Live Review: Desertfest NYC Night Three, 04.28.19

Posted in Reviews on April 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Elder (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The final day of a festival is always bittersweet, in any context. This being the first Desertfest NYC, it was a time to step back and take stock of the event, the crowd, the proceedings, what worked well, what could be tweaked in the future, and in what ways generally it could grow — because if the Desertfests in Berlin, London and Antwerp are any indication of intent, growth is the idea.

So what about it? The venue worked. The Well is a cool spot, and you almost feel like you’re getting away with something out on that back patio. The tent for the main stage worked. The food worked. The free iced coffee cans from Stumptown Roasters certainly worked for me, if we’re defining “worked” as “kept me upright.” The sound worked. The lights worked for the most part. And the location worked. I got street parking both days, no problem. Mark it a win based on that alone.

The second stage room was intentionally smaller and got to be a squeeze, and with the way the door was, you were either in or out — there was no peaking through to see the band onstage. Not that that’s the ideal way of seeing live music, but it’s better than nothing. It was easy enough to get there early, but I heard people noting it just the same. And it was cold. Yesterday more so than the day before. The sun teased a couple times but wasn’t out for more than about 20 minutes at any point, and then it was night, so it got colder. Rain held off, which was a relief, but there was definitely a flux of people going inside for a bit to get warm before going back out to be in front of the main stage. April in New York. That’s a possibility.

But on the whole, given the crowd size and response, the fact that it ran so well from front to back, and the general spirit of those playing and attending comingling and having a good time, I wouldn’t call it anything but a success. Desertfest is a brand, and they were feeling out a new, tough market in New York, but they pulled it off. I was given a t-shirt and I’ll wear it proudly. I hope they do another.

But holy crap was I tired.

Really, just a mess. Doing a festival is one thing. Doing it not completely removed from the rest of one’s life is quite something else, and I could feel myself showing signs of wear and tear especially early in the day before what little adrenaline my deeply flawed body could produce got to work and got me through. That coffee didn’t hurt either. You’ve made a customer for life, Stumptown. I mean that. I don’t usually even drink iced coffee.

Felt like an earlier start than it was at 3:15PM:

Unearthly Trance

Unearthly Trance (Photo by JJ Koczan)

As sadly will happen, Fatso Jetson canceled their trip east to open the third and final day of Desertfest NYC 2019, and I guess it was something of a scramble, but the fest kind of wound up with the opposite. If Fatso Jetson are desert rock, Unearthly Trance are dystopian-expanse-of-concrete-under-a-dark-grey-sky metal. Local heroes from Brooklyn, their 2017 comebacker full-length, Stalking the Ghost (review here), was followed last year by a split with Relapse labelmates Primitive Man (review here), and the few years they spent apart clearly did not dull their impact or atmospheric breadth. Playing in the tent with the sun outside, they were still unremitting in their darkness, and their slow, churning sonic gruel was served up cold to the early crowd, which was perhaps still bleary-eyed from the night before but primed to get bleary-eyed all over again, in no small part to keep warm. That’s a thing, right? Whatever. Unearthly Trance were loud as fuck and bleaker than they were loud. They’ve always been more of an export than a NY-scene band, at least since about 15 years ago, but they gave Brooklyn a showing of some of its best homegrown, and so could’ve hardly been more fitting for that spot.

Sun Voyager

Sun Voyager (Photo by JJ Koczan)

That’s a good band. They’ve got their kinks and quirks to work out — don’t we all — but the second they realize how much power they actually command from the stage, it’s all over. They’ve got newly-announced tour dates in June that begin in Denver at Electric Funeral Festival and will see them bum around the Midwest for a while, and that’s only going to help. More of that. But already their presence is significant. I haven’t seen them since they released Seismic Vibes (review here), which was a debut I was anticipating to an almost embarrassing degree, so they were an absolute must for my weekend, and hearing them do “Open Road” and “God is Dead,” two of the most potent hooks from among the many boogie-driven brainmelters on the record was more than welcome. They would close with the Budgie cover they just issued digitally, “Crash Course in Brain Surgery,” but their energy was infectious and as I stood there and watched I imagined what it might’ve been like to see Nebula 20-plus years ago when they were just really starting to hit it. It couldn’t have been much different. Sun Voyager are awash in potential now and starting to put the work in to pay that off. I will continue to hope they get there.

Ruby the Hatchet

Ruby the Hatchet (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Forerunners of Philadelphia’s burgeoning heavy psychedelic movement, Ruby the Hatchet brought presence and the chops to back it up in kind to their set outside on the main stage. The Tee Pee rollers were fresh off Grim Reefer Fest in Baltimore on April 20 and were on the West Coast earlier this year supporting 2017’s Planetary Space Child LP (review here), and I’ve seen them live a few times at this point, so to find them locked in wasn’t really a surprise as such. The difference was just what they were able to do in being so locked in. It was a classic heavy rock show. Frontwoman Jillian Taylor led the way through the show, with Johnny “Scarps” Scarperia setting the foundation in riffs somewhere between psychedelic rock and proto-doom, Lake Muir‘s bass and Owen Stewart’s drums pushing the groove forward and the keys — it was quite a setup — of Sean Hur adding texture beyond what one finds in the standard boogie rock of the heavy ’10s. Their next album will say a lot for what the ultimate story of Ruby the Hatchet will be, but their live show left nothing to question about who they are as a band, and the Uriah Heep cover for a finale was a particularly nice choice. Hail heavy prog.

ASG

ASG (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve never been a huge fan of North Carolinian four-piece ASG. Not for lack of respect for the work they do, the time they’ve put in touring, the quality of their records, and so on. Sometimes it just doesn’t click, and I’ll readily acknowledge that’s me and not the band, who obviously weren’t hurting for proponents as they packed out the tent outside at The Well, the chilly air getting chillier and the vibe getting its collective buzz on. I grabbed a can of coffee — honestly, if it had been a bucket, I’d have grabbed that — and watched them for a while and tried to figure out the mental block was stopping me from getting on board. Their 2018 album, Survive Sunrise, was a pick in the Year-End Poll, and I’ve been writing about the band on and off since I saw them in 2011, but everybody else had me beat by far in terms of being into it. My loss, I’ve no doubt. It usually is with that kind of thing. Gave me a chance to go inside and get warm.

Duel

Duel (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Does Duel‘s reputation precede them yet? Maybe, given the fact that the room with the Desertfest NYC second stage was filling up 80 minutes before the Austin, Texas, four-piece were slated to go on. Part of that was wanting to keep warm, but the band were setting up their gear and looked surprised to see the expectant faces staring back at them. Fair enough. Duel have a pair of killer studio records under their collective belt for Heavy Psych Sounds in 2016’s Fears of the Dead (review here) and 2017’s Witchbanger (review here), and they’re about to unleash the third, Valley of Shadows (review here), on a speedy turnaround May 17 and do the bulk of their label’s impending West Coast package tour earlier next month as preparation for heading to Europe for a month on the road there. So yeah, Duel seemed to be in a good place as they came back on stage at their appointed time and destroyed that tiny room in a way that would’ve translated well to the stage outside, playing like a band taking their delivery to the next level and doing their best work to-date on all fronts. They were riotous and a pleasure to watch. It once again got slammed in the small second stage space as they rose to the occasion, and while everyone there may or may not have known what they were in for, they will next time. Duel are very quickly making themselves essential. A do-not-miss reputation won’t, and maybe doesn’t already, hurt.

Monolord

Monolord (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’m not sure if Monolord‘s new album — which will also mark their jump from RidingEasy Records to Relapse — is done, or if they’re just already touring for it, but the Swedish trio might as well have been flashing a sign from the stage that said, “NOW IS THE HEADLINING PORTION OF THE EVENING.” Indeed, they and Elder who would follow made up the headliner spots and in the case of Monolord, their primeval riffing, ultra-grooving largesse, chemistry boomed like it was in a meth lab and still-just-dudes-who-like-to-play-loud stage presence was already a highlight of the weekend by the time the first song of their set was done. They’re on the road in the US only briefly this time, having done the Psycho Smokeout on the West Coast as well as this, but they’ll be back for sure after a summer spent in Europe. And I don’t know when they’re record’s coming out, but you’d be a fool not to hold a place on your best-of-the-year list for it whenever it actually happens, because if Monolord have proven anything to this point in their career, it’s consistent. Other bands play, Monolord kill. Make the t-shirt with the spoof logo and sell a million of them. You’re welcome.

Green Milk from the Planet Orange

Green Milk from the Planet Orange (Photo by JJ Koczan)

All three members of Tokyo’s Green Milk from the Planet Orange played seated. Or at least for the most part seated, since I don’t think any of them stayed sitting the entire time, up to and including the drummer, but the arrangement gave their set on the second stage a jazzy feel, with their mega-freaked-out astro-prog heavy grind enhancing that mood. A neon green bass was visible even on what all day was the dark side of the stage, and they likewise were a beacon of weirdness in an undulating sea of riffery. A band on their own wavelength aren’t always easy to listen to — and I’d imagine Green Milk from the Planet Orange‘s new record, which they had for sale outside in the merch area, is plenty frenetic — but the trio made the math add up in their sound and were fun even as they dared the crowd to keep up with them. Most couldn’t, frankly, but that’s the nature of the kind of progressivism a band like that taps into. It’s never been and it never will be for everyone. It was awesome to witness, however, and for the technical prowess and the weirdo vibes coming off the stage, they were a highlight unto themselves. You need that sore thumb band sometimes.

Elder

Elder (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Elder are arguably the most forward-thinking band in the current American heavy rock underground. By starting out young, they’ve become the spearhead of a generation of acts, and the work they’ve done throughout this decade is unmatched in its scope and the sheer will toward exploring new ideas. Plus it’s heavy. And plus, it rocks. I mean, there are a lot of krautrock bands out there. They’re in Europe. And the US has its fair share of heavy in various stripes, whether it’s desert rock or psych or doom metal or whatever the hell else we’re on this week, but what Elder tie together with their sound is a signature blend of influences that no one else can match, and their style of songwriting is inimitable. The way their parts interact with each other like Nick DiSalvo, Michael Risberg, Jack Donovan and Matt Couto have a musical conversation on stage. The way they’re able to build tension subtly and find just the right moment to swap out trajectories and head someplace else. It’s brilliant in the very real sense of luminosity. They are important, yes, because their influence will continue to spread, but they’re also incredible just to stand back and watch play. Every bit the headliner at this stage in their career, and I suspect they will remain that way for as long as they choose to do so. This is a special band doing special work on their own terms. Long may they reign.

Mick’s Jaguar

Mick's Jaguar (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’m not going to pretend I had it in me to stand there for the entire Mick’s Jaguar set. I didn’t have it in me to stand there for the entire Elder set — I had to go sit inside for a couple minutes at one point or another — but I’d seen every band on all three days of Desertfest NY, so you’re damn right I stuck around and waited for them to go on. I love how New York’s version of party rock is still just a little mean. It’s the punk lineage, or at least the spirit of that culture, because even when a band like Mick’s Jaguar come out on the second stage and start tearing into songs from 2018’s Fame and Fortune (review here), there’s still a little edge of “fuck you” to the good time they’re having. Like they’re saying, “fuck you we’re fun.” And they were a blast. It was late and dark in the room, but a lot of people had gone home after Elder, so Mick’s Jaguar were kind of the pre-after-party for the after-party happening after the show. I knew vaguely what to expect going into the set, but as tired as I was and as much as I still had that hour drive home ahead of me, I knew staying for one more song was the right way to go, and hey, no regrets.

The actual after-party was being held at The Anchored Inn around the corner. I said goodbyes at the venue and farted my way over there for a couple minutes to see how the cool kids live. They live boozy. I tried not to put my backpack in anyone’s face, failed, and then once again took my leave. Maybe I hadn’t been ready after all for Desertfest NY to end. Maybe I was delaying that drive home.

Either way, the toll would be paid this morning. Got to bed before 1AM, but the alarm went off at 5:50AM to get up, pack the car and drive back to Massachusetts so The Patient Mrs. could go to work. It had been traffic all weekend, so I should’ve expected no different. Left at 7:30AM, got in at 1:30PM. Stops for diaper-change, gas, etc., but yeah. Still six hours for a trip that’s ideally not much over four.

That had me pretty much comatose for the afternoon, but I started this review during the baby’s nap and I’m finishing it now after he’s gone to bed. I’m falling asleep while I type and I still need to sort pictures, so I’ll leave it here, but before I go, heartfelt congratulations to Matte Vandeven and Reece Tee on a job well done, and thanks to them, Sarika, Jake and everyone else involved in the festival crew for having me along for it. I felt welcomed in a way that warmed my heart and set the tone for the entire experience. It was much, much appreciated. Here’s to the next one.

More pics after the jump:

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Desertfest New York 2019 Makes Final Lineup Announcement; Here Lies Man, Fatso Jetson, Black Cobra, Heavy Temple, Steak & More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

desertfest new york 2019 banner

Desertfest New York 2019, the first one ever, has completed its lineup for this April. Taking place at The Well and Saint Vitus Bar, the three-night event will be headlined by Black CobraWindhand and Elder and will boast newly-announced performances from SteakHigh Tone Son of a BitchHeavy TempleTowerGreen Milk from the Planet OrangeDuelSun VoyagerFatso Jetson and others. It was always going to be a stacked bill, and well, it’s worked out to be a stacked bill. Obviously the Desertfest brand, with history in London, Berlin, Athens and Antwerp, are no strangers to putting on an event, and as Desertscene and Sound of Liberation partner with NY-based Tee Pee Records, there was really no way this was going to be a flop, and it looks like it won’t be.

