Here’s Kings Destroy Doing “Smokey Robinson” in Rhode Island

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

kings destroy (Photo by Tim Bugbee)

Here’s a fun fact: I fucking hate videos I’m in. Photos too. Really anything. If I can go without seeing, hearing, reading myself, seeing my name, feeling like I exist, escaping for 20 seconds from crippling neurotic self-awareness, whatever, that’s the way to go. The conundrum here is that even by saying that, I’m pointing out the fact that I’m in this video, but I think even if you didn’t know it was me and you watched it, you might be wondering to yourself, “Who’s the longhair dick up front taking pictures?” I’m that dick. That’s the guy. Get him.

I didn’t write about it in the tour report, but before the doors opened at The Met in Providence, I was sitting at the bar with The Patient Mrs., and one of the dudes who works there or owns the place or whatever came up and started asking where we got our passes all in an accusing tone of voice and shit, like we broke into the Pentagram show and stole them off the table or something. I was like, “The guy standing next to you gave them to us,” and then asked him if he wanted to fight about it. Got a winner of a look for that one — and rest assured, if he or the dude with him had wanted to fight, I’d have gotten my ass handed to me — but whatever. By then I’d been 12 nights out of 12 nights on that run and wasn’t ready to greet dickitude with anything other than the same.

Hope you enjoyed the digression. The mind makes these associations, event with place, place with time, song with season, and so on. To the best of my achingly limited understanding, this is the first video of Kings Destroy playing the song “Smokey Robinson.” It comes from that Providence show and was filmed by Pentagram drummer Sean Saley. I’m happy to report that even though I pollute the thing early on with my existence, the giant head that shows up right in front of the camera at the end belongs to someone else. We have to take our victories where we can get them.

Kings Destroy‘s next show is Dec. 12 at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar with YOB and Tombs. I am hoping to attend. “Smokey Robinson” will be featured on their third album, which will be out next year, and has been stuck in my head for the better part of the last three weeks even though I know about one-third of the words, and that’s being generous. It’s not something I’m posting because I feel obligated, or to fill space, or whatever. It’s a quality song and I had something to say about the video, so fucking there you go.

Dig:

Kings Destroy, “Smokey Robinson” Live at the Met, Providence, RI, Nov. 2, 2014

Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks

Kings Destroy on Bandcamp

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Fall Tour Pt. 24: Pentagram, Bang and Kings Destroy, Providence, RI, 11.02.14

Posted in Features, Reviews on November 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

We were somewhere in Connecticut on I-95 Northbound when the news came in that Radio Moscow wouldn’t be making it back from the West Coast in time to finish out the last show of the tour with BangPentagram and Kings Destroy. Too bad. It would’ve been a fitting final act for them to roll in, probably several hours late, rush their gear up to the stage and absolutely level The Met in Providence, Rhode Island, which was where the sendoff was held. They pick up with more dates in the Northeast this week, so they’re around, it was just a question of timing. As in, sometimes you miss a 6AM flight.

I thought maybe The Met would get one of Rhode Island’s quality locals to fill the vacant spot and serve as an opening act — members of Pilgrim and Balam were there for the show, and either would’ve been an excellent fit — but instead, it was just the three touring bands to wrap things up. Before the gig actually started, it felt pretty anticlimactic. Another drive north, another weeknight show. After NYC, it seemed like this was more of an epilogue, but in both the bands’ performances and the crowd’s response Providence gave a worthy showing, and particularly for a Sunday evening, was anything but an afterthought.

Kings Destroy

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Man, I’d like to sit here and tell you how fuckin’ air tight Kings Destroy have gotten over the course of the last couple years, how they’ve gelled post their second album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting, but you’d just think I was exaggerating anyway. Whatever. If you don’t know, you don’t know. Point is they killed it again. Got out of the van, loaded in like a machine, soundchecked, stood around, waiting and then immediately pounced once they were on stage. With Radio Moscow off the bill, they had more time, so they aired a couple not yet heard on the tour — “Stormbreak,” “Green Diamonds” (from the new record; first time they’ve played it), and “W2″ (another new one) — along with “Old Yeller,” which went back to the opening spot and “Casse-Tête,” “Smokey Robinson,” “Mr. O” and a would-be finish in “Blood of Recompense.” Steve Murphy was finishing “Blood of Recompense” in the crowd when he got word from Pentagram‘s tour manager, Klaus Koschel (also of EU bookers Vibra Agency), that they had more time. Someone in the crowd on the far side of the stage requested “The Toe,” so “The Toe” it was. A gratifying finish to however many days on the road that the last song they played should come by request from the audience. They jammed out again, ended loud and noisy and thanked the crowd, which by then had filed in considerably from out of the cold, and made way for Bang to put their own end-stamp on the run.

Bang

Bang (Photo by JJ Koczan)

While it’s true of just about everyone I’ve seen on this tour, to say each Bang set has been better than the last seems especially true. And that’s all the more impressive since they’ve been working with the same bundle of songs. The Met‘s crowd went off for Bang as well, so that could’ve had something to do with it. One dude standing up front next to me — I think he plays in Balam as well, though I could be wrong about that — was headbanging so hard he smashed his face into the stage monitor and opened up his eyebrow, was bleeding all over the place. Still headbanging, he covered his can of Narragansett and a good portion of the stage in front of him in a spatter of red before wiping his brow and realizing what was going on. Bang, meanwhile, “The Queen” and “Idealist, Realist” were paying back his blood in warm-toned vintage grooves, guitarist Frankie Gilcken and bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrara soaking up every last second of the stage time while drummer Jake Leger — who I think at this point deserves to be considered at least an honorary Frank — pushed the charge forward, the driving chorus of “Last Will and Testament” by now familiar but welcome all the same. “Questions” rounded out, as it always has, and Bang left the stage thanking the other bands and everybody who came out to see them on their first tour in 42 years. I have the feeling they’ll be out again before too long.

Pentagram

Pentagram (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Rhode Island went fucking crazy for Pentagram. Granted, I didn’t see them in Minneapolis or Philadelphia, but Providence had crowd surfing, and that was a first for the run so far as I know. Beer was being thrown around and at one point guitarist Victor Griffin got pissed enough about it to punch his microphone, and frontman Bobby Liebling asked people up front a couple times to please not put their drinks on the stage. There was some light moshing, but really more of just a general crowd press, particularly early on with “Too Late,” “Death Row” and “”All Your Sins.” The hits kept coming with “Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram)” and “Frustration” and “Forever My Queen,” the audience staying with LieblingGriffin, bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley every step of the way. Missing in the middle of the set compared to other nights on the tour was the The Animals cover, “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood,” but I’d overheard them a few days before in Philly talking about bringing out a couple of the Bang dudes for something special at the last show. They wound up doing precisely that, after “Relentless” and “Nothing Left” and a first encore of “Be Forewarned” and “When the Screams Come.” Frank Ferrara took Griffin‘s mic and Frankie Gilcken came out to join in on guitar, and “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” served as the last jam of the tour, getting yet another riotous response for the effort put out. With their manager Sean “Pellet” Pelletier and members of Kings Destroy at the side of the stage looking on, you couldn’t have asked for a better or more appropriate ending.

Thanks for reading as always. More pics after the jump and a conclusion after that.

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fridge magnets

11.03.14 — 4:23PM — Monday afternoon — East Bridgewater, MA

“He fills in the missing details…” — Klaus Koschel, on me

The magnets above I picked up while on the road. I got everywhere the tour went except Michigan (which sucks double since it was two shows) and Rhode Island, since by the time we left the show last night I was in too much of a hurry to go in the rest stop and look for one. I’ll be back in both states, I have no doubt, and will rectify then. Also a few other states we just drove through, and there wasn’t a show in Jersey, but I had to get one for my home state anyway. They’re up on the fridge now along with pictures of my niece and nephews, a Jean-Luc Picard magnet, and sundry old holiday cards.

