Sunday, October 03, 2010

Die By The Sword

The Sword / Karma To Burn
The Regency, San Francisco
Rocktober 2, 2010

The Sword are one of those bands that is polarizing: people seem to either like them or hate them for some reason. I'm too old to worry about peer pressure and I've always liked The Sword. It's been interesting watching them since their first visit to S.F. in 2006 when they were awkward and seriously lacked confidence onstage. I admired what Road Dogs the band were on that first tour when they came through S.F. 6 times; not many new bands work that hard these days! Fast forward 4 years and the kidz from Austin have supported Motörhead and toured the world with Metallica... but it had been almost 2 years to the day since I last saw The Sword live.

Prior to the show Photo Ray and I participated in the time honored pre-show tradition of meeting friends and dining at legendary Tommy's Joynt. For the newbies: Tommy's has been around since 1947 and it's where Jason Newsted was asked to join Metallica so he could become a millionaire by being the band's punching bag. To be honest, eating at Tommy's can make your stomach feel like a punching bag... but it's Old School San Francisco. After the meal we few, we happy few, made our way down Van Ness to The Regency.

I knew absolutely nothing (zero... nada) about Karma To Burn. The first thing I couldn't help noticing about them was that the singer looked like he was 7 feet tall... Literally. The dude seemed taller than his Marshall stack and with a Les Paul strapped on he looked like Treebeard fronting the band. Karma To Burn were GOOD in a solid slow burn Stoner / Classic Rock way... Equal parts boogie and riffs.. Actually Karma To Burn were really good; it's not often that Umlaut is impressed enough to buy a support band's CD after their set, but I did this time. It turns out the band is originally from West Virginia (!) and has been around for almost 15 years (!)... AND the band's giant frontman is the son of DAVE DAVIES of THE KINKS (!)... AND they've worked and recorded with John Garcia of Kyuss... and the band is basically the lineup of Year Long Disaster as well. Well, call me a poser, 'cause I didn't know all of that... but better late than never.

Karma To Burn
(Photo courtesy of Photo Ray

Uhhh, I don't know how to tell Karma To Burn's bassist... but that's a girl's Motörhead shirt he's wearing. I'm not kidding... Umlaut recognizes that design from Lemmy's 2008 merch line... Not that there's anything wrong with that!

A Texas flag covered The Sword's drum kit during the opening sets, which was a nice geeky homage to the band's homeland. I like how instead of "growing up" past their original Dungeons & Dragon song themes, The Sword cranked their Nerd wattage up with the new album and drove off the Geek cliff by doing a Sci-Fi themed concept album! The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth..

Texas is the reason: The Sword onstage at The Regency
(Photo courtesy of Photo Ray)

The lads from Texas opened up with the Sci-Fi geek double shot of new songs 'The Orb' > 'Trej Brujas' before surprising me by playing their signature song 'Freya' next... which went into 'How Heavy This Axe'. Nicely done... The one down side to The Sword for me is John's vocals, which have always been monotone at best... and tonight it was also the fan at stage right that kept blowing Kyle's long blonde hair. However, despite all of that, this was the best performance I've seen the band lay down to date. In contrast to how unseasoned they were on their first tour 4 years ago, the band is now a no-nonsense seasoned Lock 'N Loll Machine onstage. I know alot of Stoner Rock traditionalists hate The Sword, but to me the band is more Classic Rock / Metal than anything else and tonight their first encore was their take on Thin Lizzy's 'Cold Sweat', which only supported my opinion of them. As their 70 minute set galloped to a close I thought how it was a good difference seeing The Sword on a big stage instead of in a club; their big sound translates very well to a big room. Is everything really bigger in Texas?

All in all it was an easy, fun night and the local vibe was in full effect with members of Machine Head, Saviours, and Black Cobra in the house. Not to be a smug Bay Area mofo, but most other cities can't have a Rock Star roll call of that quality just hanging out in the bar at a gig. Just saying...

If you bought one of every Sword merch item you would have paid around $220. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. There was some good SFPD action just off the intersection of Golden Gate and Larkin; an SUV had flipped upside down and lay in the middle of Larkin like a shot elephant. Obviously somebody's Saturday night wasn't as good as mine had been... Bummer.