Ghettoblaster: Wolves In The Throne Room

Remember when combining the words “American” and “Black Metal” together was a big joke? Yeah, that ain’t an issue any more, and you can thank Olympia’s Wolves In The Throne Room in large part for that. Led by brothers Aaron and Nathan Weaver, they combined the feral intensity of BM with a nakedly environmentalist stance and neo-hippie/crust-punk philosophy; and that unusual combination garnered them an enthusiastic fanbase reaching far outside of metal circles. Over the course of two conceptually interlocked albums, they couched their worldview in eldritch sound that was equal parts icy noise and lush mystery that evoked the old-growth forests and constant rainstorms of the Pacific Northwest as much as Burzum evoked the landscape of their native Norway. Now with Celestial Lineage, conceived over a long, cold winter by candlelight at the Weaver’s communal farm Calliope, Wolves In The Throne Room are definitively closing this chapter of their creative life. Celestial Lineage is the last piece of a trilogy of albums, and they promise that this is the last you’ll hear of this incarnation of WITTR. Ghettoblaster rang up drummer/conceptualist Aaron Weaver as he was in the midst of repairing a generator during a tour stop in Tallahassee to find out whether this is indeed the end, the end, my only friend, the end…

Tell me about the writing of Celestial Lineage. You spent a long time both writing and recording this album.

It kind of expanded into this huge project. A lot of that time was spent building a studio at our place in Olympia. Which is something that altered the way we recorded and ultimately made for a good record because we were able to get really deep into it. Starting around January 1st we started writing songs, putting together visual ideas that would influence the songs, compiling a big compendium of images and poems and the sorts of things that help us focus the songwriting, and help me and Nathan get on the same page about the themes we want to work with. And then we recorded a fully fleshed-out demo version of the record. We planned almost every aspect of it out in a pretty complete way. Because, you know, we’re both kind of control freaks and perfectionists. And it’s good to always have an idea of what you want to do by the time you actually start recording with the producer. When that was done we brought Randall Dunn (producer, Boris, Sunn0))), Earth) on board, who’s the fellow that we’ve done quite a bit of recording with in the past, and we tracked the basic tracks for the record – the drums and some of the straightforward heavy guitars – at Avast Studio in Seattle. And then did a bit of tracking at his Aleph Studios, also in Seattle. And then took a month off.

And in that month, Randall’s life fell apart. His relationship of sixteen years ended abruptly under bizarre circumstances, and his studio got closed down under bizarre circumstances. So Randall was going through an extremely intense time of personal change and transformation and also we had to really change the plans for the record. We had planned on recording it at Aleph and so we had to alter our plans accordingly and ended up doing almost all of the overdubs – which is the bulk of the recording process – at our studio in Olympia. I was kind of concerned about that turn of events for maybe five minutes, and then I realized that it was actually the best possible thing that could have happened because we were able to… Randall basically moved into our house in Olympia and we just spent weeks there, just the three of us, in the wintertime, just really getting into it. And I’m happy with the way it turned out. I think because those adverse circumstances forced us to change things up at the last second and do something we hadn’t planned on doing.

How important is living in the Pacific Northwest and the Calliope farm been in the development of your sound?

We try to have that be everything to us. That’s what we’re always thinking about; trying to represent the spirit of the place that we live with the music. We’re always inspired by the landscape and by the weather and the underlying energy of the place. We’re trying as people to be really deeply of the landscape, trying to represent that experience through music. And that’s something that I think is quintessential to not just our band but to black metal in general. Or at least the black metal that I like and take seriously. It’s music that springs directly from a landscape.

Very rooted in a sense of place…

Yes. Black metal is music that has an adversarial attitude towards modernity, towards the mainstream culture and towards the way things are going in the world. If everything is being unrooted, if everything is beginning to exist in primarily a virtual space, if ancient cultures are being wiped away in face of a Western, capitalist, consumerist monoculture, then black metal says, “No we should do the exact opposite. We should go backwards. We should be deeply connected to one place. We should try and connect to tradition and the ways of ancestors.” And of course, that’s a bit of a fantasy. It’s an extreme reaction that is equally as unrealistic and untenable as the sort of hyper-modern techno-utopia that the mainstream promises us. But that’s the role of music – to present an extreme attitude. In the case of black metal, an attitude that’s insane, that’s too much.

You’re invoking elements of a long line of West Coast counterculture on Celestial Lineage.

