Johnny Astro and the Big Bang
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Johnny Astro and the Big Bang

Knoxville, Tennessee, United States | SELF

Knoxville, Tennessee, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Mother Mange, Johnny Astro and the Big Bang, and the Dirty Lungs"

Last Thursday, September 16, a trio of bands, (Mother Mange, Johnny Astro and
the Big Bang, and the Dirty Lungs) performed at Longrbranch Saloon on Cumberland Avenue.

To those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Longbranch, you should do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s an old rustic house that sports a uniquely vintage atmosphere, parading a PBR sign theme, pirate flags, and punk rock bathrooms (go in one of them and you’ll get it). Pool and pinball can be played for cheap, which satisfyingly complements the mellow smoker-friendly atmosphere of Longbranch.

Mother Mange, the opening act, is a raw power duo from Knoxville. Their music is mostly themed by distorted guitar and fervent non-stop drums along with indistinct vocals. I don’t mean the vocals are not idiosyncratic, rather they are intentionally underpowered by the instrumentation.

The songs tend to be short, but sweet, with each one leaving the audience with the feeling that they have just been punched in the ear. Mother Mange’s amalgamation of post-punk and acidic grunge makes for a loud and proud garage-ish show.
And as a quick side note, they closed the show with a rendition of Neil Young’s “I’m the Ocean.” Twas sweet.

Born out of the University of Tennessee, Johnny Astro and the Big Bang, came on next showcasing their combination of southern blues-rock with healthful hints of Zeppelin (surf rock made a small appearance as well).

Singer Paul Wakefield features a harmonic male Joplin-like voice, backed by house shaking solos from lead guitarist Jackson Collier. Corresponding to this are the supportive bass lines of Mike Carroll, and the fierce drumming of Zach Gilleran. If you haven’t experienced their music before, think kids in the suburbs simultaneously discovering classic blues and rock. The band clearly enjoys what they were doing. By the end of the show, there was not a single one of them who was not doused in their own sweat. The aura their music generates is resonant of a shaking delta blues house being brought to the ground by the band’s energy. While the balance of walking harmonics and shredding is evident, it definitely favors the latter. And although the music is heavy, it is not so heavy that you can’t get off your ass and shake to it, which most of the crowd does.

Closing the evening were the Dirty Lungs. The Dirty Lungs played a set of medium length that was marked by steady paced indie rock that was attentive to sound effects.

Their singer emphasizes a defiant tone and Iggy Pop timbre. Musically, the group sounds as though The Stooges met a sound producer from Rough Trade Records, and they liked each other. Nothing too inspiring in their music, but a good way to close out a Thursday night regardless.

If you’re interested in any of the bands, you can check their music pages on myspace. Johnny Astro and the Big Bang are regular performers at Longbranch and will be playing at the Square Room for Sound Off on Wednesday, October 6.

-Graham Cohen - Word Reviews

"Jer Cole: Johnny Astro aims to expand its aural orbit"

KNOXVILLE — Less than a year old, Knoxville rock outfit Johnny Astro and the Big Bang are developing at a rate surpassing most of its young peers. Only three months after writing its first songs, the band advanced past the first round of The Square Room’s ongoing Sound Off competition.

Prioritizing quality over quantity, the group’s repertoire is barely deep enough to support a full album at this point, yet Johnny Astro maturely avoids forcing the issue, discarding most of its new material upon failure to meet the band’s ever-rising standards.

Striving for a sound it finds scarce throughout local performers, Johnny Astro and the Big Bang aims to offer an indie sound that blends old and new with hip-hop beats, simple pop bass lines, classic rock-toned guitar hooks and clear, decisive vocals. The cohesive blend of dynamic influences keeps Astro’s catalog from stagnating from track to track, combating the group’s primary fear of creating a niche for itself that would limit its future work.

“It’s more mature than anything I’ve ever played, and more innovative,” describes drummer Zach Gilleran. “That’s kind of where we want to come from. We’ve been focusing a lot on writing the kind of stuff we never hear from other bands. It’s like Black Keys meets Spoon meets Manchester Orchestra meets … classic rock? It’s definitely still evolving, but I think we know where we want to go with it.”

“A lot of it is rhythm-based,” vocalist/guitarist Paul Wakefield elaborates. “It switches back and forth from hip-hop to rock-influenced beats as the base layer of everything. Guitar-wise, it’s almost dueling at times. It’s still all over the place though. I think that’s one thing we’re going to hang on to — not developing one particular sound. All of our songs have the same kind of feel to them, the same energy ­— but they all sound really different.”

While the quartet exercises patience in developing the material it presents publicly, it recognizes the necessity of a tangible means of promotion. Johnny Astro began recording for its debut EP “Thick as Thieves” in August to aid in booking out-of-town shows and offer local fans a forget-me-not. The six-song CD is tentatively scheduled for release in January.

“We recorded the first weekend of August before school started,” Gilleran says. “We went to the mountains and rented a cabin. The guy we recorded with, Blake Cass, works at a studio in New Orleans, but he’s been a friend of ours for a long time. We hope to finish mastering in December and print CDs by January.”

Even as it prides itself on a varied set list, Johnny Astro’s live shows are tied together by two constants — energy and volume. No matter the intended mood cast by a song, the Big Bang promises to deliver it with these elements, cranking its amps to eleven and physically throbbing in unison.

Though its original material is still in short supply due to sheer novelty, the band’s creative selectivity has allowed it to bypass the early-phase mediocrity that dooms many young acts to irreversible reputations and public indifference.

“It’s a lot more energetic than other bands we’ve played in,” says guitarist Jackson Collier of the live show. “It’s well put-together but it’s really raw at the same time. We feel like rock ’n’ roll shows should be something you can feel in your bones. It shouldn’t be a moderate volume. You should be able to hear everything well and in a good mix, but as a whole, it should be loud as well as dynamic.” - Knoxville News Sentinel


Thick As Thieves EP (January 2011)
Featuring 6 new tracks:
-Western Sand
-Slow Release
-You Got Me Confused

The First Demo (March 2010)
Featuring 3 tracks:
-The Long Run
-Black Blade (Played on Knoxville's WUTK The Rock radio station.)



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