The night of March 30th was typical a Sunday at Union Pool, with a clientele of creeps downing beer-and-shot combos and scavenging for last-minute scraps before the workweek. More interested in the music than the meat market, I felt the need to venture from the bar and thru the cattle-filled courtyard into the venue on the other side. Glad I did. When a band can transform its spectators from stiffs to maniacs, you know you’ve got something. Good job, Tournament.
The band took the stage, and their set rapidly overcame the audience. Fans treating their drinks like second-class citizens was a good sign, it warmed my heart. The band opened with “Scattered,” taking my brain on a ravaged joyride out of the daily cognitive BS to the mindless, infernal space of collective mayhem. In “Collar”—maybe a love serenade, maybe an ode to submission—Tournament shouted that “if the collar fits then I’ll be your dog,” punctuating their caveman groove with nightmare riffs and a noisy, wall-of-sound guitar solo. “RX,” with strong, confident drums pushing its apocalyptic cadence, crescendoed from a whisper into a shout of night doctor guitars that woke the spirit.
Releasing a strategic waylay of sharp, breakneck guitars riffs, Montana Masback and Sean Kraft created a turbulent hypnosis that held the crowd, and Masback’s lead vocals delivered tales of reckless endangerment in a rustic, feral voice. The brain-shattering bass playing of Ryan Kelly added serious weight to the madness. With true control of his sound and the technique of a master swordsman, he cut time into fragments of oblivion. The three were reinforced by the roaring drums of Jordan Lovelace, who—like the mad TV chef Gordon Ramsey–understood the flavor of each drum and slammed them into sweet and unexpected combinations, creating something memorable while being the loudest in the room.
The band’s high-octane style puts the listener in a ferocious frenzy that fuels drinking binges and holds the promise of a great street fight between righteousness and chaos. While the mighty backhand of the mainstream (or the almighty boardroom upstairs) has tried to sterilize rock and transform it from its grungy jacket-and-jeans armor to a sleek mewling that sees access to the Bieber after-party as the pinnacle of success, Tournament plays on in defiance. The quartet isn’t a well-oiled machine that goes on and on without pit stops; it’s a superior being composed of four equal parts, moving in, a mess but together, for the kill.
video by Rahil Ashruff