Live Review: Nebula, Sasquatch, Mirror Queen & Geezer in Brooklyn, 09.07.19

Posted in Reviews on September 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Nebula (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It had all the makings of a classic Saturday night at Saint Vitus Bar, including a few classics along the way from the bands playing. I was trying to remember the last time I saw either Nebula or Sasquatch, and I know that at least in the case of the former, it was well before the fabled Brooklyn venue opened in 2011 — they haven’t toured widely since, what, 2010, for the LP version of Heavy Psych (review here)? — and I think as regards Sasquatch, it might’ve been when they were supporting their second album, II (discussed here). That came out in 2006, so definitely a long time. Now that I think about it, it’s been a couple years since I last saw Geezer as well, and only Mirror Queen, who played Desertfest NYC (review here) this past April, can I say it hasn’t been an absurdly long time.

There were reportedly a bunch of relevant shows happening in Brooklyn at the same time, from The Budos Band to Siege, but whatever. I knew where I wanted to be, and I knew I wanted to be there early. I actually got to the Vitus in time to catch the end of Geezer‘s soundcheck, and it was a quick reminder of why I was so excited to see them again in the first place. The Kingston, NY, trio have new recordings currently in progress, and unless I’m missing something — as I said, it’s been a while — the bulk of what they played was new. They finished out with “Charley Reefer” from earlier 2019’s Spiral Fires EP (review here), but beyond that and maybe one or two others the riffs to which called out their origins, the point of it having been too damn long was underscored by how fresh Geezer‘s material was, rife with ride-this-groove slow-motion boogie and an engagingly jammy soul from guitarist Pat Harrington, bassist Richie Touseull and drummer Steve Markota. The first bottom line is they were on earlier than they probably should’ve been — hazards of a four-band bill and an 11PM curfew, I suppose — and they killed it just the same, the smoothness of their roll easing those there in time to see them into what was already working on being a great night.

Mirror Queen, long since an NYC staple whose current incarnation features — in addition to founding guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal, also of Tee Pee Records fame — guitarist Morgan “Can’t Help but Boogie” McDaniel, who held down low-end for a time in The Golden Grass, alongside bassist James Corallo and drummer Jeremy O’Brien, also had a swath of new material to showcase. I don’t know their recording plans, but they’re embracing classic progressive heavy rock in a big way and by all appearances even more than they did on 2017’s Verdigris (review here), their most recent LP. They played one song from that in opener “Poignard” and the title-track from 2015’s Scaffolds of the Sky (review here) before launching into new songs “Inside an Icy Light,” “A Rider on the Rain” and “The Devil Seeks Control” and a take on “Stairway to the Stars” by Blue Öyster Cult that would not be the last set-closing cover of the night. As with Geezer before them, their new stuff only made me look forward to what the New Year might bring, and though they had some technical trouble with a persistent buzz and some crackling this-or-that, their bouncing rhythms seemed to make up for whatever time they lost sorting it all out. Kind of know what to expect from them at this point, but that does nothing to lessen the appeal, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ll admit there have been chances — not many, but at least two — for me to see Sasquatch in the last couple years, and for whatever reason I haven’t been able to make it work. Their lineup, with Roadsaw‘s Craig Riggs on drums/sometimes-vocals, guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs and bassist Jason “Cas” Casanova, was unstoppable. Front-to-back energy of the kind where you can tell each of the players is challenging the others to keep up. Around hyper-memorable songs like “More Than You’ll Ever Be,” “Rational Woman” and “Bringing Me Down” from 2017’s Maneuvers (review here) and the much-appreciated “Chemical Lady” from their 2004 self-titled debut and “New Disguise” from 2010’s III (review here), they seemed to have some new songs in tow as well — “It Lies Beyond the Bay,” if I’m reading the setlist right? — but either way, if you could get kicked in the ass by a breath of fresh air that somehow also kind of smells like motor oil, that would be like seeing Sasquatch live. Yes. It is an experience of mixed-metaphor hyperbole-worthy heavy rock and roll of the kind that makes you want to believe not only that we live in a gilded age for the genre, but that future generations of those with any clue whatsoever will some day come up to those who were there and ask what it was like to see that band in their day. And if you’re wondering, this most certainly was their day. New album next year? That’d be just fine by me.

Speaking of new albums, did I ever think Nebula would put out another record? I wouldn’t have called it impossible, but until they got back together for Desertfest in 2018 — credit where it’s due — I don’t think I’d have considered it overly likely. However, they gave 2019’s aptly-titled Holy Shit (review here) its fair outing, with “Messiah,” “Witching Hour,” the Luciferian “Man’s Best Friend,” “Let’s Get Lost” and “The Cry of a Tortured World” aired alongside classics like “Fall of Icarus,” “Aphrodite” — which opened; my god — and the ultra-languid-and-still-somehow-aggro “Anything from You” and “To the Center,” which only brought out the spirit of how much Nebula are a punk band even if one that’s been left out in the California sun to bake until, well, baked. Guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass‘ return feels triumphant, and not just because the record rules, and he and bassist/backing vocalist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster — who seems to have become desert rock’s drummer of choice, as he’s also now joined Mondo Generator; his adaptable style and obvious power behind the kit make it hard to think of a band from out that way in which he wouldn’t mesh — brought out the tech they referred to only as Ranch from the stage to play second guitar, which only filled out the sound further.

Under rainbow-hued lights, they demonstrated not only why it’s proper to think of them more than 20 years later as a classic band, but why Nebula are a band that underground heavy rock needs now, at a time when shut-the-fuck-up-and-chill seems to be in such short supply. Late in the set they included a version of “Out of Your Head” that made me want to go back and get to know 2003’s Atomic Ritual all over again, and the jammy “Sonic Titan” was more than welcome as well. I could’ve done with “Down the Highway,” but you can’t have everything. As it was, there was an event scheduled for after the show — a Smiths/Morrissey party or something like that — and so Nebula were scheduled to be done circa 10:45. They played for another 10 minutes and, in true punker fashion, threw in a cover of The Stooges‘ “Search and Destroy” to close the night, playing it with conviction enough that it felt like the song should’ve thanked them afterward. Righteous, it was. A righteous blowout.

