On November 21st, 2023, Mammoth WVH brought their Mammoth II tour to the Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta, GA, with support from guitarist Nita Strauss and her solo band. The room was filled to the brim with fans of both artists who rocked the night away to some of their favorite songs. Both bands brought all kinds of musical talent for the audience to marvel at, while also providing an exciting energy that was easy to move along to.
Kicking off the show with a bang was Nita Strauss and her band. They opened their set with the instrumental song "Summer Storm," which immediately had the crowd jumping and head banging. Nita Strauss is an expert guitar player who captures the entire room's attention when she plays. Even those unfamiliar with the technicalities of guitar playing can't deny her talent as they watch her fingers fly across the strings in the practiced moves of an expert. The rest of her band is similarly gifted with their instruments, or in her touring vocalist's case, her voice. Watching the band play together was an all-around captivating experience. The group is clearly tight-knit, since their presence onstage meshes together so well, and it really enhanced their performance. Once the band finished playing the first five songs - all of which were instrumental - vocalist Kasey Karlsen joined the stage to add a talented range of both clean and unclean vocals to the music. For the song "Through the Noise," Karlsen taught the enthusiastic crowd how to sing the chorus with her, and when it was their turn to sing, the crowd shouted the lyrics with as much power as they could. The band closed their set with the already iconic song, "Victorious," leaving the crowd energized and ready for more.
Next, it was time for Mammoth WVH to take the stage, led by Wolfgang Van Halen, son of the legendary Eddie Van Halen. While there's no denying Wolf's relation to Eddie when viewing his playing, he also brought his own sound and skillset to the stage that was beyond impressive. Before ending her set, Nita Strauss introduced Wolfgang Van Halen as "one of the greatest guitar players of all time." For those unfamiliar with Wolf, this may seem like an overblown statement, but the second he began playing, it was obvious where this sentiment came from. I was astonished watching Wolf play his instrument in ways I've never seen before.
The crowd's cheering became a roar when Mammoth WVH began their set, and their energy stayed consistently high for the rest of the show. While the band did a good job of matching that energy, this was especially true of bassist Ronnie Ficarro and drummer Garrett Whitlock. Ficarro would jump and leap across the stage, all while expertly playing his instrument. Meanwhile,Whitlock's energy was unmatched as he passionately played the drums, all the while, keeping a steady hand and staying on beat. This was something that really impressed me about Mammoth WVH. Every member of the band was clearly skilled, and they each had their moments in the spotlight to demonstrate it. While Wolf is certainly the front runner of the band, he's by no means the only member, and their performance did a great job of showcasing that. For instance, Wolf was lead on the vocals, but Ficarro, rhythm and lead guitarist Frank Sidoris, and rhythm guitarist Jon Jourdan were all featured as backing vocalists, and they all harmonized perfectly with Wolf. Even so, the three of them didn't sing for every song, so there were moments when we as an audience were able to hear more distinct vocals from each of them that really showed off their strengths. It was an impressive balance that was executed impeccably.
While each song performed by Mammoth WVH showcased the talents of the band, my favorite songs to see live were "Distance" and its thematic sequel, "Waiting." For "Distance," Wolf performed the song alone and on an acoustic guitar, slowing the pace down quite a bit. While it was certainly a different mood than the rest of the music played, it allowed the audience to see even more of Wolf's skillset. His vocals really shone during this song, showing off a range we had yet to see. And for the sequel "Waiting," Wolf kept the acoustic, but the rest of the band joined him onstage for what felt like a cinematic performance.
Both bands put on such an incredible show. The audience got to witness some very talented musicians that night, and I hope they appreciated it as much as I did. It just so happened to be my birthday during this show, and what a great birthday present it was. I couldn't have imagined spending it any other way.