‘There is only one better thing than music – live music’ – Jacek Andrzej Bukowski. The truth in these words were realized within the walls of Asheville Music Hall on March 1st. King Buffalo’s albums consistently rank among the best for me, and The Swell Fellas have been on constant rotation since I first learned of them last year.
Experiencing both bands in a live setting on the same night was a gig I’ll never forget. Thank you ToneWorthy for bringing yet another amazing show to Asheville!
I got to the venue thirty minutes early to browse the merch stand which had enough stuff to bankrupt me, so I had to restrain myself. I bumped into many friends and chatted for a while and noticed The Swell Fellas taking the stage promptly at 8pm. I excused myself and made my way to the front of the stage. The psychedelic intro of Placebo echos through the venue. A unique drumbeat is added and a quick look behind me, the crowd has filled in, eyes forward and heads bobbing in unison. The Swell Fellas have captured the audience, guitarist Connor Poole takes lead vocals on Placebo with a unique vibrato accompanied by an interesting use of bass for effects by Mark Roher. The slower groovy song sets the night in motion.
A quick guitar change while Chris Poole (drums) plays the beat to High Lightsolate. Roher takes over vocals at the beginning and towards the end, Chris Poole shows off his vocal talents as well holding out notes and starting up the drums halfway through. A very talented trio of musicians. The band takes us back to the past again with Scatterbrain, the drum/vocal intro is chilling, and the riffs are incredible. I’ve heard this song a few times on record and love it, but live it’s beyond words!
Sadly, Chris announces to the crowd they are playing their last song, Wet Cement, and thanks everyone for coming out, but before that, Connor plays a mind-altering version of the short instrumental Caesura, he lets the final note ring out then a crushing distortion fills the venue followed by the epic opening riff of Wet Cement. The remaining moments The Swell Fellas were on stage was intense, closing out a perfect set and hyping up the crowd for King Buffalo. If you take anything else away from this review, please remember to see The Swell Fellas live, you won’t regret it.
After that outstanding opening, King Buffalo take to the dark stage, illuminated only by the green glow of the light in the bass drum as Ecliptic washes over the crowd. The title track of their latest album Regenerator begins and seeing King Buffalo live is finally kicking in! The band transitions effortlessly into Hebetation and the instrumental ending took over the crowd to the abrupt ending. A roar followed as King Buffalo quickly tuned up for the next track. Several screams of ‘do that again’ were heard and I couldn’t agree more. Playing Hebetation again would have been perfect but King Buffalo continued on with Shadows calming the mood for a short time. I love Acheron and hearing Shadows live was amazing.
Next up was The Knocks, which is a good song but not a favorite of mine. Seeing it live changed my mind as it that was insane and unmatched intensity at the end! King Buffalo keep that going with a new and old song respectively. Mammoth and Kerosene were next and by this time, the room was packed, and the crowd were now pushing forward. A photographer squeezed in next to me and as I moved out of his way, the only place to go was literally on the stairs to the stage, so that’s where I watched the remaining three songs!
Centurion and Firmament followed, and I was so close I heard the guitar from Sean McVay’s amp rather than the PA, a bit of a unique experience but it sounded amazing. Cerberus closed the night and it’s my favorite King Buffalo song. I was stoked when the drones echoed through the venue and basically standing next to McVay it was crazy watching how effortless his guitar playing is.
As the band leaves the stage, I get off the stairs and head to the back to spend my money. I met The Swell Fellas who are all down to earth and super nice. As we’re talking, King Buffalo took the stage for an encore playing Longing To Be The Mountain. That was definitely a surprise and the Floyd style song was definitely a perfect ending.
ToneWorthy brings some incredible shows to Asheville. In the last year alone, I’ve seen artists I never thought I would. Slift, Brujas Del Sol, Russian Circles, REZN, and now King Buffalo and The Swell Fellas. I definitely feel fortunate to live in a place where music plays an important role.
Words & Photos by: Josh Schneider