Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Archaic Interest/Sonic Graffiti/Concord America/Gunther Doug
Friday, December 19th 2014
The Fuzz Factory, Gulfport, FL 

Originally published at Zero Warning 

Do you like bands with two words in their names?  Then read on.

Gunther Doug are originally from Sarasota, but now call Nashville home.  From the outset their modern take on cow-punk is captivating, with definite similarities to the likes of the Meat Puppets II album, and vocal and volume changes akin to La Dispute or Listener.  Country post-hardcore, perhaps?  Singer-guitarist Devin wails and shreds through your typical country stories (church, killing your friends, etc), and also your less typical.  "This song is about getting lost in a cave," advice to be careful when combining weed with spelunking.  "This next song is an instrumental song about turtles. Go turtles."  That one featured some lovely second wave emo strumming.   The rocking chair in The Fuzz Factory is being very appropriately used in front of me, but rest assured, even when Gunther Doug play their last number and describe it as Nashville country, it's still fast and punky.  I'm not sure if they did it, but their track "Christmas Song" makes a good addition to your non-shit holiday playlist.  

This is the second-to-last "Happy Holidays" tour date Gunther Doug have with their management company rostermates, Concord America.  Similar in energy and essence to the former band but with a Southern punk rock 'n' roll sound, Concord America are 3 loud guys from Atlanta, piloting a set full of dual vocals and dueling photographers.  Guitarist and lead vocalist Ben Presley violently jerks his head from side-to-side as the band play through songs from their recent Suns Out Guns Out EP, such as "Vanilla Bastard" and "So Gay."  The latter is reminiscent of The Hives' better garage punk moments (and is just as vaguely apolitical, for better or worse).  While they might bear little resemblance to Jets to Brazil, Concord America are often as big and fast as the Concorde supersonic jet (well, until it was retired in 2003) and as big as America (well, until it implodes under its' own imperial hubris where we might also consider 2003 a turning point).  They're going on tour again in the latter half of January, through a range of different states, and you can see those, as well as the "So Gay" music video, here.

The crowd has built steadily up to high numbers as Sonic Graffiti's singer Drew begins with a pleasant solo piece.  Once the full group takes up instruments, the night of band names that appear on the surface at least to be inconsequential comes to an end, as the blender of blues, funk, punk and more that Sonic Graffiti produces is a fair audio equivalent to wild flashes of colour on a blank canvas wall.  The erratic way Drew moves as he plays also fits despite the fact that he tells us he is sick, with every mammoth song coming, justifiably, with a guitar swing-and-stab ending.  New tune "Fuck the Police, Fuck the Jesus Freaks" is unveiled just in time for both the protests against racist cop violence and all those annoying as shit "Keep Christ in Christmas" car magnets.  Do you think there's going to be a breather between songs?  Sonic Graffiti fear any significant breather is the touch of death: "NOBODYLEAVEWE'REGONNAPLAYMORESONGSIPROMISE," an insistence which causes everybody to absolutely not leave.  "Get up for Another Breakdown" is what they choose to close with, an apropos title because I wish that I could get things done as well as a guy who plays guitar with his teeth when he's been ill all week. 

I have to confess that for a while I had been confusing Sonic Graffiti with the fellow local band that follows them here, though there's next-to-no musical basis for it.  Archaic Interest are up quick but their swaying beach music is relaxed.  The first three acts featured three dudes each, and as great as they were, thank god these lot changed things up, with five members, one of whom is female (punchy double-worded titles are one thing, but jesus).  The vocals are hidden low among the psychedelic surf, as if My Bloody Valentine were spending time in a place with a tonne more sun than Dublin.  In spite of not remembering who exactly was who I do remember seeing Archaic Interest at Don't Stop 2013 and being very impressed.  Whether its that the rest of the bill here was so hard rocking or that their fairly short set became a tad repetitive I couldn't say, but it just wasn't the peak of the night.  Maybe next time.

