On Stage: Primitive Man just keeps on flowing

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Primitive Man

If you’ve ever seen a slow lava flow in Hawaii – whether in person or on film – you have to be impressed.

The lava flows down the side of the mountain – slowly, steadily and with nothing to deter it let alone halt it.

It is a force of nature and, if you remain in its path, it will roll over you and destroy you.

The music made by the Denver-based trio Primitive Man follows a similar pattern. It is loud, crushing and powerful – and it moves ever so slowly.

Primitive man’s new album “Caustic” is the aural equivalent of glowing lava claiming its own space as it flows down the side of a mountain in Hilo.

On November 7, Primitive Man will perform its powerful, dredging music at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com). The band’s music has been described as “a savage, sparse mix of death metal, blackened noise, and doom.”

The three-piece was formed in February 2012 by Ethan Lee McCarthy and Jonathan Campos (all current and former members of Vermin Womb, Withered, Clinging To The Trees Of A Forest Fire, Death Of Self, and Reproacher). The current line-up also features Joe Linden on drums.

“The way this album is,” said McCarthy, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from Brooklyn, “is punishing the whole time. It has a crushing sound.”

In October 2012, Primitive Man recorded its debut LP “Scorn” at Flatline Audio in Denver with Dave Otero (Cephalic Carnage, Cobalt, Catheter, Clinging To The Trees Of A Forest Fire). The band followed up with a self-released three-song EP in February titled “P/M.”

The unique metal hybridization of “Scorn” caught the attention of Relapse Records. The label liked the record enough to sign the band and reissue the full-length in the summer 2013. “Scorn” was touted as “a slow-roasted apocalypse through seven suffocating hymns of hatred, disease, and sonic deviance.”

Primitive Man released four split 45s between 2013 and 2015, and an EP on Relapse titled “Home Is Where The Hatred Is. “

Years of writing on tour and the addition of drummer Joe Linden sparked a black flame in Primitive Man — molding the band’s second full-length offering of soul-crushing blackened doom and noise-ridden claustrophobia.

“We recorded ‘Caustic’ in two separate sessions back in the spring,” said McCarthy. “Joe was a good addition as our drummer. He’s really good at holding the music down at a ridiculously slow pace.

“Working with Dave (Otero) is important. He’s done every one of our releases – including all the splits. I had worked with Dave when I was in previous bands. He holds you true to what you’re trying to come up with. If it sounds shitty, he’ll tell you so.

“A lot of the songs on ‘Caustic’ started in our rehearsal space. This record was an organic process with all three of us contributing to the songwriting. It took us a year-and-a-half to write these songs.”

Fans expecting to hear some of Primitive Man’s older songs in the show at Kung Fu Necktie will be disappointed.

“In our live show, we’re playing all stuff from ‘Caustic,’” said McCarthy. “We went back and rehearsed old songs and realized they weren’t nearly as disgusting as the new stuff. We feel that the new material is the best we’ve ever done. And, when we play live, we want it to be slower than we’ve ever been.”

Video link for Primitive Man – https://youtu.be/p-Zvkknf_HM.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which also features Seattle-based metal group Bell Witch and Philly metal band God Root, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $14.

Hari Kondabolu

Hari Kondabolu is a Brooklyn-based, Queens-raised comic who the N.Y. Times has called “one of the most exciting political comics in stand-up today.” In March 2014, he released his debut standup album “Waiting for 2042” on indie-label Kill Rock Stars. On November 8, he will headline a show at Punch Line Philly (33 E Laurel Street, Philadelphia, 215-606-6555, www.punchlinephilly.com).

Kondabolu has a CV slightly different than most stand-up comedians.

He attended both Bowdoin College and Wesleyan University, graduating from the former institution with a B.A. in Comparative Politics in 2004. A former immigrant rights organizer in Seattle, Kondabolu also earned a Masters in Human Rights from the London School of Economics in 2008, writing a merit-earning dissertation entitled “Mexican Returnees as Internally Displaced People: An Argument for the Protection of Economic Migrants Under the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.”

His parents moved to America in 1982 from Andhra Pradesh, India and he grew up speaking Telugu at home. Both parents trained in medicine in India, and became the heads of New York-area medical labs.

“I grew up in a South Asian family,” said Kondabolu, during a phone interview Friday from his home in Brooklyn.

“In the early days, I was happy there was a South Indian figure – Gandhi. I thought – this is great…we finally have somebody. Then, I realized – this is it, this is how people view Indians. It all comes from not having any other representation.

“It’s a little different now. South Indians are everybody’s classmates — and they’re on TV. Back then, it was other people looking at us. At us. Now, it’s changing a bit. But, without experiences, you just have the extremes — an immigrant convenience store character and a terrorist with nothing between these poles.

“I don’t mind the ideas of South Asians working in gas stations or convenience stores. There were South Indian people there before them who now own these convenience stores. There is depth with those workers.”

Kondabolu has done standup on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Conan,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Live at Gotham” and John Oliver’s “New York Standup Show.” His “Comedy Central Presents” half-hour television special debuted on the network in February 2011. He was also a writer and correspondent for the Chris Rock-produced “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell” on FX.

