Monthly Archives: March 2015

Die Antwoord 3/18 & 3/20 2015, Memphis/Nashville

Dates: March 18 & 20, 2015

Location: Minglewood Hall, Memphis & Marathon Music Works, Nashville (TN)

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PHOTOS & TEXT BY MARK JACKSON

I was able to shoot Die Antwoord twice this week in Tennessee. First in Memphis March 18 at the Minglewood Hall which is an awesome smaller venue that manages to book some national acts through AC Entertainment booking agency (Knoxville, Tn.). Minglewood also gets a lot of local and up and coming acts. This converted warehouse has a great in house light and sound show and enough room for large acts to incorporate their equipment.

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The second show was two nights later in Nashville at the Marathon Music Works which is also a warehouse setting that made the Marathon Cars in the early 1900’s. The old warehouse went vacant for about 30 years but today is a thriving retail spot that holds several businesses including the American Pickers Antique Archaeology. Marathon Music Works also books through AC Entertainment and in-house.

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Neither show disappointed to whip the crowd into a frenzy from start to finish. Ninja of course did several stage dives into an awaiting gracious crowd. There were several outfit changes and costumes including Ninja’s Pitbull mask.

 

(For more of Jackson’s most excellent—and BLURT-approved, yo!—work go to www.markjacksonphotography.net and https://www.facebook.com/MarkJacksonPhotograghy

Bad Religion / Off! 3/28/15, Denver

Dates: March 28, 2015

Location: Ogden Theatre, Denver CO

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BY TIM HINELY

So Bad Religion came back to town and this time played the smaller venue the Ogden (as opposed to the Fillmore) but played it for two nights. They broke each night up into older stuff (pre-2000) and newer stuff (post-2000) or as it said, songs from the 20th century and songs from the 21st century. Hey, not a bad way to go about it as they’ve been around for so long and have such a huge catalog it makes sense. I opted to go for the first night of old stuff (though I really did want to hear newer stuff like from 2004’s The Empire Strikes First and 2008’s New Maps of Hell).

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Missed local openers King Rat but heard they weren’t so hot but it was good to see Off! in this larger venue. Caught them here last year at the Marquis but the place was way too packed and it was a total steam bath. They played a generous selection from all three of their records including a new one that just came out. (I also saw a new, rare 12” that had a drawing of Loni Anderson on it…yeah!). Newer ones like “Over Our Heads” mixed in fine with older cuts like “Poison City,” “Time’s Not On Your Side,” “Panic Attack” and “Bad Thoughts.” Vocalist Keith Morris (Black Flag/Circle Jerks) is still a total howler (where does he get his energy from?) while the rest of the band, Mario, Steven and Dimitri grinded it out in supreme fashion.

Bad Religion hit the stage at 10 PM on the dot and gone is long-time guitarist Greg Hetson replaced by another guitarist (who looked a bit like Mr. Brett) while Brian Baker is still on other guitar, bassist Jay Bentley and drummer Brooks Wackerman and upfront Mr. PhD himself, Greg Graffin. They opened with “Spirit Shine’ and ripped right into “21st Century Digital Boy” then right into ‘Stranger Than Fiction” then “Along the Way” and “Sowing the Seeds of Utopia” before even taking a breath. Graffin then announced they’ll be doing a string of songs from their ’88 classic, Suffer (which brought some serious approval from the crowd) including “(You are) the Government,” “1000 More Fools” and “Delirium of Disorder” (among others).

Later on we also heard “The Gray Race,” “Change of Ideas,” “Sanity” and too many others (30 songs in all). Ending the set with the trifecta of “Infected,” “Generator” and American Jesus.” They came out for two encores including “Fuck Armageddon this is Hell” and “New America.”

The band’s age is showing, if just a bit. A tad slower, not as energetic (‘cept for Jay Bentley who still bounces around on stage like’s he’s in is 20s) and the guitars don’t quite roar as they did in the past but that’s ok. After 35 plus years I’d say they’ve earned their keep.

 

 

Twerps / Happyness 3/24/14, Denver

Dates: March 24, 2015

Location: Hi Dive, Denver Co

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BY TIM HINELY

Australia’s Twerps (now signed to Merge Records) were supposed to play second (on this four-band bill at Denver’s Hi Dive… whose idea was that on this Tuesday night?!) but ended up playing third so there went my hopes for an early night.

Something told me to go in and catch at least a few songs by the second band Happyness and I’m glad I did. At first I couldn’t tell if it was three guys simply fucking around but then that gave way to some nice Sea & Cake-ish laid back jangly tunes. Band members switched instruments and occasionally the laid-back vibe slipped into something a bit more, uh, rockin’ (I was reminded a little of the more direct GBV songs). Apparently this U.K. bunch have something coming out any second on the Bar None label.

