Monday, August 1, 2016

A melting weekend of rock! July 22-23

It's been a busy week, and a hot one.  As I write this it is Friday and I'm still cooling down from the weekend of impressive face melting, shirt drenching, sweaty passionate rock n roll that I witnessed last Friday and Saturday nights.  I had been recovering from oral surgery, and that is my lame excuse for not engaging the bands I saw and finding out more about them.  However, I could not let the weekend pass without writing brief summaries about all the awesomeness witnessed.  So, in a quick nutshell here are the five bands that entertained me through my weekend recovery:


Moving Cities:  This trio is a very tight, very polished powerhouse that I want to call punk rock but might be a little too groove oriented to qualify.  The grooves ranged from melodic pop to reggae/ska to tripped out jamming.  Think early Weezer having a strong pot of coffee with Sublime while the guitarist tweaks his delay and thick guitar sound to borrow from The Edge, and you have a breakfast party that quenches your hunger for a great local sound!

Moving Cities

Motorboatel:  Another trio at the Taphouse that totally blew me away, Motorboatel's name drew me in and the jazzy, highly proficient jamming kept me afloat late night.  There aren't too many vocals going on here, but they are not needed.  Although all three players are total masters of their instruments, I was mesmerized by the drummer's jazzy unpredictable style that kept the jams flowing but subtly changed the feel constantly so that you were never quite sure what to expect.  It was difficult for me to look away from him.  This is not to undermine the guitar work which somehow blended smooth jazz and hard rock into its own unique presence, and the bassist's solid and always interesting riff work.  Additionally the bassist had a moog synthesizer in front of him and another bass moog unit that contained a pedal akin to what you see at the bottom of a church pipe organ. He was able to work these into the music seamlessly, adding a bit of psychedlic wonkiness to the mix.  Great stuff guys, can't wait to see you all again!



Feral Conservatives: Unfortunately I missed the Feral's set for this show, but I have seen them several times and was honored to perform alongside them a couple of months ago.  These guys and lady are one of my local favs.  They are mandolin driven punk rock that is both cutesy and bold, upfront and sentimental.  The front woman hooks her mandolin up through distortion and effects pedals to create a powerful sound coming from such a small instrument, and her vocals can be both sugar sweet and shriekingly massive.  I like both of those vocal styles, but I believe her shriek to be the finest in Hampton Roads. Previously a trio with bass, mandolin and drums, they have recently added a guitarist to thicken the sound and arrangement, and it greatly enhances the mandolin heavy aura that is created.  This week they embarked on a 10 night/11 show tour and I'm glad they will be representing our music scene at its finest up and down the eastern states.  Feral Conservatives' full length album remains in heavy rotation in my disc changer, and the stellar songwriting skills become more and more apparent upon every listen.

Feral Conservatives

Prairie Empire:  Although it was past 10pm when Prairie Empire took the stage at Toast, the heat and humidity had not tamed down from the day's massive heat wave, and every audience member was completely drenched in sweat and ready for some soothing music that would hopefully help cool them down (Note to TOAST:  as awesome as your venue and shows are, please please please consider some form of cooling or strong fans in your outdoor open air venue.  I realize it won't be a heat wave forever, but in the meantime I'd hate to see folks pass out from heat exhaustion, which it appeared many were edging towards that night!).  Prairie Empire delivered the beautiful melodious and harmonious sound that was needed for such a moment.  The lead lady began the set with a soft autoharp strummed ditty backed by soft mallet stricken drums, and the familiar and solid bass sound of Norfolk's own Jacki Paolella, who had joined them on a month long tour (this was the final show of the tour).  Jacki effortlessly harmonized with the lead vocals in her own stylistic manner and the result of the trio was a heartbreaking yet uplifting soft celebration of life, love, and depression (yes, depression can be celebrated through music, of course).  The panting crowd was focused and quiet for the mostly softer grooves of Prairie Empire, and it seemed the perfect moment to cool down after a long sweltering day.  But then ...

