Saturday, May 30, 2015


Missoula's dad noise quartet Total Combined Weight (they seem to like the term man noise but something about dad noise sits better with me) boasts a lot of things, but they're claim that "we will out eat you anywhere, anytime" is one I caution you from challenging. These dudes are large, menacing beings that fit the cuddly teddy bear cliche to a tee. They'll probably punch me in the arm for saying that. They're the type of dudes who bring a keg to the recording studio, but also take their kids fishing, stroller through the farmer's market, and fill a room with their laughter.

It's easy to see how these dudes coalesce into a tight-nit, sweat soaked, raw, straight ahead, power machine. They're like some smiling-bearded-large-voiced borg who share the same sense of humor and willingness to deliver fist-raising, anthemic song after glorious song. Sure there's a lot of nostalgia brewing here. Some 90s era hardcore tied together with familiar pop-punk arrangements. Simplicity doesn't mean simple, though. They've pulled elements from their past and at times slow things down, pile on heavy riffs and drums, slide into off beat rhythms and quick changes. Familiar and strange all at once, you feel like you still have a 5 CD changer, but you're sitting in a stranger's basement. On the surface, TCW can seem like a group of dudes pounding away on their instruments without much care as to who and how many people dig them. That sentiment couldn't be further from the truth. At their core, their dedicated musicians who can't stomach strings that aren't in tune, amps with a buggered connection (seriously, don't be that amp), missing a fill, or being shocked by a mic. It's an awesome combination to witness: straight-up, loud, powerful music shepherded by an almost collective OCD dedication to polish.Throw in some of the shortest-shorts and those gargantuan smiles, and you're swarmed over by the dad-noise monster known as Total Combined Weight. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Post-punk is one of those labels that gets tossed around so much that I think it's officially lost its meaning. I'm sure other folks have proclaimed the death of the genre so let's leave that right there. What's tough is for a band to claw its way from the genre-limiting tendrils and be measured on their merits.

Step in, Bad Future. The Seattle foursome, consisting of members from Filth Mattress and Slut River (two amazing bands) offers some wonderfully, melodic punk with the right amount of gutter infused urgency. Think some of the more driving songs by the Wipers, where you keep thinking it's going to change so you try not to get too comfortable with the groove, but the thing keeps on trudging along in a grunge-tinged trance. Their recent release Nightchurch on Dirtcult (totally awesome label name) is a coaxing, slightly distorted and noise-enriched effort. Four tightly wound tunes with enough undertones to keep the most frenzied influence sleuth busy for a few months. If you're able to step away from all that, it's a great record with little frills and a purity of sound that should raise your ears. There's no hope for you if you're dead or too jaded to really hang out with a record a few times over. Ty Stranglehold's review in Razorcake review of 2014's Golden Age sums them up nicely: "I remember this feeling from the pre-Bandcamp or Youtube days. No hype or anyone telling me to check this out, just hearing it and getting chills."

If you're into a band that is as meticulous as they are random, as straightforward as they are challenging, Bad Future will hook you just right. Allow it to hit you as it wants not as you expect. The future is okay.


Smiling, photo from
Our friend Anna set us up with this newer Seattle band called Smiling and said they were playing some of her favorite tunes out there currently. I think Max also said they ripped when he saw them with Stickers, another sweet band. I might be all mixed up though.

We listened to this record of theirs called "Pink" (with a cover image of zipper-mouth bondage mask wearer rendered in pink) and liked what we heard. It's frenetic, thrashy and has a song called "Annoyalist."

That's what we know. I also know we don't get nearly enough of these kinds of tunes out here since Ass-End Offend moved away. Here are some hashtags I made up to help you prepare: #hickpit #windmillguy #watchfromadistance
Smiling, photo from

Smiling - Live at Cairo from What's Up Seattle on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


How many words do pictures say?
The Everyday Sinners were a late '90s/early-oughts Missoula band that played scuzzy rock and roll not
dissimilar to something like the Rip-Offs or, I don't know, the Estrus '90s scene. They went through a couple of lineups, the first with Wes Delano, who famously (well, Missoula famous) wore a discarded (presumably during butchering) deer's rib cage during one of their shows at Jay's. It was hunting season and I think he may have found it in an alley. Post-show, the ribs got kicked under the stage and for a few days no one could quite figure out what the massive stink was... Wes does some great visual art now, stuff that combines spray paint stencils and acrylic textures. He had a piece at VonCommon's PromCommon event just last night, in fact.

