Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: Looking back at the first year of the "People with Animal Heads" project


As of today, it has almost been a year since I began the project known as "People with Animal Heads."
Looking back on this time, I have learned an incredible amount about the underground Midwestern music scene going on.
I have interviewed countless bands, written a ton of articles on different perspectives and added in a significant amount of bullshit about certain aspects of "scenes" that piss me off.
But I am continually surprised by the amount of talented bands making music RIGHT NOW in the Midwest. This is talent that deserves more attention than it is currently being given, on a national scope.
The biggest surprise for me was that Cleveland not only has a thriving music scene, but some of the bands even responded to me for interviews! That was a major breakthrough, seeing as how I previously thought it was a deserted wasteland.
I have also learned about great bands trying to be heard, from Indiana to Michigan to Illinois to Ohio to Kentucky to Pennsylvania. A lot was accomplished in the past 12 months.
The biggest news of the year was the lo-fi resurgence going on in Columbus via Times New Viking signing to Matador. You also had your Psychedelic Horseshit, The Dolby Fuckers, etc. etc.
Unfortunately, Columbus has always been a town that religiously reinvents itself every three years. From punk to swing, to modern cheese rock to indie pop and back to punk again. I don't expect the lo-fi thing to last long. Most of these bands will break up within a year. Times New Viking will probably stick it out the longest. I see the beginnings of a national scene brewing, with similar minded groups like No Age in California.
But ultimately, you have to remember that this new lo-fi scene is a trend. Historically, it can be dangerous to lean on this too much. I will always be a fan of a band that focuses more on song-writing and substance, other than style. There is also the lemming backlash, after too many bands try to morph their sounds in order to fit in. The popularity of Arcade Fire is a great example of this, such as the Interpol thing the year before.
Hopefully, people who have read this site and have followed the project are learning something about the Midwestern music scene. I know I have.
There are too many bands who refuse to leave their comfort zones. Too many bands that never leave town. Some scenes really suffer because of it. I think Columbus is the worst offender. I'd also lump Athens, Cleveland, and Pennsylvania into that category. Indiana bands get out of town more, it's just that there's not so many of them. Same with Detroit.
The year has also seen a tremendous vacuum across the Midwest as bars closed. From Little Brothers in Columbus to Akron's Lime Spider to numerous others across Cincinnati and Dayton. It made booking shows for bands much more difficult.
As I go into 2008, my plans will naturally morph a bit. I will continue to keep up to date on the musical sounds coming out of every state in the Midwest. But I also plan on doing more research in New York, Nashville and LA regarding why the Midwest is so often ignored in the great big picture.
I have some new ideas and I will get started on those soon.
Hopefully, the more people who hear about this site, the easier it will be to get some bands to email me back and help with this project.
Spread the word about PWAH in 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Midwestern Roundup!

• Story in the New York Post by writer David Landsel who counted his trip to Columbus among "five of the most memorable trips I took" in 2007. See the article HERE.
• Check out a new Cincinnati video site called Soft City Lights, currently featuring Bad Veins. I am still coming to terms with the amount of hype the band is getting, but I digress.
The site is run by Kevin Bayer, and after I saw the video he did, I decided I had to write something on here because he did such a great job. This is not some shaky amateur video footage shot on a digital camera. This is well-made, well-thought out and incredibly thorough. Any band featured on Soft City Lights should be grateful.
I really look forward to seeing other band profiles from this site. I'll be sure to post links to it next time I see it's updated.
• Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot chose his "Chicagoan of the Year in Music" as Thrill Jockey record label found Bettina Richards. Here is the full article.
• Here's some good news I just found out about in Toledo. Not only did Frankies open back up in 2007, but 2008 will see the opening of Main Street too. These are two bars that used to work in conjunction together, back the in 1990s. Patrons would often go from bar to bar all night - sort of like how Oregon Express and The Nite Owl co-exist. Except on a much larger level. This could be good for Toledo, unless they just fill Main Street with a bunch of cheesy cover bands, which is what it sort of turned into before it closed.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Political tidbits

I'm not sure why, but I sure am going into 2008 pissed off. Even my focus on Midwestern music lately is decidedly more terse.
I think it all comes down to not wanting to see history constantly repeat itself, then witnessing it happen over and over again.

So that leads me to make another post about politics. We're finally at the ending cycles of Bush's term and that makes me happy, despite some rather lame presidential choices.

But then I read that in 2008 Bush plans to focus on worldwide relations. He wants to improve the way the USA is perceived.
Now, let's just ignore the hypocrisy of this, and the fact that people liked us a lot before Bush and now most countries think we're a blemish on the earth.
Somehow I doubt Bush is honestly planning on being Mr. Smiley Face. Seeing as how I don't trust our president anymore than I would trust a child in a room full of candy, I have deduced the real reason for his Mr. Personality Tour:
The fucker just wants to have a tax-payer paid trip around the world before the county kicks him to the curb. The asshole will spend the next remaining months of his presidency having foreign dignitaries throw elaborate parties for him, fanciful dinners, served by the lowly. I imagine the next year will be not unlike that scene in Indiana Jones, where all the people sit around the table cracking open monkey skulls in order to eat brains.
Hope you enjoy paying taxes. Because Bush is making damn sure every cent is going to his war and his upcoming trips. The fucker has vetoed a popular bill TWICE, which would have helped poor children receive health care. But we have to pay for him to go to Phuket and eat lobster on the beach.
Meanwhile in Ohio, Strickland and Brunner are trying to get the faulty voting machines replaced before the next election. Test after test have shown that they can easily be hacked into. And Strickland has said many times that he honestly believes there are security issues with the machines.
But all the Ohio Republicans are dragging their feet and whining about it. I wonder why.
Thankfully, Brunner has the power to force them to replace the machines.
Now, let's just see if they do it.
Politicians, democrat or republican, actually getting shit done is not something I see very often.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Midwestern Roundup!

• I tried to post some "Top 2007" local bands from around the midwest, then quickly realized that barely any papers actually do this. I saw a few, from the better critics. But there were not enough to do a whole "Midwest" post. Are you kidding me, people?
But you can bet your ass that there are 300 different top 10 lists in the newspapers and blogs talking about Radiohead.
BOOOORRIINNGG!!!!
I hope that in 2008 more music journalists start realizing that reporting about your own town can be more interesting than reporting about the same five national bands that people can read about in every goddam publication from here to the end of the earth. Let's try to branch out next year, shall we? Who gives a shit about Kanye West? He's paid a butt-load of money to make rubbish. Can we have more about bands that work their asses off to make music? I'd like to see more respect paid to actual bands, who are out there hitting the pavement, dying to be heard - yet end up being completely ignored every year, so some writer can talk about how much they paid for the Radiohead CD. Fuck that.
• That said, Cincinnati's City Beat asked local musicians to weigh in on their favorite moments of 2007, and other stuff HERE I thought that was the most interesting take I've seen on the Year End List.
• On Sunday it went from 58 degrees outside to 28. Someone please remind me why we all live in the Midwest?
• I guess Lou Reed lives in Chicago? (If he doesn't, please someone let me know). If he does, that means I can start writing about him. Which leads me to tell you, as most of you already know, that he will be the keynote speaker for SXSW.
• Columbus/Cincy band Paper Airplane recently wrapped up it's John Lennon tour at Oregon Express Saturday. If you missed it, it looks like it was the last time they are going to be doing it. Here's an unrelated link to a recent interview with the band conducted by the Columbus Dispatch HERE
• The Rock Potluck I wrote about before, was rescheduled for Jan. 12 in Columbus, same location.
• Pat Radio's recent show featured (Columbus) The Lab Rats. Check out the show link to the right. I don't know if I mentioned it yet, but Pat Radio can now be heard on regular radio too.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hmmm?



I've been meaning to post about this old news:
Bob Pollard has teamed up with Quasi's Sam Coomes and the Decemberists drummer (two out of three ain't bad) for a new release. This could quite feasibly be Hot Shit! Pardon the pun.
I give you The Takeovers.

Check it out via Pitchfork Media HERE

(Actually, the more I listen to the songs, it just sounds like previous GBV stuff. I was hoping it'd be more of a collaboration. Nope.)

