Even before I get to liking these bands, I’m biased on this show because both of the city and the venue. If you want to save some time reading, the short version is good times were had. I’ve seen some cool shows at Johnny Brenda’s, was more than a little bummed when Om recently rolled through and I couldn’t be there for it. That show was sold out and so was this one, with Pentagram returning to Philadelphia for what will be their last show in town before they go and record their next album. Traveling with Kings Destroy, we had to head out early, so I didn’t get to see them headlining, but caught Bang and a decent portion of Radio Moscow, and by the time Bang went on, second after Kings Destroy, the place was already packed out. One does not image it became less so as the evening wore on.
I had a weird, vegged out moment at the start of Kings Destroy‘s set. They kicked off this time with “Smokey Robinson,” and I was taking pictures from the balcony at Johnny Brenda’s, and I guess I just went on autopilot. My version of tour mode, maybe. It was a couple minutes before I sort of snapped back to consciousness, and I made my way downstairs from the balcony for “Turul,” which was also jumbled in the set, pushed much earlier than where it might usually appear. That song came to embody a lot of the character of last year’s A Time of Hunting LP for me, its unabashed strangeness and creepy feel standing in for how that material shifted outside the more straightforward riffy doom of the first record. Live, Kings Destroy always seem to revel in it, holding out the hits that slam down for the verse.
“Old Yeller” closed again, which I think works well, and “Mr. O” continues to reside comfortably toward the middle of the set, blindsiding people who think by then that they have the band figured out. With the added off-color element of the dude up front wearing one of those creepy horse masks and Steve Murphy‘s Clamfight shirt with “CENSORED” taped over the vagina-esque tentacle monster there featured, the vibe was pretty loose and where some of the bigger spots on the tour have seemed to kind of become events, this was just a show. It was kind of a relief, to be honest with you. I don’t know how many people showed up to Johnny Brenda’s in relation to how many were at the Soundstage the night before, but it seems like the tallies were probably close, and in the smaller room, it made for a much better mood all around. Sold out show. Hard to beat that in any size space.
Even if it means you’ve got just about nowhere to go. Bang went on second and ran through their set. It’s not their first time playing Philly since their reunion started, and they were treating it as a hometown show. So was the crowd. The room was plastered and dancing by the time Bang were rolling, and that seemed to suit the band just fine. Same set they’ve been doing, but no complaints. More so than in Baltimore, they looked again like they were really enjoying themselves, and it was fun to watch. As far as victory laps go, this tour would be a hard one for a band that hasn’t been on the road in 40 years, but “Keep On” was a stone groove as ever and the sound was heavier than it’s been all along with all the volume trapped in that confined room, nowhere to go but through the earplugs.
That served Radio Moscow well too, Parker Griggs‘ guitar screaming back on itself while young and old offstage got caught in the full-tilt conversation. A three-piece, Radio Moscow fit well on the stage where with five Kings Destroy had been somewhat more crowded — as had the four-piece Pentagram when they backlined their gear — and they took quick command of Johnny Brenda’s, which was happy to go along with them for “Just Don’t Know,” “Death of a Queen,” “Broke Down,” “Before it Burns” and “250 Miles,” which is what would remain stuck in my head for the rest of the night, its stripped down bluesy roll by now nestled well into the fractured, exhausted, tour-ebola-added remains of my consciousness. Paul Marrone‘s drum fills came in torrents and Anthony Meier‘s bass tone coated the room, and people just flipped out for them. That’s been the case all along — their audience skews young as compared to, say, Pentagram (though Pentagram have a fair number of younger heads out now as well thanks in part to Last Days Here, the documentary on frontman Bobby Liebling), and the kids go fairly apeshit with each arriving guitar solo — but their response seemed especially fervent in Philadelphia. What had been a chilly space quickly warmed up.
Load out started during Radio Moscow‘s set, all of Kings Destroy‘s gear had been brought down into the back hallway of the venue after they played and was basically just waiting for everyone to relax a bit and have a couple drinks, chat with Clamfight‘s Sean McKee, who was kind enough to come to the show, etc. I could still hear “These Days” while guitars and heads were being loaded in the back of the van, and we weren’t quite moving to a place 250 miles away, but I know it was about 130, so we took off before Pentagram, apologizing to drummer Sean Saley on the way out. See you tomorrows, all around.
More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.