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Sunday, July 13, 2014

John Carlucci Talks About The First Time He Saw The Ramones

With the passing of Tommy Ramone this weekend the social networks have come to life with photos and stories and fascinating tributes. (Not just about Tommy, but the Ramones in general.) It is especially cool to read stories from those who were in NYC during the '70s and actually caught a glimpse of punk history from the bar room floor. John Carlucci of The Speedies fame (also played bass with the Fuzztones for a stint) had a unique perspective on the NY underground scene - that of a highly impressionable teenager.

John Carlucci onstage w/ The Speedies
at The Rat in Boston, circa 1979
The following was posted on his Facebook page, and with his permission, I am sharing it with you.

My First Ramones Show

 I've been wanting to sit down and write this story for quite some time now. I did a few blogs in the My space days, but life got in the way and I never had the time. Hearing that Tommy Ramone passed away yesterday brought back some memories. So I thought I would share...I was inspired by some of the blogs & postings  I have seen today from others, Andy Schwartz, Chris Morris, Richard Manitoba & Binky Phillips to name a few.

 I grew up in Queens NY. I lived in Elmhurst, worked in Jackson Heights, & hung out a lot in Corona. I went to Newtown High School, and graduated in 1975. This was the same High School that Syl Sylvain, Arthur Kane & Johnny Thunders from the NY Dolls attended. It was also the High School Gene Simmons of Kiss attended. I knew I was musically inclined from the age of 6, but it was not until I was 14 that I purchased my first bass guitar. I saved the money I made delivering pizza after school, and purchased a 1969 Fender Jazz bass through a friend. The bass came from We- Buy Guitars on 48th Street & the person my friend got it from was Fred Smith,  who would become the bass player in Television. (At the time, he played with Blondie)

 Like most teenagers in the 1970's, I  listened to The Who, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Mott The Hoople, Bowie, Slade etc. I played in bands, but for the most part, we jammed in basements & garages around the neighborhood. 

 Then I discovered the NY Dolls in Rock Scene Magazine. I saw an ad in the Village Voice that they would be playing a small club on Queens Blvd called "The Coventry", so along with my two High School buddies, Joe Katz & Bill Muller. we hopped on the #7 train and went to the show, The drinking age in 1973-74 was 18. We were 16, but no-one cared & we were in. That night, I discovered a whole new world. A world where the bands on stage & the audience were the same. There was no barrier as I had experienced in typical Rock Concerts at large venues. Here the bands mingled with the crowd, and it was as if we were all in this together. The electricity in that room was something I never felt before.  In my gut, I knew I was witnessing something special. There was another band on the bill that night that I discovered for the first time, they called themselves, "The Dictators" They were brilliant.  I liked this new world. I wanted to explore it more.

RIP Tommy Ramone 
 As the weeks went on, I kept my eyes on the Village Voice ads to see who was playing the Coventry. I went a few times and had a few hits, but more misses, nothing as inspiring as the Dolls/ Dictators show I had seen previously. Then one day, we saw that the NY Dolls were playing the Coventry again. (Or so we thought) and we decided to go. When we got there, we realized it was not the Dolls after all, but a new band by "X NY Dolls members, Johnny Thunders & Jerry Nolan". They were a trio billing themselves as "The Heartbreakers". The third member was Richard Hell on bass.  He had just left Television, to be replaced by Fred Smith. Johnny & Jerry still had long hair.

 The opening act that night, were called "The Ramones". They all wore leather jackets, played cheap pawn shop guitars, and played really really loud. So loud, that it was impossible to hear the singer.  There were maybe 20 people in the crowd.They were nervous. They argued onstage, yet they kept playing at breakneck speed, what seemed to be the same 3 chords over & over for twenty minutes. The muted vocals, along with the 1-2-3-4 counts were barely audible, so I thought they played one 20 minute song. Then they unstrapped their guitars and bass & let them drop to the floor. The singer threw down his microphone and just like that, they were gone. This was 1974, before they had released any records. They were so weird, that we decided we had to see this again. A few weeks later, I noticed an ad in the Village Voice for a club called C.B.G.B's. The Ramones were listed for the following weekend, so we went. The PA at C.B.G.B's was much better than the one at the Coventry. I now realized that they actually played 14 two minute songs not the one 20 minute song I thought I had heard at " The Coventry". Plus, I could now hear the singer, & the lyrics were brilliant.  From that moment on, I was hooked. I went to these clubs every weekend. I finally got up the nerve to test the waters and see if I too could play on this club circuit.  Had I not seen The Ramones, Dolls & Dictators, & absorbed their DIY ( Do It Yourself) spirit, I doubt I would ever have gotten the nerve to get onstage myself.  Now I never made a million dollars playing in music, but I did land a major label record deal (on RCA), & I toured the world in bands. Music has taken me to many places. I have met many friends, even my own wife, through Music. Without the inspiration of bands like The Ramones, Blondie, The Dictators & the NY Dolls, I might never have gotten out of the old neighborhood.

John Carlucci as he appears today

John Carlucci grew up in Queens, New York and currently lives in Los Angeles. He has recorded or performed with Sylvain Sylvain, Clem Burke & Frankie Infante, Ian Astbury, Lemmy, Dave Vanian, The Ghastly Ones, The Beat Killers, The Hexxers, Rik L Rik, Deke Dickerson, The Sprauge Bros. Dawn Shipley, Truly Lover Trio, Nikki Corvette, The Odd Squad, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang & The Mighty Manfred.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Night That Will Live In Infamy: Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park

"Pop music, disco music and heavy metal music is about shutting out the tensions of life, putting it away." - Peter Tork

"Around '75 when the recession hit, club owners started going to disco because it was cheaper for them to just buy a sound system than it was to hire a band." - Tommy Shaw

"I feel the same way about disco as I do about herpes." - Hunter S. Thompson

Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, 1979
Photo by Diane Alexander White (Permission pending.)

1979 wasn't a very good year for the Chicago White Sox. The team would eventually finish with a 73-87 record, which was only good enough for 5th place in the American League West. The team had a lackluster season without many highlights.

To get an idea of how things were going, the Sox sent one player to the All-Star game in 1979, as an obligatory gesture required by Major League Baseball. Chet Lemon came to the plate twice in that game and in one at bat he struck out; the other he was hit by a pitch. It was a pretty good metaphor for the way things were going that summer on the south side of Chicago.

Mike Veeck, son of White Sox owner Bill Veeck was the promotions director for the team. His father was known for hosting wild promotions over the years and even once said, "You can draw more people with a losing team plus bread and circuses than with a winning team and a long, still silence." He couldn't have had any idea how that remark would foreshadow one of the craziest moments in MLB history. 

His guerrilla promotion style was emulated by his son Mike who had made a guarantee to fans that year in spring training that no matter how the White Sox played on the field, the fans would have fun at the ball park. He couldn't have envisioned the circus that was coming on July 12.

A post Disco Demolition Night Mike Veeck in his office. 

It was Mike who came up with the idea of staging Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park. The idea was, in accordance with a local radio station, that in between games of a double header they would blow up a giant pile of disco records in center field. It seemed like a harmless enough idea at the surface. What could go wrong? The White Sox were only drawing about 10,000-15,000 people a game during the first half of the season, and with the anti-disco movement making waves across the nation, it seemed like a good way to get a few more bodies into the ballpark.

Meanwhile, Steve Dahl was a radio DJ at 97.9 WLUP-FM. He had been fired from his previous radio spot at WDAI on Christmas Eve the year before when that station changed it's format from rock to disco. His hatred for disco became his rally cry at the new station and he often mocked his former employer on air, referring to their "Disco-DAI slogan as Disco Die.

He and his co-host Gary Meier organized a mock organization called the Insane Coho Lips, an anti-disco fraternity that used the "Disco sucks!" moniker as it's anthem. The Insane Coho Lips were mostly listeners of his radio show and they numbered in the thousands. Dahl would organize anti- disco events and the Cohos would show up in droves.

When a discotheque in Indiana switched from the disco format to rock in June of 1979, Steve Dahl and his followers were there. They showed up by the hundreds and the police were called to keep the peace. Later on, he and his followers attended a teen disco in the Chicago suburbs. Again, the cops were called. Then, a few days after that, he urged his listeners to throw marshmallows at a WDAI van that was parked at a shopping mall where a teen disco had been built. Again, hundreds showed up and they chased the van out of the parking lot eventually cornering it in a nearby park. Police were called and the incident ended without violence. A week or so after that, hundreds of Cohos were denied access to a promotional event in Hanover Park, Illinois and several fights broke out. Over 50 police officers were called in to straighten out the mess. It seemed that no matter what the event was, if the Cohos were called in, chaos ensued.

Naturally, Mike Veeck figured Dahl and his anti-disco campaign to be the perfect liaison to the event he had planned. And of course Dahl was on board with the idea. What better way to put an exclamation point on his Disco Sucks campaign than by blowing up several "hundred" disco records in a stadium? To make the promotion even more alluring, Mike Veeck announced that tickets to the doubleheader that day would be a mere 98 cents, a reference to where WLUP-FM was on the radio dial.

Steve Dahl in the late '70s

Veeck had hoped that this promotion would draw 20,000 people, about 5000 more than the usual crowd. In the weeks prior to the event, Dahl had invited his listeners to bring disco records they wanted to see be destroyed to the radio station. He was worried that the promotion would fail to draw a crowd, and this was an attempt to get a handle on the number of people who might be attending. Veeck hired enough security for 35,000 people, expecting that to be more than enough to manage the crowd. His father Bill Veeck, worried that the promotion might be a disaster, checked himself out of a hospital where he was undergoing routine tests. His fears were substantiated when he saw thousands of fans approaching the ballpark, many of them holding signs that used profane language.

Dahl's worries about attendance turned out to be fruitless. Not only did the 44,500 seat stadium sell out, but an additional 20,000 people remained outside, most determined to get in. 

Some were content to stay there, but the majority became angry and began to crash the gate. People were running through turnstiles, climbing over fences and darting past security. The official attendance inside was announced at 47,795, but nearly everyone who was there estimated it to be closer to 60,000. The seating areas were overflowing. People filled the stairwells and the entire concourse was packed with fans trying to make it into the stands. The crowd was so enormous that the police had closed down the off-ramps extending from the Dan Ryan Expressway. It was by far the largest crowd during Bill Veeck's ownership of the team.

As fans walked in, they were instructed to deposit their records into a giant box that was provided near the entrance to the stadium. The boxes filled up quickly, and because of the overflow, many fans took their albums to their seats with them. Meanwhile, a very popular young model named Lorelei who had made some public appearances for WLUP that summer, threw out the first pitch. As the game got underway, Mike Veeck received word that people were crashing the gates and attempting to enter the stadium. He sent extra security personnel  to deal with the situation, which left the field unattended. Fans began to throw record albums and singles frisbee style, and much to the horror of the players on the field, flying vinyl came sailing in from all angles.

Tiger outfielder Rusty Staub remembered record albums slicing through the air and sticking into the ground upon landing. He encouraged his teammates to wear batting helmets while playing their positions on the field. "It wasn't just one, it was many," he said. "Oh god almighty, I've never seen anything so dangerous in all my life."

Attendees also threw empty liquor bottles onto the field and shot bottle rockets at the players. Play was stopped several times due to the constant barrage of foreign objects being thrown. Hand made banners were hung from the stadium's upper decks that read DISCO SUCKS! and other phrases that weren't as "friendly."

Harry Caray commented ont he number of non baseball fans in attendance.
Photo by Diane Alexander White (Permission pending)

White Sox broadcaster Harry Caray commented on the number of non-baseball fans that seemed to be in attendance. Mike Veeck later mentioned that the odor of marijuana was strong, and it even seeped up into the press box, were Harry Caray and his partner Jimmy Piersall talked about it live on the air. The gathering outside was also throwing records and burning them in small bonfires in the parking lot. The circus had come to town, but despite the constant pandemonium, all nine innings were played. The Tigers won the first game 4-1.

