Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pour the Pirate Sherry - Mirror Highs

In each of the several times I've seen Passaic County's Pour the Pirate Sherry. 
I feel I've walked away with more than I bargained for. More than I'd ever expect from a band with such a head scratcher of a name.The Passaic County trio featuring Jarett Quintana (guitars and vocals, ex- We're All Broken guitarist) Paul Beir, (current Reese Van Riper, former Vapor Apes and Paid in Full bassist) and 
Chris Osborne (Drums ex -The Escape Engine) just might surprise you.

The bands sound dances along the lines of alternative, indie and straight up rock while never straying far from the basic formula of what makes a good song, bass line or riff.
"Minor Highs" second track "Safetypen" displays a raucous party attitude with it's driving, upbeat aggression.
"New Space" continues to warm me up with it's convincing leads and twisting bass lines. One can help but celebrate the warm melodies the band delivers here. "All Most Had it" rocks a bit harder with a dreamy vocal approach that has me thinking of Evan Dando creating a Lemonheads classic on a porch somewhere in Cambridge. "Cars Gone" furthers the promise of this very busy band. Ending the set on a high note with some really sweet hooks and a bit of a Teenage Fanclub feel. With Minor Highs behind me. It might be time I look past the bands name and judge them on the music their creating. Look my peers in the eyes and say
"I too love to Pour the Pirate Sherry." James Damion

Pour the Pirate Sherry

Monday, April 28, 2014

Six Bands, A Local College Campus and No Booze. What Could Possibly Go Right?

Ever since our favorite watering hole and go to place for music Maxwell's closed. 
Shows in Hoboken have been few and far between. While DC's and Northern Soul offer a place for local musicians to play. They don't seem to come remotely close to what the aforementioned club provided week and week after week. So when I heard that an all ages show was taking place just around the corner from me. I was more than happy to take a walk up that hill to the scenic grounds of Stevens Institute of Technology. Though I had heard about shows taking place there in the past. I never had the chance to attend. 
My first impressions of 1 Castle Hill Rd. were very good ones. A large, open room with lofty ceilings and plenty of room for the bands, merch tables and lounging. The music of 
Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbox and other favorites washed over the speakers before the show started and everyone in the vicinity of the building seemed open and friendly. 
$10 dollars at the door and an X on my hand and I was ready for anything. Here's how the night progressed. James Damion

Loose Ends opened the night and impressed
everyone in attendance. With the size of the room being as large as it was. It was good to see so many people within spitting distance of the band. This was my first taste of this New Jersey Hardcore band. They've got a seven song EP available on Bandcamp available.
Aside from that, I couldn't find much info.
Loose Ends Bandcamp

Just prior to the shows late start I bumped into the singer for Brain Slug. At the time, he seemed to be one of the only people in the room old enough to speak to without getting the cuffs put to me. The bands name quickly reminded me of that old smuckers jelly commercial. "With a name like Brain Slug, they have to be good." If that wasn't the understatement of the week, I got nothin' for ya son. Talk about taking things to a new level. As I stood there, I couldn't help but think it might be too early in the show for a band to be this good. The truth is they were. These Noo Yawkers raised the bar pretty high. They even greased it up a bit for anyone that followed. Intense stuff.
I downloaded their two song EP from Bandcamp this morning. It more than put the fire in this old mans belly. I really can't wait to hear more from this band. It's good to know they're close enough to keep tabs on.
Brain Slug Bandcamp

Living Laser, one of the two bands I had any prior knowledge to followed. I first learned about the band from co-blogger Dave G. and his positive reviews. Needless to say, they were one of the key reasons I decided to show up that might. From the first chord to the last note, the band, led by lead singer who can best be described as a human catapult. Forget the trampoline. Jay is his own rocket launcher. The band quickly exceeded my already lofty expectations while leaving me physically exhausted. If Living Laser ever decide to change their name.
I think "Lightning in a "Bottle would be a good choice. In recent years, my experience with Hardcore shows has almost exclusively involved the forty plus crowd. Getting the chance to see a current band as good as these guys convinces me that there's more to the genre than nostalgia and reunions.
Living Laser Facebook

