Hopefully this isn’t my last concert of the year, but if it is, what a solid end to a great year in live music.
All Them Witches is yet another recent discovery for me, thanks to a couple of my buddies telling me about them in advance of this show. Good thing I heeded their advice, because this was a great night of psychedelic blues rawk. My friend and I rushed to the show after a Friendsgiving potluck at Lost Grove Brewing (a stellar place to drink beers, by the way), and I got to the Neurolux a little later than I had hoped. When I walked into the venue as opener Handsome Jack was playing their last song, I was immediately bummed that I hadn’t gotten there sooner – they sounded pretty damn good.
While waiting for my friend to show up, I ran into talented local musician and all around good dude John Kunk, aka Johnny Boy, and it didn’t surprise me at all that this music was up his alley. After quite a long time in between bands, and some eerie house music, the boys hit the stage in very low light. This is an interesting band composition, with the electric guitar playing from Ben McLeod stealing the show (at least for me), but vocals coming from bass and rhythm guitar player Charles Parks. Their keyboard player left the band a few months ago, and even though that element was missing they still sounded like a band on top of their game.
We were treated to the fantastic six-minute onslaught that is “Fishbelly 86 Onions”, the lead track from the excellent new LP ATW. That song features the lyric “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, go find you a girl to steal all your money; go find you a boy to rob your health”, which I can assure you sounds much better in the song. All told, we heard quite a few songs from the new record, which works because they are well written and leave plenty of room to rock and jam out live, and selfishly I was happy because those are the songs I am most familiar with. After seeing this show, I definitely plan to check out all of their previous work as well.
Up next was the epic jam called “Harvest Feast”. This thing is the closest to your granddad’s blues as these guys go, and it works oh so well. The notes slowly dripped from Ben’s guitar and rang out as we heard Charles tell the lament of a man who has been gone too long and is not welcomed back upon his return. “Ain’t that a shame, ain’t that a cryin’ shame”, indeed. This is a truly great song, and it was played beautifully for over ten minutes – my highlight of the evening.
Not everything on this night went exactly according to plan, however. A few songs in, just as they were hitting their stride, something went awry with Ben’s amp. He and a crew member attended to the problem, but it was taking a while, so Charles decided to chat with the crowd. After the initial pleasantries and appreciation for our patronage, he realized that he still needed to kill time. Homeboy dove face first into stand-up comedian mode and told us a pretty solid joke about a Catholic priest who has his bicycle stolen (or does he?). Well done, sir.
After the brief diversion, it was back to music, starting with “Workhorse” which features their trademark funky take on blues guitar with some non-stop rat-tat-tat drumming and Charles in baritone vocal mode. The refrain “Lord I’m a workhorse, when I am able; more like a warhorse caught in the stable” is downright perfect for this music. “1st vs. 2nd” is one of the most accessible songs from the new record, and it was given the royal treatment live. It seemed to plod along for a few minutes before the boys finished it by tearing into a long instrumental jam that was so badass that it didn’t matter that it was repetitive.
My attention was on Ben and his six-string work throughout, and for most of the night he was shredding with his long hair completely covering his face, looking like a guitar-fiend version of Thing 1. Usually I am annoyed when bands cover up the Neurolux’s signature crown behind the stage, but on this night their psychedelic and colorful tapestry mixed with the low purple lights worked for them, so all is forgiven. Good show, fellas.
What a year it has been, folks: this was show #55 for yours truly in 2018. After a slow January, it looks like next spring is going to have quite a bit more worthy live music coming my way – here’s to many more fun evenings enjoying the gift of music with friends in 2019!
Link to All Them Witches excellent album ATW: