Haunted Hearts toured Japan last year, but stateside shows have been scant. On this night, billed as NY's "only opportunity to hear Initiation played in full," Haunted Hearts managed to succeed while bringing few surprises to the table. The five piece band played Initiation front to back, tracks one thru eight in order, while sounding as confident and tight as though they're the tour-tested road warriors that they aren't.
"Wanna hear us fuck up another new one?" grinned Torche main man Steve Brooks midway through his band's set at Vitus. Although Torche attempted a couple new jams during this show, aborting them both in humorously self-deprecating fashion, the focus at this show was squarely on Torche's (awesome) back catalog.
The set began with gusto behind a trio of classics from Torche's excellent Meanderthal album, "Grenades," "Healer" and "Across the Shields," before one of the new ones. "Pirana" and "Sandstorm" came later, along with a few from their more recent Harmonicraft album, including the uber-hooky "Kicking," "Letting Go," and "Kiss Me Dudely." "Harmonslaught," one of their heaviest jams, was played towards the end of the set, and elicited probably the most spirited reaction from the crowd, who generally seemed to favor the slower, sludgier shit played during the evening.
Props to opener Sannhet, too, and their hypnotic blend of black metal / noise / shoegaze / etc. etc. etc. See below for video from their performance.
Because I only got turned onto Destruction Unit's great recent album after they came through on their proper tour last year, this would be the first time I'd seen them live. On this night, what there was of their frustratingly brief set was awesome, although a lot of bad shit (delayed set time; awful opening acts; cramped room full of chatty idiots) conspired to make this evening waaaaay less enjoyable than it should've been. But let's not spend any more time thinking about that bullshit if we can avoid it.
Destruction Unit finally took the stage after 11:30, following a maddeningly long setbreak which featured the band openly puffing a bowl and wandering around aimlessly onstage. Although they played less than a half hour of music (seriously, wtf), what they *did* play was fucking excellent. At one point during the set, I realized "well, this is probably as close as I'm going to get to seeing the mighty Comets on Fire perform ever again, so I might as well enjoy it." And enjoy it I did. For the uninitiated, Destruction Unit's fierce, druggy noise rock evokes the work of other artists like Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion, TV Ghost, Stooges, early Crystal Antlers, and said aforementioned Comets on Fire - heavy on aggressive, memorable riffs and mind-bending gusts of feedback.
From memory (read: this is probably inaccurate) Destruction Unit performed about four or five songs, all of them from Deep Trip, but none of them being the stellar "God Trip." I'm pretty sure they opened with "Final Flight," which was frickin incredible, and (uh, I think) we also got "Slow Death Sounds," "Bumpy Road," and the Stooges-indebted "Night Loner" (see above for video). These guys are pummelingly, excruciatingly LOUD, as any band boasting three guitarists and two drummers should be, and they really get after it onstage. No navel gazing here, instead plenty of onstage histrionics as befitting a band whose music is so heavily swathed in squall and feedback.
So, a pretty damn good set - I only wish there had been more of it. Their upcoming tour takes them from their home state of Arizona to the west coast, back to the midwest, and down through Texas over the coming weeks - check out their itinerary at the bottom of this page.
When I moved to Brooklyn during summer '08, I found myself going out to a ton of "extreme" metal shows, which very quickly converted me into being a fan of the (at the time) burgeoning black metal genre. There's something to be said about cranking every aspect of a musical performance up to eleven, and that's what I found appealing - there was, quite literally, no other presentation that one could witness in the live setting that was as intense.
However, after a bit, the orthodoxy of the genre really started to piss me off. When "kvlt" jackasses began attacking (and occasionally physically threatening) Liturgy's Hunter Hunt Hendrix for injecting some originality into the genre was a real turn-off, and left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Finally, I actually passed the fuck out while listening to a Krallice album during a plane flight from Los Angeles to JFK in late '09. A month later, I wrote a review of another black metal album as being "technically accomplished; bone-crushingly loud; forged from unimpeachable integrity; and virtually impossible to listen to in its entirety in one sitting." Yikes!
