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 #22: Still 2020 all over again

It’s how science works. You try something and then you keep refining it. I guarantee the first submarine didn’t work. Nor attempt to split the atom. Nor the first polio vaccine. The difference this time is it directly involves billions of human lives and lots of them are able to communicate whatever bs or good information they feel like passing along, leaving the rest of us to sort it out.

Just go get vaccinated.

Almost 100% of the Republican party’s attention is still focused on a combination of perpetrating the lie that the 2020 election was somehow stolen form Donald Trump and trying to obstruct investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection. It’s almost like there’s nothing to be done; no problems to solve nor bridges to fix, no virus to quell nor crime wave to nix.

From a recent Trump fundraising email:

  • They fabricated vote counts of 100–0 for Biden, many times!

“I warned you this would happen, Friend. What else will they find once the full Forensic Audit takes place?”

Who ‘they’ are is never defined, of course, It’s just important that they exist so there’s a bogeyman to fear. It’s also not clear how one “fabricates vote counts of 100-0 for Biden, many times,” but is sure looks bad. He’s our friend and he warned us this would happen, and the Forensic Audit hasn’t even happened yet! More terror surely lies ahead.

Meanwhile in Houston, regarding the defection of Democratic members of the Texas state house to DC, the proposal has been put forward to make ‘quorum denial’ a felony, thereby allowing people engaged in it to be arrested upon return.

“These steps wouldn’t be a rock solid way to ensure no future walk outs occur,” says one proponent. “However taking these steps, along with codifying [that] the Attorney General has prosecutorial authority in the venue of their choosing goes a long way to injecting fear and uncertainty to the process.”

The target might be somewhat different than the Trump email, but the overall effort is the same: scare people into believing that something terrible is happening to them so that they’ll vote for you. I guess you’ve got to do what you can if you’re not going to propose solutions to actual problems.

The presumably unintentional outing of the GOP MO is pretty cool too: Injecting Fear and Uncertainty to the Process.

Gov. Abbott called a second special session Aug. 5, doubling down on voter suppression efforts while once again ignoring the state’s failed power grid.

Then again, he and the rest of his cronies are getting paid handsomely for their looking the other way. Gov. Greg and Lt. Dan you already know. Perhaps less familiar are State Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall, HD9) and State Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown, SD5). Anyway, they’re among the legion of elected officials the energy business backed it cash trucks up for.

Source: Texas Tribune

Or as one University of Texas professor put it

Source: Texas Tribune

In any case, Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston, HD23) got right to work filing a bill to define legislative vacancy in order “to prevent legislators from quitting on Texas and their offices.” HB 309 defines a legislative vacancy as 14 consecutive days of unexcused absences from the chamber in which the member holds office.

Article XVI, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution prescribes the Oath of Office for elected officers that requires members of the Legislature to swear that he or she will “faithfully execute the duties of the office” to which the member is elected.

Speaking on his bill, Rep. Middleton said, “If you repeatedly don’t show up for work, you are fired from your job, our offices should be no different. Excessive, unexcused absences are certainly a violation of each member’s oath of office and a refusal to do the job the member is elected to do.” Mr. Middleton should be reminded that job the absent legislators and he were both elected to do was to represent their constituents, which they did.

Not to be outdone by his legislative colleagues, Texas Railroad Commissioner Jim Wright proposesd that the natural gas industry receive tax incentives similar to those provided for renewable energy projects. Wright advocated tax credits for gas pipelines, storage projects, and power plants. Such provisions would better protect the state’s infrastructure from weather disasters like the deadly February freeze while also reducing flaring, according to Wright.

Well sure, if your buddies in the state house would compel them to do so. Otherwise, they’ll just be used to pad the bottom line…and make campaign contributions.

Unreality Check #21: Texas is Fun! – Pt. 2

Texas do-nothing-but-grandstand Republican Senator Ted Cruz is at it again, holding up more than a dozen State Department nominees over a pipeline in a foreign land that’s going to finish being built regardless of what the US does or doesn’t ‘do’ about it. The Biden Administration, in a nod to reality and an acknowledgment that sovereign nations can make deals with one another, last month waived sanctions against companies involved in building the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.

Nord Stream 2 runs through the Baltic Sea next to the already long-operating Nord Stream pipeline and would deliver Russian natural gas to Germany under terms negotiated between the two countries. It is also more than 90% built and both Germany and Russia remain eager to finish the job. The notion that US sanctions were going to prevent them from doing so was laughable from the jump. But they were put in place by Trump Administration anyway.

