Photo credit: Matt Novak
When: Sunday, September 4, 2011
Where: 1.21 Jiggawatts, Denver, Colo.
With: Remnants of Destruction, Echo Beds
By Andrew Wilhelm (Denver 666)
Just knowing the fact that Denver thrash overlords Speedwolf's most recent show was held in a DIY space in downtown Denver -- 1.21 Jiggawatts, located on Trenton between 14th and 15th -- convinced me that this was not going to be your average "chug a couple beers and headbang" affair. "DIY space" and "downtown" are two phrases you never associate with each other. Just mere blocks from the space was the consumerist catastrophe known as the 16th Street Mall, where terrible chains bond with their terrible customers. Despite the odd location, 1.21 Jiggawatts had everything a DIY space should have: a loose booze policy (though the dudes that keep up the place encourage you to support them at their bar), a skate ramp, sweet jams on the PA, and a mix of local odds 'n' sods in the crowd. Audience and band thrashing just inches from each other -- there's no other vibe like it, and boy did this show bring that vibe.
"Up All Night" we were.
A saxophone at a metal gig? Is Bruce Lamont in the house? No, it was Echo Beds, a trio of miscreants whose unsettling noise threw a curveball into the night right as it began. Shifting between John Zorn-ian saxophone blasts and cavernous drifts not unlike Locrian, they gave an unconventional show the unconventional opening it deserved. Their highly distorted and improvised take on percussion also provided the right overdose of discomfort. I dug it -- if it's loud and pissed, I'll always give it a chance -- but the claps couldn't conceal a dude yelling "Play some real music!" That should say something about Echo Beds' reception.
Remnants of Destruction were clearly a work in progress, and that was the fun of the trio. Made up of two young dudes and a guitarist who looks like their dad, they banged out no-frills thrash complete with everything but puffy sneakers. The solos were a little off sometimes, the drummer seemed a bit rushed and busy during certain songs, but there was no shortage of fun, energy and earnestness. Their drummer also does vocals with a strong death inflection, and while his stage banter seemed nervous in spots, most of us are afraid of public speaking anyway. They've got some practicing to do, but these cats do have some potential, so I'm interested to hear them evolve and obliterate.
After this gig, I'm going to declare Speedwolf as Denver's best metal band. Colorado may be a 420-friendly state, but these dudes prefer a strong cocktail of swagger and riffery on the rocks. Anticipation was high thanks to an advance of their self-titled record, due in November through the poseur-proof Hells Headbangers, packed full of inverted biker metal jams. If you like your metal with extra sleaze, a la Motorhead or Midnight, you cannot miss this band. Those songs sound ripping on my iPod, but on stage, there is so much more ruckus brought. While the short stage wouldn't seem to provide an ample opportunity to get more stage dives in the monitors, that didn't stop a dedicated pilots' union from trying. Not even a power outage during "Up All Night" could stop everyone from going balls out and balls deep. The frenzy was at its climax during Speedwolf's hometown anthem, "Denver 666." I'm not even sure if vocalist Reed Bremmer sang half of the lyrics 'cause the crowd jumped on the mic like it was a job offer. Bremmer also took the opportunity to take full advantage of the skate ramps by catching air that Converge fans would be envious of. That's not to say the show was all Bremmer -- bassist Jake Kauffman had quite a presence, too. First off, he was wearing an N.W.A. shirt, and that earns nothing but respect. He also charged into the crowd without warning, adding an element of surprise to the pit.
Speedwolf also do righteous covers, as Bremmer proclaimed: "If your band doesn't do covers, you need to listen to more bands." Their rendition of Motorhead's "The Hammer" blended into their set well, as Bremmer's just one Canadian border detention away from sounding just like Lemmy. Towards the end of their set, they teased the crowd into a Venom cover, but at the insistence of their bassist, busted out some KISS instead. Bremmer joked at the punks not digging the Knights in Satan's Service, and while playing "King of the Night Time World" is an oddly Milton Friedman-ian move to make in a punk joint, it rocked and who gives a fuck? I'd love to hear a take on "Calling Dr. Love" myself. Speedwolf closed out the set with the raucous Venom cover they hinted at, "Witching Hour." They're more Venom than Venom now, with that vigor and all.
Most importantly, it was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, so many folks had time to let their hangovers dissipate and bangovers heal. You'll be hearing a lot about Speedwolf in the future - especially from us!