Keith Perks

REVIEW/PHOTOS: Clutch, Mariachi El Bronx, and Mike Dillon Band at Sands Bethlehem Event Center, 12/29/16

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For years, I kept hearing about Clutch. “Check them out, you’ll love them,” I was told. So, yeah, I’m a little late to the game, but I became a fan.

Early in 2016, I started to listen to them. Little by little, I found myself with their music playing in the background as I edited photos, traveled, got drunk, and during pretty much anything where I needed something riff-heavy and chaotic to push me further.

I had the chance to photograph them during the inaugural Rock’N Derby in upstate New York last summer. Photogs get to shoot their first three songs with no flash at fests, then onto the next stage for coverage. I, however, stayed. I forget who I missed, but I hung out and watched their entire set. That was my first time seeing them live and I was hooked. I got it. Their albums are one thing, but what they bring to the stage? Unreal.

I was lucky to shoot them for a second time last year at the second annual Rock Carnival in New Jersey. This is where they gained my utmost respect. Night No. 1 was teetering on being pretty shitty. It rained. Zakk Sabbath canceled, as well as a few others, and all that was left for the main stage was Blue Oyster Cult and Alice Cooper. The second stage was shut down due to the weather, but after a while, there was some movement. They were taking tarps and plastic off to squeegee and mop the stage. “Who stuck it out? Who’s still going to play in this weather?”


They happened to still be there and thought, “What the hell?” The rain let up enough to get them on stage, but it was far from enjoyable for them I’m sure. They played hard. They played loud. They played like nothing was holding them back. Lousy weather or not, these guys are rock ‘n’ roll. When others called it quits, they stayed, came out for the fans, and tore that stage up.

The Sands Bethlehem Event Center concert on Thursday, Dec. 29 was nothing less than that. It’s an indoor venue, so no rain, but they played just as ferociously.

This was the band’s “Psychic Warfare Tour,” named after their 11th studio album of the same name, and with them was the Mike Dillon Band and Mariachi El Bronx.

I wasn’t familiar with Dillon. When the band started, they played two instrumental songs. “Is the crowd digging this?” I kept looking back to see their reactions. Some seemed confused. So was I at first, to be honest.

Mike Dillon, well, there seems to be something a little wrong with him, but in a very good way. He leads the band with his main instrument, the vibraphone. (Yeah, a vibraphone. Really.) His band began to rip through songs that were a blend of jazz, rock, punk, and metal. He sang in styles like street poetry, post-punk, and rap. He was intense. On fire. He climbed his vibraphone and stood on top, looking like a mad preacher with arms outstretched as he yelled and jumped around.

His bandmates led a tight percussion-heavy set that won the crowd over more and more with each song. They were the perfect opener for what the rest of the night would be.

Mariachi El Bronx has been a favorite of mine for a few years. I never had the chance to see them but loved their music and was thrilled they were playing. They have an amazing sound that keeps a smile on my face the entire time I listen.

Mariachi El Bronx is the the alter ego, I guess you could say, of the Los Angeles-based hardcore band The Bronx. They formed back in 2002 with vocalist Matt Caughthran.

The Bronx is obviously a talented and respected band. They were signed to Island Def Jam after only 12 live performances and put out several successful albums. In 2007, they planned on recording two albums, one being a mariachi-influenced release. Since then, they’ve released two other mariachi albums with further success.

Their set included fan favorites such as “48 Roses,” “Revolution Girls,” and “Wildfires.”

Clutch came out last to roaring applause. They have great fans who are very supportive, and you can tell the band has respect for them in return.

They are a Maryland-based group that formed back in 1991 and released 11 studio albums, along with several rarities and live albums. Their music is considered rock but with heavy psych, stoner, funk, metal, and blues influences.

While the band is very stationary (I’m not sure if lead guitarist Tim Sult ever looks up), lead singer Neil Fallon anxiously prowls the stage like a pissed off lion, spitting out lyrics about witches, minotaurs, ghosts, cyborgs, and even John Wilkes Booth. Sult is one hell of a guitarist as well.

Clutch opened with “Cyborg Bette” and crushed hit after hit with songs like “A Quick Death in Texas” and “Sucker for the Witch.” They performed two songs with Mike Dillon, “The Yeti” and “D.C. Sound Attack,” and closed with a two-song encore of “Electric Worry” and “X-Ray Visions.”

2016 was a hell of a year for me concert photography-wise. I was thrilled to close it out with the “Psychic Warfare Tour” at one of my favorite local venues. The year sure had its ups and downs. We lost a lot of great actors and musicians, there was a bit of political nonsense (not sure if you noticed any of that), but I stood there on the 29th of December knowing that if we all keep rocking as hard as these guys, everything will be OK.

“With every day that passes, it keeps on getting stranger, but that really doesn’t bother me, ’cause I get off on the danger.” With lyrics like that echoing in my head… let’s see what you got, 2017.