Anyhow, the second iteration of the Everyday Sinners brought on Marcus Herring on second guitar and vocals. That was the only version of the band I got to see, and they were ferocious. Awesome, head-down fast punk rock. Inspired by stuff like the New Bomb Turks and Dwarves, but a little more country. I rode out with them to Seattle one time, ostensibly as a roadie, though I'm not sure if there was any merchandise to help sell. I did probably carry something. The Sinners played with a pre-Whip, post-Karp Scott Jernigan band called the Bronze, I think. Best part was the drumming. Anyhow, what I remember most about that show was going in wondering how they were going to do with a big city Seattle, seen-it-all kind of audience. Fact was they held their own and really slayed. I think some of that was the fact that the Midnight Thunder Express/Valentine Killers guys had sewn some good will for them, and part of it was that they were just damn good.

Josh May who'd been in the Hedons was a Sinner, so was John Fleming from Ear Candy and the Oblio Joes, as was Jason Phillips. They played pretty regularly until about 2002 or '03, and then May moved to Atlanta, where is is to this day, tattooing people and making art. To my knowledge there hasn't been any Everyday Sinners show is well over ten years. We're pretty stoked to have the Everyday Sinners play.

(Apparently the internet doesn't have anything by them, we'll find something to put up!)

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Portland's The Bugs are one of those bands who somehow remain mind bogglingly obscure. Paul and Mike are perhaps two of the most honest and genuine folks playing music. They've been cranking out fun, lo-fi garage rock since 1998. Their songs are quick, poppy bursts with sweeping, observational lyrics. Perhaps they're too self-effacing to a fault. On the surface it seems like straight forward rock, but The Bugs incorporate more wit, good will, snottiness, emotional roller-coasters, and raw sentiment into their short songs and sets than most bands can muster in a career. That's not meant as a slight to other bands, it's just sometimes a dedicated two piece with the right combination of talent, smarts, and humor can pull together and build something more quickly and with greater stability. Think of it as a challenge, then.

I feel like during a big part of the early 2000s, the Bugs played Missoula at least once a year. Then there was a break. It felt like there was this weird void. Thankfully, they crawled out of the crevasses (or more likely dealt with the life things that prevented them from venturing too far, too often) and returned for a handful of Total Fests (VI, VIII, X, XI, XIII, XIV -- to name a few) as well as a couple shows here and there. Honestly, they're a Total Fest staple, and it's bands like them who make (and made) the countless hours of organizing a festival more than worth it. I know it's August when I see Paul and Mike sitting in the grass wearing two of the biggest smiles as they fish through a plate of food. It wouldn't be a Total Fest without them. Rad dudes, intelligent tunes, and pure enjoyment. Get your summer dancing shoes out and stretch out those grins, total dudes and dudettes.

Friday, May 22, 2015


Maybe I've lost track of how many times I've seen the Underground Railroad To Candyland, but I think that means that they've just become like one of those reflexive things you do to stay alive, like breathing, and not jumping off of cliffs, going outside to get vitamin D in the winter, feeding yourself. URTC fit into that category. Once in a while, about every three months I just need a big dose.

Something about the formula, Todd's voice, the always-shouted, always -DUM-DUM-DUM-DUM- with the guitar. Man, shit is just life-affirmingly approachable, fun as shit and has actual social commentary wrapped up in it.

I remember driving around South Dakota for work a couple years ago, right when their last record came out. I'd brought a copy along, and it turned what would've been kind of mundane drive through farmland, away from family and friends into a reminder of what's important in life.  I was able to picture a big crowd of folks pogoing around and having a blast while the band played and it lifted my spirits, and I think that's about the best thing you can do with a song sometime.

It turns out they've got a brand new record that's conveniently streaming here. I've been listening while I type this, and it's damned good. Not any major departure, just great songing from a great band.


To start off I'm gonna quote myself from a review I wrote on Weird Missoula a while ago: "Ancient Forest reminds me of the Tolkien-obsessed eco-folk of Tyrannosaurus Rex...leisurely singing songs in [a] near-vulnerable voice, tunes deconstructed to their constituent parts, referencing trees, referencing Tolkien, and warped along some magic line unknowable to the uninitiated." That was in reference to the very first iteration of Ancient Forest I heard, one in which Kalen Walther was the primary, and for the most part, lone member. This full band version he's been touting lately though, man, OK: much of those above observations are still kinda true but I'm hearing more Syd Barrett-y affectations; it's a better presentation to all this soft-psychedelia. I feel like I wanna reference the band Gandalf right now and hey, that's right back at that Tolkien nonsense. Apt, I guess.

