Terrastock 7 took place at the Melwood Arts Center, Louisville Kentucky on June 19th - 22nd, 2008. It was a lot of fun.

There follows a collection of blog posts from people who attended the event. Photos can be found here: Terrastock photos alternatively here.

Scroll down for links to other reviews (while they last)


1. Ramon Medina, TX

 

Terrastock is not just a festival, it’s a family. There’s a feeling of community that you won’t get anywhere else and you can’t help but feel caught up in it all. This isn’t Boneroo, Lollapalooza, or Austin City Limits. People aren’t here for spectacle or to be seen – they are here for the music and the community that surrounds the psych genre whose umbrella is the zine Ptolemaic Terrascope. That sense of community extends from the biggest acts to the smallest. This is, when you get down to it, nothing more than a big house party at (founding editor of PT) Phil McMullen’s pad. The pad this year just happened to be in lovely Louisville, Kentucky in the Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center - a former factory turned multi-use facility.

Perhaps it’s the Terrascopic Family vibe but I swear the artists were all the nicest and most generous people you’d ever want to meet and not an ounce of pomposity to be found anywhere. Where else can you sit around and chat about that cool nightclub back at the Brownsborough Motel with one of your musical heroes or talk to someone whose music you just discovered a few months ago then have them actually greet you by name at the merch table later that evening? You greet artists you haven’t seen a while with a great hug and meet new kindred spirits (all the while reminding them not to forget Houston on their next tour). And the sense of community isn’t just the artists but the fans were just as wonderful (special shout out to the kids from room 285) and these fans came from far and wide. It was pretty telling when Wayne Rodgers of Major Stars asked “Who here is from Louisville?” and perhaps two people raised their hands. This wasn’t a local event, this was international - an international event brought together from a love of music.

And that music was phenomenal. A short cross section of the bands would dizzy anyone. Off the top of my head? OK. Damon and Naomi played a gorgeous and beautiful set that was amazing plus, I just love Naomi’s distinctive phrasing on the bass. The pairing of Masaki Batoh and Helena Espvall was incredible. I was particularly entranced when Espvall would play her cello through a flurry of effects giving an otherworldly quality that would play beautifully off of Batoh’s strong and emotive guitarwork. Tara Jane O’Neil’s performance was inspiring. I’m always stunned how as a solo performer she is able to be able to use that negative space around her and be able to make music that is at once wrenching and lonely but also joyous and communal. MV & EE and The Golden Road put on a heavy and heartfelt performance, despite sound issues, that wasn’t merely giving the audience a note by note rendition of their recorded work but clearly expanding the material to great effect. Mono’s performance showed why their careful and patient arrangements really have to be experienced live. The impact of the sound waves hitting you, surrounding you, and carrying you along is simply incredible. That’s just a smattering of bands; there are a hell of a lot more that deserve mention but it's just too overwhelming. Hell, just this morning before I left I heard an incredibly textured impromptu set by Windy Weber (Windy & Carl) and then 15 minutes of Insect Factory’s sonic explosion. That’s just poking my head in for a few minutes before making my way out of Louisville on a ride back to Texas. As I was leaving, a friend shrugged and said “Well, I guess it’s back to the real world huh?” and I nodded my head and sadly agreed.

 


 

2. Charlie Ebersbaker, TX

 

So I’m back at my desk at work now after a very full weekend spent in Louisville, Kentucky, for Terrastock 7, the seventh in a semi-annual string of psychedelic music festivals put on by Phil McMullen (and others assisting and managing) of the British psych magazine Ptolemaic Terrascope.  They have these things once every few years, and have since 1996, and each time they put it in a different city.  They’ve had Terrastocks in Providence, Boston, Seattle and other places… aside from this most recent one, the only other one I’ve been to was the 2000 Terrastock 4 in Seattle, also the last time my band the Linus Pauling Quartet played.  I think in the future though, given the awesome time I had at this one, I may start making more of an effort to go to any and all future Terrastocks regardless of whether or not Linus is playing at them.

At Terrastock 7, thirty-nine bands played over three and a half days, from Thursday evening to Sunday night.  Due to a lack of vacation days, I ended up coming mid-day on Friday, missing the handful of bands playing Thursday night and a couple more playing earlier in the afternoon on Friday.  From around noon until around 11 pm or so Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night, they had bands playing almost constantly.  It was held at the Mellwood Arts Center in Louisville, an old industrial plant/warehouse area converted into a sort of mini-mall for local artisans and craftspeople.  You could walk all around the interior and see shop after shop of private artisans doing things like watercolor, photography, painting, framing, jewelry, etc.  For Terrastock, we had a fairly sizeable outdoor area with a stage for the outdoor shows, and two indoor stages, one for regularly scheduled bands, and one for people to sign up to do largely acoustic performances and little one-off collaborations and such.  This stage was pretty interesting, but more on that later.

