Last Friday night was the epitome of a Torontonian winter. Snowing and cold, I chose to freeze my ass off and run into the sold-out show at the Danforth Music Hall without a coat, saving the money it would cost for the coat check in order to get an extra beer. How I miss summer shows! Whining aside, it was another truly awesome night of discovering new music. The word of the night was not cold, but eclectic.
Earlier this year Clutch embarked on their Psychic Warfare world tour in support of their 2015 release of the same name, supported by various artists, depending on the location. The two particular bands chosen for this leg of the tour created one of the strangest bills I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. The night went from the avant-garde jazz metal and just plain bizarreness of Mike Dillon Band to a full Mariachi band, followed by the newer, slightly less heavy sounds of Clutch. So unusual was the combination, it was even jokingly acknowledged by all the respective musicians as they took the stage.
To start, the Mike Dillion Band geared up around 8:30pm in front of an already quite full venue. This band was new to me, and quite frankly they surpassed any expectation I could have had. Fronted by Mike Dillon, the band centers heavily around his dabbling between all sorts of traditional percussion and his vibraphone (which essentially sounds like an electric xylophone). Featuring guitarist Cliff Hines, bassist Nathan Lambertson, and a rotating cast of drummers, their set was weirdly mesmerizing and outlandish. The band jolted between minimalistic punk numbers; sometimes epic, sometimes sparse percussion solos; and tight groovy breakdowns in a way that screamed of a likeness to Primus – I later discovered that Dillon is a long-time collaborator with Les Claypool. Their set, along with their sound, is likely a divisive one, but for those who are into it, here lies a truly unique experience.
Second up was the Los Angeles-based mariachi band Mariachi El Bronx, whom you might also recognize as the alter ego of hardcore punk band The Bronx. I would have said that they had big shoes to fill coming up after the Mike Dillon Band, but I feel like their set was akin to taking said shoe and throwing it back in your unexpecting face. I do have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of mariachi, but hell, they were great. Dressed to the nines in the appropriate garb, Mariachi El Bronx kept the Danforth Music Hall captivated throughout their set. On more than one occasion I witnessed some hilariously awkward attempts at Latin American step dancing in the crowd (myself included), and everyone there seemed to be having their first experience of mariachi music.
By the time Clutch took the stage, the venue was packed full of serious fans decked in tour gear and just itching for the staple act of the show. While I had been familiar with their name, I was only seriously introduced to Clutch a few months ago. I loved their second self-titled album released in 1995, and listened to it over and over (and over). Their set kicked off with a track off Pyschic Warfare, “A Quick Death in Texas,” and featured almost three-quarters of this album. Not quite as angry, heavy, or spacey as the album I fell in love with, their set had the sold-out Danforth Music Hall moving, a sometimes surprisingly difficult feat in that place.
Just over halfway through the set, Clutch brought back Mike Dillon to play percussion for three tracks from three different albums. While their set was awesome all in all, I must say that to me, Dillon added a depth to their polished sound that took them to a higher level. Despite that, you could tell that their fans were totally satisfied with the band they obviously and understandably love. Closing out the night with another track off their new album titled “X-Ray Visions,” they left the stage the way they came onto it: with tons of spark, and in front of an extremely receptive and excited audience.
Written by Jordan Hodgins
*edited by Kate Erickson