Unreality Check #23: Abort school voting!

A lot of time has passed since we last got unreal. And in a place like Texas, anything’s possible if you look away for long enough, up to and including effectively outlawing abortion.

It’s old news, but there’s nothing else we’re going to talk about that’s more important, so I decided to lead with it anyway. Setting aside questions of who has what rights when, it is simply incomprehensible to me what social good is going to come from forcing women to carry unwanted babies to term. Call me old fashioned, but I like the idea (and ideal) that government is supposed to work to help ensure the public weal. What currently passes for leadership in Texas, however, is instead hellbent on imposing fundamentalist religious dogma on its citizenry. There is not an argument in favor of outlawing abortion that is not based on faith. Faith plays an important role in many people’s lives and should be allowed to flourish in all its varieties. But to impose a particular variety of it upon everyone as a governing principle is not acceptable. Just ask a Texan Christian.

I could go on and on and on about cognitive dissonance, hypocrisy, etc., etc. etc. But far better to just cut to the chase. The new Texas abortion law, including its reliance on zealous private citizens for enforcement, is cruel, bigoted, and intended to subjugate those seen as lesser to the will of their public overseers. Small government my ass.

School daze

School has also restarted since last we talked. And the same people who are eager to seize control of women’s wombs unsurprisingly also demonstrate a limited ability to discern cause from effect.

One argument making the rounds suggests that the surge in home schooling during and since the pandemic came about because “teachers stopped teaching.” First of all, no they didn’t. They were still teaching every day despite the non-stop barrage of challenges to doing so. People switched to home schooling out of desire to keep themselves and their families safe, regardless of how they might define the term. Those who have continued to home school are doing so because after trying it, they found it to their liking.

It’s curious, however, that those cheering the expansion of home schooling are the same who decry the erosion of the family and the ways of ‘kids these days’ with the most volume. Is home the best place to learn? Or is it a dysfunctional morass good only for breeding layabouts and criminals?

I suspect it depends on the home in question. And the right is certain it does. You see, when they talk about home-schooling, they’re talking about the virtues of their home and wanting to protect said virtues from the evils of the rest of the world and have the means to do so. They don’t give a shit about how well it would suit my home or your home. Or whether anyone’s learning anything in any of them. But that won’t stop them from trying to make sure that our public schools’ ability to perform their primary function – educating our children – isn’t increasingly hamstrung. It makes sense, however, when you remember that this is the same crowd that celebrates ignorance and denies the existence of objective truths.

Stamp out the vote

The third prong we’ll address this go-round are the Republican Party of Texas’s efforts to makes sure we never get reproductive rights or functioning public education back. Governor Abbott signed anti-voter Senate Bill 1 into law at start of the month. Senate Bill 1 creates new obstacles to the ballot box for voters with disabilities, gives partisan “poll watchers” special rights to intimidate voters, criminalizes election workers, and bans late-night voting, a voting method used primarily by low-income and essential workers.

Both of these groups are also among those least able to home school even if they wanted to. And the former is more likely to experience early pregnancy than others.

Want to have fun this weekend? Here’s the place to be! Brash Brewing Co.’s Anniversary Party.

Remembering Riley Gale

Photo from The Collaborative

Power Trip has been my favorite band since the first time I saw them. I love them the same way I used to love bands as a teenager, excited by every bit of news and every show announcement. It never occurred to me that I’d ever feel like this about a band again, but here I am. Despite 30 years in and around the music business, I’m once again just unconditionally, unprofessionally geeked about something.

Blake Ibanez (lead guitar), Chris Ulsh (drums). Chris Whetzel (bass), Nick Stewart (guitar), and Riley Gale (vocals) brought it 100% every time they hit the stage. But that was only half the equation. Power Trip’s fans brought the rest. You had a decision to make each time you went to a show. Were you going to be part of the mayhem? Or simply watch it unfold? Either way good times lay ahead.

I had a really chill talk with Whetzel once when they were touring with Napalm Death. Just two dudes standing in the back of Numbers main room waiting for the next band to come on. But that’s the only contact I’ve ever had with the band or anyone to do with it.

When I heard the news of Riley’s death a year ago today it felt like my head was going to collapse. Beyond being a generational front man, he had been proof-of-concept for the idea that a normal guy, the kind of guy you’d hang in the garage with just to kill time, a guy like ME, could actually do that job at the highest level. Neil Fallon (Clutch) and LG Petrov (Entombed) had both been relatable in their way, but Riley nailed it. Everything the Super-Me front man could be.

