Looking for parking near the Townhouse’s Del Monte Speakeasy, the oldest bar in Venice – it was once an actual speakeasy during Prohibition – is no easy task. The influx of Googlers and yuppie techies has driven the city’s population and housing costs up so high that the salty, Dogtown-repping dirtbags who didn’t own cars have now almost all been replaced with socs who wrap sweaters around their necks and take up two parking spots with their environmentally conscious vehicles.
So as I went around my third loop on Thursday night, I was glad to see some suspicious longhairs clad in patched denim and leather, idly heading to the Townhouse. And nothing could bring these fools out like a show with The Shrine and King Tuff.
Hosted by Red Bull Sound Select, CRAP Eyewear, and Flood Magazine, the show was filled to the brim with sweaty kids and sweaty adults, all there to get their faces melted off. Did I mention the Speakeasy is a basement with no windows or ventilation? Local legend Jeff Ho was there, too. No big deal. He brushed up against my boob at some point. It was the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me.
The Shrine hit the stage as I wedged my way through a wall of people to get a better view. The temperature was hot. The crowd thirsty. Josh Landau, Court Murphy, and Jeff Murray were ready to bless off. Playing songs from their two albums, Primitive Blast and their most recent Bless Off, and a couple unreleased gems right on point with their heavy Jerusalem, Sabbath sound, The Shrine tore through their set list, with a few choice comments from lead singer Landau. “What’s in your brain?” he screamed. “Is there anything left?” Not really, man.
Landau, looking like an extra from Easy Rider, and bassist Murphy, with his thick sideburns, both make the most obscene, hilarious facial expressions while shredding, it’s hard not to get sucked up in their vibe.
And then came King Tuff. Kyle Thomas birthed King Tuff in 2006 in his bedroom in Vermont, and now, with Magic Jake on bass and Old Gary on drums, and his most recent album Black Moon Spell out on Sub Pop, his band is selling out shows and shattering eardrums.
Decked out in a sleeveless leather vest covered in pins and patches, Thomas opened the set with “Madness,” off Black Moon Spell, singing the most appropriate lyrics for an opening song: King Tuff is my name / I got madness in my brain / Pleased to meet you / I’m gonna eat you cause I’m batshit insane. King Tuff’s lyrics, across all albums, are playful and wild, just like their onstage presence, complete with fog machine.
Halfway through their set, the band took a break to replenish and hydrate in the sweltering heat. “Everybody give it up for Old Gary back there on the drums,” Thomas said, which aroused an eager crowd into chanting, “Gary! Gary!” Don’t be fooled by the name though; Gary plays the drums harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. Later on, Thomas dedicated “Staircase of Diamonds” to him, saying, “He likes this one ‘cuz it’s slow.” Gary looked stoked.
King Tuff mainly played tracks off Black Moon Spell, but they thankfully slipped in the crowd favorite “Sun Medallion,” off Was Dead. Thomas famously wears a sun medallion around his neck at all times, a compliment to the song. They finished off the night with “Anthem,” off the 2012 S/T album, a screeching, powerful ballad with the lyrics: “Sing the anthem / A song of the dead.” And trust me, every sweaty body in that crowd was dead after the back-to-back annihilation of rock.
Both The Shrine and King Tuff are tour junkies, and it shows in their cohesive dynamic while playing live. They play like they’re having fun and enjoying themselves just as much as the crowd. Before The Shrine’s second song of the night, Josh Landau said, “This is a new song we’re gonna play because we like it a lot.” If only more bands introduced songs that way. –Maya Eslami
The Shrine’s Set List:
Run The Night
On The Grind
King Tuff’s Set List
Black Moon Spell
Dancing On You
Staircase of Diamonds
Eyes Of The Muse
Demon From Hell