Prairie Empire

Yurt: The heat finally began to wane and the energy immediately picked up when the quartet that call themselves Yurt took the stage.  The crowd gathered and dancing ensued. Although the specific styles of each Yurt song differed greatly, the Bozeman Montana outfit steers towards a fun, kooky 80's synth dance sound that was a refreshing change of pace.  80's comparisons ranged from The Police to Cyndi Lauper to Talking Heads, and the male to female vocal switchoffs varied the range further. Between songs, they made self reference jokes, all involving the term "Yurt" and their music did not take itself so seriously which is why it was really fun.  I couldn't tell if the drummer was over the age of 16, but she held it down solid and simplistically ala Mo Tucker. This was the last show of Yurt's tour as well, and they were definitely able to go out with a bang with Norfolk's enthusiastic dancing audience.  I hope they come back to this area and I will announce a dance party in advance!


Check out the music:

Moving Cities
Feral Conservatives
Prairie Empire

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Symphony Strikes Back - The Music of Star Wars

I'd had tickets for this performance by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra since they went on sale back in March.  I'd been super stoked about it ever since then.  My seats at Ferguson Center were good, and I found myself with an extra ticket on the day of the show.  How could I increase the stoked factor even more?  A quick phone call to my geek/musician brother Darius Teasely AKA Shakespeare's Ghost who I consider a hype man by nature (see link to our collab at the bottom of the article).  I've known he is a Star Wars geek, probably even more so than myself, and he was with me at the drop of a hat!

We both were expecting greatness from this performance ... what is not to love about hearing full blown authentic, live re-creation of one of the greatest movie soundtracks ever penned?  But neither of us were prepared for just HOW awesome the program would end up being.  It had been a while since either of us had heard a symphony orchestra, and to hear one up close 8 rows away felt powerful and dynamic. Unfortunately we could not see the entire orchestra from those seats, mainly just the string section and conductor, but we could FEEL and hear the whole thing with complete clarity (which I don't get with too many other live shows these days ...).

Aside from The Imperial March and Main Title, I didn't recognize the names of any of the selections on the menu aside from Rey's Theme, which I bought on a picture disc at Record Store Day this year.  What made this performance special to me was that as soon as these pieces began playing, I immediately recognized them as melodies and accompaniment so familiar that I felt as if I had known them forever, and some of them I suppose I have actually "known" since early childhood.  It is only when you hear and see them performed without the film in their forefront that you realize just how much the music impacts the film and how much of it you take away with you as an actual seamless part of the film, one that is just as recitable as any its endearing spoken lines.

On top of the great music, the conductor, Benjamin Rous, kept the program interesting with anecdotes and tidbits surrounding the compositions, and really caught our attention with a few theories about the new movies that are based purely on musical themes rather than any words or action from the films.  According to Rous, as the master composer that John Williams is, he has left us musical clues to some mysteries.  One in particular involves a new character from The Force Awakens, who's origin is currently anyone's guess.  With the help of the orchestra playing bits and pieces of musical themes, he demonstrated that a recurring theme in this character's music bears a strong resemblance to that of an antagonist from Episode III.  There were a few "wow moments" in this regard and I can personally get behind those theories based on their musical explanations.

Another powerful moment of the concert came when the Star Wars Festival Chorus came out to join the orchestra for two soundtrack pieces.  This was a huge choir made up of students from Bethel, Hampton, and Warwick High Schools.  Their most impressive number came with "Dual of the Fates" from the Phantom Menace - blowing the barometer level up to its max for a symphonic wall of sound.

An obvious ommission from the program was the beloved "Cantina Theme" which we were treated to as an encore with the rhythm section. And to finish the encore, Rous excitedly proclaimed "We can't send you home without the closing credits!" and commenced the memorable closing theme to finish the evening.

I am not certain that this Star Wars program will be performed again anytime soon ... there was no indication of that ... but I'd highly recommend looking out for other concerts by the VA Symphony Orchestra.  Last Friday Night they performed a full program of "The Songs of Bowie."  The ensemble seems to be staying innovative in their offerings and is choosing truly the best of the best music in that is set for a symphonic setting.  Shakespeare and I approve!

