Ranges Ascensionist Tour Update 4: Wichita, Colorado Springs, Billings

Ranges Hard Style
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Tour Day 14: Thursday 12 October

Kirby’s Beer Store, Wichita, Kansas

w/ Honey Cloud

I can’t believe it.

It’s finally happened.

After two whole weeks, CJ has finally decided to rest. He asked Jared to drive from St Louis to Wichita. The dude with more longevity than a ultramarathon runner has reached his limit.

I’m excited for Wichita. Jared attended university there, so I imagine lots of his friends will be attending. Staying with his friends in Minneapolis was a fun time, so I hope there will be a similar party tonight.

We listen to the band Kansas on the way to Kansas, and then I put on Fleetwood Mac. It just feels right to listen to classic rock today. This is followed by the likes of Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin and Queen.

Kirby’s, the venue is a tiny bar opposite the university that Jared studied at. Emphasis on the tiny. It is plastered with stickers, posters and graffiti, and there is no lock on the door of the bathroom. Jared tells me that he used to work there.

Loading in is interesting. There’s barely enough room for four musicians to stand onstage, let alone with amps and drums taking up space as well. I spot a poster advertising a Staghorn show stuck to the ceiling. I send it to Alan from the band, having met him in St Louis a few nights ago. He loves it, but is shocked to hear that Ranges fit on the stage.

The band play well tonight. They play a 40 minute set rather than the usual 30 mins. The extra song is awesome, with thrashy drum parts. Why don’t they usually play that song???

But things fall apart after the set. There’s an argument between some of the band members, with accusations that some members didn’t put in as much effort as usual. I personally think the set went fine. It’s a telling sign that we are all getting too worn out from the long drives and inadequate sleep. It doesn’t help that the next band plays horrible, erratic free-jazz. That crap is enough to put anybody in a bad mood.

Jared loves catching up with all of his arty friends from grad school, and one couple hosts us at their house that night.

Tour Day 15: Friday 13 October

Triple Nickel Tavern, Colorado Springs

w/ Eyelet, Blind, the Thief, Euth, Shiii Whaaa

I had thought that we were due to play Denver tonight, going off an old tour poster. Turns out that gig had fallen through and we had a gig in Colorado Springs instead, a few hours drive south of Denver.

We stop at a shopping mall on the way to the venue. We’re all running low on clean clothes so a few of the guys grab buy some fresh gear to prolong the illusion of cleanliness. I buy a New York Yankees baseball cap to please Mark. He used to write for some baseball publications covering the Yankees on their way to the playoffs, so insists that I rep his team. He’s as pleased as punch once I start wearing it around, especially when the game is on at the bar later in the night.

We eat at El Taco Rey, just around the corner from the venue. It’s one of the meals I’ve had on tour. The food tastes outstanding, and it’s affordable too.

Triple Nickle Tavern reminds me of Triple Rock in Minneapolis. There’s a distinct punk feel to it. Lot’s of bands are playing tonight so it’s a struggle to find enough space for everyone to put their gear.

Shiii Whaaa start the night off well with their fun punk style. The following two bands are horrible, with lots of screaming, so I head outside to chat to Sam, a Ranges fan who has driven for over an hour to get to the gig.

My highlight of the night is the last band, Blind, the Thief. They play upbeat math rock, similar to Toe. It’s fantastic. I love dancing to energetic music so I make sure to get my fill.

Tour Day 16, Saturday 14 October

Shooters Bar, Billings, Montana

w/ In Rapture, As The Crow Flies

Everyone is in good spirits today. The last night of tour! The guys are keen to get back to their families and sleep in their own beds.

I sleep during most of the drive up through Colorado and Wyoming, but when we stop for gas I notice that we are in the middle of a snow flurry. It snows in New Zealand, but usually I need to go up a mountain to get to it, so it feels novel to experience it here.

Shooters Bar in Billings feels more like home. Good old Montana, with plenty of red necks wearing trucker caps and no sales tax – one place in America free-er than most.