Ancient Forest's recent lineups have been a relative who's-who of Missoula's small but fertile little weirdo scene: members of J. Sherri and Mordecai (both Total Fest alumni) have sometimes joined Kalen at recent shows. Every time I've seen 'em it's been hella magical and for something like this to be native to our neck of the woods means we're really pretty lucky. These guys are the tops and yeah, they're playing Total Fest XIV. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015


I think Vanek sums up Missoula's Magpies here, where he leads with "The Magpies are one of those bands that you're certain you've heard before the first time you hear them. They've got that built-in familiarity, and kind of walk the well-worn streets of slacker mode independent rock that all kinds of great bands have."

It's a solid review. What's subtlety sitting behind it is this quartet hones that slacker vibe with some superb musicianship. Tolan, Sam, Hank, and Jamie continually impress me with not only how much they grow between each song, each show, and each record, but also how they constantly tweak everything. They're never satisfied. I can't say when I first saw Magpies, but I can say that before I had, it was prefaced with "You have to see them!" and "Why haven't you seen them?" and "How haven't you seen them yet?" The "how" was particularly puzzling because these cats play almost every chance they can. They practice, record, and tour like most of us make coffee in the morning -- it's what oxygenates their brains.

So .... the first time. I was impressed, but I think there was something lacking for me. It wasn't anything they weren't doing or anything they were doing that didn't sit right. The energy is always there, and for a time my favorite thing was watching Sam and Tolan adjust to different drumming styles after the Daver hung up his sticks (so to speak). Tolan and Sam have a definite chemistry that's palpable in all things they do. Shit, they could coax a herd of cats to keep time for them. Add in Hank and, eventually, Jamie, and everything is coming up tornadoes.

Tornadoes is a perfect metaphor for them. It's a controlled, well-harnessed, sustained burst of chaos that appears to meander effortlessly with its explosive force. The guitars are pitch perfect as they lead and underscore the vocals, which, given Sam and Tolan's dynamic, weave together two voices from opposite sides of the spectrum; punctuated by the seemingly deliberate but always powerful and fluid drums, Magpies confidently move between songs, allowing for the music to do the work for them. In the end, isn't that what every band wants? From my perspective, they get the best of both worlds. There's the tireless, yeoman effort attached to the celebration and fun of creating and living their music, and we're all the better for it. Check out this video created by Hanks son, Cade:


Rewind a handful of Total Fests ago and these people, this self-proclaimed "pot-punk" band from San Pedro, totally took me by surprise. I feel that's the general consensus with how Total Fest works with a lot of people (you go for some bands, love a lot more) but Benny & The Jet Rodriguez completely stood out when they played the Top Hat at whichever Total Fest that was (12?). 

Dunno what it is, man, I mean they probably got that "stuff" that is next to impossible to quantify but oh lordy, it could just be the Total California Vibe that at least coming from them, doesn't sound so overwrought or a gimmick or really anything but straight-up fun-loving punx doing that thing they do and yeah, they're doing that thing at Total Fest. Again. It's gonna be another Perfect Summer so prepare, dooods. Get blazed.

ALLEY CAT by Benny The Jet Rodriguez. Directed by Abby Banks from Abby Banks on Vimeo.


Like fellow Iowan's Slut River, Sioux City's It Really Is continue what I guess might be called a thing now, this weirdo Midwestern punk explosion that can and often does sound like chaos, but a chaos that totally rules. Like a lot of pretty small operations, too, they've barely got an internet presence so some of those fancy-blog bells and whistles we've been posting for some of the other acts are gonna get lost here. Don't worry! There's a cassette released by Omaha label Rainy Day Records floating around Bandcamp and jeez louise this is a damn good introduction to what is gonna be yet another sterling addition to Total Fest XIV 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Kelly Gately, Fireballs of Freedom
Aside from having an album called Total Fucking Blowout and being the band that many of us cut our underground punk rock show teeth on, the Fireballs of Freedom have just got a presence and personality that's fully impossible to deny. "FoF" started in  North Dakota as a band called Honky Sausage, moved to Montana in 1992 or 1993 after Ear Candy Music's John Fleming told them these were fertile pastures for the kind of high plains, country-boogie-punk-whatever-exactly-you-wanna-call-it rock and roll they were blasting out. And it turned out that Missoula and the Fireballs was a match similar in potency to coffee and cigarettes, chocolate and peanut butter, Peaches/Herb, etc. etc. etc. Missoula loved, and I'd hazard loves the Fireballs like few other things.