Kot's Top 10 Chicago indie bands

Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot, weighs in on his Chicago 10: Top local indie releases of '07

At the end of each year, this column enumerates 10 reasons why Chicago's independent music scene is second to none. Several of these artists will be playing in the next few weeks (consult individual entries for details). Here are the Chicago 10 for 2007:
1.The 1900s, “Cold & Kind” (Parasol): With its sumptuous arrangements, outfitted with horns and strings, and soaring harmony vocals, the debut album by this Chicago septet is even better than its fine 2006 EP, “Plume Delivery.” The arrangements aim for rapture, even as the lyrics wrestle with the big questions. “Acultiplantar Dude” is the song I can’t get enough of: It builds to an exultant rush, even as the lyrics break your heart (with Office and Narrator, Friday at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., $10; 773-549-4140).
2. Cool Kids and Kid Sister on myspace.com: Even though these two hip-hop upstarts aren’t scheduled to release debut albums until next year, they’ve already made a huge splash with a series of terrific songs on their respective myspace pages. Cool Kids’ proudly retro “88” rocked the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, and led to a scintillating performance at the Pitchfork Festival last summer (myspace.com/gocoolkids). Kid Sister’s sassy “Pro Nails” got so much buzz that Kanye West included it on his summer mix tape, and then contributed a verse to the video.
3. Miss Alex White and the Red Orchestra, “Space & Time” (In the Red Records): Barely in her twenties, White is already a longtime fixture on the underground circuit with her phenomenal frizzed-out red hair and high-energy garage-rock. If there’s a gripe, it’s that “Space & Time” sounds like it was recorded through cardboard tubing in an aircraft hanger. No matter. The performances vibrate: White sings like she’s demanding to be released from prison, and the choruses pound down the mountainside like two-ton boulders.
4. Effigies, “Reside” (Criminal I.Q. Records): After 21 years, the first great Chicago punk band returns with an album every bit as good as the music it released during its early ‘80s heyday. If anything, there’s even more bite in John Kezdy’s lyrics as he faces up to middle age, while the guitar-bass-drums interplay remains as combustible as ever. Who says there are no great second acts in rock?
5. Powerhouse Sound, “Oslo/Chicago: Breaks” (Atavistic): Ken Vandermark is among the busiest musicians in Chicago, no small feat for a city that upholds a roll-up-the-sleeves work ethic. “Oslo/Chicago” is one of about a dozen 2007 releases that feature his work, and it’s notable for presenting the recording debut of Vandermark’s bicontinental band, which blends reggae, punk and fusion-era funk-jazz with delirious results. The inspired work of guitarist Jeff Parker on the Chicago disc is alone worth the investment (Vandermark/Tim Daisy duo Wednesday at the Hideout, 1354 W. Waubansia, 773-227-4433).
6. Frisbie, “New Debut” (Appendix): After nearly fracturing under the weight of health issues that eventually forced their longtime drummer to depart the band, the quintet returns with another set of tart pop songs that lives up to the promise of its excellent 2000 debut, “The Subversive Sounds of Love.” Seven years is a long time between albums, but the band’s ability to process their anxiety through soaring harmonies and gilded melodies has only been heightened.
7. Minsk, “The Ritual Fires of Abandonment” (Relapse); Yakuza, “Transmutations” (Prosthetic): Two brands of heaviness, Chicago style. Minsk’s tribal repetition and psychedelic swirl hit like a cyclone, and Yakuza’s blend of saxophone, world-music texture and drill-press power puts the quartet in the forefront of metal innovators. One of the year’s highlights was seeing Yakuza saxophonist Bruce Lamont jamming with Minsk at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas.
8. Robbie Fulks, “Revenge!” (Yep Roc): Wiseguys don’t come much more astute than Fulks, whose humor sometimes masks his smart songwriting and agile mastery of country, bluegrass and roots rock. This double-CD is split into full-band and acoustic halves, perhaps the best introduction yet to Fulks’ world (Friday at Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Av., $10, 773-276-3600; Dec. 30 at FitzGeralds, 6615 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn, $12; 708-788-2118).
9. The Sea and Cake, “Everybody” (Thrill Jockey): Over a decade, this quartet has been making sly pop records that draw on African and Brazilian influences. The band’s seventh album is one of its least fussy, with instantly engaging melodies that hum along on the guitar interplay between Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt.
10. David Singer, “East of the Fault Line” (The Sweet Science Records): The singer’s fourth solo album is a chamber-pop gem, brimming with shapely melodies and sharply turned lyrics (Jan. 25 at Martyrs, 3855 N. Lincoln Av, $10; 773-404-9494).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Updates

I have been a bit tied up, as of late.
I hate writing about not posting, but there you go.

Just an update on some things. That Columbus Potluck thing I wrote about below was postponed due to weather.
I may not have written anything lately, but I have been talking with some bands about stuff I plan to write about in time. I also had a nice discussion with a music critic about his views on Midwest music, as someone who knows mostly about east and west coast music scenes. It's interesting to me to learn about how The Midwest is perceived nationally. I hope to expand on that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pat Radio/Columbus Rock Potluck 2007



This is a good time to bring your attention back to a little Internet radio site called Pat Radio. Run by smooth-voiced Pat Leonard, he has been conducting the single-best podcast for getting to know current underground Ohio bands.
This week's episode features New Dark Ages contributor Bob Miller, who I featured once regarding his now-defunct band Beard of Stars.
The reason I wanted to point out his site again is because an event called the 2007 Rock Potluck will be going on Saturday In Columbus, mirroring an event which originated in Texas. You get a crapload of individual musicians who make up the current city music scene. Mix them all up, divide them into random groups, who them invent a new band.
Their mission: Write one song together in a couple hours, then perform that song at a show later that night. A total of 40 musicians will form 8 new bands for the day.
It will be held Saturday 12/15 at the Milo Arts Building on the east side of Columbus. The night starts at 7 p.m. and everyone is invited to bring food - it's a Potluck, after all! Bands start performing at 9 p.m.

2007 Rock Potluck performers:
Russian Aleks (The Feelers)
Carlos Avendano (Flotation Walls)
Laura B. (Night of Pleasure)
Gary Brownsteen (Guinea Worms)
Brett Burleson (The Tough and Lovely)
Justin Crooks (Earwig)
Jerry Dannemiller (Moviola)
Bo Davis (Necropolis)
Joshua Draher (The Razers)
Jeff Fernengel (Tree of Snakes)
Kate Folmar (The Black Canary)
Phil Francis (The Proper Nouns)
Sean Gardner (Melty Melty)
Antonio Garza (Paper Airplane)
Billy Heingartner (The Bygones)
Brett Helling (The Cabdrivers)
Ron House (Thomas Jefferson Slave Apts.)
Leslie Jankowski (Church of the Red Museum)
Betty Jelly (The Jellyhearts)
Danielle Kelly (Rosehips)
Jimmy Lavery (The Lindsay)
Chris Lutzko (The Unholy 2)
Mark Miller (Mercury Road)
Matt Minor (Teeth of the Hydra)
Tim O'Dell (Mors Ontologica)
John Olexovitch (The Lindsay)
Phillip Park (You're So Bossy)
Lou Poster (Grafton)
Justin Riley (Super Desserts)
Donnie Roberts (Yuck Falls)
Donovan Roth (Bob City)
Tom Schmidt (The Lindsay)
Eve Searls (Bird & Flower)
Bobby Silver (Brainbow)
Zachery Allan Starkey (Zachery Allan Starkey)
Shane Sweeney (Two Cow Garage)
Zac Szymusiak (The Dolby Fuckers)
Matt Wagner (Earwig)
Dustin White (The Moon and Badtimes)

Here are some other past podcasts on Pat Radio:
Program #97, Rock Potluck
Bob Miller guests this time to tell us about the upcoming Rock Potluck 2007. We hear from 15 of the 36 local bands who are contributing members to the potluck. More details and a list of who will be in which band can be had at http://www.rockpotluck.com. A complete playlist with a link to download the show is here.
Program #96, Sarah Asher
Sarah Asher recently stopped by and played five songs and chatted for a spell. The results can be heard in this podcast installment. Her latest Tract Records (tractrecords.com) release is called So This is Love. We also hear from fellow Tract artists Two Times The Trauma and Everything is Fine. The program begins with a set of classic Columbus pop from Old 3C records (old3c.com). A full playlist and a link to download the show is right here, kid.
Program #95, Justin and Sarah of Terribly Empty Pockets
Justin and Sarah of the band Terribly Empty Pockets take a break from recording to pick some songs and chat. We hear from pat radio favorites Jordan O'Jordan, the Proper Nouns, Necropolis and the Lindsay, as well as Tree of Snakes, The Black Canary, and Jay Harmon. The entire playlist is here along with a link to download the show, and you can stream it here.
Program #94, Megan Palmer
Megan Palmer brought her guitar over and played five new songs from her soon-to-be released second cd Take You Away. We also hear from folks who will be playing with Megan at her cd release shows, including Church of the Red Museum, Joe Kile, Miss Molly, and Luther Wright. Read more and find links to download here.
Program #93, Paper Airplane, All Hail Records
A big tip of the chimp headphones to Jon Fintel of Relay Recording (www.relayrecording.com) for recording and mixing Paper Airplane for this edition of pat radio. It sounds great. Paper Airplane is having a cd release party this weekend, and they play a few songs live and talk about the long trek toward the release of Middlemarch, their first full-length cd. We also hear from other All Hail Records bands Take No Damage, Speak Easy, The Electric Grandmother, Masters of Luxury, and Country Death. Stream the show here (Scroll down to program 93). A complete playlist is here, plus further directions on downloading the show and subscribing to the podcast.
Program #92, Chris deVille and John Ross from the Columbus Alive
Music critics and veteran podcasters Chris deVille and John Ross of the Columbus Alive show me how it's done this week. They play some of their favorite local music, including The Kyle Sowashes, Walter Rocktight, The Whiles, Greenlawn Abbey, and Maggie Green. A complete playlist is here, along with a link to download the show without all this podcast feed poo.
Program #91, Bird and Flower, Jerry DeCicca in-studio
This program features three songs a piece from Eve Searls, a.k.a. Bird and Flower and Jerry DeCicca of The Black Swans, recorded live in the not-so-state-of-the-art pat radio studio.
Remember Thomas from program #88? I play a song from his project, THEATH, plus a number of other Tract Records releases. There's a healthy dose of Columbus indie pop also, from The Cabdrivers, The Proper Nouns, Phantods, and The PolyAtomic. A complete playlist and details on how to download the show are here. You can stream the show here.
Program #90, Merit Badge Records
Ash and Matt of Merit Badge Records join me for this show. They are also in the band The Hot Damn. They discuss work on an upcoming The Hot Damn album and the beginnings of their record label, and they play some great local music from the likes of This is My Suitcase, The Cabdrivers, Gretchen King, Melty Melty, I've Got A Ghost, and Darynyck.
We also hear again from Grafton, Cheater Slicks, Rosehips and Sarah Asher. A complete playlist and details on how to download the show are here. You can stream the show here.

Viking and Yo La Tengo


I guess Columbus-based Times New Viking opened the last of eight Yo La Tengo "Hanukkah" shows at Maxwell's in Hoboken last night (Dec 11).
Their friendship with the band must still be intact. What a beautiful holiday heart-tugger.
Brooklyn Vegan has some commentary on it and numerous pictures HERE.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Each Note update

I was going to point out that you should check out a link to Each Note Secure, in order to see how WOXY recently had Cincinnati bands The Lions Rampant, Eat Sugar, The Pomegranates, and The Buffalo Killers in the studio for live performances. Then I thought, heck you might as well check out the rest of the stuff on Each Note Secure, because he wrote about the Forecastle Halfway Fest as well. Hint: Band of Horses.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wilco have gone mad

It's sometimes hard for me to write about "national" bands because of the goddam baggage they carry of nepotism and assless chaps.
But for Wilco I'll bury the shovel.
According to what I just read on You Ain't No Picasso, Wilco plan to set aside five nights to perform every. single. song. in. their. entire. catalog.
Check out the details
HERE

Vice declares Black Swans worst


It is with some amusement that the fellows in Columbus band The Black Swans report Vice Magazine has dubbed the group's recent release "Change!" as the month's worst national music output.
Check out the article HERE.
I especially appreciate the face puking symbol. Bad press is good press.

The Redwalls Part 2


Check out Greg Kot's interview with Chicago's The Redwalls, regarding the band's departure from major-label status back to the indie level at THIS link.

I have to admit I'm a bit skeptical of The Red Walls. There is something about them that doesn't feel genuine to me. They started out as a Beatles cover band, morphed into a band that sounded like the Rolling Stones, then suddenly became a band trying to sound like The Strokes.
I've seen them perform and they are great onstage, albeit in kind of a cheesy cover band, over the top, kind of way. Their songs are well written and catchy too. But I can't help feeling like they change their sound depending upon what the market demands. I guess that is the point of being a "pop" band, but I don't get the feeling they have what I call a "pure vision" about their music. Much like how countless bands in the 1990s went from sounding like Pearl Jam to suddenly becoming like Dave Matthew's Band. There is an integrity that seems to be lacking. Or maybe I'm just being a huge dick.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Coming soon...

Ideally this site was never set up to be like other sites out there. I don't review CDs, and although many bands have asked to send them to me, I normally decline - in favor of buying one at a show or at a store.
I didn't really get into this site to one day make money off of American Apparel ads flashing on the side panels. I didn't start this site to get free CDs or to get onto the guest-list at shows either. I will, however, accept donations of expensive jewelry and fur coats.
But I honestly just want to know about underground music, because I love music and I'm determined that what is being represented on the radio and television is only a tiny portion of what is truly out there.
So tune in soon for an interview with a great band out of Kentucky called The Lions Rampant.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lions looking to run rampant



I've been seeing an interesting trend with regional bands. It's the concept of booking shows. I've already talked with Spanish Prisoners about it. And recently I had a discussion over email with Stuart Mackenzie singer of a great Burlington, Kentucky band called The Lions Rampant.
As I told Mackenzie, I think City Beat music critic Mike Breen said it best when he described their music as Mudhoney in top form. But I also think Stuart's singing is more interesting and soulful than Mudhoney's.
The Lions Rampant play a decidedly amped up version of blues/rock in a similar vein as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. But they also have their feet dipping in a keen ear pool of indie pop. So the songs have the wild feel of blues rock, but they branch out into different paths. They also have notoriety for playing live shows dressed in homemade lion outfits. But gimmicky outfits or not, the band focking rocks. They proved that a bit at the 2007 Midpoint MUsic Festival, where I heard they dropped the suits in favor of, well, not much clothing at all.
I should also mention that the band features the dude behind The Sheds on bass. And I love The Sheds.
The Lions Rampant released two EPs in 2007 and both can be picked up via their websites.

Getting back to the story: Right now there are numerous Midwestern bands stuck in a dilemma: The have the desire to tour, but constantly face a wall of barriers. Bands like The Lions Rampant may slowly becoming known across the region, but most of these bands aren't on a very large label. In some cases no label at all. They are struggling to break through to regional acclaim, but sadly it usually takes the help and notoriety of being on a known label.
As I've said ad nauseam, labels only sign bands they are personal friends with. It's no wonder most labels fail. Even Southeast Engine had to become friends with The Wrens before they got signed to Misra.
So here is a great discussion with Mackenzie about being in a band on the cusp, dealing with daily life and booking:

People with Animal Heads: How do you go about trying to set up the shows and what are you guys hoping to do now that your CD is out?
Mackenzie: I love the question,"how you go about trying to set up the shows ..." We're all relatively new to this game, so I've been asking a lot of fellow musicians the same thing. There seems to be three schools of thought. The first one is that you should offer show trades. I'm not to sure that is the best way, because that means that you would only be playing with out of town bands while you are at home, which people get tired of...and makes it a lot harder to have a big show on your own turf and make some money (we are poor). Also, if your band has a large draw at home and the other band doesn't ... then the trade may be a bust, etc.etc.etc.. So far, we like to kinda play it by ear, if we invite a band down and put on a great show and promote it then we hope that the band will return the favor.
The other school of thought is that you need to get a booking agent. They draw up contracts for you that make sure that you get a set amount of money no matter what and they know a lot of clubs. My friends that have toured a lot, say is that these two things are super important. It seems like club owners never want to give you very much money even if you have a contract, so having a booking agent who has a relationship with the club owner and an official document is key. (Even though you still have to haggle, because if the bar does poorly the owner still will have a problem with coughing up a guarantee.)
The third school of thought is that booking agents are the best way, but they are harder to get than a label, so your best bet is to contact clubs like you are a booking agent and send them press packets, contracts etc.
I'm not really sure where we stand. Any booking agents out there? Hook us up!
As far as what we want to do now that our CD is out ... Personally, I'd like to send it to some small labels, and ideally get national distribution. That way, when we tour people may have already heard of us, or can pick up a record at their local CD store. Also booking agents are much more likely to book for a signed band.
PWAH: How is it trying to balance being in a band, with a day job?
Mackenzie: That is a great question. I'd have to say, "It sucks." I think it's important to have a job that is flexible so you can tour but that pays well enough for you to have health insurance (thanks Nixon!) get by and buy some equipment now and then.
PWAH: I'm also very interested in how your drummer is doing, because I heard he'd had health problems.
Mackenzie: He's doing better. He was in the ICU the last couple weeks, but now he is out and looking forward to playing again. He's been practicing and just bought himself a brand new "Led Zep Set" which includes a bass drum the size of a Honda Civic.
PWAH: What kind of path you are hoping to forge in the realm of blues/rock/pop?
Mackenzie: Ideally, we'd like to tour Europe, the United States and make enough money to live and get by. We're all doing this because we love music and playing live, so if we can do it and not have to work day jobs, that would be our version of heaven. Personally, my favorite type of music is blues/rock/pop. I think there will always be a small market for it because it is an organic music people can relate to, more than overproduced pop etc. Also you can dance to it, enjoyi it sitting down, in the car, on a plane on a train.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Lennon and the Airplane


This Saturday, Dec.8 was the day John Lennon was killed in 1980 by a man who is hopefully being ass-raped in prison every day. Columbus/Cincy band Paper Airplane will bring its annual "John Lennon Show" out on the road again for 2007 to celebrate Lennon's musical legacy.
The show already hit Cincinnati on Dec. 1 at The Northside Tavern with Cincinnati's The Seedy Seeds. I heard it got a great response and a good crowd.
According to a release from the band, this Saturday Paper Airplane will be at the annual Circle Five Ranch John Lennon Festival in Athens. It will be held at The Union.
Other bands on the bill that I have heard about are The John Lennon Orchestra, The Dropdead Sons and many more primarily from the Athens music scene. Check out Paper Airplane on Myspace, where they have their version of "Dear Prudence" for your listening pleasure.
Apparently the show has been bringing out an interesting crowd mix. Many older (read: gray-haired) old school music fans, clapping alongside younger music fans (read: square glasses and tats).

