Friday, November 30, 2018

Five Questions With... James Biehn

James Biehn at the Greenwood Lounge
Five Questions With … James Biehn
The most important thing to know about James Biehn is that he’s as good a dude as he is a guitar player. And vice versa. And that’s saying a lot.
When he’s not gigging with the James Biehn band, he’s playing solo shows all around the city or sitting in with the many musicians wants to play with him or playing one-off shows with a variety of bands. On top of that, he’s the owner and driving force behind the Central Iowa Music Lab in Des Moines, where dozens of students are learning from James and other top players in Des Moines to play and sing and write songs and work together as musicians. Oh, and he’s also an amazing father to about a half dozen or so super rad kids (I think it's 5, but I can’t keep track).
To say James is integral to the music scene in Des Moines is an understatement. He’s not only a key player in most everything cool that’s happening now, he’s also planting seeds for the future, breeding the next generation (or two) of musicians that will carry the torch forward for years to come.
Somehow, we caught James when he had a few minutes to spare and he agreed to answer a few questions for the Bigfoot Diaries.
If you haven’t seen him, do yourself a favor and check him out as soon as you can. 
The James Biehn Band will be at the Greenwood Lounge tonight (Friday, Nov. 30) at 9 pm. There’s no cover, so there’s no reason not to pop in for a bit.

You teach a lot of people to play. Is there anything about music that can’t be taught?
“Anyone can learn to play music. It is the job of the instructor to understand how each student is ‘wired’ and adjust their teaching techniques to accommodate that student. Also, a student’s goals also come into play. Learning guitar to play by the campfire? That’s probably an easier goal than, say, playing at the Blue Note (jazz club) in New York.”

If you could only play one chord from now on, which one would it be and why?
“Probably an open A chord, all fretted strings played with the index finger. That’s get me a long way towards my dream goal of playing rhythm guitar like Malcolm Young.” 

When was the last time you played “Freebird” at a gig?
“Last time was probably around 2006 at Raccoon River Brewing Company. That’s the last time I remember anyway. I actually don’t mind playing it if it’s a sincere request. But it never is. I’d play it more often if it was mandatory for the person that requested it to sit in a chair five feet from me for all 12 minutes of the song. But they’re usually pussies, so they won’t.”
(Note: I’ve yelled Freebird at James many times and he’s never once found it as funny as I have. Because I love him, I promise to stop now).

Zappa, Hendrix, Vaughn, or Garcia. You can bring one back to join you in one gig. Who do you pick?
“Probably Hendrix, just because he encompasses a little of what each of the other guys possess: Vaughan’s blues roots, Garcia’s improvisational abilities, and Zappa’s progressive songwriting.”

On those rare nights when you’re not playing, which local musicians will get you to a show as a spectator?
“I’ve played a little bit around the country and I’ve never found musicians more gifted or skilled than the musicians in Des Moines, Iowa. Some of them have been good, but never better. That’s why it’s hard to pick one or two. That said, off the top of my head, I’d say Jeff Banks, Chad Elliott, and Matt Woods. They are listening to their inner voices very intently and doing a great job of making sure that what they’re hearing on the inside is what we’re hearing on the outside.”

Bonus question
You’re very complimentary about everyone who plays music. That’s nice, but come on — who do you really dislike?
As long as someone is really working on their craft and trying to realize their potential, then I’m a fan. But some people get on stage with goals that are decidedly non-musical, but they have the appearance of musicians. I won’t name names, but I find that so disingenuous. Duane Allman once said, ‘This ain’t no ballet and it ain’t no g…m fashion show.’ The minute the music starts to resemble either of those, I’m out. I want to connect and be connected with. If that isn’t your goal, then I don’t want any of it.” 

Connect with James on his fan page to find future shows and check out the Central Iowa Music Labas well!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Fallon to Launch Tour of New Book

Press Release from Ed Fallon:

DES MOINES — On Sunday, December 2, 2:00 p.m. at 500 E. Locust Street (third floor) in Des Moines, Ed Fallon will launch his book Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim. The book is Fallon’s memoir from the Great March for Climate Action — the 2014 march from Los Angeles to Washington, DC when a core of 35 marchers walked 3,100 miles in eight months.

“While this book is deeply personal and reveals details of my life few are aware of, my motive in writing Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim was to rouse people to take action against the existential threat of climate change,” said Fallon. “The urgency I felt during the March is now greater than ever. I hope this story inspires people to mobilize to fight climate change immediately, before it’s too late.”

