Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Music I Like: Nails "Unsilent Death" LP

know its only March, but I’m going to go ahead and say this is the heaviest album of 2010. Southern California’s Nails combines the sludge of d-beat hardcore with speed and feracity of powerviolence, topped with some doom influenced passages and played by buzzing guitars that sound as if their amps will explode any second from too much distortion. This all comes to surprise to me since the first thing I heard about Nails was that they were some kind of hardcore supergroup featuring ex-members of Carry On and Betrayed. Those two bands are pretty much the antithesis of Nails. While the band members’ work in their earlier bands were partly responsible for neo youth crew movement of the last decade, Nails will probably tear any remnant of that scene to shreds.

Unsilent Death is the newest offering from Six feet Under Records, and ts everything great about the darkest side of hardcore punk in roughly 14 minutes. Nails go through a variety of influences in this short time that can be heard pretty clearly, ranging from the early pioneers of Discharge and Seige, to more modern day genre leaders like Mind Eraser. Nails can go from a Tragedy-esque gallop, to a blast beat, to a fairly metallic breakdown in the matter of a few seconds. Its everywhere, but its all done with a viciousness thats all their own.

Everyone knows if you want a record that purposely sounds like it was furiously played into a 4 track recorder in Greg Ginn’s basement, you go to Kurt Ballou’s God City Studios. That’s exactly what Nails got. The recording is raw and noisy. Just like it should be. Guitars are constantly feeding back. The Vocals are distorted and almost unintelligible. It’s perfection.

So I know we got another 9 months, but I’m starting to doubt anything else coming out this year as gritty and unpolished as this.

P.S. I chuckle at the fact that The National is the next band that comes up on my itunes after I listen to this.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Cliche Post about The Years Best Albums

2009 was quite a good year for heavy music. Unfortunately I didn't have time to listen to all of it, so my list this year is quite a mix of heavy hardcore and boring indie music. So here on the internet I'm posting my horrible taste in music. Feel free to criticize me all you want.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
"The Pains of Being Pure at Heart" (February 3rd, 2009)
Slumberland Records
Standout track:
"Everything With You"
Shoe-gaze. Indie-pop. Jangle-pop. Whatever you want to call it, it's just plain perfect. For some reason the first thing I thought when I heard The Pains of Being Pure At Heart was, "This is what the soundtrack to 'Empire Records' should have been!" I guess it's got that perfect blend of noisy rock and melodic pop akin to bands of the early 90's like Adorable, and it's liberally drenched in teen angst. But it's not rebellious or violent angst, its the angst of someone quiet and bookish who pines over girls in the library ("Young Adult Friction",) yet it's still overwhelmingly optimistic and idealistic in it's approach, both lyrically and musically. Song titles like "A Teenager in Love" and "This Love is Fucking Right!" says it all. If it hasn't already, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart will soon become the soundtrack for young, introverted gents everywhere.

"Tripping With Howlies" (February 3rd, 2009)
OverUnder Records
Standout Track: "Chimera
For a bunch of young guys from Atlanta, Howlies really know their way around surf rock and the sounds of 60's era pop. In "Tripping With Howlies" they've created a haven of vintage sounds, relying on reel-to-reel technology and ignoring the world of pro-tools to capture some seriously catchy pop songs. "Do the Natural Thing" sounds like a song off the the "Gidget" soundtrack, while "Aluminum Baseball Bat" has more in common with The Supremes than Dick Dale. Other tracks like "Angeline" have the modern sensibility of current bands like The Shins, yet Howlies stay deeply rooted in their love of music from the lo-fi era throughout "Tripping."

"White Flag" (March 10th, 2009)
Orange Twin records
Standout track: "Mountain Heart"

Me and Madeline go way back...way back to February. Yes, believe it or not we spent this Valentines Day (eve) together. We shared a pizza in an old house in St. Augustine and talked about how we started playing music. Oh what a time we had! Ok, so I just happened to be in town when she was playing a house show at my friend's house, and she didn't recognize me at The Fest last October, but I still enjoy her music a lot, and it's only partly because I happen to think she is a babe. Her first album with a full band, "White Flag" is a great collection of folk and bluegrass songs that are heavy on banjo, slide guitar and lyrics that could only be penned by someone from the south, lying somewhere between heartfelt and traditional folk fanfare. "I'm Sorry" is a particular tear jerker, and "This Train," is the gratuitous folk song about a train, but as a wise person once said, "Is there anything else to write about besides trains?" if there's a song about pizza on the next record, you know what it's really about.

"Grey Britain" (May 5th, 2009)
Warner Brothers Records
Standout track: "I Dread The Night"

This band could have made this list purely based on attitude. This summer on warped tour they played on the ground and called out every carbon copy band on the tour falsely waving the flag of punk. And to top it off, rather than go radio friendly, they used a deal with a major label to launch further and deeper into their punk and hardcore roots. Frank Carter's vocals are brash, volatile and slightly cockney'd, which is perfect when you're basically spitting in the face of the Queen. He would make Joe Strummer proud. "Grey Britain" is at its core a hardcore record, borrowing from American bands like Black Flag, but it has the voice and shared Nihilism of "God Save the Queen." Gallows could be the UK's new Sex Pistols, except without all the stupid snarling and awful music.

Paint It Black
"Surrender" EP (August 18th, 2009)
Jade Tree Records
Standout track: "Surrender"

Clocking in at less than seven minutes Philidelpia's Paint it Black latest release goes by so fast it'd be easy to miss, but these veterans of hardcore seem to put more passion and raw anger into a seven minute album than most bands manage to during their entire existence.The opening track, "Sacred" is misleading in its melodic approach, reminiscent of frontman Dan Yemin's previous ventures in Kid Dynamite and Lifetime, but when "Worms" starts off with it's yelled "1-2-3-4!" the constant assult of lightning speed punk rock riffs begins and never lets up. The ferocity is only broken up by the occasional bass driven interludes, bringing the tempo from a gallop to a crawl, slowly but surely pounding Yemin's wit and wisdom into your brain. It's seven minutes well spent.

