As the four ladies that make up the Led Zeppelin tribute band, Zepparella made their way to the stage at the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn, the vibe in the room seemed to change. Not only was there a certain sense of excitement, but also an expectation of what was to come.


The fact is, there are plenty of bands that cover the music of Led Zeppelin, but when a band bills itself as a tribute band, the stakes are higher. The band has to be tight and the songs must be true to the studio versions. Band members don’t have to resemble the original artists, but they better sound like them.


And that’s exactly what Zepparella is all about. Not only did they turn in some note-for-note renditions of some classic songs like Communication Breakdown, The Lemon Song and What Is and What Should Never Be, but they also delivered a bone chilling version of Dazed and Confused that featured Gretchen Menn slashing a violin bow across the strings of her guitar (check out her killer instrumental album, Hale Souls)


Another standout moment was during the drum solo in the song, Moby Dick. Drummer, Clementine nailed all the fills, played with her bare hands and even pulled off that little hollow pitch bend on the snare (I always wondered how John Bonham did that). Listen to some of Clementine’s solo work here.


There was also a cool guitar duel between Menn and the bass player, Angeline Saris midway through the song, Trampled Under Foot. They traded licks back and forth, and both guitarists showcased some impressive two-handed tapping during their solos.


As for the vocals, it’s not easy to mimic a young Robert Plant. Not even the Man himself can hit those high notes anymore. But despite the fact that he’s not an easy singer to copy, lead vocalist, Noelle Doughty was able to bring it on home. She may not sound exactly like Plant, but she’s a passionate singer that belts out the lyrics with fiery resonance.


The only low point of the night was with their opening number, The Rover. Although they played it well, and the song is an interesting selection, it’s not a crowd pleaser. Zepparella could have kickstarted the party early with any number of fan favorites: Good Times Bad Times, Rock and Roll or Black Dog just to name a few.


Some might call this nitpicking and they would be correct, especially since Zepparella were able to engage the audience and keep them entertained for the entire show. So if you like Led Zeppelin, then go see Zepparella. They’re not a gimmick, they’re the real deal, i.e. four talented musicians. In short, they rock!


To watch video, buy merch, or to catch Zepparella on tour, click here. All photos by Michelle Jesipaz.


Buzz101Buzz Osborne (the Melvins) could have held a clinic the other night at The Wick in Brooklyn on how to keep an audience engaged as a solo acoustic act. His in-your-face and fierce guitar playing only intensified his stage presence.

Osborne pumped and strummed his guitar like James Hetfield of Metallica, only instead of playing a Gibson Explorer plugged into a wall of Marshall stacks, all Osborne had was his acoustic guitar, a small combo amp and head full of curly blond hair. But that didn’t stop him from pulling off intricate riffs across the fretboard.

Instead of opening his set with a track from his debut solo album (This Machine Kills Artists) he went right for the jugular with Boris. The song is off the Melvins’ 1991 album, Bullhead. And as he made his way through the intro he visited each side of the stage, stepping right up to the edge, and getting so close that fans could have easily reached out and touched him.

Buzz102The Wick is a great space for live performances, but it’s not very comfortable. Either their air conditioner was broken or they didn’t have one. Whatever the reason, it was hot as balls. And by his third song, Osborne was drenched with sweat. In between songs he had to stop and wipe down not only his face, but also his guitar.

By his fourth song, King Buzzo played some tracks off his new album. The first one was titled, Dark Brown Teeth. It’s an upbeat and colorful song that builds and then lays back on the verses. It sounded just as good live as it did on the album. Some of the highlights were Rough Democracy, The Vulgar Joke, We Are Doomed and an Alice Cooper cover titled, Ballad of Dwight Fry.

Too bad more solo performers don’t put on a show like Osborne because if they did, there would be a lot fewer people staring at their smart phones in the audience. For more information on Osborne or the Melvins click here.


*All photos by Michelle Jesipaz. 


Black Label Society are wrapping up their European tour in Moscow, Russia tonight. Then after a short break, they’ll be unleashing the doom through the States. For dates, click here. Until then, check out a new video of their song, Angel of Mercy. Director Justin Reich captures the mood of this track with some vivid shot selections and cinematography.


