House Band: The Apemen

Dutch Turbo Surf Deluxe since 1990. www.the-apemen.com

Kim Fowley

Punk legend is dead at 75.

Bigfoot Diaries Attend the Firecracker 500 in Iowa City

Steve Krakow of Plastic Crimewave Syndicate

In Defence

In Defence will play the Underground Rock Shop on February 3.

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Sellergren Design - Art is the Enemy (www.sellergrendesign.wordpress.com/)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Chattanooga's STRUNG LIKE A HORSE To Release "FREE" Album

After a few years mesmerizing countless audiences on the road with a unique brand of gypsy punk inspired bluegrass music Strung Like a Horse are proud to announce their first full length studio album, “FREE.”  

The band is employing kickstarter, a crowd-funding site to raise the funds to properly release and duplicate their latest work. To help spread the word they are releasing a zany and captivating rib-tickling video folks are bound to watch over and over. At press time, they have received almost 2/3 of the amount they need. 




The two previous releases from the band, “Live at Lindsay Street,” and “Glad,” have been well received both in the US and in Europe.  In their new work, Strung Like a Horse has chosen to expand their palate and explore more diverse soundscapes.  For example the title track “FREE” is a bouncing melodic anthem with a nostalgic feel, while “Trailer Park Astronaut”  is a slow bizarre ballad.


Strung Like a Horse (Press Photo)
Current fans will identify with the fast-paced violent humor in “Prequel” and “Horizontal,” and the slightly naughty swing tune “Dangly Bits.” All in all, “FREE” is a well-paced album with world wide appeal and a bargain at any price.

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Strung Like A Horse Official

Strung Like A Horse on Facebook


Strung Like A Horse on Twitter

Sunday, January 18, 2015

UK Band Astronauts to Release "In My Direction" on January 19

Those Brits and their silly one man psychedelic bands!

The Bevis Frond fooled me for years into thinking that they were a five piece outfit - a fact I'm not ashamed to admit. After all, if a band sounds like a multiple unit ensemble, why would one assume otherwise?

Dan Carney, aka Astronauts
The same can be said for Astronauts, or Dan Carney as he is also known as in the London music scene. He enjoyed a fruitful 2014 with the release of his debut single "Skydive" which hit No. 3 on the Hype Machine, gathering 150,000 hits in a week via his Soundcloud page. This set the table for the well-received debut album 'Hollow Ponds', and the recent mini-collection of extras, the 'Four Songs EP', which made the UK iTunes homepage in its first week of release.

The year ended with his song "Flame Exchange" being used to soundtrack the popular French TV program Rendez-Vous En Terre Inconnue, to an estimated audience of six million.

Now, Astronauts is set to release a new single, "In My Direction" on January 19th. This haunting melodic demon plays like the backdrop to a dream, with whimsical dwellings of folk and and pop swirling around Carney's respired vocals.

"In My Direction" is embedded with a remix of the ‘Hollow Ponds’ track "Everything’s A System, Everything’s A Sign" written by Kieran Mahon, an ambient composer and a long time friend of Dan's. It tiptoes in subtlety, never formally announcing it's presence - yet it's obviously there, if only in glimpses.

The video features Armenian actor Andranik Lavchyan and was created by Manana Films (also Armenian), after contacting Dan earlier this year about doing a collaboration. In it, Lavchyan looms in a ridiculous manner, skirting around the capital Yerevan, appearing rhythmic but strange to those he encounters. It's very cleverly made and it captures a deep European feel.





The single has collected over 3,000 hits on Youtube, despite not being formally released. It's safe to say that 2015 is primed to be another great year for Astronauts. The sky is the limit.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Music Legend Kim Fowley Dead at 75

Kim Fowley died yesterday in West Hollywood, California after a long battle with bladder cancer. He was 75 years old. As a record producer, he is perhaps best known for the work he did with the Runaways, an all-female band from the early '70 that launched the careers of Lita Ford, Joan Jett and Cherie Curie.



Fowley kept the world up to date about the condition of his health via posts on his personal Facebook page. That page is now blank. Sadly, he was recently married, to Kara Wright. We will post more info as we learn more. RIP. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Des Moines Skywalk Mystery: When Exactly Did The Who Play Vets Auditorium?

Out here in the fields, we fight for what's real... 

The Who played a historic concert in Des Moines sometime during the '70s but there seems to be some confusion as to when it actually happened. 

The concert is noteworthy for a variety of reasons. 13,534 fans paid to see this iconic show which goes down as the biggest crowd to attend an event at Vets. Also, an equipment failure stopped the show cold in it's tracks for about 20 minutes, and The Who had to retreat to their dressing rooms while things got patched back together. It's also been said that The Who themselves came out after the show and greeted those who remained at the front of the stage.

The Who in Des Moines (Photo by Brad Harvey)
(Click to enlarge)

Brad Harvey was a sophomore at Drake in '75 and he and three friends - one from Chicago, as Chicago's show was sold out - attended the concert together in Des Moines.

"The official word was that Entwistle's amps blew out and the show was interrupted for about 20 minutes while repairs were made," Harvey recalls, referring to The Who's bass player. "When they came back onstage they said they would continue with the complete show but they didn't do the usual section from Quadrophenia."

Doug Diaz, who also attended the concert remembers Keith Moon saying that the failure of Entwistle's rig "probably blew out the whole town."

One can only assume that Des Moines, Iowa seemed like a small town to a band like The Who in 1975. And as loud as they were known for playing, it's not hard to imagine their sound carrying all the way to Valley Junction. The fact that John Entwistle blew his amp out might not be so unique. It probably happened often on the 1975 tour, but it is cool that it happened at Vets Auditorium, which has become a pillar of rock and roll history.

