WITCH + Earthless @ Les Saints / February 21st, 2009
EAGLES OF DEATH METAL + Matt Mays and El Torpedo @ Les Saints / November 14th, 2008
REVEREND HORTON HEAT + Nashville Pussy + Grady @ Les Saints / May 3rd, 2008
CURSED + Cancer Bats + Commando + Compton @ La Sala Rossa / January 6th, 2006
TRICKY WOO + The Leather Uppers @ Petit Campus / October 8th, 2005
Favourite Albums of 2008
Here are my new notables for this past year, in chronological order, since I don't like to play favorites. The asterisk means you can use these to fulfill your Canadian content requirements... you can bet that I sure did.
ASG - Win Us Over
Laying soaring melodies over dustbowl riffs, with vocals alternately floating and scraping over it all, this record looms large and spreads wide like the desert sky. Fans of Ian Blurton's extended catalog should check this out.
*Black Mountain - In the Future
Simultaneously dirty and ethereal, like choruses of drugged-out angels ushering in axe wielding armies, this beauty rolls resolutely forward, taking no prisoners and turning everything in it's path to dust.
Disfear - Live the Storm
The words "punishing" and "party record" don't often go hand in hand, but this is easily the beer-swillin'est hardcore album of the year. Buzzsaw guitars, gang vocals and that dancey death'n'roll drumbeat make this a party in a box - just press play.
*Black Ships - Low
The disbanding of Cursed this year left me heartbroken, but nature abhors a vacuum, and these Montrealers are rising mightily to fill the void left in their wake. This is what prey hears as it's slowly stalked and then ferociously ripped apart.
*Cancer Bats - Hail Destroyer
Rare is the band that I don't really care for live, but adore on record. This album blends together the finest in meathead metal riffs and southern comfort for a relatively braindead record I can't resist.
Local H - Twelve Angry Months
The 90s never sounded this good on this heartfelt, steady rockin' and unexpectedly heavy offering... and it's a concept record to boot! If you ever kinda liked this band, this album will catch you by surprise.
Shame Club - Come On
No boneyard of tired rock riffs, this album takes the ghosts of guitar rock past and reanimates them with a haunted, sweaty urgency. Only for those who aren't afraid of shameless throwbacks and classic rock monoliths.
The Dandy Warhols - ...Earth To The Dandy Warhols...
My one nostalgic nod, this album manages to sound like a career-spanning "best of" retrospective while offering up only new tracks. Whether it's the stoner ballads, country fried numbers or Nick Rhodes-era dancey shit you're looking for... they're all here.
*Bison B.C. - Quiet Earth
Heavy, yet precise, it was love at first sound and sight. As indelicate as this will sound, this band is the musical equivalent of boners and sweaty balls; masculine, tinged with grit, and not for the faint of heart.
Night Horse - The Dark Won't Hide You
Digging down to the deepest roots of Southern rock, this newly minted outfit has unearthed a bright shining gem of no-bullshit boogie rock'n'roll. Sadly a few songs shy of "instant classic", this sixpack will nevertheless leave you thirsty for more.
And as a bonus, since you've been so attentive, here are the five albums from 2008 I wish I'd heard, but won't get 'round to until 2009:
Airbourne - Runnin' Wild
Sahg - Sahg II
The Haunted - Versus
AC/DC - Black Ice
Satyricon - The Age of Nero
Favourite Albums of 2007
In no particular order, these are my favorite releases of 2007.
1. Visqueen - Unsane
If I HAD to pick a number one for this list, this would be it. Messy, and yet somehow sparse, this album marries violence with an overarching hopelessness and a heavy helping of Southern groove. The brutal stomp and frayed emotions of tracks like "Last Man Standing," "Only Pain" and "Windshield" further cement Unsane as masters of their genre. Without a doubt, this is their best album yet.
2. Blackout at Sunrise EP - Cursed
A three track EP isn't normally enough to tide me over between albums, especially when the wait is this prolonged. However, this EP, though short, manages to satisfy with the characteristic menace fans have come to expect, and bodes well for Cursed's upcoming album III (which has been announced for Spring '08).
[Honourable mention here goes to Goodfellow Records labelmates The Fucking Wrath, whose simultaneously doomy and crusty 2007 offering Season of Evil really should be on this list as well.]
3. Death Is This Communion - High On Fire
This much anticipated follow-up to 2005's blistering Blessed Black Wings might lack some of the cohesion of its predecessors, but the rock'n'roll urgency, gravel pit vocals and stunning drum work more than make up for any unevenness. In particular, the "Headhunter"/"Rumors of War"/"DII" musical hat trick keep me coming back for more.
4. In Return EP - Torche
Managing to both bludgeon and soar, this EP guarantees itself a spot on the list by offering up the heaviest song I've heard all year, and possibly in all my life: "Tarpit Carnivore." There are shades of Mastodon and Isis all over this record, so if you like either, this record comes highly recommended. The over-the-top packaging (10" custom color vinyl, intricate Baizley artwork and included CD) makes this a must-own for fans.
5. The Big Dirty - Every Time I Die
ETID return with an unexpectedly great rock record, much stronger and more mature than any of their previous albums. Some of the cheekiness is gone, replaced by a smarter, sharper viciousness, while the Southern metal influence previously toyed with on Gutter Phenomenon comes heavily, and successfully, to the forefront.
