Kingston After Dark: Heavy metal heart

DIIV. (Photo: Sandy Kim)

DIIV. (Photo: Sandy Kim)

Morning, my lovelies. How are we all today? I am in a splendid mood after attending the wedding of longtime friends Jesse Cunningham and Erica Pivko last week in Saugerties, a splendid gathering of old and new friends that underscored for me how many special people are from this creative hub we call home. I’m also thrilled to discuss two massively awesome shows with my readers this week!

DIIV came on the scene strong with debut Oshin in 2012, an indie-savant expression of pretty much actual musical genius from founder Zachary Cole Smith. The blend of post-gaze, krautrock and world music influences, not to mention a healthy smattering of grunge, was truly something special. It is pretty darn special that the band will be hitting the BSP stage on Monday, June 14.

Cole Smith’s girlfriend Sky Ferreira is a budding pop star of equally touched magnitude. “Red Lips,” a recent music video of Sky Ferreira and a tarantula, is a must-see blend of Hole-esque “smear your makeup for female rights” imagery and social satire crossed with erotic sensibilities, akin to some slow-camera-panning hip-hop videos. “Heavy Metal Heart,” one of popular songs, is also about as infectious an anthem as you can get. She was an inspired choice to open Miley Cyrus’ recent tour, a great case for Miley’s argument of “now is the future” culture collage. Ferreira’s real roots in the genuine indie scene, in these days of the Miley environment, is refreshing. I really, really love both of these artists so much it makes my heart ache.


That said, last time DIIV were in town was a shame. Frontman Zachary Cole Smith and Ferreira were arrested at a traffic stop in Saugerties for drug possession. Ferreira, who was in possession of ecstasy tablets, was arrested on drug possession and resisting arrest charges; Smith was charged with heroin possession. She bailed herself out of $1,500 with her American Express credit card and went on to read Cat Power lyrics off a phone. To say I was super-bummed was an understatement. With even Frances Bean Cobain asking Lana Del Rey not to glamorize death, the huge spate of recent heroin-related deaths in Ulster County and with my own troubled relationship with that drug which almost ruined my life as a teenager and also destroyed my friendship with former Coheed and Cambria bassist Mic Todd, I want to implore Cole Smith and Ferreira to please each not be just another casualty of cool. You both have the brains and amazing skill to help lead this generation musically, should you stay focused. Zachary told press once he wanted to be as big as Nirvana, but you don’t have to be as self-destructive. DIIV also tweeted at Grimes, probably the most talented and beautiful young star in dance music/ghost pop these days, that she wasn’t vegan enough at one point. It was truly ridiculous. You aren’t exactly poster children for healthy living.

Anyway, whether the glass is half full or empty, you may wanna catch DIIV live while you can. Unless that is, of course, the same night you are in the mood for some great stoner rock from San Fran, some local female fronted death metal or some ghost folk. That’s right, Prosthetic Records (the label that helped break Lamb of God and Kylesa) has released Under Siege by the power trio Castle. One of my top five albums of 2014 so far, Castle’s blend of bluesy riffs, female Black Sabbath-y vocals and retro-yet-groundbreaking riffing is a true pleasure. The band headlines The Anchor Monday, July 14. It’s the same night as DIIV, so you’ll have to pick. I am opening the Castle show singing an acoustic set with some Radiohead and Dax Riggs tunes, joined by talented Kelly McNally of The Virginia Wolves on piano and accompanying vocal. Death metal band DeadWitchWalks are also going to be great on this bill, a hyper blend of dark and ferocious death energy. Finally, Castle are not to be missed. To see this critically acclaimed band in such a small club is a big treat.

Castle’s “Be My Ghost” is tied for first place as my favorite metal or hard rock single of the year, along with Nu-Hardcore (and Bad Brains-approved) band Islander’s “Coconut Dracula.” “Be My Ghost” has such moving vocals and a guitar solo to die for, propelled through flames with ominous persistence yet with a survivor’s instinct in the tune’s sense of urgency.

Anyway, guitarist Mat Davis of Castle recently told me, “It was a conscious effort on my part when I started writing the first record back in 2006 to do something different and at the time I was pretty vigilant to try and stay away from the tired old cliches, blues licks etc. … I was going for something modern-sounding but writing through the prism of what I knew best which is the heavy metal I grew up listening to. Plus I have a lot of influences outside metal that when introduced into that prism offer something different-sounding.”

Hip hop had its Metallica-losing-the-Grammy-to-Jethro Tull-type moment recently when funny, but whitebread, Macklemore won a Grammy over Kendrick Lamar. Please attend the Hudson Project for Kendrick’s set on a weekend that includes artists like Modest Mouse, Moby and our local heroes, prog rockers Three. Show the world we know better, Upstate! Asking for the Grammies to learn or the world to change is like me expecting Marvel Comics to bring back Gray Hulk. Probably not happening, but we gotta try anyway! Until next time … “live fast, die young, bad girls do it well!” Oh wait, my bad. Stay positive.