There’s an old saying which has taken on a certain relevance in my life, especially during these tough economic times. Maybe you’ve heard it before. It goes something like, “When life gives you lemons, go out and get your face melted.” At least, that’s how I remember it. And while I can’t say for certain whether everyone in attendance at the Grog Shop for this past Saturday night’s hard, heavy, shred-fest featuring Early Man, Red Fang, and Venomin James were looking for salvation in the almighty riff, they most definitely got their fill of hot, face-melting, Rock ‘N’ Roll action.

Looking like a band of heshers who stumbled into a magic phone booth on the grounds of your high school, circa 1989, when the group of throwback, long-haired shredders known as Early Man, strode onto stage in their finest tight, black jeans and sleeveless black tees (Advertising their favorite metal bands, of course), there was little question as to what was to follow: The type of speed metal which ruled Headbanger’s ball twenty years ago. The type of stuff which scared your mom into banning MTV in her house and kept Tipper Gore up at night, worrying about a generation of corrupted youth. The only unknowns being how hard, how fast, and how loud. Early Man shredded so loud, so hard, and so fast the sound man could have added more, more and more drums to the mix and your body would have still been shaken by those quick, sharp, teeth rattling riffs, oblivious to the fact there was a fourth member in the band keeping time behind the drum kit.

Hitting the stage before Early Man, Portland, Oregon’s Red Fang were also a bit of a throwback act, albeit in a much different vein than Early Man. The big, burly dudes owed part of their sound to Motorhead. You could also hear traces of the Pacific Northwest’s long history of being the premier location for everything scuzz, fuzz, and sludge. Mostly, they kicked out one heavy guitar lick after another, and proceeded to rock the sh*t out of it producing a rough, hard-edged form of Rock ‘N’ Roll ideal for drinking, or driving really fast, but not both things at once. And speaking of drinking, the biggest reaction for the night was saved for Red Fang’s “Prehistoric Dog,” whose video included some 73,000 beer cans. Air drumming, air guitaring, and headbanging, all increased ten fold, once Red Fang blasted that jam into the crowd’s collective faces.

Setting the stage for the night’s shred fest were locals, Venomin James. There were big dudes, and beards, and a bassist with a bass guitar slung down to his knees. And there was guitar. Thick heavy, sludgy doom metal guitar, as thick and sludgy as the mighty Cuyahoga River in 1973. Although vocalist Jim Meador, seemed undecided at times whether he should pattern his style after Danzing, Hetfield, or Mike Patton, once he and his bandmates found their groove, that heavy, heavy groove, there was head bangin’ and neck breakin’ for all, and more than a few suggestions that Venomin James are going to be a band to look out for in the coming months.