This extended off stage as well. One of my favorite social media runs ever was his 2017 Twitter feud with Proud Boys, calling them out en masse as lunatic dipshits long before most had ever even heard of them and inviting them to come down to the show for a talk.

Riley’s passing left a hole in my existential paradigm. It also simultaneously reignited some dormant fires and made me give a lot fewer fucks than I had.

I was actively looking forward to spending the next 20 years of my life watching Power Trip become the biggest heavy band on earth. Given the age difference, I was going to be watching new tours from the nursing home. Hell, maybe until I was dead! That whole segment of my life was locked down. They were on that kind of arc.

Along those lines, I really hope the rest of the band continues in some way. Riley might have been the focal point, but those riffs (drums included!) can’t be touched. Would love to hear more. It’s not like it’s without precedent for a band to return after the unexpected loss of its front man and brother.

In the meantime, enjoy my 10 favorite videos of Power Trip in action live, arranged chronologically so you too can have fun watching them grow.

Metal! The one true path.

PS: I’d be remiss to not express my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Trouble/The Skull vocalist Eric Wagner. A potent, genre-defining force of his own, Wagner died this past Sunday at 62 from COVID complications. The Skull had played Houston just two weeks before, but the band pulled out of its Psycho Vegas slot last Thursday as Wagner’s condition worsened. Hopefully he, Riley, and LG have found each other and are having a great karaoke session. Here’s one of my favorites.

On with the shows…

Together for three years when this was filmed, it’s still the oldest YouTube footage available of Power Trip; roughly 15 minutes of fun from Moshfest 2011 in Tyler, Tex. The aesthetic and setting are definitely hardcore, but metal is already baked into the riffs (not to mention Blake’s headbanging!) Already tighter than most bands and still just barely known outside of north Texas.

Here’s a little bonus fun from just a few weeks later, back home in Dallas at the now defunct 1919 Hemphill. Hammer of Doubt!

Fast forward to 2012 and things are starting to get scary. Dallas festivities surrounding Edge Day 2012. Though not a straightedge band, Power Trip, particularly through Riley, advocated continuously for the rights of the downtrodden. Anyway, check this out. You won’t be able to unsee it.

Just a couple of months after that mayhem, I encountered Power Trip for the first time. They were playing downstairs in the small room at Fitzgerald’s in Houston. Was a free show split between the venue’s two floors, w/Pallbearer, Venomous Maximus, Transmaniacon MC, Omotai, Eagle Claw, Mammoth Grinder, Warmaster, Oceans Of Slumber, and Peasant also performing.

Power Trip opened its set with the newly minted ‘Crossbreaker.’ I’d never heard a note of the band’s before music and hadn’t been part of a crowd like theirs in years. I was instantly and permanently hooked. They became my favorite band on earth that night and remain so to this day. Couldn’t be happier to have captured some of it on video.

Not quite the madness of the early home shows, but still super cool in its DIY vibe, Power Trip played the Metal Frat (Sigma Phi) at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on Apr. 15, 2013. It was still two months before the release of the band’s Southern Lord debut, ‘Manifest Decimation,’ but all systems were definitely go.

Winter in Moscow. It doesn’t get much more hardcore than that. A fitting setting then (at the now closed Plan B) for Power Trip’s first ever headlining show outside the US. Sure, Blake’s guitar is super hot on this one, but the overall sound is ultra-live and reminds me of my favorite place to be at a show…anywhere you can hear the backline more clearly than the PA. It sounds just like you’re back in the garage.

Power Trip always kept up a frenetic pace at Austin’s annual SXSW festival, often packing three shows into a single day. 2014 was no exception. PBS’s ‘Everything But The News’ was in the house for the band’s afternoon outdoors Converse/Thrasher Deathmatch set at Scoot Inn, which drew an entertaining mix of true fans and surprised tourists. A few hours later they were tearing up the inside of Beerland as part of the Ground Control Day Party. Outdoors was a hoot as well, APD coming to shutdown Trash Talk’s set on the venue’s patio.

Summer in Philadelphia means it’s time for This Is Hardcore, the annual festival bringing heavy brotherly love to the maniacal masses. As an example of the fun on hand, just the ‘C’s of the 2014 lineup featured CIV, Code Orange, Converge, Crowbar, and Cruel Hand. Power Trip also played. Their set was captured by hate5six (aka Sandeep “Sunny” Singh). His videos always hit, this one is other worldly. Audio, video, editing: all 100/100. Some of the greatest live concert footage ever presented. BEHOLD!

