Graveyard to Release Lights Out on Nov. 6

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 31st, 2012 by JJ Koczan

This press release was posted earlier in the day on the forum as well, but I thought the news warranted an appearance here as well. Swedish retro mavens Graveyard will release their second album for Nuclear Blast (third overall), titled Lights Out, on Oct. 26 in Europe and Nov. 6 in North America.

In my interview with drummer Axel Sjöberg for last year’s Hisingen Blues, he said they’d be back on it quick with a new record and I guess this proves he wasn’t kidding. Guess I’ve got one more to add to my anticipated for the rest of 2012 list. Check it out:

Graveyard Announce New Album Title and Release Dates

Swedish demigods of bluesy, psychedelic rock GRAVEYARD have set Lights Out as the title for their third studio album, due out in Europe on October 26th and in North America on November 6th.

“’Lights Out’ sums up the feeling of the new album,” states GRAVEYARD drummer Axel Sjöberg, “and a feeling that we have that these times that we live in are strange times… where no one really sees anything straight or the way they are.”

In regards to the album artwork, Sjöberg adds: “We all know that both we and pretty much everyone else was really excited about the cover of Hisingen Blues, so we had to come up with a really strong idea to match the strength of that cover. It’s just about finished now, but even without having seen the final version, we are convinced that no one will be disappointed. We’ve worked with several people who all added their part, and as the saying goes in Sweden, ‘The sum of the parts is bigger than the parts alone.’ So sharpen your raven’s hatches and get ready for Lights Out!”

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The World According to Ben Ward

Posted in Columns on July 31st, 2012 by JJ Koczan

This one’s been a while coming, but below you’ll find the debut column from Orange Goblin frontman Ben Ward. In it, he discusses a few of the band’s European gigs in support of their latest album, A Eulogy for the Damned, and a smattering of the drunken shenanigans for which he and bandmates Joe Hoare, Martyn Millard and Chris Turner are legendary. Behold:

Mr. Ward, at the London Desertfest. (Photo by JJ Koczan)

National Lampoon’s Orange Goblin European Vacation! — Part 1 — April 2012

So after 17 years of peddling my wares with Orange Goblin, somebody has asked me to write a regular blog feature. I have to say that I’m amazed for a couple of reasons! Firstly because until a few months back I didn’t even really know what a “blog” was? Secondly I’m amazed because I didn’t think there would be anyone out there that is remotely interested in anything I have to say or do… ever! So, for the past few weeks I’ve been wracking my brains trying to think of something I could talk about that people that read The Obelisk may find entertaining. After all sorts of ridiculous ideas, I have decided to write about what I know best… being in Orange Goblin. Being in Orange Goblin as we travelled around Europe playing various club shows and festivals in lots of different countries, to be precise! It’s been a pretty busy summer by our usual standards with shows in Germany (a few times), Ireland, Italy, Spain, Austria, Sweden, France, Switzerland and more!!

A lot of bands will tell you that there is never a dull moment when you’re on tour but that’s an outright lie! There are loads of dull moments and the only way to relieve the boredom of those dull moments is to drink, smoke or make up ridiculous little games and in-jokes that the outside world would consider completely insane. In Orange Goblin we have practically invented a new language that only we understand, it’s the perfect juncture of absolute genius and utter morons!! I suspect most people would think it tends to lean heavily towards the latter.

I’m gonna start the report back in April 2012. We’d just finished a very successful UK tour (with our good friends Grifter in support) including headlining the first-ever Desertfest in London, when we jetted off for three shows in Germany, Ireland and Northern Ireland. Here’s what happened:

 

Thursday 19th April – Desertfest, Berlin, Germany

We’d already played the Desertfest in London a couple of weeks earlier at the start of our UK tour so with an equally impressive lineup of bands we were pretty sure the Berlin version was going to be just as good. Over the course of the three days the stage would see the likes of Ancestors, Colour Haze, Wino & Conny Ochs, Motorpsycho, Red Fang, Black Tusk, Ufomammut, Brain Police as well as many, many others, including us.

Our travel party varies depending on where we play for but for this jaunt it consisted of six of us. Chris, Joe, Martyn and myself obviously, accompanied by Alastair Riddell (our tour manager, guitar tech and self-proclaimed Nordic God of Chips!) and Elena (Martyn’s better half, who sells the merchandise and worships Lynyrd Skynyrd!). Joe and I were actually early for a change so we went and got a McDonald’s breakfast before we all met up at a ridiculous hour in a cold, wet car park in Southall (West London), a few miles from Heathrow (the closest long-stay parking you can get to such a retarded airport!) and boarded a bus to Terminal 1. The shocking London traffic didn’t dampen our spirits but upon arrival at Terminal 1 it emerged that we should’ve gone to Terminal 5 and now had to carry all our gear and merchandise across the airport. Not the best start to the day, but we arrived at the correct place and everyone managed to remain calm and quite upbeat about the whole debacle. I have to say at this point that I absolutely hate airports. I hate the tedious ritual of checking-in, going through various security and passport checks, but most of all I hate the people in airports. They seem to be a different species. I have an unfiltered vehemence for both the staff and especially my fellow passengers (bandmates and crew aside!), all desperate to get ahead of the next person so that they can board the plane before anyone else. The worst are the people in the departure lounge who feel the need to stand right next to the check-in gate, so they’re at the front of a nonexistent queue an hour before we’re due to take off, the ones that make all the other sheep think that something is happening and then all of a sudden you have a massive queue of people all standing around doing nothing for an hour waiting to board the plane that will inevitably be late anyway! Add to that the fact that we always seem to be surrounded by THAT family that can’t control their four screaming kids and I think you know what I mean! Thank God for noise-reducing headphones!

We all had the customary breakfast of a pint and a fry-up in Weatherspoons (all except Alastair who had about 35 rounds of toast and marmalade!) then Joe and I gratefully sampled the free whiskey being handed out in the airport departure lounge before we took off and after an uneventful flight we arrived at Berlin Tegel. From there we were driven to a very smart hostel, which seemed like some kind of travellers campus (but with Rabbits roaming free… very odd!). Luckily it was located right in the Bohemian part of Berlin (I think it’s called Kreuzberg?) so we didn’t have to walk far to find a decent café / bar selling us a cheap lunch (kebabs for us, chips for Alastair obviously!) and a couple of beers! Everyone then went back to the hotel to get some rest and/or freshen up before heading to the venue.

I really like Berlin. I think that it’s up there with New York and Rome as one of my favourite cities to visit. It’s very colourful and vibrant and despite its recent past it is very easygoing and friendly. Upon arrival at the venue, we were well fed and plied with our (very generous) rider. As it was a festival there was no sound-check, just a quick line-check before playing so after a couple of photoshoots and interviews, we all just hung out backstage and caught a few of the other bands playing. I’d heard a lot of good things about the band Ancestors so I made a point of going to watch them and I was blown away. They’re a great band that brings to mind a cross between Pink Floyd and Neurosis at their most melodic. They were killer guys too and we made light work of a few bottles of whiskey together! Our show was good, I remember the venue being very full and very hot and it was great to get such an enthusiastic response from a crowd that had been standing around all evening watching the rest of the festival bill. I always appreciate that when we headline. This was also the first show outside the UK in which we had aired a whole load of material from the A Eulogy for the Damned album, so it was satisfying to see that material go down so well with a lot of people already knowing the words to the new material.

After the show, it got a bit messy and I remember Scott Batiste from Saviours turning up before we were all shoved into a shuttle bus and driven back to the hotel. A few of us then headed out to the same bar we’d been to for lunch to get the much-needed late-night Doner Kebab and a few nightcaps! I remember trying to be clever and taking what I thought was a shortcut back to my room but I ended up getting completely lost in the hostel complex and had to phone Alastair to come and find me and take me back!! That’ll learn me!

Friday 20th April – The Pint, Dublin, REP. OF IRELAND

The next morning we had a ridiculously early start as we had to be at Berlin Airport for 9AM! Again, the airport ritual was a tortuous affair that we could have all done without so early in the morning when you’re nursing a hangover. Anyway, we had the luxury of flying via Aer Lingus (as opposed to fucking Ryanair!) and we managed to catch our flight on time, landing in Dublin just a couple of hours later. The majority of our flights have been very comfortable for me this year, bearing in mind that I am 6’ 5” tall! This is due to the fact that Alastair is one of those people that HAS to get on the plane first, even if you have designated seating! Anyway, the fact that he does this means that he has been able to procure the seats in the emergency exit rows that have the extra legroom. I can therefore take my time getting to my seat, safe in the knowledge that no one in their right mind is going to want to sit next to Alastair, meaning him and I usually have three seats between the two of us and we can stretch out! Joe doesn’t usually mind where he sits as he’s only a little fella and can sleep anywhere, which is why we call him Bagpuss! (For those who don’t know who Bagpuss is, he’s a character from an old English kids TV show, look him up.)

We were met at the airport by two very good friends, James, the Irish promoter that has booked us over there for the best part of a decade and Paul, another old friend from England that now lives in Belfast and plays in the hardcore band By Any Means, who were supporting us on these Irish shows as well as supplying us with backline (as well as accommodation and breakfast, more on that later!) We went straight to the venue and were greeted by the Republic of Ireland’s Number One Orange Goblin fan who had brought a million things for us to sign (including Ravens Creed material that none of us played on!) and we had photos with him before walking to the nearby hotel for a spot of lunch. It’s a very predictable thing to do in Dublin but we all had to sample the Guinness as well. There was talk of walking to St. James Gate to visit the Guinness factory, do a bit of sightseeing and have our photos taken with the Phil Lynott statue in the city but the pissing rain soon put us all off that idea and decided to grab a few hours sleep instead.

We managed to get through sound-check and then had a nice dinner overlooking the River Liffy, laughing and taking the piss out of everyone outside in the pouring rain, before the doors opened and the show started! First band of the night were a young Irish band called Wizards of Firetop Mountain, who were very impressive, a cross of classic rock and metal with a real AC/DC feel to it. By Any Means were next up and they were great too, playing a vicious brand of hardcore and whipping the crowd into a frenzy! By this time the small venue was heaving and the very drunk Dublin crowd gave us a great reception, as always. This was great to see, as this was the first time we’d played in Dublin for quite a few years. Again, everyone played well and the new material was received just as well as the older stuff.

The after-show was a bit of a blur but I seem to remember it taking what seemed like hours to leave the venue with more and more people buying us drinks and forcing us to stay! I also remember talking to a lot of strangers and smoking the worst tasting cigarettes in the world during the load-out, they were so bad that I had to drink neat vodka to disguise the taste! There were more drinks back at the hotel and I don’t remember getting back to my room. I was sharing with Chris and must’ve woken him up as he’d gone to bed before me but I woke the next day feeling fantastic. Results!!

 

Saturday 21st April – Spring & Airbrake, Belfast, NORTHERN IRELAND

The hotel in Dublin did an awesome cooked breakfast, which we all took advantage of. Chris was the only one that got collared to pay for his, the rest of us accidentally walking away from the table assuming that it was included in the hotel deal. Around midday we hit the road for a short drive north to Belfast, accompanied by an AC/DC mix in the van that had everyone rocking and desperate for beer. Before that though we wanted to drop in on Paul’s farm just outside of Belfast to see his pigs. Yes, his pigs. It’s a little known fact, but all of us in Orange Goblin are big fans of rural life, probably born of living in London and detesting everything about the city, and we all wanted to spend an afternoon feeding the pigs and chickens. We were due to be staying at Paul’s farm that night so it gave us a chance to meet his family, drink more Guinness and see what we’d be eating for breakfast the following morning. Paul had promised us fresh bacon, eggs and sausages that he makes himself and I for one could not wait! We spent a good hour or so on the farm and Elena made friends with a rabbit that she christened Syd Barrett for some unknown reason, but eventually we had to leave for the venue.

This was a show that I had been looking forward to ever since it had been booked. We have a lot of friends in Belfast and it always ends up as a big party every time we play there. Soundcheck was the usual boring affair and then we went to the pub next door to watch the Saturday football. Martyn’s team (QPR) were playing a very important fixture in the live televised game so he spent the next hour and a half yelling obscenities at the screen, much to the bemusement of the locals that had just popped out for a quiet pint on a Saturday evening! Anyway, QPR won and we all celebrated by sending Alastair to Nandos with the buy-out money for a load of chicken and chips, which were devoured in the dressing room – ah, the romance! There’s nothing better than the smell of a rancid venue dressing room mixed with hot, greasy chicken, stale beer and an overworked lavatory! I find it hard to believe we don’t get more groupies that wanna hang out backstage!!

