Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Benny the Jet Rodriguez

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories

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Before I dive into what made 2015 such an incredible year for me on a personal level, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge all of the contributor’s to this edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories: Loren DiBlasi, Lindsey-Paige McCloy, Sabyn Mayfield, Nicola Leel, Lindsay Hazen, Tica Douglas, Fred Thomas, Phil McAndrew, Isabel Reidy, Jessica Leach, Sami Martasian, Ben Grigg, Amanda Dissinger, Bella Mazzetti, David Anthony, Jamie Coletta, Chris Sutter, John Rossiter, Cole Kinsler, Megan Manowitz, Gabriela June Tully Claymore, Stephen Tringali, Alisa Rodriguez, Toby Reif, Elaiza Santos, Amelia Pitcherella, Katie Bennett, Miranda Fisher, Christine Varriale, Sam Clark, Julia Leiby, Kelly Johnson, Jessi Frick, Nicholas Cummins, Lily Mastrodimos, Jerard Fagerberg, Athylia Paremski, Eric Slick, David Glickman, and Ryan Wizniak. All of your interest, support, and contributions mean the world to me (more on that below).

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The 12 months that comprised last year were among the most rewarding, the most challenging, and the most outright surreal I’ve experienced in my 26 years of existence. Narrowing it down to one defining moment proved to be a laughable impossibility for me so I’ve taken a cue from several of this edition’s contributors and decided to focus on a series of moments rather than one overarching event.

Before getting to those, though, it’s worth mentioning several of the smallest moments that have managed to stick in my memory. That list goes as follows: drinking tea on the roof of DBTS with Greg Rutkin as we watched the sun rise on my first morning in Brooklyn, looking up a few months later only to suddenly realize that Rutkin, Krill‘s Aaron Ratoff, and myself were all having a half-absent living room jam session, eating bagels on the sidewalk at the crack of dawn with Saintseneca after spending the previous night getting ridiculous at Rocka Rolla, feeling a surge of pride watching Patio play their first show, and getting recognized by Rob Sheffield and Simon Vozick-Levinson (two writers who I’ve admired for years).

Additionally: being pulled further and further into the world of Ronnie Stone, spending an afternoon kicking around with Bad Wig (a WI band made up of people I’ve considered family for years), watching Tenement continue their steady ascension on their own terms, all of the shows I saw that don’t get mentioned in the space below, walking through one of Martin Scorsese’s sets for VINYL with Glueboy‘s Coby Chafets (who was an absolute joy to have as both an NYC guide and as a roommate), being absolutely destroyed by an overwhelming sense of familliarity at a morning screening of The End of the Tour which I was fortune enough to take in with Chandler Levack (one of my favorite directors), and becoming a member of Film Independent.

Further still: getting hugged by Eskimeaux‘s Gabrielle Smith before I could even get out a formal introduction, having Girlpool‘s Harmony Tividad tell me she knew how to spell my last name right after we first met, spending a perfect evening getting to know Callan Dwan (who I’ve been messaging every Sunday since we first met) and Casey Weissbuch following one of their shows playing alongside Mitski, receiving a drunken group phone call from my closest hometown friends on the Fourth of July, and finding the fortune to be a recipient of the continuous support of both Exploding In Sound‘s Dan Goldin and Father/Daughter‘s Jessi Frick.

As well as: feeling completely at ease working doors for both Baby’s All Right and Elvis Guesthouse (a task made even more enjoyable by the welcoming presence of Alex Lilienfeld), spending my first week in Brooklyn waking up to the sounds of Felix Walworth meticulously tracking the forthcoming Told Slant record, and traveling to the twin cities with one of the bands I play bass in — A Blue Harbor — to track Troubled Hearts (and holding the cassette for the first time, suddenly realizing I’d just completed something that had been on my bucket list for over a decade).

And finally: Watching members of Lost Boy ? and Titus Andronicus close out a show at Shea Stadium with a set of on-the-fly Neil Young covers, taking in Exploding in Sound’s Extended Weekend celebration (and being floored by Stove‘s performance of “Wet Food” and — as always — Pile‘s “Special Snowflakes“), feeling a deep sense of camaraderie and an inkling of pride during AdHoc’s Carwash showcase, seeing Used Kids come inches away from reuniting at The Acheron (their only full-length remains quintessential summer listening) during a show that also saw Jeff Bolt manning the kit for Benny the Jet Rodriguez, and spending half a year living in a city where a handful of people actually seemed to care about the work I’d been doing with this very site.

I could go on and on (and on) about the overwhelming bevvy of small moments that I continue to look back on with great fondness or wax ecstatic about the steps taken in 2015 to ensure a more inclusive climate in the music industry (while still recognizing there’s a long way to go) but, after a while, that would become tedious for just about anyone (myself included). Rest assured, there are several more paragraph’s worth of those moments and the scope of the portrait they illustrate would be overwhelming. As is likely evidenced above, it was tremendously difficult for me to pare down what moment stood out most in my chaotic run through 2015 and left me with no less than a dozen absurdly strong candidates.

While a dozen may seem overly self-indulgent, it’s my belief that these 12 moments form the most complete representation of my year. Most of them are connected to my time spent living in Brooklyn (a city that I came to love and hope to return to as a resident), which helped me not only shape my identity but — possibly for the first time — feel a strong sense of validity in my work. 2015 may have been made up of 12 months but the 5+ I spent living in Brooklyn produced 12 of my favorite moments. All of them are covered below.

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Montana & the Marvelles Play In Secret

The first time I remember realizing that I was exactly where I wanted to be was, unsurprisingly, at DBTS. I’d been sleeping on couches for a few days there by that point and getting the swing of the city while navigating my way through a handful of Northside showcases. During that first run, the place was buzzing with both anxiety and excitement over a secret wedding celebration that they were going to be throwing for a close friend. Champagne had been bought in bulk, balloons had been floated to the ceiling, a disco ball had been set in motion, a taco line had been prepared, and a root beer float setup was at the ready by the time the event was set into motion.

Everyone had been told to dress to the tens and looked the part. At that point, I still felt like an interloper was getting increasingly comfortable with my new surroundings. Nearly everyone I’d been introduced to had been extremely welcoming and the first group of people that had made a kind gesture were Montana & the Marvelles, who were wrapping up a rehearsal when I first stepped foot inside of DBTS. The wedding celebration was their first public appearance and they tore into it with a ferocious sense of determination, delivering a handful of great covers in the process.

Watching them that night and looking around at everyone who came out to celebrate reminded me of why I made the decision to move; no other place is as facilitating of those kinds of events (or moments). By the time the band hit their finale — an explosive, joyous cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” — I was overcome with gratitude and decided, for once, to stop filming and dance. It was also the first of many nights I had that led to everyone taking in the summer night’s breezes on the DBTS rooftop, where I put the finishing touches on my introduction packet for the band. As a whole, it remains one of the times where I felt like I’d actually found a place where I belonged.

