Lo-Pan and Against the Grain Announce Northeast Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Before they split out for Europe in April and, presumably once reaching its shores decide never to return, Ohio fuzz rockers Lo-Pan will hit the road like they do with Detroit speedfreaks Against the Grain. The tour will be in the north and northeast, which should be almost thinking about thawing out by then, and is set to start March 12 and run until March 22. For Lo-Pan, they’re out supporting last year’s Colossus (review here), while the oft-touring Against the Grain will have by that time recorded their fourth album, which is set to release later in 2015.

Like I said, after this, Lo-Pan are off to Europe alongside Black Pyramid, but it’s worth noting that this will be their first tour with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, so it should be a chance for them to further solidify before they go. They’ve given themselves a high-energy companion in Against the Grain, who will no doubt keep them on their toes for the duration.

The PR wire brings details and dates, and we all like details and dates, right? Okay then:

lo-pan against the grain march tour 1

Lo Pan & Against The Grain to tour Northeast in March

Columbus riff titans Lo Pan will be pairing up with Detroit neck breakers Against The Grain for a ten date Northeast tour in the month of March in what will be a travelling showcase of two of the heaviest bands going from the Midwest.

Both bands coming off a successful campaigns in 2014 with Against The Grain seeing the release of Motor City Speed Rock on vinyl and nonstop touring throughout the year with dates that included runs with Guttermouth, Koffin Kats and Nashville Pussy and Valient Thorr to close out the year.

Against The Grain start the year doing a two shows with Detroit’s own Koffin Kats in Chicago (Reggie’s) and in Westland, MI (Token Lounge) and a local show with notable punk/metal band Gang Green in the Detroit area (Corktown Tavern).   From there, the four will be spending the month of February recording the follow up to 2012’s “Surrounded By Snakes” at Train – A Comin’ Studios in Mt. Clemens, Michigan which will be slated for a summer release.

Dates:
March 12 – The Loving Touch (Ferndale, MI)
March 13 – Grog Shop (Cleveland, OH)
March 14 – The Lost Horizon (Syracuse, NY)
March 15 – TT the Bears (Boston, MA)
March 16 – TBA
March 17 – TBA
March 18 – Saint Vitus Bar (Brooklyn, NY)
March 19 – Kung Fu Necktie (Philadelphia, PA)
March 20 – The Pinch (Washington D.C.)
March 21 – 31st St. Pub (Pittsburgh, PA)
March 22 – Spacebar (Columbus, OH)

https://www.facebook.com/lopandemic
http://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/colossus
https://www.facebook.com/Againstthegraindetroit/
http://againstthegrain-atg.bandcamp.com/
http://selfdestructorecords.bandcamp.com/

Lo-Pan, Colossus (2014)

Against the Grain, Surrounded by Snakes (2013)

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Bison Machine Sign to Bilocation Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

bison machine

Heavy rockers Bison Machine will release their debut album, Hoarfrost, in 2015 via Bilocation Records. The Detroit four-piece get down on some serious boogie, as the check-out-our-vinyl-master sample track “Cosmic Ark” — not to be confused with the Mos Generator song of the same name — showcases, shuffling Graveyard style to do a wild roundabout back to ’70s Detroit influences: Detroit to Örebro to Detroit. Their impending Spring 2015 tour, with dates yet to be unveiled, may or may not take them that far, but it’s a cool sound one way or another and Bison Machine seem to wield it well.

The PR wire saw fit to provide the details and a bit of background on the band:

bison machine cosmic ark

BISON MACHINE are signing with Bilocation Records

Detroit’s finest heavyrockers BISON MACHINE signed for a vinylrelease with Bilocation Records. Their album ‘Hoarfrost’ will be out during 2015 on limited high performance 180g vinyl.

“Conceived in a single family wigwam on the far eastern reaches of the city of Detroit, and thrust from the birth canal in a dusty basement in Hamtramck, Bison Machine giveth and Bison Machine taketh away.

No Prisoners; no one survives. Liveshows are things of wonderment. Volume, blues, saturation. That is the prevailing ethos. Hamtramck’s own rock spectacle, heavy and melodic. Things are broken, blood is spilled, clothes and loin cloths are rent from bodies, antler and hides are prevalent.

Picture a small child raised on the delta blues since birth, then force fed Zeppelin and Sabbath til they could no longer move, then beaten and whipped with Kyuss, Pentagram, Earthless, Dead Meadow, Willie and Waylon, Queens of the stone age and Thin Lizzy, until one day, the child rears its ugly bruised and mishapen head perched upon its grizzled, muscular, agromegalic body rippling with virility, shrugs of it’s chains, and runs down Jos Campau naked, riding a sabertooth tiger.

This is the music that poor soul would be singing.

Bison Machine.

…and no one survives.”

John deVries- guitar
Breck Crandell- drums
Tom Stec- vox
Anthony Franchina- bass

https://www.facebook.com/americanbison/
https://bisonmachine.bandcamp.com/
http://bisonmachine.bigcartel.com/
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/index.php?s=3
https://www.facebook.com/bilocationrecords

Bison Machine, “Cosmic Ark”

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Blue Snaggletooth Get Down to Business in “Transmutation” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

blue snaggletooth (Photo by Doug Coombe)

In the time since Ann Arbor, Michigan, heavy rockers Blue Snaggletooth released their 2011 debut, Dimension Thule (review here), guitarist/vocalist Chris “Box” Taylor has changed out the entire lineup of the band other than himself. As they are now on the newly-released sophomore outing, Beyond Thule, Blue Snaggletooth is comprised of Taylor as the principal songwriter, with guitarist Casey O’Ryan bassist Joe Kupiec and drummer Mike Popovich. There’s some continuity in the references of their song titles — “Ahamkara” is a dragon in the video game Destiny and “Nameless Cults” comes from Lovecraft, etc. — but the vibe on the new record comes across tighter than on the debut, and that’s what really matters.

Their new video for relatively brief album closer “Transmutation” is similarly tight, or at very least a straightforward affair. One by one, the band walks into a building — you’ll note it’s drummer Mike Popovich who gets there first; right on time — and once inside, they proceed to jam the hell out of the song, and then they leave. It might be the quickest practice they’ve ever had, but it makes for a cool clip, bathed as they are in blacklight and surrouded by posters responsive to same. There’s a break in the middle where they touch visually and sonically on psychedelia, but the song’s primary impression clicks somewhere between punk and heavy rock, and Taylor is well suited to his position as bandleader.

I’ve been trying all week to get a second to get the clip posted, and I think once you put it on, the appeal speaks for itself. Beyond Thule is available now on clear vinyl from Blue Snaggletooth‘s Bandcamp, where the full album is also streaming.

Enjoy:

Blue Snaggletooth, “Transmutation” official video

From the band’s latest release Beyond Thule, Transmutation. Recorded at Metro 37 Studios, Mastered by Pete Lyman at Infrasonic Sound.

Video Production: The Garage Auteurs
Shot by: Brad Torreano + Robert Felts
Directed / Edited by: Brad Torreano

BST is:
Chris Taylor – vocals, guitar
Casey O’Ryan – guitar
Joe Kupiec – bass, vocals
Mike Popovich – the drum kit

Blue Snaggletooth on Thee Facebooks

Blue Snaggletooth’s website

Beyond Thule on Bandcamp

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Buried Treasure: Beast in the Field, The Astral Path to Satan’s Throne