[Speaking of Southern metal, Maylene & The Sons of Disaster take the honorable mention here, with II, which, while not brainy, is too full of dirt road riffs, scissoring guitar work and scream-along hooks to not get a nod.]
6. Dirty Women - The Glasspack
This bunch of Kentucky stoners sure know how to boogie, as they clearly demonstrate on their latest record. When not chugging fuzzily along, this album wails and screams, dipping at times into swampy blues, soaring psychedelia and even a little honky-tonk piano. These boys love their grit and distortion as much as I do, and so will you.
7. From Beale Street to Oblivion - Clutch
This record isn't a radical departure from the sound of 2005's Robot Hive/Exodus, but it's a further, if smaller, step along the dramatic pattern of growth since the band's early '90s debut. Heavy bass and organ dominate this record, and Neil Fallon's wordplay is as sharp as ever. Nothing drastically new here, but you shouldn't fix what ain't broken.
8. Bottled Lighting (Of An All Time High) - C'mon
Sir Ian Blurton and his southern associates return with their third full length release, and as expected, it's a monster. This one packs all the swagger and crunch of the earlier albums with some surprises, particularly on "All Time High" and "Unh." C'mon writes songs that sound like rock songs should: living room tested, smoky club approved and stadium ready.
[Bionic's Black Blood deserves an honourable mention at the very least. This long awaited album faithfully delivers the awesome power of their live performance, with some characteristically off-kilter flourishes.]
9. Oshawa - The Mongrels
This newly formed contender for the Canadian rock'n'roll crown contains no young upstarts. Rather, this six member (two drummers!) assault unit is a supergroup of seasoned Montreal vets that doesn't shy away from digging into the past to unearth the rock'n'roll sound of the future. Trippy and groovy without a lick of sarcasm, this album synthesizes what makes dinosaur rock such an enduring classic.
10. Casa Diablo - White Cowbell Oklahoma
The boys are back, with a follow-up worthy of their excellent debut, Cencerro Blanco. While the riffs are just as thick and greasy as ever, the overall vibe is a little meaner and less carefree. The darker sound leaves more room for experimentation, and the edgy production lets the sheer musicianship shine. This record boogies, shakes and sleazes it up with the best of them. Don't miss it.
Some moments are bittersweet, and some are just sweet. Seeing Shooter Jennings at the Chameleon Club in the musical megalopolis that is Lancaster, PA was definitely the latter. The son of Waylon, Shooter carries on the outlaw country tradition with the same swagger his daddy had. Gearing up for his release, The Wolf, Shooter delivered the kind of show that only country acts can and left the crowd feeling full, warm and happy like a bowlful of grits and a bottle of whiskey.
By contrast, seeing Planes Mistaken For Stars on their farewell tour at Lambi was as heartbreaking as it was wonderful. Supporting their latest offering, We Ride To Fight! The First Four Years, a retrospective of their earliest releases, PMFS opened with my favorite song, "A Six Inch Valley," and then careened through a career's worth of gut-wrenchingly beautiful songs.
Favourite metal albums of '06
in no particular order:
Blood Mountain (Mastodon)
This monster of a record is continued proof that braininess and brutality aren't mutually exclusive.
Don't be fooled: this might look like a black metal album but this may just be the year's best stoner rock release, all dirt road riffs and doomy, gloomy goodness.
RIYL: Satan, bong hits
Now, Diabolical (Satyricon)
Possibly the catchiest black metal record ever recorded... careful, this slope is slippery. One minute you're bobbing your head, the next you're burning down churches.
RIYL: disco, being scared shitless
Droney, fuzzy proto-metal... J Mascis brings the fanboys in, but it's the creeping, hypnotic rock 'n roll that keeps 'em there...
RIYL: long hair, deciphering backmasked messages in Zeppelin records
Into Oblivion (Rise and Fall)
Who said Belgians are boring? Not this crushing, tortured sophomore release stamped with the Converge seal of approval.
RIYL: Cursed, waffles
III: The Eyes Of Fire (Unearth)
An unexpected scorcher. If you like blistering metalcore, don't overthink this one - just turn it up.
RIYL: driving really fast, barfights, other brainless pleasures
Like ocean waves grinding cliffs into sand, this intricately crafted record, full of searing highs and bone-shaking lows, is destructive in the best possible way.
RIYL: unconventional makeout music
Prisons (Eyes Of Fire)
Anguished without being emo, this is an epic, darkly melodic and doomy album, produced by Matt Bayles (Isis, Mastodon, Murder City Devils).
RIYL: existentialist philosophy, highly depressive ruminations
The Granite State destroyers are back with a long awaited dose of headbanging, tongue in cheek, whiskey-soaked mountain man rock.
RIYL: malt liquor, lowbrow pursuits
Deaf To Our Prayers (Heaven Shall Burn)
Dense, powerful melodic death metal from Deutschland. As punishing as it is pretty, this is one of 2006's sleeping giants.
RIYL: making fun of Myspace, In Flames
(bonus) Favourite Gigs
Bad Wizard @ Midway, NYC
Like the MC5 with extra boogie, this just might be one of the most dangerous bands in rock 'n roll... seeing them at their finest in a sweaty Alphabet Village dive is one of my fondest CMJ moments.
