By Andy J. Gordon and Jenny Peters
Two bands that are the real deal and seem to be on the verge of international stardom put on a masterful performance during a sold-out show at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on November 17, 2016. The Record Company, a straight-ahead rock trio that hails from the City of Angels and The Marcus King Band, a soulful southern rock band out of South Carolina, both showed an appreciative audience exactly how to rock the house.
Marcus King follows in a special line of ultra-talented guitarists who made their mark at a young age – think Kenny Wayne Shephard, Derek Trucks and Johnny Lang. King is the son of blues guitarist Marvin King; in fact, Marcus played guitar at age 11 on one of his dad’s records. Now only 20, King has begun to establish himself as a talented guitarist, bandleader, songwriter and singer. His band’s self-titled second album was produced by Gov’t Mule leader and former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Warren Haynes. Haynes and Derek Trucks added their considerable talent on a couple of the tunes on the new album.
King’s six-piece group is loaded with gifted musicians and they blazed through a set of soul-influenced, psychedelic southern rock songs from the new release. King’s riveting guitar lines and raspy southern twang quickly won over the people in the audience that had come solely to see The Record Company. Matt Jennings on keys and organ, Dean Mitchell on sax and Justin Johnson on trumpet provided excellent support to round out the sound. The band soared on the single “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That,” a soul-infused tune with great horn arrangements and a searing guitar solo. The too-short set ended with a nice drum solo by Jack Ryan and another one of King’s magic-fingers guitar solos.
The Record Company formed in 2011 and their influences – blues legends, punk bands and classic rockers – infuse their style. The trio has toured throughout North America and also supported Blackberry Smoke in late 2015 with shows across Europe. Their current national tour is coming to an end and the band clearly was looking forward to the hometown gig at the El Rey.
Chris Vos, the band’s lead vocalist, is a wizard on a variety of guitars, lap steel, pedal steel and harmonica. Alex Stiff plays bass and sings supporting vocals while Marc Cazorla plays drums and contributes occasional background vocals. Vos told the audience about moving to Los Angeles from Wisconsin six years ago and how his first time seeing a show at the El Rey Theatre made him dream about one day playing there. He never thought the dream would become a reality, but the trio delivered a passionate, high-energy set in the storied venue.
The band played several songs from their first full-length album “Give It Back to You,” which released in early 2016. Highlights included the show opener “On the Move,” followed by “Hard Day Coming Down,” “Rita Mae Young” and “Feels So Good.” The poorly lit, smoke-machine obscured stage hid most of Vos’ twirling, Tasmanian-devil-like forays. However, the energy from Vos and the band was felt by the audience, many of whom danced elbow to elbow in the packed house.
Vos spoke glowingly about John Lee Hooker, the classic bluesman, before the band launched into “Don’t Let Me Get Lonely,” a song inspired by the legend. They followed with the Beastie Boys “So What’cha Want,” another tribute song as Vos gave a shout out to MCA (the late Adam Yauch).
The intense show closed with “The Burner,” a foot stomping, lap-steel song that would have felt appropriate in a Mississippi juke joint. Near the end of the tune, Cazorla came out from behind the drum kit with only a tambourine, as he, Stiff and Vos on harmonica filled the front of the stage. They encouraged the crowd to sing along to the song. Vos went back to the lap steel and threw in a tease of the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only Rock and Roll, But I Like It” before finishing with a slide flourish.
The band briefly left the stage to thunderous applause, but came back quickly for a one-tune encore. They finished the show with the blues-rooted, scorching rocker “In the Mood For You.” Before leaving for good, Vos and the band thanked the audience for making their homecoming so special. The band will be on a short break from touring, but we hope they will record new music and hit the road again soon.