Posted in Whathaveyou on August 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Today I couldn’t be more pleased to announce that even though they already spent nine days in a van with me earlier this year, Kings Destroy have been kind and charitable enough to invite me back along with them as they rejoin Pentagram and Radio Moscow for a Midwest/East Coast tour to follow-up on the West Coast dates this past spring. Coming along this time will be reunited proto-metallers Bang, and I’m all the more thrilled and honored to have been invited back by the KD guys for this second round with their participation.
Once again I’ll get to see places I’ve never seen, meet people I’ve spoken to for years, and watch killer bands night after night as they refine what they do in the best way possible. I can’t wait to get back out and see cities like Chicago and Minneapolis for the first time. It’s going to be incredible. Of course, I’ll have my laptop and my camera along for the trip, and I will update and review as the trip plays out.
Radio Moscow gave the dates. They’ll do the whole tour save for the NYC show at the Gramercy Theater, for which Blood Ceremony will fill in. The full run is as follows:
USA DATES supporting PENTAGRAM this October! Also joining us are legendary 70’s proto-metal hard rockers BANG and Kings Destroy! So stoked to be part of this amazing tour. Dates below. See you soon!
10/23/14 Chicago IL @ Reggie’s 10/24/14 Minneapolis MN @ Mill City Nights 10/25/14 Grand Rapids MI @ Pyramid Scheme 10/27/14 Cleveland OH @ House of Blues 10/28/14 Pittsburgh PA @ Mr Smalls Theater 10/29/14 Baltimore MD @ Soundstage 10/30/14 Philadelphia PA @ Johnny Brendas 11/01/14 New York NY @ Gramercy Theater* 11/02/14 Providence RI @ The Met
03.02.14 — 6:54AM Eastern — Sunday morning — Detroit Metro Airport
“Aw, seriously? We blew it…” — Rob Sefcik
Though I think I already made it obvious in my last post, I’ll put it out there straight away that my head wasn’t in this one from the beginning. My thoughts were elsewhere — getting to the airport, though that plan materialized pretty well and before the show actually started — getting back to New York, driving north, finding a time when I might be able to sleep, seeing my wife, eating a meal, and so on. I guess if I was actually playing the show, that might’ve been an issue.
As it was, I decided to give myself something of a break for the closing night of Kings Destroy‘s tour with Pentagram and Radio Moscow, and when it came to the start of the show at In the Venue – a mid-sized space cleverly named — I was an odd combination of stressed about the impending travel and relaxed about the show itself. I already knew I wouldn’t be seeing all of Pentagram‘s set, and basically I said to myself that I’d already had six gigs’ worth of photos of these bands, and that it was okay to take it easy for the last night of the run.
Seems to have worked out, at least as regards my general well-being. Local support tonight — though by now it’s really “last night,” I just haven’t slept — was from Merlin‘s Beard:
I couldn’t tell you the last show I was at where there was a genuine circle pit. It’s been a while. But punk-stoner-thrashers Merlin’s Beard seemed to arrive ingratiated to the early-arriving local SLC contingent, and all of a sudden, there were kids in hightops and denim vests skipping in circles like something from a demented nursery rhyme. Can’t stop the children. I didn’t see their whole set, but Merlin’s Beard seemed to have it together in playing on the hesher-metal thing, which has been in full bloom all along on this trip, but they made their blend with earlier-hardcore punk work smartly and offered a raucous start to a night that, once it got going, had a party atmosphere as only the end of a tour can.
They were rushed from the very beginning. When Kings Destroy (plus Jim Pitts and I) arrived at In the Venue, Merlin’s Beard were already set up on stage. Since the band couldn’t very well tell them to get off so they could backline their gear, the switchover happened afterwards, and since Pentagram were also using said gear, basically two bands had to soundcheck before Kings Destroy could start their set. The sound guy told them, “You’ve got 22 minutes,” right before they started, but if they were rushed, the intensity suited both them and the occasion. I’m fairly certain they went past that 22-minute mark, but they still sprinted through their five song set, opening with “Dusty Mummy” before easing into “Embers,” which at this point sounds ready to record or at least close to it. Their adrenaline kicked in early, so when they shifted from “The Toe” to another new song, “Mr. O.,” the fact that it was the fastest thing I’ve ever heard from them seemed like a solid fit. A blazing riff, strong hook, and big ending, it’s probably the nearest thing to heavy rock I’ve seen them play, and that’s not at all a complaint. I wish I had gotten to see it more than once while on the road with them, but if it’s a Salt Lake City-only kind of memory, I’ll take it. They sounded like they could do another week or two touring easily.
If Radio Moscow were harried by nearly rolling their van in the bad weather between Denver and Salt Lake City — there was reportedly an accident on I-25 North outside of Denver that involved 104 cars, with which fortunately none of the three touring acts was involved — they didn’t show it on stage. They were dialed in and immediate, and it once again being an all-ages show, a younger crowd got way into it. That was the case all along, at all the shows, really, but in back, there was also a dude easily in his ’60s grooving on it, so maybe Radio Moscow have more of a cross-generational appeal than they get credit for. Or maybe they get credit for it and I just don’t pay attention. Either way, the point stands. I’m more than a little bummed I’ll have to wait until their new album Magical Dirt comes out in May to hear “Death of a Queen” again, but with “No Time,” “Open Your Eyes,” “Broke Down” and the rest in studio form to tide me over, chances are I’ll make it through. Still, what a track. It’s rightly gotten a great response at each show and In the Venue was no exception.
I said so after the Denver gig as well, but it’s worth repeating that in this incarnation of Pentagram, everybody was killing it. It wasn’t just Bobby Liebling and it wasn’t just Victor Griffin. They’re great, don’t get me wrong, and they handed the crowd its collective ass once again, but bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley offered stellar support in both sound and stage presence to their legendary counterparts, and once again Pentagram as a whole underscored both the timelessness of their classic material and the relevance of what they’re doing now. I might’ve liked to stay and see them finish out their set and thus the tour as a whole, but my head was going to explode if I didn’t get to the airport gate immediately, so when it was time to go after “When the Screams Come,” I offered no argument whatsoever. It was, indeed, time to go.
I’ve been falling asleep at the keyboard since I started typing, so I’ll try to be quick. The first of two flights to New York is over, from Salt Lake City to Detroit. This is a three-hour layover that started around 7AM and will go until 10:05AM when the next plane is allegedly going to take off. There’s enough snow on the tarmac outside that I’ve got my doubts. Still, until I hear otherwise, that’s what I’m going with.
We took off from SLC a little after one in the morning. The band had grabbed a bite to eat at one of the silly airport places but I abstained and sat with headphones on instead. Splashed some cold water on my face and felt like a new man. The airport wasn’t crowded, but the plane was. Full, in fact, and they kept the lights off just about the whole time. I wasn’t always awake, but I was never quite asleep. That’s about as good as I can usually do on an airplane. When we got in to Detroit, the KD guys almost immediately crashed out on the floor in various spots. There weren’t very many people around this little enclave of gates, though it’s gotten crowded since as Sunday has become its own entity rather than the weird extension of Saturday it is when you haven’t slept. I always had trouble deciding when the day actually switched until I learned broadcast days began at 6AM. That’s generally the measure I use these days, when I think of it or need to.
This will be the last of these posts, so I need to thank Kings Destroy — Steve Murphy, Rob Sefcik, Aaron Bumpus, Chris “C-Wolf” Skowronski and Carl Porcaro — for their incredible generosity in inviting me to embark on this tour with them. From Pacific Northwestern forests, to low Nevada desert, to the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, I saw things I’d never seen, met many, many excellent people along the way, and was treated night after night to what I knew was the best possible show I could be seeing at that moment. It was a thrill and a delight, not just to do these things, but to be fortunate enough to be able to do them with these people, whom I consider myself lucky to know and whose work continues to stun with its honesty, accomplishment and forward-minded defiance of genre and expectation. Whether it was in the sprinter impersonating Paul Stanley stage raps with the ultra-competent Jim Pitts at the wheel or standing in front of a surprisingly wide variety of stages to watch them nail their set night after night, rest assured, my best times out west were with Kings Destroy.
There were times where I asked myself what I was doing. I never got to tour in bands other than a weekender here and there, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m thankful to have had the chance while doing this, while writing. The fact about what I do is simple — no one outside a very small sphere cares — but as I look around me at the morning hustle at the airport in Detroit in a quality of light that has that Vaseline-lens haze due to lack of sleep, it’s that writing that got me here. I’ve spent some time recently wondering what the endgame is to all of this, this site, the music, where it’s going and what it leads to, but doesn’t it lead to things like this? Isn’t the opportunity to see new places with such wonderful, inspiring individuals the reward, even if it’s also the work? And isn’t the work, being able to do it, the reward too? I don’t always believe it is, but I do right now, and with that, I’m ready to get on the plane and go home. Soon.
Special thanks to The Patient Mrs. for supporting me through things that can sometimes seem completely nonsensical, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading.
02.29.14 — 12:30AM Mountain — Fri. night / Sat. morning — The van
“Altitude…” — Carl Porcaro
Completely different vibe from last night. There was some space between the bands and the crowd at Sister because of monitors out front, but Summit Music Hall was just another species of animal. Both, I suppose, are shooting for a certain kind of authenticity of experience. In the case of the Albuquerque club from last night, it’s a rawer kind of feel, more punk rock, right there, you were involved as it happened, very much the purity mindset that also comes into play with the vinyl resurgence over the last few years — analog or death; find us on Facebook — whereas tonight in Denver, it was more a previous generation’s professional, commercial-style rock venue.
Not taking sides one over the other. I’ve seen great shows in both kinds of rooms, and this one was the biggest of the tour. I was quoted a capacity of 1,100, which is a substantial amount of people. An all-ages show, I don’t think it was sold out, but it was plenty packed, and though the crowd was more withdrawn than last night’s — again, the kind of room was a big factor as well as the people who showed up — they got plenty wild for Pentagram, who continued a run of solid headlining gigs. The tour ends tomorrow. I’m sorry to see it over, but probably best I get back to real life at some point.
