Beer and Pavement

I live here and so do these people, so just watch

Posted in Records, Video by SM on January 13, 2014
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Best Records of 2012

Posted in Records, Review by SM on December 30, 2012

Here are ten of the best records I heard this year, in no particular order[1]

Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Man, I loved last year’s Wye Oak album and needed more this year. Luckily, Sharon Van Etten came through this year. Similarly to Wye Oak, Van Etten seemed to come from nowhere[2] to unleash a haunting rock record that grips you from start to finish. It didn’t hurt that half of Brooklyn collaborated it behind the scenes or in the margins to help Van Etten deliver a punch to the gut. Still, it’s defining moment for a musician I hope to hear more from in the coming years.

The Walkmen – Heaven
Nothing new here. The Walkmen release a record and I love it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that their records are always this good. Somehow a band known for songs about going out and drinking have eventually written one of the best albums about adulthood, having children and all that. There’s a simplicity to The Walkmen formula that allows them to adjust to their current living conditions. These are just working stiffs trying to put some food on the table and clothes on the backs of their children. I can get behind that.

Titus Andronicus – Local Business
I’m not gonna lie. I really didn’t care for this record upon the first listen. I was having buyer’s remorse as I listened to it stream on Spotify, knowing that the new local record shop was holding a copy for me. Then, I gave it another try as the record popped up on several year-end lists. It’s really a fantastic record as Titus Andronicus does what every New Jersey band does eventually: they all turn into Bruce Springsteen. There’s nothing wrong with this of course. It’s just a fact.

Cat Power – Sun
Yes, this has been a shitty year for Chan Marshall. However, that may mean she’ll have to put out more records and tour whenever she can scrounge up the dough and good health to hit the road. Cat Power has evolved from record to record. Now, after some faux-bravado, one gets the sense that Marshall is becoming comfortable with her station in life, embracing her demons, health issues, and apparent financial stresses in making what is maybe her most honest record in years[3].

Believers – Believers EP
Someone will surely give me a hard time for praising Believers again, but the praise is legit. Although this EP feels somewhat incomplete[4], it brings with it the promise of great things to come. I fully suspect several of these tracks will reappear – possibly re-recorded/remastered – on an LP via some high-profile indie label.

Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Honestly, this would be my record of the year. It’s a bit more uneven than 2009’s Post-Nothing but it still contains that raw energy that only Japandroids can bring without an ounce of irony. This band makes me want to hit the bars and dance all night before the reality of my middle-class-mortgaged-parenthood comes crashing down on my fantasies. Still, it’s nice to dream/reminisce once in a while.

Best Coast – The Only Place
On one hand, I don’t know why I like this band. On the other, I don’t know why I ask the first question. Like Japandroids, Best Coast has found a recipe that works. Unlike the “live like there’s no tomorrow” message in a Japandroids’ song, Best Coast wears their California lovin’ on their collective sleeves. I appreciate this love for one’s home state. Like Jenny Lewis and The Eagles, Best Coast won’t let you forget where they’re from and they’ll make you want to live there as well.

Dinosaur Jr – I Bet on Sky
How is it that Dinosaur Jr. is writing and recording better music after they’ve reunited? Maybe it’s that Lou Barlow has been allowed to come into his own. Maybe it’s because J Mascis has mellowed his ego. Whatever it is, I hope they never stop making loud records.

Hospitality – Hospitality
Last year, it was Eleanor Friedberger. This year, it’s Hospitality. Last year’s Friedberger joint Last Summer had me longing for some straight girl pop rock from the City. Hospitality filled that void admirably. And when you close your eyes, you think it’s Belle and Sebastian.

Dirty Projectors –Swing Lo Magellan
I really expected a letdown from Dirty Projectors, but this record – more straightforward than previous efforts – did not disappoint. I knew this as soon as I dropped the needle to reveal the opening track.

Discovered too late to form a proper assessment, but they’re pretty great: Tame Impala, Diiv, Grizzly Bear, Metz

Overall, this year wasn’t nearly as inspiring as last year’s onslaught of great records. However, most of these would rank among last year’s best. So, take that for what it’s worth, which is basically nothing.

1Ranking art just seems to be so archaic, so overdone. So, I will refrain from it this year. Instead, I’ll just tell you about ten records I liked.
2Meaning that, like Wye Oak, she hadn’t released anything of note until this latest album which is great.
3In Cat Power years, that’s maybe two records a decade.
4Let’s face it, every EP feels imcomplete. They are akin to the 20-minute set. You get a taste of the very best, maybe with one stinker. Just when you’re into it, it’s over.


Posted in Records, Review by SM on March 12, 2012

Believers‘ self-titled EP arrived just in time for True/False. It’s been a long time coming, like a whole year, but Believers finally have that tangible document of their struggles over their short run. It was at last year’s True/False that the band first entered the collective CoMo conscience. Now, there is a record with their name and recordings on it awaiting turntables all over Middle Missouri.

