When Leah Wellbaum, the frontwoman for Slothrust, took the stage on April 10th, she remarked that it was her third time playing in Asbury Park and all three times were at Asbury Lanes. She said she wasn’t sure why they booked her a second time, because the first show only had 12 people in the audience. Well, it seems like the word is spreading, because Slothrust drew a very respectable and devoted crowd for a cold and rainy Sunday night.
Much like their name (pronounced Sloth Rust, not Slo Thrust), their music is hard to describe in one sentence. There are elements of brash punk, delicate singer-songwriter, thrashing rock, and dark narrative poetry; and many songs have clashing tempo changes, but somehow all those elements combine into something cohesive and awesome. The one thing that seems clear is that almost everything about the band comes directly out of Wellbaum’s head as if it is a sonic representation of her very being.
Although Will Gorin (drums) and Brooks Allison (bass) are very talented as evidenced by the great punk version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” they played as a duet mid-set, it is impossible to see the band and not have Wellbaum’s vocal, songwriting and guitar brilliance grab the spotlight. Even a concertgoer who sees hundreds of shows a year would recognize Wellbaum’s unique creativity and stage presence. One wouldn’t go so far as to say she is completely comfortable on stage, but it is abundantly clear that she is completely and authentically herself at all times. She strikes poses and moves on the stage in a way that is distinctive, yet completely natural. But once she and the band start shredding, the energy is unstoppable.
At one point in the show she shared the thought, “you know how everyone has objects that draw them completely in, well the bowling ball is one of those objects for me.” She then paid homage to the giant piece of artwork at Asbury Lanes that is an American flag made out of painted bowling balls and then said something like, “I’m sure half of you are watching the show and the other half are still mesmerized by that piece of art because whoever created that, it was a large undertaking.” Making art isn’t unfamiliar to Wellbaum as she was selling several prints of original artwork that she created.
The band ran through a 17-song, 90-minute set that had a nice balance of songs from their new release, Parallel Timeline (“Cranium”, “Once More For The Ocean”, “Courtesy”, “The Next Curse”, “A Giant Swallow”, “Waiting”, and “King Arthur’s Seat”), with some of their older hits (“Surf Goth”, “Some Kind of Cowgirl”, “Planetarium”, “Peach”, “Horseshoe Crab”, “Crockpot”, “Magnets Pt 2”, and “7:30 am”).
Throughout the set, Wellbaum connected with and showed compassion for the other people in the venue. Several times during the show she called out the opening band, Calva Louise, by saying “how fortunate we were all to experience their awesomeness.” She also ensured that the limited mosh pit didn’t get too out of hand by telling people not to push people who don’t want to get pushed and told the moshers, “I am watching you” which worked perfectly to ensure that everyone enjoyed the show equally and was respectful of each other. At one point she noticed the photo pit and stepped into her own head by remarking, “wow, they sent five photographers for this gig”.
The band was extremely tight and came in perfectly in unison on riffs on songs with seemingly impossible tempo changes (give “CrockPot” a listen and see if you can time the guitar and drum riffs), and after ten years of seeing them live and listening to their songs, I can’t clearly describe what kind of music they play, but I can say with certainty that they are a band that everyone should see live.
Calva Louise has been opening the show for the entire tour. They are a three-piece band out of Manchester, England, although none of them are from the UK. Jess Allanic (lead guitar and vocals) is from Venezuela, Alizon Taho (bass) is from France, and Ben Parker (drums) is from New Zealand. Allanic is every bit the frontwoman of the band as she roams around the stage with her guitar and rushes back to the mic stand to deliver intense vocals and audacious rock ‘n roll screams. She was extremely eloquent about how opening for Slothrust and touring the U.S. is a big step toward their rock dreams. At their core, the band seems to be a hard/punk rock band but has a bunch of 80’s sounding synth programming thrown in. All the songs they played were from their album Euphoric, and for fans of new and innovative rock, they are certainly a band to keep an eye on.