Wednesday, March 25, 2009


It's been many months since I have written on this site. Someday I may take up the slack again. Just too busy to make it work the way I'd like to right now.
Feel free to e-mail me at if you would like to help. I think there is still a need for a strict Midwestern focus on underground bands. As it is, you got a ton of sites waxing poetic on the same rotating cast of national bands. I had this site closed for quite some time. But I wanted to open it back up for past coverage to be available.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Had to come out of hibernation just to post this one from Entertainment Weekly...

People's Choice Awards: You showed up? Here's a trophy!
by Whitney Pastorek

This is not the blog post my editors asked for. In this space, you are supposed to be reading a Best and Worst of last night's People's Choice Awards, one of those snarky little fiestas where I run down all the highlights of the ceremony, crack some jokes, get worked up when Sugarland doesn't win, whatever. But PopWatchers, I can't do it this time.
I know what you're thinking: "Yeah, it's hard to make a list of 'bests' when there weren't any." But even if I faked it by saluting Christina Applegate's classy speech or the emotional fortitude it must take for Ellen DeGeneres to keep getting up there and smiling at the nice people who cheer for her when she dances her funny dance but refuse to give her the civil rights necessary to marry her "roommate," I would be doing you, the intelligent and savvy readers of, a disservice. Because the People's Choice Awards, by any reasonable standard, are the worst kind of pandering, artificial hooey. And we, the alleged people, deserve better.
I intend no disrespect to the winners of the "awards," nor to enthusiastic hostess Queen Latifah (pictured), nor to the hardworking men and women who labored behind the scenes to produce these two hours of televised pap and circumstance. But with the exception of The Dark Knight -- victorious in so many categories they had to shove them all into a montage at the end -- do I think for a second that these "winners" are, indeed, the "people's" choice? No. Let's be honest: As the very clear post-show disclaimer explained, a complex system of "E-Polls" and market research and extravagant math went into choosing the nominees you saw upon your screen. And that system led to a telecast in which praise was lavished on a crassly commercial cross-section of demographically advantageous properties starring celebrities who were willing to show up.
Even as mindless distraction, this awards show was a failure. There was no suspense; every category could be easily predicted by remembering who you'd already spotted in the audience. Would the "Favorite Rock Song" be "All Summer Long" by Kid Rock, or those other two thingies performed by people who were not currently located inside the Shrine Auditorium? To quote "winner" Rock: What a surprise. Chris Brown accepted his "Favorite Combined Forces" award (for "No Air" with Jordin Sparks) "live via satellite" from Dublin, Ireland -- where by my calculations it would have been approximately 3:30 in the morning. Rascal Flatts were handed a statue immediately after completing their unconvincing Rascal Flatts impersonation, and like 200 people rose as one from the good seats to collect the "Favorite TV Drama" award for House. Yes, tipping the winners off ahead of time has become pretty much de rigeur at this sort of thing, but when those "winners" stretch the limits of plausibility or common sense, I start sawing at my wrists with Twizzlers.
Examples: We were told early in the broadcast that voting was still open in the "Favorite New TV Comedy/Drama" categories. And yet when the time came, the casts of Gary Unmarried and The Mentalist -- which, oh wow, just happen to air on the network we're watching! -- were in the house and ready to go. The cast members of the losing shows? Conspicuously absent. (Okay, there were 90210 people milling about, but I'm willing to believe they, like Paris Hilton, have nothing better to do.) But wait, there's more: Britney Spears losing to Robin Williams for "Favorite Scene Stealing Guest Star" -- in an Internet-based voting competition? Kate Hudson (movie to promote) and Latifah (host) going head-to-head for "Favorite Leading Lady"? The Secret Life of Bees winning "Favorite Movie Drama"?? People. Bees made $37 million at the box office. That is just slightly more money than Marley and Me made opening weekend.
So what now? How to contend against the kinds of dark forces that would put Jewel outside the Shrine for the express purpose of pretending to randomly give out a CVS Pharmacy-sponsored makeover to some woman, then cut to a pre-taped segment featuring said woman's makeover? Or somehow cajole my beloved Chandra Wilson into shilling for Downy fabric softener? PopWatchers, aside from saying "don't watch the damn thing," I am at a loss. For I know I am powerless, that the People's Choice Awards are bigger than me, or you, or even Christian Bale, whose aggressive gravitas had absolutely no effect on the woooooo!-ing hordes in the balcony, desperate just to hear themselves scream.
The only thing I can hope for is this: When people like Kid Rock and Adam Sandler take to the microphone and crow ever so humbly about how their work is not "for the critics," but "for the people," all of us will take a second to remember that there is nothing wrong with a people who are also critical. Whether we use our mouses, our remotes, our blogs, or our hard-earned cash, it is up to us to decide what kind of culture we want to live in. And while it may be easy and indeed quite fun to stand in a metaphorical mosh pit and high-five every shiny famous person who comes down the pike, I happen to believe we as a people are capable of ever so much more. (Need proof? The Dark Knight.) To echo last night's oft-repeated phrase, Yes we can demand excellence. Yes we can think analytically, write articulately, and speak passionately about art and artists in our society. I go so far as to say it is our responsibility. We cannot let crap like this win.
Did you watch last night? Agree/disagree? And even if you skipped the show, who or what would be your personal choice for the very best pop culture has to offer?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Midwest alerts

• Looks like if you're a small touring band the best time to play Chicago is around Lollapalooza. Apparently bands aren't allowed to do shows at other venues in Chicago 60 days before or 30 days after their performance.
That's nuts, but I say take advantage of it. It's also good to know for next year, isn't it all you other bands fighting against nepotism?
Read the whole article published at Time Out Chicago, HERE.

• Is Detroit on the verge of an economic downfall - again? Newsroom magazine is asking this very same question and citing a lot of scary facts about how the American auto industry based in Detroit is going the way of the New Dodo: The SUV.
Read the article, HERE.
The most telling point was that when people want to have fun they now have to go across the river to Windsor, Canada.
Today, Detroit is a shadow of its former self. The big Three that made this city an international icon of prosperity and industry have fallen on bad times. And now the unthinkable — the possible demise or bankruptcy of the once mighty industrial giants now withering from decades of short term thinking, cash cowing, and going for the quick buck.
The disease eating at Detroit is not of its own making. We all played a part in prostituting American businesses for their short term gain.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Midwest alerts

• Former Cincinnati, now Brooklyn band The National seems to be popping up a lot lately.
First I read about their new pro Obama t-shirts with the democratic nominee's image and the words "Mr. November" on the bottom. All proceeds of thr t-shirt sales go to Obama's campaign.
Then I saw this interview with Matt over on Aquarium Drunkard, HERE.
• A Upper Kentucky folk musician just signed with Sub Pop, according to Mike Breen's "Spill it" column, HERE.
• Mil Milk Lemonade has a refreshingly open-minded take on the recent Columbus, Ohio Parking Lot Blowout concert, featuring Times New Viking and Dead Sea as headliners. Check that out, HERE.
• Uh Oh, did Pennsylvania's Girl Talk get screwed doing the whole "pick your price Radiohead" thing? Some people think so. Check this story, HERE.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chicago's The Interiors

(Proving great minds think alike, I wrote this a few days ago after learning about the band but hadn't posted it yet. Then I saw Buddha Den wrote about them too. So, here's my take as well!)

