Deathfix @ The Casbah, San Diego – Jan 14, 2014

Deathfix at the Casbah“I wish I was Salvador Dali’s house,” is the low-register croon coming from the scarlet-cast stage, but the infectious pulsations circling about the room make it clear that the rhythmically coalescing crowd isn’t wishing to be anything but the Casbah this evening.

After popping directly into 5th gear to cold open an encore night of music in San Diego, Deathfix’s “Dali’s House” provided the final hook of confirmation, confirmation that the audience had moved beyond appreciation and was having a demonstrably verifiable good time. The amalgamation of Dischord and D.C. scene veterans quickly transformed a Tuesday evening with a looming early morning of work ahead into a celebration of both the moment and years of quality musical offerings, a fitting task for their role supporting Pinback in back-to-back nights as part of the Casbah’s month-long 25th anniversary festivities.

Many having previously played the now hallowed San Diego space under various monikers, the members of Deathfix took comfortably to the stage, infusing the tracks from their 2013 self-titled debut with a pretense-less swagger. With a live command of the material, they displayed their nostalgically groove worthy yet edged sound with a confidence reflective of their collective experience.

The progeny of Brendan Canty (Fugazi) and Rich Morel’s (Morel, Blowoff) studio collaboration, Deathfix is now rounded out with the additions of Mark Cisneros (Medications, Make-Up) on bass and Jerry Busher (French ToastFugazi) ) on drums.

Adding to the infectious nature of the show is each members apparent enthusiasm to be holding down their respective sections. A collective of multi-instrumentalists, Deathfix is an opportunity for each to perform in differing roles from past projects. Canty appears happily set free, moving out from behind the drum set to fire out soaring riffs and also deftly share vocal roles with Morel, whose poised demeanor and ownership of the keys sets the assuredly badass yet inviting tone that makes the band and their sound so attractive. Busher’s impressively perfect posture fits his intensely precise accompaniment, while Cisneros moves his large frame to guide the group and audience in the driving beats that keep the music and performance compellingly danceable.

During the aforementioned “Dali’s House”, Morel lays-out a laundry list of intriguing and fascinating cultural icons and artists whose presence alone is an experience. The song finally crescendos by granting the same sublime status on the audience, imparting, “But most of all, most of all, I wish I was YOUR house.” This gesture caps an authentic offering of vibe heavy music and cements a reciprocal desire to spend an evening chilling with any of the versatile members of Deathfix. Anyone who appreciates the arduous and winding path that is a life-long career in music would most likely enjoy exploring their record collections, hearing their stories from the road, or just gleaning the respect and passion they bring to crafting and sharing music.

Deathfix by Martina Fornace

Photo by Martina Fornace (from the following night at El Rey in Los Angeles…)

Low – C’mon

Low Band PhotoA couple years back I was traveling in Europe and our band played a couple shows with Low.  I honestly didn’t know anything about them. A few friends of mine over the years had been huge fans and would drive great distances to see them.  When they described them to me, it honestly didn’t seem that cool: A husband and wife duo who were notoriously Mormon and lived in the small town of Duluth, Minnesota. They were said to have played so quietly that they used tiny amps and and a partial drum set. On loading in to the venue I wasn’t expecting much but was looking forward to meeting them and checking them out for myself.

As we loaded our gear and set up back stage of this beautiful 2000 seat theater in Brussels we heard their sound check and I was immediately drawn in to what they were doing. The songs were so simple and beautiful. The repetition in the songs had an enduring hypnotic quality. Their confident and relaxed musical delivery lulls you into blissful contentment. The band was a three-piece, consisting of singer / guitarist Alan Sparhawk, singer / drummer Mimi Parker and bassist / pianist Steve Garrington. Immediately after their soundcheck we hung out with Alan and chatted a bit. Nice guy!

When the show finally happened that evening we watched along with the sold out crowd and really took in the full beauty of what Low was doing.  Our whole entourage was really blown away.  On arriving home the following week their then new album C’mon was on constant rotation in our house.  I played that sucker over and over.  In my mind it was the best thing I had heard all year. And to this day is one of my all time favorite albums.  

Their album following C’Mon, entitled The Invisible Way, also is worthy of a hundred listens and I have grown very fond of it as well. Look for a review of that soon…

Here are some clips below to check out a bit of what Low does so well.

Is David Egger’s Totalitarian Nightmare of a Music Industry Already Realized?