The Patient Mrs. came to the show last night in Providence, at least for a little bit early. She was there when we got there and she and I went out to a quick dinner before doors. It was beyond excellent to see her, but also kind of a bummer. My head was still deep in tour mode and so I’m sitting across the table from her in this restaurant the heating system of which turned out to be broken and she’s talking about all this interesting stuff she’s thinking about this week and what she’s doing in classes with her students and all I can think about is getting it on and/or making it back to the venue in time. Like a droopy-eyed neanderthal for a dinner companion. Yet another reminder of how utterly outclassed I am in every conceivable way by my spouse. Much better half.

She left a few minutes after Kings Destroy were done. She’d been interested in seeing Radio Moscow, but since they didn’t make it, she split. Had work this morning anyway. I get it. Not really her bag to start with. Though I’m a cave-ogre tragedy of a husband, I appreciated her coming out at all.

I knew the whole night I was driving back to Steve’s after the show. Just under three hours. On the last night of the tour. Pay for all your sins. Yeah, it was about 1:30AM by the time we left after all the last-show hugs and handshakes, packing up, waiting for Rob to put his drums in the cases, and so on. I watched Bobby Liebling dwindle down a whole crowd of people waiting to have their picture taken with him. He made funny faces and hit on dudes’ girlfriends in pretty much the way you’d expect he would, but he handled the whole crowd no problem. Holding court. Some people are born to do it. Some other people walk back and forth in a closing-down-for-the-night venue looking for a place to put themselves and wind up standing outside for 10 minutes in the 40-degree cold chewing ice hoping to start load-out soon. Just the way it goes.

One stop on the way off exit 93 on I-95 Southbound just when you get into Connecticut for gas, then nothing else on the way down. The van started out loud and then got quiet in the way it has most of the night drives, C-wolf, Rob, Carl, Aaron, Jim Pitts all falling asleep, and Steve too up front eventually. Just me awake in the van, barreling along a mostly abandoned I-95, putting in physical effort to stay awake. I had one of those moments right around exit 20 when your brain goes to sleep but your eyes are still open and you’re still conscious — a bizarre separation of self I’ve only felt once or twice before. Can’t say the highway was the best environment for it, but I got us back to Steve’s anyway. Crashed out at 4:30AM, woke up at 8AM, hauled ass three and a half hours back north to Massachusetts and made it home just before noon. My brain is racing, still in tour-mode, but I can barely keep my eyes open. Was nodding off the whole day writing that review of last night.

I can’t wrap this thing up without expressing my deepest thanks to the Kings Destroy guys — Steve Murphy, Carl Porcaro, Chris Skowronski, Aaron Bumpus, Rob Sefcik — for inviting me to head out with them again. Getting the tour ebola and driving through miserable East Coast weather, this was a much different trip than back in the spring — at one point before the show last night, C-wolf told The Patient Mrs. I was, “a moping machine,” with which I couldn’t even really argue — but I still realize how fortunate I am to be able to do this kind of thing, and it was an amazing and special time that I’m glad to have experienced.

Thanks as well to Jim Pitts, to The Patient Mrs., to my sister, to the Radio Moscow guys — Paul, Parker and Anthony — who I was bummed I didn’t get to catch one more time on the tour, to the Pentagram band and crew, to Frankie, Frank and Jake from Bang, to Postman Dan for setting up the Lansing show and the good times that followed, to Travis and Derrick in Lansing, Jeremy at The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids, Sean “Pellet” Pelletier, Klaus Koschel and Mama Jo and Connie, Juan in NYC, John Eager and everyone else I saw along the way.

Most of all, my appreciation to you for reading, commenting, sharing, liking, whatever it may have been. It means more to me than I can say to be able to do something like this, and the only reason it happens is because you give enough of a crap to check it out. I am humbled, perpetually, by the support and response this site gets. Thank you. So much.

And now, to bed.

[Don’t forget those pics from the last show are after the jump below if you’d like to check them out.]

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Fall Tour Pt. 23: Relentless

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

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

11.02.14 — 2:56PM — Sunday afternoon — In van, en route to Providence, RI

“And what will you miss…?” — Bobby Liebling

Had a couple minutes before we had to hit the road from Steve’s place, and took a couple pictures of the band out among the trees and all that. I’ve never been much for promo photos, or photos in general really, or anything, but something to do, anyway. Tour closes out tonight in Providence. I think everyone’s geared up for it — I know I am — and feeling good with some decent rest and a slow start this morning/afternoon, not needing to rush to get to Rhode Island, which is way closer than, say, Burlington, Vermont. Or Minneapolis to Grand Rapids.Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan) That was not a short drive. Compared to that, this is like a trip to 7-Eleven.

Radio Moscow are reportedly back tonight. They’re continuing on the East Coast, playing New York, Boston, etc., after this tour is over, so I have little doubt they’ll make it, but it has to be exhausting traversing seaboards like that. I give them credit for even attempting it. This tour waited more than six months between doing West Coast and East Coast. Radio Moscow are doing it in a day. Pretty wild.

The Patient Mrs. is also coming to the show tonight. It’s been more than a week since I’ve seen her, though we spoke more this tour than last time out, I’ll be glad to grab dinner with her and hang out during the show. I’m traveling with the band, so it’ll be back to NY tonight and then back up to MA in the morning — gonna try to leave early, but we’ll see how it goes — and will then sort out the rest of the week from there. Starting to think about getting back to real life, much as I have one, and not thinking about the Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)drive to the next town or whatever. It’s a bit of a transition. Was last time too.

But I will be glad to get home, see The Patient Mrs., the little dog Dio, eat a salad and drink some more homemade iced tea, do laundry and find a place to put one of the posters Jim Pitts set aside for me from along the way, maybe the Philly one or the one with the Halloween masks. I’ve got time to decide, and another day to go before I get there anyway, but I’m excited. It’s been a good run, and the sun is out today and a couple of the guys went home last night — Aaron and C-wolf — so people are relatively well rested, myself included, and ready to kick it out one more time to finish the tour.

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Fall Tour Pt. 22: Pentagram, Blood Ceremony, Bang and Kings Destroy, NYC, 11.01.14

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

gramercy theatre

Especially traveling with Kings Destroy, who are from the city, it was hard not to think of the New York show as the apex of the tour. That doesn’t likely make Providence an afterthought to the bands, but it wound up being one of the biggest crowds of the run, and I know for me, getting to work in the photo pit alongside the likes of Frank WhiteGreg ChristmanKen Pierce and Rodrigo Fredes, and seeing a few old friends in the crowd, it was a special night. Really by any measure.

Doors were a little bit before seven, I think. I got to witness some of the staff peptalk before the gig: “This is an older crowd, beer drinking, dope smoking,” etc., and was asked if I had any questions at the end of it. Nah man, I’m clear. I’ll watch out for that dopesmoking. Maybe get out a little flashlight and point it at somebody’s vaporizer. Ha.

I’m not sure I can claim impartiality on any of these bands by now — calling this a “review” is stretching it — but I’ll give a rundown anyway:

Kings Destroy

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Some of the guys were apprehensive about an early 7:30 start time, but Kings Destroy wound up with one of the best, if not the best — not like I was taking headcounts — crowd of the tour, and they greeted it with suitable thrust. Particularly with their pedigree in Killing Time and Uppercut and so on, big stages continually are no threat, and spread out, with guitarist Carl Porcaro over in command of his own side of the stage, they seem completely at home. Drummer Rob Sefcik holding court behind, they pushed “The Mountie” to the front of the set with “Old Yeller” behind and closed out with “Blood of Recompense” once more bringing vocalist Steve Murphy down from the stage to stand on the barrier and directly engage the audience. The last two nights, I’ve been pleased to see bassist Aaron Bumpus step out from behind guitarist Chris Skowronski and come forward both when his bass takes the fore in “Embers” and at other points, his tone coming through full and deep from his Sunn head. He’s been Kings Destroy‘s secret weapon all along, but in Vermont and NYC, he’s also rightly taken a more focal position, which suits him and the band well. “Smokey Robinson” gave way to “Mr. O” for the liveliest part of the set in terms of pacing, and Kings Destroy delivered their hometown a kick in the ass as only returning conquerors can.