That’s how we look at it. That’s what we’ve always been all about, trying to build on an existing counterculture and push it in the direction that resonates with us. We’re definitely inspired by the earlier counterculture scenes everywhere, but especially on the West Coast, starting with the Nature Boys that started in the ’30s and ’40s in California, and moving on to the Beatnik scene and the Hippie movement, and the bizarre assortment of religious movements and cults that make the Northwest or Northern California a spot where a lot of weird people congregate and a lot of weird stuff happens. We definitely feel like we’re a part of that history. And in a lot of ways, there’s almost a sort of orthodox traditional hippie culture that’s emerged in the past 50 or 60 years. It’s definitely the beginnings of a tradition, or the beginnings of a religion, or the beginnings of a worldview. And who knows where it will go but it definitely feels like the beginning of something. Like, about a year ago, one of our landmates at the farm was pregnant and she had a blessing way. Which is kind of this goofy, hippie ceremony. It was facilitated by this older woman in town who was in her sixties. And she’d had a blessing way in a teepee in Okanogan County where there were pot farmers back in the day. And there was a forty-year old woman there who’d had a blessing way for her daughter. And my friend was in her early twenties. So there were three, four generations of women there who were taking part in the same ceremony. And it’s just this made-up, goofy ceremony, but I think that it’s a made-up, goofy ceremony that’s existed through four generations. And me and my wife talk about about having kids and she’ll definitely have this same ceremony that will be facilitated by older women. And I would hope maybe that some of the kids of my peers that are coming up in this scene will certainly change things up, but will begin to be able to feed off of this tradition. But, y’know, it’s just a bit of raver-hippie utopianism….

What did (guest vocalist) Jessika Kenny each bring to this album?

Jessica was someone whom we opened the door to a true collaboration with. We worked with her in the past on another record and we knew from the beginning that we wanted to have a lot of her presence on the album, just because of who she is. As a person, she kind of sums up a lot of the themes of the record. Her personal history and where she’s come from and where she’s at almost kind of tells the whole story of Celestial Lineage. She’s kind of this old, kind of street punk, living on the street with a Repulsion t-shirt and dreads, living this extreme outsider lifestyle. And having this extreme ideology of rejecting mainstream society and traditions and orthodoxy. And at this point, she’s in her mid-late thirties, just a bit older than me, and she is profoundly immersed in orthodoxy. At this point she’s a pretty renowned scholar of Persian liturgical music, and teaches University courses and is world-class . And at the same time, she still has this incredibly wild and free spirit, that dreadlocked street punk from fifteen years ago. And she’s been able to reconcile those two extremes. This extreme desire for freedom and to not be held back by obligations to the existing culture, and at the same time able to tap into this ancient and timeless source of beauty that you find in cathedrals in Europe or the liturgical music of Islam.

There is a heavy sense of finality around the record – you’ve alluded to this being the end of this iteration of Wolves, the end of a trilogy of albums – what made you come to these crossroads?

It’s just a necessity. We’ve been doing essentially the same thing musically, although we’re always growing and always learning new things, but pretty much the same path for eight, nine years? And just those old ways of looking at things and old attitudes aren’t appropriate anymore. The choice is to either do the comfortable thing and keep cranking out black metal records and get to the point where we can headline Wakken (laughter)….and, y’know, get to be like the average Watain, that sort of professional, careerist metal band. And that’s just never been our goal, the last thing we want to be is a professional band. The lifestyle of a professional band is not something that I’ve ever wanted and is nothing I would ever want. It’s nice to be able to tour and meet people and build community and travel and see new things, but it has to happen within reason. And definitely I think I’ve gotten my fill of that over the past couple of years, and I really would like to refocus my energies towards hearth and home, which has always been my priority, but this has just been a bit of a detour, perhaps.

When did you realize that black metal was the ideal vehicle for your aesthetics and philosophies?

Pretty immediately. The first black metal record I got was Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse. I remember buying it at a rummage sale and I remember having this very strong connection to it. It’s got that obtuse cover with the sort of Norman-style knights in this woodcut, and at the time I was heavily into death metal, as many people were in those days, and I was immediately drawn to the sound, the rawness and this aristocratic, mythic spirit. It really resonated deeply with me, and from that point, black metal has always been a part of my… thought process. The music and also the ideas behind it. And at a certain point, maybe about ten years ago it just became very clear that we should and we certainly could take aspects of black metal and then create some sort of hybrid with our own local culture. Because it was so obvious to us that there were so many similarities. We come out of a scene that is pretty focused on ecology and protection of old growth forests and this sort of thing and it’s a very distinct culture to the Northwest. And there’s so many similarities between the two worldviews, critiquing civilization, yearning for a more ancient sense of the world, a connection with tradition and nature that perhaps we’ve lost as modern people. Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know, that’s a romanticized idea, that’s definitely an idea that exists in black metal and that exists in the radical culture of the Northwest. And then the darker side of it as well exists in both worlds. In both the black metal world and the ecological punk world, a hatred of humanity and a strong sense of misanthropy as we look around and see what humanity has wrought. It was obvious that it was the right thing for us, it was also equally obvious that we didn’t want to be just another clone of Immortal or Satyricon or Emperor, that we’d have to do our own thing and create something that sprang from the landscape of the Northwest and not try to have it be shrouded in Norse mythology, talking about fjords. (laughter) It’s not our scene, man.

When you’re making music as Wolves, what are the elements of black metal songcraft that are sacrosanct, and what are the parts that you can play with and transform?