What if Google monopolized everything, including the music industry? That is the basic idea of Egger’s The Circle. This fictionalized amalgam of Google, Facebook, and Twitter has managed to force all online information to travel through its filters and gates, laying out a dystopian path towards fascist implosion.  Racing to keep up with current headlines, Mr. Egger’s most recent offering is not mind blowing by any means but a worthwhile read nevertheless (full literary review); however the focus of this post is to look at the projected role of the music industry within this questionably fictional landscape.

The creators of the Circle have implemented “a unified operating system, which combined all users’ needs and tools into one TruYou account — e-mail, social networking, banking, and purchasing. TruYou changed the Internet, in toto, within a year,” writes Eggers.  The cautionary tale keys in on how our “likes”, “thumbs up”, “and retweets” may eventually be commodified, and at that point all creative content is helpless to any monopolizing distribution outlet. The following passage highlights the algorithm based system already circulating today. It seems silly to fight against a tool that brings you music your friends like, but something dangerous and ineffective is waiting when the Circle stretches into all aspects of your tastes and curatorial relationships. Since the Circle campus sets all trends for online users, the power of ranking systems is all powerful.

Oh, and over here’s your playlist. If you listen to music while you work, the feed automatically sends that playlist out to everyone else, and it goes into the collective playlist, which ranks the most-played songs in any given day, week, month. It has the top one hundred songs campus wide, but you can also slice it a thousand ways—top-played hip-hop, indie, country, anything. You’ll get recommendations based on what you play, and what others with similar taste play—it’s all cross-pollinating while you’re working.

Sounds like Spotify or  Seems harmless, but ask yourself if it really helps you find deep connections with new music, or does it just keep you addicted to finding more and the next artist? Can a database this large be trusted? Some of the industries biggest figures don’t believe so. 

Like we have railed against in Monofesto’s own manifesto, once the efficiency of calculating the stats wins out over authentic connections, the artist is stripped completely of his or her power, cast into poverty or groveling slavery to that which controls the distribution.  At that point all of the promise of the freedom of the internet will be lost.  Cheery stuff, right?

The most striking example of the book’s truly damned future for performance artists is the appearances of even past megastars playing the cafeteria of the Circle in a last ditch effort to get enough “likes” by these influential gatekeepers.  Mae, Egger’s young protagonist, is required to…

highlight the new musicians’ residences on campus—twenty-two fully equipped apartments where musicians, especially those who couldn’t count on making a living through sales of their music, could live for free and play regularly for the Circlers.

As long as there are enough people living outside the virtual realm, I don’t think the situation can ever get this bad. Let’s just hope people continue to spend enough time off a screen to get to a stage.

Quotations courtesy of Dave Eggers – The Circle – Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Manhattan Murder Mystery – Women House

The moniker is no misnomer, as finding MMM is perhaps the mystery.  Abandoned web and social media sites, rare and random appearances, and a cloudy, Woody Allen subterfuged online bio all add to the challenge of tracking down Manhattan Murder Mystery. For years I had to rely on a free burned CD picked up from a show, and even now still have to wait months and sometimes years before a google hunt returns another piece of the puzzle.

Perhaps you are not meant to track them down but rather stumble across them (Here is your chance to stumble across them) That is exactly how they came into my life towards the end of a living in Los Angeles stint in my mid-twenties. Having lost faith in the LA music scene, stuck in a string of  -less gigs (soulless, motionless, emotionless), MMM reignited faith in bands that are still willing to leave everything out on the stage and are not afraid to get messy, really messy in the process.  MMM’s lead, whose name remains elusive, seems to regularly sport a military helmet for equal parts persona construction and protection from his stage destruction. When your equipment takes a deep, deep second place to the emotive rawness of the music, smashing things up a bit doesn’t seem to matter.

The music, both shows and available recordings, are bare bones and lo-fi by necessity most likely rather than by choice. Nevertheless, they seem to find a wonderful balance of raw edge with toe-tappiness to sustain a penetrating trance through the earbuds and a trance to spontaneous bodily eruption effect from the stage.

If you are lucky enough to stumble across them, you too can join in the hunt for MMM. I often dream up soundtracks to unwritten movies and always return to MMM to overlay scenes of dejected wandering only to suddenly finding you are in that moment exactly where you are supposed to be. That was my MMM story and serendipitous seems to be the story of Manhattan Murder Mystery.

Octa#grape – Red UFO

I had the great pleasure of seeing Octa#grape for 8 days in a row on a recent tour.  They are amazingly cool and supremely weird. The band is an unlikely group of skilled musicians from different musical planets that have assembled for a sound of wild, joyful, musical abandon.  They’re music may not be available in stores at this point but you can get their music through bandcamp, or better yet, buy a disc from the boys when you see them at one of their frequent shows.  The line up includes Glen and Ely from the Original Trumans Water lineup as well as the ever-present O (Fluf, Olivelawn), and new-to-San Diego transplant Jason Begin. Each member produces their own music outside the band and the chaos that is created will bring a smile to your face. They are just off of a US/Canada tour with Pinback and are heading back out again this Fall with Sebadoh. I dig it! Look for a video clip soon from their recent Pinback / Octa#grape tour dates.

