The Bastard Suns Kick Off Their Summer Tour
The alley at Underground Atlanta was bustling on July 6th as Atlanta’s own Masquerade hosted a slew of acts to round out the week of firework madness. People trickled in, filling the alley with clouds of smoke and casual banter. Despite the presence of additional security measures, the chill vibe that has persistently pervaded the Masquerade could not be crushed. The venue will always have its place in Atlanta as a haven for both performers and patrons to let loose.
Although the Masquerade's other stages were also hosting top notch local talent that evening, I had come out for what was happening in Hell - the first show of The Bastard Suns' summer tour.
Kicking things off were The Muckers who got the crowd riled up with a unique combination of folk and punk sounds that set fire to one’s feet. They prove that fiddles and accordions can rock out just as hard as guitars. These guys always bring their A-game every time they perform, making any show they are a part of highly entertaining and well worth the price of admission. Plowing their way through a slew of original pieces as well as a few covers - including "What's Left of the Flag" by Flogging Molly - the Muckers cranked up the energy, and primed the crowd for an exciting night.
Next came the illustrious Beauregard and the Downright, a reggae/ska four-piece whose dynamic rhythms, slick saxophone solos, and smooth guitar playing give the band's sound a soulful depth that is hard to match. The group's technical skill and cohesive ensemble playing really shined, as they pulled off flawless unison stops and solo trade-offs. It was my first time hearing them, and I’m definitely stoked to see these guys again.
For the evening’s main course, the one and only Bastard Suns took to the stage one by one, with Wes Driscoll and Anthony Tonka Green, their guitarist and drummer, respectively, settling into a groove that summoned the rest of the group - including Clay Hiers on vocals, Ian Edwards on bass, and Mike Sterling on trombone - to take their places. The crowd went wild as they saw each of these local legends take up arms to fight the void of silence left from the previous act. However, one thing was different from previous sets of theirs. Clay, apparently taking the age old expression a bit too literally, was on stage with a broken leg. But this handicap was hardly noticeable, as The Bastard Suns brought the all the energy to their performance that their devoted fans have come to expect, if not more. The guys jumped right into their biggest hits, with Tonka and Ian playing right in the pocket, Wes shredding away despite his calm west coast demeanor, Mike adding in blasts of trombone that give the band's overall punk vibe a bit more pizzazz, and Clay pulling it all together with his stellar vocals, turning each song into a story set to music.
Mid-set, Clay took a break and let his bandmates take over with an instrumental version of “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix, featuring vocals replaced by Mike’s trombone. It sent a chill down my spine just listening to these killer musicians pull off such a classic tune. When Clay came back onstage, the crowd got more excited than ever, as the Bastard Suns launched into the fan favorite “S.B.M.T.”, which featured an appearance from their beloved T-rex mascot, who jumped into the crowd to get the moshing into full gear. As good as the track is in its polished studio form, nothing quite compares to seeing these cats perform it live.
Following that, the band kept the mayhem going until they wrapped up their set with “My Pint”, another original head-banger that really defines who The Bastard Suns are as a band. The song was supposed to close out the show, but as they reached its end it seemed clear that their fans had other plans. With the entirety of the Masquerade chanting for an encore, the band came back onstage and slayed a cover of “Fat Bottomed Girls” that would make Freddie Mercury proud. These guys, though not what some may consider a top headlining band, always have fun with their performances, even despite setbacks and injuries, and they put on one of the best, most fun live shows of any local band I’ve ever seen. It was a fitting start to their summer tour, which you can learn more about at this link.