"Naked and Cold" (September 8th, 2009)
Solid State Records
Standout track: "Revival"

Despite these guys being some of my favorite dudes in the world, Advent earned their place on the list solely by making an incredible record. Compelling lyrics, breakneck tempos, the heaviest riffs known to man. It's all here. As I've told them many times, their last record "Remove the Earth" was the only thing Solid State put out since Figure Four's last album that I actually listened to, but "Naked and Cold" blows "Remove The Earth" out of the water. Songs like "Nothing" and "Pack of Fools" are ridiculously fast while "Revival" could possibly be one of the most epic hardcore songs of the decade. I seriously tried to think of one more epic and I couldn't find one. Fatherless is a heavy instrumental that reminds me of Cursed. Name me one other Christian Hardcore band that has a song that remotely resembles Cursed. You can't. Maybe us being friends makes me biased, but Advent is seriously one of the best bands in the world.

"New Leaves" (September 22nd, 2009)
Polyvinyl records
Standout track: "Good Friends, Bad Habits"

Being a pretty big fan of Mike Kinsella's solo project known as Owen, I surprisingly almost let "New Leaves" slip by me. It seemed to be released with little or no fanfare, which in some way fits it. And I don't mean it's a bad album, it's quite the opposite, but it's a little more subdued and understated compared to the previous "At Home With Owen." At first it may seem that Kinesella has "lost his edge" as a friend and fellow Owen fan told me, but after a few listens this album really grows on you. "New Leaves" is a collection of well crafted acoustic driven songs that probably holds more in common with Owen's earlier albums, but it's apparent Kinsella himself has had some dramatic life changes since then. Most of the lyrics chronicle his transformation from a single and reckless twenty-something to a full blown family man. In "Good Friends, Bad Habits" he starts to reminisce about "the bar fights/ the long nights/ the where in the hell am I?" before quickly affirming that "every time she breathes/ I embrace my routine." It's most apparent on the slightly sappy Amnesia that says "She has saved me/ from the long nights and the last calls that betrayed me/ Now I know who I am/ a house broken one woman man." Yet songs like "Ugly on the Inside" still carry the blunt force of his previous work, never missing an opportunity to humiliate someone in a song. So Kinsella may be domesticated now, but lost his edge, I think not.

"Axe to Fall" (October 20th, 2009)
Epitaph Records

Standout Song: "Dark Horse"
I've never been a huge fan of Converge. Maybe I didn't want to like them since everyone else seemed to worship them. Maybe their previous records had too much noise in it for me to connect to. I don't know what made me put aside my bias and check out "Axe to Fall," but whatever it was I'm thankful for it. The Opening track "Dark Horse" starts off with such a juggernaut of a riff you can't help but be hooked. Kurt Ballou's guitar work is amazing to say the least; it's quite technical but never ventures off into prog territory, making it actually enjoyable to listen to. Songs like "Feed the Worms" showcases the band's taste for stoner and sludge metal and it's a welcomed change. The album's production was handled by their own Ballou and I've always felt like he has built his God City Studios around what will make a Converge album sound good, which isn't always great for his other clients, but undoubtedly makes "Axe to Fall" sound perfect. With a the career that's coming up on 20 years, its evident that Converge are still just as relevant as ever, and can still even pick up a few new formally jaded fans along the way.

"Lost Art" (November 3rd, 2009)
Jade Tree Records

Standout track: "Lower Estada"
Richmond, Virginia's Cloak/Dagger has a knack for playing punk rock that harkens to the early days of leather jackets, torn up shirts and self destruction. "Lost Art" is a serious dose of rock and roll riffs and some snarky punk attitude. It's a record full of songs that could've been written before playing punk rock had any promise at all. Before the well oiled money making machine known as Warped Tour was even a twinkling in someone' eye. Back when pop punk was considered an oxymoron. A time when people played punk rock for the hell of it. It's an attitude Cloak/Dagger decided to bring back from the dead, and "Lost Art" is them playing the role of Dr. Frankenstine himself, frightening villagers with punk's grotesque reanimated corpse. It's evident in songs like the self-damning "Billions Millions" that boasts "Fat Elvis/ James Dean/ dead Ramones save a place for me/ I'll be there soon." It's an ambitious grab for immortality, and though they may not ever share a page with Joey Ramone in Rock and Roll history books, these hooks may get them pretty damn close.

"Lost Ground" double 7" (November 17, 2009)
Bridge 9 Records

Standout Track: "The Red White and Blues"
Lets face it: concept albums usually suck. Sure, Shipwreck's last album was good, but unless you climb "proverbial mountains" on a daily basis it probably wasn't too relatable. Despite the stigma of a concept album, Defeater is one band that knows how to tell a story, and what could potentially be a campy idea turns out to be a heart gripping tale amidst a background of intelligent melodic hardcore. "Lost Ground" seems to be the "prequal" to the song "Prophet in Plain Clothes" off their previous album "Travels." Our hero starts off as an innocent recruit into the army, getting ready to fight in what is most likely World War II ("We ain't seen no Germans for days"), only to end up on the streets when he comes home, realizing heroism isn't all he was made to believe. "Begging in the Slums" ties it all together bringing the "prophet" where we met him in "Travels," the strumming of his guitar fading the final song out. Defeater has created a seriously well thought album that puts them leaps and bounds above their contemporaries. The emotion behind the songs are so real, so raw you would think what they're singing really happened to them. Given the current political and economic climate, "Lost Ground" has a lot more relevance than being just another concept album.

