Showing posts with label Robert Dean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Dean. Show all posts

Jun 16, 2020

Austin Loses More Music Venues, What's Next?


By Robert Dean

Thanks to the pandemic, the Red River District has lost three more live music venues. Barracuda, or “Barry’s” to the faithful, closed its doors, same with DJ spot Plush, and the hip-hop room, Scratchhouse. Sidewinder sits vacant, so does the old Emo’s, as well as the former Headhunters. And Beerland, after a murky deed transfer, it’s anyone’s guess what the little room becomes.

Red River is a unifying theme of Austin. It’s got weirdos hanging on street corners, Elysium throbs with goth anthems, and Hoboken pizza slings pies for all of those with bleary eyes after having too good of a time at Better Days. Is this magical mixture of punk rock, country, hip-hop, and everything else going away? It’s one of the things that make this city hum – or twang.

The words, “the time has come for Barracuda Club to bid adieu,” it hit home. Barracuda was laid back, the staff was always down to help, and they booked good shows. Everyone knew the routine: pre-game at Sidebar, walk over to Barracuda for rock and roll city.

Every DJ in town knows that Plush is where you build a name. For twenty years, it held down its address next to Swan Dive at Red River and 7th, and now, another one bites the dust. According to a Facebook post back in May, it was a “combination of ever raising prices and new regulations,” which is an all-too-familiar story. Scratchhouse also cited rising rents as the reason for closing its doors. Plush plans on re-opening somewhere else, but who knows how long that will take in this market.

Where are our leaders who love to be martyrs for everything that sucks about Austin when we need them? The tourists might think of 6th as the musical heart, but we all know it’s Red River’s little five-block district.

In May, district leaders proposed getting the city to commit $35M to purchase venue properties to mitigate closures via the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Austin got $170.8 million; you’d think allocating some of that to the very thing that draws people into town would be a priority. Instead, Austin is complicit in letting culture die because all we need is more places for overpriced sushi or a quiet yoga center.

This begs the logical question to ask: who’s next? Could we lose Valhalla? Is Cheer up Charlie’s ok? Is Mohawk on the chopping block? There aren’t many venues left in our so-called “music district,” a massive piece of Austin, an area that defines the “Live Music Capital of The World” moniker, despite everything seeming to go in the complete opposite direction. The city loves to brag about the “cultural district” so much, it’s got a whole page on its official website. But where’s the support? Are we actually about supporting music, or does it just look good on a t-shirt at the airport?

The bosses on Red River pleaded. They need the cash – to the tune of $40K a month until the business can get back to normal. The city approved grants for working musicians, but without places to play, it’s a moot point, isn’t it? No matter where you look, live music hasn’t been considered as a means for support. What district reps wanted was the city to buy buildings to fight skyrocketing rents and yuppie redevelopment projects who complain about noise and bbq smoke. We’re pushing our venues out of downtown and off into the far-flung reaches. That’s problematic. If this city is going to hang its Stetson on live music is our lifeblood, then back it up. Our local businesses need support. And that proposal? It fell on deaf ears, like always. You lose the music, and we’re on our way to becoming Dallas.

May 13, 2020

Big L Never Got His Chance to Shine

By Robert Dean

Big L never got his chance to shine. It's a story all-American, all-believable in a country where our legends and our brightest stars burn out faster than a citronella candle left to burn on a hot summer night. Like Nipsey Hussle, Tupac, or Biggie Smalls, Big L's life was snuffed out by a hail of bullets back in 1999. All before the mainstream was starting to know his name. It's a heartbreaker because he could have been great, he could have stood as tall as the giants of the game today, because when Big L was lowered into his grave, neither Nas nor Jay-Z were the superstars we know them. He could have been on that wave to greatness.

Coming up from the East Harlem hip hop scene in the early to mid-1990s, Big L blew up thanks to his ability to devastate in freestyle battles as well as flip the context in any situation. He could take literally any subject and flip the point of view on its head with a samurai-sharp eye – all while keeping that smooth New York style. Big L had the bars and the stories that sold his songs, legend has it he'd have people shouting in awe as he laced tirades left and right.



The Source, the OG of all things hip hop journalism, has stated he was one of the best storytellers to ever do it. In an interview with Funkmaster Flex, Nas claimed, "[Big L] scared me to death. When I heard [an Apollo Theater performance] on tape, I was scared to death. I said, 'Yo, it's no way I can compete if this is what I gotta compete with."

Big L's classic record, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous is not a token entry into one of the overlooked greats, it's a fact that most true hip hop heads will agree with. It's got all the elements of style, but also has the vibe and that special thing that reverberates through time, the bars, the beats, and the attitude is genuine. The record went on to sell two hundred thousand copies on the strength of singles, "Put it On" and “MVP." Big L was scooped up long before the pretend gangster that would emerge years later. 


Being the king of the New York mixtapes back in the early 90s, Big L was on a series of tapes with scene luminaries like Cam' ron, Ma$e, and McGruff, (who he briefly had a group with called COC, short for Children of the Corn.) He was also tight with rappers like Jay-Z, Big Pun, and Fat Joe, who happens to perform on the stone-cold classic, "The Enemy."


While most people credit RZA's Gravediggaz as the origins of "horrorcore" but, go back and listen to Big L's "Devil's Son," saying, "I've always been a fan of horror flicks. Plus, the things I see in Harlem are very scary. So, I just put it all together in a rhyme."

When it all turned sideways 

Apparently, Columbia didn't understand what they had, trying to box a real MC into radio singles and, despite selling a lot of records, dropped him, "I was there with a bunch of strangers that didn't really know my music." Despite all of this, he went on to form his own label, 

Flamboyant Entertainment, which was "planned to distribute the kind of hip-hop that sold without top 40 samples or R & B hooks." Ironically, his harder style landed him at the feet of Damon Dash, who wanted Big L to sign with Rockafella. It almost happened as Big L, Jay-Z, and Herb McGruff, C-Town, was going to be called The Wolfpack. 

Sadly, the good fortunes weren't meant to last. On February 15, 1999, Big L was killed at 45 West 139th Street in his native Harlem. He was shot nine times in the face and chest. A kid he grew up with, Gerard Woodley, was arrested three months later. "It's a good possibility it was retaliation for something Big L's brother did, or Woodley believed he had done," said a spokesperson for the New York City Police Department. Woodley was released due to a lack of evidence. The case remains officially unsolved. In 2016, Woodley got his, catching one to the head in 2016. 

The legacy of Big L 

There are a few things that dropped after his death, a record, The Big Picture came out back in 2000, thanks to a plethora of freestyles and a capella tracks they had in the studio from tracks the rapper was working at the time of his death. The record features verses by legends like Fat Joe, Tupac, Gang Starr, Kool G Rap, and Big Daddy Kane – the record when on to sell almost one hundred thousand copies.

If you're looking for some of that deep, old school hip hop that gets every party hot or is the perfect soundtrack for a long car ride on a summer day, look no further than Big L. he remains unsung despite the legends of the game knowing full well that he was one of a kind. He died for a street vendetta he had nothing to do with like many have before and since. We can only imagine where he would have fallen with the other New York giants many MC's of today are still chasing. 

Mar 9, 2020

New Blood: SXSW (?) Edition - The Totems


Editor’s note: Despite the cancellation of SXSW, many bands will still be playing Austin that week, including (it seems) The Totems.

By Robert Dean

Just in time for South by Southwest (if the gigantic media-driven clusterfuck of Coronavirus doesn’t shut it down), there are A LOT of fantastic acts playing this year. Karly Driftwood, Angela Pearly, Caleb Caudle, to name a few, will all be coming through Austin. [Another editor’s note - please check the bands’ social media accounts to see if they’ll still be playing] From rock to hip hop, country, to punk, this year’s shows are stacked. And you know what, if there are fewer people, that’s ok because that means all of us can get into stuff easier. 

One band that we’re excited about is Austin’s The Totems. Calling themselves “desert surf” The Totems are a hazy, dream-like rock and roll band that, given their two tracks on Spotify, their shows will be a blast. 


