Friday, February 29, 2008

Midpoint Breaks
After six years everything changes...

The news in Cincinnati right now is that the 2008 Midpoint Music Festival could see some big changes. Here's the article from Mike Breen's Spill It site:
MidPoint Music Festival 2008: Under New Management
If you went to the Web site for the MidPoint Music Festival over the past few weeks, all you saw was this cryptic message: "After six years, everything changes."
So what's the big change? CityBeat is now the proud operator of MPMF, which will return Sept. 25-27. A huge overhaul of the event is underway. Over the course of five years, MidPoint founders Sean Rhiney and Bill Donabedian developed their labor of love into one of the preeminent showcases for unsigned bands in the country. Their dedication to the up-and-coming artist should forever be commended as it has helped Cincinnati's profile as a "music city" in the midst of our current musical renaissance period.
CityBeat will keep true to that initial spirit and also work to broaden the appeal of the fest overall. Unsigned bands will still be a large focus of the event. Any and all artists interested in performing can submit starting later today (or early tomorrow at the latest) at the MPMF Web site.
No more industry panels (at least this year), just music. Over the next few weeks we'll be making further announcements about the fest (keep an eye on this blog), culminating with an event at Below Zero in Over-the-Rhine (the former Alchemize and Cavern locale) on April 9. The Omaha-based band Cursive, members of Connor Oberst's Saddle Creek Records family, will perform at the April 9 launch event.
We would love your input. As a fan/attendee, what would you like to see at MidPoint this year? As a performer/participant, do you have suggestions? Please leave your comments below and help us take MidPoint to the next level.
— Mike Breen

During the whole hooplah earlier this year about musicians complaining that the festival needed a change, I guess I was always in the boat of folks who thought it was pretty damn fun the way it was.
Midpoint remains the only Midwestern music festival where unknown bands can perform in front of hundreds of interested people. You go to the other ones and you're faced with disinterested rooms with three people drinking Pabst that didn't even realize there was a festival going on. This is what Indiana's Midwest Music Festival has often turned into - mostly because they put unsigned bands up against national bands. Why go see The Loyal Divide when Brian Jonestown Massacre is playing three blocks away?
But my worry about all festivals is that they risk becoming scenester back-patting events.
Festivals organized by dudes who have been a part of the local music scene a long time.
They have friends in bands who have been involved in the local music scene a long time.
They put on a festival and invite all their friends bands who have been in the music scene a long time.
Most of these are bands that do one show a year, at most, yet get the best gigs in town.
Cincinnati's definitely been guilty of this stuff in the past.
Meanwhile all the great new bands either have to kiss ass or mope about not getting in.
So please, CityBeat, just promise me it will not turn into this and I will try to remain open-minded...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Arrah and the Ferns call it quits/to relocate

I just found out about the news that Muncie, Indiana's Arrah and the Ferns is disbanding and the core writers are moving off to the east.
I tell you, if you never got the chance to see this band live - or you haven't heard their music yet - you are missing out.
Truly, they are one of the top Midwestern bands I have ever encountered. Their music is full of absolute joy and creativity. So I wish them the best in their future out east.

As posted on the Arrah the Ferns Myspace site:
Hello Everyone,
Unfortunately, I am the bearer of bad news. But though it is bad and more so shocking news, we hope for only understanding and support from all of you who have endlessly provided such in the past.
About 6 weeks ago, our drummer Dave announced to Carl, Joey, and I his intentions of leaving the band after our SXSW tour. Thus, he would be leaving just before our planned album release that we set for May 6th. With no drummer, we had to quickly decide if we should proceed with the intended album release or not. We decided that we would postpone the release indefinitely and make our priority to first relocate to Philadelphia. This is something that particularly Carl and I have wanted to do for a long time. I have lived in Muncie my entire 22 years of existence. And though Muncie is a great and wonderful place, I think it's fair to say that it is not a place where musical opportunities are in abundance.
So with Dave's imminent departure, and the desire that the remaining three of us have to move on, we have decided to officially disband. We, Arrah and the Ferns, are breaking up. We had initially planned to play all of our shows that are currently on our myspace, including SXSW and the touring dates that precede the festival. However, more misfortune was bestowed upon me, and consequently, upon the entire band. On Valentine's Day, I was in a bad wreck on my way to work. Everyone was okay, thankfully, aside from some whiplash on my end. However, the damages to my van are immeasurable. My insurance company has decided to declare it totaled. This means that not only am I out of a vehicle, but the band vehicle is done for. We will now be detained here and will not make our SXSW showcases. We also have to cancel some of the dates that we booked in route to TX.
However, we will still be playing on Friday, March 7th in Bloomington and Saturday, March 8th in Brandenburg, KY. The other shows following will all be cancelled including our March 29th show at the Launching Pad. We are cancelling this show to have a final show in Muncie a few weeks later at Village Green Records. This show will be on Saturday April 12th and it will be an outside event. We'll be cooking out and so far joining us will be our friends Everything, NOW! and Everthus the Deadbeats. There will perhaps be one or 2 more bands playing this show. We're also looking into playing a show on Friday April 11th at Doc's in Muncie. We'll keep you posted on this upcoming weekend of farewells.
As for the future of us four individuals, Dave will be continuing his schooling in Bloomington as well as playing in his solo drum project, Whoa Bro Awesome. He's also a part of the bands Prayer Breakfast and Everybody. As for the remaining three of us, I'll announce that Carl, Joey, and I are now going to focus on my side-project, Woodlands, and make it more of a "real band." Gavin Wilkinson, Justin Spring, and Joey Morrow (all from the recently disbanded This Story) are also joining in full time to this new endeavor. The six of us are all at this time planning to move to Philadelphia to pursue whatever we may come upon as Woodlands together, or other musical opportunities that we are unable to foresee at this point in time.
I know that this is a lot of news—a lot of bad news—to hear at one time. We are all very sad and almost unprepared to end Arrah and the Ferns at this moment. We were so excited to release the new album to the world and to see whatever was next in store for us. We didn't exactly think 6 weeks ago that this would be the fate of our band. But we feel that this is what's best to do when taking in account that without Dave, we are not Arrah and the Ferns anymore.
We know that disappointment must be settling in. We have been talking for so long about this new album and probably getting everyone's hopes up (including our own). But this is life. And though we're disappointed too, we feel and want to feel excited about our new plans to move and to begin a new band with some of our dearest friends. We look forward to the adventures that are to come and are grateful for the adventures we've had because of Arrah and the Ferns.
So here's where I must awkwardly end a sad letter. I want to leave it with so much gratitude and hope, but I don't know how to do that. And I don't want to say "bye" like it's the end, because we still have a few shows left to play. And we want those shows to be so memorable and fun. So, we'll see you soon. We love you. We're so happy you have let Arrah and the Ferns be a part of your life. You all are such a big part of ours.

