Category: Show Review

Concert Review: Failure at The Masquerade, Atlanta GA 6/7/2014

After 16 years, Failure — Ken Andrews, Greg Edwards, and Kellii Scott — has reunited and is in the middle of their Tree of Stars North America tour, celebrating their full catalog of music with what has been billed as “An Evening with Failure”. This weekend, I had my passion, loyalty, and patience rewarded for sticking with them since a friend introduced me to them back in 2001 with “Stuck on You” on a mix CD he had prepared for me to play on UAB BlazeRadio back when I was hosting a show called Deus Ex Machina under the DJ moniker Kid A. I was joined by a friend and former coworker on the road trip, and I ran into several people from my past (two of which I haven’t seen since I was still in Dredge!) who had come from Gadsden and Tallahassee for the show.


Instead of an opening act, the band prepared a short film that displayed their musical and visual influences over the years. This included footage from The Spy Who Loved Me (if you watch the music video for “Stuck on You”, this makes perfect sense), 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ren & Stimpy (!!! – specifically, it was a clip from the episode “Space Madness” in which Ren succumbs to the crippling isolation of being sequestered to a shuttle…which fits well with “Another Space Song”), and of course the surreal La Planete Sauvage (better known in English as Fantastic Planet!)

As the Fantastic Planet footage was coming to a close, Failure opened with “Another Space Song”, which is fitting as it contains the lyrics “I’m so caught up in the tree of stars falling in my backyard” in reference to the tour moniker Tree of Stars. The full setlist, which you can view on (if you don’t mind spoilers, that is), contains nearly all of Fantastic Planet, half of Magnified, one from their debut album Comfort, and a new song called “The Focus”. Before starting the new song, the band had just come on stage for their encore: the crowd was chanting “ONE MORE SONG!” and Ken answered, “So you want one more song? Nah, fuck that! How about FOUR more?!” to which the Masquerade erupted in applause.

What? A new song, you say? Yes, indeed. And that’s not the only one. A tour exclusive live EP titled Tree of Stars contains live versions of “Let it Drip”, “Frogs”, “Sergeant Politeness”, and “Heliotropic”, as well as studio recording of a new song “Come Crashing”.

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This song is a bit of a departure from the sound I’m used to from Failure, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It feels more pop-oriented, with synths and less dissonance than your standard Failure track. For now, the verdict is “it’s growing on me.” Feel free to check it on Failure’s Bandcamp page.

It gets better: in a May interview with Smells Like Infinite Sadness, Ken revealed that the band is working on a new album that is due out in 2015! Troy Van Leeuwen, while not part of the reunion tour, will be included in this recording.

For you music tech geeks out there, the band’s live setup is 100% amplifier free. They have converted to digital, using Fractal Audio Systems Axe FX II to emulate amplifiers, cabinets, effects pedals, etc. This allows Ken and Greg to quickly switch guitar and bass duties, as they so often did last night, as well as to easily access preset banks of sound settings that so define each individual song. For example, to transition from “Stuck on You” to “Heliotropic”, Ken and Greg swap instruments, Greg begins the droning synth line that opens “Heliotropic”, and Ken pulls up the huge, nasty distortion for one of the heaviest bass riffs of all time. Instead of traditional amplifiers and cabinets, Ken and Greg each have a Sunn Model 15 PA speaker behind them simply to incorporate feedback when appropriate.

As far as live shows go for me, last night’s is matched and/or beaten by only a handful: the two times I’ve seen Radiohead (Hail to the Thief tour in Atlanta – they played Creep!!!, and In Rainbows tour in Indianapolis), Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, and Autolux on tour together in Detroit (which, QOTSA and Autolux at the time included half of Failure’s final lineup: Troy and Greg, respectively), and Sigur Ros in Ann Arbor (Takk… tour, back when they were still playing songs from Agaetis byrjun, which I sorely missed at their BJCC concert).


GLEN IRIS DOUBLE FEATURE: Southside’s day of shows


Last Saturday, 1612 had its first show.

Things kicked off around noon with a lineup of Balcony View, Electric Sheep, and Bird’s Nest. Around 8pm the ‘double feature’ continued with Lume (new local shoegaze– Lizzie Little, Rickey Edge, Zane Lake, Jacob Watson, Jake Lovett), Mightus, Dommel Mosel (Adam Measel), and White Sands Missile Range. It was a great time, plus there was pizza and the neighbor let us jump on their trampoline, so what more do you really want from life.All of the bands said they had a great time playing and chillin’ at the house, with emphasis on the advantages of the intimate atmosphere a house show provides as well as the diverse turnout of a more eclectic show.

