Friday, July 29, 2011

Critcal Mass News

Critical Mass has a Facebook group that you can join to plug your band, up coming gigs, album releases and get up to date news on everything Critical Mass related. And I'm also looking for new up and coming bands to be featured in Critical Mass. Do you have a band? Wanna be interviewed? Have a CD or EP that you would like reviewed? Have some friends in a band trying to get some press? Send me your info. I would love to hear from YOU! You can e-mail me directly at So, please keep spreading the word on CM. And, as always, help keep indie music alive by supporting your local independent artists, labels and record stores. Thank you all for reading my blog and giving me your feedback. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Concert Review: About The Mess July 22, 2011 Cobra Lounge Chicago, IL

Some bands are better on CD than they are live. Some bands are better live than on CD. And then you have bands who play great on albums, and when you see them live they just blow you away with how great they sound loud and live. The latter is what you get with Chicago's own About The Mess. For a band who only been around a few short months, they guy's have the chops live that some bands can never get over the course of their career. And they proved it at the Cobra Lounge on July 22.

The band, singer/guitarist Joe Mizzi, guitarist Mike Carlson, bassist Jackson Dee and drummer Mark Gustafson, hit the stage at 10pm sharp and blasted through 10 songs in a half hour. They started their set with a new song called oddly enough "Song 4" before jumping into a hard rocking version of "Ahab" from their live EP "Give Me The Mic, I'm Drunk Already". They had me going right out of the gate. Mizzi and Carlson have a way of playing off each other that makes you think they've been playing together for years, not months!

The set also included songs off their forthcoming debut studio EP "Anthem Of Imperfection", due out in August on Whoa! Records, including "Story To Tell" and "Janie". Both of which are just modern day classics. The band isn't afraid to pull out a couple covers either. They whipped through The Box Top's classic "The Letter" (also on their Anthem...." EP) as well as Pegboy's "Still Uneasy" without butchering the originals. Instead they take them and make em their own.

I'll admit, I was taken aback by the fact that these guy's were opening for a metal band (The Infected). But they stood their own ground among long haired metalhead's and played their hearts out. I gotta give these four guy's credit for that. I know they will be big. I can see it in their passion, hear it in their songs and feel it in their playing. I have no doubt that ATM will be headlining the Cobra at some point in the near future. Do yourself a favor, and check out any of the bands upcoming shows. You won't be disappointed.

Set list:
Song 4
When We Were Young
Still Uneasy
Story To Tell
Shitty Beers And Pissing On Bedroom Floors
Anthem Of Imperfection
The Letter

Friday, July 22, 2011

Interview With Val Ventura

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Val. You're the co-founder of Astro Girl Records. Who are some of the artists you have on the label? 

Val Ventura: Thank you so much Chris. I heard a lot about Critical Mass, so thank you for putting me in! Astro Girl Records just got born and I did co-found it with one of the best labelmates/friends you could ever find, that is Marilù from The Piperita Patties. The best music relationship ever, and following this girlie bubble-pop-punk mark, we just got in a girl band called Wet nurse from Florida, The Hit Girls (Marilù, me and another punk-ramone guy Carlo aka Charlie), The Legendary Lovedolls, The Bam Bams and of course one of my fav bands ever The Piperita Patties. Oh yeah and me! It’s a huge big family.

CM: What inspired you to start your own record label?

VV: I’ve never understood how some bands I liked/loved in the past they never made it and felt so bad for them. I just want to give bands I love to hear on my iPod, or better on vinyl, a shot. And I’m a music producer too. I did work with Mass Giorgini and some other dudes in L.A., that helped me to keep going on and I guess cos of some call of destiny, Marilù wanted to start a Girl only Label and we met and clicked, so here we are. Proud to say I’m part of it.

CM: I find it refreshing to see a female orientated record label out there. Do you find it challenging running a label that focuses on female artists only? And do you catch any flack from male recording artists? 

VV: Marilù came up with this idea of a girl only label and I thought “damn this is it, let’s go for it”. I’m not saying I don’t like bands with guys in it, haha, but it’s true that there’s some sexism especially in the punk scene, more or less, of course. To be quite honest I’ve been always up for new girl punk bands. I just find it fascinating, amazing, inspiring, fresh and new. When girls rock, they rock…that’s it!

CM: You're a multi-instrumentalist yourself, right? Do you play all the instruments on your own recordings?

VV: Yes I do play guitar, drums and some keyboards for fun.
Generally I do, but on the new Sun Down California 7’’, which is due out in Sept/Oct, I do play guitar and did co-produce it and recorded with Mass Giorgini (Anti-Flag, Rise Against) and Luke McNeil (The Copyrights) and of course Mass did play bass. For the new songs Marilù is gonna be playing all the bass lines, which is great. She’s one of those bass player who don’t sound boring with crazy bass lines. Totally high five!

CM: Who are some of your personal musical influences? And do you feel those influences come out in your music?

VV: This is the hardest question. When people ask me this I never know what to answer. I do listen to a lot of music, and different kinds. But metal, I do love and follow the lead of people such as Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan and Patti Smith. And I do write and sing about my personal/private life. That is good if you’re wondering who I date or not (ride). But mainly I just write and play music that I’d like to hear just not to hear random crappy songs. That was the main reason why I started when I was 6 and it keeps going on. I guess that’s the main influence. And some Lebowski influences me, well I’m a Dudeist.

CM: Do you have any new material in the works for a possible release later in the year?

VV: Yes. Sun Down California 7’’ is gonna be out in Sept on Astro Girl Records. It’s a 3 song vinyl. Hope you’ll love it. I’d like to get lots of feedback so just feel free to like my own Facebook page or add me as a friend or like Astro Girl Records page. I’m already working on the next release, thanks to Marilù on bass, it's gonna kick ass!

CM: Are there any gigs coming up in the coming weeks?

VV: Well right now I’m living in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and I’m gonna book a couple of shows but not as of right now. I’m gonna have a Skype show tho. You can all add me at august296, will keep you updated when that’s gonna be on. Oh yeah, don’t forget to call me for your birthday shows. Love to play those ones!

CM: Have you ever contemplated a possible tour featuring yourself and other Astro Girl artists?

VV: Yes, of course, we’re working on that sometime next year.

CM: Between running your own label, scouting for new artists and recording your own music...what's next for Val Ventura?

VV: I’ve been traveling a lot over the last 4 years, lived in L.A., supported and still supporting my favorite music store Ventura Street as well, so I guess getting a normal life with some craziness?

CM: Is there a website where people can find out news on your own upcoming releases, Astro Girl artists, gigs and merch?

VV: Yes, don’t forget to check our page on Facebook.

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass, Val. It truly is an exciting time to be an indie artists, and I wish you and the label the very best. We would love to get you out to Chicago sometime. Thanks again and take care.  

VV: Thank you Chris, I really enjoyed this interview. I will love to come Chicago, and I swear I will sometime. Cheers mate.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Interview With Jonesy From The Bloody Muffs

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. I wanna start by saying that The Bloody Muffs is a GREAT name! How did you come up with such a brilliant name?

Jonesy: Thanks! I guess it all started when someone reacted w/nausea after seeing a picture of me w/fake blood all over my face w/the caption "Jonesy after eating a bloody muff". I said to myself
that if someone reacted like that over those words I had to name my next band that. I was surprised no one else had used it before us.

CM: Can you give us a little history on the band and how you got started?

Jonesy: I wrote Love Me Like A Drug in 2006. I started playing acoustic as The Bloody Muffs in late 2007. I released an acoustic version of Fireworks & Beer on a compilation CD in summer 2008.  It really got going when Kat and Jessica joined in 2009 and we recorded our first CD Heavy Flow. It was around then we knew we were on to something. We started writing Sloppy Seconds while we were finishing Heavy Flow and finished writing and recording Sloppy Seconds in the June of 2010. We put both CD's out 6 months to the day of each other on Dec 4,2009 and June 4, 2010.

CM: Who are some of the bands musical influences?

Jonesy: my biggest influences for our songs are (Johnny Thunders &) The Heartbreakers, Buzzcocks, X, Pixies.

