This show took place on February 5, 2011 at The Caledonia. These are some pictures and video I took of local hardcore band American Cheeseburger’s last performance. Svagist and Atlanta band Primate also performed. Primate features Mastodon guitarist Bill Kelliher, who I managed to snag an interview with. Check that out here: http://thesilvertongueonline.com/?p=22416. He talks about a new Mastodon record, so if you’re interested . You can read my full review of the show here: http://thesilvertongueonline.com/?p=22584.
The mosh pit was so intense it was literally impossible to get a good shot. But the video should give you a good idea of the level of chaos that ensued.
On Friday 28th local progressive death metal band Shark Heart performed at the Caledonia with fellow locals Dierz Eve and Manger. The performance was typical of the brutal band whose terrifying metal songs have been honed over the course of 12 years playing together.
When I arrived at the Caledonia it was relatively empty. Most people I assumed were going to see the Waaves show at the adjacent 40 Watt Club. The Caledonia was unusually quiet and peaceful – a veritable omen of what was to come. (more…)
Bit Brigade, a local guitar driven rock group who perform live versions of video game soundtracks as a gamer beats the game, performed on Monday at The Caledonia. On this occasion they played the soundtrack to the original Ninja Gaiden circa 1988 for the NES.
Featuring members of local math rock groups We Versus The Shark and Cinemechanica, the group has existed for several years and continually impresses with their intricate and synchronized playing. Their performance as “Ninjaband” was the first of a five day stint which is taking them up the east coast through North Carolina and ending at the ninth annual Magfest in Alexandria, Va. The bands choice to start their tour on 01-11-2011 is fitting due to the binary nature of their band name (“Bit” Brigade, anybody?).
Despite the blizzard hurtling inches of snow on the city and freezing many of the roads, a crowd of thirty or so fans attended. In place of an opening act (understandable in consideration of the logistical problems caused by the weather), the gamer Noah McCarthy warmed up his fingers and the crowd with a speed run through Mega Man II which took only a mere twenty minutes.
Bit Brigade entered the stage and explosively played through the title screen before the start of the first level. On the large projection screen at the back of the stage the small Ninja character ran across a horizontal playing field and slashed at his foes. McCarthy quickly dispatched through the first boss at the end of the level who exploded as the band created a loud crashing noise with their instruments. This soon to become familiar sound would make several recurrences through-out the set, each time after the master gamer easily dispatched his digital victims.
Typically, it took around two to five minutes for McCarthy to defeat a level, or “Act,” as they were called in the game. After each of the five acts there was a cut scene which featured the animated face of the Ninja, his adversaries, and a female comrade. During the cut scenes the band would play melodic arrangements which set the tone for the next level, or emphasized certain words. Their guitars were tinny, electric, and biting-a faithful rock’n’roll recreation of the original 8-bit audio. Their performance showcased a genuine love for the classic game and a fusion of highly technical rocking with highly technical gaming.
On their website the band states of Ninjaband “Clocking in at forty-five minutes and encompassing over sixty unique cues and some of the most acrobatically challenging platform gameplay ever created, Ninjaband is indisputably the most epic game in our roster and truly showcases the meticulous attention to detail we pride ourselves on.”
Manray are a math rock quintet from Athens, GA. Although only having formed in June, they have already created quite a buzz due to frequent performances and a recent tour with local rockers Lazer/Wulf. Comprised of three brothers Ryan, Jordan, and Derek Oliviera, they are completed by guitarist Gene Woolfolk. All members share vocal duties. Their first recorded offering, a four song EP entitled “I Think I heard Something…”, fuses psychedelia, math rock, and indie rock into an amalgam of twisted rhythms, complexly arranged lead lines, and wide dynamic changes.
While some have cited Manray as a “math rock” group, this EP highlights a much more psychedelic sound. Many songs feature sustained feedback, pulsing hand clap rhythms, and airy chord voicings. The title track opens as such with interplaying guitar lines that create deceivingly simple, yet amusing melodies. The vocals consist of a series of distant “woaaah’s”, essentially making the song an instrumental. A tropical and light atmosphere is created by the guitars, but it becomes overpowered by crashing cymbals as the song moves between load and soft sections. Where drums do take over they tend to overshadow the rest of the sounds. Despite this, it is an interesting contrast between soft guitars and harsh drumming.
