The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tony Reed of Mos Generator

Posted in Questionnaire on April 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

You’d probably need a week to sit down and list all the bands and projects to which Tony Dallas Reed has contributed in one form or another over the better part of the last two decades. From playing drums in death metallers Woodrot to self-recording all-instrument Pentagram covers in his “spare time,” Reed‘s substantial body of work is the result of a genuinely restless creative spirit. Over the course of the last 10 years, he’s bounced between the heavy rocking Mos Generator and more specifically ’70s-minded Stone Axe while also embarking on the side-project HeavyPink and building his own HeavyHead Studio, where he’s done not only his own recording, but tracked Saint Vitus‘ comeback album, Lillie: F-65, among others, as well as mixed and mastered outings from Wight, Trippy WickedAlunah and many more from the US and Europe, often between or while on tours.

Reactivated following a run focused on Stone Axe, Mos Generator released the full-length Nomads (review here) on Ripple Music in 2012, two live albums in 2013, and will shortly issue a follow-up, Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), as their first outing on Listenable Records. Reed is also recently returned to his Port Orchard, Washington, home after a trip to Australia to record Seedy Jeezus and remixed/remastered Mos Generator‘s 2007 Songs for Future Gods album for reissue through Ripple, available now. Mos Generator also has splits with Copenhagen’s Doublestone and Washington’s Teepee Creeper coming soon.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tony Reed

How did you come to do what you do?

As a musician I started when I was 12. After years of mimicking KISS and Rush in my bedroom I figured that I should actually learn how to play. I borrowed a guitar from a guy up the street and the first song I learned was “Iron Man.” I started playing drums around the same time. I just wanted to take it all in.

As a recording engineer I guess you could say it was around the same time. I started recording everything with a boom box from the get-go. I have a recording of the first time I played drums. Over time I collected a few mics and got a three-channel Radio Shack mixer and two cassette decks and I was into overdubbing. When I was 20 I got my hands on a four-track and the rest is history.

Describe your first musical memory.

I actually think it is “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone” by The Temptations. I used to love that song. I also have recollections of the album cover for “Paranoid” being around the house and when I got that album in sixth grade I somehow already knew the songs on it, so I am assuming it was played frequently when I was a child. My mom also has a funny story of me stealing a “Nights in White Satin” 45 from K-Mart when I was two years old. She let me keep it.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I would say that it would be 26-date Saint Vitus/Mos Generator European tour in 2013. It was a lot of hard work but we got to play for some rabid audiences and travel in style. Being on the road is all about making memories and of course later down the line you only remember the good bits.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I believe that there is really no ending point to a musician who is driven and passionate. Growth is constant and sometimes moves faster than other times. Sometimes it would appear to move backwards and hopefully something can be learned from that too.

How do you define success?

I define success by respect. Someday I would like to be well respect as a musician and songwriter and recognized for the passion and dedication that I put into the music I make.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

My grandmother’s eyes the day before she died. I think she had moved on already because I didn’t see her in there anymore.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I would like to create and album or song that moves people the way that certain songs move me. Sometimes I am so humbled by the songs I love that it makes me want to stop writing music because I believe I may never achieve these emotions in what I write. I also look at it as a goal and a challenge.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Even though this is musical in its subject, it doesn’t directly affect me musically. I am looking forward to watching the musical journey my son is going on. He has the passion in his blood and it’s great to see him doing things to make music his life.

Mos Generator, “Breaker” from Electric Mountain Majesty (2014)

Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks

HeavyHead Superstore

Listenable Records

Ripple Music

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Scott Hamilton of Small Stone Records

Posted in Questionnaire on March 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

This coming weekend, Detroit’s Small Stone Records hosts two label showcases on the East Coast. The first takes place Friday night at the Middle East in Boston and the second is Saturday at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar (info on both here). With Gozu and Freedom Hawk and Wo Fat headed overseas and new releases to come in 2014 from Dwellers, Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, Greenleaf, Wo Fat and Lo-Pan, it’s arguable that Small Stone has never had as much of an impact as it’s having now. A foray into the vinyl market seems to have paid off, and with acquisitions from across the pond like France’s The Socks, Italy’s Isaak and Portugal’s Miss Lava, the imprint’s reach only seems to be growing.

In 2015, Small Stone marks 20 years since its inception. It has succeeded against odds, trends and, frankly, logic, thanks to the vigilance and keen ear of its founder and owner, Scott Hamilton, who also plays guitar in the prog/psych rock outfit Luder. As a curator, Hamilton‘s ear is second to none, and his passion for searching out the underground’s best has led to landmark heavy rock from the likes of Dixie Witch, Sasquatch, Dozer, Los Natas, Halfway to Gone, Roadsaw, Acid King and many more. I sometimes feel like a nerd for covering as much Small Stone stuff as I do, but it’s inevitable. There’s no getting around the quality of the work being fostered by Hamilton‘s steady hand.

So I’ll probably keep going with it.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Scott Hamilton

How did you come to do what you do?

I have been obsessed with music for my entire life (both as a fan and as musician), so I am pretty sure that obsession led me into what I do now. I knew in my high school and college years that I wanted to do music in some form for a career (plus you had the added bonus of not needing cut your hair or work in a stuffy office environment), but I had no clue or connections to point myself in the proper direction to make it a reality. After many an odd job in the early ’90s at various music related gigs (playing in bands and working at record stores, radio stations, major record labels, etc.), I discovered that I both wanted and needed to start a record label. Small Stone was born out of this.

Describe your first musical memory.

This is easy…  It was my Dad blasting Jimi Hendrix, The Stones, James Brown and Santana in the house on his very vintage hi-fi system. I think by the time I was three, I was actually spinning the records from his collection myself, and mostly likely ruining a few of them in the process… Shortly thereafter, discovering bands like KISS and Aerosmith also have had a very lasting effect on me too.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

There are too many… so I will list my top five:

1. Seeing The Cult in 1985 on the Love Tour when I was a Junior in High School. To this day, one of the best concerts I have ever been too.

2. Playing in my first band in high school was awesome, even if it was the ’80s. It was great discovering that thing my bandmates and I used to call “the buzz.” The buzz is when you and your fellow musicians all lock in, everything clicks, and you go on this crazy spiritual high where the hair on the back of your neck stands up. It is was  and is the ultimate feeling that every musician and music fan is always looking for. I sometimes get it with my current band Luder when we are rehearsing and working on new material from time to time.

3. Purchasing my first KISS album… It was KISS Alive, by the way. My mother still says that KISS ruined my life.

4. About eight years ago when I had shitty day job for Live Nation, I got to stand behind Joe Perry’s rig for the majority of the concert, and that was a big deal for me… It also helped that setlist was 95 percent pre-’80s Aerosmith, and for as lame as the band is now, they were fantastic on that evening.

5. Jane’s Addiction… I must have seen them 10 times between 1988 and 1991, and that band had the magic, and also gave that “buzz” I was talking about.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I think that this happens on a monthly basis. It is just part of living, growing, and moving forward. It is usually not a fun experience, either…

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I think it leads to greatness down the line for any individual that is creating something, be it music, art, whatever. A creative person will always feel the need to keep exploring and learning new things to better sharpen their skill sets. If I had more time, I would spend it writing riffs and melodies, and improve on any and all basic skills when it comes to a guitar, but I have limited time to do that since I have a family and a business that must come first. With that said, I am always humming something in my head, and I will sneak off to the basement for about 30 minutes per day when I can to make some music.

How do you define success?

To me, success means that I get to do what I want for a vocation versus wearing a suit at some soul-sucking corporate job. In that sense, I have great success. But on the other hand it would be nice to break a band on the roster and help get them to a level of a band like Clutch. But that has not happened as of yet, so I just keep on keeping on until I obtain that level of success in the future.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

In 1989 I was driving on the freeway about 20 miles west of Hartford, CT (on my way back to MSU from a Summer working on Nantucket). This convertible Corvette cam flying past me, and seconds later it somehow rear-ended the pickup truck in front of me. The Vette flew up in the air, flipped over the pickup and landed on on the freeway with his roof facing down — but the convertible top was down. The Vette driver was killed, blood, brains, and flesh all over the freeway. That vision has stuck with me ever since.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I would love to be involved in creating a timeless album — a classic if you will. Something that has the staying power of Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zep IV, etc., and more realistically, I would love to create a very large swimming pool in my backyard.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

70 degree days.

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records website

Luder, Adelphophagia (2013)

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GIVEAWAY: Enter to Win a Copy of Ogre’s The Last Neanderthal!

Posted in Features on March 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Well, this one pretty much sells itself. Leave a comment on this post to enter to win a copy of Portland, Maine, trio Ogre‘s new CD, The Last Neanderthal, from Minotauro Records. I’ve got one copy of the album to give away (plus some nifty buttons), and as long as you enter with your email address in the appropriate box in the comment form, you’re eligible to make it yours.

Two things to note: First, I don’t keep email addresses and I wouldn’t know what to do with them if I did, so if privacy is your concern, I have neither the time nor the inclination to violate it perhaps other than with a note to let you know you’ve won the CD. Second, the album (review here) smokes and is well worth your time. Presented with weathered-looking art from drummer Will Broadbent in a sturdy gatefold-style digipak, it’s a doomer’s delight of underground riff worship and heavy groove, up to and including the cover “Soulless Woman,” originally performed by ’70s heavy rockers Ogre. Yup, Ogre covers Ogre. The concept alone should be enough to blow your mind.

If not, be sure to check out the most excellent Lego video for The Last Neanderthal highlight “Nine Princes in Amber,” posted for a refresher of the album’s righteousness and will to not take itself too seriously. Ogre – Broadbent, guitarist Ross Markonish and bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham — have also just been added to the bill of The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4, which is set to take place May 3 and 4 at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester, Massachusetts. They’ll be in good company alongside the reunited Sixty Watt Shaman, Kings Destroy, Beelzefuzz and many others.

CD winner is chosen at random. Good luck to everyone who enters and thanks for your continued support of this site.

Leave a comment on this post to win! Don’t forget to include your email address in the contact form!

Ogre, “Nine Princes in Amber” Lego video

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Sixty Watt Shaman Interview with Rev. Jim Forrester: Recalibration of an Ultra Electric

Posted in Features on March 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Tomorrow night, March 22, Baltimore heavyweights Sixty Watt Shaman will take the stage at the Windup Space as headliners for the Moving the Earth 2 festival. It’s a bill they share with a host of others loyal to the Doom Capitol in geography or spirit including Iron Man, Black Lung, Kingsnake and Wasted Theory, among others, and the beginning of a reunion some years in the making. Sixty Watt Shaman called it quits after the release of 2002′s Reason to Live on Spitfire Records, arguably as they hit their peak of notoriety. As bassist Rev. Jim Forrester elucidates, however, it wasn’t so simple as that. To be fair, it rarely is.

Moving the Earth 2 is the first of several fests at which Sixty Watt will appear in the coming months. They’ve been confirmed for Desertfest in both London and Berlin at the end of April, and May 3 will find them at the top of the bill at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in Worcester, Massachusetts. Granted, they’ve played intermittently over the last decade, but it speaks to the continued relevance of Sixty Watt Shaman‘s studio albums that their work precedes them after all this time. Before Reason to Live served as their swansong, 2000′s Seed of Decades and 1998′s Ultra Electric positioned the Marylanders among the forerunners of what was then still a pretty deep underground. They’re a band whose influence has seeped into a lot of East Coast heavy rock, and the response to their return has been appropriately loud.

Comprised of Forrester, lead guitarist/backing vocalist Todd Ingram (who replaced Joe Selby), returned drummer Chuck Dukehart III (also of Foghound), who left in 2000, and guitarist/vocalist Daniel Soren, the reinvigorated Sixty Watt Shaman has hinted at new material of one form or another to come this year, and reissues of their past albums are in the works, though details remain to be solidified. Wherever they head after these fests, as Forrester describes in the interview that follows, the four-piece are taking a more mature, “grown-up” approach. So no, it seems they won’t be crashing on your couch this time around.

This interview was conducted a little while back, but Rev. Jim – whose involvement in post-Sixty Watt projects like Angels of Meth, Soaphammer, The Devil You Know and Serpents of Secrecy as well as his reputation as an all-around good guy precedes him — was kind enough to shed some light on how the Sixty Watt Shaman reunion came about, how it’s been getting back to work with the band, and where he thinks it might all be heading.

Please find the Q&A after the jump, and enjoy:

Read more »

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Kimi Kärki of Lord Vicar

Posted in Questionnaire on March 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

As Peter Vicar in Reverend Bizarre, guitarist Kimi Kärki helped to start a wave of traditional doom in Europe during the mid-’90s that continues to this day. That Finnish outfit’s influence has endured even after their split in 2007 following the release of their last album, III: So Long Suckers – a variety of splits and comps continued to surface for a couple years after — and Kärki‘s career has continued to branch out, working with former Saint Vitus and now Goatess frontman Chritus Linderson in the righteously doomed Lord Vicar as well as putting out new material from the Reverend Bizarre-concurrent project Orne, founding and exploring psychedelic experimentation in E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr, playing with Uhrijuhla and working as a coordinator at the University of Turku. Late last year, Svart Records released his solo debut, The Bone of My Bones (streamed here), on which Kärki showcased progressive folk songwriting to create evocative and deeply resonant atmospheres.

Last month, Svart issued a 4LP edition of III: So Long Suckers with expanded liner notes in memory of Reverend Bizarre‘s legacy, and E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr are slated to appear at Roadburn next month.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Kimi Kärki

How did you come to do what you do?

Because it felt right. I followed my intuition and walked on the footsteps of the giants.

Describe your first musical memory.

It is hearing my mother sing a classic lullaby “Sininen uni” (Blue dream), originally sung by legendary Finnish javelin athlete and singer Tapio Rautavaara, the text being a poem by P. Mustapää. I love that song and sing it to my own children now. Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCMI91DCTRg

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Hard to pick up the best… Perhaps hearing the master of In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend for the first time, or the first time I saw people in the audience singing my lyrics.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Every day.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

To a better focus, deeper musical layers, profound lyrics and sometimes an early grave.

How do you define success?

That I feel pleased with what I have done, can love and be loved, and survive the tests of living.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Images of parents carrying their dead children, that is the ultimate horror.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

A theme album which is musically solid and has a coherent, emotionally touching narrative.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Finishing my Ph.D., finally.

Kimi Kärki, “I am Aries” from The Bone of My Bones (2013)

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 17: In the Venue, Salt Lake City, UT

Posted in Features, Reviews on March 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

03.02.14 — 6:54AM Eastern — Sunday morning — Detroit Metro Airport

“Aw, seriously? We blew it…” — Rob Sefcik

Though I think I already made it obvious in my last post, I’ll put it out there straight away that my head wasn’t in this one from the beginning. My thoughts were elsewhere — getting to the airport, though that plan materialized pretty well and before the show actually started — getting back to New York, driving north, finding a time when I might be able to sleep, seeing my wife, eating a meal, and so on. I guess if I was actually playing the show, that might’ve been an issue.

As it was, I decided to give myself something of a break for the closing night of Kings Destroy‘s tour with Pentagram and Radio Moscow, and when it came to the start of the show at In the Venue – a mid-sized space cleverly named — I was an odd combination of stressed about the impending travel and relaxed about the show itself. I already knew I wouldn’t be seeing all of Pentagram‘s set, and basically I said to myself that I’d already had six gigs’ worth of photos of these bands, and that it was okay to take it easy for the last night of the run.

Seems to have worked out, at least as regards my general well-being. Local support tonight — though by now it’s really “last night,” I just haven’t slept — was from Merlin‘s Beard:

Merlin’s Beard

I couldn’t tell you the last show I was at where there was a genuine circle pit. It’s been a while. But punk-stoner-thrashers Merlin’s Beard seemed to arrive ingratiated to the early-arriving local SLC contingent, and all of a sudden, there were kids in hightops and denim vests skipping in circles like something from a demented nursery rhyme. Can’t stop the children. I didn’t see their whole set, but Merlin’s Beard seemed to have it together in playing on the hesher-metal thing, which has been in full bloom all along on this trip, but they made their blend with earlier-hardcore punk work smartly and offered a raucous start to a night that, once it got going, had a party atmosphere as only the end of a tour can.

Kings Destroy

They were rushed from the very beginning. When Kings Destroy (plus Jim Pitts and I) arrived at In the Venue, Merlin’s Beard were already set up on stage. Since the band couldn’t very well tell them to get off so they could backline their gear, the switchover happened afterwards, and since Pentagram were also using said gear, basically two bands had to soundcheck before Kings Destroy could start their set. The sound guy told them, “You’ve got 22 minutes,” right before they started, but if they were rushed, the intensity suited both them and the occasion. I’m fairly certain they went past that 22-minute mark, but they still sprinted through their five song set, opening with “Dusty Mummy” before easing into “Embers,” which at this point sounds ready to record or at least close to it. Their adrenaline kicked in early, so when they shifted from “The Toe” to another new song, “Mr. O.,” the fact that it was the fastest thing I’ve ever heard from them seemed like a solid fit. A blazing riff, strong hook, and big ending, it’s probably the nearest thing to heavy rock I’ve seen them play, and that’s not at all a complaint. I wish I had gotten to see it more than once while on the road with them, but if it’s a Salt Lake City-only kind of memory, I’ll take it. They sounded like they could do another week or two touring easily.

Radio Moscow


If Radio Moscow were harried by nearly rolling their van in the bad weather between Denver and Salt Lake City — there was reportedly an accident on I-25 North outside of Denver that involved 104 cars, with which fortunately none of the three touring acts was involved — they didn’t show it on stage. They were dialed in and immediate, and it once again being an all-ages show, a younger crowd got way into it. That was the case all along, at all the shows, really, but in back, there was also a dude easily in his ’60s grooving on it, so maybe Radio Moscow have more of a cross-generational appeal than they get credit for. Or maybe they get credit for it and I just don’t pay attention. Either way, the point stands. I’m more than a little bummed I’ll have to wait until their new album Magical Dirt comes out in May to hear “Death of a Queen” again, but with “No Time,” “Open Your Eyes,” “Broke Down” and the rest in studio form to tide me over, chances are I’ll make it through. Still, what a track. It’s rightly gotten a great response at each show and In the Venue was no exception.

Pentagram


I said so after the Denver gig as well, but it’s worth repeating that in this incarnation of Pentagram, everybody was killing it. It wasn’t just Bobby Liebling and it wasn’t just Victor Griffin. They’re great, don’t get me wrong, and they handed the crowd its collective ass once again, but bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley offered stellar support in both sound and stage presence to their legendary counterparts, and once again Pentagram as a whole underscored both the timelessness of their classic material and the relevance of what they’re doing now. I might’ve liked to stay and see them finish out their set and thus the tour as a whole, but my head was going to explode if I didn’t get to the airport gate immediately, so when it was time to go after “When the Screams Come,” I offered no argument whatsoever. It was, indeed, time to go.

I’ve been falling asleep at the keyboard since I started typing, so I’ll try to be quick. The first of two flights to New York is over, from Salt Lake City to Detroit. This is a three-hour layover that started around 7AM and will go until 10:05AM when the next plane is allegedly going to take off. There’s enough snow on the tarmac outside that I’ve got my doubts. Still, until I hear otherwise, that’s what I’m going with.

We took off from SLC a little after one in the morning. The band had grabbed a bite to eat at one of the silly airport places but I abstained and sat with headphones on instead. Splashed some cold water on my face and felt like a new man. The airport wasn’t crowded, but the plane was. Full, in fact, and they kept the lights off just about the whole time. I wasn’t always awake, but I was never quite asleep. That’s about as good as I can usually do on an airplane. When we got in to Detroit, the KD guys almost immediately crashed out on the floor in various spots. There weren’t very many people around this little enclave of gates, though it’s gotten crowded since as Sunday has become its own entity rather than the weird extension of Saturday it is when you haven’t slept. I always had trouble deciding when the day actually switched until I learned broadcast days began at 6AM. That’s generally the measure I use these days, when I think of it or need to.

This will be the last of these posts, so I need to thank Kings Destroy — Steve Murphy, Rob Sefcik, Aaron Bumpus, Chris “C-Wolf” Skowronski and Carl Porcaro — for their incredible generosity in inviting me to embark on this tour with them. From Pacific Northwestern forests, to low Nevada desert, to the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, I saw things I’d never seen, met many, many excellent people along the way, and was treated night after night to what I knew was the best possible show I could be seeing at that moment. It was a thrill and a delight, not just to do these things, but to be fortunate enough to be able to do them with these people, whom I consider myself lucky to know and whose work continues to stun with its honesty, accomplishment and forward-minded defiance of genre and expectation. Whether it was in the sprinter impersonating Paul Stanley stage raps with the ultra-competent Jim Pitts at the wheel or standing in front of a surprisingly wide variety of stages to watch them nail their set night after night, rest assured, my best times out west were with Kings Destroy.

There were times where I asked myself what I was doing. I never got to tour in bands other than a weekender here and there, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m thankful to have had the chance while doing this, while writing. The fact about what I do is simple — no one outside a very small sphere cares — but as I look around me at the morning hustle at the airport in Detroit in a quality of light that has that Vaseline-lens haze due to lack of sleep, it’s that writing that got me here. I’ve spent some time recently wondering what the endgame is to all of this, this site, the music, where it’s going and what it leads to, but doesn’t it lead to things like this? Isn’t the opportunity to see new places with such wonderful, inspiring individuals the reward, even if it’s also the work? And isn’t the work, being able to do it, the reward too? I don’t always believe it is, but I do right now, and with that, I’m ready to get on the plane and go home. Soon.