Honorable Mentions
Take It Back!: "Atrocities"

The Hope Conspiracy: "True Nihilist" EP

Mind Eraser: "The Prodigal Son Brings Death"

Lewd Acts: "Black Eyed Blues"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Vinyl Friday is Back!

Well I kind of dropped the ball on vinyl Friday leaving the last two Fridays vinylless, but after a huge swelling of calls and concern (or just a text from Johnny) I'm bringing the wax back. So here for all your collecting pleasure is Vinyl Friday #2
Lost Art LP European tour press
Jade Tree Records #1128

These days the term "old school" gets thrown around a lot, and most of the time it doesn't really mean anything except there's probably a fast part thrown into the music somewhere. About a month ago Richmond Virginia's Cloak/Dagger released "Lost Art" on Jade Tree Records, a collection of songs that nods to the early days of punk and hardcore without the use of of buzzwords. It's 13 two minute songs that are brash, furiously played and perfectly unpolished. It very well could've been recorded in Ian Mackaye's basement with H.R. behind the controls and Henry providing the free Haagan Dazs ice cream. But the harDCore sound isn't the only thing present in "Lost Art." Jason Mazzola's vocals carry the wit and bite of a snotty garage rock band like The Vicious or International Noise Conspiracy, and Colin Barth's guitar playing is based on hooky riffs that could have come straight from The Stooges' "Raw Power" sessions.

Given the band's garage approach to the music, it makes sense for the packaging of their vinyl release to reflect it, especially the european press, which is what I happen to have gotten my hands on. Nothing says punk rock like black vinyl in a plain white sleeve with only a white sticker on the front boasting the name of the record and the song titles. The label on the record is also hand stamped and there's messages etched in the inner ring of the vinyl that say "What does heeee want!" on one side and "Let me clear my throat eheheh God d*mn!" on the other.

This particular pressing of "Lost Art" is limited to 200 and was sold on the band's European tour and at The Fest 8, but it seems Jade Tree has set aside 45 of these and are selling them on their website, so it's not too late to get a hold of this pressing. The Jade Tree website is calling this pressing the "European tour test press," but it seems odd to me to have a test press of 200 and not like 20. I wouldn't doubt if they added "test press" to boost interest.

The other pressing of this record features actual artwork, though it's still simplistic, and is limited to 200 white and 1,300 black.
If you get a chance, pick up this record that is sure to become a classic staple of the Jade Tree catalog.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beachin' it with Take It Back!

Take it Back! is a band that has spent the past year and half constantly changing and evolving. Their Facedown Records debut "Can't Fight Robots" was a feel good, youth group friendly posi-core album built on the shoulders of crowd pullers like Comeback Kid and Set Your Goals. It was catchy and you could listen to it while you were driving with your girlfriend, but ultimately it lacked gravitas. Weeks after their album came out, TIB!'s lost two members, one of them being the vocalist, a death sentence for almost any established band. At that point nobody would've blamed them for quitting, but they pressed on. A year and half later they've become almost a new band, dropping the fluff for something a little more honest and aware. On their sophomore release "Atrocities," Take it Back! is darker, deeper and more satisfying for those looking for substance in their music.
Last week these guys graced the Florida panhandle with their presence and we got to have some serious hang time. After the show we went and hung out on the beach looking for sea life, both Cody and Josh sporting head lamps so they could spot crabs a little easier. I thought it would be a perfect time to ask them a few questions. We talked about their new album, metal kids and Kings of Leon. Here's what they had to say:

Tell me who you guys are. What band are you in and what are your names?
Nick: Take it Back! and I'm Nick and i do vocals.
Cody: I'm Cody and I play guitar.
Josh: Josh and I do drums.

Where are you guys and what are you doing right now?
Cody: We are on the beach in Destin, Florida.
Nick: hanging out on the beach at three in the morning.
Josh: Looking for crabs.
Cody: And stingrays.

Have you found any crabs yet?
Cody: Yea we can see them in the water, but I just took a shower for the first time in two weeks so I'm not getting in the water.

You guys have been tour. Tell me about how it's been going.
Nick: We've been on tour for a week and a half now with Four Letter Lie and A Bullet For Pretty Boy.
Josh: Wow he said it right.
Nick: I always get their name wrong.
Cody: It's Awesome. They're great guys.
Josh: Yea.
Cody: Lots of fun. There's been a lack of hardcore kids but it's been a lot of fun.
Nick: A lot of confused looks while we play haha.

So you guys played in Pensacola tonight. How was it?
Nick: We had a good show tonight. There wasn't a ton of kids, but we played with a band called Who Cares that's from this area and it was the first night of the tour we felt like kids understood what we were going for stylistically.
Cody: There was probably 25 people at the show, but most of them were hardcore kids and got into our set, which was a first. Like I said we've had a blast on this tour but it's just been a couple kids here and there that were into the show, or our show at least. Tonight it was a breath of fresh air.

Tell me about your theory about the way metal kids hear.

Nick: It's like dogs with a dog wistle. They can only hear that high pitch, but humans can't. Metal kids can't hear anything unless it's tuned below, I'd say B. So you've got B and then A and then G sharp.
Cody: It explains the weird looks you get whenever you're playing if you're a hardcore band. You're just moving around but to them no noise is coming out, so that's why everybody stares at you. But hopefully next record we'll change that. We'll tune to like A or something.
Nick: We tune to D sharp standard so we're super screwed right now.
Cody: We should start tuning up more and then maybe we can meet in the middle somewhere. Maybe there's a high frequency they can hear, they just haven't figured it out yet. Like I know Iron Maiden was tuned up, so we'll see what happens.

