Friday, December 6, 2013

FAVORITES OF 2013!

I present to you, the annual list.  This is what I thought ruled in 2013.  Disagree if you like, you're probably wrong.

1.) RESTORATIONS, "LP2"

I can’t think of a band that made such leaps and bounds creatively than this band and still remained thoroughly rocking with their second LP.  It’s a highwater mark and I can’t wait to see what comes next.  They throw a lot of different styles into their mix and the result is a sound that is completely their own.  Are they post-hardcore?  Stoner rock?  Folksy jam-rock?  A bit of all that and making every song sound like an anthem?  Yeah, I guess?  It’s just Restorations and that’s all that matters.  Not only my favorite record this year, but closing track “Adventure Tortoise” is probably my favorite song of the year too. (Sideonedummy)

2.)   RED HARE, “Nites Of Midnite”
Swiz strikes again with a new name.  In the mid-90’s they reconvened as Sweetbelly Freakdown.  Now it’s Red Hare.  But I guess it is a new band since wild-armed drummer Joe Gorelick (Garden Variety) is manning the traps instead.  Either way, the combination of guitarist Jason Farrells incredible sense of angst and melody colliding together, and Dave Brown’s one-of-a-kind gruff delivery will ALWAYS make for kick ass music.  I think we all want to be able to be in our 40s and making music this vital and skate-worthy. (Dischord/Hellfire)

3.)   IRON LUNG, “White Glove Test”
The dynamic duo in Iron Lung have once again gone above and beyond.  They really sealed it for me with how sharp and menacing a recording they got with “Sexless/No Sex”.  Now they’ve gone and made a double album- one with music, one with noise soundscapes, intended to be played together so they sync up to make harsh powerviolence industrial wastelands.  It’s quite brilliant if I do say so myself, but I’m too busy smashing my face into a brick wall to the explosive nihilism going on here to get all highbrow about this. (Iron Lung Records)

4.)   TILE, “You Had a Friend In Pennsylvania”
Never heard of them?  I’m sure you haven’t.  This fucker would have placed higher if this band weren’t a bunch of flakey weirdoes.  Just think sludgy noise rock of the highest order.  Simple face-mashing riffs and caustic venom-spitting vocals…  the perfect combo of Pissed Jeans reckless swagger and Floor’s low-tuned onslaught.  I’m upset that this band just doesn’t commit to full-on being in your face all the time, but I’m raging to every last song on this monster LP. (Limited Apparel)

5.)   DRUG CHURCH, “Paul Walker” + “Party At Dead Mans…” 7”
Fuck it, they released the LP and 7” basically at the same time.  It counts and they’re both vital.  The 90’s dude in me is all over this like a cheap suit.  Why?  Because it replicates everything awesome about bands like Seaweed, Quicksand, Farside, and hell, even Fireside and gets vocalist Pat Kindlon’s snarky shit-eating cynicism to cancel out any hint of vocal melody in favor of gravel and glass-swallowing roughness.  It makes for a collection of badass songs that I have been jamming over and over again. (No Sleep/Secret Voice)

6.)   THE NIGHT MARCHERS, “Allez, Allez”
You think Speedo is gonna front a band, release a record, and I’m NOT going to love it?  The guy played in Rocket From the Crypt and Drive Like Jehu for tits sake.  He is a golden music warrior.  The Night Marchers follow up with their second record after a lengthy hiatus with a much more direct and raucous effort (their first LP, a double LP at that, was a bit lackluster) that has a rougher, meaner recording and a bigger garage rock feel.  But at the same time they belt out doozies like the opening 1, 2 punch of “Tropical Depression” and “Loud, Dumb, and Mean” that may as well be an invitation to starting a fight with the downstairs neighbors that always leave their garbage on the lawn. (Swami)

7.)   TAXA, “Resurrection Year” 7”
Some people think it’s snide to put forth a record you released on your own label into the top 10.  I think those people can cram their modesty right up their all-too-tight asses.  Why wouldn’t I put this on here?  Obviously I liked it enough to release it, it better be good enough to place on a top 10!  And anyway, the band had already recorded the songs, had nowhere to go with them, and I offered. So there ya have it.  And I can’t think of a better band carrying the Unwound torch than these Canucks.  Bass heavy, brooding, chaotic, beautiful, and a bit haunting. (Hex)

8.)   FUCKING INVINCIBLE, “Downtown Is Dead” 7”
Next to Iron Lung this is the most pissed off band I’ve heard all year.  On their second seven inch they deliver 8 more short bursts of quick and violent hardcore fury and then play them even faster.  It’s like Left For Dead incarnate mixed with Japanese hardcore. (Atomic Action)

9.)   PSYCHIC TEENS, “Come”
I normally wouldn’t like this as much as I do, but something here just really kicked me in the nuts and I can’t explain why.  They got the whole goth-y post-punk Ian Curtis vocals and repetitive thick bass thing going here.  But the guitars are some real overdrive wall-of-noise and effects thing somewhere between My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth.  It’s a really awesome combo from a freaky band. (SRA)

