Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
For many of you here reading this, NOLA band The Mystick Krewe Of Clearlight (sometimes known solely as Clearlight) may be a totally unknown entity to you. If that is the case, especially if you consider yourself tapped into the New Orleans, Louisiana music scene, prepare to be astounded to some degree or another.
See, the band, which was originally begun in 1996 as a side-project type thing, happens to house some rather well-known players from the heavy rock/sludge underground. Started by members whose own resumés included names like EyeHateGod, DOWN, Crowbar, Hawg Jaw, Corrosion Of Conformity, Southern Isolation, Christ Inversion, and others, The Mystick Krewe Of Clearlight‘s “connections to” roster is pretty impressive, is it not?
It is valid too as the ’96 version of this group consisted of multi-instrumentalist, guitarist in this case, Jimmy Bower, bassist Andy Shepherd, guitarist Paul Webb, keyboardist Ross Karpelman and now passed-on drummer Joey LaCaze (R.I.P.). Did you happen to notice that there was no mention of a singer though? There is an understandable reason for that too, it being the fact that The Mystick Krewe Of Clearlight was an instrumental unit. One that cultivated a large following in the years they spent merely just gigging out live on a more or less regional level in their early days.
What the quintet created and eventually unleashed were fantastic delves into no-restraint psychedelic blues, vintage-influenced Southern rock, and extensive jamming. All of which would be captured and then released on the band’s S/T full-length debut for Tee Pee Records in 2000. As far as instrumental bands go, and for what my personal opinion may or may not matter, The Mystick Krewe Of Clearlight broke the mold. Not just as a band, not just as a record in general, but in every aspect imaginable.
With their overheated blender of boogie, funk, and fever-inducing blues, plus the showcasing of the smoldering organs/ keyboard aspect, this powerhouse was one that clearly could not be taken lightly… regardless of what their name might imply.
Despite the phenomenal output of their introductory recording, The Mystick Krewe Of Clearlight remained a whispered-of myth, one given to mention only among those “in the know” so to speak. It seemed they were destined to stay off the radar of most people, plus the fact that the guys all played in their other primary bands hindered the ability to apply a lot of focus on this endeavor. All that aside though, they refused to stay in limbo and rejected the notion of becoming a one-album wonder.
In 2001, with the same lineup still in place, The Mystick Krewe Of Clearlight was one half of a Split release with Acid King via Man’s Ruin Records. Contributing two songs, “Buzzard Hill (My Back Yard)” and “Veiled“, jointly under the name ‘The Father, The Son, And The Holy Smoke’, folks were stoked for new music from the band. Needless to say, that stoking became abject shock when it was discovered that both tracks possessed vocals on them. And not vocals from just any old common Joe, but ones from none other than the legendary Scott “Wino” Weinrich of The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, etc. fame.
Perhaps it was due in part to the inclusion of, or working with Wino, whatever, but something helped inspire the notion of issuing a 7″ split single that same year, 2001. When it all worked out, what came was a 2-song offering from The Obsessed and The Mystick Krewe Of Clearlight, one with each act contributing a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover. Released through Southern Lord Records as the ‘On The Hunt / Cheatin’ Woman’ split, TMKOC had yet another shocker in store when they once again utilized a lead vocalist. This time it would be none other than Corrosion Of Conformity / DOWN‘s Pepper Keenan and once again, it was a spectacular offering.
Unfortunately, this would be the swansong gift from The Mystick Krewe Of Clearlight who officially disbanded in 2001 after they were robbed of their gear in Dallas, TX. while out on tour with C.O.C. and Clutch. The original band did reunite for a one-off single show held in NOLA during February of 2012. Tragically, drummer Joey LaCaze (EyeHateGod, Outlaw Order) passed away in 2013.
In early 2016, tales flared up that The Mystick Krewe Of Clearlight was active yet once again, furthered by the fact that a band Facebook page was started (here) and indicated hints of new recordings in progress. Not a lot has seemingly resulted from it yet but the band, consisting of the returning Jimmy Bower, Paul Webb, Andy Shepherd, and Ross Karpelman, and now evidently joined by EHG / Mountain Of Wizard’s Aaron Hill on drums plus guitarist Kevin Bond (Superjoint, Artimus Pyldriver, Assjack, Red River Revival) hopefully may just surprise us all yet!