Going to a show with no real expectations of anything of particular grandeur is interesting, because it can lead to some awesome experiences when you witness something amazing when you weren’t expecting anything at all.
For me, seeing Corrosion of Conformity and Brant Bjork was, in a lot of ways, like returning to my teenage days. Corrosion of Conformity was a band I quickly found out about by word of mouth and mag reading—yeah, I’m old enough to say I found out about shit when the Internet was just barely becoming a “thing.” I bought the band’s album Blind, and quickly snatched up everything they released. Brant Bjork was the guitarist for Kyuss, another band whose discography I quickly consumed. I may listen to a lot of different stuff these days, but feeling age creep up every day, it’s great to feel like you’re 15 again.
I arrived at the venue just as Lord Dying hit the stage. The young Portland band have made some waves since their 2013 debut release Summon the Faithless. They’ve gotten on some higher profile tours, but they still have much to prove. Being the first opener on a four-band bill on a Thursday night is pretty damn tough. The venue’s attendance at the time was sparse. During the song breaks you could almost hear crickets. Not for a lack of trying—the guys dished out their set of riff after riff with a heavy-handed low end. There was a lack of enthusiasm from the band, though. The show was only the second of the tour, and they were playing to nearly 10 people on the main floor. I’m always of the opinion of even if you’re playing to such a small crowd you still put your energy out there. Then again, maybe the Lord Dying guys are just chill dudes and that’s how they roll. The songs have their moments but for me it just feels like a lesser version of High on Fire.
It’s rare for anyone that’s into extreme music to have not heard of Kyuss, especially with bassist Nick Oliveri gaining notoriety with Queens of the Stone Age. Kyuss may not be an active band, but Vista Chino (which features members of Kyuss) does exist and does some live excursions as Kyuss Lives. So that brings us to Brant Bjork & the Low Desert Punk Band. Bjork played guitar in Kyuss, and currently plays in Vista Chino. That said, Bjork and his band are much more jam-oriented, blues integrated and a bit softer at times—not as riff heavy as Kyuss. I was superbly impressed with what Bjork and his band delivered. The bass player is beyond excellent, and a lot of the night Bjork and the bassist played off of each other just—giving out that good time vibe. Bjork is, in his own right, a fantastic vocalist and has a great stage presence, often showing off a great, big toothy smile. The band had a pretty lengthy set, but I could have watched more. The live experience is massively different than the recordings, with higher energy.
Then there’s Bl’ast—shit yes there’s Bl’ast—and blast and destroy they did. I’ve tried to get Bl’ast’s new record The Expression of Power into my listening rotation as much as I can because it’s fucking great. The Santa Cruz, CA band’s discography is something I need to get a lot more familiar with. Technically, the guys started around ‘83 with the release of their first full-length The Power of Expression in ‘85. Bl’ast play a great mix of punk, hardcore, surf/skate and a bit of metal. The guitarist had a poster in memory of Skate icon Jay Adams—who passed on Aug. 14—on his amp. While I’m a pretty lousy skateboarder, there’s always an appreciation for Skateboarding and skate tunes. Bl’ast are a terrific addition to the tour, and a huge standout compared to the other bands in consideration of the energy they put out as well as the speed and intensity of their music. Bl’ast stole the show. I found myself nodding my head, not quite a headbang—more of a pure rock-the-fuck-out state of mind. The crowd wasn’t super into the show, but Bl’ast came out like pros, traversing the stage with intensity and energy. This also began the portion of drum kit destruction for the night where stage techs had to frequently get on stage and make adjustments—mostly tightening up the kits shook lose by ultimate destruction.
The massively cool parts of Bl’ast and their live lineup are the band’s original members. Nick Oliveri, is playing bass for the live shows. The drummer—Joey Castillo of Queens of the Stone Age, Danzig, Eagles of Death Metal and Wasted Youth absolutely fucking destroyed everything. If you consider the lineup of this tour and all the players’ experience combined, that’s a lot of years and a massive dosage of talent. I am truly glad that I got to see Bl’ast with this lineup and caliber of performance. To close up my commentary on Bl’ast, I’ll quote vocalist Clifford Dinsmore: “This tour is going to be fun!”
Last, but surely not least, is Corrosion of Conformity. I got to see the band in 2000, when Pepper Keenan was fronting the band. When Corrosion of Conformity became active again, the lineup was more akin to the older version of the band with Woody Weatherman, Mike Dean and Reed Mullin. I pondered if some of the crowd were expecting anything from the set to include songs after the Blind album. Wouldn’t you know it—they didn’t really play anything from Blind, aside from a short part of “Vote with a Bullet” during a medley. A huge chunk of the set was from the bands’ 2012 self-titled record and the new IX. Then, there were a few cuts from Deliverance, as well as Animosity and the set closer “Technocracy” from, well, Technocracy. The set list summed up where Corrosion of Conformity are right now—focused on the current and their old-school past.
The night’s biggest surprise came in the form of drummer Reed Mullin, whom, according to the news and press releases, was going to have to sit out for a lot of the tour because of a shoulder injury. Much to my surprise, when Corrosion of Conformity hit the stage, Mr. Reed Mullin was behind the kit and ready to kill. He’s an outstanding drummer, and a joy to watch. Corrosion of Conformity rarely let up during their set—speeding from song to song with maybe two or three breaks during the show. Feeling a bit close to 15 again, I picked a spot extremely close to the stage. Good view at hand, it was great to see the longtime friends interact with giant smiles, glaring, pointing and interacting with each other the entire set. There were guitar and bass standoffs between Weatherman and Dean, which added to the fun because they changed up the songs from the studio versions to having longer breakdowns. Weatherman is probably one of the more unique bassists to watch. He has a distinct style—not just how he plucks the strings on his bass, but how he holds it. Adding to the fun, Oliveri came out to watch the show, and I found myself standing next to him and watching him smile and cheer on Corrosion and Conformity and fellow bassist Weatherman.
For the caliber and notoriety of Corrosion of Conformity, one would think that attendance would have been a lot larger. The first half of the band’s set had a small audience of headbangers and dudes yelling “Freebird.” The chaos actually started when the band played the portion of “Vote with a Bullet.” A small pit began, as well as some crowd violence. I’m not quite sure what transpired, but something broke out and a stereotypical metal dude rushed a father and son duo—the dad was in front but the guy rushing them was larger than both pops and kiddo combined. Thankfully, things calmed and no physical blows were exchanged. That outburst seemed to change the happy, good-times vibe of Corrosion of Conformity’s set—even the band seemed more subdued and a bit irritated. Their smiles and onstage exchanges dwindled, and it felt as if the fun-time, energetic set moved into a “let’s get this done” mentality. Luckily, the vibe was short-lived and by the last three songs the happy atmosphere returned.
The great lineup, Bjork and the high pedigree of Bl’ast’s members and the new/old school version of Corrosion of Conformity was a treat that, sadly, a lot of folks in Salt Lake would have liked to have seen. Despite the poor turnout, my memories from being a teen to adult were sparked, and I got to make new ones while seeing a huge amount of talent on stage. All I can say is that if Bl’ast come to town with the same lineup, I’ll be there with a giant grin on my face.