Patti Smith reads excerpts from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Photo Michelle Jesipaz

Patti Smith reads excerpts from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Photo Michelle Jesipaz

The first thing I saw while entering Ft. Tilden for the Rockaway! arts festival this past Sunday was a mobile stage being set-up and wired. This was where Patti Smith and James Franco were going to read excerpts from Walt Whitman’s poetry. Smith was also scheduled to play some music, but that wasn’t going to happen for a couple of hours, so I figured I would check out what the festival had to offer.

In front of a small theater was a pair of musicians. There was a woman playing guitar and a dude on keyboard. They were idly noodling and trying to figure out something to play. They challenged one of their peers to freestyle a song, but he shyly rejected, “I can’t think of any words”.

Eventually a man in a Superman shirt came out and broke into a Christian rock song. It wasn’t so much rock as it was Christian. The lyrics went “God savvvve the peoooopppple!” I was perplexed, wasn’t this a Patti Smith-MoMa festival? It turned out the song was from a musical called, Godspell which the troupe was rehearsing for an upcoming performance.

James Franco joined Smith in a celebration of Whitman's poetry. Photo Michelle Jesipaz

Actor James Franco joined Smith in a celebration of Whitman’s poetry. Photo Michelle Jesipaz

I walked through a path and into an open yard. There was a long line, to what I soon figured was the warehouse where Smith’s, Resilience of The Dreamer was being displayed.

The festival features work from some renowned artists like Janet Cardiff and Adrian Villar Rojas. I asked some of the spectators about their expectations and opinions of the festival and particularly, Smith’s Resilience of The Dreamer. Why are you here? What’d you hear about the piece? Are you a Patti Smith fan? One young lady entertained me with a bottomless pool of vagueness. Why do you like Patti Smith? Because she’s an iconoclast. Why’s she an iconoclast? Because she’s amazing. Why’s she amazing? Because of her music, her poetry…and so on. If I pushed any harder it would’ve made me sound like a prick.

Resilience of The Dreamer exhibit is housed in the T9 building. It’s a decrepit, spooky, yet aesthetically intriguing building that used to be a locomotive repair shop for the military. And set right in the middle of this decaying structure was a pristine white bed. The bed was outlined with four ten-foot golden posts, and from those posts hung cascading, transparent  drapes. It was the type of bed Cleopatra would sleep in.

Smith is Renaissance woman: musician, photographer, writer, and artist. Photo Michelle Jesipaz

Smith is a bona fide Renaissance woman: musician, photographer, writer, and artist. Photo Michelle Jesipaz

There was a woman tussling the drapes, billowing and adjusting them. I thought this was just an employee of the festival, so I didn’t pay much attention until I got closer. But lo and behold, it was Patti Smith, getting knee-deep in the pristine.

She wasn’t speaking to anybody at the time, just circling the bed and adjusting its drapes. While she continued her adjustments I moved around the room and noted a gutted and abandoned piano, some rusting metal, and a forgotten bicycle.

Then later, I overheard Smith addressing the crowd near the warehouse entrance. She was speaking about stones and the common thread of rebuilding in people’s lives. Behind her was a room with a pile of smooth, white stones. She encouraged us to take a stone as a symbol of the recovery from Hurricane Sandy and the rebuilding of any damaged aspects of our own lives.

Dan Guarino is the president of the Rockaway Artist Alliance and a reporter for The Wave newspaper. Photo Michelle Jesipaz.

Dan Guarino is the president of the Rockaway Artist Alliance and a reporter for The Wave newspaper. Photo Michelle Jesipaz.

Back at the stage, I waited for James Franco and Patti Smith along with a pretty decent crowd of people. Franco stepped on the stage wearing a Deth Killers of Bushwick jacket. He wore sunglasses and it wasn’t until he came on stage that I realized how many young women were in the audience. And it wasn’t until I heard all the adoring screams that I realized how much women loved him.

Franco recited lines from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. One of his excerpts described all manner of body parts. It was mostly anatomical and not too sensual, though all-in-all a beautiful poem. Franco and Smith took turns with the poetry, and after they completed their Whitman recitations, it was time for some music.