10.)   GREAT FALLS, “Accidents Grotesque”
A sort of late entry into the group, but I know this band has been honing their sound a for a few years now and I think they finally nailed it on their sophomore LP.  I mean, the combo of Demian Johnson and Shane Mehling (both of Playing Enemy) will produce somewhat predictable results (ya know, brutally heavy math-y noisecore).  Still, 1.)  I’m a sucker for that stuff and 2.) they brought it down a notch in complexity into shorter spurts of brain-frying, gaping chest-hole punching heaviness.  The LP is closed out on each side with long, Neurosis-like slabs of misery. (Hell Comes Home)


RUNNER-UP’s/HONORABLE MENTIONS:
CLUTCH, “Earth Rocker”-  I’m not sure if this constitutes ‘guilty pleasure’ listening at this juncture.  Clutch draw from a wide swath of cultural subgenres that compose their fan base- skateboarders, mellow beard dudes who like beer, douchey frat bros, old hardcore guys (I guess that’s me), Dads, craft beer enthusiasts, deadhead ‘follow the band’ types, and just plain ‘ol hard rock fans.  I really don’t care.  I just know they made their hardest hitting record in years and it smokes.

LEMURIA, “The Distance Is So Big”-  Impossible not to get these catchy songs stuck in my head.  Alex and Sheena put more emphasis on the vocal melodies this time around, get a bit more minimal with the music, and make a heck of a record.

COLISEUM, “Sister Faith”-  I was a bit hesitant on this new one.  It didn’t have the same punch that ‘House With a Curse” did.  But, as predicted, it has grown on me and I definitely appreciate what they’ve done.  Digging way more into their post-punk treasure chests to produce some gems.

ALL PIGS MUST DIE, “Nothing Violates This Nature”-  Nothing Earth-shattering, just pure raging, hateful heavy metal.  They don’t have to re-invent the wheel or anything, they just melt faces better than most.


BEST SHOWS:
QUICKSAND @ Cobra Lounge, Chicago 9.15.13-  Just Quicksand in a place that held about 150 people.  I should probably stop there.  At this point I’ve seen Quicksand 8 times between 1994-2013 and this was easily the best time I’d ever seen them.

ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT @ Double Door, Chicago 9.14.13-  I hadn’t seen RFTC in over 10 years.  They played a fairly small venue, lit the place up for a good hour plus, and had just as much energy as they did in their earlier years.  Comedy gold from Speedo, endless riffs all night.

QUICKSAND @ Union Transfer, Philly 1.28.13-  I hadn’t seen the band since 1999.  The moment they took the stage and opened up with “Omission” I lost my shit and was the energizer bunny until the moment they stopped.  My favorite band ever making everything awesome again.

* Oh yeah, and I went to Hawaii this year and that alone beats most of this junk by a mile.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

GREY WEDNESDAY SALE!

Let's see... should we have a Black Friday sale? Hmmmmm.... nah. Gonna do a GREY WEDNESDAY SALE!!!! YEAH! 30% OFF YOUR ENTIRE ORDER STARTING AT MIDNIGHT, ENDING THE NEXT MIDNIGHT. Boom. Take that early bird shopper drones.
Use code 'GREYISTHENEWBLACK' to get 30% off your entire order.

 http://hexrecords.bigcartel.com/

Saturday, November 23, 2013

TIME TO GIVE THANKS..... FOR RECORDS.

In yet another mind-numbing installment of 'reviews' I collect a random assortment of things sent my way, as well as leftovers from the best of Fest, that were not some insane rare gem from 1994 or cheap repress, but in fact somewhat current.  So take this mish-mash of offerings as you will (there's quite a bit) and indulge your senses.  And while you're at it, give a little this holiday to starving artists who made these things and buy some of it ya freeloadin' jerks.




AS YOU WERE zine #1 & 2
This makes me very excited.  Here we have a professionally put together comics anthology zine put together by punk folks making punk comics.  The first issue has a theme of house shows, so all the stories revolve around that.  The best of the bunch here involves the haunted house ghost circle pit (Anthony Sorge), the incredibly detailed and wacky spread from Liz Suburbia, and curator Mitch Clem’s rumination on missing a Mountain Goats living room gig.  The second issue features a grim cover by Ben Sears and focuses on ‘the pit’…  so ya know, moshing.  It’s pretty funny really.  Mitch Clem again offers a tale of slipping on his ass feeling like a shmuck, Ben Snakepit (whose comics I’m usually not really into) makes an incredible short based around a D.R.I. song, and the single page gag from Will Laren is worth the price of the zine alone.  Other notable offerings come from Ramsey Everydaypants and Marcos Siref.  A very worthwhile purchase if I do say so myself.  (Silver SprocketBicycle Club)

