Saturday, December 24, 2011

Macabre-Yakuza-Novembers Doom-A Corporate Death (show photos/metal)

It was a happy headbanger happening as Holiday of Horrors rocked Reggie's Rock Club December 23rd.   Unfortunately my lens broke during the first band, and we tweaked it enough to shoot, but I had to replace it right after that.   Good thing Santa came the next night and had me on the good list.   The bands were all a lot of fun.   Yakuza, in particular, has been one of our favorites for years.   And it was interesting to check out A Corporate Death-also Bruce Lamont.    

We had another bonus.  We grabbed a table on the 2nd floor, while trying to fix my lens, and ended up meeting the wife and 8 year old daughter of the lead singer of Novembers Doom.   His daughter's in 3rd grade, like Sagezilla, and couldn't have been more excited to see her Dad sing!   We're hoping to catch up with the whole fam for a video interview soon.

Friday, December 23, 2011

(show photos/ Irish Punk & Club Rock) The Buddies at Empty Bottle

The Buddies filled The Empty Bottle with their guitar heavy, Irish rock, right before the holidays.   Appropriately enough, their lead singer was sporting a Shane MacGowan tee, and after their set, we had a lively discussion about The Pogues last show at The Congress.   I had the great pleasure of shooting it, but was stuck in the press pit for sooooo long waiting for them to come on, after the openers, that we were sure Shane had flipped out or passed out, and that the show was not to be.   The other photographers were joking that we should have brought board games.   Finally, the band materialized and pulled off a brilliant show!

Thankfully, The Buddies showed up on time to play their Irish punk.   Check out our prior coverage here.   The Buddies have been called a southern rock version of The Clash and they were fun to check out, live.   They have the unique distinction of having a rockin' girl on drums/accordion.   Drummers are notoriously hard to photograph and usually lurk, hidden in the shadow at the back of the stage.   The Buddies are no fools, though, and had one of the best lit drummers I've ever shot.   Play to your strengths.   Want to hear more or check out upcoming shows.    Here's their main web site.

Briar Rabbit, Damn Choir and Crane Wives at The Burlington 12-16-11

It was sweet to finally hear all of these guys live, as their reputation preceded them.  Check out our prior coverage here.   It was also our first look at The Burlington's relatively new "back room" concert space in Logan Square (3425 W. Fullerton).   The lights and sound were nothing to write home about, but the intimate space is reminiscent of a basement party at someone's home, in an entirely good way.   They also have a respectable beer selection.   There did seem to be a force field beyond gravity at work in the center of the room, as multiple beer filled glasses hit the floor and shattered in about the same spot, hours apart. 

The Damn Choir 
The band has a unique sound and good chemistry.   Katy Myers on cello was a particular stand out. 

Here's the scoop from their site:  
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Genres: Folk / pop / Alternative
Members: Gordon Robertson, Katy Myers, Steve Stokes, Ryan Farnham, Jack McClain

The Damn Choir's use of guitar, cello, keyboards, vocals and drums, along with Gordon Robertson's introspective lyrics, create songs that range from meandering and melancholic to pulsing and vengeful.

The Damn Choir began in January of 2009 on a freezing and fated night in Chicago. Gordon Robertson sat slumped at the bar, drowning his post-horrific-break-up dejected self in whiskey and happened to meet cellist Katy Myers. Although at first Myers rejected Robertson's musical advances, eventually she gave in and agreed to give him a chance.

Within weeks the two were musically inseparable and involved in an (arguably unhealthy) co-dependant friendship. After playing for months under the name, “Gordon and Katy,” the two recorded an album, re-named the band, and began the journey that would lead them to eventually recruiting Sherri Stouffer on keyboards and vocals, and Ryan Farnham on Percussion. The four-piece creates a sound that rises and falls in harmony with the spirit of Robertson’s angst-filled lyrics.   Check 'em out here on Facebook.

This was Briar Rabbit's music video release party and when audio issues prevented the sound from playing on the grand unveiling, the audience prevailed upon the band to play it live.   So what could have been a disastrous derailment turned into serendipity.   His sound is described as folk/indie/pop and you can check it out by clicking on the link above.

You'll have a chance to see Briar Rabbit live again in the near future at one of our fav. local venues, Schubas, along with more great musicians.

Starting on Monday, January 9 2012, Clip Art will headline a weekly residency at Schuba’s Tavern. Each week will feature unique sets, special guests and the finest opening acts Chicago has to offer. Clip Art is led by Andy Rosenstein, keyboard player for JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound.

All shows are 8PM/$6/18+

1/9 - w/ Algebro + Any Kind
1/16 - w/ Dick Prall + Paper Thick Walls
1/23 - w/ Briar Rabbit + The Sometimes Family
1/30 - w/ Baby Teeth + Jennifer Hall

 Photo Credit:  Brad Meese

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O'MY'S at Reggie's 12-19-11

We've heard all the buzz, but had to see it to believe it.   All we can say is oh my...indeed.   The O'My's rocked Reggie's Monday night with a sold out show.   

We've covered a number of musicians at Reggie's and we've never seen a line around the block like this one.  These young musicians were fantastic live and are certainly ones to watch.  Check out our prior O'My's coverage and their first music video by clicking here.

Not crazy about the fans with the backward ball caps.   Ever other show we've shot for years, from jazz to metal to punk, people have been cool and made space for the camera.  Not here.  The ball cap boys shoved in front, then thrashed around and stuck their hat heads into the middle of a ton of what would have been great shots.  Ah well.  Things were crazy at the door, too.  Two different door men went to check the press list for me and neither one came back.  After being stuck at the door a half hour while the band I was planning to shoot nearly finished, I finally made it in.   


To their credit, the door staff weren't complete petty tyrants.  They did let the bass player's dad in, when he pleaded that he was on the guest list and missing his son's set.   And there was a fair amount of legit drama going on, like an underager getting kicked out for sipping his 21+ girlfriend's beer.   It just sucks when one person doing their job prevents someone else from doing theirs!   We've shot a lot of shows at Reggie's and NEVER had trouble at the door before.   All's well that ends well.   I got there in time to catch their last few songs and get my shots.

Nevertheless, Reggie's is still one of our favorite small venues.   The sound is great and what's not to love about a club with Wesley Willis' giant mug on the wall and an inexplicable sewer grate mid stage.   Makes for some of the most unique shoe shots.   They also have a great selection of both cheap beer and tasty craft brews for those who dig quality or quantity.

We were elated to finally catch the O'My's live, even if it was short and sweet.   We had another gig and couldn't stick around past their opening set, but they backed many of the later bands.  Rumor is, their trumpet player is just 17, and lives, eats and breathes music.  All the horns were amazing, and I though the keyboard player was going to overturn his instrument in addition to the mic!   His fingers were practically on fire.  With strong lead vocals and a flexible line up that ranges from 2-10 members, the O'My's are forging a well deserved name for themselves on the Chicago scene.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

O'MY'S Debut Video & LIVE at Reggie's Monday, Dec. 19 (18+)

Here's another local band you'll wanna check out, if you haven't discovered them already.   This is their debut music video "My House" above!
Then come check 'em out live at Reggie's
Monday, December 19 • 9:00 PM • Ages 18+ • $17.00 

The COOL KIDS (backed by THE O'MY'S)
Chicago's own hip hop the way they like it.Chuck Inglish & Sir Michael Rocks with VIPJ and The O'my's backing them up.

ASHER ROTH (backed by THE O'MY'S )
Before "Asleep in the Bread Aisle" dropped on 4/20, there wasn't much to base an opinion on besides a catchy party song and the first white boy rendition of a Gangsta Grillz tape, "The Greenhouse Effect" hosted by DJ Don Cannon himself.

The O' My's, a group which was haphazardly conceived in the summer of 2007, have since become one of the most adored young bands from Chicago. The O'My's make music that garners comparisons to the soul and blues of Chicago's past, yet the essence of the music is beyond pretension and their sound is far from contrived. 

Guitarist Maceo Vidal-Haymes and Pianist Nick Hennessey (who share songwriting and vocal duties) are the beating heart of The O'My's. The band can consist of anywhere from 4-10 members with Haymes and Hennessy being the only constant contributors.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Metal: The Sword Opens for Kyuss at The Vic--LIVE Show Shots

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The Sword was an extra bonus, opening for Kyuss last Friday night at The Vic.   Check out their main site here at    I was sucked in before they even started, when I saw the set list included a song called Freya.   

We're big into Nordic Gods & Godesses, scifi, mythology, creative legends/story lines and runes.    My last name's the Norse symbol for fire, passion and creativity.   I actually even have a cousin Freya, who's blond haired, blue eyed and nearly 6' tall.   When I checked out the band's website and saw tabs for Lore, and Homeworld I was totally captivated.   Not to mention they rock...hard.

At least some of these boys look far more like Northern Europeans or Vikings than natives of Austin, Texas.   But thankfully they're Texas boys.   Instead of their own brand of caribou or salmon from the frozen Nordic tundra, The Sword has their own limited edition hot sauce!   I'm stoked to be able to continue our series on "Musical Taste" that we started with The Toasters microbrew.  We're featuring bands that have a signature beer, food or consumable.   If anyone knows of one you'd like to see here, hit us up in the comments tab to the top right. 

Hand-crafted to the band's specifications in their hometown of Austin, Texas by hot sauce artisan Brian Rush at Tears of Joy, The Sword's Tears of Fire Hot Sauce will unleash a supernova of searing heat and rich flavor upon the unsuspecting palate. This singular concoction was limited to only one batch and is not available in stores. But there is a chance, however slim, that you might possess a bottle of your very own! The Sword will choose ten lucky winners to have their taste buds blown to the planet Acheron.

Unfortunately, they only made 1 batch and their give away ended in April :(.   One can only hope they'll make more.   I adore hot sauce and would love to try a ghost pepper.   I practically drink Tabasco for breakfast, with eggs, and only once met a pepper that kicked my butt.   Last December in Mexico, I gulped down a pale green pepper I thought was a banana pepper and it just about killed me.   It was so hot I seriously couldn't breath and turned red like a cartoon.   I thought smoke was going to pour out my ears!   It was pretty intense. 

I'm also happy to say The merch tab has black ONSIES!   So your punk kin and banger babies can be stylin'!  

Back to the band, their live performance was a lotta fun.  
They've opened for Guns N' Roses, Kylesa and Rwake and were just touring with Monstro, whom we shot in Chi Town last month.   Check them out here, playing an intimate set at Ultra Lounge with Black Tusk!

The Lore (from

“Before forging the blade, the swordsmiths underwent fasting and ritual purification. They then worked at their anvils in white clothes, like the robes of the priests. Their efforts were well rewarded.”

One of the foundations of the metal revival of the past ten years, Austin TX’s The Sword have released two flawless slabs of vintage heaviness on Kemado Records, toured the world with Metallica, and were one of the first bands to lock into a whole new legion of fans through Guitar Hero. Summer 2011, the band cast its gaze to the stars for Warp Riders, their third full-length and their most ambitious effort to date.

Warp Riders is The Sword’s first concept album, a science fiction maelstrom put to the storming, relentless riffage and pounding rhythms upon which the band has staked its reputation. It’s also their most flat-out, supercharged, adrenaline-pumping work yet, a chrome-plated war machine that lords over the blackened sky. From the street-prowling anthems “Night City” and “Lawless Lands” to the two-part showdown of “The Chronomancer,” to the furious mechanics of closing track “(The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire,” The Sword forces eminent domain ruling over heavy metal for the next decade, and welcome all challengers for an ill-fated shot at the title.

Warp Riders tells the tale of Ereth, an archer banished from his tribe on the planet Acheron. A hardscrabble planet that has undergone a tidal lock, which has caused one side to be scorched by three suns, and the other enshrouded in perpetual darkness, it is the background for a tale of strife and fantasy, the battle between pure good and pure evil. 

How it’s told – through the dueling lead guitars of J.D. Cronise and Kyle Shutt,



and the concussive rhythm section of bassist Bryan Ritchie and drummer Trivett Wingo – underscores the narrative with molten steel and unreal precision.

Guitarist and lead vocalist J.D. Cronise explains the lineage of Warp Riders: “I’m pretty sure the first concept album I ever heard was Operation: Mindcrime by Queensrÿche when I was a kid, which I was way into. Even though I never really understood the whole story, I was nonetheless enthralled by how the album created its own world. I wanted to create a setting for our songs that would be unique and different, but still a place where epic sagas unfold in proper Sword fashion.” Inspiration took hold from “lots of things … the legend of Atlantis, old Heavy Metal magazines, the films of René Laloux, a childhood dream, and The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda to name a few.”
The story of Warp Riders, entitled “The Night The Sky Cried Tears Of Fire” (written by Cronise), follows Ereth as he discovers a mysterious orb and meets the Chronomancer, a being beyond time and space who enlists him in a quest to restore the planet’s balance. Along the way he encounters strange warriors, mysterious witches, ancient androids, and a crew of space pirates with a vessel that will alter the course of history…  a vessel known as, The Sword. 

Kyuss Lives! at The Vic--Live Show Shots 12-2-11

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Overview From The Band's Site:   
There has been void in rock n’ roll that hasn’t been filled in almost 16 years.  Fear not music fans, for you will be deprived of that “Kyuss Sound" no longer.  John, Nick, and Brant are back, and along with Bruno Fevery on guitar, are hitting North and South America on tour AND plan to hit the studio to record the first new material in over a decade.  Hopefully you have prepared ladies and gentlemen, KYUSS LIVES!

Sure, in the intervening years, we've had Queens of the Stone Age, with Josh Homme on lead guitar and vocals.   He's the one hold out who would not return to resurrect Kyuss.    Nick Oliveri also played with Queens for a number of years, 1998-2004, but he's back touring with Kyuss Lives! and the energy and synergy is undeniable.

With 3/4 of the original line up back on board, a sizable tour, and rumors of new material, it looks like the boys are back.

Seen on the scene:   This righteous little head banger can forever count Kyuss Lives! at The Vic in Chicago as his first show.  At the ripe old age of 2nd grade, he knew many of the lyrics and was rockin' out!   

Glad to see Oliveri back with a bass in his hands instead of a rifle.    This past summer he had an unfortunate adventure with a S.W.A.T. team that resulted in a felony domestic violence arrest.  Hopefully his days of disrespecting girlfriends are in the past.

Kyuss always lived on in our ipods, on shuffle play.   But I'd almost forgotten just how good so much of their music is.   This show took me back.   For a few days after, it was all and only Slacker Radio's Kyuss station, till my kids finally staged a mini revolt.   They don't have any new material yet, but if you've got a fan on your holiday list, they do have some sweet desert themed Kyuss Lives! merch.   It will be interesting to see what this year brings, and if they can pull it off without Homme, and truly rise from the ashes with new material.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Play Locally: On A Heavier Note...Kyuss Lives! At The Vic Tonight

Check out Kyuss TV on YouTube

Another blast from the past that'll blast your eardrums, is going down at the same time, at The Vic tonight.  Some of our favorite L.A. metal heads rock The Vic with 3 openers.  Kyuss Lives!   The band is back for chapter 2...the legacy continues, with 3/4 of the original members.    L.A. metal heads rock The Vic tonight with 3 openers.   Here's the approximate set times and opening bands.  6:30 Bible of the Devil, 7:20 Black Cobra, 8:10 The Sword, 9:20 Kyuss.

Still waiting on the verdict on photo/press credentials but we're hoping to master the art of cloning to be in two places at the same time and bring you some sweet show shots.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fitz and The Tantrums Interview With ChiIL Live Shows 11-21-11

It was our great pleasure to shoot Fitz and The Tantrums yesterday.  They left warm, sunny La La land to bring us 3 nights of hot R&B/soul/funk/80's/hip hop genre defying fun at Metro!

Fitz and The Tantrums Interview With ChiIL Live Shows

We caught up with them for lunch and a show at Comma Music, an industry leader in original music composition and production for Web, TV, commercials and film.

Breakin' the Chains of Love-Fitz and The Tantrums LIVE Private Showcase at Comma Music

ChiIL Mama was thrilled to shoot their set and catch up with 4 of the 6 band members for an interview.  Then we scored a private one on one interview with the resident dad in the group, where we continued our series on How Creatives Parent and How Parents Create.   Their drummer is father to twin daughters, and was happy to reaffirm our core beliefs that there IS indeed LIFE AFTER BIRTH.   We'll be featuring that interview tomorrow.

Rockers parent and parents rock!

Don't Gotta Work It Out--Fitz and The Tantrums LIVE Private Showcase at Comma Music
**What a great clip to be our 100th video on the ChiIL Mama Channel on YouTube--Woo hoo!!

 We had a chance to see them at Lollapalooza with Du-Jay (10) and Sagezilla (8) and the kids loved it.   Fitz and The Tantrums truly do have multigenerational appeal.   Check out their main website for a free single, more videos, upcoming tour dates and merch.

Tonight Fitz and The Tantrums play their last of 3 sold out nights at Metro in Chicago, and then they're off to Indiana, where they have a philanthropic pairing up with Toys for Tots going down on  December 6th.

WTTS Toys For Tots Show with Fitz & The Tantrums & Scars On 45 - December 6, The Bluebird in Bloomington, presented by Fifth Third Bank. 

 L.O.V.--Fitz and The Tantrums LIVE Private Showcase at Comma Music

Tomorrow we'll feature our final live clip from yesterday at Comma Music, Money Grabber, along with our 2nd interview! 
We had a chance to see them at Lollapalooza with Du-Jay (10) and Sagezilla (8) and the kids loved it.   Fitz and The Tantrums truly do have multigenerational appeal.   Check out their main website for a free single, more videos, upcoming tour dates and merch.

ChiIL Mama will be reviewing and giving away copies of Picking Up The Pieces as part of ChiIL Mama's Holidaze Gift Guide, going live on Black Friday.   So ChiIL out with ChiIL Mama in your post-Thanksgiving, tryptophan, food coma.   And be sure to check back enter our giant give away like we vote in Chi, IL...early and often.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fitz and The Tantrums 11-21-11 Money Grabber LIVE and Video Interview With Drummer, John Wicks

We were so jazzed to meet all the members of Fitz and The Tantrums, and have the opportunity to shoot their private showcase at Chicago's Comma Music last week.   We caught up with their drummer/percussionist, John Wicks, after the set.   He's father to young, twin daughters and was happy to talk with us about life after birth and how he balances fatherhood with touring with an in demand band.   Check out this excellent, live version of their hit single, Money Grabber.