Midwestern Roundup!

• I think I'm excited about a new Dayton web site called Fiction Band, which I learned about from The Buddha Den. It's manifesto explains that it is a project dedicated to showcasing music/bands that record in their homes, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. I think the whole idea is interesting, and it goes along well with what this site is trying to do (regarding highlighting underground bands in the Midwest). I plan to keep looking into the site for new music.
Spanish Prisoner signed to Cleveland indie label Exit Stencil.
• Pitchfork reported a couple more Midwestern bands headed for SXSW, namely that The Breeders are in fact getting back together and heading down to Austin. They also had info regarding the new CD the band has completed.
• I guess I have good taste. I talked about liking Bon Iver several months ago. Now it seems as though every blog on the planet is writing about him all of a sudden. He's the new "Killers/Lou Reed song." So I guess I hate him now.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Gibson shows new self-tuning guitar

For all you really shitty teenage bands out there, who never seem to be in tune. Rejoice!

By YURI KAGEYAMA
TOKYO - Musicians of the world are getting a new kind of artistic freedom with technology that eliminates the challenging chore of tuning.
Robotics technology developed by German company Tronical Gmbh in partnership with Gibson Guitar Corp. enables Gibson's newest Les Paul model to tune itself in about two seconds.
For users who purchase the add-on technology, the guitar recognizes pitch. Then, its processor directs motors on its six tuning pegs to tighten or loosen the strings accordingly. Tronical has offered its "Powertune System" online and through retailers in Germany since March, according to the company's Web site.
The Gibson Les Paul guitar model with Blue Silverburst finish goes on sale globally this Friday.
Nashville, Tenn., guitar maker Gibson and Tronical said Powertune is the world's first self-tuning technology, and Gibson says it is particularly useful for beginners, who tend to find tuning a headache.
Musician Ichiro Tanaka, who tuned and played a sample guitar at Gibson's Tokyo office Monday, said the technology is handy for professionals too. If they use special tuning for just part of a concert, as he often does, it means they don't have to lug around an extra guitar with the second tuning ready.
"It's more than just convenience," said Tanaka, of Japan. "It's a feature I really appreciate."
The Les Paul Silverburst model is to cost about $2,780 in Japan and $2,499 in the U.S., with self-tuning offered for $900 extra.
Powertune is also listed online for 899 euros, about $600, and Tronical says it can be installed on many different models of electric guitars without leaving a mark.
Gibson guitars with the technology come preset with six types of tuning to play different kinds of music. They also can remember a player's additional original tuning styles, by listening with a microphone to the sounds of the strings.
To set the instrument to a particular tuning, the user pulls a knob, turns it to the desired style, indicated with a blue light, and then pushes the knob back in. An electric signal travels up the strings to the motors on the tuning pegs. The system is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Gibson hopes to sell 4,000 of the first limited-edition "robot guitars" worldwide, with 10 percent of those sales expected in Japan, said Yasuhiko Iwanade, president of Gibson Guitar Corp. Japan.
"Robots are very popular in Japan. So this is something that matches the developments here these days. It's a technology that Japanese can understand," he said.
Gibson has a history of innovating with guitars that fits well with robotics technology, Iwanade said.

Tronical: www.tronical.com

Welcome Back Kot

You know, I always thought of Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot as one of the best out there. Then I read his bio of Wilco and I thought he IS the best. That book was so well written I can't find a comparison that comes close.
So I started reading more articles Kot has written and it exploded from there. He has a knack for getting musicians to talk at length about INTERESTING topics.
It occurred to me that perhaps I should start featuring his articles on here - share the love, if you will.

Let's start off by linking to his blog, which I just now discovered and plan to read like the bible:

Greg Kot's "TURN IT UP" blog

Friday, November 30, 2007

The tracks of Detroit

Thanks to site Glorious Noise for pointing out this great article by the Detroit Metro Times on the top Detroit songs of all time:

Check it out HERE

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Awesome Color

You know how they say that no one who lives in LA was born in LA? I think it's true for New York as well.
Here's a little ditty about a band from Michigan that seems to be doing well out east, according to CMJ.

New Awesome Color Coming Soon
Story by: Noah Klein
Brooklyn-by-way-of-Michigan psychedelics the Awesome Color have announced that their second record, Awesome Live, will be released in March via Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label. "We've been doing a lot of touring over the last couple of years, so that's kind of a representation of our record," says drummer Awesome Allison. "It's more varied. It's like the US and the landscapes that we've crossed."
After already touring with the likes of Sonic Youth, the band will be back on the road with past stage sharers Dinosaur Jr. through next month, including a Zig-Zag Live show in Athens on December 3. To hold fans over until the March release, the band is bringing a CD of live tracks that have been recorded over the last couple of years with them. In case you can't make it to a show, the album is also currently available on the Ecstatic Peace website.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The secret world of Frontier Ruckus


As hinted about in my recent Midwestern Roundup feature, I became aware of Michigan band Frontier Ruckus.
So I wanted to ask them a few questions about their process of songwriting and the process of creating music that weighs so heavily on words.
It's a complete opposite direction from what I have been seeing in the Midwest. Most bands are becoming more focused on intricate song structure and there even seems to be a rise of instrumental bands again. I won't even mention all the voiceless noise bands.
I described Frontier Ruckus lyrics as "dream-like" before, but I'm not trying to say they sound ethereal or something incredibly lame like that. I just mean, the songs they write unfold like a dream might. I had a dream once where I was lying on the floor of my childhood home and I can still remember the feel of the beige carpet and the smell of the kitchen nearby. That was a weird dream. No, I wasn't being raped, and I swear I wasn't even drunk sleeping.
So Frontier Ruckus singer/songwriter Matthew Milia delved into his thought process for us.
"Imagistic writing is the most important kind to me, so I suppose my concentration on that might lead songs to turn out somewhat 'dream-like' in that dreams are the most purely image-driven landscape of all. I can't really say what they end up meaning to other people; I've heard such a wide range of surprising things. I engage in song-writing, and I think I have since I started, as a way to process and purge memory in a way healthier than just being swallowed by the tumult of its accumulation. I strongly endorse the creative development of a personal mythology - a set of images that, however vaguely, represent memory in a recognizable and retrievable fashion.
Milia said his version of this has been dubbed “Orion Town," which led to the title of the band's first LP to be released this Spring called "The Orion Songbook."
"'Orion Town' means the borders I have set in attempt to organize memory and love and family and home and the North. These are horribly amorphous things that I believe to be less painful through creative organization and catharsis. Orion Town is images - a night smoky winter landfill, the fairgrounds at the gate of dilapidated Detroit, the bearded upstates of Michigan and New York, the oily moving slab of the St. Lawrence River, a quiet still bathroom at night where bodily scents cling to the air and mingle with the outside through a window-screen. Christian images are abundant in that mythology due to the fire-hearted girl I was in love with while I resided within the space of Orion Town. I have since attempted and felt it necessary to abandon Orion Town, with great difficulty and confusion, to develop a new mythology. Before this is to happen, however, The Orion Songbook has to be released from my back before it cripples me or swallows me whole."

Milia also talked about his influences. I said I think of them as a more Americana version of Nuetral Milk Hotel, because of the lyrical focus. Much like Jeff Mangum had his wintery Christmas images, full of domestic violence and faceless sexual visuals, he has his Orion Town aspects.
But there are also the deeply rooted undertones of folk music.
"I consider Stephen Foster as the first American songwriter of which I know - he’s the earliest songwriter I’ve heard that wrote the type of song that I want to write. He’s into memory in a haunting way: “Thou wilt come no more, gentle Annie!” He makes death beautiful - beautiful like the death of a mythology in which you had faith," he said. "I want our sound to be imagistic experimental traditional melodic music with lots of harmony centered around mythologized memory/place/love/backyard/home. We were initially formed as the synthesis of a bluegrass banjo player (David) and a kid with recurring nightmares about memories and being chased endlessly through the backyards of one-story-carport-houses in a really pitch black nighttime by faceless robbers. We love the existence of harmony and shrill sounds."
Milia also commented on their upcoming tour dates with Misra's Southeast Engine.
"We met Southeast Engine on our first tour ever this past summer in Muncie, Indiana while we were playing a string of shows with Arrah and the Ferns from Muncie. Both of those bands were our two favorite bands from the tour. Southeast Engine is a really superlative band. Leo from the group suggested us to do a set of shows together with them in Ohio and for them to come up for a set with us in Michigan. It looks like it’ll work out," he said
As I said before, Frontier Ruckus has been accepted to South by Southwest in 2008, so they will be making the trek for the first time.
"We’re driving down to SXSW and back as quickly and directly as possible, I think, due to us all being in school and most of us having jobs," Milia said. "It’s our first time playing that far south and we’re happy to temporarily abandon the North. Our friends in the band Canada mentioned touring down together, something we’d absolutely love to do, but I don’t think we have the time."
I also spoke with Southeast Engine singer/songwriter Adam Remnant about SXSW and Frontier Ruckus.
"Frontier Ruckus is great. We played with them at a club in Muncie, Indiana last summer. We've stayed in contact with them since, and we've recently set up some shows in Ohio with them in order to bring them to our home state. We're also currently working on a few Michigan dates to go play in their home state as well," he said.
Remnant also pointed toward a spot on SXSW as well, via the Misra showcase.
"SXSW is in the works - we're definitely playing the Misra showcase, and we're looking into some other performance opportunities," he said.