Special thanks to The Patient Mrs. for supporting me through things that can sometimes seem completely nonsensical, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 16: Crucial Velocity

Posted in Features on March 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

03.01.14 — 5:42PM Mountain — Sat. — In the Venue, Salt Lake City, UT

“I want my fucking Red Bull…” — Some kid

Doors have not yet opened and I’m already anxious about getting to the airport. It’s a 1:15AM flight out of SLC airport, which is approximately 15 minutes from here. Current plan is to leave the show somewhere between 10:30 and 11PM to get over there. I do not know how it’s going to work, with Jim Pitts driving us over there and then coming back here to get gear after the Pentagram set, loading out with help from the Pentagram guys while we’re at the airport doing security and all the rest of that shit to get on a plane and head back east in what so far has proven to be lackluster weather.

The latter I probably shouldn’t be too concerned with, since none of the weather we encountered today lasted very long. We got into Laramie, Wyoming, last night somewhere around 4AM, after hitting some ice fog and a considerable storm along the way. I got to drive the last two hours or so, which weren’t nearly as bad as some of what I’ve come through this winter at home. Bonus was we did get to wake up later than the last couple days, and I think that’s made the difference, but after 500 miles on the road through Wyoming and Utah to get here, patience is pretty thin. Doors are in about eight minutes. 6PM.

I’ll say this, in hopes perhaps of pulling myself a little bit out of my anxious funk: Wyoming was fucking beautiful. Some of the most righteous “nothing” I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it topped the desert — I’ll probably be a while in comparing the gorgeousness of the sundry landscapes witnessed before a clear winner emerges — but from mountains covered in snow to bare rock, high desert and vast, empty, big sky open spaces, the scenery was nonstop more or less the whole way out of Laramie. We watched Zoolander in the back and it actually didn’t take as long to get to Salt Lake City as I thought it would — Utah following suit in visual impressiveness — but I continue to be tense and frazzled after the ride.

Probably not as much so as Radio Moscow, who spun out en route and did two full turns on the ice but fortunately kept their van on the road. No substitute for adventure. I hear pre-sales aren’t great. I hear the show is ending at 11PM. I hear the venue wants a piece of the merch. I hear Clutch on the P.A. I hear a plane flying overhead coming out of the airport. I hear all kinds of things, and my ears aren’t even that good. I’ve always had better vision than hearing. Ignore me. I’m fucking tired and nervous about getting to the airport in time. I’m glad to be here. I realize how lucky I am to be here. When I go home, I’m going to eat baguette and pesto, and I’m going to have a salad and some of my own iced tea, and I’m going to sit quietly on the couch with The Patient Mrs. and the dog.

Who the fuck am I kidding? I’ll be about 10 minutes in the door before I’m upstairs in the office checking email. Every one of these days has been a gift. I know this.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 15: Summit Music Hall, Denver, CO

Posted in Features, Reviews on March 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.29.14 — 12:30AM Mountain — Fri. night / Sat. morning — The van

“Altitude…” — Carl Porcaro

Completely different vibe from last night. There was some space between the bands and the crowd at Sister because of monitors out front, but Summit Music Hall was just another species of animal. Both, I suppose, are shooting for a certain kind of authenticity of experience. In the case of the Albuquerque club from last night, it’s a rawer kind of feel, more punk rock, right there, you were involved as it happened, very much the purity mindset that also comes into play with the vinyl resurgence over the last few years — analog or death; find us on Facebook — whereas tonight in Denver, it was more a previous generation’s professional, commercial-style rock venue.

Not taking sides one over the other. I’ve seen great shows in both kinds of rooms, and this one was the biggest of the tour. I was quoted a capacity of 1,100, which is a substantial amount of people. An all-ages show, I don’t think it was sold out, but it was plenty packed, and though the crowd was more withdrawn than last night’s — again, the kind of room was a big factor as well as the people who showed up — they got plenty wild for Pentagram, who continued a run of solid headlining gigs. The tour ends tomorrow. I’m sorry to see it over, but probably best I get back to real life at some point.

Show ran pretty early with doors at seven and the first band on at 8:45. Local rockers Space in Time got things started:

Space in Time


Pretty straightforward stuff. Classic-style, one guitar, bass, drums, vocals, with organ for a total five-piece who made their most lasting impression with closer “Cheating Death.” For some of their set, it seemed like the Denver natives hadn’t yet decided if they wanted to go full-on retro or if more modern heavy rock impulses might win out. Either way, their songs were well composed and though its presence in the mix depended in no small part on where you were actually standing on the floor, the organ made a big difference in their sound. This tour has seen some openers who are ready to go and some who’d benefit from more time on stage, more time hammering out their songwriting, and so on. Space in Time don’t fit neatly into either category, but for not knowing the band before the show, I wasn’t sorry to have seen them play.

Kings Destroy

“Embers” came third tonight and was the tightest yet. If I didn’t know it hadn’t been recorded, I’d probably just assume it was an album track from A Time of Hunting, and that would seem to be a good sign. Crazy build in that song, and very satisfying to hear it take shape on stage as it has. Kings Destroy opened tonight with “The Mountie” and went immediately into “The Toe,” which made for a riffy start that I think the audience took to. Not really a shock that the attendees at the Pentagram gig would like the doomy tracks, but though it was a half-hour set, Kings Destroy still fit a decent serving of their wares, pushing “Blood of Recompense,” which has been in my head all day, ahead of “Old Yeller” in the closing spot. They’ve got some genuine momentum in their performance at this point, and though there are different personalities to different shows, they’ve managed to build one onto the next in a manner I can only really describe as professional without slipping into hyperbole. The bigger stage suited them.

Radio Moscow

Well, okay. Here it is. Time to think of another way to say Radio Moscow kick ass. Maybe I’ll keep it simple and just note that, yes, they do, and tonight they did so extra gloriously on “I Just Don’t Know,” which provided a raucous opening to the set. Of the three bands in this writeup whom I’ve seen over the course of this week, they were probably the most affected by the distance between the stage and the crowd. I couldn’t help but think of Las Vegas and the group of kids up front who were practically on top of guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs as he tore into one or another solo. Not really possible when there’s a barrier between, though I still definitely got a spritz of beer from behind and above, so someone was rowdy enough. Radio Moscow have been insanely tight all along, so to say so seems redundant, but it was a different experience to watch them on the Summit Music Hall stage even than at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco.

Pentagram


I continue to be fascinated by the obvious impact that the Last Days Here (review here) documentary that came out in 2012 has had on Pentagram‘s draw, and while there have been some on this trip who made clear by shouting various things at Bobby Liebling both before he got on stage and after, Denver was cool for the most part. Still, it’s a level of spectacle I hadn’t expected, and as someone who saw Pentagram before the movie came out, the difference is palpable. That’s a shame in a way, because with Victor Griffin on guitar, Greg Turley on bass and Sean Saley on drums, Pentagram — the full band — are as tight now if not tighter than I’ve ever seen them. A minor flub tonight at the start of “When the Screams Come” was barely there in a crisp set, and of course Liebling worked the crowd into the proverbial frenzy so that even with the barrier there were people spilling over each other. Griffin, Turley and Saley followed suit, and Pentagram were exciting to watch for so much more than just the (well told) narrative of their frontman.