So, fast forward to a couple months ago, when a friend gave me Sunbather a month prior to its official release. My first listen to the album left me truly moved - for me, Deafheaven has breathed life into a tired archetype, infusing black metal's unflinching brutality with the delicate, emotive grace of Explosions in the Sky, with a definite apprecation of (and penchant for manipulating) quiet / loud dynamics.
At this show, I was unprepared for the singer's emo-inflected stage presence, near-constant posing, and, uh, his black gloves. I've read several rave reviews of Deafheaven's live show, but for whatever reason, I just wasn't buying it on this night.
This was my first time seeing Dope Body live, and I'm glad I made it out to catch their set of sweaty, shouty squall. Before playing the above song, "Leather Head," singer Andrew Laumann introduced it as "a Beach House cover - it's called 'I Fucking Hate Myself and I Wish I Was Dead.'" Pretty much sums it all up right there!
Got to Vitus 9ish. The evening's first band, whose name I'm not going to bother sharing here, started their set with generic-sounding bassy noise riffs (which, truth be told, normally I can get into) but then one of 'em started pouring talcum powder all over himself for some reason... I mean, really? Diediediediedie oh sweet mercy die. For the record, it's not like I'm against combining performance art with music (remember Monotonix? They were fucking awesome!!) but this was just lame, unless you're really into breathing some fat shithead's second-hand ball powder. I immediately walked out / fuck off.
After listening to the Yankees get the shit knocked out of them on my car radio for about a half hour, I reentered Vitus and was treated to Dope Body's sweaty, passionate performance. It seemed with every new note I was reminded of another band that I like, so I'm just going to write down the first five I can think of here - Fugazi; Rage Against the Machine; Dub Trio; Drive Like Jehu; fellow Baltimore contemporary noisemakers Roomrunner.
Wish I had more to report about Scout Niblett's set, but I wound up leaving after the first six or seven songs. Honestly, it wasn't anything about Niblett's performance that sent me away, rather the realization that I hate Vitus when it's this uncomfortably oversold. I'm enjoying Scout's newest record, It's Up to Emma (check out the chilling first single, "Gun," here), and what I saw of her set was really good, as she switched back and forth between solo, unaccompanied numbers and songs further fleshed out with drums and a second guitar. Check below for some videos of the "why the hell did I even bother" variety, which feature a very small amount of Scout herself and a very large amount of the backs of people's heads.
[Blackout's press photo, a/k/a the band photo that renders all previous and future band photos irrelevant.]
In all my years of excessive show-going, I don't think I'd ever attempted attending three different shows in one day, but with me having absolutely nothing else going on this lovely Saturday, I figured why the heck not. Right?
First stop was Union Pool for the second installment in their 2013 Summer Thunder weekly series. I've seen scores of shows at Union Pool, but this was the first time I'd ever seen one outdoors. Got there in time to catch the second half of opener Love As Laughter's set, which was highlighted by J Mascis joining in on guitar for the final song, a raunchy, slow two-chord monster that sounded an awful lot like Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane."
This foreshadowed what was *supposed* to come next - a performance by Mascis' Heavy Blanket side project. I thought that the Heavy Blanket album was too wanky, but I can totally get behind the psychedelic / bluesy / gratuitous guitar solo thing in the live setting. Unfortunately, with Mascis and his backing band right in the middle of their first song, they were told by what appeared to be venue management that the show was shut down because of noise complaints, and they complied after finishing that first song. This really sucks, and it doesn't bode well for the remainder of the Summer Thunder series, one would think, because it really wasn't all that loud.
[I talked with a few Union pool employees after the show who told me that the bar's elderly neighbors had complained about the noise, and Heavy Blanket posted on their Facebook today that, in fact, the cops had insisted on shutting it down. And simply moving the show inside wasn't an option. Sucks.]
Anyway, the show getting shut down was only the second worst thing that happened here, with the worst clearly being the dude wearing a Paramore tee shirt. Wtf? [Oh, yeah - don't bother watching the below video unless you really, really like looking at the backs of people's heads.]