Click here for our interview with 4 other members of the band and 3 more live songs. 

We were thrilled to get to see them at Metro, for the final show of their sold out 3 night run.    FATT really shine live.   Highlights were a smokin' cover of Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams, the whole audience sitting on the floor, then jumping up and going nuts, an awesome cover of The Raconteurs' Steady As She Goes, and of course, all their own crowd pleasing favs like Money Grabber, L.O.V., and so many more. 

This week we'll be at a private showcase with Brandi Carlile, before her sold out appearance at Park West.   So check back with ChiIL Live Shows like we vote in Chi, IL...early and often!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Black Tusk, Thou & Monstro at Ultra Lounge-Chicago

 Black Tusk, Thou and Monstro

Black Tusk at Ultra Lounge

November's been so crazy busy, we're still catching up with the recaps.   Ultra Lounge is a sweet space.   Get over there if you haven't checked it out yet.   Black Tusk and Monstro murder it in smaller venues.   Catch 'em now before you're stuck at the back of an arena and all you can see are the back tats of the bearded 6'5" metal head in front of you.

Apologies for the flash, guys.   I know there were a bunch of photographers flashing, but I've never had to before.  But Ultra Lounge was ultra murky and too dark to get anything at all, otherwise, and I tried. Presents 
Black Tusk/ Thou / Monstro / The Swan King
Black Tusk In-depth Biography
Emerging onto the metal scene from Savannah, GA in 2005, Black Tusk specialize in a brand of sludgy metal they call "swamp metal." The band, consisting of members Andrew (guitar/vocals), Athon (bass/vocals), and James (drums/vocals), combines the drive of fellow Savannah residents Baroness with the thick and murky stoner sludge of High on Fire. 

In 2005 the band self-released its first demo, Demos and the Demons, as well as the album When Kingdoms Fall, which was released on Wrecked Signal. Two years later they self-released another album, The Fallen Kingdom, and kept their prolific release schedule going the following year with Passage Through Purgatory, released on Hyperrealist Records. Taking what for them is a long break from recording, Black Tusk gained attention through tours with bands like Weedeater, Pentagram, and Eyehategod. The band eventually signed on to Relapse, and in 2010 released its first album through the label, Taste the Sin, featuring cover art from Baroness singer John Baizley. ~ Gregory Heaney, Rovi.

BLACK TUSK is offering a free download of the track "Set the Dial to Your Doom" exclusively at RCRD LBL. The download comes from their brand new album Set the Dial which saw an October 24th release via Relapse Records.

BLACK TUSK is touring in December throughout the Southern U.S..  Support on these shows will come from MonstrO and Kyng.

BLACK TUSK is currently streaming Set The Dial at this location. The album is available for purchase via and iTunes.    

BLACK TUSK Tour Dates:

11/17: Nashville, TN @ The End (w/ Thou, MonstrO)

**All dates 12/8 - 12/17 w/ Monstro and Kyng**

Dec 8   Birmingham, AL     The Nick                        
Dec 9   Shreveport, LA       Riverside Warehouse   
Dec 10 Houston, TX         Rudyards                        
Dec 11  Austin, TX             Emo's                            
Dec 12  New Orleans, LA   Siberia                          
Dec 14  Gainesville, FL      Double Down Live       
Dec 15  Orlando, FL         Backbooth                      
Dec 16  Miami, FL             Churchill's                      
Dec 17  Tampa, FL           Brass Mug                         

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dillinger Escape Plan at The Riv (pit photos) 11-11-11

For those on your holidaze good list, lookin' for some good metal, check out Dillinger Escape Plan (DEP).   They just came through town, opening for Mastodon, and worked their amps like a skate park.   Even the photographers in the pit were getting kicked in the head as the band members dove into the crowd repeatedly, and the fans reciprocated.   Their music is a lot of frenetic fun to see live, and their energy is contagious.   

Taking cues from Deadguy, but adding its own jazz, technical, and violent flair, New Jersey's Dillinger Escape Plan (DEP) formed in early-1997.   Fans of technical metal, hardcore, a bit of jazz, Deadguy, and violence need not look any further.

Check out their Reverb Nation Page here.

