I’m a sucker, a flat out, unapologetic sucker, for these three things…
Thing Number 1: crab cakes. Sandwiches, by their lonesome- it doesn’t matter.
Thing Number 2: flip flops.
Thing Number 3: grizzly, dirty as fudge rock ‘n roll.
As far as that third bugaboo goes, it’s what led me to one of my favorite bands, the Black Keys and what got me hooked on one of the newest bands to enter my orbit, J. Roddy Walston and the Business. If you’re playing super-charged, spirited rock and it sounds like it was recorded in some of the dingiest locales imaginable, I’m on board. Pawn shop quality guitars, drums that sound like trash cans and rambling, mildly indecipherable vocals that sound like whiskey smells are main ingredients to the stew that fills my belly with happiness.
As with most new bands I stumble upon, Philly’s XPN is most often the culprit. I think it’s their delivery system. They sneak in these new nuggets amongst old favorites. It’s clever as hell and it works every time.
Driving through the outer reaches of Philly this past Saturday, we took a break from missing airplane wonderings and musings to see what our old friend, XPN, was up too. Playing great music as usual. Three songs in, something wild and fresh came through our car’s speakers- caused my hips to start shaking immediately.
John the Conqueror.
John the Conqueror?
Sounds like a failed Taylor Kitsch movie.
Doesn’t matter what the band name might sound like, because the band sounds like a blues-infused hurricane of garage rock goodness.
But as it pertains to the band name- no one in the band is actually named John and there are no reports of them conquering anything besides the fine art of smoking cigarettes on stage. The name actually comes from olden times…
John the Conqueror, also known as High John the Conqueror, John de Conquer, and many other folk variants, is a folk hero from African-American folklore. He is associated with a certain root, the John the Conqueror root, or John the Conqueroo, to which magical powers are ascribed in American folklore, especially among the hoodoo tradition of folk magic. – Wikipedia
As for the band, Giddy Up America’s reporting produced the following findings:
- They are three-piece, although originally a two-piece and are from Philadelphia, although originally from Mississippi. Well, two of them are- singer/guitarist Pierre Moore and drummer Michael Gardner. Those two dudes are specifically from Jackson, Mississippi.
- Bassist Ryan Lynn joined up with Moore and Gardner in Philly in 2010/2011, who were looking for cats to play with. Lynn proved to be such a great bassist it prompted Gardner to sell his bass and move to the drum kit. Gardner looks like a G-D Tonka truck of a dude.
- Moore allegedly took guitar lessons from a homeless dude who slept in the back of a local auto repair shop.
- Moore and Gardner are cousins. Lynn is of no relation, but does have a nice beard.
- They are signed to Alive Naturalsound Records, who released their debut, self-titled album in 2012. Bands of a similar ilk seem to be their label mates.
- John the Conqueror released their second album, The Good Life, in late February, 2014. The album’s lead single is the barn-burner, whole-body stomping “”Waking Up to You,” which is the track I heard on XPN. The Good Life is “a collection of vignettes from Pierre’s childhood in Mississippi and tales of his life in the streets of a Philly project, where the three friends currently live.”
I would also argue that in addition to the vignettes about Mississippi childhood and Philly projects, The Good Life is a solid collection of great neo-blues rock songs. Moore’s voice is haunting and full of a world-weary presence. The drums are thundering and all business and Lynn’s bass rumbles like the trolley making it’s way down Girard. An easy reference point for describing the band’s sound is early Black Keys. The thump is similar. The thump is also delightful.
John the Conqueror is most likely one of those bands that tear apart a small club, leaves it breathless, bloodied and asking for more, while also asking what the hell just happened. They are of the Power Trio breed of trios. Ah yes, my absolutely favorite kind of trio. My favorite kind of band make up in general. It really doesn’t get any better than a power trio. John the Conqueror exemplifies all the good qualities of a power trio. There really aren’t enough thumbs up present that I could point in their general direction.
Check out The Good Life and see for yourself…
To learn more about John the Conquerer, check out their website.
Band Photo: Cinthya Vong