A placard in the skywalk commemorates the night The Who played
although the date appears to be wrong. (Click to enlarge)
Currently on the west side of the building where the Auditorium meets the skywalk, there is a placard on the wall that describes the evening. It goes into small detail about the equipment failure and the size of the crowd. What is confusing is the date on the placard, which says that the concert occurred on December 2, 1977. There is no other record of The Who playing anywhere in Iowa in '77.

According to Anyway Anyhow Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle of The Who 1958-1978 (Written by Andy Neill and Matt Kent) the band played at Veteran's Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines, on December 2nd, 1975. It's easy to see where the mistake is - the person who designed the placard simply got the year wrong.

However, the confusion doesn't end there. In a timeline constructed by The Des Moines Register in 2005 of concerts that occurred at "The Barn," as Vets came to be known due to it's barn-like shape, it lists The Who playing in 1975, but on December 1st.

Ticket display in the skywalk.
(Click to enlarge)
This date is backed up by a giant ticket display that in on the wall just a few steps south of the (old) main entrance to Vets in the skywalk where the placards are. 

The wall is filled with replicas of ticket stubs of concerts that took place at Vets. There is one ticket stub from the concert in question, but it is cut-off and we are unable to see it in it's entirety. However a "1" is clearlt visible, as well as "1975." In other words, the ticket stub replica emulates the same date as the Des Moines Register article (December 1, 1975.)

Now that everybody is thoroughly confused, it gets even more complicated. The website Setlists.com has The Who playing a concert at Veteran's Memorial Auditorium on December 2nd, 1975, which essentially brings us full circle. I think it is safe to say that the concert occurred in '75, but on which date - December 1st, or 2nd?

A partial ticket replica on display in the skywalk.
(Click to enlarge)

So yeah. Confused yet? 

To recap, here is what we just covered:

The placard at the old entrance of Vets has The Who playing on December 2, 1977.

The book, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle of The Who has the band playing at Vets on December 2nd, 1975.

The timeline supplied by The Des Moines Register lists the Who as having had played on December 1, 1975, as does the replica ticket on display in the skywalk.

Setlist.com records the concert as taking place on December 2, 1975.


I guess until an actual bona-fide ticket stub appears, we should just assume that the concert happened at some point in early December of '75. I'm leaning towards the 2nd, because it seems to me that a published book would have it's facts straight, and this date is "verified" by the setlists website. It should also be noted that other tickets on the skywalk replica display have inconsistencies, such as the misspelling of band names, etc. Maybe accuracy wasn't high on the list of things they were looking for when they hired the display makers.

Other ticket replicas have inconsistencies as well, such as misspelled words.
Molly Hatchet is clearly spelled wrong. Another has Loverboy as two words.

We do know that a helluva concert occurred at Vets Auditorium featuring The Who. It drew a record sized crowd and experienced an unexpected break, and for those who hung around long enough afterward perhaps even a chance to meet the legendary band.

Brad Harvey wonders if this event made a lasting impact on The Who. "They never came back to Vets after that, he states. "They did play at Hilton Coliseum in Ames and the Unidome in Cedar Falls."



Sunday, January 4, 2015

Book Review: Every Night's a Saturday Night by Bobby Keys

My life has been unrehearsed as a hiccup. - Bobby Keys, in Every Night's A Saturday Night.




With the death of Bobby Keys on December 2nd of last year, I was moved to read his autobiography, Every Night's A Saturday Night. It's the first book I've read in a long time that kept me awake all night because I couldn't put it down.

In it, Keys tells the story of his amazing life and his uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time  - an act he acknowledges happened often throughout his life.

From having an aunt who lived across the street from Buddy Holly while he was growing up in Lubbock, Texas in the late '50 to the contacts he made that created interludes with Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Jimmy Page, B.B. King, and others in the '60s, Bobby Keys has experienced quite a journey. His collaborations with Delaney and Bonnie eventually led to the time he put in with the Rolling Stones during the '70s (and beyond) which is what he is most known for. Bobby Keys makes the statement that if you talk to one musician you will be told about two other musicians, and he made his living by connecting potential dots and creating an uncanny chain of events.

Not many musicians can say that they started out at rock and roll ground zero  - and were able to maintain a career that spotlighted them among the most iconic figures in music history. Keys himself compares his life to that of Forest Gump's, and reading the book, you begin to wonder if Keys himself is in disbelief as he recants his life story. Not that his stories are unbelievable - I have no doubt that they are true - but you get the sense that as he tells his story, he begins to wonder if he hasn't lived the life of a movie character.

Obviously his tenure with the Stones lasted the longest and it's what he is most known for. But to have had the experience of watching Buddy Holly play in his garage, and to have the chance to live and/or tour with the likes of King Curtis, Duane Eddy, Fats Domino, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, and Joe Cocker... well damn. What needs to be said? It's amazing that this book is only 266 pages long and not 2660 pages.


Photo from the book: Bobby during the recording
of Exile on Main Street, in France, 1971. 

His book is a tell-all rock and roll adventure that doesn't waste time with boring details of childhood. Keys gets right to the meat and potatoes. Shamelessly, he wastes no time telling his stories and he doesn't flinch when it comes to naming names, especially in association to the illegal drugs that were prevalent during the golden age of rock and roll.

For instance Keys mentions Dan Aykroyd only once in the book in reference to a gig he was playing with the New Barbarians: "We were introduced onstage by Dan Aykroyd," he wrote, "a guy who's always got good pot. He's a big, big pot head."

More so, he relented stories of the times he hung with Keith Richards which surprisingly weren't as scathing as one might imagine. While it's assumed that Keith Richards prefers the hard stuff, Keys doesn't bring it up very often in Saturday Night. The portrait he paints of Richards is that of a hard working, heavy drinking gentleman who enjoys smoking a lot of weed. Heroin and cocaine are brought up occasionally in the book, but mostly it's in reference to his own use, not that of the other Stones. He does however provide a rare glimpse at what life was like on the road with the world's greatest rock band, and while it got crazy at times - and there are great, hilarious stories - it was mostly run as a strict corporate enterprise.  

As I said, Keys goes into detail about his own drug use and especially heroin and the derailment it caused him. It eventually led him to quitting the Stones during the late '70s, and it was Keith who tried to persuade him to stay. Keith said point blankly, "Nobody quits the Stones!" In Saturday Night, Keys claims that he is the only person who quit the Stones and was was eventually let back onboard. But of course it came at a cost. While Keith welcomed him back with open arms, Mick never really seemed to forgive him for leaving.

Every Night's A Saturday Night is a great read for fans of the Rolling Stones, rock and roll historians, or anyone who likes a fun, candid, honest read. It also contains rare photographs that seem to have appeared exclusively for this book. Keys comes off as boastful at times, but humble and apologetic at others. Mostly he seems genuinely gracious for the life that he has been able to live and for the amazing people who helped carry him through it. 

My only regret is that I waited until his death to read it.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Story Behind The Song: "Have You Got It Yet?" By Pink Floyd

Imagine being taught a new song only to have it be ever changing, so that just when you think you have it learned, the person teaching you the song comes in and changes virtually everything you've just been taught about it.




That's exactly what happened in early 1968 right around the time David Gilmour joined Pink Floyd. Gilmour had been a friend of Syd Barrett since childhood, and had become very aware of Barrett's progression into a hermetic lifestyle. While once a prolific songwriter and composer, Barrett had become completely indulgent on LSD and his status within the band was quickly diminishing. It got to a point where IF Barrett would show up at a gig, he'd wander around the stage, only occasionally picking up a guitar and being a part of the group. He became a sideshow, which the audiences loved, but the band began to resent it.

Appearing with Pink Floyd on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, Barrett became terse while answering questions, coming off as rude. As a guest on Pat Boone's show, he ignored questions all together and just offered a mute stare into the camera lens, refusing to say anything at all. Nick Mason later said, "Syd wasn't into moving his lips that day."




The other band members eventually had enough of Barrett's antics and, in January of 1968, when Roger Waters was driving on the way to a show at Southampton University, the band elected not to pick Barrett up. 

One person in the car said, "Shall we pick Syd up?" and another said, "Let's not bother." Up until then, Barrett had been the primary composer of the band's material, and the initial plan was to keep him in the group as a non-touring member - as The Beach Boys had done with Brian Wilson - but this soon proved to be impractical. Gilmour subsequently became a full-time member of the band, replacing Barrett on guitar and vocals.

The Mad Hatter got the last laugh however. According to Waters, Barrett came into what would be their last rehearsal session together with a new song. He was calling it, "Have You Got It Yet?,"  and the first couple times they ran through it, it seemed simple enough. Soon the band realized that the song wasn't simple at all - Barrett would change the melody and the arrangement constantly with each new practice run - slightly at first, but more and more each time they played it. Barrett would play it again for them, with the capricious structure changes, and each time he would ask, "Have you got it yet?"




Of course, the band never did quite get it, as they were chasing the proverbial carrot on the string. Eventually they realized that they had become victims of Barrett's eccentric sense of humor. In fact Waters stated, in an interview for The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story, that upon realizing Barrett was deliberately making the tune impossible to learn, he put down his bass guitar, left the room, and never attempted to play with Barrett again. Waters had called it "a real act of mad genius".

The song was never recorded by Pink Floyd or Syd Barrett.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Meanwhile, In A Sleepy Bedroom On New Years Day...

The first memorable thing I did in 2015 was, I broke a tooth.

Lucky me.

I woke up after sleeping in, grabbed a protein bar and bit into it. The tooth broke off on impact and fell out of my mouth. I heard it as it hit the wooden floor. It had been damaged for some time, and was becoming a serious nuisance. I knew it was cracked, but I wasn't sure how badly. I guess I found out.

For now, I'll be eating handfuls of ibuprofen to curb the pain. I realize that eventually I will have to seek out a dentist. Meanwhile I am going to enjoy some tooth-chipping thrash metal.



In Defence will be play the Underground Rock Shop sometime in early February. Stay tuned.

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In Defence on Facebook

Thursday, January 1, 2015

On Christmas Day Panthallasa Releases First Single, "Skinwalk and Rupture."

On Christmas day, Panthallasa released "Skinwalk and Rupture," the first single from their highly anticipated EP, "Care."




"Care" will be available on February 14 as Panthallasa headlines an event at the Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines. $10 will get you in the door plus a free copy of the new EP. The Maw and The Creation Complex will also perform.

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Facebook event page

Grant's Tomb: Panthallasa and The Nerve Wrecking Process of Recording

Recording is nerve wrecking. It’s one thing to bash through a song during rehearsal, but to actually sit there with an engineer or producer while you fumble through your parts can be extremely embarrassing.



When it came time to record our first demos, on the advice of Brad West from Heartland/ex-They Will Repent, I sought out Griffin Landa who owns and operates The Establishment Recording Studios. I’d known of Griffin with his prior time playing in Too Pure to Die, and currently Shut In (also featuring one of my favorite vocalists, Vincent Bennett of The Acacia Strain) and IVA, but I’d never actually met him. I had no idea what kind of a person he was or how he ran things.

Admittedly, I am not the greatest guitar player, not by a long shot. Other than our drummer, I’m probably the least qualified to even be holding a guitar in the band (both my vocalist and bassist actually went to school to learn and play classical guitar), but I had at least learned my way around the instrument enough to know what I was doing.

So, here we were, going to recording with a guy who has toured across the States (and most likely outside of the U.S.), produced and engineered several local and regional bands and I had to play in front of him, a guy who has seen the best of the best play their instruments. To a click. The click is the mortal enemy of any person who can’t count, and I cannot. The running joke is that when I bring a riff to rehearsal, I’m the one who asks everyone else what time signature it’s in.  Fortunately for us, myself especially, Griffin is one of the easiest going people you’ll ever meet. Never a harsh or condescending word left his mouth during the initial recording sessions for the first three songs. It had been such a positive experience we knew he was definitely the guy to do our first official release.

Matthew Burkett of Panthallasa (Photo by Bigfoot Diaries)
I’ve always had an affinity for electronic music, industrial especially. I still remember the first time I heard “Adios” by KMFDM and the chills it gave me with the swirling electronics and machine like guitar riffage. We have three guitars players in the band, including our vocalist, and from the first rehearsals I made it clear I wanted to incorporate some form of electronics into our brand of aggressive music. I wanted to add texture to a genre that in my mind had gone stale by relying too heavily on drop tunings and mindless chugging.

We had been jamming a song since our first rehearsals as a full band that was far different from anything else we were doing, it had more in common with Nine Inch Nails or Massive Attack than it did the obvious Botch or Deftones worshiping the other songs had, but when we first started playing it we weren’t entirely sure it would actually be recorded in a studio. It started randomly enough one rehearsal, I had been messing around with electronic drum software on my laptop that I was running through a bass amp and our vocalist, Matt, started playing these two chords on his guitar with the reverb on his amp cranked all the way up. It was an extremely haunting melody. After Joe, our other guitarist, added his part and the live drums came in, I switched over to an organ snyth using the same software to avoid having too much percussive sounds going on and muddying up the tune. The first few runs of the song stretched out to about 10 minutes oddly enough…it was just so hypnotic and catchy.


Joe Curry of Panthallasa (Photo by Bigfoot Diaries)
For shows we managed to cut it down to just over five minutes and used it as our opener to draw people to the front before we pulled a one-eighty and starting playing our noisy tunes, however we still didn’t have lyrics or a title. As a joke (you’ll notice how this becomes a recurring theme), I suggested we call the song “Closer” because we played it as our opener. The title stuck.

When the song is played live, the electronic drum intro that I play is completely live. I should probably explain: I’m physically pressing down on the pad to trigger the sounds for each and every bar of the phrase instead of looping them or playing a pre-recorded sample. It’s kind of a backwards approach, but every time I’ve tried looping it or triggering a sample, something gets lost in the translation of the part.


Recording the song proved to be a lot less complicated than I initially anticipated. The actual drum phrase was played twice and then looped for the rest of its respective part in the song. The next section of the song features a slight guitar break before the main chorus kicks in. For that section, Joe, Matt and I are all playing guitar. I used a Boss OC-3 octave pedal to add more texture and thickness to it. All in all, I probably only play guitar on that  song for around 10-15 seconds, other than that it’s all Joe and Matt (Matt even plays the incredibly tasty lead towards the end). Dan nailed his bass line for the song, its silky smooth and has a very R&B flow to it. Just what the doctor ordered. If a remix of this track were ever to be attempted (hint hint), I’d direct the primary focus to be on his lines. My favorite part of the song however occurs within the last few seconds. Our drummer, Shane, starts an incredibly on top of the beat snare pattern that just grooves. It is so fun to listen to and the space that Griffin utilizes for recording works perfectly to capture Shane’s drum sounds.

I can’t comment on the lyrics because I didn’t write them, that credit would have to go to Joe. I do know they are probably the most personal lyrics you’ll find in a Panthallasa song. I’ve always tried to stay away from overtly personal lyrics when I write, but sincerely admire people who write them and make them work. Most of Matt’s vocal melody was already in place during the first jam sessions for the track, including the “GO!” to signify the guitar break.


Daniel Powell of Panthallasa (Photo by Bigfoot Diaries)
“Closer” is kind of an oddball for us, not only for the reasons stated above, but stylistically more so and depending on who we are playing with we may not even play it in our set live. I loathe to try and classify us as this or that genre (I’ve heard everything from progressive rock, to post-metal, to hardcore, whereas I just prefer the word “aggressive”), but if you’re going to play with other bands, you need to have some common themes musically. Most of our songs fit comfortably in the hardcore/metal realm, but not “Closer.” It’s very melodic and has a distinct industrial or electronica rock sound. We chose it to open the EP for the same reasons we typically open our set with it, it’s the perfect song to grab the listeners attention and draw them in, almost lull them into a trance.

- Text written by Grant Peter 

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Panthallasa on Facebook

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Five Questions With... Andy Fleming of Brother Trucker (Or Actually, Four)

Andy Fleming playing at the Fire Trucker Brewery in August
(Photo by Bonita Crowe)

I spoke with Andy Fleming briefly outside of el Bait Shop a couple of weeks ago on a Wednesday night. His band, Brother Trucker has been in the habit of playing there on the first Wednesday of every month, and coming into December, it had been announced that this particular night would be the last go-round for this monthly tradition. 

Jeff Bruning, or Bruno as he is known as publicly, is an owner of el Bait and the driving force behind the establishment's marketing genius. On KXnO's Morning Rush show several weeks ago he said that the music gets too loud, and in the winter time people don't have access to the patio like they during the summer. Bruno is a regular guest on the Morning Rush show, where once a week he goes into the KXnO studio and discusses everything that's new and exciting in the national brewing culture.

He went on to explain that when el Bait opened, there wasn't a hotel downtown, and his clientele wasn't as based on that fact as it is now. "We've had bands in that have been too loud and we've had people leave," he said. "We decided to just stop having bands play. At least for now."


Thankfully, he had a change of heart. Before Brother Trucker played a single note, Bruno announced that he was going to keep the first Wednesday of the month tradition going into the new year. Great news for fans of Brother Trucker. The fact that the place was absolutely packed might have had something to do with that. When I arrived shortly after 8:00, I didn't see too many people who weren't there to see the band. The place was feisty and jubilant.


After the band's initial set, Andy made his way outside for a moment, where I bumped into him at the entrance on his way back in. We stood in the frigid December air for about 10 minutes talking about this latest success and the music scene in general. People were walking in and out, and most everybody who passed by stopped to shake Andy's hand. 

He is highly revered in the local music scene, and people are automatically drawn to him. He calmly smiled and spoke to every single person that approached him. 

Andy Fleming is a troubadour on the stage, but he is a pioneer in other ways. I emailed him the next day because I had always been curious about why he had put the letters FUBVP on his yellow Strat underneath a sticker of the US Flag.



Andy Fleming has a message for Bob Vander Plaats
(Photo by Bryan Farland)
What FU stands for is obvious... but for those who don't know, BVP refers to local headache and anti-gay spokesman Bob Vander Plaats, who's annual Family Leader Summit gets way too much notoriety and fanfare among the ultra-right wing political class. Fleming has always championed the little guy and taken the side of the underdog. A song called "Downtown" that he wrote tells the story of a kid who, after his parents discovered that he was gay, was pushed out into the streets. The teenager was forced to make a new life for himself on the streets of Des Moines.

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What exactly is the story behind the FUBVP on your guitar? 

About the same time my dear friend/musical mentor Bejae Fleming (no relation) and her partner Jackie Blount were tying the knot… legally, Brother Trucker was booked at the State Fair. I wanted to use our larger moment of visibility to convey - in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Joe Strummer as well as Mike Cooley of the Drive By's - a message of solidarity behind those who deserve equality.

What kind of guitar is it exactly?

American Fender Telecaster purchased at Dirk Netwon’s Guitar Shop. Proudly. Dusty from Stuttering Jimmy/Slopcycle/Johnny Reeferseed and the High Rollers… bought the other blonde Tele hanging next to it at Drik’s… we’re kind of guitar kin in that way.

What would you like to say to Bob Vander Plaats if you had a chance to meet him? 

To go fuck himself. I’m kinda kidding. “Would (he) let Mike Huckabee’s son dog sit for him?…"

What drives you so hard to respect people's individual personalities? 

Mostly out of desire for giving what you hope to get back…the do onto others – value. – I honestly, seriously need to do a much better job in being able to articulate a true respect for those individual personalities I disagree with most. I’m really under-performing in that area.


As a husband, a father, a musician and a friend, Andy Fleming is a highly respected voice. I for one find it refreshing that he has chosen to use his guitar as a billboard to push back against Vander Plaats and the rabid message he preaches. Woody Guthrie played a guitar that has "This Machine Kills Fascists" written on it. It's nice to see Andy is in compliance with his hero.

Catch Brother Trucker at Wooly's tonight (Friday, December 19) where he'll be playing in support of David Zollo's CD release party along with BFD faves King of the Tramps. Doors open at 9:00.

And of course Brother Trucker will play el Bait Shop on Wednesday, January 7th. See ya there. 

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Brother Trucker Official

Brother Trucker on Facebook

Monday, December 15, 2014

Grant's Tomb: The Forming (And Reforming) of Panthallasa

Forming a band can be one of the most stressful experiences to go through. A bold statement maybe, but I've found it to be true nonetheless. Finding the right people with the right chemistry, even though individual tastes may differ significantly, takes a lot of patience. I am not a patient person.



In 2012 I had sworn off playing in a band ever again. Past experiences had left a bitter taste in my mouth, some of it my own doing, others not so much, but I was content to close the chapter and move on with my life. I was engaged, had a steady job and was happy enough. Its funny, looking back, how routine and “normal” my life became. All of that changed in an instant.

I’ve always looked to music as a way to vent and exercise whatever was troubling me, be it playing music or just listening. One tragic event and everything that I had taken for granted had been ripped away. Where do you turn when something like that happens? I picked up the guitar.

I’ve always been a bass player, my fingers were too fat and too short to play a guitar and any time I tried people would smile and shake their heads. Better luck next time. At the suggestion of a close friend and former band mate, he said I should play guitar in a project I had been discussing starting up. At that point it was all talk, mostly over several cans of PBR, but once the idea had been planted I couldn't shake it. I was going to have to go back on my word and form a band.

Now, how does one go about forming a band when they have a reputation for quitting or getting fired from every other project they've been a part of? How do they convince other people to spend their time (and money) on something that the person asking them to do it might not even see through to the end? 

Fortunately enough, I already had a couple people on board, a bassist, and another guitarist.

The earliest rehearsals were without a drummer. Just the guitars working on half-baked riffs I had been compiling over the last few months. During one of those rehearsals, the singer and guitarist from the band No One (we were sharing a rehearsal space with them) stopped by. He came in to the room, looked around and immediately asked if he could sing. Sure. Crazy thing was, it fit. It was raw and visceral but still carried enough melodic undertones to keep it interesting. One down, one to go.

Our initial drummer try-outs were not the greatest. One guy barely had a kit, another guy showed up for an audition, told us he didn’t like metal and never called us back. The third guy who showed up had a full kit and a good attitude but couldn’t seem to play in any time signature beyond 4/4, which was going to be a huge problem. Things seemed pretty depressing, but I had an idea. I contacted an old band member who I knew could play and he agreed to check it out. 

Things… didn't work out.

Finally, Shane Mills settled in as Panthallasa's drummer.
(Photo by Bigfoot Diaries)
After nearly 6 months of looking, we finally convinced No Ones drummer to play with us, the rationale being “Hey, we share a rehearsal space, we already have your singer, we like you, you like us, lets boogie.” 

A few line-up changes later and we were ready to start playing shows. We had already recorded three songs with Griffin Landa at his Establishment recording studios to offer up as singles/demos for people to come check us out and to say “Yeah, we’re serious.”