Joey’s wife and daughter have made the drive to Billings to see us, and CJ’s sisters come to the show as well.

First act As The Crow Flies are from Bozeman as well. They play awesome, stomping southern styled blues rock. The use a truck exhaust pipe as a mic stand, and Mario the singer plays a sci-fi looking guitar that he built himself.

Following act In Rapture are a sight to see. They play industrial tech metal. They’re good, but their sound mix lacks punch. And although I like to see musicians getting into it as they play, the way they moved onstage felt forced. The girl on keys actually ran out into the audience and started pushing people to start a moshpit. The music was good, and if they spend some time refining their tone and mix they’ll sound great.

I know the guys in Ranges were excited to finish. We were so close to home. They dedicated their final song of the tour to me.

We finish the night with shots and beers (a double shot of mountain dew for CJ because he was driving). Joey is dropped off somewhere in Billings where he is staying with his family for the night, and the rest of us get back to Bozeman around 2am.

As hard as it was sitting cramped in a van day in, day out, as tiring as it was pulling the late nights, as grotty as it made me feel eating pizza and gas station food for many meals, I’ve had the time of my life.

In the past few months I’ve traveled from the east coast to the west coast of America, and then met up with Ranges and driven most of it all over again. I’ve seen some amazing places, but more importantly, made some amazing friends.

dunk! was incredible. Truly memorable… well… the parts I was sober for. Certainly a great time.

And the guys in Ranges are the best. It is hard saying goodbye and returning to New Zealand after having lived in such close quarters with them for two weeks. It’s crazy that I can count them as some of my closest friends after only having known them for a short space of time.

I’ll wrap up my tour blog with something absurd, an in-joke within the band that sums up our journey well:

Greets and great times.

Joseph James

 

Ranges Ascensionist Tour Update 3: Syracuse, Columbus, St Louis

Ranges FOAM St Louis
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Apologies for the lack of images. I’ll update this post with photos when I get wifi access.

Tour Day 11: Monday 9 October

Spark Contemporary Art Space, Syracuse, New York

w/ Man Mountain, Against The Giants, Machine Moon, How To Disappear Completely

The drive from Vermont to Syracuse is incredible. I lived in Maine for a few months earlier in the year, and it feels good to be back in beautiful New England. Upstate New York is aglow with autumnal hues. We drove through winding country roads, past glassy ponds, and through misty groves of vibrant deciduous trees. Joey put on Young and Courageous, the Tides of Man record. It seems like the perfect soundtrack for this beautiful drive. Joey and I get watery-eyed. It’s crazy how closely attached we feel to the guys in that band, considering that we’ve only known each other for four days.

I was up into the early hours of the morning hanging out with some of the musicians from dunk! in the Junius hotel room, so wasn’t feeling too crash-hot due to limited sleep.

We arrived in Syracuse and unloaded the gear into the venue – an art gallery similar to the one we played in Minot, although this one was bare.

I asked CJ what he was thinking, going from playing the biggest show of his career to the smallest. He sad he was happy for it because the pressure from dunk had been lifted off his shoulders.

We walked to a nearby pizza joint a few blocks away. It was chaos. We had to order from one place and pay at another. The staff didn’t even seem to know what was going on. I sat down with my laptop to sort through photos I’d taken at dunk!

After pizza we walked back to the venue, and I realised that my wallet was absent from my back pocket where it usually lives. I searched my bag thoroughly, emptied out my pockets and asked the guys if they’d seen it.

After turning my bag inside out a few times, and retracing my steps and searching the pizza joint, I came to the conclusion that my wallet was stolen. I spent the next hour sat in the van ringing banks to cancel my cards and trying to do some damage control for when whoever had my wallet was trying to get access to things with it.

I can’t comment on the bands that night. I was too absorbed in my own little world and took some time out in the van. Not a good day for me.

Tour Day 12: Tuesday 10 October

Spacebar, Columbus, Ohio

w/ Man Mountain, Deprecator

Thankfully I still had my passport on me, and was able to withdraw the rest of the balance from my American bank account. It wasn’t much, but it should last me the rest of my time here if I’m not stupid.

