Saturday, September 10, 2011

Total Fest X: In Your Rear View Mirror, Brah.
This is a long time coming; it took a few weeks to shake out the cobwebs, say goodbyes, and find all the stray shoes, bags and drummers. Total Fest X already seems so far away. The eight months of planning flew by and the three days of music lingered in a haze that dissipated in the flash of a river drenched Sunday. In a way, Total Fest marks the end of the summer, but it's never a longing for days gone by; rather, the Sunday after Total Fest is more of a "let your hair grow long" type of celebration.

What can we say? We said that it was coming. We're sure that we raised that flag. Were you ready? It seems like you were. 3 sultry summer days of DIY music with handful upon handful of familiar and new friends do things to a person's face. It stretches the ends of the mouth until it meets the ears. Laugh lines cement deeply into your face coupled, maybe, with some black under your eyes. A delirious, sleepless exuberance establishes a foothold as the days mercifully bleed into one another. The entire weekend is well oiled chaos that's a delight to behold.

Ten years! It's difficult to live up to an anniversary. All the anticipation can sometimes lead to disappointment. This year was far from disappointing. I can't do justice to each band's set so I'll just throw out some well-worn yet polished adjectives that I hope can sum up each night. Thursday night's kick-off established a telling tone for the weekend. The envelope was slightly pushed open. We looked at the cat. We made it to the end of space and stuck out our arms. More

space! Truly inspired sets helped initiate the Top Hat as one of this year's new venues. Special thanks to the Top Hat for helping to make this year's first night a smashing victory. Friday had all the promise of another spectacular evening. Awesome summer temperatures, great food and one helluva early show at Zoocity Apparel (the second addition to Total Fest X). The space lived up to our expectations. People packed in and the bands delivered. Impassioned from the get go, Friday's opening showcase set the perfect table for the Badlander / Palace. I'm not sure exactly when the Palace turned into a swamp, but sometime around 10 PM you could swim in the air. Saturday was no different. From the moment the doors opened, the Badlander / Palace complex buzzed with anticipation. Hammerhead! It's hard not to be excited for one of your favorite bands of all time, but holy shit did they deliver. This isn't to take away from any other band that played Total Fest. Each band brought it and kicked serious ass. There were so many gems that it's hard to pin down those moments where everything seemed to come together. Bad Naked's controversial set? Vaz's close-out? Shellshag? Unstoppable Death Machine's swimming and drumming? Dead's ass-solo? Gull!?!?! The Men! Helms Alee's shreddage? Big Business sweat machine or White Shit holding up the ceiling? Seriously, there is so much that's missing from this post that it hurts to think that some people missed this year. But, Hammerhead placed the perfect bow on a memorable weekend. Finely tuned and blistering, the closing set left a full year in its wake. Somehow it seems fitting that the slate is wiped clean. We have big ideas, plans and changes coming up for next year. So stay tuned and keep your eyes and ears pegged to the pavement.

There are so many people to thank.

Totalizers: Josh Vanek, Niki Vanek, Kari Nicole Workman, Lou Beard, Wendy Maltonic, Travis Jack Morss, Paul Hansbarger, Marty Hill, Greg Ragan, Erin Lambert Sipe, Josh Harteis, Julie Tompkins, Bryan Ramirez and Johnny Fink

Volunteers: Alex Key, Monte Sipe, Jonathon Richter, Derek Andrews, Greg Twigg, Jesi Noe, June West, Marcie Erving, Sarah Poole, Robyn Hegland, Scotty Moore, Marshall (BBQ Mercenary), Tom (Peace Mouse - all BBQ), Matthew LaRubbio, Hellgate Rollergirls: Lucky,
Knuckle Slambitch, 60 Grit, Flo, Mess, KP, Kelly, Shannon P., Bows, Lora Weitzel, Sarah D., MK,
Grobel, Paige, Andrea K., Laci, Dawni, and Kristen Grimm

Sponsors: American Made Tattoo, Astarna Web Development, Betty's Divine, Big Dipper, Biga Pizza, Black Coffee Roasting Co., Boom Swagger, Ear Candy Music, Edge of the World, Garage Tees, Garden City Gondola, Good Food Store,, KBGA, Kent Bros, Kettle House, Le Petit Outre, Missoula Copy Center, Missoula Independent,, Nature Boy,, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Piece of Mind, Rockin' Rudy's, Selvedge Studio, Shakespeare & Co., Statriot Designs, the Badlander and Palace Lounge, The Green Light, The Top Hat, Zoo City Apparel

And of course: YOU. Thank you so much for your continued support!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Strolling through the radio stations in Missoula can be quite a depressing affair - four stations playing contemporary country, four more playing BTO, one playing Dave Matthews and another with some bullshit autotune top 40 hit. That is until you turn over to 89.9 FM, your friendly neighborhood college radio station, KBGA.

