Posted in Features on November 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Something is stirring in the Witch Mountain camp. I don’t know quite what yet, but on Nov. 10, the Portland, Oregon, outfit posted the following: “Just booked studio time to record a song in early December. Details when we are allowed to share them.”
Cryptic but precise, obscure and calculated, the message itself sums up a lot of what Witch Mountain have become over the last few years. After getting off tour this fall Nik Turner‘s incarnation of Hawkwind, the band — founded by guitarist Rob Wrong (to whom I’ve never spoken because he used to review records for stonerrock.com and would blow my meager knowledge of heavy out of the water) and drummer Nathan Carson (who also runs Nanotear Booking and has been interviewed here before) — said farewell to vocalist Uta Plotkin. They lost their bassist at the time as well, but it was Plotkin who grabbed the headlines, and reasonably so. Among metal singers, hers was a singular voice, resonant in its power and presence, but able also to convey emotion, bluesy soul and, particularly in the case of their latest album, Mobile of Angels (review here), a desperate sense of longing.
Their third offering for Profound Lore and third since reactivating following a long hiatus after their 2001 debut, Come the Mountain (discussed here), it’s easy to think of Mobile of Angels as a culmination in light of Plotkin‘s departure, and certainly it is their crowning achievement to date, but it’s also a step in an interrupted progression from their last two outings, 2012’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and 2011’s South of Salem (review here). With the constant thread of Billy Anderson‘s production, one can hear Witch Mountain growing on these three albums, becoming the assured, progressive act they are on Mobile of Angels, patiently presenting an all-too-brief 38 minutes that’s beautiful and desolate at the same time.
Carson knows that whoever takes the vocalist role has a challenge ahead of them. In the interview that follows, he talks about how Plotkin‘s leaving took shape, making Mobile of Angels, the mood on this last tour and what they might be looking for in a new singer. The question at this point, after the above Nov. 10 post, is whether or not they’ve found that person. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
We were somewhere in Connecticut on I-95 Northbound when the news came in that Radio Moscow wouldn’t be making it back from the West Coast in time to finish out the last show of the tour with Bang, Pentagram and Kings Destroy. Too bad. It would’ve been a fitting final act for them to roll in, probably several hours late, rush their gear up to the stage and absolutely level The Met in Providence, Rhode Island, which was where the sendoff was held. They pick up with more dates in the Northeast this week, so they’re around, it was just a question of timing. As in, sometimes you miss a 6AM flight.
I thought maybe The Met would get one of Rhode Island’s quality locals to fill the vacant spot and serve as an opening act — members of Pilgrim and Balam were there for the show, and either would’ve been an excellent fit — but instead, it was just the three touring bands to wrap things up. Before the gig actually started, it felt pretty anticlimactic. Another drive north, another weeknight show. After NYC, it seemed like this was more of an epilogue, but in both the bands’ performances and the crowd’s response Providence gave a worthy showing, and particularly for a Sunday evening, was anything but an afterthought.
Man, I’d like to sit here and tell you how fuckin’ air tight Kings Destroy have gotten over the course of the last couple years, how they’ve gelled post their second album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting, but you’d just think I was exaggerating anyway. Whatever. If you don’t know, you don’t know. Point is they killed it again. Got out of the van, loaded in like a machine, soundchecked, stood around, waiting and then immediately pounced once they were on stage. With Radio Moscow off the bill, they had more time, so they aired a couple not yet heard on the tour — “Stormbreak,” “Green Diamonds” (from the new record; first time they’ve played it), and “W2″ (another new one) — along with “Old Yeller,” which went back to the opening spot and “Casse-Tête,” “Smokey Robinson,” “Mr. O” and a would-be finish in “Blood of Recompense.” Steve Murphy was finishing “Blood of Recompense” in the crowd when he got word from Pentagram‘s tour manager, Klaus Koschel (also of EU bookers Vibra Agency), that they had more time. Someone in the crowd on the far side of the stage requested “The Toe,” so “The Toe” it was. A gratifying finish to however many days on the road that the last song they played should come by request from the audience. They jammed out again, ended loud and noisy and thanked the crowd, which by then had filed in considerably from out of the cold, and made way for Bang to put their own end-stamp on the run.
While it’s true of just about everyone I’ve seen on this tour, to say each Bang set has been better than the last seems especially true. And that’s all the more impressive since they’ve been working with the same bundle of songs. The Met‘s crowd went off for Bang as well, so that could’ve had something to do with it. One dude standing up front next to me — I think he plays in Balam as well, though I could be wrong about that — was headbanging so hard he smashed his face into the stage monitor and opened up his eyebrow, was bleeding all over the place. Still headbanging, he covered his can of Narragansett and a good portion of the stage in front of him in a spatter of red before wiping his brow and realizing what was going on. Bang, meanwhile, “The Queen” and “Idealist, Realist” were paying back his blood in warm-toned vintage grooves, guitarist Frankie Gilcken and bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrara soaking up every last second of the stage time while drummer Jake Leger — who I think at this point deserves to be considered at least an honorary Frank — pushed the charge forward, the driving chorus of “Last Will and Testament” by now familiar but welcome all the same. “Questions” rounded out, as it always has, and Bang left the stage thanking the other bands and everybody who came out to see them on their first tour in 42 years. I have the feeling they’ll be out again before too long.
Rhode Island went fucking crazy for Pentagram. Granted, I didn’t see them in Minneapolis or Philadelphia, but Providence had crowd surfing, and that was a first for the run so far as I know. Beer was being thrown around and at one point guitarist Victor Griffin got pissed enough about it to punch his microphone, and frontman Bobby Liebling asked people up front a couple times to please not put their drinks on the stage. There was some light moshing, but really more of just a general crowd press, particularly early on with “Too Late,” “Death Row” and “”All Your Sins.” The hits kept coming with “Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram)” and “Frustration” and “Forever My Queen,” the audience staying with Liebling, Griffin, bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley every step of the way. Missing in the middle of the set compared to other nights on the tour was the The Animals cover, “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood,” but I’d overheard them a few days before in Philly talking about bringing out a couple of the Bang dudes for something special at the last show. They wound up doing precisely that, after “Relentless” and “Nothing Left” and a first encore of “Be Forewarned” and “When the Screams Come.” Frank Ferrara took Griffin‘s mic and Frankie Gilcken came out to join in on guitar, and “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” served as the last jam of the tour, getting yet another riotous response for the effort put out. With their manager Sean “Pellet” Pelletier and members of Kings Destroy at the side of the stage looking on, you couldn’t have asked for a better or more appropriate ending.