Also classic? The traffic I hit heading back to Jersey. Midnight on a Saturday at the Lincoln Tunnel? Yeah, your trip’s gonna take twice as long as it otherwise might. Still, I got back to my ancestral homestead around 12:30 — the Morrissey party was probably in full swing — and crashed out in short order, ready to call the night a complete win as few could hope to be. Nebula and Sasquatch head west from here en route to Northwest Hesh Fest later this month and a capstone gig in San Francisco thereafter, but whether it’s now or next time, if you have the opportunity, take it. I can’t say it any simpler than that.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Live Review: Desertfest NYC Night Two, 04.27.19

Posted in Reviews on April 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Windhand (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The Well — not to be confused with the Austin, Texas, band of the same name — is around the corner from where The Acheron used to be in Brooklyn and there still stands The Anchored Inn as a congregation point. I was there for not the day’s first cup of coffee before day two of the inaugural Desertfest NYC kicked off back at the venue. It was cloudy and the air was chilled — April in New York — but by the time Electric Citizen were done, the sun was out and would remain so for the bulk of the day. That helped all the more since the main stage was outside.

A large tent was erected on an expansive enclave of a patio space. In back was the merch area, seating at picnic tables and along the other side there was a bar, taco stand, and the raised shipping container up some stairs that had been converted to a backstage lounge, complete with deck. The vibe was immediately relaxed and cool, with another bar inside and the second stage, in a smaller room off to the side of The Well‘s main corridor. My first time in the space, and it seemed ready for the event from its basic structure to the tent outside, though if Desertfest NYC is going to be an annual event, they’ll need a bigger one.

The afternoon kicked off soon enough, but though the venue switched from the Saint Vitus Bar the evening prior, the mood around was much the same. It was something Ron Holzner of The Skull would effectively summarize in saying, “About damn time we had a European festival come to the States. A sign of good things to come.” One hopes he’s correct in the foresight.

It was a packed nine-band day, mostly alternating back and forth between the stages, and it went vaguely like this:

Electric Citizen

Electric Citizen (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It had been a few years since I last caught Ohio heavy rockers Electric Citizen, but their 2018 album, Helltown (review here), was a stripped down and switched on groover that at the same time offered the band’s most developed sense of melody yet, so yes, it was something to look forward to. I don’t think they were helped by the early slot, but with the bill as stacked as it was, there wasn’t really anywhere else to put them. There was, fortunately, a good crowd to start the day off, and that only grew in number as the RidingEasy Records five-piece went on, their sound pulling elements from cult rock, glam, doom and proto-metal in order to create a brew that’s readily familiar and nuanced at the same time. They played as a five-piece, with keys alongside the guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and frontwoman Laura Dolan noted from the stage that this was their sendoff for a European tour. They’ll spend the month of May in the UK and EU, playing Desertfest in London and Berlin as well as other dates before and after. They sounded ready to go, to say the least.

Tower

Tower (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Immediately after Electric Citizen wrapped on the main stage, the second stage launched with the classic metal stylings of Tower, who continue a tradition of gritty NY homage to the NWOBHM and early thrash that goes back pretty much to when that sound was current. There’s always been a place for that stuff in New York, and Tower represented well what Brooklyn has done in the wake of bands like Early Man in the last decade and Natur and others in this one, two guitars blazing to coincide with the first off-stage frontperson of the weekend — presumably not the last, though one never knows — and a riotous stage presence that all the more justified that spillover onto the floor. They were probably the most metal act of the day, but still well accessible to the Desertfest NYC crowd. I’ve made the argument a thousand times at this point that classic metal is the domain of the heavy underground. Tower were another notch in favor of that position, and they effectively captured the spirit of the metal to which they were paying homage via their material. Not unfamiliar, but that’s the point.

Danava

Danava (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Back on the main stage, Portland, Oregon, stalwarts Danava answered such metallurgy with a bit of boogie, a bit of NWOBHM dual-guitar action, and a lot of soul. I’ve been fortunate enough to see Danava a couple times over the years, and though my initial impression of them wasn’t positive, they’ve proven consistent in terms of the high-quality of their work on stage and off — my initial impression, in other words, was wrong. The simple fact that they haven’t put a record out in eight years and continue to get booked on shows like Desertfest NYC and Psycho Las Vegas, where they’ll play the pool party in August, should speak volumes to their continued relevance, and though they had the At Midnight You Die single (review here) out through Tee Pee in 2016, you would have to say they’re due for a record. Overdue. But they killed. Founding guitarist/vocalist Gregory Meleney warned the crowd before they played what was presumably a new song, “Nothing but Nothing,” that they might screw it up, but by all appearances they nailed it, which was basically the case for their entire set.

The Skull

The Skull (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Yeah, I know The Skull is Ron Holzner and Eric Wagner from Trouble, and I know they’ve got Rob Wrong from Witch Mountain on guitar alongside Lothar Keller and they’ve got Brian Dixon from Cathedral on drums (though it was Chad Walls for this show). They’ve got all that, and I won’t take away from anyone’s pedigree whatsoever. But you know what else The Skull have? Songs. Songs. Songs. They’ve got songs that are memorable. Songs that stay with you after you put the album down and move onto the next thing. Songs that, when they play them on stage, you go, “Oh shit yeah, this song!” as I did when they launched into “When the Sun Turns Black” from their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here) and the title-track of last year’s follow-up, The Endless Road Tuns Dark (review here). Stage presence is a factor, of course, and if you’re going to call anyone in American doom a supergroup, it’s probably fair to do so for The Skull, but whatever they do, their foundation is there in the songs, and it’s the songs that carry them most of all. They were and are the best example I can think of for a band building something new out of a storied legacy.