As far as the sound, that’s the first thing I noticed with Emperor is the guitars and drums – in some senses it’s rooted in heavy metal but really it’s more about creating a trance effect. It’s really got more in common with shamanic drumming and with noise music. It’s not heavy metal, it’s not riffs, not headbanging music at all. That’s the aspect that I’ve been really drawn to and will always be really interested in, using that wash of sound, no matter how you create it, whether it’s with synthesizer or with drums or acoustic instruments or with heavy guitars and blastbeats. Creating that wash of sound that you can get completely lost in. Inside that wash, at first it appears to be a void, a meaningless void, but the more you get into it, the more you realize that it’s actually deeply nuanced and is almost more of a rorschach test in a lot of ways. You can find whatever meaning you need to find within it. And that’s something that I’ve always said about black metal, it’s very inwardly focused music. It’s meditative music. Most heavy metal is very extroverted, it’s about putting on a big snow and headbanging and drinking a beer with your buddies. Black metal is the exact opposite. It’s all about gazing inwards and trying to discover things about yourself. It’s quite meditative, really. That’s the way I’ve always seen it and I think most people who are really into black metal, that’s the part about it that they like. That meditative quality.

You’re trying to play more unconventional venues on this tour?

Oh definitely, that’s the theme of this tour. For the most part we’re playing all non-traditional venues; a good amount of DIY spaces, but also a good amount of… y”know, the top of a mountain in Vermont and a muddy pit in Portland and a few crumbling warehouses in the fringes of various industrial districts in a couple of different towns. It’s definitely different than the tours we’ve done in the past but it’s more in line with the tours we’ve always wanted to be able to do but haven’t had the logistical ability to pull it off.

So after the tour, you’re both going away for awhile?

There’s a bunch of offers on the table, there’s talk of going to Australia and Japan, there’s talk of another tour in Europe in the springtime to play some festivals. But I’m kind of feeling that might not be the best move for us, I’ve got a … I’m really keen on building a new house and that’s what I prioritize. And in the Northwest, if you don’t get started as soon as things begin to dry out in the spring you won’t get done by the wintertime. You’ve got to drive things in by September at the latest, so most likely I’ll be working on a new house. We do have plans to do another record. Celestial Lineage is definitely not the last Wolves In The Throne Room record. It is the last record of a phase and a certain era, I suppose. I actually just tan into Randall a few days ago in Atlanta, he was with another band doing sound and we were able to hang out and talk about our future plans together. And we’re very keen on doing another record. I’d love to begin work on it a bit this winter but maybe it will have to wait until fall of next year but definitely things will happen in the future musically for us.

Originally published in Ghettoblaster Magazine (Issue 30).

Ghettoblaster: Qwazaar/Batsauce

One of the more geographically improbable collaborations in hip-hop – that of Chicago-based MC Qwazaar and Berlin-via-Jacksonville, FL (represent!) beatmaker Batsauce – entered an exciting new phase with the release of the joint LP Bat Meets Blaine (Galapagos4). According to Batsauce, the pair “met in Berlin through a mutual friend. Qwa came to a Lady Daisey (Batsauce’s frequent collaborator and soulmate) gig, heard some beats. A few weeks later, we were all performing at Hip Hop Kemp (a dope festival in Czech) and we started building from there.” After that initial meeting,, the Style Be The King EP was recorded and released in short order. Despite the relative annoyance of an ocean and quite a bit of land between them. Batsauce almost makes their working methods sound too easy, “I would send beats to Qwa’s lab in Cali over the internet. Sometime later, he’d send magic back. We would get up a few times a year to build, smoke, and marinate.” And as Batsauce tells it, songs were stockpiled continuously, with the goal always being a complete large body of work: “Qwa and I kept building the catalog, recording joint after joint. After we had over two dozen songs, we decided what would make sense where. We were really focused on making sure the full-length album was a balanced record that would have replay value.”

Though Style Be The King was an impressive starter, it’s Bat Meets Blaine that is the state of the art of the Qwazaar/Batsauce partnership. Qwazaar’s already acrobatic vocal delivery–from toasting to a laconic, stoned cool to rapidfire spitting–is twisted up with vocal effects and doubled, even tripled, in what Batsauce characterizes as an “homage to psychedelic music.” Batsauce’s instrumental tracks are reminiscent of classic jazz and soul: crisp drumbeats to the fore, and impeccably cool instrumental samples (like on “Power,” Jesus Fucking Christ). Qwazaar maintains that this is a natural direction: “I think it was just one of those things where me and Batsauce were just already in tune and in sync with the sound we were going for. Nothing forced, we just let it happen.”

Par for the course for this pair, Bat Meets Blaine had an open-door policy of collaboration with their tight-knit “family” of musicians, eschewing flashy guest spots for musical telepathy. Qwzaar was eager to elaborate, “We pretty much kept the guests to just the fam. We wanted to make the collabs fun… I wanted Offwhyte and Onry Ozzborn on the album because I’ve done songs with them both individually that came out on point and thought it would be a fresh collab to have us all on a joint together. Something new with DJ Bizkid killing the cuts. The ‘Surrealism’ song was just begging for a soft vocal presence so we asked Lady Daisey to help us out. I asked Denizen Kane and KP to be on ‘A Feeling’ because [they] are strong family men and fathers so it made all the sense in the world to get them down on it.”