CM: I know the bands got some shows coming up in Ohio and Indiana next month. Have you ever played in Chicago?

Jonesy: We haven't played Chicago yet. I guess we haven't met the right people in Chicago yet- but we are working on it.

CM: Is this the bands first tour?

We've been touring a bunch since last October. These upcoming dates are most likely our last for 2011. We started off w/a US Tour that went from NYC to the Pacific Northwest and back last fall, we did two mini tours in the winter into the midwest and just finished a two week Midwest Tour in June.

CM: Your songs are very catchy and in your face at the same time. Does the whole band take part in the songwriting process? Or is there 1 main songwriter?

We work on everything together as a band. Catchy songs are better than songs that alienate the listener for us.

CM: The band has 2 albums out so far. Is there any set date for a new album?

We have 4 new songs in our set now that are the foundation for the next album. We also have a name for it. There is no timetable for a recording session right now but I would think we'll record this winter and have it out in the spring. However, if the opportunity to tour again comes up all bets are off.

CM: So far, outside of New York, has the band been received well on the current tour?

We have been very well received in many markets. Youngstown Ohio has been great for us. Cleveland too. Swing State in Lake Villa Illinois treats us like family.  We played this place called The Funhouse in Schererville Indiana and the kids went crazy for us. In Omaha we went over huge too. Most places we've played have been great to us.

CM: Is there a website you wanna plug where we can get news on tour dates and band merch?

Our website  and a link to our upcoming Summer 2011 Tour is HERE.

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass. Best of luck on the tour and I hope to see you in Chicago soon.

right on. We will have a crazy time next month out on the road! We will get ourselves in Chicago asap, but until then The Funhouse in Schereville Indiana is only like a half hour from Chicago. If you want more info on that show or anything else hit us up at

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Interview With Marissa D.N.A. From The Sore Subjects

CM: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. Can you give us a little history on how the Sore Subjects came to be?

Marissa: Well, Joey & I met at a dive bar here in Chicago on punk rock night.  We got drunk and came up with an ingenious plan to start a Ramones cover band tentatively called the Kosher Salamis.  It never happened but a year later Sore Subjects did.  We originally settled to be a two piece with a drum machine ‘cuz drummers are hard to find but as luck would have it we met Charlie shortly thereafter.  I don’t remember where we found him, he is of a mysterious origin.

CM: You have a self released/self titled 7" out now. Is this your only release so far?

Marissa: Yeah, it’s our one and only record as of right now but we also have a previously unreleased song on the Cancer is a Punk compilation album just released on Swamp Cabbage Records this month.  Its available on pink vinyl and CD and all proceeds go to the fight against breast cancer so it gives you the warm fuzzies on the inside.

CM: And are there any plans for a full length release this year?

Marissa: Never say never, but probably not.  We’re going back to the studio in the next few weeks to record a couple of tracks for an upcoming split and possibly another 7”.  We do have songs that we’re saving for a full length release but the year is half over and we’ve got a lot of Netflix DVDs to catch up on, so I don’t think we’re gonna make it in time.

CM: What are some of the bands musical influences?

Marissa: We really dig Head from Seattle, they’ve got a minimalistic sound but really clever lyrics. Also, The Spits. Someone actually said recently that we sounded like the “Lady” Spits. It was a nice complement although I bet the guys would rather not be called ladies. And it goes without saying, the Ramones, duh!

CM: Has the band played outside of the Chicago area yet? Any plans for a possible tour in the coming months?

Marissa: We just played our first out of town show this summer in Indianapolis. We plan on doing more weekend trips around the Midwest but a full-fledged tour might be a bit presumptuous at the moment. We’d like to but only if we can do it the right way....meaning letting some other band do all the booking and following them around...and using their gear!

CM: The bands got a show coming up with Sloppy Seconds in August. Are there gonna be anymore shows with B.A. and the boys? Or is this a one off gig?

Marissa: Man, we hope there’s more!  But as of now there’s only the one on the books.  I’ve been a big fan of Sloppy Seconds for a long time so I was a little nervous about doing a show with them, ya know, the whole your heroes are assholes thing.   As dorky as it sounds, I’ve actually got Sloppy Seconds autographs hanging up in my room.  But B.A. has been really helpful and enthusiastic and I kinda of hope we become BFFs.