Today was payday, so I bought a couple shirts. One from a brewpub across the street whose chicken caesar salad was the best thing I’ve eaten since I left home, and one from Pentagram. Tomorrow, again, is the final night of this tour, and yeah, I’ll miss it. It’ll be good to be home, to see The Patient Mrs. and the little dog Dio, but this has been a good time and something of a personal landmark, so you’ll have to please forgive the moment of sentiment. I’m sure there’s more to come.

There was a guy outside the venue (who may or may not have been former MTV VJ Jesse Camp) taking pictures on his smartphone for what he in his I’m-very-clearly-on-bad-drugs kind of way explained as a sort of art project. I had him send me one he took of me. I’ve never been especially photogenic (or charming, or intelligent, or socially capable, or competent; the fucking list just keeps going). This is the first picture of myself I’ve ever posted on this site and in most cases I’ll go out of my way to not get my picture taken, but it was just random enough. Carl damn near ran him over with one of the cabinets during loadout. “How’s that for a cool pic?” asked C-Wolf.

What that guy was doing with a smartphone or where that picture is actually headed, I have no idea. Maybe he makes fake IDs or some shit. Whatever. Hope they’re kinder to my likeness than I’ve been. Drink up, children. Your parents have been lying to you: Alcohol is delicious and it makes you a more interesting person.

Plan is to cover some ground of the 500-miles-plus trip to Salt Lake City tonight. Jim Pitts is at the wheel, though we’ve stopped to get a scraper now because there’s an ice storm and it’s building up on the windshield. We’ll go for hopefully a couple of hours if it’s not too bad and then crash out until — wait for it — 10AM. The idea seems so luxurious after the last three days that I fear writing in case I might jinx it.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 14: Mower

Posted in Features on February 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.28.14 — 5:28PM Mountain — Friday — Summit Music Hall, Denver, CO

“In a moment, the results of that trial…” Dragnet

And so it was that Kings Destroy came out of the desert and into the mountains, to the city of Denver, where weed is legal and horseheads are worshiped as pagan gods. Go Broncos. The drive to get to the Summit Music Hall wasn’t bad. All of a sudden, the land was doing stuff. It was protruding rocks or rising a couple thousand feet, rolling with dust and brush or twisting around a hillside. I was surprised how much of the road from New Mexico into Colorado was still high desert. My mental image of this place is all mountains, but in the south of the state, there’s more to it than that. Had I given any real thought to it, I probably would’ve expected the gradual shift that happened, but well, we rolled into that EconoLodge at three and out again a little after eight, so frankly I wasn’t giving much of anything “real thought.”

I did manage to sleep for about half an hour in the van, and that coupled with the three-plus hours last night, a semi-reckless amount of caffeine these last several days and a protein bar seems to have been enough to keep me upright, at least so far. I tend to get sick when I travel, so I prefer to eat as little as humanly possible on the road to avoid stomach issues. I’d rather be hungry. While the middle window of the van was being fixed this afternoon shortly after we hit Denver, some of the guys went into a little Mexican restaurant and had some tacos, and I thought about it, but the place had one of those twirling rotisseries of meat and to me, that’s a sign to look elsewhere. You have to find these little clues. I’ve got gum and can always pick something up later if I feel like it.

The van window replacement turned out to be a jack. It was too good to be true. One shop in the city of Denver claimed to have the second panel for the back window as well as the one for the middle, and then we got there after driving all day from Albuquerque and dude was like, “Yeah bros there’s only one pane of glass so eat it. You want it?” Of course. Not a bad move for a business owner to be like, “Oh, you’re just passing through town and are pressed for time and won’t be back? Yeah, I’ve got those two things you want” and then only have one of them and know that you don’t really have any choice but to take it anyway. So long as you’re willing to be a piece of shit, there’s good money to be made fucking people over. We’ll reinforce the back “window” with more cardboard and tape and be fine. At least the one got done.

Summit Music Hall has a photo pit, which is a first for the places we’ve been, and the room is sizable. Roughly DNA Lounge-proportioned, but maybe taller and with more balcony space. Seems to be they do rock shows here. The back bar area sections off and they do smaller shows there as well. Brilliant. Spirit Caravan are coming through and playing here, though I’m not sure in which of the two rooms. I’ve seen posters for that tour in a few different places by now. I guess maybe it’s a bit of a circuit for venues willing to put on these kinds of shows. Fair enough. It’s not exactly intimate, but I’ve caught shows in far worse spots than this. This week.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 13: Sister Bar, Albuquerque, NM

Posted in Features, Reviews on February 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.28.14 — 3:07AM — Fri. morning — EconoLodge, Albuquerque, NM

“We’re gonna do another new one, while we’re here…” — Parker Griggs

Sister Bar in Albuquerque. Cool spot in that neo-metal/hesher kind of way. Bare brick walls would almost have to be original, hardwood floor not yet destroyed through years of abuse. Huge, sprawling bar, tall ceiling, good sound, seats for those in back who might want them, and a garage bay on the street side that provides an indoor/outdoor space. Art both all over the place and still in progress throughout the building. Reportedly there’s a bar upstairs too owned by the same people, but I didn’t get up there to see it. Still, what I saw, I dug.

The tour is well dug in at this point. All three of the road acts are on fire and though perhaps the windows of the Kings Destroy van would need fixing, the level of performance is such that it could just keep going. It won’t, of course. There are two shows left and then a flight back to New York — followed, in my case, by a drive home to Massachusetts — but that’s how it feels. I’ve seen bands many time deliver these kinds of performances mid-tour. That’s not really new for me. What is new is being able to see the narrative of a tour tightening up play out in real time. I’d hate to use the word “automatic” and have it come across that anyone in Pentagram, Kings Destroy or Radio Moscow is phoning it in, because that’s not the case. More like flicking a switch and coming to life, maybe.

Leeches of Lore opened tonight and they were a band I was very, very stoked to see. Here’s how the show ran:

Leeches of Lore


I’ve dug these Albuquerque-native weirdo heavy spazz rockers for a while and seeing them live was like watching peak-era Ween on a psych-thrash freakout. Fucking cool band, and not only did Leeches of Lore live up to the go-anywhere-anytime feel of their recordings, they surpassed it in presence and in the power of their delivery. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Hammond was given to screams in addition to pushing his voice into throaty falsetto shouts, and with two drummers, keys, and two added horns for set-finale “La Follia di Spazio,” Leeches of Lore even had Bobby Liebling of Pentagram out from backstage and fervently approving of their methods — the first time I’ve seen that happen all tour. There’s something so satisfying about seeing a band you’ve been into and having it live up to your hopes. Leeches of Lore surpassed mine, and drew a huge crowd of local supporters as well.

Kings Destroy


The key difference between last night in Vegas and tonight was when the band clicked. Cheyenne Saloon was the best Kings Destroy played yet, and it had left me wondering how they might top it, but what happened tonight was that there was no warming up necessary. They got on stage, plugged in, and hit it. Doubly impressive since it was “Embers,” the new song, in the opening spot with a relatively subdued feel compared to a more full-on track like “Casse-Tete” or “Blood of Recompense.” I noted that “Old Yeller” was faster tonight than last night in its intro, but still had all its heft intact. And as immediate as the band was, the response followed suit, with the assembled denim ‘n’ leather set making their way quickly over from the bar to partake. I heard no complaints as “The Toe” gave way to “Blood of Recompense,” the lead guitar line of which might as well be tattooed on my frontal cortex for all the likelihood of it ever giving up its position there.

