Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ready ... Setlist ... Go: From Battalion of Saints to Seaweed, Memorable Songs and Gigs

Battalion of Saints (Ed Colver photo)

By Andy

Snagging a band's setlist was always a crucial part of attending a punk-rock gig for my brother, Ed, and myself back in the early '80s.

It was almost more vital than seeing how many stage divers we could smack out of the way as they flew toward us while we were up front digging the band. Sure, we'd take a lump here and there, but that was OK, it was part of the live experience (our friend Pat once took one for the team in the head and blacked out momentarily at a Minor Threat show). But Ed was the prizewinner one evening, when he grabbed a guy trying to get up on the divers' perch -- and block our precious view -- ripping the flannel off his back, sending the boy shirtless on and off the stage and into the night.

So, the setlist: Sure, you've got your songs, but also -- back then -- they were handwritten by band members, and they made for great keepsakes. I'd often make mix tapes, moving the songs around from their rotation on the bands' records to fit the order on the list. Kind of cool.
(Nowadays, lists are often typed up on a computer, but they're still there for the taking, so that's alright, too.)

What you've got here are nuggets from our archive: Battalion of Saints, Wasted Youth, Bad Religion, Crucifix, Zero Boys and Raw Power from the LA area -- and even one that Cat and I brought home of Seaweed from the late '90s after we moved up to Seattle. (At the end, you'll find a Minor Threat written on a San Diego newspaper and a Muffs scrolled on a picnic plate, both of which were featured in earlier T-SHIT -- acronym for this blog -- posts.)


Wasted Youth
  BATTALION OF SAINTS (BATS) -- 1982: Almost didn't get a ride to this one at Bob's Place in a sketchy area of LA. With a crowded car, I offered to ride in the trunk if need be. But, luckily, I scrunched into the back seat and was soon bopping my head along to "I Wanna Make You Scream," "Fighting Boys" and more of the BATS' metalized-punk tunes.

WASTED YOUTH -- 1981: "Problem Child," "Teenage Nark" ... yes. "Rock Around the Clock" ... hmmm. This gig was a biggie, featuring 999, Circle Jerks and WY at Florentine Gardens. Ed had to fold this mini-poster-sized list four times to fit it in his pocket so he could have his arms free to properly skank during the Jerks' set later. I wore a kilt over my jeans that night, crowd surfed during 999 and almost had one of my shoes pulled off.

Bad Religion


BAD RELIGION -- 1982: Another massive Florentine gig with the Angelic Upstarts, Social Distortion and the Blades (Huntington Beach's punks, not the Irish soul-driven popsters). Most of the stellar early songs are featured here; I wonder what became of "Brett's New One" ... one of their trillion fans nowadays has got to have the answer.

CRUCIFIX -- 1982: Spiky-haired Crucifix from SF graced Torrance's Alpine Village for this summertime gig.
As the band hit the stage, singer Sothira was nowhere to be found.
Someone eventually tracked him down, so with a bottle of Jack Daniels in hand, he sang/screamed through their set --- and then puked all over the stage.

ZERO BOYS -- 1982: Big-time stuff here, seeing the ZB's from Indianapolis at Alpine Village alongside the Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, MDC and Redondo's own Detonators. From "High Places" to "Drug Free Youth," the band blitzed through its set and forever left an indentation on my brain. "Vicious Circle" is one of the top punk efforts of all time. We'll see them in August in Seattle ... for the first time in 29 years.

Zero Boys
Raw Power
RAW POWER -- 1985: Talk about a strange night. One minute we were searching for my friend's glasses on the dance floor after the Venom/Slayer/Exodus headbanging crowd dispersed from the Hollywood Palladium ... and then we were watching Raw Power up the street at the Cathay de Grande.
This Italian band smoked through its 23-song set to a tiny crowd, many of whom found this gig by accident while cruising back to their cars after the metal affair.
It's a pity that my friend couldn't see the action sans glasses (we never found them), but I did my best to describe what was happening: guitar player just jumped in the air, drummer broke a stick, etc. I was like Chris Berman, man ... "Now playing, Raw Power (Rangers)." Something like that.

