Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Movie Review: No Time For Rock Stars: The Vans Warped Tour

This documentary is not a comprehensive view of the summer punk/metal tour, The Warped Tour. It is a study of the underbelly of the 2010 edition, following only those participants the producers had access to.

Major rock 'n' roll names included in the 2010 tour like Pennywise and Alkaline Trio are seen only in fleeting moments, if at all. Instead, the film examines three musical acts not necessarily representative of the tour, and an unsigned band that follows the tour across the country, in the hope of getting a moment of stage time.

So while being an interesting documentary on the grueling hardships faced by these young vagabonds of the road (in another century they would have been circus people), the film abandons us to stage left when we want to see the main attraction. It's like being a witness to the mosh pit, when we want to participate.

Never Shout Never, a band led by 20-year old Christofer Drew, is woefully out of place on The Warped Tour. Drew comes across like an intelligent one-fifth of a boy band with a belly of teeny-boppers following him around and begging him for an emotional squeeze and autograph. His compositions are accomplished but his band is anonymous and his music is decidedly light. His presence here is mystifying.

In one disturbing scene, he injures himself diving from the stage into the mosh pit just as the human sea is parting. He is swarmed by fans as he hobbles off to the hospital, clearly in pain. Not quite the punk riot Warped is legend to be.

Mike Posner "broke out" on this tour. The Timberlake-like singer, writer, and producer, who takes the stage alone with a microphone and sings to computerized music, is extensively interviewed. He seems destined for a successful career with a business-sense savvy and several hit singles as a result of Warped. He flies in and out of the tour while "finishing his album in L.A.". The do-it-yourself on a jet ethic.

Suicide Silence is more representative of Vans Warped Tour; a heavy metal outfit with a scowling sore throated-ed singer, Mitch Lucker, who transforms from menacing stage star to tattooed working-class joe when he's interviewed. He sees his career as a practical way to raise his daughter.

Finally there is Forever Came Calling, a band not signed to The Warped Tour, who follow the tour around the country in their modest van while selling their CD for $5 a pop. Their story of a band begging for attention, hoping for a big break on the stage, is the rock 'n' roll equivalent of Broadway's 42nd Street.

The camera work by Josh Salzmans glistens in sunny sky blue and is alive with excitement while capturing looming Texas thunderclouds threatening to close the show down. The entire film looks great.

             Mitch Lucker of Suicide Silence.
But No Room For Rockstars only skirts the issues and dynamics of The Warped Tour. It never tries to be anything more than a fly on the wall of the tour's lesser stages. Even brief interviews with the long haired, charismatic, ex-con stage manager, or the Santa Claus-looking tour bus driver, (the Warped tour's very first employee), outshone the musician's time in front of the camera. Rarely do rock 'n' roll acts have anything significant to say outside their performance.

this review was first published at

Monday, February 20, 2012


Of poetry, spoken word or music, Spielgusher's debut album can be best described as poetry with an ambiance of bass, guitar, and drums. Famed music journalist and Blue Oyster Cult mentor Richard Meltzer (he bunked with B.O.C. for awhile and wrote "Burning For You"), recites his socially diseased diatribes as Mike Watt (Minutemen, The Stooges) on bass, Hirakata "Shimmy" Shimzu on guitar, and Yuko Araki on drums (both played in Japanese artist Cornelius's band), create an alternative universe of cosmic blues-rock that fits rather succinctly into his twisted pornographic observations.

Here's one non-pornographic "poem" called "The Man Who Thought Death Was Dying" in its entirety: "If I only had to wash the upper half or lower half of my body, I would take more showers. I bet you didn't know I only take one every other day."

Add the fact that Meltzer delivers his words as if he has a metal plate permanently lodged in his forehead and you may want to politely toss your listening ears into his Salvation Army coin kettle and quietly move along.

