sr:Mutoid Man – Reggies (150905)

150904 - Mutoid Man - Reggies: Photato by Drumnmike
150905 – Mutoid Man – before i moved to the middle of the floor – Reggies: Photato by Drumnmike

“It’s that drummer from Converge and the dude from Cave In” Aaron told me when he first heard about the band. “You’d really dig them.””i bet, it already sounds like it” I replied.  My exposure to Cave In has been brief, a few albums here and there but never to the point of obsession for a period of time.

Since being on the scene only 2 years now Mutoid Man has accomplished a lot.  In 2013 they released their amazing 15 min release Helium Head.  The first song Gnarcissist is a ripper.  As an introduction to a band it’s amazing.  It’s tight, it’s technical, it’s fast, it’s fun, it works.  It’s probably my favorite song on the release but that only speaks to how good that track is.

After ‘wearing out’ Helium Head I was nervous they would pull a battles on me. After a few questionable days, I cracked and finally listened to their newest release, Bleeder.  It’s great.  They took what they did for Helium Head and expanded it over 30 minutes.  The songs continue in the same intensity as Helium, but continue exploring ability of Ben to come up with an a complimentary beat to emphasize the rhythm of the guitar.

The songs are catchy and fun, but they really take a few listens to truly capture the grooves and rhythms the band gets involved in.  I’d be impressed not knowing this, but it’s valid enough to mention drummer Ben Koller and Stephen Brodsky have jammed together in the former’s current powerhouse group Converge and in Stephen’s famed project Cave In.  The music shows that these grooves could be difficult for some musicians to pull off together but not these guys.

And the show made it that much more enjoyable to watch such potentially complicated songs be played with such ease and humor, while all wearing black shirts.  They started with Bridgeburner and the crowd was into it.  The band was loving the show.  Stephen was all smiles, wide eyed, making a connection with the crowd and making a decision to connect with the band during the set. There were multiple moments at which I laughed out loud (loled) at his jokes.

They played the first 4 songs from Bridgeburner before making their way over to the Helium Head material, starting with the 2nd track and making their way through the rest of the release.

Stephen had a way of sing-introducing the songs before they played them. He’d typically use some mid song banter/story to lead into the song title lyrics.  Sometimes he’d sing it, other times he’d yell it, to match the aggression at the beginning of the song.

The band seemed to have a lot of inside jokes they were playing on, as the members would continually flip the other members off and vice versa.  Ben continuously would slam his drum stick to his floor tom in an attempt to make the stick fly to the balcony in the Reggie’s Rock room above the stage.

Drumming fans and fans of thrashy sludgey heavier punk music would enjoy the releases and the live shows.  Watching Ben Koller drum is always a bad ass thing for any fan of drum to watch.  He enjoys playing and has some incredible speed which he puts to comprehensive beats for all the music he plays. Although it was somewhat shocking because of how heavy the band is but the enjoyment they all shared together also shows to the longevity of being able to have a project that you can do with your friends but still put out some really great music.

Shortly after they left the stage the gear was still there and the lights were somewhat at ‘stage level’.  Ben walked on stage and said into the microphone “That’s all the shit we know. we don’t know any other songs.  Have a good night”. (I’m misquoting my quotes, i don’t remember exactly what was said).

show review: Mouth Captain, Cheer Accident, Guzzlemug – Empty Bottle (150809)

150808 Cheer-Accident, Empty Bottle: Photato by Drumnmike
150808 Cheer-Accident, Empty Bottle: Photato by Drumnmike

Scrolling through my weekly Empty Bottle shows I saw that Cheer Accident was playing a $5 show.  These guys have been around since 1981.  When I was first exposed to them they it was through some epic 20 minute jazz rock track.  Little did I know that this was the not the same iteration of the band.