Worshipper

Worshipper (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Boston’s Worshipper packed the second stage room beyond capacity — there was a line out the door to get in — and played like a band who are about to release one of the best records of the year, which they are in the form of their second album, Light in the Wire (review here). They opened with “Visions from Beyond” and “Coming Through” from that offering and gave a preview of what they’re soon to take on the road in Europe with their Tee Pee labelmates in The Skull — they too will be at Desertfest‘s London and Berlin editions — as guitarist John Brookhouse and bassist Bob Maloney proffered dead-on vocal harmonies on material new and old, guitarist Alejandro Necochea tore into leads and offered more harmony alongside Brookhouse‘s guitar, and drummer Dave Jarvis pushed the entire thing forward, grounding the psychedelic stretches and keeping momentum on their side, which it was for the duration. They were the band I was most looking forward to in the lineup for the day, particularly in light of their new album, and they very clearly played to the momentousness of the occasion at the first American Desertfest. It was the kind of thing I’ll be glad to have seen.

Weedeater

Weedeater (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Some technical trouble with the bass amp before Weedeater went on, but plenty of shenanigans to fill the time and bassist/vocalist “Dixie” Dave Colins spat out auctioneer’s chatter and lines like “crack rocks” and “wow, wow, mom” in checking the mic. The North Carolinian trio — Collins, guitarist Dave “Shep” Shepherd, drummer Ramsey Ateyeh (I think; someone please correct me if I’m wrong) — are on a forever-tour, their last record, Goliathan (review here), having come out in 2015, but they absolutely packed that tent and people went apeshit for them to the point that, when I went into the photo pit later for Windhand, the barricade had moved up in front of the stage to the point that there was no more access to the other side. Weedeater do nothing but deliver, and I know Dixie is kind of playing to character, but dude is working from the moment he hits stage to the moment he leaves. He’s the James Brown of sludge, and Weedeater‘s legend has grown all the more over their nearly-25-years because of that. They played the songs they always play, they kicked ass like they always do, and they proved once more that there’s only ever been and there only ever will be one Weedeater. Accept no substitutes.

Mirror Queen

Mirror Queen (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Let’s face it: you’re never going to beat Weedeater at their own game. Luckily for all involved, Mirror Queen were on a different wavelength entirely. Their progressive-tinged classic heavy rock is a staple of New York’s underground, and with guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal‘s dual-role as the head of Tee Pee Records, their inclusion was all the more fitting. The four-piece, with Morgan McDaniel on guitar, James Corallo on bass and Jeremy O’Brien on drums, bounced and careened through a set that acquitted them well with the Desertfest crowd — doubly fortunate since they’ll be in Berlin soon enough — and asked nothing by way of indulgence while bringing to bear material of melody and weight that wanted neither in perspective or delivery. Mirror Queen have been around, and have had their share of lineup turnover, but the band as they are now was only engaging, and to those familiar with them and not in the crowd, they were a return to consciousness after the bash over the head that the main stage had just delivered. Heavy rock and roll is always welcome, and Mirror Queen were a fitting reminder why.

Windhand

Windhand (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Like Weedeater before them, like Black Cobra the night prior and like Monolord and Elder to follow the next day, Windhand were not an unknown quantity, but for a festival brand feeling its way out in a hard city, they made perfect sense for the bill, and their doom was absolutely massive in the tent that held the main stage. I had been thinking after The Skull played that there was no doom left for anyone else — and certainly Windhand‘s 2018 album, Eternal Return (review here), had more going on than just that — but the Richmond, Virginia, four-piece managed to scrape enough together in order to feel like they were burying the crowd alive in low end. I will gladly argue for Windhand as being among the most important bands of their generation, particularly for those who’ve come up since and have taken influence from the sense of atmosphere they bring to their material in the studio and on stage, and though they had a hard act to follow on the main stage, they lived up to even the mighty expectations that are placed on them at this point wherever they go. They are a headlining band, full stop. They’ve worked hard to become one, and they deserve every bit of significant acclaim they’ve garnered over the years, while still sounding like they want nothing more than to move forward.

Steak

Steak (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Ambassadors from London’s populous heavy underground, Steak were nothing short of a refreshing way to close out the night. They’ve been a staple act of Desertfest London, which guitarist Reece Tee is also involved in organizing via Desertscene, as he was with Desertfest New York, so like Mirror Queen, they also had a family connection to the proceedings, but even their soundcheck drew a crowd keyed in to the fuzz tone and heavy roll they let loose. They were not halfway through the first song before frontman Chris “Kippa” Haley was standing on the front-of-stage riser, and he’d spend a goodly portion of the set up there, toasting the crowd and personifying the entire band’s really-glad-to-be-here mood, which was infectious. They too packed out the second stage room and held the crowd for the duration, begging a revisit for 2017’s No God to Save (review here) and showing off the development in their dynamic since which is set to manifest on their next record, due out before they play Keep it Low in Munich this October. Seeing them live for the first time in I don’t even want to count how many years only made me look forward to that more, whenever and however it might actually show up, and for the first Desertfest New York, they hit stage like a mission statement of what the festival brand is all about, from top to bottom. It was right on and then some.

It was not a small amount of day. As of now, it’s about two hours until it’s time to get back on the road from New Jersey to Brooklyn for the third and final round with Desertfest New York. The weather thus far seems to be uncooperative, but we’ll see how it all pans out this afternoon. Shower first. Shower first.

That’ll be good.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Desertfest Berlin 2019: Greenleaf, The Shrine, Blackwater Holylight, Worshipper, Mirror Queen, R.I.P., The Great Machine and Lucidvox Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

desertfest berlin 2019 banner

Yes. This. Cool update from Desertfest Berlin 2019, with Greenleaf and The Shrine and The Great Machine along for the ride with LucidvoxR.I.P., BlackWater HolyLightMirror Queen and Worshipper, and the pairings of the last four between RidingEasy Records and Tee Pee Records leads me to wonder if maybe Mirror Queen and Worshipper won’t hit the road together for a bit and if R.I.P. and BlackWater HolyLight won’t do likewise. For all I know, that’s already announced, but it’s speculation as far as my brain and limited, I’m-writing-in-the-car internet connection are concerned, but either way, they all bring something different Desertfest Berlin 2019, and pretty much anywhere Greenleaf goes is someplace you want to be. Man, I’d love to see that band again one of these… years.

Full announcement came down the PR wire:

desertfest berlin 2019 poster

DESERTFEST BERLIN 2019 ADDS THE SHRINE + GREENLEAF + THE GREAT MACHINE + LUCIDVOX + MIRROR QUEEN + WORSHIPPER + R.I.P. + BLACKWATER HOLYLIGHT!

Spring is almost around the corner, which also means DESERTFEST BERLIN is coming close and will be again opening its holy grounds for the annual and 8th festival edition in the heart of Berlin, the Arena, this May. While desert rock fans and riff lovers from all over the globe come together at the leading cult underground festival specialising in all aspects of the Stoner Rock, Doom, Heavy Psych and all its great subgenres soon, today DESERTFEST BERLIN announced the next batch of great names and high class acts to their already eclectic line-up!

If Black Flag, Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath would have a baby, it would be definitely named THE SHRINE. Hailing straight out of the local rock scene at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles and delivering a breed of heavy, psychedelic, riff based Rock n’ Roll, THE SHRINE will make their long awaited return to DESERTFEST BERLIN this year, and are gonna light it up!

You eagerly asked for them, so you get them! As a most welcome guest and longtime member of the DESERTFEST family, we are thrilled to have GREENLEAF rocking out the Arena stage this year! The Swedish power rock unit will not only present their brand new album live on stage, but as always showcasing some of their finest riffs, haunting melodies to sing along, a unique groove and energetic stage presence the band is known and loved for. Welcome back at DESERTFEST BERLIN, guys!

Furthermore DESERTFEST is proud to confirm THE GREAT MACHINE will be coming all the way from Israel to Berlin! This trio creates a strong psychedelic, stoner rock experience with a heavy dose of the punk rock attitude, join THE GREAT MACHINE on their wild trip into the freedom of heaviest sounds, live at the ARENA Berlin 2019!

With the hints of folk and kraut-rock, LUCIDVOX from Moscow will join to represent full ladies power at this year’s DESERTFEST BERLIN! Sometimes psychedelic rock can extend beyond clichés of shaggy-haired ruffians; LUCIDVOX, the forerunner in a new and burgeoning Russian DIY rock scene, prove that more than well. While the brains behind this Moscowian four-piece, Alina, Nadezhda, Galla and Anna, have played outside of Russia just once, DESERTFEST BERLIN will be their very first show in Germany to date. Please give these killer ladies a very warm welcome!

Cult fuzz rock label Tee Pee Records (home of bands such as Witch, Sleep, High On Fire among many more ) are presenting us two more exciting and up&coming acts from their excellent artist roster: US-based MIRROR QUEEN and WORSHIPPER are currently rising from the psychedelic hard rock underground, both perfectly proving that the soul of melodic heavy music still burns brightly!

After several years of hammering the US west coast with their blunt scythe of street-doom, R.I.P. are about to embark on an extensive tour this Spring with a stop at DESERTFEST BERLIN! The band’s debut “In the Wind”, out on RidingEasy Records, closes the casket on the trends and exhumes the notion that doom isn’t always about how slow and de-tuned you can play, but about fear, death, leather and playing as heavy as possible.

Rounding up today’s announcement with another MUST-SEE tip from the underground, please welcome BLACKWATER HOLYLIGHT to the 8th edition of DESERTFEST BERLIN! The Heavy Psych quintett from Portland, who released their critically acclaimed debut just last year on RidingEasy Records, are currently on their way to the top of the biggest hopes in psychedelic rock music, and we are more than psyched DESERTFEST BERLIN will be part of their journey.

DESERTFEST BERLIN 2019 takes place between May 3th – 5th 2019 at the riverside in the heart of Berlin, the ARENA. The festival will not only provide a new sound-and payment-system on the ground, but also more space PLUS a psychedelic wonderland chillout- and live zone on the ‘Hoppetosse’ boat!

Day- and Weekend passes are selling fast, make sure to grab yours at the following link:
www.desertfest-tickets.de

www.desertfest-tickets.de
www.desertfest.de
www.facebook.com/DesertfestBerlin
www.instagram.com/desertfest_berlin

BlackWater HolyLight, “Wave of Conscience” official video

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Morgan and the McDaniels Release From the Tomb, to the Spire Demo

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I’ll freely admit that I’m a sucker for a demo, and in these days of instant digital gratification, I’m even more of a sucker for a free demo. Thus enters Morgan and the McDaniels, otherwise known as the one-man solo-project — as opposed to all those solo-projects that have like six people; you know what I’m talking about — of guitarist Morgan McDaniel, with the four-song self-release From the Tomb, to the Spire. It’s a quick listen — somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 minutes — and the recording is raw, but McDaniel handles guitar, bass and drums, and brings a classic metal and garage doom feel from the troublingly-titled opener “SS Death March” onward. “Pentagram” might well be named for the doom-of-old vibe in its swing, and between “Strange Alchemy” and “Overlord,” one can hear McDaniel touching on NWOBHM and traditional doom in atmosphere as well as the actual structure of the material.

It’s all instrumental, but the New York-based McDaniel — who’s probably best known at this point either as the guitarist for Mirror Queen or the former-tenured bassist of The Golden Grass — explores some ground in these tracks that might seem unfamiliar to those who recognize him from his other current or past outfits. No word on whether From the Tomb, to the Spire will be a precursor to more, or the foundation for a new band, or if it’s just a one-off, but either way it shows McDaniel taking on a different style and one that suits him well.

And like I said, it ain’t like he’s charging for it, so go to town:

morgan and the mcdaniels from the tomb to the spire

Morgan and the McDaniels – From the Tomb, To the Spire

Music to play for your plants…

For fans of Weed, Sabbath and C#

Made by Morg for Morg with valuable input from the McDaniel’s.

Tracklisting:
1. SS Death March (free) 01:36
2. Pentagram (free) 04:34
3. Strange Alchemy (free) 05:09
4. Overlord (free) 03:38

https://morganandthemcdaniels.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/mirrorqueennyc/

Morgan and the McDaniels, From the Tomb, to the Spire (2019)

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Desertfest NYC 2019 First Lineup Announcement: Windhand, Elder, Monolord, The Skull, The Atomic Bitchwax, Danava, Mirror Queen, Worshipper and Dommengang to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

DESERTFEST NYC 2019 BANNER

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here or anything, but I’ve been posting about Desertfest lineups pretty much since the whole thing started. And to me, this already looks like a Desertfest. The first lineup announcement for Desertfest NYC 2019 has been made, and the inaugural New York incarnation of the festival brand in partnership with Sound of Liberation and Tee Pee Records seems to represent multiple sides well. Windhand and their new Relapse labelmates Monolord are given prominent showing, as are Elder — because, let’s face it, if you’re running the first-ever Desertfest on US soil and you don’t get Elder to play, you’re fucking up — and Tee Pee Records is well represented with the likes of The Skull, The Atomic Bitchwax, Danava, Mirror Queen and Worshipper.

Rounding out the bill are L.A.’s Dommengang, who would seem to be the odd band out, but one listen to their Love Jail album that Thrill Jockey put out and you’ll see it’s no mystery why they’re here. I wouldn’t be surprised if they wound up touring east with another West Coast band — Danava come immediately to mind — but of course nothing to that effect has been announced and I’m just speculating.

Point is it’s already a solid bill and in addition to the bands, we now know that the venues involved will be the Saint Vitus Bar and The Well. I’ll have more on the lineup and whatnot as soon as I see it, but early bird tickets are on sale now at the long link below.

Dig it:

DESERTFEST NYC 2019 POSTER

FIRST ACTS ANNOUNCED FOR DF NYC + EARLY-BIRDS NOW ON SALE! We are stoked to welcome Windhand, Elder, Monolord, The Skull, The Atomic Bitchwax, DANAVA, Mirror Queen, Worshipper & Dommengang to the first edition of Desertfest New York – Taking place at Saint Vitus Bar on Friday 26th April and The Well on Saturday 27th April + Sunday 28th April.

A limited amount of 3-day early-bird passes are available for $65 via the below link – https://www.ticketweb.com/event/desertfest-nyc-2019-the-well-tickets/8942735?pl=thewell&fbclid=IwAR28zNtuppWWRVoi3vCXRkeGIg4wOD4FShfPgjbIPDGiOGPDOzbL2vj_UWE

Artwork by the wildly talented Mercerrock (Brian Mercer Design)

https://facebook.com/Desertfestnyc/
http://www.desertfest.nyc/

Monolord, Rust (2017)

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Roadburn 2018 Day One: Gifted by the Wind

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2018 banner

04.19.18 – 11:33PM CET – Thursday Night – Hotel Mercure Rm. 224

Long day. Great day. I saw more bands than I photographed, which was among my most essential goals for Roadburn 2018: Just watch music. Just enjoy it. Don’t sweat getting down the front. Don’t sweat anything. This is a good time.

That whole “not sweating” part? Pretty much impossible. It’s apparently Global Warming Week in the Netherlands, so while Waste of Space Orchestra — the first of the weekend’s two commissioned projects, with members involved from Finnish fest-veteran outfits Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising — were tearing the Main Hall to shreds with their avantdelic blackened swirl, outside the sun was shining brightly in a conceptual contrast that, to be perfectly honest, was almost too much to take. waste of space orchestra (Photo by JJ Koczan)Outside, the cafes of Weirdo Canyon were packed to the hilt with libation quaffers. Inside, the goal seemed to be who could be first to prove the human soul exists and then tear it apart.

Hyperbole, you say. Fucking a right. How’s this for hyperbole? Waste of Space Orchestra‘s set might have been some of the most forward-thinking music I’ve heard since BorisFlood. Maybe. I’d have to hear it recorded, which hopefully will happen in a Live at Roadburn-style context, if not an actual studio album — it seems to me the substance there is too great to be left as a one-time-thing-and-gone experience. The ebbs and flows from almost-nothing drones to full-intensity, dual-drummed madness set a scope worthy of its dream-based concept, and there did not seem to be a moment of it that departed from the central mission of exploration. The gorgeous derived from the hideous and vice versa. A laugh in the face of anyone’s expectations, my own included. A first “holy shit” moment for a span of days that promises many.

My brain already so much goo only kept from leaking out of my skull by my earplugs blocking the way, I galumphed in that American-with-a-sore-back kind of way over to Het Patronaat to watch Colorado’s Khemmis play their first European show ever. Imagine that. Your first show on the continent, and it’s at Roadburn. I hope anything else on the tour measures up, because they absolutely packed out the church, and the assembled congregation bid them much welcome once they got going following a moment of turns-out-this-isn’t-plugged-in technical difficulties. That is to say, the crowd knew them and knew their two albums, 2016’s Hunted (review here) and 2015’s Absolution (review here), so there was none of that awkward getting-to-know-you phase. Everyone dove right in.