The gig itself was an absolute blinder with a few girls on the front row very keen to flash their breasts. This isn’t unheard of at rock shows (actually, it is unheard of at OG shows) but I was very surprised by the two girls that had chosen to just wop them out and leave them hanging over the crowd barrier at the front for the duration of our set, like a couple of pairs of fleshy spaniels ears! Strange behaviour! Joe ended the gig being carried around the stage on Paul’s shoulders, Angus-style, much to his surprise whilst the rest of us tried to stop laughing at the boob display down the front! After the gig the real carnage began. There were many whiskeys and lots of photos with the very friendly Belfast crowd before we managed to squeeze about 27 people into the van and headed back to Paul’s farm for an all-night party! I think the entire time was spent talking utter-bollocks until it became clear that Paul and I were gonna have to head back into the city to get more “party supplies!” This involved a 4AM drive to the Shankill Road area of Belfast, not the best place for a pissed-up Englishman to be at any time, let alone as the sun is coming up on a Sunday morning! Paul had warned me to keep my voice down and but as soon as we arrived I fell out the van shouting, “Can I use your toilet, I’m dying for a piss!” Paul later told me that he thought we were gonna get shot but we managed to get out of there unscathed and I remember driving back to the farm at about 100mph down dark, winding country roads, AC/DC blasting out the stereo, thinking “I’m gonna die!” We got back to the farm and the party continued for a bit longer until everyone finally passed out at about 8AM.

After about four hours’ sleep, breakfast the next morning was everything I’d hoped it would be as Paul cooked up a treat of fresh bacon, sausage and eggs. Eventually and very reluctantly we had to say goodbye to everyone and we drove to Belfast Airport. The highlight of the day was spotting the heavyweight, British TV and Radio celeb Vanessa Feltz, who was strolling through the airport like a silver and leopard-skin clad behemoth.

I think I actually managed to sleep on the flight home and before we knew it, we were back at Heathrow and back to a world of shit. The rain was pissing down and we had to spend nearly an hour standing around in it waiting for the stupid bus to take us back to our cars in the long-stay car park. From there we all headed our separate ways, getting ready to go back to work first thing in the morning. Welcome home indeed!! I bet Led Zeppelin never had to do that!

Next month: Morrowfest, two shows in Italy and Sonisphere Spain!

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Dust Storm Warning, Dust Storm Warning: Dulce de Lecce

Posted in Reviews on July 31st, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Lecce, in the south of Italy (on the “heel” of the boot), is known for exporting a specific kind of limestone. Called simply “lecce stone,” it’s a malleable type of rock and used for statues and other such sculptures. Similarly, the self-titled full-length debut from the four-piece outfit Dust Storm Warning, who call Lecce home, is a highly malleable kind of stone. The band, who release the album with gorgeous psychedelic gatefold digipak artwork on Acid Cosmonaut Records, set up a surprising variety as the 11 tracks on the record play out, staying well within the realm of Kyuss-inspired desert rock, but offering three instrumental jams to break up any monotony that might crop up from the surrounding straightforwardness. Those cuts are “Dune,” “Sherpa” and “Wasteland,” and they arrive at well-spaced intervals – the first after a raucous opening trio of tracks, the second following the eight-minute Colour Haze-meets-burl of “Lonely Coyote” and the last as the penultimate track following three more rockers and setting up the closer. A defining element in the sound of Dust Storm Warning – who began their career in 2010 as Dust Storm Watchers and released an EP under that name – is the vocal approach of standalone singer “Wolf” Lombardi, who relies largely on a gruff and gravelly, sub-blues stoner rock voice to match the grooves with basic melodies and rarely veers from his methods. Topping Marco Papadia’s riffs and the rhythms of bassist Stefano Butelli and drummer Fabio Zullino, it is a dudely, dudely sound he brings to the band.

And in a lot of places on the album, it absolutely works. As Papadia subtly thickens driving Colour Haze riffs on the building later cut “Rise,” Lombardi is as in the pocket as Butelli and Zullino, who both deliver engaging and capable performances throughout the 57-minute album. But on opener “Outrun” and elsewhere, he quickly displays the vocal quirk of adding extra syllables to the ends of words. It’s almost always a kind of snarl or “yip,” in the tradition of James Hetfield or Pepper Keenan’s burliest moments, or maybe even John Garcia on Blues for the Red Sun, but after a while, it’s a distraction from what the rest of the band is doing on “Outrun” and it pulls me out of the song, making for a troubled beginning. The head-down riff of “Space Cubeship” reminds me of what made the Borracho record such a grower, and finds Lombardi no less snarling, but a little deeper in the mix and better positioned for it, and if Dust Storm Warning haven’t yet made their case clear on Dust Storm Warning, a smoking/coughing/laughing sample begins “666.1.333” just to remind that, yes, you’re listening to a stoner rock record. That’s not a complaint. That kind of thing shows Dust Storm Warning have a sense of their listener’s fickle attentions and are willing to throw in flourishes to hold them. As they continue to progress, it can only make them better songwriters.

