Posted in Whathaveyou on August 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well established that I’m a sucker for a cool rock show and a cool rock poster, so when greeted by both, I’ve little choice in the matter of posting it. Enfectious Erf out of Memphis concocted the classy design below for what was previously announced taking place a week earlier as Small Stone‘s Detroit fall showcase and now seems to be less that than just another killer show with bands on the label, though it will also serve as the release party for Detroit-native progressive heavy rockers Luder‘s new album, Adelphophagia. In town for the night will be Freedom Hawk, Gozu, The Brought Low and Lo-Pan, so whether or not it’s an official showcase is immediately secondary to how much ass the night is going to kick. The Brought Low rarely get out that far, so Midwesterners take note, and any time Lo-Pan and Gozu get together, trouble is made. Very loud trouble.
Here’s the poster for the show, which you can click to enlarge if its current size isn’t big enough:
Small Stone Records Presents: Freedom Hawk, Gozu, Lo-Pan, Luder, The Brought Low
Posted in Reviews on July 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
True, I probably should’ve been looking over housing rentals and formulating a plan for what apartments to see the next day — since that’s why I was in Boston a week and a half ahead of moving to Massachusetts anyway — but on the other, far less responsible hand, The Brought Low. The NYC trio were coming up to play Radio in Somerville with local-types Planetoid, The Scimitar and Hey Zeus also on the bill, and well, if I’m going to be living somewhere, there’s no time like the present to start getting my ass out to shows. What at its most convenient is a four-hour drive had taken more than six, my car’s air conditioner cutting out on the way. I’d been up since five in the morning. It was time to rock and roll.
I’ve been to Radio a few times now — I think every time I’ve been there a band on Small Stone has played, usually Gozu — and it’s a cool room. I had to remind myself that Boston’s a rocker town with a rocker crowd, so the place would probably be packed, and by the time Hey Zeus were finished, indeed it was. Last time I saw the native outfit was their first show, in January. It was one of the coldest nights of the winter. Go figure that I should run into them again as the heat index pushed its way past 110. A band for all seasons, they apparently are.
Opening up, I thought it was a pretty ballsy move for them to throw in a “Space Truckin’” cover halfway through, but they absolutely nailed it, vocalist Bice Nathan channeling his inner Ian Gillan to hit the screaming pre-chorus “Yeah!” high notes on the ultra-catchy Deep Purple classic. Ballsy as it was, they’d double-down by closing out a set otherwise comprised of driving original material with a take on “Speed King” from In Rock. It was almost like the set had a side A and side B and each closed out with a Deep Purple song. Not a bad way to go out, come to think of it.
Between Nathan‘s expert fronting the band, guitarist Pete Knipfing‘s red-hot Southern-style classic rock leads and the groove held down by the rhythm section of bassist Ken Cmar and drummer Todd Bowman, Hey Zeus were as tight as you could possibly ask them to be, varying their pacing somewhere between mid-moving stonerly lumber and the grown-up punk that has fueled so much of Boston’s heavy rock over the years. I dug it last time, I dug it this time, but more importantly, I’ll look forward to digging it next time.Feeling more metallic from their very start, The Scimitar followed in plundering fashion.
Guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard (see also Blackwolfgoat, Hackman, Roadsaw, and the League of Excellent Human Beings) announced from the stage that it was just The Scimitar‘s second Boston show. The trio, made up of Shepard, his Black Pyramid bandmate Dave Gein and drummer Brian Banfield, more or less functioned as an extension of that band’s marauding musical ideology, walking a line between thrashing metal and doom that Shepard‘s riffs navigated with ease. Some parts reminded me of Black Pyramid‘s 2013 outing, Adversarial(review here), but in cuts like “World Unreal” and “Forever and Ever and Ever” — based on The Shining and being played for the first time — there began to shine an individual personality for The Scimitar that will inevitably win out.
Gein and Shepard, recently back from a European tour in support of Adversarialwith Black Pyramid, were dead on from the start, which gave Banfield a task in locking in with the two of them, but the drummer handled it well, the trio sounding solid if formative in their chemistry and like they were only going to get filthier sounding as time went on. I wondered if crusty battle doom was a thing, or if it could be, and as if either to answer or to shake me out of my bout of overthinking, they ran through “Void Traveler” on their way to closing out with the Motörhead cover “Metropolis,” giving a suitably grooving treatment to the mid-paced swagger of the original, which appeared on the 1979 landmark, Overkill. Needless to say, beer was spilled.