On “Gaslight” and “Dawn Patrol,” the songs have a little Lana Del Ray on acid vibes, which I sincerely appreciate. They’re tight, and the hooks are massive, which is what you want. Hopefully, there will be more songs recorded soon because if these two are any indication of the band’s potential, there’s a lot to like about The Totems. 

If you’re hitting SXSW, follow them on Instagram for show updates. They’ll definitely be a band to watch. You’ll see me at least one of their gigs for sure.


Mar 2, 2020

New Blood: Cave Flowers

By Robert Dean

Sometimes, Trailer will drop some stuff into the ole' inbox that's a winner and friends, we've got one of those tonight. We're gonna yap a little bit about Cave Flowers, a southern California band that's channeling some seriously trippy, Burrito Brothers meets New Riders of the Purple Sage vibes. Clearly, this doesn't suck. 

On their debut record, Cave Flowers delivers a collection of songs that roll right through, one after another with lazy, hazy ease. The songs have that distinct LA "canyon" vibe from back in the day, but it's not corny, which is incredible, because how many wack-ass bands from California fuck up the whole country music thing? (While still California, the Bakersfield sound ain't precisely Los Angeles and it's $7 PBRs in 2020.)

Cave Flowers manages to mix a little Tom Petty, Uncle Tupelo, and a lot of Neil Young vibes into a record that offers a lot of big sing-along moments, complete with well-crafted lyrics that aren't just a bunch of hollow bullshit filled with narrative troupes. Good on them for that, because anything about a lonesome boy in a big city at this point is played the fuck out. 


While still definitely rooted in country, there's a lot of rock and roll laced into the songs throughout the record. There's some fuzz, the drums actually are present, and you can tell a few moments when writing the record someone wanted to go full-on Pink Floyd but pulled it back for taste - there are some Gilmour riffs snuck in there. 

I could jerk off over all the usual stuff. But, let's cut the shit: if you're looking for some solid country-rock and roll to smoke a fat one to or to stick in your favorite bar's jukebox, you won't be bummed out about this, and with these kinds of vibes, all we want is good music to smoke to on a beautiful night because spring is around the corner. 

Feb 11, 2020

There's No Wonder Why Everyone Loves Durand Jones & the Indications

By Robert Dean

One of those sleeper groups you never saw coming is Durand Jones & the Indications. Out of nowhere, they’ve raged into the hearts and minds of anyone sweet on old soul, classic funky r&b and a whole lot of the doo-wop flair from the past. Mixing the soul of legendary singers like Sam & Dave, Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding, Durand Jones & the Indications are easy to fall in love with. 

Recently, during their sold-out performance at Austin’s Scoot Inn, the group showed why they’re packing rooms, selling out venues, and more and more people are tuning into the smooth sounds of these cats from Bloomington, Indiana of all places. 

For almost an hour and a half, the music swung, and the people in attendance were thrilled to be locked in with the band. Sometimes, when a band is firing on all cylinders, it’s dead-set apparent. On this night, they slayed in that melty, oozy kind of way only the truest musicians with that unctuous flair know how to do, when the riffs are grimy, when the groove is airtight, all of it worked, there was nothing left on the table. 

Given by how many couples slow danced arm in arm, while people sipped drinks off in the shadows, either missing someone or wishing someone missed them, it’s nearly impossible to say Durand Jones didn’t own a chilly night in the Texas capital. Despite the need for some jackets and a few folks wishing the weather was a little better, nothing stopped the night. 


The band raged on through a collection of their tunes, “Don’t You Know,” “Smile,” and “Cruisin to the Park,” while of course, they played their massive YouTube hit, “Is It Any Wonder?” to feral acclaim. If their Austin performance was a showcase of talent for the band, 2020 is going to be a year of letting a lot of new people know the band has arrived and no matter what genre you lean on, they’ll make a fan out of just about anyone loves a little tenderness.

Durand Jones and the Indications are on every streaming platform and of course, YouTube. Give them a listen and hit the shows. If you’re a vinyl nerd, they’ve got you covered in spades. Plus, they’ve got some super cool jackets, too. 

Jan 16, 2020

Possessed by Paul James is Back and Thankfully So




By Robert Dean

Do you remember those old ads for Miller beer where they used the old idiom, “pure as the driven snow?” The tagline was meant to offer a sense of balance, provability, that no matter what, this beer was something you could count on as a taste of humility, of home – no matter where you were. A lot of people bought those beers and toasted in dives or over campfires. If there was an artist who elicits that sensibility, that ode to “home” as a function of being rather than a tangible object, it’s Possessed by Paul James. 


For years now, it’s escaped me how Possessed by Paul James isn’t a household name. He’s one of those artists who does what the Avett Brothers or even The Devil Makes Three does, but with a sense of darkness that’s palpable, infectious, but always feel believable, feels true. 

Back in 2013, his record, There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely, scored major critical points gaining praise from outlets like NPR, The New York Times, CMT, and MTV, it even reached the Billboards.

On his new record, As We Go Wandering, PBPJ doesn’t stray from the path, it’s his classic sound complete with odes to moving forward through the fires of our personal lives, but also how to be a better human despite it all. With his day gig being a Special Education teacher, Konrad Wert, as he’s known in professional circles, is a champion for justice in education, and it’s no question these batch of songs reflect that quality. There are moments of hope, despair, and longing to see humanity through a lens that isn’t hateful or ugly, which is something we can all arm ourselves within 2020 and moving forward. If Possessed by Paul James is a symbol of the positivity that could linger through the ether this year, let’s get behind him, the record, and that feeling. God knows we need it more than ever. 

As We Go Wandering will be available wherever the good stuff is found on January 31.

Nov 27, 2019

New Blood: Ariel Abshire


By Robert Dean

If you’ve been searching for some dark pop that hovers in that dreamy Mazzy Star meets Lana Del Ray territory, then Ariel Abshire’s Queen of The Boy’s Club might be the record you’ve been searching the clouds for. 

Queen of The Boys Club is a pop-heavy record, but it also leans on some 1980’s Berlin vibes, too. Layers are happening here that are a little different from what we’d typically cover, but the quality is definitely there. On Abshire’s previous work, UnresolvedStill So New, you can hear the arc of her musical growth. Despite some of the more poppier sounding songs, it’s obvious as all get out that this woman has a set of pipes on her.


What drives the record, and honestly, all of Abshire’s previous work is the luminescence of her voice, with its astonishing clarity and power. When you hear her sing, you can tell there’s something trapped inside, that listening to the span of all of her records, there’s a depth that’s very much a work in progress. Finding that next level, peeling back the onion could be the thing that sets Abshire apart from the crowded field of talented singers down here in Austin, Texas.

Queen of The Boy’s Club is a table setting record. It’s easily Abshire’s most substantial effort, but it also makes you wonder what would happen if she leaned in harder on the Mazzy Star vibes but went deeper by going full-on Portishead or Massive Attack. With her ability to hover in ethereal space, it would be interesting to see her collaborate with musicians around Austin who could elevate her, but also challenge her, too. Seeing her dip a toe into the world of trip-hop would be a fantastic step forward and into the unknown. 

Queen of The Boy’s Club is streaming on Spotify. 



Nov 6, 2019

Don't Sleep on Bloodshot Records in 2020 (and 2019)




By Robert Dean

Bloodshot Records is dropping some cool records over the next month or two. They've been digging in their vaults and finding putting together some exciting collections and new releases definitely worth checking out. 

Wayne Hancock is just too good. Channeling the best of the honky-tonk swing of years past, "The Train" is back with a collection of tracks from early Bloodshot Records releases. On Man of the Road: The Early Bloodshot Years, the label has to curated a solid batch of Hancock's best bar room bangers, the kinds of songs people swing on the dance floor's all night long.

The collection is the first time any of these songs - recorded initially and released with Bloodshot Records on albums from the last two decades - have appeared on vinyl (including the classic "Thunderstorms & Neon Signs"): A-Town Blues (2001), South Austin Sessions EP (2001), Swing Time (2003), Hard Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson (2004), Tulsa (2006), and Viper of Melody (2009).