Local band Deprecator played a fun set of thrash metal, with some Slayer thrown in for good measure. It was a refreshing change from the music I’ve listened to over the past few weeks.

The End Of The Ocean live in Ohio, so we met up with some of the band at the show. The bar had ginger beer – my personal favourite – so I bought a round.Then Tara from TEOTO bought a few shots, then I had a few more beers on the band tab. Before I knew it I was buzzing.

Ranges did their usual thang. You’d think that after seeing them play the same stuff for 11 nights I’d be sick of it, but I still love watching them play. I’ve seen them enough now that I’m confident I could step in for Mark on drums if he should go Spinal Tap on us and spontaneously combust or fall off a stage.

Man Mountain were great. I posted a status on twitter: “Man Mountain: 100% bearded, 100% awesome”. I still stand by that drunken statement. It was lots of fun dancing along to their music. They have a foot pedal that sets off flood lights during their heavier passages of music. It’s simple, but adds so much to the experience.

After the show we headed down the street for a few more drinks at the bar Tara works at, and some pizza from a connected pizzeria. I covered my slice in unicorn sauce. I couldn’t tell you what it is, but it tasted amazing.

A homeless guy asked Mike from Man Mountain if he was from ZZ Top, clearly because of his impressive beard. Mike played along completely straight-faced. I just lost it.

Fun times!

Tour Day 13: Wednesday 11 October

Foam, St Louis, Missouri

w/ Man Mountain, Staghorn, CaveofswordS

One thing I adore about this scene is the DIY mentality. Ranges print their own merch and record their own music. Mark built his own snare drum. Jared made coffee cups to go with the deluxe edition of their album.

We met another band in St Louis with a similar mindset: Staghorn. Staghorn also has a printing press, so do their own t-shirts and even screen printed some posters for the show as souvenirs for us. On top of that, they even make their own amps!

Their set revolved around a dystopian comic that the band had written, with the narrative coming through the PA on a back track. I’m a sucker for spoken word samples in post-rock, and I also subscribe completely to dystopian texts, so this was the best of both worlds.

As well as drawing me in to the music, the band looked amazing. Their own custom amps look unlike most I’ve seen. They also had two lights that included salt lamps and spotlights. Allan on guitar had a balaclava/turban wrap around his face and head, adding to the sci-fi imagery. And they had a harmonium – like a piano with bellows – which was new to me, and great to watch.

Man Mountain, as usual, killed it. Those dudes are super talented and I wish them all the success they deserve.

CaveofswordS ended the night with their unique electro/darkwave/synthpop. It was quite the set up, with plenty of synths and modulators and things with buttons that I couldn’t name. The music was fun and depressing at the same time.

After the show most of the people in bands hung around outside. It was our last night with Man Mountain, and sad to see them go. Jacob the drummer and I bonded over an intense love for Into It. Over It. Bryan the guitarist told me about how he got into post-rock by listening to Lowercase Noises, which prompted him to experiment with his own ambient sounds, and later join Man Mountain.

I’m not sure exactly what time we left the venue, but apparently about ten minutes later there was a shootout right outside where we had been, resulting in a police officer being shot!

Words and photos by Joseph James

Review: The Dandy Warhols at the Powerstation

Dandy Warhols NZ tour poster
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The Dandy Warhols

w/ Ha The Unclear

The Powerstation, Auckland

Wednesday September 20 2017

 

You know those bands you’ve known “of” for years but only found a true connection with years later? Well The Dandy Warhols are one of those acts for me. While I well remember hearing “Bohemian Like You” in the early 2000s (and also on a Vodafone ad), I only really took a serious interest in the group after hearing “We Used to Be Friends” on Radio Hauraki a few years back. Now this was a track I became a little obsessed with which naturally resulted in me digging a little deeper into their discography. And while I discovered some more bangers I tended to find some of their work a little hit or miss. Yet when they hit, they really do hit.

