Sunday, January 21, 2007

There are few bands these days that will get me out in sub-zero (I’m writing from Denver) temps to go a club the has exorbitant drink prices and a normal caliber of clientele that makes Pairs Hilton seem like a extraordinarily smart blonde. Couple that with the fact that this particular club, “The Shelter,” is the same club where Denver Broncos player Darrent Williams was partying at when he allegedly got into an altercation that got him murdered, and it should be pretty clear how strong my love for the band I’m about to review is.

The band happens to be Digital Underground, the hip-hop crew that was formed in Oakland, California and is best known for their song “The Humpty Dance” as well as being the launching pad for the late Tupac Shakur. Digital Underground is easily one of the most talented and underrated groups in hip-hop and it’s sad to see them playing in such a cesspool of a club, as opposed to the packed arenas they deserve. Still, I’m willing to brave it for a band that sits among Guns and Roses, The Black Crowes and The Rolling Stones as one of my all-time favorite bands.

Digital Underground also happens to be one of the few bands I enjoy a personal relationship with. During my somewhat brief career as a concert promoter, that actually came about as a result of having to drive to Aspen to see the band years ago, I brought the band to Denver for their first show in the area where they sold out the joint (A “Deadhead” bar called Quixote’s,) quickly. I subsequently brought the bands leader Shock-G, whose alter ego is the famous Humpty Hump for his first solo tour in support of his great album Fear of a Mixed Planet As a side-note, for all you aspiring promoters, let me tell you the job isn’t as glamorous as it sounds and the real money in the business is made by plying people with liquor and not from selling tickets.

That said, it’s Shock-G, and his partner in crime Money B, that make Digital Underground such a great band. They have a passion for their craft that is rare, especially in the “Bitches and Hoes” world that is hip-hop and rap. While the bands mainstream success was brief the bands music is some of the best out there. If you even remotely like rap, or Parliament style funk for that matter, you owe it to yourself to seek out and absorb Digital Underground albums like Sex Packets, Sons of The P and the mind-blowing masterpiece that is The Body-Hat Syndrome. But I digress, and as they say in show business “on with the show.”

After a few backstage libations the band hit the unusually small stage (about the size of a walk-in closet) at Midnight at proceeded to deliver a hefty dose of the distinctive “D-Flow” funk that they are famous for. Unlike many groups, Digital Underground regularly switches up it’s set lists and this particular show saw the band running through classic verses from “Rhyming on the Funk,” “Kiss You Back” and the show stopping “Freaks of the Industry” among others gems. Shock-G also took to the piano and laid down some killer riffs before donning his trademark Humpty Nose to send the crowd into frenzy with the side-splitting lyrical boasting of the aforementioned “Humpty Dance.” By the end of the show the crowd was in a state of elation and DU left the stage proving they are still the best, and most consistent, hip-hop crew around.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

DVD Review: Elvis, still a hero to most....

Elvis Presley
The Ed Sullivan Shows
Image Entertainment

For Members of the Web 2.0 Generation the Ed Sullivan Show may seem like an ancient relic of days long gone. Yet in its heyday the show was considered the equivalent of a popular Myspace page or, for the less idealistic, an appearance on American Idol.

With that considered it’s fair to say that Presley’s three appearances on the Ed Sullivan show were paramount in not only cementing Presley’s image in the American conscious but also, along with "Beatlemania," helped launch America’s, and eventually the world’s, infatuation with celebrity.

Presley’s appearances on the show, all occurring between late 1956 and early 1957, made him both a hero to the youth and an enemy of the state. By the time his final appearance on the show (January 6th, 1957) rolled around, his influence had become so bothersome to the moral majority that the show refused to let the cameras shoot him below the waist. The contrast of this, compared to today’s flesh-bearing television standards, is a stunning, and somewhat disturbing, reminder of how much America has changed in the last fifty-years.

Presented in a lavish three-disc set, all three shows are included in their entirety and provide a great keepsake for hardcore fans. They also provide a time warp like glimpse of the creation of one of music’s biggest stars for younger fans.

These days it’s hotly contested, especially by the hip-hop community, if Presley deserves his long standing title as “The King,” but there is no denying that in the late 50s Presley’s popularity made the success of American Idol look like boring reruns of C-SPAN senate hearings.

Brandon Daviet

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A new, revealing book about the Murder of Dimebag Darrell

For music fans few events, if any, in the last decade carry the same weight and significance as the murder of guitarist Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott. While there were a relativity small number of fans present at the December 8th, 2004 show, held at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, featuring Abbott’s post Pantera band Damageplan the event has a profound effect on music fans the world over.

In addition to the loss of one of rock music’s most charismic and talented guitar players, the senseless tragedy also clamed the lives of Nathan Bray, Erin Halk and Jeff Thompson and forever changed the lives of those who were present on that fateful night. Despite what some critics of “Heavy Metal” have said the actions of killer Nathan Gale, an allegedly deranged fan, contradict everything that true metal-heads stand for. For the generation of fans that grew up on bands like Anthrax, Slayer, Metallica and, of course, Pantera this is our Altamont, a moment that forced us all to take stock of what we really stand for when we pledge our allegiance to Heavy Metal.

In his forthcoming book A Vulgar Display of Power: Courage and Carnage at the Alrosa Villa writer Chris A. explores the solidarity of the metal community, the heroic actions of Officer James Niggemeyer, who provides the books foreword, as well the Columbus Police Department and the fans who were there. What the book is not is a glorification of killer Nathan Gale, but rather a story of triumph over evil.

The following is a conversation with author Chris A. about the book and his experiences writing it. You can get more information about the book, scheduled for publication in March, at the Authors Website. What originally interested you in doing this book?

Chris A.: Well the whole event really kind of bothered me, and I don’t think I had felt that way since John Lennon was killed. It was just one of those things that I had a lot of questions about, and I was always very skeptical about the break-up of Pantera being the cause. I was also very interested in the other three people who were killed that night, and there was very little in the media about them. Their stories seemed to be obscured by Dimebag's celebrity so I started to do some digging. What did you find out?

Chris A.: Well, after I went on line and did a little poking around. I discovered that were really very few things of any merit that had been written, so I got the Idea in my mind that maybe it was something I could do. At one point, in a 2004 interview with Metal Hammer magazine, Phil Anselmo had said that Dimebag “deserves to be severely beaten,” how much do you think that statement might have influenced Dimebag’s murder?

Chris A.: I looked into that aspect a great deal and the fact is that nobody knows. Obviously if he [Nathan Gale] heard about it or read about it, one could suspect that it may have influenced him. As far as finding anything absolute or concrete that he was even aware of the interview, there wasn’t anything. Did you speak with members of the Columbus Police Department in your research for the book?

Chris A. Yes. I spoke with the Homicide Detectives, Ambulance Crews. I spoke with the families of the victims and the mother of Nathan Gale as well as speaking to tons of fans. I probably corresponded with close to 200 people while researching the book. After doing all this research do you think that there was anything that could have been done to prevent this from happening?

Chris A.: Well hindsight is always twenty-twenty, but as far as culpability goes I would put the culpability squarely on the shoulders of Gale. I’m not aware of any precedent to his actions, I never found any instance of somebody actually getting on-stage and killing a performer. I think the biggest misconception is that there was something that the venue missed. I think the security at Alrosa Villa that night, and this is based on my opinion, was no better or no worse than the security at other clubs that I’d seen. We’re not talking about somebody getting drunk and starting a fight or smoking weed. We’re talking about an armed intruder coming into a club with a mission to kill people, and I don’t know of a single venue anywhere in the United States that has a protocol to deal with that. Do you think that the level of aggression present in the type of music that Damageplan, and other bands of the same ilk, are playing had anything to do with the tragedy?

Chris A.: I absolutely, totally reject that and that is part of the thesis of the book. It’s very easy to take a negative, narrow view of Heavy Metal based on what happened. What the book is going to very clearly explain is that the killer was not a fan, and he was not enamored with Pantera or Dimebag for the reasons people think he was. Looking beyond that it is absolutely inspiring and amazing that so many people stayed around and tried to help. When the police showed up there were 250 people milling around the parking lot waiting to give statements. One of the detectives, Bill Gillette, said that in his nine and a half years of working homicides he had never seen that kind of cooperation.

Interview by: Brandon Daviet

Friday, January 12, 2007

Faster Pussycat Returns...

Faster Pussycat
The Power and the Glory Hole
Full Effect Records

For me Faster Pussycat along with Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue represent the holy trinity of 80s rock. While there were many other bands from that period that adequately represented the essence of the Sunset Strip and the Hollywood way of life Faster Pussycat had them all beat when it came to projecting vibes of sex and sleaze. On top of that the band just flat out rocked, their first, self-titled album and Wake Me When it’s Over are some of the best of the era. The bands third album, Whipped, wasn’t anything to sneeze at either even though it was eclipsed by the rising popularity of grunge rock.

That said, I was ecstatic when I heard that the band was finally releasing their first proper studio album in 14 years. Now that I’ve listened to it a few times my reaction is a bit mixed. It’s sort of like a close, straight, long-time friend of mine who took a lengthy sabbatical and upon returning announced that they were gay. Now of course this person is still my friend, as I believe in personal choice and only hate people who earn it, but we don’t have as much in common anymore.

To break this down to musical terms, I’m saying that The Power and the Glory Hole is still the Faster Pussycat I know and love in many respects but the new elements are a bit alien to me. There are still great grooves on songs like Sex, Drugs and Rock N’ Roll, Number One With a Bullet and the Betty Blowtorch penned Shut-up and Fuck but the band is missing the melodic sensibilities that graced tracks like Poison Ivy, Non-Stop to Nowhere and Smash Alley.