Don't forget!

The Ohio Experimental Music Festival is going on all weekend! Check out some of the best in national avant garde music - right here in your home town.

Midwestern Roundup!

• The folks at Buddha Den site have been more diligent than I have about posting info on upcoming festivals that bands can apply to. Specifically, information about NXNE and the Forecastle Festival. Check that out.
• Cincinnati band Wussy has been making more waves nationally as it's new CD hits radios and music publications. Rave reviews in Rolling Stone, CMJ, etc. They have also announced the band will hit the 2008 SXSW.
• Columbus band The Black Swans did a session with Daytrotter the other day. Check that out.
• Be sure to keep looking into Pat Radio. The internet show has recently featured Columbus musicians Megan Palmer, Terribly Empty Pockets and more...
• Donewaiting.com has become a nice link into breaking news about SXSW over the years. Be sure to keep looking over there for announcements about bands being accepted.
• Speaking of Wussy and SXSW, I just noticed that Michigan band Frontier Ruckus will apparently be hitting SXSW this year as well. The band is pretty great. I'd heard of them before, but never actually listened to their music.
Browsing through their Myspace tunes, I would describe them as a more Americana version of Neutral Milk Hotel. The lyrical-heavy focus is the biggest reason for that, with each line drafting through a dream-like visual landscape. Pretty interesting.
Also, they appear to be doing a tour with PWAH favorites Southeast Engine.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tell us who is famous?

Looks like I'm finally all done with the avant-garde articles for now. Hope people enjoyed them or learned something new from them. I had a lot of fun writing about the music, especially considering how little I knew to begin with. That is the entire point of this web site.
It took months to fully grasp how many bands there are right now and the cultures within the cultures that make up the bands playing in the Midwest. I just think it is notable that this art form has been causing a stir nationwide and some of these people involved need to be acknowledged. It really is interesting to see such growth in the art form these days and to see the people and bands involved who really care about seeing it go further.
I think overall, musicians these days are bored of traditional rock and are desperately trying to figure out new ways to keep it fresh. It makes me curious about what rock music will sound like 20 years from now. What do you think?
I guess the biggest thing to change in indie rock has been all these bands with 15 members. But even that has become pretty tiresome.
Generally, I think not much has changed in music over the past 20 years. My take is that 20 years from now things will pretty much be the same. But all we need is some genius to come along and throw a chain into the works. Musicians need a new way of thinking.
One interesting aspect of the current computer age of music is that there are fewer and fewer rock icons being produced. Is it because a lot of the music is pretty boring, or because the Industry lacks the stranglehold it used to have toward controlling the information being put out?
Or is it because terrestrial radio has fallen so far behind? It's not keeping up anymore. Stations like WOXY and satellite stations know what's what. But every time I browse regular radio I'm appalled at how many stations aren't even trying.
It used to be we learned about famous musicians from the big radio stations, MTV, or Rolling Stone. Now we read and listen about hundreds of bands a day on hundreds of different blogs. The information is immediate.
Yet, nobody really stands out as all that special.
Maybe it's because no one is telling us they are special, or maybe they just aren't special. Or maybe there are too many people right now telling us who they think is special, until it's just a bunch of white noise?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tour trilogy

If you check out the links today, be sure to check out the Dayton music site Buddha Den for an update on PWAH favorite Captain of Industry. He's got the scoop on their recording plans and their upcoming tour as the backing band for Happy Chichester, who is on tour with Columbus band The Receiver. That's an entire tour of PWAH favorites, people. Here's an old interview I did with Happy, for good measure...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Noise, DIY and the rebirth of Modern Lo-Fi

A rebirth in the roots of Indie Rock has been inevitable. Bands have begun redefining the concepts of modern Lo-Fi and avant garde rock has been steadily bubbling up to the surface.
I'm talking underground surface, mind you. Sort of like a pond caught down in a cave somewhere. They aren't exactly hitting the ballrooms yet.
So what is so special about the Midwest? Why has it proved to be such a fertile ground for people turning their backs on tradition?
While there seems to be no clear "center" in the Midwestern culmination of noise rock, I talked to many noise and avant garde artists who agreed that a hell of a lot of it is coming from Ohio - hence the motivation behind the recent Ohio Experimental Music Festival announcement.
Looking at the concept of avant garde or experimental music, you kind of have to look deeper into what has essentially become the Midwest DIY Culture Boom.
One cannot talk about avant garde music without paying homage to the DIY culture, a spirit which came to a head in the 1980s. But the spirit could even be traced solidly back to the field recordings of 1940s folk musicians, perhaps to messy Velvet Underground recordings, or even Daniel Johnston committing his obsessions to tape. There is no clear origination, but DIY releases just keep getting stronger. That is why the avant garde and DIY cultures go hand in hand, like two girls in a park. One fuels the other.
With the advent of The Internet, The Myspace, The Itunes, The Internet Record Label and more, the concept of pure DIY is not only a reality these days, it's a good business decision.
Regional blogs, such as "I Rock Cleveland" have even described Columbus, OH. as the "center of an exciting lo-fi movement in indie rock" during it's recent review of cassette tape rockers The Dolby Fuckers. The site has also defined the term as "New Noise," to describe these current pop/rock/noise bands - which seems pretty spot on to me.
But Columbus, Ohio just seems to be the starting point these days. With the signing of the town's Lambsbread to Thurston Moore's Esctatic Peace label, followed by pop-trash band Times New Viking signing to Matador, one might think something's up. Word on the street is that more Columbus experimental bands are expected to follow - although the new rumor is that Lambsbread may have already broken up. So take this information with a grain of salt.
musician Ryan Jewell, drummer of both Terribly Empty Pockets and various experimental/noise projects, has his own thoughts about the fertile spirit of experimentalism in places like Columbus.
"At the risk of over generalizing, there are certain things that are unique about bands from this area. Part of it is the whole run down post-industrial 'rust belt' thing, part of it is the conceptual art/process influence of having so many art schools in the area, part of it is the down to earth cowtown thing. In the Midwest, people have backyards, but they aren’t pretty by many peoples standards. But we learn to love it and even prefer them that way. People come from these smaller, isolated towns with nothing to do. But in the Midwest, even if you don’t have a lot of money you can move to a city and only pay $50 a week for an apartment, while in somewhere like New York you're going to be paying six times that amount for the same apartment. This opens up the community to a lot more freedom financially and artistically. People give up on wanting nice things and what you do becomes infinitely more important than what you have. There’s less focus on 'making it' in the Midwest because your expectations are lower from an industry point of view in a way that I think is amazing."
Jewell's point is interesting because the Midwest is largely ignored by national labels. The main reason is because A&R people are lazy. They usually live in LA, New York or Nashville and sometimes Chicago. They may check out a few unknown bands at CMJ or SXSW, but that's about it. You're not going to see a dude from Capitol Records at The Union in Athens, OH. on a Friday night, unless they are visiting a friend, or their car broke down on the way to Nashville.
Generally speaking, Midwestern musicians are not looking to be rock stars. They don't seem to care about the future, rarely venture out of their home towns and aren't about to hire on a publicist. They make music and live comfortably, with a day job in between.
I just thought of this reason too: It's so cheap to live in the Midwest, musicians end up playing in bands for longer periods of time. It's not about teenagers or college bands so much around here. You get many older musicians, who know their craft and are trying to develop that as far as it can go. This could be another reason for the progress of experimentalism.
Jewell had another point regarding the forced creativity of the Midwest bands.
"For the most part, the industry might as well be on an entire planet, but in somewhere like LA it’s constantly shoved down your throat. I grew up in Portsmouth, OH, a small, shitty run down town on the Ohio River where the only jobs were a shoelace factory and carry-outs. You’re so bored, that you are forced to do something, make something to make your life worthwhile. Hence the strong DIY aesthetic that’s so strong in the Midwest. Then these same people eventually get to a city with cheap rent with art schools, and weird venues with touring acts, and other people from shitty cities and cow towns just like theirs that might actually appreciate this weird thing that they used to do in their bedrooms and basements back home. Also there is the whole issue of people in smaller towns being influenced by something but getting it completely wrong and making it their own. Like, you hear some records or read about something, but since you don’t get the opportunity to see it live when you're younger, it comes out all wrong, but with the same spirit and vitality. It’s like playing AT music instead of playing music which I think is so much more interesting. It becomes something uniquely Midwestern."

