The infrequently-updated site blog, featuring a range of content including show reviews, musical musings and off-color ramblings on other varied topics.
Russian Circles, KEN Mode, Inter Arma at Underground Arts, Philadelphia, 2/19/14
Last week, Chicago's Russian Circles touched down in Philadelphia as a part of their current tour with Ontario's KEN Mode and Richmond, Va.'s Inter Arma. As far as show bills go, it really doesn't get much better. All three acts released top-notch records in 2013, albums that garnered deserved praise from critics and fans alike. The other thing that all three bands had going in their favor on this night was that they've all been touring relentlessly for what feels like forever behind their sterling latest recordings. Simply put, this was three bands in a dark basement performing at the peak of their powers.
Inter Arma were first to take the stage. Last year's Sky Burial is an almost disorienting doom record as it plods from black depths to bleak psychedalia, and the live experience is no less scorching. Bear with me on this, but hypothetically if zombies, pirates, and vikings were to wage war on dry land in some sort of battle royale then Inter Arma would be the ones leading the charge for soldiers who drown at the depths of the blackened ocean floor. It took time for them to build, but their power only swelled as sounds continued to get louder and considerably heavier. The band's second guitarist seemingly appeared out of nowhere about halfway through their set. They play with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, and seem poised to take over that space previously occupied by Mastodon as a band popular with the smokers but still heavy enough for the heads. Their set ended with the drummer thumping away. He even pulled out a large wooden branch and basked that against the kit to close out their performance.
Next up was KEN Mode. To describe their performance in a word, that word would be "spirited." They've obviously been touring a lot, and it's evident in their live set. They crank out heavy, blistering tracks one after another with virtually no breaks in between. Way more earnest, honest, and real than could possibly be expected based on listening to the album.
The genre descriptor "post-rock" is kind of a strange one, but for Russian Circles it's apt. Their music is "post" in the sense that it breaks down conventional expectations for a band comprised of guitar, bass, and drums. At times it seemed like there was a full on fleet of musicians on stage conjuring up these soaring landscapes. One of the most remarkable things about seeing Russian Circles perform live is that they don't say a word. In fact, they don't even look at one another. And yet, they know when to start each song and they know exactly when to stop. There's a level of trust on display that is nothing short of incredible. They're a well-oiled machine at this point, and a product of experience. It's seamless, and a marvel to watch unfold. They know exactly what they're doing, and know exactly when to do it. Not to put too a fine point on it, but this was an epic, seamless set from a band of true professionals. I still haven't quite recovered.
Too Many Rappers: Fall Roundup
The Minnehaha Creek is just one of the many places I do my thinking. I mean, as a human being with a fully functional brain, I do a lot of thinking in, at, or near a lot of places. It’s not like thinking is something we can control. It just sort of…no, not sort of…it is just something that happens. Anyway, the Minnehaha Creek is one of the places I do my thinking. Like my thinking thinking. Like, purposeful, deep, hard thinking. There are some regular things that I think about when I’m here—things like work, having kids, securing a future, getting healthier, my family, and other, you know, life things. And at this particular time, as I stand in the blackened, whispering wind of a crisp Minneapolis fall evening, overlooking the Minnehaha Creek, I drink a few secret beers, I as I often do here, and think about a variety of things that aren’t necessarily life things but aren’t any less meaningful.
I think about how fucked up it is that the older you get the less likely you are to hang out with your friends, and how not only is it fucked up, as I stated, but also incredibly depressing. The lyrics to LCD Soundsytem’s “All My Friends” keep running through my head, which is puzzling, because I am certain that there are other songs that mean more to me. Yet I keep repeating the lyrics, “Where are your friends tonight?” and “If I could see all of my friends tonight!” And then, for unexplained reasons, I am overwhelmed with the urge to scream, “I felt so fucking alive!” It’s a line that Daniel Roebuck’s character “John” says in in the 1986 teen-angst-murder-coming-of-age-y film Rivers’s Edge. This may seem a bit strange, as I have not (spoiler alert) choked my girlfriend to death. But I’ve seen the movie so many times that it’s sort of ingrained itself into my being at this point. And well, I am standing near a body of moving water too. So there’s that. Then something from my past pops into my head and I immediately send a handful of good friends the following text message:
Sitting here, having some beers Han Solo-style at the Minnehaha Creek and all I can think of is…SHIT YOUR GODDAMN PANTS!
The recipients of this text are the only people in the world that would ever understand it’s meaning, but that’s precisely the point. I laugh out loud, as I think about how great it is that a ridiculous inside joke can be the foundation that lifelong friendships are built upon.
One of them texts back, “Ain’t that the way it goes. Another says, “Just whisper it.” And all is right in the world.
