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Friday, September 22, 2017

Neuringer / Dulberger / Masri - Dromedaries review

Around a month ago, Already Dead Tapes and Records released an album that I was really interested in but only got to check out now. This album is Dromedaries by Neuringer / Dulberger / Masri. I've seen Shayna Dulberger play with Cellular Chaos, so I wanted to see what she would do here. I like these kinds of collaborative experimental albums.

I love the art on this album. After seeing the names involved, this is what drove me to listen to it. The beautiful blue nightshade of what looks like North Africa is a trip. The position and font of the text is well done as well. There is a mysticism and mystery to this cover art that calls to the subconscious mind.

Dromedaries starts with some semi-tropical drums beating to a quick and frantic pulse of bass and saxophone on "Passage To The Spine". The track gets more unsettled as it goes, transporting from cool rhythms to dangerous acid visions of heat. The heat clears at the end with a minimalist bassline and little else. "One Foot Lighter Than The Load" has a ping-pong sound, one instrument in and another out. I like the drums on here a lot; they have a watery deepness to them like the farthest depths of the ocean where strange prehistoric beasts still dwell, a place I have visited in my nightmares. There's an amazing mid-section with really wild horns that starts with a long drumroll tense up. "As Is Above, So Is Hello" has a rainy sound, and this would be a good rainy day record. A sweeping dusty sound and a slowly sounding horn arise from ancient texts; it suits the witchy title. This turns into a more reflective piece, Nighthawks at the Diner, a mythos detective going over what he saw in that tomb under the strange hospital as he stirs his glass furiously and awaits the open-face roast-beef sandwich he ordered. Even the waitress's beauty couldn't get his mind off those foul odors of mildew and honey and the arcane symbols written on the walls in blood. This track really takes my mind to the lonely corners of the night.

"A Horse By Committee" comes in strong with strings being roughly bowed, bells, and a steady beat. The horns float around like little ghosts, orbs and bugs and things. It's a fast-moving track and the longest on the album. There are some strange winds or bird sounds or maybe people on a roller-coaster in the middle of the track that threw me off for a second. Then there is a deep and eerie drone on the strings that stands alone for a time before splintering into wild sounds and then a sound like someone drawing with chalk arises in the West (aka the left-side). The whole track transforms into clockwork tinkling and rustling bass like some old, crumbling magick shop. This is such a great track that takes me all over. The last track, "Age of Reprisals", starts with some crickety, night sounds, and then there is a major rustling in that night with crashing cymbals, ringing metal, and harsh rattling and whirring. I think some of these are windup toys. It even sounds like there is a harmonica. The instruments here are really varied and add so much. This is a much calmer piece with little pops, cracks, distant thwomps, and bells. It's spooky, eerie, and unsettling. It made me feel a little sick, recalling yesterday's food poisoning and last weeks' toothaches. It ends on a rhymic clacking and chimes somewhere in a cavern with waterfalls and petroglyphs. It's a perfect end.

Dromedaries was a surprise; I didn't expect a free-jazz album, and this one goes into really interesting spaces. The blue tint of those scrublands matches the tales told in these songs. The production is not harsh and gives the musick space to meet the loneliness of this blue sphere, as jazz is wont to do. When it's not going into a mystic otherworld or a late-night diner on the shores of the Nile, the album also knows how to rock and skronk. This trio has not set their work into a formula. Talking about these diners and Egypt and lonely nights makes me think of the old ballad, "You Belong to Me", which matches this song in a way that I can't really explain, a song I associate, like this album, with a strange cosmic terror (though that one is buried behind a few other surfaces). If you are a fan of no-wave and free jazz, Cold Bleak Heat and various Sonic Youth solo weirdness, this is for you. Dromedaries receives a Good.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

In the Water with Miami Dolphins

This show feels like it was forever ago, but Aloe and Satyr/Elfheim (that's me) went swimming with Miami Dolphins just a week ago on September 13th. I was still suffering from my severe toothache; unlike at Chrome Dreams III, this was post-surgery. I was on the way to recovery, but it would still take a while. I still feel a small pain in my mouth today.

On Wednesday the 20th, I did not want to go to Roboto at all. I had stayed home for several days with this pain, just playing The Sims 3 and other video games. I was living through my sim mostly; I didn't want to do anything but see my digital person become more of a rockstar and have a cute romance. But alas, I had my own not-rock-not-star stuff to deal with and no cute romances to go on or to come home to. "That's the way of the world".

I pared down my gear (not as much as last time) in anticipation of walking, but I got a ride to Roboto anyway. Nobody was there except the person running sound. I took a walk around the neighborhood, and came back to see some kind of a crowd actually.

After a small discussion, it was decided that Aloe would play first. They had some important stuff to do soon after, and I was in no hurry. Their set was good, spindly guitars recalling Sonic Youth. It was similar to the last time at Gooski's or the time before at the Lawrenceville VFW for RANT, but I actually felt like the sound in Roboto made Aloe's drums sound great. The heavy thuds hit the walls flat and came back as the sonic solids of Television's Billy Ficca. The guitars sounded good, but the vocals got drowned out. On the last song, Aloe turned some stuff down, and everything sounded awesome (even though it didn't sound bad before that).

Miami Dolphins was next. I didn't know what to expect from this band, named after a sport team. It was so cool! One of their songs recalled the legendary Pittsburgh band, the Cardboards, and they had an overall post-punk sound. That's not all though. Dance beats fused with military marches and spidery leads turned to rough chugging rock chords. Amidst all of this, the singer alternated between frenetic yelps and more conventional singing with quite an impressive range. "Nobody wants to go to war" - "it doesn't mean we shouldn't do it"; their songs made me think about violence, the environment, and our place in the world as individuals and as collectives. Also, they coincedentally reminded me of something I just learned at Chrome Dreams III: there are bits of plastic in much of our water across the globe. It's something to think about. I assume it is very important to Dolphins.

photo credit - Dan Spagnolo

I played last. Originally, Sorry I'm Dead was supposed to play, but our drummer had a schedule conflict that she only realized later. I figured I would just play solo instead, and then forgot the exact date (just like the scheduling conflict with the band), realizing it at the last minute. I brought my guitar and the sequencer. I intended to play a modified version of "Giants of Earth", and my set began that way, but it quickly turned into a pastiche of industrial noise and distant beeps. The noise was there to begin with as a background to the guitaring; I wanted to add layers, and it worked, becoming the main attraction. A rust-cloaked train derailed somewhere on a dust-covered world of burned red and this was the soundtrack to the internal computer failure that caused the disaster. It must have been a ghastly scene. I am happy with the set I played, though I despair at the fates of those passengers on those twisted rails.

