The Tavern, Hattiesburg, MS
November 11, 2015
We don’t get too many touring metal bands paying us a visit along the Gulf Coast. That said, The Tavern, a small venue in Hattiesburg, Mississippi (college town and home of the University of Southern Mississippi) has opened its doors and rolled out the welcome mat to traveling heavy metal road shows of late. Over the last 12 months, I’ve seen High Spirits, Savage Master, and now A Sound of Thunder at this modest hall, just 90 miles up the road from my house. To be sure, venue, stage, lighting and sound don’t do much to impress; however, the idea of having a nearby club that’s friendly to “our” kind of music is a big deal in this metal-starved region of the country, so I want to support it. The trouble is that distressingly few others share that sentiment. The Tavern’s been sparsely attended (at best) each time I’ve been there, and tonight was no exception.
Nonetheless, A Sound of Thunder rolled into town on this Veteran’s Day holiday as part of a mini-tour that carried them through Charlotte, Atlanta and Orlando, with additional stops planned for Houston, Austin and Oklahoma City. The band were in fine spirits on this night, as they were coming off the memorable experience of a day off on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, where they fully immersed themselves in the local culture, cuisine and beverages. After a lackluster local opening band, A Sound of Thunder plugged in and cranked up at around 11:30 p.m., delivering an 8-song, 50-minute totally pro performance. Neither the paucity of patrons nor the oddness of those present (including a guy who wore a laced-up wrestling mask and knee-high red stockings the entire night) appeared to faze them, although they did solicit, accept and play my request for “Power Play” off the ‘Time’s Arrow’ album.
Straight out of the gate, A Sound of Thunder hit us hard with three of their strongest songs all in a row: “Udoroth,” “Tower of Souls” and “A Sound of Thunder.” Vocalist Nina Osegueda has a powerful set of pipes that were on full display this evening, as her voice was high in the mix and readily cut through the din of her bandmates. Red-headed, bearded guitarist Josh Schwartz staked out his usual position to Osegueda’s right, and mostly kept his head down and concentrated on the riffs and leads. Meanwhile, on Nina’s left was bassist/backing vocalist Jesse Keen, who did not allow the tiny stage or monochrome blue stage lighting scheme to deter him from being a blur of constant motion throughout the set. And drummer Chris Haren put on a clinic behind his rather amazing-looking kit (including ‘Shadowman’ bass drum heads), and even deployed the chimes for us.
After the initial salvo, A Sound of Thunder focused much of their set on the new ‘Tales from the Deadside’ opus, including the thundering “Tremble,” a successful singalong through “Children of the Dark,” and the mysterious, menacing “End Times.” In the midst of this batch of new songs, ASoT threw us a bit of a curveball in the form of “Reign of the Hawklords,” their tribute to Hawkwind with all the psychedelia (Nina, goggles down, making spooky sounds on the theremin) that implies. To close out the night, the band dropped “Queen of Hell” in favor of my requested “Power Play,” which I still think is the crown jewel of their catalog. It was a pleasure to hear the cut (unrehearsed though it was, the band nailed it), and absolutely a pleasure to have A Sound of Thunder pay lower Mississippi a visit. Here’s hoping more real metal bands follow suit, and some folks actually show up at The Tavern to support them next time.
Setlist: Udoroth, Tower of Souls, A Sound of Thunder, Tremble, Reign of the Hawklords, Children of the Dark, End Times, Power Play.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~