Melbourne, Australia’s Twerps hit the stage at 11:00 PM and mentioned getting no sound check (due to their being four bands). This four-piece played a handful of songs on their S/T 2011 debut (Chapter Music) but most of the set was from their recently released Merge debut , Range Anxiety. I definitely heard Dreamin’” from the debut and “I Don’t Mind’ and “Back To You” and “Stranger” from the latest record (plus others……I’m still learnin’ the songs).

The sound wasn’t great on this night and the band didn’t appear to have a ton of energy, but singer/guitarist Martin Frawley kept it loose in between songs, crackin’ self-deprecating jokes while bassist/keyboardist Julia McFarlane added a prettiness to the songs both with her vocals and keys. Having just played SXSW the band was enroute to the left coast with stops in Utah, Idaho on the way (I was surprised to hear that the band played here in Denver two years ago…not sure where I was but unfortunately not at the gig). Anyway, lousy sound or not I’ll be there the next time the Twerps play Denver and the time after that and….

 

 

WILLIAM ELLIOTT WHITMORE — Radium Death

Album: Radium Death

Artist: William Elliott Whitmore

Label: Anti-

Release Date: March 31, 2015

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www.anti.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Call him a ferocious folkie, a belligerent bluesman or a precocious punker. Whatever you do, don’t call him out. As evidenced by the rabid tones of Radium Death, his eighth album and perhaps his most demonstrative, Whitmore is both resolute and resilient. “I’ve been bad, I’ve been tried, I can’t stand myself sometimes,” he declares on the tattered narrative “Go On Home.” Mostly though, he’s unapologetic, asserting a raspy, irascible presence on the ragged, ranting “Healing to do,” going furious and full blown on “Don’t Strike Me Down,” and laying down a gritty Woody Guthrie impression on “South Lee County Blues.”

With few exceptions, he relies only on singular guitar or banjo to relay his unfailingly rebellious conviction, but regardless, his point is consistently made well. Like Tom Morello, a fellow insurgent with whom he strikes a common bond, Whitmore relies on old school precepts to relay his disparaging intents, making for a stark and sometimes intimidating presence. Yet he’s also consistently compelling. “Ain’t gone yet,” he declares on the album’s assertive send-off, and indeed, by all accounts, he’s in for the long haul. Judging by the performances herein, there’s no reason to doubt that intent.

 DOWNLOAD: “Don’t Strike Me Down,” “Ain’t Gone Yet,” “Go On Home”

YONATAN GAT – Director

Album: Director

Artist: Yonatan Gat

Label: Joyful Noise

Release Date: March 31, 2015

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www.joyfulnoiserecordings.com

BY JOHN SCHACHT

For Yonatan Gat, former guitarist for the Israeli act Monotonix, that band’s mayhem-embracing shows tended to overshadow just how slick the half-clad fretboard maestro at the center of the maelstrom was. But since relocating to New York City and going solo, Gat has been accumulating guitar-stud accolades (The Village Voice deemed him New York’s Best Guitarist in 2013) and peer-admiration at an impressive clip.

Once Director starts, you get why straight away. It, too, is a product of improvised studio sessions like 2014’s Iberian Passage, Gat’s 20-minute solo debut. But these 11 tracks balance much better between improvisatory inspiration and considered structures — and Gat still does some outrageous fretwork here. The LP, recorded live by veteran Chris Woodhouse (Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees) is a product of two environments — the first, a three-day stretch of studio jamming during a break in Gat’s tour; the other, a potpourri of worldly styles inspired by the likes of Nino Rota and Ennio Morriccone. This more considered approach can also be heard in the field recordings Gat gathered on tour that judiciously color the tracks here and lend a travelogue-ish unity to the recording, like scenes from passing train windows.

While just 28 minutes long, Director — which also includes the tremendous Afro-flavored beats of Gal Lazer and Sergio Sayeg’s fluid bass — holds up remarkably well for something essentially stitched together out of improv sessions. The tracks veer from short, pummeling freak-outs to longer, more nuanced melodic stretches, often within the same composition: “Tanto Que Nem Tem” features a breezy Brazilian acoustic guitar overlaid with almost random-seeming explosions of electric feedback and noise; the soulful “Casino Café” sounds like it was run through early Band of Horses reverb caverns; “Gold Rush” is Tortoise and Dick Dale mashed up, but played by Hendrix; and on the “Theme from a Dark Partie,” Gat alternates between dampened string arpeggios and thick chromatic chords you might have heard Wes Montgomery deliver.

