Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
Tonight, I’m pointing the gig bus towards Birmingham, yes, once again, and, sadly the passenger seat is, again, unoccupied as my gig wife ‘Waldorf’ is sitting this one out.
In fact, work commitments have ramped up for him so he is going to be missing a few more of the up and coming ‘trips out’.
Tonight, however, is a trip to see the American Rock band ‘COLD STARES’ who are currently on a short 10 date tour around the UK. The band were formed in 2010 and hail from that buzzing metropolis than none of us in the UK have ever heard of, Evansville, Indiana.
The band consist of singer guitarist, Chris Trapp and Brian Mullins on drums, and for the tour, they have been joined by bass player Bryce Klueh making the duo a trio. The Cold Stares have a sound that isn’t all blown out distortion and fuzz guitars and vocals that aren’t all screamed out rants that is so typical of the drum and guitar genre. I’ve previously covered drum and guitar duo’s, Tuskar who supported Zakk Wylde being the most recent.
A thoroughly enjoyable set full of percussive drum dynamics which explode in your face, and a screaming vocal that makes the hair on your arms stand to attention, they are very much a metal duo. Tonight, the Cold Stares promise a lot more. There is a Bluesy Rock richness that makes them stand out amongst the others in this genre. To be honest having just watched a couple of YouTube video’s I’m actually looking forward to the show, it’s kind of right up my street so to speak.
The venue for tonight is the Hare ad Hounds in Kings Heath Birmingham. Another new venue for me but, looking at the website, one that isn’t unaccustomed to hosting some pretty hot bands. In fact, Reggae giants, UB40 held their first gig here back in 1979. In 2007 it was recognised as one of the country’s more important venues, and more recently has been seen as a key venue in the local musical and creative culture.
Tonight, we are in V2, this is the smaller of the two rooms hosted by the venue, both of which are up the stairs in this red bricked, Victorian, grade 11 listed building. It’s been around since 1820 and in its present form since 1907. The Tiled entranceway just oozes an early 20th century charisma of the Art Nouveau class so popular of the period. The actual room measures 11m from the back wall to the stage, which is 3m deep. The room is 7m wide. So, if they have a capacity crowd in tonight its going to get very cosy!
First up tonight we have KANVAS, a local 4 piece but tonight are playing as a trio. As they take the stage, the night gets under way with a hard hitting ‘Indie rock’ set of blistering guitar and drums and a vocal that conjures up images of the Cure front man Robert Smith or the Cults Ian Astbury with its 80’s angst driven alternative vibe.
Kicking there set of with a track entitled ‘Car Crash’, their second single which was released on June 22nd the curls of Euan on drums hides his face as he delivers a powerful beat whilst Seb, on bass duty locks in tight with a thundering bassline. Noah on guitar and vocals is doing a great job of holding the band together, playing all the fluffy rhythm parts and then having to deliver the lead section as well as they are a man down.
The Melodic driving beat continues as they power through their set, ‘Wylion’ is up next followed by ‘Sweet Cupboard’. These continue with the onslaught, the vocal is full of echo and reverb, especially noticeable on the shouty, excitable moments, ‘Flats in Dagenham’ fly’s off the kit (drummers will understand) as Seb poses with his foot on the wedge in front of me, ooh was that a mistake Seb, it’s a bass so no one will notice I guess, I mention it to him later in jest, he replies “you only saw the one”? Hinting at the down to earth nature of the band which is always refreshing to see.
Noah tells us that the next song has literally been released as their new single just moments before coming on stage. Called ‘Not with Me’, a delicate guitar line introduces the song to the crowd, full of twangy telecaster loveliness, Noah’s voice is very much locked in the 80’s for this one, in fact look it up on YouTube is a cracking tune.
‘Waiting Around’ with its fusion of blast beats and telecaster twangs, I love a telecaster sound in the mix, especially the string picks behind the nut, a nice touch. ‘Green Card’ follows on this seems to be a crowd favourite, looking around the heads are nodding in unison to the beat. In fact, at times they have looked like a lot like a nodding Churchills dog on a cobbled street.
The Last song of the set is ‘Propaganda’ a distorted cacophony of off beats and COWBELL, you can never have to much cowbell. Noah’s twisted vocal weaves is way amongst the driving beat. Noah and Seb face each other as the song builds, Seb’s foot on the bass drum as the climatic finish of shouted vocals and a great held note from Noah which is bordering on the point of break up and screaming feedback from the Orange Rocker 30 amp rounds out a thoroughly enjoyable set from a young band, new to me but one to watch out for in the future, a great vibe!