In fact, that seemed to be the way it went all around, not just for Khemmis or even Waste of Space Orchestra. Sometimes it takes a day khemmis (Photo by JJ Koczan)or two for Roadburn to really dig in. Not this year. From the moment Sannhet started in the Green Room, the vibe was set. Whether they were inside watching the bands or standing in the open air having a smoke of this or that — did you know Europeans put tobacco in their joints? I’ve been coming to the Netherlands for a decade and that’s some shit I just found out today, which I guess tells you how concerned I am generally with the matter. Still, fascinating.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, the vibe. The vibe was right on. I don’t know if it was starting off the Main Stage with such a landmark performance, or the sense of gratitude that Khemmis had from the beginning of their set on, or just all these super-laid-back West Coast dudes walking around, but it was quick immersion in and about the 013 venue. The good times were immediate. The rooms were jammed right from the beginning, and in the best way possible, it felt way more like day three than day one. Again, I did my best to take it easy and just enjoy it, soak in everything I could.

That’s not to say there wasn’t a bit of back and forth to the evening. Plenty, actually, but I knew that Earthless were on my must-see list for the day. The forerunners of San Diego’s heavy rock boom are wrapping a European tour here supporting their new album, Black Heaven (review here). They had a decent portion of acolytes rocking out at the side of the stage, and guitarist Isaiah Mitchell casually noted that it had been 10 years since the first time they played the fest, which of course resulted in the now-legendary LP, Live at Roadburn (discussed here). He wished everyone a great weekend. My big question going into their Main Stage set was how their new material, specifically that with his vocals, would fit alongside the three-piece’s longform instrumentalism.

The answer couldn’t possibly be dumber:earthless 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan) It just does. It’s the same band. It absolutely works. After about 20 minutes of their set, and further, as they moved into “End to End” and “Gifted by the Wind,” I began to wonder exactly what the hell I thought was going to happen, like all of a sudden Mitchell would start singing and bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba would stop and be like, “Dude, what’re you doing?” in the middle of a song. It’s a big transition they’ve made with Black Heaven, but they 100 percent pulled it off on the record, and they did likewise live. Once they started playing, there was no doubt. They absolutely owned the stage and owned the room, the dynamic between each member of the band and the others making all of them utterly essential to the whole; a classic power trio with boogie enough to move thousands. I know. I saw it happen.

And while we’re on the subject, bonus points to Rubalcaba for wearing a t-shirt representing their tourmates Comet Control, who play tomorrow at Cul de Sac and are my absolute must-see band for the day. Like, not staying the whole time for Crowbar, missing Supersonic Blues‘ covers set, Panopticon and Kikagaku Moyo to see them. That’s how fucking essential I consider that. I also hope to get my own shirt.

My intended next stop after Earthless was Insect Ark, at Cul de Sac. I ran back to the hotel room to throw water on my face and drop off the issues I’d snagged of Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, but got back to the venue in Weirdo Canyon itself 20 minutes early and probably about 10 too late to get a spot down front. They went on and I stood in back nursing my regrets and my umpteenth espresso for the day that I picked up from the machine in the hotel lobby, then tweedledummed my way back to the Main Stage toearthless 2 (Photo by JJ Koczan) watch some of Converge playing last November’s The Dusk in Us.

I made it in time to catch the title-track, which frontman and Roadburn 2018 curator Jacob Bannon took a moment to explain was about depression and that if anyone “could relate,” the most important thing to do was survive. “Nothing is more important than you,” he said. I had to stop for minute as the song got going with its slow build and dramatic semi-spoken lyrics and realize that I’ve never felt that to be less true. I don’t begrudge Bannon the sentiment, but yeah. Not a chance, bro.

Harder to argue with Converge‘s on-stage delivery, though. They’ve been at it for nearly 30 years, and while I can’t claim to have seen them in 1990, the passion seems not to have dulled in the slightest. My stop in the Main Hall was temporary though, as I knew I wanted to head to the Green Room to catch Ex Eye, about whom I’ve been hearing more or less since I got to Tilburg yesterday. And actually much longer than that.

Somewhat telling that I walked into the Green Room with more than half an hour to go before the New York-based four-piece took the stage — they were soundchecking at the time — and still couldn’t get a spot to take a semi-decent photo. When they actually rolled in, Ex Eye represented the league of hyperprog better than anyone I’ve seen in a good long while. Guitar, sax, Moog, drums — though no shortage of low end. Instrumental experimentation turning metal into jazz and jazz into metal in a way that would have Cynic blushing and Colin Marston breaking out his Warr guitar to try and get in on the fun. Now I know what people who saw Blind Idiot God in 1989 must’ve felt like.

And I guess by that I mean outclassed by a decade or two. I’d never heard Ex Eye before — look at me, trying new things! — and they were as opaque as they were breathtaking, but it was clear they were on their own wavelength.ex eye (Photo by JJ Koczan) Is extreme prog a thing? If it is or it isn’t, they are.

Having some time before my last stop for the night, I popped up to the merch area to see what was what for shirts and CDs and the like. Part of my annual sojourn in the past has been catching up on Nasoni Records releases by buying a host of CDs, but there were none to be had. I consoled myself with some treasures from Svart — Talmud BeachGarden of WormKimi Kärki‘s solo record, Hallatar — and an old compilation on Hellhound that I’d never seen around before. Distros had a lot of vinyl, same as everywhere, and I usually allot myself one piece of it before the weekend is out. I may yet, but didn’t this time. I’m sure I’ll get there.

But as to that last stop for the day, it was Mirror Queen back at the Cul de Sac. A bit of New York to wrap up a day that spanned even more broadly in terms of style than I could’ve planned had I actually circled names on the schedule. If I could end every night of this fest with some good old fashioned heavy rock and roll, I think I could only call it a win. Mirror Queen brought exactly that: wholesome ’70s flavor with not an ounce of pretense to be found. They’d been on tour for a week alongside Lonely Kamel and were tight enough to make one believe it, and they pulled a good crowd supporting their new single “Inviolate” (video premiere here) and last year’s full-length, Verdigris (review here), which was likewise rife with classic heavy charm and a naturalist modern presentation.

