Monday, October 28, 2013

Dying Fetus & Exhumed @ The Whisky, Hollywood.

A dark cloud lingered over this otherwise festive evening of cranium smashing death metal, Devourment dropped off the tour just two weeks before the trek began. Bummer. Major bummer. This was to be my first time seeing the legendary kingpins of slam metal (think of the most ignorant, neanderthal riffs imaginable with farm animals grunting to hip hop infused rhythms...and you've got slam)...alas, one day my Devourment dreams will be fulfilled.

Thankfully, Waking the Cadaver served as a surprisingly competent slam surrogate. This was my first real exposure to the band, aside from the negative reputation they've earned online, and I gotta admit, I dug em'. I really did. The three songs I caught from the end of their set had my head bobbing and if I was wearing a hat, I'd have totally turned that shit sideways.

Exhumed was next. This was my fourth time seeing Exhumed in two years. That's crazy when you consider the band was on indefinite hiatus for most of the 00's. Well, they're baaaaack. The crowd inside the Whisky ate their thrashy-death metal jams right up, much like the kids who went ballistic when they opened for Suffocation earlier in the year.
I guess Exhumed should just open for every major underground metal act. Why not? It's like a circus when they play, rife with bloody costumes, chainsaws, oh yeah, and uber loud distorted guitars. Their new album Necrocracy is pretty solid, not as rad as 2011's All Guts, No Glory, or old songs like this one off Slaughtercult, but any Exhumed, is better than no Exhumed. Trust me. That seven year waiting game sucked.

And then...there was Dying Fetus. My love of the Fetus is well documented. No really, my twitter, instagram, letterboxd and PS3 network (what's up CoD fiends? come at me bro!) username is: ferocious_fetus.
Anyways, I missed their tour last winter because of bad luck, but I was ready to get my Fetus fix once again. They're still on the road supporting 2012's Reign Supreme, a sweet ass album that get's back to their slamming, mosh infused roots. Their set was a healthy mix of new-ish material (from their modern era as a power trio) and some awesome throwbacks to oldschool gems like "Killing on Adrenaline," "We Are Your Enemy," and "Beaten Into Submission." Totally unexpected, but totally welcomed.

The world famous Whisky A Go Go in a dump. Back in the glory days, when The Doors and The Ramones and Van Halen kept the name in the headlines maybe playing there meant something. Now, it's a crappy pay to play club with a dilapidated stage, shoddy equipment and all the appeal of a aging prostitute. Why Dying Fetus and other metal bands insist on playing these ancient venues is beyond me.

No Whisky in 2014. PLEASE.
I hope next time Fetus rolls through town they take a cue from Suffocation's playbook and book a show somewhere like The Vex (a large open floor warehouse venue) or even a Shakey's Pizza, fuck anywhere else! The mosh pit mayhem bands like Dying Fetus conjure from their audience is simply too much for such a cramped/diseased venue like this. When they ripped into the surprise encore of "Pissing in the Mainstream" I was stoked to hear such a killer oldschool jam off Destroy The Opposition, but just as excited to get the hell out of the Whisky and breathe some fresh air. Next time, please play a venue where your breakdowns and guitar harmonics can flourish unspoiled. Thanks fellas. 

Kylesa @ The Echoplex, Los Angeles. 10-14-13.

Kylesa are one of the most consistently awesome bands in the underground music scene. They throw sludge metal, psychedelic rock and DIY punk into a blender, and create some of the gnarliest music around. I've been following the band since their 2006 album Time Will Fuse it's Worth, and haven't been disappointed yet. They rolled through town earlier this month promoting their new record, Ultraviolet and put on another great show at the Echoplex.

Pinkish Black served as the main support act of the evening and proceeded to melt brains throughout the venue. They play an oddly compelling brand of dark wave/goth by way of doom metal. One guy on synths singing, one dude beating the shit out of his drums. That's it. Both band members are stationary and confined behind their respective instruments, but it's still the most hypnotizing shit imaginable. I was thoroughly impressed with this band's set and plan on keeping my eye on them for the foreseeable future.