 

I’m not going to do a band-by-band recap… that would take too long, and I have a mountain of work to catch up on now that I’m back.  That’s one thing… I love doing stuff like this, and this really was an incredibly beautiful and wonderful experience that I totally and without qualification LOVED… so naturally now that I’m back, I’m feeling that post-awesome-time depression that stems from getting back into your everyday normal life, which somehow doesn’t seem quite as much fun as what you just experienced.  If only I could somehow apply for a Green Card to live in Terrastock Nation permanently.  That would be immigration work well worth the effort for me. 

Linus played Friday evening, a little before 8 p.m.  I’d just been flitting around the festival prior to that, though I did catch some fine acts.  I’d gotten there just in time to catch Sleeping Pill, which featured Ira and Georgia from Yo La Tengo, though the music they did was nothing like Yo La Tengo, so that was kind of fun… much more droney and spacey stuff than their primary band.  Both of them played guitar, and I don’t think they had a bassist, and I’m not sure who their drummer was for the evening.  However, as often happens when Linus is about to play a big show, I got nervous and couldn’t really stay in one place long enough to get into anything.  That’s just how I get before these types of things… wandering around, excited and nervous with anticipation, unable to lock my focus on anything else.  Fortunately it wasn’t long before it was time for us to play.

 

We soundchecked with “Old Crow”, and at that point I kind of knew it was going to be a special show, because everyone started going nuts and clapping and calling out for another soundcheck.  And then we proceeded to play our set proper, and it was transcendent; we just rocked very very mightily.  Afterwards, we would all agree it was one of our best performances ever, if not THE best.  I thought about it a lot after, trying to figure out why, and then I realized a good portion of the credit belongs to the audience.  Houston audiences just don’t go nuts.  Not really for much of anyone, but certainly not for a local band who’s been around for fifteen years and whose stylistic heyday was back in the 90s.  Some musicians will try to maintain that they don’t care a whit about the audience’s response to them, and maybe some really don’t, but most are lying.  Music is a true folk art form; it’s about a direct line of two-way communication between performer and audience, wherein energy travels in both directions.  So the fact that the audience was SO receptive to us, applauding a lot and just obviously REALLY getting into it, drove us to play with more abandon and energy than we usually muster.  So if you were there and you’re reading this, thanks.  We played above our usual level Friday evening, and it’s largely due to the audience’s enthusiasm. 

 

Which brings me to something I sheepishly enjoyed very much:  the frequent and pleasurable boosts to the ego.  We have a lot of very dedicated and passionate fans in Houston, but the simple fact remains that no one is ever as appreciated in their hometown as they are elsewhere.  Appreciated, yes, but not to quite the same degree.  And this was definitely in effect at Terrastock.  The number of people who came up to me out of nowhere to tell me how blown away they were by our show and how we were one of the best shows they’d seen at Terrastock, particularly when you take into account the magnitude of the musical company we found ourselves in, was just overwhelming.  Honestly though, the part of all this that made me happiest was not the boost to my musical ego, but the fact that because we made such an impression, lots of people then came up to me and started talking to me.  Those of you who know me know I’m ordinarily a painfully shy person (I think more accurately they call it “social anxiety” these days), so there’s no way on earth I can talk to anyone who doesn’t talk to me first.  So of course so many people coming up and talking to me first was a godsend.  Finally I got to be somewhere with hundreds of other people and be given the “in” to communicate with them.  That was sure nice.  So thanks to all of you… the Tennessee crew, Greg, Jeff, Joe, and everyone else.  The music was great, but actually getting to talk to so many people was what really made the whole thing totally worthwhile for me.

Parties:  Friday night we went to a party in the Tennessee crew’s hotel room, just down the hall from the room Larry and I shared.  Saturday night was a late night for everyone, with most people (though no one from our group) going to the big afterparty.  I would’ve liked to have gone to that, but honestly I was seriously worn out, so I just walked down and chatted with the kids from Tennessee again for a bit before turning in, and then Sunday night pretty much everyone who was staying at the Brownsboro Inn (the motel chosen as the primary place for Terrastock participants to lodge) got together for a big-but-restrained shindig in the courtyard of the motel, with beer and food all over the place, and two people jamming on twin fiddles, until the management came and shut it down around 2 in the morning.  We were sharing the motel with a Baptist convention, so I’m guessing some of them had to get some sleep.  Odd, putting a rock convention and a Baptist convention at the same motel.  That’s some irony.

 

Other bands:  I really enjoyed a huge portion of the lineup this year, so whenever I read people on message boards online saying that they thought the lineup wasn’t worth the trip, I’m just stunned.  You guys missed an incredible weekend.  I have to single a few bands out that I particularly enjoyed… I’m not going to get into descriptions or anything; I started to, but then I realized it would take forever, and my memory might not be exact on the details.  Better then to just list some bands I loved and hope you’ll go research them and check out their music:  Sapat, Grails, Insect Factory, Windy & Carl, Damon & Naomi, Mono, Wooden Shjips, Kinski, MV+EE and the Golden Road, Pelt, and of course Bardo Pond.  Pelt in particular had me totally in a trance with their set-long almost totally acoustic drone, utilizing multiple gongs, harmonium, stringed instruments, etc.  MV+EE did a great raga out on that acoustic third stage, with one of the guys playing a banjo he specially converted to sound like a sitar, replete with VERY sitar-like effects that he got by basically playing the instrument with the tuning peg, doing solos by just quickly but deadly accurately detuning and retuning the string to play a melody.  Very very cool. 

The third stage was really nice.  Apparently you could sign up to do something relatively quiet and/or acoustic on that stage, and people took advantage.  The same incredibly cool hammered dulcimer player who later joined Insect Factory on stage played quite a bit out there, doing some very Steve Reich-esque minimalist stuff.  MV+EE’s set on the third stage blew me away, especially since I’d managed to miss their “official” slot on the main inside stage on Saturday because I made the ridiculous error of walking the 4+ miles from the venue back to the hotel room since I couldn’t find a ride and wanted to get back there for a bit before Bardo Pond’s set later on.  At one point a girl got up on the third stage and quickly launched into a solo a capella rendition of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”, which was just awesome.  It was so cool to have someone do something so completely different but so fun. 

 

And oh my GOD my ears took a beating.  Mostly that was our fault.  I didn’t wear earplugs for our show because I wanted to be able to hear my tone and everything really clearly.  But when we launched into “La Tapatia” the monitors simply couldn’t handle the abuse Ramon was dishing out with the microphones, so they howled with searing high-pitched feedback, causing my ears to actually shut down.  I seriously thought we’d blown the PA out until I noticed everyone was still playing and I just couldn’t really hear it.  I managed to limp through the rest of the song by following the drumbeats I could feel through the floor, and keeping my eye on Clinton’s fingers so I knew where we were in the song.  My hearing started repairing itself so I was okay enough to hear things by Saturday, but that kind of contributed to me not really paying as much attention to the other music going on Friday night after our set.  As much as I love and respect Makoto Kawabata of Acid Mothers Temple, I’m kind of glad I didn’t stick around for his festival-closing set Sunday night, as I heard he was ear-bleedingly loud.  I don’t think I could’ve taken that.  The last set I caught was the third-to-last of the festival, when Windy & Carl took to the inside stage.  They played a lovely set of shimmering clean electric guitar duets, and Windy was just the most charming and sweet person on stage, telling stories about Terrastocks past, and about Phil McMullen, the guy who founded the whole thing.  He incidentally had a birthday (his 50th?) the preceding April, and was considering Terrastock to be his birthday party, so Bardo Pond led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to him, and several tributes to him were given from various bands and such.  It was a hell of a lot of good vibes going around, and well deserved they were.

 

Anyway, so there you have it.  I didn’t get much into specifics, but we had a LOT of fun, and I loved every second of it, except for the second where my ears blew.  Everything else was a pantload of fun, and I can’t wait for next time.


3. Thoughts on Terrastock — and Louisville! June 24, 2008 — Ned Raggett

So now that Terrastock is over and I’m happily settled in the next step of my vacation in Charleston — about which I’ll have my own thoughts later on tomorrow if not today, but as you can guess I’m quite happy just to relax and not do too much in the way of work, however described! — a few retrospective thoughts on both the festival and the community seem appropriate.