With several shows under our belts, the time to record a proper release was at hand. We initially wrote four songs to record an EP’s worth of material with Griffin at the helm again, but in the 11th hour I sprung a fifth track on the guys, thereby increasing the cost of the recording sessions.

When you release a song, you’re making a statement. Not just this is who we are as a band, but this is who I am as an individual. Every person who contributes towards a recording is putting their name on it, be it the engineer, the bassist or the guy doing the artwork. “I am proud of this.” But what if people aren’t getting what you’re putting down? What if the reception is weak? What if they can’t neatly classify you as this genre or that? What if they think you suck? Yeah.

One thing I’m very fond of is sharing my opinions. On everything, but especially music; I have no problem telling someone why their favorite band is garbage or how much better the music I listen to is. I guess that makes me a jerk, but I think the intentions are good. When someone tells me about their new favorite hardcore band, I’ll suggest someone similar who (in my mind at least) delivers a better experience. 

When someone asks if I've caught the last episode of a program like “The Voice” or “American Idol” I’m quick to tell them they shouldn’t support that corporate waste and instead invest their time and listening into a band kicking it in the local circuit. Different strokes I suppose.

So, what happens now? What if every negative thing I’ve ever said about another band gets said about mine? “Yeah, the music is okay, but the singer is awful,” or “I don’t know, they sound pretty generic, I’m sure I’ve heard that guitar part somewhere else before.” 

It’s a scary thought and it makes you sympathize a bit more with a band or group you don’t necessarily enjoy.

Panthallasa takes a break during studio work
(Photo by Bigfoot Diaries)
My band is getting ready to release our EP “Care” here after the New Year and I’m anxious to the point where I feel sick about it. We’ve played most of the songs in front of an audience, but anyone who is involved with recording can easily tell you how different a studio track can sound from hearing a song live. 

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to be spending a bit of time detailing the process of creating it, from the individual songs to the ideas and themes behind the lyrics and sounds that were incorporated into them. This will all be from my perspective and I am only speaking for myself, nobody else in the band. I have put my soul into these recordings. I’ve also burned some bridges with people to keep my band and ultimately my vision on the correct course, and I’m going to be as honest with you and myself about it as possible.

My goal for this is to give you a glimpse inside my thought process, and show not just the triumphs but also some of the difficult decisions that are involved while recording and releasing a body of work. I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

BFD Review: Aquamarine Dream Machine's The Abyss Stares Back...

"Once you look into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you." - Steve Quayle



The Abyss Stares Back... is the latest release from Aquamarine Dream Machine. I put the CD in my portable stereo about ten days ago, and I haven't taken it out since. For good measure, I don't really plan to anytime soon. It's become as much of a part of my nightly ritual as brushing my teeth and falling asleep to Coast to Coast AM.

While ADM has been a favorite local band for several years now, I was a bit skeptical about how their music would translate from it's live performance to a recorded product. As it turns out, I had no reason to worry. The album sounds amazing, and to be honest I was surprised to learn that it was mixed, mastered and produced by the band's guitarist Daniel Wipf in his home studio. 

It's extremely crisp, with none of that behind the scenes white noise that you sometimes hear on home recordings. The instruments are layered perfectly and it's obviously been tweaked to bring out the ultimate sound.

Dan Wipf in his psychedelic glory. (Stolen from his FB page) 
Dan is a great guitarist and I have felt for a long time that he often gets overlooked when local musicians are brought up in comparison to one another. He belongs at the forefront of that conversation - not at the back. He delivers with the best of 'em, and his Robert Fripp/David Gilmour style leave most in the dust. He has no ego - something I love about him personally - just this egalitarian way of making huge power chords that shift like beach sands in strong winds. 

His voice has come a long way. Once perhaps a weakness due to vocal insecurities, he now delivers on point, singing at full throttle. And the way he bends his guitar around his vocals... he methodically spins you further into the abyss.

The album contains six tracks, all originals. The music transpires from the bluesy "Long Time Coming" to the heavy riff oriented "Feed the Beast" to the noisy propulsive "Divines" from which the opening seems to have been borrowed from The Who (think "Sparks."). The six songs flow freely in and out of each other with meticulous design - another aspect to the album that obviously took a lot of thought.

The tracks:

Long Time Coming

Chasing Ghosts

Feed The Beast

Divines

Good as Gold

Under the Gun

Dan and Justin sounding off. (Photo by Sarah Cartwright) 

Justin Kurtz's bass lines are especially noted on "Feed The Beast," where his snappy motoric rhythms propel the song into a kaleidoscopic rabbit hole. There's such an encompassment to his style that it's easy to forget that he's playing until all hell breaks out. By then it's too late to duck, because not only are the walls caving in, the ground is opening you up and swallowing you whole. 

Duly noted, Joe Antleman's piano work is outstanding on this recording. While Kurtz is creating sonic sink holes, Antleman is taking you over the mountains and far into the sky. His style is that of a surgeon, articulate and sound, flawless and precise. As a musician, he's one of those guys who can play anything, and each time he settles into an instrument, he becomes it's master. On The Abyss Stares Back... he captures each song with spirit-driven figurations that slide on a scale from classical Baroquean style to bluesy smoky piano bar. He takes the lead on "Long Time Coming" and never relents throughout the rest of the album.

Joe Antleman performs at 2014's 80/35 concert. Photo stolen from FB. 

Nikoali Charikov provides the beat jam for ADM. His rhythm sails on auto pilot as he criss-crosses the fast changing melodies with relentless physical geometry. As the walls cave in around him he constantly rebuilds them, as much as an architect as he is a musician. As the newest member of ADM, he doesn't leave any voids. One great musician surrounded by others, he is the accelerant that drives the pistons on this well-oiled dream machine. 

With Aquamarine Dream Machine, the songs always come first. They don't rely on a shtick or gimmicks to feed their nest, they let their music paint the portrait of who they are. They are a foghorn in the empty sea, an essential cog to the local scene. 

