Red Fang at the Firebird in Saint Louis, Missouri on Sept 13th, 2018.
A warm summer night in a river city, I buy my much-needed road sodas from the gas station; a Voodoo Ranger and Fat Tire, respectively. I floor it to the show in a beat-up pickup truck. The brakes on the front axle are worn and loud as I careen over city streets. What’s the point? Red Fang.
Rumbling into the parking lot of the Firebird, Big Business is well on their way to finishing their set. It was good. Solid. I had seen them before with The Melvins, and despite not knowing what songs they are playing, I always enjoy them. Both members of the two-piece Big Business were also members of The Melvins on that same distant tour.
Normally, I tend to loathe music videos but in the essence of the artistic spirit, I will admit that Red Fang‘s music video for their 2011 single “Wires” is what drew me to the band in the first place. It’s worth watching if you like beer and destruction. Destruction and heavy-ass rock and roll go very well together. Around the same time said video came out the band also got on a tour with Mastodon, and that is how myself and many fans came to respect them as their own crunch masters. They were great on that tour, but even better on this September 13th show. You can tell they really have their act together. Somewhere between the Sunn Beta amps, flannel, and genre descriptions emerges a band that has its own distinct flavor. The apparent front-man is the bassist (Aaron Beam), and he’s got the pipes to back it up. Throaty but quite clean, his singing fits in nicely with the mix of the band. One of the guitar players roars sometimes too, like a bulldozer, but uses it sparsely and with great emotional effect. As a four-piece unit, they’ve got the stage presence and volume needed to please us headbangers.
I wouldn’t want to compare Red Fang to any other band, but I would tell fans of some other bigger name bands to take a long listen. They also appeal to that cult sensibility of being strictly themselves, and how to cultivate that feeling for fans. Having spent quite a bit of time listening to their Murder the Mountains record from 2011, featuring the single “Wires”, I would recommend that as a good place to start listening. But their most recent record Only Ghosts from 2016 is a bit more polished and quite worthy of the repeat button. “Cut It Out”, the second song on that album particularly stood out live. The guitars are captivating and dicey; chopping along as the song changes shape. The band swirls around an idea and bring it somewhere else, before coming back with big choruses that they conjure. Great song. Lead singer and bassist Aaron Beam made a quick introduction prior to launching into their stellar cover of Gary Numan’s track “Listen To the Sirens.” By a strange coincidence, the 80’s synth-loving UK artist and quirky hitmaker, was right down the street playing at the Firebird’s sister venue, The Ready Room. It was hard to tell if the legions of loyal metal fans were even aware of the world outside the sweaty, packed confines of the Firebird, a “real” meat and potatoes rock club. The fans were definitely there to see the Portland quartet and many were sporting Red Fang T’s or sporting patches for other bands like Black Sabbath, Mastodon, Fu Manchu, and Motorhead. It was clear that this was a real rock crowd that came to get their fill. The 400+ devotees boogied, headbanged, and yelled at the top of their drunken lungs.
Red Fang crossed quite a few barriers of sound that would well appeal to anyone who likes fuzzy guitars, powerful hooks, and crushing drums. Still, there is a deeper feeling of something special with the band. It’s fun but at the same time: Mean. It’s something gritty and real; something meaty that you can sink your teeth into. It feels right.