Not that “666.1.333” is lacking for songwriting as it is. One of the album’s most memorable and well balanced tracks, it feels less forced than some of the material here and does well in setting up “Dune” as the first instrumental piece. Papadia’s guitar features heavily there, as one might expect, and he leads the Butelli – who contributes effective complementary basslines – and Zullino – who peppers in cymbal washes – through just under eight minutes of gradually building early-Natas desert ambience. Almost immediately, I find myself wanting more of it, not just in the sense of “Sherpa” and the more psychedelically noisy “Wasteland” still to come, but in terms of Dust Storm Warning’s overall stylistic blend. “Why can’t they do this all the time?” In that way, “Lonely Coyote” is perfectly, almost eerily, placed, because it fulfills exactly that longing, bridging the heavy rock and more subdued psych elements in the band’s sound and bringing back Lombardi’s rough vocals that, to their credit, still give the music space to breathe where required. At eight minutes, “Lonely Coyote” is the longest cut on Dust Storm Warning and also the diving point between the first and second halves, time-wise, of the tracklisting, marking the record’s move past the half-hour mark. Fitting that it should ultimately be the best execution of the band’s total aesthetic, but that invariably is going to lead to some drag as side B plays out.

Read more »

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Visual Evidence: The Midnight Ghost Train Silkscreen Posters on the Back of PBR Boxes

Posted in Visual Evidence on July 30th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

This one was too cool not to post. Topeka, Kansas, heavy as hell trio The Midnight Ghost Train are once again hitting the road in support of their new album, Buffalo (review here). To promote their Aug. 9 Brooklyn gig with Reign of Zaius and Eidetic Seeing, the band has silkscreened posters onto the backs of PBR boxes. Even as someone who doesn’t drink the beer, I think that’s pretty clever. Click to enlarge:

Check out the full list of The Midnight Ghost Train tour dates (including European shows this fall) at their website.

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Saint Vitus Announce Tour with Weedeater and Sourvein

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 30th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Not that I don’t get the immediate appeal of seeing Saint Vitus at the bar in Brooklyn that shares their name, but that’s gonna be one crowded-ass show. Nonetheless, dig into these tour dates, much as they’ve dug into my calendar:

Scion A/V Metal presents
The 2012 SAINT VITUS U.S. headlining tour
in support of Lillie: F-65
with special guests WEEDEATER & SOURVEIN
Tour Dates

9/14 Little Rock, AK @ Rev Room (also w/ RWAKE, YOB)
9/15 Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone Cafe
9/16 Nashville, TN @ Exit / In
9/18 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
9/19 Raleigh, NC @ Lincoln Theatre
9/20 Richmond, VA @ Kingdom
9/21 Huntington, WV @ V Club
9/22 Lexington, KY @ Boomslang Festival
9/23 Pittsburgh, PA @ The Rex Theater
9/24 Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Downstairs
9/25 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar
9/27 Washington, DC @ Black Cat
9/28 New York, NY @ Best Buy Theater (w/ DOWN, No WEEDEATER/SOURVEIN)
9/29 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
9/30 Chicago, IL Bottom Lounge
10/1 Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club
10/2 Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theater
10/3 Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
10/4 Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
10/5 Boise, ID @ Neurolux
10/6 Portland, OR @ Fall Into Darkness Festival
10/7 Seattle, WA @ The Highline
10/9 San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
10/10 Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater
10/11 Sacramento, CA @ Harlow’s
10/12 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Atrium at The Catalyst
10/13 Pomona, CA @ venue tbd (No WEEDEATER/ SOURVEIN)
10/14 Santa Ana, CA @ The Constellation Room
10/15 Mesa, AZ @ Nile Theater
10/16 Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
10/18 Austin, TX @ Beauty Bar
10/19 San Antonio, TX Bond’s 007 Rock Bar

WATCH FOR ON SALE DATES SOON

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Album of the Summer of the Week: Eggnogg, Moments in Vacuum

Posted in Features on July 30th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Since I started the Album of the Summer of the Week feature five weeks ago now, we’ve talked a lot about the heat, about the sunshine, about the Jersey humidity that rests itself between the ground and the sky and seems like it’s never going to leave. I’ve written more about the weather in the last month than I could’ve ever imagined I would when I started this site.