Missoula was a waaaay different feeling place in the 1990s. Namely, those of us who are older now, were younger then. There's your big difference. But also, the town was a fair piece grittier with rickety Jay's Upstairs defaulting as a venue for everybody worth their salt from about '93-'03. Everyone smoked, and did so indoors. Craft beer wasn't widely available. Gasoline cost less. Rent cost less. There wasn't an Ear Candy for a lot of the decade. There wasn't much of an internet. Zines existed. Dreadlocks were in vogue. Shows cost less. Bands constantly came through and played for too little door money.
A person could fill a decent sized book with Fireballs of Freedom stories. I won't here, because they're better I think as oral histories, told by friends, the band and acquaintances. It's exciting to me that the Fireballs haven't stopped, they've made some small lineup adjustments, don't tour nearly as often and probably are far steadier in their personal lives for it. They still are a completely blistering band, and regardless of your thoughts on the kind of music they lay down, you owe it to yourself to enjoy the unhinged power and love for music they bring.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


The most difficult question I'm asked is "who are you stoked on for this year's Total Fest?" Part of me takes offense to the question. I'm stoked for every band who plays each year. The variety and energy of Total Fest's lineups are what drew me to the festival in the first place, what compelled me to offer up my volunteer services, and kept me coming back year after year. It's hard for me to single out a band, almost pointless. That said, one of last year's blow my shoes off performances came at the hands and aggressive vocals of Kitten Forever.

The trio of Corrie, Laura, and Liz offer one of the most powerful, fun, in-your-face, stage presences that I've seen in a long time. For me, there's a definite Mika Miko vibe coming from the telephone mics, the profound, unabashed celebration of femininity, and the vocalizations that come off at once as a conversational, dismissive, snotty, and relentless, I don't give a fuck get out of my face, challenge to everything that stands in their way. Top that off with all three members assuming different roles in the band, seamlessly changing between songs so that the intensity never wanes, and you have everything punk rock wishes it could be. There's an incredible balance between the issues they challenge -- particularly being women in music -- and the infectious, smile inducing tempos of their songs. The lyrics are brilliantly smart and poignant, dismantling and reworking a host of cultural representations, while the swarm of the music dares you to resist its force. Kitten Forever leaves nothing unearthed and pulls out a sick arsenal of drums, bass, and vocals to sledge away at the various cultural structures that have been erected -- either by blind ignorance, choice, or, simply, one-sided history.

Resistance is futile. Join the revolution folks because it's the one thing we have; and, in the end, it's the only meaningfully fun way to go. You attack the world honestly; you leave it honestly ... and you can smile from that knowledge. Get loud little beasts

Saturday, May 16, 2015


naomi punk
Everybody says grunge. I don't think that's it, man. Naomi Punk, yeah, they come from the Great Northwest (Olympia, WA), but just because you play something that looks like a jagstang in a three-piece doesn't necessarily mean you're beholden to a tradition that lived and died over twenty years ago. There are similarities but that's mostly because this a group of humans making music: that's bound to be compared to just about anything. 

We all know: Mike just wanted a goddamn Pepsi. Naomi Punk just play, no frills, an incredible amount of volume, and one of those things I think that makes them really stand out to these ears: this odd sense of, well, "triumphant-ness." I don't think that's a word. It should be. Naomi Punk's live shows belie this knowing kind of intensity that creates a tension that touches you and then, wow, they did that thing where it just kinda makes you understand what the hell it meant (it means!) to be PUNK. You are at this show, buddy, you know the way this works. They pummel like the big big metal bands pummel and they math out like every college kid with a Wittgenstein fetish and man, can you tell I'm excited that I'm telling you how awesome it is that Naomi Punk (Naomi Punk!) is gonna play Total Fest this year? Believe it, people. Epic it shall be.



I was told two things before writing this post: 1) Divers have this habit of being pegged as too "indie" for the punk crowd or too "punk" for the indie crowd and 2) Everybody loves comparing them to Springsteen. I dunno. I mean, I get the above points but what I'm really hearing, what I'm gonna tell you guys because jeez, I think Divers are pretty sweet and they're totally playing the fest this year...I think these guys borrow more from the Replacements or even some of the Ian-centric Fugazi songs. It's all in the conviction, man, and Divers got that in spades. I know I'm not the only one noticing: Divers just got voted "Best New Portland Band" in the Willamette Week's 2015 poll.

If you're the kind of punk that values pretty intense feelings, seeing a rapturous live show featuring other punks' pretty intense feelings, and totally owning the meaning of the word "us," then you are hella lucky because Divers is the perfect band for you. For me. For probably everybody.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Mr. Dad
Mr. Dad remind me thoroughly of what excited me so much about the Boston band Fat Day: intensity, brevity, and the ability to create a weird parallel universe that exists for about eleven minutes while they play, then is gone. Spastic energy is one of those things that can't be harnessed, but it can be witnessed, and participated in, and that's what I think about when I try wrap my mind around Mr. Dad's oeuvre. Their most recent full length is called "Never Get Off The Boat" and we're pretty sure is reference to an Apocalypse Now quote. That makes us like them even more. We heard about Mr. Dad first, I think, from Drew from Brain Tumors who put in a strong recommendation for getting them for Total Fest.