Through candid introspection, Fallon weaves four threads throughout the narrative:

(1) A changing climate regularly threatens the vulnerable, exposed March community,

(2) As the miles unfold, Fallon struggles with his search for love and meaning,

(3) Climate change is already impacting the lives of people marchers meet along the way,

(4) Internal disputes threaten to tear the March apart.

Here are a few excerpts from the book:

“We arrive at our campsite in a park in Gibbon to an almost warlike scene. Large hail stones have broken glass and smashed cars. Siding has been ripped off buildings, paint stripped from houses. In the park, mature trees that normally would provide shade are half naked, their foliage shredded by hail. I try to imagine what would have happened to our tents, vehicles, and bodies had we camped here the previous night when the storm struck.” (from Chapter 25)

“For better or worse, somewhere in the middle of the last century, there occurred a seismic shift in how American males regarded romantic relationships. The love-intoxicated, idealistic man-hero of Victorian times sobered up. He accepted the fact that divine forces weren’t simply going to guide him to his true love, where recognition of their predestined union would be mutual and instantaneous. … He wisely pivoted his strategy, seized the initiative, and began to spend prodigious amounts of time in bars.” (from Chapter 4)

“In my tent along an Arizona highway, two days’ walk from Phoenix, I imagine that when I again fall asleep my dreams will guide me back to that moment with Grace, guide me to a realm of time and space where our waltz never ends, where her head forever rests against my shoulder, her hand fitting perfectly in mine, my other hand around her waist, holding her close, dancing slowly, spinning ever onward beyond turmoil, beyond pain and suffering, beyond eternity itself.” (from Chapter 11)

“The 19-mile march to Gary, Indiana takes us through East Chicago and Whiting, past the most disturbing industrial carnage most of us have ever witnessed. We pass miles of smoke stacks and flaming towers — garish monuments exposing the lie behind modernity’s sanitized facade. Of all the ugliness we’ve seen on the March this is the worst.” (from Chapter 34)

Ed Fallon’s life of public service includes 14 years in Iowa Legislature. Since 2009, Fallon has hosted a weekly talk show, the Fallon Forum. He also directs Bold Iowa, a non-profit organization whose mission is to build rural-urban coalitions to fight climate change. Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim is his first book.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

And Now, a Little Ditty From the BFD Crew...

Happy Thanksgiving Day from us at BFD. (Even those of you who are on the Group W bench.) We're extremely thankful for you! 

Stay lit. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Coolest Song This Week: "Bigfoot Blues" by Texacala Jones Pony Island Express

Texacala Jones Pony Island Express hails from the heart of Bigfoot country, Austin, Texas. The band is fronted by the legendary Texacala Jones and features guitarist Chelsea Taylor, drummer Frank Garymartin, and Nathan Calhoun on bass.

Yes, THAT Nathan Calhoun. (Yeah, when we see a good thing, we usually run with it.)

Enjoy the fuck out of it. You know we are!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Five Questions with Nathan Calhoun of WE Are The Asteroid

If you were at the Melvins show at Wooly's several weeks ago - and I'm sure you were, because any useful human being who thinks of him/herself as a punk would have bellied up for this show - then you might have seen one of the more unique bands that's come through Des Moines in recent memory.

Now you are probably like, really? The Melvins unique

I get your point. Aside from Buzzo's hair and maybe Steven McDonald's shoe size, there isn't really anything rare or remarkable about what the Melvins do. (Fight me.) There's hundreds of bands that create volcano sludge rock, and while the Melvins are exceptionally good at it, especially with McDonald on guitar and Jeff Pinkus on bass, it's not necessarily groundbreaking in terms of what's been coming through Des Moines over the years.

Photo by Troy Church

I am referring to WE Are The Asteroid, the band that played in direct support of the Melvins. If the apocalypse has a soundtrack, WE Are The Asteroid is composing it. 

Now look. I completely understand if you've missed opening acts at Wooly's because you were preoccupied taking shots at the Locust Tap. (God knows I wouldn't pay Wooly's prices for alcohol either.) But if that was the case at this show, then you made a terrible mistake.

WE Are The Asteroid deserves your attention. ALL of it. 

One part kaleidoscopic mindfuck, one part dramatic freebooter, and one part Godzilla crushing Tokyo, this three headed monster has the grit and melodrama of those old black and white horror films you used to stay up late and watch as a kid when you spent the night at the neighbor's house. Imagine The Valley of Gwangi put to a non-visual musical score... That's pretty much what you get with WE Are The Asteroid. Only it IS visual... Audiovisual. And it's fantastic. 