CM: The bands played with some pretty cool bands in the past like Dear Landord, The Neutron Bombs and Cobra Skulls. Who are your favorite bands to play with?

Marissa: Anyone who can bring people!  Haha but seriously though.

CM: With 2011 more than half over what does the band have planned for the rest of the year? Any big gigs that you can confirm?

Marissa: No but I can give you a list of big gigs that we are unconfirmed for: Guns N’ Roses, Jefferson Starship & we’re still waiting to hear back from Michael Jackson’s people about that “This Is It” tour.

CM: Is there a website where people can get news on upcoming shows, releases and merch?

Marissa: But of course! for news, shows & merch, Facebook for passing fancies & mundane conversation, or Twitter to find out what we just ate for lunch.

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass. I hope to hear more from the Sore Subjects in the coming months. Thanks again.

Marissa: Thanks!  We hope you hear more from us in the coming months too!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Interview With Traci Trouble From The Wanton Looks

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Traci. Can you give me a little history on The Wanton Looks? How did the band get started?

Traci Trouble: Meg (drums) and I met each other through our previous bands Paper Bullets & Reptoids. We loved watching each other play and decided to give it a go together. This involved sharing a bottle of vodka and jamming for at least 4 hours at a time. Ahhhh the old days. No shows to play just boozing and songwriting. Anyway, we had a silly dream to put together a 4 piece all female rock band and placed some ads on criagslist which was pretty discouraging at times. The auditions ranged from girls who couldn't play whatsoever to an older transvestite. We had a rhythm guitarist for a while named Mindy who ended up moving to Seattle and we were back where we started. I met Inga through my bandmate Adam in HotLips Messiah at the gay pride parade years ago. We goofed around musically here and there but she was in hot demand playing cello, in music school and didn't have time for another project. Then the universe intervened and she stopped playing with one of her groups. I used to see her play guitar in her old band The Closet Squatters and knew she'd be a perfect fit. Meg agreed! Inga recorded our demo just before she graduated and then the search was on for a rhythm guitarist. This meant more weirdos and more girls who were less than adequate. Finally, Susie Q, new to Chicago from Arkansas, found her way to us through craigslist and we were complete.

CM: According to the bands Facebook page, you're an unsigned act! How is that possible? The band has major chops! Besides the 3 songs you have up on Facebook, has the band released any EP's or albums?

TT: Thank you! We don't know how we have been floating under the radar thus far but we foresee that changing big time. Our demo was picked by Greg Kot as the #4 best local release the year before last. We are finishing our debut album which we have been working on for the last year. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears have gone into making this record. We are happy to speak with any labels out there that are interested in helping us distribute our rock to the masses. Please email

Has the band been approached by any local labels recently? I honestly can't see you being unsigned for long.
TT: We have been contacted by a few small labels within the last year that had expressed interest but nothing has come to fruition and we would rather be selective and pick the best fit or just release the music ourselves.

CM: Are there any plans for a release in the coming months?

TT: Yes! Our debut album :) TBD 

CM: What are some of the bands musical influences?

TT: The Pixies, The Ramones, Elvis. Bikini Kill, Hole, Dolly Pardon, & Roky Erickson to name a a few.

CM: When it comes to songwriting, is it a group effort? Or is there a primary songwriter in the group?

TT: I have always brought bass lines and vocals to the table first or created a song by jamming with Meg, then everyone else would contribute. We plan on making it more of a group effort in the future.

CM: Does the band gig outside of the state? Or are you strictly Chicago based at the moment?

TT: We have played in Wisconsin a few times but we plan on going out of town as much as possible when the album is released.

CM: Is there a website you wanna plug where people can get more info on upcoming releases and shows?

TT: We own but it's currently under construction so people please check us out on ReverbNation and join our mailing list and our street team.

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass. I wanna wish you and the band the best of luck. I hope to see the band live and hear more music in the near future. Thanks again, Traci.

