Wolfmother really should get better about releasing records on a more frequent basis. They’ve been around for 16 years and have only delivered four full-length records. The only band on the planet that has been successful with that formula is Tool, and that’s because their records are insanely complex.
Wolfmother should take a page from their ’70s inspired peers’ playbook and release an album every year. I know what you’re thinking, less and less people are buying albums in this broken business model, but even before the entire record biz fell off the digital cliff, Wolfmother took extended breaks between releases and in my opinion lost a ton of momentum.
I remember when the debut record came out it was a HUGE fucking deal. I was a field marketing rep for Sony Music at the time and I was in Waterloo records when someone played it over the speakers in the store. They were one of the biggest buzz bands on the planet at the time, and rightfully so. Here’s a band that takes the best attributes of the greatest bands of the early ’70s, turned everything up to eleven and wrote some fucking incredible songs. Then they went on tour and proved to the world that this was no major label manufactured flash in the pan—it was the real deal.
Rival Sons are poised to have one hell of a year. For starters the band was hand-picked to be the opening act for the final Black Sabbath tour. On top of that, they are locked and loaded with a brand new album, the follow-up to 2014’s critically acclaimed rock ‘n’ roll masterpiece, Great Western Valkyrie. Hollow Bones will be released on June 10 through Earache Records. I caught up with founding member and lead guitarist Scott Holiday before a recent show here in San Francisco.
“We wrote, recorded, mixed, and finished Hollow Bones in thirty days in between a headline tour and a tour with Deep Purple in Europe,” says Holiday of the new release on Earache Records, a label primarily known for its death metal signings. Rival Sons might be the last band you would expect to sign to Earache, but the story became so interesting that it created more opportunities than it took away. “Yes, it was weird when we started because it was like Mercyful Fate and us,” explains Holiday.
That’s not the case anymore. Rival Sons have done so well with Earache and so many great things have happened along that way that it opened the doors for other rock ‘n’ roll bands to sign with the independent label. Earache’s ever-evolving roster now includes a very diverse bunch of bands including White Buffalo, The Temperance Movement, Biters, and Blackberry Smoke—in addition to their impressive metal catalog. “If you ask me I think they are one of the best rock and roll labels going today,” says Holiday.
Metallica is arguably the biggest metal band on the planet, maybe of all time. When rumors began swirling that the band could be considered for the coveted Super Bowl Halftime show, it made a hell of a lot of sense to most music fans. But the NFL continues to play it safe after the Janet Jackson incident, so they opted for the light sounds of Coldplay—and we all saw how truly awful that performance ended up being.
But that wasn’t the end of the story for the legendary Bay Area natives. This gave birth to a new mantra for the band, “Too Heavy for Halftime” and it caught on. Frontman James Hetfield fired back a bit when asked about the snub by the Associated Press, “We’re not a variety show. We’re not pop. We’re not sparkly and all that kind of stuff that I think seems to be what is needed for that.”
Metallica would represent San Francisco during SuperBowl weekend, but they would do it their way. Say hello to a headlining gig for CBS Radio’s “The Night Before” concert at the glorious AT&T Park, home to the three-time World Series champions San Francisco Giants and a fitting stage for a full on metal performance.
In 2002 I had the honor of taking Dr. Ralph Stanley to KGSR in Austin, Texas to talk about the release of his self-titled new record. I remember asking him about bluegrass music and he said to me, “I don’t play bluegrass, I play old-time country music.” That’s exactly what I heard on stage last week when The Devil Makes Three played the second of a two night stint at the Fox Theater in Oakland.
Effortlessly blending elements of western swing, folk, honky-tonk, rockabilly, and bluegrass, The Devil Makes Three was formed in Santa Cruz, California, in 2002. Guitarist Pete Bernhard, upright bassist Lucia Turino, and banjo player Cooper McBean have released four studio albums and a couple of live recordings along the way.
The trio have evolved their sound ever so slightly over the course of more than a decade of performing together. “Worse or Better” is a track from their latest record, 2013’s I’m a Stranger Here which showcases the group at its finest hour in my opinion, as Grammy Award winning songwriter and Nashville legend Buddy Miller took the helm as producer, bringing out the best from the trio to tape.
If you’ve not seen a Steel Panther show, you’re missing out on one of the most entertaining spectacles ever put to stage. Michael Starr, Lexxi Foxx, Stixx Zandinia, and Satchel are keeping the legacy of hair metal alive as they carry the torch for one of rock ‘n’ roll’s favorite past times.
The Regency Ballroom was completely packed to see these guys and for good reason. Their live show is nostalgic, comedic, part sing-along, and always over the top with excess. With song titles such as “You’re Beautiful When You Don’t Talk,” “Asian Hooker,” “Gloryhole,” and “F*cking My Heart in the Ass,” it’s easy to write these guys off as a simple novelty act, but the songs are incredibly catchy and their musicianship is absolutely stellar.
