Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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If you’re into inflammatory comments and scathing professional commentary, then an afternoon spent reading film reviews for the locally produced Gone the Way of Flesh will do your body good. Based on what I can tell, most critics think the film is poorly made, incoherent, and unwatchable schlock (though, in this writer’s eyes a little schlock never hurt anyone), but to get the whole picture of this little movie, we must first take a moment to learn about a band.

The band in question is a Pittsburgh based outfit going by the name of The Jason Martinko Revue (fronted, not surprisingly, by the multi-talented Jason Martinko), a band that takes classic ‘50s drive-in era rock and melds it with a swing/surf-punk sensibility to create a sound equally fresh and nostalgic. Formed in 1999, and performing (according to their website) “in countless seedy bars & roadhouses,” the band achieved a moderate level of success in 2003 when they released a self-titled album that had a modest number of sales. It was also around this time they came up with an extremely innovative way to promote their band: writing a movie.

That movie, of course, became Gone the Way of Flesh, a tale of a killer that was stalking women at rock concerts, kidnapping them, and visiting unspeakable tortures upon the groupies with a maniacal zest usually reserved for screen villains and Fox News correspondents. (Guess who portrayed the band in the film.)

Taken on its own, the film seemingly has plenty of faults, but when viewed as part of an inclusive multimedia experience, Gone the Way of Flesh takes on a truly engaging and fun perspective. (And it certainly has become such an experience: the band recently screened the movie at the Oaks Theatre in Oakmont, Pennsylvania—and immediately played a live set afterwards.)

gone-the-way-of-the-flesh3With the torture-oriented subgenre of horror becoming increasingly popular in recent years (think Saw or Hostel), and its audience growing larger and larger, the fact that Martinko and Co. tapped into this filmic subculture was ingenious, helping to push their music past the bar scene that can trap so many local bands. Not only that, the film itself has become something of a minor cult favorite, going so far as getting a glowing endorsement from the godfather of gore himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis.

“I thought I’d seen gory, irreverent, don’t-give-a-damn movies as far out as they could get. Wrong! That label now belongs to GONE THE WAY OF FLESH” – it’s right there on the DVD box. As far as the horror industry goes, it’s the seal of bloody approval.

Following the film’s 2007 release, the Jason Martinko Revue showed little sign of slowing down, releasing a new album, “Damaged Goods” (which, coincidentally, features a song titled “Gone the Way of Flesh”) and recently announced that their production company, the aptly named Cut’N’Run Productions, is already at work on creating a sequel, tentatively titled Gone the Way of Flesh II: Fresh Bloody Flesh.

martinko1So critics can say what they like, but when considering the innovative route the Jason Martinko Revue has taken in getting their music to the world, I can’t help but applaud their efforts. Whether they are getting screams from fans at their concerts or screams of terror in the theaters, I maintain that they are a bloody good time. 

jazz-creamLittle over an hour south of Cleveland in a small town called New Philadelphia, I stood witness to an awesome funkadelic assault on the senses, a musical melee delivered by mercenaries of sound who call themselves The Jazz Cream Assassins, and admittedly, fell victim to the groove.

Originating in Athens, Ohio, but touring healthily around the eastern Ohio/Youngstown area, the Jazz Cream Assassins are a jazz outfit that harkens back to the era of 70s-era funk fusion. Being a big fan of 70s and 80s exploitation cinema, I could not help but be reminded of some of the very best grooves from some of my favorite blaxploitation film scores when the Assassins got into the midst of their instrumental riffing, and that, in of itself, is perhaps one of the highest compliments I can pay a group of white guys playing within this genre.

Fronted by Zach Quillen (though, with the extreme talent possessed by each and every member of the outfit, it’s hard to imagine just one man out front), the band melds traditional jazz with vocal oriented tracks (that would be Quillen’s smooth voice you hear) to create a soundscape at once familiar to smoky bars and gin joints, but also shockingly fresh and new. The band truly excels when they are playing one of their original tunes, such as the unabashedly direct “Dance Bitch”, which encourages you to do just that, or the band’s ultra funky titular tune, “Jazz Cream”, which I considered to be a great highlight of the evening, as it certainly got the boys and girls alike out on the dance floor to shake it like no one was watching.

