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I'm going to use this page to post reviews of things I encounter. It seems like the world is looking for reviews of things and why not indulge the world.

Scroll down to find the reviews.

Reviews: Text


Weekend before last, we went to see The Batman at Harkins at Christown. It was the first time I’d been in a theater for a while. I can’t say that I’ve really missed it, although I was always trained to think movies like The Batman should be watched on a big screen. After a couple of years of watching all movies, including Dune, at home, I’m okay with seeing things on my relatively small screen.

So, The Batman. Hmmn. After digesting it for about ten days, I have to say that I liked it a lot. As superhero movies go, it was a good take on a story we’ve seen a few times now. It is different enough from Nolan and Burton’s take on the story, though, to make it interesting to even the most hardcore Bat fans and I must say it brought some elements to the story that make hopeful there will be sequels.

Robert Pattinson is a good Batman. Without getting into spoiler territory, I will say that he spends a great deal more time as Batman than he does as Bruce Wayne. I like this approach. Pattinson in the kind of actor who makes you forget that he’s a pretty boy quite easily by inhabiting

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You go to a restaurant and the only thing on the menu is...

A shit sandwich. Worst episode of a good season. I feel like I wasted an hour of my life. In short, it sucked. The writers mailed this one in and the actors looked as uninterested ("bored," as one reviewer wrote) as I was as I realized that nothing was going to happen. If you're a fan of Billions, you know what I mean. It's sad that they wasted a bunch of really good episodes with something as lame as episodes 12. Boo.

Should you watch the show? Sure. It's a good show, but prepare to be underwhelmed by the last show of the season. There isn't even the usual good acting to hang onto with this doodoo on dough. You're better off watching season two of Euphoria. 

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Nothing new, but still tasty...

Last night I ventured out into the windy, Phoenix night to see Ministry, Melvins, and Corrosion of Conformity at the Van Buren in Downtown Phoenix. Our first stop was at State 48 Brewery to get some grub and have some beers. Joining me was my son, Liam, and my friend, Tom, and we met a group of other people I love and enjoy rocking out with when we can. 

State 48 is just okay. The beers were not spectacular. They were really great to us, though, and made sure their kitchen was open for our large party of 12. I think I would go there again if I was going to a show at Van Buren and was hungry or thirsty, but I wouldn't necessarily make a trip there just to visit State 48. I had a buffalo chicken wrap that was a good pre-show meal, but the Vortex Amber was pretty unremarkable. 

Because we were pushing it on time, I ended up missing most of the Corrosion of Conformity set and only caught the end of the their second to last song and then their last one. They were a bit more "Classic Rock-ish" than I remember, but their songs do classify as "Classic rock" these days, especially the more main stream hit they played at the end, which was "Clean My Wounds." We (North Side Kings) played with them once a long time ago and they were cool to us, so I have nothing against them. They were hanging out in the front of the venue by the merch booth for most of the night, talking to fans, and taking pictures, too, so that's pretty cool.

We had watched the end of the COC set from right in front of the large bar that is at the North end of the Van Buren, but decided to get a little closer for Melvins. I was really excited to see them play after a few year layoff and they did not disappoint. As always, Steven McDonald is a wonderful show man and excellent bass player. I think he has brought a certain something, the French would say, "Je ne sais quois," to Melvins over the past several years. It's not like they've ever been lacking in the bass player department, but McDonald is just so fun to watch. Buzz and Dale are no slouches, either, by any stretch of the imagination. 

They played a well-rounded set from multiple albums, but as always, "It's Shoved" and "Honey Bucket" are just so hard to top. Ending with "The Bit" was rad, too. It wasn't the best Melvins set I've ever seen, but it was up there. As I write this, I realize that over the past ten years, they have not disappointed me and I doubt they ever will. 

Ministry came on after what seemed like a long time. Perhaps this is because I was getting tired (I get up around 4:15am everyday) or perhaps it was just a long set change. Either way, by the time they came on, everyone was ready to rock. It was clear that Ministry came to do exactly that. There was nothing new, thank goodness, in the main set but it was well performed. Al Jourgensen looks like a steam-punk Captain Jack Sparrow, but it works for him. He still commands the stage and puts on a great show. After seeing and listening to the complexity that Melvins put into their music, Ministry seems like such a blunt object but damn if it isn't a fun blunt object. "Stigmata" and "Thieves" and "So What" were all killer. The Pailhead covers were fun, too. 

