Frank Gutch Jr: Sometimes You Gotta Bang Some Heads…..

That’s right, sports fans.  Sometimes you just have to line up and bang, that’s all there is to it.  It makes me laugh because when I think of headbanging I see long-haired guitarists lining up, Status Quo-style, heads flopping in unison to the beat, and if headbanging is about nothing else it is about the beat.  I caught the bug in the late Sixties and early Seventies when hard rock began to become even harder rock and finally gave way to the throbbing wall of sound crunch of even harder rock.  I loved it.

I started small with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and the like and when the popular began seeming mundane to my ears, I expanded my tastes.  Bands like Wishbone Ash and Sir Lord Baltimore and May Blitz began getting airplay on my system and then Ursa Major and others.  Oh, it wasn’t all headbanging stuff, but it was all guitar.  Without the crunch and sometimes that progressive edge, music just did not feel right.

I carried that with me to Los Angeles in the mid-Seventies and then San Diego in the late-Seventies, always with an ear toward something new.  I found A Foot In Coldwater and, yes, they were not really headbangers but when they cranked it up, I got the same thrill.  I became a Stray fan and followed them to The Starwood in Los Angeles. mainly to hear Caravan who had just released what was to my ears their most commercial album, Cunning Stunts (To this day, I think radio missed on that one).  The evening was unforgettable thanks to Stray‘s vocalist/guitarist who kept pointing at the sound man, urging more and more volume until most people left the room just to protect themselves.  I had my hands over my ears towards the last and even at that felt blood trickling from my ears.  Needless to say, Caravan‘s first set was forgettable, mainly because none of us could hear them.  Still, Stray cranked!  What an experience!

As I’ve attempted to point out, there is something in my blood when it comes to hard rock and I felt it this last week.  I was becoming weary of Americana and acoustic music.  I needed an electric fix and the more electric the better so I went on a quest— a quest for music to quench my headbanging thirst.  Okay, hard-rocking thirst.  Look, if it walks like a duck, okay?  And I didn’t look back.  As much as I loved Ursa Major and Stray, I needed something new.  I mean, bands still rock out, don’t they?

Indeed, they do.  A visit to Freedom Hawk‘s website proved it.  But before we go there, allow me to introduce many of you to one of my favorite hard-rocking bands of all-time:  Era For a Moment.  They’re out of the Boston area and a handful of years ago won this contest to open for Bon Jovi at some big East Coast wing-ding and you might think that that would have been enough to give them the push they needed, but it didn’t.  I’m sure they rocked the place because I’ve heard these guys, both live and on record (the ‘live’ recordings via the Internet), and they can rock.  Boy, can they rock!

There is nothing quite as satisfying to me as finding music which really takes hold and finding them was a thrill and a half.  After contact, they sent me a review copy of their then fairly new album, When Earth Meets Sky, with which vocalist Shelby Carcio included a nice message.  The CD jumped immediately to the top of my listening list and when I sat down I referred to them, I believe, as Heart with balls.  There was just enough of an Ann Wilson tone to Carcio’s voice that I couldn’t help it.  Seattle was committed to Heart during that band’s tenure there every bit as much as L.A. was to Joni and Ronstadt and Jackson Browne and The Eagles during theirs.  I waited what seemed like forever for Heart to break their mold but they never did.  I didn’t hate them.  I just tired of hearing them (and about them).

Oh, what I wouldn’t have given for an Era For a Moment to occasionally blow the dust off of the same old, but they were trapped in my future.  That future was captured on two prime albums of guitar-saturated hard rock.  After receiving the one, I bought the other.  They remain dustless, pulled out whenever the hard rock bug bites, never more than a few months after last listen.  Nothing shows respect more than repeated listens (unless it is showing up at a live gig).

And before your limber fingers start pounding the keys, that was not meant as disrespect for any of the artists named above.  If I heard Cargoe or Research Turtles everywhere I went, I would include them as overplayed as well, I am sure.

Let’s see.  Where was I.  Ah.  As I was bouncing around the Net looking for another EFAM or new Black Sabbath, I fell upon a mention of a band called Exfixia.  This four person band is out of Bend, Oregon, just over the mountains from me and I’m thinking, no way!  Bend is hardly a town to hold the likes of metal outside of the teenybopper high school variety.  So I head over to their ReverbNation page for a listen and, sonofagun, they are from Bend and they do rock!  They rock just to the left of EFAM with a right turn on the first off-ramp.  Crunchy guitars, odd chord changes (well, not odd for the style of music they play) and a female voice to soften the blows.

Amanda Sillas is no Shelby Carcio and for that I am happy, for Amanda fronts Exfixia and not EFAM.  Her voice is antidote to the band’s near death metal guitar/bass/drums blast, a saving grace as far as I’m concerned.  A couple of my friends are always telling me I am prejudiced against the genre but what I really dislike are the vocals which pretty much always sound like the overamplified voices of hell.  Screaming loud enough that you lose all sense of musical compass is not singing to me but noise, and not a good noise at that.  Topping their pounding rhythms and shredded guitar with Amanda is just the right touch.  A bad haircut and a swath of the devil’s tattoos do not a rock band make, if you get my drift.

