HOT PRESS LIVE REVIEW: QOTSA IN BELFAST

2 10 2014

I’ve always had a strained relationship with Queens Of The Stone Age. I suppose it stretches back to around this time ten years ago. At that point in my life I had been a fan of head Queen Josh Homme for around a decade. Myself and my brother adored his first (and best) band Kyuss after discovering them via 2fm’s infamous Metal Show. When the band imploded, I was one of “those people” who hastily went out and ordered QOTSA’s split release and from there, although I was initially a little wigged out at Homme’s high-pitched vocals, I loved those first two albums. In fact I was such a fan that I even knew how to correctly pronounce his surname (“Mommy” only with an “H” instead of “M,” kids).

Like most things in life though, my affection for the band waned after a time. Yes, that show with Homme, Oliveri, Langegan et al in Dublin’s Ambassador (circa 2002) was incredible. After that though, things seemed to sour. Mark Lanegan left, Nick was fired and a project that only ever intended to release three records (according to Homme himself) began to tread water and churn out sub-standard shite.

I kept the faith though. At least initially. I’ll admit being offered interviews with Homme (during the middle part of the 2000’s) only for them to be switched to one of his lieutenants at the eleventh hour did grate. Especially when during one of those phoners I was told “Josh has lost his voice and can’t speak to you,” but I could clearly hear him loudly talking for 30minutes in the background while his guitarist Troy whispered two and three word answers to my questions. At that point, our plan was to make Queens and the then burgeoning stoner rock scene as a whole the cover of Alternative Ulster. Needless to say, it didn’t pan out and some nonsense on (the not very alternative) U2 went on page one instead. But that’s a tale for another time.

Over the intervening years, more average albums were inflicted on me and I witnessed a slew of less than stellar QOTSA shows. Then Homme decided to sue his old Kyuss band-mates for playing gigs as Kyuss Lives. An unforgivable act, in my book. Especially as there were plenty of us who never got to see John Garcia, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork all onstage together the first time around.

Ever the optimist though, I did have a thimble’s-worth of hope that Homme could reach past heights again. That too drained away after watching QOTSA bore the assembled masses in Belfast’s Odyssey last year though. As I stood waiting for my friend, I saw a gentleman clad in cream chinos, a tucked in shirt and a jumper casually knotted around his neck bop up and down to (the fairly) new song ‘Smooth Sailing.’ He noticed me out of the corner of his eye, no doubt scowling away (my default setting) and-I shit you not-whipped out his air guitar and started beckoning me over to him and his Rugger mates with the arm of his make-believe instrument. It was at that moment I decided that I really needed to stick a fork in it. Queens Of The Stone Age had become the favourite rock band for a generation of people who knew fuck all about the genre. It’s not me, Queens-it’s you.

Which leads me to this post, re-publishing a review I wrote of QOTSA in Belfast during the summer that ran in Hot Press. I’ll be honest, I pitched to review the show purely for the presence of Brody Dalle (I adored the Distillers) and fully expected another flaccid affair from Homme and co. While I wasn’t completely eating my words by the gig’s climax, it was definitely the first QOTSA show I’d enjoyed in years and left me hopeful that maybe, just maybe, they might have a surprise or two left up their sleeves. And it’s the hope that gets you, folks…

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE

BELSONIC, BELFAST

Zane hiking around the house

Ok, full disclosure. I’ve felt that ever since Nick “Rex Everything” Oliveri and Mark Lanegan departed a decade ago, it’s been a series of diminishing returns for desert rockers Queens Of The Stone Age. However, while bloated albums like Era Vulgaris have disappointed way more than delighted, I’ve always desperately hoped that Josh Homme and Co. would prove me wrong. Simply put-he’s one of the founding members of the seminal Kyuss, he has more than earned a second chance.

After being warmed up with a storming set from leather-lunged punk Brody Dalle that features some absolute gems from her Distillers days (‘Sick Of It All,’ ‘Die On A Rope’), it was time for Queens to show us their riffs. Opening with the menacing ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire,’ the track is a thrillingly thuggish experience live. Break-through single ‘No-One Knows’ keeps the excitement levels up to 11 and ‘My God Is The Sun’ and ‘Monsters In The Parasol’ ensure we’re off to a neck-bothering start.