I could have lived without the overlong cover of "Supernaut" by Black Sabbath, but even that was still good. Overall, though, the best part of the evening was watching people having a good time. Seeing my friends and my son enjoy themselves is always a good thing. I thought about how cool it was for Liam, at 14, to be at a show like this and we've gotten to go to a few shows in his young life. I can't wait to take him to more. He was loving it and I think may have a little guitar crush on Buzz. 

Good show, for sure. 

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Prepare for a lot of exuberant swearing

After not going to many shows for a long time, it was really weird to be at two big shows in one week. Last night’s Crescent Ballroom show featuring The Chats, Mean Jeans, and THICK was nothing short of excellent.

Michael, Rick, and I responsibly uber-ed to the show. After a long, short week of teaching those first couple of beers over at Michael’s house went down really well and we decided to take zero chances with Johnny Law. We played a wonderful game with our driver, Joanne, on the way. It was called “Two teachers and a miscreant.” It was Joanne’s job to guess which one of us was the miscreant. She said it was me. I couldn’t have been happier.

There was a small hiccup at the door, at first, because one of us didn’t have a vax card to show, but we got some food and got into the main part of the venue in time to catch a good amount of THICK’s set. Before I dive into the bands, though, I have to put out there that the Crescent continues to be a top-notch venue. It’s great from the artist standpoint and it’s pretty darn great as a patron. I also have to say that the barbacoa tacos and so damn good. If you dig barbacoa, you have to try them next time you are at the Crescent. I also love the green sauce.

Admittedly, in the past, I have been skeptical of all-female bands. This was seriously short-sighted of me, of course, and I’m thankful that with age, wisdom has come, and I have leveled out my expectations for the band’s I’m going to see based on the quality of their songs and not gender, age, or anything else. I once stupidly wrote in some song lyrics, “Why do girl bands sound the same? And their drum beats never change.” I thought that was funny at the time, but now it just sort of embarrasses me.

THICK is a good fucking punk rock band. The trio apparently hails from New York City and holy fuck has the road been good to them. They were firing on all cylinders last night and had command of the stage the entire time we watched them. When Michael and weaved our way into the middle of the dance floor at one point, we were probably the oldest people in our vicinity, but it was great. I will definitely go see THICK again and happily track down some recordings, too.

I heard some New York noise in THICK’s music towards the end of the set. I’m guessing some or all of them might have a soft spot for Sonic Youth, for example. A couple of their riffs got very heavy and the interplay between the guitar and bass was a lot of fun. They are a powerful force, for sure, and their drummer was rad. A couple of moments also reminded me of some of Mary Timony’s work and I love her work a lot. THICK and EX HEX together would be a great show.

Mean Jeans were up next and I had kind of dismissed them after listening to some of their music on Spotify as a Ramones rip-off. They certainly do have elements of Ramones to their attack, but they were pretty killer, too. Admittedly we didn’t watch a lot of them. The night air was so much nicer to deal with than the packed room, so we were in and out a bit during Mean Jeans set. Their finish was super strong, though, and I won’t make the same mistake again of not paying closer attention if they are on a bill I go see again.

As I type this, I am realizing that I’m not just coming out and saying that while I liked what I saw, I wouldn’t buy a ticket to a Mean Jeans headlining show just yet. I can see them growing as a band, though, into something that I would dig a lot more. Great energy is always a good thing and Mean Jeans has that in spades. If I had to compare them to something, I’d say they are a cross between Ramones, Zeke, and a touch of Descendents. Heck, that’s a pretty good mix.

The Chats, though. WOW. These dudes put on a great show. They are a combination of the Toy Dolls and early TSOL with a helping of post-punk attitude. I loved their set so much. It was joyous. The crowd ate them up, too, and they ate up the energy from the crowd. I don’t see missing a Chats show any time soon. I don’t know how many songs they played, but by the time they were done, I was way more than satisfied. The next generation of punk rock is alive and well. Plus, you have to love a bass player who sings lead, right?