Posted in Buried Treasure on November 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

beast-in-the-field-the-astral-path-to-satan's-throne-live-at-widr

I managed to buy just one CD while on tour recently and it was the new live album from Michigan instrumental destroyers Beast in the Field. Recorded in 2012 as an in-studio performance at the Kalamazoo-based radio station WIDR, it’s been given the cumbersome title The Astral Path to Satan’s Throne and coupled with a sans-dialogue comic book featuring the band’s two members, guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr. At first I thought I might’ve had it wrong it and it was a DVD because of the case, but no, it’s a CD. After seeing even half of the band’s amplifier stack in Lansing, it became quickly apparent they don’t do anything small.

beast-in-the-field-the-astral-path-comic-pagesLike their five studio albums, The Astral Path to Satan’s Throne is out on Saw Her Ghost Records, which has overseen everything the two-piece has done since their 2007 debut, Goat Isle Seance. That record is represented here by “Deep in the Caves,” which follows a noisy solo by Pries, and is preceded by “The Destroying Angel” and followed by closer “Through the Fires in all of Hell,” both of which come from 2011’s Lucifer, Bearer of Light. That would’ve been Beast in the Field‘s newest album at the time, though interestingly, the first three cuts they played at WIDR were “Hollow Horn,” “Altar Made of Red Earth” and “Wakan Tanka,” which also appear in that order following the intro “Great Watcher of the Sky” on 2013’s stellar The Sacred above, the Sacred Below (review here, stream here). Whether Pries and Jahr had recorded by then or were hammering out the flow of the album in a live setting, I don’t really know, but in hindsight it makes for some sound continuity from the record to the live outing and gives some sense of how the duo relate shows and studio work.

Unsurprisingly, they kill it. I’d be interested to know how many cabinets they didn’t bring to the radio station that day, but whatever balance they found, the audio is clear on both guitar and drums — or at least no more blown out than sounds cool — and the sheer density of their tone and impact of their crash are both captured. Speaking of “captured,” that’s pretty much the plot of the comic book as well. Pries and Jahr load up their gear and are in their van headed to, wouldn’t you know it, Kalamazoo, when all of a sudden they’re kidnapped by naked-lady demons and taken to some approximation of an underworld where they’re torn apart and fed to a beast-in-the-field-the-astral-path-back-and-comic-coverskeletal version of a four-horned goat beast. I won’t spoil the ending, if they get out of it or not. With art by Mark Rudolph, it’s an engaging complement to the recording itself, and puts The Astral Path to Satan’s Throne in different category of releases than it might otherwise reside in were it just a live album. It may still be a stopgap en route to whatever Beast in the Field do next, but there’s enough presence and force behind the band’s sound that whatever they’ve got, it’s bound to turn a few heads. Just far enough to hear a pop.

With bonus points earned for the smiling cartoon depictions of Pries and JahrThe Astral Path to Satan’s Throne is further proof of how ready Beast in the Field are for recognition outside regional borders. For now, they remain a secret kept all too well.

Beast in the Field, Live at Dirt Fest, Aug. 9, 2014

Beast in the Field on Thee Facebooks

Saw Her Ghost Records

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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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Fall Tour Pt. 10: Kings Destroy, Beast in the Field, Cruthu and Hordes, Lansing, MI, 10.26.14

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

the avenue cafe

Michigan’s capital city has always been good to me. I’ve been to Lansing five or six times at this point and I’ve continually found it a cool place utterly void of investment. That is to say, if anyone gave a shit or had money to spend, Lansing would be like Stroudsberg, PA, or Portland, Maine, in the ranks of those post-industrial towns that the creative types have moved to and opened brewpubs. The Avenue Cafe on Michigan Ave., which is being positioned as an alternative to the long-running Mac’s Bar down the road, has a vibe that speaks to the potential of Lansing overall. It has space, people who obviously care deeply about it and a prevailing sense of having gone it alone, no doubt reflecting the reality of the situation.

It was a night off from Kings Destroy‘s tour with Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Bang, and they joined with three Michigan locals in Cruthu, Hordes and Beast in the Field for one of the shows I’ve been most anticipating om this tour and one that, in the interest of full disclosure, I had a hand in putting together at least so far as making the intro between Kings Destroy and Cruthu guitarist and all-around excellent guy “Postman Dan” McCormick, and asking Dan if there was any shot at getting Beast in the Field out for it. I mark it an even bigger win that there was that chance now that I’ve seen them play.

Hordes

Horses! Oh no, wait. Hordes. (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They were completely different than I expected. What I knew of Lansing’s own Hordes came courtesy of their split tape with Bert, and it was drawn out and droney and more noise than song. Seems at some point Hordes got a drummer and that’s had some grounding effect on what they do, which is a blend of industrial and noise rock impulses. There was a lot of Godflesh in there, right down to how guitarist A. Hudson stands and shouts into the microphone, but some rawer crunch, and the live drummer made a huge difference alongside bassist Jon Howard‘s rumble. I was a little thrown off, to the point of wondering until I saw that tape at their merch table if I was thinking of the same band, but indeed, Hordes were Hordes. Once my mind made that jump — and I’m pleased to note it happened much more efficient than the explanation of it — their churning and chugging came together well throughout their set and made me eager to hear what they bring to their next recording.

Cruthu

Cruthu (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I always get nervous writing about friends’ bands — I’ve known Postman Dan for a decade at this point — but with Cruthu, the issue was avoided in the best way possible in that they were actually good. As I understand it, this was their second show, and you could tell they were just getting going on stage, still feeling things out in terms of relating to each other in the material, but it was still easy to get a sense of where they were headed, the vocals of Teri Brown and McCormick‘s clean guitar tone nestled right into the heavy ’70s style, Brown belting out lyrics with a powerful push. She backed off the mic at times, and it just emphasized how little she actually needed it in the first place for how well you could still hear her standing out front. Bassist Scott Lehman added copious wah to his bass and joined in on vocals for the closer, and drummer Matt Fry kept the laid back grooves moving straight through. There were a couple awkward transitions and things to tighten up, but that’s why you play out in the first place. Cruthu had already surpassed their Creation demo (review here), recorded earlier this year, in pulling off the right mix of vibe, groove and tonal presence.

Kings Destroy

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Allowed a somewhat longer set as the evening’s headliner and the only touring band of the four playing, Kings Destroy took advantage and stretched out to include some stuff not yet aired. “A Time of Hunting,” the title-track from 2013’s sophomore full-length, was played for the first time ever — and supposedly the last according to both vocalist Steve Murphy and guitarist Chris Skowronski, though I have my doubts — and they opened with “XXY” from the first album and threw in “Dusty Mummy” too, clearly relishing the chance to change it up on the small Avenue Cafe stage. Actually, I’m pretty sure the only reason Murphy was on stage at all was because the mic cable wasn’t long enough to let him leave it. He found plenty to do anyway, wrapping his scarf around his face for “Turul,” which ended the set paired well with “Embers” before it, and making shadow impressions on the wall. “Smokey Robinson” was the highlight, and is a song for which I’ve got only growing affection, but the whole set was a thrill, and it was fun to watch SkowronskiMurphy, guitarist Carl Porcaro, bassist Aaron Bumpus and drummer Rob Sefcik make the most of the gig. There were people there — hell, even Radio Moscow showed up — but I wouldn’t call the place crowded. If it was a set Kings Destroy were playing for their own enjoyment (and at one point Murphy did say something about masturbation), then at least that enjoyment was infectious.

