By Brian Tucker
(originally published in Performer magazine)
November 10, 2007 – Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern – Wilmington, N.C.
There’s no stage at Reggie’s, only a concrete floor. The local haunt is where bands and revelers get to know each other quickly during a show. Bands play crowd level, face to face. It may be rustic, but suitable if you like music played down and dirty and up close. The venue is three rooms – pool table area, a long bar area, and the back room with dart boards lining walls adjacent to where bands move their equipment between sets.
Virginia Beach’s Freedom Hawk took the floor just before midnight, bringing their smooth stoner rock back to Wilmington. This trip was a little lighter, the band having lost guitarist Matt Cave, leaving drummer Lenny Hines, bassist Mark Cave (yes, brothers) and singer guitarist TR Morton. Lighter yes, but the band remained melodically heavy, playing solid power groove metal with high pitched vocals.
The band decided to finish their booked shows but the loss of a guitarist made playing more work for Morton. Something was missing, but the band soldiered on, playing a refined set of mostly new material. “Stand Back” was an interesting stand out, bridging Sabbath inspired solos with crunching, breakdown riffs. They played consistently, almost defiantly, like the east coast’s answer to Fu Manchu.
Still, their sound was large, a wall of guitar riffs pushed out sludge-heavy, moving like swells and waves. Hines’ drum sticks hammered, sounded like he was playing with tree trunks and Cave’s bass marched tightly. They played favorites like “Universal” and “10 Years” along with newer songs “Palamino,” “Land of Lost” and “Sunlight,” doing so with concentration. Morton’s eyes were closed tight much of the time and Hines head down and eyes closed. Cave seemed to watch over, as if the band were readying a fight.
As the band tried to end their set people yelled for more, twice actually, and they complied, closing with “Bad Man.” Morton opened with a grinding guitar riff then sang “I’m a bad man, and you’re a bad girl,” the last word squeezed out for effect.
Afterwards, a kid invited the band and anyone else back to his place, a keg waited he assured. The kid was still grooving on the music he heard, singing out loud and throwing his head around. Morton smiled at the kid’s energy and eventually asked where the kid was from. The kid replied, Virginia Beach. Small world.