Always On Tour: Clutch in 2019

Clutch spent a lot of time performing live in 2019 on the Book of Bad Decisions tour, but that was nothing new for them – they are well known as the always-on-the-road band. In March, they made their way across the middle of the country on their way to a European tour in June. Back in the US in July, Clutch hosted their own festival for the third year running, Earth Rocker, at Shiley Acres in West Virginia. Numerous dates followed in July, including Heavy Montreal, and August, including Psycho Las Vegas. More touring in September and October, including a monster set before a sold out crowd at Aftershock in Sacramento. And then there was another stretch in Europe in December. After all of this, how does Clutch wrap up the year?

With three big shows in a row, on the 29th at the 9:30 Club in DC, the 30th at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, and on New Year’s Eve at Union Transfer in Philadelphia. In these final three performances of 2019, Clutch played completely different sets at each venue, 54 songs total, and on New Year’s Eve, they performed their classic album Blast Tyrant in its entirety. This should be the example of Finishing Strong from now on. What an amazing year.

Neil Fallon

The band played more than 80 dates in 2019. I didn’t catch them all, but I did see them at six different shows, and each one was a full-tilt rock and roll experience. You can’t go wrong with Clutch, and live is best way to hear them. One thing that is really different about the band compared to others is their constantly changing set list. When many bands go on tour, they rehearse a fixed set and play the same songs at every date. Clutch plays a different set every time.

Dan Maines

In interviews, the band has said that they take turns choosing which songs to play. How can they keep that much music in their heads? To make sure I wasn’t blacking out and misremembering this, I looked up set lists for three of the festival appearances Clutch made this year.

Heavy MontrealPsycho Las VegasAftershock
Ghoul WranglerGhoul WranglerThe Mob Goes Wild
The Mob Goes WildProfits Of DoomX-Ray Visions
How To Shake HandsThe Mob Goes WildEvil
Earth RockerHow To Shake HandsCypress Grove
H. B. Is In ControlIn Walks BarbarellaIn Walks Barbarella
In Walks BarbarellaA Quick Death In TexasEarth Rocker
Spirit of ’76Willie NelsonGimme The Keys
A Quick Death In TexasThe SoapmakersWillie Nelson
Noble SavageCrucial VelocityElectric Worry
The FaceBurning BeardOne Eye Dollar
Electric WorryNoble Savage 
X-Ray VisionsThe Face 
 D.C. Sound Attack! 
 Evil 
 Rats 
 Spacegrass 
 X-Ray Visions 
 Firebirds! 

There are only three songs that were played in all three sets, and the crowds love every song they play. It is not merely that they are incredible musicians and can remember all these different songs. In order to be able to shuffle the deck every night and never disappoint their fans, they have to have dozens of memorable songs that people want to hear.

Jean-Paul Gaster

Even after more than twenty five years together, the iconic band from Maryland still produces new music that is embraced by fans. Neil Fallon, Tim Sult, Dan Maines, and Jean-Paul Gaster have been together since the first Clutch recordings, and each new album carries the rock and roll message forward. On any given night, there will be new songs mixed in with older tunes including, and occasionally a cover tune. Every once in a while, they’ll play songs going all the way back to their first couple of albums (“Spacegrass” is from their second full-length album released in 1995 and they played it at Psycho Las Vegas this year). You never know going in what exactly you are going to hear. All you know for sure is you’re going to like it.

Tim Sult
Neil Fallon

2019 was a great year for Clutch. Their Book of Bad Decisions tour continued, they toured Europe a couple times, hit the festival circuit, and made a number of club and theater appearances. They are certainly not slowing down – a case is easily made, in fact, that they are picking up steam. Not much is known about their 2020 schedule yet (not publicly anyway), so let me take a guess. I bet they’ll be on tour all year.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Always On Tour: Clutch in 2019

Heavy Montreal – Overview, Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, July 27-28, 2019

     Last weekend, Metro travelers in Montreal stopping at Parc Jean-Drapeau were greeted by the gates to Heavy Montreal, Canada’s premier rock festival. The construction that stirred up things last year was long gone this time, and the festival grounds were over-run by fans enjoying two beautiful hot summer days and four stages of music. The setting was ideal, being in a park on an island in the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Longueuil, easily approachable from either side and offering an impressive view of the city across the water.
   The lineups on the four stages sometimes seemed to have a theme (see the previous post for a full set time schedule). For example, the Summer Slaughter Tour made a stop at Heavy Montreal, and all the bands played on the same stage, one after the other, on Saturday. It was an excellent way to catch that tour if you couldn’t make one of its other stops. Steel Panther and Quiet Riot played on the same stage, while Watain, Harm’s Way, and Municipal Waste played on a different one. With four stages, the organizers had two bands playing at all times far enough apart to not interfere with each other’s sound, and while the other two stages were being changed over for the next act. There were no lulls at all.
     The headliners were Ghost on Saturday and Slayer on Sunday. These bands have legions of fans, as do strong second line operators Anthrax, In This Moment, Godsmack, Clutch, Evanesence, Slash, and Dying Fetus. For the most part, these bands did not overlap, the exception being that Dying Fetus played at the same time as Ghost – although I would believe it if somebody told me that diehard fans for either of these acts are unlikely to be diehard fans for the other so there was limited damage. There are always a couple of tough choices in a festival with lots of bands you want to see, so I comfort myself with the certain knowledge that if you stayed to hear a band’s entire set instead of wandering off to another stage then you had a great time.
     There are more posts coming this week about the festival, so for now I will just mention two of my favorite performances of the weekend: Clutch and Dopethrone. Clutch played with their customary laid back enthusiasm, opening with “Ghoul Wrangler” and passing through one crowd pleaser after another. The band stuck mostly to their newer albums, Book of Bad Decisions and Psychic Warfare, but did dip into the classic well of Blast Tyrant and, I’ll say of course, “Earth Rocker.” I have seen Clutch a dozen times in the past two or three years, and the set is always different. They have so many songs their fans recognize and love to hear that, whether they play six songs or sixteen, it is always a high adrenaline experience. I never get tired of Clutch – I always look forward to seeing them again. On the other hand, I had never seen Dopethrone perform before so I did not know what to expect. I have always thought of their music as particularly violent, drug-dripping doom. The band does not have any US dates scheduled this year so Heavy Montreal was my only chance to catch them. Their performance was like an interstellar shriek of wailing guitars and coarse vocal emanations. They seemed to vibrate on the verge of explosion. After just one set Dopethrone has made my list of bands I’ll go out of my way to see whenever I can.
     For me, Heavy Montreal is a must every year on the festival circuit. There are always a few bands playing there that do not show up at other events and so it is often the only way to see them in the festival setting. The organizers keep prices low compared to other competing festivals (this is especially true for people coming in from the US given the current exchange rate of US$0.76 = C$1.00), but there is no skimping on the presentation of the music or on the festival grounds. There are more hydration stations with free water than any other festival I have ever been to and there is the occasional pleasant surprise like giving away sunscreen for free this year. Heavy Montreal is always a good time and this year is a shining example of that tradition.

Words and photos ©2019 Wayne Edwards

Heavy Montreal – Overview, Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, July 27-28, 2019