If there's a record store in heaven, Ron Rooks is probably swapping tales with the angel at the counter about procuring rare 7" singles from all around the world, maybe even the universe.
Today's late-breaking news on the music scene is that the legendary gonzo owner of the Music Exchange has died. The Pitch has received confirmation from Rooks' family.
When I heard the rumor around 4:30 p.m. today, my first thought was to head to Dave's Stagecoach Inn. Rooks referred to Dave's as the north branch of his office, back when his store was on Broadway, and also at its first location across the street from the popular Westport dive. Walking in, I half expected to see Rooks sitting at the bar, a handful of Keno cards spread out in front of him (he was famously addicted to the lottery bingo game), raffishly telling his fellow patrons that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated. Instead, just about everybody said it was true — he was indeed terminally late for his date with a cold drink and some jukebox tunes.
When I saw him last, back in May of this year, he was setting up shop in the West Bottoms, having been driven out of his Westport location by high overhead. He talked of persevering and having found new energy to start again. He also made more than a few references to a nasty fall off a ladder he'd had the previous Christmas Eve that had made him reconsider putting the business to bed once and for all.
Ron knew his music. The day I spoke with him in May, I watched him point a techno DJ directly to the boxes where the dance music 12-inches were being kept in his still-unpacked new store. The guy never failed to amaze, both in his capacity for reckless behavior and in his ability to stay squarely on top of the music world.
The crowd at Dave's today was definitely affected. It seemed that people were either wrinkling their brows at the news or taking the opportunity to remember a few colorful stories of Rooks. One woman was in tears.
Spend some time down at Dave's this week. Drop Rooks' name and ask for some stories (though you probably won't even have to ask — the stories will pretty much pour out). And as soon as we know anything about a memorial service or, better yet, an ass-wild party to commemorate him, we'll let you know.
I caught the Overstep/Giants Chair show Friday at the Record Bar. For non-melodic, unhooky, riff-and-time-change heavy '90s rock, it was pretty damn good. I don't mean to discredit that whole post-hardcore (or whatever it is) genre, but, you know, sometimes it's kinda boring. These guys weren't. Strangest for me as a foreigner was seeing Giants Chair frontman and current honky tonker Rex Hobart belt out greasy, angst-ridden lyrics while smashing through more obscure chords than Robert Fripp dreams of while he sleeps.
Overstep drummer Alex Organ, who was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, was in top motherfuckin' form, even though he's sometimes been having to duct tape his drumsticks to his hands when he plays to keep control of them. Later, during Giants Chair, Alex got on stage and went ass-wild hyping the crowd. Not even MS can stop the rock.
But the real highlight of the show was scribbling bizarre, creative insults with two friends, M (female) and K (male), on the backs of printouts of crossword and Sudoku puzzles from the New York Times Web site (they were not mine; I don't understand the appeal of voluntarily assigning yourself math homework). Here's a transcription of all the amazing jibes, taunts and random thoughts that were hurled. The accuracy of the crediting was contingent on my ability to identify the handwriting. It's mostly right, but probably all out of order. I am J. Shit's unedited.
Single question mark = unknown author
Initial with question mark = suspected author
CAVEAT: This may induce cranial pain, swollen glands, and explosive diarrhea.
?:Have u noticed that the guy in hot pants has enormous thighs & no buttocks?
K: Sorta like the way my back just "becomes" my legs, completely skipping the ass region?
J: Ranch dressing RAWKS!
K: M knows THAT 4 sure!
M: Don't speak for me, ass. I hate ranch more than I hate you. And that says A LOT.
J: Your mom is a guy!!!
K: If you hate ranch so much, why did you make a career out of it, jackass?
M: For the benjaminz fool.
[conceptual drawing of anus being spread open by two hands]
K: Word, booty.
J: Your last words will be "Spread 'em, Bill."
K: Your house smells like LUNCHMEAT!!!
M: F U douchie baggie!!!
K: You're a hobag.
J: I bought a slut a beer and she disappeared. I guess you won't be getting a new brother tonight.
K: The only thing more repulsive than looking at you two is the mental image of someone cutting out their own innards and jump-roping with them at the Outhouse, a strip bar in the Lawrence area.
M: My band opened for Nirvana @ the Outhouse. You opened for Goldfinger @ geetars n cadillacs. Fag.
?: Your mom is so toothless, it takes her an hour to eat Minute Rice!
J: Your dad's prostate is so clunky that if you were a car you'd be a YUGO!
I didn't mean to give myself the last word (btw, WTF?), but there it is.
Tonight's Overstep Show and Other Stuff, Too
It's at the Record Bar. If you'd read this, you wouldn't have known that because we accidentally left the concert info off. I'm sorry for whatever trouble this caused the band, the venue, my parents, the nuns at the Catholic church down the street, the guy I bought fried chicken from at the Sun Fresh deli back in February and anyone else with feet or no feet. We do not discriminate against the footless when it comes to making apologies. (Yes, that includes you, Stubs.)
Once again, I direct your attention here for a list of the weekend's live music.
What you won't find on Sad Dog, however, is a mention of Anti-Crew's gig Sunday night at the Peanut. This hip-hop duo, made up of FlareThaRebel and DJ Eternal, is puttin' down one more time locally before heading off to their sophomore year of college in Chicago. The rhymes are fast, clever and political, and the beats are hard. I fuckin' recommend it. What else do you need? An invitation? Go to hell.
Yours 4 Ever,
It was great to get away for the weekend, but I was so severly tonguelashed last night at Dave's Stagecoach for missing the Embarrassment show Sunday that the trip almost seemed not worth it after all (just kidding, mom and dad!).
I had no noteworthy musical experiences in my hometown of Abilene, Texas — probably because there's no music scene there to speak of. However, some killer musicians have come out of there in recent years, such as Micah P. Hinson, whose older brother and I were playmates in grade school (we tormented Micah whenever possible) and friends on the level of "howya doin'?" all through college. My senior year of college (yes, I went to college in Abilene, too. Fuck you.), Micah reappeared from a drug darkness and played a few gigs in town. By then, he had alienated most of his friends, some of whom were in this now-defunct-but-preserved-on-MySpace band called the Danes with me.
If you clicked on that Myspace link, then right now you're hearing the singing voice of Brandon Carr (born in Dallas), who, with native Abilenian John Mark Lapham formed the Earlies with a group of musicians based in Manchester, England. The Observer did a story on them a while back. I've heard cuts from the new album, which is to be released on Secretly Canadian, in October and it is fucking phenomenal and I'm not just saying that.
One Danes anecdote, then I'll shut up about Texas music. The band's high point, in my opinion, was not any particular show (though there were many), but when they were invited to be interviewed on a Fort Worth college radio show. I wasn't there because I lived in Abilene the whole time and only drove over for gigs. Brandon, who is an ace bullshitter such as can only be matched by Zach and Brandon Phillips (see below*), had the coeds hosting the program convinced that the Danes opened for Radiohead in Dallas. He said that Thom Yorke was standing offstage watching the show when the Danes broke into a cover of Paranoid Android (I think that was the song, anway), and then Brandon said Thom was so mad — and I'll never forget this — "that his gimpy eye went straight."
Then, later at the station, Andy, one of the guitarists, had cornered one of the host chicks (who, by all accounts, were hot) in a closet and was attempting to flirt. Unfortunately, his colon was not with him, and he broke wind. It was quiet, but not so inaudible that Brandon didn't hear it and immediately and loudly say, "Dude, did you just blow ass?"
The moral: Feel free to invite Texas rock stars onto your radio show, but don't expect them to be good wingmen.
*Road Hard Outtakes, Chapter 1: "Jason Gets Punk'd."
Note: All dialogue reconstructed from memory alone and thus approximated
Setting: Architects' van, late at night, travelling through the Texas panhandle. BRANDON PHILLIPS is driving. His brother, ZACH PHILLIPS sits in the seat behind. Journalist JASON HARPER rides shotgun.
