As the Spirit Caravan reunion gets underway with US touring starting this week (and a bit of drama bringing drummer Henry Vasquez in to replace Gary Isom), I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at the beginnings of Wino‘s previous reunion with The Obsessed. The three-piece was Wino‘s first band, formed as Warhorse in 1976, and seems to be a place to which the guitarist/vocalist has returned periodically throughout his career, having ended their original run around the time he joined Saint Vitus and then picked back up when he left after 1990′s V, only to put The Obsessed back to bed prior to starting Spirit Caravan. I don’t think it’s inappropriate to think of The Obsessed as a kind of thread running through Wino‘s progression, and even though the latest reunion hasn’t produced any studio material as of now, the fact that he got the band together again after performing acoustically for a few years, doing the Saint Vitus reunion and collaborating with Conny Ochs speaks to a kind of getting in touch with his sonic roots.
Because that’s what The Obsessed seems most to be: Roots doom. The songs are stripped-down and simple in their structure, Sabbathian in their stride with some flourish of Motörhead to coincide, and offer little by way of fluctuation or deviation from their downtrodden mood. Listening to an album like 1994′s The Church Withinisn’t always easy. It’s a slog to get through the 13 tracks of that record sometimes, because as much as tracks like “Streetside,” “Blind Lightning,” “Neatz Brigade” and “Field of Hours” are career high points for the band, most of the back half is a misery show, plain and simple, and after a while that kind of downer gets hard to take. Watching The Obsessed live at Roadburn 2012 was a different experience, however, and it was plain to see how much more the character of the tracks came out on stage than on record. Joined by bassist Guy Pinhas (who’d soon be replaced by Reid Raley) and drummer Greg Rogers, Wino was definitely in his element throughout the set, and it’s easy to see from the clip of “Blind Lightning” below just how at home he is in these riffs.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There are two reasons I’m posting about the Mr. Peter Hayden and Dark Buddha Rising tour and they are as follows: Mr. Peter Hayden and Dark Buddha Rising.
I’ve been looking forward to the new Mr. Peter Hayden album, Archdimension Now, since streaming part of their in-betweener single “We Fly High” here back in January. The third in a trilogy of outings, the first two of which were cosmically-minded, exploratory and, when they wanted to be, demolition-grade heavy, I don’t doubt that it will hit under the radar for some, but those who catch it will be glad they did. If this post entices someone to check out that single or 2012′s Born a Trip (review here), all the better.
And though Dark Buddha Rising‘s Dakhmandal got lost last year amid the mess of digital promos, I was at Roadburn 2012 when they played (review here) and so the prospect of that set coming out on tape is enticing indeed. They were among the bleakest acts I’ve ever seen at that festival, and their droning doom remains deeply individual, very much their own.
So you see, the two bands touring together, even nowhere I’ll be able to see them, is an event worth marking. The PR wire puts it thusly:
Dark Buddha Rising and Mr. Peter Hayden collaborative European tour dates for April 2014 announced
Finnish heavy-weight deep space psychedelic travellers Dark Buddha Rising and Mr. Peter Hayden will be touring Europe in April 2014. Trips will be served on eight nights, starting on April 19th in Bülach, Switzerland and ending seven nights later in Stockholm, Sweden. Prepare your minds!
Dark Buddha Rising have released four albums of their signature monolithic dark psychedelic art and gained full acceptance throughout Europe. Last year they opened for Neurosis and are now back to challenge your senses. Mr. Peter Hayden are known from their lengthy compositions and in-depth instrumental approach on sonic psychedelia. Now they are putting out a two-hour piece of music in form of a double album and returning to Europe to continue where they left off at last years Roadburn Festival.
Prior to the tour Mr. Peter Hayden will release a double album entitled Archdimension Now. This will complete the album trilogy they have been working on since 2009. Album will be released through Kauriala Society on April 11th.
Also Dark Buddha Rising have a new release coming up. Live at Roadburn 2012 will be released through Future Lunch on cassette only on April 4th. Finnish masters of dark psychedelia proceed onward after their last years epic release of three 12” EP’s entitled Dakhmandal. Now their debut live recording is being released from their much celebrated performance at Roadburn Festival 2012 in Tilburg, Holland via Future Lunch. Known from their black psychedelic art and performances, the group has gained major acceptance beyond borders. They are now serving you a unique glimpse of their previous guidelines as presented in this 2012 one-of-a-kind event. An event in which minds were trembled and all mountains shook up.
Dark Buddha Rising & Mr. Peter Hayden : “Archmandal” – European tour, 19. – 26.4.2014 19.4. Guss39, Bülach, Switzerland 20.4. Doomed Gatherings, Glazart, Paris, France 21.4. Little Devil, Tilburg, Netherlands 22.4. Hühnermanhattan, Halle, Germany 23.4. Crass Pub, Chemnitz, Germany 24.4. Werk4, Magdeburg, Germany 25.4. Stengade, Copenhagen, Denmark 26.4. Püssy a Go Go, The Liffey, Stockholm, Sweden
Posted in Reviews on March 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Initially a 2013 self-release by the band on CD, the self-titled debut full-length from Corpus Christi, Texas-based heavy rockers Switchblade Jesus gets another look in 2014 thanks to a vinyl issue courtesy of Bilocation Records. The 35-minute album was greeted with a flurry of hyperbole upon its first arrival, so one expects an LP edition to be a welcome advent. The eight-track offering marks the last appearance in Switchblade Jesus of vocalist Pete Quarnstrom, his duties having since been taken over by guitarist Eric Calvert, joined in the now-four-piece by guitarist Billy Guerra, bassist Jason Beers and drummer Jon Elizondo, and finds the burly rockers engaged in comfortably-paced post-Pepper Keenan-era C.O.C. Southern-style heavy riffery, straightforward structures led by the guitars being underscored solidly by the rhythm section from “Bastard Son”‘s easy sway to the highlight closer “Oblivion,” which offers a more complex take. Much of what they have to offer throughout will be familiar in a songs-about-whiskey vein, shades of Clutch showing up on “The Wolves” while a Down influence seems to march hand in hand with a markedly unfortunate tinny snare sound on “Renegade Riders.” Quarnstrom, who vacated after a mini-tour in support of the album, mostly lets the riffs be his guide and is less “hey whoa mama yeah” than some I’ve heard in the I’m-a-bluesy-white-dude pastiche, but it winds up almost too easy to stick him in that category anyway, his approach aligning neatly with a staple trope within the current sphere of American heavy rock that one has been able to find in bands from all over the country, not just Texas or the South.
If that’s a sticking point for you, then Switchblade Jesus‘ Switchblade Jesusis going to take all the more exposure to find favor despite, though I wouldn’t say it’s incapable of doing so. Following the opening introduction “Into Nothing,” “Bastard Son” sets much of the tone for what’s to follow in aesthetic and pace, songs like “The Wolves” and “Sick Mouth” changing their pants, sonically speaking, but essentially moving on the same legs. There are touches of boogie to be had in “Sick Mouth,” and the tempo is somewhat quicker, but there’s an element of a comfort zone being established across the board here in booze-fueled riff rock that’s all well and good since they make it work, but also bound to be familiar to listeners who’ve encountered this kind of dudely groove before. I’m not inclined to rag on a relatively new band — formed in 2010 — for not having developed a complex stylistic take on their first outing; it just doesn’t seem fair. If Switchblade Jesus are setting themselves up for future creative development, then fine. I get some sense of that from “Oblivion,” but songs like “Equinox” and “Copperhead” show less of a tendency to shift atmosphere or mood, and Switchblade Jesuscomes off less varied for it. The acoustics on “Into Nothing” and the sort of cinematic soundscaping that accompanies lead one to expect a certain amount of ambience that the rest of the album seems to have no ambition to fulfill, instead burrowing into a well-worn brand of heavy rock that’s endearing enough to get them through the relatively brief 35 minutes of their debut, but will want more variety moving forward. If switching Calvert to a vocalist/guitarist role helps expand Switchblade Jesus‘ songwriting methodology, then it can only be a change for the better on the part of the band.
