AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: BORIS/The Atlas Moth/SubRosa @ Lee’s Palace, August 7, 2014

Man, it’s always good to see Boris live.  It’s been a couple years, and while you’ve never quite sure what you’re going to get from the uncategorizable Japanese rockers, you can often tell what sorta set they’ll play by the opening acts on tour.  Last time I saw ‘em, they had some Japanese shoegaze band opening, but this time, with the post-sludge of SubRosa and The Atlas Moth on the bill, I knew it would be a good night.

Opening act SubRosa (not to be confused with the 90’s grunge band) marked the first time I’ve seen two electric fiddles on stage since my last trip to Newfoundland I caught Earthen Grave at DOTD III.  And suffice to say this outfit don’t play no squid-jiggin’ tunes, either, using the violins to accentuate some forlorn doom passages.  Arguably the best thing to come outta Salt Lake City since Stockton-to-Malone!

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Hadn’t seen The Atlas Moth live in a few years, and it seems they’ve omitted some of the too-black-metal-sounding songs of their first album from their live repertoire.  And no, I’m not complaining in the slightest!  Their set got cut a bit short on behalf of Boris–and there was no entertaining between-song stage banter–but I’m told they’ll be back next month.

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Of course, the headliners didn’t disappoint.  As is their custom, Boris quickly whipped the crowd into a frenzy with tunes like “Pink” and “Statement,” before mellowing things out, gradually building up to a pretty epic conclusion.  And hey, unlike last time, they actually allowed flash photography–allowing me to take some pretty decent pics!

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AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE @ The Garrison, May 21, 2014

This one was an early show–especially by Garrison standards.  I showed up around 9:30, and saw maybe the last three minutes of the opening band, not nearly enough to even mention them.  But at least I was there in plenty of time to see AMT, who took the stage sometime around 10.  As I’ve said several times over the years–and reprinted over the last few days–these guys a pretty much a must-see live band.  And now, for the first time, I can show y’all what ya missed:

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No, that’s not just my camera…keyboardist Higashi Hiroshi actually had the spotlight on him for most of the show:

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On the other hand, drummer Koji Shimira was completely in the dark:

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You know shit’s about to get real when they reach for…  THE RECORDER OF DOOM!

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Alas, after a 70-75 minute set, we weren’t treated to a proper encore–perhaps owning to technical difficulties with the synthesizer.  Instead, we got some sorta strange group singalong…  A tad anticlimactic, if you ask me!

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ACID MOTHERS FLASHBACKS: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE/The Phantom Family Halo @ The Garrison, April 26, 2012

(This was the last AMT show I attended–and also the first at The Garrison, the same venue they’re playing tonight.  I’ll be heading out there shortly…)

For the past four or five years, I’ve counted on Japanese spaced-out psych merchants Acid Mothers Temple coming through town in April.  They always seem to take a trip over here right when spring starts to bloom.  Well okay, so spring was a little late this year.  Also of note: this gig wasn’t at the El Mocambo, their typical Toronto tour stop for as long as I can remember, but rather at The Garrison, down by Dundas and Ossington.

Considering that the usually-reliable ElMo sound system offered some resistance during last year’s trip to Toronto, I suppose I’m not surprised at the change of venue.  Besides, it’s not like they packed ‘em in at the Stones’ ol’ stompin’ grounds.  That said, there was a pretty decent-sized crowd out at this one, and a younger audience than I’ve seen at their past gigs.

I suppose some of them might’ve been there for The Phantom Family Halo, an indie-psych act from NYC that employed two drummers and a saxophone.  As far as AMT openers go, they were better than most.  My favourite still has to be Over-Gain Optimal Death (aka OGOD) from 2010, though.  They were pretty sweet.

But of course the evening belonged to the band from the land of Japan.  The Mothers added another full-fledged guitarist to their lineup in the form of Tabata Mitsuru, allowing them to execute some four-man vocal harmonies (if you could call ‘em that).  This set also featured a lot more vocal noises from bassist and occasional singer Tsuyama Atsushi, who even busted out a clarinet at select intervals.  Kawabata Makoto brought some additional props too, playing guitar with a Barbie doll and a music-note shaped EBow, along with his magic wand, which came out earlier than usual this time.

