Comfest 2010

This past weekend we celebrated the Columbus Community Festival (affectionately known as Comfest) once again.  3 days of music, food, merchandise, crafts & workshops and political/environmental discussion.  Plus the only time the statue of Lincoln Goodale, for whom the host park was named, sports a more ‘casual’ look (picture borrowed from ‘Chrisrockshard’ on Flickr is from 2009 but it was the same this year).

In addition to seeing tons of friends, volunteering my services in security (THAT’S a whole story unto itself) and just soaking up the vibe that is Comfest, I saw some tremendous talent – reminding me that despite what the rest of the world may think, Columbus truly is brimming with excellent bands from various styles of music.  I will review several of these in separate posts, but here’s a thumbnail overview;

Josh Krajcik – multi-talented vocalist/instrumentalist is one of the most natural performers you’ll ever see.  A voice that crosses Michael Bolton with Joe Cocker accompanied by guitar work reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughan.  I can’t say enough about him or his band except that the record industry needs to wake up & promote this guy.

Dexter Wesley & The New Experience – One of the best Jimi Hendrix tribute bands I’ve ever seen (ok, I’ve only really seen like 3, but he was better than the other two).  Looked like Jimi, sounded like Jimi, played enough like Jimi to pass my muster.  Dexter hooked me up with a demo disc after-wards which I’ll review in it’s own post.  What an entertaining & talented band!

Locusta – The ONLY metal band this year but that’s ok – they represented!  Bludgeoning death metal, technically perfected and assaulting the senses like a rapid-fire sonic machine gun.  Yeah, their CD will be getting it’s own post here as well.  Paraphrasing the emcee who came onstage after the band was finished says it all – “I’ve seen Celtic Frost, I’ve seen Venom, I’ve seen Morbid Angel.  Ladies & Gentleman – what you just witnessed was right up there with those bands.  You’re privileged to have seen this one”.   Standing in the crowd, I can vouch that we were ALL blown away.  Truly Epic.

Willie Phoenix – Headlining Sunday night was legendary Columbus rocker (and someone of whom I’m a big fan) Willie Phoenix.  You’ve heard me rave about him before, but Willie KNOWS how to put on a show.  Mesmerizing the crowd with his soulful vocals, his blues-driven fretmanship and his totally off the wall stage antics.  No wonder one local paper ran an article a few weeks ago imploring the Comfest committee to return Willie to his former glory of headlining Saturday night’s main stage.  Hey, from what I saw – it might as well have been Saturday.

So many other acts I could rave about; Phantods, Lydia Loveless, The Floorwalkers, The Spikedrivers, Andy Shaw band, the list just goes on and on.  If you live near Columbus, please support these bands!  If you don’t, find them on Myspace, on Facebook, on Youtube WHEREVER.

Like Brigadoon, Comfest is just a vanished village now.  But as in every year, I’m glad I spent a hazy, crazy weekend in Goodale park – with the statue of the good doctor and 70,000 of his closest friends.

Music Review: Ozzy Osbourne – Scream

The first new Ozzy in 3 years comes out tomorrow (June 22) so thought I’d weigh in on ‘Scream’. Let me start with a little background. . .

This is the first album since 1988’s “No Rest For The Wicked” that doesn’t have Zakk Wylde on guitar & there was plenty of conjecture in the media on how this would impact the Ozzman’s future sound. Wylde’s replacement is one Gus G. (Dream Evil, Firewind) who unfortunately came in AFTER the songwriting process so we still don’t really get a feel for what kind of chemistry he & Ozzy will have.

Also missing is former Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin, who’s been replaced by veteran stickmeister Tommy Clufetos (Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, Rob Zombie).  Think Rob Zombie’s getting tired of Ozzy hijacking his band members yet?  Zombie lost bassist Blasko to Ozzy for ‘Black Rain’ and was rumored to be in danger of losing guitarist John 5 before it was announced that Gus got the job.   C’mon Ozzy, recruit your own guys – mmmk?

Anyhow, like ‘Black Rain’,  music writing duties were shared with producer Kevin Churko and on occasion keyboardist Adam Wakeman.  Churko’s son Kane even gets into the act for one song – ‘Crucify’, which unfortunately is one of the weakest on the disc, in my opinion.

Overall this is a dark album – yeah, even for Ozzy.  Where his earlier works were almost as satirical as they were macabre,  ‘Scream’ is more like a collaboration between Ozzy & Marilyn Manson; brooding & heavy, touching on cynical religious views instead of ‘save the world’ soliloquies, it pretty much punches you in the face, let’s you catch your breath, then bitch slaps you for good measure.  I read somewhere that Ozzy likens the album to his Black Sabbath days, and really  – I can hear that.  It’s MUCH heavier than Sabbath, but it definitely echos some ‘Children of the Grave’ goodness in songs like ‘Diggin’ Me Down’ or ‘Let It Die’ (both of which could’ve been singles except for their 6 minute run-times).

