SEEING TANTRIC IN SUCH AN INTIMATE SETTING WAS AS “ROCK N’ ROLL’ AS IT GETS
Date: Saturday, April 9, 2022
Venue: RaceHorse Tavern
Location: Thomasville, Pennsylvania, USA
Reviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato
Hearing the term “road dogs” in the context of a nationally touring rock band immediately brings to mind a specific echelon of hard-working musicians. Those artists that, through highs and lows, relentlessly pound the pavement and crisscross the country to play for live audiences night after night through thick and thin. They release top-shelf music with meager support from traditional mainstream media outlets but continue to survive and slug it out via a grassroots approach to reaching their fan base. Tantric are among that list of blue-collar, hard-working bands that do things the good old-fashioned way. They pull into town, plug in and deliver their eccentric blend of hard-hitting rock n’ roll to the diehards and new converts in the waiting. Tantric are currently on tour in support of their excellent new album, The Sum of All Things, released last year via Cleopatra Records.
As most know, Tantric have something of a pedigree within in its ranks. Joining founding frontman and songwriter Hugo Ferreira in this long-running lineup of the band are guitarist Sebastian LaBar and bassist Jaron Gulino, both formerly of Philadelphia’s Mach22. Gulino burns the midnight oil in that he also plays bass in Heavens Edge, provided bass tracks on Dellacoma’s newest album Blood, and is about to launch a new endeavor titled The LIFE Project. Rounding out the line-up is drummer Jon Loree, who plays remarkably with a high degree focus and ferocity behind the kit. When I learned that Tantric would be making a Saturday night stop at the RaceHorse Tavern in Thomasville, PA I was a bit surprised given the intimate size and setting that the venue is known for. That’s not a bad thing. If you’ve never been to the RaceHorse, it’s the kind of place that when you pull into the parking lot you get the feeling that something really cool is about to happen or something bad is about to happen. It’s a no-frills, no gimmick country bar, and what you bring to the table is all that’s on the table. I had no doubt that Tantric would show up and turn this small, roadside dive on its side for what was nearly sold-out show in the middle of nowhere.
Good things come to those that wait. After a slight delay to the start of the show, the first opening act of the night took the stage and…. wow. Making the trip down from the Philadelphia area, Dawns Divide immediately captivated the packed house with their passionate and well-executed blend of feverish stoner rock. Fans of veteran acts such as Fu Manchu and Kyuss could appreciate the thick, sludgy, ’70s sounding dirge that comprised their sound and served as the backdrop for intricate and melodic guitar tones. All of which paved the way for an inspired delivery from frontman Kurt McClellan. Throughout their set, McClellan would take a gulp of air before crouching down at the front and center of the stage to give a fully unbridled vocal performance. All the while, Dawns Divide seem to never lose important sight of playing for the song rather than just showing off their musical talents. They also incorporate certain jam band elements into their sound, and I even could detect a hint of The Doors in their melancholic closing number “Disingenuous” which the band is preparing to officially record next month. From there, it was “game on” for the other bands that followed.
Screaming In Silence
I would estimate that the next band, Screaming In Silence, was a significant draw for the show. I base that on the fact that when they took the stage, a large number of people quickly shifted in toward the stage area to secure a prime vantage point to experience the Baltimore band’s set which was very well received. They brought with them a darker alternative rock sound, with downtuned / jangly guitar passages and a heavy bottom end thanks to the pummeling five string bass played by Jeff Atkinson. Lead vocalist Brian Winkelman has a gruff, sinister vocal style which is ideally suited to the tight playing outfit. Standouts included “Morning Star” (boasting a hypnotic groove), “Waiting”, “Never” and “The Palace is Burning”. Screaming In Silence made it evident that the competition would be stiff among the supporting talent on the night of the show and the band that followed certainly had their work cut out for them.
It’s quite the anomaly to attend a concert and experience not one, not two, but three outstanding new bands that leave you with a sense of optimism about the future of the genre that we know and love. That turned out to be exactly the case as Coal took the stage and made that mere sentiment a reality. From the start of their performance, Coal stormed the gate as emotive singer Dal Dawn took a firm grip on the room while the young band whipped and rattled the crowd into a frenzy with a heavy dual guitar attack, punching rhythm section and insightful lyrics that delve into themes of self-reflection and dysfunction. All of which was palpable, genuine and identifiable in the age we’re living in. Showcasing music from their new EP Circus (released in February 2022), “My Own Worst Enemy”, “Sick Like Me” and “Ugly” were just a few of the gems that have this York, Pennsylvania band poised for stardom. With some fine-tuning and the right push, Coal could be huge. This is a band to watch.
