10 Dec 2011: Mercury Lounge New York
On Saturday December 10th, former Acid Bath front-man, Dax Riggs, brought his solo act to the Lower East Side’s Mercury Lounge. In front of a packed-to-capacity room of disgruntled youth, aging metal heads, former small town drug dealers and Wall Street types turned dark lord worshippers (or vice versa), the power trio shelled out their satanic anthems.
While the lyrics are inherently dark and death obsessed, the music seems to be influenced by a slightly more tame set of genres plus some old school metal. A mixture of punk rock and blues with plenty of borrowing from Black Sabbath, this project is a great departure from Riggs’ former outfits. Fans of Acid Bath or Deadboy and the Elephantmen would recognize the presence of his chest voice, but would be missing out on the shrieks and screams that helped bring his earlier songs to their climaxes.
From the start of the show to the very end, the band maintained a steady groove that was musically accessible yet lyrically insane. An interesting mix, it was like listening to Lucifer disguised as a blue collar union man playing traditional rock and roll with members of an underground late ‘70s metal band to back him up.
“I Hear Satan”, “Living is Suicide”, and “Say Goodnight to the World”, were among the originals played during the set. All three performances started off with great intensity both lyrically and musically, yet none seemed to lift beyond the dynamic in which they started. While I hate to make comparisons, it was hard not to remember Riggs’ previous projects in anticipation of a sudden burst of energy that would help bring the track to another level. This show needed moments like that and unfortunately, it did not happen. ‘Rock and Roll’, or the many genres that came from it, is not meant to peak within the first verse/chorus.
Aside from the originals, Riggs threw in a couple covers and managed to present them in a completely different light. He turned Richard Thompson’s “Wall of Death”, from a watered down country and western tune in to a driving, fuzzed out anthem a la the Ramones. Later on in the set, he played the Durden/Axton penned tune “Heartbreak Hotel”, made famous by Elvis Presley, in a way that made you forget it was a cover. Pacing the song at a slower tempo with a floor-tom heavy beat and washed out guitar accents, I began to wonder if it was a completely different song all together.
While I had some issues with the performance, I took away from it a feeling that I rarely get after a show. When an artist plays their music in a way that is undoubtedly natural to their person, they earn my respect and it makes me want to hear more. I went home to check out Riggs’ solo recordings plus his former projects and was pleased to find a seemingly never ending catalog of authentic material plus a barrage of enthralling live performances. After over fifteen years of playing and writing, Riggs is still producing his original music as well as bettering old favorites. I look forward to the next time he plays New York City.
// Notes from the Road
"Rhiannon Giddens, formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, brought her Freedom Highway tour to New York for a powerful show. The tour resumes next week and hits Newport Folk later this summer.READ the article