After game one ended there was a 20 minute break. Then, Dahl, Meier and Lorelei walked out onto the field. They immediately boarded a jeep and took a "victory lap" around the stadium. The fans showered them ("lovingly," according to Dahl) with firecrackers and beer. After getting the crowd whipped into an anti-disco frenzy, the three walked out to center field where the vinyl-filled box awaited them. The box had been equipped with explosives, and leading up to the moment of detonation, Dahl fired up crowd even further with a chant of Disco Sucks!. 

White Sox pitcher Ken Kravec had already taken the mound, warming up for his scheduled start. Aside from the catcher, other White Sox players remained in the dugout wearing batting helmets for protection. Lorelei recalled later that the scene from Center Field was surreal. Firecrackers, bottles and record albums continued to fly out of the stands onto the playing surface. Some people, fearing the worst, tried to leave. Unfortunately this was almost an impossible task, because of the would-be gate crashers. Security had padlocked every entryway at Comiskey Park except for one.

Photo by Diane Alexander White (Permission pending) 

According to the Chicago Reader, Dahl reportedly told the crowd, "This is now officially the world's largest anti-disco rally! Now listen... We took all the disco records you brought tonight, we got 'em in a giant box and we're gonna blow 'em up REEEEEEEEAL GOOOOOOOD!"

At that, Dahl set off the explosion, destroying the records and leaving a giant hole in the spot where the box had been placed. With most of security personnel still guarding the entrances to the stadium, it became very easy for fans to run out onto the field, which thousands did. 

As the first wave of troops emerged from the stands, Ken Kravec and his catcher ran back to the dugout and barricaded themselves with the rest of the team inside the clubhouse. In total, it's estimated that about 6000 people took to the field. Fans were climbing the foul ball poles and pulling up grass. Some made piles with the remaining record albums and set them on fire. The equipment that was remaining in the dugouts was taken, and the bases were dug up and stolen. The batting cage was destroyed.

Meanwhile people were still chanting Disco Sucks!, even as Bill Veeck stood at the area where home plate had been and with a microphone begging the crowd to go back to their seats. A huge bonfire raged in center field. Harry Caray also attempted to restore order by addressing the crowd through the public address system. PLEASE RETURN TO YOUR SEATS flashed on the center field scoreboard. 

Strangely, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was playing through the stadium speakers. People sang along and were dancing around the shards of vinyl that were burning on the outfield grass.

Photograph by Diane Alexander White (Permission pending)

After what must have seemed like forever (it was about a half hour after the explosion), Chicago police in full riot gear arrived on the scene. Those on the field immediately began to disperse but before order was restored, 39 people were arrested for disorderly conduct. It's been estimated that over 30 people left Comiskey Park that day with injuries.

Despite the gutted dugouts, the stolen bases and the damage on the field, Bill Veeck wanted desperately to play the second game. After order was restored the grounds crew spent almost an hour cleaning up the mess that had been left behind on the field. Eventually umpire crew chief Dave Phillips declared that the field was so badly damaged that it was unplayable.  After making a call to American League president Lee McPhail, it was decided that the game would be played on the following Sunday. 

This enraged Detroit manager Sparky Anderson who claimed that the White Sox were responsible for the field's condition. He argued that only an act of god could postpone a game, and that clearly wasn't the case here. The next day, McPhail forfeited the game to the Tigers 9-0. He claimed that the White Sox hadn't lived up to their expectation of keeping the field in good playing condition.

Later Sparky Anderson said this about the crowd: "Beer and baseball go together. They always have. But I think those kids were doing things other than beer." Mike Veeck noted that as soon as he saw that first person shimmy down the outfield wall, he thought, 'My life is over!' Rich Wortham, a White Sox pitcher from Texas stated, "This wouldn't have happened if they had country and western night."

The next morning Steve Dahl began his show by reading the indelicate headlines from the local newspapers. He feigned ridicule at the outrage saying, "For the most part, I think everything was wonderful. Some maniac Cohos got wild, went down on the field. Which you shouldn't have done. Bad little Cohos..."

That 2nd game forfeiture remains the last time a game was forfeited in the American league. (In 1995 a National League game at Dodger Stadium was forfeited due to a baseball promotion that went awry.) Baseball analyst Jeremiah Graves said, "To this day Disco Demolition Night stands in infamy as one of the most ill-advised promotions of all-time, but arguably one of the most successful, as 30 years later we're still talking about it."

Let's make that 35 years... 

Monday, July 7, 2014

CRUEL SHOW ALERT! Inaugural BIgfoot Ball to be Held at Briar Patch Sept. 20Th

Fire dancers, stilt walkers, hoopers, costumed denizens, jugglers and freaks!

The Briar Patch will open it's gates for the season a bit later than normal this year. On September 20 the Briar Patch will host the Inaugural Bigfoot Ball which will feature four bands including headliners The Rumpke Mountain Boys

This bluegrass band from Cincinnati is legendary in the festival circles for their all-night campground jams and their intense stage performance. They cover everything from Primus to Dylan, to the Grateful Dead to Ween. They've played obscure songs by Pink Floyd and Tom Waits. Not to be outdone by their rock and roll forefathers, The Rumpke Mountain Boys are quite affluent at writing their own material as well. Obviously they draw from a wide spectrum of influences to add to their creativity.  

In 2009 Jason Wolfe told, "We started out like most string bands, trying to learn many varieties of music, traditional, bluegrass, folk, blues and gospel. We had a completely different line-up back then. As the band members changed and grew so did our musical tastes and influences as well as our ideals on performing live. So we made the transition from traditional bluegrass festivals to smokey bars and more diverse venues and music festivals."

Poster design: Jason Boten (Thank you!)

Joining the Rumpke Mountain Boys in this genre-bending festival are King of the Tramps, The Maw and Johnny Reeferseed and the High Rollers. Each one of these bands personifies a unique musical experience that will take you to the top of the mountain, and by top of the mountain, we're talking about that space between Aurora Borealis and the Ursa Major. 

