How long has it been since I’ve seen a five-band bill in its entirety? Long enough that I can’t answer that question. But when we arrived at nine for last Monday’s Speedwolf show — which was optimistically slated to start at eight — local openers Möwer still had yet to prime their engines. A lesser lineup would have inspired impatience, but between the bookends of Möwer and Denver’s Speedwolf, we had Tok’ra, Abysme, and ILSA, to look forward to. And there are worse fates than killing a little time by drinking beer and watching Cool TV on the muted bar television.
Warming up the Belvedere’s stage, especially when the room is less than 20 percent full, is not, it seems, the most comfortable task, but once Möwer got their bearings, so did everyone else. The two piece, comprised of brothers Craig and Sean Simpson — on guitar and drums, respectively — offers winking, punkish Motörhead worship in everything from that umlaut to their trashy, thrashy, NWBHM sound. And it doesn’t hurt that they’re totally entertaining it a no-frills, cheap beer kind of way. Lemmy once said of Motörhead, “We’re a rock band. I am rock 'n' roll.” They’re may not be any Lemmys in Möwer, but they are definitely rock n roll.
Tok’ra, unintentionally I would imagine, came off as Möwer Part 2: Slightly Blackened – another two- piece playing driving, heavy rock riffs. Not bad, but I think they would have benefited from a smaller space. Some bands just need to fully overwhelm in order to retain their audience’s attention. I admittedly didn’t feel much loss in taking a quick break half-way through.
Straight from the Left Hand Path, locals Abysme played a mix of older stuff and newer jams from their ever -forthcoming LP. The only wholly death-metal band on the bill, they were placed perfectly between the former and latter halves of the show, providing a nice respite beneath their colossal riffings and fetid burp vocals.
By the time ILSA started, around 12:30, I was four beers deep and fading. For many in the still relatively spare crowd, ILSA was the draw. The D.C. band has enjoyed the honor of being Fenriz’s band of the week, and they put out a split with Finland’s awesome doom/death duo Hooded Menace, so they keep good company. They’re crusty, heavy and a little dizzying and damn near artful; and on this particular night, the weight of their sound was strangely soothing. After all the head banging and fist shaking, it felt great to tilt my head back and ride the ILSA wave.
At long last, Speedwolf took the stage and managed to inspire last gasps of enthusiasm, and a cheerfully eccentric – and occasionally lackadaisical circle pit. Speedwolf themselves seemed a little tired, in that way that makes a person aggressive and a little goofy. Despite song titles like “Ride with Death” and “I Am the Demon,” there remains a whiff of clean mountain air about them (Denver does, by the way, have a metal scene, largely ignored as it may be) but they burn like dirty Valvoline. Even so, when heckled with “Elway to Hell!” midway through their set, singer Reed Bruemmer good-naturedly threatened to cancel the rest of the show. When they ended the set with the rambunctious shout-along “Denver 666,” Bruemmer changed the last chorus to “Pittsburgh 666, Pittsburgh 666! I still hate your football team!” The only shirt they had for sale was designed in the style of a Broncos jersey. I guess we can take that personally?