Crash Kings were supposed to play a Seattle show back in September but they had to cancel, disappointing fans who had waited three years for them to return to the 206. The extra wait proved worthwhile as the Los Angeles power trio laid waste to the Crocodile with a raucous set to close out the holiday weekend.
In some respects rescheduling to a sleepy Sunday night was kind of a bum deal for the band but plenty of people showed up regardless and the Crash Kings did their best to rock away any remaining tryptophan hangover.
The band — brothers Antonio and Michael Beliveau and drummer Tommy Roslak — used the screaming “Dressed To The 9′s” from this year’s “Dark of the Daylight” to announce themselves and immediately got the crowd moving. Lead singer Tony looked like a shaggy version of Nick Miller from Fox’s “New Girl,” sounded like a cross between Adam Levine and Brian Johnson and exuded the swagger of “Iron Man” Tony Stark. There are far worse fates.
His gear is a bit harder to describe. Part of the charm of Crash Kings is that they have a huge sound that could easily fill an arena but there isn’t a guitar in sight. Instead Antonio plays an upright piano with a Hohner D6 electric clavinet sitting on top and a vintage (and somewhat finicky) keyboard. A wah-wah bar installed on the clavinet lets him bend notes like a guitar player, while his brother’s fuzzed-out bass fills in the gaps.
It’s one of those ingenious things that shouldn’t work so well, but it does. But as good as the instrument setup sounded, it was Antonio’s laser-guided helium vocals that elevated the music. Slower songs like “My Love” from the band’s 2009 self-titled debut showcased his singing ability while crunchy bass and a soaring clavinet solo in the middle of “Six Foot Tall” gave the crowd another excuse to burn some Thanksgiving calories on the dance floor.
Crash Kings proved they have an ear for hooks with the solid mid-tempo rocker “Lonely War,” but were wise to let the assertive groove of “14 Arms” and the grit and menace of “Hot Fire” close the main set out before returning to delight the crowd with old favorites “Come Away” and “Saving Grace.”
King Washington and Hands of the Hills opened things up and proved to be two sides of the same classic-rock coin. King Washington, from L.A., used some smart harmonies and catchy songs to immediately win over the crowd.
Hands of the Hills had a slightly rougher set. In particular, the grating tone both guitars elicited was tough to stomach, but when the band got rolling their music had an infectious, bluesy groove that was hard to ignore.
Like more and more bands have done recently, Crash Kings has wandered from the seeming comfort of a major label (in their case, Universal Motown) and now consider themselves “fully independent” after using Kickstarter to release “Dark of the Daylight.” If their electric, genre-defying set Sunday is any indication, they are a band that’s worth supporting.
It won’t be another three years until Crash Kings returns to Seattle, they promised. No matter how long it ends up being, the wait will surely be worth it.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails