The beginning of the silly season is upon as a veritable smorgasbord of gigs appear in the horizon. Some top notch classic rock is on the table tonight, courtesy of California’s Ugly Kid Joe who bring with them Australia’s Hailmary and… well, their lead singer and another guy as openers.
Ross will have to tell you about Richards/Crane as, due to the rather early opening time, I couldn’t get there in time to see them. Take it away, Ross…
Opening for Ugly Kid Joe was Richards/Crane. Yes, Whitfield Crane was supporting his own band. Sadly I missed most of their set due to the inconvenience of a full-time job but I saw the last song…and a half. Some laid back acoustic songs are a great way to kick off the evening and it was rather well done.
On the other hand, I did make it to The Garage shortly after Hailmary took to the stage to a 3/4-full venue. Their mainstream brand of rock had more Skid Row influences than anything else and they also know how to work a crowd.
Making the most of the stage area available to them, they played a decent length set and did their “warm up” job very well indeed. Hell, when they finished, you’d think they’d been the headline act. All dragged out notes, guitars held high and so on. Definitely a band to keep an eye on.
The last time I saw our headliners was a couple of years ago with Skid Row. Funnily enough, that time they had another Australian band in to (Dead City Ruins). Now, I’ll be honest – UKJ aren’t a band I’ll have on the stereo very often. In fact, the last time I listened to them was at that last gig. And the last time before that was likely around the time Menace to Sobriety came out…
However, half a song in and I’m belting out the words to Neighbour with the rest of them. It may have been some time before I had their material on heavy rotate, but back in the day it was heavy rotate.
Frontman Crane is a great focal point for the band. Up front, but more than happy to share the limelight with his bandmates, you get the feeling that he wishes he could perform in the crowd. Constantly at the edge of the stage, toes dangling, leaning forward to be that bit closer he’s a man who has made the act of engaging with the audience into an art form. In some ways he reminds me of Shinedown’s Brent Smith – the leans into the crowd, the bow at the end of the song – though his vocal style is obviously different. Throaty at times, but he can hit those high notes when he wants to.
The next most noticeable band member is drummer Zac Morris. Sporting a new tattoo he got yesterday – and very little else, worryingly – Morris looks like a naked hippy who’s had Animal’s brain transplanted into his head. Imagine John Lennon who’s renounced this “give peace a chance” shit and opted instead for “give beating hell out of stuff a chance” and you’re on the right path. He proves that you don’t need a Nick McBrain-esque collection of drums to run the rhythm section playing, as he does, a very pared down kit.
Guitar duties are covered by original member Klaus Eichstadt and Sonny Mayo who tours in place of long-stander Dave Fortman. Eichstadt began the gig with a beaten-up guitar that looked old enough to have been used to record their debut EP. Old faithful gave up the ghost early on in the gig, though. His more laid-back approach was chalk to Mayo’s cheesy jumps and posing, the two six-stringers complementing each other well. Cordell Crockett joined the band around the same time as Fortman and provided a little comic relief around the other two.
Ugly Kid Joe are a great live act. Tight, in sync with each other and very obviously a bunch of mates who enjoy what they’re doing. The set list was primarily older material with just the two brand new tracks (“Hell Ain’t Hard To Find” and “She’s Already Gone”) and three from 2012’s Stairway to Hell EP but at no point did the audience stop singing, clapping or waving their arms.
I’m not sure if the gig was sold out, but if it wasn’t then it was a close thing. From singing the chorus to “Everything About You” to kicking off a small circle pit to a cover of “Ace of Spades” there wasn’t a single person in the place who wasn’t grinning by the end of the show.
All that remains to say is that the new album’s out imminently (October 16th, I believe) and I hope the band come back sooner rather than later in support of it.
Gary’s full set of photos are below – click on the slideshow to go to the Flickr set for larger versions.