Posted in Whathaveyou on August 25th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Roadsaw news is good news. The Boston heavy rock magnates have announced that they’ll hit Mad Oak Studio to work with producer Benny Grotto next month in order to record their eighth album, the awaited follow-up to their 2011 self-titled (review here), which will be released — and here comes the twist — on Ripple Music. Formerly the quintessential Small Stone band, Roadsaw will work with Ripple for their new one, the label having already released material from heavy punkers White Dynomite, whose lineup features Roadsaw‘s Tim Catz and Craig Riggs.
Ripple continues its upswing and will have the new Roadsaw album out early next year, as the PR wire informs:
Boston Riff-Masters, Roadsaw, Sign World-Wide Deal with Ripple Music – New Album out Early 2017
Ripple Music is proud to announce the signing of legendary riff-masters, ROADSAW to the label’s hard and heavy roster. The veteran Boston motor-stoner act still consists of the decade-long classic line up and will be heading into the illustrious Mad Oak Studios with producer Benny Grotto to lay down a potent new batch of songs, due out early 2017, that are sure to please old fans and turn on new ones.
For the unfamiliar ROADSAW invite you to climb inside their jaded jalopy and careen headlong into their amplified analog landscape. From the shores of British electric blues, across the pond to America’s sonic 70s stomp; down to the Southern swamps, thru the New York groove, straight into heart of California’s psychedelic desert. ROADSAW’s long strange trip is a virtual history of heavy riffs.
ROADSAW’s often turbulent career includes 7 albums , numerous compilations, and a smattering of hard-to-find singles. The band has shared stages big and small on both sides of the Atlantic with comrades like Orange Goblin, Fu Manchu, Queens Of The Stone Age, Nebula, Scissorfight, Karma To Burn, Black Label Society and many others. Together with Ripple, the band looks forward to adding a big bold exclamation point to this already impressive resume. US and European tours are being booked for spring 2017, including an appearance at London’s Desert Fest. Spirits are high for the much anticipated return of one of riff rocks most loyal disciples.
Like cockroaches in a post apocalyptic fall out, ROADSAW rise once again. Having survived every storm, war, trend and taste, ROADSAW simply refuses to die. Now, they’re signed to one of the world’s leading heavy rock, stoner, doom and heavy psych label’s, Ripple Music, and it’s a certainty that mayhem will follow. Look for limited edition vinyl, CD’s and digital to be spread around the world in Spring 2017.
So there you have it. New year. New music. New label. The ‘Saw remains the same.
Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve had some pretty landmark good times at Small Stone showcases over the last 10 or so years. Some of them — admittedly, the more recent ones — I’ve even remembered. The last one in Massachusetts was 2012 at Radio in Somerville (review here) was a monster, and as my first time in the upstairs room at the Middle East in Cambridge, I can’t imagine a more fitting occasion. A six-band bill with a shared love of riffs and a record label in common, it was a front-to-back night of volume, distortion, and groove, and from Neon Warship through Roadsaw, Gozu, Lo-Pan, Wo Fat and Mellow Bravo, there was no letup. No moment when you’d want to go outside and smoke or get some air. No moment when the place to be wasn’t in front of the stage.
That’s rare enough when three acts are playing, let alone twice as many. The same lineup minus Mellow Bravo and plus Geezer would play the next night at St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn, but as I had family coming north Saturday and zero dollars for gas, this was my fix. Parking in Cambridge on a Friday night is a singular joy between what’s campus housing for this or that elite-perpetuation factory and other sundry restrictions, but I found a spot and made it into the Middle East well enough in advance of Neon Warship starting off the night. Here’s how it went down from there:
Of all the acts who’d take stage Friday night, Neon Warship were the most recent addition to the label’s roster. Picked up late in 2013, the Dayton, Ohio, three-piece gave a taste of Small Stone to come with their steady rolling riffs and the post-The Sword vocal stylings of guitarist Kevin Schindel, who when he hit into his higher register made up for some of Freedom Hawk‘s absence from the bill. It was my first exposure to them live, though their 2013 self-titled debut had made an impression, and though they’ve been a band for three years, they came across initially as still getting their feet under them on stage. They were well received by what was rightly a friendly crowd, however, and flourished as their set progressed, getting more comfortable as they went on. It was short sets for everybody, however, so just as Neon Warship were hitting their stride, they were also wrapping up. I doubt it’ll be my last encounter with them, and I’d be interested to see them go longer and have more of a chance to engage the audience. They seemed to be headed in that direction.
