The polar vortex left most of Columbus in sub-zero temperatures for an entire week and blanketed us in snow. With the new parking rules for the Short North area taking effect, I was wondering how much of a turnout would be at The Shrunken Head on Groundhogs Day. I was pleasantly surprised upon entering the venue to find that it was already three-quarters full in anticipation of the show.
There was a tinge of expectation in the air, for sure. All three of the Columbus acts on the bill were populated by people who had known each other from previous efforts over the past decade and a half, almost like a reunion of sorts. As a matter of fact, all three of the bands had a member from one of my favorite mid-2000s Columbus rock acts, Kobra Khai. I tried to keep my expectations low, but for a 9 p.m. show on a snowy night, it was packed.
The night opened with a tremendous debut set from Pauly Cunningham’s newest effort, Capricornus. They put on a bright and heavy melodic set before giving way to Dayton’s Bribing Senators, who had the crowd on their feet and clapping for their 80s-infused pop-punk stylings. Also playing that night was Daymare, who crowded the stage and pounded out their usual crushing set. I’m sure that the temperature was set to a moderate level, but with the venue being entirely full by 1030 p.m., it was hot enough inside to immediately melt any snow tracked in.
The band we were there for was the wondrously named Weedhaven Laughing Academy. Singer and bassist Wolfgang Parker took the stage wearing a college sweater similar to John Belushi’s “Animal House” outfit, except with a giant “W” emblazoned on his chest. Joining him to his left and right were guitarists Alan Mauger and Anthony Yates (respectively), while drummer Matt Mees rounded out the quartet.
Parker said after the show that he felt the band was a little rusty, but you wouldn’t have known it on Crooked, their first number. Mauger opened with a climbing riff, while Parker’s voice echoed across the room. Yates and Mauger both had their distortion on high by the end of the song, as the latter erupted into a screaming solo.
The band lightened things up on The Fight Song, a driving number with more of a punk feel to it. Mees was pummeling his kit with precise aim, and this time it was Yates who finished the song off with a scorching solo. Apparently it was too hot for even himself, as he had to switch guitars after it finished.
“I dressed appropriately for this goddamn steam bath!” announced Parker as he knelt down to grab a drink of water. The band proceeded into their newest single Close The Book, which featured a fantastic four-part harmony with each of the members singing “away, away, it’s over!” It was one of those songs where you could tell it was meticulously crafted, and it had the feel of a radio-friendly single that could be featured anywhere from CD102.5 to 99.7 The Blitz.
Parker flashed his comedic chops by announcing “none of you are ever going to remember our name!”, and joked about his mustache while his axe-men worked on their tuning. He explained that the next song, We Belong, would be their next released single on Bandcamp. While it may not have been Pat Benetar, Parker went out of his way to hit the higher notes, while Yates again pushed his guitars strings to their limits.
2s & 5s & 3s was up next, and it again had Parker hitting different notes and throwing his voice all around. This was a song that felt much more like a Green Day tribute than anything else, and again showcased Mees’ technical ability behind the kit. The man must have a metronome installed somewhere in the back of his head. I asked Parker about the name of the song and he referenced his need for nonsensical writing. “It really doesn’t mean anything in the end,” he added.
The melodious side of the band returned again with Black Mass, a song that would fit perfectly into any Halloween party. Mauger’s chord progression drove the song onward like a stake to your heart, and the crowd began to push me forward as he instigated another spine-tingling solo towards the end. It just wouldn’t have been a great Weedhaven song without another great solo.
A few of the people around me started chanting “Hot licks!” as the band concluded their set with their “slow-dance number” Born To Die Here. All three of the gentlemen holding guitars stood together and laid down groove-laced riffs, and it was fitting that the band got the loudest ovation of the night.
It was absolutely thrilling for me to turn around and see nothing but clapping hands and cheering patrons all over the space. It was pushing midnight and the venue was still more than half full, a testament to the power of great music. As much as the evening seemed like a nostalgic reunion tour, I felt like it was more of a bright crystal ball, showing that the future of rock music in Columbus is in safe and capable hands.
- Fight Song
- Close The Book
- We Belong
- 2s & 5s & 3s
- Black Mass
- Born To Die Here
Credit all images: Susan Muller / MIMC