I'm not sure what kind of trouble these fellas got into growing up before they formed this band in Austin, Texas, but they certainly don't fall in line with the artists who have made Austin famous. Cowboys, rednecks and bluesmen in cowboy hats? This ain't them. You're not going to find their music in the Good ol boys section of the record store.

WE Are The Asteroid is drummer Frank Garymartin, guitarist/singer Gary Chester, and bassist/singer Nate Calhoun. Nate Calhoun took some time after a recent tour in Japan to answer five questions. 

Can you tell me about a personal paranormal experience you've had?

That’s funny you ask. Just recently, on tour with The Melvins, I was backstage reading “Chariots of the Gods” for the umpteenth time, when a bright flash of light emanating from the bathroom startled me from my book. I jumped to my feet and rushed into said bathroom with no regard for the privacy of its occupant. As I entered , two glowing orbs were exiting the room via the HVAC duct. Then, in horror,I noticed at my feet, disintegrating before my eyes, the fancy suit and gorgeous (I stress gorgeous) hair of Steven McDonald, melting into smoke along with his very large tennis shoes. I ran to the WATA van and didn’t say a word. This is the first I’ve mentioned this to anyone, due to the concerns for my mental health it may cause. When I saw Steven the next night, he gave me a very unsettling wink.

For Joe Sixpack, who only listens to FM classic rock radio, how would you describe your band? 

I would say, in my best Texas accent,  “Joe, it kinda sounds like your favorite band from the classic rock station fell down the stairs and just weren’t “right” anymore. I mean they can still play and everything, but they seem like they lost their fucking minds” 

Why did you name your band We Are The Asteroid? What does it mean?

I heard a science story on the radio about the upcoming 6th extinction event on planet earth. The 5th one being the dinosaurs, caused by an asteroid. The scientist said “This time , we (humans) are the asteroid.” I immediately jumped on that. It resonated with me.

Nate Calhoun. Photo stolen from Facebook

Do you have a good Steven McDonald story?

See the answer to the first question! Steven and all the Melvins were really kind and generous on tour. It was a real privilege to play them all.

What's the nuttiest thing you remember about touring in Japan? 

I can safely say that everyone in WATA really loves Japan. We’ve been there twice in our short (3 year) existence. And the band we’ve toured with (here and in Japan) Tsushimamire is so fucking awesome. They’ve been a great eye opener to us in many ways. That being said, everything about Japan is super nutty. It’s just so different in obvious and subtle ways, that it’s totally psychedelic even when stone cold sober. 

 "Mushrooms" is a great song. Do you have a weird mushroom story? 

Hmmm. One time (a long time ago) I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. On the street, I ran into a guy I knew from Houston “Ricky the thief” . He had a big bag of home picked mushrooms along with the more traditional dried commercial variety. After taking some of the commercial ones , we set off to find a place to turn the big bag of fresh picked ones into a tea. I guess they had been in the bag for a while. When we piled them into the pot and started boiling them , maggots just came pouring out and boiling alive. (And yes we were tripping at this point). But we strained them really well with a t shirt and didn’t hesitate to drink that gallon of mushroom maggot tea.