Flush with pride about their musical offspring, Q/B took their show on the road and found the love reciprocated: “We’ve been on the move for awhile now since the project dropped, just trying to see people everywhere. The love for the project has just been amazing, so we’re extremely thankful.”

And both are certain that this is just the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I’ll leave the last words to Qwazaar: “We’re already into building on the next one, gathering beats and building on ideas. We’re talking about bringing He.llsent from Galapagos4 on to more cuts but also trying to reach out to more of our favorites… So we’ll see what we shall see but expect some nice surprises that’ll be banging well into the future.”

Originally published in Ghettoblaster Magazine (Issue 30).

Ink 19: Richard Thompson Band Live

The Richard Thompson Band: Live at Celtic Connections
Eagle Rock

Image - thompson.jpg

The initial signs are dire. A wide-angle shot of the audience catches row after row of bald pates, comfortably seated, every last one most likely outfitted with two (count’em, two) leather elbow patches, looking more ready to bury Richard Thompson (reverently of course) than praise him. And then out comes fucking “Whispering” Bob Harris — last seen castigating the New York Dolls as “mock rock” in the late Seventies — to introduce Thompson. It’s museum rock from here on out. Except someone forgot to tell Richard Thompson that. He strides out in a slim-fitting black wardrobe, dandy scarf knotted around his neck, and the dad-ified beret that he’s been wearing for a decade or so now suddenly looks instead like something that Che Guevera would wear. I’m heartened to see that visual extremity, the sharp edges, the air of anything goes that Thompson exudes, subtly striking back against a room full of people, hell, a whole record industry that wants him to be a good li’l nostalgia act.

It’s tough being Richard Thompson. On the one hand, he’s known as the “guitar player’s guitar player,” which would automatically make most musicians colossal douches (Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert) and/or terminal bores. On the other hand, he both helped invent electrified folk rock with Fairport Convention AND created one of the singularly great bitter breakup albums of all time with Shoot Out the Lights, which he is no doubt expected to relive during every single concert… what I’m saying is, he has a whole load of albatrii around his neck. Luckily he decides to disregard the past and stay firmly rooted in the now with a sparkling set of new songs. And, oh yeah, bait the audience just a bit, wryly noting the paucity of applause when he mentions his new album.

Actually he’s damn witty; poking fun when someone cries out “Ashley Hutchings,” only momentarily caught off his game when it turns out that Hutchings IS actually in the audience, noting the cheeriness of the murder ballad (“Sidney Wells”) he’s about to rip into, getting in a few digs at bankers (!!), and just generally throwing out surreal aside after surreal aside. Far more germaine for the purpoes of music writing, both his voice and guitar-playing are still in fine form, too. The new songs are spry and serviceable, if a good deal less enjoyable than classic albums like I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight and Mirror Blue. His backing musicians look like a bunch of college professors and often worry the songs to death with overplaying, but Thompson’s evident passion for writing and playing his songs carries the day. Affecting readings of classics like “Wall of Death” and “A Man in Need” are worth the price of admission and one feels none of the withering contempt that his folk-rock transatlantic peer heaps upon his audience. He wears advancing age as well as he does that guitar around his neck.

Originally published in Ink 19.

Synconation: Exhumed

Do you, the discerning music fan, ever find yourself missing Carcass? I’m not talking about the “we’re-serious-musicians-now” Carcass of Heartwork or Swansongbut when Carcass was REALLY a ghoulish force to be reckoned with, filling song after song with stomach-churning lyrics (and a dual vocal delivery to match), downtuned riffs that sounded like blunt force trauma to human flesh, and out of control spazzy drumming?

The racket Cracass made was so potent that it inspired a whole bunch of eager metalheads to buy medical dictionaries and VHS horror nasties by the ton, and downtune their guitars to the point where it sounded like bowels evacuating. And thus was born gorecore. Yep that’s the stuff. Most enthusiastic amongst their acolytes had to be Exhumed. Early albums like Slaughercult and Gore Metal ratcheted metal up to new gonzoid standards of depravity and now they have returned from a lengthy hiatus to basically shower you with blood and offal. As this track off last year’s stellar All Guts No Glory (how can you not love that?) amply demonstrates, they’re pretty much the philosopher kings of goregrind now. The out-of-control blastbeats give way at the end to a spooky, doomy coda with the two vocalists (one low, one nigh, natch) screaming the title over and over again.

Oh, and it gets better. They’re playing Thursday night at Freebird Live on a bill with Cannibal Corpse. Not that big of a fan of Cannibal Corpse’s live show, but this writer caught an Exhumed gig in some warehouse yearrrrrrrrrs ago and was suitably impressed by the vocalist vomiting all over the stage ten seconds into their set… and not missing a step! It’s a crucial mix of unusually tight musicieanship, spikes’n’leather, intense hair-whipping, and splatter-flick antics aplenty.

