Stuck Mojo / NoSweat / Shifty
Action Church– Canton, GA
August 5, 2016
Of all the rock shows I’ve attended, I’m not sure how many will ever come close to feeling as unique as this one, for a number of reasons. I’ll address some of those things as we go but that’s really not why you’re here so why don’t I just head straight for the main event for a change?
Stuck Mojo isn’t exactly an unknown commodity. Founded in 1989, the band was among the earliest pioneers to fuse rap & metal into a form all its own. Over the next two and a half decades they would become one of the most influential and successful acts in the niche, breaking down barriers, selling records, touring large swaths of the world, touring with some of the biggest names in the business, and kicking countless asses.
The band was not however entirely immune to some of the downsides of the business, including the dreaded lineup changes. As founding member Rich Ward noted from the stage (paraphrasing), those kinds of changes aren’t always popular with fans and are never easy on anyone, and so we come to last night with a known entity that’s entering a new era.
On the one hand, with Ward and drummer Frank Fontsere still in the saddle, you know that there’s reason for considerable optimism. On the other hand, new bassist Lenwood Sonnier and new vocalist Robby J. hadn’t been seen with the band since the release of the (often brilliant) new album Here Come The Infidels. As a fan you’re hopeful, you’re optimistic but until you see and hear it, it’s hard to be … sure. Heck, we didn’t really know what the set list would even look like.
After opening with a couple of songs from the new album (as I would have correctly guessed) the band quickly started reaching into the catalog and specifically went to Pigwalk for a pair of tracks early in the set. From there, the new songs and the older material were intermingled consistently, never lingering too long on one specific era or another. No obvious mishaps that I noticed, just an enjoyable approach that seemed comfortable for the band and, from my observation at least, for the audience familiar with the material as well. The music was on point, the vocals were confident and solid, really just a nice steady groove.
And then, somewhere past the midpoint of the set, there was one of those … moments. I don’t always have those, you can’t really predict them or plan for them, they just have to happen. And when the band followed more of the new material with “Monster” (another track from Pigwalk) … I knew. I knew a lot more than I did when I arrived.
I knew that I wasn’t watching “the new Stuck Mojo” … I was simply watching Stuck Mojo. No more questions about “the new material vs the old”, no more internal analysis about how Robby J would handle the catalog songs vs the new songs he helped create, no more questions about much of anything really. That’s when it became crystal clear to me that this simply .. works.
That “the moment” happened with a song that I wouldn’t have previously listed as one of my five (or possibly even ten) favorites of the band’s long career made it a little more surprising for me but that’s certainly not a complaint in the least. Might even make it better somehow.
Rich Ward is … well, how do you even try to describe what he does? I’ll go with “he’s a master of his craft” in lieu of a few hundred words that wouldn’t really come close anyway. (My son’s comment to me en route to the car after the show would have been a good alternative though: “He’s … a musician’s musician. It’s what he was meant to do” ). Frank Fontsere is some sort of steady force of nature — like wind or rain — he just keeps coming at you. Len Sonnier fits seamlessly into the lineup, while Terry Chism on keyboard/backing vocals is a talented artist that makes a welcome contribution to the effort. And that pretty much covers … oh, wait, I almost forgot.
Robby J., that young guy with the microphone. He was … okay, I guess. Nah, can’t do that. Not with a straight face.
I honestly don’t know when I’ve seen someone perform for the first time and walked away more eager to see them the next time. I was impressed enough by his performance as it was but my biggest single takeaway about the new vocalist was that he’s simply going to get better & better. And unless I miss my guess, I mean rapidly. Considering where he is already, that’s a really high ceiling to consider.
It was a night to remember, for a lot of reasons. And I suppose that brings me to my traditional “GBU” for the evening …
The Good — A lot of things that need to make their way in here. Let’s start with the event making charitable contributions to both the #ForCanton food pantry (www.facebook.com/ForCanton) and the family/expenses of recent cancer victim, beloved local musician Chris Chandler. The rock genre probably doesn’t get enough credit for doing this sort of thing, and to see it be done at such a personal & local level was particularly rewarding … The venue, and yes you did read that correctly earlier: Action Church is relatively new to the area and that they were gracious hosts to a rock show kind of illustrates my point that they aren’t exactly your stereotypical church. I’d say that’s a good thing in a number of ways so while my familiarity with them is limited to a few hours on one night, I’ll happily recommend that anyone curious discover more for themselves at their website http://www.actionchurch.tv/ … Opening bands Shifty and NoSweat ably warmed up the crowd, with the latter making an exceptionally good impression on me. I’d gladly see them again in a heartbeat and hope for a chance to do so at some point. The vocals in particular are downright scary good … Witnessing the best mosh pit ever formed in a church in Canton, Georgia has to be noted here as well
The Bad — This is kind of stretching it, but I need to at least fill one more section of the GBU so … I’ll allow myself a bit of personal disappointment that my all-time favorite Stuck Mojo song — “Southern Born Killers” — didn’t make the set list. With so much to choose from, I understand how that can happen so I can’t really be put out about it. I do think that the setlist could have benefitted from the inclusion of at least one more track from the latest album — either “The Business Of Hate” or “Worst Person On Earth” — both of which seem to be among the higher profile songs from the album thus far & were surprisingly (to me) absent.
The Ugly — Ah, such a pleasure to honestly have nothing that just has to go here. But since I don’t like to just leave a segment unfilled, I’ll take the liberty of making a substitution
The Really Personal — this show marked if not the end of an era for me then at least a likely interruption in one. For about 2/3rds of his life, my son has been my constant concert companion. From arena shows to festivals to smaller venues, I’ve enjoyed making some of the favorite memories of my lifetime with him at my side. This time next week, we’ll be moving him several hundreds miles to begin college so those opportunities are going to become a lot more limited. To mark that change with such a strong performance, while also spending time with some old friends that I hadn’t seen in person for literally decades, on such a unique occasion … well, I don’t know that I could have come up with a more fitting way to end a chapter or begin a new one.
A memorable night indeed.