Tis the season, or so I’m told. The holidays are upon us, so we’re knee deep in revelry, merrymaking, and, soon, Rock and Roll.
“Hey, hey now… What’s the smell?”
2019 might be on its way out, and the decade coming to a close, but let us not forget how blessed we have been by the Rock Gods since nigh on 30 years. Clutch, one of the most consistent Actual Rock bands of the modern era will grace the Queen City for the second time in 6 or so months when they return to the stage that, somehow, has become a regular stop for the band over the almost disappeared decade. Is it tradition, or something else? No idea. It’s simply a reason to celebrate, so we shall.
“Just like cornbread, done too well.”
Earlier this year, Clutch brought The Book of Bad Decisions to Cincinnati by way of 2019’s Bunbury Music Festival. A trek to the far side of the festival brought fans to a clearing, and we formed a restless mass of anxious and eager witnesses. The devout stood attentive whilst Neil Fallon, He of the Beard and Dominator of the Stage, lamented having to play on the Actual Surface of the Sun, whilst he and the band brought The Jams.
It’s at this point, you may find yourself asking, why the reverence? It’s quite simple, really. Each performance brings you a little closer to Rock God. Each song, a hymn of sorts. If you’ve yet to bear witness, you’ll soon have your chance.
“What you need, you know I got.”
It’s been 20 years now since I was introduced to Clutch - their self-titled album, specifically. The rest, of course, is history. When I moved to Chicago in the fall of 2000, I didn’t know I’d get the chance to see them perform live for the first time that winter. The show was announced, a ticket was purchased. Then a snowstorm dumped somewhere in the vicinity of “Oh, no big deal,” and “Oh, wait, no, this is a lot of damn snow,” but the show, thankfully, went on.
I was among maybe 75 eager fans who braved the snowy climes of Downtown Chicago, during what was to be the opening salvo on their touring in support of Slow Hole To China (which then became something else entirely - Pure Rock Fury - though Slow Hole To China was reborn as yet another something else a few years later). To say it was transformative would be a massive understatement, yet I’m honestly not sure how to accurately describe it. Did it matter that the House of Blues was mostly empty? Absolutely not. Was I excitedly terrified as they played a new to me track called “Frankenstein” and not really sure what to think or feel or how to even process what I was hearing and witness firsthand? Yep.
Since that performance, I’m a Believer.
“So hands up. Who wants to rock?”
Fast forward damn near 20 years to the day, and here I am, back in Cincinnati (where I’ve been for the past decade, actually), and I am eagerly awaiting Clutch’s return. As I type, the opening track from Pure Rock Fury, “American Sleep,” is snarling and thudding through my headphones. It’s still chill-inducing.
Their latest, Book of Bad Decisions, is one of their more straightforward efforts - or, perhaps “cohesive” is a better way to think about. It’s Pure Rock and Roll, through and through, but Rock and Roll as only Clutch can do. They’re coming back to Bogarts this Friday, December 27, in what I imagine will be a fitting way for them to close out the biggest part of their Book of Bad Decisions Tour. It’s Almost Tradition at this point for them to make Cincinnati one of their last stops at the end of the year. As we close out the decade and stare, bewildered, into the future, I’ll be glad to celebrate the last 10 years with this particular band. Whatever the next 10 years has in store, I just hope they’ll be around to help say goodbye to the 2020’s.
Catch them Friday at Bogart’s with The Steel Woods and Damon Johnson. Doors at 7, show at 8. It’s the end of the decade, so let’s celebrate the past, present, and future with a little (actually, a lot of) Rock and Roll.