Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Field Report: 8/27/08 - King's X

I knew, primarily from past experience, that tomorrow morning guy was going to be more than displeased with tonight guy. But that’s the way it goes sometimes, and one learns to muscle through the pain of sleep deprivation and a mild hangover. And, honestly, I’d put myself through the rigors of a late night, rockin’ my ass off any night of the week. To go through a King’s X show like that again? Are you kidding? I’m half tempted to go talk to the dude with the horns and pointy tail about mortgaging my soul to do that every night for the next year! Key phrase there . . . half tempted. Only half.

I arrived at Brick By Brick in my typical early fashion. Hanging out with my fellow King’s X fans at the front of the venue, acting as tour guide for the nearest 7-11 and then being offered a beer for my services, and spreading the rock n’ roll cheer like some deranged, malnourished, and out of season Santa Claus. Recent renovations to the club caught my eye. Folks were chillin’ at an outside patio bar, which seems completely posh for Brick By Brick’s storied and sometimes sordid past. I’m good with the changes though. It shows that the current ownership cares about upgrades and being around longer than tomorrow night’s gig. On the plus side, this venue has always been a good place to catch a live jam and toss back a frosty.

I psyched myself up all day for this gig. Not just for the headliners, but the openers (of whom I had never heard of before,) and also the venue itself. Brick By Brick could be categorized as a dive bar by some, so I had to mentally prepare myself for the assault on my senses. My memories of this joint are as follows: Walking through the doors into a room that is completely dark except for the stage lights and occasional neon signage, navigating through the darkness by touch, feel, and a healthy reliance of the sixth sense, being assailed with the smell of sweat and the aroma of stale beer that soaked into the carpets. Inadvertently making eye contact with a dude who could wrestle a bear with one arm tied to his leg. You know . . . the typical place where lives are lost and no one notices. Well . . . it seems that those cosmetic changes on the exterior of the place made their way to the interior as well. I’m not gonna’ say that Brick By Brick completely overhauled its appearance, but it smells a whole lot better in there.

The bear wrestler, however, is still there.

Alright, let’s get to the music! It seems that every time that I check out a live King’s X jam, at least one of the opening acts blows me away. One year it was Moke. One year it was Mardo. This time out, it was a San Diego act going by the name of Hectic Watermelon. As the band took the stage and the funky bass groove started vibrating through the air, I found that I was amongst a small group of adventurers who made their way to the center of the floor. My brief moments of trepidation were replaced with the overwhelming sense of joy. Hectic Watermelon is a jazz-fusion trio that amaze the senses with their wild time changes and musical virtuosity. Guitarist John Czajkowski, drummer Darren DeBree, and bassist Harley Magsino brought their “post-Zappa-commando-fusion” sound to the unsuspecting ears of the masses and won over the majority of the folk. Now, I’m not a big fan of jazz fusion. I never felt the soul of the musical style, but these guys brought something different, and I still haven’t figured out what that something is. I’ll have to get back to you with that. I was particularly impressed by the silent communication that the band members performed. Often I’d see DeBree and Czajkowski glance at each other for a split second, make some telepathic recognition, and then fly off in a completely different direction. All the while, Magsino was off to the side, groovin’ away, seemingly oblivious that any change was coming, yet still shifting with the band. Freaking amazing set!

Special props go to Magsino’s tight rope act as, at one point, his sheet music fell to the floor, and without a missed beat, he casually glanced at the floor to find his place. As if that wasn’t spectacular enough, his glasses, too, fell to the floor at the end of a sweet ass solo and he seemed unfazed. He strategically positioned himself over the fallen spectacles, and as the song came to a more standard rhythm, he simply played the notes with his fret hand, stooped down to pick up the glasses and re-position them back onto his face. I mean, c’mon! That’s unreal! At the end of the set, I approached Czajkowski and said, “I came for King’s X and I fell in love with Hectic Watermelon.” I thanked the guys for an awesome set and made a mental note to find out when they’re playing again. If y’all get the opportunity to check these cats out, I highly advise it. You don’t need to like jazz, jazz fusion, Japanese fusion, or whatever. You simply need to like music, and these guys will alter everything that you thought you knew about the art.

