February 17, 2013

SHOW REVIEW: Samsara Blues Experiment / 45Rats

A stoner rock concert is a beautiful thing to witness. Even without being drugged out of your mind like in some wannabe Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas character, the massive psychedelic riffs, the obscene quantities of reverb and the hypnotic drumming have the power of taking your mind to places it's never been before. Or so I imagined, because, prior to last Friday, I had never been to a stoner rock concert, despite desperately wanting to go. So I was pretty stoked when German stoner rock gods Samsara Blues Experiment announced they would be touring Greece in February and that they were also going to hit my  temporary place of residence, a mere two days after my birthday. I bought my ticket ahead of time (10 euros? A steal!) and, when Friday finally came, I bolted out of the house and ran straight to the venue where the show was about to take place.

I was early, as usual. The place looked almost deserted, save for a few lost souls enjoying some beers here and there. I walked to the bar where the same cute tattooed girl from last time handed me a cold can, I cracked it open and took a few sips, as I was waiting for the place to crowd up.

The support band soon took the stage and, after minimal preparations, dove head-first into their set. 45Rats are a young trio from Athens who play instrumental stoner rock with some clear nods to classical rock legends AC/DC. Their music is straight-up rockin', with fast drumming, some heavy metal riffing and lots of fiery guitar solos. The guitarist did his fair share of wah-wah pedal abuse during the set and at one point pulled out a harmonica from the back pocket of his jeans and busted out a sweet bluesy melody, before throwing it away and resuming playing the guitar. All in all, their set was pretty damn great and I made a mental note to check out their first EP called First Gear. 45Rats are offering it for free right here.

So the guys get their well-earned applause and the dudes from Samsara Blues Experiment immediately climb the stage and start hauling in their stuff, wiring pedals, tweaking the drums and strategically placing beer cans all over the stage. A few minutes of soundchecking - everything's in order. The show can begin.

The red lights fade out for a bit and fog starts filling up the stage and shortly after, the band just EXPLODES into a frenzy of massive riffs, rumbling bass lines and thunderous drumming. I pretty much lost my shit right there and then and I just allowed myself to become engulfed in the heavy psychedelic atmosphere. My memories of that night are fuzzy, much like Hans Eiselt's guitar tone. All I can remember is tons of fog and red lights, wailing guitar screams, groove-laden rhythmic sections and a general feeling of being in some form of altered state of conscience, where the heavily distorted psychedelic bluesy lines flow through me while I flow right along with them. As I stood there with my eyes closed, I understood once again that listening to MP3s of bands recorded in a studio is bullshit. Nothing could ever hope to equal the experience of actually being in the same room with the band as they're playing their guts out with the volume cranked all the way up to eleven. The roar of the crowd made the band return not once, but two times to the stage, after playing for almost two hours. They gave it their all and, by the end of the show, everyone was exhausted, but feeling happy and warm on the inside. We had witnessed pure passion and talent.

The only thing that put a dent in the evening for me was the utter lack of t-shirts at the merchandise stand. I would have happily gotten some piece of cloth inscribed with their band name, especially after they shared a picture on Facebook featuring a dizzying array of t-shirt designs from their personal collection.

Even so, my first true stoner rock experience has proven to be amazing, thanks to the shamans from Samsara Blues Experiment and their insane semi-improvised composition. T'was a night to remember, one which ended with an excessively long walk home and a sandwich eaten at 2.30 AM in the kitchen, while still trying to come to grips with what I had just seen. Then I had some cookies and went to bed. Bliss.

Here's a couple of songs I shot with my highly unprofessional equipment. Still, they turned out decent.

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