Perhaps it is the influence of Brooklyn sounds on the Midwest, but I'm not so sure.
Lately, I read about Chicago band The Interiors and its new self-titled release.
Here is a nice interview the Chicago Daily Herald did, HERE.
What strikes me so much about The Interiors is that they take those African rhythms made "hip" by such transparent luminaries such as Vampire Weekend, but they do it in a much more subtle way. Not only that, but they incorporate the feel into their own sound.
What I specifically hate about Vampire Weekend is the band's blatant disregard for being unique. They are simply stealing what Paul Simon did in the 1960s and stealing what Peter Gabriel did in the 1980s and then adding a Strokes feel to it. It's ham-fisted and boring to me.
But check out The Interiors at its Myspace page and give them a listen.
For those in the Columbus and Indiana scenes, you might hear a kindred spirit of their song writing approach in the soon-to-be-defunct Miranda Sound. Both bands have a similar vocal style and angular aspect, with a broader melodic pop cap on top. But Miranda Sound adds a bit more of a two-vocal interplay element.
What is even more amazing about The Interiors, as you will know from reading that link I posted, their guitarist almost chopped his finger off a while back and had to undergo extensive rehab to keep playing. But he succeeded in recovery and apparently is getting more fluid as the days go by.
On a side note: Something that scares me about the African rhythms creeping into the Midwest indie rock scene is that it gives too much credit to what is going on in Brooklyn and not enough to what is going on around these parts.
Either that, or it shows that musicians might care too much about looking to New York for guidance instead of coming up with their own unique voice.
Fortunately, for now, The Interiors have succeeded in accomplishing its use of the stylistic rhythms in a new way. Even better, they did it much more affectively than Vampire Weekend.
But I'm telling you, if I start seeing Midwest bands using more than one drum kit I'm going to start laying into people. I'm already seeing bands with singers hitting snare drums and shit.
Don't give in to the hipness, musicians, just try harder to do your own thing.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Outsiders who value the insiders

I just found this South Carolina-based music site called Sound as Language and lo and behold there are several reviews of Midwestern bands.

This Athens, Ohio band Russenorsk was the first review I read:
If I had to guess without looking, I would surely place Russenorsk from the NYC area. They have a hipness to their sound which is curiously reminiscent of many NYC bands. But, the band actually hails from Athens, Ohio. Perhaps that is why Russenorsk are able to distinguish themselves from the cesspool of NYC indie pop. Tim Race and Jack Martin met during their freshman year at Ohio University and In A Great Wave Of Horns is the result of that friendship. The band certainly has a familiar sound that could be traced to bands like Arcade Fire or say, an incredibly less annoying Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. In fact, Russenorsk often reminds me of the laid back sounds of the underrated Takka Takka as well. Regardless, Russenorsk are able to do more than an adequate job of lacing their songs with a noticeable personality all their own. The arrangements and the band’s use of Martin’s cello creates a diverse backdrop to the promising, distinct vocals of Race. Look for Russenorsk’s next record (which they are about to record) to truly separate the band from the crowded indie pop/folk pack.

Then I noticed they had Columbus, Ohio band Tin Armor on there as well:
As we impatiently wait for that new Smoking Popes album ( will it ever see the light of day?), it is comforting to know that Tin Armor have our back. I recently covered Tin Armor in the Band You Should Know category. Their 2007 album, A Better Place Than I Have Been was a brilliant starting point and this seven-inch keeps the band’s momentum going in the right direction. I am a sucker for bands in this mold and Tin Armor have the ingredients down to a tee. Clever, morose lyrics are twirled around melodic instrumentation and vocal harmonies so warm and cuddly you could lay with them for days. And frankly, that’s exactly what I did. With four songs clocking in at an all too brief ten minutes, this record begs to be flipped over and over again and again. The band brings to mind a wide range of artists/bands. From the jangle of Ted Leo (and his old band, Chisel) or the Dan Adriano-penned Alkaline Trio songs (or Adriano’s old emo/pop band, Tuesday), Tin Armor are riding a charming pop wave to perfection. Songs of doomed relationships never sounded so sweet.

I also saw they had a review of the (in my opinion, totally excellent CD) by Cincinnati's The Pomegranates new CD "Everything is Alive":
Pomegranates debut, the Two Eyes EP, was one of my favorites of 2007. The band’s first full-length, Everything Is Alive, is a bit of a different beast though. On Two Eyes, Pomegranates attacked their songs with a youthful exuberance. However, on Everything Is Alive the band has grown up in a relatively short time. Here, Pomegranates lay back and let the material come to them instead. The songs are, dare I say, more mature and well-rounded. They offer more structure than the band’s original frenzied approach towards indie pop. The band’s enthusiasm might be missed at first but Everything Is Alive proves Pomegranates have way more to offer than just a good time.
Everything Is Alive was recorded and mixed in the span of six days. The majority of the album was tracked live and those elements add a great deal of character as well as a bit of spontaneity to the recording. Everything Is Alive is an album completely comfortable in its own skin. In essence, the album title is brilliant. Whatever flaws and callouses the band possesses, it is what makes them unique and it breathes life into Everything Is Alive.
With two vocalists who offer distinctly different paths, Pomegranates walk the line masterfully on Everything Is Alive. It is what the band surrounds those vocals with that is so exhilarating though. Pomegranates’ arrangements are cunning to say the least. There is inherent melody in the band’s song but there is also a subtle ambiance that intrigues throughout. Lyrically, the band shows off an impressive depth and maturity. The songs range from gentle caresses to anthemic sparks of energy but always possess a brilliant intimacy.
Over the last few years, indie pop has become stale and overrun with countless bands and inconsequential hype. Essentially, the genre has lost its soul. Pomegranates are able to reinvigorate a lifeless body with the earnest, hopeful spirit that emanates from Everything Is Alive. The record is a true, joyful expression of life and all the sadness and beauty therein. Who knew indie rock had such a wild, beating heart left on the inside?

Here's another Cincinnati-based band they reviewed, in 500 Miles to Memphis:
500 Miles To Memphis hail from Cincinnati, OH. The band cleverly took it’s name from the distance between their hometown to Graceland in Memphis, TN. 500 Miles To Memphis has an interesting sound as they combine country with rock n’ roll. With ample fiddle and steel guitar the band adds an authentic element to their brand of punk n’ roll. Ryan Malott’s endearing tales of life, love, booze and everything in between is almost comforting. With a thoroughly rocking sound and Malott’s wry lyrical take, 500 Miles To Memphis are able to strike a nerve here. The only complaint is that the album clocks in at nearly 50 minutes. So, Sunshine In A Shot Glass does run a bit too long at times. Regardless, fans of rock n’ roll with more than a little twang should find much to sink their teeth into here.