Artist Summary
Genres: Metal / Mathcore/ Experimental
Label: Season of Mist / Party Smasher Inc, Relapse Records
Management: self-managed, for PR-, Big Machine Media

More About Dillinger Escape Plan
At first glance, Option Paralysis seems like a highly inappropriate title to describe the constantly evolving output of The Dillinger Escape Plan. But once you’re faced with the cumulative power and vision of guitarist Ben Weinman, vocalist Greg Puciato, bassist Liam Wilson, guitarist Jeff Tuttle and new drummer Billy Rymer, you’ll wonder—right after you pick yourself up off the floor—why more bands don’t achieve similar force-of-nature status.
“The title Option Paralysis represents being in a situation where you have so many choices you can’t decide, and end up being frozen,” says founding member Weinman about the mindset permeating the band’s fifth full-length album.
“Back in the early days when I started to discover music, go to shows and find out about new bands, there were ‘filters’ from various circumstances – geography, economic status, etc - which deeply affected how a band sounded and what they stood for. 

Now, everyone is going through the same filter—namely computers and the internet—and everyone has the same circumstances: Everybody’s seeing the same thing for the first time at the very same time, simultaneously all over the world. That very system is negatively affecting art and has created a situation where everything is influencing itself and art is not based on struggle, personal scarcity or unique and personal inspiration. This cultural revolutions is a big part of what determines our mission. We’re not listening to any of the bands around us for some kind of input as to what we should sound like. At this point, we’re using our own accomplishments as a measurement of what we need to do next.”

From their early days in the late-’90s as short-haired Rutgers, New Jersey, college students delivering hyper-complex thrash to audiences of boorish long-haired surly metalheads, to performing with Nine Inch Nails on the pioneering electronic band’s farewell shows, the Dillinger Escape Plan have merely one prerogative: to go forward in ALL directions simultaneously. 

I was laughing to see the descriptions above in red.  On Thursday, I literally got a fortune cookie that said "You can't ride in all directions at one time."   It was very appropriate, as this season is extremely busy on all fronts and I've been finding myself double and even triple booked and having to make some tough choices.   Then the kids and I ended up fighting off some nasty virus and we ended up cancelling everything today, to hang out by the fire, watch movies and get well.   Option Paralysis indeed.   After seeing DEP open for Mastodon, however, I think if anyone could pull off going forward in ALL directions simultaneously, figuratively and literally, they could!

Their groundbreaking 1999 debut full-length, Calculating Infinity, is inarguably the essential technical-metal talisman for the 21st century, melding hardcore’s blinding rage with a musical vision that made most progressive-rock bands sound positively lazy by comparison. Irony Is A Dead Scene, the band’s 2002 collaboration with Mike Patton, maintained their patented extremity while exploring electronic textures. The 2004 follow-up, Miss Machine, (the first record to showcase frontman, Puciato) was a distillation of the band’s work thus far, while including jaw-dropping flirtations with mainstream metal (“Unretrofied”) that further enforced Dillinger’s desire—and ability—to take their music wherever the hell they wanted. 2007’s Ire Works had the band finding inspiration from underground glitch and breakcore electronica, as well as indigenous music genres, in a world seemingly overrun with metalcore bores and screamo trend-hoppers. The Dillinger Escape Plan’s unerring sweat equity has consistently found resonance with listeners on both sides of the stages the band trod upon.
Option Paralysis
marks the beginning of another trajectory in the DEP mythology. After aligning themselves with the renowned Relapse label for most of their career, the band entered into a deal with the French label SEASON OF MIST to put out OPTION PARALYSIS, tagging their new PARTY SMASHER INC label. “We signed a pretty traditional record deal with them for one record,” explains Weinman. “What’s exciting is that Michael [Berberian, SOM label founder] is a really big music fan and has a great understanding of how we operate. He was totally aware of the possibilities and limitations of working with a band like us—he’s not expecting pop hits—and he’s been extremely enthusiastic to dive right in and make it work for everyone.”
Produced by Steve Evetts, Dillinger’s new music is positively abundant with possibilities. Drummer Billy Rymer, whom Weinman describes as “young and hungry,” now occupies the engine room that powers the band. Frontman, Puciato has always had a knack with a bellow that could make reciting a grocery list seem like an exhortation to open the mouth of Hell. But feeling some of the lyrics on Paralysis, you can’t positively determine if the singer is handing down indictments (“Farewell, Mona Lisa”) or feeling emotionally wounded. “This record is concept driven but there is still a very emotional and personal aspect to his lyrics,” says Weinman soberly. “He’s going through transitional stages in his life right now.” Nothing so eloquently supports that statement than the six and-a-half-minute “Widower,” where the band are joined by veteran David Bowie keyboardist Mike Garson for an aural excursion that incorporates piano-trio jazz, tender balladry and anthemic power. While there’s no shortage of DEP plasma-balls on Paralysis (“Room Full Of Eyes,” “Good Neighbor”), the band keep things fresh with the math-rock/free-jazz convergence of “I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t,” the electro-tweaked “Chinese Whispers” and the closing “Parasitic Twins.” The latter track sports lead vocals courtesy of guitarist Tuttle, as well as Beach Boys-styled harmonies and a major-key Weinman solo that’s more Clapton (ca. Derek And The Dominos) than calculus crush. Clearly, this is not your older brother’s Dillinger Escape Plan. “We’re just trying to make music we can be stimulated by,” says Weinman about the assorted directions and sonic vistas on Option Paralysis. “We consider ourselves songwriters, which is kind of odd when you consider the kind of band most would consider us.”