ZACH: I wrote the score to a musical when I was in 8th grade.
ZACH: Yeah, it was called "Pants."
JASON: No shit?
ZACH: Yeah, it was a love story.
JASON: I gotta write this down. (Digs out Moleskine. Can't find pen, so settles for red Sharpie, even though the ink will bleed.)
BRANDON: The publicist got a deal in Asia and it was made into a movie.
BRANDON and ZACH continue with the yarn.
BRANDON: No copies exist in the United States, but a planeload of them was air dropped over Arabia.
JASON: (catching on) Wait a minute...are you guys lying to me?
ZACH: I can't believe you went for that!
BRANDON: Hook, line and sinker.
JASON: Aww, you guuuuyyyys!!!
Theme music plays. Everyone laughs. JASON writes the word "LIE" over his notes with the red marker and later cries himself to sleep.
The Roman Numerals and Doris Henson rocked St. Louis Friday night. Riverfront Times music head Annie Zaleski was there to see it. Here's her report:
I often consider myself a Kansas city poseur. A crew and i drove in for the Gary Numan show at the Record Bar last week — a fabulous, fabulous show I might add, made doubly so with the brie/Swiss/mozzarella pizza and Blue Moon I scarfed. And I often gaze longingly at the Lawrence show schedule and scheme whether I can take off work to hop on over.
So I was rather pleased that the Roman Numerals were kind enough to grace St. Louis with their presence on Friday night for a CD release party. We have a small but fierce electronic music scene; the bands that do play out are great, but it's also rare when we get any of the national/regional synthpop acts of any merit. And I do love me some synth-based rock bands, since I'm a huge new-wave head.
They had the luxury of playing at our local legendary dive, the Hi-Pointe, the nexus for the local music scene that's busy most nights of the week. (I had three separate people I had never met before recognize me from MySpace.) The crowd they drew was disappointingly small, but filled with risk-obsessives and synth-dorks, as far as I can tell. Still, the entire bill didn't disappoint: fabulous local St. Louis rockers the Bureau — think Moving Units meets Interpol — opened with a typically spring-loaded set. They're in the middle of recording their full-length debut, and I have high hopes for it. When they play KC, go.
Doris Henson also drove in from KC for the occasion. I've been a big fan of theirs for awhile now, but never seen 'em; saw the first part of their set and was super impressed. Big points for the use of horns without reverting to ska; this is a big, big problem with St. Louis bands. We have quite the ska problem here.
Anyway, roman numerals: holy shit. I was totally in awe. Amazing show. I must admit I never listened to any of the former bands the members were in (hey, I was too busy obsessing over Morrissey and REM in the 90s), but I could tell that everyone had years of touring under their belts, and I could hear hints of those bands in the new stuff. "Can we trust your architect?" just killed, although the highlight by far for me was "Mrs. Control," which just kept rolling and going on and on, with waves of sugary guitar, space-wave flourishes. And those anguished vocals! Goddamn! (I'm listening to it obsessively today, in fact.) Other songs reminded me of Failure or Joy Division, and Matt from Doris Henson jumped onstage for the final song, which out-Bowie'd Bowie. There was plenty of drunk dancing, too. A-plus.
KC is lucky to be able to see such great local bands so often. Please come back soon!
It's a big weekend for local (and nonlocal, in some cases) music, and the most comprehensive coverage (aside from the Pitch of course) of what's going on is just a click away, courtesy of our friends and guides at Sad Dog.
And now, myself.
Perhaps, as with many such situations, the Fates were the agents that brought me to Harry's Bar and Tables the night some acquaintances were discussing the formation of a Tom Petty tribute band. And no doubt the Morai also bade me issue the declaration, "I wanna be Mike Campbell!" And further to answer, when pressed on the issue of whether I could play guitar, those empresses of fortunes ill and good plied my tongue to cry, "Fuck yeah I can play guitar! Shit! You kidding me? Fuck*."