Rickey Edge, resident of 1612, said that he came up with the idea for a day show a couple of months ago, elaborating on their goal to “foster the growing sense of community in our scene” by showcasing bands from mixed genres. Rickey also stated that they are definitely going to have more shows at 1612 in the future and already have a few in the works.

After things wrapped up at 1612, The Steel City Jug Slammers played around midnight at David Maclay’s (of Electric Sheep) house. Their downstairs space is great for a band to play, complete with a built-in bar and even a spare room with a couch and red light 😉

Being somewhat in the know myself, I anticipate the block-party-shows that await Birmingham this Summer. So stay tuned DIY fam, because summertime will be here sooner than you probably realize.


Tuscaloosa says Goodbye to DIY venue Baby Haus

babyhausLast Saturday was the final show at Baby Haus, a house in Tuscaloosa that had been hosting shows in a few different locations for the past four years. As if Tuscaloosa wasn’t already renowned for being a “party town,” Baby Haus would often take it to the next level with antics such as nude moshpits, fireworks being set off in the house and the now infamous story of two girls getting busy during one band’s set.

I remember my first Baby Haus show in Fall 2010 and how I felt immediately welcomed & had so much fun.

Don’t get me wrong, Birmingham is rad, but Tuscaloosa got wild back in those days.

When it relocated to down the street in Fall 2011, the crunkness continued and the house’s walls eventually turned into a mural of random paintings & sketches. There were potlucks, bonfires, and eclectic bills ranging from hip hop to sludge metal (and of course, always the punk & garage rock).

Once Baby Haus moved to across the street, the house’s owner David Allen proclaimed that he didn’t want to have any shows at his new home. However, low-key backyard shows in Fall 2012 quickly escalated into house shows once again, but without the tagging and breaking things. Some proclaimed “Baby Haus was over” since it wasn’t as buck, but I personally appreciated how it had toned down into a setting for more artistic appreciation instead of constant inebriation. Shit was still getting ‘weird’ as recently as December though, when contact was made with Kurt Cobain through a Ouija board at the “Friday the 13th show,” and several people went down that rabbit hole.

I think we definitely took Baby Haus for granted while it was still here. It’s honestly a little hard to imagine our DIY scene without it, but Saturday was the perfect way to close it out.

The music started around 3:30pm and ended around 2am. All of the sets were solid, and shit got wild, reminiscent of Baby Hauses past, when Capsized’s pedal board got trampled and Billy Luttrell’s guitar got destroyed– missing 3 tuners, bridge and tail. I was in the middle of the crowd for nearly every set except for theirs because the moshing was too intense, even for me. Luttrell told me that it was the funnest show he’s ever played.

Carson Mitchell of The Dirty Lungs (who have an album soon to be released on Birmingham’s Communicating Vessels label) told this story of Baby Haus, having played the final show and at the former house: “Very funny story about the first time we played; we actually had a gig booked at the Mellow Mushroom, but there was some kind of mix up with the booking and they weren’t even going to open that night. We found this out as we were unloading all of our gear to the upstairs stage, and were very bummed out about it. To make matters worse, as we were reloading our gear into the van, our bass player at the time Jordan Sellers crushed his hand in the service elevator everyone uses to load their gear upstairs. It literally was broken for 4 months after the incident. Anyhow, after all of this nonsense had occured, we were still determined to make something happen even if it was just a party. Luckily, I texted our friend Madison (Langston) who was still living in T-Town at the time and already at a show at Baby Haus. She asked David right then if we could jump on the bill and he obliged. We ended up having one of the best and oddest shows of our life. Down a member, we had to play whatever we could think of that another one of our members could play on bass. It was also the first night I ever saw Gull, who is practically a celebrity in Birmingham now. I couldn’t think of a better way to experience the awesomeness of Baby Haus for the first time.”


We are all really sad that the epic nature of Baby Haus is now over, but the memories will live on forever. I know someone will pick up the torch soon; Ttown is too rad not to have a DIY venue.

Saturday actually almost felt like just any other Baby Haus show filled with good music and good times until David Allen started handing out the goodie bags that included compilations, reminiscent of the Piss Shivers and Sorry Y’all era, and that’s when the nostalgia kicked in.  Birmingham is lucky to be getting David Allen, and Tuscaloosa will surely miss him.

However, though Baby Haus is over now, Tuscaloosa’s music scene is not. We had a huge benefit show for United Students Against Sweatshops in the basement of a dorm in January, a “Valentine’s Day weekend ‘Cupid is a Sonofabitch’ ” house show last month and have a “Spring Broke” house show planned for March 29th. We are aiming to have an all ages show once a month now. You can keep up with the current happenings in Tuscaloosa through the facebook group DIY Tuscaloosa.