BLEAK demo
This must be two different recordings, both done fairly close together, because this band has only been active a short while and they sound radically different.  For Syracuse-area people, if the bands Architect, Blood Money, and Cowards ring any bells just mash ‘em all together and you get Bleak.  It’s quite an apt summation of what they’re doing.  For outsiders, think Disembodied worship.  The first two tracks are the newest of the lot and represent an excellent step forward, both in terms of writing and recording.  It sounds loud, mean, and heavy as garbage truck full of bricks.  The second batch of songs, in my opinion, should have been shelved until the band could get a proper recording, and had been playing together for awhile.  I feel they are too premature.  A couple of the songs are pretty good, but one of them is missing the boat completely as the drums are out of whack and it feels disjointed in a negative way.  But as far as the new tracks go, keep ‘em coming because now that they have their bearings they sound pretty unstoppable. (Bleak)

CAYETANA demo
It’s kind of awesome when people you’re friends with, whom you had no prior indication that they could play instruments, just get it together, make a band, and record some jams.  A couple Syracuse-area transplants got this band going down in Philly not too long ago and what you get is some mid-tempo indie-leaning punk.  It has energy, but it’s also perfect for those Spring days where you know Summer is coming up and you’re just relaxing in the backyard taking it all in.  That’s what these songs feel like.  It’s nothing mind blowing, but having seen them live recently they broke out a whole bunch of other songs not on this demo that hint towards pretty awesome stuff to come.  I’ll be on the lookout for sure. (Cayetana)

EX-BREATHERS, “Collision”
So I’m not sure when exactly this record was released, but when I caught this band playing at Gainesville Fest this year they were the surprise hit for me.  They exploded with such energy and balls-out chaos, all the while still playing incredibly tight, I didn’t know what to make of it all.  Musically it took a few listens to nail it down, but it still is far from perfect.  So I’m not sure if this is what they intended, but I’m definitely reminded of noisy mid-90’s Wreck-Age Records offerings like Die 116 and Gern Blandsten math rockers 1.6 Band colliding in a frenzy of Keelhaul-esque drum fills, and blasting urgency.  Sure, weird references, but that’s the best I got.  Lyrics are fairly straight forward and the album artwork definitely does not allude to the wildness contained within.  A very intriguing band to be sure, one with some uncommon sounds, but it will shave your scalp clean off once the needle hits.  I suggest seeing them live (if you’re a Florida panhandle resident this might be easier) as the record hardly does justice to their live sound.  Total blast rock.   (Living Lost Records)

MANDATE OF HEAVEN, “Mark Music”
Mandate Of Heaven is synonymous with Syracuse underground rock, as salt potatoes are to local cuisine.  Yeah, salt potatoes.  Look it up and salivate, bonehounds.  Either way, Greg Pier (AKA Mandate Of Heaven) has been dishing out album after album for a dozen years or so now, and he, and a regularly (semi) rotating cast of musicians rarely play outside of town.  My preference is on the bands more aggressive and raw output, but they have, over the years, laid down some excellent slow jams.  “Mark Music” (already having been out for some time) is not only the best-sounding recording the band has done, but it’s most ‘grown-up’ (for lack of a better term).  While we get a couple more Sabbath-y style beefy tracks (“From the Center” and “If Twenty”), it’s balanced out by some bluesy jams featuring some pedal steel (“Riverbed”) and boogie rock (“Cruel, Cruel Aristocrats”).  The group also has a long-standing affair with tricky off-time riffs, as showcased on “Scrapper’s Blues”, which might be my overall favorite song on the album.  It sounds like an eclectic mesh of styles, but it’s all tied together by Pier’s distinctive crooning and melodious wail.  Outsiders might see this as left-of-center bar rock.  But those who reside here know better, that there is more going on.  While this album sits somewhat in a mainstream context, and is not my overall favorite of their catalog, it certainly is yet another awesome offering from the always reliable Mandate Of Heaven.  (Neon Witch)

NONAGON, “The Last Hydronaut” EP
I’m getting a real Frodus/Forstella Ford/Keleton DMD vibe from this group.  While that may mean nothing to the reader (or heck, even to this band), it means a great deal to me and should demonstrate that I have an instant affection and respect for what they’re doing here.  Nonagon hail from the Chicago region and DNA strands of stellar indie/punk groups that have littered the scene there over the years show up in the stylings of this group with their nimble bass flogging, angular guitar gymnastics, and dedication to analog recording techniques (at least it sounds as if this were recorded analog).  So yeah, my initial reference points hold no ground as none of them are from Chicago.  But what do you care?  You should be at least checking this out for a taste of some great rock. (Controlled Burn Records)