The songs on this new EP, funded by the generosity of true believers via a Kickstarter initiative, have become familiar to those who have been lucky enough to catch the ensemble around town. We’re now familiar with the percussive core, sampled bird songs, and the crooning that characterizes a Believers set. Additionally, those who have seen them in-person know of the energy they bring as normally-reserved CoMo crowds find the dancer within and shake what their mothers have given them in celebration of what these boys have crafted.

So, how about those songs?

Splashing water opens as the infectious basslines of “Sleeves” kick in just before a blast of guitar that carry enough power to almost resemble horns. The quiet-loud dynamic is in full-effect for this track and it’s used to its fullest potential. The space between bombasts and the build to a climax have the listener dancing as is the custom at Believers shows, anticipating the rest of the EP to follow. “You can’t ignore what’s going on all around you,” singer/guitarist Wesley Powell offers, “along the shore, such heavy progress.” Imagine the sun rising over a clear Missouri River at Cooper’s Landing just before a day of fun on the Big Muddy. Powell’s declaration rings true as this EP gets off to an impressive start.

A few sounds in this town are as commonplace in CoMo as the opening caws at the beginning of “Forward Forward Back”. At this point in the recording, I’m just ready to see Believers live again. The rhythmic trajectory of the song and it’s request “Won’t you dance with me?” causes once again what is typically unthinkable in this town: dancing. The chorus even provides some instruction that suggests forward movement with a bit of youthful caution.

“Far From Home” is the sleepy track that hints at the sacrifices the band has made to get to this point where they now have a record in-hand and a year of playing behind them with an eye to possibilities ahead. We’ll see what happens, but this song is sadder than you think as – like with every song on this EP – it just makes you want to dance. Still, the picture painted is somewhat dire as one huddles in a cardboard box, wishing to just be home.

“Finder” is the rare song that speaks both to those who long to love and those who have loved. We all at some point want to find someone or remember what it was like to find the one we’re with. This song captures that feeling perfectly. Additionally, it imitates that feeling of your heart pounding so hard that it makes that heart-shaped imprint on our chests like on those old cartoons when the intoxicating smell or sweet curves of “the one” passes by. There’s a real longing in this song, but it feels hopeful, almost encouraging. Even for cynics out there, this song will speak to you.

“Wandering” is the second-t0-last track. Over another infectious groove provided by bassist Travis Boots floats some spacey keyboards. The track displays a subtlety not always prevalent as the band often goes for whatever will move the crowd. (There’s nothing wrong with this.) Dreamy guitar strumming, ghostly vocals, and some well-placed horns make for a nice song to play when looking forward to summer nights on the porch.

The dreaminess of “Wandering” is balanced with some steady dance beats and that familiar Powell croon with “In the Water”. Then, the song breaks into what is one of the more powerful songs of a Believers set. The two-headed drumming tandem of  Taylor Bacon and Pete Hansen beat the skins like there’s no tomorrow, inducing that now-natural sense to dance. (I know, in Columbia of all places!) There’s more of that quiet-loud dynamic the kids love so much. Sadly, this is where the EP ends, leaving the listener wanting more. As is true for most EP’s, the band’s best tracks made the cut and give a great taste of what they can provide in full-length albums (hopefully) to come.

At this point, I’ve failed to mention the other Powell brother, Tyler. His musicality and ease of playing comes through on these recordings. He fills space where the drums rest between beats and often carries songs where needed. The brothers Powell are certainly a strong duo and they’ve put together a solid rhythm section to carry their vision with this EP as proof.

Again, this record if filled with longing and hopefulness. It’s the kind of feeling that occurs at that first terror twilight of the summer. That moment when the possibilities of the summer ahead causes you  to hold your breath. All the worries and unfinished projects of the past winter have slowly melted away. Spring brings with it new life and summer warms us and urges us to come from out of our hiding places. The terror caused at dawn is off-putting at first, but you are comforted by the fact that it will pass and tomorrow will be a beautiful day. A record like Believers is the record you play at that very moment.

Then, you dance.

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True/False Music Review

Posted in Live, Review by SM on March 9, 2012

Here is the post I published yesterday at the CoMo Collective. It covers the bands I saw and a couple I didn’t see much of. As you will see, True/False is more of a cultural experience than just a documentary film festival. That may be why we all love it so much…

Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship? via Benjamin Gross

As promised, here’s a complete rundown of the bands I was able to take in throughout True/False weekend. This year’s lineup was maybe the strongest I’ve seen. Between buskers warming up crowds, filling our streets with music, and rocking showcases around town, this fest became almost as much about the music as it did the films.

As a recap, I’m reposting my take on Wednesday’s Eastside Showcase. Scroll down if you’ve read it before…

Eastside Showcase

This is the unofficial official start of the fest and it’s hard to believe that any showcase will outdo the one at Eastside Tavern last night. Three bands – two local, one from Milwaukee – whipped the crowd into a pretty good frenzy for Wednesday.