Kylesa wasted no time once they took the stage, kicking things off into high gear with "Scapegoat" from Static Tensions. Thus began a long night of headbanging and trance like swaying from everyone in the audience.
I was a little surprised by the sparse crowd inside the Echoplex, this was reminiscent of their 2009 show at the nearly dilapidated Knitting Factory, not like their triumphant runs through The Troubadour, Glass House and Echoplex years prior. Scheduling the show on a Monday night, during a Dodger playoff game (when Los Angeles goes full bandwagon mode and apparently stops functioning) might have had something to do with it. Either way, Kylesa brought their "A" game regardless. They ripped through tracks off Ultraviolet and their last two albums, with "Hallow Severer" being the sole "old" jam in the set. The trippy light show, the band's dual drummers (yes, two of em'), Laura's mop of blonde hair dominating the stage, and Phillip's oh so cool skateboard-guitar/theremin rig, Kylesa's performance was a treat for senses. The band's staggering ability to jump through musical styles with ease boggles the mind. One second Laura's ethereal voice is floating above an LSD like jam session, the next, she's shrieking over the nastiest riff Tony Iommi forget to invent.
two drummers = 2x heavy
 Kylesa's musical palette is so diverse, any self respecting music fan will love something about this band (friends to metal heads, punks, hipsters, hippies, art students, stoners, classic rock zombies, you name it, they'll love it). Check out Kylesa, you won't regret it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Movie Review: Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt strikes again folks. His new film Don Jon is a thoroughly entertaining romp, a bit on the raunchy/NSFW side, but enjoyable nonetheless. Some might find the film's crass subject matter tasteless (spoiler: it's about the interplay between relationships, sex and porn) but amidst a sea of mediocre films all trying to ape Judd Apatow comedies, Don Jon's abrasiveness is like a breath of fresh air. A ballsy, R-rated film, meant for adults that doesn't dilute it's vision for mass appeal dollars. This alone is enough reason to champion this flick.

Anyways, Levitt stars as Don Jon, a smug Jersey Shore type whose lady killer prowess is renowned far and wide. To say he simply "get's girls" would be an understatement. Through the power of montage, we learn that Jon slams different hot chicks (always between "8's and 10's") on a daily basis. But alas, Jon has a unnerving addiction to internet pornography that actually impedes his enjoyment of real sex. As the film goes on, you see just how fucked up Jon's situation is. He's not as depraved as poor ol' Fassy in Shame, but in the same league for sure. May 2012 Female Obsession inductee, Scarlett Johansson, plays his uptight, but drop dead gorgeous girlfriend, who doesn't take kindly to her new beau's addiction to smut. We watch as not only Jon's relationship begins to crumble, but his very outlook on life as well. Julianne Moore and Tony Danza, holy shit Tony Danza, deliver standout performances that help push Don Jon from simply "entertaining", to the realm of "pretty damn good."

chick flicks = girl porn
Ultimately, everything about Don Jon goes back to Levitt. The man pulls a triple threat as the film's writer, director and main star. His acting is solid, like usual, and his direction, with his frequent use of jump cuts and montages seems a little Goodfellas/Scorsesse-ish, but it's his writing talents that really shine throughout the film. The dialogue feels authentic, which undoubtedly helped the already talented cast deliver such great performances, and just the idea for the movie alone, taking the piss out of our fantastical views of sex and personal relationships, was brilliant. Kudos to JGL for crafting such a solid debut film, and the Tony Danza/ Angels in the Outfield nostalgia trip.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rundown on The Shutdown

It’s a cold fall morning. Your alarm rings to no avail. You should have been up five minutes ago. You need coffee. You gotta get ready for work. Shit, you need gas. Oh well. Fuck it. This bed is too warm. You’re just too, damn, comfy.