Scott H. Biram, everyone's favorite dirty old man weirdo, has a new gospel-inspired record, Sold Out to the Devil: A Collection of Gospel Cuts by the Rev. Scott H. Biram and it's everything you expect from Austin's favorite damaged son. 

The songs are a ramshackle collection of songs about God, religion, and spirituality with Biram's signature booze-soaked delivery. The album also includes a previously unreleased cover of the Louvin Brothers' "Broadminded." The record is predictably low-fi but an excellent collection of songs that get the blood moving and the drinks flowing. 

And finally, if you're looking for some ultra-dark bummers, get Jason Hawk Harris' Love & the Dark on the radar. It's definitely got the big country hooks, but the depth of the lyrics Harris has is oceanic. There are some demons on this record that permeate the songs to their core. Like Jason Isbell, it's apparently by the end of the opening track, "The Smoke and The Stars," Harris has seen some shit. If you're looking for some sad anthems, this is the next stop on the bus. 


Nov 4, 2019

No Sleep Roundup: RATM, Cody Jinks, Lucero, Stevie Wonder




Hello friends, 

It’s me, your pal Robert Dean. I’ve been MIA lately because of some pretty big life changes, making a television show is stressful, and I’ve been trying to finish my new book all while keeping my shit together. So, forgive my absence. 

That aside, let’s do the dance. 

My Chemical Romance are coming back. Nerds who used to wear women’s jeans in 2003 are fucking stoked. Hopefully, they write new music that’s more “Three Cheers for The Black Parade” and less of whatever the whack Queen shit was. 

Rage Against The Machine are finally playing some shows. Thank god Zach has agreed to come out of hiding. I only wrote about this very thing like, three years ago or whatever. They’d better play Calm Like a Bomb or I’m going to be pissed. (Yes, I’m flying to one of the shows because I’m a fanboy.)

RANDOM THOUGHT: Go buy Joshua Hedley’s record, Mr. Jukebox. It’s a fucking crime people slept on that dude. He should be household name for dudes who wear embroidered shirts unironically. Easily one the best country records of the last five years and people don’t know it. 


Sturgill and Tyler are going on tour together. That’s going to be a massive deal. They’re playing the United Center in Chicago. For context, that’s where Paul McCartney plays when he comes to town. All this for a guy who wrote a song about turtles while on acid. Shit is wild. 

Clark County, NV declared November 1st ‘Five Finger Death Punch Day’ and yes, that dude still has a beard of dreadlocks. 

Evan Felker apparently recorded a tune with Carrie Rodriguez before Turnpike Troubadours went on stupid hiatus. Look, man. The song was fine. It sounds like Shovels and Rope. But for fucks sake, get sober, go to church, whatever. Get Turnpike Troubadours back on track. 


Cody Jinks dropped a pair of records….and they both went to number 1. In the words of the mighty Jack Nicholson, “watch out. Big balls comin’ through.”

Need a random album suggestion? Go back and listen to the first Stevie Wonder record. When he was a kid. That shit will blow your mind. “I was made to love her” is my jam. 

Recently, Lucero made a bunch of the Among the Ghosts demos available for streaming. You know our nerd asses were all about that. Collectively between Trailer and I, we’ve probably seen Lucero over 30 times. 

Sep 26, 2019

The Melancholy Sounds of Chris King and The Darkness 

By Robert Dean

There’s “Texas Country,” and then there’s Texas Country. The Lone Star State pumps out an impressive number of bands and artists, that absolutely change the game, but there’s a lot of stuff that sucks beyond words, too. We’ve got the red dirt and the outlaw thing down to a science, but ho-lee-shit, the pop stuff people try to pass off as legit ain’t exactly what someone would call a “good time.” Texas is a prominent place in the country music lore. There are a lot of conflicting ideas of what the state should sound like - we’re overrun with dorks in an oversized dress shirt and a bad cowboy hat try to get people excited about tailgating in a field. Because we’ve not heard that scenario in song form over a bazillion time. 

Thankfully, we’ve got a healthy center of gravity with acts like Scott H. Biram, Dale Watson, Black Eyed Vermillion, and Chris King holding it down.