The cabinet positions being held up include posts as high as undersecretary and assistant secretary, and though Trump and his cronies were all about purging the government of anybody who knew what they were actually doing, it’s not really the best way to run a country. Then again, Teo’s gotta score points however he can and has never let the good of the country stop him before.

Abbott and power

Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott, who recently convened a special session of the Texas legislature to take on social issues that evidently weren’t addressed adequately the first time around, has decided that renewable energy is responsible for the state’s recent power grid troubles despite data showing that this is simply not true.

“Electric generators are expected to provide enough power to meet the needs of all Texans. When they fail to do so, those generators should shoulder the costs of that failure,” Abbott wrote to the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC), referring to wind and solar generators. But these weren’t the plants that went down back in February. Those were nuclear, coal, and gas-fired plants.

The same thing happened in May, when more gas-fired plants went offline for maintenance than had been expected and warnings regarding the gird were once again issued. And it’s all the more ridiculous given the strides Texas has made establishing itself as a leader in the wind and solar industries.

Now Abbott is asking the PUC to fine wind and solar generators if they can’t provide power all the time, while offering reliability-based incentives to plants using gas or coal resources. And fixing the grid itself, weatherizing, etc.? Not even on the special session’s agenda.

But why would it be? Natural gas sellers made $11 billion during the freeze.

…of both kinds

Even ignoring science to pander to business interests while calling a special session to prevent voter fraud that didn’t happen, fight “censorship” by social media platforms, and stop the teaching of accurate history, however, hasn’t been enough to save Greg from a party that wants more. No less than three GOP primary challengers have emerged.

Joining former state Senator Don Huffines and Blaze TV personality Chad Prather in the battle to take down Gov. Abbott from within, is Republican Party of Texas (RPT) Chair Allen West. West served as a US Representative from Florida as recently as 2013 and is a retired Army officer, having been allowed to end his service in good standing despite admitting to holding an Iraqi police officer captive, punching him in the face, and staging his mock execution.

Texas Republicans love him because he sends all the right signals, no matter how misguided; like coopting then keeping, RPT’s “We Are The Storm” motto from QAnon. He also appeals to the state’s delusions of nationalist grandeur, telling would-be volunteers that “Together, we will defend the Texas Republic!”

Procedure is fun too!

Texas Democrats bailed on the special session last week, fleeing to Washington, DC, to prevent a quorum and thereby passage of proposed voter suppression laws. Greg says they’ll be arrested upon their return. He and other Republicans have also been whining a lot about how the Dems have committed some sort of dereliction of duty by their actions. It amuses me exactly how butthurt the GOP can become how quickly when procedural techniques are used against them. Live by sword, die by the sword, brothers.

Unreality Check #20: Hellfire is real! Hellfire is here!

Houston independent filmmaker Jeremy Sumrall is making his biggest, bestest, bustiest, booziest, movie yet: ‘HELLFIRE’, a grindhouse action flick. This one’s been bubbling in his mind for a while now and when Sumrall finally decided to pull the trigger and bring it into existence, he did it the only way he knows how, with maximum impact.

What else would you expect from the man behind such indie horror classics as ‘Sweatshop,’ ‘Possum Walk,’ and ‘Pickaxe’? Dude ran around one of them smashing shiny ravers to bits with the biggest sledgehammer you ever saw!

In doubt? Have a look at the Indiegogo campaign video. And while you’re there, contribute to making it happen.

HELLFIRE is coming. Don’t miss your chance to live forever…in flames!!

Tucker vs. the NSA

Tucker Carlson evidently hasn’t learned anything ever. No, not the ADL/Fox News battle. His hate credentials are already well-established. I’m talking about the foolhardiness of taking on this country’s intelligence agencies.

Whether you’re Ed Snowden or Tuck’s personal tongue cozy, Donald Trump, the outcome is the same. You do it, you lose. A once promising time horizon is yanked away from you and replaced by never-ending torment, exile, or worse. Look at what happened to Nixon! Or, if you want to go full conspiracy-theory, JFK.

Think about when things really went wrong for Donnie. He was stumbling along, ruffling some feathers but otherwise still pretty much intact. He was less than one month away from getting sworn in as President and decided to pick a fight with the CIA regarding alleged Russian interference in the election. And the rest is history. His term was done before Kellyanne Conway even said the words “alternative facts.”