Charly Bliss I

Charly Bliss Makes A Formal Introduction at Northside

One of the bands I was most excited to meet at the outset of my move was Charly Bliss, who had topped my EP’s list in 2014. No person had been trying to persuade me to make the move more than their guitarist/vocalist Eva Hendricks, who had been unbelievably supportive of what I’d been doing prior to my discovery of Charly Bliss (that this note had no bearing on the band becoming one of my absolute favorites made the prospect of meeting even sweeter).

I’d been walking around Brooklyn with a few people from DBTS before the Father/Daughter Northside showcase was scheduled to start and had fielded several excited messages from Hendricks before we ran into each other on a street outside of Shea Stadium. Everyone was happy to see everyone else and Hendricks nearly pulled me to the ground with a hug that neither of us broke until after a full minute had passed. After a long round of catching up, the showcase kicked off in earnest and featured a handful of great performances from bands worth their salt.

Charly Bliss closed the night out and opened their set with the still-unreleased “Percolator“, with Jessi Frick firing off streamers at the climactic point of the introduction, providing a moment that felt transcendental. Surrounded by people I loved, seeing a band I’d granted an endless amount of praise (who were then in the process of becoming one of my favorite live acts at a terrifying pace), and being in the presence of both for the first time was an invigorating jolt that moved me more than just about anything else I experienced in 2015. 

Jason Isbell Pulls the Sun Down at Prospect Park

Jason Isbell‘s an artist that I don’t frequently write about on this space — his stature guarantees him press from so many other outlets already — but genuinely love (and have since my first listen of Drive-By Truckers’ classic Decoration Day). For several summers myself and my friend (and frequent bandmate) Jake Wetuski would take out our guitars and cover Isbell songs with each other, trading leads or playing together. When I found out that Isbell would be playing Prospect Park for the free Celebrate Brooklyn series, I jumped at the chance.

A solo train ride over had me thinking about all of the ways my life had changed that summer, about how I spent most of the flight from O’Hare to LaGuardia listening to Southeastern, about how I was already pining for the company of certain people but finally becoming content with my place in the world. The sounds of Dawn Landes‘ set guided me through Prospect Park to the stage, where I immediately found a place with a good view of the stage that didn’t obstruct or impede anyone else’s view.

Less than forty minutes later, Isbell was setting up on stage and announcing that his wife and bandmate, Amanda Shires, wouldn’t be joining them because she was expecting the arrival of their newborn in the following week. Gleaming with pride and amping up the “aw, shucks” Southern charm, Isbell took advantage of an absolutely perfect spring night and delivered a deeply heartfelt set of material that I’d been waiting years to see in a live setting. It only took about half of a set before I had to fight back tears, as an adoring crowd exploded with applause in the middle of a mesmerizing performance of “Cover Me Up” in response to a key line about sobering up, showering the songwriter with a tremendous display of affection, support, and actual love.

After the sun set and the crowd had exploded in frantic applause after Isbell’s landmark set, he returned to the stage. By that point, the sun had set and no one was making a push for the exit. The band returned, one at a time, slowly locking into “Danko/Manuel“, a song he penned for the Drive-By Truckers as a tribute to the influential members of The Band.

As the song opened with “let the night air cool you off”, it felt as if everything outside of that moment had ceased mattering; this was Isbell’s triumphant 2015 run hitting an apex and seeing a talent like that find the audience and respect he’d so richly deserved for close to 15 years was beyond heartening. Few things gave me as much hope for the future as that specific moment, one that offered up definitive proof that hard work, dedication, and sheer artistry can be rewarded in the way they deserve.

With Isbell’s vocals floating off into the distance, beyond the sea of people seated on blankets in the grass behind the main area, I found something resembling faith and knew that in both New York and Wisconsin, I’d surrounded myself with the right people, people I believed in, and that no matter the slew of hardships I may have to face, that they’d ultimately guide me to the right place. I stayed in that park, staring at that stage, for as long as I was allowed, before removing myself from the spot where I knew I’d wind up okay.

“Doomsday” Lives Up To Its Name at Pier 84

Another free, outdoor show I had the good fortune of attending saw Weyes Blood, Speedy Ortiz, and Waxahatchee joining forces for a mid-day show on a pier in Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River. After a quick stroll through Times Square, I headed for the pier and met up with a handful of my closest friends who were listening to strains of Weyes Blood as they enjoyed a makeshift picnic. Before long, Weyes Blood’s set had ended, more friends had made their presence known, and everyone was milling around the front of the stage, taking in both the sunlight and the river’s breeze.

Before Speedy Ortiz’s set started, the weather very quickly became downcast and quietly threatening. Underneath that stormy backdrop, Speedy Ortiz kicked off one of their most impassioned sets to date. I’ve had a range of experiences with Speedy Ortiz over the past few years but none of them quite matched the way that their performance of “Doomsday” affected me on that pier. “Doomsday” has always hit me hard (it’s an easy song-of-the-decade candidate for me) but when Sadie Dupuis and Darl Ferm started into it that day and rain started coming down (and then picking up as the song progressed), it felt otherworldly.

Something in that performance seemed to ignite something in Speedy Ortiz, who seemed to be channeling a series of pent-up frustrations into a staggering set that culminated with a weather-damaged instrumental freakout as the sky was split open by cracks of lightning that appeared over the Hudson River. By then the crowd had dwindled to a select few brave souls who managed to withstand the torrential downpour.

Waxahatchee’s set was, unfortunately, cancelled due to the weather but I lucked into a fitting epilogue via a bowling-quest-turned-diner-adventure with A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Gabriela June Tully Claymore, her fellow Stereogum writer James Rettig, and a few friends. Desperately trying to get dry using a bathroom hand-dryer, I found myself unable to suppress a shit-eating grin, knowing full well I was wrapping up a day worth talking about for years to come.  

Johanna Warren V

Johanna Warren Serenades the Skyline

I saw Johanna Warren three times in 2015, each one differing radically from the other. The first was an hour from my hometown, where I drove to profile her for Consequence of Second. The second time was a basement show that presented a whole host of memorable moments from my introduction to harpist Mikaela Rose Davis (and the spine-tingling Elliott Smith cover she used to soundcheck) to the fabric of a mothering station getting licked by the flame of a few too many candles and interrupting a performance art piece that saw a woman strip naked, consume her own blood from an IV bag, and spit it back out onto a row of carefully arranged flowers in mason jars.

As wild as that basement show was, Warren’s last-minute performance on a rootop overlooking the skylines of both Brooklyn and Manhattan was the one that stood out most. After the show’s original location notified Warren that they’d discovered they had a bed bug infestation the day before her set was scheduled, a group of people worked extremely hard to locate a new venue. Fortunately, Damon Stang had open space on the top of his apartment complex.