With all the love that I have,
Arrah Fisher
and I write on behalf of my best friends,
Carl Stovner
Dave Segedy
Joey Patrick

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Jack White/Dylan

From Rolling Stone dailies:
Jack White To Feature On New Bob Dylan Album Of Hank Williams songs...
by Jason Gregory on 25/02/2008

Jack White is to write the music for a song on Bob Dylan’s new album, the White Stripes and Raconteurs singer has revealed.
White is among a number of artists, including Willie Nelson, who have been asked by Dylan to put the music to unfinished Hank Williams songs.
"Bob's putting together an album. He came upon, somehow, 20-25 unfinished songs by Hank Williams: just the lyrics, no music, and he started to ask people if they would finish these songs,” White told MTV
Story continues below...
“He did one, asked Willie Nelson to do one, asked me to do one, and I think Lucinda Williams and Alan Jackson are on it too.”
White said that Dylan hopes to release the record later this year and also revealed that he has a new project, besides the White Stripes and Raconteurs, that, for now, will remain secret.

Swift on Drunkard

I can always count on Aquarium Drunkard to keep me abreast of some of my favorite indie pop artists.
They didn't let me down, with a new piece on PWAH-favorite Richard Swift, on Indiana's Secretly Canadian label, who is discussing some of his favorite places.
From Aquarium Drunkard:
Off The Record is a recurring feature, here on the Drunkard, that marries two of my greatest interests; music and travel. Having a locals perspective when visiting a new locale is the difference between experiencing it through the lens of a tourist and of that of a native.
Off The Record gathers some of my favorite artists, asks them to reflect on their city of residence, and choose a handful of places they could not live without, be them bookstores, bars, restaurants or vistas.
This week’s edition of Off The Record finds us in Eugene, OR, home to one of our favorite contemporary songwriters: Richard Swift. Swift, who penned one of our favorite albums of last year, Dressed Up For The Letdown, is prepping for the April release of his next project, the double disc EP, Richard Swift As Onasis. Described as Swift’s paean to 1950s blues infused rock & roll (referencing Howlin Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, and Link Wray) we have, courtesy of Secretly Canadian, two unreleased tracks from the set, below, for download: “Knee High Boogie,” and “Phone Coffins.”
Richard Swift:
1. HOUSE OF RECORDS / My favorite record shop in the great Northwest. I thumb through records here about once or twice a week, and surprise, surprise, it’s in a house (not just a clever name). It’s good to see local record shops staying in business, in fact, someone that works there was telling me that vinyl sales have been going up. There is hope.
2. AXE & FIDDLE / SAM BOND’S GARAGE / Two great pubs owned by some very fine people. I spin records every monday night at the AXE & FIDDLE. It’s great to have a local pub that A) I won’t get my ass kicked in, and B) serves a good hard cider. Some of the nicest bartenders you’ll find too.
3. EVERGREEN INDIAN CUISINE / This just opened a year ago. Mmmmm. Probably my favorite place to eat in Eugene. Some of my friends bust my balls about wanting to eat indian food every day… but hey, Indians do it, right?
4. KALAPUYA BOOKS / Great local bookstore. I picked up a very very very rare Kerouac book there for really cheap and I’ve been going back ever since. If you buy $15 worth of books, you get one free. It’s run by some great people who were involved with the Merry Pranksters & Ken Kesey.
5. NATIONAL FREEDOM / This is where i spend most of my time. It’s my studio, so I write and record here every day. But it’s a fun place to hang out and listen to music with friends. Its seems like it’s become the local-late-night-hang. Once the pubs close down, we stumble back to NATIONAL FREEDOM for more tomfoolery (wink wink).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Midwest alerts!

• Check out this article on midwestern independent film, which was written in response to Francis Ford Coppola saying once that One day some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart, and you know, and make a beautiful film with her father’s little camera-corder and for once this whole professionalism about movies will be destroyed forever and it will become an art form. That’s my opinion.". The article then delves into Ohio's film history. Interesting read.
• Check out this new software site that suggest music for you to hear, based on your previous taste. It''s based from Illinois. Read that HERE.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Midwest alerts!

Here's a couple things I saw:
• The International Pop Overthrow Festival is coming around again.
• Here's an article on the top Beer Brewing Companies in the Midwest. Read that HERE.
• Want to know more about the Minneapolis music scene? Head on over and read this.
• There is something called the Midwest Music Festival- unfortunately, I think it's being held in Nebraska...

