It had been just over two months since I last saw a show. Two months. I cannot remember the last time I actually let it go that long. Combination of things: Frustration with local venues, fatigue from going back to work, wanting to spend what time I have with The Patient Mrs., seeing family and so on. I’ll be honest and say I barely had this one in me, but after work Friday, I was heading to Connecticut and a loop through Worcester to catch Brooklyn’s Reign of Zaius worked out enough timing-wise that I felt like I could make it happen. I was sort of right.
I know I’ve said this before, but Ralph’s Rock Diner is a fucking treasure. Best venue I’ve been to in the state of Massachusetts, and that includes every single room of comparable size in Boston. Great sound, great lights, great vibe, good stage. It’s a comfortable, creative space that doesn’t feel like it was set up in 1992 and left for dead, as do so, so, so many other places. The town of Worcester itself? Not so great, but Ralph’s is where it’s at. Not many people know it, but I was glad to see a few heads hanging around the show, at least drinking and spending money if not actually upstairs checking out the bands.
There were four on the bill. Insano Vision and King Bison, from Connecticut and Pennsylvania, respectively, Reign of Zaius and CT’s Gasoline Therapy, who opened sometime shortly after 9:30PM, the room still mostly empty save for the other bands, myself and a few others. They played a familiar kind of melodically-conscious heavy rock, the sort that continues to populate New England in a post-Milligram/Roadsaw wave and a sound to which Cortez and a few others have managed to bring an individual edge to go with the catchy songwriting that is a staple of the genre. A dual-guitar approach and standalone vocals showcased roots between punk and metal, but the overall affect was unpretentious and not really looking for anything other than a good time.
Whether or not they got it, I’m not sure, since they looked kind of bummed out about the lack of crowd, but they played well anyway, the title-track from their upcoming Judas Goat full-length appearing late in the set before “Consumed” closed out, kind of balancing a moody atmosphere on top of more straightforward rhythms. It was a nice night, so I cut outside when they were done and as Reign of Zaius loaded onto the stage to sit in the open air for a while. The venue was playing Sabbath and people talking about other people they know and whatever else — things from which I’d likely have felt distant even if I hadn’t kept my earplugs in — but it looked like a good time anyway in the way that always does if you can actually hold down a conversation with somebody. Not a skill I have. When it was time, I sort of lumbered my way back upstairs to the big room to watch Reign of Zaius.
Just earlier in the day, I had checked out their new single “Power Hitter,” that marks their first recorded output with vocalist Leon Chase fronting the band. It had been well over two years since I last saw them play, so it would also be the first time I’d caught them with guitarist Mike O’Neil alongside bassist Davis and drummer Brian Neri. They had, perhaps unsurprisingly, much more than one song to offer, though “Power Hitter” was aired as well. This was the second night in a weekender trip, following a gig the night before at Bar Matchless in their native borough and to be followed by a stop at 33 Golden St. in New London, CT, where Gasoline Therapy would also play.
As I watched them get started, I couldn’t help but wonder how Neri managed to put together a “Rowdy” Roddy Piper outfit so quickly. I’d only seen news of the former pro-wrestler’s death that afternoon, and I know only too well that it’s at least a four-hour trip from New York to Worcester, so let’s say they got there around eight to load in, they probably would’ve left Brooklyn at 4PM, maybe, what, an hour or two after the news broke? Did Neri just happen to have a kilt and sleeveless “Hot Rod” t-shirt laying around? Entirely possible, I suppose, since the foursome would also pay the fallen Piper homage with the song “They Live,” taking the “consume” and “obey” that appear in block letters in the 1988 John Carpenter illuminati masterpiece of the same name and turning them into a punker’s chorus, Davis shouting into his own mic to back up the wide-eyed Chase, who also managed to work a reference to sunglasses into the verse.
Fair enough. Reign of Zaius were still fairly raw in their presentation, Chase pacing back and forth and jerking his head this way and that while keeping an unnerving and unblinking stare over the audience. They Live would not be the only referential material either, as “This Man this Monster” was announced as being about the Fantastic Four and finale “A Farewell to Arms” was a clever take on 1987’s Evil Dead 2, complete with repetitions of “I’ll swallow your soul” and mentions by name for both Henrietta and Linda. Clearly the late ’80s was a pivotal cinematic time for somebody in Reign of Zaius, though by then the Planet of the Apes franchise from which they actually take their moniker and, presumably the thematic content for set-opener “Heston,” was long over. Until the remake, reboot, etc.
I’ll continue to keep an eye out for new stuff from them — one assumes “Power Hitter” won’t be their only recorded output, and though there were still two bands to come on the bill, I had to cut out and head south, so I made my way out past the assembled sorts outside and was gone on the quick, as though if I walked faster I-395 wouldn’t be under nighttime construction. At least I had plenty of time to appreciate the blue moon.
More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.