Uh oh. Getting a lil too warm. Search your feelings, you know it be true…you gotta piss.


Just a little longer. You have enough gas to make it. You’ll be fine.
Fuck--- light is creeping in from that busted window blind.

NO. You’re staying. You haven’t been this snug in ages. You can hold it. Just curl into a ball and forget about the yellow river of urine about to crest. 

(Stomach gurgles) 
Uh oh. That ain’t hunger. Your bowels are saying “sup bro?” You gotta take a shit.

(Loud gurgles)
A mad shit.

NO. Who cares? You’re calling in sick. Intestines be damned you can’t risk it. You’re just so fucking comfy right now it’s ridiculous.

(Insane squishy gurgle)
Well, that about settles it. Time to get up and…

NO! We’re calling in remember? We can’t afford to get up right now, we might never be this comfy again!

Look, I want to stay in bed as much as you do but, we gotta hit that toilet man. ASAP.

STAY! Call in. Do some laundry later, clean up…

OK. That’s it. We are not SHITTING THE BED. We're late for work. I'm not trying to get fired for lounging in bed, and dude...we got some napalm diarrhea over here. We’re getting out of bed: NOW.

B-But, we’re so comfy right now. Oh God. Well, we fought the good fight. We just didn’t win. Our days of being comfy are over.

Toilet seat lifts: explosion.

That’s basically how the 113th United States Congress handled the government shutdown earlier this month. The battle to defeat The Affordable Care Act/ObamaCARE ended long ago. It may be a flawed piece of legislation and already looks like its being implemented poorly, but it passed both houses of Congress, was reaffirmed with the last Presidential election…and was upheld by The Supreme Court. It’s over dude. It’s not going anywhere.

Unfortunately, some members of Congress (mainly House Republicans and deranged Senators like Ted Cruz) couldn’t be bothered to swallow the bitter pill of democracy/reality and realize that you can’t always get what you want and tried tying their continued fight against ObamaCare with the Federal Budget and Debt Ceiling negotiations in one last gasp of desperation/insanity. So they threw an ideological tantrum and held the government hostage for close to three weeks. Now funding the government is one of the most basic functions Congress performs. Humans need water and food to survive, the government needs Congress to appropriate funds to do stuff. It’s that simple. Republican members of the House were content with staying in their comfy beds of conservative ideology and ignore their basic duties to fund the government and ya know, not shit all over the place.

So what happened? Well, in the end, just one day prior to certain economic catastrophe, Congress was able to limp out of bed and reopen the government. Congratulations Congress, you’ve proved to be slightly more responsible than infants in not soiling yourselves. Kudos. Don’t get cocky though, I know potty training is a big deal, but you’ve still got a long road ahead.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Coliseum @ The Satellite, Los Angeles. 10/6/13.

Coliseum is a foot stomping punk rock juggernaut/band from Louisville, Kentucky. They stormed through Los Angeles last week and put on a veritable rock & roll clinic. A "how to guide" for those about to rock. Pity, the venue was all but empty. For the few fortunate souls in attendance, it was plain to see that we were watching magic ( magic) unfold onstage.

The band, a power trio if there ever was one, played a shit ton of material off their new album, Sister Faith. This was great news for me seeing as how I fucking love this record. I discovered Coliseum with their 2007 release No Salvation, a blistering slice of metallic hardcore that shredded first and asked questions later. The band has gotten more loose and dare I say, groovier with each subsequent album that's followed. Sister Faith picks up where their previous record, House With a Curse, left off. It conjures dark and brooding vibes while sounding snappy and boasting some ass shaking tunes as well. The sparse crowd inside The Satellite stood in a trance while Coliseum delivered their punk rock sermon from the stage.