Though it was a bit of a pain, literally, I'm glad I played the set and saw the other bands. Miami Dolphins were so cool; I got a CD that I'll be reviewing soon. It's always nice to play with Aloe, and I am really happy with the set I played. I'm inspired to do more Satyr/Elfheim shows this year; I want to consolidate all the live sets I end up doing into a new album. We'll see how many that ends up being (there's just one more set for the future - December).

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Chinchees - The Chinchees review

The Chinchees are a garage rock/pop-punk/power-pop band from Minneapolis. They came through Pittsburgh on August 30th, just like Marbled Eye, and just like Marbled Eye, I missed the show, though it seemed cool. Here's a review of their self-titled debut album, so as to get a feel for the band.

The cover of The Chinchees is fun and colorful, perhaps a bit oversaturated with fruity sweetness. It displays the band, dressed in a uniform white, fleeing from a smiling giant called "The Almighty Grape". It's a surreal image that fits the musick. I like the white border with the band's name. It helps create a palette of green, purple, and white, with a touch of orange in the fallen leaves. It's a color scheme you might have seen in the 1990's, Goosebumps or Nickelodeon, not unlike what is heard on the album.

The album starts full-in with the Weezer-ish (think "Buddy Holly") "Hey Boy". I like the doo-wop vocals and the guitar solos. The bass really pushes this song hard. "Grocery Bag" continues the sugary, singalong quality of the first track, though it's a little darker, soundwise. The lead parts are dissonant and sound like something I would play with their rapid attack; I like it. There's also a really cool part in the middle that I don't know how to explain; the song stops for a second or two and rushes back like rapidly descending a staircase. "You're Gonna Get Stung" is overly snotty, but it's not bad. "Everyone's cooler than me!" the singer wails, "Everyone's cool, they rule!" That's so good! I love that line! It's a little mopey but also funny like the Ramones. There are some more cool leads on this, both in the parts played and the strange sounds. "Spoons" is almost a ballad I guess. It has another good bassline, but I am not a huge fan of this song. It's too long, and it has that Midwest emo-revival sound. "Gosling Day" starts really poppy, more than I like, but it gets much better. There are some cool drums, weird synth sounds, and another mini-stop. "Pocano" is the end of the first side, and it has that ending song feel, the end of a school year as students wearing jean jackets and flannel walk across a campus, the camera panning, and a kiss before the female lead gets on the bus, leaving the male lead to ponder, "what is this new relationship?" What will happen next season?

Side two surges in by "Melting Foam" quickly and harder than what we've heard before. Towards the end, the song gets really jangle-y, setting it apart from a straightforward rocker. "GORP" is the shortest song on the album. There are some goofy Beach Boys "Kokomo" vocals that make me chuckle a bit. "Everyone Knows" has a great dissonant guitar solo and a good bassline, but it mostly follows what we've already seen on the album. I wonder how much Minneapolis is like Pittsburgh? "Everyone knows everyone", the singer says. Seems fine. "Animal Genes" is really interesting. The lyrics have cool wordplay, maze-like. The title of "Your Life Is A Waiting Room" reminds me of Fugazi's famous track, but this sounds nothing like that. "They say that I am out of my mind". The tambourine adds a lot to this one, and it sets this apart from the earlier songs. Sometimes I worry that my life is a waiting room.

The Chinchees are almost nothing new, at first glance, but that's not true after taking everything in. There's enough to differentiate this from other things here, little bits in each song, that this album is worth a listen. The album gets a little played out by the end, but I enjoyed all the tracks. The production is solid too. I'll look out for The Chinchees next show in Pittsburgh, and you might want to check them out if you like The Ramones, Free Pizza, Polaris, or Shameover. The Chinchees gets a Good.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Chrome Dreams III

Last week, I got a tooth infection. I had previously had an infection in the same lower wisdom tooth back in August. It was really bad, and I had to get some antibiotics to take care of it, or I would be on the floor all day in tremendous pain. This was all after I got a filling for it last year too. Anyway, the day after the infection started, September 8th, I was scheduled to play a show at Brillobox.

The show was called Chrome Dreams III; it was a tribute night to Neil Young, who had been gravely ill when it was put together much earlier in the year. I had been set to play for a while, but the show did not get booked right away. Even when it did get booked, I wasn't sure what to do. I had asked my bandmates if they wanted to play the show but had not gotten a response. It might have just got lost in our giant morass of Facebook messages. I figured I would just do it myself then. Eventually, when the show was definitely happening, I asked my bandmates again. Dan didn't want to commit to doing the show, but Laura was into it. Then we didn't practice the songs for a while because we had all of these other shows to practice for. We practiced once, just the two of us, and then again after we added my friend Mark on bass to fill in the sound with all the soloing going on. We did that one more practice, and that's it. It seemed like something Young would do himself, so I was okay with this outcome.

The problem was that I only had a few ibuprofens left and no antibiotics for the night of the show. I had to see my dentist, but they aren't open on Fridays. Too bad for me. We were doing it anyway, and it would fine, right?

Well Laura, Mark, and I got to Brillobox early. We were on time, but when we arrived, only the promotor was there and maybe a few other people. We got everything set up and waited. My mouth felt terrible.

Once people arrived, Jim Storch played first. He played his three songs on a ukulele, as he has been doing for a while now. I hope to see his improv Burnout Warcry again sometime. I don't like ukuleles, but he plays with such an open heart that it works. Jim played "Wrecking Ball", which was beautiful in its scarce sparseness laid open. Next, he played "Round and Round (It Won't Be Long)", which I don't think I've ever heard before. He had some trouble getting through everything here, but it sounded fine. Last was "Mr. Soul". This was a strange one since it's more of a rocker. The ukulele was interesting to hear with distortion. The crowd got really loud and didn't seem to pay attention which upset me.

Sorry I'm a Vampire, the name for the band that was 2/3rds Sorry I'm Dead and 1/3rd Lil Vampires set up and started with "Mansion on the Hill" from Ragged Glory. It sounded pretty good; it was definitely very ragged. My guitar sounded kind of strange; something happened to the action the night before or something? I don't use this guitar often, and it is 50 years old. Second, we played a rockin' version of "The Needle and the Damage Done". I totally screwed up the words on this and the intro was shaky. Last was "Western Hero", or it would have been if we had gotten it off the ground. I think I screwed up the vocals mostly, but the rhythm might have been off too. I can't pinpoint what was wrong. That last one was a disaster though. We definitely should have practiced more, obviously.

My mouth was feeling a little worse than when the night started when Glowworms began their set with "Out on the Weekend", which sounded pretty good. They have a different bass player than when I last saw them. His playing seemed really subdued, but he was also playing through a Fender Bassman set up for guitar. I had to look up the next one; it was called "Revolution Blues". I'm totally unfamiliar with it, but it reminded me of a "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream". The guitar parts were up to par with Neil's himself, bursts of noise like shattered trumpets. Glowworms' final song was the one that I had wanted, the only one that I really wanted, "Like a Hurricane". They did a great job, though I wish the guitar had been less piercing at some points. Also, there was a weird problem with the amp; it kept cutting out. I tried pushing the cable in for a bit, but they got it figured out. The drums were maybe too technical. Overall, it was a great set.

My mouth was killing me, but I had to stay for the next set. The next performer was Zane, who I had gotten into a fight with years ago. I think both of us feel really stupid about it now, and I felt like I owed it to him to see him play. I didn't know he even played any instruments. He seemed a little shy and told us a little of his own self-growth. Zane sounded almost exactly like Neil Young; he just played acoustically and it was awesome, a voice from a misty dream singing "Bad Fog of Loneliness". Like Jim's set, this was everything laid bare. Next was "Old Man" and finally "Peace of Mind". My favorite part was when he stopped for a second, remembered a word, and immediately started again. That's some real rock 'n' roll stuff. The last song kept going on for a while too long, but the crowd really needed to shut up a bit too. It's hard to make out Zane's voice or guitar on my recording, but it was a great set. It made me feel okay to leave the show on that note; the pain in my mouth was too much.

I felt terrible, but my friend Ron helped me get home with his car. It would have been pretty bad if I had had to walk. I was disappointed to miss the rest of the show, but I did get to see a cool video of Big Splash playing "Powderfinger". It was good. The next day I rushed to a different dentist and was able to get some medicine. I had my tooth taken out this week on Tuesday. It's just healing up now. It seems like Chrome Dreams III went over pretty well too.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Deriding Blue Honey From Aloe

The title of this post sounds like it makes no sense, but it kind of does. I was actually thinking of the word "deriving", playing off the way that two of the four band that played Gooski's on September 3rd had names connected to some kind of food or medicine. That would not have worked with all of the band names though. However, as you will see, it all makes sense.

I got to the show early. Aloe had not set up yet, but they soon did. I liked their set, but there's not much to say about it. It was the same set, as far as I can tell, from the day before at RANT. That's fine; this is the price of seeing the same band many times. This one was a little more rocking than the set for RANT. They played the new songs from the other day, and the old songs sounded great too!

The second band was Derider, who I had somehow never seen before. I watched a video they made some time ago and was dulled by the high production values. This was the opposite of that. It was sheer excitement and cool rock moves. Derider is awesome! They should make an awesome video with them playing live! Cormac thrashed around especially, looking like Thurston Moore to semi-Sonic Youth sounds they were making. You could also hear the Replacements and Hüsker Dü in the feedback-drenched rocking. This was such a great set that surprised my zero expectations.

The third band was Blue Smiley from Philadelphia. It's such a strange name, but I kind of like it. I was not that impressed with the band, unfortunately. They sort of sounded like The Beets or a similar Velvets-inspired garage band, but there were no standout songs. I was talking to a friend, and they pointed that out to me. They said that it was important to them to remember some of the songs that were played, something that they would definitely recall with Aloe and Derider and not so much with the other two bands. I have to agree. Blue Smiley sounded pretty cool, but their set was just a long haul through goopy songs with somewhat indistinguishable parts. All of the instruments combined together and the vocals were buried. I was not impressed.

Honey was the last band, and I was excited to see them based on the record of theirs I had heard. Their live set was disappointing though. They were loud, they had the chorus/modulation tones of Nevermind, but the songs were indistinguishable again. It was a big lump of semi-solid sugar, the kind you buy at an Asian grocery store thinking it will be pretty cool but have no idea what to do with as a white American. Just like Blue Smiley, Honey had some nice tones to the guitars and whatnot, but every song had the same kind of sounds and structures. That watery chorus can't be used for everything or you lose the dramatic effect.

I went home in a strange mental state, thinking about lumps of sugar plum fairies and the sickly sweet haze of nightly longing that hadn't been fulfilled by this show. I would definitely give Honey and Blue Smiley a second chance; perhaps it was Gooski's questionable sound system or perhaps they were just kind of off that night. More importantly, this show has me thinking about my own songwriting. Am I writing the same song over and over again too?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bat Zuppel - Dylar review

Bat Zuppel is a band from Pittsburgh that I never seem to catch and have tried to book a few times. I did actually catch them recently at RANT 2017. You could make a comparison to an eel or something, but, after listening to their new album, Dylar, it seems that they must dwell someplace that is not exactly of this Earth.

The album cover is way out there to start. It's colorless with a white, many-eyed creature being carried away in a wheel-barrow by a hooded figure in black. The cluttered cityscape behind sort of looks like Pittsburgh, hills and a trolley track and radio towers and smoke. The font on the cover looks nice, and the overall design recalls Peter Max's psychedelic worlds drained of their color.
Dylar starts strong with "Dylar VII". The production is muddy, but it works. The song has a heavy-psych vibe, heavy drums and sludgy guitars. It's an epic. Next is "Something Else", which is just as it says. This one is way faster and lighter, sort of; it has some angry vocals and then a spacey guitar part takes over, sending everything to some kind of orbit. It sounds like Nervosas mixed with Thee Oh Sees. I really like the guitar part at the end. "Dylar", the title track, has some scary vocals. I didn't know what Dylar was, so I looked it up and read a bit about it. It turns out to be a drug that is intended to inhibit the fear of death in the novel White Noise. These screams on here make a lot of sense. "Her Favorite Song" sounds like Dinosaur Jr. mixed with Pink Floyd. The band makes another space trip at the end, accompanied with really interesting drums and a good solo. "I swear she put a spell on me", begins "The Witch". The vocals are mighty and dramatic, and there should be more vocals and less instrumentals. This track really makes me wish the vocals were more prominent on the other tracks. "Away to Drown" opens with a guy talking about skating. It made me think of playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater with friends, and I laughed a little. It might have been a real story though. "Away to Drown" is again lighter and faster and angrier. Bat Zuppel moves like a machine in overdrive here, the lyrics are dark, at least the ones I can make out. At a little after the halfway mark, there is another space trip type like in the last few songs. "Living Without Blues" is something I never thought of; it's actually a really interesting idea, though I don't think I would like that world. It's about missing someone and feeling like you've lost it all, though again the lyrics are so reverb'd out at times. There are some really bluesy guitar solos here, mixed with "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" chorus vocals, and it's great. "Sneaky Tack" is total garage rock, sped up and cleaned up. "See my girl, see my baby". The vocals make it sound a bit like Bowie on Pinups. I wish this track did not have the space-solo during the second half; the strong would have been stronger as something more compact. "Love" has a tough vocal to start things off, a descendant of Lou Reed or a version of Jet that isn't terrible. I like the cleaner production on this one and the simple imagery. The song ends on a space voyage, as you might expect.

