Thunderbird Divine: Wizard Eye & Skeleton Hands Members Announce New Band

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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They have a couple rehearsal clips up on their Thee Facebooks page, and they’re working toward hitting the studio for a first proper recording this Fall, but in the meantime, if you’d like to catch them in the flesh, your first opportunity to do so will be June 30 at  Discuss the workings and policies of this site to other courses Essay On My Best Friend offered in a very similar to a crisis. How to purchasliterary The Century Bar with  Essay Dissertation Pourquoi Voulons Nous Savoir Once you have sent your order, as well as been appointed an author, you can use our onsite messaging system to interact straight with your author. Your order will certainly undergo rigorous quality assurance as well as is checked against your directions as well as academic criteria by certified specialists, we'll also offer you a high quality report to show our findings. Faith in Jane,  Write my Buy Homework Manager Online really cheap! - Don't worry about your writing assignments and enjoy you college life with our trusted essay writing help agency! Pale Divine and  Why see page? Sometimes it happens that you find yourself in a drastic situation when your essay is due tomorrow or even today. Obviously, if Sheena and Thee Nosebleeds. Good show. More info follows here:

thunderbird divine

Thunderbird Divine: Ex-Members of Wizard Eye and Skeleton Hands Join Forces in New Project

Erik Caplan, guitarist/vocalist/thereminist of Philadelphia’s now-defunct stoner-psych rockers Wizard Eye has teamed up with drummer Mike Stuart, bassist Adam Scott and guitarist Flynn Lawrence, all three of Skeleton Hands, to create Thunderbird Divine.

“Wizard Eye was very dear to me, and I am extremely proud of the work I did with those guys,” Caplan says. “Bands have a shelf life, unfortunately, and, as sad as it made me to see my involvement with Wizard Eye end, when it was over, I knew I wouldn’t be happy unless I was playing music again. I took some time, met new people and did some jamming, but nothing gelled into a real band situation until I met up with these fellows.”

Literally one hallway away in the same rehearsal complex, the former members of Skeleton Hands (minus a vocalist) were working on material and auditioning potential new members. In a situation paralleling Caplan’s, none of their prospects fit the bill.

“We played with some good people, but there weren’t any solid fits for what we wanted to do,” says Stuart. “We were standing on the sidelines, just waiting to get back into the game.”

Eventually, Caplan fostered an uneasy pairing with a young bassist, created some material and was ready to engage the services of a drummer to build what he imagined might be a new trio. While cataloging area drummers, one of the first skinsmen he considered was Stuart.

“I remembered a Facebook post about Skeleton Hands breaking up, and I remembered Mike’s style from playing shows with them,” Caplan explains. “I recalled a pleasant guy who was also a fun, energetic player with chops and a bit of flash, so I was hoping I could lure him into my new project.”

He reached out to Stuart and found a receptive audience, and when his almost-bassist stepped out, he and the drummer decided that the idea of combining his mojo with the remaining members of Skeleton Hands had the potential to bear fruit. Luckily, Lawrence and Scott agreed,

“The three of us always liked Wizard Eye, and we were really searching for the right final element for our group, so this opportunity just seemed to drop into our laps at the right time,” Stuart says.

Caplan was also enthusiastic about the collaboration.

“It was pretty cool to walk into the room and have a ready-made, experienced group of guys waiting to get to work,” he says. “You couldn’t really ask for a better situation. I was able to find a niche in their groove almost instantly.”

The band settled on Thunderbird Divine for a name, using the title of a Wizard Eye song with lyrics written by Caplan as inspiration.

“Thunderbird Divine was the street name of a homeless Vietnam veteran from my childhood neighborhood,” Caplan explains. “He was a wild character, and that name always stuck with me. I didn’t want that name to disappear after Wizard Eye folded, and I was very happy that my new band mates thought it had a nice ring.”

The members of this newly formed group got to work immediately, writing new material at every rehearsal. The vibe of the band will probably sound and feel familiar to those who enjoyed this collaboration’s previous work.

“I didn’t want to retread earlier ground with these guys, and I don’t think the Thunderbird Divine stuff sounds too much like either Wizard Eye or Skeleton Hands, but a lot of elements are obviously the same,” Caplan says. “I mean, we still play a lot of riffs, and I’m still singing and playing both guitar and theremin, so some similarities are obviously going to be present, but I think we’ll carve out our own space and sound in time.”

