High Spirits @ Reggies Music Joint, Chicago (US)

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HIGH SPIRITS / SAVAGE MASTER / CASTLE / MIDNIGHT DICE

Date: 03rd May, 2019
Venue: Reggies Music Joint
Ticket: $12/€11 (advance) - $15/€13 (day of)
Promoter: n/a


With ears still buzzing from the previous night’s show at the venue next door with DORO and METAL CHURCH, we were ready to get our spirits high (pun fully intended) by Chicago’s finest Hard Rock band HIGH SPIRITS who were kicking off their US tour. But it was not only them on that Friday’s night billing and, in fact, the rest of the bands were must-see ones, so thank goodness there was a late start.

Still, we did not catch MIDNIGHT DICE from the very beginning and I think we missed two and a half songs. And that’s a shame if you’d ask me because this band happens to be the reincarnation of SATAN’S HOLLOW who decided to call it a day after the killer self-titled LP. Anyways, everything happens for a reason, and judging by how good MIDNIGHT DICE sounded, I am sure the right decision had been made. After catching half of “Later Tears”, it was time for a cover on SWEET’s “Set Me Free”. In full disclosure, I learned and loved this song from HEATHEN who also covered that one on the amazing “Breaking The Silence” LP. Anyhoo, MIDNIGHT DICE nailed this one and especially singer Mandy Martillo showcased her diverse and classic Metal vocals. Having seen this guys and girl a couple of times in the past, I believe they have really grown as a band and have obtained the right amount of confidence to deliver the Metal goods and match the music’s energy with their stage performance. Sure, it was a slow burn to get the people inside the bar going but I think they did alright. I totally enjoyed their original material from the SAXON-esque “Skyrider” (love the opening bass lines) to the early MAIDEN-esque (of the DiAnno era) “Roll On” with a bit of nostalgia in the vocals. Yeah, the moment you hit a certain decade you start having such strange feelings with songs.

That was a job well done and the only downside was that the band had their demo on sale in cassette format and I was looking for vinyl. Who knows? I may get lucky but do check their Bandcamp HERE.

MIDNIGHT DICE setlist:

01. “Starblind”
02. “Precious Metal”
03. “Later Tears”
04. “Set Me Free” (SWEET cover)
05. “Skyrider”
06. “Roll On”

MIDNIGHT DICE

Midnight Dice @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Midnight Dice @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Midnight Dice @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Midnight Dice @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Midnight Dice @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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Then, it was a 180 degrees change in terms of music genre. Yeah, the Heavy Doomsters of CASTLE were next on the billing and were ready to hit us with the down-tuned guitar riffs and the hammering bass/drum rhythm section. An unfortunate series of events had prohibited me for checking this band live before and therefore, I was excited to finally break that bad streak. “How is it going?” asked bassist Liz in a successful attempt to get people’s attention who had gravitated towards the bar. After all, it was a Friday night, so drinking was high on the menu. Well, the moment the music started blasting off the PAs everyone’s attention was turned towards the small stage. The hard-hitting tempo of “Can’t Escape The Evil” (there is some SLAYER in the main riff, I think) combined with the trio’s high energy performance were the perfect mood-twister putting Metal in bold letters. It always amazes when a band feeds from the energy coming from the music playing harder and harder song after song. Yes, soon enough Liz was stomping her foot on the stage while busting some Cronos-like bass moves, guitarist Mat Davis when he was not singing was headbanging like there was no tomorrow and last but not least Stavinski was smashing the drum skins like they’ve wronged him.

“How are you guys doing? This is the title track from our most recent release”, said Liz and hearing how amazing “Deal Thy Fate” sounded made me feel kind of bad of letting the latest CASTLE album slip through my oversaturated new album-radar. That’s right, new albums come out in a ridiculous rate and there is no way to catch up. The duet of “Hammer And The Cross” and “Flash Of The Pentagram” sounded fricking amazing with the trio’s energy hitting the red zone and moments like these, you end up appreciating small settings like that one in Reggie’s Music Joint because you get a raw/stripped to the basics performance that leaves nothing hidden from the audience. In other words, a band has to be really good to impress is such intimate stage. And man, CASTLE did shine and hearing that “Evil Ways” would be their last song left me wanting for more so hopefully I will soon get a change for a (longer) repeat.

CASTLE

Castle @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Castle @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Castle @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Castle @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Castle @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Castle @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Castle @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Castle @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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Ok, the bar had been set quite high by CASTLE and it was soon to be found whether SAVAGE MASTER would be able to meet that. It had been almost two years since the last time I had seen this band onstage and - if my memory does not fool me - it was again supporting HIGH SPIRITS. The question that was swirling inside my brain was what differences would I spot on SAVAGE MASTER’s live performance considering that the band has done a great deal of shows in the meantime. After spending some time carefully placing the onstage gimmicks (one fog machine at the back, two black candelabras and a couple of small banners), everything was ready for Stacey and her hooded lineup. There is no backstage area in this venue, so the band after setting up the gear had to go out to get ready but that added another level of being underground that to be honest I enjoyed the most. One visual difference was that the hoods were in red, something that looked awesome and a bit more evil as compared to the all-black attire. Without further ado and with a bit of stage fog, “Ready To Sin” started the show on a high gear. Stacey with full black hair looked a lot more confident on the stage at least as far as I can remember from two years ago. In fact, the entire band looked like having a stronger attitude knowing exactly how to behave even if the stage was small to host a five-piece lineup. The absolute hits “With Whips And Chains” and “Satan Crown” followed without pausing keeping the already gathered momentum intact and it was great hearing Stacey’s vocals being so close to the studio version. As it happened with CASTLE, the small stage and the intimate setting were a perfect fit to the music of SAVAGE MASTER that is all about the traditional guitar-driven Heavy Metal and the high pitched singing. The audience (that had grown in number by that time) sounded to be familiar with SAVAGE MASTER and hearing the singing-along during “Looking For A Sacrifice” came almost as a surprise but I guess this band has created a solid following.

