It’s always chaos before leaving for a show. Get the kids ready, make sure their bags are packed for a sleepover, double-check we got everything, triple-check we got everything. All good things, no complaints just setting the scene. My wife and I are in the car, kids are at the neighbors, directions programmed, put it in drive, and on our way. Crap! I forgot my sharpie!
Now we’re good and on our way to Brickyard in Knoxville, TN to see The Atomic Bitchwax, Valley Of The Sun, and Mass Driver. We were about 20 minutes out and getting very excited but took a quick detour because my eagle eye wife spotted a Krystal Burger, and with the lack of White Castle in the area we had to stop. Our bellies are full and ready to rock!
I was unsure who the local opener would be until we got there. Mass Driver was the band, they’re local to Knoxville and seem to have quite the following judging by all the people with their shirts in the crowd. The three-piece hit the stage promptly at 8pm and proceeded to melt faces. The trio did a fantastic job warming up the audience for a great show ahead, but it was immediately apparent why so many people had Mass Driver shirts on. They kick ass. Bassist and lead vocalist reminded me of Neil Fallon of Clutch with his outstanding stage presence. They start the set with a song called Riff Force and it was ideally titled as throughout the show the guitarist shows he is filled with powerful riffs.
I was surprised to see they played nine songs. That was really cool and each was better than the last. My wife and I disagreed slightly, and I personally loved the song Tidal Grave while she said Boss Fight was her favorite of theirs. However, we did agree that both songs were fantastic. I enjoyed Tidal Grave because the band mentioned they played it in the past with difficulty, but to my ears, it sounded really good! Boss Fight, however (listening as I’m writing this) is extremely good. Gives me a Rage Against the Machine/Clutch vibe. Can’t go wrong there. I do want to add their drummer was also incredible and on a few songs added cowbell which was exemplary! A great opener and I look forward to seeing them again.
throughout the show the guitarist shows he is filled with powerful riffs….
The reason my wife and I traveled two hours are up next as Valley Of The Sun takes to the stage. Ryan Ferrier (guitar, lead vocals) starts off the set with the epic opening of Old Gods. Lex Vegas (drums) and Chris Sweeney (bass) slowly join in building the tension and last but not least Josh Pilot (lead guitar) jumps in as the fuzz kicks in! Unified head banging commenced. The band kept that momentum going by launching directly into the intense Firewalkers.
They don’t slow down yet by adding in Deep Light Burns off their debut EP, a fantastic song, and even better live. Then the unexpected Pilot steps up and plays an epic short lead followed by a few cymbal crashes by Vegas as the band kicks into a brand new song! Sweet Sands is heavy yet catchy which fits in seamlessly with Valley Of The Sun‘s already awesome discography. Ferrier gets the crowd to join in by yelling ‘Hey’ a few times and although the crowd was fairly small, it sounded as if hundreds were yelling back at the band.
Valley Of The Sun seemed to be fueled by the crowd’s energy and thanked the audience. Land Of Fools was next and Ferrier said it was time for some booty shaking with this groovy song. The crowd didn’t hesitate to participate. Devil I’ve Become was next and another new song, Chris killed it on bass and if a new album is on its way, then these songs have me EXTREMELY excited. The first note hits for the next song Maya and I’m like a kid in a candy shop. I normally don’t know the words to many songs, but I was singing every word and playing air guitar (without missing a note I should add) while my wife watches in disbelief.
Valley Of The Sun seemed to be fueled by the crowd’s energy…
Mariners Tale is up next, and I saw them play it live in 2019. Maybe it was just the excitement of seeing them live again but I think it was better than last time. Valley Of The Sun have one more song to play and it’s another new track! The Chariot closed out their set and I’m still in disbelief they played three new songs. I believe The Chariot may take the reins for my new favorite song by them and after the way I acted during Maya, that may be hard to believe.
The night isn’t over yet and The Atomic Bitchwax are getting ready. I went to see Valley Of The Sun in 2019 with Truckfighters, and although I knew of them, I wasn’t really fan. But let me tell you, I left that show a HUGE Truckfighters fan so I was hoping the same would happen with The Atomic Bitchwax. Well, I’m here to say it happened again.
The Atomic Bitchwax are three guys, but sound like six to seven easily, and put on a hell of a show. They started off the show with Hope You Die. Chris Kosnik (bass) and Garrett Sweeny (guitar) alternate vocals and it was a perfect opener. The next few songs maintained that energy with fast powerful playing. I apologize I was not quick enough to snag a setlist, I’m slowing down in my old age. I typically focus on guitarists to try and pick up some new ideas, but I was drawn to Kosnik’s skills on bass. He played some epic low-end rhythm and was playing faster than I could think. Kosnik announces to the audience about halfway through that they have two songs about Kung-Fu and proceeded to play one of them. War Claw is a two plus minute long jam where Kosnik yelled ‘War Claw’ at the end.
A surprise was when the band switched gears slightly and played two covers. The first being Kiss The Sun by Core, which I’m not familiar with but it was great and the second being Maybe I’m A Leo by Deep Purple which I was familiar with! I love Deep Purple and it was my first time hearing one of their songs live. I never thought it would be The Atomic Bitchwax that played it, but I couldn’t have been happier as they did an outstanding job. My favorite part of their set was when Kosnik said, ‘Remember when I said we had two songs about Kung-Fu, well here’s the other’. Ninja was similar to War Claw as in a fast-paced instrumental where Chris yelled out ‘Ninja!’. It also helped that one audience member slow-motioned a Kung Fu fight with his friend. That shit was hilarious.
The Atomic Bitchwax are three guys, but sound like six to seven easily, and put on a hell of a show…
The Atomic Bitchwax finished strong with five more songs. They ended the show with Liv A Little, Force Field and Shit Kicker, all songs I knew and loved it. The band is also incredibly nice, and Sweeny actually came up to me to talk after the show which I thought was cool. Just overall friendly guys and since they’re also in the powerhouse of Monster Magnet, it was a pretty cool experience.
It was an incredible night out, the bands were amazing, the wings at Brickyard were as my wife says ‘the best wings I’ve had in my life’, and I might add Valley Of The Sun crashed at our place on their way to South Carolina. Hanging out with them was really cool and having Chris just hang out in my music room playing my guitars was the best, and also a big thanks for teaching me a few things! I learned that Knoxville has big things happening with Roger of Black Hearts Productions putting together some incredible shows so I’m looking forward to my next trip out there.