But Kondabolu’s resume as an entertainer includes more than just being a comedian or comedy writer. Kondabolu will premiere his comedic documentary “The Problem with Apu” on November 19 on truTV.

In his sharp, hour-long cultural exposé, creator and star Kondabolu confronts his long-standing “nemesis” Apu Nahasapeemapetilon – better known as the Indian convenience store owner on “The Simpsons.” Kondabolu discusses how this controversial caricature was created, burrowed its way into the hearts and minds of Americans, and continues to exist – intact – nearly three decades later.

In this highly-personal, insightful and timely exploration of minority media representation, Kondabolu speaks with prominent South Asian actors about the damaging legacy of Apu – an animated character voiced by a white actor with a heavily exaggerated, stereotypical Indian accent. Aziz Ansari, Kal Penn, Aasif Mandvi, Hasan Minjaj, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Aparna Nancherla, Russell Peters, Sakina Jaffrey and Maulik Pancholy share poignant stories about their own experiences with Apu and the broader questions about the comedy and representation he evokes.

According to Kondabolu, “I was obsessed with ‘The Simpsons’ growing up and it has greatly influenced my comedy. However, as my mother proves, you can criticize something you love because you expect more from it.

“For the longest time, Apu was the most prominent representation of South Asian Americans and, despite how much our society has changed in the last three decades, the character persists today. I made this film to not only talk about the origin of the character and highlight the impact of such images in media, but also to celebrate the diversity and complexity of my community.”

The show is funny and serious.

“The TV show is a documentary,” said Kondabolu. “We talk about the history of the character (Apu). ‘The Simpsons’ is an institution – 30 years and global – a representation of American civilization. With a character like Apu, Hollywood isn’t creative enough to come up with more depth. There is nothing wrong with being a convenience store worker – but they’re set up as a punchline.

“This story is about the character, the show and about South Asians who don’t have a voice. It’s less about the Indian character than the Indian-American character. When ‘The Simpsons’ got created, there wasn’t even a thought about who Indian-Americans were.”

Joining Kondabolu on stage will be local storytellers and comedians Alyssa Al-Dookhi, Krish Mohan, and Dr. Neil Bardhan.

Video link for Hari Kondabolu — https://youtu.be/MIBYXkqz1I0.

The show at Punch Line Philly will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Benyaro

Benyaro last visited this area a year ago for a show at Bourbon and Branch in Philadelphia. Now, the band is back in the area for three shows — November 8 at the Center for the Arts at the Hill School (760 Beech Street, Pottstown, http://www.thehill.org/ArtsFacilities), November 11 at Tellus 360 (24 East King Street, Lancaster, 717-393-1660,www.tellus360.com) and November 12 at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com).

Benyaro is Ben Musser’s indie-acoustic soul and roots project, which in his words, he “formed to expand the boundaries of acoustic music and serve as a vehicle for my distilling artistry.”

The band, which is based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has its roots locally with Ben Musser. He is a native of Manheim Township in Lancaster County and a graduate of The Hill School in Pottstown.

Musser is a multi-instrumentalist; a drummer, guitarist, singer, songwriter and schooled in jazz, rock, classical guitar and voice. Benyaro performs most frequently as a duo with bass player Leif Routman.

The last year has been a monumental one for Musser, whose band is touring in support of its new album “One Step Ahead Of Your Past.”

“I’m still living in Wyoming,” said Musser, during a phone interview last week from his home in the West.

“My wife and I had a baby this year. And, we finally got the album done so that’s exciting.

Indie roots project Benyaro released its third original full-length album “One Step Ahead Of Your Past” on September 8.

“We cut some of the album here in Wyoming and some in Asheville, North Carolina,” said Musser.

The album was produced with Danny Kadar (The Avett Brothers, My Morning Jacket) and recorded at the legendary Echo Mountain Recording and at Musser’s home studio.

“My home studio is all digital,” said Musser. “We finished the album in February this year and it came out in September on vinyl, CD and digital. It’s self-released on our own label — Mohinga Music. Mohinga is Burmese soup.

“We had a set band when we were making the album with Leif on upright bass and Brian Geltner on drums. On the road, Leif and I are a power duo. I play guitar, kick drums, shaker, hi-hat and vocals and Leif plays upright bass and does backing vocals. It’s all done simultaneously without looping.

“We have good arrangements for the duo format. It’s some rock and blues. It’s a little heavier than it was in the past – but that wasn’t a conscious decision. We draw off the other albums but it’s probably 80 per cent from the new album.”

A year ago, Benyaro played ‘Rock the Vote’ shows with the intention of getting people out to vote and partnered with a company called Head Count to register voters.

Musser and his band warned young audiences about the dangers of having Donald Trump in the White House.

The 2016 election season was of particular interest for Musser, who attended The Hill School in Pottstown alongside Donald Trump, Jr.

“His kid was a year ahead of me and we played on the hockey team together,” said Musser. “His father came and gave a talk at our school one year – and got very angry when a student asked him about his bankruptcies.”

Video link for Benyaro — https://youtu.be/6bgYbSCot00.

The show at Hill School, which has Jason Wilber as the opening act, will start at 7 p.m. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be provided and tickets are free. Tickets are $5 for the show at Tellus 360 and $7 for the show at Kung Fu Necktie.

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