Caplan’s divorce from Wizard Eye also didn’t leave him empty-handed in terms of industry resources. His relationship with Scott Harrington of 313 INC Artist Management has carried through to his involvement with Thunderbird Divine, an endeavor Harrington fully supports.

“I’ve been a fan of Erik’s style as a guitarist and vocalist from the first time I saw Wizard Eye live at the Stoner Hands of Doom Fest in 2012,” Harrington says. “The work he did with that group was phenomenal, and that is what initially attracted me to the band. I mean, seriously, here’s this guy so lost in his music, trading off from guitar to theremin–it was absolutely mesmerizing. And now that he’s moved on to a new project with Thunderbird Divine, I can’t wait to see what they do in the future.”

The band is in the process of writing material for its first recording sessions, which will occur in the fall, and Thunderbird Divine will see its inaugural live performance venue June 30 at The Century Bar in Philadelphia with doom greats Pale Divine and Faith in Jane and Philly’s own Sheena and Thee Nosebleeds.

https://www.facebook.com/thunderbirddivine
IG: @thunderbird_divine

Wizard Eye, “Thunderbird Divine”

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Wino, Sixty Watt Shaman and More Confirmed for Feast of Krampus in Philly and Brooklyn

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 15th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

The holidays. What a nightmare. Fortunately, for those who’d need one more fix before the New Year rings in a whole 365-day batch of nonsense,  That is why our online site Your Homework Help can help you not only to do the statistics homework but also request- Dissertation Font Type. Feast of Krampus would seem to have you covered, at least if you’re in Philly or Brooklyn. What might otherwise have been a weekender with  Don't Worry…You Can End All Your Worries Instantly Simply by Asking Us, "Please Custom Essay Toronto for Me"! There is no need to be ashamed of yourself if you are unable to complete your dissertation. The reason is that it's the toughest assignment that you will ever encounter and most students get stuck even before they write a single word. Thus, there is nothing to be ashamed of if you Wino and  Sixty Watt Shaman, who once upon a 1999 shared a split release — Wino with Spirit Caravan, Sixty Watt during their original run — has become a two-night, two-city festival at Underground Arts on Dec. 27 and the St. Vitus bar on Dec. 28 with a host of killer support acts to round out the bill, including Philly natives Wizard Eye and Massachusetts’ own Birch Hill Dam, as well as Chimpgrinder and Buzzard Canyon and others with apparently more to come.

I’ll defer to the PR wire for details, but it looks like a badass time either way. Dig it:

feast-of-krampus-philly-brooklyn

Some Pig Presents: Feast of Krampus

A Dark and Unholy Holiday Celebration

Saturday, 12/27 at Underground Arts (Philadelphia, PA)
Sunday, 12/28 at Saint Vitus (Brooklyn, NY)

A chill in the air, and a darkness in the night. It is the eve that the dark lord Krampus calls his disciples to the sacrificial altar…

Brooklyn-based booking/promotions agency Some Pig Presents is proud to announce the first annual music festival Feast of Krampus, with dates in Philadelphia and Brooklyn. Conceived as a dark, twisted holiday celebration, Feast of Krampus will feature the heavy metal legend Wino, along with a support bill comprising some of the best acts in heavy music. Save your holiday cheer for the department stores and cocktail parties; Feast of Krampus is a dark offering of blood, volume, and mayhem to the merciless lord of Yuletide terror.

Headlining the inaugural Feast of Krampus is metal legend Scott “Wino” Weinrich, frontman of quintes- sential heavy bands Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, and Spirit Caravan. Since forming the Obsessed in 1976, and later joining Saint Vitus for their definitive 1986 release Born Too Late, Wino has stood at the fore- front of the American underground metal scene, and his influence on doom and stoner rock cannot be measured. For over 30 years he has stood as a pillar of the genre, and his prolific studio output and con- stant touring reveal an unrivaled longevity. The Feast of Krampus finds Wino recently returned from a 6 week, 35th anniversary Saint Vitus tour through Europe, and marks a triumphant homecoming.

