Review by Darren Kerr
"Can you guess my age? Can you guess my weight? Somewhere between the pencils and the erasers." This was bassist Van Conner's strange question/answer after he announced it was his birthday this night at midnight. Van and guitarist/brother Gary Lee are the Screaming Tree's own twin towers of rock, and he had been tossing off asides like these in a Penn Gillette manner all through their set. Later on Gary Lee would yell "Happy fuckin' birthday brother," to which Van would reply, "Fuck you." It was a tense urgent moment, but we weren't going to see any brotherly battling à la Ray and Dave Davies, because the prevailing vibe wasn't sibling anger, it was rock -- heavy, chordal, eastern-influenced, wah wah-infused rock.
Screaming Trees focused on their last two albums, the Guess Who-ish "Sweet Oblivion" and the spiritual grass roots monolith "Dust," for this show at the Rage. Excellent renderings of "Halo of Ashes" and "Butterfly" set the ship a-sail, but it wasn't until the radio hit "All I Know" that the crowd decided to let loose and frolic a little. Gary Lee Conner was exciting to watch as he twirled and leapt, windmilling like Townshend used to when he had something to prove. Exhilarating sing-a-longs "Witness" and "Dying Days" followed, showing off newest addition Josh, ex of Kyuss, on relentless chordal riffage.
Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan could sell a vegan atheist a veal bible with his voice, a traditional whiskey croon which betrays today's modern rock norm with its very tunefulness. Despite this blessed voice, though he never talked during the set, preferring to contact the audience with song after great song.
After a stirring "Nearly Lost You" and the astral percussive "Gospel Plow," they lay to waste any naysayers with a blistering "Julie Paradise," with Gary going ballistic and drummer Barrett Martin drumming like Jehu. After a KISS-like extended ending, they left the stage. No sooner had the dust settled when they came back with the careening "Shadow of the Season," and a hyper kinetic run through Devo's "Good Feeling" with Martin taking over the vocal reins. Rock and fucking roll. You gotta love it.
The night started weirdly enough with our own Jar followed by the hayseed turbulence of Seattle's Citizens Utilities.
Jar play aggressive metallic rock like they assembled it from a kit. Some Pantera here, some Anthrax there, add a little Cro-Mag for visual spice and top with Alice in Chains-like harmony fifths (though I can't fault them for the latter bit -- it's not like AiC have a patent on harmony fifths). What Jar do they do very well; tight, angry and with a good vocalist. I've gotta give them props.
Citizens Utilities don't fare well with the crowd. Their discombobulated Beefheart meets the Byrds at a hog-calling swamp meet in Arkansas-type music didn't grab the punters like it grabbed me. The guitarist went off like an epileptic Buddy Holly while the bass player impressed the hell out of me with his bizarre Uncle Tupelo on some really speedy acid-style fret fuckery. Hee hee hee haw haw haw. Salute!
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