Thursday, May 31, 2007

SHADE: Pittsburgh goldmine

For those who never make it out to Pittsburgh, which probably includes most of the Midwest, I've begun delving into the current sounds coming out of Pennsylvania. I think this is the furthest I'll go out east in my project.

I first saw Pittsburgh's SHADE when they did some shows with Columbus' Paper Airplane down in Cincinnati.
Northside Tavern was packed that night, with a bill that was rounded out with the Cedars who were from Philly (I think).

SHADE manages to create an exciting new form of shoegaze rock, because it barely touches shoegaze. The music is lively, disjointed and incredibly inventive. It's like recreating the 90s in modern indie rock form. The band puts on a tremendous live show and the songs are written to make sure the audience joins in.

Truly one of the best bands doing there thing in the Midwest right now. The band just announced it was recently added to the BUZZ radio station that plays for passengers of American Airlines.

Check them out here:

The Chicago Sound?

For a lot of musicians and people, Chicago has always been the father figure for the Midwest. The most fully realized city of this region, it also happens to have the only music scene that registers on a national level.
My memories of Chicago (where I lived as a child) was a giant blizzard and then a dangerous ice storm on my older brother's birthday. We waited around at home with bated breath as my dad drove him home from somewhere on the icy roads in order to get to the party.
The weather in Chicago is brutal, especially for somone like me who hates the cold. I also hate the wind. Then there is the fact that Lake Michigan is freezing cold all year long. But I digress.
My point is that it takes a certain resilience to live in Chicago. It's more expensive than any other Midwestern city, so you have to be a bit more of a hustler. But it also pays off if you can brave the conditions.
The music scene in Chicago has always been exciting to me as a fan of indie rock. When I was in college Urge Overkill popped into the mainstream for a bit around the early to mid-90s. That band used to come around to perform at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus when I was in college.
After every show lead singer Nash Kato would walk with us down to the old Skully's location (when it was in the lower level of a strip mall on campus). He was incredibly nice to us and was pretty down to earth. Sometimes he would just show up at a bar in town unexpected. If they were playing with another great band, he would introduce you to them.
Then there was Veruca Salt, also made up of some genuinely nice people, who would often shoot the shit with their fans and hang out at local bars. It always seemed to me that if a band was from Chicago, they were always more apt to be nice. It is what has always drawn me to the city's music scene. That and the fact that it spawned Wilco.
Historically, I would say that Chicago has produced some of the great retro pop bands of recent history. The music seems to focus on the pop side of indie rock. Harmonies seem prevalent, as does great melodies.
So now I have begun delving into the current underground indie rock scenes going on there. Perhaps we can find some new voices that may sprout out of these modern times.
The only problem with Chicago is that it's similar to New York, in that the city is made up of small towns. It seems each small town has its own scene. As an outsider I never have any clue where to begin. But I'm working on that.
I just have to keep telling myself that we broke through the wall into Cleveland.
It can be done.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Pitchfork reports: Andrew Bird discusses the Midwest

Be sure to check out Pitchfork for the entire ANDREW BIRD interview, but I liked how they asked him to pontificate on being a Midwesterner.
Here's an excerpt:

Pitchfork: You guys all live in the Midwest, but your music would fit in slightly more "hip" places, like New York or Los Angeles. Is there anything about the place you live that directly relates to the music you make?

Andrew Bird: Definitely. Especially getting out to the rural Midwest. I remember talking to a friend of mine, deciding whether to move to New York, but if I moved to New York I would probably be making much more dense music. I haven't even gotten as far as I want to go, in terms of unfolding songs. I've been hearing something in my head that I've been too overstimulated to have the patience to unfold.

Pitchfork: That's ironic, because rock or pop music-- the medium you're working in-- is generally known for its immediacy.

Andrew Bird: Right. There's always a tension between wanting to write a really concise, instant gratification type song that gets under your skin the first time you hear it, and wanting to really stretch out. I think it's a healthy tension. I think I need to, in the future, go further into textural stuff. The original question was about the Midwest, and the landscape. But Chicago and Minneapolis are the two communities I've been involved with. Minneapolis-- there are a lot of really creative people up there. I'm really enjoying it. Chicago as well, but Chicago is so familiar to me. So am I an advocate for the Midwest? I don't know [laughs]

Pitchfork: Well, a lot of other major urban centers, especially New York and L.A., are artistic destinations, places people go, whereas a city like Chicago is where a lot of people come from.