KBGA has once again married Wantage USA to bring you Total Fest X. The thing of it is, with all of the great music and shows like Ink Mathematics, Ultra-Mega Blast, Muffin Tops, Swimming With the Mermaid, and deejays like H-Rap, Avatar, Bullit and Dr. Katie we feel like we already owe them. Instead they throw some major support our way and make it possible for us to bring bands like Big Business to Total Fest.

So kids, next time you hear KBGA is doing there annual Radio-Thon pick up that phone and support them because they are the best radio station in town and if you don't then you will only have yourself to blame for the eight Sheryl Crow songs that are playing simultaneously on other stations right now (seriously, right now - I checked).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


There are few people more ubiquitous in Missoula than the Hickey brothers. They seem to have their hands on every relevant pulse in this town, and they have for awhile. You may have heard of the Volumen or The International Playboys, but it's the behind the scenes stuff that really keeps this town ticking. From the outset, they've been generating or promoting something. It's a horribly rare thing for people to remain connected to the heart of a town, but somehow they seem to never falter. They've made their local mark on the internets (remember the place with the illusion of anonymity). Shane Hickey's HOWSYOURNETWORK is a company focused largely on things we don't understand. We know Shane wears lab coats, has crazy unkempt hair and is a wee bit too extroverted (and lacks the Coke bottle glasses) to a be a Weird Science type geek, but understands science and math in ways we never will. Need network stuff done? This is a so-called non-brainer.

Colin Hickey's stretches its fingers into everything that's happening in Missoula. Pick your poison and you'll find it in the calendar. It's an egalitarian run of information. If you're bored in Missoula, it's generally your fault; but, MissoulaEvents gives an edge to even the most jaded introvert. Aside from that, it puts the burden on you. Do you wonder why only 5 people showed up to your fundraiser or art show? Did you post an event? Together with their brother Brian (whom we've talked about on our Big Dipper post), Colin and Shane have helped keep Missoula and Total Fest glued together. In one way or another, they've helped fasten things. Cheers to you guys and thanks for all your support!!!

In case you've been snaking your way through caves or letting your hair grow too far over your face, Total Fest is less than 36 hours away. In that time, you could beeline across the country, but then you'd be stuck there and, most likely, only have blurry car-tourist photos of the Largest Ball of Twine or Carhenge. So what's an antsy person to do? Well, our friends Colin and Tom (Shahs) have offered up their services for a Total Karaoke Kick-off / Pre-Blast:

As if Total Fest weekend couldn't get any more consumed with summer fun and debauchery, we Karaoke hosts at the VFW want to up the ante a bit and deliver a THANK YOU to all the organizers and bands that are making this tenth festival happen. This Wednesday we'll be running Karaoke like normal but with one added incentive: all of the organizers and any Total Fest bands local or otherwise will get $2 wells all night long. Keep in mind that's in addition to some of the cheapest beer prices in town! If you're wondering, the VFW is located next door to Biga Pizza on Main Street and always open to the public. There's no cover and it's always free to sing. Colin and myself (Tom) will be hosting for y'all and making sure you folks are having a great kick off to one of wildest weekends Missoula will ever see!

So whether you fancy yourself as David Byrne or Rebecca Black, march those purty faces to the VFW tonight! Who knows, you may be blessed with a rousing Tom Jones song or two.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ear Candy's been a TF sponsor for something like err, 9 years now. I remember going into Ear Candy for the first time in 2000. They were located up the street, closer to Hellgate in a smaller spot, and I immediately knew that Missoula was changing for the better. Their hand-curated collection of metal, punk, garage, soul, psych, world, hip hop, electronic is beyond solid and employees knowledge of their stuff tends to run pretty deep. And the folks who work here aren't your typical antisocial, I-know-more-about-the-Pretty-Things-than-you-do types, John, Ira, Marty, Adelaide, Kalen are interesting, informed and happy to share what they know and talk to you about what you're stoked about.

