The infrequently-updated site blog, featuring a range of content including show reviews, musical musings and off-color ramblings on other varied topics.
Too Many Rappers: July 2014
7/18/14 - Minneapolis, MN
Commuting earlier than usual this morning means it’s nice and cool. I ride by a kid who’s wearing an old 3rd Bass tee shirt and give him an approving Malcolm X-style fist in the air. He nods his head back at me like, “Yeah, that’s right, this is a 25 year old fucking 3rd Bass tee shirt.”
For some strange reason as I pedal over a set of tracks I think of the waitress at the Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub who once served my wife and me excellent wings and mediocre IPAs. She looked like Dolph Zigler, which I found equal parts disturbing and sexy. My love affair with professional wrestling is not something I'm sure I'll ever understand.
I stop briefly to slap a custom sticker on the back of a Yield sign. It will be gone by the time I ride home tonight; scrapped off or grayed out by the Greenway Vigilante. It’s me versus him/her on a daily basis. Gray is a great color; versatile and understated…for an outfit. But holy shit is it ever rage-inciting when it’s covering someone’s free public art offering. In my eyes, unsolicited buffing of graffiti and/or street art on public property is the same type of offense as artists going over each other. Not cool.
Waiting at a stop light like a decent law abiding citizen (which I do realize sounds rediculous, considering the previous paragraph) a women blows by me, through the light, and spits in my general direction. I playfully shout to her, “Yeah, that’s my girl.” She looks back and says, “Shut up creep.” I then reaffirming-ly say to myself, “Yeah, that’s my girl.”
In the earbuds Sonic Youth’s “Washing Machine” is transitioning into “Unwind” just as I pull up to work and the last thing I want to do is get off my bike. I just want to keep riding...to like, the suburbs or some shit. But then I'd be in the suburbs. Work or the suburbs? It's like voting for President.
As I’m locking up I am met by a man named Zygon. He’s actually the second person I’ve met named Zygon in recent times. He wants to sell me a photocopied chap book for five dollars. Instead I trade him a zine for one. These days I’m increasingly less interested in—dare I say irritated by—poetry. But I got mad love for my fellow DIY self-publishers. We shake hands and part ways. After he’s out of sight I feverishly tear through my bag looking for hand sanitizer because that’s just the kind of miserable asshole I am.
As soon as I’m done thumbing this out on my phone like some type of goddamn zombie, I’ll walk into work. I’ll wonder, just like I have every day for what seems like forever, if this one will be my last time. And if it is, at least I’ll be able to ride my bike home on a nice day. I’ll probably listen to The Cactus Album on the way.
Here's some stuff other rap shit that has soundtrack’d my bike rides this summer…
DJ Moneyshot – Half-Man Half-Amazing: A Tribute to Illmatic (mixtape)
For the April 24th episode of the Solid Steel Radio Show DJ Moneyshot produced an audio documentary tribute to Nas’ classic and influential debut album Illmatic, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The result is an intricately woven tapestry of source material—interview footage, remixes, beat sample material, etc. — combined with the original Illmatic tracks. It’s like NPR for hip-hop heads.
Trackstar the DJ – Ghost Stories: Ghostface Killah's Storytelling Raps (mixtape)
Trackstar the DJ, god bless his heart, took on the challenging task of rounding up all of Ghostface Killah’s most absorbing and unforgettable story time verses. The end result is 26 tracks of vivid narration by one of the Wu-Tang Clans more reliable emcees. Also of note here is Ghost’s knack for selecting dope beats.
LA Leakers – Leaks That Collected Dust: The Audio-Biography of DJ Premier (mixtape)
Nothing new here as far as songs go but there’s dusty treasures from DJ Premier’s catalog mixed in with some of his well-known hits—Krumb Snatcha, KRS-One, Biggie, Rass Kass, and of course Gang Starr and Jeru the Damaja; it’s all in here. Everything’s tied together very nicely with interludes. As the beats run long between songs, Preemo tells stories of how they came to be and the situations surrounding them. Old-school heads and history-seeking yougins alike will dig it. And everyone will be mad they slept on that Group Home album.
Onyx – Wakedafucup (Mad Money)
Barring some films that have ranged from kind of OK to totally unwatchable, I honestly haven’t paid much attention to anything Onyx-related since their debut in 1993. So I was quite surprised to realize that not only has Onyx put out a new album but that it is actually one of the best of the year so far. A large part of that has to do with the contribution of the Snowgoons, who produced the album in its entirety. A$AP Ferg and Sean Price show up on “We Don’t Fuckin’ Care” which is D to the ope. I may get old but unrelenting boom-bap beats, record scratching, and grimy street raps never will.
Army of the Pharaohs – In Death Reborn (Enemy Soil / Babygrande / Demigodz)
Another one that took me by surprise. AOTP is one of those revolving door Demigodz crews that are so large it’s hard to keep track of who’s in and who’s out. This time around Vinnie Paz, Apathy, Celph Titled, Esoteric, Blastican, Crypt the Warchild, Des Deviuos, King Syze, Planetary, Demoz, Doap Nixon, King Magnetic, Block McCloud, Zilla, and Reef the Lost Cause are all in. Oof, you get all of that? As expected when names like Stu Bangas, C-Lance, and Vanderslice are behind the boards, the beats are hard-as-fuck boom-bap. Leaf Dog turns in a nice beat for “The Demon’s Blade”; as does Frank Grimes on “Azrael” and “Sumerians.” Someone is scratching all over this album, although I’m not sure who. This on some Golden Era idealism-type ish, and that’s A-OK with me.
And now for some personal propaghanda…
July is International Zine Month. And what better way to celebrate than by getting your snot nose-picking, resin-stained little fingers on some copies of my zines. Since the last time Too Many Rappers was around, my partner in crime and I have published a couple new issues. HotDogDayz is full of found items, hijacked emails, mail art, reader submissions, fan letters, crusty art, raw photography, rail monikers, graffiti, and jokes. The Soda Killers is a punk, rap, and graffiti ménage a trois, loaded with record & show reviews, graff flicks, sticker art, and reader-submitted content. They are available for free, trade (preferred) or, if you’re so inclined, donation. If you’re into any of it, get a hold of me via the contact links below.
All right, that’s all for now folks. Hope everyone is having a great summer. Pedal hard and wear a helmet!
Guided By Voices, Crystal Stilts
New York, NY
July 11, 2014
Photo courtesy of Gerald McBoing-Boing
See Guided By Voices before you die. If you already have, see them again. Any GBV show is bound to be life-changing. It’s about witnessing one of music’s most devout fan bases in motion; it’s about experiencing bawdy frontman Robert Pollard’s signature onstage banter; but most of all, it’s about absorbing the vigor and passion of one of history’s most prophetic bands.
Guided By Voices’ setlists contain just under 50 songs (each track is usually around two minutes in length), and shows include a whopping three encores. No matter what stage they exit from, a relentless crowd will always be hungry for more, chanting “G-B-V! G-B-V!” Their ubiquitous following includes Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, director Steven Soderbergh, and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
The Dayton, Ohio quintet’s recent Irving Plaza gig was fantastic and breathtaking. They tumultuously rocked the stage for two joyous hours.
Robert Pollard wasn’t exactly a Marvin Gaye, but he belted with great vitality and he didn’t forget a single lyric - despite being balls drunk on Bud Light, Cuervo, and Crown Royal. The raw, noisy instrumentation was nowhere near, say, Return To Forever’s skillfulness, but the chord progressions and drum beats were tight, catchy, and awesome.
The 1,000+ crowd - which contained a bunch of 20-something hipsters and greying indie dads - worshipped GBV. Hundreds of people belted along with Pollard to tracks from throughout the band’s 31-year-long career, including cuts off of classic LPs like Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. The attendees were utterly overjoyed.
How have Guided By Voices been able to generate such a religious following and become so legendary and prolific? It’s because of their spirit. Along with their gritty punk attitudes, the souls of Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos, and Kevin March all ineffably blend together, summoning intense power and beauty.
