One of the premier shows of the summer was Tomahawk‘s raucous return to New York City. I hadn’t seen the Mike Patton led supergroup live in years (I think since an Ipecac showcase with Melt Banana, The Melvins and maybe even Isis…a long time ago), but they were back strong and in fighting shape. 2013 has seen some top notch releases, from The Ocean’s tidal tour de force Pelagial to the latest twists-and-turns filled power metal opus Nemesis from Stratovarius, but Tomahawk’s hard rock return Oddfellows is right smack near the top of the heap.
I’ll raise some eyebrows saying this, but Tomahawk has been my favorite Patton project since the group’s inception. As much as I love Faith No More (especially stone cold classic Angel Dust and oft-forgotten Bogus Journey soundtrack gem “The Perfect Crime”), Duane Denison of Jesus Lizard fame is just such a beast on guitar that anything with his name on it is hard to beat. He’s kind of one of those Tony Iommi type guitarists who play many riffs that sound related but which all absolutely kill. I mean, this is the guy who wrote “Dancing Naked Ladies” and “Wheelchair Epidemic”, for heck’s sake. Add John Stanier on the kit, who has progressed leaps and bounds since his already untouchable early years with the mighty Helmet, and (nowadays) Trevor Dunn on bass and ’nuff said.
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New York based openers Buke and Gase were mind blowing indie-pop full of adventurous spirals, amazing vocal ingenuity and total charm. They honestly had better stage sound than the headliners, though of course Tomahawk are masterful and put on a great show. I just wish they’d used the same sound guy as the openers because Buke and Gase sounded huge despite being a pop oriented quirky duo. Their recent General Dome release is infectious as hell and they make their own weird instruments, plus have a stunning singer Arone Dyer with one of the most entrancing voices in indie rock. Seriously, I know this isn’t metal but they are fucking amazing and really impressed.
Patton and company took the stage to serious applause and barreled down hard with rowdy renditions of agit-rock like “Flashback” and the especially intense kiss off “Stone Letter” (a highlight of Oddfellows many great tunes). The band these days don’t have a ton of stage animation (wild man Stanier excluded) but remain fully engaged with the crowd the whole time, just doing it at their pace and brimming with confidence. The title track of the new album felt particularly sweaty and naughty, just a slow churning secret society referencing rogue’s party.
Patton was very much at home whether joking with the crowd about New Jersey taking over the city (that’s probably a basketball joke, folks) or while captaining the band through “Rape This Day” and fan favorite singalong “God Hates A Coward”. Stanier particularly shone on the less flashy but extremely repetitive driving beat of “South Paw”, really working with Denison to hammer home the riff and ratchet the intensity up to 11. I only wish they threw in a couple of the weird faux-Native American tunes from the underrated anonymous album, especially the awesome “Crow Dance”. Seriously, I love that fucking album.
Anyway, only Patton can encore with a pair of GeorgeJones AND Bad Brains covers. My favorite guitarists in the world are pretty much Dr. Know of Bad Brains, Duane Denison and Kirk Windstein of Crowbar fame (seriously, even his new shit like “Liquid Sky and Cold Black Earth” is just so monstrously powerful). Imagine my utter joy to recognize number two on my list start up the riff to number one’s famous hardcore band’s classic “How Low Can A Punk Get?”. It was a rock solid way to end a triumphant night and a cool shout out to NYC, where Bad Brains used to hail as hardcore kings.
Tomahawk are the unequivocal shit.
Live photos by J.M.