Show ran pretty early with doors at seven and the first band on at 8:45. Local rockers Space in Time got things started:
Space in Time
Pretty straightforward stuff. Classic-style, one guitar, bass, drums, vocals, with organ for a total five-piece who made their most lasting impression with closer “Cheating Death.” For some of their set, it seemed like the Denver natives hadn’t yet decided if they wanted to go full-on retro or if more modern heavy rock impulses might win out. Either way, their songs were well composed and though its presence in the mix depended in no small part on where you were actually standing on the floor, the organ made a big difference in their sound. This tour has seen some openers who are ready to go and some who’d benefit from more time on stage, more time hammering out their songwriting, and so on. Space in Time don’t fit neatly into either category, but for not knowing the band before the show, I wasn’t sorry to have seen them play.
“Embers” came third tonight and was the tightest yet. If I didn’t know it hadn’t been recorded, I’d probably just assume it was an album track from A Time of Hunting, and that would seem to be a good sign. Crazy build in that song, and very satisfying to hear it take shape on stage as it has. Kings Destroy opened tonight with “The Mountie” and went immediately into “The Toe,” which made for a riffy start that I think the audience took to. Not really a shock that the attendees at the Pentagram gig would like the doomy tracks, but though it was a half-hour set, Kings Destroy still fit a decent serving of their wares, pushing “Blood of Recompense,” which has been in my head all day, ahead of “Old Yeller” in the closing spot. They’ve got some genuine momentum in their performance at this point, and though there are different personalities to different shows, they’ve managed to build one onto the next in a manner I can only really describe as professional without slipping into hyperbole. The bigger stage suited them.
Well, okay. Here it is. Time to think of another way to say Radio Moscow kick ass. Maybe I’ll keep it simple and just note that, yes, they do, and tonight they did so extra gloriously on “I Just Don’t Know,” which provided a raucous opening to the set. Of the three bands in this writeup whom I’ve seen over the course of this week, they were probably the most affected by the distance between the stage and the crowd. I couldn’t help but think of Las Vegas and the group of kids up front who were practically on top of guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs as he tore into one or another solo. Not really possible when there’s a barrier between, though I still definitely got a spritz of beer from behind and above, so someone was rowdy enough. Radio Moscow have been insanely tight all along, so to say so seems redundant, but it was a different experience to watch them on the Summit Music Hall stage even than at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco.
I continue to be fascinated by the obvious impact that the Last Days Here (review here) documentary that came out in 2012 has had on Pentagram‘s draw, and while there have been some on this trip who made clear by shouting various things at Bobby Liebling both before he got on stage and after, Denver was cool for the most part. Still, it’s a level of spectacle I hadn’t expected, and as someone who saw Pentagram before the movie came out, the difference is palpable. That’s a shame in a way, because with Victor Griffin on guitar, Greg Turley on bass and Sean Saley on drums, Pentagram — the full band — are as tight now if not tighter than I’ve ever seen them. A minor flub tonight at the start of “When the Screams Come” was barely there in a crisp set, and of course Liebling worked the crowd into the proverbial frenzy so that even with the barrier there were people spilling over each other. Griffin, Turley and Saley followed suit, and Pentagram were exciting to watch for so much more than just the (well told) narrative of their frontman.
Today was payday, so I bought a couple shirts. One from a brewpub across the street whose chicken caesar salad was the best thing I’ve eaten since I left home, and one from Pentagram. Tomorrow, again, is the final night of this tour, and yeah, I’ll miss it. It’ll be good to be home, to see The Patient Mrs. and the little dog Dio, but this has been a good time and something of a personal landmark, so you’ll have to please forgive the moment of sentiment. I’m sure there’s more to come.
There was a guy outside the venue (who may or may not have been former MTV VJ Jesse Camp) taking pictures on his smartphone for what he in his I’m-very-clearly-on-bad-drugs kind of way explained as a sort of art project. I had him send me one he took of me. I’ve never been especially photogenic (or charming, or intelligent, or socially capable, or competent; the fucking list just keeps going). This is the first picture of myself I’ve ever posted on this site and in most cases I’ll go out of my way to not get my picture taken, but it was just random enough. Carl damn near ran him over with one of the cabinets during loadout. “How’s that for a cool pic?” asked C-Wolf.
What that guy was doing with a smartphone or where that picture is actually headed, I have no idea. Maybe he makes fake IDs or some shit. Whatever. Hope they’re kinder to my likeness than I’ve been. Drink up, children. Your parents have been lying to you: Alcohol is delicious and it makes you a more interesting person.
Plan is to cover some ground of the 500-miles-plus trip to Salt Lake City tonight. Jim Pitts is at the wheel, though we’ve stopped to get a scraper now because there’s an ice storm and it’s building up on the windshield. We’ll go for hopefully a couple of hours if it’s not too bad and then crash out until — wait for it — 10AM. The idea seems so luxurious after the last three days that I fear writing in case I might jinx it.
“We’re gonna do another new one, while we’re here…” — Parker Griggs
Sister Bar in Albuquerque. Cool spot in that neo-metal/hesher kind of way. Bare brick walls would almost have to be original, hardwood floor not yet destroyed through years of abuse. Huge, sprawling bar, tall ceiling, good sound, seats for those in back who might want them, and a garage bay on the street side that provides an indoor/outdoor space. Art both all over the place and still in progress throughout the building. Reportedly there’s a bar upstairs too owned by the same people, but I didn’t get up there to see it. Still, what I saw, I dug.
The tour is well dug in at this point. All three of the road acts are on fire and though perhaps the windows of the Kings Destroy van would need fixing, the level of performance is such that it could just keep going. It won’t, of course. There are two shows left and then a flight back to New York — followed, in my case, by a drive home to Massachusetts — but that’s how it feels. I’ve seen bands many time deliver these kinds of performances mid-tour. That’s not really new for me. What is new is being able to see the narrative of a tour tightening up play out in real time. I’d hate to use the word “automatic” and have it come across that anyone in Pentagram, Kings Destroy or Radio Moscow is phoning it in, because that’s not the case. More like flicking a switch and coming to life, maybe.
Leeches of Lore opened tonight and they were a band I was very, very stoked to see. Here’s how the show ran:
Leeches of Lore
I’ve dug these Albuquerque-native weirdo heavy spazz rockers for a while and seeing them live was like watching peak-era Ween on a psych-thrash freakout. Fucking cool band, and not only did Leeches of Lore live up to the go-anywhere-anytime feel of their recordings, they surpassed it in presence and in the power of their delivery. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Hammond was given to screams in addition to pushing his voice into throaty falsetto shouts, and with two drummers, keys, and two added horns for set-finale “La Follia di Spazio,” Leeches of Lore even had Bobby Liebling of Pentagram out from backstage and fervently approving of their methods — the first time I’ve seen that happen all tour. There’s something so satisfying about seeing a band you’ve been into and having it live up to your hopes. Leeches of Lore surpassed mine, and drew a huge crowd of local supporters as well.
The key difference between last night in Vegas and tonight was when the band clicked. Cheyenne Saloon was the best Kings Destroy played yet, and it had left me wondering how they might top it, but what happened tonight was that there was no warming up necessary. They got on stage, plugged in, and hit it. Doubly impressive since it was “Embers,” the new song, in the opening spot with a relatively subdued feel compared to a more full-on track like “Casse-Tete” or “Blood of Recompense.” I noted that “Old Yeller” was faster tonight than last night in its intro, but still had all its heft intact. And as immediate as the band was, the response followed suit, with the assembled denim ‘n’ leather set making their way quickly over from the bar to partake. I heard no complaints as “The Toe” gave way to “Blood of Recompense,” the lead guitar line of which might as well be tattooed on my frontal cortex for all the likelihood of it ever giving up its position there.
Presumably if this tour was three weeks or a month long or something like that, at some point I’d run out of ways to nerd on Radio Moscow, but that’s not a concern as it is. The we-have-a-sixth-gear-and-it’s-called-awesome power trio changed things up a little tonight. No drum solo, though Paul Marrone put on a clinic in swing — no, not the HBO kind — all the same, and the set had a third new song to go with “Death of a Queen” and the boogie-heavy “Before it Burns.” It sounded, to be frank, like Radio Moscow, and by that I mean was peppered with wah-drenched lead guitar, deep, resonant low end to match, and the kind of blinding rhythmic turns that make you think the band is about to fall off the side of a cliff but of course they never actually do. As much as I’ve gotten to know their set these last few days, I’ve been glad to see them continue to deliver something different at each show. Their reputation for volatility is known far and wide, lineup changes, etc., and maybe that’s the cost of their kind of energy. All I know is they’ve been a consistently exciting band to watch and tonight was no exception.
A fight broke out pretty early into Pentagram‘s set up toward the front. A guy was drunk and hit a girl or something, there was yelling, something about bitch this, bitch that, and then half the place was on the dude and pounding hard. Like the left side of the room decided all at once to kick his ass. Generally that kind of unanimity doesn’t happen without some root cause, but when he finally got dragged out of there via chokehold, it seemed in his best interests. Meanwhile, Pentagram. They were a while in taking the stage, but incredibly well received as they have been for these shows upon their arrival. Victor Griffin and Greg Turley had their tones dialed in, drummer Sean Saley nailed his fills, and Bobby Liebling – despite what seemed to be a sore throat — delivered the gig that the crowd (minus one) had been expecting. They’ve done the same set each night, so no surprises necessarily, but I’ve very much enjoyed watching each city lose its mind when “Forever My Queen” starts. I’m pretty sure the shops on Central Ave. were being looted at the time, and for being a weeknight, the crowd were ready to throw down for Pentagram. A good cause if there ever was one.