On Chris King’s new record, Lone Rats, the central Texas singer-songwriter taps into some of the tried and true Texas themes while keeping far away from the tired bullshit. The songs are stripped down, honest, flawed, and raw – precisely what one should expect from a solo singer-songwriter. These songs tackle those issues we think about lying in bed, wondering where we fucked up, how it all went wrong, and in those fantastic, and rare cases, what we did to make it go right. 


Lone Rats is all over the place, it’s got some uplifting tunes about flowers, and it dwells a little long in the darkness, it’s a lot of colors, but that’s what makes this collection fun. King recorded it in the back of the furniture shop he works at with a bunch of other musicians in the middle of the night, in the dark. Which is a fitting vibe for the sound of the songs. King also played all of the instruments on the record, which also gives it an interesting flair. 

If you’re in the mood to experiment, check this collection of jangly Texas tunes. Give Chris King a listen or at least talk shit to him on Twitter about college football. Whatever road you take, get him on your radar. There might be a little mud on the tracks, but they ain’t some high-dollar Nashville bullshit. 


Lone Rats is out October 4.

Aug 22, 2019

New Blood: Los Angeles’ ASHRR

By Robert Dean

If there's one genre of music that can go either terribly wrong or perfectly right it's the 1980's goth-inspired new wave some bands are traipsing into lately. Lately, it feels like if you're in rock and roll, you're Sabbath inspired, and if you're playing anything with synths, it's gotta be dancy and Bowie. Most of the time, in both cases, the bands who are trying really hard to pull this off can't, and it's transparent. 

Los Angeles' ASHRR, on the other hand quietly dropped their debut record, Oscillator, and let me be perfectly clear, you need this record. A little boozy, velvety and dark, ASHRR has given us an exceptional debut that moves in waves, it dances in the realm of Depeche Mode, The Cure, Talking Heads, Radiohead, and yes, some David Bowie. 

There's a textured nuance throughout the record, everything feels like it should: like a blackout drunk night in a smoky club where people are doing coke and fucking in the bathroom. When I hear music that's dark and moody, I want to know people have banged to it and ASHRR delivers. 

The record's opener, "Waiting for Silence" is the best track on the album; it feels straight off the soundtrack to American Psycho or a roving scene of kids being terrible in Less Than Zero, it's a musical Brett Easton Ellis moment. "Made up Your Mind" definitely has musical nods to Radiohead's "Hail To The Thief" era, while still keeping the identity of being slinky and ultimately dancey. 


"Paper Glass" feels straight off the end credits of an 80s flick like Weird Science or a car whipping through the Hollywood hills as someone has had a long night fighting with someone they love. Teary eyes, broken spirit, mad driving, killer tune. You know what I'm saying. 

As a child of the 1980's, ASHRR calls back to a time when I remember seeing all of the aforementioned bands played on MTV, seeing the mall culture of America open up to girls in black dresses, with their long Madonna gloves while guys fell down the rabbit hole of Robert Smith or Echo and The Bunnymen. That authenticity sets Oscillator apart from the pack because the dudes in ASHRR are scene vets, all of them have been playing music for well over two decades, they've been through the meat grinder of the "trying to make it."

You can hear the honesty in the music because it wasn't crafted to get people to notice them or to get chicks, it was happenstance. These guys are all studio musicians who worked on a recording together and figured out the magic potion was there, just some dumb luck.

 And through that unexpected musical bond, there's something there that can't be packaged by some dude in a heroin chic white suit, ASHRR is real, it's identifiable, but it's also very, very good. Goth clubs, 80's nights, local dives, everywhere the synths pump hard, they should add this record to their playlists, Patrick Bateman demands it. 

Get out and buy a record. You can order one directly from the band on their Bandcamp. Streaming is cool, but let's start putting money in these folks pockets, too. 



Aug 21, 2019

Black Pumas Are The Next Great Import From Austin, Texas

By Robert Dean

Ask anyone in Austin who the best band in town right now is, and you’re likely to get the same answer each and every time: Black Pumas. 

While there’s no disrespect to the plethora of bands who are amazing in Texas’ capital city, what Black Pumas are doing is taking the state, and the world by the throat and demanding that we all pay close attention to them. And you know what? Those red marks are ok. 