Also appearing at both dates will be heavy veterans Sixty Watt Shaman. Since 1996, Sixty Watt Shaman has been brewing a bluesy, psychedelic brand of heavy groove rock, releasing 3 classic albums between 1998 and 2002. While the years since contained a number of one-off reunion performances, 2014 has seen the Shaman more active than ever, with appearances at London’s DesertFest and Baltimore’s Moving The Earth Festival, as well as the release of their first new original material in over 10 years.

Filling out each bill are a number of noteworthy acts both local and regional. In Philly we’ll be joined by Wizard Eye, Skeleton Hands, and Chimpgrinder, while Brooklyn support includes Godmaker, Birch Hill Dam, Moon Tooth, and Buzzard Canyon.

FEAST OF KRAMPUS is more than a concert: it’s a dark, unholy holiday celebration like no other. You better watch out, and you better not cry, because Krampus is coming…

Philly tickets
Brooklyn tickets

www.somepigpresents.com
https://www.facebook.com/events/1389385128022082/
https://www.facebook.com/events/727701780640472

Sixty Watt Shaman, “Fear Death by Water” Live at Moving the Earth 2, Baltimore, Maryland, 03.22.14

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Live Review: The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 in Delaware, 02.09.13

Posted in Reviews on February 11th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

What was clear at the outset was that it was going to be a long night. With 10 bands in a matter of seven and a half hours, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 was going to have to be a well-oiled machine to keep itself running anything close to smoothly. I arrived in New Castle, Delaware, shortly before the 5:30 start time and readied myself for the tide of riffs to come. The acts, there were many, did not disappoint in this regard.

JB McGinnes was the venue, located in a strip mall along a stretch shortly off I-95. I was immediately reminded of Krug’s Place in Frederick, Maryland, though the layout was different — Krug‘s is two separate rooms where JB McGinnes is a bar up front with the surprisingly large stage in back and no partition between — but the vibe was roughly the same. Food service available, some decent-enough beers if you’re looking for them, and an unpretentious vibe, somewhere between local townie, Irish and sports bar; pool tables off to one side, the kitchen (and ice cream parlor?) off to another.

The lineup ranged as far north as Pennsylvania and as far south as Maryland, and with Delaware acts Blackhand and Wasted Theory, the First State had its representation as well. Very much a regional representation, and clearly intended to be that. Thee Nosebleeds, one of several acts from Philly, started off just about on time and like a schmuck, I took notes throughout the course of the night. Here’s how it all went down:

Thee Nosebleeds

The West Philly trio got up to speed as their set went on, and I took it as a telling sign that two out of the three members wore shirts with Small Stone bands on them. Their music played out that grown-up punker sensibility, but the idea was heavy rock and it was an idea Thee Nosebleeds worked well within, playing songs that were strong in the chorus and straightforward without necessarily being boring. Vocalist/guitarist Kermit Lyman tore into several killer solos that immediately set a high standard for the night, and the band brought up Erik Caplan of Wizard Eye (a favor Caplan‘s unit would later return for Lyman) for a theremin guest spot that added some variety to the set. It was an energetic start, no frills and riffy, and in that way set the course for a lot of the evening to come.

Heavy Temple

Also a trio from Philly, but barely more than a month old and steeped in an entirely different kind of heaviness, Heavy Temple hit the stage quickly after Thee Nosebleeds wrapped. Acts shared backlined equipment all the way up until Iron Man however many hours later, but though they’re pretty clearly just starting out, Heavy Temple got their point across, blending thickened post-rock mysticism with rolling Sleep-style stoner groove. Bassist/vocalist Elyse Mitchell (ex-ChromeLord) donned a robe and black lipstick while guitarist Shawn Randles and drummer Andy Martin (the latter also of Clamfight) opted for more everyday costuming, but while they may have some presentation issues to work out, this being their first show, the songs seemed to be right where the band wanted them, and it was enough to make me look forward to how their organic tonality might develop. They had a different take than just about any other band on the bill, and the shift was welcome, if early.

