Sound on Sound Review: Cherubs

Reunited torrential Austin trio restarts a storm

Like Richard Pryor may have cracked: Someone says “evacuate,” I get the f-u-c-k out. At 2:21pm, with two songs left in Leopold & His Fiction’s big rawk main stage set, the storm hit Sound on Sound Sunday. Shortly thereafter, an emergency broadcast system-like loop gave the order to clear Sherwood Forest. I was halfway home when Cherubs reeled me back again.

Photo by John Anderson

Credit festival organizers Margin Walker with announcing on Facebook that event grounds would reopen, but even so, only the fourth performance by the scabrous Austin trio in 22 years turned my car around. When gates finally reopened at 5:10pm, festivalers crept back in – including all three Cherubs, who helped set up on the small Keep stage out front of a miniature golf-looking Sherwood Castle facade. Could the inclement weather gods be so merciful as to grant SOS an audience with the famously mothballed Nineties noise syndicate?


Frontman Kevin Whitley and drummer Brent Prager beamed nothing but amusement readying for the show, bassist Owen McMahon characteristically grim-faced as rain fell at a steady clip and soaked the stage front. Puddles pooled deep, the crowd initially huddled sparse, but the band thundered alive at the wet and blackened stroke of 6pm, shaking the charged, heavy air in a manner far preferable to Mother Nature’s lightning strike capability, which would have shut the festival down immediately rather than letting SOS rage, rattle, and ramble well past the witching hour. Cherubs thus amped torrential.

For 20 minutes, anyway.

Whitley slipped a slide cylinder onto his fret-hand for a split second before the band double-clutched into a live cataclysm straight out of Nineties post-punk’s golden era glory hole. Cherubs’ lithe, ramrod, 1992 debut full-length Icing redoubled its humorously catchy assault on the steelier, meaner truncheon of first era swan song Heroin Man, both albums thickened and mirroring new millennial extremity on last year’s comeback LP 2 Ynfynyty. All discs coagulated perfectly blunt and bloody at SOS, Cherubs ticking off an adrenal pace even as its dense, progressive lurch dropped the growing crowd’s stomachs down to their galoshes.

Ten strings scraping as one, the electric tandem of Whitley and McMahon slid from Paleolithic power avalanches to stop-time turnarounds as Prager pummeled tribal war beats with skull-cracking accents – his fisted blast beats required no metallic foot stomping. Like an oncoming weather front, the veteran threesome cracked the sky until a stage manager pulled the plug for safety reasons, Whitley afterward estimating five selections having gone unheard. Those resounding before that point now reside in Sherwood Forest’s Hall of the Mountain King.

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Cherubs, Sound On Sound 2016, Kevin Whitley, Brent Prager, Owen McMahon, Sherwood Forest, Leopold & His Fiction

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