Thanks for reading as always. More pics after the jump and a conclusion after that.
11.03.14 — 4:23PM — Monday afternoon — East Bridgewater, MA
“He fills in the missing details…” — Klaus Koschel, on me
The magnets above I picked up while on the road. I got everywhere the tour went except Michigan (which sucks double since it was two shows) and Rhode Island, since by the time we left the show last night I was in too much of a hurry to go in the rest stop and look for one. I’ll be back in both states, I have no doubt, and will rectify then. Also a few other states we just drove through, and there wasn’t a show in Jersey, but I had to get one for my home state anyway. They’re up on the fridge now along with pictures of my niece and nephews, a Jean-Luc Picard magnet, and sundry old holiday cards.
The Patient Mrs. came to the show last night in Providence, at least for a little bit early. She was there when we got there and she and I went out to a quick dinner before doors. It was beyond excellent to see her, but also kind of a bummer. My head was still deep in tour mode and so I’m sitting across the table from her in this restaurant the heating system of which turned out to be broken and she’s talking about all this interesting stuff she’s thinking about this week and what she’s doing in classes with her students and all I can think about is getting it on and/or making it back to the venue in time. Like a droopy-eyed neanderthal for a dinner companion. Yet another reminder of how utterly outclassed I am in every conceivable way by my spouse. Much better half.
She left a few minutes after Kings Destroy were done. She’d been interested in seeing Radio Moscow, but since they didn’t make it, she split. Had work this morning anyway. I get it. Not really her bag to start with. Though I’m a cave-ogre tragedy of a husband, I appreciated her coming out at all.
I knew the whole night I was driving back to Steve’s after the show. Just under three hours. On the last night of the tour. Pay for all your sins. Yeah, it was about 1:30AM by the time we left after all the last-show hugs and handshakes, packing up, waiting for Rob to put his drums in the cases, and so on. I watched Bobby Liebling dwindle down a whole crowd of people waiting to have their picture taken with him. He made funny faces and hit on dudes’ girlfriends in pretty much the way you’d expect he would, but he handled the whole crowd no problem. Holding court. Some people are born to do it. Some other people walk back and forth in a closing-down-for-the-night venue looking for a place to put themselves and wind up standing outside for 10 minutes in the 40-degree cold chewing ice hoping to start load-out soon. Just the way it goes.
One stop on the way off exit 93 on I-95 Southbound just when you get into Connecticut for gas, then nothing else on the way down. The van started out loud and then got quiet in the way it has most of the night drives, C-wolf, Rob, Carl, Aaron, Jim Pitts all falling asleep, and Steve too up front eventually. Just me awake in the van, barreling along a mostly abandoned I-95, putting in physical effort to stay awake. I had one of those moments right around exit 20 when your brain goes to sleep but your eyes are still open and you’re still conscious — a bizarre separation of self I’ve only felt once or twice before. Can’t say the highway was the best environment for it, but I got us back to Steve’s anyway. Crashed out at 4:30AM, woke up at 8AM, hauled ass three and a half hours back north to Massachusetts and made it home just before noon. My brain is racing, still in tour-mode, but I can barely keep my eyes open. Was nodding off the whole day writing that review of last night.
I can’t wrap this thing up without expressing my deepest thanks to the Kings Destroy guys — Steve Murphy, Carl Porcaro, Chris Skowronski, Aaron Bumpus, Rob Sefcik — for inviting me to head out with them again. Getting the tour ebola and driving through miserable East Coast weather, this was a much different trip than back in the spring — at one point before the show last night, C-wolf told The Patient Mrs. I was, “a moping machine,” with which I couldn’t even really argue — but I still realize how fortunate I am to be able to do this kind of thing, and it was an amazing and special time that I’m glad to have experienced.
Thanks as well to Jim Pitts, to The Patient Mrs., to my sister, to the Radio Moscow guys — Paul, Parker and Anthony — who I was bummed I didn’t get to catch one more time on the tour, to the Pentagram band and crew, to Frankie, Frank and Jake from Bang, to Postman Dan for setting up the Lansing show and the good times that followed, to Travis and Derrick in Lansing, Jeremy at The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids, Sean “Pellet” Pelletier, Klaus Koschel and Mama Jo and Connie, Juan in NYC, John Eager and everyone else I saw along the way.
Most of all, my appreciation to you for reading, commenting, sharing, liking, whatever it may have been. It means more to me than I can say to be able to do something like this, and the only reason it happens is because you give enough of a crap to check it out. I am humbled, perpetually, by the support and response this site gets. Thank you. So much.
And now, to bed.
[Don’t forget those pics from the last show are after the jump below if you’d like to check them out.]
Posted in Features on November 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
11.02.14 — 2:56PM — Sunday afternoon — In van, en route to Providence, RI
“And what will you miss…?” — Bobby Liebling
Had a couple minutes before we had to hit the road from Steve’s place, and took a couple pictures of the band out among the trees and all that. I’ve never been much for promo photos, or photos in general really, or anything, but something to do, anyway. Tour closes out tonight in Providence. I think everyone’s geared up for it — I know I am — and feeling good with some decent rest and a slow start this morning/afternoon, not needing to rush to get to Rhode Island, which is way closer than, say, Burlington, Vermont. Or Minneapolis to Grand Rapids. That was not a short drive. Compared to that, this is like a trip to 7-Eleven.
