TVD Live Shots: Brant Bjork, Nick Oliveri, and Nebula at the Redwood Bar, 10/10

The spirit of Sky Valley was in abundance at the Redwood Bar in downtown Los Angeles. Brant Bjork, the former Kyuss and Fu Manchu drummer, has been blazing his own trail for years now with a catalog that spans ‘70s grooves to heavy stoner rock to soulful acoustic jams, with a who’s who of the desert rock scene by his side along the way. His latest album, Mankind Woman, just dropped in September, and he brought a solid stoner rock lineup out on the road with him.

The only part of the evening that felt like a formal “concert” was when the Redwood staff cleared the place out for 30 minutes or so to set up and soundcheck. The small, intimate setting combined with the nautical theme and decor of the venue made the rest of the night feel like a stoner rock basement party on the orlop deck of a pirate ship. The mood was friendly and the vibes were mellow as Nebula took the stage.

Together again for the first time in over eight years, the trio began playing without any fanfare or formality, only to ask at the song’s end if that was soundcheck or if the set had begun. After a quick regrouping, singer-guitarist Eddie Glass returned with a slightly more formal intro and thanks before beginning a terrific set. Returning bassist Tom Davies was exemplary, and new drummer Michael Amster was a high point of the night. Hopefully their set is a sign of good things to come.

To bridge the gap between the two heavy sets of the night, desert rock journeyman Nick Oliveri brought us his “Death Acoustic” set. As the name would imply, this was no campfire singalong or any swaying to James Taylor tunes. This was gritty punk fury stripped down to its core. Alternating between paying homage to offbeat musical heroes like Roky Erickson (“Bloody Hammers”) or G.G. Allin (“Outlaw Scumfuc”) and going over his own past material (the QOTSA classic “Autopilot” was brilliant), the set was a perfect comedown before the amplifiers hummed once again.

Brant and his crew entered shortly after Oliveri’s set and eased into things with “Swagger and Sway” from Mankind Woman, a pure ‘70s groover that set the tone to come. Things would get a little heavier for a moment (“Controllers Destroyed”) before locking back into a stoney groove again (“Stackt”).

Halfway through the set, the Desert Wizard, Sean Wheeler joined the band and things came up a notch as they went into “Chocolatize.” Wheeler’s bravado and magnetic personality instantly elevate any stage he graces, and the connection between him, Brant, and the band was tangible and effortless. As he lamented the shortcomings of our modern society in “Nation of Indica,” you couldn’t help but bellow out “Lord, have mercy!” in unison with the Mojave troubadour. Brant took the crowd home with two of his classics, “Lazy Bones,” and his anthem “Low Desert Punk.”

Keeping true to his roots over the years while still growing as an artist, every Brant Bjork show is a guarantee of good tunes and good vibes. Fortunately for us, with a steady stream of new albums and an annual desert festival, Brant has gathered a head of steam that doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.

BRANT BJORK

NICK OLIVERI

NEBULA

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