Terrastock is always, it seems to me, a triumph of organization and improvisation in equal measure. I have not attended every Terrastock though I have attended most of them, and it’s always been evident to me that everyone handling the behind-the-scenes aspects of the performances, even if they are sometimes right out in public, never get all the credit they deserve even when they’re getting thanks right, left and center. That’s simply because there are not enough thanks to give — it’s a massive investment of time and money on everyone’s part, even just to attend, but even more so if you are performing or being the facilitators of the performances, as one of the on-site staff members, the security, the ticket checkers and so forth. The work of Erica Rucker and Rob Codey, along with founding father Phil McMullen, at getting it all together can’t be honored enough and by extension so too with everyone else who helped to hand.

As with all Terrastocks, though, there’s always something that won’t quite work for everyone, and this isn’t to complain, simply to note. Unavoidable problems are the nature of any large-get-together, or rather, the potential for those problems to arise, and some things were beyond the control of anyone, such as a thunderstorm forcing Simply Saucer to stop their set (thankfully they were able to retake the stage later and the schedule was otherwise uninterrupted). Other things I heard about were almost to be expected — the sound wasn’t always the best, the food on site was sometimes mixed, etc. — and yet others were the risks run (if you took the campsite option, it’s understandable, but I salute your patience in sticking with it through all the heat, storms and more!).

Perhaps the most understandable concern — that there should have been more people attending, if only because the space was clearly there for them at many points (more immediately evident for the outdoor stage rather than the indoor ones), and because that would have meant a little more cash in everyone’s coffers — is just simply the nature of any festival at any time, that it might not work. And in a time of high energy costs, uncertain economies and more, I think it’s very much something to keep in mind — certainly I was watching my pennies carefully, and bought nowhere near the amount of discs that I’ve done in the past.

But for those complaints to have some real force would mean that the festival was a washout, and this was not the case. For many people the height of the Terrastocks remains the second one, in part because the lineup was so very wide-ranging under the umbrella of the general Terrastock rubric, and because what seemed like a last-minute crisis turned out to be a heaven-sent opportunity, with the warehouse/rehearsal space setup proving perfectly accomodating for both bands and audience. Opinions may differ and should but I’d rank this one very near the second in terms of excellence — and the reasons were not simply the musical ones. Certainly many of the astonishing performances would have been worthy of note on their own, but having so many career highlights in one place at one time was breathtaking. And while there is now a certain expectation of who will attend and what will be performed at a Terrastock that wasn’t fully in place in the second one, there’s still enough new variety within that scope to show that there’s room to make more discoveries, and for musicians to test more boundaries (it may sound strange but I was glad to see laptops in evidence for a couple of the sets — I think it’s long been the case that the use of small computers on the stage like is not something new or strange or ‘non’-Terrastock, or simply non-musical, but simply another tool in a formidable arsenal, as valid as an antique fiddle or a decades-old effects pedal).

But as I said to others throughout the weekend, Terrastock is not only about the music, but the social aspect, the people and the relationships and the friendships and more besides. I’ve made many friends at past Terrastocks and the pattern continued at this one, while the amount of new friends and acquaintances almost can’t be counted. And this is how it should be; without romanticizing gatherings to an extreme degree, it is still the case that a commonality of interests generated by an overall theme will lead to expectations of bonding on other levels, and that was the case here. If anything, the fact that Terrastock is not a huge monster of a festival, not thousands upon thousands of people all roaring at a stage but everyone in the mix in small amounts roaming from stage to merch booth to restaurant to motel and back again, scattered but unified, is one of the handiest things about it, and one of the most welcoming. It was by no means the first such small-scale festival of its kind here or elsewhere in the world, but Terrastock’s long-range impact on a number of similar festivals in the US has been notable, and to have such a thing be a welcome if irregular event on everyone’s social calendar can’t but be something lovely.

