Swedish outfit Graveyard rolled through San Francisco on Monday night, supported by their psychedelic blues metal brethren Radio Moscow and Green & Wood, and while Graveyard was the headliner, it was Parker Griggs and Radio Moscow that stole the show with a short but incendiary set.
After initially booking the show at tiny Cafe Du Nord (capacity: 250), the bands were forced to move venues when tickets sold out less than a week in advance. Slim’s, with a capacity of about 800, was chosen and, with only five days’ notice, they still attracted a nearly full, if not a completely full house.
Openers Green & Wood, out of LA, played a short set of their sludgy brand of stoner metal to warm up the room. The band’s set was highlighted by a thunderous rhythm section (drummer Scott Batiste and bassist Eric Harris, who does a damn fine Geezer Butler impression), and the guitar interplay of Ethan Fowler and Magda Wosinska. Both reached their apex on the title track from their second full-length studio album, Devil’s Plan, released in 2011 on Cyclopean Records.
After Green & Wood, Radio Moscow took the stage, almost unrecognizable from just three weeks ago when singer/songwriter, guitarist, and band leader Parker Griggs parted ways with the other two-thirds of his power trio and flew in bassist Billy Ellsworth and drummer Lonnie Blanton to support him on this tour and potentially beyond.
Thrown to the wolves by the band’s frontman, the two newbies immediately demonstrated their worthiness on set opener Broke Down, off the 2009 album Brain Cycles. Blanton’s thunderous work on his minimalist kit and Ellsworth’s rolling, muddy bass provided the ideal backdrop for Griggs’ inspired throwback guitar work.
Radio Moscow continued their roll on Speedfreak and Creepin, both off 2011’s The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz, with Griggs and company sounding like they’d been together all along. During “Speedfreak”’s calamitous ending, all three band members were lost in their own instruments, but somehow producing a singular vision of modern blues metal. They seemlessly moved into “Creepin’,” locked in a blues groove with Griggs working his best bluesman growl before diving into another mind-bending solo.
After tearing through another Brain Cycles track, The Escape, they returned with Lucky Dutch, off their 2007 Dan Auerbach-produced self-titled debut. The song’s ripping groove and Grigg’s guitar god licks drew the evening biggest response, with the crowd roaring its approval.
Returning to Magnafuzz, Griggs launched into the instrumental anthem Densaflorativa. Ellsworth dropped his bass and broke out maracas and a conga, giving the song its distinct Stones-in-Morocco feel. The furious “Little Eyes” followed, with Griggs’ muddy, blues riffs underpinning his snarling lamentation that he “just can’t find no reason to believe.”
Radio Moscow closed out their set with 250 Miles, a deep blues jam off of Brain Cycles, taking the song on a more-than-seven minute journey that showed the band’s range. Starting with a attitude-filled Delta blues groove, Griggs, Ellsworth, and Blanton exploded into a total psychedelic freakout, extending the show-closing jam for more than seven minutes as the audience roared their approval.
Headliner Graveyard faced a tough act to follow and, although they may not have reached the heights of Radio Moscow’s set, they put on a spectacular show for a completely packed house. Graveyard – a Swedish band composed of Joakim Nilsson (vocals/guitar), Rikard Edlund (bass), Axel Sjöberg (drums), and Jonatan Ramm (guitar) – is touring in support of their sophomore LP Hisingen Blues.
It was clear these Swedes have taken several pages out of Motörhead and Ronnie James Dio-era Black Sabbath’s books, as they rumbled through a heavy, fierce, and frenetic set full of songs off that latest effort, including Ain’t Fit To Live Here, No Good, Mr. Holden, and the title track. Uncomfortably Numb showed the band at its most versatile, moving easily from a meandering, “Planet Caravan”-type drone to a blues-filled speed jam reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and back again.
After Graveyard brought the house down with a three-song encore, it was clear that, although many of the fans came to see one band or another, all three bands had won over an assortment of new followers. And no band more so than Radio Moscow, whose retro sonic assault called on ghosts of the not-so-distant past and brought many in the unsuspecting crowd to their feet.
All pics by Lee Fenyves/Lee Fen Visual
Legendary psychedelic lighting guru Lance Gordon, who cut his teeth at the Fillmore and Avalon starting in 1969, working with the likes of Big Brother & The Holding Co., Elvin Bishop, Nick Gravenites, John Cipollina, and even John Lee Hooker, provided a stunning visual background for all three bands. He met Griggs in May of last year, and has now been on three tours with the Radio Moscow and will head to Europe with them in April for a number of headlining gigs. Gordon’s work- which he calls a combination of painting and drumming, or a “visual instrument” – was the cherry on top of an already wondrously psychedelic sundae.
Radio Moscow Setlist: