Live Review: YOB, Hull and Bezoar in Brooklyn, 02.10.13

Posted in Reviews on February 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

There’s no doubt in my mind that when 2013 is over, this will have been one of its best shows. Out from Oregon prior to sequestering themselves to write a new album, YOB joined forces with Hull and Bezoar for the first of a two-night stay at the St. Vitus bar. It was Sunday as well — and I know the mystique of weeknight shows is that everybody acts like they don’t have to get up the next morning because rock and roll means more when it’s painful — but man oh man, whatever assault and battery I may have inflicted on myself, my neck, my hearing and my ongoing semi-conscious waking state, it was worth it. And not just to have my bald spot show up headbanging down front on those unARTigNYC videos, but you know, for the music, dude.

It was one of those front-to-back nights. They don’t come along all that often, where you can show up to a venue and rest assured that everything you see is going to blow your ass out of the room — without literally doing so, lest you miss a minute of the righteousness. The St. Vitus was sold out for the night, and it was through the much-appreciated grace of Bezoar that I was able to get into the show at all. Having seen an impressive couple of their gigs over the last few months (see here and here), you’re damn right I was showing up early so as not to let their frequently bizarre invocations and riffly conjuring pass me by. I dig that band more the more I see them, and I plan on seeing them more.

The more I see them, however, the clearer the picture becomes about what it is that I enjoy so much. It’s the blend. Their ability to play one influence off another and tip the balance at a moment’s notice between echoey ’90s art rock, visceral doom and scathing extreme metal. Aside from drummer Justin Sherrell‘s fluidity in fast or slow tempos, guitarist Tyler Villard‘s periodic bouts of shred-itis and bassist/vocalist Sara Villard‘s enviable rumbling tone and un-postured vocal ethereality, there’s the course of a given song itself, genre-free and off and running — now at an gallop, now a lurching crash — that nabs the attention and renders moot the bookmaking on what might come next. Factor in the sheer attention-deficit nature of what they’re playing, they almost can’t help but be fun to watch.

For Bezoar, it was a good night to make a lasting impression, and they did precisely that, settling into a groove here and there throughout complex compositions as Tyler‘s variable riffing through a steady hand provided the foundation on which Justin and Sara enacted sped-up post-metal churn, blackened squibblies belted into doomed time-change, ignoring the improbability of it all working as Tyler plucked out a purposefully strange sub-blues lead to somehow answer back. The song about Jim Jones doesn’t have a name yet. I asked Sara afterwards if I could call it “The Song about Jim Jones,” and she said it was cool, so yeah, they played that. Closed with it, in fact, as the new lighting at the St. Vitus bar flickered around the early rush of the cut, which will presumably (hopefully) surface on their next full-length, due sometime this year.

They’ve begun to click as a band on stage, which made them a suitable fit alongside fellow Brooklynites Hull in representing the borough’s heavy creative set. I was up front, but by the time Bezoar had finished, the room was all but packed. Hull aren’t exactly lacking in draw on their own, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but what occurred to me watching them open for YOB was the same thing that occurs to me almost every time I’m lucky enough to see them, and it’s just how much I absolutely take them for granted. It shames me to say it, because I try not to — their last album, 2011′s Beyond the Lightless Sky (review here), I loved and still keep on my person at most times in my trusty CD wallet, but when it comes to seeing them live, I’m way too blase about it. “Oh, I’ll catch them whenever,” or wait for a night like this to come along when they’re on a bill with someone I can’t miss like YOB, or maybe EyeHateGod.

To wit, this was my first time seeing Hull since guitarist Drew Mack left and they embarked on a new era as a double-guitar four-piece last fall. The change was notable, but it’s not like they went from two guitars to one or one to none. The real kicker was how overwhelmingly heavy they were, guitarist Nick Palmirotto and bassist Seanbryant Dunn splitting vocal duties as they sprinted masterfully through the tense thrashing of “Earth from Water” from the last record, hitting the point of no return for payoff largess and ignoring the signs on their way to cliffdiving doom slowdown. Lead guitarist Carmine Laietta, far off to the right and largely in the dark, tore into the stops of the open solo section given thrust by Jeff Stieber‘s kick drum. How had I let it go so long since the last time I saw Hull?

Like the openers, they also had yet-unreleased material which they used as a follow-up for the massive apex of “Earth from Water” and the chugging heft of “Architect” from 2009′s Sole Lord, mentioning after the fact that the song was new in an “oh by the way” kind of fashion. The central method — create tension, release tension, rebuild and dismantle — seemed roughly the same as ever, and Hull‘s ability to turn a churning riff on its head is nothing short of world class, though it was the extended “Viking Funeral” that made the closing statement of their set, parts weaving out in movements over the course of 15-plus minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I remember when they put out that EP in 2007. I spent a lot of time dorking out over that track.A lot. And I appreciate it when a band doesn’t forget their earlier accomplishments in favor of indulging more recent efforts.

But here’s the thing: It’s only an indulgence if the more recent efforts are in any way weaker than the earlier accomplishments, and Hull‘s aren’t. So much as I was thrilled to hear the undulating riff of “Viking Funeral,” I’m not entirely sure I would’ve taken it over “Fire Vein” or “False Priest” (oh hell, both) from Beyond the Lightless Sky. Perhaps it’s not something they do every show and save for special occasions which something like supporting YOB most definitely is, but there’s so much depth to what they do now that I think it’s worthy of highlighting, however epic their first outing may have been. It’s not a complaint, exactly — that is, “Viking Funeral” kicks ass and we all know it — I just also think the Beyond the Lightless Sky material could just as easily have provided the peak Hull were carrying across in closing out their set.

In any case, they destroyed in a manner befitting what was still to come once YOB took the stage, drummer Travis Foster emerging first from the crowd, then bassist Aaron Rieseberg, then finally guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt. There was a bit of a delay as Scheidt had to run and grab a vocal mic, but they were sharing Hull‘s gear, so it wasn’t that long before YOB got going, with “Kosmos” from 2005′s The Unreal Never Lived serving as an entry point to their consuming, space-quaking tonality. A band I once thought I’d never have the chance to see live, I’ve caught a handful of YOB shows in the years since they resumed their ascent with 2009′s The Great CessationManhattan, Roadburn, Roadburn, Brooklyn — and have had few experiences as life-affirming in a concert setting. I mean that. I knew I’d only get to see them this one of the two nights they were at the Vitus bar (the next night, Sea of Bones and Batillus opened), so I did my best to make the most of it. You never know when next they’ll come back, if at all.