Following Coal’s set, concert attendees stood by in eager anticipation waiting for Tantric to take the stage. As the house lights dimmed and intro music ramped up, you could hear guitarist Sebastian LeBar playing the classic opening riff of Ratt’s “Lay It Down” backstage in a tease of what was about to go down. Alas, there weren’t any Ratt covers thrown in but with their show including nineteen(!) songs, the band hit each era of their catalog with most of their focus aimed at their classic debut album and most recent LP, The Sum of All Things. From the moment that they took the stage, the band member were on fire and gave a gleaming reminder of what separates the openers from the headliner. “Hate Me”, “Astounded”, “Live Your Life”, “Inside Your Head”, “Mourning” and of course “Breakdown” were all pulled from the first album which they took a deep dive into much to the delight of fans. They’re just not making it out of the club without playing those last two songs, which are absolute staples within Tantric’s repertoire.
2018’s highly underrated Mercury Retrograde even got a bit of love, with “Before You Could Crawl” being the lone selection from that effort. Every fan has an opinion on different albums by the bands that they listen to. This is the one that I feel should have been a much bigger hit for the band. “Lie Awake” remains one of my all-time favorite tracks from Tantric and I’m always pushing it on anyone I know with a Spotify account. It has all of the elements to it that I think listeners look for and appreciate within Tantric’s sound and style of songwriting. Likewise, “Letting Go” would go over very well live. Ferreira introduced After We Go track “Just Once” by divulging that the song was written about “doing whatever the fuck you want, just one time” in life. It was one of four songs that they played from that record including the title track, “Hey Now” and “Chasing After”.
Hearing the meaning behind songs kept eyes engaged, and Hugo did so again later on while introducing “Living Here Without You” which was one of four songs that they showcased from The Sum of All Things. He went on to explain that the song was written during the pandemic and is about having everything one needs in life except for that one person that’s missing. “Compound” is another new song that I was really looking forward to hearing live for the first time. It’s a beast of a track on the LP, and the live version absolutely kicked ass as I expected it would. As is the case with the recorded version, Hugo’s spitfire drawl is neck and neck with the heavy riffs and ripping guitar solo found on the Sebastian LaBar penned song.
There are certain frontmen in rock n’ roll that have that fundamental quality to their voice and stage presence that just doesn’t come with practice. It’s an inherent x-factor that one either has or does not. I’m always reminded of that when I hear Hugo Ferreira sing. His gravely baritone is one of the most identifiable trademarks of Tantric’s distinct sound and that’s never been more apparent than it is on The Sum of All Things. I never feel like he has to try too hard or is striving to impress the audience. It just comes across naturally in his performance. Take it or leave it. The rest of the band were wailing away on the background vocals too. In addition to throwing down on their respective instruments, guitarist Sebastian LaBar and bassist Jaron Gulino supplied very clear, spot on harmonies with plenty of attitude that support the band’s sound. Not an easy thing to do while your hands are flying up and down a fretboard. Also from the new album, “Alone” and “Twisting and Turning” made their way into the show too. Honestly, I was a bit surprised that they chose one of these over the single “Walk That Way”, but they just can’t play them all. Tantric closed their show with a cut from the experimental but effective 37 Channels release via the country-tinged, infectious blues rock cut “Mosquita”. This one brought the curtain down on a romping night of killer rock n’ roll.
Seeing a band of Tantric’s stature in an intimate setting such as the RaceHorse Tavern was about as “rock n’ roll” as it gets, and truly something to behold. It’s the down and dirty, sweaty clubs such as this that offer another side of what a band has to offer, warts and all. They’re the lifeblood of working bands that want to get out there and play for their fans. The energy level of the compact roadhouse was static and uplifting, with the audience primed for more and more throughout the show. That’s always contagious as a concertgoer and I’m sure that the band feeds off of that same energy. Even the newer material was countered with widespread approval from the crowd, and I could literally feel the walls of the tiny club vibrating to the enormous decibels being emitted by the band as they played. Despite the late hour, most hung in there until the end and there was nary an inattentive onlooker in the house as they hammered through their set which wrapped up around 1:00 am.
Like most other bands these days, Tantric offer two different VIP experiences for a limit number of attendees at most of their shows. Available at National-acts.com (and depending on the tier of your VIP package), scoring this perk gets you a meet and greet with the band, a photo op, backstage tour, private acoustic set, a t-shirt, a signed poster, and the t-shirt of your choice from their merchandise table. Very limited quantities are available at each show and certain restrictions apply. The acoustic set (available only in the “Breakdown VIP” package) make this add-on very enticing for hardcore fans, and they do sell out of these slots for most show dates. Tantric have recently launched their own Patreon account too, with exclusive content, merchandise and access to behind-the-scenes footage for fans. They’ll be out on the road all summer long and joining Smile Empty Soul and Silvertung on a co-headlining tour that has their August jam packed. Catch them when they’re in your town!