Urban Folk

the zine on the sce ne

free for you and me

February/March 2008

FEATURING: John Houx, Mike Baglivi, Paleface, Fredo Flintstone unveiled, the Winter AntiFolk Festival and much more!

Urban Folk: 15 issues young
Pretty much every issue starts the same: This is a great issue; “the best one yet... yada yada... we need your help... yada yada... we’re only able to continue with contributions from the community... yada yada yada...” Well, it’s the same story for a different day. Urban Folk will only continue publishing if we can afford to. We need content about the acoustic community, and, just as important, we need operation expenses. Without either material or funding, Urban Folk will get shut-down, and all the little Urban Folk orphans will be back on the streets, and then they’ll be robbing/filching your guitars, sleeping in your cars, and dancing with your stars. I can assure you, nobody wants that. So I entreat you, please: buy an ad, make a donation, write an article. Help a zine out...

Jonathan Berger, editor




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Urban Folk XV ~ page 2

Urban Folk XV ~ page 3

Who Are You?
Finding John Houx
by Brian Speaker photos by Magali Charron
My very first night of training as a sound guy at the Sidewalk Café was John Houx’s first show. Neither of us knew that the other was new to something that would prove to be so important. All I knew was that the last act of the evening was a barefoot and rosy-cheeked artist stepping onto the stage with a buzzy primitive guitar held strapless, high up to his chest. God knows what he thought of me. I placed a mic up to his guitar and we exchanged a few pleasantries. He admitted to being a bit nervous at his first full performance at the illustrious East Village club. I knew how he felt. I walked back to the soundboard, watched him mutter a few quick “check, checks” into the mic and stroke his noisy guitar a few times. I gave him a thumbs up, and John put down his guitar standing at the mic, poised and unprotected. I sat tight at the board, waiting for him to pick up the guitar and begin, but Houx needed no instrument to start the show. His first number at his first show was done with one instrument: his voice. It was a stunner of a song, and he’s never done it again. Urban Folk: There was a song you opened your set with when I ran sound for your first show that I haven’t heard you play since. You sang it a cappella and you stomped your foot to hold the rhythm. John Houx: Yeah, that song doesn’t really have a name, it was the first one I sang at the AntiHoot. My guitar was really out of tune that night, so I decided to play it without the guitar and stomp it. Through very personal lyrics and colorful imagery, John Houx tells you exactly who he is through his music. He “was born in 1984” though he’ll deny it to the end. He’s a “hole digger’s son”, who hasn’t seen his family in close to a year, and his “...home is nowhere (he’s) ever been”. His friend, avid music fan, and supporter, Bernard King describes John as “one of the best new songwriters on the scene.” Dan Costello offers, “John Houx blows my mind. He’s honest, earnest and barefoot.” John Houx (pronounced oo like noon) was born in Northern California, information he presents in “1984,” one of his many fine autobiographical songs. Spending some time on the west coast, he wound up in Portland, Oregon working in copper plate printing. He hesitates for a moment, “I’m really unsure what for. Though I learned something from it. It took me deep into William Blake. His poetry and imagery.” UF: What made you leave Portland? John Houx: There was no reason for me to stay. I was hardly ever playing music and that was something I had always wanted to do. It was in my head, like somebody was telling me to get up, pack a suitcase and hit the road. The worst that could happen would be like... I died. At least I died trying. UF: Trying...? JH: To live day-to-day and not have obligations to anyone. Do it on my own, not have to rely or owe. I guess you can never really do that fully... UF: What led you to New York City? JH: I took a train straight to Chicago. I knew I wanted to come to New York but got off the train in Chicago and asked people what part of town to check out and play in. I made some haphazard connections playing in a cafe where I would meet someone who would take me to another place to play, where I would meet some girls who would let me stay for free. I also went to Nashville, North Carolina and Virginia. UF: How did people respond to you? JH: Not always so positive. Pretty interesting being on the outskirts of Nashville and getting snubbed by people while asking for directions. Though, also in Nashville, I asked a couple of girls for a cigarette and ended up staying in their dorm room for 2 weeks. (He breaks out into a wry smile. John has a very charming sensibility. He’s both genuine and sincere and I can only imagine young ladies, smitten with his unassuming swagger, wanting to reach out and help him.) JH: Setting out was completely liberating. I learned to reach out to people. Fly or fall; sink or swim. Either you learn how to do it or you get left on the highway. Chicago, Nashville, all those places were a warm-up to coming to NYC.

Urban Folk XV ~ page 4

UF: Was NYC hard on you when you got here? JH: People were more friendly here than anywhere else. I found it surprisingly easy to get around and felt at home here pretty quick. But a lot of that has to do with circumstance. The lady who gave me a ride to NY let me stay with her daughter, who told me about the Sidewalk Café. While looking for it, I found the Bowery Poetry Club. There, people offered me a place to stay and info on cheap hotels. UF: Who did you meet over at the Bowery Poetry Club? JH: Moonshine, the bartender “Mr. Lower East Side 2007.” He and everyone who worked there gave me free drinks or a place to stay. I played there only once at the open mic and that one performance resulted in being able to stay where I’ve crashed ever since. I’ve got my typewriter, my guitar and a few books. UF: Do you have a job? JH: No Job! I’ll die before I work steady again. I’d much rather live on the streets than be employed. I was offered a position as a personal assistant for $250 a day and turned it down. UF: How do you get by?

JH: I do pick up odd jobs at a gallery in Chelsea. It pays for small things, like typewriter ribbon or if a shirt wears out. UF: Where do you get your drinking money? JH: Mostly from shows and the occasional odd job. I also get taken care of, but I live frugal. Plus, I consider drinking a business expense. UF: With a two-drink minimum, I think most artists have to consider drinking a business expense. Tell me about your writing. JH: When I left Portland, I scrapped my entire repertoire. In the last eight months I’ve written 40 or 50 songs. Some of them I’ve only played once. UF: Tell me about “Hole Digger.” I really like that song. JH: I wrote “Hole Digger” the same night I played it at a show. Little did I know, there was a reviewer from the BBC in the audience who said it was ‘Dreadful.’ Something about, it goes on for eight minutes about being a hole digger’s son. When he heard it the first time it was unrefined. Since then I’ve worked on it. Later the same guy said he had liked what I had done with it. UF: Where do you get your inspiration for your songwriting?

Urban Folk XV ~ page 5

do with Jeff Buckley. When I arrived, a few people had suggested I was doing “the Madonna thing”. Apparently Madonna decided to come to Manhattan and not work, without a place to stay or knowing anyone. You know, stay up late in coffee shops and crash in people’s basements. UF: Plans for the New Year? JH: Write better songs. Record songs. I’d really love it if by some stroke of extreme luck, I’d discover some place to live. But pretty much the only way that’s gonna happen is if I find a boarded-up building and squat. JH: That’s a theological question, isn’t it? When it’s inspired, you don’t really know where it comes from. When you’re inspired, YOU don’t really have anything to do with it. UF: Do you find certain activities or times of the day that are better for your creative process? JH: First thing in the morning; the time of day when I’m never awake. Sunrise to 9am, I’m hardly ever up. Everything seems to be fresh and possible. As far as activities: sweeping, normal human work, cleaning or building things. Those times when you are doing something removed from a conscious artistic expression. UF: Hey John, why do you perform barefoot? JH: It feels natural. I feel like I need to. Part of it is, I feel like I can’t go up there with shoes on. It feels disrespectful. The other part is that it gets hot up there and its a good way to keep cool. I never like to wear shoes anyway. When on stage I feel like you don’t have to wear shoes. So I like to take full advantage of that. UF: Influences? JH: Music from old movies, or like... the Muppets. UF: Like “The Rainbow Connection”? JH: Of course! William Blake, Marx Brothers, Harpo... UF: Bob Dylan? JH: I don’t listen to him a lot. I didn’t really know anything about him till I was traveling with a guy from Chicago to Nashville who had a box set. And I thought it was pretty cool. Someone burned me his Gaslight stuff when he was still playing in the Village and I read his book last week. I liked it. It was very well written. UF: You know, you and Bob Dylan have similar stories. JH: That’s another big reason I like him. When I left Portland and wanted to come to NYC, it had more to UF: Is there a John Houx album planned for the near future? JH: No. The idea of self recording, releasing and selling an album... I don’t really have any use for that. I like the idea of just playing, though I do wanna record this stuff soon just to document it. Thank God for Bernard (King) and his tape recorder. He’s been at almost every show and taped every one. Even those songs I only played once. UF: Would you do an album for a label? JH: Sure. I don’t wanna have to do anything but play in front of a mic. There’s a lot to learn about John Houx. In a way he’s a conundrum. Sonically and storytelling-wise, he is so reminiscent of a young Bob Dylan, yet claims not to consider him a musical influence. Even on Houx’ MySpace page, Dylan is nowhere to be found (and we all know, if it’s not on your MySpace page...). John is open and sincere yet quiet and understated. Nowhere is he as big a presence as he is behind a microphone with a guitar in his hand. I recently had the pleasure of recording with John. He was very relaxed and focused and his performance was pure and easy. I could hear him speaking to his past through his songs, revising his future and gifting his fate to that of a floating feather. John Houx landed in NYC on an eastward breeze, and his presence – his very lifestyle – smacks of the transient. Who knows how long we’ll have the pleasure of his company, before another wind – or worse, a job – takes him away? So make it a plan to catch one of his upcoming shows and the entire next day you’ll be singing... “Good afternoo... Houx... Houx... Houx, Houx... Houx... ooon. Good Afternoon, I hope to see you soon.” myspace.com/johnhoux

Urban Folk XV ~ page 6

Subway Stories
the day before the day before christmas (2004)
by Joe Crow Ryan
The day before the day before Christmas With a Martin guitar and Hungry-Hungry Hippos in the Subway at DeKalb in Brooklyn Waiting for the R-Train home, having come from 14th Street by the Q-train – Where the slim man from Tobago gave me $5.00 (US) and Told me I saved his day from despair by my music – Waiting for the R-Train and seeing so many people, I decided to whip it out: the 12-string Martin guitar. I whistled an improv melody Over the chords of the World’s maybefavorite song And I had just started singing, ‘Somewhere over (et cetera)…,” (Relishing the old switcheroo effect on my listeners) When Officer C. told me I had to stop playing. Imagine my chagrin! I am standing here playing the Martin 12string Entrusted to me by Ray Virta And some officer – young enough, by the way, to date my daughter – Is making me stop mid-phrase, mid-song, Mid-near virtuotistic chordal accompaniment;
Urban Folk XV ~ page 7

photo by Herb Scher
He ends my livelihood-earning performance and Expression of Free Speech – held both Legal and Sacrosanct. You see, this Christmas Eve-Eve I was both Legal and Sacrosanct. Of course I was maced, cuffed, restrained, incarcerated and verbally abused. Hungry-Hungry Hippos was searched. Hungry-Hungry Hippos was searche

Mike Baglivi
“Music is where I want to be.”
by Ben Godwin
“I guess there’s certain pictures that don’t suffer for their paint – but sometimes you gotta draw, sometimes you gotta draw a little blood.” - ‘Life Inside A Frame’ Rewind to the summer AntiFolk Festival of 2006, with the scene written up in the New York Times and a few names stood out, held up as key AntiFolkers or something resembling the Sidewalk Café version of the Next Big Thing. Alongside time-served old hands like Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend and the inevitable and ubiquitous Lach was Mike Baglivi. Mike had been hitting the stage hard for a solid year, and his shows had evolved from being a one-man war on heaven into a strange, lumbering multi-media beast – with the media in question including paper planes, Play-Doh, arcane diagrams and off-duty hipsters in sports coats. Anchoring the whole thing was an acoustic guitar played so hard that it rattled the walls, and a lucid, original voice that sailed over the whole thing, implanting melodic hooks deep in our brains and telling us stories of transcendence, neurosis, regret and hope. That was Mike Baglivi – New Jersey’s Lone Wolf, star of the scene and a gnat’s hair away from busting through the walls of the Sidewalk. And then he disappeared. “Waking up can be hard for me, when i start to feel the potential of all things / the birds, the bees, and every tiny seed growing into trees underneath my wooden feet. / So I’m lying here patiently, waiting quietly for an opportunity / The right moment would have to be met perfectly with the right timing, cause there’s so much for me to do.” - ‘The Greatness Of Apes’ Talk to Mike, or even read the mailshots he sends out for his shows, and you realize you’re in the presence of a unique mind that races a hundred yards ahead of the conversation and is weaving together ten thousand individual and pertinent threads of thought and jamming them together into some sort of lunatic, prophetic tapestry – a wild magic carpet ride. It’s the same as the unfolding intricate images in his songs. It’s compelling and fascinating, and he’s completely stuck with it.