CULTURE CLASH

I must admit that this has been one of the most difficult music articles I have ever written. Namely because one of the most prevalent attributes of noise bands is that they don't like to talk about anything. They don't like promoting themselves and they especially don't regard what they do as any high form of ART. Fortunately, for my sake, there are others who are passionate about what they do and really enjoy talking about it. There didn't seem to be much of a middle ground.
It took months just to get some bands to call me back or send out that email they promised to write three months ago. Most seem embarrassed and even offended to be asked about the music they make.
One of those bands in question is Columbus, Ohio's Times New Viking. The group is a kind of anomaly in the Midwestern noise rock scene. Essentially because no genre wants to lay claim to them. Some indie pop fans think they sound like noise and yet noise rock fans think they are total pop.
But the point of including Times New Viking in a discussion about Midwestern Noise Rock is because they are among the ONLY regional bands that fill the gap between Indie Rock and the noise aesthetics.
"Being midwestern means being ten years out of the loop, at least in our case," TNV guitarist Jared Phillips said. "When you're kind of an underdog (or hillbilly), you feel you can do whatever the fuck you want because people already have a preconceived notion of you. I think Robert Rauschenberg said that."
Times New Viking especially brings up debate among rock nerds regarding recording techniques. Can a noisy recording be considered art? Can it be considered pop? Is it just noise?
But the TNV folks and the majority of the DIY culture honestly believe that it's not just about HAVING to record with tape hiss, it's about APPRECIATING the tape hiss.
"Appreciating the tape hiss - yes, that just about explains it," Phillips said. "An old wizard friend of ours (Editor's Note: I think he means Mike Rep) once said something to the extent of, 'Tape hiss is the sound of life,' or, 'Tape hiss is the sound of the comet's tail.' Something poetic like that. We just like to make records that evoke a unique atmosphere, putting our sound in a different place, perhaps one that's a little more intimate. Records, I think, are supposed to sound a little experimental - it's a completely separate art form than seeing a band play live. You know, people think distorted guitars on records are okay, but distorted drums or vocals are not. Who decided this? Hitler? The Shins? Who cares. Also with records you can listen to them over and over again and hear new things each time."
Critics of lo-fi aesthetics often bring up how you can’t hear the words, you can’t hear the details. If noise rock aesthetics are going to catch on, it's a point that needs to be addressed.
"We have nothing to say to these people," Phillips said. "You either like it or you don't."
OK, so maybe it won't be addressed.
He said that maybe someday those traditional ideas will change more toward appreciating noise aesthetics, but they want no part of carrying that torch.
"That's not why we make music, to change people. Most of the critics are people who think music is supposed to sound a certain way, or they are people who spent too much time and money at recording school - hence their panties getting all bunched up when groups like us just teach ourselves how to do it the way we want. I'm sure a lot of people who dont listen to anything remotely experimental are the same ones who believe that everyone owns Pro-tools, or SHOULD own Pro-tools. Really fucked up, in-the-red records are nothing new. 'White light/White heat' is forty fucking years old. seriously," Phillips said.
And while the avant garde scene is exploding regionally, it doesn't necessarily mean people go to the shows.
"The other day we had Dan Deacon who is on Carpark, and Video Hippos, Santa Dads, Butt Stomach, and Blood Baby who are some of Baltimore's best bands," Cincinnati's Jon Lorenz said, proprietor of Art Damage Lodge. "And only three people showed up. The very next night we had Future Islands, Moss of Aura and a local band called Pomegranates, and like 20 some people show up. Dan Deacon is way bigger than Future Islands … there is about 10 people tops that come to a lot of the noise shows, and then no one else ever comes."
Lorenz also touched upon how the culture of the traditional indie rock fan and the avant garde fan are starting to meld together. Mainly because indie rock is becoming too manufactured.
"I consider the term void of any true value," Lorenz said. "But I think there is still this true underground scene that is happening that can be appreciated by noise dudes, like Times New Viking or Time and Temperatue. It's true. Its not manufactured at all. I think you have to be careful combining a noise band with other stuff. Sometimes people just leave or plug their ears, or just don't care about noise bands. I usually try to combine stuff with the same kind of attitude. Most noise stuff has that attitude, so it can be combined with the DIY attitude."
Lorenz also pointed out that some noise scene folks have splintered even further.
"They are still very judgemental of other stuff. I think everyone that is into noise also has some other scene that they belong too," he said. "Cincinnati kind of has a separation between the metal/punk noise kids and the older noise/free jazz/ weirdos. There are two different attitudes."
For the most part, he said, just as long as the people making the music are sincere the music can be accepted on any side.
Experimental guitarist Larry Marotta said that there can be a feeling of hostility in some cities.
"My best gigs are almost invariably in the Midwest, and specifically in small- to medium-sized cities. Having grown up on the east coast, I’d say that the Midwest audiences seem a little more open to new experiences when they go to a show. I’ve done pretty out-there stuff for folk or rock crowds in Columbus, and the reaction is still pretty positive, or at the least polite. Also, unlike in some of the larger media centers, you don’t have the big-name writers or scenesters determining what is hip for everyone to like or not. When I’m playing in New York, I get much more of a feeling of 'Welcome to the world center of culture. Since you’re not John Zorn or Elliott Sharp (no slam on either of them, BTW), why are you even bothering to perform for us? Who the hell are you?' In Columbus, or Ann Arbor, or Louisville, the response is more 'Thank you for coming to our city. We’re happy you’re here. What are you going to share with us this evening?'" he said.
So for now, there seems to be a future in the combination of DIY indie rock aesthetics and the avant garde culture.
Marotta said he see a kinship between bands such as Noumena, Sword Heaven, Burning-Star-Core, Wolf Eyes, Envenomist, Lozenge, and probably a lot of others.
When it comes to the upcoming Ohio Experimental Music Festival, it may be the first time many of these regional bands will be able to meet and see each other perform.
If Swordheaven's Mark Van Fleet is right, by joining together for something like the Ohio Experimental Music Festival, it could ensure that the Midwest experimental music scene could make even more progress over the next decade.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ohio Experimental Music Fest and you


The significance of the upcoming Ohio Experimental Music Festival is interesting to me.
Most people think the avant garde emanates from some dank New York basement, where silver painted walls shine on half naked women, cavorting on top of life-sized toy horses.
That's a pretty goddam great image. But the fact is that New York is tired, boring and overpopulated. That's my own opinion.
I am much more interested in people who grew up near farms and grain mills, yet still managed to pick up guitars and take it as far as they could. We don't rub elbows with Lenny Kravitz around these parts. We don't have the opportunity to kiss James Iha's ass in a bar and get our band signed.
We just have Bob Pollard, but that's way cooler.
Let me tell you, things are not as grandiose as our imaginations make them out to be. As far as I'm concerned people are too focused on music coming from New York and LA. I think they are two of the most boring music scenes in America. I just think New York is a vacuum of sheep herders. Masses of sheep falling into line.
Is the new style for girls to wear huge 1980s glasses, like whatshername in the Cannonball Run? Well I'll take two. Where do I sign up? Do people prefer them to be shiny and red, or simply brown and natural?? Because I'm ready to do either.
Is Interpol supposed to be good? Cool, let's start 30 bands that sound exactly like them and form a scene around it. That scene will be based on whose ass is kissed the most. That person will be the ring leader: The one with the most red lipstick on their butt.
Yeah, I'm bored of New York. So much so that I have reduced this article to childish babbling.
As luck would have it, that is why I'm focused on Midwest music.
And the most interesting thing going on right now is a festival being organized in Columbus, Ohio by the fellows from noise rock group Sword Heaven.
I recently heard back from the band's Mark Van Fleet about the process of organizing the festival and the concept of this type of music in the current underground Midwest scene.

People with Animal Heads: What motivated you guys (who all is helping, so I can include them too) to organize the Noise Fest in Columbus? What do you hope to accomplish with it?

Van Fleet: There was some talk on a noise related Internet bulletin board about how it would be cool to have a fest of all Ohio bands (prompted in part by someone who doesn't even live in Ohio I don't think), and I took the bait and said I'd get the ball rolling on it, and that it could be in Columbus since it's a central location. Whether you live in Cleveland or Cinci or Toledo or Athens no one has to travel much further than anyone else to get here, and I don't have to go far at all! I'm doing a lot of the co-ordination but the people who are running the venues are helping quite a bit too. That would be Adam Fleischer of Bourbon St, Aaron Hibbs at Skylab, and Shane Mackenzie out in Delaware at his farm/ compound. We decided that the bands would be selected by local "curators". So Aaron and I chose the Columbus acts. John from Emeralds and Chris of Bee Mask chose the Cleveland acts and have been great about other organizational/ promotion stuff. Spencer Yeh, Robert Inhuman, and Jon Lorenz chose the Cinci area groups. I solicited the opinions of Jason Zeh about the NW (he's from Bowling Green) and Matt Reis about the Dayton area, and just went with their suggestions.