Flock of rock

I get a kick hearing about little kids forming rock bands. You never know what you're going to get when they put their energy behind it. It could end up genius like The Shaggs, or simply honest like Chet Baker. That's why I was drawn to this article in the Chicago Tribune about "School of Rock" programs having high enrollments. It's also interesting how the writer notes that kids are a lot more into classic rock. I'm not sure how much things have changed since I was young. People were obsessed with Led Zepplin when I was in my teens. But I can tell you that I go swimming every chance I get. You can get a good feeling of what kids listen to these days by what the lifegaurds on summer break blast from the loud speakers all day. Last year it was horrible country music. Now they are another year older and rocking out to country rock from the 1970s. Go figure. But here is the article at this link.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Canoe trip regression

I guess his name is Christopher Bell, and here's his Myspace site: HERE
Fortunately he's actually touring into Cleveland, OH. so it falls within my dumb Midwest focus.
His tour also makes me think back to something I read lately. It was about how society will have to regress into a more primitive state in order to move forward. The big trucks will fall away back into bicycles. The frozen TV dinners of the 1970s, fall back into today's grilling chicken outside. If we really want to get off our society's addiction to gasoline, we have to find other means of transportation. Something we can rely on.
In fact, the more I read about Bell the more I think of another book I read (I will post the name/title when I remember it) about a historian/writer who did a similar boat trip. He started in New York and boated his way across the United States. People didn't even think it was possible anymore. I guess it has a lot to do with planning spring river heights and knowing when people will be working certain gateways where rivers are controlled by man-operated dams. It was an interesting read.
With gas prices rising so much, I honestly think touring is pointless. Without label help on your side, or unless you're some rich kid digging into daddy's pockets, you're just wasting time. So aside from giving up, bands just have to be more imaginative.

Canoe Tour:
Jul 3 2008 8:00P
The Labyrinth Jamestown, New York
Jul 8 2008 8:00P
Labyrinth Jamestown, New York
Jul 10 2008 12:00P
taping on WRFA Jamestown, New York
Jul 10 2008 10:00P
Live from Cleveland Cleveland, Ohio
Jul 11 2008 10:00P
Mojos Jamestown, New York
Jul 12 2008 8:00P
Stedman Corners Mayville, New York
Jul 19 2008 8:00P
Canoe Tour Kick Off - Attic Show! Buffalo, New York
Jul 24 2008 8:00P
Canoe Tour - Boulder Coffee Co Rochester, New York
Jul 26 2008 8:00P
Canoe Tour - House Show! Rochester, New York
Aug 2 2008 10:00P
Canoe Tour - ABC Cafe Ithaca, New York
Aug 15 2008 9:00P
Canoe Tour - Tramontane Cafe Utica, New York
Aug 21 2008 8:00P
Canoe Tour - Moon & River Cafe Schenectady, New York
Aug 22 2008 10:00A
Canoe Tour - SACC TV Schenectady Today Schenectady, New York
Aug 23 2008 8:00P
Canoe Tour - Muddy Cup Albany w/tba Albany, New York
Aug 29 2008 8:00P
Canoe Tour - Cubbyhole Coffeehouse Poughkeepsie, New York
Sep 6 2008 8:00P
Local Music Showcase Jamestown, New York

Midwest alerts

I wrote the last post a while back and wasn't gonna post it. But I changed my mind, said what the fuck, and decided to post it for posterity sake. Sometimes things just need to be put out there to remind us all to try harder.
I guess I'll keep plugging away:

• I've been hearing about this dude who plans to do his next tour by canoe, in order to save money on gasoline. I'll try to find out some more and post about where he goes.
• New release from Captain of Industry out now via All Hail Records. Check out Buddha Den for some info on that.
• Chicago's David Vandervelde is back at it again. He was roomies with Jay Bennett and they owed a studio together. Yeah, so that's how we all know about him today. His music is still good though.
• Just to give you an example how bullshit can turn into reality, I learned today that the myth about lemmings running off cliffs to their suicide was created by a 1958 movie called "White Wilderness." It is filmed in the Canadian Arctic and the director imported the lemmings in order to create a staged migration scene. It resulted in the mistaken belief that lemmings kill themselves.
So the next time some hipster rants about lemmings, you'll know the irony of that.

People with Animal Heads
Project Update

I have to admit my heart hasn't been into writing about music lately. Underground rock is akin to the Greek mythology of Sisyphus, condemned to ceaselessly roll a rock up and down a mountain over and over again.
But writing about it is a fate even worse than that.
My original goal for PWAH was to do a ton of research on every city in the Midwest, because I was sure that there were dozens of great bands that I was not hearing about. This part was true. These bands exist. I have seen them. I have talked to them. They are just as disappointed as I am.
I'm not even 1/4 way through the project. But after so many months of doing this, I have noticed that our Midwest music scenes are really hanging on by a thread.
The more I learn about music scenes across the Midwest, the more I realize that every city has people in control. There is a glass ceiling. Local writers, people who run the bars, and the organizations that put on shows - all run by little groups in every city. When a festival is organized, it's normally pretty obvious what bands will play. If a great national band comes to town, it's pretty much a given what locals will open for them.
It isn't some covert operation, it's just reality. We live in small towns. It's a lot like politics, you put enough bible thumpers in the government, you will end up with George Bush. It's natural selection.
But it started to make me feel used when I would write glowing reviews about a band, only to realize later on that they are part of the problem.
The more I learn about bands rising to the top in other cities, the more I realize that I'm only hearing about them because someone gave them opportunities. They were those bands whose friends in charge let them open for every national band that came through. They were those bands that knew people who organized the festivals. They knew the people on the radio. They grew up with the dudes who started the label. They were buddies with the music critics at the newspaper and web sites.
The bands that didn't know these people personally? Broke up. All of them. They were good bands too.
And the pissed off hack musicians are way too busy trying to kiss ass to keep the circle going.
It used to make me angry, but now I'm just ambivalent. I'm just amazed at how lifeless our society has become. No one stands for anything.
The worst offenders, aside from music fans, are music critics. I'm sure they had a lot of goals when they started, much like I did. But they soon were ignoring the fact that they were supposed to be documenting their scenes, instead of documenting their friends. Even worse, they started documenting Vampire Weekend.
But that isn't the only problem I see. The fault lies in the laps of music fans, as well. Everyone is infinitely more interested in talking about MGMT and why they are better than Vampire Weekend, or vice versa. Dude, the Brooklyn music scene rulez!
Most people are happy with being told who to listen to by magazines, TV and radio stations. And the sad reality is that they are only getting the top of an iceberg. That chunk of ice is being dictated to them by nepotism. No one cares about putting their face underwater anymore. No one wants to venture outside of their bubbles.
It doesn't matter what city I go to, the hundreds of bands I have seen. People go to shows, but they don't necessarily go to LISTEN to music. People are out there for purely social reasons. Nothing wrong with that. But this is akin to the same reason why people go to see fucking horse shit bands like The Menus. That makes me sick to my stomach.
"Support local music!"
That is what I hear from city to city in our Midwest. In reality, the majority of scenes consist of musicians going to see other musicians. They stand in the back of the bars and talk about themselves. The true audience of underground music is non existent. The bars are empty.
People that do go out, go to the same place every weekend. It doesn't really matter who is playing, as long as the same people they have known for years are there. It's all about repetition.
Maybe the musicians are performing that night, maybe they are just in the audience. Rarely do I see people specifically trying to see new bands they have never heard before. When was the last time you did this? The reality is that when a new band is about to perform, the room clears. People go outside to smoke and come back when someone they know is back onstage. Maybe they talk about "scene unity" while they are out there?
So how do bands break through this wall? I have decided it's hopeless. Because if no one is trying to find better music, then they are being told who to listen to.
Which leads me to another problem. The music sites out there all focus on the same new indie bands. It's a pretty ridiculous cycle. I often take a look at the "recent adds" on the CMJ charts. The bands on those lists (actually only the ones on the best labels) soon show up on the radio and then show up on the music sites. Have I mentioned that they, or their labels, pay thousands and use their influence to be on those lists in the first place? Out of the CMJ list, three bands that have paid the most for publicity end up getting talked about ad nauseam. The cycle then repeats itself.
When I started PWAH I used to poke fun at how every site had pictures of MIA and Kanye West on the front page. Now it's just too depressing to do that anymore.
So how does a band get any attention aside from nepotism? They either have to have a total schtick, go on tour relentlessly until they are broke and tired (which frankly doesn't work either), or it goes back to the old "having friends in high places" thing.
So is all underground music just a smaller version of the constant national circle of glad-handing and nepotism? Yes.
In fact, I'm not above any of this. I'm just as bad.
Maybe if I could somehow quit my job and set out to document each city first hand. But I'm not going to do that.
I used to have hope that local music critics were doing that - because they are being paid to. But they don't.
In fact, as talented as many of them are, not a single one does this. It's too daunting a task.
Instead, they are like the rest of the musicians that make up underground scenes. They hang out with their buddies at night. They go to the shows their buddies go to. They see the bands their buddies are in. They write about what they see.
And they are all stifling their music scenes one by one.
These days I guess I would rather just go outside and enjoy the weather and not think about any of this anymore.
Maybe I can dig out all my Velvet Underground records and go sit in the sun.
But wait - VU only got famous because they rode Andy Worhol's goddam coat tails.
Yeah, it's pretty hopeless.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Comfest... again