Radio Moscow are reportedly back tonight. They’re continuing on the East Coast, playing New York, Boston, etc., after this tour is over, so I have little doubt they’ll make it, but it has to be exhausting traversing seaboards like that. I give them credit for even attempting it. This tour waited more than six months between doing West Coast and East Coast. Radio Moscow are doing it in a day. Pretty wild.
The Patient Mrs. is also coming to the show tonight. It’s been more than a week since I’ve seen her, though we spoke more this tour than last time out, I’ll be glad to grab dinner with her and hang out during the show. I’m traveling with the band, so it’ll be back to NY tonight and then back up to MA in the morning — gonna try to leave early, but we’ll see how it goes — and will then sort out the rest of the week from there. Starting to think about getting back to real life, much as I have one, and not thinking about the drive to the next town or whatever. It’s a bit of a transition. Was last time too.
But I will be glad to get home, see The Patient Mrs., the little dog Dio, eat a salad and drink some more homemade iced tea, do laundry and find a place to put one of the posters Jim Pitts set aside for me from along the way, maybe the Philly one or the one with the Halloween masks. I’ve got time to decide, and another day to go before I get there anyway, but I’m excited. It’s been a good run, and the sun is out today and a couple of the guys went home last night — Aaron and C-wolf — so people are relatively well rested, myself included, and ready to kick it out one more time to finish the tour.
“Don’t hit anybody in this neighborhood.” — C-wolf, on driving in Manhattan
We were up early this morning. My watch was set for 7:30 and I was conscious not that long after. Time to head to Manhattan. We stayed in Montpelier, the capital of Vermont, but there was barely a look at it on the way out of town. Fair. I wasn’t awake enough to soak any of it in anyway, so it would’ve been lost on me. We left somewhere right around 9AM. Load-in was reportedly 3 o’clock and it was going to be six hours on the road. Weather? Miserable. Rainy and cold. Stopped in Connecticut at a Wendy’s for lunch. I didn’t get anything. I’ve been sick enough, I don’t need to add that to it, especially with the finish line so close.
The drive was long but not actually terrible until we got near NYC. I fell asleep in the van around Stanford, Connecticut, and woke up sitting in traffic on some on-ramp heading into the city. Won’t complain about that. The KD guys are excited to be back in New York, near home. I am ambivalent at best. Already walked in and asked to get a photo pass and got a “needs clearance with Klaus” (Pentagram’s tour manager) for the first time on the tour. Cool. 10 shows later I’ll go ahead and get right on that. The magic of Manhattan.
Oh yeah, and that 3PM load-in? Got here at four and heard “you’re early!” Good for a chuckle.
In the existential sense.
As opposed to weed candy.
None of the other bands are here yet. Pretty sure beating Pentagram to the venue is a first for the tour. I expected they’d drive all night in their RV, which is what they’ve usually done. A bang on the door got a “What the fucking fuck?” from the guy running the place, and it turned out to be Bang. Again, New York magic. I’ve always been back and forth love/hate with Manhattan, and with the rise of Brooklyn over the last decade, the once central borough itself has little culturally left to offer. City of cocaine, concrete and cupcakes. Even the museum costs $15 to get in and they judge you if you don’t make the suggested donation. Whatever.
Lots of AC/DC on the way down today. Some Baroness to change it up. Now it’s Danzig over the house P.A., no doubt in winking acknowledgement that the Samhain reunion is happening across town tonight. How the Gods Kill. Timing is everything.
Grey weather and lack of sleep in my head. Cough continues to nag, but it’s climate more than anything. Show reportedly has an 11PM curfew, and Providence is relatively close, so should be able to get a decent night’s sleep. And the show will be good. Show’s always good.
Posted in Features on October 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.31.14 — 5:40PM — Pre-show — Arts Riot, Burlington, VT
“This highway’s actually pretty mint.” — Carl Porcaro
It’s like a riot of the arts, this Arts Riot. Decent size room, supposed to hold about 300 people. I guess they do gallery shows and stuff here as well, which I could see pretty easily. Some of the walls have murals on them and the lighting fixtures are pretty wild. A creative space in what two or three years ago was probably an empty warehouse spot. Concrete floor, brick walls, high ceiling. Going by Sean Saley’s soundcheck, it would be a good room in which to record drums, though you might want to put up some wood paneling somewhere if you were going to go that route, if only for form’s sake.
Blood Ceremony are on the bill tonight in place of Radio Moscow, who had to hightail it back out west to play the Day of the Shred festival, which is tomorrow. I’ve only seen Blood Ceremony once before, at Roadburn 2011, though I can’t seem to find any record of it. Anyway, it happened. They’re stepping in tonight and tomorrow as well and then supposedly Radio Moscow are coming back east to finish out the tour in Providence, which sounds completely insane but totally in character for them. One can only cross one’s fingers and hope last night in Philly wasn’t actually their finish on this tour.
Carl did the drive north this morning. We left Philly with Jim Pitts driving and headed north to Steve’s place in Westchester, which was about two and a half hours on the road, but still it was five-plus more hours north to get to Burlington, and it didn’t really get pretty until we actually got into Vermont. Touched on Massachusetts and stopped for gas, to hit a crummy convenience store, and so on, but got back on the highway as soon as possible. There wasn’t really anything there. Far more productive, at least for the band, was the quick hit to Waterbury, Vermont, to pick up some Heady Topper by Alchemist Brewing. Most of these guys are into craft beers, hoppy stuff, and that was apparently a good get. A sense of victory after four and a half hours on the road is a rare enough thing, so if it’s beer you can’t usually get in NYC that does it, fine.
Steve drove up separately from the rest of the band — he’s got his kids this weekend so is going to be back and forth from New York, heading back late tonight/early tomorrow, meeting everyone else in Manhattan for the show tomorrow, heading up to Providence on Sunday — and I haven’t seen him around as yet, but supposedly he’s here somewhere. I don’t know what time doors are, but Arts Riot seems like the kind of place that if you want to get a decent shot, you need to get up front early. Also seems like the kind of place that’s going to have a couple photographers show up. We’ll see how it goes, I guess. I’m not particularly worried at this point. Of slightly greater concern is the fact that it’s 6PM and I’ve eaten nothing today.
Posted in Features on October 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.30.14 — 4:17PM — Thursday — Johnny Brenda’s, Philly
“We got a call about a suspicious van…” — The Cop
The smell of barbecue sauce is immediate and pervasive upon walking into Johnny Brenda’s. I’ve said many times before that I’m a huge dork for Philadelphia, and there are a lot of times I miss being in Philly more than New York since I moved away last year. Even being a two-hour drive from this city, just knowing it was there was reassuring. The area around Johnny Brenda’s is much the same as I last left it — hasn’t been that long — if incrementally more gentrified. Someone should set up a camera on Girard Street and do a time lapse for the next five years. You can see the property values being raised in real-time.
A knock came on the hotel door this morning and it was Carl saying we were leaving. Like now? Like now. I took a quick shower anyway — there was time — and hit the Flying J for coffee, iced tea, orange juice and some Tylenol Cold and Sinus. I’d woken up coughing pretty viciously and needed to get that shit under control. Still feel better today than yesterday as regards tour ebola, better than in Pittsburgh. Coffee was alright, which was fortunate because I bought a 24 oz. cup of it, and soon enough we got going. Carl’s had an abscess on his leg for most of the tour and yesterday it became clear enough that it wasn’t going to go away on its own and something needed to be done about it. By something, I mean a lancing and draining of pus. Pop.
He and Steve had tried to go to an urgi-center this morning near the hotel, but to no avail in terms of the place taking Carl’s insurance, so we had to head north a bit into Jersey to find another spot. I think we were somewhere around Cherry Hill when we pulled into the parking lot and he went in, set about filling out forms and all the rest. Steve and Jim Pitts went for a bite of pizza and C-Wolf, Rob, Aaron and I just hung around by the van. It was going to be a while, and yeah, that’s how it worked out. Rob went down the way to CVS and bought a devil mask that he may or may not wear tomorrow night in Burlington for the Halloween show, and I started the review of last night sitting in the parking lot using the place’s wifi so as not to eat up data in the van. My hope is it was vaguely coherent, but I have my doubts. The whole idea for today was that since there wasn’t a long drive — we’ll have five hours tomorrow, give or take, up to Burlington after two-and-a-half tonight to Steve’s place outside NYC — we’d just kind of loaf around the Comfort Inn until it was time to head to Philly. Didn’t quite pan out.
Carl had gone to the CVS to fill his prescription when the cops showed up. Two cars, two officers, said they’d gotten a call about the van. Fair enough. School kids were crossing the street by then and legitimately, it’s a van full of weirdos and longhairs. I mean, in a perfect world they’d be too busy locking up ass-grabbing crossing guards and shit, but I get where they’d want to ask a question and confirm what we were doing there. Steve explained to them that we’re just souls whose intentions are good and asked that we please not be misunderstood. It was an easy enough interaction but any time the cops are involved it could just as easily go the other way, so yeah, a little tense. We picked Carl up in the CVS parking lot and headed out at a perfectly normal speed. Nothing to see here, folks.
In the spirit of Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar, Johnny Brenda’s is a small place that does good shows. The difference is there’s also a bar/restaurant downstairs here. The gig is sold out, so I expect it will be good and crowded offstage as well as on. I should probably get some food between now and then, or I could just sit here and continue to cough.
“He is an epic failure.” — Aaron Bumpus, about anyone, ever.
Tour ebola is better today, or at least that’s what I’ve been forcing myself to believe as I mainline vitamin C and DayQuil. Tried to pick up some more Advil as well at a truck stop along the way, but failed. I wound up trying to charge an orange juice and had to buy a York Peppermint Patty to get past the two-dollar minimum for credit cards. Feels good. Rock and roll.
Jim Pitts picked up some Who and Thin Lizzy CDs and we listened to them in the van. Probably the right call as we made our way through cold, grey, bum-you-right-out Pennsylvania. I don’t know how many different weather systems we’ve seen — it was like 75 degrees when we got to Cleveland — but it’s been at least three so far, and there are still five shows left. It’s a small wonder the van resounds with coughs.
Slow start to the day, but the good news is I slept and slept hard. I didn’t necessarily feel like I had a choice in that — it was going to happen whether I wanted it to or not — but I’m glad it did. There was about an hour to kill before we left out of New Stanton, where we stayed last night, and headed to Baltimore, so I nodded back off after showering as well. The more the merrier, even if I continued to wake myself up coughing, and likely Carl as well, who has the misfortune to be sharing my room.
Trip to Baltimore was uneventful in the extreme except for Aaron introducing all of us to Mandrill Is, the 1971 second album from NYC’s Mandrill, who ran a line between funk and soul and rock and about five other genres before they were done. I was way into it. Pretty expensive on CD, but I’ll keep my eyes open for a copy. We stopped at a music store so Rob could get a backup head for his kick drum, and there was a barbecue pub right next door so the pre-show meal was had there. Early dinner, I guess. I had yet another in my ongoing series of chicken caesar salads. Chicken was good but the salad itself had almost no dressing on it. I didn’t care. I’ll take raw ruffage at this point. As long as it’s not from a gas station. Jim also bought dinner for everyone, which was very kind, but I threw in cash for myself since it didn’t feel right. Dude certainly doesn’t owe me anything and it’s not like I’m in the band. I don’t know.
Baltimore’s own The Pilgrim are opening the show tonight at Soundstage, so it’s five bands. I remember their self-titled CD from a couple years back was cool, so it will be interesting to see them live and see where they’re at now. Pentagram were soundchecking when we got here and I got to hear them do “Walk in the Blue Light,” which was right on because it’s a good song and though it’s written on the setlist for each night, they haven’t actually been playing it, I guess opting for the Animals cover instead. No complaints there, but if it was one or the other, I’d probably take the original. Whatever my druthers are worth in things like salads and Pentagram setlists.
