Photos & Review: Bongzilla, Black Cobra, Kings Destroy & Lo-Pan @ Saint Vitus
photos by Mathieu Bredeau
Re-reunited stoner metal greats Bongzilla are on tour now with Black Cobra and Lo-Pan, and they just hit Brooklyn on April 1 at Saint Vitus with additional support from Kings Destroy. Pictures and a review of that show are in this post.
New York City is generally ten to fifteen degrees warmer than the remote Connecticut suburb where I reside. More people and more activity concentrated into a relatively small area will do that. April Fool’s Day was no exception; I watched the digital temperature gauge in my car climb from the low 50s to a manageable 68 as I eased through the L.I.E.’s ungodly Friday traffic into Brooklyn’s quiet Greenpoint neighborhood. There are two things you can find a lot of here: Polish people and metal. The latter is thanks to Saint Vitus, which has become an unofficial home base for all things heavy in New York over the last five years. Poised inconspicuously across the street from God Bless Deli (of course), the bar doesn’t have much room to maneuver around, but it does have Iron Maiden’s Trooper beer by the can and a decent soundboard. That’s all you really need, anyway.
Lo-Pan is not your typical stoner rock band. Instead of plodding jams or psychedelic freakout solos, the growing crowd was witness to thick riffs, tight songs and the melodic croon of singer Jeff Martin. Inhabiting the same space as Walter Schreifels and Jonah Jenkins, Martin’s voice conveys a sense of immediacy and raw emotion. Outside of power metal it’s rare to find a vocalist not only unafraid of the upper vocal register, but owning it. The crowd grew as their set continued, the songs culled mostly from their latest album Colossus. As far as package openers go, Lo-Pan is the band you want to engage the masses.
Greenpoint natives Kings Destroy is another band that defies the norm. Part Sabbath, part NYHC, part Melvins weirdness, every song is punctuated with left hooks from left field. A hardcore slam here, Ozzy vocals there. Did I just hear some thrash? Probably. It doesn’t always work to the band’s advantage – some parts meander to the point where one wonders if they forgot what song they were playing – but the fact that it works at all is a testament to their abilities. The X factor of ‘I’m going to stick around because who knows what they’ll do next’ is a precious commodity, especially in a live setting.
I haven’t seen a show with Black Cobra on the bill in six years, and this time Matt Pike wasn’t around to distract me. It sounds cliché at this point, but this band is the definition of “you gotta see them live!”. They’re the type of band you want to roadie for, because after forty shows in a row you’d still be excited to see them play. The sheer ferocity of their performance is entrancing, with the end of each song jarring you back to reality for a quick reprieve before another one hits. Their latest album Imperium Simulacra dropped in late February, and I’m sure they played some cuts from it, but I really have no idea. I was lost in the best possible way.
I’m pretty sure weed isn’t legal in New York yet, but nobody told the crowd in Saint Vitus as Bongzilla took the stage. The sickly sweet stench filled the room, mingling with the familiar stale beer/body odor scent at once both familiar and gross. They might not get name-dropped like Eyehategod or Electric Wizard, but these guys have been doing fuck-you sludge since well before it was the cool thing to do. (Who else has the splits with Cavity and Meatjack?) The guitar tone is buried under a hundred layers of fuzz but it still cuts through with enough clarity to get heads bobbing and fists – and a pair of crutches! – raised high. The tunes come low and slow, but there is a bluesy bounce to Bongzilla’s sound that keeps one from nodding off. Drummer Magma (aka Michael Henry) swings his sticks like Bonham; you can feel the crowd sway to the beat. The show is sold out at this point and we’re all mashed together, flowing and ebbing like the tide. All I can see are amps stacked high and all I can hear is what’s coming out of them. It’s glorious. Here’s to hoping the next tour stacks up.