The band gave us a nice treat in the form of a new song from the upcoming and third SAVAGE MASTER LP. “Up next is the title track of our new album coming out this Fall”, Stacey announced and then let “Myth, Magic & Steel” to give us a first taste from that. The main riff on this one will get easily get stuck and I believe there is more melody on the vocal lines but I wouldn’t trust my ears that far after hearing the song just once. But something good our way comes... Blood On The Rose” and “Lady Of Steel” followed without pausing and led the setlist towards the curtain-dropper for the SAVAGE MASTER set. Stacey put on a vampire-cape for “The Ripper In Black” and gave a nice twist on the last song of the night. SAVAGE MASTER are on a rising course and I am very much interested to check the new album but that, will have to wait until this Fall.

SAVAGE MASTER setlist:

01. “Ready To Sin”
02. “With Whips And Chains”
03. “Satan Crown”
04. “Looking For A Sacrifice”
05. “The Owl”
06. “Devil’s Ecstacy”
07. “Myth, Magic & Steel”
08. Blood On The Rose”
09. “Lady Of Steel”
10. “The Ripper In Black”

SAVAGE MASTER

Savage Master @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Savage Master @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Savage Master @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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I love it when the mood is just right before the headliners, and this was exactly the setup before HIGH SPIRITS. SAVAGE MASTER had done a great job in priming our ears for the high intensity Metal Chris Black and his band were soon to unleash upon us. It is interesting to see Chris transforming from the calm-to-chat-with person to the highly energetic frontman the moment he steps on the stage and the music starts. “My name is Chris and these are my friends. Tonight we are flying high”, were his initial words and right there we shifted into a high gear that was meant to stay like that for almost an hour with “Flying High” welcoming everyone to forget all their troubles just for a while. “This Is The Night” came as an obvious selection as an immediate followup and there was movement on and off stage. In fact, the Reggie’s Music Joint stage looked terribly small to contain what these guys had to offer. “How are you doing tonight? Are you ready for a little bit of torture?”, asked Christ but wasted no more time with talking switching to his singing voice in “Torure” and the amazing “I Need To Know”. This one is a real special song for me because when I bought the first HIGH SPIRITS compilation (you know, the one with the all-white sleeve that looked more like a demo), I had no idea where I would be after some years... Bob Scott was his usual Punk-bassist self and he may have been more enthusiastic than usual (if this is even possible) because he “managed” to cut the skin above his left eye, so on the stage there was literally blood and sweat... By the way, I did not know that the water pipe at the back of the stage was part of Ian’s drum-kit but some drum-sticks were “sacrificed” during that part.

On the record, I had not payed too much attention to “Demons At The Door” but a couple of HIGH SPIRITS shows later I have grown fond of it and especially how much sing-along worth this song is. And this, was dedicated to SAVAGE MASTER so there must be some demon-related connection I am not aware of. By the way, if you listen closely to this one, you will “see” the RUNNING WILD influences.

Damn, each and every time I get nostalgic during “Another Night In The City” and this was no different; the vocal lines along with the riffs are a powerful combination and are the sentimental connection I have with this hard rockin’-perfect-for-summer-night-driving song. Come to think of it, connecting songs with memories, feelings or experiences is what makes HIGH SPIRITS such a special band and when the live performances are this good then, you’ve got the perfect storm. Yeah, “I Need Your Love” goes back to the Hard Rock golden days (is it ok to mention Glam here?) before hitting hard the NWOBHM button with the oldie “Set Me Free”. Was everyone singing-along? You bet they were and with such a low profile stage it was a bit hard to distinguish the band from the audience so again, I will mention the unique experience of attending intimate shows like this one. As I said, HIGH SPIRITS were kicking off a short US run and therefore, “Down The Endless Road” sounded absolutely appropriate to celebrate this. Of course, a tour is nothing without the fans so the Chicagoan band added “Thank You” on the setlist but I have to say the thank you part goes both ways and I will use the loud sing-along during the must-have “High Spirits” as a powerful piece of evidence. This was made even more special because Chris announced that HIGH SPIRITS will return to this scene of the crime on August 31st and if you check the calendar you’ll see that this will be an opening slot for PAGAN ALTAR; pretty awesome, huh?

“There is no backstage here, so the encore will not be very dramatic”, Chris joked and then sounded the charge for the last time with a powerful combo of “When The Lights Go Down” and the perfect-to-dance-to “Nights In Black”. “Thank you for the participation, you have been a great audience”, said Chris and I am sure no one was left dissatisfied by the solid setlist. Was it enough? Of course it wasn’t, and this is why when HIGH SPIRITS will be back, we will be at the front rows to cheer them on!

HIGH SPIRITS setlist:

01. “Flying High”
02. “This Is The Night”
03. “Torture”
04. “I Need To Know”
05. “Demons At The Door”
06. “Another Night In The City”
07. “I Need Your Love”
08. “Set Me Free”
09. “Down The Endless Road”
10. “Thank You”
11. “High Spirits”
12. “When The Lights Go Down”

HIGH SPIRITS

High Spirits @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
High Spirits @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) High Spirits @ Reggies Music Joint (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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