PicturebooksThe Boston Arms Music Room in London plays host to an evening of classic, psychedelic rock inspired bands. Everything that birthed our genre is on display tonight. What’s most impressive is the manner in which it is done. Musicianship, freshness and the primal urge to heavy it all up. Headline band The Picturebooks had some quality acts to whet the appetite.

Elephant Tree announce themselves in true thundering fashion with massive blues tinged riffs that contain enough heaviness to squash you like, well – an elephant. This is pure classic psychedelia – feedback, wail and enough bass to fulfil your five a day. This is stuff from when dinosaurs ruled the earth, and I mean this in a good way – it’s honest, big and very weighty. Mind bending sounds swirl with nods to classic ’60’s originators: some Hendrix freak; Cream grooves and even a hint of the Edgar Broughton Band through to Kyuss-like stoner rock wails all held together with mighty Black Sabbath riffage. Elephant Tree are a heady mix that works so well and is delivered at bowel shaking volume. This is atmospheric, fresh and so easy to get into. Some minor technical difficulties do nothing to dampen the vibe created by this band. Bass man Pete Holland is ex-Stubb and there’s a bit of a family feel going on ahead of his old band’s set. For fans of all the names mentioned above, do yourself a favour and check out Elephant Tree.

Purple Haze blares over the p.a. before Stubb get down to business. The scorching, heavy blues rock intro ensuring those in attendance that a recent line-up change has not altered their course one bit. Lovely vocals and wailing Strat action are there in abundance. Then the riffs – rich and enveloping. It’s just smoking! Whilst retaining their raw edge they also seem to have found a tightness that notes a progression in their journey. There’s the feeling that those big names who gave this world the music that laid our foundations now have a flame being kept in very safe hands. The volume just caused a pint to slide off the ledge next to me – awesome!

There’s eastern tinges that segue into lovely rich blues based hard rock and always the element of weighty expectation – you know the big stuff is coming. It’s all done with enough groove to make you move.  A set that finishes all too quickly, Stubb have the feel of a band that can and will be moving forward very quickly. With most tracks coming from their latest cut “Cry Of The Ocean”, there’s a live repertoire building that will please many an audience.

I’ll profess to knowing nothing of The Picturebooks. What stood out was a massive drum kit right up front as two gents strolled onto the stage. My curiosity was piqued. Then they played. Mournful, soulful, downright dirty and classically heavy. From the cross roads of hell this is a thumping and pummelling set. They have Led Zeppelin balls but it’s stripped back, raw and very heavy. Pure southern blues based passion bleeds through with the kind of hurt that only bluesmen like Junior Kimbrough imbibe. To deliver this kind of heavy as a two piece is extraordinary.

Then they let fly. Guitarist Claus Grabke’s Jimi Hendrix style playing with his teeth leads into a full on heavy blues funk that is taking this style to the extreme in a very good way. John Bonham inspired drumming from Philipp Mirtschink drives the two piece like a semitrailer through your face. Finishing with “Your Kisses Burn Like Fire”, a track with the crushing weight of Zep’s “Dazed And Confused”, it’s all bleeding, doleful and ominous. The delivery is key – nothing is held back. I will be back for more.

This evening served to take you back to the most basic roots of what has shaped hard rock and heavy metal. Raw, distorted, powerful, soulful – real. Everyone needs a night like this.

(Johnny Zed)