Elder/REZN/Lord Buffalo/High Priest: Presented by Last Rites Events
Avondale Music Hall, Chicago: September 9, 2023
A Rough Day at the Office
Saturday was an incredibly busy day for me. I celebrated one week of wedded bliss with my lovely bride during the day, all while juggling streaming stats and doing my best to promote my band, Shadow of Jupiter’s (SOJ from now on)debut album, Porta Coeli, which dropped the day before. I was a bit out of sorts.
Keeping me slightly sane was the immense anticipation of driving up into the city and seeing a spectacular show with amazing people at a ‘new to heavy music’ venue on the North Side (“Da NortSide” for all of you not familiar with ‘Chicago Speak’) called Avondale Music Hall. I am a HUGE fan of Elder. I am a HUGE fan of hometown boys, REZN (see my article on their recent collab release with Vinnum Sabbathi, Silent Future HERE).
Lord Buffalo has been on my radar thanks to social media algorithms. High Priest is an amazing Stoner/Doom band from Chicago, and they are also featured with Shadow of Jupiter on Weedian: Trip to Illinois, so I was looking incredibly forward to this show. Three of the four members of SOJ were slated to attend, but things were still up in the air due to family stuff. Ugh… responsibilities!
The universe was throwing some incredibly high highs that day: Streaming numbers were climbing, getting lots of new followers on the socials and quite a few, “cha-chings” in the Bandcamp notifications (if ya know, ya know…).
At the same time, the universe was reminding me that with the good comes the not so good: the 2 other members of SOJ planning to go had to back out of going for family medical stuff. After some communications throughout the day, it was determined that I was the sole member of SOJ that would be attending. I’m going solo… But wait, there’s more! My garage door decided that Saturday would be an incredible day to take a shit. Yay me!
After tackling the garage door debacle, I was in the car and heading to Da NortSide for a rock show!
I arrive early to shows because that’s my M.O. I get good parking. I get to hang with fellow concert goers before doors open. I get to grab a bite if I’m hungry. I may even run into a band member or two…or more…
Two Steak Tacos on Corn Tortillas and a Diet Coke, please…
As fate would have it, the venue doors not being scheduled to open for another hour and a half, plus my need for food, led me on a walk a couple of blocks north to a corner Mexican restaurant. As I walked into the restaurant, Elder’s Nick DiSalvo noticed my Shadow of Jupiter shirt (yep, I broke the rule & wore my own band shirt… more on this later) and says, “Here’s a Stoner Rock Fan!” I laughed and exclaimed, “Holy Shit! Hey guys, I f***ing LOVE you, but I know this is your down time and you need to enjoy your meal without me going all fanboy on you”.
Let me tell you how appreciative bands are that you respect their time and space.
Keeping the fanboy at bay the best I could, I sat a couple of tables away as the waitress brought the chips and salsa assortment to my table (I also snuck a photo and immediately texted it to our resident Chief, the Nopesmoker himself, stating, “Eating Mexican food with Elder right now…”).
Elder’s “other” guitarist, Mike Risberg leaned over and exclaimed, “Try the green sauce, it SLAPS!” With that, I followed his advice, and it did, indeed, SLAP! The waitress made her way back to me to take my order: “Two steak tacos on corn tortillas and a Diet Coke, please…”
(Editors Note- Mike Risberg knows his shiz- SWSpiers)
Marketing, Promoting, Whoring…
The Stoner/Doom/Heavy Underground band scene is not a cut-throat industry, just my personal observation. The community is incredibly kind and welcoming: from the fans all the way up to the label owners.
However, it is incredibly difficult to navigate through the heavy traffic if you want to get some attention, likes, follows, streams, and sales. There are literally THOUSANDS of bands around the world in this genre releasing amazing music, posting incessantly on social media, and all trying to get at least a toe, if not a foot, in the door to gain more streams, vinyl sales, label deals, and gigs. I suppose the same could be said for bloggers, pages, and video channels like us here at cleanandsoberstoner.com. We don’t do it for the money, that’s for sure!
While walking back to the venue, I took the opportunity to talk to a recently fed & gracious Nick DiSalvo, who was kind enough to do a quick video promoting our new release. Remember that whole thing about respecting time and space? Yep, it paid dividends…
Still a half hour before the doors opened, I got to stand in line and talk to the always amazing folks who attend these shows. People complimenting each other’s concert shirts, asking how far they traveled for the show, etc. By the time the doors opened, new friendships/concert buddies were established and a few of the group had, without my knowledge, noticed my shirt and without even knowing my relation to Shadow of Jupiter, jumped on Spotify, Bandcamp, and Instagram to follow the band. Remember, I “broke the rule” about wearing my own band shirt to a show…
I was not only there to watch some of my favorite bands. I was a soldier trying to navigate the heavy traffic of the genre. Before the venue doors even opened, I had gotten one of the biggest/most recognizable figures in the scene to do a video promo for my new album which had just dropped. I had gained new followers without even mentioning one word about my band. I was in the trenches. I was marketing, promoting, whoring…
Avondale Music Hall and Last Rites Events…
From some quick reconnaissance (well, I overheard some stuff…), I found that Avondale Music Hall has been primarily a Hip Hop and DJ joint. Some hearsay going on while waiting in line was that there had been some trouble at those events and that the music hall was branching out in hopes of hosting acts where there would be less trouble.
Enter Last Rites Events. From my perspective, Last Rites just came out of nowhere and is taking no prisoners. I first became aware of them due to my relationship with Novembers Doom guitarist, Larry Roberts. Larry, along with Shadow of Jupiter drummer, Adam Kazragys and I, play in a cover band (Underground Prophets) most weekends throughout the year while we’re not working on our respective original projects.
Novembers Doom is a very well-established melodic doom band based out of Chicago, are on Prophecy Records and are currently playing in Copenhagen as I write this. Novembers Doom is on the bill for an upcoming 3-day Last Rites Events festival: Heavy Chicago, featuring: Trouble, Acid King, Bongzilla, Corrosion of Conformity, Nebula, and more, to be held at Avondale Music Hall in late September/Early October of this year.
Some quick investigative work on my end led me to putting a name with the face of the energetic and incredibly kind gentleman (Sean) with an uncanny resemblance to Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis, who kept walking up and down the line of us concertgoers, passing out Heavy Chicago Festival cards and interacting with anyone who would give him the time. Some more investigative work led me to discover that Last Rites/Sean have been a staple of the Chicago heavy underground for decades. Impressive!
Once the doors opened, I was taken aback by the music hall. Very modern, very spacious, very clean, and very accommodating. After a quick skip to the loo, I was off to the merch area…yep, merch area. Not some run of the mill corner where multi band events like this have to fight over a tiny space to pedal their wares. This was a well-lit and spacious area that accommodated all the bands’ merch and their representatives. Bravo!
Additionally, Last Rites had a small table with a friendly gentleman present helping to promote the Heavy Chicago Festival. Posters, high quality handouts, and a big QR code for those eco-friendly folks.
As for our new friend, Sean, who was promoting for Last Rites/Heavy Chicago… his night was FAR from over. Throughout the entire evening, he was back and forth, busting his ASS! He was all over the venue, by the merch, by the sound crew, by the stage, continuing to hand out show flyers, all while shaking hands and sharing smiles.
I could tell that this gentleman has a passion for the Chicago Heavy Music scene, and I went out of my way to introduce myself and thank him for all of his hard work. His handshake was firm, and his smile was genuine. This guy knows how to put on, promote, and run an event. Fist bumps and metal horns for him, for sure!
Avondale Music Hall and Last Rites appear to have a great relationship. I hope this continues for a very long time! HUGE UPS to Sean and his Last Rites Events crew for putting in the work! Very well done!
And now, it’s time for the show…
Concert Review: Elder and the Guys…
My new concert buddies and I made it up front. Leaning against a security rail, I was properly positioned where I normally like to be for a show of this caliber. I’d be in front of Tim from REZN and Nick from Elder, absorbing all of the heavy guitars my being could handle. I quickly learned that my zeal for being upfront was a poor decision as the mains (sound guy/musician speak for “Main PA Speakers) were essentially behind me. Poor observation on my part…
Magnetic Eye Records recording artists, High Priest are a Chicago-based Stoner/Doom band whose latest release, Invocation, is nothing short of spectacular. Their recent contribution of My Wave to the Magnetic Eye’s Redux Records Soundgarden Tribute: Superunknown (Redux) is an INCREDIBLY heavy and trippy tribute to Soundgarden. VERY well done! Prior to the release of Invocation, their single, Down in the Dark was originally written as a collab with Mark Lanegan, who sadly passed before it could be finished.
High Priest carries some heavy weight in this genre, and finally getting to see them had me incredibly stoked!
From the first note to the last… they had me. Even if I knew ZERO about High Priest, their sound, their stage presence, their incredible performance: ALL of that completely and totally legitimized High Priest as a heavy hitter in the Stoner/Doom genre for me. Not just a “local” band that’s “really good”. High Priest are world class, amazing musicians who write and produce spectacular music and back it all up with an awesome live performance! Open up another tab on your browser RIGHT NOW and follow them if you haven’t already!
I took the time to seek them out, say hello, buy a shirt, and give them the praise they deserve. These guys are completely down to earth amazing human beings who are busting ass putting out great music.