Across the great divide
Catching up with Spanish Prisoners

It's been several months since former Columbus musician Leo Maymind of Spanish Prisoners ended a 10-year stint living in Ohio, in favor of a move to Brooklyn, NY.
So I have been following his progress out east, and really, the move never slowed him down at all. He continues to tour and do shows as much as he can.
Then I noticed he got a great bill opening up for a sold out show at the Highline Ballroom, featuring folk legend Daniel Johnston. So if you are reading this in New York show up early tonight (Feb. 21).
He also has a short stint opening up for John Vanderslice in April. I felt it was time to check up with Leo on the progress he has been making out east and comment on the east coast/midwestern divide:
PEOPLE WITH ANIMAL HEADS: I've been watching your progress since you moved out to Brooklyn. You never really missed a beat in terms of doing shows, despite a new town. Are you still booking your own, or did you finally end up getting some help?
LEO MAYMIND: Still doing my own booking, DIY-style. It wasn't that hard of a transition despite the move because I had already played in New York a few times on tours and knew most of the venues around town that I respected. The wonderful dudes at my label, exit stencil recordings, are helping set up a few dates on a tour we're doing in April after "songs to forget' comes out nationally April 8th.
PWAH: Why did you decide to move to Brooklyn? What have you learned about the east coast scene, in relation to the Ohio/Columbus scene?
LM: I decided to move to Brooklyn for lots of reasons, some musical, some personal. I wanted to be closer to my brother, girlfriend, and other friends that already live here. I'd lived in Columbus for over 10 years and just felt I needed a change. I also just wanted a bigger pool of musicians to play with and collaborate with. I also just love New York City, it's my favorite city in the world.
PWAH: How did the Daniel Johnston show come about?
LM: I asked the venue if we could open the show, they checked with Daniel's people, and said yes. Same way as all the other shows we've done.
PWAH: Now that you've been immersed in the "hostile" ground that is New York, how do you feel people out there view the Midwest rock scene? I'm curious what someone like yourself (as a newly moved artist) has noticed.
LM: I haven't found New York to be that hostile. I've already met so many great musicians and people that we've shared bills with, including but not limited to:
the antlers
salt and samovar
the lisps
sharon van etten
I don't think New York musicians are more hostile to each other than Midwest musicians. Since moving, I've tried to get in touch with countless cincy bands and most just ignored me completely, and that rarely happens here. maybe they saw brooklyn on our page and got turned off. Anyway, I don't think people here really think about the midwest scene enough to view it any particular light. There is so much going on in brooklyn and new york that you dont need to really look elsewhere for new music (though of course you should).
PWAH: Musically, how have things been going for you? New band? Recording again?
LM: I've been playing live with a full band, which is definitely helping bring these songs to life on the stage. I also just got a practice space in Williamsburg (does this make me an official Brooklyn musician?) and have been writing a little bit of the next album, slowly. Not sure yet how or where I'm going to record it. Might take the reins again myself but would be really nice to let someone else take care of recording and I just worried about playing.

Separated at birth?

Speaking of Joe Anderl, is it just me or do these two dudes look like freakin' twins?
Anderl's on the left. Bobby Silver of Columbus band Brainbow is on the right.
You decide.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Southgate House hosts: GBV TRIBUTE!
Features numerous Midwestern bands

If you've been reading this site for any length of time, you already know: I like Guided By Voices.
Pollard and his crew single-handedly put Ohio on the cultural map of Rock N' Roll History - you know, despite the whole story of why the R&R Hall of fame is situated in Cleveland and stuff.
Pollard didn't so much write great songs, as he did redefine and revolutionize the concept of independent music.
When you heard Guided By Voices, as a musician, you felt anything was possible. No more worrying about recording costs, because you realized not everything has to sound like fucking Def Leppard. Don't like bridges? Don't do them! Is your song only :45 seconds long? No problem.
There hasn't been a similar revolution since Bob Dylan and The Band recorded off the cuff at the Big Pink, or since Alan Lomax conducted his field recordings that lead to the surge in folk music of the 1960s.
Thankfully, I'm certainly not the only one who appreciates GBV.
This Saturday Pollard's legendary favorite venue The Southgate House will host "A Tribute to Guided by Voices" starring some of the Midwest's favorite bands, who freely admit their affinity for short, anthemic rock songs.
The night was organized by Cincinnati musician Christopher Wales, of the band Lonely The Seabird and he did a fine job.
We're talking:
Lonely The Seabird, The Kyle Sowashes, Paper Airplane,The Sailing, The Woosley Band, The Black Canary,The Heedonists, Midnight Wild Streets,Loose Threads, St. Jude's Vigilance Committee, Textbook Committee, and The Harlequins
It can take a lot of effort to organize one of these things, so it's thanks to people like Wales for taking the hit for the fans.
He also took some time out to talk to PWA for his thoughts on why he decided to do the show and the significance of Dayton's native son:
PEOPLE WITH ANIMAL HEADS: Why did you decide to hold the show? How/why did you choose the bands? I noticed you got a good cross section from across the Midwest.
CHRISTOPHER WALES: I participated in a Wilco tribute show about 2 1/2 years ago and a Beatles tribute show last year. Both were incredibly fun and it was so great to hear certain bands twists on such great songs. The choice of the bands - some I sought out from being a fan of them - others I was not entirely familiar with but they wanted to be a part of and I am excited about everyone's set!
PWAH: It's great that it's being held at the Southgate House, probably Pollard's favorite venue. Was that a conscious decision?
CW: Most definitely a conscious decision. Aside from being my favorite place to see a show, it's definitely Pollard's homecourt - and so it's fitting that a tribute to his music be held there. The people that run the place have been great to work with, and as someone who's attended a fair amount of shows there and played a couple - I've never had a bad experience. That place is a Midwestern, if not national, treasure.
PWAH: Will there be any surprises, like say (cough) Pollard joining anyone onstage?
CW: No plans of that - but it's certain to be a great night of music!
PWAH: Why do you appreciate the music of GBV so much?
CW: For me - the man is an endless well of great music. It's almost overwhelming. I've been a fan for 13 years now, and still have trouble keeping up! He's made mention before of his music being Ragu Rock -"it's all in there" and the 4 P's: Prog, Pop, Psychedelic, and Punk. And I think that's so true! There's a song and then some to fit whatever mood I'm in. At the same time - not every song does it for me - but I'll be talking to a friend and they'll love that song. Something for everyone. Additionally, he keeps putting out my new "favorite song". The two proper releases of last year: Coast to Coast Carpet of Love and Standard Gargoyle Decisions sit up there with some of the GbV classics, in my opinion. And the new one: Robert Pollard is Off To Business is set for a June 3rd release. It's the most rewarding thing in the world to be a fan of his.
PWAH: What do you think GBV's legacy means to the Midwest?
CW: I think the myth of GBV will do nothing but grow - and grow favorably - over the years to come. It really does come down to some average ordinary Midwestern dudes that had some extraordinary talents - that chose, in a lot of cases, to not give up on them. My personal favorite memory as a fan was talking to Bob Pollard about the band Yes. One of my favorite bands - and also a favorite of his. At one point we're both singing Heart of the Sunrise together. This was quite a few years ago, but remains etched in my brain. The point I'm trying to make with that is that I think being from the Midwest, Dayton in particular, has allowed perspective. These guys were fans of rock and roll just like us. And still are.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pollard launches new label and new start