How those three dudes made so much noise is beyond me. Even with ear plugs, the band was loud. I mean LOUD. The ocean blue lights and swelling tide of noisy beatdowns coming from the PA resembled a perfect storm of rock fury onstage. Coliseum's rhythm section is so on point it's ridiculous. The bass and drums lock into place like a locomotive while frontman/guitarist Ryan Patterson stood howling in the navy blue shadows onstage. His brief statements in between songs, thanking everyone in attendance for their support and the satisfying authenticity of the DIY scene the band hails from, was a totally welcome change of pace from the egocentric rock star attitudes that exist within the music industry today. "Black Magic Punks," "Love Under Will," and "Bad Will" all slayed live, but "Late Night Trains" was my absolute highlight of the night. These songs are so solid and so catchy they almost scream out for recognition. Why this band isn't touring with Queens of The Stone Age boggles my mind. They seriously deserve it.

The crappy iPhone video I shot doesn't do Coliseum justice. That, and it's super distorted from being right up in front. Anyways, here's a live version of "Late Night Trains," off Sister Faith that should get your toes tapping in no time. Remember to check this band out when they roll through your neck of the woods ASAP.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Movie Review: Gravity

Watching Gravity is a humbling experience. Feelings of awe and sheer terror are bound to surge through your gut as director Alfonso Cuaron takes you on the most fucked up thrill ride imaginable, 372 miles above the Earth.

Despite it's jaw dropping special effects (and 3D shenanigans), Gravity is actually a surprisingly simple story. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are astronauts repairing the Hubble Space Telescope when a rogue wave of debris trashes their shuttle and seriously ruins their day/lives. This is basically what you see in the film's trailer. The rest of the movie is a cat and mouse game between humans vs physics in the terrifying vacuum of space. Think Castaway or Life of Pi, but shipwrecked in space...and instead of drowning, you drift aimlessly through the endless cosmos, forever.

Clooney does a great job playing himself, but it's Bullock who literally carries the film on her shoulders. I've never been a huge Sandra Bullock fan before, but her performance in Gravity is amazing and is basically her best role since Demolition Man. While the cast is great (both of em...they're the only two actors with any screen time) it's director Alfonso Cuaron who ends up stealing the show. His last film, 2006's Children of Men was both a technically dazzling and poignant film, with layered characters and plot that had little focus on special effects. Gravity is the exact opposite, a simple story with almost stock characters but features some of the most insane special effects and cinematic pizazz ever put onscreen. The opening sequence above Earth's orbit is one continuous 17 minute shot and is one of the most gorgeous things I've ever seen. Hats off to Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki for expanding upon their already legendary camera work from Children of Men and taking it to a whole new level. The sparse use of music and sound throughout the film demonstrates the frightening silence of space and reaffirms one of the scariest elements of the entire film: just how small and insignificant we are in the universe.

On a lighter note, Cuaron should be commended for loading Gravity with nods to other space films. Ed Harris provides the voice of NASA's Houston control straight outta Apollo 13, alongside a slew of references to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. While Kubrick's film saw space travel and technology as a path to mankind's transcendence (via monoliths and star babies), Gravity is all about forgoing the hustle and bustle of our high tech world (dAt astronaut LYFE) and remembering it's the little things that make life worth living. It's existential rebirth by way of oxygen deprived claustrophobia. You know, the fun stuff.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Awesome Photo (16)

Yours truly and the girlfriend getting photobombed by a herd of wild Australians. We were in town for the Jimmy Eat World concert and decided to do some touristy stuff when...well you see.

Also, this was not all. I set the timer on my camera and ran back to check the shots: they bombed everyone. Cool dudes, or blokes rather.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Jimmy Eat World @ The House of Blues, Las Vegas. 9-25-13.

Iron Maiden shirt? Confirmed for AWESOMENESS
My love of Jimmy Eat World is well documented on this here bloggy blog. Well, the band just released a rocking new album this past spring called Damage, their best work since 2004's Futures in my humble opinion, so I was uber excited to catch them on tour this fall. Of course life would find a way to interfere with my JEW dreams (get it? get it?) and I would be unable to attend their show at The Palladium in Hollywood. There's only one thing to do in situations like this: trek through the desert and see them in Vegas.

