Wednesday, January 16, 2008

An Outsiders Guide to the Midwest Music Scene
A discussion with music critic Noah Klein

Last month, I posted about former Michigan band Awesome Color making waves after moving to New York. I made a joke about how no one who lives in LA or NY was actually born there.
But the guy who wrote the article, music critic Noah Klein, found the post and remarked that he was actually born in LA and now lives in NY.
Around the same time I was wondering how the rest of the US perceives the Midwest music scenes.
He was gracious enough to allow me to pick his brain a bit to see what someone completely removed from the Midwest Music Scene thought.
This led to a whole new section of PWAH: "An Outsiders Guide to the Midwest Music Scene."
Our short discussion sparked a desire for me to ask as many people as I could, like the discussion I already posted with Chicago's 1900s.

People with Animal Heads: I'm actually really curious about a guy from NY/LA and what his perception might be about Midwestern music. Would you be interested in telling me any Midwestern bands that you enjoy off the top of your head? From your standpoint, especially as someone who writes about music, have you heard any discussions about Midwestern music going on via either of the coasts? It's fascinating to me, because I know a lot of people in Ohio have opinions about Brooklyn bands and the scene going on over there, for example.
I also know some people in LA who think the Midwest consists of Bob Pollard and that's about it. Maybe Wilco.
Noah Klein: Well, living in L.A. I was always pretty fascinated with the Brooklyn and Austin scenes, off the top of my head those would have to be my favorites. As far as the midwestern scene, I'm not entirely sure of where that would be, many of the people that I've met disagree on where that seems to be.
Within Ohio, I've enjoyed the music that has come out of Akron, some of it I've found repetitive of other contemporary bands but it still has a great sound.
There are a lot of bands that I write about, which I'm surprised come out of the midwest, just because since I was young I've thought of that region having a more laid back and subtle sound. Now living in Manhattan I'm extremely into the Brooklyn scene just because there are so many incredible bands that live right in my backyard. Living in the East as well, the cities are so accessible by short bus and train rides that I've really dug into the Baltimore, Philly and Chicago club scenes. I'm sorry I'm not more help on the midwestern scene, it's not quite the area that I know the most about.
PWAH: That's sort of why I started this site, to get to know it more. I was interested on what your opinion might be, having been totally removed from the Midwest. I think what I've learned over the past year of doing this, is that the majority of "new sounds" coming out these days may come from Brooklyn, but a lot of those musicians started out in the Midwest. You have The National, for instance, who are from Cincinnati.
It's really fascinating to me now, as I look at individual band members of current indie bands accomplishing anything and where they started out.
NK:Well first hearing that Pitchfork was based in Chicago, it came as a bit of surprise and slowly I began to notice the scene that it's beginning the really develop there. Brooklyn's Fiery Furnaces are originally from the surroung Chicago area, The Sea and Cake and Andrew Bird who really hit it big this year. Then of course there are Tortoise and The Smashing Pumpkins although that was quite some time ago. Drag City and Thrill Jockey are also located in Chicago, two labels that we've heard quite a bit from in 2007. Chicago's club scene is also starting to take off and DJs The Hood Internet really made that a big deal this year.
Offhand I can't think of groups from Indiana, although I do remember seeing that location on quite a few MySpace pages. In 2006 I was heavily into the Kansas scene listening to bands like White Whale, The Appleseed Cast, Minus Story and The New Amsterdams. But yeah, these bands have to move out either East or West if they want to begin a serious career and places like Brooklyn and Downtown LA or Silverlake are like musician havens- cheap enough to afford by a great place. I'm definitely beginning to keep more of an eye out for great midwestern bands, those scenes' time will come soon enough.

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