Columbus, Ohio is just starting to get cold enough for heavy jackets, knit hats, and the knowledge that soon the choice between leaving the couch with Netflix for a live show is going to be a rough decision. So when I heard about this line-up of local, well-tested and established rock, I knew I would have to make it downtown to catch their amplified offerings before I too fell into the hibernation trap of winter.
First up was The Main Street Gospel, (Barry Dean – Guitar, Vocals, Ryan Ida- Bass, Omar- Drums, Percussion) a group I had always heard good things about, but previously hadn’t had a chance to see. From the start they were a trio who proved their mettle with ambient growls and mellow distortion that was just a little blues, a little more grunge, and honest with a psychedelic undertow that pulled all the noise together. Their transitions were seamless, calculated, cool headed and full. As a group, they ignored any banter or stage antics which you might expect from a group with this sound, the most animated of the crew being the keyboard player (who goes unlisted on their site, he might have been named Tim(?). I am not the best of reporters when it comes to being swallowed up in a skilled live show). Albeit too cool for staged shimmies or audience involvement, Gospel was a solid start to the night.
Where the first band lacked swagger, the second brought the groupies. Just as Bummers (Chris Steris, Steven Sikes-Gilbert, Jeff Pearl, Mike Murtha) began to plug in, the ladies began to line up, huddling around the front clutching drinks in rapt attention for the sound check. And the sound check, I might add, commenced with an American flag draped over the front speakers, whatever that meant I have no idea. I’d seen them play a few times over the summer, but never with a crowd like this. It was a pretty packed bar at this point. They opened with earthy howls and an announcement from Jeff Pearl (the lead guitarist and vocals) that he’d just broken his hand, and while I can’t claim to be an expert in guitar, I can honestly profess I couldn’t tell he’d been maimed. The show ballooned with psychedelic, surf (lots and lots of summertime surf), a bit of Iggy Pop homage, and a whole bunch of swooping, looping hair (not in the 80’s metal sense, but like in the “yeah duuude, totally” way).
Mount Carmel (Drums-James McCain, Guitar, Vocals-Matthew Reed, Bass, Vocals Nick Tolford) lost the ladies, but they made up for it with leather jackets and beards. I’d been looking forward to this show since the announcement of Nick Tolford’s (known around town for his voice and funk affinity) addition to the band. And I was not disappointed. Their grunge was undeniable, their blues were present, all of it- slipping from the lips of a guitarist who sang like he’d just been gripped by a speaking-in-tongues sort of trance, left me (and seemingly the rest of the audience) feeling incomplete, wanting more. This set is also where I can personally attest to have seen an audience member thrash in perfect time to EVERY song while holding a slice of pizza (complete with bites between notes) and a full beer without spilling a single drop.