After years of deliberately challenging themselves, as well as the preconceived notions of critics and the strict genre-specific zealots of the world’s underground music scenes, the big question remains: What is the mission of the Dillinger Escape Plan? It’s a question Weinman addresses with equal parts melancholy, unwavering determination and humor. “I’ve been trying for a while to have someone explain that to me,” he says, laughing. “Seriously, Option Paralysis represents why we’re here and why we’re still making music. We started at a time when there wasn’t all this access to the larger world. Our only goal was to make a small dent in the scene that we were in. The fact we’ve made it this far and that we’re still relevant is really special to me. I feel that it is extremely important for bands like us to continue to represent the ethic and attitude that was present during a time that doesn't exist anymore."

“That,” he says, pausing to smile. “And I have to pay my mortgage somehow…”

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mastodon Rocks The Riv 11-11-11

"Curl Of The Burl" has been nominated for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance! The Grammy Awards air on CBS on February 12th at 8/7c.  *This is especially cool (and amusing) since I just did a video interview with Red Fang, who opened for Mastodon in Chicago on 11-11-11, in which Red Fang told me-with straight faces-that they were nearly 100% guaranteed to win a Grammy themselves this year, and that they had the pawn shop already picked out where they'd take it!    Check out the full interview here on ChiIL Live Shows.   

Mastodon will appear on a covers split 7" with Feist some time next year. According to Troy, ""The idea is for Mastodon to cover a Feist song and throw some hair and dirt on it. They're going to take a Mastodon song and pretty it up a little bit." Get more info here!

In early 2012, the band's off the the dark regions of northern Europe to warm the hearts of headbangers in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.   Then they're off to Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, and the U.K. before heading back mid February.

Check out their brand new release that just came out on 11-27-11.   Festive holiday colors even...    They've got vinyl collector options, CDs, DVDs, tusk steins, a freaky Hunter mask, and more on their merch page.
Despite a few fans who think they're leaning a bit too much toward the jam band side, they sounded excellent live and the majority of the packed house seemed to be loving the new material. 

Here's what the band's official biography says:

Mastodon have never really done anything the “conventional” way. The Atlanta-based band formulated their own brand of highly-skilled hard rock over a decade ago when others were rehashing 80s metal, and went on to mastermind a string of complex concept albums while much of the music world was centered on making digestible singles. The fact that Mastodon has received an outpouring of critical kudos along with public praise from respected icons from Metallica to The Melvins, The Flaming Lips and CeeLo Green and back, they’ve been humbled by the magnitude of appreciation. But rather than taking time to revel, they prefer to focus their attention on pushing musical boundaries even deeper by exploring their own creative process to the fullest.

The Hunter is yet another universe bending, high energy masterpiece from the band that helped shape hard rock for the 21st century with their previous albums: Remission, Leviathan, Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye. Though each consecutive album has transcended the one before it in terms of expectations, musical innovation and sales, The Hunter is the band’s most ambitious to date. Guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds, drummer/vocalist Brann Dailor, bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders and guitarist Bill Kelliher all continue to explore the outer limits of their own imaginations and as a result, deliver an album that stands apart -- even in Mastodon terms. While their last four CDs explored complex themes rooted in earth’s elements, The Hunter is more about following one’s free will than a particular storyline. “We’ve always had this umbrella or a theme that we’ve written everything under,” says Troy. “To us, it made sense as one cohesive story. This time, we freed ourselves up to try something new. It was really the next step for us, and I’m glad we took it.” 
That new-found spontaneity can be felt throughout The Hunter, from the melodic yet pummeling “Blasteroid” to the frenetic, muscled single “Curl the Burl.” The album is full of surprises—from melodic, close harmonies to downright demonic growls—but predictably, the musicianship is leagues beyond what anyone would expect to find on such a hard-hitting album. The Hunter is also the band’s most emotionally charged record to date, largely due to the difficult events that surrounded its making.

Tragically, Brent Hinds’ brother died of a heart attack in December of 2010 while on a hunting trip. Not long after, a friend of the bands died after a drawn out battle with cancer. “There were a lot of stressful things going on while we were making this record,” says Brann. “I wanted to ignore all the stress, which felt like it was threatening our band’s existence. We were kind of waiting to see where everything landed. But Brent didn’t want to sit and wallow in it. He wanted to do the exact opposite. So we started coming up with all these really triumphant moments for the record. It was like, fist up in the air.   And they dedicated the album to Hinds brother, an avid hunter.

The material for the record was largely written on the road when the band was touring with Alice in Chains, and was recorded between Los Angeles and Atlanta over a 6 week period earlier this year. Continuing their tradition of breaking tradition, Mastodon decided to team up with Mike Elizondo, a highly respected producer more synonymous with hip hop than metal. “After meeting him and hearing his ideas and unique perspective on our band we thought ‘This could be really interesting,”” says Brent. “We’re all about doing things that other people don’t, so let’s do an album with the guy who just worked with 50 Cent and Eminem. How crazy is that? We always try and embrace the unexpected.” And again, Mastodons penchant for taking risks paid off.

The Hunter is at once space age yet earthy, aggressive but thoughtful, articulate and guttural. The guitar work here is, of course, masterful as always, as is the band’s ability to flip musical directions on a dime. All of Mastodon contributed to writing the album, and Sanders is now singing on considerably more than on previous recordings (“I never thought I’d be one of the main vocalists . . . on any record,” he laughs.) Following some fine vocal performances on the last album Dailor’s role also as a contributing vocalist has become more prominent on The Hunter as well, adding even greater freedom to the sonic textures and overall expansiveness inherent of the new album.

As an example of the themes behind some of the new songs? They’re best described first hand by Brent and Brann:
Brann on “Curl of the Burl” : It’s about meth heads in the woods of West Virginia who look for certain types of knots in a tree. That would be the curl of the burl. They cut it out of the tree, drive it into town, sell it to furniture makers then go buy more meth. It’s like crackheads who steal copper from Lowes and sell it. We really couldn’t think of a better subject matter. It fascinated us.

Brent on “Blasteroid”: It was the name of a video game that was in the studio where we recorded. We thought it was hilarious—asteroids mixed with hemorrhoids. It had this crazy star that crapped out these asteroid looking thingees. So we mixed that ridiculous name with this sugary melody, then pushed it all up against, uh, somewhat aggressive lyrics. [Sings] ‘I wanna break some fucking glass, I wanna drink some fucking blood . . .’ Fun stuff.

Brann on “Stargasm”: It’s about having sex in space, or maybe not in space, just great sex where the orgasm brings you into space. When we sing ‘You’re on fire!,” I imagine swirling flames around these two people enjoying this sexual experience so good that they end up in outer space. Very Barbarella.

Brent on “The Sparrow”: It’s about Susie Polay our accountant’s wife, who passed away of stomach cancer when we were recording the album. Her motto was pursue happiness with diligence, and that motto became the lyrics to the song. It’s such a pretty song, and it’s so sorrowful as well. It’s in her memory and for her husband Robert, to pass on her inspiration to the listener.

One of the many ways in which Mastodon challenged itself on The Hunter was in simplifying their otherwise complex way of making music. In the past the band thrived on squeezing as much as possible in one space, and then making sense of it. With this record, they challenged themselves to pare back and let the songs breath on their own. The result is an album where sublime interludes prove just as powerful as dense layers of sound. “Our last album Crack The Skye, was such a deep, long record,” says Bill. “It was very heavy. We thought let’s make a spontaneous record based off music that comes off our fingertips in the moment. We didn’t over think it—like Hey, we gotta really dazzle the kids! It’s like let’s not over do it. Just let it fall naturally, and we did.”

By following their instincts, Mastodon has come up with the best record of their career. But then, should we really be all that surprised? Their slow-growing trajectory from flat-broke obscurity to the stages of Coachella, Europe’s Sonisphere and Bonnaroo which has presented Mastodon to an inordinately eclectic cross-section of music fans who have embraced the band as much as any audience who are more interested in the quality of the music rather then fall into the trappings of narrow-mined genre dwellers. This is the result of taking the road less traveled with nothing more than their instincts—and love of a good riff—to guide them. “We can never go in the studio saying we’re gonna make a heavy record because that’s what people expect,” says Brann. “Or a progressive record, because that’s what they want to hear. You can talk all day about what you’ll do artistically, but once you sit down and it starts coming out, you find out it’s not really in your control. Things move in the direction they move in -- much like life. It might not go the way you want, but that’s when great things come out that you had no idea were there. That’s when you tap the unexpected.”

Pay a visit to Mastodon Rocks for upcoming tour dates, songs, videos, etc.  Pay a visit to Mastodon Rocks for upcoming tour dates, songs, videos, etc.   Also, check out the Workhardened Site for a bunch of sweet art by Paul Romano, who did a bunch of their past album art.   He's been a long time friend of close friends of ours.

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