Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween


Halloween is by far my favorite holiday, and nothing makes me happier than spending it in New York City, where there's always so much to do and everyone gets really into the costumed revelry. This year's plans include a stop by the Village Halloween Parade (an annual tradition), a party ominously titled Abaddon that's set to feature live blood wrestling, and an attempt to cramp into Vice's blowout anniversary party in Williamsburg.

The party actually started last night at the co-headlined Mastodon/Dethklok show, which also featured Converge and High on Fire. We got there early enough to catch the support acts, and found dead-center, second-row balcony seats from which we could best admire the visuals and enjoy all the fumes in the room. A full review is forthcoming, but in the meantime—and in honor of all things skull-emblazed, pagan, metal and Halloween—here are some shots of Dethklok. The full collection can be seen here.

PS: Shout-out to the very much alive Chuck Biscuits.



St. Pickles

Thursday, October 29, 2009

R.I.P. Chuck Biscuits (NOT!)

[UPDATE: Bullshit has been called. Apparently this story—which spread around the Internet like wildfire yesterday—is FALSE. Chuck Biscuits is alive. Not sure to what end this hoax was created, I'm just glad one more bit of my childhood hasn't been marred by a deathly footnote. Read more about the confusion here.]

Some of my favorite teenage concert experiences involve a multitude of Danzig shows. The original lineup—guitarist John Christ, bassist Eerie Von, and drummer Chuck Biscuits—was a concise, loud and driven band; almost as if possessed by the very dark gods Glenn crooned about.

Yet even with all that combined talent, it was Biscuits' moppy blond hair, whipping wildly about as he played (his barbaric style resembled a real-life version of Animal from The Muppet Show), that remained most memorable. He pounded the skins hard and mercilessly, just as he had during his stints with D.O.A., Black Flag, Samhain, and subsequently, Social Distortion. Most fans will be surprised to know that he also played drums on several tracks for Run DMC, including the classic "Mary, Mary."

Sadly, news just broke that Biscuits, whose legal name was Charles Montgomery, lost his battle with throat cancer this past Saturday. He was only 44 years old. More info can be found here.

Rest in peace, Chuck. I'll forever cherish my memories of watching you play.

And here's a classic moment - Chuck showing off his Cerealogy degree.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CMJ 2009: The Final Dispatch


Though CMJ officially ended this past Saturday night, nothing could have been better* than marking its unofficial close than the metal- and rain-soaked festivities of Friday evening. First off, I attended a Slayer siesta hosted by Metal Insider and scored some fine Simon & Schuster swag courtesy of my favorite quipper, Bram T. And though I'd already been privy to hearing World Painted Blood, Slayer's forthcoming masterpiece, there was something really comforting about listening to it played loudly over a club's PA whilst sipping on free PBRs. Also previewed were "Playing With Dolls," a creepy cluster of vignettes inspired by WPB songs that'll be featured on the deluxe edition, and Gallows' short film, Grey Britain.

From there, the heavy hitters migrated into Chinatown to witness the showstopping Relapse Records/Brooklyn Vegan extravaganza. Headlined by Misery Index and featuring no less than seven of the label's finest, it was nonetheless difficult for the remaining acts to overshadow the opening salvo from PA's Gloominous Doom. "I can't even describe them, just go watch them," advised Relapse's Dave Ehlrich. And he was right.

Unable to pigeonhole Gloominous Doom into any genre, the best I can do is "bipolar-core." Punctuating their plentiful grinding riffs and bellowing growls were rhythms that evoked surf rock, ska, reggae and death metal. Quite unique, to be sure. What else, besides their erratic sound made them so memorable, you ask? Maybe it was their embrace and liberal usage of the Claw, ie: the Invisible Orange. Or perhaps it was the fact that vocalist Jeff Kruppenbach closed their set by playing a cowbell ON HIS PROSTHETIC LEG. I can't make this stuff up; bravo to you, Jefe.

The Gloominous Doom

That finale was hard to top, but the rest of the bands did their best. Salome, Howl and Black Anvil all put on intense performances for the packed-in crowd, but for many, it was Revocation's blistering death metal set that stood out the most. Though I'd already witnessed them perform at a Tones of Death event a few months prior, the positive reaction to their label debut, Existence is Futile—plus the audience's crackling energy—really pushed the Boston trio over the top to triumph. Check 'em out immediately.

With all due respect to Misery Index, the free-flowing booze had taken its toll and I found myself upstair in Fontana's main room—in an impromptu therapy session with Ben from Metal Sucks (Ben Sucks?) and Earache Anthony—for the majority of their set. I mean, c'mon, how could they have possibly topped the cowbell moment?

And though CMJ's lineup this year wasn't its finest, there's still something to be said galavanting around NYC under the influence of free tequila, opening your mind to new music, seeing bands from all across the world, and meeting lots of new people to make out with. See you next year, fuckers!

Shout-outs to all of the above mentioned, plus: Grim Kim, Relapse Bob, Dan Rodriguez, Justina V., Munsey, Fred BvBBG and the Cycle Sluts From Hell. If my brain were bleeding, you'd be my tourniquets.

