Jonathan Athon, bassist/vocalist for Savannah, Georgia, sludge-metal band Black Tusk, is a sweaty mess right now. But not because he has just wrapped up a show and stepped off the stage of an air-conditionless club. Instead he’s trapped in a stuffy, sawdust-clouded woodshop cutting rafters with a 24” reciprocating blade.
Unlike many of his pampered rock-star peers, Athon is spending the week building a pagoda for a nearby technical college. The life of a critically acclaimed, underground metal musician ain’t all roses.
“On the bright side,” he says, “swinging a hammer in the Savannah summer means we don’t need to jog. Running around in a fancy pair of New Balance shoes would be a lot less strenuous than this.”
I’m talking with Athon via phone mere days after Black Tusk—a trio that includes guitarist Andrew Fidler and drummer James May—returned to the States. The band just concluded its first-ever European headlining tour, which kicked off in Sweden and culminated with a festival appearance in Tønsberg, Norway.
The latter was, reports Athon, a calamity.
After driving through the night, they unloaded their gear, dragging it to the top of a mountain. A brick medieval tower with a black spire towered above and, as soon as they took the stage, rain poured down. Everything flooded; electrical cords started to short. But the show had to go on. The Tusk draped plastic over their myriad guitar pedals and played against a torrent. On cue, they launched into the massive opening riff of their epic song “Embrace the Madness,” right as a bolt of lightning slammed into the mountain. Athon’s howling lyrics—“Crash of lightning / summon rain / thrash the stage / into flames”—took on additional significance.
“We managed to finish the song,” laughs Athon. “Then the stage manager escorted us off very quickly. He might’ve mumbled a prayer.”
Near-death experiences aside, 2012 has been the Year of the Tusk. The band, which formed in 2005 and released its fourth album Set the Dial on Relapse last year, is still high on the adrenaline of being handpicked by Metallica to play the Orion Fest in June. It’s not every day a metalhead musician gets the nod from his heroes.
“It’s cool as hell to say you’re hanging with someone you idolized as a kid,” says Athon, giddiness in his voice. “We still walk around shouting Metallica lyrics at each other for no reason.”
But the Tusk’s growing popularity and success is double-edged. Being under the radar means the band has kept its collective head. No one tells them to do something they don’t want to do.
“Yet you always feel you want more,” admits Athon. “It gets rough keeping it real all the time. Sometimes you feel like handing over control to others and letting them pimp you for a while. But I like having our punk-rock ethics; it keeps us honest.”
That honesty is evident in the split 7-inch with fellow Savannah band Dead Yet?, released Sept. 21 on Hyperrealist Records, a Savannah indie label.
“Dead Yet? chose one of our songs to cover, and we chose one of theirs, plus an original,” explains Athon. “We always try something different. But whatever we do is going to sound like Black Tusk. We’re only fine-tuning this machine we created.”
performing between headliners Red Fang and openers Lord Dying
8:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 31
340 E. 6th St.
This article originally appeared in LEO Weekly.
L.A. based rapper Pigeon John isn't coming by the Old Pueblo on his latest tour, but he'll be swinging up to the Phoenix area, playing Tempe's Stray Cat Bar & Grill on Oct. 26, accompanied by Sunspot Jonz, CC Beats, Dirty Napz, Sauce, YNOT, & Zilla.
Tickets are only $8, which is a small price to pay for both a night of quality hip-hop (though if you want, just consider it a toll for visiting the home city of Girls Gone Wild University and Casino).
And in case the promise of Pigeon John isn't enough for you, here's a bonus tune from Sunspot Jonz:
Oh, and by the way: Apparently, if you choose to pay money for the Pigeon John track featured above, you'll be entered to win a contest featuring prizes that huge Pigeon John fans will dig. Get more details on that here.
Jim Lipson reviewed last week's John Fogerty show at AVA at Casino del Sol for Tucson Weekly. But who are we to say no when Al Perry sent us his own review of the same show?
I'll admit that while I don't go out as much as I should, I've attended a few concerts at AVA at Casino del Sol lately. I am impressed with the place as a concert venue. The size is right, and the sound and sightlines are good. A few years back I was bored by good old boring Bob Dylan there. I rocked to Heaven and Hell with Ronnie James Dio (!) and Alice Cooper, and watched, through misty eyes, the transcendent historic miracle of the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary tour's opening show. A couple of weeks ago, I even attended the hilarious Confederate slob-fest that was Molly Hatchet. Each concert was most enjoyable.
John Fogerty breezed through Tucson the other night and provided a very pleasant, relaxing evening of well-executed rock 'n’ roll. His simple songs and presentation proved quite effective. And, hey, he had James Intveld on second guitar! How great is that? There was no opening act, and his set, just under two hours, was crammed with Creedence classics, and some material I didn't know. Later solo stuff, I suppose.
He was in good voice, though his singing is strangely thinner and higher pitched than back in the day. And his hair was a little too dark and he looked like maybe he'd had a facelift or something. You know? That weird, pale, stretched look? Energy-wise, though, nothing was lacking. The guy was unstoppable, and I'd forgotten just what a superb gittfiddle plonker he is. He Travis-picked on a red Tele, and played some devastating, thick blues solos on "Heard It Through the Grapevine." I didn't see God or anything, but I did derive enormous pleasure from his show.