Radio Moscow

Presumably if this tour was three weeks or a month long or something like that, at some point I’d run out of ways to nerd on Radio Moscow, but that’s not a concern as it is. The we-have-a-sixth-gear-and-it’s-called-awesome power trio changed things up a little tonight. No drum solo, though Paul Marrone put on a clinic in swing — no, not the HBO kind — all the same, and the set had a third new song to go with “Death of a Queen” and the boogie-heavy “Before it Burns.” It sounded, to be frank, like Radio Moscow, and by that I mean was peppered with wah-drenched lead guitar, deep, resonant low end to match, and the kind of blinding rhythmic turns that make you think the band is about to fall off the side of a cliff but of course they never actually do. As much as I’ve gotten to know their set these last few days, I’ve been glad to see them continue to deliver something different at each show. Their reputation for volatility is known far and wide, lineup changes, etc., and maybe that’s the cost of their kind of energy. All I know is they’ve been a consistently exciting band to watch and tonight was no exception.

Pentagram

A fight broke out pretty early into Pentagram‘s set up toward the front. A guy was drunk and hit a girl or something, there was yelling, something about bitch this, bitch that, and then half the place was on the dude and pounding hard. Like the left side of the room decided all at once to kick his ass. Generally that kind of unanimity doesn’t happen without some root cause, but when he finally got dragged out of there via chokehold, it seemed in his best interests. Meanwhile, Pentagram. They were a while in taking the stage, but incredibly well received as they have been for these shows upon their arrival. Victor Griffin and Greg Turley had their tones dialed in, drummer Sean Saley nailed his fills, and Bobby Liebling – despite what seemed to be a sore throat — delivered the gig that the crowd (minus one) had been expecting. They’ve done the same set each night, so no surprises necessarily, but I’ve very much enjoyed watching each city lose its mind when “Forever My Queen” starts. I’m pretty sure the shops on Central Ave. were being looted at the time, and for being a weeknight, the crowd were ready to throw down for Pentagram. A good cause if there ever was one.

Loadout happened as efficiently as one could ask considering we were basically doing so in the dark. We piled in the van and hightailed it down the street to the EconoLodge and the plan is to get back on the road by 8AM. It was about three when we got here, so I’m not sure how feasible that is, but five hours of sleep would be more than I had last night. Unfortunately, since I want to shower — and I do — I’ve already missed that mark and am currently counting down to a measly four, which is about what I’ve had for each of the last two evenings. That’ll show me for something or other.

Albuquerque seemed like a cool town. I would’ve liked to have time to explore more of it, but something tells me this won’t be my last visit to the American desert.

Onward. To sleep, then to coffee, then to Denver.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 12: Communication Breakdown

Posted in Features on February 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.27.14 — 3:40PM Pacific — Thursday — Somewhere in Arizona

“Elevation 7,735″ — Sign on highway

Some wacky changes in the landscape on this ride, going from Nevada into Arizona. Coming out of Las Vegas was desert, then we got into snow-capped mountains, into some high-altitude forest, then back down into desert, both peopled and empty, and now just coming into these giant red rocks coming near the New Mexico border that look like eroded pyramids, these monolithic things that come up out of nowhere. You can see the layers. Millions of years.

The wind we’ve hit and been hit by has also been utter madness, delivering a beating to the makeshift windows. We’ve come through a couple sandstorms, and it’s been a slalom down the road, tossed from one side to another. There are other cars out here, trucks in the left lane moving slow. Last estimate I heard had us getting to Albuquerque by 6:30PM. I seem to recall that was the estimate last night and we were close enough to it. Just a matter of putting in the time to get there, covering the ground.

And it’s significant ground to cover. I barely knew the routing when I was getting on the plane to Seattle, but to think of how far this trip has gone already, it’s wild. The equivalent of Boston to Georgia, probably, if not more than that. Most of it in the last two days, owing to the drive from Portland to San Francisco being split over two days. So it goes. Not much time for hanging out either in the cities or out in the middle of nowhere, but still cool to see all this stuff not from an airplane flying over, to be affected by the stretch of it. I don’t care how much paved road runs through it, the land is humbling.

New Mexico is a little more populated, at least the stretch we just came through, but we’re still neck deep in desert. Completely bizarre to think that tomorrow at this time, we’ll be headed back north to Denver for the second-to-last night of their tour. Rocky hillside dark with cloud cover. Debris on the road. It all looks very permanent. How on earth can you “just be passing through” a sandstorm? A torrential downpour of dirt? We stopped a bit ago and the wind blew the sunglasses out of my hand and halfway across the parking lot of the rest stop, which sold a bunch of Navajo Indian knick-knacks. There’s Navajo casinos out here too. Because that’s over, right? Sure thing.

Leeches of Lore are playing the show tonight. Four bands: Leeches of Lore, Kings Destroy, Radio Moscow, Pentagram. That’s a solid fucking show. I looked in my luggage this morning and saw I only had two clean t-shirts left after the one I’m wearing today, and for a second I was kicking myself because I thought I miscounted in packing to come out. Nope. A week of shows is just more than half over.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 11: Cheyenne Saloon, Las Vegas, NV

Posted in Features, Reviews on February 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.27.14 — 9:30AM Pacific — Thurs. morning — The desert outside of Las Vegas, NV

“Don’t put that in the writeup…” — Chris “C-Wolf” Skowronski

The city itself interests me far less, but I was intrigued to see the Cheyenne Saloon in Las Vegas because it’s where the annual Doom in June fest is held. It was a full day’s driving to get here, through suburbs and valley giving way to low and high and low desert, the final descent into Nevada and then Vegas itself seeming endless in the doing. Wasn’t a bad ride, all told. I took many pictures of the desert, which lived up to my expectation, and saw windmills and mountains that seemed to come out of nowhere and go back just as quickly, and Joshua trees, and empty space and bugs on the windshield and hillsides and the sun and whatever else.

It was dark by the time we hit Vegas, so of course the lights were going and all that. I’ve been to Las Vegas once before and did not much care for it. I think in order to have any kind of enjoyable experience in this town you probably need to be rich enough that money is no object, win or lose. That’s not my case, needless to say. Cheyenne Saloon itself is after the main strip, tucked away in the corner of a shopping plaza. Plenty of parking at least. I didn’t think much of the look of the room when we got there, but the sound was phenomenal and the show wound up with a cool intimate vibe, being the smallest spot on the tour so far.

Local openers Spiritual Shepherd were already set up on stage when we got there, though they’d break down again when Pentagram arrived, allowing the headliners the chance to soundcheck, but load-in was quick enough and before too long, Spiritual Shepherd got the five-band bill going:

Spiritual Shepherd


Young, and solid, but still clearly getting their feet wet. An instrumental three-piece who seemed to have the most fun on stage when engaging in elephantine plod, Spiritual Shepherd were distinguished in no small part by their drummer, Ian Henneforth, who was quick to show off his chops and technical prowess amid the band’s stonerly riffs. They jammed out one song — most of their titles came from the stoner rock playbook; atomic-this and space-that; hard to keep track sometimes — that had a psychedelic edge and then went full-heft into a crusher, so there’s some level of diversity in what they were doing, they were just new to it. They’ll keep working and be fine. Hell, they already get to say they opened for Pentagram, so kudos.