Musically, The Chats are on fire. I love getting to see a band that is well into a tour and just dialed in. I’m guessing even an off night for these guys right now is still stellar. My dear friend, Laurie, is buddies with them and was wanting to introduce us to the band, but I was talking to Michael about it and what would we even say? They were fucking amazing. I would just want to genuflect and let them enjoy the spoils of being the best band in Phoenix last night. Fuck, those guys have to be one of the best bands going right now, period.

Lots of swearing in this post. Sorry kids! Don’t be like me.  Just go buy all The Chats records and don’t miss them when they come back next time.

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Nachos vs Openers

Last night we went to see Viagra Boys at Crescent. The show was sold out and we were a bit late arriving, so it was kinda nutty down on 2nd Avenue. Parking was a bit of a bear, but I found a spot and got to the venue. By the time I got in, the rest of our crew was at a table out front and we ordered our drinks and food soon after.

As I have mentioned, the food at Crescent is killer. I had another round of barbacoa tacos and they were great. My wife got some nachos, which were also great, and because of those (plus some great conversation) we missed Kills Birds completely. This is why I didn't include them in the title of this review. I like what I have heard from them, too, but yesterday, I needed that time with my family around a table at Crescent more than I needed Kills Birds.

We made our way into the venue about 15 minutes before Viagra Boys took the stage. They were playing some great electronica/disco music that had the crowd dancing a bit. Perfect setup music for the show.

Side note: bands are really upping their game these days when it comes to programming some perfect music before they come on stage. I think The Father Figures need to do the same whenever we have shows in the future.

You have to love a band that opens with what seemed like a seven or eight minute song. "Research Chemicals" is a fun, powerful jam. Because Viagra Boys have many textures going on, they can get away with having very little in the way of changes from the rhythm section.  That is not implying that Viagra Boys are repetitive or boring, but Tor Sjoden (drums) and Henrik Hockert (bass) can really lock in. Hockert's bass lines are muscular and driving, too, so it was fun to watch him play. From my vantage point, it was hard to watch Sjoden work, but his beats were spot on.

The real fun is watching singer Sebastian Murphy, keyboard/synth man Elias Jungqvist, and saxophonist Oscar Carls. All of these guys are dripping with stage presence. As the band roared through their set, which was probably about 75 minutes, Murphy became more and more entertaining and clearly has control of any room in which he performs. The guy reminds me a bit of the late Mark E. Smith (The Fall), a bit of Duane Peters (peformance-wise), and a bit of Shannon Selberg from the Cows. 

I particularly liked their renditions of "Worms" and "Sports" last night, too. There wasn't a weak moment in the set, though. I won't be missing the Viagra Boys any time soon. It was worth being tired on my morning walk and I'll definitely be picking up their records.

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Home of one great Old Fashioned

Michael and I went to see Jon Spencer last Saturday (4/30) and it was a very interesting show. After some excellent pre-show snacks and Bavik on draft at Cornish Pasty, we headed into the dark, comfy confines of Valley Bar. As much as I love the Crescent, I love Valley Bar every bit as much. It is an excellent venue to play and the intimacy of the place makes it even more fun to attend a show like this one.

We missed the first song or two of Quasi due to the early start and our lackadaisical approach to finishing our dinner, but hot damn was the band on fire. Sam Coomes creates a wonderful racket on his organ and his use of distortion pedals is truly something to enjoy for any fans of fuzzier music. Janet Weiss is also just a powerhouse on the drums full of interesting beats and serious facial expressions. If there was any criticism of the band that I can offer at all is that I would love to see Janet smile more. Their set was full of songs that I was unfamiliar with and they were truly great. I wish I had paid better attention to the lyrics so I could find a few of them more easily, but I'm also happy to be inspired to get more familiar with their catalog.