Bang

Bang (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Jammed a little bit more on “Questions” at the end of their set, which was awesome. This was probably also the biggest crowd they’ve played to on this tour, though not the biggest space — that would be Minneapolis — but they’ve also had a week-plus to get themselves to this point playing almost every night, and they handled themselves well. Out in the crowd, I could see a few heads singing along to “Redman” and “Keep On” and I got into it as well on the vaguely sociopathic “Last Will and Testament” and “Our Home.” It must be strange for guitarist Frankie Gilcken and bassist Frank Ferrara, or maybe it was at the start of the tour, to be out again as basically a new band playing older material. Reunions are funny things. Bang, with the foundation-strong classic style met so well by drummer Jake Leger, have handled it as smoothly as they handle the groove of “The Queen,” and once again they just looked like they were digging the hell out of playing those songs. That’s been consistent from day one, but I went to the back of Gramercy Theatre to watch a bit from the seats, and even so far away, their love of what they do radiated out and brought a smile to my face.

Blood Ceremony

Blood Ceremony (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The Toronto foursome cut a couple songs out of their set as compared to Burlington the night before, but I’m glad to have seen them two nights in a row for being able to better appreciate the consistency of their delivery, how much of the theatricality is worked on, really given a sense of performance to coincide with the music. Vocalist Alia O’Brien once again donned the fringe, and bassist Lucas Gadke broke his strap for the second evening in a row. Guitarist Sean Kennedy has a pretty subdued stage presence, quiet almost for playing so loud, but he held it down on “I’m Coming with You” and “Return to Forever,” O’Brien switching off flute and organ and draping her Blood Ceremony cloak over the Pentagram bass drum, logo facing out. Michael Carillo‘s kick work shook it off once, but it stayed the second time, and though it was a shorter set than the night before, they still nailed their finest woodsy riffery in “The Magician,” finishing big but still fitting with their ’70s prog cultistry. They’re one of those bands that I’ve always felt I should probably be more into than I have been, and seeing them twice in two days only reaffirms that yeah, Blood Ceremony have it together and have rightly earned the influential status they’ve attained.

Pentagram

Pentagram (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I was told that Bobby Liebling flipped me off at one point early in Pentagram‘s set, but I missed it entirely. Doubt it was an insulting thing, I don’t think I’m on that dude’s radar enough for him to want to give me the finger even in passing, but just rock and roll. Either way, a distinction. One of his boots seemingly held in check by red duct tape, Liebling immediately took charge of the Gramercy Theatre stage, Pentagram giving the full room what they came for in hard stares, heavy riffs and classic doom. Guitarist Victor Griffin seemed particularly spirited, and bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley went right along as well. At this point, Pentagram are a given live. After the relatively small space in Vermont, to have them slam into NYC and hand the city its ass, with some stiff competition uptown in the Samhain reunion, again, it felt like the payoff for the tour. Packed house — I don’t think it was sold out, but pretty close — and some moshing for good measure, but more than that, just a victory lap from the modern incarnation of a legendary band who seem to be writing their legacy with each stop they make on the road.

After the show, I drove up to Steve KD’s house and crashed in the same room as the other night, slept through the time change and woke up around 9:30AM to find coffee and bagels, which was perfect. A leisurely start to the final day of the tour, something of an epilogue to the whole affair, and yeah, I’m tired, and I’m ready to go home, but this run has been really great and I know how fortunate I am to have been able to be along for it in the way I have. More later and Providence tonight. Killer.

Pics after the jump, you know the drill. Thanks for reading.

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Fall Tour Pt. 21: Cockroach en Fleur

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

empty gramercy

11.01.14 — 4:14PM — Saturday afternoon — Gramercy Theatre, NYC

“Don’t hit anybody in this neighborhood.” — C-wolf, on driving in Manhattan

We were up early this morning. My watch was set for 7:30 and I was conscious not that long after. Time to head to Manhattan. We stayed in Montpelier, the capital of Vermont, but there was barely a look at it on the way out of town. Fair. I wasn’t awake enough to soak any of it in anyway, so it would’ve been lost on me. We left somewhere right around 9AM. Load-in was reportedly 3 o’clock and it was going to be six hours on the road. Weather? Miserable. Rainy and cold. Stopped in Connecticut at a Wendy’s for lunch. I didn’t get anything.road in vermont I’ve been sick enough, I don’t need to add that to it, especially with the finish line so close.

The drive was long but not actually terrible until we got near NYC. I fell asleep in the van around Stanford, Connecticut, and woke up sitting in traffic on some on-ramp heading into the city. Won’t complain about that. The KD guys are excited to be back in New York, near home. I am ambivalent at best. Already walked in and asked to get a photo pass and got a “needs clearance with Klaus” (Pentagram’s tour manager) for the first time on the tour. Cool. 10 shows later I’ll go ahead and get right on that. The magic of Manhattan.

Oh yeah, and that 3PM load-in? Got here at four and heard “you’re early!” Good for a chuckle.

In the existential sense.

As opposed to weed candy.

Anyway.

None of the other bands are here yet. Pretty sure beating Pentagram to the venue is a first for the tour. riverI expected they’d drive all night in their RV, which is what they’ve usually done. A bang on the door got a “What the fucking fuck?” from the guy running the place, and it turned out to be Bang. Again, New York magic. I’ve always been back and forth love/hate with Manhattan, and with the rise of Brooklyn over the last decade, the once central borough itself has little culturally left to offer. City of cocaine, concrete and cupcakes. Even the museum costs $15 to get in and they judge you if you don’t make the suggested donation. Whatever.

Lots of AC/DC on the way down today. Some Baroness to change it up. Now it’s Danzig over the house P.A., no doubt in winking acknowledgement that the Samhain reunion is happening across town tonight. How the Gods Kill. Timing is everything.

Grey weather and lack of sleep in my head. Cough continues to nag, but it’s climate more than anything. Show reportedly has an 11PM curfew, and Providence is relatively close, so should be able to get a decent night’s sleep. And the show will be good. Show’s always good.

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Fall Tour Pt. 20: Pentagram, Blood Ceremony, Bang and Kings Destroy, Burlington, VT, 10.31.14

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

artsriot (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ll admit that even after being there all night, I’m still not sure if it’s ArtsRiot, one word, or Arts Riot, two words. Or maybe it’s just my small-minded traditionalism that needs it to be one or the other. Or something. It’s pretty much a box with a concrete floor and admirable pastrami and steak fries, either way. Probably better as a strict gallery space than a music venue, just going by their sound setup, lighting, etc., but to be honest, I’m not about to fault the place for doing cool work in multiple arenas. Clearly it’s a joint run with passion and an emphasis on supporting creativity in and beyond its community. Hard to mess with that.

No Radio Moscow for this one, since they’re out west at Day of the ShredBlood Ceremony stepped in to fill that spot in the bill, and certainly fit with the evening’s Halloweenery. A goodly portion of the crowd was also dressed up, one dude as King Diamond, a bunch of demons, ladies at hot nuns, and so on. I don’t know at what point Halloween just became an excuse to get girls to wear less clothes. I guess I was too busy watching Garfield’s Halloween Adventure to notice that happening, but it happened. A weird kind of male gaze parade going on, perpetuating cycle of submission and reward for submission. I felt dirty and complicit in kind, but it is what it is. No escape for anybody.

For the bands, apart from Blood Ceremony‘s Alia O’Brien, who I’m pretty sure wears fringe all the time anyway, only Steve Murphy and Rob Sefcik from Kings Destroy made any dress-up attempt. Here’s how it went down:

Kings Destroy

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’m not sure what Murphy was going for with his costume. He’s been called “Peshmurpha” on and off the whole tour for the hat and scarf, so I guess he was running with it. Rob bought the devil mask in Jersey the other day, and they both made it through an admirable amount of the set in costume. Guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski and bassist Aaron Bumpus abstained, so I guess it was a middle-of-the-stage thing. Fair enough. Kings Destroy stretched out the set a little bit, which was cool since the half-hour has been pretty limiting. People were still coming in, but were quick in getting it, a certain nihilism in pushing “Turul” to back “Smokey Robinson” right at the start with “The Whittler,” “Mr. O,” and “Casse-Tête” following. The sound at ArtsRiot wasn’t the best in terms of clarity — it’s an art gallery — but it was plenty loud. “Old Yeller” once again closed out, preceded by “Blood of Recompense,” which was the highlight as Murphy, by then out of costume, hopped off the stage to engage the crowd one-on-one for the song’s finish.

Bang

Bang (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They killed in Philly as well, but I think for not being their hometown, Burlington was the best response Bang have gotten on this tour. People were headbanging to “Our Home” and “Keep On” and “The Maze” and “The Queen,” and only got more into it as the set went on. Even “Last Will and Testament,” had heads grooving. It’s been interesting to see all along who’s been on board for Bang and who’s been treating them like a curio, but ArtsRiot was down from the very start, and the band ate it up. Sharing drums with Pentagram, a Bang t-shirt had been taped on the front of the kick — Kings Destroy had had one there as well — and even that had a special kind of charm for the occasion. Frankie GilckenFrank Ferrara and Jake Leger have been all about the vibe from the start of this run, but spirits were clearly high as they fed off the audience’s energy, which was palpable throughout. Again, they’d done pretty well in Philly too, but they’re from there. To go eight hours north or whatever it is to Burlington and be greeted by such a response could only have been gratifying. Well earned.

Blood Ceremony

Blood Ceremony (Photo by JJ Koczan)

This was the first time I’ve seen Blood Ceremony since Roadburn 2011. The Toronto cult rock four-piece have expanded their influence considerably since then — their second record, Living with the Ancients, was new at that point and has since helped spawn a crop of imitators and been given a follow-up in 2013’s The Eldritch Dark. They played “Witchwood” and “Goodbye Gemini” from the latest outing early on, splicing in highlights from Living with the Ancients and their 2008 self-titled debut like “I’m Coming with You” and “My Demon Brother” along the way, Alia O’Brien switching between vocals, flute, organ and various spooky gestures while drummer Michael Carillo, bassist Lucas Gadke and guitarist Sean Kennedy held down jazzy ’70s prog grooves behind. Theatrics are a big part of what they do, and O’Brien is obviously a focal point there since she’s the one with the mic talking about witches and forests and black magic and all the rest, but the band has some chops to back that stuff up, and their delivery was tight. After watching Radio Moscow for however many days, Blood Ceremony were definitely on a different wavelength, but a retro spirit persisted.

Pentagram

Pentagram (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I don’t really get down with Halloween celebration or anything, but if I did, I’d have a hard time thinking of a better way to do so than check out a Pentagram set. They were pretty clearly too loud for ArtsRiot. Early on, bassist Greg Turley has some power issue on his side of the stage and even later there were moments where the low-end frequency just overwhelmed the room. Still, there were the usual shouts for frontman Bobby Liebling, guitarist Victor Griffin killed it with professionalism and class, and drummer Sean Saley punched in the side of my skull with his kick drum. They broke out “Vampyre Love” I guess for the occasion, and for the first time that I’ve seen on this run, there was a sustained moshpit going for them. Crowds have been rowdy, but this was actual moshing, start to finish. Griffin had the house crew turn the lights up after starting the set in relative darkness, in which Kings DestroyBang and Blood Ceremony had also played for the most part, and he and Liebling played to the crowd, which was as into it as any I’ve seen on this trip. They’ve been fun to watch all along, but especially so with an audience to play off of, and Burlington wasn’t the biggest show or the biggest room, but the people there were going for it, and Pentagram did likewise.

When it was finished, people in various stages of costume stumbled around and out of the venue. It was cold in Burlington, somewhere in the 40s — another weather system to add to the list — and load-out for the most part had already been done. It’s been interesting to see, traveling with this band and for the most part seeing the same acts night after night, how much a “good show” has to do with where the gig is happening and what it’s like there as much as how any given act is playing. This tour has had its progression, bands getting tighter and whatnot, but a lot of it has been about the places too.

Considering how the norm is staying in the same spot or few spots and having bands come through, it seems even more apparent this time around than in the spring how pivotal the right place is as well as the right band.

We headed out to the Econolodge in Montpelier pretty quickly to get an early start back to New York in the morning, though a lot of good it would do in fighting fatigue. Tour is definitely in wind-down mode, but I have the feeling the last two shows are going to make for a decent final surge. New York tonight, Providence tomorrow.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Fall Tour Pt. 19: It’s a Long Way to the Top

Posted in Features on October 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

logging truck

10.31.14 — 5:40PM — Pre-show — Arts Riot, Burlington, VT

“This highway’s actually pretty mint.” — Carl Porcaro

It’s like a riot of the arts, this Arts Riot. Decent size room, supposed to hold about 300 people. I guess they do gallery shows and stuff here as well, which I could see pretty easily. Some of the walls have murals on them and the lighting fixtures are pretty wild. A creative space in what two or three years ago was probably an empty warehouse spot. Concrete floor, brick walls, high ceiling. Going by Sean Saley’s soundcheck, it would be a good room in which to record drums, though you might want to put up some wood paneling somewhere if you were going to go that route, if only for form’s sake.

hilltopBlood Ceremony are on the bill tonight in place of Radio Moscow, who had to hightail it back out west to play the Day of the Shred festival, which is tomorrow. I’ve only seen Blood Ceremony once before, at Roadburn 2011, though I can’t seem to find any record of it. Anyway, it happened. They’re stepping in tonight and tomorrow as well and then supposedly Radio Moscow are coming back east to finish out the tour in Providence, which sounds completely insane but totally in character for them. One can only cross one’s fingers and hope last night in Philly wasn’t actually their finish on this tour.

Carl did the drive north this morning. We left Philly with Jim Pitts driving and headed north to Steve’s place in Westchester, which was about two and a half hours on the road, but still it was five-plus more hours north to get to Burlington, and it didn’t really get pretty until we actually got into Vermont. Touched on Massachusetts and stopped for gas, to hit a crummy convenience store, and so on, but got back on the highway as soon as possible. There wasn’t really anything there. Far more productive, at least for the band, was the quick hit to Waterbury, Vermont, to pick up some carl and beerHeady Topper by Alchemist Brewing. Most of these guys are into craft beers, hoppy stuff, and that was apparently a good get. A sense of victory after four and a half hours on the road is a rare enough thing, so if it’s beer you can’t usually get in NYC that does it, fine.

Steve drove up separately from the rest of the band — he’s got his kids this weekend so is going to be back and forth from New York, heading back late tonight/early tomorrow, meeting everyone else in Manhattan for the show tomorrow, heading up to Providence on Sunday — and I haven’t seen him around as yet, but supposedly he’s here somewhere. I don’t know what time doors are, but Arts Riot seems like the kind of place that if you want to get a decent shot, you need to get up front early. Also seems like the kind of place that’s going to have a couple photographers show up. We’ll see how it goes, I guess. I’m not particularly worried at this point. Of slightly greater concern is the fact that it’s 6PM and I’ve eaten nothing today.

Oh yeah, and it’s Halloween. Fucking whoopee.

 

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Fall Tour Pt. 18: Kings Destroy, Bang and Radio Moscow, Philadelphia, PA, 10.30.14

Posted in Reviews on October 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

johnny brendas

Even before I get to liking these bands, I’m biased on this show because both of the city and the venue. If you want to save some time reading, the short version is good times were had. I’ve seen some cool shows at Johnny Brenda’s, was more than a little bummed when Om recently rolled through and I couldn’t be there for it. That show was sold out and so was this one, with Pentagram returning to Philadelphia for what will be their last show in town before they go and record their next album. Traveling with Kings Destroy, we had to head Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)out early, so I didn’t get to see them headlining, but caught Bang and a decent portion of Radio Moscow, and by the time Bang went on, second after Kings Destroy, the place was already packed out. One does not image it became less so as the evening wore on.

I had a weird, vegged out moment at the start of Kings Destroy‘s set. They kicked off this time with “Smokey Robinson,” and I was taking pictures from the balcony at Johnny Brenda’s, and I guess I just went on autopilot. My version of tour mode, maybe. It was a couple minutes before I sort of snapped back to consciousness, and I made my way downstairs from the balcony for “Turul,” which was also jumbled in the set, Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)pushed much earlier than where it might usually appear. That song came to embody a lot of the character of last year’s A Time of Hunting LP for me, its unabashed strangeness and creepy feel standing in for how that material shifted outside the more straightforward riffy doom of the first record. Live, Kings Destroy always seem to revel in it, holding out the hits that slam down for the verse.

“Old Yeller” closed again, which I think works well, and “Mr. O” continues to reside comfortably toward the middle of the set, blindsiding people who think by then that they have the band figured out. With the added off-color element of the dude up front wearing one of those creepy horse masks and Steve Murphy‘s Clamfight shirt with “CENSORED” taped over the vagina-esque tentacle monster there featured, the vibe was pretty loose and where some of the bigger spots on the tour have seemed to kind of become Bang (Photo by JJ Koczan)events, this was just a show. It was kind of a relief, to be honest with you. I don’t know how many people showed up to Johnny Brenda’s in relation to how many were at the Soundstage the night before, but it seems like the tallies were probably close, and in the smaller room, it made for a much better mood all around. Sold out show. Hard to beat that in any size space.

Even if it means you’ve got just about nowhere to go. Bang went on second and ran through their set. It’s not their first time playing Philly since their reunion started, and they were treating it as a hometown show. So was the crowd. The room was plastered and dancing by the time Bang were rolling, and that seemed to suit the band just fine. Same set they’ve been doing, but no complaints. More so than in Baltimore, Bang (Photo by JJ Koczan)they looked again like they were really enjoying themselves, and it was fun to watch. As far as victory laps go, this tour would be a hard one for a band that hasn’t been on the road in 40 years, but “Keep On” was a stone groove as ever and the sound was heavier than it’s been all along with all the volume trapped in that confined room, nowhere to go but through the earplugs.

That served Radio Moscow well too, Parker Griggs‘ guitar screaming back on itself while young and old offstage got caught in the full-tilt conversation. A three-piece, Radio Moscow fit well on the stage where with five Kings Destroy had been somewhat more crowded — as had the four-piece Pentagram when they backlined their gear — and they took quick command of Johnny Brenda’s, which was happy to go along with them for “Just Don’t Know,” “Death of a Queen,” “Broke Down,” “Before it Burns” and “250 Miles,” which is what would remain stuck in my head for the rest of the night, its Radio Moscow (Photo by JJ Koczan)stripped down bluesy roll by now nestled well into the fractured, exhausted, tour-ebola-added remains of my consciousness. Paul Marrone‘s drum fills came in torrents and Anthony Meier‘s bass tone coated the room, and people just flipped out for them. That’s been the case all along — their audience skews young as compared to, say, Pentagram (though Pentagram have a fair number of younger heads out now as well thanks in part to Last Days Here, the documentary on frontman Bobby Liebling), and the kids go fairly apeshit with each arriving guitar solo — but their response seemed especially fervent in Philadelphia. What had been a chilly space quickly warmed up.

Radio Moscow (Photo by JJ Koczan)Load out started during Radio Moscow‘s set, all of Kings Destroy‘s gear had been brought down into the back hallway of the venue after they played and was basically just waiting for everyone to relax a bit and have a couple drinks, chat with Clamfight‘s Sean McKee, who was kind enough to come to the show, etc. I could still hear “These Days” while guitars and heads were being loaded in the back of the van, and we weren’t quite moving to a place 250 miles away, but I know it was about 130, so we took off before Pentagram, apologizing to drummer Sean Saley on the way out. See you tomorrows, all around.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Fall Tour Pt. 17: Politicians in My Eyes

Posted in Features on October 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

sky from bridge

10.30.14 — 4:17PM — Thursday — Johnny Brenda’s, Philly

“We got a call about a suspicious van…” — The Cop

The smell of barbecue sauce is immediate and pervasive upon walking into Johnny Brenda’s. I’ve said many times before that I’m a huge dork for Philadelphia, and there are a lot of times I miss being in Philly more than New York since I moved away last year. Even being a two-hour drive from this city, just knowing it was there was reassuring. The area around Johnny Brenda’s is much the same as I last left it — hasn’t been that long — if incrementally more gentrified. Someone should set up a camera on Girard Street and do a time lapse for the next five years. You can see the property values being raised in real-time.

A knock came on the hotel door this morning and it was Carl saying we were leaving. Like now? Like now. I took a quick shower anyway — there was time — and hit the Flying J for coffee, iced tea, orange juice and some Tylenol Cold and Sinus. I’d woken up coughing pretty viciously and needed to get that shit under control. Still feel better today than yesterday as regards tour ebola, better than in Pittsburgh. Coffee was alright, which was fortunate because I bought a 24 oz. cup of it, and soon enough we got going. Carl’s had an abscess on his leg for most of the tour and yesterday it became clear enough that it wasn’t going to go away on its own and something needed to be done about it. By something, I mean a lancing and draining of pus. Pop.

He and Steve had tried to go to an urgi-center this morning near the hotel, but to no avail in terms of the place taking Carl’s phillyinsurance, so we had to head north a bit into Jersey to find another spot. I think we were somewhere around Cherry Hill when we pulled into the parking lot and he went in, set about filling out forms and all the rest. Steve and Jim Pitts went for a bite of pizza and C-Wolf, Rob, Aaron and I just hung around by the van. It was going to be a while, and yeah, that’s how it worked out. Rob went down the way to CVS and bought a devil mask that he may or may not wear tomorrow night in Burlington for the Halloween show, and I started the review of last night sitting in the parking lot using the place’s wifi so as not to eat up data in the van. My hope is it was vaguely coherent, but I have my doubts. The whole idea for today was that since there wasn’t a long drive — we’ll have five hours tomorrow, give or take, up to Burlington after two-and-a-half tonight to Steve’s place outside NYC — we’d just kind of loaf around the Comfort Inn until it was time to head to Philly. Didn’t quite pan out.

Carl had gone to the CVS to fill his prescription when the cops showed up. Two cars, two officers, said they’d gotten a call about the van. Fair enough. School kids were crossing the street by then and legitimately, it’s a van full of weirdos and longhairs. I mean, in a perfect world they’d be too busy locking up ass-grabbing crossing guards and shit, but I get where they’d want to ask a question and confirm what we were doing there. Steve explained to them that we’re just souls whose intentions are good and asked that we please not be misunderstood. It was an easy enough interaction but any time the cops are involved it could just as easily go the other way, so yeah, a little tense. We picked Carl up in the CVS parking lot and headed out at a perfectly normal speed. Nothing to see here, folks.

In the spirit of Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar, Johnny Brenda’s is a small place that does good shows. The difference is there’s also a bar/restaurant downstairs here. The gig is sold out, so I expect it will be good and crowded offstage as well as on. I should probably get some food between now and then, or I could just sit here and continue to cough.

 

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Fall Tour Pt. 16: Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Bang and Kings Destroy, Baltimore, MD, 10.29.14

Posted in Reviews on October 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

baltimore soundstage (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Baltimore’s Soundstage is right down by the bay, so after Pentagram‘s soundcheck, I went down and looked at the water for a bit, listened to a street musician play drums on buckets of various sizes. He was alright, but the main attraction was the water. After being in the Midwest for a couple days, it’s good to be back near the coast. Even all the lakes in Michigan, rivers and whatnot on the way, there’s something different about salty water, even if it’s the kind you’d never want to get in and go for a swim. Makes the brain feel less claustrophobic, which is kind of ironic given all the open spaces in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, etc.

A five-band Wednesday night got started around 7:45PM. The sound was solid and it was the best lighting of the tour so far. I like Baltimore, have spent some significant time in the city over the years and was happy to run into Chuck Dukehart from Foghound (new stuff on the way) and Vang from Foehammer and chat for a bit. The Pilgrim opened:

The Pilgrim

The Pilgrim (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Not to be confused with Rhode Island’s Pilgrim, Baltimorean five-piece The Pilgrim released their self-titled debut back in 2012 (review here), and as vocalist Mis Zill announced from the stage, this was their last show for an indeterminate amount of time. They played well and obviously had the crowd in their corner, and I recognized some of what they played from the record, which was satisfying two years after the fact. Stylistically, they’re somewhere between ’70s boogie and classic metal, the two guitars working smoothly together while the bass and drums made up a definitive rhythm section. It’s a pretty classic dynamic, but The Pilgrim wore it ably and seemed to fit as they spread out on the wide stage, Mis Zill having room for leg-up Shiva poses and/or yoga moves while pushing out high notes.

Kings Destroy

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

A little bit of changeup from Kings Destroy in opening with “The Mountie” from the first record into “Smokey Robinson” and “The Whittler.” The difference was notable immediately, and where “Old Yeller” often feels like the band is lurching to life, the crash-in with “The Mountie” was more immediate. At this point in the tour, it’s gonna work either way, frankly, and it did. I knew it was going to be a joy to watch these guys play every night. I don’t know if I’ve hit 20 times yet seeing them this year, but it has to be at least 15, and I’ve yet to walk away disappointed. Vocalist Steve Murphy called an audible at the end of the set, going around to guitarist Carl Porcaro, drummer Rob Sefcik, bassist Aaron Bumpus and guitarist Chris Skowronski to switch the closer from “Embers” to “Old Yeller,” and it looked pretty touch and go as to what song was about to start, but it worked out and “Old Yeller” made an excellent finale after “Casse-Tête” and the always raucous “Mr. O,” the value of which in the set isn’t to be understated in how the hook and uptick in tempo draws in a crowd on any given night, including at Soundstage.

Bang

Bang (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Another tight set from Bang. “Redman,” “Our Home,” “Last Will and Testament” and others from their 1971 self-titled debut have become pretty familiar by this point in the tour, and it’s been satisfying to watch them come together over the course of these shows. Baltimore was a workman set. Bang — guitarist Frankie Gilcken, bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrara and drummer Jake Leger — got on stage and were all business from there on out, and as usual, they had a few fervent supporters in the crowd who had obviously picked up one or another of the various reissues they’ve had over the years. There was less Ferrara/Gilcken in the middle of the stage, but they were as tight as they’ve been all along anyway, and Leger‘s swinging style continues to be a perfect fit for their classic material. “Questions” closed out as it has, its resounding groove a reminder of the influence that era continues to have even now. Bang play off that well, with their vintage gear and swagger, but the prevailing vibe continues to be how glad they are to be back on stage.

Radio Moscow

Radio Moscow (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Slayed. Almost to a terrifying degree. Radio Moscow have demolished stages more or less since the tour began, but I guess the difference this time around was nothing went wrong, their set wasn’t cut short, there was no hiccup and Parker GriggsAnthony Meier and Paul Marrone could just wail on their songs. They had the best sound of the night coming out of the Soundstage P.A., and there were a couple moments — “Broke Down” is still stuck in my head, along with “250 Miles” and “Rancho Tehama Airport,” not to mention Marrone‘s drum solo in “No Good Woman,” which closed out — where you just had to step back and let out a “holy shit” at how hard they were hitting it. They’ve been a big part of the draw for this tour, and while Soundstage wasn’t as crowded as some of the other shows have been, even at its most packed, t was clear that a lot of the people who showed up were there in no small part because Radio Moscow were rolling through. They did so at top speed, impossibly tight and with zero pretense. I feel like people who don’t see this band have no idea what they’re missing.

Pentagram

Pentagram (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I feel like I’m repeating myself every day, but the truth is that at this point, the tour is locked in. All four bands are delivering their show. It doesn’t really matter where they are, who’s there to see it, whatever. They get on stage and just go for it. Pentagram is no different. They came on after their foreboding intro with guitarist Victor Griffin, bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley starting “Death Row” ahead of the quick arrival of frontman Bobby Liebling, who’s never failed to carry the stage of any size on this tour, whether it was the huge church in Pittsburgh or Soundstage with the back bar blocked off. This was as close as Pentagram will come to a hometown show on this run, and Baltimore is arguably the center of their influence — or at least in the central region of it — and they put the work in to show why they’ve earned the legendary status that they have. I continue to look forward to a follow-up to Last Rites and hearing this lineup take on more lost ’70s cuts and maybe a new composition or two.

Even at the end of the night, I felt better for this show than in Pittsburgh, took a couple minutes to just sort of enjoy it and let the night soak in before load-out had to start and I drove to the Comfort Inn in North East — which is both the name of the town and its geographic location — Maryland, about 45 minutes outside Baltimore. The plan was to hang around the motel for most of the next day, since it’s a relatively short drive to Philadelphia for the show at Johnny Brenda’s, which is sold out, but you know how it goes with plans.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Fall Tour 2014 Pt. 15: Ape is High

Posted in Features on October 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

into baltimore

10.29.14 — 5:22PM — Wednesday evening — Soundstage, Baltimore

“He is an epic failure.” — Aaron Bumpus, about anyone, ever.

Tour ebola is better today, or at least that’s what I’ve been forcing myself to believe as I mainline vitamin C and DayQuil. Tried to pick up some more Advil as well at a truck stop along the way, but failed. I wound up trying to charge an orange juice and had to buy a York Peppermint Patty to get past the two-dollar minimum for credit cards. Feels good. Rock and roll.

camden yardsJim Pitts picked up some Who and Thin Lizzy CDs and we listened to them in the van. Probably the right call as we made our way through cold, grey, bum-you-right-out Pennsylvania. I don’t know how many different weather systems we’ve seen — it was like 75 degrees when we got to Cleveland — but it’s been at least three so far, and there are still five shows left. It’s a small wonder the van resounds with coughs.

Slow start to the day, but the good news is I slept and slept hard. I didn’t necessarily feel like I had a choice in that — it was going to happen whether I wanted it to or not — but I’m glad it did. There was about an hour to kill before we left out of New Stanton, where we stayed last night, and headed to Baltimore, so I nodded back off after showering as well. The more the merrier, even if I continued to wake myself up coughing, and likely Carl as well, who has the misfortune to be sharing my room.

Trip to Baltimore was uneventful in the extreme except for Aaron introducing all of us to Mandrill Is, the 1971 second album from NYC’s Mandrill, who ran a line between funk and soul and rock and about five other genres before they were done. I was way into it. Pretty expensive on CD, but I’ll keep my eyes open for a copy. We stopped at a music store so Rob could get a backup head for his kick drum, and there was a barbecue pub right next door so the pentagram soundcheckpre-show meal was had there. Early dinner, I guess. I had yet another in my ongoing series of chicken caesar salads. Chicken was good but the salad itself had almost no dressing on it. I didn’t care. I’ll take raw ruffage at this point. As long as it’s not from a gas station. Jim also bought dinner for everyone, which was very kind, but I threw in cash for myself since it didn’t feel right. Dude certainly doesn’t owe me anything and it’s not like I’m in the band. I don’t know.

Baltimore’s own The Pilgrim are opening the show tonight at Soundstage, so it’s five bands. I remember their self-titled CD from a couple years back was cool, so it will be interesting to see them live and see where they’re at now. Pentagram were soundchecking when we got here and I got to hear them do “Walk in the Blue Light,” which was right on because it’s a good song and though it’s written on the setlist for each night, they haven’t actually been playing it, I guess opting for the Animals cover instead. No complaints there, but if it was one or the other, I’d probably take the original. Whatever my druthers are worth in things like salads and Pentagram setlists.

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Fall Tour Pt. 14: Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Bang and Kings Destroy in Pittsburgh, PA

Posted in Reviews on October 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

mr smalls

…Or at least near Pittsburgh, if not actually “in” it. Mr. Smalls Theatre, a righteously converted church with cavernous ceilings, incense smell baked into the walls and, thankfully, a spacious balcony, seems to be across the river from downtown, so I’m not sure what the exact designation is. Millvale, maybe? Anyway, it’s damn close to Pittsburgh, and that’ll have to do.

When I first got inside, I went and talked to the sound guy for a minute, just to say hi, cool room, etc. He asked which band I was with, and I said I was touring with Kings Destroy but I didn’t play, and he goes, “Just a hanger on?” That felt good. Deeply good. I think I said something like, “Yeah, basically,” and asked him for the wifi password. For what it’s worth, the sound all night was excellent. As I said last post, I was feeling kings destroy pbpretty under the weather for this one, so I stayed on that balcony for the duration. The show was the four touring bands — Kings DestroyBangRadio Moscow and Pentagram, in that order — and the place got fairly packed out by the time Radio Moscow went on, but even for Kings Destroy with an early 7:30PM start, there were people there. They were thanked for showing up early.

Granted, I was in a haze anyway — I kept nodding off before the bands went on, sitting in my chair on the balcony — but it was a very different experience watching the show from such a distance. More like a clip on YouTube or something. The energy was still there, but the physical sense of being away from it made it another kind of appeal. Add to that the pressure in my sinuses, which with the earplugs in made the whole thing kind of otherworldly as Kings Destroy started up with “Old Yeller” and got the show rolling in their lurching kind of way. “The Toe” followed, and while people were still coming in, I could see up front they were getting into it. A bird’s eye view of what I’ve been able to sense happening all along. I felt a little bit bang pblike I was doing an anthropological study.

The tour is in go-mode, so it wasn’t a surprise that Kings Destroy or anyone who played after them owned the stage as well as they did. It didn’t really matter how many people were there at any point, they were doing their show and did it well with nearly a week of every-night plowing through behind them. “Smokey Robinson” from the new album was one of three newer songs to be aired, with “Mr. O” given a much appreciated shout to yours truly and “Embers” following. Three really killer songs that represent the new record well in being some of their best work to date. “Blood of Recompense” closed and Bang came out after a long changeover and gave their set a workout. They’ve played the same songs every night, but they’re more locked in now than they were when the tour started in Chicago, Frank FerraraFrankie Gilcken and Jake Leger continuously smoothing out their classic sound, Leger blending seamlessly radio moscow pbwith the two original members in giving a fresh swing to the warm grooves, paced well and easy-rolling.

Radio Moscow absolutely scorched. Opening with “So Alone,” they tore into “Broke Down” and the dangerously catchy “Death of a Queen” from this year’s Magical Dirt LP, the always-welcome “Just Don’t Know” and “Open Your Eyes” — I think — before having their set cut short. That was a bummer and the crowd expressed their discontent in a round of boos that turned to cheers in support for the band. Nothing was broken, nothing out of order — guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs, bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone had been tearing ass through their frenetic heavy psych jams of which, even from as far away as I was, I could feel the vibrancy. Apparently the show was just running late and they were the ones who took the hit. Still, even the chance to see them play any songs at all was a win for Mr. Smalls, which showed appreciation in a fervent round of applause.

I was fading fast. I’d been nodding off during Bang – that’s not a slight pentagram pbon their performance, just noting that I was having a hard time keeping my head up. I knew I wanted to stick around for at least the start of Pentagram, and I did do that, watching “Death Row” and “All Your Sins” and the The Animals cover, “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” that has become a nightly inclusion before I had to tap out. The good news was that Mr. Smalls was loud enough that even laying down in the back of the van, I could still clearly hear the band playing, but yeah, my evening was done a little early.

Load-out happened at its usual leisurely pace and I drove to where we were staying, about 25 minutes out of Pittsburgh in a place called New Stanton. Got in around one and I know I was out before two, though much of the night was spent coughing and trying to keep my head in a position to allow the mucus to drain. Would I be out of line if I said “ugh?” Not my best night, but at least the show was good.

No extra pics this time, but I’ll hope to pick back up in Baltimore as the tour moves on for the next gig.

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Fall Tour Pt. 13: Heaven and Hell

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

pittsburgh

10.28.14 — 5:52PM — Tuesday evening — Mr. Smalls balcony, Pittsburgh, PA

“I am Dr. Remulak. I am Dr. Remulak.” — Chris Skowronski and Rob Sefcik

My head feels like it’s going to cave in. Not in that good, rock and roll kind of way either, like when I watched Beast in the Field the other night. Like in the my-sinuses-have-revolted-and-are-trying-to take-the-rest-of-me-down-from-the-inside kind of way. I could feel it yesterday (was that yesterday?) when I woke up at Postman Dan’s, but it started to get real bad overnight last night, tossing and turning, unable to breathe and all that wonderful at vanhaving-a-cold stuff. Traveling sick. I used to call it SARS. I guess if I wanted to be current I’d call it ebola. Another day, another plague.

I had a cold the week before I left to come on this tour, but was pretty sure I’d gotten over it, so I think this is just another round from the road time, lack of sleep and so on. I got maybe four hours of sleep last night, nodded off at 3:30 and woke up at 4:45 just in agony. It sucked. I shit you not, I walked outside the Red Roof Inn to see how far away I was from the traffic I wanted to go play in, but I was too far to even do that. Fucking brutal. Today I’ve been a full-on booger fountain, and coughing, and the pressure in my head pounding away. I claimed a spot on the balcony at Mr. Smalls — which as a photographer I met in Cleveland last night told me, is an awesome room in a converted old church — and plan to stay here for the duration, but even so, I might not make it through the show before I go back and lay down in the van. Aaron was kind enough to give me a pack of Halls he had that was apparently a spare, and I bought some severe strength DayQuil and have taken Advil in an attempt to bring the swelling down in my sinuses, but nothing’s given me any real relief. I’m also warm as fuck and think it’s probably a fever. My Ron Burgundy impression has taken a real hit as a result.

Honestly, feeling like shit has been my major activity for the day. We stopped once in Ohio on the way to Pittsburgh and sat in some bridge traffic once we got to the city, but other than stopping for a very quiet pre-show meal — not quite dinner, not quite lunch — at some sub-hipster exposed-brick brewpub in what quickly got referred to as the “Massage District” and getting a chicken caesar wrap and some fries and foolishly not getting a cup of coffee when it was being ordered, it’s been pretty tame. There’s like a 70 percent chance I’m going to take my shoes off as I watch this show tonight sitting on the balcony. Maybe band eatingeven 83 percent. It’s going up by the minute because tilting my head downward to look at the laptop monitor is pushing all the mucus toward my face. Once again, brutal.

It’s worth noting that as of tonight, this tour is more than halfway over. Pittsburgh is the fifth of the 10 dates Kings Destroy are doing with Radio Moscow, Bang and Pentagram, but when you factor in the Lansing show, it’s the centerpiece of an 11-date run and it’ll mean more than half the tour is down when it’s over. A while to go before we get there, since the night hasn’t started, and I won’t say I’m not looking forward to watching the gig, but neither will I mind falling asleep as quickly as I possibly can afterwards and hopefully staying that way for at least five solid hours. Doesn’t seem like an unreasonable demand, but we’ll see how it goes.

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Fall Tour Pt. 12: Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Bang and Kings Destroy in Cleveland, OH, 10.27.14

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

kings destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Scholars maintain that if you’re driving through Ohio for two hours, it’ll feel like at least four. I’ve yet to make my way through the Buckeye State that its flat expanse, constant construction and ever-visible police presence haven’t gotten inside my head. When we got to Cleveland and the band had their gear unloaded — because it was House of Blues and apparently that’s how it goes — I made my way down the block to a coffee shop and had a red eye, coffee with espresso shots, and sat for a bit. Made it back in time for Kings Destroy‘s soundcheck (I’m pretty sure that’s the order it happened in, to be honest there’s a bit of fog on the whole night; sober, sober fog) and got to watch that before doors opened.

It was the smaller room at House of Blues, or one of them anyway, but the sound was big and full and the P.A. blared bands that all sounded one way or another like Soundgarden and later Saint Vitus, and with just the four acts on the bill, the show got off to a reasonable start around 8:30 or so. By then people had shown up, but it wasn’t a sell out so there was room even at the most crowded point, probably halfway through Pentagram or thereabouts. Bands were pretty relaxed after the off-day from the tour, so it was a cool vibe both back and on stage.