photos by Herb Scher
There’s no downtime and no escaping the runaway train. He just has to keep riding it until the whole thing overloads and then go somewhere quiet and faraway, screw down the lid and make it slow down far enough that he can be around the rest of the world again. But when you listen to the music it’s clear that all of this is something to be celebrated. What’s compelling about Mike is that when you hear him play he’s just bursting with his music. It’s clear that there is nothing in the world that could possibly be more important to him than making sure that he nails it, and that you get it. Like him and his guitar and his songs are the last line of defense against an impending Eschaton, and only by singing his heart out can he possibly avert it. Says Lach: “Mike is completely committed to every molecule of his songs and performance. He isn’t kidding around up there, he’s giving you the last morse code from the other side of the apocalypse.” “You gotta get out while you’re young, while you don’t even know you’re dumb – you gotta get out while you’re young, while you don’t even know you own it.” -’Kerosene Park’ Mike had the standard musical education- “A couple of white trash kids around the corner from my house played me Motley Crue’s Girls Girls Girls and Poison’s Look What The Cat Dragged In and it’s all been downhill from there.” Ah, the eighties – back before irony was invented and rock and roll (along with Jon Berger) still had hair. Even before he could play, music was a secret compulsion. “My sister had a guitar and I always secretly had the itch to play, so for a couple of years I would pick up the guitar and pound on it. I did that until I broke every string. Then I stopped picking it up.” How, I wonder, does a musician go from Motley Crue and Poison to making twelve-minute antifolkoperas? “My stuff used to be more verse-chorus-verse and then I started hearing things a little differently – which I think was reinforced by getting into classical music and more accomplished songwriters like Paul Simon; people whose songs have that unpredictable quality but their songs are as balanced as any Ramones song. I just take it note by note and I don’t think it has to be a chorus or a bridge or anything... it just has to sound good. I can define it later, but it has to justify itself. I’ll

Urban Folk XV ~ page 8

have an idea of the lyrics and an idea of the mood... epic, quiet, whatever... and I just try and find a hook and leave my ears wide open. The more I write... I actually start crying just thinking about the possibilities sometimes. It can go anywhere. I’ve always had this insane urge to write a great song. I love music and I want to make great music myself.” “We’ll be making art, while there’s still a god in the black box.” - ’NY Afterparty’ Apart from his absence, mostly what I want to know about Mike is how come he isn’t playing with an eleventy-three piece band. The sweep and the scope of the songs seem to demand it, and listening back to his tunes on my own internal jukebox while writing this article, I can definitely hear the orchestra. But Mike doesn’t want to wait for those stars to align – “I’m all I got right now. I would have been at the Sidewalk a year before I was if I hadn’t been trying to find a band, doing the dirty casting couch on Craigslist and interviewing one asshole drummer after another. It was really my fault, because I was really avoiding doing something with what I had, and after a year with nothing happening I said ‘I just have to get out and play.’” That hammering acoustic may be all that Mike has to play with on stage, but it gets him out of the house. But he does have ambitions to make music on a larger scale. “I have songs I won’t play until I can get an orchestra... I have stuff on my four-track that has strings, bells, percussion, woodwinds... I think things could be so much grander. My ultimate goal is to have a gigantic band and make it sound bigger than anything you heard in your life, like a cathedral.” Intrigued, I ask him if I can listen to those four-tracks, but Mike insists “they’re not really fit to leave the house.

It’s like a sketchpad. I have a 4-track of ‘Greatness of Apes’ – my family went away for the weekend and I set up all my stuff in the living room and spent about 40 hours straight working on it. I think I slept there. Although it was the best recording experience I’ve ever had people would still think I’m an asshole if I put it up on Myspace.” The stage show – playdoh, flashcards, backup spoken word artists and all – evolved accidentally and haphazardly. “I guess when you write a big song you want to do something big with it. It was completely unstable and crazy but it was really exciting. It’s all about Man’s eternal battle against laziness and fear. One thing leads to another, and next thing you know you have a trunk full of fuckin’ props and your friends onstage in cheap suit jackets swallowing lit matches.” “Hollywood’s Egyptian tombs – Hollywood and its temples – one day they’ll discover us and learn about America.” - ’Frank Sinatra and Nuclear War’ I notice that we’ve been talking for an hour and Mike has avoided referring to his missing year. I ask him directly – what was up? He doesn’t really want to talk about the specifics. “ A lot of personal shit hit the fan, and I had to stop for a while. My brain was working the whole time thinking about being back, but I just couldn’t. I missed playing and I missed people. The Sidewalk is more about people for me than music. Music screws up so many human relationships, even just in conversation – people get so cynical about it and they take from it and channel it into their lives, which is just exactly backwards.” At least part of it was connected to near-crippling stage fright. “I was just paralyzed with fear and self-consciousness and then afterwards I’d beat the living shit out of myself for not being able to overcome that.” But something shifted in the year Mike was away. “Nowadays

Urban Folk XV ~ page 9

I’ve really got into the idea of being a showman. I have no idea if I’m pulling it off but now I know what I should be doing. It might take a few years but it will get done. I desperately want it to be more than just another guy playing songs. It’s the scariest thing in the world to look the crowd in the eye and be who you are, while that music’s running through you.” We can expect a lot more from Mike in the future, with baby-step collaborations taking place with bands like the Telethons, his own shows, and shows like the re-

cent Neutral Milk Hotel night, where he joined Erin Regan’s all-antistar crew to deliver the whole of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea to a rapt, packed house. Above all, Mike values the scene and the people in it over the music. “It’s really valuable for me to be around great people. And they just happen to make great music. It feels really, really good: playing, trying to live up to myself. Music’s where I want to be and I’m not going to stop any time soon.” myspace.com/mikebaglivi

Exegesis: “Frank Sinatra and Nuclear War”
interpreted by J.J. Hayes
We need to get medieval on your posterior analytics, as it were. Seriously, medieval. Seriously medieval. When it comes to exegesis, what better place to start than with the medieval couplet which lists the four levels of biblical exegesis, which work fine for poetry and song. Especially for a song like Mike Baglivi’s “Frank Sinatra and Nuclear War.” The couplet goes: The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to Faith / The Moral how to act; Anagogy to our destiny. There you have it – the literal sense, the allegorical sense, the moral sense and the anagogical sense. This last is especially relevant to “Frank Sinatra and Nuclear War,” since it is the sense of the passage which refers to our destiny eternal or otherwise, often applied to interpretations of the Book of Revelations (AKA the Apocalypse of John). The Literal Sense Listen to the song. Such listening will describe the song to you far better than my words can. In fact put down this whole thing until you catch Baglivi live, unless he gets a version available for download. Of course you could read selected lyrics right here as well. I find the title interesting, not just because of its content, but in its relationship to the song, which offers explicit mention of neither Frank Sinatra nor nuclear

Urban Folk XV ~ page 10

war. This song would work very well and in a much more mysterious fashion without the title. And imagine hearing it for the first time. Hearing the title first, the song becomes a sort of abstract impressionist painting of some real object, of which the title informs. Hearing the song first and then learning the title sets one up with previously mentioned mystery which then snaps into place – in this listener’s mind anyway. Well, you all know the title anyhow; there’s no use playing coy. Frank Sinatra and Nuclear War. Both, and especially in combination, bring forth one image. The Nevada Desert, wherein both the Rat Pack and nuclear weapons testing had their heyday in the 50s and early 60s. Man, that was what Vegas was about; this was living high in a land under the threat of nuclear annihilation. The desert wherein we tested our own weapons, where we turned the sands to glass, was what surrounded Sinatra singing at the Sands. Nuclear war hung in the air. This is the literal historical context of the title. The world it seems to be slowing down, is it ever gonna stop? / ... from all the pressure that’s underground from everything on top. One wonders if this first line literally refers to the earth spinning on its axis, slowing down at an almost imperceptible rate. But it points to the main question - the main anagogical question, as it were: is the world going to stop? The second line plays on the dual meaning of “underground.” In the song’s context, it leaves you wondering whether we are talking about the pressure of the underground nuclear testing. But the pressure is “from everything on top.” That seems to be the weight of what we’ve built: civilization. That points to a second meaning of underground, significant in time and place given the “underground” movements in poetry, music and politics that were pressing upward against the civilization represented to some by a) Frank Sinatra and b) the threat of nuclear war. Now everytime there’s a sunny day someone tells me we’re melting away A clear reference to global warming and climate change and people’s reaction to it – bringing the slow worldending situation of today in tandem with the threat of nuclear Armageddon under which the Sinatra of that period sang. Outside a war is beginning, while the orchestra plays a new song... Is this war an image of the nuclear war that might have begun, a sort of imaginary revisionist history of what it would have been like as Sinatra sang while the missiles actually began to fly, his song being the “last song?” Is it possibly a reference to the Vietnam War

which was just beginning? Or the cultural war about to explode across the globe, leaving the style and values (or lack thereof) of the society represented in people’s minds by Sinatra behind? Is the “new song” the music that eventually replaced his – is it a reference to Sinatra making an attempt at the latest rock and roll hits or even singing Dylan? The more immediate and powerful historical reference in this case is, I think, the Cuban Missile Crisis. People who lived through it tell me it felt like the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. might finally attempt to annihilate each other, and us. Imagine Sinatra singing during these anxious hours a number that might be his last song. It was a time we can imagine people were not bothering to watch ball games, and painters could easily have not signed their work knowing that no one would be there to see it. This was a time when Dylan was quoted as having thrown together “Hard Rain” out of a random selection of lines he’d collected, since he thought there would not be time to develop them into separate songs. Hollywood’s Egyptian Tombs / Hollywood and its Temples Interesting phrase because it gives the impression of referring to the sets constructed for those great epics being filmed in the age of Sinatra and nuclear war. This slides quickly into America being discovered sometime in the future. This raises the interesting point: will the future learn about America and view its monuments as we do historic temples and tombs, or will they uncover the fake temples and tombs and learn something else about us? From a literal perspective, America was on the edge of being left only for future generations to dig up – Hollywood’s version of Egypt. The Allegorical Sense Since it is only by virtue of the title that we assume that the singer in this song is Sinatra, it becomes clear that Sinatra represents any artist, any singer, at any time when the fear of doom pervades the air. More specifically, just do away with any thought of Sinatra and substitute any artist at such a time. Likewise, nuclear war may represent any particular result of civilization which threatens to extinguish the very species that spawned it. The underground represents the forces that are pushed down by that civilization, be they nature or human beings which, as they push back, begin a sequence of events that is hard to comprehend: And your head is spinning all around and its never gonna stop / Because the pressure that’s underground is almost to the top. But even this line makes one revert to the initial image of underground nuclear testing. This raises the ques-

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tion does the writer equate the responses to pressure as possibly being as destructive as the nuclear weapon? Is it all about constant leashing and unleashing of movements beyond our control? And what happens when it all breaks through the surface? The Moral Sense Listening to this song in full, one can see that it addresses the proper response of the individual to impending disaster. The moral is pre-anagogic as it were. Baglivi describes the state of the individual wrestling with a chaotic and accelerating world: Sometimes you feel we’d have half a chance if you / only could just catch your breath This temptation to believe that somehow we could solve it, if we calmed down, if we didn’t have to race from one crisis to another, from one appointment to another, meets with the realization that none of this is really within one’s control. All that can be controlled is the moral question of the moment: but then you know that it’s out of your hands – it’s the moment, and its gotta last This question of the moment, which may be the final moment, is the key to the entire song. It is a fearful time and, truth be told, we do get scared but “just scared enough to be happy its not up to you.” And so the moral question, the question of what to do with this particular moment in our control, comes down to something else. It comes down to a line reminiscent, I suppose, of Camus or Sartre or some other existentialist writing in the same times that Sinatra was doing his work: And now you know it’s all in your hands: YOU’RE THE MOMENT...and you’ve got to last. But the underpinning of this idea, what supports it, what makes it convincing in this song, is not some existential conclusion of an individual thrown into an absurd world, it is rather found in the anagogic. It is in the face of the future that doesn’t yet exist, that might not exist, or as Lach once put it, simply doesn’t exist at all, that the moral question is fully grounded. The Anagogical Sense Baglivi describes a number of natural responses people have to thoughts of imminent worldwide doom. He does not judge them. In fact, the singer himself participates in some of them. But the chorus in some strange way puts the ground beneath the singer’s realization of the proper reaction. but there’s only one note that survives the whole / there’ll be only one note moving on.

In a certain tradition of thought which reached an apogee in the very same medieval age when we began this piece, it was your last moment, your final earthly state, that determined your future state wherever that might be. Indeed, some writers would advise “Keep always before you the moment of your death.” These thoughts occur in an obvious apocalyptic scenario, as in the Book of Revelations, where we will actually be judged, but we don’t know when that judgment may be. In this song we approach it from the other side. Here we have a sense of what is worthy and good, a moment, when one can sing along, and know life, is not reduced to finishing up with the most toys. The song leaves a real sense of this moment, the moment which in fact is each of us (for what are we but what we are at this moment, and who else is in control of that moment?) singing a possible final note. It is this that will take us into eternity, be that through archaeological memory, the history books or something deeper and more eternal in the world. Sinatra singing as he did, and everyone joining in that particular song, would have at the moment of nuclear Armageddon left only the last note. So it is with us. The world didn’t actually end back then. That’s when you realize that all these last notes that survive, all these individual last notes we may be singing, are what make up the present. The present, this moment, is the last note, about to go forth into a world that does not yet exist, may never exist, or simply isn’t. So the singer insists that we are each this moment, and we’ve got to stay this moment, for in a literal, allegorical and moral sense, this present is the end time; it is the final note of the whole song, and it is up to us to keep singing, to keep this moment going, to keep us going, because it always is the last note even if many more happen to follow.