There did not seem to be anyone under 30 in the crowd. In fact, I'd guess there weren't too many under 50. Which is fine, but does not bode well for the future of real rock 'n’ roll. While each generation must identify with their own sounds, their own T-shirts as it were, it seems a shame that young folks won't get to experience firsthand the great rock that we elderly folks did. Oh well, these oldsters didn't like the big band music of previous generations either.
Then...that drummer! A monster. He was like an octopus but with just two arms, if that makes sense. All over the place! Kenny something-or-other, some big famous guy (Ed. note: It was likely Kenny Aronoff). Normally, I think a drummer should simply lay down a foundation, set a groove for the other participants to build on. If you notice the drummer, then he's not doing his job (my opinion, OK?). This guy nearly upstaged Fogerty. He was fascinating to watch. A powerhouse who really propelled the band, yet never got so busy that the he lost the beat. And the show did need some visual focus. The unadorned, checkered shirt rock of the other guys was lacking in that department.
All in all, I'm gonna call it a great show and give it five stars. For pure rock 'n’ roll, it simply ain't gonna get much better than that. It's nice to see someone out there still kicking rock's withered corpse. The full house no doubt agreed.
Clifford Brown, by the time of his death at age 25, was one of Jazz's next great trumpet superstars. Unfortunately, his life was claimed by a car accident between gigs in Philadelphia and Chicago, leaving a great sadness in and thoughts of what could have been for a man who exhibited talent beyond his years.
This is Brown's Joy Spring, originally written for his wife LaRue, who he called his "joy spring." Recorded alongside legendary jazz drummer Max Roach, it's become a beloved jazz standard.
The music he's playing now is a long ways off from the punk rock bands he came up with in Tucson three decades ago.
But in those years, Billy Sedlmayr has amassed a lifetime of stories that he's putting into song. And he's captured the attention of a new generation, forging an unlikely collaboration with Gabriel Sullivan (Taraf de Tucson and lately Giant Giant Sand).
"Billy Sedlmayr represents everything about Tucson that I have come to love. The first time I heard him sing, I knew I had never heard anyone with such grit and conviction behind every word," says Sullivan, who's helping to produce Sedlmayr's first solo album and a documentary film about the project.
"His autobiographical songs are the stories that are never told in life, but carry more soul and passion than most can fathom. This record and film are just the beginning of tapping into a wildly talented man."
Sedlmayr and Sullivan began playing music together a couple years ago in the (late, lamented) Red Room, a cross-generational collaboration that proves the enduring strength of Sedlmayr's songs.
Sedlmayr has played with punk pioneers The Pedestrians as well as Giant Sandworms and he's been associated with musicians like Rainer Ptacek, Rich Hopkins, Van Christian and Dan Stuart.
To finish the album, Sedlmayr and Sullivan launched a Kickstarter project, seeking $10,000 to fund week-long recording and mixing sessions, additional filming of the recording process, editing of two years of already captured footage, hiring studio musicians and mastering and producing the record.
"For over 30 years now, Billy Sedlmayr has been deep in the fabric of Tucson music," says music writer Carl Hanni (a Tucson Weekly contributor), narrating the brief introductory video.
"To me Billy Sedlmayr is as Tucson as Sonoran dogs, saguaros and those monsoon sunsets that break your heart," Hanni says. "He's pretty much seen it all, from top to bottom, from dark to light. So, Billy's got some stories to tell and he's just looking for some help to get it done."
Check out the video for "Tucson Kills" below...
Tonight at the Rialto Theatre, Maryland-based music producer araabMUZIK is hitting the stage with his incredible ability to repeatedly smash an MPC and create fantastic beats as part of his dual-headliner tour with Brooklyn's Sleigh Bells, who were the subject of a feature in this week's Tucson Weekly.
And as a preview for tonight's show, check out araabMUZIK's remix of Sleigh Bell's "Never Say Die":
Tickets are still available for tonight's show at the Rialto Theatre for $23.
The press-release deets:
Grammy Award-winning DJ and producer Afrojack bring his massive dance beats and electrical new stage show to Kino Sports Complex on Friday, Oct. 26 as part of his 13- city North American “Jacked” tour.
The show at the complex’s south soccer fields begins at 6 p.m. Gates open at 5 p.m.
Joining Afrojack will be Shermanology—singers and performers Andy, Dorothy and Leon Sherman—and DJ and producer Bobby Burns.
Tickets for this 18-and-older, festival/no-seating show are $36 (limited quantity) and $100. Prices go up when the $36 tickets are sold out.
Shuttle buses will run nonstop between FinallyMade, 845 E. University #145, next to Pei Wei, and Kino Sports Complex at 30-minute intervals from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Shuttle tickets are $5.
Concert and shuttle tickets are available at www.ticketfly.com/event/162623.
Cameras, chairs, umbrellas, outside food or drinks, and bags are not permitted at the event.
Afrojack won Grammy Awards for Best Remix (Madonna, “Revolver”) in 2011 and Best Rap/Hip Hop Track for his co- production duties on Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” this year. His hits include “Can’t Stop Me,” featuring Shermanology, and “Rock the House,” named the hottest dance song of the summer by the Los Angeles Times.