Loadout happened as efficiently as one could ask considering we were basically doing so in the dark. We piled in the van and hightailed it down the street to the EconoLodge and the plan is to get back on the road by 8AM. It was about three when we got here, so I’m not sure how feasible that is, but five hours of sleep would be more than I had last night. Unfortunately, since I want to shower — and I do — I’ve already missed that mark and am currently counting down to a measly four, which is about what I’ve had for each of the last two evenings. That’ll show me for something or other.
Albuquerque seemed like a cool town. I would’ve liked to have time to explore more of it, but something tells me this won’t be my last visit to the American desert.
02.27.14 — 9:30AM Pacific — Thurs. morning — The desert outside of Las Vegas, NV
“Don’t put that in the writeup…” — Chris “C-Wolf” Skowronski
The city itself interests me far less, but I was intrigued to see the Cheyenne Saloon in Las Vegas because it’s where the annual Doom in June fest is held. It was a full day’s driving to get here, through suburbs and valley giving way to low and high and low desert, the final descent into Nevada and then Vegas itself seeming endless in the doing. Wasn’t a bad ride, all told. I took many pictures of the desert, which lived up to my expectation, and saw windmills and mountains that seemed to come out of nowhere and go back just as quickly, and Joshua trees, and empty space and bugs on the windshield and hillsides and the sun and whatever else.
It was dark by the time we hit Vegas, so of course the lights were going and all that. I’ve been to Las Vegas once before and did not much care for it. I think in order to have any kind of enjoyable experience in this town you probably need to be rich enough that money is no object, win or lose. That’s not my case, needless to say. Cheyenne Saloon itself is after the main strip, tucked away in the corner of a shopping plaza. Plenty of parking at least. I didn’t think much of the look of the room when we got there, but the sound was phenomenal and the show wound up with a cool intimate vibe, being the smallest spot on the tour so far.
Local openers Spiritual Shepherd were already set up on stage when we got there, though they’d break down again when Pentagram arrived, allowing the headliners the chance to soundcheck, but load-in was quick enough and before too long, Spiritual Shepherd got the five-band bill going:
Young, and solid, but still clearly getting their feet wet. An instrumental three-piece who seemed to have the most fun on stage when engaging in elephantine plod, Spiritual Shepherd were distinguished in no small part by their drummer, Ian Henneforth, who was quick to show off his chops and technical prowess amid the band’s stonerly riffs. They jammed out one song — most of their titles came from the stoner rock playbook; atomic-this and space-that; hard to keep track sometimes — that had a psychedelic edge and then went full-heft into a crusher, so there’s some level of diversity in what they were doing, they were just new to it. They’ll keep working and be fine. Hell, they already get to say they opened for Pentagram, so kudos.
It seemed a little unfair that Demon Lung vocalist Shanda was wearing an elaborate dress and the three dudes surrounding were in t-shirts and jeans. Shanda apologized for Demon Lung‘s missing guitarist, who apparently recently broke his collarbone and couldn’t make the show as a result and for herself too, citing caring for a sick puppy at home as having kept her up the last several nights. I thought she and the band both sounded pretty right on. Some of the material came across samey in the presentation,b but it’s doom. That’s what happens. It didn’t seem like a performance that needed an excuse or an explanation, in other words, but then, it was my first time seeing them. Maybe they absolutely destroy every other time they play, but they didn’t do so badly at Cheyenne Saloon.
Best show of the tour so far. No question. Kings Destroy seem to be approached with some measure of caution by these audiences, but as with each the other nights on this run, they did indeed win those people over. “I like a quiet room,” said vocalist Steve Murphy between songs. He must have been let down at the end when people were shouting their approval, then. Sorry dude. “The Whittler” was moved to open the set, “Embers” pushed up to second, where it worked well and sounded tight, and they closed out with an especially slow-seeming take on “Old Yeller,” with a grueling early going giving way to a raucous finale. Elsewhere, “The Toe” and “The Mountie” arrived as welcome standards in an assured, aggressive and viciously heavy half-hour-plus. San Francisco was cool, but a different vibe, very high stage. Though they were coming off of being robbed last night and still plenty aggro, the band somehow radiated a comfort level from the stage that seemed to be relatively at peace. Somehow.
Can’t help but notice that I’ve come out of each of these shows with a different favorite from Radio Moscow. Tonight it was “Mistreating Queen,” though the new ones, “Death of a Queen” (wonder if there’s any relation there) and “Before it Burns,” were expertly handled as well. A contingent of kids showed up for Radio Moscow who were way into it and seemed to have pregamed the show. Fair enough. Their rowdiness seemed to up the general energy level in the room, though the band weren’t having any trouble with that anyway. Drummer Paul Marrone took a solo with some contribution from bassist Anthony Meier that was a treat to watch and it seemed like every time Parker Griggs stomped on his wah, the room went apeshit. Hard not to see why.
This was the smallest night of the tour in room and attendance. Pentagram killed it through three sold-out gigs, but I wondered how their vibe might change at a gig like this one. They did well with it. Bobby Liebling said he was feeling under the weather, but with the crash and thud of drummer Sean Saley and the gigantic air-push from Victor Griffin and bassist Greg Turley behind him, the was plenty of space in the room mix for him to hang back. He drank tea on stage from a large cup that wound up in the back of Kings Destroy‘s van. I might try to take it home if I can fit it in my bag. No “20 Buck Spin,” but the set was tight in spite of whatever ailments might’ve been a factor, “All Your Sins” sticking in my head, though “Be Forewarned” once again was the high point. Someone needs to build a monument to that song.
Got out of the show around 2AM and found a casino/hotel offering $25 rooms. They were decent — I guess the place was just trying to get you in there to gamble. You even had to walk through the poorly-lit den of human misery to get to the hotel rooms, but somehow I magically resisted the temptation to sit down at the slots and blow my last $20 on nothing. I went up to the room and started to write but was falling asleep hard by 3AM and decided around four o’clock that I wasn’t doing myself any favors being awake with an 8AM start to come.
Crashed hard and woke up at 20-minute intervals thinking about the review half-written, so not sure how many favors I was doing myself anyway, but whatever. The current plan is to fix the window in Denver, so the 500 miles to Albuquerque will come with periodic bouts of fixing up the back one, with which the wind on the highway — and there is a bit of it — seems to have a time. It’s not really a consideration at this point except when it needs to be. The adjustment has been made, I guess. Seems like the band blew off some steam at the show and that kind of evened everybody out. Funny how that works.
Trip is 500 miles to Albuquerque or somewhere thereabouts. Can feel the wind shoving the van around its lane. Landscape is mountains baked in sun. Dry, gorgeous desert. I regret nothing.
02.26.14 – 2:46AM Pacific – Wed. morning – En route from SF
“You can never win…” – Bobby Liebling
Not sure what to say about tonight, really, but we’re on the move out of San Francisco and it’s getting late. The show was fantastic. Another sellout crowd, a killer venue, great sound, cool mood, everybody’s locked in and coming across excellent. I moved around a bit more rather than just sit tight up front, so got a couple different views and even snapped some shots from the side of the stage. We were rolling. Things were rolling along. When Pentagram were finished, I came out to the van to at least get the night’s photos onto my laptop and ready to post and found two of the passenger-side windows, the two in back, had been blown out.
At first it didn’t look like anything was gone, but of course stuff was. Some wasn’t touched, but iPads, Steve’s clothes, etc., got swiped, and Radio Moscow got hit as well, including for laptops and photo equipment. Shitter way to end what would’ve otherwise been an excellent night, though I say “end” and since we’re still driving and in need of a 24-hour glass repair person to fix the two windows which now have gaffer’s tape and poster board where the window used to be, the night’s not actually over yet. All the same, here’s the deal:
Somewhere between thrash and doom and more extreme metal, Oakland’s own Bedrücken are there, probably getting drunk. A double-guitar five-piece with a standalone vocalist, they were easily the most extreme band of the night, kind of a standout in that regard, but seemed to know the room and the people, who were starting to trickle in as the show got underway. West Coast sludge has a long history of sounding as thoroughly fucked as possible, and Bedrücken seemed well aware of the legacy they were upholding, but were well distinguished by vocalist Ami Lawless’ vicious rasp and periodic deviations into broodingly intense clean parts. The crusty contingent in the crowd – and there was one — ate it up.
“The Whittler,” from the first album, replaced the new song “Embers.” I was digging the way that one was coming along, but it had been a while since I heard the older cut, so no complaints. Things had clicked well in Portland and there was no step back in SF despite a hiccup in closer “Blood of Recompense.” For the most part in this band, these guys have all known each other for so long that their dynamic is well set, and I guess seeing it three shows in a row like this, that’s the primary standout impression, how natural they are on stage with each other. And Aaron Bumpus, who’s not just younger but also rooted differently in terms of his influences, fits well in sound and presence. I’ve been trying to think of what separates Kings Destroy from most doom — much as they’re a doom band at all — in how they handle the stage, and really it seems to be a question of attitude. Bedrücken were plenty angry, but Kings Destroy were confrontational, and that’s a big difference. They had started before I even realized it, and their set went quickly.
I’m not sure how one might mosh to Radio Moscow, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t see it happen tonight. Unless 21 got way younger looking when I wasn’t paying attention — possible — this was another all-ages show, and the younger contingent especially was all about Radio Moscow‘s psych-blues mastery. It’s a crazy lineup, the three touring acts, but I think no matter who was on the bill, Radio Moscow would likely distinguish themselves. Guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs, bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone were so snapped-in it was like you pressed play and then there they were, but they still have personality on stage as well. It’s not like they come across as going through the motions of their material. It’s been incredible to watch. Still dug “Death of a Queen” a lot, “Frustrating Sound” made a return, and while it was on their setlist for both prior shows, I’m fairly certain tonight was the first time they actually broke out “No Time” for a jammy runthrough, which had the kid in the flipped-up-brim D.R.I. hat out of his mind.
The song “8” left an impression on 2011’s Last Rites (review here) as well, but live it seems to be all the more of a showcase for the richness in Victor Griffin‘s guitar tone. Pentagram, three shows into the tour, are killing it. Each night is better than the last. Bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley are fluid and energetic players, and of course with Griffin there as the instrumental anchor, Bobby Liebling is that much freer to gyrate his hips, make obscene hand gestures at the crowd, whatever it might be on any given night. That’s all well and good, but Liebling‘s vocals tonight on “Be Forewarned” might also have been the best I’ve ever heard him sound live, so there’s something to be said for settling into the tour. Of course, “Forever My Queen” was again a highlight, among “Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram),” “When the Screams Come,” “Relentless” and closer “20 Buck Spin,” which I stuck around tonight to see. No regrets of course, unless that was when the van window got smashed, in which case, yeah, I probably should have split a little early. Not that I knew that at the time. Finding a little enclave in the back with a solid 18″ of personal space on as many sides as I wanted, I could’ve stayed there until 2AM and been fine. Didn’t come to that, however.
Even though I stayed to the very end of Pentagram‘s encore, I was still the first one back to the van. Two smashed windows, glass on the ground. Some stuff in the back looked untouched, so I thought maybe it was just vandalism, but no, when the Kings Destroy guys came out of the venue and down the block, they confirmed they had stuff missing. Glass was everywhere in the van, but we swept it, loaded out the gear, taped up the windows and hit the road. Not much choice in the matter. It’s 10 hours to Vegas. Gotta go. The staff at the DNA were cool and stuck around to help load-out.
Stopped for the night maybe 90 minutes outside of San Francisco, everyone bummed out, especially those who lost their stuff. The whole block had been hit, and apparently around the corner where Radio Moscow were stationed. A couple of kids I spoke to while I was waiting for the band to come out from the venue said they had camera equipment stolen, and so did Radio Moscow, and electronics stuff as well. Probably just people looking to make a buck, but still shitty for all involved. I’m telling you, if you’re going to steal, steal from corporations. No one even bothered to call the cops because they would’ve done nothing and nothing was insured. Police cars drove by on patrol the whole time I was outside — it was a while — and said and did nothing. Bigger fish to fry, I guess.
Tomorrow is Vegas. It’s after 4:30 in the morning and we need to be out of here at 9AM, so my watch is set for 8:01. If I’m ever going to sleep in the van, tomorrow seems like it might be the day. We’ll see how it works out.
02.24.14 — 12:07AM Pacific — Sun. night / Mon. morning — Hawthorne Theater, Portland, OR
“Everybody gets a trophy at the Hawthorne Theatre…” – JJ Koczan
Oh, Portland. Portland, baby. 15’s my limit on schnitzengruben. You are making a German spectacle of yourself. It would be real easy to get spoiled living in this town. Quite a night. Quite a show. Pentagram had an amp blow out or something and the crowd was still going nuts. Pressed up against a metal railing at the front of the stage, I was reminded of younger days, a straight-line bruise along the bottom of the rib cage from being up front at silly shows. This was a young audience. They were into it. You kids and your doom.
Everything was a little more dead on tonight, as expected. Getting past the first show seems to have allowed for a certain amount of tension to abate. The three touring bands were tighter — no small feat after last night — and the local openers, Mothers Whiskey and Sons of Huns, both drew and performed well. Sold out show. Again, one could get spoiled.
I’ll try and make it quick again since it’s midnight and I’ve got actual job work to do:
Was talking with Mothers Whiskey guitarist/vocalist Greg Powers before the show and he mentioned he’s an East Coast guy, from Maryland. I don’t know that I would necessarily have picked it out in his approach had he not said it, but he had some of that post-Sixty Watt Shaman burl, though tempered obviously by the pervasive mellow of his current surroundings. Thus, Mothers Whiskey were a solid bicoastal blend, unpretentious and laid back, but still with an insistent undertone. Pretty clear they’re figuring out their sound, but their dynamic was solid, particularly on closer “Scorpion Moon Burn,” which carried that Southern heavy influence across smoothly.
Sons of Huns
The first band I’ve seen on this tour in which no single member had a full beard. Nonetheless, a local trio who’ve made a splash with their recent Banishment Ritualrelease, Sons of Huns were clearly known to the crowd. It was an all-ages show, and they skewed young, which never hurts, but they made their chops plain enough to see, guitarist Pete Hughes busting out solos that I read as an opening volley soon enough to be returned by Radio Moscow while sharing vocal duties with bassist Shoki Tanabe, who switched to a fretless about halfway through the set. Drummer Ryan Northrop was the anchor, but nothing was really holding Sons of Huns back as they gave the yet-unnamed post-Millennial generation a reason to relish Kyuss-style riffing.
Since I was in the van this afternoon with them, I know the literal miles Kings Destroy came for this show, but they do little justice to how many miles more comfortable they seemed on stage. Guitarists Chris Skowronski and Carl Porcaro were shoving and kicking, almost daring each other to fuck up, while bassist Aaron Bumpus and drummer Rob Sefcik provided the foundation for their shenanigans and Steve Murphy turned his mic stand at one point into a harpoon and thrust it in the general direction of the crowd. They started a little early, so squeezed “Dusty Mummy” into a riff-heavy set that worked well after Sons of Huns, setting up a rock/doom back and forth that would continue into Radio Moscow and Pentagram. The vocals didn’t come across as clearly, but the new song, “Embers,” was tighter tonight as well.
Doesn’t matter how many nights this tour goes, I don’t imagine I’m going to get tired of watching Radio Moscow make killing it look so easy. Two new songs in the set tonight, “Death of a Queen” and another one, plus “Rancho Tehama Airport,” which is also pretty recent, and where last night dipped back to the self-titled for “Frustrating Sound,” and that was certainly welcome as far as I’m concerned, I am not in the slightest about to complain about getting to know a couple new cuts ahead of the arrival of their new album, Magical Dirt, which seems to be slated for a spring release. Whenever it comes, the twists and turns in “Death of a Queen” are sure to be a highlight, as they were both in Seattle and at the Hawthorne, where they were met with due appreciation and then some by the all-ages set, who had youthful vigor on their side, and the 21-and-overs, who were sloshed. Suddenly the show felt very sold out, very packed in. No arguments though.
Yeah, and then Pentagram went on. Even before they took the stage, the push of people toward the front was fairly ridiculous. Bobby Liebling got cheers even as he walked out from the green room on the side of the stage, standing on a balcony and pointing at the crowd, obviously thrilled to see him. The place went off. Set was the same as last night — my only complaint with it is no “Walk in Blue Light,” but you can’t have everything — opening with “Nightmare Gown” from Be Forewarned and going into “Review Your Choices” before letting loose with “Forever My Queen” after what seemed to be some technical difficulty and on from there. It was during the latter (they were inadvertently switched at El Corazon, come to think of it), that being up front became an untenable situation and I did what any self-respecting adult would do and fell backwards into the press to make my way through. At one point the strap of my bookbag with my laptop in it was hooked around some plastered girl’s arm who refused to give it up, but I was ready to pull her outside with me if necessary. Finally I shouted something about it actually being my bag and a light went on in her head and she let go. I was pretty well frazzled, but made my way to the back to watch more. True, it was the same deal as Seattle, but screw it. Every time you get to see Pentagram — with Victor Griffin on guitar especially — it’s the right way to go, though I’ll admit that when they got down to the encore of “Be Forewarned” into “Wartime,” I was listening from outside.
Loadout, well, didn’t go quite as smoothly as last night. There was a bit of waiting and when all the stuff was in the sprinter, it was established that we’d be hitting a bar called Chopsticks at the suggestion of some locals who were headed that way. Tomorrow is an off-day for the tour. Turns out the place was a Chinese restaurant in addition to a bar — they called it fast food but they were the best dumplings I’ve had since I moved out of New Jersey — and that the karaoke was going in full force. Chopsticks wasn’t as packed as the show, but it had a crowd, and they felt like dancing. It was 1:30AM by the time we got there and about 2:30AM by the time we left, and in between is a blur of irony-overload ’80s hits sung by an assortment pulled from the almost-entirely-white assemblage. One guy did “Aqualung,” and nailed it, but the rest was Tears for Fears, Michael Jackson and the like.
Many laughs, many drinks, some dim sum, and no one was quite as sloppy as they semi-apologized for being. I think on some level it’s weird for these dudes that I’m here and that I’m writing as I’m here, like an embed. I know they’ve seen some of what’s been posted, and it’s not that they’re being guarded — at one point tonight I rechristened the band “Kings Destroyed,” so if there were guards, they went on break and didn’t come back — but my concern is not harshing anyone’s good time by making them feel like they’re being watched.
Anyway. There was talk of a James Brown hot tub party when we got back to the motel by the airport where we’re staying, but it was to bed almost immediately. Steve gets his own room, Carl and I share (even at his worst so far, which might be right now, he’s nowhere near the worst snorer with whom I’ve shared a hotel room), Rob and Aaron, and C-Wolf and Jim Pitts. We’re all in a row on the 200 level of the Clarion with a noon checkout tomorrow and a drive to San Francisco to follow. It’s now four in the morning. Something tells me we won’t be getting an early start.
02.23.14 — 12:47AM Pacific — Sat. Night — El Corazon, Seattle, WA
“High drama…” — Steve Murphy
I’m going to try to make this quick, because my laptop clock says 3:47AM and I can’t help but feel like that’s accurate. Tonight at El Corazon in Seattle. First night of the tour. Weather as advertised. Volume as advertised. Doom of many shapes. Place filled up as the night went on. A special cheers to the giant who decided it was fun to dig in elbows up front during Pentagram.
Tonight was a five-band bill. One of several that I know of on this run. Front to back and jetlagged, it was a hell of a way to start the tour. Good crowd though, unless you count the aforementioned giant. Which I do. In bruises.
Here’s how it went down:
I know the deal is the tour and the touring bands, and I’m way down with that or I wouldn’t be here in the first place, but I was really glad I got to see Ancient Warlocks play. I also got to meet guitarist/vocalist Aaron Krause and guitarist Darren Chase and it was good for the soul. Their easy-rolling fuzz and trad-stoner grooving must have been a good match tonally for Mars Red Sky a few years back when they teamed up, but they were locked in and not at all out of place on the stage. When I asked Chase if they had any copies of their album to buy, he said they were sold out. It was easy to see why when they played.
They were a late add to the lineup, but a welcome one. Lesbian crossed genre lines fluidly and touched on black metal, doom and even some thrash with natural ease. They’re the kind of band that, if I lived in this town, I’d probably go see a lot, but as it is, this was the first time. Even after Ancient Warlocks loaded their gear off the stage, there was a considerable wall of amps, and I think an entire layer in that wall belonged to Lesbian. Hard to argue with the density of sound they were able to elicit from them, two guitars and bass running in gleeful aural excess. Bassist/vocalist Dorando Hodous said their last song — unless I’m mistaken about this — was about a “really horny dinosaur.” I didn’t catch the title, but it fucking ruled.
At this point, I feel comfortable saying I’ve seen Kings Destroy more than any band in the last three years. If that’s not true — and it is, by a mile — then it certainly will be by the end of this trip. Tonight was the first night of the tour, and it took them a song or two to click, but somewhere right around a new song called “Embers” that has, among other things, the most complex vocal melody I’ve heard from the band, they locked it in and were full-throttle the rest of the five-song set. “The Mountie” into “Casse-Tete” worked well to open, but once they slammed into “The Toe,” I think they made a lot of new friends. Leaving the rest of the band on stage, vocalist Steve Murphy hopped down into the crowd for closer “Blood of Recompense,” walking away when the song was over and handing the mic to a random guy in the crowd who, as he told his friends after putting it back on the stage, was tempted to make a dick joke, but decided against it.
Radio Moscow had the leg up. On the universe, it seemed, but at least on the other two touring acts, since they’d already had a couple gigs under their belt over the last few nights. It’s a crazy change in vibe to have the San Diego-based trio playing between Kings Destroy and Pentagram, but they hit into “I Just Don’t Know” from 2011’s Brain Cycles and the room, which by then was packed out, was theirs. They also brought the Mad Alchemy light show with them, though the oils were going for all the bands and I guess will be for the duration of the tour. Not going to complain, and it works especially well for Radio Moscow, who tossed in a new song full of intricate starts and stops that served as a reminder of how ridiculously tight the band’s rhythm section, bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone are, though it’s guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs who takes the bulk of the solos, each one earned and soaked in wah.
I don’t care who you are or what you’ve seen, watching Pentagram play “Forever My Queen” is one of the great joys of doom. When I came back from dinner before the show started, I got to watch some of their soundcheck, so I knew “Be Forewarned” was coming — you might say I was forewarned — but “8” from Last Rites and “Dying World” from the self-titled were cool to hear alongside staples like “Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram),” “All Your Sins” and “When the Screams Come.” While they were setting up their gear, someone in the crowd looked up and said, “Holy shit, it’s Victor Griffin!” and that about sums it up. His tone and Bobby Liebling‘s frontman presence are a rightfully legendary combo, and even though it was the first night of their tour as well, they sent the Seattle crowd into the evening well aware of who and what they had just seen. The current Pentagram lineup, with Griffin, Liebling, bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley already sounded like pros, but I’ll be really interested to see where they’re at by the time we roll into San Francisco.
We loaded out the gear from El Corazon about as fast as we could and on the way back out to the Red Roof Inn, I asked Jim Pitts to stop the van so I could jump out and take a picture of the Space Needle. No regrets. Tomorrow morning, 11AM, we head to Portland. It’s after 3:30AM now. I think everyone was a little more relaxed with the first show down. Myself included.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
So, a while back I got word of a Kings Destroy West Coast tour in the works with Pentagram. This was awesome news in itself, but then I got asked if I might want to tag along for the shows, fly out west, go places I’ve never gone, see things I’ve never seen, and spend a week-plus on the road with doom royalty — which, no matter who’s in the lineup at any given moment, Pentagram can still claim to be.
Obviously the answer to this question was a resounding yes.
Then Radio Moscow got added to the middle support slot and it was even more of a resounding yes. As such, and unless between now and then a piano falls on my head or I lose yet another job, I will be hitting the road with Kings Destroy while they tour alongside Radio Moscow and Pentagram. Aside from the bands — I wish I had made the post now to refer back to it but Kings Destroy were my favorite live act last year and I still revel in how outclassed I was by their A Time of Hunting sophomore outing — this will be my first time in the Pacific Northwest, as well as my first time on the ground in the American desert, and passing through San Francisco, I figure I’ve got at least a 25 percent chance of getting to stop at Amoeba Records, and you know damn well I’m all about that.
Here are the dates:
Pentagram, Radio Moscow, and Kings Destroy western USA tour in Feb/March. We are honored to be announcing these dates! See you on the road.
Pentagram with Radio Moscow & Kings Destroy
Feb. 22 El Corazon, Seattle, WA Feb. 23 Hawthorne Theater, Portland, OR Feb. 25 DNA Lounge, San Francisco, CA Feb. 27 Sister Bar, Albuquerque, NM Feb. 28 Summit Music Hall, Denver, CO March 1 In the Venue, Salt Lake City, UT
Pentagram, First Daze Here: The Vintage Collection (2002)
Sometimes if it’s been a while I forget if I’ve already posted a record. I did a quick search on the site for First Daze Hereto see if I had posted the compilation of vintage early ’70s Pentagram tracks before, and no, I haven’t, but I found that on Oct. 30, 2009 — four years and two days ago — I closed out the week with “Lazylady” from the album. I was already pretty set on First Daze Here, but that just made it all the better for me. The more things change, right? Almost half a decade later, still wrapping up a long week with “Forever My Queen” and “When the Screams Come.” Go figure.
I was in college when Relapse issued this compilation in 2002, and I knew who Pentagram was at that point, but for sure First Daze Heregave me a whole new appreciation for the band, as I think it did for a lot of people. It’s great to have Bobby Liebling and company still rocking out, and I’ve yet to see him sing any of these songs and not enjoy myself, but this is just a special document of a special time, and thinking of all the great music and all the great doom I was discovering at that point, it’s wound up representing a special time for me as well. Maybe that’s not what they had in mind 30 years after the fact from the recording, but it worked out that way anyhow.
Before I wrap things up, I want to extend a special thanks to Todd Severin and John Rancik from The Ripple Effect. This week, they posted an interview with me about running this site and music in general and a lot of things, and it really meant a lot to me that they’d take the time or be interested enough to send over questions. I was pretty wordy in my answers, but I had been thinking a lot about what I’m doing with this project and why I do what I do here, and they gave me a real chance to explore some of those ideas in a way that was as much clearing it up for myself as for anyone else who might be interested. It was truly appreciated, and as someone who’s rarely on that end of an interview, I hope I did alright in laying out some of my perspective.
Appreciation also goes out to everyone on Thee Facebooks who shared the link or was kind enough to comment. I got some great support from people I genuinely respect, and frankly, that’s what keeps me going, so thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
And thank you.
I didn’t get as many album reviews in this week as I would’ve liked, but there was the SHoD coverage and starting the vinyl column and I was either going to do the Windhand interview today or review a record and I decided with their tour starting tonight, that was the way to go. Next week I’ll get to that Sandrider album. I’m also in Jersey for the next couple days and I’ll be going to see Orange Goblin tomorrow night at St. Vitus, so look for a review of that on Monday.
It kills me that I’m not going to get to SHoD next weekend. I had been planning on going for a long time, and there are a lot of bands I want to see, but it’s a money thing. Gas for a nine-hour drive, then a room, food, etc., never mind whatever I’d be spending on merch throughout the weekend. The Patient Mrs. was gracious about it. She was like, “You can go and we’ll charge it,” but it wouldn’t be fair for me to do that. I’ll look forward to the next The Eye of the Stoned Goat fest, which got its first announcement yesterday.
And there’s plenty to do in the meantime. In addition to the Sandrider and Orange Goblin reviews, I’ve got a full album stream set to go up on Monday from the German outfit Rising, whose last album was also streamed here. Nothing like symmetry. We’ll also continue the “10 Days of SHoD” coverage. I’m slated to jump on the phone with Dana Ortt from Beelzefuzz on Monday night, so maybe Tuesday or Wednesday I’ll get that posted. Looking forward to that.
As always, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. If you’re hitting up Orange Goblin in Brooklyn, I’ll see you there, and otherwise, back here Monday for more warm tones and rolling grooves. Please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 9th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Who wouldn’t want to settle in for a Switzerland autumn? Frankly, it sounds about as close to ideal as I can picture, and it would seem that Sound of Liberation — the booking powers that be behind the last few years’ Up in Smoke traveling fest — are in agreement. In league with the Swiss venue Z7 in Pratteln, they’ll present the first Up in Smoke indoor festival, and they’ve put together a killer lineup for their first outing. With Pentagram, Colour Haze, My Sleeping Karma and Truckfighters among their first batch of announced headliners, the Up in Smoke fest is sure to get a heavy beginning and hopefully it’ll be the first of many to come.
Here’s the poster and official announcement, plus a live clip of Colour Haze from the first Up in Smoke tour, just for the hell of it:
UP IN SMOKE indoor Festival
Born in 2011, the concept initially called UP IN SMOKE Roadfestival is a tribute to the clouds of blue smoke which wave around the dances and trances of music lovers around the world ! Each time, for each volume, we offered a well suiting band package and got them to hit the European roads to meet their fans and rock the crowds with psychedelic, doom, heavy rock and experimental riffs.
As free to move as a cloud of smoke were the four first editions of the road festival… But this year, the UP IN SMOKE festival becomes sedentary, and sets up in PRATTELN (CH), a location close to the French and German borders. On October 5th 2013, a new puff of smoke will rise up from the one of the very best Swiss venues : Z7 KONZERTFABRIK ! Take part and join us !
date : 05th October 2013 place: Z7, Pratteln, Switzerland
The roadfestival UP IN SMOKE stops its caravan in Switzerland for a new rendez-vous: after 3 years of wandering around Europe, we have decided to offer a “home” to UP IN SMOKE for one full day in the sweetest swiss rock venue : Z7. Description: Heavy Rock, Stoner, Sludge, Doom & Psychedelic Festival 16 bands – 2 stages – 1 day
Line up so far:
PENTAGRAM (US) ***excl.Switzerland Show COLOUR HAZE (D) ***excl.Switzerland Show TRUCKFIGHTERS (SWE) ***excl.Switzerland Show MY SLEEPING KARMA (D) ***excl.Switzerland Show RADIO MOSCOW (US) GLOWSUN (F) MONKEY 3 (CH) SHEVER (CH) JOULES (CH) MARANT (CH) + more bands to be announced soon
The photo above is of my wristband for this year’s Desertfest. You’ll note it’s not attached to my wrist. I got back just a little bit ago from the Electric Ballroom and had meant to ask at the front desk of the hotel for them to cut it off with scissors, since it’s pretty sturdy material — it’s had to be to last these several days — but forgot on my way up and wound up just pulling it off around my hand. I feel like I should have it framed.
Late nights beget later nights, so I’m not gonna waste time here. Day three was no less righteous than one would have to expect after the first two. Here’s how it went down for me:
The other day I received a vehement recommendation to check out Throne, to which I responded, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure they played last year and were cool.” Turns out they did play Desertfest 2012, at The Underworld, but this year the trio moved over to The Black Heart, which was where my day began with their unpretentious Sleep riffing and nodding rhythms. They still didn’t have an album for sale downstairs that I could find, but The Black Heart was, as it has been this whole weekend, packed out. On my way through, I watched a couple seconds through the doorway in the spirit of Roadburn and found myself still persuaded by their languid pacing and largely-unfrilled stonery. I had finished my cup of coffee about two minutes before they started playing, so it was a cool way to wake up.
Meanwhile, at The Underworld, Brighton/Manchester-based Blackstorm were dishing out a pounding the likes of which I’d not yet seen here. They were a band about whom I knew next to nothing, but their double-guitar uptempo crushcore was a longer way away from what Throne were doing at The Black Heart than the street that divided the two acts physically. I arrived part of the way through their set, which the five-piece delivered in lively fashion, with lots of movement, a swinging mic stand and big, chunky riffs set to breakdown beats. “Then You’ll Drown” was a burly basher, and I caught “Run with the Wolves” from their late-2012 EP, The Darkness is Getting Closer, which was distinguished by the dual vocals of guitarist Neil Kingsbury and frontman Karl Middleton. They were tight and had it together on stage, though my head was already preparing itself for the cleaving it would no doubt receive from who followed them.
Suddenly I had to wonder why I bothered bringing earplugs in the first place. British trio Conan weren’t through the second verse of “Hawk as Weapon” from last year’s low-end raging Monnos(review here) before I felt like they’d melted in my ear canal. Guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil just released their set from last year’s Roadburn as the new Mount WrathCD and vinyl, and while that’s definitely a satisfying listen, I was glad to see them in-person again, because no matter how loud you turn up a record, I don’t know if there’s any way to do justice to what Conan are live. Beastly heavy. Heavy to whatever degree hyperbole you might want to put to it, and while that heaviness and Davis and Coumbe‘s tones are still the star of the show, the three-piece also have grown as a stage act since I last had the good fortune to see them. Coumbe‘s low growls and Davis‘ shouting worked especially well together, and in addition to “Hawk as Weapon,” “Battle in the Swamp” and “Grim Tormentor” from Monnos, Conan also played two new songs, “Foehammer” and “Gravity Chasm,” which continued the warmongering gallop of the earlier album tracks that set up an excruciatingly slow finale, all the while keeping their fury front and center and proving there’s more to their heaviness than what comes through their amps.The other day, when I got stopped by that customs agent, he accused me of trying to illegally emigrate to the UK. I’m still not planning on it, but Conan make a solid argument in favor of doing so.
Kudos to whoever handled scheduling the bands’ timeslots for putting Conan and Toner Low right next to each other. I’d never seen the Dutch three-piece before — they’re now in their 15th year and have just released their third album — but they actually share a lot in common with Conan in terms of their general ethic. They are unreasonably loud, unremittingly heavy in tone and seem like they’re ready to follow a riff anywhere it might lead them. The difference is aggression. Where Conan are all beheadings and mayhem, Toner Low are purely stoned. Toner Low played in the dark but for a psychedelic lightshow setup they placed in front of their drummer and a sheet with projected falling pot leaves on the guitarist/vocalist, but yeah, they’re about as stoner as stoner gets, working in elements of more primal drone here and there, but keeping a solid foundation of riffs at hand at almost all times. They brought their own rigs, which made sense for the bassist since her gear was different from what seemed to be on hand, but the guitar — which seemed to be actually coated in resin from the look of it — ran through an Orange half-stack and amp they brought, and there’s been so much Orange around Desertfest I can practically taste it. I can’t argue with their having done it, though, since Toner Low sounded unbelievably good. I bought their new record and am looking forward to checking it out.
Naam beckoned. I won’t lie, there was a part of me that was like, “Why the hell would you go to London and see a band you can see in New York?” The other part of me was all, “No way dude, this is gonna be awesome. Naam have a new record coming out,” and that part of me won. Once a trio, now a foursome and tonight playing as a five-piece with the addition of a second guitar — not that they were lacking texture before, but more never hurts – Naam‘s universe seems to be in permanent expansion, both in terms of their lineup and their sound. Tonight was the best I’ve seen them play, and I’ve seen them play a few really killer shows. The integration of John Weingarten‘s keys along with Ryan Lugar‘s guitar/vocals, John Bundy‘s bass/vocals and Eli Pizzuto‘s drums is complete, and to show that, “Starchild” from last year’s The Ballad of the StarchildEP was the highlight of their whole set, though “Beyond” from their forthcoming sophomore full-length, Vow, came pretty close. They’ve nearly perfected a balance between stoner riffing and Hawkwindian space rush, and not surprisingly, their heavy psych went over huge at the Electric Ballroom. Naam are just starting a two-month European and UK tour that will have them in this part of the world for a while — perhaps it’s telling of their relative receptions that they’ll be in Europe when Vow releases — so I imagine they’ll only further solidify, but already they played a headliner’s set, closing as always with “Kingdom” from the EP of the same name (it also appeared on their 2009 debut LP), the layers of which shimmered with psychedelic vibes prior to a full-on freakout at the end of pushed-over drums and guitar destruction. Awesome.
Here’s a direct quote from my notes on Truckfigters‘ set: “Everyone in the world who’s never seen Truckfighters live is a jive sucker and that’s that.” More or less, that covers my feelings on the matter. The Örebro trio — Ozo on vocals/bass, Dango on guitar and now Poncho on drums — are easily the most energetic and engaging fuzz rock acts I’ve ever seen, and before they were through perpetual opener “Desert Cruiser,” both Ozo and Dango had gone past the monitors at the front of the stage to be closer to the crowd, who were singing along loud enough to be heard over the instruments. But Truckfighters – who are fresh off a tour with Norwegian blackened punkers Kvelertak and shortly headed to Australia and New Zealand for a run of shows — aren’t just getting their cardio in, they’re also nailing the material and delivering it with a genuine sense of spontaneity and the impression that anything can happen at any given moment, such as Ozo jumping into the crowd during closer “In Search of The” or the band launching into “Chameleon” after someone in the crowd requested it, jamming on “Desert Cruiser” or unveiling two new songs, the first which fit (“fett?”) well with the bounce of “Monte Gargano,” which came later, and the second which had a fuller, fuzzier shuffle in the beginning and wound up thicker but still moving, with a quick bass and drum break to set up a return to what seemed on first impression to be a solid hook. “Majestic” was welcome, and from their audience interaction to the tightness of their performance — at one point Dango fell on stage after jumping off the drum riser and didn’t even stop playing as he got up — there are few records supposedly coming out before the end of this year that I’m looking forward to as much as the new Truckfighters.
An hour hardly seemed like enough time for a proper Colour Haze set. Back in September 2012, the ultra-influential Munich heavy psych trio rolled through London and did a full three hours, complete with guest appearances, keys, and so on. Still, I’ll take what I can get, and when it came to “Transformation” from She Said (review here) — my album of the year last year — I still heard the horn parts in my head even though no one was playing them live, so I’m not about to bitch that the experience was somehow lacking. It wasn’t. Colour Haze were a complete 180 in terms of presence from Truckfighters, mostly subdued, no jumping, no running around, plenty of grooving, but less about getting the heart rate up than giving the audience something to shut its eyes and get lost in. As guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philip Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald jammed past “Moon” from 2008’s Alland into “Love” from their ’04 self-titled, they were so locked into what they were doing that the real miracle of it seemed to be they didn’t lose the crowd in the slightest. An extended take only gave everyone watching more to dig on, so that by the time “Peace, Brothers and Sisters” and “Tempel” came around, the Electric Ballroom was suitably hypnotized. Seriously, I just wanted to give them money. Like, “Here, Colour Haze, I have 50 Euro left over from last weekend. Please take it.” I’ve seen them before — their set at Emissions from the Monolith in 2006 changed my life (ask me about it sometime), and at one or two Roadburn fests along the way — but even though this felt like a sampling, it was ultra-satisfying to watch these godfathers of the modern European scene do what quite simply nobody does better. As I already knew I wouldn’t be staying for the entire Pentagram set, Colour Haze were sort of my closeout for Desertfest, and I couldn’t have asked for a warmer farewell than that. They were masterful.