After a brief bass driven interlude, the third song, “Blue Lights: On,” takes the band to a harder, more metal-oriented sound. The riffs rely heavily on hammer-ons, pull-offs, and quickly ascending runs. The chaotic drum style of Derek Olivia fits better here than on the first song. True vocals and lyrics are introduced as Gene and Ryan alternate throaty screams and more moving clean vocals. Their vocals help fill out the texture of the sound which is a bit thin due to lack of rhythm guitar or consistent kick drum. Quick rhythm changes and slippery drum fills help to make the track a highlight of the EP.
The last song, “Burning Bridges”, begins with another hard driving riff which alludes to some metal or punk influences. Unfortunately, this time the vocals (shared by Jordan and Gene) seem to fall lackluster, especially in the verses. Their placement in the mix could be culprit, however, I believe they clash too much with the busy riffing. These sections just sound too clustered and the bizarre rhythms detract from having any sort of memorable melody. The clean vocals that follow during the bridge are more successful. They seem to float over the riffs which are less chaotic. More rhythm stops highlighted by harmonized lead guitar lines continue through the song and traditional power chord style rhythms also make an appearance adding to the diverse (at times overwhelming) variety.
The recording quality of the EP is quite primeval. Better compression, overall EQing, and attention to detail and creativity during the mixing stage could’ve brought the songs to life. While a raw, unfiltered sound may work well for a live mix, it doesn’t translate so well to a production quality CD which will be listened to in car stereos, on iPod’s, etc.
[WARNING: Editorial to follow]
As a metal enthusiast I see a need for a certain amount of groove in all music whether it be rock, jazz, or even classical. To me the math rock genre seems to say “Screw the groove. Were gonna play freaky time signatures to show that we’re incredibly competent counters.” While this may not be true of all bands labeled under the genre’s canopy, it does raise a critical question relevant to all genres featuring highly technical musicianship: Where does the line between a lot and too much end? On their first EP, Manray have packed a ton of different ideas into essentially three songs. To me, it is overwhelming and not very well conceived. Their song writing abilities simply have not caught up with their technical proficiency.
Many artists today are turning to strange, call it progressive, musical tones to set their sound apart from the rest. However, in so doing they have established weirdness as a standard. I would like to see Manray set themselves apart from Cinemechanica, Powers, and whoever else they take influence from by being less obviously mathematical. Some subtlety and restraint could help propel this band to their full potential.
1. I Think I Heard Something…
3. Blue Lights: On
4. Burning Bridges
The first WUOG Fest was held on the nights of Nov 11, 12, and 13. Bands from all corners of the local Athens music scene performed at a different venue each night culminating in a huge shin-dig at The Forty Watt.
Night 1 – Fantastic Folly at The Farm 255
The first night took place at Farm 255, an outdoor type venue with an open patio. Sleeping Friends was the first group to perform. On this night they performed as a three piece consisting of bass, drums, and guitar. The members were Jason Coombs, Rob Howerton, and Charlie Key. Their songs were characterized by a chimey clean guitar tone drenched in reverb which played rhythmic chords to keep time. The drummer kept time as well with a constant kick drum pulse and spanks on the low floor drum. Few cymbal crashes and only the occasional accent on a hi-hat kept the songs mellow. Oddly, the drummer kept a sheet over his kit through their entire set. The bass guitarist was the highlight of the performance. His moving rhythms provided a needed melodic direction for their songs. Despite being somewhat boring, the yelpy vocals were entertaining and fit the music well.
Necey Gallons was up next. As a solo guitar and voice act, little set up was required and he quickly got the playing underway. His voice was a high falsetto which soared delicately over his rhythmic guitar chords. He reminded me of a much smoother John Mayer. His guitar playing was mostly in a strummed acoustic style, however, he played an electric guitar on this night. The overall impact of his folly sound would’ve been improved if he’d gone totally acoustic.
Witches were the third band to play. Led by Cara Beth Catalino on guitar, the three piece performed a raucous set of tropical desert rock tunes. The guitar was extremely loud and pushed with just enough dirt so that it was overdriven. The songs were mostly strummed guitar chords with occasional lead fills used as decorations. Her low voice complimented the sound well and added to its laid back intensity. Although not a personal favorite of mine, the band seemed to being enjoying themselves and received a good audience reaction.
