They’ve been out for a minute at this point, but I had to get these up. Small Stone Records will host showcases in Boston and Brooklyn March 28 and 29, respectively. Roadsaw, Lo-Pan, Gozu, and Neon Warship will play both in Boston at the Middle East and in Brooklyn at the St. Vitus bar, and both shows also mark the Northern debut of Texas fuzz-giants Wo Fat! The Dallas trio will be touring to herald the coming of their fifth album, due in June. If you couldn’t tell by the exclamation point, I’m excited to be seeing them again.
Mellow Bravo (whose lead guitarist, Jeff Fultz, will now be pulling double duty as a member of Gozu) also feature in Boston, while Geezer will add some New York heavy blues to the Brooklyn lineup. Both posters come courtesy of Chris Smith, whose DeviantArt page is here. As you can see below, the two posters are set up to complement each other, and the Boston one is angrier. That more or less sums up the relationship between Boston and NYC as I currently understand it. Extra kudos to Smith for the subtle social commentary.
Click either poster to enlarge, and check out the lineups and other sundry information about both shows below, along with the Bandcamp stream of Wo Fat‘s The Black Code (review here), just for the hell of it:
Small Stone Showcase Boston- March 28th
THE MIDDLE EAST RESTAURANT & NIGHTCLUB www.mideastclub.com/ 472-480 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
Mellow Bravo Wo Fat Lo-Pan GOZU Roadsaw Neon Warship
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
…Well, they are. And that’s just the first sliver of big news for Kings Destroy, who’ve got a new record coming that’ll be announced and given its well-deserved hyping over the next few months. While you’re waiting for that and the new video the shoot for which was the source of the woodsy photo above, Kings Destroy have a bunch of other dates coming up, including Days of the Doomed III in Wisconsin, to check out. Behold:
April 21 Northstar Bar, Philadelphia with Orange Goblin, ASG, KEN Mode, Roadsaw April 22 Saint Vitus , Brooklyn with Orange Goblin, ASG, KEN Mode, Roadsaw April 23 Middle East, Boston with Orange Goblin, Roadsaw June 7 Brooklyn, NY TBA June 20 Chicago, IL TBA June 21 Days of the Doomed Fest, Milwaukee, WI June 22 Columbus Ohio, with Hollow Leg plus TBA
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
File under, “Damn, Yo.” Roadsaw, Orange Goblin and Kings Destroy are making it happen, and by “it,” I mean cirrhosis.
I’ve heard legends of Goblin/Roadsaw shows before — the sheer sonic destructiveness of it all, and now they’re bringing that mess to Philly, Brooklyn and Boston in April as Orange Goblin headline a few dates after the end of their run of gigs with Clutch. And to have Kings Destroy on the bill. Well, damn, yo.
Only bummer is I won’t be in the country when it happens. Guess I’ll just have to admire the crater left in their wake upon my return. Here’s the news straight from Roadsaw:
Alright people…..very exciting news from our friends Orange Goblin ……the next ROADSAW shows….boom!
“Orange Goblin have confirmed 3 headline shows which will take place at the end of their tour supporting Clutch in April. The 3 headline shows will be:
Sun 21 Apr – North Star Bar, Philadelphia, PA Mon 22 Apr – Saint Vitus Bar, Brooklyn, NY Tue 23 Apr – Middle East (Downstairs), Boston, MA
These 3 shows will be a 4 band bill with our good friends ROADSAW, KINGS DESTROY”
Posted in audiObelisk on December 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
These Roadsaw demos from 1998 might be old hat by now if you’re a regular on the forum, but I thought after listening that they were definitely worth highlighting here as well in case anyone may have missed them. Darryl Shepard, now of Black Pyramid and Blackwolfgoat, played guitar with the band at the time and found the there songs on an old CDR and decided to put them up for anyone interested.
Well, I guess that would be me. What’s cool about these tracks is that it would be another nine years before the two that made the cut helped serve as the defining statement of Roadsaw‘s return in 2007. By then, Ian Ross had replaced Shepard on guitar to join founders Craig Riggs (vocals) and Tim Catz (bass) and drummer Hari Hassin, but Roadsaw – despite originally issuing Rawk ‘n’ Rollin 2001 — had been inactive for roughly half a decade before aligning themselves to Small Stone and reissuing that album, so both “Bad Ass Rising” and “Blackout Driver” had already stood the test of time for almost 10 years before they showed up on the reissue of Rawk ‘n’ Roll in 2007.
And the third track, “While You Waited” was never previously issued in any way at all, so this is the first time it’s coming out. Basically, for Roadsaw fans, they’re a curio kind of listen and a bit of insight into the band’s process as it was at the time. I included the original post from Shepard beneath, and you’ll find the tracks on the player below. Please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
I found a CD-R of Roadsaw demos from 1998 in a box last night, figured I’d post ‘em for people to check out. These were recorded between “Nationwide” and “Rawk ‘n Roll”. Two of the songs, Blackout Driver and Bad Ass Rising were re-recorded with Ian Ross and later appeared on “Rawk ‘n Roll”. The other song, While You Waited, never appeared on any release in any form. Andrew Schneider recorded these tracks at New Alliance in Boston. The line-up was Craig Riggs (vocals), Tim Catz (bass), Hari Hassin (drums) and yours truly on guitar. So here’s a little piece of Roadsaw history, hope you dig it.
The loot was manifold. Priority Mail flat-rate boxes spread across a long table in a dining room, packed full of old promos from years past. Many of them were familiar to me — sleeves of this or that label release, jewel case demos from just a few years back when such a thing didn’t seem outlandish. Bent-corner digipaks, some of records I’ve known, enjoyed, reviewed, or put on an office shelf to languish, and many others unfamiliar, new names, or older releases from recognizable purveyors of the peculiar styles that were once lumped under the general banner of the old StonerRock.com.
Small Stone bands — Roadsaw, Lord Fowl, Freedom Hawk — played through computer speakers, which was appropriate, since it was the same night as the Boston Small Stone showcase at Radio. This, however, was earlier in the afternoon, and the boxes, the table, the computer speakers and the lovely house in Massachusetts in which they all resided belonged to one John Pegoraro, also known as Arzgarth. The promos were discs he’d accumulated over the years writing for the aforementioned and still-missed outlet, and I was more than happy to give them a good home.
There was some genuine treasure in the mix, and some albums Johnseemed loathe to part with — a feeling I can certainly understand, owning as I do many CDs that I’ll probably never want to listen to again and still others I never listened to in the first place and yet can’t seem to wrap my brain around getting rid of. Not to say anything against Mountain Mirrors or Whoremaon or Dark Fog or Lost Youth, whose discs I haven’t even had the chance to hear as of today, but it was probably harder to let go of older stuff like Bible of the Devil‘s 2002 sophomore outing, Firewater at My Command, Throttlerod‘s By the Horns1999 demo, Freedom Hawk‘s Universaldemo or Roadsaw‘s Takin’ Out the Trash. No joke, I was honored to be able to take these things and the rest with me when I left.
Along with stuff by Slomatics, Assrockers – from whence Borracho sprang — and Michigan devil worshipers Beast in the Field (their first and third), those were some of the highlights of the haul, but things like Mean Mother ‘s 2009 self-titled, the self-titled Telestrion and a promo-only copy of Yellow #5‘s Demon Crossing, which featured Brant Bjork on drums and Dave Catching on guitar and basked in Palm Desert weirdness, were a boon as well. I grabbed the first Mind Funk, which was recommended to me a long time ago, two records from Iron Giant, the self-titled Maligno, some Hawg Jaw, an L7 live record on Man’s Ruin, and stuff by Lords of Bastard, The Red Plastic Buddha, Obskuria, Upwards of Endtime and The Valley as well.
Collector’s impulse, which I suppose is what had me there in the first place, led me to pick up the jewel case promo of the self-titled debut from Kalas, released on Tee Pee in 2006. The band was a side-project for Matt Pike at the time, and I already own it — I actually never got a full-artwork copy, so now I just have two of the promos — but it’s not something you see around, and again, I figured better to have it than not. You never know when a meteor will strike the ‘Ka-Ki’ shelf and you might need a replacement waiting in the wings.
It was an exceptional opportunity from an exceptionally good dude (you can read Arz‘s review of that night’s showcase here), and I look forward to continuing to dig through the box, pull out discs at random, and enjoy listening. I’ve got a ways to go, but if it’s a long haul, count me in. Thanks John for the chance.
