December 8, 2019

The Parish, Huddersfield 22 November 2019

Photos: Ian Jenkinson

When we have the sad situation that music venues up and down the land are closing their doors, it is encouraging to see that The Parish in the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield is going from strength to strength. A good old fashioned rock pub – seemingly a rarity now –  with a  modestly sized concert venue to the side that was once a disused function room and The Parish  has attracted not only all walks of rock life but bands from across the musical spectrum. The Parish is thriving and over the last 10 years has showcased more than 1000 gigs by 1500 bands.

Saying all of that, it seems a curious venue for Canada’s Monster Truck to play seeing as the band have been packing out larger venues on recent tours but a breeze down the tour schedule sees none of the usual suspect places and it would appear that the ‘Truck are aiming to worm their way into the corners of the country and bring their brand of classic/southern hard rock to as many people as they can no matter where they are. And the band were rewarded. Totally sold out, the tiny Parish was packed to the rafters and with no barrier to speak of even anyone officially here to take photos was pretty much in the crowd looking for that angle to capture a decent shot.

Monster Truck are a breath of fresh air, there is something about them and they deliver whether it is in front of an arena or a festival crowd, the Canadians just have the knack to kick ass no matter what they do but the ‘sardine tin’ experience has to top it for unbridled joy of being in an audience. It’s not even ‘service with a smile’, more a wide grin, “dig in deep boys and girls, we’re here to have fun!”.

The firing pistol is Rainbow’s Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll blowing through the PA which has the audience singing along as Monster Truck work their way through the front of the crowd to jump on the stage before kicking proceedings off proper with Why Are You Not Rocking? The awesome southern drawl and that monolithic riff which has a sea of heads a bobbin’; bassist/vocalist Jon Harvey grabs on to the beam above his head and flails that hair in unison with everyone else. Guitarist Jeremy Widerman is equally animated regularly making his way to front of the stage and practically in the crowd, firing off his licks and banging his head like there really is no tomorrow.  By comparison, keyboardist Brandon Bliss is all heads down and it is hard work seeing drummer Steve Kiely but from a sound perspective his skin work is totally solid. Their latest album True Rockers was one of the best albums of 2018 and it may only be just over a year old but it is four songs in before a track from it in Devil Don’t Care is unleashed before a U-turn into the back catalogue for a storming We The People.  The Parish is treated to some totally new material and Harvey announces it with that trademark cheeky grin that the new songs are being road tested and Country Livin’ harks back to older material before heading to more recent times with the title track from the latest album. As much as the spoken word mid-section – a rock call to arms provided by the true rocker himself Dee Snider- was so familiar and therefore missed, it was a joy to see what was an extended break with Widerman stomping the stage and Harvey stepping back from the mic to go into full rock mode, legs wide, bass slung low, swaying his head from side to side. Two new songs back to back in Fuzz Mountain and Love and Die are introduced more as a request with the hard blues workout of Fuzz Mountain being a particular highlight. The main set ends with the slow burning beauty of Sweet Mountain River. Considering the venue, jumping off the stage to go out the side entrance, Monster Truck still go through the live band cliché of going to the trouble before coming back for an encore of The Enforcer and the cherry on the ‘Truck’s cake is an absolute riotous The Lion at which guitarist Widerman steps off of the stage to play the majority of the song stood in crowd and it was worth having noses pushed to the wall to experience the man really bring his art to the people.

True Rockers did feel like a departure and a slight change in direction, still Monster Truck but moving away from their roots to try something new and adding a sprinkle of commercialism to their sound. As much as it worked and the album was one of the most infectious albums of the year, from the one airing of the new material, they are heading back to where they came from. In the end, the set list only featured three from the new album, there were more from their debut Sittin’ Heavy and its follow up Furiosity. This should not be perceived as not having faith in their most recent material but Monster Truck just strike out as a band that do what they like and know what their fans like too and the airing of the brand new songs did feel strangely respectful like three fan favourites were not going to get played… “is that alright?”

Monster Truck are just one of the bands that will make ground no matter what the musical environment; the way that the quartet can mix the sounds of blues, southern and hard rock, make it heavy as hell and hummable at the same time. To see this immensely hard working band at work is sheer joy and there can be no doubt that they have a bright future with a feeling that seeing them in this sort of venue is a time limited prospect. A superb show that left everyone totally satisfied.

Don’t fuck with the ‘Truck? It is unlikely that anyone would dare.