Andrew Bird: I do think people [in Chicago] are making art maybe for different reasons. That's how I've always felt. People move to L.A. waiting for something to happen to them. It takes some initiative. I think people in Chicago, or Minneapolis, I've always appreciated the sort of anonymity of it, a humbleness to the work ethic.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Indiana's Culture Shock concert

From CMJ:

Since 1991, WIUX (Bloomington) has hosted Culture Shock, a free annual concert to celebrate the end of the spring semester. On April 14, they host the biggest show in the history of their station. The accomplishment ought to be a welcome distraction from a nail-biting wait for an FCC ruling that could displace WIUX from their signal.

Who’s confirmed to play this year?
Xiu Xiu, Sunset Rubdown, Make Believe, Catfish Haven, Richard Swift, David Vandervelde And The Moonstation House Band, Chin Up Chin Up, Nomo, Mudkids, Arrah And The Ferns, Husband And Wife and the Coke Dares are all confirmed. We’re still working finalizing the last few acts.

What makes this year’s show so kick ass?
WIUX only reaches about 15 miles since we’re a low-power FM station. Even though we do reach the entire Bloomington area, most people around the state and neighboring regions don’t know about our station. Having bands that receive so much national attention and critical acclaim performing at WIUX’s signature event will help us reach more potential listeners and provide a day of great entertainment at no cost for anyone who is willing to make the trip. This event will be a great way to conclude the semester and it will serve to show that college radio and our home state have a lot to offer.

How involved is the station in booking and producing the show?
Our special events director, Brian Kerr, took care of all of the booking. We looked for bands that were going to be on tour around the time and who would be available on April 14. Some bands, Chin Up Chin Up for example, contacted us directly and said they were interested in playing. The entire show is organized, booked and staffed by WIUX volunteers. Every decision that is made is the result of input given by the students who take the time to volunteer with us.
How are you financing and promoting the event?

We set aside part of our budget every year to help pay for the event. We also work with IU’s Union Board to help pay for some of the acts we book. We still don’t have any sponsors confirmed, but we have some things in the works. We plan on doing some traditional promotions for the event, like posting flyers and talking it up on-air, but we’ve also been sending out press releases to blogs, newspapers and magazines [that] might be interested in the event. How were you able to get the event open to the public?

Many college stations have a hard time geting these kinds of shows open to the public.
All events we host on campus are free and open to the public because Indiana University and the Bloomington community are very supportive of and accommodating to WIUX. I think that hosting a free show like Culture Shock is a great way to give something back that students and residents of Bloomington, and music fans in general can enjoy at no cost as a way to say, “Thank you!”

Monday, May 21, 2007

Taste of Cincinnati (May 26, 27, 28)

Looks like it's gonna be a great weekend for live music in Cincinnati. You can't go wrong with food AND rock n roll. It's the Taste of Cincinnati Festival.
(I know there are more stages, so I'll update this post as I learn them... wait, just found it. Here's the FULL SCHEDULE.

From WOXY:
This Memorial Day weekend, is teaming with CiN Weekly to co-sponsor their live music stage at this year's Taste Of Cincinnati. They've put together a terrific lineup of local bands that we're happy to get behind, including faves Wussy, Bad Veins, Pearlene, Buffalo Killers, and Fairmount Girls. Best of all, it's FREE, and you can sample some of Porkopolis' best restaurants for a song!
Approximately 500,000 people attend the Taste, making it one of the nation's largest street festivals and, this year, it's moving to Fifth Street to spotlight the $42-million renovation of Fountain Square and bring the event closer to the heart of downtown.
The Weekly stage will be located at the P&G Pavilion on Fifth Steet between Sycamore & Broadway. Click here to see the full lineup of music for all 3 days. You should have a Shiv, Joe and Mike sighting during the weekend, too. We're suckers for sweet tunes and good grub!
From Cin Weekly (which will have its own stage):

