Murder By Death, Bars of Gold, Flatfoot, The Fencemen @ The Loft 4/13/12 (Review

The Fencemen –>
Flatfoot –>
Bars of Gold –>
Murder By Death –>
Capital City Film Festival –>

Lansing’s The Loft received a good turnout for their Capital City Film Festival on Friday the 13th with Murder By Death, Bars of Gold, Flatfoot and The Fencemen. Any band that is playing a show with Murder By Death is worth learning more about. After hearing them praised by the other bands and listening to their song, “Knives,” opening locals, The Fencemen, deserve our attention. Their sound and style is comparable to Spoon, but The Fencemen hold their own and have a down to earth vibe. Check out their new full length album coming out in June!

Flatfoot is another local band worth scoping out. They’re a country band fused with rock. Add a little fire and you’re listening to complimenting bass lines, heartfelt guitars, and a well accented keyboard with spirited drums that produce a Johnny Cash style at times. Add a harmonica, trumpet and lap steel and you’re listening to the kind of music you’d want to hear from a contemporary country oriented band. “Hyena” was like a 50s throw-back at a square dance, “Dirt Shirt” was a little experimental with beautifully harmonized vocals and a rich trumpet that had a comparable Larry And His Flask feel to it, and “Archangel” was a sweet rock build-up that gave off the impression of a train.

Bars of Gold played a wonderfully intense and energetic seven song show. Traveling from Ferndale, their indie-metal-hardcore feel was refreshing to listen to through battering drums, fierce strings and a gruff voice that seemingly danced while yelling. Their lead singer literally started the set in the crowd, immediately hyping up the atmosphere while the other band members were in constant motion. They gave themselves to the music with songs like, “Up;” pulsating tension that continuously grew and got steadily faster. “Birds” had a rolling westbound feel to it with metalish leads and correlating off-beats that seemed to want to burst like a dam. “Blue” was like listening to a resurrection-low notes that drew you in and a keyboard that was the prelude for the upcoming frenzy. Bars of Gold’s spirit was infectious and their shows should not be missed.

Murder By Death is an indie-americana-rock band from Bloomington, IN. These storytellers will leave you spellbound with their singing about Scratch, whiskey, longing, the trials and evils of man, dark love, wandering and jail breakouts seemingly set in different eras before the 50s. Their music is creative, suspenseful, ironically optimistic and skillfully expressed. They played “Foxglove” and “Fuego!”—the strings of the cello and guitar seeking and trembling with anticipation. The drums pounded with pent up frustration, while the strings bantered with each other and provided dark undertones of obsession. “Sometimes the Line Walks You” had a great drive, polished trumpet and a solid vocal range that had the crowd shouting and clapping along. Murder By Death cleverly transitioned this song into Golden Earring’s “Radar of Love” and back again. From their sixth upcoming album they shared, “I Came Around”—a song about “going to a wake for a person you didn’t like and realizing that [that wasn’t a nice thought].” It follows the style of their last album, “Good Morning, Magpie” with soft tones and dark humor. At a Murder By Death show, the room around the stage becomes non-existent, the crowd belts out every word and the music takes over until one becomes apart of it. Even after they played twenty songs, mini encore included, the crowd still wanted more.

An Interview with Larry And His Flask

Larry And His Flask are: Dallin Bulkley on vocals and guitar, Andrew Carew on vocals, trombone and banjo, Ian Cook on vocals and guitar, Jamin Marshall on vocals and percussion, Jeshua Marshall on vocals, double bass, baritone and harmonicas and Kirk Skatvold on vocals, mandolin and trumpet. They’re a six piece rock and roll band from Redmond, Oregon who were born to travel and play music. Their live shows are incredible and the sounds they omit are striking: strings played so fast that you wonder if the instruments themselves are alive, forceful beats from a double bass that will kick you in the face, percussion that ties all of the sounds together, horns that sound like they came from New Orleans and harmonizing, haunting vocals comparable to the style of a cappella Barbershop music.

In fact, they evoke el duende, further studied and explained by Federico Garcia Lorca, a Spanish poet from the 20th century. Essentially, the musician battles the spirit of el duende to use the ability to bring forth the emotions and the mindset that allows the audience to experience what the musician is playing and understand why the musician is, for lack of a better word, possessed by their art. The best example I have ever heard of el duende was from a past professor. If you’ve seen a clip of Jimi Hendrix playing the guitar, it looks like he is fighting to control it. The sounds that he calls forth are captivating and compelling. You can’t tear yourself away. It’s the same with Larry And His Flask.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamin (JA) and Jeshua (known as Jessie, abbreviated as JE) Marshall with Avery from The Goddamn Gallows stopping by for fun.


M: You guys like moonshine?

JA: Moonshine? Yeah. I think generally speaking yeah. Mostly when we’re in Tennessee.

M: so you don’t [make] your own?

JA: We don’t make our own.

M: Have you ever considered?

JA: I’ve considered it. Yeah. The furthest I ever got was beer and cherry wine which turned out horribly.

M: Right on.

JA: It was a good idea. Jesse made some ah crab apple wine. He just went around and gathered crab apples from trees (little laugh) that were on the ground and falling off trees.

M: What is your favorite album that you guys have worked on?

JE: Probably, “All That We Know,” the one that we just put out.

JA: We’ve been a band for 8 years. I think that was our 7th or 8th full length we’ve done. A lot of repeated songs from sh*t, you know, a lot of different versions but I think that’s my favorite too. We were recently kind of revisiting our old punk rock stuff. And there’s a couple of those that are decent (laughs). They’re kind of fun.

M: How long has it taken you guys to prepare to get to Europe?

JA: We’ve been wanting to go for, you know, ever since the beginning of the band, but in the last couple of years we’ve, we’ve been like, okay we’re going now and then it falls apart and then we try it again and it falls apart so this time it’s actually… So, probably about a year and a half actually like getting our music out there, trying to get a record label pick it up and distribute it out there and stuff and we’re still working on that and have shows lined up for Germany…

JE: I think we have half the tour booked already.  A lot of shows in the Netherlands.

JA: Czech Republic

M: Where do you want to play most?

JA: I’m really stoked about Germany. I heard nothing but good things and I really want to see Spain. I want to see it all.

M: I was going through your archives and please correct me if I’m wrong, you’ve played in 41 states?

JE: Yeah that sounds about right.

JA: We’ve played 41 states. We’ve been to all of them now as a band.

JE: There’s six we haven’t played? We’re playing Alaska soon.

JA: [For] the last few years, like instead of approaching music like most bands do and perfect their sound first and then tour, we just start touring right off the bat so in the first year we already had been on a couple of small tours… pretty much by ourselves. It was hard to get into shows and venues in Portland, which is the nearest big city to us and they kind of just shot us down… You know, it just didn’t work out at all so we just said f*ck em’ and went on tour and then they finally came to us (laughs). That’s how we approach things.

M: So is the music scene in Oregon, in general, okay?

JA: Portland’s really fucking awesome. There’s so much music coming out of Portland. Most people immediately associate us with Portland, you know? Even though we’re from about three hours away.

M: What is your city?

JA: Redmond. Rightfully so, [Portland’s] the biggest city, everybody’s heard of it. Most of the music coming out of there, we don’t even know. And it’s great stuff. There’s a lot of like, folk music, a lot of punk rock, some experimental, really great stuff. I haven’t heard of half the bands coming out of Portland probably (little laugh).

M: Why did you guys change your sound?

JA: It was just kind of a natural evolution. For a couple of years we had been working on a side project  that we called, A Night in Question and it was just folk, americana stuff.

JE: We played a couple of shows.

JA: Yeah, we played a couple of shows with it. But then we toured across Canada. On our days off and when we didn’t have any gas money we’d play in the street. And then, it was just kind of natural. Our old drummer left the band and it was right after that Canada tour, and we were like uhh, what the f*ck are we going to do? He’s like our brother, you know? And he just had to go his own way and so we kind of went back to the folk thing and invited all of our friends to jam out with us in our living room. That turned out into jamming on the street corner and then it was looking like we were going to go back out on tour as the folk thing and we were like, what are we going to call it? We didn’t know, we weren’t sure, and one of our ex-members, plays cello, he said, just call it Larry And His Flask, you know? You’ll have the same audience and the same venues (laughs). So, (laughs) we did.

JE: The energy and the family of the band and the name has always been the same (laughs).

M: How does it feel when the music takes you over? Lively isn’t really a good word to put it. You guys [describe it] on your site [as] powerful and it seems to take you over. You just have such prescence.

JA: Definitely. I think that everybody plays music for their own personal reasons. But I think that, without sounding too, I dunno, goofy, it really is a religious experience for me. Personally, that’s as close as I get to, you know, [a] real “religious” type of thing. Ah, just pure adrenaline, you know? And then afterwards you come down off of that and, you know, pack up, go to sleep, do it all again (laughs).

M: Sounds like an awesome lifestyle.

JA: It’s draining. You know, certain people think that we’re on drugs or something.

JE: The energy that music [gives] to you is like nothing else you can find from any drug or anything, you know? Like you can feel like sh*t all day and not sleep [except] two hours and eat nothing but peanut butter and sriracha (laughs from all around) and then you get on the stage and then the moment the first note hits you, it’s like… All the energy in the world.

M: When you guys are on the road, what’s one thing you have to have with you besides your instruments?

JE: A good book.

M: What do you like to read?

JE: I’m reading Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha right now. I [also] brought a Steinbeck book but I lost it.

M: Which Steinbeck book did you lose?

JE: The Pearl.

(Wearing a “Planet of the Apes” shirt, Avery rejoins).

A: This isn’t a herpe. I got hit in the face with a superball last night.

M: You know I was honestly thinking it was a herpe and I was concerned.

A: Oh God. Well you should know now that it’s not in case we try to make out later.

M: So, are you a “Planet of the Apes” fan?

A: Is that a trick question?

M: Yes.

A: It’s only the… It’s (takes the tape recorder and brings it up to his lips dramatically) Yes.

