Huntington, WV Clutch Show Report
I arrived early to the Huntington Music Hall for the Clutch show. November 10th had been an unusually warm and sunny day; I figured seeing these guys play would just finish my evening off perfectly. I was also looking forward to interviewing the band before the show, which had been hastily arranged with the tour manager the same day. I’ve been listening to this band for a long time; I grew up in Maryland, not too far from where Clutch started out. I’ve always enjoyed their music and was ready to see them play live.
While standing in line at the door, waiting to get in the club just like everyone else, rumors were flying… the band was running late and may not make it to the show on time or at all. I didn’t see them canceling a show bill with two full sets so I just ignored the small up setters. When I finally got to the ticket booth and asked the desk guys where to find the band’s tour manager for my scheduled interview, he explained they were running late and had not yet arrived. He told me to hunt down the club manager to help get things moving when they did arrive. Disappointed with the prospect of not being able to complete my interview I entered the club and ordered a gin and tonic.
With my drink glowing blue in the black lights I walked towards the concert hall and stage area in the back of the club. A little more relaxed I looked at the time, realizing I only had twenty minutes before the opening act came on stage. I was kind of looking forward to seeing Kelly Carmichael play. Having a solo blues-guitarist open for Clutch seemed a little out of place to me. On the other hand I do like blues music, hell it’s the root of rock’n’roll as humans know it, so why not. Carmichael’s roots actually are in metal, playing with bands such as Pentagram. He apparently went solo and by doing so went back to what inspired him to play guitar, the blues. No band, no back up singers, no horn section, just one guitar, one man, one voice.
Carmichael didn’t play very long, only about 35 minutes or so. I really enjoyed his set, very rootsy, down home blues. Music you would imagine listening to while drinking moonshine from mason jars, sitting on the porch on a hot summer evening. He played excellently, you could tell he’d played the blues before and had been playing the guitar for at least a decade. For more than a half hour, onstage all by his lonesome with a packed club, he sang and strummed. He was going balls out, doing what he loved. Unfortunately the audience really wanted something more up beat, more Clutch. There were snickerings and backtalk regarding “who put this guy up there?” On the whole the audience seemed to like the music, it just seemed too down tempo to be an opener for this crowd.
Unfortunately the band showed up really late to the venue, only 15 minutes or so before they were slated to play, due to travel mishaps. So my initial hopes of interviewing the band had been dashed. Despite this set back, the band had arrived and I had two full sets of Clutch songs to look forward to. The crowd was just as ready as I was, the place was packed, easily 500 people, just waiting to see the band do their thing.
Escape from the Prison Planet is the song with which they opened the show. Bouncing, dancing, jumping, yelling, the mob went wild. All these people had been awaiting the moment Clutch came to town, had been awaiting the moment the band took stage and now they were on fire with excitement and release. The band too had an opening energy which simmered around them; they were ready to rock and wanted to prove it with the first song.
The second song, the third song, fourth song, I couldn’t even remember the names of them or off which album they came. Clutch has been around for so long, after putting out seven full length releases, a few EPs, and rare recordings they have so much material to draw from. There were songs which I recognized though such as Immortal off the Pure Rock Fury album and Ship of Fools from Elephant Riders. Also of note was the title track Elephant Riders which Fallon introduced by stating, “This one’s about West Virginia or inspired there of.” An hour and half, maybe two hours went by before the band stopped for intermission.
Usually when the band leaves stage that’s it, they either come back for an encore or another band takes stage. In this case the band came back for about an hour and a half encore. A full second set with a packed club heavily buzzed and ready for more. Fucking great. They opened the second set with the single off the newest release, Burning Beard. Then busted into Big News I and Big News II with at least a ten minute jam session in between the two songs. In which time Tim Sult went crazy with groove and solo guitar.
All the time the organ slash keyboard player laid down thick rhythms and quick stabs. A new addition to the band, but the extra groove and rhythm of the organ added a full new facet unheard before. Robot Hive/Exodus is the first recording to have the keyboard player as a full time member. This extra element made all the music new, to me and to the drinking audience. To hear classics like Big News and Ship of Fools with the organ or keys thrown in was awesome and in some cases changed the way I will hear the songs forever. This show really was something special, something new and a huge long load of to boot.
About three hours the band jammed, and I mean jammed. Fallon would walk off to the side of the stage to take a breather, drink some water. The green light for the band to go forward, some of which was hippie rock grooves. Then it was always right back into the heavy edged rock, the beating pulse of the drums, with washes of organ and the signature Sult guitar riffs. There were other great moments in the show with a guest guitarist on some the songs, which just added more to the sound. Also Fallon playing guitar, with a sorta of country twang to it, on Gravel Road off the new album.
They played their sweat out during this show. Tired and dehydrated they thanked the intoxicated audience and walked off stage. There were hundreds of people screaming and the occasional shouting of “Space Grass!” All this to get them to come back, to get them to play more, to get more of what they wanted, to hear more Clutch. Alas, there was no encore to be heard as the crew started breaking down the drum set and mics. The band was done, no doubt exhausted from playing three hours, two full sets, to a blazing audience.
It did not take long for the audience to come down and start shuffling towards the door or the bar. This band rocked the house and left the mob buzzed with a rock groove they will not soon forget. They left wanting more and hoping Clutch would return sooner than later.
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