Corrosion of Conformity – December 3, 2015 – Altar Bar, Pittsburgh, PASaturday, 5th December 2015
Big difference from Corrosion of Conformity’s last visit here in 2012, where the Mike Dean-fronted version of the band held it down on Election Night, of all nights. Without the big-name draw that is Mr. Pepper Keenan, the punk trio incarnation of COC – while feisty in its own right – doesn’t have quite the same pizazz as what would be considered to be their “classic” incarnation. After a few years of speculation, Keenan returned to the fold for some Euro dates, which have led to new album plans, and a subsequent trek across North American to regain their bearings. But from all appearances, COC is still very much firmly planted in those tough-times-for-everyone-else-but-great-for-COC days of the mid-90s.
Three opening bands on the tour, the first of which was Dallas’s Mothership. A trio playing a Sabbath/High on Fire blend (in some respects, it’s the same thing), Mothership in their 2/3’s shirtless glory were warmly received by the beer-swigging crowd, which was out in full force tonight. Lots of “I love you man” nods from each of the members to one another, blues-saddled guitar solos, and riff-o-rama punch, all leading to quite the warm response. The same couldn’t be said for San Francisco’s Saviours. Frontman/guitarist Austin Barber made the classic bonehead mistake of saying hello to the wrong city, clumsily belching, “What’s up, Philly?” Prideful Pittsburghers were not amused by that; same goes for his attempts at making light of his error. Oh well.
Forever able to live off his career manning the skins for Kyuss, Brant Bjork (wild man hair and bandana in tow) and the Low Desert Punk Band were the stripped-down alternative to Mothership and Saviours. Bjork – fully coherent and wily – stalks the stage like a deranged man in some respects, barely plucking his guitar, laying down the barest of chord choices while his rhythm section does some heavy lifting. The man is a treat to watch, though, engaging the crowd in some quick stare-offs, not to mention purveying what is easily the best extension of Kyuss since…Kyuss Lives.
At first blush, Pepper Keenan looks just great. The man must be hitting the gym, dieting, et al, for in relation to some of his contemporaries (see: the whole NOLA sludge scene), Keenan looks infinitely better. It translated well on stage, as the Keenan-Weatherman-Dean-Mullen combination wisely stayed in the pocket of their hard-to-beat Blind-Deliverance-Wiseblood output, with Deliverance getting the most attention. Hard not to rock to jams like “Broken Man” and “Albatross,” the latter serving as COC’s near-commercial high-point, only to be eclipsed by “Clean My Wounds.” A bit surprised the band played some cuts from the derided America’s Volume Dealer (“13 Angels”), yet the smoldering sounds of “Vote With a Bullet,” “Seven Days” and “Paranoid Opioid” were all that one needs to prove COC is almost certainly going to enjoy a late-career resurgence.