Dylar was an interesting listen. The songs are decent, and the instruments are well played. The production is really muddy though, so it can be hard to make out what's going on. It kind of works with this band. I can't understand the vocals on most of these tracks, and I wish I could. They've gone into the world of reverberations. The songs are a little formulaic; Bat Zuppel's garagey guitars mix with the outer limits often. Most tracks seem to have a space rock outro or ending solo. They sound good, but this is such a dramatic effect that it becomes overdone when used this often. Even with these flaws, I do like this album; it's a solid rocker with some cool quirks. I give it a Good, though it just makes the pass. I had to think, "would I enjoy listening to this over and over?". The answer is, "yes".

Dylan launches on September 22nd on Wild Kindness Records, and there's a release show scheduled for September 15th at Spirit. Watch for it all overhead.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Marbled Eye - EP review

Marbled Eye is a band from Oakland, CA that I almost went to see when they were here in Pittsburgh on August 30th. I wasn't familiar with the band at all, but I liked the description, the quick listen I did, and the name of the band. Low on cash and feeling kinda down, I skipped out on it. I don't regret missing the show, but I figured I would review Marbled Eye's EP to get a better grasp on the band.

EP has a pretty cool cover, a monochromatic blue on white and looking like a Katsuhiro Otomo drawing. The textural image matches the sounds nicely. However, I don't like the text on the left. It looks almost good, but I have issues with the different thicknesses, angles, and the odd 'm'. It looks like there was not much of a plan to it. If they had taken some more time to give it a cohesive look, this would be a great cover image. Their previous release, the self-titled Marbled Eye, used the same style of text but made it the focus of the image, a mystery to untangle and sort out amidst puzzle pieces and dominoes.

The EP starts with "Former" with guitars like rays of light and monotone vocals. It's good, but I wish the vocals were more exciting; they seem to be going for something Gang of Four might have sang on Entertainment but not of the same caliber, the bass not as strong. I do like when the vocals are consumed by reverb at the end, and the lead guitar is great. Next is the more bass-heavy "Dirt" with rattling guitars that begin to sound like Murray Street Sonic Youth. This is a much more upbeat song in tone, and the production is much more open. When the vocals come in, things are a little more muddy, more negative. They sound like a mix of Syd Barret and Alan Vega. It continues to also sound like Sonic Youth. During this song, I began to think the production was a little off. Third is "Feast", not unlike the previous song. It still has that later-era Sonic Youth tone, but the vocals aren't as much Barrett/Vega. I actually really like the vocals on this one; they aren't too deadpan and the rhythm is cool. The guitars go into a mysterious zone, accompanied by uncertain drums, the bass driving them to their destination. This is my favorite song on the EP. This last one, "Objects" is a close second; it's also really good. It has the vocalist from the first song, who I don't find as exciting. However, the instrumentals parts are some of the most interesting on the whole release. The Morse code guitars lead the pulsing bass and the syncopated drums. It ends with a really cool drone tone that's probably just the last glimmer of one of the stringed instruments.

Marbled Eye's EP is a reasonable effort, but it is nowhere near a masterpiece. My main issue is with the production. Everything seems too tinny and thin. The bass can rumble but it lacks real power, and the drums are far too slight. It pains me a bit to listen to this, though the songs are pretty good. Despite the production, the instruments play some really interesting bits, but the vocals drag the songs down too. Finally, EP is not anything that hasn't been done before. The unwary might mistake this for an early-2000's post-punk revival record or even for one of the originals from the late 70's to 80's. I think Marbled Eye could have a lot to offer, but I cannot give their EP more than a Neutral.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

RANT 2017

RANT, an acronym for Rock All Night Tour, is a big festival in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh that is in its sixth year. I have never gone to any of the previous years, as big events make me anxious with their obligations. Since I now live in Lawrenceville, it seemed silly not to go this year, which itself is kind of an obligation.

I decided to go to only two of the shows, both on the night of September 2nd. The first was at Spirit, and the second was at the Lawrenceville VFW, a place I had never been before. I wanted to see some of the bands at Roundabout Brewery, but the times conflicted with the bands I wanted to see at the other two shows.

I made it to Spirit a little after Swampwalk had started. Not many people were there, and no more than four were anywhere near the stage; many people were back near the bar. It was fairly empty, and that was disappointing to me. Swampwalk's set was pretty cool, though there were some little mistakes that she pointed out in a cute way that made them seem fun. I always like the song about street harassment. It's incredibly well-written and addresses a serious topic. She flipped off the crowd in a friendly sort of way during that one. I think she was also a little frustrated with the crowd's disconnect.

Next was Bat Zuppel. I actually took a short trip home, only a few blocks, due to anxiety and hunger/thirst. I saw about half of Bat Zueppel's set. They must have started late, because it seemed like they went on later than they were scheduled to. I've only seen Bat Zuppel play at the Ramones tribute show I did last year. This set was not as exciting as that one. It was good, but it lacked the intensity and fury. There were some really cool guitar leads and cool rock moves, though. I wonder if it was due to the separation of the band from the crowd; being high up on a stage is much different than playing at the same level as the audience right in front of you. The audience was still not paying attention either.

Thousandzz of Beez played an awesome set after Bat Zuppel left the stage. I was so impressed! The crowd seemed more impressed too (finally)! I have only seen Thousandzz of Beez once before, so this was almost entirely new to me. Of course I had seen Hunter play with Dani in Space Debacle recently; this was very different, though of course there were some similarities. This set reminded me of something Syd Barrett might have played had he been born to my generation instead of the acid-soaked 60's. Hunter's garb and the songs did remind me of the 60's though, accompanied with drum machine and a little harp in addition to the typical folkish guitar of Greenwich Village. Thousandzz of Beez is quiet musick, night musick, Pittsburgh's Colossal Youth. I was entranced by these songs, and I almost wanted to go home and think about what I had just seen.

I did go home for a short time. I did think about what I saw. On the way back to my house, I saw some friends outside Roundabout Brewery and got to see a little bit of The Long Hunt, a Sabbath-y instrumental group. On the way back out after my short stay at home, I also stopped there for a second and saw the shortest glimpse of Midge Cricket. I couldn't stay though.

The Lawrenceville VFW did not look like it was hosting a show. When I entered, there was a faint smell of smoke and numerous older men. However, there was a small area in the corner with some gear set up. Aloe was just getting ready when I came in. The sound person made them turn down a few times; they were awfully loud for such a small venue. It was kind of funny. Aloe played some new songs using some older poetry. These songs were really good! I liked them maybe a little more than the already existing songs.

I considered leaving after Aloe's set, but I hung out with some friends. There was one more band to play, LoFi Delphi. The name doesn't really fit the band. LoFi Delphi is a very polished band, almost like a very professional bar band, but not as boring. The audience seemed really into it; the VFW was way more packed than Spirit. I was still talking with friends, so I don't have a good recollection of their set. They did play a nice cover of "Psycho Killer" at the end. I feel like it's a played out song, but it worked well.