150808 Mouth Captain, Empty Bottle: Photato by Drumnmike
150808 Mouth Captain, Empty Bottle: Photato by Drumnmike

Mouth Captain opened the show and are 2 dudes playing lap guitar with a loop pedal and a drum set, and 1 dude doing video with a giant projector in between the the performers.  The videos fit very well with their music and their style is sort of a slow building, elongated mellow style.  My biggest gripe about this band was they used a grasshopper throughout the films but for some reason they didn’t have a shirt with a grasshopper on it. WTF? It was a fun stop motion character of a once alive grasshopper and would be the perfect cross merchandising tie in.  The music was cool. What’s probably always mentioned is the dudes have some affiliation with Blue Man Group and thus their musicianship reflects that.  They don’t play a lot of shows but if you do see them in the listings for a venue they’re worth checking out.

150808 Cheer-Accident, Empty Bottle: Photato by Drumnmike
150808 Cheer-Accident, Empty Bottle: Photato by Drumnmike

This was the Cheer Accident we got on Saturday. It was 4 of them, 2 ‘origianl’ members and 1 gal and 1 guy all wearing track suits, sunglasses and playing keyboards.  There were sporadic times through the set when they’d sprockets and dance, or play trumpet, but it was mostly keys with drum machine.  The music sounded like the 80’s with vocals out of the 60’s.  Their harmonies were very nice and they hit a lot of great 2 part harmonies.  Halfway through the set I moved from the outer edge to the middle of the crowd and had a better time with the music, joke or not.  I think this was more of a performance art piece instead of being a truly musical thing but I don’t really know enough about them to understand what they joke about.  As an outsider watching this based on what I’ve heard previously that’s the unofficial conclusion I cam eup with.  At various quiet moments in the set the main dude spoke, then they all looked out at the crowd while pre-recorded ‘thank you’s’ would play. It was good times.

150808 Guzzlemug, Empty Bottle: Photato by Drumnmike
150808 Guzzlemug, Empty Bottle: Photato by Drumnmike

My previous band arbogast had the pleasure of playing with Guzzlemug at Burlington and Ultra Lounge 2 years ago.  When I first saw them their drummer was clean cut and was wearing a beret.  He chewed gum and was ripping through his set with the greatest of ease.  On Saturday he was channeling his inner Andrew WK wearing white with hair down to his shoulders.  The drum mix was quiet which is unusual for the Empty Bottle, which is unfortunate because he’s really good.  The mix would’ve made their set better because the drums, and I may be biased, provide some nice grooves to get you into the weirdness of their music.  If they’re not heard enough you can lose track of the timing and then the guitar and bass are just in sync.  It just provides a nice overall sound.  Guzzlemug is a progressive jazz rock style band, which can go off in out there directions.  They have 17 minute tracks and full releases with just 1 track. It’s a shame this was their last show but sometimes this is the way of progressive bands.  It’s hard for them to catch on but they still leave the world with their music, and hopefully in time it can be found again.  I’d highly recommend their last 2 releases (as those are the only ones I’ve listened to).

show review: Jojo Mayer & Dave Weckl, Drumming All-Stars night 2 – Martyrs (150811)

150811 - Steve Smith & Benny Greb on the sidewalk in front of Martyrs: Photo by Drumnmike
150811 – Steve Smith & Benny Greb on the sidewalk in front of Martyrs – At one point we were just watching them through those guys’s phones and tablets: Photo by Drumnmike

We walked up to the venue at 8pm and the line was halfway down the block on one side and about 30 ft on the other.  Not being a fan of lines and assuming we wouldn’t get a table anyways we walked to the closest bar for a couple drinks.  After 20 min we walked back to Martyr’s only to find the line still there.  We waited for a little, then a random dude told me they’re doing sound check.  Fine.  We went back in line and waited for 5 minutes.  I suggested going to a different bar but wise Kathryn said we should stay “what if they let people in?” “it’ll take 15 minutes to get everyone in anyways, we won’t miss anything”.

Eventually I convinced her to walk to the bar and if something happens we’d come back.  We had just crossed the street when Benny Greb and Steve Smith walk outside with 2 snare drums and 2 sets of brushes.  Benny apologizes for the delay but said they were going to entertain us with a brushes only rendition to one of my favorite songs of all time “Salt Peanuts“.

