Written by Alejandro Beach
I usually consider myself pretty lucky to be able to go to a show without having to run out the door of the office building in downtown Pittsburgh that I work in, change if I have time, miss most of the opening act, and spend half of the show unwinding from a long days work. I have Friday’s off however, which put me in the incredible position of being able to lay on my couch, order some Thai food, watch The Office, and relax until The Werks and Flux Capacitor took the stage at the Rex Theater in Pittsburgh’s bustling South Side. This particular Friday was a picturesque November day in Pittsburgh; mostly cloudy, a little bit of rain, and wind that would dig right into your bones because, of course, you assumed it wouldn’t be as cold as it actually was. Sure, it might not sound ideal, but in lieu of being sour about the inevitability of the turning weather, I opted for the more hopeful perspective, that The Werks would get me moving enough to forget the cold in the first place.
The Werks are a band that, for years, I’ve observed from a distance. Having attended their annual Werkout Music and Arts Festival at Legend Valley in Ohio, I would tune into their sets, sometimes watching from a hammock along the tree line, or occasionally wandering down to the stage, while taking a look at some of the live art. I wouldn’t be entirely truthful in saying that The Werks were my focus while attending their festival, but being that they have such a devout following in the Midwest, I jumped on the opportunity to cover their tour stop in Pittsburgh. A music festival can, ironically, sometimes be a hard place to really dial in, and fully understand a band for me. The sheer amount of sensory input, whether it be the art, the wide array of musical acts (which, by the way, props to The Werks for bringing some of the best jam acts to Ohio), or the people, a music festival, however small or large is almost always missing that intimate feeling of a watching a band play their own show in a club or concert hall. As eight o’clock rolled around, I finally decided to make myself look like human, pick up a friend, and head to The Rex.
The familiarity of The Rex Theater is just now coming back to me. It’s been a long summer, and I haven’t been to any shows there in the past few months, save Turkuaz just the day before this show. Walking through the poster-lined front doors of the theater, now transitioned into a rock club, and up to the box office, I can already hear Flux Capacitor playing, and they’re playing hard. Formed by the Specht brothers out of Reading, PA, Flux Capacitor is another band that I’ve seen in passing multiple times, but never fully dove into. After getting my wristband for the nights show and grabbing a beer, I walked through the doors and into the actual music hall, the only light source being the being the light rig on the stage. Flux Capacitor was in middle of a deep jam, bringing it to a high-energy crescendo within moments of my arrival. For the first time, I noticed that they were lacking a bass player, with the bass tones seemingly being designated to the keyboard player. The group, while clearly skilled, periodically laid into routine, and sometimes repetitious patterns, often backed by standard dance beats. Content-wise, I felt that I had seen and heard most of what I needed to know about Flux Capacitor during their set time. They are a heavy psychedelic rock band, and while not necessarily my style, a group that clearly has musical chops. I would like to see the trio of brothers further hone their craft, and play out in Pittsburgh more often.
The majority of the set break was spent outside, in the blustery November cold of Pittsburgh, which made the warmth of The Rex all the more welcoming when it was time to catch The Werks’ set. The Werks hit the stage shortly after 10pm, to a mid-sized, but roiling crowd of jam freaks. To me, Chris Houser was the focus of the majority of the show. The man is a technical wizard on the guitar, with superior tone to match his skill. The band opened the set with “Lights Out”, and steadily rolling into another of their originals, “Wide Awake”. Next, they caught me by surprise with a cover of the 80s hit by Tears for Fears, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. I particularly enjoyed The Werks’ spin on this classic, with Houser covering the vocal tracks with his guitar, followed by a deep and tastefully executed improvised section. The Werks pressed on with playing “Cloudhopper” and “Dark Farm”, followed by their song, “OG”, which was riddled with teases ranging from “This is Halloween”, to “Beetlejuice”, and even “Eye of the Tiger”. The implementation of those songs, on top of the improvised nature of the surrounding sections and bridges of “OG”, really put their improvisational prowess into perspective. The Werks finished their set full tilt with originals “Slab” and “Onslaught” (the only song by The Werks that I knew by name prior to this show). They returned to the stage for an encore, playing “Eminence Front”, before calling it a night.
The Werks, although I haven’t given them enough of a chance in the past, certainly have the ability to bring the heat. From the soaring guitar work of Chris Houser, to the solid rhythm section comprised of Jake Goldberg and Rob Chaffin, to skillful playing of Dan Shaw on the keys, The Werks have more than earned their place among the top regional jam acts. The Ohio based quartet have written material that tap into dark progressive rock, sometimes dripping and oozing with sticky bass lines and synth pads, impressive improvisational skills, and triumphant builds that translate seamlessly into a fulfilling live experience.
Everybody Wants to Rule the World
*Teases of “This is Halloween”, “Beetlejuice”, and “Eye of the Tiger”