Courtesy of Pitchfork Media:
Only two months into 2008, Robert Pollard is already off to business, and his next order of business is releasing a solo album called Robert Pollard Is Off to Business.
Consisting of a mere 10 songs in 35 minutes, the record finds Pollard amicably peacing out of his partnership with Merge Records for a June 3 release on his own newly formed label, Guided by Voices, Inc. The label is run by Pollard along with manager David Newgarden, tour manager Rich Turiel, and business manager Eric Weiss.
Off to Business was produced by frequent Pollard associate Todd Tobias. Check out the track "Gratification to Concrete", available for downloading below.
The album is scheduled to coincide with Fantagraphics' publishing of the previously mentioned coffee-table book Town of Mirrors: The Reassembled Imagery of Robert Pollard.
Prior to the release of Off to Business, GBV Inc. will inaugurate itself with the single for album track "Weatherman and Skin Goddess". Out April 8 but only available through Pollard's website, it's a three-song EP featuring two exclusive non-album tracks, "Kiss the Quiet Man" and Coat Factory Zero". It will be available on CD and 12".
And because this is a Robert Pollard news story, we can't only mention just one new album from the guy. As previously reported, the Psycho and the Birds (aka Pollard and Tobias) album We've Moved is out February 26 on Happy Jack Rock Records.
Also, for all you super fans out there, an acetate of the GBV album Half Smiles of the Decomposed is up for auction on eBay right now. It features an original Pollard collage on the cover created specifically for the auction, and is autographed by the man himself.
Robert Pollard Is Off to Business:
01 The Original Heart
02 The Blondes
03 1 Years Old
04 Gratification to Concrete
05 No One but I
06 Weatherman and Skin Goddess
07 Confessions of a Teenage Jerk-Off
08 To the Path!
09 Western Centipede
10 Wealth and Hell-Being

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wilco's stand

For those of you who like Chicago's Wilco and wished you could have gone to those shows they played, in which they performed every song of their recording career - well, writer Greg Kot did a play by play for you. Read it here

Friday, February 15, 2008

Spotlight: Joe Anderl

The Ms may have stopped responding, so moving on, I decided to turn my focus on Dayton.
Many bands and music fans in the Ohio/Indiana/Michigan area may know my next musician of interest. His name is Joe Anderl, and it is more than likely this gentleman has graced a stage in your town many, many times.
For years, Anderl has assembled his band of friends, in various formations and hit the road. I would consider him as the most prominent purveyor and promoter of the Dayton music scene around today - aside from our hero Bob Pollard.
I also recall that he was a music critic at one point. So I figured what better person to comment on Midwest music than a well-versed writer and traveling musician?
Anderl was kind enough to answer some questions on the matter. Lets get the story from the proverbial horses mouth:

PEOPLE WTIH ANIMAL HEADS: What are some Midwestern bands unsigned/signed that you think people outside this region should know about?
JOE ANDERL: My favorites in no particular order are:
From Chicago: The Gunshy, Chin Up Chin Up
From Columbus: The Receiver, Melty Melty, Winter Makes Sailors, Brainbow, Six Gallery, The Kyle Sowashes, Eric Metronome and The Dolby Fuckers
From Dayton: Mascot, Nightbeast, Mouth of the Architect, Shrug, The American Static, The Story Changes
From Athens: Southeast Engine, Nostra Nova, Kaslo
From Bloomington: Defiance, OH., Ghost Mice
From Cleveland: The Celebrity Pilots, Coffinberry, The Dreadful Yawns
From Cincy: The Hiders
I am sure I forgot some but I absolutely love all of these bands.

PWAH: Where did you grow up and how do you think that has influenced your music?
JA: I grew up all over the place, since my dad was in the Air Force. I spent the majority of my childhood in Southern California. In the fifth grade we moved to Ohio. I felt very fortunate to grow up in the time I did in Dayton, OH. My high school days were spent going to see bands like Brainiac, GBV, The Afghan Whigs, Honeyburn, The Oxymorons, Cage, Sebadoh, The Wrens, and Rodan. Dayton was booming with venues and musical talent. After seeing all of these bands, you realized that you were perfectly capable of doing the same thing. There is something to be said for the Midwest work ethic. All of these bands had day jobs, if it was working in your local record store, sand paper factory, teaching, or even working in a cubicle. Music wasn’t about getting huge or signed. It was about rocking with your friends and sharing your art with others. It was that idea that led me to start playing music in the first place. I just wanted to be part of this great Dayton music community. I wanted to play in bands, go to shows, set up shows, put out records. I have been able to accomplish all of that.
I think I am heavily influenced by my friends as well. I see them accomplishing some amazing things, be it spending weeks on the road, making great recordings, writing amazing songs. It influences me constantly. I just got off the road with Winter Makes Sailors (Sean Gardner from Melty Melty). It was inspiring to see him play every night. He uses such interesting textures. It's situations like those that make me want to be a better musician.
I think also that bands from Ohio and the Midwest tend to be very close to each other. It's kind of like the Kevin Bacon game. I meet so many people who know my friends or I know theirs. It really is small in the Midwest, especially when you spend so much of your spare time on the road. You end up having just as many friends on the road as you do at home. In fact they become your friends at home every time they roll through your city.
PWAH: How do you think people from outside our area perceive the Midwest music scene and its music/identity? How about you?
JA: People from outside the Midwest are always amped about bands in the Midwest. Everytime I tell someone from Dayton, they always ask about GBV, The Breeders, Swearing at Motorists, or Brainiac. I was talking to one of the dudes from The New Amsterdamns over the summer. They specifically stopped in Dayton on their way to the show in Athens just because that is where Brainiac is from. The dude had a Brainiac tattoo and had never even been to Dayton before that.
I think there is a certain stigma to bands from the Midwest though. We may not have the hipster impact of bands from the left or right coast, but I think the music speaks for itself. Dare I say the Midwest is almost anti-fashion. Our job is to show up, play, and try to make an impact on those around us.
The Midwest is vibrant and welcoming. There is always a couch for you to sleep on, a beer to be shared, a meal for you the next day. Bands and fans alike, shows in the midwest are like playing to your best friends from home. It's just welcoming and quite often very humbling.
I will always be proud to be from the Midwest.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Midwest Round Up!