I stayed a bit longer and then went home. It was good to go out and finally see/hear what RANT was all about. It's not really a tour and does not go all night, but it was fun to see a few very different bands. I think it would be cool if it was like Art All Night and actually went all night at one or two venues where a person could pop in and out of at their leisure. Art All Night can't do musick all night though either. Next year, I hope that the RANT folks can get more people out to these shows, maybe reel it back a little. The performers were all fine, but it was weird to see the upstairs of Spirit so empty for such a big, advertised event. I plan on going next year again to see what they come up with.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Nakatani Improv Surprise

On August 31st, I almost missed a show I was set to play. I had signed up to play a cool improv set with other peeps opening for the legendary Tetsuya Nakatani. I had gotten a response back but forgot to respond myself until a few days before. The day of the performance, I was really engrossed in Trigun and wanted to finish watching the remainder of the series. When I got home, something bolted into my mind, "hey! it's the day of that show!". The show was kind of secret, being a house show, so there wasn't a lot of notice for it either. I was so tired that day, but I had made the commitment and thought it would be fun. After a short rest, I did gather up my strength and instruments, decided on somewhat last minute, and headed over.

I found my way to the house with assistance from a friend. I was just wandering around on the street outside, unsure of exactly where to go, until someone appeared out of a mysterious rift in the wall of houses. I felt great when I got into the courtyard; there was a calm semi-party atmosphere, and many of my friends were there. No one was that sure of who was playing as what; the consensus was that we were playing as a group. That's what we did. I think the improv group ended up being Micah Pacileo, Joey Molinaro, Dani Danger, Valerie Kuehne, Reid Magette, and myself. Instruments included theremin, piano, electric guitar, and my synthesizer, a microKORG. I was so engrossed in what I was doing that I didn't notice the trumpet(?) and vocals that I hear on the recording. It was fun and very disorganized. Though chaotic, I think that there was some sense to it, a gothic droney tone mixed with ragtime and jazz; it was not unlike Sun Ra's Arkestra. After listening to the recording, I was surprised that we only played for a little around 8 minutes. Sometimes, a short set is enough. I'd rather play shorter than go on for too long.

Right afterward, I hurried over to a much eerier house for the next performer. Arvid Tomayko was set up in the corner of an otherwise empty room. We turned out the lights to strange sounds filling that space. Electrical whirrs met with the deep reverberations of caverns under the Earth. At times there was a sense of a beat. Everything was performed on custom equipment and using custom software on a laptop; I'm not sure what all it entailed. Tomayko ended just on time, almost going too long. Being in that room with a few others, not talking, connected by the oneness of sonic somethings was a very special experience.

Then we went downstairs and watched as Tetsuya Nakatani set up his drumkit in a messy kitchen. Again, the room added to the ambiance of the performance. Nakatani played an apocalyptic piece of bowed gong and metal bowls. I was amazed at how nimble and precise he was with his improvisation. There were amazing sounds, very harsh and textural, the sounds of the roughness of metal objects along with an overarching doom of heavy drums. The eerie sounds of the gong worked with the stark lighting of that desolate place. This was the world and there was an outside of night time wonder where something, anything, might happen; we had entered the faerie realm.

All of a sudden, it was over. We had returned to the Earth, a world of corporate villains masked as heroic leaders. The magick still lasted a while longer while I remained in that place with friends, but this was the real world. I will remember that sense of camaraderie from that day for a long time.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Shameover - Shameover Demo review

I got the Shameover Demo tape from the band after the show with them at Dreamhouse. Shameover is a pop-punk band from Vancouver. Surprisingly, I was so happy with their set, that I bought a tape, and I was very excited to listen to the tape. It did not disappoint me, for the most part.

The first song on the tape, "Already Gone" is the song that stood out the most at the show. It is a poppy song of maybe like a failed relationship. The chorus and chord progression and lead parts create a nice hook. It reminds me of Hüsker Dü or the Replacements. I was going to try to connect the two by saying something like, "the Twin Cities aren't far from Vancouver", but they actually are very far away. The next track, "Cougar", is a little faster and also deals with some kind of relationship. It's a little more mysterious, though it does make me think of probably exactly what you are thinking of when you read that title, not the animal, but turned on its head a bit. "Bruise" has a really great melody to it; it actually reminds me a bit of a Tiger Army song. The song's lyrics make me feel unwell; it makes me think of how poorly people treat each other too often. Combined with my recent re-watching of Trigun, it makes me sad.

"Keremeos" is the start of the second half. It's another relationship song, and it's also catchy. The protagonist of the song seems to have a "fuck it" kind of strength to them. Keremeos is a mountain town in British Columbia, Canada. "It's Not Yrs" has a snotty sing-along chorus. The people have the power against the money lords, if they work together. It's great. "No Magic" creeps in at the end, an ending song for real. "There must be no such thing as magic". It reminds me of La Sera or Vivian Girls. This song is a sunset in sound.

The Shameover Demo tape is poppier than their live show; I suppose that's to be expected. The songs recall early Green Day, the Ramones, or previously-mentioned Minnesota bands combined with the more recent lo-fi fury of Vivian Girls or even The Beets. I enjoyed the songs, though they get a bit samey by the end. Thankfully, this is a fairly short release, clocking in at under 15 minutes. The production is adequate; I don't mind the demo sound, but the drums are a little too thumpy, the bass needs a small boost, and the rest has slightly too much treble; this is a demo after all. Overall, the tape works with the sum of its parts, so I'll give it a Good. I'm excited to see what the future hold for Shameover.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Shameover Delay

On August 27th, my band, Sorry I'm Dead, was supposed to play a matinee show at a place called Dreamhouse. I didn't know much about the show and had never been to that place before. I knew we were playing with Maenads, who I liked, and with another band that had been described as "pop-punk", a term that makes me frown a bit. It would probably be fun anyway.

The show got delayed. We were scheduled to be there at 5pm instead of 2pm, because of some confusion about when the touring band was told the show was starting. It wasn't a big deal, but I had been excited to play an early show. I should mention that we also did not know where the venue was and did not get a lot of info from anybody. This show was not the most organized event. It was probably still going to be fun anyway, right?

Okay, so we get to the venue. Now we have to cross a busy street and walk up approximately 1,987,464 stairs and then back down 5,491 more into a basement to get our gear loaded in. It was a pain, especially with Dan's cab. We were the first band there, and the person who booked it wasn't gonna be there. It was still gonna be a fun show though, right?

A bunch of people got there soon. I messaged some people, posted about the show on Facebook, and went to my friend's house that is only down the street from the venue. Here's where I screwed up - I was late to get back, and we were first.

Our set went over well. We all made some mistakes. Some of it was because the way the room was set up. It was hard to hear everybody else; Laura and I both had trouble hearing Dan's bass. I'm sure the vocals were not the most audible either for my bandmates since there were no monitors. Our set was still pretty good, and it was fun to do. The audience was really into the stuff we played and asked if Sorry I'm Dead had anything to buy. Unfortunately, we only have a live album on Bandcamp, maybe uploading that to Spotify and the like soon, and now we also have an EP in the works. We've been talking about this EP, formerly an album, for a few months now, and now we are finally doing it. We already have the songs recorded, so it shouldn't be too hard to get it done.

