Weak Signal, Evolfo and Howlin’ Rain at The Knitting Factory, 6/28/22

(All photos by @RoseGardens – thank you, Rose!)

The night of June 28th was an evening of rock and roll communion. A balm for the wounded soul. It will, thankfully, not be easy to forget. 

Weak Signal, Evolfo and Howlin’ Rain—three entirely different bands with three entirely distinct sounds took the stage at the soon-to-be shut down Brooklyn location of The Knitting Factory that night. Yet they all reached some sort of common ground. In their own specific ways, they invoked the same spirit of catharsis that I believe all of us needed that day.

Weak Signal

Weak Signal kicked the evening off with a suitably cool and abrasive note. Despite being reduced to just a duo of guitar and bass (and occasionally violin!) for this show, Weak Signal’s sound was loud enough to knock the wind out of you. Mike Bones sang and ripped solo after fierce solo with the nonchalant swagger of Lou Reed. Meanwhile, Sasha Vine used her bass to shape killer grooves out of thick clouds of twisted distortion. Her droning violin work added an overdriven and unexpected gothic serenity to the evening. John Cale would have been very pleased.

They left the room sweltering like a late-July drought, and it felt that, at least inside the Knitting Factory, summer has indeed truly begun.

Then came Brooklyn’s own Evolfo, a seven-piece psychedelic extravaganza. This band is fun. One minute, they could be coasting through a little acid pop sunshine, and be rockin’ harder than Black Sabbath on a coke binge the next. From there, they might spiral off into a psych-soul hybrid direction with blaring brass and soaring vocals, like when they transformed Captain Beefheart’s classic “Zig Zag Wanderer” into a Stax soul/psilocybin surf mega-mutant. 

Evolfo

The showmanship of this giant group was simply off the wall. Wherever you looked on stage, there were a million little things happening all at once. Thousands of knobs on a thousand different pedals were being twisted and turned, while processed saxophones and keyboards blared and trembled. Meanwhile, Matthew Gibbs, the lead singer and guitar player, continuously bounded into the air, and when he’d return to earth, he would flip his instrument around and grind its head into the stage floor.

In fact, Gibbs’ bombastic stage antics were just as expressive and wild as the band’s sound. As he played, he would kick and leap in grand explosive motions that were like if Chuck Berry and Pete Townshend’s classic moves were animated by Tex Avery. There probably wasn’t a single moment during that performance where he stood completely still. This band is a party. Don’t miss out on them.

Howlin’ Rain closed the night just as the energy from the previous set started to settle and fade away, and they resuscitated it with full force.

Howlin’ Rain

It was as if the reality of the Supreme Court’s recent string of terrors started to creep back into the audience’s minds. Between acts, the atmosphere thickened with a lethargic and heavy fog. Yet, once Howlin’ Rain took the stage, all worries were left behind again, as we were all jettisoned to a place of high times and cosmic exultation.

Now, the court’s hateful and misguided decisions were disparagingly mentioned by the bands a few times, and the audience gave perhaps their loudest and longest cheers of the night in response. The message was clear: 

Fuck the Supreme Court. 

Fuck the extremists. 

We are here to boogie together and have a good time from the depths of our souls to the ends of our fingertips. They banned a great deal of important things this week, but they cannot ban our joy. Our community. The feeling that no matter what happens, we’re here for each other. Obviously, Clarence Thomas has never rocked out at a Howlin’ Rain show.

This band was ready to stop your doom scrolling and make your feet move instead. Ethan Millar, the Panama hat-adorned lead singer and guitarist of the band was our captain for this portion of the evening. He faithfully sailed us straight into a sea solid grooves and sheer euphoria.

Howlin’ Rain ripped the place to the ground with their Moby Grape-like psych-blues rock, which was played often with the intensity and energy of metal. They played hard and didn’t want to stop. Every time the band was would begin to slow a jam down to a climax, somebody would switch to a different effect pedal, and the group would instead take off into a totally different direction and rock out even harder. Their stamina was something to behold. They packed in as many songs as they could that night, and they played the fuck out of them. It goes without saying, but Howlin’ Rain completely incinerated The Knitting Factory.

The one prevailing sense that seemed to connect each of these three unique sets was a defiant sense of fun and care. The audience was small, but mostly made up of friends and acquaintances. You could see estranged local heads catching up with other local heads, while there were enough friends and admirers from NYC’s music scene in attendance that the world’s biggest free improv jam could have broken out at any minute. It truly felt like the room was one big family. 

It was impossible to shake the feeling that the bands took to the stage to specifically lift our spirits, the community’s spirits, during this absurdly dark and difficult time. From Weak Signal’s deafening feedback attacks to Evolfo’s party atmosphere and Howlin’ Rain’s fried out boogies, every group brought a sense of cathartic release and distraction. They moved our souls just as much as they moved our feet.

Cheer was being spread, and it appeared to beam back and forth from the stage to the audience, and from audience back to the musicians again. Based on the strength of their performances, every band seemed to be having just as much fun as we were. 

Summer nights in New York used to always feel like this, but between the pandemic and frequent societal upheavals, it’s been less and less frequent these days. This felt like going back to summer camp after being away for a year, or returning to your family’s annual 4th of July parties. There was a familiarity and a comfort at this show that I haven’t seen in too many others lately. It reminds you that especially now, we need to rely upon and support our own little communities to get through these tough times. It’s the only way we can survive.

Not bad for a Tuesday night, right?

-KH

Please support Weak Signal, Evolfo and Howlin’ Rain by picking up their music from Bandcamp and catching their shows if they come near your town. Massive thanks again to Rose for the great polaroids of this show. Please check out more of her great work on Instagram @rosegardens. Lastly, be sure to visit The Knitting Factory before it closes its doors for good.


If you like what you’re reading, please help keep RCU thriving. You can show your support by becoming a patron at our Patreon account or you can make a donation to our PayPal account below.

As always, please also consider donating to any of these sites to help fight racial injustice.

Published by Record Crates United

Keith Hadad, the creator and manager of RCU, has been a contributing writer to Elmore Magazine and Thewaster.com and maintains a regular column, “Keith Hadad’s Choice,” in Blicker magazine. His writing has also appeared in the Smithsonian Folkways' Guest Blog and the Optical Sounds Fanzine. Also, please check out the blog's super-active Instagram account, @recordcratesunited for daily blurb-styled music reviews.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: