Author Archives: Jon Pacella

TVD Recommends: Samhain at the Howard Theatre, 10/31

Samhain. A Gaelic holiday that marks the end of the harvest and the coming winter. Adopted in the 20th century by Wiccans and Neopagans, the origins of the Samhain celebration date back as far as the 10th century. As Christianity made its way across Europe, the annual observance began the metamorphosis into what we today call Halloween. This Friday, Halloween night, Samhain will rise again at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C.

This time, it is not a harvest we’re celebrating, but rather the return of the gothic rock band fronted by the mighty Glenn Danzig. Celebrating “30 Bloody Years,” they have returned to play a handful of dates in 2014, including Riot Fest in Chicago. Danzig has brought back original members London May on bass and Pete Zing on drums, with Peter Adams of Baroness taking over the guitar duties.

What started as a side project became Danzig’s full-time band, as Samhain rose from the ashes of punk legends The Misfits. Drawing from varied influences and layering that with the horror-themed punk of his former band, Danzig, along with bassist Eerie Von, drummer Steve Zing, and an assortment of coming and going musicians, released Initium in 1984. A dark, experimental journey of heavy gothic deathrock, the album was not commercially accepted but gained a huge cult following. The blood-soaked, devil-locked band image on the cover became iconic, as did the first use of the skull that would be associated with Danzig for his entire career.

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TVD Live: Darkest Hour at Empire, 10/20

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | For almost twenty years, Virginia’s Darkest Hour have been hammering away at the metal scene, carving a niche with their distinct class of melodic death metal. 2014 has brought a new, critically acclaimed album, a new rhythm section, and high-powered live shows, including a run on this year’s Mayhem Fest. Monday night at Empire in Springfield, VA, both the band and the fans were treated to one hell of a homecoming. 

With seven bands on the bill, things got off to an early start. I missed some of the local support and Black Crown Initiate while interviewing Darkest Hour guitarist Mike Schleibaum (look for that interview next week). I came back in with enough time to grab a good spot for Kansas’ Origin. The four-piece unleashed an assault of balls-out, intense technical death metal. Vocalist Jason Keyser’s wailing, guttural vocals were otherworldly, and drummer John Longstreth’s blast beats drove the band at warp speed.

A small pit opened  up on the floor as they went into “All Things Dead.” Bassist Mike Flores and guitarist Paul Ryan seemed to be in a finger war, seemingly trying to outmatch each other in a technical duel. The crowd was a bit meager due to the early hour, despite being four bands into the set at this point. As Keyser was introducing “The Aftermath,” he hadn’t even finished saying the name of the song, and the band blasted in with a roar akin to a tractor-trailer crash. Hair windmills and headbangs ruled the moment, and Keyser commanded the crowd to start the next song with a silent wall of death, beginning the music as the two sides of the split crowd collided.

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TVD Recommends:
The Goddamn Gallows
at Revolution, 10/27

There are moments in the life of a concertgoer when you go to a show and the band has gotten prettied up in their rock clothes, strut and strike poses on the stage, and maybe even sing a love song or two. The Goddamn Gallows are not that band.

On Monday, October 27th at Revolution in Centreville, VA, the Gallows are kicking off the Halloween week by bringing their bizarrely unique strain of music to the DC area. Call them gutterbilly, call them gypsy punk, call them what you will, the fact remains that there is absolutely no one out there like them.

Their live shows are raucous, at times feeling more like you are watching a musical episode of Looney Tunes rather than a live performance. Singer/guitarist Mikey Classic is the eye of the hurricane, sometimes leading the charge, other times, practically being swept up in the chaos surrounding him.

The primary purveyor of that chaos would be accordion player and percussionist TV’s Avery. His comical interactions with bassist Fishgutzzz bring to mind Bugs Bunny taunting Yosemite Sam, and you never know what will happen between Avery and banjoist Joe Perrezze. Rounded out by drummer Baby Genius, the band is a cast of unique characters but ones that mesh well together, and always put on a fierce, unpredictable show.

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Brant Bjork:
The TVD Interview

If someone told you to make a list of the best drummers in stoner rock, it’s a guarantee that Brant Bjork would be at the top. As the drummer of stoner pioneers Kyuss, Brant helped bring the sounds of the hot Palm desert to the world. Post-Kyuss, Brant would go on to play for Fu Manchu and release some surprisingly prolific solo albums.

After a stint with the mostly-reunited Kyuss which morphed into Vista Chino and released an album, Peace in 2013, Brant is back in a big way. With a new band, the Low Desert Punks behind him, Brant has a brilliant new album on the way. Black Flower Power is a heavy, grooving chunk of rock—a step away from the soulful, funky jams of his previous solo albums.

We talked to Brant as he was preparing to depart for a European tour to support the new album, talking a bit of vinyl, and even a bit of Kyuss.

Hi Brant! How are things going?

Things are going well. We’re just getting ready to leave for Europe tomorrow.

Leaving for the European tour?

Yeah, we’ve got like five weeks over in Europe, so we’re all geared up, ready, and excited.

Are there any U.S. tour plans after that?

We don’t have any U.S. dates planned as of now, but we’ve been talking about it. We definitely are going to pursue some U.S. dates, probably sometime next year.

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Max Cavalera:
The TVD Interview

In 1985, thrash metal was in its prime. With bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax from the U.S., and Venom, Sodom, and more out of Europe, the metal world had no idea what was about to take off out of South America. Sepultura, led by brothers Max and Igor Cavalera, blazed a new path in the metal world, incorporating elements of their tribal roots with brutal riffs.

Fast forward to 2014. The Cavalera brothers have long departed their former band, and are making waves with their latest project, Cavalera Conspiracy. Max, seemingly allergic to resting on his laurels, has been working nonstop, releasing Savages in 2013 with Soulfly, and the critically acclaimed self-titled album from Killer Be Killed, a meeting of the minds between Max, Greg Pusciato (Dillinger Escape Plan), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), and Dave Elitch (The Mars Volta).

Cavalera Conspiracy is gearing up to release their third album, Pandemonium, on November 4th. We had an opportunity to talk to Max about the new album, family, Brazil, vinyl, and more.

Tell us a bit about the new Cavalera Conspiracy album, Pandemonium. What were some of your inspirations during the writing of this album?

We tried to go for a real brutal vibe. Get the brothers playing metal again, but in at a raw level, faster than ever. We tried to make a real fast record—most of the songs are fast. Very influenced by lots of grindcore.

Really? That’s a slightly different direction for you.

Yeah, that’s what we went for. That’s the idea for the album, and Igor liked it, but I told him that the songs were not gonna be like grindcore songs, because some of those are only like forty seconds. You don’t want to do that, and we wanted to keep the format of the Cavalera songs around three minutes, but we kept the fast aggression, the spirit of grindcore. It was based on that, and I think it was really cool, man. We had a lot of fun, and the three of us, me, Igor and Marc [Rizzo] recorded, and we had Nate [Newton] from Converge playing bass on top of it. That was the perfect setup for this record, having Nate on the bass. He was so killer.

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Surface Noise:
Wanda Jackson,
There’s a Party Goin’ On

She’s the “Queen of Rockabilly.” She used to date Elvis Presley. And with a career spanning five decades, Wanda Jackson is still rockin’ today, most recently playing the Bang Festival in Los Angeles last weekend. In recent years, she’s collaborated with Jack White and Justin Townes Earle, and has even been named as an influence by Cyndi Lauper and Adele.

Although she’s released albums of varied styles of country and gospel over the years, her place on the throne as the “Queen of Rockabilly” is what etched her mark on the musical family tree. Wanda was there at the beginning, raising the bar and setting a new place at the table for women in rock and roll—and in the process earning herself a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I found myself back at Som Records in DC, sifting through the now very familiar dollar bin, and was shocked to see There’s a Party Goin’ On by the amazing Ms. Jackson. Surely this must have been a mistake, as original Wanda vinyl commands a fairer price. I quickly saw why it was relegated to the discount crate—the sleeve was split apart across the top and the minute scratches across the face of each side resembled USC’s offensive playbook.

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Col. J.D. Wilkes of
the Legendary Shack Shakers, The TVD Interview

The term “renaissance man” is one that isn’t utilized a whole lot these days. In the case of Colonel J.D. Wilkes, the term fits like a glove. A bonafide Kentucky Colonel, Wilkes has been the enigmatic frontman for the Legendary Shack Shakers, a high-energy amalgam of blues, gypsy, twang, and just about anything else that they can fit in, for going on twenty years now. More recently, he partnered up with his wife Jessica in the Dirt Daubers, a more back-to-basics blues and rockabilly unit.

These two bands that Wilkes is most well-known for only scratch the surface of the man himself. Artist. Author. Musician. Filmmaker. He is doing it all in the name of preserving artistic elements of the South and keeping musical traditions alive and well. This is a man who is deeply proud of where he is from, and rather than yell “Yeehaw!” and rant about the War of Northern Aggression, he demonstrates the rich beauty and time-honored heritage of the unsung musicians who helped shape country and bluegrass music of today. Wilkes was a pleasure to speak with, and he could barely contain his passion for the music that is in his heart and soul.

How did the Shack Shakers decide to start back up again?

Well, our drummer had some heart issues that he got squared away. He got a pacemaker put in. I think it just came down to, the material was there, the desire was there, the health was there…the financial need was there. It was just a lot of things coming together at the same time, all those elements coming together. There’s also been offers for festivals and things. Europe’s come’a callin’. The demand is there. Timing, supply and demand, that’s what it’s all about. It’s a band, it’s a brand, it’s a product, and sometimes you have to go away before people can appreciate you.

Oh, yeah. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and all of that.

That is exactly right.

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TVD Live: Life of Agony at Starland Ballroom, 9/13

In 1993, the world of heavy metal was in flux. Grunge had entered the scene and helped give birth to the “alternative metal” genre, one that tended to be an amalgamation of various metal styles. One of the commercially less successful but critically lauded bands, both by press and fans, was Brooklyn, New York’s Life of Agony.

Their debut album, River Runs Red, and its follow-up, 1995’s Ugly, contained some of the most raw, emotional, and harrowing lyrical content, coexisting with thick, heavy riffs that spanned styles from hardcore to slower sludge metal. After calling it quits in 1999, the band has reunited a couple of times and drifted back apart again. The time felt right once once more, and there was no venue more appropriate than the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey for the occasion.

We arrived at the venue, said a few hellos, and after a few conversations, acquired a perfect spot at stage right. The show, which had sold out very quickly, was packed tight with fans eager to witness the reunion. We arrived right after opener Diablo Blvd finished, but the feedback I heard from people during and after the show was very positive.

A Pale Horse Named Death was up next. Led by Sal Abruscato on vocals and guitar, he was pulling double duty for the night, as he’s also the drummer for Life of Agony. One interesting dynamic about APHND is that in the band are two former drummers of gothic metal legends Type O Negative—Sal, and Johnny Kelly who took over on the drums in Type O when Sal left to join Life of Agony in 1993. Looking on in the crowd during the set was Type O guitarist Kenny Hickey—tonight was a night of multiple reunions.

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TVD Live: Overkill at Empire, 9/11

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | For over three decades, Overkill has been beating audiences into submission with their merciless brand of thrash metal. Last Thursday night at Empire in Springfield, VA, they proved to be like a vintage bottle of bordeaux, only improving with age.

Formed in 1980, Overkill was part of the first great rise of thrash metal. While Slayer, Metallica, and Exodus, among others, were putting the Bay Area on the metal map, Overkill, along with bands like Anthrax and Nuclear Assault were rising out of the New York/New Jersey area. Many years later, they are back on the road supporting their latest release, the critically acclaimed White Devil Armory.

There was no national support for this show, as Overkill are playing headlining off-dates while touring with Prong throughout the fall. I didn’t catch the name of the first band, a trio of nervous teens, made up of two guitars and a drummer. A personal note: you’ve gotta have some bass, fellas. I need to feel it, not just hear it. They kicked off with a cover of the classic “Die By the Sword” by Slayer, and unfortunately rookie nerves took over, and they found themselves victim of hecklers. Personal note number two: when someone heckles and yells out “FREEBIRD!”do not actually try to play “Freebird.” No one ever said cutting your teeth was easy.

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Surface Noise:
Martin Denny,
Quiet Village

Have you ever discovered a genre of music previously out of your range of musical vision and gotten a bit fixated? This very thing has happened to me on more than one occasion. I’ve gotten on “kicks,” whether it was early country, reggae, or Norwegian black metal. I come across a style of music and become enthralled, and for a while I need to immerse myself in it. Once again, i found myself flipping through records during my weekly pilgrimage to Som Records in DC. I spotted a record, and suddenly it was 1996 all over again.

In 1996, I was working at the gone but not forgotten Tower Records. Capital Records released the first of many highly successful CDs in what was called the Ultra Lounge series. I popped the disc in the store’s stereo system late one night and was amazed at what I had just discovered. Artists like Lex Baxter, Yma Sumac, Martin Denny, and more all finding fascinating ways to invoke a mood.

The timing was right for this release—lounge music was enjoying a resurgence, influencing modern acts like Combustible Edison and Japan’s Pizzicato Five. Lounge music was featured in soundtracks to movies like Swingers and Four Rooms, and suddenly what was disregarded for years as “easy listening” was cool again. Capital saw the opportunity and took it, releasing over twenty volumes of Ultra Lounge, plus special editions and multiple Christmas albums.

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TVD Recommends:
The Legendary Shack Shakers at the Black
Cat, 9/15

Trying to put a neat label on what genre the Legendary Shack Shakers play is akin to trying to put a sweater on an octopus.

You could start with rockabilly, but that doesn’t nearly cover it all. You could mash it all up and say: hillbillygypsyswampcarneysoutherntwangabilly. Yeah, that’s a good start. Monday, September 15th at the Black Cat in DC, the pandelerium that is the Shack Shakers returns, and it’s up to the audience to determine whether you’ve just been saved or dragged straight to hell.

If you ask anyone who knows about the Shack Shakers, you will most certainly hear about their absolutely untamed live shows. When asked about their unbridled energy, frontman J.D. Wilkes has laid it out pretty clear. “We try to tap into basic primal instincts. Rock ‘n’ roll is a cathartic release. Anything that doesn’t realize that bestial nature isn’t rock ‘n’ roll.”

Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra has called Wilkes “…the last great rock and roll frontman.” The band has received accolades from luminaries such as Robert Plant, Hank Williams III, and Stephen King.

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Surface Noise: Steve Miller Band, Number 5

If you ask anyone who loves vinyl, most will agree that just seeing the jacket of an album can evoke an emotion in you, usually a nostalgic one. I personally love those moments when you are digging through the crates at your local record store and you come across that artist that just makes you smile. I was flipping though the cheap stuff at Som Records last week when it happened. Every time I see the Steve Miller Band, I can’t help but smile.

The main reason for this is because 1976’s Fly Like an Eagle was one of my favorite albums when I was a kid. The catchy rock songs grabbed me instantly, and I love the album to this day. Whether it was the spacey, just-a-little-psychedelic title track or the exciting adventures of Billy Joe and Bobbie Sue on “Take the Money and Run,” this album was one of the first that I actually wore out and had to get another copy. I use the term “wore out” somewhat loosely—I was young, and like most youngsters, didn’t handle my vinyl with the delicate care that we have learned as adults.

Recently, I realized that I had ignored the first half of the Steve Miller Band’s catalog, with the exception of the one early hit, “Living in the U.S.A.” I have been on somewhat of a mission, exploring the early material and acquiring the earlier albums on vinyl. The first few were a bit of a surprise to me, as I wasn’t expecting the different sound of the earlier recordings.

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Surface Noise:
Santo & Johnny,

Welcome to the second edition of Surface Noise, where I bring to you the best that the record store bargain bin has to offer. This week, we delve into the instrumental brilliance of Santo & Johnny.

Santo and Johnny Farina, two brothers from Brooklyn, NY, would make their unique mark on the music world. Santo’s prowess on the steel guitar is perfectly complimented by Johnny’s accompaniment on the traditional guitar, solidifying their status as top-notch players. Digging through the crates at Som Records in Washington, D.C., I came across this gem, and just couldn’t resist.

1960’s Encore came right on the heels of the brothers striking gold in 1959 with their smash hit, “Sleepwalk.” Though never quite achieving that level of stardom again, “Sleepwalk” would be forever etched into music history, immortalized in pop culture and diner jukeboxes for decades to come. That happens to be the way I discovered the duo, in the jukebox of the Tastee 29 Diner in Fairfax, VA. My late-night coffee drinking cohorts never complained when I fed the juke every time I walked in those doors. I was entranced from the first time I heard the song. It was simply beautiful, almost as if the music affected my brain like a drug. It was dreamlike, almost as if Tinkerbell had come in and sprinkled her fairy dust all over me, lifting me up in ethereal flight.

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Surface Noise: D.F.C., Tchan Nan Nan Nan Nan

Every vinyl lover has been in this situation before: you are at your local record store digging through the crates. You have already picked through the good stuff like Beatles mono releases and original pressings of Ummagumma by Pink Floyd. You make your way over to the bargain bin—the cheap stuff—we’re talking $1-$3 here, and that’s when you find it. That one record you might not normally buy, but for $2? Why the hell not. It may have those familiar words on the price tag, Surface Noise. It comes with the territory in the bargain bin—wear and tear means a lower price tag, but it is here that we discover new things, whether they be amazing, horrifying, or sometimes even stupefying.

That’s what this column will be dedicated to—those wonderful bargain bin gems that we find while crate digging, the albums we might not give a second thought to, but for the low price, it’s suddenly worth it. With every installment of Surface Noise, I will explore the overlooked, eclectic, wacky, and just plain weird. Soundtracks to ’60s biker movies. A double LP of Polynesian Fire Dances. Maybe even some long-forgotten rock albums, like Head East, or the Eddie and the Cruisers soundtrack. I will find the best of the bargain bin, and I won’t spend more than $5 doing it.

Now that you’ve got where I’m going with this, let’s take a look at this week’s pick. Flipping through the $1 bin at Som Records one day after work, I came across this gem. From 1994, Tchan Nan Nan Nan Nan was D.F.C.‘s debut album. I had never heard of them, I just saw the outrageous cover art and had to at least give it a listen. I took it over to the in-store turntable, dropped the needle, and was floored by what was assaulting my ears.

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TVD Live: Sturgill Simpson at the Birchmere, 8/19

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | There seems to be a bit of a musical civil war going on in America. The terms have been made clear, the battle lines have been drawn, and the armies have amassed.

The battle rages over country music, and the sides couldn’t be more different. On one side, you have the shallow, commercialized pop country, basically composed of love songs with an added occasional twang, or blathering about beer, trucks, or pretty girls in tight shorts. The opposing side is deep-rooted and a bit rougher around the edges. You won’t see them topping the country charts or appearing in beer commercials, and they are determined to “put the “o” back in country,” as Shooter Jennings so eloquently put it.

What you will get, in the case of someone like Sturgill Simpson, is truth. Truth about alcoholism, truth about the struggles of getting through hard times, and truth about drugs, for better or worse. Tuesday, at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA, Sturgill shared that truth with a sold-out crowd.

I arrived just before 7 and made my way inside to the outer bar area. There were a few people milling around, but it seemed fairly quiet for a sold-out show. I realized my mistake as I entered the main hall. I was apparently late to the party as the majority of seats at the tables had been taken already. The hall was a dull roar of people  talking, laughing, eating, and drinking before the show began. I’m pretty used to most venues—clubs big and small, amphitheaters, arenas, and theaters—but the dinner theater setup of the Birchmere is one that I just can’t quite get used to. Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful venue, steeped with history and blessed with great acoustics, but…well, more on this later.

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