Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mikki's Top 10 for Total Fest

Mikki Lunda's Top 10-ish bands she's most excited to see at Total Fest XIII:

(in particular order)

1. Greco- Fri. 8pm, Palace
I hear from a reliable source that he wears a full-body-tiger-print-cat-suit, when he plays live.  And he's a bigger shameless self promoter than I am. All of his songs are about how rad he is.
[Editor's Note: You can listen to a couple of his tracks here at the Total Fest band camp.]

2. Obnox- Thurs. 9:15, ZACC
Dane Hansen (Bad Naked) told me "you can't miss this set."

3. Shannon & the Clams- Thur. 10:45pm, ZACC
I love this band's live energy. I've seen them bunches of times and they still made my top 3, that's saying something.

4. Underground Railroad to Candyland- Fri. 9:45pm, Palace
Last month I played with these guys in Pomona, CA. They are a party on stage, super fun to watch and are super tight. (multiple drummers)

5. j sherri- Sat. 12pm, Big Dipper
I'm just going to come right out and say it. These hotties have been my favorite local band for the last 2 years. I'm stoked to see them in the HOT HOT summer sun while licking a melty ice cream.

6. Woolen Men- Thur. 8pm, ZACC
I've never seen them live, but I NEED YOU TO KNOW: I really dig their sound.

7. Toupee- Sat. 8pm, Badlander
My pop idol, Richard Album, was in town last week and he said "in Chicago, anyone with our musical integrity will have this band on their list of favorites". I trust that.

8. Dreamsalon- Fri. 10pm, Palace
I've never seen them live, but I NEED YOU TO KNOW: I really dig their sound.

9. Kitten Forever, Sat. 10:15pm, Badlander
This band does it right. How they figured out how to transition instruments like that, is a straight up miracle.

10. Wimps- Sat. 9:15pm, Badlander
I've never seen them live, but I NEED YOU TO KNOW: I really dig their sound.

11. Dear Rabbit- Sat. 12:35pm, Big Dipper
Love his stage persona, he has a great booming voice and I'm impressed by people who can play 2 instruments at once. (Accordion/ trumpet)

12. Chemical Lawns- Fri. 8pm, Badlander
Another of my FAV locals.

Wowie, I can't wait to see all these amazing bands and more!
See you all there!
- Mikki "internet" Lunda

Check out Kate's Top 10 for Total Fest over at Missoula Punk News and Tom "T. Money" Helgerson's Top 10 over at Weird Missoula.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Any band that self applies the term "dirt rock" is okay in our book, and Chicago, IL's Lil Tits are one (and maybe the only) such band. They're touring with Toupee out to Total Fest.

Their tunes remind me of Julia Cafritz, Kim Gordon, and stuff like Ciccone Youth and Pussy Galore. Aggressive, cruddy and totally blasting.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


I swear it wasn't intentional, but we've seemed to hold off til the end on announcing the bands with the most ridiculous names. Rounding out the last few of our Total Fest performers are Portland's GAYTHEIST.

The amazingly named trio comes from Good to Die Records, the Seattle-based clearing house for the heavy sounds of the Northwest that has brought us TF vets like Sandrider and Constant Lovers. If the name wasn't an indication of their commitment to the absurd, these guys are a pretty off-the-wall bunch set on ruining your day.

A frenzy of maniacal drumming, guitar wizardry, and a hysteric, foul-mouthed (though very well-dressed) vocalist, Gaytheist churns out songs like "Post Apocalyptic Lawsuit" and "Wisdom of the Asshole" that have this whole Big Biz meets a 4-pack of Sparks and a packet of Pop Rocks sort of vibe. It's too bad that Fantasy for Adults on Main isn't on our list of venues for this year - it might just be the perfect place to witness this madness go down. Our whole all ages thing might be a problem though, so you kids will just have to settle for the Palace.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Seattle, Warshington's He Whose Ox Is Gored may have the single most unwieldy name this side of Kowloon Walled City, but that hasn't stopped a molecule's worth of their ever-forward, momentous, dense and complex and alternatingly heavy, intricate, doomy and combination-of-those-elements output from laying waste to town after-town, like some kind of a tornado that just passed over a lead shot factory, or something.

My god is this stuff just aggro. And in a good, Jon Weisnewski/Nat Damm, kind of way. I think about Akimbo when I hear this stuff, even if it's not exactly the same vibe, it's that same type of tightness and intensity that I think's gonna be a huge treat to rage with on a Saturday night.

Dave Segal wrote a nice piece about the band here, for the Stranger. Some notes about He Whose Ox Is Gored:

1) This band officially gets the blue ribbon for persistence and patience with us at the sprawling suburban office complex that houses Total Fest. Our wait list was packed with awesome bands this year (as it always is) and our typical plan is that we hear from bands pretty soon after announcing them that somebody's quit, or their ability to tour just got upended because of a wedding or something. This year was different, and the space we typically have free up didn't occur. He Whose Ox kept in touch, booked shows on all but the final day, and even printed posters with the words Total Fest on 'em before we'd inked the deal. Remember we do this thing in our un-copious free time, and our (okay, my) communication could be better.

2) They seem to be playing at least two places with the word "shred" in the name on this tour. Apparently both Boise and Salt Lake are shred-friendlier than I would've guessed.

3) Paul was supposed to write this.  -JV

Monday, August 4, 2014


such gnar. very core.
Billings duderuses Megagiant are here, just in time to crush Total Fest!

And by crush, I mean, like, play power-pop and be genial and goofy, 'cause that's just how these dudes (Nels, Austin, Kelly and Caleb) roll. As I said elsewhere: "Megagiant's new album, Today (And Every Day), recorded in Missoula at Club Shmed, features fittingly big-ass power chords and butt-kicking riffy numbers, with a vibe that reminds me of Weezer. There's no Rivers Cuomo-style obnoxiousness here, though, since Megagiant has the benefit of La Croix's poppy vocals, which fans of Noise will recall fondly."