Shameover finally got there right when the next band, Maenads, was setting up. They had a long drive from Chicago. Shameover was concerned about a creepy sound from the trees, which was just the sound of cicadas. After doing some research, I found out that periodical cicadas, the ones that live in the underworld for 13 or 17 years and recently emerged like the souls of the dead, are focused here in the eastern United States, so I guess they don't have those in Vancouver where Shameover is from.

Maenads played a great set! They have some new equipment, it seems; the guitars sounded louder and the band sounded fuller overall! Everything was really tight, with cool, sludgy songs of doom and gloom mostly; there are some really cool spacey leads! Maenads sounds like Mars Red Sky, Causa Sui, and Yuri Gagarin. There's also another newer sludgy, stoner band that I can't think of that I think of every time I see Maenads; I can never remember the name of the band though. I hope they put out a cool release soon too.

Finally, Shameover set up. I was prepared for the worst since I usually hate when people describe things as pop-punk. This was great though! It was more like the Ramones, the Descendants, or ancient Pittsburgh punkers Da Shunts, not like Blink-182 or Fallout Boy with those sing-song vocals. That sounds goofy, considering I'm talking about people literally singing songs, but I want more of a growl and less of a total match pitch for pitch. That 2000s pop-punk stuff hurts my ears; it's too polished! Shameover was very poppy, with vocal harmonies, nice guitar interplay, a hearty bass sound, and thumpy drums with unique beats. The songs were well written and the vocals were on point; they weren't rough and out of tune, and they weren't too perfect either. This is how I want pop-punk to be.

It was actually a fun show! We still had to load all the gear out, up and down the stairs, and dodge cars, afterwards, but I went home feeling really positive. The bands were all super good; I bought a tape and t-shirt from Shameover, who were really cool peeps. I'll be reviewing the tape next time, and I hope to see you here for that!

Thursday, August 31, 2017


As I said yesterday in my review of their show at Roboto, here I am to review NONZOO's tape, WAZOO, which was released on Already Dead Tapes this year. I liked the tape even just from the cover art with its bulbous, insectoid mosaic. There are a few different variations of the cover, just like the shirt that I also got from the band. The actual cassettes are a gold color that, in this case, seems eerie.

WAZOO starts with a glitchy noise anime intro called "LARVAE" that fades into the next song, "SPAMBOT RINGER", a song resembling Melt-Banana with more funky drums. There's a lot of textural guitar, computer-y noise, and drums that are thumpy and quiet. The vocals sound like a cool post-punk band (think The Slits or Mo-Dettes), shouting something like "bee! bee! bee!". Towards the end, things are pretty ragged instrumentally and vocally with some screams. The next song fades right in, "HULA-HOOP OF FLIES". At the start, there are some Siouxsie spooky vox and xylophone guitars. Before everything zooms out into the cyberspace of crystal spheres, there's some bubbling and Shaggs military drums. The title makes so much sense with this rhythm. "Alone inside her at last" (those words might be wrong), and then the song ends with a sort of "upset neighbor lady" voice from somewhere else. The "COCOON TRANSMISSION" comes in, somewhere deep inside, a scary place so confined with a green membrane. The twilling buzz is hypnotic. Maybe there are voices? It's too dark. Chants build up. "HEADLESS FARCE" is so fast and more "punk". It takes off and then "let's be quiet" and then jumps off and out again! The skittery angular guitar works well with the Macbeth-witch-like chant. The song breaks down into a slow decay, but there's one last gasp of backing vocals and springy guitars. Then it fades out in a wordless devil chant.

"They stunned her, and stripped off her garments, and lastly
They stuffed her inside a kind of a pod;
And then it was that Millicent Frastley
Was sacrificed to The Insect God."
-Edward Gorey, The Insect God

But wait, there's more! There is a side 2 (who knew? - you probably, and me too). It doesn't start here, but the next track is a noted departure from this insect story. "GREAT AMERICAN TROUGH" does not fade-in. The strong guitar line really pushes the track. There are some strange percussions going on, and the instruments remind me of the Silver Mt. Zion side-project, Diebold, a bit. "Ooh the mystery!" The vocals are similar to David Thomas' on "Big Ed's Used Farms". "SEVERE ROUGH STYLISH" is a good descriptor to this band. Whoa, there's a heavy sound barrage, but overall this song is not as dense. The vocals are chirpy. Something drips into an intercom voice saying something about being scared of yr daughter. This one is scary, and it might be my favorite track. "THE HEAVENLY CRAFT OF PURE LOVE" sounds like it could be sincere or total irony with this band. NONZOO made it the latter; this is another creepy one! Someone is telling an eerie dream/memory about an amputation, and then a man, who sounds like he might have starred in The Blair Witch Project, comes in with another story that I can't make out. Demonic voices fill the air, and then we are back to the room with the first storyteller talking about controlling yr dreams.

"CARTOON PHYSICAL" is another big break - it comes in swinging like lounge jazz accompanied with airy vocals. Then there's a very cartoony voice, a lot of vocal manipulation, and maybe backward voices (please tell yr mom and the pastor!). It ends with a cough, so I assume the title refers to a physical in the medical sense. "SECRET LANDFORMS" is a great name for a song. There are great space sounds and some zoomed out ambient parts above the fields beyond the fields that we know. This song is a little long, as is, almost, the next one, "AUTO-HOLOGRAM BONUS EVENT". The musick comes in from a different room with a really solid track full of zipper-y bass. When I thought it was getting too long, many voices spoke out around the room before screams and a horn pileup. This one has a very good end. Speaking of the end, "ROOM 202" is the last track, fading into a different world, alone outside at a temple on the edge of the world. A hot wind comes in from the left field. A spectral voice vibrates in through the veils of worlds, chorusing together to reveal itself emanating from human-cricket hybrids that begin to gather, revealed when the fog clears over the autumn leaves. Is it another holy ritual? An alien abduction? A surgical procedure? You know, I saw something staring back at me from the space between the stars, big eyes, and long hands, fingers of grey ash bones. Slime drips down my face as the many-eyed worm encircles the top of my head like a cold, damp leech. I want to scream. Distantly, there are others here, somewhere, screaming in fear. Maybe something vomits? Then the wicked laughter mocks us all before a bell rings. Time to snap out of it. Wow.

