Ape Wind

The Columbus Music Scene and Beyond

Browsing Posts published by Joel

Scion Rock Fest 2010 occurred at The Newport Music Hall, Skully’s Music Diner, Bernie’s Distillery, and Circus in Columbus, Ohio on the same night at the same time. There were a great many bands, 24 to be exact that played that night. Each venue presented it’s own special sub genre within the overall rock/metal continuity of the event. For my part I went to Skully’s. I did this mainly because that’s where the bands I wanted to see were playing. I want you as the reader to know this because I want to be honest about what I am presenting here. This is not a fully comprehensive article that covers the entire event. This is my take from where I stood on what I saw and heard. Please feel free to post your own thoughts on the venues I missed, pictures from the event, or links to other articles in the comments below. Unfortunately, this article won’t be accompanied by photos because my camera was out of commission, but I will post links where you can see some. Thank you.

March 13, 2010 – The night started at 5pm with Black Tusk (Savannah, GA) then Struck By Lightning (Columbus, OH), Acrassicauda (Iraq), Pelican (Chicago, IL), YOB (Eugene,OR), and Shrinebuilder finishing out the night.

I missed Black Tusk due to running late and the usual politics of getting people out the door and to the show which included properly preparing by drinking several nourishing beverages of the “beer” persuasion and smoking a couple of bowls straight to the face. This is because when you are getting ready to go out to a stoner/doom/sludge/prog/metal night of epic proportions it’s important to get your head in the right space to comprehend what will be coming at your brain. It’s intense stuff and it’s not called “stoner rock” because they liked the sound of the moniker. It’s often due to the fact that these musicians burned up as much green from Mendicino county as they could get their hands on while writing. It becomes more apparent when you listen to it. There are long drawn out periods in songs where the guitar grinds out the same riff for periods of 3-7 minutes, and sometimes longer. This was characterized best by the moment that Yob took the stage and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt declared to the audience that “We have 3 and a half songs for you. That’ll be 50 minutes.” No joke. It was good though.

It felt more like a ComFest for metal heads than just a concert or show night. I saw all kinds of people that night, friends and enemies alike. Some particulars go out to Eric Jones from Central City Recording, Chuck Kubat of Magnolia Thunderpussy Record Store (Yeah, I know that they were right next door and were the main Columbus distributor of Scion Rock Fest tickets, but still…) Artie DeLeon, Zach Germaniuk (who hipped me to the festival), the guys from Churches Burn, and so many music people and other assorted heads. Ahaha!! I have to say though, if your brand of metal is Metallica, Megadeath, Hatebreed, Mudvayne, Pantera, HELLYEAH, Dio, and all of that kind of stuff, this probably wasn’t where you wanted to be that night; trust me. It was a different brand of music than what is traditionally know as “METAL”. Sticking out your tongue and throwing up the horns was an action that was pretty scarce at Skully’s. Although throwing your head back and forth within the ocean of music that is bands like Pelican and Yob with your fists pumping when the moment really stole your heart was apparent in spades. That was one of my favorite things about the night. Yeah there were spikes, patches (“punk points” as my friend Joe calls them), loads of tattoos, piercings, and more black fabric than a Soho art community, but there wasn’t a whole lot of machismo posturing or “metaller than thou” attitudes being thrown around. It might have been a bit overwhelming for a first timer, but they would quickly adapt because it soon becomes obvious that everybody is there for the music and not to be a part of the “scene”. Not to mention the music is good! Damn this is fun!

I really came to hear 3 bands. Those were Pelican, Acrassicauda, and Shrinebuilder. The night took a pleasant turn when I fulfilled a promise to a friend of mine and instead of going to see Deadsea at Circus right down the street I came right to Skully’s to hear Struck by Lightning. Being a hometown band, it was surprising they took the stage as the second act of the night. Well…not so surprising when you sit back and look at it from a promoter’s point of view. These guys have a massive following in Columbus so I saw the logic in not wasting their potential drawing power for the night, but harnessing it to bring people in and getting them hooked. Adam Shore, who organized the event, knows what he is doing. Precision, sophistication, intensity, volume, anger are all words I would use to characterize their set. These are qualities that I don’t have words for without extensive study in a thesaurus, and I’m a wordy guy!! That how impressed/concussed I was by Struck By Lightning.