Around midnight, the last band to play, Marshmallow Coast (sometimes abbreviated M Coast), began. The set started with Andy Gonzales’ looped guitar noodlings. Drummer Carlton Owens played synth pad fills interspersed with simple, but groovy beats. After a gradual buildup, the bassist joined in. They jammed on a funky groove before the volume receded and Andy softly sung into the mic “They were wrong and we was right.” Those were the only words in the bands entire set, which
effectively spanned a single song jam. He repeated the line over and over, each time with the a Southern accent and hypnotic inflection.The buildups and crescendos, and joking nature of the band made them a joy to behold and best of the first night. According to Andy’s parting words, the band plays a different set each time they perform. (i.e. a different single song jam.) Definitely a fun group worth seeing live.
Night 2 – Giggidy, Giggidy Awesome at Go Bar
The second night of WUOG Fest was held at the Go Bar. The bar was dimly lit with blue lights and had silver streamers hung all around. Being late at night, and cold out, the place reminded me of a secluded igloo, but with a bar and stage. If only Santa and his elves had come to play “Jingle Bell Rock.” Alas..
The first group to perform that night was Arturo In Letto. Formerly a solo act of local WUOG staffer AJ Weiss, the band has recently been reformed into a four piece with Max Wang on drums, Lee Markey on bass, and Lindsay Clark on keys. AJ continues to play guitar and handle most vocals. Lindsay was absent for this performance, so Lee took over some of the keyboard parts. Their performance at the Go Bar was very sincere and fit the atmosphere of the venue perfectly. Max Wang’s shimmering Hi-Hat style trademarked most songs and kept the set consistent. Most notably, AJ’s strumming skills were a lesson in Indie Rock-style guitar playing. His shifty bar chords formed the basis for his cool vocal melodies. Of all the “Indie-Pop” style guitar players I’ve seen, AJ is the most skilled and adept at creating chords which not only compliment his voice, but create a unique basis for interesting songs. Their set concluded with a higher energy bit which featured mild overdrive and some phasing effects on the guitar.
After a thirty minute wait, Yo Soybean appeared on stage. They performed a stripped down set as a duo with only acoustic guitar accompaniment and fiddle to their harmonized voices. They got off to a great start with pretty ballad-esque folk songs which wooed the Go Bar audience into a trance like state. Their personal songs worked perfectly in the intimate environment. Unfortunately, instrument trouble plagued the guitar player whose amp began cutting out about halfway through their set. After struggling through a couple songs, he decided to just unplug and play fully acoustically. This was a step in the right direction for the duo. The raw, unplugged sound and clean voices played better with the natural acoustics of the room and made the experience that much more intimate. They were the most memorable performance of the second night.
Tumbleweed Stampede, another WUOG band, took the stage next. Comprised of Benjamin Papillon, Colin Frawley, Tuna Fortuna, Stephen Pfannkuche, Greg Callas, Jake Wells, Alan Hamm, and Andrew Zimdars, the group plays raucous rock ‘n’ roll with punk influences. Having three guitarists, a drummer, and a bassist; the tiny stage was packed with instruments and people. Their songs were high energy, and often played at brisk tempos. Although clean and chordal, the songs were technical. Wide dynamic changes, bluesy solos, and Flamenco sounding bits energized the crowd, eventually leading to a jump party in the middle of the room. I found their music to be interesting, but not appropriate for such a small venue which absorbed a lot of the sound they produced and caused them to be muffled. Their bassist’s high energy moves and flailing was entertaining to watch, and the unison guitar swinging during their last song also helped to keep them not only aurally pleasing, but visually as well. Too many bands just simply stand on the stage and don’t react to the sound of their music. However, Tumbleweed Stampede did not.
The last group to perform that night was Abandon The Earth Mission. On this night they performed as a duo of Josh Mckay on keyboards and dulcimer, and Winston Parker as bassist and DJ. They took plenty of time to carefully assemble the stage with their intricate array of electronic gear and wires. Watching them set up a stage is almost as interesting as watching them actually produce the music. The attention to detail during the set up and in their performance created sounds which were nearly identical to their recorded music. Despite being a metal head at heart, ATEM’s dark atmospherics and slow but gripping melodies have made me a lover of their music. Unfortunately, I’d have to say that the group’s wall of sound did not work so well in The Go Bar. Similar to Tumbleweed Stampede, a lot of their atonal and delicate tones were not very audible.
