It’s the first half-rain, half-snow storm of the winter, and small pairs of dedicated concert attendees hide inside the shelter of the Kilby Court playing space where their breath can’t be seen. Outside, the drips of sleet have a tendency to put out cigarettes and I do my best to achieve lung cancer while watching members of Max Pain and The Groovies huddle over the amplifiers that they’re carrying in from the van. The elements are going to have to try harder to shut these guys down.
By now, the show has already been pushed back an hour to allow everyone enough time to make their way to the venue, so The Groovies’ sound check is met with excitement. I saw these guys not even a week ago here for their album release (which was great), and noticed that they’re scheduled to play at several venues around the city this month. The Groovies are hardworking dudes, and when they jumped into their set, there was no denying their dedication.
Max Pain and The Groovies are a local five-piece psych-rock group who combine elements of surf, blues and garage styles into a nostalgically rambling structure. Underneath the wash of the two guitarists, Shane Preece and Dallin Smith, drummer Tcoy Coughlin gets the crowd dancing with his authoritative drumming patterns. Frontman David Johnson takes a loose hold over his stand and stresses his words into the microphone like Miles Michaud while Kallan Campbell speedily walks the bass with all of his fingers. The audience is finally feeling warm.
The Groovies experiment with rhythm speeds and bridge breaks in a way that nicely relieves their jam sessions, and I dig their desert twang. They play songs I recognize such as “Waves” and “Swirvin,” and are mostly bringing out new material from their recent release. If this is their new direction, I’m into it. As a relatively young band, The Groovies seem to already have a coherent idea of how to implement their style. If they keep this up, there’s no doubt that these guys are going to be doing some great things soon. Though, shit, great things are happening right now.
After Max Pain and The Groovies finish their last song, the group packs up quickly to make room for UK band The Wytches. I’ve been listening to their album Annabel Dream Reader for the last week in preparation for this show, and my hopes are high. Once they’re finished setting up, the trio take a reverse triangle position onstage in front of a black stage curtain with their name splayed across it.
Earlier in the night, I heard a guy explain to his friend that they sounded like a psyched out Nirvana. Having only listened to their studio release, I didn’t understand this description. However, as soon as they start playing, I have to admit, I agree. Lead singer Kristian Bell, in an oversized army jacket, screams into the microphone with hair over his eyes while bassist Dan Rumsey plays a high-trebled bass in a black, acid-washed T-shirt. Without the usual element of fuzz that I’ve grown accustomed to in the modern era of Sabbath-heads, The Wytches still manage to maintain a feeling of drudge without it. Songs like “Wire Frame Mattress” and “Gravedweller” stagger through heavy riffs that forces purposeful nodding from the audience. However, these both pick up suddenly with Gianni Honey’s percussion intensity brings everyone out of the sonic swamp.
During the song “Weights and Ties,” The Wytches play with a bravado of a ’50s slow dance band. The sways it conjures are sincere despite the feeling of dirt and corruption to the wholesome style. Moving back into their usual style with “Fragile Male for Sale,” I notice The Groovies dancing together at the front of the stage with some friends. Their enthusiasm sparks everyone else’s, and by the time The Wytches finish their set, my ears have turned to grit, but not enough to miss the cheers. Bell thanks the crowd in a voice that, based on his singing style, I could not have traced, and says he feels grateful for their first show in Salt Lake City.
The snow has finally stopped assaulting our town and I head back to my car, resisting the urge to air guitar to my mental replays. These bands killed it. It’s good to know that a little bit of shitty weather isn’t stopping people from getting out to experience live music. God knows, we’re going to get more snow, but I doubt we’ll get to see more bands like these two.