I got a press release earlier this week that oft-imitated doom pioneers Pentagram had a new guitarist in the form of Philly-based Matt Goldborough, but that the lineup was otherwise the same as when Victor Griffin was still slinging axe, with Sean Saley on drums and Greg Turley on bass with frontman/defining presence Bobby Liebling on vocals. Of course, lineup changes are nothing new for Liebling‘s band — their legacy is as much about tumult as it is about the riff to “Forever My Queen” — but Griffin‘s presence brought a certain legitimacy to Pentagram‘s recent run and their 2011 Last Rites comeback album (review here), and his departure, whatever the circumstances may have been, changes the context of the band, Griffin – who also played today with his new outfit In~Graved – being one of very few others who’ve done time in Pentagram who can lay reasonable claim to the material. He may well have come out to guest on guitar (I recall seeing the band in 2009 when he wasn’t with them and that happened), but if he did, I wasn’t there to see it. I stayed for about four songs and then had to split to come back to the hotel, write and pack for my flight out tomorrow. For the portion I did catch, however — “Day of Reckoning,” “Forever My Queen,” “Treat Me Right” and “Livin’ in a Ram’s Head” — Pentagram were tight and Liebling was Liebling. There are few things as much fun to watch in a concert setting as Bobby Liebling flipping out to a guitar solo. Like he hasn’t been staring at them for 40 years now. Awesome. Turley and Saley have the material on lockdown, and as the new guy, Goldborough more than held his own on guitar, a younger presence giving some freshness to what might just as easily have come across stale otherwise. I’ve seen worse from Pentagram, and though one can dream of this or that reunion lineup, the simple fact that they exist and persist is to be… respected? Maybe. Probably. Definitely gazed at in astonishment. And so they were.
I have work to do. As in, for my job. And so I know that Desertfest, as blissful as it has been, must be over. My plan is to write up some concluding thoughts for this whole trip tomorrow on the plane, and I’ll include a thanks list with that, but before I switch off to picture-sorting mode, I just want to say it’s been an absolute pleasure and an honor to be back here in Camden this weekend, to see the bands I’ve been lucky enough to be here to see and to meet the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet. This place is awesome (but for the weather), the music is great and I feel like even more than last year, Desertfest is developing a genuine vibe all its own. I was beat today, t-i-r-e-d, but at the same time, I knew I wanted to take as much of the proceedings in as possible, because when I’m back home slogging away in the office, I’m going to miss it.
More to come tomorrow, and more pics after the jump. Thanks as always for reading.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Before they head overseas to play both Desertfests and the Barrosela Metalfest in Portugal, US doom legends Pentagram will make a stop at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar, as the latest in an increasingly long line of impressive gets for the venue that’s also included such landmark acts as Eyehategod, Floor (who’ll be there next Friday) and Saint Vitus themselves. Pretty fucking astounding, if you ask me. I’ll be on a plane while the show is happening, but this one’s bound to be a good time for anyone who can make it out and/or won’t be able to see the band at this year’s Maryland Deathfest.
Heavy metal legends, PENTAGRAM, will be returning to the road in 2013 in Europe, as well as North America, for select shows and festivals. The band will once again perform at Maryland Death Fest as well as Farmageddon Records Music Festival, Metaldays (Slovakia), Barroselas Metalfest XVI (Portugal), and more. PENTAGRAM’s list of confirmed performances can be found below.
PENTAGRAM will have new merchandise designs available exclusively at these shows. Also, the band has listened to their fans and will be performing some classics and fan favorites that have never before been performed live! Be forewarned, everything’s turning to night!
PENTAGRAM 04/16 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus Bar 04/25 Berlin, DE Astra *Desertfest 2013* 04/26 Barroselas, PT Barrosela Metalfest XVI 04/28 London, UK Electric Ballroom *Desertfest 2013* 05/26 Baltimore, MD Forme Sonar Compound *Maryland Deathfest 2013* 07/20 Warsaw, PL Days of Ceremony 2013 07/22 Tolmin, SI Metaldays 2013 07/25-07/28 TBA, Montana Farmageddon Records Music Festival
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Legendary Pentagram frontman Bobby Liebling will be hitting the stage with Houston’s own Sanctus Bellum on Dec. 22 at Rudyard’s British Pub, playing a set of ’70s Pentagram classics. Also joining Sanctus Bellum for a set will be James Rivera of Helstar, and while that means Sanctus Bellum bassist Ben Yaker and guitarist Jan Kimmel will be performing a staggering triple-duty night on their shared birthday, something in me doubts they’ll mind, given the circumstances.
Pretty badass way to celebrate your birthday, if you’re into that kind of thing. Here’s all the info and charm-tastic poster with art by Will Broadbent:
Members of Pentagram and Helstar to Perform One-of-a-Kind Sets with Sanctus Bellum in Houston, TX
Bobby Liebling of Pentagram and James Rivera of Helstar will perform special one-time-only sets with members of Sanctus Bellum at The El Birthday Metal Fest II on December 22, 2012 at Rudyard’s British Pub in Houston, TX. The sets with Liebling and Rivera, styled Sanctus Bellum Sanctuary and Sanctus Bellum Sanctus respectively, will see the heavy metal icons performing songs that they have rarely, if ever, performed previously during their lengthy careers.
For the Sanctus Bellum Sanctus set with Rivera, the band will perform a set of classic metal covers reflecting Sanctus Bellum and James Rivera’s shared influences. The set will include material by both well-known and comparatively underground bands and is sure to please fans of Rivera’s extensive body of work.
For the Sanctus Bellum Sanctuary set with Bobby Liebling, the band will perform a full set of 70s Pentagram classics, most of which have not been performed live in decades and some of which have never been performed live at all. Speaking on the Sanctus Bellum Sanctuary set, Sanctus Bellum bassist Ben Yaker stated that “anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been a huge Pentagram fan for years and that my favorite incarnation of the band is the 70s lineup. This show has given me the opportunity to select some of my favorite, but often overlooked, Pentagram tracks that I’ve always wanted to hear Bobby perform live. It’s an incredible honor to be able to share the stage with Bobby, who’s been the driving force behind my all-time favorite band, Pentagram, and with James, who’s helmed the most significant metal band ever to come out of Houston.”
The festival, which will also feature performances by Sanctus Bellum, Cauldron (ex-Gammacide), H.R.A., Owl Witch and Serpent Sun, celebrates the birthdays of Yaker and Sanctus Bellum guitarist Jan Kimmel. Artwork for the event by Will Broadbent Illustration, which will be available as a full color 24×36 poster at the show, features the members of Sanctus Bellum, along with Liebling and Rivera, animated as members of the Legion of Doom.
The El Birthday Metal Fest II Saturday, December 22nd, 2012, 5pm Rudyard’s British Pub 2010 Waugh, Houston, TX 77006 $15, 21+
Lineup: Sanctus Bellum Sanctuary (Members of Sanctus Bellum with Bobby Liebling of Pentagram) Sanctus Bellum Sanctus (Members of Sanctus Bellum with James Rivera of Helstar) Sanctus Bellum Cauldron (ex-Gammacide) H.R.A. Owl Witch Serpent Sun
Sanctus Bellum’s most recent album, The Shining Path, was released on June 12, 2012.
Posted in Reviews on February 25th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
*ALERT: There be spoilers ahead.*
I’d read the email wrong. Perhaps it was my subconscious knowing how little I want to be in Midtown Manhattan, ever, but the address where the press screening of the long-awaited Bobby Liebling documentary, Last Days Here, was taking place was 1619 Broadway, and not 1616, as I swore up and down to The Patient Mrs. We still made it on time, and when I walked off the elevator on the fifth floor of the building — which, while we’re relating things to movies, I’ll say looked like something out of The Hudsucker Proxy — I awkwardly stumbled through identifying myself to the guy with the clipboard and the press list on it and we soon made our way inside, to the front row, and waited for the film to start.
Filmmakers Damien Fenton and Don Argott of 9.14 Productions — who between them directed, edited, produced and operated the cameras — also serve as the guitar duo for Philadelphia instrumentalists Serpent Throne, who released their third album, White Summer/Black Winter (review here), in 2011. Between this and the recent screening of the Southern metal doc Slow Southern Steel helmed by CT of Rwake (covered here), I’ve had occasion recently to think a lot about the nature of self-examination as regards heavy and underground metal and rock. Last Days Here was made my professionals, absolutely — Fenton and Argott crafted the documentary Rock School in 2005, prior to taking on this project — but professionals well inside the culture they’re documenting.
On an anthropological level, that’s bad science. Ideally, you would want someone outside of the subculture analyzing and reporting on its characteristics. One does not expect in watching one of his nature specials that David Attenborough should be a penguin, so why is it that no one but headbangers can be trusted to convey the ideals of the heavy metal lifestyle?
The simple answer — and what I’ve come to reconcile myself to in watching these movies — is they’d fuck it up. You couldn’t have Last Days Here filmed by a group of people without a direct appreciation for Liebling‘s contributions to heavy metal and more specifically to doom. It would either fall flat, ring hollow, or collapse on its own insincerity. It takes someone who knows not only what that appreciation feels like, but how much of your life it can consume and how much of your worldview it can shape. I don’t think heavy metal is alone in this regard, but had Last Days Here been produced by “outsiders,” it would have been condescending and cynical, and since the emotional investment is part of what typifies the culture, it has to be present on the most basic creative level for a film like this to work.