Originally published in Synconation.

Library Journal: Awesome Tapes From Africa


NaHawa Music for the Masses: Awesome Tapes from AfricaStarting as a humble blog in 2006, Awesome Tapes from Africa (ATFA) has grown into a cottage industry of sorts by combining the best parts of the voracious collector mentality (“I’ve gotta find this!”) with the benevolent DJ mentality (“You’ve gotta hear this!”). The blog was originally an outlet for founder Brian Shimkovitz to share his impressive collection of African musical obscurities, expanded into DJ nights wherein Shimkovitz would take his crates of cassettes on the road, and is now finally a label.

ATFA has thus far released last year’s highly regarded album by Nâ Hawa Doumbia (on LP, CD, and cassette), with a new album by Bola on the way (more on these below). Music for the Masses met with Shimkovitz and discovered a passionate fan who wants to make a continent’s worth of hidden music accessible.

MM: How did you start seriously collecting music from Africa?

Shimkowitz Music for the Masses: Awesome Tapes from AfricaBS: I studied in Ghana during college and came across tons of interesting music while doing ethnomusicology research on the music industry. I went back on a Fulbright grant in 2005 to research the emerging hip-hop scene there and picked up even more recordings. I have always been a big music collector, but the work I was doing on popular music encouraged this obsession even more.

Tell me about the evolution of ATFA.

When I started the blog in 2006, I felt like it was a fun thing to do on the weekend. I was working in New York City in music publicity, and over the years people kept asking me if I was thinking of doing something more with the blog. I began DJing the music from Awesome Tapes so much that I needed to quit my [day] job. I had built a strong sense of how to do something streamlined and effective in terms of a ­label.

Shortly before that, the folks at Secretly Canadian Distribution contacted me to see if I would be interested in working with them. So it came together in an organic way.

Why do you feel that these rarities are important and need to be heard?

African music in the Western marketplace is extremely limited. I was astounded by the vibrant diversity of music you can hear everywhere you go in virtually any town in Africa. It felt really important to me as a music listener living in America to make it possible for some of my friends to hear things we can’t find at shops outside the continent.

Most of what I post you’d be hard-pressed to find even just outside the region in which it originates. I had no idea so many other people around the world would be as enthusiastic as I am about some of this music.

Talk about your label’s two physical releases.

One thing that’s always been important with the blog and now with the label is making available complete recordings, i.e., not compilations. Letting an entire artistic statement speak for itself has always been a priority for me, hence the less-than-­encyclopedic presentation of the recordings on the blog.

The first title is Doumbia’s La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol. 3, which is an early album by a well-regarded singer from southern Mali. It is very acoustic and soulful and organic-sounding and felt like an excellent first statement for the label. It’s not too out-there, like some of the things I have become known for, yet it’s a rare and fascinating look at music from one part of Mali.

While in Ghana, I became fascinated with the music of ethnic groups hailing from the northern regions, especially their folk music forms. The second release is by an artist from the Upper East Region named Bola, who plays the kologo, a two-stringed lutelike instrument. Kologo music is typically played solo with a couple of dancers. The instrumentalist sings praises and preaches advice while he performs.

Bola’s approach is very 21st century—he is accompanied by drum machine, synthesizer, and heavy bass—so the music is very dance-oriented and modern. I am extremely excited for what’s going to happen with his career…. He already has invitations to perform at festivals in Europe.

What would you recommend for a more substantive African music collection?

I spent a week in France this past summer digging through the music holdings of the musée du quai Branly, and I was blown away by the extensive collection of commercially released field recordings there. In particular, labels including Ocora, ­Lyrichord, and Smithsonian Folkways have released incredible documents of music from all over…. Folkways recordings epitomize the kind of variety a larger library should have available. In terms of popular music, one could focus on releases by labels like World Circuit, Sublime Frequencies, and Finders Keepers.

Who’s the most recent artist you’ve gotten excited about?

This isn’t African, but I have been really into the Iranian musician Kourosh ­Yaghmaei, who released many incredible songs during the prerevolutionary heyday of Persian psychedelic rock.

Synconation: Jaap Blonk – Flux De Bouche

Okay, look, I know that there are two very distinct ways of dealing with hearing Dutch sound artist Jaap Blonk’s work for the first time.

(1.) This is a joke! This is a put-on! I could do better! (Then why aren’t you?)
(2.) Realzing that Blonk’s music is exciting and strange, but very clearly in the tradition of Kurt Schwtters (my favorite Schwitters story is when George Melly used one of Schwitters’ soundpoems to chase a mugger down the street) Yoko Ono, or even wilder and more freeform beatboxers.

Laughter can be a healthy response too at the seemingly improvised audaciousness and lunacy of Jaap Blonk; like the first time you heard Carl Stallings’ wackier cartoon music or one of Mortician’s one minute songs where the first forty seconds was a badly recorded horror movie sample and the last twenty was a gory burst of overloaded grindcore. This is truly out there stuff, and I think it deserves to be heard.

