Kyuss Lives! Again in Austin, Texas
Band Photo: Kyuss Lives! (?)
Edgar Allen Poe died broke and mad—his creative genius never realized until after his death. It seems Kyuss’ influence wasn’t felt until after its demise. Fortunately for the group, these desert rockers didn’t have to literally die to make an impact. Sixteen years after disbanding, Kyuss has returned and judging by the massive gathering inside Stubb’s 2,000-plus-capacity amphitheater, their popularity has snowballed during this time.
I have nothing for comparison because I didn’t catch Kyuss during the first part of the nineties—their active years. If the few patrons I spoke to were a microcosm of the Kyuss live experience, most of the thirty-something crowd were also unable to catch them the first time around. Waiting fifteen years and wishing the group would get back together may be cause for such a large gathering, but the group’s status as the forerunners of the stoner rock movement, a hot trend in the modern rock scene, probably has something to do with the turnout.
The popularity of Josh Homme’s bands, Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures may have also led many to hear Homme’s trademark guitar play in Kyuss. This would explain, in part, the large number of younger fans. Some of these youngsters came with their parents, as seen by the fans standing next to us. Homme wasn’t on hand and the group came out as Kyuss Lives!, but this didn’t seem to affect attendance numbers or crowd reaction.
New comers MonstrO warmed up an unassuming crowd. Consisting of Torche, Danzig and ex-Blood Simple members, these Georgians (and one Floridian) were a good fit for Kyuss Lives! stoner rockin’ style. Performing in front of the headliner’s backdrop, which depicted a silhouette of a hawk or raven soaring in the shadow of a multi-hued sun, MonstrO kicked out six or seven tunes of a varying nature.
Bevan Davies' drum play produced a big thud. It’s no wonder he has pounded skins for Danzig. The group’s grainy guitar sound brought to mind Kyuss, an influence bassist Kyle Sanders made known during an interview prior to the show.
Some of MonstO’s songs referenced early nineties grunge, ala Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. The song “Pyro” related an obvious Alice in Chains groove (William DuVall of Alice in Chains produced their current, debut album), while Charlie Suarez nailed down the melodious, skyward voice of Chris Cornell. MonstrO didn’t bring down the house, but their half-hour performance surely gained them a bigger fan base.
The Sword won the trophy for the most metal band of the night. Of course, performing to a hometown crowd certainly played in their favor. Their Austin shows are always packed, but this gathering was larger than usual. Easily three times the size of their 4th of July concert (reviewed here), the extra body heat, sea of horned hands, extra decibels and the roaring din of applause made the Independence Day show seem like a practice session.
Watching axe-slinger Kyle Shutt play his black-and-grey colored Gibson conjured images of bearded, head-banded arena rockers of yesteryear. Part Matt Pike, part James Hetfield, part Tony Iommi—Shutt’s mixture of down tempo groove and thrashing speed brought an eclectic group of influences to mind. “Night City” brought on flashbacks of listening to Ozzy’s “Diary of a Mad Man.” The following track contained cavalry-riding gallops that pulled the neck strings of anyone paying attention. John Cronise announced the addition of drummer Jimmy Vela before bidding the crowd adieu with extra-terrestrial, wailing guitar noise.
Even with a brighter explosion of lights and volume pushed to greater heights, Kyuss Lives! risked a let down after The Sword’s metal-gloved punch. Although Kyuss Lives! play mellower material and went off on long jam sessions, the crowd’s enthusiasm didn’t wane one bit. A quick glance among the crowd revealed swaying heads and moving lips.
Bruno Fevery played the sandy notes of “Gardenia” as his blue-silhouetted band mates entered the stage. This up tempo number foreshadowed a set list focusing on material from the “Kyuss (Welcome to Sky Valley)” album. Tracks such as “Odyssey” and “Asteroid” explained the greatness of this album. The churning grooves, swift-shifting speed and infectious lyrics of “Odyssey” exemplify Kyuss’ material, while the cosmic sounds of “Asteroid” pinpoint the group’s jam aspect.
All greatness of “Sky Valley” aside, Kyuss Lives! played a set list featuring the best of each album, excluding “Wretch,” which was more of a developmental album. “Thumb” represented material from “Blues for the Red Sun.” Nick Oliveri’s (yes, he went on tour despite his legal troubles) rotund bass and pyromania lyrics made this a set highlight. The murky notes and pinched harmonics of “El Rodeo” and “One Inch Man” were reason to showcase these “…And the Circus Leaves Town” songs.
As mentioned above, Oliveri’s bass absolutely crushed. I can’t remember hearing another bass with such force. While his bass certainly stood out, none of the instruments were over bearing. John Garcia sang each song as it sounded on the album, even nailing the high notes, while Brant Bjork drummed with the type of rolling fury one would expect from someone who looked like Bill Ward, circa 1972. Other than a slight slip up on “Asteroid,” Fevery hit every note, even if some of the harmonics didn’t exactly match the album.
Starting around 10:10, Kyuss Lives! played an hour and a half set. They stepped off the stage around 11:20 and returned with an encore of “Allen’s Wrench,” “Green Machine” and the short instrumental “Molten Universe.” The crowd didn’t cheer much until the group retook the stage. “Green Machine” ended the set on an up tempo note, exuding a heavy aggressiveness that sent the crowd off on a high note, finally satiating its fifteen-year or more lust for live Kyuss. Kyuss Lives!, in deed.
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