Wednesday, Sep 19 2012 05:03 PM

Korn's latest creative risk pays off

By The Bakersfield Californian

So far, September has been an active month for new local music.

It began with the release of the Catastrophist's EP and release party on Sept. 7 at Riley's Backstage, a show so packed that the BPD made a surprise visit to check on capacity. About a half hour before their headlining set, I stood in the Wall St. Alley, hanging out with Catastrophist guitarist Jordan Rude and singer Elijah Jenkins, who assumed they'd be getting shut down. Fortunately, the venue was just under the maximum limit allowed and the show continued without pause, although the band ran out of the promised free physical CDs well before downbeat. To absolve themselves, they're allowing fans to download the tracks at no charge at reverbnation.com/catastrophist.

Korn's new live collection

Also released earlier this month was the new Korn CD/DVD/Blu-Ray package, "The Path of Totality Tour: Live at the Hollywood Palladium." Filmed last December before a sold-out crowd to celebrate the band's controversial foray into dubstep/electronica music, the group set out to prove allegiance to their metal roots while extending their reach into what could easily have been a creative misstep.

In front of a wall and ceiling of flashing streaming LED graphics, Bakersfield singer Jonathan Davis, bassist Reggie "Fieldy" Arvizu, guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer, and drummer Ray Luzier greet the packed house before launching into the low rumbling bass and reverberant drum boom of "Get Up!"

Joining the group was special guest and dubstep collaborator Sonny "Skrillex" Moore on guitar. For the next hour, the band continued with a cross-section of more recent fare before reaching back with "Here to Stay" off 2002's "Untouchables," a new arrangement of "Freak on a Leash," "Falling Away From Me," a rare performance of "Predictable," the bagpipe-twisted nursery rhyme mosh of "Shoots and Ladders" and more. The concert also features appearances from electro collaborators Excision, 12th Planet, Kill the Noise, Datsik, Downlink and Flinch. Dutch trio Noisia are the only "Path to Totality" producers not making an appearance at the concert. Having seen Korn live many times over the course of their career, this is by far the tightest the group has sounded musically and, dare I say, the healthiest they've ever looked.

Visually, the multi-angle concert looks better than some of the previous Korn concert videos that usually accompany "special edition" versions of every new release from the band. This time, however, the band has offered two formats for fans to pick from: DVD or Blu-Ray with enhanced picture and sound. I had the CD/DVD combo, but that didn't make the experience less entertaining. The sound quality was standard for my copies, but according to the specs I found online, the Blu-Ray version comes in enhanced 5.1 DTS HD. All you tech-heads will know what to do with that.

In addition to the live concert, the disc comes with interviews from each band member, plus the extended live band offering personal takes on the difficulties meshing electronic styles with acoustic.

"A lot of people love it, a lot of people hate it, a lot of people don't understand what it takes to make that kind of music," said Jonathan Davis during his interview segment, describing the time- consuming nature of "Path to Totality."

"It's what's happening with our creative path," said Shaffer in another scene. "People thought it was going to be a dubstep album; it's not. It's a Korn album."

To the band's credit, Korn has outlasted the majority of its nu-metal colleagues. Both as a live show and risky career move, consider "Path to Totality Tour: Live" another triumph for the homeboys.

Lucky Ned Pepper

On the country side of things, former Smokin' Armadillo members Rick Russell and guitarist Josh Graham -- now known as Lucky Ned Pepper -- will be celebrating the release of their long-awaited new CD on the Budweiser Pavilion stage at the Kern County Fair Tuesday night.

This marks only the fifth official appearance of the pair, following their last show in July for the National Day of the Cowboy concert in Springville, and another intimate acoustic promotional show to ignite some buzz.

"It feels great to have reached this point," said Graham, 39. "You know how it is to have a project done. We haven't put this much work into a project. It's just great."

According to Graham, he and Russell agreed to forge ahead following the break-up of the Armadillos seven years ago with a number of new ideas. Topping the list was a new sound and new name, Lucky Ned Pepper, taken from the character played by Robert Duvall in the 1969 classic "True Grit," starring John Wayne.

"It was good to be able to choose whatever sound we wanted with this. With Armadillos, we were a band with a particular sound. With this group, we can make our own sound. Rick has a distinct voice and we can easily shift into whatever direction we'd like."

The group was originally a trio with vocalist Joy Sampson in front, but before leaving the group to start a family, Sampson did some recordings that remain on the new CD.

"When you get close to a project, it gets hard to be happy with it. With this record, there's nothing I would change about it."

The CD is a clever collage of country imagery from the opening track of "I Remember the Music" on through "Dirt Road," to the fun-loving spirit of "I Oughta Own this Bar" and "Cowboy Thing." There are a few glimpses of the Armadillos in the threading, but the overall fabric of the 11-track disc could very well get them back on the radio if given the right push. In Bakersfield, it's particularly difficult to find new country music, and "Get Lucky" should get a hearty welcome from local fans looking to snatch up all the early release copies following the band's Kern County Fair performance.

"This is our big steppin' out show. We have all this talk and things going on about us on the social networking sites. Now we have to play and looking forward to the future."

Tuesday night's showtime is 8 p.m. "Get Lucky" will be available for purchase at most retail outlets Oct. 1, as well as for download at iTune and Amazon.com. Visit luckynedpepper.com for more information.

Going Underground Records

Going Underground Records in downtown Bakersfield has been feeding vinyl junkies by offering everything from rare punk, jazz, classic rock, country, funk and reggae since 2001. Still operating in the spirit of the fiercely independent vinyl scene, the store celebrates its 11th anniversary Saturday with a day-long event.

Owner Ron Ramirez, 32, who opened the original storefront inside the Haberfelde Building before moving to his current location a few years ago, says he appreciates the city's continued support.

"It feels good to have the store and still be around, people coming out and staying relevant with things," said Ramirez. "I don't do eBay. I like to sell everything in the store, where it's available cheaper. If you walk in and see something you should be able to buy it."

One step inside the intimate business and you'll be transported back to a time when purchasing music was more than just a click of a computer button. Lining the walls are band merchandise, magazines, posters, books and assorted music-related curios.

"The original focus was punk rock, but there was always used jazz, Beatles records, etc.

"I still do have new punk and indie titles I get two to three times a week, plus all of the used stuff that consistently comes in. I'm pretty good at knowing what's going to sell and what's not going to sell. Bakersfield likes a lot of classic rock vinyl."

The festivities will include deejays spinning throughout the day, plus live music from bands Running Scared, Carcinogenz, and Love Lush. There will also be a taco vending truck parked nearby, and sales galore on everything in the store. Ramirez added the store will keep its specially-marked sale prices on all merchandise through the end of the month.

Saturday's event begins at 10 a.m. Going Undergrounds is located at 1822 G St. 633-0111 or facebook.com/goingundergroundrecords.

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