The infrequently-updated site blog, featuring a range of content including show reviews, musical musings and off-color ramblings on other varied topics.
Radioactivity, Birthday Suits, Butcher’s Union
Triple Rock Social Club
July 22, 2015
It’s nice to live in a city where some great out of town bands have friends. It means a band like Radioactivity, who has released two records in three years but are hardly what I’d call “active,” comes through town more often. Of course, nobody comes through town in December-March, so maybe it’s a null distinction.
Anyway, on this fine evening a week ago*, I arrived midway through a set from Butcher’s Union thanks to my bus never showing up. Anyway, the band was billed as members of Dillinger Four, Gay Witch Abortion, and Pink Mink. I expected side project and something weird. What I got was Paddy’s Greatest Hits: a mix of songs written and/or fronted by Paddy Costello of Dillinger Four, and older gems from other bands he’s played in like Cleveland Bound Death Sentence and Fuck Yeahs. Oh, and Billy Morrisette was in the band too so I shouldn’t give what’s his name all of the credit.
Obviously the songs sounded different with Costello and Christy Hunt handling vocals, but they’re rollicking tunes that are never played live—I’d say “except for D4,” but then I remembered how often they play. Hearing a female voice on Erik Funk’s usual parts was fun, if nothing else. Actually, that’s the operative word for the Butcher’s Union set. I wonder if it will happen again sometime.
Second to the stage were Birthday Suits, a long running electric duo who play driving rock that features a more full sound than most band’s twice their size. I’ve seen the band enough to call it a standard show, but what that means is that it was great, tightly played, and sweaty. I’d wager as many people were up front for Birthday Suits as for headliners Radioactivity.
And Radioactivity is what the night boils down to. On the cusp of their second LP, just released (though promised 2 years ago), it was a modest crowd but an enthusiastic one at that. The front row were all singing along and staring up front, without a camera or phone in sight. As for the performance, well, if you’ve seen other related bands (Marked Men, Mind Spiders, etc.), there is an expectation there: black shirts and haircuts you can set your watch to. Or, as another note I jotted down says, “What is there to say about the perfect band?”
Radioactivity are short and fast, always on key and so frantic it makes the heart pound listening to it. It was fast and sweaty, but maybe too fast. They only have two records so there’s not a lot of new material one can expect, but this was seriously short and sweet set, so while it raged for all of 20 minutes or so, it left wanting more…waiting for new material to make it last just a little bit longer.
*Sorry for the delay, but life was super busy (and fun) last week so it’s been hard to find extra time to sit down for this.
All photography by Loren Green.
Ex Hex, Tweens, Pink Mink
Triple Rock Social Club
July 20, 2015
I go to a lot of shows. Sometimes it’s nice to be surprised, and that’s what Monday night entailed. I was at the show strictly for Tweens, whose debut I dug last year, and I didn’t bother to check out much Ex Hex in advance. I watched a YouTube clip or two, but it failed to mention some key marketing: feat. Mary Timony, ex-Wild Flag and lots of ‘90s influence. In other words, what I thought would be a minimally attended Monday night show was a pretty full room filled with a variety of ages. Actually, “variety” is pushing it. It was mostly people in the 40-50 range and they were clearly satisfied with the late night out.
Getting started, I only caught 2 songs from openers Pink Mink. They’re a solid local band I’ve already seen this month, so I took my time getting there before they talked back and forth on stage with some entertaining banter before ripping into a closing “Hidden Beach.” The audience was engaged but, knowing their material, I thought the sound was off. That was a recurring concept throughout the night, which is unusual at Triple Rock.
Cincinnati’s Tweens were next, a young three piece that includes members of Vacation. I point that out because that band is often overlooked, even if Bridget Battle is the front piece of Tweens, and the lone band member who does not play in Vacation. It was my first time seeing them, and it was a little surprising in that Tweens is a record I’ll call trash-pop, but live it was definitely more of a grunge vibe. Of course, Battle’s uncombed bleach-blond hair was a part of the mental influence, but everything from the screaming yet relatively mild-tempered movements on stage reminded me of that era and mix of rage and apathy. In fact, the first thing I put the notebook was “Live through This,” though I’m a bit embarrassed about that goofy note taking. The takeaway was that were the record is peppy, the live act is raging, coarser and less danceable. The sound was quite muddy to kick off their set and it really didn’t sound good but with a slow evolution at the board it picked up both in terms of quality and in audience reception, turning into a great set about halfway through. By the end, the band had the audience in hand, no small feat for a relative unknown opening for a band like Ex Hex, and it convinced me that Tweens was no fluke. There was a lot of presumably new material not off their debut, and the new record looks like it will carry less pep whenever that time comes.
