COMUSIC REVIEW – Big Medicine, Mercer and Johnson @ Mojo’s

It’s January 12, 2013. Columbia is still in winter break mode – quieter in some ways but with a sense that the students will soon return and things will adjust to normal after the Holidays and the hangover of sorts that accompany them. As the second weekend of the year arrives the weather is suddenly getting colder and there’s talk of snow. There’s also several shows going on around town in spite of the sleet and snow that came in the early evening.

Burrows was supposed to play but got either snowed in or iced in after their show in KC the night before, making this an all local band show.

Mercer and Johnson navigating the bittersweet


Mercer and Johnson opened the night off with a mix of original songs and covers of some roots/country (real country) favorites. Beginning with just mandolin and bass, their songs of life, love, and longing had a bittersweet tinge to them. A switch to acoustic guitar a little over halfway through the set shifted the aural textures but the vibe remained. A mix of storytelling and longing permeated their set by this road tested local duo. Readers who are into more grittier roots music and country will definitely want to check this act out.


Eddie and Craig of Big Medicine

Big Medicine came on shortly after for their first show in over a year. Taking advantage of the vibe, they unleashed a set of roots rock full of driving beats and a vibe that’s almost equally rooted in honky-tonk country as in blues or early rock’n’roll. While the set was slightly sloppy (very understandable given the down time they had) there was a lot of energy here that got the crowd who braved the storm to make it here. Driving drums and blazing guitars were in full effect here until the end. Good to see Big Medicine playing again.

After the show, the crowd hung out, paid their tabs, and made small talk in an attempt to avoid the inevitable venture into the winter storm situation outside Mojo’s. As we ventured into the inevitable snow and what that entailed, many of us had wondered what would be ahead. In the next week students would return to town and life would slowly veer back to business as usual. For now, it was winter weather and hoping things weren’t too bad tomorrow.

COMUSIC REVIEW – Landlord Holocaust, Kills and Thrills, Dead Icons, and Gay Uncle @ Cafe Berlin.

It’s been a warmer than usual winter so far. There have been a couple moments of snow but nothing much sticking around. Meanwhile the semester is underway and the “holiday” many don’t want to deal with is on its way. So, as February 1st reminds us that it really is 2012, I needed to get out for a bit and decided on this show at Cafe Berlin

Gay Uncle opening up the night.


Gay Uncle first caught my ear at a show a couple weeks back so their appearance on this bill was an added bonus. They started off a little slow this time around, but after the first song the duo quickly veered into a set of guitar and drum forged hardcore that neared powerviolence levels of aggression at times. Loud, fast, and in your face, they value intensity and rawness slightly more than precision (though precision is there, make no mistake about that). WIth songs that go by at breakneck speed, Gay Uncle’s music sometimes seems to go by before you know it. However, there’s something here that makes me curious about them. These guys are on the way to becoming one of Columbia’s best underground bands so check them out if you get the chance.

Tearing up the stage - Dead Icons


Dead Icons from Kentucky proceeded to take the night into a completely different direction. This quartet threw down a heavy set of metal tinged HC punk with hoarse vocals and lots of scooped tone guitar leading songs set on pummel. Hard edges crunch and double bass drum rolls connected instantly with the kids in the pit. Their songs are more loud, fast audio missiles that aim to explode on contact. Admittedly some can say that Dead Icons’ music leans a lot on metal but the power is evidence regardless when they take over a stage and lay waste to the crowd. While I’d never heard Dead Icons before I saw the flyer for this show there’s something here that makes me curious what they’ll become down the road.


Kills and Thrills in action.

After a brief break and the usual tear down and setting up, Kills and Thrills came on to play. From the start this band lead a sonic throw down with some modern sounding HC punk delivered with a heft and intensity that surprised me. Seeming to be one part noise/one part punk fury, their music is dealt out in full force with a singer more than willing to dissolve the barrier between band and the sudience, this band playd hard driving music that takes no prisoners and has the ability to head in unexpected directions. While they take a relatively common dual guitar fired format, they approach it in a way that’s shocking yet somehow comfortable in the process. I’ve tried to explain what they’re about but Kills and Thrills are a band that you have to see live to understand.