After weeks and weeks of toiling away over this lineup and dealing with diva bands and managers (totally kidding - they're all so great to work with!), I've got the lineup all set for our third annual CiN Stage at Taste of Cincinnati, May 26-28 in downtown Cincinnati.
Now that all of Taste has moved south a few blocks, the CiN Stage has found a new home at the P&G Pavilion, on Fifth Street, between Broadway and Sycamore.
Grab a potato pancake and a beer and come over to our grassy stage area (which I hear might have lots of seating - and hopefully be somewhat shady - an oasis in the concrete jungle of Taste) to hear the best lineup of local acts!
(Above, the amazingly talented Kim Taylor, who we are so happy to have playing our stage for the first time ever.)

The lineup:
(*Note: This is subject to change.)

1-2 The Swarthy Band
3-4 Kristen Key
5-6 Ellery
7-8 Wussy
9-10 Kim Taylor

1-2 Ill Poetic with DJ Rare Groove
3-4 Paper Airplane
5-6 Fairmount Girls
7-8 Bad Veins
9-10 Freekbass

1-2 Buffalo Killers
3-4 Pearlene
(I also heard Noctaluca was playing on Monday too)

Columbus' Magic City: Beat the lone drum

Being from a small town has a way of defining who you are. People find odd little routes toward their conclusions.
So when Columbus' Magic City made its live debut at Café Bourbon Street in June of 2006, its members were both nervous and glad they were coaxed into it.
"I’m pretty shy, so I think Magic City always had this fear that we would never actually play live," Karen said.
The group has been making jaunts up to Detroit for recording sessions, spear-heading a sound reminicent of garage rock girl groups of yore (more along the lines of Phil Spector and underground acts, rather than polished Motown.)
The members of Magic City are Nick on drums, Ann on guitar and backing vocals and Karen on guitar and lead vocals. The trio recently released a split 7-inch EP with fellow Columbus band The Patsy's. The group has two shows in Columbus this weekend, Friday at Carabar on May 25 and Saturday at Andyman's Treehouse on May 26.
What Magic City has brought to the Ohio music scene is a feeling of straightforward simplicity among the trying-a-bit-too-hard to be Arcade Fire stuff currently going on. Sometimes a song is a couple chords and an emotion. Sometimes you dont even need a bass player. Sometimes a band is merely a reflection of where you are from.
"It’s so rural that the place I’m from isn’t even a town with a name, it’s just a rural route postal address on a dirt road," Karen said. "I like Ohio well enough. I’ve never lived anywhere else, so it’s hard to know what to compare it to. But I grew up in this very rural section of the state, sort of an appendage of Appalachia. I think that probably shows through in the music, both with the sort of lyrical focus on the idea of isolation and in the archaic song styles I draw from."
Karen said she has always been drawn to 60s garage rock because that has been the soundtrack to her life since she was a child.
"Growing up, I remember listening to lots of oldies—like the Shangri-Las, Dion, Bill Haley and some MoTown stuff. So it was all this really catchy stuff, but a lot of it had this sort of dark, rock’n’roll undertone. Then once I started hearing stuff like Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, it was all over! It’s just such fun music to play, and when we started Magic City we really wanted to have fun—that seemed like something that not a lot of bands were doing anymore. It’s really easy to play in a band and stand on stage and look miserable and play boring songs that you think are really deep and meaningful .... Most of our songs are pretty short and to the point," Karen said. "Plus, that old rock’n’roll stuff had a lot of style, and we like that. We like the idea that you should get dressed up to go out to a show—whether you’re in the band or in the crowd. It’s just fun. Maybe that’s a girl thing though? I don’t know."
I'm pretty set on this clunky theme of the small town molding who you are, so I'll get back to that: In small towns you either have the choice of conforming or isolation. Aren't small towns great?
Those who conformed have never left their home towns. The ones who didn't moved away - as fast as they could. Then they spend the rest of their lives feeling as though they will never be accepted.
"Now that I listen back to the Magic City songs I think the themes are pretty clear—mostly stuff about feeling lonely and restless. But I think that in general all songs are basically just love songs in some form or another—whether they’re about love, or sex or love of rock’n’roll or anything else. Even songs about being lonely are love songs in their own way. I think that once I came to terms with that, it made writing songs easier. I sort of stopped trying to be uber-deep writing collegiate indie-rock lyrics, and just decided to write whatever came naturally. I do like some bands that write great, passionate, literary lyrics. But I hate it when you can tell that someone is trying too hard to be clever or poetic. Whatever is genuine usually sounds best, I think," Karen said.
That Allen Ginsberg-style spontaneous prose is the perfect background for rock and roll. If it was good enough for the Beat poets it's good enough for Columbus 2007.
"Being from Ohio is kind of an interesting thing, because it seems that no matter where you are in the country—or maybe even the world—you’re sure to run into someone else from Ohio. It’s a strange phenomenon, but we seem to be everywhere. I’m not sure why—maybe everyone from Ohio is just happy to get out! But then again, almost everyone I know who has moved away, has ended up moving back. It’s a strange attraction, Ohio," Karen said.
Retro-flavored groups have flourished recently here in the Midwestern. Detroit has almost become synonomous with it. But few of the new bands have caught on to the desolate chill that used to be such a integral part of 60s garage rock. It's what made the New Bomb Turks so interesting.
Magic City has been able to create a genuine "feel" of their 60s counterparts.
Karen said perhaps the group's diverse tastes has helped keep them from sounding like just another garage-punk band.
Then there's the lack of a bass player.
"That actually sort of started as a necessity because we didn’t know any bassists. Then it became a joke, because neither of us wanted to be the stereotypical girl bass player, so we both played guitar instead. Then, as we were getting our songs together, we realized we wanted to have a little bit of the edgy, bass-free sound of the Oblivians and Cheater Slicks. I think we always wanted to be a girl-band who didn’t necessarily sound like a girl-band, if that makes sense? But we try to balance it out with a full guitar sound. Ann’s parts are kinda noisy and high, and mine are kinda bassy and steady. So it’s a good mix, we think," Karen said.
She said Magic City keeps moving forward with the simple philosophy of keeping things fun.
"So far, it seems to be working. But that doesn’t mean we don’t work hard. We practice twice a week and play out pretty often. We take this band pretty seriously—or as seriously as we can while still keeping it fun," Karen said.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nepal's Buddha boy plans live burial: report