“Spinkick for Jesus.” One year later and back in Philly. Welcomed as old friends in the house of hardcore, Power Trip had spent the bulk of the intervening 12 months on the metal road in North America touring in support of ‘Manifest Decimation.’ Not quite as incendiary as 2014, but the combination of band and videographer remains untouchable. Plus, there’s a guy dressed like a whoopee cushion. And two young women got engaged right before the set.

In 2018 Power Trip got the invitation to appear in Canada on House of Strombo, the concert series hosted from the house (like for real…furniture, kitchen, the whole nine) of CBC music interviewer George Stroumboulopoulos, joining the likes of the Charlatans, Behemoth, John Prine, and the Melvins as guests that year. There’s the occasional pensive face, but what’s going down is inescapable and masterfully captured. It’s likely the band’s most watched live set at 1.4 million views and counting, and it’s easy to see why.

One of the coolest things about watching Power Trip grow was the scale and fanaticism of welcome they got in parts of the world like Asia and Eastern Europe that most US-based heavy bands don’t even get to until they’re headlining the summer sheds and small arenas here. The band toured Southeast Asia in early 2020, and many of the sets are available to watch.

This one from February in Manila is my favorite. The venue’s popping, the band is on fire, and the sound quality might be the best of all of the vids shared here: everything louder than everything else, but all crystal clear.

Power Trip had started writing for a third album in late 2019. Within a few weeks of this set the COVID-19 pandemic shut down live music altogether. The band responded by going into the studio to begin pre-production. The rest, as they say, is history.

Unreality Check #18: Texas is fun!

This is the hardest pure procrastination has bitten me in a while. Missed the presale. Never got around to buying this round.

It’s OK though. I feel more embarrassed than anything.

I’ll get in. Turn invisible. After market. Who knows?

This isn’t until April 2022, y’all!! It is great to see metal doing so well though. And getting this festival off the ground has been a labor of love for the promoters, so I’m super happy for them.


MORE INBOX GOOD TIMES! [notations mine]:

From January 2017 to January 2021, the 45th President of the United States presided over [and created] an especially intense period for the United States of America.  

From the pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands [while Trump ignored it], to the speedy development of the vaccine, to the rise of the economy, to the global challenge from China, Donald Trump was the dominant decision-maker and the most powerful person in the world.

In a series of live conversations across the country [Florida + Texas = across the country now?], Mr. Trump and Historian/Journalist Bill O’Reilly will discuss exactly how things were accomplished, as well as challenges, both good and bad!  

Dubbed “The History Tour,” President Trump will provide a never before heard inside view of his administration – which will be historical in and of itself.  

“These will be wonderful but hard-hitting sessions where we’ll talk about the real problems happening in the U.S., those that the Fake News Media never mention. I will be focusing on greatness for our Country, something seldom discussed in political dialogue. If we don’t make our Country great again, we will soon no longer have a Country! [wow! this guy’s tune NEVER changes. I thought he already did this.] I look forward to working with Bill, who right now has the #1 bestselling book, to openly discuss the real problems of our Country, and how to solve them. Additionally, it will be fun, fun, fun, for everyone who attends!” President Trump said.

“My job as a historian/journalist is to get important things on the record in a fact-based way.  These conversations with the 45th President will not be boring,” [you gonna talk about the good ol’ pussy-grabbin’ days then, Bill?] Mr. O’Reilly said.

The tour opens Dec. 11, 2021, in Sunrise, FL, at the BB&T Center and continues Dec 12, then in Houston, TX, Dec. 18, and Dallas, TX, Dec. 19.   

Do-nothing Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced his 2022 reelection bid last week and Republicans and Democrats alike were suitably repulsed. GOP Rep. Cody Vasut said “I frankly think we need new leadership in the Texas Senate. I do not support Dan Patrick for reelection — I think he needs to go, I think we need somebody else in there, somebody who’s actually committed to being a productive member.”

The Lieutenant Governor presides over the Senate in Texas.

His Democratic challenger, Mike Collier, offered the following: “Time and time again, Texans have called out to Patrick for help. We’ve asked him to fix our grid, ensure a smooth and efficient vaccine rollout, expand Medicaid…Instead, we’ve gotten a corrupt and inefficient leader who dabbles heavily in conspiracy theories that are beneath the dignity of the offices he was elected to represent.”