Finally, it was time for Landlord Holocaust to wrap up the evening. This local quartet plays vintage influenced stripped down punk built firmly in the three chords loud fast rules camp with power chords in full effect and a straight ahead rhythm section. The band is talented but seemed to be slightly misplaced on the bill, having to close the show when they would’ve been better placed earlier on the bill. The band also appeared to be having an off night, though that could be as much due to bill placement than anything else. Yes, they’re talented and wear their vintage punk roots with pride but right now I feel it best to wait and see this band again before i make a judgement.

Bringing the night to a close with Landlord Holocaust.


Then the show was over. Most of us ventured out into the chilly but warmer than usual February night dazed and wondering what’s next. As I headed over to a friend’s house to wish him well on his birthday, I realized how early it turned our (two of the bands had to cancel, shortening the bill significantly). Still, it was a nice way to spend a milder than usual winter night here in Columbia.  I wonder what the rest of the month will be like.

COMUSIC REVIEW – Jack Grelle, The Weeping Wildas, Graham MIles & Tommy Stallings @ Cafe Berlin 12/1/2011

I admit that December is traditionally a slow month for Columbia. The colder weather and longer nights tends to get people leaning more towards a hibernation mode than usual. In addition, the end of fall semester and preparations for finals creates a situation where shows become a bit scarce (for obvious reasons). However, along with the cold and a vibe that’s somehow simultaneously hectic and somewhat sleepy, there are things that surprise you. In my case, I was walking downtown on December 1st when I came across a flyer for this show at Cafe Berlin that I wasn’t aware of.

L to R: Tommy Stallings and Graham Miles

Strangely enough I end up missing opener Lizzie Wright due to running late at one of the very rare shows that started on time. I did make it about halfway through Graham Miles and Tommy Stallings’ set. With each alternative between acoustic guitar and bass (upright for Stallings, washtub for Miles) depending on the song, the duo played a collection of folk, blues and country songs that involved singalong choruses at times and delivered earnestly and true to their music’s roots. While they did struggle with the lack of a PA, the duo managed to overcome that and put on a straight ahead honest show that fans of roots and mountain music might enjoy.

Weeping WIldas

Local duo Weeping WIldas came up next with a homecoming show to almost wrap up their latest tour. Their songs are old timey mountain music that seems to be almost mined out of a mountaintop. Using just acoustic guitar, banjo and fiddle, their performance evoked a vibe that reminds one of country cabin front porches in these tales of life, love, and problems that come across like it’s 1901 as much as it does today. I’d never seen the duo before (though I had seen both Sam and Laura play in other bands and projects) so this proved to be a very interesting set.

Eventually it was time for Jack Grelle to take the stage and play a solo set. Somewhat more known in Columbia for his duties in local punk bands Task Force (as one of the two lead vocalsits) and Bookmobile (on drums), Grelle offereed up a set of pure unplugged country that told of trains, life, problems with the law, and the like with a honesty too often watered down in country music. Mostly solo, he told stories within the songs, taking the role of a balladeer of sorts along the way. Near the end, the Weeping Wildas joined him for several songs that took the set to a more mountain music/hillbilly feel. It wasn’t slick or commercial sounding, but there’s an honesty to whatever music Jack Grelle undertakes that has made him one of this town’s more interesting musicians along the way.

Jack Grelle with Laura of Weeping Wildas

Thus ends a show that came almost as a surprise. The nice weather of the day had turned to a winter night as people headed out into the cold. The next couple of weeks would be hectic for a lot of people at the show but for a few hours anyway, they had a release from their stress. It was one of those nights that proves again that sometimes the more interesting things in Columbia can happen when people are often too distracted to pay attention.


