If the recently reopened Asbury Lanes seemed a little too new, clean, and shiny, CKY delivered the true grit, heart, and soul of live rock n’ roll and conquered this venue with a unrelenting barrage of harmony and groove that once personified this musical landmark.
Believe me, if one attends a CKY show, be prepared for an onslaught of pure unabashed fun that needs to be experienced in a live setting. For example, CKY as a band name, those three letters translate into a utterly contagious and captivating crowd chant, which allows the fans to harmonize in unison and cheer on their favorite band throughout the entire show. One cannot discount the amount of goodwill, vibes, and energy this creates between the band and their audience. Fans who hadn’t seen CKY perform live in quite some time traveled to Asbury Park in droves and showed this legendary Pennsylvania act just how much they were truly missed prior to their reunion.
Without question, “The Phoenix is born again,” as CKY have successfully transitioned into a power trio, very much Genesis style, which is a testament to their work ethic, musicianship, and the chemistry between lead vocalist and guitarist Chad I Ginsburg, bassist Matt Deis, and drummer Jess Margera. Allow me to say, as a longtime guitarist, Ginsburg is so disgustingly underrated and does not receive nearly enough credit for the diversity, virtuosity, and sense of tone, rhythm, and melody in his playing. The audience gasped during some of his fiercest solo’s and the palm mutes and pinch harmonics that he unleashed during “Flesh Into Gear” packed the meanest punch and literally caused people to lose their minds in the venue, some were kicked out in the process.
And alongside Ginsburg’s guitar playing, his voice is truly something special and his gritty baritone range is reminiscent of the legendary Peter Steele. Quite frankly, as this performance proved to me, he absolutely deserves to front this band and the way he carries himself; he is superbly talented, captivating, funny, and has put in the work to solidify CKY’s core sound since the very beginning. Simply put, he was born to be a frontman and his voice suits the older material just as much as the new material; from “Sporadic Movement” to “Replaceable.”
One interesting take, for a band to transition from a four-piece into a trio, especially one that possessed a noteworthy two-guitar attack, that could have been a worrisome scenario when playing live more than anywhere else, but this group has Matt Deis on bass and he has absolutely spearheaded the relentless grooves that define modern CKY. His tone just rattled, rumbled, and swung with a high dosage of attitude and aggression that was reminiscent of Kyuss, adding a new color and texture that hits like a second guitar. Plus, his background vocals were fantastic, especially on classic tracks like “Attached at the Hip” that possess a dual-vocal combination in the chorus.
On the topic of rhythm and groove, Jess Margera is the heart of CKY and the crisp tone of his Ludwig drum kit – the unforgiving snare hits and cymbal crashes pulsed the heart from the very first drum beat. No question, he has been so crucial in navigating and solidifying this band as a trio and the reason being, he understands Ginsburg and Deis’ strengths better than anyone else. Take a look at Jess’s demeanor during the show, the level of focus in his eyes and the way he plays off his bandmates, this is musician talk; he is a team player in the truest sense and possesses an unconventional balance of thrash, groove, and soulful ease that allows him to appreciate the moment.
This setlist was also stacked with classics from Volume 1 and Infiltrate•Destroy•Rebuild, especially the latter with “Sink Into The Underground” and “Escape from Hellview.” Those who attended the show for nostalgic reasons witnessed CKY pay homage to some of their greatest work like “96 Quite Bitter Beings,” which felt like the world’s greatest party when the crowd went off and jumped around in harmony.
And for those who didn’t know, the energy of the first two albums were huge sources of inspiration for the band’s latest LP The Phoenix. However, make no mistake, this band is definitely not resting on their laurels. Songs like “Wiping Off The Dead,” and “Replaceable” maintained the highest energy level with their bouncy riffs, hanging notes, and rhythmic fortitude. The groove never lies and that’s how an established band continues to forge ahead, evolve, and desolate the audience with high-octane material.
Also, I recently interviewed Jess Margera who had the following to say about their single “Head for a Breakdown,” “I will tell you what, that song is going over amazing every single night. It doesn’t matter where we are, Europe or the States. We’ve never had a reaction like this to a new song before.” And man, Jesse’s words were so on-point. When CKY kicked into “Head for a Breakdown,” it received such an enormous cheer and nearly everyone in attendance sang the chorus at the top of their lungs for what’s become a modern CKY classic.
And to commemorate this amazing celebration of CKY’s past, present, and future; Chad invited Bam Margera to join them on-stage and sing a cover of GG Allin’s “Bite It You Scum.” While Bam claimed to not know the words and was hesitant at first, he looked as happy, healthy, and relaxed as I have ever seen him. He followed Chad’s lead and played alongside his brother with that charming badass charisma, which defined his fame throughout the late 90s and 2000s. For anyone in the crowd who grew up with CKY’s music, the CKY videos, and Bam’s shows, it was such a rewarding and heartwarming feeling to see these four individuals in such great spirits unleashing musical chaos at the highest levels.
If CKY is playing in your area, what are you waiting for? Don’t miss out on this unbelievable headlining tour as the best is yet to come during the second half of 2018. During my conversation with Jess Margera, he revealed to me that CKY will be releasing a new EP this November, likely on Black Friday’s “Record Store Day.” In his own words, “It’s a fun little EP and there is a little bit of everything on there. Every CKY style and more is encompassed in this twenty-minutes of music. ”
And if that wasn’t exciting enough, Margera also said, “We are going to keep making the best records that we possibly we can and we’re going to keep touring. That’s the plan for the next several years (laughs). I can’t wait to write and record more new music. I already have a ton of songs ready for the next album and they are awesome. I am beyond stoked about the new direction. No more long breaks or hiatuses (laughs). We’re going to go full force again.”