I knew when I left the house that it was going to be an evening of top-notch guitar work. What I didn’t realize was that Ian Ross of Roadsaw was going to meet the quota on his own. Don’t get me wrong — situated as early headliners no doubt to bring in the local crowd early and get them drinking; a nefarious plot that worked wonders — all of Roadsaw was on fire, including new drummer Kyle Rasmussen (Phantom Glue) who recently came aboard to replace Jeremy Hemond for reasons yet undisclosed, but Ross seemed particularly to rise to the occasion that the night presented, and whether he was tearing ass through “The Finger” from 2001’s Rawk ‘n’ Roll or leading the way through the undulating stonerism of “Black Flower,” if it wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen him play, it was certainly close. They finished out with two from their 2011 self-titled (review here) — which at this point is begging for a follow-up — “Long in the Tooth” and “Weight in Gold,” and were nothing if not in headliner form, frontman Craig Riggs sharing a mic with bassist Tim Catz after swinging his enough to dislodge its cable and all four bringing their still-too-short set to a monstrously noisy finish. Sometimes earplugs just don’t matter.
Never say never in rock and roll, but at least for the time being this night marked the end of Gozu‘s three-guitar experiment. Lead player Jeff Fultz, who’d pull double-duty with Mellow Bravo, is reportedly on the move out of the area, so there goes that. And while his farewell with Mellow Bravo would be drunker/more emotional later on — he’d been in Mellow Bravo five years, a few months playing with Gozu — it was nonetheless a stellar sendoff. For me, they seemed to affirm the potential for Gozu as a five-piece they showed when I saw this lineup make its debut at the Great Scott back in January (review here), songs like “Irish Dart Fight” and “Meth Cowboy” benefiting both from the extra heft and and still nascent dynamic between Fultz and Doug Sherman‘s soloing. Guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney brought his own edge via a Gretsch hollow-body guitar — I don’t play, but if I had the money to spend I’d buy one just to look at it — and Joe Grotto, his foot up on the monitor, was duly animated holding down the low end, while still-relatively-new drummer Mike Hubbard made himself comfortable in the slower, more swinging terrain of “Alone,” the closer from 2010’s Locust Season(review here) and a rare enough inclusion in the set that I don’t think I’d ever seen them play it before. Certainly not since 2013’s The Fury of a Patient Man(review here) was released, anyway. They didn’t get to “Meat Charger,” but “Ghost Wipe” had been a raucous enough opener that all was well. They’re ready to hit Europe next month.
Oh, it had been too long. Too long. Not quite a year since they headlined the third Eye of the Stoned Goat fest in Brooklyn (review here), but still, that’s too long to go without seeing Lo-Pan. They played a set comprised almost entirely of new material, songs from the fourth album, Colossus, they’re recording with Andrew Schneider in Brooklynthis week, some I’d heard — “Colossus,” “The Duke” — others that were completely new. Hearing a runthrough of something once live is no way to judge how it will sound on record, but as guitarist Brian Fristoe nestled into the open, winding grooves of his own riffs backed by bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz while vocalist Jeff Martin soul-man crooned behind, Lo-Pan sounded like Lo-Pan, and yes, I mean that as a compliment. It means the Ohio four-piece have established their sound and know what sides of what they do they want to develop and they’ve set to the work of that. I pulled my earplugs about halfway out for “El Dorado” from 2011’s Salvador(review here), but even the stuff I hadn’t heard before was easy to appreciate. As the hardest-touring band on Small Stone, Lo-Pan lack nothing for presence on stage, and though I almost got cracked in the head by Thompson‘s bass once or twice and when the night was over, I’m pretty sure it was Bartz‘s crash cymbal ringing in my ears, they silver-plattered a reminder of how vital an act they are. It would be premature to say their best days are ahead of them since Colossus is just now in progress, but they showed the room at the Middle East that anything’s possible, even topping Salvador.