Dressed up in elaborate and professional-looking alien costumes — one guy actually looked so much like Nightcrawler from the X-Men that I thought that’s what he was going for at first — as they walked around Radio loading in and hanging out, Planetoid were playing last, which meant The Brought Low went on third after The Scimitar. There was a moment right before they took the stage that I could feel myself hit the wall. I stifled yawns and kept myself standing upright, but wow, I was ready to be done. The Brought Low, who were viewing this show as something of a makeup from having to cancel on the Small Stone Boston showcase last fall owing to the post-Hurricane Sandy gas shortage, hadn’t even started yet. I’d only seen two bands!
Proud to report that I didn’t split before The Brought Low‘s set was finished. The trio — Ben Smith (guitar/vocals), Bob Russell (bass/vocals) and Nick Heller (drums) — were on my hypothetical list of stuff to see before no longer living in the New York area, so even though it wound up being in Boston rather than their hometown I caught them in, I wasn’t about to complain. Their on the cusp of 15 years together and lived up to the high standard the sets I’ve seen them play have set, Smith and Heller both having grown out their hair some since I last encountered the band in Fall 2011. In that time, they haven’t put out anything new — their last offering was a three-song EP on Coextinction Recordings (stream and track-by-track here) — but even “What I Found” from their 2001 self-titled debut sounded fresh among newer songs like “Army of Soldiers” and “Black River” from the aforementioned three-tracker.
“Black River” in particular made for an exciting shift just past the halfway mark in the set as Russell took the fore vocally with Smith backing, where the band’s usual process works the other way around, their chemistry and unique blend of country twang and rocking city grit underscored by the swing in Heller‘s drums, perhaps most prevalent of all in the slower “My Favorite Waste of Time” from 2010′s Third Record (review here), which was also a highlight. I don’t know how many times I’ve called The Brought Low the best rock band in New York, but I’m still right. Whether it was “Old Century” or “The Kelly Rose,” the only thing they left me wanting was more The Brought Low. Beat to hell though I was, I’d have stayed if they went on twice as long.
As it was, they didn’t go much further than 40 minutes. An encore after “Blues for Cubby” rounded out and I said a few quick goodnights and made my way back to the hotel, feeling guilty for not catching Planetoid but assuming this wouldn’t be my last opportunity to do so. The next day I got up and went and found a place to live.
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:
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.
I fuckin’ love The Brought Low. There’s a lot of bands I dig — more every day, it seems — but The Brought Low are local, I’ve seen them a bunch of times, I know them, and they’ve yet to disappoint musically. “Army of Soldiers” was included on their Coextinction Recordings EP last year, and I don’t know who made this video, but it sets the song to nostalgic looking video scenes, and that’s more than enough for me. Zack Kurland of Purple Knights, who will hopefully have a vast series of limited edition cassettes coming soon, sent me this clip, and I’m glad to share it with y’all.
It’s been a longer week than you’d know by looking at the course of posts on The Obelisk, but I thank you for checking in if you have (if you haven’t, blow it out your ass), and I hope you’ve enjoyed the course of the last couple weeks. Next week to come I’ll have a live review of Halfway to Gone at the Brighton Bar, as well as an interview with bassist/vocalist Lou Gorra, and a host of other reviews, including Dust Storm Warning, Scott Kelly and another one or two I can’t remember. It kind of sucks that I haven’t been able to post as much as I want the last month or so, but — frankly speaking — The Obelisk is pretty much the longest-running occupation I’ve had since I worked at KB Toys however many years back, and I’m not about to deprioritize it just because some jerks are paying me money to do something else.
I’ve had a hell of a week, and I’m working tomorrow putting together emailers and whatever else, but fuck it, I’ve got a liberal portion of wine and before I crash out, I most of all want to thank everyone who checked in over the last couple days. If you saw the Elder stream, I hope you enjoyed it. That’s exactly the kind of thing I want to be doing with this site, hosting tracks I genuinely think are killer for people to check out from a band I believe deserve more exposure. Hopefully you dig those tunes and get to pick up that vinyl if you’re so interested. Tony Reed dropped a line earlier today about some Mos Generator unreleased tracks, so we’ll see what comes of that, but the bottom line is anytime I can bring you music I’m stoked on, it reinforces the whole reasoning behind why I do this in the first place.
