Words & Images by: Jake Krolick
Lions :: 05.17.08 :: Khyber :: Philadelphia, PA
Outside on Second Street, the city was a hot mess of glam. With a week to go before Philadelphia released its floodgates of beachgoers and homebound college students, prowlers flowed through the avenues on the hunt for one last bit of the old in/out. Inside the Khyber, years of bar stench clung to our clothes. Under dimly lit antlers, Pabst Blue Ribbon took Cosmo's seat at the bar. Texan Austin Kalman blended into the Khyber's slice of culture effortlessly. He and the rest of his band Lions were far removed from the six-inch heels and lipstick bachelorette parties running around outside the venue.
"Evil Eye" started the set with a shatteringly appropriate analysis of the situation outside: "They call her American dream, but this time it's not what it seems." The drone-yowl of Kalman's guitar scratched at our senses. Its distorted notes passed as much judgment as Matt Drenik's voice barking out the chorus. Lions' unbreakable rock & roll left no questions in anyone's mind. They attacked the stage as a contender for king of the pack should. Falling in between the cracks of '70s-era hard rock and current border stretching rock groups like Dead Meadow and Vietnam, Lions unleashed a heavy psychedelic roar that pleasantly damaged eardrums and raised pulses. Each moment hoisted the enthusiasm levels as Drenik and his cohorts bound assertively around the minuet stage.
"This is a song you make love to," announced Drenik as Kalman unleashed the Tool-like "Prison Sex" moan from his bent strings and pedal affected axe. He and Drenik heaved themselves into the throes of the song's howling delights. With sinews stretched taught in lanky enthusiasm, Drenik moaned out cries like a wounded lover. His eyes stared ruthlessly out over the sea of faces below him as he clawed at the air.
Bassist Trevor "T-Rev" Sutcliffe is a shoe-in to play Floyd Pepper in a live action Electric Mayhem movie. His classic '70s mustache, battered snakeskin boots and hole-ridden Wild Turkey t-shirt matched his uncompromising stance and fast, heavy fingers. He made quick work of several songs, semi-dismissing each one until he landed on "Movement." His bass boomed as we watched him mount the song with a cowboy straddle. Jake Perlman (drums) was slighted by the garage-sized stage, forced to squeeze in between his kit and the gear in the back. His blistering performance was reflected in the gold shimmer that hung behind him. Perlman's knack for speedy tempos was only overshadowed by his precise stick work as he spun and thrust time into the heavy trudge laid out by Sutcliffe's bass.
Bands wear their songs as medals of honor for facing down life's demons. Deep Purple's "Speed King" and Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" are purple hearts in the world of hard rock. Lions ripped into "Metal Heavy Lady," an aggressive song in the vein of Clutch's "Sea of Destruction" forever immortalized in Guitar Hero 3. Not that it mattered to Drenik as he leaned into the crowd holding his guitar forward as a knight would wield a sword. His sweat-soaked beard and raw, taunting nature drove the song harder than any putz with a PlayStation ever could. Sutcliffe bent his lower lip into a sneer as he stroked the thick sweaty strings of his bass into a rapid, quivering fury. "All Hail" closed the night, much as it had begun, with heavy riffs and an explosive attitude. The only badges they displayed as they walked off the stage were the soiled shirts and worn instruments that hung around their necks.
Matt Drenik - Lions :: 05.17.08 :: Philadelphia, PA
Lions live at the Khyber
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