Another beer sinks in, my mind wanders, and I end up spending an excessive amount of time thinking about how it’s been 20 years since the Wu-Tang Clan’s outstanding debut Enter the Wu-Tang Clan: 36 Chambers dropped. “20 years, dudes; 20 years,” I say out loud to nobody whatsoever. I will always feel like I missed out a little bit on the initial excitement because I was so wrapped-up in flannel shirts, Doc Martens, and anything Seattle at the time. My otherwise fierce proclivity for discovering new rap music had briefly taken a back seat to my re-found interest in weird, punk-tinged white people music. Honestly, I didn’t fully engulf myself in 36 Chambers until a year or so after seemingly everyone else had. I think about how I might go to the record store tomorrow—probably the Electric Fetus— and buy 36 Chambers, and how it will most definitely be on CD so I can play it in my car, which I’m not embarrassed to admit still has a bass cannon in the trunk. Oddly enough, the only copy of 36 Chambers that I have is a dubbed cassette that I’ve dragged around with me for roughly 19 years. I’ve never been one to let format be a deciding factor when it comes to personal importance of an album.
I think about how, for better or worse, (and most likely worse,) rap music has changed a lot since the Wu-Tang Clan first hit the scene. I think about how there was once a time when nine guys, or 10 guys if you count Cappadonna, (which I’m inclined not to,) didn’t seem like too many rappers. And then I think to myself, damn, there you have it – that's your Too Many Rappers segue right there…
In the New Mixtapes department…
Action Bronson & Party Supplies – Blue Chips 2
Action Bronson's greatness has never come as the result of focused lyricism, but rather the opposite—scatterbrained rhymes; seemingly written with little regard for things like story arc or cohesiveness, but delivered with superb breath control. Much in the same way the Beastie Boys were the Internet before there was an Internet, Bronson boasts a savant-like spank bank of '80s sports figures, pro-wrestling history and pop culture references. Blend it with a dose of druggy, misogynistic shithead-ness, a don't-give-a-fuck attitude, and an unhealthy food obsession and you have the most trivial and irreverent, yet amazingly fluid rap songs available for free on the Internet. If you’re not downloading Action Bronson mixtapes, you're literally losing money. Here's a sample lyric from "Midget Cough": “Don’t even step within’ six feet of my presence / Leave you open like the desert / Def Leppard / Fresh pepper / Did I mention, steer the whip with one arm like Jim Abbot / Chocolate sauce over thin rabbit / If these opportunities arose before we would’ve been had it / Shorty sniffing haddock in the attic / I been addicted in these streets / In my pants I’ve even shatted / Then sat in it, sadly.” As he’s done on numerous releases previous to this one—like Dr. Lecter with Tommy Mas, Well Done with Statik Selektah, Rare Chandeliers with Alchemist, and most recently the Saab Stories EP with Harry Fraud—Bronson teams with a sole producer in Party Supplies. This is the same man with whom he created the first installment of Blue Chips. Party Supplies beats on this tape are nothing special, that’s for sure—even half-assed at times—but it doesn’t distract much from what is yet another stellar Action Bronson outing.
Black Dave – Black Bart
NYC-based skater/rapper Black Dave returns with his second tape this year. Black Bart picks up right where Stay Black left off, leaving no inclination of Black Dave slowing down. In fact, when it comes to rapping, he’s gotten faster. At times he sounds like more attentive and decipherable Twista. His granular, vigorous flow is complimented well by beats from a variety of producers. The assortment of production lends the tape a bit of a multi-regional feel, but ultimately, much like fellow New Yorkers Flatbush ZOMBiES and A$AP Mob, Black Daves’s sound reflects the trap emergence of modern day rap music. Shy Guy takes on the majority of the production, providing super-clean trap-happy slaps and chimes to seven of the 15 tracks. This includes the standout summer jam “Take it Back.” Brady Becklo delivers the boom-bap leanings for “Recognize”, which is as close to old-school New York rap as you will get on this tape. Other notable tracks are “To Da Grave”, in which DJ Smokey goes the full SpaceGhostPurrp on the beat, and the electro-tinged “Fake ID”, where VeryRVRE provides a buzzed-out noise manipulation score.