NO SIR, “The Future Is Bright”
Yes.  Beat me senseless with loud and dirty hardcore.  Some people look to 90’s grunge and noise rock with contempt, like it wasn’t hardcore enough.  Sure, if you’re talking Silverchair or some such horseshit.  But when hardcore kids pick up on Cows, early Helmet, Unsane, and Melvins…  well then, argue all you like.  I consider those bands pretty hardcore.  They have buckets of spite and noise to go around and I feel like No Sir is picking up on that pretty well.  All these dudes have played in (or currently play in) hardcore bands that fit a fairly typical framework of the term.  But No Sir brings the noise and filthiness to the game, all the while keeping it pretty catchy too.  Upbeat ragers like “I Doubt You’ll Ever Swim Again” bash skulls against slow clomp-and-thud cranium crushers like “Wet Worlds”.  Highly impressive stuff.  You should get this now-ish.  (TwelveGauge Records)

PILE, “Dripping”
One of my friends talked this band up to me recently, and then a few weeks later I ended up seeing them at Fest.  They were excellent.  I immediately picked up a couple of their records, this being the most recent of them.  And since that time I have been trying in vain to accurately describe just what they sound like and I still don’t think I can quite capture it.  But I’ll give it a shot, again.  It’s as if The Pixies got into playing stoner rock.  It has many of those quirky song structures, strange vocal inflections, and really off-kilter guitar melodies.  But then it all comes crashing down in thunderous rock fury, and some anthemic riffs.  This is considerably ‘heavier’ than the other album of theirs I picked up (“Jerk Routine”), but equally as interesting.  I’m sure this band doesn’t give a shit what I say about them, so I’ll just sum it up as saying that this rues and is one of the more interesting bands I’ve heard in the last couple years.  (Exploding In SoundRecords)

RIVAL SCHOOLS, “Found”
This has been out for several months already, I know, but hey, I’m just getting around to it.  Rival Schools were the perfect pick me up after years of post-Quicksand depression, hoping that somewhere Walter was cooking up more brilliant post-hardcore.  When “United By Fate” dropped in 2001 it may have moved a bit further from post-hardcore to indie rock, but whatever, I’ll take it.  That record has remained, over the last 12 years, a staple in my rock diet.  Its such a wonderful record that I adore.  So, seeing as this long-lost collection of demos recorded in 2003 has surfaced on vinyl, it still fits in that time frame of when the band was still pretty fresh.  Granted, second guitarist (and supplier of insane guitar effects) Ian Love is not on this recording.  He is replaced with the very capable Chris Traynor (Fountainhead, Orange 9mm, Helmet).  But I have to admit, the songs on here certainly are in the demo stage.  I can see most of them having turned into great songs by the time they made it to a legit studio/album.  Whatever.  I’ll take it.  I think the best of the bunch comes in the second half of the record, culminating in the wonderful “Big Waves”, which kind of sounds what the title suggests.  They also do a great Buzzcocks cover of “Why Can’t I Touch It”.  For the completist.  (SRC Vinyl)

SAN ANGELUS, “Soon We’ll All Be Ghosts”
By all accounts this is a supergroup that I ought to be very down with.  But such is the 50/50 odds that just because the people who are in the band might individually have created great stuff and together might not turn out what you expect.   That being said, the performers on this record are dudes from Undertow, Sparkmarker, and Pelican.  This should be the greatest aggressive post-hardcore to hit since about 1997.  Instead we get very mainstream friendly rock, heavy on atmosphere and a dreamy disposition.  It’s not bad, just kind of bland.  A lot of the songs don’t really go anywhere honestly.  They have some nice parts, mediocre rocking, the occasional catchy riff, but it just sort of sits there overall.  And I guess a couple of these dudes already moved on to other things, so I guess we’ll see where they go next?  (Amber andWool Music)

SLINGSHOT DAKOTA, “Dark Hearts”
More like ‘Dank farts’, amirite?  Ya know, because this couple is always talking about farting?  Anyone?  Anyone?  OK, that being said, SD are one of the most sincere couples out there making music.  And for such softies they play so loud and hard it’s stupid.  I mean, you get keyboards, soft vocals, and drums.  That’s it.  But Carly lays on those keys like no one’s business, boosts them through some bass thingy, and Tom beats on his drums like they just mugged his mother.  So, live, they always kill it.  But this record feels a bit more reserved than their live show and I think I’d be way more into it if they captured more of that live energy.  A few of these songs are meant to be chill and I can understand that.  And there are a few that have a very live, big feeling to them that are better experienced from the pit of some basement show, or small stage.  “Rasta Bacca” is probably the best song on here (even though I think it’s about smoking pot) just because it has such a wonderfully catchy lead that sounds like it could have come from an old Devo record.  (Top Shelf)


WEEKEND NACHOS, “Still”
I remember seeing this band once, years ago, when they were still pretty new and I couldn’t get over the fact that the singer looked like he flipped out on people for a living.  The music reflected that attitude of flipping the fuck out, repeatedly.  While I have not exactly paid attention to their recorded output I know their live shows are typically nothing short of burning-mattresses-prison-riot intensity and the songs on this all-too-brief LP have that same kind of intensity I recall.  How does it stand up to other records they have done?  No idea.  But here’s what I hear:  short bursts (typically) of down-tuned and freakishly tight grind/powerviolence, followed by slabs of meaty riffs Crowbar wished they wrote (or that Weekend Nachos respectfully borrowed).  It’s a great combo if you’re the type to wear your Iron Lung t-shirt to the dojo.  (Relapse)