King of the Tramps have created and  mastered one of the more unique styles in the Midwest. Toss the Black Crows, the Band, and the Rolling Stones into a kaleidoscope and give it a twist and what you will get is a funky vision of who King of the Tramps are. It's original and bright, rolled with ever-changing glimpses of psychedelia. Todd Partridge has been reincarnated as a hobo and he sings his songs with such conviction that one might think his shtick is authentic. Hell maybe it is authentic. Nothing is what it seems when King of the Tramps are onstage... especially when the kaleidoscope begins to turn.

The Maw are well... The Maw. If you are unaware of this band, then it's possible that you do not know anybody in the local music scene. And if you do know somebody in the local music scene, ask them about The Maw. They will likely tell you that this band is a must-see and that it will probably change your life for having done so. At the very least it will change the way you think about the Des Moines music scene. This band isn't messing around. Clearly aware of the cosmic weirdness they convey, they draw you in like a spider sitting deep inside his web, and just when you think you have a grip of what's about to happen, they unleash their fury on you. It'll be interesting to see this band in their element at the Briar Patch.

Johnny Reeferseed and the High Rollers have established themselves as the Des Moines' favorite party band.As three time Marijuana Music Award Winners, they have been lighting up stages across the midwest since 2006. They have been featured in the pages of High Times magazine, and when they recorded their funky classic "Light Em Up" they did so joined by rap/rock legend, Afroman. JRSeed and the High Rollers don't play as a band much these days, but when they do, they always draw a crowd. Everybody loves a party and we couldn't think of a better way to kick ours off than with these guys.


Pertinent Websites:

The Rumpke Mountain Boys

King of the Tramps

The Maw

Johnny Reeferseed and the High Rollers 

Briar Patch official 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Photo Blog: Dark Star Orchestra Rock the Val Air Ballroom Monday Night

We arrived at the Val-Air Ballroom about 15 minutes before showtime on Monday night and the parking lot appeared to be empty. This was unexpected, as in the past The Dark Star Orchestra had always drawn pretty well in Des Moines. There were a few cars in east parking lot but the west side of the building sat vacant. I could see that a small crowd had gathered near the entrance to the ballroom, but it wasn't close to what I expected. Typically, there would be a line that stretched out into the parking area.

Cveckian and I wandered up, me half expecting the security officer to tell me that the concert had been cancelled. I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that there were only a handful of people there. Turns out it wasn't cancelled, but according to the security officer, the Val Air had made a mistake and advertised the concert as a Sunday show. This validated my own thinking - I had posted on my Facebook wall on Sunday morning that the Dark Star Orchestra concert was that night, only to be corrected by several people who provided links and proved that it was indeed on Monday. By that time the Val Air had caught their mistake and made the proper changes on their website. This caused considerable confusion on my part, and I couldn't figure out why I would think otherwise. Now I knew.

"We are only expecting about 200 people," the security guard told me. That was quite a contrast to when I had seen the band a few weeks prior at the sold out Dark Star Jubilee in Thorndale, Ohio. 5000 people attended that event.

Cveckian and I made our way inside just as the lights went down. The concert started with Rob Eaton telling the crowd about the difficult day his band had experienced. A major storm had blown through during the afternoon, and many pockets of Des Moines and West Des Moines were left without electricity.

"We pulled in about 12:30 this afternoon, and shortly after that, the building lost power," he explained. We sat around, until just a couple hours ago when the power came back on. Somehow our incredible stage crew got everything together and has us ready to go." The band broke into "Alabama Getaway" and the party was on. (Entire set list at the bottom.) 

Rob Eaton of Dark Star Orchestra This and all photos by
Cveckian and the Bigfoot Diaries (Click to enlarge)

Jeff Mattson, formerly of the Zen Tricksters plays the part of Jerry Garcia
in DSO. 
Jeff Mattson, Rob Eaton and Lisa Mackey sing "They Love Each Other." 

Skip Vangelas plays bass with DSO. 

Wide view shot of the band

Rob Eaton and Lisa Mackey in the dark

Rob Eaton and Lisa Mackey in the light

Jeff Mattson and Rob Eaton find the groove in "I Need a Miracle."

The audience, though small brought their brightest smiles. 

Rob Barraco is an incredibly tight keyboard player. He shifted back and forth all night
between his Kurzweil and his Hammond B3.

Jeff Mattson and Dino English keeping it on the tracks. 

Dino English and Rob Koritz master the drums during the Drums/Space segment.

DSO in their wide shot glory. 

Rob Eaton and Lisa Mackey during "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad." 

The band turns it up a notch. 

The Dark Star Orchestra played til after midnight. Not a bad way to end a rainy Monday. 

Set One: Alabama Getaway, Picasso Moon, They Love Each Other, It's All Over Now, Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues, The Way You Do The Things You Do, Looks Like Rain, Dire Wolf, Mama Tried, Mexicali Blues, Touch of Grey

Set Two: Feel Like A Stranger > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider > Man Smart (Woman Smarter) > Foolish Heart > Drums > Space > I Need A Miracle > Visions Of Johanna > Gimmee Some Lovin' > Going Down The Road Feeling Bad > Johnny B. Goode

Encore: Forever Young 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Waukeye Music Festival Tabbed For July 19. Tickets On Sale Now!

June has crept away, and tomorrow July will suddenly be here. The list of great music happening in this great state of Iowa continues to grow. The Waukeye Music Festival wil be held on July 19 at the Hawkeye Antique Acres, a beautiful piece of land located just off I-80 at Exit 117 (The Waukee Exit).

Line up and set times are subject to change.

If you or anyone that you know that would be interested in having a Retail/Merchandise booth at this event please email us at

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dark Star Orchestra Set To Play Val Air Ballroom Monday Night!

It's been said that at times, Dark Star Orchestra play the Grateful Dead better than the Grateful Dead. I can testify that at times, this is a true statement. Having seen both bands on numerous occasions, including virtually every Grateful Dead spin-off act such as Further, The Dead, and Ratdog, I can honestly say that for the money, I'd just as soon see DSO. 

They have become so good at playing the Grateful Dead and they put so much effort into it, everything else pales in comparison. Jeff Mattson, who plays the part of Jerry Garcia, does so so well, that if you close your eyes, it's virtually impossible to tell the difference between the two. The same can be said about Rob Eaton who plays the part of Bob Weir. (Of course Bob Weir is still playing, but ya get my point.) 

