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Fletcher's; Baltimore, MD - 04/06/1999

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Don't you just love it when your favorite local band plays a concert in a small and intimate setting? I certainly do. I jumped at the chance to see Clutch perform in the comfortable confines of Fletcher's. Despite the fact that I was screwed at the door by a dazed and confused employee of the joint, I still found it worthwhile to pay my own hard earned cash to what I had expected to be a great show.

The show reaffirmed my faith in the genuine power of music. The atmosphere was cathartic and teeming with excitement. This was the final show of nearly two months on the road for both Clutch and Drown and the bands were tight and confident. One could easily see the camaraderie and friendship that has developed between these two bands.

Drown, from Los Angeles, played a tight set that featured a definite West Coast sound, but mercifully unique (read: they didn't sound like Korn). Vocalist Lauren, guitarist Patrick Sprawl, bassist Sean E. Dermott, and drummer Marco Forcone played songs from their new album "Product Of A Two Faced World" with energy and determination. Vocalist Lauren was hardly heard over the PA system; he frequently chucked his microphone back to the sound board and borrowed Patrick's microphone which yielded better if not spectacular results. I'm starting to believe the poor vocal acoustics I've been hearing at Fletcher's has something to do with the room as I've had a hard time hearing vocalists
in the various concerts I've attended there. To Lauren's credit, he never let the sound problems lessen the intensity and integrity of his delivery. Lauren was very engaging with the devoted fans at the front of the stage and he often allowed the fans to sing the choruses into the microphone. Drown also took the time to play a couple of songs from their debut effort "Hold On To The Hollow."

The coolest part of Drown's set was when Clutch joined the band for a rousing rendition of a Big Black cover tune called "Kerosene". I was expecting cacophony, but everyone played as tight as I've ever seen eight people on stage play. The entire song was a study in opposites. The stoic expression of Tim Sult whose solid riffs were balanced by the visibly happy Patrick's freakish guitar noises. The study bass of Dan Maines was complemented by the swaying, funky bass slaps of Sean. The jazzy inflections of Jean-Paul Gaster meshed well with the aggressive drum pounding of Marco. The nearly humorously psychotic background vocals of Neil Fallon provided an essential counterpoint to Lauren's seriousness. Clearly, this was one of the highlights of any concert experience I've had the fortune of witnessing.

Clutch was welcomed with approving and loving arms from the "hometown" crowd. Clutch delivered what I believe are the critical components of a live show - high energy, new renditions of old songs, and new material. "A Shogun Named Marcus," a fan favorite, was sung with a near-sinister delivery by Neil Fallon. "The House That Peter Bilt" and "Spacegrass" from the band's self-titled album were eagerly anticipated by the fans and each song produced an intense sing-along reaction from the audience. Clutch are also "tweakers" - they are always fine-tuning and changing their songs. These little changes make the live
performances all the more worthwhile because you're pretty much guaranteed to hear something different at each show. Clutch also took time to play a bunch of new material. The new material was initially met with a subdued reaction, but each new song (some with lyrics, some without) seemed to capture the hearts of the fans with ease. The concert ended with a superb rendition of "The Soapmakers" from the band's latest release "The Elephant Riders."

From beginning to end I thoroughly enjoyed the juxtaposition of the West Coast metal of Drown with the East Coast sound of Clutch. It is rare to hear two different bands in one night without seeming at odds with each other.

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Copyright 1999 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:16 -0400.