Monday, October 5, 2015


The 1990's were a curious time. Folks interested in underground music were hugely record label-conscious, or at least I and most of my friends were. You got a lot of stuff just because Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman, or Tom Hazelmyer had put it out on their Sub Pop or Amphetamine Reptile labels, respectively (or SST, CZ, Kill Rock Stars, Boner, etc.). I thought of places as having their own sounds. Seattle always sounded very much like halfway between Mudhoney and Gas Huffer to me. The Twin Cities sounded like Hüsker Dü, Boise like Treepeople, Olympia like Beat Happening, Ellensburg like the Screaming Trees. It didn't make a ton of sense in retrospect, but so it goes, right?

All that has largely faded with the advent of ala-carte song purchasing/stealing courtesy of the internet's "here's everything, no waiting necessary." and youtube to MP3 capabilities, etc. My point isn't to say anything was better about the old way, just to kind of set the tone for how Hammerhead came onto my radar. Missoula was somewhat of a stopping point between the Twin Cities and Seattle, and we hosted a lot of the bands who's music got released by Tom Hazelmyer's Amphetamine Reptile or "Amrep" label. We had the Cows, God Bullies, Janitor Joe, Steel Pole Bathtub, and probably several more I'm not remembering through town. And regardless of whether anybody knew anything about the band or their music, there was some kind of a cache that came with being associated with this label that had put out all this raw, weird, angry noise.

Hammerhead were different, though. They had a paranoia and desperation about their music that just kind of set them apart, and made the others seem a bit like more of an act. Hammerhead were from Fargo/Moorehead, and came with the full-on endorsement of North Dakota transplants the Fireballs of Freedom who helped add to the super-human mystique that surrounded the group. It didn't hurt that Hammerhead were and are a spot-on tight power trio, with great musicianship, better tones and huge volume. They stopped playing or broke up, not sure what the exact story is, right at the end of the '90s. Jeff Mooridian and Paul Erickson went on to form Vaz, which has been very productive for the past 15 years, releasing some of the decade's best music, from my vantage point.

Roughly five years ago rumors started that Hammerhead was reforming, if ever so briefly, to play the Amrep 25th anniversary show. They also used the occasion to record a few songs for an EP, called "Memory Hole." We got them out for a Total Fest set shortly after that, and they continued to play sporadically, recorded an album called "Global Depression" for Learning Curve. This summer they released a record called "New Directionz" and are doing their first tour in something like 15 years to support. They're coming out with the band Qui, who played with the Jesus Lizard's David Yow for a while. Both bands and Missoulians Naked Limbs play tonight, Monday October 5th at the VFW in Missoula. Show starts at 9PM, $6. Here's a nice video to whet your appetite.

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