So while these guys may come across as a joke they have some serious chops to back up their crude lyrics, and that’s what makes them so brilliant. The band’s new CD/DVD, Steel Panther, Live from Lexxi’s Mom’s Garage arrives in stores February 26th and is available for pre-order.
Supergroups come and go but allegiances can be forever. Founded by mastermind Mark Menghi, Metal Allegiance has quickly become the torch-bearer for the metal community world-wide. More than just a band, it’s a movement bringing together the best of the best to keep the legacy of classic metal alive and well.
The core of Metal Allegiance features Mark Osegueda (Death Angel), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), Phil Demmel (Machine Head), Dave Ellefson (Megadeth), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Alex Skolnick (Testament), and Mark Menghi. The show on this night consisted of mostly covers but also a few select tracks from their debut album which features even more metal alums which are way too many to list here—but it’s a seriously impressive list that reads like a who’s who of metal past and present.
While I would have loved to hear a few more originals from the record in the set, the few that they played were everything that metal should be; loud, aggressive, and worthy of an entire crowd pumping their devil horns in the air. Alex Skolnick was absolutely on fire and melted every single face in the crowd with blistering guitar solos that he made look easy.
Within the past thirty days I have seen two of the most brilliant examples of modern music taken to the next level. In mid-December it was the stellar performance by Puscifer in Las Vegas touring in support of their brilliant new record Money Shot, and last week it was the mind altering sonic bombardment of multimedia juggernauts Tool. The common denominator of course being the prolific yet reclusive genius that is Maynard James Keenan.
Whether it’s the avant-garde offerings of Puscifer or the enigmatic styling of Tool, both have solidified their place and continue pushing the boundaries in a current musical landscape that is bloated and remarkably uninteresting. Tool of course remains a juggernaut and for good reason.
Is there a better example of doing more with less in the music business when it comes to Tool? Probably not. Four albums and one EP over the course of a quarter of a century and they are still the most relevant, Grammy award winning, visually stunning, progressive rock band on the planet. Critics often say the Tool has built a “cult” following, but that statement tells only a fragment of the entire story and the undercuts the vastness and diverseness of their fan base.
For my final rock ‘n’ roll show of the year I decided to go with something truly unique. Something I’ve never seen before; a Puscifer show. What I got was a mix of Mexican wrestling—in the form of something called Luchafer—opening up for one of the most incredible performances of unadulterated musicianship, lyricism, and avant-garde rock music that I have ever heard before.
Puscifer is clearly one of the most uncomfortable names to pronounce in the biz today, and to be quite honest, whenever someone asked me what band I was going to see in the days before the show I always took a minute to brace them for a slightly uncomfortable moment, then we had a laugh. Puscifer is the brain child of eclectic Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan. He’s put together a band of musicians who defy everything conventional you know about metal, progressive, and experimental music.
Along the way, Maynard has figured out how to deliver this with a sort of socially conscious message without being overly aggressive and only slightly offensive. It’s more like a “you get out of this music what you put into listening to it” scenario. And Puscifer’s style of music is certainly something you don’t just put on in the background, but instead you pay close attention because it demands it.
The voice of ZZ Top and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Billy Gibbons released his debut solo record Perfectomundo last month and it’s not what you might expect. The legendary blues guitarist channels his childhood percussionist roots (Gibbons was once a student of mambo legend Tito Puente) in the context of Afro-Cuban rhythms and unexplored territory—and it works remarkably well.
The first single from the album, a cover of rockabilly singer Roy Head’s soulful 1965 hit “Treat Her Right,” sets the tone for an adventurous record that is already making quite a few year-end best of 2015 lists. Gibbons took a break from his minimalistic trio to bring together a new backing band called the BFGs. The handpicked BFGs include two drummers, a percussionist, and two keyboardists who take Gibbons’ bluesy foundation into a whole new world.
Gibbons and his BFGs played to an intimate and incredibly enthusiastic crowd as he seeded the set with stories about the past and the present. While the setlist focused mainly on songs from Perfectamundo, Gibbons couldn’t resist peppering in a ZZ Top classic or two. The band was tight, the grooves were smooth, and the Cuban flavor was a real treat to see performed live.
The Dandy Warhols are one of the greatest rock bands on the planet. They have their own signature sound, they continue to innovate both sonically and lyrically, and they are one of the few bands that can go on tour just to go on tour, no new album necessary.
On top of all that, they took a boring genre called shoegaze and injected some much-needed personality and soaring harmonies into it. I’ve seen them live half a dozen times and they just continue to completely blow my mind.
The Dandy’s returned to the Bay Area last week for a two-night stint at The Great American Music Hall. I scored a ticket to night one, I even upgraded to the VIP experience, and I have to say it was pretty amazing. I got to watch the band’s soundcheck which was only going to be two songs, but then Courtney Taylor-Taylor started asking for requests. I immediately shouted out my all time favorite song “Mohammad,” and they dove right into it.