 I sort of wish these dudes would ditch Billings and play here more often. But it's okay--Billings probably needs them more, whether anyone there appreciates 'em or not. (KW)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Tim Midyett (L) and Andy Cohen (R) of Bottomless Pit, and Silkworm
Tim Midyett's (formerly Midgett) music first came onto my sonar in any kind of real way in 1994 when Silkworm's In The West LP was released by the C/Z record label. C/Z had some bandwidth, and the 90s were definitely a decade when labels and engineers mattered. I had had the Treepeople's C/Z-released Time Whore/Something Viscious For Tomorrow cassette stuck in my Civic's tape deck for about sixteen mostly high school months and had positive associations with the label. I also read the music-focused (pre-Stranger) Rocket, which I think came out weekly, and kept dorkily close tabs on who was putting out what with what label for about three or four years. Strangely I remember hoping Silkworm would sound something like Treepeople did, consciously knowing that was a ridiculous thing to hope for. Of course, other than being an underground band from the northwest with guitars, drums, bass and vocals, there weren't any similarities. In The West was recorded by Steve Albini and I was stoked about how Steve made recordings sound, and so I bought the CD. My favorite track was about Missoula, and it was (and continues to be) a great song. Also, it rhymes "half racks" and "railroad tracks," and it's one of Tim's songs.

Silkworm probably occupy the space of The Most Famous Band To Come From Missoula, Montana. Which, you know... is  pretty sparse competition. They got called things like "thinking man's grunge" by hacky journalists unclear on how to categorize them. They started here, kind of grew out of the high school art/punk group Ein Heit, and then quickly moved to Seattle and eastward to Chicago and left a ten-LP catalog recorded over eighteen years, and released by labels like Touch and Go and Matador. About a year ago, a good documentary called Couldn't You Wait came out and it tells the simultaneously fascinating, sad and hopeful story of the band. It's totally worth a watch.

So that's a long way around to say that we're excited to announce Mint Mile, the solo/acoustic project by Tim Midyett. Following Silkworm, Midyett's kept busy with his other band Bottomless Pit, barbecue rubs, his family and day job. Mint Mile Plays Saturday, August 16th at the Badlander.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


This Sunday, July 27th from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM Missoula's Biga Pizza holds its annual Total Feast
which helps cover costs of making Total Fest all-ages. $12 covers all the pizza and salad you should eat. VFW's providing overflow seating so don't worry about spots to sit.

Total Feast also marks the final day that Total Fest passes can be purchased for $50, after July 27th, pass prices go up to $55.

Friday, July 11, 2014


One of my first experiences hearing KBGA radio was Dirty Flannel, Shramana guitarist Reggie Herbert's Thursday evening show which offers up a heaping serving of doom and gloom. I'll admit, it is quite refreshing to turn on the radio when I'm working around the house on a Thursday night and be like, "Woah, sweet, Weedeater is on the radio." If we're in need of some cilantro or extra quinoa or some other ingredient for a Thursday night's dinner, I will enthusiastically volunteer to go on a grocery run so I can cruise around town to the tunes of Saviours, Inter Arma, Sleep or whatever Reggie happens to be playing during his weekly slot. I find some near-end-of-the-work-week personal joy driving down Higgins, past the line at Big Dipper and families walking their dogs and Chariot strollers, amped up on whatever d-beat hardcore/doom/sludge/black metal awesomeness happens to blasting on the Dirty Flannel playlist.

It's pretty apparent that Shramana's Reggie, Duane and Levi share a passion for all things heavy, from their radio shows and promotion of local punk and metal shows to their involvement playing in Shramana. Firmly rooted in punk rock, they 'get' the Total Fest thing and have certainly struck a chord with many of us around these parts. In past few years since they started playing on local show bills, they've evolved significantly, dialing in their instrumentation and focusing that guttural raw thunder to a finely-tuned gritty, syrupy mix of sludge, hardcore and atmospheric metal. Their recent EP, Toska shows the current direction of this exciting young Missoula band and where they're heading. We're excited to have Shramana on board for Total Fest XIII and look forward to sharing them with our out of town friends.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Fresh off their sophmore release, Fresh Hell, Houston's Omotai is poised to continue shredding ear holes and lacerating flesh for years to come.

Let's pause at Houston. I've only been to Houston twice, and, frankly, I hated it. I'm not a fan of Texas, humidity, or restaurants that reply with "there's no need" when I ask about vegetarian options. That said, Houston is also a funky place. It's like a damp Billings or Calagary in some respects. This is all anecdotal, but the bro-petro-testo-sphere never sat well with me. It's an oddly pretty city, though, with a circular skyline, riverwalk, general spaciness, and those pesky Astros. Admittedly, I carry some hefty baggage when I think about Houston, but Omotai stole our collective hearts when they played Total Fest in 2011.

Spend sometime on the interwebs, and you're bound to come across comparisons to Mastadon, Kylesa, etc., but it's short lived for me. The new album breaks away from the stoner-sludge and injects the metal with some hardcore and thrash elements that help twist their songs into something more tangential and twisted than a point-by-point movement through the compositions. There's so many elements mixed in that you can forget you're listening to the same record. Now that they're a four piece, Omotai find more ways to layer each song, mutating into spacey-prog-thrash-thunder-chunky-melodic metal that translates into serene, mouthwatering, bone rattling, addictive funtasticness.

The only live set I've seen of them was a dizzying mess of technical sorcery. It punches you at the right time, leads you when you need it most, and tramples you in a way only a loving stampede could. Stampede may not be fair. There's more deliberateness than blind ferocity; it's ambitious and raucous, and we're pleased as hell to have them back. Prepare to melt.


Being as omnivorous as Total Fest aspires to be can be a tricky thing because you've got the heavy music dudes for whom the pop, melody and rock and roll is for some weird reason offensive, and the garage nobs who turn nose up at anything not wearing a Levi's jean vest and Ray Bans and a Burger Records shirt, and you know, all the little stuff like that that can bum a guy out. For the most part, however, we really like to think of the average Total Fest attendee like an Adam Noble Bass type. Adam's a Seattlite who has a voracious appetite for music, and I'm sure he's got his favorite stuff, but he's also the kind of guy who can just be straight up stoked about whatever you put in front of him, provided it's done with guts and integrity. Good music has a way of providing some universal language.

So, an announcement like Obnox for us is obviously a pretty special thing because it kind of encapsulates Total Fest's omnivorous vibe in a single, seriously fucking excellent group. Bim Thomas has been playing in great, weird groups for years.  Some of my favorites are the Bassholes and Puffy Aereolas. Here's a decent write up. The music Obnox makes isn't really a fusion deal, no Thai pizza or Italian burrito or whatever. Rather, it's music that comes fully alive with the crud guitar, hard-hit drums, waves of rhythm and certainly some things like hip hop and experimental music, but mostly just one guy's ever changing set of ideas about how to write real music.

I need to credit former KBGA 89.9 FM music director and DJ Dane Hansen for introducing me to Obnox through the playlist at the station, and probably for introducing a burned CDR of about 5 7"s and some records directly into my hand, actually).

Without Dane, no Obnox. Thanks, Dane. Obnox plays Total Fest's opener at the Zootown Arts Community Center on Thursday, August 14.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Rounding out the last couple additions to the Total Fest XIII roster, we're proud to announce that Portland's LORD DYING will be performing this year. With a pedigree that includes TF vets Black Elk and Le Force, this Missoula favorite has turned more than a few heads in the metal scene over the past three years through their superb and frightening live show, seething with intense riffage, relentless headbanging, and fist-pumping goodness.

Last year saw the the release of their debut LP, Summoning the Faithless, and the band has been trekking the country non-stop in support of the release. We're stoked to welcome them back through Missoula and hope you are as well.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Chemical Lawns, actual live picture. Sweet, right?
The clusterfuck psych punk of Chemical Lawns owes debts to Mike Rep and probably his Quotas, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Roky Erickson and Billy Gibbons, I think. Something about the name "Chemical Lawns" immediately takes me to the sonic plane of the Moving Sidewalks and 13th Floor Elevators occupied, that kind of a blown-out, mid-tempo late '60s psilocybin Texan vibe.

Members of: Mordecai, Ex-Cocaine, Poor School, Skin Flowers. Some of Missoula's and Butte's I guess, finest. Really had to try hard to not have our headline read: "MY CHEMICAL LAWNMANCE" or "THE CHEMICAL (LAWN) BROTHERS..."  You know, because that's the kind of witty wordplay you deserve, bro.

No internet presence. Playing Total Fest XIII.

Monday, June 30, 2014


Lenguas Largas
Tucson is one of those "It's the water" kinds of places for me, like Olympia and Tumwater, like Bellingham, San Pedro and Missoula. It's kind of a second-tier city in terms of size, but extremely fertile where the excellent underground and punk bands are concerned. Of course I kind of default to some of my all-time favorites like the outsider metal of Last of the Juanitas, and the forlorn country of Miss Lana Rebel, but you've also got The Pork Torta (who describe themselves as like E.S.G. and Thin Lizzy), Swing Ding Amigos (a raging fast Latin punk band) Shark Pants and Lenguas Largas in pretty recent memory. What's kind of special about all those groups is how uniquely they each own a sound. So, I attribute that to a town with something going on, and thus the "it's the water..." quote up there.

Lenguas Largas are the band that's playing Total Fest XIII this August, if that got lost up there. And to say I'm excited about that is kind of underplaying the significance of getting Lenguas Largas onto our bill. This band is one of those deeply-marinated in music sets of lifer musician guys, kind of like the Arrivals (who's new group Treasure Fleet is also playing) a couple of years ago. They just exude great tunes and play with the kind of shared band DNA that only comes with a longer commitment. They're part of the Recess tour with the Underground Railroad to Candyland and Treasure Fleet and White Night. Isaac Reyes from Swing Ding Amigos sings and plays guitar in Lenguas Largas, and he's got one of those super memorable voices and styles, like Todd Congelliere and David Merriman, Isaac Thotz that just helps you have a good day, regardless of what might have happened. I'll be up front for this. (Josh Vanek)


Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I've been a fan of Mikki "internet" Lunda's bands since the shreeks and hammering on sheet metal of Knot Knocked Up about... 8 or 9 years ago. Few bands have driven people from a room like Knot Knocked Up. They made Teenage Jesus seem like a pretty band in lots of ways. Since then, Mikki's had (at least) Fag Rag, Needlecraft and now this group called Pancakes.

If you listen to that set of bands, it's noticeable how much much prettier and melodic her tunes have gotten over time. And that's not to say the music's become commercial, it's just that in the scheme of things, you wouldn't really have picked Mikki from Knot Knocked Up to be in Pancakes. Which is what it is, you know, but I just kind of like that fact.

Part of what's nice about Mikki's approach to making art is that she takes it on the road regularly, and gets the importance of playing for people outside of Missoula. But likewise she's rooted here, has friends and family and works at a good place, and as far as we know, she doesn't have the urge to move away from Missoula, with its perennial young person swap meet vibe and all the rest of our town's bummer aspects. Uh, yeah. But what's the do with Pancakes? Well, it's pretty rooted in 80s technology and that kind of generic 808 drum machine + keyboards deal permeates their jamz. Their absolute hit is called Mutual Ex-Boyfriend. It's a fucking gem of a tune and were they an LA band it might easily have done some time on KROQ, bro. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I'll be exploring two themes for this write up here: 1) lighting and 2) lycra.

I'm a sucker for a light show, so long as it relies mostly on crazy-ass spasm-inducing disco strobes, primarily. Nothing's worse than a not-very-nimble "now the singer is green" light rig. More like, "who gives enough of a fuck that a green light shone on a singer is somehow part of the budget for this show" which is typically what I end up asking about things like bad rock band lighting in 2014. But, all that to say, JonnyX and the Groadies, (JonnyX is correctly spelled, thanks) used a strobe masterfully, last time I saw them. Their intense blasts of spasmodic hardcore cum black metal just work really nicely with a strobe light that makes your eyes twitch.

Next up, lycra, the synthetic polymer skin-substitute that comes in all manner of shimmery colors and is worn professionally by cyclists and few others non-ironically. Nate Groadies is one of those rare dudes who can (unironically) step into a pair of lycra trousers, or a full body suit (I think) and proceed to rage bass.

Self-propelled Groad-Mobile
If you were around in the summer of 2004, you might have been lucky enough to see JonnyX and the Groadies at Jay's Upstairs with Sasshole, or at the all-ages (then, just) Total Fest matinee at the Boys and Girls Club on South Higgins. It was kind of a special deal, as I remember. They didn't, and really don't, tour per se. Just weren't interested in that part of being in a band. Anyhow, what the Groadies did do was twist off some completely intense and excellent keyboard/drum machine, guitar, bass and screams punk rock music. Think of Ghengis Tron, a little Lightning Bolt, maybe some ... er, Dimmu Borgir or something. Shit was so great. In 2010 they released their first LP of a roughly (then) fifteen year career. It's called "the Upheaval on Titan" and is excellent too. And, just last year, when two great defunct bands like Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live and the Need get together for a couple show,  guess who's on the Portland bill? JX:ATG, brah!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Dear Rabbit is the one man band of Rence Liam. The music is timeless, his voice bombastic. The lyrics can be sweet, sad and fun. It's hard for me to put into a descriptive phrase, because it is truly unique and beautiful. And he can play the accordion and trumpet at the same time. Highly impressive. 

Dear Rabbit has been on tour for most of the 3 years I've known him. He is the kind of prolific touring musician I wish I could be. He even made the best of it when he got trapped here during our crazy blizzard this winter, playing 6 shows in 5 days.I'm so excited to have Rence join us for Total Fest XIII. I never get sick of seeing him play and always look forward to hearing what new songs he has to share with us.
Fuckin' snow.


Monday, June 16, 2014


This Friday, Total Fest is presenting a Pre-Blaster event that's a bit different from what we've done in the past. It goes without saying that all shows are "talent shows"--in the most literal sense, individuals displaying their talent--though not the kind of talent shows many of us remember from our grade school days. In the interest of shaking things up, this shindig will be a little closer to the tap-dance, juggling, singing-a-Disney-tune variety. This certainly levels the playing field: anyone and everyone is welcome to participate regardless of whether their talent is musical or not (I will be reciting the collected lyrics of Linkin Park). There will be a panel of "celebrity" judges (no actual celebrities), and loads of excellent prizes (actually excellent prizes, too, including a guitar donated by the one and only Abe Colely, cables from Rattle Snake Cable Company, and more!).

It all gets rolling at the Mill (1301 Scott Street) with registration at 7pm, and the talent show beginning at 8. Don't forget to bring friends and enough talent to share!

Sunday, June 15, 2014


The most important thing you need to know about j sherri is; you will want to smoke a blunt and make-out with who ever is around after you see them play. I always do, so come prepared.
j sherri is HOT. I feel almost like a proud aunt announcing their addition to the Total Fest XIII line up. Because Baby, this band has come a long way. They've lost and added members in the last year, rolled with the punches and come out standing solid.
Depending on the night/their mood/the show/who's in the band, they can have a completely different sound. Something I'm not sure they realize is a skill most musicians in our peer group would love to have(I'm projecting).
j sherri isn't afraid to try new things/new songs/new instruments. Even if it's for the 1st time and in front of an audience. For that, I admire their BALLZ.


After their first couple of songs, Missoula's BOYS--not to be confused with these Boys or these Boys--took a moment out of their set to ask the crowd if the vocal effects were too much and if they should turn them off. As it was my first time seeing them, I didn't know how intense the effects were supposed to be, so like any good show-goer, I responded the only way I knew how: turn them effects up, dudes. To my recollection, no such accommodation was made.

This was a few years back, when Boys was a three piece. They had a lean, semi-muscular San-Fran-garage-rennaissance thing going, and I could glean that their band name was not attempting to be a particularly clever play on their physicality. Boys indeed, but ones that already had an idea of where they wanted to go with their song-writing and sonic personality. If the vocal effects indicated anything, it was that they wanted to carve out a niche for themselves amongst the bands they admired and had inspired them: their fraternal name twins, Girls, or the astonishingly prolific Ty Segal. Big, bright, hooky guitars, melodic bass playing and the kind of drumming perfect for pogo-ing or bobbing your head (actions you chose depending on your own proximity to boyhood--as a non gender specific temporal designation).

But in particular, what stood apart from the music were the actual vocals. Buried under chorus and delay, the singing displayed a real knack for tonal nuance and distinctive phrasing that most bands in their early stages rarely achieve. It was almost as if Boys' singer, Kale, had entrenched his voice firmly under the influence of 80s brit-pop crooners (paging Adam Ant). With no bloozey howling or overtly masculine showboating present, the vocal effects didn't seem like an attempt to "weird" up the sound so much as a very conscious, aesthetic call back to the foggy sensuality of the New Romantics. There was, after all, a beating heart calling out from under that billowing sheet.

Years have come and gone, and though Boys have remained suitably boy-like--despite growing older themselves and adding a fourth member (bringing their collective age to somewhere around 90 as opposed to the more boy-ish range of 65)--their ability to craft and communicate compelling music has only matured. Best of all, it's a collective showing, in which the band has caught up with its early aspirations. With each release, those Boys venture further and further away from the starting point of rehashing a very specific regional movement by incorporating more non-rock elements and allowing their melodic and rhythmic idiosyncrasies guide the sound rather than tugging against it.

Nowhere is this more obvious than on the song, "Breaking Sad," whose title only slightly distracts from its brilliantly cluttered opening arrangement. Sure, there are still aspects of their early material--which arrive promptly at the 1:27 mark--but also, a more pronounced, 80s, paisley underground thing happening. Like a heavily caffeinated Genesis P-Orrdidge brattily barking over an early Psychic TV that only wrote songs like "Godstar" with faux-calypso cadences and a deep need for speed--chemical or otherwise. You're probably not going to encounter any esoteric Euro-mysticism in the music of Boys, nor will you find that they've embraced acid house from seemingly out of nowhere on their next release, nor will you read about their lead singer suing Rick Rubin after nearly dying in a fire at the famed producer's mansion. Well, maybe. I try to make a point not to predict the future.