Not my first time seeing them by any stretch, but in my experience there’s always a difference between seeing a band at Roadburn and seeing them anywhere else. Plus, this was my first time watching them play with guitarist Morgan McDaniel in the lineup alongside founding guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal, drummer Jeremy O’Brien and bassist James Corallo. I saw McDaniel here a couple years back when he played bass in The Golden Grass, but he can and did shred on lead guitar and it was a pleasure to watch. He fit right in that band in a way that made me hope he stays.

After taking pictures down front, I made my way to the back of the room for a mirror queen (Photo by JJ Koczan)bit to catch my breath prior to heading out. It had been, as I noted at the outset, a long, great day, but the get-back-to-the-hotel-and-start-writing-you-jerk itch was making itself felt, so I eventually departed the boogie proceedings and lumped it down Weirdo Canyon and back here, where I remain, somewhat stunned by the news that Sleep are apparently releasing a previously-unannounced album tomorrow, on April 20. I would be very surprised if some clever venue DJ doesn’t have it playing somewhere here this weekend. What a way to end day one.

Up in the morning early to work on the ‘zine again, so I’ll leave it there for now. I’ve got some more pictures up after the jump if you get the chance to check them out. Thanks for reading either way. More to come.

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Mirror Queen Premiere “Inviolate” Video; European Tour Starts Tonight

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mirror queen

This very evening, New York classic heavy/progressive rockers Mirror Queen head out on the European tour that will bring them to Roadburn 2018 after a string of other gigs in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. They go ostensibly supporting their 2017 full-length, Verdigris (review here), with frontman Kenny Sehgal joined (I believe) by guitarist Morgan McDaniel (ex-The Golden Grass), bassist James Corallo and drummer Jeremy O’Brien. However, even as they caught their flight the other day — presumably from JFK — and headed across the Atlantic, they went knowing they were about to unveil the new single “Inviolate,” which I’m thrilled to premiere in the video below by Simona Prives.

What will surely and probably shortly wind up as a 7″ single with its B-side, a cover of Scorpions‘ “This is My Song” from 1974’s Fly to the Rainbow, seems to be something of a turn from most of the material on Verdigris. Sure, that record had no shortage of lower-register moments, as on “Sorrow’s End/Dark Kiss of the Sun,” and an undercurrent of proto-metal has never been too far from Mirror Queen‘s sound — the crunch of New York concrete manifest in guitar tones, at least to some degree; it’s not like we’re talking about Unsane here or anything — but “Inviolate” takes a different approach. One can hear it in Sehgal‘s vocals as well, and while I think the heavy ’70s will likely always be where their heart lies, there’s a definitive ’90s-style alt rock spirit to it as well. Not quite grunge, not quite not grunge, the catchy four-and-a-half-minute piece nonetheless manages to avoid aping ’90s-era stoner rock, but the even the slight shift in balance when it comes to decades of influence makes it an immediate standout.

Also, is that a Swedish accent Sehgal is singing in?

Either way, the point is the song is worthy of focus as a single, and its accompaniment underlines the band’s continuing affinity for the titan of early heavy rock. Mirror Queen‘s take on “This is My Song” doesn’t stray that far from the original, but the hippie lyrics and call for universal love certainly take on a new context these 44 years later in the current climate of who-the-hell-knows-what as a general state of being.

Again, I’m pretty sure “Inviolate” will be pressed up for public consumption in good time, so keep an eye out for that, and in the meantime, you can dig into Simona Prives‘ awesome-looking video for the track below, followed by more info and dates off the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Mirror Queen, “Inviolate” official video premiere

Mirror Queen is proud to unveil the new song ”Inviolate”! The accompanying video was created by NYC based mixed media artist Simona Prives, whose collagist abstractions match the expansive, dreamy, and gritty music; imagery and impressions plucked from the streets of New York and the landscapes of our evermore cluttered minds. The B-Side is a reverent, revved-up version of The Scorpions’ brilliant “This Is My Song”. Release details TBA.

Mirror Queen European tour:
13/4 Onsabrück, DE Westwerk
14/4 Siegen, DE Vortex
15/4 Brussels, BE Magasin 04
16/4 Nijmegen, NL Merleyn
17/4 Tilburg, NL Little Devil
19/4 Tilburg, NL Roadburn Festival @ Cul de Sac

Mirror Queen live:
May 2nd St Vitus, BK, NY w/ Rawhide and Pyrolatrous
June 22 Doomed & Stoned Fest @ Kingsland BK, NY w/ Heavy Temple, Bang, Corky Laing

Mirror Queen on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records on Twitter

Tee Pee Records on Instagram

Tee Pee Records on Bandcamp

Tee Pee Records website

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Roadburn 2018 Announces Cul de Sac Lineup with Bison, Comet Control, Mirror Queen, Hair of the Dog and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2018 banner

And so we see Roadburn 2018 once again open its gaping maw of righteousness to hurl forth another barrage of acts to its long-since-completely-overwhelming lineup. You know how many distinct acts are discussed in the press release below? 32 by my count. And granted, I’ve never been much for counting, and a couple of them were previously announced and are playing additional sets, etc., but do you see my point?

My point is this: Roadburn 2018 makes an announcement for its smallest venue — the get-there-super-early-no-earlier-than-that Cul de Sac — and tightens up a few other odds and ends, and all of a sudden you’ve basically got an entire other festival being announced. 30 bands? That’s a fest. Roadburn throws it all out there like, “Oh it’s nothing. We do this every year.” And they do.

