Friday, June 21, 2013


faces you can trust!

Long time supporter, awesomely rad person, and Total friend, Carly Henry, has been praising Norska for a few years now, and the stars finally aligned for this year's Total Fest.

The easy context here is to say Aaron Rieseberg (bassist of Yob) plays bass for Norska as well. It's doom sludge. Got it? Ok.

Norska isn't a simple offshoot of Yob, though. They'll both grab you by the throat, but Norska is a little more menacing, a little more monstrous in its execution. Norska's debut LP was released on Brutal Panda last September and its been garnering a solid amount of admiration. Joined by Jim Lowder, Dustin Rieseberg, and Jason Oswald, their songs are lumbering and ambitious, bursting with some tantalizing riffs but never feeling overworked or packed with unnecessary filler. A lot is packed in to each song like they're slogging through the entire genre with a razor sharp kitchen knife. It's less of a smörgåsbord of sludge metal elements than it is a well plotted pairing of metal infused power with a primal resonance. It's a strange, yet welcome and fresh decomposition of sound. As a whole, the pacing of the record is stellar, never languishing and ever frothing into an all out assault. Throw in the 13 minute slug fest "They Mostly Come at Night" and you have the makings of one killer record. The guttural and gruff vocals are as relentless as the music, growling and grinding their way deep into your gut (I should have made that an all "g" sentence). 

It's a feast for the senses. Bring your fucking bib!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


It's seems like only yesterday that I had a handful of conversations in the bathroom and in front of the VFW with the dudes who would eventually morph into the local, supergroup, behemoth known as Skin Flowers. I'd just stare at Colin, Turley, Tom, John (and eventually) Nick and think "Say what? What the hell is that going to look like?"

I was excited. It's a hefty group of musicians (not to mention perfectionists), and I couldn't wait to hear what they came up with. I'm still not quite sure what I heard. Self described as "tender ballads about passive aggressive murder, jaunty calypso numbers about deep self loathing, all this and more" with a sound ranging somewhere between Steely Dan, The Velvet Underground, and Royal Trux is somewhat adequate, but it certainly misses some of the intricate awesomeness of this band. Yeah, there's this crazy classic rock thing going on, but it's like Bizarro world classic rock. It's at times more conceptual but with an intimacy that makes your knees swoon. The melodies are kite like, softly flowing in breezy grooves and tethered to some excellent lyrics. Skin Flowers not only finds a way to mix in a variety of influences but also keeps things smart and sultry. A fine wine with no guilt. A full length velvet robe stained with a lifetime of heartache.

Supergroup is too lame of a description. What's it mean, anyway? The band members have enough to hang their collective hats on (Shahs, Vampire Hands, Oblio Joes, Secret Powers, Hellgate Stranglers, Everyday Sinners, etc.), but it's not like some Constructicon amalgamation that rests on the whims and fancies of its component egos. Colin and Nick are some deftly clever songwriters and guitarists; John is a powerhouse on bass; and, the percussion duo of Turley and Tom pump out some dreamy, dexterous beats. The stuff works. It's not your usual cup of Total Fest tea, but it does mine our collective history for the forgotten root and tendrils that continue to nourish our insatiable thirst.

Here's a Skin Flowers approved jam.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Writing about the Vile Blue Shades is as nearly a fruitless endeavor as you're really probably ever likely to get yourself into. Here's why: You either come across like an absolute dipshit in trying to explain their uh, oeuvre or you risk overstating what makes them so damn unique and awesome and kind of spoil the fact that they're not terribly well known outside of Salt Lake and Missoula. That's the dilemma I'm staring down, okay.

So now that you know that, here goes: Back in 2007 Total Fest was a mere toddler. Not quite in kindy-garten yet. Wet behind the ears and all that. Missoula lacked spots to hold big underground deals with lots of weirdos. Jay's had closed. We'd pissed off the neighbors and had the cops show up at the Legion. Weren't a great fit with the Other Side...

So, we were in desperate need of a location that wouldn't come with all the goddamn hassle. And we found it in the Missoula County Fairgrounds, smack to the east of Malfunction Junction. The Llama Barn, to be exact. We didn't get hassled by neighbors that year, but the price of renting the place was too high, and we had to carry our own event insurance, so when it came to dividing what we'd earned from passes bands should've gotten paid a lot more than we ended up paying 'em. Coulda-woulda-shoulda in retrospect, lots of things to have done differently, but those are the main facts. That we're still friends with most of the people that played that year I think is a testament to what makes Total Fest a unique deal. We've come a long way since then. Have a better home in downtown Missoula, and have grown steadily since that year.

Ryan Jensen, picture by Maddie Magdalene.
Anyhow, that year, while it came with its challenges, Total Fest V was the Missoula debut of Vile Blue Shades and it would mark a pretty regular, probably semi-annual trek that the roughly 12 or 13 members of the band would make up to Missoula to blow our minds with their enveloping, rhythmic sex-boogie whateveritis. That pretty regular trek up to Missoula ended just about a full five years ago, at some point in 2008 with one of the few out of town shows they played behind the John Thursday California Adventure LP that Wantage put out.

Vile Blue Shades at Total Fest V.
That they'd lasted that long always kind of baffles me. The sheer logistical challenges of getting together the 12 people (several drummers, bassist, guitarists, singer, dancer) that make up the band always seemed to be looming as the most likely reason they'd end. Luckily, with members like Eli from the Wolfs and the 8ctopus record label, Terence from Red Bennies and Shane, the band seemed actually to function pretty well for a decent chunk of time. They recorded an amazing piece of work in their John Thursday LP and a couple of other good full-lengths and singles, put on some incredible shows and blew all kinds of minds in the process. The lyrics are foul,they've got a dancer named Meg who's typically underdressed. Ryan's a wild man. It's just a whole spectacle of a deal, and I think better to kind of leave it with this. When we saw they were doing a reunion show this fall at the Urban Lounge in Salt Lake, we decided we'd give Eli a call and try to convince them to com up to Missoula to hang for Total Fest. Lo and behold, voila, etc.: Vile Blue (fucking) Shades. Big ol' thanks to Zombie Tools for some extra-special sponsorship on this one.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Missoula’s Vera is one of those bands whose sound hits me square in the gut--unexpected, seemingly out of nowhere, and absolutely welcome. They were a band I’d heard about for a while, but any number of glowing compliments bestowed upon them did not prepare me for how engaged I would be by Vera’s actual music. In what is perhaps a failed attempt to avoid hyperbole, I am--ahem--quite partial to bands like Vera--bands who imagine the 20th century pop-rock spectrum in fluid terms, you know, kind of like a big ol’ weird, drippy finger painting. This is, I think, the way most music should be approached: a demented but necessary burst of creative force using as many colors as possible.  

And it’s not that Vera’s music sounds childish or naive-- it’s way too precise for that. It is, however, exuberant and youthful as all get out. Never seeming slapdash or chaotic, there are so many WTF twists and turns in Vera’s songs that a strange internal logic begins to formulate about midway through a live set: it gets easier to see how one might draw a line from the glammed-up choogle of Slade to the icy harmonies of The Ronettes; the odd, chromatic music-hall of The Kinks (at their most sonically-sarcastic) starts to sound like a natural compliment to The Pixies (at their most bombastically earnest); it’s the sunny pop of The Go-Go’s as played by Wire. Yeah, these unlikely combinations might cause a bit of cognitive dissonance for the suspicious reader, but that’s the mark of a great band: where others see conflict, Vera sees connection.

Like too many excellent local bands, Vera’s live show has progressed beyond where their discography leaves off. It’s not that their old stuff is shabby by any means, but if my descriptions above leave you scratching your chin, it’s because I’m responding to the tunes employed in their current setlist. To put it another way: the new stuff is, like, totally next level, man. I know that is really unfair of me, but it’s also all the more reason to catch them at Total Fest this year. In the immortal musing of LeVar Burton, don’t take my word for it (but in all seriousness, do take my word for it). 

Listen to Vera here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Guantanamo Baywatch returns to Total Fest this year, bringing more of its trademark garage-scuffed surf pop to a Missoula stage. The perfect tunes for lying around the house on a summer day feeling "heartbroken yet groovy," as one reviewer (ahem) wrote in the Independent back before Total Fest XI last year. It's also good for hanging out in the sauna-like atmosphere of Zoo City Apparel with a Pabst.

photo by Tim Goessman

We're pleased to have these Portland partiers back in town, and look forward to enjoying Guantanamo Baywatch's surf vibes in another delightful venue!

Listen to 'em here.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Always a Missoula favorite, Ben, Dana and Hoz of Helms Alee will return to perform at Total Fest XII this August. A unique, triumphant beast of a band, the trio are capable of bringing both bludgeoning and surprisingly calming sounds to their dynamic music. Seeping through the thick, syrupy and heavy bits are whole lot of beautiful pieces of melody, both musically and vocally, which sets them apart from many bands making heavy music today.

Following up their 2011 album Weatherhead, Helms Alee are currently at work on their third full length Sleepwalking Sailors which they successfully crowd-funded earlier this year (see the amazing video below). If all goes well we'll get to hear some of the new tracks from this forthcoming album in August. In the meantime, you can stream tracks from previous releases on their Bandcamp page.


Set to play Total Fest XII, Orange County, California's Media Blitz deliver a blast of raging, thrashy punk and hardcore, with no song over 2 minutes and definitely no shortage of riffs or ripping solos. This young group is fronted by one hell of a frontman, whose snotty, angry delivery is reminiscent of Calfornia punk bands from yester year. And I'd like to believe that perhaps the band is named after the Germs song of the same name. Darby would be proud.

Their recent full length Burn the World is a great introduction to the band's pissed off, explosive hardcore. The LP can be streamed in full on their Bandcamp page.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Each year Total Fest inundates us with 3 days of bands, various "after-parties", sun, river, beer, records, and BBQs.  The pace is fast and loud.  
run between venues, arms covered with paper wristbands, not thinking about the world beyond music.
On the fourth day I am inevitably exhausted, sore, hung-over, bruised and smelly, but totally satisfied.  However, more often than not I have only dim recollections of the previous three days.  
Thank them.  
Instead of being a human PBR sprinkler or dancing, they watch bands through a tiny camera lens so that later, once the hang-over has lifted, we can relive the energy through their stills.  Tim Goessmann documents the event for its unique mission, attitude, and creative energy. 

"I enjoy photographing people doing what they love. That's what Total Fest is all about. The cool, the strange, the introverted and the outspoken all coming together for three glorious days of chaos and music. I ran from venue to venue photographing all I could in the most honest way I knew. I worked frantically to capture as many bands as possible because I know each and every one of them worked harder to get there. I respect people who take matters into their own hands regardless of the commercial and cultural barriers set before them. The kind of people who would share their art with the world on their own terms, the kind of people that make Total Fest the amazing three days it is. My photographs attempt to capture the excitement of something that's truly Montanan and truly awesome".

I've picked some of my favorite photos of Tim's from last year at Total Fest Xl.



Friday, June 7, 2013


It takes something very special to stop a room full of sweaty weirdos dead in their tracks. Scott Seckington's Sedan possesses the uncanny ability to compose hypnotic, robust, heavy, piano arrangements that sit somewhere between horror film and chamber music.

It's hard to describe. 

The chord choices are subtle and unsettling, but it's also oddly affirming. Like a lot of things, you get out of it what you bring to it, and there's definitely some ambient, negative poetics going on in here, but I don't think you can simply classify it as something ominous or as some sad, spiral into darkness. Maybe limbo. Maybe purgatory. But Scott's compositions never feel like he's resigned himself to the descent. There's some awesome fight going on in here, some raw energy that's herded and corralled, molded into a series of tiny explosions that, ultimately, burn away that despondent nightmare of existence. It's the type of music I hear when I read Melville or Kafka or Beckett. Sure there's the ubiquitous existential crisis swirling through it, but it never succumbs to its own bleakness. 

There's joy in nothingness -- an unbridled curiosity and imaginative landscape continually reinventing itself.

Dance on the dead man's ashes and all that. 

Sit back to this one

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Dog Shredder hail from lovely Bellingham, Washington.

Described as "prog-metal freakazoids" by Pitchfork, Dog Shredder deliver a blast of technical metal that almost veers into cacophony before returning to pummeling hardcore beats. Like the best stunt drivers, these fellas look like everything is about to explode, but they're totally in control.

Total Fest is proud to welcome them to our fair burg this year. Listen to a sample of Dog Shredder's album and EP on Bandcamp.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


I love that there's a great noise rock band from Atlanta, Georgia called Hawks. Mostly because I expect Dominique "Nique" Wilkins to be bustin' glass backboards to these tunes, I guess. Or, you know, Spud Webb to be making a beautiful assist as these ugly-ass, self described "pigfuck" (Cosloy's word for Big Black, I think) jams roll out.

Hawks newest Kyle Spence- (Harvey Milk) recorded self-titled 7" comes as close to a middle-1990s a vibe as you're likely to find this side of E. Lansing, Champagne-Urbana, the Trance Syndicate Label or where else... Gabe's Oasis on a Wednesday. We know about them because the excellent Learning Curve (Blind Shake, Seawhores, Gay Witch Abortion, etc. etc.) put out an LP and recommends 'em heavily. Hell, fact is if Nelson or who else, Hanson had ever
opened for Scratch Acid, we'd probably pay a little more attention to figuring their deal out.

But what's their deal, anyway? What's the deal with Hawks? Like the band says on their webpage, it's easy to figure out the influences, just listen for about what, 25 seconds. We hear stuff like Steel Pole Bathtub, and the earlier Mark Shippy stuff. We're convinced, man.