Alright, I’ve had enough wine that it’s time for watching the ball game and going to bed, but thank you again one last time for reading this week. I have a lot going on lately on a personal level — my professional jobs are eating up a lot of time, plus I’m trying to find a place to move to — but as the one dude who stands behind everything that gets posted on this site, I thank you for reading the work, whether I’ve written it or whether it’s come from a columnist, interviewee, or whatever. Expect more to come in that regard, but I’m going to try my best to get a few more opinion pieces up as well, if only because I’ve got the opinions and they’re building up on this end.
That’s enough of that. If you’re still reading, thanks. If not, well, okay. I hope you’ll check in on the forum or I’ll see you back here Monday for more whoopdeedo and good-fun-type wholesomeness.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
In answer to your next question: “Ain’t nothin’ better than The Brought Low live, fool.” I guess that was assuming your next question was, “What’s better than The Brought Low live?” A band The Obelisk rightly calls “the best rock band in New York City” (nice quote, gents), the burg’s most powerful power trio have booked a couple not-to-be-missed Brooklyn shows for July, including a date this coming Sunday with The Sights, who are currently on tour with Tenacious D (I interviewed Jack Black and Kyle Gass for this week’s The Aquarian), and Cropduster and recently reviewed labelmates Mellow Bravo. Sounds like good fun to me, but then again, I’m about as big a sucker for The Brought Low as they come. Maybe there’s a size up. I don’t know.
Also, so you don’t miss out, the band sends along word that they’ve got a new album in the works that’ll be out on the all-around respectable-type Small Stone Records come 2013 and a vinyl reissue slated for this fall for their 2006 label debut, Right on Time. Bad. Ass.
Here there be details on those shows:
07/0 1 Union Hall, Brooklyn w/ The Sights
07/14 The Gutter, Brooklyn w/ Mellow Bravo, Cropduster, Year of Dragon
Posted in Reviews on September 25th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
I woke up at the hotel in Philadelphia yesterday late, after a disturbing dream of a sexual nature and saw, in the angled mirrors of the bathroom, the burgeoning bald spot on the back of my head for the first time. That was a bit of a bummer, but the day picked up from there. I was ridiculously, laughably exhausted after night one of the Small Stone showcase at The M-Room, but with one more night to go, it wasn’t quite time to punch/crash out yet.
Taking the bus down for the day, The Patient Mrs. met me in town (this weekend is our wedding anniversary) and we loafed around for a bit before eventually settling in to do some work, and then eventually I dropped her off at the 30th St. Station, so she could head back north and I could run over to the venue for the start of the show. I’ll confess that despite having seen the Brian Mercer poster above on more than one occasion, I didn’t even remember who was first on the bill, so when I walked in, it was a bit of a surprise to hear Ironweed playing.
We’ll begin with that:
Ironweed: Of all the acts on the Small Stone roster, they’re probably the one I’m the least a fan of, but I’ll hand it to the Upstate New Yorker double-guitar four-piece anyway and say they were tight as hell. Their stuff is just on the other side of commercially accessible from what I really get down with, but they do it well, and though I haven’t listened to their Your World of Tomorrow album since I reviewed it back in April, I still recognized some of the songs from it. That alone should say something about the strength of their songwriting, wherever how they use it might lie on the spectrum of my personal taste.
The Might Could: Don’t even like Pantera anymore. Despite not being able to stand too close to the stage on account of the formidable body odor emitting therefrom, The Might Could were loud enough that I could’ve probably sat on the on-ramp to I-95 a few miles down the road and still heard them. Both guitarists/vocalists Erik Larson and TJ Childers played through full stacks, and though I think going on earlier didn’t necessarily suit the band’s performance — bassist Rob Gouldman (ex-Lord) mentioned from the stage several times they wanted drink tickets — they killed. There should’ve been more people there to see it, but the songs, the tones, the mix of Southern, stoner and sludge made The Might Could‘s set stand out. They were loose and clearly wanted to be that way, but sounded even fuller live than they did on their self-titled, and Ryan Wolfe started off a string of insanely good drumming that lasted the rest of the night.
