When my phone rang last Thursday morning, I didn't recognize the number.
Normally this signals a red flag... Somebody is selling something, or worse yet, it means that US Cellular has finally caught up with me and wants to ask me about that outstanding balance I have with them from three years ago. It's always easy to identify these snakes, because they do a pretty horrible job of disguising themselves on the Caller ID. When it says, "UNAVAILABLE"" then it's a sure sign that somebody's motive for calling goes beyond wanting to have a friendly conversation... And usually involves money coming out of my back pocket. So, typically I ignore these intrusions.
On Thursday morning, the number came up with a name and area code, and while I didn't recognize it, the name wasn't US Cellular... So on a rare whim, I took the call.
"Is this Troy... With the Bigfoot Diaries?" Came a voice from the other end of the line.
"Um... Yes it is."
"This is Joe with a band called The Maw. We are playing Monday night at the House of Bricks in Des Moines, and was wondering if you would mind coming down and watching us play."
Ok, I am paraphrasing here... It didn't go down exactly like that... But it is damn close.
In a nutshell, Aron from Metro Concerts Live! had given my number to Joe, and then Joe called me and asked me if I would come down to the House of Bricks and see The Maw, his band, and possibly do a write up on them...
In the spirit of Rock and Roll, I agreed to do it.
Of course the worse case scenario would be that I would go down to see this band, and they would be awful. Then I would be forced into the awkward delimna of having to choose between writing nothing at all about The Maw, or posting something that was negative and degrading. It's not in anybody's best interest for me to do the degrading thing, so I kind of felt that I was taking a chance by agreeing to attend this show. But what the hell... It's a Monday night. It's not like I have anything better to do.
Luckily for me, them sucking never became an issue.
The Maw are an incredible live band, and I have to admit, I am proud to know that they are from the Des Moines area. I hate the label of "Jam Band"... I think it sends out visions of sandal-wearing hippies singing funky melodies in between structured guitar and drum solos... Not that there is anything wrong with that... It's just that I have been there, and that scene has worn thin with me. The Maw certainly do not apply to that form of music... But I think a Band that Jams might be a good fit. Half way through "Chora" the first song in their set, I am thinking to myself, Dem boys be smoking some funky stuff.
They actually caught me off guard... I wasn't expecting to be that entertained.
Who do they sound like? Well if you ask the band, they will tell you Miles Davis, Cannibal Corpse, Pink Floyd, and The Mahavishnu Orchestra, to name a few. That's quite a mix, and if you throw in what I heard, you'd have to add pockets of Supertramp, Jethro Tull, King Krimson, and Sundial. I couldn't help but wonder how a band could be influenced by so many, and yet defy categorization. To put it simply, the only band that sounds like The Maw... Is The Maw.
But I have gotten ahead of myself.
I went to the show with a couple of pals... One you know... CVEckian, and the other, a fella who used to have his own reputation in the music scene in Des Moines, Jim McNeer. If you ever enjoyed the murals on the walls of Hairy Mary's (both locations), then you have enjoyed Jim's work. He was famous for his concert posters as well, covering such bands as Queens of the Stone Age and L7. He has kind of slipped into oblivion these past few years, but he agreed to join us for a rare night out. I was hoping that he wouldn't be overwhelmed with boredom. Obviously I respect his musical opinions, as in the past we have shared many live music experiences. But with not really knowing what to expect with The Maw, I figured that I could at least feed him beers long enough to spark an interest in what was going down on the stage.
|McNeer, myself and CVEckian|
I needn't have worried. At the end of "Chora" Jim flashed me a smile and gave me a thumbs up. When I walked over to where he was standing, he said to me, "I was hearing sounds out of that guitar that I have never heard before".... Then he gave me that look he gives when he means something... Fucking right.
The guitarist he was speaking of is Forrest Lonefight. This kid is incredible, Des Moines' second coming of Jeff Banks. It's like he has tapped into that thing that Adrian Belew once tapped into... That rare ability to make a guitar sound exactly like anything but a guitar, while still maintaining an outstanding musical experience. Lonefight's style is fresh and inventive... And as fluid as a PBR at the Alpine Tap. I haven't heard anybody else in the Des Moines area that covers more ground on his six-string than Forrest Lonefight does, as his fingers seem to travel miles up and down the neck of his guitar.
The other boys in the band aren't too shabby either, at least by rock and roll standards. Erik Brown is a seasoned musician who came to The Maw about a year ago. The band needed a person who could sing, play the keys, and blow the trumpet... And naturally, there was one logical choice. Erik brings a unique presence to the stage with his chunky and unorthodox keyboard style, but perhaps his best feature is his voice... I caught glimpses of Scott Weiland in his vocals (Good Scott Weiland - Think "Vaseline") but also pockets of Layne Staley and a stoney David Gilmore. He even let out a primal scream at the end of one song (Didn't get the name) that would have made Rob Halford applaud. He is a good fit for The Maw... and provides a strong quality to the band with his confident stage presence.
|Erik Brown getting down|
Alan Domer is the drummer for the group, and by drummer, I mean drummer. He doesn't have all those fancy bells and whistles that a lot of drummers think they need... Just good old fashioned skins and chrome and a healthy dose of crashing cymbals. He reminds me of Elias Mallin from Opiate for the Masses - both in style and appearance - and brings a relentless punch to the band's rhythm section. It cannot be easy providing the beat for this band's unique sound, but he pulls it off with remarkable precision. The Maw need nothing fancy... Just a good old fashioned hard nosed drummer to complete their sound, and they get that with Alan Domer. I absolutely appreciate that.
Last but certainly not least is Joe Antelman, the kid who originally invited me to come and watch his band. I feel a sense of gratitude to Joe, because he has opened a new door for me in terms of bands I am now seriously interested in. While he plays the bass for The Maw, he is the keyboardist for Aquamarine Dream. And now that I have seen The Maw, I certainly want to see his other band too. Joe reminds me of one of those musicians who always makes the right play... a seasoned and fine tuned bass player who is capable of bringing so many elements to a band. His bass in The Maw is heavy and powerful, yet subtle... Which is the perfect compliment to the band's style.
|Alan, Forrest, and Joe|
Joe defines the band as "Jazzcore" but I think that is a misleading term. I'm not sure that I have one that fits better, but I invite you out to see them the next time they play and then you can make that assumption for yourself. I will say this... This band is sick with talent, and very unique. If you like experimental and progressive rock and roll, then you HAVE to check out The Maw.
Meanwhile take a look at their Myspace page... Or follow them on Facebook. Just please keep in mind that this a band that will be very misunderstood if not heard live. Do yourself a favor and check them out.
I'll see you there.