It's that time of year again. Columbus, Ohio's Comfest.
Blah, Blah, Blah...

Ohio University receives record $92 million bequest

Looks like the Ohio University students will finally get some money to do such frivolous things as conduct a class on "How to polish your expensive diamonds" or one dissecting "What is the best luxury vehicle to have washed by your butler."
A record gift to OU, based in Athens, OH. has grown by more than $10 million, now that the value of the donors' estate has become clearer.
University President Roderick McDavis announced in Dayton Wednesday that Fritz and Delores Russ left about $92 million in cash, securities and property to the school, to be used for engineering education and research.
When he first disclosed the gift in January, McDavis said the university would receive an estimated $80 million.
Fritz Russ studied electrical engineering at OU and got his degree in 1942. He and his wife lived in Dayton and launched Systems Research Laboratories, specializing in control systems for airplanes.
Delores Russ died in January at age 86; her husband died in 2004.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Kanye may actually go to Indiana voluntarily!?
Oh... never mind

I just read on Switchbladecomb that Kanye West was added as a panelist for the Midwest Music Summit.
For those who read PWAH regularly you'd know that the MMS was cancelled in 2007, so the organizers could come back this year with a much better festival. I guess this addition is part of that.
This has nothing to do with the Midwest Music Summit. I guess it's the Industry Meltdown Midwest Music Summit in Madison, Wisconsin. Never heard of it.
Anyway, here are two links about it:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Columbus is for Haters

Oh man, I just saw this article on Shitgaze. Wow, they make it seem like it's some exotic music made by baby-eaters from Berlin.

Danko in Ann Arbor

The Band were pretty damn great - until, of course, they began to suck.
But as a boy I can recall listening intently to "The Weight" for that part when bass player Rick Danko began to sing. I was fascinated by his voice. All at once, it was friendly, weird, interesting, confused and wise.
I was similarly fascinated with the dude's voice from Canned Heat for similar reasons, but that's neither here nor there.
Alas, Danko fell asleep in Dec. 1999 and his heart stopped working. That night the world lost a unique voice.
Thanks to music writer Jan Berrett for writing this review of Rick Danko's CD "Times like these."
Berrett points out that the last show Danko ever performed was at The Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That was pretty interesting to hear. It was the very last stop on a Midwestern tour, before he went back home outside of Woodstock, NY and died.
She also explains that the CD includes live performances from that Ark show. I hope to find some examples on-line soon.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Noteworthy causes to support this weekend

I would like to point out two important benefits going on for truly tragic events that have occurred this year.

• Check Each Note Secure for information on how to support musician Katie Reider. A truly talented and popular folk and pop musician, Reider has been hit with a debilitating cancer that has left her unable to sing or perform anymore. What is so scary is that I saw her perform last year during Taste of Cincinnati. She was her usual vivacious and energetic self. What I didn't know is that in the past year, doctors discovered a tumor in her jaw and neck, which had spread destruction to her throat and sinuses. She has been struggling ever since with rehabilitation to overcome this.
What we can do as a music community is go to KATIE REIDER/ for information on how to help and show your support for Reider.
As Joe Long wrote on Each Note Secure, "At the site, you can start listening to her songs by download (9 original songs written and performed by Katie over the last 10 years) for $1.00 donation to her cause. So, I would highly encourage you to head over to the site and make a 1$ donation to the cause of a great Cincinnati musician and person as she fights for her life."

• In another tragic series of events, volunteers have been focused on raising money to help a young Columbus, Ohio woman and her boss after the two were seriously injured in a hit and run.

Haiku Hit and Run Benefit
Saturday, June 7, from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Corner of North High St. & Hubbard St. (next to Haiku). Volunteers will be on hand to register donations.
Performing at the show Saturday:
5:30 p.m. - DJ True Skills
6:00 p.m. - Bob Ray Starker
7:00 p.m. - Megan Palmer
8:00 p.m. - Karate Coyote
9:00 p.m. - Paper Airplane
10:00 p.m. - Two Cow Garage

"On the evening of May 15, Julie Liu (co-owner of Haiku Restaurant) and Rachel Widomski (a bartender) were seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver outside of Haiku restaurant in the Short North.
That evening a man left Haiku without paying his bill. Julie, co-owner of the restaurant and Rachel, OSU student, artist and bartender, followed the man outside to his vehicle.
According to police reports, the man started his car and purposefully struck the two women as he backed out of his parking spot. A restaurant guest who tried to help was also injured. Both women were transported to the hospital with serious injuries.
Rachel Widomski suffered sever spinal cord injuries from the crime. While she has displayed remarkable strength throughout the ordeal, Rachel will be permanently paralyzed due to the severity of the spinal cord injuries. Her rehabilitation will be extensive.
Julie Liu suffered fractures to her sternum, multiple fractures to her ribs, a broken collar bone and a dislocated wrist. She is also suffering from a serious concussion and a bruised brain. Doctors at the Ohio State University Medical Center are keeping Julie at the hospital to monitor her brain condition and her rehabilitation.
Despite her serious injuries, the Liu family is asking donations be focused on the recovery of Rachel"
Fundraising options have been going on all week and do not end with the benefit show, so visit for more information...