The two main attractions are disc-opener “East to West” and “North to South,” placed midway through the LP like an the axis shift it suggests. Both tracks surpass five-minute run times, and feature polyglot stylistic collisions: furious surf-guitar runs and windmilling barre chords (“East to West”), or highlife runs and Middle Eastern drones (“North to South”), all delivered with a psychedelic edge.

Gat shines throughout — but not because of his technical shredding chops (Malmstein and Vai fans will be sorely disappointed, and thank goodness). Gat can — and does — clearly bring it if he has to, but what’s most exciting here is the sense of joy in every note and flurry played. Whether he’s vamping on a riff over and over as he does on “Gibraltar,” or going all No Wave screwdriver on “L’Atlantis,” the same conviction permeates each song. What really impresses, though, is how this half-hour voyage holds together logically while drifting across borders, styles, and genres. In our shrinking digitized world, maybe this is what we’ll measure great guitar playing against in the future —something conveying that sense of community music inspires across the globe.

DOWNLOAD: “East to West,” “North to South,” “Boxwood,” “Gold Rush”

THE BULLHOUNDS – Protector

Album: Protector

Artist: Bullhou nds

Label: Rockbastard/MVD

Release Date: March 10, 2015

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http://mvdb2b.com/

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

When is a bar band not a bar band? When it’s made up of top-flight session guys and members of the Georgia Satellites, fronted/funded by a Danish businessman with rock & roll dreams in his eyes. Or at least that’s the premise behind Protector, the debut LP by rough-and-tumble pickup band the Bullhounds. Fresh from a stint at Complete Vocal Institute, entrepreneur Erling Daell tapped Rick Richards and Mauro Magellan from the Georgia Satellites, session bassist Keith Christopher (Shaver, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, the original lineup of the Satellites) and guitar gun-for-hire Peter Stroud (Sheryl Crow, Pete Droge) to record a set of tunes paying homage to old-fashioned, no frills rock & roll.

The quintet pulls songs from a variety of sources – the repertoire of unknowns Alec White and Torben Christensen, tunes from Magellan and Christopher, a couple of uncommon covers – but filters them all through their own Chuck Berryfied vision, as if they all come from a single source. “If You Got No One,” “Mean, Mean Girl” and a crunching take on the Bluefields’ “Star Treatment” add muscle to the usual Berry/Stones chug, while “What Makes a Man,” “Red Kroovy” (nice A Clockwork Orange reference) and “Born With Nothin’” slow down the tempo and crank up the lighters. A cowpunk cover of Nine Pound Hammer’s “Drunk Tired & Mean” shows at least a glimmer of humor.

It’s all performed with the right balance of experienced skill and rowdy energy, and no one seems to be just going through the motions. But the writing is rarely more than solid and Daell’s gravely blare relies more on game enthusiasm more than actual passion. Despite some truly excellent ix-string fireworks from Richards and Stroud, transcendence remains just out of reach. Regardless of pedigree, the Bullhounds come off as just another bar band, instead of the ultimate bar band it should’ve become.

DOWNLOAD: “Drunk Tired & Mean,” “Star Treatment” “Make It”

 

 

 

MOTOR SISTER – Ride

Album: Ride

Artist: Motor Sister

Label: Metal Blade

Release Date: March 10, 2015

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http://metalblade.com/

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

When guitarist Scott Ian from thrash metal icon Anthrax turned 50, he decided to throw himself the nerdiest birthday party possible: he would get together with some pals to form a one-off cover band that would put on a show at his house. The twist was that the covers were dedicated to one repertoire – that of defunct neo-classic rock band Mother Superior (better known as the second incarnation of Rollins Band – cf. Get Some Go Again and Nice). AND the ad hoc outfit was fronted by MS singer/songwriter/guitarist Jim Wilson. The group named itself Motor Sister after the MS tune “Little Motor Sister,” had a grand old time at the party and moved on.

One of the invited guests, however, was an executive at Metal Blade. A contract was offered and now we have Ride, an album of covers from a band most people haven’t heard of, and in which interest will likely come from fans of the metal luminaries (besides Ian, Fates Warning bassist Joey Vera and Cult/White Zombie/Helmet/Exodus/Testament drummer John Tempesta join in) involved, even though it’s nothing any of their day jobs. If you can put its odd genesis aside, though, you’ll find a solid heavy rock & roll record.