Skeleton Hands

Last seen with Truckfighters in their native Philadelphia, single-guitar foursome Skeleton Hands had the first standalone frontman of the night in Pete Hagen, who introduced the band with suitable burl in a rasp of “Skeleton Hands, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!” before the testosterone-driven riffing began. Their set was tight, crisp and professional, heavy Southern metal guitar work with touches of Down or a much-less-Virginian Alabama Thunderpussy. That kind of thing doesn’t always work when yankees try it out — I didn’t even know Philadelphia had a bayou! — but Skeleton Hands were entertaining all the same and suited to the bigger stage at JB McGinnes. People were beginning to really file in as they played and they seemed to work quickly in getting a hook into the crowd, while also setting up a smooth transition into Blackhand to come, who shared a lot of their stylistic traits.

Blackhand

Newark, Delaware’s Blackhand (two “hand” bands in a row!) brought The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 to its apex of burl. The chest-thumping, boot-stomping double-guitar man-metal was like a supplement ad on late-night tv, but like Skeleton Hands, it was also a tight, pro set. Blackhand went even further into the Down/Pepper Keenan school of riffing, the two axes only adding to the overarching metallicism of what they were doing, and though their influences weren’t that far off from what Skeleton Hands or Wasted Theory still to come were working with, Blackhand were nothing if not distinct, proffering heavy rock for those perhaps looking to transition off Black Label Society into something with a little more underground flair. They also drew and held a solid crowd and I imagine made some new friends among those in the marching path of frontman Bruce Marvel, who made use of his wireless mic to stand on the speaker cabinets in front of the stage and make a rousing call to arms.

Wizard Eye

Tone! Don’t get me wrong, I get the appeal of the whole dudeliness-for-dudeliness’-sake thing, but when Wizard Eye got going, I felt like I’d just come home. The Philly three-piece — Erik Caplan on guitar/vocals/theremin, Dave on bass/vocals and Scott on drums — were the fuzziest band of the night, with a heaviness not so much displayed through aggression, but through the weight of the music itself. Caplan and Dave traded back and forth vocals and brought Thee NosebleedsLyman up for a guest spot fronting the band, which he did with vicious energy and a more decidedly hardcore punk presence. Wizard Eye were refreshing and just the first of several acts still to come who need to get a record out. Their sound is too cohesive and too developed to have a demo’s production do it justice. Low end for days.

Wasted Theory

Fun fact: It was Wasted Theory drummer Brendan Burns who put together the whole bill for The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2. The fest was clearly a labor of love for Burns, who moonlights as SnakeCharmer Booking, and there’s little more respectable than that. His band brought the fest past the 9PM line and found the event running smoothly and with a good crowd at JB McGinnes between rocker heads, curious locals and a couple pool players toward the front, and Wasted Theory shifted the vibe sonically back toward the straightforward heavy rock of Thee Nosebleeds earlier, if blended with elements out of the more C.O.C.-inspired camp. They weren’t quite as nascent as Heavy Temple, but for having been together for less than a year, they seemed to have the idea down and guitarist/vocalist Jackson answered back Blackhand‘s Marvel by jumping on the speaker cabinet and the drum riser. The gauntlet? Thrown down.

Clamfight

It’s worth giving the disclaimer at this point that there’s just about no way I can be impartial when it comes to Clamfight. Aside from the whole helping them release I Versus the Glacier thing, I just dig them too much to offer any kind of valid critique. And so, from where I stood, from Andy Martin‘s first roar (no sign of exhaustion from the double-duty he pulled in Heavy Temple) to Sean McKee‘s first shrieking solo (wow was he loud in the mix), Joel Harris‘ riffing two-step and Louis Koble‘s in-pocket fills, I was on board already. “Sandriders” and “The Eagle” were awesome, don’t get me wrong, but the surprise of the night might have been when they broke out the ultra-brutal “Rabbit” from the first album as a closer. Clamageddon! Clampocalypse Now! A Clamtastrophe! It wasn’t like they’d been lacking in heavy up to that point, because they hadn’t, but that brought it to a different level entirely, the scathing intensity in the culminating groove an entirely different kind of chest-thumping — namely that done by the volume coming out of their cabinets and the air pushed through Martin‘s kick drum. Again, I’m not impartial in saying so, but they were the heaviest thing I saw all night, and the scariest part about it was that I don’t think they’ve even begun to peak as a band yet. I could go on. I won’t. But I could.