Ear Candy's used bins tend to run ridiculously deep. They run especially deep in the obscure gem department, and offer a handful of listening stations. Luckily, they're located directly across the street from Big Dipper, stop in for a good solid look. There's even a Total Fest section.

Ear Candy's one of the special set of sponsors (along with Betty's and Boom Swagger) who helped get our Thursday night off to an immense start with Vaz, White Mystery and the Pharmacy. Jeesh. Thanks, Ear Candy.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


One of the great things about the Missoula businesses that help support Total Fest is that many of them are owned and fronted by some of the same people who help craft the landscape of Missoula's music scene. Edge of the World is one of the handfuls of sponsors whose manager Chris Bacon is not only a fixture of Missoula's punk past and present (Volumen, Bacon & Egg) but also is on the front lines of Missoula and Montana's skateboarding / snowboarding culture. It's a hard gig to maintain, but Edge of the World and BOMB Sk8boards puts their best feet forward to provide a statewide support network for boarders, while also keeping them in some of the finest duds this side of the Mississippi. If you're in need of anything, you should consider stopping by EoW and having them help you equip yourself before saddling yourself into the recliner that has seen better days and perusing the internet for a quick fix.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Boom Swagger has only been around for a short while, but in this short while it has become the paramount of hair salons in town. You're going to come out of Boom Swagger looking fresh and feeling good enough to reenact the beginning of Saturday Night Fever, that's a fact. The thing that sets them apart is their major support for community events such a Total Fest. So we have compiled a top five list of why we love Boom Swagger.

In no particular order:

1. Refreshing beverage service while you wait
2. Vintage Betty and Veronica comics in the waiting area
3. A dish of all-red Tootie Pops at the register (because we all know those chocolate Tooties Pops are just plain bullshit)
4. The salon is named after a Murder City Devils song (which I’m assuming means Coady from Big Business gets free haircuts)
5. Super friendly, full of smiles, non pretentious, talented staff

Seriously, Boom Swagger is a fantastic business that really cares about their community and in the words of Wesley Willis, "take your ass to the barber shop and tell him you're sick of looking like an asshole". Just make sure it's Boom Swagger.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Whoaaaaah! Sunday's Total Feast. That officially means we're starting Total Fest week. So, let us be the uh, first to say: Happy Total! Wanna support Total Fest and eat dinner in the process? Gather together ten or so American dollars this Sunday, August 14th and bring it to Biga Pizza's Total Feast! What's on tap is pizza, salad, beer and good-times!

What's the deal with Biga Pizza? Man, you must be livin' under a rock. Under a creek. Under Rock friggin' creek or something. Isn't blogging a rich dialogue of one? Of rhetorical conversations? It is. Seriously: Biga Pizza is the canvas onto which food auteur and alchemist Bob Marshall's wildly creative mind gets to work. Look at what you got. Ask: what's fresh and available and delicious? and then figure out how to arrange it with other delicious things in a way that blows minds, and throw it on the special board. Cilantro pesto with pumpkin seeds? That was a special a couple weeks ago. The guys a wellspring of awesome, constantly changing ideas manifesting themselves in delicious, nutritious pizza. Come for Flathead cherry with Gouda. Stay for the Quattro Fromaggio. Here's Bob, he guitars for Bacon and Egg and drums for Volumen.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Missoula's vibrant south-of-the-Clark Fork district, or so-called hip strip is chock-friggin' full of excellent, local, vibrant businesses. In fact, it's where the lion's share of Total Fest's business support comes from. At the very heart lies Betty's Divine. A clothing shop with excellent duds, threads, "ropa" or whatever the kids are calling clothes these days. Head into Betty's a frumpy Francine or a untubular Thomas, and leave a Smashing Suzie or Dapper Duane. It's just that simple. Betty's supports local designers and printers like mad, and are community leaders outside the mold! They're key in putting on community events like the Block Party, Urban Golf, sponsor Le Kickball, a kickball league. It doesn't stop with the retail at Betty's.
Betty's Divine is one of the small handful of businesses that is helping Total Fest kick off this year, and which is responsible for insane Total Fest Start Up Bands (yes, it's capital letter worthy) like Vaz, White Mystery, the Pharmacy and the Pygmy Shrews, all of whom play on Thursday, August 18th at the Top Hat this year with local heroes Bad Naked and Mordecai. Jeezum crow. Here's a quick interview with Aimee, Betty's owner:

