The weather is finally nice in Columbus again and with that comes the start of the summer touring season! We generally focus on local coverage, but we received a request from LA-based duo Cairo Knife Fight to join them for the evening.
CKF is the brainchild of New Zealand-born drummer Nick Gaffaney, who provides vocals. His current partner in crime is guitarist George Pajon Jr., who played for almost 20 years with The Black Eyed Peas and has received numerous Grammy awards for his contributions to the group, including the massively successful single Where is the Love? The duo have been together for the last three years and are currently embarking on a US tour, which has brought them to several cities they have never touched down on before, including our beautiful Columbus.
I was slightly surprised that a national act with their pull would be playing at a location like The Shrunken Head, but was nonetheless happy for the opportunity to take in the show. It definitely caught me off-guard when I arrived at the bar to find that the opener had already finished playing, packed up and for the most part had left.
In fact, as the boys from CKF took the stage the only patrons left in the bar were myself, our photographer and the sound engineer. I suppose an out-of-town act at 10 p.m. on a Thursday night isn’t the draw that it used to be, but I’d rather think of it as being treated to my own personal showcase from two well-seasoned musicians.
The first song the boys played was The Violence of Action, which initially sounded like a slow building soundcheck, with Pajon’s distorted guitar seeming to overlap itself before Gaffaney started hammering at his kit. The evening was pierced by Gaffaney’s shrill vocals on this song and Pajon’s driving, sludgy string work. The song hails from one of CKF’s earliest EPs, and bore a distinctly different sound from those that followed.
In fact, A-Two opened with a much cleaner hissing sound and a metallic clank coming from Gaffaney’s synthesizer. On stage, all you could see were the drums, guitars, a synthesizer and the amplifiers. But, all of the songs were intensified by a loop station that Gaffaney used to build his musical throne. A-Two was unencumbered by the massive guitar weight of the last epic, but still featured a fever of sound when the loops kicked in midway through.
A-Six opened with a pounding, crunchy riff from Pajon, which I can only equate to being in a heavyweight fight with a sonic version of Mike Tyson. For my money, it was the absolute standout track musically and never took its foot off the gas. A-Six also showcased Gaffaney’s ability to harmonize while drumming more than any other to this point.
Once again, we took a left turn and found ourselves with The Opiate of the Living. The build-up was absolutely atmospheric with minimal intervention from the two men on stage, but it certainly felt like a trance brought on by some sort of aural opioid. There were screeches and shudders throughout the song as Gaffaney belted out “feels like I’m already gone!”
Up next, we had A-Eight, the third track to be featured from their newest disc, “Seven.” You’ll notice the affinity to numbers here, and Pajon later explained to me that they had written the songs and recorded them in a minimal time-frame. Once it came time to settle on names they figured they would just leave them with the numbers associated on each individual song from the recording period.
Pajon said that the reason they added the “A” to the beginning of each title was because he was, simply put, “Tired of hearing that A-Team song at the beginning of my iPod every time.” A-Eight was another soft-starter that seemed to get bigger and bigger with each passing note until the song was overwhelmed with more screaming atmospherics before fading out.
Lastly was Big Face, in which Gaffaney started his drum loops before standing up to sing the opening verse. It was an interesting sight; drums playing with no drummer, but Pajon bit into another groovy guitar riff and Gaffaney finally sat down to drive the song to its apex. The man can really pound the skins and it was a fantastic outro paired with Pajon’s biggest solo of the evening.
By the end of the set there were a few more heads throughout the bar, and I had the chance to chat with the guys about their time on the road. They explained that they honestly never know what to expect when booking a show in a city that they have never played before.
“It usually ends up being one of two scenarios,” said Pajon. “Either we end up in a packed house, or we find ourselves with only a dozen guests. We’re just happy to be out and playing on the road.”
“I actually enjoy playing at a smaller venue like this,” admitted Gaffaney. “With the amount of sound we produce, it makes it easier when we’re closer together as opposed to playing on a massive stage”.
Unfortunately with it being a Thursday night, the band did have to cut things short around 11 p.m. In fact, Gaffaney also admitted to me that with the opener running a little long they had to somewhat rush through their setup. It was not at all evident by their playing, and although it was only a six song set, it was a heavy dose of auditory deliciousness that left my eardrums satisfied.
- The Violence of Action
- The Opiate of the Living
- Big Face
Cairo Knife Fight ~ A-Six