Saturday, January 16, 2016

2015 Year in Review: Concert Edition

Your ever so humble VVers spent a good chunk of 2015 at some ridiculous concerts.   Many of these shows had vinyl treasures worthy of a chronological year in review write-up.  Here are the best of the best in the "Concerts of Goodness that Yielded Vinyl of Greatness" category:

APTBS and Black Clouds
The February cold brought these VVers to Metro Gallery in Baltimore to catch A Place to Bury Strangers.  The VVers own quite a few of APTBS records, but had never had a chance to see them live.  Should you get a chance, you're going to want to bring earplugs.  From the merch table was snagged a metal "trivet" sleeved 45 that can also double as a weapon.  Read more on that here.  The 45 is super-fantastic, also extremely heavy (in both the physical and auditory sense).  In addition, all instrumental act Black Clouds played a strong opening set for APTBS and VVer #1 picked up their LP, Dreamcation.  This transparent vinyl is housed in a transparent printed sleeve with a full size booklet of semi-transparent, grayscaled photographs of haze filled ruinous landscapes.  Bleakly beautiful, and impressibly see-through.  Their album is melodic, atmospheric, and just the right amount of thrashy.  But it's the sleeve and design that keeps haunting.  Hey guys, nice package!

Big Business
April at Ottobar brought VVer #2's first time being exposed to the Biz (and VVer #1's fifth).  Survey says?  Hell yes.  The band was playing in its classic two man line-up which really emphasizes how much they can make the fur fly.  Holy smokes!  Throbbing bass lines, insanity invoking drumming, and barely audible droning vocals.  "Yeowww my head."  Big Biz merch also never fails to impress.  Home came the hand-screened "quadruple single" and gold-on-black screened beer coozies that came with a free download of their new single (while not vinyl, a very nice touch).

You know what really takes the cake?  Finding out one of your favorite bands is playing in a few hours in the city you are heading to in your tiny rental car.  Totally unplanned and half-way into a leisurely, twelve-hour cross-country drive, these VVers put the pedal to the metal to catch Crocodiles play a stellar set in Austin, TX at Holy Mountain.  Not only was there a new LP, Boys, to be bought (ahead of its actual release date) and signed, the VVers got an entire show of new music plus a few "classics" to jump around to, ending with "I Wanna Kill."  It was lovely and loud, and the VVers got a shout-out mid-show.  Heart.

Levitation (aka Austin Psych Fest)
Los Mundos Dios es Fuzz
Album avoided: Flaming Lips, Good Vibrations.  Hand-carved and multi punctured.  Fifty bucks... Just couldn't do it.  The VVers did come home with some stellar vinyl, inspired from Levitation (purchased in Austin record stores).  Two standouts are the Well's  six-track LP, Samsara, full of churning, bluesy heavy metal, and Los Mundos' EP, Dios es Fuzz, with crazy, Spanish-sung, psychedelic drone rock.  Read more about the entire experience here.

Melvins/Le Butcherettes
Though the VVers and friends went to this show at Ottobar on July 4th weekend to have the Melvins melt their faces, VVer #1 had inside knowledge that Mexican opening act, Le Butcherettes, should not be missed.  He had seen them open for Faith No More at Webster Hall earlier in the year.  Teri Gender Bender, the female lead of Le Butcherettes, put on quite an enamoring and hypnotizing show, so much so that VVer #2 requested that their most recent record (at the time), Cry Is for the Flies, be purchased from the merch table.  The LP is filled with guttural, poetic, power vocals, and a spoken-word track from Mr. Henry Rollins.  On repeat listens the catchiness of this album has burgeoned to the surface and is getting repeat spins.

Flowers of Evil
Yes, the VVers bought a record
directly from this dude.
Sometime in late summer our VVers somehow found out about a house show in DC featuring some of their favorite bands in different line-ups.  Local and awesome Shark Week was headlining, but the big draw was Flowers of Evil, a mysterious punk side project of Crocodiles, APTBS, Young Boys, and SISU.  What a sick basement show!  Not only did the VVers get to rub elbows (and share beers) with some of the band members, but they also got to whoop it up at a really unique performance space (basically a basement laundry room).  The VVers don't usually go in for all this hobnobbing... but could really get used to it!  At the close of the night, out came the debut Flowers of Evil record for purchasing directly from the band.  "Keep the change you bastards!"  The album is eleven songs of 45-speed snarling punk with a hint of psych.  Not only is it a great listen, but VVers are dead certain the names of those involved on the LP are all fake... Donny Desade?  Will Killingsworth (actually a real person)?  Legs McDaniel?

Dilly Dally
These Toronto indie punks played a scintillating gig at DC9 that had VVer #1 all a sorts of happy.  This band will immediately bring you back to 1990 with their raw blend of head-crunching riffage and yowling vocals.  The sloppy vibe put on by the disheveled band members says nothing about their professional chops.  Tight sound all around, especially from guitarist Liz Ball (sonic sorceress) and vocalist/guitarist Katie Monks (destruction arteest).  They heartily earned VVer #1's greenbacks (and high fives) for their debut LP, Sore.  The album captures much of that live vibe and adds to the mix haunting production, shimmering guitars, and one of the grossest album covers ever.  Bravo.

