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Fletcher's; Baltimore, MD; 04/09/99

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

The happy occasion was the "In The Groove" CD release party for The Music Cartel's new compilation of stoner rock. The compilation CD contains 14 bands with variations on the stoner rock style (for more information on the disc check out my review by clicking here). For variety within a genre this turned out to be one helluva an entertaining evening.

Dripping Goss (New York, NY), Roadsaw (Boston, MA), and Leadfoot (Raleigh, NC) were each given 30 minutes to present their best material. Karma To Burn (Morgantown, WV) and Sixty Watt Shaman (Baltimore, MD) each got 45 minutes to showcase their talents. The change-overs between sets were quick and efficient. The bands did little talking while on stage and left more time for the music (what else could be more important?).

I love Fletcher's, but after having seen five shows there in the last year or so I am convinced the room is not kind to vocalists. Perhaps the room is too small, but there must be something wrong with the way the room is shaped. Much like Drown and Clutch had trouble with the vocal acoustics earlier in the week, each band's vocalist was very difficult to hear throughout the five different sets.

Before a sparse crowd, Dripping Goss bravely took the stage and started the show with an interesting set of stoner rock that had an abundance of influences from '80s indie rock (Volcano Suns and Phantom Tollbooth come to mind). Daniel Souza was of particular notice with a variety of lead styles and breaks that really complemented Brian's (no last name given) steady rhythm guitar hooks. Curt Steyer's rolling bass lines really worked well with the aggressive drumming of Tobias Ralph.

Roadsaw took the stage next and really had their Kyuss act down. The deep guitar and bass tone cut a sonic swath across the room. Overall, Jeff's rhythm playing was probably the night's most solid riffs which weren't unlike Tony Iommi's Black Sabbath riffs. Vocalist Craig was also the most lighthearted person on stage that evening and truly seemed to enjoy his interactions with the audience. Hari and Tim, on drums and bass respectively, were tight in their delivery of the rhythm section's foundations.

Leadfoot, with Karl Argell and Phil Swisher (who played in Corrosion of Conformity years ago) brought solid '70s simplicity to their Southern-tinged stoner rock. Ryan Barringer kept a solid rhythm as Graham Fry kept the audience's rapt attention by showcasing great skill on lead guitar. While Phil Swisher and Tim Haisman kept a solid backbeat, Karl Agell sang with passion and fervor bringing to mind that he was manic Gregg Allman.

It was with great anticipation that I awaited Karma To Burn to grace the stage. I'd heard a lot of good things about Karma To Burn's ability to captivate the audience and I was not disappointed. Karma To Burn played the night's best set with a solid set of groovy, charging instrumental rock 'n' roll. Poised, confident, and tight, Karma To Burn ran through a number of high energy tunes with little fanfare and no bullshit; it was apparent that the largest number of people in the audience were there to see Karma To Burn. The music was center stage (isn't it  always when there aren't any lyrics to get in the way?) and it was a refreshing change. The band employed voluminous strumming, jagged riffs, feedback, and a variety of other techniques to create a satisfying batch of tunes. The music was both engaging and easily had the feet of the audience stomping and the heads of the audience bobbing in mass acceptance. Karma To Burn features Will Mecum on guitar, Rich Mullins on bass, and Rob Oswald on drums; these guys are worth a second look and I'm already looking forward to their next appearance in the Baltimore area.

Sixty Watt Shaman, with the home court advantage, had the night's most devoted fans. Playing songs from their release titled "Ultra Electric," Sixty Watt Shaman provided the night's best Black Sabbath-styled grooves with a decided blues edge. This is not to say that Sixty Watt Shaman are like Black Sabbath or other blues-based heavy rock bands - nothing could be further from the truth. Sixty Watt Shaman combine two common elements (heavy riffs and the blues), throw their own unique brand of heaviness on top (stuttering breaks and doomy sludge), and let it all hang out. While not too experimental or too extreme, the Sixty Watt Shaman experience takes a little getting used to, but the patience and payoff is worth it. Sixty Watt Shaman's lyrics tend to deal with the
hard realities of life and a more political set of topics which is also a very refreshing change on the local scene. The heavy guitars even had a touch of "doom" as the finale had a hypnotic edge not heard at any time during the evening. Sixty Watt Shaman features Dan on lead vocals, Joe Shelby on guitar, Jim (the Reverend) Forrester on bass, and Chuck Dukehart on drums. It was obvious that these four guys have a genuine camaraderie and it leads to the confidence needed to present their unique heavy sound to unsuspecting crowds.

All in all the show was a decent showcase of music that I'd not yet had the pleasure to see or hear. While I can't say any of these bands are going to become instant favorites of mine I can say that the style of music was a refreshing change to anything that's on the radio these days.

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