Here's a new one, but it has an old date on it, so I kinda doubt its merit.
Monday, March 26, 2007
From correspondents in Kathmandu, Nepal, 07:32 PM IST

Ram Bahadur Bomjan - Nepal's 'Buddha Boy' whose followers claim he has meditated without food or water - is back in the news with media reports suggesting that he plans to be buried alive while meditating.
The teenager from Ratanpuri village in southern Nepal's Bara district has remained in the headlines since he surfaced under a tree in the Charkoshi forest in 2005, meditating cross-legged, just as the Buddha is depicted.
Clad only in a strip of white cloth, the boy was the object of intense reverence as well as curiosity after reports said he had been praying at the same spot in the same posture for nearly nine months without food or water.
Then, just as abruptly as he had surfaced he vanished, prompting a long search by followers, villagers and security forces. He reappeared in a nearby forest and reportedly told his followers that he had left the earlier meditation site because it was getting too crowded.
This year, Bomjan was reported to have disappeared once again only to resurface in the Halpuriya area of Bara district where he was said to be planning to embark on an even more difficult form of meditation.
Bomjan now plans to begin 'patal samadhi' (underground meditation), a private TV channel reported Monday, quoting a local journalist.
According to reports, his followers have already dug up an eight-feet deep trench in which Bomjan plans to descend. The trench will be then filled.
Asian religious traditions narrate tales of holy men being buried alive, braving extreme heat or cold and subjecting the body to other torments in order to master the senses and attain salvation.
A question is being asked whether the district administration will allow Bomjan's followers to bury him. There has been no official response.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Look for a few new interviews in the coming days. Took the past week off to work on some articles. Not that much to report lately. The Heartless Bastards are opening up for The Hold Steady, which is pretty nice...I've also noticed that a lot of Indiana bands are making the rounds into Ohio more frequently. No luck lately on starting on the Chicago underground scenes...