Buffalo Killers at the Compound Grill, 7-28-11

Buffalo Killers
The Compound Grill
Thursday, July 28

I'm all for ironic appreciation of the '70s, but you know what? Some things about the '70s can be liked without having to resort to some sort of "ha ha, isn't it funny" crutch. When I watch Dazed and Confused, I don't find myself laughing at the cars and the clothes, I find myself falling into the story, tapping that eternal teen nostalgia, and also, totally grooving to that soundtrack.

Big riffs rule, and at no time more than the '70s did they dominate the airwaves. Cincinnati's Buffalo Killers evoke the blurry Polaroid sounds of those years, grooving like Foghat one minute, recalling the melodic gold of Badfinger another, and utterly, unironically rocking like ZZ Top.  

There's nothing quite as simple and effective as a "power trio."

Brothers Andy and Zach Gabbard sang and played guitar and bass, respectively, while Joseph Sebaali plays drums. The three were members of the dearly departed garage rock outfit Thee Shams, but Buffalo Killers isn't three chord frat rock at all. The songs are thick and greasy, and listening to the trio live, you can see why they've made fans of The Black Keys and The Black Crows.

"Homegrown" found Andy pulling of some nifty guitar playing, while Sebaali and Zach held down a boogie-rock rhythm section.

Zach took the lead on "Leave the Sun," showcasing a voice that was rangier, let's say "Neilish" and turn Mr. Young's first name into an adjective. He stayed firmly in the pocket as he took to the mic, and his solid low-end work anchored the Andy's fretboard wanderings.

The band played tunes from all three of its albums, but focused mostly on songs from 3, the latest release from the band. "Jon Jacob" grooved, and "Let it Ride," the title cut from the band's second LP, was balls-out rock, the kind of thing that makes you want to earnestly paint a fantasy mural on your van and hit the road. "Fit to Breathe," closed out the band's first set, and found it working more in classic power-pop mode, sounding a little like a Southern fried Raspberries.

The trio of tunes that opened the band's second set really smoked. 3 is a front loaded record, and the band's set demonstrated why those songs got sequenced that way on the LP, as they ripped into the excellent "Humma Bird," followed it with "Circle Day" and chased that with "Mountain Sally."

The crowd dug the set, though the feeling was remarkably subdued through out the first set for such heavy rock.

By the middle of the second set, things had loosened up. Arms reached for the roof, and butts started wiggling in seats.

Closing with the epic "It's a Shame," which found Andy taking off on a Crazy Horse-style guitar excursion, you got the sense that a band like Buffalo Killers would never make it with the hip indie crowd, something their friends The Black Keys have done.

The band is too straightforward, too legit. Maybe if they came on sillier, rocked but let everyone know that they were doing so with a wink, the "ironic crowd" could hop in the Camaro.

I sure hope it never happens -- sincerity is underrated, and a band that rocks for real is too great a thing to loose.

Set List:

River Water
Leave the Sun
Get Together Now Today
Jon Jacob
Heavens You Are
Let it Ride
Fit to Breathe


Huma Bird
Circle Day
Mountain Sally
Take Me Back Home
On the Prowl
Move On
If I Get Myself Anywhere
It's a Shame

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Buffalo Killers at Compound Grill

The Crowd: Mostly looking like people who know the band through their Black Crows association -- kind of the typical Compound crowd I guess.

Overheard: Nothing. The band was loud, goddamn gloriously loud, and between songs the audience clapped and then mostly just sat in silence, which was kind of weird and eerie.

By the way: It's weird to sit during a band like Buffalo Killers' set, but I did it -- everyone else, too. There's a very specific kind of rocking out you can do while seated, and I did that. Everyone else, too.

Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.

Latest Stories