Beast in the Field

Beast in the Field (Photo by JJ Koczan)

One of the biggest problems with internet criticism is that there’s so much hyperbole out there and it comes out so readily that when you actually happen into something special like Beast in the Field – the duo of guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr – there almost isn’t a language to convey how righteous what you’re seeing is. One almost wants to be like, “Okay, but really guys, this is where it’s at.” Pries and Jahr played in front of what I hear tell is half their usual amount of amps, but it still made for a formidable wall, and rendered earplugs all but useless against the tonal onslaught. Doing headbanger calisthenics during the deceptively catchy “Wakan Tanka” from last year’s The Sacred above, the Sacred Below (review here), Pries looked like he was trying to shake his skull off, and Jahr made each tom thud count in following along with the wrecking ball of riffs slamming through the cabinets behind him. I had been very, very much looking forward to seeing them play, and Beast in the Field wound up surpassing my expectation. Like staring at a single-color canvas painted with volume. Superlatively heavy. I’ve bought one record this whole tour so far and it’s their new live album/comic book, The Astral Path to Satan’s Throne: Live at WIDR. I’m itching to check it out but need my ears to stop ringing first.

The party, and by then it was one, moved to Postman Dan‘s, less than a mile away, with most of his band, Kings DestroyRadio MoscowTravis from Hydro-Phonic and so on. I stayed upstairs for the most part and wound up sleeping in the van for a bit before I got too cold — Michigan at the end of October, might want to bring a blanket next time, buddy — and had to come back inside. I guess I’ll probably have more on that later on.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

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Fall Tour Pt. 9: Thick as a Brick

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

lake michigan

10.26.14 — 3:30PM Eastern — Sunday afternoon — White Swan B&B, Gowen, MI

“He had twice devised the perpetual motion machine.” – Phil Jackson

I drove from the venue last night through some Michigan back roads. Steve had found this place on Airbnb that he said was a lake house with four bedroom that has bands stay on the cheap, and I was expecting something pretty deluxe, but I don’t think I imagined the kind of space this actually is, all wood floors, granite counters, old photographs on the walls. And as if it needed to be more idyllic, there’s a puppy running around. They call it the White Swan B&B. The guy who owns the house was a rock photographer for years and still takes pictures around here. Easy to see why and how one would be able to keep busy in such a way. thick as a brickBeautiful. I spent some time outside last night after we rolled in, breathing chilly air and just tilting my head back to zone out in the quiet. A few lights around, but the Milky Way easily visible bifurcating the sky. At one point the count was even between shooting stars and vehicles passing around the road out front of the house. Short of putting on YOB, which I only didn’t do because some fucker stole my iPod out of my car before I left to come on this tour, it was about as close to communing with gods as I come. Very, very cool, and very restorative.

When I came down into the basement last night to sleep on the couch, I found a turntable with Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick on it, which I took as an even better omen since that’s been played a couple times and sung even more in the van. Conked out around 3:45 and woke up this morning a little before breakfast, which was likewise lush and prepared by the the housecouple who own the house, Mary Jo and Ray. Unreal. Bacon, spinach and tomato frittata, potatoes, fresh coffee. Afterwards some of the guys went out on a pontoon boat, Lincoln Lake just feet away from the back door. I didn’t go, had stuff to catch up on, but a little quiet time was good too. The last couple days have been so much rushing around that the chance to stay still for a couple hours feels like twice the luxury, though here it actually is. Radio Moscow and the two ladies they’re traveling with, Mama Jo (no relation to Mary Jo) and Connie came through as well and Steve, Carl and Ray went to the grocery store to buy grillables for a barbecue and to refill the growlers the KD guys got from Hammerheart Brewing the other day, two of which were kicked last night. I asked Steve to get me an orange pepper and he did — it was glorious. I could feel the life returning.

The plan seems to be to barbecue, hang out for a bit and then hit the road to Lansing, which is about an hour away. Show tonight is with Cruthu, Beast in the Field and Hordes, all of whom I’m looking forward to seeing. Kings Destroy are headlining and have grillablesbeen looking forward to playing a longer set than they have been, and I’m dying to see Cruthu and Beast in the Field. I’m not sure where we’re staying tonight yet — I don’t think we’ll be back here since it’ll be an hour in the wrong direction from Cleveland, which is where the Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Bang and Kings Destroy tour picks back up tomorrow, but I wouldn’t mind another look at that night sky if one were in the offing. Or, you know, a lifetime considering this is pretty much my ideal of paradise, right down to the ducks out on the lake talking smack to everyone standing and sitting on the deck with the two grills, one gas, one charcoal, fired up with burgers, sausages, steaks, asparagus, kebabs, more peppers, portobello mushrooms and so on. There have been a few tough rides, but it’s not exactly like this trip has been roughing it sleeping on shitty punk rock basements or anything — there’s wifi in the van — but this place is legitimately wonderful, and there’s been music on just about the whole time we’ve been here.

