Saturday, February 26, 2011


Johnny Cash would have turned 79 today. His music is timeless and his anarchic spirit will live forever.

Many do not know that Johnny was a deeply religious man, and that when he recorded an album, he carefully chose at least one gospel song to include on each track list. While personally I am not sure if there is truly a Heaven or not, it feels good to know that if there is, Johnny Cash resides there. As the world seems to grow more and more turbulent, it is nice to know that such an angel is looking down on us.

Rest in Peace Johnny. We miss you.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Roky Erickson: True Love Cast Out All Evil


I picked this up in April when it first came out and it has not been far away from my stereo since. When I first heard that Roky was working on a new record I was happy to hear the news on one hand, and then a little worried on the other. I mean how many times has an old favorite come out with something new after a lengthy hiatus and you wish they never bothered. Thus, the time waiting for the new record is often filled with as much apprehension as anticipation. Will it be a disappointment? Will they still have it in them? All these questions were rambling around in my head as I waited for the release date to come.

Well I shouldn't have worried, because what we've got here is a real solid record. The songs on here were written by Roky at different times and stages of his life, and the result is basically Roky's autobiography, and for those who know the story, what a tale it is!

Now if your expecting the "horror rock" like his stuff with the Aliens, Evil Hook Wildlife E.T., or some of the others, you won't find it here. What you will find though; is a record with a ragged purity and resilient spirit that can only come from someone who has weathered the worst of storms and come out the other end, Maybe battered and beaten, but still standing and possessing a kind of insight that only comes at a high cost.

Buy this record, or cd, or whatever. Don't burn it from a friends copy, don't get from some free download, but buy it. I would like to live in a world where Roky Erickson gets some money for his efforts and turds like Lady GAGA have to struggle to pay the bills. -SHEP

Thursday, February 17, 2011

You Know it's Gonna Get Stranger...

We are in the process of revamping the site... Thank you for your continued support!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Johnny Reeferseed and the High Rollers at 504

The newest place in Des Moines to see live music is the 504 Club.

Located at 504 Locust Street in downtown Des Moines, this venue offers a chance for music lovers to see local, regional and national acts. Friday night featured Des Moines' favorite party band, Johnny Reeferseed and the High Rollers and we took it as an excellent opportunity to check out what this new place was all about.

The first thing that caught my attention was how big the place is. Most of the music venues in town run a little small... One of the reasons that the larger national acts are hard to book in the bars... But at 504 Club, space is certainly not an issue. The band was already on the stage when I walked in, and even though there was over 50 people in attendance, the place seemed empty.

The next thing I noticed was the sound... Holy Amsterdam that place sounds great! Whether it was because of the sound engineer or the acoustics of the venue itself, I do not know. I am guessing however that it is a combination of both... The sound booth is a modern state of the art facility in itself, and with the shiny wooden floors, the open ceiling and the large spacious room, the reverberation in the concert hall is amazing.

The High Rollers were already half-way through Light 'em up!, a home grown number they wrote and performed with Afroman, and it was immediately apparent that on this particular night Johnny Reeferseed was smoking the best of his stash. The groove was ridiculous (is there a better word?) and with the acoustics in this joint, the sound was bouncing off of the walls like musical popcorn. I knew right away that I was in for a wicked night of live music.

Incidentally, Light 'em up! was awarded the Best Funk Song at the Marijuana Music Awards in Austin, Texas in 2008 and even gained mention in High Times magazine. Friday night it sounded especially jazzy, because joining the High Rollers on the stage was Erik Brown (from The Maw) with his oddly shaped trumpet.... The horn's rich, fluent sound was the perfect accompaniment to Jacob County's raunchy guitar licks. In fact, it sounded so tight that I wasn't even aware that Erik was playing until I looked up and noticed him on the stage.

After Light 'em up, the band rolled right into their version of I'll Be There, a twisted remake of the Jackson 5 classic. The stage lighting took on an orange hue that dispensed beautiful and deep shadows over the band members and the their equipment, and not only did this Motown cover sound fantastic, it also looked great! Johnny Reeferseed's gruff, throaty vocals are an interesting alternative to the smooth boyish crooning of Michael Jackson, but like everything the High Rollers attempt to do, somehow it works.

