TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: Ex Hex at
the Black Cat, 5/1

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Even before the release of their debut full-length album Rips this past October, local DC rock trio Ex Hex had been labeled as “fun.” The reputation formed during interviews and at their first shows, and came out in their early music. They play with this lighter side on Rips while still showing off the immense rock and roll experience of each band member. Dance glam and catchy pop tunes meld seamlessly with harder punk-inspired riffs and no holds barred guitar solos.

So it was no surprise that the band’s hometown crowd at the Black Cat last Friday night was waiting impatiently for the dance party to start. And when guitarist and lead singer Mary Timony (Autoclave, Helium, Wild Flag) and bassist Betsy Wright (Childballads, the Fire Tapes) came out in matching black sequins, with drummer Laura Harris (The Aquarium, Benjy Ferree) following close behind, it certainly looked like they were ready to have some fun.

But the party didn’t quite start right away. Timony launched right into “Don’t Wanna Lose,” the opening track off Rips. The sound was off with the vocals too quiet and the reverb too heavy. The noteworthy energy that makes the album so addicting was missing.

But a few songs in, something changed. The sound had been fixed, and the band members seemed to loosen up and started filling the space.

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TVD San Francisco

Kirk Von Hammett’s
Fear FestEvil at Rockbar Theater, 4/11 and 4/12

There are possibly no two things in this world that go so perfectly well together, aside from maybe peanut butter and chocolate, than heavy metal and horror movies. There is one man in metal who stands above the rest at that crossroads, and that is Kirk Hammett, guitarist of Metallica. For years, Kirk’s obsession with all things horror-related has been well-known, and the collection of horror artifacts that he has amassed over the years has grown to astounding proportions.

For the second year in a row, Kirk has put together a weekend celebrating the unity of these two worlds, known as Kirk Von Hammett’s Fear FestEvil. This year’s fest was held at the Rockbar Theater in San Jose, CA. Two days of metal bands, horror luminaries, and more made for one interesting and fantastic weekend in California.


I arrived at Rockbar mid-afternoon, and a carnivalesque midway was already in full swing. Grotesque costumed figures wandered the premises and vendors hocked their wares, selling horror memorabilia, t-shirts, face painting, and other distinctive homemade goods. A personal highlight here was meeting John Russo, co-writer of the infamous horror classic Night of the Living Dead.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
The Nation of Ulysses,
The Embassy Tapes

When it comes to recordings, I’ve got a simple rule: the rawer, the better. I like records that sound like field recordings of old bluesmen; you know, the kind John A. Lomax and son made on sagging Southern shotgun shack porches using a cheap microphone. Hence my love of The Basement Tapes and Pussy Galore’s version of Exile on Main Street and innumerable other super lo-fi recordings I can’t think of at the moment.

This is the reason I love The Nation of Ulysses’ The Embassy Tapes so much. They sound like they were recorded in a McDonald’s bathroom, with vocalist Ian Svenonius locked in a stall and the microphone plunged head first into a urinal full of tape hiss. They’re raw and feral and murkier than a peat bog—a primitive cacophony that will pick you up the way a tornado picks up a cow, before depositing you, your ears ringing, in the demolished remains of that seedy trailer park at the trashier outskirts of rock and roll.

I saw Washington, D.C.’s Nation of Ulysses back in the day and didn’t like ‘em, although I’ll be damned if I can remember why. They just left me cold. Maybe it was the prominently displayed DC flag. I hate all flags, and what they represent, because I’m a shitty citizen with zero civic pride. It wasn’t until I became more familiar with the, er, unique bent of band front man Ian Svenonius’ mind that I became intrigued. He envisioned The Nation of Ulysses as a political party or revolutionary outfit, and described the band’s sophomore LP (1992’s Play Pretty for Baby) as “a blueprint for the destruction of the Parent Culture. It’s like a zip gun… It’s an instruction pamphlet for kids on how to destroy their home life, you know, their domestic state.”

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TVD New Orleans

TVD Live: The 2015
New Orleans Jazz
and Heritage Festival,
4/30 and 5/1-3

PHOTOS: “BATON ROUGE” BILL BOELENS | The deluge ended on Monday after seemingly weeks of rain in the Crescent City and by the time the gates to the Jazz Fest opened on Thursday, April 30, the Fairgrounds had mostly dried out. This year’s festival featured the most crowded day ever, numerous special musical guests and several tributes to the dearly departed. Here’s a look back at some highlights.

Big Chief Bo Dollis has been honored numerous times in various ways since his death earlier this year. But nothing says “legend” like than having your sculptural image join the likes of Professor Longhair on the proscenium of one of the stages of the Jazz Fest.

The image at top shows the beautiful sculpture—a permanent tribute above the Jazz and Heritage stage. A close look at its detail reveals the beads and stones gracing many a Mardi Gras Indian suit inlaid on the carving.

One of the many treats at the Jazz Fest is the “stumble.” Literally discovering a new act because you happened to walk by. On Thursday we easily fell into the Latin rhythms of Grupo Sensacion and their vivacious lead singer (pictured).

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Shell Zenner Presents

Greater Manchester’s most in the know radio host Shell Zenner broadcasts the best new music every week on the UK’s Amazing Radio and Bolton FM. You can also catch Shell’s broadcast here now every Wednesday at TVD.

“We have a Manchester tipster this week! Mike Emerson returns with a hot tip for us! On the bandstand this week, Little Comets talks support acts and more!

Brighton has a bit of a reputation for rock, right? Theo Verney is a shining light in both realms and he’s chatting to me on this week’s show about his forthcoming EP.” —SZ

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Crown Larks, Blood Dancer

Since forming late in 2012, Chicago’s Crown Larks have busied themselves honing a combination of punkish psychedelic grit, non-grandiose prog/art-rock flourishes, and significant borrowings from the fount of jazz. It’s a heavy, jamming, ambitious stew, and they are currently on the road with a full-length debut under their collective belt. Blood Dancer features seven selections that should attract the interest of folks providing shelf space to electric-period Miles, Soft Machine, and post-punk’s experimental wing; it’s out now on LP/CD/digital through Spacelung / Landbreathing, and for those fancying a cassette, one can be obtained through Already Dead Tapes.

Upon first encountering the name Crown Larks, my mind instantly conjured up an image of a garage band, specifically the kind wearing matching, tight-fitting suits as their frontman very likely brandishes a wooden painted maraca. Once heard however, I was just as rapidly confronted by my initial vision being completely off-target.

Unsurprisingly, the blend of psych, prog, punk, and jazz Crown Larks offer doesn’t easily fall into one sonic camp, which makes describing their sound a little complicated. But the difficulty in categorization doesn’t carry-over to the listening; accurately, Crown Larks dish out raucous, expansionist rock drawing from a wide range of precedent while connecting to the nonce; headbands and patchouli can be envisioned, but there is a tangible correlation to indie happenings, notably in the vocals of Jack Bouboushian and the electric piano of Lorraine Bailey.

For Blood Dancer, Bouboushian is additionally credited with guitar, bass, pedals, and sleep machine. Bailey adds vocals, organ, clarinet, and synths, and Bill Miller is anchored to the drum chair. They comprise the core of Crown Larks, at least for this LP, though it also includes trumpet and flugelhorn from Peter Gillette, the saxophone and flute of Kevin Ohlau, and on two cuts sax and piano courtesy Chris Boonenberg.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 5/6/15

Vinyl spurs sales growth: “According to the magazine, 65 percent of vinyl sales are in independent stores…”

Apple Wants to End Spotify’s Free Ride: “No matter how you spin it, the whole racket comes out sounding pretty damn crummy. With news like this the norm, it’s certainly no surprise that vinyl record sales are at a 20-year high. Forget irony or nostalgia, the people just don’t want the bullshit.

