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[POSTPONED: August 21, 2020] King’s X [moved to June 11, 2021]

indexKing’s X were supposed to play The Stone Pony back in June.  I didn’t want to see them there, but I was willing to return to Sellersville to see them for what I felt was probably the last time

dUg’s voice is not what it once was (and it was phenomenal), but they put on a great show and their positivity is infectious.  So I figured I’d see them once again in the place I’ve seen them the most.

I was getting notices of cancellations in September, so I assumed this one would get the postponement as well.  It came on June 18.

King’s X has rescheduled their August 21 show to Friday, June 11, 2021. Your tickets will be honored on the new date. We need your help, and the easiest way to help us and King’s X right now is to mark the new date on your calendar and keep your tickets. Make seeing King’s X at Sellersville Theater one of the things you can look forward to next year!

Who knows, maybe a year off will allow dUg to take care of his voice and they’ll all be on fire next year!

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SOUNDTRACK: KING’S X-Live Love in London (2010).

King’s X released their most recent studio album (XV) in 2008.  It’s been over 11 years since that album came out, but King’s X still tours pretty much all of the time.  They could stand to mix up their setlists a bit from time to time, but they still sound quite good.

This concert was recorded on January 22nd, 2009 at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, not long after XV came out.  As such, there’s five songs from that album.  I actually thought that XV was a pretty great record and these songs hold up quite well with the rest of them.

This show starts, as pretty much all shows do since 1998 with “Groove Machine.”  The opening of “Welcome to the Groove Machine” is a pretty terrific way to introduce everyone to the show.  There’s a slightly extended drum solo in the middle of the song, but nothing too crazy.

It’s followed by a new song, “Alright.”  It features some noisy, squeaky guitars from Ty and is really catchy in it’s simplicity: “one day, (one day) it’s gonna be, (it’s gonna be) alright, (alright) alright, (alright).”  It’s a great singalong.

They quickly jump back to a popular older song, the quiet “Pleiades” although Ty’s vocals sound a little rough on it.  Back to the new record with “Move,” a suitably heavy song, although “What is This?” from the debut sounds much heavier.  You can tell that the band has played this song a lot because dUg is taking liberties with the lyrics: “make you look so fucking foolish.”  And lots of screaming.  Ty’s guitar solo is pretty epic.

Then they play two songs in a row from the King’s X album.  Up first is the quieter, grooving “Lost in Germany.”  Then comes the hugely popular “Black Flag.”

There’s a slightly lengthy bass intro as the band sets up for the new, absolutely rocking song “Pray,” in which dUg once again grapples with religion.  This is another great chanting sing along.

The crowd is excited for the older hit “Dogman” with some more noisy guitars from Ty.  dUg also makes his first reference to pot: after the line “give me a skinny or give me a fat,” he says “I smoke em fat.”

Then there’s two new songs in a row, yet another great sing-along” Go Tell Somebody.”  It’s a rollicking song that sums up the King’s X ethos pretty well: “if you like what you hear, go tell somebody.”  It leads into the quieter, Jerry Gaskill-sung “Julie” a nice song to his wife.  That’s it for new songs as they head back to older albums from here on out.

The first one is the only song from Ear Candy, the rocking “Looking for Love.”  It’s interesting when Ty plays his solo how much the rest of the sound goes away–its just bass and drums while Ty totally wails–a rather long solo for a 4 minute song.  The crowd goes crazy for “Summerland” and you can hear them all singing along to the final verse including the slight pause before it resumes.  The crowd is incredibly important at a King;s X show and it is a bit of a shame that the crowd is mixed out of this recording (I assume it’s a sound board and therefore hard to include the crowd).  But it’s really great to hear them sing along.  Apparently there is also a lot of chanting and such that is edited out for the CD, which makes sense, but is a bit of a bummer if you want to really capture the energy of the show.  At one point dUg even says, “I’ve been listening to you sing all night and its alright.”

