LIVE REVIEWS: January 2018
Reverend Horton Heat, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Big Sandy
Jan. 22 • Wild Buffalo
Big rock was back at the Wild Buffalo when Reverend Horton Heat, Voodoo Glow Skulls and Big Sandy rolled through town on their “Winter Wonderland Extravaganza” tour. It was an inspired night of punk twists and turns from two celebrated bands and a rockabilly revivalist who all started careers in the mid to late 80s. The Glow Skulls’ ska driven energy combined with the genre bending, psychobilly sound of the The Rev proved the perfect blend for a sold-out night of high octane fun.
Voodoo Glow Skulls were first to hit the stage. Started in 1988, the band shared their unique style of ska, punk and metal mixing loud riffs, upbeat drumming and an incredible three-piece horn section. Many can recall their signature hybrid sound from their heyday in the 90s and early 2000s. This period spawned 10 full length albums across several labels including hardcore/punk heavyweights Epitaph and Victory. Worldwide tours and featured songs in movies and TV followed.
Tonight’s gig was classic Glow Skulls – fun, bombastic southern California punk rock. Fronted by Death By Stereo vocalist Efrem Schulz after original singer Frank Casillas quit in June of last year, jokes, antics, a Mexican wrestling mask and powerful performance came together for a raucous good time. Fans sang along and danced through the hour-long set, reminding us all that the spirit of classic punk never dies.
With the room packed and ready to burst, Reverend Horton Heat jumped into a 90-minute set of rock ‘n’ roll bliss. Hailing from Dallas, TX, Reverent Horton Heat is the brain child of Jim “Reverend Horton” Heath, guitarist and vocalist extraordinaire. Long time running mate, Jimbo Wallace, was right along side as always, signature upright slap bass in tow. Featuring drummer RJ Contreras and Matt Jordan on piano/organ, the band brought top notch playing to new heights.
Reverend Horton Heat burned through songs from a dozen full length albums including three early 90s releases from Seattle based Sup Pop. Their superb musical blend combined country twang, surf, jazz, gypsy, blues and 50s roots rock ‘n’ roll all through a lens of 80s punk grounding. Jim Heath’s guitar playing was the stuff of legend. Playing semi-hollow body Gretsch guitars, he looked and sounded right out of a page from the early days of garage rock history books.
Texas rockabilly precision, greased hair, collared shirts and the chops to match, Reverend Horton Heat blew the roof off with every number. They brought out friend and fellow veteran rock ‘n’ roller Big Sandy, who Jim described as the best rockabilly singer in the world, halfway through the set. Big Sandy wore a matching suit with bolo necktie and slicked hair. He cut honky tonk, R&B and soul into one package and fronted the show for 30 minutes of timeless rock heaven.
The whole set featured huge energy with non-stop dancing, hootin’ and hollerin’ from the Bellingham crowd. They cheered on as each band member took a featured solo and high screams were heard when Jimbo lay his upright bass on its side only to have “Reverend” Jim jump on top and shred away. A Chuck Berry cover was thrown in for good measure and the room nearly lost it when the band tore through Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.”
They don’t build bands like Reverend Horton Heat anymore. And the sold-out crowd tonight was proof positive that this feeling does not go unnoticed by the fans. After talking to Jimbo after the gig, the band loved their night in Bellingham and hope to be back soon.
Red Fang, Year of the Cobra
Jan. 15 • The Shakedown
Leave it to The Shakedown to start the year out with a bang and give us most likely the best show of the rest of 2018.
The beautifully simple lineup of Year of the Cobra and Red Fang quickly sold out upon announcement. We waited about a month and finally the night of getting our faces melted was upon us.
Year of the Cobra opened the show. This Seattle duo of Amy and Johanes Barrysmith pulverised the crowd with their bass and drums. I knew this band was not messing around when I saw Amy’s two Ampeg SVT fullstacks looming on stage before they started. Their foreboding and doom sound resonated deep in my chest and shook the walls as they performed.