We stood on the street leaning up against a car with Benny and Steve’s backs to us.  They tore it up and little did I know their quirky duets would be a running theme throughout the night.

Shortly after they let us into the club and we took our spots, just to the right of where we stood on Friday.

150811 - Jojo Mayer & crew at Martyrs:Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Jojo Mayer & crew at Martyrs:Photato by Drumnmike

Jojo Mayer came out first with the group and played a mid tempo song, playing a fairly steady beat for the majority of the song before getting into ‘his style’ of playing, with a small solo.  His solo was crazy, not in the style of Weckl hitting all the drums but his smoothness, and even some of his ‘tricks’.  At one point he put his foot on the snare to dampen it while he was doing a 1 handed build roll.  He’s not an all or nothing drummer, but he has a nice groove and when he let’s loose he has some great chops.  One of the wildest things during his set was yes it’s a drum show and yes everyone wanted to watch him play drums, but Jojo jumped off the drums and let the singer Chrissi play while he sang Otis Redding’s  (Sitting On) The dock of the bay.

150811 - Jojo Mayer singing at Martyrs:Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Jojo Mayer singing at Martyrs:Photato by Drumnmike

Sure I would’ve liked to see Jojo play that song or another song but he had a nice voice and it was pretty cool to see that.  She also wasn’t too bad herself on the kit.  It was totally unexpected.  When they finished she got back onto the microphone and said to make sure you get out of your comfort zone because that was where life begins.  They played another song which Jojo tore up. During his last song I was distracted from the 2 members standing 5 feet from us, Steve and Benny.  I had a hard time watching Jojo because I was thinking this might be my one time to shake their hands and I would’ve kicked myself for not having the guts to do it and regretting it when I got home.

150811 - Benny Greb & Steve Smith - Mr & Mrs Hi Hat: Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Benny Greb & Steve Smith – Mr & Mrs Hi Hat: Photato by Drumnmike

When Jojo got off the stage they took it.  Benny described a heart warming story seeing Steve at a clinic years ago where he performed Mr Hi Hat, a song by Max Roach.  Eventually Steve taught it to Benny and well, the 2 of them played it.  If you watch the video you’ll get an idea what it was like and watching the 2 of them do it was remarkable.  Their rendition was a lot longer than the video but it definitely didn’t feel like it.  They would alternate through some of the front and back sticking, then putting the sticks on their arm for 1 handed rolls, then off of their legs keeping the rhythm.  Steve was able to trip Benny up a few times on some of the stick ‘tricks’ but it was a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

150811 - Dave Weckl and crew - Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Dave Weckl and crew – Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike

Then Dave Weckl was up.  He said a few words thanking everyone for the show/camp and then tore into the songs.  This man is nuts.  Being late to the party on this guy (as in this year) the song Got a Match? got me really into his drumming.  My biggest regret is that I didn’t have his music earlier in my life so I could have something absolutely insane to practice to and inspire me.  However the universe presents you with material when you’re ready so now must be the time that I can more fully appreciate it.  My best quote from Kathryn to explain how remarkable his playing is was when Dave was doing a solo and he was hitting all drums possible and she asked ‘where is the cowbell coming from?’.  Dude is just so nuts that he was able to keep time on every other quarter note with it while doing his solo.  Watching him perform was very inspiring.  His set was more jazz and rock, but he didn’t keep still and was at the top of his game.  His player made him a great closer for the 2 nights.

150811 - Benny Greb, Steve Smith & Ironing Board - Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Benny Greb, Steve Smith & Ironing Board – Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike

Dave left the stage and Benny and Steve went back up with an ironing board.  Steve mentioned how one time in a hotel he went to another drummers room and they riffed on an ironing board together. Steve and Benny took the liberty of playing the ironing board with brushes, making the ironing board sound the best I’ve ever heard out of an ironing board. As they finished 2 folks put 2 glasses of red wine on the ironing board and they did a small cheers, hugged and left.

150811 - Dave Weckl & Bass player - Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Dave Weckl & Bass player – Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike

Jojo and Dave went back on the stage for an amazing rendition of Superstition. Near the end of the song Jojo and Dave were soloing at the same riff that Mike Mangini was tearing up on Friday, and these guys did the same.  The sheer intensity coming from Dave’s set and Jojo’s grooves were amazing to watch together.