Urban Folk XV ~ page 12

The unexpected rise, inevitable fall and unlikely return of Paleface
by Butch Ross
The first sign that Paleface is a pretty down to earth guy only comes after you’ve realized that a surprising number of the people he’s crossed paths with are either cult legends or capital-F Famous. He toured with the Breeders, had Beck as a roommate, he recorded with Kramer and was introduced to songwriting by Daniel Johnston. Were he to tell you all this, PF (as he prefers to be called) would sound like some name-dropping L.E.S. poseur, the kind who live in Staten Island while claiming a Williamsburg residence (someone who says, “I’m not a waitress, I’m an actress” without a trace of irony). But PF doesn’t drop names, he’s never read his own press, he is neither a wannabe nor an also-ran. His entire career reads like a “behind the music” fed through a Brownian Improbability Drive; he was there at the beginning and is one of the few people that can lay claim to shaping the sound that is AntiFolk (if indeed there is a sound). Daniel Johnston was his mentor, Kramer his producer, and Beck… well, as Ramblin’ Jack Elliot was to young Bob Dylan, so PF was to Beck. PF’s career has ridden the rise and fall and rise again of the NYAF scene, and he is part of gravity that shapes its tides. When I was introduced to the AF scene in the late 90’s, you were deemed AntiFolk in part by how much you sounded like Paleface (If you want to hear what this sounded like, Burn and Rob and Get Off are still available at palefaceonline.com). PF received an unlikely introduction to performing via Daniel Johnston. The volatile genius was in town to record an album with the band Sonic Youth, a CD that was being produced by Shimmy Disc owner and legendary indie producer Kramer. PF recounts that Daniel was “troubled” and had claimed to see “the Devil in Steve Shelley.” Shelley, who had been hosting Johnston, needed to find him a new place to stay. PF knew Shelley through mutual
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Just About to Burn

photos by Crackerfarm
friends and was in a position to put Johnston up for a few weeks. When Johnston wanted to hit some open mics in the area, PF – who had been ‘diddling’ on a few chords – tagged along, and before long was writing and performing himself. That same infectious spirit was later caught by a certain Beck Hansen while living up with PF. To this day, Beck’s acoustic material bears an eerie resemblance to that of his former housemate. The Lower East Side scene had not yet congealed and it was at a fledgling AntiHoot that PF met former Stooges and Doors manager Danny Fields. By 1991, Fields got PF signed to Polydor records, “I thought it was cool cause it was James Brown’s label.” PF recalls. He did a couple of shitty tours opening for the Judybats and the Crash Test Dummies, before successfully beginning to build an audience opening for Billy Bragg. PF began to record a second record for Polydor but by then he was ”too drunk.” The label shelved it. From here, PF gets an offer to record on Shimmy Disk with legendary producer Kramer. There is a legend that “with a touch of a button” Kramer erased all the masters of a record that would have been called Generic America. If this is true, PF makes no mention of it. He only says of his experience with Kramer, “his whole empire was crumbling around him. He had Ween, King Missile, and Bongwater, and his whole world was falling apart.” PF was also not in the best of places, but he still had a long way to fall. In 1993 manager Fields, who was tight with Sire president Seymour Stein, got PF a deal there. Sire was then the flagship of the burgeoning so-called “alternative” music scene with bands the Throwing Muses, Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr. PF’s time on Sire would be short. “Seymour Stein quit like five days after Get Off! was released,” he recounts. Undaunted, he set out to tour behind the record. “I wasn’t sure if

I was on the label at that point, but I had some friends at Sire who sent Danny a bunch of stuff.” He went on tour with the Breeders and Lutefisk. All were pretty fed up with the music business, which they compensated for with overindulgence. “Everyone on that tour was a wreck,” PF recalls. Towards the end of that tour PF hit the bottom, “I crashed, and my liver like almost gave out.” Paleface checked into a hospital, dropped out of the scene and got clean but it was a long, long recovery, “My immune system was just gone and so if I’d get like a cold or something I’d get an infection and I’d just be a mess, then get well for like six weeks and it would start all over again.” It wasn’t until around the turn of the millennium that PF was finally able to perform, back at the same open mics that had earlier launched him. As it was in the early nineties, he was in the right place at the right time. “I came back in 2000, and the open mic was just full of (folks like) Nellie Mackay, Joie DBG, the Moldy Peaches, Langhorne Slim.” Seeing neither an also-ran nor a has-been looking to make a comeback, these people adored PF and reintroduced him to their audiences. About this time PF also met North Carolina band The Avett Brothers. “Meeting the Avett brothers was a big deal, cause they were doing it all themselves and having success at it. I began to see that you don’t need to have a label to do it.” PF’s latest incarnation, and its namesake album, has grown organically. Though PF had been working on a new Paleface sound “with loops and these kinds of things,” He also began working a little side project with banjo and dobro player Breadfoot that they were calling Just About to Burn. “I wrote a lot of tunes,” He says, “and me and this guy were doing this country folk thing on the side. We did a couple of gigs and decided we needed a drummer. Mo (Monica Samalot) was kicking around so we asked her. Basically, we decided to make this record: I called a friend who had a studio and we just did it.”

As a trio, the group was well received in the city, Audiences, according to PF, “were really just digging it. It resonated with a lot of people.” Yet like so much of PF’s career, the project almost fizzled just as it was about to burn. “The banjo player quit, so I was like, ‘now what?’” PF chose to carry on, “I was digging writing these kinds of songs and I didn’t want to stop doing it,” he says. “I just decided to get some really good musicians.” “Someone had suggested Lenny (Molotov). We added a bass player and before we knew it I had a bunch of tunes.” All this time PF was still trying to get his beats and Beck thing together, even though his heart was clearly in the folk camp. ”The two different projects were getting to be too much so I merged them together and called the record Paleface and Just About to Burn. Now I’m back to writing just as Paleface.” The songs on JATB are as good as any from the PF cannon, still full of the punky energy and acoustic thrash they also are tempered by wisdom (and temperance). The anger of Get Off has been replaced with outrage, but also addresses more mature emotions like remorse, love and surprisingly, fun.

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Since recording the record PF has trimmed the band down to just him and Mo, and hit the road hard. When I interviewed him, he was on the phone at a Wendy’s outside of Chattanooga, TN. According to PF, the manager of the Avett Brothers told him, “Dude, you gotta get out of town, you can’t be in a city and tour.” They took their marching orders seriously. “We just got out and ended up in a parking lot in Tennessee.” This is not to say that they’ve fled the Big Apple for greener southern pastures. Mo is quick to point out, “I convinced him to pack up and hit the road... but we never said ‘we’re moving, this is our last show’.” The band will be back in NYC to play some gigs in May ’08, before continuing to tour full-time. So while they touch down alternately in Concord, North Carolina and New York, more often than not where they live is the van: playing the South, selling CDs out of the back, and sleeping in rest stops.

Given that AntiFolk is overwhelmingly, defiantly DIY, (except for you fucks who think it’s a back door to pop stardom) It seems ironic that PF should come so late to the DIY party. PF agrees. “It’s a fucking miracle that I got on two major labels in the nineties and those records got released.” Thus he joins a growing number of people in his generation, staring down forty but unrepentant and unremorseful in their decision to pursue the art life. The dream of being a punk rock legend is tempered by realism (and more than one brush with stardoom); but the belief that this is their calling is no less potent. In speaking of the upcoming plans Paleface is shortsighted and focused, while remaining optimistic and flexible about the future. “We’re gonna continue to tour on this record, keep writing songs and getting better. Maybe in the next 6 months we’ll record again, so we’ll see what happens. We’re feeling good, we’re feeling like this is what we need to be doing.” palefaceonline.com

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Get in the Minivan
The Ballad of Throat Culture
by Brook Pridemore
When nine people show up anywhere, popping out of a conversion van like clowns out of a Volkswagen Beetle, it's a spectacle. Every single time. That's the first thing I learned while on tour with Endless Mike and the Beagle Club, an excellent band and a great group of people from Johnstown, PA. The second thing I learned was, good luck getting to take charge of the stereo. The third thing is that traveling with a gang of eight likeminded people around you, while cumbersome and often overwhelming, has its advantages. I heard recently that Bob Dylan once said something like, "Most guys want to start bands so they can walk down the street together, like they're a gang. Fuck that, I wanna walk down the street by myself." And I can't help but feel like that, most of the time. Being a folksinger has a lot of unsung advantages. 1. Totalitarian decision-making: I've heard stories and read rock biographies about bands making decisions based on vote. The most nightmarish case I've heard of is the Ramones, who went through extreme infighting throughout their career over what

photo by Lauren Terilli
songs they would release as singles, where to tour, etc. Every little bit of minutiae put up to a fourmember democracy. Being a folksinger cuts out a lot of the little details-only one guy (or girl) has to get time off work to travel, and only one person stands to gain (or lose) from any decision made. 2. Cost-Effeciency: I can tour in a car – or a bus. I have had almost no problem getting through customs going in and out of foreign countries (even doing it without an ID the last time). Try doing any of that with a drumkit, amps and a bunch of cramped, sweaty dudes. But I wish that I was in a band. Touring (or at least performing) alone has its shares of pitfalls as well. The first is often mind-numbing loneliness: when the show's a bust, or there's some stupid van drama, there's nobody there to bitch to. Even when things are going great, there's little to no point in celebrating with the same two guys you've been celebrating/bitching with night after night.

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The second disadvantage is proving your value as a performer. Equally fervent in the punk house and sports bar environs, there exists an instant and nearly crippling stigma against the solo acoustic songwriter – that a kid who can't get his shit together to start a band isn't worth listening to. I've often gotten around general apathy by hollering louder than people care to ignore, but even I'm starting to notice changes in my voice from years of hollering. I used to be a Boy Soprano. Out with the Beagle Club, there existed the immediate advantage of having an enthusiastic audience of eight at every show. A bag of tambourines and shakers supplied simple and inobtrusive accompaniment to my often completely non-electric shows. And, at the show in Marion, NC, having an enthusiastic gang around me helped stir a room full of would-be detractors into a warm and hospitable crowd. It’s a Friday, at the ass-end of October 2007. The great thing about touring the last week of October is that you get to play a whole week straight of Halloween shows. Every night, a different local band does all of their Misfits tunes, kids are out in full costume. It's like regular Halloween, to the seventh degree. Marion is no different (in fact, the first night of the preHalloween sweeps week). A hollowed-out basement that looked like it used to be a Sunday School, houses, and about fifty skeletons, pirates and Napoleons Dynamite. Nobody wants to be the opening act, so fuck it, Beagle Club goes first, generating a big dance party with their punk/pop/rock/greatness. Two more bands played, one doing a full set of Misfits covers in full

makeup (righteous!) and one doing indecipherable noise (headache!), and then me. Lots of yelling on my part, Beagle Club around me, shaking shakers and singing along. Kids starting to sing and dance along too, drummer for next band starts tapping with the beat. Instantly, one sad guy with a guitar becomes eight like-minded co-conspirators, crazy but benevolent out-of-towners spreading a joyful noise. Next band, loud pop-punk. Had forgotten how boring MXPX is. Singer points at bassist, says, "My Girlfriend's pregnant. Now you guys know I've had sex." Up ‘til that point, I honestly thought she drank too much. We laugh at noise band from Asheville who chastises the audience for not dancing, then bleeds violent noise through concrete walls, driving everyone into street with hands over ears. Touring bands make not nearly enough money, laugh together, big hugs all around. Nine benevolent loonies crawl back into the clown car to do it all over again. B-man, who is never sarcastic, even when he sounds it, plays auxiliary everything in the Beagle Club. He tells us later that, while I was playing, the drummer for one of the other bands mimed blowing his brains out in disgust. B-man claims to have then told him, "I laugh at your small brain and then forget all about you." What would have been a pretty tame night by myself turned into a great time had with a bunch of friends. So I went home and started a band. We're called the Valley Cubs, and it's me and my roommates. I don't know if it'll end up being as fun as being out with the Beagle Club, but we're certainly gonna try.

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The Fortified Winter AntiFolk Fest 2008
7:30-Kenny Cambre, 8-Andrew Duncan, 8:30-Ben Krieger, 9-Kelsey Bennett, 9:30-Dan Costello, 10-Art Sorority For Girls, 11-Carl Creighton. Wednesday, February 20 7:30-M.Lamar, 8-Peter Dizozza, 8:30-Frank Hoier, 9-Dibs, 9:30-Elizabeth Devlin, 10-Casey Holford, 11- AntiFolk Reads Bernard King. Thursday, February 21 7:30-The Elastic No-No Band, 8-Joe Crow Ryan, 8:30-Brendan Kerwin, 9-John Houx, 9:30-Ben Godwin, 10-Soft Black, 11-Phoebe Kreutz, 12-Level II. Friday, February 22

Tuesday, February 19 Sunday, February 24 Monday, February 25 Tuesday, February 26


7:30-Herb Scher and The Key-Lime Pie Revue, 8-Preston Spurlock, 8:30-Bendik, 9-Erin Regan, 10-Mike Baglivi, 11-Creaky Boards, 12-The Telethons. Saturday, February 23

7:30-Scary Mansion, 8-Charles Latham (Philly AntiFolk), 8:30-The Fools, 9-Brook Pridemore and The Valley Cubs, 10-Lach, 11-Don McCloskey, 12-The Humans.

7:30-Masheengun Kelly, 8-Eric Lippe, 8:30-Liv Carrow, 9-Nan Turner, 9:30-Yoko Kikuchi, 10-Major Matt Mason USA, 11-Ivan Sandomire.

7:30-The Antihoot with Lach. Sign-up 7:30.


7:30-Scott Alexander, 8-Pablo Das, 8:30-Bryan McPherson (Boston AntiFolk), 9-Matt Singer, 10-Goodtimes Goodtimes (London AntiFolk), 11-Michael Wagner. Wednesday, February 27 7:30-Brian Speaker, 8-Brownbird Rudy Relic, 8:30-Isto, 9-Poez, 9:30-Debe Dalton, 10-Eric Wolfson and The War Cabinet, 11-Jason Trachtenburg and The National Distractions. Thursday, February 28 7:30-Emily Price, 8-Peter Nevins, 8:30-Somer, 9-Josh Fox, 9:30-Alisha Westerman, 10-Darwin Deez, 11-The Sprinkle Genies, 12-A Brief View of The Hudson. Friday, February 29

7:30-Nate Awesome, 8-Jeffrey Marsh and Rick Sorkin, 8:30-Pearl and The Beard, 9-Dan Fishback, 10-Daniel Bernstein and The Happy Zealots, 11-Ching Chong Song.
Urban Folk XV ~ page 18


The Winter AntiFolk Fest 2008 is upon us, brought to you at the Sidewalk Café (conveniently situated at 94 Avenue A) by Fortified. You can find most of the performers on the artist pages at antifolk.net, or on MySpace Music, and many of their albums will be on sale at the soundboard during the shows. Tuesday, February 19 Kenny Cambre ~ If AntiFolk is Americana, then Cambre is AntiFolk. He washed ashore from New Orleans with songs that can make you want to cry, or drink moonshine by moonlight. Andrew Duncan ~ He left home after high school with only a guitar, and arrived at Sidewalk to write songs in the basement and sing “Cecelia” like it’s his own. Apparently, there are fiery times ahead. Ben Krieger ~ Operatic pop at its finest, like Queen meets XTC. He may jump on stage to do Guns ‘N Roses covers with Mike Baglivi. Kelsey Bennett ~ Well-crafted songs. Granddaughter of Tony Bennett, she comes down from Cambridge to play. She lists the Marquis de Sade as her number one influence, which we find disturbing. Seek out the pretty photo of her with the snake and apple. Dan Costello ~ He had a dream last night he was a tape recorder and was making a mix tape for you. He’s the barrelhouse piano player you shouldn’t shoot, and has new songs after spending January touring the country to get his head out of New York. Art Sorority for Girls ~ Daoud Tyler-Ameen’s band no longer consists of sorority girls, but lots of girls still come to the show. There’s rock-and-roll hidden in his layered pop. Carl Creighton ~ He recently formed a band that gives him a whole new dimension, something like Elton John meets The Eagles. We know him for his beautiful piano ballad to his sister, “Minnesota.” Wednesday, February 20 M. Lamar ~ A classically-trained counter-tenor, he creates a soundscape that reaches into the street. Jezabel Music calls him “an operatic loon trapped in a piano.” He explains, “What so many right-wing Christians don’t seem to understand is to be more Christ-like is to be like a nigga hanging from a tree.” Peter Dizozza ~ Author of many musicals over the years, sometimes performed by AntiFolkers. He may be best known for Pro-Choice on Mental Health. You will get piano, you will get dinner theater, you will get his philosophy, all for the loan of an ear. Frank Hoier ~ Known for “Jesus Don’t Give Tax Breaks to the Rich” and “The Death of Jerry Falwell.” A second album is due out in the Spring. He performs weekly at the old-time, folk and blues Roots ‘n Ruckus show in Red Hook. Dibs ~ Dibson T. Hoffweiler’s charming songs include one about Brooklyn’s ill-fated Domino sugar factory. Known for his innovative guitar work with Huggabroomstik and Urban Barnyard, he records with too many bands to mention. Elizabeth Devlin ~ She plays the autoharp and may be the best-dressed woman on the scene. Abelard and Heloise and Egon Schiele appear in her songs. Soft Black writes, “Intense and abstract folk enchantress; psychedelic as fuck but I’ve heard she’s never tripped.” Casey Holford ~ He writes the kind of pop songs that get stuck in your head after the show, with a seasoned guitar style. If he’s with the band you’ll hear some wicked great arrangements. AntiFolk Reads Bernard King ~ Though his poetry isn’t meant for public reading, Bernard King can’t stop others from doing it. Retired from performing, he lives with squirrels out on Staten Island. Thursday, February 21 Elastic No-No Band ~ Justin Remer likes to perform in his bathrobe, flanked by Herb Scher and Preston Spurlock, at whom he may yell. The album My 3 Addictions explores his love for food, women, and films. It’s hard to think of anything more entertaining. Joe Crow Ryan ~ A one-man free-jazz, spoken word, folkatonic experience, he used to wear a string of bells around his neck. On uke and piano he weaves weird tales of America’s byways and down-and-out subway busking. Brendan Kerwin ~ Down-home tunes from a soulful, thoughtful heart. John Houx ~ After rambling across the country, he’s finally bought new shoes, but is more comfortable performing barefoot. Steeped in American folk and followed by comparisons to Dylan and Guthrie, Houx is what Dylan would be today if he’d retained his youth.

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Ben Godwin ~ You don’t expect the sound of Tom Waits to come from this bespectacled Englishman, but he pulls it off. Soft Black ~ Prone to mystic experiences, Vincent Cacchione hasn’t been the same since a girl put a spell on him. What Springsteen and Dylan did in the 70s, Vin does well today. He’ll be hawking some of his new music on vinyl, and his violinist Clancy is not to be missed. Phoebe Kreutz ~ We’ve heard the term “joke folk” applied to her, but she’s not all fun and games. She can make you cry if she wants, and when performing with Urban Barnyard, she can sing astonishingly like Grace Slick. Really. Level II ~ There’s a little Randy Newman snarl in The Carpenter, AKA Ben Folstein, but it’s a laid-back good time. You should hoist some beers during the show.

Friday, February 22 Herb Scher and the Key-Lime Pie Review ~ A photo exhibit of Scher’s AntiFolk portraits hung at Sidewalk last year, capturing some of the artists at their best. His music has been described as Jim Henson filtered through Harvey Pekar. Preston Spurlock ~ With synthesized raw energy, he sings profoundly of alligators and frogs, brings you to weird psychological landscapes, and may veer into death metal. He’s been known to kick instruments around, and completely reinvents “Hotel California.” Bendik ~ A punk-rock stalwart, Joe sometimes performs with daughter Izzy. He’s electric, sweaty, and he’s been known to jump on tables. He may sing “Malltown” and other attacks on what’s wrong with society. Buy him a red wine. Erin Regan ~ A doyenne of the scene who, after something of a hiatus, is again devoting all of her time to writing. You’ll think you’re listening to stories about your own life, and she hits some Joni Mitchell notes.

Urban Folk XV ~ page 20

Mike Baglivi ~ He gives big stage performances on little stages and can get any audience to sing on the chorus. His music runs like an existential epic towards the end of the world, and he covers a song from Charlotte’s Web, too. Creaky Boards ~ Andrew Hoepfner is a cross between Freddie Mercury and Brian Wilson who sweats like Rod Stewart, all climbing under and over each other on stage, or falling off of it. Recommended for a profound pop experience. The Telethons ~ Two guys from New Jersey, a drummer and a singer on guitar and piano. A punk They Might Be Giants, they have some of the most interesting writing around. Saturday, February 23 Scary Mansion ~ Leah Hayes, with Michael Leviton and others. We remember her sad songs accompanied by thunder stick, but Scary Mansion’s been out about town for a while and we’re anxious to hear what they’ve been up to. Charles Latham ~ King of Chapel Hill AntiFolk transplanted to Philly. Allegedly, he’s the heir to the K-Y jelly fortune who blew his inheritance on an underground bunker full of instruments, recording equipment, and liquor. The latest in a long line of artists who have come to the scene after a fall from grace. The Fools ~ Two women, guitar and bass, songs that are like the calm after the storm, and somehow they make sense of things. Brook Pridemore and the Valley Cubs ~ He tours the country six months out of the year like it’s his lifeblood, and his most recent album is Sings Greatest AntiFolk Hits! He doesn’t drink, but sounds great when you do. Lach ~ The Godfather of the scene. Who knows where you’d be if it weren’t for him? J.J. Hayes writes, “Lach’s music has the same sensibility that allowed the Clash to rescue punk rock from its own narcissism.” You can pre-order his new album, and “Former President Bush” and “The Hillary Clinton Song” are also available. Don McCloskey ~ An unholy cross between Kid Rock, the Kinks, and Robin Williams. People will drink and have a good time, and it will be loud. The Humans ~ Twin brothers who create a big strange wall of sound. For a while they shortened their name to The Hum, but they’re fully human again. AntiFolk alumni, they hail from Staten Island where, on every street corner, their stickers can be found.

Sunday, February 24 Masheengun Kelly ~ The charming alter ego of Neil Kelly of Huggabroomstik. We may not see him in a fur cape or playing leads behind his back at this show, but there’s no telling what else might happen. Eric Lippe ~ The roving photographer who for many years captured Regina Spektor and others on the scene in moody black and white. Most recently he performed in the Rachel Trachtenburg Morning Show and demonstrated how to peel a banana. His discs are rare and he doesn’t perform his quiet songs often. Liv Carrow ~ Originally with Griffin and the True Believers, she trucked her belongings from Philadelphia to Brooklyn to record an album of songs about fortunetellers, hermits, and putting eggs in a single basket. Nan Turner ~ When she sings, she may also drum, and watch out if she’s been drinking Sparks. She recently appeared as Mary in “An AntiFolk Christmas,” a short film by Dan Fishback. Yoko Kikuchi ~ She’s one half of the band Dream Bitches, wields a guitar like a weapon, and sings nostalgic songs with keen edges.

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Michael Wagner ~ Plays the ukulele like Thurston Moore plays guitar: frequently. Wednesday, February 27 Brian Speaker ~ Beautifully crafted songs and blues, and he just finished his first West Coast tour. After working sound, you might find him relaxing with Debe Dalton and Darcie at the bar.

Major Matt Mason USA ~ A long-time presence on the scene, he runs Olive Juice Music and produces the albums of Toby Goodshank and many others. His plate is always full and his new album is called Senile Pie Strive Pip Melancholy. Ivan Sandomire ~ His band is Ivan and the Terribles, and he fills the room with memories we can almost share. He’s been described as Radiohead meets good music. imdb.com/name/nm1465871/ Tuesday, February 26 Scott Alexander ~ It’s rare to cite John Cale’s solo work as an influence. We hear he’s like Jonathan Richman with ADHD, or Tom Lehrer by way of Allan Sherman with some prog chords thrown in, just to throw you off. Pablo Das ~ Formerly of the bittersweet Testosterone Kills, he writes some of the most sweetest, bitterest, sincerest, rockingest tunes on the scene. Bryan McPherson ~ The king of Boston AntiFolk has been called “hard-driving and punk as fuck,” and Filter Magazine says “Bryan sings like we’re lucky that he doesn’t own a gun.” Matt Singer ~ The kind of stuff that makes ‘smartrock’ actually work. He’ll be part of the Elliot Smith tribute at Bar 4 later this month. Do you know the story that he’s telling? It’s outrageous... Good Times Good Times ~ London AntiFolk. Over the pond, they do things a little differently. How differently? Come out and see!

