An Evening with John Garcia: Camden Underworld, London

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Two acts, two guitars, no drum kits and three leather sofas. This might well be the most sedate gig London’s Camden Underworld has ever seen. Former Kyuss frontman John Garcia is back in the capital, but this time on a short unplugged tour billed as “An Evening With”. So instead of a full band we have leather sofas and War Drum’s Ehren Groban playing acoustic.

Despite the name suggesting otherwise, Bellhound Choir is a one guitar project from Denmark. The perfect kind of jam for a hot sunny beach around a campfire, and a fitting warm up for the night with Christian Hede Madsen’s smooth baritone and sparse guitar create a mellow combo of dark country and blues.

Where some metal musicians – for example Zakk Wylde – are known for their acoustic leanings, this is new territory for Garcia. Going unplugged allows the former Slo Burn/Hermano/Unida/Vista Chino frontman to show off a more sensitive side to his vocals in a way that’s only occasionally been hinted at on record. He’s always had a quality voice and a back catalogue filled with stoner classics and the stripped back sound allows Garcia to take centre stage from the comfort of his leather recliner and shine.

We get a few cuts from the new self-titled Garcia album; tracks like ‘The Bld’ and ‘Her Bullets Energy’ work well as mellow campfire numbers, but much like on record it’s the jumping riffs of the Danko Jones-penned ‘5,000 Miles’ that stand out as one of the best. The original numbers penned for this tour and potentially new album are a more straight ahead mellow acoustic numbers, but ‘Phototropic’ shows off Groban’s skill with an acoustic guitar; employing a series of loops to really build the layers of the song into something special, while his solo spot shows off some real Spanish classical flair.

Unsurprisingly it’s the Kyuss numbers that get the biggest cheers of the night, culminating in a one-two of ‘Green Machine’ and ‘Space Cadet’. Still sounding fresh even after 20 years, the old classics translate well to acoustic. Garcia still has a great set of pipes on him, but despite being a good show, the trouble with finishing on such a high note, however, is that it brings up that eternal question: when the hell are we going to get a proper Kyuss reunion?

 

WORDS BY DAN SWINHOE

John Garcia -Steak -Komatsu: Live at Academy 3, Manchester, UK

john garcia uk tour poster

Stoner rock legend John Garcia has been extremely prolific of late. In addition to touring with Kyuss bandmates in Vista Chino, John has found time to record his first solo record which he is in town to promote.

Before we are greeted by the voice of the desert, it is time for support acts Komatsu and Londoners Steak to strut their stuff.

Komatsu (3)

The former possess some huge riffs but are let down by vocalist Mo Truijens who, despite his best efforts, drops a couple of notes. ‘Lockdown’ is the highlight of their set; all pounding drums and throbbing bass but it is an efficient not spectacular performance from this Dutch outfit.

Steak (5)

 

Steak features Desertfest organiser Reece amongst their number. So it is little surprise that they deliver a convincing take on the genre. Dishing out waves of fuzz from recent opus ‘Slab City’, their set is a swaggering assault on the senses which will win them many friends amongst the faithful gathered here tonight.

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Garcia and company are fired up. The set blends John’s solo material, the inevitable Kyuss classics and some charming rarities which are lapped up by the rabid crowd. ‘Tangy Sizzle’ features some punishing low end bass and a fantastically tight rhythm section capable of improvising exquisitely without indulging in showboating.

New single ‘Rolling Stoned’ garners a similar reception to ‘Inch Man’ delivered with that trademark howl but the real highlight is how John delves further into his catalogue as opposed to re-hashing Vista Chino’s recent touring set.

John Carter (2)

 

Crowd energy is constantly high but pop of the night is reserved for Slo Burn classic ‘July’ with Garcia visibly impressed by the number of fans who know every word to even this obscure gem.

The solo material allows Garcia to flex his songwriting muscles, demonstrating his capability outside of working with the colossal talents of Messrs Homme and Bjork. The fact that new Vista Chino material is looming on the horizon will make it very interesting to see if John’s solo work has any impact on the direction his main group will take.

A true legend of the genre, Garcia brings the sand and spirit of the desert to a cold English night.

8/10

WORDS: ROSS BAKER

PHOTOS: LUKE DENHAM PHOTOGRAPHY

Steak – Slab City

Steak cover

Fuzzed up London based Stoners Steak peddle a distorted sound that smacks you upside the head with its rumbling bass and muscular grooves. ‘Liquid Gold’ is built on walls of powerful desert style psychedelia with the eerie compressed vocals of Kippa adding a menace and paranoia to the trip which many acts have side stepped in favour of good-time party rock.
That’s not to say Steak don’t make an enjoyable headshaking racket. The nimble fretwork here recalls players like Nebula’s Eddie Glass with a molasses thick Sleep texture to the driving riffs that powers Slab City.
Like many Stoner releases it would have been impossible not to mention Kyuss but for John Garcia adding his distinctive vocals to album highlight ‘Pisser’. You can almost hear the smiles of the band members as Garcia’s unmistakable contributions gel with the delicious riffs.

That Harper Hug (Unida producer) and Garcia’s Unida bandmate Arthur Seay are involved in the recording makes for little surprise but while they clearly have friends in high places Steak’s songwriting is lean and trimmed of the indulgent jam sections which many act of this ilk languish in. It’s unashamedly retrospective in approach harking back to the late nineties in the same fashion which acts like Witchcraft take inspiration from the 60s and 70s. Secret track ‘Old Timer D.W.’ also features some nice Led Zep slide guitar.

Unquestionably metallic, there are no bluesy jams or instrumental break diluting the potency of their delicious riff driven assault. It’s uncomplicated and go for the throat approach won’t change the opinions of those not enthralled with stoner rock but one which fans of the acts referenced here will lap up.
‘Slab City’ won’t expand the profile of the genre but it is delivered with a loving and faithful zeal which you can’t help but fall for. Sure all the flavours of this platter will be instantly familiar with fans of the genre but no less juicy and tender. A lovely rendered depiction of the Palm desert filtered through gritty London charm Steak are doing what they love and doing it in style.

7/10

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WORDS ROSS BAKER