Jaap Blonk will be at MOCA on Tuesday the 27th at 7:30pm. It’s part of UNF’s stellar Cage Festival, He’s travelled a long way to perform for us. It’s free, so come down and see it for yrself, bring your garlands or your tomatoes, whichever – Jaap Blonk (or John Cage) wouldn’t have it any other way.

Originally published at Synconation.

Synconation: Nobfest Rising!

Three days of music? Wasn’t that how Woodstock was billed originally? Well, this time around it’s not a bunch of hippies in the mud and Pete Townshend booting cameramen off the stage, this time it’s scores of St. Augustine and Jacksonville’s loudest gathered to celebrate and raise some funds for St. Augustine venue Nobby’s. The joint has already hosted Quintron AND Japanther this year, so surely it’s desevering of at least some of your beer money. Overachieving promotor Nick Commoditie gave Synconation the logistical lowdown and some tips for getting through what’s sure to be an intense weekend.

What are the When’s and the Where’s for Nobfest?

Nobby’s is located directly to the left after crossing the Lion’s Bridge onto Anastasia Island. Address is 10 Anastasia Blvd, St. Augustine 32080.

Friday: Doors 5PM /Show 8PM $6
Saturday: 2PM $10
Sunday: 2PM $10
Weekend Pass: $22

Nobby’s is located directly to the left after crossing the Lion’s Bridge onto Anastasia Island. Address is 10 Anastasia Blvd, St. Augustine 32080.

Would you preview the lineup for our readers? Who are some of the “can’t-miss” acts?

Five of us chose some of our favorite bands that have played at Nobby’s before or that we are friends with. Also, there are gobs of St. Augustine bands on the line-up. Genres covering anything and everything from A Capella to organ ballads to punk rock. I’m personally looking forward to seeing Golden Pelicans, Hungry Gaze, Hot Hands, and Pillowfight, all from Orlando. I hear Dark Rides are tight! There’s a Ramones tribute band playing too…

8:45 – Special opening speech by Dave Wernicke
9:00 – Thunderhoof
9:40 – 2416
10:20 – The Cougs
11:00 – The Resonants
11:40 – Alligator
12:40 – Teenage Lobotomy

12:00 – BBQ/Parking Lot Jamboree
2:00 – Andrew Virga
2:40 – My Bicycle Emergency
3:20 – Gnarly Whales
4:00 – Mystery Band!
4:40 – Slough Louris
5:30 – Good Nights
6:10 – Party Drag
6:50 – Wooly Bushman/Pillowfight
7:50 – Dune Panther
8:30 – Hungry Gaze
9:15 – Hot Hands
9:50 – Caffiends
10:40 – Golden Pelicans
11:20 – Teenage Softies
12:00 – Dark rides
1:00 – Tubers

Dunk Tank, Parking Lot Hot Dog Eating Contest!!
4:00 – Honeysweet
5:00 – Garrett Oliver
5:40 – Critter
6:30 – Xmas
7:10 – Stiff Bindles
7:50 – Thee Holy Ghosts
8:30 – AC Deathstrike
9:10 – Casanova Frankenstein
9:50 – Wet Nurse
1030 – Rivernecks
11:10 – Whiskey And Co
12:00 – Tower
1:00 – Wetlands

What kind of work goes into setting up something like this? This is a very ambitious undertaking, especially considering the ridiculously low prices you’re charging for three days There are also a number of bonuses, like the weekly loyalty bonus that are not available at most other online online casinos . worth of continuous loud music..

I’d say this is about as DIY as it gets. Dave Wernicke, the owner of Nobby’s, wanted to make this cheap as possible; it’s kind of a fundraiser for Nobby’s. They unfortunately closed less than three years ago and then reopened in the second half of 2011. We are hoping this event will keep Nobby’s kicking. It is, after all, the ONLY bar in Saint Augustine that has legit, local and national touring bands play regularly. Besides Nobfest, all door money goes to the touring bands and to keep shows happening: fixing the p.a., supplies, etc etc. Basically, Nobby’s is the shit.

What is the mission of Nobfest?

Drink some beers and whiskies, see some bands, party and have a good time…what else?

Do you have any survival tips for attendees?

Ya gotta be a trooper, it’s gonna be hot and heavy, wet and sweaty in there, haha… Take a nap and hydrate beforehand, then come to Nobby’s and rage! I don’t know, I was actually wondering if someone were to enter the hot dog eating contest, would it be better to not eat that morning, or to have a little something?

I can’t help but notice that Nobfest is coming right on the heels oF SXSW; do you picture this as an annual event also?

Nobfest is Dave Wernicke’s brain child… I do believe this will be an annual event!

Does maximum volume yield maximum results?

No, definitely not, but sometimes that’s all you got!

While I’ve got you on the line, what other of your events should we be keeping an eye out for?

