Author Archives: Jon Pacella

TVD Live: Desert Generator at Pappy
and Harriet’s, 4/8

It is widely believed by fans of stoner rock that the Mojave Desert in Eastern California is exceptional. Underground bands like Kyuss, Fatso Jetson, Yawning Man and more put the desert on the map and turned stories of generator parties in the middle of nowhere into urban mythology. At the perfectly out-of-the-way Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown, Desert Generator was the ideal crossroads of looking back at the past was while celebrating present and looking to the future of stoner rock.

Desert Generator is the brainchild of Brant Bjork, former drummer of stoner rock legends Kyuss and Fu Manchu, and an accomplished solo artist in his own right. It’s a weekend to harken back to the golden years—good vibes, good tunes, a good buzz, and people showing off their bitchin’ custom vans.

The weekend kicked off on Friday, with a special show called “Stoned & Dusted,” which, in some ways, was a way for people in 2017 to experience the true generator parties of the past. A limited number of tickets were sold to keep the crowd size down, and attendees were bussed to an undisclosed location to experience Nick Oliveri, Yawning Man, Brant Bjork, and Fu Manchu in an open-air, intimate setting.

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TVD Live: Prophets of Rage and Awolnation at EagleBank Arena, 8/19

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The use of music as a medium to react to politics and injustice is not a new idea. Tracing back to Irish folk songs and bard’s tales from ages ago, to Baez and Dylan’s antiwar folk movement of the ‘60s, to Black Sabbath’s metallic railings against a conformist society in the ‘70s, the message has been the same, even though the method of delivery has varied. As the ‘80s were drawing to a close and the ‘90s approached, two of the biggest voices of musical revolution were Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine. Whether it was Chuck D’s unmistakable baritone demanding that the masses “Fight the Power” or the fury of Zach de la Rocha’s cry for justice, the face of rebellion in music was forever changed.

If there was ever a right time to bring these outspoken musical forces together to make a statement, that time is now. With the election right around the corner, America has turned into a polarized, partisan, daily minefield of he-said-she-said rhetoric. Thus, the Prophets of Rage were born.

The idea was simple, yet effective. First, you have three of the four members of Rage Against the Machine (singer Zach de la Rocha declined to participate but gave his blessing). Filling his shoes is the aforementioned Chuck D of Public Enemy, B-Real of Cypress Hill, and DJ Lord, also from Public Enemy on turntables. All the pieces were in place, and after some rehearsal time and two performances in Los Angeles and Cleveland (coincidentally at the same time and in the vicinity of the GOP Convention), the “Make America Rage Again” tour was ready to launch at EagleBank Arena in the DC suburb of Fairfax, VA.

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Vinyl and good vibes: The Washington, DC Record Store Crawl, 8/6

There are a few schools of thought when it comes to record shopping in these modern times:

  • Those who were born in the ’90s, and have discovered a fascinating retro-cool way to listen to music while shopping at Urban Outfitters.
  • Those looking to detach from the digital wasteland and reconnect with their beloved music in a tangible way.
  • Those who grew up with vinyl, and have either never stopped listening to it or who have reembraced the format.

No matter which group you may fall under, there’s no denying that the popularity of vinyl is at an all-time high since being dethroned as the preferred music format by cassettes and CDs in the ’80s. If you were to ask any vinyl aficionado what they love most about vinyl, somewhere between “the warmth of the sound” and “the artwork” would be the hunt. Sure, it’s easy nowadays to hop on ebay or Discogs and find your prize within seconds of typing in the search, but nothing beats the joy of finding that long-sought-after gem after hours of crate-digging at record shows or your local shops.

Not long after I was approached by TVD to cover the 2016 Record Store Crawl, I read up on it and found the concept an intriguing one: a pseudo-bar crawl, hopping from record shop to record shop, getting drunk on shopping and live music rather than cheap drinks. Taking place in seven cities in the U.S. over a three-week span, they tout the crawl as “The Coachella of crawls” on their Facebook page. While that description didn’t exactly endear me personally, I was still excited to hit some of my treasured local record shops with a group of like-minded souls.

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TVD Live: Gwar at the 9:30 Club, 11/9

PHOTOS: DAVE BARNHOUSER | It’s been over a year since the untimely passing of Gwar leader and founder Dave Brockie, a.k.a. Oderus Urungus, but the Gwar machine is still rolling full steam ahead. Soldiering on with a new book, a Gwar-themed bar, the yearly Gwar-B-Q and more, they have hit the road for a fall tour as is their norm, leaving a path of gore and destruction in their wake.

This time around, they stopped at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. with Michigan thrashers Battlecross in tow. Entering the venue, the telltale signs were evident that Gwar was in town. The 9:30 staff dressed in white for maximum visual effect, and sheets of plastic draped around the club to protect the bars and equipment from the forthcoming bloodbath.