While you can expect to hear such staples as “Pink Lady Lemonade” and “Chinese Flying Saucer” in your average AMT set, it’s not like the band takes requests.  Hell, at times I’m not even sure whether they’re drawing from their long, varied back catalogue, or just jamming up there.  These guys put on a full, 75 to 90 minute performance that runs the gamut of heavy psych sounds through a variety of tempos, always leaving room for dessert.  They might not be the only band I make a point of seeing every time they’re in Toronto, but they’re certainly on that list.

That being said, this might have been the last AMT gig I’ll get to see.  According to the band’s website, this latest go-round has been dubbed “Last Tour in US & Canada 2012.”  I can only hope that something got lost in translation when they made that statement–April will be a lot less exciting without ‘em!

(Originally written for Hellbound.ca)

ACID MOTHERS FLASHBACKS: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE/Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers @ El Mocambo, April 8, 2011

In case you didn’t know, Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple makes its annual North American spring pilgrimage around this time of year.  Well OK, usually it’s in April–they’ve effectively thrown my concert calendar outta whack.  Although I missed ‘em last year (hey, U.D.O was in town!), I saw ‘em four years in a row beforehand, and I’ve already got my ticket in hand for their gig at The Garrison this week.  With that said, I’ve dug into my cache of old write-ups to reminisce about some past AMT gigs.  No pictures cuz I didn’t do that back then, but who knows, I might take some on Wednesday…

ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE/SHILPA RAY AND HER HAPPY HOOKERS @ EL MOCAMBO, APRIL 8TH

Every April, the Acid Mothers Temple makes its way across North America, always stopping at the ElMo along the way.  This is the third straight year I’ve seen ‘em, and although there were some slight sound problems this time around, the band was just as good as ever.  Maybe not quite as memorable as last year’s performance, though.

For one thing, the opening band wasn’t as impressive.  Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers was the most “normal” bunch I’ve seen supporting AMT, despite the tortured female screams and their use of harmonium.  The garage/indie/grunge act seemed to drag on too long with a set of similar-sounding songs and only scant traces of psychedelia to be found.  Sort of like an overpriced appetizer that leaves you hungry for the main course.

As for the headliners, well, sadly to say some technical difficulties put somewhat of a damper on the band’s set.  The right-side speakers crackled constantly, and Tsuyama Atsushi booted a bass pedal in disgust.  At one point, with none of the FX at his disposal registering in the mix, an angered Higashi Hiroshi walked off stage.  It’s never a good sign when the sound guy’s plugging stuff in during yer set, but Kawabata Makoto made up for lost time with an extended solo played with a bow.

As per usual, the band played four, maybe five songs, tops.  One tune, “Chinese Flying Saucer,” sounded a lot like Led Zep on some stronger medication.  (And no, that wasn’t the one with the bow solo, either!)  Another number featured lotsa strange group chanting.  I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the one with the recorder before, though I think it was a clarinet last time.  After Kawabata left his guitar hanging from a light fixture, the band came back for an encore that was part desert rock, part Egyptian desert music, till they sped up the pace and everything disintegrated into some frantic soloing that brought the evening to a close.

As I’ve said elsewhere, AMT is one of the best live psychedelic rock bands going.  Don’t let their recorded output deceive you; this is an act that’s worth the price of admission every time, and I’m sure I’ll see ‘em next year, too!

(Originally written for TooHighToGetItRight.com.  RIP.)

ACID MOTHERS FLASHBACKS: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE/Over-Gain Optimal Death @ El Mocambo, April 4, 2010

In case you didn’t know, Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple makes its annual North American spring pilgrimage around this time of year.  Well OK, usually it’s in April–they’ve effectively thrown my concert calendar outta whack.  Although I missed ‘em last year (hey, U.D.O was in town!), I saw ‘em four years in a row beforehand, and I’ve already got my ticket in hand for their gig at The Garrison this week.  With that said, I’ve dug into my cache of old write-ups to reminisce about some past AMT gigs.  No pictures cuz I didn’t do that back then, but who knows, I might take some on Wednesday…

ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE/OVER-GAIN OPTIMAL DEATH @ EL MOCAMBO, APRIL 4TH

This year, I was somewhat conflicted whether to attend AMT’s annual Toronto appearance or a Jello Biafra gig across town at the Opera House.  Had it been a Dead Kennedys show instead, it woulda been a truly tough decision, but within minutes of the Mothers taking the stage at the ElMo, I knew I had made the right choice.