I was able to shake Jojo’s and Benny’s hand.  I saw that Steve finished his wine and thus offered to buy him another one.  Steve walked with me to the bar and he ordered the red wine.  I stood next to him for a few minutes and he played a drum roll with brushes on the bar counter.  Only now in my clear head were there questions I’d like to ask him as we waited for the wine to be given to us, but instead I just took a really low light selfie.

150811 - Steve Smith & DrumnMike selfie at Martyrs:Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Steve Smith & DrumnMike selfie at Martyrs:Photato by Drumnmike

The entire event really was like a camp, with people getting together from different corners of the globe to teach 5 days of drumming. The performances were all fun with the drummers and band members hugging and shaking hands on stage as they would finish their sets.  It was a group of people who became new friends through their love of music.  Both nights of the show were great and for fear of choosing a favorite child I’m going to say I enjoyed them both, although secretly I have a favorite.

show review: Benny Greb, Steve Smith, Mike Mangini – Martyrs Chicago (150807)

150807 - Benny Greb - Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike
150807 – Benny Greb – Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike

Out of all the Chicago venue’s that I’ve either played or watched a show this was the first time I was at Martyrs.  It’s a fairly small, or for higher selling point ‘intimate venue’, with tables and chairs setup in front of the stage for this show, with standing room surrounding the seating area.  There were actually 2 bars on each side of the place which made it very convenient.  There were 3 drum sets setup on stage and once Benny took the stage we moved to the other side of the venue to make sure he wasn’t blocked by the conveniently placed posts throughout the venue. There were maybe 20 women at the show, including the woman who sang.  Sadly I think they were just there with their boyfriends or husbands, like mine was.  There could be an opportunity to get more girls into drumming.

Benny Greb is mostly an educator in Germany, although he recently released the awesome album Moving Parts as a trio. After hearing that album I was pissed to find out he’s not a big touring dude so the chance to see/hear him at Martyrs as part of the drum night was awesome and dumb luck it happened so shortly after hearing about him.  The drummers chose the songs that they played with the bands for the evening.  Benny started with Remember the Time, then a song that I’ve never heard, something about putting your money into the gas tank, an amazing drum solo, I shot the Sherriff then Day Tripper. The drums are just a weird extension of this man and he just messes with odd timing on the slow and fast side and triplets walking around the fine line that is the steady beat.  His solo wasn’t just crazy rolls but a mix of awesome groove and then some crazy fills.  As I’m now listening to this song it’s not exactly what his solo was, but this gives you an idea how he solos. My biggest complaint is that he didn’t play longer.

150807 - Steve Smith Sticks - Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike
150807 – Steve Smith sticks – Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike

As we were clapping for Benny Steve Smith walked up on stage and sat right next to the pole.  This was my view throughout the whole time he played as the venue was looking full at the other side. Steve’s position was funny when he’d play his right hand on the high hat and his left hand on the black snare just to the right of the pole.  I wish I would’ve gotten a picture of that.  Steve’s main credit for drumming is his early work with the band Journey from 1978 – 1985. Although that’s his most well known credit he’s really created a whole new life for himself with drumming since then as a session player, jazz player, educator, etc. Modern Drummer magazine voted him all around best drummer 5 years in a row.  Steve’s set consisted of jazz pieces, first a song with sticks, then with brushes,then back to sticks.  Eventually he picked up an African style drum and played with his hands on the drum and the set.  For his last song he started scatting into his microphone, mimicking drum fills and beats. Then he started playing set along to this.  This was insane.  His scatting was better than some playing that I’ve heard and I didn’t hear any word trip ups in what he was doing, and he was flying through it.  It was awesome.