Calendar’s marked.

Here’s the final lineup:

desertfest new york 2019 poster

THE 1ST DESERTFEST NEW YORK

FULL LINE-UP + DAY SPLITS ANNOUNCED FOR DF NYC – BLACK COBRA, WEEDEATER, HERE LIES MAN, ASG + MORE

Taking place at Saint Vitus Bar on Friday 26th April and The Well on Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th April, please welcome to the bill:

• black cobra
• Weedeater
• Here Lies Man
• ASG
• Ruby the Hatchet
• FATSO JETSON
• Electric Citizen
• HTSOB
• Steak
• Mick’s Jaguar
• DUEL
• Heavy Temple
• TOWER
• Green Milk From The Planet Orange
• Sun Voyager

Unfortunately, we also have to announce that The Atomic Bitchwax can no longer play due to touring conflicts, along with Cali rockers Dommengang. Both band conflicts were out of our control, but we apologise for any inconvenience caused.

2-day weekend passes for ‘The Well’ shows only (Sat + Sun) are still available via www.desertfest.nyc

3-day passes which include access to Saint Vitus on Friday are SOLD OUT

Desertfest NYC will take place at Saint Vitus Bar on Fri 26th April & The Well on Sat 27th April + Sun 28th April

https://www.facebook.com/events/339417893540336/
https://facebook.com/Desertfestnyc/
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_nyc/
http://www.desertfest.nyc/

Green Milk from the Planet Orange, “Phoenix”

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Mick’s Jaguar Premiere “Where We Go” from Fame and Fortune

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

micks jaguar

New York-based heavy rockers Mick’s Jaguar make their debut on RidingEasy Records June 22 with Fame and Fortune. It’s not the first time the L.A. imprint has extended its hand to the other side of the country to pick up a band, but something here feels different. While unsurprisingly given both the snark in the band’s moniker — they started out playing Rolling Stones covers — and the blood-and-sex rawness of the album art, it’s safe to say attitude plays a large role in their approach, the brand of heavy rock and roll (with emphasis on both the rock and the roll) is nigh on definitively of New York. The myth is that New York rock died. It didn’t. It just got priced out of Manhattan, like everything else that wasn’t J.P. Morgan or owned by the president or a racist coffee chain. But to be a band “from New York” is to invite immediate suspicion. You say you’re from New York? Prove it. Like someone wants to see your birth certificate or something.

To wit, the first line in Fame and Fortune opener “The Real Boss” is, “I was born in New York City,” and then, as if to prove the ultimate New York perspective, there follows, “What a horrible, smelly town.” Love New York, defend it vigorously to outsiders, and then despise it. To be fair, Manhattan in summertime, no matter how much of a billionaire playground it has become since Rudy Giuliani had the homeless secretly killed — don’t worry, 15-plus years of returning veterans has made sure there’s plenty more homeless to replace them — smells like urine, but New York’s love/hate relationship with itself is an essential facet of its culture, and Mick’s Jaguar, who present a clean, classic-feeling 10 tracks in the 38-minute stretch of their first album, are smart to put it front and center. That theme of intelligence continues throughout the six-piece’s lyrics, which contain several Stones and other references — “sticky fingers,” paraphrasing the Stooges with “street-walking jaguars,” shouting out Miles Davis, etc. — amid shifts in sound from heavy rock to early metal of “Here Comes the Night” the aggro-boogie of “Where We Go” to the crash-led “Country & Punk,” which in the span of 1:49 gracefully manages to be neither.

micks jaguar fame and fortuneApart from its attitude, what draws the album together throughout these twists and turns of style is a consistent sans-frills production and a penchant for big hooks in cuts like opener “The Real Boss” and its side B counterpart, “Hellride,” as well as “Pay to Play,” “Hellride,” the twin-guitar-led “Blood on the Snow,” and so on. Songwriting, in other words. It’s one of those records that seems to come across like vinyl no matter the actual format being played, and the visceral sound of the recording is a benefit as much to the actual impact of the material as to the aesthetic statement being made, but without that core of craft beneath the recording would have nothing to stand on. The movement from the ’70s-chugging “Here Comes the Night” — who doesn’t love a good song about “the night?” — the barroom twin leads of “Blood on the Snow” and the hard rocking cynicism of “Hellride” would simply fall flat. As the album progressed, I’ll admit I was a little sad when “Damnation” wasn’t an Opeth cover, but its lyrical journey tying together the late ’60s/early ’70s and the early ’90s is fairly emblematic of the roots of heavy rock and the roots from which Mick’s Jaguar are ultimately working. Then, naturally, they throw a wrench in the gears with “Country & Punk,” because screw you for thinking you know what you’re getting.

