Saturday, May 25, 2013

Baroness Rams Head Live 05-25-13

Continuing with my week of shows I saw Baroness tonight. I know that they occupy an odd space, right now. Musically, they are transitioning from a Sludge metal Stoner Rock kind of band to a more psychedelic rock band. Compound that with the forced hiatus after their by-now famous accident, and the subsequent loss of half the band, and they're in an odd place, indeed. I find the best way to resolve this is to lump them in with Coliseum, Kylesa, Torche and others who are creating strange hybrids of hard rock. Whether it be Coliseum's post-post hardcore, where part of the "post" is mixing Stoner/sludge riffs with early 1990's angularity, or Kylesa's grunge/doom version of slacker indie rock- the point is that there's this loose collection of bands out there, right now for whom the rules of genre do not seem to apply.
As for the accident, and having to reconstitute the band, on the first part- so long as John and Peter are there to play those interlocking guitar parts and vocal harmonies, the accident is just a personal matter- the art is still there. As for the second part, John said it from the stage- there were no auditions- they just picked up two other of their friends- friends who already knew the songs. ( and having Sebastian from Trans Am can only help!)
So what was the concert like? There was the backdrop of John's creation- when I spoke to John, the first thing I said is that he's one of my favorite artists- not just musician- I think he creates beautiful Art with both his painting and his music. Then, there was music. No smoke, no dramatic light, not video projections. Everything comes down to the no-bullshit premise of four guys playing their hearts out.  Yes, they play jaw-droppingly beautiful music, and they project nothing but sheer passion for the music- passion in the sense of both joy and angst. They are also some of the most capable musicians going.People throw around words like Virtuoso way too often- these guys really are. Seriously, if you are a musician, yourself, you need to check them out, immediately. They're just stunningly good- in all the right ways, and in all the ways that recordings just don't do justice. Go and see them. Soon. As for the rest? Here's the Photos:

Red Hare and Coliseum at the Sidebar 5-24-13

Great show. Didn't like the venue- that's the TL:DR of it.
While I saw Swiz many many years ago, and never saw Dag Nasty (though I tried) nor Bluetip, I feel like it is somewhat made up by seeing Red Hare. Not exactly, 100% my "thing", nevertheless, good enough that I liked seeing them

But I was really there to see Coliseum. Their last three releases have all been stellar- House with a Curse, Parasites, and now Sister Faith. They were a good thrash band- No Salvation I like in particular, but I think the thrash is better with Ryan's other band(s) Black Cross/ Black God, but they're an absolute monster of a post Hardcore band. Up there with Jawbox, Quicksand, and the Refused. So, unlike the majority of the audience who started the show by asking for the older, thrashy stuff, and ended the show by demanding it, I was there to see what Coliseum do best. I got my wish a lot more than the spillover Metalheads got ( I call them that because a goodly percentage were refuges from the Maryland Deathfest metal festival a block or so away. I think Ryan recognized that, as well. He said something I found pretty apt- Death, real death, is all around us. While I wouldn't say I struggle with it- I'm pretty reconciled to the fact that life ends- I cannot say that I like the name "Deathfest", either. I also think it's a bit of poor timing to have "Deathfest" during Memorial day weekend. Too many of these yahoos' peers have been maimed and killed in stupid wars to let that go unsaid) but I heard most of what I came for- Lost in Groningen (I'm Dutch, so, of course) Perimeter Man, Skeleton Smile, Blind in One Eye, Sister Faith, Love Under Will, Black Magic Punks, Waiting, Fuzzbang, and Doing Time. The only two I didn't get were Bad Will, and Used Blood. That's ok, maybe next time. I did ask Ryan, directly, for Used Blood- I think he didn't play it for the same reason they didn't play Bad Will- he was in a good mood, playing a show with friends, and trying to have a good night.
Anyway, pictures say it for me:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Yet More TV, and a note on Fashion