And while I took a second to pause and wonder, if I lived in Oregon, would I take YOB for granted the way I do with Hull, I soon enough had my face torn off and handed to me. When they finished “Kosmos,” someone in the crowd shouted “play anything!” and they answered with the soft opening strains of “Catharsis.” At first, I didn’t believe it, but Scheidt, his eyes closed, slowly rocking back and forth, kept it going and gradually, the song built to its full breadth, Foster and Rieseberg joining in the long journey to the initial verse. At one point, I looked down on the stage and there was my right earplug, but if it’s any indication as to how loud the band actually were, I don’t think I’d have known it was missing if I hadn’t actually seen it there. The slow rise of “Catharsis” to the chorus, “The tyranny/Built upon our philosophies/Not for me in solitude again,” indeed lived up to the title of the song, the middle chugs and Scheidt‘s echoing deathly growls — somehow not at all in conflict with the psychedelic-shamanistic delivery through which they were metered out — leading to the extended, ultra-slow plod, crashing, lumbering, chaotic. I stood and watched myself be dismantled by it, piece by piece, broken apart and put together the right way at last.

The final movement of the song, its faster rush, swirls to an Olympus Mons of a culmination before cutting off, and though it’s impossible to me to think of anything following that — perhaps because “Catharsis” closes the record of the same name, which turns 10 this year, or perhaps because it’s the heaviest thing I’ve ever heard — but YOB weren’t long in breaking into The Illusion of Motion‘s “Grasping Air,” the rolling groove of which launched on a sea of nodding and banging heads. Not moshing exactly, but there was a crowd push. Maybe it was moshing. I don’t know. I ignored it, and frankly, was so mentally and spiritually gone by the time they got there that it didn’t matter. I didn’t care. It’s been a while since the last time I was subsumed enough into a performance that I felt that way. The religious call it communion. I was just glad to be in the room.

Rieseberg‘s bass swell under Scheidt‘s solo for “Grasping Air” was steady enough to hold up the walls of the place, and in the stop before the last slowdown, Scheidt let out a high-pitched shriek off mic but still picked up by it that was both jarring and awesome at the same time. The finger-picked opening of “Adrift in the Ocean,” which closed 2011′s Atma (review here), made for a somber moment complemented by Foster‘s cymbal washes and the rumbling bass, but there was still energy left in the band when they moved into the faster core of the percussive build and takeoff, and that energy only built over the stretch, cleaner vocals wailing out in the verse en route to one of the most infectious chorus hooks YOB has ever written, taking the universe personally in a way few lyricists would dare, speaking in images that show more than they say.

A long instrumental push begun with seething whispers — led to the mounting final build, cut off suddenly but to which Scheidt added a last slow strum on his guitar. That was to be the end of the set proper, but they added “Burning the Altar” from The Great Cessation to finish an “encore” and as one of YOB‘s several strong album-openers, it made a great closer to their first night at the St. Vitus bar. I was dizzy by the time they were done, but gathered my camera bag, which I’d put on the floor in front of me, and made my way out. It must have been almost one in the morning? Something like that. I don’t know. I was home before two, which was earlier than the night before, the whole world having that “congratulations, you’ve just done serious damage to your hearing” tin-can sound for the next 36 or so hours. At least when it’s gone I won’t be able to say I wasted it.

Extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading as always.

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Looking for Today: 20 Albums to Watch for in 2013

Posted in Features on January 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Last year was a monster. You might say I’m still catching up on reviews for records that came out in October. Yet here we stand in 2013. It’s a whole new year and that means instead of looking back at some of the best releases, it’s time to look ahead and nerd out at what’s to come. Frankly, either way is a good time, but with some of what’s included on this list, 2013 has the potential to be yet another incredible year for lovers of the heavy.

Across a range of genres and subgenres, there are bands big and small, known and unknown, getting ready to unleash debuts, follow-ups and catalog pieces that by the time December rolls around, will have defined the course of this year. It’s always great to hold an album in your hands, to put it on and listen to it for the first or 19th time, but part of the fun is the excitement beforehand too, and that’s where we’re at now.

Some of these I’ve heard, most I haven’t, and some are only vague announcements, but when I started out putting this list together, my plan was to keep it to 10 and I wound up with twice that many because there was just too much happening to ignore. The list is alphabetical because it doesn’t make any sense to me to rate albums that aren’t out yet, and I hope if you find something you’d like to add, you’ll please feel free to leave a comment below.

Thanks in advance for reading, and enjoy:

Acid King, TBA


We begin with only the basest of speculations. Would you believe me if I told you that 2013 makes it eight years since the heavier-than-your-heavy-pants San Francisco trio Acid King released their last album, III? Of course you wouldn’t believe me. You’d be like, “Dude, no way,” but it’s true. Eight friggin’ years. They’ve hinted all along at new material, toured Europe and played fests in the States like Fall into Darkness, but really, it’s time for something new on record. Even an EP. A single! I’ll take what I can get at this point, so long as it’s Lori S. riffing it.

Ararat, III


Chances are, the above isn’t the final art for Argentinian Los Natas-offshoot Ararat‘s forthcoming III, but frontman Sergio Chotsourian has posted a few demos over the last several months and the logo image came from that. Either way, with as far as last year’s II (review here) went in expanding their sound, I can’t wait to hear the final versions of the tracks for the next one. They’re still flying under a lot of people’s radar, it seems, but Ararat are quickly becoming one of South America’s best heavy psych acts. Do yourself a favor and keep an eye out.

Bezoar, TBA


Brooklyn trio Bezoar‘s 2012 debut, Wyt Deth, might have been my favorite album that I never reviewed last year, and needless to say, that’s not a mistake I’m going to make twice. The new songs I’ve heard the three-piece play live have ruled and an alliance with engineer Stephen Conover (whose discography includes Rza and Method Man) is intriguing to say the least. I’m sure whatever Bezoar come out with, the performances from bassist/vocalist Sara Villard, guitarist Tyler Villard and drummer Justin Sherrell will be as hard to pin down as the debut was. It’s a record I’m already looking forward to being challenged by.

Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era


Due out April 9, Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s The Edge of an Era will mark the full-length debut for the ambitious trio (now based in L.A.) on Tee Pee Records following on the heels of the impressive The Storm Generation EP (review here). From the Scott Reeder production to the band’s engaging heavy psych/desert rock blend, this one seems bound to win Blaak Heat Shujaa a lot of new friends, and if the advance EP is anything to go by, The Edge of an Era could prove to be aptly-titled indeed.

Black Pyramid, Adversarial


No release date yet, but so far as I know, Adversarial, which is Massachusetts doom rockers Black Pyramid‘s third album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard, is recorded, mixed and mastered. Song titles include “Swing the Scimitar,” “Onyx and Obsidian,” “Issus,” “Bleed Out” and “Aphelion” (the latter was also released as a limited single in 2012 by Transubstans as a split with Odyssey), and having seen the band live with this lineup, expect no less than a beheading. Also watch for word from the recently announced side-project from Shepard and bassist Dave Gein, The Scimitar.

Black Sabbath, 13


There was a bit of a shitstorm this past weekend when the title of Black Sabbath‘s first Ozzy Osbourne-fronted album since 1978 was revealed in a press release. Nonetheless, 13 is set for release in June and will feature Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine on drums in place of Bill Ward, who last year was engaged in a well-publicized contract dispute with the band. Bummer though that is and as crappy and generic a title as 13 makes — especially this year — let’s not forget that Heaven and Hell‘s The Devil You Know also had a crap title and it was awesome. I’m not sure if I’m willing to stake anticipation on the difference between the vocals of Ronnie James Dio circa 2010 and Ozzy Osbourne in 2013, or Rick Rubin‘s production, but hell, is Geezer Butler playing bass on it? Yes? Well, okay then, I’ll listen. The world can do a lot worse than that and another batch of Tony Iommi riffs, whatever else may be in store.

Clutch, Earth Rocker


It’s a ripper. With Earth Rocker, Clutch reunite with Blast Tyrant producer Machine and the results are a record varied enough to keep some of the recent blues elements of the past couple albums (“Gone Cold”) while also showcasing a reinvigorated love of straight-up heavy rock numbers on tracks like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle & Go” and “Cyborg Betty.” Longtime Clutch fans can expect a bigger guitar sound from Tim Sult, killer layering and much personality from vocalist Neil Fallon and yet another stellar performance from the best rhythm section in American heavy, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. No doubt in my mind it’ll prove one of the year’s best when 2013 is done. Once more unto the breach!

Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse


Last month, I hosted a Devil to Pay video premiere for the Indianapolis-based rockers’ new track, “This Train Won’t Stop,” from the 7″ single of the same name that precedes the release of their Ripple Music debut full-length (fourth overall), Fate is Your Muse. If the 575-plus Thee Facebook “Likes” are anything to go by, anticipation for the album is pretty high. Reasonably so. When I saw Devil to Pay at last year’s SHoD fest, the new material was killer and the band seemed more confident than ever before. Stoked to hear how that translates to a studio recording and how the band has grown since 2009′s Heavily Ever After.

Egypt, Become the Sun


Technically speaking, Become the Sun is the full-length debut from North Dakota doomers Egypt. The band released their self-titled demo through MeteorCity in 2009 (review here), were broken up at the time, and reassembled with a new guitarist for Become the Sun – which is the only album on this list to have already been reviewed. I don’t know about a physical release date, but it’s available now digitally through iTunes and other outlets, and however you do so, it’s worth tracking down to get the chance to listen to it. Underrated Midwestern riffing, hopefully with a CD/LP issue coming soon.

The Flying Eyes, TBA


Currently holed up in Lord Baltimore Studios with producer Rob Girardi, Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes are reportedly putting the finishing touches on the follow-up to 2011′s immersive Done So Wrong, an album full of young energy and old soul. Along with Blaak Heat Shujaa above, I consider these dudes to be right at the forefront of the next generation of American heavy psych and I’m excited to hear what kind of pastoral blues works its way into their tracks when the album finally gets released. They’re a band you’re probably going to hear a lot about this year, so be forewarned.

Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man


The melodicism of Boston-based Gozu‘s second Small Stone full-length, The Fury of a Patient Man (I swear I just typed “The Fury of a Patient Mrs.”) is no less striking than its album cover. I’ve had this one for a while, have gotten to know it pretty well and my plan is to review it next week, so keep an eye out for that, but for now, I’ll just say that the sophomore outing is a fitting answer to the potential of Gozu‘s 2010 debut, Locust Season (review here) and marks the beginning of what already looks like another strong year for Small Stone. I never thought I’d be so into a song called “Traci Lords.”

Halfway to Gone, TBA


What I’d really like to see happen is for Halfway to Gone – who are high on my list of New Jersey hometown heroes and who haven’t had a new LP out since their 2004 self-titled — to put out a new record in 2013, for it to lay waste to everyone who hears it, and for the band to finally get the recognition they’ve long since deserved. I’ve been charged up on revisiting their three albums since I saw them at the Brighton Bar this past July and after a long wait, rumors, breakups, makeups, etc., I’ve got my hopes up that this year is when these dudes pull it together and make a new one happen. It’s been too long and this band is too good to just let it go.

Kings Destroy, TBA


Confession time: I have the Kings Destroy record. I’ve had it for a bit now. It rules. I don’t know when you’re gonna hear it, but it’s strange and eerie and kind of off the wall stylistically and it doesn’t really sound like anything else out there. Last I heard they’re looking for a label, and whoever ends up with it is lucky. I use a lot of descriptors for bands and their albums, but rarely will I go so far as to call something unique. This album is. If you’ve had the chance to check out songs like “The Toe” and “Turul” live, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, then stick around because with all the sessions I’ve had with the tracks, I still feel outclassed by what these guys are doing. Shine on, you doomed weirdos.

The Kings of Frog Island, Volume IV


I keep going back to the video for “Long Live the King” that Leicester, UK, fuzz rockers The Kings of Frog Island put up back in October. No, really, I keep going back. It’s a good song and I keep listening to it. Just about any other details regarding their fourth album and first without guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (Josiah, Cherry Choke), Volume IV, are nil, but periodic updates on the band’s Thee Facebooks have it that progress on the recording is being made, and in the meantime, I don’t seem to have any trouble paying return visits to “Long Live the King.” Hopefully Elektrohasch stays on board for a CD release, and hopefully it happens soon.

Lo-Pan, TBA


Several times over the last couple months I’ve had occasion to say it to people and I’ll say it here as well: I think Lo-Pan are the best American stoner rock band going right now. I was interested to see how they handled the bigger stage for their opening slot for High on Fire and Goatwhore (review here), and as ever, they killed. I haven’t the faintest idea what their recording plans might be, if they’ll even sit still long enough to put an album to tape in time to have it out in 2013 — I suspect it depends on what tour offers come up in the meantime — but new songs “Colossus” and “Eastern Seas” bode well for their being able to continue the course of momentum that the excellence of 2011′s Salvador (review here) and all their hard work before and since has put them on.

Queens of the Stone Age, TBA


It probably wouldn’t be fair to call the upcoming Queens of the Stone Age album a reunion between Josh Homme and Dave Grohl since the two also played together in Them Crooked Vultures and Grohl only drummed on Songs for the Deaf, but it’s exciting news anyway and could mean good things are coming from QOTSA, whose last outing was 2007′s comparatively lackluster Era Vulgaris. The big questions here are how the time apart from the band may or may not have affected Homme‘s songwriting and where he’s decided he wants to take the Queens sound. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Sungrazer & The Machine, Split


With the Strikes and Gutters tour already booked to support it (dates above; or here), Dutch upstart heavy psych jammers The Machine and Sungrazer have teamed up for a split release as well that’s bound to feature some of the year’s best fuzz. The two bands have a lot in common, but they’re pretty distinct from each other sonically too, and with The Machine guitarist/vocalist David Eering helming the recording, you can safely bet it’ll capture the live, jammy feel both groups share. Latest word has it that the mastered tracks are in-house, so watch for more to come as we get closer to the Valentine’s Day launch of the tour.

Truckfighters, TBA


The Swedish fuzz juggernauts’ fourth album overall, this will be Truckfighters‘ first with new drummer McKenzo alongside the core songwriting duo of Dango and Ozo. They’ve been teasing recording updates and threatening song clips, but as soon as I run into something concrete, I’ll share. I’m especially looking forward to the Truckfighters album since it means they’ll likely come back to the US for another tour, and since 2009′s Mania (review here) was so damned brilliant. Not sure on a release date, but it’s high on the list of necessities anyway, however low it may appear alphabetically.

Valley of the Sun, TBA


All I’m going on in including Ohio-based desert rockers Valley of the Sun on this list is a New Year’s message they put out there that read, “Happy New Year, Brothers and Sisters!!! You can count on a Valley of the Sun full-length in 2013.” Hey, I’ve relied on less before, and even if you want to call it wishful thinking, the Cincinnati trio are due a debut full-length behind 2011′s righteous The Sayings of the Seers EP (review here). Even if it doesn’t show up until November or December, I’ll basically take it whenever the band gets around to releasing. Riffs are welcome year-round.

Vhöl, TBA


Well, I mean, yeah. Right? Yeah, well, sure. I mean. Well. Yeah. I mean, sure. Right? It’s a supergroup with YOB‘s Mike Scheidt on vocals, John Cobbett of Hammers of Misfortune on guitar, Sigrid Sheie of Hammers of Misfortune on bass and Aesop Dekker of Agalloch and Worm Ouroboros on drums. Album’s done, set for release on Profound Lore. So, I mean, you know, yeah. Definitely. No music has made its way to the public yet — though that can’t be far off — but either way, sign me the fuck up. Anywhere this one goes, I’m interested to find out how it gets there.

Vista Chino, TBA

After that lawsuit, it’s not like they could go ahead and call the band Kyuss Still Lives!, so the recently-announced Vista Chino makes for a decent alternative and is much less likely to provoke litigation. But still, the Kyuss Lives! outgrowth featuring former Kyuss members John GarciaNick Oliveri and Brant Bjork along with guitarist Bruno Fevery is of immediate consequence. I’m not sure what the timing on the release is, but they’ve already been through enough to get to this point that one hopes a new album surfaces before the end of 2013. What I want to know next is who’s recording the damn thing.

Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You


Not much has been said in the time since I interviewed Gary Arce, guitarist and founder of influential desert rock stalwarts Yawning Man, about the 2LP Gravity is Good for You release (the Raymond Pettibon cover for which you can see above), but the band has been confirmed for Desertfest since then and they’re playing in L.A. on Jan. 25, so they’re active for sure and presumably there’s been some progress on the album itself. It remains to be seen what form it will take when it surfaces, and the lineup of the band seems somewhat nebulous as well, but when there’s a desert, there’s Yawning Man, and there’s always a desert. 2010′s Nomadic Pursuits (review here) was a triumph, and deserves a follow-up.

Anyone else notice that the “20 Albums to Watch for” list has 22 albums on it? Maybe I wanted to see if you were paying attention. Maybe I can’t count. Maybe I just felt like including one more. Maybe I had 21 and then added Vista Chino after someone left a comment about it. The possibilities are endless.

So too is the list of bands I could’ve included here. Even as I was about halfway through, a new Darkthrone track surfaced from an album due Feb. 25 called The Underground Resistance, and news/rumors abound of various substance concerning offerings from YOB, EggnoggWhen the Deadbolt Breaks, Mars Red SkyAsteroid, Apostle of Solitude, WindhandPhantom Glue, the supergroup Corrections House, Kingsnake, Sasquatch — I’ve already made my feelings known on the prospect of a new Sleep record — news went up yesterday about Inter Arma‘s new one, and you know Wino‘s gonna have an album or two out before the end of the year, and he’s always up to something good, so 20, 22, 35, it could just as easily go on forever. Or at least very least the whole year.

If there’s anything I forgot, anything you want to include or dispute, comments are welcome and encouraged.

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Live Review: Bezoar and The Badeda Ladies in Brooklyn, 12.12.12

Posted in Reviews on December 13th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I guess if your last name wasn’t McCartney, it was kind of a crappy night to put on a show in New York. While the “12-12-12″ benefit for those in the region affected by Hurricane Sandy at the end of October went on at Madison Square Garden with a wide swath of “Where the fuck were you when Katrina hit New Orleans?”-type celebrities (also Kanye West), across the river in Brooklyn a somewhat humbler extravaganza was held at The Grand Victory, benefiting perhaps local audiologists through its sheer assault of volume. Gotta build a customer base.

First time I was at The Grand Victory was Oct. 25 to catch Elder rolling through town with Reign of Zaius and Thinning the Herd (review here), and last night only confirmed the impression I had of the venue: I like it. Its long layout, nice bar and good beer selection continued to remind me of places these kinds of shows used to be held in Manhattan, and though I wasn’t drinking, I was glad to pay the cover to get in and at least give some support where I could.

There weren’t a lot of people there apart from the bands and some dude who decided that out of the whole room he was going to bump into my camera bag no fewer than four times — presumably he has some stance against people with bags at shows, and really, why should a day pass when you can’t needlessly be an asshole to someone else entirely without provocation? — and I was late in my arrival, entirely missing both opening acts, Vultus and Furnace Head. Felt kind of like a prick walking in just as NJ-based upstarts The Badeda Ladies were getting ready to go on, but I’d worked late and was lucky to get out when I did. It was a Wednesday night. I did my best.

The Badeda Ladies were not unknown to me. I’d first heard a couple demo tracks from the young Jersey troupe when they were a bass/drum instrumental duo. This was, however, my first time seeing them live. It was also their first New York show, having haunted Jersey house gigs and basement whathaveyous along with the few stalwart venues like the Stanhope House with a commitment to fostering new and growing bands, and the addition of guitarist Chris Eustaquio alongside drummer Ryan Smith and bassist Jonny Cohn went a long way to adding to the already established dynamic in the rhythm section.

Most of what they played — the first three songs of the set, anyhow — came from an upcoming split they’ll reportedly have out next year, and that wasn’t the extent of the new material. There was another song that Cohn referred to as “Bilbo Baggins” from the stage — Eustaquio‘s laughter seemed to indicate it wasn’t actually the title — and a few off their prior Liv Di demo as well, including the step-down-to-nothing finale of “Vulture,” punctuated by a loud snare hit from Smith, who had also provided the only vocals in a song earlier. They were pretty obviously still getting their feet wet in terms of playing out, and the style was post-metal so banter was minimal, but they had their own way of engaging the room nonetheless.

What they had working greatly in their favor was the inimitable intensity of the young. Smith‘s vocals on whichever song it was were harsh post-hardcore barks, throaty but interesting and enough to speak to some potential there should that be something they want to pursue down the line, and their instrumental material, ranging from Pelican-type pastorals to post-Isis constructions, showed burgeoning personality. As they move forward with the Furnace Head split, it should be interesting to hear how Eustaquio becomes further integrated into the band and also to see how their presence develops playing these songs live more often.

Last up for the night on my abbreviated version of the bill were artsy Brooklyn natives Bezoar, for whom slow metal is just one weapon in their apparently growing arsenal. The trio killed when I caught them at Public Assembly in October (review here), so I was stoked on the prospect of another encounter, and despite a room-consuming stench of body odor up front — not saying it was one of them, just saying it was there — they didn’t disappoint. Guitarist Tyler Villard, bassist/vocalist Sara Villard and insano-drummer Justin Sherrell (also of local merchants Wizardry) played a set that seemed to be mostly new material presumably from the album they’ll set to recording in the spring, showing off the expanse of their creative range while deftly pulling off abrupt changes in timing and tempo.

Shredding one measure and plodding the next, Bezoar are a band that challenges you to keep up as you listen. Their 2012 debut full-length, Wyt Deth, made its triumph in complexities both melodic and dissonant, Sara topping either a torrent of extreme metal or open-spaced doom excess with a consistent, drawn-out, echoing clean vocal that in another context might prove almost comforting. Their live show is more intense and their newer songs likewise. Tyler, decked out in a Gorgoroth shirt, seemed gleeful as he squibbled out that influence, and with his feet at a constant double-kick pulse, Justin met his extremity with no small measure of his own.

Sherrell is nothing if not a harsh lesson in the difference a great drummer can make in a band. He has a difficult task in tying Bezoar‘s material together and making their on-a-dime transitions sound natural if not flowing (they’re not always supposed to flow), but he does that while still managing to hold down the rhythm with Sara‘s bass and sounding creative in the process. Once again, the high point of the set came in a new song I don’t know the name of — it may have been the one Sara introduced as being yet untitled but about Jim Jones – as all three members of the band locked into a massive and immediately recognizable grooving riff. It was one of those, “Oh yeah, this” moments, but still just one of several reasons they gave throughout their time on stage to anticipate their next LP.

They’re also still establishing what they can do on stage, but already since the first time I saw Bezoar opening for Witch Mountain in June (review here), they’ve come far in their presentation and last night, even playing to those from the other bands who’d actually stuck around, me and a handful of others, they showed potential to excite both conceptually — that is, in terms of appreciation for what they do — and in the sheer appeal of watching someone kick ass at a gig. I don’t know whether or not I’ll see them again before they go in to record, but even if not, the impression they’ve left at this point is of an act on the cusp of really coming into their own. I look forward to hearing what they can do with these songs in a studio setting.

When I left, the radio had it that the grand shenanigans up at MSG were going on and had raised an estimated $50 million. Way more than I’ve done for anyone lately, but still a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the $64 billion tab the president requested for storm relief and rebuilding. Nice to make famous people feel good about themselves, I suppose. Me, I’ll take the music every time and if that means leaving the rest of the world to its hoedown-for-a-cause, that seems a small price to pay.

Extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Bezoar Premiere “Friend of My Enemy” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Brooklyn dark psychedelicists Bezoar continue to fascinate. Today, along with premiering their new clip for “Friend of My Enemy,” they also revealed that they’ll be recording their next album with Stephen Conover, whose credits include the RZA and Method Man. I’ve always wanted to hear what Missy Elliott could do with a metal record, but I guess Conover will probably work too. Following up the weird vibes of Bezoar‘s 2012 debut, Wyt Deth, will be no easy task, but as the band have already proven live, they’re up for giving it a shot.

