Friday, May 31, 2013


Photo by Michells Gustafson
I was slow to climb on the Modality train. It wasn't anything they were or were not doing, it just took me a bit to work my way into it. Live, Modality has always been a pleasure, and as the band has evolved from a sleepy duo into a ensemble of keyboards, guitar, drums, violin and bass, they've blossomed into one of the most unique bands in Missoula. For me, it just didn't translate into their recordings. This happens a lot to bands of any stripe, but it was particularly disheartening for me when it came to Modality.

Live, they weave together improvised and structured sets. Sounds and songs seamlessly meld into each other, washing over you in a steady warmth. It's like a perfectly heated bath. Modality usurps the notion of jam band by accompanying nodes of psychedelia with aggressive guitars and drums. They've coupled the aesthetic of experimentation with a technically sound and complex soothing sense of exploration. Our friends over at WeirdMissoula are prone to saying "the philosophies behind a lot of the musics “hippies” hold dear and a lot of the musics noise-dudes and experimental musicians hold dear, well…they’re really the same," and they're spot on. (You may as well read the entire review -- it's really good and hits all the highlights). 

It's the technical aspect that, at times, hinders translating their live sets to the studio. Don't get me wrong, Particle City retains all the ambient groove of the live sets and highlights how good these dudes are as musicians. To my mind, however, they're limited by the format. I don't know. I'm not trying to be negative here, but I always feel a little more hungry after listening to the record. They've pushed some envelopes in trying to capture their improvisational style by occupying a ballroom in Butte and recently releasing an impressive collection Notes From the SueTerrain.

Serious grooves going on here.

In a festival that's notorious for its hard and heavy line-ups, it's nice to catch a warm ray here and there. Modality provides a series of cleansing moments that massage you in and out of calmness. It's blissful and still edgy enough to keep you on your toes. Something like the end scene of Melancholia or what it feels like to succumb to an avalanche. There's that moment right before you drown that your body forces you to take a breath. You know it's not air coming in, but you're okay with that. Consciousness isn't always a good thing.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


We're stoked to announce that Arizona's Swamp Wolf will be returning to Missoula for Total Fest this August. These five dudes from Flagstaff (Dirty Steve, Daniel, Kevin, Nate and Hobbit) showed up in Missoula last August on the second night of Total Fest XI and offered to pinch hit when a scheduled band failed to show. To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect from them initially, but my expectations were blown out the water when they took the stage. No less than two songs into their epic and totally relentless set, I'm pretty certain they proved themselves to be a fan favorite of many Total Fest XI attendees in the Badlander that Friday night.

These guys embody some of my favorite elements from 90s metallic hardcore (camo shorts and XL shirts not included), with blackened bits of thrash, sludge and blazing, squealing guitar brutality. Since they played here last August, they've issued their full length Brilliance of a Feral Mind on vinyl, which you can check out on their bandcamp page.


Mr. Dad, Minot, ND.
Minot, North Dakota’s one of those area codes (58701-58703) that doesn’t get a lot of bandwidth if you’re trying to read up about punk music scenes around the country. Weirdly, like Billings, MT whose railroad-given nickname is “the Magic City”, Minot 350 miles east is also “the Magic City.” Seems like even though we’ve got the big ol’ internet, we’ve got fewer and fewer fanzines and things like that, or maybe more accurately the internet’s numbed us a bit to seeking them out. It’s easy to read about bands from towns of at least half a million people, and just kind of presume that the rest of the States is a wasteland for DIY/independent culture. You kind of have to go looking and dig around, which is good because folks who like punk rock normally are more inquisitive and unwilling to chow down on what Pitchfork’s told them to consume. At least I hope so. Lots of digression around here, man. The point is, we semi-but-not-really-rural folks need to stick together.

Why Not, Minot? Freezin's the Reason.
That Minot is one of the US’s coolest DIY spots is pretty excellent news for a relatively isolated Air Force-college-and-increasingly-oil-boom-town-with-a-flooding-problem-and-some-of-ND’s-hilliest-terrain. It’s a place with a vibe that reminds me of Missoula in the '90s, with a kind of Great Falls, MT vibe (Air Force, Hutterites, feed stores, big arterial) thrown into the mix. Minot came onto my radar first through the Pangea House and the enthusiastic punk and house show scene that turned out groups like Father Son Holy Smokes, Japaniel Flatsen, and Chapstick and Why Not Fest, and I’m sure lots more. We've heard nothing but good vibes from Tyson Ballew and Joey Running Crane who have played Why Not Fests over the years. They were treated super well, people watched their sets, danced and it was as community a festival as you can get. Minot strikes me as a place whose not being on an interstate has actually really benefited the punk scene. Shows are events, they don’t happen as often as a place like Fargo, and people are more invested as a result. Shows happen at houses and museums and there’s a big rad festival in Why Not that kind of gives it all an focal point and opportunity for celebration.

And what an introduction that is for Mr. Dad, who describe themselves as “a buncha sucka fools and papas making spastic, shitty, north Dakotan, hardcore-ish rock and roll.” I love any band that refers to themselves as shitty. Nuff said, I say.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Photo by Gabe Wheeler.
Remember when we asked you how you felt about Hawkwind? If you don't, that's cool too.

Well, it seems like the best answer to the question is California's Prizehog. The trio of Rion, Zakk, and Veronica collage together some seriously heavy, skull crushing, psych-doom-space sludge from an admixture of shuddering drums, down-tuned guitar, effect drenched vocals, and Rothko-textured synth.

It's a thick mess of sounds that lingers in the space between manic and groove, stretching every note beyond its capacity, milking the sound of all its essence and letting it slowly decay. Their songs effortlessly churn through bombastic thunder, spacey (sometimes poppy) drones and amazingly catchy hooks. One solid epic after another. Hypnotizing and chugging, tangled and dark, Prizehog offers some killer, weirded out dirge that rumbles as much as it glides through an ever sprawling landscape.

Caught you yet?

If you need more adjective laden peaks to climb, just follow the "Goods" link on their website. I hate making comparisons, but when you have mentions of Harvey Milk, Melvins, Butthole Surfers, the Fucking Champs, Wildildlife, True Widow, and Codeine, you're doing something better than "right." You're doing something gorgeously sublime.

I dig abstract and experimental, and dig it even more when it pushes up against expectations. Too often, abstract forgets what it's doing and devolves into self-masturbatory clutter. Not here. Prizehog pairs their non-conventional song-writing with some awesomely dark and moody melodies. They're a hardworking trio who have been crushing California's Bay Area (and elsewhere) for close to seven years. Their self-released EP "Alive and Well" (2008) is out of print, but your internet prowess should serve you well. Check out their first full length, "Thought Nest" (2011 Saint Rose Records), here and their most recent EP, "A Talking To" (2012 Gravity Records, here. Like they say, "We play lots. We have for years now." It's about damn time we invited them to play Total Fest.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


18 July 2012

In The Lab’s basement-sea, there we were: blasted adrift by the real American Punk Band™, Slut River. Sandwiched between my sweaty shipmates--all of whom were chugging some soft brew by family Pabst or Hamm--I sipped champagne from a bottle’s neck, damning my finicky gluten intolerance for accentuating what may be perceived by others as a loathsome economic disparity.  Rest assured, dear reader, I was not claiming the mantle of “captain” with my choice of beverage that fateful night. Like my associates, I was and will only ever be a deckhand, albeit one who feels a slight tightening of throat and tummy when imbibing beer. Thus, I include this minor detail only to be forthright in my daintiness--the sad fact of my dietary weakness will only reinforce the absolute truth of this tale--and to draw your attention to the vessel which occupied my hand that glorious eve. 

Indeed, it was that very bottle of Cook’s finest brut which lent me portal to a most powerful vision. With each tip of that green glass-canteen to my lips, I imagined it filled with this scene in miniature, thereby replacing its ever-diminishing libation: the unrestrained, graceful power of the band, the crowd’s smiling faces and pumping fists, every one of us drawing the ship’s sails to ride the winds of sonic-camaraderie. If only I could freeze this joy in time! Capture forever our collective excitement at those fierce tides which jostled us mercilessly. After all, we did not come here for mercy; we came for thrills, and thrills we received. These are the very thrills you, dear reader, will be presented with when Slut River plays Total Fest XII. I promise.

But I realize I have provided you with very few details regarding the sounds experienced by myself and the other attendees of this most excellent show, instead focussing on the experience itself. For this I apologize, and will now slip out of the stupid character I created above to reward you with some musical cartography. To these ears, Slut River combines my favorite elements of Los Angeles’ storied punk milieu--in particular, that of the early 80s--without appearing anachronistic. Sure, it’s a throwback, but a welcome and extremely well executed one that feels resolutely modern. Their songs have the scrappy intensity of pre-Rollins Black Flag, but never fall neatly into straight up “hardcore”--there’s always that skewed, Ginn-esque take on rock guitar that keeps things from feeling too by-the-numbers (it helps to have an incredible front-woman and rhythm section, too). In an interview with Noisey, singer Anna McDermott nicely summed Slut River up as “ripping loose, not giving a fuck, and probably looking as unattractive as possible,” which is awesome, because being ugly and having fun is awesome--especially when there are awesome tunes to be ugly to. I anticipate about thirty minutes of unparalleled, gleeful ugliness when Slut River returns to Missoula in August. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013


I've always been interested in towns and cities where bands come from, and like to think about how they might impact the music that bands play. It's probably a long shot, but its fascinating and important to know where bands come from for me. So, here's the rest: Olympia, Washington's got it's less-cool neighboring communities. Your Tumwaters, your Laceys. Kind of far, but maybe Bucoda. Etc. Your, uh, you know, western Washington strip malled, pawn shop and payday loan dusted, mostly city-centerless mossy-sidewalked whateverlands. Softball gets played. Budweiser drank.. Its from one of those places that the Narrows come from, and for me, that's added an authentically western Washingtonian vibe to their slow, slow, built-around-incredible riffs, jams. 

Technically, the Narrows began as a band and did most of their most active years from the area code known as Bellingham in northwestern Washington state. They toured with Federation X, and by themselves, they were interested in ghosts. And horrible malt-liquor/Cisco wine concoctions. Most of all, they made music that transferred raw human emotion into guitar, bass, drums and vocals better than anything.

Time intervened, and members started up new endeavors. Law school and practice. Bar/resaturant ownership, married life, kids. But there wasn't ever an end to the Narrows because the idea of the Narrows is more of a family affair than a business proposition. They've been playing a couple shows lately, and we got 'em for Total Fest XII. Yup.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Lana Rebel's one of those few musicians I can think of whose music occupies a completely timeless and gut-level excellence that just kind of reaffirms why you go through the sloggier parts of life. And it's not the most upbeat and cheery stuff either, it's got its darkness and full spectrum of booze-drenched melancholia, joy, sadness and soforth. It just somehow, has that ability to contextualize the rough spots and find some beauty in all of it. Technically, Lana's and Kevin's music is probably closest to country. We refuse to use "A-word" around here. Sort of rhymes with Texarkana. You know. But stopping there is a little like saying "Black Sabbath played metal."  or "Tammy Wynette played country."  "Erkin Koray's a guitar player." Technically correct, but absolutely limiting language. Whatever.

Lana's last band band, before she relocated to Tucson's Saguaro-speckled hills and valley, was the Broken Promises. They put out an excellent record in 2010, I think. It's called "Mistakes We Can Live With"  and it's been on repeat around here since it came out. That one's approaching the couple hundred hours of play mark for our household. Before that, there was the Juanita Family and Friends, and the great set of west coast players who backed her on the All I Need LP. More recently, there's some traditional Mexican tunes, some children's music and talk of opening up a record shop in Tucson. She's been teamed up with guitar player/singer Kevin May Mayfield who might've been a Burrito Brother were it 30 years earlier. Kevin adds a partner and  player who brings even more depth to the tunes. We like it all. We're completely excited, proud, and yes, stoked to have Miss Lana Rebel and Kevin May Mayfield up here for TFXII. It's been too many years, five in fact, since a Total Fest's had the pleasure of a Miss Lana Rebel set.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Remember Tad?

Yeah, that was a long ass time ago. Hurts to say that.

Tad Doyle's most recent project, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth , featuring bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Doyle and Drummer Dave French (Brokaw) offers up a decidedly heavy beast of sludge. I remember the excited whispers that flew around when news broke that Tad had a new project in the works, and a few people were annoyingly vocal about how good the 2009 release Brothers of the Sonic Cloth/Mico de Noche split sounds. It is one hell of a record, but we all know those people who don't let up and become even more insistent when you tell them you listened to it and you like it.

As I gathered up links and such for Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, I was somewhat struck by the number of times people mused over their fondness of Tad only to say that BotSC sounded nothing like it. Well, they don't (I guess I'm doing that too). There's no mistaking Tad's vocals, but the music is so much heavier than anything I've heard Doyle do before. The twelve-plus-minute slog "Fires Burn Dim in the Shadows of the Mountain" is a doom, sludge filled delight, proving that heavy music can still impose its will on time and space. There's some sweet rhythms fluctuating throughout this with just the right mix of vocals and riffs. I've yet to see Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, but everything that I've heard offers some promisingly thick jams that speaks for itself. There's no exaggeration, no extraneous fill -- just pound the ground brutality churning over itself. Doyle and company craft swift, elegant, epic marathons of sonic thunder.

It's an awesome development in a continually evolving career. Once we have the schedule posted, you'll want to circle this one.

If you're in Seattle check out Sub Pop record label’s 25th Silver Jubilee. ex-Tad guitarist, Gary Thorstensen, will join BotSC to play a few song's from God's Balls, Salt Lick and 8-Way records as well as a few new gems from BotSC.

Sadly, former drummer Aaron Edge has been diagnosed with MS. Please consider donating to help Aaron and his wife meet some of their financial challenges associated with the disease. More info at

For your nostalgic pleasure:

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I can't lie. The twelve year old in me loves Gay Witch Abortion. The name alone is enough to furrow eyebrows, curl lips, raise blood pressure, get you sent home from school or inspire a rogue group of grandparents to rip stickers off of every skateboard and electrical box across the country.

Yep. Making people uncomfortable is awesome.

It's not all surface antics for Jesse and Shawn. While the novelty of the name allows you to feel like you're getting away with something, the noise furnace they generate between the spastic drums, cheek-gnashing guitar and oddly rhythmic vocals pummel you to delirium. In a good way. There's plenty of fist pumping groove rock going on, but the hardcore influence and out-of-left-field changes keep you reeling. They're unbridled and wonderfully choreographed. Each album / recording points toward an evolution that may just signal the creation of a new dimension. I'm prone to exaggeration. I know this. In my opinion, Gay Witch Abortion is one of the top 5 bands out there. They're tireless in their execution, ruthless in their song writing, and merciless when it comes to your ear drums, headphones, or speakers. They were one of my tops at Total Fest last year, and the records that they've put out since then land squarely in my tops of the year. (I don't publish these lists, but I do talk about them).

Plus, they're totally cool dudes. Seriously chill, unassuming, and funny. It's hard to reconcile. In a flurry of sound, GWA punches you in the stomach and face, bites your ear, takes your beer money, and probably pants you in the process. Shawn and Jesse smile and say thanks. Some people may not be so happy with the increased vocals, but I dig it. It adds another layer to an already complex sound, pushing the hypnotic drones into more hyper explosions and chaos. Somehow it's more expansive and unbounded, but it never loses focus.

Tunes and such can be found at the bandcamp link above, as well as on Learning Curve & AmRep. Give the Held Hostage Rsd Compilation a listen while you're at it.

We're damn pleased to welcome them back for this year. Don't miss them!


With the recent passing of organ-guru/summer-of-love-sentimentalist Ray Manzarek, the term “psychedelic” is popping up in obituaries around the globe in order to contexualize The Doors within the classic rock canon. It’s not that I am entirely suspicious of this term being bandied about by music journalists, but like “punk,” “psychedelic” is one of those problematic genre signifiers whose boundaries become increasingly baggy upon each iteration of its corpse being dusted off. What is the essential element of psychedelia that makes music “psychedelic”? The mythic and overused delay pedal? Hippy-dippy naivete? Nay to all of these limitations. For those of us who consider ourselves “trv kvlt” warriors of the psychedelic-cloth, there isn’t an essential element so much as there is--ahem--a psychedelic initiative to perceive various strains of music as such. This initiative, if properly utilized, opens a realm of play in which any musical experience can become pure vibe--no drugs required. It’s an approach to reality that borders on interrogation; an elongation of time that defies monotony; a simultaneous disregard for and embrace of rot (which may or may not include rottenness). An unending sneer: the snake only appears to be eating its tail, maaaaaaaaan.

Enter Robust Worlds--aka Chris Rose--and his self-described “futuristic folk-rock.” As any one of the attendees at his Zoo City Apparel show this past October can attest, the mellow warmth of Rose’s music can inspire a kind of awe-stuck, thumbs-up hypnosis. You might hear sonic-antecedents in Kevin Ayers, Spacemen 3, or Neil Hagerty’s post-Royal Trux solo output, but Rose’s take on guitar-centric, insular, folk-informed psychedelia has its feet firmly planted in the 21st century (and beyond). The “futuristic” aspect doesn’t reside in the tasteful employment of drum-machines and synthesizers, rather, the songs themselves are small-scale re-imaginings of rock music as part of an expansive, global continuum. Though Robust Worlds straddles the space between organic and technological, Rose never diverts the listener’s attention away from that unplaceable humanness that makes his music so special. The result certainly sounds “psychedelic,” and the womb-like production enhances that “psychedelic” quality, but Rose busts out of that scare-quoted description by offering the listener more than trippy missives. His song, “Best Wishes,” applies that above-mentioned psychedelic initiative to what might otherwise be a simple coffee-shop strum, terraforming it into an inviting, Summer afternoon swirl. The song may not inspire bacchanalian head-banging so much as it demands some aggressive head-nodding, but that’s not to say its grooviness doesn’t pair well with your favorite ice-cold beer and the company of some fine friends. Personally, I can’t think of a more totally perfect trifecta-of-enjoyment in mid-August. Turn it up--on headphones or speakers--and get ready to high-five the sun. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Three piece Portland darlings, Havania Whaal, up the ante by throwing a mandolin into their fuzzy pop. I tire of genre-classifications as quickly as anyone. It's a dangerously limiting business and semantic abridgments do nothing more than allow us to overuse hyphens. That said, Havania Whaal's self-described "twee-gaze" may be the most useful turn of phrase to characterize them. It's fresh, fun, loud, raw, primitive, bouncy, dreamy, rebellious, and carefree. At some point, the sun melted a mixtape of Hole, Sonic Youth and Beat Happening into a boisterous, wine-filled party.

It's deeply personal, but unlike a lot of the mainstream indie-pop, Havania Whaal doesn't appear comfortable to simply strum along. It's steeped in a DIY aesthetic that challenges as much as it celebrates. They're not afraid to be dirty and musty. There's a grassroot feel to their vibe -- similar to a suitcase full of unmarked tapes and handwritten labels. Familiar, but it requires you to linger a little bit and offers a few surprises as you go. Havania Whaal combines some of those traditional pop elements with the joy of making music. They're a great reminder of what it takes to be a band these days. Creative impulses and good friends always make for a better band than a vapid, yet well maintained web presence.


There's something wonderfully surreal and creepy swirling around The Funeral and the Twilight. Macabre, beards, and some of the best damn vibrato-goth vocals I've heard. Something lurks beneath the music. It digs its claws into you and doesn't let go, peeling away one layer at a time.  

It's confounding. Even rogue critic, Drew Ailes, is at a loss, when it comes to describing TFATT's new album Lust: "decided that IT'S FUCKED. seriously, i don’t understand it. sounds like a mariachi band playing NAPALM DEATH songs in a castle. totally baffling, engrossing music. i think i like it." 

There's the obvious mangled-Morrissey and jumbled-Joy Division comparisons. It's not like they hide it. The lyrics, though, push TFATT beyond the easy comparisons into something that is decidedly more devilish and delicious. Seriously, gems like "i drank your river, i drank it gone and missed, i piss out your river, i piss you out as piss. i put you on the table, i open you up" or "I watched my daughter die. We buried her up to her chest. I watched the first stone cast. Until the very last" course through every song. The music is equally unstable: angst-ridden melodies clamor against any expectation you may have on how all the pieces fit together.

The rawness of the live sets is just as impressive. Straight-up emotional intensity that pierces and lacerates the audience. It was awesome to watch the room steadily fill when they took the stage last year. TFATT has been one of the brightest of many bright spots in the past few years, and we're stoked that they're able to bring back their evolving brand of goth-infused satanic death doom jazz. 


Total Fest proudly welcomes Olympia lo-fi, brainy and political hip-hop fella Deaed Language, who has the inspiring motto "Learn like you'll live forever, Rap like you'll die tomorrow."

Deaed Language brings a suitably Northwest-rainy vibe to rap, with lyrics that are contemplative, smart and somber, and lists influences like Aesop Rock, Dead Prez, Hail Seizures, Prefuse 73 and Sage Francis.

Check him out on Bandcamp and Facebook.



We're pleased to announce that Total Fest punk alumni The Trashies are returning this year to shoot at your feet until you dance. These classy folks promise nothing but a well-behaved time, judging by Facebook statuses like, "Then we will take our bugsmoking shit show on a tour to force feed you rat puke on a 12" platter. you are worms, we are worms, we live in dirt, fuck you, etc." Being a worm has never sounded so fun!

The Trashies' plan to release a new album, Teenage Rattlesnakes, sometime in summer. If you haven't caught these Seattle partier's scuzzy, poppy rock before, you're in for a treat. Visit 'em on Facebook.


Monday, May 20, 2013


If you've been following heavy music over the past couple of years, odds are you've probably heard of Kowloon Walled City. Since their inception in 2007, these San Francisco-based sludge stalwarts have come out of left field and have made quite an impression upon the world of long-haired, neck-tattooed, flannel-wearers among us and the clean-cut, desk-jobbing rest of us. From their debut EP Turk Street, to the recent second album, Container Ships, they've come a long way from their early days of AmRep and Pacific Northwest inspired melding of sludge and noise rock. While their recent album delves further into some familiar low-end wandering it is rather stripped down, incorporating occasional melody and a sense of introspective quietness that sort of takes over the whole thing. It's thinking man's sludge/rock/post-hardcore. Like a fine wine aged over time. Or something like that.

Since they last played Missoula at Total Fest X, on one ridiculous sweaty-ass night at the Palace, they've kept busy through the release of a couple records and have toured a bit here and there (including a run of shows last year opening for friggin' Sleep). Total Fest is proud to welcome back Kowloon Walled City to the Total Fest stage this August and we hope that you're as excited as we are about their return to Missoula.

Be sure to check out their Bandcamp page and their site to stream/download their recent and past recordings.

Photo by Bowen Anderson

Friday, May 17, 2013


There's not much more that can be said about Joe Preston or Thrones. If you've never had the pleasure of witnessing the one-man wrecking crew lay sonic waste to a room, I don't know what's up with you. Maybe that's harsh, but Preston has been flexing this blissful sludge since 1994. Granted he took an extended hiatus, but Thrones touring schedule since 2010 has been as merciless as his sludgy insanity. He seems to be everywhere.

Maybe I say that "not much more can be said" because Thrones is a difficult project to describe. One charismatic, light-hearted grizzly bear, bookended by enormous cabinets, snuggled by machines, and comfortably harnessed to his bass orchestrates a series of distorted, feedback-riddled, ominous, surreal, gutteral, grinding (adj., adj., adj.) songs that offer enough ingenuity and complexity to satisfy any noise, sludge, metal, punk, arty music fan out there. Thrones trudges through its own landscapes, carving out tectonic plates of brutal awesomeness.

Thrones recordings are consuming in their own right. There's a groovy jazz aesthetic that courses through all the slow heaviness. Live, however, is how you need to experience this. It's imperative. From the first crack of sound, it's a visceral journey like no other. Preston effortlessly erects an eerie (some say "witchy") ambiance that envelops the audience. There's a subtle give and take, but the music wins in the end. Lured by the basslines, Preston pied-pipers the audience through an intricate set that pushes the bounds of experimentation without sacrificing the crusty edge that provides for most of the nightmarish joy of feeling Thrones live.

Thrones just came off of an east coast tour with Floor, (with some envy-worthy dates that included VAZ, and Torche), played a recent show with the Need and Fed Ex, and is playing a host of shows this spring and summer. There's probably a lot more out there. Who knows?

I jumped out of my chair, hugged my girlfriend, and high-fived our cats and dogs when I read the email exchange between Josh Vanek and Joe that landed Thrones for Total Fest this year. It was, perhaps, one of the most beautiful series of communications that I watched unfold. I'll say "don't miss this set" more than a few times between now and then, and if I see you there, I promise to hug you only once.  
The day is bright and beautiful and full of hope:


The future is here: We have Hoverbikes! That is, the band from Oakland, which makes its inaugural stop in Montana this August. It takes about as much time to listen to its EP, So Far So So, as it does to boil pasta, which is just fine by me: Short, sweet, snappy pop.

Hoverbikes' affiliate band, Death Ray, will play Missoula June 3 at the VFW, so be sure to welcome them to Montucky.

Check out Hoverbikes on Bandcamp.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Portland's Nucular Aminals came through Missoula a few times in the past couple of years (Spruce street house in 2011, and with Slut River in 2012 -- supported by local darlings 10yoGF and Needlecraft, respectively). Admittedly, I missed them at the house show (it's summer and sometimes you could be at the house without ever entering the house. It was a nice yard), but the set at the Badlander was very impressive. Perhaps it was the fact that I hadn't seen a punk show at the Badlander for a few months or that the line-up was awesomely curated for a late summer show, but the melancholic pop of Nucular Aminals fit perfectly with the hunktastic fun of Needlecraft and the rawness of Slut River.

Much is made of the deliberate misspelling of their name, and, I occasionally have to fight my spell check and the damnit-they-made-me-sound-like-Bush feeling I get when I speak their name, but moving beyond that is really quite easy. With seven recordings under their belt (including a 2011 release on K Records) and fresh off a European tour, Nucular Aminals have steadily tweaked their petulant, minimalist, echoed melodies into a jubilant nihilism. The organ ties it all together, adding an odd moodiness to the reconfigured psych-grunge elements that are deeply rooted in their music. There's also a fair bit of silliness that infuses the songs -- like hanging out at a rainy beach party.

Their most recent releases, Start from an End (Self Released 2012) and Alice Day (Hovercraft 2012), push the laid-back grooves, allowing the haunting vocals to seamlessly flow along with the airy beats. In a way their songs remind me of odd eulogies, but the brattiness makes me think they're hanging hammocks over the graves.



It's a name that we've been hearing for a while now. The Baltimore trio has been steadily garnering attention and praise (apparently, aside from one silly ass dude who seems stuck under some Big Black-Steve Albini rock). They've released a few recordings, and, in 2012, (Total bros and sisters) Sleeping Giant Glossolalia released Spaces Tangled. I plead some ignorance about this band. I'd heard the rumblings and listened to a few tracks from their 2010 S/T, but it wasn't until I saw the SGG's release last year that I did some more legwork, which basically meant hanging out on Multicult's bandcamp for about an hour. 

If Multicult is anything, it certainly isn't background music. Mulcult pieces together solid noise-rock jams with elements ranging from mathy / jazzy beats to straight-up abrupt hardcore. The record pushes up against abrasive, yet it doesn't sacrifice rhythm. The songs get stuck in your head, clawing and shredding your cochlear labyrinth, and leaving you in a blissful trance. In ways, Multicult feels paired down, but the trio offers awesomely constructed songs that allow for each component (drums, guitar, vocals, bass) to tangle around each other but without any of the sounds eclipsing the others. 

It's really very pleasing

Chaotic and technical at the same time, Multicult is infectious and overwhelming in their ability to split open tonal spaces and fill them with a technically sound blunt force.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


It's a profound pleasure to announce that those "small town losers" who need something to do, Mordecai, are putting things together to play Total Fest. Since the first time that I saw the Bodish brothers and "friend" play (2009, I think), I was completely blown away.

At this point, it seems silly to bring up their humble beginnings, but the fact that these dudes from Butte seemingly popped up from nowhere has always impressed me (more on this below). So a brief trip down my personal memory lane: Mordecai played the side room in the now defunct BSMT (not sure if this is the first time, but it's the one that sticks as the first time). From the first note, it was obvious that we were in for something special. The cramped room provided the perfect acoustics for their lo-fi, psych fuzz, Velvet Underground/Stooges style that weaves in and out of stability and coherence. Approving nods, winks, smiles, and "holy shits" were exchanged between me and virtually everyone I encountered. Throw in a Sister Ray cover that somehow seemed longer, more tangential, and more stoney than the orginal, and it was the perfect recipe for a mid-summer show, tucked away in the dark confines of a basement.

Now, in 2013, I think we're realizing just how good we had it. Here, in Montana, three young dudes played well beyond their years and, if you listen to all the chatter, well beyond their geographic boundaries. Thing is, that's all terribly wrong.

This is a tired discussion, but the internet has collapsed most of our traditional trajectories of time and space. For some reason, it's "odd" that a band like Mordecai sprouted from Butte, but it's not odd that, throughout the years, excellent music has erupted from small towns in Texas, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, etc. etc. etc. Before the internet, in spite of what some people may lead you to think, people made excellent music that didn't simply mimic what was spewing from big cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Yes, there was a world before the internet. Fanzines, skate mags, radio stations, friends, random dudes and dudettes helped small town kids create some seriously crazy, unique, experimental, genre bending shit that killed it.

So, with that, there is no reason to say that Mordecai came out of nowhere. They came from somewhere: a rich personal history, inquisitive journeys, mathematics, and some damn fine musicianship. It's a shame that they cannot play as often as we want them to. But, what isn't a shame is that they'll bring their psychedelic mutations back to Total Fest. Following last year's 7" on Wantage, they've released College Rock, which is as dirty and full of mutations as anything else that's out there. Solid jams that find a way to morph our collective memories into a newly formed and welcome reinterpretations of a mash-upped personal take on what came before them. Fresh atonal guitar with sneering vocals, solid bass and drum lines that grate at everything your parents loved, while celebrating it at the same time. It's as punk as it gets. Here is an old-ish jam:
Mordecai -- Composition 07082011 from Ed Shaw on Vimeo.


For the synesthetes, consider pouring a well-shaken snot-green, piss-yellow, and vomit-pink cocktail down the front of your shirt. Now imagine tearing the shirt off and wringing it out into the mouth of your bff. The look on your besty’s face is about half as good as Solid Attitude. Refreshing, no? 

If this description has left you feeling cynical: I am a shitty music journalist, sorey. I admit it: no amount of adjective-abuse will do a band that used to be called Viking Fuck (!) proper justice.

No? Try again, you say? Try harder? Ok, let's see if this works. 

Solid Attitude is shit-hot, arty, weird, and energetic as all get out. But it’s their singer, Mickey Shaw, that takes this, uh, birthday cake--which would otherwise “just” be awesome--and puts fucking awesome icing all over the top of it. Like all celebratory confections, the nuances are what make them so special, and every little squeal, sneer, or sob from Shaw is a little loving curlicue of frosting on my crappy simile’s inability to accurately describe it. I have, like, no clue what he’s saying, but the inflection and the idiosyncrasies of his half Darby Crash/half tattling neighbor kid splat (these may be exactly the same thing) are the sweet and sticky. This is, I believe, what is commonly referred to as ‘motivated selling.’   

Lucky for you, you don’t have to wait until TOTAL FEST to find out if I’m totally full of it (cake is what I’m full of, fyi). Their excellent record, BB GUN PICNIC,  is currently available for download at bandcamp (or check the tune out below). Clocking in at just under 20 minutes, it goes by pretty fast, but it’s just long enough that you can listen to it around 72 times in a day. 


Generally speaking, I’m suspicious when bands describe their music by attaching some “new & clever” prefix to their chosen -core or -gaze. Call me silly for having high expectations, but I still dream of how glorious “SHITGAZE” could’ve been. Who knows? Maybe there will be a revival. 

But in the case of Minneapolis’ Is/Is, it doesn’t really matter if they’re serious or not when tossing about the term “witchgaze.” Sure, it’s funny as hell when taken out of context, but listening to their new single on Manimal Vinyl, there is a surprising amount of accuracy to the term. The “gaze” requirement is fulfilled quickly enough, as fans of big, cloudy guitars and lockstep rhythm-section grooving will note. This is industrial-strength shimmer, guys, primetime tunes for people who prefer the indoors year round. 

The case for “witch,” however, may be a little more difficult to make, which is why I recommend listening to the tune, "Shine Down," linked below. Play it loud and see if you don’t start spinning around your living room wondering where the hell all your incense went. Don’t have any? Fuck it. Put a pot on the stove and stew some eye of newt with a frog’s toes thrown in for bad measure. Pet store closed? Write PETA a fat "I'm Sorry" check and stir in your dissertation on Macbeth (surely something we all have sitting around). Dig on the incantatory gloss of the vocal melody, rolling like steam off of a weird-sister’s sickest green brew--then chug that glug and start feeling invincible. All tempting fate, pumped up on hubris and black majick. You might need to cool down with some baboon’s blood to keep your charm firm and good afterwards, but if you’re anything like me, you also need to treat yourself. You earned it, baby.

Check out their tumblr here and their bandcamp page here.


Benjamin (Ben) Von Wildenhaus may be better known to the average Missoulian as the Federation X guitar player who doesn't sing, and who has a mustache. Certainly those are  important parts of the story, but the other parts are pretty interesting too. Ben has musical abilities and songs running pretty deep through his bones, and, and its varied, weirdo stuff that hardly packs easily into our unfortunately genrified vocabulary. A couple years ago he put out a fabulous record called Great Songs From Around and followed it up with a surprisingly excellent Christmas record, complete with Jewish, Pagan and a few other winter holiday songs.

Think of it as enhanced American primitive, if you can get over how bullshit that description sounds. It's music for space and space-creating music. Ben's played with country groups like the Quaalude Country Band, Miss Lana Rebel's Juanita Family and Friends and a pretty excellent handful of others you can read about elsewhere. It's a little druggy, kind of Touareg but mostly just kind of its own nicely meandering soundtrack.

We're going to do our danged-est to find a real mind-blowing place to put this.

Ben von Wildenhaus: The Limping Axeman from Riot Bear Recording Co. on Vimeo.


Being a drone/doom band from Iowa sorta makes a whole lot of sense. The subtleties of the vast rural landscape, the hum of cattle feed yards, agricultural machinery and wind energy production, the long, harsh quiet winters and long humid summers (and the cicadas, too).

We're proud to announce that Iowa's Aseethe will be joining the line-up for this year's Total Fest. Forged in Iowa City, duo Brian Barr and Eric Diercks (sometimes joined by a third player) create a sprawling haze of drone, doom metal and ambiance doused with sparse, howling vocals, electronics, guitar buzz and occasional hints of melody. Drombiance. Sounds like a sleeping pill or something, right?

Those of you locals who didn't have a chance to witness Aseethe lay waste to Missoula when they stopped through last spring are in for an epic, head-bobbing experience of doomy indulgence (ear protection not included). Since they came through Missoula they've kept busy with the release of their single song Red Horizon EP (a reworked cover of a track from fellow drone folk Barn Owl) and are currently working on their next full length, which should be out by fest time. Their first album Reverent Burden is an excellent placeholder while you wait. This and their other recorded output can be streamed and/or downloaded on their Bandcamp page.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013


What does it mean to be A ROCK BAND in America, 2013? Scholars have dedicated a great deal of ephemeral ink toward this very question--both on the internet and in their own internal republic of the brain-space--in an attempt to codify the culture-shift rock music has experienced from being the dominant pop paradigm to its current phase of fault-line relevancy. It would seem that THE ROCK BAND sits on the figurative San Andreas of America’s pop-subconscious. The success of a form--that was once thought to produce the alarming aftershocks of long hair and teenage rebellion--now may be little more than the byproduct of an upwardly mobile youth-demographic. If a city in California quakes, is it the record buying populace stomping their feet in (dis)approval? Or, is this quaking the result of electric tones surging forth from real human-people--arguably the most explicit demonstration of the circuitous relationship between the biological and technological? 

I recommend we leave these debates to journalists who fear the loss of their jobs. Stuff makes itself relevant, and that’s why we, fans of electric-rock music, are so fortunate to have a band like The Blind Shake to look up to. 

“Look up to?” you ask, stunned. “But I thought that punk successfully democratized the market-driven ickiness of the mid-century music industry, finally placing the listener in parataxis with the actual producer, the musician.” Relax. Let me explain. 

The Blind Shake does it all, like the humble Olympian competing in the decathlon, which is why I demand respect for them. This is a form of socio-musical justice. Whether they’re collaborating with psych-folk-rock demigod Michael Yonkers, touring the country with their masonic-imagery-emblazoned track-suit intensity, or putting out release after release of high-quality unfrozen-caveman-lawyer-(a brute with intellect!)-style stomp, The Blind Shake is here for us. They are humble--nay, selfless. Which is why we reward them with our rapt attention and applause, when we listeners are fortunate enough to gaze upon them in the flesh, doing what they do, in that many-fold Flavian Amphitheater that is the rock-show-venue. Be it bar or basement, locale matters not to The Blind Shake, and I can attest to their ability to blow minds in both. You too, dear reader, will be able to attest to this blowing of minds come August when The Blind Shake returns to Missoula for Total Fest XII.

Check out their website, or listen to them now, right here! Technology!


Okay, this is basically a straight-up invasion at this point. To think that we've been clamoring for Chicago's love , when a revolving influx of talented, friendly, awesome, and clever folks from the Twin-Cities area continue to visit our little oasis.

Sometime last year, I read this phrase: like a cross between Big Black and Naked Raygun. A few keystrokes and mouse clicks later, I navigated my way to Buildings' bandcamp. The cover for the album is mesmerizing. Sure the girl is attractive, but her arms are oddly contorted and her face is haunting. I'll leave it at that. From first listen, I immediately put them on my list of bands to target for last year's Total Fest. They came. They played. They kicked ass. So much so that we asked them to come back.

I have a soft-spot for bands like Buildings. It's hard hitting, pulsating, and driven by underlying aggression and hostility; and, it's not afraid to challenge its influences. The trio (Brian, Travis, and Joe) stand on the shoulders of everything we love about those AmRep style bands, but they do not simply regurgitate some half-assed nostalgic attempt to sound retro. Like their first album, 2012's Melt, Cry, Sleep pounds its way through 10 brutally, abrasive songs, but it does so in a well polished and meticulous way that doesn't call attention to itself. Let me try to say that in a different way: they're good musicians who can handle their instruments, know each other well enough to take chances, and have the balls to crash it into the wall. Plus, I dig subtle. I like music that makes you work a little bit, and I like albums that make me pause when I'm working or walking around the house. Don't get me wrong, I'm not gyrating my hips as I do the dishes, but Buildings give me pause. Beneath the snarls and thunder are layers upon layers of atonal shifts and solid straight-up grooves that challenge expectations and lead the songs in completely different directions. Not a band to disappoint, 2013's split release with Atlanta's Hawks is an awesome addition, but it's, frankly, just not enough. Two tracks! Granted one song is "Mouthgift" (yeah, I dig that title -- oddly, snotty in a way). Around the 1:30 mark of LPGA the song feels as if its ready to devour itself, but it thrashes itself back into existence. Where LPGA twists, Mouthgift drags and pulls you across the floor. Plus the lyrics are priceless. 

Oh, I forgot to mention that they're nice guys. Solid dudes. (Sorry gents, I hope that doesn't ruin your street cred).


Monday, May 13, 2013


Music, like food and wine, is all about pairings. Combine Seattle's Constant Lovers hard hitting, rough-hewn rawk with sweat, a little bit of an ornery mood and a dose of caffeine, and you'll be kicking up your feet and working out those kinks in no time.

Seattle blog Sound on the Sound (get what they did there?) called Constant Lovers' True Romance "one of the best albums of 2011," with one of the creepiest covers, to boot, an instantly memorable piece of art depicting a finger stuck through a stick of butter.

Constant Lovers went through some changes last year when drummer Mike Horgan moved to Chicago. (A Stranger blog poll tried to guess who would replace him, and a cat nearly won,) They come to Total Fest this year with Helms Alee's Ben Verellen on drums, along with Joel Cuplin, Eric Fisher, Gavin Tull-esterbrook. Check 'em out on Good to Die records.

Listen to Constant Lovers here.


Full disclosure: I recently organized my records, and I found a glaring hole in my vinyl collection. I do not own a single FederationX record. My computer possesses the dreaded digital versions of American Folk Horror, X Patriot, and an "unknown" folder with some indecipherable live tracks, but my shelves lack it. This I can rectify in August when Fed X graces Missoula and Total Fest yet again. It's a long, rich, exhausting history. Fed X played the inaugural Total Fest way back in 2002 (shake those cobwebs people), played TF a couple more times (2004, 2007, 2008 -- correct me, if I'm wrong on the years), as well as a host of shows here and there throughout the years. They're like our favorite cousin .... or something.

Since Fed X spread out across the country (sometime in 2004), they've been on an exceptionally frustrating intermittent touring schedule. If you've been lucky enough to catch them, then you should be done with your bucket list. Fed X has that classic sound that never sounds stale. As local connoisseur, Andy Semetanka, writes "you can drop the needle just about anywhere and feel like you’re riding the right wormhole between meat-and-potatoes ‘70s rock and a post-everything deconstruction/annihilation of same, a thick scurf of guitar grime and the industrial solvent that strips it away" (Indy 2004). Hell, there's no need to reinvent the wheel when someone else has expressed it perfectly. Similar to the review, Fed X records stand the test of time. From what I understand, Ben, Bill, and Beau are somewhat re-anchored in the Northwest. They've recently recorded a new record,We Do What We Must, that should be released this summer. If the t-shirt is any indication, the record will be a sinister, meticulous execution that will taunt your ears and recall some deeply rooted desires. (It's a kitten about to attack a dragonfly. Have you ever witnessed a cat terrorizing an insect? Enough said).

We all love power trios. Fed X is one of the top notch power trios running. We love Fed X. We know all of our total bros and total sisters love Fed X.  It's essentially rock but with that north west groove cut with a knife. Fuzzy riffs, feedback and reverb saturated vocals, punctuated by a drummer who seems to be everywhere at once, Fed X continues to stir the sludge metal cauldron with fantastic and awesomely unexpected results


If you were lucky enough to catch Brain Tumors at last year's Total Fest, then you know the chaos that this four-piece throws at you. Brain Tumors rages through some of the brashest, venomous, feedback-riddled, ass-kicking hardcore to come out in the past few years. Another band that calls Minneapolis home (what's up with the Twin Cities?), they (Drew Ailes, Patrick Dillon, Joel Gomez, and Dan Johnson) direct all of their pissed-off, sarcastic, loud, unrelenting, primal energy at everything they encounter.

That's enough, for me.

But, they don't stop there. They're straight-up performers (which sounds like a slight, but it's not). They seriously do not give a shit - everything, including themselves, is fair game. Take a glance at the tour blog, Hardly Human. It's hilarious from top to bottom, with nothing (bands, labels, bars, people, parking lots, water fountains, food, dogs, etc.) escaping Drew's scathing eye. In spite of things getting under their collective skin, Brain Tumors maintain a tongue-in cheek attitude that helps keep them fresh and entertaining. It's awesome loud, pounding stuff that doesn't allow you to be comfortable, but it also doesn't allow you to take your angst too seriously. Sure, the world is a complete mess, but walking around pissed off gets you nowhere. If you can't take the time to laugh at yourself, then you have no right to the mantra "Fuck YouForever."

Here's a live set, clocking in at 6:39:

Friday, May 10, 2013


Part of me wants to think that St. Paul's Fargo transplants Animal Lover takes its name from the Residents album of the same name. It doesn't really matter if that's the case or not, but for a band with such a wide range of influences, it's comforting to hear a band that isn't fixated on a single genre or is laboriously attempting to make sure they fit the mold of some post-something-or-other sound that is played out and simple to categorize.

To make it simple, Animal Lover is a punk/noise rock band that includes members from former Fargo ass-kickers Gumbi (Addison Shark & Nate Fisher) and Høst (Evan Bullinger). 

Thick roots. 

So good, Pitchfork didn't know what to say other than to make the easy comparison to Jesus Lizard (and by extension Pissed Jeans). Whatever. Of course the influences are there, but it's a disservice to Animal Lover to not point out the ingenuity and incredible force that their songs exhibit. I'm not saying these cats are totally re-inventing the genre or blazing completely new trails, but (I think) the long history between the members allows them to tweak the sound so it never feels forced or excessive. It pounds and pummels; the vocals and guitar muscle their way from beneath the bass and drums, only to be sucked back in. It's a fucking whirlwind. Simple.

Over their three releases, Animal Lover has tightened up their sound and polished away some of the residual rust that may have been left over from their influences. It's fierce but also contains numerous subtle changes that make them efficient but a far cry from easy comparisons and categorization. Get on board, folks. Animal Lover is going to keep pushing this until that asteroid wipes us out. Or, until they form a Who cover band.


If one were to lift the lid on a certain toilet in a certain scuzzy bathroom in a house on Fifth Street, one would see a Burn Burn Burn sticker. These Tacoma punks have already made their mark, so to speak, on Missoula, and the fellas are coming back for their very first visit to Total Fest.
If you'd like a dose of fast chords, raw vocals and whoa-oh-oh choruses, Burn Burn Burn will be your jam. I would say smarter things, maybe, but all I remember from Burn's visit to the VFW last fall was having a ridiculous evening. Beer was spilled. Dudes took their shirts off. Burn "did it with the lights on" in one of the oddest extended jokes ever.
Burn has also recorded a 7-inch split with Buddy Jackson, and perhaps that will wind its way here by August!
Check out Burn's tunes on Bandcamp.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Photo by Kia Lizak
When I first heard that Fireballs of Freedom were putting things back together, I wasn't sure what to expect. It's not like I thought the guys didn't have the chops to do it (both Kelly and the Leaders and Sammy and Lords of Falconry have played Total Fest the past couple of years), but it's been a few years since FoF "took a break." Although they had "reunited" a couple of times, my fear was that the new reality would be overshadowed by my cloudy, nostalgic memories. 

Excitement, meet pushing 40.

I didn't move to Missoula until 1998 so I can't give you all the dirt and grime that some of our fellow Missoulians can, but I was told that I must see FoF any and every time the local legends played. My neighbors were rabid fans, filling my head with tales of sweaty, drug and whiskey crazed shows, and after-hour parties that would last through the weekend. My neighbors were also kind of crazy -- one time, while playing chess on the porch, a drawer full of knives crashed through the front window. A few speared into the wood and couch, and when I looked inside, female-neighbor was rushing back to the kitchen for more things to throw and male neighbor was reaching for another baking sheet.

Good times.
Anyway, I wasn't sure I wanted to be involved with anything they were involved with. I don't remember all of the ins and outs (who opened, what songs were played, etc.) of the first FoF show that I saw, but it was one of the first times I had seen Jay's packed to the stairwell. When FoF took the stage, I had a few reservations. I lose patience with macho, bro rawk and I have less patience with gimmicks. To my delight, the gimmicks weren't present, and when Kelly Gately (Gator) launched into his dizzying verbal cadence, I knew that I was in for something more than any record could represent (and this was before the music started). Once the first drum stick hit and the guitars flexed and squealed, it went the way as any love story. I was smitten. It was loud, blitzed out, fuzzy, and raucous with some of the best showmanship that I have ever seen. There is a lot of press out there about the Fireballs, but if you're curious about more of their history, check here and here.

Fast forward to the present. I was lucky enough to catch the Fireballs reunion show when they opened up for X at Dante's in February this year. The show was sick and quickly put to rest all of my "worries."


FoF's energy was the same controlled chaos that my patchwork memory put together, but the music possessed a new level of skull swirling psych-scuzz.

Atomic Punk is back, people.

It's a no brainer for us to invite Fireballs back to Total Fest; it should be a no brainer for you to be there when they play. These cats (Kelly, Sammy, Von, and Adrian) are the real-deal. It's a flurry of guitar, drums, and vocals that push the bounds of showmanship while it blisters you with its psych-punk explosions. This space is too small to throw in all the varying stories of the past, so please feel free to add comments and anecdotes. Thankfully, FoF is a full fledged band again, and 2013 provides us a new opportunity to build new memories and friendships.

plus, Gator is wearing a Lubricated Goat shirt!