Live Review: Stoner at Scotland Yard Pub in Canoga Park, CA

Material: Stoner draws a lot of inspiration from classic rock, and this is obvious in their material. Many of their songs are reminiscent of bands like AC/DC and George Thorogood, and while this isn’t inherently bad it does fall into a lull of familiarity that can be a double-edged sword. “Fall To Pieces” and “Outer Space” stand out in the set musically, but each song lacks lyrical power that can set the band apart. Despite this, the band’s arrangements aren’t lacking in ways other three-piece bands fall short; the song structure is classic and understandable.

Musicianship: All the parts are there, and Stoner has a “dad-band” charm that makes them seem relatable. Guitar player David Mollen showed he can shred with the best of them; lead singer and bass player Sam Reed held down the fort with somewhat excitable drummer Mike McGrogan. However, it was incredibly hard to muddle through each part individually because of some tremendous issues with the mix. The vocal was nearly indistinguishable, which was unfortunate because it seemed to be a highlight of the group. The drums were overbearing and the guitar drowned out any sense of harmony. The band, however, were not at all lacking in energy, and they are good musicians despite this set’s shortcomings.

Performance: The sound in the pub was absolutely miserable, and the sound guy didn’t really seem to know what he was doing; as a result the band was painted in a negative light. Swampy vocal, unpleasantly loud guitar... Getting your sound right is the first thing a band needs to nail. In addition, Stoner lost stamina in the mid-set, and there was some confusion that was due to a lack of communication. However, the guys clearly have experience and the audience was pretty into what they were handing out.

Summary: Stoner has some good elements, but a lot of work needs to be done to take this from a pub band to a venue band. Find what makes you special and play to it; it’s important to show why you’re exciting and marketable. As for getting the songs in the right spot, check those lyrics and be sure not to use the crutch of “rock & roll” to equate loudness with quality. Good songs will stand up
acoustically or fully rocked out. Stoner clearly has the rock & roll thing down––now they need to get the backbone to convince their audience they’re more than just another rock band.

Scotland Yard Pub Canoga Park, CA
Contact: [email protected]
Players: David Mollen, guitar; Sam Reed, bass, vocals; Mike McGrogan, drums