Getting to see Texas trio Wo Fat play a packed room was one of the highlights of my Roadburn 2013 (review here), and with their second Small Stone outing (fifth overall), The Conjuring, on the way, brief as it was, their set was no less enjoyable here. At the same time they’re probably the best advertisement for Texan tourism I can think of, it’s probably also a good thing they’re from so far away, otherwise I’d probably wind up saying something like, “Oh, it’s only 10 hours. That’s not too far to drive to see Wo Fat again.” The TSA had rifled through guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump‘s gear, so they had to set everything up from scratch before they got going, but once they did, it was a weekend’s worth of fuzz condensed and served in a three-song can. Bassist Tim Wilson was dug in deep for “The Conjuring,” which took hold following a noisy transition from “Nameless Cults” from their 2013 Cyclopean Riffs split LP with Egypt (review here) and in turn shifted via jam into “Sleep of the Black Lotus” from 2012’s The Black Code(review here), the whole set coming across as one consistent riff and fuzz fest, grounded by the plod of drummer Michael Walter. Wo Fat are masters of getting the most out of a slow stoner groove and pushing it into or out of a faster rush (“The Conjuring” does this really well), and the swamp-voodoo lyrical themes they’ve paired with their Fu Manchu-worthy tonality fits perfectly. They don’t have Lo-Pan‘s road experience, but like their Ohio compatriots, Wo Fat clearly know what works in their approach. They wrapped up with a big rock finish — no other way to do it, really — and suddenly the night seemed too short…
…But the fact of the matter is when you want to round out a party in Boston, Mellow Bravo are the way to go. As noted, it was guitarist Jeff Fultz‘s last show with the band, and they were in top form to say goodbye. Irrepressibly outspoken frontman Keith Pierce warned the audience that they were going long in his honor, and while the local six-piece left the room thoroughly entertained — aside from borrowing my camera to take a house-lights-up shot of the crowd, I also saw Pierce at the bar at one point, and he finished the set in the audience — it was readily apparent that for them this was more than just another show or even a label showcase. For Pierce, keyboardist/vocalist Jess Collins, guitarist Andrew Doherty, bassist/vocalist Seager Tennis and drummer Dave Jarvis, they were losing a bandmate and a friend and paying him bittersweet tribute. That’s how it felt watching, anyhow. I’ve seen Mellow Bravo a few times at this point, as well as Collins and Pierce in their acoustic side-project, Tastefulnudes (live review here), and while this was hardly the tightest, crispest set I’ve watched from them, they gave the night a suitable finale, more or less starting an afterparty while they were still playing. To say the very least of it, it was worth sticking around for.
Other bands had started to pack up, but there was still a good deal of milling about, drinking, band-bonding, etc. going on. It was just hitting two in the morning, which had the bar in get-the-fuck-out mode, so I hiked the several blocks back to my car made my way home, more than a little bummed to know what I’d be missing the next night in Brooklyn but feeling fortunate to have been able to see the show I did.
They’ve been out for a minute at this point, but I had to get these up. Small Stone Records will host showcases in Boston and Brooklyn March 28 and 29, respectively. Roadsaw, Lo-Pan, Gozu, and Neon Warship will play both in Boston at the Middle East and in Brooklyn at the St. Vitus bar, and both shows also mark the Northern debut of Texas fuzz-giants Wo Fat! The Dallas trio will be touring to herald the coming of their fifth album, due in June. If you couldn’t tell by the exclamation point, I’m excited to be seeing them again.
Mellow Bravo (whose lead guitarist, Jeff Fultz, will now be pulling double duty as a member of Gozu) also feature in Boston, while Geezer will add some New York heavy blues to the Brooklyn lineup. Both posters come courtesy of Chris Smith, whose DeviantArt page is here. As you can see below, the two posters are set up to complement each other, and the Boston one is angrier. That more or less sums up the relationship between Boston and NYC as I currently understand it. Extra kudos to Smith for the subtle social commentary.