Friday, August 5, 2011


In case you haven't noticed, Total Fest is officially less than two weeks away. We've said it a few dozen times -- we're really excited about this year. Ten years is a big deal. Did you see this coming? We didn't. A lot of people have helped make this possible. Some of the best people have stepped-up and offered their time, energy, knowledge, passion and friendship to keep this ball rolling. Independent and underground music require feet and ears on the ground. Music isn't the only art form that needs such things, but it is, perhaps, the one that requires more of the right amount of things to come together for it to be enjoyable and successful. It's summer for crying out loud -- we want enjoyment, and we want to move slower. In addition to the cast of wonderful and dedicated (some may say obsessed) people who have helped with the nuts and bolts that keep Total Fest hanging together, we've had a solid group of local sponsors who flat out kick ass. Because of them, we are able to keep this an all-ages event, to stay local and independent, to feed bands, and to continue to grow on our own terms. We'd be total slackers if we didn't publicly acknowledge their collective and individual support as well:

Kettlehouse has been sponsoring Total Fest for years in some form or other. We all love them, and their donations have helped make the band / volunteer BBQs a reality. It's a daunting, yet rewarding, task to feed 150 or so people, but thanks to sponsors like Kettlehouse we're able to pull it off. It's a win-win situation for all of us. Both locations resurrect the neighborhood bar feel while providing the standing-around-the-campfire sensation. And ....well, there is .... the beer. Double Haul, Bong Water (Olde and Fresh), Eddy Out, Brick & Mortar, Ginseng Pale, ImperiAl Pilsner, Cold Smoke, etc. Mouthwatering, therapeutic goodness. We're more than thankful. So .... get down to Myrtle or N. 1st, be sure to say hello. Look for them at the beer cooler when you're heading to the river (tall boy cans and better beer. plus, it's easier to keep 4 beers cold than it is to keep 6 cold). Watch this.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

There's a little tattoo shop in Missoula, on the Front Street (in Missoula), nearly where it crosses Orange, behind Biga Pizza and the VFW. It's called American Made Tattoo and it's where all of Filthy Jim's ink (or most of it, I think) comes from, and Lou's, and Niki's too. They do awesome work. High quality. American Made's been a sponsor for a lot of years, and we appreciate 'em. Thinking about getting a Grateful Dead bear on your calf, or a Steel Your Face on your lower back? Howbout a Steely Dan tat on your forearm? Here's your place. Thanks, Phil and American Made!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Total Fest happens for a lot of reasons, and among the biggest are the handful of Missoula businesses that support the thing with cold-hard cash and all sorts of in-kind donations: first up in this list is Big Dipper Ice Cream.

Big Dipper's owned by (old Missoula punk bands (the Banned and Vi Thompson Overdrive) singer/guitar player) Charlie Beaton and managed by Brian Hickey (Volumen, Bacon and Egg). They makes all their delicious ice cream and sorbet themselves, and are sort of a mega-fixture of Missoula life. Who doesn't freakin' feel a little better after a cone of White Mint Oreo or El Salvador Coffee?

As you likely know by now, Big Dipper is home to the Total Fest Record Swap, which happens Saturday, August 20th at noon and which features Sam Humans and the Light, Tyson Ballew and Le Sang Song this year. Bring your old, weird, good records and swap or sell them!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Do you know in the Commodores' song Easy, when he's all "I wanna be free, soooooo free.. free to know things I do are right...." and how it just kind of captures a lot of the uh, human experience. We know it, we sing it in the shower.

Well, we've been doing Total Fest for 10 freakin' years now, and we're proud of that. We know it's important to have good bands, and to work hard to make it an event that's ultimately about community rather than commerce, and I think that's kind of our secret.

Lots of platitudes here, but our point is that it happens because of people who love music and love seeing it live, and love sharing that feeling with others. It's pretty simple really. To honor that sentiment, and to say thanks to people who have given us ten great years, we've put together a package called the "Total Friend" this year. It offers something unique to the people who make total Fest happen by watching, listing, participating and patting backs and buying records and clearing out their spare room. You know who you are. For sixty bucks, a Total Friend package gets you a three-day all-show pass, a unique T-shirt (Wantage design), an ultralimited koozie and a thank you in our program. It's a 10-year anniversary only sort of deal, so don't expect next year. We'll have a preview of the special shirt design up here soon. the Total Friend is among the Purchase Passes and Tickets tab.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