It turns out The Fuzz Factory snuck another gig in before the end of the year after this one that I didn't even know about.  Learning this saddened me, as I can't remember the last time I felt a pull to go to gigs simply because of the venue -- which can only say positive things about The Factory and its new location.  There's nothing fuzzy about it: supporting this space during 2015 will not be something you regret.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Broken Things/UFO Sex Scene/Luxury Mane/Golden Coastal Grizzlies
Friday, 28th November 2014
The Fuzz Factory, Gulfport, FL

Originally published at Zero Warning

When you pay others to entertain you, are you partaking in the consumer mindset that is driven to its furthest extreme on the dark date known as Black Friday?  Even if the entertainers are interesting, independent musicians, playing in a socially conscious local venue and the door price is merely a suggested donation, could you be accused of taking the indirect route of work and payment to get kicks that you could have provided yourself on a ukulele from the local anarchist free shop?  Or is that an absurd interpretation of Buying Nothing, promoting atomisation over community just because our alternative circles still exist within a world of employment and cash that we shouldn’t feel sheepish about having no choice but to interact with?

There is plenty of time for this kind of contemplation on the big questions whilst waiting for the first band to eventually start playing, whoever they might be: not a single act this evening performs at the point that the flyer would have you assume.  At 9:45, Golden Coastal Grizzlies (GCG) from Lakeland get things going with their combination of surf and no-name/garage rock.  The song that seems to best showcase their particular combo is new one “Vineyards,” which could have been taken off a Pebbles compilation.  Aside from musing, another activity I take part in while waiting for my entertainment that I damn well paid for and DEMAND IMMEDIATELY as a customer, was drawing a David Bowie lighting bolt on the self-portraited face of a local photographer.  GCG guitarist and singer Danny has a similar bolt on his strap, even though the music his band is playing is too pleasant to warrant such a climatological outburst.  I initially think that they sound a bit like Morrissey with spangley guitars, but I realise that is utterly wrong when it suddenly strikes me (like lightning or a grizzly attack) that Danny sounds very similar to Tim Wheeler from Ash.  In a show of anti-bravado that is almost too adorable for words, some of his last utterances of their very good set are “I want to get off stage now.”

Luxury Mane provide more hairily-named, spangly surf-themed Fuzzness.  It’s a pleasure to see artists with such warm sounds on this beautifully, horribly cold dark night.  Their new album Gold Standard is certainly appropriate in terms of capturing the colour of their music.  Up till now I’ve been getting something of a 90s vibe from this event, whether it’s the Weezer clothing around me or thoughts of Britpop groups, but about halfway through Luxury Mane I am struck again by a vocalist comparison that excites me: Billy’s voice bears a resemblance to Bernard Sumner of New Order.  That this man is decidedly associated with the 80s is no bad thing, though it does seem to fit with a crack made about retirement homes and missing the bingo and cream corn.  Even though I barely remember the 1980s, I feel as though I’m the one who needs to be in the retirement home, eyeing the venues’ chairs and comfy couches as the end of Luxury Mane’s show lulls me.  I am at this point torn as to whether to blame the lateness of the proceedings or my day spent consumer-pushing for rent money.

The next band seem to agree that it’s late, rushing to get set up.  It might also turn out that UFO Sex Scene are just enthusiastic to play, as their performance shimmers in a manner that is quite different to the shimmer of the previous two acts.  Keyboard player, singer and “soundscapist” Vanessa sets the tone when she comes on as what I at first think is the yellow Teletubby (Laa-Laa), but then learn is actually the green one (Dipsy).  For whatever reason the days when a costume like this would remind me of a fuckwit university student are over, and I’m as intrigued as I am by the colourful hand-bells sitting at the edge of the stage.  As the band gets into its Melt Banana-with-some-melody set, Dipsy is shed, I start to warm up for the first time all evening and shed the weight of my four Thanksgiving meals, and the bells are handed out to the nearest crowd members who then make as much noise as if they’re trapped in a garden shed.  After one song the bells are spontaneously returned and a surprising (but maybe not so surprising) pit breaks out.  There’s moments of post-punk and the drummer Caleb looks like he’s having a friggin’ religious experience.  If this sounds chaotic, it is, but without the problem of “glut,” where an acts’ overabundance of influences form a horrendous stew of nothing.  UFO Sex Scene are fascinating but during the moment I feel both encouraged and disheartened that I don’t have a clue how to describe this.  I am a fake fake journalist.

