Nebula: High Noon Saloon, 9-1-08

Posted 09/14/2008 by jim

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On Labor Day night, September 1st, two heavy rock trios descended upon the High Noon Saloon in Madison, WI. For sure not a night to exude bountiful energy by any means after a long holiday weekend. But Nebula and opener Totimoshi did not disappoint, and the small crowd was treated to some ear-splitting, brazen rock and roll.

For Nebula it represented a yearly passage now going on more than a decade, as ringleader Eddie Glass has recently unveiled a new lineup and continued to soldier on. For Totimoshi, touring behind their brand new, seminal disc Milagroso (“miracle worker” in Spanish), this provided the Oakland-based group a chance to flex its muscles in the Midwest.

Totimoshi is composed of singer/guitarist Tony Aguilar, his girlfriend Meg Castellanos, and drummer Chriss Fugitt. The couple’s Latin roots are a self-professed influence to the sound and overall aura of Totimoshi, providing depth and a range of melody that puts them on the map of heavy music. One impressive aspect right off the bat was Meg’s beige Rickenbacker bass, and boy could she play it! The show started late, as Totimoshi played half a song as a warm-up, making sound adjustments and fine-tuning. This offered a glimpse of what was to come, a heavy deluge of echo-drenched rock. The band finally got going around 10 p.m. and proceeded to lay down some monumental heavy rock, loud and forceful, yet thoughtful. Distorted to the max, changing tempo at every corner, Totimoshi opened with a rocker displaying the “tight but loose” qualities that are immediately apparent in witnessing their performance. By the third song, there was a hint of mystery in the band’s music, but not quite mystical. All in all, the band played a very well-conceived 45-minute set. Definitely capable of headlining in their own right, expect more from this hard-touring trio.

It seems fitting that my first High Noon Saloon experience should be Nebula, over eight years removed from first seeing them at O’Cayz Corral. The present establishment literally rose from the ashes of that landmark, as the Corral burned down New Year’s Eve 2001/02. Over the years, Nebula, deeply rooted in the stoner-rock genre, has transformed into hard, gritty rock ‘n’ roll and two of the three original members have moved on. At first I lamented this fact, as I found out that former drummer Ruben Romano had joined the group the Freeks. Now Nebula is comprised of frontman Eddie Glass on guitar and vocals, Tom Davies on bass and Rob Oswald on the drums.

What ensued was a 90-minute assault on my eardrums and a trip through every corner of Nebula’s somewhat vast catalog. Opening with “Down the Highway” from the very first album (1998's Let It Burn), it was apparent the trio was going to pull out all the stops. It soon became apparent that this was no "Eddie Glass & Nebula" project. Sure, he had assembled a new band and taken them out on the road, but the sound and substance of Nebula remains intact. Glass became a revelation to me this night. Not only his signature guitar-playing on the Gibson SG, his stalwart singing and prolific songwriting, but all the arrangements and command of carrying out a rock show enabled the other two to settle into their parts quite confidently.

The band proceeded with a new song, “The Dagger,” from the Heavy Psych EP, the group's first new material since 2006’s Apollo. While not the best of Nebula’s arsenal, the new material fit in well alongside such monumental songs like “Sun Creature.” Proceeding through a dynamic setlist, Glass tapped rockers “Loose Cannon” from Apollo and “The Way to Venus” from Atomic Ritual. After another new song, the show surged into its most important phase, beginning with the classic “Full Throttle,” a rite of passage and essential to any Nebula show. Then “Sonic Titan,” a strong performance indeed, followed by another jam from the new EP. Launching into the title track from Let it Burn, I was duly impressed with Glass paying homage to that particular masterwork, and the show seemed to reach its zenith.

But there was more! A very tight and melodic “Decadent Garden” seemed to be a perfect segue out of the previous phase and into the end of the set. A certain rarity, and uncharacteristic, I thought I’d never hear this one. Closing with “Out of Your Head,” a song that has been growing ever larger in the Nebula canon, it seemed Glass had accomplished everything he had set out to do. His band had played loud and hard, well oiled after a long tour. The encore featured a “Vulcan Bomber"/"Rocket” medley, a raucous free-for-all that put a stamp on an electric evening of two California trios in fine form. What better way to spend a Monday night?!


Nebula Setlist:

Down the Highway
Devil’s Liquid
The Dagger
Sun Creature
To the Center
Loose Cannon
The Way to Venus
Pulse
Full Throttle
Sonic Titan
The Other Side
Let it Burn
The Decadent Garden
Giant
Out of Your Head
Encore:
Instrumental Jam
Vulcan Bomber>Rocket

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