When it comes to late editions, one hardly seems more relevant than Japanther. Total Fest pioneers and perennial Wantage artists, Ian and Matt supply some of the best summer time beats that you desire ... and a ton more than you thought that you'd want. Let's be frank: Japanther kicks ass. If you don't dig on their sound, well go back and hate on your grandmother some more. Japanther asks us to take notice of the world we exist in but not to be cynical shits. You have to dwell in it, but you also need to create. There's enough to bitch about; what do you celebrate? And once you celebrate it, you need to move on and find something else. Their records do the same thing as they shift gears, tweak tempos, mix-in art house, noise, lo-fi and punk. It's a virtual stew of influences and impulses, and, well, like every other thing in this world, Japanther appropriates them and weaves them together into something that in theory seems overly complicated, but in practice seems simple and seamless. We're preaching to the choir here. You want Japanther. You have Japanther. This is happening! Come ride the train or get the hell out of the way. In the words of Flipper, "life is the only thing worth living for" ... and these cats give you the soundtrack.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Really, that's all that should need to be said.

Joe Preston possesses a teeth-kicking resume that puts Chuck Norris to shame (you know who he's played with). Thrones is one of those groups that helps you to organize your friends (if you're one of the chosen few riding the google + comet, the first thing you should do is create a Thrones circle and non-Thrones circle ... and then never speak to the non-Thrones circle again). A one-man orchestra, Thrones moves away from the "days-of-yore-two-degrees-of-separation" indy-metal and strips it down to its most primal parts.

Thrones has released a slew of albums in its close to two decades of existence, but for my money, 2000's Sperm Whale is like staring into the mirror at 4am -- hide the tweezers and razors because Joe composes layers of sound that are thicker than any Rothko painting. You want to lie belly down in it and dig in your fingers, but you soon begin to lose your limbs. It's hard to swim so it's better to just let go and hope that the teeth that are mashing you save your brain for last. You need to feel it. A friend recently told me about centipedes in Maui that still bite weeks after she cut off their heads. This seems like an apt metaphor for Thrones -- an unstoppable, nightmarish beast that keeps calling you back for more. You brave the bite because the experience is therapeutically surreal. Adjectives are pointless here. This is the stuff that crafts your dreams.

Monday, July 11, 2011

You all know that among the bands playing the Total Fest start-up event, Thursday, August 18th at the are radical, free-rock and roll bro-sis, windy city, Bus Beaver Button Co. employees and ginger ambassadors (drum roll): White Mystery. They're a heap of fun rolled up into a single two-piece band, with some stuff that sounds like the Gories and Cramps, some stuff that sounds like yadda yadda, and an awesome, participatory live show and good vibes galore. It's killer, just g'head and find some and listen for yourselves.

So what's Bad Naked's deal? Well, you know, local misanthrope, music dork, radio guy, punk show promoter, weirdo about town, vegetarian, photographer... you know the type. In short, awesome dude all rolled up into a one-man, gluten free spazz fest. And, he does a radio show on KBGA called Naked Missoula.

Interested in hearing what happens when that selfsame KBGA DJ and local performance art wild man interviews Chicago rock and roll duo White Mystery? Wellsir, look no further than thisahere LINK to the interview. It was nicely engineered by Duane Raider!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Melbourne's (technically, Brunswick's) Dead, pronounced "did" (we believe) in their native tongue are coming to Total Fest. They've got Jem from We Empty Rooms, Fire Witch and Fangs Of, and Jace from Fangs Of. Here's a video of them ripping a bit more ponderously that usual. Wantage will debut their LP called Thundaaaah at this year's Total Fest, August 18th.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


For those of you in Missoula, the buildup and anticipation for Total Fest X must be utterly insane (I know it is for all of us behind the scenes, as we look forward to this year's shows and their insane line-ups). To tide you over, like last year, we're doing a batch of killer Total Fest lead-in shows and the first two are coming up soon -- one on July 3rd for Richmond, Virginia's noise rock mad men HEX MACHINE and another on July 6th for Minneapolis power trio THE BLIND SHAKE. Both play some top shelf, noisy and incredibly awesome rock/punk/whatever you wanna call it.