Why Not, Minot? Freezin's the Reason.
Minot's one of those places you go and kind of wonder how this hill country/prairie/university town in North Dakota got to be so cool, and you remember, a place isn't about size, or a particular set of amenities, it's about people. And by people, I mean really specific people making a community, and creating something like a music scene, shows, good food and beer, and art and all the important things that go along with community. Minot hosts by far one of the region's greatest music festivals in Why Not and that happens August 7-9 there. All sorts of cool stuff happens.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Wm. Statler.
Sound collage, performance art, exceptionally self-aware pop weirdness and a whole host of other adjectives of my own devising are popping up in my mind-brain while attempting to truly express how much Seattle's Free Music (nee Punishment) will completely surprise and wow you guys at Total Fest XIV this year. Musically, William Statler's one-man-magic-orchestra fits somewhere between the soundtrack to a Sega Dreamcast game and Brian Eno's emotional 1970's. It's a bizarre mix, sure, but the real neon icing comes into play when you see Free Music live and in person. I don't wanna give too much away; you really do have to see this.

Free Music is one of the true enigmas at the festival this year. While I did mention "performance art" and that phrase is sure to make more than a few of your eyes glaze over, you should trust me. Let's just highlight the word Performance for a minute. A few years ago, while Free Music was still known as Punishment, he played a show at the ZACC with Mega Bog and completely enraptured the room. It was one of the most amazing things I'd seen a solo performer do. There's a ton of humor in it, it's almost childlike, but the depth is there and you can tell this guy is completely serious about what he's doing. I seem to remember there was a basketball involved. "Not in my house."

Let me put it another way: Free Music is one of the most "punk" bands I've ever seen. This is the kind of punk that doesn't need a snarling beard or a half-stack. This is punk that doesn't need a band. This is punk like it really, REALLY, doesn't care what you think. It's confrontational but dressed up in a cartoon half-smile and completely one of the most unique things this festival has harbored in a good long while. CYA this summer, doods.

P.S. Don't just take my word for it: Julia Shapiro (of Total Fest alums Chastity Belt) included a song by Free Music (then known as Punishment) on a Seattle-centric mixtape she created for Hardly Art.


Double Haul IPA: Decant or Drink from can.
KettleHouse started in a modest version of its current Myrtle Street location in the second half of the 1990s as you-brew place, with nice stainless 10 gallon brew kettles and carboys for rent, brewing supplies for sale and a business plan centered around Missoula's student/low bagger population not having the means to buy brewing gear, but wanting like hell to brew. That business did pretty well for a number of years, but it wasn't until they started turning some of their own recipes loose from the taps that the place started to fill on up and become a stalwart corner of Missoula's beer scene that it's become. Before Kettlehouse, there were Bayern and Big Sky, both great outfits in their own right, but Kettlehouse's game change for Missoula was the fact that they brought their great flagship beer recipes and a great vibe in their centrally-located, lived-in-and-okay-with-it, Myrtle St. taproom.

It's a place you might hear some P Funk, loud. Or Iron Maiden. Or Prince. For years, Kettlehouse' Al Pils won best bartender in Missoula, although technically his tending was limited to pouring Kettlehouse brew. Pils is cut more from the publican cloth than bartender style anyhow, writing long screeds on a white board about some NFL team or star whom he'd gotten sideways with recently, and having a believer's passion in the awesome elixir coming out of K-hole's taps. It's not hard to be evangelical about good beer, and Kettlehouse's beer is great. Myrtle St. location's expanded, it's kept its original beer laboratory charm, with that same great lived in feel.
Missoula's best bartender.

Kettlehouse has been a part of Total Fest in some way or another since we began.We still pickup kegs of Eddy Out pale ale for all our band barbecues, and they help us out by throwing a pint night our way to help raise funds for the festival.

And that's what's happening this Wednesday, May 13 over on the North Side location, on N. 1st St. By the ZACC! We get a percent of sales all evening, and if we hit 400 beers sold, well shucks, Total Fest gets an additional $250 to support the fest! Come down and have a beer with us, please!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


What do crazy hardcore, mathcore, grindcore, noise rock, garlic, and Boise have in common? Deep Creeps of course. Self-proclaimed "noise creep punk," the trio somehow pulls together all those elements into a 25 minute absolute behemoth of a record. Maybe it's the fact that the drummer is a garlic farmer (I'm not sure why that seems like such a novelty), but there's a rich, organic feel to the record. With all the varying influences and rich orchestration, nothing seems forced or pushed in an unnecessary direction. Quick bursts, guttural vocals, jarring and spastic drums join together with a fuzzy albeit precision driven force that never lets up. Crown Gall is definitely one of my favorite releases from last year.

