Roadburn Recap

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I flew, took the wrong trains several times, rocked, ate, drank, slept, rocked some more, got lost some more, and had a great time at the 2016 Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands.

It’s been a long road to Roadburn. I’d had my eye on the festival, which had humble beginnings in 1999, after it’s first truly impressive lineup in 2006, which included Hawkwind, Colour Haze, Witchcraft, Ufomammut, Solace, Leafhound, The Heads, The Bevis Frond, Toner Low and Brant Bjork. A fairly diverse group of stoner and space rock, metal and doom, all linked by psychedelia. This was my tribe. Since then they’ve had Blue Cheer, Causa Sui, Guru Guru, Pharaoh Overlord, Circle, Siena Root, The Hidden Hand, The Devil’s Blood, Diagonal, SerpentCult, Baby Woodrose, Acid Mothers Guru, My Sleeping Karma, Graveyard, Motorpsycho, Dead Man, Amon Düül II, Zu, Rose Kemp, Saint Vitus, The Young Gods, Earth, US Christmas, Sons Of Otis, Ancestors, Troubled Horse, Samsara Blues Experiment, Comus, Pagan Altar, Los Natas, Astra, Horisont, Godflesh, Wovenhand, Blood Farmers, Naam, Swans, Candlemass, Wolf People, Ancestors, Spiders, Anekdoten, The Obsessed, 40 Watt Sun, Purson, Blues Pills, The Pretty Things, Kadavar, Goat, Witch Mountain, Elder, Wo Fat, The Cosmic Dead, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Golden Void, Bong, Beastmilk, Papir, Elephant9, Loop, Avatarium, SubRosa, Spidergawd, Death Penalty and Argus. Continue reading

Lemmy

“Death is an inevitability, isn’t it? You become more aware of that when you get to my age. I don’t worry about it. I’m ready for it. When I go, I want to go doing what I do best. If I died tomorrow, I couldn’t complain. It’s been good.”

lemmy-deathFor a while it did seem that Lemmy Kilmister might never die. A seemingly immortal living legend alongside Keith Richards, Iggy Pop and Ozzy Osbourne, some of us wouldn’t have been surprised if he would still be touring with Motörhead at age 100. True to his promise, he continued touring this year, and released his band’s 20th album in August, which I reviewed. He only just learned of his diagnosis of a very aggressive cancer two days ago, and died at home with family, probably with his boots on, playing his favorite video game from his long-time hangout the Rainbow.

Fester’s Lucky 13: 2015 Year-End Summary

Fast 'n' Bulbous Best of 2015

Top 100 Albums of 2015 |  Spotify Mix | 2015 Breakdown: Genre Lists | Shows, Videos | Movies, Television, Books & Comics

In years past, I often got outraged about albums that got critical conensus while other great ones were ignored. I’m passionate about the music I love and try to spread the word on, and can get a bit worked up. I’m feeling a bit more accepting this holiday season. While the diversity of what I cover has diminished somewhat in recent years, it’s also harder to piss me off about the stuff I care about getting ignored for Sufjan Stevens, Kendrick Lamar, Courtney Barnett and Father John Misty. Continue reading

Metal Cans for the Holidaze – Fostex TH-X00

It’s Black Friday, and what’s more black than to buy a good pair of headphones for your favorite rocker or metalhead. Today the headphone audiophile community is buzzing about what may become a historic event in headphone history. Massdrop and Fostex have collaborated to create the best value in closed back headphones you can find today, with the Fostex TH-X00.

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This isn’t the first time Massdrop has collaborated with an audiophile headphone manufacturer. Will Bright, who participated in the Head-Fi forums since he was a teenager, is the head of Community Expansion at the San Francisco company, and initiated a collaboration with AKG to create a special version of their 65th anniversary limited edition of their K702, which was a big hit in 2012. The resulting AKG K7XX Massdrop Limited Edition Headphone was assigned an MSRP value of $650, but sold for only $200 with Massdrop, a pretty amazing deal. In this case, it sold in only a run of 150, but more drops have been scheduled due to popular demand. A similar collaboration happened recently with the Grace Design x Massdrop m9XX DAC/Amp, a simplified $500 version of an amp that normally sells for $2,000. Continue reading

What Last Minute Goodies Will Krampus Pull from His Black Bag?

rihanna-baronessAs the year-end best album lists start coming out the holiday season, there’s always a few artists who either transcend critical influence, or are so under the radar it doesn’t matter, and they drop an album in December with little or no notice. In the former case, Beyonce did this effectively on December 20, 2013, and ended up selling quite well as a last-minute stocking stuffer. Then she released a Platinum Edition in a re-issue the next year. Last year, after a 15 year wait, D’Angelo dropped Black Messiah, and even made some lists from those who were able to hear it before their deadlines.  On the other end of the spectrum, German psych legends Colour Haze came out of nowhere with To The Highest Gods We Know on December 23. Their hardcore following took notice in the stoner/psych blog world, but not beyond that.

mia-bordersThere’s a number of high profile artists who we know have been working on something that have not announced a release yet, including PJ Harvey, Radiohead, M.I.A., Frank Ocean, Kanye West, Metallica, No Doubt and Rihanna among many others. Will any of them surprise us with an album in December with little or no pre-release hype? With these big names, of course, the hype is out there whether they do anything to stoke the fires or not. PJ Harvey turned the creation of her album into performance art, allowing people to watch the process. Metallica likes to yap about how awesome the recording progress is going. Rihanna shared the title and cover art of Anti, but no date. Frank Ocean announced a title, Boys Don’t Cry, and July release date, but it’s new release date has not been mentioned. Kanye West has been hyping So Help Me God for over a year, but no release on the horizon yet. Will he be the one to pop? Or M.I.A., who has no release date for Matahdatah, but has released the single “Borders.” Others keep fairly silent. Continue reading

