Big Head Todd and the Monsters with Van Ghost, 3/12/12

Big Head Todd and the Monsters (with Van Ghost)
Soul Kitchen
Mobile, AL
March 12, 2012



With very little Azalea City history, Big Head Todd & his Monsters marched into Mobile, AL, the original home of the largest Mardi Gras celebrations, with Mobile and Alabama virgins, Van Ghost in tow.

Spring has definitely sprung in Mobile. With a high of 80 and sporadic showers, the damp air has already begun to develop into the dreaded thick and humidity riddled air of the summer season.

Taking the stage promptly at 8:00 PM, Chicago based Van Ghost attempted to take the weather into consideration by offering cool takes on their pop flavored Americana rock, but in short order, the quintet that is the brainchild of front man Michael Harrison Berg set the Soul Kitchen afire.Managing to fit in every number from their recently released EP, The Domino Effect, the direction of the musically stellar band has been clearly honed. This is a band that is primed to take on everything from Top 40 to a festival that caters to virtually any flavor, sans hip-hop or dub-step.

Highlighted by the ever present lyrical depth of Berg throughout the affair and the magnificent guitar work of Grant Tye, vocalist/trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick shone as bright as ever. Whether alternating leads with Berg on the title track, flying solo, harmonizing or trumpeting, she stood tall in the center — where she belongs — and owned the Kitchen throng who had become fully enthused by the “opening act.”

After a short break, Big Head Todd and the Monsters made their way to the stage. As they did, anyone who had witnessed the Van Ghost performance that wrapped twenty minutes previous had to be wondering if Todd and company were up to the challenge that had been presented by their stage predecessors. Soon enough, they would prove themselves as equals.

Wasting no time, the band launched into 2008’s “Cashbox.” One thing that was worth noting was that the tune’s signature floor tom drum roll intro was the initial indicator that the night would be plagued with percussive issues. On the positive side though, it also demonstrated that the relentless touring by Mohr (Big Head Todd) has not inflicted any noticeable strain on his vocal chords, his guttural croon as fresh as a tomato fresh from the garden.

Mohr would later explain his lack of experience in Alabama’s port city and expressed that he was “going to do [his] best to play [the audience’s] kind of music].” He was most successful with this when spreading on thick blues riffs in “Come on in My Kitchen,” the opening cut from his latest record (billed under the moniker “Big Head Blues Club”), 100 Years of Robert Johnson; and later with an extended blues infused take on the funk inspired title track from 1997’s Beautiful World.


Big Head Todd and the Monsters Setlist


Cashbox, Blue Sky, Conquistador, Come on in My Kitchen, Please Don’t Tell Her, Fortune Teller, Dirty Juice, Beautiful, Resignation Superman, Bittersweet, Cruel Fate, Beautiful World, Black Bee Hive, Broken Hearted Savior, It’s Alright, Muhammad Ali, Sister Sweetly, Rocksteady, Circle, Rattlesnake Blues, Sexy and I know it, Black Betty


Van Ghost Setlist


Return to Innocence, Domino Effect, Tangled and Dark, Burden, Cage, Fortune Teller, Drowning, Ease on Me, Modern Day Love Affari

Download The Domino Effect EP for free at


Click the thumbnails to view photos from the show by David Shehi