For me to talk further about everything that happened on that front veers into the realm of private conversations and get-togethers, as well as stories told by folks who would not want them to be shared further! So on a general note I’ll say it was a particular treat to hang around again with Chris B., a friend and fellow Terrastock vet of longstanding who I’ve known for fifteen years; it had been far too long since we’d had a chance to talk over a lot of things and we made up for lost time very quickly. Joe Turner, organizer of Terrastock 5, was in the same hotel as us, along with his Abunai bandmate Brendan Quinn and their mutual friend Scott, and the five of us got up to a variety of things during and outside the festival as well. Among the performers, spending time once again with Windy and Carl was a treasure — they’re simply great people and all of our chats are among the most thoughtful and most humorous! — while Jesse Poe of Tanakh proves himself once more to be at once incredibly intense and very warm and personable at the same time — very much a compliment! Then there were past acquaintances and people met once again like Paik, Kawabata, Jack Rose, Jeffrey and Miriam from Black Forest/Black Sea, Tara Jane O’Neil, Chris from Kinski and many others. Among the attendees, seeing Nari from Texas again was a delight, as was meeting her guy Bill, while catching up with Lee Jackson, Travis, Mats G., Joel, Mike Tamburo and of course, if too briefly, Phil himself were all treats. As for new friends made or brief but memorable conversations had, where to begin! Rob Schnieder, his wife and relatives/bandmates, the Linus Pauling Quartet, R. Keenan Lawlor, the United Bible Studies crew, Sharron Kraus, the Plastic Crimewave crew, Elephant Micah, Natalie, sleeve from ILM, Nashville Dave, Joey from New Haven and his wife (whose name I forget, alas!), Tess, Brendan’s dad, Captain Groovy…and I’m forgetting many, many others or not remembering names, so if you’re not on here, my apologies! It was simply that much of a splendid time.

And I’ve not really spoken of Louisville all that much yet! But I should — it’s a fine city, in my experience of it, and reminded me very much of Portland. There’s a similar sense of it being a place to live more than a place one immediately puts on the list as a must-visit location — this isn’t to denigrate it in the slightest, merely that, let’s face it, it’s just simply not as much of an immediate tourist destination in the mind. But these places are often the most enjoyable to go to for that reason, and as with Portland, one gets the clear sense of being able to afford to live here well enough while being able to make one’s own space in town — the fact that so many memorable musicians and performers have come from Louisville now makes much more sense since I’ve gone, though to be sure many things that I saw, like the Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center itself, the venue for the festival, were comparably recent and the sense of a community having developed over time rather than having always been there as an outlet.

I must make a special mention of the food, since I honestly do think this was hands-down the best Terrastock for me foodwise of them all. Most of the Terrastocks have had moments where despite at least a couple of good meals here and there — for a while there every new Terrastock meant trying a new tapas place! — there were always fairly anonymous meals grabbed on the fly as a simple means of avoiding hunger. But thanks to a combination of suggestions from local friends — big ups to Joel here in particular! — plus fine individual food websites like Consuming Louisville and Louisville Lunch, not to mention the handy help of an iPhone (it really proved its paces throughout the weekend — VERY glad I bought mine back in March, and not just for the ability to liveblog!), we were able to hit up one great spot after another, and pretty much scored a bulls-eye each time. Four great breakfast spots in a row — the North End Cafe, Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, Wild Eggs and, on site, Patti Cakes and their excellent buffet (finally got to try a hot brown while I was there) — would have been worthy enough, but add to that Genny’s Diner and their frickles, Clifton’s Pizza, the Kentucky Barbeque Company and the solid onsite spot that sold bison burgers and hot dogs, and I was living the life of Riley — and probably paying for it in pounds gained! Need to walk around a bit more when I can here.

And overall, Louisville was just a nice change of pace for a Terrastock — sure, its more humid weather meant that folks like Chris and I, used to desert heat patterns and a dryness in the air, felt like we were stifling at points, but that’s a small complaint (and the AC at the venue and the hotel both worked like a charm, so hey!). But its pleasures were all the more unexpected for finding them, and it didn’t just become another place to say I’ve visited, but something else for the mental landscape where I know where I could come back, spend time, have a blast and enjoy life if I wanted to, like Portland, like London, like Dunedin. I missed the official afterparty on Saturday night — apparently there’s video of Chris, Joe, Brendan and Jesse all jamming acoustically on Velvets and Can covers — but the final get-together after things closed up on Sunday at the Brownsboro Inn, with a bunch of us all in the central gazebo having some drinks and chat, music playing, Sharron and Michael breaking out their violin and fiddles for an impromptu duet, stories swapped and final good wishes exchanged, that’s one of those great moments to have been a part of, and I’m glad for it.

Who knows when I’ll ever visit Louisville again, but here’s to the next Terrastock, whenever it might be, and with whoever it is in attendance. It’ll be a treat and a half, for sure.


Terrastock Thursday — live reports!

 

The Photographic — a local trio, guitar/bass/keyboards, who are still funding their own sound but are off to a great start. Very much a shoegaze instrumental act but with a strong rolling drum sound which adds heft to the performance. Think the clean triumphalism of Sianspheric in part. Good way to begin!