So, tail between legs, I headed back to my apartment for a couple comfy hours before heading over to Vitus for White Widows with Blackout. Although I've heard both of these bands' studio work (the White Widows EP is pretty damn good), I'd never seen either of them live before. This was a free show, serving as a video shoot for a White Widows song. [Note: it looks like the band has officially changed its name to White Widows Pact, which makes sense, seeing as how "White Widows" was such a good name it had to have been used before. At this show, vocalist David Castillo introduced the band as "White Widows," so who knows.]
Blackout's set consisted largely of dirge-slow stoner / doom licks. Here's a small, unsatisfying tidbit:
White Widows was up next, and they brought the thunder, featuring heavy-as-fuck thrashy licks, dual lead vocals, and lightning quick drumming. These guys are tight as hell and I highly recommend their live show.
Needing to catch up on my pregame, I busted it out of Vitus a bit early and hurried back to my apartment to fuel up on cheap vodka. J train into Bowery, then walked over to Sullivan Hall... got inside at 11, just as Lawn Boys were finishing tuning up. This was my second time seeing these guys live, with the first being in late January, also at Sullivan Hall. I raved about the band's performance at that show, but they've somehow managed to further improve their jamming. The set was crammed to the gills with impressive type II improvisation.
Comparing any cover act to the band whose songs they're interpreting is rarely a flattering exercise, but Lawn Boys really stand out in that regard. For one, the song selection is spot-on, with nary a "Joy" or "Show of Life" or "Alaska" in sight, and these guys' attention to detail is really remarkable. What's more, they're unafraid to give big-time workouts to songs that Phish themselves rarely "jam out" these days - notably "AC / DC Bag," "Gumbo" and "Destiny" (the latter of which Phish has never really jammed out, to my knowledge) in the first set alone.
Highlights for me were the hilarious crowd participation during the "Secret Language" bits, said aforementioned "Bag," and "Gumbo," a "Gin" which seemingly channeled the legendary Great Went version, a jam on Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" jam in "2001," and, oh yeah, they nailed "Glide." Just a great show, with a rowdy, appreciative crowd, an extremely talented band, and holy shitballs what a setlist:
Set II: Ha Ha Ha$, Carini% > Twist&, Tweezer* > Ghost > 2001+, Gotta Jibboo, Harry Hood, Run Like an Antelope
Encore: Character Zero, Loving Cup, Tweezer Reprise
*with all fall down, Simpsons, and random note secret language in intro
**with Sand jam
***with Mind Left Body jam
@with NICU tease and extended Theme from the Bottom jam
# with plinko jam
$ band announced this was the 100th Phish song they've covered live
% brief Mind Left Body jam
& Oye Como Va jam
* with brief Tweezer Reprise tease in intro and with random note secret language
+ with Get Lucky [Daft Punk] jam
Lawn Boys played for over three hours with about a 20 minute setbreak, and I wound up not leaving Sullivan Hall until after 2:30 AM, and not getting home until about 3:30 thanks to the total joke that is late night J service. A pretty great Saturday, as well as great primer for Summer Tour '13 which.... HOLY SHIT I JUST REALIZED SUMMER TOUR IS LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!! YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!
It's impossible to ignore Pentagram's influence on the doom / stoner genre, but that's not the real story here. Before buying a ticket for this show, I was aware of Pentagram frontman Bobby Liebling's reputation as a self-destructive, unpredictable wildman, but it wasn't until I recently watched the documentary about Liebling, Last Days Here, that I had any understanding of the true depths of the man's struggles. If you haven't already seen the film itself (I highly recommend it; it's excellent), I suggest you at least watch the following clips before reading any further.
Chilling stuff. Bobby deserves a ton of credit for somehow managing to coming back from four decades of hard drug abuse, as does his friend and manager Sean "Pellet" Pelletier for his patience and persistence in helping Bobby overcome his demons. Bobby Liebling has a wife and young child now, which should serve as a reminder as to how quickly one can actually change one's life, even in the face of what may seem like an impossible situation.