If there’s a final image at the end of Black Friday, it’s one of destruction: old possessions, human bodies and spirits, living planets.  So Broken Things coming on when it’s all over after midnight is perfect, and I denounce the former mild irritation I had as a supposedly scorned consumer earlier in the evening.  While tuning up it’s said that they “could do Avail covers all night,” and as I just wrote, I have grown as a person and am no longer equating time with money and value, so am fine with staying here all night.  Broken Things are — in this particular unrepeatable snowflake instance of here and now — loud, distorted and deafening, and that’s apparently with one guitar player absent.  They play melodic punk with understated vocals (think Leatherface, or fellow melodic St. Pete indie punks Dead Sound).  Problem is, at first it’s overly understated.  The mic is fixed just in time for a special song about a recently passed friend of theirs named LeRoi DuVal.  Even if amplified music is decided too throughputty for any potential Ecotopia, the positive relationships between people will undoubtedly prove useful and essential for a society doing better than eating itself and its young.  The Broken Things EP Four Songs came out in October and can be found on their bandcamp.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Left Handed Cypher 1.0 ft. The Real Clash, Direwood, Abstract Machine and more
Saturday, 15th November 2014
The Fuzz Factory, Gulfport, FL

Promised a night of left field, avant-garde and weird hip hop, I am confused when super friendly guy Rest in Satin Silence (RISS) announces he'll be kicking the night off with "bad hip hop."  Luckily RISS not only makes music that is left field, avant-garde, weird and good, it would turn out to be perhaps the most left field thing at this Left Handed Cypher event.  He kneels down calmly to record a loop of his own voice, slowly but steadily building up at just the right speed during a 20-minute set.  RISS churns his repeated self sample down to Aphex Twin terror levels, while at other times the scratchy, jerky darkness of the music is reminiscent of producer Burial.  This comparison is only strengthened by a tune where the word "bass" is repeated over and over.  The recordings work with then take a back seat to rapping as the set ends.  Not even the cat tail and ears that RISS is sporting (reminding me of my 9 - 5 in a party supply shop) make me think that the coming evening is going to be anything less than fun.

Somewhere online MC Figment says she will rap for bus fare, but tonight with Florida finally daring to get cold I distinctly hear her ask for a jacket from her car.  (A later disappointment being when I find out that I did not, in fact, see RISS on the 19 on the way to the gig).  Transport credentials aside, the St. Pete artist is from the more traditional realm of hip hop than the opener -- or at least as traditional as a white, female, nonsexualised act can be considered.  Figment's rock solid beats and great voice can be best heard on the Etta James/Pretty Lights/everyone-sampling/Flo Rida-smashing "Mrs Right," available for free download along with a handful of other songs at the link below.  The speed of her delivery is dizzying, but not overwhelming.  For a dose of conscious anger also check out "Contrabanned."

As he has before each act, promoter Michael Patrick Couling gives a brief introduction for Paco Escobar.   It's a nice touch that links the artists of the night together, and further helps to foster the community, underground feeling made possible at a warehouse venue like The Fuzz Factory.  Last-minute fill in Escobar, coming from Orlando, apparently does anime-themed hip hop.  Knowing next to nothing about anime I can't comment on how fun the content is, but it's something a bit different, and this dude's voice reminds me of Del the Funky Homosapien, which is no terrible thing.  I didn't know how to interpret his ode to the Razr and its association with 2006 as I fumbled with the flip phone in my pocket, but it seems like there was quite a lot I wasn't qualified to analyse during this set.  Are more people outside than inside merely to smoke, or are they not feeling this guy?  Personally put off by more than a few uses of the b-word, I wondered (once again) whether the closing track about being his "waifu" was pro-women or not.  Apparently it's an affectionate term for a fictional love interest.  Someone else can unpack that one.  