Speaking of promoters, lets talk about some of the more organizational aspects of Scion Rock Fest. First of all, it’s free!! NO BULLSHIT!! You have to RSVP online through the website http://www.scion.com/rock, where you give them your email and tell them where you want to pick up your ticket (I chose Magnolia Thunder Pussy Records) and they email you back to confirm it and you wait for the date to arrive. I honestly felt guilty. There was nothing to it. I think, to make this all possible, none of the bands get a guarantee. Maybe Cannibal Corpse got one, who headlined at The Newport Music Hall. Scion probably helped with travel expenses, but I’m pretty sure bands got paid by selling merchandise, which I happen to agree with. Bands don’t get paid by selling CD’s at stores. They make their money at the merch table. Since the whole thing was free people had money to drink and buy stuff! Sweet deal! It reminds me of the old rave days where you got the flier for the party and it gave you directions to a payphone that would get a call and give you further directions to the party. It was all a big secret and really underground. I wouldn’t call Scion Rock Fest underground because it got a lot of publicity closer to the date of the show, but when tickets became available it felt like such a big fucking secret that it took a minute for everybody to catch on. The type of bands that played for the most part you could get away with calling underground. You won’t hear them on the radio unless you have satellite and even then it would be rare. Columbus needs more events like this.

Back to the music. Acrassicauda was next. Iraqi heavy metal band that were canonized in the Vice documentary “Heavy Metal Baghdad”. Their story is tragic and amazing and they were so damn happy to be here. The vibes were really good coming off the stage. They ended up being the band that I probably liked the least out of the line up, but they had some heavy talent to compete with. The thing that I disliked the most about what they had to offer was it’s kinship with Metallica and other late 80’s  dark metal bands. There were some great themes running through the music and moments of originality that were very striking, but there was too much throaty growled lyrics a la James Hetfield. And the guitars…they were so heavily influenced by Metallica it was hard not to hear it with every song. But they did try and they were good. I won’t let my tastes get in the way of respecting somebody’s chops. I got really disappointed with the Columbus crowd in between songs when the singer would talk to the crowd though. English is not the guys first language, but he has a good enough handle on it that he sings in English. The problem is that when he tried to connect with the crowd he mixed up some words or a sentence and it didn’t come out right. People couldn’t even give him the respect of cheering for the hell of it. I’ve gone to all kinds of shows where you can’t understand what the hell the guy with the mic is saying to the crowd, but everybody still loses their damn mind. Here we are and this dude from an almost alien culture is trying to connect with us and we can’t scream our damn heads off? Fucking sad. The fact that they were here, in COLUMBUS, OHIO, warranted out respect. What the hell were they doing in C-Bus anyways? How did this happen? It’s crazy!

Pelican…What can I say about Pelican? What words would do them justice? I’ll say this: I read a couple of other reviews that mentioned this band and I was confused and taken somewhat aback by what was said. This band brings more energy and verve to the table than almost any other 3 bands you can name. Especially within the circles they travel and the genre in which they play. Without a singer and a direct voice that dictates the message of the music to the audience, the experience of the music has to be that much more cerebral. It’s a sonic landscape that picks you up and takes you on a thousand journeys through space and time and decides when it will let you go. That is power. That is what Pelican is. They are a fucking force of nature. Go pick up their records. Go see them live. Just get to know Pelican. You will be better for it. They were amazing on the stage that night at Skully’s. They held everyone in the hollow of their hand and didn’t let go for almost an hour but unfortunately sometimes, the show must go on.

After Pelican I found my compadres and we headed out to the car to smoke ourselves silly once again. Yob was next.

Yob. A band that until I found out about Scion I had never heard of. This would be my first listening experience with the stoner rock legends. Yob has had a strange ride. Releasing music in the early to mid 2000’s they then broke up after almost 10 years only to reform in 2009 to play some shows and record a live album. I felt fairly privileged to be at one of these shows. As I stated earlier in this article, Yob’s music is expansive, droning, and hypnotic. They are not everyone’s cup of tea. I can’t say that their entire set was mine, but there is something to be said about a band that pulls off a 15 to 17 minute song and doesn’t bore everyone to tears. Especially with the repetitive nature of the music. In fact, they seemed to have everyone’s rapt attention. Good stuff.

Now we move on to Shrinebuilder. Awesome! There are super groups and then there is the doom/stoner/metal super-group Shrinebuilder. They are made up of Wino (St. Vitus, Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, Hidden Hand), Scott Kelly (Neurosis, Tribes of Neurot), Al Cisneros (Sleep, Om), and Dale Crover (The Melvins, Big Business). This band was massive! Not only in sound, but in talent and presence. My buddy Joe almost shit his pants when Wino came on stage and picked up his guitar to fiddle with it for a second. Once again I don’t really know what to say about Shrinebuilder. They came, they saw, they destroyed. What else can I say? The music was probably the best combination of all the different styles of music we had taken in that night. They had the intensity of Struck By Lightning without the anxiety. Their confidence and presence on stage was a huge part of their magnetism. Not to say that they didn’t thrash around on stage and bring a physical performance, it’s just that it was so wonderfully understated. It’s also impressive to see a band where all four members on stage share vocal duties. Not something I expected from this performance. Honestly I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I was going to see one thing, and not only did I see that but I got so much more. These are the guys that all of the other bands there that night and bands similar to Mastodon and Baroness owe a lot to. Well, maybe not owe. But you get the idea.

