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July 28, 2000; JAXX; Springfield, VA

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

It seemed that many unrelated events were conspiring to prevent me from actually seeing King's X this evening. Acts of God (including, but not limited to, torrential downpours, flash flooding, and fog), power outages, and maniac drivers all seemed to have their sights set on me. Thanks to a great co-pilot (Brian, you're the man) and a little luck I managed to make it to the show alive and back home alive.

After having arrived at the venue through miles and miles of out-of-power neighborhoods and commercial centers it was doubtful that there would be any electricity to actually go forth with a concert. But let's give credit where credit is due: JAXX's owner Jay Nedry and his staff, in conjunction with the tour crew and local authorities, managed to get the show off the ground, albeit late, but still in top-notch form.

Local favorites Drivelink opened the show knowing they only had 20 minutes to make an impression due to the power outages and other technical difficulties. Let's face it, having had no sound check during the technical difficulties could have doomed Drivelink to frustration; Drivelink, much to their credit, took the bull by the horns and gave it their best shot with four high energy songs. Drivelink's modern hard rock sound is rap-free yet still aggressive. It wouldn't be foolish for me to suggest that Drivelink would not be out of place on the OzzFest lineup next year as a solid addition to the second stage. 

Next up was a supremely talented Michael Sheppard Group, but readers of Rough Edge would unlikely get much from this outfit. However, the Michael Sheppard Group fit well on this evening's lineup given the inclusion of King's X on the bill. The Michael Sheppard Group covered a broad range of low-key, positive rock that would not seem out of place on the radio along side of the Dave Matthews Band. 

My friends and I were wondering what Podunk could offer particularly since we'd never heard of the band. King's X drummer Jerry Gaskill assured us that Podunk was worthy of our rapt attention. Well, it didn't take long for Podunk to turn heads with a unique blend of Texas-sized songs, great vocals, and a mature sense of rock and melody.  As Austin, TX has a fertile music scene it was not hard to guess these guys had talent, yet Podunk still had to prove it - and prove it they did. Song after song displayed groove, emotion, and bluesy six-string pyrotechnics. One of the key ingredients to Podunk's success is the buoyant voice of lead vocalist/lead guitarist Jason - his voice is one of the more impressive elements of any musical form that I have been fortunate to witness in a long time.

King's X opened with fan favorite "Groove Machine" and the emotional balance of the evening was formed quickly and effortlessly. The early part of the show featured many songs from the new CD "Please Come Home ... Mr. Bulbous" including a supple rendition of "She's Gone Away," a blistering "Marsh Mellow Field," an alternatively quiet/heavy "Julia," and a convincing "Smudge."

The most remarkable thing about this show was that it was almost completely opposite of the first time I'd seen King's X back in early '99. At that show, Ty was sick and in no mood to play, leaving  Doug to converse with the audience. At tonight's performance Doug's monitors were popping all night and this left him in quite a foul mood (apparently the monitor was treated and released from a local hospital after staying overnight for observation). So tonight's show was Ty's turn to provide light-hearted chit-chat with the audience; his off-the cuff remark "Doug Pinnick's bass solo" during Doug's sound difficulties drew chuckles from the fans, but the immediate scowl on Doug's face showed his displeasure. However, Doug quickly gave a knowing smirk back to Ty to let him know that his attempt to lighten the mood was appreciated.

Ty Tabor had a majestic and phenomenal outro guitar solo on "Cigarettes" that will further establish him as a remarkable guitarist that is able to balance skill and melody like no other. 

Given the difficult circumstances of the evening it did allow each band a sense of freedom as things outside of their control let them take a few chances - King's X were no exception. On "Little Bit Of Soul" it seemed as though Doug was changing the lyrics by taking the message of the song literally - he put a little soul into the lyrics and went a free-form for a bit to loosen up the song's meaning and interpretation.

One of the night's magical moments came during "Goldilox" when Doug let the audience sing instead - this was simply the greatest example of a cultivated relationship between a band and its fans that I have ever witnessed - it was a moment that will be hard to forget. When a band places its trust in the audience to take over the vocals and the fans return that trust with an impassioned performance you know you're in the middle of something special; the smiles on Doug, Ty, and Jerry's faces spoke volumes.

Other songs performed during the set were culled from all of King's X releases including "The Train," "We Were Born To Be Loved" (a devastating performance!), "Higher Than God," "Lost In Germany," "Summerland," and "Dogman."

During the encore, Jason from Podunk joined King's X for a killer rock gospel/blues hybrid of mega-sing-along "Over My Head." It takes a brave soul to match guitar skills with Ty and vocal wits with Doug during the same song: Jason performed with flying colors. The show ended with a blistering "Moanjam" with Jerry displaying energy to spare with an explosive drum performance. 

King's X performed a show that had long-time fans buzzing about this being "one of the better performances in a long time." I was fortunate to be there and glad to witness it - catch King's X on tour in a town near you.

One final note - it's one thing to see a great rock'n'roll show and it's quite another to see a great rock'n'roll show with good friends. A tip of my cap to Brian, Kevin, Billy, and Ellen - thanks for making this a memorable evening. 

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Copyright 2000 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
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