But one thing I haven’t covered yet in the AotSotW (which is the acronym by which I refer to it on my to-do list) is what to do for a summer night. Sure, there’s always Sabbath, and I highly recommend that as well, but one album that’s come to my mind several times over the last few weeks is last year’s Moments in Vacuum (review here), by Brooklyn heavy psych upstarts Eggnogg. It’s perfect for these hot-as-hell summer nights.

Let’s say, for example, you’re sitting in the yard, maybe drunk, maybe sober, and you’ve got the bug zapper going in the background. Purely hypothetical situation — not at all something that happened to me this weekend. You’ve got a couple good friends there. The temperature’s finally broke after a bout of rain, and here comes Eggnogg to round out the night perfectly with eight tracks of unrepentant lo-fi riffing, ’90s style moaning vocals and periodic bursts of all out doom. Whether it’s the odd compression in the cymbals of the 12-minute “Wheel of the Year” or the slowed-down, somehow-’80s boogie of “Raking in the Dough,” Eggnogg‘s Moments in Vacuum has so much space in the recording that it’s great for rounding out an evening on a low key but still rocking kind  of vibe. You could do a hell of a lot worse than the dual-layered solos at the end of “Cydonia” before crashing out.

Something else working in Moments in Vacuum‘s favor is that it’s long. At 74 minutes, you can put it on and know that you don’t have to worry about chasing down another disc — because, yes, while you’re sitting in the yard with the bug zapper and a nightcap and a few good friends, you play CDs in this totally hypothetical alternate universe — and even as the title-track comes to an end and you think it’s over, you’ve still got the 15:15 of “Rhythmic Past” to go. It’s got enough variety of mood that whether you’re partying or winding down, it fits, and most of all, it kicks ass. You know that’s always a plus.

Check out “Wheel of the Year” below and wait for the sun to go down:

Good news for enthusiasts of The Nogg in that they’ve got a new EP out now called Louis. More info at the Palaver Records site.

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Live Review: The Company Band, Lionize and Black Cowgirl in Philly, 07.26.12

Posted in Reviews on July 30th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

The forecast was ominous, and I don’t mean a little. Listening to the news on the radio on my way southbound on the Turnpike to see The Company Band, Lionize and Black Cowgirl in Philly, it sounded like that movie The Day After Tomorrow when all the storms come together in a rousing bout of disaster porn. Sure, the sun was out, but whatever the hell a “derecho” storm was, it was headed our way. I guess people in this region have gotten used to the threats of your standard El Ninos and Noreasters, so corporate media has to come up with something else to scare my mom with. Fuckers.

It did storm, but by the time it started I was well secure within the walls of Underground Arts, a new venue in a mostly empty but highway-convenient section of Philadelphia that I wouldn’t be surprised to see gentrify within the next couple years — I immediately started looking at spaces to open a bar, and there were several (have I mentioned how much I fucking love Philly?). The place was cool enough, kind of reminded me of Santos Party House in NYC with two large columns on either side of the stage and a professional setup, P.A. and lighting rig. The lights were LCDs or some such like that, which was fascinating. Turns out it’s the future after all.

Underground Arts had good beer on tap — the Stoudts Pils and Yards were the local contingent — and it was decently cheap as well, but with the weather and work Friday still to go, I wasn’t drinking. More the fool I. I’d been asked to come down early and take some promo shots of The Company Band, who were headlining as one show on a three-night tour that would subsequently hit Brooklyn and Washington D.C. That’s not something I’ve ever done before, but I figured if there’s going to be a first time, a band that has members of Clutch, Fireball Ministry and Fu Manchu can’t be a bad place to start. It went alright and I got some decent shots out of it. The guys — vocalist Neil Fallon, guitarists Jim Rota and Dave Bone, bassist Brad Davis and drummer Jess Margera — were all cordial, and as inexperienced as I was, it wasn’t the first time any of them had had their picture taken.

There was a while between the end of that process and the start of the actual show, which was opened by Lancaster, PA’s Black Cowgirl — no strangers to Margera, having played with his main outfit, CKY, in Philly last year — so I went in search of some Advil to help quiet down a headache I’d acquired on the drive down. All the sunshine. Ironic enough, considering the armageddon I was hearing about on the radio. I stumbled on and then into a Shell station and bought two of the little travel packs of two pills each. A short while later, Black Cowgirl hit the stage to play songs from the two EPs that they’ll release as one self-titled full-length collection on Bilocation Records this week. They had the CDs with them; vinyl is due in August.