Posted in Reviews on November 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was the night of a thousand riffs. At very least 100-150 very well purposed. A Small Stone Records showcase is always an occasion and this year’s Boston to-do was no exception. The scene was the Radio bar in Somerville, and though The Brought Low dropped off at the last minute owing to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the lineup boasted nine bands — Boston natives Mellow Bravo stepped in to fill the hole, playing earlier than the NYC trio would have — and it was front to back quality between them, Blackwolfgoat, who opened and also played in between sets, Supermachine, Infernal Overdrive, Lord Fowl, Freedom Hawk, Roadsaw, Lo-Pan and Gozu.
What do you do with a night like that? Well, you drink. And I did. Hard. I have a tradition — someone choosing their words less carefully might call it a “habit” — going back nearly a decade at this point of showing up to Small Stone events and promptly getting obliterated. At last year’s Philly showcase (review here and here), I played it cool for the most part. Less so this weekend. Maybe it was just that it was Saturday and I knew I had Sunday to recover, maybe it was the fact that I still didn’t know if the power was on back home yet. Whatever it was, I opened a tab and didn’t look back. My storm-refugee ass needed a night of reckless abandon.
After being dropped off in front of Radio by The Patient Mrs. as though I was on my way to my first day of kindergarten — schooled indeed — I walked in to find Darryl Shepard of Blackwolfgoat early into his set. Downstairs in the basement, a matinee of three sets of Beatles covers would soon give way to a sweaty, smelly night of punk rock. Seems as good a jump-off point as any, so here goes:
With a cocktail straw in his mouth and a bounce in his step (minus the bounce), Blackwolfgoat‘s lone resident, Darryl Shepard — also of currently of Black Pyramid and Milligram and formerly of Hackman, Roadsaw and no shortage of others — showed off some of the latest wares from his one-man act. Shepard would soon adjourn to Radio’s semi-balcony off to the left of the stage, where he’d sit at the ready and wait to drone out a tune or two between other acts, but before he got there, he played some material from last year’s Dronolithand some newer stuff. The newer songs find him using more dynamic loops, setting a droning bed for himself and then launching into — in at least one instance — a grandiose classic rock solo over it. It was awesome to see, and the melody in that solo and around it proved just one more way the project is expanding sonically. He’ll reportedly be recording soon, and of course that’s something to look forward to. Pretty much any day you get to see this dude play guitar is a good day. If you get to see him do a full set to start a show and a bunch of mini-sets between seven or eight other acts, well then, all the better.
There was an interesting mix of stage presences when it came to Boston’s own Mellow Bravo. The first full band on the bill was also the newest to Small Stone‘s roster save for Supermachine, who followed, and they released their self-titled debut album (review here) on the label via a Mad Oak Recordings imprint earlier this year. In the case of charismatic vocalist Keith Pierce and guitarist Andrew Doherty, they seemed birthed of Boston’s formidable hardcore/metalcore scene, whatever soul records they may have dug into since those days, keyboardist/vocalist Jess Collins came off more on the heavy metal end, while guitarist Jeff Fultz (ex-Seemless) had the lead licks and enviable hair of a modern classic rocker. Mix all that with the rhythm section of sunglasses-clad bassist Seager Tennis and drummer Dave Jarvis, and it’s a strange six-piece stew resulting from Mellow Bravo‘s recipe. Nonetheless, they were resoundingly cohesive, putting on a professional show — staged in parts, like when Collins came out from behind the keyboard to front “Ridin’” — and looking like a band who should and expected to be paid for their work. “Love Hammer” was a highlight, but really just one of the memorable songs on their debut that the band did well bringing to life.
There are few phrases that will earn respect in my book as quickly as “ex-Scissorfight.” In the case of label newcomers Supermachine, bassist Paul Jarvis and guitarist Jay Fortin were founding members of that most excellent New Hampshire outfit — both also played in Mess with the Bull – and so interest in what they might be doing musically was automatic, especially as this was my first time seeing them or hearing any of their songs. Joined in the four-piece by drummer Mike McNeill and vocalist David Nebbia, there was a moment where I stood in front of the stage at Radio and was reminded of hazy afternoons and evenings at Room 710 on Red River in Austin, Texas, at many a Small Stone showcase years back there, when I was still relatively just getting my feet wet in terms of appreciating and being exposed to this kind of music. If that’s a long way around to saying Supermachine sounded fresh, so be it. Their performance was organic and unpretentious — though there was no question which of them was the lead singer, even before they got on stage — and while they seemed to still be feeling out their identity as a band, they gave a good first impression.
True enough, I’d had some beers by the time Infernal Overdrive started playing, maybe visited the basement Beatles show downstairs to weird everyone in the room out by singing along to “Can’t Buy Me Love” way louder than was called for. I nonetheless recall being entirely of sound mind when I scribbled my first note about Infernal Overdrive‘s performance. It was as follows: “New shit is right on.” I stand by that 100 percent. They might need to hit the road for a while to really step into what and where they want to be as a band, but short of that, they’ve got their aesthetic down. No less so at Radio than at Stoner Hands of Doom XIIin September. Part of me wants them to just go ahead and get the next record out so they can start closing with “Viking” already, but as the room was beginning to fill up, the Jersey/Massachusetts-native double-guitar foursome treated an eager and thirsty crowd to “Motor” and “The Edge” from their Last Rays of the Dying Sun2011 debut full-length (review here) and those songs rested well alongside newer cuts like “Quints Revenge” and “Ride to the Sun.” As ever, they tore through their set, capping with the cowbell/fuzz swiftness of “I-95,” which set the stage well for Connecticut’s Lord Fowl, who followed.
Continue to impress. Despite an apparently ongoing throat problem for guitarist/vocalist Vechel Jaynes — I actually take it as a sign of someone giving a shit both about what they do and what I think about what they do when artists tell me about their various injuries, illnesses, aches and pains; that kind of thing can be good to know sometimes, though Jaynes‘ trouble did little to hold back Lord Fowl at Radio — the New Haven, Connecticut, four-piece dove headfirst into material from their Moon Queenlabel debut (review here), rising to the occasion of directly following Infernal Overdrive and making me remember why I like this kind of shit so much in the first place. They also gave a fitting sequel to when I saw them at SHoD XII, guitarist/vocalist Mike Pellegrino comfortable as he always seems to be fronting the band alongside Jaynes while bassist Jon Conine and drummer Don Freeman locked in grooves thick and slick in equal measure. “Streets of Nevermore” was a highlight, and the one-two punch of “Quicksand” and the insistent swirl of “SOS” was no less engaging on stage than it was late into Moon Queen. I wondered a bit what their next album might bring, if they’d keep to a thematic, semi-psych heavy rock approach or branch out elsewhere as they move forward, and then The Patient Mrs. showed up looking all fine and I got distracted. Ha.
Quietly, more than a year had passed since I last caught Virginia’s fuzz buzzards live, but Freedom Hawk were the most in their element at Radio that I’ve ever seen them. The songs from their Holding On 2011 label debut (review here) have cooled and tightened into a fine, viscous ooze, and the set had more than a few killers to it, including the recent video track “Indian Summer.” They’re a good band, and fresh on my mind as I’d just that very afternoon acquired their first demo in a haul of old promo material (more on that tomorrow), so I was glad to have our paths cross again at last. A less raucous delivery than either Lord Fowl or Infernal Overdrive – both of whom put on a hell of a show — Freedom Hawk were nonetheless in the right place at the right time. The crowd was boozed and well warmed up, and Freedom Hawk‘s “all fuzz, no bullshit” was right at home, guitarists TR Morton (also vocals) and Matt Cave leading with ’90s-style stoner rock riffing while bassist Mark Cave and drummer Lenny Hines provided weight and pulse to the rolling groove. I don’t know if someone thought they were being clever by playing Ozzy before they went on (Morton‘s vocals being geared in that direction), but Freedom Hawk showed they’re moving more toward becoming their own outfit and incorporating whatever influence it might be — Ozzy, Fu Manchu, Kyuss, etc. — into a sound more fully theirs. Worth noting that at this point there hadn’t yet been a band whose next album I wasn’t stoked at the thought of hearing.
In true showcase fashion, Roadsaw delivered a set that not only showed why they’re the godfathers of Boston’s heavy rock scene, but ran a gamut through their own catalog — opening with “Look Pretty Lonely” from 2008′s See You in Hell!, and also including “Keep on Sailing” and “Thanks for Nothing” from 1997′s Nationwide — on which Shepard joined on lead guitar from his spot on the balcony — “Buried Alive” and “Disconnected” from 2007′s Rawk ‘n’ Roll, “Monkey Skull” from 2012′s Roadsaw EP, and “Weight in Gold” and “Long in the Tooth” from their 2010 self-titled full-length. I said earlier this year at London Desertfest that I wanted to see them on their home turf, and I was glad to have the opportunity at last. If it’s any indicator of how it all went down, they delayed the start of their set to get another round of drinks. Yes, it was that kind of party. The stage at Radio wasn’t as small as that at the Small Stone showcase in Philly last year — it was somewhere between that and the more spacious at the El ‘n’ Gee in Connecticut, where SHoD was held, and which Roadsaw also played — so I didn’t think vocalist Craig Riggs was about to bean bassist Tim Catz or guitarist Ian Ross with his spinning microphone (ever-shirtless drummer Jeremy Hemond being well out of range), but they made short work of it nonetheless, and even went so far as to bring up Infernal Overdrive guitarist/vocalist Marc Schleicher for an encore of “The Gentle Butcher,” from Nothing that a Bullet Couldn’t Cure by the band Antler, of which he, Ross, Catz and Riggs were a part. As ever, they were in classic form.
A scant two weeks before leaving for a tour with High on Fire and Goatwhore that will have them playing in the biggest venues of their career to date, Columbus, Ohio’s Lo-Pan looked ready. I think they’ve already discovered that the reward for the hard work they’ve been putting in over the last couple years is actually just a bunch of even harder work, but they seemed hungry nonetheless. It had been more than a year since I’d seen them as well, and along with a new shorter haircut for guitarist Brian Fristoe, they had two new songs in the set alongside cuts from 2011′s brilliant-and-yes-I-fucking-mean-brilliant Salvador(review here). Both “Eastern Seas” and “Colossus” had Fristoe‘s steady progressive-edged fuzz, made thicker by Skot Thompson‘s basslines, but seemed to push vocalist Jeff Martin farther into his range as well as Jessie Bartz — front and center as always — tied it all together on drums. As I told Bartz when they were done, I’d like to hear them 85 or 87 more times before I make final judgment, but they sounded pretty dead on, and fit well with “Kurtz” from 2009′s Sasquanaut(which Small Stone reissued) and “Chichen Itza,” “Deciduous,” “Bird of Prey” and set closer “El Dorado” from Salvador, all of which remain as powerful in a live setting as they were the first time I saw them. Lo-Pan was my only real headbang of the show. When they were done, I stumbled my drunk self around the side of the building and threw up barely a fraction of the beer I’d drank, taking care to keep it out of my hair and beard, then went back inside, washed up downstairs while trying to ignore the stench of punker sweat, lest I retch again, and headed back into civilization in time for the start of Gozu, who rounded out the night. I’d been a wreck despite having my last beer sometime during Roadsaw, but with just one band still to go, there was no turning back now.
Much to his credit, it was Gozu guitarist Doug Sherman – he of the perilously short guitar strap — who put the whole gig together. From the second I was walking into the venue, way back before anyone played other than Blackwolfgoat, before all the beer, the barbecue, the more beer, the rock and roll and the more beer, Sherman was outside greeting people, there the whole time, and he and his band very quickly showed by they were just right to close out. Guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney (above, left) has a subdued presence on stage, quiet and reserved — a good balance for Sherman‘s energy — and his performance has been spot on every time I’ve seen him, making vocal up and down vocal dexterity look easy while also joining Sherman on guitar and driving the songs forward with driving riffage. Bassist Joe Grotto was a new addition to the band since I saw them in March — also at Radio, as it happens — but he fit right in the rhythm section with drummer Barry Spillberg, and being revived following my ritualistic purge, I was in decent enough shape to appreciate their even-thicker take on “Meat Charger” and “Meth Cowboy” from their 2010 Locust Seasondebut (review here), on which they were joined by Ian Ross of Roadsaw (above, on right guitar). Their sound is too thick to really be a boogie, but that forward motion is there, and Gaffney brings a sense of drama to their choruses that stood them out from everyone else on the bill at Radio. They had a couple new songs as well, and whatever they do next, it’ll be a welcome arrival.
I know I post a lot of shit about Small Stone bands. I go see them play when I can, I review the records, I do interviews, post tour news, posters, and so forth, but the fact of the matter is this: That’s not coincidence. It’s a short list of American labels contributing anything of merit to the genre of heavy rock — by my estimation there are maybe five, with a few others who’ve glommed onto this or that trend within the sphere of Riff — and Small Stone are right there at the top. From the label’s days providing a haven to bands like Acid King and Sons of Otis in the wake of Man’s Ruin‘s demise, to fostering its own upstart acts like Sasquatch (not that they’re upstarts now, but they were when their debut was released), Infernal Overdrive, Gozu, Lo-Pan, Sun Gods in Exile, and Lord Fowl, while still keeping a commitment to what he does best, label head Scott Hamilton has patronized some of the best American heavy rock out there today, to the point where “the Small Stone sound” is an influence unto itself for bands around the world to pick up on. To be perfectly honest about it, it’s a cause I feel is worth supporting.
Small Stone’s next showcase is in Detroit at the Magic Stick on Dec. 1. More info here.
When the show was done, I was so tired I thought I’d fall asleep walking to catch a cab back to the hotel. There were goodbyes to be said, tales of hurricane survival to regale with and be regaled by, and a bar tab to close out, but I was quick about it, and before too long, The Patient Mrs. generously corralled me into a taxi. I was more lucid than I had been at several points in the evening by then, but still, sleep came as quick and as heavy as the riffs still stuck in my head. We had to drive back to Jersey on Sunday and figure out if the lights were back on yet after the storm (they were as of that afternoon), but if that was to be the finale of “refugee living,” I didn’t make out so bad.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve never been to a Small Stone showcase in Boston before. Sure, I was at both nights of the Philly one last year (review here and here) and I caught Gozu and Infernal Overdrive together at Radio this past March (review here), and looking at the list, the only band on it I’ve never seen is Supermachine — and I saw Scissorfight, from whence they come — but still, Boston’s a different beast. To tell you the truth, every time I hit the town, I feel a little bit like I’m going to get my ass kicked.
Perhaps then, it would be wise for me to hit the warm-up show slated to happen one day before the showcase proper. Elder (who so far as I know are not on Small Stone) and Infernal Overdrive will play at the taqueria No Problemo in New Bedford at 10PM. If you’re north of there, Gozu and Freedom Hawk will be on a bill at Asylum in Portland, ME. Drummer Mike Bennett of Infernal Overdrive posted the following notice and flyer:
Tomorrow night there will be a few warm up gigs starring some of your favorite Small Stone bands….
Asylum -Portland, ME w/ GOZU, Freedom Hawk, Murcilago and Whitcomb No Problemo – New Bedford, MA w/ Infernal Overdrive and Elder….. All leading up to the big event Sat. !!!
And then of course there’s the showcase itself on Saturday at Radio in Somerville. As awesome an assemblage of Small Stone acts as I’ve had the privilege to see. Here are the details, courtesy of the Thee Facebooks event page:
Nov. 3rd-Radio, Boston Small Stone Showcase 10 dollars!!! Dudes- BEER-PETTING ZOO!! Purchase Tickets HERE:
Posted in Features on August 31st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The ride to New London wasn’t bad. No real traffic or anything, but my stomach was tense with GPS jitters, riding up what seemed to me like the nether regions of I-95 in the state, deciduous trees hanging like a claustrophobic ceiling over the roadway. It was the first time I’d made the trip. I didn’t want to get lost, I didn’t want to delay. I expect by the time this weekend is out, I’ll be much more familiar with the route.
My soundtrack on the way there was the self-titled release from Ice Dragon side-project Tentacle, which was fitting, because like that band, everyone who played the opening night of SHoD XII tonight was from Massachusetts. Six bands. I’d have to check my official rulebook on the matter, but I think that might constitute a “takeover.” Fortunately, our Sox-worshiping overlords were benevolent and generous of riff.
On that subject, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a show in Connecticut that someone didn’t ask from the stage whether the audience were Yankees fans or Red Sox fans. As I stood and watched Rozamov‘s guitarist do so tonight, it dawned on me just how badly this state needs its own team. It wouldn’t be a problem anymore, though it was interesting to hear a few shouts of “Pirates!” from the back of the El ‘n’ Gee club, over in the bar area.
Well, that’s as good a segue as I’ve got, so let’s get to it. Here’s how it all went down:
In the end, I had no choice but to buy Boston rockers Rozamov‘s CD, because I couldn’t get it straight whether they were Rozamov (rhymes with “hose ‘em off”) or Romazov (as in, “Rome is off, we’re not going”). Principally, they were young. Their first song had no shortage of post-High on Fire gallop, and the two-guitar four-piece only got more complex from there, adding some post-metal and sludge to the mix before rounding out with a song that, well, if it wasn’t “Blood From Zion,” it was darn close. The drummer looked bored, and yeah, they did inquire as to the crowd’s baseball allegiance, but they were young and figuring out what they want to do as a band, so I’m not about to rip into them for not being Sleep. They’re figuring it out. And their CDs were five bucks, so they were doing something right for sure.
Birch Hill Dam
Fact of the matter is I can’t even see this band’s name without thinking of the old Birch Hill nightclub in Jersey, which is bittersweet for all the shitty metal I watched there over the years. Speaking of metal, Birch Hill Dam‘s bassist (above) was most certainly that, with a Bonded by Bloodshirt and five-string bass with those red strings that I keep hearing the kids talk about. To contrast, their guitarist wore a classic Unida shirt. I used to have the same one about 100 years and 100 pounds ago. His attire was more in line with the band’s sound for sure than the Exodus duds — nothing against the Bay Area thrashers. Birch Hill Dam released their slickly-produced Colossusalbum last year (video here), but live they sounded so much like Kyuss that I literally stood there and said, “Damn this sounds like Kyuss.” I’ll give them points for honesty in covering “Green Machine,” paying homage to the deserts of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Whatever dude, I’ll take it, and singer Mike Nygard had his John Garcia working in full force. They had one false start, but were a pro job otherwise, complete with their album cover airbrushed onto screens in front of their amps. You know a band means business when they start in with that stuff.
Raw Radar War
I got to meet vocalist Jonah Jenkins before his band played and told him I vaguely remembered seeing Milligram at Solace guitarist Tommy Southard‘s wedding. He was as gracious about that as Raw Radar War was intense in their set, bringing out the kind of unfriendly, this-isn’t-a-joke-to-us pissed off fuckall that is a mark of their generation of hardcore and all but forgotten among the proverbial “kids these days.” Owning the stage in the process, Jenkins (who’s a bit of a New England legend) moved fluidly between cleaner shouts and Obituary-esque screams and the band behind him turned on a dime from D-beat sub-grind to chugging doom, but honestly, even the slow parts sounded fast, as intensely as they were played. Three bands and three Cottrell beers (a local ale the high alcohol content of which I was duly warned) in, I was feeling good about the prospects for the weekend. I didn’t drink any more than the three, but with three more bands still to go on the night, SHoD felt like it was really getting going, and Raw Radar War were a wake-up call of the kind of anger that dares you to match it, which of course, you can’t. I make no secret of the fact that I’m not a big hardcore guy, but I hadn’t heard Raw Radar War since their split with Deer Creek, and I was glad to encounter them again. Some shit just sounds mean.
The only other time I’d ever been to the El ‘n’ Gee was a show on a weekender tour with these Bostonian doomers. That was three years ago now, almost to the day. Ichabod were heralding the release of their still underrated 2012full-length (review here), and the actual 2012 finds them a different band entirely, with second guitarist Jason Adam joining alongside founding six-stringer Dave Iverson and new vocalist John Fadden starting off the set with a quiet tension that soon paid off in a barrage of face-melting screams. Fadden, who had a persona to match his throat, cracked jokes from the stage, but Ichabod was deadly serious as they ran through material from their upcoming album, Dreamscapes from Dead Space. “Huckleberry,” if I’ve got the title correct, was a highlight. They’ve always straddled various genre lines — stoner, doom, post-hardcore, post-metal — but as tight as they were, categories hardly figured into it as much as the crunch of tone and righteousness of riff. Bassist Greg Dellaria boasted the night’s only flying-V bass, and early into their set, one of the guitarists from Raw Radar War made his way to the front of the stage with five tallboy beers, because whatever else you can say about the city, Boston takes care of its own. That said, hopefully Ichabod get to do a few shows out of town once the new record drops. They deserve to be seen by as many people as possible.
Black Thai need to put an album out. The four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey (We’re all Gonna Die), guitarist Scott O’Dowd (Cortez), intense bassist Cory Cocomazzi and drummer Jeremy Hemond (Roadsaw, Cortez) are too tight and too solid a band not to do it. So, uh, get on it, I guess. Hemond was the only drummer of the night to play on his own kit, setting up his Vistalites and high cymbals before they went on. Might as well, I guess, if you’re closing out the night in the last two bands and it’s not like anyone’s going on after you. I had a hard time believing it had been more than a year and a half since I saw Black Thai at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn, but the numbers don’t lie. On a stage roughly five times the size of that at Hank’s, the riff metal foursome tore through three of the songs from their Blood from on HighEP (review here) and left room for a couple new songs as well, culminating in a progressively building churn of distorted crunch that made for a perfect ending to their set. Healey‘s vocals were a little rough — reportedly he was under the weather — but Black Thai is in Philly tonight and Boston tomorrow with Borracho, One Inch Giant and Fire Faithful. If you can see them at any point, it’s worth taking advantage of the opportunity. They’re even more in command of their sound now than they were when last our paths crossed, and with just Roadsaw to go, it seemed like the first night of SHoD was a success.
So this is the part where the roof caves in and the crowd, sparse though it was by the end of the night, is crushed to death, myself included? Nah. Things ended no less smoothly than they’d ran all night. Thinking of prior shows, the last time I ran into the dudes from Roadsaw was at Desertfest in London. The El ‘n’ Gee wasn’t nearly so crowded as the Underworld had been, but the four-piece made the best of it anyway, Hemond making Popeye faces as he rounded out his double-duty on drums, Tim Catz holding together even the most ranging of jams which were surprise inclusions later into the set, guitarist Ian Ross leading those jams with both class and improvisational prowess, and vocalist Craig Riggs whirling his duct-taped microphone around him and running from one side of the stage to the other in his usual madman’s form. “Long in the Tooth,” “Thinking of Me” and “Weight in Gold” from the self-titled were highlights, but it was the later jams that really made it, as it’s not something you’d necessarily expect from Roadsaw at this point, who are so bolstered by the strength of their choruses and of their songwriting in general. Maybe they were just fucking around, but it was still cool. Ross killed it, and they showed by they’re the band to call if you’re looking for someone to close out a night of Massachusetts heavy. Riggs had forgotten the merch, so they didn’t have anything to sell (they laughed about it on stage), but whatever. It was good times anyway and Roadsaw did right by the fest closing out night one. It was apparently also the first time they’d ever played Connecticut in their 19 years as a band. Another notch in their belt.
It was nigh on one in the morning by the time I got back to where I’m staying, and I had a headlight out, so I was making the trip half-blind, which only made me gladder I’d limited my beer intake. Let’s see: Holiday weekend, out of state plates, one headlight. Uh, sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to step out of the car. No thanks. Today I’ll get that headlight replaced and I’ve got some work and other running around to do before I head back to the El ‘n’ Gee, but Stoner Hands of Doom XII is off to a cool start, and with When the Deadbolt Breaks, Wizard Eye, John Wilkes Booth, Faces of Bayon, Lord Fowl, Revelation and Pilgrim to come tonight, things are only going to get louder from here. I’ll take it.
Brian Mercer (interview here) killed it this time. He really, really did. Check it out. Small Stone‘s Boston showcase is Nov. 3 at Radio, with Gozu, Lo-Pan, The Brought Low, Roadsaw, Freedom Hawk, Lord Fowl, Infernal Overdrive, Supermachine and Blackwolfgoat.
You might also note whose logo is on the bottom left. Bad ass. Can’t wait to get me one framed and then not have a house to put it up in (zing! Oh wait, I just zinged myself, damnit).
Showcase is Nov. 3 at Radio in Somerville. For more info on it and on the upcoming Detroit showcase, which I’m just waiting to get up the courage to ask Halfway to Gone for a ride out to, hit up Small Stone on Thee Facebooks.
Posted in 70 RPMs on July 11th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
In his third column for the site, Roadsaw bassist Tim Catz takes a look at a few of the “Evil Women” from classic rock’s days of yore. From ELO to Black Sabbath, there never seems to be a shortage of witchy ladies to serve as muse. Please enjoy:
Tim Catz’ 70 RPMs
It is a premise so old and familiar it’s hardly worth mentioning. But for the purposes of this article I’ll explain: The idea is women are evil. They have been since the dawn of time. And the badder they are, the more inspiring they are those who honor them in song, story and art. Just ask Adam about Eve. Shakespeare had Macbeth. Greek mythology had Pandora. And rock ‘n’ roll in the ‘70s had scores of hit records about them.
Probably the most popular was Electric Light Orchestra‘s “Evil Woman.” Taken from their 1975 album Face the Music, it was the band’s first Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic. With its sing-song chorus and crazy phasor string breaks, “Evil Woman” very succinctly packed every ELO pop-rock trademark neatly into a four-minute spoonful of pure FM sugar that still gets ample play to this day on “classic hits” radio.
Crow‘s “Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games with Me)” may have shared the same name, but not the same music, nor the same popularity. Driven by a muscular bluesy rhythm section, the Minneapolis quartet was quite surprised to find an “enhanced” version of their original “Evil Woman” on their Columbia Records debut. Whether against their wishes or even unbeknownst to Crow members, label bigwigs conspired with the studio engineer and overdubbed a full horn section over the song in an effort to cash in on the wildly popular Chicago/Blood Sweat and Tears sound of the day. And it worked. Crow‘s “Evil Woman” was a Top 20 hit, peaking at #19.
My personal favorite is Spooky Tooth‘s version. Deep on side one of Spooky Two, their nine-minute version of Larry Weiss‘ much covered original finds frontman Gary Wright in prime form, with his ragged voice switching between a pleading growl to high-pitched accusations, all while smashing on organ keys. The entire record resonates with a loose rough ‘n’ ready sound, which is nowhere more evident than on this track. Of course Gary Wright would soon leave the Tooth of Spook and smooth out much of his rough edge in a bid for the Pop charts. “Dream Weaver” and “My Love Is Alive” are evidence of such.
Whether its “Witchy Woman” by The Eagles or “Devil Woman” by Cliff Richards, one thing remains certain even to this day: Bad girls are good for rock ‘n’ roll.
* Black Sabbath recorded a version of Crow‘s “Evil Woman” and released it as their first single. Though it didn’t appear on their Warner Bros. debut in the US, it was on the UK version.
* Before everyone sends terse emails my way, yes, I know both Spooky Tooth and Crow released their versions in 1969. That’s close enough for me…
The be-sunglassed rock and roll stallions you see in the photo above are known as Roadsaw. For the better part of 20 years, Roadsaw have been Boston’s foremost guardians of the riff (one assumes that picture was taken outside the riff’s castle, in the moat), updating ’70s heavy rock for each decade they’ve corrupted with their lecherous touch and predating much of the American stoner rock movement in the ’90s. They took a lengthy break between 1997′s Nationwide and the 2007 issue of Rawk ‘n’ Roll, but 2012 finds them in a similar position as their close British allies, Orange Goblin, as the statesmen of their scene.
In fact, thinking back to Orange Goblin‘s latest and most crisply produced album, A Eulogy for the Damned (review here), one can’t help but wonder if they weren’t inspired by Roadsaw‘s 2011 self-titled, which also had a surprising sheen in its overall sound. Either way, the realistic possibility that Roadsaw might be influencing also-influential bands across an ocean speaks to their position within heavy rock’s well-populated underground. As it was all too easy to observe at this year’s London Desertfest, which featured both bands in its lineup, Roadsaw are at the top of their game.
So this must be the part where I say, “But that wasn’t always the case,” right? Well yeah, it is that part. In 1994, the then double-guitar four-piece released their first 7″, containing the tracks “Fancy Pants” and “Handed You Your Ass.” The next year, those two and eight others comprised Roadsaw‘s first full-length, One Million Dollars (also written as $1,000,000) on the local Curve of the Earth Records. At that time, the band was drummer/vocalist Craig Riggs, bassist/vocalist Tim Catz and guitarist/vocalists Steve Malone and Darryl Shepard, the latter soon to solidify his position as guitarist for Milligram. They recorded the album early in 1995 with Tim O’Heir in Cambridge, and though it’s rough around the edges, a lot of what’s made them the sultans of swagger they are today was already present in the band even then.
Probably the most notable difference in One Million Dollars and Roadsaw today is the lineup. Not only was Riggs not the frontman of the band, he wasn’t out front at all. He was in back, playing drums. Vocal duties are shared, mostly between he and Catz, but Shepard and Malone have some parts as well, each pretty different from the rest. Those familiar with the band will be able to pick Riggs out as he contrasts Catz on One Million Dollars opener “Gotta Go” or takes the lead for the verse of “Fell off the Earth,” but the interplay between vocalists is intriguing and especially well done on the slower, more grooving “Sickest Ride” or the organ, mellotron and sax-infused closer, “Starcock,” on which the depth of arrangement is obviously not limited just to the singing.
But what’s most consistent in putting One Million Dollars and Roadsaw side-by-side is the band’s show of personality. I don’t think they’d make a song like “Fancy Pants” today, with its silly high-pitched cackling toward the end, but the echoing drums that underscore the psychedelic drones and Echoplex-type manipulations of “Theme From ‘Hassle’” seem to be directly realized on “Electric Heaven” from the self-titled, and the blazing guitars of “Rotted Out” likewise find motoring companionship from “Too Much is Not Enough” or “The Getaway.” The main difference — aside from a considerable jump in audio fidelity — is maturity.
Riggs and Catz are joined now by lone guitarist Ian Ross (Shepard toured Europe with them in 2009 and pops up occasionally, from what I understand) and many-tasked drummer Jeremy Hemond (also of Cortez and Black Thai). Ross came aboard for Rawk ‘n’ Roll, which is considered by some to be Roadsaw‘s defining statement, and Hemond for 2008′s See You in Hell, which, though solid, did little to preface the cohesiveness the self-titled showed in 2011 with almost unbearably catchy and impeccably structured tracks like “Weight in Gold,” “So Low Down” and “Long in the Tooth.” Smoother production from Sean Slade highlighted the melodic development in Riggs‘ voice — listen to the end of “Thinking of Me” for an example — and managed to cut a balance between a natural sound and professional presentation. The best of both worlds.
Also working considerably in their favor is the fact that they’re one of the tightest rock acts on the Eastern Seaboard. Catz and Hemond are devastating as a rhythm section, and Ross‘ guitar seems to fire off killer solos at will. Couple that with Riggs‘ inability to stand still while performing, running from one side of the stage to the next and swinging the mic to where you think standing in front that it’s about to hit you in the face. That vitality bleeds into the songs of Roadsaw‘s Roadsaw, and where it was there in a more rudimentary form on One Million Dollars, the purposefulness behind the songwriting now brings a whole new sense of accomplishment to the chaos.
Founded in 1995 by Scott Hamilton, Detroit imprint Small Stone Records is the single most influential American heavy rock label of the post-Man’s Ruin era. What started as Hamilton releasing local Detroit acts of varied genres like Morsel, 36D and Perplexa soon took on a dedication to the heavy aesthetic that remains unmatched in both its scope and its reach of influence. Looking back, Five Horse Johnson‘s 1997 Double Down debut, seems to have been the beginning of Small Stone‘s turn down the fuzzly path. It’s like Hamilton followed the riff right down the rabbit hole and never looked back.
Now, 17 years on, Small Stone has a reach that goes beyond even the distribution of the albums it puts out. Thanks to the diligent work of Hamilton and oft-encountered names like Mad Oak Studios engineer/mixer Benny Grotto, mastering engineer Chris Gooseman, graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, among others, the label has earned a reputation for quality output that new releases are constantly reaffirming. Over the years, Man’s Ruin refugees like Sons of Otis, (The Men Of) Porn, Acid King and VALIS have come into the fold, but the crux of Small Stone‘s catalog is made up of acts like Roadsaw, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Throttlerod, Puny Human and Novadriver, who no matter what else they put out or who they put it out with, will always be considered “Small Stone bands.”
That designation and those groups specifically have helped establish a core American-style heavy rocking sound that the label seems to delight in toying with even as it continues to promulgate. Next generation bands like Gozu, Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk, Backwoods Payback and even newer newcomers Wo Fat, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Mellow Bravo — who don’t yet have albums out on the label — are expanding its breadth, and recent international signees Asteroid, Abrahma, Mangoo, Nightstalker and Mother of God should help ensure that Small Stone keeps pushing both itself and genre boundaries well into the next several years.
One of the hazards, however, of an ever-growing catalog, is that it can be hard to figure out where to start taking it on, and to that end, I’m happy to provide you with 10 essential Small Stone picks. Note I didn’t say “the 10 essential Small Stone picks,” because the reality of the situation is this is just the tip of the fuzzberg. If it’s any indication, I started out with five and couldn’t leave the rest out.
Here they are, ordered by the date of release:
1. Novadriver, Void (ss-022/2001)
Still an album that’s more or less impossible to pin to just one genre, the stoner/space/weirdo jams of Novadriver‘s 2001 outing, Void, reside somewhere between Monster Magnet‘s early Hawkwind worship and the unbridled intensity of groove that came out of Detroit’s early- and mid-’70s heavy rock and proto-metal. The fact that Novadriver also came from the Motor City speaks to the label’s local roots, but if Void was coming out even today, it’d be coming out on Small Stone.
2. Los Natas, Corsario Negro (ss-028/2002)
Personally, I think 2005′s El Hombre Montaña is a better album and 2009′s Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is an even better album than that, but Corsario Negro earns the edge as a starting point because it was the beginning of the Argentinian rockers’ relationship with Small Stone (they too were left without a home in the wake of Man’s Ruin folding). Plus, if you haven’t heard them before and you get this, you can still marvel at the subsequent offerings. Either way, totally necessary.
3. Various Artists, Sucking the ’70s (ss-032/2002)
In a lot of ways, this is what it’s all about. Badass bands playing badass songs. By this point, The Glasspack, Los Natas, Fireball Ministry, Halfway to Gone and Five Horse Johnson (who lead off the first disc) had already put out at least one album through Small Stone, but Sucking the ’70s made the most of the label’s burgeoning reputation, bringing in Clutch, Alabama Thunderpussy and Lowrider, along with bands who’d later add records to the catalog like Roadsaw, Suplecs and Lord Sterling, all covering hits and obscurities from the heavy ’70s. A gorgeous collection that would get a sequel in 2006. Still waiting on part three.
4. Dixie Witch, One Bird, Two Stones (ss-037/2003)
The Austin, Texas, trio would go on to become one of the most pivotal acts on the Small Stone roster, and they’d do so on the strength of their Southern riffs and the soul in their songwriting. Led by drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal, Dixie Witch hooked up with Small Stone on the heels of their 2001 debut, Into the Sun, which was released by Brainticket, and quickly gained a reputation for some of the finest classic road songs that Grand Funk never wrote (see “The Wheel”). Their 2011 offering, Let it Roll, affirmed their statesmen status among their labelmates.
5. Sasquatch, Sasquatch (ss-044/2004)
I was pretty well convinced that when the L.A.-based Sasquatch released their self-titled debut in 2004, rock and roll was saved. Whoever it needed saving from, whatever needed to take place to make that happen, this record did it. Truth is, rock and roll didn’t really need to be saved — it needed a stiff drink, as we all do from time to time — but Sasquatch would’ve been right there even if it had. They’re a Small Stone original with all three of their records to date out through the label, and still one of the strongest acts in the American rock underground, even though they’d never be quite this fuzzy again.
6. Dozer, Through the Eyes of Heathens (ss-061/2005)
Even now, seven years later, I can’t look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “The Roof, the River, the Revolver.” Between that and songs like “Man of Fire,” “Born a Legend” and “From Fire Fell,” Swedish rockers Dozer made their definitive statement in their label debut (fourth album overall). Another former Man’s Ruin band, they’d already begun to grow past their desert rock roots by the time they hooked up with Hamilton, and Through the Eyes of Heathens played out like what heavy metal should’ve turned into after the commercial atrocities of the late-’90s. A gorgeous record and still a joy to hear.
7. Greenleaf, Agents of Ahriman (ss-074/2007)
It’s like they built nearly every song on here out of undeniable choruses. Even the verses are catchy. I’ve championed Agents of Ahriman since before I started this site, and I feel no less vehement in doing so now than I did then. A side-project of Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa that on this, their third album, included and featured members of Truckfighters, Lowrider, The Awesome Machine and others, Greenleaf became a distillation of many of the elements that make Swedish heavy rock unique in the world. It wasn’t aping classic rock, it was giving it a rebirth, and every Hammond note was an absolute triumph.
8. Iota, Tales (ss-084/2008)
Once, I had a t-shirt with the cover of Iota‘s Tales on the front. I wore it until it got holes, and then I bought another. That’s the kind of album Tales was. A trio crawled from out of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Iota took Kyuss, launched them into space, and jammed out for five, 10 or 20 minutes to celebrate the success of the mission. Recently, guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano has resurfaced in the bluesier, more earthbound Dwellers, which teams him with the rhythm section of SubRosa. Their debut, Good Morning Harakiri, was a highlight of early 2012, building on what Iota was able to accomplish here while pushing in a different direction.
9. Solace, A.D. (ss-093/2010)
It took the better part of a decade for the Jersey-bred metallers to finish what became their Small Stone debut after two full-lengths for MeteorCity, but when it finally dropped, there was no denying A.D.‘s power. My album of the year in 2010, the band delivered front to back on seven years’ worth of promise, and though it was recorded in more studios than I can count over a longer stretch than I think even Solace knows, it became a cohesive, challenging album, giving listeners a kick in the ass even as it handed them their next beer. I still get chills every time I put on “From Below,” and I put it on with near-embarrassing regularity.
10. Lo-Pan, Salvador (ss-116/2011)
If you know this site, this one’s probably a no-brainer pick, but the Columbus, Ohio-based riff merchants took on unabashed stoner rock fuzz for their Small Stone debut (third album overall) and made some of 2011′s most memorable songs in the process. Subversively varied in mood and heavy as hell no matter what they were doing, every part of Lo-Pan‘s Salvador worked. There was no lag. Small Stone also reissued the band’s 2009 outing, Sasquanaut, in 2011, but Salvador surpassed it entirely, bringing the band to new heights of professionalism they’d confirm by touring, well, perpetually. They’re still touring for it. You should go see them and behold the future of fuzz.
That’s the list as much as I could limit it. If you want to immediately add five more, throw in Roadsaw‘s self-titled (they’re writing the best songs of their career right now, I don’t care how attached to the early records you are), Puny Human‘s Universal Freak Out, Halfway to Gone‘s High Five, Milligram‘s This is Class War and Five Horse Johnson‘s Fat Black Pussycat. If you want to semi-immediately add five more than that, get the reissue of Acid King‘s Busse Woods, Mos Generator‘sSongs for Future Gods, The Brought Low‘s Third Record, Tummler‘s Early Man and Erik Larson‘s The Resounding. There. We just doubled the length of the list.
And the real trouble? I could go on. We didn’t even touch on curios like Axehandle, Lord Sterling and Brain Police, or The Might Could‘s Southern aggression, Hackman‘s instrumentalism or the druggy post-grunge of VALIS. Suffice it to say that Small Stone is one of very few labels out there from whom any output will at least be worth a cursory investigation. As the label continues to grow and develop in 2012 and beyond with new bands and new releases from its staple acts, taking on new avenues of commerce — like releasing vinyl for the first time, which it did in 2011 — whatever changes might crop up, Small Stone seems ready to meet the future, distortion pedal first. Can’t ask more of rock than that.
Posted in Features on April 7th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/07/12 — 23.00 — Saturday — Hotel
Today was the day I decided to have it all. Maybe it was walking up High Street circa noon to hit Music and Video Exchange and buying a ham and cheese crepe for breakfast to go with my cup of coffee. Maybe it was the simple fact that for all the drinking I did yesterday, I wasn’t hungover in the slightest. Maybe it was just the entire galaxy of good music playing out the middle day of this fest. Whatever it was, I was on board today. All the way. Let’s go.
And go I did — or, I guess I went. Whatever. The schedule was packed today. Really. From the time I rolled into The Black Heart to the time I left The Black Heart — digging a certain symmetry in starting and ending each day at Desertfest‘s smallest venue, definitely — it was basically nonstop. Whereas yesterday I got to basically park myself at The Purple Turtle, at the expense of seeing Ancestors, but still, there was none of that happening this afternoon and evening. As the day wore on, in fact, it only got busier.
My major question was how the hell I was going to see everything I wanted to see. Orange Goblin, Black Pyramid, and Grifter all went on in 25-minute succession of each other, in that order. All three bands — and after a full day of rock. It wasn’t going to be easy.
As far as starts to the day go, however, I couldn’t have asked for something more mellow than an acoustic set from Deville. Frontman Andreas Bengtsson took the stage on his own, just him and a guitar. He was plugged in — Desertfest: “Where Even the Acoustic Guitars Run through Orange Stacks” — and he ran through a charming set of reworked Deville tracks, including “Lava,” which I recalled from their recently posted video for the song. Roadsaw frontman Craig Riggs and I would have an interesting conversation later about how much videos matter again now, but watching Bengtsson perform, there was clearly more to his songwriting than a funny video could convey. I don’t know the name of the last song he played, but it was a classic Kyuss riff, and hearing it through an acoustic was like finding a copy of Paranoid in a museum. Read: just right.
There was a 40-minute break between Bengtsson and the next band at The Black Heart, which was Steak, so I made use of the time and went across the street to The Underworld to check out some of Shrine ’69‘s set. They were young, but heavy, and no one told me, but apparently giant embroidered v-necks are the new t-shirt and jeans. Fair enough. I was more into the UK natives than I thought I’d be just going by their name, and I picked up their CD to give it a listen later on, figuring no time like the present, and contrary to what I told the French lady who sold me my breakfast, it’s not every weekend I’m in London. Shrine ’69‘s crowd knew them better than I did, and I was glad to default to the judgment of the masses on this one. Helped, I suppose, that I agreed with them. Another quality UK band to add to the seemingly endless list.
Also local, Steak drew a large crowd back at The Black Heart. I had bought their EP yesterday without knowing who they were, and only later found out that the band includes Dan and Reece from DesertScene, who organized the fest. They were solid heavy rock, self-aware stoner, and they proved yet again one of the things I’ve always most enjoyed about this kind of music — the people who are into it, do it. Seeing these dudes made me wish I didn’t live in the asshole of the world, considering the raw passion for what they do and the time and effort they were willing to put into putting Desertfest together across three venues in busy Camden Town, 50-plus bands over three nights. They’ve made it really easy for someone outside of this geographic scene (like I am, despite having people in it I consider friends), to be jealous of it, and they rocked besides. Can’t ask for more than that.
I’d seen the Roadsaw dudes around, shot the shit for a while with drummer Jeremy Hemond, bassist (and Obelisk columnist) Tim Catz, the aforementioned Mr. Riggs and guitarist Ian Ross, and I was looking forward to their set at The Underworld. Not because I’ve never seen them before, but because I knew this was a special show. It was special for me just being here, so I figured being that dudes from basically the same region I’m from (at least relative to London), who flew out just for this show and then were set to fly back home, they’d be really into it, and Roadsaw did not disappoint. Awesome to look by the side of the stage and see the Orange Goblin guys showing respect, and awesome to see Roadsaw throw down. They played a couple tracks off their Desertfest EP, which they were also giving away on CD free of charge — I took two — and “Thinking of Me” and “Long in the Tooth” off the self-titled (review here) were highlights. I’ll have to see if they’re playing at all in Boston come June or July, because as I stood and watched them tear through these songs, it occurred to me that I’ve never seen them on their home turf, and that’s something I should probably get on remedying. They did New England proud.
Sungrazer was on next, so I stayed put at The Underworld. This was my second time seeing the Dutch natives, who were a highlight of Roadburn last year and who I really consider to be the future of fuzz. Sander Haagmans‘ Rickenbacker rules all. If Sander Haagmans‘ Rickenbacker was running for US president as a republican, I would go against my beliefs and vote for it, because it’s just that awesome. But you know what? Sander Haagmans‘ Rickenbacker wouldn’t run as a republican, because it’s warm and inviting and progressive and doesn’t give a shit if gay people want to get married. It’s fucking great, is what I’m trying to say. His and guitarist Rutger Smeets‘ tones were dead on. They opened with “If” from their 2010 self-titled (review here) and went directly from there into “Octo” from last year’s fabulous Mirador (review here), but what I was really hoping for came later, with the new song “Dopo.” When I saw them last, they played a couple Mirador tracks, and with the acknowledgement that one live listen is no real basis for judgment, I’ll say it seems like they’re going even further into their meandering heavy psych, leaving behind some of the Colour Haze-type influence and doing more of their own thing. Maybe that’s me reading into it, but that was the impression I got, anyway, and it made me excited to hear what they do on their next record. They finished with the Fu Manchu-worthy fuzz of “Common Believer,” which of all the songs I heard today from all the bands I saw, is the one still stuck in my head.
There was a little time before Alunah were set to go on at The Black Heart, but I made my way over there early to get a spot up front. Grabbed a beer and bought a copy of Alunah‘s Call of Avernus before they took the stage, which they did following some technical difficulties with bassist Gaz Imber‘s amp. The troubles were short-lived, though, which I suppose is one of the benefits of having your fest sponsored by Orange — an awesome-sounding replacement for whatever’s broken is never far off. They were cool, unpretentious riffy doom. Vocalist/guitarist Soph Day had the crowd eating out of her hand, and the whole band seemed right at home both with the audience and in the venue. I’m still reminded of Acid King by Day‘s echoing vocals, but that’s hardly a complaint in my mind. Their next record, which will be their first for PsycheDOOMelic — apparently titled White Hoarhound — is one to look forward to. Like Grifter who would play later, Alunah seem to be coming of age as a band and it was exciting to watch. Valient Thorr was on at The Underworld, and I heard later they were great, but seeing Alunah play under their psychedelic lighting effects, I felt like I was right where I needed to be.
This is where things got really tricky. I’d worked out the rest of the evening so that the order of bands was going to be as follows:
Truckfighters at The Underworld (18.30-19.15) Dopefight at The Purple Turtle (19.15-19.45) Church of Misery at The Underworld (19.45-20.30) Orange Goblin at The Underworld (21.00-22.15) Black Pyramid at The Purple Turtle (21.25-22.25)
and Grifter at The Black Heart (21.50-22.50)
I wouldn’t get to see Serpent Venom or Slabdragger, but this way I felt like I was maximizing the amount of bands I’d see, catching the headliners where last night I didn’t, and still getting back to the hotel in decent time to write about this massive fucking day. Obviously I didn’t see everyone’s set front-to-back, and there was one point where I left The Underworld after Church of Misery thinking Black Pyramid was going on immediately only to find I wasn’t that far into the schedule yet, but basically this plan worked, which I guess is why I felt so victorious as I started this review.
Though I guess it would be hard not to be stoked on any night watching Truckfighters. Yes, it was my third Truckfighters show in a month’s time (see here and here), but as soon as Dango started up the “Desert Cruiser” riff, The Underworld went off. Heads were banged, fists were pumped, fuzz was thick, and where they had been relatively subdued in Manhattan, the Swedish trio pulled no punches for Desertfest. It was intense, heavy desert rock. They followed “Desert Cruiser” with “Monte Gargano,” and at that point, there was no turning back. Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm showed no wear for the set he did last night fronting Greenleaf at The Purple Turtle, and as ever, their energy was infectious and they brought the crowd along with them via killer grooves and some of the finest stoner riffing to be found the world over. Desertfest was perfect for them and they were perfect for Desertfest.
It killed me to leave, but Dopefight awaited. The British trio were one of the native bands I was most excited to see (seems like I say that for every native band, but it’s true), especially after their debut, Buds, found such favor late in 2010. Knowing their modus of “slow riffs first, then punk out with vocals,” I assumed it would take them a little while to get going, and it did. They played an instrumental intro before unleashing a few cuts off Buds and a new song from their upcoming split with Gurt. Good times were had. Much like Alunah and Steak earlier in the day, the crowd knew Dopefight and had pretty clearly seen them before. I hadn’t, and they killed. “Specimen” and “Nob. Nod. Noi.” made sure I didn’t go anywhere for the duration of their time on stage, though I’ll admit to getting a Newcastle and moving to the back of The Purple Turtle, as the day was beginning to wear on me. Nonetheless, Dopefight were every bit worth sticking through. I hope this isn’t the last time I see them.
