The Obelisk Presents: Sasquatch & House of Broken Promises Nov. 2017 West Coast Tour

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on October 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Los Angeles heavy rock magnates Sasquatch released their fifth album, Maneuvers (review here), earlier this year. It was their first record not to be issued through Small Stone, and their first to feature Boston-based drummer Craig Riggs (also vocalist of Roadsaw) in the lineup with guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs and bassist Jason “Cas” Casanova, but even with these changes, Sasquatch not only retained but basked in the enduring righteousness of their songwriting. Working at Mad Oak Studios with producer/engineer Benny Grotto, their hooks in cuts like “Bringing Me Down,” “Anyway” and “Just Couldn’t Stand the Weather” as infectious as ever, if not more so.

Some questions in life are really hard. You have to think before you answer. Those “a train leaves Chicago at the same time a train leaves New York” word problems? I still don’t know how to solve that shit. However, when I got the email from Heavy Talent asking if I wanted to have The Obelisk present Sasquatch‘s upcoming West Coast run with House of Broken Promises (fresh off the release of their new EP on Heavy Psych Sounds), I don’t even think I finished reading the sentence before I shot back “YES!” as my reply. Because it’s Sasquatch, dag nabbit, and in addition to having put out one of 2017’s best records, they’re pretty darn okay in general.

Still a couple dates to be filled in — so get on that if you can help — but Sasquatch start the tour Nov. 3 at the Ozzfest Meets Knotfest pre-party, where they’ll join Lo-PanBrant Bjork and Monster Magnet (info here) and pick up thereafter to kick ass with House of Broken Promises all the way up and down the coastline. As we say here on the other side of the country: Frickin’ awesome.

Also, speaking of — somebody needs to save me one of these posters. Check it out:

sasquatch house of broken promises tour

SASQUATCH NOV. 2017 WEST COAST TOUR
All Dates with House of Broken Promises except where indicated:
Nov 3 – Los Angeles, CA – Ozzfest Pre-Party * Sasquatch Only
Nov 4 – Las Vegas, NV – Dive Bar
Nov 5 – Flagstaff, AZ – The Green Room
Nov 6 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Metro Music Hall
Nov 7 – Lake Tahoe, NV – Rojo’s Tavern
Nov 8 – Eugene, OR – Old Nick’s Pub
Nov 9 – Seattle, WA – El Corazon
Nov 10 – Portland, OR – (TBA)
Nov 11 – Sacramento, CA – Cafe Colonial
Nov 12 – Bay Area (TBA)

Sasquatch, Maneuvers (2017)

Sasquatch on Thee Facebooks

Sasquatch on Twitter

Sasquatch website

Sasquatch on Bandcamp

Mad Oak Records website

Mad Oak Studios on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Talent website

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Sasquatch, Maneuvers: The Twists and Turns

Posted in Reviews on June 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sasquatch-maneuvers

In the 13 years since they released their self-titled debut, Los Angeles heavy rockers Sasquatch have somewhat quietly — and somewhat loudly — become one of the foremost American delivery systems of straightforward, flawlessly composed heavy rock and roll. Their fifth full-length breaks with a three-record Roman numeral tradition established across 2014’s IV (review here), 2010’s III (review here) and 2006’s II (discussed here) — in being titled Maneuvers, and with a sort-of-self-release through Mad Oak Records where its four predecessors found issue through Small Stone as well as by being the first Sasquatch album to feature Roadsaw vocalist Craig Riggs on drums alongside guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs and bassist Jason “Cas” Casanova. Riggs also owns Mad Oak Studios in Allston, Massachusetts, where Maneuvers was recorded by producer Benny Grotto before being sent to Andrew Schneider in New York for mixing and Justin Weis in San Francisco to be mastered — if nothing else, the record has gotten around — and he steps into Sasquatch in place of Rick Ferrante, who still shares a writing credit on some of the album’s nine tracks.

And as ever for Sasquatch, the writing is the crucial element. I am very much a fan of the band and their output to-date, so if you need to, take my saying so with an appropriately-sized grain of salt, but as they have developed over the years into their own sound — Gibbs as attitude-laden vocalist, soloist and riffer, Casanova as anchor and a purveyor of high-class low-end complement and tonal richness– each Sasquatch offering since the first has been tied together through a near-unmatched-in-riff-rock quality of craftsmanship. And on Maneuvers, the thread continues in pieces like “More Than You’ll Ever Be,” the leadoff single and opener “Rational Woman” (premiered here), “Destroyer,” “Just Couldn’t Stand the Weather,” “Drown all the Evidence,” “Bringing Me Down,” “Anyway” and closer “Window Pain,” which if you’re paying attention, accounts for the whole record minus the penultimate interlude “Lude,” which at least goes to the effort of having a clever title.

Couple this essential facet of their approach with Grotto‘s as-expected full, clear and clean-but-not-overly-so production — still allowing for the punch of Casanova‘s bass in “Rational Woman” and a right-on fuzzy breadth swirling in the later, slower, key-inclusive “Drown all the Evidence” — and Maneuvers, as a title, could have any number of origins. The word itself, along with the fighter pilot featured on the cover art by Troy Goodrich, brings to mind a military context, going out on maneuvers, or trying to outflank one’s opponent. That could be a reference to the changes in and around the band itself — a convenient if unlikely narrative — the fact that they released the album with minimal fanfare ahead of a European tour, essentially outflanking their audience — also unlikely, but not impossible — or their use of “maneuvers” could simply refer to the practice of their songwriting itself, serving as another way of saying Maneuvers, the record, is Sasquatch making the moves they make, doing what they do.

Whether or not that’s where the name comes from, it’s true to how Maneuvers plays out. Sasquatch demonstrate clear, obvious mastery of their approach as “Rational Woman” kicks off at a high clip and the nod-groovy “More than You’ll Ever Be” follows with an extra dose of echo on Gibbs‘ vocals, leading into “Destroyer” (not a cover of The Atomic Bitchwax), the hook of which reinforces the push of an opening salvo from which it would be difficult to ask more than is given. It’s a first-third of the tracklist working to establish and build momentum that continues as “Bringing Me Down” expands the melodic context with some vocal harmonies (are those backing vocals by Riggs? layers from Gibbs? it’s hard to tell) in its second-half bridge to set up an all the more fluid transition into the organ-laced centerpiece “Drown all the Weather,” which along with the subsequent “Drown all the Evidence” and “Window Pain” brings in David Unger (a bandmate of Riggs‘ as singer of White Dynomite) to handle keys, only enhancing Sasquatch‘s long-embodied blend of the classic and modern in heavy rock.

sasquatch-Photo-by-Edko-Fuzz

“Just Couldn’t Stand the Weather” and “Drown all the Evidence” hit back-to-back and are the two longest cuts on Maneuvers at just under six and a half minutes each, and their pairing seems by no means to be an accident. Rather, after the raucous launch and the shift begun on “Bringing Me Down,” they stand out in the middle of the album as a point of essential listener immersion. The take and tone aren’t radically different from what Sasquatch have already brought to bear, but the keys make a difference to be sure, and where “Rational Woman” barely lets those hearing it catch their breath before shoving them into “More than You’ll Ever Be,” both of the longer tracks allow a more patient rollout to take hold amid the still-resonant hooks. Nothing more than a good band capable of working in different contexts doing just that and doing it well. The following “Anyway” almost seems to make an aside of the two/three songs before it, but brings Maneuvers back to a more grounded and straightforward position à la “More than You’ll Ever Be” or “Bringing Me Down” as they shift into the final movement in the last third.

While the total runtime stands at an utterly manageable 38 minutes (IV was 43, if you want to compare), this last set of three tracks, with the 17 seconds of “Lude” picking up after the quick fade of “Anyway” and leading into “Window Pain,” is the shortest and most deceptively efficient of them. And when it hits, “Window Pain,” naturally, serves to tie the various sides of Maneuvers together, bringing back Unger on keys and welcoming noted Boston improv specialist James Rohr (The Blue RibbonsThe Family Township) on B3 for additional flourish. It becomes somewhat curious that Sasquatch close on an energetic middle-ground — “Window Pain” is more emotional than it is a riot — but five records deep, they know the choices they’re making and one isn’t inclined to argue with either the execution of the finale, the depth of the arrangement or the manner in which it eases the listener to the silence that follows.

One might have said the same thing about the preceding album, but Maneuvers finds Sasquatch wholly mature and in unshaken command of their craft and style. They’ve been through some changes in the last couple years, perhaps, but what makes them who they are very much remains intact and pushes forward with characteristic boldness and the update of classic methods and structures that has made bridging generations of rock impulses sound so completely natural across their entire discography. Sasquatch are nothing short of a treasure in US heavy rock and roll, and their Maneuvers are sharp, refined and something special to behold. One of 2017’s best, easily.

Sasquatch, Maneuvers (2017)

Sasquatch on Thee Facebooks

Sasquatch on Twitter

Sasquatch website

Sasquatch on Bandcamp

Mad Oak Records website

Mad Oak Studios on Thee Facebooks

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On Wax: White Dynomite & Hey Zeus, Split 7″

Posted in On Wax on March 21st, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Even as far as 7″s go, the new Mad Oak Records/Wonderdrug Records split between riffy Boston punkers White Dynomite and heavy rock four-piece Hey Zeus is pretty brief. The two cuts included, White Dynomite‘s “Sweet Tooth” and Hey Zeus‘ “Stomach,” are done in under five minutes total, but the alliance of the two bands carries more substance than that might indicate. With members of Roadsaw and Wrecking Crew and Fast Acting Fuses in their lineup, White Dynomite are no slouches when it comes to pedigree. Recently signed to Ripple Music for a reissue of their 2013 self-titled full-length debut, they’ve also added guitarist Jay Fortin (currently of Supermachine, formerly of Scissorfight) to the ranks, and while he doesn’t play on “Sweet Tooth,” his presence is felt on the split anyway since he took the pictures of the bands on each side’s cover and handled the layout of the 7″ package, the liner card for which features a cigar-smoking chimpanzee and the cover(s) of which recall hardcore 7″s of days gone by. Eerily fitting for two bands made up of adults clearly having kid fun playing fast and brash rock and roll.

This split is the recorded debut of Hey Zeus, whose “Stomach” is the longer of the two tracks at just over three minutes. Fortin‘s photo on the cover comes from a show at the now-defunct-should’ve-been-sold-to-me Radio Bar in Somerville last July, a gig at which Hey Zeus shared the stage with The Scimitar and The Brought Low and covered Deep Purple twice (review here). Bassist Ken Cmar is the head of Wonderdrug Records, the logo of which it’s good to see again, guitarist Pete Knipfing and drummer Todd Bowman are veterans of Lamont, and vocalist Bice Nathan recorded “Stomach” at New Alliance Studios, and on the track, Hey Zeus make good on the experience of the players in question to proffer memorable, speedy, hook-minded songwriting. Less riotous than White Dynomite, they’re also tonally thicker — Cmar‘s bass has punch enough that one is tempted to duck — and take some cues from Lamont‘s Southern-on-speed methodology. They are not on swagger, which makes them all the more a match for White Dynomite, whose King Kong-size shenanigans are writ large all over “Sweet Tooth.”

Blink or misplace the needle on your turntable and you’re likely to miss the bass intro from Tim Catz that actually starts “Sweet Tooth” before John Darga‘s guitar and Craig Riggs‘ drums join in. No frills, no bullshit, White Dynomite offer sheer propulsion topped off with the classic punker vocals of Dave Unger. The four-now-fivesome recorded “Sweet Tooth” with Mad Oak StudiosBenny Grotto, and as one would expect the sound is natural and crisp  in just the right balance. For all the chicanery at work in what White Dynomite do, they’re also remarkably tight, the members channeling punk roots and donning white suits as they sprint toward and past whatever one might expect from them based on their other past and current outfits. If you can’t keep up with “Sweet Tooth” the first time, it’s easy enough to put it on again.

Two relatively newcomer acts comprised of veteran players, it’s not much of a surprise White Dynomite and Hey Zeus pair well here, and for both giving a first impression of what Hey Zeus conjure as far as driving riffs and for giving a sample of where White Dynomite are headed coming off their first album into the next stage of their tenure, it’s a 7″ that accomplishes an awful lot in less than five minutes. No substitute for efficiency.

White Dynomite, “Sweet Tooth” simian video

White Dynomite on Thee Facebooks

Wonderdrug Records

Mad Oak Records

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Hey Desertfest, Roadsaw Made a New EP Just for You!

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 28th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Well I don’t know about you, but if Roadsaw made an EP just for me, I’d feel pretty dern special.

In order to honor the Massachusetts rockers’ upcoming appearance at the London Desertfest next week (my goodness how time flies), Roadsaw recently hit frontman Craig Riggs‘ own Mad Oak Studios to lay down three mostly-live tracks as an advance EP that they’ve made available for free download via Bandcamp. You’ll notice Tim Catz (of “70 RPMs” fame) killing it on bass on the moody “Twisted Steel and Broken Glass” and the bluesier “Burn Down the Night” — on which guitarist Ian Ross also shines amid some pretty righteous organ.

And while I once swore a blood oath never to groove on a song called “Monkey Skull” (that’s not true), the barn-burning, grunge-laden punk of the third cut is more than enough to make me rethink my (hypothetical) position on the matter, drummer Jeremy Hemond seeming to be on three cymbals at once in the chorus while Riggs makes himself at home in the catchy lines. If I get to see them play any of these tracks next week — or, you know, ever — I’ll feel like I’m winning out.

Dig it:

No word on if they’ll press these songs to any kind of plastic, be it that compatible to lasers or that best read by needles, but to download Roadsaw‘s new EP, click here to get it free from Bandcamp.

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