The recurring theme of the night, besides women who rock, would be bands in Chuck Taylors—always a good sign, though I can’t articulate why. Shoes aside, Ex Hex carry some serious musician chops. The songs are guitar-happy and filled with big guitar moments that the band makes no hesitation in showing with posturing on stage. At first the posturing was amusing, but it did get a little tiresome over the course of the full set, with almost every song drifting at some point into a solo. The band take a big musical influence, ranging from 1970s arena rock to 1990s Lookout/Kill Rock Stars pop. At its best it’s poppy and clean with a bouncy, slightly unpredictable wave throughout. The three piece weren’t very energetic onstage, mostly remaining stationed by their mic stands and slowly moving the guitar/base up and down, Guitar Hero style, but seemingly wooden. It was almost a slow motion posturing. While I enjoyed their music well enough, my takeaway was that a CD from Ex Hex is probably better than the live show, which is not a typical feeling when heading home. They seem to be a solid band, but just not all that fun to watch.
All photography by Loren Green.
Tex Perkins and the Dark Horses
Oxford Art Factory
July 19, 2015
Pizzazz. Omph. Charisma.
If your music depends entirely on that, the dependency is too great.
Tex Perkins has been in the game for 27 years. He oozes the aforementioned qualities, yet his music stands for itself.
Almost three decades of versatility and effortlessly moving between a range of genres and incarnations.
The Dark Horses is one of them.
The country, moody, groovy, bluesy one, which he seems to have felt most at home with over the last five years.
Tunnel at the End of the Light is the fifth Dark Horses album.
A coherent concept album of sorts.
Musings on the need to be.
A slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of melancholy and slow smoldering songs, great and simple images in whose presence one's heart first opened and then got bruised.
Comprised of accomplished musicians with each having a career in their own right, spearheaded by Charlie Owen, one of Australia's most revered guitarists and accomplished multi-instrumentalists, the melange and collective sound of the Dark Horses is bigger than the mere sum of its constituents.
Refined, laid back entertainment for a Sydney Sunday winter evening.
Photo by T.
Picture this: You’re looking at the front of a stage. Above you a man in a suit made entirely of muscles walks on in a shroud of fog. From far away his eyes seem to take up half of his face and his straggly salt and pepper hair spurts off in every direction imaginable. He’s smiling and making gestures with his arms. Following the man is a twelve-foot bee, an anthropomorphized mushroom, and a rainbow. Following the twelve-foot bee, the anthropomorphized mushroom, and the rainbow are some people with instruments. They politely say hello, thank you for coming, and start to make music.
What you’re seeing is not a drug induced hallucination (though it kind of feels that way) or the imminent invasion of benevolent space creatures (though it kind of feels that way). What you’re seeing is the beginning of a Flaming Lips concert.
Because I am notoriously late to the party, the first time I saw The Flaming Lips was headlining last years Riot Fest (coverage found here). At that time my only point of reference for the band was a dude-bro I had met at Frosh week years earlier. That guy loved The Flaming Lip. He constantly had their tunes blaring from his dorm room and talked about their shows like a religious experience. The same guy also used the word Namaste in casual conversation and had white-man dread locks. As such I instantly dismissed The Flaming Lips as hippie nonsense alongside other ridiculous things like patchouli oil and environmentalism.
Nevertheless I was there to cover the show. Thousands had come out to see the band and I figured that I’d watch their set for a half an hour before bailing to write a scathing and sardonic review accompanied by blurry photos from far away.