Leave a comment on this post and make sure your email is included in the box asking for it to win a vinyl copy of Black Space Riders‘ new album, D:REI. The giveaway will go until Friday, at which point I’ll pick a winner at random and notify that person via email. The record is 180g black double-vinyl and also includes the CD version of D:REI, which tops a full 78 minutes.
I like, whenever I’m able, to do giveaways. Free stuff is an automatic win, and in the case of Black Space Riders, all the better that someone gets acquainted with their far-ranging space metal. Their material has proven to be widely varied over the course of their two prior albums, and this one, which was released by the band in January, certainly follows suit, running a spectrum from driving riffs to ambient drones and always managing to keep a flow from song to song and a consistent level of intelligence throughout the varied atmospheres of their work.
The title D:REI, aside from hinting at the German word for “three,” stands for “Defiance,” “Ruins,” “Escape” and “Beyond” (presumably that’s a translation thing), the subheading under which each side of the 2LP arrives. Black Space Riders‘ ethic has to-date leaned toward the conceptual and narrative, and their third outing only pushes further, as you can hear on the Bandcamp player below.
Take a listen and leave a comment to enter into the giveaway. Good luck to all, and thanks for your continued support of this site. Black Space Riders‘ D:REIis available now as an independent release from the band with distribution from Cargo Records in their native Germany. More info at the links under the player.
The amount I’ve written about it does pathetically little to convey just how much time I’ve actually spent listening to Young Hunter‘s Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain EP. Now available as a split cassette with Ohioan (review forthcoming), the three-song collection by the Portland-by-way-of-Arizona outfit boasts an atmosphere and unabashed emotional heft like not much else out there. Whether it’s “Welcome to Nothing,” “Trail of Tears” or “Dreamer,” the whole thing clocks in at about 18 minutes and it’s more or less become a part of my daily routine to make my way through what’s a rather intense sonic ringer going from front to back, “Dreamer” closing with a launch into a driving rush that still sends a chill up the spine. Take the fact that I’ve included songs in podcasts over the course of three months (see here and here) as a sign of the enduring attention the release has received. Its tracks have yet to stray far from my consciousness.
“Dreamer” is the shortest of the bunch, and its finale speaks best for itself, so I’ll let it, but as you make your way through the video you’ll probably notice that it’s just frontman Benjamin Blake without the rest of the band represented. Blake moved to Portland last year, and presumably — at least judging from the misty forest treetops at the end — the clip was filmed there. Last I heard, he was looking to get a new lineup together for Young Hunter, though in January, he returned to Tuscon to play a release show with the desert-dwelling lineup for the tape. I don’t know what the future of Young Hunter might be, or where it might be, but Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountainhits with a resonant strike and is even more assured than was the the band’s 2012 debut full-length, Stone Tools(discussed here). If you haven’t yet checked it out, the video is pretty clearly a budget job, but still gives a good feel for how the EP hits its apex. Not to be missed.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
What was to be one of the year’s most anticipated tours, the reunion of Spirit Caravan, took a hit over the weekend with the departure of drummer Gary Isom. Isom, one of the three original members of the band alongside guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich and bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman, announced his departure abruptly and just a week before the legendary trio were due to set off on their return US tour alongside doom upstarts Pilgrim, prior to heading to Europe for headlining appearances at Desertfest in Berlin and London. In his statement, Isom made it clear that it was Wino with whom there was apparently persistent friction, as opposed to Sherman, with whom he still plays in Weed is Weed:
Due to situations far beyond my control. I will not be sharing the stage with spirit caravan. any hopes of the fans seeing the original lineup of the band are all but gone.I tried my very best to resolve issues in a very calm and peaceful way and was met with extreme anger beyond reality.I, like a lot of people were looking forward to seeing this once shining example of positivity and friendship thru music ride again. me and sherman have been best friends for 24 years and remain so to this day.it doesn’t matter who wino gets to replace me. the band will never sound the same….. II tried my best.