Among his drunken dialogue, one irrefutable line from Pollard really summed things up: “We’re the greatest fuckin’ band in the world!”
Agalloch, Jex Thoth
New York, NY
June 30, 2014
Agalloch were one of the first metal bands to combine black/doom’s monsoon of carnage with ambient, post-rock-inspired folk melodies. The most notable act to be influenced by the Oregon band’s stylistic bloodbath are Deafheaven. Taking Agalloch’s approach of adding atmospheric, emotive music to death metal, Deafheaven received high critical praise with their 2013 formidable tour de force Sunbather.
I’m not the first person to gush about Agalloch’s inventiveness. According to their Bandcamp.com bio, “It has been said that Agalloch is to heavy metal what Ingmar Bergman is to cinema.”
The quartet recently dominated New York’s Irving Plaza in support of their 2014 epic The Serpent & The Sphere. Their entire performance was inarguably powerful and amazing.
Agalloch are notable for their live show environments, which incorporate wood, incense, and pictures of the Northwest. Thanks to the first two elements, the room smelled beautifully. Unfortunately, though, the metalheads’ pungent sweat killed these fantastic aromas.
“Limbs” was an intense, post-metal explosion. I loved the bombastic, D major-scale chord sequence and haunting guitar riffs. Agalloch really expressed their post-rock spirit on “Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires” with a rushing flood of ethereal, echoing guitars. Their staging of The Serpent & The Sphere’s theatrical lead single “Celestial Effigy” was just awesome.
The guys had skillful musicianship, but they didn’t let their instruments get in the way of stage presence: bassist Jason William Walton confidently strode across the stage while interacting with his mates, and guitarist Don Anderson got the crowd screaming by provocatively cuffing his ears and clapping.
I had a remarkable time seeing Agalloch. They’ve been enchanting the metal world for almost 20 years, and they haven’t lost one drop of almightiness. Cheers to Agalloch.
Eyehategod, Ringworm, Enabler, Shitkill
Brooklyn, New York
June 7, 2014
This past weekend, the mega-festival Governors Ball hit hard in NYC. People from all over the world were ferrying up to Randall’s Island to catch acts like Outkast, The Strokes, Interpol, and Skrillex. For many tri-state area citizens and Madonna, it was an exciting weekend to be alive.
Well what about the metal-loving civilians in the area? Except for Deafheaven and Interpol (who are apparently as “scary” as Deafheaven), Gov. Ball’s lineup wasn’t dour enough to attract many metalheads. Fortunately, there was an alternative: Eyehategod at Club Europa. The monumental sludge-punk quintet ruled the Brooklyn venue on Saturday, June 7, with the help of Ringworm, Enabler, and Shitkill.
An hour before anyone took the stage, my friend Carrigan and I lounged on a decrepit couch as grimy, shady Eyehategod-fans gradually filled the venue. There were Viking-looking men, dominatrix-attired women, and enough tattoos to make Rick Genest go, “Damn!”
Carrigan and I found the sets of thrash metallers Shitkill and crust punks Enabler to both be very entertaining. Shitkill was loaded with vigor and Enabler’s sound was balls-deep vicious.
Metalcore ensemble Ringworm was the final opener. Lead vocalist James Bulloch’s sobriquet, “Human Furnace,” was 100% compatible: he stomped with absolute fury across the stage, howling his guts out and sinisterly planting his foot upon the monitors. The wrath and rage of Ringworm’s latest LP Hammer Of The Witch was present onstage.
12:15 a.m. saw Eyehategod initiate their mighty set full of thundering, meaty riffs and screeching amplifier feedback. The band rocked through parent-friendly classics like “White Nigger” and “Sister Fucker.” Tracks performed from their eponymous 2014 album - the group’s first full-length in 14 years - were definitely more uptempo and hardcore than their earlier catalogue. “It’s ‘cause they kicked heroin,” said Carrigan.
After seeing them live, I have a new, burning passion for Eyehategod. The doom metal instrumentations of Saint Vitus and the grit of Black Flag are clearly manifest in the band’s material. Eyehategod’s wonderful combination of these classic bands’ styles has enabled them to be one of the most prevalent sludge acts of the past 20 years.