Night 3 – Final Frontier Voyage at The 40 Watt
The last night of WUOG Fest took place at The 40 Watt in downtown. I arrived a little late on this night and missed Green Gerry’s set entirely as well as part of Bigfoot’s set. Apologies to both.
Bigfoot are a three piece guitar bass and drums power trio featuring Wyatt Pless, Alan Lee, and Marshall Sanchez whose unpredictable sound is reminiscent of 1960’s psychedelic rock acts. Lead singer and guitarist Wyatt’s performance was extremely energetic and inspired on this night. Most of the songs seemed like bass and drum funk grooves with Wyatt’s guitar playing drifting over intermittently. His vocals were percussively stuttered and gradually built to a manic yelp at the end of phrases. It was very organic sounding and the group’s chemistry came across beautifully. During their last couple songs Wyatt drew a piece of folded paper out of his pocket and began reading from it ferociously. I had no idea what he was saying, what was on the paper, or what it meant, but that wasn’t important. The angst and tension he projected over the audience was commanding of attention, and undeniable. His raging passion continued as he read for the entirety of two songs. Through out their set a Tv set up on a table in the middle of the stage showed what I think was an old non-cartoon Disney movie. It just added another perplexing element to the bands spasmatic set. They finished their set with a two beat country romp sung by bassist Alan Lee. After Bigfoot, the bar was set high for the rest of the evening to match, and for me, it was not.
Oryx & Crake are a 9-piece Atlanta-based electro-folk group fronted by Ryan Peoples and Rebekah Goode-Peoples. hey have recently released their first self-titled album. They took about thirty minutes to set up the stage with their plethora of keyboards, drums, computers, a stripped down drumset, and strings. The ensemble began their first song with Mac driven beats, rolling tom-tom accents, acoustic guitar, banjo, electric guitar, violin, cello, and synth. Unfortunately, from the start, their sound seemed bloated. Although the banjo constantly played, it was almost never audible, and few other instruments were immediately discernable without purposefully searching for their specific attack color within the dense mix. The voices were always on top (a good thing), and the electronic drum beat was also, but most of the chord or accompaniment instruments were sadly lost. A major highlight was tenor lead vocalist Ryan whose voice carried so much power he had to step a foot back from the mic to prevent from overloading it. The DJ’s mysterious wheel-like theremin was also intriguing.
Venice Is Sinking, a local Folk-pop band led by Daniel Lawson and Karolyn Troupe, played next. At first, they seemed very reminiscent of Oryx & Crake with their laid back, slowed down, acoustic vibe. Keys, violin, trumpet, and an electric hollowbody guitar blended more seamlessly, though, creating a tighter sound. Their set culminated in them inviting the members of the night’s bands on stage for a sing along to their song “Bardstown Road.” Tons of people filled the stage and swayed as they and the audience sang in unison. In the truest spirit of togetherness and the power of music to uplift people, this was WUOG Fest’s most touching moment.
Reptar was the final band of the night. They are comprised of Graham Ulicny on guitar, William Kennedy on keyboards, Ryan Engelberger on bass, and Andrew McFarland on drums. They share members with local favorites Geisterkatzen and CoCo Rico. William Kennedey, keyboardist and festival organizer, entered the stage first wearing a black graduation gown, perhaps alluding to his upcoming graduation from UGA. Starting with immediate energy, the band went into their first song. The music was intensely loud, up beat, and evoked much dancing in the audience. William became the party leader on this night as he jumped and fired up the crowd with wild stage play. During one song he beat on a floor tom with a big red bat like some character from Donkey Kong, and through most he would jump three feet in the air with each beat. After a couple songs he thanked everyone for coming out to the first WUOG Fest and wished that it would become an annual event. Next, a horde of costumed people came on stage. The group danced and held up street signs behind the band. One guy in particular was very animated in his stage acting. He shredded a news paper into strips, balled them up and kissed them before delicately tossing each wad into the crowd. He also drew intensely on one newspaper for the duration of an entire song. At its conclusion he held the paper up for everyone to see. Nothing was discernable on the newspaper, whatever ink he drew with blended in too well, but the expression on his face was unforgetable. It was of amazement. Their set was fun, entertaining, and a befitting closer to the third night of WUOG Fest.