One future I can predict with a fair amount of certainty is that Boys will be playing this year's Total Fest, and you will have the chance to confirm or deny whether the ecstasy-soaked specter of acid-house has begun to creep into their music.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Any band that has an artist manifesto is something to pay attention to in my book. Maybe you're familiar with Han Bennink and maybe you're not (and if these cats didn't smuggle their band name from his gem, I'm a bigger idiot than I think I am), but his musical compositions always tickle me. There's an odd comfort to his solipsism.

Hawaii's Nerve Beats challenge self-imposed limitations, massaging out some percussion based odysseys that, for my money, offer a musical equivalent to a Borges short or a Benjamin essay: structure is acknowledged only to upend it in the margins and hidden spaces.

Too much?

Perhaps, but the Mike Watt styling reworked with a beatnik (in a good way) experimentation serves up some deliciousness. I like the word succulent. I don't use it often enough, but the connotations are brilliant. Nerve Beats are ripe with temptation -- an absolute reservoir of tonality. Moist and juicy, their recordings experiment with every configuration one can compile given the horizons they erect. The game, however, isn't fixed as, with any horizon, it shifts as you move within it. Decidedly minimalist in their approach, Nerve Beats tease out enough possibility that proves the rule that the contradictions exist within the structure. Deconstruction is a heavy term, riddled with enough baggage to keep you perpetually cycling through a Kafka-esque dreamscape. The joy, however, has always been when the system outruns its limits, when theory can't keep up with practice. Behold, a rupture! The static becomes dynamic; the minimal becomes complex; the familiar becomes strange.

Or something.

It's an impressive undertaking, and, to my mind, Nerve Beats not only accomplish what they set out to do but also rework the notion of progression by swaddling it in repetition. Utilizing jazz concepts is a tricky dance, but these cats find a way to center it while not appearing to control its development. Sure, one can argue, they allow the rules of the game to actuate the result, but the details of the journey are what piece together the narrative. It's succinct, disjointed symmetry that uses all the tools of concision against itself. 


Do you remember when Triclops! played Total Fest VII? They're one of my all time favorite acts. It was strange and somehow accomplished merging punk and prog into something that worked beyond belief. That album still sits as part of my monthly rotation. It was a bummer when they called it quits, but out of those ashes formed Peace Creep. Although the sound is fairly different, it's equally successful. They describe their sound in a series of playful hypotheticals: "WHAT IF Neil Young were on SST records wearing a dress onstage while playing Meat Puppets/Dinosaur Jr/SNFU covers. WHAT IF Hawkwind/Husker Du decided it would boost each other's careers to do songwriter workshops in tropical locations. WHAT IF San Francisco was still really cheap to live in and Hickey, Jerry Garcia, Gary Floyd and Steel Pole Bathtub all shared a practice space and recorded everything, " Peace Creep covers that ground as well as a vast array of terrain that feels more like a frantic, crack fueled Johnny Appleseed reaping his rewards than any itinerary with a planned return trip. There are landmarks, but everything is so blurry and frenzied that all you can do is hold on and hope that the landscape stabilizes just enough that you gain a vague sense of orientation.

They're long time rockers with a few excellent projects, in addition to Triclops!, under their belts (Anywhere, Pins of Light, and Bottles And Skulls to name a few) and recently released a record on Alternative Tentacles (a small label you may have heard of). It's an exuberant and thoughtful affair that exploits the raw energy of punk while mixing in psychedelic overtones, a banquet of guitar riffs, and enough sludge filled tempos to keep you happy and wanting more. I've only been stalked by a mountain lion once, and it was one of the most disorienting feelings I've ever had. Circling across the trail, lurking in the early evening shadows, appearing to keep its distance as it closed ground. I'm not saying Peace Creep establishes a predator / prey relationship, but their songs keep you on your toes, guiding you into the oblivion of shared experiences that shatter your locus of perception. The uncertainty is wonderful once you're not eviscerated and you find the comfort of something familiar. In a way, Peace Creep uses music to offer up a series of questions and decidedly refuses to provide answers, challenging you to fill in the gaps to determine what it is you've actually witnessed. There's a moment of rage involved when you fail to sculpt meaning, but it's also a welcome reconfiguration of the boundaries you erect. Stability is a proven facade, and Peace Creep assaults it with a polymorphous zeal that dismantles the scaffolding.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


In punk rock it's so goddamned often about pedigree that you wonder what the first bands talked about.
And for a type of music that's supposed to be about subversion, nonconformity, reinvention and creating new shit, it's sometimes so rooted in the past that it seems totally conservative by a lot of measures. So we'll try to honor the fact that great bands exist, have existed and will exist, that bands come and go with pretty solid regularity and change is the only constant, man. Not trying to get to heavy here, but I don't want this piece about Portland's Recessions to be all about Disgruntled Nation, Ass-End Offend, or Squalora, all of which should offer plenty of reasons for punk  and hardcore fans around here to go nuts.

Recessions are a new band with Dan Lawlor, Brent Shultz and Tom Elston, all former Flatheaders, former Missoulians, former, former former... there it is again! They just self-released a great cassette tape recorded at Buzz or Howl by Stan from Arctic Flowers, and it reminds me of all the stuff I knew I liked about these dudes' past projects. Good lyrics, great band dynamic and it's crusty, hard, fast and nothing tops 1:44 in length, which is pretty much how I take my hardcore. Here are some lryics:

So now here we are… / And we don’t have a problem / Forgetting who we have stepped on / To get where we are / The ability to smile when others starve / Never ceases to amaze / Keep fucking us little folks over / So you can have and infect more.... Infect more / Sell your dreams to someone else / I know the score and am comfortable being poor / The ability to smile / When others starve / Never ceases to amaze.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


One of the worst things about being human is that other humans sometimes have the tendency to see you as the human who used to do that one thing a few years back, rather than seeing you as the human that is doing this thing now. Time does funny things to our perception, and there's an apt analogy somewhere about how a mosquito trapped in amber has allowed scientists to clone a behemoth from the past, Greg Ginn circa 1983, but instead of being Greg Ginn circa 1983 it's just Greg Ginn in 2014 and the Black Flag reunion shows are hella disappointing. Basically, whenever you write about a band whose members were in other beloved bands, the risk is run of their old bands becoming elephants in the room. You can try write around these pedigreed pachyderms, accidentally drawing even more attention to what you're specifically not mentioning--or, you place an undue amount of emphasis on past projects, thereby trivializing the new exciting thing that these folks are doing currently. Decisions, decisions.

Mass FM is a new band, but their members have all played in beloved Missoula bands off and on since the Clinton administration. Isn't that cool that some folks that used to do awesome stuff are still doing awesome stuff? Yes, some members were in Volumen, one was in Victory Smokes--but do you wanna know what I think is really interesting? They have two members named Chris and are a great band (despite the fact that I was once in a band that had two members named Chris and we imploded due to all of the internal confusion). It's not that their old bands--or other current bands--aren't great, but this blog is about Mass FM, so let's talk about Mass FM (now that I have every possibly non-sequitur out of the way).

Tricky is kind of a weird word, but Mass FM is a band with some tricky qualities. Jamming somewhere between The Cars at their most angular and--I don't know--Fugazi at their most Cars-like (?), the songwriting is slippery and clever without drawing attention to itself by winking at the listener. There are twists and turns in the tunes that aren't so much unexpected as these twists and turns don't distract the listener from the groove or melody. Good, hook-heavy, head-bobbing music, hence the appropriate "FM" in the band name (if the average FM station was populated by bands like Brainiac, 12 Rods and Servotron). Bad comparison, but if you've ever had a stoner musician buddy chew your ear off about how Pink Floyd's "Money" is in 7/8--like it's some illuminati conspiracy that no one knows about--I could similarly chew your eyes out by over explaining all of the really cool little rhythmic hiccups in Mass FM's "Pull Some Strings." I'm not going to do this, but I will suggest you listen to the song posted below and get ready to see them at Total Fest XIII.

Friday, June 6, 2014


If the media is to be trusted, there are approximately seventeen adjectives commonly used to describe musics of the heavy variety. In the interest of space I'm not going to list them all here, but you can guess which ones are the main offenders: punishing, brutal, chaotic, unhinged, sick, fucking sick (to my knowledge, these are separate designations), pummeling, etc. So many little harmless words associated with violence and oppression. Terrified I am--and no doubt you are as well! Wild times, friends.

Darto is a band from Seattle that plays music of the heavy variety--and since I am tasked with writing about them, I insist on refraining from using any of the above words to describe their particular heaviness. Yes, their jams run the gamut between sick and fucking sick, but why roll in this gutter? Why feed from this trough if these vegetable-scraps are ripe for the compost? If I may invoke a lyric from the ever-quotable Lou Reed: Vicious, you hit me with a flower.

Now imagine that flower while listening to the song posted below. Imagine its colors, the shape of its petals, what kind of deadly allergens are eagerly waiting to pummel your sinuses--and brutally pummel at that. "Boiler" brings to mind a slew of comparisons, and all of them excite: I hear a little Jesus Lizard under hypnosis, Unwound on one helluva tear, Lungfish if you were listening to them through a pair of great sounding, broken headphones. Darto doesn't indulge the heaviness common in certain strains of metal so much as they amplify and update strains of the nineties' favorite post-genres--rock and hardcore, natch--in a way that sounds forward-thinking in any decade (including, but especially ours).

I like this flower; I think that I love this flower. I've not only considered buying a potted version of this flower, but I want to pick up a packet of seeds so I can plant an entire garden of these COMPLETELY UNHINGED, PUNISHINGLY BRUTAL flowers next summer. Until then, we get to enjoy this beguiling, highly nuanced, intricate and intelligent flower this summer at Total Fest XIII.


Wolf Eyes
"Well... noise has had an adverse effect on both mine and my son’s life... in fact my house almost burnt down because of it. Besides that episode, there has also been blown speakers on my new stereo, my dog has taken to hiding when my son is home, and my daughter Ella cried all of last halloween because the sounds reminded her of those that emanate from my son’s room!”
~ A concerned mother on noise

Life is hard, Wolf Eyes make it harder and can compromise lives.  On the night of March 23, 2006, a young man named Brandon Peek (fmr bassist for The Switch Hitters & Aristotle Cling) was returning home from a Wolf Eyes gig at The Hemlock in SF, still reeling and confused from the pounding sonic frequencies, Peek armed with an armful of Wolf Eyes merch walked into oncoming traffic and spent the next 6 months learning how to walk and read again.  Peek’s mother: Linish Peek (fmr guitarist for True Cannibals, Viral Citizen & Cake Tastes So Good) had started the group Mothers Against Noise in retaliation. 

Mrs. Peek spearheaded a world-wide movement and gained the support from various right-wing groups (Gun Prophets, American Standers, God For Citizenship and right-wing radio host: U.S. Connie – who was the fmr drummer of No Duh).  Mothers Against Noise gained enough notoriety and collaborated with the Mningles Law Group and petitioned that the term and use of “Noise” be abolished.  After $2.4 million dollars was spent, a 7 year tarnish campaign, they got their wish.  At an October 20, 2013 official statement, Wolf Eyes member John Olson (fmr Rendering Suns drummer) proclaimed: “NOISE IS DEAD” and thus the newly named genre: Trip Metal was born.  Wolf Eyes, by law, are never allowed to use the word “Noise” for any promotional or music release purposes with the prospect of facing 5 years in jail or $50,000 in fines. 