Demon Lung

It seemed a little unfair that Demon Lung vocalist Shanda was wearing an elaborate dress and the three dudes surrounding were in t-shirts and jeans. Shanda apologized for Demon Lung‘s missing guitarist, who apparently recently broke his collarbone and couldn’t make the show as a result and for herself too, citing caring for a sick puppy at home as having kept her up the last several nights. I thought she and the band both sounded pretty right on. Some of the material came across samey in the presentation,b but it’s doom. That’s what happens. It didn’t seem like a performance that needed an excuse or an explanation, in other words, but then, it was my first time seeing them. Maybe they absolutely destroy every other time they play, but they didn’t do so badly at Cheyenne Saloon.

Kings Destroy


Best show of the tour so far. No question. Kings Destroy seem to be approached with some measure of caution by these audiences, but as with each the other nights on this run, they did indeed win those people over. “I like a quiet room,” said vocalist Steve Murphy between songs. He must have been let down at the end when people were shouting their approval, then. Sorry dude. “The Whittler” was moved to open the set, “Embers” pushed up to second, where it worked well and sounded tight, and they closed out with an especially slow-seeming take on “Old Yeller,” with a grueling early going giving way to a raucous finale. Elsewhere, “The Toe” and “The Mountie” arrived as welcome standards in an assured, aggressive and viciously heavy half-hour-plus. San Francisco was cool, but a different vibe, very high stage. Though they were coming off of being robbed last night and still plenty aggro, the band somehow radiated a comfort level from the stage that seemed to be relatively at peace. Somehow.

Radio Moscow

Can’t help but notice that I’ve come out of each of these shows with a different favorite from Radio Moscow. Tonight it was “Mistreating Queen,” though the new ones, “Death of a Queen” (wonder if there’s any relation there) and “Before it Burns,” were expertly handled as well. A contingent of kids showed up for Radio Moscow who were way into it and seemed to have pregamed the show. Fair enough. Their rowdiness seemed to up the general energy level in the room, though the band weren’t having any trouble with that anyway. Drummer Paul Morrone took a solo with some contribution from bassist Anthony Meier that was a treat to watch and it seemed like every time Parker Griggs stomped on his wah, the room went apeshit. Hard not to see why.

This was the smallest night of the tour in room and attendance. Pentagram killed it through three sold-out gigs, but I wondered how their vibe might change at a gig like this one. They did well with it. Bobby Liebling said he was feeling under the weather, but with the crash and thud of drummer Sean Saley and the gigantic air-push from Victor Griffin and bassist Greg Turley behind him, the was plenty of space in the room mix for him to hang back. He drank tea on stage from a large cup that wound up in the back of Kings Destroy‘s van. I might try to take it home if I can fit it in my bag. No “20 Buck Spin,” but the set was tight in spite of whatever ailments might’ve been a factor, “All Your Sins” sticking in my head, though “Be Forewarned” once again was the high point. Someone needs to build a monument to that song.

Got out of the show around 2AM and found a casino/hotel offering $25 rooms. They were decent — I guess the place was just trying to get you in there to gamble. You even had to walk through the poorly-lit den of human misery to get to the hotel rooms, but somehow I magically resisted the temptation to sit down at the slots and blow my last $20 on nothing. I went up to the room and started to write but was falling asleep hard by 3AM and decided around four o’clock that I wasn’t doing myself any favors being awake with an 8AM start to come.

Crashed hard and woke up at 20-minute intervals thinking about the review half-written, so not sure how many favors I was doing myself anyway, but whatever. The current plan is to fix the window in Denver, so the 500 miles to Albuquerque will come with periodic bouts of fixing up the back one, with which the wind on the highway — and there is a bit of it — seems to have a time. It’s not really a consideration at this point except when it needs to be. The adjustment has been made, I guess. Seems like the band blew off some steam at the show and that kind of evened everybody out. Funny how that works.

Trip is 500 miles to Albuquerque or somewhere thereabouts. Can feel the wind shoving the van around its lane. Landscape is mountains baked in sun. Dry, gorgeous desert. I regret nothing.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 10: Apartment 223

Posted in Features on February 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.26.14 — 2:37PM Pacific — Wed. — En route from SF to Las Vegas

“Cereal all over the floor…” — Carl Porcaro

Got to sleep about six seconds after I stopped typing last night, which I took as a win since I actually managed to finish writing before I nodded off. Waking up with the alarm was pretty brutal, but so it goes. There was breakfast at the motel, eggs, bacon, whatever. I had a banana and some coffee. Can’t trust that shit. Looks like food until you look close or try to digest it.

Came through Bakersfield, which looked like any town kind of town. To me, it’s all Rt. 46 in Parsippany, but the country is full of these roads. Current estimate is we get to Vegas circa 7PM, right at doors. No time to get the windows fixed, so we taped them up. San Fran to Vegas without windows. Looks like we’ll be in Albuquerque — tomorrow, by noon, I’m told — before we’ll be able to get it fixed. It rained overnight, so the tape job from outside the DNA Lounge, which wasn’t meant to be permanent in the first place, had more or less come undone this morning. We stopped once on the highway to repair it and ran out of tape, so had to stop again.

We cleared the Pilot out of duct tape, the band sold some sympathy merch in the parking lot, and then we more or less went military on the side of this van. Hope whoever is finally charged with fixing this thing has some Goo-Gone or whatever, because we ran through at least five rolls of tape. The good news is it’s holding so far. The bad news is we’ve got over 1,500 miles to go before we hit Albuquerque. Last night was bummed out and frustrated though, today’s more laughs, if anxious ones because of the time crunch. A little while ago, Jim Pitts pointed out the windshield and said, “Vegas is on the other side of those hills.” Could barely see what mountains he was talking about, but they were there.

I wouldn’t say it’s a party, despite the Dr. Dooom coming through a portable speaker because something was screwy with the iPod hookup in the van’s system, but definitely less dire by daylight than at three in the morning. Starting to come out of the valley area and into what looks more like desert. At very least the ground is pale and brown where not farm-irrigated. I dig the hell out of it. Easy enough to turn around the trip from last night. It’s just a matter of getting to the Cheyenne Saloon.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 9: DNA Lounge, San Francisco, CA

Posted in Features, Reviews on February 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.26.14 – 2:46AM Pacific – Wed. morning – En route from SF

“You can never win…” – Bobby Liebling

Not sure what to say about tonight, really, but we’re on the move out of San Francisco and it’s getting late. The show was fantastic. Another sellout crowd, a killer venue, great sound, cool mood, everybody’s locked in and coming across excellent. I moved around a bit more rather than just sit tight up front, so got a couple different views and even snapped some shots from the side of the stage. We were rolling. Things were rolling along. When Pentagram were finished, I came out to the van to at least get the night’s photos onto my laptop and ready to post and found two of the passenger-side windows, the two in back, had been blown out.