You and I must make a pact
To go out and find a big fat sack
Where there's kind bud... I'll be there.

I'll reach out my blunt to you
I'll fill your bong with fresh water too
When you need a bong hit... I'll be there.

And so forth... You get the idea. (Check it out for yourself here.)

Jacob County is known as one of the premier guitar players in the midwest, and his versatility might be matched only by a few. He can go from playing raunchy funk riffs to sweet and smooth melodies in no time at all. Whether he is playing funk, motown, or gritty honky tonk riffs, he is a master of his domain and it's always a treat to watch his body bend and reach in every attempt to find that perfect note. One thing is for certain... Nobody has more fun playing their guitar than Jacob County does and this was apparent judging by the big flashy smile on his face while they played I'll be there.

Johnny Reeferseed is no slouch on the guitar himself, and isn't afraid to take the lead. He is to Jacob County what Brian Jones was to Keith Richards, and together they recreate that incredible sound that the Stones had in the early '70s with the Let it Bleed and Beggar's Banquet albums. Pure rock and roll the way it was meant to be played is what epitomizes that High Roller sound.

Johnny Reeferseed and the High Rollers

Along with Johnny Reeferseed and Jacob County, the band features Beth Spaniels who is as versatile on the bass as Jacob is on the guitar, Keef Hashman on the keyboards (who was mysteriously absent on this night), and Burnt Reynolds on the drums. With years of playing together, this band has formed a sound so tight that it seems that they could play these songs in their sleep. The addition of Erik Brown on this particular night was a special treat because of his rare and uncanny ability to play his trumpet alongside any music genre and make it sound like it is supposed to be there.

The next little number they rolled up was one of their own, called Dine and Dash. It is essentially about what you would think it's about... Eating at a restaurant that you know you cannot afford to eat at, and simply dashing out before paying the bill. It's a fun, fast song that conjures up mental images of the High Rollers running away from a diner towards their van in the style of the Scooby Doo gang as they are chased by scary phantoms.

Speaking of Scooby Doo, it must have been time for some Scooby Snacks because after Dine and dash, the band exited the stage for a well deserved intermission.

This gave me a chance to take a look around and see what the 504 Club was all about. The bar is about a mile long it seems, and is tended by what has to be some of the most beautiful girls in Des Moines. The place is set up as a giant dance hall with a few tables scattered here and there. The area right in front of the stage is wide open, and it makes for a great concert viewing experience. Behind the stage is a wall that hides a stairway, that leads up to the green room, a locker room of sorts where the bands converge before and after the shows. In the room is a couple of tables and chairs, bottled water, and miscellaneous coats and what not. There are also a row of windows that allow the band to look out over the venue and the activities below. The band was not there, probably taking advantage of the cool crisp air in the back door alley.

The stage as seen from the "green room."

After a short intermission, the High Rollers took the stage for the second set of the evening. Immediately they went into the Willie Dixon/Howlin' Wolf classic, Little Red Rooster, which featured Jacob using a PBR bottle as a slide for his guitar. Maybe the band was still shaking off of the chill from being outside, but this wasn't their best effort, in my opinion. They more than made up for it with their next attempt, a slow but rousing rendition of the Rolling Stones' Miss You. I have said it a few times... When they are on, The High Rollers play this song better than the Stones did and that is not an exaggeration. That again was the case on Friday night. Erik Brown was hitting the notes on his trumpet, and the song's slow groove brought the concert hall back to life.

Next in line was Long Black Veil a country classic that was originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell in 1959. Generally not a song that one would expect to be heard from a party band, this number is generally reserved for country greats. But it has been covered by the likes of  The Jerry Garcia Band, Johnny Cash, and even Dave Mathews. It's a haunting song about a man who is mistakenly accused of murder. The judge offers him freedom from execution if he can offer an alibi, but he refuses. His alibi is a secret that he takes to his grave - that he was that he was sleeping with his best friend's wife.

Jacob County on the beer bottle slide

Next came a smokin' version of Prince's Kiss... It was played in true High Roller fashion, with the bass thumping and the guitars chugging. Again, Johnny Reeferseed's vocals were low and gruff compared to those on Prince's original version, but he managed to pull it off, much to the delight of the crowd.