Sounding brash, ballsy and occasionally utterly brilliant, QOTSA excel in an open air venue and tonight they more than make up for that awful Belfast, Odyssey gig nine months ago which felt more like a wake than a rock show. There are still a few wobbles tonight though. Newie ‘I Sat By The Ocean’ and ‘I’m A Designer’ are dreary efforts and there is nothing from their self-titled first (and best) album in the set, but there are encouraging signs that Homme isn’t merely going through the motions and is still a punk at heart.

He berates the heavy handed bouncers, slags off the “free-loaders” in the nearby apartment blocks and in ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’ he has a true rock anthem that will never age. Finishing with ‘A Song For The Dead,’ QOTSA’s third ever Belfast show feels more like a triumph than a failure overall and this old school Kyuss and Queens fan left feeling hopeful for their future for the first time in years.

EDWIN McFEE

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Spinerette

16 12 2008

Back in 2003, Tim Armstrong and Brody Dalle made two break up albums about their personal lives. Being a fan of both Rancid and the Distillers, I was interested to see what they would come up with in light of Tim’s former lady hooking up with Josh Homme and the results were pretty mixed when all was said and done. Rancid’s ‘Indestructible’ won the battle with ‘Fall Back Down,’ ‘Start Now,’ ‘Ghost Band’ and the rare track ‘Tattoo’ all being as close to perfect as you can get and the Distillers’ patchy ‘Coral Fang’ failed to live up to ‘Sing Sing Death House’s’ potential (though ‘Die On a Rope’ was brilliant-especially the scathing lyric-“I wish you didn’t love me no more, I’ve been dead for years.”).

A year or so later the Distillers broke up and Brody took some time out for herself. After a few years in the wilderness she’s back with a new band-Spinerette. After a few listens I’m far from impressed by this mess of a single and it’s hard not to hear Homme’s influence bleed through the speakers. To be honest I’m a bit disappointed in the tune.I was always a Distillers fan (I even flew over to London to see them and Pretty Girls Make Graves) but ‘Ghetto Love’ just sounds like a b-side from the recent piss poor Queens of the Stone Age album. I hate saying it, but it’s true. Hopefully the rest of the record will prove me wrong.

 

Tim 2, Brody 0.





Show Us Your Riffs

7 11 2008

Tomorrow afternoon I’m taking myself off to Dublin to see Hermano make their Irish debut. I’ve been looking forward to the show since it was annouced months ago and this will be the first time John Garcia (Kyuss) has ever performed over here. I’ve always been a huge Kyuss fan since about ’93 ever since I heard ‘Demon Cleaner’ from ‘Sky Valley’ on the 2FM Rock Show one Sunday night. Inspired, my brother bought the album in Sounds Good on Monaghan Street (we spent every weekend in there) and it really blew my mind and is still one of my favourite records ever.

 

I was pretty much an instant Kyuss fan. I remember even covering ‘Allen’s Wrench’ in my old band (although due to many reasons it was a much punkier version than the original) and when they called it a day after ‘And the Circus Leaves Town’ I was gutted. Anyway, a  year or two ago I got the opportunity to interview John about his new band Hermano and the old days. He was such a cool bloke and had a voice like honey. Below is the original interview with the man himself ahead of what’s sure to be one of the best shows of the year. After the interview John promised to buy me a pint if he ever managed to play in Dublin and you can bet your arse I’ll hold him to his offer.

 

John Garcia

In 1989, singer John Garcia started a band with his school friend Josh Homme called Sons of Kyuss. A few years later they shortened their name to the catchier sounding Kyuss, and with the help of drummer Brant Bjork and bassist Nick Oliveri (later replaced by Scott Reeder) literally changed the face of heavy rock music with their album ‘Blues for the Red Sun’ in 1992. Two more records followed (‘Sky Valley’ and ‘And the Circus Leaves Town’) before calling it a day. Some called it “Desert Rock” others called it “Stoner Rock” but whatever way you look at it, Kyuss single-handedly created a genre that is still alive and kicking today.

            In the wake of Kyuss’ demise, John formed Slo-Burn. Unfortunately they had a life-span of about half an hour and only released one EP (‘Amusing the Amazing’). From there, John got together with his former Kyuss buddy Scott Reeder and formed Unida. As Homme’s Queens of the Stone Age began to court the mainstream press (with their music suffering as a result) Unida were the true successors to Kyuss’ throne. Sadly though, their record company didn’t seem to think so and shelved their second record. As a legion of Garcia fans all collectively smacked their fore-heads at the stupidity of the record label, Unida were put on hiatus. However, the album (‘For the Working Man’) can be found floating around cyber-space.