Enemy Airship opened the night and one could say the entire festival.If I wanted to hear Broken Social Scene, I’d probably watch them on Pitchfork TV, but this was a close enough facsimile. I certainly don’t mean that in negative way. The band is fun, even danceable, especially as compared to their previous incarnation, Nonreturner. The set was topped off with a particularly earnest cover of New Order’s “Age of Consent”. It’s too bad no one could hear the keyboards.

Another local, Hott Lunch, played second. I had heard a lot of good things and the band did not disappoint. From punk to classic rock, this band was all over the place aggression, hitting all the right influences. I’d like to hear them focus in on one thing, but they do so many so well. Maybe that’s not so bad. Either way, it was an enjoyable set.

The closers were Catacombz. With a light show few have witnessed in Eastside, the band beat the audience into submission and told them to dance without directly telling the so, yet they obeyed. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a band come in and just move the entire crowd into convulsions.

Jerusalem & The Starbaskets via Benjamin Gross

Mojo’s Showcase (Bassdrum of Death, Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, and Ming Donkey One-Man Band)

Regretfully, I missed Ming Donkey One-Man Band due to a film. This became apparent to me as I entered Mojo’s to find it buzzing. It seemed that buzz was about the dirty heaps of new age blues that was being thrust upon the crowd and would continue through the night.

Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, once of CoMo, played next. Besides frontman Jeremy Freeze’s occasional turn as a busker and drummer Kim Sherman’s turns at V/H/S Q&A’s, the band made a triumphant return to CoMo (as is their usual) with a roaring set of dirges and blues psychedelia. Interestingly, the band’s sound was filled out with the addition of John Garland on guitar. The set primarily featured material from their well-received Dost, a record you should own.

Bass Drum of Death via Benjamin Gross

Bass Drum of Death is another Fat Possum band that sounds as if they’re from another era. They looked and sounded a ton like 1991-era Seattle, but sounded closer to No Age than Nirvana. This topped off what was an impressive roster for the evening. I’m not sure I’ve seen a T/F showcase demonstrate as much firepower as this crew showed… Well, until the next night.

Mojo’s A-Go-Go (Believers, Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship?, Dark Dark Dark and Cassie Morgan)

Once again, I regretfully missed a Mojo’s opener. St. Louis duo Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine played what must have been a distant and haunting set of hushed melodies. Although described as folk, I’d place her stylings closer to something sleepier, with a bit of twang for good measure. I only know this because I luckily caught her set as a busker in the Blue Note. Still, I imagine her set fit nicely with the bands to follow.

Dark Dark Dark came on next. Gypsies with powerful female lead vocals rarely go wrong. Don’t misunderstand me, this is not Beirut with Sharon Van Etten. No, this is a rock band that understands a good pop song, something that would linger through the evening.

At this point, it was clear that the evening was building toward something. However, it felt as if we needed a way to traverse the gap between Cassie Morgan’s brand of folk and Dark Dark Dark’s gypsie spiel. A bridge would work, but a boat or ship would be better. Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship? made their way on stage and increased the number of accordions and French horns by at least one apiece.

Believers via Benjamin Gross

The bridge or ship or whatever worked as the crowd was pretty amped for the Believers set. Believers just puts on a consistently great show and it doesn’t hurt that the songs are so good and danceable. For once, all the percussion was in the back of the stage as compared to the center, but it didn’t take away the percussive nature of the band by any means. The buzz that started the previous night lasted all the way through Believers’ set. If for no other reason, Believers should stay together just to play T/F every year. Either way, they will forever be linked to the fest for me as it just isn’t complete without a Believers show.

Buskers a-Busking

I remember Nature Walk busking before, but I don’t remember them being as engaging as they were this year. I got vibes from Violent Femmes and One Foot in the Grave-era Beck. Good, fun rock music to get us ready for the nonfiction about to be thrown our way.

The Toughcats come all the way from Maine every year. It seems there’s a contingent that makes the trek every year and the  Touchcats are part of that crew. To fully enjoy the Toughcats’s set, one has to pay particular attention to the drummer who works as hard and as enthusiastically as any drummer I’ve ever seen.

Run On Sentence featured the filmmaker of Gasland, a popular T/F entry and near-Oscar winner. Beyond that, Run On Sentence stands on their own, recalling a bit of Clem Snide. They certainly kept a large audience in the spacious Missouri Theater engaged with the energy they brought from Portland.

Bramble actually played my daughter’s preschool before they ever played the T/F box office, various street corners, or several film venues. They are fast becoming a favorite at the fest. Everybody tends to enjoy their special brand of roots rock, especially three-year-olds.

Another roots rock band to busk some films was Wine Teeth. However, where Bramble reminded me more of Fleet Foxes (musically), Wine Teeth are certainly big Elliott Smith fans, providing a bit of edge to their set.

The hit of the fest may have been Les Trois Coups. The four Frenchmen enchanted audiences, inspiring many to dance and others to fall under their gypsie charms. From what I heard and saw, I don’t think the boys ever stopped playing their songs and performing skits with a combination of French and bits of broken English. The boys played for a school in St. Louis and hit the streets as soon as they made it to CoMo, and were seen at showcases and in the basement of at least one house party at 3:30 in the morning. I’m not sure they ever slept as they had to catch a flight early Sunday morning.

It’s nice see some great bands return year after year. Pearl and the Beard can both fill any venue with their powerful voices while maintaining an uncanny ability to rely on subtlety to not overwhelm with every song. This has really been one of the better busker acts to make it to T/F over the years and I hope they keep coming back.

Prahlad is actually a folklore professor at the university. He plays his brand of folk on mbira and slit drum, traditional African instruments. The resulting music is calming yet stimulating and was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the fest.

Cindy Woolf told a story that went with a song that was about distilling moonshine. That may be all you need to know. This is country as it’s meant to be sung and performed. Sad, slow, and soothing.

There were others to play music last weekend, but this was what I was able to see/hear among the 15 or so films I was able to see. Still, it was possibly the strongest lineup the fest has featured since I’ve been attending. Music coordinators Billy Schuh and Amanda Rainey really deserve a ton of credit for putting together this year’s group of buskers and showcasers. For the complete list of musicians, including many of the better ones I failed to mention here, check T/F’s website while it’s still up.

Believers Interview (Director’s Cut)

Posted in Interview, Records by SM on March 7, 2012

Photo by Benjamin Gross

Most blogs keep the content short and to the point. So, it was no surprise when my contributions were cut for the True/False blog. There are no hard feelings. That said, I’m posting the extended version of the interview below. You can read the edited version here in order to see what a real editor can do with my ramblings. Especially notice the title. Andrew is a titling genius.

Zac: As brothers growing up together, did you ever foresee something like Believers happening? What were your previous experiences playing in bands together (if there were any)?

Wesley Powell: When we were youngsters, the thought of playing music together didn’t traverse either of our minds, the age gap of four years felt more significant when i was sixteen and tyler twenty. We both made music individually, tyler more electronic and myself in my high school band called ‘Say Panther.’ Making music seemed the most fitting future for me since playing in high school and that sentiment came for tyler in college, but we only started to tinker together once i got to school in Columbia and he was still living there. We still have a few of those weekend-basement-recording tapes filed under ‘The 1960’s.’ After a minute of chewing on the idea of collaborating and overcoming the burden of pragmatism, we finally moved down to Austin three years ago to pursue that end. That was when we decided to make this our reason to be, for the time being.

Z: I first became familiar with your work at last year’s True/False Film Fest. Leah Cheaney, then one of the music coordinators for the fest, went on and on about the music you put together for the bumpers and that your band was set to tear the house down at the “Super Secret Party”. She was right on both counts. Can you talk about how that all came to pass and how that T/F project led to Believers?

WP: The project for the bumpers was isolated from Believers. [brother] Tyler [Powell] and I had collaborated with [cinematographer] Andrew Palermo to make the music for his first short film a few months prior and he decided to tag team once again for his work on the bumpers. As far as Believers goes, a few months before True/False, tyler and I realized we had gotten into the same funk as we did in Austin. Tyler had left Brooklyn and I had left school Holland to once again pursue musical ends. We had spent another year [this time back in the heartland] writing and scratch recording, but again lacked a band to bring the songs into the live realm.

So, to light a fire under our collective tush, we talked to [then-T/F music coordinator] Kim Sherman about setting us up with a show. Without a band and only some demo recordings to plea our worth. She graciously obliged. With a month and a half to prepare, we joined forces with Travis [Boots], Taylor [Bacon] and Pete [Hansen] and began pulling songs from our cache and making them into more than just bits and pieces. It somehow came together. Then Ron Rottinghaus [owner of Uprise Bakery/Bar] kindly let us play our first first show at Uprise where 3/5ths of us work, it was like a warm up/confidence booster for our first more public show. Certainly one of the more tender evenings of my life, playing in front of our whole community of friends at my second home. A few days later we played at two in the morning during that party. A blast. And here we are, our anniversary just a few days away.

Z: Speaking of those T/F bumpers, the soundtrack you put together was absolutely haunting and perfectly cinematic. Have you had other experiences with film and/or film scores that informed this work? What was the process like putting that music together?

WP: Like I mentioned, before working on the bumpers with Andrew Palermo, Tyler and I had made the music for his short film ‘A Face Fixed.’ it was a really enjoyable and fruitful process, quite a different approach to creating music. A soundtrack is more functional in that you need to create something that fits parameters set out by the film itself, its editing, aesthetic, vibe, and so on; all things outside of ones self. And there is no consideration of how the music will be achieved live, its all recording and production. The two of us hope to do more of it in the future, with one project coming up working with our friend [filmmaker] Polina Malikin on her short film.

Z: For those who haven’t had the pleasure, a Believers live set is a soulful, festive experience where the audience is taken over by the moment, moved to dance. What goes into a Believers set to make that happen or has it come about organically? Is it that much fun for you as well?

WP: I suppose it just so happens to happen as such. Which is nice. And most of the time it’s a real treat for us as well, getting all shaky and sweaty, wibbly wobbly. All this assuming equipment doesn’t bum out or something of the sort.

Z: A striking feature of your live sets is that you have two percussionists at the center of the stage while the rest of the band fills the edges with guitars, samples, vocals, and bass. What’s the reasoning behind that setup? Is it just a space issue or is there a purpose for such a configuration?

WP: For much of what we play live, the rhythm section carries us. Taylor and Pete are the metronomic backbone, so it makes sense to have us all focus on them. And we like to have the two of them close together so they can feed off of one another’s energy, and the rest of us can feed off that. Some kind of parasitic vibe feast. Ridiculous. Anyway, personally, these days I enjoy watch the drummers in bands more than anything, their mechanical rigor, their constance, and so on. So it’s nice to have it as a focus in our band as well.

Z: This past december, you embarked on what turned out to be a successful Kickstarter campaign to release your debut EP. How did the idea come about to go with this sort of fundraiser? How do you feel about all the support you’ve received?

WP: All of us living under the poverty line, we hoped to figure out a way to soften the blow of mastering and pressing a record ourselves. We figured setting up a pre-order was a good way of going about it, the potential of receiving a little help up front. We had had friends who were enabled to embark on and achieve their own artistic endeavors thanks to kickstarter, so we chose to follow in suit. We were floored at the generosity we received. It’s astounding how our friends have helped make this happen and shown their support of what we do. They helped overcome the silly burden of finance.

Z: Describe the writing and recording process for that EP. Were these just songs you developed for your live shows or had you planned to record all along?

WP: A bit of both. The songs on our little record had existed somewhere on a tape or hard drive [some for nearly three years, on that perpetual back burner], but were only truly realized with the band. Being able to hear everything in person, in reality with Travis, Taylor and Pete brought out a better understanding of some of the songs. This took some of them in fairly different directions.

Since we went about the whole process with a DIY outlook, recording and mixing turned out to more of an ordeal than expected. Tough stuff for amateurs, figuring out microphone choice and arrangements paired with varying compressions, reverbs, room sound, and all that jazz. We’ve been recording for some years, but never have we had to consider laying down something that will end up on vinyl and be shared more widely.
This was certainly a trying endeavor that tested our patience, took months longer than expected and drove us all a bit mad. Especially the task of finding the time to record and mix in between work and everything else. But, it was a undoubtedly good experience and we learned quite a bit. Recording Taylor and Pete together live for some tracks to try to capture some of the energy they have playing together was some of the more exciting stuff to lay down.

Z: What’s in store for Believers in 2012? Are there plans to tour, write and record more music, or contribute to T/F?

Next week we’ll once again be playing True/False, this time at a more reasonable hour during the Mojo’s a go-go. Looking forward to it quite a bit. True/False is always a trip. Delays and delays after first sending out our mixes to Chicago Mastering service, we finally received our test pressing today [YES!] which means we will most likely have them ready for sale at the festival. As for the further off weeks and months, we’re aiming to disseminate our record both in the mail and online and hope to set ourselves up for more touring around the heartland and beyond. Having music to share gives us another incentive to get out and on the move. It’s another kick in the pants to get on it. As per usual, we’ll see what happens.

I have Believers’ EP in my possession and will be reviewing it shortly. To follow and/or contact Believers, it might be best to go to their Facebook page, but they also have a website you should check out. Of course, you could always buy their EP and figure it all out for yourself.

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Believers Kickstarter/Pre-Order

Posted in Records by SM on December 8, 2011

OK. So, I’ve gushed about Believers here in the past. It’s fine. This local band is worthy of your attention. If you don’t believe me, look back through the archives and consider most of the other music I promote on this site. That should be enough for you to buy in.

Believers have launched a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to raise the money to master and manufacture their debut EP. There are various levels of giving and corresponding rewards, but $15 will get you a record and digital download. Consider it a pre-order. Beyond that, there are t-shirts, mixed tapes/CD’s, artwork, even a live performance if you’re willing to give enough. However, the $15 option is still a good one.

Check out the video above (Sorry, but WordPress isn’t playing nice with the embedding. Click on the link for the video.) to get some idea of what these guys are up to. If you listen carefully, you’ll pick up the sounds that you will be purchasing. Also, you can preview two tracks here.