Comprised of singer Eric Burton along with guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada, who also happens to be the man behind the Grammy-winning Grupo Fantasma, Brownout and the Black Sabbath worship act Brown Sabbath, the Black Pumas haven’t just dropped a new record that people can’t get enough of, the band is suddenly finding themselves in some strange, new places, too, namely at the top of plenty of tastemakers lists across the country. 

On their ATO Records self-titled debut, The Black Pumas aren’t just that little band from Austin any longer, but instead are now labelmates with groups like the Alabama Shakes, Old 97’s, and Lucero. 

The songs are dirty, funky and bluesy with a deep Texas groove that shares the same DNA with Gary Clark Jr, Leon Bridges, The Suffers, acts which cross barriers by not only race but sound, style, and pure fury. 

While singer Eric Burton isn’t a Texan, he was a California beach bum playing for change on the boardwalks, but once he got to Austin, dove into the scene, he’d realized he’d found a home in Texas’ capital city. When he hooked up with Quesada, everything changed. And now, thanks to their partnership we’ve got the Black Pumas. 


The record is lush, it’s old school. There’s some Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett, Al Green, Otis Redding, the soul of Black Pumas is on full display. If there’s any band you need to get on your radar, it’s these guys. There’s an unaffected cool about the songs, the vibe of the group, that despite their present-day existence, that they should be played on 45 in a jukebox in bars around the world. 

“Colors,” “Black Moon Rising,” and “Fire” all are slinky, night time tunes for rooms with low light, they’re moody, brooding and precisely what you want to put on over a Jameson neat or a glass of Merlot. Whatever your poison, the Black Pumas are the next big band out of Austin since Gary Clark. Believe that. 

Aug 20, 2019

Penguins with Knives Have Come For Your Daughter, Chuck

By Robert Dean

Penguins with Knives is a goofy name for a band. But you know what's not goofy? The jams these dudes from New Orleans crank out.  The band's debut record Those People Are Dead, PWK is a subtle mix of bands like DOWN, Acid Bath, ZZ Top, and a little Memphis soul all wrapped in a filthy, dirty gas rag. 

There's some experimentation going on throughout the record, but the identity of the music never waivers off into unfocused territory. Instead, what PWK do is level an attack that's balanced and heavy, but also palatable thanks to how the vocals are phrased. Despite being four guys used to hammering back some whiskey shots with plenty of Pabst Blue Ribbon chasers, the sounds on the record are a solid batch that offers a lot of promise. The New Orleans spirit comes through via the sonic grooves stitched throughout the album, giving frontman Benjamin Deffendal plenty of chances to capture his moods across the songs showcased. 

"Pickpockets and Loose Women" is a New Orleans sludge banger with all of the requisite head-bobbing riffs one needs while keeping their beer close. The smoke-infused intro with its wailing feedback is straight from the Eyehategod playbook, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. "Tale of The Wandering Witch" is distorted, nasty and heavy but keeps the groove at the center of the song, always keeping its foot on the gas.  


Trying to stand out in a town like New Orleans is hard. When you do breakout, you become canon immediately, it's just how serious people take the metal that comes from the Crescent City; it's dirty, it's flawed and always fucked up, but it's also delicious. Penguins with Knives is no expectation. If they continue to make more music, this is an excellent starting point, it can only get weirder, darker and sludgier from here. And you know, what? The world needs more bands that make you want to hoist your drink while making the nasty doo-doo face while you silently whisper to yourself, "fuck yeah, that's sick." 

Check out Penguins with Knives on Bandcamp today. Don't be a cheapass, buy the record. They put some elbow grease into it. 

Jul 25, 2019

Rock & Roll Book Review / Drew Fortune / No Encore

Who Doesn’t Love Rock and Roll Stories? I know I do.

By Robert Dean

Who doesn't love rock and roll stories? Now that our world has been scrubbed of fun thanks to everyone being mad at everything, every five minutes, it's refreshing to read about the world of music. From Van Halen's brown M&M's to David Bowie's time living in Berlin, who doesn't love this stuff? 