Smith was accompanied by guitarist Lenny Kaye and her daughter, Jesse Paris Smith on keyboard. Smith first warbled through Wing. The small accompaniment of musicians lent well to the wind-down feeling at the time. They day was over, growing darker, chillier. A dozen or so people stood up when they started to perform but the entire crowd booed and jovially heckled them to sit down.

A throng of fans patiently wait for the show to begin. Photo Michelle Jesipaz

A throng of fans patiently wait for the show to begin. Photo Michelle Jesipaz

Everyone was in the mood to just sit and take it easy. She followed her opening number with Redondo Beach. She dedicated this song and spoke lightly about the Rockaway Pipeline that was being built directly under Ft. Tilden.

After Redondo, Smith treated the audience with a Neil Young cover, It’s A Dream. Hearing her sing the lyrics to a song about the fleetingness of life, its joys and pains, was a timely track for an area that has experienced so much devastation. A place that is blissfully and artistically on track for a better future.

Jason King is a writer and skateboarder from Brooklyn. This is his first post for MentalSwag.com. You can check out his blog, “A Wanker’s Journey Towards Being Wank-Free” by clicking here.


The 8th annual Rockstock and Barrels Festival 2014 went off with a bang yesterday. There were blue skies and plenty of sunshine. The only missing element were waves. But what are you going to do? The East Coast isn’t known for pumping surf in the summer. Yet despite the flat conditions, that didn’t stop people from coming. It was a bona fide event, with 17 bands spread across two stages, a skating contest, surfing contest, big name sponsors like Red Bull and a unique collection of vendors.

Matt Kiss

The Rockstock and Barrels festival was founded by Jimmy Dowd of St. James Clothing, Walker Hornung of Invisible Sun Booking Agency and Into the Whip Records and Steve Stathis of Boarders Surf Shop. Local musician/surfer Matthew Kiss and his band kicked off the festival on the main stage.


The festival featured over 30 booths from a wide variety of vendors and sponsors, like Matador Surfboards, Rockaway Pop Up Shop, Skudin Surf School, St. James Clothing, artist Kelly Meagher, Rockaway Militia, and Draugsvold Jewelry just to name a few.


Red Bull showed up with the ultimate beach party mobile. Not only can this badass all-terrain vehicle blaze a path across practically any beach on the planet, it comes equipped with an extended roof, four booming speakers and a slamming sound system.


The crowd grew by the hour. Here’s a shot of the main stage, the famed surfing jetty in the background, and the intruding pipeline that some mistook for the controversial Rockaway Pipeline. But the pipeline in the photo isn’t being used to transport radioactive natural gas, it’s actually being used for the sand replenishment project that’s currently underway along the peninsula.


Some call me a shameless self-promoter. I have no idea why. Here’s a shot of my booth where I not only sold my novel, Waiting For The Bomb, but also some of my wife’s photography. If you didn’t get a chance to grab a copy of my book, you can get one here.

Locals1The guys from Locals surf school not only know how to surf (and teach), but they also know how to throw a party. Their summer kick off party at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club a couple of weeks ago was of epic proportions. Here’s a shot of co-owner Michael Kololyan giving an Indo Board demo.


One band that really caught my eye (or rather, ear) was The King’s Heartbeat. The band features Rockstock co-founder Walker Hornung, and it’s just one of Hornung’s many musical projects, including Q-South, Soca, and The Brotherhood of The Grape.


There was a lot of interesting art for sale along vendor’s row, but one standout was a dual exhibit by Tracey Greene and Katherine McNamme. Greene showcased here work on canvas while, McNamme had a school of copper and fiberglass fish floating from the support beams of their tent.


* All photos by Michelle Jesipaz.


Still1Maintaining an audience’s full attention is difficult. In an era where it’s almost a given that people will use their cell phones in the theatre, and television plots are expected to have up to six storylines running simultaneously, singular-focused entertainment is practically nonexistent.

Roman Polanski’s “Venus in Fur,” a French film adaptation of the twentieth century Tony Award-winning Broadway play by David Ives, based on a nineteenth century novella, by Leopold von Sacher-MasochVenus in Fur, defies this concept, bringing a two-character story to life using almost magical cinematography, ever-changing costumes, and, of course, tremendously talented actors with a range wide enough to feel like you’ve watched far more than two characters on screen during the movie’s rapid duration.

The film opens with writer-director Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) complaining via iPhone that he cannot find any actresses to play the female lead, Vanda, in his newest production.

In a whirlwind, Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) bursts into the theatre, hours late for her supposedly scheduled audition. Through a literal bag of tricks, which includes not sides but the entire script, a crumpled resume, and an entire costume wardrobe purchased from a thrift store, Vanda persuades Thomas into letting her audition for the role. To Thomas’ bewilderment, she adjusts the theatre lighting, gets into hair, makeup, and costume in a matter of seconds, and is ready to perform.

Vanda’s first reading enchants Thomas, and his iPhone slowly makes its way off-screen as he pleads with her to read more and more of Vanda’s part. Perhaps at last he has found his leading lady!

Still 4Between character breaks from the auditions, discussions over sex and dominance, and the ever so slight distraction of phone messages to significant others, Polanski builds an incredibly tense and intriguing environment through both characters.

As the reading continues, Vanda’s acting and personality entrance Thomas. The staging becomes more realistic, as if the play is being fully performed. Venus in Fur, a story about power, domination, and attraction becomes genuine in both the reading and the time and space of the actors, bringing to life a true battle for power, and we can maybe guess which sex ultimately wins.

Melissa Kravitz is a writer based in NYC. Follow her on Twitter (or not) @melissabethk     *All photos courtesy of The Independent Film Channel.


When I asked Hank 3′s reps if I could interview him after his show at the Gramercy Theatre this past Tuesday, I was told that due to his long sets, he doesn’t grant interviews while on tour in an effort to preserve his voice. My first thought was, what a creative and polite way to tell me to fuck off, but after hearing Hank 3′s four hour set, I realized that they weren’t bullshitting me.


Now for those out there that still haven’t discovered this eclectic, interesting, and sometimes controversial musician, let me give you a quick run down. Hank 3 is the the son of country star, Hank Williams Jr, and grandson of country icon Hank Williams. 

He’s primarily known for his country music, but he also has a handful of side projects that range from punk to metal to hardcore. It’s not easy to keep up with his music. But once you realize the depth of his talent, it’s hard not to stand in awe.


Here’s an excerpt from his official website that describes quite succinctly what fans can expect at his shows:

As in the past, shows will be formatted into multi-sets. Up first The Damn Band will play around two hours for the Country/Hellbilly set, after which will then be approximately 30 minutes of Hank’s project simply known as “3″ – with which he released the Punk music inspired, “A Fiendish Threat”. After those two sets, the stage lights will dim as Attention Deficit Domination (A.D.D.) cranks out some heavy Doom Metal for about an hour or so, then around another 30 minutes will be dedicated to the 3Bar Ranch/Cattle Callin’ set. Set lists will vary on any given night and all sets will feature Hank 3 on vocals and guitar.

His touring band for the most part is a six piece, but as the music changes, so does the lineup. Depending on where he’s at in his set, here’s who you’ll find on stage: Hank Williams III – Vocals, Guitar, Banjo, Anthony Galler – Upright Bass (Damn Band & 3), Daniel Mason – Banjo (Damn Band), David McElfresh – Fiddle, Steel Guitar (Damn Band), Keyboards (A.D.D.), Guitar (3Bar Ranch), Duane Denison – Guitar (Damn Band), Matt Bohli – Drums (Damn Band), Phillip Cancilla – Drums (3Bar Ranch), Bobby Hattenburg – Drums (3 & A.D.D.)


It’s a lot to take in, so let talk about his country music first. For the most part, his songs are upbeat, down home, and he doesn’t hold back when speaking his mind about everything from drinking and drugs (overdose of sin), pop country music (it sucks), The Grand Ole Opry (ain’t so grand anymore) and bashing wannabe country outlaws like Kid Rock.

But his songs also sing praises to the working man and he doesn’t hesitate to give a shout out to his country heroes like Johnny Cash, David Allan Coe, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Paycheck and of course, Hank Williams.

