Review: Speedwolf at The Marquis Theater, 12/16/11

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Reed Bruemmer

feigned surprise at the end of the band's set last night and asked the audience if they actually wanted to hear the band cover


. Of course everyone did, so the guys closed the record-release show with their raucous rendition of "Strutter" instead of "Cold Gin" and the stage diving that happened throughout the show continued somehow. Though Bruemmer did joke that if someone stage dove during "Strutter" they could get bragging rights. Maybe that was his way of actually keeping the stage diving going right until the very end.

Before Speedwolf took the stage, three figures in black, full face masks came forward bearing flags. The one on the left, a Broncos banner. On the right, a Speedwolf flag and the figure in the middle, had a Colorado State flag and it was him, Brian Castillo (aka DJ El Brian), that served as the MC getting the crowd riled up for the band proper to come on with the music. And Speedwolf didn't exactly waste any time getting to around an hour of music that felt more like half an hour because the foursome performed with some kind of heightened energy likely feeding off the crowd. Bruemmer joked that he didn't know that so many people liked Speedwolf.

It was the kind of music that you'd imagine Lemmy would have made had he come up through punk and hardcore instead of the '60s. Running through most, if not all, of Ride With Death, the band's latest record, everyone on stage was relentless in unleashing a fun-loving, primal rock and roll. Richie Tice made the use of double bass not just a mindless jackhammer that you hear in a lot of metal.

Rather, in perfect conjunction with his other drums, and Jake Kauffman's fluid yet rugged bass rumble, he blasted out the appropriate beat for the pacing of every song in every moment. People who haven't really listened to the band might think every song has the same pace, but Tice showed this wasn't the case with each song last night. Yes, all of it was fast-paced but also surprisingly nuanced so it didn't feel like you were getting pummeled into submission. Instead, it felt like you were brought along for the ride.

Around the middle of the set, Bruemmer told us that a lot of their songs have the word "wolf" in the title and that the new song was called "Sign of the Wolf." Kris Wells' sharp guitar line alongside Bruemmer's vocal tones for the song were reminiscent of Motörhead's "Cradle to the Grave" -- definitely not a bad thing because not many people can sound like that.

Before the next number, and at another point in the show, Kauffman teased the bass line to Ozzy's "No More Tears" but Bruemmer laughed and said, "No, no, no." Instead, Speedwolf bowled right into "I Am the Demon" with a palpable vigor. Almost as much as for the follow-up, a true Speedwolf classic, with "Denver 666" - before which Bruemmer jokingly scolded people in the crowd for extolling the virtues of Los Angeles and New York to us.

That would have been the end, but instead of leaving the stage like lame rock stars, Speedwolf did two covers to close the show. The aforementioned "Strutter" to finish but "Witching Hour" by Venom to start. Bruemmer and the other guys in the band seemed in such great spirits, heartened by the response of the crowd you really felt that with them which we could do with to experience more often.

The night's show started with No Thought. Those of us who have seen the band are used to places where the sound system, to put it charitably, isn't as good. This time, you could hear all the drum beats and nuances perfectly along with the guitar textures. No Thought always sounds like it's doing physical damage to your body with its blasts of gritty sonics. Eli Wendler's drums sounded gigantic under and over a guitar sound. It was not unlike what you might hear if you put a contact mike on a thick piece of metal being worked on by an arc welder, near the point where the electrode contacts the surface, only more controlled, more biting with precision. Musically, it was akin to grindcore but in some ways more aggressive or at least more robust low end to give it the feel like the songs gouged out at you rapidly and with a relentless persistence that let up when the song ended.

Weapönizer was a three piece that played, on the surface anyway, a thrashy kind of speed metal with naturally distorted vocals with an intentionally anti-melodic tone. As the set went on the guitar sound and the rhythms were reminiscent of some strange blend of Shane Embury's savage leads with death metal precision while the bass and drums did runs that were rapidly syncopated, sped up rhythms like a thrash song played at a higher speed. The band's set ended with a song that might have been called "Machinegun Breath" but when it started out, the guitar work sounded like "Am I Evil" at one and a half times the rate.

You might be excused for checking what year it might be when Negative Degree got on stage because the band played music that sounded like, with mannerisms that looked like, 1980s southern California hardcore with a twinge of Negative Approach mixed in. But for taking on the style of another era, the guys in Negative Degree didn't play like they were going through the motions and doing the band equivalent of coloring by numbers.

They actually seemed like they were putting themselves on the line a little. Especially when the music got anthemic like only hardcore can get with the lyrics being a communal thing with the people with the guts to show up and be a part of the proceedings. This none more so than with the final number, "Punch Out," when more than a small handful of people in the crowd raised fists and shouted along to the chorus.

Something looked suspicious when MF Ruckus took stage. All of the band members save its singer were wearing bandanas. (The singer wore a backward.) Before the music proper started, at the very least the drummer had a huge sound. Maybe the sound guy this night was just really good at mixing drums -- which is a rarity.

So MF Ruckus started out with a song called "Hell Yeah Back Door." There was a lot of "Oh yeah!" and "Alright!" throughout the show. Like some kind of southern rock thing. But mostly the music reminded me of Dr. Feelgood-era Mötley Crüe. Which is probably the appeal for a lot of people -- but just seemed weird on this bill. Not that there's anything wrong with a bill being eclectic.

After the second song the singer asked the crowd, "How many of you are wearing something other than just a black t-shirt?" Some of us raised our hands. He, for the record, was wearing a white Run DMC t-shirt. Pretending to count hands he said, "That makes 0.1 percent of us. Oh, my Venom t-shirt is in the cleaners." For the last comment he got a rimshot from the drummer.

So there was more than just a little put-on with this band. Besides, MF Ruckus had a song called "Jesus Hellraiser Christ" that sounded a lot like some mid-era Iron Maiden thing. Later on, the singer asked, half-jokingly, and totally sardonically, "Are you ready to classic rock?" Some of the crowd cheered. "This is one we wrote while listening to a lot of ZZ Top." It ended up being some song where one of the lyrics was "Me and the boys are gettin' high as a kite because mama ain't home tonight."

Were they kidding us?

Well, there was a song called "Balls of Steel" and then the singer told us they were going to play a Thin Lizzy cover. But then proceeded to play an MF Ruckus song. But made good at the end with a legitimate cover of "The Boys Are Back in Town" that blended in with the tail end of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and actually got most of the crowd to sing out the end. Even if you weren't into MF Ruckus, it has to be admitted that band knows how to work a crowd and actually puts on a show instead of just getting up and playing instruments.


Personal Bias: I'm a bit of a Speedwolf fan. Random Detail: Ran into Tiana Bernard and Darren Kulback formerly (?) of Hot White, Ethan McCarthy of Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire (and Keep and Death of Self) and Steven Jackson of Ghosts of Glaciers at the show. By the Way: No Thought currently has out a split tape with Roskopp.

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