Join in the Coalition’s efforts to make this Believers EP happen. That is all.

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Top 5 for October 3, 2011

Posted in Top 5 by SM on October 3, 2011

I’m super-busy at the moment. So, let’s get on with it…

1. Believers – When Believers hit it big, remember that you read about them here first. Or you already knew them and have known about them long before I started posting long rants on their potential greatness. Either way, the boys have released two tracks you can download for free. The first is a newer version of “Forward Forward Back.” The second is the excellent new track “Finder.” Check below for the tracks and/or visit the Believers’ site.

2. The Lost Season – This will go down as the year my Ohio State Buckeyes go missing for 3-4 months. The offense did NOTHING Saturday and things don’t look any better for the coming month of games. I’d rather not go into details. Just know that their offense can be described as offensive vomiting. This is probably the last I’ll post anything football-related as I am choosing to focus on positive things.

3. Wild Flag in KC – I get to see Wild Flag Wednesday night in Kansas City. I’m pretty excited to see this band. Also, it’s at a venue I haven’t been. It will be a late night, but I expect it to be an excellent show, something I’ve needed for a while.

4. Home Brew Updates – Black Francis sits in bottles, doing what it needs to do. I won’t crack one open for another two weeks just to see if it’s ready. Even then, I suspect some more time in the bottle will be required. Conversely, I just brewed an all-grain version of my Simcoe-dependency, an all-Simcoe IPA, a week ago, it fermented about as well as any beer I’ve ever had, and I promptly added another ounce of Simcoe for the dry-hop. The OG for the beer was 1.066 and the FG dropped around 1.012. That puts the beer over 7% ABV. It’s super-bitter and dry, nearly perfect at this point. I’ll wait another week to bottle. Then it might be ready about the same time I try the stout.

5. Redesign – As hinted last week, there are some aesthetic changes coming. Well, sort of. I will most likely do little to the blog. There might be a move to my own URL, but the blog will generally remain untouched. That said, I plan to put together an actual website, linking all my resources and other online shenanigans. I’m not sure what exactly I’ll host on the new site, but it will generally be tied into what’s going on here right now. Stay tuned…

The Weekend that Was

Posted in Life by SM on May 23, 2011

Since starting this blog, I’ve tried to limit the number of posts that just tell you what I did. Well, I’ve been a single parent for most of the last week and will continue for all of this week. So, I have time for nothing more than share a few images from my weekend.

The weekend started with this…

Stone’s Cali-Belgique IPA started off the weekend (and would be enjoyed on Sunday as well). The Hopry’s review got me to thinking that I needed to give this beer another try. The first and last time I tried it was the big Stone night here in town and I was not that impressed. Of course, I was following up several beers that are all a load on their own. So, making this my first of the weekend allowed me to enjoy this beer unscathed. Upon further review, the Cali-Belgique is what its name suggests: a California-style hopbomb with the delicate presence of a Belgian yeast strain. What a great summer beer this is going to be with it’s tartness only balanced by the fruity bitterness of west coast hop bills.

Later on Friday, I obtained the services of a sitter and caught what I hoped to be the lineup of the summer. Believers put on their typical jive-inducing set. Richard the Lionhearted (sorry, no pics turned out),played a tight set of new and old songs. Jerusalem and the Starbaskets brought home their dirty, drunken version of rock music before I had to sneak out to relieve and pay said sitter. It was a nice night to catch up with some friends and release a bit from my week as a single parent.

My kid’s first rock show happened. It was Sunday evening at an ice cream parlor. We sat down with our ice cream and watched Dubb Nubb and Cory Taylor Cox play folk music as it stormed outside. As you can see from the picture, my kid and her friend from her Montessori school rocked out, mostly pogoing the night away.

My busy weekend finally ended the way most weekends should end: with a beer. Boulevard’s Tank 7 is easily one of my five favorite/go-to beers.

Hopefully, there will be more full-fledged posts this week as next week will be a bit thin with a long-awaited vacation on the horizon. Bare with me. I have ideas for some good posts in the coming months.

Friday non-Post

Posted in Life, Live, Uncategorized by SM on May 20, 2011

My wife is out of town and I’m single-parenting it this week and next. So, there’s little to no time to blog (especially for three blogs). I have two posts started, but no time to finish. One is about the necessity for indie rock and craft beer to better appreciate one another. That one you will see eventually. The second was a post about the end of the world. Since it’s ending Saturday, you won’t see that one. Also, Jamie was right and the yeast was not enough for my beer to fully ferment. Luckily, I have friends with slurry and I will pitch more yeast tonight.

In the meantime, read about what I plan to see tonight.

Returning to Mojo’s from parts unknown (or Memphis) is CoMo’s forgotten son and daughter tandem, better known as Jerusalem and the Starbaskets. Frontman Jeremy Freeze and drummer Kim Sherman bring the pain – metaphorically and literally with their raucous live set. Sometimes it’s a shambled mess and other times it’s pure brilliance. you want to be there for both.