So when I heard they were to be playing the Powerstation I was a little unsure if they were going to be worthwhile – they’re slightly past their prime and I got the impression they weren’t’ a hugely phenomenal live act. In fact frontman Courtney Taylor Taylor partly confirmed this in an interview with Radio Hauraki on September 14 – talking with Angelina Grey he said he’d recently been bluntly informed that the groups’ party antics at the 2004 Big Day Out resulted in a somewhat mediocre set. Yet there was no way I was going to miss those infectious Warhols hooks while they played them a few hundred metres up the road from my flat. And my expectations were certainly exceeded.

 

With Taylor Taylor having recently celebrated a 50th birthday, The Dandy’s are no spring chickens. Yet the mood in the Powerstation on this Wednesday in 2017 was fresh and vibrant as the four piece made their way through a set of roughly an hour and a half of, for the most part, banger after banger.

 

The Portlanders have always been phenomenal at insanely memorable and hooky choruses and these were pulled off well. Making their way through a majority of their esteemed tacks I found myself singing along very loudly to the likes of “Everyday Should Be A Holiday” and “Boys Better”.

 

Dandy Warhols Powersttion Auckland

Despite what I say about the band being hit or miss, they certainly had enough anthems to fill a set, including a few I hadn’t heard before. Influenced by psychedelic music, this was an outstanding aesthetic of their live context – a number of sections hit home with a wall of bright ambience. For instance “Holding Me Up”, a track I didn’t know prior, completely blew me away with its upbeat and driving grooves.

 

Another stellar aspect of the show was the stage presence of keyboardist and percussionist Zia McCabe. An original member, McCabe moved and grooved throughout and looked like she was having as much fun as parts of the audience. While Taylor Taylor can’t hit some of the higher notes, he sounded strong enough to carry a superb wall of powerpop noise behind him.

 

Formed in 1994 The Dandy Warhols are no longer an ‘in’ band – an idea the largely 30 plus demographic suggested. Yet their distinctive brand of euphoric alternative rock is sadly a bit of an anomaly these days – an approach more younger bands could draw from. This was a feel good show and one that left me feeling elated. It’s even gone so far as to inspire my own songwriting. Long live The Dandy Warhols.

Words and photos by Hugh Collins

Live Review: Frank Turner at Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver

Frank Turner Vancouver Commodore Ballroom
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Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls (show #2101)

w/ Band of Rascals and Trapper Schoepp

Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver

Wednesday 13 September 2017

Frank Turner is in the middle of touring around America at the moment as a support act for Jason Isbell. But never one to disappoint fans, he stopped off in Vancouver for a standalone headline show to cater to his Canadian fanbase.

“We’re here in Vancouver for 15 hours, just to play for you lot!” he shouted, “This morning I was tired and hungover and was not in the mood to chat to Canadian border guards… but we’re here now!”

Band of Rascals

The local act Band of Rascals played a great opening set of blistering rock music with an edge of country. They threw themselves about of stage with abandon, yet retained enough control to stay tight and sang great harmonies. A few songs entered into ballad territory, reminding me of Stu Larsen during on softer part.

Trapper Schoepp

Second up was Trapper Schoepp, also signed to Xtra Mile, the same label as Turner. Just one kid with a guitar, a large mop of hair, and one hell of a voice. He played a bunch of songs from his latest EP, Bay Beach Amusement Park, which sent me into giggles. It’s not often that I hear serious songs about bumper cars or Elvis siting on theme park rides. Great as he was, his set started to drag when he played some slower numbers, although his vivacious energy and funny banter kept us awake between songs.

Frank Turner

Things have changed since I last saw Turner play in Wellington. The Commodore Ballroom was easily twice the size of Bodega and Meow, where I’ve seen him play previously.

Turner keeps track of ever show he’s played. Meow was #1666. Tonight was #2101. That’s close to 500 odd shows that he’s played in two years. No wonder the man has such a die hard following, considering how hard he works. He also has numerous new tattoos. Last time I saw him the violin f-holes on his forearms were relatively fresh. Now he has many others crowding his skin as well.