Brownbird Rudy Relic ~ He sings what he calls the “holler blues,” has greased-up hair and Buddy Holly glasses, and writes songs of despair and heartbreak. Sylvia Plath is one of his heroes, and he sings like demons are on his tail. Or trail. Whatever. Isto ~ Like Zappa as a Smothers Brother. Frank Sinatra and SUN RA are top friends on his music page, and there’s a song where he sings “Banana, banana, banana” to the Pope. His performance has been called mind-twisting. He is loud. Poez ~ Brilliant... iconoclastic... savvy... stark… angry. One of NYC’s finest spoken word artists – ever. Debe Dalton ~ She’s been called the godmother of AntiFolk, a banjo-player that eschews the folk Establishment even though she’s more folk than they are. Songs don’t get any realer than her originals, or interpretations like “Oh, Susannah.” She can often be found by the side of the stage drinking Guinness. Eric Wolfson and the War Cabinet ~ Fist-pumping songs, North Country ballads, some Elvis Costello mixed with Rolling Thunder Revue. Band members have cabinet minister posts, and you know he believes it when he sings “Sleeping is a Sucker’s Game.” Jason Trachtenburg and the National Distractions ~ Of Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players fame. He makes psychedelic pop, and with the band behind him it’s an onslaught. His stage banter is not to be missed – or understood.

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Thursday, February 28 Emily Price ~ Brand new to the scene, a jazz-pop vocalist with cello who describes herself as a tall cocktail of Ella Fitzgerald and Zoe Keating, among others. She may be accompanied by a hand-made record player, which we’d like to see. Peter Nevins and the Standard Library of Mystery ~ Resident bouzouki-player, Nevins manages to sound like the Incredible String Band without having been influenced by them. If you took a 1930s collegian and raised him in the post-Viet Nam era, Peter would be the result. A graphic artist, he designs album art for musicians such as Gillian Welch (as well as this cover). Somer ~ A rock-and-roller with an acoustic guitar who can really belt it out, and the dim light of the soundboard shows off her ravenhaired beauty well. Josh Fox ~ A haiku: Ev’ryone is best / when following their nature / that’s all he tries for. myspace.com/ joshuacharlesfox Alisha Westerman ~ Alisha Westerman has written songs for 11 years. The first was about an anchor; the most recent was about Siddartha. Darwin Deez ~ He looks innocent with the curls hanging from under his cap, but that’s before you see him on stage. He likens his sound to cats banging on trash cans with wooden kitchen utensils. The Sprinkle Genies ~ A real rock band that can jam and follow a discoinfluenced song with some Led Zeppelin. They will not disappoint. A Brief View of the Hudson ~ NYPress called them the best Folk Duo of 2005, the same year they released their Art Star Sounds Compilation, forever changing the way we look at… well, everything.

Friday, February 29 Nate Awesome ~ Plus a couple of other guys named Awesome. They might make a kind of punk bluegrass, or a cross between the Eels and the Marshall Tucker Band. They’re big in Lilliput. Jeffrey Marsh & Rick Sorkin ~ This is Sonny & Cher meets Kurt Weill in a late night uncensored format, blending cabaret, musical theater selections, pop music deconstruction, and comedy. Pearl and the Beard ~ A soaring, stomping celebration of sound that warms both heart and toes. Born on the frothy shores of Brooklyn, this nascent lovechild of Kismet and Devotion pours every ounce of their being into each tenderly crafted hymn. Dan Fishback ~ Gay or not gay? A solo artist who has two bands, Cheese on Bread and the Faggots, he writes surreal, comedic political theater pieces that sometimes feature AntiFolk performers. He’s happy that his parents will be at this show. Daniel Bernstein and the Happy Zealots ~ Described as having a voice like Ethel Merman on downers, Dan sings pure poetry and writes songs from the grave, backed up by a great ensemble. Ching Chong Song ~ Since the recent release of their long-awaited album, they’ve performed at the Ukrainian Center and touched something in the Slavic soul. Their songs are as much staged vignettes as music. She plays the saw, he plays the piano, there is laughter, tears, and sex. You could be in 20s Berlin.

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Sophist Folk
the frog and the scorpion
Said the Frog to the Scorpion “I’ll give you no ride Your cousin and my cousin Done sunk down and died.” Said the arch stinger, “My cousin I’m not Nor Nature nor nurture comprises my what, by which I mean my essential being, my whatness as it were, if you see. For I am an existential scorpion, a believer in free will. I am determined by nothing, I am responsible for it all, I choose to partake of necessities, I choose the temp jobs, I choose the suit and tie if I so choose. All your necessities, dear Froggie, dear Froggie, from your a-going courtin’ to that sword and pistol by your side, uh-huh, you choose them, for you could certainly choose otherwise. Your cousin was under no compulsion...” “Ah, hah!” cried the Frog, “here your argument fails. For yes, my cousin chose to give your cousin a ride across the water, but the choice to kill my cousin (and drown as well), was no choice of my cousin’s. Save me your existentialism. So your cousin died crying it was his nature to kill my cousin. Your denial of an essential nature to a being brands your own cousin ignorant or a liar, while you falsely shift responsibility. Unless, of course you are saying it was your cousin’s nature to kill my cousin, and my cousin should have been aware of it, in which case, yes, some responsibility floats in that direction. Thus responsibility only attaches if there is a nature to a creature. An essence if you will.” The Scorpion sighed. This was going to be a tougher negotiation than he imagined. He had been on tour for months and these northern wet climes were getting to him. He needed desert living, but this damn river stood in his way. He figured if he could hop a ride on this amphibian he could move on. “Look,” said the Scorpion, “I’m not my cousin. I’m me. I play this little scorpion guitar and I sing. I should be afraid of you. Have you not heard the Sewing Circle’s ‘Great American Bullfrog vs. The Pacific Northwest Newt?’” “I have indeed heard it. It is quite an amazing work of songcraft. Having heard it, I will not be eating Pacific Northwest Newts. I am not culturally ignorant.” “Now is my turn for an aha,” exclaimed the Scorpion, “for clearly you believed Preston Spurlock’s song, for any number of reasons but also for the clear implication that the story was inspired by fact, and that it would lack much of its entertainment value if it were purely fiction. You trust the singer...” “Oh, so I trust one singer on one matter, I’m supposed to trust you?” “Not at all, I merely point out that the basis for your dietary judgment is a reasoned response to a particular poetic report. On the other hand, what reasons do you have to base your belief in this obvious fable? Look, when I mentioned your going a-courtin’, it was just a reference to an old song, but I have no reason to believe that song. Your fear of me is about as valid as if I were to accuse you of performing acts of interspecies mating.” The Frog’s deep voice turned a sexy shade of sultry. “And what makes you think I don’t?” The Scorpion’s metabolism spiked and the Frog turned away. Just then the Scorpion heard that he was on double deck. He was sick of being called a killer and undependable by nature. That stupid Frog was getting him angry. That last remark made him angrier. Tease, he thought. The Scorpion grabbed his guitar and began a rather long journey upstairs. He dodged numerous feet but scurried fast enough to make it to a relatively dark corner near the stage.

by J.J. Hayes

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Lach introduced him. He got up on stage. He hooked his little guitar into the sound system although the plug was half as large as his guitar. He asked someone to lay the microphone on the floor, since the stand wouldn’t go as low as he. “How you doin’ this evening, Scorpion?” said Lach. “Oh I’m fine, Lach, how are you?” “Scorpion, before you start, can I ask you a question?” “Sure, Lach, shoot.” “You wouldn’t be a Scorpio, by any chance would you?” The Scorpion laughed as did the crowd. “No, I’m a Virgo, actually.” “When’s your birthday?” “February.” Someone shouted from the crowd that that was Aquarius and not Virgo. Lach got to the punch line before the Scorpion. “I don’t think he was talking astrology.” Scorpion sang a strange response to “Ring of Fire,” in which it appeared that the singer, caught in a ring of fire set by soldiers stationed in the desert, had stung himself to death.

Distant laughter of green clad boots What can I do but turn on myself Can’t turn on them, can’t turn on them And I can’t turn on you, I can’t turn on you But I can’t turn to you, I can’t turn to you The Frog, meanwhile, having had a few more drinks and being somewhat intrigued by the possibility that Scorpio was Virgo, and thinking the song had merit way beyond its actual objective worth, began considering giving this hook-tailed creature a ride. Frog approached Scorpion and began a conversation that was all excitement and common interest. By 4am. (after the scorpion nearly drowned in his Chamomile tea), the Frog was about to suggest to Scorpion to stay the night at the Frog’s place. Unfortunately Scorpion chose that moment to say he got a ride from Baglivi and Soft Black who were heading back to Jersey, but that it had been really nice hanging out. Frog slept late that Tuesday; Scorpion eventually made it back to warmer climes. They befriended each other on MySpace, but rarely write or leave comments. Well, class, that’s it. Your assignment is to write a story, song, poem, or reflection from either the Frog’s point of view or the Scorpion’s point of view or both. Send your results to jjfhayes@gmail.com. Winners get to have the implied philosophical underpinnings of their entire oeuvre exposed and analyzed in a future issue. If no entrants are forthcoming I will have to deal with a subject that has been on everybody’s mind, I’m sure: AntiFolk and Fundamental Theology. You have been warned.

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Social Networking 101
by Jessi Robertson
I am a geek. No, I do not say this shamefacedly. I am quite proud of my geekdom. Nowadays, the pursuit of a successful music career means dabbling in a bit of everything. If you want to make money as an independent musician, you need to think of yourself as a private business with a life-cycle that includes generating product, marketing, and distribution. Social networking is evolving at an extreme pace. Every musician I know has a MySpace page. Although MySpace wasn’t the first social networking site, it was a breakthrough in demonstrating the power of online community. Wikipedia, a collaborative database edited by a community of users, defines social networking as “…a social structure made of nodes (which are generally individuals or organizations) that are tied by one or more specific types of relations, such as values, visions, idea, financial exchange, friends, kinship, dislike, conflict, trade, web links, sexual relations, disease transmission (epidemiology), or airline routes.” If you’re looking for more info on social networking, visit Mashable.com. Mashable is a blog devoted entirely to social networking news, so you can find out about the latest Sudoku community or Pet Lovers network. Mashable has a lot of great info and breaking news about every aspect of online community. My focus has been on sites that help musicians. These are a few of my favorites: Eventful Eventful is a site that allows music fans to keep track of when their favorite artists are coming to town, with a brilliant twist. Fans can press a button to “demand” that a musician perform in their area. For the independent musician planning a tour, this tool can be infinitely useful. It might lead you to book a show in a new place, or you may be able to get into a better venue based on your “demand.” The site provides a widget that can be added to MySpace, your personal website, blogs, etc. http://eventful.com c|net Download.com The editor’s at this site listen to every piece of music that is uploaded. The downside is it can take up to a week before a new song goes live on the site. The upside is the possibility that you’ll receive an editor’s review or be featured as an editor’s pick. Based on your genre and influences, the site automatically updates a section called “Artists you may also like.” You will often find a link to yourself on a major label artist’s page and vice versa. The editors also choose your similar artists. This not only helps new fans find your music, but also give you a feel for the genre a music professional would place you in. http://music.download.com AmieStreet Upload your songs to Amie Street. The songs are free to download at first, but as the popularity of your songs increase, so does the download price. Artists receive 70%, and there are several payment options including direct deposit, a refillable debit card, and PayPal. Fans receive “Street Cred” for recommending a song that rises in popularity. There’s a great player widget that can be added to most websites. Songs can be purchased directly from the widget. http://amiestreet.com Garageband / iLike / Facebook The connection of these three very different music sites is an example of social networks taking the next evolutionary step. All the sites offer interesting features, but the ease of connection between the three creates a unique, highly useful organism. Garageband lets you upload songs for peer review (you must complete reviews or pay to enter). The reviewers have no knowledge of the song or artist as the reviews are performed. Based on the results, your song may move up the charts, advance to further rounds, and possibly win some prizes. iLike interacts with your iTunes and automatically updates a page showing which artists are in your library and what you’ve been listening to. You can flag songs and artists that you like, and add reviews. Songs that have been uploaded to Garageband are automatically added to the iLike site and an artist page is created for you. Like Download.com, an interactive list of related or similar major label artists is displayed. Tour information can be tracked, much like Eventful.

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Facebook is really a site for friends, not random people you meet online. It’s a break from the inane MySpace spam. When I log into Facebook I go to see what my friends are up to. One of the best things about Facebook is the Applications feature. You can select various widgets to add to your page, many of which will pull in your info from other sites like YouTube, Flickr, and of course, iLike, all at the simple press of a button. The ability to pull content from other sites is a refreshing change. It drives me crazy when I have to upload the same song, enter the same bio, put up the same

pictures. Facebook definitely has the advantage over most sites by allowing you to find and add content that you’ve already uploaded somewhere else. I can only hope that more sites designed for marketing music will adopt this method. http://www.garageband.com http://ilike.com http://www.facebook.com For more info on social networking for musicians, visit http://drawingprettythings.blogspot.com.

Missing copies of old Urban Folks? Get ‘em online!

