Church of Misery – Atomic Bitchwax – Toke: Live at The Middle East

Walking into The Middle East in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I realized I was unintentionally about to bookend a month-ish long tour by attending both the first date (at Maryland Deathfest) and last date of the U.S. run of Japan’s doom masters, Church of Misery. For this, the final show, the supporting bands were The Atomic Bitchwax from New Jersey and Toke, minus their very recently axed drummer, from North Carolina.

The first band was Toke and this may come as a shock but they are a heavy stoner rock/doom band. Yeah, I know. With a name like that, how could you tell right? Jokes about bands with weed referenced names that play stoner rock and doom aside, they started off the night well, filled with riffs of the most obvious style and harsh vocals to keep things interesting.

The Atomic Bitchwax is a band I honestly knew almost nothing about coming into this but they started off with a cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘In the Flesh’ and that was enough to sell me, although most of the younger attendees seemed to have zero idea what they were playing. Really folks? Leaning more toward a traditional 70’s kind of psych/stoner rock I thought they sounded pretty darn good and would check them out again. Solid performance.

It was now time for doom songs about serial killers and Church of Misery was the provider. Last show of the tour or not, they were full of energy. Bassist and only founding member Tatsu Mikami, with his signature style of playing with his bass inches from the floor, even crowd surfed at the end of the set. They probably put on the best show out of the four times I have seen them over the years. There was the expected head bobbing and fist pumping throughout the crowd, but not until mid-set when singer Hiroyuki Takano, gave the command in a deep foreboding voice to “start a big mosh pit” that they literally started going crazy. After that is was all stage diving, crowd surfing, and hair everywhere.

WORDS AND PHOTOS BY HILLARIE JASON