All Them Witches

All Them Witches

Plague Vendor

Fri, March 22, 2019

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

First Unitarian Church

Philadelphia, PA

$15.00 - $17.00

This event is all ages

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All Them Witches
All Them Witches
Psychedelic Stoner Rock band from Nashville, Tennessee.By most fifth LPs, the band’s sound is pretty set. Parameters established. Refinement dissipated. You get a to-formula execution of what’s worked in the past. Fair enough. All Them Witches go a harder route.

In 2017, the Nashville four-piece offered what might’ve otherwise become their own template in their fourth album (second for New West), Sleeping Through the War. It brought a larger production value thanks to oversight from producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Shooter Jennings, etc.), found them using choral vocals, expanded arrangements, bigger sounds than anything they’d done before.

They could’ve easily fallen into a pattern of watered-down clones of that record. Easily.

So naturally in a year they’ve thrown it all to the Appalachian wind, turned the process completely on its head and gone the other way: recording in a cabin in Kingston Springs, about 20 miles outside of Nashville on I-40, with guitarist Ben McLeod at the helm. Self-produced. Take that, expectation.

The result, mixed by Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith, Kurt Vile), is the most intimate, human-sounding album All Them Witches have recorded and another redefinition of who they are as a band. Introducing keyboardist/percussionist Jonathan Draper to the fold with McLeod, bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler, All Them Witches’ ATW isn’t self-titled by mistake.

It’s the band confirming and continuing to develop their approach, in the devil’s boogie of “Fishbelly 86 Onions,” the organ-laced groove and masterful flow of “Half-Tongue,” the build of “HJTC” and the fluid jam in closer “Rob’s Dream.” You can hear it in the mellow patience of that last track, never lost but always wandering, and in “1st vs. 2nd,” where they turn from a frenetic shake to some purposefully metal-ish riffing while still holding onto gut-tightening tension.

And what do they do with that? Some overblown payoff? Hell no. They cut it short, drift into noise and then dig into “Half-Tongue” ahead of the moodier “Diamond,” which, true to its name, seems to turn any light that touches it into a prism. This is a band who delight in the exploration, in finding new rules to break, and in continually learning new ways to do so.

ATW is a reaction to being a “bigger” act. To playing bigger shows, bigger tours, etc. From the sustained consonants in Parks’ vocals, to the sleek basslines that play off the can’t-sit-still-won’t-sit-still swing in Staebler’s drums, to McLeod’s commanding slide in “Workhorse” and drifting melancholy at the outset of “Harvest Feast,” ATW is their laying claim to the essential facets of their identity.

And most crucial to that identity is its shifting nature. All Them Witches didn’t get to this point by resting on laurels, and if anything, the urgency of these tracks – fast pushers and sleepy jams alike – is among their greatest strengths.

It’s a rawer delivery, as stage-ready as the band itself, and it captures All Them Witches in this moment. Is ATW who they’ll be tomorrow? Who the hell knows? Check back in and we’ll find out together. That’s the whole idea.
Plague Vendor
Plague Vendor
When Plague Vendor were about make their new album By Night, singer Brandon Blaine didn’t exactly know what he wanted it to sound like, but he did know what he wanted it to look like. “A house that’s falling apart but lit up like crazy,” he says now, six months after finishing a record that captures that exact feeling of ruin and regeneration, of charisma and catastrophe and of slashing at the night with nothing but pure electricity. Where 2016’s BLOODSWEAT ended with a to-be-continued moment and Blaine shouting “Romance!” into the silence, By Night ends with a second of feedback and noise. It's a perfectly spent finish to an adrenaline rush of a record that asks, “What just happened?”

Plague Vendor are already used to making nothing into something. It’s a place where the only way things happen is if you make them happen. A fearless our-way-is-the-hard-way work ethic and famously physical live shows won the band a ferocious fan base, a flash-bang debut album and place of pride on the Epitaph Records roster. When they called that album BLOODSWEAT they might’ve just been explaining what it took to make it. (Or they could’ve just been talking about those live shows.) And when they stepped back into the studio in the late summer of 2018, they were ready again to do something new.

They spent eleven days locked in at Hollywood’s legendary EastWest Studios (Brian Wilson, Ozzy Osbourne, Iggy Pop) with St Vincent/Chelsea Wolfe producer John Congleton, with all visitors banned and all distraction eliminated. (Well, one blood relative has was allowed once.) They had the instinct to delay the sessions until they knew they could get Congleton, and when they met, they connected intensely and instantly, more like co-conspirators than colleagues. They would even complete each other’s sentences, says drummer Luke Perine. With Congleton’s precision production, they found their own way between the powerful-but-too-polished sound of right now and the engaging-but-aging reinterpretations of classic punk/rock albums of the 60s and 70. And with Congleton’s limitless encouragement, they did things Plague Vendor never did before: chorused bass in endless waves, lightning-strike flashes of synth, motorik man-machine drums that sound inhuman and human at once and even a string section that’ll be a surprise if they ever do it live.

“We knew we could trust him to take us as far as we wanted,” says Perine, and inspired by the opportunity, the band stretched and warped their songs, discovering a merciless sense of tension and apprehension that set every moment on edge. (That’s how they play live, too, says bassist Michael Perez: “It’s all a performance—building energy and releasing it.”) Blaine broke out new vocal ideas, new vocal styles, new depths of imagery and intensity that feel like flashbacks instead of pop songs. If BLOODSWEAT was a primal scream, By Night would be a precision attack. And, says Blaine, “I had my ammunition ready.”

The record starts like you’re in the studio with them. There’s a second of chatter to check if you’re ready, and Perine’s drums, Perez’ bass and Rogers guitar aligning in formation. Then a snap dynamic change and anxious heart-pounding piano as Blaine slides in, out of breath and into a scream before the minute mark. That’s “New Comedown,” and the rest is just as stark, raw and out of control—even the love songs, when there are love songs. (“You gotta have light to have dark,” says Blaine.) The brooding “All Of The Above” is an internal monologue disintegrating over a sci-fi punk drumbeat, while sing-along-gone-wrong “Let Me Get High\Low” is an infinity mirror of echo, effects, illusion and delusion: “Toward the end,” says guitarist Jay Rogers, “it just gets cinematic.” The menacing “Night Sweats” is like the soundtrack to some kind of crime spree as a cruise through town in a camouflage Cadillac starts to fall apart. “Snakeskin Boots” is a shattering battle with temptation and closer “In My Pocket” is a song for the first bleak light of dawn—it’s exhausting and exhilarating at the same time, with a final rush moment that screeches to an instant stop. Think of it as the moment the sun finally comes up, which is exactly when an album called By Night has to end. As Blaine says: “Nothing cool happens during the day.”
Venue Information:
First Unitarian Church
2125 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19103
http://www.philauu.org/