I've been excited and dreading to announce Deep Creeps because of how difficult they are to categorize. For me, it's like the first time I saw Rorschach, when the tightly orchestrated hardcore sound I had known was completely blown open. Insane chord progressions morphing into those wonderfully raw, dissonant powerviolence bursts of insanity. Seemingly random timing breaks coupled with the intense brevity wrestle with the more sludgy moments of each song. It's a refreshing release that challenges you at each twist and turn. In addition to the garlic connection, the total DIY vibe, my favorite thing about Deep Creeps is Google returns multiple hits for a stuffed anglerfish named Mariana. Everything about their record indicates that Deep Creeps deserve to be experienced live. Hope you're ready, Total World.


There's been a theme running across country music journalism for the last year and the more I think about it the more it really seems to ring true: modern country music is in what the Guardian UK has termed it's "hair metal moment," and what it really needs is something akin to the alternative rock explosion or its own "Nirvana;" something to lay waste to the mountains of vapid auto-tuned country stars that keep walking out of the Nashville machine and are only discernibly different based on the brand of their bedazzled jeans. I know, I know, the argument for "authenticity" can turn into a minefield pretty quickly but if we're talking about Country Music (which we are), we're talking about one of the very things that's supposed to set that genre apart: these singers have lived their stories, it's supposed to be about authenticity. Thank g-d there's been bubbling in the underground and we've got people like Sturgill Simpson, Jonny Fritz Corndog, Bloodshot Records, and yes, Miss Lana Rebel holding down country for the rest of us.

From Tucson-by-way-of-Portland, Miss Lana Rebel has been crooning for years and we're lucky to have her again for Total Fest this summer. I think this particular review out of the Portland Mercury sums Miss Rebel up way better than I could do:

“Lana Rebel is the badass matriarch of local dust bowl country. Sounding like the coal miner's daughter trapped in a collapsed mine, the music of Rebel is gorgeous and morose, a sad waltz of cowgirl balladry that can't be cured by even the most generous whiskey pour.”

Monday, May 11, 2015


Photo: Birds The Word
Admittedly, I'm partial to music that is unapologetic and brash. There's a chance it can grow stale, I guess, but the angst / aggression that drives it removes a lot of clutter, allowing for the tempo to rip through any pretensions. Buildings' 2011 release, Melt Cry Sleep, struck the right chord for me: there's the big guitar riffs, abused drums, throbbing base, and guttural-barked lyrics creating a perfect onslaught of noise. Almost any review will mention the similarity to the 80s or 90s AmRep vibe. That's all well and good. There's a bit of nostalgia clinging to it,  but Buildings don't stop there as they add layer upon layer, merging an odd toe-tapping vibe with the constant slaps in the face.

The last time Buildings played Total Fest they encountered so many mishaps on the road, I was sure they were cursed. They were touring with Hawks, who due to some van "trouble" basically rolled into town, set up, and played their set. It was a good set, but I think the chaos was a distraction. Buildings set was magnificent, but after I walked away to work my door shift, Brian's equipment gave out. A few days later, bones were broken. I've never been happier for two bands to make it home. Since then, Buildings released a split 7" on Exit Music,Riot House Records released It Doesn't Matter in 2014, and they've changed bassists (again). It Doesn't Matter builds on their crushing, jarring sound while it retains and maybe exploits the playful quality that was somewhat hidden in their early releases.

Live, they're ferocious, pounding through their set with a refreshing fuck you vibe. You can play the records as loud as you want, but their ear-ringing live sets is where it's at. Buildings is brutally brilliant, and we're totally stoked to have them play Total Fest this year. 


I think I first saw Kanako Pooknyw and Jon Hanna play music together at some point probably eleven or twelve years ago when Niki and I saw their old band Sisters (which I think is blatant Sonic Youth reference/love) play with Japanther and maybe Kimya Dawson at a DIY space in downtown Olympia. It was a great venue that really allowed the music, and not bar/drinks/hookups be the focus. I wish I remembered its name.. Anyway, Kanako and Jon are the core of Broken Water, or the constants, rather. Their music is proof to me that hardcore as a way of doing music, or living has much more to do with how you carry yourself and how much heart you put into it versus any kind of specific sound.