Posted in Features on October 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.28.14 — 5:52PM — Tuesday evening — Mr. Smalls balcony, Pittsburgh, PA
“I am Dr. Remulak. I am Dr. Remulak.” — Chris Skowronski and Rob Sefcik
My head feels like it’s going to cave in. Not in that good, rock and roll kind of way either, like when I watched Beast in the Field the other night. Like in the my-sinuses-have-revolted-and-are-trying-to take-the-rest-of-me-down-from-the-inside kind of way. I could feel it yesterday (was that yesterday?) when I woke up at Postman Dan’s, but it started to get real bad overnight last night, tossing and turning, unable to breathe and all that wonderful having-a-cold stuff. Traveling sick. I used to call it SARS. I guess if I wanted to be current I’d call it ebola. Another day, another plague.
I had a cold the week before I left to come on this tour, but was pretty sure I’d gotten over it, so I think this is just another round from the road time, lack of sleep and so on. I got maybe four hours of sleep last night, nodded off at 3:30 and woke up at 4:45 just in agony. It sucked. I shit you not, I walked outside the Red Roof Inn to see how far away I was from the traffic I wanted to go play in, but I was too far to even do that. Fucking brutal. Today I’ve been a full-on booger fountain, and coughing, and the pressure in my head pounding away. I claimed a spot on the balcony at Mr. Smalls — which as a photographer I met in Cleveland last night told me, is an awesome room in a converted old church — and plan to stay here for the duration, but even so, I might not make it through the show before I go back and lay down in the van. Aaron was kind enough to give me a pack of Halls he had that was apparently a spare, and I bought some severe strength DayQuil and have taken Advil in an attempt to bring the swelling down in my sinuses, but nothing’s given me any real relief. I’m also warm as fuck and think it’s probably a fever. My Ron Burgundy impression has taken a real hit as a result.
Honestly, feeling like shit has been my major activity for the day. We stopped once in Ohio on the way to Pittsburgh and sat in some bridge traffic once we got to the city, but other than stopping for a very quiet pre-show meal — not quite dinner, not quite lunch — at some sub-hipster exposed-brick brewpub in what quickly got referred to as the “Massage District” and getting a chicken caesar wrap and some fries and foolishly not getting a cup of coffee when it was being ordered, it’s been pretty tame. There’s like a 70 percent chance I’m going to take my shoes off as I watch this show tonight sitting on the balcony. Maybe even 83 percent. It’s going up by the minute because tilting my head downward to look at the laptop monitor is pushing all the mucus toward my face. Once again, brutal.
It’s worth noting that as of tonight, this tour is more than halfway over. Pittsburgh is the fifth of the 10 dates Kings Destroy are doing with Radio Moscow, Bang and Pentagram, but when you factor in the Lansing show, it’s the centerpiece of an 11-date run and it’ll mean more than half the tour is down when it’s over. A while to go before we get there, since the night hasn’t started, and I won’t say I’m not looking forward to watching the gig, but neither will I mind falling asleep as quickly as I possibly can afterwards and hopefully staying that way for at least five solid hours. Doesn’t seem like an unreasonable demand, but we’ll see how it goes.
Posted in Features on October 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.27.14 — 2:27PM — Monday afternoon — En route to Cleveland
“She’s not real pretty, but she’s rich.” – Postman Dan, on Senator Dianne Feinstein
I snapped the above picture last night before the show of the sunset in Michigan. If it looks peaceful or serene in any way, then please just imagine the exact opposite for how the rest of the night played out after the show ended. As ever, the party was at Postman Dan’s place — the Postmansion — which is an old converted church that he’s essentially corrupted in the name of riff worship and nuanced horticulture. Radio Moscow, who’d been hanging out at the show, came back as well, and Travis from Hydro-Phonic and two of the other members from Dan’s band Cruthu, and of course Mama Jo, Connie, Jim Pitts and I. Made for a crowded kitchen, but there were drinks flowing and Elonkorjuu playing through Dan’s kitchen setup — Swedish heavy prog as party music: awesome — and it escalated quickly. Charm-laden debauchery. Loud voices. Blatant social interaction. Enjoyment of good people and good times. Terrifying.
Dan had set me up with a bedroom, but once I’d charged the camera battery and dumped the pics from the show, I abdicated to Steve to let him sleep in a bed and said I’d go crash in the van. Great idea. Believe it or not, it wouldn’t be the first time I slept in a van in Postman Dan’s driveway. I think the third. It was about 3:30 in the morning by then and I was ready to crash out, so I went into the driveway. It wasn’t quite at the freezing point, but it was certainly cold enough that Carl remarked this morning that the beer left out here overnight was still chilled. I set up on the back bench with my hoodie on and my bookbag for a pillow and Mystery Science Theater 3000 playing and managed to crash for about an hour, but by 4:45, I was awake and too cold to really go back to sleep, so I decided to see if I could find someplace in the house that wasn’t yet occupied.
My mistake was thinking the festivities would’ve ended by then. Dan, Scott from Cruthu and Paul from Radio Moscow were up playing pool. I couldn’t see them at first through the window and the front door was locked and my phone was dead, so I had a moment of panic that I was going to be stuck outside for the night, but they were there and Dan let me in, wondering why I wasn’t upstairs asleep. Music still playing, though they’d moved on from Elonkorjuu to something else heavy ’70s. Fair enough. Dan took me up to his room and told me to take his bed, he’d sort something out and it was 5AM and I was too cold and tired to argue. I could still hear the music coming up from downstairs, but I nodded off for about an hour and a half and then set to work sorting pictures around 6:30, which I’d find out later was when the last stragglers fell out. I started writing the show review but was nodding off again soon enough and slept for maybe another hour between seven and eight. I’ve been up since.
