Live Review: Fuzz Fest in CT, 06.03.11

Posted in Reviews on June 8th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

By the time I had eyes to see the above wisdom scrawled on the wall next to the urinal at Cherry Street Station in Wallingford, Connecticut, I was already several Newcastles into the night. The last time I was at the venue was for a show with A Thousand Knives of Fire, Bloodcow and others, and that was years ago, but not much had changed. Bands still set up in the corner of the main room, the bar was up a couple steps and there was a patio outside for the smokers. Hockey was on the big screen and beer was cheap. I had arrived early — a fruitless stop at Redscroll Records preceded — and immediately set about chipping away at the cash in my wallet. When in doubt: drink.

I had a good hour to do so, and Newcastle goes down like candy, so the cash and the beer were both going quick by the time Stone Titan started up. Fuzz Fest — a collection of local Connecticut acts put together by Ron Vanacore of Curse the Son (who played third) — didn’t actually feature all that much fuzz. With a name like that, you’d expect six or seven Fu Manchu clones on the bill, but instead, the lineup culled acts from different prongs of the doom umbrella, starting with Stone Titan‘s heavy sonic debt to the riffs of Jimmy Bower. They were so young I wondered if they’d have been allowed at the show if they weren’t playing it, but honest about where they came from; an Eyehategod cover went a long way in transitioning them in my mind from “derivative” to “charming.”

Either way, their collective heart was in the right place, and theirs was the start of a night of several impressive covers. The Connecticut scene, if nothing else, has good taste. King of Salem, who played second, covered “Swinging the Chain” from Black Sabbath‘s Never Say Die, and that sat well alongside their straightforward heavy rock. Guitarist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli and drummer Mike Petrucci were joined by a bassist (who, if I’m not mistaken, had the night’s only five-string; one too many) and guitarist who looked imported directly from another band.

I was a fan of King of Salem‘s Prophecy way back when I reviewed it, so it was cool to hear some of that material live, and while it was abundantly clear that Tuozzoli and Petrucci were the core of the band, the other half, situated on the right side of the stage area, did well with their parts, the guitarist adding solos to Tuozzoli‘s riffs that were both fluid and accomplished. It was a strange set, but a good one, and an excellent transition point between Stone Titan and Vanacore‘s own outfit, who occupied the center position on the bill.

After hearing their Klonopain full-length, I suspected that the disc, while enough to give an overall impression of their sound (and a favorable one), didn’t do the band full justice, and their live show proved that assertion correct. Petrucci was pulling double-duty, drumming for Curse the Son as well as King of Salem, and he’d reportedly only practiced with Vanacore and bassist Cheech once, two days earlier, but you wouldn’t have known it watching the trio play. He adapted to the songs excellently, and Vanacore‘s tone, which came out of two green cabinets and a green head with “WEED” where “Green” might otherwise have been, was among the highlights of the night.

As the driving force behind the show, their crowd was the biggest. The way the P.A. speakers were set up, it made the stage area look small, but it was actually deep enough so that most of the equipment was backlined, and the high ceiling in the room made it so Curse the Son were able to pull off a loud, full sound, which they did, expressing a clear love for the riffy arts. Admirable enough that Vanacore got the show together in the first place, but doubly so that Curse the Son didn’t then headline or screw anyone into a shitty timeslot. It was a well-constructed evening and good to see everyone getting into the bands. Going to shows in New York, it’s easy to get lost sometimes in how much of a social obligation it is. For me at least, as an outsider up for the weekend, it was refreshing to have it be just about the music.

And just when I was most feeling that after Curse the Son‘s set, there came Lord Fowl. It’s not really doing them justice to call them the “find of the night,” because I’d heard three of the total five bands before, but they fucking destroyed, either way. A double-guitar/double-vocal four-piece from just south on I-91 in New Haven, they powered through a set that included the best cover of Thin Lizzy‘s “The Boys are Back in Town” that I’ve ever heard — and I’ve heard a few — and hands down the night’s highest rock quotient. Their set had that same feeling you get watching Roadsaw or one of those really killer Small Stone acts rip it up, where you just know this is how rock and roll should be done and the bullshit factor is nil.

They had a CD for sale, which I bought, and if there’d been others, I’d have gotten them too. The night had already been a winner, but Lord Fowl absolutely made it, and when they finished, I immediately commenced nerding out about how righteously good they were. I haven’t listened to the disc yet only for lack of time, but I’ll get there for sure, as I want to hear if they’ll be able to translate their live energy to an album. Here’s hoping.

Post-that, anything was going to be a comedown, but Sea of Bones closed out the night in front of a wall of amplifiers (the drums, also huge) and emitted the kind of volume that rendered earplugs all but useless. Seriously, I could feel them vibrating in my ears. The levels on their three mics — one for each member of the band — were off, but honestly, with that much noise coming from the cabs, I don’t think anything would have helped. You could’ve blown out the P.A. three times over and still not heard the screams of drummer Kevin, guitarist Tom or bassist Gary (all first names only). Easy to blame the sound guy for that, but even he could only do so much to stem their massive tonality.

My last beer was gone by the time they started playing, and it had been my intention to split a couple songs in, but Sea of Bones held my attention and feet in place. If you’ve never heard them, their ultra-doom borders on post-metal at times, but is mostly angrier and less intellectually pretentious than much of that genre. If they toured, you wouldn’t need my recommendation to check them out, because they’d already be huger even than Tom‘s pedal board. What they had in common with the rest of the acts in the Fuzz Fest lineup, though was a readily evident passion for what they were doing.

And if you’re going to book a show of local acts and try and foster a developing scene, that’s how you do it: by loving what you do and showing that to others. Kudos to Vanacore on picking the lineup he did (the shout-out in my direction from the stage was unnecessary, but also appreciated), since they may have all come from different ends of the genre, but there was an undercurrent that bound them all the same. When I left, it was too late for me to call my mother as per the advice of the men’s room wall, but I was comfortable anyway in knowing my time had been well spent.

More pics after the jump.

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