Only a dozen or so people showed up, all apparently friends of Warren’s, contributing even greater intimacy to an already intimate evening. An assortment of wine, liquor, and bakery items were all up for grabs and everyone quietly talked among themselves as night swiftly descended, providing Warren with a suitably quiet backdrop. Lit by only the lights of the city and operating without a microphone, Warren delivered a haunting set to a captivated audience that reveled in the majestic sweep of the backdrop, the performance, the night itself, and the experience as a whole. Unexpected and surprisingly moving, it saw Warren fully realizing the effect of music as a healing agent and close a few wounds in the process.     

PWR BTTM Hands Out Ugly Cherries

One of the first bands I ran into after moving to Brooklyn was PWR BTTM, who would very quickly become close friends. They’re people that I’m continuously grateful to have in my life and it’s been an honor to get to know the band’s members. I was very quickly drawn to them for not just their music but their outspoken stance on their values (and their willingness to make them so abundantly clear in any applicable scenario). For all of those reasons and many more, I was tremendously excited to be at their release show for Ugly Cherries, one of my favorite records of 2015.

Charly BlissEva Hendricks had baked a gigantic batch of cupcakes adorned with cherries for the occasion, guitarist/vocalist (and occasional drummer) Benjamin Hopkins had hidden the evening’s outfit away at a thrift store for weeks before claiming it prior to the show, and the opening lineup of Kississippi, Fern Mayo, and Charly Bliss was suitably stacked. The parents of a few of the bands were in attendance and Silent Barn was unbelievably packed.

Three strong sets into the evening and a visibly nervous Hopkins was setting up on stage as drummer (and occasional guitarist/vocalist) Liv Bruce adjusted the kit. I’d seen PWR BTTM a handful of times leading up to that show but none of those sets were adequate preparation for the outpouring of energy from both the band and the audience of their set that night, which felt as much like a celebration as it did a victory lap. Amid screams of “I love you” and “you’re amazing”, PWR BTTM’s songs took on the magnitude of anthems and were, appropriately, granted the requisite scream-a-longs by a dedicated and devoted audience.

For all the moments of blistering energy, disarming sincerity, and delightfully irreverent snark, one of the moments that’s stayed with me was the unveiling of a new song that saw Hopkins pick up a bass and deliver a tender ballad about feeling completely dismantled by different forms of slight abuse, causing Charly Bliss’ Hendricks to break down in tears on the side of the stage, overwhelmed by feelings of protection, love, and empathy. That it came towards the end of a riotous set only heightened its impact, leaving a sold-out room unified in small devastation.

Before long, though, spirits were at the ceiling again and PWR BTTM’s dresses were more than halfway off, and hundreds of people were nearing a state of delirium. Encore chants were inevitable and when the call was swift and immediate, those pleas were rewarded with a frantic rendition of “Carbs” before Hopkins and Bruce exited the stage, visibly exhausted, and subjected themselves to a seemingly endless swarm of overjoyed embraces from a community that rallied behind them and got to take part in a moment that carried significant meaning for far more people than either Hopkins, Bruce, or Fern Mayo’s Nicholas Cummins (who joined the band for several songs) could have ever anticipated.

Mike Krol

Mike Krol Does the Upper Midwest Proud at Baby’s All Right

Before the first Heartbreaking Bravery showcase, the last two shows I’d booked had both featured two bands who had a tremendous impact on my life and musical development: Good Grief and Sleeping in the Aviary. Both bands, sadly, have long ceased operations, though their various members still play together in a handful of projects.

In 2015, Sleeping in the Aviary managed to have somewhat of a resurgence, with both the release of an astonishing outtakes collection ad 80% of the band’s final lineup once again combining forces as Mike Krol‘s backing band. Krol had relocated from the upper Midwest to California on his way to delivering 2015’s blistering Turkey, one of the year’s most exhilarating records (and his extremely unexpected but entirely welcome debut for Merge).

Krol’s stop at Baby’s All Right came shortly after I’d started picking up shifts at the door, pushing my anticipation for the show to even greater heights (it was a show that’d been circled on my calendar in the immediate moments following its announcement). Being connected to yet another venue that would be playing host to a few familiar faces, a few of which I’d grown up playing shows with, felt like an oddly appropriate next step.

The night’s opening bands delivered solid sets but what Mike Krol & co. delivered on that stage that night was unforgettable. Fully attired in the record’s signature fringe’d-up police attire, the band meticulously covered the perimeter of the stage with razor wire and carefully placed a series of lights in the open spaces among the coils. A few minutes later and the band was off, immediately at full-throttle. Out of sheer curiosity, I glanced over my shoulder at the size of the audience and was met with the vision of a sold-out audience all incredibly excited to throw themselves into celebrating an artist that, up until 2015, was only known in select circles for two sharp bandcamp releases.

Krol and his band covered close to his entire discography on that stage, whipping the sizable audience into an absolute frenzy. A surging sea of implacable bodies spiraling aimlessly into each other contributed to the anything-goes attitude that informed the band’s set (a welcome reminder of Sleeping in the Aviary’s heyday). Towards the end, the person running house lights could no longer resist sitting still and slyly tried to supplement the band’s light setup, prompting a startled “what the fuck was that?!” from Krol himself, followed shortly by a “do that again!“, which was delivered with a reckless excitability.

From that moment onward, the band’s seemingly full-blast attack was buoyed even further by a series of frantic lighting triggers from the person manning the boards for their house. As the lights danced all over the iconic backdrop and the overhead lights fell into patterns that complemented the band’s self-triggered perimeter strobes, the entire place descended into something approaching mania. Everything came to a head in their explosive finale and left an entire room of people staring dumbfounded at a stage, equally unsure of what they’d just witnessed and grateful that they were able to take in something so unapologetic in its blistering intensity.

Making the night even sweeter was an unexpected greeting from Krol, who I still hadn’t officially met at the time, after noticing my National Beekeepers Society shirt. We talked Wisconsin music, met up with the rest of the band and a few mutual friends, and Krol let slip that their was going to be a secret Daughter show to close out the venue’s night slot. I wound up making my way into the Daughter show and was blown away by their new material (they announced Not To Disappear at that show and froze my blood with a startling rendition of “Doing The Right Thing“) but couldn’t shake the feeling of overwhelming giddiness from having witnessed some friends from my old home absolutely take apart my new one.  

A Night Out With Nina Corcoran and Paul Thomas Anderson

When I first met Nina Corcoran, we were both looking for each other and completely unaware we were standing less than 10 feet apart. It was at Pitchfork 2014 and we were both lined up to get a good view of St. Vincent (who, as expected, turned in a mesmerizing set). I remembered being a little nervous around her as I still had no idea who she was beyond someone who wrote at Allston Pudding that A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Christine Varriale thought I’d get along with nicely.