(laughs from all around)

A: It’s the greatest thing that ever happened in motion pictures.

M: Right!? Have you read the book?

A: There’s a book?

M: Right?! There’s a book. It’s actually kind of different because it’s a French author so it takes place in France, so in the end…

A: Eiffel tower?

M: Instead of the statue of liberty.

A: The statue of liberty was a gift from the French anyways.

(laughs from all around)

M: Yeah. I get excited everytime I hear “Planet of the Apes.”

A: We actually used to play a song called, “Planet of the Apes.”

M: I know!

A: You do?! (high-pitched)

M: I do.

A: Oh sh*t. Did you know we used to switch instruments and just f*cking make noise for five minutes afterwards?

M: I didn’t see you guys do that. I saw you guys play in Lansing in, ah, 2010 in like, May? You guys did not switch instruments then.

A: We can’t do that anymore. We [used to do that] at live shows.

M: You should totally do it because “Planet of the Apes” is only the greatest movie ever.

A: (to Mikey Classic) You hear that you dumb jerk? We should play “Planet of the Apes” and switch instruments like we used to cause everyone loves it. Including the press.

 (laughs from all around)

A: On your way lady.

Avery leaves.

 (laughs from all around)

M: How many days do you guys tour a year? What’s it up to now?

JE: Like a 100 to 250.

JA: Past few years it’s been right around 200.

M: Awesome. What do you guys do with the rest of the time?

JA: The first week we get home we sleep in.

JE: I usually go home for a weekend and then drive somewhere, like Canada or California.

JA: Immediately he leaves. The other guys have different routines. I think Kirk plays video games.

JE: Some of them really like video games.

JA: laughs

JE: Probably the majority of the time at home, playing um, World of Warcraft? (JA laughs) I don’t know any video games.

JA: We do things (laughs) at home.

M: Right on. Catch up on what you need to do, people and such.

JE: Hike.

JA: Family.

JE: Fishing.

M: How many extra packets of strings do you guys need to carry on the road?

JE: We need to carry a ton of them.

JA: We seldom do. This tour is probably the most prepared tour we’ve ever been on.

M: Congratulations.

JE: We pretty much have a set of strings for every show. Per person everyday.

JA: We change em’ every day.

JE: Except for bass and banjo.

JA: Hundreds of dollars of strings.

M: But you use them so it’s worth it.

JA/JE: Yeah.

M: One clip that I saw I was like, people need to clear the way otherwise someone’s going to get attacked with music.

JA: Jesse’s probably smacked people in the head with his bass more than anyone else… by accident (laughs).

M: Do you warn people before hand?

JA: We try to let the motion speak for itself, you know (laughs).

JE: Accidents happen. I mean for the most part we’re careful.

M: There’s only so much caution you can put into music. You want people to experience the energy.

JA: Rock n roll.

JE: Punk rock. It should be a little dangerous.

M: So you guys would categorize yourselves as punk rock?

JA: Punk rockers.

JE: The music is punk rock.

JA: You know, call it whatever. I just say it’s rock and roll. You know? Somewhere in between people have called it thrash-grass or folk punk, or hardcore or a lot of people have called it something like, “Avet Brothers on crack” (laughs). If something comes along that we really, really like, we might keep it. But it’s rock and roll. Fast (laughs). Our live shows tend to be very fast. I think we speed up the beats per minute. We probably do everything in double time (laughs).

M: What kind of reaction are you hoping people get from your shows?

JA: You know for the style that we play and the show that we put on, [the] album thing is [a] completely different world. It’d be hopefully more of a chill kind of thing where they can sit and read a book and listen to music and be somewhat calm but really into it at the same time. At a live show though, I would hope there would be a lot of dancing, clapping, screaming… like a hootenanny. Like a ruckus, you know?

Stewed, Screwed and Tattooed Tour: Reverend Horton Heat, Larry And His Flask and The Goddamn Gallows @ The Machine Shop 3/13/12 (Review)

The Goddamn Gallows (
Larry And His Flask (
Reverend Horton Heat (

Flint’s The Machine Shop hosted Reverend Horton Heat’s “Stewed, Screwed and Tattooed” tour for their upcoming album, “25 to Life,” to be released on March 27th. Each band stood out with incredible performances, and made a Tuesday night anything but ordinary.

If you don’t feel a bit of wanderlust after seeing The Goddamn Gallows, you might not be listening hard enough. Touring at least 200 days a year, this gutterbilly band from Lansing, MI, would probably play until their fingers fell off. The Goddamn Gallows play roots-oriented trickster melodies with solid, dark beats, spirited strings that pound or twang, and a soulful harsh voice that fills your bones. Unfortunately for a good portion of their set, the sound quality was off with a lot of feedback in the monitors. Never the less The Goddamn Gallows played on with songs like, “Serafino”—bassist Fishgutzzz’s voice wonderfully rasping the title, strings with edge and a sea-menacing accordion and “7 Devils”—an eerie song with sharp beats, beckoning strings and train chugging sounds from Avery’s washboard. Their last song, “Ticket to Bleed,” was an experience itself. Larry And His Flask joined The Goddamn Gallows, taking over some instruments and adding a trombone to the growing frenzy. Set to maniacal beats with Mikey Classic’s sinister growling voice, drummer Baby Genius and Fishgutzzz literally took to the floor drumming as Avery lept to grab the ceiling pipes and hung upside down playing the washboard, one-handed. This was just the start of the show!