Check out the VA Symphony Orchestra!

Uglyography's Collaboration with Shakespeare's Ghost:

Monday, May 30, 2016

An Unexpected Gem at The Taphouse Ghent

From time to time, less and less frequently the older I become, I will catch a band that resonates so strong with me that I am compelled to tell everyone I know about them.  This blog has been stagnant for well over a year, but witnessing the set of Troll 2 on Saturday night not only prompted me to buy both of their CDs, but to revive this blog so that everyone in my own little online world can know about them.  In fact, their set actually made me feel guilty, ... ashamed that I did not contact my brother and his wife to invite them to this show, because knowing their musical tastes I am certain they would have also been equally moved.

Lame excuse for the above:  I almost did not go to this show and only decided to go at the last minute, so it would have been a scramble to invite others.  It is always a pleasure to catch a set by my friends Broken Mouth Annie (see a complete blog writeup here), but the true driving force that brought me to this show was the name of this Boston band touring the East coast.  For the uninitiated, Troll 2 is a horrible worst-of-the-worst low budget 80's movie that is perhaps the most brilliantly entertaining piece of cinema one will ever witness.  I've seen it about 15 times.  In my logic, it was pretty much mandatory that I check this band out based solely on their name.


Just as the movie Troll 2 has no correlation or connection to its predecessor Troll, it seems that the band Troll 2 has nothing to do with the film which is perfectly OK.  Enough introduction, what IS this band?  Well, they have no drummer.  They have an upright bass, mandolin, acoustic guitar and fiddle, and 4 very capable players who are all extremely talented vocalists too.  Add to that an intense high energy, clever soulful songwriting, and a high percentage of punk rock spirit and you there you have the jaw dropping quartet.  They shout and wail in harmony songs about a range of subjects including partying like you are in high school, not being too old to play in a band, corporate downfall, taking drugs (prescribed and unprescribed) and the general angst of not feeling comfortable on this planet.  They are funny, thought provoking, danceable, and they are capable of busking their music which they did on the streets of Norfolk all afternoon before their show at the Taphouse.  I am no videographer, and I have shaky hands, and my iPhone's sound quality is not great ... but I took this video of "As Hard As A Man" which captures the amazing standout soulful charm of fiddler and vocalist Zoe Rose de Paz.  She got some lungs!

And here is one of their more high energy ditties.  They closed their set and opened their new album with this one:

I spoke with the band after the show and they were enthralled with Norfolk and gave praise that it was by far their best (as well as last) show of their tour.  They seem willing to come back over a great distance to be here again, and I will personally do whatever I can to make that happen and make sure all my friends come with me next time.

I'd be amiss to not mention the opening band, Whaley Mammoth, a trio from Whaleyville VA.  I'd never seen or heard of these guys and I walked in when their set was almost over.  What I caught was an excellent playlist of punk rock covers ranging from The Clash to Against Me.  The audience was going crazy and singing along with their selections, and I'd like to see them listed on more shows in the area.  They pulled off this stuff with apparent ease and sounded really great.  Apologies to the Mammoth for not catching video ... gotcha next time!

Check out the Music:

Troll 2:
Broken Mouth Annie:
Whaley Mammoth:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Album Review: Animal Fires by Human Services

When handed a copy of Animal Fires by Human Services, I was instructed to have an hour of time to devote to kicking back and doing what used to happen in high school all the time.  That is, listening to new music while doing nothing else.  It doesn't happen enough any more for me so I eagerly agreed ... and therefore had to wait a couple of weeks.

So as luck would have it 4:30 AM rolled around one (let's say Tuesday) morning and I woke, for some reason, wired.  I was up and about and definitely had an hour, so I popped the CD into the surround stereo at the loudest volume I could get away with without my wife being disturbed over her white noise sleep machine.   And I'm a lucky man because it was actually pretty loud.

