Iâ€™ve been a Corrosion Of Conformity fan for nearly 30 years. I was first taken in by their awesome spiked skull/fallout sign logo way back in the '80s. My devotion grew as I listened to battered cassette copies of Eye for an Eye and Animosity. The bandâ€™s style has changed a lot over the years, but Iâ€™ve always stuck with them. Iâ€™ve enjoyed all of the bandâ€™s different eras, and Iâ€™ve seen them quite a few times in various configurations. (Itâ€™s worth noting that every core member, with the exception of guitarist Woodroe Weatherman, has left and come back at least once.) Like most fans, I was elated to hear that guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan was returning to the fold. As much as I enjoyed the last two LPs, recorded as a trio, the Keenan/Weatherman/Dean/Mullin line-up is the undisputed classic. I was determined to catch them live, as I hadnâ€™t seen this version of COC since the late '90s. I wanted to see them bad enough that I was willing to pay top dollar to see them open for someone else. Which brings us to Clutchâ€¦
Grand Rapids, Michigan loves Clutch. The band plays here to a full house year after year. The relationship started back in the early '90s when Clutch was a new band playing our smallest and dingiest clubs. They built their following from the ground up, and many of those fans have stayed with them through the years. (Theyâ€™ve obviously added a few too. There were never more than 200 or so people at those legendary Reptile House shows.) I canâ€™t really explain it, some bands just click with some cities. I was a Clutch fan when they were playing our smallest and dingiest clubs. Iâ€™ve seen them at least ten times. Their first two LPs were great. I loved Transnational Speedway League (1993) and Clutch (1995). Then I just kind of lost interest. Itâ€™s ok. It happens. Itâ€™s nobodyâ€™s fault. I figured this show would be a good chance to give them another listen.
The Shrine opened the sold out show at The Orbit Room in suburban Grand Rapids on October 15th. They played fuzzed-out stoner metal and fit in well on the bill. They looked like extras from a '70s biker movie, complete with long hair, leather jackets and headbands. They sounded like they looked, with wailing lead guitar and vocals over a thick layer of sludgy bass and drums. I caught about 25 minutes of the Venice Beach trioâ€™s set, and I really enjoyed it. I will definitely check out The Shrine more thoroughly.
Corrosion Of Conformity took the stage to â€œHeavenâ€™s Not Overflowing.â€ It was the first of four songs that they played from their landmark 1994 album Deliverance. While they looked a little older, musically they appeared to have picked up right where they left off. They also seemed to be genuinely enjoying playing together after quite a few years apart. Woody couldnâ€™t seem to wipe the smile off his face. Mike Dean (who might be one of the most underrated bass players of all time) seemed entranced in the haze of the music. Reed Mullin banged on the drums happily while singing along to himself. Pepper dedicated â€œWhoâ€™s Got the Fireâ€ from 2000â€™s Americaâ€™s Volume Dealer to opener The Shrine. He also sent â€œAlbatrossâ€ out to Clutch and added â€œThis song is about getting high as a motherfucker.â€ (A bouncer had told me earlier that the fumes coming from COCâ€™s bus could about knock you out.)
It was an interesting choice of songs, because they passed over some of their better-known tracks in favor of some more personal ones. They wrapped up their 50-minute set with an extended version of â€œClean My Wounds.â€ Apparently I wasnâ€™t the only one who wished they had played twice as long. The chants of C-O-C, C-O-C lasted for a while after the band left the stage. After their set, Pepper and Woody spent the rest of the night mixing with the fans. There was lots of hand shaking, picture taking and autograph signing. They seemed like genuinely nice guys. COC just announced that theyâ€™re making a new record for Nuclear Blast, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for one of my old favorites.
By this time, it was hard not to notice how much facial hair was in the room. The majority of the fans resembled Clutch guitarist Tim Sult, before he shaved off his beard. Many of them were also heroically drunk. The club played the music between the bands almost as loud as the bands themselves, and they didnâ€™t turn on the house lights between acts. It was virtually impossible to find any friends that might be there or even hold a conversation. It was pretty annoying.
Clutch came out blazing with new songs from their recently released 11th album Psychic Warfare. At one point, singer Neil Fallon said they were going to play every track from said new record. I donâ€™t know if they did or not, because I did not recognize a single song. You could feel the crowdâ€™s energy surge when the band occasionally played an older song they recognized. Clutch did not play anything from their first two LPs or any of their radio staples. About 20 minutes into their set, Fallon strapped on a guitar for the first time. For those of you who donâ€™t know, thereâ€™s two types of songs at a Clutch show. Thereâ€™s the entertaining ones where Fallon stalks the stage armed only with a microphone, spitting out his sometimes funny, sometimes insightful lyrics. Then thereâ€™s the dull ones where he stands behind his guitar and sings.
For me, the highlight of their set was when someone threw a big, fat, lit joint on stage and it landed right at Fallonâ€™s feet. â€œNice shot,â€ he said, before adding â€œIâ€™d smoke it but the record company makes me take a piss test.â€ (Clutch has released their last few albums on their own Weathermaker Music label). Fallon added harmonica and cowbell to the last song of the regular set. After jamming for an hour, Clutch filed off stage. Five minutes later they came back out and played for another 15 minutes. The crowd really seemed to enjoy two of the three encore songs.
I heard one concert-goer loudly complaining about the song selection after the show. He swore heâ€™d never pay to see Clutch again. While artists certainly have the right to play whatever they want, fans also have the right to not give their hard earned money to bands who make no effort to give them what they want. That being said, most people there seemed to think it was the greatest thing ever. I still donâ€™t really get the Clutch thing, but I was in the minority on this night.
Corrosion Of Conformity Set List:Â
Heavenâ€™s Not Overflowing
Whoâ€™s Got the Fire
Vote With a Bullet
Clean My Wounds