Year of the Cobra played a variety of tunes that kept their set interesting. From fast and intense to slow and droning, their performance had my attention the whole time. While it was a loud show, it did not feel unbalanced. The drums and bass were wonderfully clear in the mix and vocals cut through nicely. As a whole, they’re an incredibly talented group that no doubt will make your jaw drop while watching them.
By the time Year of the Cobra finished their set, The Shakedown had almost hit capacity and the anticipation for Red Fang was palpable. After a quick stage change and guitar tuning, it was time.
Red Fang banged out a solid set in just a little over an hour in what felt like 15 minutes.
It is not surprising to me that this Portland based stoner metal band sells out every time they come to town. Their catchy riffs and heavy tunes are infectious. Not to mention their general association with beer working perfectly in Bellingham. I have to say that the pairing of a Rainer and Red Fang is a must for any beer or heavy music lover.
I love how their setlist was an arrangement of familiar old and new songs as well as a couple lesser known ones in the mix. Of course, they played “Prehistoric Dog,” one of their biggest hits and the crowd accordingly went nuts. It was a beautiful sight of flying sprays of beer, moshing and heavy music.
I implore you to see both of these bands at some point so you too can experience at least a little slice of what this night was like.
Acorn Project, Best of Fools
Jan. 13 • Wild Buffalo
The Wild Buffalo was packed early for a night of explosive rock ‘n’ roll on Saturday, Jan. 13.
The show began with Best of Fools, a group of four who came together to share their love of Led Zeppelin by forming this incredible tribute band. Opening with “Good Times Bad Times,” they had the crowd grooving and singing along as they masterfully covered some of rock’s best known tracks and incorporated some original solo fills. “The Immigrant Song” had lead singer Cassandra Childs swinging the mic around like wielding the hammer of the gods, belting out Plant’s signature lines and owning the spotlight. “Whole Lotta Love” and “Dazed and Confused” showcased Walker VanWingerden on guitar as he channeled some serious Jimmy Page skills while Aaron Noice switched to jazz bass to lay down some swagger. Randy Buchanan on drums would have made John Bonham proud. Anyone who knows this music knows the intricacy and syncopation of the arrangements, and they showed they knew the material like it was their own. Rounding out their hour long set with “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and the lesser known “How Many More Times” the crowd was amped up and ready to keep partying.
The night of tributes and covers continued with Acorn Project’s concept show “Talking Dead,” a mashup of Acorn Project originals with Talking Heads and Grateful Dead classics. Digging deep into the tribute vault, they opened with a cover of the Grateful Dead covering Martha and the Vandellas with “Dancing in the Streets.” They went original next with Werner which lead into a cover of “Psycho Killer” before reprising with Werner. Not planning to reprint the set list, I can say rather than straightforward covers, the boys bent and broke the mold giving their signature sound and groove to a number of classics.
Keyboardist Oskar Kollen took the vocals on the Dead’s “Althea” and “West LA Fadeaway.” Tristan Currin shredded through the sets with a laidback ease that betrayed the immense sound screaming from his guitar. A constantly smiling Kreestoe on drums and T-Bone on bass set the groove and tempo holding it all together while Sam’s signature saxophone floated over it all. Andy Pritiken once again showed off his vocal prowess owning the mic, switching personas ever so slightly to match the track and keeping the rhythm right on strings. Aaron “Dirty” Goude rounded things out, sitting in with percussion on a few tracks each set.
The selection of songs played great, weaving in and out of one another, all the while showcasing the psychedelic electro funk style that has made Acorn Project one of Bellingham’s best loved bands. Anyone not familiar with the material would have sworn it all original as they turned old radio hits into dance floor fuel.
As the night wound down, Gin and Juice rang out to cheers and roaring applause from the crowd. Part rock show, part family reunion, the show ended with everyone hugging their goodbyes as they headed out into the night.