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Or you can order print copies for two bucks each, payable to: Jon Berger 1119 Longwood Avenue Bronx NY 10474 urbanfolkzine@gmail.com

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Fredo’s Rant
“Who are YOU? Who am I?”
by Fredo Flintstoné
Fredo, Fredo, Fredo. Everybody wants to know who Fredo is. Well I’ll tell you who he is. He’s little ol’ me, that’s who. But, as everyone knows, the best place to start is at the beginning, and so I shall. I did have a lot of fun being Fredo, and I am kind of sorry to see him leave us, but I just don’t know where to take the old boy anymore. I was thinking of having Wilma catch Fredo at his horn dogging, turn the tables on him and start her own column, but time constraints due to work, family and love have left me with little time, if any, to write this column any longer, and so I think it best I say adieu and put Fredo to bed. Also, due to some heavy editing of my writing (fuck you, Jon Berger) I don’t really have as much fun as I used to when writing, and as we all know, if you ain’t having fun, it’s time to go.

Fredo came into being as a joke. Not a joke on anyone on the AntiFolk scene, not even really a joke at all, more of a wager (I’ll leave it go at that because if I were to go further with it my true identity would be immediately revealed and it is way too early in this piece for that revelation). When people try to outdo one another, odd things are bound to occur and hence, Fredo came into being. Rather, I became Fredo, that naughty boy. To be honest, I never really thought of Fredo as being naughty. I always tried to portray Fredo on MySpace as a gentleman; a shy type of man, who, while he did at times not hide his love for the ladies, he always remembered his place as the beloved – if henpecked – husband to Wilma. I did however, allow you kind folk to take Fredo wherever you saw fit. If anyone wrote a comment to Fredo, I’d go with it. Many of you, perhaps, thought Fredo’s words were carefully planned and calculated, but alas, no. I made up everything as it popped into my head, most times not understanding anything being emailed or posted to Fredo. I admit it, I can be very slow at times, but it sure made for some huge belly laughs on my part when I found out the real meaning behind things said to Fredo and how my replies had nothing whatsoever to do with the thread of the conversation. On the other hand, we all know how men never listen, so Fredo always came off as giving a typical male response. I must admit, I did try to think and write as any lusty man would, given the circumstances Fredo was thrust into by your comments. But all good things must come to an end and so it must go with Fredo.


I have to tell you though, it’s been a very difficult decision whether or not to tell you all just who Fredo really is. My biggest fear is that people would be hurt by my coming out, but please, don’t be. It was never my intent for anyone to be hurt by Fredo or his words. And you all have to admit, we had a great time. Fredo became one of the biggest mysteries on the AntiFolk scene. He certainly gave people something to talk about and laugh over. Fredo made people happy. That was the greatest gift I got out of being Fredo. I got to make people happy and there ain’t nothing better than to see your friends – strangers even – laugh and smile over something you’ve said or done. That’s another reason I’ve decided to let Fredo out of the closet. All that I’ve said, all I’ve done, and I never got credit for any of it; that part sucked. The worst was the night of the Fredo Super Showcase. One of the best nights the Sidewalk Café had all year and I had to sit silently and not get any credit when I wanted to shout out my involvement. No one has any idea just how hard it was for me to discuss Fredo, hear how you thought Fredo was him, or her, knowing all the time, not being able to say a word. Tough times: some of the

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toughest in my life. The one thing that makes me most proud that I am Fredo is that I helped to bring the women of the scene to the forefront. As we all know, men outnumber the women on the scene. That’s a pity because the women have just as much to offer musically as any man. I mean really, Debe Dalton is referred to as the “Godmother of the Scene,” but please, Godmother? That woman has more talent in those fingers of hers… she totally blows me away with every performance. Her shows should be SRO and anyone who doesn’t agree with me has a tin ear! The woman reeks talent out of every pore! And Deborah T. Man, has that gal grown as a performer. She gets better and better with every show and Lord only knows where she’s going to end up, but it’s definitely going to be in the big time. Erin Regan, her quiet shyness on stage only accentuates her music. All her songs hit me in the heart. They’re all such powerful images and play so strongly to all my emotions that after her show I need to go outside to catch my breath. Randi Russo, the woman is such a talented writer and performer that at times I feel like slapping myself just to be sure I’m not dreaming. And Somer, my Lord! Somer’s pure AntiFolk, that mix of folk and punk. She is, fully and completely, what the

scene is supposed to be. Daniel Bernstein, I only tossed in because I needed someone to close the show and ran out of female acts. The man is a headliner, though, and belonged on that stage. The potential that man has, especially with his new band, the Happy Zealots, is extraordinary. He can definitely go places and he’s going to take us all along with him, cheering as we go. But back to me, Fredo, and who I am. Nope folks, sorry, I am not Bernard King. Bernard’s too busy with his own stuff, whatever that stuff is, to be Fredo. J.J. Hayes isn’t Fredo either. His mind isn’t that dirty. David Keesey? He’s too angelic for Fredo. Deborah T? She’s not egotistic. Lach? Nah, he’s too busy with his music, his toddler, his whatever. Jon Berger? He wishes he could write like me! Oh, you silly people. There’s only one Fredo. Me! The quiet one who sits in the back and watches silently and applauds loudly. Fredo is me. Jeannie. Don’t go telling anyone! Make them read this article. Now can someone please pick Dan Penta up off the floor! Forever, Fredo

Why would a perfectly respectable Long Island lady want to become a cartoon character and cyberstalk AntiFolk musicians? Jeannie doesn’t want to talk about it. And it probably doesn’t matter what the inspiration was to transform herself into a 60s fictional icon to support the community. It’s yet another example of the transformative nature of art, of music, and of creativity in general. On her webpage, Jeannie writes about how she doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone but herself, but her secret identity as Fredo Flintstoné puts the lie to that claim. Clearly, her appreciation of artists in this acoustic community is such that this lifelong listener has become a participant in the arts, creating a certain amount of it herself. “Everyone gets on stage all the time,” she says, “and I wanted to play, too. “I wanted to be a part of it, but I don’t sing. I do write, though.” Any number of witnesses can attest to any number of conversations about the mystery of Fredo Flintstoné for the last year plus. The turnout for the Fredo Flintstoné Super Showcase is a testament to both Jeannie’s investment in the community and the community’s investment in Fredo. The public wanted to know who its secret admirer was, wanted to know who cared enough to write, but hide under a veil of innovative anonymity. Now we know. Jeannie’s outed herself. It’s a shame, but it’s about time.
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Derek James
No Longer a Stray
by B. J. Barratt
Derek James is ready for pop stardom. He’s got a great name, smooth style, dashing good looks, and talent. And not just talent, but talent with a unique twist. In a time where contemporaries like John Mayer and James Blunt are most famous crooning to the ladies, Derek James might just become famous for making the ladies want to dance to him. Much of the material on his debut CD, Stray, is infused with a swing/ jive flavor that simply makes you move. "Any music that inspires me to smack my hand on my thigh or spin a girl on the dance floor has always put a smile on my face and filled me with energy," Derek said. Fun is the key to Derek's appeal, whether it is a humorous look at finding the perfect date or job ("Ain't No Thing is Perfect"), or the kazoo solo – yes, that's right, KAZOO – in "What's That Sound?", he's gonna make you smile and tap along. Time spent listening to jazz, gypsies in the south of France, and line dancing country stomps in Australia have also fed into his varied musical influences. You can hear it in a a song that jabs at the US political situation, "There is the Sun," and a reggae flavored ode to a beach love half a world away, "One More Day." The undeniable hit 'single' that would make Derek James the radio darling he should be, is the opening track, "Free Love." The song hooks you from the first beat and never lets go. Recently, through a series of fortunate events, Derek's CD landed in the hands of Ryan Stober, a veteran music video editor for artists ranging from Coldplay to Snoop Dogg. Ryan was keen on finding a song that he could work with to showcase his talents as a director/producer. Derek's "Free Love" was just the inspiration he needed. The result is a magnificently filmed and edited video that can be seen exclusively on YouTube at the moment, but with a few more fortunate encounters could find its way to national media attention. "I can now proudly say I have a music video," boasts Derek. "I've made some home-made versions of videos that will be good blackmail material in the future, but up until this "Free Love" video, I didn't have any videos that I felt properly represented what myself and the band do." National attention is an uphill struggle for any artist, but perhaps more so when the label is of your own creation, as is the case for Derek's Howling Clue label formed in 2005. Derek takes it all in stride having teamed up with his NY manager, Chris Hacker, to grow the label as well as Derek's career. "He and I partnered up, and with his music business know-how, we developed Howling Clue into a larger entity that started handling bookings for other artists as well as myself." Derek explains, "Most recently, he organized a Howling Clue roster of artists to display at NACA, the national college conventions for booking shows in North America. The collective was a great way to cross-promote some like-minded New York based musicians in the college market, and it's been working out wonderfully." Derek was fortunate enough to be chosen as a 'roving showcase artist' at the Northeast NACA conference held in Hartford the first week of November. Any live performance at events like these increases exposure to the lucrative and influential college market. Good for Derek, good for Howling Clue and good for the colleges smart enough to book him. I've seen Derek perform several times and show featured a different set up. Whether he's at Joe's Pub with a full band or unplugged at NACA – he can fill the room with smiles, tapping toes and clapping hands. More recently, delighted audiences have been getting a rare preview of material Derek is working on for that elusive sophomore CD. He went into the creation of Stray with

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more than 30 songs which were whittled down to 11 tracks. Some of the others may make it onto the next CD, but Derek is always working on something new. "I have enough material that I'd like to record for a few new CDs. I'm always writing and working on new material and don't think that will ever change." As for the continuation of his unique style, Derek says, "I think I will continue to have elements of the fun jive flavor in my future music, as it's a real big part of me musically. However, I don't have artistic plans beyond writing whatever comes out of my head, inspires me to grab a pen or a tape recorder and remember that sucker! If it moves me, I'll be making it." Chances are, if it moves him, it will move the audience as well. myspace.com/derekjamesmusic

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Recordrecord reviewed? Mail to J. Berger Reviews Want to have your
1119 Longwood Avenue, Bronx, NY 10474
Alisha Westerman Mellow Mood It’s daybreak in July. You’ve just graduated from art school, and you and your best friend are piling your duffle bags into your pre-owned Toyota Corolla, about to embark on the road trip you’ve been planning all Spring. This is your soundtrack. Hooked from the very first slap of the bass on the opening track, “This Beat,” you just can’t keep yourself from singing along with every clever folk-pop ditty all the way down I-95, and your best friend can’t help but add the harmonies. With only a few songs pushing the threeand-a-half minute mark, the twelve track recording is over before you’ve had enough, drawing your index finger back toward the “play” button on your car stereo like a magnet. But this album isn’t addictive in the way that junk food is instant gratification for an unrelenting sweet tooth. About half of this album lives up to its title, creating a “mellow mood” that’s comforting, though at times piercingly haunting in its melodic and lyrical content. Understated yet powerful barely-there ballads such as “Stolen Melody,” “Honey,” and “Be For” are part Nick Drake, part old-school Iron and Wine, part Milk Eyed Mender-era Joanna Newsom. The other half indulges the toe-tapping, hand-clapping whirling dervish in us all. It conjures up memories of such sing-along hits as Juliana Hatfield’s “Spin the Bottle” in “Casual Sex,” Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” in “This Beat,” and Strawberry Alarm Clock’s ridiculously unforgettable “Incense and Peppermints” in “Move On.” Westerman still manages to add her sense of self to each still-can’t-put-my-fingeron-this-genre poppy tune by sprinkling them with hints of bluegrass, tango, and acoustic go-go. The charmingly bipolar album seems to be drawn together by two unifying factors. The first is Westerman’s skillful lyric-writing that utilizes various styles of unpretentious poetry to best advantage. While her haiku-esque hooks are sometimes poignant (“I know better than to wish that you were here”) and sometimes pure fun (“Pound for pound, getting down with James Brown”),
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her verses are infused with thoughtful prose and irresistible wordplay. Take “The Mean Song,” for example, where she sings “This ditty may sound average, but actually it’s mean / The midpoint ‘tween the smallest and the largest quantity.” Instantly you realize that this isn’t going to be an angsty boyfriend-bashing rant, and your mind’s eye sucks you like a vacuum back behind that wobbly grey desk-chair in the seventh grade, where you’re wishing you were anywhere else but Algebra 2. She continues, “If you were a stranger at my local corner store / Speculating on the reasons you had ended up there for / I’d point up a number seven, the one not far behind / Help you understand the very magic number nine.” Subconsciously you can’t help but add seven

