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Uncle Acid live at Cambridge, MA’s The Middle East

Remember when Black Sabbath announced the details of their 2013 reunion tour, wherein Europe got Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats as an opener and North America got an Andrew W.K. DJ set? Amusing as it was to watch W.K. spin Judas Priest and shoot t-shirts at people, we got the raw end of that deal. A year later, Uncle Acid and his Deadbeats are remedying this injustice with their first proper North American tour, and it doesn’t disappoint.

The Cambridge, England-based quartet made their way to Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Middle East Downstairs for a sold-out and thoroughly packed show that managed to be sweatier than the autumnal temperatures outside would’ve suggested possible. The Middle East remains the greater Boston’s area’s finest dingy basement venue, and thus the ideal place to catch Uncle Acid’s scuzzy retro psych-doom in person for the first time.

They took the stage to an ominous soundtrack, flanked by outdated tube TVs flickering static and a pair of giant glowing eyes affixed to drummer Itamar Rubinger’s kit. The house lights were down the barest minimum. They said nothing. Uncle Acid’s once consciously constructed aura of mystery may have mostly faded away in the wake of the band’s growing international appeal, but it’s fittingly still the vibe they go for on stage.

Lead guitarist/vocalist Kevin Starrs came across as something of a reluctant frontman, dressed as unassumingly as possible and perpetually hidden behind a veil of hair. It was only when he retreated from the mic to duel with guitarist Yotam Rubinger at center stage that he let loose, stomping his feet and thrashing his instrument in his best impression of the unhinged maniac whose perspective he sings from.

The band as a whole is seemingly at odds with its own presence on stage—the darkness in the room, from a photographer’s perspective, cannot be overstated—but they have the chops to justify it. Each slice of sinister, fuzz-soaked grooviness sounded appropriately huge, from the unhurried sprawl of a set opener “Mt. Abraxas” to Blood Lust rippers like “13 Candles.” The crowd stayed mellow for a few songs, but there was a crush of bodies against the stage once “I’ll Cut You Down” kicked in, and the floor became one sweaty mass thenceforth.

Uncle Acid’s mystique may have dissipated now that we’ve seen the faces behind the music, but what we’re left with is a band that’s particularly adept at crafting songs that balance evil atmosphere, slasher movie camp, massive riffs and surprisingly earworm-y hooks. It’s a formula, sure, but one that they’re pretty damn good at. They delivered it in spades at their first-ever Boston show, and it’s doubtful that anyone left disappointed.

Also worthy of note were openers Danava, who brought a curious but ultimately rather satisfying counter-vibe to the stage. The Portland-based four-piece was less gloom and doom stomp, more neon-bright blur of proggy riffing.

Looking like they teleported directly out of the mid-’70s, Danava tore through an impressively technical set at breakneck speed, rarely pausing to let themselves—or the crowd catch—their breath. A slightly odd match for Uncle Acid perhaps, but a killer set regardless.

—Words and Photos by Ben Stas

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats

Danava

Remaining tour dates:

Oct 7 – Rickshaw – Vancouver, BC
Oct 8 – Hawthorne Theatre – Portland, OR
Oct 10 – Slim’s – San Francisco, CA
Oct 11 – The Roxy Theater – Los Angeles, CA

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