Band Line Up 2024
Playing: Friday, 9th August 2024
Stage: Ronnie James Dio Stage
Band Photo Gallery
CLUTCH shares more in common with The Grateful Dead, Rush, and the Allman Brothers than their heavy riffs and heady twists-of-phrase might suggest. Because like those bands, the supporters who adore CLUTCH are there for the experience, community, and authentic connection.
To love CLUTCH is to feel a sense of ownership, membership, and belonging.
Like Slayer or Iron Maiden, CLUTCH outlasted rock bands anchored to “hit songs” and the pressure of replicating them. The foursome from Germantown, Maryland, isn’t bound by trends. Across 13 studio albums and assorted releases since 1991, they’ve earned a reputation as one of the best around.
Seneca Valley High School classmates Neil Fallon (vocals), Tim Sult (guitar), Dan Maines (bass), and Jean-Paul Gaster (drums) share an unshakeable musical and personal bond now three decades strong. Shaped by the same region which birthed Bad Brains, Minor Threat, and Rites Of Spring, CLUTCH crafts hyper-literate and libertine jams informed by hardcore fury and fuzzy, athletic, stoner rock.
“The band is anomalous in some ways. Maybe it’s the sense of humor in our lyrics. Some of our songs have a much bigger swing than typical metal songs,” Fallon reasons when asked about their appeal.
“Maybe it’s because we’ve dabbled in a little bit of everything over the years. People know each other, from states and even countries away,” he adds. “People have met at Clutch shows, gotten married, and now bring their kids to our shows. People take vacations to see us in faraway locations. It’s incredibly flattering that it means that much to people. It’s more than just, ‘Oh, I got a t-shirt.’”
“We don’t take that for granted,” adds Gaster. “And we don’t want to let them down.”
A worldwide cabal of fans and critics cherish the band’s dense and diverse catalog of underground classics, released through major labels, indies, and since 2009, Clutch’s own Weathermaker imprint. Sunrise On Slaughter Beach, the band’s thirteenth studio album, is a slamming summary of everything that makes the band great and another giant leap forward into career longevity.
Songs like “Gimme the Keys,” “The Regulator,” “Spacegrass,” “The Mob Goes Wild,” and “X-Ray Visions” are anthems among the hard rock faithful. “Electric Worry” boasts 30 million streams on Spotify, to say nothing of the varied physical and digital formats collected and coveted by Clutch fans.
“There’s no question that Clutch etched themselves a name in the pantheon of great rock bands,” Lambgoat wrote in 2004. Classic Rock Magazine counted 2013’s Earth Rocker and 2015’s Psychic Warfare among the 50 Best Rock Albums of the 2010s. Rolling Stone described 2018’s Book of Bad Decisions as “bathed in the grit and liberal fuzz tone that have made their live shows legendary.”
Those live shows over the years include tours with Slayer, System Of A Down, and Marilyn Manson, and more recent co-headlining treks with Dropkick Murphys, Killswitch Engage, and Mastodon. The pandemic saw them quickly pivot to a series of live stream shows, each buzzed about and unique.
New bangers like “Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone),” “Nosferatu Madre,” “Skeletons on Mars,” “Jackhammer Our Names,” and “Mercy Brown” take their rightful place alongside the classics. Sunrise On Slaughter Beach is the natural culmination of what Clutch began as teenagers in the early ‘90s.
1991’s heavily sought-after Pitchfork 7” caught the attention of English tastemaker metal label Earache, responsible for legendary records from Napalm Death, Carcass, and Morbid Angel. Earache issued the following year’s Passive Restraints EP. Warner Music Group subsidiary EastWest Records (home to Pantera, AC/DC, and Dream Theater at different points) released Clutch’s debut full-length album, Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes & Undeniable Truths, in 1993. A Metal Hammer writer later called it “a stark reminder of just how good angry music could sound.”