Some Web site news...

There has been a flurry of activity lately on many Ohio music related Web sites. Here are a few tidbits:
• The most exciting thing to me is that Dayton's Buddha Den site reported Bob Pollard will be headlining this year's Dayton Music Festival. Check out my links section and go there for more information.
• Fortunately, this thing didn't turn into another Nite Owl situation. But Columbus, Ohio (in)famous Andyman's Treehouse bar and venue will change ownership later this month. Read all about at Andyman's Treehouse. Essentially, co-owners Andy Davis (head honcho at CD 101) and Quinn Fallon (of X-Rated Cowboys and who books the bar) are selling their hold on the bar. The good news is that a long time patron of the bar is buying in. Fallon is expected to take up a spot as bartender again and remain as booker.
• Each Note Secure has information on the new Dr. Dog album and an MP3
• I Rock Cleveland has an extensive review on folky/noisy musicians The Dreadful Yawns new CD. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Spotlight: Unholy Two of Columbus, OH.

I did this interview with The Unholy Two right before the band's recent 7-inch release. Unfortunately, I never quite got around to writing it in time for the release show.
I've always appreciated the band, because when it comes to "noise rock" the band definitely focuses a lot more on the rock aspect. It's a pure guttural release of sounds.
I've seen the band perform several times in the past few years and I'm always amazed how one night 80 percent of the room will leave, running with hands over their ears. But another night the same amount of people might rush the stage and dance to the same music like it's some 1980s dance night. Like most noise rock, it's an acquired taste. There is a middle ground in there somewhere that should be respected.
So I sent a few questions to Unholy's Chris Lutzko for further inquiry. I didn't quite expect him to take the questions seriously. Alas, he did not. But there are still a few nuggets of insight in his answers in there somewhere.

PEOPLE WITH ANIMAL HEADS: I've seen you live a few times over the years and I think what strikes me about your music so much is that it sounds like an some kind of riot. The vocals come off like a monk screaming down from a mountain, or like cops shouting on the street with a bullhorn. Does this come anywhere close to your intentions?

CHRIS LUTZKO: There was never an intent to sound chinese or like a cop. Maybe a leather cop.

PWAH: I haven't heard your new release yet. I plan to, but how do you think the recordings compare to your live shows?

CL: When you play a show your audience is mostly gun grabbers and baby killers so it can throw you off. The only other people at our recording were the engineers, Tom and Will, and we're more comfortable being around Koolies.

PWAH: I really like to focus on the aspect of Midwestern music on my site. How do you think being from the Midwest has influenced your music?

CL: I grew up during THE DRIVE, so most of my cleveland sports memories are kinda white guilt. Cheater Slicks rule Oblivians drool.

PWAH: What do you make of the increased attention Columbus has been getting over the past year in its avant garde scene? Is it hurting what has been going on, or is it providing more opportunities for like-minded musicians in town?

CL: I'm not really clued in to what the queers are doing, but I know that Columbus, Ohio is the rock and roll capital of North America.

PWAH: What are some midwestern bands you like right now that you think other people should know about?

CL: The Waterboards and The Beautiful Two

PWAH: Tell me a bit about your latest release, any lyrical themes you delve into and what your plans are right now to get the word out on it. (tours/release shows/any songs people can hear online).

CL: The A-side is about how girls can't rock. The B-side lets you know where you can find 'em.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Music site roundup

Lots of great music coverage going on lately.
Here are a few things you should definitely check out:

• I saw this link to an interview with Times New Viking in London. I didn't plan to read it at first, because the interviews are becoming pretty redundant lately. But this new one is pretty damn insightful on the current state of Ohio/Columbus music. I especially like the quote about how ever since The Velvet Underground came to Ohio in 1966, Columbus bands have been competing for the loudest band title ever since. The more you think about that, the more it rings true.
You can find the entire article, HERE.

• The Wheel's Still in Spin, a Cincinnati-based site, has done a nice write-up on the excellent Shake It Records for this week's feature edition of "Better than the Chili." Read all about it HERE.

• I really enjoy the Dayton-based site "Buddha Den" because Kyle over there does a great job of creating new content and keeping it coming non-stop.
He has reported that the Dayton underground music site Fictionband has begun offering free downloads of Dayton bands from the more distant past, in addition to the current crop of home recordists. He said the material is extremely difficult to find elsewhere.
With The Nite Owl's recent demise, The Buddha Den reported that there are other options. Kyle said The Dayton Dirt Collective is a new venue in town that is based of the models of other collective type venues such as Mr. Roboto in Pittsburgh.
"In light of the recent closing of Nite Owl as a key venue in Dayton, bands in the region may want to look into this venue as an optional stop in Dayton. Additionally, you should contact the staff at the DDC, as their ability to step up and create an all-ages, non-alcohol-based venue is pretty cool," he wrote.
In other Buddhe Den news, the site will be releasing its own third seasonal sampler on July 1. It offers free downloads of the best in Dayton independent music.
• Cincinnati music critic Mike Breen has a write-up on a new series of outdoor music events happening this summer, called "Indie Summer." It basically consists of nightly offerings of live music at the Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati. This Friday features The Lions Rampant, The Sundresses and Turnbull ACs. Next Friday after that will be Cari Clara, Paper Airplane and The Harlequins. Check out the full article, HERE.
• Pitchfork Media has some great news about Chicago's The Ms next CD. Read all about it, HERE.
• Hopefully I can add to this round up throughout the day...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Touring into a vacuum
The Midwestern indie rock touring dilemma

One of the toughest questions any band faces is whether or not to take the show on the road.
The majority never really leave their own backyards, preferring to do shows at that bar down the road where they know the owner, know who books it and know every single person who will show up.
Sadly enough, this is what defines most music scenes. The bands that gave up, now staying home, desperately trying to control something in their favor so they feel useful and can create some semblance of power.
Then you have the rare bands that throw caution to the wind, pack up their shit and leave for months. How the hell can they do that? Is it just because they are young, in college and have no responsibilities? Do they live in their rich parent's basement? Are they intent being waiters their whole lives? Or is it just because they possess stronger convictions other musicians lack?
A year ago I started to write an article on the tours of unknown Midwest indie bands, because I noticed there were a scant few doing it. But these days it is even more interesting to me because there are more - even in the face of gas prices which have risen to just about $4 per gallon. Then I saw this article on band having problems touring in this economy.
Often times I hear about a band going out on tour across the United States and I have to wonder. Maybe the band is pretty new. Maybe they have some fans in their hometown. But how can they expect to make any money playing weeknights in towns when the local newspapers won't even review their CD?
It has to be rough spending more than $100 on gas in a few days, playing to five people and making barely enough to pay for food. I seriously wonder how bands do it. More importantly, I wonder WHY they do it. What drives this irrationality? It's takes a strong resilience. It's actually pretty masochistic.
It's also a Catch 22: You're never going to get more fans at out of town shows, if you never play out of town shows. So you show up with bells on, hoping you're not just playing to the other band and the bass player's girlfriend.
Columbus, Ohio's Psychedelic Horseshit is one band intent on getting out there no matter what the cost.
Thankfully, the group has endured more attention the past year than the normal band, after the rise of the shitpop media focus. But hype only goes so far. This band loves to perform and it shows on stage.
"I'm not sure how the recent 60 cent (gas) hike will fuck us," bandleader Matt Whitehurst said. "I don't know. I guess we tour to keep it going. If we stopped we'd be just another random bedroom/basement recording document #183; and don't get me wrong there's nothing wrong with that, but we like to play shows and we like to travel."
The group has been all over the country and is currently heading out for another tour of the west.
"Playing for the same assholes everytime in your hometown really takes the fun out of it. We usually just scrape by on tour and live relativley comfortably (food, beer, weed)," Whitehurst said. "But of course there is rough spots throughout the country. None of us have ever died or anything. You gotta be able to live like a homeless person and sleep on floors and plan for the fact that you might not make enough dough to buy weed or eat or drink tomorrow."
In other words, the group shares a sensibility of acceptance. It's a tone that I found other touring bands share as I did interviews for this article.
"It's exciting. And sure some bands definetely should not do it. But if your band is good then you will get your records put out or put them out yourself and people will read about them and buy them and you will have people at your shows," he said. "If you suck then you shouldn't be playing music anyway. I guess the nature of the game kinda weeds out the shit acts. Unless they happen to be silver spoon kids. But they'll never stop making shitty music."
So Darwinism and the romance of the road is what keeps Psychedelic Horseshit going. But what about a band that hasn't had the luxury of being amongst the "new wave" of punk?
Up in northern Ohio, Cleveland's Bears singer/guitarist Charlie McArthur said he has been thinking a lot about the very same topic lately. He is in the process of booking an East Coast tour for the band in August.
"In the past, we've toured because it's seemed like there is some demand - small though it is at this point - for us in certain cities. That was especially true on the West Coast," he said. "The best shows for us are always with bands who are our friends in other cities, or in cities where a college radio DJ has helped promote the music. Other than that, it is definitely a lot of playing to small audiences on off nights... and that can bring you down a little bit, but that's usually offset by having the opportunity to see the country and have fun with your friends on the road."
It is this shared love of travel and idealistic notion of joy in music that Bears - although drastically different in sound from Psychedelic Horseshit - share with other touring bands. But neither has really addressed the fact that it often costs more to drive to a gig than it does to get paid for performing.
"The last time we were out on the road was a year ago and gas was closer to $3.20 a gallon. I think it cost us about $80 to fill up the van each time, so it gets really expensive," McArthur said. "If the price of gas keeps going up like this, I don't think it will even be possible for us to travel very far again unless we start to get more popular. It's really a shame because playing in new towns for new kids all the time is great, but it won't be so good if we just end up losing money rather than breaking even like we have in the past."
I told him that I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I'm starting to worry that maybe the reason so many bands become so stuck in their hometowns, is because it may not be worth it to tour anymore until they get signed to some label that will promote them.
"Well, Debbie, I think you may be right about that," McArthur said. "I don't think it's only the price of gas that is making it difficult to tour these days. Lately, there are just so many bands out there that have reached a certain level of popularity and have label support, that it doesn't seem to leave much room for bands like us - without a label - to play at most clubs. It's not impossible to tour, by any means, but it does sometimes feel like it might not always be worth it … I'm glad to see that other people are noticing these same things."
I'm also wondering if more bands ay try to go the route of getting radio airplay. It often gives bands the options of finding out where their fans are BEFORE having to tour all over the world. I hope to talk about that more in another article sometime.

Meanwhile, other bands look at touring like they are laying out a business plan, complete with numbers and figures.
Fellow Cleveland band the Dreadful Yawns is about the kick off an east coast tour. The group thankfully has the luxury of having some help from its label Exit Stencil to help cover road costs.
"We figure this three week tour will cost us nearly $1,700 in gas alone. That means we have to make about $80 a night in merchandise and door just to cover gas," bandleader Eric Schulte said. "That's not good. This time around we'll be paying for everything out of pocket. (We) come home broke to no paycheck because we haven't worked in three weeks. It's gonna be rough, but you don't get anywhere in life if you don't put it on the line every once in while. Plus we've been lucky in that our record label, Exit Stencil Recordings, gave us some money for tour support. Any little bit helps. Not to sound all motivational speakery, but you can do anything you put your mind to. We have a bunch of cool merchandise products that we are trying out. We have a new album. Plus, we've been touring and releasing albums for a few years so we have at least a little fan base."
He said Cleveland is a great town for rock and roll, but it can make a band motivated to move around.
"You can only play to the same people so many times before you start to yearn for something more. Not many bands in Cleveland book their own tours, buy their own vans, and get out to spread the gospel of Cleveland rock. If, for no other reason, we do it to get people interested in what is happening in Cleveland," Schulte said.
He said not only is their goal to promote Cleveland's music scene, but to help spread the word about Exit Stencil.
"We're extremely lucky to be dealing with Exit Stencil as our label. There is a very symbiotic relationship going on. We tour to get our name out there obviously, but we also want to get the name of the label out there. As the label gets more and more attention we get more, and as we start to turn heads the label gets some recognition. There are too many bands sitting on their thumbs waiting to get that mythical record deal. We'd rather learn to book our own tours, figure out ways to pay for it, and sweat it out. Nothing is free in this game, and the DIY ethic is a part of our very being. Besides, when we are sitting around with the grandkids who doesn't want to be able to tell little suzie that grandpa got lost in Manhattan while tripping on acid while he was on tour with a rock band 40 years ago?" Schulte said.
Good point.
He added that any band, from the smallest indie, to the local heroes or nationals, will tell the same story about touring woes.
"Tuesday nights in any midwestern town isn't gonna be pretty," he said. "All that you can hope for is that for every night you play to the bartender in Des Moines, you will play for a hundred people in Chicago. It's 20 percent planning, 5 percent promotion, and 75 percent luck. Plus, if you've been lucky enough to meet some really great bands in other cities then you are ahead of the curve."
Cincinnati's Buffalo Killers helped me out with an interview back in April 2007, in which they touched upon their ability to tour as an underground Midwestern indie band. Since then the group has skyrocketed to joining such luminaries as The Black Crows and The Black Keys on tour.
Perhaps this growth can set the example to lesser known bands that it is possible to move forward. Touring is not the dead-end road it may appear at times.
Member Zach Gabbard explained that it is all about focus.
"The band is our job. When I'm home from tour, I'm working. When I'm on the road, I'm working. It is the job you can't escape... it is with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," he said. "It is as exhausting as running any business would be. I think the biggest mistake most bands make is they run their band like a hobby and if that's what it is, then you don't need to spend as much time with it, but if you want to make it all work, it has to be your job - that, and have plenty of merchandise to sell on the road."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Midwest focus

Lots of stuff going on recently:

• Read this article from Tennessee on Cincinnati band Over the Rhine, in which the group discusses the death of a father and moving forward.

