“Are you filled with joy?” asks Kyle Thomas, also known as King Tuff. Crowds were restless at the Teragram Ballroom last Thursday night, buzzing for the polished rock acts of the night. SASAMI, formerly of Cherry Glazerr, opened up the night, with retro outfit Cut Worms filling in the middle slot. By the time King Tuff emerged onto the stage, there was enough joy to go around; it infected Thomas and the band, causing him to admit that they, too, were brimming with it.
Cut Worms is led by Max Clarke, who has recently put out his debut full-length called Hollow Ground under the moniker. He capitalizes on nostalgia for songwriting acts like Bob Dylan and Hank Williams while giving the sound a necessary update; fuzz comes from pedals and brushes on the drums rather than from the wear and tear on a vinyl record. Either way, his set seemed to pop and crackle in its own right.
Clarke certainly dressed to impress with his shining red button up, while bandmate Jarvis Taveniere went full Bakersfield with embroidery across his clavicle and a Stetson to top it off. With guitars in hand, they were free to interpret the music more tangibly, and without vocal duties, Taveniere turned it up a notch. The feeling was flowing through all of them, most notably Clarke when he performed one of the final tracks solo. Taveniere and John Andrews, who was on keys that night, showed a level of comfort that only people who have spent weeks cramped together for multiple tours (they both are also associated with the band Woods) could achieve: when they came back out for Cut Worms’ finale, they had switched outfits, Taveniere now sporting Andrews’ signature faded baseball cap.
What quickly followed was a force to be reckoned with. King Tuff, having just put out an album in April, was at its peak at the Teragram, keeping the bustling crowds relatively tame. SASAMI returned to the keyboard for KT, with two other women on guitar and bass, rounding out the most favorable ratio of women onstage that night. And these ladies (as well as their male bandleader and drummer) tore it up, proving the bond that they’d created over their past five weeks of touring. And when the band was in sync, it energized the crowd, like the most wonderful of vicious cycles.
If we were to put it in Thomas’ terms, King Tuff put on a frickin’ wonderful show. Their set had no flaws, even when grinding a song to a halt for a superbly timed skit. There seemed to be a waft of exhaustion across the players all night, and happiness that they can return home, but the most potent feeling was overwhelming camaraderie between everyone in the venue. We were all united by the music, and for those few hours, we didn’t want the experience to be fleeting.
Grab King Tuff’s new album, The Other, here or wherever you get your music. Follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can find the new album from Cut Worms on Bandcamp, and you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well.
Words: Zoë Elaine
Photography: David Fisch