WINDHAND, “Soma”
You think you like Electric Wizard?  Yo, Windhand REALLY likes Electric Wizard.  I mean, a lot.  I thought I was listening to an Electric Wizard record actually.  I’m not complaining though.  I probably have a better chance of seeing this band than I ever do the English titans of sludgy doom.  Windhand will have to do.  But, so help me, if they play that 30 minute long track that’s on this record live I might not be into it.  13 minute long songs, max.  And yeah, that describes the longest of the six songs on this monster.  The rest keep it a tidy 6-8 minutes each…  no worries.  Regardless, bask in riffs slower and heavier than one of those Jawa sandcrawlers, complete with atmospheric female lead vocals over top of it all.  It’s a pretty bad ass experience, man.  (Relapse)

Friday, November 15, 2013

TAXA REVIEWS!

Now that the record has been out for a little bit some reviews are beginning to trickle in for TAXA's "Resurrection Year" 7".
View them below.  And if you haven't purchased the record do so now!

Live High Five review:  http://livehighfive.com/2013/10/23/review-taxa-ressurection-year-7-now-hex-records-indie-postpunk/

Beatroute review:  http://beatroute.ca/2013/11/03/taxa/

Decibel Magazine:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

GAINESVILLE FEST REPORT, GO!

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            Each year Fest brings with it warm weather (in my attempt to escape Upstate NY winter chills just a bit longer), catch-up’s with friends I haven’t seen in far too long, and a plethora of bands all converging on the little college town of Gainesville, FL.
            I made my travel plan a bit different this year, opting for a cheap bus to NYC and then a cheap flight to Jacksonville.  The main difference being I took the plunge and just rented a car for the week because, honestly, I need a little convenience here and there.
            I got into Jacksonville about midnight and picked up the car.  I figured I’d drive maybe halfway and just find a rest stop to nap at, but none were to be found.  So I just cruised into G’ville, found an empty parking lot, and passed out in the back seat of the car.  I’ve done worse.


DAY 1 (10.31.13)
            I couldn’t sleep past 7:30 AM. I don’t know why.  Maybe it was being cramped in the back seat of a car, who knows.  Either way, I came across a small place I hadn’t seen since my first trip down to Fest a few years ago and was happy to see it was still in business.  The Coffee Culture cafĂ© that looks like it was a Wawa at some point, or something.  A bit off the beaten path of regular Fest go-ers I assure you, it’s worth a stop.
            So at the registration spot my plan of attack, in order to trump the regs, was as follows:  record/merch shop first, check in second.  It proved to be a good idea because not long after the place was packed tighter than crusties at a 40 oz. giveaway free-for-all.  Viruses thrive in environments like this.  Human factory farm conditions.  I did my biz and then lit out.
            Somewhere along the way I made an annual stop to Karma Cream for their delicious vegan reuben and figured ‘it’s hot out, I’ll get some ice cream too’.  Wrong move.  As much as I vouch for that place, and they have an awesome selection of flavors of vegan ice cream, I did not realize until it was too late that all their ice creams are made with coconut.  I thought my mouth was going to tear itself off my face and commit seppuku. 

            All was redeemed though, when I found Arrows Aim Records.  In all my years I don’t think I have ever found a record store where the quality of the inventory was in perfect unison with the size of the store.  Just take all my money now.  So many good finds, even more that I did not get.  A used section beyond compare.  I want to take that entire store home and live in it.  Forever.

            So finally, some bands started playing.  I thought I’d start off by giving Old Lines a whirl.  They played at this little hole in the wall place called Mars and they played loud, thick, and rough.  Motorhead butting skulls with From Ashes Rise maybe?  Followed up with Citizen over at the Wooly.  There’s a big trend of hardcore dudes exploring 90s alt rock.  It works about half the time.  They were alright, but didn’t captivate me the way good 90’s throwback bands can.  I did, however, have a wonderful conversation with one of the members afterwards about their Talking Heads rip off shirt.  Next, was down the street for Diamond Youth.  More 90s rock-styled stuff from this very hyped band.  But to me it sounded like Foo Fighters.  Not sure if I can hang.

            So back to Mars to try and see Jowls.  Denied. Venue cap is like 6 people at this place.
            So I got next door to see Lemuria.  The problem with seeing Lemuria in the Florida Theater, though, is that it’s in the Florida Theater.  Too much smoking, too packed, security barrier, and all that nonsense.  They were excellent as always though.  I cannot wait to see them again in a smaller setting playing all those new jams.  They even break out “Ozzy” still and that warms the cockles of the heart.

            The rest of the night was spent over in the Wooly and I think it’s probably the best venue here.  It’s quite spacious, but also intimate and inviting.  White Lung kicked it off with their brand of fast and spooky punk.  They were quite good, but it got a little redundant after awhile when all the songs have quick, noodly riffs and erratic howls.    