This is going to be a difficult one to navigate. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to Lord Buffalo enough to present a complete or fair opinion of their catalog or performance. As stated above, my position in the audience at this point was one where I was in front of vocalist/guitarist, Daniel Jess Pruitt, whose P90 equipped hollow body guitar was going into a bizarre looking tube amplifier head and all I was getting was essentially a tone akin to an icepick in the head.
About 2 songs in, I thought it better for me to move toward the rear of the venue so I could hear what the complete band sounded like. Though the sound was better, I still felt like I came to a pizza party only to be served hot dogs. I love pizza. I love hot dogs. When my tastebuds are set to have pizza and I’m presented hot dogs, my tastebuds can’t downshift fast enough. My prep for the show was essentially being incredibly familiar with REZN & Elder, while also having a pretty good idea of High Priest’s music.
Their placement on this tour, for me, is a stretch. I’ve had their music on in the background during my workdays and enjoyed it. I’m far from being a gatekeeper. I have an incredibly diverse taste in music, but I was expecting something a bit different, or more in the ‘realm’ of REZN & Elder. It’s my fault, not theirs.
They appeared to be fairly well-received by the crowd; kudos to them for being unique and suffering the rigors of a busy touring schedule.
My advice to those planning on catching this tour, PLEASE dive into the Lord Buffalo catalog, get familiar with their vibe, and enjoy their set. I did myself a disservice by not doing so and I’m afraid that my blurbs above might come across negatively. That’s not my intent. The whole concert should be enjoyed. Check ‘em out…
If you’ve kinda/sorta paid any attention to this page, you know that I showered immense praise on my hometown heroes, REZN when their collaboration with Vinnum Sabbathi (Silent Future) was released a short while ago.
Properly positioned in the hall for this set, I could feel the energy amp up incredibly just as they were hitting the stage. This is their hometown. This is a big tour. Holy Smokes… REZN delivered their massive heavy psych to a VERY receptive crowd. From my new placement in the crowd, REZN were delivering and receiving the vibes throughout their whole set.
The sound was incredible. I was able to distinctly hear each and every note from each musician.
Their dreamy, reverb & delay drenched sound was interwoven with brutal heavy moments throughout.
Incredibly symbiotic. A beautiful set.
It was sad when their set ended, but, HEY!!! Elder is up next! Woo Hoo!!!
How does a band follow REZN after a set of perfection?
Elder hit the stage, and when the opening droning synth of Endless Return began blossoming from the PA speakers, I had forgotten about all the previous moments of the day; the good, the not so good.
By the time the opening chords struck, I was out of my effing mind! My old ass was grooving, stank face was full throttle, metal horns being thrown up, and my being transcended from the present to the sublime!
Elder was (quoting Jimmy Page) tight but loose. An obviously veteran band that, to this point, has toured their new album, Innate Passage, extensively. Firing on all cylinders, everything presented and played with a confidence that only a band like Elder could produce.
The sound (where I was positioned) was perfect. Like REZN, I was able to distinguish & discern notes, instruments, etc. This is an incredible thing when you’re so familiar with certain parts of songs that you say to yourself, “ok, I can’t wait to hear the bass part here…” and BAM! There it is! Distinct and present.
It was like that the whole set.
Elder, to me, are otherworldly. They’ve gone from great to incredible over the years. Innate Passage continues to be in strong rotation on my turntable. Elder, like REZN, King Buffalo, Russian Circles, and a few more are what I call, vinyl-worthy bands.
Listening to vinyl is a ritual for me and the music/bands just mentioned above are worthy of going through the ritual of firing up the turntable, relaxing, immersing…
Elder’s energy that night, combined with the energy of the crowd, the attention to detail presented by Last Rites Events, the perfect venue of Avondale Music Hall… the whole experience completely lifted me.
These are rare occasions when you get to my age.
Just like the green sauce Elder’s Mike Risberg encouraged me to try earlier in the evening, Elder SLAPPED!
The Lone Soldier…
Being the lone soldier that evening turned out to be a pretty good thing. My experiences that evening were incredible.
If you are in a band and have been paying the slightest attention to my ramblings in this article, I hope that you take away several important points:
- Go to the shows!
- Engage with fellow fans within your genre!
- Engage with local bands within your genre!
- Introduce yourself to the local promoters!
- Support the venues that support your genre!
- Support the promoters that support your genre!
Finally, being the lone soldier enabled me to ebb and flow as I wished. It’s always great going to shows with friends and it’s sometimes a gamble heading into a big city by yourself, but the stars aligned, and I was able to network AND attend one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a long time.
Finally, if this tour is scheduled anywhere near your town, go. Seriously. Buy those tickets and treat yourself to this experience!