It's anyone's guess -- well, except for those close to the band -- when Audio Dream Sister last went on stage. Seems like it's been at least a few years. As the second to last band of Pit Fest II (a benefit for an Any Given Breed, a group against "Breed Specific Legislation"), it looked and sounded like these guys have spent some of those intervening years sharpening their dynamics, their tones and sonic expressiveness. The band's hard-edged groove recalled Fu Manchu seemed much more together than in years past.
The opening of "Motel Killer Blues" sounded not unlike "Stranglehold" by Ted Nugent, but went into a more psychedelic direction with Jamie Haner throwing harmonic interludes into the huge and crunchy main riff. Dan Kuhn and Mike Harper locked perfectly together without really getting rigid with the rhythms. This band got lumped in with the whole stoner rock thing of several years ago and, yes, its sound is in that vein, but Audio Dream Sister has always been a little different and this incarnation of the band seems to have shaved off the blemishes from its performance.
Almost as a celebration of the tenth anniversary of Black Lamb, Nick Dickson got on stage to say how a bunch of bands came together for "Dred-Aid" in 2001 to help Dickson when he was injured. And that it was his community that helped him out more than anything. For this show, it was also the original line-up of the group with Bryon Bean on drums, Benny Ryan (aka Benny Lamb) on guitar, Billy Stewart on guitar, Andy Pfeifer on bass and, of course, Brian Hagman on vocals.
The set opened with "Today," and it quickly became obvious why this band got off the ground so quickly a decade ago. Hagman has been a great frontman at least since his days with Fast Action Revolver because he constantly changes up his gestures -- something a lot of the best hardcore frontmen have done. The twin guitar leads between Stewart and Ryan, never really at the same time, were strong and creative rather than merely an excuse to show off.
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At one point, someone held a beer to Hagman, and he put two fingers into the brew and used the beer to anoint himself. The whole band seemed to have gelled as though no time had passed between it being an active unit. Bean's expressive drumming coupled with Pfeifer's bass playing, which glued the sound together while also driving it, allowed Hagman, Stewart and Ryan to freely riff off one another.
In some circles, Black Lamb is considered the premier stoner rock band, but this music wasn't really that because there's no doom in it -- maybe in Hagman's harrowing honesty with the lyrical content, but the music is more like a joyously played hard rock bordering on metal. If this band played better than it did tonight, it would be hard to imagine, because there was nothing sloppy about any of it, and you had to marvel at how this band could have technical prowess and use it but not let that take over the songwriting.
Before the show ended, Hagman told us, "This song you might know the words to, but if you don't, just make them up -- because that's what I do." Turns out there were no worries because Black Lamb played one of its best, and most beloved, songs -- "Morning Star." Toward the end, Hagman held the microphone to the audience where various people would sing/yell "We are the morning star."
Afterward, the band tried to get off the stage because it really didn't have any or many other songs, but the cheering went on, even though it didn't help because this incarnation of the band literally didn't have other songs written before it started to splinter. But the quintet performed with high spirits and a sense of camaraderie amongst each other and with the crowd.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Tim Vigil, the current bass player of Black Lamb, and a fellow fan of the band prior to his membership, helped get me into this show. Random Detail: Ran into Maia Fortis of Burn Heavy. By the Way: Black Lamb has an excellent new album called Corridos Negros.
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Black Lamb 02.19.11 | Bender's Tavern
01. Today 02. Widdowmaker 03. Walk With Me 04. Fool's Gold 05. Born and Razed 06. Pillar of Salt 07. Morning Star