A two-guitar four-piece, they were a band I’ve wanted to see for a while. Guitarist/vocalist Ben McGuire set up on stage right, his fellow six-stringer/singer Nate Rosenzweig way on the other side with drummer Mark Hanna and bassist Chris Casse in between. They were almost in a line — McGuire, Hanna, Casse and Rosenzweig — but the drummer was a little further back on stage and Casse out in front, and they looked ready to tour, excited to be there on the bill with the other two acts. Casse was more in the pocket than fronting the band, and McGuire was partially obscured by the giant column on his side, but the songs were tight and the band gave a solid impression to people in the crowd who, like me, hadn’t seen them play before.

To put a point on it, they looked ready to tour. You know how sometimes you see a local band play in their home territory and it just seems like they’re ready to get out? If Black Cowgirl isn’t there, they’re close. I don’t know the life circumstances of the members of the band, if they would permit larger-scale touring, but they seem to have learned what they need to know about opening shows like this one and they’re ready. Someone get Lo-Pan on the phone and tell them to book four or five weeks. I bet Black Cowgirl would come back absolutely lethal, and that their resulting confidence — McGuire seemed to hesitate to “front” the band, where his beard alone would’ve given him the ground to do so — would let them lay waste to any room they played. Still, good band, and well on their way. They threw in a couple moments of three-part vocals — Hanna joining McGuire and Rosenzweig — and it’s something I hope they continue to develop.

It was to be an early night. The Company Band were slated to be done by 10:40PM, which, yeah, might not feed into that whole “rock and roll all night” thing, but whatever, I’m not 17 years old anymore, I drove two hours to get to this show and I had to work in the morning, so I’ll take it anytime I can get it and let KISS‘ “Official Banking Partners” or whatever they have now worry about the all-nighters. Lionize went on shortly after Black Cowgirl finished up. They brought out the organ and soon got underway with their blend of whiteboy reggae and semi-heavy jamming rock.

Stylistically, they remain unaffiliated, and in terms of having seen them three or four times now as they’ve been for a while in Clutch‘s regular stable of openers and their having collaborated with Clutch guitarist Tim Sult, I remain ambivalent. The crowd at Underground Arts dug them, and I know a lot of people who do as well, but there were several instances during their time where I stood and asked myself, “Okay, what part of this doesn’t sound like Sublime?” They threw a few Clutch-esque riffs in, but ultimately left me cold and were standoffish on stage, like they wanted to bust out into hardcore punk but didn’t want to upset anyone by doing so. Come on, gentlemen. I know it’s an early night, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t disturb the peace a little. Some you win, some you lose.

As regards The Company Band, it was a win. They marked the show as being their first in four years. I didn’t doubt it, but you’d never know it to watch them play. Each of the five members of the band have a distinct personality, but they gelled remarkably well. Fallon was out front, as you’d expect, and Bone — the only member of The Company Band whose name is not immediately followed by a parenthetical, à la Rota (Fireball Ministry) or Davis (Fu Manchu) — had stage left to himself. Responsible for all the band’s songwriting and taller by a head than everyone else up there except perhaps Margera, who was sitting behind the drums anyway, it just made sense.

“House of Capricorn,” the first cut off their new Pros and Cons EP (review here), made for an appropriate set opener, with its lyrics welcoming everyone and thanking them for their cooperation, etc. Like the venue itself, the band was thoroughly professional. It was clear in watching them that although Fallon is an undeniable presence at the front of the stage, it’s the songwriting driving the material. In the past, I’ve attributed this to Rota, who’s long showcased powerful pop structures in Fireball Ministry — whose last album was overproduced but not lacking in excellent choruses — there are elements culled from classic rock’s methods without aping what those bands actually did. Pros and Cons draws on earlier metal — Fallon called the quieter “El Dorado” a heavy metal ballad — but songs like “Hot Topic Woman” and “Who Else but Us?” from The Company Band‘s 2009 self-titled full-length sounded well within the sphere of what Fireball Ministry does musically at their best, despite the fact that they were penned by Bone.

With that album, the new EP and the 2007 Sign Here, Here, and Here EP that launched the project, The Company Band had no trouble filling an hour. All four tracks from that initial release made their way into the set and were highlights, particularly “Heartache and Misery.” As the lead guitar lines that make up the first part of the verse transitioned into the slower nodding riff, one could practically feel the air push from Rota and Bones‘ guitars and Davis‘ bass. Davis, however, made the newer “Loc Nar” a standout, and though obscured to many standing directly in front of the stage by the column on the side, he nonetheless made his presence felt by riding out in-pocket grooves on top of Margera‘s straightforward drumming.