Sisters, like Broken Water, remind me of a grungier, more American version of 90s 4AD bands like Lush or the Cocteau Twins or some kind of band like that. But unlike the shoegazers Broken Water has a kind of engaging presence that always puts a grip on me when they play. I saw Lush in 1992 and it was fine, it just had a kind of druggy dullness about it that ultimately made it a little unmemorable. I remember every time I've seen Broken Water pretty well. They're that kind of group. The fact that a lot of their records and songs reference thinks like Czech New Wave film and Russia's Yanka Dagilieva just kind of seals it all up.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Like Harteis' noble wade into the complexity of emotion that accompanies a The Funeral And the Twilight listen, Prizehog have got just a couple too many dimensions happening to be dismissively pegged as "heavy," "loud," "sludge" or "weird." Prizehog are from Portland by way of San Francisco and also Santa Rosa, I think. They used to practice in some kind of ex-military bunker. Their full-length Re-unvent the Whool is chock-a-block with Simpsons references, beautiful synth, heftily bashed drums and riff after glorious riff. It takes a couple of listens to start to get what it's all about, it's got that kind of density of purpose. I think of the Residents as much as I think about the Melvins, and actually the pace is typically even a bit more Harvey Milk than even Melvins.

I think this quote from Aquarius Records is pretty dead-on:
"It's hard to know what else to say, other than repeat what we've always said, Prizehog should be adored, they should be worshipped the way Harvey Milk and Boris and the Melvins are, cuz maybe at one point, Prizehog were simply kids aping their heroes, aspiring to the sludge-y genius and twisted outsider metal of those other groups, but as hard as it may be for some folks to believe, Prizehog, might have outheavied, and outweirded, and outgeniused those masters, and become masters themselves, masters of fucking alien prog-doom, long haired, psych sludge, dirge-drone, damaged art pop. Fuck yeah."

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Not cool man, not cool. What-so-ever.
So, we may have never looked at Castlemaine, Australia's Wikipedia page, and that's okay. We think it's a place like Missoula with somewhere far fewer than a hundred thousand human inhabitants, a healthy countercultural vibe, and far enough from a town of any size not to be some boring bedroom community.

And,we do know that before Dead were from there, they were from an unhip zipcode within Melbourne, a town arguably pumping out more groovy crap than anywhere we can really think of. Dead (pronounced "Did," I believe) have got an awesomely unwholesome Motorhead, Karpy kind of vibe, have been a band now for we think a solid five or nearly six years, and this will be their third stateside tour. They've been to two other Total Fests, and their ass-soloing, drum thrashing, whatever it exactly is, always counts as the top end of the highlights reel, which is typically pretty well jam packed already.

Some history: back in something like 2006, a young fellow from Australia began swapping emails, buying Wantage stuff relentlessly, and sending CDRs of his and his friends bands. Jem was then in a great three piece band with two bassists and himself called Fire Witch. We ended up putting out a rager of a 10" for them before they broke up. Hand printed it on leftover Oxes sleeves, in fact. We've always kept in pretty solid touch, and he'd been serious about getting to the U.S., largely to get to meet some of the folks from the bands he loves, but also to share his great tunes. The second half of the group is Jace Rodgers whose bass playing/screaching we'd gotten to know well from one of Jem's vinyl releases (on his label We Empty Rooms), a thoroughly fucking ripping rager of a band called Inappropriate Toughguy Behaviour.

Also not cool. Not cool at all Total Fest. Who do you think you are?
Dead got us their first LP to put out, then did a second one called Idiots with a rad label called Eolian Empire in Portland. All of them have something unique and not just noise rock about them, and that's kind of I think what makes it a step above the rest. The first LP has this track called Prick Rodeo that we still listen to for its biiiiiig, groovy riff that gets repeated beyond ad nauseum to the point of an Oneida or Neu sort of commitment. We thought that took guts, and loved it. And love everything they touch. We put out (with WER) a great 7" they did with Vaz, who were tourmates of theirs in Australia. Okay, it's clear we think. Dead.


NY-by-way-of-Seattle's Mega Bog has morphed into a heavy-hitter of what this particular listener has termed the "elegant English psych pop underground" that really lives in no place, assaults your threshold for whimsy, and has so far produced nothing but amazing songs.

Erin Birgy has brought her 'Bog to Missoula on more than one occasion in the last two years. Once at the ZACC joined by Punishment/Free Music, and a couple other times with IJI (who are totally playing Camp Daze this year, btw). Every time has been a dream. I'm worried (not really) about geeking out or alienating some of the more "hardcore" Total Bros here because Mega Bog references a lot of the things I thought only record store owners or dudes that lived alone with their cats cared about: Kevin Ayers, Nico's "difficult music," woodwinds. There's a saxophone all over her most recent record and it's glorious. 