Flatbush ZOMBiES – BetterOffDEAD
I won’t lie, despite D.R.U.G.S being one of my favorites from last year; it took me a little bit to get into Flatbush ZOMBiES latest tape. Perhaps it was the lofty 19 tracks that wear on a little long for one sitting. Or maybe it was it was because it was the last thing I listened to before being cuffed and thrown in the back of a squad car in an incident that may or may not have been related to illegal artistic expression. Either way it’s taken me awhile to come back around to this, but I’m glad I finally have. The majority of the production is handled in-house by Erick Arc Elliot. His dedication to his craft is apparent. The ample soundscapes on BetterOffDEAD are the result of what I can only imagine must be hours upon hours in the lab. I’m not sure if tossing around the word “opus” when talking about a mixtape is a thing that’s legal, but as I alluded to a few sentences ago, legalities aren’t always my strong suit. So I’m just going to go ahead and say it: BetterOffDead is a rap opus. Inasmuch as an opus can contain the following descriptors: psychotic, psychedelic, druggy, drugged-out, acid-soaked, obnoxious, eerie, ominous, rugged, raw, and bangin’. Emcees Meech and Juice stir a bubbling cocktail of nasally, drug-addled, murderous, and thought-provoking lyricism that recalls early Nonphixion, Necro, Cypress Hill and Gravediggaz.
Gucci Mane – Diary of a Trap God
In a move that surprises absolutely nobody, Gucci Mane put out a whole bunch of mixtapes this year - nine to be exact. Well, that might not be exact because there's always the very real chance that he dropped like, three more in the last 10 minutes. No, wait, he’s in jail, right? Who knows – I don’t have the energy to keep track. When Trap God 2 came out at the beginning of the year I jumped all over but now I can't remember much about it other than Gucci said his name a lot, the production was lame, and it was not as good a tape as Trap God 1 from last year…which isn't saying much really. August’s World War III: Lean was dope though. I’ve been bumping that one and Diary of a Trap God whenever I feel like punching down. Although Gucci does really irritating things like releasing nine tapes in one year—most of which are like, 20 songs long—I give him a pass because he was in the highly underappreciated film Spring Breakers, has an ice cream cone tattooed on his face, has Twitter beefs with rappers who are featured on his songs, and, well, is Gucci Mane.
King Chip – 44108
King Chip is the new-ish name of the Cleveland, OH-based emcee that used be Chip da Ripper. Before this tape, I was totally unfamiliar with King Chip; probably because I don’t really fuck with Kid Cudi, who he runs with. I downloaded it based purely on the song “Police in the Trunk”, which I somehow happened across and subsequently fell in love with. Layzie Bone guests on “Fuck You Lookin’ At”, in which he rhymes “Twitter” with “hit her,” while that “stop scheming and lookin’ hard” line from Audio 2’s “Top Billin’” is dropped in the cut. Another notable guest spot comes courtesy of the one and only Fat Trel on the Lex Luger-produced trap banger “It’s Real.” 44108 as a whole, is a pretty solid tape, but I’d be lying if I said I could pinpoint any other song that’s as good as the one that goes, “Mr. Officer, get your bitch-ass in the trunk.”
Meek Mill – DreamchasersI will take some of the blame for feeling like I’m over Meek Mill at this point. I could probably have prevented this if I hadn’t spent money on Dreams & Nightmares. I’m not saying the album wasn’t good—in fact I liked it quite a bit—but coming off the Dreamchasers 2 mixtape, which it was basically just a rehashing of, I can’t help but feel like I wasted a bit of money. But that’s what I get for paying for rap music in disposable era. The old-school in me still hangs on to the idea that an “official album” is better than a mixtape. But really, if we’ve learned anything from this column over that last 10 months, it’s that it’s a total crap shoot either way. That being said, Meek makes some really good tapes. And I’m sure this one is already considered a modern classic ‘round ye olden interwebs, but this particular hip-hop head just can’t get into it. I still like the urgency in his voice, and his angry raps are straight ill, but I don’t feel like he’s saying anything he hasn’t said a thousand times before. Then again, I suppose most rappers aren’t. But that doesn’t make it right either. Surprisingly my favorite parts of the tape are the Nikki Minaj verses on “I Be On Dat”, which kind of concerns me, so I try not to think about it too much. I like the boom-bap beat courtesy of Tone Beats on “Hip-Hop.” It makes me curios as to what a whole album of Meek rhyming over boom-bap would be like. Other than those, my favorite song is actually the “Lil Snupe Skit”, which is just a cell phone-quality recording of the now deceased Lil Snupe freestyling in the studio to what sounds like a Rick Ross instrumental or something. I’ll be surprised if this stays on my iPod much longer. I’m very close to placing Meek alongside drips like Dreezy, Weezy, Yeezy, Hova, Wale, French, and Rozay in the two categories I call Only Tolerable During Timeouts at High School Basketball Games and When I listen to KMOJ (which is usually on the way to high school basketball games.)
Project Pat – Cheez N Dope 2
At the beginning of “Mask Up” DJ Scream proclaims, “You asked for it, so here it is – Cheez N Dope 2, nigga!” I think there is very real chance that that statement is an outright lie, or at the very least, highly debatable. I mean who is the “you” in this scenario? I would assume it’s the listener in which case, that would be me. And I can tell you with 100% certainty that I did not ask for this. No, no, no, I was just fine with Cheez N Dope 1. I have enough rap music on my plate already. The last thing I…we…anyone needs is another 25-plus song mixtape; especially from a guy that already put one out this year. Well, regardless, here we have Cheez N Dope 2 and here I am listening to it. And you know what, it’s all right. When it boils down to it, there’s too many rappers out there trying to clone this sound, that it’s actually refreshing to hear a veteran of the Memphis scene put out some new songs, even if only half of them are necessary. The standout tracks here are the Drumma Boy produced ones “Flippin N Stackin”, “No Mirage”, and “Gettin Cash”, which features longtime collaborator Juicy J. As far as production goes, Ricky Racks turns in some trap bangers on the aforementioned “Mask Up” and the Nasty Mane feature, “Dick Eatin Dog”, which is lyrically just as ridiculously misogynistic as the title would imply. I’d reprint a sample lyric here but then I’d have to register as a sex offender.
Torae – Admission of Guilt
I’m disappointed that I’m disappointed by Torae’s Admission of Guilt. I wanted to like this so bad but I just can’t. This is especially troubling, as I thought For the Record was brilliant—one of the best rap records of 2011 actually—but this latest mixtape is just not doing it for me. A large part of the problem lies in Eric G’s production. Sonically it’s very similar in nature to Torae’s running mate Skyzoo’s album, A Dream Deferred, in that it’s too vibrant, luxuriant, and for lack of a better term, soft, for my tastes. But if you like your rhymes on the introspective side of things, there’s plenty of that. It’s in the struggle that Torae’s lyricism thrives. “Limitless” is the perfect example of this, as Torae details the ups and downs of independent artists and the misconceptions about those that have broke through to the mainstream. The tape’s hardest-hitting track is the Bun B feature “Ask Me Why.” With its catchy hook, hard drums, slaps, and horn flips, it would be a nice cut to drop in a trap or party mix.
The Underachievers – The Lords of Flatbush
Beast Coast emcees Issa Dash and Ka, collectively known as The Underachievers, already own one the year’s best mixtapes in Indigoism. And with The Lords of Flatbush they may have just outdone themselves. There are numerous things to like here—it’s only eight songs long, it’s named after the ’74 Sly Stallone/Henry Winkler teenagers-in-leather jackets gang movie, and there are no guest emcees—but perhaps the tape’s strongest suit lies in the production. The tape was produced in majority by Lex Luger, the man behind the boards for many of recent rap history’s hottest artists – Watch The Throne, Waka Flocka Flame, Rick Ross, and Snoop Dogg to name a few. Issa Dash and Ka’s breathless flows—which touch upon a myriad of typical rap subject matter—sour diesel, running in the streets, being good rappers, etc.—is perfectly interwoven all the way through Luger’s machinegun trap beats. I have a hard time picking out a favorite track because they are all so good. There is a certain air of, I don’t know, demo-ness to this that I just love. It’s like the overall volume was turned up just a click into the red, which gives it a loud, full resonance that works really well. If there’s a weak link here, and it’s only nitpicky at best, it’s that Dash and Ka sound indistinguishable from each other. That and if you didn’t know better you might mistake them for their Beast Coast compadres Flatbush ZOMBiES. But actually, they are better. I can’t recommend this one enough. Get to downloading!
In the Personal Propaghanda department…
My partners in crime and I have somehow managed to get our shit together just enough to put out new issues of our zines HotDogDayz and The Soda Killers. Both are issue #5, and are available for free, trade (preferred) or donation. 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 a lengthy essay by Dale Danger of Bacon in the Beans fanzine. If you’re into any of it, get a hold of me via the contact links below.
Southampton, Hampshire, UK
October 28, 2013
It has been three years since HIM last played on the shores of the UK, with a lot of uncertainty whether they would continue as a band due to drummer Gas having arm splints that prevent him from playing. Also, earlier this year singer Ville Valo contracted pneumonia and things didn’t look good for the love metal band. But after the release of the band’s latest offering, Tears on Tape, everything seemed to fall back into place for them.
October 28 saw them playing Southampton Guildhall with support coming from Massachusetts instrumental band Caspian—a band whose post-rock sound seemed to fall short of getting the crowd of die hard HIM fan’s ready for their favourite band. This wasn’t because they were a bad band but there was just something lacking from their set, maybe it was there was no real connection with the audience?
As HIM took to the stage bursting into the new song “All Lips Go Blue,” it was clear that the break only made them tighter as a band, and that Ville has developed as a front man, now opting to pick up the acoustic guitar which brings a new dynamic to the live set. Although this tour is to promote the new album there was something for everyone with a lot of variety in song choice. Personal highlights were “The Funeral Of Hearts” and “Join Me In Death”.