Throttlerod: Kevin White continued that string that Ryan Wolfe started, and added a more technical sense to it, some theory to go with the speed. There were different styles throughout the evening, and with people doing different things musically, it’s hard to say who was the best, but White was up there, whatever metric you might want to use. Aside from rocking, Throttlerod‘s set was fascinating because of the noisy course the band’s sound has taken over their last couple records, Nail (2006) and Pig Charmer (2009). Seeing northerners take on a Southern aesthetic is nothing new, but the Virginian three-piece — which as of Pig Charmer featured Brooklyn-based bassist Andrew Schneider, also engineer and co-founder of Coextinction Recordings, who was absent — have gone the opposite route, adopting a start-stop crunch that’s straight out of the classic Amphetamine Reptile playbook. With guitarist/vocalist Matt Whitehead adding melody vocally, it’s a distinctive mix.
Gozu: Their spot on the bill was a clear indication that Scott Hamilton, owner of Small Stone Records, wanted to feature them to the crowd. Otherwise, Throttlerod has been around much longer and The Might Could, though a relatively new band, have added clout owing to their pedigree (Childers plays drums in Inter Arma, Ryan Wolfe was signed to Relapse with Facedowninshit and Erik Larson was in Alabama Thunderpussy), but to Gozu‘s credit, they earned their spot. One of the best aspects of their 2010 Small Stone debut, Locust Season, was the vocals of guitarist Marc Gaffney, and on stage at The M-Room proved no different. Locust Season flew under a lot of people’s radar, I guess because it seems like Gozu came out of nowhere with it, but the record was really strong, and the memorability of the songs held up. Gaffney, playing through a custom Matamp (I think) with “GAFF” on the faceplate, was joined on guitar by Doug Sherman, whose high-slung guitar, angled ballcap and stage demeanor was right out of the New England hardcore scene birthed in Gozu‘s Boston home. Still, with the two guitarists, it was bassist Paul Dallaire‘s low end that dominated the live mix, and coupled with Barry Spillberg‘s intimidating performance on drums, there was no question the band was where they belonged. They played a new song — I believe Sherman said it was called “Bald Bull” (the referential title would be befitting their modus) — that speaks well of what’s to come on their next album.
The Brought Low: Like Suplecs and Lo-Pan the night before, it was my second time in a week seeing Small Stone‘s NYC contingent trio. Their set was mostly the same as it had been in Brooklyn, but at the behest of Hamilton, they also included “Vernon Jackson” from 2006′s Right on Time, which happens also to be one of my favorite songs of theirs. Still, it was the ultra-catchy “The Kelly Rose” from their aptly-titled third record, Third Record, that I walked out of The M-Room singing under my breath at the end of the night. Nick Heller continued the night of 1,000 tom hits, and Bob Russell and Ben Smith did right by material both new and old. “Army of Soldiers” was again a killer inclusion, and though it was enjoyable on their Coextinction EP, I hope it winds up on their next album, because it’s worth highlighting and pressing to disc. They had a couple classic Brought Low barn-burners going, and that was right up there with any of them. It wasn’t like I was dying to hear those songs because it had been so long since I’d seen the band, but The Brought Low never fail to please, and Philly was no exception. They tossed around a few joshing Civil War references (a new shirt features the visage of Ulysses S. Grant) in the direction of The Might Could, and it was another enjoyable — day I say “fun?” — set from a rock band in total command of their style and playing.
Roadsaw: They were simply too big for the stage they were playing on. It was my first time seeing the mainstay Boston foursome of vocalist Craig Riggs, bassist Tim Catz, guitarist Ian Ross and drummer Jeremy Hemond since the release of their self-titled back in January, and the quality of those songs was palpable standing in the crowd, much of which had stayed late. There was a second or two there where I thought Riggs — who is a madman on stage — was going to fall right off, and likewise where I thought the microphone which he spins from the cable, was going to pop off the cord and hit someone in the head. Neither happened and the excitement was located entirely within the set, which is fortunate at least from an injury perspective. It was approaching 2AM, which was closing time for The M-Room, so they clipped a few songs off the top. Riggs said after they were done that they prefer it that way anyhow, short and sweet, and I didn’t hear anyone else complaining. Since coming back to active duty with 2008′s See You in Hell!, Roadsaw have emerged as being among a small number of masters of the heavy rock form, and between the Roadsaw record and the showing they gave in Philly, I’d say that anyone across the Atlantic who happens to catch them on their upcoming run with Dixie Witch and Sasquatch would be lucky to do so. A near-perfect combination of energy and experience, and probably the most fitting end the Small Stone showcase could’ve had short of a Halfway to Gone reunion. It was right on right from the start.