The signature tribal, pounding and slowly building beat by drummer Jeff Liscombe properly introduced the album strongly and powerfully with The Herd and Musth.  A drudging march slowly built itself into something massive by adding additional beats by percussionist Steve Kerchner, then droning noise, then killer fuzz crackle bass, then HUGE guitars, and then more trippy but very dark effects. Finally Human Services brought out it's complete signature roar with multiple growling vocalists that unleashed the full blazing power of the band.  By the time the first track slowed to a close I wasn't concerned that I couldn't make out the lyrics amidst the chaos ... I was just happy that I'd found something so "in my face" to enjoy for an early morning treat!

Then, to my surprise, the dying mayhem merged seamlessly into the quick and quieter second track, Workhorse, which sounded much like a squeaky clockwork machine that mysteriously compounds into an epic giant monster of a mechanical being.

This combo brought the album to a very fine start before heading directly into Down to Your Last Goat, more of a southern melodic sludge anthem.  When the song inevitably gets out of control and multiple vocalists trade off on their moans and roars, the song turns into a complete mess of the best.

It has been a few months since that first listen and I've had about 5 or 6 spins of the disc since then.  I'm now realizing that these first three songs really are a great representation of what Human Services does live, which is never quite the same.  Last time I saw them they had audience join in banging on a huge empty metal barrel on a stand which makes an almost ear piercing clang, yet still pales in comparison to the sheer volume that this five piece projects at its shows.  I'll be blunt, their shows are not for everyone.  Your ears will ring, and this may be true even if you wear earplugs.  Many would dismiss it as "a bunch of noise" and Human Services would likely be honored at this remark as they pride themselves as a noise band.  But if you can get past the volume and chaos you will realize that there is a unique art behind the madness.  The textures of different noise combinations created at live shows will never be re-performed in exactly the same way even if they tried.  It is all extremely "in the moment."

And as for the CD, even though it obviously contains the same programmed audio that you hear each time you spin it, there are plenty of new sounds to discover on each listen.  The fourth track, Predation, features more weird auxiliary noise which to me again sounds like some sort of machine but this time the machine is running out of steam under the threat of an approaching thunder storm.  Track 5, The River Pig is more of an industrial style track with another huge beat and lots of very fine noise providing backdrop to the vocal chant: "Bottoms Up!  Let the Frenzy Begin!"  You should check out the video for this song.  (Disclaimer:  I'm in it for maybe 2 - 3 seconds).  It was extremely well produced by videographer and Human Services' own bassist Billy Kuriko.

Let me back up now and clarify.  When I say noise, what I really mean is multiple effects pedals, with or without guitars, and often times fueled by found objects that just sound cool.  Oh, and those effects boxes, YESSSS! I have seen live what I believe to be a pedal board that took up a three level rack cart and the surrounding floor space.  Of course they were not all effects pedals, but they included mixers, unlabeled boxes that were likely homemade, tape decks, a spaghetti of cables, and countless other mysterious doo-dads that only the band understands (or at least they pretend to understand and just enjoy the screech that is created). Guitarist Donald Hart was constantly tweaking this tower of devices live to get the noisy unpredictable sound he craves at the same time he was holding down his guitar performance: a master of his own creation.

Animal Fires continues with a little more of that clockwork beat combined with creepy horror movie string-sounds and sinister voice-overs concerning fashion on Bottomfeeding.  And so the cycle continues between solid solemn heavy songs that sound great at any hour, especially 5 am,  and the shorter auxiliary percussion fueled jams that sound like Human Services alone.  It is not a formula and doesn't get boring - but you will just have to listen to the full album to see how they deviate from themselves.

I cannot help but to single out the track The Electro-Ape in which the group has managed to re-create the sound of pure electricity being unleashed in it's raw and dangerous state.  It is such a quick listen and it is scary to me for some reason, even when the groove is flourishing.  Gosh I hope they aren't insinuating the electrocution of an ape.  That would be terrible.  Or maybe they are insinuating just that, and have done their job expertly. All hope is not lost ... I think I hear an ape going completely nuts just as the song abruptly cuts itself short.

The album ends its hour appropriately with a beautifully experimental 17 minute track, No Structures in the Eyes of the Jungle.  The track was recorded and mixed at Adept Audio by guitarist/vocalist Sean Sanford, as was the rest of the album, except that this one was recorded live in a single take.  It is very impressive for an improv session and again highlights what you might hear at a Human Services show. but also sums up the album and its concept perfectly.  I can't help but imagine how this and other songs on the album relate to accounts of Noah's Ark, seeing how Animal Fires' cover art contains a rendering of the ark engulfed in flames while pairs of animals and demons stand watching.  Sounds about right.

You can pick up Animal Fires as well as other releases at any Human Services show.  Their next date is January 31 at Meridian Coffeehouse at William and Mary (206 S. Boundary Street).  Don't worry if you hate coffee shops, this coffeehouse is just a run down student-run punk house that happens to sell 50 cent cups of not-so-great coffee for an excuse to have a space to host loud rock shows.  At least that's my theory.  It's a small room and maybe after Human Services fits that pedal board inside there will be space for a few onlookers.

Preview the album here:


Friday, May 23, 2014

Show Hopping - Arts Walk, TMPTSP, Aaron Burgess, The Framers

Saturday May 10 turned out to be quite the packed day and evening for local entertainment in Hampton Roads.  I was barely able to walk from the car to  my front door when it was over, but the exhaustion was well worth the sights and sounds that our eclectic and musical community has to offer.

I began the day by participating in the inaugural 2nd Saturday Downtown Hampton and Phoebus Arts Walk. The idea of this monthly homegrown event is for shoppes and restaurants across downtown and Phoebus to host visual artists to create their art in front of a public audience, accompanied by the backdrop of musical buskers.  The public is free to walk around and enjoy a wide variety of artistic styles and music. Jason Helmintoller and I took our acoustic guitar and bass down to Settlers Landing Road, plopped on the corner in front of The Virginia Store, and strummed away for the cars passing by in classic Outer Loop style.  After a couple hours of little walking traffic and no audience, we strolled around a bit to find other buskers, including the sweet Ukulele sounds of Leah Hart in front of the Hampton History Museum. Shortly thereafter we made our way to Phoebus to see how their section of the Arts Walk was coming along.  Unfortunately the sudden mini-monsoon (including popcorn sized and bouncing hail) rained out most of the remainder of the afternoon.  This 2nd Saturday event has a ton of potential, and hopefully the word will spread that this happens once every month for art and music lovers in the area.  The Next Arts Walk is June 14.  Check it out!

Photo by Joe Atkinson

After dinner, Sister Freshy and I rolled out for an evening of show hopping.  There were way too many great shows happening that night to choose from and I wish we could have been to all of them, but we did manage to make it to three, which were all extremely entertaining in their own rights.

Around 9pm we pulled up with perfect timing to Roger's Sports Pub in Chesapeake to find members of The Phillip Michael Thomas Search Party dressing, prepping, and passing whiskey in the parking lot.  This was a reunion show for the Search Party and although I am still fuzzy on the details, I understand their last show was held at the infamous RAT WARD in Phoebus back in the early 2000's.  What I do know is that they are comprised of the members of the excellent Hampton based noise-core/not really metal band Human Services, plus about 4 - 6 other members including the always entertaining and out-of-his-mind shock-rocker Josh Hickey (AKA Sterilization).  Many of the members were dressed in creepy intricate costumes including a guitarist on stilts, a devil, a sweet dominatrix, lots of masks, and pantyhose over a head (to name a few).  The sounds that were coming from the stage included at least three percussionists pounding away steadily plus a metal barrel that was passed/thrown around for banging on, a few guitarists, some toy bell sets, a violinist, a few screamers including Josh with a megaphone, and again, I have undoubtedly missed an instrument or four. The music and action seemed to be entirely improvisation, and there was so much going on visually and musically that there was not a dull moment during the 35 minute set.  Before the chaos began, I heard an over-macho'd bouncer make the comment "Oh, they are just a bunch of kids, you know ... expressing themselves."  Little did he know that he would soon be escorting Josh out of the establishment for stripping down to his boxers, simulating self-pleasure and then leaning over and spreading his butt cheeks wide open for all to see. The video footage below will be the best way to get an idea of what went down, because my words on this performance just aren't cutting it!  The next Phillip Michael Thomas Search Party show will be held in Phoebus in the year 2024.

