Spirit Caravan/Elder/Against the Grain - Live in Grand Rapids (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Spirit Caravan / Elder / Against the Grain

Live in Grand Rapids (2015)

live show

For me, the fourth time was the charm for seeing Scott “Wino” Weinrich at The Pyramid Scheme in downtown Grand Rapids. I had previously missed Spirit Caravan, as well as shows by Saint Vitus and Premonition 13. Apparently Wino enjoys the venue as much as I do, and I finally caught him on Friday, November 20th. I had actually seen him once before in 1991 when he was playing with The Obsessed. That band had a major label deal that went sour and eventually led to their break-up. It was during this low point that Wino formed Spirit Caravan. The band would continue in the doom style of The Obsessed, Saint Vitus and of course, Black Sabbath.

Elder was touring with Spirit Caravan and Against the Grain opened both the Michigan shows. The Detroit quartet did not disappoint with their heavy 35 minute set. The crowd of mostly devoted headbangers really seemed to dig it. They played a handful of songs from their 2015 LP Road Warriors including “Here to Stay,” “Sirens” and the galloping “Night Time." They also played the title track from 2013’s Surrounded By Snakes (a personal favorite). Against the Grain is among the best of the current crop of Motown bands with their compelling blend of speed rock, punk and stoner metal. They’re always great live, and I encourage you to check them out.

Elder’s songs stood in stark contrast to ATG’s. They were much longer and the vocals were few and far between. I guess you’d call them stoner prog-metal. Guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo did some amazing things on the guitar. Again and again my eyes were drawn to his fretboard wizardry. (My eyes were also drawn to the bass player because he looked like Booger from Revenge of the Nerds.) At one point, some guy who looked like GG Allin’s dad came out and sang with the trio. That guy turned out to be Spirit Caravan bassist Dave Sherman. He was previously the singer for Earthride, and they played that band’s “Fighting the Demons Inside of You.” For me, it was the highlight of their set. Elder really wasn’t my thing, but it kept me bobbing my head while I drank my PBR. A lot of the audience must have been there to see them, as the crowd thinned out significantly when they were done.

Because Spirit Caravan had been on stage doing their own soundcheck and tuning their own guitars, it was almost anti-climactic when they finally started playing. Then came that powerful guitar sound. The one that most guitarists would sell their soul to the devil for. Wino looked hale and hearty despite his signature long gray hair. His singing voice was strong and he had his familiar Les Paul strapped around his neck. He was joined by the previously mentioned Sherman and Drummer Ed Gulli, who played on the first Obsessed record. It was truly a Maryland doom supergroup. Sherman was the more jovial one while Wino seemed genuinely grateful to be there. Wino tends to be a bit mumbly when he talks, but I clearly heard him say “this song is about a bust in international travel.” It was an obvious reference to his 2014 arrest and expulsion from Norway on drug charges while on tour with Saint Vitus.

For the sake of total disclosure, I must admit that I left an hour into Spirit Caravan’s 90 minute set. It was already after 12:30 AM, and I was tired as hell. I’m really only a casual metal fan, and I didn’t know many songs (except for Against the Grain). That being said, I enjoyed every note that I did see. Wino is one of the most influential doom musicians of all time. His riffs, tone and lyrics have spawned countless imitators, and he probably deserves more recognition in the greater metal community. I was glad to be able to see a living legend up close, and I would recommend you do the same if you’re lucky enough to get the chance.