Psych Prog in the Hall Of Fame

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When the nominees for the 2016 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame were announced last week, voting was also opened to the public. While millions of people will vote for a top 5 ballot that will only count for one vote among approximately 600 ballots, it seems that other voters pay attention, as some otherwise unlikely bands got inducted in recent years, Kiss (2014) and Rush (2013). Both bands have had their rough patches with critics, but also enjoy massively dedicated and loyal fanbases. I definitely agree that Rush are worthy, but I also love the fact that Kiss made it, as long as Alice Cooper got in first (2011). Even though 80% of their songs are turds, they add some colorful, populist fun to the Hall. I also wonder if we don’t have the single-mindedness of Eddie Trunk bitching about it through a decade of That Metal Show to thank. Perhaps he’ll gift us with Thin Lizzy or UFO next? Continue reading

No Whining in Rock ‘n’ Roll: Don’t Feel Guilty About Not Spending More Money on Music

Columbia House’s recent bankruptcy filing triggered all kinds of stories, ranging from fond reminiscing about early experiences with record clubs, to surprised reactions that they even still exist as a corporate entity, and a whole slew of whining about how they were killed by streaming services.

Their filing says that Netflix, Amazon, Spotify and Apple crowded it out of the market, preventing Columbia House from getting licensing agreements when it tried to offer streaming services for videos and movies last year. Yes, the more established competitors had an advantage over the new kid on the block. The young, clueless Columbia House, which has been in business since 1955.

Capitol Record Club Ad from 1972

Columbia House pioneered the record club business model, getting millions of consumers on board with the then still new 12″ vinyl LP format, introduced in 1949.  Their first year they had 125,175 members who had purchased 700,000 records (for $1.174 million net). By the next year, they had 687,652 members and had sold 7 million records ($14.888 million net), and by 1963, it commanded 10% of the recorded music retail market. By the mid-1960s, they had competition from other clubs, including EMI, Capitol and RCA. At that point, Columbia House was able to stay several steps ahead of the competition when the father of direct marketing, Les Wunderman took over the account. Along with direct marketing, Wunderman introduced innovations such as the database, the 1-800 number, the magazine subscription card, and the credit-card customer rewards program. For Columbia House he created the 12-albums for a penny postage-paid insert card, the Gold Box buried treasure Easter eggs that people could find in the advertising and redeem for free albums, in what he called “interactive” sales in a 1967 speech at M.I.T., decades before the Internet took off. It’s too bad they didn’t keep Wunderman on at least as a consultant to advise them. He’s still around, they should give him a call. Continue reading

Anticipated Albums 2015

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After the late spring avalanche of great new releases last week, things are slowing down for the summer. It’s a good time to take stock of what we have to look forward to. Regular visitors to my Lists section will see that I keep an Upcoming Releases section at the bottom. Albums only make that when they get a title and official release date. For the most part, there are no titles and dates announced yet for these bands, though most have confirmed on Facebook and other venues that they are at some stage of recording, mixing or mastering. I’ll note which ones have been quiet and are included just for hopeful/wishful thinking. The Spotify playlist includes the most recent releases of the bands I’m obsessed with. Continue reading

UFOMAMMUT Finally Tours North America

Italian stoner/doom/sludge/psych pioneers UFOMAMMUT celebrated their 15th anniversary as a band last year by releasing a retrospective XV DVD and Magickal Mastery live album. Incredibly, they have never before toured North America. They played a couple dates in L.A. and San Francisco back in 2009, and that’s it. With a string of incredible albums, each topping the last — Idolum (2008), Eve (2010), and the double album Oro (2012), the band clearly has a substantial audience patiently waiting for them to tour the states. Labelmates Neurosis and YOB receive rapturous responses and acclaim with each tour and album, and I keep thinking, but what about Ufomammut? Before the final headliners were announced for Psycho California fest, I was positive Ufomammut would be announced. It makes zero sense to me that they would play Maryland Death Fest rather than that. But all is forgiven, with new album Ecate set for a March 31 release, and a real honest to goodness tour, kicking off at my favorite metal club, Reggie’s on May 13 and ending at the Metal Grill in Milwaukee, site of last year’s final Days of the Doomed Fest. Continue reading

Psycho California Announces Headliners: Sleep, Pentagram and Cult Of Luna

For a number of years, it’s been frustrating for us North American stoner/doom/psych fans to see our favorite bands almost exclusively play festivals in Europe, but rarely cross the pond. The best lineups over the past several years were consistently found at festivals like Roadburn in the Netherlands, Desertfest in Germany, England and Belgium, Freak Valley Festival and Stoned From the Underground in Germany, and Up in Smoke in Switzerland. While the U.S. sporadically had some festivals, the Stoner Hands of Doom Festivals ended after the one in Richmond in 2013. Scion Rock Fest has been evolving and changing locations over the year, and their installment in Pomona, CA last year on May 17 was promising, with High On Fire, Jex Thoth, Windhand, All Them Witches, Aqua Nebula Oscillator, Hot Lunch, Pins Of Light, Big Business, Red Fang, Orchid and Moab. However they have yet to announce anything for 2015. And that’s about it, other than a few token heavy bands at the quickly growing Austin Psych Fest. Continue reading