Vista Chino + Monster Truck @ The Institute, Birmingham – Thursday 31st October 2013

Steve Gerrard Photography

Monster Truck took to the stage quite early for a week night gig, so unfortunately I missed their first couple of songs. However, before I even walk through the doors to the Library you can feel and hear the heaviness that is being created by the Canadian four piece. They clearly tip their hats to ZZ Top, as the blues based riffs that have made ZZ Top so popular, flow throughout Monster Truck’s music with additional weight and an organ.

The band have been together since 2009 and have recently achieved success in their homeland with a couple of number 1 singles in the rock charts, whilst embarking on support slots for Slash and Deep Purple. There is no doubt that the band enjoy playing live, as Jon Harvey and Jeremy Widerman energetically move around the stage whilst Brandon Bliss plays and sings with a beaming smile upon his face. Towards the end of the set, my interest starts to wander as there isn’t enough diversity between tracks yet many of the crowd are doing some gentle head bobbing and during the final song, Call it a Spade, many of them are clapping along with the band. Monster Truck are certainly a worthy and relevant support band for tonight’s headliners Vista Chino.

Steve Gerrard Photography Steve Gerrard Photography

Vista Chino were formerly known as Kyuss Lives!, the Kyuss line up minus Josh Homme, who toured playing Kyuss’s back catalogue a couple of years ago. Yet, when the band decided to record new material, Homme and Reeder filed a lawsuit to prevent the band using the moniker Kyuss Lives!, hence the name change. And I can’t help thinking the name change has meant not many people know who Vista Chino are and therefore the audience number is not overwhelming. After over half an hour, Vista Chino enter and begin with Adara, a track taken from their new album Peace, which lays down the volume and tone for the evening; both of which are intense. John Garcia’s unique vocals cut through the driving drums, grooving bass line and fuzzed out guitar to create a new song that has all the elements of Kyuss’ earlier work. Second song in is the awesome One Inch Man from Kyuss’ final album …And the Circus Leaves Town. This sees the crowd erupt with cheers leading into the majority of heads moving in time with Brant Bjork’s powerful drumming resulting in a brilliant song that makes you wonder if Vista Chino have peaked too early.

Garcia grips his microphone stand as if his life depends on it, pulling back and dropping his stance to accentuate certain words, whilst Mike Dean’s hair flows in time with his bassline and Bruno Fevery stays fairly static yet churns out a guitar sound that is delicately heavy. As the song draws to a close, you appreciate the primordial aspect to the music as the vibrations flow through your body with the heaviness of the music. Luckily my fears regarding an early high point are allayed, and the set proceeds with a well thought out combination of new Vista Chino tracks and some of Kyuss’ greatest hits which sit comfortably side by side and demonstrate Vista Chino’s desire to continue where Kyuss finished.

Steve Gerrard Photography


Steve Gerrard Photography

Garcia is clearly not happy with the sound that is coming through his monitors and ear piece which results in him taking his annoyance out on a sound technician who is based at the side of the stage; despite this frustration the high standard of his performance is maintained with his vocals still sounding fantastic to those of us in front of the stage. The Kyuss tracks are the most popular with the audience and as the gig continues, glasses are raised higher and the crowd begin to move more vigorously to the beat and as the venue isn’t a sell out there is space for people to express their appreciation without being a nuisance to others. Kyuss songs, such as Thumb, still sound wonderfully fresh and contemporary illustrating how well written the music is and the ability of Garcia as a vocalist because the live performance is equivalent to that on record. After an hour and ten minutes, Vista Chino draw the proceedings to a close with the epic Freedom Run and a brief thank you, yet the stage lights do not go up and it is clear there is encore about to begin any minute. The band return, without Garcia, to perform Planets 1&2 where Bjork admirably takes lead vocals and upholds his level of drumming to deliver a great number.

The final song is a combination of Whitewater and Odyssey both taken from Kyuss’ Welcome to Sky Valley album. This symphonic ending sees Garcia step back to allow the three instrumentalists to cleverly build and develop the song to a climax that erupts and brings the evening to a satisfying close for the crowd. Vista Chino may have been forced to change their name but their ability to create the most tremendous stoner rock has remained constant and for those Kyuss fans who didn’t make it, they missed out on a loud, heavy, beautiful treat.

Steve Gerrard Photography

Review by Toni Woodward
Photos by Steve Gerrard

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