Reno bands will do whatever it takes to put on a show.
Hours before Moondog Matinee’s Saturday night show at Crystal Bay Club, Mother Nature dropped another 6 inches of snow. A blizzard warning was still in effect. The band reassured fans on social media that the Crown Room show would go on, regardless.
Greg Gilmore of Silver even had a gig before braving the icy, snow-packed mountain roads to play the after-party for Moondog and Failure Machine. He opened earlier that night for the chicken-pickin’ guitar virtuoso Scott Pemberton at The Saint in midtown Reno.
The Sierra passes were brutal and the Failure Machine van needed chains to finish the job. The behemoth has no heat or defroster. Pressed for success, drummer Clint Philbin continuously adjusted a miniature heater toward the windshield while guitarist/vocalist Spencer Kilpatrick scribbled in the ice forming (inside) on the metal roof.
Their van might need work, but their band is a well-oiled machine, on and offstage. They opened for Moondog with originals and covers. Failure Machine has a range that permits a flawless transition from “Communication Breakdown” to Kenny “Log-Dog” Loggins’ “Danger Zone.” It was magical.
Their sound has grown and developed. Rachael McElhiney shares her lung strength between baritone saxophone and singing lead on many songs. The players look comfortable and loose, but they sound perfectly rehearsed.
Moondog took the stage in a wave of musicianship and professional energy. Its sound is full and dips into Zeppelin, The Black Crowes and, dare I say, a little Floyd territory.
Tristan Selzler, involved in a number of Reno projects, loves playing this energetic music. He adds incredible embellishments and crescendos. The graceful and passionate transitions between moods, tempos and genres are breathtaking. Vocalist Peter Barnato often acts as a conductor of sorts, guiding the band’s builds and breaks with his rising arms.
Barnato wails like Plant and gyrates like Jagger. During the anthemic song “Last Night the Devil Learned My Name,” he shuffled across the stage like his feet were on fire. His presence is commanding, yet humble.
They all clearly enjoy themselves. From Selzler jumping around like he’s in House of Pain to the band exchanging knuckles and ass slaps between songs and after solos.
Toward the end of their high-energy set, Moondog dedicated a song to McElhiney. She joined them onstage to sing like she did for the album version.
The energy was matched for Silver’s after-party in the artificially starlit Red Room. The band’s hook-centric originals and choice covers provided a perfect nightcap for the evening. Covers of Petty, Elvis and Cake got the crowd involved, but Silver’s version of “Helter Skelter” was an absolute triumph.
Lead guitarist Josh Kisor twangs his way around his instrument masterfully. Through a smile, he said the crowd’s front row was lined with his Reno guitar heroes, including a freshly drunk Kilpatrick.
The night ended with the members of Failure Machine putting their nightly spoils on black, losing, but ensuring that “next time we’re due.”
Is there anything more Reno than that?
– Tony Contini