The infrequently-updated site blog, featuring a range of content including show reviews, musical musings and off-color ramblings on other varied topics.
While it may be a bit grandiose to title a tour "Black Metal Warfare" or really any kind of warfare after witnessing a show on the tour in question it doesn't feel nearly as close to hyperbole as it does warning. More and more black metal bands either dont play live or dont tour at the very least. It would seem a great many bands are interest in using the internet as a tool and stading behind in the shadows as opposed to facing a crowd and facing possible derision as a result. On the other hand, bands like Mayhem and Watain tend to tour regularly and present their music to the people.
The first band on was Canada's own Revenge. The band has released a handful of full lengths on Hell's Headbanger's Records. They all contain a similar sound encompassing black metal, doom, and death metal all played with a blown out despairing sound. I am happy to report that their recorded sound is similar to their live sound. The vocal trade offs allow each player to get their time to shine both vocally and instrumentally which at least on this bill sets them apart from the headliners. The focus on distortion and noise tends to override everything else as each song contained it's own noisy solo and the set ended with a few minutes of blown out distortion and noise. This helps to capture the anger within their lyrics and certainly helps them stick out amongst their peers.
Next Came Watain. Now much has been made of their image and stage show and rightfully so. The band came to the stage with a full intro lit candles, skulls and and other adornments littered the stage. These things while to some may seem overblown, play a strong role in the band's presence and music. As the band took the stage they blazed through their brand of black metal with an eye towards ferocity and antagonism. Both Erick and Pelle (vocalist and lead guitarist respectively) managed to show a ferocity and a true presence on the stage. The band played like they owned the stage and their setlist felt like that of a headliner. Going so far as to leave midest and return for an encore. Upon their return the greeted the crowd with a brief ritual followed by a spilling of blood onto the crowd this was followed by a raging set of songs which helped to encapsulate their career as a band finally ending the night with fan favorite "Sworn To The Dark"
Finally the legendary Mayhem took the stage. The band tore through a set of songs that played like a greatest hits album. With so many era's of the band, not to mention vocalists one could be forgiven for almost expecting them to ignore their past. Nothing could've been further from the facts as they ripped throguh black metal classics such as "DeathCrush" and "Freezing Moon" and still managed to insert a few new songs into the set. While notably paired down visually from Watain, Attila (Vocals) commanded the stage with an uncanny and strangely mezmerising presence. All this helps to solidify Mayhem's own place in history while letting no one forget how they got to the place they're at now.
All in all this show was something worth experiencing each band played their style. While the set of bands almost plays like a walk through black metal history in an albeit shortened way. Each band shows a mark on the timeline of this style of metal and each managed to show why they should be talked about and most certainly seen.
It seems as though we are in a period of time where we read of a famous musician dying almost daily, this tour was supposed to have Ian McLagan in the opening slot but alas it wasn't to be with Ian passing on December 3rd. I was particularly pumped for the show, one for Mac being on the bill would somewhat achieve a milestone on my bucket list (i.e. see Small Faces/Faces keyboard player) and answer the question of how in the hell would Los Staitjackets sound playing Nick Lowe songs. Los Straitjackets have been around for twenty some odd years playing surf and rockabilly instrumentals with thirteen albums to their credit all performed while wearing Mexican wrestling masks (think Nacho Libre).
Due to the tragic death of Ian McLagan the show started with the openers the Cactus Blossoms, a duo from Northeast Minneapolis who had done a few dates with Nick earlier on the tour. They filled in quite nicely with each of their songs sounding as if the Everly Brothers were in the room, although the crowd of rowdy 40 to 60 year olds were there to see Nick.
Nick Lowe came on solo with his six string and performed a nice rendition of Rose Of England followed up quickly by a his ultra-poppy tune Heart, two of Nicks greatest songs. I was surprised by how many of his old hits he managed to squeeze in like Long Limbed Girl, Dollar Short and 7 Nights, all rocking solo with just the acoustic. Then it happened, as Nick was playing Only A Fool he was joined on stage by the full band and they effortlessly brought the show to another level, especially with the song Raging Eyes. Being the Christmas season and the show was a Christmas revue Nick and the boys did Xmas At The Airport from Nicks release last year along with Not Too Long Ago before Nick slipped off stage and we were delighted with the Christmas version of Los Straitjackets. They applied the signature LS sound to old favorites like Sleigh Ride, Marsh Mallow, Pacifica, the Linus & Lucy theme from Peanuts and then they tore into a rocking instrumental version of Nicks classic Breaking Glass, Nick showed back up on stage in time to hit the last refrain.
