Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs and Richard Dawson played the Middle East – 3/31

British stoner metal crew Pigsx7 and cult-favorite folksinger Richard Dawson played some of their first-ever U.S. sets at the Middle East on Friday night.

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There are many band names out there – some great, some terrible, some that simply transcend. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs is a transcendent band name. It’s funny, it’s eye-catching, it’s fun to say; it’s the perfect moniker for an irreverent Newcastle quintet churning out sweaty riff marathons.

The Pigs have been an active concern for over a decade at this point, unleashing four LPs including February’s great Land of Sleeper, but this Spring marked their first-ever venture to North America. Following a debut at Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus Bar last month, a pile of SXSW dates and a west coast jaunt, they headed to Cambridge last weekend to link up with pal Richard Dawson – the eccentric and beloved singer-songwriter who was fresh off his own debut U.S. shows in NYC – for a sold-out night at the Middle East.

On paper, these two acts read as kind of weird teamup. In person they were also kind of a weird teamup – and some portion of the crowd definitely showed out for one or the other specifically – but approached with an open mind, they made for a great bill.

Dawson began his set with a rendition of a 2013 deep cut, “The Ghost of a Tree,” accompanied only by his own (and eventually the audience’s) stomping feet. A supernaturally-tinged tale of a traveling party’s cursed journey home, both haunting and darkly humorous, it was a perfect introduction to Dawson’s strange and wonderful universe. He armed himself with a vintage electric for the rest of the set, spinning out tales both fancifully folkloric and poignantly down-to-earth in transfixing style. Dawson is a true original, and his was easily one of the best solo performances I’ve seen in a good long while.

Where Dawson used little beyond voice and delicate guitar figures to tell his stories, Pigs swung the opposite direction. The five-piece came barreling forth with big volume and big riffs for an unrelenting hour of headbanging goodness. Vocalist Matthew Baty wields a certain stentorian bark that calls to mind a stoner iteration of Idles, but Pigs were less concerned with proselytizing than sonic world-building. Their motorik cacophony had a gravitational pull all its own – an ideal sensory-overload orbit to get trapped in for a chunk of your Friday night.

Check out photos from both sets below.