It may have taken about a year but Christine’s assumption seemed almost eerily prophetic. For the first edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories, Nina took me by surprise and included me as a focal point in her piece. After that piece renewed a dialogue between the two of us, it started gradually expanding. After establishing a mutual love for all things Meat Wave, we started talking on close to a weekly basis. Before long, I was living in Brooklyn and we were making plans to meet up on her trips to the city.

We’d met up for meals and all too brief hangout sessions whenever we could but the only time we managed to be in the same place for more than an hour was when we attended the premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Junun at the New York Film Festival. I’d been debating on whether or not to make the effort to go due to an attempt to fight back the irritating plague that is the common cold. I told Nina what was happening and she was empathetic, displaying a casual grace in her understanding.

I missed her, though, and had never had the opportunity to attend a premiere, much less one with an accompanying Q&A from a massively influential director (or one that was responsible for a few of my favorite films). After grabbing a packet of kleenex and a warm sweatshirt, I made the trek out to meet Nina in Manhattan. She immediately greeted me with a warm embrace, making me feel both welcome and comfortable rather than the cold-addled burden I half-expected I’d wind up being.

With the start time of the film still a ways off, we decided to grab some soup from a nearby stand that supplemented our containers with an apple, bread, and pieces of chocolate. I refrained from adding ice cream onto that haul for fear of negatively affecting my health but Nina couldn’t resist its pull and led me to a cute shop that was in the area. After learning I still hadn’t been to Central Park, we walked through its gates and found it to be mostly abandoned, settling down at a table near the grass to quietly eat dinner and discuss the merits of Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, among others.

After we’d finished our meals, we took a nighttime stroll through the park, coming to a stop at a baseball diamond. We stood there together, silent for a moment, before turning around and immediately realizing our size (and our place) as we stared up at the lit-up skyscrapers that comprise the Manhattan skyline. In those fleeting seconds, I forgot everything that wasn’t the fact that I was happy to be sharing this view with a person who’s meant more to me than she’ll likely ever know or realize. I don’t remember what broke the silence but I’m grateful for the small eternity where, cold and all, life felt perfect.

It was difficult to leave that spot but we had a film to catch and while Junun was every bit the film I’d hoped it would be, it paled in comparison to realizing I was wrapped up in something exceedingly lovely and utterly intangible with a person I’ve come to genuinely care for, a person who’s continuously succeeded at an impressively high level, a person who’s constantly given me something to aspire to, a person that’s shown me a lot of my goals aren’t as far away as I occasionally think, and a person who never fails to make my life feel a little more worthwhile.

We’d meet up a few weeks later for a surprisingly painful goodbye brunch before I made my way back to Wisconsin (a state where we’ve both resided) and nearly refused to let go of each other out of the sheer fear of being separated by a seemingly incalculable distance. During that last embrace, I closed my eyes and, for a split second, saw the lights of those buildings that towered over us that night in Manhattan.   

Dilly Dally

Dilly Dally Steals CMJ (With An Unexpected Assist)

My time spent living in Brooklyn was book-ended by the Northside Festival and CMJ, with each providing a whole slew of moments I’ll recall fondly years down the line. Whether it was meeting the people I’d waited so long to meet at the former or celebrating with the people I’d come to know at the latter, each was at least partially defined by an unavoidable sense of community.

CMJ may have had its first two great moments come by way of some of my closest friends (a pizza run with Bad Wig and a Chinatown trip with Perfect Pussy) but my priority for the festival was to do something I’d been desperately hoping to do for the past few years: take in a Dilly Dally set. I didn’t have to wait long, as the first night I went out to CMJ was closed out by the band, I just had to come to terms with my near-crippling fear that their set might be a disappointment. As is often the case, that thought was absolutely demolished mere seconds into listening in on their soundcheck.

While a surprisingly large amount of people had filtered out of Santos Party House’s unbelievably stacked NME showcase by the time Dilly Dally took the stage, they still managed to fill the venue’s basement with legions of people caught between nervous excitement and the early signs of sleep deprivation/fatigue. It only took Dilly Dally a few notes to ignite the room with a thunderous sound that sounded like it was threatening to overtake the sound system’s capacities on more than one occasion.

Everyone in that band put absolutely everything on the line for that performance, diving deep and coming up with a punch ferocious enough to knock even the harshest cynic for a very disorienting six. Guitarist/vocalist Katie Monks unleashed a series of guttural yowls while guitarist Liz Ball tore into one scintillating lead line after another while the rhythm section provided an overwhelming show of force that generated enough power to shake my frame.

As was expected, many of the night’s highlights came courtesy of the live versions of the songs that made up Sore, their brooding full-length debut. Another small handful came from their brilliant early 7″ releases but the moment that I felt myself practically leave my body was when they tore into an absolutely vicious, if miniature, take on Drake’s “Know Yourself” that featured one of the filthiest bass tones I’ve ever heard. Jaw agape, I was standing motionless, hopelessly filming the spectacle while keeping my eyes off of the camera and frozen to the stage, at once separated from and completely tuned into the reality of the situation.

Easily the absolute heaviest thing I heard last year, the band wound up reprising it a few days later during another impressively explosive set at Baby’s All Right for BrooklynVegan’s CMJ showcase, which I sprinted a full mile to make sure I caught. Both of their sets demonstrated the impressive scope of the band’s singular power as live performers and laid just about everyone else who played CMJ to complete waste. No band delivered more impressively on absurd expectations than Dilly Dally, who dominated this site’s December coverage and will likely remain a critical part of conversation well into the future.

Meredith Graves Tears Up at the Honor Press Showcase

Where do I even begin with the unbelievable debt of gratitude I owe to Meredith Graves? One of the reasons I started this site was because I wanted a forum to interview Meredith, who responded in kind to an unsolicited Facebook message and graciously agreed to a Skype session. I had no idea when that was being set up that she would go on to become one of my closest friends, confidants, and most trusted advisers, or that she would eventually start flipping the script to tirelessly attempt to promote and endorse the work I’d been doing on my own.

The summer that followed that initial conversation was mostly spent on the phone with Meredith having hour-long talks about life’s various intricacies, the merits of art, social politics, our deepest fears, our desires, oddball literature, classic film, and anything else that randomly entered our minds. We traded demos, proposed collaborations, and — for some time — became key parts of each other’s daily routine. We’ve relied on each other to keep ourselves tethered to reality and sought out each other’s presence in times of celebration.

We’ve ignored each other, exchanged very sincere declarations of love, and have constantly fought on one another’s behalf. We’ve pitched various outlets pieces focusing on each other’s achievements, attempted to compliment each other to death, and experienced several surreal moments together (from almost breaking a hammock that was too small for either of us on our own to watching Pleasure Leftists play inside of a halfpipe in the attic of a bike shop). We’ve despaired together, we’ve drank together, we’ve schemed together, we’ve surprised each other, we’ve brought each other to the point of tears, and we’ve remained a steadfast part of each other’s lives.