But when it was over, it was nigh on ridiculous o’clock, and with the two-hours northbound ahead of me, I made a quick exit and beeline back to the car. I managed to cut some time off the trip (am I the only person who races to shave minutes off their GPS?) and, by some amazing coincidence, fell into bed just in time to completely conk out. It was a hell of a week, and a hell of a weekend, but it capped just right. I won’t be able to make the Chicago showcase next weekend, but it’s Freedom Hawk, Gozu, Sasquatch, Backwoods Payback, Lo-Pan and Suplecs on Oct. 1, so if you can make it, consider this post and yesterday’s a hearty recommendation to do so.
Thanks to Scott Hamilton and all the bands for making it a killer time, and to The Patient Mrs. for being the kind of lady who doesn’t mind it when she calls her husband to say happy seventh anniversary and The Brought Low is rocking in the background.
Posted in Reviews on September 21st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
The carton from which Lo-Pan frontman Jeff Martin is drinking in the candid picture above reads “Boxed Water is Better.” There’s a life lesson in there somewhere, but mark my words, I have no clue what it might be.
After bolting from a school obligation in Newark and stopping only to grab sushi takeout on my way to Brooklyn for the BrooklynVegan/The Obelisk-presented gig at Union Pool with The Brought Low, Lo-Pan and Suplecs. I was excited to see the bands and glad it had stopped raining from earlier in the day, but more than either of those, I was just in a hurry to get there.
Being involved in booking and promoting shows is nerve-wracking work, and to those who do it on a regular basis — and that includes Fred from BrooklynVegan, who invited me to be a part of the show out of the blue and the kindness of his heart — much respect. I can’t imagine being responsible for making people show up somewhere, trying to draw a crowd. I have a hard enough time getting my own ass off the couch, let alone anyone else’s.
That said, if e’er a rock bill in Brooklyn was going to do it, it was this one. With the two-day Small Stone Records showcase in Philadelphia this weekend featuring all three of these bands (and many others), I was thinking of the show as an unofficial warm-up, a kind of unofficial mini-showcase — but really, however you phrase it, it was a killer night. The Brought Low went on at 9:30, and if you looked back from there, you wasted your time.
I don’t know how many times I’ve said it at this point, but every time I see them affirms my opinion that The Brought Low are the best rock band in New York. They played a set that felt short, but pulled probably the night’s biggest crowd. The two faster cuts from their recent Coextinction Recordings EP, “Army of Soldiers” and “Black River” — on which bassist Bob Russell took lead vocals from guitarist Ben Smith — sounded great, and the material from last year’s Third Record was no less thrilling than when I heard it the last time I saw them in December. Nick Heller‘s drumming behind Smith‘s come-a-creepin’ guitar line on “My Favorite Waste of Time” gave me a newly-revitalized appreciation for that song.
That was about as subdued as they got. The rest of their time was devoted to energetic, upbeat songs like “Blues for Cubby” off of 2006′s Right on Time, which was another highlight. They were probably the perfect way to kick off the show, and set a high bar for Lo-Pan, who I don’t even know how many times I’ve seen this year at this point (another to come Friday in Philly). Union Pool‘s sound suited them well as they ran through tracks from the instantly classic Salvador, released earlier this year.
Guitarist Brian Fristoe played probably the best and most engaged set I’ve seen from him — Lo-Pan‘s stage configuration puts the instruments out front and the aforementioned Jeff Martin in the rear, and Fristoe is usually pretty subdued compared to drummer Jesse Bartz and bassist Skot Thompson, seemingly preferring to let the fuzz and the riffs do the talking — but it didn’t wind up doing him any favors. Late in the set, he broke a string and the considerable momentum Lo-Pan had built coming off “Bird of Prey” took a substantial hit.