Monday, November 19, 2018

That Time (last night) I Ran Into Steve Vai

Making the rounds around Hoyt Sherman Place during the Generation Axe show last night I noticed someone sitting at the back of the loading dock where a couple million dollars’ worth of equipment had made its way into the venue earlier in the day.
As head of security for this show it was my job to make sure this person wasn’t trying to sneak in or walk off with some equipment. I approached and said hello. The guy looked up apologetically for raising concern, offered a hand to shake and said, “Oh, Hi. I’m Steve.”
I’ve worked enough shows and met enough artists that I don’t get star struck much. But, holy shit. Steve Vai just introduced himself to me. If you don’t’ know who Steve Vai is, first, shame on you. Second, just google him. I don’t have space to write his bio here. Briefly though, he’s the guy near the top of every “greatest guitar player ever” list, and the driving force behind the Generation Axe touring guitar masturbation fest featuring himself, Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tosin Abasi.
He told me he was just taking a quick break outside while Yngwie Malmsteen was on stage, and was listening for his cue to join him. I told him that was perfectly fine – and then immediately felt as stupid as humanly possible for telling him it was OK to be at his own show.
Trying, and failing, to play it cool, I said I was just watching Yngwie and that he was “killing it.” Fucking dork. Steve kindly agreed though, and commented about how exact and precise he is and how amazing it is to play with him. He truly seemed like a fan, just some dude chilling and talking about music. I asked where they were headed next and admitted he really didn’t know. Then he asked “We’re in Des Moines tonight right?” I responded awkwardly with the Spinal Tap quote “Hello Cleveland!” and he said “It could very well be Cleveland. I can’t keep track.”
I mentioned I was a big fan, especially of his work with Frank Zappa back in the 80s and he broke into a huge smile, and said Frank was incredible and one of a kind. A guy who saw us chatting came up and mentioned he had an album he’d brought to Get signed. Steve said “Yeah, no problem, go grab it if it’s close or just catch me afterwards.”
He came back from his car with a copy of “Ship Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch,” an album Zappa released in 1982. It’s best known for “Valley Girl,” the song in which Moon Unit Zappa, like, forever changed the way we speak in the United States. Steve was credited on this album for playing “impossible guitar parts.”
Steve took it in his hands and smiled, said “Oh yeah” or “Oh Wow” or something along those lines, turned it over to look at the front and back, seeming to recall some memory or another. “This album was half studio work and half live,” he said. “You know the song ‘Envelopes?’ It was supposed to be a live recording but Frank messed up and had to dub in some studio parts. That was the only time I ever saw Frank mess up.”
He then started talking about the incredible range of music that Zappa was responsible for. “Frank put out a lot of different music. Some of it was really ahead of its time and people might just be appreciating it now. Then there’s stuff he did with the synclavier that is so incredible and so far ahead of its time that in 100 years people will just start to understand how brilliant it is.”
Then Yngwie played a particular lick that caught Steve’s attention and stopped him mid-sentence. “Oh shit. That’s my cue.” I walked him back to the entrance and mentioned that I always loved the story about when he auditioned for Frank and before I could finish he laughed and said, "I hear Linda Ronstadt is looking for a guitar player.” He shook my hand again and thanked me for some damn reason, then climbed on stage with Yngwie and proceeded to just tear shit down.
Not a bad night.

Saturday, November 17, 2018


Reading is, of course, one of life's greatest pleasures. We here at BFD HQ have a thing for the written word. I like words in all the different platforms that they are presented. Books, magazines, zines, newspapers, blogs, comic books,candy wrappers, cryptic post-it notes left on truck stop urinals, and yes, even the profound words of wisdom found scrawled on the bathroom stalls of the seedy bar on the corner. It's all a real blast and I figure you must agree because your reading something right now. Or maybe your having it read to you, but either way, if you get a kick out of lit then you may enjoy a few of the things that have found their way to my mailbox.

First off is a zine from some group of Pagans. It has Asatru Apothecary emblazoned on the front and back cover so maybe that's how these folks identify themselves, but I'm not sure. Anyway before SPRING OF WYRD arrived I had it imagined it to be some tome about a bunch of guys telling how to mix up some psychoactive brews and twisted tales of what these concoctions can do to ya. I envisioned deranged stories of tripping bad asses on hallucinatory quests through the concrete landscapes morphing into hellish, dark alleys of the Interzone while doing battle with goblins, demons, strange creatures and Catholics. I'm not sure why my imagination built the thing up that way but that wasn't what I got. Rather this zine is a rather serious take on the historical mythology( or is it mythical history) of meads, ambrosia's or whatnot. It's really kind of scholarly and yes there are recipes, so if your inclined to get hold of the ingredients( some of which are Henbane seeds, dried Yarrow, etc.) you could whip yourself up a batch of outlaw ale and maybe embark on some shamanic vision quest and better your life a little in the process. Who knows. This is an interesting read and I'm thinking these guys take it all pretty seriously. I might actually drink a couple of beers with these guys. Maybe.

Next up I got three issues of THE ROCK N' ROLL HORROR ZINE edited by one Ben Fitts. There is a fourth issue out I think so if your so inclined you may want to check it out. the premise of this is spelled out for you in the title. Rock n roll horror fiction. Not bad really. I haven't read all of the stories yet but you get stuff about cursed guitar peddles, killer musicians (as in they actually kill people), and other such stuff. Some of it is kind of Twighlight Zonish in ways or at least is making the attempt. I don't know that I would call what I've read so far amaturish but some might. I don't know, but one of the thing I like about this zine (and zines in general) is that it can feel like it's someone telling you a story over beer and tacos. there's something kind of one on one personal about it.

They take submissions so you could send them your own spooky rock n roll tale and why shouldn't you. I think you'd get a copy of the zine to give to yer mom and maybe something else. Again contact 'em and find out for yourself. As far as getting these things you should check out places like Etsy, Ebay, and other online places that sell zines. When I tried to link the websites it kept coming telling me it couldn't be reached so go find the stuff for yourself. It's out there and it ain't that hard. Besides it'll build character.

