There have been very few times in my life where I have been completely bowled over by a band’s sound, music so special that it seemingly knocked you out of your seat. In 1990 it was King’s X. Their music possessed a unique blend of soaring rock riffs, driving prog/metal rhythms, Revolver-era psychedelia and seamless Beatlesque harmonies. On the strength of their single “It’s Love” from Faith, Hope, Love there was every reason to think that King’s X were going to be the next great arena rock act. But it didn’t happen. The advent of the grunge movement was just around the corner and music fans would soon embrace it, forsaking anything bright or positive. As for King’s X, they stayed the course while mainstream rock moved in a completely different direction.
Since the band’s debut in 1988, they have unceremoniously released eight brilliant studio records all energetically exciting, all frighteningly original and all virtually ignored by mainstream audiences; but held in great reverence by their peers as well as their devoted following. Yet their inability to achieve arena rock status actually proves beneficial for their fans, affording them the opportunity to experience the band up-close and personal, in the most intimate of settings. Such was the case at Tremont Music Hall.
The night began as the Austin, Texas-based rock outfit Podunk hit the stage performing a pounding 40 minute set. The band, featuring Touchette (lead guitar, vocals), Paul Soroski (bass), Bryan Jones (guitar) and Dwight Baker (drums) captivated the audience by ripping through an arsenal of high-energy tunes from their current release, Throwing Bones. The band’s performance was highlighted by Touchette’s Frampton-esque talk box antics and their excellent, yet to be released opener, “Killing Days.”
When King’s X walked onto the stage at midnight, they were met with a thunderous applause, a welcome befitting conquering heroes. The band had just wrapped up a grueling but successful European tour a week earlier. Though the early portion of their set would be tinged with several minor technical problems, it gave guitarist Ty Tabor an opportunity to field questions from the audience, eventually remarking, “Maybe we oughta just do a VH-1 Storytellers tonight.”
As the show cranked up in earnest King’s X treated the standing-room-only crowd to an almost two hour long, 20 song extravaganza that touched on every phase of their 12 year career, but primarily focused on their last three albums: Ear Candy, Tapehead and their latest release, Please Come Home…Mr. Bulbous. Remarkably absent from the set were the band’s biggest radio hits, “It’s Love,” “Black Flag,” and “Pretend.”
Drummer Jerry Gaskill, often the most overlooked of the trio is always the most animated. The backbone of the group, Gaskill’s arms flail around the kit with blinding speed and uncanny accuracy like a mad octopus, beating the skins as if they were his worst enemy. As for the frontmen, bassist/vocalist Doug Pinnick and Tabor, they were surprisingly sedate throughout the show. Pinnick with his bass dangling to his knees grinded out throbbing, distortioned grooves, rocking slowly with eyes wide shut and a focused Hendrixian snarl. Ty Tabor was the picture of self-control, rarely venturing outside of a five foot radius directly behind the micstand and almost never looking at the guitar as he operated with the intensity and precision of a surgeon.
The opening chords of “Groove Machine” immediately fueled the crowd’s enthusiasm that never abated as the band muscled through “The Train” and “Dogman.” While every song evoked an enormous response, it was a mix of the band’s earlier classics like “Goldilox,” “Summerland,” “Cigarettes,” “We Were Born To Be Loved” and the deepest King’s X cut, “Lost In Germany” that brought the crowd to their knees. That same enthusiasm carried over as the band unveiled its newest Mr. Bulbous tunes, “Julia,” “Smudge,” “Bitter Sweet,” “Marsh Mellow Field” and “She’s Gone Away” that featured a blistering extended solo courtesy of Mr. Tabor.
For the encore the band went into the vaults, resurrecting the Pinnick-penned “Over My Head” which featured buoyant vocal interplay between Pinnick and the crowd; giving Tabor and Gaskill enough time to grab a quick swig of water before segueing into the marathon rocker “Moanjam.”
In addition to the exciting performance, King’s X fans enjoyed the biggest thrill of all, a chance to meet the band. Stepping outside of their tour bus shortly after the gig, Pinnick, Gaskill and Tabor answered questions, mugged for pictures and signed autographs (even graciously signing for several fans who brought the band’s entire catalog of CD covers for a signature) and didn’t enter the bus until the last fan was satisfied. These guys have proven that they’re not only outstanding musicians, but consummate gentlemen. However, in the eyes of their fans, they are truly kings!