So who’s my absolute gotta-see on this list? If you read the names below and have been hanging around here for a bit, you can probably already guess it’s Comet Control. I was hoping they’d be added since they’re touring with Earthless and still supporting 2016’s much-loved Center of the Maze (review here). I’ll be there for them for sure — scheduling conflicts be damned. If it means there’s a chance I might get to watch that band play “Artificial Light,” I don’t care if I have to set up a tent in the middle of the Cul de Sac floor. I’m not missing it.

Here’s the update from the PR wire:

Roadburn 2018: Cul de Sac bands, pre-show party & more!

Roadburn’s artistic director, Walter Hoeijmakers comments:
“The sales of day tickets alongside weekend passes have surpassed our expectations and we’re on course for another sell out year at Roadburn. We couldn’t be happier as we dive headlong into putting the finishing touches to the 2018 edition.

“We still have the side programme to announce, and of course, the all important schedules, but for now, we think there’s plenty for you to sink your teeth into with this announcement. The depth and variety of talent on show here is truly stunning.”

CUL DE SAC
The Cul de Sac may be Roadburn’s smallest venue, but each year a hell of a lot of talent is packed into it’s confines. 2018 is no different with a stellar line up of bands both big and small who will be squeezing into the diminutive space and packing an enormous punch.

THURSDAY will see Une Misère reprise their performance with a second set. They’ll be joined by instrumental duo Insect Ark, hard rockin’ New Yorkers Mirror Queen, Dutch force of nature – Black Decades, the droning riffs of Galg, plus your personal soundtrack to the end of times courtesy of Sum of R.

FRIDAY has Earthless’ tour mates, Comet Control preparing for lift off, extreme metallers Départe from Down Under, Danish export Hexis, Dutch death metal darlings, Ulsect and a second set from Worship that promises some special surprises.

SATURDAY will see Planning for Burial perform again, mining his back catalogue for gems. Hair of the Dog will return to Roadburn, and be joined by fellow 2016 alumni Concatenatus, plus Mania’s mix of doom and black metal, and Phantom Winter’s suffocating sludge.

SUNDAY sees tour mates Bison and LLNN roll into Tilburg in an uncompromising fashion. They will be joined by the progressive sounds of Hidden Trails, a dual pronged Dutch attack in the form of Dystopia and Nefast, and visceral Italians, Syk.

SAN DIEGO TAKE OVER
Good news for fans of psychedelic riffs! There are new additions to the San Diego Take Over, and they’re sure to bend your mind further into previously unknown directions. Unraveling the threads that run between the family of bands that make up the SDTO would require a headspace much clearer than anyone involved is quite capable of, but suffice to say that the pedigree running through the bands is of the standard you have come to expect.

RED OCTOPUS mix influences such as early Sabbath, Hawkwind and Can into a psychedelic wonderland.

ARCTIC is a California power trio steeped in the roots of early 70’s blues/psych, á la Blue Cheer and Band of Gypsies, while drawing elements of modern heavy, reminiscent of early Sleep. Heavy, sludgy, stoner psych played with a slow, driving energy. The band features three pro skaters, Figgy on guitar, Frecks on drums and Nuge on bass.

VOLCANO is a soundtrack for an ancient apocalypse. Primordial rhythm and afro-inspired melodies fill their grooves. The rumble in the distance grows, the forest falls silent. Let their trance fuel the dance, while theres still time. Let the lava flow…

PHARLEE was forged in the middle of the white-hot psychedelic jam scene in San Diego, California from members of Harsh Toke, Sacri Monti and Joy. But don’t let their geographical origin and associated acts mislead you. Pharlee walks their own path on scorched-earth. Forgoing the weed-fuelled jams of their counterparts for full-on the speed-ruled riffage. Partying off the sounds of Priest, Motorhead, Betty Davis and ACID, Pharlee create a new shrilling sound.

The San Diego Takeover is supported by the Performing Arts Fund NL.

TOBY DRIVER & ZVI
These two component parts of Kayo Dot will be making their presence felt at Roadburn 2018 as they perform (separately) on Thursday, 19 April.

As a solo performer, on guitar, keyboard, and voice, Toby Driver has been exploring dark, austere neofolk akin to Grouper, Talk Talk, Current 93, and others, with a subtle progressive and unsettling edge, featured in his recent release, Madonnawhore (The Flenser, 2017). Along with songs from Madonnawhore, he will also be performing pieces from his forthcoming solo album, They Are The Shield, and additionally, a few left turns are of course to be expected.

Zvi is guitarist / vocalist Ron Varod (Kayo Dot, Sabbath Assembly, Psalm Zero, Myrkur) performing and recording solo since 2004. During the 40 minute run time of Zvi’s 2016’s Death Stops Us All, Varod gently wakes us up with a whispered vocal over nylon string guitar, pummels us with throbbing noise and lulls us back to sleep with droned out suspended clusters and Talk Talk-esque clean guitars.

RRRAGS
Formed by singer / drummer Rob Martin (formerly of Bliksem), guitarist Ron Van Herpen (Astrosoniq, ex-The Devil’s Blood) and Rob Zim (bass, Lords of Altamont), RRRags emulates the sounds and styles of power trio’s such as Grand Funk, Blue Cheer and James Gang. But in addition to their fuzzed-out and soulful approach, there are also touches of psychedelica and psyfunk, which sets the band apart from the current crop of Sabbath worshipers, or old school hardrock devotees.

HARD ROCK HIDEOUT
Roadburn’s annual pre-party returns! For those in Tilburg on Wednesday evening, before the festival kicks off “proper”, we welcome Roadburners to the city in style! This year we have teamed up with Babylon Doom Cult Records in Belgium to present speed metallers Bütcher, and Speed Queen, plus genre-crossing Witch Trail.

The Hard Rock Hideout is FREE and will take place at the Cul de Sac.

As with last year, the festival’s wristband exchange will be open on Wednesday, April 18 between 18.30-23.00 for early arrivals to pick up their passes in advance of Roadburn kicking off on Thursday.

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Roadburn 2018 Cul-de-Sac Announcement Video

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