I see that they have a gig coming up in March.  It would be a hundred-plus mile drive one way but if the weather is nice, that is a drive I would make in a second.  With Exfixia as incentive, I’m almost there.

It’s quite a jump from Bend, Oregon to Buenos Aires but damned if I didn’t make it, thanks to Tom Huergo, guitarist for Mothership.  He’s been bugging me for the past couple of months to listen to their new album Lemniscate and after hearing it, I wondered why I waited (actually, life and a crashed computer got in the way).  If you had told me back in the early Seventies that not only would I be digging hard rock at this late date but that it would be Brazilian, I would not have listened.  Well, I’m listening now.

I was a bit surprised when I opened the file because what they had sent me over a year ago was much harder and much more rhythm driven, but they do that on the new album, too.  Like most bands, they honed their licks while honing their writing style and actually upped their game.  What we get is arena rock of a very high caliber— rock ballads mixed with choppy early Scorpions and Judas Priest licks, but more American.  I could probably tell you exactly what comes to mind but my mind is blank right  now and I can’t even remember my name, a malady both David Crosby and I share.  Suffice it to say that it is bic-lighter-over-the-head music with a little swaying action on some of the eight tracks.  And I dig the nine-plus and eleven minute-plus times on three of the tracks.  It brings back the days when rockers tossed anything less than five minutes overboard.  Good times.

Seattle remembers The Sins, I am sure and they now have a chance to hear Prelude to a Pistol.  When The Sins imploded after their long run, guitarist Lee Tillman, electric violin player Jyri Glynn and  sticks man Chris Womble emerged from the dust cloud as Prelude after finding and adding vocalist Ray “Riot” Clark and bassist Daemon Chadeau.  While they didn’t completely abandon The Sins‘ musical style, they have opted for a denser sound which shows promise.  Of course, they only have demos up at this point, so don’t expect finished product.  Still and all, the three tracks they have posted are plenty good.  You can compare them yourself—The SinsPrelude to a Pistol.

I must confess to being in tune with Tillman’s guitar, but what caught my attention with The Sins was Glynn’s competition blue (is there such a color?) electric violin, not unlike those of the violinists in the original lineup of Lunic.  For all of you dinosaurs, allow me to reference the violin of ELO‘s Mick Kaminski (who I knew first from his work with Joe Soap).  Sometimes, the beauty is in the equipment as much as the music, you know?

Which brings us to Freedom Hawk, the State of Virginia’s answer to all things Black Sabbath and Status Quo and even Stray.  You want to destroy some brain cells, crank these guys up to ten and try to stop that head.  It will bang on its own.  This is what I was looking for.  This is straight ahead balls-out rock!  They don’t say Rawk With the Hawk! for nothing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it one more time— Virginia is topheavy with world class bands and musical artists.  They rival Texas (and that’s saying something!).  Charlottesville is a center of the musical universe and it doesn’t let up outside the confines of that fair city.  Folk, Americana, Rock & Roll, Rap, Hip Hop, Jazz— man, that state has it all.  Hard Rock Cafe?  Ha!  Hard Rock State here!

Look.  Why am I wasting my breath telling you about these guys?  You don’t have to read about Freedom Hawk.  You can watch their video of Stand BackClick here and be ready to be transported back to the Seventies when hard rock was finding its way.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page.  It’s waiting.  This is good stuff.  And the video is a killer, too (no pun intended).

Jon Gomm— A lesson learned?

You’ve never heard of Jon Gomm?  Well, you bloody hell will!  Of all of the artists fighting to break out of the white noise, Gomm is one of the few who will make that leap.  Has made it, actually.  After all of the attempts to turn people on to this amazing musician, it took one article in a major UK paper and Simon Cowell to do it, but Gomm is now on his way to being the next big thing.  I can see him cringe at that because he is not an overblown ego attempting to conquer the world.  He is a simple musician who finds himself sucked so far into the musical vortex that he could not find a way out if he wanted to.  He is fascinated by guitar and music.  He has been experimenting for years.  He is an adventurer!  Writers have been saying that for quite awhile now and yet few paid attention.

It will seem like it happened overnight, but it didn’t.  Gomm worked his ass off (and still does so as I type).  He, like so many others, struggled to gain respect, fought for every gig (so many of which drew so few) and clawed and scratched his way to where he is.

Where is he?  On the cutting edge, of course.  He displays an affinity for guitar like you can’t believe and has videos to prove it.  He records for himself but plays for the people.  I get the feeling that nothing thrills him more than turning a room of non-believers into fans (and that is just what he has been doing).  He even went to fans for help designing his new website (the old one evidently did not fit his vision), allowing them to call the shots.  Gotta love that sense of democracy.

I tried to tell people about Gomm but no one listened.  I said, hey, this guy is worth hearing, evidently to an empty room.  I mentioned him to friends and wrote a review which only relatives and a few friends read.  I’m proud of that review.  I got it right.

I contacted Gomm when I saw that he had pulled his songs from Spotify and wrote a segment of a column around that rejection.  It was worth writing about.  For Gomm, it was a matter of ethics.  Sometimes life can be so simple.

I laugh because I now know that all it takes is a “fuck you” to Simon Cowell and all people like him to get attention.  Okay, Gomm didn’t say “fuck you” to his face, but he might as well have.  In not so many words, Gomm simply said “my music is not for sale— not to the likes of you”.  Gomm didn’t do it for the fame.  He did it because that is who he is.  Simon Cowell embodies everything both of us hate about the music industry these days— greed, ego, pomposity, that basic Nazi attitude toward the arts.  Cowell survives and thrives on the backs of a public so easy to lead by the nose you no longer need nose rings.  I do think that he actually believes his shit doesn’t stink.  And he is an idol.  Mothers rank him right up there with Jobs and Gates.  *Shudder*  If you can’t see what is wrong with that picture, you must be blind (or heartless).

Those videos?  Start here.  If that doesn’t dent your head, there is no hope for you.  Be forewarned, though.  If you love guitar, it is that potato chip you can’t eat just one of.  If you love guitar, you’ll be hooked.

Notes…..    That Teen A-Go-Go DVD I have been talking about which chronicles Sixties’ Fort Worth Rock & Roll?  Producer Mark A. Nobles says it will be available for sale at retail outlets nationwide on March 13thWatch the trailer.  It’s classic stuff!…..  On a related note, you might also want to check out words of wisdom from musician and chronicler Lenny Kaye, who states that “For me, the teen scenes, in any form, big or small, is where it all begins”  He should know…..  If you haven’t heard me mention Sydney Wayser, you haven’t been listening.  Sydney won my support with her last album, the superb The Colorful, and has just completed a new album, Bell Choir Coast.  Normally, I wouldn’t plug a pledge drive but Sydney wants to go vinyl on the album and it ain’t cheap.  You can check her out and, if you want, pledge toward that album here.  If you haven’t heard her, do yourself a favor and take a listen…..  It seems forever ago that Bob Segarini was plugging the Internet station Radio That Doesn’t Suck in his columns and I have to admit that I heard a lot of under the radar artists there, but I have gone even deeper lately.  I have been tuning in to Scrub Radio and hearing the deepest of the Indies.  You have to pick your time slot carefully but when you find it, you will be bombarded with music you more than likely would miss, otherwise.  It may not be everything for everybody, but they’re trying hard.  Know what?  Internet radio sounds like a good subject for a future column.  Stay tuned…..  It’s no secret that I am backing Bright Giant and Research Turtles to the hilt.  They are without a doubt two of the best of the indie bands to come down the pike.  But lately I have been drawn to a Segarini favorite, Poor Young Things, who unfortunately (to my way of thinking) have major label connections.  Regardless, the music is there and a professionalism besides.  What they play would have been pure mainstream back in the early Seventies and it strikes a chord with me.  A minor, I think.  Take a listen to three tracks here and catch this video from what I have labeled The Stairwell Sessions…..  When I picked up on The Violet ArchersSunshine at Night album, I thought I had really found something, but I had no idea.  I have since stepped backward to their first and even better album, The End of Part One, which would be completely frying my brain except that I stepped even further back and am now swimming my way through a whole series of The Rheostatics albums.  Why didn’t someone point these guys out to me years and years ago?  Like Segarini says, “Gotta Have Pop…”…..  Speaking of pop, Shade‘s Jane Gowan just today posted a new video of False Start, a track from the fairly recent One Last Show of Hearts album.  Gowan is one of my favorites over the past years due to her pop sensibilities (she writes and sings in a pleasantly unique fashion, a thrill to hear in this age of autotune and studio-altered voices) and lack of pretension.  Shade‘s Highway is on my list of all-time pop classics.  Of course, you can hardly miss when you team up with ex-Rheostatics and Violet Archer, Tim Vesely.   If you like this video, check out their video of an alternate instrumental version of Peace of Mind which was included on Show of Hearts.  I can’t help but get the same vibe I got from Neil Young‘s The Emperor of Wyoming, though the songs are world’s apart….

Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

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Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

3 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: Sometimes You Gotta Bang Some Heads…..”

  1. Hey this is Amanda with Exfixia, I just read this article about our band. Thank you so much for your support and kind words. Hope to see you at one of our shows and be sure to say hi!!
    Best Regards,
    Amanda Sillas
    Vox/Keyboard for Exfixia

  2. […] he decided to pull his songs from Spotify.  I have yet to find someone who has said it better.  Read it here.  Scroll down.  It is toward the […]

  3. […] you don’t know who Gomm is, here is a link to a column which explains the whole Cowell thing (click here).  Anyway, here is what Gomm said when I contacted him about the reason behind pulling his music […]

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