The song seemingly came out of nowhere...  It started off with a little hippie jam that could have gone in a multitude of different directions. Everybody in the room seemed caught off guard that this was the song that the band eventually settled on, perhaps most notably, Erik Brown who had just settled into a psychedelic trumpet groove when the rest of the band broke into Kiss. It didn't take him long to catch up, and he more than made up for it with a blistering horn solo in between the second and third verses. That's one element of this band that separates them from most others... They will take any song and make it their own. I'm not much of a fan of the radio version of Kiss, but would love to see the High Rollers play it again.

Jacob County and Erik Brown

Next in line came a couple of  Johnny Reeferseed originals, Brother Can You Spare a Dime, and Fight Fuck and Drink. Both of these tracks are on the play list linked above, and are worth listening to.

Because of a prior commitment at another venue, I was making my way out the door at this point of the show. However I was stopped in my tracks when suddenly the band broke into one of my all time favorite songs, Bob Dylan's I Shall Be Released. So...I took a glance at my watch and decided I had time for one more. I grabbed a drink from the bar and settled in.

The High Rollers play this song well... Very well. Johnny Reeferseed's vocals are perfect for it, and he sings it like it was meant to be sung, with spiritual conviction. It was a beautiful version as it always is when The High Rollers play it, and not until the song concluded, did I make my way out onto the street.

I am convinced that Johnny Reeferseed and the High Rollers is the ultimate party band. One can see that they are serious and a very talented group of musicians, despite what the initial assumptions of this band might be, based off of their name. Do not be fooled... When this band hits the stage, they come to play, and when they play, it's a party. And it is impossible not to have a good time.

Kudos to the 504 Club for letting this happen.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Record Albums I'll Never Own dept.

Sometimes I'll pick up a CD from a band that I've never heard before purely based off of the artwork or the photo on the album cover. In fact, that is how I came to discover Molly Hatchet back in the early '80s and how I first latched onto DIO's Holy Diver a few years later. This theory has worked well for me throughout the years, but it also has a reverse effect...

Is there ANYTHING at all about this album cover that makes you want to listen to it?

Nah... Didn't think so.

(Except for the fact that with his dialated pupils Ken apppears to be on LSD.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dumbell Tabs Sellergren for Upcoming Euro Tour

German punks Dumbell has hired a new bass player and back up vocalist for it's spring tour over Europe.

It's our pal Magnus Sellergren, who has somehow found the ability to extend his work load even further. You might remember Magnus from when we featured him in our Five Questions With... series, or more recently when we covered his latest band project, Svarta Maria. At the time, it seemed that his plate was already full, and we marlved at his ability to take on so much and be productive.

Now we find out that he joining forces with Dumbell (Official site),  for this one tour, which will cover Europe. They needed a bassist, and Magnus, the king of the multi-task, found the time and he has the ability.

He's a perfect fit...

Dumbell - You're so fake

DUMBELL | Myspace Music Videos

Dumbell was formed in 1996 in the Cologne region of Germany by guitarist/singer Paul Grace Smith, a former resident of Cincinatti, Ohio. The band has gone through multiple changes over the years and Smith is the only remaining original member. Smith never lost his focus on how the band was to sound, and with each change Dumbell progressed to a new level. Now, with the addition of Magnus to it's bass section, it should be off the charts. Rounding out the rest of the lineup along with Smith and Sellergren will be Illias Olympus on drums, and Dayton, Ohio native Jamy Holliday on guitar and backing vox. Smith calls it the "most smoking Dumbell lineup ever!"

Europe, are you ready for this?

With art work like this you know this band kicks  ass.

In Magnus's own words...

BD: In your opinion, what is Dumbell all about?

MS: Dumbell is all about rock'n'roll. It may sound like a damn cliché but it's just as simple as that. A great blend of Punk Rawk and The Stones, served up with attitude, energy, passion and a slight wry sense of humor. People maybe don't know this but Paul is one of the funniest guys I ever encountered in my life. Also, I kinda like his lyrics 'cause there's a lot of living in there and you can tell it's not a damn pose.

BD: What does joining Dumbell mean for the other projects you are involved with... Svarta Maria, your artwork, etc? Is everything else temporarily on hold?