Pitchfork – Eucalyptus

PitchforkI can without hesitation always name this record as my all time favorite. Period.
In high school I can remember discovering the great music in San diego’s local scene. I would stay up late at night and record the local music show on 91X. If I couldn’t quite stay up to hear the end of the show late at night I’d record it on a cassette and bring it to school the next day to discover the new bands that would become an obsession for me. So many of the bands from this era, the late 80s, don’t stand the test of time but certainly Pitchfork does.

The album came out after the band had already broken up so we are very lucky in a sense that it ever came out at all. I remember talking to John the guitarist about how much I loved the album and he said that they had recently ditched a slew of other songs that were going in a totally different direction so the album nearly came from a different angle. I can’t imagine what that would’ve sounded like but the songs that we ended up with are a serious milestone in San Diego’s cherished musical heritage. Even having listened to this album literally hundreds of times, I still enjoy listening to it regularly.

The line up had changed since its inception. Originally Pitchfork was a three piece (guitar/bass/drums) and had a faster, more chaotic sound. Don Ankrom the original bass player was a slapper so even though he was a fantastic player it may have date stamped the project a bit. He moved away and was replaced by Nick Frederick, who played much steadier and more straight ahead. Less wild and original but arguably more supportive. Joey Piro drums with a great energy. Slightly unpolished but with a powerful and creative approach. Guitarist John Reis played in a very energetic way, often contorting and wrenching the sounds from his guitar. The use of noise was musically interweaved with melody. John also sang originally but later Rick Froberg teamed up as their vocalist. All their official releases have Rick on vocals. Rick also is an amazing artist. He did all of their album art along with the art for many other San Diego bands over the years, as well as much of the illustration work for the local label Headhunter.

I often see brief mentions of Pitchfork as the roots of the musical tree that led to Drive Like Jehu, Rocket from the Crypt, Obits, Hot Snakes, Night Marchers and others. Even going all the way back to 1990, this group of songs flow together so well that if you are a fan of any of those bands, it’s a crime to not really dig into this stuff. You won’t regret it.

Goat – World Music

Goat band photoSooooo…  Everyone once in awhile my mind gets blown.  Before you feel too sorry for me, let me assure you that the mind-blowing thing is something that I welcome. I can still function in my weird world with whatever pieces are left intact.  Not a problem.  The reason we write this music blog is to share things that we are excited about with others. The debut album from Sweden’s Goat is one of those albums.  I’ve told a bunch of friends about ‘World Music’ and many of them already knew the level of badassness their music possessed. I’m happy to join this party, however late.

‘World Music’ sounds like something right out of 1970, although it came out in 2012. Reverby, distorted guitars and fuzzed out bass along with a loose drum groove like a primitive version of Can’s Jaki Liebezeit or John Densmore. Random keys, percussion or other instruments are added as well.  Some songs have singing, while others are instrumental. It works both ways. The female vocalist has a roughness that is perfect for the music. It’s great singing but sort of off at the same time. The delivery is somewhere between singing and yelling. It works perfectly. The melodies sound like they are derived from some cult from the middle ages. There’s a “retro” aspect to the production and tones that harkens to the sound of the late 1960s and 70s, yet there’s an entrancing ancient, primitive element that draws you in. Very hypnotic and grooving. The repetition works in the music’s favor. A mystery surrounds the band as they claim to be from a small voodoo-worshipping village called Korpilombolo in Sweden and they perform live wearing masks. Now that’s a recipe for something interesting!

Here’s Goat’s ‘World Music’ full album for a listening preview.

The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike

Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004) – Memphis Industries

Once a blogosphere sensation, The Go! Team has drifted slowly away from the collective listening conscience; however, their genre-bending sound continues to effectively move listeners forward.  Infused with scores of movement and raucous ambient joy,  Thunder, Lightning, Strike is a swagger filled, motivating flow of marching bands, 80’s TV action heroes, rap artifacts, double dutch chants, messy guitars, and rolling banjos.

Looking for albums that we would pass along to our friends, this album is high on my list of most-oft recommended.  Pure infectious fun that harkens back to that free-wheeling explosion of home-engineered projects, releasing a whole new type of artist upon the scene. The music is a chance to get psyched-up about the sounds of our youth and rework it in a way to propel us into the future.