In Pomona, Sunday nights have a habit of turning the hipster haven of Second Street into a ghost town. That is, unless the Glass House crowd has something to say about it. And last weekend, they made their presence loud and clear.
In anticipation of a sold out show by The Black Keys, hoards of scraggly-haired riff rock connoisseurs lined the street. Together they waded in a single file sea of conversation and cigarette smoke for a night of grit, sweat and guitars.
Before the show even started, the packed house was already hot and bothered as fans clawed their way to the front. It felt like a mini Coachella festival inside the dark concert hall. Die hard fans covered the front rails of the stage sporting their favorite Black Keys concert merch. Even the top balcony at the back of the room was stuffed with dark silhouettes. After what seemed like an hour of hypnotic funk house music, the lights finally dimmed and the crowd cheered in relief.
Opening act Jay Reatard took the stage with a sputtering blend of head banging thrash, and rapid fire song delivery. I swear these guys had maybe 30-45 minutes on stage and they banged out close to twenty tunes. No frills, no bedside manner with the crowd, just blistering punk beats and wild hair. Though the band lacked appropriate crowd pandering skills, they compensated in other ways.
One thing these guys knew how to work was the hair. If shaking your locks was equivalent to playing an instrument, these guys were a fucking three man symphony. I don’t even think I saw the lead singers face the entire show. It was like he ripped a page out of Joey Ramone’s playbook. Reatard’s brash punk vocals might have been unexpected by Black Keys fans, but it was clear that their energy alone was going to win the crowd over.
During songs like “All Over Again" and “Nightmares," chubby bassist Steven Pope did more head-banging than note playing with his huge MC-5 afro. Drummer Billy Hayes played almost non-stop through every song. By the end of their high velocity set, the Reatards got some well-deserved cheers of respect from the audience. But the night was far from over.
As soon as the opener was finished, a swarm of audio techs and roadies circled on stage to bring the headlining stage show to life. It was strange to see so much fussing over a two man band. With the light show they set up you would have thought the techs were recreating Cirque de Sole. Meanwhile, the crowd anticipation was at full tilt. Finally it was time for the real deal.
Guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney came out to a huge roar that can only come from a sold out show. The bands fifth album, Attack and Release, hits stores today. The latest in a chain of wild, stripped down blues rock albums that have earned this Ohio-based band a huge dose of well earned respect over the past few years.
Auerbach and Carney blasted the crowd right away with a song called “Same Old Thing” off of the new album. Right off, it was clear that the band had not lost their Delta Blues swagger. If anything the hard hitting rhythms and memorable riffs added a little something extra to their sound. Swirling light patterns covered the walls of the hall and crazy strobe lights gave every song a whole new dimension. Shards of white light hit the band from different angles as they wailed on their instruments. Carney’s skinny arms became twin blurs and sweat poured down his face during Key’s classics like “Thickfreakness” and “Stack Shot Billy."
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One of the highlights of the show was Auerbach’s aching vibrato during the song “You’re the One” from Magic Potion (2006). The slow haunting melodies were a welcome pause from the heavy stuff and, being the only really slow song they played, made it even more memorable.
Though the band answered the fans demand for an encore, the set was still a little short, maybe about 45-50 minutes. But despite that, it was enough to get true fans sweaty and satisfied. Besides, it gave plenty of people the opportunity to hit the bars for one last drink before work on Monday.
Side Note: It my seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but I want to thank the Glass House and staff for not only giving us the Black Keys but also free pizza and water while fans waited in line. Just consider it a simple nod of appreciation from a guy that hadn’t eaten that day since 9 a.m.
View photos of the concert here.