By Andrew Bansal
Jan. 28th 2012, Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles CA: Graveyard’s second studio album “Hisingen Blues” came out early last year, and since first listen, it has been one of my favorite albums of recent times. I would go as far as saying that it’s one of the best pieces of music I’ve heard in a long, long time. As a result, I have developed a tremendous amount of admiration for the Swedish hard rockers, and having never seen them live, I was eagerly waiting for a chance to do so. Last November, the band finally announced their North American touring plans for early 2012, and my anticipation grew tenfold.
The LA show of the tour was at the Bootleg Theater last night, the very same venue they played on their previous North American tour in 2009. The prospect of seeing them play songs off of “Hisingen Blues” was sufficiently exciting in itself, but the band also brought with them Iowa-based rock trio Radio Moscow as support, while Los Angeles’ very own rock ‘n roll trio The Shrine provided local support for the night.
Strangely enough, I’d never been to this venue before, so I was just observing the scene when I entered at around 8.30 PM. It was an interesting setting. The entrance led straight to the merchandise table, followed by a bar/waiting room, and then the main concert theater. The stage was smallish but perfect for the size of this venue. There was plenty of standing room, with a few movie theater-type seats at the back. During the show, I changed my spot a couple of times, and the sound seemed to be good everywhere. Based on how everything eventually turned out, I can safely say that Graveyard and their booking agents made the right choice by choosing the Bootleg Theater for their Los Angeles return.
The Shrine got the show started at 9.30 with a short but delightful set, bestowing their brand of psychedelic rock ‘n roll violence upon us. They played pretty much everything that’s on their “Bless Off” demo, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. I was already familiar with the band, having seen them open for Kyuss Lives at the Wiltern and Ramming Speed at the Five Star Bar last year, so I knew what to expect. But first time listeners in this crowd were also equally impressed with this band’s music and gave them a generous applause after every song, and indeed at the end of the set. For me, “Primitive Blast” was the highlight of their set. That song encapsulates everything that’s great about rock ‘n roll. I hugely adore the songs “Whistlings Of Death” and “Deep River” too. This is a band I dearly love, so instead of going on and on talking about them, I’d simply suggest you to check them out at their next show. This SoundCloud stream of their “Bless Off” demo should give you a fair idea of what they sound like, but their live shows are a whole another thing. Very highly recommended.
To be honest, I wasn’t at all familiar with Radio Moscow, but I was very entertained by their performance last night. It was completely different from The Shrine’s music, which was a good thing. There was a significantly larger amount of groove to their tunes. While I would still broadly describe them as a hard rock trio, they definitely infused elements of indie rock and garage rock. Guitar solos played a minor role in their tunes, and it was all about the riff and the groove. I felt that the trio did an excellent job in putting forth their musical style, and the fact that they’re a three-piece made it all the more perfect. They seemed to be very natural in their live musicianship, and it almost felt like they were simply jamming up there on stage with no trace of deliberation in their demeanor. Another aspect I absolutely loved was mainman Parker Griggs’ primary instrument, the Fender Stratocaster. The look and tone of a Fender Strat have always been my favorite when it comes to guitars, and I love seeing it in the hands of talented rock musicians. Overall, Radio Moscow made a great first impression on me, and I’d be inclined to see them again next time they visit our city.
The crowd started squeezing in as close to the stage as they possibly could, waiting for Graveyard to begin their set. Soon after, the band members appeared one by one, and opened with “Blue Soul”, a song from their self-titled debut full-length album. The 13-song set was stacked heavily in favor of the material off of “Hisingen Blues”, and I had absolutely no problem with that, because that’s what I mainly wanted to hear from them. Not that the debut album is bad by any means, it’s just that the new one has taken their music to far greater heights, and this was clearly reflected in their performance last night. The new songs actually did sound much better than the older ones. They played as many as 8 songs from the new record, including the rare B-side “Granny And Davis”.
As glad as I was to see that everyone was having a great time during this amazing 75-minute set, I definitely felt that the crowd was unexpectedly violent. I didn’t really think that Graveyard’s music would induce that kind of a reaction. Barring a couple of tunes, it doesn’t warrant raging mosh pits like the ones I bore the brunt of last night. But I guess that’s what you get with 21-and-over shows, people letting loose, even for the slower, mellow segments of the music.
Going in to the show, the song I was most looking forward to hearing was the title track from “Hisingen Blues”, but as it turned out, “Ain’t Fit To Live Here” was the highlight of the set for me. “Uncomfortably Numb” was enjoyable for completely contrasting reasons, and all in all, Graveyard presented the whole gamut of their musicianship in this set. Even though I had already listened to the Hisingen Blues album countless number of times, the ordering of its tunes in this set list put an interesting spin on things, and made it sound almost like a new entity. “Ungrateful Are The Dead” followed by “Uncomfortably Numb” sounded perfect in the live setting, and the set had an unmistakable flow to it. Other than addressing the crowd a couple of times and announcing the song titles, the band let their music do all the talking.
As I have mentioned a few times already, Hisingen Blues easily finds itself in my top 5 albums of 2011, but I was actually very surprised that I didn’t see it featured in the year-end-lists on most other rock/metal blogs. How this album was overshadowed by all of the hipster nonsense that contaminates those lists is beyond me, because this album is rock ‘n roll at its absolute finest. Nonetheless, even if you didn’t get to listen to the album yet, it’s never too late to discover good music, music that’s as pure as Graveyard’s.
As long as bands like Graveyard are putting on eargasmic performances like the one last night, 70’s-style hard rock will never die down. I will forever be grateful to Graveyard, Radio Moscow and The Shrine for giving Los Angeles this treat, and I feel fortunate to have witnessed it.
Related: Graveyard interview
1. Blue Soul
2. Buying Truth (Tack & Förlåt)
3. As The Years Pass By, The Hours Bend
4. Ungrateful Are The Dead
5. Uncomfortably Numb
6. Granny And Davis
7. Ain’t Fit To Live Here
8. No Good, Mr. Holden
9. Satan’s Finest