Last but certainly not least is the complete bound collection of DENIM DELINQUENT. One of those great rock n roll fanzines from the 70s.

This is chock full o great stuff. That gonzo, amateur approach to rock writing which basically beat the hell out of a lot of the pro mags. Edited by Jymn Parrett and lots of contributors some of whom you may know and others you may not, this thing delivers. The thing about mags like this isn't that it's about rock n roll, it is rock n roll. Lots of Seeds, Kinks, and Stooges worship. This kind of thing existed, exists, because of that obsessive, burning drive to get something of your own out there. If the pros won't cover what you want; go out there and cover it yourself with your own style and own language, and screw it if you ain't as slick or don't have the production values of the biggies, because that's never been the point anyway. It's rock n roll presented as a high energy, youth gultcher, seedy affair. Reading this is the same thing as playing one of your fave records and what's more is that you can do both at the same time. Get it at HoZac records and I  mean get it.


There's not much to be said that hasn't already been said about this guy. I know there's been a lot of controversy about how much the guy wrote and credit given for and taken for things and all that, and I don't know enough to really comment much, and don't want to go there anyway. What I will say as whatever the case, this guy was involved the creation of an epic 20th century pop mythology. I find Marvel comics pretty much a pile of crap these days; but in the 60s and 70s, and even in to the early 80s this stuff was vital to me, and goes along way into reflecting the weird world that exists inside of my head. I learned to read because of a Spider-Man comic book. I would actually go as far as to say that reading Spider-Man was possibly my first psychedelic experience. So for whatever part he played in the creation and perpetuation of Marvel comics I am honestly and eternally grateful. NUFF SAID!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Five questions with... Simeon Coxe of Silver Apples

A little background...

I found a copy of Contact by Silver Apples at a garage sale on the south side of Des Moines last summer, pulling it from the usual collection of grandma’s dusty old Herb Albert records. I’d never heard of the band, but for a buck I threw it on the purchase stack assuming I’d found yet another generic and forgotten rock record that might have a decent song or two on it. Was I ever wrong.

From the moment the needle hits vinyl, Contact is some seriously unique and weird shit with primitive synthesizers taking the lead over timid, almost apologetic vocals, discordant banjo, and percussion that is odd only in its normalcy among the chaos. It’s hypnotic and almost impossible to stop listening to once it begins. And, despite (or because of ?) the weirdness, it’s incredibly listenable and provides new discoveries with every repeat play. From the first listen I knew this was one of my all-time great garage sale finds. 

Silver Apples consisted of two members: Danny Taylor on percussion and vocals, and Simeon Coxe on vocals, oscillators, and banjo. Simeon and Danny (who had previously played with Jimi Hendrix) started off in a more traditional rock band, but Simeon discovered the audio oscillator and started incorporating it into the band’s performances until shit got so weird that everyone but Taylor just walked away and left them to whatever it was they were doing.

What they were doing, incidentally, was breaking new ground and establishing the framework for new musical genres to come — EDM, Kraut Rock, underground dance music, and indie rock

Simeon Coxe at work on The Simeon synthesizer. 
The backbone of the Silver Apple’s sound came from The Simeon, a homemade synthesizer that Simeon has described as “consisting of  12 oscillators, an assortment of sound filters, telegraph keys, radio parts, lab gear and a variety of second hand electronic junk.” 

Simeon and Danny parted ways after Contact, the follow up to their 1968 self-titled album, following the collapse of their record label (Kapp). An unauthorized CD issued by a German label in 1994 that contained both albums helped rekindle interest in the group. The pair reunited in 1996 and performed until Danny’s death in 2005. Simeon released Clinging to a Dream under the Silver Apple name in 2016, and has continued performing around the world. 

I reached out to Simeon to thank him for creating such amazing work and he agreed to do a “Five Questions With...” interview for The Bigfoot Diaries.

Silver Apples, 1967, first live show in Central Park.
 30,000 people were in attendance.
1. What is the best way an intelligent being from another planet or dimension could make contact with us?
“By decorating its message with confusing emojis so we get so hung up in trying to crack the code that we forget to guard against their attack.”

2. What is your all-time favorite sound?
“The sound of my own tinnitus because only I can hear it.”

3. How did you first discover the audio oscillator that you began incorporating into your music?
“A friend of mine in NYC had one that he used to play along with Beethoven after drinking a pint of vodka.”