150807 Mike Mangini - Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike
150807 Mike Mangini – Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike

As we were clapping for Steve Mike Mangini took the stage.  He’s the current drummer for prog band Dream Theater and during 2002 – 2005 set 5 worlds fastest drummer records. He started smoothly leading into Stevie Wonders ‘Superstition’, followed by a brief guitar lick to lead into You don’t have to be rich.  He played Higher Learning with an extending ending including riffing back and forth between bass, keys and drums.  Through out his playing he mostly focused on his groove, which was more straight than swing and showcasing his double bass/fast hand fills.  At one point he was doing a single handed roll which was insanely fast while he accented over the toms with his right hand.  It was an awesome display.  As he was finishing up Steve and Benny were next to the stage and I had a feeling what would happen next.

150807 Greb, Mangini and Smith - Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike
150807 Greb, Mangini and Smith – Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike

When the band finished their tune they walked to the side of the stage and Steve and Benny took place at their drum kits.  Steve started scatting again and all 3 drummers played along.  They each played a brief solo throughout the short performance and it was really cool to see the 3 distinct styles playing along to Steve’s voice.

When they finished their tune they started a simple rhythm on the snare drum, and Dave Weckl and Jojo Meyer walked onto the stage.  They setup in a line from right to left of Mike Mangini, Steve Smith, Dave Weckl, Benny Greb and Jojo Meyer each with a snare drum in front of them, and a sideways bass drum in between Jojo and Benny.  The band joined them briefly for a rendition of When the Saints go Marching in. Then the band stopped to let the drummer play off of each other starting with an 8 bar snare beat from Mike on down the line.  A few times Benny was caught up in the fun and missed his starting point but he quickly caught it and it was a humorous instance between everyone.

150807 Meyer, Greb, Weckly, Smith and Mangini - Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike
150807 Meyer, Greb, Weckly, Smith and Mangini – Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike

It was awesome to watch the masters play off of each others style and see the fun the drum community can have with each other.  Each style is slightly different and each drummer brought their unique style to the snare drum.  I’m excited for the 2nd show on Tuesday!

I am sad that Benny didn’t come out of the back as I would’ve loved to shake his hand and get a selfie.  Such is life, it was still awesome.

show review: Deafheaven – Wicker Park Fest (150726)

150626 - Deafheaven, Wicker Park Fest: is a shitty pic better than no pic?:photo by drumnmike
150626 – Deafheaven, Wicker Park Fest: is a shitty pic better than no pic?:photo by drumnmike

“You don’t mix emo with black metal.  The Norwegians would kill you.” said one accented chap as I was following the massive herd towards the exit when they were finished.

To the purists he might be right, but considering the large group of people watching something like this on a Sunday night at 9pm the majority tends to think it’s good.

Since i’m writing about the show, I find myself in the latter.  I must admit when I first heard their stuff I was hooked.  I really like the shoegaze, spacey aspect of them and I also dig the fast black metal drumming.  I’m starting to fade on insanely aggressive metal screaming, but for the time being it works for me.

If you’re not familiar you can check their highly acclaimed album Sunbather (released in 2013).  You’re either into the black metal style or not.  Seeing them live gave me more appreciation for them, but mostly the drummer.  The guitarists had a fairly mid tempo to faster strumming, while the drummer was insane about 70% of the time playing extremely fast 32nd or 64th notes with his blast beats, then moving over to fills, essentially playing very fast fills for the duration of songs.

One of the 2 founding members and vocalist George kept the crowd interested with his energy while the string instruments mostly stood around jamming.  George would dance around, rally the crowd into applause and cheers, and provide theatrical movements to the builds and punctuation in the songs.  He’s no stranger to being on stage and his excitement showed.

As with most festival/outdoor shows when I’m blown away like I was I’m upset I didn’t get to attend their indoor performance at SubT the previous night.  Seeing their intensity in a small space would have been overwhelming but it could’ve been a heck of a show.

They do a nice interpretation of the black metal style with an affinity for other styles of music which can help break up some of the monotony of black metal.  Although the monotony can be half the fund of it, their style blending adds a unique touch to what they’re doing.

George teased and then on July 28th the band confirmed their new album New Bermuda will be released in October. Looking forward to it.

show review:Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion – Thalia Hall (6/14/15)

Photo by Clayton Hauck

“So do you have a huge jazz boner right now?” Kathryn asked.
“No, it’s more of a historical boner”.

