Show Review: Local H @ Brighton Music Hall 11.10.16
by Terence Cawley (Biology), published November 15th 2016
photos by Terence Cawley (Biology
[Author’s Note: I did not see the headlining band Helmet’s performance; I left after Local H’s set upon hearing that Leonard Cohen had died to join my radio co-host at 104.9 WRBB to DJ a tribute show. I apologize to Tastemakers’ readers for the subsequent incompleteness of this review.]
It’s tempting to wonder why Local H, one of the ‘90s alt-rock boom’s most underrated bands, never achieved the mainstream success of many of their post-grunge peers beyond fluke radio hit “Bound for the Floor.” After seeing the power duo open for Helmet at Brighton Music Hall, it became apparent that Local H were (and remain) simply too fierce, too raw, too angry for anything bigger than a small, loyal cult. Fortunately, this concert fell on a week where an outlet for excess anger was just what many people needed.
Local H seemed to understand this cultural need to let off steam, and they structured their set list accordingly. Anyone hoping to hear “Bound for the Floor” would have to wait until next time. The unifying principle for the 13-song set, culled from all eight Local H albums, was rage: boiling, blinding, the kind of rage one immerses themselves in when they require purification through aural excoriation. From the first song, “John the Baptist Blues” off last year’s Hey, Killer, singer/guitarist Scott Lucas thrashed around grinding out Marshall-stack haymakers while drummer Ryan Harding beat his instrument like it had weaseled out of its gambling debts one time too many. Most impressive were Lucas’ vocal cord-frying screams, even more intense live than on the already-intense records.
“Well, it happened. They said it couldn’t happen, but it did,” Lucas said a few songs in. “After all the racism, after all the sexism…” He paused a beat. “They let Mel Gibson make another movie.” That pitch-black sense of humor was a constant in Local H’s song choices, from the imagined conversation with an old racist in “Paddy Considine” to the scorned-lover screed inexplicably titled “Jesus Christ! Did You See the SIZE of That Sperm Whale?” Lucas took a break from screaming to indulge his sentimental side with the fuzz ballad “Scott-Rock,” but then it was right back into the fury with “The Misanthrope” and its climactic refrain, “There’s nothing worse than people!” The trudging death march of “Hands on the Bible” brought things to a menacing crawl before the band snapped into punk overdrive for “Back in the Day” from their class rage-fueled masterpiece As Good As Dead. Next came “That’s What They All Say,” whose many transitions between quiet and loud passages Local H milked for maximum drama, stopping and starting multiple times and even making time for a Harding drum solo.
“That’s What They All Say” was as exhausting as it was exhilarating, but Local H had just the thing to rally the troops: a closing trilogy of ‘90s singles. First came the spitting-mad drinker’s complaint “Fritz’s Corner,” then the disillusioned, self-loathing rocker’s reality check “All-Right (Oh, Yeah).” At this point, there was only one Local H song left that was angry enough to close this angriest of shows: “High-Fiving MF,” an anti-meathead attack so acrid with personal hate that it would feel petty unless directed at a truly despicable target. Not that I have anyone specific in mind or anything. Lucas built anticipation with some fast-fingered noodling before Harding came in with that pummeling drumbeat and Lucas started flinging his guitar towards the amps for some suitably ugly feedback shrieks. They dug into the song with zeal, Lucas clearly getting a kick out of his power to get a room full of strangers to yell “You high-fiving motherfucker,” before blowing the whole thing to hell with a single word, repeated in one last round of primal screams: “YOU!”
Long live Local H. May they keep doing this for as long as we live in a world worth getting mad about.