Boston Calling Music Festival 2014
City Hall Plaza in Boston, MA
May 23-25 2014
(All concert photos courtesy of Mike Diskin)
Over Memorial Day weekend, I experienced the third annual Boston Calling Music Festival with my cool bud David. We jammed out to bands that we love on the sweaty, crowded pavement of City Hall Plaza.
David and I decided to skip the Friday show because there were only three acts playing - Cass McCombs, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and Jack Johnson - and their music was too intimate to enjoy live while bunched between 19,000+ spectators (McCombs’ Wit’s End is a great album, though).
Despite the hoards of ditzy, floral headband-wearing, Brandy Melville crop-topped girls, the towering clouds of Marlboro from pompous chain smokers, and the endless sea of littered Samuel Adams cups, the festival was pretty decent. Here’s Scene Point Blank’s encapsulation of Boston Calling 2014:
Magic Man did a stupendous job of revving up the festival. Their mix of vibrant synthesizers and passionate disco grooves got the whole crowd dancing and in motion. Although their lyrics were subpar (ex. - “It's been a while, and I've been alone/And you've been the only thing I've known”), Magic Man definitely knew how to put on a stellar performance.
Warpaint was blech. The band’s lifeless showmanship included a few awkward sways and timid conversations with the audience. The kick-drum was too loud, the keyboards were malfunctioning, and frontwoman Emily Kokal looked liked a seapunk Ms.Fowl. I enjoyed their rendition of “Love Is To Die,” but other than that, they were horrendous.
Boston Calling was totally digging Frank Turner’s rockin’ poetry. He sang about his childhood with the descriptive folk tune “Wessex Boy” and he initiated a mosh pit with the punk-energy filled “Four Simple Words.” At one point, Turner even got the whole crowd to do jumping jacks. Really wished I got closer to the stage.
Frank Turner with a fan
The Decemberists were a gigantic waterfall of great indie folk. Literally. During tracks like “Crane Wife” and “Down By The Water,” I tried to shield myself from an enormous downpour with a Decemberists shirt wrapped around my head. David and I left their set early because the rain was too unbearable, but for the few songs we heard, the Oregon quintet was catchy and enjoyable.
Colin Meloy of The Decemberists
The Box Tiger was a superb opener on the final day of BCMF. Their addictive set combined indie pop’s cheeriness with post-hardcore’s incredible breakdowns and guitars - very similar to the style of Philadelphia trio Hop Along.
It would’ve been a sin to go to BCMF and not witness Tigerman Woah!. These bearded folk punkers brought a raw, tough energy that the festival lacked: they played blast beats, did gang vocals, and even got a huge crowd chant going. David really loved Tigerman Woah!’s set. It’s a shame that the festival didn’t have more raucous bands like them.
Kevin Landry of Tigerman Woah!
Brand New was a cinematic sensation. They got intense with “Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades” and calm with “Jesus” on a magnificently illuminated stage. Vincent Accardi Hail Maryed his guitar into the air while Jesse Lacey belted out nightmarish lyrics like “Take apart your head/Take apart the demon, in the attic to the left.” These guys and Tigerman Woah! were definitely the top two acts that David and I saw.
Jesse Lacey of Brand New
Modest Mouse’s classic indie rock repertoire was a great closer to Boston Calling. Highpoints included “Dark Center Of The Universe,” “Trailer Trash,” and “Float On.” I enjoyed frontman Isaac Brock’s soulfulness and his varying between guitar and banjo. They weren’t one of my favorites, but Modest Mouse definitely ended the festival on a high note.
Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse
Going to Boston Calling was a fun way to spend Memorial Day weekend; I just wished that there were more bands as insane as Brand New and Tigerman Woah!. Hopefully, the curator for BCMF 2015 will include a lot more heavy acts.
Fyi, if you’re in the Beantown area this fall, be sure to catch the year’s second installment of Boston Calling on September 5,6, and 7. Some legendary acts will be playing, including Neutral Milk Hotel, Nas, and The Replacements. It’ll be three days of absolutely spectacular music.
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