MS: Well, Svarta Maria's first EP has been mixed, mastered and I just finished up the videos so schedule-wise it won't affect the band at all. We're heading into the studio this weekend to record our follow-up EP slated for release in April and by then I'll be back to finish videos etc... I've set a deadline when it comes to artwork which means I'm not accepting any jobs as of now that I know won't be finished around March 10th. In order to nail the 20-song setlist in about 30+ days, and make a damn good job doing it, everything else is temporarily on hold right now. I don't mind though, this'll be a blast!

According to their Myspace page, Dumbell lists their influences as The MC5, The Stooges, Hüsker Dü, Devo, The Replacements, Dead Boys, Damned, Velvet Underground, Hunter S. Thompson, Ike Turner, The Jam, Big Black, Black Flag, Bad Brains, and Sonny Vincent.

Sounds like it's gonna be a helluva ride!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Five Questions with... Keith Morris

Keith Morris in the Bigfoot Diaries... Score a major one for us!

He  is one of those people that, as a rock journalist, I have often dreamt about conducting an interview with, but wondered if I would ever get the chance. He is after all a fucking legend... A punk rock original and a rock and roll icon... Who would have thought that he'd find time in his hectic life to talk to me?

I'm starting to realize that this blogamachine really isn't a bad gig...

Keith Morris's musical influence within the punk rock community is immeasurable... Two of the acts he is associated with, Black Flag and The Circle Jerks, are considered to be pioneers of the indigent West Coast punk scene. His latest project, OFF! is garnering world wide respect, and is one of the most sought after live acts in this modern era.

Black Flag and The Circle Jerks both came from South Bay in California - Hermosa Beach to be precise- and dunked the California music scene headfirst into a bubbling bath of bone melting anarchy. That was in the late '70s and the scene has never fully recovered. It certainly has not been the same since. Nor has the rest of the world... Anti-Flag, The Dropkick Murphys, Bad Religion, The Meat Puppets, Falling Sickness, Bouncing Souls, Rancid and even Megadeth are a few of the bands that have named Black Flag and/or The Circle Jerks as an influence to their music.

Keith Morris was a driving force with both of these bands, taking his pent up anger off of the streets and bringing it to the stage. And while Black Flag's sound is significantly different from that of The Circle Jerks, both bands apply social disorder as a common thread to their sound and their attitude. Keith Morris has attitude... Maybe that's what lends to him being one of the most sought after live musicians today in a world consumed by governmental atrocities and corporate monetary genocide. While technology has evolved since 1976, the federal bullshit capacity hasn't, and neither has Keith Morris's style. And this explains why he is still relevant... He is one of us.

Nervous Breakdown EP (1978)

1. In 1976 you co-founded Black Flag with guitarist Greg Ginn who shared your intense work ethic... What led to you and Greg collaborating together to form this band, and what band(s) would you say was the main influence for Black Flag?

It was GINN's work ethic that forced me away from BF and the fact that I wasn't having fun, we weren't playing that many shows which lead to lots of hours in the rehearsal space. The formation of the band happened naturally as Ginn and I wanted to start a band. We had absolutely no idea as to what we were doin' or how to move forward so we just went along at our own pace.......figuring things out for ourselves. We asked friends to play with us in the practice room and finding out who were good players and not. We had 3 bassists before CHUCK "THE DUKE" DUKOWSKI who came in and really kicked up the work pace. We had a ton of influences ranging from THE LAST, DOGS, TED NUGENT, LYNYRD SKYNYRD, ALLEY CATS, BAGS, GERMS, X, WEIRDOS, CONTROLLERS, FLESHEATERS, THIN LIZZY, PLUGZ, RHINO 39, SCREAMERS, GRATEFUL DEAD, JOURNEY, BLACK OAK ARKANSAS, AC/DC, DAMNED, SKULLS, ZEROS, EYES, SEX PISTOLS and IGGY & THE STOOGES..................and all of the mediocre top 40 bands that played on the weekends across the South Bay who were probably more inspirational than any of the "REAL" bands I mentioned!

2. Three years later you co-founded the Circle Jerks with another Greg, this time Greg Hetson (who later played guitar for Bad Religion.). What can you tell me about the transition between Black Flag and the Circle Jerks? (ie: What was your mindset, was it a smooth transition, etc?)