More CMJ photos can be found on my Flickr stream, and you can always follow my real-time delusions on Twitter.

*OK, maybe being on the Eyehategod boat show would have been a better ending. Que sera sera.

Monday, October 26, 2009

An Open Letter To Nathan Fillion

Dear Nathan,

We get it. You were once on a cult TV show called Firefly that some say was unjustly cancelled after only one season. But guess what? You bounced back. You’re on a fantastic new program called Castle that’s just been picked up for a full second season (and hopefully a third season is forthcoming, as well).

So it boggles my mind when you constantly hearken back to those days of yesteryear. Last night’s episode, "Vampire Weekend," with its gratuitous opening scene where you DRESSED LIKE YOUR OLD CHARACTER, was absolutely grating. Perhaps it’s because I was never a Firefly fan that I feel this way; but more importantly, by doing this you’re selling yourself short. The habitual shout-outs, Easter eggs and homages to Firefly are like the mass media equivalent of talking about some long-lost ex-girlfriend when you have a brand-new hottie on your arm.

Real talk: you are a handsome, charismatic slab of Canadian ham. Castle lets you explore your comedic timing, your depth of character by casting you as a family man, and a team player surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast (just ask Entertainment Weekly, who said as much in a recent issue). And let’s not underscore the sizzling chemistry you have with co-star, Stana Katic. Do you really think your demographic is limited to Firefly fanboys (or “Browncoats,” as it were)? You don’t see Susan Sullivan going on about her days on Falcon Crest, do you?

So please, Nathan, enough already. Do like your daughter on the show suggested and move on… However, should you ever decide to come over dressed like the sexy evil priest, Caleb, you played on that last season of Buffy, I’d keep it just between us.

Thanks, babe. Happy Halloween.



Friday, October 23, 2009

CMJ Day Three: Quickie Recap


The weather's taking a turn for the worse, my head is still all sorts of groggy... and I'm about to go do it all again.

Yesterday's keyword was "proximity," as in the spacial closeness that connected the Brooklyn Vegan day show at Piano's with the Tee Pee Records event at Cake Shop. Though Hull disappointingly cancelled their set at the latter, I was able to check out FL's Surfer Blood instead. Sounding like the little cousins of Happy Hollow-era Cursive with a hint of Vampire Weekend, the baby band did well with their catchy indie rock cocktail.

After that, I bounced over to Tee Pee and caught Naam, whose intense stoner brown sound threatened to split my hungover skull in half, but luckily both day parties had plenty of Vitamin Water to give away and soon all was right (and loud!) with the world.

Shortly after, I found myself back at Pianos to see—actually, since it was so packed and I'm so short, it was more like hear—the much-hyped Duchess Says, who completely blew me away with their heavy, almost gabba-electronic sound and whirling, multifarious vocals. Go check 'em out, as Nebula, who were busy trying to turn back the clock to the '70s next door, had nothing on them.

Finally, it was time for Priestess before heading out to Skateboard Marketing's showcase for Texas Hippie Coalition. Not sure how these guys got their name, as they looked like a biker gang (replete with matching black leather vests), but the imposing group did their best Pantera tribute, complete with shout-outs to the late, great Dimebag Darrell.

That's it for now... heading out to the Relapse showcase later. Not sure what's on the agenda for tomorrow, but it's altogether possible that CMJ will be ignored in favor of this intriguing Dumpling Festival on the LES.

For more quickie updates, why not follow me on Twitter? And the Flickr set just keeps growing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saul Williams @ CMJ

Saul Williams

Sometimes it's better to forgo the unknown and stick with a sure bet; and last night's programming at CMJ inspired just that. Though there were a few bands I was curious to see (like Bang Bang Eche and Atlas Sound), I decided instead to go see Saul Williams headline the Afropunk showcase at Gramercy Theatre.

For those of you not in the know, Saul Williams is a brilliantly prolific singer, musician and poet who embraces electronica, hip-hop, spoken word and rock—then douses it with a glittery aesthetic that David Bowie would be proud of.

Last night's performance did not dissapoint. Though there was some confusion about the start time, Williams wound up performing for more than two hours as the audience literally would not let him stop. The result? We were treated to a broad range of his discography, including heavy helpings of his acclaimed collaboration with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust! As demand for more grew, Williams even premiered a new, never-before-heard track that remained in the vain of his bass-heavy, electro-industrial rap style.

When the show actually did end—after what seemed like two encores—Williams jumped into the audience and proceeded to hug the remaining faithful, as if we were in a receiving line.

Look up Saul Williams, you won't regret it.

As for me, I'm off for a full day of shows today. If you're in NYC, stop by Cake Shop for Tee Pee Records' free day show, featuring stoner favorites Hull, Naam, Nebula and Priestess. You may even get some free Colt 45 for your efforts. It starts at noon and goes until 6 pm.

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CMJ 2009 - Day One

Happy Hollows

New York's CMJ Music Marathon has been an institution for nearly 30 years, originally conceived to help introduce new artists to both the industry and the college radio world. At its height, it was a prestigious event that featured top indie acts like PJ Harvey, Mars Volta, and Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. But then a few years back, the industry's focus really began shifting to Austin's SxSW megafest, forcing CMJ to go back to its roots of presenting raw talent rather than showpiece big names.