They end the set with a rousing 12 minute “Over My Head.”  The extended part comes in the middle, of course.  The song slows down, the crowd starts clapping, and Ty plays a really impressive solo–just wailing around for almost 3 minutes.  Then it’s dUg’s turn.  “Welcome to the first church of rock n roll.”  He talks about the importance of music, “Music got me through a lot of hard times.”  In almost every show he tells a different anecdote.  This time he says, “My aunt told me … its a terrible thing for a man to do the thing he don’t wanna do for the rest of his life.  I decided I’m gonna make fucking music.”  The audience then sings the chorus pretty much through to the end of the song.

Then it’s time for the encore.  (The encore breaks are not evident on the CD).

dUg says, “This is gonna be a long encore.”  It starts with two songs from Faith Hope Love.  “It’s Love” was probably their biggest hit.  The song sounds great, although truthfully their impeccable harmonies sound a little tired here.   It segues perfectly in to “We Were Born to Be Loved” one of the great show enders.  This version runs to about six minutes with some extended moments and that awesomely complex ending sequence.

They come back out for encore 2 and play the lovely “Goldilox.”  The big difference this time is that the crowd sings the entire song!  Quite well, in fact.  dUg doesn’t sing anything and Ty only plays loud between verses.  It’s pretty cool.  They stay with the debut album for one more song, “Visions” which returns to the heaviness but keeps the harmonies.  The end part really takes off with some wild soloing from Ty as dUg and Jerry jam out together.  It’s a wonderfully wild ending and seems like it could easily end the show.  But the band isn’t quite done yet.

There’s one more encore break before they come back with the wild “Moanjam.”  The harmonies seem to have completely lost them by this time, but musically the song is outstanding.  Just a terrific jam that rocks out.

King’s X is a fantastic live band.  And, yes, they are getting older and don’t sound as amazing as they once did, but the energy and musicianship is still top-notch, even almost ten years after this release.

[READ: February 2019] King’s X: The Oral History

Even though I love music, I don’t read a ton of books about musicians.  I kind of don’t care all that much about most of them.  I want to see and hear you play, but I don’t have that much curiosity about your history.

But some bands defy the tropes of rock, and their story can often be interesting.

I’ve been a fan of King’s X for decades and while I knew some things about them, it turns out I didn’t really know all that much.  And it was fun to read this book which is constructed of quotes from the band and the people who were around them.

Most of the people interviewed are huge fans of the band and can’t understand why they were never more successful (a common question).  I also had no idea there was such acrimony between the band and their original unofficial fourth member, Sam Taylor (who does not make an appearance in the book).

Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was to find out that Doug (dUg) Pinnick is 68 years old! That certainly explains why his voice doesn’t sound superlative live anymore.  And fair play to him.  He sounds amazing for 68.  He is otherwise ageless, that guy.  dUg had a pretty rough upbringing–and he didn’t get a bass until he was 23!

Jerry Gaskill has had two heart attacks (!) and is from South NJ (and now lives near Asbury Park–wow, imagine running into him).  He started a band with his dad and his brother when he was 7 years old (Jerry & The Knights).  And they played out at weddings and parties.  How fun is that?

Ty Tabor is the baby at 58. Ty learned guitar from a babysitter and has been playing ever since.  He and others keep referring to Phil Keaggy.  I had never heard of him and was surprised at Ty’s reverence.  Well, Keaggy is an adult Christian musician so clearly I’d never have heard of him.  I listened to a track or two but just couldn’t get past the Christianness of it to really appreciate the music. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KINGS OF SPADE-Kings of Spade (2014).

This follow up to Kings of Spade’s debut album.  They describe it as

High energy, shameless dancing, foot-stomping Rock’n’Roll! Dedicated to all the freaks, queers, strange birds, rule breakers and all who dare to be different.

That’s pretty accurate.  The band seems to have really found their groove.  There’s fewer experiments but the ones they employ are solid and the whole album is pretty great from start to finish.

“This Child” opens with a cool echoing riff and  big power chords as Kasi Nunes sings the catchy chorus:

yes you buy me dresses
but i play with guns
swing for the fences
aint gonna tame this child

There’s some interesting electronic sounds swirling around but they are more for texture than actual song creation.  “San Antonie” is a classic-rock-sounding/blues riffing song.  It’s funny to think of someone from Hawaii singing about taking a train to San Antoine.

