GIG REVIEW: Corrosion Of Conformity, Crowbar, Weedeater & Mothership Live at The Machine Shop, Flint, MI
It’s been a bitter winter where I live in Michigan. Certainly not the kind of weather that I want to venture out into unnecessarily, especially on a Sunday night. But for this evening in particular, the energy and power that I witnessed from the likes of Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, Weedeater, and Mothership made the next morning’s hardcore coffee necessity worth it.
The “intergalactic heavy rock” trio, Mothership, started off the evening before a sold-out crowd at The Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan with confidence and assertive energy that was exciting to experience. I’ve listened to the band’s albums before and enjoyed them, but I assure you that they don’t do their live performance the justice it deserves. With a spacey, Sabbathy, 70’s southern rock sort of swagger, the band had the room cheering them on and fist-pumping within the first two songs.
Singer/guitarist Kelley Juett was a pro at getting the spectators engaged and effectively conveyed his comfort and sense of command in his role of frontman. The band was tight, the rhythms driving, and the silence between songs very minimal. In fact, they drove through their set in 25 minutes and I was wanting more. Mothership made every moment count and got the crowd riled up in proper fashion. I’m positive they made a significant number of new fans, and it made me listen to their most recent album, ‘High Strangeness’ once again the following day with new respect.
Second to perform was stoner/sludge/doom/weed metal mainstays, Weedeater. I’m not sure what can be said about bassist/vocalist “Dixie” Dave Collins that hasn’t been said before, but the man is beyond entertaining. What he lacks in rockstar polish, he more than makes up for in quirky energy, and this performance was absolutely no exception. His trademark goofy facial expressions, rigid body twitches, and foot stomps began right away with the familiar “God Luck and Good Speed” and fans sang along with passion. Jim Beam swigs were plentiful as the band charged through the setlist including their crowd-pleasing cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Back My Bullets.” This was when the first moshpit of the evening started.
Due to the passing of Weedeater’s drummer Carlos Denogean last year, Collins’ former Buzzov*en bandmate Ramzi Ateya was stationed behind the tubs, so that was definitely fun to witness. Close to the end of their time, the band was joined by their merch guy Benjamin who assumed vocal duties for a song and then pitched their wares on his way off the stage. Benjamin and I talked for a while earlier in the night about life and his “day job”, so it was a cool surprise to see him up there raising a little hell.
Next up were sludge veterans, Crowbar. After 30 years of touring and way more gray hairs, you might expect guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein to be losing his edge. This is certainly not the case. In fact, his vocal control and guitar riffing tactics seemed effortless. So effortless in fact, that many times he seemed to just be on autopilot. It’s hard to explain. I’ve seen Crowbar live before and this was not a bad performance in any way, just somewhat uninspired. As a whole, the band sounded huge and could easily crush a vast majority of acts many years their junior. With the retirement of founding bassist Todd Strange last year, newcomer Shane Wesley provided four-string duty here and was very obviously having a great time. As the youngster of the group, he brought fantastic energy and held down the rhythm section with drummer Tommy Buckley very proficiently.
Several times throughout the set, Windstein commented on his love and appreciation for the crew at The Machine Shop, going as far as stating it’s one of his “favorite places anywhere to perform.” The sound and lighting were on point, so I can’t debate on production quality at all. Crowbar hasn’t missed a beat and it’s easy to see how they continue to flourish and maintain a thriving fanbase across the world. Even after all these years, with the release of their most recent album, 2016’s ‘The Serpent Only Lies’, I can honestly say that I’m still looking forward to hearing what they do next.
Headliners Corrosion of Conformity (ushered on stage by ZZ Top’s ‘La Grange’ playing on the sound system) were ready to destroy. Watching frontman, Pepper Keenan, at the side of the stage before going on was reminiscent of a champion fighter getting ready to storm into the boxing ring to victory. You could have powered a small city with the electricity that jolted the room the second the band’s silhouettes starting moving across the dim stage. The crowd was amped. Way beyond amped. With the energy and freshness I witnessed from this band, it’s hard to believe that CoC began in 1982. Fan favorites ‘Vote With A Bullet’, ‘Albatross’, and ‘Clean My Wounds’ as well as some more obscure cuts sounded just as great and scene-relevant today as they did when first conceived. Newer songs from 2018’s excellent ‘No Cross, No Crown’ were almost as equally lauded.
Keenan just exudes charisma and authority. I’m convinced he could have swayed at least half the crowd to walk out with him and join a cult right then and there had he wanted to. His voice was as great as ever and his guitar skills were, at times, jaw-dropping. Truly a master in his domain.
The only constant member of the group, guitarist Woody Weatherman, was grinning ear-to-ear for most of the set and you could tangibly feel his sense of happiness with the experience. It’s always a better time, at least for me, when I can tell that the band I’m seeing is having a blast and this was no exception. Bassist Mike Dean, gave an inspiring performance, coming across as a master technician at work. He was visibly “in the zone” for most of the set and it was actually pretty intriguing to watch as if peering in on some dark secret not meant for us common folk.
Noticeably missing from the fold was drummer Reed Mullin, who has been recovering from yet another surgery. This time, a shoulder issue. As in other recent tours in his absence, Mullin’s drum tech John Green filled in behind the kit and did a first-rate job. He seemed visibly winded a couple times, but he pulled through without falter and supported the rest of the band without issue.
Despite (as Keenan jokingly mentioned) it is a “school night”, Corrosion of Conformity held the crowd mightily in their hands for about 90 minutes, never once loosening their grip. The people were hungry and they were fed without reserve until their bowls were overflowing and their bellies were bloated. This was one outstanding bill not to be missed, and I’m glad I’m not one of the unlucky ones who has to hear about it secondhand.