Rumors were around that Japan’s Church of Misery had a new singer and guitarist, the latter coming on as a replacement for Tom Sutton, but lo, when I got back to The Underworld for the start of their set, there was Sutton himself. They did have a new vocalist since the last time I caught them, but as ever, Church of Misery delivered, Tatsu Mikami wearing his bass characteristically low-slung as he stood on the stage monitors. I don’t know who the new singer was — or, come to think of it, if it wasn’t in fact Hideki Fukasawa. He had the noisemakers going and the songs they played off 2009′s Houses of the Unholy (review here) sounded right on, but the stage presence was different, less manic and frantic. Less fake-shotgunning the crowd. It didn’t matter to the crowd, who were dead into it from the outset. It seemed like they didn’t play long, but I guess it just went quick. Either way, they’re touring Europe this month, playing Roadburn next week, and then heading to the States for a cross-country run that includes a stop at Maryland Deathfest at the end of May. Whoever’s in the band, they seemed ready.
Hometown heroes, Orange Goblin made for an especially cool headliner for the first Desertfest Saturday night because in no small way they’re responsible for influencing the current British scene. From Grifter, with whom they’re touring, to the likes of Desert Storm who play tomorrow, Orange Goblin — on the road supporting this year’s excellent A Eulogy for the Damned (review here) — are the statesmen of this scene, and though they’re as raucous as ever, they play the role well. The setlist was amazing. “The Fog” and “Stand for Something” off the new one, plus “Scorpionica” for an opener, “Some You Win, Some You Lose” and a rendition of the anthemic “The Filthy and the Few” that they brought out Craig Riggs from Roadsaw to join Ben Ward on vocals. I know it hasn’t been that long since they were last on my home shores, but I really hope Orange Goblin get to do a US tour for this album. The songs are so tight and crisp, but still rougher live than they are on the record. I’d love another shot at checking them out. You’ll note the headline for this post comes from “The Ballad of Solomon Eagle.” No coincidence there. Orange Goblin were a high point of the weekend.
In fact, I probably stayed at The Underworld longer than I should have, because by the time I got back down the road to The Purple Turtle — a 10-minute walk, basically — Black Pyramid was already well into “Mercy’s Bane” and the room was full. I’d heard a lot of people say they specifically wanted to see them, and I guess since the whole of Desertfest was running a little early, I just mistimed it. I stayed for a little while and grooved out for a couple minutes, and was glad for their success here as I was last year seeing a different incarnation of the band kill it at Roadburn, but soon enough I was back out the door and on my way north (was it north? Felt like north, but it was uphill, and I’m no judge, so take that for what it’s worth) to round out the night at The Black Heart, not before buying a copy of Serpent Venom‘s Carnal Altar album from their merch table in its awesome weirdo packaging. My camera bag was starting to weigh down my shoulder from the heft of the day’s acquisitions, but if the worst that comes of it is my arm falling off, I can’t really say I lost out.
Though by the time Grifter were getting ready to roll, I was tired and I could feel myself being tired. For a soundcheck, the three-piece jammed out a bouncy, low-key riff — it reminded me of something Asteroid might have extended for another six or seven minutes the night before in the same room — and inadvertently hooked the crowd, so that when they stopped, the room erupted in cheers. It was awesome, though kind of a bummer they didn’t just pick up from there and keep going. There were still a couple minutes before their set actually began, but when it did, it was worth the wait. Like last year’s Ripple Music self-titled full-length (review here), the live show showed them as a no bullshit heavy classic rock band. They played a couple older songs off their first EPs, which were well received, and were a cool way to finish up the night. I think a lot of people had gone off to the pub or decided to call it quits on the evening, but those who stayed for Grifter were definitely rewarded for the effort. I did, anyhow. Their set was like the destination I’d been running to all day, and I suppose it was. I’ll be honest: I didn’t make it through the whole thing, with time wearing on and knowing this was going to be the giant slab of probably typo-laden copy it has turned into. As as been the case many times so far this weekend, though, I was glad I saw what I did.
Tomorrow’s Easter — Happy Easter, if that’s your thing — and I think the whole town has the day off, but Desertfest rolls on. It’s the last day, and way more relaxed than was today (no doubt in my mind that was a purposeful move on the part of the DesertScene crew), but I’m still looking forward to seeing the likes of Wiht‘s last show ever, Leaf Hound and Samsara Blues Experiment, so as soon as I can, I’m going to crash out. It’ll probably be another hour or two of putting together the photos for this post [NOTE: No such luck. Post went up at 04.58), but whatever. I got takeout Indian food for dinner and am feeling strong as a result. Days like today, if they happen once, you’re lucky. I’m exhausted, and sore, and I don’t know if I’d call myself “lucky” — something about doing so just makes me think a piano will immediately fall out of the sky and land on my head — but “fortunate” definitely applies.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well I don’t know about you, but if Roadsaw made an EP just for me, I’d feel pretty dern special.
In order to honor the Massachusetts rockers’ upcoming appearance at the London Desertfest next week (my goodness how time flies), Roadsaw recently hit frontman Craig Riggs‘ own Mad Oak Studios to lay down three mostly-live tracks as an advance EP that they’ve made available for free download via Bandcamp. You’ll notice Tim Catz (of “70 RPMs” fame) killing it on bass on the moody “Twisted Steel and Broken Glass” and the bluesier “Burn Down the Night” — on which guitarist Ian Ross also shines amid some pretty righteous organ.
And while I once swore a blood oath never to groove on a song called “Monkey Skull” (that’s not true), the barn-burning, grunge-laden punk of the third cut is more than enough to make me rethink my (hypothetical) position on the matter, drummer Jeremy Hemond seeming to be on three cymbals at once in the chorus while Riggs makes himself at home in the catchy lines. If I get to see them play any of these tracks next week — or, you know, ever — I’ll feel like I’m winning out.
No word on if they’ll press these songs to any kind of plastic, be it that compatible to lasers or that best read by needles, but to download Roadsaw‘s new EP, click here to get it free from Bandcamp.
Posted in 70 RPMs on February 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Making his debut this week, bassist Tim Catz of Massachusetts heavy rock magnates Roadsaw brings you his brand new column, “70 RPMs,” and takes a special look at Sweet‘s 1975 opus, Desolation Boulevard. Enjoy:
Tim Catz’ 70 RPMs
This month’s record: Sweet – Desolation Boulevard
By 1974, the four fancy lads in TheSweet had grown tired of the bubble gum glam pop that had made them famous. Under the wing (and contract) of writing /producing duo NickyChinn and MichaelChapman, the band had already struck gold with hits like “Little Willy” and “Wig Wham Bam.” Despite their teeny-bopper success, or perhaps because of it, the group felt they needed to move toward a harder, heavier sound like many of their peers had already done.
The result was Sweet’s Desolation Boulevard. Released in the US in 1975, it was an instant hit and widely regarded as the band’s best work. But distancing themselves from their sugary past proved more difficult than simply dropping the “The” from their name. Contractually Chinn/Chapman were still on board and ended up controlling side one of the record (which would yield a bona fide hit with “Ballroom Blitz”). “No You Don’t” and “I Wanna Be Committed” are classic Sweet, even if they lacked some of the toughness the band desired.
But on side two, Sweet assumed full control and gave it their all. It kicks off with “Sweet F.A.” a juggernaut that showcased the band’s incredible and previously under-appreciated musicianship. Propelled by Mick Turner‘s frantic drumming and Andy Scott‘s wild lead guitar lines, the song also introduced some new studio finesse in the form of deep multi-tracked vocal harmonies from singer Brian Connolly and bassist Steve Priest. Though probably nicked from fellow Brits Queen and ELO, Sweet‘s new sound helped create what would become their biggest hit ever.
Starting with the unmistakable sound of a bubbling synthesizer, “Fox on the Run” smashed open with three huge power chords and straight up the charts worldwide. With its long echoing, “I……..” intro and muscular back beat, “Fox” silenced critics and thrilled fans. The song was a smash and became the anthem of every longhaired pimple-popping boy struggling through puberty in the summer of ‘75. And from then on, little sparkly-eyed feather-haired girls would forever be lovingly known as ever-elusive “foxes.”
Producer/songwriter Michael Chapman would go on to produce Blondie‘s Parallel Lines and by changing the beat of one of their songs from slow reggae to disco, gave them their first number one hit: “Heart of Glass.”
Sweet‘s last single to chart in the US was 1978’s “Love is Like Oxygen.” Singer Brian Connolly would leave the band the following year. Both he and bassist Steve Priest are now dead, making a much-desired Sweet reunion impossible.