Is there really anything better in life than loud rock 'n' roll? If you're asking us, definitely not. And, based on what we witnessed at Friday night's Clutch gig with the Sword, we've got plenty of South Floridians to keep us company in the antiquated world of fuzz addled guitars and hollerin' vocals we've chosen to occupy. The show was indeed the glorious celebration of volume that we expected from Maryland's hard-rock heroes that left fans with smiles drawn and ears ringing.
The show was kicked off by Lionize, a band that reaffirmed the undying truth that unless you're Bad Brains, heavy rock music of any sort infused with reggae is a recipe for disaster. It's like mixing your liquor with an energy drink, or putting ketchup on ox tails, not particularly tasteful, and an uncomfortable ride to boot.
However, life is about contrast, something that rings true for music louder than really anything else, and the Sword was soon prepared to absolve the show of Lionize's sins against good taste. A mystical didgeridoo from the depths of hell called out from Revolution's sound system to signal the start of the Sword's set, and the crowd immediately roared to life with an unquenchable fervor for the band's jams.
The Sword proceeded to take the audience on a lazy ride through the astral mist upon the mount of its Sabbath-informed riffs. Opening track "The Sundering" put the crowd in a frenzied state and audience members picked up one of their own and held him overhead in a Christ-like pose -- a sacrifice to the altar of the Sword -- during "How Heavy This Axe." Guitarist Kyle Shutt's long blonde hair blew in the air displaced by a fan during the ripping solo he took in "Tres Brujas," and the band's set was a triumphant return to all that is missing from popular rock music these days: mysticism, rad riffs, solos, and really big drums. The unfortunately short set ended with the title track from the band's most recent LP, Apocryphon , and the saddening realization that the ride was already over.
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Clutch took the stage to quickly soothed our jilted souls. The troupe of blues-riffin' cult-heroes sunk into the greasy groove of "Gravel Road" and frontman Neil Fallon played some deft bottleneck on a yellow Gibson Les Paul. Clutch followed up the track with a new number, "Crucial Velocity," that affirmed if things aren't broke, don't fix 'em. Fallon put down the guitar and took on the role of a manic rock preacher. He spent much of the night wandering about the stage while speaking with his hands, as he soulfully gutted lyrics at the crowd.
The set was a marathon run through the stacks of material Clutch has put out over its long career. The rowdy crowd left one fan with profusely bleeding nose, however, the man was smiling just the same, and as a harmonica solo overtook the grinding guitars and pummeling drums, we realized (once again) just how important Clutch's music is to their fans. While it is no-doubt something accessible enough to be enjoyed on a casual basis, the majority of people testifying with Fallon and his mates were dedicated Clutch fanatics, easily counted by the number of old and tattered Clutch shirts spotted in the crowd, and the palpable excitement that coursed through Revolution during the band's set.
While our bias might not fall into the fanatic category, there is always something special about seeing a band with as rabid a fan base as Clutch has, and the night was yet another reminder that guitar-based rock music will always be the best shit ever.
Personal Bias: Massive fan of the Sword, (formerly) casual Clutch fan.
Random Detail: Sword bassist Bryan Richie's doodoo brown Fender was the perfect color because the sound it created was deep enough to move bowels.
Random Observation: Clutch is the only band that can get away with wearing cargo pants on stage in 2013.
"The Veil of Isis"
"Cloak of Feathers"
"How Heavy This Axe"
"Cheap Sunglasses" (ZZ Top Cover)
"Book, Saddle, and Go"
"50,000 Unstoppable Watts"
"DC Sound Attack"
"Unto the Breach"
"The Wolf Man Kindly Requests"
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