Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bigfoot Diaries Review: "Shark Attack" EP By The Maw

The long awaited Shark Attack EP by The Maw came out last weekend just in time for the band's final show at the House of Bricks which closed it's doors for good on Sunday, November 23rd.
The Shark Attack EP
We said good bye to an institution of Des Moines music. For 14 years HOB has been the go-to place for live shows on any given night of the week. It showcased local music more than any other venue in Des  Moines, and while it was indeed a safe haven for metal bands, Bricks regularly featured live music from other genres including Country, Blues, Americana, Folk, Rap, Latino and R&B. It was a place that felt like home, and it's presence is going to be missed in the city.

In a Lemony Snicket kind of way, it seemed fitting that was the night that we celebrated The Maw's long awaited release of their Shark Attack EP, a project that has been in the works (at least talked about) since my introduction to the band in October of 2010. Since then the band has evolved from it's tadpole incarnation to the fierce Great White that it is today. That's not to say that their music wasn't outstanding then - they've always blown me away - but through the sands of time, some minor turbulence, and a couple changes in the band's lineup, The Maw has persevered like no other band in the city. Rarely does a band lose it's foundation (bass player and drummer) and still maintain viability. The Maw have done just that.

The four song EP is a small taste of what The Maw bring to the stage, but it's still a solid half hour of brain-twisting prog that will keep your head swimming. Forrest Lonefight's melodic genius on the guitar is ever-present and Erik Brown's voice is sharp as the razor edge notes he hits on the electric piano. 

To say that he and Lonefight know each other musically would be the understatement of the year. Onstage, they appear to be guided by an unseen force and this translates into this recording, especially on the EP's title track, "Shark Attack." 

The song is a soundtrack to death by shark. It takes you through the entire journey - from the initial violent attack through the calmer moments when the shark lays off and you are floating in and out of consciousness. Then, without warning the shark returns and you are jerked through a spiraling wheel of death as you are shredded to the bone... 

Sounds lovely doesn't it? Trust me, it is. 

Interestingly enough and in perhaps a tribute to the band's former members, the final track on the EP, "Call To Arms" was recorded live* at the House of Bricks when former drummer Justin Bristow and former bassist Joe Antleman were the heads of the band's rhythm department. It's an admirable nod to these two considering the timeline from when this EP was being planned.

Current drummer Shane Mills is as articulate a drummer as you will find, and with Jeff Stone who now handles the bass duties, they guide the ship fearlessly. The arrangements that the Maw create are intensely complicated, and it takes serious musicians to recreate the sounds that were lost when Antleman and Bristow left the band. Not only are Mills and Stone capable of doing this, but their personal styles and improvisations seem to bring a new and welcome element to the band's sound.

The tracks are:

Buddy System (6:48) - with excerpts from the Jonestown 'Death Tape.'

Shark Attack (4:55)
Interlude (4:17) 
Call To Arms (13:48)

The Maw have always had the ability to balance focus and disillusion while keeping a choke hold on the listener's subconscious. They take you on a journey to places where it's unfamiliar and dark, and while that's a strong quality of the music they create, it's also somehow exalting and awakening.

As one person mentioned to me at the Maw's final show at the House of Bricks, "They never get old, and it's better every time."

You can see for yourself. The Maw are playing Dec. 6 at the Kum and Go Theater inside the Des Moines Social Club. It is the FFN Burton Ball and it is a night of music, art, performances and costumes themed towards your favorite Tim Burton films. Proceeds benefit the John Stoddard Cancer Center Compassion Fund. Aside from The Maw, the night will feature performances by Rumble Seat Riot, Switchblade Saturdays and The Spartan Blue. 

While you are at it, pick up the Shark Attack EP. If you dare.


The Maw on Facebook

*"Call To Arms" recorded at House of Bricks, documented in Greg Waldrop's Beyond The Stage series.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Rumpke Mountain Boys Return To Des Moines To Play The Hull Avenue Tavern

The Rumpke Mountain Boys are on their way to great things. Widely respected in the bluegrass community as one of the tightest and most energetic bands in the country, they have been in almost constant tour mode for most of this year, darting across the country like a vagabond circus of acoustic mayhem. They played a 5 hour set atop the famous FURTHER bus on the west coast this summer, a set that was originally slotted to be a 40 minute quickie. As you can imagine, things got weird and nobody stepped in to tell them to stop playing, and as if they were on auto-pilot, the Rumpke Mountain Boys just kept doing their thing until the sun came up in the eastern sky. 

Of course, nobody seemed to mind.  

If you saw the Rumpke Mountain Boys at The Bigfoot Ball, then you need no convincing that these boys know how to throw a party.

Artwork by Jason Boten

Hailing from Cincinnati this  band is legendary on the festival circuit. Take their set at this year's Dark Star Jubilee at Buckeye Lake in Ohio: "They are like the devil," one fan told me prior to their set. "They'll play all night long without taking a break."

You could see the exodus down the hill from the campgrounds to the stage when RMB came on and they were the first band at the Jubilee to garner an encore. However, time was short and master of ceremonies Sam Cutler had to cut them off due to time and schedule restraints. The next morning, stories were abundant about the Rumpke Boys and their late night soiree through the campgrounds. They showed the same vigor and tenacity when they played the Bigfoot Ball at the Briar Patch in August, playing a virtual non-stop 4 hour set. (That doesn't count the three-plus hours they jammed together in the parking lot before taking the stage.)

The Rumpke Mountain Boys will be making a rare stop at the Hull Avenue Tavern on Friday. The show is FREE and will start around 8:00ish and they will play until the very end of the night. And by the end of the night, I mean put on your muck boots, because it'll be time to feed the cattle.