Beelzefuzz

Not living near them, I have too easy a time forgetting how good Beelzefuzz actually are. Conclusion? They need to get an album out. They had their 2012 demo for sale — along with some awesome-looking custom stash boxes that bassist Pug Kirby apparently crafted — and guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt even mentioned the possibility of a new record on stage, citing the release date as, “eventually.” Bummer. Beelzefuzz have apparently hooked up with The Church Within Records, so I guess whenever it arrives, it’ll do so through that venerable imprint, but in the meantime, they had a killer set at Eye of the Stoned Goat much as they had at SHoD, and were greeted with due revelry by a host of the Maryland doom faithful who’d made the trip to New Castle. Ortt‘s guitar-as-organ and live multi-tracked vocals distinguished Beelzefuzz from everyone else in the lineup, and with Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey‘s tight trad doom grooves, I just hope that when they finally get that album together, they manage to capture the depth of their approach as well as they carry it across live.

Iron Man


For the life of me, there needs to be a statue of “Iron” Al Morris III. Cast it in bronze and stick it right in the town center in Frederick, Maryland. I don’t know who you write to in order to make something like that happen, or even if Frederick has a town center, but seriously, Morris — 20 years on from putting out the first Iron Man CD — is worthy of inclusion in the discussion of Doom Capitol legends like Wino, Bobby Liebling and Dave Sherman. I mean that. The guy’s an icon and no one knows it, and he continues to press on with riff after riff, year after year. Frontman Dee Calhoun assured the crowd in a lengthy tuning break that the band would have a new full-length out this year — they’ve released two EPs since Calhoun joined — and the news was well met. Nothing against prior vocalist Joe Donnelly, but this being my second time seeing the band with Calhoun up front, his presence and singing style is a little more classic metal and it fits the band much better. The rhythm section of bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann made the rich grooves of “Groan” from the Dominance EP a highlight, but really, Iron Man‘s set just made me look forward to hearing what they’ll be able to do on their next record.

Pale Divine

It was late and I was beat. I don’t mind saying it. I sat at one of the tables by the side of the bar — I’d kind of moved around all night as I took notes in one spot and the next — and looked up to notice that JB McGinnes had left the tvs on for the entirety of the fest. Pale Divine and Avon Cosmetics commercials make for some pretty strange bedfellows. No wonder they didn’t book that licensing gig. The Pennsylvanian trio featured their latest album, 2012’s Painted Windows Black (review here), with cuts like “The Prophet” and set-highlight “Angel of Mercy,” and essentially playing in the dark suited the mood of their doom overall. With McCloskey returning on drum duty after playing with Beelzefuzz, guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener and bassist/vocalist Ron “Fez” McGinnis (also of Admiral Browning) explored a wrenching emotionality set to classic and traditional downtrodden riffing. Diener‘s voice in my experience is never lacking in power and presence, and anytime you put McGinnis on bass, it’s only going to make your band stronger. As technically proficient as he is bearded (and he’s plenty bearded), he’s apt to put all six of his strings to work at any given moment, and where on paper, considering Admiral Browning‘s frantic progressive instrumentalism, it might not seem like a natural fit, in reality he’s a highly adaptable musician as much at home in Pale Divine as I expect he would be on any end of the heavy spectrum. Some dudes can just play. Between his prowess, the band’s pervasive melancholy and lurching heaviness, Pale Divine made for a suitable finish to Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 and those who stuck around long enough to find out seemed to agree.

It was getting on 1:30AM by the time I left and a two-hour drive and some late-night diner burgers with good friends later, finally crashed out around four to get up the next morning and finish the drive home. As I’d known from the start it would be, it was a hell of a night, but there was a lot to see and I’ve no regrets for making the trip.

Thanks to Brendan Burns, Dustin “D-Money” Davis, Pamela Wolfe-Lyman, Chris Jones, Lew Hambly, George Pierro, John Eager and everyone else I was fortunate enough to be able to meet and hang out with in New Castle. Here’s looking forward to doing it all again next time.

Extra pics after the jump. Thank you for reading.

