It was Friday the 13th so this lineup made perfect sense. Three hard rock bands all converging at Cafe Acoustic on a night that would end with sweaty horse head mask getting passed around. That would be the end of our story, lets go back to the beginning.
Fires of Eden would start the show with its brand of fist pumping hard rock as the room would start to fill up. The group would be in trio form with a drummer, Danny Gray, and guitarists Sean Sollars and Mike Smith. Smith would handle the bulk of the singing duties while he and Sollars both played acoustic guitars. Their sound is the same low-end rumble that made Creed a hit early in their career before radio play ruined them and the brooding guitars moaned the way Days of the New sounds when playing acoustic. The full sounding riffs also are a mellower sound than electric versions of these songs and often make music in this genre sound better.
One of the newer bands in town, The Devil and the Southern Fellowship, would take to the stage next. The group would overlap members Danny Gray on drums and Sean Sollars on guitar but produce a much different sound than Fires of Eden. The fully plugged in band would also have Sean Selecman on bass, Chad O’Callaghan on lead guitar and Ralph Dunn playing guitar and singing. The true power of this very impressive band lies in the guitar playing of O’Callaghan that may be one of the few players in town that could be compared to the precise execution of Steve Hurley of Missouri Homegrown.
Dunn on lead vocals is the driving force behind the band as he is a classic front man. His confidence at the mic and powerlessness of his voice give the band a distinct presence. He would start the set wearing buggy black glasses reminiscent of Layne Staley of Alice In Chains and start by playing “Crackerman” doing a supreme job matching the vocals on the Stone Temple Pilots cover. The Devil and the Southern Fellowship’s set would be a mixture of originals and covers that would favor material the band had written. They would make their way through punky rockers like “Skeleton Key” and songs that focused on Dunn’s vocal power like “Tarruner” as well as a wide range of covers.
They would cover a Clutch song in “Electric Worry” with its energetic chorus breaks and the crowd would go crazy for it. The song even made me want to listen to Clutch; something I never thought I would want to do again after seeing them live. They would also take on songs by Shooter Jennings, Seven Mary Three and an appropriately darker version of The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See.” The group’s original songs would be quite good as well. Some would have interesting parts like well done solos by Callaghan that would abruptly end songs, keeping the audience on their toes.
IT would be the final band to go on stage and produce the most abrasive set of the night. The five member band wouldn’t take the stage until after midnight but would still power through their group of movie themed songs. Their songs are all based on movies ranging from The Usual Suspects to and ode to Gary Busey. This idea is great and it makes for a tight set with some interesting song subjects.
The group is led by the piercing and booming vocals of Rick Hoffman who carries his mic with him while he belts out lyrics over the heavy, guitar led songs. The two guitarists are Todd Cooper and Ric Howard who would alternate opportunities at shredding throughout the fast paced set. Will Stuck would play bass and Dan Thompson would be on drums to round out the rhythm section. IT would hammer through all original songs with the exception of a much more aggressive and overall strange cover of WC McCall’s “Convoy.” A “Scream” mask would soon appear and Todd Cooper would end up with a horse mask on his head for the final song; a weirdly appropriate ending for the evening.
As the clocks rolled over to Saturday the 14th it became clear that three bands with this level of exuberance is difficult to handle in one night. The evening would clearly belong the the newcomers The Devil and the Southern Fellowship as they put themselves on the map as a local band to watch out for. The story still ends with the rubber horse head on a hot and sweaty stage. It just wouldn’t have felt like Friday the 13th if nothing weird happened anyway.