TRUCKFIGHTERS + SWAN VALLEY HEIGHTS

Written by on 2019-11-23

In January 2018, after almost a year of silence, Ozo and Dango left all of their fans in complete despair and disarray after announcing they were putting TRUCKFIGHTERS on an indefinite hiatus. This was an understandable decision given their stakhanov-like schedule. And then, after the shock of the news passed, we had accepted living in a world without the princes of fuzz rock?

However, in March 2019, out of the blue, they announce a few festival gigs. And right after that, they confirm a tour that will celebrate (a bit in advance) the 15th anniversary of their cult record “Gravity X”. This made it impossible not to go see them. Especially since their last show at Le Petit Bain was a killer night.

So, in this late rainy October afternoon, we get to go back on the Parisian barge in order to listen to “Gravity X” from finish to start (this way we still get “Desert Cruiser” as the last song, those clever suedes).

SWAN VALLEY HEIGHTS

SWAN VALLEY HEIGHTS

As soon as the doors open, the merch stand is raided, which is the perfect occasion to purchase a few things (note by Shyanna : only a triple vinyl, a trucker hat, a tshirt and two patches). And it’s already time to get in position for the opening act.

Despite the hiatus, Fuzzorama has kept its business model: “few releases, enormous quality” and we get to see their latest artist, German trio SWAN VALLEY HEIGHTS, opening tonight.

I had some trouble getting into their latest record “The Heavy Seed”, until I realized this is the kind of work that you must listen in an ocean of peace and focus. Therefore I am extremely curious to see those complicated songs with pretty strong ambiances go through the stage test.

The first notes of “Alaska” resonate and immediately we get hit in the face by the groove and the precision of the rhythm section. Andy Aquarious has a powerful yet smooth hit and he easily manages to lighten up his style to give it an impressive depth. At the same time Chris Schmidt keeps petting our ears with a bass sound that alternates between purring and roaring. He runs through lines that are as much powerful riff as a fundamental which polyphonies will be built upon.

The harmony between the two musicians is so impressive that when singer-guitarist David Kreisl pedalboard decides to stop working, they jam through those awkward five minutes like a breeze and all the concert to keep some energy.

SWAN VALLEY HEIGHTS

And on that extremely solid rhythmic base, arrives David Kreisl. Despite his pedalboard issues, he was absolutely impeccable tonight. It’s because of his trippy meticulous riffs that SWAN VALLEY HEIGHTS has such a specific flavor and a catchy atmospheric sound. It often looks like he does his own thing on his side without checking with the others, and no matter what: it works. Until he starts to sing… But he is not the issue, since when we can hear him he sounds great. It’s just that we are in a Parisian venue and as usual, in the first third of the show you can’t hear the voices. And it’s particularly annoying here because while the singing is rare in the songs, it always happens at the perfect time. Thankfully, the issue is resolved after a while allowing us to fully enjoy the show.

Thirty minutes into the show, they announce their last song, causing great surprise. But we are reassured when it’s “The Heavy Seed”, which is roughly 15 minutes, will be played to perfection and will provoke complete pleasure into and audience completely owned by the band. It’s because the song has so many transitions that it is extremely efficient and never boring.

After this final killer, it is pretty clear that SWAN VALLEY HEIGHTS just delivered an incredible show which removed all possible doubts about their latest record “The Heavy Seet”. It was a great moment, which made the evening worth it by itself.

TRUCKFIGHTERS

Ozo Dango TRUCKFIGHTERS

The stage set change gives us the opportunity to notice that the temperature inside Le Petit Bain has increased at least 15 degrees and that it’s slowly turning into a sauna.

In a flash, everyone is ready and the venue is fully packed, a tape plays “Altered State” and it quickly becomes clear that TRUCKFIGHTERS is expected like the messiah tonight. Except that, as much as it pains me to say so, it wasn’t quite what happened. So let’s start with what did not work.

I wrote it earlier, but it needs to be said again : the Parisian venues are a pain in the ass. Once again, on the first songs, Ozo’s voice is inaudible. This completely ruins “A. Zapruder” even despite the fact that it started off great (even though a large part of the audience knows the lyrics by heart and sings to compensate). This is what happens at every show and it is incredibly frustrating.

And unfortunately, there is also M. Toro, the latest drummer for the band… After thoroughly listening to all of TRUCKFIGHTERS records, I am fully aware that the drum parts are extremely demanding and require a continuous precision and power that are really hard to maintain. And on several songs, he does the job pretty well (“Intermission” and “Manhattan Project” are very well played, for example). But overall, he continuously soulds like he’s behind (the intro for “Gweedo Weedo” is painful), lacking energy and giving the impression he’s always running after the other guys without never catching up to them.

This lack of cohesion leads to the end of the songs often being messy which causes the energy of the room to plummet and requires the band twice as much energy to get back on track.

Ozo TRUCKFIGHTERS
Dango TRUCKFIGHTERS

In less than two songs, Dango is covered in sweat and gives the impression that he swallowed two tons of pure caffeine. He jumps constantly, everywhere, keeps going right in front of the audience… It’s a delight to see him having a ton of fun with the intro of “In Search Of (The)” and continuously stir up the crowd to make them sing. He even goes down into the pit of “Freewheelin”. And even more than a great showman, the guitarist is still incredible with his instrument. He delivers killing riff after killing riffs, with continuous power and switches easily form the fuzziest of stoner (“Manhattan Project”) to a doom-like heaviness on “Superfunk”.

And when it comes to his colleague, nothing has changed over two years. Ozo begins the concert chained to his mic stand, without moving but still killing it with bass lines that did not age in 15 years (“A Zapruder” still rules) and hollering into his microphone to be heard. As the songs go by, he slowly loosens up. When we arrive to “Gweedo-Weedo”, with its irresistible groove, he begins to respond to Dango’s energy, starts swaying back and forth, headbanging… His bass lines get more impactful and listening to him destroy his instrument, on the furious “Freewheelin’” is pure pleasure. In the end, he will even throw himself into an audience that’s way too happy to help him crowdsurfing.

It should be noted that the audience plays a big part tonight and gets really into the show, yelling it s approbation and its excitement at each new song. A few small circle pits are started, all the lyrics are sung along and you know that 90% of the people here tonight are absolute fans of TRUCKFIGHTERS.

Ozo Dango TRUCKFIGHTERS

The first chords of “Desert Cruiser” are played and the whole ship starts trembling, which make us happy that it’s weel chained to the dock. Magically, everything falls in place and this absolute banger will be perfectly delivered, by a trio that finally comes together. As an encore “Mexico” with itsamazing bass line and the monstrous “Mind Control”, on which Ozo is at 300%, are here to give us the coup de grace, in a venue that reached 400°C and smells like sweat and beer.

So in the end, while completely stunned by SWAN VALLEY HEIGHTS performance and genuinely happy to see TRUCKFIGHTERS back (seriously, we missed you guys), one cannot help but have the feeling that the show wasn’t as good as expected: it was only ok, when we wanted greatness. But without a doubt, I’m still going to see them again when they’ll come back, since I had a good time.

Setlist TRUCKFIGHTERS :
« Altered State » (on tape)
« A. Zapruder »
« Intermission »
« In Search Of (The) »
« Manhattan Project »
« Gweedo Weedo »
« Subfloor »
« Superfunk »
« The Deal »
« Freewheelin’ »
« Momentum »
« Gargarismo »
« Desert Cruiser »
Rappels :
« Mexico »
« Mind Control »

Band Website

Photos by Shyanna.


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