 

Parlour — another Louisville instrumental band — who would figure! Eight person lineup, from guitars to horns. It’s enjoyable but I admit to being more impressed by them rather than fully getting into it. They have many elements down to a T, the steady building crunches, the structured jams, but nothing is on fire for me. No complaints, at least.

 

Elephant Micah — lovely, full stop. A last minute sub for Marissa Nadler and to my mind, a more than worthy one. Really enjoyed many of his releases over the moons and hearing him perform these short, delicate songs this way is surprisingly effective, and affecting. A fine counterpoint to the previous two sets. Nick Drake comparisons audible but warranted, but he has his own vocal style and way around melody.

 

Dead Maids — MUCH more like it in comparison to Parlour. Instrumental epic drone psych and all, but with frills, filigrees and frayed edges. The guitar work in particular is lush in ways suggestive the Cocteaus and early Verve, or even And Also the Trees, but just as apt to find and focus on a core hook. They work within an established form but find ways to reinvent. Another great introduction!


Terrastock Friday — live reports!

 

United Bible Studies — another fine surprise, specially recommended by sleeve on ILX. Reminds me a bit of a more electric/folk and less goth Unto Ashes given the blend of styles that resolve into a dark lilting intensity, both loud and fragile. Sharron Kraus guested, which leads me to…

Sharron Kraus — unsurprisingly wonderful, performing on violin and banjo. Heavy and expected anticipation for this one given her many collaborations. After a fine solo set on banjo, she’s joined by the United Bible Studies on vocals and drums while she plays violin on a ‘midsummer song.’ Quite lovely and rich sounding, a great closer!

Ignatz — took a break to chat outside with friends and otherwise relax a bit, but what I heard sounded good, v. Loren Connors spiked with harsher edges.

Antietam — never really had an opinion on them in the past, a certain respect but no more. Their set confirms this — loud, energetic, a couple of strong moments but little else to add.

Black Forest/Black Sea — a beautiful fragmented glow. This has always been the case with Black Forest/Black Sea, and this afternoon is one of their best. Working without a PA and letting their voices and spindly, crackling performances set the tone, and we’re all duly enraptured. A highlight.

Sleeping Pill — aka Ira and Georgia from Yo La Tengo. It’s an experimental set for them but again, it’s time for chat and circulation for me. I do like what I hear though!

Tanakh — Jesse Poe rapidly pulls together an ad hoc group — and I helped! In a small way. Kawabata was already on board, I grabbed Joe Turner and he got Brendan Quinn in, flagged down the lead fellow from United Bible Studies when Jesse mentioned he’d love to see if they could help, looks like Tara Jane O’Neill is there too maybe (whoops, I’m wrong — it’s a fellow in a very Tara like hat, wait it’s Kris Thompson, of course! Three quarters of Abunai!) and the end result is magic, everyone playing following Jesse’s lead and doing a damn great job. Kawabata and Brendan’s filigrees stand out but the whole is as lushly romantic as Tanakh is at their best. A pleasure and I hope there’s an official recording, and Jesse’s wideeyed humility and generosity is evident.

Plastic Crimewave Sound — biker spacerock messiah crucified strutting feedback motorik YEARGH! Total goddamn compliment. Makes the sunset seem like a nuclear blast. Give these guys a B-movie to star in!

Linus Pauling Quartet — somewhere between the volume, the educational films and Satan and Dungeons and Dragons, I saw God and he said YARRRRRRGH!!!!! From Texas. Naturally.

Major Stars — Wayne and Kate are very much in love for how else would they fondle each other’s feedback so well? “Just” another Major Stars set, in that hair was everywhere as was the fog from the fog machine. The neighbors up the hill hopefully have escaped to local bars.

Damon and Naomi — skipped this one as I’ve seen them at past Tstocks and enjoyed them well enough but conversation called and I took it easy…though I did see their last couple of songs accompanied by…

Helena Espvall and Masaki Batoh — noise, chaos, serenity, reflection, epic rock. I would say more but it is late. Roll on Saturday!


Terrastock Saturday — live reports!

 

Oneida — now I will freely admit that Oneida have always just sort of been there for me, and that they have press packs prone to hyperbole. However they are starting off what’s been called ‘earplug day’ on the right note with a tight-as-hell feedback/chant/organ/drum drone rampage assault, so credit to them! From there into a more rambling flow of sonic ooze that’s as superheavy as they claim. Pleasant surprise of the day already and I thought this was going to be the weak spot!

