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Five Things We Learned From Motor Sister's First Gig

Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian debuts his new band in his old stomping ground

Motor Sister, a new LA band featuring some very familiar faces, made their first ever public appearance last night at New York’s St. Vitus bar. Here are five things we learned from their debut gig…

New York Looks After Its Own

“Is that him on the right?” a gentleman standing behind Hammer enquiries of a friend as Scott Ian straps on his Jackson guitar, hardly the most auspicious hometown welcome for one of the most identifiable icons in heavy metal. It’s not that long ago since Anthrax received a heroes’ welcome from 50,000 New York metalheads at Yankee Stadium, though, so perhaps it’s understandable that their founding guitarist’s appearance in a 300 capacity neighbourhood dive bar is a bit of a headfuck for the locals. In truth, this gig must be something of a headfuck for Ian too, given that the guitarist only originally put Motor Sister together as a one-off 50th birthday treat to himself to pay tribute to one of his favourite ever bands, long defunct LA rockers Mother Superior: now here he stands alongside that band’s former frontman Jim Wilson (with his missus Pearl at stage left) premiering a set of cover songs a full month ahead of their release on Motor Sister’s debut album Ride. In a room packed with old friends and familiar faces though, the warmth of the reception meted out to the Queens native for this homecoming is a fine omen for what turns out to be a special night.

Motor Sister Genuinely Merit Their ‘Supergroup’ Tag

The word ‘supergroup’ gets bandied around a lot these days – please, the union of Danny Worsnop with a bloke who played in Sebastian Bach’s band is emphatically not a supergroup, whatever We Are Harlot’s ‘people’ might believe – but the weight of experience on St. Vitus’ tiny stage tonight is truly humbling. Bassist Joey Vera – the man asked to take Cliff Burton’s place in Metallica in the autumn of 1986 – has over thirty years’ experience with Armored Saint, drummer John Tempesta can list White Zombie, The Cult, Testament, Helmet and Exodus on his CV, and, in addition to fronting her own band, Ms Aday has worked with everyone from Mötley Crüe to her pops, Meatloaf, over the past 20 years. This, friends, is a proper band. You can tell this by the way the quintet absolutely nail the extended Sweet Emotion-esque riff closing out Pretty In The Morning, huge smiles on their faces as they lock tight into the monstrous groove. This good after only a handful of rehearsals? Oh my.

Sometimes Great Bands Can Slip Between The Cracks

Addressing the crowd half-way through the set, Scott Ian thanks the audience “for indulging us, listening to a bunch of songs you don’t know…” That this is almost certainly the case is in no way a reflection of the quality of the source material from which Motor Sister draw. Arguably best known for their role as Henry Rollins’ backing band on the Get Some Go Again and Nice albums, Mother Superior cut eight studio albums of original material, for which Motor Sister’s Ride serves as a kind of posthumous ‘greatest hits’ collection. Listening to the brilliantly addictive power-pop of Get That Girl, the punchy riff-rock of A Hole and the powerful, brooding Head Hanging Low (cheerily introduced by Wilson as “a depressing song about suicide”) it seems remarkable that these songs didn’t connect with a broader audience first time around.

Motor Sister Are More Than Just A Vanity Project

“We are Motor Sister, and much like Motörhead, we play rock and roll,” says Scott Ian by way of introduction tonight.

“It’s a new genre,” he laughs. “We write our own songs, we play our own instruments… and we’ll never win a Grammy.”

Maybe not, but this labour of love deserves your attention. Given their other commitments, it’s uncertain exactly how much time the five musicians onstage will be able to dedicate to Motor Sister, but this is a band worth investing in. Beyond the tangible chemistry at work, there are great songs here: the mesmerising Fool Around could be a Motown/Stax classic, Devil Wind has traces of Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy in its DNA, and the epic, bluesy wail of This Song Reminds Me Of You leaves jaws on the beer-soaked floor. With the likes of Rival Sons, Black Stone Cherry and Blackberry Smoke proving there’s a huge appetite right now for authentic, gritty rock ‘n’ roll, these songs could yet find their time to shine.

Every Journey Starts With One Small Step

Given their pedigree and obvious potential, in a perfect world, Motor Sister would be rocking arenas and festival stages, not taking the stage at 11pm in 300 capacity Brooklyn bar due to host upcoming shows by Cancer Bats, Nails and Obliterations. But these, of course, are the earliest of days for this band. Each song aired tonight is met with enthusiastic applause, but on a school night, with sub-zero temperatures outside, and anyone inside ordering a beer after midnight feted as a crazed Lord Bryon-esque libertine, truthfully this debut gig was never really likely to tip into scenes of frenzied madness. With two Californian shows set for March though, Motor Sister have got their motor running, and more memorable nights doubtless lie ahead. Bring it on.

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Paul Brannigan
Paul Brannigan

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder and Metal Hammer. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.