(title screen from Needlecraft’s eponymous NES-style video game)
Though I was born early enough to spend my elementary school years in the midst of classic Nintendo fever, my parents were never the kind to buy their children a console. They assumed that having a computer in the house would foster a more “educational” gaming experience and I was left playingthe original Oregon Trail and most of the Carmen Sandiego series, only later filling them with terror as their son discovered Doom, Warcraft, and Wolfenstein. At least I was killing virtual Nazis?
All my Mario, Tetris, and Megaman needs were met elsewhere, usually with friends who had “cooler” parents and the kind of allowances large enough to amass vast libraries of cartridges. No matter how often I complained, we never got a system. Not even to play that stupid Domino’s Pizza game. (It’s kinda funny to me now considering my mom bought a Wii a few years ago specifically to do yoga with and my dad promptly bought a ton of first-person shooters…oh well.)
Twenty years after those console-less days enter local programming wunderkind Brian Thomas and garage-y-surf-divas Needlecraft. Together they’ve built a game roughly based on the classic NES platform jumper Bubble Bobble and packaged it with every copy of their debut LP (available via Wantage USA). I’ve been spending the last few days trying to beat the thing. Either it’s a lot harder than I expected or I just really, really suck at games like these. Probably a little of both.
(me, playing as Mikki, avoiding death from that stupid rocket ship)
If you’re familiar with Bubble Bobble, the gameplay is pretty much the same. You take the form of Needlecraft’s Mikki Lunda (or if in 2 player mode, drummer Hana MT as well) and you jump around, “shouting” bubbles at a bunch of dog-themed enemies. The bubbles then capture said enemies and it’s your job to bounce them off the screen. As you progress the enemies become more numerous and harder to defeat and yeah…that’s pretty much what happens in a game like this. The big difference is the fact that this is based around a band. A local band, no less, and the basic story is that the Dogmen from Outer Space have captured all of Needlecraft’s hunks, forcing Mikki and Hana to struggle through nearly 100 levels of angry canines to finally free their man-meat. I’ve only been able to reach level 8.
In case you were wondering, you don’t need an old system to play this thing. The game comes as what’s usually referred to as a ROM file, useable by a ton of classic Nintendo emulators available (mostly for free) for all sorts of modern video game systems. I’ve been playing Needlecraft on my computer. And still it’s only level 8.
Anyways, if you’ve ever played Bubble Bobble, you probably know what to expect. Every level presents different enemies and yet another challenge in the kind of mind-numbing-yet-addicting repetitiveness early Nintendo was known for. I still haven’t gotten to the final screen but from what I’ve heard from the band themselves, it consists of hunks dropping from the ceiling, cheering, and a fair amount of making out. If I’d grown up playing these things I’d probably be killing it right now. Eh. No matter.
(Hana & Mikki & a boxed wine of Needlecraft, photo credit unknown)
As with many shows I end up working door for, my ability to actually “hear” any of the bands clearly is pretty nil. This was again the case last Saturday when Gidget-worshipers Needlecraft returned from hiatus and finally released their debut LP (with help from patrons Wantage USA).
If you weren’t there then you obviously have no idea how dangerous it is to let a pack of hunks get their hands on a full bottle of baby oil, or how hilarious tropical drinks can be, or how absolutely killer it is to overhear so many different people talking about how they can’t wait to run up and buy one of Needlecraft’s LPs. Local love, dudes. In my estimation, these divas have only just gotten going. Their current lineup is the best live version of Needlecraft I’ve seen, and they are undoubtedly the only Missoula band to have released a video game. Seriously. They also released a video game. Though we haven’t gotten around to reviewing the LP, I plan on at least reviewing the game. Look for that.
Like I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t see or hear as much as I’d like to but from what I could ascertain, J. Sherri is only getting better with this weirdo take on 90’s R&B, Bad Naked is as polarizing as ever (the sound guy walked outside and muttered how awful it was to me…I laughed), Oll Breds obviously don’t need to practice forever and they’ll still be a good band.
What I could see were a ton of beach babes and hunks and punks and nearly everything in between. If I had my way I’d have filled the bar with sand and replaced the pool table with a hot tub.