What I don’t think is that this is as formula Ozzy as perhaps we’ve seen in the past; maybe it’s the world class talent supporting him but the songs aren’t as predictable this go round, you’re never quite sure of where things are headed.   Sure, there’s the obligatory ballads (the mediocre ‘Life Won’t Wait’ and the radio-friendly ‘Time’) but other songs are so bombastic, so full of crunch, you’ll find yourself staring at the speakers with a big ‘WTF’ on your face.  The intro to ‘Fearless’ made me think I’d hit the wrong band in my player, for example!

I’m sure there will be plenty of nay-sayers but honestly, I like the new stuff – better than Black Rain & frankly, better than the last few albums.  While I don’t think there’s another ‘Crazy Train’ or ‘No More Tears’ on this disc, there’s plenty of songs worth listening to more than a few times – songs that will translate well to a live performance even if they’re not as mainstream accessible.

In my opinion, Ozzy’s still going strong, adapting his sound & lyrics to remain relevant without becoming cliche.  I think the new blood is revitalizing his work & I look forward to hearing more ‘true’ collaboration between himself & Gus.

Welcome back, yon Prince of Darkness!  We’ve missed you!!

Coming To Skatopia

Whatcha  doin’ Saturday, June 26th?  If you’re me, you’re butt deep in hippies at Columbus’ Comfest, chugging beers and watching local acts on 5 stages.

HOWEVER, if you’re not me (as most of you aren’t) AND you are within driving/flying/teleporting distance of Rutland Ohio (in scenic & fragrant Meigs County), you could catch a show most awesome.  Check it – an assload of bands will be playing at Skatopia including the mighty GWAR – say it with me now – GWAR!, as well as Green JELLO, Psychostick and the legendary Murphy’s Law.  Go HERE for a complete band listing & other sordid details of the affair.  NOTE: Psychostick is playing during the Green Jello set – so if you caught the Parental Advisory tour, this is likely to be a different & instantly memorable event.

And thanks to The J, self proclaimed Guitar Ninja for Psychostick, for letting me know the skinny on the whole deal so I could share it with you meat sacks.  Sadly I’m already committed or I would gladly make the sojourn to see that line-up!  So I leave it up to you, my crazed minions, to infest the event & report back properly on the wanton destruction that ensues.

In that spirit, here’s the karaoke version of ‘Two Ton Paperweight’ by Psychostick.  Enjoy!

Music Review: Krokus – Hoodoo

After 20 years, the original line-up of Krokus have reunited and brought forth a new release – Hoodoo.  Fans of the world rejoice!

That pretty much sums up the new body of work in my opinion; if you like Krokus & are a fan of classics like “Screaming in the Night” or “Midnight Maniac”, you will be absolutely thrilled to hear fresh material that showcases their somewhat derivative brand of blues-inspired rock n’ roll.  If you found them to be a tad formulaic, then this may not be such a blessing for you.

First, and most amazingly, the band sounds great!  Vocalist Marc Storace has apparently had his vocal chords in cryonics for the past 20 as he sounds identical to how he did in the 80’s.  Guitarists Mark Kohler & Fernando von Arb (LOVE that guy’s name) still have the chops despite a deficiency of fret-burning in this release.  Especially interesting is the band’s cover of the Steppenwolf staple “Born To Be Wild” – still prefer the original, sorry guys.  Other notable tracks are “Hoodoo Woman”, the AC/DC-ish “Rock ‘N’ Roll Handshake” , the very singable “Too Hot” & my fav of the disc – “Ride Into The Sun” (which could almost pass as a sequel of sorts to ‘Screaming in the Night’).

In fact my biggest complaint with ‘Hoodoo’ is just that there’s no new instant classic track to rival some of the band’s earlier works.   Not that this is a terrible thing but it doesn’t help with a reputation as “The World’s Greatest OPENING Act” due to a shortage of headlining gigs in the good ole’ US.  Doubtful this release will remedy that situation but here’s my wish; they get back into the swing of recording/touring together & then release a follow-up that’s more up-tempo, aggressive and lets the six strings run free.

If that happens – i’ll be a believer that Krokus does in fact still possess the ‘Hoodoo’.  As it is, the potential is there, I just need them to blow the dust off their speakers.  Make it so boys!