After a short intermission and a chance to say hello to some friends, Jon Spencer & The HITmakers took the stage over and their set was stellar. With Weiss and Coomes joining Spencer and percussionist Bob Bert, The HITmakers are well worth checking out. It definitely brought me back to seeing Spencer for the first time about 30 years ago when he and Blues Explosion opened for Jesus Lizard. The energy was not the same, but the songs are definitely there. Watching Bert manipulate his gas tank, tin garbage cans, coil, and cymbals with drum sticks and hammers was a thing of beauty and really quite mesmerizing. Spencer is still the same great front man full of attitude and entertaining stage banter, even if he is noticeably older than when I first saw him. 

I love the early shows, too. I wish more places would put the headliner on around 8:45pm. I'm guessing a few people missed this show because it was over so early, but I'm all for it. 

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Driving across the desert at sunset is still magical

Last night, Rhondi, Teresa, and I drove down to Tucson after work and caught Bikini Kill and Hunx and his Punx at the Rialto. I happen to love the drive to Tucson, especially at dusk, so it was really nice to revisit one of my favorite things. There is something about the silhouettes of the mountains that just gets me right in the feelers. 

I was not exactly excited about this show due to the stupid allergies that have been plaguing me since our Canyon Lake trip back in March. Yesterday was a particularly bad day for the sinuses. I felt like Felix Unger from the Odd Couple. I would have been much happier staying home, laying on the couch watching the Suns beat the Mavericks, but alas, alack, I was off to Tucson. 

I did rally, though. Rhondi and Teresa were excited about the band. I was excited for Teresa to see her first out of town show and I do like some of Bikini Kill's music. I can't say I am an expert in them by any stretch of the imagination, but they have some songs I dig. We took a quick stop into Club Congress to see my dear friend, Barb, and then we were off to wait in the massive line at the Rialto.

What an interesting crowd. It was 2/3 female, if not slightly higher than that, and really refreshing to feel the almost entirely positive and welcoming vibe of the crowd. We got in line behind some people who went to art school together and had not seen each other in a while, so their conversation was quite entertaining. I have to eavesdrop sometimes. I find people fascinating and it was interesting to try and figure out the dynamic between this man from Phoenix (I picked that up) and his old female friend who probably lived in Southern California somewhere. I could tell that the other guy, who was there with the gal, was trying to figure out if this new dude was a threat or not but trying to play it super cool.  Fun stuff.

Hunx and his Punx were on stage when we got there and they were entertaining. Seth Bogaerts is their singer and I had hoped to interview him last year about a project he did with Allison Wolfe and Alice Bag. Musically, there was nothing interesting about what they did, but the stage presence and banter was entertaining. I would go see them again. 

After what seemed like a lengthy intermission on a Monday night, Bikini Kill came out and brought a good energy. I recognized some of the early set songs and also realized there is a definite formula for their music. They are not particularly skilled musicians but their is passion behind their riffs and again, their energy was good. It kept the room going, for sure, and people seemed to love it. Teresa took off with her friend to watch from up close, so I didn't get to watch her reactions to the set, but she said she loved it. Unfortunately some asshole groped our friend's daughter, who Teresa was with, and that caused a bit of a stir. Kathleen Hanna did a long speech about this type of behavior and I'm glad I wasn't down there or I would have probably gotten an assault charge. 

Stupid assholes. 

Anyway, Bikini Kill is probably not a band I will go out of my way to see again, but I did enjoy the show. The drive home was long and I was spent by the time my pillow hit the head. 

See what I mean?

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Talented musicians who are funny rule.

Eric Bachman played one of those "Living Room" shows last week. It was not in a living room, though. It was in a piano store in Mesa and it was rad. 

If you are not familiar, Bachman plays in a band called Archers of Loaf. He also did a band called Crooked Fingers that was really good and just put out a record with my friend, Jon, that I can't wait to hear. I have been a fan of Bachman's for about 30 years now (where does time go?) and it was awesome to see him up close and personal again.

One thing about Bachman is that he's an incredibly entertaining fellow even when he's not holding a guitar or banjo or sitting behind a piano. He's funny as fuck and has great things to say. His stage banter was worth the price of admission and I could listen to him talk about his music for days, I think.

His set was about 75 minutes long and it contained a good mix of Archers' material as well as some of his killer solo work. When he did "Web In Front" with only a banjo for backing, it was surprisingly brilliant, earnest, and wonderful. So unexpected, too, to hear that iconic song with banjo. 