At the Gramercy Theatre, he kicked off the concert with the title track from the album, Straight To Hell. The nearly sold out crowd knew the song well and they sung along. Hank’s brand of country music is not only for hand clapping and foot stomping, you can bang your head to it too.


His setlist was chock full of fan favorites such as, Smoke & Wine, Rebel Within, Gutter Town, Country Heroes, Six Pack of Beer, and the title track from his latest album, Brothers of the 4×4. He also paid tribute to his grandfather with a solid rendition of I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive.  

It didn’t take long for the place to get hot. A mosh pit exploded front and center. Security guards surprised by such a ruckus at a “country show” ran over to make sure it wasn’t a fight. They backed off when they realized it was just a bunch of rowdy fans having fun.

At one point, Hank stepped off the stage and straddled himself above the photo pit. He reached into throng of adoring fans and grabbed a shot of whiskey. He cupped it in his hand, walked back on the stage and downed it. This would happen several times during the night, and he made a special point to thank his fans for not only the shots, but also the beers.


When the country set was over, Hank traded out his cowboy hat for a baseball cap, and this marked the first lineup change of the night. Hank launched into a powerful set featuring songs from his album, Fiendish Threat. There’s something very cool about punk rock riffs on an acoustic guitar. Two stand out tracks were, Different From The Rest and Face Down.

After he finished that set, he switched guitars, and unleashed the gloom with some music from A.D.D. And if the muddy, distorted guitar wasn’t enough to get the message across, there was a montage of apocalyptic images being flashed on the jumbo screen above the stage.

Fans certainly got their money’s worth on this one, and despite the extended set and late night, it left me wanting more. The next day, I was ready to do it all over again. So say what you will about him, but this crazed country rebel marched into this Yankee town and burned it down.


Catch Hank 3 on tour. For more information visit the official website by clicking here. *All photos by Michelle Jesipaz. 


10480041_10152565035630739_1242089544_nSaturday was my birthday. And what would be a better way for a big geek like myself to celebrate than to pay a visit to Special Edition: NYC. For those not familiar with the event, think of it as a mini Comic Con with an emphasis on comics, illustrators and graphic artists.

I walked into the Javitz Center and expected to see a room full of sci-fi wonder and super hero memorabilia. But my first glance of the huge room was a bit of a disappointment. I had flashbacks to The Pennsylvania Hotel on 33rd Street. I remember those comic book shows with booth after booth of comics and comics. Now don’t hate because as a kid those shows hold great memories, but I just expected more from something that’s called Special Edition.

But since I was on assignment, I had to give this festival a chance. As I slithered my way through the crowds hovering around the first booths of comics, I was promised an array of bargains: Half price, Silver Age and Vintage and blah, blah, blah…

But it didn’t take long for this show to win me over. In the back of the room lay the wonder of comic artistry. The artists, writers and the creators of comic books new and old sat patiently greeting throngs of adoring fans. I shook hands and met more artists in one Saturday than I have in my entire life! What a birthday!

10453221_10152565087745739_181508194_n-2Two men I met stand out, Sean Von Gorman and Matt Miner. They are currently working on a fantastic new series called, Toe Tag Riot. A cursed punk band devours baddies, bigots and bastards in this gory, and fun book that’s sure to please any zombie fan like myself.

Best of all, the series features Fall Out Boy’s Andrew Hurley (pictured below) as one of the zombies. But like so many new ventures they need a little financial help. They are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund their project (click here to fund).

Here’s an excerpt from the site: “TOE TAG RIOT is a tongue-in-cheek, lighthearted torrential downpour of blood and guts sure to please anyone who LOVES FUN and HATES JERKS like Million Moms, Nazi Skinheads, Dudebros and the Westboro Baptist Church! 

hurley side by side5Toe Tag Riot is LGBTQ-positive, and inclusive to everyone except bigots.  Bigots are zombie food. Toe Tag Riot is a fun book with a positive message and a diverse cast of wacky characters.”

I’ll have more comic book reviews coming soon, and this October is going to be a big. Not only will there be Comic Con NYC, but also the return of The Walking Dead on October 12th.

Jeff Baskin is currently writing a vampire novel. Don’t miss his column every Dead Wednesday all season beginning this October. Follow him on Twitter: @1Brooklynwriter