’t at all concerned about sunshine or overheating — I knew my chances of seeing Jack Burton vs. David Lo Pan were just about nil. Needless to say, they join Planetoid, Cult 45, Phantom Glue and The Proselyte on my gotta-see list. I imagine our paths will cross sooner or later, and in the meantime,The Patient Mrs.’ company on the ride back to the south shore was worth whatever the tradeoff was going to be.
More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.