The second episode of Metal Up Your Tap: Des Moines Chapter was this past Friday. It’s a pretty cool event, but it does get me thinking about what defines “metal” these days. The term seems to have gotten looser than it once was. For instance, recently the organizers seemed to be trying to get Fetal Pig to open next month’s episode being headlined by Nachtmystium. I guess Dan wasn’t into the idea. I’d have been up for it, but I’m up for a lot of crazy shit if it has to do with music. Also, by the way, kudos for snagging Nachtmystium.
Anyway there’s no disputing Druids’s doom/sludge metal cred once you hear them. I like that they switch it up with a few fast songs, which makes them more varied than the typical stonery outfit. They had a bassist this time, that was new. But welcome, since it opened things up for Luke to do more guitar solos. Some really good new songs in the set.
On second was The Mighty Acceleratör, from Ottumwa, and this is the second part of my point about the fluidity of the term “metal” these days. Acceleratör play a kind of 70s throwback riff-rock, intentionally exercising little or no Sabbath influence, with songs about drinking beer, ogling women, and driving trucks. I observed that the crowd thinned out slightly for their set, but only slightly, and the people in the place were not just respectful but actually pretty enthusiastic. Accelerator’s brand of hard rock is all fun and no bullshit, but is it metal? Well if metal fans are into it, why not? Certain metalheads will also staunchly proclaim their love of Aerosmith’s Rocks, or Rainbow, after all. Plus, Andy’s guitar tone does sound almost exactly like that on Napalm Death’s From Enslavement To Obliteration — or did, as since the show he’s purchased another amp. He also used to run one of the most extreme grindcore/noisecore labels around and brought along what’s left of his distro to the show. And, The Mighty Acceleratör’s ranks include the drummer of Grand Old Lady and A Well Dressed Man.
Heaving Mass, from Chicago, gave us a solid set of heavy head-nodding midtempo power-trio doom riffage reminiscent of Crowbar and a little bit of Sleep but also with a bit of that southern feel. This was definitely shaping up to be MUYT’s “doom edition.” They also have the flyest looking t-shirts I’ve ever seen offered at a $10 price point, a gorgeous multi-color design, and if you bought one you got their CD free.
Finally, Skin Of Earth was the big surprise to me. I’m told they’re local but had never heard of them before, but heard people tell me things like “last time I saw these guys it was eight years ago.” They brought their own lighting in the form of one low-wattage floor lamp, providing an ambience that transformed the Mews into a basement show. They played epic, crushing instrumentals with lots of apocalyptic atmosphere. I’m kind of a sucker for this type of thing. That whole supposed post-rock/metal hybrid that gets called “post-metal”, I guess, but I got the feeling these guys didn’t set out to start a “post-metal band” so much as they got together and started playing/writing and this is just what came out. Anyway I don’t know what kind of scene these guys play in but I want in on it.
I’m also long overdue to write a little something about the Joe Jack Talcum show. Zach was looking a little worse for the wear many days into a tour plagued with automotive breakdowns and injuries. He did a more rock-focused one-man Coolzey set with a lot of guitar including a couple nice blues-inflected numbers, and brought up a couple of his tourmates for his classic “Old Machine.” Dan B claimed he was tired too but you definitely couldn’t tell it from The Bassturd’s set. The Samuel Locke-Ward Lo-Fi Spectacular featured Jeff Mannix on guitar, Zach on bass (which I have to say, he can really play the hell out of!) and a drum machine.
Christopher The Conquered took the unorthodox route of performing in the Mews’s foyer on an upright piano, accompanied only by Kate Kennedy on saxophone. It was an unusually low-key and intimate performance for a CtC show but went over well with those who were around for it, having a very piano-bar vibe. I was worried however as it seemed like the crowd had thinned out a lot and I really wanted Joe Jack to have a good crowd to play for.
Fortunately, such a crowd appeared. I don’t know if they started filtering in from the DJ set just ending at the Mews’s outdoor “PBR Bar” or what, but suddenly there were a lot of people around rocking out to Joe Jack Talcum And The Powders. The Powders, made up of Sam Locke-Ward on keys, Grace Locke-Ward on drums, and Rachel Feldman on bass, make a darn fine backup band for both Joe Jack’s post-Dead Milkmen tunes and the Dead Milkmen covers sprinkled into the set, some requested by the audience. In response to one showgoer’s shouts for “Nutrition,” the band gave it an off-the-cuff shot having never played it before. If they messed it up any, none of the people shouting along seemed to mind.
After the main JJT/Powders set, Joe Jack stuck around onstage for two solo acoustic encores of requests of Dead Milkmen songs, and seemed to be having a good time. It was overall one of the more fun shows I’ve been to in a while.