Honorable Mentions
The 2015 honorable mentions go to the bands the VVers saw live this year, but pre-ordered their vinyl instead of buying it at the show.  These include: Shark Week Beach Fuzz, Faith No More Sol Invictus, Heavy Breathing Airtight, and Puscifer Money Shot.  All great and unique concerts with vinyl to match (still waiting on that Puscifer).

Year in Review in review:  Buying vinyl is all fine and good, but buying it at a concert?  That comes with bragging rights.  Seriously, to hand money directly to the artist on the road is something special.  Odds are the band is getting a bigger cut of the merch sale.  You might get a signed album and get to chat up the band a bit.  Unique or limited edition schwag is fairly common on the road.  Overall, what's really important is being able to directly show your appreciation for the band.  To get a keepsake from a great show is icing on the turntable.  Your record comes with a memory.  How sweet.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hellraising Vinyl

By The Vinyl Apprentice

Some time ago, the Vinyl Vagabonds wrote an article about different kinds of interesting vinyl sleeves. I immediately thought of a single that a buddy of mine let me borrow once. The single was “Hooch,” a 45 by the Seattle grunge-metal rockers the Melvins, and it was a beast! Feeling in the spirit this most recent Halloween, I was summoned to “Vinyl Vagabond” it; any record this strange deserves writing about. What makes this particular one so special? To start, it is housed in an impossible to open Hellraiser "puzzle box” type multi-fold out sleeve (it's actually copyrighted as a "Hard to Open Package," so you know it's good). To get it open you actually have to bend the sleeve paper in such a way that you will feel you are going to tear it to get to the 45. Hence, once you have opened this unusual packaging, the cover automatically becomes damaged. ARRRGGH! And why ARRGH? This is a hand screened, 1,000-copy limited edition single, with the cover by none other than renowned California artist Frank Kozik. Kozik is famous for his raunchy, Day-Glo concert posters that he started making in the early 1990s. He also ran a record label for a time called Man’s Ruin Records that put out records by the Sex Pistols, Queens of the Stone Age, and many other primarily stoner metal bands. Today, Kozik is an institution in “lowbrow” art. True to his style, this particular monstrosity has devilish visuals plastered all over it. To start, the front cover has a Disney-esque Satan on it. The back cover art is creepy on a whole other level and completely different in style. It looks like a 16th century wood cut of the birth of baby Beelzebub himself. Not for the meek. Eeekkk, it is chilling to the bone. Inside the sleeve of evil, is a nasty two sided Kozik picture disc. The A side has an illustration of a cigarette smoking, mustached Diablo dad chuckling away. Side B has a green haired, red skinned, monster mommy also puffing away on a cancer stick.

But wait, there’s more to this vinyl vulgarity. Both of these tracks are from the Melvins 1993 major label debut LP, Houdini, which was partially produced by none other than, Kurt Cobain. Not only did the late Nirvana frontman produce these two songs on the 45, he also contributed with guitar work on the side B song “Sky Pup.” Now I know what you are thinking, does whatever music in those grooves live up to the collected talent involved here? I’m not sure. You see, the Melvins are one of the more experimental, noisy, punk bands. They have never created a radio hit in their lives, nor will they. It's just not in their nature. Also, while singer/guitarist Buzz Osborne’s voice is strong and interesting, it's substandard. He has zero range, he was born grotesque in this category. But wait … Kurt Cobain!?!? Surely his magic and genius would make these songs shine, and transcend the Melvins to greater heights? Wrong. Unfortunately, he was fired half way through the production of Houdini as Buzz has stated Kurt was "too out of control" with his drug problems at the time to continue producing it. If there is an ounce of Kurt on these tracks, I can’t find it.

But enough of that, let me talk about the songs themselves. The first song, “Hooch” has all the right notes to make it a classic Melvins track. It is loud and thrashy with a nice dirge-like hook and Dale Crover delivers a deep, bombastic drum beat. While the song does drone, it is a head banging, hideous tune, and I enjoy it. Side B is a different story. “Sky Pup” is a mysterious enigma. It sounds more like a song from psychedelic space rockers, the Flaming Lips than it does the Melvins. While it is kind of groovy and has a magnetic bass line, it is not very memorable. Drummer Dale sings on this track, which really sounds more like him just talking. His voice is frightful, and practically inaudible. In fact, the whole track sounds very quiet, and puts me to sleep. Snore. This song is a goofy head scratcher.

Contrary to how my review sounds, I really like the Melvins, and recommend spending your time and money getting to know them. And this single? The packaging alone is sick, and the music is decidedly weird. Pinhead would be proud. It's classic Melvins. Looking and listening to this creepy conundrum will definitely keep me up at night for years to come….

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Urgent News Bulletin: Vinyl Vagabonds DJ Set

Ladies and gentlemen, can I please have your attention.  I've just been handed an urgent and horrifying news story.  I need all of you to stop what you're doing and listen.  

Listen to the Vinyl Vagabonds play records at Bump 'n Grind in Silver Spring on
Friday, January 15th 7-9pm 

Don't act like you're not impressed.