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Photos by Larry Stern, a few by Beth Been

Dixie Witch
08/20/11 @ Red 7, Austin, TX

Band on Facebook Band on MySpace  

How hot was it on August 20th, 2011 at 10 p.m. in Austin, Texas? Hot enough that I had to stop at three separate bars to grab cold brews to avoid heat exhaustion on my two block walk down Red River Street from the AMP headquarters. It was nearly 100 degrees. Anyway, I stroll into Red 7 sweating bullets just as Dixie Witch, formed in 1999 and still heralded as the hard rock stoner gods of ATX, were about to hit the stage as main support for legendary doom rockers St. Vitus.

I was super stoked to be at this show as there have been a lot of special things happening in the Dixie Witch camp over the last several months. Still making up one of the most thunderous rhythm sections in town are original members Curt Christenson (bass/vocals) and Trinidad Leal (Drums/vocals). Both of whom split lead vocal duties throughout the albums and shows.

J.T. Smith - photo by Larry Stern

For those of you who don’t know, Trinidad Leal is to drums like Zeus is to Greek Mythology. Not many people punish a drum set like Mr. Leal. Judging by the way Curt "I refuse to wear shoes onstage." Christenson works a bass, he may be Bootsy Collin’s little brother from another mother. You would be hard pressed to find anyone in this town who doesn’t agree that he has the golden touch on the bass. In 2009, founding member, Clayton Mills (guitar), left the band after 10 years and was replaced by J.T. Smith (The Drunks/Blood Royale). While it was a bummer to see Clayton call it a day, they couldn’t have found a more fitting replacement. Smith is armed with the maniac guitar skills of Ted Nugent, the punk rock attitude of Dr. Know and a high-flying rocker-kick that might give David Lee Roth a run for his money. Mega-stage-super-star-energy. Which leads me to my next point…guess who has a new record that’s just about to hit the streets? Earlier in the summer, Dixie Witch flew out to Mad Oak Studios in Allston, Massachusetts to work with engineer/producer Benny Grotto on their new LP, Let It Roll (2011, Small Stone Records) , a follow-up to their 2006 release, Smoke and Mirrors (Small Stone Records). While I don’t actually have a street date handy, I know the new record is coming out in the next few weeks. I saw the first rave review of the record last night while I was having beers with J.T. and discussing the band’s upcoming October European Tour . This marks the first time the band has taken it’s show across the big pond. In April of 2010, the band was set to do a two week trek in Europe which included a stop at Holland’s annual Roadburn Festival. However, the band was forced to cancel the tour when volcanic ash from Iceland clouded the sky high over the Atlantic and all transatlantic flights were cancelled. I don’t know that I have ever seen a band more heartbroken. If this was an episode of MTV’s "Behind the Music", it was clearly the "And Then Tragedy Struck" moment. This time it may take more than a volcano to slow the machine down. They will be out in Europe with Small Stone label mates, Sasquatch and Roadsaw. So far, I have seen dates in UK, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, but I’m sure more countries will be added shortly.

The show kicked off with the title track off of the new record, "Let It Roll". Pure ass kicking rock fury right out of the starting gates. Dixie Witch has a reputation for producing massive amounts of volume for a three-piece and this night was no exception. Curt had his 70's Fender P-bass blasting through an early 70's Ampeg SVT head powering two Ampeg 8×10 cabinets. On the other side of the stage, J.T. was rocking his Black Gibson V 90 through two 100 watt vintage 1973 Marshall Super Lead heads pegged on 10 powering multiple 4×12 cabinets. It was so loud, the universal hand gesture for "hey, pass that over here" would have to suffice for crowd members for the next 40 minutes . After pummeling their way through the opener, the band quickly followed up with "Red Song" and "Saving Grace", two more songs from the new record, Let It Roll (2011, Small Stone Records) .

Curt Christenson (left) and Trinidad Leal (right) - photo by Larry Stern

Both songs nicely garnished with that staple Dixie Witch southern stoner rock swagger. The fourth song of the set was the only "oldie" of the evening. The band slowed things down a bit and broke into the uber-heavy Sabbath-esque "Ballinger Cross" from the 2006 release, Smoke and Mirrors (Small Stone Records). At that point, the band completed their set smashing through four more new songs, "Automatic Lady", "Anthem" (dedicated by Trinidad Leal to Wino from St. Vitus who was standing stage side with his jaw on the the floor), "Boogieman", and " The High Deal".