“Bottoms Up” is a heavier riff-based song with echoed vocals. Kasi’s delivery is a bit more rap-like but nothing as deliberate as on the previous album.  And she still wails.  The song includes scratch artistry by DJ PACKO.  As with the other songs, there’s a really scorching guitar solo from Jessie Savio.

“Sweet” is a slower song with kind of sultry vocals from Kasi.  “Lost” returns to that power-blues style but the second half of the song gets into a really fast riffing–it’s practically a second song.

“Take Me” is a nearly 7 minute workout.  It’s almost a disco bass line from Tim Corker but then around four minutes it slows down into a kind of bluesy solo section with Kasi really showing off her vocal chops.  “Way She Goes’ is a great song–a story song about Kasi trying to pick someone up.  But it’s the distorted falsetto of the chorus that really hooks the song–that and the terrific riff in the chorus.  Half way through the song slows down to a kind of reggae vibe–just keeping things interesting.

“Ronda Rousey” is dedicated to the fighter.  The night I saw them live Ronda was playing the next night (she lost).  Regardless of Rousey herself, this song kicks major ass.  It’s heavy and stomping and the chorus is awesome:

now you’re here cross my corner and i warned ya
and im giving you the fight of my life
no escape from what your feelin
i got an itch to get inside
come on let’s get it on

The way it shifts gear during the repeating of “come on, let’s go it on” is pretty cool.

“Strange Bird” is their best song and one of my favorite songs in recent times.  The opening riff–guitar and bass) is pretty simple but it works and when the song pulls back to let Kasi sing her pre-chours (which is terrific) and then leads to the powerful chorus, it’s all a perfectly executed rock song.

Even if the chorus of “rocking to the beat of my own drum” is not original, it works, and that pre-chorus is pure Kasi with her pink mohawk:

strange bird how many colors in your hair
how many people love to stare
strange bird here comes another .

There’s some great drums work on this song by Matt Kato.

It feels like the album should end with that song, it’s such a great climax.  But the final song, “Mess of Me” is no slouch.  It’s a pretty classic blues rocker with some great guitar and Kasi’s soaring vocals.  I would have put it before “Strange Bird,” myself, but it’s still a rocking song.

It’s been almost four years since they put this record out.  I know they’ve been touring the world with King’s X for a pretty long time.  I hope they keep up the great work.

[READ: January 25, 2017] “Why I Broke Up with the Little Mermaid”

Sometimes a very simple premise can be taken too far.  Other times, a simple premise can be cleverly stretched out into variations of the same joke that are all very funny.

This piece is pretty much all stated in the title.  But the reasons why are presented as a dialogue between him and Ariel  . And, the best part is that much of Ariel’s dialogue is quoted from the movie.

So:

Ariel: Look at this stuff! Isn’t it neat?

Me: Not really. What is it?

Ariel: They’re whozamawhats, silly! I got them from a yard sale. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KINGS OF SPADE-Crave (2013).

I have seen Kings of Spade twice (both times opening for King’s X).  I have never heard of them outside of these shows.  And yet, they seem to have a pretty good following (especially in their native Hawaii).

Their website describes them as “blues rock from Hawaii” and that’s pretty apt.  They certainly groove in the rocking blues.  They are fronted by a fantastic, powerful singer named Kasi Nunes.  She formed the band along with guitarist Jesse Savio.  There’s also drummer Matt Kato, bassist Max Benoit, turntablist DJ A2Z and percussionist Obie 1.

“Crave” opens the disc with some great bluesy grooves and solos all under the power of Nunes’ wail.  “Boys in the Band” is a song they still play and it works great in concert.  The recorded version features a turntablist, which they do not have live.  The song has a cool break where you get to hear Nunes’ voice unaffected as she sings the title.

“Funk” adds some horns, although not a lot of funk, which is fine.  It works more as soul with scratchy wah wah guitars.

“Weight on My Shoulders” is a strange song.  It has the riff and melody of “Crimson and Clover,” a song I don’t really like.  But the lyrics of the chorus focus on the weight of the world being on her shoulders (to the tune of “waitin’ to show her”).  The verses are the big surprise because the song turns into a rap.  Nunes’ flow is pretty good, but it’s more about her lyrics than her delivery.  She raps about growing up and the awkwardness of being a woman at 25.  Nunes is all about women and feminism.