OK, I'll abandon that bullshit tone. I hate reading people who write using affected diction. But at least you learned about the Fates, right? Anyway, yep, I'm in a Tom Petty tribute band, for now, at least. We had our first full-band rehearsal — after many weeks of talking about it since that night at Harry's — last Tuesday. We started at 1, and after two hours, I called my boss to let him know I probably wouldn't be back until much, much later. When I did get back to the office, exhausted from Campbelling my ass off, there was a message from him in my inbox that read:
Subject: Tom Petty
Body of message: That's some funny shit.
It's always good to have the support of your superiors.
I haven't played guitar full time in a band ever. I've done bass, and I've switched to guitar here and there a few times. But I've taken enough guitar lessons from mullet-headed music store guys (and one brilliant college professor for the theory and smart stuff) and jammed with enough records in the living room to hold my own. I have a kickass guitar. It looks like a brown piece of shit, double-cutaway thing, but it's got P-90s and other good hardware bits, so it's like a hot-rod's engine in a Chevy Cavalier's body. It has no brand, though, because it was made by one of those be-mulleted music store guys.
Tuesday afternoon, I showed up with my Brown Bomber (as we may as well call it) and this crappy Epiphone amp that I bought from Midwestern Music for way too much. (Though, in all fairness, I bought the amp for quiet playing, and it does get some good tones, it's just not loud enough.) Luckily, the other Heartbreakers didn't laugh me out of the garage. Present were Dan, Jimmy and Adam, the guys from 30-Minute Recess, whom I wrote about here. Since that story came out, I started seeing them everywhere and kind of got to be drinking buddies with them. Maybe I should be ethical and avoid cultivating friendships in the scene (or go all the way and have no friendships, period), but fuck it, I wanna have a good time. Can't begrudge me that.
Also, like every critic who's not got his turntable arm shoved up his ass, all I really wanna do is be in a band.
The band is rounded out by heavyweights Ryan Johnson (drums) and Ben Grimes (Pettyesque vocals), both of the Golden Republic, and both real musicians. Actually, I'd say Dan, who does keyboards and some guitar, is a real musician, too. He did play with Elevator Division in its last incarnation, which was when they played the Buzz Beach Ball at Verizon a couple years ago, opening for Weezer, among others. As for Adam, Jimmy and I — all hacks, through and through.
But what matters is that for four hours one afternoon in a Midtown garage, we were Tom Petty and the motherfuckin'** Heartbreakers. Minus one showcasey lick, I nailed the lead on "Breakdown," and even though I didn't hit it perfectly, my slide sound on "Won't Back Down" was enough to earn me the right to learn the proper notes and play it next time. (Of course, I was playing on someone else's amp, but I came correct as I could, yo.)
Wish me luck on this. You may not love Tom Petty, but saying you hate him is like saying you hate ice cream. That's what we're banking on when it comes time to send our audition tape to Cheeseburger in Paradise.
*I don't really talk like that, Mom.
**All right, maybe I do.
Boy, I really sounded like a curmudgeon yesterday (see below). And because of that, I've received a couple of defensive emails from PMA winners.
My bitching about MySpace seemed the sorest point. Anna Cole of Anvil Chorus, the band I singled out for sending multiple weekly bulletins, rightly pointed out that you can always delete a friend/band if you don't want to receive their "myspam," as a friend of mine calls it.
I think bands should hustle and pimp themselves, and if MySpace provides an easy, viable way of doing that, go for it — just be prepared for jerks like me to complain. The book of etiquette on this issue will take a long time in writing itself. It's important to remember that, ideally, you want people to notice you because your music's great and not because you're the best in town at stuffing virtual flyers in their inboxes.