Speaking of Bezoar and gigs, they’re playing next Wednesday at The Grand Victory in their native borough with The Badeda Ladies and Furnace Head, and unless I get hit by a truck before then, I think I’ll probably hit that one up.

“Friend of My Enemy” was directed by Frank Huang and filmed in part at the Saint Vitus bar. Here’s the video, followed by the latest off the PR wire:

Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, the members of stoner, psychedelic doom metal power trio BEZOAR have been busy performing for audiences across North America in support of their album- Wyt Deth (No World Order Records) released earlier this year beckoning the attention of the press along the way.

Combining organized chaos and sweaty organic riffing with mystic purpose, BEZOAR is a no nonsense hardworking band who at times have lived on their school bus turned touring vehicle to support the music they love. With influences ranging from Sleep, YOB, 1349, Diamanda Galas, Swans, Mayhem, Electric Wizard, Eyehategod, Slayer, and Darkthrone among many others, BEZOAR features female vocalist and bassist- Sara Villard (ex Isle of Citadel), guitarist Tyler Villard (ex Ruksac) and drummer Justin Sherrell (who also plays drums for Wizardry).

“‘Friend of my Enemy’ is a song about passing fears down through generations and holding them close to our hearts when ironically, it would be best for people to face and shatter them,” says vocalist/bassist Sara Villard. “We’re really excited about this video. Frank Huang [the videos director] captured the lyrics through visuals perfectly.”

In other news, in an unlikely but interesting pairing, the group is set to head into Brooklyn’s Studio BPM to begin recording the follow up to Wyt Deth in late February 2013 with engineer/mixer Stephen Conover (Rza, Method Man, Swizz Beatz) and hope to have the new record out by May/June 2013.

BEZOAR creates music that’s equally majestic, massive and cerebral than any mere genre tag. Villard adds, “We are now working on the next record and I’m happy to say that Bezoar is really learning the art of songwriting in a new way. The new record is going to be crushing and we plan on creating a true album. Something that will be best listened to from beginning to end as a whole. We’re also excited to include some new instrumentation and possibly some guest appearances.”

Catch BEZOAR live:
Wednesday, December 12 @ The Grand Victory w/ The Badeda Ladies and Furnace Head
245 Grand Street – Brooklyn, NY

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Live Review: Bezoar and It’s Not Night: It’s Space in Brooklyn, 10.11.12

Posted in Reviews on October 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I wasn’t sure what the deal was with the giant painted egg at the front of the stage before and during It’s Not Night: It’s Space‘s set last night at Public Assembly, but I liked it a lot. Like the trio’s music, it had more than a touch of ritual to it, with the lettering and all, and the instrumental trio didn’t mention anything about it while they were on stage, made no mention of its purpose that I caught, instead Kevin Halcott introducing the instrumental band by saying, “We’re It’s Not Night: It’s Space, and we’re from space,” before leading the way through wah-drenched heavy space-jamming.

Thursday night. I’d already had more than enough week by the time I left the office at about 8:30 to head into the show, but sometimes these things can’t be helped. I’ll spare you the moaning of my insignificant dramas — more because I’m too embarrassed to put them into words than out of time/place considerations — but what it rounds out to is it’s been a shitty week and I needed to get out in a bad way. The decision to hit Public Assembly and catch Bezoar and It’s Not Night: It’s Space was a last-minute thing, but Tommy Guerrero — dreadlocked bassist in the opening act — wasn’t through his first low-end shuffle before I knew I’d made the right choice.

Funny timing on the show, as It’s Not Night: It’s Space have a new CD available called Bowing Not Knowing to What that drummer Michael Lutomski emailed me this week to see about getting reviewed. I didn’t get to meet him at the gig, but hopefully I’ll have that review forthcoming, since I dug what they were doing on stage. The bass was heavy in the mix, and Halcott‘s guitar had some trouble standing up — at one point I realized I was standing by Guerrero‘s side of the stage and thought perhaps that was the issue and so switched sides, but even then the bass was dominant — but so much of that kind of heavy jam’s success comes from the chemistry of the players involved, and though it still felt nascent, they definitely had that going for them.

The band got together in 2010 and Bowing Not Knowing to What isn’t their first outing, but it doesn’t feel unreasonable to think of the New Paltz unit as still getting their bearings in a live setting. There were stretches where Halcott seemed in his own world while Lutomski and Guerrero held down the rhythm and some of the timing on his weaving in and out of joining them felt more plotted than the jam preceding, and that undercut a bit of the spontaneity, but honestly, I’m not convinced it was anythingHalcottplaying through a full stack couldn’t have easily fixed, volume adding presence and authority.

But they’ve got time to get there, and in the meantime, they offered engaging jams — “Vibration Eater” from the new album was a highlight — and gave a solid showing of themselves ahead of Brooklyn natives Bezoar, who took the stage around 11PM. Between the sets, I ran into Drew Mack, now formerly of Hull, who said he’s joined the ranks of the band Clean Teeth and that they had a new album in the works — he also said to check out Dead Sands and Blackout, which were appreciated recommendations — so that’s good news, and before too long, Bezoar had loaded up the full stacks belonging to bassist/vocalist Sara Villard (who recently curated a playlist for this very site) and guitarist Tyler Villard as well as Justin Sherrell‘s extensive kit-of-many-toms, and they were ready to go.

This was my second time seeing Bezoar after catching them over the summer at the Saint Vitus bar (review here), and though I never reviewed it to my regret, I very much enjoyed their debut CD, Wyt Deth, released earlier this year. Watching them last night, they seemed like the kind of band that could be dangerous if they decide to tour over the long term. I know it’s rarely as simple as “deciding,” but the trio have very quickly honed a surprisingly individualized approach out of a gamut that runs from droning doom to raging post-black metal musically, and while the material was plenty tight, they without a doubt have the potential to do something really special both as a stage act and in terms of their songwriting, which already showed growth in the new song they shared with the crowd.