Saturday April 22 in Columbia, MO. It’s the week after homecoming and the town is in the bizarre state of flux that is part football Saturday, part semi-humid fall weekend day. While there are a few things going on, the town does seem to lack some of the energy it tends to have on a weekend. However, as I got some errands done, I got ready for one of the few shows in this town that would seriously blur the divide between punk and metal. Thus, In Defence were returning to town for the first time since late May.

The Phaggs kicking things off for the night.

First up was local band The Phaggs to kick things off with a definite punk flavor. Diving headfirst into a set of the noisy HC with screamed vocals and guitar that nearly crumbles under its own semi hollow bodied distortion that’s become their signature. However, while their presence on this bill is slightly surprising given the more metal leanings of some of the bands, this trio (on this night anyway) is showing themselves to be the tightest they’ve ever been live. Yes, they definitely owe a nod to early to mid 80s hardcore and its hard to tell what they’re singing about, but Justice and his bandmates have come a long way from the chaotic, nihilistic band that they began as and may be one of the better bands in this town that a lot of people don’t know about.


All hail the mighty Creaturezoid.

Definitely flying another sonic flag altogether was Creaturezoid, whom I’d heard about for a couple years but somehow had always missed live due to either obligations I couldn’t get out of or arriving at an afternoon show at Flat Branch Park just as it ended; thus I was interested in hearing them. Their set was pure speed/death metal built on a wall of scooped tone guitar chords, tight songs, and a lot of solos. Dished with a singular power, the band’s songs go for the jugular with a solid footing and an edge that draws from earlier bands but isn’t completely beholden to them. While Columbia isn’t known as a metal town per se, this is a band that could play a vital role in making a dent towards that direction. If you dig thrash and 80s style crossover metal Creaturezoid is definitely worth checking out.

The Proselyte get ready to tear things up.

The Proselyte came from Boston and are on a short leg of a tour with In Defence. Since I’d never heard of them before I was curious to see what’s they’re like as they set up their wall of amps. What emerged from the speakers was doom/stoner metal (for lack of a better term) that arose from midtempo rhythms, a mix of heavy power chords and some bluesy leaning guitar licks and an energy that the band played as their lives depended on it. While there was a huge amount of gear on stage (by Berlin standards, anyway) the band played the fine line between volume and pure aggression as the songs pummeled over the crowd with a swagger that veered from assured to pure noise. They were also the loudest band on the bill with one person noting they stepped outside for a second and could hear everything perfectly. While their type of music isn’t everyone’s quart of brew the Proselyte know their sound and excel at giving the crowd a pure sonic attack that will stick with them.

In Defence: Ready for the Pit

In Defence were about to tear the house down by kind of bringing it back to where it began. The Minneapolis based quintet threw down a short, sharp blast of hardcore punk infused with a definite amount of pure metal throughout. Dual guitars blazed away at these somewhat humorous songs as the crowd got into instant pit mode. There’s a power and energy here that carried the band through a set that was, sadly, too short whether riffing on a new bass drum pedal that broke before it even got used or moshing vs. circle pits, the band maintained their mix of raw energy and hardcore attack that has been their bread and butter live. While there wasn’t the circle pit dance lesson like there was last time they were in town, In Defence again proved their ferocity as what hardcore and metal can come across as when it put together well and actually done right. Once again, they put on a live show you have to see to believe.

Post show, it was off into the Columbia night.  For  Saturday night it seemd unbelievably quiet.  Maybe it was the early afternoon loss the Tigers had to Oklahoma State, maybe it’s the time of the semester.  Regardless, it seemed to be a chilly though reflective contrast to the power and energy that took place inside Cafe Berlin that nigh thanks to the venue, Thorazine Overdose Productions for putting it on, the bands, and those who made it to the show.  This was an interesting way to spend an autumn night; a way I wish others could’ve shared.


Live Review: Task Force, GRG,& The Phaggs at Cafe Berlin

Sunday July 10, 2011. Summertime in Columbia has reached the roughly halfway point. The town is in a quieter mode in some ways, but this also means that the quest to fid something to do can affect you in strange way. It’s on this quiet Sunday night that a punk show at Café Berlin seemed to be something interesting to do.