The tale of Josh's Butt Parts (a hilarious must-see)

About 10 minutes of shaky footage I took

Next, we made our way to Norfolk Taphouse for "An Intimate Evening with  Aaron Burgess" This is the front man for Boneske, and from what we'd heard this would be a variety/talk show sort of thing.  Knowing Aaron we were both curious and weren't sure exactly what to expect.  We walked in and the doorman asked for "five dollars to watch Aaron shave."  We looked up on stage and sure enough, Aaron was looking into a mirror held up by a friend, shaving his beard down into a nice fat child-molester style mustache.  Also on stage were a couch and a love seat, a turntable, and a laptop.  For most of the hour or so that we stayed Burgess switched between DJing off-kilter music while he stared the crowd down ("Manhole" by Men's Recovery Project was an especially good one for this) and rambling about whatever unsettling thoughts may have been on his mind.  Part of the genius of this persona both at this event and in Boneske is that I am often confused as to whether he is joking around or not.  I am fairly certain he was trying his best to get a rise out of some Navy guys at the bar by pushing the issue of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and then launching into a story about how his gay marriage to a foreigner who wanted to move to America didn't work out.  In a different venue, Burgess may have been beat to a pulp.  The uncomfortable air in the room that he creates is as comedic as it gets for me.  The content itself is not necessarily hilarious and could be taken as truly offensive, but this is what we paid five dollars for and although I wasn't always laughing out loud I was bursting into tears on the inside.  Before we left we got to see a few minutes of Aaron's improv rap, which is kind of terrible but somehow brilliantly impressive, and then a special guest solo appearance by Will Huberdeau of Honorary Girl, singing a few songs with an acoustic guitar (always a pleasure to hear Will's pining goofball songs).  The show was well worth the time, drive, and money, and I'm glad to hear that Aaron plans to do this regularly at Norfolk Taphouse.

An Intimate Evening with Aaron Burgess

Finally, we made our way downtown Norfolk to catch The Framers' set at FM Backstage (formerly Jewish Mother Backstage, formerly Kelly's Backstage Tavern, formerly Backstage Cafe, and now the FM stands for "Food and Music").  I had not been in FM since it changed owners and name.  This is a great room for a show and The Framers played a somewhat rowdier and more energetic set than some other shows of theirs I'd seen.  I'm not sure if it was the room and the energy feeding from the stomping twirling dancing crowd, or if Scruggs and Howland had consumed just the right amount of booze, but the good times were surely on! Maria held down the bass solid and steady and glowed especially heavenly that evening in addition to her usual natural and fashionable beauty (this photo has not been altered!!).

Photo by Kelly Earl Tousignant

Unfortunately we missed the opening set by Janks but their accordionist Daniel Neale was running sound and did a fantastic job.  That being said, I was surprised to see that there was no house sound system installed as there had been in previous carnations of the restaurant.  The stage is set up so nice and the numerous racks of light make for a professional and legitimate aura about the room.  I am all too familiar with setting up a PA on stage and running up and down beside the band to tweak the sound as Neale did.  There is no shame in that at all.  But a room with the caliber and potential of FM could and should really do better.  My two cents to FM: Invest in a dedicated house soundboard and system , and make this room stand up to other true rock clubs of legendary status!