Set List: 1. Car Crash, 2. WyLion, 3. Sweet Cupboard, 4. Not with Me, 5. Waiting Around, 6. Green Card, 7. Propaganda
The band are: Drums – Euan, Bass – Seb, Guitar and Vocals – Noah
( Lead Guitar, but absent – Jake)
After a quick change over THE COLD STARES grace the stage. Chris Tapp quickly apologises for his voice; he’s picked up a little bit of a cold on the tour, and thanks everyone for turning out.
The set kicks off with ‘Mojo Hand’ the song that’s been the sound track to the trailer for Keanu Reeves Cyberpunk 2077 video game. The trailer has had over 100 Million views so the song isn’t completely strange to those who play with their consoles in their bedrooms.
Drummer Brian Mullins is playing a blinder as he’s broken his hi hat foot, he’s been walking around with his leg on a peg rest. His playing hasn’t suffered at all. The opening track to the set has changed again from ‘I was a fool’ at the retro bar Manchester and ‘Come for me’ at Bannerman’s Glasgow. Philip Cherbourr the tour manager said they needed something that was instantly recognisable, Mojo Hand fills that brief perfectly.
‘Come for Me’ is up next with its gritty guitar riff and thudding kick drum. There’s no sign of Mullin’s foot not working without its mate. Bryce Klueh on bass is enjoying his time, grooving out with his eyes shut pulling the faces that photographers love to capture. ‘Heavy Shoes’ from the latest album is up next full of fuzzed up distorted guitar and a rocking bassline.
A new record is in the pipeline ready for release, we get told by Tabb. The record Label, Mascot, want to delay the release until Feb 2023, however the band are going to play several during the tour. ‘Waiting on the Rain Again’ is next.
It gives the band a chance to give the new songs an airing. This slow bluesy ballad with its repetitive guitar riff opens into an explosion of sounds during the solo, there’s some pedal shenanigans going on there as a phased sonic creeps in, this goes down well with the crowd.
This is followed by another new one from the as yet un-named 6th album. ‘Thinking About Leaving Again’, has more of a 50’s gothic Do-Wop vibe to it, not to dissimilar to the Twin Temples groove. The hard-hitting kick drum hits you firmly as Mullin’s sticks are flying around the simple one up one down kit set up.
The guitar sound is all fuzzed up and nasty, as Tapp sings, his eyes are closed, he moves back from the microphone to crack out the solo, again, his foot deliberately tapping the pedal of choice as he does so. The song is closed with an alright, alright from Tapp and a whoo hoo from the crowd.
A couple from Heavy Shoes follow, ‘Hard Times’ the band’s first release since ‘Ways’, originally written in 2019. Tapp later decided to re-voiced the lyric as the pandemic had given him more of an understanding of what the song meant and its relevance to so many. It was released as a single in 2021.
Tapp tells us the next one spent three months at number one…. In Italy! ‘In The Night Time’ continues with the Southern Gothic Do-Wop vibe, the vocal with its microphone distortion adds to the vibe, heard clearly on the album recording. The song is apparently inspired by St Augustine and walking on a graveyard due to the amount of bodies buried beneath the roads and pathways. A short tune full of Do-Wop and a walking back beat, love it!
‘Got No Right’ from the pending album gets an airing, there’s a familiarity that I can’t put a finger on. Opening with a great crescendo on the kit from Mullins and a thudding bass line from Klueh allows Tapp to show boat the melodic riff to this faster tune. The solo cry’s out as Mullins bangs along aside him. Again, this goes down well with the fans.
Tapp tells us that they always had a few songs in the bag that they couldn’t play live due to needing a bass player, now, with Bryce Klueh on board they get the chance to give them an outing. The next Song being the title song from the third album, ‘Ways’. The walking bass line makes it immediately obvious why this wouldn’t work as a duo.
Are we in the mood to jam? The crowd reply positively as ‘I was A Fool’ fires up. Cross stick and bouncing guitar drive this song forward. This banger, again from the 2019 album Ways see’s Tapp cut lose, saying and now we jam, a steady drum beat strikes out as Tapp hits his tone bender and octave pedals, we get an Auto Wah type sound to his playing somewhat akin to Robin Thrower on his Bridge of Sighs track, a brief Voodoo Child nod to Hendrix is thrown in as the groove slows down to cheers from the crowd.