Larry And His Flask are like a revival for rock and roll, the rootsy soul and dancing feet—they’ve got presence. This six piece group from Redmond, OR has honed their sound and craft, taking on the art of performing with a refreshing level of extreme energy. Larry And His Flask play with strings on speed that will leave you dizzy, a double bass that seemingly takes on a life of its own, striking percussion, the intermingling of beautiful brass sounds and a tenor comparable to the wailing of Beirut. They covered Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”—a complimenting, agile string rendition with just enough soul, “Manifest Destiny”—haunting vocals sprinkled with brass beats and a voodoo blues hoedown effect, and “Beggars Will Ride”—dedicated to Reverend Horton Heat, it had a Johnny Cash style build-up with prominent banjo picking, knee slapping beats, and a sweet harmonica trill. For their final song, “Swing,” Larry And His Flask were joined by The Goddamn Gallows. As they continously played softer, Jamin Marshall requested that everyone get as close to the ground as possible, and to get up and dance on the count of four. It became a crowd of madness as people finally let themselves go to strings played faster and faster until it became a feverish blur. Larry And His Flask are not just a band that plays music, they’re a hell of an experience.

If you don’t know what psychobilly music sounds like, listen to Reverend Horton Heat’s, “Psychobilly Freakout” and it will tell you what you need to know about the music: inflamed strings with crisp, dark beats fueled with speedy aspects of country, rockabilly and punk that explode with an absurd level of fun. Reverend Horton Heat has been around for twenty-five years and are definitely classic muscians. Even before they took the stage, people started filling up every available space in anticipation. They play quality psychobilly, with an often high-pitched, squealing guitar that is the driving force, a speedily slapped upright bass with beautiful thumping beats, and rhythmic, pounding drums that tie the songs together. Add the men themselves—The Rev, Jimbo and Paul—with their laid back demenors, consistent smiles and obvious joy in playing and you have a class act. Their set included, “Baddest of the Bad”—gritty, racing music with a strumming guitar, thumping beats and ear-catching lyrics, “It’s Martini Time”—guitar strings with pluck, a smacking tempo and lounge-like effects, and a song from their upcoming album, “25 to Life” about rockabilly guys v. metal guys that resembles a psychobilly shindig with an upbeat jive. Reverend Horton Heat played a three song encore that included two worthy covers, “Ace of Spades”—guest singer with a gruff voice that ensured chaos reined and a truly solid cover of “Folsom Prison Blues.” The night ended with three intense solos by each muscian, more than proving that Reverend Horton Heat is food for the psychobilly soul.

The General Strike Release Tour: Anti-Flag, The Flatliners, Have Nots and Wilson @ Magic Stick 3/12/12 (Review)

We arrived at the The General Strike Release Tour just in time to feel the floor of the Magic Stick vibrating from Wilson’s last song. Their rock ‘n roll sound was filled with strong metal elements backed by enthusiastic, shredding vocals. Wilson was an ideal local group to start off the night which was evidenced by an enthusiastic mosh pit.

Have Nots
The Flatliners

It was good to see Boston’s Have Nots play Magic Stick again–the last time was in September 2011. This band has substance and seeing them play live is a must. Their take on ska punk is filled with honest, intelligent and satirical lyrics, backed by speed, grit and energy that will leave you in the dust. Bassist Jameson Hollis was unfortunately unable to play this tour and Have Nots were instead joined by Nick Scotti, who did a fine job and kept up with the overall sound. Their set included, “Frozen Heart,” “Anywhere But Here” and “Poison Antidote.” Have Nots play with the intent of the crowd having a sound time and consistently engaged them, “Detroit you’re f*cking awesome”—likewise, Have Nots. Likewise.

The Flatliners were a blast of ska punk and filled the room with intense energy. Hailing from Ontario, these guys have been around since 2002 and have a loyal following. The Flatliners were a zealous rapidly paced machine spitting out raspy lyrics faster than you can think, with a pounding force of mechanical drums, backbone bass and chugging guitars. They played songs like, “Euology,” “Fred’s Got Slacks,” and “Count Your Bruises.” Down to earth and humorous, The Flatliners were appreciative, “Thank you guys for showing us a lot of love” and shared with the crowd that Michigan was “…the first place in the U.S. that felt like home.”

On tour for their latest album to be released March 20th, “The General Strike,” Anti-Flag were highly anticipated. Fans flocked to the stage to raise their fists and voices to songs like, “F*ck Police Brutality,” “A New King of Army,” and “Drink, Drank, Punk.” Anti-Flag’s music was tight: a whirlwind of hard beats, fast-paced thrashing guitars with a guiding bass led by a voice comparable to A.F.I. Their lyrics are fiercely spirited, strongly opinionated, a little preachy but blunt. They are a voice for the people and a call for action against those who choose to wrong humanity. Anti-Flag were also very personable from paying constant homage to Detroit throughout the set, promoting awareness for a cause or just talking to the crowd and telling bad jokes. Anti-Flag are a hit or miss type of band, but for this show, it was abundantly clear that they were far from being a miss.