I guess the motivation comes mostly from people realizing that right now there is a pretty solid community of people interested in experimental music all over Ohio that is even bigger than the handful of acts that have gotten some level of recognition in the underground. And there are quite of few of those groups. You have people that have been around awhile like Spencer Yeh from Cinci who does Burning Star Core, and Mike Shiflet from here in Columbus who has been running Gameboy records for close to ten years. You have a lot of newer Ohio bands touring and people are noticing them as well. Emeralds from up in Cleveland, Lambsbread from Delaware, Realicide in Cincinatti just to name a few. Even though Realicide has been around awhile, in the last few years, Robert has toured a ton and people talk about him wherever we go. You have people like Leslie Keffer and the ladies of 16 Bitch Pile-Up, all of whom have moved out of Ohio recently, but they are amongst some of the more recognizable names in underground noise and brought some much needed feminine spirit to a pretty dude centric scene. Anyway, these bands all know each other and have played together and it will be fun to get everyone together in one place so I guess that's the main goal, but also to expose people who are interested in this kind of music to acts that don't get out of town much. I'm excited to see the bands I've only heard about before, of which, there are actually quite a few and I'm excited for people who make the trip to see the groups from Columbus who rarely (never) play out of town. I guess I also hope that by doing a festival like this that we get some people who don't usually or only occasionally come to these things. It's a pretty good opportunity to come see what's going on if you have even a passing interest.
I should mention two festivals that happened in Columbus that I think this is an extension of. The first was called Avantronics. This was a two day festival organized at the now defunct BLD by Mike Shiflet in 2001 or maybe even 2000. It wasn't all Ohio bands, but it was the first time I'd seen so many different kinds of live experimental music and it was great. 16 Bitch Pile-Up decided to form after attending it. It was the first time I saw Noumena. The other festival that happened was in 2004, also at BLD. It was called Spring Aktion and I helped out with it. Again, not just bands from Ohio, but many were, and it was also a really great time. Since then (partially as a result of these two events?), the activity in the experimental music scene in Ohio has increased significantly, so I think it's time for another one of these multi day multi band events.

PWAH: Do you think there is a reason why the Midwest has raised such a large amount of noise rock bands? What do you think contributes to that?

VF: I think it's probably complicated, but I think the Midwest is more urban than most people think of it as being, and as such, you have a lot of people who know a lot about underground music and are drawn to the extremes of it and the avant garde, and yet, cheap rents and cost of living make it possible for people to pretty easily be in bands. It's no problem to have a place to practice or to own a van for example. That's a start. I mean I want to say it has something to do with the ties to manufacturing in the Midwest and a certain bleakness of the landscape/ people's lives, but I'm not sure that's so true.

(Editor's Note: Check back Tuesday for another edition of Noise in the Midwest)

The CEAs

Mike Breen's " Spill It" column had some nice coverage of the recent Cincinnati Entertainment Awards … HERE
I don't care what anyone says about city entertainment awards. I think they are a great thing. It's too bad most cities gave up on them.
God forbid a city should highlight its local artists, who are constantly dragging their sleeves through the muck of an endless parade of local stages, with all the bar owners padding their pockets with alcohol sales, as the bands walk out with 15 bucks and a huge bar tab.
Maybe it's time to say thanks for a change?
The CEA's did just that.
Of course, I have no idea if the CEA's suffer from nepotism. That's always been one of the arguments against city entertainment awards.
But the winners looked pretty diverse and well deserved from my perspective. The Seedy Seeds seemed to be the big winners, with two awards:

New Artist of the Year: The Seedy Seeds
Album of the Year: Wussy's Left for Dead
Artist of the Year: Buffalo Killers
Live Act: 500 Miles to Memphis
Musical Ambassador for the City: Over the Rhine
Electronic/Experimental: The Seedy Seeds
Hip Hop: Animal Crackers
Bluegrass: Rumpke Mountain Boys
Country: Straw Boss
Folk/Roots/Americana: Tupelo Honey
World Music: The Pinstripes
Rock: 500 Miles to Memphis
Hard Rock/Metal: Banderas
Singer/Songwriter: Kim Taylor
Alternative/Indie: The Sundresses
Punk: Caterpillar Tracks
Blues: Sonny Moorman Group
Funk/R&B: Freekbass
Jazz: Blue Wisp Big Band

Welcome to Detroit:
We're ready and willing to kill you

In another blow to the Motor City's tarnished image, Detroit pushed past St. Louis to become the nation's most dangerous city, according to a private research group's controversial analysis, released Sunday, of annual FBI crime statistics.
The study drew harsh criticism even before it came out. The American Society of Criminology launched a pre-emptive strike Friday, issuing a statement attacking it as "an irresponsible misuse" of crime data.
The 14th annual "City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan America" was published by CQ Press, a unit of Congressional Quarterly Inc. It is based on the FBI's Sept. 24 crime statistics report.
The report looked at 378 cities with at least 75,000 people based on per-capita rates for homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft. Each crime category was considered separately and weighted based on its seriousness, CQ Press said.
Last year's crime leader, St. Louis, fell to No. 2. Another Michigan city, Flint, ranked third, followed by Oakland Calif.; Camden, N.J.; Birmingham, Ala.; North Charleston, S.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; Richmond, Calif.; and Cleveland.
The study ranked Mission Viejo, Calif., as the safest U.S. city, followed by Clarkstown, N.Y.; Brick Township, N.J.; Amherst, N.Y.; and Sugar Land, Texas.
CQ Press spokesman Ben Krasney said details of the weighting system were proprietary. It was compiled by Kathleen O'Leary Morgan and Scott Morgan, whose Morgan Quitno Press published it until its acquisition by CQ Press.
The study assigns a crime score to each city, with zero representing the national average. Detroit got a score of 407, while St. Louis followed at 406. The score for Mission Viejo, in affluent Orange County, was minus 82.
Detroit was pegged the nation's murder capital in the 1980s and has lost nearly 1 million people since 1950, according to the Census Bureau. Downtown sports stadiums and corporate headquarters — along with the redevelopment of the riverfront of this city of 919,000 — have slowed but not reversed the decline. Officials have said crime reports don't help.
Detroit police officials released a statement Sunday night disputing the report, saying it fails to put crime information into proper context.
"Every year this organization sends out a press release with big, bold lettering that labels a certain city as Most Dangerous, USA," Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings said in the release.
"It really makes you wonder if the organization is truly concerned with evaluating crime or increasing their profit," said Bully-Cummings, who noted the complete report is available only by purchase. "With crime experts across the country routinely denouncing the findings, I believe the answer is clear."
The mayor of 30th-ranked Rochester, N.Y. — an ex-police chief himself — said the study's authors should consider the harm that the report causes.
"What I take exception to is the use of these statistics and the damage they inflict on a number of these cities," said Mayor Robert Duffy, chairman of the Criminal and Social Justice Committee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The rankings "do groundless harm to many communities," said Michael Tonry, president of the American Society of Criminology.
"They also work against a key goal of our society, which is a better understanding of crime-related issues by both scientists and the public," Tonry said.
Critics also complain that numbers don't tell the whole story because of differences among cities.
"You're not comparing apples and oranges; you're comparing watermelons and grapes," said Rob Casey, who heads the FBI section that puts out the Uniform Crime Report that provides the data for the Quitno report.
The FBI posted a statement on its Web site criticizing such use of its statistics.
"These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region," the FBI said. "Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents."
Doug Goldenberg-Hart, acquisitions editor at CQ Press, said that the rankings are imperfect, but that the numbers are straightforward. Cities at the top of the list would not be there unless they ranked poorly in all six crime categories, he said.
"The idea that people oppose it, it's kind of blaming the messenger," Goldenberg-Hart said. "It's not coming to terms with the idea that crime is a persistent problem in our society."
The report "helps concerned Americans learn how their communities fare in the fight against crime," CQ Press said in a statement. "The first step in making our cities and states safer is to understand the true magnitude of their crime problems. This will only be achieved through straightforward data that all of us can use and understand."
The study excluded Chicago, Minneapolis, and other Illinois and Minnesota cities because of incomplete data.
By DAVID N. GOODMAN, Associated Press Writer
Associated Press writer Jim Salter in St. Louis contributed to this report.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Midwestern Roundup!

• Cincinnati's Bad Veins announced they have signed with RCRD LBL, home to such up and coming indie heavy weights such as Art Brut, Battles, Bloc Party, Cold War Kids, Grizzly Bear, Kid Sister, Maximo Park, Spank Rock, The Stills, and The Willowz. It's sort of a site that releases music for free, in what appears to be a song by song basis. Check it out for yourself.
• Secretly Canadian artist Richard Swift has a new LP coming, courtesy of a Pitchfork Media article.
• Columbus folky artist Megan Palmer is the guest on Pat Radio this week. She plays 5 songs from her upcoming release, Take You Away, live on acoustic guitar. Songs from Luther Wright, Church of the Red Museum, Joe Kile, and Miss Molly are also in the mix.
• WOXY"s Local Lixx also has a new episode featuring PWAH favorite City Beat music critic Mike Breen. Check out the full story at Each Note Secure.
I also missed pointing at that Local Lix did episode #6 made up of past Lounge Act performances by regional bands. You can find that and more at this link here.
• Speaking of WOXY, the station has been nominated for a Plug Award. Check out the full story here.

