- Carter: Some Things Change
Sunday, April 29th, 2012
Some Things Change, and some do not
Our old friend Ray Wylie Hubbard will play Shrinefest in May. He’s been around for forever and keeps staying relevant. If you have a chance, I suggest you check him and Jack Ingram out at the outdoor show.
Going all the way back to the punk music of 1976, I read something on-line last week about a Russian group of female punk rockers who are somewhere a cross between the riotgrrl music of Bikini Kill (Olympia, Washington) and the Guerilla Girls art collective, which pretty much shows up anywhere.
It was interesting to me because I didn’t think punk music could happen after the early 1980’s. Looking back on Wichita Falls back in the day when the whole punk thing hit back in 1976, you could find the original Clash and Sex Pistols and Damned singles at the Disc Records (in of all places) Sikes Senter. They were all picture sleeve 45’s imported from England and there were a lot of fun.
It was like hearing a solid blast of sonic mayhem and anger for about two minutes or less. When the lp records started coming out, the average album was maybe 20 minutes (total for both sides). By the early ‘80s, the scene had devolved to Black Flag and Dead Kennedys and to bands like X and such.
Oddly enough, you could buy the punk singles and albums and stuff as imports and then the American re-releases, but the punk music of the late ‘70s never really came to the area live. Eventually, by the early to mid ‘80s it sort of made its way into area music.
To be fair though, I was in a band called the Damned II that played some of that stuff in some offbeat clubs like the Windmill Gardens by the late ‘70s, and there was a band called the Mercenaries that also played some punk/new wave of the time at places like the Wichita Theatre. As I recall, the latter group won a battle of the bands contest at the Wichita Theatre and played at some other places.
I don’t remember Wichita Falls ever getting any of the real political, anti-social punk rock that really shook the music industry and the world in the late ‘70s. We did get a visit from The Clash in 1983 or 1984 on the band’s “Combat Rock” tour courtesy of Joe Ely. For the record, most of the punk bands from England and America did play Dallas at one time or another.
The fact that Punk music ccan still happen in 2012 is pretty amazing. And, where could be more rife place for protest than the polarized political scene in Russia? A group of women have been showing up in the streets of Moscow to protest what they perceive to be authoritarianism of the Russian government.
The women wear masks, show up pretty much anywhere where people are out and about, and don’t worry about playing perfectly composed music with lots of 7th and 11 chords. It’s all about getting out their message. It’s short, sweet and direct, and there are some youtube.com videos up—but who knows for how long?
Some members have already been arrested, but it’s not just one group or collection of people doing this. The masks allow them to be anyone who wants to protest (and that’s sort of reminiscent of the Guerilla Girls). From what little I have seen and heard of the music, it very much reminds me of the rawness of the punk music from early 1976, before the labels changed everything by making the musicians into pop stars.
There is no schedule yet for any of these punk rockers to record their music. The point is the immediacy of their political views played live to people. At some point, this will start turning up in magazines, and someone will want to do a recording and proceeds of sales will go to some political organization in Russia and the whole punk of it will be lost. Still, it’s kind of nice to see that not all punk music has gone the way of Green Day.Share
- Carter: New Things
Monday, April 23rd, 2012
I had an opportunity to go to the area’s newest open mic event Friday night at the 8th Street Coffee House. They have it Friday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and if you haven’t been there yet to check out sandwiches or the coffee, you need to completely go there. It’s always been a great location at night, and I very much remember going there on Friday nights when Zorba’s was open and owner John Economo and I would enjoy Greek coffee before live shows at other venues downtown.
Anywho, the space very much looks like it did back then, but there are more couches and stuff and tons of places to just hang out, talk with people and eat snacks or sip coffee and do an Internet thing or whatnot. The stage is right to your left when you walk in, and they have two PA speakers on stands and a good PA head. The sound is good and the people least Friday were a lot of the regulars from The Spot or from Vincent’s back in the day.
It was quieter Friday because there were so many shows in town including coffee shop owner Ricci Amador playing drums for James Cook and the Audacity at the Neon Spur where three other bands were hitting it.
While I was there, Greg Neth played as well as Chelsea Reeves and also Cody Magana. The sound was good, the crowd listened as opposed to talking and the vibe was a great one. I know from time to time that Amador and his wife Jen have area and regional bands stop by the open mic, so it’s totally worth checking out if you are in the mood to hear someone play acoustic or soft electric singer songwriter music.
Thursday night I made it a little early to college night at the Iron Horse Pub and got to hang out with bass player Austin Monson of Broadcasting on All Frequencies and also the Black & White Band. It just so happened that bassist Aaron Epp (formerly of Time of Times and also When We Dance We Dance for Reason) was there doing sound. It was enjoyable to listen to old all-ages scene stories and to realize that a lot of people didn’t know what they had lost musically until that scene was over. Few bands of that type remain from back then.