Altered Boys, another band I grew fond of through a couple of EP's I pulled from the Grave Mistake Records catalog. One of the intriguing element of Grave Mistake and Sorry State records is that so many of their releases and bands carry somewhat of a mysterious anonymity about them. It's always an added bonus when you can put a face on a band you like by seeing them live. The band delivers a wide array of noise and debauchery. From straight Hardcore to more dark dissonant sounds. The bands sound covers a lot of ground. Lead singer Geoff made the most of the rooms space while engaging the crowd and welcoming the crowd to sing along. Getting to see them live for the first time gave me a sense of closure while opening the doors for future opportunities to catch them live.
Altered Boys Facebook

As Altered Boys finished their set. I thought of heading home. Tired, hungry and a bit battered. My tank was low. Luckily, a trip to the bathroom for some fresh air was enough fuel to get the engine restarted. Within minutes, it was time for Lovechild to do their thing. Just prior to their set I caught a glimpse of the band and thought to myself. "These guys are quite fashionable." "Could they possibly be that good a band." Thankfully, this Boston area band sound even better than they look. Insanely good Hardcore Punk with an energy and emotive feel that won me over instantly. Throughout their set I found myself hoping they had a ton of EP's at the merch table and were already planning a geographical move to my area code. An inspiring band in every sense of the word. They served as a reward for "Best decision to stick around."
Lovechild Facebook

Closing out the night were Code Orange Kids. It had been one of those perfect nights where the energy and momentum grew with each set. an all inclusive event where the crowd ignored the common practices of creating a self imposed force field between themselves and the band. Pennsylvania's Code Orange Kids made their trip north an unforgettable one. The band delivers a raw Hardcore sound that can easily be compared to Black Flag's earliest days. An added metal infusion that immediately had me thinking of one of my favorite bands Kylesa. The band didn't close the show as much as they shut it down. Considering what an amazing night it already was. Code Orange Kids set was one of epic proportions. One that will most likely stay with me for years to come. Thanks to all the people and bands for convincing  me  I'm definitely not too fucking old for this shit.
Until next time. James Damion 
Code Orange Kids Facebook

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Interview of the Week; Covering the Basses with Speed the Plough's Cindi Merklee

Cindi Merklee is a New Jersey based musician/bassist currently enlisted in the growing family known as Speed the Plough. Her musical journey can be traced back to the 90's when she joined her brother Joe Merklee in the indie meets power pop act Balloon Squad. Years later she resurfaced with the alt. rock outfit The 65's. Since that time we've crossed paths numerous times at shows, sat for some portraits and kept in touch on Facebook. Since an ill fated 65's interview a few years back. I've wanted to get the scoop on Cindi's musical journey and diverse influences. In part one of our interview, she brings us up to date about her departure from the 65's and becoming a member of STP. Thanks Cindi, 
I can't wait for the sequel. James Damion

James: You recently had the opportunity to play with Mission of Burma at Brooklyn's
Bell House. I remember how excited you were when you first found out. How did the opportunity come about and how did the show go over.

Cindi: Not too long after the
Hoboken Arts & Music Festival last fall J
ohn Baumgartner reached out to Todd and asked him to keep us in mind should he have an opening at The Bell House. Next thing I knew we were on the bill with Mission of Burma in February.  Perfect timing, I suppose. But yes - I was thrilled to be playing the Bell House at all. Having the opportunity to play with Mission of Burma was almost surreal. It didn’t fully sink in until we were loading in.

To be honest I felt we’ve played better shows -
I know I wasn’t in top form, but there were some real good moments where we all really came together. I just wish we had more of those that night. Regardless, our set seemed to go over well and whatever anxiety I had at the end of it was washed away when I crossed paths with
Clint Conley as I headed back stage. He greeted me with a firm handshake and a job well done. Couldn’t ask for a better conclusion to our portion of the night. I’m still smiling about it.

James: Mission was a band that really helped shape my Punk ethos as a teenager.
Their post reunion material has more than cemented that spirit. Did you have any special kinship with the bands music?