The Phaggs

Up first was local teen hardcore band The Phaggs. They revel in short fast loud songs with overloaded guitars and screamed vocals that almost seem to end before they begin. I admit in the past I have been a little guarded towards this band (especially given their penchant on occasion towards shock for shock’s sake on some songs in the past) but at this show they managed to show how solid they’ve become. It will be interesting to see what happens if this band sticks around or not (given their age, anything can be possible on this count).

GRG tearing it up.

In a twist of the fate the out of town band (who would normally be on last) ended up holding down the middle slot of this bill. Oklahoma City based trio GRG play grindcore, an extremely loud and fast subgenre of punk and metal built on scooped death tone guitar chords and blast beats that make the loud fast punk of 25 years ago seem midtempo in comparison. Crunchy and in your face, the band’s songs are sometimes aural attacks that seem to hit like a kick in the chest. I know grindcore is a love or hate subgenre but people curious about how extreme rock music can really become should check GRG out.

This leaves Columbia’s very own Task Force to headline the night. Over the past year and a half the bands blend of HC punk with elements of funk, noise and even pop took advantage of the situation and proved to be a sonic compliment to the grindcore of the previous band. Walkinga fine line between melody, punk angst, funk, and noise, the band’s songs are measures in what the DIY ethic is and how it can improve the music. While it was a little sloppy on occasion, Task Force showed once again why they’re one of the best punk bands in this town.

Jack and Ben of Task Force

At about 11:30 or so it was over and we were heading back out into the heat. Summer was still more than everpresent amidst the small talk and learning of new shows coming up. Still, it was good to get to see what’s going on and catch a break from the heat and the routine,

New Music Night Featuring Boreal Hills, Clare Bowman and the Bathtub Boys, and Vulvette

Steph and Doug of Vulvette

As we all know, summer in Columbia is a somewhat different pace than expected. As the three colleges in town operate on summer schedules, the vibe of the town tends to be slower and more languid. It is in this atmosphere that even a Saturday night can appear much more quiet than it normally would. It was in this atmosphere that a free show went down at the Blue Note last Saturday night featuring local music and one soon to be formerly local band.

I admit that I was running late and missed the first few Vulvette songs. However, what I can affirm was the band was in fine form playing music that draws from old blues, folk, and even torch songs to create a smoky sound fueled by well arranged warm guitars and a sometimes bittersweet feel. Their songs are relatively sparse, delivered without tricks and fancy effects, going for a direct approach in the process that’s actually one of the quartet’s strengths. While the energy has always been there with this band, this had to be the best sounding show I’d heard them play. Whether it’s because of the current band lineup or the PA can be debated, but they definitely rose to the occasion.

Clare Bowman, Kirksville transplant and relative newcomer to the local music scene, held down the middle slot of the night with her backup band the Bathtub Boys. Armed with a piano and her songs, Bowman creates a keyboard based indie pop rock that’s walks the thin line between catchy and introspective. However, I do feel the one song she did with an acoustic guitar was actually the game changer. Yes, her music will likely attract fans of pop radio to some degree but in the right environment she will shine and become much more than that.

Clare Bowman

As I mentioned a week or so ago in another show review on here, Boreal Hills is leaving Columbia. This was to be their final show. Tonight much of their set was riff based stripped down rock that walks the fine line between punk, indie, and classic metal. While the power was there and the band went at it full throttle, there were some issues that got in the way. Several broken strings and longer than necessary string changes did detract some from the show (still surprised there wasn’t an arrangement with one of the other bands to have a backup just in case – especially with a duo).However, their crowd was up front and drove this part of the show. Still uncertain as to the future of the band (heard Chicago? St. Louis? but this would be the end of an era for this band.


And with that, it was back to the way too quiet streets of Columbia on a summer Saturday night. Still, for those who attended it was a chance to see some artists they might not have taken a chance on otherwise (a sad thought given the variety of music available if you know where to look for it).