But despite the time past since I saw him last, the rules remained the same: #1 don’t be a dick – look after each other. #2 sing along.

Turner and his merry men of Sleeping Souls stop upon that stage and tore through everything we hoped for. At first it seemed that most of the set was drawn from the two most recent albums, Positive Songs for Negative People, and Tape Deck Heart. But throughout the night he drew a few songs from each album, hedging his bets with wanting to please fans both new and old.

PSFNP wasn’t released last time I saw Turner live, so it was interesting seeing how some of the tracks sounded live. In my album review, I’d written that “Out Of Breath” is “played at such a pace that it seems that the musicians are almost tripping over themselves”. Funnily enough, Turner demanded that the audience start a circle pit for that song, so I feel my description was surprisingly accurate, that the song was designed for people running around out of control.

“Mittens” was another surprise. Turner was solo onstage at this point, playing a few solo ballads. “Mittens” is a mostly soft song, building up towards the end. Live, its a different animal. Turner bellowed with all his might, red in the face. I never expected such a sweet song to be played so violently.

He also treated us to three new songs from the forthcoming album. This was the first headlining gig in a long time so I guess this was his chance to offer something new that he couldn’t do during supporting legs of someone else’s tour.

I thought it ironic that he sang a song entitled “Be More Kind” to a group of Canadians. For what I could gather, the next album has two major themes. Half of it is reactionary to the state of affairs in the world at the moment. One song is called “1933”, which I read as comparing some current world events to the rise of Hitler. But then there are some happy love songs – not a typical Turner song topic. He played one such track called “There She Is”.

One of the best parts of the night was when Turner called his longtime friend Alice onstage. “I haven’t seen you in a very long time” he explained to her, “and when I catch up with old friends I like to have a drink with them”. From stage he ordered two shots of whiskey from the bar, and asked that they be handed to the sound guy. “Alice, during this next song I need you to crowd surf back to the sound desk, get the whiskey, and crowd surf back to the stage without spilling a drop”.

It was so fun to see this mad challenge pulled off, with Alice precariously riding the sea of up-stretched arms with a shot glass in each of her hands. The two reunited onstage and sunk their respective drinks. “That was a bloody stupid idea”, Turner remarked “it’s like drinking during the middle of a cardio session!”

Towards the end of the set Turner made an announcement. “I’m ashamed to say that despite practicing every day of my life since I was a child, I’m still not good enough to play death metal. But we can still bring death metal to the show!” He asked the crowd to split in two, like Moses parting the red seas.

I turned to my friend wild eyed. “We’ve got to go! We’re going to die!” I told him, anticipating a wall of death.

Turns out I was wrong. Turner made a speech about how the world is divided at present, and how we need to come together and support each other. Instead of the infamous wall of death, he wanted to start a wall of hugs. As gimmicky as it was, it was a nice way to bring a crowd of strangers together.

I’ve recently been reading Turner’s autobiography, The Road Beneath My Feet. It has given me insight into his life, and the meanings behind many of his lyrics. Songs like Tell Tale Signs and Long Live The Queen are suddenly a lot sadder when you understand what they are about. But I think that’s a big aspect of Turner’s appeal – he’s relatable. He sings about the hurt in his life, the struggles and vulnerabilities. That’s why you have hardened punks in patched jackets showing up to a show that features men in white collared shirts playing mandolin. Because at the heart of the music, when you strip away the genres and the scene expectations, Frank Turner writes songs that give hope.

There’s nothing quite like seeing your favourite song played live [mine is “I Am Disappeared”]. I remember when I first saw Turner play, many years ago. It was wild seeing the man I’d listened to thousands of times stand ten metres in front of me and sing those same songs from a stage. And after seeing him for a third time, I can tell you that the rowdy, inclusive, heartfelt show he puts on only gets better each time.