Cindi: Sadly they were a band I totally missed the bus on. I knew of them through my older brothers but didn’t familiarize myself with them until Unsound, which is a stellar record.
I’d feel bad about this if they were nothing more than a nostalgia act these days but they’re anything but. They’re still very much relevant and their set at The Bell House ranks among one of the best I’ve ever seen. Inspiring on so many levels.

James: I fondly recall meeting Toni and John through Al Chrisafuli at a 65's show.
How did you come to know them and how did the opportunity to join the band present itself?

Cindi: I’m a little foggy on the details of when exactly we first met but it was definitely a byproduct of being a part of the Dromedary family. It was probably at the first Camelfest or when the 65’s shared the bill with them at Mexicali - I can’t recall which came first.
I’ve known Ed Seifert for years, though. He used to record at my brother’s studio back in the 80s with The Ambivalent Bros.

James: Did leaving the 65's and joining Speed the Plough coincide?

Cindi: There was a bit of a gap between my departure from The 65’s and joining up with Speed the Plough - maybe six months or so. During that time Al Crisafuli had reached out to me to let me know John & Toni were thinking of asking me to contribute vocals to a new song of theirs. Before that came to be, I was invited to their Monday night jam sessions that summer where I found myself among not only my future band mates but also the likes of Dave Weckerman and Glenn Mercer which was kind of crazy for me having more or less grown up in the Hoboken scene. Later that year I wound up recording backing vocals for Speed the Plough on  “Mansion” (which is on the Tag Sale portion of the compilation that was released on Bar None back in September). A few months later I got a phone call from John Baumgartner telling me that Dan Francia had decided to leave the band and asked if I’d be interested in taking over bass duties. I was already on the record so it made sense. Plus I was thrilled to have the opportunity to join them, so it was easy to say yes.

James: As you know, I was very fond of the former and quite disappointed upon hearing you were no longer with them (Recalling your absence at Camelfest II)

Cindi: Thanks, James. The 65’s had persuaded me to stop pushing music on to the back burner. Going to school full time and working 40 hours a week left little time for anything else but Daniel, Joe & John were really supportive. For that I’m grateful. I had been a fan of Shirk Circus, The Dark Brothers, and C.I. Infidels plus Daniel Smith has sort of been a mentor to me over the years (as crazy as that may sound to some, including him) and remains one of my closest friends. Unfortunately the creative relationship within The 65’s ran its course before the potential of that line up was realized, however Dan and I have talked about recording together at some point. The challenge is getting the two of us in the same room at the same time but we haven’t ruled anything out so who knows.

James: I would imagine joining an already established act to be tough. You were joining a family in every sense. What was the process like? Was there any hazing involved?

Cindi: Hazing? HA!! No, none of that but it was a bit intimidating at first trying to familiarize myself with a 30 year catalog (which I’m still becoming familiar with). The family dynamic was another element to consider, though I had been in a band with one of my older brothers for years so it wasn’t a completely foreign concept. Once I got over my initial insecurities it was a matter of finding my place in the band, so to speak. While I haven’t gone in with the intention to re-write every bass part to every song, I’m also not necessarily one for learning a song note for note. I’ll listen to the original and if I feel it the way it was recorded, that’s how I’ll learn it. Otherwise I play what I feel or what I am able to manage while singing. That’s still a challenge for me so in some cases I have dumbed down bass parts so I don’t short circuit. Throughout this everyone has more or less given me a a good amount of leeway - no one has ever said “No, you’re playing it wrong.”

James: What's your involvement / input in writing new songs for the band?
Everyone has encouraged me to bring my own songs to the table which I will get around to but haven’t done yet. As far as the band goes, this is probably the most collaborative atmosphere I’ve had the good fortune to find myself in. Someone will bring an idea in to the room and we all kick it around until it starts to come together (or doesn’t). No one comes in with everyone’s parts charted out. Toni will take notes but on a whole it’s a very organic process. We all come up with our own parts and consider any suggestions that are thrown about. If I come up with a busy bass line for a song John wants to have more of a folk feel to it, he’ll tell me - and has - and I’ll strip it down. Given that our catalog more or less runs the gamut from folk to jazz to psychedelia to indie rock there’s plenty of ground to cover.
My focus is to compliment whatever the song dictates. If that means keeping it simple,
I’ll keep it simple. If it means playing something more propulsive or textured, I’ll take it in that direction. Having the room to stretch out like that from one song to the next is one of my favorite things about this band.