The band also showed their innovative skills when playing cover versions of songs such as Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”, turning a straight-forward acoustic folk hit into an extended jazz number, complete with instrumental solos and a rhythmic breakdown that took Stephen Stills & company’s classic protest song and turned it into a sweat inducing jam.

By this point in the review, I think it is clearly obvious that I cannot recommend the Jazz Cream Assassins enough, and if you can get to see them live (and you should, they seem to have dates lined-up from here until the end of the Mayan calendar), you will not be disappointed.

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For further information on the band, as well as several full length song samples, check them out on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/thejazzcreamassassins

March 25th, 2009
Michael Varrati

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The discreet charm of wandering blindly into a pub or bar that you have previously had zero experience with is that upon entering, you have no expectations. True, you’ll form an opinion soon, but for a brief few moments, the clientele, the atmosphere…it’s all alien to you, and for that moment, you truly get to discover a new culture, some foreign location that was as easy to enter as just walking off the street.

With this in mind, the same can be said about the bands that play such establishments, as local bands often do. If you just so happen to be in a bar where a band is setting up, and you haven’t heard them on MySpace or had them recommended to you by a friend, then basically you have no idea what to expect, which I believe, sometimes is the best way to experience music.

I mention this sense of blind discovery and seeming alien experience, because that’s exactly how I encountered Big with Seed Big with Seed. It was March 13, the Friday before St. Patrick’s Day, and I had not really made any plans to review a band that night, as I had visiting friends to entertain, but it just so happens that a band found me, so to speak.

l_79bac835a2255ea0bb84b88ec1175370Wandering into the Spice Café in Oakland (a cozy little joint situated directly underneath India Garden, a delicious restaurant for those so inclined), the band had not yet begun, but were setting up as we ordered our first round of drinks. I had a sense they’d be cool, as the guy who I eventually learned was their lead vocalist (Adam Rossi) was wearing a Hunter S. Thompson t-shirt, and I believe someone who digs the good gonzo doctor can’t be all bad, but I still had no idea what to expect.

Shortly thereafter, the band kicked into their first number, which was a twangy, country inspired deal that I have to admit did little for me, and I was beginning to fear Hunter S. Thompson or not, that I was going to be disappointed. But, if any band should not be judged by their opening number, it is Big with Seed. Once the band got rolling, they kicked out an impressive set of cross-genre tunes, and I’d be amiss if I didn’t take a moment to point out that their guitarist, Scott Delledonne, plays some of the grooviest southern fried blues licks I have heard in an intimate setting in ages.

On their webpage, Big with Seed identifies itself as a “Rock & Soul” band, and I could not agree more. With solid instrumentation and vocals, the band manages to maneuver quite skillfully between blues, the aforementioned southern rock, light funk, and the occasional out and out jam. I thoroughly enjoyed their performance, and while their covers of some modern blues rockers such as the Black Crowes’ “Hard To Handle” (originally recorded by Ottis Redding) did not fall flat, the band was at their best when they were cutting loose doing their own music and their own thing. I particularly enjoy their honky-tonk inspired “Desire and Destiny”, which you can hear if you zip on over to their MySpace page, as well as a few other tracks.

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Based on my research, this Pittsburgh based band is currently unsigned, but have a few feathers in their cap, including steady local airplay on stations like WDVE, among others, and their track “Need to be Freed” was included on a 2005 Emerging Artist collection that was produced by Hometown Records and Overthrown Records.

While their style may not suit everyone’s tastes, to be sure, if you can check yourself at the door and appreciate a night of good old-fashioned bar music and a groovy jam, then Big with Seed are worth checking out, especially if you just happened to wander in off the street. 



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