Monday, December 19, 2016

Twelve Records and One Reissue I Liked This Year

Bald Eagle - Clean Living (Self Released)


The Conformists - Divorce (Aagoo Records)


Kyle Craft - Dolls of Highland (Sub Pop)



Fake Limbs - Matronly (Don Giovanni Records)


Helms Alee - Stilcide (Sargent House)


Jorge Arana Trio - Mammoth (Haymaker Records)


Maple Stave - V (Comedy Minus One)


Multicult - Position Remote (Reptilian Records)


Parlour - Self Titled - (Temporary Residence)



Russian Circles - Guidance (Sargent House)


The Rutabega - Unreliable Narrator (Comedy Minus One)


We Are The Asteroid - We Are The Asteroid (Self Released)


Reissue of the Year
Dazzling Killmen - Face of Collapse (Skin Graft Records)


Friday, October 28, 2016

Shellac in St. Louis. Again. Twelve Years Later

     Shellac last played the St. Louis region on June 17, 2004 at the Collinsville, IL VFW hall. It was a make up date for a show originally scheduled for October 23, 2002 at a different VFW hall - The Fairview Heights (IL) branch, if memory serves me. Clearly, the show was postponed. Drummer Todd Trainer injured his back, OR so the story goes. I was bummed. Now I'll never get to see Shellac. Oh the woe.
     At the time, seeing Shellac of North America was truly the last of my "I HAVE TO SEE THIS BAND BEFORE I DIE" shows. In the twelve years since that day, I've seen Shellac on two other occasions in Chicago. Hell Night 2016 will be three as Shellac returns to St. Louis City proper. The lesson of bucket list bands is that even if you miss out the first time, chances are decent, if you are willing to hop a train, you will get another chance.
     I wrote a review of that show and while I own the review and find it more or less accurate, it does illustrate a couple things about aging.
     One is how we interpret things as a twenty-nine year old versus how we see things pushing forty-two.  There is a certain overreaction, a mild misinterpretation if you will. The folks at the VFW hall in Collinsville did not screw Shellac by cutting their last song short. They cut their last song short, because the liquor laws said that they had to. We should be grateful that they allowed the fine dudes in The Conformists to book the show. Not that they cut the song 'Copper' by thirty seconds.
     In addition, the hero worship, the elevation of dudes who have graced your town with their presence is a little overstated. I like Shellac, you might even say love, but what Steve Albini thinks is not word nor gold. He is a micro-celebrity, who content aggregators monitor for headlines, but he is just a dude -- who taxes do NOT pay my salary.
     So WELCOME BACK Shellac. I will be the dude in the Bob Weston costume. JAZZ HANDS!!!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Fallacies of The Vodka Bar (or Breakfast at First Watch)

In my experience, when beloved music venues close, be it because of shitty landlords, domestic strife or whatever, what follows rarely succeeds. Property owners get it in their head that it’s the location that made the previous spot successful, not the tenants and their patrons.  They get the idea that if the building was rehabbed into martini bar or an upscale Italian restaurant, that they can up the rent and make even more money. Most times, it backfires as a stream of failed ventures follows.  Food is fickle, whereas live music recycles forever. It is a sustainable model that as long as the quality of bands remain high, the people will continue to come. As does the loyalty and the life long relationships. It is a goddamned shame when some people just don't get this and how it benefits a scene and a city. They usually trot out the same bullshit reasons of why they want to try something else, but they usually are back pocket reasons that have existed for ten years and will always be there. The bottom line is that it’s all about money and the short sighted mentality of reaching for the mytic more instead of sticking with the steady and the consistent. All you can do is hope that in the end, the good guys move to a spot down the road and continue to succeed while the blind get to manage an empty store front six months from now. Or, if you’re into playing the long game, you lose track of how many places have failed at end of this decade.  I honestly don’t know the specific reasons, but I’ve seen this rodeo a few times before. Til' we meet again recordBar 1.0.  Winter is the shit season for live music anyhow.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Melvins w/ Big Business Pops, Sauget, Ill. | 09.26.07

October 1993: 

The Primus "Liquid Pig" Tour rolled into Kansas City. Seated in the balcony of Memorial Hall was Lavis Dichiud: a young college freshman and devoted Primus fan. This evening was the first time that he saw Les Claypool & Co., and boy was he excited. He had no time or patience for some sludge metal band from Washington. He wanted Primus and he wanted it now. The scene was brutal. Melvins were treated to a chorus of boos and shouts of "PRIMUS!" throughout their opening slot. Thirty minutes passed and the Melvins left the stage with a torrent of sarcastic cheers. Primus soon came on, and Dichiud had the time of his life. He would later go to a Stone Temple Pilots show and boo the Butthole Surfers. If only he knew at that time how stupid he was.