Considering I was there for purely pleasurable purposes, I didn't take note of the exact setlist. It was just too damn good not to sit there with my friends, Amy, Mike, Jon, and Jennifer and just relish every moment. 

Go see him if you get a chance and by the way... there is a new Archers of Loaf record coming out this fall. Yay!

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How I learned to stay up past my bedtime to learn some things I mostly already knew

So I watched all six episodes of the Danny Boyle show, Pistol, last night. It was a fun ride and I fans of Sex Pistols will most likely enjoy it. As more of a Lydon guy, it was as good of an onscreen portrayal of him as there has been so far and that's not saying much, but... after thinking about it, what a difficult person to have to attempt to inhabit. 

But the show is not really about him or the band, really, at its core. Pistol is the Steve Jones story and it is fucking tragic in many ways. There are aspects of his life I was unaware of and they are heartbreaking. The young man who played Jones, Toby Wallace, did a fantastic job with the role. 

The fun of the show was the peripheral stuff, actually. Sydney Chandler as Chrissie Hynde and Maisie Williams as Jordan were standouts, as was Talulah Riley as Vivienne Westwood. The kid who played Malcolm McClaren was annoying as fuck and I really wanted to punch him, but I'm guessing most people who came in contact with McClaren wanted to do the same, so good job (Thomas Brodie-Sangster who you may remember from Game of Thrones as Jojen Reed). 

Pistol held my interest through all six episodes but I'm guessing I would have spaced it out if I was not confined to my bedroom with Covid. Apparently Boyle had the actors learn to play all the songs and that was interesting, too, but there were times when I found myself wanting to hear the actual songs rather than the not-so-great versions of them the actors were doing. 

Boyle made it look like a documentary, which worked well. He also had a killer team on wardrobe and the sets. The show looked great. Music fans will enjoy it and the little nods to folks like Siouxsie Sioux, Don Letts, and Julien Temple were great. It's on Hulu if you want to give it a spin. 

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Sometimes you can go back...

I am not a fan of the first Top Gun movie. I'll put it out there. I watched it again on Father's Day before heading to the Rangeley Theater to see the long awaited sequel. I was not impressed. It is a fun movie, I guess, but so predictable it hurts. 

Luckily, Top Gun: Maverick is not as predictable. It's also a fun movie and full of action. Tom Cruise, in my opinion, is best when he is poking fun at himself or being uber-serious about some trauma in a film, but I actually kind of liked him in this movie. He shows some vulnerability here that I was not expecting.

Jennifer Connelly plays the love interest. Her character was hinted at in the first one, so she is not exactly brand new to the story. Her character's arc was a little stilted. I probably would have liked to have learned a bit more about her, but it's not a movie about her. It is called Top Gun: Maverick for a reason. 

Val Kilmer's short screen appearance is a bit of a gut punch. The way they describe and deliver the relationship between his "Ice Man" character and that of "Maverick" is crucial to the story. Some may complain there was not enough of him in the film but they probably could not have gone to that well much more than they did. 

The rest of the characters, unfortunately, are pretty forgettable. There are a bunch of pilots, young ones, that Maverick has to interact with for a special mission. One of them is related to a key character from the first film. You can easily guess this if you have seen the first one. Miles Teller is fine in the role, but again, not really memorable. This is a Tom Cruise joint, ya know?

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Absolutely fucking delightful

When we went to see Top Gun:Maverick, we saw a preview for The Duke. All of us were intrigued and decided to go back to the little Rangeley theater to see it when it showed on Independent Wednesdays.

What a charming little film. Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent were outstanding. I really do not want to give anything about this movie away as it really just needs to be seen. If you like British films, this one will be right up your alley. 

Based on a true story, the film has zero special effects (well, maybe one or two small things) and no real bells and whistles but it features several great performances. The supporting cast were also excellent, especially the guy who played Mirren and Broadbent's son. Fionn Whitehead is his name and he has been in a few things according to IMDB, but I didn't recognize him.