Mastodon (Unholy Alliance tour) @ Bell Centre
They were all I expected and more on their headlining stop at Spectrum, but this appearance gets the nod because despite the odds (playing early to a half-empty stadium) their mesmerizing performance blew the rest of the bands off the stage.
The Last Vegas @ Café Chaos
When this Chicago five-piece took the stage, Café Chaos became some smoky Sunset Strip shithole in the late 70's, and as their lead singer snaked about, I remember why I listen to rock 'n roll in the first place.
want more? see what the rest of the cjlo crew picked right here.
Poxy + Priestess + Paradise
March 9th, 2005 at Main Hall.
Well, aren't we the darlings of the rock'n'roll scene? Personally, I'm sick to death of hearing Montréal described as the Next Big Thing, especially when I wouldn't be caught dead attending shows by 95% of the bands used to bolster this theory. Since I don't see industry lapdogs with ink-stained fingers attending any of the Montréal rock shows I go to, I feel safe in the assumption that they're the ones getting it wrong. Except for this time. Maybe. The art stars were out in full force, surprising for this kind of a rock'n'roll show. Of course, it was a showcase, a Montréal showcase, and masturbatory self-congratulation amid Montréal music lovers is very much en vogue these days, in case you haven't noticed. Whatever. I tuned out the fancy haircuts and carefully designed looks of cool detachment and focused on the job at hand: rocking out.
First up, Paradise. This foursome makes macho, muscular rock, all churning bass lines and flashy riffs. The Judas Priest comparisons are easy, but lest the 'bangers get too comfortable, the band subverts their own heaviness with onstage attire seemingly culled from a Liberace estate sale, with each band member in a matching sparkly white suit. Jet Phil's guitar work shines and not only because his flying V is encrusted with rhinestones, for while the look is hotel lounge band, the music is pure rock, filtered and distilled to its essentials. Paradise love kitsch; their latest album Hotel is a tribute to tacky roadside reststops everywhere, with songs like "Super 8" and "Stardust". The lyrics, like the riffs, are over the top, but what the band lacks in complexity, they certainly make up for in skill and enthusiasm, most of which was lost on the crowd. This was, after all, a bitterly cold Wednesday night, and even though my ass was shakin' in spite of me, I can understand the audience's reluctance to give themselves over body and soul.
The crowd seemed to liven up a bit when Priestess hit the stage, mostly because of the growing buzz surrounding this "new" four-piece. Priestess aren't new at all, of course. Once known as The Dropouts, a significant departure in musical direction prompted the moniker change. Now they're signed to Indica Records (GrimSkunk, Absolu, Psychotic 4), being produced by Gus Van Go (Me Mom & Morgentaler) and pretty much set to take over the Montréal rock scene, one audience at a time.
"Hey, we're Priestess and we're gonna fuck you" announced singer Mikey, but few in the crowd had any idea how earnestly he meant it. What followed was forty minutes of earth-shattering, potentially life-changing, shit-hot rock'n'roll.
Priestess have achieved the perfect synthesis of handclapping, sing-along catchiness and no-bullshit headbanging heaviness, that same dangerous dynamic that has made C'mon such an obsession for me. Searing guitars, pummelling bass and drums and soaring vocals meld seamlessly, busting genres and breaking heads in the name of rock'n'roll. If this night was any indication, their debut release is going to be a varied ride. Hammering punk rock, foot-stompin' boogie rock and even a white man's blues number, all moaning guitars and pleading vocals, charmed their way into the hearts (and pants) of the crowd. Shit, there was even a five-minute drum solo! And while it's clear that these boys love their rock and are well-versed in it, every guitar lick, every drum beat sounds fresh, new and dirty as hell.
Of all three bands showcased that night, Priestess received the least media attention; no big cameras were jostling to make quick cutaways on their solos. Of course, that's the nature of the beast; often, the one with the most to offer goes relatively unnoticed. But make no mistake: this is real Montréal rock'n'roll, the kind you WON'T find at your local newsstand. By the way, your next chance to catch Priestess is at the end of April, when they join the mighty Motörhead for a series of cross-Canada dates. It's bound to be one hell of a show.
I wanted to leave immediately once Priestess left the stage; I was sated, satisfied, and I knew that it could only go downhill from there. I've seen Poxy many, many times and despite my best efforts, they just can't move me, and I'm just left pining for the halcyon days of my youth when Poxy's previous incarnation, Caféïne, opened my eyes to the power of local music. Despite my better judgement, however, I was compelled to stay. Like spotting a high school crush on the street, I had to take another look to see if anything had changed. I was too curious, too hopeful that maybe THIS time I'd fall in love all over again.
I didn't. Despite yet another lineup change and despite a new sound (a heaping helping of Depeche Mode with just pinch of electroclash), Poxy left me cold once again. The sleaze, the sexiness that made Caféïne so compelling is still absent, replaced by cookie-cutter choruses and skin-crawling synth. I'm sick of writing bad things about this band. Next time, I promise, I'll leave right away.
Despite the inevitable disappointment, overall, this was a good night. I wish there had been more dancing, more reckless rock'n'roll abandon, but the night was just cold and hostile enough (both outside and in) to make really losing yourself impossible. That would make me sad, if not for the fact that I know I'll have plenty of other, low-profile, chances to rock out to some of the best this city has to offer.