Of course, as anyone who heard The Newlydead’s, or Taimie Downe’s stint in Pigface for that matter, knows that Downe’s tastes started leaning to industrial beats and tempos and S&M visuals long ago. While this isn’t the same Faster Pussycat that put the sleaze in the L.A. club scene, I admire Tamie’s resolve in following his musical heart. The Power and the Glory Hole is not a bad record by any means just a bit different than before, sort of like the friend I mentioned earlier.

Brandon Daviet

A Few Words with Unearth's Trevor Phipps

Un-swayed by the trends of their Peers and the wants of the music industry, Massachusetts band Unearth is currently touring in support of their latest record Unearth III: In The Eyes of Fire. The album is a fiery blast of uncompromising metal at its best .In addition; the band has just started a run of dates opening for the mighty Slayer.

Unearth and Slayer will be pulling through Denver on January 31st for a show at the Fillmore Auditorium. The show promises to be a sweaty night of heavy music at its best and the bill also features hometown heroes Cephalic Carnage.

The bands business savvy singer Trevor Phipps took a minute to fill in on some of the details of life in a rock band. So you are just starting a Tour with Slayer , Do you have a favoriteSlayer record?TP: Seasons in the Abyss. Bad ass Album What do you do to keep busy on the road?

TP: I keep busy with my label Ironclad Recordings. I am always on the phone, computer or my blackberry getting things done for the label. I handle a lotof the Unearth business as well. Besides that, I try to exercise every dayand take walks around each city to see some different sights. At the end ofit all, we party hard at night after the show. Do you write songs while you're on the road?

TP: Rarely. We are most proficient when we are home for a while. What song do you look forward to playing live most?

TP: It varies from time to time, but right now it is "Giles". We have beenopening most of our shows with that tune and I get real amped to go outthere and get the show underway. On top of that the song is aggressive asall hell, so it is a good one to get stoked about playing. Is being in a band everything you thought it would be when you wereyoung?

TP: Pretty damn close. I wouldn't trade my life for anything. Are you going to do more touring after the Slayer Tour?

TP: Yeah, we never stop! We are doing a headlining European tour in March andApril and there are talks of more worldwide touring after that. Does the band play the same set list every night?

TP: We mix up the order of songs almost nightly and we trade a couple songs inand out of the set every couple of days. We need to keep it interesting forus and for the fans that have come out to see us more than once. How much importance do you put into making music videos?

TP: Music videos are a great way to get people to visually see what you band isall about, so to me it is a video is very important. Growing up a fan ofmetal, I couldn't wait to see the "World Premiere" of my favorite bandsvideos. Do all five members travel on the same bus?

TP: Hell yeah, we have a damn good time with each other on the road. Living, playing and partying with your band mates makes for a closer overall unit. Those guys are some of the closest friends I have ever had. I wouldn't wantto be in a separate bus. Blondes say they have more fun do you think that is true?

TP: Well, my fiancé is a blonde. Does that answer your question?!

Interview by: Brandon Daviet

Friday, January 5, 2007

Car Bomb's debut album sounds like, well, a Car Bomb...

Car Bomb
Relapse Records

Release Date 2-6-07

Car Bomb is an aptly appropriate name for the four member New York band responsible for this 11 track slab of hardcore noise metal. The funny part is that the press release describes the album as being full of “vicious jazz-inspired blasts.” Truth be told, it is the shameless compunction of comparing this album to jazz that’s vicious.

While the album could be mistaken for a explosion it would be more accurate to say that the album is a great example of what would happen if you juiced-up a group of high-school kids with low SAT scores on Ridilan and set them loose in a room of full of tuned musical instruments and a P.A. hooked to a distortion pedal. It’s also important to add that the high school where these kids were plucked from obviously has little or no arts budget.

I would also suggest whatever snowboarding, electric guitar playing A&R person that signed this band to Relapse Records be subjected to a lengthy and thorough internal review and possible public flogging. If this is the future of metal it is certainty nothing to be jazzed about.

Brandon Daviet

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Compilations Still Rock...

Music Ration Entertainment Presents:
A Murderous Mix

Back in the early days of Heavy Metal and Thrash, the compilation album was a fun and effective way to get the music of new bands to new people. Many bands like Metallica and Exodus, just to name a few, contributed songs to compilations by now famous labels like Megaforce and Metal Blade records.

That’s the same theory behind this new compilation CD from Music Ration Entertainment. A Murderous Mix contains 18 tracks of the best up and coming Industrial and Hip-Hop artists and also serves as a teaser for the new Sound of Mass Production release The Treatment.

In addition to two tracks and a music video by SMP, there are tracks by The Marginal Prophets, Dimension Zero and Tankt.

Now you’re probably asking why should I give two shits? Well, unlike a movie soundtrack that is usually made up of left-over songs, bands normally put their best foot forward when contributing to a compilation. Check out A Murderous Mix and judge for your bad self.

Brandon Daviet