One might recall that in The Obsessed‘s recent reunion, bassist Reid Raley (Rwake) took the place of Guy Pinhas, so I guess that’s just how it goes. While it’s unfortunate that Isom won’t be involved in the tour, and his departure doesn’t do much for the prospect of a new album, it’s been announced somewhat quietly that the shows will go on and that Henry Vasquez will fill in on drums. Vasquez is of course the drummer of Saint Vitus who came aboard in 2009 in the spot formerly occupied by founding drummer Armando Acosta, and as the leader of Blood of the Sun as well, he lacks nothing for either heavy rock chops or experience. Isom is probably right that it won’t sound the same as it would if he was playing, but it looks like it’s going to be as close as we’ll get.
Spirit Caravan on tour with Pilgrim:
03/07/2014 Metro Gallery – Baltimore, MD
03/08/2014 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA
03/09/2014 Chop Shop – Charlotte, NC
03/10/2014 Drunken Unicorn – Atlanta, GA
03/15/2014 SXSW – Austin, TX
03/17/2014 Launchpad – Albuquerque, NM
03/18/2014 Cheyenne Saloon – Las Vegas, NV
03/19/2014 Thee Parkside – San Francisco, CA
03/21/2014 Rotture – Portland, OR
03/22/2014 El Corazon – Seattle, WA
03/24/2014 The Shredder – Boise, ID
03/25/2014 Burt’s Tiki Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT
03/27/2014 Marquis Theater – Denver, CO
03/29/2014 Reggies – Chicago, IL
03/30/2014 Cactus Club – Milwaukee, WI
03/31/2014 The Fifth Quarter – Indianapolis, IN
04/01/2014 Outland Ballroom – Springfield, MO
04/02/2014 Rock Island Brewing – Rock Island, IL
04/03/2014 Fubar – St. Louis, MO
04/04/2014 Hi Tone – Memphis, TN
04/05/2014 V Club – Huntington, WV
04/06/2014 Hideaway – Johnson City, TN
04/08/2014 Pyramid Scheme – Grand Rapids, MI
04/09/2014 Skully’s – Columbus ,OH
04/12/2014 31st St Pub – Pittsburgh, PA
04/13/2014 Empire – Springfield, VA
04/14/2014 AS220 – Providence, RI
04/15/2014 Saint Vitus Bar – Brooklyn NY
San Francisco/Toronto doom rockers Castle have a new single coming via Ván Records ahead of their third full-length. The band have a lyric video for the lead track, “Second Coming,” an Alice Cooper cover originally appearing on 1971′s Love it to Death paired with “The Ballad of Dwight Fry.” Castle are also set to tour in Europe next month, playing with Conan and The Graviators as well as putting in an appearance at Desertfest in Berlin. Their second record, Blacklands, came out on Prosthetic in 2011, and the new one is expected in spring.
My brain is pretty fried, but it’s a cool cover and the video design follows suit, so have at you:
Castle, “Second Coming” lyric video
Castle cover Alice Cooper’s Second Coming; release single / video
San Francisco doom-tinged metaller’s CASTLE have released a 7″ single on their European label Van Records. The limited edition single features the band covering Alice Cooper’s “Second Coming” as well as a demo track, “Labyrinth of Death” from their upcoming full length. Details for the follow-up to 2012′s “Blacklands” will be released in the coming weeks. For now the band have also unveiled a lyric video for “Second Coming” and European tour dates in support the single.
CASTLE were formed in 2009 and released their debut album “In Witch Order” via the German label Van Records (The Devil’s Blood) in the spring of 2011. The album brought light to the newly formed band and gained them the title of Metal Hammer Norway’s album of the year as well as Roadburn Festival’s “Newcomer of the Year”. The follow-up record “Blacklands” was nominated for a Canadian Juno award for best metal album of the year in 2013.
European Tour Dates 4/11 Cafe Cairo, Würzburg, GER * 4/12 Boröm Pöm Pöm, Oberentfelden, CH 4/13 Slow Club, Freiburg, GER 4/14 La Zone, Leige BEL 4/15 Feierwerk, Munich, GER 4/19 DNA, Brussels, BEL 4/20 Doornroosje, Nijmegen, NL 4/21 Little Devil, Tilburg, NL 4/24 Kulturpalast, Wiesbaden, GER ^ 4/25 Vera, Groningen, NL ^ 4/26 Desertfest, Berlin, GER 4/27 Underground,Cologne, GER ^ 5/1 Katy’s Garage, Dresden, GER
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 Suckerswith 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?