After a second opening band, that didn’t impress, King’s X made their way to the stage. I had somehow managed to work my way to the front of the stage and I was poised directly in front of dUg’s mic stand. As the opening strains of feedback washed over the crowd, the boys kicked into “Groove Machine.” They fired through a couple of songs from their latest album, XV, in “Alright” and “Blue,” and then dropped right into “Believe” from the Manic Moonlight album. King’s X did a great job of mixing new songs into the set of classics, though I was a bit surprised that nothing from the Black Like Sunday or Please Come Home . . . Mr. Bulbous albums were included in the set. In all, eight of the songs in the nights set were from the new album, which only makes sense. They’re on tour to promote XV, so they gotta’ play the tunes, get people into the songs, and get them to the store to pick up the album. It seems like a simple enough business plan to me.

The boys brought a ton of energy to “Black Flag” before playing another new tune in “Pray For Me,” which had a great sing along and enough bounce to open a trampoline factory. Ty sang a beautiful rendition of “I Don’t Know” and a few songs later, Jerry sang the lead to the saccharine sweet “Julie.” As King’s X neared the end of the night’s set, they played the fan favorite trio of “Summerland,” “Looking For Love,” and “Over My Head.” “Looking For Love” had me jumping out of my skin and Ty’s solo in the breakdown of “Over My Head” was sheer brilliance, as he tapped the emotional vein and threw it all out there for us to digest. I would have been happy if the show had ended at that point, but these guys weren't quite done yet.

King’s X wrapped up the show with the stellar sing along “Go Tell Somebody” and the classic “We Were Born To Be Loved” from the Faith, Hope, Love album. As per their usual performances, the trio shattered the senses with the off time break down at the end of the tune. And, in classic rock n’ roll fashion, dUg let the fans have some additional fun by holding his bass over the rabid crowd so that we could pluck and strum the open strings. The band left for a brief cool down, which we fans were unfortunate to miss out on coz’ the temperatures in the club must have been hovering around those of the surface of the sun. The band must have sensed that a few of us were about to pass out from heat exhaustion and didn’t drag out the whole encore, holler-out-the-name-of-the-band chant thing that has become so prevalent in rock n’ roll. As dUg introduced their first ever single, “King,” I was struck by how long I’ve been listening to these guys and I smiled a bit. I realized that I’m one of the blessed few who understand this band, and I got to share another special night of music with a good three hundred like-minded fans.

It was all about the music. I never once got the sense that the band would have rather been somewhere else. I felt that these three stellar musicians were on that stage, playing their hearts out, regardless of how crappy they may have felt, because they love music. They love to create and perform the music, and they do it with a love and respect for their fans. If only we could all feel that way about our jobs, huh? Through one of dUg’s traditional soulful diatribes, he mentioned that we were part of the church of rock n’ roll, and that we had just been baptized. If that is the case, then I’ve been baptized by Reverend’s dUg, Ty, and Jerry numerous times in the past, and there must be something in that water, coz’ I keep coming back for more. It kind of makes that earlier comment of selling my soul seem a bit more blasphemous, but I think y’all get the point. I’d drop what I’m doing right now just to see them perform again. King’s X are just that good of a band! - Pope JTE


Gary said...

Thanks for the review. Jerry sang lead? Has he done that before? I don't think they ever performed Six Broken Soldiers or American Cheese, his other two King's X songs.

The RIpple Effect said...

Gary - It's the God's honest truth. Jerry sang the tune "Julie," which took me by surprise. On the album, I thought it was Ty singing, so naturally, I expected him to start belting it out live. It was a great performance and I highly recommend you check 'em out if you get the opportunity.

As for whether or not he's sang lead before, this is the first time that I've seen it. Any other King's X fans reading this, please feel free to chime in. Curious minds and all.


Sebastian said...

Nice review.
Is that Jerry Goodman entering the stage at the end of the "Hectic Watermelon" clip?


The RIpple Effect said...

Sebastian - I believe it is the legendary Jerry Goodman, but I can neither confirm nor deny those allegations. Hectic Watermelon and the good Mr. Goodman have some past relations, so it would seem very likely it is him. If you get the chance, do a search on YouTube for more HW videos. It's all very mindblowing!


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