SEAWEED -- 1998 or so: All we know is that the dance floor at the Showbox (at the Market) seemed like a diving board during the Tacoma band's bouncy, rippin' set. As is the case when Seaweed plays, people jump up and down along with the guys in the band, and we went along for the ride on this night, as well. One of the best shows we've seen in Seattle.

And ... Minor Threat

Avengers from 2009/Seattle

Sunday, June 26, 2011

If the Tractor's a rockin', don't go a knockin': Mudhoney did

Mudhoney's Mark Arm has somethin' to say (All Cat Rose photos)

By Cat Rose

We have seen Mudhoney so many times, we cannot even count.  In fact, they are the band that we have witnessed more than any other group, ever.

From the first time I (Cat) heard "You Got It", I was hooked, that was "my" song as it reflected my feelings perfectly for so many people, especially in LA where I grew up.  I wanted the cardboard cutouts of people in LA to "Keep it outta my face".  My best friend Bridget and I would check them out in Hollywood in the early '90s whenever we could.  Then when I moved up with Andy to San Jose in 1992, we saw them many times in SF.  This pattern has obviously continued since we moved to Seattle in '97.

So when they were going to play at the Tractor Tavern with the undeniable Tom Price Desert Classic opening (with Unnatural Helpers and France's Non! rounding out the bill), we were there.  Unfortunately, when we looked at the add online the night before, we saw that it said this show is "Sold Out".  Normally we would be more on top of it and maybe get tickets early, but we were on vacation and out of town a lot and it just slipped our minds.  Also, I guess we just thought it would not sell out as it is not 1991.  So we had to go the Craigslist route, and luckily that worked out as we did not want to be denied "This Gift". 
Tom Price.
Price and Don Blackstone do some damage.
Tom Price Desert Classic opened with their garagey sounds with a Seattle twist to the gathering crowd. Their catchy and raunchy songs fall along the lines of The Sonics to Price and fellow guitarist Don Blackstone's former band Gas Huffer. Midway through the band's set, a corkscrew-haired, spectacled friend tossed a $1 bill on stage ... and Blackstone swooped on it, shoved it in his mouth and chewed on it. He soon spit it out onto the drummer's kit. If he would have swallowed it, what would he have "cashed out" the next morning?: four quarters, 10 dimes ... or God forbid, 100 pennies. But we digress, let's move on.

Guy Maddison, Arm & Steve Turner line it up
By the time Mudhoney hit the stage, the place was packed and the crowd was ready to roll. "Here Comes Sickness" came first, and then Cat's fave "You Got It," followed by everything from "Suck You Dry" to "Tales of Terror." And they couldn't leave out the covers "Hate the Police" (Dicks) and "Fix Me" (Black Flag) in the encore.
Turner gets in your head.

Following Mudhoney's raucous concert, our new pal Klaus was one happy man as he was pleased he maintained his spot the whole show at the front of the stage near guitarist Steve Turner. Sporting a classic "Loser" Sub Pop T-shirt, he recalled seeing Mudhoney at the Central in Pioneer Square back in the day. To bookend his Mudhoney experiences, Klaus snagged the band's setlist and toddled off to greet a friend.

Of Note:  Prior to the show, we saw someone committing the ultimate faux pas, wearing a Mudhoney shirt to the the words of the movie"PCU"--don't be that guy. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Grant Hart: A Handful of Husker Du Songs and Much More

Grant Hart: eyes closed, wide-open songbook at the Funhouse. (Andy photos)
By Andy and Cat

This final installment of our two-day, Husker Du double shot features Grant Hart -- a man and his guitar -- at Seattle's Funhouse last night.

Last time we saw him was in November 2009 at the High Dive, where he plugged in his acoustic-electric and dug into his songbook of Husker, Nova Mob and solo tunes to a small weeknight crowd.

