I won a pair free tickets to this show by being signed up to Slims' online newsletter and answering a simple contest question, so I was psyched to go check out these Swedes in WITCHCRAFT who are probably my most-listened-to band in the past couple weeks. Can't get of their new one The Alchemist
, and their previous two LPs are dynamite as well. I can easily foresee these guys gaining the same level of attention that a band like WOLFMOTHER are getting, except whereas WOLFMOTHER are way more pop and simplistic (meaning they will always attract a bigger fanbase of hipsters), WITCHCRAFT can bring the heavy and truer vintage 70's sound as well. Take the doom of BLACK SABBATH, the folk of JETHRO TULL, the catchiness of LED ZEPPELIN, and the heavy proto-metal groove of underground acts such as BUDGIE and you've got a damn good idea of where WITCHCRAFT are coming from. To boil it down, this is basically the real soundtrack to "That 70's Show."
So anyways onto the show itself. It was a shitty rainy night in San Francisco so navigating through the labyrinth of downtown to get to Slim's was a bitch and a half. My friend and I found parking after literally a good 20 minutes driving through backstreets looking for anywhere, and as we approached the venue we heard SAVIOURS playing. From the billing as I understood it SAVIOURS were supposed to be the first band on followed by psychadelic prog act DANAVA, and by the time we arrived it was already almost 11 PM and the show was suppose to start at 9. This sucked because I really came to see WITCHCRAFT, so my heart totally sank at that point. I love SAVIOURS and got the privilege of seeing them earlier this year with RED SPAROWES, but they're local and play constantly and who knows when WITCHCRAFT would be back. Waiting in the rain to get tickets with some other folks who also came late I could hear that they played "Rise To Pyramid Form" and "Holy Slaughter", and actually once we were inside the band had just finished so those were the last two songs. They're playing with HIGH ON FIRE in January so I'm really looking forward to enjoying a nice full set of their doom-laden heavy metal.
Once inside I was just floored by the turnout, Slim's was completely packed. I'd only be before once when I saw EDGUY, but the place then wasn't even close to the kind of turnout for this show, even though both were on Saturday nights. The crowd consisted pretty much entirely of the younger middle age demographic (late 20's-early 30's), so my friend and I were were definitely among the youngest there if not the youngest. Strangely, when I saw the next band who I figured would be DANAVA setting up, they looked like the very same dudes from WITCHCRAFT and so I asked a person next to me and they said that indeed they were on next. Majorly awesome. So as more of the crowd piled in and the place got hotter and louder, it just reminded me of why rock shows are the greatest thing ever, and considering my experience the night before at CLUTCH this felt like heaven in comparison. So at around 11:15 with no formal introduction WITCHCRAFT began their set, which turned out to be hands down one of the top 5 or so live performances I've seen by any
The sound first of all was utterly impeccable. That probably made the biggest difference. So damn crisp, everything audible even the vocals were crystal clear, you could discern both guitars perfectly even though we were on the left side of the stage in front of the singer/guitarist, the bass was spot-on with plenty of thump in the rockin' parts but also getting across that sweet jazzy feel when things slowed down, and I can't even do justice to the drums. That bass drum pulsating was the anchor all night, the whole kit sounded stellar. And above all else it was plenty loud. WITCHCRAFT, much like CLUTCH or any great rock band, don't pull any lameness and really enjoy themselves on stage without acting like assholes. They communicated that energy to the audience last night, and while I wasn't doing much more than nodding my head with an ear-to-ear grin across my face, people were getting extremely into it. There's no doubt that of all the smaller shows I've seen this was the best crowd all the way around. When the band would stop playing between songs, usually there's the initial cheer from the crowd then maybe a couple people yelling for songs (or the token drunk guy yelling for Freebird
), but at this show people would just not stop yelling all the way through. I've also never heard people singing the lyrics to a band's songs in between tunes, but sure enough there were some folks behind me doing just that. The energy was really palpable, and of all places for a pit to break out one did during "Hey Doctor", and while I didn't take part I thought that was awesome, people at the front throwing the 'claw' and headbanging and singing along throughout the set. Who the hell is familiar enough with songs from an underground Swedish stoner rock band to sing along with them?
Live WITCHCRAFT sound way heavier than on their records, but they somehow retain the nuances and the subtleties of their records. When they would go into the pseudo-gallop parts (like the MAIDEN gallop but kinda at like half the speed, you know what I'm talking about) it was just so fucking awesome, so fucking awesome. Then they come at you with those really rich sounding chord riffs, the melodies, twin harmonies, and the bassist didn't move from center stage all night he just played there and headbanged the entire time
The drummer was the second hardest hitting drummer I've ever seen as well (first being SAVIOURS drummer at the show back in April) but he played with such fluidity as well and laid down some wicked beats. Watch out for this band guys, I'll be damned if they don't really go somewhere because, beside the obvious factors, they have that indiscernible quality and that certain feel that apparently people are picking up on even without this band getting any media exposure.
This is a partial setlist, we had to leave kinda early because I had to be home at 1 but we got to see the majority of their set.
Chylde Of Fire
No Angel Or Demon
Walk Between The Lines
Please Don't Forget Me
If Wishes Were Horses
Wooden Cross (I Can't Wake the Dead)