In reality, this is really Broadbent's movie. He should be nominated for an Oscar, in my opinion, and really, so should Mirren even though she is in more of a supporting role. I don't know how they figure those things, though, so it would not surprise me if she gets a best actress nod. They are both that good in this film. 

It really doesn't need to be seen on a huge screen, but it is good enough to support with a little coin. I highly recommend it. 

Also, it is really beautifully shot. Whoever did the sets (LIbby Upington) and cinematography (Mike Eley) were excellent.

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Shit Sandwich

I was kind of excited to see this terrible movie. I thought it would be better, but I don't know why. Teresa, Ellen and I went and we all laughed at things in the film that were not meant to be comedic. 

The writing was horrible. I know the special effects budgets are huge in these movies, but c'mon! I could write a better script and I've never written a script. The first 40 minutes of the movie were laughable and again, this isn't a comedy. 

Sure, the action sequences were fun and Jeff Goldblum had some good lines but only he could have delivered them in the way he did. The only other actors who were worth a shit were Mamadou Athie and DeWanda Wise. Both of them kind of shined in their roles way more than some of the more well known people. 

Chris Pratt is a goon and Bryce Dallas Howard was wasted in this this. Don't even get me started about Sam Neill and Laura Dern. Getting the band back together was just a gimmick. Next time, give these people something to work with, please. Campbell Scott was over the top with his villain shit, though. That was kinda fun.

Whatever you do, don't spend more than a buck on this.

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Yes, I'm a fucking idiot

We missed Negative Approach. 

That means we missed J. Mascis getting on stage with them and slaying some songs. I watched the youtube and just about cried. 

I had to get that out of the way. Dinner ran long and I was pretty sure the ladies wouldn't have dug Negative Approach. If I remember correctly, Rhondi didn't care for them when they played with OFF! several years ago. 

When we got there, 7 Seconds was on and they played a super energetic set. I realized while watching them that I only really listened to the Walk Together, Rock Together era stuff. I liked the songs I hadn't heard. They were playing like a well-oiled machine. The place was packed and people were definitely into it. 

I like Higher Ground as a venue. Really nice space, similar in size to Crescent, almost, but bigger. Beers weren't ridiculously priced, which was nice, and they had our new fave, Green State, on tap. 

7 Seconds set ended with "99 Red Balloons" and the place definitely got a charge out of it. People seemed really happy and that was nice. I didn't see any bad attitudes at all. In fact, everyone in Burlington was pretty great except for the bartender at the place we went for dinner. Fuck them!

The soothing sounds of Herb Alpert came through the system as a lead in and Keith Morris explained why. It was a funny story. Keith is a great storyteller. Every five or six songs he would take a little break and tell another story. 

The set was everything I wanted it to be. They played over 30 songs. I would have liked to have heard a few more off of Wonderful but that is okay. I'm probably one of the few people who loves that record. 

One thing I noticed was that Keith had a hard time keeping up with the songs here and there. Joey C is a killer drummer and Greg Hetson was in great form. Zander Schloss, too, but the bass was a bit muddy in the mix. They played really fucking fast a lot. 

We met a nice human named Nate who owns a record store we visited in Montpelier. If you are near there, go. We also saw lots of people who resembled people from home. Mostly older crowd, but there were some youngsters, too. I hope to see another show there someday. 

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A glorious super spreader

Idles are a band that I like but did not love until just now. I am so bummed I snoozed on seeing them at the Rebel Lounge a few years ago. What a great energy they provide the audience and, really, it is a mutual thing. I was shocked at how much of the audience was singing along during the entire show.

Admittedly, I was not keen on their latest record at first listen, but I feel like I need to give it another chance now. I felt like it was becoming very formulaic for a new-ish post-punk band and sounded the way their records were supposed to start sounding. That was shortsighted of me. 

Live they are a dynamo. I don't know the band members names and really, it doesn't matter for what I am doing here. Great drumming and bass playing allow for the rest of the members to just go off. As a fan of rhythm sections, they were fucking amazing to groove to during their long, but not overly long set. 

If you have a chance to see this band, go. You will not regret it. As for the opener, um, that was a waste of time. They had this killer intro to their set and then not much else. I think they were called Injury Reserve. I won't go out of my way to see them again. 

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