The silver spraypainted Red Collar sign outside Triangle Brewing Company's Durham warehouse space Saturday night read, "Road Work Ahead." Maybe it was the only large piece of reflective orange metal they had lying around on Pearl Street, but it was entirely appropriate. Following the hometown release show for Pilgrim, Red Collar, finally, was hitting the road full-time. Or, as frontman Jason Kutchma referred to it during the album's title cut, going home.
As tour mates The Bones Royal wrapped up their solid half-hour set just past 9:00 p.m., Triangle Brewing's Pilgrim Ale, brewed exclusively for the occasion, had already run dry. It was indicative of the anticipation in the air. The crowd, a few hundred strong, didn't have to wait long: Durham's The Dry Heathens had the front of the room shouting along to it's own punk-fueled anthems, but a cover of red Collar's "Witching Hour" had three-fourths of Red Collar joining them on stage by the end of the first chorus.
Stoking the fire with a 10-minute break after tuning up and checking mics, Kutchma set his opening speech over the slow build of "The Commuter," thanking the bands, venue and soundman, then praising local music for giving him direction again. "I may be preaching to the choir, but I'm going to keep on preaching until the choir becomes preachers themselves," Kutchma said, just before the band (and crowd) erupted into a fist-pumping fury for the chorus of Pilgrim's opener. And so it was: Kutchma preached with wide-eyed paranoia throughout the night, his pulpit surrounded on three sides by a throng that hung on every word and screamed back the ones they knew. The band left it all on stage, heating up the chilly confines in the process.
Guitarist Mike Jackson, as usual, was a whirlwind of energy and drummer Jonathan Truesdale played through sweat and blood. Bassist Beth Kutchma, then, was the Entwistle-esque (relative) calm amongst the storm. Friends Steve Oliva (of the Heathens and Rat Jackson) and Reese McHenry (of The Dirty Little Heaters) joined in the fun, adding another guitar and more vocals to "Used Guitars" and dueting with Jason Kutchma, respectively, and the band played true to all those Springsteen comparisons, covering The Boss hit "Dancing in the Dark". But the night belonged to Red Collar, who set the place ablaze through the rock 'n' roll firebrand of "Rust Belt Heart" and the menacing "Tools" with an intensity that rivaled The Avett Brothers' long-ago club days. We now see how hitting the road turned out for them.
Check the video of "Radio On" (with a tag of The Mountain Goats' "This Year") below, then head over to the Scan YouTube channel for video of the McHenry guest spot, along with a couple more older videos of Red Collar in action. Apologies for the overblown sound on some of Saturday's videos; my digital camera can't handle loud music as well as my still-ringing ears.