Black Coffee White Knuckles Tour! Voodoo Glow Skulls, Authority Zero, Skyfox and S.N.A.F.U. @ Blind Pig 2/6/12 (Review)

S.N.A.F.U. =!/SNAFUPUNKS?sk=info
Skyfox =
Authority Zero =
Voodoo Glow Skulls =

S.N.A.F.U., out of Ypsilanti, was a good opener to liven up a Monday night. They’re a hardcore–thrash-metal band who play powerful beats and melodies that make it sound like the end of the world is near. Their primal energy was infectious and easily got the crowd to jostle about and participate in circle pits. S.N.A.F.U. was on par with one another, playing as a brute force with a strong bass, thrashing guitar, screaming vocals and battering drums. Their set included songs, “Graves” (menacing, heavy tunes) and “W.D.G.A.F.” (fast and dark with plenty of attitude). Towards the end of their playing they said, “Thank you all for coming out early… f***ing Skyfox, Authority Zero, Voodoo f***ing Glow Skulls… Bad***.”

Skyfox are a pop-punk band from Denver, Colorado. They played their instruments well, producing upbeat music. They gave it their all and played songs like, “Runaway” (about taking your best friend to rehab), and “Twilight” (a song for the ladies). Their best song was “Church,” a lyrically witty piece that lead singer and guitarist Johnny Hill wrote, based off of his own negative experiences with religion and Christan schooling. Through it all they were good-natured and humorous which Hill proved again and again, “Would you guys rather be moshing to Authority Zero? F*** yeah! But I have an alternative. This is the best music in the world… to masturbate [to]. $5 [for a CD] will last you a life time.”

Authority Zero was an intense speed machine of punk rock and reggae elements. Hailing from Mesa, AZ, this band has been around since 1994 and they keep making solid music. Lead singer Jason DeVore constantly stood on the edge of the stage like he was commanding troops through his singing, and consistently involved the crowd. They started out with, “A Passage in Time” (similar to if Bad Religion was on speed and took on a harder and faster pace with deep beats and some reggae elements), “Revolution” (gruff singing, a slicing guitar and pounding drums) and “One More Minute (kind of like a sea ballad with a steady bass line, a guitar with drive and the drums as a powerful accent). Authority Zero could have played for the rest of the night; they were that addicting to listen to.

Voodoo Glow Skulls was highly anticipated. Their hardcore ska-punk music was like listening to a carnival on speed: including fervorish horns, fury of drums, a vigorous walking bass, a striking guitar, and a gritty voice to put people in a dancing frenzy. On tour from Riverside, CA promoting their new album “Break the Spell,” this was the first time that Voodoo Glow Skulls played at the Blind Pig. They played “Lucky B*stard,” (prominent bass, grinding guitar, and crisp horns) and covered The Coasters’ “Charlie Brown” (a hardcore ska speed waltz with forceful drums). They also covered “I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)” from “The Jungle Book” (a faster spin with piercing horns and rough singing) and from their newest album played, “Police Knocking On My Door” (hard beats and quick pace with a hopping bass line). Voodoo Glow Skulls appropriately ended their set with, “Say Goodnight,” before playing a two song encore. Their new and older music sounded great. It was quite a night!

The Boogie Woogie Kid! @ Howell Opera House 1/27/12

The Boogie Woogie Kid!

If you don’t know what boogie woogie music sounds like, think of an evil villain with a ridiculous mustache tying a damsel in distress to railroad tracks. The music in the background is played on the piano usually with a jaunty, upbeat, melody and elements of dooming suspense. Or, as Matthew Ball aka The Boogie Woogie Kid! describes it, “happy blues.”

Howell’s Opera House swelled in numbers on Friday, January 27th. Set in a dimly lit room of  icicle lights, Matthew Ball on piano and Victor Pruner accompanying on drums, took the crowd back to the early 20th century, when boogie woogie was in its prime.

Ball’s been playing the piano for years and it was the “jazzy performance [of boogie woogie]” that drew him in when he was around thirty. In fact, he was a student of the renowned Bob Seeley who played with Meaude Lux Lewis—one of the three leading pianists who helped to popularize boogie woogie at Carnegie Hall in the late 30s. Ball had to work on that relationship though. Seeley was “kind of guarded [in his craft]” and he “had to work on him for a year.” Seeley sent him to a different musician to study under, Mike Przybkylski, and with each new lesson, Ball brought what he learned to show to Seeley. It took about a year before Seeley submitted.

The amount of time that Matthew Ball has taken and continues to take, to study and practice this art, was truly apparent with each piece he played. He gave a brilliant performance and should be considered as a notable, contemporary boogie woogie pianist. He plays in a twelve bar blues chord with his left hand, a “sped up version [of the blues], structurally,” and then uses “a different pallet” with his right hand to produce complimenting sharp, clapping beats. Ball was nothing short of professional and friendly. He spoke quickly in a light, airy voice and spat out information from the time area of the song that he could probably recite in his sleep.