4. Was it madness or genius that led you to create The Simeon Synthesizer?
“Definitely madness.”

5. What are you currently working on or have plans for in the future – musically or otherwise?
“I am currently basking in the joy of doing absolutely nothing.”

Bonus question: What is the strangest experience you’ve ever had?
“That time, remember? When time stood still, and everybody on earth had to reset their clocks, but no one could agree how much. That was strange!”

If you only listen to one song: A Pox on You

All photos from courtesy of Simeon Coxe

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Five Questions With... Ted Nugent of the Amboy Dukes

If a 13 year old kid asked you to hand him any album that would change his life forever, what record would you hand him? 

Music is truly a force to reckon with and has a power unto itself, including an element of universal communication. I don't believe music unto itself has enough meaningful impact to actually change a person's life, though it could be a fortifying soundtrack to upgrade if accompanied by intelligent, sincere and loving direction and guidance. As part of an overall message of being the best that you can be, there is a lot of music out here that inspires.

What do you say to people who attend your shows that don't want to hear about your political views... Who just want to hear your music?

I don't have to say anything to a person smart enough to know how incredible my music and band are, they already know how killer we are.

Side 2 of the first Amboy Dukes album starts off with a song called "Let's Go Get Stoned." What is your position on the legalization/decriminalization of marijuana? 

That was a great old song by Bob Dylan that some of my band mates actually believed in. And of course, unlike old clean and sober me, they are no longer around because of it. Dope destroys lives and everything and everybody around it. I am very much opposed to its legalization on any level.

What memories of any do you have about playing in Des Moines, Iowa? 

Many a glowing memory shine in my overwhelmed memory bank, and they are all wonderful! Intense people love intense, soulful music and our connection represents all the best elements of music and a united appreciation for the best of the best.

Do you still have the spandex pants with the suspenders that you feature on the cover and the back of the Double Live Gonzo! album?

No, I donated them to a charity and believe they have been hung over someone's home to keep away evil spirits and hippies. I understand they do so flawlessly. I last wore them around 1985 at an event where we buried disco.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Papa's Got a Brand New Bag of Tricks: GHOST plays Ames 11-4-18

As the moonless sky raked across the heavens Sunday night, I ventured into C Y Stephens Auditorium in Ames  to check out this latest incarnation of Ghost, the mysterious and ever-changing Swedish metal band that unabashedly courts Satan through it's horror church persona and infernal, godless lyrics.

Ghost takes the stage. Photo by Troy Church

My first intro to this band came in about 2011 when I was working part time as a line cook at a local restaurant. A co-worker, Nick (from Black Market Fetus) had taken it upon himself to burn off a few CDs to pass along, and Ghost's first full length album Opus Eponymous was among them. 

"Give it a listen," he said. "Let me know what you think."

Right away I became enthralled. By the music certainly, but maybe more by the way Ghost conducted their business. It was fascinating to me that a band could exist in the internet age and maintain such a masked level of anonymity. While it's since become known that the front man of the group is Tobias Forge, the identity of the rest of the band members remains unclear. 

One interesting theory at the time, and another factor that piqued my curiosity, was that the band was actually an alter-ego of the Swedish pop band The Cardigans, who'd shed their wholesome image for one of Satanic majesty, with inverted crosses, black papal robes and a darker, heavier image. (This rumor dispelled quickly while members of the Cardigans were spotted in Sweden while Ghost toured North America in late 2011.)  As members of Ghost have gone on to become ex-members of Ghost - I mentioned that they are ever-changing - their identities have become known. The identity of the current roster however, remains shadowy.

Cardinal Copia. Photo by Shanna Von Fumetti Wylie

Because of that first album and the mysterious nature of the band, I have remained a fan of Ghost, though admittedly I hadn't sought out any of their music since Opus Eponymous. I've kept tabs occasionally, knowing that Forge would change his persona from album to album, encrypting a new image for each new "concept," taking on a different Papal personality with each new release. What I didn't realize was that Forge had discarded the Satanic Pope image altogether to become Cardinal Copia for this latest incarnation. On this tour, he dons makeup but without complete facial disguise. 

I got the sense after seeing him perform that I might recognize him if I saw him on the street. I also got the sense that I probably have seen him on the streets, and that he looks nothing like what I'd expect somebody to look like who sings in a Satanic metal band. At the risk of pushing the envelope too far, I also got the sense that he resembles somebody who might actually be a member of The Cardigans. 