Check out the music!
Phillip Michael Thomas Search Party:
Aaron Burgess: No solo stuff but here's Boneske:
The Framers:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Album Review: Mourning Sicness by SICMaN of Virginia

My first experience with SICMaN of VA was on a Sunday afternoon in early 2011.  They were one of the first bands to appear on the long-running podcast YourMusicShow and were performing an experimental acoustic set in the kitchen with an upright bass, guitar, and synth. Magic happened that afternoon and I was immediately drawn to their trippy yet heavy punkish sound, somewhat silly lyrics (“You in your sweatpants, your sweatpants of love …”) and their likeness to Ween, probably my favorite band of all time.  I went home and scrolled through iTunes to buy their brand new sophomore release, Sweatpants and other Necessary Nonsense, and It quickly became standard rotation in my library. I’ve been hooked on the SICMaN catalog ever since.

On May 20, SICMaN releases their fourth, and in my opinion best collection of songs to date, Mourning Sicness. Yes, some of the songs still contain dark humor and absurdities, and the heavy jamming SICMaN sound is definitely still intact.  But the songwriting and playing have matured in a way I can’t quite place and the album seems more cohesive than previous efforts.  The trio’s third release, Stale as it Ever Was was pure fun and jumped back and forth between genres often, as this record does as well.  But all the songs on “Mourning Sicness” hold a footprint of a raw yet textured sound that is sustained throughout the album.

The opening track, "Charles From the Raven," is a pure gold hard rocker that truly sets the energy for what is to come. It is also a one of the four tracks on the album that features Ween’s bassist Dave Dreiwitz as a guest.  Singer/Guitarist Matt Holloman had this to say about the securing the guest experience:

“We contacted Dave about 10 years ago about doing some bass tracks for us. We were without a bassist at the time. We kept in contact and it finally panned out he was gonna be in the area performing with Marco Beneventos trio. I met him at the venue, drove him to studio J, did the 4 tracks, and then drove him back to the venue all in about a 2.5 hour time frame. He had never heard the songs until the car ride over from Virginia Beach to Ocean View. He for some reason took a liking to us. He agreed to do a show in New Hope with us a few months later with his duo, and that turned into Ween without Gener. The rest they say is history....”

The rawness continues with the second track “Decapitated” and begins to hint at the heavy intricate textures contained on the rest of the album. Cue up trippy layers of synths and wailing guitar solos suitable for both head banging or kicking back with your smoking buddies.

Speaking of wailing, I’d be amiss to not mention Holloman’s explosive guitar chops.  When SICMaN plays live, they enjoy extending their songs to jam, sometimes up to ten minutes or more per song.  These extended jams don’t happen on their albums, but the track “Big Brown Eye” is a perfect example of what you will hear and see when you see SICMaN live in their longer jamming mode.  And, I have to wonder what Holloman sounds SO happy about when he exclaims “It’s a BIG BROWN EYE!!”

Among many other songs, SICMaN’s master bassist Scott Griffin gets to a chance to shine on the relatively mellow “Spaceship (15 to 5 Blues)” which took me back to Smashing Pumpkins Pisces Escariot era with its slow yet heavy and textured vibe.

"Bleu Cheese" is another track that features Dreiwitz and is probably the most reminiscent of Ween on this album. The likeness is undeniable both musically and vocally.   It is a genius beautiful song in its own right while also serving as an honorable nod to one of SICMaN's greatest influences.  This track, along with two others, features a second guest, Tim McDonald on keyboard.  Drummer Joe Welch had this to say about McDonald:

“I met Tim about 12 years ago when I recorded Russell Scarborough's album called "Russell Scarborough presents Tim McDonald", and I recorded his solo Jazz album soon after as well.  And when we finished the 1st SICMaN album we asked if he would put some keys down for us, cuz he dug our stuff. At the time he said he was going to move to Nashville one day and become a country musician, which he eventually did.  We've stayed in touch ever since, but for this album we sent him the tracks and had him put the keys down at a studio in Nashville and send the key tracks back to us to put in the mix.”