I said I had a lot to write about, didn't I?
So, one of the nice things about cord cutting ( evidently that's what I did- giving up cable TV in favor of digital streaming is called "cord cutting" by all the hip, young pundits)  is just how easy it is to dial up documentaries. So, I've seen a lot of them in the past week. Another nice thing is that several of the services keep track of what you've watched, so on Netflix, I watched a biography channel doc on Rasputin, Gonzo, the movie about Hunter S Thompson, Dreams of a Life about Joyce Vincent, Resurrect Dead about Toynebee Tiles, a Nat Geo series on Russian Prisons,  and American, The Bill Hicks Story. On Hulu I watched Brutal Beauty: Tales of the Rose City Rollers, and a few episodes of The End  about British gangsters. I've also watched about 10 lectures on TED. I think it's interesting that I really like documentaries but dislike "reality TV". I suppose I could flatter myself, and say that it's because the documentaries I watch are smarter, and go more in depth, and actually explore our reality, and there's a certain truth to that. I think it'd be more true, though to say that I like narrative structure, and documentaries have a beginning, middle and an end. Whatever the reason, I feel more connected with the docs than I ever did with "Reality" TV.
This also speaks to a side benefit of cord cutting- I actually am becoming a lot more engaged and mindful, rather than just running the TV like electronic wallpaper. We will see where this experiment goes...
But, I'm not abstract- I've got a reality of my own, right? That means I need shoes. Now, I'm a simple guy. Well, if not simple, at least straightforward. So basically, I like 4 types of footwear, and I can most easily describe them by brand- I like Dr Martens, I like Chuck Taylors, I like Fryes and I like Vans But, I'm not brand loyal, so bear in mind that these are just archetypes. I don't need to see a label, the style is what I'm looking for. So, for example, I've got Kenneth Cole shoes that look like Docs, and I've got sketchers that look like Docs. I've got Vision skate shoes that look like Vans and Converse shoes that look like Vans. It's not about price or fashion, really- I just have identified some elements that I think constitute my "style'. So, PF Flyers have been on my radar. they're similar to Chuck Taylors but slightly more "ruggedized" and slightly more structured- so they correct two drawbacks to Chuck Taylors: they're a bit flimsy, and they don't offer much arch support. The problem is that they price, generally, about 80% higher than Chuck Taylors, so it's hard for me to justify buying them ( it's very similar to the difference between Fluevogs and Dr Martens, incidentally) so, I was very pleased to find a pair for 60% less than Chucks- and I snapped them up. I've been wearing them a lot since. They're great, and if you have the opportunity and the means, i heartily recommend them as an alternative to Chuck Taylors.

Kylesa- Ultraviolet

If you missed out on Spiral Shadow, correct that error. You're missing one of the great hard rock LPs. However, that LP is just one aspect of Kylesa's music. Ultraviolet is another. It's both more connected to the band who recorded Static Tensions and Time will Fuse its Worth, and yet it stretches out to new territory. It's not further along the continuum, so much as it operates at a different point on the spectrum. Which means, you have to take each LP from them  at its own merits- not as the "next one".
So, This Kylesa LP opens with Exhale, about as doomy as they get, in that southern Sludge way. A hammering slow tempo, shouted crust punk vocals, Psychotronic guitar solos, tribal stomp drums. In other words, exactly what you would have predicted from Kylesa if you hadn't heard them in 6 years.
Then, track two, Unspoken brings in the psychedelic doom- like Baroness' Yellow and Green, if crushed into a Paranoid-era Black Sabbath song. Hello, Laura even sings a bit like Ozzy. It's got a great gypsy tune under all the sludge, though, speaking to an alternate reality where Kylesa would've played mournful folk songs at Eastern European funerals.
But then, Grounded snaps you back with a southern boogie riff that Raging Slab, Monster Magnet and Molly Hatchet all would have killed for. Until about a minute in, when the Godflesh grind beats the boogie down. This ain't no party, mister, it's a posse.
After that, We're Taking This is more crusty and harsh than most Tragedy songs. Other than the spacey interludes between poundings, this could have been a Damad song.
Long Gone, though is brilliant in the way that I first loved on Static Tensions- a trippy drone, punctuated by the best tribal Tom drum breakdown this side of Can's Yoo Doo Right. This has no "pop rock" to it, though it is melodic, and it does swing. It's just good music.
Likewise, What does it Take is a great bit of psychedelic Punk rock, that takes me back to 1987- bands like Bomb, early Jane's Addiction, Butthole Surfers, and Alice Donut.
Steady Breakdown, again is far more straightforward than Kylesa usually is. a slow to mid-tempo grind with an almost gentle watery breakdown like Diamonds and Rust era Judas Priest running into Piper at the Gates of Dawn era Pink Floyd.
Believe it or not, Low Tide is almost a Cold Wave song- a relative of half a dozen Cure and Joy Division songs, but still definitely Kylesa. Amazingly convincing, I've not heard a heavy band, apart from Deftones able to conquer that "mopey, but transcendent" sound.
Then, Vulture's Landing exploits the Kim Deal impression that Laura can pull off, and sneaks a Torche-styled Sludge monster riff wrapped up in a pop-alternative candy shell. Like a Python wearing a feather boa- you laugh and then it crushes you.
Quicksand is another endlessly melodic song with energy and groove- like Torche, again, but not walking the tightrope of a tight song structure. It's like feeding Van Halen 50 hits of blotter acid and a few ounces of weed- Stoner Rock, to the max.
Finally, Drifting is just that- a lovely wallow with echo guitars buzz synths, and an almost Cocteau Twins verse riff.
Is the LP good? Sorry, it's far, far too deep, and layered for me to make that call. I've only heard it three times, so far- and I suspect it will be about ten times before I can tell what I would call the over all vibe. It's a Kylesa LP. If you're willing to go with them, there are rewards, but again, know that you're venturing into the unknown with them- every time. Yes, this straddles lines between hardcore, Doom, Stoner, Alt rock, and psychedelic- and jumps decades from the late 60's to the early 21st century, sometimes in the space of three bars, but how do you rate something like that? What's the yardstick for greatness when you cannot get a handle on the unit of measurement? Get the idea?
Right now, I think Spiral Shadow was better, and it seems about par with Static Tensions. Get back with me in a month, and maybe it'll have changed.