by Jordan Green
The dude with the bushy hair started going berserk, flailing his arms and stomping his feet in an elliptical orbit in front of the stage during Asound’s second song.
Chad Wyrick’s powerful guitar playing, a combination of sludgy riffs and trebly screams, powered the band, while Michael Crump kept the machine perfectly timed with virtuosic fills and thunderous low-end accents. Jon Cox maintained a relentless groove on bass. Headlining a short-notice metal bill in Winston-Salem on May 15, Asound’s set sent an electric charge through the audience from their first monster riff at the Garage.
Wyrick was embellishing the metal prototype with a flailing Hendrix-esque freakout accented by Crump’s Bonham-like metronome of the gods and Cox relentlessly drove the groove home as the Hickory group’s set progressed.
It was sometime during the third or fourth song that the bushy-haired dude threw a punch. The victim, a guy wearing glasses, a short beard and a backwards baseball cap picked up a chair to repel the assault. A trio of females fled to the back as the front table where they had been seated toppled backwards as a result of the melee. Within 15 seconds a dozen or so men had swarmed the bushy-haired duded and pushed him up against the wall. The bartender made a beeline to the other combatant to find out what happened. Then the promoter, Mitchell Avent, hustled the bushy-haired dude down the hall and out the front door of the Garage.
Meanwhile, the band had settled into a slow groove, punctuated by Wyrick’s primal scream. Whether emoting from his instrument or lungs, the guitarist-singer’s steely grimace remained constant. Cox remained entranced, nodding his head and smiling beatifically as he slammed down the groove. It was hard to tell whether they were too immersed in their music to notice the mini drama in front of them or too focused on the task at hand to care.
After the number ended, Wyrick remarked, “Nice little fight there.”
Cox looked startled.
“Did you miss the fight?” Wyrick asked. The bass player shook his head with raised eyebrows, and then the band went back to work.
Later Avent characterized the eruption as a kind of occupational hazard.
“It was just a misunderstanding,” he said. “One guy wanted to mosh and the other guy thought he was trying to start a fight. It happens. It’s a sign of the energy. It’s also a sign of the energy that they went outside and shook hands.”
Avent got his start as a promoter from booking bands at a house show to celebrate his birthday. Avent documented the show with video posted to YouTube and pretty soon bands from across the state were contacting him. He’s graduated from house shows to smaller venues like Delurk. This was his first opportunity to book the Garage, and based on his hustle in putting together a bill on short notice, he’ll likely be invited back. He started lining up talent for the show three days ahead of the date after receiving a call from management at the Garage when the original booking fell through.
“My specification is anything that is loud, passionate and real,” Avent said. “It’s fine to make money if that’s the gravy, but if you’re there just for the money I’m not interested. I love metal, I love punk, I love hardcore. I’ll book anything. I’ve got a psychedelic folk band that I’m trying to bring to Reanimator in June.”
True to Avent’s specifications, nothing seems calculated about Plow, a power trio from Boone. Described on the Facebook page for the event as “like Rush but way more stoned,” the first impression of Plow’s music from the parking lot is wild-assed rock and roll — snarling guitar, throbbing bass and propulsive drumming. Which is ironic because for those who don’t get the music, Rush can sound sterile, compared to the more organic, blues-based sound of early ’70s contemporaries Deep Purple. Maybe the lesson is that extending the music to extremes is a way of taking it back to its roots.
Comprised of Patrick Babcock on guitar, James Storelli on bass and Justin Thornton on drums, Plow plays exclusively instrumental music. A three-movement piece inspired by the HG Wells sci-fi classic TheTime Machine closed their opening set at the Garage.
The guys were happy to be playing in Winston-Salem, in part because there isn’t much of a metal scene in Boone. Storelli said most of the local metal shows happen at his house.
The Salisbury quartet known as October, dressed in matching black cow-skull T-shirts, also took to the opportunity to break onto the scene at the Garage with relish. Guitarist Brian Dunlap, a founding member, let it be known from the stage that the concert fulfills a lifelong dream for the band, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year.
“I used to come here all the time to see punk bands,” Dunlap said. “I always wanted to play the Garage, but we never got to. We’ve been around for years. We’ve got a good vibe going, so now we’re going to wreck the s*** out of it.”
With that, their next number burst forth like a pulverizing coal slurry breaching a containment pond. Dunlap’s unadorned guitar playing created a sludgy scree, with Ricky Miller’s bass nailing down the beat and David Hughes’ full-stop drumming providing a clattering rhythm track.
Dunlap is the band’s sonic and lyrical architect, with a focus that has evolved from the political to the personal. Their repertoire ranges from “Devil’s Knot,” about the Memphis 3 defendants who were falsely convicted for murder, to “Tears of Vomit,” a song about the end of the world whose title comes from a fictitious band featured in an episode of “Married… With Children.”
They’ve gone through at least five bass players since their inception.
“Everybody wants to quit and get a job,” Dunlap groused.
Hughes, who has been with Dunlap from the start, described the balancing act.
“I went to bed at 3 the other night and got up at 6 to go to work after we did a show in Charlotte,” he said. “You gotta be willing to sacrifice.”
Singer Justin Glenn is October’s newest member. He joined the band in November. With a profusion of black curly hair and angry-soulful wail, he provides a banshee counterpoint on stage to the Mohawk-ed Dunlap’s piston-like anchorage.
As they finished loading out at the band entrance on West Seventh Street before Asound’s set, Dunlap expressed satisfaction.
“I had trouble with my guitar rig last night,” he recalled. “Tonight it sounded awesome. I was totally getting off on it.”
He paused as a wave of sonic brutality blasted out of Chad Wyrick’s guitar from inside the Garage.
“That sounds awesome,” Dunlap exclaimed.