Ginger Baker played Thalia Hall with his Jazz Confusion on Sunday, June 14th and we were fortunate enough to get tickets.  The floor is typically standing room with balcony seating around the hall, they set out rows of chairs on the floor for first come first served.  We sat about 10 rows back. Within seconds we realized no one was sitting in these chairs because the AC unit was dripping onto the seats.  We slid our chairs back 2 feet back to get away from the dripping and had wonderful seats for the show.

150614- ginger baker - thalia hall:photo by drumnmike
150614- ginger baker – although every picture i took of him makes him look like a ghost. Probably pale skin/bright lights in action- thalia hall:photo by drumnmike

The lights dimmed and Ginger and the other 3 members walked onstage. His percussionist helped a slow moving Ginger onto the drum riser, catching him when he stumbled up the stairs.  The percussionist sat at a set of 2 bongos and 2 spiral thrash cymbals at a height reminiscent of John Stanier. At one point Kathryn asked who had the idea first.  I’ve taught her well.

Although Ginger is in his 70’s, he’s playing as if drumming is the one thing he can still do fluidly. When he spoke between songs he’d have trouble breathing every few words, but he would quickly jump into the next song as he was finishing his next sentence.  The band would follow along, typically starting with a saxophone melody, then bass solo, then percussionist and ginger solo, then the full band would come in to bash it into the end.

Midway through the set when Ginger was speaking to the crowd he remarked that he had just gotten out of the hospital 10 days ago, and was livid that Thalia hall had so many stairs as that was one of the things he couldn’t do.  Although after watching Beware of Mr Baker movie spending time in the hospital and then playing shortly after is something that he routinely does, hearing him speak about it now can make someone wonder how many more times he’ll be able to get away with it.

They played a 40 minute set, took a small break then got back on the stage within 10 minutes to play for another 30 minutes.  They walked off stage then the percussionist led a very African style chant of “gingah bakah” for one last song.

The most reflective point of the night was Ginger’s brief intro before the 2nd to last song ‘Why‘.  This was the one song with vocals and he asked the audience to join in the chorus.  It was a slight build and everyone was to yell ‘Why!’.  Before starting the song he referenced the fact that he’s lost everything in his life so many times, and upon reflecting he appeared to have remorse. It seemed to be very painful for him to see the path of destruction that he left behind him.  On our way home Kathryn was enthralled by him and looked up more about him on the internet.  One very positive mention was that he saw his son either the previously night or around that time, so he might be taken the song Why to heart and taking some steps to right some of his wrongs.

150614- ginger baker - thalia hall:photo by drumnmike
150614- Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion sign – Thalia hall:photo by drumnmike

show review: Marinoan, Bardus, Those Dirty Thieves (7-20-15)

150720 - those dirty thieves - grandbar:photo by Drumnmike
150720 – those dirty thieves – grandbar:photo by Drumnmike

In time I’ll get to the point where I’ll pitch my shows before I actually play them, but in time.

Those Dirty Thieves drew my attention before they even played with the drummer and his wonderful picture on his bass drum.  After talking with the drummer he showed me the wood burned design that he had on his bass drum, which was possibly almost cooler than the bass drum head!

150720 - those dirty thieves bass drum - grandbar:photo by Drumnmike
150720 – those dirty thieves bass drum – grandbar:photo by Drumnmike

When the band took the stage they tore it up.  Dudes play a thrash metal punk type of thing, with most of their songs in the faster, aggressive yelling style.  The singer had a good sense of humor, keeping the crowd engaged between songs.  They kept it quick in between without a lot of down time, key to keeping folks engaged in the live setting.

150720 - Bardus - Grandbar:Photo By Drumnmike
150720 – Bardus – Grandbar:Photo By Drumnmike

Bardus, some dudes out of Philadelphia, are doing a semi tour and found there way in Chicago with us.  Through the coincidence of it being a small world after all I received a text a few days ago saying my buddy Nate knew Ari, the bass player in this band.

