The wholehearted ferocity of Baroness' hometown headliner - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Like ceremony, punks and metal torch carriers of old and new congregated in Union Transfer Friday for a show featuring Philly and Delco music scene stalwarts. It was a crowd of dreamers, survivors, two-stepping head bangers and those who stand for those lost. It’s a strong bond Zorn, Uniform, Sheer Mag, and headliners Baroness openly form, put on display and sonically deliver wholehearted ferocity Friday night. Baroness didn’t hold back, a pillar for this locals only show. After a 34-date US tour, Baroness returned home to end their initial celebration of their new record STONE.

Zorn | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

Ominous music fell over Union Transfer as the members of Zorn, corpse painted, waited as three hooded figures in full robes slowly processed onto the stage, metal chains clanking against the wooden coffin they carried. Placed center stage, the music began to rise, the lid was forced open, first by a hand with a thick spiked cuff. Free, Eric Teofilak rose from out of the coffin to “The Delco Devil Mosh.”

Never tame or tamable, the coffin lid could be split in half, symbolically discarded into the pit. Filled with insatiable energy, Teofilak lifted the coffin, and slid it to the barrier. The bravest held the end of the coffin steady, Teofilak jumped in and out of it with a mean scowl, clenched fist or guttural bellow.

Zorn, purveyor of heart racing walls of sound, released their self-titled Zorn this past March, a 10-song album of wrath, playful satanism and doom metal musings that tease the listener then hit hard. Friday night at Union Transfer it, like the songs “The Spell of The Fairy Tree” or “Nothing Left,” did just that.

Uniform | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

“Don’t tell my mom I’m doing this,” Uniform singer Michael Berdan laughed. Joke aside, he had a point: being able to get on “The Spaghetti Factory ” stage and continue to perform after all this time was sacred.

While the rest of the band existed in almost complete darkness, Berdan, wearing a shirt that read “YOU’RE ALREADY DEAD,” towered over a single violet light. Thrashing up and down wildly he seemed to put himself in a trance, one that would sustain itself through Uniform’s set.The single light was bright and blinding, but he forcefully stared into it at times, like looking through some kind of portal.

Uniform’s set felt like being put through the wringer emotionally, both for the crowd and the band. The struggle and strife ever so palpable, as Berdan thrashed forcefully during “All We’ve Ever Wanted” off their COVID album, Shame, released in September 2020.

Sheer Mag | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

Sheer Mag followed Uniform, played their set in cruise control, enjoying the machismo of it all paired with singer Christina Halladay’s late 70s vocal punk directness. Halladay apologized for sounding like a pubescent boy, having just recovered from being sick. Didn’t seem to hinder her too much, since the big, powerful notes in “Need To Feel Your Love,” for example, boomed to the back of Union Transfer and back again.

The band recently released two singles, “All Lined Up” and “Playing Favorites.” In one of the first times since it dropped, Friday night’s crowd got a new taste of Sheer Mag. Both tracks had the crowd bouncing along, they’re catchy and a little dance-y. Leaning into their power pop realms, “All Lined Up” has a playful galloping beat to it.

Excited to be a part of the show, Halladay gleefully revealed the robed figures were guitarists, vocalists and bassist, Matt Palmer, Kyle Seely, and Hart Seely carrying the Zorn coffin. Zorn’s drummer also played double duty, no corpse paint the second time around but no let up on his ruffian energy.

“This is the last date of Baroness’ tour, so you all better go fucking nuts,” Halladay said.

Baroness | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

As the band were returning from a long voyage at sea, the crowd at Union Transfer were the wives on the widows peak shrieking for joy to have them back. Gigantic smiles on their faces, John Baizley and Gina Gleason pumped their arms into the air as “Embers,” the first track of this fall’s STONE, played in the background.

Not only an end to the Sweet Oblivion tour, family members and close friends amongst the audience, singer/guitarist John Baizley pointed out that Baroness was celebrating 20 years as a band. While the lineup has ebbed and flowed throughout the years, Baizley and singer/guitarist Gleason have stood that test of time, greener members bassist/keys Nick Jost and drummer Sebastian Thomson seemed no less committed or fervent.

Starting with “Last Word” off the new album directly followed by “The Sweetest Curse” off 2009’s Blue Record, Baroness set the tone. The tracks blew the audience back and instantly opened up the pit. Crowd members pushed and flung their bodies showing Baroness that they too were there to bring an overwhelming lightning bolt of energy. And, of course, a lot of stank face all around.

But if you know, you know, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for a Baroness show. If it was a crowd member’s first time Friday night, they surely won’t forget.

Baroness | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

Midway through their set, Baroness brought the energy level down for a few slow ballads. “Anodyne” off Stone and “Tourniquet” off Gold & Grey stirred up the most in the audience, some frozen in a trance, others swaying and fluctuating between harmonies. Both songs are beautiful lyrically, and much like the synchronicities in Baizley and Gleason’s guitar parts, the harmonies in their voices during these two tracks create that spellbinding effect felt Friday night at Union Transfer.

Returning to the stage for a two-song encore, Baizely addressed the crowd directly, “Let’s see what YOU can do.”

Knowing the crowd was going to lose their minds, Baroness tore into “Isak” and “Take My Bones Away.” And the crowd did in fact lose their minds, the pit thrashed even harder on the Union Transfer floor, the lyrics sung louder than imaginable.

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