Wilson knows his way around riff-oriented classic rock tunes, which Ian and company give a power charge they never got during the Superior era. Wilson’s soul-influenced singing – bolstered by harmonies from Pearl Aday, who besides being Ian’s wife and Wilson’s current employer is also Meat Loaf’s daughter – occasionally sounds odd atop metallicized stomps like “A-Hole” and “Fork in the Road,” but it also gives the tracks a focal point beyond distorted six-string attack. When it all comes together, as on righteous rockers “Whore” and “This Song Reminds Me of You,” the dramatic epic “Devil Wind” and the surprising (or maybe it shouldn’t be – one of Wilson’s other gigs is with Sparks) pop tune “Head Hanging Low,” the concept seems less like a busperson’s holiday and more like an organically grown band.

Whether Motor Sister continues beyond this album seems doubtful – it probably depends on whether or not the members decide to write original material. But for the length of Ride, the band conveys its joy in playing these songs enthusiastically and loudly.

DOWNLOAD: “This Song Reminds Me of You,” “Head Hanging Low,” “Devil Wind”

 

STONE JACK JONES — Love and Torture

Album: Love & Torture

Artist: Stone Jack Jones

Label: Western Vinyl

Release Date: March 17, 2015

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http://westernvinyl.com/

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Stone Jack Jones wrestles with ghosts and doubts and spooky atmospherics on this fourth full-length, infusing folk, country and Americana with a post-modern haze and rattle. A Nashville mainstay himself, he rallies many of his Music City contemporaries to assist — Yo La Tengo producer Roger Moutenout is back behind the boards, folk singer Patty Griffin again lends her spectral harmonies, and members of Lambchop (including a memorably gothic Kurt Wagner) and Lylas stop by to fatten up the sound.

I first ran into Stone Jack Jones on 2005’s Bluefolk, a mournful, wry, superbly eccentric take on country folk blues (on which Patty Griffin also appeared). A decade later, Jones remains stalwart and leathery, his voice as weathered and idiosyncratic as, say, Michael Hurley, but with an echoey bottom range that transfuses the natural with elements of the supernatural. With Love and Torture, however, you sense an even more permeable boundary between the real and the imagined, the concrete and the spiritual. Intimations that Jones has been ill between this and the last album Ancestor come as no surprise. Love and Torture sounds like the music of a man who has been thinking about mortality.

It’s partly that the textures are so ghostly. Even tracks that read like conventional love songs — the single “Shine” for instance — come across with a mirage-like blurring of boundaries. The drum machine and guitar kick up a mechanical rhythm, while a drone of organ shivers in the background. Someone is clanking a kind of junkyard percussion in the background, and Griffin is singing soft, gleaming counterpoints behind a bank of fog. “The sun will….shine…on the other side,” sings Jones in his funereal way, his baritone twined with Griffin’s, and there’s only a little bit of sun and a whole lot of the other side in the way the line is delivered.

“Q&K” is also a queasy love song, its rapid-picked banjo running like water through a swell of motionless kraut-y drone. I like the way Jones stands at the center of this propulsion, fundamentally unhurried, as he croaks and croons love poetry tinged with the fear of death. “We were born in love and passion, falling down, everlasting” he sings, and there’s a sense of time passing by, a stillness at its center.

“Circumstance” pits the banjo against Kurt Wagner’s ominous mutters; this song is the darkest and most gothic of all, but also, quite possibly, shaded with humor. “Disappear” is less overt, but no less disturbing. Its dopplering tones zoom in and out of focus. Its drum machine beat ticks on like a macabre wind-up toy. The guitars are surrounded by echo, but full of warmth and clarity. There’s an intriguing interplay between organic sounds and electronics and effects, a woozy insubstantiality that speaks to the hollowness of what we think of as real. “In the morning I’ll be leaving here, in the morning, this will all disappear,” Jones intones, and it seems to be disappearing even as he sings.

There are lighter moments, most notably the inebriated group chorus of “Russia” (“Meet me in Russia, we’ll drink some vodka”), but this is, overall, an eerie, evocative, wee hours kind of album. Gorgeous and chilling, it takes the simple reassurance of country folk and turns it into something weird and ominous and unforgettable.

DOWNLOAD: “Shine” “Circumstance”

Johnette Napolitano 3/7/15, Denver

Dates: March 7, 2015

Location: The Soiled Dove

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BY HEATHER CURNETT

Johnette Napolitano is 58 years old and doesn’t give a shit. I know this because she said so. She proved it when she ended her show, 6 songs in, by stumbling off stage at Denver’s Soiled Dove venue.

Not her finest moment, I’m sure.