Snowstorm Vol. I CD Release Party: Squalor + Pete Möss + Floating Widget + Medusa Head Trip + Absolu
February 16th 2004 at Foufounes Électriques.
This was THE night for celebrating the best that the Montreal stoner rock scene has to offer. Tickets were cheap, beer was flowin' freely, and "paraphernalia" was handed out at the door, so the crowd was definitely ready to get down, and they weren't disappointed.
Absolu took the stage first. What a surprise. This band definitely delivered, all thick, grinding guitars and big, fat redneck riffs, perfect for pole dancing. The ass shakin' continued on a faithful, if slightly grungified French language cover of “She” by Kiss. Of course, at that point I was fully sold. Slow and greasy, this is rock'n'roll done right, and I look forward to seeing them again..
I've been enjoying High on Fire's latest Blessed Black Wings over the past couple of weeks, marveling at their no-bullshit steamroller approach to stoner rock. Medusa Head Trip are very much in this same vein: all dirty, freewheeling rock songs that thunder onward relentlessly. The heavy stoner riffs are there, but they're a little speedier, a little grittier. Plus, these guys are all about fast cars and faster women, so what is not to love?
Floating Widget are somewhat less accessible than the previous bands, with more complex song structures, and a more "traditional" stoner sound, but it was on their more "punk" (their word, not mine) inspired tracks that they truly dominated. Olivier Comtois' vocals were awesome that night, which is remarkable, seeing as I find that the singer is often the Achilles' heel of many great stoner bands. Of course, he could have cut down on the heavy breathing between songs, but now I'm just splitting hairs.
I've seen 2004 Montreal Emergenza winners Pete Möss before, and once again I was left... uninspired. This is more cock rock than stoner rock, and while I enjoy balls out rock'n'roll as much, if not more, than the next person, I find Pete Möss soulless. The riffs are heavy and the choruses are catchy, but like a Mickey D's cheeseburger, they're empty and unsatisfying and leave you hungering for something real. Pay some more dues before printing up all those boy-cut panties, boys.
Unfortunately, I didn't stick around for Squalor's set, despite the fact that they were the reason I decided to attend in the first place. However, because I have seen them on many different occasions, I can confidently say that they killed. These guys have been doing this forever, and their loaded, spacey instrumentals always satisfy, and I doubt that this night was any exception, unfortunately for me. Damn you, day job.
Subject: the new maximum rnr record...
...will totally rule.
they opened for electric frankenstein at foufounes last night, and like their last show at café chaos, treated the crowd to some new material. at the café chaos show, though, they mixed the old stuff and the new stuff together, and while the new stuff sounded great, it blended seamlessly and somewhat indistinguishably in with the old stuff for a solid ass shakin' set.
but last night they split their set into two, playing all the old stuff first and then kicking out the new stuff, giving the crowd a chance to really evaluate the band's new direction. and the new stuff killed. it's A LOT heavier, with noticeable stoner and speed metal influences.
they will be recording with ian blurton in march, and hopefully will be releasing this summer. they're looking at seven or eight tracks, but i'm hoping for something longer. suffice it to say, after high on fire, this is my most highly anticipated release of 2005. let's hope we won't have to wait too long for it.
posted January 22nd 2005 in the cjlo.com forum.
Question: What's your top 10 of 2004?
Top 3 Records of 2004
+ Top 3 Songs of 2004
+ Top 3 Shows of 2004
+ Bonus: Best Bar of 2004
= Angelica's Top 10 of 2004
And, because you always have to show your work...
1. C'mon - Midnight is the Answer. What would have happened if Cheap Trick spent some time down at the Funhouse with The Stooges? They might have released a record that sounded a lot like this. Catchy but still heavy as hell, this is hands down my favorite release of the year by my favorite new band. Oh yeah, and bonus points for Can/Con.
2. The Drive By Truckers - The Dirty South. This is a smart, dark and sharply poetic record, and undoubtedly the best country rock album of this year. Songs like "Cottonseed" and "Where the Devil Don't Stay" will haunt you forever if you let 'em. Grab a bottle of whiskey and a pretty girl and let the DBT tell you a tale.
3. Zeke - 'Til the Livin' End. Some of the totally unhinged violence of their earlier releases is gone, but this record still hammers fiercely home, this time with slightly longer, slower, stoner rock inspired songs. Dirty and heavy with plenty of crunching bass, this record is just how I like my rock'n'roll.
1. "Whorehouse Blues" by Motörhead. The last track off their latest, surprisingly excellent release Inferno, this is a soulful and country-fied song. Lemmy lets those gravelly pipes shine by singing, and not just rasping, a pretty, blues-y and yet still unmistakeably Motörhead ditty. The icing on an already unexpectedly tasty cake.
2. "I Only Want You" by The Eagles of Death Metal. Dance-y, full of false stops and rock as fuck, this is the track that gets even the headbangers dancin'. (p.s. Peace, Love, Death Metal, the album from which this track is drawn, was nominated for "Best Album Art of 2004", but then I eliminated the category. Maybe next year, boys.)
3. "Somebody Told Me" by The Killers. Okay, so this is a terribly commercial song by a terribly commercial band... but I defy you to tell me that this song didn't get you a little hot. Ambiguous lyrics, unashamedly eurotrash synth and a driving beat made this song 2004's official audio crack, and I'm not ashamed to say that I was addicted.
