Show Review: Valient Thorr, ASG, Totimoshi

If you’re pondering a quiet night at home with a mystery novel and a glass of chardonnay, the Volcom 2007 Tour isn’t a good backup option. If you’re original plans included stealing a school bus, doing donuts in the Qualcomm parking lot and huffing paint thinner, I can report that this tour will give you pretty much the same high for a lot less jail time.

Totimoshi were up first. Hailing from Oakland, the trio is composed of the husband-and-wife team of Antonio Aguilar and Meg Castellanos on guitar and bass and Bill Bowman on drums–at least right now. Totimoshi is apparently on their ninth drummer. That’s not Spinal Tap territory–that’s Elizabeth Taylor territory. I hope he sticks it out. His Bonham-meets-Bill Ward approach to the kit works well in the context of Totimoshi’s sludgy brew. They’re somewhere in the middle of the vast expanse that is the resurgent doom/stoner metal scene, though they carry it off with a little less self-consciously dark imagery. On this, the first night of the tour, they looked to be having a good time.

ASG was second. ASG apparently stands for Amplified Self-Gratification. I’m glad it didn’t stand for autoerotic self-gratification, which could have made the evening a little uncomfortable. Then again, with the amount of full-frontal noodling going on, it might as well have been. ASG seemed pretty fun, mixing some of the proggy guitar pyrotechnics of bands like Coheed and Cambria with loping, 6/8 sea shanty rhythms. Jason Shi’s vocal histrionics were made all the more impressive by his ability to keep the riffing heavy and articulate all the while.

The crowd for ASG was small, tuned-up and ultimately a little too violent for their own good. I like a good scrum as much as the next guy, but I thought the days of leading with your elbows and kicks were sort of on the wane. One unlucky woman who waded into the pit got a nice big cut on her forehead for the trouble. As much as I felt sorry for her, I figured this was also a classic “bull–>horns” situation. The little shit that hit her just shrugged and didn’t even stop dancing.

Matt, one of the Casbah’s staff, had his hands full keep dancers from running into onlookers, many of whom seemed less than thrilled (and more than pissed off) by ten people dominating the entire floor area. This led to a bunch of predictable confrontations between dancers and standers, with some coming dangerously close to fisticuffs. That’s not ASG’s fault, and I certainly don’t blame them. I just wonder what it is about them that attracts that kind of shit. At first my buddy commented that they reminded him of Black Flag playing Zeppelin covers. About three songs in, he amended that to be Pennywise playing Zeppelin covers. Maybe that’s the key. Dude at least gets points for rocking a Kylesa shirt.

Finally, it was time for the Thorr. Being 29, bitter about touring, and bald, you’d probably not be shocked to find that I’m not all that impressed by most bands that I see. Valient Thorr is one of the few “new” bands (i.e. of which I’ve become aware in the past three years or so) that turned me into an immediate fan. Their recorded stuff is fine, but where they excel is as a live band. Simply put, they are the most fun live band I’ve seen since Les Savy Fav–and they’ve been my favorite live band for some time now.

Their mythology is pretty marginal these days–mostly, I think they’re content to let their frontman’s madcap antics and sarcastic stream of consciousness, MC5-esque rants carry the bands personality. And good golly, these dudes can shred. Their sound blends Motorhead, ZZ Top and rocket-fueled Skynyrd into a pretty infectious concoction. While fans seemed most pleased by the cuts from 2006’s Legend of the World, the new songs Valient Thorr tried out were greeted with hearty applause and sweaty dancing. As I recall, that’s what rock and roll is all about. Hate if you must–just don’t try to sell me on some LA band half-assing their way through lackluster stoner rock. If you want to see what a good time at a good price looks like, this tour is a must see.