The rest of the band follows suit, calculating with precision each note played and placing it perfectly into the musical sphere. Whereas the Grateful Dead would have the occasional off-night and might shrug their way through a song or even a set, you don't seem to get that with DSO. Their focus is their mainstay and despite some improvisation, they don't drift too far away from the script. They are tight, and they hit the right notes at the right time, which is key if one is serious about covering Grateful Dead tunes.

Monday night DSO will bring their Grateful Dead sideshow to the Val Air Ballroom for a night of dancing and righteous fellowship. Tickets are $20 if you bought them early, otherwise they are $25 at the door. Doors open at 7:00 and music starts promptly at 8:00. If you have kicked yourself for having never seen the Dead, this is your chance to get that experience. There is no other band in the world who does it as well as these guys.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Wallowing in Psychedelia: BFD Attends the Firecracker 500

I made my way down to Iowa City for the first night of The Firecracker 500 last week. It was hot and the genius that I am, I parked a rather long distance away, so I was working on a good sweat by the time I reached The Mill. I finally made it, a little worse for wear and tear maybe, but oh well. I got there and I spent a lot of time lurking about and meandering around until things got started. 

I talked to Ross Meyer of Rusty Buckets some and also sat down and had a conversation with Steven Krakow a.k.a. Plastic Crimewave. Actually, I had commissioned to do an interview but we just talked about records and comic books. In retrospect (after experiencing The Plastic Crimewave Syndicates set) I'd describe it as sitting at the feet of some psychedelic warrior monk. Look for a piece on the Plastic Crimewave Universe some time in the future.

Steve Krakow aka Plastic Crimewave

The show finally got started with Rusty Buckets taking the stage. These gentlemen proceeded to lay down the Buddy Holly is a werewolf, junkyard voodoo stomp and howl in the only way it can be done, which of course is FULL THROTTLE! Make no mistake, these guys kick ass. If The Oblivians are your cup of tea you'll love these guys.

Next up was The Plastic Crimewave Syndicate. They set to the task of proving that space is the place with their all out cosmic barrage of sound. A sound that conjured up images in my mind of giant spacecraft careening into the sides of monolithic obsidian mountains on some alien landscape. 

Whatever, just listen to this band and come up with your own incredible metaphors. These psychedelic heavy hitters are a bad well worth obsessing about. They also have some of the coolest swag I've ever seen.

The show culminated with the band Heaters making their presence felt. And where else can you go after a trip through space? Back in time of course. Somewhere around 1966 maybe. The first couple of tunes by these guys had me convinced they were into some kind of psychic link with the 13th Floor Elevators. I was almost expecting someone to start playing an electric jug. Haunted and heavy. I loved it.

The Heaters (Photo taken from their Facebook page)

I really wish that I could have been able to be there for the other two nights of the Firecracker 500. I can say that from now on the entire event is going to be something I'm going to make sure is on my summer schedule. As long as it keeps bringing in this kind of music I am in for the long haul.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Our Picks for the Top Five Acts at The Dark Star Jubilee

Dark Star Orchestra might have been the host of the Dark Star Jubilee at Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio, but several bands made a huge impression on the 5000 people who showed up. Unaware of most of the bands in the lineup, I was pleasantly surprised time and time again. It was an incredible weekend of music. Here are my Top five favorite acts along with some honorable mentions. (All photos by The Bigfoot Diaries.)

5. Rumpke Mountain Boys

The Rumpke Mountain Boys
These fellas are known throughout the eastern midwest as THE party band. Their exploits are legendary: they are known for tearing it up in festival campgrounds well into the next day. "They're like the devil," one camper told me. "They are usually among the last standing when the sun is coming up in the morning. I don't know how they do it." Their live act on stage is a mystery as well. They play with a fervor and a tightness that is common among the bluegrass genre, but the way they do it is different. They have labled their sound "Trashgrass." The Rumpke Mountain Boys seem to beat to their own drum, and were more than capable of holding down their hour-long afternoon slot on Sunday afternoon. After their set, they became the first non-headlining band that the crowd beckoned to come back out for an encore - a request that was denied due to time restraints. They were clearly the local favorites. 

Interesting factoid: According to Sam Cutler, the Jubilee's Master of Ceremonies, this band who hails from Cincinnati had an interesting back-story in getting their name. "I asked about their name, and reminded them that there were no mountains in Cincinnati," Cutler said to the crowd before he introduced the band. "Then they told me well, the garbage dump is the highest point in their county and the people who handle their garbage are called Rumpke so they decided to call themselves the Rumpke Mountain Boys."

4. The Ragbirds

Erin Zindle of The Ragbirds
The Ragbirds were fantastic. Erin Zindle plays the violin spectacularly, hitting notes well above the typical scale that one associates with normal playing. She played fast, slow and anywhere in between, and she did so effortlessly. Her voice is melodic and warm and perfectly suited for the road-folk style of music that the Ragbirds play. The rest of the band were along for the ride, steering the ship through tidal waves of joy, wonder and sorrow. Imagine driving a car across the United States and the natural soundtrack that would accompany it. That's The Ragbirds.

Interesting Factoid: The Ragbirds have now played in 47 states. The only states they haven't performed in are Utah, Alaska, and Hawaii.

3. The Wailers

Al Anderson of The Wailers. 
It seems that everybody was excited to see the Wailers play. Not only did the crowd in front of the stage triple in size, but musicians from other bands came out of their backstage hiding spots to witness this legendary act. The Wailers did not disappoint. Led by original Wailer and reggae bass pioneer Aston Barrett, the band immediately began to spread the gospel of the Rastafari through music. They were billed as playing the Legend album in it's entirety, but they also found time to put in a few other songs as well, such as "Positive Vibrations", "Punky Reggae Party" and "Trenchtown Rock." They drifted from song to song effortlessly and musically was right on point. The entire crowd, backstage musicians and all, was dancing to the Jamaican rhythms. The vibe was incredible. If one band brought everybody together during this festival, it was the Wailers. Their set lasted an hour and a half, but it seemed to be over as soon as it started.

