PHILADELPHIA, PA—As much as I love the city of Philadelphia—and I do; it’s the Wesley Snipes to NYC‘s Stephen Dorff—it’s a long way away. Nonetheless, for a lineup like Las Cruces and Iron Man, the trip is well worth it. And hey, I didn’t drive as far as Las Cruces, who are from San Antonio, and thus know what salsa should taste like. So it could be worse.
I was in no hurry to get to the Millcreek Tavern, since it was just the two bands on the bill and I knew the show would be running late. Las Cruces went on first, playing tracks off of their latest, Dusk, as well as older material and a new song called “Egypt” that I shouted from the crowd was a keeper. And it was. There wasn’t much of an audience—apparently some fest was happening down the street—but the loyal few enjoyed what the four-piece had to offer, myself included, and when they played “Wizard” and “Cocaine Wizard Woman” back-to-back, I felt like life was doing me a personal favor. Two songs with “wizard” in the title—in a row! Doesn’t get more doomed than that, folks.
In general, I consider myself a fan of a singing drummer, and Paul DeLeon of Las Cruces didn’t disappoint. While guitarists George Trevino and Mando Tovar (Pillcrusher) poured out killer riffs and solos and bassist Jimmy Bell windmilled a breeze enough to feel it from in front of the stage, DeLeon held down the rhythm and the melody of material both old and new. Dusk is the band’s first full-length in 12 years, but the band and the songs sounded fresh and they put on a righteous show despite the fact that there weren’t too many people there to see it.
A chicken cheese steak was enjoyed in between sets—no onions—and I had plenty of time to eat, as Iron Man took their time getting going. Vocalist Joe Donnelly must have been running late, or else waiting outside to make his grand entrance, since he came in just before the set started. Bassist Louis Strachan and new drummer Mike Rix (who has about four more toms in his rack-mounted kit than he needs for doom) make for a killer rhythm section, and Donnelly‘s Ozzy-style antics are well documented and always good for a laugh, but the essential component in Iron Man is Al Morris III, whose sheer presence while he plays guitar makes the whole set. I managed to get video of the opener, “I Have Returned,” which you can see below. Watch his solo and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Amazing.
Iron Man played a new song as well. I didn’t catch the name of it, but it’s good to know they’re working on material for a follow-up to I Have Returned. They were selling the recent Shadow Kingdom reissues of Generation Void, Black Night and The Passage as well, though I don’t know how many people were there who didn’t already have them. They played an 11-song set, which seemed like a bit much, but although it’s three days later and my sleep pattern is still thrown off, I’m not going to say it wasn’t worth the time or effort to get to the show. It was all the more special because of the sparse attendance, and with Las Cruces having come so far, and Iron Man having made the trip from Maryland, it seemed the least I could do to show up. I guarantee whatever else was going on in town that night wasn’t as doomed out as this show was. Adding to the argument in favor of attendance was not knowing when Las Cruces would be back this way.
Iron Man is killer, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve already seen them this year and worse comes to worst, Maryland is only three hours away. San Antonio is a little farther from Jersey, and since I enjoyed Dusk so much (even the tracks not about wizards of any shape or form), I wanted to be there to support the band. I don’t know if it did them any good in terms of getting gas money to get to the next show, but there you go. Should have been a couple local acts on the bill to round it out and fill up the place, should have been more people there, but it was a killer gig and easily justified the ride down. No complaints out of me.