No shower on the way out, but breakfast at the Fleetwood Diner in Lansing hit the spot — try the Hippie Hash — and we got on the highway shortly thereafter to head for Cleveland. The tour resumes tonight with Kings Destroy, Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Bang and the show is at House of Blues, so should be more like Minneapolis than Grand Rapids, though I’ll take it either way. I expect by the end of the night I’ll smell even worse than I already do, and there are some vicious sleepytime farts floating around the mostly-napping rear portion of this van. Might need to air that out at some point as we roll toward the cruel inevitability of the Ohio Turnpike.
Posted in Features on October 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.26.14 — 3:30PM Eastern — Sunday afternoon — White Swan B&B, Gowen, MI
“He had twice devised the perpetual motion machine.” – Phil Jackson
I drove from the venue last night through some Michigan back roads. Steve had found this place on Airbnb that he said was a lake house with four bedroom that has bands stay on the cheap, and I was expecting something pretty deluxe, but I don’t think I imagined the kind of space this actually is, all wood floors, granite counters, old photographs on the walls. And as if it needed to be more idyllic, there’s a puppy running around. They call it the White Swan B&B. The guy who owns the house was a rock photographer for years and still takes pictures around here. Easy to see why and how one would be able to keep busy in such a way. Beautiful. I spent some time outside last night after we rolled in, breathing chilly air and just tilting my head back to zone out in the quiet. A few lights around, but the Milky Way easily visible bifurcating the sky. At one point the count was even between shooting stars and vehicles passing around the road out front of the house. Short of putting on YOB, which I only didn’t do because some fucker stole my iPod out of my car before I left to come on this tour, it was about as close to communing with gods as I come. Very, very cool, and very restorative.
When I came down into the basement last night to sleep on the couch, I found a turntable with Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick on it, which I took as an even better omen since that’s been played a couple times and sung even more in the van. Conked out around 3:45 and woke up this morning a little before breakfast, which was likewise lush and prepared by the couple who own the house, Mary Jo and Ray. Unreal. Bacon, spinach and tomato frittata, potatoes, fresh coffee. Afterwards some of the guys went out on a pontoon boat, Lincoln Lake just feet away from the back door. I didn’t go, had stuff to catch up on, but a little quiet time was good too. The last couple days have been so much rushing around that the chance to stay still for a couple hours feels like twice the luxury, though here it actually is. Radio Moscow and the two ladies they’re traveling with, Mama Jo (no relation to Mary Jo) and Connie came through as well and Steve, Carl and Ray went to the grocery store to buy grillables for a barbecue and to refill the growlers the KD guys got from Hammerheart Brewing the other day, two of which were kicked last night. I asked Steve to get me an orange pepper and he did — it was glorious. I could feel the life returning.
The plan seems to be to barbecue, hang out for a bit and then hit the road to Lansing, which is about an hour away. Show tonight is with Cruthu, Beast in the Field and Hordes, all of whom I’m looking forward to seeing. Kings Destroy are headlining and have been looking forward to playing a longer set than they have been, and I’m dying to see Cruthu and Beast in the Field. I’m not sure where we’re staying tonight yet — I don’t think we’ll be back here since it’ll be an hour in the wrong direction from Cleveland, which is where the Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Bang and Kings Destroy tour picks back up tomorrow, but I wouldn’t mind another look at that night sky if one were in the offing. Or, you know, a lifetime considering this is pretty much my ideal of paradise, right down to the ducks out on the lake talking smack to everyone standing and sitting on the deck with the two grills, one gas, one charcoal, fired up with burgers, sausages, steaks, asparagus, kebabs, more peppers, portobello mushrooms and so on. There have been a few tough rides, but it’s not exactly like this trip has been roughing it sleeping on shitty punk rock basements or anything — there’s wifi in the van — but this place is legitimately wonderful, and there’s been music on just about the whole time we’ve been here.
Posted in Features on October 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.25.14 — 2:00PM Central — Saturday afternoon — In van somewhere outside Chicago
“My fuckin’ fist is gonna be ‘solid.'” — Steve Murphy
En route from Tomah, Wisconsin, to Grand Rapids, we hit a truckstop pretty early on for coffee. I’d woken up around seven and taken in some of scenic Tomah around the motel, a truck wash next door called “Power Shine,” the sign of which became I guess the equivalent of a back yard tire for the football. Water tower, parking lot, not much else unless you’re into Long John Silver. Rest stop was next to a porn shack and had an Arby’s and a convenience store. Standard the whole way around. Guy in front of me in line was mumbling some unintelligible shit and when I got to the counter, the woman working said that he goes into the place every day and tells her the perverted things he wants to do to her. Her coworker chimed in that he did the same to her and he was a registered sex offender. Every day, the same shit. It was a bummer story and bummer coffee alike. There was art outside the porn shack. You take the positives where you can get them.
Then we sat in traffic for a solid hour after making the jump from Wisconsin to Illinois. I don’t think we went three miles the whole time. It was brutal. I didn’t count how many “this fucking sucks” there were, but suffice to say consensus was reached, and rightly so. At least for me, things got pretty fucking dire pretty fucking quick, my head spiraling fast into you’re-33-years-old-and-you’re-not-even-playing-these-shows-what-the-fuck-are-you-doing-here and all the rest of it. Oh, the drama. Tough five minutes until I remembered that I hadn’t eaten since fucking yesterday morning and took out a protein bar from my bookbag. Traffic cleared up, my head did likewise, and life improved. A quick stop was made, I think as much to catch breath and stretch legs after sitting in that construction — the nation’s highways: a vision of America’s future world-stage dominance -- as to take a leak and grab food. I took a pass on lunch. Have to feel like it was the right call.
There’s a time zone change between here and Grand Rapids, but a lot of good people are coming out to the show tonight, and so I’m looking forward to that and the place we’re staying overnight looks sweet as well, so sign me up. Was in a pretty shitty headspace for a couple minutes there, but tonight and tomorrow are some of what I was most looking forward to about this trip. There’s a little press because time’s a factor and it was even before we sat for an hour and stewed in it, but we’re hauling ass to Grand Rapids now, so that’s something.
