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Stockholm Syndrome - 03/09/2010: Belly Up Tavern; Solana Beach, CA
Stockholm Syndrome - 03/09/2010:  Belly Up Tavern; Solana Beach, CA
Photos by:  Rick Heisler  [View More]
Concert Review by Rick Heisler on 3/17/2010   

San Diego was visited by an embarrassment of musical riches on this particular Tuesday night. In patchouli-soaked Ocean Beach, the city’s own beachside Haight Ashbury, Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman led his Great American Taxi side project through an evening of bluegrass-tinged, southern-fried rock.

Further up the coast at mellow Solana Beach’s Belly Up Tavern, the all-star Stockholm Syndrome (SS) held a small contingent of diehard fans, curious concertgoers and casual observers willingly hostage (OK, that was too easy) with their rocket-fueled, chameleon-like mastery of musical genres that seemingly spanned across the entire rock spectrum. Dubbed a "supergroup" because of its A-list assemblage of indie-rockers, session musicians and longtime denizens of bigger bands like Widespread Panic, SS is one instance where the whole not only equals the sum of its parts, but where each part is as distinctly valuable as the whole itself.

For a school night, one could tell this show couldn’t help but go late. It kicked-off with an impressive, high-octane, forty-five minute set from These United States, a fresh, talented quintet of young road warriors from Lexington, KY led by the energetic vocals of lead singer Justin Craig. It was just the sort of promising opener this crowd needed as SS hit the stage a bit later. Although this was my first live SS show, I was somewhat disappointed by the relatively small turnout, though it was a Tuesday night. Still, I’ve heard enough of SS’s music to know they deserve as much recognition as they can get, which, based on this night’s powerfully aggressive performance, will surely come in due time as long as the band can continue to give itself ample attention away from their other musical projects.

After evidently switching-up the band’s stage line-up formation from previous tour gigs, the set opened with the twangy guitar riffs of "Easter" until supplanted by Jerry Joseph’s (the Jackmorons) scratchy, raspy vocals. His voice – a true gift from the indie-rock gods, and seemingly a product of decades of proverbial rock and roll hard-living – perfectly suits the band’s gritty sound. A fairly standard cover of the Climax Blues Band’s funky 1977 ditty "Couldn’t Get It Right" followed, and it lacked some of the playful funkiness of other versions I’ve heard. Still, like a TV commercial jingle, most of the uninitiated were probably left wondering just where they heard that familiar tune before. Eric McFadden (George Clinton’s P-Funk All Stars and Les Claypool) delivered lilting, Celtic-like mandolin riffs on "That Which Is Coming," which, according to my friend Erin who met me at the show, sounded like classic Peter Gabriel. Drummer Wally Ingram (Jackson Brown, Sheryl Crow) punched his drum kit into gear as McFadden switched to guitar on "Miranda," a hard-driving number that sounded like it could be straight out of Johnny Cash’s classic oeuvre. McFadden’s electric mandolin, and the pounding keyboards of Danny Louis (Gov’t Mule and Cheap Trick), figured prominently on "White Dirt," which built to a beautiful, cathartic crescendo (and even gave a nod to good ol’ San Diego in its lyrics). Closing the set was "American Fork," a headbanger anchored by Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools’ bass bombs that had the crowd bobbing heads in rhythmic unison like Hessians at a Slayer show. During the set break, I was so taken by Stockholm Syndrome’s infectious stylings and power that I proudly purchased my first band T-shirt, having pronounced them "T-shirt worthy."

As the clock neared midnight, the second set opened with "Lick The Tears," a reggae-and-rasta anthem, reminiscent of Sublime, that stood out as one of the crowd favorites as Joseph’s vocals soared into the rafters of the Belly Up’s Quonset hut interior. McFadden showed off his mastery of the lead guitar on the Rush-like "Empire One," and the brooding "Apollo" not too far removed from Neil Young’s "Cortez the Killer," scored points too. The highlight for me, and a song I was particularly hoping to hear live, was "Milk," which featured ample moments of guitar genius and sounded similar to the Grateful Dead’s "Fire on the Mountain." Unfortunately, "Milk" was also the show’s last real chance for my friend and me to truly enjoy the music: a drunken, bearded scrap unsuccessfully attempted to steal my friend’s jacket, and we pretty much missed the last two or three songs chasing him down and blocking his escape routes. After dealing with the ensuing hassle, we finally made it back to the music for the serious but hopeful ballad "Wisconsin Death Trip," the band’s approximate 1:00 am encore that sent fans into the late night air amazed at this supergroup’s knack for repeatedly catching lightning in a bottle.

Don’t get me wrong; Stockholm Syndrome’s ability to capture the sound of other artists and bands is hardly a knock against it. Rather, it’s a potent illustration of just how talented these road-tested rockers are at turning-on-a-dime and jumping across different genres and musical idioms with aplomb. It’s probably what gives this band such a welcome change of pace, keeping them as challenged and stimulated as the budding chemistry of this relatively new and unique musical association.

Set I
Couldn’t Get It Right
Emma’s Pissed
That Which is Coming
White Dirt
American Fork

Set II
Lick The Tears
Empire One
Jacob’s Ladder

E: Wisconsin Death Trip

Photos by: Rick Heisler  
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