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Sound Stage [Front Row Photos]

Feb 2, 2012
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Radio Moscow - DG’s Taphouse Jan. 7

By Chad Taylor

Click here to view a home video of the performance and melee that followed.

Nobody expects their concerts to end in blood. I’m not talking about orchestrated, Gene Simmons, bullshit blood here. Rather, the genuine article: wounds born out of hate, or anger or (at very least) completely unnecessary amounts of alcohol.

Perhaps blood is so captivating because — despite all the drugs and partying and insane egos — it’s rare that anything genuinely conflagrate takes place. The Gallagher boys of Oasis don’t seem to like each other much, but that usually results in drunken yelling and petulant press statements. Jack White kicked the shit out of the lead singer of the Von Bondies a few years back, which took everyone who’s ever seen Jack White by surprise. The Vines like to brawl amongst themselves, but they’re Australian, so that’s just how they say hello.

But on Saturday, Jan. 7 at DG’s Taphouse in Ames, 100 or so people were witness to a Radio Moscow set that ended with a spectacular, self-destructive and sanguine exclamation point.

After a phenomenal opening set by Des Moines’ rockers Bright Giant, Griggs and company took the stage and preceded to set the air alight with tracks from their newest album, “The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz.” Not much of a physical showman, Griggs is mostly content to stand in front of his mic and let overpowering ability steal the show. Watching Griggs play guitar is as close to watching art in motion as any of us will get since Jimi died. Seeing his hands work over the neck of his Stratocaster with blinding dexterity, listening to this wall of sound explode outward, and to see it all come from someone who doesn’t seem to be trying at all is a marvel to behold.

But this singular talent may also be the band’s undoing. Radio Moscow has always been a one-man show masquerading as a power trio. Griggs writes the music, produces the albums and plays the in-studio drum tracks. He’s the reason people pay their money and walk in the door, and the other two guys have always been fungible parts.

Concluding this night’s show, Griggs grabbed the mic and announced, “This is the last song with this lineup, ever. So, fucking rock out.” Whether this decision had been made before the show or right that minute, by the band or by The Band (Griggs), is anybody’s guess. What is not a matter of debate is that a stoner rock show featured an ending that was pure punk.

As drummer Cory Berry slammed out the last beats of the number, Griggs hoisted his Strat over his head. It’s a common thing for Griggs to toss his guitar after a show, but on this night, for reasons known only to him, Griggs turned upstage and threw it directly at Berry’s drum kit, where it landed with an audible clatter, striking Berry in the chest. Berry jumped up and slung the axe back at Griggs, striking him in the head and opening a gash across the front man’s forehead. People rushed on stage to separate the two, while bassist Zach Anderson walked off stage left.

Anderson and Berry quit the band that night. Griggs was taken to the hospital and walked out with 14 stitches in a crooked line up his forehead. Undaunted and further proving that he IS Radio Moscow, by the very next night Griggs had recruited San Diego bassist Billy Ellsworth and Lonnie Blanton, a drummer from Salt Lake City. The new lineup played their first show in Chicago on Jan. 9, and Griggs was pleased with the results.

Speaking to Griggs a week before the Ames show, he said “I just want to play what I like. I don’t think too much about how anyone else is going to like it; I just want to get up there and rock out.”

Well shine on, you crazy diamond. Nobody who was in the Taphouse on Saturday will say you’re not rock.


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