Click either poster to enlarge, and check out the lineups and other sundry information about both shows below, along with the Bandcamp stream of Wo Fat‘s The Black Code (review here), just for the hell of it:
Small Stone Showcase Boston- March 28th
THE MIDDLE EAST RESTAURANT & NIGHTCLUB www.mideastclub.com/ 472-480 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
Mellow Bravo Wo Fat Lo-Pan GOZU Roadsaw Neon Warship
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
…Well, they are. And that’s just the first sliver of big news for Kings Destroy, who’ve got a new record coming that’ll be announced and given its well-deserved hyping over the next few months. While you’re waiting for that and the new video the shoot for which was the source of the woodsy photo above, Kings Destroy have a bunch of other dates coming up, including Days of the Doomed III in Wisconsin, to check out. Behold:
April 21 Northstar Bar, Philadelphia with Orange Goblin, ASG, KEN Mode, Roadsaw April 22 Saint Vitus , Brooklyn with Orange Goblin, ASG, KEN Mode, Roadsaw April 23 Middle East, Boston with Orange Goblin, Roadsaw June 7 Brooklyn, NY TBA June 20 Chicago, IL TBA June 21 Days of the Doomed Fest, Milwaukee, WI June 22 Columbus Ohio, with Hollow Leg plus TBA
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
File under, “Damn, Yo.” Roadsaw, Orange Goblin and Kings Destroy are making it happen, and by “it,” I mean cirrhosis.
I’ve heard legends of Goblin/Roadsaw shows before — the sheer sonic destructiveness of it all, and now they’re bringing that mess to Philly, Brooklyn and Boston in April as Orange Goblin headline a few dates after the end of their run of gigs with Clutch. And to have Kings Destroy on the bill. Well, damn, yo.
Only bummer is I won’t be in the country when it happens. Guess I’ll just have to admire the crater left in their wake upon my return. Here’s the news straight from Roadsaw:
Alright people…..very exciting news from our friends Orange Goblin ……the next ROADSAW shows….boom!
“Orange Goblin have confirmed 3 headline shows which will take place at the end of their tour supporting Clutch in April. The 3 headline shows will be:
Sun 21 Apr – North Star Bar, Philadelphia, PA Mon 22 Apr – Saint Vitus Bar, Brooklyn, NY Tue 23 Apr – Middle East (Downstairs), Boston, MA
These 3 shows will be a 4 band bill with our good friends ROADSAW, KINGS DESTROY”
Posted in audiObelisk on December 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
These Roadsaw demos from 1998 might be old hat by now if you’re a regular on the forum, but I thought after listening that they were definitely worth highlighting here as well in case anyone may have missed them. Darryl Shepard, now of Black Pyramid and Blackwolfgoat, played guitar with the band at the time and found the there songs on an old CDR and decided to put them up for anyone interested.
Well, I guess that would be me. What’s cool about these tracks is that it would be another nine years before the two that made the cut helped serve as the defining statement of Roadsaw‘s return in 2007. By then, Ian Ross had replaced Shepard on guitar to join founders Craig Riggs (vocals) and Tim Catz (bass) and drummer Hari Hassin, but Roadsaw — despite originally issuing Rawk ‘n’ Rollin 2001 — had been inactive for roughly half a decade before aligning themselves to Small Stone and reissuing that album, so both “Bad Ass Rising” and “Blackout Driver” had already stood the test of time for almost 10 years before they showed up on the reissue of Rawk ‘n’ Roll in 2007.
And the third track, “While You Waited” was never previously issued in any way at all, so this is the first time it’s coming out. Basically, for Roadsaw fans, they’re a curio kind of listen and a bit of insight into the band’s process as it was at the time. I included the original post from Shepard beneath, and you’ll find the tracks on the player below. Please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
I found a CD-R of Roadsaw demos from 1998 in a box last night, figured I’d post ’em for people to check out. These were recorded between “Nationwide” and “Rawk ‘n Roll”. Two of the songs, Blackout Driver and Bad Ass Rising were re-recorded with Ian Ross and later appeared on “Rawk ‘n Roll”. The other song, While You Waited, never appeared on any release in any form. Andrew Schneider recorded these tracks at New Alliance in Boston. The line-up was Craig Riggs (vocals), Tim Catz (bass), Hari Hassin (drums) and yours truly on guitar. So here’s a little piece of Roadsaw history, hope you dig it.
The loot was manifold. Priority Mail flat-rate boxes spread across a long table in a dining room, packed full of old promos from years past. Many of them were familiar to me — sleeves of this or that label release, jewel case demos from just a few years back when such a thing didn’t seem outlandish. Bent-corner digipaks, some of records I’ve known, enjoyed, reviewed, or put on an office shelf to languish, and many others unfamiliar, new names, or older releases from recognizable purveyors of the peculiar styles that were once lumped under the general banner of the old StonerRock.com.