Case in point: In the Pines (holy shit, that song up on their profile right now is good). Almost without exception, every time I see this band, I overhear someone praising the show. I also often have people tell me they were blown away when they saw the Pines for the first time last week or whenever. Granted, I'm not their MySpace friend yet, so I don't know how they are about bulletinating. But big kudos to them for going from Best New Act nominee last year to Best Folk winner this year — and for making one awesome picture up on Phocas.net. Is it just me, or does Brad Hodgson look like Gordon Downie of the Tragically Hip? (Is it just me, or has anyone else even heard of the Tragically Hip?)
But back to the issue at hand, I'm obviously talking myself in circles. Shit, I can't give the definitive word on MySpace promotion (if you can, post a comment, please). For music critics, MySpace has become invaluable for finding out about unknown bands. That's why I started an account. Then I got hooked up with old college friends I'd lost touch with. All good for starters, but this egocasting, as it's becoming known, doesn't feel healthy. For me, it's like having a little mannequin of myself up in public somewhere, always needing maintenance to keep up with trends, a little speaker in its throat announcing my tastes to anyone who passes by. Forget Terminator robots — the machines are going to enslave humanity by reducing us to paralyzed, twitching, neurotic lumps. I frequently come close to MySpace suicide, but then something comes along and reminds me how useful it is at the moment.
So, bands: Have a MySpace. Use it tastefully. And remember, it's a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't wanna live there.
I'm now on the third repetition of that In the Pines song. I think I'll add it to my profile! Weeoo!
Oh, and to anyone who uses mass cell phone texting to communicate about events: Stop Or We Will Kill You. I encourage everyone who receives a message from a DJ about some upcoming gig to return that text at 5:30 in the morning with the message: "Hey, bro, sorry I missed your show!!! LOL."
Another Pitch Music Awards ritual has come and gone, and to me, it's like the death of a romance, a time to look at that empty seat across the breakfast table, sigh, and look hopefully at the days ahead. But you probably just want to know who won. So here you go.
Best Avant/Experimental: Onemilliontinytinyjesuses. Best Blues/Soul: Ida McBeth. Best Country/Bluegrass: Split Lip Rayfield. Best DJ/Dance: DJ Sku. Best Female Vocalist: Kim Anderson (of Flee the Seen). Best Folk/Roots: In the Pines. Best Hardcore/Metal: the Esoteric. Best Hip-Hop: Mac Lethal. Best Jazz: the Grand Marquis. Best Latin: Sons of Brasil. Best Live Act: the Esoteric. Best Male Vocalist: Brandon Phillips (of the Architects). Best New Act: Anvil Chorus. Best Rock/Pop: the Architects. Best Punk: Flee the Seen.
Let me remind everyone that these winners represent the will of the people. I cast one ballot and did in no way manipulate the final results. I'm saying that because you probably noticed a certain cover story a couple of weeks ago wherein yours truly performed roadie services with big winners the Architects on a trip to California. That story may have helped them win; I don't know. I went on that trip to have fun and get out of town for a while. I didn't even know until we were driving home that my editors would want me to turn it into a story. I'm innocent, I swear.
I may also take flack because the Grand Marquis won Best Jazz. A lot of so-called discerning jazz fans and musicians don't consider that band "real jazz." I want to tell such people now that I don't give two honks off a dry saxophone reed. Go tell it on the mountain, and drop a coin in Wynton Marsalis' tip cup on the way up. The Marquis is cool.
In fact, I don't care that much who wins these awards. Many of my favorite bands didn't even get nominated, much less pick up a trophy. It's my job as a critic to disagree with the tastes of the masses, though, so I guess I'm doing OK. I am glad Split Lip won because that band may not be around much longer (read this week's music feature), but many of the winners were elected on the basis of fan mobility more than anything else. Also, a few (rather unfairly) are the type that will win no matter what category they end up in.
As in any race for votes, a huge factor is good pimping or having an already large and enthusiastic fan base. That's not to say successful self-promotion and high quality are mutually exclusive. But you know how it is -- Clay Aiken sold a bazillion records because of a TV show, whereas Joe Strummer handed out fliers on the street for his shows until he died.