The self-proclaimed “blue-collar thrashers,” Battlecross got things going in a hurry, beginning with “Force Fed Lies” and “Not Your Slave.” With a bit of prodding from vocalist Kyle Gunther, the crowd who was a bit reluctant at first (not surprising for a cold, rainy Monday evening), eventually warmed up and increased the enthusiasm with a pit starting here and there during the set. Gunther was a blur of energy, injecting both humor and fire into the band’s set.

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TVD Live: AC/DC at MetLife Stadium, 8/26

PHOTOS: DAVE BARNHOUSER | In the world of rock music today, there are a scant few bands still touring who can be categorized as “living legends.” The Stones. The Boss. McCartney. Yet even with the legendary history behind those great artists, none today have the sheer power—dare I say the “high voltage rock and roll”—of the mighty AC/DC. After four decades of the purest, no-frills heavy rock on the planet, the band is still at it and as heavy as ever.

On this stop at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the faces had changed a bit, but the rock stayed the same. Former drummer (Razor’s Edge-era) Chris Slade has rejoined the fold, stepping behind the kit for longtime drummer Phil Rudd, who is under house arrest due to some, well, legal issues.

The other change in the lineup, and the most disappointing one, would be the absence of founding member and band leader Malcolm Young. Retired due to debilitating health issues, the band kept it in the family, recruiting nephew Stevie Young to fill the void at stage right on rhythm guitar.

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TVD Live: The 6th Annual Gwar BQ at Hadad’s Lake, 8/15

Blöthar. Beefcake the Mighty. Sexecutioner. To the uninitiated, these may seem like names from a twisted, perverted comic. To the Bohabs, or devotees to the band known as Gwar, well, you’re still not too far off. For three decades now, Gwar had been pushing the limits of musical outrageousness with their twisted music and their gore-filled live shows have become a thing of legend.

In recent years, one of their latest ventures has been the annual Gwar BQ in their hometown of Richmond, VA. Correction, adopted hometown, as they claim Antarctica as their home on Earth. The Gwar BQ has been picking up steam, as the annual event has grown bigger each year, and that was most apparent with this year’s lineup.

Three stages, featuring some of punk and metal’s heaviest hitters like Down, Clutch, the Descendants and Of course, Gwar themselves.

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Posted in TVD Washington, DC | 2 Comments

TVD Live: High on
Fire at the Regency Ballroom, 8/1

Like a powerful derecho blasting its way across the midwest, stoner rock icons High on Fire keep gathering momentum the further into their career they go. Their destructive winds blew into the Regency Ballroom on Saturday night (8/1) as the band began the tour in their home state of California. Hot on the heels of releasing their most dynamic album to date, Luminiferous, they seemingly have a renewed spark and have put together a package tour of brutal proportions.

Opening up the night was Houston’s Venomous Maximus. With songs full of dark stoner riffs like “Give Up the Witch,” the band was musically adept and at times walking the doom metal line harkening back to classic Pentagram or Sir Lord Baltimore. What was lacking here are the mediocre vocals of singer/guitarist Gregg Higgins. In fairness, Higgins sounds better on wax than on stage and their mix was muddier than the Rio Grande, but it just wasn’t happening in Frisco. The solid metal core of their songs carried them through their set and the slowly growing crowd showed them some love.

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Up next was Germany’s Lucifer, a band I was immensely excited for especially considering it was their first tour in the United States. Led by the bewitching Johanna Sadonis, Lucifer took the stage with something to prove—and prove it they did.

After an eerie intro, the band opened with pure Sabbath worship in the form of “Anubis.” The all-seeing eye on the back of Sadonis’ satin robe stared down the crowd as she turned away towards the drums and her voice was soaring and haunting, perfect all the way through as she writhed with the music. Her vocals were the focal point of their sound, but the thick guitars of metal veteran Gaz Jennings of Cathedral gave the band some serious weight. Two shows into the tour, Lucifer sounded well-seasoned and are destined for higher ground very soon.

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TVD Live Shots: Chris Stapleton and Aubrie Sellers at the Jefferson Theater, 6/20

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If you are a fan of country music and you aren’t familiar with Chris Stapleton, there is a void in your life that you may not have even realized was there. The Lexington, Kentucky native has written songs for some of the biggest names in country and beyond including Sheryl Crow and Adele. Having previously fronted the Grammy-nominated bluegrass band The SteelDrivers, Stapleton has broken out on his own and is making huge waves with his debut solo album, Traveller. In the midst of a string of sold-out dates, I was a traveller myself, venturing from DC, down to the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday to see him first-hand.