OVER-GAIN OPTIMAL DEATH: I thought this band had a pretty weird name, until I realized that their acronym was OGOD.  (I realized it right when their singer said so, mind you…)  I was glad to see that AMT had brought along a proper opening act on this tour, following last year’s Sonic Suicide debacle.  OGOD is a more traditional trio, with your standard guitar-bass-drums set-up, playing speedy psychedlic tunes somewhat reminiscent of the good Mothers, Boris at their fastest, Hawkwind, and dare I say The Doors?  I guess I shall, since these guys also hail from LA (with a) Woman bassist, to boot!

ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE: The Acid Mothers started off with a fast-paced tune of their own, almost as if saying to their openers “Anything you can do, we’ve been doing forever…” Kawabata Makoto looked like a Japanese Jimi Hendrix who’d stuck his finger in an electric socket, playing a lefty guitar upside-down in homage to Hendrix (despite being right-handed).

The pace slowed to a mellow crawl, with bass player (and band mouthpiece) Tsuyama Atsushi busting out what looked like a clarinet at one point.  Hey, I don’t know my woodwinds, but that was some trippy shit…  Things gradually got faster until Makoto left his guitar suspended from the ceiling, while Atsushi and drummer Shimura Koji pushed the tempo to the limit.  After leaving the stage for a brief delay, Atsushi introduced their encore as a catchy pop song, destined to be number one.  Twas head-noddingly heavy for several minutes of mid-paced retro grooves, till once again picking up speed, enveloping us all in its chaotic wake.

Forget about Mothra–and fuck Godzilla–the Temple is Japan’s deadliest monster!

(Originally written for TooHighToGetItRight.com.  RIP.)

ACID MOTHERS FLASHBACKS: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE/Sonic Suicide Squad @ El Mocambo, April 14, 2009

In case you didn’t know, Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple makes its annual North American spring pilgrimage around this time of year.  Well OK, usually it’s in April–they’ve effectively thrown my concert calendar outta whack.  Although I missed ‘em last year (hey, U.D.O was in town!), I saw ‘em four years in a row beforehand, and I’ve already got my ticket in hand for their gig at The Garrison this week.  With that said, I’ve dug into my cache of old write-ups to reminisce about some past AMT gigs.  No pictures cuz I didn’t do that back then, but who knows, I might take some on Wednesday…

ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE/SONIC SUICIDE SQUAD @ EL MOCAMBO, APRIL 14TH

Japanese psych rock pioneers Acid Mothers Temple hardly need any introduction.  They also don’t need much promotion to draw a decent crowd.  There wasn’t a whole lotta hype leading up to this show; in fact, I didn’t even see it listed on the ElMo’s website, but those in the know knew about the band’s annual pilgrimage to our town, and arrived with plenty of merch money–myself included.

SONIC SUICIDE SQUAD: I’m not sure how these guys landed the opening spot on this tour, as they don’t seem to have much of a fanbase, hailing from the South.  SSS is also one of the strangest trios I’ve ever seen.  No guitar, no bass, but drums, saxophone and keys/fx created their sound.  I’m not sure that they followed any musical structures or patterns, as it all seemed like random noise.  In other words: this shit ain’t cool!

ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE: On the other hand, AMT graced us with a solid 75-minute set, although their encore seemed rather short compared to the lengthy tunes they played previously.  Led by the psychedelic guitar freakouts of Kawabata Makoto, they busted out the instrumental jams, with occasional Japanese scatting and broken English from bass player Tsuyama Atsushi, who sold me a couple of their new CDs.  (They had at least three!)  Later in the set, Makoto pulled out his magic wand, a metal rod with a red tassle, which he used to play his instrument, before leaving it suspended from the ceiling, drowning us in feedback as he left the stage.  The question, asked throughout the set by Atsushi, was “Are We Experimental?”  The answer, without a doubt, was a resounding hella-fuckin’-yes!

(Originally written for TooHighToGetItRight.com.  RIP.)

AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: Kadavar @ Horseshoe Tavern, April 21, 2014

Not only was this show on a Monday, but it was the day after 4/20.  Perhaps that explains why the crowd was rather sparse and unenthused.  Probably didn’t help that Kadavar had no touring support to warm us up–while Mothership and The Shrine were opening other dates of the tour, this evening’s openers, Sons of Huns, got denied at the border the day before.  Note for next time: When touring Canada, better bring a band that can get into Canada.