I had a great time! I was lifted up. My eyes were opened to new things and I learned something along the way. Late at night when I’m home alone and I get down on myself I feel a bit like a band-wagoner for my newish interest in the doom/stoner/sludge/ metal thing. Everybody finds anything at some point in their life and many of us don’t find a lot of what we should. This was my time to find this. No matter what anybody says, I feel more for this being a part of my life-scape and musical lexicon. It’s mine and nobody will ever take that from me. Nor can they take this night from me. Thanks to my baby girl for not being born that night so I could enjoy it to the fullest extent.

Please check out “Heavy Metal Baghdad”. It is available in parts on Youtube. Here is a list of links for the bands and other articles that contain photos:

March 12, 2010 – Columbus rockers Afortiori, composed of Daniel Erb on vocals and guitar, D White on guitar, John Richardson on bass, Nile Carpenter playing Cello, Terry Gibson playing drums, and Josh Keating manning the keyboard, played The Basement on Neil avenue with fellow Columbus natives The Phantods, Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned (NY), Family of the Year (CA), and Aficionado (NY).

Dan, Terry, John, and Nile make waves on stage at The Basement

I had come to The Basement that night with every intention of writing my inaugural review for this site on the Phantods. I arrived with girlfriend in tow to see and hear what could be our, or at least her, last Phantods show for the foreseeable future. Expectant as always of a great showing by the indomitable carnival rockers, I came to an impasse by the end of the night after I had my first live encounter with Afortiori. Not to say that Phantods weren’t in top form, because they were. Unveiling new songs from their forthcoming record that were not only great songs, but displayed an evolution of their unique brand of music into as yet uncharted waters. I was impressed. My dilemma lie in the fact that I had seen the Phantods before and even though Gretchen (vocals/keyboard), Dan (guitar), Nate (bass), Keenan (drums), and Kyle (guitar/keys/vibraslap) were out there kicking ass, I was enamored with the newness that is Afortiori. Let me tell you why.

Afortiori have a sound that is part angry, part indie. They are wailing and howling, but at the same time are so kinetic that you find yourself wanting to stomp around the room and throw your body in to those that are milling about around you. Entirely immersed in the ebb and flow of the sea that is their music it comes as a surprise when the song comes to an end. Now some listeners might find Dan Erb’s voice to be little too close on the side of Julian Casablancas but I felt that it really graced the music very well in keeping with the careening dynamic of the music and fortunately it didn’t linger there too long at any given time. I did wonder to myself whether or not I was going to be able to hear all the different musical identities with the stage being so crowded and the volume so high. Thankfully I could. Not all the time, but enough that when all the musical voices weren’t combined in a twisting crescendo I could hear Nile play his cello and Josh pick out cords on his keyboard. Maybe the most unique thing about this band is that neither D White or Dan Erb can be pegged down as rhythm or lead guitar. Playing with and off each other, they intertwined so well that you had to try and watch what they were doing with their hands to figure out who was doing what. Most of the time I didn’t really care who was doing what as long as it was there to be greedily consumed by my ears.

Dan Erb addresses the mic

While the entire set was to be commended, two songs stood out to me above the rest. “Cleopatra” and “Keep your distance” are both songs that demonstrate the essence of this band. Feeling akin to Modest Mouse and Sigur Ros there is a stifled aggression here that is only allowed to raise it’s head once or twice on the recordings but really took a chunk out of the audience when played live. Truth be told, I enjoyed the songs more at the venue than on their recordings. For one they were faster, which was probably a by-product of performance anxiety due to the fact it was their first headlining show, and they were also more insistent. They begged and grabbed at me with a kind of desperation born and raised to have the sharp teeth it needs to survive in a musical landscape irradiated by nuclear waste spilled from the likes of Daughtrey and John Mayer. This was real and earnest and painful. True rock n’ roll and in being so it earned my respect.

I have to say that the only low point of the night was Erb’s solo song. I wasn’t really a fan. I like the whole ensemble too much to see it broken apart and stripped down to what is probably it’s heart and soul. That might sound a little strange…I can hear you saying “But Joel, isn’t that what we want to hear in music; isn’t that what’s important?!” Maybe. Probably. It just happens to be my humble opinion that the band makes the band, not the man makes the band. It wasn’t a bad song. In it I could hear the foundations and building blocks of the sound of Afortiori and that was appreciated. But there was a reason that five people got together and are making the music that it has become. Because that’s what it needs to be. Not a lone guitar and a man with a microphone.

In conclusion, Afortiori is a band to watch and a band to go see. Your $5 dollars some Friday night could be spent on much worse things. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed and you might actually get something out of it. You can find these guys on the web at http://www.myspace.com/afortiorimusica . They are currently in the studio working on an EP that should be ready soon. Stay attached and alive dear readers there is more to come.