Motor City Muscle Review: Belinda Carlisle, Bulletboys, August 17, Hart Plaza

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“This is my birthday today. This is an unforgettable evening. In more ways than one”

These were the words of Belinda Carlisle, onstage to kick off the evening’s festivities for the brand new Motor City Muscle festival, a celebration of classic muscle cars and classic rock (as well as punk, indie, garage, and rock in several of its other myriad forms) and while she was clearly ready to celebrate (Belinda Carlisle’s music being a solid soundtrack for a celebration) it’s obvious she was also commenting on the fact that her 6:30 set was being played to a slightly soggy and largely empty space at the main stage in Hart Plaza.

Yes, her set was pretty sparsely attended. You’d think a free show by a bona fide rock/pop icon would attract a decent crowd.. But no, Belinda Carlisle played to kind of no crowd at all. She still put on a great show regardless. I’ve been a big fan of The GoGo’s and was chuffed to hear “Vacation” and “Our Lips Are Sealed” but had almost forgotten how many hits she had from her solo work – all of those big shiny pop songs brought the memories back though. Songs like “Mad About You”, “Circle In The Sand”, and “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” still hold up today.  Also, I have to add that the birthday Ms. Carlisle was celebrating was her 60th. She does not seem 60.

Besides the sparse crowds, the first night of the festival was not without other problems, with the weather delaying and even halting some of the night’s performances. This was the case for LA glam metal survivors Bulletboys, who had their set stopped after about half a song by some lady who looked like she was gonna get up there and announce the winners of a 50/50 draw or something. Instead, she said they had to get off stage because of safety concerns over a possible lightning storm. This did not seem very “Smooth Up In Ya,” Motor City Muscle. Luckily, things got going again a bit later and though I kind of hate it when people say that a band “killed it,” Bulletboys pretty much killed it even though they also played to a smallish crowd on the even smaller Riverside stage. Really not too sure though about them slipping a bit of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” into set closer “Smooth Up In Ya.” It was a nice gesture to the recently departed Queen Of Soul in her hometown, but maybe we don’t really need a Bulletboys/Aretha mashup, guys. Still, Bulletboys delivered a set of straight up fun rock ‘n’ roll that ended up being one of the most memorable sets of the weekend.

Show Preview/Song Of The Day: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, Good As Gold

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It really does come as something of a surprise that Sarah Shook didn’t grow up immersed in country music. Listening to the North Carolina based singer-songwriter’s sophomore album Years, you’d be forgiven for assuming that she grew up in honky-tonks and started mainlining country sounds from birth rather than coming to it later in life as she apparently did. Shook’s catchy, relatable songwriting embodies the spirit of country music so well and throws in a touch of punk rock for good measure too. I could go on about it, but who better than Sarah Shook herself to describe it? As she puts it:

This record is about finding a way. A way through exhaustion, depression, betrayal, hangover after hangover, upper after downer after upper, fight after never-ending fight. It’s about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off after years of being trampled and beaten down, jutting your chin out, head high, after they’ve done their worst, and saying, “Still here.”

This record is shouting “f**k you, I do want I want” from the rooftops to the mother******g cosmos.

Really, what more could you want from an album?

The album is full of gems such as “New Ways To Fail” (with its skateboarding-themed video that we wrote about here), “Parting Words” and album opener “Good As Gold” which features one of my favourite lyrics on the album (“No, it won’t be long ’til the wrong song comes on at the right time”).

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers will be playing a show at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern on Saturday, August 25. It should be a good one. If by chance you can’t make it or you need something to tide you over until the show, you can check out the lyric video for “Good As Gold” below:

Concert Review: Joan Of Arc, August 14, The Baby G

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Over the course of their 20+ year career, Joan Of Arc has never been a band that’s been afraid to follow its muse in whatever creative direction it takes them, even when, as frontman Tim Kinsella himself admitted in a Noisey piece wherein he ranked the band’s discography, the results might sometimes fall a bit flat. This willingness to experiment and take chances has been a defining element of the band’s sound over the years and that’s certainly just as true of their latest release, 1984.

Released on the heels of last year’s He’s Got the Whole This Land Is Your Land in His Hands, 1984 takes the band in a different direction with Melina Ausikaitis taking on the role of lead singer for each song. It’s an interesting album, and one that sounds unlike anything else they’ve ever done with Ausikaitis delivering autobiographical-sounding lyrics in a twangy voice that recalls old-timey folk and country over the band’s expansive soundscapes.

In concert, Ausikaitis only took the lead on a handful of songs, spending the rest of the time either singing alongside Kinsella or playing her “fake guitar,” but two of those songs, “Punk Kid” and “Tiny Baby,” were among the highlights of the night. The rest of their set was a typical Joan Of Arc show – the experimental, arty indie rock the band is known for with a healthy dose of electronic elements added in – but also, in typical fashion, not terribly typical at all. Which is to say it was a unique, entertaining show.

Film Review: Slave To The Grind (2018, Doug Brown)

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Grindcore. If you’re a fan, you understand the music’s visceral appeal – everything as fast and heavy as possible, or as grind masters Brutal Truth once put it in the intro to 1997’s Sounds Of The Animal Kingdom, “Still not loud enough, still not fast enough.” If you’re not a fan, you might be curious what the hell all this noise is about and what exactly the appeal is. If you fall into either category, Toronto filmmaker Doug Brown’s Slave To The Grind is definitely worth your time.

Taken from footage shot over the last few years, Slave To The Grind is an entertaining and informative look at the origins and development of grindcore (a fusion of metal and punk) from the early days of originators Napalm Death and Repulsion to the beginnings of subgenres like goregrind and mincecore and on into the current state of grind.

The film features many notable figures in the genre, with the likes of Repulsion’s Scott Carlson, Earache Records founder Digby Pearson, Mel Mongeon and Topon Das of Fuck The Facts and the members of Agathocles all making memorable appearances throughout. It’s often the drummers though who make for the most entertaining interviewees, with Brutal Truth/Total Fucking Destruction’s Rich Hoak, AxCx’s Tim Morse, Terrorizer/Morbid Angel drummer Pete Sandoval and Dave Witte (who’s played in too many bands to mention here) coming up with some of the more memorable moments – not surprising when you consider the importance of drums and the blastbeat in particular to grindcore. And though he’s not interviewed in the film, a special mention must go out to Repulsion drummer Dave Hollingshead who, as Carlson explains, the band discovered after reading an article about him and some others being caught robbing graves. That’s pretty metal.

While I’m sure some grind aficionados might complain that certain bands or elements of the genre may have been overlooked or underrepresented, the film delivers a very thorough and entertaining look at the genre. And if you’re still jonesing for a deeper dive into grindcore lore (grindlore?), Brown did mention in the post-film Q&A at the Toronto screening that there was something like 1000 plus hours of footage shot so I’m sure that when the DVD is eventually released, there will be much more to discover.

Slave To The Grind will be going on a bit of a world tour over the next couple of months, Check it out if it’s playing in your city.