Meredith was responsible for giving me one of my first gigs in Brooklyn, working Perfect Pussy‘s mail order with Ray McAndrew, and has gone out of her way time and time again to fight for my best interests. She’s given me extraordinary introductions to everyone under the sun and flat out earned the title of this site’s patron saint. She pleaded with me to come live in the city where she resided for the three years we’ve been improbably close friends and I finally took her up on the request (for an incredibly large number of reasons, though her presence definitely played a very heavy factor).

For the past several years Meredith’s been attempting to balance twice as much as any normal human could handle but finding reasons to fight. I beamed along with her as she told me that she had a business email and that Honor Press, her newly formed label, had been given the green light from all involved parties. I grinned as she nearly worked herself up to the point of passing out over signing So Stressed, and I immediately made plans to attend the half-secret Honor Press showcase at CMJ as soon as she told me it was going to happen.

On all of the occasions I was able to spend celebrating Meredith’s accomplishments, this one felt different from the outset. Somehow, it seemed more meaningful than any other random show or festival appearance. At some point last year, I don’t know when and I don’t know how, the band Cloud Castle Lake came up in one of our conversations. Meredith had just discovered a very passionate love for the band’s music and I’d recently been blown away by the composition of one of their music videos. Fast forward to September and they’re all standing outside of the Silent Barn, waiting to play a showcase she’d put together, having made the trip over from Ireland for the occasion.

Aye Nako were to open the night and Perfect Pussy were set to close, leaving Cloud Castle Lake in a prime middle slot position. Talking to Meredith outside, it was easy to spot some small trembling; nervous tics betraying both excitement, anxiety, and anticipation. Sleep deprived but positively glowing, she seemed like she wasn’t sure if she wanted the show to start or simply take in the moment prior to the kick-off; the deep breath before the headlong dive towards impact.

She didn’t have to wait long, despite the show starting a little later than scheduled (an occurrence that just about everyone was expecting).

Aye Nako played first and played well, setting an intriguing tone for the evening and for Cloud Castle Lake. What happened next caught just about everyone off guard as the band launched into a set that went from being oddly moving to feeling sacred. Everyone was locked into the tapestries the band was meticulously weaving, swaying absent-mindedly as the band swiftly navigated intricate movements of deeply impressive compositions. I stood by Meredith’s side as she sighed and surrendered completely to the band’s overpowering spell.

About halfway through their set, a moment of clarity hit and the reality of the situation seemed to collapse in on Meredith, who slid her back down the wall, as her eyes brimmed with tears. Surrounded by people she loved, in a place that treated her well, watching her favorite bands play a show she booked, it was as if all of the things that normally weigh heavy on her mind were dissolved in one fell swoop. My heart nearly gave out as I watched her go through the motions of realizing her role in facilitating something that swung on a pendulum from powerful to transcendental.

We locked eyes for a moment and she put my immediate concern at rest with a half-smile, clearly overwhelmed by what was playing out in the room. Shortly after, she regained her composition and joined the rest of the audience in their half-sways as Cloud Castle Lake issued out one quiet, involved prayer after another. The rest of Perfect Pussy were hesitant to take the stage once Daniel McAuley’s last falsetto had receded into the ether, fully aware that Cloud Castle Lake had just transported an entire room of people to a place that many of them were likely discovering for the first time.

To this day, I’m not entirely sure where that performance took Meredith but I’m grateful that she got to take the kind of journey she so richly deserved.

Krill’s Story Comes Full Circle at DBTS

No band has been mentioned in this edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories more times than Krill. Their impact on their respective communities was undeniable and they clearly struck a very deep cord with a lot of the people that comprised those groups. Idolized, celebrated, acclaimed, and fearlessly loved, their decision to call it quits in 2015 prompted a colossal deal of sadness from anyone that’d ever subscribed to the cult of Krill.

Making the blow even worse was the fact that it came in the midst of a creative spree that saw the band experimenting more readily and crafting some of their finest material. The band had strung together a monumental 2015 run, bolstered by the success of their jaw-dropping A Distant Fist Unclenching and hordes of critics’ praise from nationally recognized (and highly influential) publications.

They’d played what was one of the first great sets I saw in 2015, celebrated the 4th of July by playing a show at Silent Barn with Swirlies, and delivered a towering set as a headliner during the second night of Exploding In Sound’s Extended Weekend. While all of those sets were admittedly as inspiring as everyone had made Krill shows out to be, it was their second-to-last ever show, a secret benefit for the Silent Barn’s reconstruction at DBTS, that stood out as the most meaningful.

Not only was the band playing a place I’d briefly called home but it was also where they played their very first show, giving the proceedings an oddly emotional bent. Unsurprisingly, after word got out, the show sold out faster than most DBTS shows and saw the room overflowing with people who wanted to be present for Krill’s last hurrah in a more intimate DIY setting.

Cende and LVL UP played the roles of openers as effectively as possible, delivering solid sets that wouldn’t detract from a moment that was rightfully Krill’s. By the time Krill were adjusting their mix, the main room was overflowing with people and there was a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd lined up the stairwell. Their ensuing set was so perfectly definitive of Krill that it nearly managed to be completely indescribable.

In turns, it was tightly controlled and threatened to completely unravel. Shambolic and poised, it existed in this strange dichotomy that Krill had so expertly exploited for years but rarely with as much purpose as they did during that set. When something nears its end, we, as humans, do our best to make the most of the remaining pieces of its life. Krill knew that by the time the following week rolled around, they’d have given up that aspect of their life and it was abundantly clear that they were hell-bent on making their remaining time count.

Aaron Ratoff’s guitar kept falling out of tune, Ian Becker hit his drums with a greater velocity than usual, and Jonah Furman embraced every aspect of his being en route to a tour de force performance that absolutely demolished the room where they started their career. By the time the inevitable chant of “Krill, Krill, Krill Forever” went up, DBTS resident (and Cende guitarist) Dave Medina had found a way to literally crowdsurf on the audience, enhancing the night’s descent into frenzied insanity. Everyone, as always seemed to be the case with Krill, was in this together; a thriving community that celebrated its best aspects as readily as it acknowledged its weaknesses.

As Krill sprinted towards the finish line, the out-of-control audience came dangerously close to toppling their equipment, and Dave manage to successfully find a way to balance on top of a tattered styrofoam surfboard as he was hoisted up by the crowd, it was incredibly evident that although everyone knew that the run had to end, no one wanted to come back down. Encore chants were given and obliged until it simply became a point of exhaustion, leaving everyone involved with a sense that they’d taken part in something worth talking about years down the line.

Krill is dead; long live Krill; Krill forever.   

Putting Together A Year’s Worth of Memories

To anyone who actually bothered to read through the entirety of the content above (which essentially amounts to a grossly over-indulgent novella), you have my very sincere gratitude and a ton of respect. This is the second year I’ve curated A Year’s Worth of Memories and the response for this round has been even more enthusiastic than when I first tried out the series at the outset of 2015.