James: How will you be Ploughing forward with the band? Tour, New Record?

Cindi: We’ve played a whole slew of shows over this past year which has been great. We’ve taken a bit of a winter break to get some recording in at Mix-o-lydian but we’re starting to line up shows for the spring. Right now we’ll be heading to Beacon, NY, Brooklyn & Montclair - all in May.  As for the next record - no concrete plans just yet as far as I know. I’m just looking forward to recording the new material and seeing what takes shape.
Speed the Plough For more info on the band

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ski Patrol - Versions of A Life ( Recordings 1979 - 81)

Ski Patrol were a UK  post punk band who were active from 1978 - 1982. The original Ski Patrol discography consisted of four 7" singles of which their first two singles Everything Is Temporary and Agent Orange  are  collected here in remastered versions of the songs. The third ep Cut is represented here with two alternate versions of the songs Cut and Faith In Transmission. The remainder of this Lp is fleshed out with 4 previously unreleased songs, with the song Extinguished  represented in a DUB mix version and a Vocal mix.

Overall, this collection of songs is very cohesive and it plays well as  a full length Lp. I wonder if this attempt at cohesion is what caused this to be a collections of their output from 1979-1981 as their much more uptempo and almost danceable 1982 single Bright Shiny Things b/w Electric Bell Girls is not included or acknowledge as part of their recorded history.

Anyway, if you are a fan of early post punk bands like Joy Division, Early Modern English and Crispy Ambulance then this record is highly recommended.  My favorite Ski Patrol song has always been the hypnotic Agent Orange. However, all of the bands original recordings  are excellent and the previously unreleased songs that are included on this disc are of equally high quality...Dave G.

Dark Entries Records Purchase
Ski Patrol Facebook

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Jonathan Levin Gallery Presents; "Mosh Pits" by Dan Witz

This past weekend I headed to Chelsea's Jonathan Levin Gallery to attend the book signing for "No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes" As I made my way to the ninth floor and the gallery. I came across two current exhibitions. The book signing event sat amongst the awe inspiring paintings of Dan Witz fittingly titled "Mosh Pits". As I made my way from painting to painting. I couldn't help but appreciate the incredible detail and personality of his works. I felt drawn to the characters and personalities launched into battle by slowed down tribal rhythms. The expressions and detailed tattoos I'd seen countless times in others. 

Dan began his journey as a musician in his twenties before moving on to photography and eventually, painting. His experience photographing mosh pits at shows gave him the ability where he could sense the time, movement and flow of the crowd. Eventually allowing him to capture the energy and emotion in these paintings. I could say so much more but I'll leave it to you to see for yourself. 
James Damion
For more information visit:

Jonathan Levin Gallery 529 West. 20th Street 9th Floor. New York, NY 10011

Adventures in Record Store Day 2014

As much as I love and support the idea of Record Store Day. I've never actually participated in one. Having supported countless independent record stores with most of my disposable income since I was a pre-teen. The thought of waking up at the crack of dawn to stand in line with a mix of blood thirsty record nerds and scalpers looking for that short run of exclusive Record Store Day releases never appealed to me. I work hard enough to distance myself from the holiday's Black Friday nonsense every year. Why would I want to cheapen my passion for music with the retail equivalent?

This past Saturday I left the house at 2:00 pm with the sole purpose of attending the book signing for "No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes". The opportunity to get the final copies of the books first edition while meeting the books authors Steve and Amy.
As I arrived at the Jonathan Levine Gallery. I was treated to an exhibition called "Mosh Pits" which featured breathtaking paintings from Dan Witz. It seemed like the perfect backdrop to the book signing. After meeting long time Facebook friend Steven Dilodovico and author Amy Wuelfing, I headed downtown with my wife for lunch and some fun in the park.
When she decided she needed to do some clothing shopping, we split up and I headed off to Generation Records to see what scraps were left eight hours after the store had opened.
I managed to score the Farside - "Keep my Soul Awake" 7' on blue vinyl and added
"The Earth Is Flat" by Supertouch to my collection of Revelation Record colored vinyl reissues. Shortly after, I met up with Kayuri, had dinner and headed back to Hoboken.