I think they can only hear it if it's sweep picking.
Cody: Haha yea. We'll have arpeggios on the next record.

Is it tough being on tour with metal bands or bands that draw a different crowd than yours, to put it in a nice way?
Nick: It's a little difficult. We have a good time with all the bands. We really got along with these guys really well. But yea, musically we're all so different that there's always kind of the oddball most nights and unfortunately most nights it's us, not that kids, I don't know, it seemed like they liked it but they were confused as to what's going on.
Cody: A lot of those kids you could tell this was probably their first exposure to hardcore music at a show. They don't know how to take it.
Nick: Actual hardcore music.
Cody: Yea, well..Haha. Tough guy hardcore music.
Nick: We're not tough guy.

Would you consider yourself tough guy?
Cody: Haha. No absolutely not. We strive to be though. We're working on it.
Nick: Yea maybe someday. We got a few more breakdowns on this album so maybe next album.
Cody: Like I said we're all tuning down on the next album. Or up. Whichever works better.
Nick: We're all going to play basses on the next album.

So you guys just had a new record come out.
Cody: Yea, "Atrocities" came out Tuesday.
Nick: Nobody burn that.
Josh: It is not drop tuned.
Cody: But yea it did come out last week. Nobody knows it, but it came out last week. And we're stoked on it. Hopefully everybody else will be too. Hopefully it'll catch on.
We recorded in Minneapolis with Justin Carmichael, Alex Arthur and Griffin Landa and it turned out great. We stayed in downtown Minneapolis. It was awesome. Favorite city hands down.

How would you say its different than your previous releases?
Cody: It's a little darker.
Nick: A lot less pop influences. There's two tracks with singing on the entire record. With the last CD every track had a singing part.
Cody: I didn't write any of the lyrics, but from the outside perspective, a lot of the songs have more meaning, or at least they hit a little deeper. There's a lot of songs on the last record that had good meaning behind them, but this record has...I don't know. A do I say it?
Nick: More substance?
Cody: Yea more substance. There you go.
Josh: And I think the way that the whole album was recorded was pretty neat. It's super raw. Nothing was over done or over produced. If I could I would pretty much make our first album like that because everything else was just overdone or just too much.
Cody: Yea, or just digital.
Josh: Yea.
Cody: Like on the new record Josh's drums were just sampled with his drums, so it was all real drums.
Josh: Haha yea.
Cody: That's our actual guitar tone. And Nick's vocals sound incredible.
Josh: It really captures our lives sound as well which is really neat.

I have to ask you guys, how do you feel about Kings of Leon?
Nick: Haha! We love Kings of Leon so much.
Cody: Don't even get us started.
Nick: Our bio for Facedown Records states that they're one of the major influences for the new record. I think you can kind of hear it.
Cody: Let's just say I can't put their record in without listening to the whole thing. I have to go from start to end.
Nick: That's maybe the greatest record of 2009.
Cody: Absolutely. Hands down. But yea that's all we listened to when we recorded. We played Nazi Zombies and listened to that record.

Going back to the new record what were some of your influences besides Kings of Leon?
Nick: The last Verse album "Aggression" was all I listened to going up to recording that and then Have Heart "Songs to Scream at the Sun" that record was listened to quite a bit and Modern Life Is War was listened to. A couple other records. What else? Those were the three main ones that we just jammed while we were writing. I think it comes out in some of the songs. We wrote the album that we would want to hear.
Cody: I listened to a lot of Bad Brains too. I mean it doesn't really come through on the album at all but there's a couple fast songs. There's a 56 second song on our record.

Isn't that song called Minneapolis?
Cody: Absolutely. No reason other than Minneapolis is cool and we wrote that one in the studio and couldn't think of a better name than Minneapolis.

Tell me about the artwork, because you were saying the persom on the cover is actually a homeless guy that lives in Minneapolis.
Cody: Yea we were walking and just looking different places to shoot pictures and maybe find people, and we just came across this guy. Talked to him for a while actually. Got some pictures of him and yea it was awesome. I mean it worked out as far as the pictures went, but I mean we got to talk to him and it was great. And he had a pretty sad story. He had a rough year, but it was good and the pictures turned out great. The layout is awesome. There was some website we got album artwork of the week. Noisecreep I think.
Nick: Yea Noisecreep. We got album artwork of the week last week and Outbreak got it this week.

You guys came out with "Can't Fight Robots" about a year and a half ago, and then you guys had like a million member changes. Nick, you stepped up from bass to vocals. You've gone through a million other bass players. It seems like your focus has, maybe not changed but shifted, or maybe even more focused. What do you think?
Nick: Yea I definitely say with all the member changes it helped us to become more, I guess you could say united as a band and more unanimous in what we believe and what our goals are as a band, where as before we were a group of guys on several different pages with what we wanted to do, where as now we all know what we stand for.
Cody: There's a main purpose everybody has in the band and it makes things a little easier. We're still a Christian band but we've broadened our horizons and took a lot of different things into perspective too.

It definitely seems like there's this theme of social justice running through the new album. Tell me about that.
Nick: Yea, that's something I say we kind of all feel strongly about, but it kind of all started when I read a book called Jesus for President. That kind of opened my eyes to what our calling was as a band, I guess you could say. Whereas a lot of Christian bands, it's more important to... I don't know. We just didn't want to be another worshipful Christian band. We wanted to have a meaning and a message, not that they don't, we just felt like we had a different calling and purpose, and that's kind of the road we were led down.
Cody: And also just being aware of other things that are going on, you know? Outside of your normal realm of people's thoughts but just being aware of what's going on in the world and just helping out, you know? Where we can.