Interesting Factoid: Despite the billing that said that The Wailers would play the entire Legend album, they did not play "Redemption Song" or "No Woman No Cry" in Legend Valley.

2. Galactic

I had never heard Galactic, but I was expecting great things from this band from New Orleans. Their live show has been talked about in music circles for years, and I was excited to see what the buzz was all about. They were in fact a major reason I chose to attend this festival. Their set started at 11:00 on Saturday night, and it provided a blistering blend of jazz, fusion, electronica, and rock. It was a stark contrast to the other acts that were playing in the Jubilee and the raw combination of horns, bass and guitar made for an incredible jam. Sometimes they delivered a spacey drawn out sound, while other times the sound they were creating reminded me of the soundtrack to a spy movie. It was a set packed with soul, funk and teases of rock. It was ridiculously tight and the absence of vocals during most of the set wasn't a factor. It was one of the most intense live performances I had ever seen live. I can't wait to see them again.

Interesting factoids: Corey Glover of Living Color fame is a touring member of the group and he handles the rare occasions the band uses vocals. Drummer and Galactic founding member Stanton Moore has recorded with bands as diverse as funk keyboardist Robert Walter and heavy metal act Corrosion of Conformity.

1. Anders Osborne

Anders Osborne

Holy shit. Anders Osborne took me completely by surprise. I didn't expect to get my face rocked off at a jam band festival. Anders Osborne came out and after a song or two, many people left the area in front of the stage. Meanwhile, others joined in. It was a different type of music fan - one that resembled more of one that would go to a rock show than a hippie festival. I took that as a good sign! Anders Osborne and his 4 piece band absolutely shredded and those of us who hugged the front row rail loved him for it. The combination of his insane guitar and his melodic folk metal voice made for a very entertaining set. He reminded me more of the MC5 than he did somebody who occasionally plays with Phil Lesh and Friends. 

He seemed so rare... a quality that I haven't experienced in a band in a very long time. Half way through his set I decided that he is now one of my all-time favorite musicians. Then I wondered how come I hadn't heard him before. Two dudes next to me were leaning on the rail that separated the crowd from the stage. They were obviously very much in to Osborne's set and at one point I mentioned that this is by far my favorite act of the festival. The two told me that they were from Battle Creek, Michigan, and they drove all the way down just to see Anders Osborne. Then they mentioned that they could actually care less about the rest of the bands. It struck me odd that they would pay the entire festival price for just one act, but I understood. Anders Osborne was definitely worth it. After the set was finished, the two dudes and I high-fived and then we turned to walk back up the hill into the sea of people. Glancing over, I noticed one was wearing a Municipal Waste t-shirt. Fuckin-A, I thought. Metal heads at a jam-band festival. 

Interesting factoid: Osborne's band is based out of new Orleans but he was actually born in Sweden.

Honorable Mentions:

These bands also deserve mention for their performances. 


There are so many bluegrass bands out there. Kudos to the folks who organized the lineup for this festival, as they did a fantastic job of booking bands that sound different from each other. While there were a few bluegrass style bands in the lineup, none of them sounded like the other, and each one had it's own distinctive sound. Cornmeal was no exception. They held the 4:15 Sunday afternoon slot and right away they made it known that this wasn't your daddy's bluegrass band. Their sound was all over the place, and they showed in leaps and bounds why they are one of the most heavily touted bluegrass acts in the world. Their energy was the perfect segway into the evening's festivities and they provided a much needed acoustic shot of adrenaline. They are another act I am looking forward to seeing again.

The Everyone Orchestra

Matt Butler conducts the Everyone Orchestra
This event was a lot of fun. The concept behind this all-star act is the conductor (Matt Butler) generates a unique sound by using a marker and wax board to suggest styles and tempos to the band and audience. In doing so, he essentially creates a new song, or style, or both. Of course the audience was invited to participate, and of course they did. Lots of fun. The Everyone Orchestra consisted of Erin Zindle (Ragbirds), Jeff Mattson (Dark Star Orchestra), Rob Barraco (Dark Star Orchestra), Drew Heller (Toubab Krewe), Ben Kaufmann (Yonder Mountain String Band), Randall Moore (Ragbirds), and Rob Koritz (Dark Star Orchestra).

The New Riders of the Purple Sage 

Michael Falzarano and David Nelson of New Riders of the Purple Sage
David Nelson is a folk-rock pioneer and brought his unmistakable sound to Legend Valley as they rolled through their lengthy set lists. The highlight might have been "Panama Red," which pretty much epitomized the weekend spirit for most of us concert revelers. He was joined by such legendary musicians as Michael Falzarano (Hot Tuna) on guitar and Buddy Cage (Dylan, Garcia, Rick James) on the steel. 

Ultraviolet Hippopotamus was great as well. With a name like Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, one might expect a tinge of psychedelia, and this band delivered just that. In fact, they were the perfect mix of rock and roll and psychedelia, twisting it beautifully together like a cosmic doobie. On their facebook page they describe themselves as "Hot rocking for galactic freedom." What else does one need to know about these sonic storm troopers?

Thursday, May 29, 2014


The Firecracker 500 is now upon us like some massive alien spacecraft hovering over the city. All that's left for you to do is show up. Get yourself to the Mill in Iowa City and get set for 3 days of gut bucket, mind twisting rock n' roll. This is the real deal. It's the stuff your mom warned you about, so you know it's gonna be a cool time.

You may have already seen in these pages the lowdown on the 80/35 festival. It seems that the Greater Des Moines Music Coalition has decided to serve up a heaping plate of mediocrity. If that's your thing by all means go for it, but if you really crave the big beat then you need to be at the Firecracker 500 in Iowa City this weekend.

Get the venue info here.

So there you go. Show up and be sure to say hi if you see me. If I'm even half way lucid I'll be happy to talk to you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Too New To Be Known: An Interview With Grant And Dan Of Panthallasa

As I drove into the parking lot, I didn't really know what to expect. I had heard the horror stories from Grant Peter about the "Poodle Lady" who owned the space next to where he practiced, and her affinity to harass anyone who seemed out of place, or anyone who may have unknowingly parked in her grooming service's empty parking stalls. I half expected to see her when I pulled into the lot - almost hoped to see her - if nothing else to match her actual appearance with that of the one imagined in my head. 

But she wasn't around on this day. What caught my eye was the hidden bar that sat behind this particular building. It was like a speakeasy, tucked away in a spot not visible from the road. The neon lights said it was a bar, but the crowd of dudes in tank tops and emblemed jackets standing outside on the patio told me that it was a unique spot, like an exclusive club, and one that might not attract (nor welcome?) strangers. 

I was early, and I had a few moments to kill. I pulled into the an empty spot underneath a neon Corona light and went inside.

The place was empty aside from a few dudes who were sitting at various spots around the bar. After I sat down, also bellied up, one of these fellas went behind the bar and asked me what he could get for me. I ordered a beer and scanned the place. On a big projector screen a concert was being performed by a singer I didn't recognize. He resembled Wayne Newton, only he sang in a foreign language I couldn't decipher. But it was a high quality video and during the times the camera panned over the crowd, I could see that this gentleman was adored. His fans swooned at him and sang along with his every word. The video was being played very loudly, especially I thought, since nobody seemed to be watching it. 
Most people were enjoying the weather outside on the patio. 

I asked the bartender if he was the owner.

"Yes," he nodded.

"How long have you been here?"

"For a few years," he answered in a thick accent. "Have you been in here before?"

"No," I replied. I am here to meet the band downstairs."


After a slight pause, he asked, "Do you like that kind of music?"

Assuming that he meant heavy rock and roll, I nodded yes.

"They are really loud." he said.

At that point, my phone buzzed and I looked down to see a text from Grant. Apparently he was downstairs in the space directly underneath the bar. I was here to meet him and listen to his band for the first time. 

I paid for my beer and went outside and walked down the hill alongside the bar to the area tucked underneath, where there were a couple of shop doors. One door was unmarked, and the other was clearly the entrance to the poodle shop. I pulled on the unmarked door and went inside. I could already hear the buzzing of the amplifier and the long chords being played on the guitar. The guy upstairs (whom I found out later to be Bosnian) was right. It was very loud. I wondered how my ears would take it in such a small practice area. I immediately understood the qualms that the Poodle Lady had with Grant. I also understood why the video being played upstairs was turned up so loudly.

Back track a week or so to my house where Grant came to talk to me about Panthallasa, his new project. He brought along with him his bass player, Dan Powell and we gathered around the kitchen table and discussed the metamorphosis of this new endeavor and the evolution of a two-man project to a full piece band. 

We also discussed their upcoming show at the House of Bricks this Friday night, Panthallasa's first live appearance. It's an early all-ages show and they will share the stage with Des Moines' prog-metal bands The Maw and Violent Fade. 

Listening to Grant talk about his band, I began to realize just how big of a project this has been for him, and how one man's vision can come to light, even through the turmoils he has faced. It's not easy to see something through while maintaining a vision, especially with constant distractions. Grant has somehow managed to do just that. Friday night's performance at the House of Bricks will be a celebration. Plus his band rocks.

You can hear for yourself by visiting their Soundcloud page. Turn it up LOUD. You can see for yourself by going Friday. 

At $7, this concert is a steal.

The cover of Panthallasa's digital EP. (Click this and all photos to enlaarge.)

What IS Panthallasa?

Grant: Yes. Ok.. I hate documentaries... absolutely hate them. But about a year and a half ago I was watching this documentary on Netflix about plate tectonics. And kinda in passing when they were referring to Pangaea  which, at least I learned about in 6th grade - it was that super continent - so while they were talking about this super continent, they also mentioned this super sea. It was this ocean that surrounded this super continent called Panthalassa. We're spelling it a little bit differently because the logo I drew up, it looks like there are SS bolts in it. We can't be having that... So we nixed one of the S's and added an L. But it's still pronounced the same, Panthalassa.

How long have you been working as a band?

Grant: With this line up, what, a couple weeks?

Dan: Yeah. I've been playing with the band for about a month. 

So it's a newer project.

Grant: Yeah. It's a new project using very old riffs. Some of these songs were written years ago but as musicians you are always throwing stuff into the bone pile basically then you come back to it, pick it back out and rework it. So initially it was just going to be a recording project between the guitarist and I, the drums were all going to be programmed and we hadn't even tackled the idea of doing vocals yet. As it snowballed we actually started getting live members together, and kind of a funny thing, when our vocalist Matt Burkett, came into the project, he just showed up at our actual first live rehearsal, he just walked into the room and he looked at me and said, "Do you mind if I sing?" I was kind of like, "Uh, yeah... sure... whatever dude. Go for it." And I really liked it so how he kinda joined in there. It worked out.

Was he just in the neighborhood? 

Grant: Well pretty much, man. (Laughs.) We share a rehearsal space with a band called No One, which is a two-piece which features Matt Burkett on guitar and vocals and Shane Mills, who is also in The Maw, on drums. So it was a rehearsal space that we were sharing with them, and yeah he was in the neighborhood and he came in. He asked me if he could do vocals and yeah. he pretty much was just ad-libbing stuff for several months and I kept asking him if he was going to write lyrics, and he never got around to it, so I just started doing it.

So let's talk about the snowball effect. Tell me about when the process of when you knew that you were going to go from a two person project to let's bringing in more musicians and making it a band.

Grant: Well not to get to deep into... what are the words I'm searching for? I'm not going to say that the stars aligned or that there was this clarity, but there came a point when it became obvious that I wasn't going to be able to do it as I envisioned it. It was just myself and Joe, and the person with whom we were working with is in a full-time touring band and they weren't going to have the time to dedicate to it and I had the time all of a sudden.

Ok. So who IS Panthallasa? 

Grant: Panthallasa as the current lineup is Mr. Dan Powell who is here, plays bass. We have a drummer now, his name is Shane Mills. I mentioned him earlier. That guy is in about 4-5 bands at a time. Joe Curry is on guitar, Matt Burkett is the vocalist who plays the guitar occasionally, even though he says he don't want to. 

Dan: He wants to.