WAZOO is an amazing album. It almost becomes formulaic, but it never reaches that point with the strange soundscapes and non-rock guitars. The songs are similar but also quite varied. It sounds like the pasta, jackfruit, and eggplant dish I ate before the review tasted - alien, squishy, and too sweet. I screwed up with the food, but NONZOO did not screw up with WAZOO. NONZOO compares favorably to Melt-Banana, but this is better; I am not a fan of all of the yelps from Melt-Banana's Yasuko and the samples they use. The production on WAZOO is great, though the drums should be a bit louder. This album gets a GOOD. This rating can be in all caps - why not? Along with Aunt Dracula's Freaker, it's been one of my favorite albums this year.

NONZOO shirt front

NONZOO shirt back

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Radon Record Release in the NONZOO

Since I positively reviewed the Radon Chong tape, I Keep On Talking To You, a few weeks ago, I was very excited to see the band's tape release show on August 26th at The Mr. Roboto Project. They were playing with some touring bands that I had never heard of with very strange names and the very cool Night Vapor. There also some plans to get a Sega Saturn at this show that got delayed a bit, but that's okay.

The first band to play was Night Vapor. Night Vapor sounds like the Birthday Party mixed with Captain Beefheart with an extra amount of nausea. This set was just gross! The green lights around the band, combined with the singer's sickening gyrations, made everything look ghastly. Everything sounded excellent with some fancy guitar weirdness and throbbing rhythm section. I swear the room was spinning.

Lake Lake, from Ohio, played second. They sort of sounded like the Melvins, perhaps a little more generic. The riffs were simple and kind of sludgey/heavy. Stuff boomed, but it never really burst out of its bubble; I really didn't enjoy this band. They did some strange Looney Tunes voices during some of the between song banter, but that was almost overdone. I just wanted them to play the songs. If the songs had been faster, more energetic, or with more significant vocals or interesting instrumentation, this would have been fine.

After Lake Lake, I went outside and then played Super Smash Bros. Melee for a second. The next band, NONZOO, was already setting up and started to play just when we were finishing the game. The sound was amazing; I was really excited to get closer to the band! NONZOO is a noise-rock/no-wave band from Chicago. They remind me of Cellular Chaos. The singer looked like they could have been hanging out with the Bromley Contingent back in the late 70s, and the guitarist had such a strange instrument. The songs were fast; space sounds ricocheted off the walls as the singer bounced around like a colorful ball from a toy vending machine. The contrast was high compared with Lake Lake. Despite all the noise and sweat, NONZOO has a very cute/friendly aura about them with a hint of danger; that's pretty much what I consider to be my own aesthetic. I got a tape and a shirt from them, both of which had numerous variations. That's so cool!

Radon Chong played last. Their set was short and to the point. The songs sounded great, their new drummer, also in Hermit Thrushes, doing an excellent job! For once, I could understand the lyrics, since I had just listened to the tape, so everything was much more meaningful to me. Sasha, the singer, did some cool moves and really made the songs "pop out", but maybe that's the tape whispering in my ear as I listened to it through headphones via an ancient portable cassette player on my stairs. Anyway, this was the perfect set length of songs played to near perfection; I was left wanting more. That's how it should be.

The show was fun, and it ended super early. Some of my friends were going to another show at Spirit afterward. I considered it, but I didn't want to pay $5 to get in after missing a band or two. There was also a reunion of the Weird Paul Variety Show at the BBT, one of the last shows there. I didn't end up going to that either. I don't know why so much stuff was this night, but I was glad to have gone to Radon Chong's tape release. It was really great to see NONZOO, and I feel like I got a better understanding of some kind of cosmic oneness from this show. I really mean that, but I can't really tell you why or what that means. I had some other plans to hang out with some other friends, but instead, it seemed best to go home. "When you gaze into the NONZOO, sometimes it gazes into you". Next time we'll take a look at such a place more closely to see the animals, eat cotton candy, and feel the heat of the noise-savannah. I'll see you then!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Chantillion - Brassque review

Chantillion is a new band featuring Jackson from Grand Buffet and some other people that I am not familiar with but have probably seen somewhere before. In mid-August, they released a single before their first show at the Spirit Summer Recess, which I had to miss, unfortunately. At least I can listen to the single.

"Brassque" is a muscular synth-rock jam. Everything sounds so powerful, even if that isn't a word usually used to describe synth stuff. It's like Perturbator backing the Dictators. The song is kinda surfy, with hard-hitting drums, fast and surreal Dylan-esque vocals, and heavy bass synth. "Brassque" matches its cover art of four goofs on motorbikes well: weird and tough. My favorite part is when Jackson yells, "guitar" before a wall of heavy synths hit the listener. I don't know what the lyrics mean, but there is something about "coming back as a tiger snake" and a company man in the catacombs that recalls Poe's "The Casque of Amontillado" (also check out the spelling - Brassque and Casque).

I'm excited to see Chantillion live. The only show they have at the moment, according to Bandcamp, is at the end of September in Youngstown, but I'm sure we will see more of them in the future. "Brassque" receives a Good. It is a powerful start to something that seems like it will get better and better.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Stands in Lightning - Metanoia review

This year is the 10th-anniversary of the first "serious" release by Mirkwood Recordings, Stands in Lightning's Metanoia. 10 years ago, I was still in high school, and I wasn't going to shows. I never heard this when it came out, but I took a listen to it the other day during a night when I was haunted by fever dreams of chunky drawings of small spacemen wielding enormous pencils.

Metanoia starts out with the single-worthy "Wherein Hast Thou Loved Us", a poppy bit of noise rock, reminding me of The Wedding Present's "Brassneck" or Pittsburgh's own Arco Flute Foundation. There are some soaring highs and deep lows on this track. It's a really great opener. "Apples" has chunky riffs, burbly bass, and the sound of classic emo (Rites of Spring or early Weezer). This sound continues for the majority of the album. The two solos on "Apples" remind me of the differences in the solos on "Marquee Moon"; here one is cool/weird/warbly and the latter solo is full of staccato attack. Continuing with the emo sound, "Noli Me Tangere" does it again with the Nirvana loud-quiet-loud dynamics. There is a haunting solo here with imperfections that make the ghost real. "What It Was" is much quieter, J Mascis singing along to the Mountain Goats' folk. The titular "Metanoia", meaning spiritual conversion or the like (I had to look it up!) has some cool guitar lines like the earlier tracks, but it's a lot quieter with a very stoic bass. The song jumps up in the middle, yelling to a fiery solo. It's a strange song, kind of hollow. There's the spiritual awakening for you.

There's a bit of a break after "Metanoia". I guess we can call this "side 2", though I doubt that Metanoia had a vinyl release; 2007 is just before The Great Vinyl Resurgence. Anyway, "A Great Burden" sounds totally, tonally different from the others. It opens with a riff like "Werewolves of London" and is more of a rocker. It still has a similar downward feeling though. "Spiders and Heaven" is a great name for a track; it reminds me of a strange idea I had of cosmic spiders that keep the planets together with their interstellar silk. This one has a way different feel again, alt-country or whatever, with a waltzing tromp to the backbeat. It's a very solemn story, set to harmonica, about the afterlife. "One Wasp Left" starts sounding like something from a different album entirely - very, very lo-fi production and much lower in volume. It boosts after 30 seconds into fierce guitars, the tale of work vs love. I really liked this one - there's a lot of energy. The imperfections are kind of cool. The album closes out with "Dietrich Bonhoeffer", a priest turned spy who met his death at the hands of the Nazis. The vocals sound like Thurston Moore, and this track is more rockin' with thrashy guitar and lots of crashing cymbals.

