GIG REVIEW: An Evening With JOHN 5 at The Token Lounge, Westland, MI
It was a made in Michigan kind of musical evening at The Token Lounge on April 15th, 2017. Michigan’s native and guitar virtuoso, John 5 brought his talents to Westland for a fun-filled night around his old stomping grounds.
There were five bands in total and usually with that many bands it makes for a long tiring night. But the changes in between each set were done swiftly and the show got started 15 minutes after the doors opened. Oath of Betrayal were the first to perform. This five piece group out of Flint, Michigan led by lead singer Brandon Curry is full of hard rocking jams. They weaved in and out through various metal genres from hard rock, mellow rock to crazy heavy. Their opening song “Welcome To Hell” was a nice set up and got the crowd into the vibe right away. “Violence”was the last of their original songs from the set before closing on a Prozak, Tech N9ne and Twiztid cover song “Do You Know Where You Are”. I thought Oath Of Betrayal really shined on this cover song as the crowd really seemed to come alive as the musician’s talents rose to another level. As versified as their short set was, Oath Of Betrayal could touch several avenues within the metal genre and have success, certainly a good start to the evening.
Up next was Concrete Angels who hail out of Ypsilanti, Michigan. This four-piece band plays music that reaches out and grabs the jugular and takes you on a full assault ride. With lead singer and guitarist Justin Keteyian leading the way with strong vocals there was a couple of times I swore I saw vapor emit from his mouth. And it wasn’t cold inside the venue. Brian Price led the beats on drums as K. Hall on guitar and Jerad Hagar on bass rounded out the sound. Concrete Angels led off their set with “The Ones In Control”, which was certainly true as they commanded the stage. Playing a mix of original material, Concrete Angels did plenty of pummeling and will continue to do so as they create new material.
Playing next was a band out of Detroit, Most Wanted. This eclectic group ranging in various ages with bassist Nick Hiser and Noah Hiser on guitar the being the younger members along-side long time rockers GregKerkes on drums, Charlie Block on lead guitar and Mark Hiser on vocals and guitar. Most Wanted brought that classic Detroit rock sound to the stage as most of the members have logged miles and countless hours of stage time rocking crowds over the years and their experience showed.
The Creeping Chaos took to the stage next. They are known in the Detroit scene as a heavy metal act with an industrial tinge and some theatrics. The guitar is a piece of art with a drawing of horror icon Vincent Price adorning the body. With Derek Samp on bass, Donny Stanfill on guitar and David Warren on drums, The Creeping Chaos have become more seasoned and tighter since the first time I seen them just over a year ago. With the crowd packing in and making it tougher to maneuver about to shoot photos, there’s no photo pit, it was apparent the crowd was drawn into what The Creeping Chaos dished out. During their set, the band mascot, of sorts, an octopus monster type of creature approached the stage reaching out with a handful of bracelets for audience members to take. The final song in their set, “If I’m Goin’ Down”, had the crowd singing along the following chorus with If I’m Goin’ Down, to which the audience replied, I’m taking you with me! With this, the crowd was fired up for the headliner.
Grosse Pointe, Michigan native John Lowery, better known as John 5 has accomplished quite a bit in the music industry. With talent as immense as John 5’s, it’s a treat to witness this guitar god’s playing in person. Most people know John 5 as the guitarist for Rob Zombie or that he used to be in the band Marilyn Manson. But some folks don’t realize that is just a drop in the bucket as to what John 5 can musically execute. John 5 digested a wide array of musical flavors that allow his fingers to make guitars speak various sounds, from heavy metal, to country to flamenco. There’s pretty much nothing John 5 can’t execute flawlessly on guitar.
Along for the ride with John 5 were his “Creatures”, band mates, Ian Ross on bass and Logan Nix on drums. These three guys played great together as if they’d been together for many years. But the window of touring opportunity for John 5 and The Creatures is a slim one as John 5’s time is usually dominated by touring with Rob Zombie. This shows the talent of Ian Ross and Logan Nix to gel quickly with John 5 in performing tight songs.
Before John 5 and The Creatures show began, the crowd packed in and that made moving around to photograph from various angles a realistic thing to do. So thankfully my girlfriend got a spot near the front for me to capture all the craziness to happen throughout the set. And what great fun and weirdness went on from song to song as material from various albums were played. Some of the stand outs were “Rifle” the authoritative military march like song off the 2014 album ‘Careful With That Axe’, always going to be a song that gets attention. Plenty of songs off the newly released album ‘Season of the Witch’were played and to my delight “Behind the Nut Love” was one of them, the self-reflecting song just grew on me as I listened to the album more and more. Although the song was played at a slower pace than I’m used to from on the album, I still enjoyed it and by the resounding cheers and applause after it was performed, the audience loved it too.
There were plenty of great songs, “Crazy Ones”, “Hellhaw”, “Making Monsters” but other than hearing the great music was seeing the different costumes and guitars that John utilized. There’s really no regular guitar in John’s arsenal, from a steel plated one which he held out above the crowd for audience members to riff on, to lava lamp fluid filled, to a laser light shooting guitar and even taking a moment to jam out on a mandolin and banjo. It’s a never-ending bag of tricks and we’re just anticipating what’ll be next. It’s amazing to see him playing guitar with a toy space gun, using a bow to play the guitar like a violin or making the guitar sound like he’s on a turn table playing DJ and scratching records.
Besides cool guitars, John 5 can bring the strange, as he wore a female mask akin to something the Texas Chainsaw Massacre would wear. I laughed when I saw the reaction of the young girl next to me look back at her mom all confused. Ha-ha! Moments like this are what make concerts special. As the night drew to a close, we were treated to a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, in its entirety, as in years past we only got a snippet as it was part of a medley. And then the final song which was a medley that covered an array of songs John 5 played or plays with in other bands and songs he just likes. The crowd played along when the band riffed out the classic Alice In Chains song, “Man In The Box”. Like an orchestra led my maestro John 5, the audience vocalized that famous riff, “Whaaa-whaa, wha-whaa-whaa, whaa-whaa-whaa-whaaaaaaa.
I could go on about the experience of seeing and hearing John 5 and The Creatures in concert. But I think I’ve covered a good amount. If you ever have the opportunity to see John 5 and The Creatures live, go! You’ll enjoy it. You’ll discover the talent John 5 has and appreciate him even more. John 5 grew up knowing what he wanted to do and idolized great musicians and turned that passion into becoming a great musician himself and albeit, a guitar god. Rock and roll never sounded so good, or country, or flamenco or whatever style John 5 plays, it all rocks! There’s no singing during John 5 and The Creatures set, just instrumental good times and memories to last a lifetime or like that little girls, maybe some nightmares to keep you awake for a while. And I’m sure John 5 would be proud of that, another successful night. Rock On!!