Zombie Tools
Wolf Eyes: Nate Young, John Olson and the new dude they call Crazy Jim hold the keys to the Total Fest ignition.  They anger and confuse lot of folks considering Trip Metal activates compulsion in your brain and senses; kinda like nosing around a car crash or the desire to stop and watch a dog take a dump. There’s no point in the barrage of metaphors to describe the Wolf Eyes style of “music”, it’s all about taking a stand, back against the wall and the short moment of anticipation from closing your eyes and knowing that out of nowhere, within seconds, you will get punched in the face.  It’s about deactivation as well, tossing out the concept of structure and forgetting about verse/chorus/verse and embracing the uncertainty.  It’s about crossing over to the dark side, allowing to let go of coherency and accepting the fact that things and perceptions will never be the same again.  So, fuck it.  Everything is a mess anyway, your shell is cracked and there’s not much that looks good on the horizon – toss on a fresh new coat of nihilism, burn some books, shave yr head, get that HATER4LYFE tattoo – do what you gotta do.  Just know that when the shit comes down and nothing ever makes sense anymore, Wolf Eyes does/will make all the goddamned sense in the world just when you need it.  Trust me cuz when those dudes plug in all their weird shit and let the frequencies fly - I will be ruling that motherfucking pit.  - Rammer

(Vanek here) We'd also like to draw some attention to a big Total Fest sponsor: Zombie Tools who have been making their expertly designed blades for years now, and supporting Total Fest for a good number of 'em. It's in large part to Zombie Tools support for underground music that Total Fest gets to bring Wolf Eyes, so slap Maxon, Chris and the dudes there on the back next time you see 'em.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Photo by Bronson Karaff
Perhaps my favorite attempt at summarizing Minneapolis's Ex Nuns is Courtney Bade's straight forward statement, "They’re real loud and they’ve got some big fucking amps." There's something in the Minneapolis
water because that city keeps churning out stellar, ass kicking band after band. I'm no expert on what they have going on there, but I've yet to be introduced to a band that doesn't straight up slay. It's mind boggling. This isn't some the grass is greener lament, but holy shit it's a little enviable. Not that trading out the serene confines of our little valley is an option, but the anger and grit of what's been streaming out of the lake ensconced city is something to relish.

Almost every review, write-up, tweet, and scratched bathroom wall regarding Ex-Nuns spends time wrestling with what genre they fit in. Psych, metal, punk, post-punk, noise, and shoegaze are peppered throughout, hoping that one will serve as a compass for the wary reader. It doesn't work. What does work is listening to their records and say, "To hell with it. This rips." It's fantastic, storm-blazing, raw fierceness that refuses to compromise. The songs are rooted in hardcore tempos but take time to develop. Pop-oriented melodies are drowned and stretched out by pleasantly grating feedback. Purposefully timed and washed out vocals position Ex-Nuns as some reckless, time traveling, space devouring inferno. (If you parse that, I swear it means something awesome).

You know the transformation of Angel to Death to Archangel ... well, that's kind of where my head goes or to some Icarus style hubris that finally succeeds. No gods. No masters.

For me, their songs produce vivid pictures out of blurry lines and nondescript shapes. There's an awesome story telling ability to their songs that aggressively evolves as it funnels deeper and deeper. They just released a sweet EP, Death Triangle, and seem to be poised to take off. It's slightly different than last year's 25 Diamonds release, but if this is the type of movement these dude's can do in a year, we're in for a raucous ride.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Toupée are a band introduced to us by John Yingling of Gonzo Chicago vids and the World Underground. We think John's got good taste, is always out flogging bands he digs and connecting people who should be working together, and were stoked to learn about Toupee.

I personally like knowing where bands are from, probably out of some weird baseball card collector subconscious baggage, but also because I think different parts of the country do have different flavors and while scenes may not really have "sounds" per se, they do share similar external influences, play for the same folks and you know, buy their records from the same place. Toupee are from Chicago, and played a sweet looking fest for their label (Rotted Tooth) last July, along with other rad bands like Running, Solid Attitude, Shaved Women, Oozing Wound, Wolf Eyes. All-star lineup.

Musically, I get reminded of a lot of the 90s Olympia and Portland bands like Kicking Giant, Heavens To Betsy, Longhind Legs, and Unwound when I listen to Toupee. Pretty lazy, I know. Would you rather I said "art punk"? No, you wouldn't.

Toupée - "Slowski" from GONZO CHICAGO on Vimeo.


No matter how old I get, there always seems to be a cranky 15-year-old within, just wanting to stomp around and drink pop and listen to punk rock.

Portland smartasses Shitty Weekend, playing Total Fest for the first time I believe, totally scratches that itch. Originally called Andrew Link and Metallica 3000, they wisely changed their name to something that's a tad faster to say and 100 percent more likely to offend fogies. Plus they did a split with King Elephant a while back!

Listen to Shitty Weekend on Bandcamp. Tell your mom and dad to eat rocks. Yeah!



Harshest album art ever?
Let's all go on a magical junket with Underground Railroad to Candyland! This driving, catchy, poppy, San Pedro-based Recess Records outfit, brought to you by Todd Congelliere and other sundry talented folks, comes back for another rousing Total Fest.

Listen up and party! (KW)

(Vanek jumping in) I can't tell you how many times I've seen this band, exactly. It's probably 7 or 8 now. Todd's been bringing groups to Missoula since FYP first played the Union Hall in around 2000, or the late 90s. Toys that Kill have played probably 3 or 4 Total Fests and URTC maybe the same number. I'm over 40 now, let's face it. It's not a steel trap up there.

And the total appeal of the tight-as-hell, melodic punk rock band with that awesome nasal voice behind it,  from D. Boon's hometown just never somehow fails to wane for me. These guys will crush even the most in-need-of-heavy-riff XL bearded bro out there, I've seen it happen. Todd, among other things has a past profession as a pro skater, runs one of our favorite labels of all-time (Recess) and has been quietly advancing DIY/weirdo/punk rock for two solid decades, and is now embarking on a third.

