King Tuff

Sneaky Pete’s 18/11/14

You don’t need to be clean. You don’t need to be smart. You don’t need french horns, tubular bells or arpeggiators. You don’t need to be good looking. You just need to be Tuff. Arriving in Scotland via transatlantic rocket-powered Gibson SG, Kyle Thomas and the King Tuff band proved that they were tuffer than the tuffest. Tuffer than consolidated volcanic ash. Thomas started the project in the early 2000s, releasing homemade CDs of garage rock that championed cheap beer, cheap hookups, and generally acting like a “freak”. On stage he is joined by Magic Jake on bass (who bears uncanny likeness in features and mannerisms to a WWE version of Jake from Adventure Time) and Garrett Goddard on the drums. The Tuff crew were supported by local band Saint Max and the Fanatics, who are “not fucking mods”, but nonetheless played ska-flavoured tunes in dapper outfits.

The whole band could shred, but they kept the ego to a minimum, reducing solos and riffs to cute, four bar spasms. Thomas’ guitar work was especially impressive, as he could switch between poppy melodies and ear-splitting feedback at will, doing so with electrifying abandon. He screamed, jerked, and spat like a dangerously caffeinated Hellchild. Above all, King Tuff set out to rejuvenate the crowd’s love of cheesy rock ‘n’ roll, and they wanted everyone present to know that they did not take anything seriously. The band accomplished this with sly wit and childlike exuberance, culminating in the show’s high point: Magic Jake’s magic whistle solo. Songs like ‘Sun Medallion’ showed a surprisingly gentle side to the group, and served as a reminder that Thomas believes in the music he writes, despite pretending he couldn’t care less.

This conviction is what gave King Tuff their energy and aura, and is ultimately what made the show great. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when they broke into another Thin Lizzy riff and open-chord hook, but when the crowd requested an encore, the group’s collective eyes lit up, and they joyfully fired through another song before requesting the crowd join them for “lots of shots and beer”.

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