• There're a ton of bands currently recording now. The Raconteurs are hard at work in the studio. The aforementioned The Ms. Akron's Houseguest. Paper Airplane are working with the Heartless Bastards engineer. The 1900s recorded at Daytrotter. Dr. Dog has a new CD coming. Dayton's Moon High are selling a CD right now. The Black Keys have a new one coming out. Cincinnati's The Spectacular Fantastic just released "Consume / Reward."
• I don't know about you, but this festival seemed pretty lame to me at first. Dave Matthews?
Then I saw all the other bands on it.
This festival seemed a little better at the time, and it's run by college kids. But the first one is good.
• Athen's Southeast Engine is hitting the road soon for that tour with Michigan band Frontier Ruckus, which I told you was coming about a month or so ago.
• PWAH favorites Aleks and the Drummer need some help getting more shows in Austin for their SXSW gig.
hi there misses and misters. we're playing sxsw at the schubas party so a heads up on that.
we were invited to play the schubas party, which was a huge hit i heard last ;year. but we're driving all the way down there, and we'd love to play another party to make it more worthwhile. any ins from anyone, and advice on how this stuff works (i've never been to sxsw--clueless) will be so very much appreciated. do you just show up and these parties come up? is it all really planned ahead of time? do you know anyone that is affiliated with any of the parties that may like us? (why wouldn't they? :)
also, any offers of places to stay, even a night at a time, would be rewarded with a secret listening party of our new recordings by Dave Sitek that no one will have heard yet, plus a good breakfast, and i volunteer deric to handwash your dirty socks. i may draw your portrait with crayons.
thank you thank you thank you. you help us get a show there, you can stay with us when you pass through chicago for tour or visit.

Unsung artists

I've always thought of poster artists as the unsung heroes of the indie rock world. Of course, it doesn't help that getting them to agree to interviews is next to impossible. Believe me, I've tried.
Thankfully, publications with more pull than I have succeeded.
Check out this recent interview with a great artist named Jay Ryan, based out of Chicago. You may know him from this CD---->
Read the interview HERE.
See more of his artwork HERE.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Lovers Show, yodeling to the future

Here's a really interesting article on Minnesota's answer to the modern Sonny and Cher, called the Lovers Show. A young married couple who support their family through a side career of yodeling and a stage show of nostalgic pop.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Ms?

Well, I was hoping to do an interview with The Ms on the process of recording the new CD.
But this is all I got so far:
Recording is going great!
we've been whittling away at songs for the past few months on and off.....
Would love to answer specific questions about recording if you have them.... This record has been a whole new process for us, and we're all about process......
Start a dialogue and we'll be happy to email about whatever you want to know.....
new song we just finished tonight is called Naked..... lots of percussion...

But they stopped responding... maybe I shouldn't have asked them if they ever see Oprah on the street.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Midwest alerts!

• Here's a stunning editorial from the Northern Star (Northern Illinois University paper), ranting about famous bands using their stadium for PRACTICE, instead of actually PERFORMING for it's musically depraved students. We are, after all, just fly-over states. Oh yeah, and eff Bon Jovi.
Read that HERE. I highly recommend.
HERE'S an article about Ames, Iowa band Poison Control Center and the Iowa Caucus.
• I don't know how you feel about singer Kate Voegele. Well, she's from Cleveland, so I thought I'd direct you to THIS article about her in the Toledo Free Press and maybe to THIS article about her tour coming through from the Oxford Press.
• Here's an article on a bunch of stuff to do in the Midwest this winter, from the Post Bulletin.
• The site "Life in the Great Midwest" discusses how to make chicken wings, among other things. I didn't know the site existed until today.
• This Kansas City newspaper manages to use the word "jizz" AND "spunk" in the same headline, in order to explain a new punk pop band's upcoming show.

Friday, February 8, 2008


With so much focus on the lo-fi revolution coming out of Columbus, OH. another bourgeoning scene has flown a bit under the radar. It's the steady, but gradual, progression of something more akin to Weird Pop. We're talking Terribly Empty Pockets, All Hail Records bands: Take No Damage, Paper Airplane, The Proper Nouns, Electric Grandmother, the always-on-hiatus Flotation Walls, The Lindsay, the brand new Super Desserts, The Black Canary, Church of the Red Museum, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some others.
So don't be such a lo-fi prude America, and look into these things. Several of these bands are working on new CDs, have new ones coming out, or are generally doing shows all over the Midwest.

One in particular I want to talk about right now: RTFO BANDWAGON.
Some have said it stands for "Rock the Fuck Out." But I like to think of it as standing for "Red T-shirts Feel Outstanding." But that kind of lacks the rock n' roll edge, so it's a slight possibility that I'm wrong.
Describing the music of the Bandwagon guides me toward their unique arrangements, lyrics, and instruments - which they use in combination toward creating a mystic pop feel. In fact, I think I enjoy the lyrics the most out of all of it, which is rare for me.
It's members are definitely not trying to recreate any genre and actually seem to have invented their own. Flutes come in and out, something that sounds like a squeeze box or harmonica rises and disappears, and then there are the girl/boy harmonies a-plenty.
Tunes like "Fingers," feel like a home spun back porch ditty, but things end up much grander than that.
The vocals often flow like Neutral Milk doing a Russian folk song.
When I compare them to the overall Midwestern indie rock scene, The Bandwagon would fit in really well with most Indiana bands. That state has more of the Midwest's answer to Freak Folk going on. (See Everything, Now!)(I also just noticed that the site Range Life just did an article today on a freak folk mix tape. Check it out.)
The song "Children are Expensive" comes across as a modern 60s San Fran psychedelia, with a spoken word feel and echoed harmonies that can make you think you've dropped down into some wormhole with Country Joe and the Fish.
RTFO Bandwagon singer/songwriter/guitarist Andrew Graham recently made some time for PWAH and here are the results:

PEOPLE WITH ANIMAL HEADS: How do you think people from outside our area perceive the Midwest music scene, and its music/identity? How do you perceive the Midwest music scene and it's identity?
ANDREW GRAHAM: From the outside in, I imagine it's a similar phenomenon to outsider art. There are a lot of musicians and bands who put incredible focus on their work, but don't tour or promote themselves as much as bands from the coasts. In other words, there's more of a focus on making the music for a small group of people instead of making something with universal appeal. As a result, even some of our best bands are veritable unknowns on the national stage. But, like outsider art, the few people who do find it think they've found some grotesque treasure. I heard about some guy who was visiting from Nebraska to see some bands because he thought that Columbus was THE place. And I hope that our city's relative obscurity lasts just a little while longer, so that people continue to pursue different visions with a certain degree of naiveté. We don't want everyone going out and trying to figure out how to write one kind of song, because the purveyors our most popular music a) don't sound all that much alike and b) do their things so damn well that we don't need spinoffs. But I say "just a little while longer" because Columbus is a first-rate scene and I think it deserves national attention as much as Memphis or Brooklyn or wherever. And also, as our music gains influence nationally, people will pick it up and in a couple of years maybe no one will remember that it came from here, so it will be up to each individual band to decide how aggressively they want to claim it as their own.
I've lived in Ohio my whole life, so I can't really tell you what I think of the midwestern scene as opposed to any other scene since I haven't experienced them. One thing I'm pretty sure about Columbus is that it's a great city for a songwriter to find out what "not" to do. Outside of the campus area and bars that have competitions and all of that stuff, you don't see "rock and roll moves" in Columbus. It stands out when an out-of-town band comes through and they're doing rock and roll moves and there's only 4 people in the bar. It's awkward for them and it's awkward for us. But there are songs you can play where there's 4 or 5 people on stage and only 1 person in the audience and it's not awkward. I am interested in writing and performing those songs, and I think there's a direct connection to stripping away affectation.
PWAH: There is definitely nothing worse I can think of than the eyeliner pop punk dude, trying to throw his mic stand around in front of four people at Carabar.
So, where did you grow up and how do you think that has influenced your music?

AG: Tom (our bass player) and I grew up in Jefferson, OH, population ~3,500. We listened to a lot of classic rock on the radio because there wasn't much variety. I used to take my guitar over to this house where my friends Marc and Kevin Fink lived and just play songs for the two of them. Because there were no live music venues within 20 miles, I couldn't even entertain the thought of playing for audiences, so I just played for them and tried to write songs that the three of us could get excited about. I think our sound sits in a space where city music and country music work together. When I moved to the city, I built a band with my close friends and it just sort of turned into a "real band." It's always come from hanging out. People have a lot of time to hang out in the Midwest. Jen says she doesn't think we could have happened in any other city. We truly appreciate being able to do whatever we feel like here, even if it doesn't always fit the sound.
There are many cultural narratives out there, each with a different degree of prevalance. In a way, our sound ends up telling the story of us hanging out. A five-piece rock band with stacks and a big drum kit tells an industrial story. It's easy to just accept the allure of rock and roll without looking at the economics of it. More people can make more money if musicians think they need to play the best gear and rock hard. Each musician might put a thousand dollars into their setup, so instrument retailers make money. And then the band is equipped to play at a volume that can cover a couple of hundred people in a bar, because when people drink alcohol they get loud. And then the bar owner makes money off of the alcohol. I love loud music so it's hard to reconcile. But when we started out, we practiced in a living room and we didn't need any amps and we felt really proud about that. And right now we're playing louder than we ever have before, but since we're using cheap amps and a broken drum set that's in the story, too. I'm not trying to make value judgments here, or to say "look how poor we are." I'm just trying to move away from the mentality where acoustic guitars are for the weak and metal is manly. Acoustic guitars can be heavy, too - if you choose the right notes. And I also want to point out then when we have gear that malfunctions we should think "maybe we should play without amps" just as much as "if only we had better gear." I've been thinking about creating the illusion of distortion without electricity - you just have to overtly play the overtones that the amplifier accentuates. But that's just on paper...
PWAH: What are some Midwestern bands unsigned/signed that you think people outside this region should know about?
AG:Marie Corbo, Nostra Nova, The Lindsay, Psychedelic Horseshit and so on and so forth. TNV puts on a great live show and they're good people, too.
PWAH: Do you have any upcoming shows or events you'd like to promote?
AG: We're playing on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) at Cafe Bourbon St., 2216 Summit St., Columbus OH.
It's with Shooting Spires from Parts and Labor's Cardboard records; our neighbors Black Phantom Thousands, who play for hours a day every day and should be in some pretty far-out territory here sooner or later; and Rich's friend Frankie P, who's doing a solo set. Also, our CD is going to be reprinted in a couple of weeks, so please check it out.
(Before posting of this article, Andrew also said that the band just found out that they'll be releasing a 7" on Dull Knife Records out of Houston Texas. This will probably happen in March.)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Spotlight: The Rosehips

For the past few years, Columbus, Ohio band The Rosehips have hit the local bar scene.
What they offer is something truly special in today's Midwest indie rock scene: A damn good all girl band that doesn't focus on trying to market their sexuality.
Because, honestly, if I see one more all-girl band dressed up in 1950s clothes and wearing wigs I may go insane.
The Rosehips offer no gimmicks, just straight up well crafted indie rock. If I were to explain their music to anyone, I'd say: Equal parts Veruca Salt and Dinosaur Jr.
The group recently graced the Columbus Alive as one of the 2008 "Bands to Watch" features.
The member also have their self-titled debut CD coming out on their own label Pillow Fight Records, with a CD release show at Carabar on March 1 with Dayton band Moon High and locals The Lindsay.
That's a pretty damn good show.
So I decided to get in touch with the members now, before the flood.
Lead guitarist Cassie Lewis was nice enough to help out:
PEOPLE WITH ANIMAL HEADS: I noticed you have a CD coming out in March. Could you tell me about that, in terms of who you recorded with, some themes the songs touch on, and any cover art?
CASSIE LEWIS: We began recording with Jon Fintel at Relay Recording at the end of May last year. We just finished mixing and mastering with Mark Himmel at Embed Records Studio and Brian Travis, respectively.
Rosehips was sort of born out of: "Ok, I just graduated college, now what?"
So, these songs carry an underlying theme of growing up. In a broader sense, the songs really just touch on experiences: life, love, and things in between. Lyrically, I have used some fairly personal aspects and experiences of my own life, so my lyrics tend to come out in a vague manner because of this. In this way, I hope for the listeners to be able to relate in a manner that allows them to get something out of the song that is dear to themselves.