If Mick’s Jaguar are a New York band, as the narrative — blessings and peace upon it — argues fervently they are and I tend to agree when it comes to their style and specific grit-coated swagger, then it’s only fitting they should be as self-aware as they are. From the start of the record through the harmonica-laced closer “New Orleans Blues,” with its lap-steel-gone-psychedelic and anchoring drum progression, they’re telling their own story both lyrically and instrumentally. Their style ultimately has more reach than many will give it credit for, and they move through Fame and Fortune with a fluidity that belies this being their first album; I don’t actually know this, but if you were forcing me to guess I’d say some of these songs have been around a while, as they sound like they’ve been chopped down to their most essential pieces. Whether Mick’s Jaguar can bring the same intelligent confrontationalism to their work and still manage to develop stylistically over the longer term of course will remain to be seen, but what they bring to Fame and Fortune isn’t to be undervalued as a statement of their purpose and a declaration of their penchant for mining classic elements and reshaping them to suit their needs.

I have the pleasure today of hosting a track from Fame and Fortune as a premiere that you’ll find on the player below, followed by more info from the PR wire. Once again, the album is out June 22 on RidingEasy Records.

Please enjoy:

Rock and roll is dead in New York City. Long live New York City rock and roll. Mick’s Jaguar is bringing noisy, wild, unafraid big rock back to NYC. Crazy rents, corporatized venues, and kids listening to DJ’s: it’s hard being a band in this town.

This isn’t LA and Mick’s Jaguar is a product of their environment: a windowless dungeon practice space 20 feet below the trash covered sidewalk of the Lower East Side. Rats, grime, the sounds of the city; Mick’s Jaguar gleefully pillages the history of rock music to create thoroughly modern, but classic rock and roll. Not quite punk, but not metal either, this is hard rock and roll that’s been put through the brain blenders of 6 musicians who pair their Judas Priest shirts with Steely Dan hats. They claim no musical lineage to New York – they just live there. If you need to compare them to something, the night AC/DC played CBGB’s would be about as close as you can get.

The group formed as a drunken Rolling Stones cover band, and after a few years of mainlining Stones songs and playing sporadic shows marred by violence and sprayed by beer, they started writing originals that attracted the attention of RidingEasy Records. And their new album, Fame and Fortune, sounds absolutely nothing like the Stones. The three guitarists — yes three guitars — open the album with a riff of buzzsaw intensity that would make a Ramone proud. But then like Jim Morrison sashaying into a wine shop, it drunkenly careens into a big sounding rock and roll album somewhere in between Van Halen and Tres Hombres. Guitar solos abound, Thin Lizzy harmonies soar, the bass and drums make a groove that will shake the asses on the dance floor and put a rumble in your loins. Songs about life, death, cars, blood, murder, sex, drugs and booze are the world of Mick’s Jaguar. Don’t forget – this is what rock and roll is all about. Listen close and you’ll hear hat tips to your bands, Mick’s Jag knows their history and likes to rip it apart.

Recorded in Brooklyn at Figure 8 Recording by engineering wizard Philip Weinrobe, and fueled by a steady diet of Allen’s Coffee Brandy, the Fame And Fortune sessions resulted in only one hospital visit and it just might be your favorite album of 1978, 1988, or 2018. This is music that’s made for listening to while driving fast in your car, and while relaxing at the local strip club. It’s okay to have fun. Cute indie bands make everyone puke. That shit stops now. Let there be rock.

Fame and Fortune will be available on LP, CD and download on June 22nd, 2018 via RidingEasy Records. Preorders are available at ridingeasyrecs.com

MICK’S JAGUAR LIVE:
06/19 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus

Artist: Mick’s Jaguar
Album: Fame and Fortune
Label: RidingEasy Records
Release Date: June 22, 2018

01. The Real Boss
02. Pay to Play
03. Where We Go
04. Here Comes the Night
05. Blood On the Snow
06. Hellride
07. Damnation
08. Country & Punk
09. Call the Guy
10. New Orleans Blues

Mick’s Jaguar on Thee Facebooks

Mick’s Jaguar on Instagram

Mick’s Jaguar on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records website

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