Just a few Husker tunes that evening, but this time, Friday night with an electric six-string in hand, he unloaded about 10, including "Green Eyes," "You're a Soldier," "Pink Turns to Blue" and, of course, "Don't Wanna Know if You are Lonely," which has sold extremely well recently backed with Green Day's version on a special-edition 45 single.

With another intimate crowd on hand, he also went Nova Mob-style with "Last Days of Pompeii" and the set-closer "Little Miss Information." Of the solo tunes, "You're the Reflection of the Moon on the Water," "Now that You Know Me" and the huge-sounding "2541" hit the spot.
"2541" is especially noteworthy, because it's the could-have-been-Husker song that Bob Mould didn't think fit the band's format, and it started a rift with Hart that never dissolved, according to his new book. Last night, Hart shone with that song when he passionately sang, "You put our names on the mailbox, and I put everything else in the past; It was the first place we had to ourselves, I didn't know it would be the last ... 2541, big windows to let in the sun."   

Just a man and his guitar, and an appreciative crowd. Simple format, sterling results.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Shedding a Little Light on the (Husker) Du's and Don'ts of a Noise-Pop Journey

By Andy

I was young, and definitely not at the top of my game intellectually yet. But at age 15 in the summer of 1982, I tried to fit in the best I could with these guys six years older than me. Their buzzsaw guitars with a hint of pop melodies uplifted me, made me want to hang around and see what was going on inside the walls of Husker Du.

However, being a shy kid around these more advanced fellows from Minneapolis, I probably mumbled a thing here and nodded my head there, making a minimal impact. I was a good listener, though, and took it all in: their stories of being on the road, recording sessions, favorite bands and more while we hung out at SST Records in Redondo Beach, Calif.

Even if I spoke up more and asked personal questions, I might not have received any deep answers anyway. They were a mysterious group, and that made me like being around them even more. I was locked in to their sound -- and later their introspective lyrics that have stuck with me over time.

Unlike some early fans, I didn't fade away when the band moved more into the pop realm. I was on board the whole way, except for a handful of quirky and psychedelic songs that just didn't resonate with me (but I suppose that's a normal occurrence with bands with a tremendous musical output). I still follow their careers today, and still get a floating feeling when one of their songs strikes my emotions just right. Powerful stuff indeed.

As I grew up, and eventually had some interesting things to add to the conversations, they moved on and then broke up.

Now, nearly 30 years later, I've finally gotten to know a little bit more about Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton through two books: Andrew Earles' "Husker Du: The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock" and Mould's "See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody."

Earles went full-tilt into his book, interviewing tons of people (including yours truly) who knew and followed the band -- including lengthy visits with Hart and Norton, but Mould declined to participate (but he's quoted from past interviews). It's pretty much a blow-by-blow account of the highs and lows of the band, and the reader gets some in-depth answers into the trio's relationship and breakup and everything in between. However, a present-day Mould is sorely missing, and that's where "See a Little Light" comes into play.

Written with Michael Azerrad, Mould's life is now truly an open book -- once he starts, you're in for the full ride. It's a complex and satisfying read: He doesn't just tell stories about his music, homosexuality, drug and alcohol addiction, relationships and family life -- he digs deep into his feelings, goes back to those sometimes dark places and mans up that he's made mistakes, but he's also made wise decisions and found peace amid the chaos.

While it's impressive and gutsy how he can leave the past behind and start anew with parts of his life and relationships, his ego can sometimes be a turn-off when it comes to his -- albeit well-deserved -- place in rock history. (He does go the hard road in praising Hart for many of his stellar, and the Huskers' most revered, songs.)

Mould travels from anger to confusion to hope to happiness and back again along the way, a pattern that we all can relate to during our everyday lives, whether we're age 15 or now a more mature 44.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

From San Jose to Seattle: Rock N' Roll Weekend

Orange Goblin's bassist Martyn Millard (Cat and Andy photos)
Witchburn's Jamie Nova.
By Cat Rose

We thought we would need a break from shows after our band-filled vacation, but that was not the case.  After just getting back, we were ready for more rock n’ roll with cousin Eric and his girlfriend Laura (from San Jose), who came to stay with us over the weekend in Seattle.