Cansouled also hails from Orlando.  He is the kind of admirably ego-fearing person whose music more than does the talking for him (see the beautifully downbeat "Midnight Dives").  He politely asks for patience while he takes breathers and drinks, such as sips of Newcastle Brown Ale, which is apparently "delicious piss".  On two occasions, Cansouled kills a track partway through ("fuck this track") because he believes he is not doing a decent job.  Even those partial songs sounded good to me, with their occasional rapid fire rapping and trance beats.  He blames his lack of preparation on having a child, in a non-malicious manner, of course.  In a victory for the bad in people over their nice instincts, Cansouled has his phone stolen at some time during the evening.  Maybe he can borrow an old Razr from Paco Escobar?  With a comforting musical style akin to some of the best conscious rappers of the past 15 years (Sage Francis, Yasiin Bey), it will be worth your time to listen to and download some of this material.

It's been a great night so far, but it needs some more weirdness, so when Abstract Machine steps forward in his suit, I wonder hopefully if there's going to be some Juice Rap News stylings.  Not exactly, as the suit is removed to reveal a shirt a la David Byrne, with synth and pop music to match, and a tad of RnB.  Mr. Machine is joined by his new brother partner Bay Sir on about 3 songs, adding rap to the mix.  If there's been a theme of being pro-high-tech tonight (almost everyone has had their own smartphone or laptop setup), and another theme of me being cynically 'phobic about it all, it reaches a height here with a series of acute pro-tools misplays.  The last act was abruptly ending his beats even when he wasn't cutting them short, but Abstract Machine fighting with his computer in between comically threatening any audience member who doesn't come to watch him takes the cake.  Still very enjoyable though.  

Compere Michael finally takes the microphone rather than just shouting introductions, but don't think he's without his own welcoming.  A line-up of incense and skulls, some of them sporting cigars and aviation goggles, are there at the front of the stage to set the tone.  Humour melded with a dead serious side is the order for Michael and DJ Hollow Life, collectively known as Direwood.  This is their 43rd gig and it shows.  If there's a nerdcore leaning here, it just means there's an abundance of influences from various mediums, hot beats chiptune and otherwise, and a self-awareness and awareness of hip hop that utterly keeps it real.  An audience request for "Wonderwall" gets denied because the Gallagher brothers are apparently dicks.  Lyrics "Get up stand up" become my 5th Bob Marley reference of the day, while the repeated line "EBT, yeah you know me" points out that the food stamp system is nothing if not naughty, nasty and crappy by nature.  

"Like the Black Eyed Peas if they didn't suck" are Michael's final words as we await gig closers The Real Clash.  While their singer Eliana "Voxx" Blanchard is unavailable for this performance, The Real Clash are just as good, experienced in adapting to their situation (though we might hope they stop short of adapting in the way the Peas did about 10 years ago).  They sound loud and brilliant in the confined space here, with funk, rock and rap all complementing one another.  Eat your heart out Body Count.  The funk is sent higher when Isaac "I-Sick" Reidt's bass strap breaks, sending him into a physically wild solo fury.  Uniting the people and fellow artists in the room who have stayed up this late vocalists Jay Acolyte and Shadcore step off the wood pallet stage during the last song and fuse their cacophony into the crowd.  Long having shed any status as a mere college band, TRC put the finishing touch on a satisfying evening.  The debut album Clash Wednesdays will be out March 3rd.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Notorious S.A.D.
Self-released, 2014


This 6-track EP is a golden nugget of wonderfun. At 4am when you're working overnights, exchanging Halloween tat for Christmas tat, blasting this downloadable slab into your lugholes is guaranteed to blow the spiderwebs off -- that's the metaphorical and the decorative kinds! DILF gets the working class seal of approval from all Notorious SADDOS, alternating between punk styles with the greatest of ease. Dude, I'm lost in the crazy part of my brain! Where's the sleep? Where's the telephone? Who cares, just get this free goodness while you can, you filthy dogmonsters! Time is nigh on your life, so fucking rock out, and get to Cuttin' Loose!


Saturday, October 4, 2014

In Defense of Dog Shit
Originally privately commissioned

Dog shit is one of the most underrated contributors to human culture and experience.  Like many donations made to the rich tapestry of life on this planet by our animal friends it is often scorned and dismissed, simply because we judge everything by the standards of a human effort -- including shits.

