All Them Witches frontman Charles Michael Parks Jr. belted out the lines: “Cut me up primitive, I’ll die like a slave/ Ridin’ on the wings of that Jesus snake,” and the room erupted. Pale white lights shone up from pedalboards on the stage floor, illuminating the guitars and casting their silhouettes on the colors and collages covering the walls of the Garage. The crowd pushed forward against the rails at the front of the stage, all hands raised in dark praise. Heads moved and hips swayed like waves, a holy ritual that revived their souls and let something wild go free among the audience. All attention was held on the four musicians on stage, and while they danced and jumped around in a captivating performance, All Them Witches proved their status as high priests of heavy stoner rock, and remained one of the most talented and musically tight bands touring today.
A large tapestry draped on the wall behind drummer Rob Staebler held the band’s artwork from their latest album Sleeping Through the War, which they are currently touring to promote. Having built a fan base in the Triad for the past five years since their debut show at the Garage in 2012, the band played a mix of both old tunes long beloved by the devoted coven of fans and new songs from the album.
Garage owner Tucker Tharpe remains an ardent advocate for the quartet and is partly responsible for bringing them to the local stage for the first time in 2012. All Them Witches sells out every time they come through North Carolina, allowing Tharpe to book them for two consecutive shows on this current tour through the Triad; both of which sold out before the doors opened.
The show on March 3 opened with Rochester, NY trio King Buffalo, a tight-knit, thunderous power of musical talent. While blending their influences of Zeppelin, the Doors and classic stoner rock, King Buffalo’s sound is held tight by the steady work of bass player Dan Reynolds and frontman Sean McVay, brought into full bloom with a thunder of drums by the heavy-hitting Scott Donaldson. Since their conception in 2013, the band has received raving critical reviews and a fanbase stretching across the United States and spilling into Europe, where they will be touring later this year.
Bolting down and expanding the flow of the night were Greensboro-based heavy stoner-rock band Irata. The trio contains a precision and connection on stage that echoes forth the intricate sounds similar to Tool and Dream Theatre, with badass guitarwork by Cheryl Manner. The crowd stood awed and applauding for the length of the show; fans were almost forced to dance and move to the music.
While all the bands on the bill aligned in perfect harmony and the crowd was awed by the opening acts, there was still a void hanging in the air, a yearning for something more as fans awaited All Them Witches to begin the service.
The crowd sang along with Parks’ hollow, crooning voice while Tucker Tharpe climbed up his famous ladder beside the stage, capturing photos of the show. Containing a mix of Godspeed You Black Emperor, Nirvana and the Doors, the Witches’ latest album holds true to the sound they’ve built a fan base upon, yet has clearly expanded and evolved in maturity with intricately woven melodies and poetic lyrics, hammered down by the steady pulse of Rob Staebler’s drumming. Every piece of the band’s live performance — from lyrics to interim guitar tuning — contains a strange air about it, one that those in attendance are somehow drawn to keep steady eyes on. The Nashville-based band is truly a talent that is still climbing into their much-deserved spotlight, and with a full seven months left of touring for Sleeping Through the War, they’ll will be casting their spells on fans across the globe in coming shows.
As Parks’ voice crooned the poetic lyrics of a new track “Alabaster,” the drums pounded through the floor and the crowd raised their arms and sang along with the band, satisfied to be a part of this darkly beautiful event.