For old guys like me, the resurgence of vinyl albums is a nice change.
There is something tactile and honest about interacting with a record – taking it out of the sleeve, placing it on the turntable, and dropping the needle. I have this partnership with many records – some which I’ve owned for 40 years or more. The act of “putting on a record” is truly different from playing an MP3 on a device – because listening from turntable forces a person to slow down and savor the music differently, rather than just having a sound filling headphones or car speakers.
The experience would compare to seeing a photo of the most amazing cheeseburger in the world, and EATING the most amazing cheeseburger in the world.
In an era when digital anything reigns supreme, a record album augments the relationship you can have with your favorite music in a simple tactile way.
That’s why I was so excited to hear that Hobosexual, Thunders Of Wrath and Dirty Rugs were teaming up for a Vinyl Release Event at the Alma Mater in Tacoma on 9 November! This was a venue I’d never visited before so I was interested to see it first hand. The South Sound is coming into its own for music and venues, so it’s nice to see places where people can play regularly.
Tucked in the back of the building was a full-on music hall – complete with bar and fantastic lighting.
The stage was roughly four feet above the ample floor space and was rimmed with angled panels that not only looked terrific but also helped with sound delivery. Before the show, I got to catch up with Mason Flippin – bassist for Thunders Of Wrath – and his sidekick One-Eyed Sal (Sally Cardone).
“It’s been a long road to this show,” Mason told me. “The Tacoma scene wasn’t anything like it is now, back when we started. We always felt like the underdogs. But lately, things have finally turned in our favor. We’ve had a busy year, with Hempfest, the record, this show, and later on we’ll be on KISW’s Loud & Local December 16th. 2018 feels like a new beginning in some ways.”
The Thunders Of Wrath genre mixes many influences – Stoner, Metal, Blues, 70s Rock – and blends them with the band members’ love for sci-fi and psychedelic culture. “We’re all storytellers,” Mason continued. “These are songs of adventure and freedom, and we want to share our music a certain way. Detail takes time. The journey has been worth the effort. We love the record, and we’re pretty proud of it. It’s good to be where we’re at, right here and right now.”
Their album was pressed to a limited 500 copies and was available for sale at the show. “We pressed it in heavy 180-gram vinyl,” Mason said. “It’s analog – end to end.” The band produced a video for their song “Danger Dank” on their own, in part using the drummer’s Trans Am and the band’s van as props. “I got to play a whole line of clones in the video,” Sal said smiling.
The music and the magic couldn’t wait any longer!
Dirty Rugs launched the show that night, with their catchy mix of hooks and flair. The band consists of Cody Plaiss on Lead Vocals & Guitar, Josh Phelps on Guitar & Backing Vocals, Cody DeCant on Bass, Ben Phelpson on Drums & Backing Vocals.
Their sound is fun, fast, loud and bouncy. Ben’s drumbeat doles out surprises throughout the songs. Guitars are fuzzy – as they should be – and vocals are well pronounced and understandable.
Everything you’d expect from a band that names Motorhead AND The Pixies as influential!
Cody Plaiss was happy to share with me about the show a couple days later.
“We felt good about the set we played,” he said. “We’ve been practicing a lot and had some new songs to share. It was a good feeling getting those out there. Fawcett Hall was amazing and the crowd was big so it made it easy to ‘get into it’ as they say.”
That night offered a little new and old for Dirty Rugs. “We’ve never played with Thunders of Wrath but we have been fortunate enough to have played with Hobosexual before. Those guys are awesome and among one of the best NW bands around. We were thrilled to have been asked to be part of this show, and thankful both bands had us on board!”
The band’s influences certainly tempered their sound into something unique and catchy.
“It’s true,” Cody said. “We have a wide range of influences. Led Zeppelin, Motörhead, The Pixies, lots of punk…my personal favorite is Kings of Leon’s first 2 albums. Tom Petty…etc. We like to have lots of hooks and try to blend our favorite parts of hard rock, punk, and pop rock efficiently.”
The Dirty Rugs’ set was the perfect door opener for Thunders Of Wrath, who unleashed their stoner rock sound on the crowd around 10pm.
Along with Mason, the band includes Thomas Vekakis on Vocals, Joe Papen on Guitar, Jake Fouts on Keyboards, and Cooper Farris on Drums.
Thomas’ vocals have a signature mix of power and vulnerability – a high register and enunciation that – to me – sounds like only one person. His stature on stage is moody and confident. The storytellers channel well through him; Thomas moves conservatively with theatrical hand and eye movements – while focusing his attention on getting the story out over the mic.
Mason formed a solid bottom layer to their sound with his bass line, animating with fret surprises and headbanging. Joe was the quintessential lead guitarist, embellishing his style with riffs and ample stage movement; he’s truly an under-sung ax man from the South Sound. Cooper’s percussion was highly technical, with choice moments of fast runs and hard hits. Jake’s keyboards brought a 60s element to their sound. His runs and solid supporting melodies blended well with Mason, as they worked in unison to support the storytelling. It’s an experience to stand and watch as all the separate parts come together to create something special.
And the band simply throws down like a heavy-handed fine-tuned squad.
Hobosexual closed out the night with their deep rock roots. They are officially a Duo now – Ben Harwood on Vocals/Guitar and Jeff Silva on Drums. But at the show, they played – for the last time – as a five-piece, including Dave Place on bass, Jonny Henningson on vocals, and Keefe O’Neill on guitar.
They went on to play a powerful set – punctuated by pop media, fuzzy guitars and highly syncopated drum beats. The surprises started immediately and continued throughout the show; Ben and Jonny both spent time on AND off stage performing, an action their fans clearly loved.
It was a fantastic way to end the night, with a full floor and a stage crammed with power.
After the dust had settled, I caught up with Ben a couple days later to talk about this final set – and how it felt to be communing one more time like this.
“It was pretty casual,” he said. “We were all just the right amount of excited, buzzed from tiki drinks, and old man tired-awake for it to work out nicely. We’ve played with Dirty Rugs before; I’m a big fan. We had a weekender at Chop Suey a few months back. I heard/found them in a rehearsal room next door to us, above an auto shop in Ballard while rehearsing for the Artist Home winter concert last year, caught them smoking out front and immediately asked if they wanted to rock out with us. I’m pretty sure they each assumed I was an estranged Dad to one of their own band members.”
Overall the band had a blast that night. “We had a lot of fun. Jonny took us out for Tiki drinks at a place he’d bartended before, and we had an awesome green room yelling agreement about the scene where Tom Hanks walks out of that burning house, skate-steps to the street and screams “Take me to the hospital, I’ve been blown up!” via the 1989 Joe Dante classic “The Burbs.”
Ben had good things to say about the venues like Alma Mater that have been for them along their way as a five-piece band. “The Crocodile, The Sunset, The Blue Moon Tavern, Humpin’ Hanna’s (in Boise), and The Tractor have all been very cool to us as well over the years.”
So what’s in store for Hobosexual going forward? “Mostly assorted Pastry,” Ben said.
This night of new beginnings and epic swan songs was a perfect way to spend a Friday! Like vinyl and digital recordings, the bands combined to complete each other – taking the fans on a gritty ride into fuzzy riffs, catchy songs, and tasty beats.
The mix made for a night that many will remember!