- Rolling stoned: Graveyard at South By Southwest
The opening acts on a concert bill usually don't get much consideration -- maybe a side dressing room, a case of Aquafina and 30 minutes onstage before most of the audience even realizes what happened. But Sat., Aug. 8, at Mr. Small's is a case where showing up early will be its own reward for those who enjoy loud, riff-laden rock.
Sweden is known for its many solid revivalist takes on rock 'n' roll, from the pop tendencies of The Soundtrack of Our Lives to the psychedelic leanings of Dungen. And though the port city of Gothenburg is oft cited for its voluminous spawn of death-metal bands, a lineage has also emerged emphasizing the bluesy side of heaviness. For example, there's the mid-'90s band Norrsken, which split in 2000 and diverged into respected doom-metallists Witchcraft and blues-rockers Albatross.
Two Albatross members, Joakim Nilsson and Rikard Edlund, later regrouped as Graveyard, which mixes elements of Cream, Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath alongside pristine vocals reminiscent of Glenn Danzig and Chris Cornell. The band's self-proclaimed "bluespunk" caught the ear of American label TeePee Records, known for popularizing Brian Jonestown Massacre as well as the stoner-rock genre. Graveyard's self-titled debut came out last year, and was given a warm reception by Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke, who also praised its debut U.S. gig at South By Southwest.
Another band that aging '70s classic-rockers and today's longhairs should be able to agree on is ASG. Hailing from North Carolina, this quartet blends hard rock, Southern stonerism and muscular punk into an accessible package with radio-ready vocals. The group has been associated for a while with Volcom, which released 2007's Win Us Over. YouTube videos of tracks such as "Horsewhipper" show that even the kids with buzz cuts are raising their fists and banging their heads.
So why aren't bands like ASG and Graveyard (and contemporaries The Sword and Torche) given a chance on commercial radio? Except for the brief respite of Wolfmother, the alt-rock airwaves are no longer the open market that allowed the previous generation of grunge bands to reach millions. Instead, these bands have to be content with Warped Tour status and backgrounding MTV's Viva La Bam (which is probably why they're touring with CKY) as well as snowboarding and BMX videos.
But even if these bands can't easily stride through the same corporate portals that Seaweed and Helmet breached in the '90s, the least a fan of new rock can do is roll up to the show in time to see them.
Graveyard, ASG and Fall From Grace, opening for CKY. 7 p.m. Sat., Aug. 8. Mr. Small's Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $16. All ages. 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com