Weird Missoula unceremoniously “celebrated” its one-year anniversary some time in mid October. While our update and review schedule has been spotty (at best), we’d like to reiterate that hey, we’re still here and we like to like things that we think are WEIRD and have anything to do with Missoula’s sometimes chaotic cultural landscape. I think in 2013 we’re gonna try to expand our reach a little. Maybe just post more. I dunno.
Missoula had a pretty amazing 2012 in terms of Culture. That’s a capital “C,” see? Here’s some of the local shizz we enjoyed and our stupid reminiscences:
1. Black Bananas @ The Palace Lounge: Dude. You just can’t fuck with Jennifer Herrema. She is the template for all damaged-genius-rock-goddesses since maybe Janis or (if you’re into that sort of thing) Wendy-O. She’s done a killer act where she’s combined the aesthetics of both G n’ R and Zapp & Roger into something wholly unique and that forces one to ask the question: how many people A) could’ve done that and B) would’ve thought of such a stupid cocktail in the first place? Answer: not many. Especially former Calvin Klein models and musicians with their own line of Volcom jeans. Yeah. Are you serious, Wendy?
2. VFW Thursday Night Residencies: This was (other primary contributor) Colin Johnson’s idea. I (Tom) fleshed it out and booked 70% of ‘em, and Shawna (of the VFW) booked the rest and helped make the whole thing viable. Colin and myself noticed that Residency nights in a number of other bars in Minneapolis made for some really interesting and eclectic shows. Seems like Missoula answered in kind because dude, there’s been some great weird shit happening down there every Thursday. Ideally I wanted this to be your anti-Dead Hipster night. No DJs. No under-25 meat market. All local bands. (Almost) Anything goes. It’s kinda worked out that way. The realities of business change everything (obviously) but we think the spirit of these nights has survived despite the annoying-yet-realistic cover charges. Come hang. These are still really fun.
3. Mac Demarco @ The Ole Beck VFW Post #209: Who knew? We love his records (see future posts) but it was probably seeing this show at the VFW earlier this year that we finally fell in love with this Canadian buck-toothed chanteuse. It was divine. Simple songs played simply and delivered with a healthy dose of dark humor. The dude doesn’t take himself seriously. Serious artists shouldn’t. Best thing the VFW’s hosted all year.
4. Dunes @ Zoo City Apparel: Second coming of Echo & The Bunnymen. Or maybe the Cocteau Twins. Wantage did a killer job here, setting these cats up at Zoo City Apparel and letting aging bores like myself make these comparisons. The singer-lady was super nice and self-deprecating in the most charming way possible. We wish we could’ve just taken her home and hugged her like a panda.
5. Better Tennis (seen around and in general): We’ve seen Riley Flynn bumming around in a ton of different bands/projects since we first moved here. Magic City Boys were pretty good. Was he part of Turner Capeheart Canty’s backing band at one point? Don’t really remember. Oh well. Mr. Flynn unleashed two “groups” that we imagine started as recording projects in 2012. One was his take on the GARAGE ROCK CRAZE OF ‘12 called Germ Hunk. It ruled. Second came this fucked interpretation of electronic pop music called Better Tennis. Even better. I’ve rarely heard someone use Abelton Live so artfully. It’s really difficult getting up there with a laptop and being serious about it. The Tennis does it better than any we’ve seen in town. Killer job, dude.
6. Modality’s rather unique discovery of an unknowingly rapt audience and the capturing thereof: Missoula, you have no idea how lucky you are to have a band like Modality (or Better Tennis, for that matter). 2012 was the year where I think you started to realize this. Modality’s LP and it’s release remain one of my favorite local music events in recent history. They play that kind of music we know could bridge the gap between hippies, jazz dudes, prog dudes, black metal dudes, true noise warriors, and the like. Mountain Krautrock does that. It’s rootsy even if it feels that German.
7. Total Fest: Once again Total Fest expanded, drew loud-loving fellow-travelers from around the region, and turned Missoula into the town I wish it always was for one memorable weekend in August. This is my x-mas. Though I had to work through more of it this year than the previous two, I managed to catch an incendiary Dan Deacon, the tails-end of Torche, a tattoo-flavored Brain Tumors, and one frustratingly creepy night at The Lab. All in all, I think I can still live punk even if I am nearly thirty.