1. Bionic with C'mon and The Illuminati at El Salon, October 2nd. I knew this was going to be a killer show, and I wasn't disappointed. The Illuminati made me a convert, C'mon got me on my knees and Bionic made me wanna join the priesthood. Three heavy, energetic bands whose records are eclipsed only by their live shows equals pure heaven.
2. Kraftwerk at Metropolis, April 24th. Normally, high concept art star bands aren't my thing at all. But I have a soft spot for these kooky Germans, and I couldn't be more glad I went to see them. With an amazing stage show, beautiful projections, costume changes and all the old favorites, Kraftwerk proved why they remain so damn important.
3. Maximum RNR at Petit Campus, April 24th. Really, any of their shows this year gets the nomination, but I chose this one purely for sentimental reasons. In any case, in addition to being superfun guys, MRNR are incredibly heavy, punk as fuck and totally true to their name... keep your fingers crossed for a full length release in 2005.
Bonus: Best Bar of 2004 goes to the Crobar in London. I left a little part of me there (my liver, to be precise), and I hope to retrieve it sometime soon...
Angelica hosts BVST Wednesdays 6pm – 8pm. And yes, she ate our old country music director.
The (International) Noise Conspiracy
November 27th 2004 at Mean Fiddler; London, UK.
November 27th. I've been looking forward to this date for weeks. Today was to be the day that Diego and I would see Motörhead in their hometown, and at the Hammersmith Apollo (THE venue associated with the band, and the namesake of their first live album No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith), no less. Of course, I didn't take into account that, in their hometown, Motörhead make like Iron Maiden and sell out the equivalent of the Bell Center in a matter of days. Of course, London is chock full of "ticket brokers" (read: glorified scalpers), who graciously offered us tickets at 45 pounds a piece (that's about $110 Canadian, for those of you keeping score at home). A week later, the price was up to 75 pounds a piece (yes, that would indeed be about $180 bucks). Uh, no thanks. But why waste a perfectly good Saturday night?
As luck would have it, The (International) Noise Conspiracy happened to be playing a rock club that night, and for a much more reasonable price. I have tried (and failed) to see them in Montréal on three separate occasions: once because I was too tired, once because of a term paper, and once because I was sick as a dog. Suffice it to say, I was just hoping to not get hit by a bus on the way to the show, 'cause there was no way I was going to miss them a fourth time.
By the time the band took the stage at 1 am, the crowd was buzzing with anticipation, and the band didn't disappoint. They came on like a firecracker, ripping through familiar hits like "Up for Sale" and "Capitalism Stole My Virginity" with a fierce, fiery energy unlike any I've ever seen before. Leaping and prowling across the stage, the five-piece didn't just rock, they careened uncontrollably, barreling through their set with abandon. The incredible stage presence of the band members and the way in which they fearlessly, aggressively interact with the audience and each other is nothing short of transfixing. Of course, it didn't hurt that there was more than a little homoerotic horseplay...
The only downside was the length of the set, a whopping seven songs. Not the band's choice, of course. Rock clubs here in London are basically dance clubs with band appearances, and those appearances are always kept short. In fact, The (International) Noise Conspiracy pushed the time limit of their set with an extra song: the blistering single "Armed Love" from their new release of the same name. The crowd went bananas, screaming and leaping along with the band. And then, before we knew it, the dance floor lights were back up, and the band was gone.
I was lucky enough to chat with lead singer Dennis Lyxzen and bass player Inge Johansson after the show, and they were unbelievably approachable, friendly and charming. Of course I asked about an upcoming Montréal date, but it seems that because of label trouble, the new album isn't being released in North America, and therefore there aren't any dates on the horizon for us. Too bad. After this little taste, I'm looking forward to more.
Angelica hosts BVST every Wednesday 6pm – 8pm. The fact that Diego was quickly dropped from the story makes us suspect foul play.
Dispatches From Across the Pond: The "I Love the Nightlife" Edition
Well, it shouldn't surprise anyone that most of what I've seen here in London can only be seen between nine at night and five in the morning... No work, no responsibilities = as much partying as humanly possible. A typical night starts off at the pub, with dinner and a pint (or two, or three). Pubs rule. Heaping helpings of tasty (and incredibly unhealthy) comfort food with funny names and/or ampersands... bangers & mash, fish & chips, bubble & squeak, steak & kidney pie, etc. Actually, that's about it. English cuisine isn't known for its variety. Even breakfast is served with French fries, uh, I mean, chips.
The only downside to pubs is that they close at 11, at which point continuing to drink means paying a cover at any number of clubs and bars around the city. London is full of rock joints, from dance-y places where you can shake your ass to all the latest rock and indie hits (Death From Above 1979 and The Libertines are HUGE here), to dirty hole-in-the-wall bars populated with rockers from across the continent.
The Crobar is just such a place, and is without a doubt my favorite London watering hole. Wall-to-wall metalheads drinking tall boys of Budweiser (the original Eastern European kind, not the piss poor American interpretation) and listening to what may possibly be the world's greatest jukebox (tons of AC/DC, Skynyrd, Maiden and Motörhead, with some Zeke, Clutch and Mastodon thrown in for variety). It's small and hot as hell in there, and on Saturday nights the back room actually fogs up (!) with the collective breath of heshers from Greece to Sweden to South Africa and everywhere in between. Expect a group singalong to "War Pigs", and collective headbanging to anything off Reign in Blood. It's heaven, I tell ya. If I don't come back in December you know where to find me.
