by Mitch Jones

Saturday night at the Replay was a mixed bag of tricks. Things got started off with a whisper when Chicago-based Health & Beauty took the stage. Just a guy and a guitar is all a song really needs sometimes and this was certainly the case with his set. I don’t think the Replay often gets much exposure to finger-picked jazz chords, but it felt so right. His dreamy, far off melodies sucked me in and took me back to a quiet corner of my mind where I store all my happy thoughts. Throughout his set a feeling of comfort washed over me that was akin to watching a Peanuts special on Christmas Eve. I’ll attribute that to the jazzy-ness of it all. As his set came to a close, (and a song or two prematurely in my opinion) he set down his guitar and settled down behind the back-lined drum kit, for he was also the drummer in the following band.

Building on the acoustic dreamland of a foundation that Health & Beauty had constructed on the stage that night, Names Divine started on a similar acoustic sound. But then it was as though I had suddenly taken a wrong turn and found myself in a dark alleyway. The chords grew dissonant and slashed dreamland to pieces like a remorseless mugger. After the set, I commented to the bass player that it was nice to hear a band that wasn’t afraid to sound ugly. He replied that Names Divine “really explore the swamps of sound.” I couldn’t have come up with a better description myself. The dark, bare-bones folk sound they made even seemed to step over the line into the realm of psychedelia here and there and creating a building tension in the air before the brewing storm of sound that was to be Muscle Worship.

I still struggle to find the words to describe the sound of Muscle Worship. And actually, I still struggle to even understand what the hell is going on in Muscle Worship. How so much sound can come out of one band still escapes me. Powerful vocals, powerful rhythm section, and guitar riffs that pull you apart are the supports to their towering monolith of sound. Each epic song after the next seems to knock you to the ground, only to find yourself climbing back to your feet for more. In my brief, five-year Lawrence residency, I have not come across a band that compares to Muscle Worship. Go see them. Bring ear plugs.

Words and photos by Mitch Jones