Ball played songs like, “Cow Cow Blues,”—, merrily, bantering notes—and “Over the Rainbow Blues”—a beautiful rendition that transitions in boogie woogie and makes the composition more upbeat.  he gave credit to his personal favorite, which “…forever create[d] the genre brand…,” Clarence Pinetop Smith’s hit from the late 20s, “Pinetops’s Boogie Woogie.” “Bumblebee Boogie” was extremely well received. Ball didn’t mess up once as his fingers flew with speed across the piano keys, bringing to life the flight of the bumblebee.

Victor Pruner further brought out the notes with beats that wonderfully accented the songs and didn’t overwhelm the overall sound with brushes instead of sticks. Pruner is a delightful man, with a quick sense of humor. He started taking piano lessons from Ball and it soon became known that Pruner had played drums years ago. Tonight marked his sixth show and so far, Pruner’s been “having a ball.” Current relationship set aside, he thinks that Ball is one of the best boogie woogie pianists in the country. “[I’m] not just saying that.”

The Loving Dead, Brutally Frank and Koffin Kats @ The Machine Shop 1/20/2012

Flint’s The Machine Shop hosted an exceptional psychobilly-charged show for the Koffin Kats CD Release Throwdown this past Friday, January 20th. The bands made sure that the journey through horrible weather and snow-coated roads was worth coming to see them perform.

The Loving Dead
Brutally Frank
Koffin Kats

To clarify a few things about psychobilly: it is basically a sped-up version of rockabilly that blends in certain genres of music like punk, rhythm and blues. Part of what makes it its own music genre is the specific usage of an upright bass, which ensures solid, dark beats.  Also, the subject of the songs (girls, gore, death, sci-fi, and socially unacceptable topics) are expressed with volatile humor. Most psychobilly bands guarantee a good time due to: entertaining shenanigans, hard, pulsating drum beats, electrically chugging guitar with added squealies, and a speedily slapped upright bass that compels for any type of dancing movement to occur.

Michigan’s, The Loving Dead, are a punk rock band who were channeling more psychobilly than punk rock last Friday. They played “Engines,” a slow thrumming song that would speed up out of nowhere. It was played with guttural force and the guitar made the song, going from a type of growl to trill. The Loving Dead covered Dion’s “Runaround Sue,” and made this doo wop-pop hit into a sweet psychobilly rendition with calculated drumming, spiraling electric guitar, as well as the bassist’s unbreakable, gruff voice. Throughout their entire set they were in good spirits and overall, a good band to start off the night.

If Left Alone and Ghoultown joined forces and added some mayhem, chaos and quality, Brutally Frank would be the end result. Hailing from Missouri, punkabilly might describe this band more than their rocknroll title. Brutally Frank was an unstoppable, raving ball of energy with their taut, pounding drums, brusquely played electric guitar, and a thumping, swiftly played bass. They made you lose yourself in the music, as much as they lost themselves. They recorded “Grip,” live, from their 2004 album, “TH1RT3N,” which sounded better than the recording. Drummer Mell sang for one song in a sweet alto that snarled, comparable to Patricia Day from HorrorPops, whilst playing menacing drums. The only downside to this set was that for almost the first half, the guitar practically drowned out the drums and bass. This was thankfully fixed, and the crowd was able to enjoy the rest of Brutally Frank’s set.

Koffin Kats’ CD Release Throwdown for, “Our Way & The Highway” was a success and marks their seventh release in eight years. Vic Victor is an astute bassist and handled his bass like a dancing partner: gracefully lifting it over his head or spinning it, and producing sharp, throbbing beats. He sings in a rather distinct deep wail, an almost opera-like voice with doo wop elements. EZ Ian was in constant motion and played a gritty, thrashing electric guitar and sang in a wonderfully rough hiss. Drummer Eric “E Ball” Walls was a speed machine and played incredibly tight, ardent beats that gave the songs the effect of a racing heart. They favored playing mostly older songs like, “Chaos,” “Laws of Sanity” and “Graveyard Tree.” During their set, EZ Ian and Vic impressively switched instruments without mistake or pause. That, as well as Vic standing on the shoulder of his bass while playing— started in the 50s by Bill Haley & His Comets’ bassist, Marshall Lyte—are some of the elements that make Koffin Kats standout as a psychobilly band. They were appreciative too, “Thank you guys for saying ‘F*** the weather,’ and showing up.” A Koffin Kats show offers a hell of a time. They get more intense and sweaty than the crowd, and it is all that the crowd can do to keep up with this maniacal force that Koffin Kats unleashes.