Hanging out at the Crobar has also taught me a number of things about European courtship rituals. Not firsthand, of course. Much of what you're about to read is insight provided by that slick haired Lothario, Diego Ferro. It has come to my attention that hooking up here is a real quick'n'dirty affair. Which isn't all THAT different from what happens in North America, but, well, the speed and directness with which people go about picking people up here is... eye-opening, to say the least. Hooking up here is a take-no-prisoners, no-holds-barred contact sport. You might be conversing quite innocently with someone, when suddenly they're trying to stick their tongue in your mouth or their hand down your pants. Oh, and in case you're wondering "no, thanks" isn't taken all that seriously over here, either. And because the Crobar is populated with a fair number of people who have "auditioned" pretty much everyone else in the bar, any new face is considered fair game. But, like I said, this is all secondhand knowledge...
Like in Montréal, bars and clubs close at 3 a.m., and the bouncers will throw you out with a very direct "right, wankers... out!". I've even been physically picked up and deposited outside the Crobar... but that bouncer lets us in for a hug, so I'm not complaining.
And after 3 a.m.? Well, there are a couple of illegal all-night bars. The one Diego frequents is only open to Spanish speakers and their friends, and is "underground" in every sense of the word. No ventilation, 6-foot high ceilings, the place has "death trap" written all over it. I'm not a fan, but you can find Diego there most nights... I mean, mornings.
All in all, my stay in London has been a blast, but soon I'll be on a plane and back to the daily grind. No more dispatches for me, but I'll be back live with BVST on December 8th...
Angelica hosts BVST every Wednesday from 6pm to 8pm. We still don’t know how we’re gonna tell her that her pre-recorded shows for November were accidentally deleted.
Dispatches from Across the Pond: The Motherland Edition.
First day back in London after 10 days spent in Italy. Here's what's cool there now: mullets (on girls), plucked eyebrows (on boys), pants with baggy asses (on everyone).
Milan is okay. Good shopping, especially at the big Sunday open air market. Where else can you find Slayer shirts, stolen parmesan and prosciutto (sold out of a shifty dude's overcoat, no less), and bootleg DVDs, all in the same place and at rock bottom prices? Unfortunately the nightlife is a little lacking. There are rock nights and rock bars, but unless you consider Limp Bizkit and Marilyn Manson to be the "rock" and "metal" respectively... well, you'll be disappointed. However, my friends were anxious to make me have a good time. Knowing that I'm into rock'n'roll, they wracked their brains to find cool places to take me, not an easy feat for them, unfortunately. Then someone mentioned that there was a bar right near us where 10 people were killed in, get this, SATANIC SACRIFICES. of course I had to check it out. We went. Just a regular old metal bar. I guess Italians take things a little more seriously then everyone else.
Also, the Milanese have a strange concept of what "happy hour" means. No drink specials here. In fact, happy hour drinks are insanely expensive... about 7 Euros, or, 12 bucks Canadian. A word to the wise: Italian beers are tiny. You do not want to waste that kind of money on a beer. On a somewhat related note: "una canadese", or a "canadian", refers to a large (i.e., normal) beer here. You're much better off going with a mixed drink, which regardless of whether it's a cosmopolitan, or a long island ice tea, or a mojito, or whatever, is served in a litre glass (!). And they don't skimp on the booze either. We're talking triple shots here, people. So why happy hour, you ask? Well, for the price of that one drink, you can eat to your heart's content from giant buffets stocked with pizza, pasta, hors d'oeuvres, meat dishes, you name it. Pick the right bar, and you'll get the equivalent of high class restaurant meal for the price of a really good buzz.
Took a couple of short trips too. One to the mountains near Turin (too much red wine means I don't remember much... but then again, there wasn't much to remember) and one to Rome to visit a friend for a couple of hours. Once again, haven't really seen any monuments, or museums, or anything of "cultural value", but I'm not complaining... One more dispatch on the way before I come back home...
Angelica hosts BVST Wednesday nights from 6-8pm... don't bother calling, she's taken.
Dispatches From Across the Pond: The Culture Shock Edition.
Greetings from dank and unsunny London! I'm here visiting ex-CJLO production wizard Diego 'Fuego' Ferro, who has taken up temporary residence in what may be the greyest city in the world. I haven't seen the sun in five days, but I've seen the bottom of more pint glasses than I care to count... This is the first of a few little reports that will chronicle my misadventures on the other side of the ocean... First off, the Culture Shock edition. Yeah, they drive on the other side of the street, and yes, you do need your bus pass to exit the tube (or be left wandering around in the underground eternally), but there are stranger things about this place...
Culture shock #1: London is a maze. None of the streets run straight, and the same street may have two different names, depending upon what side of the sidewalk you're on. Getting lost is therefore a matter of course. Getting found is another matter entirely.
Culture shock #2: Drinking on the streets is perfectly acceptable. Drinking is also allowed on the tube, on buses and in Mickey Ds, apparently. Oh yeah, and standard size beers come in king cans.
Culture shock #3: Not only are mushrooms legal here, they're sold in little booths on street corners everywhere. Nothing will do your head in like seeing a couple of cops say hello to your friendly local shroom dealer... well, perhaps with the exception of the shrooms themselves.