Tapp tells us a story about how Joe Bonamassa had put the next song on his Spotify play list. His phone had lit up full of text messages from friends telling of the fact. Bonamassa actually told him he f%*king loves the song. That was ‘Any Way the Wind Blows’ again from 2019’s album ways. Full of catchy hooks it’s soon obvious why it was a big hit. The fuzzed-up guitar is in your face from the get go, the song finishes with a fuzzed out solo bass run sounds like the speaker cone had ripped, it was that is just syrupy thick with bad intent. Tapp shouts “lets hear it for this bad mother f%*ker Bryce Klueh” as the thick quackiness of Tapp’s fender grooves on and finishes the ‘jam’
A little boogie woogie follows in the form of ‘Going Down Easy’ this song was played as part of Joe Bonamassa’s KBTA telethon. A stomping bassline and staccato guitar race this one away, the descending intro into the solo giving a moment of brightness before the melodic backbeat thumps in again. One footed Mullin’s is sure getting a work out on the kit tonight as the song finishes with a flourish of crash cymbals.
The familiar lead into ‘Two Keys and a Good Book’ follows. From 2018’s album Mountain. With a distinctive Hendrix vibe running through its veins this song is a great hard hitter.
Mullin’s use of the bell on the ride cymbal gives it the light as Tapp winds into the tone bender pedal giving it the required shade, what a cracking tune. Mountain has just been added to my growing list of must get albums. Tapp gives a shout out to Mullin’s working his ass of on that number as the song concludes. The crowd clap and cheer in appreciation.
Tapp says “this is another love song, my current wife says all I write about is killing people, or bad things. n the new album we do have a couple of songs that are of nice intent.” He goes on to say “I had a horrible first marriage, I’m f%*king still writing about this shit 10years on. This is a happy little ditty called ‘Headstone Blues”. A great slow beat with the lyrics curling gently around the melody. The prominent kick drum driving things along. The solo kicks off with some great neck vibrato as Tapp strangles the sound from his Fender.
More thanks from Tapp as he graciously thanks everyone for coming out to see them on their first UK tour. Apart from being under the weather they’ve enjoyed their time so far. He calls out Philip the tour manager with the bald head, under his hat, he says you can take it off and lick his head, you’ll either get 50% off or hepatitis, the crowd look over at Philip and giggle. We’ll do two more for you, this is called ’40 Dead Men”.
A crushing drum beat kicks off which suddenly comes to a halt a brief run, the guitar was sounding great but unfortunately the bottom E string decides to say Nope! enuff’s enuff and snaps. Tapp says he never breaks string’s; in 15 years he’s only broken two strings this being the third.
He has a string endorsement, he isn’t using them when he gets home, he says jokingly. Noah, from Kanvas, lends him his Telecaster saying “he’ll now tell me how badly it’s set up”. Someone from the crowd shouts he’s got Monkey Pox, Tapp reply’s “we’ve had it all.
We stopped in the band room above Bannerman’s in Glasgow, that’s full of all sorts of nasties. If you can survive that you’ll live till your 100”. The band pick up at the second verse of ’40 dead Man’ as if nothings happened. The tonal change from the telecaster isn’t too obvious, its rich and fuzz filled. The pedal filled solo is descriptive, fat and nasty.
The song roles into the last one of the night ‘Nothing but The Blues’ a crunching anthem to finish the night off. Full of rousing drum beats and fuzz filled guitar, ending in a nice crescendo, He thanks Noah for the loan of the guitar and says he’ll see us all over at the merch table for a chant and will sign stuff.
As I wait for my turn, I chat briefly to my old friend Philip as he sorts me a copy of the new album on gold vinyl, which the band happily sign, as more fans crowd them for photos and general chit chat.
Heading back to the car I’m happy that I spent the time driving the 80 odd miles to see them, despite the stupid fuel prices. Driving home, I have the new album on Spotify blasting out. Live music is great, even better when it was that good.
The Cold Stares get and see them while you can, there’s a couple of UK dates left, The Bourne Music Club, Sittingbourne on the 30th and at the Black Heart, London on the 1st July