One can’t help but wonder why this wasn’t a gig where tickets were exchanged on the black market. Perhaps the combination of Bonfire night, typical Gwent Valley weather, and the fact it was the Sunday before kids in Wales went back to school all had a hand in a less-than-perfect turnout. In Sasquatch and Blind River, you have two bands who should never be allowed to play in front of anything less than a full house.
Sasquatch – Blind River
The Patriot, Crumlin – 05 November 2023
Word And Photography: Paul Hutchings
You may know the name. If you are a fan of the big stoner-tinged riff, then you need Sasquatch in your life. Two decades ago, vocalist/guitarist Keith Gibbs formed the band with drummer Rick Ferrante and bassist Clayton Charles. The latter duo no longer plays with the band, but don’t let that disappoint you.
According to Setlist.FM, the band have only visited these shores a handful of times. If I’m right, this was their debut show in Wales. Whilst it’s certainly a shame that there were fewer people to witness this, those who did make the effort were richly rewarded over a 75-minute set which drew songs from every album the band have released.
Gibbs and his two companions, drummer Craig Riggs and bassist Jason Casanova, whom Gibbs duly gushed about in uncharacterised emotive terms mid-set, plunged deep into a set of 13 plus tracks. There were some deeper cuts alongside what could genuinely be described as choicer set pleasers.
The groove is there from the start, as Let It In and Live Snakes get the venue moving. Everywhere you glance, people are nodding, feet are tapping, and The Patriot is alive to the fuzzy sound of this LA three-piece.
It’s fair to say that Sasquatch draws on many influences. There’s the Corrosion Of Conformity vibe (circa 1992) mixed with some Grand Funk Railroad, early Soundgarden, Sabbath and Mountain.
It all sweeps up into one massive headrush, something to savour from start to finish. The room is enveloped in thick, chunky riffs, with Riggs and Casanova holding down the low end, which allows Gibbs plenty of room for his swaggering guitar work, plus, of course, his fantastic vocal delivery. A raspy, gritty style works magnificently, and the room is a sweeping mass of slow-motion head swings.
Despite the slow-motion feel of some songs, there’s quite a pace to much of Sasquatch’s driving Rock. The sludgy opening to Pull Me Under is intoxicating, whilst their ability to mix it up and throw in requests is fabulous (although the tool who shouted out for a song they’d already played was laughable!).
Suddenly, it’s game over, and as entranced as we are, the boys launch into Destroyer to conclude proceedings. Smouldering, magical and utterly entrancing, the bipedal ape-like creature is most definitely not a figment of the imagination. One of the most engaging sets of 2023.
I’m almost out of superlatives when it comes to these degenerates. My third viewing this year, following on from their support set here back in March and a boot stomp of a show at the Station 18 Festival in May, and they get better every time.
A 45-minute set is just enough to get Blind River reaching for top gear, although they don’t exactly ease their way through the gearbox. No, sir, this band hits 0-60 in about four seconds and rarely take the pedal off the Metal from there to the end.
That’s not strictly true, as Acid Tongue, for example, does slow it down a little. Although, as frontman Harry Armstrong is at pains to point out, “it still grooves like a motherfucker.” That is the very essence of this five-piece. The groove which surges and pulses through songs like Snake Oil, Made Of Dirt, Freedom Dealer, and the final anthem, Can’t Sleep Sober.
Mark Sharpless is now an embedded part of the Blind River machine, his early shows serving to bed him into the band. He’s certainly on board now as he batters away at his kit.
It’s the sum of the parts that dazzle so much. Armstrong’s the cheeky best mate up front, his heartfelt banter matched by his roaring vocals. Guitarist Chris Charles doesn’t stop smiling, whilst fellow axeman Dan Edwards is a blur of hair and ferocious fretwork.
There’s another blur in the corner. That’s the shirtless Will Hughes, who treats his bass with so much abuse one wonders if there is a musical equivalent of a safeguarding procedure for instruments.
New songs from the excellent Bones For The Skelton Thief sound even better live, whilst the older material is welcomed by all like long-lost family.
Passionate beyond belief, these guys are the epitome of good-time rock ‘n’ roll. As they launch into their standard bearer, the punchy Can’t Sleep Sober, it’s a time to reflect.
Few bands are as good as Blind River. They need to be in everyone’s face. They tour with Sasquatch for a few more shows. You really should be at one.