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Live Review: Truckfighters, The Midnight Ghost Train, Skeleton Hands and The Company Corvette in Philly, 03.16.12

Posted in Reviews on March 19th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

The decision to hit Philadelphia instead of Brooklyn — which had been the plan all along — was made the night before. There was the looming prospect of family in from out of town (who would arrive Saturday afternoon) and inevitable obligations stemming from that which skipping out on would almost certainly result in my being seen as a complete jerk. “Here’s your seven-week-old baby back, I gotta head to Williamsburg.” Shit just doesn’t fly.

So, instead of that, Philly on Friday. It was two hours in the car each way, but Brooklyn probably would’ve been that too — especially if they were giving the Holland Tunnel its nightly power-washing — and there was the added advantage of not having to park in, or be in, Brooklyn on a Saturday night. I left work early — the excuse was another bonus — and headed south on the Turnpike like a man on a mission.

Perhaps that mission was a little too successful, because I was early as hell. The enthusiastic dude at the door of The Station, which was playing host to touring acts Truckfighters and The Midnight Ghost Train as well as local support Skeleton Hands and The Company Corvette, recommended hitting the South Philly Tap Room down the block for dinner and pre-show boozing, and even unadvertised mustard on my hamburger didn’t stop it from ruling. The place was packed, and it was chilly eating outside, but several Kenzingers helped me pretend it was summer and not, you know, still the middle of March.

Reports that The Station allowed smoking inside turned out to be true, but when I got back to the two-level venue — one bar a few steps up from another where a stage-less performance space was cleared out — that didn’t stop me from saying “fuck yeah” out loud. It was going to be close quarters and a late night, but that’s exactly what I was looking for. In short order, The Company Corvette got going and the night was under way.

I knew literally nothing about the Philly natives going into their set, but they were a good start to the show, proffering straight-up, still developing stonerisms in good working order. They seemed to be still finding their path, musically, but I like that in bands, so I was into their riff-led Sleep-y grooves. Curious that later, someone (obviously drunk, and it wasn’t someone actually from the three-piece) took it on themselves to try to put a logo sticker on Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm from Truckfighters‘ bass while he was playing it, but it was that kind of night. Smoky, drunk, riffy. Philly is a rock and roll town. That kind of shit happens there.

Between The Company Corvette and Skeleton Hands, who were more directly derived from the Southern heavy tradition, the City of Brotherly Love gave a pretty decent showing of its stoner scene. There were probably bigger bands who could’ve been on the bill — Sadgiqacea come immediately to mind, though they’re less directly in the genre; and I think Clamfight only played five shows last week, so they could’ve hacked another — but it seemed like both of the openers had, at one point or another, legitimately taken a cue on some level from Truckfighters, and that’s always encouraging. Skeleton Hands, for what it’s worth, also had probably the biggest crowd of the night.

Vocalist Pete Hagen laid it on thick with the post-Alabama Thunderpussy inflection, and like The Company Corvette, Skeleton Hands seemed to be in their formative stages, but they’ve obviously already made an impression if their draw is anything to go by. Being an out-of-towner (everywhere), I wondered a bit at times if there wasn’t something I was missing, but as Skeleton Hands hit the dense hook of their eponymous song, it was hard not to be consumed by the groove of it. They had CDs for sale with a “donation,” and I’d already gotten one before they played, but when they were done, I didn’t regret it.

How many years it had been since the last time I saw The Midnight Ghost Train play, I’m not entirely sure. I remember, vaguely, the show was in Bayonne, in Jersey, and I remember digging them a lot, but if you told me it was any date between 2006 and 2008, I’d have no choice but to believe you. In any case, guitarist/vocalist/madman Steve Moss got on the mic in Philly like a forgotten Ellwood, talking all kinds of indecipherable throaty jive about being on tour with Truckfighters and this and that. Hard to pick up what he was putting down, at least until the songs started. Then the mystery disappeared.

Not sure how to say it other than to say it, but they were killer. I know The Midnight Ghost Train‘s 2009 self-titled full-length (review here) was right on, but that was a different band entirely. In Philly, their sound was full, and exciting, and delivered with an energy that stood up to Truckfighters — which, if you’ve ever seen the headliners, you know is saying something — and their set, which was mostly comprised of new material according to the conversation I had with Moss afterward, was a stunner. Legitimately. I already knew I liked the band and they still caught me off guard.

