Novadriver – Ferndale – The Magic Bag, MI – 2001-10-06

Where: Ferndale – The Magic Bag, MI.

When: 2001-10-06

This, of course, was the CD release party for Grayling’s The Time Was Now, released recently on the band’s own Dead Drift Records label. My tag-team partner for this show was my Dad, so we arrived fashionably early in order to get a few chairs close to the stage (Dad’s a wuss – he doesn’t like to stand). Getting to the show early at the Magic Bag is usually a problem, simply because the choice of music that spins between bands can get a bit annoying at time. That sure wasn’t a problem this time, as the DJ (read: multi-disc CD player set to random) whipped out a healthy mix of live Clutch, Soundgarden’s Superunknown and Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland. The music ruled – which would’ve been great if the CD player hadn’t been skipping literally every 20 seconds on every other song. Grrrrrr…

At about 10:30, Novadriver took the stage with a set of psychedelic rock that had a strange sense of timing and dynamic to it. Novadriver is made up of ex-members of Detroit’s Walk on Water and Kenny Tudrick, ex-guitarist of Big Block and ex-frontman of The Numbers (as well as being the current drummer of another band featuring ex-members of Big Chief). Tudrick is one of the best guitarists in the area, so I was somewhat surprised when he walked out empty handed. Still, the band put on a pretty formidable set with a sound that could best be described as ‘The Who meets Monster Magnet.’ I had no idea Tudrick had such a set of lungs, but the man was all over the place, screaming, growling, and just flat out singing his ass off. Set Highlight: Certainly the seven-minutes closer, complete with wild guitar solo, slowed-down pace changes, and lots of growling from Kenny.

Shep Wrench hit the stage at a little before 11:30 with a three-man straight-up rock-and-roll approach. After getting over the snickering brought on by my Dad eating an entire package of stale popcorn (and even finding a soggy kernel – EEEEWWWWWW), we sat back and enjoyed the band’s half-hour set. Contradiction was the key, here – The singer (who I think was Chuck Burns from Speedball – don’t quote me on that, though) was dressed in black with cool slicked hair, the bassist had REALLY long hair and a thick, bushy mustache, and the drummer was completely clean cut. Odd, indeed, though I will say that the thread that tied the band’s image together seemed to be in the sleeves of tattoos that covered the band members. I kept thinking of Social Distortion during Shep Wrench’s set, which, of course, is never really a bad thing. Set Highlight: Definitely the band pulling out a very rockin’ and way unexpected cover of Terrance Trent D’Arby’s “She Kissed Me.”

Another beer later, Grayling finally took the stage and promptly tore into the title track from the new CD. Frontman Jarrod Wolny was in fine form once again, drawling out his musical stories and observations while nailing his quick stop-on-a-dime guitar solos with the precision of a surgeon in the ER. Grayling’s sound is so incredibly simple, but the band’s varied song structures keep everything sounding interesting, especially in a live atmosphere. Once again, the band shredded through a cover of Big Black’s “Kerosene,” with drummer Shawn Grzyb dedicating the song to “all the fucking friends we lost in 2000,” a sentiment that added unbelievable emotion when Wolny closed his eyes and cocked his head, straining out the lyrics, “Nothing to do / But sit around at home / Stare at the walls / Wait ’til we die.” All the while, John Henderson’s bass boomed along, carrying the song with a sound that echoed off the walls and injected a throbbing frenzy in the crowd. Of course, the band’s original material was as good as ever. Old set staples “Marysville” and “Cola and Gin” (from the band’s 1998 cassette-only release Symtoms) were brushed off and polished up for the set (as well as for the new CD), while the boppy “Kill” (my Dad’s favorite Grayling track) and winding road trip anthem “Traveling” represented the band’s self-titled 2000 CD release. Probably the highlight of the set was “Kevlar,” a surprisingly slower, more melodic number with a powerful chorus. Even the drunk girls down at stage side had to stop and gape at Wolny as he poured out, “All I do is get in your way.” By the time the band closed with Symptoms’ “Any Luck at All,” Dad was spent and so was I. Set Highlight: As good as Grayling material is live, the emotionally draining take on “Kerosene” stole the show again.

Anyone in the Detroit area must make it a priority to check out a Grayling show. I’ve seen the band on a regular basis since 1997, and I’ve never seen the band have an off night. Good stuff, Maynard. Good stuff.