Here’s the thing about Justin Sherrell: He’s a fucking great drummer. You know those drummers who, when they’re warming up before the set even starts, seem to announce their awesomeness by busting out some wild fill to “test the mics?” Sherrell plays like that but with less ego. In the new song Bezoar played — I don’t think the name was offered and if it was, I didn’t catch it — as Sara and Tyler locked into a huge grooving riff — one of those riffs you call “The Riff” — Sherrell seamlessly kept pace with the changes, playing crisply and creatively in a way most drummers dream of, making the hard parts sound easy. I’m usually in the “if you have more than two mounted toms, you’re just jerking off” camp, but the dude earns every piece of that kit.

And even better, that new song was the best the band played, and they played it like they knew it. Gave me something to look forward to in the follow-up to Wyt Deth, whatever form it might take when it surfaces. They’re getting really good really quickly, and it was exciting to watch.

The Phantom Family Halo was still to come, but I made it an early night knowing there was still more week to come today — the right move, as it turns out, since the 45 minutes it took to get across Manhattan and back to the Lincoln Tunnel would’ve been even more grueling past 1AM — and split after Bezoar were finished. The Yankees were soon to lose to tie up the playoff series with the Orioles, and I rolled back into my humble river valley just a couple minutes after the postgame wrapped, slathered some leftover pizza in pesto and called it a night. It was the most relaxed I’d been in seven days.

The lighting at Public Assembly‘s always pretty rough-going in that back room, but there are a few extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading, as always.

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audiObelisk: Sara Villard of Bezoar Made You a Mixtape

Posted in audiObelisk on October 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

The first time I heard Brooklyn trio Bezoar‘s debut album, Wyt Deth, it was abundantly clear the doom/psych/freakout unit were working with a wide variety of influences. Upon seeing them live back in June, the impression was no less vivid. From creepy, subdued soundscapes built on minimal bass/vocals and guitar from Sara and Tyler Villard (respectively) to percussive crash led by drummer Justin Sherrell, the three-piece were as hard to define as they were exciting to watch. Still formative, still feeling out where they wanted to be musically, but clearly relishing a sense of musical freedom.

Wyt Deth, which was released earlier this year on CD and vinyl, is no different than was the show in terms of its mission. The album (available for streaming/purchasing on Bezoar‘s Bandcamp page) is rife with troubling atmospheres and unexpected turns. Likely one could sit for a week an analyze and pick out the varied influences that went into making it. Hell, that might be fun. But frankly, I thought it would be more fun to go to the source and ask the band themselves about their points of inspiration, and fortunately Sara Villard was more than accommodating.

Ms. Villard curated the list of tracks you’ll find on the player below, and it’s plain to see genre holds no bounds. From Yes to YOB and Absu to Roky Erickson, it’s the kind of breadth one might expect from listening to Bezoar‘s output. She was kind enough as well to give a track-by-track explanation of her inclusions, which appears directly after the player itself, so please enjoy while you listen:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Track-by-Track by Sara Villard

1. The Stranglers, “Golden Brown”

This song is one of our favs from The Stranglers. Very simple format, superbly executed.

2. Yes, “Heart of the Sunrise”

Pre-Rick Wakemen icecapades, Yes at their finest prog epicness. I think I have all of their records on vinyl believe it or not. “The Heart of the Sunrise” displays all of their best qualities.

3. YOB, “Ball of Molten Lead”

We first saw YOB on the Illusion of Motion tour. Absolutely crushing, seriously.

4. Far Out, “Too Many People”

Found this LP in a bin on Saint Marks (New York City). The band name was a Japanese translation. Think Japanese western movie music on DMT.

5. ZZ Top, “Master of Sparks”

No matter where our musical tastes differ, we can all agree on ZZ Top. Billy Gibbons can make one note sound like the grooviest jam ever heard. This band is all swagger.

6. Death in June, “Rose Clouds of Holocaust”

I’m not sure that Justin (Bezoar drummer) is into this type of shit, but I am a goth at heart. Douglas P. is an incredible songwriter. Any version you see of this song is heartbreaking. It’s so awesome to see a performer who can bring a particular feeling to an audience every time.

7. Hawkwind, “You’d Better Believe It”

What if Lemmy was never left at that truck stop? Sigh.

8. Absu, “Nunbarshegunu”

Texas black metal full of lightning changes, color and precise performance. This band raises the bar. We had a night on our last tour in D.C. blasting Absu driving around the capitol. Creepy shit. In a good way, of course.

9. PIL, “Pop Tones”

I have to put PIL on the list. The first time I heard this song I played it straight for hours after and just lied on the floor mesmerized. I’m really into the bass player, Jah Wobble. He never slips up and just has this amazing circular way of writing bass parts. And Keith Levene has to be one of the first to play guitar like this. I’ve always been into his noisy sound. This band could be in a basement playing a noise show in current times and I would still be impressed, they stand the test of time.

10. The Residents, “Easter Woman”

I could have picked a number of different songs off The ResidentsCommercial Album, but this is one I am constantly putting on mixes. Oh yeah, remember when Thrones covered this song too?! That was a great version. The lyrics are so weird and perfect.

11. Roky Erickson, “Cold Night for Alligators”

Roky Erickson just rocks. Whether it’s with 13th Floor Elevators or The Aliens, he’s got it. I don’t know how he does the vocals on this one so well. How many trills can be in one word?? Also, the imagery of alligators and dogs really makes me happy. A good song to sing loudly to on your sixth hour of driving when you just need a pick-me-up. We just got home from a short tour of the South promoting Wyt Deth. I always like to hear Roky on the way home. Also, if I’m feeling like I don’t want to be back, I throw on a little Ramones to make me feel excited about the New York groove again.

12. Solid Space, “Please Don’t Fade Away”

This is a band that my friend introduced me to. They never released a full record. They just had this one tape floating around. My friend was talking about re-releasing it on vinyl, but the project never saw the light. You can download it on sites now from the tape recording and I think the whole record is brilliant. This song jumps out at me in particular because it is dark, moody, and beautiful. When I put this song on I feel like I’m floating in space. A great recording.

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Live Review: Witch Mountain, Lord Dying, Pilgrim and Bezoar in Brooklyn, 06.08.12

Posted in Reviews on June 11th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

It was kind of a weird plan, but because I was going to be driving to meet The Patient Mrs. in Connecticut after the show, and because I was going to the show right from work, I wound up bringing my dog and leaving her in the car while I went and saw Witch Mountain, Lord Dying, Pilgrim and Bezoar at the Saint Vitus bar in Brooklyn. I kind of felt like a bad dog owner, but I’d just bought her a new bed, I left her a full bowl of cold water, rolled the windows partway down and I’d waited until the sun was down so she wouldn’t be hot in the car. She slept the whole time, and I made periodic between-band visits to take her for walks around the block. Turned out to not be a problem.