 

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Fall Tour Pt. 8: Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Bang and Kings Destroy, Grand Rapids, MI, 10.25.14

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

pyramid scheme

Oh, Grand Rapids. You got wasted. The Pyramid Scheme is an excellent space, and they know it. An orange and blue squiggle design on the floor, cool ’50s-style retro lights, a sweet bar, great stage, great sound, great lights. And that’s just in back. Out front there’s another full bar with tables, booths and a collection of pinball machines that was enviable to say the least. Apparently they host a Grand Rapids Pinball League, or at least they sell a shirt that advertises such. I immediately gravitated toward the Star Trek: The Next Generation machine and sapped the supply of quarters I’ve built up over the last couple days in change from buying the gas station coffee that has more or less been what’s kept me alive thus far into the trip.

I’ve never been much good at pinball — or fun at all, really — but I dug it anyway and then ran over to the hipster coffee joint across the way and had a real cup of coffee and some kind of weirdo pistachio/hazelnut roll that tasted like neither. Soon enough Kings Destroy had their soundcheck and the show was ready to start. I got up front shortly after doors and was fortunate enough to run into some excellent people I know from out this way, Postman Dan who’ll be playing with Cruthu tonight in Lansing, Steve Rarick from Emetic RecordsTravis Witherell from Hydro-Phonic Records, also met Jeremy who runs the Pyramid Scheme and was super cool, and later on, one of the dudes from Blue Snaggletooth, who are another killer Michigan-based act with a new album on the way.

For the first time on the tour so far, the entire bill was just the touring acts, no locals opening or otherwise. Kings Destroy got things rolling a little after 8PM:

Kings Destroy

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Best show of the tour so far, hands down. I suppose that’s the way it’s supposed to go, so maybe that’s not saying much, but it’s true either way. They’ve been pretty purposeful about changing up the set at least just a little each night, and for the Pyramid Scheme, they broke out “Embers” for the first time and it occurred to me how much I’ve missed hearing that song. It fit well between “Mr. O,” and “Smokey Robinson,” the new cuts once again coming out of a pair from the 2010 debut, And the Rest Will Surely Perish, this time “Old Yeller” into “The Whittler,” which was a groove that led easily into the start of “Mr. O,” drummer Rob Sefcik rolling out a quick fill picked up by the rest of the band — guitarists Carl Porcaro and Christopher Skowronski, bassist Aaron Bumpus, vocalist Steve Murphy (I’ll be honest: it doesn’t really seem necessary to introduce these guys at this point, but I’ll do it anyway just in case) — and then launched immediately into the first verse with the line, “I am the straw that stirs the drink,” a Reggie Jackson quote that’s been running around my head since this tour started. Murphy once again came off stage for the end of closer “Blood of Recompense,” this time walking deep into the room and, at one point, almost clotheslining a group of people wrapped in his mic cable. They got out of the way and I’m glad to report no injuries sustained, save perhaps for tinnitus.