The House of Blues in Las Vegas is a weird venue. It's actually inside the Mandalay Bay casino so right off the bat, you know there's some kind of spacial limitations going on. The venue/musical hall is below the restaurant in a large hallowed out bat cave that somehow is actually bigger than the House of Blues Anaheim. Yeah, weird. I've seen Lamb of God demolish a near sold out house, and Mastodon perform to like a handful of people inside this same venue and tonight's Jimmy Eat World gig was a mix of the two. People tend to think of Las Vegas as some kind of huge metropolis but in reality, it's not that big of a town. The turn out was good but not as large as a show in LA.

The crowd filtered in as opening act Matt Pond (and friends) played some upbeat indie/folk rock. Not too shabby, it was hardly amazing either but I did enjoy a few of their songs. The loyal JEW fans, and a small group of Jersey Shore dudes visiting The Strip who must have gotten lost, waited eagerly for Jim and co. to take the stage. Luckily, we didn't have to wait long. Despite being in Sin City, this was a super early show and the band begin their headlining set around 8 pm!

Jimmy Eat World are such a solid band. I know, their music isn't overtly complex with crazy time signatures and jazz breaks thrown in but still, they're just really tight and locked in. I guess being a band for 20 years well do that to you. They played new stuff off Damage which sounded just as good as on the album but with Jim making some crazy faces and contorting his body around before your eyes, making it extra cool. We made our way to the very front of floor, about second row right before the stage. That would have never happened if we went to their gig at The Palladium. Watching the band crank out hit after hit ("Pain," "Big Casino," "Sweetness") from such proximity was almost surreal. Like my iPod merged with a 3D printer and brought them to life just for me. I'd say "Authority Song" and "23" were my favorite songs of the night. One being the very definition of good time pop-rock and the other, the most heartfelt shit you'll ever here. Good times with Jimmy Eat World. They do not disappoint live...ever.

FIDLAR @ The Observatory, Santa Ana. 9/19/13.

FIDLAR- an acronym for "Fuck it Dog Life's a Risk," also...a sweet ass punk rock band from Southern California. They released their self-titled debut album earlier this year and just embarked on a headlining tour across the country, playing an amazing homecoming gig at The Observatory in Santa Ana. Fidlar earned a wild reputation playing raucous house parties and dive venues throughout Southern California, so to sell out a larger established venue like The Observatory on their first headlining run is kind of a big deal.

The Orwells and Meat Market served as the main support acts for the evening. Their blend of sun drenched garage rock was popular with the boisterous crowd (mainly teens and 20somethings) who were dead set on dancing, jumping and crowd surfing all night, come hell or high water. I couldn't really get into their sets all that much however. Meat Market had some good songs hidden under the jumbled mess that was their live performance, and The Orwells...well, they're really young (fresh outta high school) and had lots of energy but they were basically the worst Strokes cover band I could ever imagine. These two acts blended into one large repetitive blur and were simply outclassed by the band that preceded them, a punk rock power duo of identical twin fashion models called, The Garden. Yes, you read that correctly.

The Garden consist of brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears. They play a high octane brand of spazzy punk rock with elements of 80's goth thrown in for maximum mind fuckery. When they aren't gallivanting around the fashion world, they're shredding faces off onstage. Never heard of these guys before this show but I was definitely blown away by their performance. Check em out:

and then...there was Fidlar.

Less than a year ago I figured they were just some random local band opening for The Hives. I was wrong. This band is blowing up big and I'm glad I caught on the Fidlar train when I did. Their surf/skate punk sound is raw and earnest, but with insanely contagious pop hooks and delivered with heavy metal like precision ala their former tour mates The Hives. The band ripped through tracks off their new album along with songs from various EPs and splits with manic energy but maintained a humbling sense of gratitude throughout. They could have literally played the phone book and the kids in the crowd would have went ballistic regardless (case in point: The Orwells) but Fidlar went onstage with something to prove.