Commoditiebooking has three great shows coming up in April. Natural Child are back at Nobby’s  April 15th. Night Beats from Seattle are playing at Nobby’s as well on April 18th. Psych-garage rock type stuff. The Mold from Jacksonville and Thee Holy Ghosts are opening that one. But I’m most excited for Mark Sultan at Cafe 11 on April 25th. He was the first show I wanted to book, and a year or so later, here he is. The whole line-up is killer. Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands from Gainesville (a married surf-garage-trash power duo) and Woolly Bushmen from Orlando open. DJ Lamar from Jacksonville will be spinning as well. Lot’s of good stuff coming up, come out and support these Rock N’ Roll shows! See ya there…

NOBFEST 2012 Info.

Originally published at Synconation.

Ink 19: Liturgy

Freebird Live, Jacksonville, FL
February 9, 2012

This isn’t good. The lineup was puzzling to begin with… the whole premise, I mean. A Florida-only tour featuring Kills-lite Sleigh Bells, buzzbomb producer Diplo, and transcendental black metal overlords Liturgy begs disbelief. Especially in the South. This isn’t good. Two girls in glittery crop tops slither past me in line, try to sweet talk the bouncer into letting them in, fail utterly and then bounce over to the tour bus idling nearby, where they immediately start pounding on the door and squealing, “Diploooooooo!” This isn’t good. I’m hearing the white light/white heat roar of Liturgy burst to life from inside the cavernous Freebird Live and I’m stuck in line behind a bunch of clean-cut kids who look like the cast of How I Met Your Mother. A towering bro bends to the waist and asks me, “Which band is this? Is this Diplo?” This isn’t good.

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An eternity too long later, I’m rushing inside and soaking in the delirious strength through joy that is Liturgy 2.0. Frontman/guitarist Hunter Hunt-Hendricks has given the shove to longtime drummer Greg Fox, leaving himself and guitarist Bernard Gann tonight to reshape the triumphant roar of last year’s Aesthethica into something altogether more wild and uncontrolled. Fox’s punk-influenced blastbeats are long gone, replaced by rigid electronic beats, courtesy of a Macbook incongruously perched on a stand next to Hendricks, and their already unruly song structures are even further twisted up by a forbidding series of pedals and effects. This could very well be the new sound of U.S. Black Metal. A song ends. The most tentative of polite applause. The front rows frantically check their smartphones. The back rows look confused.

Hunt-Hendricks begins one of his vocal chants, but instead of the ecstatic energy poured into these vocal experiments in Aesthethica, the sound is mournful and disappointed. Eclectic bills like this may very well be a better idea on paper than real life, depending on the audience you’re courting. And Liturgy’s music demands an audience hungry to lose themselves in blinding sound. The music bursts back into life. Aesthethica may have refined and brightened black metal’s dark corners, but tonight Liturgy sound as ferocious and unhinged as Immortal in their prime.

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Hunt-Hendricks’ vocals are a self-loathing shriek (in the spirit of Satyricon and Burzum), the tandem guitar assault with Gann is a wondrous mix of clinical precision — stackin’ riffs like Jenga — and masochistic primitivism. For the briefest of seconds I’m reminded of Godflesh, in terms of harnessing technology to present a personal and intimate reshaping of heavy fucking metal to communicate truly heavy concepts and beliefs. As the music reaches a frenzied crescendo a burst of deep blue light sizzles the irises of everyone in attendance. And when we blink away the spots. The band is gone. Soon my fellow audience members will be relentlessly pandered to by Sleigh Bells, and they will have put this unpleasant business far behind them. Their loss.

Ink 19: King Khan And The Shrines

King Khan and The Shrines
Cafe Eleven, St. Augustine, FL
February 8, 2012

There’s a lesson to be learned tonight. Even though James Brown was resolutely fastidious in his appearance to the point of fining backing musicians if their shoes weren’t polished to his liking, he knew that the best soul, the real heavy stuff, was rooted in absolute chaos and high-tension disorder. Garage rock potentate King Khan (usually of the superlative King Khan & BBQ Show) has decided to push that latter point to its apotheosis with his auto-destruct soul orchestra, The Shrines. The scene’s already chaos inside the jam-packed Café Eleven… I don’t know man, the college kids that congregate in this venue are crazy to begin with, and they’ve already been whipped into a frenzy by opener the Jacuzzi Boys. To my ears it’s pretty lackluster stuff, the equivalent of the Stones trying to share the stage with James Brown at the TAMI Awards and looking like a bunch of preening kids.

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After an anxious wait, from all corners of the club various Shrines begin to materialize onstage. There’s the stick-thin keyboardist who looks like a mod Chris Kattan, perched on the very lip of the stage, his keyboard jutting into the crowd. There’s the horn section that looks like members of a German industrial band, but RAVE it up like The J.B.’s. There’s the drummer who looks like a member of Crowbar. There’s the percussionist who for real shared stages with Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder. There’s the bass player and guitarist who look like they were in a Big Black cover band. The sheer visual anarchy of the players is in stark contrast to their fucking razor sharp tightness and is admissible evidence of King Khan’s mad genius as a (big) bandleader.

