It wasn’t that I didn’t like Clutch. I do. I have. When Robot Hive / Exodus came out, you couldn’t blow it out of my brain with a bullet. I have worn down CDs of their entire catalog, save maybe one or two EPs, and their self-titled record acts as slightly coincidental reference point for almost all my experience with modern stoner rock. It’s just fucking great.
But after inhaling Blast Tyrant, Robot Hive and From Beale Street To Oblivion after their respective releases and attending maybe one too many shows, I was burned out on them. I still haven’t given Strange Cousins From The West nearly the attention it deserves, and I essentially took a year-plus off from seeing Clutch live. My body needed a rest from all that rocking, you might say.
Spurred on by a feeling of positivity after talking to frontman Neil Fallon for a cover feature before the show, I made it a point to break my fast and see them at their last date on this leg of their North American tour with Wino supporting. Boy, was it worth it.
Having shown up about a song into Wino’s set, featuring the incomparable Jean-Paul Gaster (of Clutch) on drums, I was pretty much floored by the awesome that was the doom legend’s solo set—one which I’m told was among his best in recent memory—and made me feel all the wiser for buying tickets to St. Vitus’ show in Brooklyn the following week early. Hey, I don’t know if it sold out, but I knew it would rock (it did) following Wino’s solo set. I’ll never pretend I got in on the ground floor on anything Wino-related (or Clutch-related, for that matter), but you don’t need to join a club to like it. You just have to like it, cause it rocks.
After Wino, the main act took the stage, and they just owned it. Having so regularly seen Clutch in Jersey (actually, exclusively), the second floor at Irving Plaza is one of my favorite vantage points for a live show, and the change of scenery was certainly refreshing. A truly myriad set of songs flowed from the four men of Maryland—though I do believe they left Transnational Speedway League out in the cold (“A Shogun Named Marcus” might have happened, but I’d been drinking. If they played “Bacchanal” or “Effigy,” I would have remembered. Apologies.), and “Impetus” was nowhere to be found for the truly old school Clutch fan—but we did get “Immortal,” “The Dragonfly,” “Elephant Riders,” “Never Be Moved,” “Cypress Grove,” “Power Player,” “Freakonomics,” and “Big News Pt. 1” with a shocking “Spacegrass” in the encore.
Wino joined them onstage, for which song I can’t recall (again, beer), and that wasn’t quite mind-blowing, but it was cool. Clutch, they still rule. I may seem a little more jaded now writing about it, but with a few beers and a Clutch set, and you won’t hear me say a bad word.