Small Stone bands — Roadsaw, Lord Fowl, Freedom Hawk — played through computer speakers, which was appropriate, since it was the same night as the Boston Small Stone showcase at Radio. This, however, was earlier in the afternoon, and the boxes, the table, the computer speakers and the lovely house in Massachusetts in which they all resided belonged to one John Pegoraro, also known as Arzgarth. The promos were discs he’d accumulated over the years writing for the aforementioned and still-missed outlet, and I was more than happy to give them a good home.
There was some genuine treasure in the mix, and some albums Johnseemed loathe to part with — a feeling I can certainly understand, owning as I do many CDs that I’ll probably never want to listen to again and still others I never listened to in the first place and yet can’t seem to wrap my brain around getting rid of. Not to say anything against Mountain Mirrors or Whoremaon or Dark Fog or Lost Youth, whose discs I haven’t even had the chance to hear as of today, but it was probably harder to let go of older stuff like Bible of the Devil‘s 2002 sophomore outing, Firewater at My Command, Throttlerod‘s By the Horns1999 demo, Freedom Hawk‘s Universaldemo or Roadsaw‘s Takin’ Out the Trash. No joke, I was honored to be able to take these things and the rest with me when I left.
Along with stuff by Slomatics, Assrockers — from whence Borracho sprang — and Michigan devil worshipers Beast in the Field (their first and third), those were some of the highlights of the haul, but things like Mean Mother ‘s 2009 self-titled, the self-titled Telestrion and a promo-only copy of Yellow #5‘s Demon Crossing, which featured Brant Bjork on drums and Dave Catching on guitar and basked in Palm Desert weirdness, were a boon as well. I grabbed the first Mind Funk, which was recommended to me a long time ago, two records from Iron Giant, the self-titled Maligno, some Hawg Jaw, an L7 live record on Man’s Ruin, and stuff by Lords of Bastard, The Red Plastic Buddha, Obskuria, Upwards of Endtime and The Valley as well.
Collector’s impulse, which I suppose is what had me there in the first place, led me to pick up the jewel case promo of the self-titled debut from Kalas, released on Tee Pee in 2006. The band was a side-project for Matt Pike at the time, and I already own it — I actually never got a full-artwork copy, so now I just have two of the promos — but it’s not something you see around, and again, I figured better to have it than not. You never know when a meteor will strike the ‘Ka-Ki’ shelf and you might need a replacement waiting in the wings.
It was an exceptional opportunity from an exceptionally good dude (you can read Arz‘s review of that night’s showcase here), and I look forward to continuing to dig through the box, pull out discs at random, and enjoy listening. I’ve got a ways to go, but if it’s a long haul, count me in. Thanks John for the chance.
Posted in Reviews on November 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was the night of a thousand riffs. At very least 100-150 very well purposed. A Small Stone Records showcase is always an occasion and this year’s Boston to-do was no exception. The scene was the Radio bar in Somerville, and though The Brought Low dropped off at the last minute owing to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the lineup boasted nine bands — Boston natives Mellow Bravo stepped in to fill the hole, playing earlier than the NYC trio would have — and it was front to back quality between them, Blackwolfgoat, who opened and also played in between sets, Supermachine, Infernal Overdrive, Lord Fowl, Freedom Hawk, Roadsaw, Lo-Pan and Gozu.
What do you do with a night like that? Well, you drink. And I did. Hard. I have a tradition — someone choosing their words less carefully might call it a “habit” — going back nearly a decade at this point of showing up to Small Stone events and promptly getting obliterated. At last year’s Philly showcase (review here and here), I played it cool for the most part. Less so this weekend. Maybe it was just that it was Saturday and I knew I had Sunday to recover, maybe it was the fact that I still didn’t know if the power was on back home yet. Whatever it was, I opened a tab and didn’t look back. My storm-refugee ass needed a night of reckless abandon.
After being dropped off in front of Radio by The Patient Mrs. as though I was on my way to my first day of kindergarten — schooled indeed — I walked in to find Darryl Shepard of Blackwolfgoat early into his set. Downstairs in the basement, a matinee of three sets of Beatles covers would soon give way to a sweaty, smelly night of punk rock. Seems as good a jump-off point as any, so here goes:
With a cocktail straw in his mouth and a bounce in his step (minus the bounce), Blackwolfgoat‘s lone resident, Darryl Shepard — also of currently of Black Pyramid and Milligram and formerly of Hackman, Roadsaw and no shortage of others — showed off some of the latest wares from his one-man act. Shepard would soon adjourn to Radio’s semi-balcony off to the left of the stage, where he’d sit at the ready and wait to drone out a tune or two between other acts, but before he got there, he played some material from last year’s Dronolithand some newer stuff. The newer songs find him using more dynamic loops, setting a droning bed for himself and then launching into — in at least one instance — a grandiose classic rock solo over it. It was awesome to see, and the melody in that solo and around it proved just one more way the project is expanding sonically. He’ll reportedly be recording soon, and of course that’s something to look forward to. Pretty much any day you get to see this dude play guitar is a good day. If you get to see him do a full set to start a show and a bunch of mini-sets between seven or eight other acts, well then, all the better.
There was an interesting mix of stage presences when it came to Boston’s own Mellow Bravo. The first full band on the bill was also the newest to Small Stone‘s roster save for Supermachine, who followed, and they released their self-titled debut album (review here) on the label via a Mad Oak Recordings imprint earlier this year. In the case of charismatic vocalist Keith Pierce and guitarist Andrew Doherty, they seemed birthed of Boston’s formidable hardcore/metalcore scene, whatever soul records they may have dug into since those days, keyboardist/vocalist Jess Collins came off more on the heavy metal end, while guitarist Jeff Fultz (ex-Seemless) had the lead licks and enviable hair of a modern classic rocker. Mix all that with the rhythm section of sunglasses-clad bassist Seager Tennis and drummer Dave Jarvis, and it’s a strange six-piece stew resulting from Mellow Bravo‘s recipe. Nonetheless, they were resoundingly cohesive, putting on a professional show — staged in parts, like when Collins came out from behind the keyboard to front “Ridin'” — and looking like a band who should and expected to be paid for their work. “Love Hammer” was a highlight, but really just one of the memorable songs on their debut that the band did well bringing to life.
There are few phrases that will earn respect in my book as quickly as “ex-Scissorfight.” In the case of label newcomers Supermachine, bassist Paul Jarvis and guitarist Jay Fortin were founding members of that most excellent New Hampshire outfit — both also played in Mess with the Bull — and so interest in what they might be doing musically was automatic, especially as this was my first time seeing them or hearing any of their songs. Joined in the four-piece by drummer Mike McNeill and vocalist David Nebbia, there was a moment where I stood in front of the stage at Radio and was reminded of hazy afternoons and evenings at Room 710 on Red River in Austin, Texas, at many a Small Stone showcase years back there, when I was still relatively just getting my feet wet in terms of appreciating and being exposed to this kind of music. If that’s a long way around to saying Supermachine sounded fresh, so be it. Their performance was organic and unpretentious — though there was no question which of them was the lead singer, even before they got on stage — and while they seemed to still be feeling out their identity as a band, they gave a good first impression.
True enough, I’d had some beers by the time Infernal Overdrive started playing, maybe visited the basement Beatles show downstairs to weird everyone in the room out by singing along to “Can’t Buy Me Love” way louder than was called for. I nonetheless recall being entirely of sound mind when I scribbled my first note about Infernal Overdrive‘s performance. It was as follows: “New shit is right on.” I stand by that 100 percent. They might need to hit the road for a while to really step into what and where they want to be as a band, but short of that, they’ve got their aesthetic down. No less so at Radio than at Stoner Hands of Doom XIIin September. Part of me wants them to just go ahead and get the next record out so they can start closing with “Viking” already, but as the room was beginning to fill up, the Jersey/Massachusetts-native double-guitar foursome treated an eager and thirsty crowd to “Motor” and “The Edge” from their Last Rays of the Dying Sun2011 debut full-length (review here) and those songs rested well alongside newer cuts like “Quints Revenge” and “Ride to the Sun.” As ever, they tore through their set, capping with the cowbell/fuzz swiftness of “I-95,” which set the stage well for Connecticut’s Lord Fowl, who followed.
Continue to impress. Despite an apparently ongoing throat problem for guitarist/vocalist Vechel Jaynes — I actually take it as a sign of someone giving a shit both about what they do and what I think about what they do when artists tell me about their various injuries, illnesses, aches and pains; that kind of thing can be good to know sometimes, though Jaynes‘ trouble did little to hold back Lord Fowl at Radio — the New Haven, Connecticut, four-piece dove headfirst into material from their Moon Queenlabel debut (review here), rising to the occasion of directly following Infernal Overdrive and making me remember why I like this kind of shit so much in the first place. They also gave a fitting sequel to when I saw them at SHoD XII, guitarist/vocalist Mike Pellegrino comfortable as he always seems to be fronting the band alongside Jaynes while bassist Jon Conine and drummer Don Freeman locked in grooves thick and slick in equal measure. “Streets of Nevermore” was a highlight, and the one-two punch of “Quicksand” and the insistent swirl of “SOS” was no less engaging on stage than it was late into Moon Queen. I wondered a bit what their next album might bring, if they’d keep to a thematic, semi-psych heavy rock approach or branch out elsewhere as they move forward, and then The Patient Mrs. showed up looking all fine and I got distracted. Ha.
Quietly, more than a year had passed since I last caught Virginia’s fuzz buzzards live, but Freedom Hawk were the most in their element at Radio that I’ve ever seen them. The songs from their Holding On 2011 label debut (review here) have cooled and tightened into a fine, viscous ooze, and the set had more than a few killers to it, including the recent video track “Indian Summer.” They’re a good band, and fresh on my mind as I’d just that very afternoon acquired their first demo in a haul of old promo material (more on that tomorrow), so I was glad to have our paths cross again at last. A less raucous delivery than either Lord Fowl or Infernal Overdrive — both of whom put on a hell of a show — Freedom Hawk were nonetheless in the right place at the right time. The crowd was boozed and well warmed up, and Freedom Hawk‘s “all fuzz, no bullshit” was right at home, guitarists TR Morton (also vocals) and Matt Cave leading with ’90s-style stoner rock riffing while bassist Mark Cave and drummer Lenny Hines provided weight and pulse to the rolling groove. I don’t know if someone thought they were being clever by playing Ozzy before they went on (Morton‘s vocals being geared in that direction), but Freedom Hawk showed they’re moving more toward becoming their own outfit and incorporating whatever influence it might be — Ozzy, Fu Manchu, Kyuss, etc. — into a sound more fully theirs. Worth noting that at this point there hadn’t yet been a band whose next album I wasn’t stoked at the thought of hearing.
In true showcase fashion, Roadsaw delivered a set that not only showed why they’re the godfathers of Boston’s heavy rock scene, but ran a gamut through their own catalog — opening with “Look Pretty Lonely” from 2008’s See You in Hell!, and also including “Keep on Sailing” and “Thanks for Nothing” from 1997’s Nationwide — on which Shepard joined on lead guitar from his spot on the balcony — “Buried Alive” and “Disconnected” from 2007’s Rawk ‘n’ Roll, “Monkey Skull” from 2012’s Roadsaw EP, and “Weight in Gold” and “Long in the Tooth” from their 2010 self-titled full-length. I said earlier this year at London Desertfest that I wanted to see them on their home turf, and I was glad to have the opportunity at last. If it’s any indicator of how it all went down, they delayed the start of their set to get another round of drinks. Yes, it was that kind of party. The stage at Radio wasn’t as small as that at the Small Stone showcase in Philly last year — it was somewhere between that and the more spacious at the El ‘n’ Gee in Connecticut, where SHoD was held, and which Roadsaw also played — so I didn’t think vocalist Craig Riggs was about to bean bassist Tim Catz or guitarist Ian Ross with his spinning microphone (ever-shirtless drummer Jeremy Hemond being well out of range), but they made short work of it nonetheless, and even went so far as to bring up Infernal Overdrive guitarist/vocalist Marc Schleicher for an encore of “The Gentle Butcher,” from Nothing that a Bullet Couldn’t Cure by the band Antler, of which he, Ross, Catz and Riggs were a part. As ever, they were in classic form.