Best known as the lead in Concrete Blonde, and for hits like Joey, Bloodletting, and God is a Bullet, Napolitano has been performing for over 30 years. Despite this vast experience, her sold out performance at the Soiled Dove Underground on March 7 was, sadly, one giant cringe moment. Napolitano did not appear to be fully in control of her faculties this night.

Let’s start at the beginning. Napolitano has a deep love of flamenco, and she invited local Denver band, Flamenco Underground, to open for her at the Soiled Dove. They delivered an incredible 45 minutes of music, dancing, and stories about the roots and meaning of flamenco. Napolitano came onstage during their final song to sing along as well. Her voice was amazing and blended beautifully with Flamenco Underground’s cantaor, Mark Herzog.

When Napolitano came out for her set, she appeared to be disoriented and distracted by her current album project, and the need to get back to it. She briefly started a couple of songs before needing to stop and talk about the new, as of yet unnamed, album being produced by Leon Russell.

Napolitano had a lot to say while she was on stage. There was a somewhat incoherent story about a mix up with baggage at DIA, a phone call from police, some random readings about life on the road from a book she wrote, an anti-war tirade, and a horribly embarrassing story about a tampon mishap. Like I said, it was a pretty cringe worthy night.

She soon became agitated by the many audience comments. They were hurled at her in love, as the sold out crowd consisted largely of long time fans, but they were hurled none the less. At one point she simply told the audience to stop talking to her. Can’t say I blame her for that one; they were starting to piss me off too.

She did sing. And when she did, that shit was powerful. After 30 plus years in the business, Napolitano still has total access to a full vocal range. She only sang a few songs, but the mood she was able to set with each was visceral. She sampled a new song, possibly called Joshua Tree, coming up on her new album. While listening, it occurred to me that, if heroin had a soundtrack, this song would be on it. Next, she expertly changed the mood completely with the delicate and hopeful “Sun”, from Concrete Blonde’s second album. She did some other Concrete Blonde songs as well, each of which sounded incredible with only Johnette and her guitar. She played Mexican Moon and Take Me Home. Her songs are raw. They’re jaded but also tender.

This was my first experience with Johnette Napolitano and, as described, it was not her finest moment. One thing that was very clear is that she is an incredibly talented, insightful, and unique artist. I get the impression that her shows generally have a pretty stream of conscious nature. The fans that I spoke to that have followed her over the years say that they’ve never had the same show twice. Lots of stories, and whatever songs suit her mood and the feel in the crowd is what Napolitano usually delivers. The fans that have seen her often said that she’s never walked off stage, but they didn’t appear to be too surprised about it either. They’ll catch her next time around for sure. Who knows, maybe I will too.

 

Ed. Note: According to media accounts, Soiled Dove Underground booking agent Rhett Lee subsequently announced that attendees could get refunds due to the show being cut short, saying in a statement, “Soiled Dove Underground is sorry the show didn’t go as planned, and we will be refunding all tickets. All credit card refunds will be automatically applied this afternoon. Anyone who bought tickets at the box office with cash will need to take their ticket stub to the box office for a refund.”

 

DARREN HANLON -Where Did You Come From?

Album: Where Did You Come From?

Artist: Darren Hanlon

Label: Yep Roc

Release Date: March 24, 2015

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www.yeproc.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Australia’s Darren Hanlon boasts a resume that’s littered with notable names — the Lucksmiths, Ladybug Transistor, the Dearhunters , and Mick Thomas, leader of Weddings, Parties, Anything, among them. His last album, and first to get widespread release here in the States — I Will Love You At All — demonstrated that for all his ability as a sideman and support player, he’s more than able when carrying the banner on his own. His new album, Where Did You Come From? asks a question that many of those unaware will no doubt be asking, especially since the disc’s folk-like tunefulness and sweetly swaying ways make it a sure shot to win some instant attachment.

And although it begins on a somewhat quirky note – the playful bounce and recurring rhymes of “Salvation Army” seems a strange way to start — once things proceed, Hanlon’s sublime vocals and easy way with a melody find just the right means of channeling his charms. On songs such as “Fear of the Civil War,” “Awkward Dancer” and “Letter from an Australian Mining Town,” his tone and timbre brings to mind a once familiar folkie like Al “Year of the Cat” Stewart, although his tongue-in-cheek pontificating on “The Chatanooga Shoot Shoot” does suggest some Dylanesque satire. Twelve years after initiating his solo career, Hanlon’s decidedly ready for primetime, and if nothing else, Where Did You Come From? will have lots of folks eagerly inquiring about an answer.

DOWNLOAD: “Fear of the Civil War,” “Awkward Dancer,” “Letter from an Australian Mining Town”