“…some cherry candies for desert.” [sic] — Carl Porcaro
Little things make a huge difference. Some cold water on the face. A protein bar when you’re hungry. Washing your hands. A private bathroom. Some fresh air and sunshine. Advil for sore feet or just general existential soreness. Talking to your significant other. It was a long drive today from where we stopped in Wisconsin last night to Minneapolis — and as I understand it, tomorrow is longer; there was some back and forth on cutting out of this show early, but I have my doubts it will actually come to that — but a good day overall. Part of it is stir-craziness from being in the van, part of it I think is the band getting the first show of the tour over with — also beer — but the mood was pretty relaxed today even with the hours put in.
We stopped outside Minneapolis at Hammerheart Brewing, which is run by Austin Lunn of the black metal band Panopticon — his most recent album, Roads to the North, was reviewed here. Lots of very Norse and Viking imagery around the place, bare wood, various smoky smells, elaborately conceived brews. The antlers-on-Mjölnir logo summed up a lot of the aesthetic. A poster for a forest-worship black metal fest said no hate and if you couldn’t behave you should stay home, which I thought was fucking awesome. Some asshole will probably still screw it up, but righteous of them to put it on the show poster anyway. I didn’t drink any, but the consensus was that the beer was quality stuff, and it was cool to see Lunn and company passionate about what they were doing at the place. He was kind enough to give the band three growlers with the stipulation that nobody would “drive tired.” It’ll be about three hours back the way we came to where we’re staying tonight — Steve pointed it out as we passed it on the way here. Pretty sure I’m slated to drive later, and pretty sure I’ll be tired when I do it, but I won’t be drunk, and I think that’s what the euphemism was aiming at. A fair trade in any case.
The land on the way to Minneapolis was beautiful and sparse. We got into Wisconsin from Chicago last night, so there was a lot that I couldn’t see — and, presumably, not a lot to see since there were no lights on — but houses dotting rolling hillsides, distant looming smokestacks, gas stations, trucks, intermittent sun and cloud cover, even just enough of a rain splash to give the windshield of the Sprinter a needed once-over, intermittent Heartland porno shacks and fireworks stores, KISS’ Hotter than Hell emanated from the back seat forward as we rolled along, and it was a good time, even if a long trip to Hammerheart and, by extension, here. Different trees up and around here than were in Illinois and Indiana and Ohio and Pennsylvania. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Midwest, but even the people who randomly said hi at the gas station this morning were incredibly nice and conversational. I think I’m too much of a prick to live with it on a more permanent basis, but it’s nice to visit.
It’s my first time in Minneapolis, and by extension at Mill City Nights. I didn’t see any mills, or at least not current mills — unless The Old Spaghetti Factory counts — but a lot of office buildings, some pretty interesting architecture. The whole town looks new and clean, as if the snow every winter melts and takes the grime with it. The venue is huge on the same scale of Summit Music Hall in Denver, but like the city itself, it seems very new, very recently constructed. Smells like nothing. There’s a balcony that’s crazy deluxe with a full bar, a Red Bull bar, tvs broadcasting the stage, seats and whatnot, and the stage has to be about six feet high in the cavernous space, P.A. speakers hanging on the sides from the ceiling on supported chains. I’m sure it will be plenty loud when the time comes. Not too long from now, actually.
Posted in Features on October 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.23.14 — 4:47PM Central Time — Thursday afternoon — Reggie’s upstairs balcony, Chicago, Illinois
“You guys are dorks.” — Jim Pitts, in response to copious whistling of Peter Frampton’s “Show Me the Way”
Rolled into Reggie’s a couple minutes ago, a lot of handshaking, smiles and how-ya-doins. A lot of these guys kept in touch after the spring tour, so there’s already a familiarity to the proceedings, at least between the Pentagram camp and the Kings Destroy guys — Radio Moscow isn’t here yet but I’m sure they’ll be along — though I also met Bang and they seem like friendly cats. There’s a kind of happy-anxiousness in the room, but Reggie’s is a cool space, and there’s a balcony, so I’ve more or less already planted here while Pentagram does a soundcheck.
Got into (Walt) Clyde, Ohio, in time last night to watch the end of the second game of the World Series. Guys had beers and whatnot, and as there are some tough drives ahead, it was good to crash out relatively early and get up this morning, hit the road leisurely and finish the drive to Chicago. A couple bathroom breaks, a lot of gags in the van, gas station coffee — and, in Rob’s case, gas station hard-boiled eggs — and we still got into town early. I’ve never actually been in Chicago before, just driven through on the highway, which cuts into the city but above the streets. It’s the kind of place you’d have to spend years in to feel like you’d know it, like any city, but at least I can say I’ve been here at this point and not feel like I’m exaggerating.
Because it’s a band traveling, a trip to Chicago’s famous heavy metal burger joint, Kuma’s Corner, was in order for lunch. I had the Kuma Burger, which I guess is the house standard — essentially a bacon cheeseburger with a fried egg on top — and a salad on the side. There were a bunch of burgers named after bands, which is kind of their thing. Aaron had the High on Fire. Had peppers on it and I don’t know what else. Jim Pitts bought a sweatshirt. The place played Pentagram and Weedeater over the P.A. after a bunch of grindcore and black metal. Cool vibe with some vinyl on a rack, Chicago represented by Minsk, Indian and so on. I dug it, and if you’re ever going to be in a burger coma, Weedeater’s God Luck and Good Speed isn’t a bad way to go.
It was countered in the van by Tony Orlando and Dawn, Cheap Trick power ballads, Frampton, and “Dream Weaver.” Take that, heavy metal. We found Sean and Greg from Pentagram playing basketball in the alley behind the venue when we pulled in, but they and Victor Griffin have started soundchecking now. Bobby Liebling is around here somewhere, he’s been back and forth. I think everybody’s ready to get the tour started, or maybe that’s just me projecting. Either way, I’m glad to be here.
