As soon as I heard the music booming out of the open door of the 31st Street Pub and into the empty street last Monday, i regretted arriving late — only a song or two late, it turned out — and wondered if I’d regret forgetting my ear plugs. Though Scott “Wino” Weinrich and Conny Ochs were supporting their new acoustic effort, Heavy Kingdom, and performing with just a couple acoustic guitars and a kick drum, things still managed to get a little loud or, at least, loud in spirit.
An elder statesman of doom metal, most recognizable for his gruffly direct vocals and long, sea-shell colored mane, Wino’s been party to a ridiculous number of influential bands, including Saint Vitus, the Obsessed, Hidden Hand, Spirit Caravan, and stoner-metal super group Shrinebuilder. I’d seen him once before, also at the Pub, when Hidden Hand was touring with Weedeater and Kylesa about 7 years ago. That was quite a different affair than Monday’s appearance, which — with an entourage of just Wino, Ochs and their tour manager, Al (who apparently drove the van while the other two wrote songs in the back) felt like an impromptu living room show.
As metal dudes go, Wino’s never been particularly known for his darkness or preoccupation with evil, and the songs off of the Heavy Kingdom record -while certainly bleak— are more Woody Guthrie than Electric Wizard. Though I’d hoped for a wilder presence from the younger Ochs, the two shared an unmistakable chemistry, as if they’d been touring together for a decade. The opportunity to focus on Wino’s guitar playing , and to hear his always clean voice fully unfettered by the normal muddy vibrations really was a treat, though few were there to witnessing it on this particular night. I’d wager most Wino fans are probably saving their money to see Saint Vitus at the Rex Theater on September 23rd. Better play it safe and bring ear plugs to that one.