Baroness Packs a Big Sound Into the Small Space of Rudyard's

Baroness, Earthling
December 8, 2015

When it was announced a few months back that Pegstar was bringing Baroness to Rudyard’s, the cozy Montrose pub/hidey hole, it was only natural to wonder how in the hell they’d even fit in there. Certainly, a sellout was all but assured: As one of the country’s best and most respected purveyors of Southern hard rock and metal, Baroness have certainly got enough fans to fill a much larger joint than Rudz. But far less certain was the venue sound system’s capacity to render in full the megalithic guitar harmonies and howling vocals that have won the band so much acclaim.

Baroness sounds huge on record, and they sounded even bigger the last time they were in town, at ast year’s Free Press Summer Festival. How would they sound crammed on to Rudyard’s tiny corner stage?

Fans were stoked to find out. They started filing in at 8 p.m., and soon, Virginia’s Earthling arrived to begin warming up a few cochleas. Perhaps owing to the Tuesday night showtime, there were no other opening acts on the bill, so the swelling crowd gave Earthling all of its attention. What they heard might not have been quite what they were expecting. A far cry from Baroness’ thoughtful and emotionally sincere style of heaviness, Earthling’s sound was pure, old-school death-thrash in the vein of Newcastle greats Venom.

Though a good deal hairier than most of the assembled Baroness fans, Earthling nevertheless got heads banging gamely along to their whipping snare cracks and piercing guitar solos. Folks were a tad too polite to mosh within the club’s teensy upstairs confines, but the received the band’s throwback thunder warmly nonetheless.

If the crowd was buzzing for Earthling, though, they were practically wracked with excitement for the headliners. Almost as soon as Baroness’ roadies began sound-checking their gear, all of the elbow room in the place seemed to disappear. Huge cheers and furious clapping started up the moment the band finally appeared — enough to take the band aback a bit. Obviously, the crowd was totally juiced to see Baroness in such and intimate setting.

Well… hear them, anyway. Thanks to Rudyard’s low stage, pretty much only the front couple of rows could see the band properly at all. The rest of us stole glances at the group on the big flat-screen TV on the wall. Mercifully, though, the venue’s sound system proved up to the task of drowning out the talkers in the audience. Sightlines may have been poor, but the sound mix was right on.

That was apparent right off the bat when Baroness kicked in the doors on “Take My Bones Away.” As the air filled with camera phones, craning to film as much of the action as they could, fans shouted along to the song’s hoarse, harmonized chorus — just loud enough to hear over Baroness’ custom-built amps. Singers/guitarists John Baizley and Peter Adams rocked out in what little space they could manage up there, and their admirers did the same out in the dark.

Baroness warmed up the crowd a little further with a couple more favorites from 2013’s Yellow & Green next, including the pounding “March to the Sea” and “Board Up the House” before cracking open some new stuff from their forthcoming album, Purple. Fresh cuts “Chlorine and Wine” and “Morningstar” both sure sounded like Baroness, all right, with plenty of harmonious riffs and plaintive yelling. The crowd liked them just fine, but it was older, familiar material that they’d paid to hear.

Baroness delivered that in spades, breaking off the much-loved “A Horse Called Golgotha” midway through and closing with singalong power of “Eula.” Fans squealed and pumped their fists like maniacs when the band played that one. Baroness appeared to be enjoying themselves quite a bit, too, as Adams tossed his hair again and again and Baizley simply smiled behind the mike.

There was an encore, of course, but it would prove hard to top “Eula.” It was the most popular song of the night, and managed to bring the entire room together on to the same page for a couple of minutes. Those precious seconds of musical community, packed in together in Montrose’s Living Room, were a damn pleasant way to end a weeknight. Plenty of fans headed downstairs afterwards for another draught beer, clutching their prized Purple T-shirts. The next time Baroness comes through, they’ll be playing somewhere larger. They’re going to have to work pretty hard, however, to play any better.

Personal Bias: Blue Record.

The Crowd: Swollen and happy.

Overheard in the Crowd: “Hang on! They haven’t played ‘Eula’ yet!”

Random Notebook Dump: Something about Baroness’ dual-guitar harmonies reminds me of the 16-bit jams sound-tracking all my favorite Sega Genesis games. Were Baroness Golden Axe fans, too? 
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Nathan Smith
Contact: Nathan Smith