            Nowadays, John works full-time at a veterinary clinic. He still lives in the desert in California, he still drinks Jim Beam and he’s still got a kick-ass voice. When he wants to get his rocks off, he’s got Hermano. They’re a sorta on-again, off-again stoner supergroup.

            “We only ever see each other once every six months and I think that’s why what we have is so special,” laughs John. “Our bassist Dandy lives down the road from me in Joshua Tree and last week we drank some Jim Beam, howled with the coyotes and had fun. We’re working on the third record now and I have to say I fucking love Hermano.

             “I’ve also been working on a solo album since I was 18. I’m in no rush to get it done though. It’ll happen when it happens. When I get an idea for a song, they haunt me like ghosts until i get them finished so hopefully I’ll exorcise these demons some day.”

            These days John’s given up touring alongside the likes of Danzig and White Zombie, preferring to play live in short, sharp bursts. While some have reported he’ll leave the business for good, thankfully nothing can be further from the truth.

            “Music will never leave me. I’m just as happy singing a song with my daughter as I am onstage. The reason why I’m still making records is so she can se her daddy do what he loves to do. I don’t think I’ll ever spend 12months on a tour bus though. I’ve done the whole struggling musician thing and it’s hard. I’ve got a wife as well as my 3 year old daughter and I don’t want to put them through it. There comes a point where you’ve got to be a fucking man about things.  I’m not leaving my family behind. I like going out and touring for a few weeks. You can rip shit up and you make a bit of coin, but I don’t want to be away too long. When I was in my twenties I could party all day, but I’m getting older and touring can be hard on your body. Plus I love working at the animal hospital and I don’t want to give that up.”

            While John may have forgone the world of living on tour buses, Garcia fans were given a rare treat in LA when he sang three Kyuss songs with Queens of the Stone Age a few years ago.

            “Josh rang me up out of the blue and asked did I want to go and jam. I said yeah and I asked where he lived and he said he didn’t want to jam at his house. So I said, ok, where’s your rehearsal studio and he said-dude-I want you to come onstage with us and fucking play. I said-well it’s about fucking time! I love all those guys man, and if I’m honest, yeah, it made me miss being in Kyuss. It was a blast though.”

            With everyone from Metallica to Alice in Chains to the Distillers all hailing John as nothing short of a modern-day legend, it seems kinda odd that he never broke into the mainstream with his buddies Nick and Josh. To the singer’s credit, it doesn’t seem to bother him though.

            “I’m as happy playing to 50,000 people as I am playing to 50. I don’t think music will ever leave me. Nowadays I’m just as happy singing a song with my daughter as I am being on stage. When I put my baby to bed and my wife is asleep I like to have a Jack Daniels and coke, take a guitar out to my patio and sing a song to the coyotes and cactus. It’s a beautiful feeling.”

 

Essential Listening

Kyuss-‘Sky Valley

Twelve years on from its release, it still stands as one of the greatest records on the 90s and is Garcia and Homme’s masterpiece. It’s the kinda record that makes you thankful for having ears.

 

Unida-‘Coping with the Urban Coyote’

In an ideal world, this album should’ve made Garcia a house-hold name.

 

Hermano-‘Live at W2’

For those of us who’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Garcia live, this record gives us a glimpse of the man in action.

 

John Garcia Mix-Tape

1) ‘Angry American’ by Hermano

2) ‘Gardenia’ by Kyuss

3) ‘Black Woman’ by Unida

4) ‘Demon Cleaner’ by Kyuss

5) ‘Allen’s Wrench’ by Kyuss

6) ‘Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop’ by Kyuss

7) ‘Quite Fucked’ by Hermano

8) ‘Hurricane’ by Kyuss

9) ‘Whitewater’ by Kyuss

10) ‘Thumb’ by Kyuss

11) ‘Thorn’ by Unida

12) ‘One Inch Man’ by Kyuss

13) ‘El Rodeo’ by Kyuss

14) ‘If Only Two’ by Unida

15) ‘Freedom Run’ by Kyuss

 

Hermano’s new DVD ‘Live at the W2’ is out now.

Edwin McFee