The Abyss Stares Back... is as substantial and significant as any record I've heard this year. It's a must for my collection, and it should be for yours.

You can catch Aquamarine Dream Machine at Vaudeville Mews on January 2nd.

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Aquamarine Dream Machine on Facebook

Aquamarine Dream Machine on Reverb


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Electric Jury and Strong Like Bear Converge to perform Pink Floyd’s “Animals”

Two Ames bands will join forces and perform Pink Floyd’s dark and critically acclaimed album 'Animals'. The show will take place in Ames at DG's Tap House on this Saturday night, December 13. Electric Jury and Strong Like Bear will each perform individual sets before joining to play 'Animals' in it's entirety.  

To enhance the experience, a light show will accompany the performance, provided by Entertainment Lighting Company.

"We won't necessarily have a flying pig," said Dylan Boyle of Electric Jury, "but a friend is making one to have on stage." Of course he is talking about the infamous flying pig that Pink Floyd featured at their concerts during the late '70s into the '80s.


Pink Floyd Animals

Although 'Animals' might not rank as high as 'The Wall' or other Pink Floyd releases, critics consider the 1977 release to be one of the band’s darkest and most harsh releases, lyrically. It remains one of just a handful of albums that have been given 10/10 by Pitchfork.

The album consists of three main songs – “Dogs,” Pigs (Three Different Ones),” and “Sheep,” and two short songs  - “Pigs On the Wing 1” and “2,” that bookend the album.


While the short “Pigs On the Wing” tracks convey an idea of a romantic escape from the struggles of life, the three longer tracks heavily dissect different classes and types of people in society through an Orwellian paradigm – business people (dogs), politicians (pigs) and the idiot masses (sheep).


"I think, for all of us involved, 'Animals' is our favorite Floyd album," Boyle explains. "There's so many progressive and interesting things happening in the music and a lot of really challenging parts." 

"Personally, I really enjoy the songwriting and concept of the album," he explains further. "The album's songwriting dissects humanity very well, and is driven by a kind of nihilistic view that political and economic systems are cyclical and nothing will really change, and your life will never really change, no matter how much propaganda business people, politicians and media personalities dispense."

Upon it's release in 1977, New Music Express called the album "One of the most extreme, relentless, harrowing and downright iconoclastic hunks of music to have been made available this side of the sun."

Also in 1977, Melody Maker’s Karl Davis called 'Animals' an “uncomfortable taste of reality in a medium that has become in recent years, increasingly soporific.” Interestingly, this medium has now gravitated to be the norm, and 'Animals' is as relevant today as it was when it was released.

Boyle agrees. "If you look at contemporary American society, especially the right-wing of our country - but also supporters of President Obama - the lyrics of "Sheep" are invigorating and describe my observations about our current political system exactly. The last line of the song, Have you heard the news, the dogs are dead. You better stay home and do what you're told, get out of the road, if you want to grow old is as telling then as it is now."




Strong Like Bear. (Stolen from their Facebook page.)

Strong Like Bear has been a staple rock act in Ames for the past five years and has released two full ­length albums. Strong Like Bear consists of Bryon and Rachel Dudley, Greg Bruna, and Jordan Mull.

Electric Jury is a surrealist blues experience from Ames, consisting of Adam Brimeyer, Caleb Swank, Vedran Surlan and of course, Dylan Boyle.

Boyle finishes by saying, "Doing this, for me has been musically challenging, inspiring as someone who tries to write songs, but mostly it's been therapeutic.

Fun fact: Roger Waters wrote Animals in part as a sneer to the punk rock movement, most notably Johnny Rotten who smeared Pink Floyd when he wrote "I Hate" in ink above their band name on a t-shirt he wore publicly. As a result, "Animals" was written in response to Rotten's nihilistic attitude.

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Electric Jury on Facebook

Strong Like Bear on Facebook 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bigfoot Diaries Review: "Shark Attack" EP By The Maw

The long awaited Shark Attack EP by The Maw came out last weekend just in time for the band's final show at the House of Bricks which closed it's doors for good on Sunday, November 23rd.
The Shark Attack EP
We said good bye to an institution of Des Moines music. For 14 years HOB has been the go-to place for live shows on any given night of the week. It showcased local music more than any other venue in Des  Moines, and while it was indeed a safe haven for metal bands, Bricks regularly featured live music from other genres including Country, Blues, Americana, Folk, Rap, Latino and R&B. It was a place that felt like home, and it's presence is going to be missed in the city.

In a Lemony Snicket kind of way, it seemed fitting that was the night that we celebrated The Maw's long awaited release of their Shark Attack EP, a project that has been in the works (at least talked about) since my introduction to the band in October of 2010. Since then the band has evolved from it's tadpole incarnation to the fierce Great White that it is today. That's not to say that their music wasn't outstanding then - they've always blown me away - but through the sands of time, some minor turbulence, and a couple changes in the band's lineup, The Maw has persevered like no other band in the city. Rarely does a band lose it's foundation (bass player and drummer) and still maintain viability. The Maw have done just that.


The four song EP is a small taste of what The Maw bring to the stage, but it's still a solid half hour of brain-twisting prog that will keep your head swimming. Forrest Lonefight's melodic genius on the guitar is ever-present and Erik Brown's voice is sharp as the razor edge notes he hits on the electric piano. 


To say that he and Lonefight know each other musically would be the understatement of the year. Onstage, they appear to be guided by an unseen force and this translates into this recording, especially on the EP's title track, "Shark Attack." 


The song is a soundtrack to death by shark. It takes you through the entire journey - from the initial violent attack through the calmer moments when the shark lays off and you are floating in and out of consciousness. Then, without warning the shark returns and you are jerked through a spiraling wheel of death as you are shredded to the bone... 


Sounds lovely doesn't it? Trust me, it is. 