Anywho, despite being really busy lately with school and such, Monson let on that he and drummer Mason Warren (who have played in bands since the formation of Southern metal group Corithea) have formed a hardcore band that should be playing their first shows sometime early this summer. The guitarist is at Old High and the vocalist appears to be a secret or something. Anywho, anyone who remembers the rhythm section from Corithea and has heard Broadcasting on All Frequencies with a good soundman will attest to how good that rhythm section is.
I got to hear most of the first set by Broadcasting, and soundman Epp had the power of the bass and drums completely dialed in. Leave it to a bass player to appreciate how important the section is to any rock band. It was great to hear the band just rip it Thursday night. Monson and Warren’s new hardcore band along with The Affiliation, Coffin Crusher, Lycergus and High Windows just could make this summer pretty memorable. We already know it’s going to be hot, right?Share
- Carter: Benefits
Sunday, April 15th, 2012
A number of students from MSU organized and put on a live music show Friday night at the Neon Spur to help fund the April 20 and 21 annual MSU Relay for Life cancer benefit. The music event featured a number of area bands including Shantell and the CSO Band.
I was able to check out the show for a while, and everyone there seemed to be having a good time. I heard about it through Danny Robertson, an MSU cyclist, and his group put together a fun show.
If you were not able to attend, and would like to learn more about the upcoming cancer benefit event (and possibly donate) please go to www.relayforlife.org/mwsu. The name of the group putting on the concert was the walkie talkies.
Another event happened Sunday afternoon at the Iron Horse Pub, as two area bands played at the Pub for a benefit to help with medical expenses for Jean Davidson–a victim of colon cancer last January. Twicebroken and the postpunk band It Hurts to Be Dead played the Pub starting around 3 p.m.
Again, if you were unable to attend and would like to donate, please contact the Pub at (940) 767-9488, and they can put you in touch with the right person.
I was unable to attend because of the MSU cycling dual where visiting colleges from the region squared off. It was a lot of fun and people seem to enjoy watching cyclists go that fast around some extreme corners. Usually they have music, but this year they did not.
It will soon be that time again for Hotter ‘N Hell and the Finish Line Village where some great regional bands will come in. I have already heard rumors of who they might get this summer, and it will be worth attending.
The Junior League has already announced who will play this years FallsFest and that will be Marshall Tucker Band (a great old southern rock outfit) playing rock night and former metal guitarist turned country rocker Kevin Fowler (of Austin) playing country night.
Technically I suspect that Fowler could out rock any of the Marshall Tucker guitarists guitar to guitar, but the famous Dangerous Toys guitarist will be laying back, playing rhythm and singing some of those funny lyrics he is known for.
“Beer, Bait and Ammo,” indeed.
Finally, I heard about a great “new” band called The Affiliation that is about to start playing locally. Formed back in 2007, I think, by the brothers Chris and Jeff Catlin, the hard rock group is set to play “The Office” on May 19, but according to Jeff Catlin the band may also play the Pub Thursday after next.
Jeff Catlin is, of course, the guitarist for Lycergus and the bass player for Coffin Crusher—both of which are two of my favorite bands in town.
Chris Catlin plays drums, Jeff plays guitar. Kristin Mask (Erratic Method) plays lead guitar and Tyson Arnold (of High Windows and Coffin Crusher) plays bass of all things. Arnold is usually a guitarist.
But the real kick, if I understand this properly, is that Brandon Arnold (drummer for Lycergus, High Windows, Coffin Crusher) will be singing.
How many bands do you know that have two sets of twins playing? From the quality of the musicians and their musicianship, I cannot wait to hear this band. If you have not heard Mask play guitar, you are in for a treat.Share
- Carter: Queen for a fortnight
Monday, April 9th, 2012
Queen for a Fortnight
So, Saturday was a bittersweet evening at the Iron Horse Pub when the place’s most popular visiting act returned to play. Their most recent performance had been on January 1, 2011. It’s been a while to say the least. They had been scheduled to perform in April 2011, but lead singer Greg Finsley had moved to the west coast to play in another Queen tribute band.
A lot had happened over that time including a serious malady to guitarist Brian Harris. The group had been able to schedule last Friday at the House of Blues for a private party, with Shinedown playing the other stage. And then Saturday at the Pub where they very much enjoy playing.
So, of course, I was there at the group’s sound check (which are really amazing as I have written for ages now). Since Harris has undergone his open heart surgery and gone vegan, he looks great while losing none of those amazing guitar skills. Besides, he’s genuinely one of the nicest people in the business that you will ever meet.