We kicked it off seeing Orange Goblin again. We did not even know they were playing, as we had not looked at the music listings, and lo and behold, here they were locally gigging Friday night, June 10, at Studio 7.  Of course, we had to go see the UK stoner rockers again, and we met up with friends Jeb and Angela (and their bud Bowie) with Eric and Laura in tow for the show.  We arrived, and psych-rockers/bearded wonders Naam (from Brooklyn, NY) were playing, followed by some Saint Vitus-esque doom from Gates of Slumber (Indianapolis, Ind.)....and then Goblin using Slumber's drum kit.  Goblin rocked just as hard as they did at the Maryland Deathfest, which was one of their first nights on tour. It was only fitting that we got to see them the last night of their trek in Seattle also. "Round up the Horses", mates.

Then the next day, we went to the Georgetown Carnival and were stoked by the bands we saw: proto-grungers Feast (from the Seattle class of '86), Pilot to Bombardier (think Quicksand on steroids), the always-reliable, hard-rockin' Witchburn, the goth-like Titanium Sporkestra Marching Band (which tore into Slayer's "Reign in Blood") and more.
A Feast for the vocal cords.
Bombardier axeman gets intense.
We also sprinkled in taking the guests to the Maritime Brewery (or Little Jollys as we call it), Slim's Last Chance Chili Shack and the EMP (Experience Music Project Museum) for Nirvana’s exhibit. The exhibit was underwhelming for us– not much we did not already know.  In fact, the "guide" told us we could listen to the punk records ( like Black Flag, Scream and Wipers...etc) they had on the wall from Krist Novoselic's collection with the headphones.  We confirmed to him that was not necessary as we have 95% of those records in our collection at home.
Titanium dudes "Reign in Blood"
Before EMP, we took them to one of Eric's favorites, the famous Five Point (where the meal just does not taste right without some metal and punk blasting from their kick-ass jukebox).  Finally, we stopped in at the Funhouse (a classic punk bar/venue) for a single jello shot and beer to see Eric and Laura off.  Prost!
Beer-garden fun with Eric and Laura.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Maryland Deathfest 2011: Back in Black and Unleashing the Noise

Woody & Mike of Corrosion of Conformity, all Cat Rose Photos.

By Cat and Andy

We knew we were in the right place when our taxi pulled up to the Mount Vernon Hotel in Baltimore on a recent Friday afternoon: six long-haired guys were lounging and smoking cigs on the front steps, wearing their thoughtfully chosen, black death-metal shirts of the day.

Bring it on. 
Reed & Woody of COC, notice the killer rings of fan in front.

As a bonus, one kind dude broke out from the pack to help us with our bags, saying, "Have a nice day!" Will do, sir.

About an hour later, we were trudging in the 80-plus-degree heat toward club Sonar for the Maryland Deathfest IX: "America's biggest metal party of the year." With directions from our trusty hotel clerk firmly wedged in our heads, we made our way to the promised land along with a smattering of black-shirted metalists following the same route down the East Saratoga Street hill.

After chatting with a pair of locals, who sold us cups of tasty homebrew out of the back of their truck, we headed in to survey the scene.

We spotted buddies Reed and Woodroe from Corrosion of Conformity at their outside merch booth, said hi and beelined it inside the club to cool down before checking out Aura Noir, COC and Neurosis on outdoor stage No. 1 later. (We attended two days, May 27 and 29, of the four-day fest, and saw 16 of the 63 bands offered.)
COC rolls through its set.

* Aura Noir from Norway featured Apollyon (Ole Jørgen Moe) on bass/vocals, Blasphemer (Rune Eriksen) on guitar and a young mystery drummer who kept the double-bass-drum action going full steam.

"We are the ugliest band in the world," Apollyon informed the crowd. When he stuck out his tongue, Gene Simmons-style, that comment was confirmed.

Their Venom-influenced tunes satisfied the crowd, including two headbanging, fist-pumping girls near us ... one Lemmy-looking mustachioed dude calmly smoked his cig while the chicks raged next to him. To our other side, a youngster sporting a Simply Red-singer, curly hairdo seemed bored with the metal... but maybe that's the way he expressed his joy.

