Local Music by Bill Zink

Ah yes, here it is, Live from Bloomington. It's that time of year again ... and along with it, general self-congratulatory hoopla from the IU student administration, and silly whining from the Bloomington music folk who were spurned. Funny, but I've come to enjoy the comical eruptions from deep within The Bloomington Music Scene™ more than the album itself ... but then, that's not always saying much. Now, before I start, there are a few things that I have to clear away up front. First, LFB's primary objective has always been to raise public awareness and funds for the Hoosier Hills Food Bank. On the count (and, again that is the primary objective for the project), LFB has been enormously successful, and everyone involved should be proud of what they have achieved. On the other hand, if you want to help the hungry, write a check to the Food Bank. Don't worry about LFB collapsing: as long as there are bands in Bloomington hungry for attention, LFB will thrive. Second, putting together a project of this sort is incredibly difficult. Basic logistics aside, creating a good compilation is a tricky affair, made even more difficult by the fact that the LFB committee has to try to please so many people. Look at the compilations in your record collection: generally speaking, the more defined and coherent the unifying principe for the compilation, the better the result. The most listenable compilations are very focused, while those that strive for wide representation will have only a few tracks to interest the individual listener. Let's say we want to do a Live from Seattle album: first you go with the obvious Seattle sound - Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Sreaming [sic] Trees, etc. Now, are you are an artist or a democrat? If you want a "good album," you stop there. If you want balanced representation, then you also have to consider Sir Mix-a-lot, Bill Frisell, and so on. The second compilation would have broader appeal, but the first would be the better album (even though I like Frisell more than any of the usual "Seattle sound" bands, I wouldn't listen to the whole compilation. I would just tape the Frisell track.) I have been on the LFB selection committee a couple of times, and this basic question always came up, never to be truly resolved. I have a feeling that it happens the same way every year. Now, add to that fact that the selection is done by a committee of people with widely disparate backgrounds and tastes, and you get yet another element of compromise and confusion. And, on top of that, many highly visible bands choose not to enter songs, so there are some aspects of The Bloomington Music Scene™ which, through no control of the LFB committee, cannot be documented (to the best of my knowledge, Bloomington's star underground bands, Antenna and Arson Garden, did not submit tracks this year). All things considered, there's no way to emerge from this mess, and no one to blame. That said, this is the most coherent Live from Bloomington ever. True, there's no jazz, no classical (effectively excluded by the rules of the competition), nothing experimental, but I would have no problems recommending this CD to anyone interested in possessing a souvenir of The Bloomington Music Scene™. And all the bands here (with the exception of the Submersibles) are all overwhelmingly... oh, competent. The downside? Well, if Jeff Sagrin were seeding this year's LFB, he would have been able to pick 14 of the 15 bands which eventually wound up on the album before anyone heard the

submissions. Only Michael White is not currently working the clubs at headlining status, and even he was locally active back before Channel 3 swallowed up most of his spare time. I'm not suggesting that names carried extra weight this year (I wasn't there, I wouldn't know) or if highprofile bands were given extra consideration, that is necessarily a bad thing (remember objective #1: raise money and awareness for the Food Bank). I'm only bemoaning the lack of surprise, the lack of new blood, the lack of a good healthy kick in the ass. Competence and professionalism being the key tests here, only The Submersibles fail to pass. Not having seen the band live, I can only judge them on the basis of this track... but it seems that the confusion people have in describing this band stems from a confusion within the band itself: what are they trying to do? The structure of the instrumental part of the song is straightforward and minimal enough to suggest some fusion of rock and rap, and then you add the vocals... God, I don't even want to think of that. Is it really necessary for white folk to defunk black musical idioms as fast as they're invented? I don't care that Bart can't sing; neither can John Barge and he is great. But, if you're going to put bad vocals ALL THE WAY ON TOP of the mix, it helps to have something to say. Speaking of John Barge, The Walking Ruins clock in again with "Social Insecurity," my favorite track mainly because, of all the genres and subgenres represented, early 80s style punk rock is my favorite. Strangely enough, the Ruins seem more at home in the studio than most bands on LFB (or, at least, better able to translate their live energy onto tape) in spite of the fact that punk bands are supposed to be "unprofessional." And while we're talking about live energy, I should note two more songs: The Blue Oldstar's "Hey Lefty" profits from being a live recording, while Go Mango, capable of being the best live rock band in town, doesn't come close to their potential with a too-laidback "Rainbo Afro". Perhaps the most distinctive voice (not vocals, though they're fine too) on this year's LFB belongs to The Gerunds. Though not exactly tromping through unplowed fields, they manage to sound distinctive and mature within the boundaries of what they do. Hey, I'm not writing press kit material here, but I would put them a notch or two above professional, which is something, as far as I see it. Most people buying LFB will be buying it because of Larry Crane, and those folks certainly won't be disappointed. To me, "Better Roads" isn't quite up to the level of the material that stole the show on the Falling from Grace soundtrack, but if you're a fan, you won't agree. If you're not, you won't care. By the way, if you're taking part in The Bloomington Music Scene™'s "Who's Gonna Get Signed Next?" sweepstakes, it's gonna be Crane. I've got June 15 in the pool. Professionalism and competence are the hallmarks of this LFB. If I seem unusually wellbehaved in this review, it's because I see no real reason to trash anyone (Sorry, Submersibles. I take back everything I said. You guys rock.) Live from Bloomington is Bloomington's equivalent to the Grammies, with everything that entails. People who bitch about Milli Vanilli winning a Grammy don't have a clue. They deserved that Grammy. And all the bands here are very good at what they do. Whether or not what they are doing is worth doing is another question... I'm sure I'll get into that some other time. But for now, I'll say this: if you want fire, brilliance, and greatness, look elsewhere. Oh, and someone wanted me comment on the graphics. Why bother? Is it my lot in life to be the eternal buzzkill?

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