ASG‘s Win Us Over (reviewed here) was my favorite record last year. This was not due to its style, as stoner rock/metal is usually not my bag. Rather, it was because it had songs — strong, soulful, memorable ones. It was one of those records where the start of each song perks up one’s ears with the promise of good times ahead.
I was excited to see if ASG could recreate such magic live. They played last week at The Charleston in Brooklyn. The Charleston has a nondescript bar upstairs and a tiny performance space downstairs. Why was a band that combined the best parts of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age, with a record on Volcom (ostensibly a moneybags label), playing to 30 people? Talk about a market failure!
If the band found this frustrating, it didn’t show it. It set up quietly and confidently. One can learn a lot about a band before it plays a note. The hardest-hitting bands often speak the most softly. ASG eased into their set with a delay pedal workout by singer/guitarist Jason Shi. Sporting scruffy hair, a Kylesa shirt, and a baseball cap, he hardly seemed like a rock god. Yet after the soundman cut the lights, Shi became the Rat Dog Mage of Darkness.
Oddly, the band didn’t play faster than on record, which is common live. If anything, songs dug in more deliberately. Scott Key regulated tempos with snares that opened and closed like valves. Shi’s vocals were rawer than on record, which wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was the songs’ transformation from colorful anthems into electric storms. I am not a Les Paul man; I find the guitars bulky and muddy-sounding. But the chunk and sizzle in Shi’s white axe evoked Appetite for Destruction. When he took off on leads, Andy Ellis’ low end thundered unflaggingly. High voltage ensued. Solos spiraled skyward and riffs swarmed in unison. All this on what was probably an off night! ASG are touring the American South, East Coast, and Midwest. (See dates here.) Miss them at your peril.