When they kicked into their first song they were in the same heavy vein as Those Dirty Thieves, but there was an almost psychedelic groove to them, playing more mid tempo.  For a 3 piece they made a lot of noise and had a big sound.  Their drummer had an awesome Gretsch drum set with a 26″ (!!) bass drum.  Mine is a 22 so dude definitely had a massive kick.  They’re continuing their tour in Milwaukee tonight, Michigan then Ohio.

150720 - marinoan - grandbar: photo by drumnmike
150720 – marinoan – grandbar: photo by drumnmike

and then Marinoan played.  We played our soon to be released EP in it’s entirety. I’m sure I’ll be posting about that in the weeks/months to come…

show review: Melt Banana, Torche, Hot Nerds at Empty Bottle (7-15-15)

150714 - Melt Banana - Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike
150715 – the 3 members of Melt Banana – Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike

Can the Japanese Noise-Grind Core group Melt Banana bring the metal intensity without a drummer?

150714 - Hot Nerds - Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike
150715 – Hot Nerds – Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike

San Fran natives Hot Nerds opened the show, but we walked in 3/4 through their set.  They played a type of carnival punk with guitar/vocals, acoustic drums and a synthesizer with songs clocking in under 2 minutes.  The vocals had an effect that he didn’t turn off during the entire performance, even when he was talking to the crowd.  The drummer pounded away on the drums with a ferocious intensity found in metal/punk drummers.  The singer was self deprecating about the songs but the group seemed to enjoy themselves. The crowd seemed to be into it.

150714 - Torche - Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike
150715 – Torche – Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike

Then Torche showed up.  This is when the place started to fill out a lot more and I had to weasel my way up. The music is heavy, but dude sings.  In the first song Steve was shredding a guitar solo with a leg up on the monitor, letting everyone know they weren’t going to sleep their way through the set.  He’d stick his tongue out and held the guitar up while acknowledging the first few rows of the crowd.  Their music is somewhat rowdy, but not enough that people would go nuts and throw each other around to any of their songs.  At least not on a Tuesday apparently. Or everyone there was older.  They played a good portion of tracks from their newest album, Restarter, but mixed in a good chunk from Harmonion.  Most of their songs are in the mid to uptempo range but the tune Minions really stuck out to me, and hearing it live was awesome.  I’m a fan of the more upbeat energetic songs and listening to this recorded seemed like the song would drag on, but seeing them perform it live gave me a new appreciation for it.  A crowd favorite was Letting Go,  but once they were Kicking in you could tell that was also one of the tunes that got the crowd hooked on the band. They played mostly straight through for their entire set, with just a few pauses to check the tuning, but even that was quick and they were appreciative that everyone was there to watch them, not see them tune, get a drink of water and dick around. Not sure if they played this song, but it’s one of my favorites.

150715 - Melt Banana Selfie - Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike
150715 – Melt Banana Selfie – Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike

Melt Banana was a band I haven’t been able to truly appreciate until seeing them live.  I’ll listen to them on occasion but to see them live was a whole new experience.  Being a weak ass old man I figured I’d see about 20 minutes and just leave, but once they started playing She had such an amazing energy that she brought to the stage it was hard to tear myself apart.  As a drummer I’m of course saddened when a band uses a drum machine, although I can definitely understand the why behind it.  Heck Aaron and I moved forward as a 2 piece because we were done with guitar players for a short while.  That has passed.  But the drum machine was great, and to have actually seen someone perform what they had tracked would’ve made it that much better.  Aaron mentioned that he saw them with Dave Witte and I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to handle it if that happened.