Holiday Show: Flatfoot 56, The Parka Kings, Mustard Plug and The Suicide Machines @ The Majestic 12/29/11 (Review)

The crowd was spilling out of Detroit’s, The Majestic to see a sound line-up for Mustard Plug’s Holiday Show on December 29, 2011:

Flatfoot 56
The Parka Kings
Mustard Plug
The Suicide Machines

If Flogging Molly and The Tossers had a baby, Flatfoot 56, a Celtic punk rock bank from Chicago, would probably be their son. They were a solid opener and had no trouble getting people to dance. Flatfoot 56 amped the crowd up with their rapid, energetic music: a piercing bagpipe, a fury of drums, a driving bass, a harmonious mandolin, and a fast-paced guitarist with a gruff, Irish tinted voice. They played songs like, “Chinatown Jail Break,” and covered Albert E. Brumley’s, “I’ll Fly Away.”  Flatfoot 56 is a brotherhood and treats whatever venue they play at as home—with the crowd as family. The band was in good spirits and grateful to the people who came, old fans and new. The night was off to a great start.

Local band, The Parka Kings, was highly anticipated due to not having played in five years. The muffled acoustics did them a disservice and cloaked their otherwise peppy ska/punk lounge-like sound. Nevertheless, the group grew more comfortable with each song played as the crowd enjoyed such songs as, “Alone”—fairly rich horns with danceable beats and a sweet bass, “Pablo Can’t Take It”— harder sounding ska with a spirited guitar, and a well received Bim Ska Bim cover. Although The Parka Kings could have played with more energy, their performace was a sweet comeback for fans.

Mustard Plug played effortlessly with their usual upbeat energy and zest which was no surprise since they’ve been playing since 1991. They’ve been organizing and playing an annual Holiday Show since 2005 with a variety of other bands in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Chicago, and sometimes even Cleveland. Mustard Plug easily engaged the crowd in constant skanking, crowd surfing and stage diving with smooth, blaring horns, hopping Ska riffs, a walking bass, and an easy-going alto singer. The sound quality was projected well and enhanced  songs such as, “Skank by Numbers,” “Hit Me! Hit Me!,” and “On and On.” Each band paid homage to Mustard Plug that night, but Jay Navarro of The Suicide Machines said it best, “…much respect to the mighty Mustard Plug…much love and respect.”

Detroit’s own punk rock band, The Suicide Machines, played with an explosive level of energy. The stage was decorated with an array of Christmas decorations including a brilliantly lit mobile reindeer, a gift wrapped speaker and a sparkling tree. These were later hauled off stage by the crowd and became souvenirs—a comical addition to the musical mayhem. They were an unstoppable force with their maniacal drums, thrashing guitar and a gutter-mouthed singer who jumped around without faltering in breath. “Destruction by Definition” was played in its entirety with the original bassist from that album, Royce Nunely, who pounded on the bass as though 1996 was only yesterday. Their song, “Islands” was successfully played by a guest guitarist of the age of 19. “Hey” and “Vans Song” had three improvising guest trombonists from The Parka Kings, Mustard Plug and We Are The Union and they did a hell of a job. The Suicide Machines played a five set encore and ended it with the earlier requested “D.D.T.” It was a killer night.

Zakk Gallows, Cheerleader, Boom Swagger Boom and Rickett Pass @ Corktown Tavern 11/30/11 (Review)

Team Bacon Productions put together a solid show at Detroit’s Corktown Tavern this past Wednesday, November 30th despite The Goddamn Gallows canceling. The Goddamn Gallows’ guitarist Mikey Classic had stretched his tendons and nerves in his left hand. Since they tour almost two hundred shows a year, this was definitely understandable. They’ll be back this March with Reverend Horton Heat, so the extra wait will be worth it. Unfortunately, the potential crowd size was cut down significantly, which was a shame because people missed a good show.

Zakk Gallows
Boom Swagger Boom
Rickett Pass

Zakk Gallows was a pleasure to listen to. He played a country-inspired set filled with covers like Hank Williams Sr’s “Hey Good Lookin’,” and Wayne Hancock’s “87 Southbound.” He’s a storyteller and evoked heartfelt emotions with his rich country twang and strong acoustic. Gallows played an original song inspired from, “…spending the night at PJ Lager watching Lucky Tubb all by my lonesome.” And he proceeded to sing about his lonesome, making you forget that you were in Detroit.

Cheerleader was a pleasant surprise and played their instruments with ease. A three piece Punk Rock band—not to be confused with a Riot Grrrl band—from Flint, their presence demanded your attention. Their pulsating drums, with a steady bass and a strong, raspy voice exuded a force to be reckoned with.  Yet they’re a band that you can relate to, yelling out lyrics like, “…so we like to drink/so we like to smoke/so we like to f*ck/what’s so wrong with that?” They certainly drew in the most people of the night with songs like, “Leather,” “18” and “Quencher.” And in the coming New Year, Cheerleader will actually be moving to Detroit so when you hear that they’re playing a show, go. They’re ready. Are you?

If you want to see a fun Punk Rock-Metal performance, check out Boom Swagger Boom. There should have been a sweet mosh pit going along with their heavy, foretelling music but with a lacking crowd, it was not meant to be. They’re actually not very different from most local punk bands, however, they sincerely offer you a good time with their: we love music and we’re going to play it regardless of what you think so suck it and enjoy yourself- style. Not only were they amusing with their continuous banter but they had heart. Towards the end of their set they played a kind of memorial song in honor of the late Dave K, “…next one is a little punk rock song about someone you all know.” This one in particular, was well received.