Culture shock #4: The best places to eat breakfast here are also the best places to drink, making biting the hair of the dog seem like more of a duty then a necessity.
Culture shock #5: Metal is huge in all the rock bars here, as are the blond, bearded Scandinavian metalheads that populate them. More about that in future dispatches.
Culture shock #6: They say that an average North American is caught on camera about 8 times a day. The average Londoner is filmed an average of 300 times per day. Cameras are everywhere here - on streets, in buses, in bars... It's a little spooky. Although they say that with the cameras, box kicking incidents are at an all time low...
Culture shock #7: Public toilets on almost every street corner. They're clean, they're free, and they definitely beat the alternative... Squatting for the amusement of whoever happens to be watching the tape at that moment.
Culture shock #8: Scented toilet paper. 'Nuff said.
Alright, that's it for me. Another dispatch in the next few days (or whenever I'm sober enough to write one). Keep on rockin', Angelica.
Angelica hosts BVST Wednesdays from 6-8pm. I mean, she will when she gets back from London. I mean, you can tune in to her pre-recorded shows. But who knows if anybody is playing those things...
or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love POP Montreal.
Didn't I know that this would be an unforgettable weekend? I can honestly say that this year's POP Montreal festival throughly kicked my ass. This weekend's double fisted dose of rock'n'roll was utterly intense, and, as predicted, absolutely not to be missed, and yes, the sore back and hearing loss (earplugs notwithstanding) were completely worth it.
"Yeah, I sell myself short." Never have truer words been spoken by the front man of easily the most humble band in rock'n'roll. I kickstarted the weekend early with local down-home heroes The Adam Brown (www.theadambrown.com), who played to a cramped but appreciative crowd at the Miami on Thursday night. With their perfect synthesis of punchy rock'n'roll hooks, heartfelt, country-tinged songwriting, and lead singer Adam Brown's soothing gravelly lows and crooning falsetto highs, The Adam Brown definitely know how to please a crowd. Above all, it's their utter lack of pretension that make them such a draw. From Adam's hilariously self-deprecating stage banter to guitarist Shawny's Angus Young-like flourishes, The Adam Brown aren't afraid to have a good time on stage, or to take their audience along with them. They're the kind of band that can bust out flashy synchronized guitar moves, make all the girls swoon and still publicly thank the bass player's mom for baking them a cake for their last practice. Short on ego, long on talent, and definitely a band to keep an eye on.
Friday night signalled the beginning of two nights of rock'n'roll gluttony at El Salon. Bionic headlined, with illustrious openers C'mon, The Illuminati and Poxy. I arrived early, and caught Projet Orange, locals with a decent record deal who had apparently been tacked on to the bill as an afterthought. They were enjoyable enough, but fairly paint-by-numbers as rock'n'roll goes, and were quickly forgotten.
Poxy (www.poxy-music.com) followed, as did the death of one of my high school heroes. Fronted by Xavier Caféine, who as lead singer of Cramps-y Caféine corrupted my high school dreams, Poxy has never really lived up to expectations, which is really a crying shame. Their set was definitely a disappointment, generally ignored, and completely forgettable. Take it from me, the bell is tolling. I said it before, and I'll say it again, Caféine R.I.P.
Up next were The Illuminati (www.theilluminati.ca), a three piece of stoner metal rock'n'rollers from T.O. I had never been compelled to see The Illuminati live, despite moderately enjoying their first self-titled release. Of course, I never considered that, like C'mon and Bionic, this is undoubtedly a band that needs to be seen live. With Nick Sewell doing double duty on bass and lead vocals, the Motörhead comparisons are easy, and a lot of the material has a similarly straightforward, chugging style. Having taken the opportunity to premiere their new album On Borrowed Time along with their older songs, The Illuminati left the stage with a lot of converts, and the cheers of a crowd ready for more.
They got more. Much more. Words cannot do justice to C'mon's (www.thisiscmon.com) performance. Easily my favorite new band, easily my favorite new record (Midnight is the Answer) and easily my favorite show(s). This was my third time seeing them (this coming Friday Oct. 8th with Danko Jones @ Foufounes will be my fourth) and the infatuation only deepens. C'mon is Ian Blurton (you may know him from Change of Heart and Blurtonia, as well as ex-guitarist for Bionic, and über-producer of every Canadian rock'n'roll band worth it's salt), sexy girlfriend/fierce bass axe wielder Katie Lynn Campbell (Nashville Pussy) and drummer Randy Curnew (Blurtonia, The Swallows). Balls out, but catchy as hell, boys and girls, this may just be the future of rock'n'roll. Despite having not much more than an album's worth of material, C'mon wipe the floor one-handed with much of what passes for rock these days. The onstage chemistry between Ian and Katie is unmistakable, and makes for a intensely sexy performance. As usual, they demanded everything from their audience, and got it, and when they left the stage, they also left behind a trail of shaky knees, gaping mouths, and sweaty grins. The crowd was thoroughly sated, and seemed to have no more to give.
