Death Valley Girls “Darkness Rains” 2018. Limited edition yellow with red splatter, Suicide Squeeze Records. We picked up what I believe is DVG’s third LP this past weekend at Romanus Records Fest in Indianapolis where they headlined the jam-packed (15 bands!) evening lineup. Hard driving, punkish garage rock with nods to the darkness of goth and touches of neo-psychedelia via organ and lead guitarist Larry Schemel (who on stage was kinda relegated to the background, allowing the Girls to shine up front, mostly with huge smiles on their faces during the entire set).
We were able to grab the set-list, excellently illustrated:
DVG played several tracks from Darkness Rains, many of them my favorite on the album. They led off with “Abre Camino,” an intensely dark and throbbing scorcher that is the first track on Side B. From Darkness Rains also is the high octane rocker “Street Justice,” the hypnotic “More Dead,” “Disaster (Is What We’re After)” which features Iggy Pop eating a hamburger while jamming out to the song’s beat in its video (spoiler: he clearly loves ketchup), and my top track, “Wear Black” upon which lead singer, guitarist and keyboardist Bonnie Bloomgarden pulls out some amazing psychedelic organ.
Marah in the Mainsail “Bone Crown” 2017. Last Triumph Records. Now known as Coyote Kid (they very recently changed the band’s name). Coyote Kid was one of our favorite new-to-us artists at last weekend’s Mile of Music festival in Appleton, WI. From Minneapolis, they have a unique mixture of goth, calliope-fun-house, spaghetti westerns, soaring harmonies, gristled melodies and a touch of punk sensibilities. Coyote Kid put on an amazing performance at Houdini Plaza under the scorching sun, ironic as the band’s look and vibe is much better suited to a dark deep forest, or at least a late-night dance floor. I got a chance to chat with a few band members after their set while picking up this LP (their second, another one is due soon under their new name): singer/keyboardist Cassandra Valentine, singer/guitarist Austin Durry and bassist/crazed-hype-man Austin Wilder. Their excellent trombonist John Baumgartner, who adds a soaring excitement to their music, had likely fled the heat by that point – the poor guy was wearing black jeans and a long-sleeved black sweatshirt which probably raised his internal temp to 110 degrees.
Bone Crown is a concept album that tells the story of “The Rise and Fall of the Great Fox King,” and a download of the story’s narration is available from their website. It’s a dark fairy tale – all of the good ones are – with the tracks melding perfectly to one another, cohesive without being repetitive or boring. My favorite tracks after this first listen are “Fox Hole,” “Fisticuffs,” “Everybody Knows,” “The Great Beyond,” and the title track “Bone Crown,” Because Coyote Kid was new to me, I’m not sure of how many of these songs they played at their Mile of Music set but I’m looking forward to seeing them again after getting more familiar with their music – they put on quite a show.
Mutts “Separation Anxiety” 2012. Self-released on colored vinyl. We picked up Mutts’ second full-length LP (they have a couple of older EP’s) at one of their performances at Appleton’s Mile of Music Festival this past weekend. MoM is a 4+day fest in my hometown that is one of my highlights of the year: hundreds and hundreds of free concerts scattered throughout downtown bars, parks, parking lots and even alleys. The Mutts show we caught was at one of my favorite venues, the Fox River House, Appleton’s oldest tavern. The shows are held out back under a beautiful old tree – picturesque but also subject to the whims of the weather. Mostly the weather was perfect this year, warm and sunny, but Wisconsin can be volatile and late afternoon on Saturday a torrential downpour and high winds came pretty much out of nowhere right before the Phillip-Michael Scales (who is BB King’s nephew) and Mutts show (Mutts are Scales’ backup band). Undeterred, we sought shelter in a little alcove by the parking lot, umbrella in hand, and waited out the storm.
Sometimes bad weather puts a literal damper on things but in this case, it created a sense of gleeful solidarity among the audience members who stayed for the show once the festival crew swept away the standing water from the stage and removed all of the hastily thrown down tarps. Scales was great, the Mutts guys providing a solid backing for his “dive bar soul.” Then Mutts hit the stage, raucous, energetic, loud and so much fun! They describe their sound as “grounge” which I’m guessing is lounge-grunge mashup and is fairly accurate; as is the quote from their bio that they sound “like Tom Waits fronting a garage band,” mainly due to singer/keyboardist Mike Maimone’s gravelly vocals and vibe.
Rounding out Mutts’ lineup is guitarist/bassist Bob Buckstaff and drummer Ian Tsan. Tsan is a relatively recent addition to the band, on the LP Separation Anxiety drums are played by Chris Pagnani.
Mutts are from Chicago and have been around for almost exactly 10 years, touring relentlessly these past several months for that anniversary. Weirdly this is only the second time I’ve seen them: the first was a year ago in Indianapolis for the inaugural Romanus Records Festival (which we will be heading to again this upcoming weekend and I think Mutts are on the bill) so I can’t really be certain if their sound has shifted or not. But their live show at MoM was a lot more energetic than their 2012 release so I really need to get on checking out their newer recorded material. I do like Separation Anxiety especially the more upbeat tracks like “Half Mile,” the funky “Apathetic Stars,” and the heavy “Tire Swing Blues” – that one really earns the term “grounge.”
Amyl and the Sniffers “Amyl and the Sniffers” 2019, limited edition colored vinyl (it looks like a cracked egg). We picked up this copy of the Aussie punks debut LP last week at the Amyl and the Sniffers’ sold-out show at Cactus Club in Milwaukee – one of the best punk records and definitely the best punk show we’ve been to in a very, very long time. Loud, fast, heavy, ridiculously high energy, mosh pit, stage diving, people swinging from the rafters, beer and water spraying everywhere. Mass mayhem, pure bliss! Also great: each band member sports an epic mullet, singer Amy Taylor’s the best of the bunch: a mix of Cherie Currie blonde feathers and Chrissy Hynde rock-n-roll shag. We missed the first opening band, Rexxx, but caught the second, the local punk band law/less, who were also great: hardcore in the 80′s style and also led by a woman (whose name I don’t know – the band doesn’t have any media presence besides a Bandcamp page). During the law/less set, Amy from the Sniffers was out in the audience dancing along next to me. That white-ish bit on her head that looks like a crown is, in fact, her amazingly flipped mullet bangs.
Amyl and the Sniffers played a lot of tracks from their new LP – which hit #22 in Australia and #91 in the UK – at the show. I’m not sure of the entire set but I for sure remember my top tracks that include “Starfire 500,” “Gacked on Anger,” “Cup of Destiny,” “GFY” as well as possibly “Punisha” and “Shake Ya.” I loved every single moment of every song but I admit that a portion of my attention was focused on not getting crushed by the mosh pit: I had my elbows sharpened and at the ready for the entire Amyl show.