And that's not neccessarily a bad thing. Sure, it might be fun to have bragging rights to some exclusive over-the-top event (A Night of Nothing featuring NIN at Irving Plaza, anyone?), but the lack of big names has really forced CMJ attendees to sift through and actually discover new music. My first finds? White Denim and the Happy Hollows.

I'd heard lots of good buzz about White Denim before I found out they were on the bill for The Syndicate's annual Conflict of Interest party. And while I expected them to be some indie rock flavor of the month, I was instead blown away by their Led Zeppelin-influenced white man's blues which was levereged by an obvious love of indie punk, a la Jay Reatard. Simply amazing.

Then last night, after already being elated from meeting Ratt's Stephen Pearcy and Warren DiMartini at a filming of Vh1 Classic's That Metal Show (more on that later), I went to Lit to catch the Happy Hollows. The CA-based trio, led by coffeehouse crush Sarah Negahdari, put on a frenetic performance of poppy indie rock—dare I say, power pop—and brought a smile to the face of every emaciated hipster in the house. Negahdari's demeanor, not to mention her near-fall into the door adjacent to Lit's stage was adorably endearing, and for some reason, reminded me of the late Gilda Radner. And, of course, their name seems to be a Cursive reference, so I'm sold.

Below are videos from both bands, and I've started a Flickr set of my CMJ exploits. Look for more posts as the festival continues!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Overflow: These Arms Are Snakes, Young Widows & More

TAAS @ Mercury Lounge

It's been some time since I blogged for myself on any kind of regular basis—but that doesn't mean there haven't been exploits worth posting.

The increase in social events on my calendar exploded during late September and continues until the end of October. There's so much to look forward to, too: the Big Apple Comic Con, the CMJ Music Marathon, Eyehategod* and St. Vitus (not together) at Europa, a visit to a taping of That Metal Show featuring Ratt's Stephen Pearcy and Warren DiMartini, the Dethklok/Mastodon/Converge/High on Fire extravaganza, and my favorite holiday ever, HALLOWWWWEEEEEEN!

With so much to plan for—not to mention my recent adventures in pantyhose trying to land a day job—it's been hard keeping up with the documentation part of the fun times. That said, I had an excellent time further losing my hearing at the Down/Melvins show at Nokia, followed by Naked Raygun at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Young Widows and The Fall of Troy at Bowery Ballroom, then an electric two-night stint with These Arms Are Snakes.

Somehow I'd never managed to catch These Arms Are Snakes live before last month. Still, I always really dug their work, especially their last album, Easter. But it was after I heard their third record, Tailswallower and Dove, that I knew I needed to have the live experience.

Doing this was no easy task as I set out for Shea Stadium, a gallery space off Bushwick Ave. that was hosting the show—sketch, yo. Shortly after arriving, I was pleasantly surprised to see my old friend Derek Evers from the newly relaunched Impose Mag, whose own in-house artists, DD/MM/YY were opening the show. The guys were amazing art-rock multi-instrumentalists that switched up instruments and vocal duties every few songs to keep things exciting. Definitely check them out.

Soon enough, Seattle's These Arms Are Snakes came out and blew the roof off the place with their laser-focused post-hardcore sound. Trying to describe their tight, driven, forceful, eclectic, moody performance—words simply fail me. Add to that singer Steve Snere's lithe, expressive dance moves (which, at one point, bordered on autoerotic asphyxiation) and you've got a can't-miss show. How transcendent was it? So fucking good that I decided to go see it again the following night at Mercury Lounge.

Check out the crappy pics of some shows below, and if I bump into you at St. Vitus, EHG or any of the CMJ festivities, buy me a drank! For more amateur live photos, check out my Flickr set.

These Arms Are Snakes @ Mercury Lounge
These Arms Are Snakes

These Arms Are Snakes

Wino @ Irving Plaza
Wino's Band

Young Widows @ Bowery Ballroom
Young Widows @ Bowery Ballroom

The Fall of Troy @ Bowery Ballroom
The Fall of Troy

Naked Raygun @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Naked Raygun @ MHoW

The Melvins @ Nokia Theatre
Melvins in Red

*The jury is still out on the Eyehateboat cruise show situation.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Want Your Skull

The folks at Vosges Haut Chocolat had my heart when they introduced Mo's Bacon Bar, a high-quality smooth dark chocolate bar permeated with smoky salty bits of applewood bacon. But now, they've assured my lifelong devotion with their skull-shaped Halloween special.

Inspired by Mexico's Day of the Dead festival, these three-inch tall solid chocolate skulls include a trio of varieties made with Venezuelan white chocolate (Bianca); milk chocolate and hickory-smoked almonds (Barcelona); but it's the tempting Red Fire variant—a wild concoction of dark chocolate with ancho & chipotle chilies, plus Ceylon cinnamon—that puts them over the top. Their eyes? Fragrant black sea salt. Each skull costs $8 a la carte, or you can buy a set of all three for $21 at any of Vosges' six national boutiques, or online.

Trick or treat, indeed!