There are arguments to be made on either side of that, I suppose, but the notion of the “true” and underground heavy’s seemingly endless search for authenticity is an essential piece of understanding that Last Days Here takes as a given. It’s part of what revived Pentagram in the first place for the latest run that winds up as the triumph with which Fenton and Argott cap their film — well, that and the birth of Liebling‘s son in 2010 — and it’s what serves as the driving motivation that leads Philadelphia native and former Relapse Records employee Sean “Pellet” Pelletier to spearhead that revival.
We open on a toothless Liebling living in his parents’ sub-basement, smoking crack and promising not to die before the film is completed. Going into it knowing that Pentagram successfully completed tours of the US and Europe since this time, that Liebling was able to stay clean long enough to oversee the recording and release of the first album in a three-record deal for Metal Blade — 2011’s Last Rites (review here) — it’s obvious he keeps that promise, but if I wasn’t familiar with the band, it would be easy to see that as a foreshadow of his death to come. He looks neither long for the world nor particularly thrilled at having to spend another day in it. His arms are bandaged from what’s soon to be revealed as perpetual scratching and picking off his own skin as a result of crack-induced paranoia. He is a mess of injection scars and infection.
Last Days Here is ultimately sympathetic to Liebling, but at times brutally honest. We meet Bobby‘s parents, Diane and Joe Liebling, who’ve had to come to terms with their son’s failure at life and love him anyway. Their role as enablers of his lifestyle, such as it is, is touched on but never explored, and for a moment, it’s a bit like an episode of the tv show Intervention gone wrong. Before long, Pelletier (who is not to be confused with fellow Philly resident Chris Pelletier, the US label manager for Season of Mist; that’s a mistake I’ve regretted making a few times) is introduced as the second of the movie’s major focal points (that’s not to use the word “characters” to refer to people who actually exist), and he tells his story of discovering Pentagram‘s music at a record show with his then-girlfriend and having it change his life to the point of putting together the compilation of unreleased ’70s-era material, First Daze Here (The Vintage Collection), which was put out on Relapse in 2002 and instrumental in raising the profile of the band’s influence on doom, as well as somewhat ironically becoming one of their most influential releases in and of itself. All of a sudden, Witchcraft made a lot of sense.
A full history of Pentagram, its members, its legacy and its breadth of impact on the Maryland/D.C. doom style and underground and commercial metal is a project that the format of a feature-length documentary simply cannot cover, and Fenton and Argott must have either learned that early on or realized it going into the filming. Instead, Last Days Here crafts a narrative after giving a basic background from interviews with the likes of original drummer Geof O’Keefe, Joe Hasselvander, Victor Griffin, soundbyte-worthy journalist Ian Christie, Pelletier and others as well as telling the stories behind the band’s several failures — the audition for Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley they flopped, the lambasting Liebling gave Blue Öyster Cult engineer Murray Krugman (who appears to discuss the incident and the fame the band could’ve had in one of Last Days Here‘s several cringe-worthy segments) that unraveled their chance for a major-label contract — and laying much of the blame where it seems to belong: on the troubled singer writhing on his couch and rambling about parasites he needs to get out from under his skin, going to the hospital, signing a contract to turn over his record collection to Pelletier, Argott and Fenton if he ever smokes crack again.
He does, and so far as I know, keeps his records, and that’s one of the moments where the line between the filmmakers and the subject are the most blurred, but it’s also one of the most honest scenes in the movie, which one imagines is why it made the final cut and what must have been hundreds of hours of footage was cut. As regards the narrative that emerges in Last Days Here, it’s the story of Pelletier and Liebling — their troubled friendship (one gets the impression, particularly in hearing from O’Keefe, Hasselvander and Griffin, that Liebling knows no other kind) and Pelletier‘s attempts to get Bobby clean and put together a new Pentagram album with the original lineup. O’Keefe squashes those hopes after an entertaining trip down memory lane of some of Pentagram‘s negative reviews from their early days, but what shines through without any real outward mention is Pelletier‘s passion for the idea and for the band. As charismatic as Liebling is on camera — and even at his most addled, he is that; I had my own experience with it interviewing him early in 2010 — it’s Pelletier‘s belief in Liebling that drives the movie and serves as its emotional crux.
Liebling meets and falls for Hallie, a woman literally half his age (he’s 52, she’s 26), but though she eventually becomes his wife and the mother of their child, their own tumultuous relationship is seen more as an extension of Liebling‘s many addictions than the shot at redemption it ultimately wound up being. As Liebling moves to Philadelphia from the sub-basement to be near Hallie, it soon turns sinister (you can hear the musical shift in the Stars of the Lid drones that serve as a soundtrack when Pentagram‘s own music doesn’t) because of his drug use and Hallie dumps him, breaking his heart. We see Liebling as devastated, but it’s not heartbreak as much as it’s an addict needing a fix and she’s the fix. He pines, he moans, he gets tossed in jail for violating a restraining order she’s had put on him, and it’s Pelletier who puts his arm around Liebling and says how glad he is to see him after he bails him out. This is one of the most subtle and pivotal scenes of Last Days Here, because while Pelletier says this, he also adds that at least while Liebling was in prison, he knew where he was, reminding of an earlier confession that while Bobby was in jail, at least he could get some other work done.
Still heartbroken, Liebling returns to live with his parents and puts together a new Pentagram around the lineup of drummer Gary Isom, guitarist Russ Strahan and bassist Mark Ammen (all of whom would be gone by the time Last Rites came out). Its formation is somewhat nebulous, but Pelletier is nonetheless thrilled when he finally hears about it, only to be disappointed as Liebling continues using and mourning his loss of Hallie. Going to jail had cost Pentagram a deal with Phil Anselmo‘s Housecore Records — Anselmo shows up and appears as little more than a cartoon caricature of himself during his time on screen; I wanted to imagine the cameras shutting off and him asking in a perfectly clear and semi-British accent, “Shall we do another take, then?” — but Pentagram is moving forward anyway, mostly, from Liebling‘s perspective, as a means for him to prove to Hallie that he can not make it as a person more than a human being.
A sentimental pang went off in me when I saw the Metal Maniacs logo on the poster for Pentagram‘s 2009 comeback gig at Webster Hall. I didn’t go to that show (because that’s how much I hated working in New York), but seeing Liebling prevail on stage is Argott and Fenton‘s climax of Last Days Here. Off to the side of the stage is Pelletier, crying happy tears for Liebling‘s being able to pull it off this time as opposed to the several other flubbed comebacks mentioned as part of the buildup to the show, and in an interview shortly after their set, he says it was the best night of his life. His belief in Liebling, which doubtless came at the advice of those around him in his private life and, at times, himself, is validated, and the film fades to black after Bobby in repose and drunk on joy, quotes Forrest Gump in saying “life is like a box of chocolates.” As much as it kind of shot that moment in the foot to see it reduced to commodified film dialogue — the stuff of pop culture cliché — one almost has to applaud Argott and Fenton for leaving that in, unmanipulated. Muting him after the sentence before, which was poignant enough, and keeping him on screen in slow motion during the fade might have also worked, but it’s not really worth speculating.
Since it was finished before the album was released, Last Rites and Victor Griffin‘s return to Pentagram are never mentioned. Instead, an epilogue comes in seeing Liebling cooking breakfast and calling Hallie into the room. The two have gotten married, Liebling is living clean, and there’s a baby boy on the way. “There’s gonna be another me!” Liebling hams for the camera, while Hallie averts her eyes, clearly showing a preference for the man off-screen than the one on it. Nonetheless, this is grown up Bobby Liebling we’re being shown. Maybe 25 years too late, but grown up all the same. He has a bank account, he accompanies Hallie to the doctor to hear their son’s heartbeat for the first time, and in the very last shot of the movie, in a still photo, he and Hallie stand with their child, Robert Joseph Liebling, born in August 2010. He’s still posing for the camera, and there’s no guarantee that life is going to keep its serenity going forward — Argott and Fenton were wise not to make any such ridiculous promises — but you get what you get, and it’s certainly a happier ending than the opening promised.
After the credits rolled through, The Patient Mrs. and I joined the group of writerly-types in the hallway to head back downstairs and out. In the elevator, in a discussion between two critics in which I took part, one man told enough, half-laughing, that Last Days Here was well made, but that he had a hard time sympathizing with a pedophile — referring to the age difference between Bobby and Hallie Liebling — and I was astonished at how someone could so easily miss the point of the movie. Last Days Here isn’t the story of a musician who chases down a young girl and tricks her into bearing his seed, it’s the story of addiction, and each of Liebling‘s behaviors prior to getting clean as relates to Hallie can — and I’d gladly argue, should — be seen in that blue light more than any other.
The fact that at 26, Hallie – however sweet-faced or youthful she might appear next to her husband’s grizzled visage — was eight years beyond legal adulthood at the time of filming and at least deserves the respect of being allowed to make her own decisions on how and with whom to spend her days no matter how counter those decisions might run to one’s own perception of social norms and mores, is another issue altogether, but most importantly as regards Last Days Here, if Liebling proved able to correct his addictive behavior on all levels, including Hallie, and a healthy relationship was able to emerge from that, well, that’s more than a lot of people get. Hallie herself acknowledges the age difference and realizes that some people might think it’s weird. “If they think I’m only with him for his money, he doesn’t have any,” she says. And she’s right. If there wasn’t a strong emotional attachment there, why bother putting up with an addict whose track record of failures spans decades?
Hearing that, more than anything else, cemented for me the assertion above that you have to be within a subculture to fully understand it and that without the foundational appreciation for Liebling‘s creative work, no accurate portrayal of who he is and what he’s done as a person and as the leader of Pentagram, for better or worse, could be enacted. Last Days Here is that, and it’s a skillfully crafted, expertly edited narrative of friendship, love, failure and redemption in doom. I don’t know what the film’s appeal to those outside the sphere of the music will be, and I don’t have to care. If Pentagram have ever been anything, it’s been understood and embraced by a select group of people on whose lives they’ve made a serious impact. If that turns out to be the case with Last Days Here as well, the film can only be called more accurate for it. Doom on.