During the set, a police helicopter passed by, but the cops didn't pluck anyone from the well-behaved crowd to send to the pokey.
Aura Noir: Apollyon, top, and with Blasphemer, below.

* Next up was COC, and the "Animosity" lineup roared from start to finish with songs from that album, the "Technocracy" title track and a handful of new tunes, including the Trouble-esque "Your Tomorrow." They even tossed in a bit of "Seven Days" and a verse of "Vote with a Bullet" for good measure. Look for a new album soon; the guys promise it will wail.

Carrie worked her way into the crowd to snap some great pictures, while Andy passed a beer to her every so often to reward her for a job well done. Drummer Reed spotted Andy from the stage and told the crowd, "Hey, Andy Nystrom's here," as the crowd looked around blankly. (Andy did take a pic of Woodroe and a fan later backstage during Neurosis' show.)

* Speaking of Neurosis, their set was delayed about 45 minutes after the skies opened with ferocity, soaking the throng and making the promoters wonder if it was safe to continue with the possibility of lightning strikes.

About an hour earlier, COC bassist/vocalist Mike Dean told the crowd with a chuckle, "The sky looks ominous ... that sounds like something you should say at a deathfest."  

As we packed up COC's merch to move to the safety of their van, the storm blew over and Neurosis pummeled through an impressive set. Reed especially dug the band, and Carrie noted that they also sounded killer (maybe it had something to do with the outside setting and being in a vacation mood, since we weren't as into their recent uninspiring gig at Neumo's in Seattle.)

That was the end of the evening for us, but we returned Sunday to check out a worldwide lineup of bands, some actually in the death-metal vein: Nightbringer (Colorado), Bad Acid Trip and The Bastard Noise (California), Dead Congregation (Greece), Repugnant (Sweden), Malignant Tumor (Czech Republic), Citizens Arrest (New York), Orange Goblin (England), Nuclear Assault (New York) and Coroner (Switzerland). (We also saw a few songs from Italy's Cripple Bastards -- a Youth of Today-type band -- on Friday.)
Repugnant's G. Grotesque.

Here's a rundown of Sunday's action:
* Nightbringer performed during the day, but inside, so they were probably OK with that. However, singer Naas Alcameth seemed annoyed every time the side door opened and brought in rays of light. He stared with evil eyes at the doorman, as if he was worried that his corpse paint might run ... and he might melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West in the "Wizard of Oz."

* Bad Acid Trip gets points for having the most unoriginal song of the fest: "Crucified Porn Star." Well, they got the death part right, anyway.

* Dead Congregation was one of the bands we were set to see (Death Breath was another, but unfortunately, they canceled about a month before), and the Athens men are about as good as it gets if you're into Cookie Monster screaming vocals, chugging guitars and heavy-as-fuck drums. Our eardrums are still paying the price.

* Repugnant? Well, the Swedes won't get away with it if they happen to commit a crime like crucifying a porn star or stealing a case of beer or Twinkies. They soundchecked with normal faces and then came back to perform in corpse paint ... we know what you look like, guys. They got the crowd riled up, though, with a wild set.

* Malignant Tumor were all jean jackets and fake wigs and beards. Motorhead supreme, and some good tunes while we waited in the food line.

