Hailing all the way from Nashville, TN, All Them Witches have had a busy year indeed. After dropping their third studio effort ‘Dying Surfer Meets His Maker’ last October, the Southern rockers re-released their second album ‘Lightning at the Door’ in January and have extensively toured both the United States & Europe throughout the year. Last month, they released their first live album, named ‘Live in Brussels’. So yes, the band has been very busy indeed.
All Them Witches are in town for seven dates, the Leeds show being their fifth. Impressively, they sold out their third show (London Scala) several days before they were even due there. Later on in the month, they go on to play multiple shows throughout Europe, before tootling on back to the States around the month’s end.
The band are known for their idiosyncratic live performances, often frequenting 10-15 minute band jams. All Them Witches cover a wide range of musical styles throughout their still youthful discography. It’s best to describe their sound as resonating psychedelia, with deeply rooted Southern soul and bluesy, hard rock traits.
Before the Nashville rockers graced the Brudenell stage however, a thunderous support set from Israeli stoner power trio The Great Machine preceded. Their thick, fuzzy grooves and angsty vocal shouts proceeded to literally shake the walls and floors of the Brudenell during their set. It would be fibbing to say that their set failed to get the punters riled up and pumped for the headliners’ eventual set.
All Them Witches took to the stage around 9:30pm. The band members lightly approached their respective positions. They looked nervous, or each possessed a very cool and laid-back mindset to be following the gargantuan sound of their stage predecessors. At this point, it can’t be helped but generate thoughts of overshadowing, courtesy of the support band.
Witches’ kick off their set with frequent opener ‘Dirt Preachers’, a solid choice with its commandeering drum beats and hard rock aesthetic. The solo is a special one, with guitarist Ben McLeod bending his strings to the high heavens. Multi-guitarist and vocalist Michael Parks Jr gets to flaunt his tangy southern accent in follow-up number ‘Charles William’, demonstrating vocal similarities with fellow bluesman Dan Auerbach.
It’s fantastic to see that the organic, live-recording sound of the band’s studio albums perfectly transitions to the live stage, as well as the band’s clever interplay and chemistry. The first jam of the night comes in the shape of ‘The Death of Coyote Woman’, a subtle and slow-builder with a light, menacing guitar refrain. Drummer Robby Staebler showcases his adept range, shifting from light taps of his ride cymbal into full-on onslaughts of his tom-tom’s.
Idiot of the night award goes to a drunken, wannabe stage diver who managed to wrangle his way onstage, only to be manhandled by the pseudo-security guard before Staebler leaves his drum stool to lift the intruder off the stage. Applause ruptures as the band can get back to their stellar set. As we approach mid-setlist, the band take some time to play a couple of ballads from their newest record. ‘Open Passageways’ and ‘Talisman’ provide a nice mid-way change of pace.
The band then drop in a new track named ‘3-5-7’ (according to the onstage setlist), a chugging blues rocker with sublime chord slides from McLeod. They swiftly follow with laid-back blues ballad ‘The Marriage of Coyote Woman’, supported by a equally laid-back lightshow, which sends some crowd members into an swaying state, almost entranced.
“JUST PLAY THE NEW ALBUM” a brash audience member squalls, receiving a hefty laugh from fellow gig-goers in the process. We creep towards the final act of the set with a track from the band’s debut, ‘Elk.Blood.Heart.’, erupting into McLeod’s fuzz-laden coda. The epic ‘Blood and Sand / Milk and Endless’ closes the set, although it transitions into a signature fifteen minute jam. The four-piece leave the stage to a mass of cheers and applause, as well as a cry to “play one more!”.
All Them Witches return to the stage and bust out the first track from their debut ‘Heavy/Like a Witch’. Perhaps their only track with true stoner rock sensibilities, it stands up tremendously to The Great Machine‘s stoner ways that were demonstrated earlier. The headliners leave the stage once again, this time leaving a whirlwind of fuzz to surely meander in people’s minds for days to come.
As touched on above, All Them Witches managed to seamlessly translate their studio album presence and quality over to the live stage. Their passion for what they do is audio-visually evident, and it is wholly commendable.