I’d once again like to thank the people who were mentioned in this piece’s prologue (especially the returning contributors: Loren DiBlasi, David Glickman, Athylia Paremski, David Glickman, Jessi Frick, Stephen Tringali, Cole Kinsler, Gabriela June Tully Claymore, David Anthony, Phil McAndrew, Sam Clark, Miranda Fisher, and Christine Varriale).

Additionally, I’d like to once again thank last year’s contributors: Sasha Geffen, Jeanette Wall, Eva Grace Hendricks, Caroline Rayner, Joseph Barchi, Edgar Gonzalez, Jesse Amesmith, Shari Heck, Michael Caridi, Dave Benton, Cynthia Ann Schemmer, Tess Duncan, Michelle Zauner, Jeff Bolt, Katie Capri, Quinn Moreland, Oliver Kalb, Ali Donohue, Ray McAndrew, Christopher Good, David Sackllah, Rick Maguire, Stephen Pierce, Johanna Warren, and Patrick Garcia.

Putting together the first two installments of this series has been reassuring in unfathomable ways. Seeing the outpouring of support from people not only willing to listen but express interest in participating from all over the world has meant the world to me; without those reminders this place would likely cease existing. For that, I’m unbelievably grateful. It’s easy to forget how many people you have on your side when you can’t see them in front of you so when so many come together to fight for something that was once just a fraction of an idea, especially when they’re people you’ve admired and celebrated, is a surreal thing to experience.

Heartbreaking Bravery has always been a support structure and to extend that out to other people and give them a chance to express their thanks for others, reflect on themselves, or simply join in a healthy conversation is an incredibly important aspect of what keeps this place functioning. Being able to facilitate something of that nature, especially when the names attached continuously unveil work worth celebrating, has been a profoundly moving experience. It’s been a deeply rewarding experience and it’s helped provide this place with meaning.

To all of the people who became a small part of this site’s history either this year or last year (and to anyone who contributes in any way in the coming years), I will once again simply state: I love you all.

-Steven Spoerl

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 7

PWR BTTM I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

The preceding galleries can be accessed via these links:

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 4
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 5
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 6

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 6

Potty Mouth

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 4

Car Seat Headrest

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2

Girlpool I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1

Radioactivity

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

A Small Victory in 600 Moves (Video Mixtape)

IMG_6197

Heartbreaking Bravery has never been an overtly traditional blog. Yes, some commonplace elements and recurring themes keep it from falling apart but its essentially come to operate as a living journal of the things that have piqued my interest. It’s allowed me a place to provide documentation of recent events that blend recap aesthetics with critical analysis while simultaneously operating as a platform to showcase lesser-known bands. When it was initially devised, its sole purpose was to grant me an outlet to be able to keep writing but- over time- it grew into something that eventually had a heavy impact on my life. Whether through enabling visits to Toronto or being one of the biggest root causes of the recent relocation to Brooklyn, it’s played an enormously active role in shaping some of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made- and it’s been directly responsible for linking me to a handful of genuinely invaluable people that I’d be twice as lost without.

Now on its 600th post- and with the blue moon just barely behind us- it felt appropriate to allow the rarest of overtly personal posts. Over the near-two months I’ve been residing in Brooklyn, I’ve had the privilege of both witnessing and playing a part in some genuinely unforgettable moments. For a large handful of them, I was fortunate enough to have the camera on and rolling. The 25 clips that are all contained in this sequence are videos I’ve shot personally since landing in New York. From a breathtaking acoustic rooftop performance overlooking the city’s industry-driven sprawl to an inexplicably perfect moment at a secret wedding to secret headliners to a slew of site favorites, there’s a lot of content here- all of which made me feel like I was in the exact right place. It’s an offering that acts both as a celebration of a small accomplishment in terms of longevity and as a sincere thanks to a part of the world that has so readily accepted- and celebrated- both myself and this site. I’m genuinely unsure of what the future holds but if it’s anything as exciting as the past few months have proven to be, I’ll consider myself fortunate to share it with both my friends and anyone kind enough to lend any attention to this site.

Below the video, you can find a tracklist of the sequencing and- as this is another 100 posts- there will be links to the preceding 100 posts. Click play and browse at will. Enjoy.

1. Girlpool – Crowded Stranger (Live at Baby’s all Right)
2. Diet Cig – Dinner Date (Live at Shea Stadium)
3. Frankie Cosmos – On the Lips (Live at DBTS)
4. Radioactivity – World of Pleasure (Live at Baby’s All Right)
5. Dogs On Acid – Make It Easy (Live at DBTS)
6. PWR BTTM – Projection (Live at Palisades)
7. Slothrust – Crockpot (Live at Suburbia)
8. Charly Bliss – Dairy Queen (Live at Shea Stadium)
9. Told Slant – I Am Not (Live at Silent Barn)
10. Montana and the Marvelles – Stand By Me (Live at DBTS)
11. Lost Boy ? (ft. Patrick Stickles) – Big Business Monkey (Live at Shea Stadium)
12. Idle Bloom – Dust (Live at Alphaville)
13. Swirlies – Wait Forever (Live at Silent Barn)
14. Tenement – Crop Circle Nation + Dull Joy (Live at The Acheron)
15. Bully – Brainfreeze (Live at Rough Trade)
16. Rebecca Ryskalczyk – Other Otters (Live at DBTS)
17. Attic Abasement – Sorry About Your Dick (Live at Shea Stadium)
18. Eskimeaux – Folly (Live at Palisades)
19. Krill – Turd (Live at Silent Barn)
20. Littlefoot – Worrydoll (Live at DBTS)
21. Florist – 1914 (Live at Baby’s All Right)
22. Mitski – I Will (Live at Palisades)
22. Adir L.C. – Inside Out (Live at DBTS)
24. Johanna Warren – Survive (Live)
25. Benny The Jet Rodriguez – Alley Cat (Live at The Acheron)