and nine together and divide them by two. And the answer? Eight, of course… or is it “ate?” Why else would you have wandered into a bodega unless your stomach had a rumbling for one of those “beef” patties? Alisha Westerman just forced you to do math. A word problem, if you will. And you enjoyed it. Gold stars all around! The second equalizer is her unique voice, highlighted by her sisters Nikki and Ninah’s essential backing vocals. While Westerman can surely hold her own in the singing department and probably could have provided all of the harmonies herself, this lo-fi recording benefits from the added textures of three different voices. It also adds a bit of sweetness to know that the recording process was a family affair, and that the trio has also performed as a group that shares the album’s name. Since the instrumentation is simple and straightforward, Mellow Mood’s only lament is that the rich vocals aren’t a little bit higher in the mix. It’s a smart celebration of songwriting that’s nostalgic, yet reveals something new with every listen. And listen you will. On repeat. Probably about four hundred times in a row. I-95 is a really long highway. (reviewed by Jocelyn Mackenzie) myspace.com/alishasings Brook Pridemore Brook Pridemore Sings Greatest Antifolk Hits Brook Pridemore’s latest release is a low-key triumph and a consistently enjoyable collection of simple pleasures. The idea behind the album is right there in the title. Brook takes songs by eleven Antifolk artists and records them himself. Most of the tracks just feature Brook singing and whacking the strings of his acoustic guitar, although there are occasional touches of ukulele, piano, glockenspiel, and the like. Of course, the title is probably intended more as a joke or a throwback than as an accurate description of the contents. Sure, a lot of the usual suspects are represented – Lach, Adam Green, Kimya Dawson, Toby Goodshank, Major Matt Mason USA – but many of the artists included probably have “greater hits” than the ones Brook has chosen from their respective catalogs. It is hard to deny, however,

that his track selection is more consistent than your average mixtape and that all the songs suit his voice and performance style. In fact, the consistency seems an unlikely anomaly, considering that most of these songs are pretty much all personal statements of extremely different singersongwriters. And yeah, it’s a bit weird for someone other than Kimya Dawson to be singing a song she wrote mostly about her and her family, but Brook makes it work. Brook’s readings are pretty faithful to the originals, sometimes to the point that he takes on some of the vocal idiosyncrasies of the person whose song he is singing. His already nasal voice becomes even more so during parts of Cheese on Bread’s “Modern Art Gallery,” in a nod to their singer Dan Fishback. It’s endearing more than annoying, and it becomes a distraction only once. Brook’s pseudo-drunk, mush-mouthed performance of Paleface’s “Liar” is so out of character that one must assume he is imitating the original. I’ve never heard the original, though, so I can only guess. In fact, as a person who has heard only about half of these songs in their original renditions, I probably straddle both of the key demographics that this album would most appeal to: AntiFolk fanatics who’d like to hear new spins on their old favorites, and AntiFolk newbies who just want to hear some songs they might like. Brook’s consistently high level of performance (most of it reportedly captured in one day-long recording session) makes this an undeniably enjoyable collection to someone located anywhere on the fanaticnewbie continuum. (reviewed by Justin Remer) www.craftyrecords.net/brookpridemore.cfm Ching Chong Song Little Naked Gay Adventure Typically, when the word “psychedelic” comes up, chances are somebody’s talking about a handful of overthe-hill Englishmen painting soundscapes with an arsenal of prohibitively expensive electronics and a mountain of one-use percussion instruments. Someone onstage is certainly playing either a flute or a gong. The light show is a much bigger attraction than what the musicians are doing. Thanks a lot, Pink Floyd. Over the past little while, though, psychedelia has begun to manifest itself in less bombastic and more homegrown arenas. DIY craftsmanship and advances in home recording technology have made it possible for creative people to make mind-blowing music without having to put huge mountains of cash down on synthesizers and light shows. The majesty of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over the Sea lies in the mix-

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aren’t good. Fortunately, Gower and LaMendola’s songs are also very, very good. (reviewed by Brook Pridemore) chingchongsong.com/ Ben Krieger Class Dismissed When Ben Krieger found out I would be the one reviewing his new CD for Urban Folk, he said to me, “You’ve gotta listen to it at least five times before you write about it.” ture of straight folk music with careening horns, saws and organs – mostly instruments that the players involved had no experience with. Brian Wilson’s forty years late Smile builds orchestral beauty out of layers upon layers of vocals and toy instruments – there’s barely an electric guitar on the whole song cycle. And Ching Chong Song? The Brooklyn duo comprised of Julie LaMendola on saw and ukulele and Dan Gower on piano – both sing – have released Little Naked Gay Adventure, without a doubt the most quietly psychedelic disc I’ve heard this year. What is the element that gives these songs a Glass Onion feeling? The semi-planned, semi-improvised “obstructions” that are a staple of their live show? LaMendola’s saw, which provides astral and often jarring commentary over Gower’s often showtuney piano? Or is it that the songs often seem like stapled-together fragments from journals and old philosophy books? It’s certainly a combination of these factors - and much more. From the opener “Ghost Clock” – which illuminates the perils of merely fulfilling the status quo – to the abrupt, matter-of-fact conclusion of “Cigarettes,” Ching Chong Song seem hell-bent on telling a story. The story doesn’t seem to have an immediate beginning, end or moral, but is certainly compelling. “Roreesa,” with its gypsy-band accordion and repetitive chant of “What the fuck are you talking about?” stands out, as does the “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” update “Who You Sleep With.” The central theme of Little Naked Gay Adventure becomes apparent on “Olde Man,” LaMendola’s lament on her place in the world – being a girl who isn’t pretty, smart, clean or rich enough to make anybody notice her. LaMendola’s narrator finds redemption in the song’s refrain, “Don’t believe in the sun / Make your own light / stand in the light / Don’t believe in the light / Make yourself laugh / and turn around.” Ultimately, Ching Chong Song’s allure lies in their fearlessness. A band that isn’t afraid to make their own noise – no matter how unconventional that noise may be – should have no problem attracting an audience, even if their songs At first I was skeptical, because that just frankly sounded like homework; but, over the course of a couple of months, I’ve given the disc multiple spins, and yeah, after around the fifth time through, it seemed to click. This could be because maybe one’s critical faculties are worn down by familiarity with the material, but it could also be because Krieger has created a power-pop concept album (about school) with a sonic landscape that is so layered, slick, and, well... bombastic, it can be a little too much to absorb on first listen. On top of that, the album has stylistic ADHD, as though it were a sugared-up schoolkid. Musically, the influences fly fast, from Robert Pollard to Brian Wilson to Prince. But, considering the album’s thematic continuity and its tendency toward rock operatics, Pete Townshend provides the largest strain of musical DNA, not least during Tommy-ish songs like “Community Service,” in which the young hero is forced into community service after swinging a puppy by its ears. Fortunately, Krieger plays it fast and loose with his concept, including songs unrelated to school, such as the Robyn Hitchcock-y love song, ”Window Garden” and the bizarre ode, “Faye’s Falafel,” which could almost pass for a radio commercial for the title establishment. Those side trips are so successful that you sort of wish that he had abandoned the school thing more often. “Local 50 Community School Board” is a great example of a song that would have benefited. Say you wanted to do a song that sounded like that purple purveyor of sexy, Prince. OK. But wouldn’t it be hilarious if the lyrics revolved around the unsexiest thing you could think of, like... a school board meeting? The song turns out to be a pitch-perfect musical pastiche offset by a

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terribly dull set of lyrics that don’t even derive humor from the incongruity (“First up is the budget / Got a surplus / Anybody wanna give us your thoughts?/ I say we spend it on text books, paper and chalk.”) That said, for all of its idiosyncratic touches, Class Dismissed proves to be a solid showcase of Krieger’s smart and catchy songwriting and aggressively poppy production style. Despite its thousands of musical Frankenstein parts, the album congeals successfully into a fully realized album, worthy of five listens at least. (reviewed by Justin Remer) benkrieger.com Elastic No-No Band My 3 Addictions When you think about the unlikeliness of a group like Elastic No-No Band – a semi-novelty, semi-supergroup spearheaded by a guy who wrote songs in his off-hours from a grunt-work job at Troma Team Video – a fullyrealized, sparkly clean sounding CONCEPT ALBUM like My 3 Addictions shouldn’t exist. But it does. This short collection of songs about ENB leader Justin Remer’s obsessions with food, movies and girls with boyfriends, opens with a sort of “table of contents” – the album’s title track details its narrator’s travails in easy-to-swallow “outline” form. The subjects are then subdivided by simple solo guitar and voice introductions – chapters, as it were. Songs flow easily throughout, with more laid-back, Randy Newman-ish material like “Sundaes on a Sunday Afternoon” and “A Modest Proposal (For Laura Cantrell)” organizing nicely next to the album’s more edgy points like “Woody Allen Surrogate,” or the stopand-start, Pixies Unplugged-sounding “I am Klaus Kinski (And This is My Song).” The latter, which also sounds eerily similar to some of Frank Black’s later, more stripped-down songs, features the album’s high point, a choral refrain from all of it’s performers, over whip-smart lead electric guitar by Urban Barnyard’s Casey Holford and Dibson T Hoffweiler. Hearing all of those voices, the off-kilter joy gave me chills. While not a stylistic giant step from last year’s collection of demos, The Very Best of Elastic No-No Band (So Far) – this isn’t Bringin’ It All Back Home by any means – the production quality has blown through the roof. Remer’s players – pianist Herb Scher, Preston Spurlock on bass and Doug Johnson on drums – click nicely into a groove so sharp that you could lose a finger. Ubiquitous engineer Major Matt Mason USA then spit-shines the recordings with a thick layer of gloss. Is there a moral to the story within My 3 Addictions? Not really. My 3 Addictions isn’t a concept album in

the vein of Joe’s Garage or The Wall. Those albums sometimes play like poorly written short stories buried within epic and often mind-blowing music. No, My 3 Addictions is a concept album in the vein of The Louvin Brother’s Satan is Real or Ben Folds Five’s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner – albums of songs that are bound together by a common lyrical theme accompanied by well-made but less bombastic music. My 3 Addictions isn’t a timeless exercise in ego-flexing, but rather a very good collection of songs centered around pertinent subjects in the songwriter’s life (as of right now). Recommended. (reviewed by Brook Pridemore) my3addictions.blogspot.com/ Eric Wolfson State Street Rambler Eric Wolfson’s “Sleeping is a Sucker’s Game” is the kind of song that gets in your head and refuses to leave, snippets of lines resurfacing in your consciousness when you least expect it. It’s been about a year since I first heard the song on the Anticomp Folkilation double-CD set, and I still find myself, in idle moments, mumbling lines from the song, like “We’ve got a long line of lovers who’ve never left us the same.” Wolfson closes out State Street Rambler, his debut long player, with a slightly different take of “Sleeping is a Sucker’s Game,” making State Street Rambler the second album on which this song has been a standout. He is backed up on the tune, as well as half the album, by a group of friends who make a habit of playing on each other’s records: Dan Costello (also credited with producing the album), Ben Godwin, Vin from Soft Black, and Andrew Hoepfner from Creaky Boards. Their

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habitual collaborations, in addition to the feelgood pub rock sound they produce on this album, suggest they’re attempting to be AntiFolk’s answer to Rockpile. A worthwhile pursuit, one might argue, and one that Wolfson’s band pulls off, while also incorporating elements of The Band’s North Americana and early rock and roll. The other half of the songs on the album are strippeddown to essentially solo performances – guitar, voice, and harmonica – sometimes with a tambourine or cello to augment the sound. Like so many acoustic pickers with a harp-holder around his neck, Wolfson is obviously a Dylan fan – the opening track on this CD contains at least five really obvious lyrical references to Dylan songs and probably more I didn’t catch – and that appreciation comes through most clearly on the stripped-down tunes. One of the most successful Dylan knockoffs is the topical, wry “Talking Dead President Blues,” where Wolfson goes to the Presidents’ Cemetery, and “talks” to the ex-Commanders-in-Chief to find out what they think of G.W. Bush. While some of Wolfson’s jokes and points are kind of hamfisted – Lincoln says in the song that the Republican Party used to care about black folks, and now they just watch them drown – Wolfson seems right at home spinning vaguely obscure Grover Cleveland quips in a way that’s satisfyingly amusing. Even when Wolfson turns more solemn on wistful ballads like “Cross the River” and “Harlem Lights,” his crooning style seems patterned after Dylan circa Nashville Skyline, although, unlike Dylan, Wolfson is more than willing to let his voice crack during these tunes in an offbeat, Richard Hell-ish style. And at the end, again we have “Sleeping is a Sucker’s Game,” a song which should become the official anthem of Monday night at the Sidewalk Café, and a song which tells the tale of the struggling musician with canny, witty lyrics and a stomp-along groove as catchy as a brassiere clasp. (reviewed by Justin Remer) www.ericwolfson.com Lach The Calm Before During my pubescent years, my parents would come up with creative ways of punishing me whenever I had done something wrong. Instead of implementing the standard “You’re grounded for two weeks, go to your room and don’t turn on the TV” routine, they would add assignments to the mix, like making me illustrate an old fable with an appropriately edifying moral, or giving me an enormous stack of books to read and not letting me be un-punished until I had read them all. And while reading may not seem like such a torturous task, at

thirteen, The Babysitters Club series was a bit higher on my list of top reads than The Good Earth. It was about halfway through one particularly harsh, fifteenbook sentence that I came upon Kurt Vonnegut. Suddenly I found myself so completely engrossed that it didn’t feel so much like torture. The merging of history and fiction, the dark humor and the light humor and the intense gravity and the intense ridiculousness, the blatant honesty and the blatant lies, the voice of the author intermingling with those of his characters, all presented in a prose that was casual and authoritative and satirical at the same time: it all just completely made sense. The Calm Before reads like one of Vonnegut’s novels: each song is a character or anecdote that plays a distinct role in telling Lach’s story, uniquely and purposefully crafted in order to best reflect the many different facets of their author’s true self. The first chapter, “Egg,” opens with gentle melodic guitar and soft clarinet that gestate into a soothing, womblike atmosphere. Then Lach’s voice cracks painfully through the warm red aura, “Wobbly wings still sticky / with yolk and bits of shell,” using sound and lyrics to create a synesthestic experience of hatching. A few bars later, the guitar picks up and gains clarity, and so does Lach’s voice. The frightened chick has matured into a more aware – though still bewildered – adult who must now find his place in his big new world. Then comes “I Just Want to Be With You,” a Pogues-influenced Celtic-folk-punk favorite that sanctifies the little moments that nobody counts when they’re in love, like going to the grocery store together or just taking a hot bath. But in “I Won’t Miss You,” Lach summons a “comfortably numb” droning Pink Floyd-esque rhythm to turn the tables and express his disgust in his now ex-lover, who may very well be the same one he once appreciated so deeply. “A Quiet Distance” balances bitingly honest lines on a jazzy Gershwintype sing-along melody and features Broadway vet Lydia Ooghe on backing vocals, crooning with a voice like nectar, “Are you really happy?” and “I can’t handle romance.” Lach then steps outside of himself and speaks to us