Instead the Flaming Lips opened the show by raining confetti onto the crowd and for the next hour or I bore witness to a truly amazing live act. The band used puppets, and projections, and LED lights to bring you into their world. And the Flaming Lips world doesn’t really feel like our world. It feels like something much, much, bigger. The pageantry is part of it, sure, and I wouldn’t discredit the pot smoke mixing with the fog machine, but the duration of their set front man Wayne Coyne and his backers created a dream like atmosphere where nothing really made sense and anything could happen. It was like a manufactured sort of transcendence. Not an easy thing to pull off. The experience was mesmerizing. I wrote a nice review. (here)
Last Sunday The Flaming Lips played a free show at Toronto’s city hall as a part of the festivities for the PAN AM games. For the week leading up to the show I hyped the concert to anyone who would listen and talked about the band as though I had something personally invested the performance. There are plenty of bands that I love that I couldn’t recommend to other people, in the case of those artists that’s probably part of their appeal, but I feel like a Flaming Lips’ gig is something everyone could experience and enjoy. It’s an acceptable level of weirdness and a nice gate way to some of the art-rock and theatre shit that is inherently under appreciated in our broader society. My biggest selling point was that during the performance the lead singer walks on top of the crowd in a giant hamster ball. People were really excited about the giant hamster ball.
A few friends did end up making it out to the show and talking to them afterwards they seemed just as enamored as I was. For my own part the thrill of the spectacle hadn’t worn off the second time around. As I watched the band perform from the side of the stage Coyne radiated positivity, defying the rumors of his offstage persona. Dressed like a homeless version of aqua man, complete with various rubber ducks sewn onto his shirt, the singer beamed from the stage, and toward the end of the set led thousands of people in a repeated chant on LOVE/LOVE/LOVE. It was some weird stuff but it felt warm and I’m glad that people can make stuff that feels that weird and that warm on the big a level.
Graham is a writer living in Toronto. Follow him on twitter @presgang
Babes in Toyland
Rock the Garden
June 21, 2015
It’s difficult for me to write about Babes in Toyland without sounding at least a little bit gushy. Like other local-ish acts from their same era that made waves beyond the confines of the Twin Cities (Bob Mould, Soul Asylum, The ‘Mats) Babes had a lore about them that was intriguing and important to a north woods-dwelling punk rock-craving youngster like myself. There was Lollapalooza in the Civic Center in 1993, the uncountable suicide runs to see them play First Avenue—down from Bemidji and back up again in the same night, just in time to make it to class the next day—and the last local reunion back in 2001. And then there was the birthday message from drummer Lori Barbero that I saved on my phone for so long that it was eventually deleted when it exceeded the allowed number of days. To say I was excited to see them play again for the first time in 14 years would be a bit of an understatement.
Following a spirted set by Seun Kuti—son of revered Afrobeat artist Fela Kuti, and brother of Femi Kuti—who, playing alongside his father’s old backing band Egypt 80, performed the best hour plus of music Rock the Garden had to offer up until this point (rivaled only by the previous night’s headliner Belle and Sebastian) the trio took to the stage to an eagerly awaiting audience.
Things got off to a jittery start with “Bruise Violet” when the three sort of fumbled over each other. It wouldn’t be the last misstep of the evening, but that mattered little, as every time they were able to laugh it off and get right back into things without must disruption. And if a lyric was missed, and there were a few, the crowd filled in for them.
Barbero took to the mic early to express her gratitude. “Minneapolis is the place to be today. I promised I wouldn’t cry.” Then with a slight tremble, “But that’s going to be really hard.”
Following along the Fontanelle tracklist, they played an inspired version “Right Now”, which had some of the elders abandoning their positions near the front of the stage; amidst a cloud of dust they turned and headed for more stable ground further up the hill.
And then it was singer-guitarist Kat Bjelland’s turn to speak. “It’s nice to be here. We missed you. Our kids are here.” She paused to point out bass player Maureen Herman’s daughter and her own son (who could be seen headbanging stage-side throughout most of the set) before stating, “I’m really happy.”
They pounded through a lengthy set that drew heavily upon the three releases that this “classic” lineup of Babes recorded: Fontanelle, the Painkillers EP, and Nemesisters. Seeing them play songs like “Handsome and Gretel” and “Sweet ‘69” in the blazing hot sun conjured fond memories of the alt/punk festival boom of the ‘90s that Babes in Toyland frequented.