In the words of OG-Baby Jake Hinson, “This is rock ‘n roll, baby. Get used to it.”

Anna Thomas is a writer studying Education and Spanish at the University of Alabama. Currently in the band Rumblepak, she also books shows for DIY Tuscaloosa. She’s the newest addition to BHAMFM. 

From Eames to Yeezus

Editor’s Note:  Trace William Cowen returned from Atlanta forever changed. You may have been expecting a review of the Kanye West’s Yeezus tour, instead you get an audio/visual experience. One last announcement. No sports bra, let’s keep it bouncing.

Inspired by my attendance of Yeezus at Philips Arena in Atlanta, I invite my readers to accept and embrace the idea that Kanye West truly is the voice of our generation.  In the spirit of visual art, I have chosen to forgo the traditional “review method,” opting instead for a more involved experience.  Please press play on the SoundCloud link below.  Then, swiftly MUTE the embedded YouTube video and press play.  Both should be playing simultaneously.


Show Review: Titus Andronicus/LUCERO in ATL

tumblr_mwvn97Mj5V1smgjyeo10_r1_1280Last Friday, November 22nd, Lucero kicked off their 3 night stand in Atlanta. I could only attend the Friday night show so I was hoping for three things: A great show, a great setlist, and a great crowd; Nobody disappointed. From the moment I walked in the venue I could feel the excitement and smell the whiskey; both of these things foreshadowing what I knew was coming next, rock and roll.

The stage is set, sound check is complete, lights are dim and here comes the boys, Lucero. Ben doesn’t even make it to the microphone without first taking a shot of whiskey given to him by a fan, chased with the cheers and applause from the crowd. Speaking of the crowd, The “Lucero family” is no joke, it’s literally like a family reunion at their shows; everybody knows everybody (I’ve never felt more comfortable hugging “strangers” before in my life). Nichols started the show by thanking everyone for coming, he sounded genuinally humbled by the number of folks in attendance, then explained that this stop on tour was going to be recorded for a live Lucero album; all three nights. Cheers boys, I’ll drink to that.

I was able to keep track of most of the setlist, thanks LT for your help too, but it did get a little bit fuzzy towards the end; thanks to PBR & Jameson 😉 Lucero ripped through hit after hit beginning with “On My Way Downtown without much interruption except a couple times that Ben forgot the words to some older tracks (some things never change), however, the fans in attendance didn’t miss a word. It was almost as if they were reading the lyrics off of a sheet; that’s a REAL fan. Besides the fans, the one thing that has always amazed me about Lucero and other similar bands is the way they can play some of the wildest, rowdiest shows but sing such slow, sad songs about heartbreak, lost love, and self-destruction; it’s an anomaly! Nonetheless, if you weren’t there (at least one of the nights) you missed a hell of a show. Confession: This was the first time I’ve seen them in about 5-6 years. It won’t be that long again. – JT

*be on the lookout for the live album*

Here’s some of what

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you missed Friday night, In no particular order:

  • That Much Further West
  • Sweet Little Thing
  • Chain Link Fence
  • Texas & Tennessee
  • Union Pacific Line
  • Nights Like These
  • Kiss The Bottle
  • Bikeriders
  • Like Lightning
  • Women & Work
  • I’ll Just Fall
  • Little Silver Heart
  • Slow Dancing
  • All Sewn Up
  • Wasted
  • Can’t feel a Thing
  • Fistful of Tears
  • Tears Don’t Matter Much
  • Downtown Intro / On My Way Downtown
  • Last Pale Light in the West (Ben solo)
  • The War (Ben solo)

Noise in Excess: Show Review of Yakuza Dance Mob/D.U.G.O.U.T. C.A.N.O.E./Kevin Greenspon/Big Waves of Pretty/In Snow

On Friday, November 22, DIY venue The Firehouse served up a five-course feast of fierce and dissonant performances from Yakuza Dance Mob, D.U.G.O.U.T. C.A.N.O.E., Kevin Greenspon, Big Waves of Pretty, and In Snow. The name of the game was aural explorations, and each band delivered their own personal, and sometimes disturbing, take on creating music.

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If you thought performance was a forgotten art, then you should have bore witness to the lively showstarter from Yakuza Dance Mob. This local four-piece featuring drums, guitar, keyboard, and the lunatic spoken verse tirade of frontman Rodney Hasty, played a blown-fuse set characterized by no-wave inspired anti-melodies and the constant yip, yowl, and shuffle from Hasty, who stalked the room as he went about his free-form stream of lyrics. Besides the obvious highlights of Hasty shattering a light bulb and burning himself on its hot metal base,

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the focus displayed within the disjointed assault from the rest of the musicians made the entire experience one to remember, in particular the broken carousal notes of the keyboardist.

