A few years ago, back when there was a functioning music industry and A&R departments were still signing promising bands, it would have been easy to predict Sweethead's future success. Formed by Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, the quartet already have a bit of a built-in fan base, and they write madly compelling hard-rock songs that are more melodically twisted and lyrically intriguing than most metal and stoner-rock outfits.
On top of that, Sweethead is fronted by the previously unknown Serrina Sims, a striking blonde beauty who prowls the stage with plenty of old-time movie-star charisma.
Their self-titled debut CD (on The End Records) is one of this year's best all-around rock albums, with Van Leeuwen's heavy, doomy riffs contrasted by Sims' incandescent glam-rock vocals, and the L.A. band just started a high-profile tour of the West Coast. Things looked promising Wednesday night, with the dance floor packed with kids during fellow locals Nico Vega's middle-billed set.
Nico Vega were getting a good response from their fans, as singer Aja Volkman ran around the stage in her bare feet, climbed onto the P.A., raised her arms triumphantly and leaped all over the place. Drummer Dan Epand's solidly powerful beats seemed to egg on Volkman (and the crowd) even further, while guitarist Rich Koehler tried to provide a melodic underpinning to all of that chaotic energy.
Nico Vega certainly had a lot of spirit and considerable potential, but their still-evolving alterna-rock songs didn't really stand out to me. You couldn't tell that to their fans, though, who enthusiastically sang along with Volkman and waved their arms at her every command. I looked up and saw Sweethead's Leeuwen standing in the window of the dressing room upstairs, staring down proudly as Volkman gyrated around the stage.
However, about half of the crowd drifted away before the start of headliners' show, perhaps because it was late on a weeknight. Undeterred, Sweethead stalked onto the stage, wrapped up in clouds of smoke and shadows, and began with a thunderous assault that was even fuller than Nico Vega's stormy sound. Mark Lanegan sideman Eddie Nappi (bass) and Norm Block (drums) lowered the boom with some impressively monstrous rhythms, and newest member Eden Galindo (ex-Motorcycle Boy) switched from guitar to keyboards to add more coloring.