“Keep On” starts with her saying “to the most beautiful, this is from X-Factor (X-Factor was their name before they became Kings of Spade).  This is a groovy song with Nunes’ rapping and the turntablist working away.  There’s more horns as well.  It rocks pretty well, and there are two sections that change the style of the song in an effective way.  I like the end where the song switches tone into a more menacing-sounding thump.

“Move On” rocks along, very catchy and fun with some cool organ underneath the riffage.  Until the middle when it really slows down to a kind of Janis Joplin vein.  The first time i saw them, they played a fantastic version of Piece of My Heart (Nunes hits the marks really well).

I’m not sure if it was well-known that Nunes is a lesbian.  She doesn’t mention it until song 7.  But she’s certainly not hiding the fact because the whole of “Don’t Hate Me” is about her coming out experience.  It’s a powerful tour de force (which is rapped as well) that covers many bases about coming out–parents, classmates, friends, community.  She sings about “growing up a baby dyke” and spending years as “a closet homo” before finally reaching a place where “a hater’s lame opinion can’t cause me any strife.”   I love the metaphor about building

The final song shows off yet another style of the band.  “Secret Lover” is a slow acoustic song with a kind of Spanish feel.  It’s a love song to a secret lover (no one will ever measure up to you) which I can’t decide if it’s awesome or sad (is the secret a good one?).

This is a solid album.  It’s a bit all over the place, trying out different sounds.  They will step things up for their next album (and Kasi will adopt her now-trademark red Mohawk).

[READ: July 26, 2016] “Alice”

This is the life story of a little girl.  It is told by a distant, almost disinterested narrator, and this narrator fits the girls’ life as well.

Living in Australia, Alice had red-gold sausage curls.  She had lovely hair and thick creamy skin and gray-blue eyes.  Her disposition could be summed up as “it is good to be good.”

Her mother was Scottish-born and was irrational, quickly tempered and noisy: “she had no feelings.”

Alice’s mother didn’t regard her at all.  After her mother had two boys, they consumed all of her attention.  Alice became nursemaid and nanny to her brothers. Any problem became Alice’s fault.   And even though people looked at her and admired her, once they realized that this would gain no favor with her mother, they admired her brothers instead. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 15, 2017] Kings X

My friend Sean and I were planning on making it three years in a row seeing King’s X, but he had last minute other plans (which I hope were wonderful).

It was interesting seeing them again (this is 4 times in four years! and three years at Sellersville).  Usually I can’t get good pictures at Sellersville, but either it was brighter, or my new phone is better in the dark.  Either way the photos were much better.

My friend Charles is a huge fan of the band and he warned me the dUg’s voice wasn’t sounding so great.  I thought that last time around, so I was prepared for the worst.  But he sounded okay.  As another friend said, he is 66 years old.  The only real drag about that is that his voice was so amazing that’s it’s a shame he’s lost that instrument’s full range.

But the band itself sounds great and since everyone in the audience is a huge fan, we did a lot of the singing for dUg, anyway.

(more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 15, 2017] Kings of Spade

Back in November, I saw King’s X and Kings of Spade.  I was more than a little surprised to see that King’s X were coming back to Sellersville and to see that Kings of Spade were opening again (turns out, not again, but still).  The band said that King’s X brought them to Europe, which was pretty exciting for them.

In the last 8 months or so, Kings of Spade have gotten even better.  They were really tight and solid back then, but their rocking songs rocked more and they really had a lot of fun on stage.  I guess 8 months of touring will get you to loosen up a bit.  In fact, when I saw them after the gig–they hung around for autographs again, I told the singer they sounded even better and she said she felt a lot more comfortable up there and danced a lot more–very nice folks.

It was cool seeing how well the bassist Tim Corker and drummer Matt Kato feed off each other–there’s some great rumbling sections in the later songs, with some great, complex drumming and fast bass playing. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 21, 2016] Kings X

2016-11-21-21-23-35A little over a year ago, my friend Sean and I saw King’s X at the Sellersville Theater.  I didn’t know they’d be back again so soon.  I was surprised to see that they were touring the East Coast again and making another stop at the Sellersville Theater.  This time I bought the tickets (and we got row H) to see this great three-piece again.