Interestingly enough and in perhaps a tribute to the band's former members, the final track on the EP, "Call To Arms" was recorded live* at the House of Bricks when former drummer Justin Bristow and former bassist Joe Antleman were the heads of the band's rhythm department. It's an admirable nod to these two considering the timeline from when this EP was being planned.


Current drummer Shane Mills is as articulate a drummer as you will find, and with Jeff Stone who now handles the bass duties, they guide the ship fearlessly. The arrangements that the Maw create are intensely complicated, and it takes serious musicians to recreate the sounds that were lost when Antleman and Bristow left the band. Not only are Mills and Stone capable of doing this, but their personal styles and improvisations seem to bring a new and welcome element to the band's sound.


The tracks are:


Buddy System (6:48) - with excerpts from the Jonestown 'Death Tape.'

Shark Attack (4:55)
Interlude (4:17) 
Call To Arms (13:48)

The Maw have always had the ability to balance focus and disillusion while keeping a choke hold on the listener's subconscious. They take you on a journey to places where it's unfamiliar and dark, and while that's a strong quality of the music they create, it's also somehow exalting and awakening.

As one person mentioned to me at the Maw's final show at the House of Bricks, "They never get old, and it's better every time."


You can see for yourself. The Maw are playing Dec. 6 at the Kum and Go Theater inside the Des Moines Social Club. It is the FFN Burton Ball and it is a night of music, art, performances and costumes themed towards your favorite Tim Burton films. Proceeds benefit the John Stoddard Cancer Center Compassion Fund. Aside from The Maw, the night will feature performances by Rumble Seat Riot, Switchblade Saturdays and The Spartan Blue. 


While you are at it, pick up the Shark Attack EP. If you dare.


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The Maw on Facebook

*"Call To Arms" recorded at House of Bricks, documented in Greg Waldrop's Beyond The Stage series.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Rumpke Mountain Boys Return To Des Moines To Play The Hull Avenue Tavern

The Rumpke Mountain Boys are on their way to great things. Widely respected in the bluegrass community as one of the tightest and most energetic bands in the country, they have been in almost constant tour mode for most of this year, darting across the country like a vagabond circus of acoustic mayhem. They played a 5 hour set atop the famous FURTHER bus on the west coast this summer, a set that was originally slotted to be a 40 minute quickie. As you can imagine, things got weird and nobody stepped in to tell them to stop playing, and as if they were on auto-pilot, the Rumpke Mountain Boys just kept doing their thing until the sun came up in the eastern sky. 

Of course, nobody seemed to mind.  

If you saw the Rumpke Mountain Boys at The Bigfoot Ball, then you need no convincing that these boys know how to throw a party.


Artwork by Jason Boten

Hailing from Cincinnati this  band is legendary on the festival circuit. Take their set at this year's Dark Star Jubilee at Buckeye Lake in Ohio: "They are like the devil," one fan told me prior to their set. "They'll play all night long without taking a break."

You could see the exodus down the hill from the campgrounds to the stage when RMB came on and they were the first band at the Jubilee to garner an encore. However, time was short and master of ceremonies Sam Cutler had to cut them off due to time and schedule restraints. The next morning, stories were abundant about the Rumpke Boys and their late night soiree through the campgrounds. They showed the same vigor and tenacity when they played the Bigfoot Ball at the Briar Patch in August, playing a virtual non-stop 4 hour set. (That doesn't count the three-plus hours they jammed together in the parking lot before taking the stage.)


The Rumpke Mountain Boys will be making a rare stop at the Hull Avenue Tavern on Friday. The show is FREE and will start around 8:00ish and they will play until the very end of the night. And by the end of the night, I mean put on your muck boots, because it'll be time to feed the cattle. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bruce Katz, formerly of the Gregg Allman Band to Play Fremont Tonight




The Bruce Katz Band is releasing their first album in 6 years--"Homecoming" is a beautiful slice of American blues and all the many music forms that grew from it. And they are planning one very special Midwest CD release party for Des Moines!

In addition to playing new tunes and familiar classics, the BKB will give everyone a little early Halloween magic--by paying tribute to the Allman Brothers Band! A set of ABB favorites in honor of Bruce's touring and performing with the Brothers as they retire, this night promises to be one for the record books.

It all goes down at The Fremont tonight, Saturday, October 25th. Do not miss this night--there's no repeating this kind of magic. To get you all in the mood, enjoy a couple of appetizers!






World-renowned organist, keyboardist, and bandleader BRUCE KATZ will be bringing his long-time trio to Des Moines for a special one-off show on Saturday, October 25th. Fresh off the road from touring with the likes of DELBERT McCLINTON, JAIMOE’S JASSSZ BAND (of the Allman Brother Band), and others, Katz, recently inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame, will be on a national fall tour in support of his new studio release, Homecoming, which features a number of special guests including the legendary JOHN HAMMOND, JR., as well as The Band’s RANDY CIARLANTE, and will be the group’s first release in nearly six years. 

The trio features fellow NYHOF member, guitarist CHRIS VITARELLO, and inimitable percussionist/Berklee College of Music veteran RALPH ROSEN. 

In addition to serving as a CD release event for the new album, for this special one-off show, a Lonely Orphans Production by Des Moines locals Kim West, bella soul’s Brandon Findlay & Tina Haase Findlay, and Dan Dahle of the Fremont, the BKB will perform an extra special set of music for their Des Moines audience. 

As a touring keyboardist with the GREGG ALLMAN BAND for several years, Katz went on to join the touring ensemble for the ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND for a number of dates after Allman suffered an injury in 2010, and has sat-in with the band a number of times before and since. 

In honor of his love for their music and his personal connection to the band, the BKB will perform a set of their favorite Allman Brothers Band classics, which promises to be the very definition of a “can’t-miss occasion.” 


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Bruce Katz Official