It is said that you cannot enjoy the good of people without the not-so-good.  Dark days lend definition and contrast to those days of pure joy.  And in this way perhaps you cannot love our canine companions without loving their shit.  There may well be times when you wish dogs could be trained to use a toilet like all self-respecting species. I mean, if they can be taught to skateboard, and all the other kinds of bollocks you can find on youtube, it should be possible.  But would we really want to even if we could?  

Donning those plastic bags as gloves teaches us much needed humility.  Dodging in a particularly well-bombed area can provide an activity as carefree as a little girls' hopscotch game.  Dull, grey roads, endlessly reproduced by the lifelessness of modern capitalism, are doused with flickers of life in a dazzling array of colours.  And every time we set eyes on one of the little turds, we are faced with the lies we tell ourselves.  For not only does our shit, in fact, stink, but it does not go away when we flush it -- it careens around impressive u-bends into complicated sewer systems, but it's fate of having nowhere particularly desirable to go is the same as those piles you find discarded at the bus stop.  The dog is connected to her surroundings, and she knows it. For her, there is no bullshit -- only dogshit.

In its marginalisation, in its unfortunate ability to be associated with all that is bad and terrible, dogshit has also ballooned greatly our literary language.  Say, for example, that you have a manager who seems singlehandedly to prove the complete unjustness of our society.  You could say that he has shit for brains. Or you could raise it to the level of creative escapism from your inane, debilitating work, by saying you have come across dogshits with more brains than him.  He could be compared to a canine extraction floating to the top of a tank of previously unsullied water.  You could say that his utter fecklessness, his overblown sense of self-importance and stupid bloody laugh are a shower of dog shit that speckles the workplace even during those many hours when he hasn't the decency to show up and actually attempt to do anything of worth.

If you remain unconvinced that dog 'crap' (as prudes call it) is both a philosophers' dream topic and a source of endless wonder and fascination, see this website. It has a .eu country code domain, and if the Europeans are paying their respects to the little brown mountains, you should take note before the rest of the yanks catch on: http://www.dogshit.eu/ (you'll also find many images of goats, if you're into that sort of thing).

I would like to end with a take on an old Marx Brothers joke. Outside of a dog, a book is a mans best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too utterly stuffed with dogshit to find any room to read.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Notorious S.A.D.
Saturday, March 1st 2014
Planet Retro Gallery, St. Petersburg, FL

A store by the name of Planet Retro appears, at first, to fit perfectly into Simon Reynolds' depressing vision of Retromania -- a musical culture increasingly mining it's own past for lack of interesting developments in the present.  But, an awareness that the past will eventually run out if we don't make new stuff must be present within the owners of Planet Retro, as they also host gigs for local bands. Tonight's is a donation-based fundraiser for Brother Sister Sessions, St. Pete makers of retro-point boosting music videos.

When the drummer for Notorious S.A.D., Andrew Turner, starts singing, I think of the singing drummer from Snuff -- as always in this scenario.  The idea is put to bed when the other two members join the vocals as well.  It's quickly clear that NSAD come more from the slice of the punky pie where you'll find The Vandals or The Queers, dishing out fruity silliness in great doses (with a bit more musical skill than those acts, admittedly).  In this sense, their name is the best purposefully inaccurate moniker since Parks and Recreation's optimistic bureaucrat, Leslie Knope.  The only time sadness rears its head during their 25 minute set is when you think a song by the acronym of DILF stands for the obvious; in fact, it is the tale of a Dude being Lost in Florida.  By just the third tune of this their second performance, Notorious "D" Devon Mackinnon is dancing around on his back, snaking upside down towards the audience whilst playing guitar.  At the age of 24 he will either be this animated for the rest of his life, or become a shitheap by this time next spring.

The band members are planning a move to Austin later this year, so we should hope that they do end up getting lost in Florida.  Failing that, just go and see them while you have the chance.  An EP is on the way (review here).  

Two other bands performed this evening, but this review is being filed under 'abandoned.'  It seems only fair to include their pages though. Go give them a listen:

Madame Albatross: https://www.facebook.com/MadameAlbatross
the patients: https://www.facebook.com/thepatientsband