Even when Moss busted a string on his guitar and had to get out a second one in the middle of the song — the name “Sophia” was stenciled on road case a bit to the left of the band’s logo — I don’t think bassist David Kimmell even stopped headbanging to look and see what was going on. They build up righteous momentum, Moss flailed his preacher’s hands as he ranted and raved, and the rock went epic. Drummer Brandon Burghart had his work cut out for him holding the songs to ground, but they never got out of control when they didn’t want to, and as a rhythm section, Kimmell and Burghart stood up to Moss‘ considerable barrage of riffs, leads and well-spit verses.

They reportedly start recording their new album tomorrow, March 20, in Georgia with one of the dudes from Harvey Milk putting them to 2″ tape. I’ll look forward to that, but in the meantime, I learned before Truckfighters went on that the two bands would be playing what was billed as a secret Tee Pee Records showcase in Manhattan on Sunday with NYC natives Mirror Queen opening, and was suddenly way less bummed out about missing the Brooklyn show the next night. The room had settled some during The Midnight Ghost Train‘s set as some of those who were only showing up for the locals had split and others had come for the touring acts, but if it wasn’t sold out, it’s only because they kept letting people into The Station. I grabbed a spot in front of the P.A. to stage right and waited.

You know, I had been a little bummed out seeing the reports and video coming out of this year’s SXSW in Austin, Texas, last week. Lots of good bands, lots of good showcases, and for me, some pretty positive memories of years past, hazy though they are. With the first cycling through of the riff to “Desert Cruiser,” all that went right out the window. Drummer Oscar “Pezo” Johansson dropped trow — literally, he played in his boxers — and recently-interviewed guitarist Niklas “Dango” Källgren took off his shirt, and off they went.

Truckfighters are rock at the speed of go. It was only a few months ago I saw them rip a hole through Cake Shop in Manhattan, but seeing that only made this show all the more necessary. On a tour that in terms neither of routing nor personnel involved was what they thought it would be, Truckfighters flourished and hit with an astonishing level of energy. It was like they were pushing the material to see how far it could go, how hard it could hit, how fuzzed it could get. Where I stood, Cedermalm‘s vocals were coming through so loud at times they hurt, even with the sock he put over the mic (which, incidentally, is where that The Company Corvette sticker ended up) but it was worth it to be that close to rock that visceral.

“Desert Cruiser” wasn’t over before Källgren was rolling on the ground kicking his legs in the air, and their whole set pretty much looked like riffy calisthenics, though they’re probably also the most audience-minded act I’ve seen in this genre — in people’s faces the whole time, taking advantage of their wireless setups (which also adds some compression to their tonal crunch that they seem to use to their advantage) to walk through the crowd, and, in Cedermalm‘s case, jumping on the bar before the encore to ask everyone if they wanted to hear another song — so they made it work and the audience had no choice but to go along with them. Not that there was much resistance, but it would’ve been pointless if there had been, is what I’m saying.

The set was pretty well balanced, with three songs from 2005’s Gravity X debut, two from 2007’s Phi, and three from 2009’s Mania, which is set for North American reissue in May as Truckfighters‘ debut on Tee Pee, but though it was killer to hear “Last Curfew” and “Traffic,” and “Monte Gargano” was a crowd favorite, I was even more stoked on “Majestic,” the 13-minute Mania masterpiece the payoff of which was so huge as to serve as the high point of an already excellent set. I’d been hoping for “Con of Man,” which they didn’t play, but they hit “Analougus” from the 2004 Fuzzorama compilation, The Ultimate Fuzz Collection, as the first part of a two-song encore that finished out with “In Search Of,” which seems to be the permanent closer. Hard to argue with its position.

I don’t remember what time it was exactly when they finished, but I know I got back to my humble river valley at about four in the morning, so I’d put it somewhere close to two. If you’ve never had the pleasure, the middle of the night is the best time to drive on the New Jersey Turnpike, or any major highway for that matter, barring accidents or construction — neither of which was hit on the way back north — and though I didn’t sleep nearly as late Saturday morning as I’d have liked, I did have plenty to look forward to going into Sunday night’s secret show.

More pics after the jump.

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