I was hard-pressed to find an open space to park, as the lot behind Victory’s Live on South High Street was seemingly overflowing with vehicles. With the sun still shining above the Columbus skyline, this was an unexpected dilemma.

The reason for the lack of parking was that there were many music fans that had shown up at the venue to see which band would advance out of the third round of “The Battle for Inkcarceration” and move on to the finals on June 29. The bands are competing for a Saturday slot at the Inkcarceration music and tattoo festival held in Mansfield, OH, July 13-15.

Josh Wood lays down the emotion…

After finally wedging my car into a space that it probably shouldn’t have been in, I made my way across the asphalt expanse and into the venue. Although it wasn’t wall-to-wall bodies, there was a decent-sized crowd milling about in front of the stage as they waited for the first of the five bands slated to perform this evening to begin their set.

I found an empty corner of the bar, ordered a beer and performed my traditional routine of people-watching before the music began. Each of the bands had their hardcore fans in attendance, but there were also quite a few patrons that were there to find out what it was all about.

Black Coffee, Pay The Toll, BlackWater and Weed Demon had all made it to the third round, with hopes of moving on to the finals. While each of these bands has their own sound and played to the crowd, there was one reason that I found myself sitting in the dimly-lit corner of the bar.

Having heard nuanced differences in the way they approached playing hard rock, I was intrigued to witness what kind of sound GROOT would bring in a live setting.

After a quick changeover, Josh Wood (vocals), Lespaul Moore (guitar), Jarrod Ware (guitar), Jack Smith (bass) and Dustin Bones (drums) wasted no time before launching into their hard, heavy and dirge-like intro. This transitioned seamlessly into Slither, with the pace increasing to match Wood’s staccato vocal delivery. Almost effortlessly, they changed the pacing of the song, with the crowd yelling their enthusiastic approval.

Jarrod Ware shredding…

The midtempo chugging riffs announced the beginning of Slave Ride, as the tune carried definite shades of Orange Goblin. The double-kick pedals on Bones’ drum pummeled everyone’s torso, as the crowd moved closer to the stage, roaring with pleasure.

After a very tight ending to the previous number, the crowd began to loudly chant “Groot! Groot! Groot!” As the slightest smile crossed Moore’s face, the band unloaded the heavy rock vibe of Wings of the Wicked on the appreciative audience. As the tempo slowed and became more ominous, Wood cajoled the crowd with “Let me hear ‘ya, Victory’s Live!” Almost immediately, the pace increased in its intensity, led by the dual-axe attack of Moore and Ware.

The slower, almost bluesy Soul to You washed over the raucous crowd, spreading just a bit of oil on the aural waters. With the audience singing along, Wood’s vocals conveyed painful emotion without resorting to screaming, striking just the right tone as he led the masses to their joyful doom.

Jack Smith drops thumping bombs on an expectant crowd…

The opening strains of Nothing Man sent the crowd into a frenzy of giddiness. They were a happy bunch, and I knew the reason was due to the authentic emotion and power emanating from the band. Wood’s vocals sounded dark and evil, with the slower bridge portion of the tune perfectly bookended by the uptempo groove of the beginning and end. This was easily their best song of their evening.

As the song reached its conclusion, the crowd once again began to chant “Groot! Groot! Groot!” as loudly as they could.

To close out their set, they chose to cover Down’s Losing All, with the band rocking along serenely until Moore lost his guitar sound. The band didn’t miss a beat, continuing with the number as Moore quickly changed guitars, rejoining the rest of the band to finish the song with style.

Dustin Bones banging his kit…

As the band finished, the adulation from the crowd’s upraised arms and wild yelling washed over the five men on stage, bringing smiles to their faces. As they began their changeover for the next band, the crowd began doing the “Groot!” chant again.

The way the band handled the technical difficulty with aplomb was a lesson that younger, up-and-coming bands could learn from. Too many will stop the song to attempt to diagnose the issue, all the while the crowd could potentially lose interest.

While their small repertoire of released recorded material is good, GROOT is a band that really needs to be experienced in a “live” setting. In the opinion of this author, they would be well-served by making their debut full-length album a “live” album, ala Jane’s Addiction. Only “live” will the power and intensity combine to form magic.

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Setlist

  1. Intro / Slither
  2. Slave Ride
  3. Wings of the Wicked
  4. Soul to You
  5. Nothing Man
  6. Losing All (Down cover)

GROOT – Nothing Man