Clutch, with Murder By Death and Maylene and the Sons of Disaster
Thursday, February 28
The Beaumont Club, Kansas City, MO
By JASON HARPER
First of all, Cancun Fiesta Fresh is fucking good. Being wary of its placement in a doomed location -- across from the Westport Coffee House, set back from the street by a half-acre of concrete in a white storefront that has housed several failed restaurants over the years -- I would never have eaten there if a friend hadn't suggested it last night for the preshow vittles. My fish tacos were loaded with fresh cabbage and sweet, crispy peppers, and las quesadillas de mi concert amigo, Lethal D. of Bacon Shoe, were like big-fat packets of the chicken flavoring you put in Ramen noodle soup only with real stuff in them, and, uh, not in foil. They were good, I'm saying. The salsa was fresh and had raw onions and cilantro in it. Even at 7:30, the place was busy, with townies coming in to get takeout, including one Mitch Rich of the Rich Boys. When he was introduced to Lethal D., he confessed that he'd never seen Bacon Shoe, and D. confessed right back that he'd never seen the Rich Boys. I give them both a demerit -- I mean, WTF? Local musicians gotta support each other.
Meanwhile, across the street, a very non-local show with VERY local people attending it was underway. Parked outside was this monster, whose rider is so hardcore he (or she) prefers to sit on hard metal rather than on anything sissy, like a cushion.
Then again, it's likely that whoever rides this bike snatches up babies from along the roadside and uses them for cushions.
Inside the packed, smoky Beaumont, all kinds of white folk abounded. There were jocks, stoners, metalheads, Lone Bikers of the Apocalypse and regular joes and lots of cute girlfriends. There was one scary group of shirtless guys showing off what appeared to be prison tattoos. I swear I saw a swastika. Fortunately, this group hung out at the back by the tables and didn't shiv anyone, to my knowledge at least.
Maylene and the Sons of Disaster was on stage when we arrived. This Birmingham, Alabama, band is a concept band based on the Missouri crime family headed by Ma Barker. (I don't know -- read about it on the band's MySpace if you care.) The sons brought some of the fastest and heaviest sounds of the night, and many sweaty dudes emerged from the mosh pit when their set was over. But I have one complaint about Maylene & co: the choruses! The band plays badass, southern-fried metal 75% of the time and wussy metalcore-emo-pop 25%. Again, go to the MySpace and listen to that first song, "Dry the River." At around the one-minute mark -- and each chorus thereafter -- Dallas Taylor (former vocalist for Underoath, which explains a lot) and his pals team up on these weak-ass, croony pop choruses. They're like bears in tutus, alas.
The next band, Bloomington, Indiana, quartet Murder By Death was far less heavy but definitely more cohesive -- to a fault. The band boasts a sexy, blond electric cello player, and the visual appeal ends there. Sole singer and guitarist Adam Turla looks like a runty version of Hugh Jackman. Clad in a short-sleeve plaid button-up shirt, Turla looked odd standing there and playing a horned, metal-shredder's electric guitar with a capo halfway up the neck. The sound from his throat, however, belied his 5-foot-nothing-inch frame. His over-the-top baritone references all the great hams of low-throated bellowing -- Johnny Cash, Glen Danzig, Eddie Vedder, Nick Cave, Elvis -- and made the rest of the group's instrumental delivery seem weak by comparison.
Music-wise, the band's grunge-cabaret sound chugged along either to a gothic, country backbeat or in waltz time. Yes, waltz. Before one song, Turla drawled, "Thish is a shong about pirates." And the band broke into a 3/4 stomp. Other subjects: whiskey, deserts, ex-cons, revenge.
Wait -- I get it now: Murder By Death is folk-metal for theater nerds.
I wish they would lay back a little and write songs about real stuff. Instead, I get the impression that if these guys didn't initialy meet on the set of a gothic musical, then out at some Midwestern college's production of Jekyll & Hyde: the Musical, the next Murder By Death is forming in the wings this very day.
A sea change came over the crowd after MBD left the stage. Standing not 8 feet from the stage, Lethal D and I found ourselves packt like sardines in a crushed tin box of serious, hardcore, insatiable stoners. Between launching into premature chants of Clutch! Clutch! Clutch!, the dudes around us sucked down joints like candy. Before long, folks began swaying and shoving, and the crowd heaved back and forth like the wave pool at Oceans of Fun. The big green question mark over our heads: What's gonna happen when Clutch finally comes out and plays?
Singer and sometime-second-guitarist Neil Fallon came out looking fierce as always in his grizzly beard, forming a kind of finale to the night's Southern-flavored lineup with his bluesy growl. The crowd surged, and a circle pit started up a few rows from the stage.
Unfortunately, Clutch didn't seem interested in roiling up the crowd. By about the fourth song, Fallon had strapped on a guitar and was jamming away with the band in some kind of trudging, basic-riff odyssey. We retreated to the back, where we ran into a Clutch fan and friend of ours who was answering someone's question of "How are you?" with "I'm fine, except for the jam band on stage." Cue: five-minute drum solo.
Clutch did compel with some of its meatier, no-nonsense tunes like "Elephant Riders," "Burning Beard," "The Mob Goes Wild," and other Clutch classics, but for a band whose Web site address is Pro-Rock.com, they could have done a lot more rock. They just seemed so mellow. And then there was the jamming. As Lethal D. pointed out later over pints at McCoy's, "Clutch has so many good songs. They should just play their songs. They don't need to solo all over the place." He then saw that I was writing down his words and insisted I write the phrase "six-inch nipple." That's Lethal D. for you.
I didn't stick around for the encore, but apparently, Clutch covered this Chipmunks classic.
There's only one solution for Clutch, and it's a trip straight back to rock school: