Live Review: The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 in Brooklyn, 07.27.13

Posted in Reviews on July 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Though most of the acts were out-of-town imports, there was a strong familial vibe at The Acheron even before The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 got started. Not knowing what traffic wonders awaited on a Saturday evening — could be nothing, could be armageddon — I headed into Brooklyn early so as to catch the start of the nine-band bill and got there well in advance of commencement. Plenty of time to sit outside and chat with fest organizer Brendan Burns, who’d later take the stage with his band Wasted Theory, Pat Harrington of Geezer and the Electric Beard of Doom podcast — who were among the presenters of the show along with The Obelisk, Small Stone Records, Wendigo and Burns‘ own Snakecharmer Booking — the cats from Lo-Pan and plenty of others coming through.

It was still sunny out with a few hours of daylight to come, but people were beginning to assemble. Word of the show had spread pretty well, so although people came and went throughout the evening and seemed to split their time between The Acheron‘s venue room and The Anchord Inn, which occupies the other half of the space, there wasn’t any point where I’d say it cleared out, and right up to when Lo-Pan took the stage as headliners, there was a steady build of heads filling the room. The bar next to the stage was certainly busy all night.

Soon enough, though, it was time to go inside as the night started to get underway with Philly merchants of stone, Wizard Eye. From there, it was a one-after-the-next succession of heavy. Here’s how it all went down:

Wizard Eye

They’re veterans of Eye of the Stoned Goat by now, but where the second installment earlier this year in Delaware had them teamed with fellow Philadelphia natives Heavy Temple, Thee Nosebleeds and Clamfight, in Brooklyn, they were on their own in representing the City of Brotherly Love. Not only that, but it was their third show with new drummer Mike in the trio with the dreaded guitarist/vocalist Erik Caplan and bassist/backing vocalist Dave. If there was any anxiety on their part, they didn’t show it. Wizard Eye seemed as comfortable as ever as they nestled into their thick, air-pushing Sleep-style stoner grooves, Caplan moving from his guitar to the theremin at just the moment when it seemed the former wouldn’t deliver anymore wail than that which had already been extracted from it. My overarching impression of the band remains the same as when I saw them in February — they need to get an album out. It’s time and even being 33 percent new, their presentation was tight enough to make me think they’re more than ready to go. Hopefully soon.

Geezer

If Wizard Eye were the stonerly start, then NYC’s Geezer were the answer for anyone looking for a taste of blues, guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington working in a liberal use of slide while bassist Freddy Villano and drummer Turco filled out a heavy rocking stomp behind the classically fuzzed distortion and gravelly vocals. The band is still fresh off the release of their impressive 2013 Gage EP (discussed here), and they brought that jammier sensibility to their set, seeming right at home in slower progressions that they made move when they needed them to and offering unpretentious drinkin’ man’s music well met by the getting-started crowd. Harrington‘s was among the most believable “whiskey-soaked” style singing that I’ve heard in years, and he and Villano (who also play in Gaggle of Cocks together) obviously had years’ worth of chemistry working in their favor, despite Geezer being a relatively recent advent. Closer “Ghost Rider Solar Plexus” was a highlight, and as they’re reportedly working on a vinyl release for Gage, they seem to be building some momentum going into whatever they have in the works for after that. A solid blues-based heavy rock jam is something I’ll never argue with, and Geezer had that in spades.

Wasted Theory


Up from their home in Bear, Delaware, double-guitar unit Wasted Theory handled themselves well on The Acheron‘s stage, as Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 organizer Brendan Burns sat back for drums behind guitarist/vocalist Jackson, lead guitarist M. Kramer and bassist J., the four-piece striking hard on a balance of post-Down Southern metal and more driving stoner fare. They seemed in good spirits after having performed about a month ago at the Moving the Earth festival in Baltimore, and as they hit into songs off this year’s GodSpeed EP and Jackson swung his guitar around his back, they seemed to have come far even since I got my first glimpse of them earlier this year, locking in some fervent Pepper Keenan-style chugging on guitar while J. gave the riffs a thick foundation to rest on. They were energetic and engaged the whole way through, and though they didn’t pull in the biggest crowd of the night, they capped off with a motor-boogieing new song, Jackson half on guitar, that positioned them well coming out of GodSpeed. By the time they were done with their short set, the fest seemed like it was moving along quickly.

Borracho


I’d reviewed it the day before, so I don’t think Borracho‘s second album, Oculus, would’ve been any fresher on my mind if I’d listened to it on the way to the show. The D.C.-based trio had been out the weekend before for a set of four gigs with Lo-Pan, so I expected they’d be pretty tight and they did not disappoint. Owing to time constraints, they only played three or four songs, starting out with “Empty” and “Stockpile,” the opener and centerpiece from Oculus. Guitarist Steve Fisher has taken to the vocalist role well, and he seemed right at home on both of the Oculus cuts, the set as well giving me a whole new appreciation for the richness of bassist Tim Martin‘s tone. Dense and packed with low end push, it created the waves on which Borracho‘s slower grooves rode, punctuated and given further physicality during the jammier stretches of “Stockpile” by drummer Mario Trubiano. Dipping back to their 2011 debut, Splitting Sky, the trio capped off with the quick burst of “Concentric Circles,” Fisher showing no hesitation to deliver the lines shouting up into a dangling microphone, Motörhead-style. The earlier sets were all pretty short — 25 minutes for the first couple bands, then 30 for the next several — but Borracho had enough time to pack in maximum riffage and give anyone there who’d never seen them before a good idea of where they were coming from as a three-piece.

Lord Fowl

Here’s where I’m at with New Haven, Connecticut, four-piece Lord Fowl. They’re so tight and so professional that on stage they look like they could be playing one of those all-day amphitheater commercial radio shows with a goofy name. You know the ones: “WFUK presents the Summer Fling this Saturday at the Giant Corporate Bank Park,” and so on. Only snag is Lord Fowl don’t suck and all those bands do. It’s been over two years since I first saw them, and while they may not have the same kind of surprise factor going as they did that night, my enjoyment for what they do has only increased as they’ve gotten signed to Small Stone and last year released, Moon Queen (review here). Opening with the same wow-that-cop-is-saying-some-racist-shit sample that starts the song on the album, they kicked into the funk-riffed “Dirty Driving” as guitarists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino traded off vocal parts, setting the tone for the rest of their all-too-short set. “Split” and “Hollow Horn” were welcome inclusions, bassist John Conine and drummer Don Freeman locking in with the starts and stops of the latter, balancing classic rock and modern heavy off each other with born-to-do-it ease. I asked Jaynes afterwards and he said a new record’s in the works, which was some of the best news I heard all night.

Supermachine

To my knowledge, no such award was handed out, but if Eye of the Stoned Goat wanted to start handing out prizes for the prettiest guitars, one would almost certainly have gone to Supermachine‘s Jay Fortin. I don’t even play guitar and the sight of his gold-trimmed, hollow-body Gretsch had me in awe, both in look and sound. As Fortin, bassist Dave Jarvis, drummer Mike McNeil and vocalist David Nebbia stepped into the New Hampshire biker rock groove of “Buffalo,” I could hear a touch of the tonality Fortin and Jarvis brought to their prior outfit together, Scissorfight, and while I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to listen to Supermachine and not consider that context — which isn’t really fair to the band, who are going for a different style altogether; it’s also why I’ve not to date reviewed their self-titled debut — there’s no doubt they’re a crisp, clear-headed and heavy four-piece who can put together a dead-on, ballsy set. “Crutch” was absurdly catchy and correspondingly full sounding, new song “Broiled Alive” was, well, also those things, and I came away from their set glad I had seen them before and had some sense of what to expect, since it allowed me more of a chance to relax and take Supermachine in on their own level. That being the case, I wondered if maybe repeat exposure would continue the trend, and if so, I could think of far worse things.

Black Black Black

The first two words in the page of notes I took during the Black Black Black set were “holy” and “shit.” The only New York band on the bill besides Geezer — also the only other act playing Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 besides Geezer that I hadn’t seen live before — Black Black Black took the stage in unassuming-enough fashion and proceeded to demolish the space around them. It was like they decided to bring their self-titled debut (see here, here and here) to life and then punch everyone in the face with it. “Light Light Light” crushed in a manner that threw down a gauntlet that dared Gozu and Lo-Pan to match its weight, and “Pentagram On,” “Wisdom, Knowledge and Fucked,” the raging “ReDeath” and “Son of Bad” brought a zero-genre-allegiance sonic versatility that was lethal in kind to the band’s presentation of the material. As their time wore on — it went quickly, make no mistake — and guitarist Jacob Cox manipulated feedback to add atmosphere to the pummel, I tried to think back to the last time I got a recommendation as good as when Jesse Bartz from Lo-Pan put me onto them. I couldn’t come up with anything. With no loss of energy or assault in their delivery, Black Black Black – Cox, vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, bassist Jonathan Swafford and drummer Jeff Ottenbacher – included two new songs near the end, the latter of which offset a shuffling riff with vocals that bordered on airy before they shifted into their final round of intense bludgeoning. It was, in short, a fucking delight.

Gozu

It made a strange kind of sense to me as I watched Boston’s Gozu load onto the stage that, last weekend, I should be in Boston watching The Brought Low at a show which members of Gozu were attending just to hang out, while this weekend, I’m in New York watching Gozu, who are from Boston, and here’s Ben Smith from The Brought Low, come to check out the gig. I feel like there’s some element of symmetry there and I just don’t have a brain able to process mathematics complex enough to enjoy it. Nonetheless, at The Acheron, Gozu played the heaviest set I’ve ever seen them play. Whether it was “Bald Bull,” the thrashing “Charles Bronson Pinchot” or the boogie-ready “Snake Plissken” from this year’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), or “Regal Beagle” from their 2010 Locust Season debut, everything they played seemed to pack some extra bite, and particularly in the case of drummer Barry Spillberg, the band hand-delivered a rager that set back some of their soul influence in favor of showing off hardcore roots, closing out with “Mr. Riddle” from Locust Season, which had thrust enough to its groove alone to justify Gozu’s place on the bill. I don’t generally think of Gozu as putting such an emphasis on heaviness — yeah, they’re a heavy rock band and guitarists Marc Gaffney and Doug Sherman and bassist Jay Grotto obviously have heft to their tones — but this was a different league entirely. They were almost metal, but if metal pulled its head out of its ass and remembered how good it felt to groove every now and again. Whatever symmetry I may have enjoyed in seeing them in New York this weekend, that was trumped easily by their actual performance, which was downright threatening.

Lo-Pan

It had been a long day. Lo-Pan were slated to hit the stage at midnight, and by the time they did — give or take a few minutes, but basically on time — I was long since beat, but already eight bands deep, there was no way I was missing anything the Ohio fuzz rockers had to offer. And I was even gladder I didn’t cut out early once they actually started playing; the setlist was packed with new material. “Eastern Seas” and “Colossus” were aired — familiar titles from recent shows — but “Hunters,” which if I’m not mistaken Jeff Martin said was being played for the first time (don’t quote me), brought out guttural, soulful shouts from the singer powerful enough to cut through the volume of the three players — bassist Scott Thompson, drummer Jesse Bartz and guitarist Brian “It’s His Tone, We’re Just Living in It” Fristoe — positioned in front of him. Light moshing occurred, which I guess is what happens when people 25 and under show up to gigs. New songs were joined by the familiar rush of “Deciduous” and “Generations” from 2011′s there’s-no-hyperbole-left-for-me-to-use-so-I’ll-just-say-it’s-fucking-awesome Small Stone debut, Salvador (review here), but Lo-Pan returned to new material to close out, ending off their set with “The Duke,” on which Martin‘s voice was presented sort of answering itself in delay. The final locked-in groove of that song justified its position as the finale, but when Lo-Pan were done, the shouts of “one more!” were immediate. Bartz had already gotten off the stage, but he came back up and Martin said they’d only do one more if someone bought Scott a shot of whiskey. It arrived during the first verse of “Kurtz” and was fed into his mouth as he played. More moshing ensued — heathens! — and Lo-Pan capped a killer night with a spectacle well worth sticking around to see. Until next time.

The efforts of Brendan Burns in making Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 happen are worth reiterating and commending. The Acheron also made an excellent host for the show — the sound straight through left nothing wanting in either volume, devastation or clarity — and each of the bands stepped up to deliver a fitting answer to the one in front of them, starting with Wizard Eye and ending with Lo-Pan. I got out of Brooklyn on the quick since it was already pushing 1AM, got back to my humble river valley a little after two and crashed out, satisfied that there was no more I could’ve asked of the night.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

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The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 to Hit Brooklyn’s The Acheron July 27

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’m very, very proud to be involved in helping promote The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 in the way that I am. After checking out the second in the festival series back in February, it’s an honor to have signed on to help spread the word about the third, which boasts a strong lineup of bands at a choice venue on what I’ve no doubt will be a sweltering weekend night of heavy rock and roll. The fest sent over a victory lap of a press release, which you’ll find below:

The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 set for Brooklyn, NY

Snake Charmer Booking announces its 3rd installment of its stoner rock and doom metal themed concert event “The Eye of the Stoned Goat”. The event will take place at The Acheron in Brooklyn New York on Saturday, July 27th 2013 at 6pm.

The Acheron, known to the locals as “the second coming of CBGB’s” is the perfect spot to host such a powerhouse line up, including Small Stone Records bands: Lo-Pan, Gozu, SuperMachine, and Lord Fowl. Washington, D.C.’s own Borracho, Delaware band Wasted Theory, and Philadelphia’s Wizard Eye will be making the trip up, while local support will be provided by Brooklyn’s Black Black Black, and Kingston, New York’s own Geezer.

In February 2013, Snake Charmer Booking hosted the second Eye of the Stoned Goat show in Delaware, home of event organizer Brendan Burns. Only a month later, Burns teamed up with Pat Harrington at the ‘Electric Beard of Doom’ podcast to announce that they would be bringing the event to New York.

Some of the bands who have previously played the ‘Stoned Goat events include- Pale Divine, Iron Man, Clamfight, Beelzefuzz, Blackhand, Skeleton Hands, Thee Nosebleeds and Black Cowgirl to name a few. “I’ve been fortunate being able to work with so many great bands, and this time around is no different” according to Burns. “This roster of artists are bands that I enjoy listening to regularly, and I am just absolutely thrilled to be working with them, it’s a promoter’s dream to work with bands that you listen to in your daily life”. Burns has also begun working on his roster for the Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 for 2014.

This summer’s event will also features such sponsors as Small Stone Records, The Obelisk, Wendigo Promotions and Electric Beard of Doom Podcast.

Tickets go on sale May 1st 2013 for $12.00 (online price), and will also be available at the door for $15.00 to first come first served.  For more information, visit www.TheEyeoftheStonedGoat.com.

Ticket Link:
www.ticketfly.com/event/265667-eye-stoned-goat-2013-lo-brooklyn/

Facebook Event Page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/353125964803490/

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VISUAL EVIDENCE: Backwoods Payback, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Sun Gods in Exile Tour Booked for April

Posted in Visual Evidence on April 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

My only hope is that as Backwoods Payback, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Sun Gods in Exile head out for these four shows, they bring the poster with them. Seems the Small Stone Records bannerfolk have united under the flag of their label and are hitting the Northeast for a bill they’re dubbing “4 Bands, 4 States, 4 Shows, 1 Label.” Call it a tour by the numbers.

Since Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Sun Gods in Exile all live in New England, so with Backwoods Payback tagged on from Pennsylvania, you can pretty well imagine this one’s going to be a debauched-type good time. A long weekend that no one involved will recall by the time it’s over. Nonetheless, if you’ve gotta have something to remember it by, the following Alexander von Wieding poster is a gorgeous reminder.

Octopus reigns supreme among green-lady headwear:

4 bands. 4 states. 4 shows. 1 label.

SMALL STONE RECORDS NORTH EAST US TOUR

featuring:
BACKWOODS PAYBACK
SUPER MACHINE
LORD FOWL
SUN GODS IN EXILE

04.25.13 – The Dover Brickhouse, Dover NH
04.26.13 – KCs Tap, Pawtucket RI
04.27.13 – The Winchester, Woodbridge CT
04.28.13 – Leftfield NYC, Manhattan NY

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The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 Coming to Brooklyn in July

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Presented by Snakecharmer Booking, Small Stone Records, the Electric Beard of Doom podcast and yours truly once I manage to track down my hi res Obelisk logos, the Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 is set to take place July 27 at The Acheron in Brooklyn. It will have only been months since Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 suckerpunched Delaware upside its still-bragging-about-being-the-first-state head (review here), but with a lineup that includes Lo-Pan, Gozu, Supermachine, Black Black Black, Borracho, Wizard Eye, Lord Fowl, Geezer and Wasted Theory, I’m not about to complain.

As I’ll be helping present the damn thing, expect much more to come, including interviews with the artists, reviews and updates on their whathaveyou and maybe even a giveaway if I can square it with the powers that be. Till then, stare at the preliminary flyer below marvel at the wonders summer will bring:

More info at the Thee Facebooks event page, and the Eye of the Stoned Goat website.

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Small Stone Finalizes SXSW Showcase Lineup; Poster Revealed

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Truth be told, they’ve been putting on shows during SXSW since 1997, but 2013 makes it a full decade that Small Stone has been doing an official SXSW showcase, and the venerable Detroit imprint are celebrating in style. I always get a little wistful thinking about my days in Austin at these parties — I went four years from 2003-’07 — and from seeing Suplecs touring on the strength of a post-Man’s Ruin demo to watching Sasquatch and The Brought Low lay waste to the room. Good friends, cheap beer, occasionally Mexican food. Some of the best times I’ve had at shows were at those things, and not just for the refried beans.