• The Taste of Cincinnati Festival takes place this weekend. It's a great time. Head on over to Each Note Secure for a full article on the events.

Esquire hits on best bars
Esquire Magazine recently did a round up on the best bars in America. Check out the full listing HERE.
Ohio got attention for Andyman's Treehouse an Surly Girl Saloon.
The California Clipper got the nod in Illinois.
The Red Key is tops in Indiana.
Iowa was noted for its Royal Mile and the Red Monk bars.
The Old Seelbach Bar stood out in Kentucky
Miller's Bar and The Bar at Seldom Blues won out in Michigan.
The Bulldog NE won in Minnesota.
Pennsylvania's Friendly Lounge was a focus.
The Silver Dollar Tavern was touched upon in Wisconsin.

Indiana's Midwest Music Summit back on?
Just saw this article promoting the 2008 Midwest Music Summit, HERE

Detroit's Electronic Music Festival kicks off
Read all about that HERE

• Mike Breen does a nice review of Cincinnati music/violin sensation Peter Adams and his new CD "I woke with planets in my face." Read the whole review: HERE

• Oh yeah, you got this Shitgaze article in the recent Spin too, which I took from the boards. If you click on the photo it gets big enough to read:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Wait for it...

Stay tuned. I have a nice article I've been working on for the past week coming. Plus a new interview.

• Check out links to Donewaiting for info on Times New Viking getting robbed and their performance at Both are in the links to the right.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chicago's dilemma

That ordinance to force promoters to essentially pay to play, has been put on hold. I attribute this to the amount of hairs raised over it amongst the music-loving masses. But this ordinance should be easily stopped. All it really takes these days to stop ordinances is to gather a few folk and hit city council with a little fire and brimstone. But you'd better damn well be right. That's also key.
I'd say this was done and then some.
Here's a full story and interview, via Greg Kot at the Chicago Tribune, HERE.
By the way, why do Chicagoans continue to elect any member of the Daley family? That has been a mystery to me for years.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Spin's look back at Ohio's punk history

Love 'em or hate 'em, I saw this SPIN magazine feature on the history of punk. It's actually a pretty good read, so check it out at this link HERE

Most importantly (since this is a Midwestern-focused music site) is this section:

New York City's sister scene was, oddly, in Ohio. There were the ferocious Cleveland aesthetes Pere Ubu and drooling delinquents the Dead Boys (who eventually moved to Manhattan); Velvet Underground obsessives the Mirrors (later the Styrenes); the audience-abusing, post-glam sociopaths electric eels; and screed-heads the Pagans. In Akron, the Bizarros and Rubber City Rebels revved up a hooky buzz, and Devo's multimedia synth-punk spoofed and condemned society as a mutant production line; Kent's male-female trio Human Switchboard conjured organ-drenched drama. Also in the Midwest, MX-80 Sound's arty metallic roar and the slap-happy scuzz of the Gizmos (known for the ditty "Human Garbage Disposal") emerged from Bloomington, Indiana. Minneapolis' Suicide Commandos released their snappy '77 debut, Make a Record, and the trashy Sillies just dismayed Detroit.

I guess history repeats itself from 1977 to 2007, when Ohio's punk roots reared up its head again nationally.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Holy shit, I just noticed this on Pitchfork Media.
Multi-instrumentalist, producer, and Bloomington, Indiana scene staple LonPaul Ellrich passed away Wednesday, May 7. A beloved member of the fertile musical community that populates the college town, Ellrich lent his touch to a plethora of Secretly Canadian projects from throughout the years, including Marmoset.
As a statement on the label website reads, "Though most knew him as an amazingly subtle and musical drummer, [Ellrich] was very much a swiss army knife. He could sing, play guitar, break out a fucked up keyboard part, it didn't matter...his primary instrument was his sheer taste in music and unending-- sometimes to a fault-- need to realize what he was hearing in his brain. LonPaul, you're brutally honest, totally endearing, and always inspiring, we'll miss you."

Friends and fans wishing to share their own take on Ellrich's legacy can do so via a website set up in his honor.
Pitchfork link:HERE.
I first came to hear about Marmoset through Chris Fry of Margot and theNuclear So and Sos.
No, I don't know how he died.
Legacy Web-site: HERE

Bar None

First I heard it, then I read it officially on Buddha Den. The Nite Owl has officially closed.
But here's some more info from BD:

...after more than 25 years as a jazz, blues, reggae, and underground rock hotspot, the Nite Owl has officially closed today. We understand that the building will be closed for renovations over the next couple of months and will reopen as Blind Bob's. For now, all shows have been cancelled. If you had a booking, we would recommend contacting the person who set up the show to see if it may be moved to another venue.
So long, Nite Owl....

I guess the only problem is that if your band has been booked for this month, my guess is you're screwed. Maybe the shows booked with some time to spare may have a chance to find another venue.
But if there is one thing I hate it's when bars give the ol' Fuck you to shows booked. Didn't this same thing happen when Elbows closed, or am I confusing cities?
If I'm wrong and some other bars would like to step up, please send me a message, I'd be glad to act as some kind of liaison.
I'm starting to notice a definite trend across the Midwest. Unless your bar is rock SOLID, you're screwed. Unfortunately for Nite Owl, it was a cool bar, which just suffered a lot by alcohol complaints.
I guess I have to say viva Oregon Express!
But for some Dayton folk, only one good bar in the historic district is kinda scary.
It's like a small town losing all it's antique stores.

Times on Tour

CMJ writer and Columbus, Ohio ex-patriot Eric Davidson posted this info about Times New Viking's summer tour:

This is what you call the high times for Columbus, Ohio's Times New Viking. Aside from releasing their debut for Matador (and third proper album ), Rip It Off, last January to copious praise, the mega-fuzzy pop trio has since toured with Super Furry Animals and are currently running around Europe hitting the bigwig fests like All Tomorrow's Parties in the UK and Primavera in Spain. Then they'll be back in the States to show off some more youthful chutzpah, wowing crowds at the Siren Music Festival at Coney Island and the Pitchfork fest in Chicago. We're guessing that their show in Visalia, California, at Howie And Sons Pizza will probably be the best gig, though, because while they're moving up to the big stages or playing high falutin' joints like the Whitney Museum, it's best to see these visceral vagabonds in tight quarters that hawk cheap beer.