The show ended with “When Love and Death Embrace,” which was the perfect note to go out on. It is clear they have been through a lot in the past three years but it has only made them a stronger band;if you were lucky enough to see them on this tour then you will know. If not, then I suggest that you catch them when they return to the UK next time. You won’t be disappointed.
Live review and photos courtesy of David Rutherford.
Beacons Festival 2013
August 16-18, 2013
Beacons Festival is a pretty novel addition to the British concert scene. Taking place in Skipton (Lancs > Yorks) away from the bright lights of Reading or Glastonbury, it boasts a lineup ranging from the well known – Wire, David Rodigan – to the sort of fresh faces more expected to be visitors than acts. There's a certain individualistic charm covering the DIY foundations of Beacons, whether it's the small scale, inclusion of independent businesses and scope of events beyond music, from film showings to arts classes. I headed down to see what the fuss was about.
My trip was reassuringly drawn out, trudging on train from London to York, then onto Leeds and finally Skipton. It was the bemused faces of locals en route, not the flowing greenery or diminishing traffic, that carted you into smallest of small town England. The short bus ride away led to the field where I'd spend the next three days. After sorting out my pop-up tent (easy to take out, a pain to pop back in) I made my way into the arena to check out the bands and get a sense of the atmosphere.
What first struck me, and never left, was surprise at how sparse the crowd seemed. The area was fairly well laid out, with more than enough room between stages and a pleasant intimacy to the venues, but it seemed like there should've been more people milling/staggering/passed out around. After catching up with a couple of friends and getting nicely libated, I headed off to see the first band of the day, Egyptian Hip-Hop.
I'd heard a few of their songs, not enough to form a judgement but suffice to be interested in what they'd be like. Arriving on stage looking like acid casualties thrown out of Waynestock, they proceeded to play a set which provoked, interested but ultimately frustrated me. Frontman Alex Hewett varied between adding to the noise onstage to mingling with the crowd, his demeanour much more jovial than the occasionally indecipherable music. This was added to by the lack of vocal definition Hewett has, too often fading into the instrumentation. Compounded by an overly loud bass, the muddy mix sacrificed the nuances of Egyptian Hip-Hops sound. Nonetheless, a welcome start to the weekend's festivities. Up next was Matador up and comers Esben And The Witch.
Despite being a trio, the group were more than the sum of their parts. Playing on the quiet-loud dynamics beloved of, say, the XX, the Brightonians showed a lot of promise with their dance influenced post-punk. Veering between sparseness and furious activity, it was a real diversity on show; however, it didn't make for a staggering live performance as the three seemed rooted in place to their pedals. At over five years of activity, perhaps they'd passed their moment to crossover into something bigger, but are surely the sort of gem to find on the off-chance. They played Noisey's You've Got To Hear This stage, which acted as host to a variety of great bands, one of which was next act Only Real.
To say that the West London troubadour is divisive is to say that he's strawberry blonde. His Jamie T. referencing blend of hip-hop, classic rock 'n' roll and stoner delivery comes at a time when King Krule is slaying any and all imitators. At Beacons, he packed the stage with kids who wanted to rep Real. Accompanied by a band, Real filled out the gaps which appear in songs like 'Cinnamon Toast' or 'Cadillac Girl', sounding more substantial than the one-man-and-a-Macbook approach he's taken so far. Despite complaining of illness, Real manages to execute his surprisingly well thought out raps and youthful crooning, to the delight of people who're dressed as ridiculously as he is. If he built on the success shown, he'd soon escape the shadows of others.
I was soon presented with a dilemma, a rare clash between two hotly tipped but very different acts who both appealed- Ghostpoet and Eagulls. The former is a songsmith who spans hip hop and electro music, as reminiscent of Jeremiah Jae as Portishead. The latter is a clan of Leeds miscreants who're getting ahead by their surly performances and music along the lines of Dinosaur Jr being cottaged by Electro Hippies. I initially plumped for Eagulls and readied myself for their set. The sweat-mist of cramped bodies was enough to prove what a draw the band were; within minutes of Eagulls kicking off, it was pretty much security's version of Apocalypse Now. Unsightly moshing, surges forward, frontman George working up enough people to the point of where they were heavy-handedly getting thrown out be security. At this point I bailed as I realised the value of having teeth, so off to Ghostpoet it was.
Whereas Eagulls was stripped-back aggression, Ghostpoet easily provides the experience closest to a 'show'. Dressed in all black, the singer and producer spends the lion's share of his time tied to a keyboard. His strut is self-assured, the moments when he take to the mic feel like high drama, accentuated with the atmospheric lighting and drawn out string instrumentals. This isn't to say he's somehow disengaged from the crowd; to the contrary, his performance is equally marked by tense rapping over catchy beats and cacophonous drums, setting the revellers off. Again, in terms of sound, so much is going on that while the sound dips into muddiness, plus the occasional technical fault, Ghostpoet continues as the consummate professional.
My first night was capped off by a band who need no introduction: Fucked Up. While it's hardly a rare treat seeing the band - considering their prolific touring schedule - it's always enlivening to see a group who've stuck at it for over a decade, doing their own thing in spite of peers and trends. Despite the numerous pairs of jogging bottoms and jetlag symptons on show, Fucked Up waste no time ripping into their crowd as Eagulls did on the same stage hours earlier. It's harder to tell who's losing their shit more, fans, the band, or security, as Damian Abraham embraces the audience, bodies fly and the boys with the walkie talkies don't seem to know what to do. A lengthy, energetic set, the perfect nightcap for the weekend.
I emerged from my peg-secured abode and ambled around the arena. I caught glimpse of a few acts, such as Wolf Alice and Amateur Best, but neither struck me worth watching. In fact, the second made me think Michael Bolton was playing a secret set with a Microkorg. The less said about his rap song the better. The first act that impressed me on Saturday was Bournemouth boy East India Youth. His sound is as varied as you'd expect from someone The Quietus releases music for. The keys vary from glitches to shimmering and the atmosphere drifts from the darkness of witch house to the flight of deep house. His inclusion of live bass feels somewhat like tokenism whilst his vocals need a dose more character, but overall, a promising performance.
Elliott Smith at his last-ever NYC show, January 29th 2003. He killed himself that October.
I have this friend, let's call her L. We "met" on a music messageboard back when things like that were still popular. We lived in different cities and we never met in person, but we both loved music. She introduced me to a bunch of artists I'd never otherwise have come across.
L lived a complicated life. She suffered eating disorders, self-harmed to a quite terrifying degree, and was in and out of rehab centres. She was also a brilliant artist: a writer skilled with words and meaning and an expert with sketching, painting and textiles. This was reflected in the music she loved.
Elliott Smith was one of her favourites. I first learned how to properly spell his name after she painstakingly corrected me in late-night music discussions over MSN Messenger. She loved "Needle in the Hay", perhaps Smith's most famous song, as featured in The Royal Tenenbaums, which meant that this became the first of his recordings I ever heard.
Other artists captured her personal mixture of the tragic and beautiful: Xiu Xiu were another of her favourites. I could never warm to Jamie Stewart's heartwrenching pain and the sparse and uncomfortable soundtracks. Elliott's simple and unpolished aching, his open, bare outlook and sometimes joyous uplifts in spirit were something I could engage with, for a time.
He killed himself not long before I first became aware of him. I remember L telling me the story and wonder now if she understood a little of what he felt, while to me it was just another glamorous, mysterious dead rock star, joining the immortal ranks of Cobain, Vicious and Edwards. His gentle, lulling chords and angry, passionate yelps might have spoken to her with the depth and reach that Elliott's songs often reached for his most devoted followers.
I learned to play a few of his songs and recorded shaky cover versions to show her. They weren't great: my voice was weak and nervous and the guitar awkward at times and amateur. But sometimes that was how Elliott sounded: every time I listen to "The Biggest Lie", I marvel at how it begins like an over-eager open mic performer but transforms into a hymn, almost.
I copied out the lyrics to "Twilight" on a piece of paper because I didn't have a printer, wanting to perform it somewhere. My dad found the words and thought they were my own. I wonder sometimes what he thought when he read the lines: "haven't laughed this hard in a long time / better stop now before I start crying". I didn't really know then how Elliott felt, though I suspected L did.
His music never changed, by then. Unlike other artists whose work you come to late, Elliott's discography was final: an artefact, if you like. Sure, there were demos and b-sides and covers and all the rest. But what he left behind a decade ago this week has remained a constant in my life: the twinkly chords and mumbled verses instantly take me back to L and our long talks and my attempts to understand her world through the filter of Elliott's music.
I last spoke to L in the autumn of 2010, three years ago now. I'd just lost a close family member and was feeling, for the first time in my life, some of the emptiness that unexpected death can leave you with. I told her about it and she expressed her shock and sorrow for me. I told her I'd be okay.
That was the last time I heard from L. I know she'd been in some kind of recovery or rehab centre around that time, but I didn't know where. I texted, emailed, and after a couple of years, wrote to her a copied letter which I posted to all of the addresses I'd had for her. I did get one response back, from a man who'd moved into her old address. All he could tell me was that she didn't live there any more.
It's ten years now this week since Elliott Smith left us, and almost three years since L disappeared from my life. For me, the two are inextricably linked. L introduced me to the music and the tragedy of Elliott Smith's life and work. Elliott Smith helped me understand and cope with the beauty and the sadness of L and whatever path she took.
I miss her all the time and I wonder at what happened, but the music that Elliott left us gives me a bittersweet gift. I didn't really know what he meant when he said "because your candle burns too bright / well I almost forgot it was twilight", but I think now I have a little idea.
RIP Elliott Smith: 1969-2003
Thank you, L.
(names have been changed to ease loss)
October 12, 2013 Calgary, Alberta @ THE GOLDEN AGE CLUB After a few hiccups in the booking process (venue issues, etc.) the day finally came for Terror to come back ... read more
A couple weeks ago, I went on a trip to the middle of the country to see my favorite band, AFI, play shows up and down the midwest. Some of ... read more
A couple weeks ago, I went on a trip to the middle of the country to see my favorite band, AFI, play shows up and down the midwest. Some ... read more
FLAG, T.S.O.L., Cerbral Ballzy, Off WithTheir Heads First Avenue Minneapolis, MN September 13, 2013 After spending a few hours in a sports bar down the street, where my compadres and ... read more
Caïna, Hordes, Barshasketh The Unicorn London, UK September 6 2013 We've been talking a lot about the rebirth of Caïna of late and we'll soon have a review of the new ... read more
It's that time once again! The fabled Progressive Music Awards are tomorrow night, and I've spent the last few weeks getting myself familiar with the best of the best in ... read more
Holy crap, has this summer been hot or what? Like, hot as in temperature hot. Like, literally hot. Which might be confusing now that Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries as well ... read more
The NINES Festival Devens, MA I must admit I was anxious to attend this festival when I heard the lineup featured none other than Shuggie Otis. I have had ... read more
It's a tray in a hotel room, fairly unremarkable when put back to basics. The tray is littered with cigarettes, beer bottles, a can of coke, a crumpled McDonald's ... read more
Die Kruezen, Hepa/Titus, Mudhoney, Gay Witch Abortion, Negative Approach, Honky, Melvins Grumpys Downtown Minneapolis, MN July 20, 2013 It’s a shame that Amphetamine Reptile Records quit putting out new ... read more
The Postal Service are making their rounds again in support in the Deluxe Edition re-release of their 2003 album, Give Up. Scene Point Blank had a chance to check'em out ... read more
Dave Hause @ Cabooze Plaza Social Distortion, Cheap Time, Dave HauseCabooze PlazaMinneapolis, MNJuly 2, 2013 Dave Hause is a busy guy. I swear I get an email a week here ... read more
Well here we are into the first part of May, and I'm wondering where the fuck March and April went. I apologize for dropping the F bomb on you in ... read more
Minneapolis, MN, 4/20/13 Despite being fairly worn out from the previous evening—one which had me visiting three different venues, seeing six different bands, and imbibing at least twice as many ... read more
The Men live; 7th St Entry; Minneapolis, MN; 4/12/13 On just the third night of their North American tour, Brooklyn-based band The Men landed in Minneapolis for a packed-in show ... read more
(This review contains copious spoilers: if you intend to read the novel yourself, proceed with caution. We're posting it as a blog since it's not strictly music-related, despite being written by ... read more
Tegan and Sara were appreciated by Albany, NY last month when they came to the Upstate Concert Hall, the first time they've visited since the duo released So Jealous, which ... read more
Anthrax, Exodus, High On Fire, Municipal Waste, Holy Grail live; First Avenue; Minneapolis, MN; April 4th, 2013 Continuing their recent-ish trend of performing classic albums in their entirety, Anthrax rolled ... read more
In the days following Adam Yauch’s passing in May of last year, many of us nostalgia-stricken fans were searching for words to express how deeply saddened we were by not ... read more
February 28th, 2013 As I write this, I am overlooking the Sea of Cortez on the Baja Peninsula from the balcony of my room at a vacation resort outside of ... read more
This hip-hop train just keeps on rolling. And although I would like to think I’m fully on board, it feels more like I’m running beside it, trying to keep up, ... read more
Well, here we are, a whole month into the New Year, and as usual January was spent catching up on all the music I slept on last year. Normally the ... read more
The tiny Black Heart in Camden holds court to an evening of droned out sludge, traditional heavy doom, and more English black metal than you can shake a stick at ... read more
The Unicorn is suffering from a severe lack of air con tonight, the tension in the air made all the palpable by the insane levels of heat and the anticipation ... read more
The view that Scene Point Blank has been afforded for tonight’s performance is beautiful, and the sea of heads below on the floor is all the more astonishing seen from ... read more
Minus the Bear and Cursive have been on tour for the past few months in support of their 2012 releases. Minus the Bear put out Infinity Overhead in August, while ... read more
Murder by Death have just begun to tour for their new album, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, by supporting pop-punk troop, Say Anything. It's an interesting combo and Murder by Death ... read more
