“Check these guys out!” he said, as my guitar player slid a disc into my car’s CD player. That was five years ago. The band? Rival Sons. I remember thinking, “Wow, these guys are really good, kind of Zeppelinish.” Fast forward and I see they are listed to do a show at one of my usual haunts, Asylum in Portland, Maine.
Arriving at the club, I was not sure what kind of response this show would claim. Don’t get me wrong, they are a great and talented band, but up here in Maine they do not get a lot of airplay on the local radio stations. Which, let’s face it, since the death of MTV’s video reign, is the way most people still hear about bands.
To my surprise and joy, the bar was full of fans getting primed to take in the show.
Opening the evening’s festivities were two bands from Maine, Murcielago and Five of the Eyes. Both did well to captivate and entertain the audience while Rival Sons got ready for their debut performance here in Maine.
The band had been in town for the day and had enjoyed walking around the city and feasting at one of our well-known seafood restaurants. I was told this as I was walked out to the tour bus to do an interview with one of the band members, Michael Miley. See interview. After the interview, I made my way back into the club and to the front of the stage where some friends were holding me a spot.
Lighting was on par for this venue, which for all general purposes was shit. This is a fact I will never understand as the lighting is there, and the back lighting is always superb but for some reason the front lighting is always dim and has a red tone to it that washes our the performers and makes them look like oompa loompas. Thankfully, I have Photoshop and Lightroom.
The band came on strong and the audience was digging it. Singer Jay Buchanan was described by a fan next to me as “going all Jim Morrison.” Initially, I took this to mean that he had the longer hair and full beard and mustache, but as I saw Buchanan take the stage I saw the Navaho jewelry and dark clothing and thought, “okay, I get it.” Jay has a great rock and roll voice and really commands the microphone, giving it everything he’s got and leaving nothing behind. Guitarist, Scott Holiday, is as much fun to watch as he is to listen to. Scott has this great tone and technique to his playing that reminds me of the bands from the 60’s and 70’s yet still has something current that makes his sound new and current. Scott played some great axes throughout the performance and had great stage presence.
In the back, on the drums, was Michael Miley, with whom I had just spent thirty-plus minutes interviewing. From the crowd, behind his glasses, Michael reminded me of a 70’s Eric Bloom of Blue Oyster Cult. His drumming is the backbone of this music and Michael did a great job holding everyone in check. It was also nice to see that Michael’s Gretsch kit was void of too many cymbals and what not or hiding him in a metal cage. Michael sits tall behind the kit, leaving him accessible to the fans and photographers. In the corner, Dave Beste locked in with Miley with his bass guitar. Dave was as solid as they come and laid the foundation for the band to build their music on. Last but not least, against the wall in the shadows, was keyboardist, Todd Ögren-Brooks adding a nice depth to the music. This keyboard work fits in nicely with all that was going on.
The show was going great until five songs into a fourteen song set, Michael Miley began projectile vomiting. And when I say projectile, I mean it looked like something from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. It looked like a fire hose. I had never seen anybody vomit with so much velocity. Still the trooper, he played through it while trying to hit a five gallon bucket beside his kit. The band finished the fifth song and then huddled around Michael. The audience rallied him on and the band announced their apologies and said that Michael had food poisoning but thought he could do one more song. With Michael giving it everything and anything he had left, the band would go on to do three more songs before having to end the show early. During Jay’s apologies to their fans, someone yelled up, “Break out the acoustics!” to which he replied, “We don’t play without Michael. He is our back bone. The band left the stage, promising to come back and do a proper show.
I feel bad for Michael as he was just telling me of the awesome meal he had eaten here in Portland, and of how much he was looking forward to playing Madison Square Garden the following night, the band is on tour in support of Black Sabbath. I’m sure they were great but what a drag to have to do a big highlight show like that feeling like shit.
On my way out of the venue I mentioned that I really enjoyed what I saw, and was told that they were off tonight. I thought to myself, Hmmm if this was “off” for them, I can’t wait to see them “on”! It was a great show regardless. Hope Michael didn’t suffer too long after it.
The Set List:
Electric Man – Secret – Pressure and Time – Manifest Destiny, Pt. 1 – Face of Light – Sacred Tongue – Open My Eyes – Keep On Swinging