As a two-piece, Jerusalem will cause you to recall other acts such as The White Stripes or The Black Keys, but those are lazy comparisons. I prefer rolling out Swearing at Motorist or The Kills when describing what they do. Expect plenty of heartbreak and woe, but be prepared to rock Friday night.

Jerusalem and the Starbaskets are supporting their recently released and well-received full-length as released by Minneapolis label De Stijl. The record is doing so well, that the first single, “First Cigarette in the Rain,” recently topped the NYU charts. So, be sure to make it out to Mojo’s tonight to welcome the duo back.

Also playing are CoMusic favorites Believers and Richard the Lionhearted.

Believers are warning their legions of followers that this might be the last time to see them for a while. Hopefully, that means more writing and recording…or it could just mean more float trips for the band. Either way, it will be nice to see Believers on stage again as they put on one of the most engaging live shows in town.

Rumor has it that CoMusic compilation contributor Richard the Lionhearted will be debuting some new songs tonight as well. This news should only be welcomed with cheers, beers, and undergarments flung on stage as these boys know how to write a song. The prolific band will open what promises to be the best one-night lineup of the summer.

The doors at Mojo’s opens at 8:30. There is a $5 cover, but it’s totally worth it.

In the meantime, check the following video and track to hold you over. Jerusalem and the Starbaskets : Walkin across your Grave by destijlrecs

CoMusic (killer) Filler Wednesdays

Posted in Live, Records by SM on April 20, 2011

Maybe my fillers on Mondays Wednesdays will be my new tradition or something. Either way, the content below is worth your attention. It also won’t hurt for you to check out The CoMO Collective when you’re done.

I wrote the first piece on Dubb Nubb. The second is mostly not my work, but it’s a cool narrative anyway. The third bit is mainly some video, but it too is worth your while. Finally, the last is a review from a show last weekend. I’ve mentioned Believers before, but last Saturday’s show was pretty wicked.

Once dubbed as the only “twindie-pop band in America,” created a buzz with their turns as buskers for this year’s True/False Films Fest, Dubb Nubb has conjured quite the following in our fair city. Recalling the undead ghosts of Joanna Newsom and Julie Doiron, the twins harmonize with a youthful zeal not often caught on tape. There’s hurt beyond their years, hopefulness despite our times, and a bit of anger to keep it honest.

All this comes through loud and clear on the duo’s latest release New Bones. Sparse, echo-y production feature the grrrls at their finest, fully capturing the craft in their vocals, chords, and lyrics. Listening to New Bones, it’s hard to believe that Dubb Nubb is young enough to enter a battle of high school bands while simultaneously finding it hard to get into some of the clubs in which they play. I suspect they don’t need fake ID’s, just hand over a copy of New Bones to the doorman and they’ll be granted instant access with a Manhattan on the rocks to follow.

I recognize that this blog typically follows Columbia acts or those bands playing CoMO venues. Technically, Dubb Nubb has played this town and are well-connected here. Plus, New Bones is worthy of a listen, download, and one-of-a-kind cloth packaging (while supplies last). So, this all adds up to the band being honorary CoMOians. Welcome them with open arms and hearts, Columbia, and be on the lookout for a Dubb Nubb gig in the near future…after graduation, anyway.

A couple weeks back, I was contacted by Amanda Rainey in regards to my purchase of the Dubb Nubb’s New Bones. She mentioned her involvement in the 48 Band Competition at Hairhole. Either I asked or Amanda offered to write about her experience, but the important part is that she was willing to share the post below.

Amanda describes herself as “a soon to be business school dropout and a percussionist, quilt artist, sunday school teacher and lady behind little local label Special Passenger Records.”  She is currently working on a compilation project called “Feels Like Coming Home” which is an exploration of hometowns and music communities all over the country.  That album comes out in July and will feature a Comfort Zone (her 48 Band Competition champion foursome) song about the Hairhole called “Practice Space.” Find out more at  Special Passenger Records and Feels Like Coming Home.

Also, Amanda and her collaborators are starting a craft studio/community office space at Hairhole that will be home to “lots of tools and machines and scrap fabric and materials.”  There will be open studio times and craft nights starting next month.  Email Amanda if you are interested in becoming a member, donating materials, or learning more about Hairhole. Her email: – Ed.

Sometimes perfect things happen.

Last November after hearing quiet rumors about a 48 band competition at the Hairhole, I asked Sabrina at Maude how to sign up and she said – you gotta find Leo.  I didn’t know who Leo was, but I walked down the street to meet friends at Saigon – opening night  – and they were standing at a table talking to Leo.  So I signed up.  They only had one spot left.