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And speak of the devil, Khan storms through the crowd and jumps up on the stage, a vision of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ regal madness in cape, feathery crown, glittery tunic, and necklace made of (human?) bones. Cue scenes of total batshit insanity. With a feverish intensity pitched midway between the Fabulous Flames, the Make-Up, and the Cramps, King Khan and the Shrines maintain an almost unbelievable level of intensity, without even a droplet of sweat between them.

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The keyboardist repeatedly launches his keyboard into the crowd. The horn section delights in noir blurts and free-jazz squiggles equally, and then all drop their instruments to pick up tambourines and stomp into the crowd for a good ol’ communal raveup. Meanwhile Khan strips off layer after layer of clothes until he’s left with just underwear, cape, and crown. He picks up a guitar occasionally like a lightning rod to harness the flashpaper energy in the room, but he’s even better when he’s going all Bela Lugosi with his cape or leaning forward into the front rows and preaching one-on-one soul-noise gospel to eager converts.

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They finally take a group bow and leave the stage, save for one sax player who keeps blowing until the rest of the band clambers back onstage. And the familiar three-note organ line of motherfucking SUICIDE’S “Ghost Rider” rings out. Yep, it’s a gloriously sprawling supercharged version and Khan has got all the Alan Vega-isms down COLD. Bliss, thanks for asking. They follow it up with fix or six more numbers before the band devolves into gleeful chaos. instruments are dismantled, band members throw themselves into the teeming crowd, and King Khan and the Jacuzzi Boys’ singer huddle up for some good old primal scream therapy. That’s a show.

Originally published in Ink 19.

Ink 19: Quintron

Quintron and Miss Pussycat
with The 2416
Nobby’s, St. Augustine, FL
February 7, 2012

Mr. Quintron is an American institution, a testament to all that is great in New Orleans music AND the most wigged out fringes of the avant-garde. Over a series of totally individual albums over the last fifteen years, Quintron has honed a stage act that channels and refracts Professor Longhair, Iggy and the Stooges, James Chance, and Jimmy Smith into a blinding wall of light and sound. Meanwhile, he’s like a mad scientist in his Spellcaster Lodge lab, inventing new musical innovations like the Dream Machine lookalike Drum Buddy drum machine and a house that is actually a musical instrument. Alongside soulmate and co-conspirator Miss Pussycat, he’s pushed his stage show into new realms of absurdity and delight; the puppet shows they copresent are as much Jim Henson’s Muppets on a shoestring budget as they are a living nod to Bill Hicks’ claim that drugs are, in fact, good for you. Lastly, Quintron reflects the resilient spirit of his hometown New Orleans; even though he was flooded out during Katrina, he emerged stronger and stranger than ever, and goddamn it feels good.

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First up, though, are Jacksonville’s garage-punk howlers The 2416. At the start of their own inaugural Florida-mini tour, the trio of Trenton Tarpits, St. Andrew, and Terry Davis Jr. are understandably beside themselves with excitement over sharing the stage with the mighty Quintron. The 2416 have narrowed/refined their sound over the past year into a serrated roar influenced by Motorhead and The Dwarves; their set is feral and messy and lightning-quick, like a windstorm blowing through the club. The drummer stands up when he plays à la Mo Tucker, so you know the music is quality. They collapse into utter chaos at the end; beer flying everywhere, band members tossing instruments aside and rolling around on the ground screaming. Glorious.

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 Finally, otherworldy music emanates from Miss Pussycat’s Pee Wee’s Playhouse-esque puppet stage, a sure sign that the evening is about to begin in earnest. Miss Pussycat presents a deeply surreal and oddly touching tale of a dragon and talking droplets of water — the puppets are charmingly homemade and I love the heavily treated voice effects, which are totally early Chipmunks. The show ends with, as so many of her shows do, a dance party, and hell if the whole stage doesn’t come alive (mouth arms and all) to join in the fun.

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Then the man (earlier sporting a cowboy hat because, well, we’re in the South) takes his seat behind an organ that’s kitted out with, honest to god, the modified chassis of a vintage roadster– headlights gleam from an auto grille — with his faithful, gleaming drum buddy to his immediate right and Miss Pussycat, maracas in hand, to his left. And then it begins! A glorious, soulful, ragged, punky, hoodoo roar. Two-fisted organ lines executed with total finesse and Liberace-destroying showmanship, underlying two gloriously untutored voices howling into the night. As much vaudeville as Max’s Kansas City. It’s adrenalin dance music that goes straight to your skull. The Drum Buddy demo is, as always, stunning, this time with some subtle hip-hop undertones. And I should point out that a mystery woman in a black-and-white outfit (split down the middle, Two-Face style) joins in on maracas for the last half of the set.

 And when they end the night with Quintron turning one of the headlights on his organ over to yours truly and saying, “We dedicate the next song…. to this guy” and launching into an utterly demented reading of “Place Unknown,” well, all pretense of journalistic integrity goes flying out a series of ever-bigger windows. This is the music that gets you through the day. And the night.

Originally published in Ink 19.