Crooked Neighbors, Fur Coats, Bad History
Jan.13 • Make.Shift
Something I always appreciate at Make.Shift is the consistent discovery of new awesome music. The best discovery this night was certainly, Portland’s, The Fur Coats, however, the eclectic lineup of punk, funk and acoustic alternative rock was a surprisingly great mix.
Bad History, a new group to the Bellingham scene, kicked the show off with some pretty familiar sounding punk but threw a twist into their music with the addition of a saxophone. While, saxophones in punk music is usually correlated with ska, the saxophone wasn’t necessarily playing a typical melodic lead part over top of the rest of the band. Bad History visibly had a great time performing – their high energy on stage and fun banter in between songs made the set entertaining. More time together will only make this band better; songs sounded a little too similar at times, but I’d give them a couple extra months of writing and I think they’re bound for some killer tunes.
The Fur Coats followed with an incredibly enjoyable and solid set. Their complex and funky songs had everyone swaying, bobbing and jiving through their whole set. I absolutely loved their use of synth – it added a very modern sound to a old classic funky and psychedelic feel. Along with synth, their harmonized group vocals and saxophone beautifully filled the basement.
A big shout out to Miguel Ortiz of Crooked Neighbors for helping bring the band back to Bellingham. Speaking of Crooked Neighbors…
Crooked Neighbors ended the evening with their quirky acoustic alternative tunes. Think of your favorite angsty mid 2000s bands, add a warm feel good acoustic sound and you have Crooked Neighbors. Rachel McDonough’s soulful voice accompanied by a robust cello sounds lovely and the highly energetic acoustic guitar, drums and bass juxtapose this in a great way.
The music sounds fun and is incredibly palatable. Sound can deceiving, however. Their emotionally fueled and serious lyrics balance each other out in the same way that their instrumental makeup works. They’ve nailed a very unique sound that works in just about any sort of venue but also could work at a barbecue or wedding.
Motus, Bob Fossil, High Turnover
Jan. 19 • The Shakedown
The Shakedown felt very intimate and electric—the growing crowd made everyone have to get a little cozy and the dim, orange tinted lighting imitated candlelight. The lineup contained some seriously extraordinary local talent that drew in friends, longtime fans, and fresh faces. I witnessed that artist and audience energy push back and forth that I love seeing—the amount of fun being produced on stage flowed into the crowd and was returned back to the performers. Seeing the bands have a great time on stage with each other and with the crowd is always a treat.
Unfortunately, I missed opener High Turnover…
Bob Fossil came on second. The crowd got warmed up as they started with an all-instrumental jam for the first song. As more heads started bobbing in approval, they very smoothly started transitioning into one of their classics “Vacation Minus One.”
The song changed from mellow, slower tempoed, and psychedelic riffs to speeding up into a sound that personally reminds me of an old Disney cartoon (it’s the keys that do it) that made the crowd bounce around.
Then they pulled out a new trick from their sleeves (at least, I haven’t seen this happen yet) that blew my effing mind. They started jamming in the middle of “Vacation Minus One” into what I thought would just be the last little instrumental sliver that would lead into the final chorus but nope. The band transitioned that part of the song into a cover of “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads that made the audience (and myself) literally jump for joy and sing along. After playing the cover for a little bit, Bob Fossil swiftly switched back into “Vacation Minus One”
It was a move that the Dead or Cheese usually pulls and it was so refreshing to see a well-loved local band mix it up a little. It was hands-down the highlight of the performance. Bob Fossil finished off the show with a lot of classics from their older albums that are always fun live such as “Silhouette” and “Breathe.”
The headliner, Motus, took and filled the entire stage. You had your horns to your left (Rebekah and Daniel), there were drums (Joji), keys (Monica), and vocals (Monica and Jeanie) in the center, and strings (Troy and Sam) to the right.
I really dig their new sound—it’s BIG. Motus is loud, soulful, jazzy, somewhat theatrical, and lighthearted. The whole sound went as perfectly together as chocolate, wine, and cheese. Smooth, rich, and indulgent. I could really see how they play off of each other and have fun together.