“I believe in efficiency and I believe in fact over fiction, good governance over nonsense, and light over darkness. In this race for Lieutenant Governor, light will prevail over darkness and Dan Patrick’s time as Lieutenant Governor will come to an end. I’m going to retire Dan Patrick.”

Then there’s this guy, elected into asking somebody testifying during a Congressional hearing if we could maybe change the moon’s or the Earth’s orbit as a way of addressing climate change…

And finally, fuck ERCOT and fuck the Texas Legislature. There’re people who still haven’t gotten repairs completed in the wake of the last great avoidable power outage, and now you’re sending out system advisories again? What about all the hand-wringing assurances that things were going to be done right this time?

Unreality Check (#3)

‘To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth,’ released in 1997, is Swedish metal band Entombed’s fourth album. It was a step away from the band’s death metal roots, providing the cornerstone for the then-nascent metal subgenre, death n’ roll (yes, a blend of rock n’ roll and death metal).

Most fans would choose one of the three albums that preceded it as their favorite Entombed record, but ‘Too Ride…’ has a special hold on me. It was the soundtrack of my first trip to Rio de Janeiro. Rio in 1997 was better than Rio even three years earlier, but it was still a place where it was never clear who the bad guys were and in which nightclub madness could turn into actual chaos in the blink of an eye. Gunfire rang from the favellas well into the night and police sweeps of Copacabana were non-stop once the sun went down.

‘Too Ride…’s’ overdriven everything, nearly continuous swing, and lyrics focused on the perpetual struggle for sanity (or at least peace) made the perfect musical accompaniment for a new visitor to a society on the edge. Vocalist LG Petrov didn’t write the words he sang, but he delivered them with such unfettered disgust, amazement, and ferocity that they were inescapable.

LG died today, taken at age 49 by bile duct cancer. He was a unique and striking personality in a genre full of them. But I have ‘Too Ride…’ forever. And the journey’s just getting started.


So it looks like everyone’s cool with Marilyn Mansion getting cancelled. Let’s use that common ground to build something. You know where to reach me. #bipartisanship


When Trump backed COVID relief legislation it was urgently needed aid that got broad support from both sides of the aisle, but now that it’s Democrats it doesn’t even merit consideration. How can anyone take the GOP seriously? That’s a real question.

Unreality Check (#2)

Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ turned 35 today. A true masterpiece. One of those rare albums that not only stands as a cohesive piece of work rather than a collection of songs but actually envelopes its listener, taking them on a journey. When you add in the great individual performances and the fact that it sounds great no matter what volume you play it at, it’s pretty much the best.

Was living in a group flat in London in fall of 1986 and would fall asleep some afternoons sitting on its hard couch with my headphones on, just letting it wash over me.

When I heard about Cliff’s death I cried. Rest in peace, genius. You will live forever.


Does the GOP want us out of Iraq or in Iraq? Or whichever is the most expedient answer to the particular question they face? I think that’s the one.


Conservatives have attempted to cancel an absurd amount of literature over the years, and almost all of it simply for wanting to broaden the minds of those who would read it. The forces behind what is happening now are different. It is an effort in include. Not exclude. At least their reaction is consistent I guess.


In the words of great Indiana poet, William Rose Jr. (@axlrose) “I don’t worry ‘bout nothing, no, cuz worrien’s a waste of my time.” The earth is a self-balancing system. She’ll be fine. But if we want to stay here (or live elsewhere), it’s past time to get busy.


The US Interior Dept. took steps today to recommit to scientific integrity and empower its experts to use the best available science. Its Order 3397 revokes Order 3369 – falsely branded the “open science” rule – that imposed improper restrictions on what science and data could be considered when making its decisions.


BREAKING INTEL: When Texas COVID-19 numbers spike towards the end of the month the right’s plan is to blame it on illegal immigrants. They’re literally broadcasting it. #OnBrand

Protest 100: Sacred Reich – ‘The American Way’

Artist:          Sacred Reich

Song:           The American Way

Album:        The American Way

Producer:    Bill Metoyer

Label:          Metal Blade

Year:           1990


Straight into the deep end! Sacred Reich bassist and main songwriter Phil Rind has a wide social justice streak in both his craft and in general and brought it to the fore with his band’s second full-length album, ‘The American Way.’ The record is one of most overtly political thrash releases ever and stacks up with the very best musically as well.

