Magnet Club seems to take on the persona of whatever band is performing each evening; its black interior and unassuming decor does not have much a heartbeat until a band fills the space. When King Tuff pulled up to the venue, the vibe was instantly transformed into one of groovy garage rock with studded denim jackets, the smell of marijuana intermingled with an overused fog machine, and thick, inescapable guitar riffs. An audience member that night appropriately summarized it, mumbling, “It’s like fucking speed, man. And it’s legal.” And he was right. There was something unapologetically addicting about King Tuff that evening.
The band opened with “Black Moon Spell,” the title track off of its new album. As King Tuff, or Kyle Thomas, strummed the first notes, there was a twinkle in his eye that was certainly fueled by studded jackets and positive vibes—both of which partially illustrate the world for which King Tuff’s two albums provide the soundtrack. The aesthetic that goes along with King Tuff is bold and makes no apologies. The art for “Black Moon Spell” is a rich purple background adorned with a gypsy’s eyes and a crystal ball—indicative of the spell that King Tuff had in store for the audience at Magnet. It was slow moving but it was shredding.
“I was lost in space like an alien race/just going by the light of the moon” the frontman crooned with his signature melodic whine. The music crawled up the spines of the audience members and transported them into a world where there was no time to care about appearances. There was only time to dance—or maybe a more accurate term would be to slink—around the venue floor propelled by the drumbeats of Old Gary, the sexy low-end tones of Magic Jake, and the relentless guitar solos of King Tuff himself.
As people began to push to the front, there was some onstage banter; King Tuff had previously been too mesmerized by his own music to converse much with those on the other side of the performance. His sweat-drenched hair made a fitting frame for the expression he made while playing: expressions that exist on a liminal plane between pain and pleasure—maybe indulging in a form of musical Lacanian jouissance. “Was anyone here a year ago?” King Tuff rhetorically asked the audience. “We didn’t think so.” There were moments when it felt an arena rock show created by the wall of sound that emitted from the speakers and the blue and white lights serving as an aesthetic backdrop to King Tuff’s antics, which included playing his guitar with his tongue, one of Jimi Hendrix’s signature moves.
The live show is an exchange of energy between performer and onlookers that, if properly propelled, transforms all present in the room into active participants. King Tuff did just that. It was a gift of an hour that allowed all in the venue to let go, groove, and just not care for the time that they spent within the venue. King Tuff possesses a unique brand of sincerity and lackadaisical rock’n’roll indulgence.