Wooden Shjips — these guys have been on my ‘I should listen to them, shouldn’t I’ list for about a year so this was long overdue. Less full-on revelatory than I might have guessed but still solid; if anything it’s a kind of good time stoner rock band, with all the reverb on the vocals and effects and all well suited for a warm afternoon like this one. Very glad I’m not standing in the sub right now, actually.

Tara Jane O’Neil — had a chance to see Tara Jane a few times recently, including a brilliant collaborative set at Halleluwah last year. This performance is solo, so far, but no less entrancing. The combination of a slightly keening folk edge with thick electronics via guitar and pedals is both familiar and distinct — her work sounds most of all like herself, a clear style all hers.

Kinski — it’s Kinski. I really can’t add anymore to what I’ve already said over the moons. Biker shoegaze. Clean white line fever acid trips. Tight as fuck sprawl and splay. Once again, YEARRRRRRRRGH!!!!! And THEN Kawabata joins them along with one of Oneida’s keyboardists. From there, insanity.

MV+EE with the Golden Road — well I might poke my nose in later but right now there’s a mostly acoustic jam/improv going on between R. Keenan Lawlor, Mike Tamburo, Jesse of Tanakh, Sharron Kraus and most of United Bible Studies. And it’s great!

Bardo Pond — Kawabata guests again! Right from the start this time. Like Kinski, Bardo Pond pretty much refuse to suck, and so another stellar set of heavily stoned zone drones that are as ever agog with their own majesty.

Grails — another ‘well I’ve certainly heard a lot about them’ band. But where Wooden Shjips were quite good, these guys hit the spot for me more. Their own signifiers are just as familiar — layers of sitar drones, blasting drums, a soupçon of murky lyrics and feedback, not to mention plenty of ratchet-it-up further arrangements that take for granted that there is no such thing as too loud. Thrilling at its best, and it is damned hard to follow Bardo. Good work!

Motorpsycho — and again, another band that will not suck, period. On go the fog machines, out come the black shirts and once more, space biker oblivion, but with tunes! And some slippery way around melodies in general. I just let myself go with it at this point.

Sapat — an agglomeration of a band. Very much a positive. There are eight million instruments onstage and half as many people. Puts me in equal mind of the Starving Weirdos and the Gone Orchestra. Twisted blues, singing saws as voices and vice versa. Hordes of screaming fans! They’re local heroes and play like it. Even a dirge that’s a triumph.

Mono — so great but at this point my brain was full. Epic shoegaze Mogwai beauty. And there you go.

Kohoutek — only saw a quick snippet, was great, and goodnight.


Terrrastock Sunday — live reports in retrospect

 

Sex Fist — replacing Team Brick at the last minute, this improv group was just that, with the attendant ups and downs that can happen in situations like that, but at its best turned out quite well. Joe Turner, most of Thought Forms, Jon from the Lothars, Anthony from Paik and a few other folks who are not sitting in my memory at present jammed away on this, that and the other, from free-floating haze to driving attacks and back again. Started out the day rather well.

Rob Sharples — I admit, this set wasn’t one for me — fairly straightforward singer/songwriter stuff that was accomplished but not entirely my thing. After a bit I snuck over to the third stage to catch what turned out to be the end of R. Keenan Lawlor’s set — wish I had seen more! But most of it was during Sex Fist so what can you do?

Thee American Revolution — RAWK. Okay, this one turned out to be a treat — a couple of days beforehand Chris B. and I had randomly made the acquaintance of Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo, and a more friendly and upbeat fellow I’ve rarely had the chance of meeting. Through him I met his lovely wife Marnie (I hope I have that right!), her brother Craig (again, hope I have that right!) and his wife in turn. All of them plus a couple of others made up Thee American Revolution, Rob’s new band. A fine combination of sensibilities, sartorially and sonically, brought together Rob’s ear for tunes with full-on end-of-sixties biker-freak-flag-rock and scored a bulls-eye. Very stylish, very fun! Looking forward to hearing the album.

The Kentucky Watercolor Society — this third stage performance by this hitherto unknown act was, in fact, Windy from Windy and Carl doing what I gather was a solo debut. Her new album I Hate People is quite wonderful, BTW, and this short but fascinating performance — Windy, two guitars, a lot of amplifiers and obsessive focus — was well-attended and received, bringing out the edge of that solo album in a slightly different form. Definitely NOT a typical Windy and Carl sound, for sure.