Posted in Features on October 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.22.14 — 8:34PM — Wednesday evening — The van, somewhere in PA
“Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the angel dust.” — Rob Sefcik
Pennsylvania is deep. Pennsylvania is so deep that Hawkwind should’ve been writing songs about it. As predicted, most of the day has been spent on Route 80, headed westbound to a town called Clyde, Ohio, plucked at just-a-little-less-than-random for its placement between New York and Ohio. It was an early start but we still wound up running late, not that it really matters when we get there. Pretty sure the Red Roof Inn in Clyde will stay open until we get there.
Steve and I got out pretty early this morning and headed to Lyndhurst, NJ, to pick up the van from the rental company. Right off Rt. 3 — familiar terrain. After that, we went in Manhattan to pick something up from his apartment and I snuck in a bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel and a cup of coffee, felt like I was getting away with something. It was glorious. Bagels like that don’t exist in Massachusetts. I had no idea so many of my tastes were regional until I moved. Whatever. Another great sandwich duly chronicled. Aaron met up with us there and we headed into Brooklyn to pick up the rest of the band at Kings Destroy’s practice space and get the gear packed up. It was a little before one when we hit the road, crossed over the George Washington Bridge and headed west on Rt. 80 like the warriors on the edge of time that we might as well be.
Few stops today. It’s mostly been about putting hours in. One piss break at a rest stop where some dude with “Don’t Tread on Me” and a $40,000 SUV gave me sideways looks as I stood outside the van. I’d like to know who he thinks is treading on him but I know the answer he’d give and I’d rather not hear it. We stopped in a town called Clarion not too long ago for dinner at a place called Captain Loomis — much pirate-voice ensued — that has apparently been open since before the Civil War. Stoner Girl who was our waitress wound up telling us about the pretty serious charges she copped in the last month or so and how she might face felony jail time. For pot. I kept thinking about Mr. Tread Upon and the general fucking cluelessness that surrounds us every day. Accordingly was quiet at dinner, not that I had much to add to the discussion of how much old hardcore singles bring in on eBay. Jim Pitts was on that shit. Admirably so.
Carl is driving now, and he’s got a solid playlist going: Sleep, Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, old Helmet, Prong’s “Prove You Wrong,” some Nick Cave or something that sounds close enough to it to fool me. I’ll take it. It’s dark now but earlier in the day I got a decent look at some of what’s apparently a gorgeous autumn in Pennsylvania, leaves all different yellows and reds like bubbles on hillsides. I’ve seen it before, but nice to look without running off the road, which is usually the case driving way out here. It was pretty gray all day, and even now there’s cloud cover, but no major weather troubles or any other kind to report. Just putting in time to get to Chicago tomorrow so these guys can play the first show and start the tour, and I can do whatever it is I do out here.
Eager to see this thing start, but feeling good. Looking forward to getting to Clyde, Ohio, which isn’t something I ever really imagined myself saying.
Posted in Features on October 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
10.21.14 — 3:21PM — Tuesday afternoon — East Bridgewater, MA
“Guess you ain’t driving!!!!” — Steve Murphy
Pesto dribbled down my beard from the hot soppressata, salami and fresh mozz sandwich I made myself for lunch. I drank today-fresh homemade iced tea out of the fridge and had pistachio-laden unsalted mixed nuts on the side while listening to the new Stubb album for the first time. The little dog Dio curled up on the doormat in a rare spot of New England autumn sunshine. I don’t think of the next two weeks as a hardship, but if you’re about to leave the place you live for any stretch of time, you might as well enjoy yourself before you go.
The tour starts on Thursday in Chicago. For the most part, it’s the same lineup as this past Spring — I’ll be traveling with Kings Destroy while they tour with Pentagram and Radio Moscow — only this time it’s reunited proto-metallers Bang as well. Blood Ceremony will play the Halloween show in Burlington and the NYC show on Nov. 1, and there’s an off-day on Sunday for which KD has a gig booked in Lansing, Michigan, with Beast in the Field and Hordes and Cruthu. It will be a good time and still a doable drive to Cleveland the next day. There’s a lot I’m looking forward to seeing, never having been to Chicago or Minneapolis, Grand Rapids or Pittsburgh, and a lot of familiar terrain for me as well. That will be a big change from earlier this year, and I’ve spent some time the last few days wondering if the rounded tops of the Appalachians will hold the same visual appeal as the pointed Rockies did in February, considering I grew up between them.
I’ll find out and let you know when I know. I leave here in three hours or so to head to New York. I’ll be crashing with KD vocalist Steve Murphy tonight, then tomorrow we pick up Jim Pitts, who’s driving once again — it was thought I’d do some road-time as well and may yet, but there’s something stupid with the rental company and my insurance that needs ironing out because they want to charge extra or some shit; I fucking hate paperwork — and the rest of the band and start the drive west. I expect a lot of Route 80 in the next 36 hours, but consider myself fortunate to have been asked along again by the band and am looking forward to watching them play each night on this run.
No, I haven’t packed yet. I haven’t even showered yet, if you want to know the truth, and I still need to charge the camera battery so I have it ready to go, but what the hell. If it happened on time, it wouldn’t be rock and roll.
Here is the full routing for the tour. If you’re planning to hit one of these shows, please say hi. I’ll hope to see you out there.
10/23 Chicago, Il Reggies*
10/24 Minneapolis, MN Mill City Nights*
10/25 Grand Rapids, MI Pyramid Scheme*
10/26 Lansing, MI, Ave Cafe^
10/27 Cleveland, OH , House of Blues*
10/28 Pittsburgh, PA, Mr Smalls*
10/29 Baltimore, MD, Soundstage Baltimore*
10/30 Phildelphia, PA, Johnnie Brendas*
10/31 Burlington, VT, Arts Riot#
11/1 NYC, Gramercy Theater#
11/2 Providence, RI, The Met*
* w Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Bang
^ w Beast in the Field, Cruthu, Hordes
# w Pentagram, Blood Ceremony, Bang