Covering his later years Nick played Sensitive Man, Somebody Cares, and North Pole Express before ripping into Half A Boy, this was followed up with Cruel To Be Kind, Rome, I Knew The Bride, and Christmas Every Day.
For an encore we were treated to two songs from Los Straitjackets, Sing Sing and the tribute to Mac, Itchycoo Park, yes the boys in Los Straitjackets tore up their instrumental version with the audience singing along "What did you do there?" "We Got High". Nick came back out and did Tokyo Bay, Born in Bethlehem, and Children Go Where solo to close out the show and when he said Happy Christmas to the crowd you almost felt like he was saying it to you directly, the guy just comes off as someone you would want to go have a beer with.
Italics - Los Straitjackets
Photos - Scott Wilkinson
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
December 11, 2014
"All that has dark sounds has duende, that mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain." Frederico Garcia Lorca mused on the inexplicable sadness that lives at the heart of certain works of art.
Duende was a key theme of Nick Cave’s lecture on “The secret life of the love song.”
Cave claimed that duende needs “space to breathe” – Sydney’s State Theatre with its Gothic, Italian, and Art deco adorned walls offered ample breathing space on four consecutive nights this December (11th-14th).
Your humble narrator has had the pleasure of seeing Nick Cave hold court on three continents in various locations in a variety of incarnations. This time it was him in the usual well-tailored suit and the Bad Seeds in chamber ensemble formation and, again, they did not disappoint.
An eclectic evening of hushed moments interrupted by short glimpses of the natural force that the Bad Seeds are when they bring out the heavy artillery and fire on all cylinders in rock mode.
Cave prowled the stage in a manner that would make the most prominent figures in the expressionist movement of German 1920s-era cinema paler than Nosferatu himself, while having his tongue placed firmly in cheek when the audience’s adoration seemed to become a bit too overwhelming.
Warren Ellis has become his right-hand man and in conjunction with a rhythm section capable of effortlessly shifting moods, heightened with quieter moments of minimalist dissonance the impact of the heavier passages, accompanying Cave’s crooning at times with blasts of atonal, howling feedback.
‘Twas a grand evening beyond genres or comparison.
Until the next time . . .
Words: T, "era vulgaris"
Photo: Vladimir via flickr
Run The Jewels, Ratking
The Fine Line Music Café
November 20, 2014
Earlier this week I attended an artist’s talk/writer’s workshop-type thing here in Minneapolis. Kevin Bowe, who’s toured with Paul Westerberg, recorded as a member of the Replacements, produced the Meat Puppets, and written award winning songs for people that can’t write them themselves, was interviewing Jon Bream, the lead music critic for the Star Tribune. Bream has been writing about music since 1974, so he’s pretty much seen, listened to, written, and read it all.
In a rather leading manner Bowe asked Bream about his approach to writing concert reviews, following up his question by stating, “I don’t want to hear about how many beers the reviewer drank; I want to know if the show was good.”
Bream said that even though he doesn’t write that way, mostly because he works for a daily, that he thinks it’s totally legitimate to interject oneself into the story. “An event review is ultimately about the experience of the person who’s writing about it.” Said Bream. “If the reviewer drank four whiskey Cokes it is likely going to affect their experience. Why choose to ignore that?”
I had six beers tonight.
By the time I arrived at the Fine Line I was already three beers deep. I had a Fat Tire Amber Ale and a Fixed Gear American Red at home prior to leaving. I also had can of Hamm’s which I mainlined in two ginormous chugs in the parking lot behind the venue. Upon entering I stopped to take in the scene for a moment, opened my arms wide, and declared vociferously, “HIP-HOP!” A few people looked at me sideways, and a few others raised their drinks in agreement. It felt good to be out, as up until very recently I’d been sidelined for nearly four months as the result of a ruptured achilles tendon. I quickly made my way to the bar and got myself a Summit Saga IPA.
I missed the opening act, whoever they were, but had arrived as planned just in time to see Ratking. Ratking is a group of youngsters from NYC made up of rappers Wiki and Hak and producer Sporting Life. They mix an alluring cocktail of post-everything/no-nothing—punk, wave, EDM, graffiti culture, whatever—noise that is strangely and undeniably hip-hop. Hip-hop with a capital H. It makes perfect sense that they are touring with El-P, a fellow and elder New York-ian that’s been making bombastic, boundary-bending hip-hop for nearly 20 years. Metaphorically speaking, in many ways Ratking are the offspring of El-P. I fell in love with them the moment I saw their Ari Marcopoulos-directed video for “Piece of Shit.”
They took to the stage amidst a hazy blue fog and went right into their set with little fanfare. Hak was not in attendance tonight, so Wiki handled vocal duties solo. From my vantage point it was difficult to make out exactly what instruments Sporting Life was using to create the grandiloquent soundscapes. It appeared to be a combination of drum machine, mixer, MPC, and oddly enough, a large drum pad. I might not know what I’m talking about when it comes to that other stuff, but one thing I’m certain of is that there was a drum pad. I know this because he was repeatedly hitting it with a drumstick throughout the duration of the set.
I’d estimate that about half the audience was familiar with Ratking’s material - the Wiki93 EP and So It Goes LP. The only song that wasn’t recognizable was one Wiki referred to as “the new new.” I didn’t catch the name but it was just like their other tracks – pulsing, near-theatrical beats matched against Wiki’s metrical Ad-Rock on Adderall-like mic control.
Wiki’s voice is brash and nasally but his cadence is so rhythmic that at times I forgot that he was actually saying real words. On “Eat”, a song about OxyContin addiction, he rapped, “Pops cooked away the trouble of his day / All the Oxy out his cupboard that I ate, vomit / Step in the puddle that I’d make” and I was like, oh shit, that’s right, this kid can write too!
Appearance-wise, Wiki and Sporting Life are your average twenty something everymen – hooded sweatshirts, baggy polo shirts, slim fitting pants that still manage to sag, and Adidas Sambas and shell-tops. They’re the kind of guys that could jump off the stage after their set and blend into the crowd with ease. Which is basically what they did.
Because Minneapolis has an inferiority complex about out of towners, the sound guy played an Atmosphere song right after Ratking’s set. I grabbed another Saga and caught up with my friend DJ Morplay Katana, who hosts an excellent hip-hop show called Rebel Lego Radio on KNDS 96.3 FM out of Fargo, ND. I hadn’t seen him for a couple years but we fell right back into it, cracking jokes and talking about ridiculous things. We lamented the decline of the deejay in rap music, and specifically at shows. Ten years ago this show would’ve had a live deejay spinning between sets to keep a party atmosphere going. We also talked about how lame it is when a rapper comes on stage without a deejay.
Then Despot came on stage without a deejay. He rapped some songs and then he was done. Some people might have paid attention but I wasn’t one of them.
I grabbed my final beer—a third Saga—and posted up near the back of the room where there was still a little breathing room and braced myself for Run The Jewels. El-P, Killer Mike, and Trackstar the DJ entered the stage to Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and it was as if the size of the crowd had doubled itself. Suddenly lines were longer, the temperature had risen, and people were wild’n the fuck out. Within the first few minutes “Run The Jewels” two gentlemen were thrown out for fighting – plowed towards the door, arms twisted up their backs by bouncers, and out onto the cold city streets.
Run The Jewels’ thriving amalgamation of conspiracy theory, science fiction, and loud fucking bass is penetrating enough that it can cause people to act out of character. At one point Killer Mike stopped mid-song to squash some front row beef between two other overzealous fans. “Alright, you take one step back. And you take one step back.” He instructed. “This will be your area to bug out. And that will be your area to bug out. We don’t need any violence up in here.” Then, with an ear to ear grin, he asked them, “We cool?”
I’ve seen El-P countless times over the years but it never ceases to amaze me how goddamn hard his beats come across live – booming from the speakers with panic attack-inducing intensity. And even better, they are given an extra bit of oomph thanks to Trackstar’s non-stop record scratching. This marks the third time I’ve seen Run The Jewels and I have to say, I prefer them this way – just a deejay on the ones and twos backing them, rather than the additional band members they had when they toured on El-P’s Cancer 4 Cure and Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music albums.
They ran through a lengthy and comprehensive set that included all the best tracks off of both volumes of Run The Jewels as well as the ones from their solo albums that feature each other. “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” rang the hardest, with the crowd singing in unison “suck my dick, that’s word to pimp” and “she want this dick in her mouth all day” respectively. Give a large group of young men the opportunity to scream misogynistic obscenities and they’ll happily oblige. I had to wonder if Gangsta Boo had been there to do her verse from “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” if the few ladies in the house would have shouted along, “He want this clit in his mouth all day!”