Sunday night was the first new night of Daylight Savings, and to my time-warped brain, it felt much later than 8:00. I was tired and not sure what to expect. The auditorium, while mostly full, seemed subdued and tired as I took my seat. I only sat there for about two minutes before the lights went down and the curtain dropped. Instantly I became aware that my preconceived calculation of the crowd had missed the mark, a thunderous clap erupted as the stage revealed itself to the auditorium.

Nameless Ghoul. Photo by Shanna Von Fumetti Wylie

The stage consisted of a marble stairway and terrace that sat atop a black and white checkerboard floor. Two platforms book-ended the terrace, one housing a guitar station and the other, an area where the keyboards were set up. Unnamed Ghouls took residence on each of these platforms, as well as on the stairway leading up to the terrace. Behind everything was giant set of cathedral windows with stained glass imagery. Front and center, in the middle window was a depiction of Papa Emeritus, the original Pope played by Forge on the band's first album, depicted much like you would see a once-living Pope exhibited on a window in a modern Catholic church. Smoke erupted from each side of the stage and the band held a long droning minor keyed note to set up the launch into the first song. As the song permitted, Cardinal Copia entered the stage to sing the first lyrics of the night. The crowd, already thunderously loud, erupted even louder.

At this point I should probably admit that I couldn't tell you the name of a single song by Ghost. The only CD I ever owned was one that was burned for me, and like on most burned CDs of the day, song listings weren't attached to it. I was running with blind expectations but it was enough for me to believe that  I'd enjoy the show. (That and the fact that my girlfriend is a big fan and accompanying me was everything I needed to put my ass in a seat.)

I'd seen the mockery of the band on social websites, but hadn't given it much thought. I understand that a band like Ghost isn't for everybody. Personally, I was still on the fence. I went in with blind expectations but when the curtain dropped, I knew I was in for a helluva night.

A highlight of the show was when the two front guitarists, both of whom exchanged lead parts throughout the night, participated in a battle. After a couple bouts of chasing scales, each scale a bit more complex than the previous, the battle ended when the one guitarist played a very sloppy intro to "Stairway to Heaven." After about 12 notes into Stairway, he stopped and waved his hands in disgusted defeat. It was a light moment but effectively funny. 

Photo by Shanna Von Fumetti Wylie

Another highlight was when, during a particularly intense guitar solo, Forge appeared at the top of the stairwell in full Pope toggery and accompanied the guitarists with an impressive sax solo. Forge would was constantly leaving the stage and reappearing.  Sometimes he'd be dressed completely differently, but damn if he wasn't always dressed immaculately. The way he flounced upon the stage gave the impression that he's well versed in Shakespearean play acting. Delicate and calculated, he seemed very aware of his every motion.  At times throughout the night, he gave the impression that he is a diva of sorts - In fact, his stage presence and theatrics are very similar to those of Geoff Tate's. 

Of course the band was fully disguised, wearing black robes and chrome plated devil masks. The masks didn't hinder the ability to play at all; Ghost is a well-oiled machine. Every musician was spot on, and while it was obvious that they were working hard, it also appeared that the band was legitimately having fun. Humor apparently is a mainstay throughout a Ghost concert, another quality I wasn't necessarily expecting. My experience when a band puts on a Satanic metal concert has always been that it's serious business. While Ghost was serious about putting on a quality concert, it was apparent that they were all having a blast. 

Usually when a band is having a blast, the audience is as well. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

"Reynolds Pamphlet” back for one last show

The Hamilton Parody calls out Gov. Kim Reynolds for everything she’s done to the state.
Remember a few months back when Hamilton played for what seemed like 40 consecutive days at The Civic Center of Greater Des Moines? No one could shut the hell up about it. I’m sure it was good, maybe even the best thing since sliced pizza like everyone seemed to think. Still, I just couldn’t muster up a single fuck to give about it.  

But, when I learned the play had inspired a parody version, “Reynolds Pamphlet,” that skewered Gov. Kim Reynolds, and that the musical powerhouses of Rae Fehring and Madison Ray were involved, I perked the fuck up. 

Named after one of the numbers in Hamilton, “Reynolds Pamphlet” features eight musical pieces that shed light on educational defunding, stagnant wages and a litany of other shit that Iowa is currently getting wrong under Reynolds “leadership.”
It’s not all a downer though. The play also highlights some of the things Iowa should be proud of: historic court rulings for racial and marriage equality, and a time not too long ago when its schools were well-funded and among the best in the nation. And like its source material, “Reynolds Pamphlet” intelligently employs rap, humor, spoken-word, and justifiable outrage to get its message across. 

And, as you’d expect from anything involving Fehring and Ray, it’s edgy, pulls no punches, and is entertaining as hell.  