The first WUOG Fest was a great occasion which brought together many different genres of music and people. For three nights in November of 2010 the party raged deep into the night with soulful tunes, romping guitar, grooving bass, and soaring vocals.
Thanks to the awesome Bianca Wilson-Price for accompanying me on the first two nights and snapping pictures. Additional thanks to Mike White and Kristen Danch-Powell for the use of their photos of Abandon The Earth Mission and the third night, respectively.
At a recent show at The Caledonia Lounge in Athens, GA, I sat down with Joe Preston, performing that night as the solo act, Thrones, for a brief interview touching on musical theory and the future of Thrones. Preston is best known for his early work with Earth, the Melvins, and more recently with Sunn O))), High On Fire, and Harvey Milk.
Brad Olsen: Hi Joe, it’s good to meet you. You’re performing tonight as your solo act, Thrones. Does being a one-man-band have many benefits?
Joe Preston: Yeah. In a way it lets me express myself without limits.
Brad Olsen: You play bass as well as sing live. Do you write your own lyrics?
Joe Preston: My “lyrics” are all stream of consciousness. I just say whatever feels natural. Of course, after performing night after night, a lot of the same stuff tends to get repeated.
Brad Olsen: Who were some of your earliest influences?
Joe Preston: Oh I was into all the usual stuff. Kiss, Alice Cooper. But I wouldn’t say it shows in my playing too much. Too many bands try hard to imitate the stuff they like. I don’t wanna be like anybody else. I don’t categorize myself into any genre because my influences are so broad.
Brad Olsen: How often do you write? Any new music in the works?
Joe Preston: I used to ferociously, but not so much anymore. I just released “Wage War” [a 7” on Conspiracy records] this year and I’ve got a split with Sedan, a band from Washington [state] coming soon.
Brad Olsen: It’s all written and recorded?
Joe Preston: I’m done with the recording and sequencing. I just need to mix it and then it’ll be released.
On Sunday November 14th New York Black Metal band Liturgy performed with Athens locals Geisterkatzen at Farm 255 in Athens, GA. The night was filled with noise and brutal beauty.
Geisterkatzen were first to perform. Consisting of guitar, drums, synth, saxophone, keyboards, and voice, the group’s name literally means “ghost cat” in German. Each member wore an identical white cat mask during the set. Combined with the ghostly sound of theremin and droning bass feedback, the cute masks were somehow made menacing. Their set consisted of two songs, each building from a simple keyboard drone, adding instruments, and crescendoing to a raucous jam. At the peak of volume drummer William Kennedy tortured his kit with mad thwaps in no predictable fashion. He was like a windmill flailing about the thing and coming up from his seat in agitation multiple times. He could hardly contain himself, while the rest of the band stood their stoically staring from beneath the cat masks. Low saxophone, squirrelly theremin, blaring keyboards, a synthesized guitar sounding like a space organ, and a steady bass line created a huge, but audible crust. For thirty minutes they deconstructed music to it’s most primitive form: sheer noise. They are one of my favorite local Athens bands.
After wheeling in their drumset, bass amp, and two guitar amps, Liturgy began their set. From the get go they wasted no time in spraying high frequency notes. I had expected blast beats and double picked riffs, but they were different. Drummer Greg Fox’s drumming technique was impeccable. He easily moved between different styles of blast and grind within songs. Watching his left hand on the snare, I saw that his arm and palm barely moved. With the mere flick of his middle and ring fingers he could send the drumstick down to the drum head at speeds which made it nearly invisible. He was cool and relaxed though their entire set and seemed to exert little energy in creating such extreme sounds.
Although it took me a second to adjust to the breakneck tempos, by the second song I began to understand what their self incurred moniker of “Transcendental Black Metal” meant. Within the buzzing terror of their sound existed beautiful chords and harmonic dissonance. Despite blast beats, harsh tone, and screeched vocals, the sounds beneath the surface were delicate and touching. They were blissful, happy, and hopeful. Somehow, Liturgy infused beauty into the chaotic noise of Black Metal. Frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s unchanging, serene facial impression only furthered the effect.
