written by Josh Hetherington
There are a couple of things you hope for at every gig. A good venue and great sound are always up at the top of the list – and for a band like Kyuss (or Kyuss Lives, as I gather they’re having to call themselves in the absence of Josh Homme on guitar), one’s hopes for a great venue and perfect sound are pretty fucking high.
Thankfully Auckland’s Powerstation has not only been back in business for a good while now, but the venue is better than it’s ever been – particularly in terms of the way the venue now feels following a significant overhaul in the design and décor, the way it’s run, the comfort factor and above all else an absolutely unequalled PA for a venue of its size (in my opinion the ideal capacity at around 1000 or so – as far as I can tell).
Indeed Saturday’s sold-out show (the second of two nights, though the first Auckland show put on sale) must have packed in that sort of number, making the vibe even more exciting. Even so the comfort level was high (I was able to make my way to about the fourth row within minutes of arriving – admittedly about half an hour into the headliner’s set), with any overcrowding clearly off the agenda of the Powerstation’s manager (and show promoter).
I wouldn’t usually dwell so pedantically on the peripheral – but in this instance (and with six of the planets actually in alignment – Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Uranus and Pluto) the scene was set well and truly for a genuine, kick-ass rock ’n’ roll show – and I’m just so fucking glad I went!
Having committed the cardinal sin of arriving after the band had hit the stage, my concerns about missing something like ‘One Inch Man’ were, I later learnt, well founded. But what are you gonna do? Sure, it’s somewhat of a signature tune for Kyuss, and one that had symbolised the show in my imaginings as soon as I’d heard it was happening, but such concerns and potential disappointments were soon outweighed by the reality of the band right there on stage, storming through whatever the hell they felt like in their own damn time and own special way.
Standing there as the sound and volume slammed into and engulfed me, words like whirlwind and, yes, hurricane, couldn’t help but spring to mind, as the four-piece held court, calm in the eye of the tumult they were bringing. Far less saturated (i.e. blended and overly fuzzed out) than I imagined the sound might be, and, although undeniably heavy, heaviness isn’t really the word either, unless you’re using it in the Sixties- or Unbearable Lightness of Being-sense. This was much more than just the single dimension which ‘heavy’ implies. So sonic, certainly – but what does that mean?
Well, the bitch was loud – exponentially louder the closer you got – so that’s where I was heading for this one, pretty much straight away. But it was the physicality of the volume which was so fucking awesome. Nowhere but at a (well-produced) great live show can you experience the power and volume of the full range, and particularly the bottom end so physically. It’s a compelling and intoxicating feeling as it smacks you in the sternum to the beat of the drums – arguably the only way to truly hear how great a great band can sound… and Kyuss, on this night anyway, were a great motherfucking rock band.
It’s not as if they did a hell of a lot up there, either – not until the encore anyway. But they weren’t doing much like Black Sabbath didn’t do much. And that’s about the size of it when you’ve got the songs, the aura, the boogie and the groove to back it up.
Surprisingly delicate at times – guitarist Bruno Fevery not only looked like a Mexican Jimmy Page but sounded and felt like him, too – particularly during the Latin-feel, wah-soaked solo which intro’ed (one of the highlights in) ‘El Rodeo’ (Garcia leaving the stage Plant style for the solo, drummer Brant Bjork sporting a Bonzo ’tache and headband to almost complete the picture). And then again the natural thwump of the bass and drums (and searing, single, fat-as-all-hell guitar), pushing air hard and heavy, but with the definition, space, looseness and humanity of a perfectly swinging three-piece (plus singer), leaning shoulder to the gale as the crowd leaned back.
And that’s about all that needs saying. I’m pretty sure they played ‘100 Degrees’, ‘Supa Scoopa…’, ‘Asteroid’ and ‘Demon Cleaner’, definitely played ‘Gloria Lewis’ and ‘Hurricane’ – off and on again for one extended, devastating squall of an encore – bassist Nick Oliveri alternately hunkering over his bass and snarling into the mic, Garcia invoking Thor or Bigfoot or John Wayne, arms stretched out wide and low in the classic gunslinging, bring-it-on-motherfucker, stance – and that was it. A friend of mine replied to my enquiry about the encore, ‘Um, I got it down as ‘Allen’s Wrench’, ‘50 Million Year Trip…’, ‘Tangy Zizzle’ and ‘Green Machine’. Could be wrong…’. She’s right, but her point is really this: ‘Whatever, man, it’s fucking Kyuss’.
‘If you’re gonna ride, Baby, ride the wild horse. We can’t drink no more, but we’ll try. You can find us, Baby, in the basement, and we’ll slug you in your fucking head, yeah!’
Josh Hetherington is an Auckland-based DJ, musician and filmmaker. Check out his film work at REEL FILM