Fair warning though, the website states that “Reynolds Pamphlet contains explicit language that may not be appropriate for children, and exposes extreme policies promoted by conservatives that may not be appropriate for anyone.” 

What more could you want? 

There is only one chance left to catch “Reynolds Pamphlet” — just in time to get motivated for Election Day.  

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 3rd, 7 PM (Doors at 6 PM) WHERE: Sheslow Auditorium at Drake University; 2507 University Ave, Des Moines, Iowa 

Tickets and more information at 


Today on the slagheap is a real stinker from Barry Mahon. 

The movie Musical Mutiny is one of two "lost" rock n roll movies from this producer/director. Although the poster above is apparently for a double bill of Musical Mutiny and for a movie called Weekend Rebellion, the movie we're discussing for your edification is Musical Mutiny.

Barry Mahon produced and /or directed many films and many of them in the "Youth culture exploitation" style. He was a fighter pilot in WWII. He joined the Royal Air Force and flew in the no.121 squadron, which was composed of American volunteers. His tally as a fighter pilot was 5 confirmed, 2 probable, and 3 damaged. He was shot down and captured. He escaped twice but was recaptured and finally freed by Patton's 3rd Army in 1945. He actually worked on escape tunnels at Stalag Luft III made famous by the movie The Great Escape, Hilts "The Cooler King" was loosely based on him.

After the war Mahon became the personal pilot for Errol Flynn, and then his personal manager. Mahon then went on to produce some movies for Flynn. Mahon's film making journey was quite a trip, and it's kinda weird that it led to this kind of thing. 

What you get with this film is a kinda weird flick that goes best at a 3a.m. veiwing. The movie is kind of bad even by bad movie standards. Meaning that there are movies that are bad, yet they are very entertaining in various ways, often times it is the bad variables that make the films entertaining. And then there are some movies that are just bad, as in not very entertaining to watch. If you have the inclination, watching this celluliod atrocity is not a complete waste of time, but it's pretty close.

Not exactly Black Beard is he?

The premise is that a pirate ghost appears at Florida's Pirate World amusement park. He starts to spread the word about a mutiny happening at Pirate World. The word gets spread and all the hip youth are game to show up and check it out. The ghost pirate convinces the guys working the gate to let the kids in free. So the masses of hip youth culture show up. 

The so called "mutiny" is Iron Butterfly playing live. Yet they do not play live in this movie but instead pretend to play and sing to the tracks. The dubbing is rather crappy  and I wonder why since they had the band and the stage set up, they just didn't have them play live. (I think the band actually was playing a concert there any way so there was probably some budgetary reason for this). The band play two songs and then the owner pulls the plug because he can't pay the band if the kids don't pay up. Kids start playing their own music in various incarnations around the park then. Bands like The New Society Band, The Fantasy, and some others.

A hippie comes up with the money so Iron Butterfly can come back. They do and pantomime a performance to their biggest hit In-a-Godda-da-Vida, along with some less than stellar psychedelic effects. There are a few subplots and not all of them really get resolved, but that's the kind of thing you sometimes get with low budget film making.

Unless you are an Iron Butterfly completest, it may be hard to see the point in watching this film. But rest easy kids, there are a few things that make this at least mildly entertaining. 

First off, the film isn't that long, so it's not like your wasting much of your life seeing this.Next thing is the acting. Thespian excellence is nowhere to be seen in this thing, but often bad acting is satisfyingly entertaining. I find this to be the case here. The guy who plays the pirate ghost is surely in need of a few lessons at the local acting school. Although the guy throws around a few pirate terms (i.e. matey,etc) he does not use anything that comes within light years of a believable delivery. I  guess he comes from the school of "less is more." 

This guy is not only not mailing it in, he left it on the table when he left for work in the morning. 

It is that bad... and that good.

The film also exudes that weird, low budget je ne sais quoi that goofs like me really find life affirming in some strange way. But, let me tell you the best part of this thing in my humble opinion: There are a number of bands playing songs in this movie. There is a part where a guy is playing an organ and a girl is singing. It is absolutely BAD ASS!!! The organ sounds tough as the guy lays out a kind of delta blue riff and the girl delivers the lyrics with one heck'uva powerful voice. This tune destroys anything I ever heard from Iron Butterfly period. I have no idea who they were (I think they were part of a band that get together at another point in the film) but I wish just those two would have cut a record. I would buy it right now!

So if you get a chance to see this thing and you don't have to spend much, or better yet, any money, to check it out then go ahead if you got some time and brain cells to kill. You could do worse. 

Well maybe.