Only the long awaited return of a band like Bionic (www.bionicland.com) could take a warm, but thoroughly wrung out crowd and slowly but surely bring them back. Their set was like that third roll in the sack when everyone's dry, and doing it again seems daunting, but halfway through everyone's lubed up again and glad they gave it another go. Especially since it had been so long since their last performance, long enough for Ian Blurton to leave the band and for Jean (Bitchin' Camaros) to join on guitar duty. Fronted by Jonathan Cummins of Doughboys fame, Bionic are well known for their extremely loud and magnetically intense live shows. Starting their set with some newer material, Bionic lured the crowd into their Marshall-stacked assault, soon hammering them with all the old favorites. Again, this is a band that needs to be experienced live. You just can't calibrate recording equipment to adequately capture the unrelenting ferocity of Bionic at their best, and they were definitely at their best that night. The crowd, though noticeably smaller, was still howling when Bionic left the stage just before 3 a.m., and left bloodied but unbowed, many soon to return for a second heaping helping of rock'n'roll...
Saturday night, and part two of easily the most important rock'n'roll weekend in recent Montréal history. Most of the people in attendance for the Tricky Woo show had shown up for the Bionic mega rockfest the night before, so understandably the mood in the room was noticeably subdued. Everyone was tired out, but the promise of Bad Wizard / Tricky Woo double bill was enough to bring out even the most exhausted rock'n'roll revelers. However, openers Maplewood, though delivering a unoffensive set of mellow, mid-tempo countryfied rock, just didn't have the balls necessary to move this particular crowd, and for the most part those who caught the set were feeling even sleepier by the time Bad Wizard took the stage.
Sensing that, Bad Wizard frontman Curtis Brown started the set by yelling at the crowd to wake up, all the while exposing himself. Sadly for him, the sight of his kit and tackle did nothing for the crowd, who remained relatively comatose throughout most of the set. The band delivered a pretty powerful performance, their raw stage presence and Curtis' confrontational attitude reminiscent of punk rockers The Dwarves. Unfortunately, the crowd didn't/couldn't respond, so the lack of symbiosis between band and audience made the otherwise compelling performance feel flat and contrived. The room seemed to revive over the last two or three songs, as people realized that this golden opportunity to rock out to to such a worthy band was slipping through their fingers.
Thankfully, the crowd was warmed up by the time Tricky Woo (www.trickywoo.org) took the stage for their second Montreal show since their their official return with C'mon on April 17th. Prior to that, the Woo had been off the radar for a number of years, most of the core members having reformed under the mantle of wanky prog outfit Soft Canyon. Their return as long-time local rock saviours Tricky Woo in April was a highly anticipated and extremely well received show. This last performance at POP Montreal neatly bookended that first show, proving to the Montréal crowd without a doubt that the Woo are back with a vengeance. They delivered a flawless set, neatly incorporating material from all four albums, and seamlessly melding new songs with old favorites. Particularly haunting was the slow, sexy rendition of the Zeppelin-esque "Lil-Lay Bank Blues" from 2001's Les Sables Magiques, while the straight forward rockers from 2000's Sometimes I Cry got the whole house shakin'. Once again, the Woo showed this town what real rock'n'roll is about, and what years of experience can do. After all, Tricky Woo were revisiting garage and psych rock when all those "The" bands were still in short pants. Closing out the encore with a rollickin' extended version of "Let the Good Times Roll" wasn't an accident, it was a promise. Tricky Woo are back. Let the good times roll.
Another great band, another late night. The crowd dispersed quickly once the show ended, slinking away into the night, ears ringing. That won't be the only thing ringing for the next little while, as undoubtedly memories of this weekend's rock'n'roll overdose will continue to reverberate in Montréalers' minds for a long, long time.
Angelica hosts BVST (Wednesday nights from 6-8pm). That is, when she's not guitar dueling with Yngwie, held in the claws of a griffin over a lake of fire, ripping out vicious chromatic arpeggios and declaring Dio her prisoner.
BVST Best Bets for Pop Montreal!
So much rock'n'roll, so little time... "So what're you going to see at Pop Montreal?" is the question on everyone's lips at this time of the year.
Well, I'm particularly looking forward to seeing the heartbreakin' and hard rockin' The Adam Brown at the Miami on Thursday night. If I'm feelin' flush I may squeeze in either Starvin' Hungry at Cabaret, or The Dropouts and (a half-hour or so of) the Psychotic 4 at La Sala Rosa beforehand. But if you're into the perfect blending of country music and rock'n'roll (ever seen slide guitar played on a flying V?) then The Adam Brown is your best bet.
Friday means the best in Canadian rock'n'roll as Bionic headline an unmissable show at El Salon. They're gonna be talking about this one for a long time... and you'll have to pry this ticket outta my cold dead hand. Openers include Poxy (Caféine R.I.P.), The Illuminati, and Ian Blurton's (Change of Heart, Blurtonia, Bionic) incredible new band C'mon. Don't forget to pick up their first full-length while you're at it - trust me, you won't regret it. On Saturday, it's Tricky Woo with Bad Wizard at El Salon. What can I say about this show? I'm already speechless, and it hasn't even happened yet! Tricky Woo are Montreal rock royalty. They left us for a while, but those of you lucky enough to catch their last show at El Salon know that not only are they back together, but they're fiercer than ever. And hard rockin' Bad Wizard are sure to give them a run for their money... who's gonna be wilder? Who’s gonna get hips shakin' harder? I guess we'll find out...
And as the Lord intended, Sunday will be my day of rest.