March 17 featured an incredible night for the heavy metal scene; an event hosted by Metal Assault at the wonderful Five Star Bar in Los Angeles, which featured plenty of top-class acts for the night. Gathering for GYGAX’S album release show, the incredible classic-rock styled Second Edition, this lineup consisted of SOLAR HAZE, ALIEN SATAN, CALL OF THE WILD, MOTORBABE, and of course, GYGAX.
The Five Star was packed almost immediately. From opening act to closing act, there was a really strong sense of L.A.’s music scene pulsating with life as seemingly everyone came to check out this packed show. This night was the second day of GYGAX’S new record’s life, so it comes as no surprise that the draw would be huge. Walking from the entrance to the stage was a waddle through an ocean of bodies, and ordering a drink through the cacophony of crowd chatter was even harder. This was the kind of night people expect when they come out to see L.A. rock/metal shows.
Opener SOLAR HAZE kicked off the night with a righteous, high-energy rock/metal set. With a lineup of Stephen Falla on vocals/guitar, Ross Cowan on guitar, Jason Murray Hernandez on bass, and Ryan Falla on drums, the band provided the spark to kick off a truly memorable night. They put together a set featuring the classic metal styles of the early IRON MAIDEN with a healthy flavoring of stoner vibes. SOLAR HAZE performs with a punkish stage presence, providing some extra “oomph” into their already powerful music.
Next up was ALIEN SATAN from Southern California, an undeniably heavy metal outfit fronted by the highly charismatic Eli Santana on vocals and guitar. Contributing to the powerful, booming riffage of the group was the talents of bassist JD McGibney, drummer Tyler Meahl, and keyboardist Chris Morris. ALIEN SATAN took the torch lit by SOLAR HAZE and set the night on fire, especially once they brought out jill Janus of HUNTRESS to the stage for a guest song. That was a big moment for the night, almost like a stamp confirming the rock-blessings from music gods above. Janus commanded the crowd as her and the band contributed an undeniable rockstar sheen to the night. And the show just barely started.
The third band of the night, CALL OF THE WILD, from San Diego, featured Rachel Enyeart on bass and vocals while she provided double duty for the night, also fronting MOTORBABE. CALL OF THE WILD also featured the highly talented Jon Norwood on guitar and Doug Walker on drums; the first of two three-pieces to perform for the night. COTW had a very undeniable charm, a thick sexiness draped in doom riffage energized by the intense banshee vocal stylings of Enyeart. Every band this particular night brought their own specific sense of identity to the table which lent to a truly memorable show brought into reality by all of these talented musicians.
One of the big happenings was MOTORBABE, an all-female MOTÖRHEAD tribute band featuring Enyeart on bass/vocal duties, Janna Brunner on drums, and Zebidy Tank on the guitar. First off, I don’t think any other trio of women could perform a MOTÖRHEAD tribute as masterfully as this outfit. The vocals are so closely styled to Lemmy’s, it’s a bit crazy, and I know that’s what is to be expected, but my goodness I couldn’t believe it. When you see it live and witness the magic first-hand it’s truly astounding. Listening to Tank’s guitar work felt like a 1:1 replication of MOTÖRHEAD’S memorable riffage while Brunner laid it down on the drums with unmatched proficiency. MOTORBABE is truly a premier tribute band.
At this point the crowd had swelled to incredible proportions, the seams of the club were bursting; and rightly so, because up came one of the top acts in Southern California, GYGAX. This a Dungeons & Dragons themed band featuring the ever-present Eric Harris on bass and vocals, the stunning guitar duo of Bryant Throckmorton and Jeff Potts, Ian Martyn on keys, and newcomer Alex Jolly on drums. They had reached the end of their album support tour, this night being the final night, and boy did they really cap it off in style.
The THIN LIZZY inspired band took the stage by storm and did not let up for their entire run. It was truly an electric performance, the band covering material from their first two records. GYGAX is everything you’d want the band to be, and then some; it’s the kind of music you can show off to your girl and it’s the type of tunage you can use as the soundtrack to you next Dungeon-ing gaming session. It’s melodic rock, twin-guitar masterwork that disguises it’s nerdy, geekly-drenched intentions under a guise of incredible, classic rock.
Nights like this don’t come around too often; some of the best bands in SoCal showed up that night to entertain and bare their hearts to the city on stage. SOLAR HAZE brought the electric, high-energy fuzz rock drenched in punk presence. ALIEN SATAN showed up with a sledgehammer and crushed in the head of every person in attendance, even the fellow bands. CALL OF THE WILD provided sexy, doom-based grooves that oozed pure style, while MOTORBABE brought metal-laden energy to the night with their practically perfect MOTÖRHEAD renditions.
GYGAX closed the night exactly as they should. So much energy and style was brought to the table that by the end everyone who stood in the audience for the twin-guitar, groove madness was thoroughly beaten and worn out by the overbearing intensity of the night; all the bands providing the fire that GYGAX eventually used to torch the place to ash. Be sure to follow each and every one of these talented bands/musicians, you’re going to be seeing them around the scene for a long time to come. I only hope that we can see all the acts sharing a lineup together again soon!
LIVE IMAGES (IN ORDER): JACQUELINE COWEN/CAT BRAITHWAITE/ROBERT DE ANDA/CLIFF MONTGOMERY/SCOTT CLIFTON/HAR PREET