Rarely does 90 percent of a band’s set consist of unreleased songs and spawn the overwhelming energetic response that Dixie Witch received from the crowd on this particular evening. Kudos to Trinidad, Kurt, and J.T. for pulling the rabbit out of their hat.

Listen to the title track "Let It Roll" from the new album

-Melvin McMichaels

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Photos by Jerry Milton
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Totimoshi
Slave to no one...genre

Band Web Page Band on Facebook MySpace

Totimoshi's music moves the flesh on your face. Rearranging sound patterns as it hits the ears. Changing standard rhythm into fits of shock that sates noise and forces energy to shift around you. Totimoshi is the smack of the soul. The best part is, all you have to do is listen and no one gets hurt.

The bands 5th album, Avenger is a refreshing force to contend with. It has a full, tight sound. It is refreshing not only because it brings the rock, it has an excellent recording quality. The songs flow together, starting with the aptly titled, Intro, moving through ten songs of a simple sludge like substance that at times blows you away and other times, moves you even further. You can buy it at Amazon.com for 8.99. Listen to it a few times in a row. You'll hear something new every time that is genius as well as simple, funny, and entertaining as hell.

For such a huge sound, it is amazing that they are a three person band. Totimoshi is Tony Aguilar guitar/vocal, Meg Castellanos bass, and Chris Fugitt drums.

Toshi Kasai produced, John Golden mastered, distributed by At A Loss Records, with special guests, Dale Crover (Melvins-melt your face), Brent Hinds (Mastodon-melt your face), and Scott Kelly (Nuerosis and all around face melter). Avengers is a collaborative work of rock n roll art.

On Wednesday August 31, they played at the historic Scoot Inn-Eastside Austin, Texas, supported by locals Watching the Moon. Also in attendance were New Yorkers; Pygmy Shrews, and VAZ with members of Hammerhead.

Setlist:
Avengers
Seeing Eye
Calling All Curs
Ladron
Dance of Snakes
Mainline
Viva Zapata
Gnat
the Fool
Opus

Fuggit plays the drums like he is the devil beating his wife. Meg is a fine woman who plays the bass so soothingly, but with the force that backs the rhythm. Tony, friend to all, sings not like a bird, more like a strong man who once made cheese for a living, tours a lot, and plays a pretty decent guitar, too.

Totimoshi at the Scoot Inn playing their latest release Avengers made for a refreshing cool night after a long hot summer.

Kris Moore

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Pretty Lights
Austin Music Hall-September 15th, 2011

Band Web Page Band on Facebook MySpace

Aptly Named

Actors, authors, athletes, composers, former hostages, philanthropists, and even young Anakin Skywalker are from Ft. Collins, Colorado. It is also the home of great microbrews and Derek Vincent Smith, a.k.a Pretty Lights.

The emergence of the single musician band, alone on the stage, has been a phenom of late in the Austin music scene. Artists like Scott H. Biram and Konrad Wert of Possessed by Paul James, perform to the masses, creating a full sound, amazing the crowd, leaving the audience to ask; How did one guy make all that sound AND rock our balls off? Derek Vincent Smith is all this on steroids, acid, coke, and lots and lots of groove. He aptly named his band; Pretty Lights.

Pretty Lights at the Austin City Limits Preshow on September 15th, 2011 at the Austin Music Hall, can best be described as "Fuck me. It moved". He performed upwards of 20 songs. It was a sold out, packed house of people all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. Pretty Light's music is DJ trance electronica trace sampling house rock n roll soul old school hip hop light show extraordinaire. Sound interesting? Now amp it up. No...no...no... AMP a little bit MORE! Now close your eyes. There is no need to imagine a damn thing. The music. The lights. They are the ride. And Fuck YEAH! It takes you away. Now open your eyes. Look around you. The place has exploded. Everythefuckone is moving. Girls are dancing with girls. Dudes are dancing...near other dudes. And dancing? Allow me to define it: moving to the sounds of a modern age in a motion that doesn't matter. The sweat dripping from your body reminds you that are a human not a machine (irony?)