8. Cheap Time @ The Badlander: Built a time machine and stole the 1970s.
9. Actually leaving my twenties with the exact opposite of ennui: I left a big(ger) city about three years ago where there was something awesome happening almost every night. There were more people, more bands, a wider array of styles and micro-scenes and venues and etc. etc. etc. Whatever. I live in Missoula now and if anything, I feel more at home here than I’ve ever been. I’ve attempted to carve a little hole for myself and to some extent, I think that’s been successful. Weird Missoula has been my baby since the beginning, I’ve wanted nothing more than to give the weirdos, noise dudes, art-student-musicians, misguided-assholes, and general ephemera a place where they could be welcomed and loved. Weird is not Jam Band Missoula. Or Dub Step Missoula. Weird is this stupid blog I write because I’m more stimulated by daily life in Missoula than I’ve ever been.
10. The Punkest Town In The West: Fuck California.
(Josh holding what looks like a living, breathing creature)
Dr. Vanek needs little introduction if you’re familiar in any way with Missoula’s amorphous underground music scene(s). He’s kicking off our series of Best Of 2012 posts by some handpicked local luminaries. Here he goes:
Oldest —S/T (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia) Mick Barr from Orthrelm, Krallice etc. and Brooks from Universal Order of Armageddon play mind-fucking technical skree with song names like Survivalist Compounds.
Multicult —Spaces Tangled (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia) Flawless noise rock from Baltimore, with clanky, cold tones and lots of err, post whatever angst. I kept thinking about that Steel Pole Bath Tub side project Milk Cult when I saw their name, but it’s nothing like that.
Slug Guts —Playing In Time With the Deadbeat (Sacred Bones). Sorta Birthday Party worship, done super well by this Brisbane degenerate outfit. Lots of sunken cheeks and scoliosis here.
Diat —7” (Iron Lung) The Iron Lung and Sleeping Giant Glossalalia labels delivered a ton of excellence this year. Both are diverse, and give hope that the idea of a label, as I grew up knowing it can continue and really thrive. Diat, however, are Australians, living in Berlin, making music that sounds like a faster Warsaw. Good as hell.
Total Control —Henge Beat (Iron Lung) A 2011 release, but I got into it last year, and this ain’t fuckin’ Rolling Stone, bro. This record twisted my cap around. Cold, fast new wave punk from Australia.
Nu Sensae —Sundowning Something I’d read a fair amount on the internet, then Dane got it on the playlist at KBGA. It’s a ripper, in the way western canadians can rip. A little bit of the same vibe I loved with Pygmy Shrews. Savage drummer, great singing, rad riffs. I’m hooked.
Vaz —Chartreuse Bull (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia) This might have been on my 2011 list, or maybe I forgot it, but it did come out in 2011. It gives me hope that there might continue to be good, thoughtful, weird loud music into the future. It’s noisy, mathy, bleak, futuristic and rocking, all in one album. Their best since Demonstrations in Micronesia.
Thee Oh Sees —Putrefiers (In the Red) Another great, and not quite as samey as some of the past ones have been, though I dig it all. Has the dude form Mayyors on the recording end of things.
L.U.N.A.R. Revolt —Mind Losers (No Man) The party punk bros from Philly get sci-fi, and continue to rampage.
Brain Tumors —S/T (Deadbeat): Fuuuuuuuck! Confront of distort! So great.
Gay Witch Abortion —Opportunistic Smokescreen Behavior (Learning Curve) this Minneapolis band is so firmly planted in the 90s, and err, I know that’s kind of the thing to say, but from song tiltles like Cult Chimaera and err Hornet Japonica to their crusty rayon Dickies, they look like a couple of Cows roadies who stepped into a timewarp. This record makes me think of a Rick Simms (from the Didjits) song name generator. This is their third record, and while I like the first two fine, this is the real deal. Lots of thought/time put into these jams. Noise rock gemstone.
Moredecai —7” (Wantage) This band’s output has got a way of just aging well. Like Bordeaux or something. Always something kind of refreshingly rough and weird about it. I’ve spent a lot of time replaying the Killertree record this year too, and that thing, let me tell you, always something new to like about that thing.
Dead —Idiots (We Empty Rooms) Vinyl’s just arriving in Australia, I guess, but I’ve got the MP3s and they are radical. Noisy, nomeansno-style riffs and great pounding. Stoked to get a full-on vinyl version.