The drums and bass melded together that synched up with vocals. Monica’s voice was a powerhouse and acted like an additional percussion with intentional timing with each beat. Jeanie’s voice was a pleasant contrast to Monica’s—hitting higher notes. The guitar and horns excellently matched their pitch to the vocals. For how well the sounds blended together, every sound shined in its own light.
My personal favorite song of the night was “ Gold River”—it was the song that I could see the band really feeling satisfied with their set. The happiness was especially contagious in this song—Monica and Jeanie danced and had huge smiles, closing their eyes. I even caught Daniel singing along to the lyrics when not crushing it on the trumpet. Joji bobbed his head along to his drumming. Rebekah, Troy, Sam closed their eyes, losing themselves into the sound.
That 1 Guy
Jan. 23 • Wild Buffalo
For a Tuesday night, a fairly large and eager crowd gathered around the stage. The wait was finally over; Michael Silverman aka That 1 Guy entered the stage. He sported an all black outfit with the exception of point greyish blue shoes, a bushy salt and pepper beard, long, dark hair, and not one but two hats.
That 1 Guy was warmly welcomed with applause. He immediately starting jamming on his magic pipe or “The Broken Bowflex” which was made up of a 7-foot compilation of electronically rigged aluminum pipes with an orchestral bass string attached. He demonstrated all the different sounds this unique contraption could make through hitting different activator pedals with his hands (and sometimes tapping them with his feet). Silverman then transitioned his jam into his song “The Moon is Disgusting.” The sounds that were coming off of this thing were something else…jazzy, funky, wavy, wonky, and straight up trippy.
Behind him were three large screens that projected several psychedelic patterns that synchronized to the sounds activated by the trigger points or the plucks of the bass string. The lights also moved along to the beat and rhythm.
After the song ends, he howled his signature “awooo!” (Which would he would do after he finished every song). The crowd howled back without hesitation and thanked him. That’s when they started playing this game he called “no no no, thank YOU.” After a few rounds, he started showing off the other tricks he had up his sleeve.
Silverman started using his magic saw, which basically acted as a Theremin. He had this “look what I can do” kind of grin on his face. His facial expressions and hands gestures went along with the music, making his stage presence very animated. Silverman was very receptive to the audience feedback. He would play with more gusto, smile, and sometimes respond whenever he heard positive feedback.
Before playing “Packs a Wallop” he introduced the song by pulling out a duck puppet to sing the “duck, duck, goose” intro, which sparked a lot of laughter from the crowd. The screens were hooked up to cameras that were synchronized to his pipe. The camera would move around his face and feet along to the song. The pipe made noises that sounded like coins clinking down a drain. This one got everyone really moving around, dancing lines started forming and people started bringing dance props out (i.e. fans).
I really loved his performance of “Dig” because he introduced two different surprises that were really fun to see in the flesh. He used his looper to loop his vocal vibrations and variations of the word “dig.” This is also the song that he first pulled out his magic boot—an instrument literally made from an old cowboy boot that is wired through the pipe. It’s not everyday that someone can watch someone play a song from a boot.
The images of the background typically matched the overarching theme of the song. He had a digital whale on screen during his song about the ocean, the sounds in this song even sounded very similar to whales. And of course, his song “Buttmachine” had clips from the music video (butts) that shook along to the music.
By this point, the crowd had been consistent at dancing and giving That 1 Guy a lot of vocal love. Everytime I looked into the crowd, I just saw smiles and laughter. What I really enjoyed was seeing that Silverman was having an equally great time and bonding with the crowd—loving what he does and enjoying the people who were experiencing it with him.
Silverman’s giddy energy, charisma, and weirdness is what made it a extraordinary experience. This performance was fun, purely entertaining, hilarious, ridiculous just plain out-there, and unforgettable. I felt like I walked into the Wild Buff and entered a brief music festival. It’s not too many times that I feel that way on a Tuesday night.