* The Bastard Noise are as far from death metal as you can get. Male and female vocals, electronics, bass and drums ... harsh experimental music to a T. During one point in the set, bassist Eric Wood (from original band Man is the Bastard) laid down a stunning solo that had both loud, soft and some unidentifiable sounds spiraling about the room. Listeners had their ears pricked up and wished they could pull that shit off too.
Orange Goblin: Martyn Millard and Ben Ward.
More Goblins: Chris Turner on drums and Joe Hoare on guitar.
* Back outside, England's Orange Goblin earned band-of-the-day honors from the There's Something Hard in There staff (of two). Singer Ben Ward looks all tough guy, but is a joyful fellow while playing some killer doom metal alongside guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard and drummer Chris Turner. The crowd was with them the whole way -- both the folks in the pit and those watching freebie-style on the other side of the gate. Ward hoisted a few beers to the crowd while the Goblin dudes rocked out. Just right.
Ward gets the crowd going.
Coroner's Tommy T. Baron on guitar; City Hall in the foreground.
* We stuck around for Coroner, as well, just a few songs to cap off the night and send us home to sleep tight for our early-morning train to Boston. Dry ice covered the Swiss men as they marched through their metal -- with elements of thrash, prog, jazz and industrial -- to the appreciative crowd. We could still hear them playing as we marched up East Saratoga Street toward the hotel.

* When not at the Maryland Deathfest, we enjoyed the confines of the iconic Mount Vernon Hotel: ordering stellar cheesesteak sandwiches from Never on Sunday, explaining Deathfest to some non-metal, 50-something guests and having our death-rest interrupted by yelling metalheads returning to their rooms at 3:30 a.m. all weekend.

We also chowed down at Dangerously Delicious Pies, visited pal Tony Pence of Deep Sleep at his Celebrated Summer Records store (with our Black Flag flyers posted within), watched a piano man play yacht-rock tunes (example:  Player's "Baby Come Back") in a waterfront restaurant and roamed the Walters Art Museum. The museum featured a death-metal appropriate portrait of Philadelphia artist Dr. John Meer (pictured ca. 1795), who was also a civilian caregiver during the outbreaks of yellow fever that gripped Philadelphia in 1793, hence the skull. Portraitist Rembrandt Peale also "may have adapted this composition from Renaissance prints in which a courtier points meaningfully at a skull to emphasize the futility of worldly pleasures," according to the portrait caption.

Baltimore worldly pleasures:  Metal, munchies, friends, etc. A solid trip, for sure.

Who likes death metal? This guy.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

No sleep 'til Brooklyn: Stiff Little Fingers give Club Europa a jolt

SLF's Jake Burns swings through "Barbed-Wire Love." (Andy photos)

By Andy

This time, it was Brooklyn -- and seeing Stiff Little Fingers live was a fitting way to cap off our nine-day East Coast tour.

With New York native Marty in tow last Thursday, we journeyed from his Manhattan high-rise pad to tiny Club Europa via the lovely taxi-cab system where twists, turns, honks, yells and screeching brakes abound.

After local punk-power-poppers Heap warmed up the crowd, it was time for another round of SLF's heart-pounding and teeth-grinding tunes that I first witnessed live in 1981. (In total, Carrie and I have seen the band about 20 times over the years.)

SLF opened with the fiery "Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae," and although the crowd was a bit subdued at first, the mayhem kicked in a few numbers later with bobbing heads, bashing bodies and screaming vocals lasting the rest of the 75-minute set.

Ali McMordie on bass.

Steve Grantley: SLF's backbeat.
Aside from 2004's "Strummerville," the band ripped through tunes from 1977-1982, including the usual suspects like "Suspect Device," "Alternative Ulster," "Nobody's Heroes," "Tin Soldiers," "Just Fade Away," etc. (It would have been nice to hear some of the newer-era songs, but with rhythm guitarist Ian McCallum sadly missing because of an illness, replacement John Haggerty from Chicago's Naked Raygun and Pegboy probably only had time to practice the basics.)

Jake Burns is as vibrant as ever on guitar and vocals and still sings the lyrics with conviction some 30 years down the road. This is the first time we've seen Ali McMordie back in the fold on bass since the early '90s, and the man is a ball of energy, nearly jumping out of his skin at times. And, of course, Steve Grantley's solid drumming keeps the whole SLF thing rolling. As for Haggerty, he was living the dream playing alongside Burns and company (Raygun covered "Suspect Device") and he fit in nicely on stage right.

Since SLF didn't make it as far as Seattle on this tour, we were glad to represent our fair town back east. And we're ready for more when the "Roaring Boys" are up for it.

Burns revs up the crowd; McMordie and Haggerty, below.