Their third song began with technical failures from bassist Tyler Dusenbury’s amp. Apparently a speaker had been blown (a recurring problem for him I later came to find). Thankfully, a member of Geisterkatzen came to the rescue with a spare cabinet. The song began with a distorted bass line which turned over several times before being joined by drums. The rhythm remained slow and subdued – a stark contrast to the previous songs-and guitars eventually joined to double the riff. For the first time in their set the twin guitars rung together on unison chords of a riff and created a stereoscopic effect within the room. Greg’s drumming in this song impressed me again with groovy combos and speedy yet simplistic tom-tom fills.
Another song, their last, matched this hypnotic groove and likewise was completely instrumental. The two songs were favorites of mine, but their speedier ones were equally entrancing in their own ways. Hunter’s complex and unusual fingerings of the guitar tended to spider their way down the high strings of the neck as he strummed at a lighting pace. After their set, the band had introduced a crowd of strangers to Transcendental Black Metal and, hopefully, garnered some new fans.
After a show at Farm 255, I sat down with drummer Greg Fox and guitarist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix of the Transcendental Black Metal band Liturgy.
Brad: Hi guys, good to meet you. You put on a very interesting show tonight.
Hunter: Thanks man. It’s good to meet you.
Brad: So I noticed a lot of your merchandise has the term “Transcendental Black Metal” printed on it. Can you explain to me what this is as opposed to “regular” Black Metal.
Greg: For me Black Metal was always a really negative term. When I was a kid I used to love the sound of it and the intensity, but I didn’t want to play music that was so dark.
Hunter: Yeah it’s a very mystical type of music. In a way all music is transcendental, but for us, Black Metal is just a way of becoming closer to nature and achieving a sort of mystical ecstasy.
Brad: In your set you played two songs, I believe the third and last, which were very different from the rest. They seemed a lot slower and focused more on riffing than blast beats.
Hunter: Yeah those are new ones we played. Our new stuff is longer and more repetitive. We’re trying to hypnotize listener’s with the riff.
Brad: So your new record is going to be a lot different from the older ones?
Hunter: Yes. We can’t keep doing the same formula on each album. I mean, the super intense stuff works well for a while, but we need to move on.
Brad: And you have a new album in the works now?
Hunter: Yeah, we’ve got songs we are working on for a new album.
Brad: So do you guys enjoy touring and writing music full time?
Hunter: Oh yeah, totally. Playing and the creative process are two separate things though, but we enjoy them both.
Grape Soda are an Athens Pop-Soul band comprised of brothers Mat and Ryan Lewis. In preparation for the release of their first LP, Grape Soda played the WUOG Live In The Lobby.
Being a two-piece drums and organ band, setting up in the lobby didn’t take very long. The operations staff quickly had all the wires run and the two brothers set up their instruments to face each other as they played. Although at first they didn’t realize they were on-air when the Big Red Light blinked off, they quickly shaped up their bantering and began the set.
Keyboardist Mat Lewis’ vocals were captivating. I spent most of the performance pondering the different qualities audible in his throated sounds. It wasn’t his range or technical skill which captivated me, though, it was his tone and soul that impressed me. His notes moved in subtle, but natural streams that ascended high briefly before dropping to the middle register at the end of phrases. I could describe his vocals as “lazy” sounding, because they sounded so relaxed, but that’s not a fair word to use. “Warm” and “vintagey” are much more appropriate. The was a certain raspiness and distortion that was introduced into his voice when singing high notes. It was atone akin to the soulful pop-singers Bono, John Lennon, and even Sting.
The two brothers connection while they played was a major highlight. They rarely made eye contact, but their sincerity in performing the songs they had written together was sheerly heart-warming in the best sense. Sonically, their music was filled with bouncing bass lines and jittery high synth bits. The drum beats seemed to be polka inspired on many songs, but changed rhythms frequently. Their third song featured this typical polka-beat, but it eventually evolved into a bluesy hi-hat groove. Melodically, the songs were inspired by what sounded like ethnic or perhaps Spanish scales which made for a very interesting listening experience. In typical Indie-Rock fashion, the band did fall back on some psychadelia tinges during their last song, but it was not overtly obvious and nor did it affect the performance in a negative way.
Grape Soda are a playfully soulful band that are sincere in their delivery and worth seeing live. Check out more on Grape Soda here: http://www.myspace.com/grapesodaforlife.