Sellersville Theater is a small place (although not very conducive to photos).  But the sound is amazing and it feels like the guys are right really close (and they are).

The band had recently posted that they were adding some surprise songs to their set, so while the beginning of the show was similar to last year’s show, there were eight new songs, which was pretty awesome. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 21, 2016] Kings of Spade

kosI hadn’t heard of Kings of Spade before this show.   They are a four piece from Hawaii–billing themselves as blues rock, although they play a lot more.  They make for an interesting looking band.  The bassist (Tim Corkerand) guitarist (Jesse Savio) (not Hawaiian natives) have long beards and look like they’re from the North East (which they are).  The drummer Matt Kato and singer are Hawaiian natives.  Singer Kasi Nunes has a bright red mohawk and a voice to match.

I missed the first song, (it’s an hour to the theater, give me a break), but the band played a solid set after that and boy were they good.

The band plays off of each other really well.  The bass and drums are really tight, keeping time changes and shifts totally spot on.  They have a few songs that absolutely rock out and then stop on a dime to switch to a different genre.  “Way She Goes” is a full barrel rocker until the middle when it shifts to an almost reggae beat.

Overall, their set is full of really catchy grooves and foot-stomping (well, as much as you can when you’re seated).

After a few songs, Savio commented about how different it is playing in a club versus a theater.  I knew they had recently played with King’s X at The Stone Pony.  The Sellersville Theater is about as far as you can get from it–and I’ll take the civilized Sellersville over the rowdy Stone Pony (although it is weird to sit during a rocking show).  He said that the biggest difference was the noise level and alcohol consumption.  And that there were tables here.  But he also said that we were so quiet and respectful during the songs–which was cool, don’t worry–but it was so quiet that he could hear the drummer humming along.  And he never knew the drummer hummed before.  As long as we were loud after the songs (and we were) he was cool with it.

2016-11-21-20-47-15While it’s hard to take your eyes off of Nunes and her giant mohawk, guitarist Savio is a great player to watch. He switches effects–from distortion to wah to some other interesting sounds including a talk box without ever losing the essential feel of his playing–bluesy, grungy bar guitars.  And his soloing is in the bluesy tradition of grooving and not showing off.  It led to some really great jams for a band whose songs are relatively short on record.

And Nunes is much more than her mohawk.  Man, does she have a powerful voice.   Sellersville is a fairly quiet theater anyhow, but there were a few times when she held a note and slowly moved the microphone away but I could still hear her even un-miced.

It was clear that they were having fun.  Nunes introduced a song about losing someone and then Savio played the intro to a different song.  He laughed and said, remember that intro for the next song.  This one is about the War of 1812.

2016-11-21-20-47-26Before introducing their song “Ronda Rousey,” she asked if anyone was into ECW.  A few people cheered and when they asked who would win on Dec 31, they were shocked when the person said Amanda (I didn’t know what they were talking about).  Nunes said that they love Ronda and wrote a song about her.  It rocked.

Some of their songs are super catchy, like the all out rocker “Strange Bird.”  And “Boys in My Band” from thier first record is pretty great, too.

When they were about done, they said they had one song left.  And then retracted that and said that the stage guy was holding up two fingers–two songs.  They apologized and said they’d keep us entertained for 8 minutes (which they did).  Savio said that he’d be anxious to hear King’s X as well–in fact that’s who he’d come to see even though his band was playing.

For the final song, Nunes said she wrote this song in the 70s and they launched into a great cover of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.”  It sounded great.  They got the perfect guitar sound for th esolos and Nunes totally handled the tough task of singing like Janis (although she didn’t do the big scream at the end–save your voce!_)

The band doesn’t even have an entry on Setlist (someone needs to get on that!).  So I don’t know the setlist.  But from listening to their two CDs on bandcamp, I recognize these songs from the show.  Their record is good, but man their live show is tremendous.  Check them out if they play near you–and don’t be late!

2016-11-21-23-15-34They were also nice enough to take a photo with me (I’m not from Hawaii so I couldn’t do the hand gesture).
Sweet
Boys in My Band
Take Me
Strange Bird
Ronda Rousey
Way She Goes
Piece of My Heart (Janis Joplin cover)

 

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41116 SOUNDTRACK: SERATONES-Tiny Desk Concert #522 (April 15, 2016).

seraThis Seratones show totally rocked!  And it was a nice change of pace from the slower bands who have been on the Tiny Desk lately.