PWAH: My site focuses on underground music of the Midwest, so I always ask bands where they grew up and how that may have affected their taste in music or the way they see the world?
CL: I grew up in small town, OH USA. Seriously, like less than 1500 people small. This was pre-internet, so I had the radio and my dad's kick-ass record collection. Fortunately, I was able to acquire at least some basic good tastes in music, specifically rock. This may sound cliche, but I am thankful to this day that Nirvana's "Nevermind" made it into the mainstream, as it was then that I picked up a guitar. When I moved away to college, underground and independent music became much more accessible to me and i delved into anything i could find.
I think a creative type that grows up in the middle of nowhere with a sort of homogenous group of people develops a hunger for the world: to see and experience it all. That's what it did for me anyway, and I tend to relate these things musically.

PWAH: How do you think the rest of the country perceives the Midwest music scene?
CL: Hopefully people at least know that there is one by now, and one that is good and diverse. Midwestern acts are emerging on larger independent labels. Columbus Discount has another showcase at SXSW this year, I think that is definitely saying something as well. Also it seems like every time you turn around lately, there is a new blurb about a midwestern band somewhere, like the recent "Spin" that had the Black Swans, Times New Viking, and Psychedelic Horseshit all in one issue.
PWAH: What are some bands signed/unsigned that you think people should know about that are from the Midwest?
CL: Church of the Red Museum, The Lindsay, Brainbow, The Slide Machine, Mors Ontologica, Moon High, Muscle Puzzle, Bird and Flower. Almost anything on Columbus Discount. Hotchacha from Cleveland. The Makebelieves from Athens. The Jellyhearts from Cinci/Columbus.
PWAH: How do you see your band fitting into the current Columbus music scene?
CL: As far as I know we are the only working all-girl band at this point in time. Putting the whole "girls playing in bands is hot" aside, I think it is important for there to be good female musicians in any music scene. Sadly, it seems there still exists a stigma about females and musical ability. In Columbus, I think we do a good job of laying that stigma to rest.
PWAH: I was first struck that you had a line up change. How did that come about and did it set you back in terms of making your upcoming CD?
CL: Well, our original drummer began traveling back and forth to Texas. We got a resident boy as a fill-in as we knew she would be gone the whole summer of '07. We laid basic rhythm tracks for the record before she left. When it became apparent that she wasn't sure when she would be coming back to Columbus, we all decided it was best for the band to get a new permanent drummer. We've also brought the new drummer in on the mixing, mastering, and decision-making to complete the record. It was a bit of a hard time for the band and everyone involved, but I would like to think we've emerged with no hard feelings, a strong line-up, and a strong record.

Midwest Round Up!

• QUICK! Head over to Chicago band The Ms Myspace page. They have several new demos up for listening and they talk a little bit about each song. Do it quick, because they may not stay up for more than a couple days.
• Head on over to Cincinnati band The Harlequins site to check out information on the band's songwriter's solo CD Release they are holding soon.

Upcoming interviews

You may have noticed there haven't been a flurry of posts around these parts for the past day or two.
No fear, reader, it's only because I have several interview articles forthcoming.
I decided to try and talk to some up and coming new bands. I'm starting with two Columbus bands I've been liking. Then I might move on to Chicago.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Turks on Times

Ah, nice to see a former Columbus writer is paying to attention to the home front.
Just saw Eric Davidson (former New Bomb Turks) just did a write-up on Times New Viking for CMJ:
TIMES NEW VIKING: A Font Of Frazzled Pop
By Eric Davidson

Just as the indie world has been starting to embrace the joys of somewhat cleaner, bigger sounds in their pop, the notion that the ease of at-home tune toys like ProTools has begun to dilute the old ideas of "good production" as an impressive, hard-earned talent is also floating around out there. In short, dumping out a 300-track masterpiece ain't what it used to be. And so, just like that, coming up with a perceptible lo-fi production personality seems interesting again.

Of course if you're an indie rock band in Columbus, Ohio—like trebly trio Times New Viking is—love of crud-fi recordings comes with the floaties in your corner bar's $1 Schaeffer can. Aside from the long history of home recording purveyors from Ohio's capital city (check for some schoolin'), Guided By Voices made Columbus their second home/bar in the '90s. And from all of that has, since century's turn, sprung a mess of messy combos who, underneath layers of scratched Maxell UR cassette hiss, harbor a deep knowledge of Ohio smart-scuzz sounds. But even if you've never had your ears pierced by Mike Rep And The Quotas, you might be hooked by the increasing hookieness Times New Viking displays on their recently released third album and Matador debut, Rip It Off. Now, if only I hadn't forgotten to ask them if they enjoyed the documentary Helvetica.

CMJ: Give us the requisite history of the band.
TNV: Well, Adam (Elliott, drums, vocals) and my (Jared Phillips, guitar) old band lost its other two members (Robittussin o.d. is what they said), and when we went to the flower store to get the black lillies, Beth (Murphy, keyboard, vocals) was working there. Turns out, we went to university together! Wild! So then we started playing music together. That's about it.

CMJ: Even those in the know figured Siltbreeze was kaput, and then, blammo, you guys have a swell CD out on Siltbreeze [Present The Paisley Reich, 2007].
TNV: Well, I think the staff over there is really enjoying getting back into the swarm. There's been a lot of good stuff out lately that wasn't really made to fit on a label like In The Red or Goner, as well as stuff that isn't weird enough for more strictly experimental labels. So they find a home at Siltbreeze. Those guys still have a good ear for the shit no one else wants to put out, or just don't know about I suppose.

CMJ: And how did Matador find you?
TNV: Gerard [Cosley, Matador head honcho] and their other braintrusts still keep on top of things pretty well. A lot of people on the staff got our first album early on and seemed to like it. Matador used to have a manufacturing deal with Siltbreeze, so they were hip to the label a long time ago. They took the entire Siltbreeze staff—all 37 of 'em!—to a Phillies baseball game. Instead of buying us out of our [Siltbreeze] contract, they wagered on the game. The Phillies beat the Mets. Done deal.