It's rare that you attend a show that feels like it has the weight of history riding on it, but seeing At The Drive-In play what is likely to be ... read more
Fun. are back on the road selling out shows again. This time however, they didn't just sell out one show, but 3 nights at the illustrious Wiltern Theater in Los ... read more
Murder by Death are preparing the release of their 6th studio album, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, while celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their first LP, Like The Exorcist, but More ... read more
Well, it's high time that progressive music got a good, high-ish-profile awards show, and now, thanks to Prog Magazine, we have one. The bad news is that it stlil shows ... read more
Japandroids live, 7th St. Entry, Minneapolis, MN, 7/3/12 When a touring band starts their set by saying, “It feels like we’re back home, Minneapolis”, the natural instinct is to go ... read more
LeBron James is Four Titles and a Rape Allegation Away From Becoming Kobe Bryant: How the Miami Heat Winning is Bad for Basketball Now I know that we here at ... read more
Royal Headache, The Arrivals, Condominium live, Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis, MN, 6/9/12 It was with some intrigue and, admittedly, mostly trepidation that I made my way to the Triple ... read more
Hot Water Music just released their new album, Exister, and recently spent a couple nights in So-Cal to warm up the new songs before they head out to Europe this ... read more
There are a few cultural constants we all come to understand depending on where we come from, and growing up in Vermont is no exception. Amongst other things, many develop ... read more
Once again, fun. are on the road and Scene Point Blank was there to catch another great show. The band's playing the clubs in support of their sophomore record, Some ... read more
I had the pleasure of attending the 5th annual Musink Fest in Costa Mesa, CA--a festival blending live music and an appreciation for tattoo art--hosted by LA Ink star, Kat ... read more
Cursive recently began touring in support of their 7th studio album, I Am Gemini. I had the privilege of catching their show in Pomona, CA where they played a great ... read more
I know we don't usually review websites here at Scene Point Blank, but we just couldn't help ourselves after our editor in chief Loren received the following request: Hi,I'm Pheiné, ... read more
The piece ended rather suddenly, almost completely without warning. The conductor held his position for a moment, then slowly brought his arms down. The theater erupted with applause as the ... read more
Saves the Day and Bayside decided to team up this Fall to deliver a thrilling show fans of either could appreciate. Joining them on the tour are I Am ... read more
The World/Inferno Friendship Society recently started their US tour supporting their new album, The Anarchy and The Ecstasy, with sci-fi-psychobilly (psy-fi?) band, The Phenomenauts. You could not ask for a ... read more
Last Thursday, The Purple Turtle in London's infamous Camden held what is likely to be the most fun headlining show I've seen this year. Cannabis Corpse, fresh off the back ... read more
Motley Crue and Poison live, Target Center, Mpls, MN, 6/24/11 The New York Dolls opened the show but I couldn’t tell you damn thing about them. The girlfriend and I literally ... read more
Read Midwest Hell Fest Wrapup-Day 1 here. Despite intermittent sleep, I wake up feeling fairly well rested. If memory serves correctly, I’m somewhere deep within the confines of enemy territory—Wisconsin. ... read more
After losing a year of my life behind the wheel, I finally arrive at my destination: Kimberly, Wisconsin. Upon walking into the hotel—and I use this term loosely—lobby, I am ... read more
After a long wait and two opening acts—the clock struck 9:30 and Fun took the stage, while the boys and girls cheered. Suddenly, the beautiful overture to “Be Calm” opens ... read more
200 bands, seemingly as many beers, and only three nights. Where do I begin my recap? My stomach is still shrunken from not eating right, and I continue to drink ... read more
Let me start off by saying that I love all three of these bands, and I have been looking forward to this show since I got confirmed to photograph it. ... read more
Portugal. the Man is a Portland, Oregon based experimental indie-rock band, fronted by native Alaskan John Gourley. If you haven’t heard the story about this up and coming group, Gourley’s ... read more
I don't know how many of you have heard of Moving Mountains. A band from Westchester, NY, they are fresh off a tour with Thursday, about to embark on a ... read more
I hit the 500 review mark last week with my Narrows review. That's a lot of reviews. Sometimes I get burnt out with all the stuff coming through, especially when ... read more
So I just got done watching the season finale of Scrubs. It was Zach Braff's final episode. His character is saying goodbye, but I think they gave it a nice ... read more
Two months ago I had high hopes for the Cleveland Browns. Now I am left with a fairly mediocre season. We shall see how the remainder plays out. I'm looking ... read more
Might as well has this here too, it's been three years since I wrote it. I think it still holds true. Space for rent. Your ad here. My name is ... read more
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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