Rickett Pass is a Bluegrass Punk Folk band that plays with an incredible level of insomniac energy. They’re a quartet consisting of a spirited banjo, mandolin, acoustic guitar and a washtub bass with a doll’s head on top of the staff and strings that will “…f*ck you in the face.” They played “Cocaine,” and “Bad Decisions,”—also the title of their future album—a rolling ballad with the fervor of Gogol Bordello and beyond. They cracked jokes the entire night, humorously playing the first few lines of Britney Spear’s first single, “…Baby One More Time.” They covered Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine,” changing it from an R&B hit to a folksy rendition instead. It was a shame that the crowd was practically non-existent during their set because despite The Goddamn Gallows not playing, Rickett Pass was well worth the trip to Detroit.

Gunday Monday, Explicit Bombers, St. Thomas Boys Academy and The Toasters @ Small’s 11/4/11 (Review

Listening to live Ska and Punk music is a sure way to amp up your night. Hamtramck’s Small’s was a good venue for such an evening.

Gunday Monday
Explicit Bombers
St. Thomas Boys Academy
The Toasters

Gunday Monday played with their usual amount of infectious energy despite the unusually subdued crowd. Lead singer, Alex Lee, noticed and playfully remarked, “Something’s wrong with this picture. I’m the one with a cast, and I’m moving more than you guys.” Recently he had been hit by a car, but that didn’t stop Alex from his never ending dancing and jumping about. Frankly, you shouldn’t be standing still at a Gunday Monday show. Their ska-core video game sounds make you want to move. One of the new songs they played “Between the Lines” had an intro with similar elements to The Special’s “Hey Little Rich Girl” except it was faster. The song stood on its own due to Matt Sever’s bass and David Cardelli’s rhythmic drumming. They also performed lesser played songs off of their album, “Armed and Dangerous” such as, “I Told You So,” and “Beer N Justice.” It was a nice change of pace for Gunday Monday.

Explicit Bombers is a punk band made up of seventeen year olds. I definitely give them credit for their obvious dedication and determination, but to me their songs were like hard-core power ballads with whiny, somewhat NOFX sounding, vocals. Every song played like a future anthem, except that they weren’t. They seemed to take themselves too seriously; with a bit of forced stage presence, and that attitude of having something to prove. Not all of their songs were like that though. The song, “Out of Business,” had more ska tones to it and was well received in the form of a mosh pit. Pent up energy will do that to you. A touching moment during their set was when lead singer and bassist Dan Harness dedicated “Fear” to his and drummer David’s dad who was celebrating his fifty seventh birthday that day. Their dad also wrote the lyrics. Overall, they have talent that needs to be further developed. It will be interesting to see how they come into their own when they are more comfortable with themselves as musicians.

St. Thomas Boys Academy played a tight set and drew the biggest crowd of the night. A good portion of their songs played were from their recently released album, “Homecoming Afterparty Edition.” “Let Me Go” spewed a kind of Celtic fast-paced rough energy with a Hub City Stompers sound to it. “South W” was an older song, and a personal favorite of mine. It’s a rather haunting song about a loss of innocence and a gain of experience via realizing that life is pretty messed up, and leaves you feeling helpless. The chorus goes, “Save, save yourself, everyday, save yourself”—perhaps the only way to get by. The rhythm was set to a guiding guitar with compelling trumpet and drums, making you feel this song in your bones. Trumpet player, Tuna, played resonating notes with skilled clarity throughout the night especially when he stepped into the crowd during “Poor Should Unify” and faced the band playing with a classic Wild West, vagabond style. There wasn’t much verbal interaction with the crowd; STBA did that naturally through their music, particularly with “Circle Pit.” Mr. H. only had to screech the title, and the crowd instantly started a pit. This band has presence and their live show is a MUST SEE.

The last time I saw The Toasters play was in 2009 on the Ska is Dead 4 Tour at Detroit’s Magic Stick. This band has vastly improved since then. The Toasters were one of the first bands on the NYC third wave ska scene and have been around since the 80s. They helped pave the way for future Ska bands with their traditional Ska riffs, hopping beats, distinct, wailing vocals, and their sweet brass sounds. Vocalist and guitarist Robert “Bucket” Hingley seemed to be in a good mood and interacted with the crowd plenty. Like Lee, he also noted the hesitation of participation, “What’s this big empty space? Did someone take a piss or something?” The space quickly disappeared and for the entire set, the crowd never stopped moving. They played classics like, “2-Tone Army,” “Weekend in L.A.,” and “Decision at Midnight.” Hingley dedicated “Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down” to “…protesters all over the world Occupying Wall Street. [And] even if you don’t agree with protesters they’re just exercising their free rights.” Their encore included “Matt Davis”—a brilliant Ska take on James Bond music and beyond, which started a skankin’ frenzy with effortless horns and pulsating drums. The Toasters play music that people can relate to. It isn’t complicated; you just feel it and go.