[show review]

Red Fang

with Telekinetic Yeti, and Ghostbox.
The Olympic, 8 Dec. 2018.

Local four-piece Ghostbox kicked off this show, and immediately set the mood for the evening. Everyone in the crowd knew what the score was (and there appeared to be a good many people there to see Ghostbox, specifically, judging by the applause). It was going to be a night of sludgy, loud, ruthless rock’n’roll. A night of guitars tuned down to C.
Ignorant as I am, I had never heard this group, even though we share a hometown. But I imagine I will be seeing plenty more of them. Props to the bassist and the lead guitarist, in particular. I enjoyed the short-but-sweet set, but these two guys impressed the hell out of me.

Next up was Telekinetic Yeti. A few seconds into their opening song, they had my ear: thick, meaty, riff-driven rock. The audience had swelled in front of the stage, blocking my view, and it wasn’t until I squeezed my way through the crowd to get a few pics that I realized this band was only two motherfuckin’ guys—one on guitar and the other on drums.
I knew nothing about the group, and from the fully-formed sound blasting out of the PA, I just assumed that there were a couple guitars, a bass, etc. But nope. This Iowa duo rocks as hard as any four- or five-piece band, however. I wholeheartedly recommend their 2017 debut album, “Abominable”. In fact, I found a line from a review of this record which sums up their sound more poetically than I ever could. To wit:
“Its nimble, trippy contents have the loose, free feel of a hippy tripping balls, the tireless charge of a rhino on coke, and the light fuzz of an adolescent boy’s upper lip. You’re gonna love it.” – Metal Sucks

Now, call me a curmudgeon, call me old fashioned, but I never liked all the labeling of sub-genres in music; all the over-classification that seemed to really take hold in the late-90s, and hasn’t let up since. (I blame the internet. And kids. Yeah, it’s those damn kids and their musical niches. That must be it.) Perhaps because I am unclear what the difference is between “stoner metal” and “doom metal,” and yet so many of the bands I love are listed as examples of one, or both, genres.
Well, whatever the hell you call the style of music played by Portland’s brilliant four-piece, Red Fang…I absolutely love it. I love their records, of course, but I especially love watching them live. The energy they bring to a performance, the obvious joy they have while rocking the fuck out, is a sight to behold.
Saturday night at the Olympic, they did not disappoint. Their set list sampled fairly heavily from their last couple of records (2013’s “Whales and Leeches” and 2016’s “Only Ghosts”), but they threw in a few of their oldies to round things out, giving the crowd a nice cross-section of their evolving sound. While the newer material seems to have taken some of its cues from the prog and experimental sounds of current metal, Red Fang still never loses sight of the core of their appeal: brutal grooves and uncommonly (for metal, anyhow) hook-laden riffs. These dudes are masters of the catchy-as-hell chorus.
If you’ve seen any of their videos, and I bet you have, then you know that these guys are also absolutely hilarious. This, too, comes across when you see them live. They exchange banter with the audience, bust each other’s balls, and seem like just regular dudes with whom you’d enjoy pounding a bunch of cheap beers. They don’t take themselves all that seriously (which, to me, has always been metal’s Achilles heels), and it doesn’t affect the sheer power of their music one iota.
After what I guess was a 45-minute set, they left the stage to howls of approval. But of course, as they nearly always do when they play to a big, friendly audience, they came back for a few more songs—beginning with one of my favorite tunes, “Prehistoric Dog”. Here’s an embed of the music video, if you’ve never seen it. It’s a work of fucking genius, I promise.

Suffice to say, there are a handful of so-called “stoner metal” bands in the same ballpark as Red Fang, stylistically. But not many deliver quite so well in a concert setting. Next time they roll through Boise, you’d be a damn fool to miss them.

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