150715 - Melt Banana - Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike
150715 – Melt Banana – Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike

The movement of the singer Yasuko Onuki was electrifying, and the coordination between her and Ichirou Agata and the fluidity between songs made them playing with a drum machine and samples that much more impression.  Save for a few occasions they weren’t concerned with walking over to line up the computer to start a song, but instead would have synced arm swings and starts, as if they’ve played these songs thousands of times to perfect them.

show review: High Risk – Constellation (July 2 2015)

150702 - High Risk at Constellation: Photo by Drumnmike
150702 – High Risk at Constellation: Photo by Drumnmike

My main reason for attending this and thus staying was the Mark Guiliana drum clinic/after show.  I knew nothing of this group but I’m glad I stayed.  Remember when I mentioned that I have a hard time listening to newer jazz done with the instruments of old?  Well, this is something I can get down with and am excited to eat my words.  It was Mark Guiliana on acoustic drums, Dave Douglas on Trumpet, Shigeto on electronics and Jonathan Maron on Bass and keys.

I was obnoxiously annoyed right at the start, hearing the typical slow dramatic start that happens with most music, but that really is something I need to get over.  It lasted for a few minutes and got you adjusted to the group, and then they tore into it.  Although the songs were a jazz swing feel they weren’t your typical beat on the ride swing style jazz. The trumpet played melodies, but also veered on the edge of free jazz and drawn out sounds.  The electronics and the drums had a nice sync, complementing each other, but also having certain spots where they were allowed to breathe on their own and share their own voice.

150702-High Risk at Constellation: Photo by Drumnmike
150702-High Risk at Constellation: Photo by Drumnmike

There were multiple times throughout the set when Dave would step away from the stage and let the remaining members find their voice and play off of each other.  Most of the times this would end in a drum solo by Mark, and they were always interesting.  It was also cool to see Mark’s drum solos after he had explained his thinking and building into them ahead of time.  They would add to the song and slowly build instead of just trying to fit as many hits as possible into the space.

One of my favorite parts, aside from the drum solos, was when everyone except Shigeto left the stage and he was able to explore his sounds for a few minutes.  Another favorite thing about getting exposure to a group like this with independent musicians coming together for an album is the ability to be exposed to these new musicians, then diving into their catalog.  Having only heard of Mark, barely, I’m excited to dive deeper into his catalog. Reading up on Dave Douglas he’s recorded 40 albums as a band leader and got his start with Horace Silver.  That’s a dedicated dude.  Expect reviews in the future regarding the members projects. If more new wave does projects like this I’m excited to finally open up my mind and explore what else is being done with the genre. Please pardon my ignorance. (I’m open to suggestions)

Judging by Dave’s past experiences with bands this might be the only tour with this group of musicians so if you can find them playing live near you I’d highly recommend checking them out.

150702-High Risk at Constellation:Photo by Drumnmike
150702-High Risk at Constellation:Photo by Drumnmike

show review: Judah and the Lion – Pritzker Pavilion (7-9-15)

150709 Judah & the Lion - pritzker pavilion: photo by Drumnmike
150709 Judah & the Lion – pritzker pavilion: photo by Drumnmike

Today is Franny’s bday. Happy bday Franny.

After that Edward Sharpe show I was ready for some country or blue grass.  I brought my jug of red wine and bag of peanuts and was ready to finish them both in the hour and a half it took them to start and finish their set.  I had no idea that within 2 songs after introducing Twenty-somethings they were going to sing We built this city (with synchronized dancing and electro drums, then ignition (remix), then lose yourself.  Eventually they brought ‘shark attack’ onto the stage to freestyle rap with one of the members of their band.  Ken was calling for 99 problems but they never played it.

Although the band was a lot more loose, the crowd was a lot more subdued than the Snarky Puppy show.  This could’ve been due to the Taste of Chicago, or the fact they’re not as big as Snarky Puppy, but that’s #truth.

The band had great energy and for being a 6 piece they were having a blast hanging out and playing music together.  The music of country/blue grass/rap and cover songs were an interesting mix but it was clearly something they enjoyed doing.  The songs were something that they enjoyed listening to and thus playing as a band and that enjoyment transferred through with their songs.

Especially after listening to their recorded material they sound like a fairly chilled band, but the live show made them seem more like a pop or rock band that just so happened to have long hair, big beards and banjos.

150709 Judah & the Lion - pritzker pavilion: photo by Drumnmike
150709 Judah & the Lion – pritzker pavilion: photo by Drumnmike

alright i’m going.