Whether we succumb to flesh-eating zombies, a direct hit by an asteroid or apocalyptic storms and earthquakes, you’ll want to find a memorable way to spend Friday, Dec. 21, your last night on earth. Assuming you don’t already have a bunker ready, there may be no better place than Rhythm & Brews at 10 p.m. on that fateful day, and no better band than Strung Like A Horse to celebrate the end of the world.
What makes this band perfect for the occasion is the climate of delirium they create. Strung Like A Horse hits the stage like a hurricane, energy popping from every player. Each performance is an exuberant celebration of the power of music.
Lead singer Clay Maselle has the energy and charisma of a nonpareil ringmaster. His feet firmly planted, Maselle and his bandmates whip up barely controlled chaos both on and off stage. Maselle’s circus barker-style ebullience is matched by B.J. Hightower’s manic bouncing jig with his standup bass, his hair flailing around his face and over his shoulders as the band leans into the music.
While Maselle is cajoling the audience to let go, B.J.’s bouncing, Mark the Fiddler and banjo man Ben Crawford are throwing out blizzards of notes, and Sloth keeps it all rolling with wildly off-kilter kicks on his singular drum kit (largely composed of junkyard detritus).
It’s not difficult to understand why Sam Bush remarked that Strung Like A Horse made him and every other bluegrass musician seem staid. The band plays acoustic music with all the elements of Bill Monroe’s traditional bluegrass (albeit with a drummer). But while their music is rooted in bluegrass, by every tune’s end they’ve drifted far afield from Monroe into a domain of their own. Imagine a manically muscular, punkier Dave Matthews Band—call it garage grass.
Opening for Strung Like A Horse will be the Nashville-based Deep Machine. Listening to their recently released EP (on Band Camp) it’s apparent why they’ve been gigging with Strung Like A Horse so much recently. The quartet of Brennan Walsh on guitar, Zack Bowden on bass, Brian Cline on keys and Ben Crannell on drums sounds the way Pink Floyd might have sounded had Roger Waters and Nick Mason grown up listening to hip-hop. They are to ’70s psychedelia what Strung Like A Horse is to Monroe’s bluegrass. They’ve amped it up for a new generation of revelers ready to reel with abandon.
While Pink Floyd tended to build lengthy, complex magisterial marches, these guys start out jogging before breaking into a run with Walsh’s Gilmour-like lines bursting into frenzied showers of metal driven by Crannell’s steady one-two punch. Bassist Bowden plays a richly propulsive counterpoint, pushing at the edge of Walsh and keyboardist Cline’s freewheeling melodies while Cranell’s steady anchor keeps the music danceable even as it strays far out into psychedelic fancy.
Nobody sings. “Vocals?! Who needs vocals when the music says it all?” they ask on Facebook. They have a point. They do use the voice of a disembodied announcer, whose richly resonant baritone delivers quasi-philosophical bromides like a radio announcer in one of those vintage 1950’s sci-fi scare flicks, at points on a couple of the tracks on the EP, but for the most part the absence of a singer isn’t an issue.
The Mayans were convinced that this is the night when everything would end in one blinding flash.
This is one party where it just might.
Strung Like A Horse End of The World Party with Deep Machine
Friday, Dec. 21 - 10 p.m. • $13 (advance)
Rhythm & Brews - 221 Market St.
Richard Winham is the producer and host of WUTC-FM’s afternoon music program and has observed the Chattanooga music scene for more than 25 years.