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in parables. He recounts a strange dream in “Positions of Power,” a pure folk ballad that uses a stagecoach, it’s horses, and its well-to-do passengers as metaphors for the arbitrary and unfair nature of social and perhaps political structures. “Letter to Theo” is an ode written in Vincent Van Gogh’s voice; a reading of one of the painter’s hypothetical letters to his dear brother, who was one of the only people in his life he considered an ally. Then “George at Coney” picks up the pace with a sea-shanty-like tale of George Harrison’s adventure escaping the tribulations of the rockstar lifestyle to have a day to himself to ride the Cyclone. Its waltzing melody instantly conjures the treasured essence of Coney Island, complete with its squealing wooden rides, sticky cotton candy, sweltering heat, and tattooed sideshow performers. “Gone Gone Gone” begins the end of The Calm Before, returning inward with a Paul Simon-y reflection of lost love highlighted by bongos, bells, tenor sax, and sighing. Again, Lach celebrates the ordinary by confessing how “the stupidest things,” like a little kid playing harmonica or “an old gay couple” can move him to tears. Finally, Bill Haley throwback “Crazy House” finishes off the album with a blang. Horns bellowing and drums flailing, you can almost see the sweat pouring off of Lach’s brow as he shouts out his last “Goodbye!,” bringing us full circle to parallel his “birth” at the beginning of the album. While The Calm Before may not touch as many souls as any Vonnegut novel, what the two writers share is a profound ability to be undyingly true. Both have used their own distinct forms of language to reveal their innermost thoughts and silliest musings with equal devotion. Both have delivered education in the context of entertainment. And both pretty much gave the finger to any kind of predisposed standards they were “supposed to” uphold to their chosen craft. And why not be unapologetically yourself? After all, as Lach testified, “This ain’t a song; it is my life.” I’m sure Vonnegut would have agreed. (reviewed by Jocelyn Mackenzie) www.lachtoday.com Dream Bitches Coke and Spiriters In 1995, I turned 16 years old. I spent most of my spare time driving around my hometown of Waterford, MI in my first car, a 1980 Citation that had red velvet upholstery and had to be started with a manual choke each morning. I saw the Ramones on their final tour and Bush on their first. All of my time in the car was

spent listening to the local modern rock station (the Citation went out of production before the advent of incar cassette players). It was a golden time for radio: the Grunge boom of the early 90’s hadn’t quite worn off yet, and unconventional but great groups like the Breeders, Superfriendz and the Smoking Popes all had quick, quirky and timeless singles around that time. Fred Durst was still two long years away. It’s funny that the Dream Bitches have released their second album Coke and Spiriters right when I’m starting to re-embrace the music I listened to in 1995 – songs like “Bad Luck Bill” and “Maniacal Mechanic” would have fit nicely among the minor hits of that year. Lead Bitches, lifelong New Yorkers and childhood friends, Yoko Kikuchi and Ann Zakaluk sing duet/dueling songs that sound not unlike a cross between the Deal sisters and the girls in Dance Hall Crashers. The lead guitar work of Casey Holford (of Urban Barnyard fame) intertwines with Yoko’s rhythm over simple but propulsive beats by drummer Jen. Knee and The Leader’s Julie Delano on bass. It’s also a funny coincidence that many of the best Belle and Sebastian songs mention 1995. Dream Bitches elected to put their spin on the second-best Belle and Sebastian song (“Me and the Major”) off their first-best album (If You’re Feeling Sinister), the end result sounding like a particularly good high school rock band dipping into someone’s older sister’s record collection. Familiarity is a running theme on Coke and Spiriters – “Sweet Anneth” borrows its melody from an old nursery rhyme to tell a cautionary tale about a girl with loose lips. Ultimately, Coke and Spiriters sounds like a Live Through This that was made by sane persons. Like a quickly-recorded follow-up to Last Splash that went criminally unnoticed, the Dream Bitches sound and feel, unironically, like the summer of 1995. Recommended. (reviewed by Brook Pridemore) dreambitches.org

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Phoebe Kreutz Big Lousy Moon That ubiquitous word “eclectic” has become almost an insult these days. It’s a sort of taboo blanket adjective for the suburban Pier 1 Importsfurnished living room that earns its title only by displaying a Ningbou Jewelry Armoire™ over several assorted Chindi Rugs™. But where do these household accessories really come from? A factory lit by florescent bulbs that churns out thousands upon thousands of other items that look exactly like them. In a society where eclecticism has become a manufacturable aesthetic, Big Lousy Moon is an album that authentically draws from radically different musical and contextual sources. Founded on a bedrock of clean folk guitar, Kreutz effortlessly integrates a variety of genres, source material, and dramatic changes in vocal styling to create a sound that is diverse as it is memorable. Radio-friendly “All Summer Long,” with its charming fiddle and glockenspiel embellishments, is an infectious ditty that feels like a lost Moldy Peaches anthem sung by Dar Williams. “Oh, Elizabeth I” makes history fun à la They Might Be Giants, complete with a roaring horn section. And clocking in at only a minute and fortyfour seconds, “Birdy in The Driveway” is the adorably mournful, mournfully adorable tale of a too-short onenight stand. Its bleeping, blooping, head-bopping melody is Atom and His Package-esque in delivery, and it sounds like the way caffeine feels when it surges through your veins after that “one last” latte. But just when you think her songs are so sweet that they may just give you diabetes, Kreutz booms out “A Bad Feeling About Anna Karenina” with a deep, fiery Buffy Sainte-Marie-y authority, minus the trilling vibrato. Then comes “Like You Like,” a sparse, jazzy, vaudeville number reminiscent of the South Pacific soundtrack that’s short, bitter, and to the point. In “Bull Run Beer Run” she plucks her guitar almost vulnerably while softly venting about indulging one’s vices on a budget. “Song to Make You Cry” is a ballad reminiscent of Tenacious D’s “Fuck Her Gently” that’s hilarious and just plain mean. And she bares all in “The Ballad of Throat Culture,” a hypothetical folk-punk narrative of the band she invites you to join. It’s a three-act comic tragedy of the group’s formation, rise to glory, and inevitable demise: “I develop a heroin addiction… You come to my place to intervene, You

find me hanging by the pool house / Shooting smack with Ben Vereen…And I say, ‘Fuck you, man, you mother-fucking sellout! / You were nothing when I found you at The Sidewalk! Get the hell out! / Don’t you know who I am? Get the fuck out of my rock and roll band!’ ” This girl used to work for Sesame Street, people. Brilliant. That in mind, the first thought that occurred to me when I finished listening to Big Lousy Moon was that I want to play it for my future children. Not because the album is cute, and it is, but because there’s something simultaneously vulgar and charismatic about it that is a pure product of Kreutz’s cheerful brand of cynicism, or cynical brand of cheerfulness. I want my future children to listen to this album because it’ll make them smarter. They’ll learn that happy songs don’t always have to be upbeat and that sad songs don’t always have to be mellow. They’ll learn that it’s important to be honest about your feelings (“You tell me I’ve got issues / But my issue is you suck”). They’ll learn that crying until you run out of tears is just as important as laughing until you run out of breath, but that crying for its own sake is just annoying (See “Boo Frickin’ Hoo”). They’ll also learn about historical figures, great literary works, and modern socio-cultural practices (i.e. sex, drugs, and rock & roll). But most importantly, they’ll learn all of this via osmosis, because they’ll be having so much fun that they won’t even realize what’s seeping into their little heads. And that’s probably a good thing, because a substantial portion of these songs are pretty fucked up. Still, it’s better that my future children learn about “destitute orphans” and the “shrinking rainforest” from Phoebe Kreutz than hearing about them from me when they ask how our Shanghai Entertainment Center™ was made. (reviewed by Jocelyn Mackenzie) myspace.com/phoebekreutz The Telethons The Gory Details If, for argument’s sake, the first wave of Nerd Rock came with Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, and the second generation featured Weezer and Ben Folds Five, then it now appears that The Telethons are ready to lead the third charge. Wearing their influences on their sleeves, this dynamic duo feature the best of their precursors without just regurgitating the past in a douchebaggy sort of way. They’ve got acid lyrics, sugary sweet hooks, and garage rock crunch. Consisting of John Mulcahy on acoustic guitar (frequently electrified and distorted) and Mark Deocampo on drums and percussion, The Telethons are a ragtag

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ball of energy that is often so fast and noisy in live performance, you might miss how good their lyrics are. As if to compensate for this, a lot of the tunes on The Gory Details, The Telethons’ debut long player, are performed at a slightly slower tempo than you might find at a Telethons show. More attention is also paid to creating interesting arrangements and augmentations to fill out the group’s largely stripped-down sound. The lyrics have a storyteller quality, whether they’re in the service of the sci-fi fantasy “Forcefield,” the paranoid delusion “Brainworms,” or the banal service-industry nightmare “General Store.” Even the brief but catchy “Chord Chord Other Chord” paints an effective character study with relatively few words: “I’m a guy with a guitar / Gonna rock the café / Like I rocked my basement.” Not coincidentally, the liner notes of The Gory Details mention that the album was “recorded and mixed in a living room and a basement.” Considering these circumstances, the album sounds darn good. Sometimes its homemade origins are apparent in the sound, but not in a negative way; there’s frequently a palpable “live” quality to the singing and the playing that gives certain tunes an offbeat edge. If there were any quibbles, it would be that certain excellent Telethons songs – “You’re Gonna Die,” “I’ve Had Too Much To Drink” – aren’t included. But that’s all the more reason to look forward to more releases from these guys. (reviewed by Justin Remer) myspace.com/thetelethons The Wowz, with Bo Ramsey and Spencer Chakedis Music from the Documentary King Corn The problem with your average instrumental film music CD is that the music on it was never really intended to play separate from the picture. Sometimes you get a lot of short, unsatisfying music cues. Sometimes you have to deal with the repetitive use of themes (the Punch Drunk Love CD is particularly annoying because more than half of the score is the same romantic theme over and over again, played by different instruments). The Wowz avoid these pitfalls on King Corn by essentially just making a series of songs, but without words. In other words, it sounds like you’re listening to a

karaoke version of a Wowz album. They stick mainly to the ramshackle roots-rock sound that is their signature, but they also choose occasionally to stretch out a bit, like on the aptly named, Morricone-meets-theByrds piece “Spaghetti Midwestern,” the noisy dirge “The Elevator,” and the bizarre space-funk cue “(It’s Fun To Stay) At the U-S-D-A.” As someone who hasn’t seen the film King Corn yet, I can happily report that the listener is not left feeling that he or she is missing something without the visuals. In fact, if not for the occasional corn-related dialogue snippet from the film, you could easily fail to realize that this is a soundtrack. Of course, you might wonder then about all the lyrical references to corn and farmers, during the handful of lyric-driven songs included. With song titles like “Cornfed Woman” and “The Grass Is Always Yellower When You’re Blue,” it’s obvious that The Wowz are in a wry sort of mood. Nevertheless, these two songs rank among the band’s best, with the former being a sweetly rendered love song and the latter being a laidback stomper with a ’50s rock guitar flavor. There’s also a cover of The Seeds’ “Mr. Farmer” and the reappearance of the moody gem “He Wanders” from The Wowz’ first album, Long Grain Rights. Capping off an EP’s worth of new Wowz songs and a solid selection of twangy instrumentals, the disc also comes with bonus content when you stick it in a computer: a music video for the album opener “America the Usual,” a song which exploits The Wowz’ Everly Brothers-like vocals to their fullest. Music from the Documentary King Corn no doubt works as a film soundtrack, but more importantly, it works as an album. And, well, it’s poppy and leaves you hungry for more. (reviewed by Justin Remer) thewowz.com

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