During “Spit to See the Shine”, one of two tracks in set from the To Mother EP, Bjelland really let go with her signature wails, showing her vocal capabilities haven’t lost any steam over the years. It’s awesome to see the song that inspired a 2006 retrospective collection of Twin Cities bands featuring women (Spit To See The Shine: Twin Cities Women Who Rocked 1987 – 1998) take such a prominent role in the set.
Despite their outwardly bombastic sensory assault Babes in Toyland were always sneakily groovy. In the live setting songs like “Drivin’”, the lone track featuring Lori on vocals, and “Vomit Heart”, from their debut album Spanking Machine, Herman and Barbero’s pulsing rhythm section is fully realized. The first crowd surfer of the evening appeared during the latter.
It was heartwarming to see all the young people, especially the young women, making moves to get near the front. Even more so to see adults making the necessary room for them rather than posturing with the whole “I was here first” thing that happens all too often amongst the arms-folded crowd. Babes in Toyland were a fierce favorite amongst young people and catalyst for female empowerment the first time around. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be some 20 plus years later. Perhaps even more so now, given the things each of these women have experienced in the time that’s passed since then.
They wrapped up their set with “Dust Cake Boy” and came to the front to take a sheepish bow. Barbero, always the gracious one, hung back to take photos of the audience with her giant pink-cased cell phone. And the only smile that was bigger than Lori’s was my own.
Photos and complete setlist below...
Spit to See the Shine
He’s My Thing
Handsome and Gretel
Dust Cake Boy
Follow Nathan on Twitter: @OMG_NOB
All photos courtesy of Michael Speake: www.MichaelSpeake.com
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I forgot to post this prior to week one, but given the outcome of that game, maybe it was for the best. Anyway, the Browns season is underway and that ... read more
Over the weekend a band that was very dear to my heart announced their sudden breakup and played their final show. I first became acquainted with Life Long Tragedy over ... read more
I was yelled at again for writing this, and since I am applying for a job at a local newspaper, I don't really want this hanging over my head. Sorry ... read more
Last night my band played with Souvenir's Young America, City of Ships, and Monolith at Siren Records in Doylestown, PA; it was a fun time all the bands played real ... read more
If you didn't hear the news, Roy Scheider died this week at the age of 75. Jaws is one of my all-time favorite films. I am extremely sad. I fully ... read more
They could make me look not so good to certain people. Nobody read them anyways. read more
So, back when Cave In's Until Your Heart Stops dropped on the hardcore masses several years back, I had the chance of catching the band at Middlesex County Community College. ... read more
I broke out my CD for the Gehenna- The War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness and saw something that always made me smile. Allow me ... read more
Hello. Some of you might remember (or have participated in) my experiment over the summer collecting people's wishes on this page. I got over 160 entries and published them all ... read more
Imagine being in this kid's place... Interview w/ Henry Rollins read more
Even though it is just a joke, I'd still vote for Stephen Colbert for president before I'd vote for anyone else for running, outside of the longshots that have no ... read more
Dear Atreyu, Please stop. No seriously, please stop...now. - File has been removed. It was up for a month. It was the band's cover of Faith No More's "Epic." - ... read more
I woke up today at 5:30am to get my ass to the store to open it for what I figured would be another boring Sunday at work. Work has been ... read more
So the man that founded Factory Records and helped Joy Division become as huge as they did through hype died today. Not alot of people repect what Wilson did for ... read more
Yesterday during rush hour traffic on 35W the bridge than spans the mighty Mississippi fell. There was no earthquake. There was no terrorist attack. The bridge just buckled and toppled ... read more
Part 1: Mission Statement, Introduction, and first terribly nostalgic musing A number of years ago, a few friends of mine, myself, and people who would quickly become my friends used ... read more
Shook Ones, for the uninitiated, are a melodic hardcore band from Seattle, Washington. Their debut LP, Sixteen, had some serious Kid Dynamite aping going on, without a doubt, but it ... read more
Remember when the idea of Friday the 13th used to be scary? Maybe its because I am a grown adult, but there just does not seem to be any horror ... read more
You have no idea how wonderful it is to be finally typing these words. Not that my work is done: a SPB staffer's work is never done! But seriously: typing ... read more
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