Big Head Todd and The Monsters don’t headline the big sheds any longer, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a legion of devoted fans. The final Sunday night before Christmas might be considered a tough draw, but it didn’t seem to affect those packing the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room for an energetic and appreciated set from the longtime Boulder, Colorado, rockers.
As it turned out, there was also an unexpected treat in the form of opening act SIMO from Nashville, Tennessee. The psychedelic soul trio did more than just warm things up. Fronted by J.D. Simo’s soulful vocal style and edgy guitar licks, the band felt like a throwback to ’70s era rock and roll. Adam Abrashoff’s frenetic drumming conjured flavors of Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull, while Elad Shapiro completed the look while carving out the low-end guts of a chewy, dirt-under-your-fingernails set. Their decidedly Joe Cocker cover of “With A Little Help From My friends” fit right in their wheelhouse, and sent folks thirstily to the back bar to replenish for the headliner.
There was definitely a feeling of familiarity and comfort as the refreshed crowd greeted Todd Park Mohr, who had his Monsters in tow. It was clear that many fans gathered had a lengthy association with the band and were ready to re-live some memories. Alternating between two guitars, whose stock tone and volume knobs had been replaced by translucent dice, Park Mohr gave the crowd what it wanted. He and the Monsters produced a steady, quick moving feed of their blues-tinged rock, introducing new material from their latest “New World Arisin,’’ as well as fan and radio favorites such as “Bittersweet,” “Please Don’t Tell Her” and a slightly new phrasing arrangement of “It’s Alright.”
A mildly punkish new tune, “Detonator,” had Jeremy Lawton stepping away from keys for lap steel support, and the combo of drummer Brian Nevin and bassist Rob Squires completing a tight, up-tempo presentation. Park Mohr’s use of funky wah-wah on the next tune, “Long Coal Train,” juxtaposed the pairing perfectly. The main set closed to roars after a raucous “Broken Hearted” from their Platinum record “Sister Sweetly.” After a brief respite, the band returned with “Glow” from its latest recording, which sounded as somewhat of a Hendrix homage, and concluded with the driving, rock-rooted “Circle”.
Big Head Todd and The Monsters have carved out a big niche for themselves and new material sampled maintains their formula of blues-rock, Park Mohr’s quick solo bursts and enough pop groove to keep the vocal-driven fans involved. No doubt, we’ll see them again soon in the Northern Sierra Nevada, perhaps this summer, to re-live some warm memories.