A self-titled album appeared two years later and afforded Clutch their first mainstream exposure, as the label released a trilogy of psychedelic-tinged singles. In a 2015 piece titled How Clutch’s Second Album Helped Revive Rock in the ‘90s, Ultimate Classic Rock likened the band’s emergence to classic rock revivalists Black Crowes and Soundgarden. “Then there was the imaginative rebooting of acid rock into stoner rock by the likes of Kyuss, Fu Manchu Monster Magnet, and Clutch. The latter’s eponymous sophomore album did as much to define ‘90s stoner rock as any release from those other bands. It also helped distinguish Clutch as a breed apart within that loosely knit musical movement.” That second record introduced more swing, playful lyrics, and storytelling into the Clutch sound.
Clutch worked with producer Jack Douglas (The Who, Aerosmith, Mountain) for 1998’s The Elephant Riders on Sony’s Columbia Records. The six-figure selling Pure Rock Fury followed on Atlantic in 2001, bolstered by the band’s first Top 40 hit, "Careful With That Mic.” Jam Room and Live at the Googleplex surfaced on the band’s own River Road Records (later reissued by Megaforce).
Upon the album’s reissue in 2011, Consequence called 2004’s Blast Tyrant “a classic metal record.” “Clutch is one of those bands that will probably be around forever. They have been consistently producing some of the best hard rock albums for over 20 years, and they haven’t missed a single step.” Machine (Lamb Of God, Demon Hunter, Every Time I Die) produced Blast Tyrant with the band.
The ill-fated startup label DRT released Blast Tyrant and its follow-up, 2005’s Robot Hive/Exodus, produced by Clutch with D.C. underground legend J. Robbins, of Government Issue and Jawbox.
Joe Barresi (Soundgarden, Tool, Queens Of The Stone Age) helmed 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion. “The band just cooks, with a live revival-tent intensity and groove,” wrote Blabbermouth. “Clutch are carrying the flame for real American rock and roll; dumb rock for smart people.”
The following year, the band and late manager Jack Flanagan launched the Clutch owned and operated label, Weathermaker Music, eventually securing distribution through major channels.
Once again produced with J. Robbins, Clutch’s ninth studio album, 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West debuted in Billboard’s Top 40. Its follow-up, 2013’s Earth Rocker, went straight to No. 1 in the Billboard Top Hard Rock Albums, No. 6 in the Billboard Top Rock Albums, and No. 15 in the Billboard Top 200. Heavy and fast, Earth Rocker reteamed Clutch with producer Machine, as was 2015’s Psychic Warfare. The band’s eleventh record hit No. 1 on both the Hard Rock and Rock charts.
Weathermaker Music released the 12th Clutch album, Book of Bad Decisions, in 2018. The album hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hard Rock Charts and came in at No. 16 on the Billboard 200. Rolling Stone described Book of Bad Decisions as “bathed in the grit and liberal fuzz tone that have made their live shows legendary.” The same year, Kerrang! Magazine called Neil Fallon “the biggest voice in rock.”
Gaster initially thought album thirteen would be an opposite reaction to the polarization and uncertainty of the pandemic years. Perhaps something more upbeat, in the vein of Earth Rocker. “The more the songs took shape, the less I saw that kind of an album. Something different took shape. The record we ended up with is, in some ways, the most different record we’ve made in a long time.”
“We can write something pretty quickly that sounds like a Clutch song,” Fallon explains. “But that pushes us to add something that wouldn’t be as expected from us. We’ll also listen to things halfway through and say, ‘Ok, we have a lot of fast ones, let’s write a slower one, something moodier and vibe-y.’ You need those moments between the blasters to help the album breathe overall.”
Sunrise On Slaughter Beach introduces some “firsts” into the Clutch canon: vibraphone (from Gaster), theremin (J. Robbins), and female backup vocals from singers Deborah Bond and Frenchie Davis. The album’s nine songs are a diverse ride, destined to please longtime fans and intrigue newcomers alike. It’s a new chapter in an ever-unfolding story which means as much to the fans as it does to the band.
Fallon likens Clutch’s longevity to the story of The Three Little Pigs. “You can quickly build a house with sticks, but it falls apart. It takes a lot longer to build it out of stone. I feel like that’s what we’ve done. This has been a marathon. It took a long time to build, but it’s gonna be here for a long time.”