They earned their new found headliner status and were not taking it for granted. "Stoked and Broke" along "West Coast" and the set ending shenanigans of "Cocaine" were easily my personal highlights of the night. Oh, and those Descendents and Nick Cave covers were fucking awesome.  Don't sleep on Fidlar folks. When they take over the world in a few years, you'll totally regret it.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Movie Review: Prisoners

Prisoners is easily one of the most jarring films in recent memory. I'm talking heart racing, fist clinching, pants shitting film making at it's best/most excruciating. I was not prepared for director Denis Villeneuve's methodically dark thriller and left the theater feeling gutted. It was only after a second viewing that I could fully digest and appreciate this gargantuan, labyrinth of a film.

Gargantuan is right. With a run time of 153 minutes and laced with some of the gnarliest (graphic/disturbing) content imaginable, Prisoners feels like fucking Gone With Wind...from hell. The film centers on a pair of rural Pennsylvania families whose two young daughters are kidnapped on Thanksgiving. The turmoil these families endure and how they react under such hellish circumstances make up the emotional core of the film. The subsequent police investigation and the white knuckle cat and mouse game with multiple suspects that ensues provides the thrills.

Hugh Jackman plays a desperate father hellbent on finding his child. Paul Dano is superb as the mentally unstable public enemy #1 suspect in question, while Viola Davis and Melissa Leo are both heartbreaking and mystifying as wounded mothers/aunties. Villeneuve's cast is basically all around awesome, but Jake Gyllenhaal's take as Detective Loki is easily the standout performance of the film. Loki (yes that's his name) is a lone wolf detective with a checkered past and a spectacular fucking haircut that becomes the film's anchor when all the gruesome shit starts to hit the fan. Yes, the anti-social SVU investigator with neck tattoos is the lone voice of reason in the sick sad world of Prisoners. That's how fucked up things get in this flick. Jackman screams and gets nuts like Michael Keaton in Batman, Dano gazes with lifeless doll's eyes and Gyllenhaal is jumping fences and twitching like Spider-Man with PTSD . Oh, and everyone cries. A lot.

Although bleak in content, Prisoners' is visually, an absolutely gorgeous film to behold. Shot by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, A Beautiful Mind, No Country For Old Men, Jarhead, The Assassination of Jesse James..., Skyfall) every frame onscreen is a masterwork. The cold Northeastern landscape almost comes to life, with danger lurking behind every rain soaked tree branch. Deakins' visuals, coupled with Johan Johansson's minimalist score (think uber minimal, like listening to yourself breath in a dark closet...with snakes) creates Prisoners' legitimately haunting atmosphere. Hats off to director Denis Villenueve for assembling such amazing talents to pull this thing off. Also, his use of long takes and subdued pacing raises the tension meter by 1000%. When shit actually happens and the utter silence (aside from mouth breathers like me in the theater) is broken, it's down right electrifying. I mean Jesus, the "car scene" is worth the price of admission alone.

Make no mistake about it, Prisoners is a dark and morbid film. I'm not even talking about the kidnapping stuff either. There are so many tragic themes brought up in this movie, it plays out like a twisted philosophy lecture. What would you do to save your child's life? Terrence Howard's character woefully claims that he would die for his daughter...but what if that's not enough? In extreme circumstances, do the ends justify the means? Vigilantism vs law and order, eye for an eye type stuff. Struggles with faith, hope and utter despair. It's a technically dazzling film with amazing actors and the most spellbinding imagery since The Place Beyond The Pines, but be warned, Prisoners is not an entertaining fun night out at the movies. It has the fly on the wall procedural craft of Zodiac, and the gory shell shock effect of Seven. It's the craziest damn Law & Order: SVU you could imagine and is one of the best films of 2013 thus far.