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
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 RETURNS TO TOTAL FEST.
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?