Hidden almost in plain sight just up the street from downtown Reynoldsburg, the Dark Horse Tavern has seen its share of interesting shows since opening its doors last spring. I had the pleasure of covering Curse of Cassandra here back in June and from that show sprouted the ideas of what eventually became the Dark Horse in Motion Music Festival. The idea was to showcase some of the best local rock acts from around Columbus and bring together a somewhat diverse crowd in the name of great music.
The doors opened at 1 p.m. and the crowd slowly made their way in. There were about 15 people on hand for the early opener, local trio Mobile Home. They brought us a straight-forward blend of catchy, blues-infused rock-n-roll with a solid male-female vocal dynamic between guitarist Kyle Lewis Martin and bassist Jess Kauffman.
Their high energy set was the perfect kickoff for the festival, and they even threw in a cover of the Ramones classic,The KKK Took My Baby Away to finish things up.
Bourbon Train slowed things down with their sludgy, grinding sound. The trio of guitars brought a heavy chorus to each song, as singer Travis Anderson wailed mournfully.
The groovy riffs had every head nodding in the venue, making for an intriguing switch-up from the first band. Their sound was akin to early Black Sabbath, with the bearded fury of guitarist Tyler Lust bringing many of the songs out of the dark with screeching solos.
Mississippi Bones may have dealt us some silly song titles and “astonishing” tales, but there was nothing humorous about their sound.
Indeed, the Hardin County rockers brought incredible tightness and easy grooves that punched hard and kept your toes tapping. They were definitely a visual spectacle with six members on stage, but their songs actually seemed to get heavier and faster as the evening progressed.
The bastard child of brutality, Bridesmaid took the stage next. With dual drummers pounding on the skins and two bassists laying down the low end, the band had the entire building shaking.
Bassists Bob Brinkman and Scott Hyatt both faced different directions as they played, but the entirety of their thunder was directed at the crowd. It wasn’t quite Extinction Level Event, but they brought some serious clank of their own.
One of the best crowd responses of the night was for Pale Grey Lore. The group have a well-defined sound, and despite missing guitarist Xander Roseberry, the remaining trio soldiered on to rock the crowd. One thing I’ve noticed every time I see them play is that they have an exceptionally tight sound. Every note from guitar to bass to drum flow in perfect synchronicity to create a perfectly distorted harmony.
You could say their set was split into two different parts – when singer/guitarist Michael Miller was playing his Epiphone, the sound had much more reverb and drone to it. But when he busted out his crimson Gibson, the set became heavier and more solo driven. Many of the people in the venue told me that this was their favorite local act of the night.
Hells Fire Sinners brought forth a punk rock sound that could have existed 30 years ago without any issue. It was a louder, more modernized version of groups such as Ramones or The Sex Pistols with a heavy dose of flanger and tremolo pedals, but it still featured all the attitude you’d expect from a punk rock outfit. Their set might have seemed longer, but that was only because of the songs being shorter in length. They even tossed in a cover of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven. Either way, the crowd was definitely primed for the headliner.
There are a few words that come to mind when describing headliner Karma to Burn’s set, none of which would be more appropriate than “relentless” and “uncompromising.” They were an interesting spectacle, with cracked and peeling amps that must have been played for 30-plus years, but still kicked some serious ass.
They didn’t have much in the way of songs titles, effects pedals, or even lyrics. What they did have was a powerful brand of crushing thunderous rock music. Evan Devine beat his drums like they owed him money, and front-man William Mecum played with a flair only earned by 20-plus years of hard work. In a festival full of fantastic acts, they stood alone as the uncontested kings of kicking ass.
The crowd slowly dissipated after the Appalachain rockers left, but those of us who remained were treated to the solo sound of Shorty Allen. He had the look, voice and sound of a 1950’s era rockabilly crooner, and could have easily played an entire set of Buddy Holly and Everly Brothers covers. That style of music may not get any airplay these days, but Allen was able to take rock’s origins and give them fresh life, armed only with a guitar, bass drum and hi-hat.
As a whole, it was musically one of the better festivals I have been to in a while. All eight of the bands who played brought a good amount of energy and a heavy dose of rock. There were no large gaps or lapses between bands, just 12 hours of really good music. I felt myself compelled to stay close to the stage all night because I didn’t want to miss out of what might come next.
While the event did not sell out, all of those who were in attendance definitely got to see some of the best music that Columbus and Central Ohio has to offer. We will always strive to give you the most bang for your hard-earned dollars, of that you can be assured.
I’d also like to give a special shout-out to everyone who helped put this together. Joe Lamb and his staff at The Dark Horse Tavern made the evening a breeze. The good folks over at Cream brought some splendid rock-themed baked goods (including Caramel Korn, Meshuggah Cookies, and Megadeth by Chocolae Cupcakes) and El Sabor Street Food helped us keep our stomachs full throughout the evening. Brian Kozicki (of Brian Kozicki Audio) took care of the sound and light production for the festival, and we couldn’t write about this event without thanking our sponsors, Old Familiar Barbershop and Body Language Ohio.
We look forward to doing something like this again sometime in the future!
Credit for all images in slideshow: H Lee / Music in Motion Columbus