Photos: Stefan Alexander Review: Jeff K
I didn't think I was going to make it to Distrikt at first. As much as I wanted to take in the dark-magic triple-header of Black Wizard, Bison BC and Red Fang, I didn't have the $30. I really didn't, mostly because of a multitude of other concert tickets I’d purchased in advance (life's hard, I know). But, by some cosmic intervention, a friend of a friend paved the way for me, and so what began as a sleepy night off in Victoria turned into a evening of bearded sludge-metal and clever garage-stoner-rock.
Walking into the Black Wizard's set was rather intense. My first thought was that I’d walked into the middle of a set by Night Seeker as the lead singer reminded me strongly of a shirtless Dean Murdoch from Fubar (save for the moustache), especially when acknowledging the crowd with a breathy "Ohhhh fuck yeah, boys... and girls, we got 3 songs left so buckle the fuck up!" The songs blazed hot and screechy like Sabbath with the soul and memorable guitar riffs to match. My best mate Dan Ball (who attends these hot gigs regularly) and I both agreed that in a genre of music that is hard to showcase originality in these days, Black Wizard clearly live and breathe their own unique yet classic sound, and do very well at pulling off their influences while making it all fresh and exciting. There was nothing mediocre about their set, or their constant, tasteful use of shredding as an art form.
Next up was Bison (BC), who my band and I had the fortunate opportunity of sharing the stage with at Logan's Pub as part of Rifflandia Music Festival back in 2008 - something I still remember as if it were a dream. 8 years later, I could instantly see what years of musicianship had developed into - a professional and well-balanced wall of sound that has the momentum to crush and disorient you emotionally, yet contains such defining clarity that it’s almost symphonic. Their 8-minute saga “Stressed Elephant” is a great example of how dramatic, and oddly poetic, their sound is capable of being and, if I’m being brutally honest, I much prefer this band live - which I view as a great thing. There were long moments when the sludgy drop C droning that they are known for was brought down to the pace of molasses in January and put me into a sleepy trance, but they soon snapped out of that pit of despair and endless breakdowns, climbing back up to the surface for some quicker-paced riff bombardment just when everyone needed a pick me up. I never thought I would get emotional shivers from sludge-metal, but there is a dark and satisfyingly aggressive power behind Gnarwell’s screams that I find rather beautiful, however dissonant.
At last came Red Fang, a fairly legendary stoner-garage-rock outfit from Portland, Oregon. This is a band I have been listening to avidly for years. Personally, I find their music is enhanced by the consumption of a few (or a lot) of beers and tends to be reserved for those nights that just head straight-fucking-sideways in a hurry. That is not to say it is advised to be drunk while listening, but if their amazingly well-produced and hilarious array of music videos offer any insight at all into the personality behind the band, it is probably safe to say that letting liquor be the wind beneath your wings before, during or after your favourite creative activities is a constant aspiration. Overall, there was a great energy to their set, and I was ecstatic to hear the round of classics I had grown to love (Hank Is Dead, Prehistoric Dog, Good To Die) were well-placed next to newer material in a tasteful, thought out manner. Compared to the other bands on the bill, I would have to say they sounded slightly more polished than I expected them to, allowing a more signature sound to come through and showcase their musicianship. I could tell they were a bit road-weary, and probably had more to give in previous dates on the tour, but as a touring musician myself, I found this to be more endearing than anything and had a great respect for them for still managing to pull off a spot on gig. Full-time rocking is hard work, and considering their career so far, they haven’t half-assed anything yet.
All in all. Top show.