Obits followed it up with a perfect sound. They might not be too exciting to watch, but seeing as how lean and crisp they pull off their songs is mesmerizing in and of itself.  Still no “Military Madness”, or “I Can’t Lose” though.  Oh well.    

Torche closed out the night with probably the best mix of material I’ve seen them play, even breaking out four songs from their first LP.  I’ve seen them get more wild in the past, but by the end of their set the crowd just looked like a sea of human flesh.  I got on top of the crowd for “In Return” and then retreated back to watch the madness.


DAY 2 (11.1.13)
            There weren’t too many bands I wanted to see today so I took it easy… except for when I thought I nearly threw my back out losing my mind for FuckingInvincible.  And they were the first band of the day for me.  That band is so damn good it hurts…  literally.

            I wanted to see this band Greys play, but they canceled and Jowls took their place.  I guess fate rewards me as I missed them yesterday.  They seemed way more chaotic and heavy than their 10” sounds.  I was digging it.  Burly noise rock.

            I spent most of the day seeing where it would take me.  And it randomly took me to Reggae Shack with a chance encounter with a few friends I hadn’t seen in forever.  I have skipped Reggae Shack every year out of fear that their spicy food would kill me.  I ended up having a huge meal that was wonderful, and great conversation that was rewarding.  Afterwards I checked out another record store (Hear Again) and scored a Mission Of Burma double LP for $10.  Unheard of.

            Restorations played a mystery band set at the Atlantic and they broke out a few of their lesser-known songs, especially the long-winded trippy ones. And it was great that they can just go into all that so effortlessly and still sound crushing.  I’m very much looking forward to their official show on Saturday.
            Caught some of Sleepytime Trio (who were definitely not as wild as the last time I saw them), before heading over to 1982 where many upstate and Philly people convened to watch Cayetana.  It’s great to see friends get on stage and just go for it, even if they’re just figuring out how to be a band because they’re having too much fun while doing it.  It was a little sloppy, but they had better songs than I had imagined, that had nice plaintive melodies behind them.  It was certainly an unexpected surprise.

            I spent too much time fucking around, like getting legit vegan soft serve (no coconut!) and couldn’t get in to see Ceremony.  It sounded like it got pretty wild though.
            Just as I got back to the hotel it started pouring rain, so I just sat on the balcony and watched it come down.  A couple from Houston came over and we talked shit for a couple hours while it downpoured.  Different worlds, but fun nonetheless.


INTERLUDE I- ROOT BEER REVIEWS

            So throughout the weekend I frequented an establishment on the corner of Main and University (also right next to the Atlantic and across from the Wooly) called Pop-A-Top.  It was basically a really awesome bodega that had vegan soft serve, all manner of wacky snacks, and a plethora of root beers from all over.  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a big soda guy…  except for root beer.  I love root beer.  So, seeing their wide ranging selection made me feel obliged to partake in what they had to offer.  I started with Reading Draft, hailing from Reading, PA…  which isn’t too terribly far away from me.  I should visit there.  This is good root beer.  It had a nice sharp taste with a good amount of bite and a nice sweet aftertaste.  The next day I tried Captain Eli’s.  It still had a good taste, but a little on the sweet side, and not much bite.  It looked promising, but was overall just OK.  A day later I took in a Sioux City Sarsaparilla, a favorite that I don’t get to have all that often.  You can’t go wrong with a Sioux City.  My man Rory joined in the root beer tasting and got himself a Frosties.  Now, I’d never heard of this variety, but man, did he pick a winner.  It had a strong bite and, as the name implied, cold and crisp.  I should have gotten one of my own.

DAY 3 (11.2.13)
            Happy birthday to me.  And what a day to get old indeed.  Who can say they saw the Descendents film (“Filmage”), The Night Marchers, Braid, Paint It Black, J. Robbins, Soul Control, Restorations, and Creepoid all on the same day?  Well, I did and it was the best show ever…  even if it took place at different venues.

            “Filmage” was a good, relaxing way to start the day.  I’ve never been a Descendents fanatic, but I appreciate them and even saw them once about 15 years ago.  So the film was a great way to learn their history, as well as all the humor, tragedy, and silliness that went along with it.  It seemed more about the story of Bill Stevenson, and his life’s journey seems to have been epic and profound.  It was a great window into the lives of people that I had previously only known surface details about.

