Show Review

Buffalo Killers, Nick Tolford and Company, Mount Carmel @ Woodlands Tavern

Brian Ahnmark
On the first bitter day of the 2012 winter, visitors to Grandview's Woodlands Tavern were greeted by a roaring pit fire on the outdoor patio. 'Twas a harbinger of the Friday night to come, as three Ohio bands generated sufficient heat to melt the freeze.

Cincinnati's Buffalo Killers opened the evening with a sizzling hour of modern psychedelia. The muscular trio, supporting their fine 2011 release 3 , sounded borne of a past era – yet simultaneously right where they belong (and are so desperately needed). The dueling lead vocals of guitarist Andrew Gabbard and bassist Zachary Gabbard perched menacingly atop drummer Joseph Sebaali's peanut-butter-thick groove on cuts like “Huma Bird” and “Circle Day.” Their 10-song set featured a suitably stomping take on Neil Young's “Homegrown.”

Columbus-based Nick Tolford and Company (emphasis on the “Company,” which included a guitarist, bassist, drummer and four backing singers to accompany Tolford and his keyboard) loaded the stage eight-strong, literally oozing a jubilant glee that spread like a fever in the sweaty venue. The glorious racket of their 10-song performance set off celebratory fireworks, with dancing aplenty. Like a family, each member of the swollen band shone uniquely, trading off the role of ringleader throughout the hour. “Go Browns” honored Tolford's beleaguered franchise of choice; “Until I Walk Away” soaked up every last drop of Tolford's soul and blasted it from the monitors. Their tunes – honest, insistent – were startling in their immediacy.

Blues rock trio Mount Carmel headlined the show, and take it from fresh ears: These Columbus natives have already eclipsed the raw energy of their critically lauded debut album. A hearty batch of new songs crackled with creative progression; bigger riffs, percussive explosions, and tightwire-taut rhythms delivering an avalanche of disorienting hiccups, held breaths and bombast.

Guitarist/vocalist Matthew Reed played with no effects pedals, and the message was clear: We are going to plug in and rip. And rip they did, through 12 tunes new and old. Reed's proficiency on guitar is well documented, but on Saturday he showed off developing chops in arrangement and melodic structure. Brother Patrick Reed matched Matthew's frenetic fretwork on the bass, and drummer Kevin Skubak channeled Mitch Mitchell, skittering about the kit with reckless abandon. Their set felt like a free-fall tumble down a staircase.

By the time this flawless triple bill finally burned out at 1 a.m., it felt good to step back into the frigid January night to catch a breath. All hail Ohio.