Like all of us, my musical tastes evolved greatly over the years. A year after that Primus gig, I transferred to the University of Kansas, where I got involved with the student radio station. Suffice to say, the volume of music that I naturally stumbled upon was enormous. My college degree may read "Journalism," but it might have well had an asterisk on it with "Minor in College Rock" at the bottom. In my tenure at the station, one of the bands that I really got into was Olympia, WA's Karp. The written review on the sleeve of their 1997 Self-Titled LP went something like this: "R-O-C-K. Black Sabbath + Melvins." Hmmmmm. Very interesting. It did take another five years or so, but a re-examination of this band called "Melvins" commenced. It did not last long for a verdict to be read. It turned out that Kurt Cobain really was on to something: Melvins rocked and I had heckled them. Amends had to be made. Apologies were in order.

Meanwhile, Karp had broke up years back and bassist/vocalist Jared Warren moved on to Tight Bros From Way Back When. Disappointingly, they were nothing like Karp. However in 2004, Warren started Big Business with ex-Murder City Devils drummer Coady Willis. It was not Karp, but it was close enough. Tuned down, loud and booming, Big Business had the smell of Melvins all over them. So it came as no surprise (Okay, that's a fucking lie) when the head Melvins Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover invited Warren and Willis to join as full time members. Melvins now had two drummers. The fruit of the latest incarnation of the Melvins was (A) Senile Animal. Deservedly touted as critics as the best Melvins record in years, the disc was personal revelation. I finally got it - Absolutely and completely. 

With a crowd mixed with youngsters in Nirvana shirts to old-timers who probably resented their presence, Pops was not at capacity. However, it was not sparse to say the least. Following a screening of A Purge of Dissidents - a collection of ten animated shorts - Big Business took the stage. In what was a small surprise, Big Business finally brought a guitarist - Toshi Kasai - along with them. In previous tours, BB mostly performed as a two-piece, thus leaving out any guitar work that appeared on their records. Kasai's presence was felt the most during "Easter Romantic," which when played with just drums and bass loses a great deal of its punch. The set was great, marked by two great moments of banter from Warren. As he paused between songs, Warren commented on how Pops looked like a venue that Whitesnake would play. Hoots of sarcastic laughter filled the room at the dead accurate quip. Warren quickly backtracked, stating he meant nothing insulting by the observation. Later, while introducing Kasai, Warren pointed out that the guitarist had brought his own PBR with him - which in the world of music is a true rarity. Trust me, it was funny. It was a visual thing. You just had to be there.

The drum set of Willis and Crover needs to be seen to appreciate fully. Basically two drum kits welded together with communal toms in the middle, it resembled a medieval torture device. It also had the name "MELVINS" stretched across the fronts of the two bass drums which was a nice touch. Their set in essence was divided in two, with the "classics" filling the front half, while numbers from (A) Senile Animal dominated the latter section. The crowd was loud and appreciative - myself included. Strangely enough, there was no encore.


After the show, I did not get the chance to personally apologize to Crover or Buzzo for that autumn night in Kansas City. A dorky, sappy sentiment indeed, but it does prove that sometimes you do get a chance to redeem your crappy taste in music.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Blood Brothers Creepy Crawl, July 17, 2004

The gig was sold out. Still, a line of fans snaked around Creepy Crawl into the parking lot like the Mississippi River. Outside strode a clearly rushed and irritated Creepy employee. “If you do not have tickets that you purchased online, I’m sorry, but this show is sold out!” Grumbles were heard en masse, the Internet was cursed, and people headed back to their cars. A sold-out summer show at the Creepy was upon us. I could tell that this was going to be an interesting night.

Following the Chromatics’ brief set of shoe-gazing dance punk, Kill Me Tomorrow took flight. Hailing from San Diego, percussionist Zack Wentz’s kit was an electrified get-up with a digital console that looked like a futuristic heart monitor. Accompanied by bassist K8 Wince and guitarist Dan Wise, KMT were a perfect match on this bill. Noisy no-wave, art-rock smoked out of the PA with all three members sharing vocal duties. Their set was by no means easy and their sound uncompromising, which came as no surprise from a band that’s signed to Gold Standard Laboratories: Where Convention is a Four-Letter Word.

When the Daughters took stage, the mercury had risen to a level that would make a high-school wrestler cutting weight giggle with glee. Applying the death metal theory of drumming, a double kicker ruled the entire set. So did screaming and songs that rarely exceeded a minute in length. The Daughters have clearly been raised on a large diet of the Locust. I can’t say that I’m going to rush out and buy their entire catalog, but I can’t stop myself from loving the very fact that they exist. This might not make a lick of sense, but unless you’ve tricked an unsuspecting friend into attending a Skin Graft Records fest or owned more than one Melt Banana record, you just wouldn’t get it. Art can be that way.

