Road Trips Are A Young Man’s Game…
Lafayette, LA – Colby Foreman – Deacon of Metal
What can be said about the band King’s X that hasn’t already been said? I could tell you 1,000 facts about the band: how they started in 1979 in Springfield, Missouri, as a project between Doug Pinnick and Jerry Gaskill while Gaskill was a part of the progressive Christian rock band “Petra”. I can give you facts, like King’s X opened the anniversay of Woodstock in 1994, or they they, according the Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament, “invented the grunge sound”.
But these facts can never give you the full King’s X experience. No amount of Youtube video viewings can explain what it’s like to see this band live. This was my 4th time seeing King’s X. The first time was opening for AC/DC on their “Money Talks” tour, back in 1991. I had previously been a fan of theirs, going back to the “Out of the Silent Planet” album, back in 1988. I went with a couple of friends to see them in New Orleans at the arena there. One of my friends stayed for King’s X, then left to sleep in the car until the end of the concert. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.
Now I get it. As much as I’m a fan of AC/DC, I’m an even bigger fan of King’s X and it’s members, too. In 1997, I traveled to Lake Charles, LA, to see a side project of Pinick’s, called “Poundhound”. That project, in and of itself, is amazing. Think of it as taking Jimi Hendrix’s “Axis: Bold as Love”, injecting it with a heavy bottom end, and peppering it with Christian themes. Pinnick surrounds himself with the best of the best musicians: Poundhound included Christian Nesmith (son of Monkees’ main songwriter Mike Nesmith), and Lenwood Sonnier. At the Poundhound show, I ran into Lenwood, and he noticed I was wearing a King’s X tour shirt I’d bought at that first concert in 1991. He mentioned he was the guitar tech on that tour, and we talked for a while. Next thing I know, he’s on stage with Poundhound! We’ve been friends on Facebook for the last few years, and we ran into each other again this weekend at the King’s X show, as Sonnier’s band “The Peace and the Chaos” were opening.
Before they took the stage (second on the bill), My friend Tracy McGinnis from Lake Charles icons, Choke, tells me the lead singer and guitarist for PatC was Stevie Ray Vaughn reincarnated. Amazing seasoned musicians covering the funk/folk/blues rock ground, and filled with incredible harmonies. (You can check them out here (https://www.facebook.com/PeaceAndTheChaos/) and I highly recommend that you do! A perfect fit for a King’s X show.
The next band on Saturday’s lineup was completely unexpected in the most enjoyable way. They came onstage with little fanfare, and no huge mind-blowing loud riffs; they opened with a bluesy, torchlight original composition called “Mess of Me”, the last track off their debut self-titled album, “Kings of Spade”. Just by the looks of them, you knew this was going to be different.
KOS is fronted by a fluorescent mohawked singer, KC, who brings back memories of blues & soul icons Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin and the 4-piece band is Brother & The Holding Company on steroids. Voted in 2014 & ’15 as “Best Local Group” Honolulu Pulse Awards, it’s obvious this band set their sights on and were meant for greatness. Check out them out at http://www.kingsofspade.com/.
The last opportunity to see King’s X (before this one in Houston) presented itself in 1999 or 2000, I believe. My memory is foggy as I get older, it seems. This time, it was in Baton Rouge, LA., at the revered Varsity Theater, or as King’s X’s Ty Tabor later revealed in a conversation with me after the show, “the one and only time we were invited to play Baton Rouge”. The reason I bring this up is because seeing them in 2000 and 18 years later is absolutely no different: consistency and musicianship, something every single band strives (or should strive) to achieve. Consummate professionals. Easily sealed their spot in my top 3 live performances ever after seeing them in Houston this time out.
Opening with “Groove Machine” from 1998’s Tapehead is the perfect song to set the tone for any King’s X set. As the song implies, it’s all groove, heavily driven by Pinnick and Gaskill’s rhythm section, while Ty Tabor’s unique guitar playing and bright, positive tone shines through the groove. I was instantly in my happy place. With a wealthy catalogue of songs to choose from, it must be difficult to include favorites into a set, but they sure did not disappoint. The band played everything from every album, including at least one from each. “Pray” is a new favorite from XV, “Lost In Germany”, from the self-titled 1992 album, sing-a-long’s like “Pillow”, “Looking for Love” and “Over My Head” (their first MTV hit), alongside soulful songs like “Flies and Blue Skies” and “Cigarettes” from 1994’s “Dogman”, the first album not to be produced by long-time producer Sam Taylor and the first with Brendan O’Brien (who has worked with Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and Black Crowes) which took the band into a new era of sound, from Beatle-esque harmonies and tone in the studio to what you would hear live today, In fact, Pinnick described “Black the Sky” as his new “standard to mix to” due to its “big and fat” sound that simulated the band’s live performance.
The show ended on my favorite track, “We Were Born to be Loved” from 1990s Faith Hope Love , before returning to the stage for the encores “Dogman” and the seminal sing-along “Goldilox” from Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, released in 1988. Nearly 2 and a half hours. Something you rarely see in rock music with bands even half their age.
Going to a King’s X show is a timeless, undated experience. It’s a true music lover’s paradise, and the audience is a reflection of that, as the club was filled with a multi-generational group, from kids and teenagers to the “old guard” of 80s metal heads. But, MOSTLY musicians, because King’s X was and is one of those bands who stand on the precipice of fame and fortune, lauded by many of their contemporaries as “the musician’s band”. I recently watched VH1’s “Top 100 Hard Rock Band’s of All Time” (where they landed at #83?!), Vernon Reid from Living Colour called them “ridiculously consistent” and Deep Purple and Rainbow’s Ritchie Blackmore recalled trying to hire Doug Pinnick as a vocalist for DP, but Pinnick turned him down because he had his “own thing”. As individual musicians, they are juggarnauts in their own right, having been involved in collaborative projects (Pinnick at 13, Tabor at 7, by my count), not to mention countless solo projects and albums, but King’s X is where it’s at. The sheer chemistry and brotherhood is surrealistic and magical to watch live, I cannot stress that enough. They are getting up in age, I hate to say, and have to wonder how long they will continue, given the current state of rock music and so many calling it quits and announcing “farewell tours” on a near daily basis (After all, Pinnick was born in 1955, but looks immortal!)
But, despite Pinnick’s recent health issues with hernia surgery and Gaskill’s heart ailments in 2012 and 2014, they still get up their every night and do what they do. Then they spend many hours greeting their fans, some who will see them over and over.