Tour Dates For Times New Viking:
06/04 - Bloomington, IN - Waldron Art Center
06/05 - Omaha, NE - Waiting Room
06/06 - Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge
06/07 - Salt Lake City, UT - Kilby Court
06/09 - Missoula, MT - Badlander
06/10 - Seattle, WA - Neumo's
06/11 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir
06/13 - San Francisco, CA - Bottom Of The Hill
06/14 - Visalia, CA - Howie And Sons Pizza
06/15 - Los Angeles, CA - The Echo
06/16 - Los Angeles, CA - The Smell
06/17 - San Diego, CA - Casbah
06/18 - Tempe, AZ - Modified
06/19 - El Paso, TX - Hush Gallery
06/20 - Austin, TX - Emo's
06/21 - Dallas, TX - Club Dada
06/22 - Memphis, TN - Hi Tone
06/23 - Atlanta, GA - The Earl
06/25 - Washington, DC - Rock N Roll Hotel
06/26 - Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's
06/27 - New York, NY - Whitney Museum
06/28 - Providence, RI - The Living Room
06/29 - Boston, MA - Great Scott
06/30 - Montreal, Quebec - Divan Orange
07/01 - Toronto, Ontario - Horseshoe Tavern
07/02 - Buffalo, NY - Big Orbit's Soundlab
07/18 - Hoboken, NJ - Maxwell's
07/19 - Coney Island NY - Siren Music Festival
07/20 - Chicago, IL - Pitchfork Festival

Spotlight: WAX FANG of Louisville, Kentucky

I've been holding off on posting much lately, in the effort to focus more on cities outside of Ohio. You have no idea how difficult this has been.
Fortunately, my newest "Spotlight" edition focuses on what is sure to become one of your new favorite bands.
Louisville-based WAX FANG caught my ear a few months ago. I'm not even sure how - maybe it was Myspace.
I was immediately struck by the band's unique take on rock. In fact, I read someone who called the music "catchy and surprising." I agree with that.
The music is extremely alive, powerful and invigorating. They have equal parts psychedelic and glam counterparts, but take new twists in dimension with added sounds controlled through loops. The process of recreating the layered and instrumentally diverse tracks was aided by band-mate Kevin Ratterman’s engineering know-how and provided the effects and MIDI triggers needed to reproduce a bigger sound with three players. The theremin is also used to a pleasurable affect. The group is rounded out by bass player Jake Heustis
You hear this shit and you cannot believe it's created by a three-piece. Case in point, give a listen to the tune "The Doctor will see you now," on their Myspace, which is the tune that instantly made me a fan.
I'm very interested in bands that are taking traditional genres (in this case psychedelic rock) and taking it in new directions. It's not as easy as you might think. Bands have been exploring the depths of psychedelic rock since the 1960s.
Wax Fang recently released it's second CD called La La Land to great reviews. Buy it HERE.
A lot of interviews also focus heavily on the fact that singer/songwriter Scott Carney went to high school with fellow Louisville musician Jim James, of My Morning Jacket.
More importantly, I have been wanting to focus on Kentucky and Wax Fang was the first step in that direction.
Carney recently helped me out with an interview to start off the entire process of looking into the music scenes of our "southern" Midwest brethren. It's a whole new link into the Midwest mind-frame.
PEOPLE WITH ANIMAL HEADS: What are some bands from Kentucky that you think more people should know about?
SCOTT CARNEY: Off the top of my head, check out the Slow Break, the Photographic, Pokey LaFarge, the Fervor, Lucky Pineapple, the Phantom Family Halo, Venus Trap, and Whistle Peak.
PWAH: What are some cities in Kentucky, besides Louisville that are doing interesting things...
SC: Other than Lexington, which has a great little music loving community and is home to one of our favorite places to play, the Dame (which, sadly, is closing its doors in June), the only place I can think of is Whitesburg, KY, home of the Appalshop media arts co-op. Check it:
PWAH: Where did you guys grow up and how do you think that has defined your personalities or the type of music you make?
SC: I grew up in a part of Louisville called Hikes Point or, la Point, as I like to call it. "Viva la Point!" I tend to exclaim. There, I was introduced at an early age to the glory and splendor of 1980's hair rock and heavy metal, which made for an easy transition, via hardcore and punk rock, into the post, progressive, and psychedelic rock music that accounts for most of what I listen to nowadays.
PWAH: Historically, what do you think defines the "Louisville sound" or even if you want to look at it from a wider aspect of Kentucky's sound. Ohio is sort of known for deconstructing rock. Indiana seems focused on a more psychedelic folk sound.
SC: I don't necessarily believe that Louisville has a particular sound anymore. In the nineties, the music scene was dominated by a lot of hardcore and post-rock type bands, but there really hasn't been that kind of solidarity since then. Lately, Louisville seems to be suffering from a sort of multiple personality syndrome, in that it lacks a certain singular musical identity. There really aren't two bands that I've heard that really sound the same, which I find exciting because there is lots of very good, very different bands doing their own things, creating their own unique identities. So, that is to say, your guess is as good as mine.
PWAH: When you guys write your songs, is there anything you're trying to convey in terms of theme, or even atmosphere? I guess that is a more complicated way of asking what you guys are hoping to accomplish or say...
SC: I would like to think that our main focus as a band is to explore new frontiers in the realm of rock music. However, so much exploring has already been done in the past, that I feel what we do would more akin to maintaining those far reaching boundaries than expanding them. In that sense, I might consider us more like guardians than pioneers. Rock music has so much potential, creatively speaking, in that as long as there is something that grounds the listener to earth, usually through the rhythm or the vocal melody of the song, you can take it in so many different directions. You have to be careful, though, in choosing your direction, that you don't lose your listener along the way. In the words of Brian Eno, "it has to be seductive." It has to appeal to the emotions as well as the intellect. This is why math rock doesn't do much for me. It has no soul.
PWAH: I always like to ask a band about their experience as a Midwesterner. Is it something you feel a kinship with? How has being from the Midwest defined your music?
SC: I feel like less of a Midwesterner than a Southerner, yet I don't feel much of a kinship with either. Both Southerners and Midwesterners, in a very general sense, tend to be more sheltered, uncultured even, than our neighbors to the North and West (and certainly more so than our European counterparts) resulting in a sort of closed mindedness that I don't relate to. Having said that, it is that very narrow minded world view that I've sought to expand in in my music and is what drew me to the psychedelic movement in the first place: the idea of expanded awareness. For me, it is less about mind altering drugs than it is about opening your mind to new ideas and concepts, for seeing the potential in all things.
In some other tidbits, in case you were wondering what Scott's least favorite songs to take LSD to are, here's a little interview he did with You Ain't No Picasso, HERE.
Here's a nice quote I found from Ratterman too. It's true of most of the Midwest:
“People in Louisville play music because they love it. You know you’re not going to make any money anyway,” says Ratterman.

Monday, May 12, 2008

C. Spencer Yeh in NY Times

Just saw that Cincinnati avant garde musician C. Spencer Yeh was featured a bit in the May 11 New York Times:

Burning Star Core

The young violinist and electronic musician C. Spencer Yeh has worked in noise-improvisation contexts, with people like Thurston Moore and members of Wolf Eyes and Hair Police. His own continuing project — in which he plays pretty much everything — is Burning Star Core, and “Challenger” (Hospital), the new Burning Star Core album, is noisy but often very pretty, anchored by drones. (An exception is “No Memories, No Plans,” which has no drone: it sounds like a brush fire in an empty gymnasium.)
It’s hard to get a bead on what’s making these roaring, overdriven, scraping sounds: not necessarily the violin, not necessary keyboards. The only clues are the credits given to other people (guitar on one song, harmonica on another) and the title of one dense and spooky but mellifluous track: “Mysteries of the Organ.”

Full Link: HERE