Stoner – Tuning Fork: November 11, 2022 (Concert Review)

STONER and Mario Lalli & the Rubber Snake Charmers, so much ‘mana’ being offered on a single night at one of Tāmaki Makaurau finest live music venues, to a comfortably full room of passionate fanboys and fangirls. The stage was set with high expectations.

When the show was announced, the band membership shouted formidable! From the universally acclaimed “Godfather of Desert Rock” Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson, Yawning Man), the legend that is Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Fu Manchu) the embodiment of bad boy of rock and badass of metal Nick Oliveri (Kyuss, Dwarves, QTSA) and the ‘mescaline chaser’ Sean Wheeler (Throw Rag, Sean Wheeler and the Reluctant Messengers)

Sadly though, something went fubar and Nick Oliveri was refused a visa into Australia, which meant he wasn’t making it to New Zealand/Aotearoa either. But being the consummate professionals, STONER became a dynamic duo, and smartly plastered live clips of STONER 2.0 all over their facebook pages, which looked and sounded pretty damn good.

Demons of Noon

Demons of Noon, hail from Tāmaki Makaurau and launched themselves onto a covid impacted nation in 2020 without playing a live show, but still offered their debut EP ‘The Summoning’ (check it and their 2022 EP Sphere of Peace on bandcamp) They have now played a few profile shows (Beastwars & Obey The Riff ’22), but this is the first time I had seen them, like many in the room.

Demons of Noon perform as a six piece, drums, two guitars, bass, and FIVE vocals (including two female vocalists) the rest of the band are boys), all of them upfront. Describing their sound is complex, think sludge-driven doom metal. Post show Sean Wheeler described them as being a Doom Jesus Christ Superstar troupe, I would add an element of Spinal Tapism, in a very good way.

The group has connections to NZ music luminaries such as Home Brew and Tourette’s. Beast Wars are boosters, but maybe this lifted quote by band member Jonathan Burgess says it better. “Just let people know that we have, like, a really inclusive and welcoming metal vocal style.”

Mario Lalli & the Rubber Snake Charmers

The Rubber Snake Charmers is Mario Lalli’s vehicle for improvisation and experimentation, with doors opening and closing as musician jump on-board or jump overboard, and has been going since 2012. Tonight’s version of the band is Mario Lalli & the Rubber Snake Charmers featuring Mario (Bass and Keyboards) Brant Bjork (Guitar), Ryan Gut (Drums – Brant Bjork, STONER) and Sean Wheeler on vocals.

The crowd surges forward, a few fool hardy souls right up to the barrier (if only they had known) as the band starts. Sean Wheeler crouches, psyching himself at the back of the stage, and then the sermon begins. Mario, Brant and Ryan work together to creating an uninterrupted sonic bed of psych, desert rock, jazz and punk, that mesmerises, hypnotises even, the congregation. The most respected and most infamous punk rock singer many have never heard of, enters the pulpit, like a giant of a front-man, like an orator in a Shakespearean play, or maybe a Southern Baptist Preacher, the sort that travel town to town prophesying in carnival tent.

He sings from HIS bible in his hand, speaks in his tongues and dominates the stage, occasional thrusting towards his flock to reinforce a verse, or to give a chosen few his personal blessing, a kiss on the forehead. As the music makers behind him create enveloping sonic waves that rise and fall, Sean Wheeler tears off and offers pages from his book of poems, and passes them to the flock.

The sonic energy is high, the faithful are converting and perhaps this triggers Wheeler’s disrobing. Carefully, a single piece of clothing at a time until bare chested (though still wearing his preachers crown) and with a finale like flick of his leather belt spin sit around his neck. The sermon is far too short, though no one can say how long the prophesying went on, all agree something mystic has already happened tonight in Tāmaki Makaurau.

STONER

So no Nick Oliveri, the promoter is up front about it with a notice on the entrance window, no point crying over spilt milk, STONER 2.0 set up as a duo, and again the audience surge forward, the anticipation is great, Brant Bjork has been to New Zealand before in many incarnations, and has never disappointed. On drums is Ryan Güt, drummer on the recent Brant Bjork solo albums, we’ve already seen the two of them creating together in Mario Lalli & the Rubber Snake Charmers.

STONER’s debut album Stoners Rule came out during covid, followed by their sophomore effort Totally this year, so the duo has plenty of material, but with the pedigree onstage, there is hope amongst the band for a song or two from past projects.

There is no setlist, but not unexpected, this show is the last of the Australasian Tour and I suspect the two are working from memory and nods, wink and sly hand signals. The minute Brant and Ryan hit the stage, the energy level steps up in the room, and while he droning bass groove that would’ve pulsated throughout is missing they are able to create a wall of noise that fills the room and gets the audience moving.

STONER work their way through their psychic setlist, interrupted only by a broken guitar string and a replacement that is temperamental towards staying tuned. Both band members are highly skilled craftsmen and they smash out LOUD solid versions of songs from their two albums and while there is little actual stage banter, Brant Bjork’s facial expression and expressive singing do all the talking needed.

As the night closes, Brant Bjork teases with the riffs to a most famous KYUSS song, that explodes the dancefloor and sates the audience hankering for a taste of nostalgia, and the night ends on a buzz. A buzz that lingers while Mario Lalli and Sean Wheeler of Mario Lalli & the Rubber Snake Charmers hang out near the merch stand and chatting with fans and being fine gentlemen.

Simon Coffey

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Brenna Jo Gotje

Stoner:

Mario Lalli & the Rubber Snake Charmers:

Demons Of Noon:

Simon Coffey

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m stunned by these pics by Brenna!
    By request of the bands for dim mostly red lighting I expected a black n white set of pics but they have really delivered with these. I was on lights and did step to the photographers before the gig started and warned them what was requested of lighting so maybe that helped.
    Is there anyway to get a copy of these pics for my personal work archives?

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