++

HB500: Casting A Glance (Video Mixtape)
HB501: Mutual Benefit – Not For Nothing (Stream)
HB502: Hammock – My Mind Was A Fog… My Heart Became A Bomb + In the Middle of Nowhere (Music Video)
HB503: The Fjords – All In (Music Video)
HB504: Fraser A. Gorman – Shiny Gun (Music Video)
HB505: Tenement – Curtains Closed (Stream)
HB506: Lady Bones – Botch (Stream)
HB507: So Stressed – Apple Hill (Stream)
HB508: Watch This: Vol. 72
HB509: Girlpool – Before The World Was Big (Music Video)
HB510: Ice Melting in the Back of a Pickup Truck (Short Film Premiere)
HB511: Worriers – They/Them/Theirs (Stream)
HB512: Westkust – Dishwasher (Stream)
HB513: Total Babes – Heydays (Music Video)
HB514; Weed – Thousand Pounds (Music Video)
HB515; La Lenguas – Love You All the Time (Stream)
HB516: MOURN – Gertrudis, Get Through This! (Stream)
HB517: Institute – Cheerlessness (Stream)
HB518: Blue Smiley – OK (Album Stream)
HB519: Molly – People (Music Video)
HB520: Diamond Youth – Thought I Had It Right (Music Video)
HB521: Heather Woods Broderick – Wyoming (Music Video)
HB522: Wactch This: Vol. 73
HB523: Lady Bones – 24 Hour Party Girl (Stream)
HB524: Radioactivity – I Know (Stream)
HB525: Splitting at the Break: A Visual Retrospective of 2015’s First Half (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB526: Johanna Warren – True Colors (Music Video) (NSFW)
HB527: Royal Headache – High (Stream)
HB528: Hey Hallways – Anything At All (Music Video)
HB529: Watch This: Vol. 74
HB530: Watch This: Vol. 75
HB531: Watch This: Vol. 76
HB532: Watch This: Vol. 77
HB533: Watch This: Vol. 78
HB534: Watch This: Vol. 79
HB535: Watch This: Vol. 80
HB536: Sulky Boy – Things Betwixt (Stream)
HB537: Girls Names – Reticence (Stream)
HB538: Happy Diving – So Bunted (Stream)
HB539: Father/Daughter Northside Showcase 2015 (Pictorial Review, Live Videos)
HB540: Introducing: Montana and the Marvelles
HB541: Miscreant Records Northside Showcase 2015 (Pictorial Review, Live Videos)
HB542: Bully – Live at Rough Trade – 6/15/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB543: Exploding in Sound Northside Showcase 2015 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB544: Painted Zeros – Live at Alphaville – 6/17/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB545: Tenement – Predatory Headlights (Album Review, Stream)
HB546: Dogs On Acid – Live at DBTS – 6/19/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB547: Watch This: Vol. 81
HB548: Watch This: Vol. 82
HB549: Lost Boy ? – Live at Shea Stadium – 6/20/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB550: 2015: Halfway Home (Mixtape)
HB551: Bully – Trying (Music Video)
HB552: Toys That Kill – Live at The Acheron – 6/23/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB553: Tenement – Live at The Acheron – 6/25/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Videos)
HB554: Watch This: Vol. 83
HB555: Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer (Album Review, Stream)
HB556: Raury – Devil’s Whisper (Music Video)
HB557: Fakers – $600 (Stream)
HB558: Cherry Glazerr – Sip O’ Poison (Stream)
HB559: Coaster – Paralyzed (Stream)
HB560: Nervoasas – Parallels (Stream)
HB561; Big Huge – Late At Nite (Stream)
HB562: The Hussy – Turning On You (Stream)
HB563: Gurr – I Don’t Like You (Stream)
HB564: Vacation – Like Snow (Stream, Live Video)
HB565: Big Air – Barking Dog (Music Video Premiere)
HB566: Trust Fund (ft. Alanna McArdle) – Dreams (Stream)
HB567: Pleasure Leftists – You You (Stream)
HB568: Ben Seretan – Take 3 (Song Premiere)
HB569: White Reaper – Last 4th of July (Stream)
HB570: Watch This: Vol. 84
HB571: Swirlies – Live at The Silent Barn – 7/4/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB572: Noun – I’m Afraid of What I’ll Do (Stream)
HB573: Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (Stream)
HB574: PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries (Stream)
HB575: Diet Cig – Sleep Talk (Stream)
HB576: Watch This: Vol. 85
HB577: Slothrust – Live at Suburbia – 7/10/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB578: All Dogs – That Kind of Girl (Stream, Live Video)
HB579: Dilly Dally – Desire (Stream)
HB580: LVL UP – Three Songs (7″ Stream)
HB581: PUP – Dark Days (Music Video)
HB582: Royal Headache – Another World (Music Video)
HB583: Mitski – Live at Palisades – 7/17/15
HB584: Watch This: Vol. 86
HB585: Radioactivity – Intro/Battered/Slipped Away (Music Video)
HB586: Princess Reason – Your Divorce (Stream)
HB587: Rebecca Ryskalczyk – We’re Brothers (Demo Stream)
HB588: Phylums – Go Home (Stream)
HB589: Watch This: Vol. 87
HB590: Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (Music Video)
HB591: A Short Stretch (Pitctorial Review)
HB592: Dogs On Acid – Make It Easy (Stream)
HB593: SPORTS – The Washing Machine (Stream)
HB594: A Short Stretch (Video Review)
HB595: All Dogs – Skin (Stream)
HB596: Girlpool – Live at Baby’s All Right – 7/29/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
HB597: Heat – This Life (Music Video)
HB598: The Foetals – Malted (Stream)
HB599: Watch This: Vol. 88

Toys That Kill – Live at The Acheron – 6/23/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

Toys That Kill I

Over the past week, I attended two shows and saw close to ten bands, everything happened in the same venue: The Acheron. June 23 was the first of the two nights/shows, so it’ll be receiving the early focus while a recap of the show on the 25th will be posted in the very near future. The show on the 23rd opened with Hatrabbits (a band featuring former members of The Measure [sa] dutifully filling in the local slot with a very straightforward, no-nonsense take on punk. Former WI resident and DIY mainstay Nato Coles (with his Blue Diamond Band in tow) pulled out all of the usual stops during a characteristically high-energy set. An unexpected highlight came in the middle of “An Honorable Man”- a classic tune by Used Kids (a Brooklyn-based band Coles used to co-front with Big Eyes’ Kaitlyn Eldridge, who was also in attendance)- with Used Kids bassist taking over on the instrument for the song’s remainder, ultimately receiving one of the nights loudest cheers.

Site favorites Benny The Jet Rodriguez played next, with an expanded lineup boasting two familiar faces: Todd Congeliere and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor (not to mention Swearin’ and Radiator Hospital member/Stupid Bag Records founder) Jeff Bolt. Front to back, the set was nothing but electrifying highlights, including some new songs and a few particularly impassioned takes on some of Home. Run‘s best material. Shellshag followed up with a set full of the kind of off-kilter charisma that made them one of Don Giovanni Records’ most quietly revered bands (especially among the musicians who exist in the label’s circle, several of whom refer to the duo as “mom and dad”). By the time they’d pulled the plugs on their lighting rig and made a precariously balanced tower of drums, the venue had either neared or reached capacity.

Toys That Kill rewarded the crowd with an intense set that more than lived up to the hype surrounding the band’s live show (I’d only heard it discussed in awed whispers or deafening proclamations). The band’s achieved something of a legendary status after cultivating a rabid following via a string of genre classics, their live show, and the success of guitarist/vocalist Todd Congeliere’s vaunted label, Recess Records [EDITOR’S NOTE: this hyperlinked clip contains a scene of praise for Hot New Mexicans, which I can’t recommend strongly enough and still leads the pack for my personal “Album of the Decade” pick]. All of that success has been culminating in fiery, passionate performances in which the crowd reciprocates the band’s staggering amounts of energy and that was certainly the case at The Acheron. One of the only shows I’ve seen this  year that ended with a successful (and completely warranted) encore call, Toys That Kill gave the audience exactly what they wanted and more, providing a perfectly raucous endcap to the night.