            NoSir was the first band I actually watched today though and they did a great job showcasing loud and grungy hardcore.  So much so that I bought up whatever recorded material they had to offer.
            And from there I knew I was going to spend the next several hours too busy to eat so I loaded up on Flacos Tacos.  Seriously, you can’t beat $2 tempeh tacos.  You just can’t.  So I got four and ate happily while others looked on, clearly disgusted at my gluttony.  Suck it, twerps.
            The next four hours were spent in the decrepit smoke-hole known as the Florida Theater.  Sure, you get a pretty good view no matter where you’re standing, but the sound can be rough and the indoor smoking makes me want to vomit through my eyes.  For every person who lit up next to me I was hoping to return the favor by barfing in their mouth.  This is, by the way, no sort of straightedge revenge rant, it’s just common courtesy.  Smoke outside, herbs.  You’re gross.
            So anyway, I saw Boy Sets Fire (by accident) for the first time in over ten years.  I wanted to avoid them because their music has not aged well.  It’s full-on modern radio butt rock.  I’ll give them this though- their singer still has golden pipes.  I don’t particular care for the way he sings, but he does it really well.

            So anyway, I saw Braid for the first time in 10 years (on purpose) and they still have boundless energy and sound excellent.  I was rusty on a lot of their songs, but I guarantee they were all good.  A lot of old stuff, some new stuff too.

            Fuck yeah, Night Marchers came on next.  Thin crowd.  Those not in attendance lose.  Turn in your Fest pass, game over.  Speedo’s in-between song banter is unparalleld in quick-witted, off-color hilarity.  The music’s not bad either.  RFTC minus the horns?  Hot Snakes minus Rick Fork?  I’d say that kind of sums it up.  They played almost all of “Allez, Allez”, which is one of the best records to have come out this year (or was it last year?).

            Paint It Black was on the opposite end of the spectrum of awesome.  Or, should I say, if Night Marchers were one kind of awesome than PIB was another kind.  That sounds more polite.  Insane pitting, wild dudes.  Dan Yemin is in control, uncrushable.  I think he cried tears of stone during “Little Fists”.  Go ahead, call him on it.  He will stare through you, Rollins style.  No fucking around.  All serious and all fun, but it’s like you just went to class in a demilitarized zone.
            OK, so Dillinger Four.  I have been at shows they played and always missed them.  So I made it my business to watch some of their set.  Good stuff.  Unfortunately, when you’ve already seen 10,000 other bands bite their style before seeing the originators of said style it doesn’t quite feel the same.

            Now it was time for my annual viewing of a Soul Control set.  They played so damn loud, but they played really great and had tons of energy.  The newer stuff I still haven’t heard was awesome.  Rory puked.  They covered “Breed” and I think I might have killed at least three people.
            Next I wandered down to Boca Fiesta to see a band called Pile.  I’ve heard a number of people tell me I have to hear this band.  They said I’d like it.  They were right.  But I can’t even describe them properly without sounding like an idiot.  Imagine the vocal cadence of Neutral Milk Hotel and Tom Waits colliding with weird post-hardcore song structures and riffs, and a strong dose of slacker indie rock.  See?  I’m an idiot.  Just listen to the band.  They’re really good.


            I raced back to the Wooly to see Restorations for a second time, this being their official show.  They were one of the best damn bands all weekend.  They have so much passion and energy, and the three hundred-plus people all losing their shit to their music made it all that much better.  They so have their own thing happening and are owning the fuck out of it, spitting it back out, and people freak out over it.  I know I do.  Re-evaluate your life and have it changed by how good these dudes are.

            After that life-affirming event I rushed back over to Boca to see what I could catch of Creepoid.  This is basically the only conflict I have all weekend- see Creepoid pull off their wild psych-rock/hardcore mix, or see J. Robbins kill me with basically anything he does?  I opt for both- half a set from each performer.  Creepoid played three or four new songs in a row that were all psychedelic chaos.  Beautifully violent.  I’m way looking forward to this new record they have coming out.  And then I ran back to see what I could of J. Robbins, who was playing to a surprisingly sparse room.  Don’t most of these people realize he came up with a bunch of the sounds and music that half these bands bite?  Shameful.  He was in the midst of a Burning Airlines song when I came in and it sounded like a full band, even though it was just him, a second guitarist also playing a Rhodes, and a cellist.  He broke out “Static” and I almost cried.  Then he busts into a fucking Lungfish song.  LUNGFISH.  How I have waited for some band to cover a Lungfish song (because I know I’ll never actually get to see them).  “Love Is Love”.  Goddamn.  Other people even knew it!  Did I just go to fantasy land where the world has good taste in music?  He closed with “Savory”, of course.  Why wouldn’t he?  Would stage diving during an acoustic set be improper audience etiquette?  All I knew was that was the great ending to an awesome birthday.


INTERLUDE II- ADVENTURE TIME

            Just wanted to give a quick shout out to all the people who did Adventure Time costumes during Halloween (and, might I add, did them well).  From the fantastic Finns to the fine Fionnas, one stellar Lumpy Space Princess, and a totally acceptable Lemongrab (in fact, probably one of the best put together costumes in the history of costumes ever) I applaud all of you for having great taste in excellent cartoon awesomeness.