Bang

Bang (Photo by JJ Koczan)

What a pleasure it’s been to watch these guys on stage. Even for just the three nights of the tour so far, and even playing the same set for each of them, the Philly trio’s raw enjoyment of their comeback tour has been projected clearly from the stage. Before they started, bassist vocalist Frank Ferrara introduced the band, naming himself as “some guido from Philadelphia” or something close to that, a smile on his face the whole time. He and guitarist Frank Gilcken (whose name I’ve apparently been spelling wrong for the last three days; apologies) and drummer Jake Leger have only gotten tighter over the course of these shows, and in Grand Rapids, they seemed relaxed as they went about their business, enjoying themselves and the crowd, which was readily familiar with their work, enough for a couple sing-alongs. “Our Home,” “Last Will and Testament,” “The Queen,” “Redman” and “Questions” from their 1971 self-titled debut were greeted particularly well, but people were no less into the opening title-track from 2004’s The Maze, the grooves smooth, the tones rich, the drums swinging and the vocals spot on the whole way. They thanked the crowd copiously and the other bands, and ended the set locked in and in full command of their stage presence, sound and presentation. It’s been genuinely enjoyable to watch them click as they have thus far.

Radio Moscow

Radio Moscow (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Rough night for Radio Moscow. When they had everything working, they killed it. Opening with “Death of a Queen,” they changed up the set a little bit, including “Rancho Tehama Airport” from this year’s Magical Dirt LP (review here) and “Don’t Need Nobody” from 2011’s The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz, and I don’t want to say it happened just as they were hitting their stride — because, truth be told, they hit their stride the second they start playing — but a little while into the proceedings, drummer Paul Marrone broke what was apparently a brand new head on his kick drum and had to leave stage to get a replacement. He and bassist Anthony Meier and guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs set about fixing it, and then relaunched and were off and running when Griggs broke a string on his guitar and had to replace that on the quick. Done. Then Marrone‘s drum broke again and he wound up using Rob Sefcik from Kings Destroy‘s instead — I guess because you can really only travel with so many drum-heads before all of a sudden you’re carrying a music store and how many backups will you really need on a given night? They were fine going into “Rancho Tehama Airport,” which was announced as their last song but wound up being followed by “Gypsy Fast Woman” and “Open Your Eyes,” during which Marrone‘s snare gave way and Griggs busted yet another string. They were close to the finish line anyway, so they just sort of stopped playing, thanked the crowd and cut their losses. I still can’t really say they didn’t deliver, and the audience — by then mightily sloshed — was plenty into it despite whatever interruptions to their boogie-freight-train momentum arose on their way.

Pentagram

Pentagram (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve yet to see any footage from this tour of Pentagram‘s new song, “Lay Down and Die,” but when some shows up, I’ll be interested to give it a deeper listen. Like some of the stuff on 2011’s Last Rites (review here), it seems like vocalist Bobby Liebling is really pushing himself vocally, and as much of the image of the band is wrapped up in his persona, I far prefer the idea of him as an artist who, even as he plays out a catalog of some of doom’s most classic material — “Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram),” “Forever My Queen,” “Review Your Choices,” “Be Forewarned,” “When the Screams Come,” etc. — still has an interest in moving forward creatively and in terms of his technique. Maybe that’s reading more into it than I should, but with Victor Griffin on guitar and sharing the vocal duties, drummer Sean Saley and bassist Greg TurleyPentagram are an absolute force on stage. With Liebling up front, they were going to want nothing for stage presence one way or another, but in terms of tone and volume, they came into this tour ready to give a professional-level show and that’s what they’ve done each night. Bobby had a cache of young ladies toward the front of the room hanging on his every word and/or obscene gesture, and Pentagram rocked their way through their time smoothly, taking a couple minutes to warm up through the Animals cover “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” and “Frustration” from 1994’s Be Forewarned, but living up to the title “Relentless” by the time they got there and giving the Grand Rapids crowd something to (vaguely) remember the next morning.

Was pretty beat by the time Pentagram went on, but I still had energy enough to sink the last of my quarters into some more pinball as the night wound down after loadout. I don’t know what my high score was, but it was not impressive. The KD guys and I loaded into the van and split out to crash in a town called Gowen at a sort of Airbnb house on the shore of Lake Michigan, chilly and beautiful in kind. More to come on that.

In the meantime, some more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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