It didn’t stop them. Jokes were tossed back and forth in the break while Fristoe changed out the string, and Lo-Pan was tight enough that when they picked back up and closed out with “Generations,” I didn’t hear another word about the string. In talking to the band before and after they played, they said they were well rested, and they played like it. Comparing it to a few weeks back at Stoner Hands of Doom XI, they were pretty great then, but better last night. Clearly just a band at the top of their game making the most of their time on the road. It’s exciting to watch them.
And what to say about Suplecs? The New Orleans trio’s bassist Danny Nick mentioned from the stage that it was the band’s first time in Brooklyn since opening for Clutch and The Hidden Hand at L’Amour in 2004. Last time I saw them was right around then as well, at South by Southwest that year. So seven years and two albums later, they loaded onto the Union Pool stage and let loose with songs from across their discography. I missed the start, but came back in shortly thereafter in time for the anthemic punk chorus of “Stand Alone” from 2011′s Mad Oak Redux, which carried even more heft live, Nick and guitarist Durel Yates sharing vocal duties and driving the rhythms nailed down by the stellar drumming of Andrew Preen.
“White Devil” from 2001′s Sad Songs… Better Days made my night, plain and simple. And that Suplecs followed it up with their take on The Beatles “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” which was included on the same album tacked to the more shuffling “Unstable” was even more righteous, but what was most striking about their performance wasn’t even how tight the band was — 15 years of a solid lineup will do that — but just how much diversity there is in their material.
Maybe it’s harder to hear on their records (though I would and have argued that their studio stuff has much to offer in terms of personality), but throughout the course of their time, it occurred to me just how many different roads Suplecs was taking the audience, from the hardcore punk of “Stand Alone” to the ultra-stonerly riffing of “White Devil” and “Dope Fu,” to the extended jams and solos they fused into the latter half of their set, to the off-the-cuff take on early Metallica — I think it was “Four Horsemen” — they threw into their finale. Yates, Nick and Preen made all these changes and shifts work, so that if you weren’t paying attention, you hardly even noticed the movement from one to the next.
On a night of impressive feats, that of Suplecs was as appropriate a finish as The Brought Low‘s was a start, and for that, and for the utterly transcendent fuzz of Lo-Pan in between (yeah, yeah, I know, I’m a nerd for Lo-Pan), the show was perfect. The crowd was filled with good people, Union Pool‘s sound is killer, and I even managed to make it back to my foggy river valley in New Jersey without running out of gas. I couldn’t possibly have asked more from the show than I got.
And for that, I owe Fred from BrooklynVegan thanks. I’m no promoter, and I don’t know squat about putting on shows, but Fred was cool enough to ask me if I wanted to be involved and it was hugely appreciated. Thanks too to everyone who came out and made it as special as it was. If I needed another reason to be stoked for Philly this weekend (I didn’t), this was it.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 22nd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
That weekend is the huge, two-day Small Stone Records showcase in Philly, so I’m thinking of this show on Tuesday, Sept. 20 — featuring three of the most rocking bands on the label — as a kind of pre-party. Just a sampling of the debauched, rocking madness to come that weekend. Suplecs, in New York for the first time in who the hell knows how long, team up with natives The Brought Low and Ohioan fuzz mavens Lo-Pan (you may have read about them on this site once or twice) for a gig at Union Pool in Brooklyn.
I’m excited to be teamed with BrooklynVegan on this show, and am so pretty much only through their graciousness, so thanks much to them. It’s going to be a killer night — if you’ve never been to Union Pool, the taco cart is fantastic — with three righteous, bullshit-free bands for the low price of $10. It’s the kind of show I’d be happy just to go to, let alone have this site’s name on the flier:
Speaking of, here’s that flier:
Any spreading the news around or buying of advanced tickets you’d like to do is certainly appreciated. Hope to see you at the show.
Coextinction Recordings was founded late last year by the formidable team of Dave Curran (Unsane, Players Club, Pigs), James Paradise (Fresh Kills, Players Club, Pigs), Chris Spencer (Unsane) and producer Andrew Schneider (Pigs, Slughog), and has already had digital releases from the founders’ bands as well as Shrinebuilder, Goes Cube and Julie Christmas, among others. Their ninth release — aptly titled Coextinction Recordings 9 — is a three-song EP from New York rockers The Brought Low.