Finsley, who has said maybe one word to me in the past nine years, actually said that he had grown his Freddie Mercury moustache for me. The comment was hilarious, of course, but the facial hair did look good. Bassist Jimmy Cleaver and drummer Alan Mouradian tend to be a little more quiet on stage but are funny when they get going.
Harris promised me that that sound check was going to be less raucous than in the past and the group would be more serious about playing Queen only songs. Some fans would argue that Queen for a Day do Zeppelin about as well as Zeppelin can be played nowadays. Anyone who has heard them do “The Lemon Song” can attest.
Well, the Queen only sound check quickly went away when Harris and Cleaver and Mouradian launched into “El Becko” from Jeff Beck’s “There and Back” album and just sort of went from there. They did a version of Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” and several moments later launched into Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.”
Their covers are always fun to listen to because a) the songs are good and b) they seem to enjoy playing them so much. Cleaver bounces around the stage playing bass and laughing. Also, the music is a great warm up, since the band rarely practices and it’s part of getting all the levels right.
Part of the magic of it all is to hear four people who have been playing forever, who know music inside and out, play for themselves, and enjoy what for most musicians is a very boring experience (sound checks) and also get ready for a hardcore Queen show two hours or so away.
The finished version of the group they show on stage later on is also always pretty amazing and definitely strikes chords in local music people.
The members then did a clip of Queen’s “Find Me Someone to Love” without vocals and then a full band version of Queen’s “Hammer to Fall.” The last tune was probably the closest the band gets to they way they would play that evening.
The band came back to play around 10:45 p.m. with Harris wearing a Rush shirt and Finsley a Flash (as in Gordon t-shirt). There was a lull while they were getting ready to play and then they launched into for about two hours. The stage, while I was there, was surrounded on all three sides, and people were all around it and sometimes on it. Queen for a Day at the Pub is about as close to the mood of a rock concert (especially with the crowd reactions) that Wichita Falls sees.
I honestly think there is a possibility the band will play in town again—given what Harris told me–but I don’t think that’s a for sure thing just yet. We shall see.
Finally, the other day, I got to hear an early practice of the former Mr. Fairchild band putting together a Radiohead-influenced tune. I think people are really going to like their music but it may take a while to come together.Share
- Carter: Practicing
Monday, April 2nd, 2012
This last week, I finally got to hear two of my two favorite area bands do a practice. It has been awhile since I’ve heard them play, but to be honest it was the first time they’ve practiced this year. Okay, maybe the second time. It didn’t sound like it.
When I got a text from Jason Cooper, I took off for the High Windows practice place. The trio features drummer Brandon Arnold and his guitar playing brother Tyson as well as bassist Cooper. The band has been together for at least several years and recorded several times already. They are behind schedule to record their two newest tunes, which are roughly 20 minutes apiece.
Their instrumentals usually start slow and gather speed and intensity, if that’s even fair. All of their music has the sort of intensity of a symphony, over the length of the song. The pieces are dynamic sort of like an early ‘70s Pink Floyd jam mixed with the hard rock/metal of say a mid ’70s King Crimson. Those band names are more of what I grew up listening to, but I suspect the predecessors of High Windows were listening to some of that music and other people. Needless to say, the area band’s songs are perfect for nights that verge on the end of the world or just too quiet for comfort. The musicianship is top notch, the writing is strong and the energy is overflowing.
Numerous people in town swear by them, but it’s unfortunate that they play live around here so rarely. The same is true of Coffin Crusher. With the all-ages scene all but kaput, it’s hard to see of the area’s more interesting groups. More news on the scene next week.
The two High Windows songs were linked by a sequence where Cooper manipulated his huge pedal board like Roger Waters once did for Pink Floyd to create some otherworldly eerie strong white noise modulated for effect. More recently the Scottish noise band Mogwai also did similar things for equally interesting effects.
Near the end of their second song, Brandon changed out one of his crash cymbals, while the bass player Jeff Catlin and singer Johnny Thrash for Coffin Crusher walked into the practice space.
The night then went from twenty-minute instrumentals to a series of short concise hardcore two to three minute songs with no letup.
Tyson changed one 7-string guitar and Marshall half stack amp for another 7-string guitar and an amp called a Krank half stack, which surprisingly sounded good. Krank is German for sick, and the amp had a sick sound in a good way.
The Coffin Crusher songs ripped, and the quartet was super tight playing music that needed to be played that way. It was also the first time for the members to practice in some time. Catlin is currently mixing their first CD. While the music was recorded a while back, the vocals were only recently put down.
Following the run through of their songs with several that have yet to get lyrics, the four band members retired to a truck to listen to the latest mixes of their recorded songs. I got to hang out and listen like when we all listened to the mix of the second to last Lycergus CD. I cannot wait for people to hear the new Coffin Crusher album.Share