Frank Turner links:

Website: http://frank-turner.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/frankturnermusic
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FrankTurner
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/frankturner
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/frankturner

 

Joseph James

Live Review: Saint Paul & The Broken Bones + Trombone Shorty

Saint Paul & The Broken Bones + Trombone Shorty The Chelsea Las Vegas
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Trombone Shorty

w/ St Paul & The Broken Bones

The Chelsea, Las Vegas

Saturday 26 August 2017

I felt a tad overdressed for the gig tonight. But I was in Las Vegas, and dress codes are strict here, so I opted for something slightly nicer than the fluro cheetah print spandex top I’d worn to Steel Panther the night previous.

First act St Paul & The Broken Bones were actually the drawcard for me. They were also dressed to the nines, so perhaps my nice shirt was a good choice. There were eight of them onstage – three in the brass section, bass, drums, guitar, organ and vocals – all well presented and experts on their instruments. Frontman Paul Janeway rocked a dapper red suit with checkered labels.

And they could play! I heard someone near me call them “this generation’s white James Brown”. I’ll leave that to you to decide on, but they sure could channel soul music as well as the best I’d seen.

Janeway was a real character. He was possessed by the music, letting it control him. He would “conduct” the rest of the band, adding his angelic coos to the music.  At one point he removed his golden shoes and threw them over his shoulder. Next he rolled around on the floor as he sang, before crawling under the drum riser – emerging from the other end like a caterpillar crawling across a leaf. I was in stitches. Janeway managed to do all this without missing a note, so I imagine he is well-practiced at this caterpillar routine.

The band played a mixed style, with some down-tempo soul music interspersed with upbeat funky numbers. Either way, it was great for dancing. Whether they laid down a groovy jam, struck up a flute solo, or let loose on the organ, it was all brilliant.

The band played for 80 minutes, despite only having two albums of material to draw from. And truth be told, I could have quite happily left after that set satisfied.

I’m glad that I didn’t though. Because as great as Saint Paul & The Broken Bones were, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue were a step above.

That band – what a band!- they were a sight to see. To start with there were two drummers.

Two!

Drummers!

I don’t know if that excites everyone the way that it excites me, but two drummers in one band is something that I get very worked up about. They last time that I saw a band that featured two drummers was Tortoise, and they were outstanding. There was a dedicated percussionist as well – who may as well be a third drummer.

SO MANY DRUMS!!!!!!!

And moving on….

The excitement doesn’t stop there. There was bass – smooth, groovy bass. There were two guitarists – ridiculously talented shredders. Three talented backing singers (sat criminally low in the mix). And a trio of brass players, with two on saxophone and the star of the show adding his trademark trombone (and occasionally trumpet) to the trio.

I think back to when I first saw Gary Clark Jr play, opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2013. His very presence exuded coolness. And his playing only confirmed how slick he was. Seeing Troy Andrews – better known as Trombone Shorty – evoked exactly the same thoughts and feelings in me.

The man has talent. Whether he was singing or riffing along with the saxophones on the trombone, he impressed. I guess if you grow up around the hottest players in New Orleans, some of that talent is guaranteed to rub off on you.

Trombone Shorty The Chelsea Las Vegas Set List

It was all on. 12 people on stage will do that. Everyone was dancing about and enjoying themselves – both on and off the stage. It was so infectious. The lights added to the fun, although there was a touch too much strobing that made me dizzy. And I swear that the floor was flexing underneath me!

Trombone Shorty cut his teeth with the best, learning from an early age. And using all that knowledge and experience, he has fused the genres of his town to create fantastic, fun music, and assembled a stellar band to help him present it to the world.

As if it wasn’t enough to play such a great set, they finished the night by throwing a dozen free t-shirts into the audience. It was a generous notion, considering that those shirts cost almost the price of admission at the merch table.

I came to The Chelsea tonight hoping to see some class acts representing their respective cities musically, and wanting to dance. And sure enough, got both in spades. Now I can tick Saint Paul & The Broken Bones off my bucket list after their soulful set. And Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue blew me away. What better way to get a taste of the south?

 

Joseph James