The change had really been coming for a while but it seemed very sudden at the time and the result was unpredictable. One of St. Joseph’s strongest draws, The GasTown Lamps, saw an opportunity to expand their sound and jumped at the chance. The result may not be what you expect but two things are certain about the shift: people will want to see the new lineup for the band and they sound like a very different band now.
The announcement would come just about a week before the show that a member would be added to the GasTown Lamps, for the second time since the band started. This time the goal would be the same as the first time; to fill out the sound. The group recruited none other than possibly St. Joseph’s best guitarist in Teriq Newton from the up and coming band Scruffy & The Janitors to join. Newton plans to play shows with both groups now. It is only appropriate that the transformation would take place at The Cafe Acoustic while they celebrated their four year anniversary under the current ownership. So patrons would fill the perimeters of the bar with their cold drinks and wait for the craziness to unfold.
The evening would start with Sexwolph, a very different sound than The GasTown Lamps would unveil later on this night. Don’t let the viking lettering and sinister image on the poster and edgy name fool you; Sexwolph is straight up heartfelt americana county. Singer Wade Williamson would take the stage looking eight feet tall with his lightly colored, vintage rhinestone suit, cowboy boots and whatever-gallon hat. Armed with only his acoustic guitar for this show, his songs would bleed with heartbreak, regret and not quite forgotten memories.
He would open with “Could It Kill A Man” which would quietly struggle with the loud audience for attention. Faster tempo songs would gain more attention but it is brutally honest songs like the slower “Out Alive” that Sexwolph excels at. Williamson would work his way through his about half-dozen song set sometimes gently picking at his acoustic guitar and other times like on “From Me To You” ferociously strumming it. The set would have a nice surprise when he would announce that under a few chairs in the venue was a small poster taped to the underside of the seat that was redeemable for a full size poster drawn by Williamson himself as seen above. After pledging his allegiance in “Women, Whiskey, Weed & Pills” his set would draw to a close as he would continue to gain the audience’s ears but never quite be able to completely draw in the talky room.
The GasTown Lamps would almost immediately take the stage and reveal their new four man lineup. Newton would dive right in as the group would start with “Gold Chain.” He would add his touch to each song, sometimes changing the music dramatically and other times just thickening the sound and giving it an energy level that was previously lacking. Songs like “Heavy Trunk” were muscled up and given the punch they were always intended to have while other songs like “Get Mine” would gain the same muscle while sacrificing their crispness.
The extra guitar would make a difference in several ways. The starts and stops are less dramatic and the unique distortion of singer and guitarist Todd Ward isn’t as audible. The energy level shoots through the roof as Newton is one of the more animated guitar players you will see on stage. Ward’s vocals are more emphasized as some of pressure of all the guitar load is off of him as well, making each song slightly different. The songs are sang differently but they are still very in tact; “Land Mines” still has its big chorus and “Heads Are Gonna Roll” still brings to mind the better parts of The Clash’s Combat Rock album.
The booming “Satisfy Your Mind” is just a few political references short of being Rage Against The Machine worthy and “The Broke End of Broken Bones” is one of the group’s hardest rockers while being a strong candidate for best song title for the year 2013. As the band gels as a four piece the music will undoubtedly lead them in a new direction as the rustic, bare sound of the original GasTown Lamps is dead and GTL version 2.0 starts to form. Look for more variance in the sets musically and a strong core of songs to form and remain fan favorites for each show. In a few short months it is difficult to envision what this band will be like but if this powerful first glance is any indication; you’ll need to see them to get the full scoop.
The GasTown Lamps setlist from Cafe Acoustic in St. Joseph, MO, 11/9/13:
- Gold Chain
- Shake The Night
- Heavy Trunk
- Get Mine
- When The Night Comes Through
- Crossed The Line
- The Broke End of Broken Bones
- Land Mines
- Heads Are Gonna Roll
- Hands In The Air
- No Friend of Mine
- Satisfy Your Mind