Grant: Yes he does. He likes the way it looks around him. (laughs) 

Who doesn't?

Grant: Yeah. (laughs.) And I kinda do what's left over which is some guitar and I also screw around with some electronic stuff.

So you have a show coming up...

Grant: We do! May 23rd, first show, it's going to be at the House of Bricks. I'm really stoked on this. The lineup is one that I'm actually most excited for because they're two bands that I've always wanted to do a show with but due to circumstances, it has never actually happened. So it's us, and then the next band up is The Maw which I couldn't even begin to describe that band. It's everything you could want out of a band. Phenomenal music. Then, I guess you could call them the actual headliners, is Violent Fade. They are an instrumental three-piece, but when you think of instrumental three-piece bands, it doesn't quite do it justice. There is actual composition and arrangement there. You aren't going to just go and watch these guys thrash around.

Sounds fantastic. Will you guys be releasing an EP or a CD?

Grant: Yes. No CD. I was actually talking to Joe Antleman from Aquamarine (Dream Machine) today and he was asking me when is the CD release show... We're not doing a release show. We're not even doing a CD. Um... Nobody buys them anymore. Nobody buys CDs unless you are like myself, a neurotic completionist, you're not buying it. Everybody downloads off of iTunes or a bit-torrent site, and they pirate it, and it just ends up on their phone or their iPod or whatever. So it's going to be released digitally, for free because again, nobody is buying this stuff. I'll have a Bandcamp so it'll come like in this zip file, get artwork all that stuff.

Very nice.

Grant: Yeah... It's probably the easiest way to get music to people now anyway. If they are coming to your show, they are actually going to spend more money at the bar than they are at your merch table.

So how are you involved with the process, Dan? 

Dan: Well one day actually, I guess... I hadn't talked to Grant in months. Let's see... Oh yeah. I remember now. he wanted to start a Limp Bizkit cover band, was that it?

Grant: Yeah.

Dan: Or Korn, or something like that.

Was that a serious venture, or was that just bullshit?

Grant: Yeah. Ok. (Laughs.) Seth Peters (Dead Horse Trauma) is kinda like a spiritual type guidance counselor to me. If I ever have an issue, I run it by him. We were just talking one day, kinda BSing around and maybe it was his idea, but we were talking about doing a Limp Bizkit cover band. He's like do you know how much money you'd make off of that if you were doing that? I'm like, yeah. Even though people really rail on Limp Bizkit, you know that they'd go see a Limp Bizkit cover band JUST to be ironic. So yeah... I posted something about it on a social media site, and Dan saw it.

Dan: Yes. That's what happened.

Grant: And we're like cool man. We'll do this. 

But you guys were friends before?

Dan: Yeah. We've known each other for a long time.

Grant: Since what, 2008 maybe?

Dan: Yeah I played in a band with Grant, I guess when I was playing with him, it was Patient Zero, which became Autocrat. So I did that for a short while. Played guitar for a short while. But anyway, yeah. So I'm like Ok! You're totally down! Let's do it! and I wasn't playing music at the time and I guess it just never really materialized like... a... Limp Bizkit cover band... which is actually what should happen...

Grant: Not exist?

Dan: Yeah. (laughs.) Then he shot me a text one day wanting me to fill in for a little bit, just doing live shows. Then after a couple of weeks, it's like, "hey, you are in the band. You don't have much of a choice, and you can't quit." 

Grant: Pretty much.

Dan: I'm like, ok. So here I am.

Panthallasa:  Joe Curry, Matt Burkett, Dan Powell, Shane Mills, Grant Peter

You mentioned Seth Peters. How much of an influence does he and Dead Horse Trauma have on Panthallasa?

Grant: You look at bands that are successful locally. You look at what they do and how they operate as a business unit. Obviously the art's there, but in the Midwest we have this work hard, play hard mentality, but what comes first? It's the work. Dead Horse Trauma exemplifies that. They work so freaking hard it's ridiculous. I mean, it's amazing that any of them actually have day jobs outside of what they are doing because they are so busy promoting and touring. So their sense of work ethic has sort of rubbed off on me. Maybe not to the degree where I'm out handing out flyers to people, but just how they run their day to day operations. It's a business. I think that's why they are as successful as they are because they aren't dicking around. It's not an excuse to party, it's not an excuse to say 'I'm in a band!' you know. I mean they treat everything as a product. I don't think that there's anything wrong with that inherently, I mean you could probably go overboard... Are they there yet? I don't think so. Not at all. So I kinda run Panthallasa pretty tightly. Don't get me wrong. It's not like we are all just brownie-faces when we are sitting in the rehearsal space. We may have a couple of beers in there or what not but we are not in there partying, we are in there working. You show up to practice when practice is scheduled and you gotta learn your parts. You gotta know what you are doing. It wasn't this way initially, but lately I'm kinda rolling with it, but I look at some of the bands that have influenced me personally... The Mars Volta, a band called The Ocean, The Dillinger Escape Plan. These are all bands that are led by one individual and this individual writes the majority of their music. Each band member is given a little lee-way with their parts, but it's not a very democratic process at all. It's you show up, you do what you are supposed to do and we go home. Simple as that. It hasn't worked with everybody, you know one of my best friends was out first bass player, and we're still on pretty good terms. I'm not going to say that our friendship wasn't deteriorating, but it wasn't as strong as it used to be and you could just tell that he wasn't really enjoying the fact that he didn't have a whole lot of creative input on it. Fortunately the people we have now understand how the cookie crumbles. Wasn't that in Bruce Almighty? 

So everybody in the band is in tune with that philosophy?

Grant: Well, if there are any issues it hasn't been raised. You know... we all write. Right now as it stands I'd say it's about 80/20 with the 80 being myself doing the writing and composition and the vocalist doing 20 percent. Now Joe, the other guitarist, I kinda let him have some free range, the way I've described it best is a coloring book. It's blank. Here are the lines. Your instruments are the crayons, markers, paint, whatever. You stay with these lines. You can use any colors you want as long as you stay within these lines. Don't go outside the lines because I've got it set on this clear path. I know it kind of sounds tyrannical or egotistical, but I know what I want. I don't lose any sleep over it.