CMJ: In the recent TNV write-up in Time Out NY, Mike Wolf was claiming that Columbus spews out some good new noise every few years or so, and here's the latest good shit, etc. Yet you guys and the bands he may be referring to (Necropolis, Feelers, Psychedelic Horseshit, etc.) have all been at it for awhile. In other words, the Internet only does so much for bands, eh?
TNV: I suppose that's a good point. Putting out records is much more effective. You can't totally gather a band's ideas and concept just from a MySpace page. Well, you can get close, but real music fans like product. Plus I think not many bands from Columbus toured for quite a while after starting out (except the Feelers), which can make a difference.

CMJ: What plays over the TNV tour van speakers? Or does everyone just sit there on iPods avoiding the world?
TNV: Country radio. Contemporary country radio. Unless the CD player is actually working, then we listen to Chain Gang, just to get both extremes.

CMJ: You've been using a lot of peace signs in your artwork of late. Then again, your sound has gotten tougher and tighter in ways. So who are you ripping off— hippies or metal dudes?
TNV: I believe peace signs are public domain.

CMJ: Okay, if Meg White was Jack White's "sister," who's Beth?
"I have no relation to Jack White," says the diminutive Murphy.

CMJ: Two frat guys walk into Café Bourbon St. [Columbus' punk central] right after Ohio State loses the NCAA football national championship again. What local Columbus band would you want onstage playing, and why?
TNV: New Bomb Turks with horns. Have you ever seen them live?*

CMJ: Best Ohio city, besides Columbus of course.
TNV: Any city besides Huber Heights.

[*Ed. note: of course we have. Eric Davidson, the author of this piece, is their frontman.]

Monday, February 4, 2008

Midwestern orchestra charms listeners

A Michigan-based University is making news on NPR for it's rendition of "Music for 18 musicians."
Read the interesting article at this link: HERE.
Now more than three decades old, Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians has become an icon of 20th-century American music.
At almost an hour in length, the piece unfolds like a slowly shifting dream, with sections of repeated material ebbing and flowing around a cycle of 11 chords. It's scored for strings, percussion, woodwinds and voices, and takes tremendous concentration on the part of the 18 players. To this day, the work is mainly performed by the composer and his loyal group of musicians … Under the direction of Bill Ryan, the New Music Ensemble at Grand Valley State University — amid the cornfields of western Michigan — practiced the music for nearly a year.

Remembering: The Day the Music Died

49 years ago today in Iowa countryside, the music died
Find the actual article at this link
Feb. 2 marks 49 years since Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper took off in the early morning from Clear Lake, Iowa, and went down to their deaths in a plane crash.
It was rock 'n' roll's first great tragedy.
Like the music they sang, they were so young. Valens, just 17, had two hits to his credit, "Donna" and the upbeat "La Bamba," adapted from a Mexican folk song and now a staple of oldies bands.
The Bopper was a deejay who got interested in novelty tunes, trying to make it with "Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor." His intended hit went nowhere, but there was plenty of interest in its flip side, an ad-libbed ditty called "Chantilly Lace." The oldest of the three at 28, Richardson left a pregnant wife who, five months later, gave birth to J.P. Richardson Jr., who now tours singing his dad's songs.
Then there was Holly, generally considered one of rock music's early geniuses. At only 22, Holly had a string of classic rockers like "That'll Be the Day" and "Maybe Baby" and had begun to move in the direction of sophisticated ballads like "True Love Ways."
Holly wanted to stay in New York with his pregnant wife and record, but management insisted that a winter tour was necessary, though it was poorly planned. It followed a circuitous route from Milwaukee's Million Dollar Ballroom on Jan. 23, criss-crossing Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, playing Green Bay on Feb. 1 and then Clear Lake, a last-minute addition, on Feb. 2.
They traveled in a series of decrepit buses ill-equipped to handle our brutal Midwest winter. The buses kept breaking down, even forcing them to cancel a matinee in Appleton and continue to Green Bay to play the Riverside that night.
Holly was so tired and cold that he wanted to charter a plane from Clear Lake so that he could get to Fargo, N.D., early and be more rested.
It was never determined why the plane went down five minutes after takeoff, but the crash silenced at least one, if not three, of rock 'n' roll's first great voices.
Holly influenced legions of rock performers. His driving, upbeat, feel-good tunes are the essence of rock 'n' roll. In an era when singers didn't write their own material and sometimes didn't even play on their own records, Holly was the whole package - songwriting, arranging and performing.
With his tight pants and black eyeglasses, he looked like the quintessential nerd - until he hit the first chord and you realized that coolness is not what you look like but what you do. His wearing glasses on stage gave impressionable and nearsighted young John Lennon permission to do the same. And in their Duluth audience was a gangly teenager from Hibbing named Bobby Zimmerman.
The first track from the first Rolling Stones' album is a Holly song. Waylon Jennings started out playing with Holly (and gave up his seat on the plane to Richardson). The Beatles covered Holly and credited him as a major influence, right up there with Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. Paul McCartney says that when the Beatles first started out, they gravitated toward Holly's songs because all they needed were three chords.
Indeed, Holly and the Crickets were one of the first garage bands, and every young band trying their hand at chords and licks follows in their footsteps.
It is sadly ironic that Milwaukee radio stations don't play Holly's music today, since the airwaves are filled with his musical descendants and you can hear his influence every day.
Rave on.
Thomas Zachek of Hubertus is a retired teacher. His e-mail address is

Midwest alerts!

Ton of Google alerts from over the weekend:
• Remember when I told you about actor Jeff Daniel's play he's been taking around the country. The Michigan-native got a so-so review in the NY Times. They also discuss the plot and topics of the play, focusing on Midwestern characters.
Read that article HERE.
• Here is a nice two-page article on 8 great things to do in Bloomington, Indiana. Longtime readers know that I have an affinity for some Bloomington music. I also hear Arrah and the Ferns are recording right now. Anyway, HERE is the article.
• Speaking of Indiana, here is an article about Nashville, Indiana. Considered one of the "best small town getaways." Read that article HERE.
• Check out this Lesbian site for a nice discussion about the "Midwestern Mullett."
• Want a winter getaway? Here's an article about six places in the Midwest.
• Lastly, the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Museum Food and Froth Fest is coming soon.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Never forget...

Just to put things in perspective. Remember when McCain went from being that kind of easy going liberal republican to morphing into some weird ultra-conservative nut within a couple years?
Well, here's a nice reminder to make sure he doesn't win: Read it here.