It was pretty easy as we initially had Hetson, Lucky who had auditioned for Red Cross and myself. I said let's start a band and I found Roger Rogerson drinking a 40 ounce gut wrench beer inna' brown paper bag in front of the Anti Club and the Circle Jerks fell into place and was all downhill from there. Our mindset was that we wanted to have a good time and not mess up the party! We, unlike Black Flag weren't into the violence so the difference between the 2 bands was that they didn't care and were more serious and the Circle Jerks were more comical and tried to bring a festive mood to wherever/whatever we were up to.

Circle Jerks circa 1981

Touche'... The Circle Jerks song "Golden Shower of Hits" was a medley of six cover songs from such surprising artists as The Carpenters, Starland Vocal Band, Captain and Tennille, and Tammy Wynette to name a few... It's a medley of six songs strung together to tell a story about two people falling in love, having an unplanned pregnancy, getting hastily married, and eventually, getting divorced... Heh... What's the story BEHIND the story?

There's no story leading up to the song except that I was always quick to do cover songs as long as we were doin' a good job playing them. We'd already decided to name the album "Golden Shower Of Hits" so the rest of the songs just fell into place............we we're being mismanaged at that time and one of the guys who thought he was in charge decided to take credit for coming up with the idea to cover a buncha' songs that had abso-fuckin'-lutely no business being mangled by a band of our caliber!

4. Who are some of the modern bands that you listen to?

Right now I'm listening to the "Scott Pilgrim Vs The World" soundtrack which is FUCKIN' NUTS! Before that was ZOFFY's "Zo Zo Zo Zo Zoffy!!!", THE BLACK ANGELS' "Phosphene Dream", IDLE TIMES' 1st album, DANZIG's 1st album, DEERHUNTER's "Microcastle", DEEP PURPLE's "In Rock", HIGH ON FIRE's "The Art Of Self Defense" and PRIMAL SCREAM's "Primal Scream" album................yesterday was THE GUN CLUB's "Fire Of Love", (Turn On) THE MUSIC MACHINE, ELASTICA, ALICE COOPER's "School's Out", EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING, SECRET MACHINES "Now Here Is Nowhere".........WOVEN BONES, CROCODILES, TEN YEARS AFTER, FUCKED UP, JESUS LIZARD, CLINIC, DUM DUM GIRLS, WARPAINT, MASTER'S APPRENTICES and a few others.


5. Your latest band project, OFF! is receiving world-wide acclaim... First of all, what is it like to be a full fledged punk rocker in his mid '50s, and secondly, now that you have several months under your belt with this act, what is the general vibe within the band? In other words, is most of the bullshit you put up with while in Black Flag and the Circle Jerks still a common thread, or have you finally found "harmony" with a band?

I don't and never really considered myself a "Punk Rock" as I'm just a guy who's angry and has been fortunate to be playing pissed off, aggressive music and there's tension in this band at times but we channel the ugliness into our incredibly beautiful thing! LMAO! I LOVE THIS BAND 'cause the guyz are extremely talented as players and have been through enough stuff to understand that we've got something totally happening goin' on and we all look like studly handsome men's underwear models.

Morris on stage at the Vans Warped Tour '07

(Bonus Question): Assuming that you are content with OFF!, what is your take on the Black Flag "reunion shows" that keep getting brought up? From what I can tell, Henry Rollins has no interest... If he is out, and you have your own gig going on... Is it even plausible?

GINN put onna' coupla' reunion shows that had about 99 and 1/2% of the attendees totally bummed out........I only heard one positive critique and that was that this one particular person dug GINN's guitar sound. Most peeps said it was a ripoff. I was asked to participate to make sure that ROBO, "THE DUKE" and RON REYES were gonna' participate in what was being billed as "THE FIRST FOUR YEARS" but after a coupla' horrible rehearsals I knew it wasn't gonna' happen with me. Too many lies, accusations, bogus phone conversations and finger pointing which brought me to the realization of why I left BF in the first place! HENRY loves GINN and has the utmost respect for him but was never gonna' be a part as we'd done the WEST MEMPHIS 3 benefit tour and that was enough for him. GINN wasn't happy with us doin' that tour and made Junior High Schoolgirl comments towards a coupla' guys that were part of the tour...........TOTALLY WEAK!