When we got off The PATH train, Kayuri mentioned she wanted to stop at the local market to pick up groceries. With Tunes records residing directly across the street. I couldn't help but want to stop in for a look. Being that Tunes has quickly become the only record store that provides absolutely nothing I'd ever need. You can imagine my shock when I left the store with just about everything on my imaginary list. 

Overall, my first official Record Store Day was a success. No lines to get in, no lines at the register and not one fat, bald, sweaty guy bogarting the R-S-T section of the vinyl.
Below is a complete list of my purchases.Who needs food and clothing, right?
James Damion

Mosh Pits - Dan Witz

No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes.  An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens

Farside - Keep My Soul Awake (Blue)

Side By Side - Gates of Steel (LIVE) Devo 1980 / The Flaming Lips 2013

Side By Side - The Badge (LIVE) Poison Idea 1990 / Pantera 1994

Poison Idea - Getting the Fear / 4 A.M.

OFF! - Learn to Obey

Taang! Records - The First Ten SIngles (Box Set)

Strife - In this Defiance (White)

Surfer Blood - Pythons

Husker Du - Candy Apple Grey

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts 
Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth (Pink)

Supertouch - The Earth is Flat (Grey)
Though not a record store day release it completed my collection of Revelation Records color vinyl reissues. This classic just found it's way into my bag.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

LVXVRIA - Peru Punk 7' 1987 Demo

Fast moving Peruvian Hardcore Punk from the late 80's that had an immediate impact on me. Having no prior knowledge of the band and limited exposure to much south of the border punk, I had no expectations whatsoever as to what I was about to experience.
Surprisingly, despite the language barrier,
(The songs are sung and the lyrics are printed in Spanish.) this little obscurity quickly proved the notion that music has it's very own language and the powers of rage and alienation are universal.

Each of the four songs featured offer something interesting and unique with surprising elements of melody and coherent vocals that have an interesting story telling appeal to them.
While the bands sound can best be summed up as Punk. Elements of Hardcore, Psych and to go out on a limb, Folk can be felt throughout.

Being how latin influenced the New York Hardcore scene was at the time of this recording,
I can easily see LVXVRIA being well received at a
Sunday CBGB's matinee.
The simple fact that the demo itself was recorded over a quarter century ago, somehow elicits the explorer in me. I can't help but want to dig deeper into Peru's early contributions to Punk, Hardcore, Psych and beyond. Released on RockSvb records and brought to me by my favorite archivist Freddy Alva of Wardance records.
This was as much a pleasure as it was a surprise. I highly recommend giving it a spin.
James Damion

Wardance Records Comprar aquĆ­

Gameface - Now is What Matters NOW

With the overwhelming amount of underwhelming reunion albums we've heard in recent years it's hard to manage even the lowest expectations when one of your go to bands from your past announces their reentry into the music fray, so when I heard that voice from the not so distant decade known as the 90's declare "We're getting the band back together." I could barely muster a "ho hum".

As someone who spent countless hours listening to Gameface in the 90's and not so distant past, I feel pretty confident in saying this is the best material the band's produced to date. Time apart has allowed the bands sound, song writing and overall gift for melody to grow and mature rather nicely. Though the melodies and harmonies that dominated the bands California sound are still there, they've matured and gotten even better with age. There are some really special moments throughout.
"Regular Size", "Always On" will remind you of everything you loved about the band.
While "Lifetime Acheivement Award" might serve to enlist a new generation of fans.

The album features several guest vocalists including Kay Hanley (Letters To Cleo),
Frank Daly (Big Drill Car), Jon Bunch (Sense Field) and Arty Shepherd (Errortype:11).
"Now is what matters NOW" serves as the follow up to their recent "Come On Down"
seven-inch single, which established their reunion and new label alike in November 2013.

Though I'm not quite ready to buy my ticket to the reunion circuit just yet.
"Now is what matters NOW" proves that you CAN look back while still managing to look forward. James Damion

Equal Vision  Get it Here