What were some of the things specifically in Jesus for President that made you feel this way?
Nick: It challenged a lot of what I learned growing up about what a church should be. I looked at a church as just a building of believers that got together, which is part of what is, but more so as a body of believers it should be more willing to get out and help the community around it. The disciples and all their followers sold everything they had and then gave to those around them who needed so no one had more than they needed and everyone had exactly what they needed, which is something that is very unheard of these days, especially in the age of mega churches. Where we're from there's so many. There's a church where we're from that has three gigantic cross statues that cost of over a million dollars, meanwhile the homeless population's rising daily.
Cody: I think it was a lot more than a million dollars. Like a couple million.

Anything cool happen on this tour?
Cody: Well the last tour we were lighting a lot of things on fire and blowing things up, even in the van. This tour it's kind of taken a back seat. We have one day left on this tour with the rest of the bands so hopefully we'll make something happen tomorrow. We'll see.
Josh: Also pretty exciting: Our trailer pretty much fell apart this whole tour.
Nick: It was the ghost of David Koresh.
Josh: Yea there's that story too.
Cody: We went to the branch Davidian compound in Waco and we're looking at that and that's when our trailer broke, right across from the compound. It was cool because we wanted to go out there and look at that, but at the same time we broke down out there, so that was kind of creepy. I always heard they were nice people though, but we never found out.

After this tour what do you have planned.
Cody: We're going to go back home and relearn the record as a band so we can tour on it heavy. A lot of the songs got written in the studio so we just have these songs that got pieced together. We just got a new bass player, like officially have a new bass player as of yesterday, so yea just go back and learn the whole record and then tour on it heavy and try to be gone as much next year as possible, so. It'll be good. We've got a lot of tour hopes. Like we'd love to to tour with Advent and Continuance. And Kiss is having a world tour next year, so we're trying to get on that.
Nick: A Kings Of Leon headliner would be nice.

Any last words?
Cody: Our record just came out so check that out. Wrench in the Works has a new record coming in January. I think it's January 10th. It's called "Increase/Decrease." That's going to be awesome. I've heard some of the demo tracks. Call to Preserve is writing a new album.

Well, possibly.
Nick: So far one of the members of Call to Preserve has confirmed that he is writing a new album. I haven't talk to the rest of them.

Haha, neither has that member.
Cody: Take it Back! doesn't just care about money, because we don't make money, contrary to popular belief. Yea that's it. That's our plug for lambgoat because we love that website but we can't figure out if it's serious or if it's a joke website because it's always so funny.
Nick: Take It Back! thrives on hate and so that website is where I get mine.

You can check out Take It Back on their Myspace, follow them on twitter or read their blog.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Vinyl Friday

Welcome to "Vinyl Friday!" What's vinyl friday? It's where every week I pick out a vinyl record and talk about it. Why? To inform the avid collector, of course. And also because I get bored sometimes and have nothing else to talk about. Just being honest. The first record came out a few months ago on Deathwish Inc, and licensed to a389 records for the vinyl release. The record is "Paranoid Delusions/ Paradise Illusions" by Baltimore hardcore band Pulling Teeth. Check it out.

Pulling Teeth has been releasing metal tinged, evil sounding hardcore on beautiful peices of wax since their debut "Vicious Skin" a few years ago. Their latest album "Paranoid Delusions/ Paradise Illusions," is no exception. In these five new songs Pulling Teeth dive further and deeper into their influences, throwing around traces of thrash, hardcore, sludge metal and doom. The finished product is a record that seems almost schizophrenic at times. A two minute song played at breakneck speed turns into 9 minute Black Sabbath-esque crawl. Distorted guitar solos turn into surprisingly soft melodies, most notably in the 20 minute track "Paradise Illusions" that takes up the entire b-side of the record. The record is all over the place, but nonetheless well executed and compelling.

For their cover art, Pulling Teeth once again tapped artist Jeff Beckman who graced the cover of their last full length "Martyr Immortal." The cover is a gatefold with one side depicting Beckman's interpretation of "paradise illusions" and the other of "paranoid delusions" The paranoid delusions side plays to the same apocalyptic themes that has graced their previous covers, featuring some of the same iconography like the snake and the all seeing eye. The Paradise Illusions side is the exact opposite. It's bright, green and cheery. Everything that you would least expect from Pulling Teeth. Still, both covers theme the album perfectly, and it only cements Pulling Teeth as the go to band in hardcore for extremely detailed, eye melting cover art.

According to Pulling Teeth's blog, the first pressing of this record was limited to 666 copies (seriously), with 333 of them featuring "Paradise Illusions" themed colored vinyl and the other 333 of them featuring "Paranoid Delusions" themed colored vinyl. All 666 of them also featured an extra "hologram cover" where the two images morph into each other. A limited pressing of blue splatter colored vinyl was also available via the Deathwish e-store, but quickly sold out. Any of these would've been awesome to get, but it seems I'm too slow. That leaves the rest of the world and I with the less special clear blue pressing. It's not a hologram but it's still nice to look at. It's to be expected though. From the music, to the artwork, to the packaging, everything Pulling Teeth has put out since its inception has been stunning, so even the stock pressings of the record are still nice peices.

Go pick this up from a389 Records. Or get on e-bay and bid hard!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Punk Rock and Beat Up Cops: Surviving The Fest 8 Part 2

I present to you, the 2nd part of my chronicle of Fest 8!