Mirages were popping up everywhere around Creepy when the Blood Brothers started playing. Playing a set that was largely a testing ground for their new LP Crimes (out October 5 on V2 Records), Brothers vocalists Jordan Blilie and Johnny Whitney shook, screamed, and flailed through the wall of heat that enveloped the crowd and the band. The new material they played showed no evidence that the Brothers are going to churn out a record that will soften their legacy in the slightest. Those up front went absolutely apeshit as the Brothers closed out their set with “Cecilia and the Silhouette Saloon” from Burn, Piano Island, Burn. Afterwards, as the crowd filed out of the under-21 section, faces and bodies drenched in sweat, they looked as if the night had been a marathon held in a sauna. No matter, for this was a sauna worth every penny. The Blood Brothers were magnificent.

Don Caballero, The Constantines, and Dakota/Dakota -- Rocket Bar, March 13, 2004

This night is what I consider a “stacked” lineup—stacked enough for advance ticketing, which is a rarity at the Rocket Bar. For this night was an evening on which skipping the opening acts was not an option. Three bands, all three of them rolling in from out of town and all of them ranging from great to flat-out amazing.

Let me be blunt: Chicago’s Dakota/Dakota are amazing. Taking cues from fellow instrumental outfits PelĂ© and Dianogah, Dakota/Dakota create sounds that are mellow and beautiful in one breath and straight-up rocking the next. The interplay between guitarist Mike Sullivan and bassist Colin Dekuiper, combined with rhythmic beatings of Jim Myers, was nearly perfect. Watching Dekuiper’s typewriter-like taps halfway up the neck of his bass was damn near jaw-dropping. Like a new discovery, the ever-building crowd expressed its appreciation louder and louder ’til the end of the set. It was obvious that Dakota/Dakota made one hell of an impression on those lucky enough to show up early.

Up next came Toronto’s The Constantines. By this time the room had pretty much filled up and the front of the stage was packed. In support of their stellar Sub Pop release Shine a Light, the Cons were equally impressive. Described in many circles as Fugazi meets Springsteen, vocalist Bry Webb sounds like he’s spent 30 years washing his mouth out with Old Crow and smoking two packs a day. His vocals have that sleepy, raspy, imperfect quality that reminds me slightly of Cursive’s Tim Kasher. This, of course, gives the Con’s tunes a boatload of sincerity and soul. The crowd on hand was clearly enjoying the Constantine’s set. At one point, drummer Doug MacGregor even distributed the band’s tambourines for some full-fledged audience participation. The highlight of their set came near the end of “Shine a Light,” when the band held a pulsating note for at least 30 seconds while each member held his hands in the air much like a congregation praying for a miracle. Solid, solid set.

Up next was Don Cab, nearly four years removed from their breakup and last record, American Don. First off, they played perhaps the longest set I have every heard at the Rocket Bar. For at least 75 minutes Don Cab played through their back-catalog. They were solid and rocking. Unfortunately, drummer Damon Che chattered irrelevantly between every song, which quickly became beyond annoying and started to detract from the band’s performance. Whether out of fatigue or having their fill of Don Cab, the crowd had diminished substantially by the end of the set. Sometimes you can get too much of a good thing, and when a band doesn’t quite measure up to the acts that preceded them, you have a recipe for heading for the doors early.

Clockcleaner -- Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center, May 29, 2005

Bands that have a geeky, bespectacled wise-ass as their frontman are few and far between these days. Fronted by the crass and sarcastic John Sharkey, Philadelphia’s Clockcleaner takes us back in time to 1988 when Big Black released the classic Songs About Fucking and a year before the Jesus Lizard first landed.

Following sets from The Hell and Corbeta Corbata came Clockcleaner. Hailing from a town that prides itself in displays of brotherly love and being the greatest battery-chuckers in the sporting world came Clockcleaner. On this evening, the theme for their set was short but sweet. In support of their recent EP The Hassler, they blew through their nine-song set at a jailbreak pace. Playing only two songs from said EP (“Hands Are for Holding” and “Shingles”), Sharkey took every opportunity to remind the assembled crowd that the next song was something we hadn’t heard or was on a record that we didn’t have. Another bit of Sharkey between-song banter happened when a young lady made reference to the nipples of bassist R. Slegel. Sharkey immediately fired back with the obligatory request that she show off hers as well. Closing out their set, Sharkey started repeating “Bye” in a prickish, bored monotone.

It may sound extremely strange, but the antics of Sharkey and contemporaries like Steve Albini and David Yow are put-ons 90 percent of the time. It’s just an added flavor in their collective bombast. Without it, they wouldn’t have had half of their appeal. Strangely enough, this type of behavior doesn’t work anywhere else in the rock spectrum. A collective ass-wupping would await your average touring singer-songwriter if he would try and pull that act off. Yet through and through, regardless of the flippant attitude of Sharkey, Clockcleaner rocked. Sure they were a ripoff band—but they were a damn good ripoff band.