Many Toronto metal heads know the story by now–Pentagram was scheduled to come up here for NXNE in June, but got denied at the border. (Well, I guess the “immigration issue” was known ahead of time, so it’s not like they got picked off at the Peace Bridge or anything.) Personally, I wasn’t expecting Bobby Liebling to be allowed into this country in the first place, but I hedged my bets and bought a soon-to-be-refunded ticket. So when I heard they’d be playing within driving distance–on Canadian Thanksgiving, no less–I just had to scratch that itch, eh?
Can I just say, I wish we had a place like the Grog Shop up around these parts? A decent-sized room with solid sightlines, a massive selection of reasonably priced craft beer (even after the exchange rate!) and the best damn doom jukebox I’ve ever heard, blasting the likes of Weedeater, Electric Wizard, Saint Vitus, COC, High on Fire, Kyuss and Fu Manchu between bands. This venue does it right out in Cleveland Heights!
Unfortunately, the house had a bit of a hiccup at the beginning of the touring opener’s set, as Satan’s Satyrs blew a fuse in the intro to their first song. But once the proceedings resumed, they really got things rolling with their brand of retro-fuzz occult rock. When they opened for the Wizard back in April, I remarked that “they sound an awful lot like Pentagram, albeit played at faster tempos.” Suffice to say they fit this bill like a horn on a ram’s head!
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that in-state supporting act Electric Citizen received higher billing than the touring openers; by their own admission, they’ve played Cleveland more often than their hometown. But this Cincy outfit cut its teeth on the road opening for Fu Manchu–including a particularly memorable gig in Toronto last May–and they certainly held their own on this bill, as well. It seems they’ve switched up their sound somewhat since last summer, though. As I recall, they used to be more of a 70’s-influenced riff-rock formation, but last weekend’s performance had them worshiping at the altar of Jex Thoth and Blood Ceremony’s respective self-titled albums (minus the keys and flute, mind you). Not that there’s anything wrong with that–I’m even listening to Jex as I type this. And hey, put it this way: I saw Ruby the Hatchet open for Uncle Acid last month, and Electric Citizen would mop the floor with ’em. Nuff said!
Now, I gotta warn ya, man, Bobby’s in pretty rough shape these days. Don’t get me wrong, the dude’s always looked a little ragged, but I swear to Satan, I would not be surprised if he weighs less than 100 pounds. His voice isn’t in great shape, either, but he’s assembled a hard-hitting backing band, led by Victor Griffin, that really does these songs justice. Let’s just say that when he prefaced the encore by saying “These are gonna be my last days here…” he really wasn’t kidding. But despite his diminished state, his manic energy hasn’t dissipated. Still, I would not be surprised if this was the last time I get to see Pentagram in concert–barring a belated pardon by the CBSA in the near future.