ALBANY, Calif. — Two-thirds of the way through Big Business‘ set on Friday, Jared Warren, the band’s bassist and singer, thanked the crowd for coming out to the triple bill of “great bands and great pals.” The show at The Ivy Room paired the L.A. duo with its Bay Area friends and musicians associated with El Studio in San Francisco.
The sold-out crowd packed the small venue. The patch-to-jacket and hair-per-square-foot ratios were off the charts, as leather and denim sleeves jockeyed for position in front of the small stage. Onstage, Warren looped his vocals as he sang “He just wanted me dead,” before the band launched into the churning bombast of “Abdominal Snowman,” the first song on its 2019 album, The Beast You Are.
The packed floor became a turbulent sea of raised fists and banging heads as the duo unfurled a dense wall of sound. While bass and drums might be considered just the rhythm section of many bands, Warren, formerly of Karp, and drummer Coady Willis, formerly of The Murder City Devils, filled the entire audio spectrum with a thick, sludgy stew, punctuated by pugilistic percussion and Warren’s guttural roaring.
The pairing of the oversized Warren and the diminutive Willis had a distinct big dog/little dog vibe. But the music was immense. The crowd responded to Willis’ complicated cymbal work at the beginning of “Blacker Holes,” from the band’s 2016 album, Command the Weather. Soon, Warren joined in with a growling bass as Big Business created a heavy groove reminiscent of The Melvins, whom the duo joined for their 2008 album, Nude With Boots. Warren’s vocals evoked the gravely howl of Melvins’ vocalist, King Buzzo.
Most of the set was from Big Business’ latest album, including “Heal the Weak” and “Bright Grey.” Between songs, Warren coaxed droning feedback from his bass. Often, the songs would begin with Warren singing vaguely Middle-Eastern-sounding melodies over the drone before making eye contact with Willis and suddenly unleashing a barrage of heavy riffing.
This dynamic formula proved especially compelling on “The Moor You Know,” from The Beast You Are. It alternated between a haunted, scary-movie-soundtrack drone and a slow, grinding groove so huge it seemed to exert its own gravity. Warren’s bass sound was augmented by a large of collection of effect pedals that he used to weave in synthesizer sounds as well as echos and loops.
The crowd threw devil horns, banged heads and swayed to Big Business’ final song, “Horses,” from Command Your Weather. The music’s visceral heft was both brutal and beautiful, exploding over the crowd in their cathartic revelry.
The night’s triple bill began with a solo set from Your Leader, the latest project of Jake Palladino (formerly of the Bay Area group Pins of Light). Palladino, dressed in white and helmeted with a thick mane of long, curly hair, stood at a pair of synthesizers and twisted knobs to create a lo-fi Kraftwerk vibe.
Palladino started with a very basic drum machine groove and then layered bleeps and bloops on top to create an increasingly dense pastiche. Midway through the first extended jam, Palladino looked up from his array of equipment and sipped his beer before waving to the crowd with a giant smile on his face. During his third extended jam, Palladino laid down a sonic bed of throbbing bass before picking up an electric guitar and ripping a fuzzed-out solo over the gooey rhythm.
The evening’s second band, San Francisco’s Terry Gross, took the stage to deliver a pulverizing set full of chugging power chords and frantic rave-ups. The band featured Trans Am’s Phil Manley on guitar, Film School’s Donny Newenhouse on bass and Triclops! drummer Phil Becker.
The members all work at El Studio, where Becker engineered, mixed and produced Big Business’ latest album. The trio’s sound managed to be both precise and exuberant as it settled into monstrous grooves built from Manley’s thick, palm-muted guitar, Newenhouse’s throbbing bass lines and Becker’s exacting rhythms. The extended jams conjured futuristic computer sounds and heavy guitars. Imagine Black Sabbath composing a soundtrack for the 1976 sci-fi classic Logan’s Run.