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)
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Here comes shenanigans. Boston heavy punkers White Dynomite released their self-titled rager last year and have signed a deal to have Ripple Music deliver a vinyl version late this Spring. It’s the kind of record you listen to and have a hangover afterwards, as White Dynomite dress to kill and live up to the wardrobe. Squares be damned, the outfit — which already included Tim Catz and Craig Riggs of Roadsaw in addition to vocalist Dave Unger (Antler) and guitarist John Darga (Wrecking Crew) — have added former Scissorfight and current Supermachine six-stringer Jay Fortin on second guitar. His hollow-body gold-trim Gretsch is going to go really well with that suit.
I’m a little behind on the news, which came out last week while I was gone, but here’s word off the PR wire about the vinyl and the band’s video for the song “White Dynomite,” which is about as exemplary an intro as you can get. Dig it:
WHITE DYNOMITE sign with RIPPLE MUSIC!
Boston’s “punk soul explosion” WHITE DYNOMITE have announced their signing with California-based label Ripple Music and the addition of a second guitarist.
Hard rock label Ripple Music, known for their excellent taste and quality of heavy rock music, have signed the super group and will re-release White Dynomite’s debut album in late spring of 2014. Pressed on white vinyl and including extra tracks, this dose of motor-punk soul will be an instant must-have for music fans who like it hard, fast-n-loud. White Dynomite have also officially announced the addition of Jay Fortin to the band. The ex-Scissorfight guitarist joins an already-heavy, veteran line up that includes former members of Roadsaw, Wrecking Crew and Fast Acting Fuses. With this twin-guitar front line in place, the group promises to pack more action than previously thought possible.
More details on the upcoming debut by White Dynomite to come this spring!
Posted in audiObelisk on March 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Having relocated from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon, psychedelic sludge trio Prizehog will release their third album, Re-Unvent the Whool,tomorrow on Eolian Empire. The bass-less trio — you’ll note no lack of low end in the record — run a spectrum of effects-laden churning, mashing together bright ambient echoes and deep, dank tonality. I wouldn’t be the first person to compare them to the Melvins, but that doesn’t really do complete justice to the psychedelic side of their sound, which shows up quickly on Re-Unvent the Whool in the eight-and-a-half-minute opener “Parradiggum” (also the longest track included; immediate points) and carries through to the Monkees-referential noise experimentation that finishes in “Direction to the Valley.” Presumably that’s the Valley of the Dolls they’re talking about.
Between the start and finish, Prizehog – that’s Rion, Veronica and Zakk — delve into downtempo explorations of clouded sonic murk, immersive and sometimes distressing. A moment of peace arrives with the twanging bounce of the penultimate “Gnumskull, the Ruler,” but prior too, Prizehog put you deep in it and aren’t exactly keen to show a way out as “Whoady,” “Shed” and “Awsme Bube” push further and further into a dark ethereality, all dream echoes and where-the-hell-am-I as “Irrevelant” grounds side B somewhat with a still-weirdo take on the metal of stone. The crux of Re-Unvent the Whool– the album’s ambitions somewhat clouded by the wordplay, but underlying nonetheless — is in its open feel, and Prizehog seem to delight in the strangeness of their own concoctions. Can’t blame them. The melody that emerges from “Shed”‘s midsection builds on some of the best impulses Zoroaster and Kylesa have touched on, but is ultimately no more adherent to those bands than it is to a preconceived notion of what “heavy” should sound like, and “Parradiggum” succeeds early in throwing off the listener with blastbeats and overlaid vocal drone. It’s bizarre but surprisingly easy listening.
Eolian Empire has Re-Unvent the Whoolpressed in an edition of 500 copies on black 180g vinyl with a black sleeve, 24″ x 24″ poster of the Chris Jehly cover art. A download code is of course included, but for anyone who’d like to get a day-early sample of the full breadth of the beast itself, I’m fortunate enough to be able to have a front to back stream. Find it on the player below, and please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Prizehog are currently booking a full US tour for Spring 2014 in support of Re-Unvent the Whool, which is released March 4 on Eolian Empire. More info at the links:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.