Boasting the songs “Army of Soldiers,” “Black River” and “Don’t Give Up Your Good Thing,” The Brought Low‘s Coextinction EP (produced, not surprisingly, by the band in conjunction with Schneider) distills the elements that make the band among the finest their overcrowded city has to offer. The opener is a classic Brought Low barn-burner, “Black River” finds bassist Bob Russell taking the lead for some mid-paced classic rock stomp, and on the seven-minute finale, “Don’t Give Up Your Good Thing,” the trio — Russell, guitarist/vocalist Ben Smith and drummer Nick Heller — slam on the breaks and deliver the twanged-out melancholy as only they can.
The band and Coextinction were kind enough to allow me to host “Army of Soldiers” for streaming on the player below, so please check it out. Under that, you’ll find some insight from Smith and Russell about the three songs. Thanks much to all parties involved for kicking ass.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
“Army of Soldiers”
Ben Smith: The result of listening to too much NWOBHM in Bob‘s truck last tour. Originally the lyrics were about knights and dragons but I couldn’t sing them with a straight face so Bob suggested, “Make it about being a kid in Queens and getting fucked up on angel dust and doing graffiti.” Done.
Bob Russell: If you ever stood in the freezing cold somewhere in the woods wearing only your denim jacket and Cons just so you could listen to your CelticFrost tape and drink a few cans of stolen Budweiser with your friends, then the army of soldiers wants YOU.
BR: “Black River” is about doing bad things. You may not want to do ‘em, but you know you’re gonna do ‘em. I wrote it while having to walk across the English Kills to work on a shitty construction site right between a waste transfer station and a demolition transfer station. I always wondered what you’d find at the bottom of that water.
BS: Bob’s jam. He had given me an acoustic demo of it and I instantly thought we could turn it up. Fulfills my dream of TheBroughtLow sounding like TheBand using Marshall stacks.
“Don’t Give Up Your Good Thing”
BS: Wouldn’t be a BroughtLow release without a weeper. Had the first two verses for like 10 years but didn’t write the last verse until a few months ago. Whenever I bring in a ballad I always worry the dudes won’t like it yet they always do, which makes me very happy.
BR: I think this is the most glacially-paced song we’ve recorded. We reckoned it begs for horns and keys and stuff but here, in its sparse version, it works kind of sweet. This is also the first time I’ve seen Ben play a Strat. Just attach yourself to Nick‘s ride cymbal and don’t make any plans for the next seven minutes.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 1st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ll have more on this in the next couple weeks, but I wanted to get the news out there in case anyone didn’t see it on the forum that The Brought Low — otherwise known as New York‘s best rock band — will be putting out a new EP digitally through Coextinction Recordings come July 15. The material follows the trio’s usual scope of fire-breathing rockers and woeful hungover melancholy. At a little over 13 minutes long, it’s quite a roller coaster.
Here’s the news from the band:
The Brought Low will be releasing a new three-song digital EP on CoextinctionRecordings this July 15, 2011. We cut three new songs with producer Andrew Schneider about a month back and they will be available for download at the Coextinction website: http://www.coextinction.com.
Song titles are “Army of Soldiers,” “Black River” and “Don’t Give Up Your Good Thing.”
We should be posting some song clips in the near future.
Also we just booked our first show of the fall on Saturday, Sept 24, 2011, at The M Room in Philadelphia as part of PhillyFest‘s Small Stone Records showcase with Roadsaw, Gozu, Throttlerod, Sun Gods in Exile, TheMightCould and Ironweed.
Posted in Features on December 14th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Between this and yesterday’s live review, that’s two days in a row of writing about NYC rockers The Brought Low, and as far as I’m concerned, those are two good days. Even though I made this list weeks ago at this point, seeing New York‘s most powerful power trio play live again this past weekend only reaffirmed how much they belong on it. The Brought Low are killer heavy rock. End of story.