TT: Thank you Chris and Critical Mass for helping us get the word out there! Our next gig is Friday July 22nd at Live Wire on Milwaukee Ave. just north of Belmont with The Neutron Bombs and Red Denizen! Stop by and introduce yourself :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Music Reviews: The Larroguettes - Quartet Loser

If you like your music loud, fuzzed out, and stripped down to the bare basics, you'll LOVE the new Larroquettes release "Quartet Loser". This band is keeping garage rock alive in 2011.

The band, singer/guitarist Paul Downs, bassist Mariah Hasegawa and drummer Brandon Harrod, play it raw. But they have the chops to really pull it off well though. Something you can't say about a lot of bands who try cashing in on the "less-is-more" style of music. This is a band on a mission to bring back gritty guitar rock to the masses. It's not some fad with them. It's a way of life. This is as real as it gets. And you can really feel it in the music.

Songs like "Hate Mail" and "Gutter Shakes" bring out the best in the bands style of playing. They sound like they could have come out of 1960's Detroit. The songs are catchy enough to have you get down and dance, but dirty and rough enough to make you wanna break stuff. Who else does that?

"So-Fuc-Tup" has a serious riff that'll stay in your head for days. "Dr. Teacher" kicks off with a great beat and bass riff that makes way for an acid scratch guitar riff. It's simple, yet effective and infectious. Sure, it's 4 chord music. But like any great band, they can move your soul, as well as your ass, with only a 4 chords and a great backbeat.

Paul Downs very well could be the next guitar hero to come out of Chicago. He can get more feeling out of a 7 second solo than Jimmy Page could in all 20 minutes of Dazed And Confused live. You don't have to noodle endlessly to get your point across. There IS beauty in minimalism. And The Larroquettes prove that with this EP.

"Quartet Loser", out on Suicide By Suite Global, is a must have for people who still love it real and raw. You can download the album HERE. So, check it out, go see them live...and for fucks sake, BUY the CD at the show! We need bands like The Larroquettes around. Show your support for The Larroquettes. Not just a great name, but a great band too.

4 ½ / 5 stars

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Interview With Personal Chef John Maxwell Formerly Of The Mangos/The Bomb

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, John. You've been a part of the Chicago music scene for quite some time now. But folks may or may not know you're also a chef! How many years have you been cooking?

John Maxwell: Ever since I realized my mom was a pretty bad cook, so for a very long time.  I'm old (looks for walker and hearing aid)!

CM: You work with London Calling as a personal/private chef. Is LC your own company? And can you give us a little history on LC?

JM: Well if by company, you mean one guy (me), then yes, it sure is.  Actually, I have other chef friends that can come into the fold should things get too big or out of control.  Basically, this started as a concept for a take away restaurant, but has become a private or personal in home service.

CM: Do you find it more enjoyable cooking as opposed to playing music? Or is there an even balance between both?

JM: Well, I suppose there are some similarities between the two.  I always played music because I enjoyed it and was under no illusions there would be some big payday.  Basically I never had any aspirations toward commercial success and tried to distance myself from playing with anyone that did.  Cooking can be similar.  Lots of chefs suffer for their craft/art, just like music.  There's plenty of outcasts in both circles as well, isn't there?  The key difference for me is although I love cooking, it's a livelihood and frankly I do aspire to make money.  Whereas I'd never "go corporate" with music, I have in fact created recipes for Ore Ida, Kraft and a few other large companies.

CM: You were the original guitarist for The Bomb, playing on the first 2 releases ("Arming..." & "Torch Songs"). What was it like being in a band with Jeff Pezzati?