Sunday, July 3
Zootown Arts Community Center
8:00 PM
$5, all ages
Weirdos HEX MACHINE bring their mad scientist math-metal and noise rock to Missoula all the way from Richmond, Virginia. They'll be road-tripping their long way home from a brief US tour and a week layover in San Francisco recording a brand new album with TF veteran Tim Green (The Fucking Champs, Nation of Ulysses). Do yourself a favor and check out some choice cuts from their last album Omen Mas (of which they just pressed up a super limited 12" version) and a couple older singles/EPs on their bandcamp site here. Featuring locals and heavy instrumental duo LB. and the debut of THE GUTS, a new Missoula group with some Deny The Dinosaur pedigree.

Wednesday, July 6
The Palace
9:00 pm
$5 in advance, $6 at door
Total Fest favorites THE BLIND SHAKE, from Minneapolis, return to Missoula on the last leg of a tour in support of their upcoming full length Seriousness and a insanely limited new single on Amphetamine Reptile. They're sure to bring down the house with their wildly energetic, dual-baritone-guitar garage rock/punk attack. You can check out a few new songs from their upcoming record on their site here. With support by locals, SHAHS and 10YOGF.

Come get your pre-Total Fest fix with these sweet upcoming shows. Tell all your friends and bring some extra dough for their cool new records and other junk. Oh and we're selling advanced tickets for these at Ear Candy. If you stop by the shop, be sure to grab the newly released Mordecai and Trashies LPs!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Back when many of us were impressionable young men in the early 90s, there was a noise rock renaissance happening. It kind of centered loosely around the monolithic Amphetamine Reptile record label, Your Flesh fanzine and probably some bars/clubs that I was never old/cool enough to figure out about. Granted, Missoula's about 1200 miles west of Minneapolis, but you know, we got a lot of it through here too. We got bands like the Cows, Janitor Joe, the God Bullies (California), Steel Pole Bathtub (Californians with Montana roots), Walt Mink, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (New York)... uh, there were more I'm pretty sure. And a lot of us spent what little money we could scrape up on things like AmRep's Dope, Guns and Fucking compilations. All of it had this sort of built in coolness, and allure. Every third shirt you saw a show had the huge NOISE AmRep logo on its back.

Looking back, I'm not sure exactly why it had that built in allure. I think for Missoula, it was the confluence of some recent North Dakota transplants in John Fleming (now Ear Candy Music co-owner) and Kelly Gately (Honky Sausage, Fireballs of Freedom, etc) and how ready to be blown away by loud, epic, desperate rock so many of us were. Lots of it was and is awesome, and certainly much of it hasn't aged terrifically.

For my money, the absolute top of the heap was the band Hammerhead. I saw them probably three separate times in the '90s. Once at Connie's bar, a scuzzy biker/hippie sort of place shut because of massive health code violations. Connie's gave a new, dark meaning to the words "dive bar". Anyhow, Hammerhead helped destroy the place, with bassist Paul Erickson knocking loose ceiling tiles with his base, to punctuate some song. The two other times were at Jay's. Every time was like Christmas. You heard about the show about 6 weeks ahead of time, and just spent the time carefully anticipating how excellent it was going to be. And it never failed to deliver in the excellence department. It was loud, though a big feedback/Ampeg rumble powerful and driving kind of way. They pulled you into what they were doing and dropped you onto the floor afterwards. They each had Soviet space program inspired band pseudonyms, they had songs about World War I.. and they had the White Album of the noise rock epoch, Into the Vortex. There was always lots to like. After a final record (Duh, The Big City) and tour, Hammerhead called it quits. I never read an official account of the break up, but the third party scuttlebutt made it sound like there wouldn't ever be a reunion.

Following Hammerhead's demise at the end of the '90s, Paul Erickson and Jeff Mooridian, the rhythm section, moved to Los Angeles and began a new band, Vaz. In lots of ways, Vaz picked up where Hammerhead had left off. It had all the paranoia, all the driving through space sonic blast, and their first record was called Demonstrations in Micronesia. Since then, Vaz has released a major catalog of full length records, each of which continues the excellent saga. At some point, Vaz moved to Brooklyn, and base from there now. They tour much less frequently, but when they do, it's a special thing.

About a year ago, word started circulating about a Hammerhead reunion in time for the Amphetamine Reptile (AmRep) 25th anniversary. We were beside ourselves with joy over the possibility. And when it happened, we knew that someday, if we played our cards right, there might be a chance to get them back to Missoula.