Changes gonna come...

You know, I was looking over the past couple months of stuff I've put on People with Animal Heads and I realized that my focus has gone askew. Out of laziness I've been doing more commentary stuff and pointing you folks to interesting (I think) Midwest articles I find on other sites. But that was not what this site was supposed to be.
It's a project. It's more of an experiment. I want to find new music. From underground bands. Mostly because I feel like I can't rely on music critics. I just feel like people are inclined to be lazy. Next thing you know, you're doing interviews with your friend's band every week. Or you talk about a topic that you already know about, instead of trying to learn something new.
I'm rather ashamed that I seem to be falling into that rut as well.
So anyway, I may still post some interesting Midwest stuff I find on other sites. But I'm going to buckle down and do more interviews and continue exploring the Midwest state-by-state.
I really want to get to know the Chicago music scene. It remains relatively unknown to me. Mainly because it's impossible to get anyone in the fucking town to email me back.
I feel like I have a good grasp on Indiana now. I realize that not much information is available about the current Detroit and Michigan scenes, but only because it seems there is not much going on up there these days.
I'm kinda of sick of talking about Ohio, just because a lot is going on and it's easy to get info.
I also want to go south and explore Kentucky.
By the way, what the hell is going on in Iowa??? Do people actually live there? Does anyone own a guitar there?
I'm interested in Pennsylvania too. But I'm afraid that's too far out of my "Midwest" spectrum.
Good music coming out of there, though.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

He's still at it...

Have I mentioned yet how I wish George W. Bush would have a heart attack? It's our only hope.
While gracing the Midwest with his mouth pollution, the president vetoed another measure that might have put some more money into his own country, as opposed to funneling it all into his war agenda. His presence is like a giant intelligence vaccum.
If you people don't vote for a democrat this time around, you are fucking idiots. The man and all his followers have destroyed this country.
It just makes me realize how no one stands up for anything anymore. We all just sit here in our chairs at home, acting angry on a web-site like this.
But let's face it, Americans like myself are demoralized. I'm sick of seeing this shit over and over again. It's tiring. For the life of me, I can't fathom that revolutionary groups have not formed against a president that got elected illegally (though unproven), lied to us all to start a war, then has the nerve to force it on us for the rest of our lives.
It just blows my mind that a lot of you dumb fuckers voted for him the last time. Good going, dick brains.


NEW ALBANY, Ind. - President Bush, escalating his budget battle with Congress, on Tuesday vetoed a spending measure for health and education programs prized by congressional Democrats.
He also signed a big increase in the Pentagon's non-war budget although the White House complained it contained "some unnecessary spending."
The president's action was announced on Air Force One as Bush flew to New Albany, Ind., on the Ohio River across from Louisville, Ky., for a speech criticizing the Democratic-led Congress on its budget priorities.
In excerpts of his remarks released in advance by the White House, Bush hammered Democrats for what he called a tax-and-spend philosophy:
"The Congress now sitting in Washington holds this philosophy," Bush said. "Their majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far it is acting like a teenager with a new credit card.
"This year alone, leaders in Congress are proposing to spend $22 billion more than my budget provides," the president said. "Some of them claim this is not really much of a difference and the scary part is that they seem to mean it."
More than any other spending bill, the $606 billion education and health measure defines the differences between Bush and majority Democrats. The House fell three votes short of winning a veto-proof margin as it sent the measure to Bush.
Rep. David Obey, the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, pounced immediately on Bush's veto.
"This is a bipartisan bill supported by over 50 Republicans," Obey said. "There has been virtually no criticism of its contents. It is clear the only reason the president vetoed this bill is pure politics."
Since winning re-election, Bush has sought to cut the labor, health and education measure below the prior year level. But lawmakers have rejected the cuts. The budget that Bush presented in February sought almost $4 billion in cuts to this year's bill.
Democrats responded by adding $10 billion to Bush's request for the 2008 bill. Democrats say spending increases for domestic programs are small compared with Bush's pending war request totaling almost $200 billion.
The $471 billion defense budget gives the Pentagon a 9 percent, $40 billion budget increase. The measure only funds core department operations, omitting Bush's $196 billion request for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, except for an almost $12 billion infusion for new troop vehicles that are resistant to roadside bombs.
Much of the increase in the defense bill is devoted to procuring new and expensive weapons systems, including $6.3 billion for the next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, $2.8 billion for the Navy's DD(X) destroyer and $3.1 billion for the new Virginia-class attack submarine.
Huge procurement costs are driving the Pentagon budget ever upward. Once war costs are added in, the total defense budget will be significantly higher than during the typical Cold War year, even after adjusting for inflation.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Live Tweedy

Check out some live Mp3s from Jeff Tweedy posted by Can You See the Sunset From the South Side:

HERE

Sunday, November 11, 2007

TNV news

Here's an update on the upcoming Matador release of Columbus, Ohio's Times New Vikings "Rip it Off," courtesy of the Columbus Alive Sensory Overload blog:

Preview the new TNV


tnv03.jpg


Matador Records has posted an mp3 with two songs from Times New Viking's upcoming Rip It Off, due out on the mega-indie in January. Click here to listen (or right-click to download).


In other TNV news, the lo-fi locals have booked a record release party at the Wexner Center Performance Space for January 25. Full lineup:

•Times New Viking
The Ponys (Chicago reverb garage; fellow Matador newbies)
Endless Boogie (funky psych from Brooklyn)
The Feelers (the best punk band in Columbus)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Just signed...


According to CMJ:
Detroit, Michigan's The Hard Lessons have signed to Quack!Media to release their latest EP for free as a digital download on their website. The label, which has found success via Tally Hall—who recently got nabbed up by Atlantic—as well as Great Lakes Myth Society, plan to "make record collecting fun again" by releasing the first in a four-part series titled B&G Sides November 23, starting with the songs "See And Be Scene" and "Don't Shake My Tree." The quirky popsters of the Hard Lessons have opened for everyone from Wolfmother to Iggy Pop and will continue their rigorous tour schedule with a couple dates throughout the midwest this month.

Tour Dates For The Hard Lessons:
11/09 - Toledo, OH - Mickey Finn's Pub
11/17 - Kalamazoo, MI - Kraftbrau Brewery
11/18 - Chicago, IL - Beat Kitchen
11/23 - Detroit, MI - Magic Stick

Poopy Time

A few bands chipped in some songs for a children's motivational happiness CD. More specifically, O.A.R. and Over The Rhine represent the Midwest.
Story courtesy of My Old Kentucky Blog:

Poop Goes in the Potty



So once you have a kid, and you're huge into music, you wonder if you're gonna force your obsession on your child. The answer is yes, you are. OK, well, I am. But, if you're like me and not sure how to do it, I've think got the solution. See my daughter already loves music, which makes me happy, but after a few hours of PBS Sprout or Noggin songs, you'd take kicks to the groin with more enthusiasm. Well, unless you're watching Wonder Pets - I could truly watch that show all day. Anyway, I digress...
This For The Kids series offers the perfect solution to the hipster parent who wants their kid to know more about indie music than any other 4-year old at preschool. Lucy, MJ and I have been rocking the third installment of this series on recent car trips, and I can't really speak for Lucy, but I can't get enough. It's full of classic and contemporary children's songs delivered by loads of your favorite indie artists. Mates Of State, Of Montreal, Rogue Wave, Blitzen Trapper and many more. Over The Rhine's The Poopsmith Song could be a true work of genius.
Remember, It's never too early to start your child on the path of musical snobbery and supremecy. Buy It!

Over The Rhine - The Poopsmith Song (highest rec!)
Barenaked Ladies - The Other Day I Met A Bear

Tracklisting:

1. I Want To Have Fun - Of Montreal
2. See You On the Moon - Great Lake Swimmers
3. The Poopsmith Song - Over The Rhine
4. My Little Bird - Rogue Wave
5. Itsy Bitsy Spider - O.A.R.
6. The Other Day I Met a Bear - Barenake Ladies
7. The Babysitter's Here - Dar Williams
8. I'm a Believer - The Sippy Cups
9. If You're Happy And You Know It - Anathallo
10. Does Your Cat Have a Mustache? - The Format
11. Sleep So Very Long - Moby
12. My Darling Clementine - The Submarines
13. Wheels On the Bus - Kyle Andrews
14. New Shoes - Blitzen Trapper
15. Sunny - Piano
16. Jellyman Kelly - Mates Of State
17. No Hiding - Hem
18. The Lint Song - MC Lars
19. Pure Imagination - Jolie Holland
20. Small As Me - Rosie Thomas

Also be sure to check into Volume One and Volume Two