The lead singer and guitarist is A.J. Haynes.  She plays guitar with a pick on her thumb and has a very clean guitar sound.  Her voice is really lovely—powerful and strong and covering multiple styles from Grace Slick to PJ Harvey.  The blurb says

Haynes grew up singing in the Brownsville Baptist Church, learning to sing out to and hit that back wall without a microphone.

And that’s apparent from the ease she has at singing.  The rest of her band is really great too.  Continuing the blurb:

bassist Adam Davis heard a lot of American rock’s greatest guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, as well as the amazing voice of Janis Joplin. The rest of the band is rounded out by the drumming of Jesse Gabriel, who is spare but there with a sharp backbeat, while guitarist Connor Davis rocks with lyrical grit.

Although I had to laugh because Haynes seems to be having so much fun while her bandmates are rather stonefaced.

They play three songs and they are all great.  “Don’t Need It” rocks out like nobody’s business.  Haynes is a charismatic (and adorable) lead singer with a big afro and a great smile.  “Get Gone” has a much more bluesy sound.  I like the way she delivers the line: “Suns coming out like you knew it would.”  After each verse she gives a big high-pitched “ooh oooh.” And then comes back with a growly low voice.  I love that she’s alternately belting out notes and then singing falsetto.

“Chandelier” has a great funky groove.  When the song sorta stops and just the drums kick in she gives a delightful giggle.

I was really delighted with this band whom I’d never heard of before and I definitely want to check out their recently released debut album.

[READ: April 11, 2016] “The Burglar”

I enjoyed the way that this story was structured.  One paragraph at a time with a dot in between them.  This allowed for a strange juxtaposition of time, with some things happening simultaneously and others possibly out of sequence.

There are several characters in the story.  There is a the burglar (known primarily as “he”); there is the wife who is waiting for exterminators to come to the house–she’s out and hopes to get home before they do).  There is the husband, who is off at work.  His job is fascinating, he’s writing his first script for a TV pilot.  The producers of the show want it to be edgy and different.  The character he is working on (the only person named in the story) is Emmet Byron Diggs, who is falsely accused of killing his wife.  Emmet is black, but the producers don’t want him to think about that as he develops the character.

The story rotates through these characters.  We see the scriptwriter and the producers talking about the show: a time travel show in which Emmet is going to start killing people.

The burglar encounters a dog in the house and tries to figure out how to deal with it.

The wife is racing to get home.

And Emmett is also walking down a street checking out the twenty-first century world he’s in.

Okay so the burglar is in the woman’s house.  But she hears him upstairs and assumes he is the exterminator.

And then the burglar hears her and tries to figure out what he’s going to do.  He calls out, “Just the cleaning crew.”  he berates himself for saying such a weird thing and she thinks its weird that the exterminator would call himself the cleaning crew.

And that’s when the phone rings and it’s the exterminators calling to say they’ll be late.

How does this real-life scenario play out at home while her husband is trying to create a similarly fictionalized setting on the page?

The stories even began to overlap somewhat with action in both stories taking place in a kitchen.  By the end of the story it’s not entirely clear what’s even happening, at least to me.  And yet despite or because of this confusion, I really loved the story.  It was intense and strangely funny at the same time.

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[ATTENDED: June 28, 2015] King’s X

2015-06-28 20.57.00This was a special concert for many reasons.  The first was that it was a chance to see my college friend Sean for the first time in probably 20 years.  We’d chatted online, but this is the first time we actually got together–thanks King’s X!

The second reason is because it was my first concert at the Sellersville Theater, a venue I’ve heard a lot about on XPN, but never been to.  When I walked into the venue I genuinely thought it was an optical illusion.  It’s an old movie theater, with about 300 seats.  Talk about intimate!  King’s X and dUg Pinnick (with Corey Glover of Living Colour) frequent the place, and I can see why.  The fans are right there and they (we) are all into it.

So hanging out with Sean and with great seats, I was totally in the mood for a great show. And King’s X delivered. (more…)

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