Conisdering the late night before, Saturday started pretty early. I woke up around 11:30 with sore legs and a sad excuse for a voice. By 2pm I had gotten myself together as best I could and went with a group of Friends to Market Street Pub to watch Gatorface and New Bruises. On the way to the show I was surprised at the number of people walking around, functioning and going to see bands play after a full night of drinking and loud music. I mean, I was sober the whole night and I was feeling quite sluggish.These kids just can’t get enough rock and roll I guess, and the bands’ sets that start in the early afternoon are just as well attended as the ones at what would be peak show times. It’s just another example of the alternate universe that The Fest seems to operate in.
After leaving Market Street I headed to 1982 to see Pulling Teeth, one of the only bands on this year’s roster that I was positive I did not want to miss. I was there almost 45 minutes early thinking it would be plenty of time to get in, thinking Pulling Teeth would be looked over by the elitists and hype police that attend The Fest. I guess I was wrong and I spent all of Pulling Teeth’s set listening from outside standing in line. But there’s a silver lining to every story, and the parking lot at 1982 seems to be made of silver. While walking around Gainesville that weekend Kaila and I noticed just how many people were there with some kind of iconic band tattoo. We decided we should start some sort of game where we would try to count as many cliche band tattoos as we could and then see which were the most popular. The obvious front runners would be the Black Flag bars, Milo from the Descendants and the surprisingly popular Hot Water Music logo. We never really kept score and lost interest some time Friday Evening, but the guy in front of us in line that afternoon had such a passion for permanently displaying his musical tastes on his skin, that it reignited our passion for the game.

It was exciting to come across such a gold mine like him and inconspicuously taking all these pictures of his leg without him noticing was just another way to keep busy while waiting in these lines. Kaila is really a pro at covert photography. I’ve never seen such technique while never being detected by her subject. For some reason this guy never thought to himself, “Man, this girl is taking forever to tie her shoes.”

On top of cliche band tattoos, day two was Halloween and Halloween is always great for people watching, especially at a big event like this. There’s nothing like watching a grown man stage dive in a bee costume or seeing Billy Maze and “the Sham Wow guy” mix it up together in the pit. There was even a guy who walked around Gainesville in a Green Man costume all day. That’s what I call commitment. Though my personal favorite was the vocalist of Cloak/Dagger doing their entire set in a Henry Rollins muscle suit, complete with the “search and destroy” back peice and the Black Flag bars tattooed on his arm (which were also counted in our cliche band tattoo game).
Between all the people watching and standing in line I managed to see a few more bands like Richmond’s Cloak/Dagger and the babelicious Madeline. By late Saturday night/ early Sunday morning it was time to seek out another house show, so I went with a few friends to scout another party that would feature a complete cover set by a band. This time it was Bomb the Music Industry playing Blink 182’s album “Enema of the State” in its entirety. The show was at a house on 8th street in the middle of Gainesville’s uber hip and dirty student ghetto, though I’m still not sure which house the show was at. When we walked onto 8th street we walked into a crowd of a few hundred people all standing in the middle of the street. Watching the crowd for this party take over a whole block of the neighborhood, I thought to myself that there was no way something good was going to come from whatever was going on. I was so right.

I was standing off to the side of the street, safe behind a parked car watching the night unfold when the cops showed. This is to be expected when there’s a few hundred people drinking and blasting music in the middle of the street in a residential neighborhood. Instead of busting the party immediately, the squad car rolled through with its lights on trying to get people out of the street. As they drove away everyone started cheering, but the cheers didn’t last long and the car turned back around. That's when some dude in spandex had to go be a hero and go dance provocatively in front of the squad car. Not surprisingly, this pissed off the officers who were just trying to drive back through and clear the road a second time, so in the midst of a few hundred on-lookers one of the cops gets out of the car and starts to arrest the dancing spandex dude, or the unidentified man, as the papers called them the next day.

At this point I thought this might be interesting, so I pulled out my camera phone and started filming:
After people started throwing beer cans at the cops is where the story gets murky. Comparing different eyewitness accounts that varied from “That cop took a beer bottle to the head,” to “That was obviously police brutality! Up the punx!” its hard to get the whole truth. The official story from the Gainesville Sun read something like this:

Ryan J. Clarey, 25, of New Hampshire, attempted to free the unknown suspect from Jones' grasp by throwing a punch at the officer, Kameg said.
Jones used his Taser on Clarey and arrested him; meanwhile, the man who Jones was originally trying to detain ran away. During that process, several other bystanders attacked Jones, and other officers were called in for backup.
"He called for emergency backup, and it was two versus six for a short time until 20 more units responded, [Officer] Kameg said. "People threw rocks and bottles at the police."

By the end of the night it was apparent this incident was going to overshadow everything that happened that weekend. Never mind that the entire fest went without one fight, or the fact that there were a dozen other house shows that weekend that went on without police interruption. Nope, this is what Fest 8 would be remembered for: an incident that probably could’ve been avoided with a little common sense, but I guess beating up a cop and then claiming police brutality was the “punk rock” response to the situation. Because that’s what punk is really about: bringing down the man and Blink-182 cover shows.

Since I was the first to post a video from that night on the internet, I feel somewhat responsible for causing some sensationalism around that night. I had no idea that my video would end up being reposted by the Gainesville Sun, or that Tru TV would want to use it an upcoming clip show called “Holidays from Hell” (seriously.) The next day the fight was on the lips of everyone and my video was being tossed around as evidence of the insanity of the night before. When people found out I was the one who shot it I started to feel like I had shot the Zapruter film or something. I had one guy tell me that I should destroy it because his friend was going to jail because of it. When I watch it though I’m not really sure what the fuss is about because barely anything happens in it. If that guy is worried about evidence of his friend committing a crime he should talk to the guy who shot this video:
Despite the stigma that would hang over the Fest for the rest of the weekend, everything went on as usual. In fact, an hour after the 8th Street scuffle I was in a packed warehouse outside of city limits watching Camadre and Dead To Me and enjoying the post-Fest nightlife.