This is not your typical FM-country radio or CMT Awards fare. You won’t find songs of cold beer and hot women, and driving through the mud to get to the lake party or other standard bro-country themes. Stapleton is honest, real, and pure, and there is no pretension to what he does. It may have been a hot, rainy night in Charlottesville, but the warm glow of good music inside the venue made everything all right.

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The venue packed quickly, fans lining both floors of the theater seeking out a vantage point. The crowd was buzzing by the time Aubrie Sellers took the stage to open the show. Having paid her dues as a country music background singer, Aubrie seems poised to break out on her own in a big way. The daughter of country stars Lee Ann Womack and Jason Sellers, the twenty-four-year-old Sellers won over the audience in no time flat. Her commanding voice was damn near a dead ringer for her mother’s, with an extra tablespoon of attitude thrown into the mix.

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Joe Elliott,
The TVD Interview

Anybody who has listened to Def Leppard at any point in their life has their own personal, lasting memory of the band during their thirty-five-year career—a group of young, brash Brits greeting the States in rock anthem style with “Hello America,” Joe Elliott’s Union Jack shirt nearly ubiquitous on MTV, or “Pour Some Sugar On Me” propelling them to superstardom.

Rather than relics, Def Leppard has both fully embraced their past and moved into the present—exuding a youthful energy and sounding top-notch. Prior to embarking on a U.S. tour with Styx and Tesla, we had a chance to chat with the band’s iconic lead singer, Joe Elliott.

While Joe may not share the same enthusiasm for the vinyl format as some of our readers and staff, he both embraces its history and sees its place from a musician’s perspective as his side project, the Down ‘n’ Outz, released a vinyl EP for Record Store Day 2015 in the UK. Joe gave us a look at Def Leppard’s past, present, and potentially long future, as only he could.

As we go to press, it’s been announced that the band’s guitarist, Vivian Campbell will be taking a hiatus from the road due to the return of the cancer he’s fought bravely in recent years. It’s in this light that Joe’s comments on the band’s future prove both thoughtful—and prescient.

Hi Joe, how are you doing?

Excellent, not too bad at all.

Good to hear! You’re about to kick off a huge summer tour with Styx and Tesla. How did that combination come together?

These combinations are all suggested tours made on the premise that we want to tour with people that we are familiar with or the audience are familiar with. In other words, kind of like the old ’60s package tours, if you like. I’m a huge fan of these old Fillmore West and Fillmore East—or even the Marquee London posters—with The Who on the same bill as The Move or Amen Corner or Humble Pie, or something like that. Not just bands that are “special guests,” which I hate.

We’ve always said to agents through our management, “Throw suggestions at us who we could go out with.” That’s why every ten years or so, you’ll see us out with the likes of Bryan Adams ten years ago, Journey, Poison, we’ve been out with Styx and REO [Speedwagon] before, Cheap Trick, Heart, you know. These bands are multi-platinum bands.

We toured with Tesla back in ’87-’88 when we were doing the Hysteria tour for most of that tour. When they went away, we went out with bands like L.A. Guns, Queensryche, or Europe. These bands are all selling two, three million albums, so we were always out with well-known bands, and I think it makes a better night. Ticket prices, especially these days, you know, parking, and ten dollars for a beer. You’ve got to make it a value for the money. I think that should start at 7:30, not at 9:00.

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Straight Outta Örebro: The Desert Rock of Truckfighters

Among the throng of stoner rock bands to come out of Europe over the last ten years, one band that has set itself apart from the pack is undoubtedly Truckfighters. Continuing the desert rock sound that bands like Kyuss helped form years ago, the Swedish trio have crafted a sonic assault that is equally great on wax or on stage.

Tracing their lineage back to 2001, the band released a number of splits and EPs, leading up to the release of their debut album, the fan-favorite Gravity X. Touring primarily in Europe until 2011 when Truckfighters made their way to America, the band won over crowds time and again with their stunning live shows. Jump to 2014, Truckfighters released their latest album, Universe to critical acclaim, solidifying their place in the upper echelon of stoner rock bands—while doing things their own way and not following a traditional formula for the genre.

On the final day of the Psycho California Festival, I had a chance to sit with Ozo, Dango, and Enzo early on before things kicked into high gear. The subdued discussion in no way prepared me for their superb set that was to come later as their performance was one of fest’s most electrifying.

So you guys just got in. Did you come over straight from Sweden?

Ozo: Not really. We did two shows before this.

Yeah? how did those go for you?

Ozo: Really good. We did Oakland and San Francisco.

There’s been some amazing music here this weekend.

Niklas “Dango” Källgren: You’re not used to these kinds of things, either.

I know! Fests like this one don’t happen that often in America. There have been smaller stoner and doom fests here and there, and Maryland Deathfest will have some mixed in through the lineup, but nothing of this size that can compare to Roadburn and shows like that.

Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm: You’re picking up on the European standards! [laughs]

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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