DAY 4 (11.3.13)
            I had nothing much to do most of the day so I took advantage of having a car and went outside of town for a bit.  First, checked out a swamp/forest trail that emptied out into a prairie.  Before that exit I saw spiders the size of my fist suspended in-between trees.  They weren’t tarantulas.  These made tarantulas look like fuzzy teddy bears.  These were lethal attack killing machines.  The apache helicopter of spiders.  T-1000 model.

            After that hike I actually saw a map and noticed that if I wanted to see alligators I was on the wrong end of the park and had to go back towards the city.  I drove back, got a little lost, and then came across a public park, where I walked about a mile, went off onto another trail, through a bog of some sort, and then saw a gaggle of alligators chilling about a foot away from me.  Risky death scenario.  I’m human meat to them and it’s not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’ they will decide to take me for food.

            By the middle of the day I was ready to actually see some bands.  Caught the last bit of a one-man drum/electronic thing called NAH.  While that’s a great name for a band, it sort of also summed up my attitude towards what I was experiencing. 
            Ex-Breathers followed up.  I wanted to see them based on the Fest booklet write-up.  Yeah, that’s cheesy, but I’m glad I did.  They may have been the best new(ish) band I saw all weekend.  They were chaotic in the best possible way, showing technical prowess and not freaking out just for the sake of it.  It’s hard to nail down what they were doing, but after some follow up listening I’m thinking they have a sort of off-the-wall technical fury like Keelhaul being overtaken by the hectic post-hardcore wailing of bands like 1.6 Band and Die 116. Sure, obscure references, but that’s what I got.  Deal with it and listen to them if you know what’s good for you.  They had an agenda, executed it with flair and still lost their marbles while playing it all perfectly.  Extremely impressed.

            DrugChurch followed, except that they didn’t because they had to drive home for an emergency.  That was the biggest let down all weekend.  So bummed.  So I decided to eat, but couldn’t because of sadness, and getting distracted by looking at records.  Depression leads to buying things I guess and before I knew it I was going to be late to see Slingshot Dakota.  And if their positivity couldn’t cheer me up than I may as well go back to the gators and shove my head into their gaping maws.  So, of course, Slingshot starts and they always sound so big for a band with two people and as they’re playing something sounded familiar and I couldn’t quite place it…  wait, are they playing a fucking Title Fight song?  That’s ballsy.  Nevertheless, they may be just keyboards and drums but they play the shit out of them, and have enough sincerity to re-brand this entire fest as ‘hug your neighbor fest’.  Good or bad, no judgment.

            Finally, food.  Reggae Shack one more time for the win in my stomach.  I am a convert.  And after walking off that giant meal and spending most of the evening in the company of friends, randomly poking my head in to see a few bands here and there it was time to see the raging party animals in Ramming Speed tear up the Atlantic.  I have not seen this band in a few years and they have gotten so incredibly good it’s stupid.  There were laser lights, a fog machine, dual solos out the ass, and an alcoholism that somehow makes them all play tighter.  Their existence can be summed up in the following between-song banter offered by their frontman:  “When a bunch of psychopaths blow up the world with nuclear weapons we will headbang our way to freedom!”  Yup.

            I accidently wandered into a Lucero show while looking for wherever Knapsack were playing.  Good lord.  Never have I seen a band that looked more like they belonged in an episode of Duck Dynasty than these Winn Dixie-fed hillbillies.  If you are a trucker, chew tobacco, and enjoy wrasslin’ you probably like Lucero.  I had an epiphany that you could throw a couple of Disrupt t-shirts on these guys, take a photo, and a casual observer might mistake them for Crowbar.  It’s all relative, man.
            So the night (and Fest) was finished up with some of each set from Knapsack (once I found where they were playing) and All.  Both bands sounded/played excellent, but I think I enjoyed Knapsack more.  I watched a bit of All more out of curiosity than anything.  But after enough smoke inhalation I had to call it a night.
            Yes, this town has thoroughly entertained me all weekend, from the foolish drunk bro’s getting tossed out on their ass one after another during All, to the weirdoes committing to wearing some goofy costume all weekend, to the endless parade of dreamy punk girls that exist in some fantasy world where they all have crazy bright dyed hair and upper leg tattoos (side note:  upper leg tattoos are the new swallows on hips… calling it) and buy cool records all day, and, of course, all the kind people I met and the general sense of camaraderie amongst total strangers.

ENDNOTE:
            Picked up, last minute, a couple other people to take back to Jax with me in the AM.  In turn, I missed my flight by about two minutes, mostly because TSA had one dude working the entire line.  Yeah, it’s Monday morning jarheads, people fly places then.  I thought these dick doors had budgets the size of Wyoming?  Bring a couple more people into work!
            I nearly crossed the line into the ‘no fly list’, but kept my cool and sat in the life-sucking vortex of the Jacksonville airport for an additional six hours until I got on a stand-by flight.  From JFK I caught the subway to the Port Authority.  From the PA I got a Greyhound that left the city at 10:30 PM.  My wife picked me up at 3 in the morning, I went to bed, and then got up and went to stupid work.  The end.