The other two McDonald/Drewitz guest tracks, “Madness of Life” and “Bianca Y Lobo”  are nice sing-a-long style tunes with a slightly different vibe that gets very rocking but in a folksy way that stays just heavy enough to be SICMaN.  I would reservedly compare the tracks to The Grateful Dead when the extended instrumentals get extremely textured.

My favorite track on the album, "Gagagoogoo," is a definite pleaser and is probably the most accessible on the album. At first I heard Sonic Youth, then The Pixies, then just a touch of Ween, and before I realized, it had turned into a dance track interspersed with the breakdown with the manipulated struggling shouted vocals “It all feels the same!”

As with other SICMaN albums, Mourning Sicness was recorded and mixed by Welch at his attic recording space, Studio J.  The album was nearly a year and a half in the making but not without good reason.  Welch stays busy recording other hot local acts. He produced the award winning Sunlight Fever by The Framers and is currently recording Broken Mouth Annie’s new album.  And the kicker: About halfway through the recording of their own record, Welch’s wife Rachel became pregnant with their first son, Joseph Jr.  I can only assume that the track “Hey Joey” is a fun and playful childlike tribute to their newborn, and the album title itself almost had to have popped up as an indisputably appropriate play on unfortunate mother-to-be symptoms.

I could go on and on about Mourning Sicness, and SICMaN, for many pages, but I think that Justin Wilson of YourMusicShow summed up this album perfectly with three words:  “It’s essential SICMaN.”  And with that I urge you get yourself a copy of Mourning Sicness and rock out in your own SIC way.

Mourning Sicness will be released on May 20 and is available for pre-order at

The CD Release show will take place Friday May 30 at Belmont House of Smoke in Norfolk, with special guest RIO.

Much more info and music at

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Cemetery Boys, Uglyography, and Frood

Uglyography's first show at Norfolk Taphouse this year went down April 26.  Before beginning, The Cemetery Boys' stage setup set the mood for what was too come.  There were too many skulls, skeletons, and other spooky decorations to count.  Edgar Von Graves picked up his bass and Lurch sat down behind the drums, both donning black ski masks to cover their true identities.  The duo plays mostly hard and fast songs with horror-themed and often grotesque content.  I can say with confidence, and I believe many local musicians and fans would agree with me, that Von Graves has achieved the best and fattest bass tone in all of Hampton Roads.  If I was blind and not in the know, I'd believe it if someone told me The Cemetery Boys had a guitarist.  Von Graves' pedals blend fat bottom end with crisp high end distortion and other effects as needed for each song.  The set ended with two much lighter covers which somehow fit in surprisingly well with the darker theme of the band: "How Soon is Now" by The Smiths and "Here in My Car" by Robert Numan.  It was quite a bouncy end and the crowd loved it.  These boys are fun to watch and they play out in the area nearly every weekend it seems, so if you are into scary stuff you need to look for them.

Photo by Seamus McGrann

Uglyography's set went very well from what I could tell on stage (we could hear ourselves loud and clear, thanks so much to the sound guy whose name I've unfortunately forgotten).  We had some in-time hand claps from the crowd and sold two of our fabulous Unicorn themed tee-shirts, so I take that as a success.

Photo by Jenny Lynn Sumner

We booked the final act for the evening, Frood, based solely on what we heard on their bandcamp page.  We had a feeling that their poppy quirky style would fit perfect with Uglyography and we were correct.  Their facebook description consists of two words: "Unapologetically Pop."  I don't need an apology ... The four piece outfit consists of keys, guitar, bass, and drums, and employs luscious three to four part harmonies often.  Lots of the music sounded Beatle-esque, but I would draw the strongest comparison to the Philadelphia-based Dr. Dog.  Add some unexpected breakdowns and tempo changes, and possibly the most syncopated vocal melodies I've ever heard and there you have Frood.  It is beautiful music that  remains playful and gritty enough to be called Rock n Roll.  I look forward to seeing how this relatively new band will grow musically and how far they may take their craft.

Photo by Prima Annarina

Check out the music!