Last week during the preliminary round of the Rock And Roll Rumble, we referred to metal juggernaut Worshipper as the New England Patriots of the Class of 2016. They won their division easily (Night 5), and looked to be a strong favorite heading into the playoff rounds. Then, suddenly, between then and now, they lost their Tom Brady.
The band took the stage tonight at Once in Somerville with a bit of a surprise — guitarist Alex Necochea left the band temporarily to go on a six-week European tour with Tee Pee Records labelmates, Pittsburgh hard rock band Carousel. The remaining members of Worshipper seemed unfazed by it before the start of tonight’s Rumble, telling Vanyaland they knew that potentially losing Necochea’s services was a possibility had they advanced beyond the preliminaries (they were unaware of the situation when they agreed several weeks ago to participate in the Rumble, they add). But the remaining members of Worshipper had an ace up their denim sleeve: fill-in guitarist Craig Small, formerly of Waltham, who tonight played better than Matt Cassel or Jimmy Garoppolo ever have.
“The winner of this Rock And Roll Rumble is clearly Craig Small for the very idea of ‘filling in’ on a Worshipper set,” wrote Nate Rogers on Facebook.
Small’s contributions to a thunderous Worshipper set, no easy feat having to replace a talent like Necochea on such short notice, propelled the band to next Friday’s final. That lineup will be rounded out by the winner of Saturday night’s semi-finals Night 2 (The Devil’s Twins, Analog Heart, Salem Wolves, and Weakened Friends all throw down) and a wild card entry, which will essentially be the non-winning band with the highest judges score from either night of the semis. The reborn Scissorfight serve as special guest band.
Here’s a look and a listen from each of tonight’s performers.
Another veteran set from the veteran music collective, and the first of two performances from guitarist Mike Oram. We still are trying to wrap our heads around recent single “Excellent”. It’s so wonderfully jarring, especially when thrown in between the band’s other, super-polished guitar-pop songs.
Both times we witnessed usLights’ cosmic journey of a set, we wished we were transported together to a dirty nightclub or basement, where the mood in the crowd matches the one on stage and the strobe lights add to the hypnosis. UsLights are by far the most unique of all this year’s Rumble bands, and the trio’s emotive, electronic dream-pop provided a nice break from all the guitar-ness of the Rumble. They no doubt picked up many new fans. And drummer Shawn Pelkey is still a beast.
If anyone was going to take down the Worshipper fright train, it was Barrett and her band (including guitarist double-dipper Oram), which delivered a crisp set that felt a bit more Americana than her preliminary waltz. Barrett opted against the Sia cover this time around, and it was probably the right decision — her own tracks, especially “That Shame” and “Take It In Stride”, showcase an artist with a distinctively cool groove. The mix in her set felt a bit heavy on the bass, and lacked the percussive thunder of her preliminary effort, but all that really just allowed Barrett’s voice to deliver with authority. She’s current favorite for the final wild card slot, in our opinion.
It took a few songs for the band to really come together, likely a result of playing with Small for the first time on stage. But by the time “High Above The Clouds” roared to life midway through their set, the night was theirs. Worshipper play an intricate brand of brick-heavy old-school rock and metal, and it’s pretty incredible to have someone fill in at the 11th hour and not miss a beat. At this point in the game, it’s their Rumble to lose — Brady or no Brady.