It had been a few days since I’d gone outside. Seriously. In Chicago for a work trip, I’d been holed up either at the conference I was in town for or the hotel immediately adjacent to it. Dinner had been ordered in three nights in a row, and I’d gone precisely nowhere since arriving in the city on Sunday. Not healthy. Not living right. In the end, it was the phone call from hotel security — checking on the wellness of the room’s occupant, since housekeeping hadn’t been allowed to clean in more than 48 hours — that shamed me into leaving to see Corrections House bandmates Scott Kelly (also Neurosis) and Bruce Lamont (also Yakuza and Bloodiest). Shame sometimes does the trick.
As it happened, they were playing a different hotel, the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, in a space carved out as the “Drawing Room” and decorated in what I can only describe as man-bun living room chic; dimly lit (as the pictures I got will attest — god damn I need a new camera), all things made to look old and comfortable, leather-bound everything, like the Harvard club where people go to talk about how their new app is going to do away with various plights of inequality. “Gamechanging” modern design by making it look like a slavemaster’s parlor. I’m sure it was all very expensive. It looked very expensive. Strange setting for a show.
Not to say that with Misters Kelly and Lamont both playing solo sets — they shared a guitar — it should’ve been in a dive bar. The chair I sat in was perfectly comfortable. It was the second night of the Kelly/Lamont tour, which may or may not be taking the place of a full Corrections House run to support that group’s new album, Know How to Carry a Whip, out on Neurot Recordings, and the plan seemed to be in order: Lamont would play first, Kelly second, and then they’d play together. Not a method entirely dissimilar from the first time I saw Corrections House early in 2013 (review here), but obviously a different sonic context without Sanford Parker‘s beats — likely on his way to the West Coast with Buried at Sea — and without Mike Williams of Eyehategod‘s semi-spoken drug poetics. Worth it to say that nothing felt overly like it was missing once the show got started.
Part of that is probably thanks to Lamont‘s kitchen-sink experimental approach. Surrounded by his saxophone, clarinet, the guitar he was sharing with Kelly, at least two vocal mics and sundry other processors, pedals and effects, he was able to create a wash of droning noise all on his own. Lamont‘s solo album, 2011’s Feral Songs for the Epic Decline, was the basis for some of the performance, but much of what he did was manipulated, echoed, spaced out, and layered into something new. I know Bloodiest have a new full-length coming at the start of 2016 via Relapse, but if Lamont hasn’t considered recording a follow-up solo outing live and putting it out even in limited numbers through War Crime Recordings, his label co-owned by Sanford Parker, he probably should. Some of the most affecting moments came as he tilted his head back and let loose a soulful howl that reminded me of some of the spaciousness he was able to conjure in Yakuza, but the whole set was saturated with creativity and Lamont‘s sense of controlling the chaos was palpable.
The switch to bringing out Scott Kelly was done via an extended saxo-drone and a wave of the hand. Both mics were already set up, and so Kelly came out from the crowd and picked up the guitar. There were a couple songs he played I didn’t recognize — maybe new, maybe covers I couldn’t identify — but his meditative takes on the works of Townes van Zandt are always welcome. He did “Tecumseh Valley” early in the set, but the highlights were cuts from his 2012 Scott Kelly and the Road Home album, The Forgiven Ghost in Me (review here). I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for “The Field that Surrounds Me,” but “The Sun is Dreaming in the Soul” did just fine, and particularly following “The Ladder in My Blood” from 2008’s solo album, The Wake. “We Let the Hell Come” provided an intense finish to his solo portion — Kelly rocking back and forth behind the mic in a less neck-dislocating fashion than he might on stage with Neurosis, but definitely with a similar rhythmic sensibility — arriving at its title line after gravel-throated incantations for which he backed off the mic about a foot but that still came through clear in their intent and vision.
A similar wave brought Lamont back to the front. Together Kelly and Lamont offered renditions of Townes Van Zandt‘s “The Rake” and Neil Young‘s “Cortez the Killer,” before finishing off with the Corrections House track “Run through the Night,” taken from their 2013 debut, Last City Zero. Standing side-by-side, Kelly‘s guitar and Lamont‘s sax cast a Morricone-style spell over the room, a hard strum spacious with both adding vocals until Lamont, having layered backing “ooh”s, created a sufficient wash and apex that seemed to swell one voice at a time until appropriately consuming. The studio version of that song gets pretty noisy, but live, it was more melodic, and when Kelly got back on mic to whisper out the last few lines, the multi-layer barrage he cut through made it plain that nothing else would follow. They cut out together and the show was over with a quick plug for merch, which had been placed on a table behind them while they played.
It was raining outside when they were done, so I took a quick cab back to my temporary lair and tried to get a night’s sleep. No dice there, but I didn’t the least bit regret how the evening had been spent, whatever it took to get me out the door.
Thanks for reading.