“It’s a school night, right?” frontman Pepper Keenan asked halfway through Corrosion Of Conformity’s headlining set at Gramercy Theatre last night (2/13). “Thanks for coming out on a Wednesday, New York. Much love and respect.” Keenan would repeat that appreciation several more times through the end of the night, and it served as a theme for the entire show. Worshippers of the riff packed into Gramercy to bear witness to rock and roll bliss, a sea of denim and smiles wall to wall, creating an undeniably positive vibe. The night’s lineup boasted the kind of legends that drew even the most reclusive heshers out to raise tallboys and revel in sludge grandeur.

Being an opening band on a tour package as stacked as this must be difficult, but judging by their unbridled enthusiasm, Dallas power trio Mothership would disagree. They came out guns blazing, with brothers Kyle (bass/vocals) and Kelley (guitar/vocals) Juett working the smaller but attentive early crowd with banter and biker-metal jams. Pulling one song from each of their three full-lengths, Mothership were able to showcase their growth as band, with “Crown Of Lies” (from 2017’s High Strangeness) being the highlight.

Weedeater are always on the cusp of stealing the show, regardless of where and when. Bassist/vocalist/heavy metal Popeye, Dixie Dave Collins, is one of the most entertaining musicians you could ask for. Cross-eyed and kicking his bass behind his back, stomping across the stage and belting out “Wizard Fight!”, he’s the crazy uncle everyone realizes they always wanted. Guitarist/band co-founder Dave Shepherd provides the foil to Collins, pulling out riffs so simple they’re genius, inspiring many in the crowd to dust off their guitars when they get home. The set was entirely comprised of cuts from fan favorite God Luck And Good Speed with Collins’ old Buzzov-en bandmate Ramzi Ateyeh filling in on drums. “This is our last song. It’s about weed and monkeys. It’s called ‘Weed Monkey.’” Who needs subtlety?

Once the giant fleur-de-lis backdrop went up, everyone knew things were about to be tuned way down. Sludge godfather Kirk Windstein and the ever-rotating cast of characters known as Crowbar took the stage and swung for the upper deck, opening with fan favorite “All I Had (I Gave).” More than any other band in their scene, Crowbar evoke an emotional, personal response; the sentiment was summed up by a fan from Italy standing nearby who never spoke English but would occasionally draw a finger down his cheek like a teardrop. Windstein’s soul-baring words and minor key riffs have always dug deeper than his peers. At one point he asked forgiveness from the crowd, saying he had just gotten over a cold and his voice was shot, but given his harsh vocal style nobody could tell the difference. The setlist spanned the band’s long and impressive career, from their self-titled 1993 album all the way to “Walk With Knowledge Wisely” off 2014’s Symmetry In Black. The band’s consistently stellar recorded output has always been matched by their live show, and even now in their 29th year that fact remains.

Corrosion Of Conformity remain one of metal’s most intriguing and impossible success stories. After establishing themselves as one of the most important hardcore punk bands of the eighties, somewhere along the way they became one of the most important (and major-label-backed) southern/stoner metal bands of the nineties. After an extended break, singer/guitarist Keenan rejoined the band in late 2014 and they released the well-received No Cross No Crown last year, touring hard ever since. The band was on point and on fire, starting with “Stonebreaker” from In The Arms Of God and continuing through deep cuts of all the Pepper-era albums, from Blind’s ever-prescient “Vote With A Bullet” to newest single “Wolf Named Crow.” The crowd was fully immersed, singing along to every hook and chorus, cheering raucously for old favorites like “Senor Limpio” and “Albatross.” The only negative was the absence of drummer Reed Mullin, replaced by his tech John Green for this tour. Overall it was a minor complaint, as CoC ripped through each song with the kinetic energy of a band decades their junior. Finishing with an encore of their biggest hit “Clean My Wounds,” the crowd dispersed into the night satisfied and smiling twice as hard as when they arrived.

The tour treks on and hits Boston and Philly this weekend, and Weedeater have more dates after that, including Desertfest NYC.

Watch a couple videos of CoC's set below:

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