The next morning I had to pay my dues for getting a free Fest pass by volunteering at The Venue, and as it turns out volunteering for your pass is a pretty sweet deal. Every once in a while I had to help a band move some stuff on or off the stage. The rest of the time I just had to stand there and watch bands play on the biggest stage at The Fest. Most of my day was spent watching bands like Broadway Calls and Chris Wollard and The Ship Thieves from the best seat in the house.
My only challenge the whole day came when when local legends Radon played and I had to keep their friends and family corralled on the side of the stage instead of stumbling around on stage in a drunken stupor. One particular gentleman, an older man wearing a bandana, work boots and a Dale Earnhardt t-shirt saw all the stage diving and craziness that was happening and it compelled him to stage dive. Luckily before he did he came up to me and said, “I think I’m gonna jump,” so I had to convince this man in his 50’s that he shouldn’t stage dive and that he should just hang out back here and keep drinking his Natty Ice.

After my shift I checked out Market Street and caught a little bit of American Cheesburger, a good powerviolence band with a horrible name, and then headed to the Atlantic to watch Washingtonians Shook Ones close out The Fest with a bang. As it turns out, The Atlantic is built for Stage diving. The stage is the perfect height and the walls are lined with risers, perfect for diving from the back towards the front. People really took advantage, using every inch of the room they could. There was such a constant flow of people jumping on stage and jumping back in the crowd, it became this synchronized perfect movement made entirely of stage dives. It would’ve brought tears to Scott Vogel’s eyes.
Fest still wasn’t over for me. I would attend one more house show, in a small old house where blues legend Bo Diddley used to reside, his name still carved into the back patio cement. It was a small gathering made up of a few friends and acquaintances packed into the garage to watch Hour of the Wolf literally hang from the rafters as they played. It was a great end to a great a weekend that was truly about the music..and drinking...and beating up cops...but mostly about the music.

Before I knew it the weekend was over. Monday came and with it came the reality check that I was broke and that it would probably take me almost a week for my body to recover. Heck, it took me two weeks just to finish this article about it! I guess it takes a while to acclimate back to the reality that you have to live in for the rest of the year. I had to go back home to a town who's music scene thrives on top 40 cover bands and music for middle aged divorcees to dance to. It's a place where the term "house show" doesn't exist and playing music for any other reason than to make some extra cash on the weekends seems absurd. It's a shocking reality I live in, and it just makes me anticipate the next Halloween weekend even more.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Punk Rock and Beat Up Cops: Surviving The Fest 8 Part 1

Halloween weekend used to be a relatively quiet weekend in Gainesville, Florida. In a town that takes college football a little too seriously, a good chunk of it’s residents would leave town for the Florida/Georgia game in Jacksonville, meaning all the frat parties, the obnoxious college bar scenesters and the underage kids that needed their stomach pumped at three in the morning were all somewhere else. Yes, Halloween weekend used to be pretty laid back in Gainesville, until 7 years ago when the juggernaut made of beer, punk rock, partying and more beer simply known as “The Fest” changed Halloween weekend forever.
This year was as horrendous as ever. Fest 8, the brainchild of local record label No Idea Records, was 3 days madness featuring over 300 bands in 11 different venues around Gainesville and thousands of attendees from all over the world that were ready to party till they puked. It was a constant blur of shows, parties, intoxication, late night performances and a taste of cvil disobedience. Luckily their was at least one sober person there to make sense of al the madness, and that person was me.

From Friday to Sunday I tried my best to document what I could of the craziness that happened, even though I know it would be impossible for me to cover everything. In fact, no one could ever cover everything that happens in those three days. Because The Fest provides so many different choices all within a short amount of time, everyone has to make their own decisions about how their own personal time will be spent that weekend. Though there may be overlap, no two person’s Fest experience is alike, so in the big picture, this is just a small sample of everything that happened there. This is my version.

This year would be my first full weekend attending The Fest, and being the poor jobless musician that I am, I would have to experience the weekend on a shoestring budget. I had to devise a plan to cut costs and I found that getting in for free would really take a big chunk out of my expenses. One way to get a pass for The Fest is being one of the 100 plus volunteers required to run one of the biggest DIY festivals in the country. Usually volunteers have to be residents of Gainesville, but that was a minor detail in my quest for a free Fest pass. I won’t divulge my secret as to how I got passed the volunteer red tape, but let’s just say I may or may not have committed voter fraud in the process.

I arrived in Gainesville Wednesday night for the volunteer meeting held in a banquet hall at the Holiday Inn across from UF and found a room full of intoxicated Gainesville locals standing in line and drinking. That night really set the tone for a weekend that would mostly consist of drunk people standing in line. When you walk into a room that holds everyone working to put on this event and they're all already drinking heavily, two days before anything actually happens mind you, you get the feeling that sobriety is not a priority here. Ironically, most of meeting was spent stressing to volunteers that they shouldn't show up to their shift drunk.

The benefit of getting to the Fest two days early is watching the town transform from Florida’s most prominent Collegiate city to Gainesville Rock City. Gainesville is like any other college town in the sense that it has it's fair share of punks, hippies and pseudo-intellectual artist types, as well as jocks, frat boys, meat heads, and for lack of a better word, sluts. If you’re ever here on a game day you really see that latter group come out in full force. People come from all over the state to stand in the middle of the street, get drunk and do the Gator chop all day until they vomit, get into a fight or hopefully both. The Fest is the one weekend a year where the social paradigm of Gainesville completely shifts. Instead of drunk and rowdy frat boys filling the streets it's drunk and roudy punks, hardcore kids, crusties, and music snobs filling the streets. You kind of feel bad for any normal person not going to The Fest that has to walk around town that weekend.