Here's the Brooklyn Vegan piece that ran for their reunion show at the Amphetamine Reptile 25th anniversary.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Brooklyn's Pygmy Shrews are one of those bands who just blast you from the first second you hear them. Just get all up in your shit, so to speak.

If you've been a music fan for the past 10 or so year, hopefully you're familiar with the psychedelically interwoven 'scapes of Brooklyn's Zs, or howabout Little Women? The brilliant free-jazz cum noise rock group who broke minds with their 2007 release simply called "Teeth." Shit's brilliantly bent and discordant and excellent. Then their's Archaeopteryx, a two piece mathy noise-rock deal that was shortlived but ruled. And then Cutter. And Hubble. And.. it goes on and on. All of it's tip top, totally diverse and across the board, and all of it's got the common theme of one Ben Greenberg esq. running through it. Ben's a multi-talented instrumentalist (drummed in Archaeopteryx, guitars in Shrews) who can multitask with musical projects in a way that's just about as dextrously as it comes.

The Ben-band that's gonna be at Total Fest this year is Pygmy Shrews, whose 2009 (right?) release called "The Egyptian" we at Wantage did. The thing's a crazy romp of powerful punk, ala you know, Black Flag at their scummiest, or something. Oh, and they have a song called "Your Party Sucks."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


For the last two years the Total Fest stage has been graced with some killer bands from the great land of Canada. Last year, Lethbridge natives Fist City played one of my favorite sets of the fest. Along with the snow blower, Lord Stanley’s Cup, table hockey, top notch maple syrup and Rick Moranis it’s safe to say our friends to the north churn out some great products.

Vancouver’s White Lung have picked up the maple leaf torch and have officially been slated for our tenth anniversary. The three-girl to one-boy ratio White Lung shred through songs like buzz saws through tin, they don’t fuck around either, they get to the point with songs averaging just over two and half minutes. White Lung is way up on my list of “don’t miss” sets at Total Fest and I’m convinced some people will surely find their new favorite band in White Lung.


Helms Alee are one of those bands that came out of nowhere and just straight up knocked me on my ass. I'd heard of their guitarist Ben Verellen's old band Harkonen in passing, but to be honest, I'd never checked them out (later smacking my forehead about that one). Anyway, I remember grabbing their first record, Night Terror, on a whim from my friend Andy's label when it came out a couple years back. A minute or two into the first track, I think my jaw dropped on the floor in utter shock at the weird, complex and amazingly heavy and melodic mix of sounds that came out of this little ol' three piece. Due to my geographic location at the time, it wasn't until last fall that I was actually able to see them live. And in that dark, dank Missoula basement, those songs from their LP (and much fabled demo 12" of which I then grabbed a copy) were fully realized for me, finally in a live setting. That said, they aren't super technical -- it's the range of sounds and textures that they create from such minimal instrumentation and vocals is what that makes them so unique. It's got equal parts of full-on, head crushing, sludgey riffs with sugary, border-line dreampop melodies and a few sparse, instrumental dirges here and there... it's hard to explain but utterly awe inspiring and all makes sense to me.

They played Total Fest a few years ago, and we're excited to have them back for Total Fest X this August. By then they'll have released a new full length on Hydrahead (out June 21st) and will be fresh off a long haul across the US with Big Business, Torche and Thrones (hell of a line-up, eh?). While we wait, let's marinade on a brand new song and a great older, live video here:

Monday, June 13, 2011


You know those albums. You snag it on a whim or excavate it from the recesses of your memory, trying to recall who recommended that you seek it out. You spill out a handful of change and bills, grab a six pack on the walk home, put on the record and then make dinner. It's about the 5th time that you've flipped the thing when you realize that your dinner is burning and you're short 4 beers. This may not be the exact scenario, but it's just about how we all felt when we listened to Illuminati House Party by Oakland's Pigs. The record grew on us. It moves through instrumental psych-sludge into all out thrash. Part instrumental part gut wrenching vocals, this album lays waste to your anticipations.

Pigs -- Rachel Reichert bass, Jack Murphy vocals & guitar and Brian Hamilton drums -- is riff heavy, chunky, loud, metal-punk (all those attributes we love and cherish). There's some pedigree here (Civil Dysentery and the Fleshies), but it translates into a fresh sound that plays on those longings hard wired into our lizard brains. The first album is hand screened and initially self-distributed. It's a shining example of what can be produced through a small budget and a love for playing. Their live sets are as scuzzy and loud as the record, and they bespeak that well-seasoned and well-soiled DIY punk rock that some have forgotten sustains the bay area.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A handful of us Total Fest organizers made it to the sweltering mesquite hills of Austin last weekend to witness the power and glory of what may really be, the country's best music festival. It's called Chaos in Tejas and has a website that's similarly named. This was Chaos's 7th year, and it was a crusty, excellent blowout. There's nothing worse than reading a huge inventory of the bands I saw, but I mean, this thing was totally packed, and more than packed, curated. Actively.

