Hogjaw, Henry's Funeral Shoe, Lifer, Ebbw Vale Institute (EVI), Ebbw Vale
It's been a long time since I've been to the Ebbw Vale Institute, the last band I saw here was Absolva back in the mists of time. The venue hasn't changed at all the huge ceiling means the venue is probably one of the loudest in South Wales, they also have a superb bottle bar with numerous quite rare ales.
With a crowd starting to fill the venue it was time for the first band and taking full advantage of the huge sound were the groove-laden Lifer (8) who I've only ever seen in Fuel and I'll admit haven't really enjoyed, here though in front of a partisan crowd they were miles better than I'd ever seen them, this was probably due to the sound being a lot clearer meaning you can hear the sludgy discord of their NOLA-influenced riffs. Getting a 45 minute slot Lifer played their best tracks every one having thick syrupy riffs and shouted aggressive vocals, as I've said I've never seen Lifer better and I'd love to see them again when I'm bit more acquainted with their tracks. A pretty heavy way of starting the evening.
Now here's where it gets odd, next up were Henry's Funeral Shoe (7) a modern blues two piece who have a cult like following in these parts, as witnessed by the now largely expanded crowd most of which stuck down the front for the entirety of the bands one hour set. Now their music is good, Aled is a very expressive guitar player moving between Hendrix-like freak-outs, fuzzy riffs and old school blues slide, his vocals are raw while Brennig is a demon behind the kit, a frontman in his own right getting the crowd going urging them to get moving. Now as good as Henry's Funeral Shoe are as a band I will admit an hour was little too long as a support, especially because as soon as their set ended many people did leave the venue, I want to say that this was due to transport issues (the headliner didn't come on until 10pm) but it's probably more due to most treating this as a headline set over the lesser known main band. Still a great show that eased a little more melody into the evening.
Then it was time for the headliner and the band I'd come to see, as you'll know we're a bit partial to some Southern rock here at MoM Towers so we couldn't pass up the opportunity to catch Arizona's premier Southern rockers on their first UK tour. Hogjaw (9) are supporting their 2017 album Way Down Yonder meaning that a lot of the set came from this album, exploding out of the gates clad in their best Southern threads, I'm talking beards, Stetsons (bassist Elvis DD), camo and slinging some Gibsons they came out swinging with Rollin Thunder and Beast of Burden (Roll On) they let rip with some hard rocking fury however Jonboat Jones' guitar was not audible for the first few songs only coming back by the third song in, as both him and lead guitarist Jimmy Rose share the lead breaks in the style of the Allman Brothers it did detract a little, Jonboat Jones is the main vocalist his hollar towers above it all in similar timbre to David Allen Coe.
However this band are multi-talented and versatile meaning that both Jimmy Rose and drummer Kwall take lead vocals on North Carolina Way and Road Of Fools respectively. Balancing hard rock and country they've got the boogie of ZZ Top, the swagger of Skynyrd and of course those slick soaring leads, best witnessed on the magnificent County Line which is 13 minute guitar workout from Rose. A great use of slower numbers dotted throughout the set meant that it was very well paced getting the now more noticeably sparse crowd in the groove, although there was the dreaded talking during the quieter passages which is still very bloody annoying. As the set came to a close the technical gremlins came back with a vengeance but by that time nobody was that bothered (even me). If you missed them here then next time you better come Way Down Yonder with Hogjaw.