Excerpt from ‘Unreality’ (now seeking publisher!) –
“All the reactionary freaks in the American Civil Liberties Union and associated organizations had ended up being right. Freedom had been traded for security.”


Truth and honor, faith and pride
All conviction’s surely died
Honesty’s time has passed
Time for lies is here at last

Truth is false, I’m so fed up
How did we come to be so fucked
Hate, fear, pain, death
All our country has got left

Talk to children hear them say
Daddy left again today
Brother steals and mommy lies
Future lost before their eyes

The sun was lost behind the clouds
They wrapped it up and blacked it out
Acid rain fell today
It came and washed our hopes away

This was once the land of dreams
Now these dreams have turned to greed
In the midst of all this wealth
The poor are left to help themselves

A capitalist’s democracy
Why no one said that freedom’s free
Lady liberty rots away
No truth, no justice, the American way

Don’t look past your TV
All of us are what you see
A looking glass into our lives
What we watch is what we buy

Priorities are out of whack
Who is next to stab our back
Doesn’t it make you mad
To have lost all that we’ve had

This was once the land of dreams
Now these dreams have turned to greed
In the midst of all this wealth
The poor are left to help themselves

A capitalist’s democracy
Why no one said that freedom’s free
Lady liberty rots away
No truth, no justice, the American way

Doesn’t it fill you with disgust
That there’s no one left to trust
Is this happening, is this real
My body numb, I cannot feel

Are you happy? Are you sad?
Are emotions a thing of the past
I have no tears, I cannot cry
No one mourns for a world that’s died

This was once the land of dreams
Now these dreams have turned to greed
In the midst of all this wealth
The poor are left to help themselves

A capitalist’s democracy
Why no one said that freedom’s free
Lady liberty rots away
No truth, no justice, the American way

‘Protest 100’s mission is two-fold: dispelling the myth that heavy metal is a brainless, socially unaware music genre, and raising awareness of the issues facing our country in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. The path won’t be exclusively metal—some punk and rap and other stuff will be in here too, including the classics—and is not a ranking. All songs are songs I’ve heard while putting this list together, ordered in a manner designed to entertain and educate.

Ultraphonix – ‘Walk Run Crawl’

George Lynch and Corey Glover are both icons of the rock and metal worlds. And, lucky us, they’ve got new music out. Together! Ultraphonix—a four-piece featuring Lynch, Glover, drummer Chris Moore and bassist Pancho Tomaselli—have released a video for their first song ‘Walk Run Crawl,’ taken from debut album ‘Original Human Music’ out Aug. 3.

You can read more about the band and preorder the album here. The video is below.

This is vital, catchy hard rock, picking up where Lynch left off in KXM (he just keeps getting better) and featuring an inspired and important lyric.

Speaking of KXM, both Lynch and Glover appear multiple times in ‘What You Make It: The Authorized Biography of Doug Pinnick’ available for preorder on Kindle NOW, with hard copies out June 8.


Power Trip. Inspiration.

As I get ready to release ‘What You Make It’ I’ve been contemplating influences, both old and new.

Among the latter is Power Trip.

They’ve been my favorite band since first seeing them at Fitzgerald’s here in Houston back in 2012. I hadn’t felt a room that charged in a long time. And when Power Trip hit the stage the place went off, danger mixed with the brotherhood of metal. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it out unscarred, but I also didn’t care.

Since then, they’ve done nothing but impress.* Yes, as a live act. And yes, on record. ‘Nightmare Logic’ deserved every accolade it received. It is the rightful benchmark of metal today. But they’ve also remained accessible to their fans (young and old!) at shows and have one of the realest social media presences going. Promotion? Absolutely, but not hype. It’s a conversation. And it’s welcoming. No macho posturing. But also not for the dimwitted, or the troll-minded, or those without a sense of humor.

The way they take care of their business is the way I aspire to take care of mine. I’ve got a long way to go. But, hey…goals, ya know?

At the heart of everything remains the music. And as good as their recordings have been, Power Trip’s forte is the stage.

I’ve attached one of my favorite live recordings of any band, anywhere, ever. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve watch this clip. But I feel another two or three coming on today.

Power Trip is in Europe opening for Trivium and kick off a North American headlining tour next month.

*Full disclosure: I’ve felt weird about this band exactly once, while watching a recording of their performance at last year’s Golden Gods awards. They were fine. But (at least on video) the sound was thin and the overall effect was like seeing a shark at the aquarium versus accidentally pulling the same fish into your boat and not knowing where the fuck your grappling hook went.