In Drew Fortune's new book, No Encore, Fortune rounded up an all-star cast of miscreants and got them to tell their most insane stories both good and bad, or at least the ones they were willing to get on the record. (Some things you just can't print – think of the children!)

There are blackouts, fistfights, a lot of drug abuse, and GG Allin smearing crap all over himself. Surprisingly, a lot of bad shows happen in San Francisco, must be the ghost of the city before the tech bro's ruined striking back for something cosmic. 

Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr/Sebadoh tells the story of his wicked addiction to speed, along with his first time tasting it – just before their much-hyped set at the Reading Festival. Barlow doesn't spare details explaining  Courtney Love screaming at him for fucking up in front of so many people, drugged out of his mind, while she too, was drugged out of her mind. Lots of heroin in these pages. Lots of it. 

Drew Fortune
However Fortune got these folks to open up, he did a bang-up job. The stories are vivid and wildly entertaining for anyone who's fascinated with the culture of music. People assume once you've got a record out you've got it made, the cash rolls in and everything is cool. Nothing could be further from the truth, because for just about every working band, they make their lives on the road. And for every killer show, there's always a clunker waiting to rear its head, reminding even the best of us that we're human. 

Apparently, Dave Navarro used to play in rock and roll bands before becoming famous for being a shirtless guy with nipple piercings who judges tattoo shows. Some band called Jane's Addiction was playing a radio festival in LA at the height of Fiona Apple's celebrity and considering Navarro was a full-blown junkie at the time, he shot up and then wrote he loved her on the wall in his blood. Fiona Apple and her people were not amused by his ode of respect and adoration. Even weirder, Navarro had a habit of doing this to a lot of people and would shoot up in his friend's homes and spray blood on the walls. This even grossed out Marilyn Manson. Navarro's TV wife Carmen Electra was into it and thought the heart he made for her was touching, and that's why we got a gross reality show out of the deal.

If you're into Ween, Dean Ween tells the hilarious story about the time they played a college – with Busta Rhymes and hardly anyone showed up to see Ween. Shirley Manson shares her story about being at the height of the Garbage's fame, but still managing to get booked at a picnic in Germany to a massive crowd of 30 families enjoying a quiet meal. 

From Debbie Gibson to Taleb Kwali to Alice Cooper, they're all in here. If you want another hardcore heroin story, Al Jorgenson from Ministry has got you covered. And this was when Ministry was "Ministry" the 1994 dark as fuck Ministry that was riding high of Psalm 69. 

Sean Yseult from White Zombie shares her experiences with Dimebag Darrell and Pantera, while also talking about her time in White Zombie. At a show with 10,000 people, Dimebag and the Pantera roadies apparently poured ten dollars-worth of pennies down her boots. Sadly, we don't see a lot of Sean these days, she was always a force of metal. While on the subject of White Zombie, The Melvins Buzz Osbourne absolutely shits on Rob Zombie, talking about much he sucks. Osbourne doesn't save any love for the powers that be running Ozzfest, either. The Melvins were booked on Ozzfest 1998 as a contract requirement to land Tool, and all through the tour, the Melvins were miserable. (I know because I was there at Alpine Valley and the Melvins played one slow, one-note song for their entire set.) He didn't blame Ozzy for how his band was treated, though. "do I hate Ozzy or Sabbath? Absolutely not! He's got bigger things to worry about like what's two plus two than worrying about us." If you want some pure Buzz Osbourne fury, it's right there and mean.

Foster the People talk about fingers in butts, David Yow explains his habit of getting naked at Jesus Lizard shows, and who knew some of the guys in Slipknot were into Third Eye Blind?

One of the best stories in the book comes from Brent Smith, the singer of Shinedown. Smith talks about their time opening for Van Halen and the time Eddie Van Halen pissed all over a deli tray. 


Drew Fortune put together a fun book that's a perfect addition to any rock and roll nerd collection. There are plenty of moments of cringe, but there's a lot of heart and hilarity there, too. He did talk to Insane Clown Posse, but you're going to have to buy the book for that story because come on, you know it's wild. Have you ever seen footage of one of their shows? 

No Encore is available everywhere you buy or download books.

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