It's not exaggerating to mention that the mere fact that Liebling is still alive and performing is a miracle. Musically, at this show, the shit was tight, and his new backing band was more than up to the challenge of performing a full set of Pentagram classics. Splendid work, Mr. Liebling, and may you perform for many, many more years.
I was surprised when I discovered this Diamond Head date on my show-going radar - after all, as NWOBHM stalwarts, they're responsible for directly inspiring early Metallica, and I had no clue they were still touring at this point. Lars Ulrich is often quoted as saying, "when we made Kill 'Em All, it was just Diamond Head and Motorhead." That right there is more than enough reason to shell out the big bucks to see these chaps live, right?
Well, sorta. At the time I bought the ticket, I wasn't aware that there was only *one* original member in this incarnation of Diamond Head, although I suppose if you're going to pick just one member to see live, guitarist Brian Tatler would be a good choice. Of course, original singer / lyricist Sean Harris and Tatler are considered by many to be the Jagger / Richards of NWOBHM, legendarily composing their influential riffs and lyrics in Tatler's bedroom at his parents' home, so it would've been cool if he were performing, but apparently these guys hate each other, blah blah blah.
I was still pretty exhausted from the previous evening's double shot of shows, so I got a late start on this one. I arrived at Saint Vitus right in the middle of Canadian power metal band Cauldron's classic metal-inspired set of riffs, nimble lead playing, and blinding drumming. The packed room seemed to appreciate them, as well - solid opening act.
Diamond Head's set followed, and, not gonna lie, although I've listened to their better-known studio stuff, the only songs I'm really familiar with are the Metallica-associated songs ("Am I Evil," "The Prince," "Helpless," "It's Electric," "Sucking My Love"), and I have to say the band made a serious error in judgment by playing none of those until the second half of the set. People were getting restless. Also, it's tough to pull off performing songs about demons, witches, and such when your singer so closely resembles Carson from Queer Eye.
The second half of the set paid off, however. The best of Diamond Head's material is comprised of some great fuckin' riffage, with my personal favorites being "The Prince" and "Am I Evil," with the latter (of course) being an on-off staple in Metallica's live sets throughout the years. The crowd had clearly come to hear these tracks in particular, too, and responded eagerly to each of those songs' unmistakable opening riffs. A couple of middle-aged Polish chicks even hopped up on the stack of gear to the right of the stage, rocking the fuck out to much to the delight of the band. Overall, a worthwhile set, even if they probably played too much midtempo stuff I wasn't familiar with.
I find it hard to believe that this is the first item I've written about Austerity Program for this site, considering how many kajillions of keystrokes I dedicated to the band on my previous music blog. This is entirely due to their lack of recent news / shows - I can't "report" it if they're not "doing" it.
A little history - I first stumbled upon this band mere days after moving to Williamsburg in May '08, walking in during their set supporting Pelican at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and I was instantly hooked. I immediately bought both of their releases after the show at the merch table, and their excellent Black Madonna stayed in rotation for a loooooooooong time. But what do they sound like? Imagine Shellac's precision and wittiness, filtered through a bold, sweaty Dischord-ish presentation. Only a fuckload heavier.
After a few beers at GPT, we walked up to St. Vitus, having a few more as Austerity Program tuned up. They began their set with "Song 25" off of their excellent 2010 EP, Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn, heading right into "Song 26" next (see above for video). Next up was the finest song ever written about a vengeful, doomed cartoon character, "Song 27," followed by a new song. Although I hardly even noticed it at the time, they wound up playing the entirety of Backsliders, before closing the six song set with a second new song (see below for video of that one). It was great to see one of Brooklyn's best bands back at it after a lengthy layoff, and it was also great for a change to see folks other than myself urging Austerity Program to PLAY MORE FUCKING SHOWS.
After the set, caught up with some friends before heading back inside to catch Kowloon Walled City's set. They had a sound that reminded a friend of Young Widows, and I definitely had to agree there. The disparity between their ferocious tunes and their understated, bunch-of-regular-guys stage presence was remarkable.