South Africa Begins New Love Affair With Vinyl Records: “South Africa is beginning a new love affair with vinyl records, after they were discontinued in the early 1990s in favor of CDs, and more recently for electronic MP3 downloads. Vinyl record stores are opening in most major cities…”

“Do you still have a ton of vinyl records that you’d like to listen to but you’re afraid they’ll get messed up by the constant drag of the needle? …Japanese Laser Turntable company ELP has released a “revolutionary way to revitalize your vinyl records without damage from conventional turntable needles,” allowing listeners to play wax needle-free, without a change in sound quality or digitalization…”

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TVD Los Angeles

TVD Live: OK Go and Kitten at the Wiltern,

PHOTOS: JULIA LOFSTRAND | Los Angeles often gives the term “tough crowd” its definition—not Saturday night at the Wiltern. On Saturday night, when most people were placing bets on Mayweather versus Pacquiao, a few thousand very excited OK Go fans were eager to be entertained.

It was a mixed bag of very loyal fans. From date night to girls’ night, goth-lite to the boy next door, in a range of all ages, the eclectic crowd represented the array of fans the four-piece band had collected through their seventeen year career. At the drop of the lights, a montage of iconic pop culture movie and TV scenes, cut together to repeat the words “OK” and “Go!” introduced the gentleman pop-rockers.

Band still unseen, OK Go opened with the crowd pleasing “Upside Down & Inside Out.” Mimicking the cover of their 2014 album, Hungry Ghost, headshots of each member was flashed on a large translucent screen that stood in front of stage. A light show of zig-zags and checker boards revealed silhouette glimpses of the band behind it. Every song was greeted with a new element; the screen dropped to fully expose the band. Singing through what seemed to be a “selfie-mic” (a microphone with a camera attached to the end), the face of lead vocalist Damian Kulash was displayed on double screens acting as a backdrop. Lights and lasers continue to run freely behind the band. By the third song, “Writings On the Wall,” a storm of confetti filled the room.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Vinyl Giveaway: Tori Amos vinyl bundle, autographed print, and Moleskine journal

There was a moment not too long ago where around the TVD water cooler, we found ourselves contemplating the ’90s era of female singer-songwriters, most notably those who could literally captivate an audience merely with vocals and piano. Franky just 2 came to mind collectively, Tori Amos and Fiona Apple—yet it was Tori who years prior to Fiona’s debut returned this artistic sensibility to the fore. It’s as if she reinvigorated a niche and others followed.

We’re hardly alone in this assessment and to underscore the considerable merits of her groundbreaking career, Rhino Records has rereleased Tori’s first 2 LPs, ’92’s Little Earthquakes and ’94’s Under the Pink on CD and 180 gram vinyl. The vinyl editions mark the first time both albums are available on vinyl in the US—and we’ve got a copy of each to award to one of you.

In addition, Tori has signed a print to add to our giveaway and she’s teamed up with Moleskine to create a custom Tori Amos journal, which ran in an extremely limited quantity. It’s a white classic large book, lined, with a her signature, and a lyric from “Silent All These Years” in gold foil on the cover. These aren’t for sale, but we have one to include as well in our contest.

“One of the most successful and influential artists of her generation, Tori Amos is as much a force to be reckoned with today as when she released her first solo album Little Earthquakes over 2 decades ago. Eschewing the trends of the time, the prodigious chanteuse touched millions deeply with her arresting melodies, riveting stage presence and personal and honest lyrics. Amos is releasing 2-CD deluxe editions of her debut and sophomore solo albums, Little Earthquakes and Under The Pink, each newly re-mastered and paired with an entire disc of rare b-sides and bonus tracks.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Premiere: Jonathan Sibha, “Maria”

Moody rockers Jonathan Sibha debut under the influence of David Lynch and Sigur Rós. 

We have the pleasure of premiering their single “Maria” which is one of many stellar tracks from their debut, secretlovers.

The native Canadians headed south to Minnesota, recording the bulk of the album in a giant pull barn with a dirt floor and tin roof. Late night vocal sessions were interrupted by moose mating calls that forced the band to move their studio to a wood shack, but they pushed through, experimenting with toys and sonic manipulators, crafting the atmospheric sound of secretlovers.

The resulting songs make for a compelling first album and Jonathan Sibha’s interesting recording process begs further listens. It takes a certain kind of band to disconnect themselves from everything but themselves—and you got to give them props for returning from the wilderness with something beautiful.

Jonathan Sibha Facebook

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