Kings Destroy

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I think the chance to let loose in Lansing did Kings Destroy some good. They were back to the tour setlist, a shorter time on stage, but they got right into it and had solid energy the whole way through. I’ve been fortunate enough to see them be this locked in before, so it’s not necessarily a surprise, but it’s been enjoyable to watch either way, and with the House of Blues being all ages or at least 18-and-up, whatever it was, there were some actual kids there up front who seemed to get into it. By the time they were through “The Whittler,” which was second after the standard opener “Old Yeller,” the room was on their side, and though it was early, there was a healthy amount of noise after each song. “Smokey Robinson,” from the new album, was again a highlight, and I find that much like “Embers” on the last run, that’s the song I tend to gravitate toward every night. I pulled my earplugs part-way out to let a little more volume in, and no regrets. The House of Blues P.A. seemed to be keyed in for maximum low end the whole night, but that suited Kings Destroy well, their leads cutting through the rumble smoothly in the verses of “Blood of Recompense,” a winning finish even with its quiet ending.

Bang

Bang (Photo by JJ Koczan)

“Our Home,” “Idealist, Realist,” “Questions” — Bang have no shortage of liquified grooves. Of the four acts on the tour, they seem most to be enjoying the time on stage, bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrara joking with the crowd about screwing up recordings and so on. Drummer Jake Leger was in his element behind the kit as Ferrara and guitarist Frank Gilcken came to the middle of the stage as they have at all these shows to revel in the fluidity of the material. Once again, the audience knew them. I stood next to the dude from Outlaw Recordings, who had done a vinyl issue of Bang‘s self-titled debut — also put out Victor Griffin‘s Late for an Early Grave 2004 solo offering — and he wasn’t even close to being the only one singing along, up to the point of some dude behind me filling in the line “Yet she never locked her bedroom door” after the stop in “Last Will and Testament.” If Bang have proven to be anything over the course of these shows, it’s been a good time, and House of Blues was no less fun than they’ve been all along, their smooth style and positive vibes winning favor among both those new to them and the already converted.

Radio Moscow

Radio Moscow (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It cost them another kick-drum pedal, or it re-cost them the same one, but Radio Moscow utterly slayed the House of Blues. I don’t know if the sound was just right to pick up the richness of Anthony Meier‘s bass tone or what, the balance of the band is so much geared toward Parker Griggs‘ guitar work and ever-ready shred, but they were full and heavy and as they sprinted through the hairpin turns of “Mistreated Queen,” it was all I could do to keep from getting dizzy. Drummer Paul Marrone put on his usual clinic, and even when the pedal broke, there was no snapping the momentum they had working in their favor. “250 Miles” from 2009’s Brain Cycles has become a personal favorite, the trio lulling the audience into a false sense of security with the soft bluesy beginning only to bust out the rager jam of “Brain Cycles” itself immediately thereafter. They just kill it, every night. It’s what they do. And even in by-now-familiar go-tos like “Death of a Queen,” “Just Don’t Know” and “Broke Down,” they maintain a sense of volatility, of being just about to fly off the rails, without ever actually losing control. They’re easily one of the best live acts I’ve seen this year, and I’ve seen them more than 10 times now thus year, and have yet to come out of one of their sets not feeling like I just had my ass handed to me.

Pentagram

Pentagram (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Every venue, every show, there’s the same voice yelling “Bobby!” in the exact same way. And I’ve looked around, it’s not someone traveling with the bands. Pentagram‘s Bobby Liebling is simply just that charismatic, that attention-drawing, that everywhere they play, people go off at the mere thought of seeing him on stage.Cleveland was no different, and Liebling was in good spirits, smiling at the crowd and cracking with bassist Greg Turley, doing his usual stage moves with/on Victor Griffin and nailing the vocals in “Frustration,” “Forever My Queen” and all the rest. The Animals cover has become a standard inclusion, and if they played “Lay down and Die,” I missed it, but the set was right on anyway, and even with a smaller crowd than some of these shows have had, LieblingGriffinTurley and drummer Sean Saley were clearly fired up as they made their way to and through the encore of “Be Forewarned” and “When the Screams Come,” the “Bobby!” shouts and “Pen-ta-gram” chants continuing even long after the singer had left the stage. Their resurgence along with that of Saint Vitus over the last half-decade only continues to prove the timelessness of doom  and of their contributions to it. Even after all the lineup changes they’ve been through and the years of turbulence, there’s only one Pentagram.

Was accosted by three homeless people outside the House of Blues. One said he had to catch a bus. One just asked for change. One cut to the chase and straight up asked for beer and/or weed. Despite these downtrodden apparitions, who indeed got all my change, load-out was done by the time I got around to asking if load-out was done, and we headed out to the motel with me at the wheel, as seems to have become the standard procedure. Got turned around owing to some highway construction, but sorted it eventually and got to the Red Roof Inn somewhere around 2AM, already looking forward to waking up this morning and being able to shower before heading to Pittsburgh.

More pics after the jump.

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Fall Tour Pt. 11: Just Don’t Know

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

michigan sunset

10.27.14 — 2:27PM — Monday afternoon — En route to Cleveland

“She’s not real pretty, but she’s rich.” – Postman Dan, on Senator Dianne Feinstein

I snapped the above picture last night before the show of the sunset in Michigan. If it looks peaceful or serene in any way, then please just imagine the exact opposite for how the rest of the night played out after the show ended. As ever, the party was at Postman Dan’s place — the Postmansion — which is an old converted church that he’s essentially corrupted in the name of riff worship and nuanced horticulture. Radio Moscow, who’d been hanging out at the show, came back as well, and Travis from Hydro-Phonic and two of the other members from Dan’s band Cruthu, and of course Mama Jo, Connie, Jim Pitts and I. Made for a crowded kitchen, but there were drinks flowing and Elonkorjuu playing through Dan’s kitchen setup — Swedish heavy prog as party music: awesome — and it escalated quickly. Charm-laden debauchery. Loud voices. Blatant social interaction. Enjoyment of good people and good times. Terrifying.

Dan had set me up with a bedroom, but once I’d charged the camera battery and dumped the pics from the show, postman dan's streetI abdicated to Steve to let him sleep in a bed and said I’d go crash in the van. Great idea. Believe it or not, it wouldn’t be the first time I slept in a van in Postman Dan’s driveway. I think the third. It was about 3:30 in the morning by then and I was ready to crash out, so I went into the driveway. It wasn’t quite at the freezing point, but it was certainly cold enough that Carl remarked this morning that the beer left out here overnight was still chilled. I set up on the back bench with my hoodie on and my bookbag for a pillow and Mystery Science Theater 3000 playing and managed to crash for about an hour, but by 4:45, I was awake and too cold to really go back to sleep, so I decided to see if I could find someplace in the house that wasn’t yet occupied.

My mistake was thinking the festivities would’ve ended by then. Dan, Scott from Cruthu and Paul from Radio Moscow were up playing pool. I couldn’t see them at first through the window and the front door was locked and my phone was dead, so I had a moment of panic that I was going to be stuck outside for the night, but they were there and Dan let me in, wondering why I wasn’t upstairs asleep. Music still playing, though they’d moved on from Elonkorjuu to something else heavy ’70s. Fair enough. Dan took me up to his room and told me to take his bed, he’d sort something out and it was 5AM and I was too cold and tired to argue. I could still hear the music coming up from downstairs, but I nodded off for about an hour and a half and then set to work sorting pictures around 6:30, which I’d fleetwood dinerfind out later was when the last stragglers fell out. I started writing the show review but was nodding off again soon enough and slept for maybe another hour between seven and eight. I’ve been up since.

No shower on the way out, but breakfast at the Fleetwood Diner in Lansing hit the spot — try the Hippie Hash — and we got on the highway shortly thereafter to head for Cleveland. The tour resumes tonight with Kings Destroy, Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Bang and the show is at House of Blues, so should be more like Minneapolis than Grand Rapids, though I’ll take it either way. I expect by the end of the night I’ll smell even worse than I already do, and there are some vicious sleepytime farts floating around the mostly-napping rear portion of this van. Might need to air that out at some point as we roll toward the cruel inevitability of the Ohio Turnpike.

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