I can tell you one thing for sure and I know that it's true. Mega Bog rules and Missoula and the world is lucky to have her. Hell, we're more than ecstatic she's playing Total Fest this year.

Check it out, dooods:


When it comes to The Funeral and TheTwilight, every descriptor that comes to mind feels as if it should sit within quotation marks: "goth," "punk," "metal," "sludgy," "gloomy," ... Not in a negative way or as some dismissive commentary but to illustrate the disparity and strangeness of their music. I think the closest I ever came was "death doom jazz," because that phrase makes almost no sense at all.

My first encounters with TFATT were The Cross of St. Peter and Sullen Life /// Blighted Death. On first listen, I wasn't sure what I was hearing, but I knew I liked it. Something about it kept pulling me back in, and I thank Colin Johnson for the wink and "Yeah, bro. Let it hit ya" nudge. One night of wine paired with the records completely hooked me, and I haven't questioned the journey since.

Not everything we enjoy can be distilled down to something tangible, and I'm happier for that. There's definitely a bewitching and haunting feel to TFATT's music that plods its way through enormous tones and shattering vocals. Plod doesn't quite work though, as each song is awash in sultry, unexpected changes and surprising experimental moments that keep each song hanging by a thread. At the moment it feels like it might unravel, there's the occasional hook that somehow incorporates a poppiness or sinks into a oddly familiar groove. They're as challenging as they are mesmerizing. Bring all this to the stage, and TFATT is right where they need to be. Benjamin, Noah, and Brandon are a chaotic tidal wave of activity that's somehow synchronized or ritualized. The sound is penetrating with its woeful swagger, twisting and turning and never letting you go. Beautiful in their execution, once you think you've got a grasp on where the songs are going, TFATT will throw in a few grindcore bursts to suck you in further.

TFATT and Dead are touring together this summer, and we couldn't think of two better bands to represent both the diversity and the similarity of bands who have graced the Total Fest stages over the years.

"Let it hit ya"

Friday, May 8, 2015


Vaz is one of those timeless bands. There's the frenzied pace, the taunting, chaotic guitars, and the occasional odd digression that challenges your feet to keep pace with your head. They're cassette-tape muddy and fanatically precise.

As an old dude, I look back at Hammerhead as one of the bands who steered me toward the lovely abyss of what bears the unfortunate moniker of "noise rock." If there's a musical space that I linger in more than others, it's here (in spite of the ambiguous name), and, to me, Hammerhead separated themselves from all the masculine bravado that is / was associated with the sound. They supplanted the narcissism with a pummeling, self-effacing sound that never allowed itself to be pigeon holed. Vaz, to all of our delight, carries this on. Although Vaz is a little less bombastic at times, their sound hearkens back to some nebulous past, reconstructs the present, and plods through the ashes toward the future. There's a wonderful bleakness to it all, where the lyrics and vocal harmonies duel with the onslaught of guitars and drums. Throw in some wonderful, tempo-challenging, experimentation, you're left with your chin on the floor.

To me, Vaz epitomizes everything I love about Total Fest. There's an obvious joy for what they do, a relentless DIY aesthetic, and a blistering sound that paces our collective paranoia. After a few decades of playing music, Vaz remains fresh and challenging. If you're on the fence about that, check out Pink Confetti on the link above. Blissfully dark. We're lucky to have them help light the pyre this year. 


Picture by Holly Huthman
Big Business played the third Total Fest, which was held at the then-Cowboy Bar, and the fourth one I think, at the American Legion hall -the fabled year when the toilet got broken, people were reduced to Sparks-original recipe-caused hallucinations and Last of the Juanitas played their last* show (*we're pretty sure of the veracity of that fact). And then we had them out for the tenth Total Fest, back in ought-eleven. They are a band that can't not bring an immense heap of good times, amazing tunes, great musicianship. And we think having Big Business on a Total Fest stage this year is a great way for us to close out our run.

Musically, I think with Big Biz you get a little something like an umami kind of fullness. You get riffs. You get massive drums. You get great lyrics. And the total package you get makes it all the more big and good. Look at their wikipedia entry or the Encylopedia Metallum if you want to dig into their pedigree. It involves the Tight Bros From Way Back When, among others. Mostly, I've just wanted to type the words "Encyclopedia Metallum" somewhere for a while, you know.

On a kind of more serious note, it's been a while since they've been to Missoula, and I've missed seeing them regularly. August is a long while to wait.