Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pirates of Darkwater

My internet at home is down, so this entry won't be that great!  Pirates of Darkwater were a 2-guitar 1 drummer band from Austin ca. 2004.  To me, they sounded like if the Champs retained a tad more of their independent rock stylings of their second cassette and kept evolving in that direction.  Bryan Richie played guitar, the other guitarist was named Ryan Figg, and the drummer was named Charlie Ciernia.  I'm not sure what other bands Charlie was in, but Bryan went on to be in the Sword and Ryan went on to be in Octopus Project.  They recently had a reunion show, so maybe they'll play more often.

A link to one of their demos that may or may not work
Notice how in this picture I'm holding nothing because this doesn't exist in a physical format!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Damn Near Red

Moving from Williamsburg VA to Richmond VA in the late summer of 1992 was a real culture shock.  Homeless people!  Gunshots!  Left-wing politics!  For me, the biggest difference was in the bands.  In Williamsburg, you'd get a couple of your friends together and play in your parents' garage.  In Richmond, you had to actually be GOOD.  Like, for example, Damn Near Red.
One of the first big shows at the Metro that fall was (I think) Shudder to Think, First 5 Thru, and Damn Near Red.  For some reason I feel like Askance was going to play, but they refused to play a show that cost more than $5.  Maybe it was First 5 Thru that refused.  This completely boggled my young mind.  Why would a band refuse to play a show because it was over $5?  Phrases like "veganism" and "privilege" and "feminism" were completely alien to me then.  Anyway, this guy Brian Moeller (sp) was a blonde art student that wore trenchcoats and went on about the band Damn Near Red.  They typified something called "the Richmond sound" - whatever that was.  I made sure to catch them the next time they played, and was blown away.
I was unaware that bands could have dynamics and contrast and... melodies.  The singer looked like she was born on stage and was singing Latin opera over shoegazery feedback swirls. They had a ridiculously tight yet jarring rhythm section that was just as important as the rest of the band - again, a new concept for me.  I saw them whenever I could and was amazed when I eventually became friends with the bassist and the singer, as I always figured they would be way too cool to consort with the likes of me.  One of my favorite live music experiences was watching them cover Pat Benetar's "Heartbreaker" in someone's basement in front of maybe 30 other people.  Great band.
Some time in the mid 1990's, they recorded with the legendary Mark Smoot:
01 Crusted with Angels
02 Bread of Heav'n or Cutting
03 The Ardent One
04 Full-Throttle Chelsea
05 River Blindness
06 Hey Fabulous
07 The New Onion Persona
08 Regilding the Dome is Brilliant
They also recorded a few songs with David Lowery, but for legal purposes I can not post them.

Monday, May 14, 2012


It'd be hard to tell people with a straight face that in the 1990's, there was a music scene in Williamsburg.  Williamsburg, Virginia.  It consisted of maybe 20 people, passionate about writing, practicing, playing, performing, and recording music.  A strong argument for bands in small towns is that there is no agenda other than having a genuine love for what they're doing.  Consider: the Strokes are from New York City.
In 1993, four lads decided to start a band called Placebo.  This was a year or two before... another band happened upon the same name.  Unfortunately for the former Placebo, this was close to a decade before myspace.com existed, so they couldn't legally lay claim to the name. Neale Shaeffer played guitar and sang, Erik Sugg played guitar and sometimes sang, some guy I don't know played bass, and Ian Kruske played drums.
In a way, I'm kind of glad that Placebo didn't get a lot of exposure.  I'm sure that critics would have ripped them apart for sounding too much like Soundgarden or the Smashing Pumpkins.  Keep in mind though, this was before albums like Siamese Dream or Superunknown came out.  Unless you lived in Richmond, VA or (worse) Washington, DC, there was actually a time when it was actually okay to like these bands.  I always thought that their best material was that which strayed from their influences.  You could tell that there was potential there, and sometimes potential in its raw state can be just as rewarding as its kinetic counterpart.

Monday, May 7, 2012

400 Blows

Not long after moving to Austin, I became friends with the band Those Peabodys.  In their travels, they played with a band from Los Angeles called 400 Blows.  They were (are?) a power trio consisting of guitar, vocals, and drums.  That was kind of a 90's thing to not have a bassist in your band (Champs, Sleater Kinney, White Stripes, etc.).  400 Blows differed from the aforementioned bands (and most groups in general) in their complete and utter lack of anything resembling subtlety.  Have you ever seen what a wave form looks like?  The peaks and valleys.  Dynamics.  400 Blows has nothing to do with any of that.  While rendering these tracks, they looked exactly like what they sounded like - solid bricks of sound.
The first time I saw 400 Blows, it was right around when their first full-length came out.  The guitarist looked like he should have been in some kind of army.  The singer was some kind of weird bondagey cop with a half-mic stand and sunglasses.  The drummer was an Asian drum machine in human form.  Their demo remains my favorite output by them, I don't think they've yet to match the power in subsequent releases.  They very easily could though if they'd just turn everything back up to 10.
01 The Bards Must Drink and Junket
02 And the City Never Slept
03 The Bull that Killed the Matador
04 Premature Burial
05 Everything is Easy Now
06 Electric Wilderness
07 The World's Largest Miniature
08 The Flies