Better, by waiting for the sun to go down so as to not bake my dog, I avoided the trap of arriving way too early as I had for the Pallbearer and Loss show a few weeks back and got there just as Bezoar were taking the stage. Everybody wins! The opening act and local to Brooklyn, they were celebrating the release of their full-length debut, Wyt Deth, and played the album through front to back, drummer Justin Sherrell picking up and putting down an acoustic guitar to play up the menacing dark folk aspect of their otherwise noisy and doomed approach. Like a lot of the psychedelic doom making its way out these days, there was some level of influence from Electric Wizard‘s latter-day output, but Bezoar had more going on than riffs and horror-movie lyricism.

Vocalist/bassist Sara Villard rested comfortably in her middle range, and both she and guitarist Tyler Villard were quick to lapse into washes of beastly noise and feedback, Sherrell following suit with adept fills and tom runs. They didn’t leave a landmark impression, being somewhat reserved on stage apart from Sherrell, but the music was solid and the performance effective nonetheless. Brooklyn’s scene continues to grow, and if Bezoar are going to join the ranks of quality acts from that hyper-gentrified corner of the world — there’s a list of them at this point, which I’ll spare — I’ll offer no contradiction. As I hadn’t yet heard Wyt Deth, they made a decent first impression.

A quick pop back to the car to check on the dog and I was back well in time for the start of Pilgrim‘s set. A bigger band who’ve had success in Brooklyn in the past, though they’re younger, they probably could’ve demanded a better spot on the bill than they got if they felt like being jerks — I’d figured the Providence natives for either closing out the night or playing between Lord Dying and Witch Mountain — but it’s to their credit that Lord Dying had the more preferable slot, being a part of the tour that made the show happen in the first place. They were palpably a stronger live act than the last time I saw them (see above link), and in particular, guitarist Jon “The Wizard” Rossi seemed more comfortable on stage and showed more personality behind his thoroughly downtrodden and doomed vocal delivery.

I think a lot of the excitement about Pilgrim — aside from their debut, Misery Wizard, having been issued through Alan Averill of Primordial‘s Metal Blade imprint — comes from the band’s potential to carry traditional doom forward into a new, post-millennial generation, invariably bringing some new sensibility to the style. How that’s going to work out in the longer term, I haven’t the foggiest, but Pilgrim at this point are a good, young, heavy band, and I’m not going to take that away from them just because there’s hype around their record. They still have growing to do, but again, it’s been about three months since the last time I saw them (I’ll see them again as they headline SHoD over Labor Day weekend), and there was already marked improvement, so they’re growing fast. Hard not to root for an act like that, which I guess is at least part of where that hype comes from.

Lord Dying were easily the most metal band of the night and a fitting complement to Witch Mountain in how different they were. A double-guitar four-piece, their set was thrash-informed traditional metal bombast. Riffs factored in heavily, but they weren’t really stoner or doom, just heavy and straightforward and mean sounding. I liked them immediately and didn’t stop liking them as the set played out. They’d sold out their CDs, or I would’ve bought one afterwards and rocked it on my way north on I-95. Can’t do that with a 7″. Too bad.

As infectious as their slowed-down thrashing was, though, it hit just as my guilt pangs at having left my poor little dog in the car were approaching critical mass. I left the club momentarily to take the dog for a walk around the block and at least let her move around a little bit, as she’d been in the car at this point for two-plus hours. She was fine — she has always seemed to prefer being left in the car somewhere to being left at home, when it comes down to one or the other — but still, with another two-hour drive after the show, it seemed only fair to leave Lord Dying to their ass-kicking for a bit and let the dog pee. She seemed to appreciate it, even if she did almost get in a brawl with a much-bigger bulldog mix coming down the block the other way. She’s a countrified dog. No class in the big city.

When I got back inside, Lord Dying were done and Witch Mountain were getting set up. I didn’t have the courage to introduce myself to guitarist Rob Wrong, whose concise opinions once provided the central critical voice of StonerRock.com, but his red rocker pants and matching guitar — with a green plate to play up the holiday spirit — were a suitable extension of the personality I’ve always admired in his writing. As Witch Mountain got set up, new bassist Neal Munson seemed to have some technical problems, but by the time the set started, everything was worked out. Wrong led the doomly charge with waves of riffs — he’d turned down the opportunity to run his cabinets through the P.A., saying it was unnecessary, he’d be plenty loud anyway — as bluesy and trained-sounding vocalist Uta Plotkin proved the performance on last year’s South of Salem was no fluke. If anything, she sounded better live than in the studio, and as powerful as she was on the record, that’s saying something.

Being so very, very behind on reviews, I hadn’t yet really had the appropriate chance to dig into the new and third Witch Mountain album, Cauldron of the Wild — also their Profound Lore debut — but “Beekeeper” was an early set highlight and drummer Nate Carson (a founder of the band along with Wrong and also of Nanotear Booking) crashed through lumbering pacing that gave Plotkin more than enough room to soar vocally, which indeed, she did. Despite my lacking familiarity with the material, though, Witch Mountain were engaging and came off as tight as a band should be who’ve already been on tour the better part of a week, cracking a smile at a flub here and there but pressing on with the song all the same. They were heavier tonally in person, and it’s not often I’d refer to a band’s melodicism as “sick,” but seriously, these were some sick melodies.

It got to be past midnight and I knew I’d be on the road until around 2AM, so I made my way out and back to the car, where I fired up the directional robutt and followed its satellite course on more highway interchanges than I credited Brooklyn with having before finally stumbling on I-95 and defying the navigational system by taking it, knowing it was ultimately where I wanted to end up anyhow. Sure enough, I arrived at the Connecticut shoreline to find The Patient Mrs. already asleep, which the little dog soon would be as well. I stayed up a while longer to key down and finally called it a night going on three, promising myself I’d sleep late while knowing it wasn’t true.

Extra pics after the jump.

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