By Friday morning the town had been completely taken over by festers, and by 5:30pm, the ceremonies had officially begun. My fest partner Kaila and I started off the weekend at 1982 where Gainesvillian band Battle! was opening. This night at 1982 seemed to have the most solid block of hardcore during the whole fest, so starting there was a priority. Unfortunately 1982 is also one of the more intimate venues being used that weekend, and our first attempt to see a band was stopped by their capacity restrictions and we spent most of Battle's set standing in line. Soon we would find out that “at capacity” was going to be a phrase we heard a lot that weekend. No matter how large the venue, almost every place had a line out front at any time, which is probably awesome if you’re the band that’s playing, but not so awesome if you’re everybody else. It became apparent that the number one key to actually seeing some bands play this weekend was time management.

Luckily waiting in line didn’t seem so bad. While waiting we got to witness a fight between some skateboarders and a Wing Zone employee that worked next door. What was great about this fight was that it gave us something to talk about for the rest of the weekend standing in line. It also gave us some great lines to use if someone tried to butt us, such as, "You want some of this buffalo sauce? I'll go extra spicy all over your ass!" Fest time really brings out the best in everyone

After catching half of Battle's set we stuck around to wait for Maryland hardcore band Ruiner. When Ruiner started the whole crowd went off, prompting stage hands and the bar's employees to freak out just a little bit as they tried their best to prevent stage diving. They were extremely zealous at first but then seemed to let up throughout the night. I'm pretty sure by Sunday every stage hand had given up on the cause, but that first couple hours was quite the struggle for everyone. Early on they sent some guy into the pit to pull people down if they were trying to pile on (which definitely does not constitute a stage dive.) At one point this bouncer tried to pull someone down and I stood underneath the kid and pushed him up in protest. I ended up hurting my back, but it was worth sticking to my principles. Apparently this bouncer didn't have enough gusto for this line of work though. While getting rowdy on the crowd I got pulled down and this guy next to me says to the bouncer very calmly, "Dude, chill out," and the bouncer just walked away. I think that bystander might have been a Jedi.

After Ruiner came Boston band Defeater, a band that proves to be awe-inspiring on cd, but even more so live. They opened the set with the Acoustic interlude of "Profit in Plain Clothes" completely unmic'ed. From that point on the crowd was completely engaged and singing every word, and again much to the dismay of the bouncers, everyone went nuts.

This crowd response I saw in the first couple of hours there was pretty much standard at every show I went to that weekend. Once you've been at The Fest long enough to see a few bands, you start to notice how every set seems to be the best that band has ever played. For the whole weekend you live in this heightened sense of reality where every show you go to is awesome and everyone in this town likes the same music you do. It feels like some sort of punk utopia. The first three bands I saw that night I had seen before multiple times and none had that kind of reaction when I saw them previously. The conventions of a typical show like bad turnouts, an underwhelmed audience or testosterone fueled pit beefers simply doesn't exist. If you saw most of the bands that played the Fest anywhere but the fest, it would be disappointing comparatively. Over the summer I saw Ruiner play a hometown show with a healthy crowd of 15 people. Here they seemed like a different band. A band that people actually wanted to see.
Later on in the night we went to Common Grounds to wait in line and eventually watch Coliseum. Then we rushed over to the Venue to see a "face melting" set by Strike Anywhere, followed by the legendary 7 Seconds. The next stop would've been the Atlantic to see Polar Bear Club, but our dreams were dashed by over capacity and a line that wrapped around the block. It was back to 1982 to see one of my favorites and a Fest crowd pleaser, Crime in Stereo, who officially brought the end to night one of Fest 8.
Throughout the night I kept hearing rumors of a house show featuring Camadre doing an entire set of Refused songs. Although I was exhausted and the house show wouldn't start till 2am, I figured it was something I should attend. The Fest is famous for unruly after-fest house shows and I wanted to make it a point to go to at least one every night. Sometime around 1am Crime in Stereo's set had ended and by then I tracked down an address for the house show. It was on the north end of town a few miles from downtown. I went across the street to grab some food before the show and then I would be on my way. By the time I got my food I realized I didn't have much time, so I hopped on my bike and rode a couple miles with a cheeseburger and a Diet Coke in my hand. At some point I had gotten lost while looking for the party, so I stopped in the middle of the street to eat my cheeseburger, and as I finish, a car pulls up and asks me if I’m going to the house show. They give me a ride and we all find the show.
As I’m walking up to the house I can barely hear the muffled sound of “New Noise” being played. I had to get into the house fast. The place was crowded, so I somehow stuffed myself through the front door and into a small foyer filled with band equipment and people, then pushed forward to a closed door that lead to the living room. I made my final push into the next room, an average sized living room that was crammed with at least 100 people. The whole place was out of control. Beer was flying everywhere and the air was thick with body heat and sweat. Every minute or so someone in the band would have to stop in the middle of a song and kick off the wall of people pushing onto them and their equipment. I quickly climbed on top of some people to sing along, dodging the ceiling fan as I tried to find Camadre’s vocalist in the sea of people that had overtaken his body. The song ended and he emerged from the crowd out of breath, bloody and covered in everyone’s sweat. Just a short breather and then he dove back in for the next song.
The rest of the set consisted of the three Refused classics “Rather Be Dead,” “The Shape of Punk to Come” and “Deadly Rhythm (of the Production Line).” I was impressed with how spot on the covers were, complete with jazzy breaks and everything. I also hadn’t listened to Refused in a long time and hearing those songs in a live setting made me remember just how good those songs are.

By the time I got back to where I was staying that night, it was 4:30. Some of my friends were planning to stay up to go see another unofficial fest show that wasn’t starting till 6:30 am. I had had enough. My voice was gone and I could barely stand. And it was only Friday. There was still two more days to go.

Stay posted for Part 2 coming soon!