A video embed of the touring bands on the bill can be seen below and a photo gallery of their sets can be seen here.

So Stressed – Apple Hill (Stream)

sostress

Over the course of the year, one format or another has been stuck functioning in catch-up mode. Today, with this post, everything that falls under the regular umbrella coverage will be brought up to the present release cycle. In a way, then, it makes sense that something as blistering and urgent as “Apple Hill” grabs this post’s focus. Even more fitting is the fact that it comes from the first band to be signed to Honor Press, the newly created label of Perfect Pussy‘s Meredith Graves (whose fundamental importance to this site and its continued existence simply can’t be overstated). While all of that will be addressed shortly in greater detail, it wasn’t the only excellent musical offering ushered out into the world over the past week. To that end, just as in the preceding post, a list of full streams and songs that deserve hearing.

Full streams: Miserable Friend’s Thawed, Flawed and Suffering, Pinact’s Stand Still and Rot, Telepathic’s Powers of Ten, Thee Oh Sees’ Mutilator Defeated At Last, Ceremony’s The L-Shaped Man, Holly Miranda’s self-titled, Hot Chip’s Why Make Sense?, God Damn’s Vultures, Weedeater’s Goliathan, Super Unison’s self-titled, and a split from Martha and Benny The Jet Rodriguez. Songs: Ancient Sky’s “Two Lights“, Wild Pink’s “Is This Hotel Haunted“, Cancers’ “Missed“, The Absolute’s “Smile“, Kevin Devine’s “Gießen“, Jaill’s “Got An F“, Methyl Ethel’s “Twilight Driving“, Ecstatic Vision’s “Don’t Kill the Vibe“, Hollow Sunshine’s “Morning Green“, and Sweet John Bloom’s “Next Thing” (which very nearly earned this post’s feature spot). Rounding everything out was Run The Jewels’ strikingly animated clip for Run The Jewels 2 highlight “Early“. Then, of course, there was So Stressed’s hellishly snarling “Apple Hill”, which shows the band greatly expanding on the potential hinted at by their lead-off single “Merv King & the Phantoms“.

“Apple Hill” scales back the feverish tenacity of “Merv King” for something that manages to come off as both more brutal and more refined. Marrying post-punk, noise punk, and one of the more sinister breeds of hardcore definitely isn’t an easy look to pull off convincingly but “Apple Hill” wields that formula like a weapon. Brimming with an astonishing confidence and unerring conviction, it immediately transforms itself into something undeniable. Starkly unforgiving and shockingly immediate, it lays some deeply compelling groundwork for the band’s upcoming record, the exquisitely titled The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art. It’s a deceptively intuitive piece of songwriting that revels in its own pent-up frustration and, finally, the shards of cathartic release embedded throughout “Apple Hill”. The bass gets buried in fuzz, the drums zero in on the instruments intrinsic ability to become propulsive, the guitar line throws convention to the wind, and the vocals take the whole thing to a fascinating, wild-eyed realm. By the song’s end, So Stressed have created an immersive world that’s as punishing as it is intriguing; an unexpectedly strong effort that sets up The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art. Give into its whirlwind ferocity or get the hell out of the way.

Listen to “Apple Hill” below and pre-order The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art from Honor Press here.

Watch This: Vol. 44

Welcome to a late-night installment of Watch This, the 44th in the weekly series that celebrates the best live performances to surface in the previous week. This time around, there’s a split between full sets, late night performances, and DIY presentations that all include bands that have previously earned themselves features (or extended mentions) on this site. Whether it’s another jaw-dropping full set from White Lung or a revitalized Death From Above 1979 diving headfirst into their single, these are all worth watching. Normally Watch This is posted much earlier on Sunday, so in the spirit of today’s delay, the featured videos get darker in atmosphere as they progress. Day turns to night and Volume 44 gets to lay claim to five great performances. So, sit back, relax, take a drink, ease up, and Watch This.

1. Death From Above 1979 – Trainwreck 1979 (The Late Show with David Letterman)

The Physical World, Death From Above 1979’s long-awaited follow-up to the classic You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, may have disappointed a few people with absurd expectations. Most of them were hung up on their own projections of what they thought the band should be instead of letting them come out of hibernation to evolve naturally. It’s hard to think that any of them would be disappointed by a performance like this one, which winds up being part of a late surge of memorable talk show performances.

2. Benny the Jet Rodriguez – Alley Cat (Razorcake)

Is the sound on this the greatest? No. Does it need to be? Same answer. Is this a great take on a great song from a great record? Absolutely. Does the combination of logos, titles, and credits make it difficult to definitively credit? Extremely. How are more people not talking about Benny the Jet Rodriguez and Home. Run? That’s impossible to say- but it needs to change. When should that change start? Right now. Does every city deserve a venue like VLHS? Definitely.

3. Diarrhea Planet (KEXP)

Diarrhea Planet may have released a very good record the other year that holds up as a standalone piece but their reputation was almost entirely built by virtue of their excitable live shows. This KEXP session goes a long way in confirming any of the uninitiated’s suspicions that they have a penchant for the irreverent and wild- and that’s all that really needs to be said. Just watch the video.

4. White Lung (unARTigNYC) 

This isn’t the first full White Lung set to earn itself a feature on Watch This. Hell, it’s not even the first one that comes courtesy of unARTigNYC. All that said, the band keeps managing to get better, a feat of borderline absurdity considering they’re already one of the better live acts out there today. Easily the best-looking and best-sounding White Lung set to find its way onto Watch This, their recent set at Palisades found them in their fieriest form (especially after a very tense moment towards the start of the set that found vocalist Mish Way pushed to the point of physically accosting and ultimately ejecting an audience member)- absolutely laying waste to a selection of songs that leaned heavily on 2014 standout Deep Fantasy. Even if the whole set was emotionally charged thanks to the severely unfortunate circumstances, it provided a handful of thrilling moments and cemented White Lung’s status as one of today’s most exciting bands.

5. Nothing (KEXP)

Nothing are notorious for eardrum-obliterating volume levels when they play live, which seems fitting for a band so prone to relentless heaviness. Here, they hold nothing back and give KEXP one of the station’s more memorable sessions- creating an entrancing sprawl that sides towards the heavily atmospheric. Guilty of Everything was a high point of mid-2014 and is well-represented here. Apart from a few fairly awkward interview exchanges (which is probably putting it mildly), the individual song performances are weirdly mesmerizing. All in all, it’s hard to ask for a better way to cap off another great week of documented live music.