[23 March 2009]
If your neck didn’t hurt the morning after Witch rocked AS220, you were probably doing something wrong. No, you were definitely doing something wrong. Their take on psychedelic-infused stoner rock has not just improved over their two albums. It’s taken on a bigger audience. The Providence art studio’s performance space might be relatively small, but the line wrapping around the location’s restaurant area was indicative of Witch’s following. And like any show mixing genres, the fans littering the crowd were just as diverse. You had the metal kids, the frat guys, the indie couples (likely there based on the silver-haired fellow playing drums), a few goths, and those who were there solely to enjoy the pummeling performance.
The Brattleboro, Vermont-based foursome kicked their shortened set off with “Changing”. Although it’s true many of their songs are just as heavy, sludgy, and brutal, this almost-painfully loud track truly set the stage for the night. And it had the band members doing what they do best. Vocalist and guitarist Kyle Thomas hammed it up on guitar during his killer solo while Antoine Guerlain laid down fantastic guitar licks and Dave Sweetapple’s bass could be felt in your shoes. And adding more thudding to the bottom-end was J Mascis on the drum kit, hitting the skins like a man possessed. Though their onstage banter was minimal—a “word to your mother” here and “you guys are pretty cool” there—their playing spoke for them. None of the band’s members let up as the set continued on, from the tightly played “Old Trap Line” to the up-tempo then brooding “Gone”, a track that actually provided a thorough overview of the nine-song set. Like “Gone”, the other songs meandered into more driven, straightforward territory. But once the song’s energy fizzled out, Witch went right back to deafening the crowd with a combination of drop-D, low-end riffs and crashing cymbals.
The highlights of their performance, which blended tracks from their eponymous debut and its follow-up Paralyzed, were “Mutated” and “Seer”, the latter of which closed out the show. “Mutated”, like every other song, reminded you that bringing or buying earplugs was actually the best idea you have ever had. It was, to be blunt, absolute insanity in the form of a hard-hitting punk-metal track. “Mutated” was a blitz of energy that, nearing midnight, was also a necessary shot in the arm. As for “Seer”, well, it was just what you would expect if you have heard the version on Witch. It was epic, to say the least, and an absolutely perfect way to end the night. From the ridiculous bass to the metal horns being thrown up in appreciation, “Seer” made the following ridiculously tired morning well worth it.
The show’s openers were Megasus, a local drone-metal band, and Earthless, an instrumental, psych-metal trio from San Diego. While I did not know the names of any of the tracks played, both acts were solid in their own ways. Megasus, which gets a lot of their sound from drummer and Lightning Bolt bassist Brian Gibson, played their set on the floor, like Gibson’s other group. Although their frontman’s vocals were drowned out, Megasus still put on an impressive display of blending punk, doom, and straightforward metal across a handful of songs.
As for Earthless, the three men on stage wasted no time as they plowed through style after style, from post-metal to classic rock to doom during their two-song set. While all three members shared a moment in the spotlight, drummer Mario Rubalcaba, formerly of Rocket From the Crypt and numerous other acts, stole the show. His precise timing, tight groove with bassist Mike Eginton, and nonstop playing made the set that much more breathtaking. And it’s worth mentioning that guitarist Isaiah Mitchell’s shredding was certainly topnotch and full of face-melting solos.
It might seem obvious, but it deserves to be said: If you get the chance to see Witch, do not pass it up. The show is likely to be cheap—tickets were a mere $8—and you definitely get more than your moneys worth. Just make sure you bring some earplugs and remember to take a pain reliever the next morning. Even if your ears aren’t ringing, I can guarantee your neck will hurt. Or, at least, it should.