Metanoia has great production, with deep bass tones, perky drums, and wailing guitar and vocals. It has a sound that mixes Dinosaur Jr with the emo of Lync or Rites of Spring. Though there are some really strange contrasts at times, many of the tracks are mired in downerville, washing away the mind in a thick paste mudslide. I should also mention that I don't really like the cover art. It's an abstract image, sort of like a bloody explosion. That's fine, but the text seems a bit lazy and the image is very low-res. Despite that sinking feeling, Metanoia is still a Good album; the hope comes through when needed. The songs are good, and the feelings are real. This album feels like a monolith to a time and a place and a feeling and the people that were there; the band's name fits it sharply, as it really would stand amidst falling bolts, collecting them for its own self-worth. I felt shocked myself when the musick stopped.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Too Clean

On Sunday, August 20th, I was very bored, lonely, and depressed. I was really not feeling well, so I started looking at my Facebook events. "Oh yeah Dan booked that show," I said to myself, possibly out loud, "I should go to it instead of sitting at home and looking at these weird plush bears sitting in a chair together and feeling jealous." And so, I went to the show at Howlers.

The show was supposed to start right before I got there, which made me feel anxious; I don't like to miss anything. Instead it got delayed a while, because not a lot of peeps were there. Maybe they were at Skull Fest or tired from Skull Fest or moping at home with plush bears. Eventually some people came, and the show started with the very garage-y, in every sense of the word, Spellcaster.

The members of Spellcaster look pretty young. The guitarist looks like my friend, Ocasia's, brother, who I always think of as being in high-school even though he clearly isn't now. Like his hair, this band is pretty fuzzy and imperfect. The guitar sounded pretty nice, despite using one of those multi-effects processors (yuck! so gross!). The bass was quiet, and then got a lot louder for some of the songs; it was almost like a second guitar, reminding me of Young Marble Giants. The drums were super solid with a nice deep tone on such a little kit. The songs were typical garage fair, girls and beer and stuff, which is fine. It's nothing exceptional right now, but, if these guys pushed a little more, they could be really great.

Next up was the touring band, Best Behavior. I don't like this name; it seems kind of bratty in a bad way. This band looked cool, but they did a lot of weird dance moves. Their songs are pretty dance-y though, so it makes sense. The guitarist with the sleeveless shirt did have some cool Springsteen moves, and he looks like The Boss. Anyway, the music was really disappointing. I don't like indie-dance-rock - too much like The Killers or The Strokes at their worst. Even worse, Best Behavior had some kind of drum machine or backing track. Keyboards, handheld percussion, even bass(!) and guitar(!), and other phantom sounds spread around like a curse. You guys have a 4-piece band; there is no excuse for this! I might be off on the bass and guitar parts, but it certainly looked like sometimes the band members' playing did not match the sounds emitted from the speakers. If yr gonna use a drum machine, be upfront about it, or just play it for real! These phantom sounds were clearly otherworldly as well; they sounded so separate from the material instruments. Finally, the singing was too on point; I'll take raw vocals over stuff like this any day!

Hey it's that band I like! The Spectres are raw and good! They aren't unpolished or sloppy, but they have high energy and make mistakes sometimes. This was the best I've ever seen them play! It was a breath of fresh air to hear Dan wailing "I Want Her So" over James drums and some cool guitars. You don't need backing tracks; sometimes you don't even need a bass.

This show went from one extreme to the other. The Spectres were excellent as always. It was a fun show, even though it was such a strange lineup. I got to talk to a lot of friends, new and old. Sometimes all you need is rock 'n' roll.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Big Debacle

Skull Fest is a huge punk festival in Pittsburgh. This year it happened from Thursday, August 17th to Sunday, August 20th. I didn't go to Skull Fest. The only time I have gone to Skull Fest was when I was volunteering at Roboto and had to watch the sound for one of the shows. That show was kind of goofy because there was a band of little kids, the kids of various older punks. It was amusing. Anyway, I did actually want to go this year, but the cost of the shows outweighed my desire to go to any of them, which was mostly based on seeing friends. Instead, on August 18th, I went to this show at Howlers.

There were only two bands at this show. The first band was Space Debacle, a two-piece post-punk/noise band. Their only instruments are a guitar, theremin, and drum machine, in addition to vocals. Their set was plagued with technical problems due to broken/lost equipment. That's not really a big deal for me - it shows the struggle. I like seeing a band that could fall apart at any moment, one step from the edge, energized by disaster. Of course that's more of the rock way, Neil Young and Dead Boys and whatever. This was more like a forgotten post-punk single found decades after being recorded somewhere outside London on a small cassette player at home and pressed to vinyl in small numbers, later to be found on a Messthetics compilation. Dani's singing and Hunter's guitar playing were very good; the theremin seemed to have some issues (I suspect it was some interference in the room). Space Debacle's songs dealt with the hypocrisy of certain safe spaces, abuse, mental health, and bad parents. "If you don't love me the terrorists win, so you better let me cum in your mouth". "Drink the Hate Water" was a list of ways we hurt ourselves, which I felt personally connected to, and "Hamburger Dad" was about toxic masculinity in a funny way. All the songs had serious topics with a sort of playful/surreal/humorous aspect to them. The last song was awesome, a future classic for sure.

There was a huge gap of time between the two sets; Big Splash was having their own technical issues. In the mean time, we got to listen to DJ Purr Ubu, who played some really great songs, many of which I knew, such as The Jam's "Going Underground". She also had some really cool Italo disco stuff that I had never heard before. Later we talked about what defines "night musick" and "day musick".

After some mic issues, a broken guitar strap, and whatever else, Big Splash exploded - wow they were loud (but actually not too loud)! Compared with the queer and weird Space Debacle (awesome name!), Big Splash is the traditional rock band of four guys on guitar, guitar, bass, and drums. They sound like Dinosaur Jr, Andrew as a hoarser J Mascis, his hair falling around him just the same. Later, Dan, the bass player told us to "stick to the road" in the last song. This song was more poppy and driving, some of the others mired in sludge, but all the songs were great.

Though I almost reconsidered going to this show, it was really cool. The musick between the sets was great, and I had not seen either of these awesome bands before! Big Splash seems to have a lot of stuff coming up, and I plan to see them at some point soon. I hope Space Debacle plays again soon too. Be on the lookout for these sick bands!