Late discovery: The Consumers (late 70s Phoenix band re-issued by In The Red).
Milk Music: Sounding like the Grateful Dead and Meat Puppets at the VFW, playing to about 15 people after getting written up in the New York Times Total Fest bands: Buildings, White Walls, Criminal Code, Walls, Harkonen, Lozen, Dream Decay, lots of groups. Mordecai: 7” release show at the VFW. They covered Neil Young savagely. Monster w/ 21 Faces, My Two Dads, Mike Watt and the Missing Men, Thee Oh Sees, Skin Flowers at the ZACC Block Party. Magpies (Lots of shows). VTO (Jester’s in Helena). Birds Mile Home opening for Tragedy. Tragedy. Needlecraft (lots of shows). Dan Deacon at Total Fest.
Now that Total Fest, Dunes, Mac DeMarco, Nude Beach, Maria Minerva, and plenty more shows-we-totally-endorsed have come and gone, are you asking yourself the question, “What can I possibly look forward to now that summer is over and everything’s gonna get all cold but right now we’ve been covered by this stupid smoke-haze and all I want to do is just die, can I just die now?” Good question. Don’t worry, there’s some good stuff coming our way!
For instance, the very first week of October is going to blow your fucking mind. Big ups to some of our two favorite local promoters-slash-record-labels: Minor Bird and Wantage USA! Minor Bird is pulling in lauded former-Minuteman Mike Watt to Zoo City Apparel on Monday, October 1st and Wantage is the brain(s) behind the Thee Oh Sees (pictured above) and Sic Alps show at Zoo City Apparel on Tuesday, October 2nd. HOLY JESUS FUCK. I dunno if anybody remembers the last time Thee Oh Sees played the BSMT but dude…is it even possible to “sell out” the BSMT? They kinda did. Success!
These are both Top Serious Shows we heartily endorse against all comers. Besides, Zoo City Apparel rules. It may not be a bar, yeah, but whatever. Fun is not the exclusive providence of bars.
Here’s the relevant info:
On Monday,October 1st:Mike Watt & The Missing Men and Bird’s Mile Home play at Zoo City Apparel. Doors at 8PM. Show at 9PM. Advance tickets are $10 at Ear Candy Music. $13 on the day-of-the-show. All Ages.
On Tuesday, October 2nd: Thee Oh Sees, Sic Alps, Needlecraft, and Shahs play at Zoo City Apparel. Doors at 8PM. Show at 9PM. Advance tickets are $7 at Ear Candy Music. $10 on the day-of-the-show. All Ages.
Did you know that Total Fest XI is happening this summer August 16th-18th? Did you know that? It is, in our estimation, the best music festival in the region. We could really care less for your Sasquatches, Bonnaroos, or LYMEs…TF is what we live for every year. The Total Blog has finally awakened from its 10 month hibernation and updates are popping up nearly every day. Check there often if you’re interested in the weird, the punk, the loud, i.e. the kind of murk Total Fest regularly wallows in.
Leave it to the fine folks at Wantage USA to release Missoula’s only deconstructo swarmbot single-of-the-year. Mordecai’s Waste/Drag Down 7” gnashes teeth like this town’s teeth have never been gnashed before. If you’re the kind of person that enjoys ripping apart speaker cones just because it makes even the most mellow tune sound like melted tape-skeez, you’d be want to enjoy this. We’ve only got one Mordecai, folks, and lord knows we’ll always need them like any sane being needs pizza.
Boring adage: it takes a village to build a yadda yadda yadda. It does take a lot of people to build any kind of “scene” and believe me, Weird Missoula is definitely not the only house-of-opinions out there. We’ve been pretty particular about the kind of stuff we’ve covered lately and we just want all our friends to know that there are some other great places on the INTERNET to check on sweet Missoula happenings/news/etc.
First off, Missoula Punk News is a relatively recent enterprise, run by the illustrious Lady Kate. As you could probably tell by the name it’s primarily got a punk focus, but due to the fact that it’s a blog based on Wordpress and not the clunky annoyingness that Tumblr can be (ugh, we’ve regretted starting this blog on Tumblr time and time again)…they’ve got some neat features we’ll probably never figure out how to implement. First off, they’ve got a show calendar. We want one too but man…either we’re internet idiots or Tumblr just sucks. Secondly, they’re organized into reviews, band profiles, show reviews, etc. It’s pretty awesome. Check them out. Like us, they offer an opportunity for folks to submit articles and I think they’re off to a fantastic start.