Didn't stick around for Zozobra, so nothing much to report there. Ta ta for now!
When I first heard news of this show, my first thought was that this was a cruel April Fool's joke, weeks in advance. Fortunately, this was a real live honest to goodness show, and this would be the most intimate Russican Circles show I've seen since I caught them opening for Dalek at Mercury Lounge in February '08. Having recently galivanted across the country as the undercard on a bill featuring Coheed and Cambria / Between the Buried and Me, these guys spent a couple months playing the big rooms; their NYC stop on that tour was at Radio City.
Still not sure how I feel about seeing shows at Saint Vitus. Yes, the sound is great, and, yes it's nice to have a legit metal bar reasonably close to my apartment. [deleted a couple sentences here. Changed my mind n' stuff.] Whatever, as long as St. Vitus keeps booking great acts, I'll keep coming back in spite of that.
Was glad to run into Justin from Austerity Program at the show - there hasn't been much news from his band lately, but he shared that they've recently completed writing an album's worth of material. With Hydra Head now out of the picture, they're looking to release music on their own going forward, and they've apparently gotten some major hurdles out of the way in getting the infrastructure set up for that. I was also told that Austerity Program would be opening for Zozobra at Saint Vitus in just a few days (check back on Thursday for my review of that show).
Day-of, St. Vitus still had "TBA" listed as the opening act for this show. I put two and two together, hoping that St. Vitus-affilited band White Widows would be added to the bill, and although this didn't happen, I enjoyed both opening acts plenty. The first band, Descender, had a sound (rock-solid riffy / hook laden post-hardcore with seamless tempo shifts) and presentation (intense) which reminded me quite a bit of Goes Cube. The second band, Primitive Weapons served their own brand of crushing post-hardcore downtuned and noisy, with their vocalist (who splits duty with White Widows) seemingly spending as much time agitating shit in the audience as he did onstage.
At setbreak, the house music noticeably switched over from Saint Vitus' usual soundtrack of classic thrash / stoner / sludge to a steady, slow drone, foreshadowing Russian Circles' set. For those who have never seen Russian Circles live, theirs is a blend of foreboding atmospherics and dazzling metal chops, similar to Pelican in some ways, but with much more of an emphasis on quiet vs LOUD dynamics and tension release.
Taking the eerily backlit stage around eleven, Russian Circles' set on this night reminded me of why these guys are such a formidable live act - for the songs flow seamlessly from one into the other for lengthy stretches, bound together by ethereal, ambient minor key tones. The playing blends together the chugging riffs and flash-fingered soloing of thrash with the glacial grandiosity of Mogwai, dramatically punctutated by calm-during-the-storm minimalist segments.
The first half of the set (or so) seemed to be performed as one lengthy, multipart suite with several familiar themes from throughout their career popping up during the 20+ minute slab of music. The evening's highlights (for me) began shortly after this, with the band lurching into the excellent "Carpe" from their debut album, Enter. This seemed to wake the crowd up a bit as well, as the pit opened up directly in front of where I was standing, sending me to the bar for some water. (Check here for a brief, crappy video I took at this point in the show for proof of why I went to the back of the room.)
The final two songs of the evening were met with the greatest cheers of the evening by the sweaty crowd. The epic "Mladek" is probably the band's compositional masterpiece, beginning with gorgeous, bordering-on-inspirational arpeggios, and somehow seamlessly winding its way to a crushing conclusion that includes the most brutal playing in the Russian Circles catalog. After that, perpetual set closer "Death Rides a Horse" (I've seen the band at least seven times, and they've closed every set I've ever seen with this standout) galloped along to its fiery conclusion, managing to cram everything that's great about this band into as satisfying a set closer as there is.
[I feel I should mention something incredibly odd which I THINK I saw at this show - two smaller guests were accompanied by a pair of massive, left-tackle sized dudes, and if I'm not mistaken (I was not the only crowd member to have come to this bizarre conclusion), the bigger dudes were serving as the smaller peoples' bodyguards, standing with them on the edge of the pit and protecting them from stray elbows. Good work if you can get it, I guess!]