On the surface El-P and Killer Mike may seem like an oddball paring. But onstage, like on wax, their interplay is seamless; surely a result of extensive recording and touring together. El-P, for all his titled cap buffoonery takes hip-hop very, very seriously. And Killer Mike, well he just goes hard. One of the things that makes Run The Jewels work so well is the personality that that pair have cultivated as a duo. While their music is tough-as-nails hip-hop, their outwardly appearance is a satirical caricature-like ode to a much more dangerous time in rap music.
I had to laugh at the predominantly young and predominantly Caucasian crowd mimicking the RTJ B-boy stance – pretending to hold a gold rope chain in one hand and a gun in the other. Likely very few in attendance tonight realized the irony. I’d tell you about the time a junior high version of me had his jewels ran on him on a winter’s night in downtown St. Paul, but that’s a story for another day. I’ll just say a fake gold rope chain with a dollar sign symbol hanging from it aint worth it.
Here’s a possible set list. Keep in mind, I did have six beers. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, yes the show was good.
Run The Jewels
Oh My Darling Don’t Cry
Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1
Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)
All My Life
Tougher Colder Killer (El-P song)
Butane (Killer Mike song)
Lie, Cheat, Steal
Pew Pew Pew
All Due Respect
Love Again (Akinyele Back)
A Christmas Fucking Miracle
(Killer Mike & El-P photo from Creative Commons Image. All other photos by Nathan G. O'Brien.)
The Gaslight Anthem, Against Me!, Cory Brannan
October 15, 2014
It had been many a year since I’d seen Against Me! and I hadn’t seen Gaslight Anthem at all. Entering Wednesday at the “early” show, it was a nice to check in on how some roots punk bands have grown over the years. For some context, I last saw Against Me! at this venue back in support of Searching For a Former Clarity on the Fat 50 States tour. A lot of time has passed.
After missing Cory Brannan, unless half a song counts, I found my way across the venue for a decent sightline of Against Me! where their energy wouldn’t be lost. Always a band built around emotion, Laura Jane Grace and company didn’t disappoint. While I fell off as a fan sometime around Clarity…, I found my way back with the angry yet pointed Transgender Dysphoria Blues. The record is both intriguing due Grace’s transgender status, but also in capturing universal feelings of alienation and acceptance. Anyway, the big takeaway is that while the band and its membership have seen a lot of change in the past decade, the live show has not. Grace is still front and center, with her voice and her guitar as the primary weapons. The rest of the band are enthusiastic and fully engaged as well—say what you will about rotating memberships, but they are clearly there for the band and are not simply hired hands. The setlist was peppered from their entire past, opening with “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong,” lots of new material, and other songs from the major label era. A surprising observation was that the crowd, while likely there for headliners Gaslight Anthem, were the most into The New Wave material. While that was never my favorite period, it fill well in the larger catalog and it has an extra punch live. And to this listener Against Me! has always been about that punch. My greatest takeaway from the show, having seen the band play live several times a decade ago and not over the past few years, is how much they have grown. The stage presence and set were all very “veteran,” with the mark of a band who has fully established themselves and holds their own in any setting.
The Gaslight Anthem were the headliners, and while the audience was respecting and generally engaged all night, it was clear from the getgo that they were the main draw. To pull from my Against Me! closing, The Gaslight Anthem are also established and hold a firm presence about themselves. Their brand of Springsteen rock doesn’t hide its influences, and the band delivers a live show in step with that: it’s rock-first, comraderie second, fashion last. Sporting scally caps, bomber jackets, and ’59-ish haircuts, Brian Fallon’s band played song after song of anthemic singalongs with the crowd taking on as many vocals as the group. That’s not to say he pulled the old “hold out the mic” bit, the sound in the venue was strong and at all times Anthem’s big guitar rock and Fallon’s voice led the charge while most every person in the crowd was watching front and center, mouthing the words. The band pulls the audience in through their music, not through a stageshow—the same way they do on record. While the music can be called derivative at times, it is authentic and that shines through above all else. To keep the unavoidable Springsteenisms coming, while The Boss is championed as a working class mouthpiece, The Gaslight Anthem one-up the man by offering a show that the working class can actually afford to attend, grab a tallcan of local beer, and singalong and let loose after a rough day. In that sense, it was all the more fitting that this show took place in the early evening on a Wednesday, as the patrons needed to get back home to rest up for another day pounding the clock.
Photography by Loren Green
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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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