I won’t be making the trip this year, but consider it highly recommended nonetheless if you can get down that way. Brian Mercer has once again provided the poster for the shindig, which is below, followed by the lineup and set times:

Also available in purple.

Marking 10 years of official SXSW showcases, Detroit’s Small Stone Records returns to Headhunters (720 Red River) on March 14 with some of the finest in heavy rock. This year’s Small Stone showcase is headlined by New Orleans veterans Suplecs and Connecticut upstarts Lord Fowl, and features Virginia’s Freedom Hawk and Texan natives Wo Fat along with Luder, Supermachine and Mellow Bravo. For lovers of classic guitar and motor-ready grooves, it gets no better than Small Stone, and with a decade under their belts, they still throw a party like none other. Expect the epic.

Date: Thursday March, 14th, 2013
Venue: Headhunters – 720 Red River – Austin, TX – 78701
1 am: Suplecs (New Orleans, LA)
12 mid: Lord Fowl (New Haven, CT)
11pm: Freedom Hawk (Virginia Beach, VA)
10pm: Wo Fat (Dallas, TX)
9pm: Luder (Ferndale, MI)
8pm: Supermachine (Dover, NH)
7pm: Mellow Bravo (Boston, MA)

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Notes and Pics: Small Stone Records Showcase in Somerville, MA, 11.03.12

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:

Blackwolfgoat


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 Dronolith and 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.

Mellow Bravo

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.

Supermachine

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.

Infernal Overdrive

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 XII in 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 Sun 2011 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.

Lord Fowl


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 Queen label 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.

Freedom Hawk

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.

Roadsaw


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.

Lo-Pan

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.

Gozu


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 Season debut (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.

Many more pics after the jump.

Read more »

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Small Stone’s Boston Showcase is on Saturday; Warm-up Show Tomorrow with Infernal Overdrive & Elder

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:

http://www.ticketfly.com/event/161333

Gozu – 12 mid
Lo-Pan – 11pm
The Brought Low – 10pm
Roadsaw – 9pm
Freedom Hawk – 8pm
Lord Fowl – 7pm
Infernal Overdrive – 6pm
Supermachine – 5pm
Blackwolfgoat 4pm and all night

Set times are a rough estimate!

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Visual Evidence: Brian Mercer’s Poster for the Boston Small Stone Showcase Unveiled

Posted in Visual Evidence on August 23rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

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.

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Where to Start: The Obelisk’s Guide to Small Stone Records

Posted in Where to Start on May 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

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‘s Songs 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.

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Asteroid, Supermachine, Mother of God, Lord Fowl and Wo Fat Sign to Small Stone

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 15th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Congratulations to New Hampshire’s Supermachine (pictured above) for being one of the slew of new bands signed to Small Stone Records. The Detroit label passed along news today that it has made deals with them as well as Swedish fuzz upstarts Asteroid and Mother of God along with heavy rockers Lord Fowl (who so impressed at the Fuzz Fest in their native Connecticut last summer) and Texas’ Wo Fat. With new releases already on the way from the likes of Mangoo and Greenleaf, Small Stone‘s roster and scope seem to be continually expanding. Should be cool to see what comes out of it, and in the meantime, more good music is never a bad thing.

Here’s the word from label honcho, Scott Hamilton, sent the old-fashioned way (by email):

For some of you this old news, as we have already let the cat out of the bag on Facebook for a few of these… But for those of you who prefer to get your information the old fashioned way, we have quite a few new acts that have just joined the Small Stone Family.

Please welcome: New Hampshire’s Supermachine (two ex-Scissorfight boys, and two boys you are most likely not all that hip to), Dallas, TX’s Wo Fat (who have mastered the fine art of fusing early Sabbath riffs with the soul and swagger of the deep south), Connecticut’s Lord Fowl (who make incredible retro rock styled jams – thanks for the heads up Mr. Taskmaster), and not one but two acts from Sweden.

The first band you all should know by now, Asteroid (who widely respected and adored for their love of the fuzz), and some young whippersnappers named Mother of God (these kids rock, you are going to love ‘em! – a special thanks goes out to the Infernal Overdrive band for pointing them out to us).

We do not have any formal release dates to announce for any of the above as they are all in different stages of production, but for the most part, you can expect some of these Small Stone debuts to be rolling out later this year.

Thanks—
Scott Hamilton
Small Stone HQ
www.smallstone.com

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