Stream Review: Fatso Jetson & All Souls, ‘Virtual Volumes’

fatso jetson all souls virtual volumes

Over the course of the last year-plus, there have been livestreams from practice spaces, concert halls, city parks, national parks, recreational vehicles, and of course, (mostly) empty venues. There have been one-offs and multi-day festivals. We’ve been up, we’ve been down, inside, out, all around. Multi-camera, shot-on-phone, sometimes both. All of it. I’m sure if you sat own and thought for a couple minutes you’d be able to come up with something no one had done yet, but it would take some effort.

It was kind of refreshing to tune into ‘Virtual Volumes’ this weekend and find it tossing off concerns of novelty. This was bands hitting it, period. Total Annihilation Studios was the setting, and Fatso Jetson and All Souls indeed hit it, one and then the other. The proceedings were filmed in March, as All Souls‘ guitarist/vocalist Tony Aguilar and bassist/vocalist Meg Castellanos recently discussed here, and with a minimum of personnel involved made even one fewer by the fact that the two outfits share drummer Tony Tornay.

Tornay has pulled precisely this double-duty on tour before, and it’s safe to assume he got a drink of water or something between sets, even if that required momentary mask removal. Hard times, folks.

And not to sound flip about it either, because over 600,000 people have died in this country alone and the plague’s still going on even amid vaccines and reopenings and all. Livestreams never took the place of shows and shame on you if you thought they might, but they have served dual noble purposes in letting audiences support and engage with artists and helping artists with new work promote that work and not completely lose momentum owing to a breakdown of the touring infrastructure. I’ve felt bad for a lot of people in the last 15 months, among them bands with really good records who can’t do a damn thing with them.

To wit, All Souls. Their ‘Virtual Volumes’ set — well shot with multiple cameras and cool projection effects on a white-sheet background and featuring sound worthy of the live album they’ll release hopefully any minute now — follows on the heels of their 2020 second album, Songs for the End of the World (review here), which just deserves more attention than it’s gotten. I don’t know how else to say it. I can slather on and on about the emotive weight of All Souls‘ songs, and certainly that’s resonant in the version of “You Just Can’t Win” they brought to the stream after the new song “Who Holds the Answer” — let alone fucking “Winds” — along with due tonal crunch. I can talk about the melodies, the craft, the nuance present even as they introduced new guitarist Matt Price (Behold! the Monolith), but the bottom line remains the same.

I don’t mind saying it bums me out to see bands do awesome things and not get a commensurate response. It’s part of why I’ve spent the last 12 and a half years doing this. Watching All Souls tear into “Sentimental Rehash” from the new album was just a reminder though of the fate of those who lie between styles. Too punk for rockers, too rock for punkers, too this and that.

Fuck that. They’re so good. People don’t know. How many bands are you gonna sit and watch play with masks on as a part of your Saturday and come out of it with no regrets? All Souls twisting around the leads of “Time Bomb” from the first record — 2018’s self-titled (review here) — almost frenetic but with Aguilar‘s voice cutting through that torrent in a melancholy, raw human presence. They well earn the fire and exploding lights at the finish. Psychedelic punk would be lucky if this was psychedelic punk.

Hilariously interspliced with some introductory vintage photos of Fatso Jetson? Three hotdogs in wrap-around rolls. And, those included, kind of told the story of the band over a couple minutes, from the raw desert trio of guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli, bassist Larry Lalli and Tony Tornay on drums to the inclusion of Dino Lalli (now with a shaved head) on guitar, Vince Meghrouni on sax and so on, and eventually up to the moment, capping with shots of them tuning at Total Annihilation and masked outside. The video itself, mellow, black and white, Larry Lalli in a Karma to Burn shirt, unassuming. They opened with “Monoxide Dreams” from 2010’s Archaic Volumes (discussed here, review here), and held to that vibe throughout, running under half an hour like All Souls before them, but spending their time well.

As far as I can tell — for the Fatso Jetson catalog is a vast and many-storied thing — “Drifting off to Storybook Deth” was a new song, and it built to a lumbering psychedelic head with grace that came through fully in the studio setting, the two guitars intertwining, Dino closed eyes, in the zone, Mario‘s nose poking out of his bandana mask (soon pulled back up), vocals echoing, Larry and Tony holding it down up the middle. “Living All Over You” featured on the band’s stellar 2014 split with Herba MateEarly Shapes (review here), and fit right in with the procession, subdued and melodic, and through “Long Deep Breaths,” the four-piece maintained the spirit of the thing. No lack of dynamic, you understand — even where not by blood, these guys are family — but weaving in gentler fashion through volume changes and sand-psych complexity.

A blowout finish was welcome in “Dream Homes” from 2016’s Idle Hands (review here) — quick but effective in rounding out with a reminder that punk’s the root beneath it all, whatever jazzy weirdness and quirk they might toss in along with it. There’s a quick minute of residual movement after the song ends — leftover rhythmic tension — and then the credits roll. Thanks for coming, drive safe.

I’ll spare you wax poetry about the persistence of human creativity in time of plague. You’ve heard it all in a million needless thinkpieces rendered with careful, hyper-literary eloquence. Blech. Give me rock and roll, please. I’ve seen Fatso Jetson. I’ve never seen All Souls, but I’d like to. This wasn’t a gig, but it was welcome, and it gave me another excuse to write about these bands and to watch them play, and I’m thankful for that. If livestreams are a marker of our times, one could do a lot fucking worse.

Fatso Jetson & All Souls, ‘Virtual Volumes’ teaser

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