On the night before the show I witnessed the Metal Alliance, a concert featuring a bunch of bands I listen to regularly. Had they been a more militant alliance, there's no telling how far down Burnside (the street where the show was) they could have gotten, shredding and burning and pillaging and partying and the like.
Alas, they haven't been militarized yet. Burnside survived. A thoroughly good thing in the long term, if you ask me, because it was just a few blocks down the same street that Clutch played the night following. And Clutch is a rock and roll force of nature. Plain and simple. Every time I've seen them, they put on one of the best shows I've seen. It was the case in '07 when I caught them on their Beale Street tour at the rowdy, now disappeared Outlaw's bar and grill, then again when I caught them on their Heard It Before thing, then it happened more or less again, as I'd hoped, with this most recent show of theirs. They age like wine, these guys.
On top of that, the bands they came with are expert showmen as well. There wasn't one weak set. Hell, there wasn't even a mediocre one.
Scorpion Child's a hard rock/trad. metal group out of Austin Texas that, despite being signed to a big label, I'd never even heard of. And I really wish I had going in. I only caught their last two songs, but those two songs were heavy hitters, seemingly built to sing along with, which I couldn't do. Well, at least not well. I hummed along to the best of my ability.
They sounded like a more southern-styled Gypsyhawk (vocalist was rocking a Thin Lizzy Shirt, Gypsyhawk's big influence), a good thing if you ask me. For the 10ish minutes I saw them, they sold me in two key ways: 1) their stage presence was memorable, lots of fun and kinetic rocking out, and 2) they made me want to check out their studio stuff. The latter is something you all should go ahead and do now too.
Lionize went up next. They play some kind of reggae-infused rock, the type of rhythm-driven jams that go well in most situations, whether you're high or drunk, buzzed or sober, drive a truck or a prius, are childless or have a kid on your shoulders—no exaggeration, there were at least four kids in attendance, a record for shows I've attended since I turned 16, and the two who were by me in the crowd seemed to really dig these guys. Lionize's tunes are of the groove-laden variety that both older people and kids can appreciate, nothing too hard hitting and nothing too dissonant. Both their music and their show were family friendly, and in a not-so off putting sort of way.
Seeing as I'm finishing writing this up nearly a full fucking month after the show, I've had a lot of time to get to know more of these guys' recorded work. Here's a particularly good sampler:
Their show was made even more awesome when, about halfway in, Tim Sult, Clutch's guitarist, joined them on stage, adding even more chunk to the already chunky set. Tim isn't the most commanding stage performer, he doesn't move around much and stares humbly downward most of the time, but the dude's riff-style makes its presence known. The set was a melodious sonic jamgasm, part of it with a Clutch-y edge. Only a douche wouldn't want to hear that.
Orange Goblin play the best kind of stoner metal—the kind to drink beer to. When it comes to groovy rock and roll, their stuff is on the opposite side (the metal side) of the sub-spectrum as Lionize; they make it a point to, on top of jamming out, have the crowd work their neck muscles as well. They play heavy stuff, and heavy stuff is good. Their stuff is good. That's just logic. X = Y, therefore Orange Goblin kicks ass. It's written into the universe.
I'm a bad OG fan, so I can't say I know exactly what songs they played, but I did recognize a couple off their newest album, so I'm going to go ahead and link to a track I love off that below:
They took the time to, a bit redundantly if you ask me, remind us all that we had no excuse not to be drinking—it was a Saturday night and, yes, we were at a Clutch gig, two things that go hand-in-hand with drinking. But I think everyone looked at it as another reminder that, on that night, everyone in the building was celebrating something bigger. Not just Clutch, not just weekends and Orange Goblin riffs (though they are all worthy of celebration on their own), but a real, no-frills, big hard rock tour. You know they still exist, right? I wasn't sure.
So, even though it had all been good building up till Clutch, once they opened up with Big News, the awesome factors of the preceding bands seemed to completely vanish from memory--Clutch is in the night/show-stealing business. They've been around doing their thing live for so long now that it's all chemistry and science when they're on the stage. And that's not to say anything they did seemed formulaic; they know their shit and they know how to get a crowd going.
Their set basically went through the history of Clutch—they started off with three tracks off their self-titled (from '95), shot into a pair of songs off of this year's Earth Rocker, played their bigger songs "The Mob Goes Wild," and "Electric Worry," and played the less-than-big but no less great "The House That Peterbilt," winding through each of their studio albums (besides Jam Room) and ending with one of their more powerful songs off their new album "The Face."
There's not much that can be said about a Clutch set that hasn't already been said about Penelope Cruz's figure—it's a thing to behold that, whether you're a man, woman, child, transgender, ape, reptile, bird, bat, dinosaur, plant, fish, working class person, rich person, conservative, leftist, moderate, alpha, beta, player, virgin, redditor, /b/ro, black, brown, pasty, a mac user, a PC user, Linuxite, a fish, Luxemburgist, Leninist, Thatcherite, Reaganite, introvert, extrovert, fan of American sports, fan of inconsequential non-American sports, a secularist or a fish, a chair or a couch, everyone should see once.
Yeah, that's coming from a confirmed, card-carrying Clutch fanboy, but it's just an objective fact. Once scientists inevitably respond to one of my many letters imploring that this needs to be empirically proved for the sake of humanity and our planet, I have little doubt that experiments would duly prove this. I mean, I've already volunteered myself to test this first hand, following Clutch on the road, then to their respective homes to meet their respective families and crash on their respective couches and serve respectively and with respect as their butlers, so I can't imagine why the data to back this up are lacking.
Clutch, to wrap this up, is a band that's not only excellent in studios, but excellent on stage. Their 2009 DVD Full Fathom Five can kinda prove this and is definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of theirs and can't make it to their shows, but the sound quality is mixed too cleanly, calling attention to the inevitable wobbliness of live musicianship. That, and there's so much more to bite into when seeing them in person: the friendly, spiritual-leader dynamic between Neil and the crowd, the crushing, wall of loudness from Sult and Maines' amps, the unpredictable (in a cool jazzy way) flourishes from Gaster (who played a drum solo that didn't feel too long, a commendable achievement), and, most of all, the odd and surreal, deeply cut grooves of Clutch playing together at their best.
i've not seen them since the first time, back in support of Transnational Speedway League when they were the opener for Bad Religion, January 1994.
I'd probably sacrifice a limb or two to have seen that. Would have been 3 years old, but regardless.
Same applies for when they played with Slayer and again when they came to Portland with Motorhead. Stood in line for the latter only to learn that they had sold out the day before or something. Still hate myself for not planning in advance for that.