48 hours later I walked into the Hairhole and stood among mostly strangers as they decided the bands – and I was placed in Leo’s band, also with Max and Emily – really wonderful strangers who became friends within a few hours of excited drinking, planning and playing music. 48 hours later we performed as Comfort Zone, playing 8 songs and musical interludes that we wrote and meticulously practiced throughout the weekend.  We won.  I can’t really tell you right now exactly how much that night meant to me or how much it changed everything.  Ask me in a few years.  But I can tell you that it brought out the best in Columbia’s music community.  Through ten new bands performing 100 new minutes of music we caught a glimpse at near perfection.  Well, until the cops showed up.

Since 48 hours, Comfort Zone has played three more shows and written six more songs.  Max is moving to Chicago soon, so we will probably only play one more show in mid May.  However, we were determined to make an album before we split, so we got together a couple of weeks ago and recorded all 11 songs at the Hairhole in one night.

Leo and I arrived at 3pm to clean and set up and we started recording a couple hours later.  Throughout the night, friends showed up to hang out, drink beers and help us with our scream and clap tracks.  Emily arrived right as we finished our instruments and vocals and did violin layers that will give you goosebumps.  At the end of the night we sat back and listened to the album straight through three times – it clocks in at a whopping 15 minutes and 16 seconds.  It’s pretty perfect.

I am excited to say that the album will be released in May as a split 12″ with our sister/friendlord band Task Force on the other side. It’s called 12″ Pizza Split and the recordings are getting mastered and plated as I type this.  This record is a community art project and we can’t wait to share it with everyone. I’m sure there will be a release show in May and the records will be for sale at Maude.  For now, here are some pictures of our recording session – Wednesday March 29th, 2011 at Hairhole, USA. – Amanda Rainey

Yes, we are like five months behind on this thing, but we also didn’t exist in November. That said, a significant event in the CoMusic scene in recent history was November’s 48 Hours Battle of the Bands competition at the Hairhole, an arts space in the North Village Arts District. Over the course of a weekend, forty local musicians got together, drew names out of a hat, formed four piece bands, wrote and practiced songs, and performed at the Hairhole in a battle du jour. Don’t take my word for it. Check the following videos below and come back tomorrow for a firsthand account from one of the event’s participants, Amanda Rainey (who also provided me with the links to the videos you see below.

Artist depiction of Believers

The Hairhole doesn’t exist. It’s not in a basement somewhere in the North Village Arts District. They didn’t hold their last show in November. You can’t check-in with FourSquare even if you could find it. There’s no cover at the door. And there wasn’t a show there Saturday night.

I won’t write how nostalgic I felt upon entering the Hairhole, or “Harold” as some might call it. It didn’t remind me of the Neil House, a residence near Ohio State’s campus rented out to a bunch of hard core kids who would hold shows in their living room. I won’t mention a club called Bernie’s with it’s basement locale and claustrophobic-inducing darkness and lack of exit signs. I certainly won’t tell you about the time I made myself bleed watching a band in a basement because I had to pound the beat out on the wall. Nope, all those things happened and the Hairhole did not.

So, everything you’re about to read didn’t actually happen as the Hairhole doesn’t actually exist…

Columbia up-and-comers Quailskin showed great improvement from the last time I saw them a month ago. That first night at East Side was not a good first impression. However, the band pulled together a nice set of actual songs. Gone were the electrotrash pretensions that dominated their set at East Side. Here was the songcraft that will keep folks coming back. Very groove-able, certainly worth another listen. There are some strong pieces in Quailskin. Once they iron out a few wrinkles, I expect them to be a solid part of the scene.

Road-conditioned Senryu found a crowd as happy to see them as they were to see the Hairhole after its forced hiatus. Senryu don’t play ska, but it’s as danceable and rugged as the punk-approved precursor to reggae as anything else I’ve heard. Folks danced and sang along, proving that Senryu’s previous visits to the ‘hole were not in vain. Seriously, their set was a lot of fun, more fun than I’ve seen at a show in this town. Apparently, all the personality in this music community is located in that basement.

Headliner Believers’s pre-show setup gave a pretty big clue of what was to come. Two drum kits were at the front corner of the stage with everything else at the edges, spilling off the stage and into the dancing audience that surrounded them. Percussion is at the center of the Believers sound. Sure, the band features silky vocals, vintage guitars, bass lines that drive, and some well-placed ambient noise, but the beats are what made believers of the audience, whipping the crowd into a frenzy, cracking the ‘hole’s foundation.

Fucking A! This was a great set. The atmosphere was loose. The band was having a good time and the Hairhole crowd was having an even better time. The Believers set Saturday night was what you want in a rock show. So much fun. I really can’t tell you anything else except that you really have to see this band live and in-person.

As if the night couldn’t get any better, Believers switched things around a ripped into a raucous rendition of The Breeders’ “Cannonball.” The Ohioan in me smiled with pride, but the Missourian in me looked forward to more shows at Hairhole and more from Believers.