By Ben Richardson
Almost all of the members of Valient Thorr wear denim jackets emblazoned with their own backpatches, which would be a pretty lame move by a band that didn't claim to be from Venus.
Yet once a group makes a certain level of commitment to a ridiculous concept, all is forgiven, and a collection of pseudonyms and a convoluted interplanetary backstory only serve to heighten Valient Thorr's endearing, cultish goofiness. They stormed the stage Wednesday, Sept. 19, at Slim's, ripping through a high-octane set that combined punk rock, AC/DC, and a healthy dose of ZZ Top.
Majestically bearded frontperson "Valient Himself" patrolled the stage like a demented ringmaster, stretching the world's tightest pair of purple thrift-store pants to their absolute limit. His ranting, raving vocal stylings kept the crowd raucous, and his copious sweat rained down on the front row, especially when he started purposefully flicking it out of his armpits with both hands.
Barnburners such as "Heatseeker" and "I Am the Law" were kept at a fever pitch by the guitar team of "Eidan" and "Voiden Thorr." The two seared from start to finish, displaying a devastating talent for four-fingered sixteenth note runs in between their psycho-boogie chord changes. One of them - I'm not sure which - even demonstrated a novel hairdo which I will dub the "reverse beard," which involves pairing a mohawk and beard combo with a second beard that joins the "face" beard above the ears and runs down along the back of the neck. With some careful maintenance and maybe a little tattoo work, the guy could have a convincing face on the back of his skull.
The Thorriors debuted some unreleased new songs, including a homage to old-school, quarter-fueled video games and a positively slaytanic Halloween-themed ditty, but they didn't deign to play their Guitar Hero II track "The Fall of Pangaea," defying many expectations including mine. Instead, in keeping with what seems to be the Valient Thorr approach, the band launched into another Guitar Hero track halfway through the final song, playing a revved-up, note-perfect cover of Thin Lizzy's "Bad Reputation" before returning to their own material for the climax of the set.
Although they had a tough act to follow, Texan headliners the Riverboat Gamblers strove to make their presence felt, playing their mediocre punk 'n' roll ditties with something that at least approached Valient Thorr's energy. Frontperson Mike Weibe showed off some endearingly hit-or-miss mic-tossing tricks, and the band kept the pace going, if only to compensate for forgettable riffs. The lesson was plain: follow the Venusians at your peril.