A scant two weeks before leaving for a tour with High on Fire and Goatwhore that will have them playing in the biggest venues of their career to date, Columbus, Ohio’s Lo-Pan looked ready. I think they’ve already discovered that the reward for the hard work they’ve been putting in over the last couple years is actually just a bunch of even harder work, but they seemed hungry nonetheless. It had been more than a year since I’d seen them as well, and along with a new shorter haircut for guitarist Brian Fristoe, they had two new songs in the set alongside cuts from 2011’s brilliant-and-yes-I-fucking-mean-brilliant Salvador(review here). Both “Eastern Seas” and “Colossus” had Fristoe‘s steady progressive-edged fuzz, made thicker by Skot Thompson‘s basslines, but seemed to push vocalist Jeff Martin farther into his range as well as Jessie Bartz — front and center as always — tied it all together on drums. As I told Bartz when they were done, I’d like to hear them 85 or 87 more times before I make final judgment, but they sounded pretty dead on, and fit well with “Kurtz” from 2009’s Sasquanaut(which Small Stone reissued) and “Chichen Itza,” “Deciduous,” “Bird of Prey” and set closer “El Dorado” from Salvador, all of which remain as powerful in a live setting as they were the first time I saw them. Lo-Pan was my only real headbang of the show. When they were done, I stumbled my drunk self around the side of the building and threw up barely a fraction of the beer I’d drank, taking care to keep it out of my hair and beard, then went back inside, washed up downstairs while trying to ignore the stench of punker sweat, lest I retch again, and headed back into civilization in time for the start of Gozu, who rounded out the night. I’d been a wreck despite having my last beer sometime during Roadsaw, but with just one band still to go, there was no turning back now.
Much to his credit, it was Gozu guitarist Doug Sherman — he of the perilously short guitar strap — who put the whole gig together. From the second I was walking into the venue, way back before anyone played other than Blackwolfgoat, before all the beer, the barbecue, the more beer, the rock and roll and the more beer, Sherman was outside greeting people, there the whole time, and he and his band very quickly showed by they were just right to close out. Guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney (above, left) has a subdued presence on stage, quiet and reserved — a good balance for Sherman‘s energy — and his performance has been spot on every time I’ve seen him, making vocal up and down vocal dexterity look easy while also joining Sherman on guitar and driving the songs forward with driving riffage. Bassist Joe Grotto was a new addition to the band since I saw them in March — also at Radio, as it happens — but he fit right in the rhythm section with drummer Barry Spillberg, and being revived following my ritualistic purge, I was in decent enough shape to appreciate their even-thicker take on “Meat Charger” and “Meth Cowboy” from their 2010 Locust Seasondebut (review here), on which they were joined by Ian Ross of Roadsaw (above, on right guitar). Their sound is too thick to really be a boogie, but that forward motion is there, and Gaffney brings a sense of drama to their choruses that stood them out from everyone else on the bill at Radio. They had a couple new songs as well, and whatever they do next, it’ll be a welcome arrival.
I know I post a lot of shit about Small Stone bands. I go see them play when I can, I review the records, I do interviews, post tour news, posters, and so forth, but the fact of the matter is this: That’s not coincidence. It’s a short list of American labels contributing anything of merit to the genre of heavy rock — by my estimation there are maybe five, with a few others who’ve glommed onto this or that trend within the sphere of Riff — and Small Stone are right there at the top. From the label’s days providing a haven to bands like Acid King and Sons of Otis in the wake of Man’s Ruin‘s demise, to fostering its own upstart acts like Sasquatch (not that they’re upstarts now, but they were when their debut was released), Infernal Overdrive, Gozu, Lo-Pan, Sun Gods in Exile, and Lord Fowl, while still keeping a commitment to what he does best, label head Scott Hamilton has patronized some of the best American heavy rock out there today, to the point where “the Small Stone sound” is an influence unto itself for bands around the world to pick up on. To be perfectly honest about it, it’s a cause I feel is worth supporting.
Small Stone’s next showcase is in Detroit at the Magic Stick on Dec. 1. More info here.
When the show was done, I was so tired I thought I’d fall asleep walking to catch a cab back to the hotel. There were goodbyes to be said, tales of hurricane survival to regale with and be regaled by, and a bar tab to close out, but I was quick about it, and before too long, The Patient Mrs. generously corralled me into a taxi. I was more lucid than I had been at several points in the evening by then, but still, sleep came as quick and as heavy as the riffs still stuck in my head. We had to drive back to Jersey on Sunday and figure out if the lights were back on yet after the storm (they were as of that afternoon), but if that was to be the finale of “refugee living,” I didn’t make out so bad.