Touring musician D.U.G.O.U.T C.A.N.O.E. followed up with a thrilling performance of experimental electronic music. Making music out of retro-tinged bleeps and bloops set to spaced-out loops of feedback, the listener is caught off guard when serene and sparkly guitar lines laden with reverb enter the mix. At times focused on industrious beats, the songs alternated between a series of vinyl-caught-in-the-groove samplings that add extra dimension to the dreamy twang of guitar and the minimalist application of vocals distorted into far-flung calls from beyond.

Hailing from Los Angeles, California, fellow electronic experimentalist Kevin Greenspun gave a very different, but equally heady, ambient performance. The primal explosions of drone set to ethereal warbles of noise are only amplified by the visual aspect of the performance. You almost forget that Greenspun is physically present when lost in the chilling effect he creates with his music perfectly matched to the surreal kaleidoscope-tinged imagery playing on the screen beside him. With songs alternating between capturing the soundscapes of innocence and full-on dread, Greenspun’s set had the uncanny feeling of a multi-sensual Rorschach drawing. Oh, the wondrous things a person can do with buttons, knobs, and switches.

Highland, Wisconsin’s aptly named two-piece Big Waves of Pretty made the transition into rock-oriented music that rounded off the night’s show. Slow guitar build-ups set to the jingle of chimes give way to vignettes of fast-paced math rock. Heavy bursts of low key and melodic vocals match the machine-gun pace of the drums. Big Waves of Pretty is not a band to be pigeonholed, as they switch gears with a slow and Gothic folk revival number accompanied by the prison wail of a harmonica. Their defining quality is either their hair trigger ability to go heavy at a moment’s notice, or the uncanny way in which they still manages to be catchy.

(Video work and editing: Charlie Brown Sanders)

The final performance came from the local provocateurs of sound, In Snow. They hit the stage in rare form, delivering a swell of driving fury. With bass, two guitars, and drums, In Snow did what they do best, which is creating gravity-reasserting instrumental post rock. Bestial drumming, brooding base lines, and piercing guitar wails matched with, at times, hopeful guitar twanging, do the accumulative work of making each of their songs feel like a soundtrack for the passing of a dark, dark storm. But even when amidst noise-soaked transitions, the band never loses the appearance of being in complete control of their sound; they’re always building to some satisfying and symphonic conclusion.

Anthony Vacca is a writer and music reviewer living in Birmingham, and can be contacted at


Solo projects can often be a fascinating vehicle for an established artist to spread their wings a little bit and do things outside of the norm for the band they’re typically identified as a part of. Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Jonsi of Sigur Ros are two of my favorite performers that took a break from their bands to release excellent solo records in the last several years.

Without an album in hand, Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses fame brought his new solo endeavor, Birdsmell, to Bottletree on Monday night. He released a few tracks on Soundcloud a month or so ago that showed great promise for a great evening of music. While not terribly different from his normal Band of Horses fare, the songs were strong and got me excited to see a performer that’s blown up with his band do something new in an intimate setting.

The promise of those new tracks unfortunately didn’t translate to the overall tenor of the show though. I don’t want to give off the impression that the show wasn’t fun or that it wasn’t pretty good, but it was lacking in several key ways. Bridwell didn’t seem particularly prepared for the show. There were several missteps with flubbed lyrics, starting songs in the wrong key, forgetting lyrics, massively out of tune guitars, having to start over, etc. Sure, the evening was supposed to be fun and loose (which it was), but I kind of feel like at $20 a ticket (closer to $25 after service fees) that he should’ve had a bit more organization and polish about his performance. If you want to dick around on stage, charge $10 or $12 and I will walk away entertained and not really caring. Charging $5 less than your full band charged for a tight and professional show roughly six months ago doesn’t sit terribly well with me.

There were covers by the likes of JJ Cale, Magnolia Electric Co. and Florida-Georgia Line (yes, you read that correctly) as well as Band of Horses songs and some Birdsmell songs that he said would never make a Band of Horses record due to lyrical content. Those Birdsmell songs were fun and it was interesting to see Bridwell singing about the seedier side of life in very frank terms. The set was split between him playing solo and him being joined by Matt Gentling (of Arches of Loaf) on bass to give the songs a bit fuller sound.

I’m really kind of torn about how I feel about this show because I had fun and I’m glad I went, but his level of preparation rubbed me the wrong way considering the price and I don’t feel like I’d go see it again unless I read really strong reviews about the show tightening up. I’d also consider going again if the price dropped significantly.