Total Fest’s blog arm, Total Blog, is one of those sites that gets active for only a few months of the year but when it does, it’s the best place to stay up-to-date regarding what is easily Missoula’s greatest music get together and the only festival I’ve ever actually enjoyed. Total Fest is soon approaching (Aug. 16-18 this year) and their blog will soon get active with the band announcements and any relevant news.
In addition to having a “proper” label website, Minor Bird Records also has a blog. They’ve put out some great records by local punk dudes Bird’s Mile Home, Goddammitboyhowdy, and Squalora, as well as other releases by Tacocat and The Trashies. Like Wantage and Killertree, they’re one of a small family of great Missoula-based record labels. Check ‘em out.
We hope we didn’t forget anyone. If we did, we’re dreadfully sorry. Any mistakes are products of our ignorance and nothing more. We just want y’all to know we’re one voice among the choir that make up Missoula’s admittedly vibrant music culture. Never forget that!
Josk Vanek, local medicine man behind Wantage, KBGA’s Ultra-Mega Ultra Blast, and the venerable Total Fest, is fucking pumped. But he might really be dying for a Pepsi. No matter the reason, Mr. Vanek is a man full of ‘em. Cringe no more, Missoula, your answer to a weird Wednesday eve is probably located somewhere below:
10) Their (the Blind Shake) album Seriousness, released last by Learning Curve shows an already great band taking their stuff a step further, getting weirder, writing more austere riffs and making less sense lyrically. Odd endorsement? Maybe, but listen to their records in succession sometime, it’s the sound of musical ideas taking form and turning into a unique voice. What’s all that add up to? Dunno, but it’s such solidly great, creeping rock and roll and folks like Poison Ivy, Link Wray and ….somebody younger, like uh, I don’t know, Duane Denison maybe all get nods.
9) The Blind Shake are power trio. Like you know, the Minutemen, the Experience, Blue Cheer, James Gang, Motörhead. Sometimes three is better than four.
8) Needlecraft is playing the show. Unfamiliar with Mikki Lunda’s and Hana Montana’s new band? It’s nutsily catchy, ‘60s pop. Jangly, melodic and fun as shit. I always think of Sasshole’s sense of humor when I see them.
7) Loud, aggressive, but not macho. Talking about the Blind Shake here. In a music world of men making clutching symbols to the heavens and dropping their drop Ds even lower and their Marshalls even 11er, the Blind Shake just come off as kind of dorkily serious (w. Members Only jackets with duct tape Masonic symbols), super well-rehearsed band with a fresh set of ideas, great stage presence and cheaply priced records. Dane thinks they’re straight edge because of the Bic’d heads. I’m pretty sure they’re not.
6) The Monster With 21 Faces is playing. This is Bryan Ramirez, P.J. Rogalski and Holt Bodish’s new group. Kind of a power-psych vibe. I saw ‘em at Modality’s VFW residency and they ruled. Covered 13th Floor Elevators too.
5) Brothers. (Blind Shake again) Speaking from experience, being a brother isn’t always an easy deal. Consider being in a band with a dude who shares what, half your DNA? Or more right?
4) Magpies are playing! Dave Martens, in addition to playing 11 other bands, drums for the Magpies. He’s a savage on the kit, and the Magpies trade off the dude/lady vocals in a Fred and Toody-esque way when they’re at their best.
3) Zoo City’s a fun place for a show. The VFW’s excellent. The Palace is great. The Top Hat rules. Missoula’s got some options again, and for that we thank Jah. Zoo City Apparel’s kind of our town’s DIY, low-overhead, collectively run deal that seems to work well for shows like this.
2) Javier Ryan’s playing! One man, some wild synths, some pop, some melody, some hooks, some soul. Stoked.
1) The Blind Shake are regular collaborators with Michael Yonkers, whose epically forgotten then un-earthed Microminiature Love is an insane, awesome psychedelic gem of record, as all his records are great, but I think it’s the first and in some ways, best. They regularly record great new stuff. Someday, they’re gonna bring him out for a show. Someday.