We have all heard good rap, good rock, good hip hop. Pretty Lights is special. It is a complete modern sound and light experience as defined by Derek Vincent Smith...and crew...aka Pretty Lights.

Kris Moore

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Go-Gos
08/28/11 @ Paramount Theatre, Austin

Band Web Page Band on Facebook MySpace

Let’s just start this show review off with what everyone really wants to hear. How are the Go-Go’s holding up after 5 decades of cruisin’ down a rock n’ roll highway full of twists, turns, bumps and bounds? My answer: Every bit as good and probably better than any band I have seen lately that has been doing it that long at that level. And yes, the bare-footed Belinda Carlisle still has the looks that kill. Hugh Hefner didn’t ask her to pose for Playboy in 2001 because the Go-Go’s were the most frequently played band on his iPod. She still sounds every bit as good as she did when the band shared a rehearsal space in Los Angeles with "X" back in 1978. This was just a few years after she started her career playing drums in a punk band called "The Germs". Anyway, this isn’t a history lesson, enough of the trivial punk rock facts.

This was the final night of their tour marked to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the bands first LP, Beauty and The Beat (IRS Records, 1981). The tour featured the classic Go-Go’s lineup of Belinda Carlisle (vocals), Jane Wiedlin (rhythm guitar/backing vocals), Charlotte Caffey (lead guitar/keyboard/backing vocals, Kathy Valentine (bass/backing vocals/local Austin girl), and Gina Schock (drums).

Caffey was armed with a Fender Jazzmaster through some stomp boxes direct and over two a Vox AC30 and Fender Twin. Both were miked and ran in stereo through the front of the house. Wiedlin opted for a few different Gibson SG’s, each housing a single P-90. Unlike Caffey, Wiedlin ran a wireless set up through a Vox AC/30 and another combo which I have never seen before. Her rig was also run in stereo and panned hard through the front of the house. Kathy Valentine rocked the traditional Fender Precision bass, as well as her Custom Tele Bass (a gift from Billy Gibbons) through an Ampeg SVT Classic powering an Ampeg 8×10. It was rumored she was running her bass through a Big Muff, but I wasn’t close enough to see or smell muff.

From the time the set started, asses were shaking from the front of the theatre to the back wall of the balcony. While the Paramount is an amazing venue historically and structurally, I’m not sure theatre-style seating really worked out for everyone. The people who were standing had very limited room to dance and the 70 year-old’s sitting behind them couldn’t see anything. I personally could’ve used about 40 to 50 more decibels in the overall house mix. The Go-Go’s broke out all the big guns and rocked through 18 songs in true L.A. fashion. While this was the final night of the tour, the band had tremendous amount of energy and could have passed it off as the first night of the tour. One unexpected moment came as the band busted a revved up version of Belinda Carlisle’s solo hit, "Mad About You". In trademark Go-Go’s fashion, crowd members were brought onstage to dance along as the band screamed through a cover version of "Cool Jerk".

Photo by Mark Brown @ DigitaLegacy

Along with the big hits like "Our Lips are Sealed", and "We Got the Beat", they played an additional five tracks from the celebrated Beauty and The Beat lp (I.R.S Records, 1981). The rest of the cupcake was iced with hits from Vacation (I.R.S. Records, 1982), Talk Show (I.R.S. Records, 1984), Return to the Valley of the Go-Go’s (I.R.S. Records, 1994), and God Bless the Go-Go’s (Beyond Records, 2001). See full setlist below.

I also have to give a shout out to the show’s main support act, Girl In Coma hailing from San Antonio and signed to Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records’ label. Go check them out if they are rockin’ in your neighborhood.

Setlist

Vacation
Tonite
How Much More
Get Up and Go
Mad About You (Belinda Carlisle)
Lust to Love
Mother’s Little Helper (Rolling Stones Cover) Automatic
Fading Fast
Cool Jerk (The Capitols cover)
Cool Places (Sparks cover)
This Town
Unforgiven
Our Lips Are Sealed
Skidmarks on My Heart
We Got the Beat

Fun With Ropes
Head Over Heels

-Melvin McMichaels

 

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