A photographic account of heavy music in Portland, Maine
It’s a big weekend for heavy music at Geno’s.
The noise begins tonight with Covered in Bees and concludes Saturday night when Boston’s Carnivora headlines a four-band death metal show.
Covered in Bees, merchants of Portland death punk, open for The Upper Crust — a four-piece Boston band that calls to mind Bon Scott-era AC/DC … if Angus Young traded in his schoolboy uniform for a powdered wig, frilly shirt and alabaster face paint. These heavily costumed gents are best known for aristocratic lamentations such as “Let Them Eat Rock,” “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” and “We’re Finished With Finishing School.” The fun begins at 10 p.m. at 625 Congress St. for a measly 8 bucks.
We were lucky enough to see Carnivora last summer at RPM Fest and we’re pleased to report they are the real deal. (Unfortunately, we were so busy headbanging, we couldn’t be bothered to take any pictures of them — a wrong we hope to right tomorrow.) We strongly suggest you check out their last album, “Eternal,” a speaker-buster that is available for free download on Bandcamp. These guys are bona fide rock stars and we predict they will soon be too big for small clubs.
As if that wasn’t enough, the bill features Mainers Chaos Machine from Bangor, Ripfence from Lewiston and Portland’s own Sawtopsy.
Sawtopsy’s set list includes four songs from their forthcoming LP, “Hymn of the Parasite,” which is slated for release next spring.
The band, which was originally formed in 2007 as The Balck Mass Ritual, is in the midst of a creative burst, according to principal songwriter/guitarist Gabe Sobczak. The band recently added singer Travis Ventimiglia and has enough newly written songs to fill two LPs.
Sobczak, who also serves as promoter for Saturday’s show, remembers seeing Sawtopsy as a teenager at The Station long before he joined the longtime band. He said the group has hit its stride with the current lineup.
We caught up with Sobczak recently to talk about the evolution of the band, the creative process and the challenges of throwing shows in Portland.
Post Mortem: It’s been a few months since Portland has seen Sawtopsy. In the meantime, you guys have added a new singer and worked out new material. Will Portland recognize Sawtopsy? What’s different and what remains the same?
Gabe Sobczak: You’ll definitely recognize us. We’ll honestly be playing the same set we did at the last show, plus one other song and new intro. The real difference is the vocals. (New singer) Travis (Ventimiglia) is great. He’s killer all around. His lyrics are amazing, as is his stage presence. He’s also been great with dedication behind the scenes. I hope that our live show will be more aggressive.
PM: What played into the decision to add a singer?
GS: We’ve always had the intention of having a singer. We just played live without one because we knew our music was technical and captivating enough to pull it off. We previously had a guy named Jay singing and he didn’t work out for multiple reasons. I won’t go into that, but he was replaced by original Sawtopsy singer Garrett Gallant, aka Guttah Gutz. He was in the band from its forming in ’07. He worked fine but he has other projects going on for himself that took precedence, and he really only joined us again as a huge favor for us because we already had some upcoming shows booked when we parted ways with Jay. It worked totally fine, but he didn’t have the time to dedicate himself as much as we needed so we began looking for a full-time singer and found Travis.
PM: What about Travis clicked?
GS: When he came to try-out we told him to have something ready. We sent him a rough track and he actually did. We had tried other guys out — singers that for some reason didn’t want to actually write vocals or patterns or even sing the same thing twice. So, when Travis came through ready to go it was very refreshing. In addition to that, his tone was great and he was very open to criticism in the beginning which was a huge part of us getting a perfect sound. If you don’t do that right off the bat, its much harder to reform someone’s habits then initially create good ones. He also has absolute dedication and he’s just awesome to hang out with anyway.
PM: You recently announced that a planned EP has expanded into an LP. Are you going through a particularly fertile creative phase? If so, what spurred it?
GS: Not really anymore than usual. I’ve always been writing music. I came to Sawtopsy with a bunch of music written that I never knew what to do with and it eventually ended up getting thrown away. (Guitarist) Dan (Train) had two or three songs ready when I joined the band and I had two that I wanted to use and that was going to be our EP. But I kept writing, and eventually what was my sound became our sound. Then all that stuff got rewritten and just kept getting better and better until we had a sound that we felt covered everything that we wanted to accomplish in our music. Now these songs are everything that I want them to be and they cover so many emotions and musical feelings and goals. The new stuff I’m writing for the next album is even better because after a while I’d find flaws even in the material for the LP that I had deemed perfect, and I’d want to make it even better and do more things musically that I’d never done before. I’m really excited to keep releasing music and it seems like every song I write is better and better and it all sounds really good. Dan used to be the primary writer for the band, but when he had a kid I kind of took over for him because he didn’t have all the free time anymore that I still have. Everyone in the band is perfectly fine with it because they all feel the same way I do about the music and they agree that what I’m writing is exactly what we’re looking for and what we’re aiming to create.
PM: You’ve also taken on a new role as show promoter with this Saturday’s lineup. What are some of the unexpected challenges in putting together a show in Portland?
GS: I’m actually really scared about having to take money out of pocket to cover advertisement and pay bands. I guess I really shouldn’t be, but I am just because it’s my first time. I think the hardest thing now is finding a venue. Geno’s is great but it’s really the only place for rock and metal that is consistent, as far as I’m concerned. The Station used to be absolutely amazing and it was all ages, but they’re gone now.
As always, the “promotion” part of being a promoter is difficult. It’s hard to draw a line at how much actual money you should spend on advertisement for a few reasons: If you don’t do any advertisement besides a Facebook event, a lot of people will miss it; but, you dont want to spend too much money because there is only so much of a crowd for this stuff anyway. I’m still learning and I hope this show is brutal because I’m trying to be the only death metal promoter around. I love rock music and old-school metal but Angus (McFarland) has that covered. And there is and always has been so many idiots trying to book shitty hardcore and punk shows at grange halls and places where that kind of music doesn’t belong because shit gets broken and people get pissed off. I’m trying to eventually get some big death metal bands to Portland. I want to do it for all the guys who don’t want to listen to breakdowns and live the words “gore not core.” Thats me.