Insect Factory — happily I was able to catch most of this and while my impressions of it are not as clear as they should be, massive feedback sculptures and entrancing zone and more all made it catnip for everyone. Need to investigate more! Mike Tamburo, who had been doing a wonderful journeyman’s job on the third stage on his own and with others all weekend, popped in to help on dulcimer on the final number and it was a wonderful combination.

Pelt — after a delay in Simply Saucer’s set due to the rain, Pelt settled in for what we all expected would be a heck of a show. This understates. An AMAZING set which rivals their exquisite Terrastock 2 show from ten years back, equally dedicated to performing one long extensive performance centered around gongs at the start and finish and various accordion/antique squeezeboxes for the extended midsection, not to mention violin, sitar (I think) and a variety of other instruments. A massive rhythmic drone piece that intertwined, expanded, and settled in indescribable fashion. The highlight of the day up to that point, rapturously received.

Simply Saucer — thanks to the way the schedule worked as well as the weather, Simply Saucer were able to reappear and complete their set. I admit I only dipped in and out of this, but you could see that the band were loving life nicely and there was exuberance a-plenty. I ended up ducking in to see the MV+EE-led jam on the third stage, quite honestly the best thing I’ve yet heard from them!

Jack Rose and the Black Twig Pickers — the proximity of the Jack Rose set to the Pelt one led to natural assumptions that Jack would be sitting in with Pelt but such was not the case; however, two of Pelt are said Pickers, so there you go. Very much a spirited bluegrass-folk set straight up, with Rose’s guitar work and the fiddling (and fiddlesticks!) of the others, not to mention the singing, a lovely combination and good contrast to the sonic reach of the Pelt set.

The Entrance Band — now this I admit I skipped a bit. Last year I saw the Entrance Band at an Arthur benefit and I enjoyed it well enough but wasn’t fully sold, but it was clear that the group’s messiah/rock guru/sixties-into-seventies approach was going to fit in perfectly for a festival where bands like Plastic Crimewave and Thee American Revolution had already made a mark. And it did, but I spent my time making some initial goodbyes since I knew the rest of the night was going to be full as heck. And was it ever.

Windy and Carl — well, what to say. I consider them friends of long standing now, and that could account for some personal bias. But to my mind, it’s not bias — they’re just THAT good. And in combination with Christy Romanek’s lovely visuals, which led to me taking heaven knows how many photographs from my position up front, the result was a festival highlight. Playing individual songs rather than a full extended piece as they’ve recently done at Terrastocks, thus previewing the new album a bit, it was one serene and sublime song after another, underscoring huge depths every step of the way. The concluding song “Champion,” with its extended ending comparable to Windy’s solo album’s focused aggression, knocked everyone for a further loop. All that and I was briefly namechecked on the stage, even if only as a reference to an in-joke! It was a pleasure and a privilege regardless.

Paik — I almost can’t say anything. I was chatting with the dudes a bit beforehand — my MBV shirt was the cause for a bit of conversation, we’d all seen the tours back in 1992 — and past experience taught me that it would be the loudest set of the day by a long shot, as well as the thickest-sounding and one of the most beautiful sounding. It was all that and more. Lights, fog machine, Ryan on drums looking possessed…where to start, where to end! At one point I leaned over to Jesse from Tanakh and said “It’s the Motorhead principle — everything louder than everything else.” And yet it still wasn’t the loudest set of the day — that honor went to…

Makoto Kawabata — six years back Acid Mothers Temple had concluded an insanely memorable final day at Terrastock 5 with a monster of a set and this time around Kawabata did that same thing solo. But anybody who thought this would be a gentle comedown from Paik was rapidly disabused — this included me. Having guested on many sets throughout the weekend, Kawabata wrapped it all up on his own, with two main parts to his performance: a solo guitar piece that became a near Stravinsky-like composition (I almost can’t describe it any other way) that then led into the second part in a quick two second change, “Pink Lady Lemonade.” This piece is one of the core parts of nearly every Acid Mothers Temple show, but on the solo front he rapidly turned the gentle core melody into a blistering, near-literally ear-piercing cascade of noise, feedback and further distortion that had a number of people seeking the best possible listening position by going outside and leaning against the wall. As Chris said to me after the set, “That one separated the living from the dead.” And as Phil McMullen said when he took the stage after the set to wrap everything up, “How can you follow that?”

You really couldn’t. And what a way to end.


 

 

Nashville Scene