Crenshaw vs. Team USA

You know what you’re free to do in this country? Well, lots of things. But among them is fly the American flag, or not. Salute the flag, or not. Wear American flag shirts, or not. The freedoms we have regarding what we do or don’t do with regards to flag or truly boundless. It’s that way by design.

You know where they practice forced patriotism? North Korea. No wonder Donnie loved that place so much! Burma seems like another place where you’d be better off doing whatever’s required of you if the flag goes past. Hell, let’s throw Turkmenistan into the hopper as well.

Are these the kinds of places the greatest country on earth should be emulating? Not according to most. But count Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) as among those who think the answer is a resounding YES!

Gwen Berry, an athlete, evidently insulted Crenshaw, a veteran, when she turned her back on the flag during a medal ceremony that was part of the US Olympic Trials. He thinks she should be kicked off the team. It would be hilarious in its wrong-headedness if it weren’t so disgusting.

“We don’t need any more activist athletes. She should be removed from the team,” Crenshaw said. Exactly how many activist athletes are too many, Dan? Should they just shut up and play? Where do they, and we, live again?

Way to fight for freedom. Keep up the great work!

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.

Just…ggaaahhhhh!!

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 #16: Insurrection Commission

It’s nice to move on. And slowly but surely most people seem to be doing so, both from COVID-19 and a more-painful-than-usual election cycle. But it’s also important to figure out why bad things like pandemics and insurrections happen, the better to avoid them in the future.

In this spirit, the US House of Representatives voted yesterday to establish a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The vote was 252-175, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats in deciding that it’s important to figure out what happened and why.

I’m particularly happy about five of the GOP congressmen. Two were from my natural habitat, two from my chosen home, and one is a wildcard.

From southwest Michigan, both Peter Meijer and Fred Upton voted to have a look at the day’s events. Meijer took office just this year, is 33 years old, and part of the Meijer grocery family. An 8-year Army Reservist, he was deployed for two years in Iraq and holds an MBA from NYU. Meijer has purchased body armor and adopted a varied schedule due to threats against his life following his vote to impeach Pres. Donald Trump in the insurrection’s wake.

His West Michigan counterpart (and counterpoint) is Fred Upton, who’s been in Congress since 1987 and is 68 years old. He voted both to impeach Pres. Bill Clinton in 1998 and Trump after the insurrection. Upton holds a BA in journalism from the University of Michigan.

Van Taylor and Tony Gonzalez are the two Republicans from Texas. Taylor is from Plano, north of Dallas. He took office in 2019, is a Marine combat veteran of Iraq, and holds an MBA from Harvard University. Gonzalez is a freshman congressman representing far-west Texas (excluding El Paso). He was elected in this long-purple part of the state when his six-year predecessor, fellow Republican Will Hurd, chose not to run again. The region’s new rep is a 10-year Navy veteran and has a Ph.D. in international development and security studies.

Gonzalez also shares the frustration felt by anyone who goes by Chris Smith of having someone else lock out the first page of Google results for the name. In his case it’s a Hall of Fame Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons tight end. In mine, it’s a 68-year old Republican New Jersey congressman (with help from a recent UCLA point guard).

But Smith did vote to establish the commission, doing the tens of thousands of us who share the name proud!

Unreality Check (#5)

Photo from studentenergy.org

It looks like there might be some wiggle room on energy in the both the new administration and Congress. Congressional Democrats, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), have made a series of proposals intended to modify the terms under which oil and gas leasing can occur on federal lands rather than banning it outright. They’re also trying to get President Biden on board. Grassley called on Congress to increase royalty rates, describing the current system (in place since the 1920s) as “corporate welfare.”

Yes, Grassley represents the state that produces far more ethanol than any other, but sometimes you take help where you can get it.

Democrats likewise want to raise royalties paid to the government and are also pushing for remediation of abandoned wells, tougher regulation of methane emissions, and increased public input into the process. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), chair of the energy and mineral resources subcommittee, described Congress’s actions as an effort to provide Biden with ways to fix a broken system rather than simply throwing it out.

—–

Republicans in the Texas legislature are keeping the pedal to the metal, putting forward a bill that would ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization. The bill would charge women who have abortions and doctors that perform them with murder. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Mar. 9 signed a bill into law banning abortions for any reason except saving the life of the mother.