At first it didn’t look like anything was gone, but of course stuff was. Some wasn’t touched, but iPads, Steve’s clothes, etc., got swiped, and Radio Moscow got hit as well, including for laptops and photo equipment. Shitter way to end what would’ve otherwise been an excellent night, though I say “end” and since we’re still driving and in need of a 24-hour glass repair person to fix the two windows which now have gaffer’s tape and poster board where the window used to be, the night’s not actually over yet. All the same, here’s the deal:

Bedrücken


Somewhere between thrash and doom and more extreme metal, Oakland’s own Bedrücken are there, probably getting drunk. A double-guitar five-piece with a standalone vocalist, they were easily the most extreme band of the night, kind of a standout in that regard, but seemed to know the room and the people, who were starting to trickle in as the show got underway. West Coast sludge has a long history of sounding as thoroughly fucked as possible, and Bedrücken seemed well aware of the legacy they were upholding, but were well distinguished by vocalist Ami Lawless’ vicious rasp and periodic deviations into broodingly intense clean parts. The crusty contingent in the crowd – and there was one — ate it up.

Kings Destroy


“The Whittler,” from the first album, replaced the new song “Embers.” I was digging the way that one was coming along, but it had been a while since I heard the older cut, so no complaints. Things had clicked well in Portland and there was no step back in SF despite a hiccup in closer “Blood of Recompense.” For the most part in this band, these guys have all known each other for so long that their dynamic is well set, and I guess seeing it three shows in a row like this, that’s the primary standout impression, how natural they are on stage with each other. And Aaron Bumpus, who’s not just younger but also rooted differently in terms of his influences, fits well in sound and presence. I’ve been trying to think of what separates Kings Destroy from most doom — much as they’re a doom band at all — in how they handle the stage, and really it seems to be a question of attitude. Bedrücken were plenty angry, but Kings Destroy were confrontational, and that’s a big difference. They had started before I even realized it, and their set went quickly.

Radio Moscow

I’m not sure how one might mosh to Radio Moscow, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t see it happen tonight. Unless 21 got way younger looking when I wasn’t paying attention — possible — this was another all-ages show, and the younger contingent especially was all about Radio Moscow‘s psych-blues mastery. It’s a crazy lineup, the three touring acts, but I think no matter who was on the bill, Radio Moscow would likely distinguish themselves. Guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs, bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone were so snapped-in it was like you pressed play and then there they were, but they still have personality on stage as well. It’s not like they come across as going through the motions of their material. It’s been incredible to watch. Still dug “Death of a Queen” a lot, “Frustrating Sound” made a return, and while it was on their setlist for both prior shows, I’m fairly certain tonight was the first time they actually broke out “No Time” for a jammy runthrough, which had the kid in the flipped-up-brim D.R.I. hat out of his mind.

Pentagram

The song “8″ left an impression on 2011′s Last Rites (review here) as well, but live it seems to be all the more of a showcase for the richness in Victor Griffin‘s guitar tone. Pentagram, three shows into the tour, are killing it. Each night is better than the last. Bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley are fluid and energetic players, and of course with Griffin there as the instrumental anchor, Bobby Liebling is that much freer to gyrate his hips, make obscene hand gestures at the crowd, whatever it might be on any given night. That’s all well and good, but Liebling‘s vocals tonight on “Be Forewarned” might also have been the best I’ve ever heard him sound live, so there’s something to be said for settling into the tour. Of course, “Forever My Queen” was again a highlight, among “Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram),” “When the Screams Come,” “Relentless” and closer “20 Buck Spin,” which I stuck around tonight to see. No regrets of course, unless that was when the van window got smashed, in which case, yeah, I probably should have split a little early. Not that I knew that at the time. Finding a little enclave in the back with a solid 18″ of personal space on as many sides as I wanted, I could’ve stayed there until 2AM and been fine. Didn’t come to that, however.

Even though I stayed to the very end of Pentagram‘s encore, I was still the first one back to the van. Two smashed windows, glass on the ground. Some stuff in the back looked untouched, so I thought maybe it was just vandalism, but no, when the Kings Destroy guys came out of the venue and down the block, they confirmed they had stuff missing. Glass was everywhere in the van, but we swept it, loaded out the gear, taped up the windows and hit the road. Not much choice in the matter. It’s 10 hours to Vegas. Gotta go. The staff at the DNA were cool and stuck around to help load-out.

Stopped for the night maybe 90 minutes outside of San Francisco, everyone bummed out, especially those who lost their stuff. The whole block had been hit, and apparently around the corner where Radio Moscow were stationed. A couple of kids I spoke to while I was waiting for the band to come out from the venue said they had camera equipment stolen, and so did Radio Moscow, and electronics stuff as well. Probably just people looking to make a buck, but still shitty for all involved. I’m telling you, if you’re going to steal, steal from corporations. No one even bothered to call the cops because they would’ve done nothing and nothing was insured. Police cars drove by on patrol the whole time I was outside — it was a while — and said and did nothing. Bigger fish to fry, I guess.

Tomorrow is Vegas. It’s after 4:30 in the morning and we need to be out of here at 9AM, so my watch is set for 8:01. If I’m ever going to sleep in the van, tomorrow seems like it might be the day. We’ll see how it works out.

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Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Kings Destroy West Coast Tour, Pt. 8: Orbiting Satellites

Posted in Features on February 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

02.25.14 — 6:16PM Pacific — Tuesday — DNA Lounge, San Francisco, CA

“City on the go…” — Everyone.

My first impression when I walked into the DNA Lounge was a hearty “fuck yeah,” and yes, I said it out loud. Slept as solidly as I could reasonably ask in Arcata last night and got back on the 101 this morning.  More redwoods, some coast, more little enclaves of people and wide-open spaces. Creative types and hippies painting the sides of gas stations. Trees like dreams are big. Unreal. We got to the venue a little bit after 4PM. They had a couple guys on hand to help with load-in, and when I asked what the password for the wifi was, got looked at like I was from another planet (which, rest assured, I am) and told, “It’s open.” Fucking a.

Ride down was subdued, but everyone seems to be in good spirits. We stopped off at Russian River Brewing and picked up a bunch of Pliny the Elder, which pretty much is to American IPAs what Pentagram is to doom. I didn’t have any — grabbed a cup of coffee and a muffin from the place down the way from Russian River — but it seemed to loosen up the atmosphere in the van nicely. With Jim Pitts at the wheel calling out the sundry landmarks of his town, we came into San Francisco on the Golden Gate Bridge with minimal traffic and stopped off to buy a guitar cable before loading in, which again, ran like clockwork.

Once everything was offloaded, Jim Pitts and I went over to Aquarius Records for a quick poke through. I didn’t splurge — am more than fairly broke at this point; you might say unfairly broke – but I figured the cash was better spent on a couple CDs than not. Sucks to have your credit card denied. Sucks even more to have it denied when your purchase total is $21. Cue sad womp-womp noise. Was glad to have hit an ATM earlier at a rest stop on the way.

Doors I think are in about half an hour. The Pentagram and Radio Moscow cats are all here, as are Bedrücken, who are opening, and sitting on the balcony I can hear jolts of laughing, and nobody’s throwing punches, so I’ll surmise that things are going well. I think having the shows being sold out probably helps in that regard, but frankly whatever gets it done is cool. Plan is to get out of town after the show and put some distance between the van and the city to avoid morning traffic and allow for cheaper lodging. Should be groovy.

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