YOB/Ladies of the Fright

Last night I went to see doom metal legends YOB at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago. I had heard of YOB but was not very familiar with their music until repeated recommendations from Nathan Carson (of Witch Mountain and Starr Creek fame) drove me to seek out some of their stuff. I liked what I heard, and, when I saw that the band would be playing in Chicago for only $20, I decided to check them out live.

This was not my first time at Reggie’s. Last year I had the immense pleasure of seeing The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, supported by the ever-great Electric Citizen and another, lesser-known trio whose name escapes me. Brown, at 74, was a manic sorcerer on stage with multiple elaborate costume changes, an infectiously energetic stage presence, and a passionate vocal performance to rival Rob Halford. I stood in the front of the crowd, at the lip of the stage, the entire time. At one point Mr. Brown reached out and grasped my hand, and I felt the magic in the room. It was possibly the best rock show I’ve ever attended.

YOB’s openers were Seattle doomers Bell Witch and another band I’d never heard of called Indian. Indian had been touted as a “super special mystery guest,” kept secret right up until the doors opened at the club. People in line were hopefully speculating that the special guest might be Sleep, while I entertained fantasies of seeing Electric Citizen again or, possibly, even Nathan’s own Witch Mountain (turns out they’re playing at Reggie’s in August, so I was only a month off; hope to make that one, Nate!). Maybe even, I dared to dream, The Sword. But it was Indian, and most people seemed okay with that. They got their share of applause, and I can’t say they weren’t good at what they did, but they just weren’t my thing. I hate to say it was too loud, but for the first time ever at a rock show I abandoned my enviable position near the stage almost immediately, retreating back through the pressing masses, and procured a pair of earplugs from the bartender. Maybe I’m getting old already. I’m more of a Judas Priest/Black Sabbath/Led Zeppelin kind of guy. I also love Rammstein. And Alice Cooper.

But I digress.

Bell Witch was better, a little closer to my style, with some creepy black-and-white imagery projected behind them from various old public-domain horror films like Carnival of Souls. For those unfamiliar with the band, it’s just two guys: one on bass, one on drums, each doing vocals. No guitar. It’s actually pretty neat to hear what they can do with such a minimal setup. But, eventually, their low-energy gloom started to overstay its welcome a bit, at least for me. Thankfully, they were done within a minute or so of my first pangs of boredom.

And then, YOB.

YOB was everything I’d been missing in the first two acts. Singer/guitarist Mike Scheidt delivered the goods with fun stage presence, skillful playing, and powerful, impressively-ranged vocals. After either tuning out or just sort of nodding along to the first two bands, I found myself pushing back toward the stage, ripping out my earplugs, throwing up the horns, and headbanging with the rest of them…

…until, after a particularly high-flying song, technical difficulties imposed an intermission that, I swear, lasted at least twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of relative silence right at the peak of a killer set. Talk about blue balls.

They did get it going again, and Scheidt was entertainingly good-humored about it all, but they never quite regained the momentum they’d lost. I left near the end (I think) of the last song, after buying a couple of CDs from YOB’s merch girl (whaddya want from me? It was midnight and I was tired!).

All in all, not a bad night. YOB alone was worth the price of admission, even with the technical snag, and Bell Witch was pretty cool for a while. Indian I could’ve done without, but to each their own.

On an unrelated note, while I’ve still got your attention, allow me to point you to the Ladies of the Fright podcast. They did an episode on vampires, and spend a good twenty minutes or so discussing my novella, Nightbird, in some detail (minimal spoilers, if you haven’t read it yet). There are some flattering comparisons, perceptive observations, and interesting contextualizations. Check it out!

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