The room was bare for Bass Drum of Death’s scheduled start time at nine o’clock. Hailing from Oxford, Mississippi, the boys from BDoD started playing to a handful of diehards peppered throughout the room. It was a Sunday after all. I can guarantee that if this show was happening on any other night of the week the room would be full to bursting. But, alas, that was not the case and those who were in attendance were treated to an intimate rock concert instead.
The band features two guitarists (John Barrett on vocals too) and a drummer. Bass Drum of Death is no overstatement. The drumming is intense and is at the forefront of the band’s sound; so much that the drummer’s stick splintered about three songs into the set. Luckily, he had a spare wand stuck into the side of the bass drum. It must be a regular occurrence.
BDoD’s set included songs from debut album GB City (Gravity Bong City) and their latest self-titled effort. They emanate a hard, fuzzy, reverb-filled deep punch that induced many of the few in attendance to whip their hair back and forth as the bass drum pounded through the cozy music club in waves. Even with a small crowd, the band put forth an intense set without any lulls (besides, maybe, slow jam “Spare Room”). All in all, BDoD played a heavy set that forced those seated in the back to embrace the motto of “Sunday Funday” and join those already at the front.
Hanni El Khatib fans filtered in around ten o’clock, oblivious to the terrific set that just went down only a few minutes before. No harm, no foul. Soon enough, Hanni El Khatib would take the stage with his signature style of raunch’n’ roll.
When he released Will the Guns Come Out in 2011, HEK was being labelled as a beautiful sound child of a baby fathered by both Jack White (The White Stripes) and Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys). So, it made sense that his next record, Head in the Dirt, released this year, was produced by Mr. Auerbach himself.
HEK came out looking like one of the original T-Birds from Grease (1978): hair greased, white tee and a comb (maybe) tucked in his back pocket. As a former creative director of a skateboard line, you know he carefully crafts everything from each hair on his head to each song’s hook. He opened the set with the title track from his latest record, “Head in the Dirt”, an airy, drum and guitar one-two punch. Throughout the night he switched between the heavy-hitters from his first record (“Fuck it You Win”, “You Rascal You”) and the more pop-influenced (with a taste of blues) songs from his second (“Penny”, “Can’t Win ‘Em All”, “Pay No Mind”). He even busted out a stomping rendition of “Human Fly” by American punkers The Cramps.
Hanni El Khatib burns down barns with his distorted guitar and uses dirty grease as firestarter. The best way to describe Hanni in one word: heavy. He takes the best parts of blues-rock and shoves it in your face as his guitar (named “Tex”) screams in your ear. My shoulders felt lonely without my denim jacket on Sunday. This guy rips and roars and so much more. He’s flying under the radar, but I have a feeling it won’t be for much longer.