Third Record was their second release for Small Stone, and it rested on the mighty groove of tracks like “The Kelly Rose” and “My Favorite Waste of Time” just as much as the wistful emotionality of its ballads, “A Thousand Miles Away” and “Last Man Alive.” It opened catchy with “Old Century” and was enough to keep me coming back to The Brought Low for the whole year. And seriously, it was just about the whole year. I reviewed this thing in February.
I don’t think The Brought Low are ever going to be an album-a-year kind of band, but when they do get to putting out records, they’re killer. Third Record is the closest the band has come to capturing their formidable live energy on tape, and it was genuinely worth the four-year wait to get it. As the band matures, they only seem to get better, and of Small Stone‘s several really strong offerings in 2010, The Brought Low was most definitely among the upper crust.
Posted in Reviews on December 13th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
It had been years since I was last in the Cake Shop, but upon my arrival I found it much the same as I’d last left it: upstairs a coffee bar that sells LPs and limited this-and-thats, and downstairs a basement venue not unlike other venerable Manhattan stops I’ve come across over the years — Lit Lounge, Ace of Clubs, The Pyramid all spring to mind. Christmas lights hung around the stage, giving a festive air, which was appropriate for Kings Destroy‘s record release show for the brilliant And the Rest Will Surely Perish. I got there in time to see the band soundcheck, and they sounded tight, guitarist Carl Porcaro playing through a broken wrist and not being held back by it in the slightest. Everything came through clear, so they broke down and eventually the show got going.
Maegashira opened. There was a lot of friends, a lot of emotions and a lot of feedback. Then it was over.
I couldn’t remember if I’d seen The Brought Low since they put out Third Record earlier this year, but even if I had, I was certainly more familiar with the songs this time around. During the course of their set, they played the first four songs off the album in a row — by the time they got around to the ultra-grooving “My Favorite Waste of Time,” I was both drunk and so happy I couldn’t stand still — as well as cuts from their prior self-titled and Right on Time offerings. They’ve always been a live band in my mind, and since they went power-trio, they’ve only gotten better. Their garage rock side comes out more in their sound, but they offset it with thicker tones and occasional breakneck speed. However long it had been, it felt like too long since I’d seen them. What a band.
As they do, Kings Destroy pulled in a good crowd for the release show, and they positively killed. They were slower than the last time I saw them, and it seemed like the band had purposefully taken a step back to examine what they were doing live, to bring it more in line with the album. It worked. Porcaro and fellow guitarist Chris Skowronski played together with the kind of unspoken chemistry you can only have when you’ve shared a stage with someone for years — because they have — and bassist Ed Bocchino‘s tone is quickly becoming one of my favorites in doom. Couple that with the refined crash of Rob Sefcik and the increasing confidence of Steve Murphy — now firmly in command of the room — behind the mic, and you’ve got the makings of a classic.
They’re reportedly at work on new material already, but stuck to And the Rest Will Surely Perish for their set. I’m not sure when I grabbed it, but at some point in my stupor, I grabbed their set list and it went as follows: “Medusa,” “The Mounty,” “Planet XXY,” “The Whittler,” “Stung,” “Dusty Mummy” and closing with “Old Yeller,” leaving only “Two Tons” from the record unplayed. Even when Porcaro broke a string, they kept going. He got another guitar and was back in it in no time, and no momentum was lost. These dudes are pros — and I’ll be totally honest — they make me wish I had a real label, with distribution and promotion and all that happy crap, because they deserve to be heard.
The crowd thinned out some after Kings Destroy, leaving Alkahest to close out the night in the basement. I continue to be a fan and intrigued to see where these guys end up stylistically, since every time I see them it’s a different kind of experience. Frontman Chris spent a good portion of the set writhing on the Cake Shop floor (which didn’t look clean), leaving the stage to the rest of the band, who filled it amply. They were a last-minute replacement for Mighty High, whose drummer’s special lady had a baby the week prior, but Alkahest made the best of it and capped off a great night in fittingly aggressive fashion. Their balance of tortured vs. angry vs. ambient has not yet ceased to fascinate.
The Patient Mrs. drove me back to the valley, and certainly I wouldn’t have made it without her. I gave back some of the evenings Newcastles in the form of a short and sweet-tasting vomit session, then crashed out, my ears ringing, my body sore, and my stomach already looking forward to the omelet that would necessarily follow in the morning. I wouldn’t have traded any part of the night for anything in the world.