That song and “Hot Topic Woman” were fun, as had been the earlier and absurdly catchy “Fortune’s a Mistress,” but the regular set rounded out with “El Dorado” and full-length opener “Zombie Barricades,” and the band left stage. There was no way they weren’t going to round out with “Company Man,” the first track off the first EP, but they started the encore after joking that bands do nothing but stare at each other when they wait to come back out with “Spellbinder,” and here several days later, that’s still the song I have stuck in my head. Rota joined Fallon on vocals (more of that please; their voices complement each other absurdly well) and left a sting that in no way felt like “side-project.” They hit “Company Man” quick after that, playing it so fast it was practically a punk song, and then the house lights came up. Show over.

Perhaps it had been the awesome power of heavy rock and roll that had thwarted the climate change apocalypse that had almost certainly assured the destruction of America’s northeastern quadrant, but it was raining and lightning-ing when I left Underground Arts. I’d told The Patient Mrs. on the phone earlier that if it was the end of the world, I’d come north in snow shoes like Dennis Quaid, but it didn’t come to that. I got in the car and got back on the Turnpike, soberly weaving around the cars who’d either given into the Thirsty Thursday impulse or bought into the Weather Channel’s propaganda machine and believed rain to be the new snow of roadway hazards. I’m not gonna tell you the world is or isn’t ending, just that even if it is, it’s not gonna go out like the people who fill time between the “Kars for Kids” commercials say it is.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Mundee Loop

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 30th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

I’d have posted the above clip for “This is Where You End” by underrated late-’80s psych rockers Loop before I cut out on Friday, but a call came in and I had to split on the quick to go look at a potential house to rent. Like most of the places The Patient Mrs. and I have seen so far, it was a dump. A dump on the outside of what we can afford for rent. It’s been about two months now that we’ve been looking in earnest for a place to move from where we are currently, and it’s been demoralizing on any number of levels.

This house (2 beds, 1 bath) in particular I’d called the guy on last week to see if I could see it, and it wasn’t ready yet, but he’d have it good to go by the weekend. I was supposed to go Saturday, but Friday at 4PM, as I’m sitting at my desk at work basically just waiting to leave, I got the call and he was like, “There are other people coming at 6:30, so if you want to see the house first, you need to come now.” Kind of bullshit, but not really out of line. At least he called and offered the chance.

So I hauled ass home, vacuumed a couple rugs because company was coming (which only added to the rush factor) and picked up The Patient Mrs. to go check it out. Turns out it’s right on the banks of the mighty Passaic River in a town called Wayne. Flood zone. “How long’s the place been unoccupied?” “Since the hurricane.” Gradually it came out that every spring it gets about a foot of water and you have to park up at the pub at the end of the street. Might as well live there.

It was a decently private piece of property, but basically just waiting for the government to come in, declare it unlivable because of flooding, and buy up the land, which would put us out on our asses anyway. In the meantime, a ceiling leak here, a hole in the wall there, a few ants crawling around the kitchen so narrow you can’t open the fridge door without bumping it into the stove, and “Thanks, we’ll be in touch” as we walk out and the next round of potential suckers willing to shell out $1200 a month to breathe in that kind of mold come in. The floors were soft. How am I supposed to put my CD collection on a floor that feels like stepping on wet cardboard?

That was Friday after work. That night and Saturday were a bit lighter of spirit (though heavy of beer) with some good friends come north for the evening and staying over until Saturday night, and then Sunday was work. Ultimately, it was a fast weekend, but good for the soul despite any real estate woes. There’s another place we’re going to look at this week. I’m pretty sure it also is in the same flood zone. Beware of places near rivers advertising their new kitchens.

Hope you have a great week. In a little bit I’ll have my review of The Company Band‘s gig from last Thursday in Philly posted, and we’ll do another Album of the Summer of the Week as well. Tomorrow marks the premiere of Ben Ward‘s long-awaited column, and on Wednesday I’ll be putting up a full stream of the new release by Portland dueling-bass specialists Lamprey. Reviews this week of Wight and Sanctus Bellum too, among others, so plenty to stay tuned for. I’m trying to line up an interview with Scott Kelly about his new solo record, but I’m not sure if that’ll come together by Friday yet. We’ll see.

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