King's X Scout Bar May 18, 2013
When I spotted a poster advertising Saturday's King's X gig at Scout Bar a few weeks back, it was kind of a relief. The news coming out of the celebrated Houston band's camp hasn't been the greatest recently. Last year, drummer Jerry Gaskill suffered a major heart attack that stopped the group in its tracks. That led to the cancellation of their homecoming show at Warehouse Live last March.
Gaskill recovered, only to take another big punch to the gut when he lost his New Jersey home in Superstorm Sandy. Then just last month, it was announced that fans and friends were setting up a crowdfunding account to pay for front man dUg Pinnick's badly needed hernia surgery.
Longtime fans showed up at Scout Bar over the weekend to hear some beloved tunes, sure, but also to simply check in and see if the proto-grunge power trio was OK.
It's a pleasure, then, to report that King's X is alive and well. If the group is still living with the pain of the past two years' trials, none of it showed on their smiling faces Saturday. Instead, they were buoyed from start to finish by the intense love of a diehard audience that managed to completely pack out the Clear Lake club.
Right away, all eyes were on Gaskill as he mounted the drum riser. The drummer's childhood friend and producer, Ed Frost, told us last year that Jerry's heart attack had been deadly serious. Would he be the same guy up there?
Put simply, he was. From the first downbeat of set opener "Groove Machine," it was obvious that Gaskill's skills and passion for playing were undiminished by the heavy shit he's endured of late. It was a major relief for the hometown fans to see, and they responded by chanting "Jerry! Jerry!" between songs like they were attending a taping of Springer.
Pinnick, too, looked to be in characteristically fantastic shape, particularly for a man over 60 who's dealing with a hernia. The ladies in the crowd (and let's be real: most of the guys) definitely did not mind when his shirt came off, and his amazingly plaintive voice sounded as good as ever on songs like "Pillow" and "Flies and Blue Skies" from the group's early-'90s Dogman album.
Guitarist Ty Tabor proved similarly unstoppable, still armed with that indelible tone after more than 25 years. Today's rock bands would probably kill for the exquisite soul that poured out of his amplifiers during the wailing, distorted solo on "A Box," but if that sound could be copied, it would've been by now.
Instead, King's X remains a band neither duplicated nor even passably imitated, despite their influence. Their unique blend of metal, funk and soul remains potent: the sound of three hearts worn on the same sleeve. When they lit into the classic single "Over My Head," I wondered for a second if somebody turned the air conditioner on, but nope. Just a bad case of the chills caused by Pinnick's yowling voice and Tabor's inhuman tone.
Goosebumps at freaking Scout Bar. Not exactly a weekly occurrence, folks.
The audience seemed to know every well-worn note, but still hung on each of them. The band turned the microphones around to let the crowd sing "Goldilox," the last number of the night. Sweaty as they were, couples snuggled up as they sang. It was a great moment that you only get at a longed-for homecoming gig like this.
Afterwards, the band stuck around to shake hands and reminisce a little, and maybe that was as important as the music to the people who showed up on Saturday night. King's X's heart is still beating, and simply seeing it in person was well worth the short trip down I-45.
Personal Bias: I miss the '90s.
The Crowd: Older. Wiser.
Overheard In the Crowd: "That is the best shit ever, man."
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Random Notebook Dump: Despite a couple of hot microphones, the band sounded huge on the Scout Bar sound system. If there's a fair knock on the place (or two), it ain't the PA.