My article about the Maryland band CLUTCH came out on Thursday in the Independent (who have a fancy new website). Hopefully you read it. I also reviewed John Doe and the Sadies (their Country Club record, which I still spin regularly) as well as a release from a guy named John Shipe (Yellow House which, while good for what it is, isn’t enough of my thing that I’ll actually come back to it).
Anyway, last night was the Clutch show at the Wilma. I intended to take my camera, but security was being really uptight about them. I was a little disappointed, as the plan was to sit in the balcony rather than fight it out in the pit, and I was curious to see if I could get any decent shots. So I tried a few with my phone camera, which merely underscored that 99.9999% of pictures taken with cell phones are awful. I had thought that before, but after seeing a ton of images people uploaded from the San Diego Comic Convention over the weekend, the point was driven home. Hard. The rest of this post will prove my point.
LIONIZE opened the show. I’d never heard of them before. They’re from Silver Spring, MD, so maybe they’re friends with Clutch, who knows. They were good enough — good musicians, bass player had great tone, the singer had a great voice and played an SG, the keyboard player wasn’t annoying and delivered some nice vocal harmonies, and the other guitar player . . . well, hard to tell what he was bringing. He played a Les Paul, which is always a good sign (even though some dumbass in Great Falls once assured us that the Gibson Les Paul is the worst designed guitar in the history of music), but didn’t seem to do much more than stand and stare at his pedal board.
I liked them for about a song. After two songs I turned to Julia and remarked that they should just stay in Missoula, because in a matter of a couple weeks they would be billed as the best band in town and playing every outdoor event the city can dream up. Each song started out favorably enough with a good riff, but then every fucking time would resolve into the same bullshit reggae beat. I really hate that. Reggae is as tired, if not more tired, than blues. I was ready to gouge my ear drums out by the 4th song.
They’d be superstars here.
Shortly after I discovered the guy whose legs I was trying to break every time I leaned my chair back belonged to none other than Josh Vanek, impresario of Wantage Records. Josh is a fine man. Pleasantries and rock talkage were exchanged.
No, not the one from GI JOE, I’m talking Savannah, GA’s BARONESS, who were up next. I was eager to see them. I own their most recent record, Red Album, but don’t listen that much. I’ve heard good things about them live, and they lived up to my expectations. They pulled the atmospherics of the music off in a live setting better than I expected, which was cool. I also thought their Bad Cat guitar amplifiers sounded great; a red half stack stage left, and a green one stage right. Bass tone was disappointing, though. They were energetic, and the crowd seemed to dig them.
Anyway, two other things about the band are of interest to me. First of all, singer/guitarist and all around main dude John Baizley is also an artist. He does some cool stuff, designs all the band’s artwork, does it for other bands, etc. They had a bunch of prints of his work for sale at their merch booth, which I though was great (I love non-typical merch offerings, like the BBQ Sauce offered by the band DIXIE WITCH). Here are a couple examples of his stuff:
The other thing is the second guitarist, Pete Adams, also plays in the band VALKYRIE, who is awesome. They’ve release a couple fine records which are more classic hard rock/metal influenced with fantastic duel leads ala Thin Lizzy or Iron Maiden. I’d like to see that band roll through here!
This picture makes it look like we were way the hell away, but we really weren’t. The balcony at the Wilma is pretty cool, it’s like being almost on top of the band. A good vantage point to watch not only the band but silly drunks down front. It was also a perfect place to view JP’s mad drum skills.
There’s nothing to say about the mighty Clutch that I haven’t already said. They are just a tight, groovy, well-honed rock outfit that does everything right. I like everything about them — no bullshit, great players, no rock star attitudes. The music is heavy but has a lot of melody and groove, and Neil Fallon is one of those rare singers who sounds better live than on record. I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I’m going to go see them again in Salt Lake in September, when the opening band is WINO. Yes!