My Week in Rock: Live Shows Recap

Truckfighters, Reggie's Rock Club, May 12, 2014 (Photo Credit: John Mourlas Photography)

Ghost, The Vic, April 19Man, talk about famine to feast. The magnificent Truckfighters just capped off a string of five shows in five nights, leaving me spent but aglow. After a long harsh winter where I hardly made it to any live shows at all from December through March, I started the spring starving for good rock shows. Despite continued frigid temps outside, things heated up quickly with Spirit Caravan at Reggie’s Rock Club on March 29. While Jug Fulla Sun (1999) is now an undisputed stoner doom classic, Wino’s first band since the breakup of The Obsessed was kind of under the radar at the time, and I’d never seen them live before. They didn’t disappoint, plowing through pretty much all their best songs, playing loose but loud. Let’s hope they decide to record together again, like Saint Vitus has done so successfully. On April 15 at Metro was another reunited favorite, Godflesh, who I had seen about 24 years ago. While I can tell when they play cuts from their classic Streetcleaner (1988), it had been a while since I listened to the rest of their catalog, and everything kind of blended together in a monolithic, monochromatic wash, like showering in a sandblaster. A few days later was costumed Swedish occult rockers Ghost (The Vic, April 19). I saw them a couple years before at a smaller venue, The Bottom Lounge, and their stage show has grown right along with their popularity. Papa Emeritus and his Nameless Ghouls put on a slick but thoroughly entertaining show with nods towards Blue Oyster Cult and KISS.

Graveyard, House of Blues, April 26

The biggest early highlight by far, however was the mighty Graveyard on April 26. These Swedes know how to perform. One of my all-time favorite bands, this is my third time seeing them, this time back at the same venue I first saw them at in 2008, House of Blues. While all three of their albums are great, their live performance has improved rapidly, even compared to just over a year ago when I last saw them at Lincoln Hall. No longer just playing their instruments, they held the entire audience riveted, stalking the stage like real rock gods. I heard a few new songs, which have me stoked for a new album, hopefully before the end of the year. While I like to buy merch from bands to support them, I only do so when the show was truly jaw-dropping great. I picked up a patch at Spirit Caravan, and this poster at Graveyard:

Graveyard Tour Poster, 2014

Now for my week marathon. Starting last Thurdsay, May 8 was Television at the Metro. The last time they played was also at the Metro, 22 years ago in 1992. I was also at that show. I remember they played too many songs from their self-titled third album that came out then, and wasn’t crazy about. This time they did a better job at playing most of Marquee Moon (1977) one of the best albums ever. The sound was also way better, probably one of the best sounding shows I’ve heard at Metro in years. The low point was when they launched into a jam that lasted seemingly over 20 minutes. It wasn’t even a jam, but just a repetitive one-chord drone along the lines of Neu! but less interesting. My patience was probably shortened by the fact that temperatures had soared from near freezing to 92 degrees that day, and it was hot as hell. When they finally played “Marquee Moon,” Tom Verlaine changed up the solo quite a bit, which is fine, but abruptly ended the song before the coda, which was always my favorite part. In retrospect it wasn’t a bad show, but I left hot, tired, dehydrated and kind of pissed off. This could be a long week.

Queens of the Stone Age was at Aragon, a venue I don’t love, and probably would have skipped if it weren’t for the fact that I haven’t seen the band in many years. Another overcrowded sold out show, and another hot ass night. My friends and I didn’t get there in time to get a prime spot, but we could at least see, and weren’t packed too tightly. The band were tight as ever, and Homme’s voice was the best I’d ever heard compared to the four other times I’ve seen them. Halfway through I started getting hot and dehydrated again, but the struggle through the crowd didn’t seem worth it to get water. Then a ridiculously obnoxious, wobbly-drunk couple decided to start dirty dancing and kept lurching into me and sliming me with their sweat. If I were at a smaller venue or up closer I wouldn’t have minded as much, but where I was, I felt a little too removed. I was definitely getting nostalgic for when I saw them at the Hi Dive down in Champaigne back in 2000. It may be the last time I ever see them as I expect they’ll just keep playing bigger venues. Here’s the view from my spot:

Queens of the Stone Age, Aragon, May 9, 2014

The next night both Slint and Fu Manchu were playing, but I had to take a break and save up energy for two shows in one night on Sunday, May 11. It worked out well, as my friend’s band Bluster started at 8:45 at Subterranean, and Floor went on across the street at the Double Door after 10. It was Bluster’s first show ever, and my friend’s first show in 15 years, but was pretty great considering. An indie rock sound reaching back to Mission of Burma, Husker Du and Unwound, among many others, with a unique cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Floor was as satisfyingly heavy and pummeling as I hoped, dropping their patented E-bombs, and songs from now album Oblation mixing smoothly with older material from 14-20 years ago. They have me also looking forward to a new Torche album and tour.

truckfighters-live-2014-3

And the highlight of the week, without a doubt, was Truckfighters at Reggie’s, May 12. Or, TRUCKFIGHTERS, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, another Swedish band, they get props for being the hardest touring group of underappreciated musicians in Sweden, having toured the US nearly every year the past five years. And every time is better than the last. This time they started with some songs from their excellent new album Universe, and let things build up gradually. They mix up the riff-tastic head nodders with some fairly complex, lengthy, almost proggy numbers. At times they can get a little brooding and contemplative, incorporating seemingly disparate elements such as Nirvana and Tool. By thirty minutes in, their energy reached crackling levels with guitarist Dango’s (Niklas Källgren) muppety Captain Caveman acrobatics surpassing anything I’ve seen before, and Ozo (Oskar Cedermalm) interacting with the audience just as much, to their delight. New guy Enzo (Axel Larsson) is their seventh drummer, and played like he had something to prove, much showier than Oscar Johansson, who left them for Witchcraft. The energy was so uplifting, for the first time all week I was not ready for the show to end. The show had a decent crowd, but room for much more. Pity the fools and their Monday evening excuses who missed it. Truckfighters should be headlining festivals, but they show no discouragement, only full-on commitment to the fuzz. TRUCKFIGHTERS!!!

Truckfighters (Photo Credit: John Mourlas Photography)

Best goddamfuckin band in this stupidass world. I bought three items of swag, two shirts and a trucker hat, just like my truck drivin' gramps used to give me.

Best goddam band in this stupidass world. Show was so good I bought three items of swag—two shirts and a trucker hat, just like my truck drivin’ gramps used to give me.

They played last night in Milwaukee, and those lucky cheese eaters get a chance to see them yet again on the 15th. They are playing a couple festivals, but are criminally early in the bills. Don’t be a dick and miss them.

May 14      Minneapolis, MN   7th Street Entry
May 15      Milwaukee, WI      The Cactus Club
May 16      Columbus, OH      Columbus Crew Stadium (as part of Rock on the Range Festival w/ Mastodon, Slayer, Guns ‘N’ Roses, etc.)
May 17      Nashville, TN         High Watt
May 18      Birmingham, AL    WorkPlay Theatre
May 20      New Orleans, LA   One Eyed Jacks
May 21      Mobile, AL            Soul Kitchen
May 22      Memphis, TN        The Hi-Tone
May 23      Pryor, OK             Catch the Fever Fairgrounds (as part of Rocklahoma Festival w/ Deftones, Down, Scorpion Child, etc.)
May 24      San Antonio, TX    AT&T Center (as part of River City Rock Fest w/ Black Label Society, Deftones, Kyng, etc.)

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