Up top on my list was Universal Order of Armageddon, the 90s Baltimore group who gave me my first taste of really, really intense music, played perfectly. A UOA set was never much longer than 20 minutes, and they stayed true to form. Played everything they knew and got off the stage without and encore. UOA is one of those groups where you just kind of get enveloped by the hugeness of it.

Yeah, UOA was the nostalgic but-I-don't-care hit of the thing, but they were just the start of the greatness. Robert Collins' (Artimus Pyle, Fuckface, High on Crime) new band No Statik also broke my mind. Heavy ass hardcore, with a little bit of a southern gallop. Perdition from New York won the award for most absolutely fucking dangerous and killer. Lazy Dogs (ex-Annihilation Time dudes) also brought an awesome, 70s sort of gallop. Career Suicide closed things out for me and my brother. The in-betweeners were pretty wild too, especially Kriegshog from Tokyo, who do the wall of noise d-beat punk deal really incredibly. Isterismo, also Japanese, but who sing in Italian broke my mind twice. Capitalist Casualties were awesome sort of grindy punk. Kieltolaki got hosed on their sound mix, but remained excellently Finnish. See You in Hell from the Czech Republic also raged. From the more rock and roll side of things, my highlights are: Shellshag (playing TFX!), the Arrivals (also playing) and TV Ghost. Oh, and Omar Souleyman, the Syrian wedding-disco singer, who added the most fiber to the thing. No hardcore kids at that show, but it was officially tied in to the festival.

The thing ran pretty much like clockwork too. bands playing when they were supposed to, short fast and loud. It's awesome sometimes to see another festival that's as DIY as hell, and gives us something to aspire to. Good work, Chaos people.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The weird paranoid-mysanthropic punk of the Leaders is as a little bit disturbing when you see it. It's awesome too, and ultimately first, but they're a band that has a vibe that something big might go wrong at a show. Their singer Donnie, whose astutely detailed collage-art robotic animal mechs are on all the band's releases, has a way of kind of making folks concerned for their safety and stoked at the same time. He wraps the mic chord around his neck, he tears apart beer cans and cuts his forehead, and.... he sings.

And meanwhile, you've got this excellent melody driving the whole thing, and a gronky Korg sounds giving it a sort of future-o vibe. But don't get the wrong idea. It's not some sort of gimmicky we're-really-into-Devo sort of deal. It's weird and lives in a world of it's own creation. Or, maybe Donnie's. Yes, it's clear it's Donnie's world, and that former Missoulian (Honky Sausage/Fireball of Freedom) and-rarely-side-man Kelly Gately's also in the band only makes it the more compelling. Kelly's a guitar player with few peers, and what's nice about Leaders is that it's kind of an exercise in spartan playing, not normally Kelly's bag.

Seems like we've gotten this far without exactly explaining what this stuff is all about!? Man, take a look at these vidz, howbout?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What I like most about 10 Year Old Girlfriend(or "10YoGF" I guess) is their spirit. Their, ahem, crazy spirit. It reminds me of great, kind of rudimentary but punk-as-fuck stuff like Kleenex, Chin Chin and that vintage of awesome Swiss stuff. They’ve been around for about three years now, I think, and started as Hana and Tom playing tunes on sub-shitty gear at Missoulaparties. The gear is slightly less shitty these days, maybe, and they’ve got an actual drummer (and a Spartan-kit playing Bonzo) in Matt Coté –whom you might remember from Fag Rag, another great Missoula export, but the spirit’s still there.

And don’t mistake “spirit” for some horrible high school thing, like “spirit, spirit. Let’s hear it” or whatever. I mean actually spirited, fun punk rock spirit. Like, let’s go swim in the river. Let’s drink beer. Let’s have fun. That kind of spirit.

So, what’s the deal with the music? Uh, it’s kind of singalong, keyboardy, danceable, good-time, don't care, poppy punk rock. That’s what I think of anyway.