That said, all the bleak and dreary bullshit melted away not long after these killer Krauts took the stage.  They brushed off just about their entire discography–all two albums’ worth!–in a set spanning some 75 minutes, and still left us wanting more.  These guys have definitely hit headliner status…just maybe they could play a smaller venue next time?

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Ya gotta love Kadavar can-basher Christoph “Tiger” Bartelt. Not only has he got the fluid, octopus-armed form of Keith Moon, but he pulls it off while headbanging furiously like a frenzied frost giant:

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And speaking of giants…

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Of course, Bartelt isn’t the only headbanger–or the only Christoph–in the band:

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GUITAR SOLO!!!!

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TOP 10 GERMAN STONER/DOOM BANDS: 2. Kadavar

Let’s face it, when it comes to German metal, doom isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  You’re probably thinking power metal, perhaps 80′s thrash, or maybe even early trailblazers like Accept or the Scorpions.  But Deutschland actually has a pretty healthy underground doom scene, even if you discount all those false, erm, “gothic doom” bands.  With Kadavar, one of the leaders of the pack, currently invading North American shores for the second time, it’s time for me to count down some killer Kraut outfits that don’t wear tunics or guyliner…

10. Aleph Null

9. Beehoover

8. Wight

7. Whitebuzz

6. Black Space Riders

5. Spirit Descent

4. Obelyskkh

3. Samsara Blues Experiment

2. Kadavar

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On their first two albums, this Berlin-based trio has put forth a solid example of vintage, retro, 70’s-style heavy psych, reminiscent of Black Sabbath but far from being copy cats.  Is it any wonder they’re the only band on this list to take North America by storm?  Here they are in Toronto last year–and no, I didn’t shoot this video:

TOP 10 GERMAN STONER/DOOM BANDS: 3. Samsara Blues Experiment

Let’s face it, when it comes to German metal, doom isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  You’re probably thinking power metal, perhaps 80′s thrash, or maybe even early trailblazers like Accept or the Scorpions.  But Deutschland actually has a pretty healthy underground doom scene, even if you discount all those false, erm, “gothic doom” bands.  With Kadavar, one of the leaders of the pack, currently invading North American shores for the second time, it’s time for me to count down some killer Kraut outfits that don’t wear tunics or guyliner…

10. Aleph Null

9. Beehoover

8. Wight

7. Whitebuzz

6. Black Space Riders

5. Spirit Descent

4. Obelyskkh

3. Samsara Blues Experiment

This Berlin-based quartet is the third stoner jam band on this list.  It seems this semi-obscure subgenre is as German as apple strudel.  Alas, while they’re no strangers to 13+ minute epics, SBE is not an instrumental outfit–guitarist Christian Peters also contributes the occasional vocal, alongside sitar, Moog organ and harp.  That said, their latest album, 2013’s Waiting for the Flood, shows signs of Earthless and their ilk.  Check out the entire album below:

TOP 10 GERMAN STONER/DOOM BANDS: 6. Black Space Riders

Let’s face it, when it comes to German metal, doom isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  You’re probably thinking power metal, perhaps 80′s thrash, or maybe even early trailblazers like Accept or the Scorpions.  But Deutschland actually has a pretty healthy underground doom scene, even if you discount all those false, erm, “gothic doom” bands.  With Kadavar, one of the leaders of the pack, currently invading North American shores for the second time, it’s time for me to count down some killer Kraut outfits that don’t wear tunics or guyliner…

10. Aleph Null

9. Beehoover

8. Wight

7. Whitebuzz

6. Black Space Riders

Black Space Riders official 2014(Is it just me, or do most of the guys in this band look like Lars Ulrich?)

D:REI, the third album from Münster mashers Black Space Riders, is the band’s most ambitious effort yet–perhaps a little too ambitious.  The 13-song, 80-minute opus is a grueling test of heavy psych, groove metal and industrial rock that makes that bloated new Hawkwind record fly by like Reign in Blood.  This might be the first album to use up every last second available on a CD, though they wouldn’t be the first to issue a record on four sides of vinyl.  Let’s just say I’d take this one over Sandinista! any day…