Yet, as if through some manipulative power of poetic persuasion and dirty joke joviality, somewhere between "Fuck Awareness Week" (track 9) and "Tropic of Nipples" (track 41) in this 63-track CD of musings and music, a true art emerges. It's suggested here that the most common language from the lowest street trash philosophy speaks volumes. In Meltzer's sordid world of body waste flow and nonchalant menace ("Fuck My Sister") he unleashes an intimacy of animal-like urges, as if reciting from a crude room in a downtown hotel, that are as disturbing and familiar as our most deviate deepest thought.

Not many sympathizers will be pro-activated by his views on child abuse: All parenting is abusive; depriving children of pornography is abusive; teaching a child the concept of heaven and hell is abusive and should be punishable by a lifetime on a chain gang ("Red Herring"). But, it's pause for a sober moment's thought.

Nor will everyone be romantically inclined by his valentine to love, in which his beloved waits on her menstrual cycle before sitting on his face ("Premenstrual"). But there is no denying the sloppily pronounced "dar-ling" and "lo-ve", as if using all effort to stop his tongue from slipping out his mouth, speaks from the hungry and poetic heart.

And the dreamy, interluding music seems keenly aware of Meltzer's warped yet not insensitive point-of-view, like a paddy wagon combo casually following and ready to snatch him up at the first sign of true dementia.

Spielgusher is 27 years overdue as '80s hardcore punk legends Minutemen had planned to collaborate with Meltzer in 1985 before Minutemen guitarist D. Boone was killed in a car accident.

It's better late than never, and given Meltzer's penchant for death-affirming issues, not a moment too soon. His own words provide an invitation to a session with Spielgusher. "Be playful, be generous, invite snails into your home and offer them beer.".

there's a suspicious black sedan sitting outside my home so i gotta tell you this review was first published by me here

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Music Review: Sunkissed - Bad Weather California

The theme to Bad Weather California's sophomore album, Sunkissed, on the Family Tree record label, is the sun - how it shines when you're hanging at the beach, skateboarding down a street, or just killing time making love and getting busted for weed on a sunny California afternoon.

Tommy James and The Shondells said it: "There's a ball of fire in the sky, it keeps watching over you and I", ("Ball of Fire"). So did beloved mid '60s pop band The Cyrcle: "The worst is over now, the morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball" ("Red Rubber Ball" written by Paul Simon). All three bands agree, the sun is - there.

Bad Weather California celebrates the big yellow ball with a Vitamin C enriched celebration of blessedly ignorant youth with an element of reckless teen danger, as if '60s cartoon band The Archies ("Sugar, Sugar") were to break with convention and rob a liquor store.

A flash of fluid, exotic West African guitar highlights this teen tribe's dopey, surfer-without-a-cause songs which are all about smiling and sunshine and loving and hot guitar licks. Picture a laid back beach party bonfire you feel compelled to approach, and in no time find yourself stripped down to your skivvies and joining in on an awkward teen dance to the Sun Ra. Meanwhile the party is passing around a joint and experiencing a cosmic connection to - well, everything.

The most compelling track, "Let it Shine" ("Sunshine! Taking me home!") features a Richie Valens-like guitar plugging rhythm into a funky, downbeat, hand-clapping jam which reaches fever like a hot Calypso number begging you to the dance floor.

When they're not hanging at the beach, cooing lovemaking, or lamenting the stems and seeds at the bottom of their stash, they're championing rockabilly stomp, Jesus and Mary Chain slop, and precious Green Day teen philosophy. Given the thirty-something photo of the band on their CD, a proud arrested development prevails. Mom and Dad will just never understand, man.

Produced by Akron/Family's guitarist Seth Olinsky (the difference between the two bands seems to be that Akron/Family prefers doing their drugs indoors), Bad Weather California's Sunkissed is for anyone who ever allowed the sun to kiss their shoulders while gazing at the ocean as mom and pop pointed to an NPR-light-jazz listening future.

An agreement upon risk of death compels me to say this article was first published by me, the author at