JM: It was funny.  I remember seeing an ad for Lounge Ax mentioning that Jeff was DJ-ing on like a Thursday night or something, and I remember NR hadn't done anything in quite a while either.  Anyway, we knew each other from when I was in The Mangos.  I'd come to Chicago while still living in Detroit and hang out with him and drink beer and stuff.  Anyway, I figured I'd go see what he was up to.  I think I was there for like15 minutes and Jeff mentioned we should start a band.  He had a drummer (Paul Garcia) already in mind and some songs written.  A few weeks later we were making noise at Paul's place.  Jeff was excellent at getting shit done early on.  Right away we went to Electrical and made the ...arming EP and not long after that came Torch Songs.  Those were good times, and we played a lot of good shows and I got to meet some kick ass people like Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian (Damned) and Exene, Billy Zoom, John Doe and DJ from X.  Grant Hart was an amiable and strange guy.  I think he bought us shots and when I asked where his shot was or what it was he said he gave up drinking-but liked watching us drink-weird.  I thought Henry-Hank Garfield-Rollins was pretty full of shit.  He was rude to everyone but me, which I thought was odd. His band featured all the horseshit cock rock riffs you've worked so hard to forget coupled with leather cowboy hats and pants.  It was fucking laughable.  Also, Rollins was ranting about how someone the night before stole his trademark black gym shorts.  I think he sent an intern from Metro over to Sport Mart with $10 and instructed him to jerk off on it so it would look just like the pair someone stole.  I also met my future son and fellow rocket scientist Steev Custer when he assumed bass duties with us.  He's been a model son, more than I ever hoped for really! At any rate, after three years or so I thought the band had run its course and that was it for me.

CM: Why did you leave the band after the "Torch Songs" tour?

JM: Please refer to question one.  Wait, I shouldn't blame it on my mom, should I?  Nah Chris, I think people were really hoping The Bomb was gonna be Naked Raygun part two and I don't think any of us wanted that.  Also, it just wasn't as much fun any longer.  It's OK, these things happen and I felt like I had my share of good times.

CM: You were born in Michigan and have played in bands there before moving to Chicago, namely The Mangos. How many releases did The Mangos put out?

JM: Two seven inches and a cut on It Came From The Garage, a compilation of Detroit bands.  I fucking loved that band.  If those guys lived here I would reform that group in a heartbeat.  Seriously, we had a great time and we had great songs.  I miss it!


CM: Are any of these still in print?

JM: I think It Came From The Garage might be.  The 7"s are outta print but there is a Mangos FB page with tunes:

CM: Do you still keep in touch with any of your former bandmates?

JM: Sure, that's the beauty of Facebook, isn't it?  Also, I'm hoping to attend Custer's birthday and tell him what a great son he's been too.

CM: What made you wanna move to Chicago?

JM: My pal Mike had moved here and when I'd come and visit I thought I'd make the move and see what would happen.  I love living in Chicago!

CM: Are there any new musical projects in the works for you?

JM: Nope, but I'm open to suggestions-and a shoe box fulla hundred dollar bills.

CM: How can folks get in touch with you, for either your cooking or musical skills?

JM: Check out the London Calling FB page, I can be reached there:

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass, John. I hope to see you out at a show sometime soon. It's been way too long.

JM: Thanks man, you too!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Music Reviews: Vacation Bible School - "Ruined The Scene"

Chalk up another win for Chicago punk rock in 2011. The new Vacation Bible School album "Ruined The Scene" is 13 songs and 30 minutes of punk rock power! It's fast, catchy, snotty and just plain GREAT! If this album doesn't get a pit going, then you don't have a pulse.

Vacation Bible School bring all their best material to the table for this album. The whole album, out on Underground Communique Records, just blends together so well. There really isn't a soft or weak spot on the album. It's nice to see yet another example of how it SHOULD be done in the punk world.

They call out all the fakes on "Nobody Home ("You Know Who" Ruined The Scene) and "Douchebag". And they don't give a shit if your feelings get hurt. Punk rocks supposed to be about telling it like it is. And VBS do just that. "You + Me = Shit" is another one that just gives it to you straight. John Polydoros sings "the world has gone to shit and so have we." How's that for honesty!

There are no sloppy ballads, no social commentary about what's wrong with the government or any songs about hating on the cops. What you DO get are fun, in your face songs that remind me why I love punk rock in the first place. Songs like "Can I Take Your New World Order?" and "Mailbox Of Matches" bring the killer hooks and harmony vocals, reminiscent of The Copyrights. But VBS are their own band. And they have something to say. The question is, are YOU listening?

Give VBS a shot. I can almost guarantee they will have you coming back for seconds and thirds. 

You can stream the entire album now at Underground Communique website.

4 / 5 stars