Nashville’s All Them Witches mesmerized an enraptured crowd Tuesday night in the Red Room and proved there is still music out there in the vast expanses of consciousness that can be considered magic.
The moon hung full and bright like a pearl in the night sky. The lake reflected the lunar rays with crispness and clarity and a stillness wafted through the basin. In this type of environment, the mind can take take a deep breathe and let the mountain night cleanse your mind and body of the day’s filth and stresses. It certainly felt like one was needed prior to standing before the ritualistic purity of All Them Witches.
The band was touring in support of its latest thriller, “Sleeping Through The War,” an experience that distills the group’s mystical grooves and primal energy into a sonic ether that can drop you into an otherworldly state. The room was filled with a buzzed hum, waiting for the show to start and anticipating another transcendent performance that rivaled the group’s first appearance at the venue a year ago. What once was a handful of curious revelers was now a crowd of believers, with more converts still to be had.
Charles Parks (bass/vocals), Ben Mcleod (guitar), Robby Staebler (drums) and Allen Van Cleave (Rhodes piano/keyboard) took the stage with humble gusto and tuned the air with a couple crunches of the guitar and warbling from the piano and keys. After a couple beats they slipped into the scorched earth shuffle of “Am I Going Up?” and the night’s ceremony had begun.
Parks’ warm and brooding voice hovered over the crowd like a mirage while Mcleod drove the song on his finger-picked, helixing riff that gave the song a subtle, barren funkiness. The band then barreled through “The Death Of Coyote Woman,” the supercharged waves of the intro eventually giving way to a bruising Staebler rhythm with Van Cleave and Mcleod layering fluid tones over it. By the time the second song ended there wasn’t a soul that had not been transfixed by what was in front of them and lost themselves within the music.
It’s an experience to stand in front of the four members of All Them Witches and feel their collective power engulf you in sound. For one thing, the group plays with such tenacity and authority. On the voracious “Dirt Preachers” Staebler’s drumming careened in front of the song like he was outrunning a rock slide with the rest of the band rumbling beside him. Staebler drove through his fills with heavy torque and frenetic precision, revealing himself to be a colossal musician in both sight and sound. Parks was a sensational frontman, contorting his body over the microphone like a gargoyle as he sang and screamed with guttural aplomb, matching the intense connectivity of Mcleod and Van Cleave’s melodies.
All Them Witches also have tapped into this wonderfully unique sound that feels not of this world, or at least one that doesn’t exist anymore. The four have found undeniable synergy in their playing, creating something akin to enchanting, blues metal that is rooted in the groove. The voodoo drone of “Charles William” and its haunting bass line felt like a spiritual rallying chant for Parks as he sang “God willing, I wanna raise the dead.” Mcleod proved to be the charging force on most songs, the pinnacle being a sharply funky lead on “Alabaster.” And Van Cleave was the bind tying all the musicians together, instrumental in layering the songs with paranormal soul from his hefty Rhodes piano and keyboard and adding the heavy atmosphere to songs such as the bluesy “Internet” or hypnotic “3-5-7.”
The night ended with the rush of “Sleeping Through The War” standout “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” as the band pounded out the grizzly punk number. Staebler seemed to be brought to his physical limit as he bounded off stage for a much deserved respite. The crowd clamored for more but the band was satisfied with the offering it had just doled out and slinked away into the night. The collective psyche of those left to ponder what had just happened was one of exhilarating bewilderment. It will be impossible to find anything as potently mystifying as that until All Them Witches come back again.
Related story: Charles Parks talks about musical pivot by All Them Witches.