When you look at how long SST had output worth considering, it really was maybe only about one third that many years. And here's Recess just slogging it out, continuing to put out great records and selling them cheaply as ever. It may sound like hyperbole, but it's always an honor to get these long-time, elder statesemen (ahem) dudes like Todd C. and the Underground Railroad to Candyland, and they bring the ooomph, man. They bring it.


Monday, June 2, 2014


Photo by Bronson Karaff
I can honestly say that one of my most anticipated releases this year is Animal Lover's Learning Curve Records debut, Guilt.

Three years in the making, it doesn't disappoint.

I'll wait while you give it a listen.

Animal Lover was one of my top memories from last year, and I'm stoked as hell that they're coming back this year. They're a hard band to pin down. Backed by a strong DIY ethic, Addison, Nathan, and Evan have resurrected a sludge, noise, punk whirlwind that's reminiscent of all the good things about AmRep. It's not, however, a straight forward slug fest. There's a wonderful subtlety to them that haunts their consistent, droning, plodding, shredding, shrieking, bristling tempo. It's awash in pent up, tense frustration, boiling right up to the point of exploding but maintaining a simmering angst. Every time I listen to their records, I experience some weird, lingering, stinging bitterness. It's not like they've left me unfulfilled or that somehow the songs miss their mark; it points more to the unrelenting intensity of each song. Animal Lover sticks in your teeth constantly reminding you that the world is unclean and no matter what pretense or posture you harbor, life is a dirty mess. Animal Lover screams at you to wake up, to not take things for granted, and to bask in the relentless turmoil of chaos.

Well, at least that's where I end up.

There's nothing that sparks my interest more than a band who slogs through the tireless work of touring, recording, and playing and still finds ways to be inventive and to maintain their intensity. Throw in the fact that they're some super awesome guys who seem to collaborate on everything, their unique, solid sound is something that shouldn't be overlooked. Sadly, bands come and go, but I'm holding out hope that Animal Lover will play for my kids one day. Vibrancy is a gift.


That name, "Prizehog," in the context of Total Fest makes me think first of some kind of midwestern noise rock outfit, pretty male in the chromosomal department and also obsessed with a kind of 2010s version of David Yow's 1990s poetry/lyrics, mostly about the dark side of state and county fairs, and carnies and... I don't know. Maybe they tour with Animal Lover.

Not so. Coastal American Prizehog is none of the above, really. They're like a acid-damaged Melvins or a a more riffy Residents, actually. It's heavy-as-shit, and weird-as-fuck simultaneously, you know? For a lot of folks at Total Fest XII in 2013, they were the unknown, unexpected, and completely blown-away-by band.

Prizehog exists in their own realm. And it's a pretty stoney one. Not in the conventional "stoner rock" way either. More in a bizarre, soundtracky, diverse, melodic, down-tuned and sort of mystical vibe. It's friggin awesome. We can't stop listening to their recent "Re-Unvent The Whool" LP that Eolian Empire released. It's so great a record.

And, by chance and luck, you get a two-fer with Prizehog this year. Once in June, this Friday (June 6 at the ZACC, North 1st in Missoula) and once with everybody else at Total Fest in August.

Hefty metallions Shramana and Swamp Ritual, both from the flood-carved valleys of western Montana play to. This will be excellent.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Always eager to prove my ability to host a late night talk show, I have decided to forgo the traditional Total Blog format--where the reader is both thrilled and delighted by our informative and transcendental prose--and expedite all the hottest info on TF XII alums IS/IS to our dear readers in the form of a top ten list.


2) EASY MLA CITATIONS (no idea if this is true or not, sorey)



5) YOU DON'T HAVE TO READ ANYTHING LIKE THIS AGAIN (and yeah, of course you never had to, but let's continue to operate under the assumption that even the mayor himself reads this thing in order to fulfill his civic duty #KEEPITLOCALBRAH #DONTBEADINK)

6) MORE HASHTAGS (recently, a friend told me about how he heard some teenagers laughing about some "old ass phone" that had a hashtag button #SOOLD #ENDTIMES)





So without any further ado--and with hell of hashtags already--Total Fest presents our HASHTAGGED LIST OF POSITIVE QUALITIES AND GENERAL INFORMATION REGARDING THE BAND IS/IS:

# To my knowledge, I don't think that band has ever used a hashtag in a facebook post.

# Recently, the band relocated from Minneapolis to Portland--two wonderful, bike friendly cities. My narc-understranding of subcultures consists entirely of the assumption that musicians ride bikes.

# Their relocation was, however, after they lived in the desert for a month after last year's Total Fest (to which they did not bike, leaving me--and the rest of my narc-buddies--stunned and confused). You can read all about their pun in the sun (GET IT?) here.

# Is/Is often gets compared to Mazzy Star--which is not inaccurate, but there's definitely a heavier influence there as well: 70s stoner stomp by way of Pac-NW 90s, Spiritualized sans bombast, droney but not amelodic or monotonous. With hooks for miles, This Stuff Rocks™.

#  In a year of loud, rockin' bands, Is/Is absolutely dominated the Palace stage last year--not only with volume, but with an attitude that said, "Yeah, we ride bikes, but we also shred."

# For a certain kind of rock-fan (the author included), there are few things more enjoyable than the oft fabled Power Trio. Is/Is follows in the storied tradition of rippers such as The Clean, ZZ Top, Nirvana, James Gang and Spacemen 3 (who had four members in their best incarnation #sorrynotsorry).

# The band is constantly working on new material, but if you haven't picked up their most recent, self-titled full length or their excellent single from last year--both issued by Manimal Vinyl--I highly recommend doing so immediately. 

# Is/Is has always been a band capable of sounding dark without an unfortunate "woe-is-me" sentimentality--which is a lot harder than it sounds (especially because Is/Is does such a great job of making it sound so natural and effortless). 

# Making their second appearance at Total Fest, Is/Is should have all the erstwhile reluctant-tweeters of Missoula hashtagging the shit out of #feelingblessed and #ready2rock.

# Though this list is coming to a close, you should definitely stick around to listen to the tracks posted below or stream the entire new record at their Bandcamp page ;) #emoticonsrock