Concert Reviews

Truckfighters Concert Review: The Westside Bowl in Youngstown, OH

Truckighters Drummer and Bassist

The Truckfighters. For those who love Fuzz Rock, the Truckfighters are the heirs to the Swedish Stoner Rock throne after Lowrider’s untimely demise (though they have since reunited to release Refractions this year).

Similarly, the Truckfighters went on a “long, long hiatus” back in February of 2018. Fortunately, the hiatus didn’t last long. The band launched into the Gravity X tour back in August of 2019, promising to play their first full-length album (the one featuring “Desert Cruiser”) from start to finish.

For the uninitiated, here’s what you should know about Gravity X: The album was released in 2005 on the band’s Fuzzorama Records label. A glorious blend of Fuzz Rock, Stoner Rock, and Heavy Metal, the record opens on the band’s most popular song to date, “Desert Cruiser.” “Desert Cruiser” checks all the boxes of the perfect Stoner Rock song: heavy layers of fuzz, an intoxicating riff, pained but lackadaisical vocals, and lyrics touching on muscle cars, driving through the desert, alcohol, and women. It’s a hell of an opener, and it’s a great way to start an album that also holds standout tracks like “Gweedo-Weedo” and “Manhattan Project.”

The Gravity X tour has taken them all over the world. When we spoke to them last, they were working their way through Spain.

With the Monster Riff headquarters in Pittsburgh, we just had to see them when they stopped in nearby Youngstown, OH, about an hour and a half northwest.

So, off we went.

The Truckfighters: Live

About the Venue

Youngstown, OH, has seen better days. The town relied heavily on the steel industry last century, so when the industry collapsed, so did the city. Sixty percent of the population has moved away, leaving less than 70,000 in its place. Locals have worked hard to transform their home, and Forbes has since ranked Youngstown the 4th best city in the USA for raising a family.

The Westside Bowl is one of Youngstown’s gems that make the city so great. A bowling alley and bar by day, the Westside Bowl frequently hosts musical events over a few unused lanes. You wouldn’t expect such a setup to be good venue, but it works.

First, there’s the food and drinks. There aren’t many concert venues where you can buy mixed drinks and a tall boy for a few dollars each, but the Westside Bowl isn’t most venues. A wide range of tables and chairs mean you can get comfortable watching the bands, and a large plywood floor gives the crowd plenty of room to move around.

The acoustics were surprisingly sufficient. Again, the Westside Bowl defies expectations with decent sound quality for the bands that roll through.

For our visit, the Westside Bowl held about 150 people, and it probably could have held another 150 or 200 comfortably.

About the Openers

Nodge

A Doom Metal band from Ohio, this young band sounds like they’re still working out the kinks in playing and writing music together. When they played well, they played really well, and when they were sloppy, they were really sloppy. The surprise of the night was a Doom cover of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down.” Overall, Nodge is a fun to watch because you never know what they’ll do next, so we’ll be keeping tabs on them in the future.

Wild Wings

Wild Wings were the hometown heroes at this show. The Youngstown natives play a distorted, spacey Punk Rock that the band labels on it’s Facebook page as “Outsider Punk.” It was an interesting act to watch.

Valley of the Sun

Valley of the Sun at Westside Bowl

Like Truckfighters, Valley of the Sun have worked hard to build a name for themselves. A fun fact: These Truckfighter fans from Cincinnati got TF to play with them the first time a few years ago just by asking them to come play in the States.

It worked.

Impressive, but it makes sense when you hear Valley of the Sun play. They also produce a lovely Fuzz Rock, but do it like the guitar heroes they are, with gut-busting solos, incredible vocals, and drums that pound you into smithereens.

Oh, you should also know: Valley of the Sun are on the Fuzzorama label.

Live, VotS had a disappointingly short set, playing a handful of songs. They played a hell of a show, though, crushing it on standout tracks like “Riding the Dunes” and “Hearts Aflame.”

Their ryhthm guitarist, Josh Pilot, puts on a show, at points throwing his guitar into the air, balancing it on his fingers, and generally working to get the crowd excited.

The acoustics were surprisingly sufficient. Again, the Westside Bowl defies expectations with decent sound quality for the bands that roll through.

The Truckfighters

Niklas, the Truckfighters Guitarist

To start talking about Truckfighters, we first have to talk about Niklas, the guitarist. If you’ve never seen him before, picture Jesus with a little grey in his beard. Niklas plays with his shirt off, and he tapes up his knee in preparation to jump around on stage for the next hour.

Keep that image in mind as we work through the show.

The Truckfighters didn’t exactly play Gravity X from start to finish. (Spoiler alert: They saved “Desert Cruiser” for last). They started with “Gargarismo,” then played “Gweedo-Weedo,” then “Manhattan Project.” So, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of rhyme or reason to the order. One awesome note: When they were finishing up with “Freewheelin’,” the sound tech played the Dirty Harry recording you hear on the album.

The Truckfighters are a three-piece, but they sound like a four- or five-piece on the stage. Their attack is thick, fuzzy, and polished. They’re one of those rare acts that actually sounds better live than they do on the album, and TF sounds great on album.

But Niklas stole the show. He’s not exactly the frontman—Oskar, the bassist, handles the majority of the vocal duties—but he was the center of attention. He’s a force of nature on the stage, and a wireless setup on his guitar gives him a ton of mobility, which he used to frequently step into the crowd.

The first time he walked into the crowd, he was playing a solo behind his head.

He meandered through the fans, getting everyone excited. At one point, he stopped by the merch table to have a conversation with someone, all while playing.

Later, while walking around during a different song, he jammed with a woman who was playing the air drums.

The Truckfighters were a hell of time. They put on a great act in a small venue, which only makes us wonder: How would they look and sound if they had the budget and respect to play an arena show?

Final Thoughts

If you get a chance to see the Truckfighters live, do it. They’re a mesmerizing act, and their tickets are relatively inexpensive.

10/10.

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