In fact, I conducted a little experiment and counted up how many friends are listed on each of the winners' MySpace pages. In the Pines counts a meager 600 friends; The Architects, 2,131; Mac Lethal, 7,680; Anvil Chorus, 8,713; the Esoteric, 11,910; and Flee the Seen, 18,513.
MySpace pimping is gonna get old as soon as people realize that spam is spam, even when it comes from a starving artist. I've received practically eight bulletins a week from Anvil Chorus since signing up as one of their "friends" a month ago.
But what does all of this mean about the local scene? It means that it's healthy. And our music awards don't even fully represent that, because there were a few nominees that haven't put out an album since, like, 2004. This yearly competition cannot possibly be perfect, but it's worthwhile to conduct simply because it raises awareness of local music. Our marketing people work their asses off to make sure that we end up looking good, but I know them, and I know that they really do care about local music. I also believe that enough people vote and come to the showcase and awards to validate them — in other words, to prove that those who do win really do deserve their awards.
And now we look ahead together at another year of rockin'. I know there are enough new acts out there to ensure — if there's any justice — a massive spill of fresh blood all over next year's ballot. There's so much good new music that I hope maybe next time -- in more than a few categories -- sheer quality will trump longstanding popularity.
So sign off MySpace and go see a show.
Tonight at the Uptown Theater on Broadway and Valentine, $5 will admit you not only view the fugly-ass Blues Brothers mannequins in the smoking lounge but also to find out which bands are winning a Pitch Music Award this year. Lauded and loathed karaoke host and erstwhile bandleader Brodie Rush will perfor songs and give out awards between sets by Anvil Chorus, the Leo Project, the Grand Marquis, plus a DJ tagteam set from Sku and Ataxic. There might even be a few crazy m.f. surprises. Hope you can be there. Tonight will be EPIC, I guarantee.
Afterwards, there's a number of parties around town. I know the Grand Marquis is jetting over to Davey's Uptown to throw down with the Golden-Hearted Whores, while the official afterparty will be held at the Record Bar, where Salt the Earth, Stock Market Crash and Ring: Cicada are kicking out the jams. Over in JoCo, Sku and his partner Konsept are holding turtablist court at Club 5401 (aka Lucky Brewgrille) on Johnson Drive.
If I survive tonight I might be seeing you tomorrow at one of these shows:
Feelsexy with Miles Bonny at the Hangout
As a dude, I'd have to say that — despite the fact that he's an incredible beatmaker — Miles Bonny is the last person I want help with when it comes to feeling sexy. But when that slinky, bassy soul creeps through the PA, one's libido takes over and anything goes. Either that, or one just has a good time hanging out and being chill and not worrying about getting one's mack on. It doesn't all have to be about fucking, does it?
The Throttlers, Super Black Market and Last of the V8s at the Brick
It's bands like these that get my pop-lovin' ass back into the dirty, heavy shit that makes rock and roll possibly the most awesome human creative endeavor. Clash-saluting Super Black Market heap screamage and humor on top of dissonant, driving punk, while Last of the V8s bring the world back to the MC5's heyday, getting trashed, breaking shit and occasionally bleeding all over the place. They're my favorite local band to see live, I think. The Throttlers...I've never seen before. I'm sure they're great. Good name, at least.
Check your Pitch listings and drop by Sad Dog for more info on local haps. Tune in soon for tales of debauchery from yours truly, and feel free to leave comments more often; it's easier to do now.
Just a couple of quick things, y'all.
1. It's way easier to post comments on this blog now. No mailing address, blood type or genitalia descriptions required. So, let the feedback begin.
2. OK Jones is looking for a drummer. Contact Richard Gintowt at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested in beating the skins for this great little alt-pop-country band. Or is that alt-country-pop? Countr... — forget it. Gintowt just moved to KC from Lawrence, where he used to do the lion's share of music writing for Lawrence.com but now just wants to write hits, baby. Jones' album Push/Pull is really one of the best overall recordings to come out of the scene in the past year. If I played drums, I would apply.
3. Witness, people, the right way for a band to pimp its merch.
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