Some Indie Music I’ve Been Listening to Lately

My music taste leans nearly 80% local, but here’s a quick list of non-local things I’ve been enjoying a lot lately.

First, there’s Gender Roles‘ first EP, Planet X-Ray. Gender Roles is far from a local band. They’re not even from this country. Their sound is described as “hazy indie-punk;” I may not be cool enough to know about that, but I dig the way their music meshes Britpop with what 90s Sub Pop used to be known for.

Then there’s Coolsay Too by Coolzey and Soce the Elemental Wizard. Lucky enough to see Coolzey a month or so back at the Milestone (on a fantastic bill — as usual –with D&D Sluggers, Thought Criminals, Luciopro, and Ceschi!), I was drawn to his bold take on a lounge/hip-hop blend. Very postmodern. Check out the song “Tough Guy” for a taste of what I mean.

I was surprised and excited to see that The Colour Thirteen released a full-length album just a couple days ago. I really didn’t think they were doing anything anymore. For all my friends who dig 80s new wave and synthpop, you really ought to give this a listen. The album’s sort of self-titled, TC13, and includes all the songs from their 2011 EP plus 5 more energetic, yet sufficiently moody, tracks.

Simply fun.

A Synthpop, Talk Singing, Industrial Night of Love and PBR Draft

Wednesday’s show at the Milestone was terrific! I’m not the best at concert reviews. I go to shows for edification and entertainment, not as a reporter. I like to stay present in the moment, to give as much attention I can to the performers, so I don’t do well keeping track of details. When I see something great, though, I want to let people know.

Crunk Witch were fantastic, as always. I think I’ve told everyone I know over and over already, but if you get the chance to see them live, DO  IT. Few groups come close to the all-out fun and genuine showmanship they continually bring. They are super nice and exceptionally charming and gracious, too.

During their set, frontman Brandon Miles started a monologue about telling the people in your life how you feel. He wound up passing the mic to David Kinsel in the crowd. David told everyone how he and his girlfriend were big Crunk Witch fans… and then he asked his girlfriend, Krys, to marry him. She said yes. Actually, she said, “fuck yeah.” It was a really sweet moment. 

Height Keech was a surprise. I wasn’t very familiar with him, but he totally won me over. He’s sort of a rapper, but more a “talk singer.” I found his set full of real emotion and inspiration. Songs like “Mind Moves the Mountain” and “Bring Your Soul to the Function” gives you an idea what he’s about.

Gavin Riley played percussion with Height, adding to the raw sound of their performance. Before that, he had his own set as Gavin Riley Smoke Machine. I was curious how he’d do a live show, as I’d checked him out online and watched a few videos from his somewhat trippy “interactive rap app” Space Needle Mystery, a “choose your own adventure” type musical game. Using a projector, he showed a video while rapping, then let the audience choose the course of action, leading to the next video. It was a decidedly different kind of act. Very engaging.

Human Pippi Armstrong is a favorite local performer of mine, a real spectacle. DJ Michael Price described him as kind of a cross between Wesley Willis and Devo. He’s not far off. Last time Ashley and I saw him, he had some equipment issues (and STILL put on a great show). Everything was working well this night.  

It heard it was IIOIOIOII’s first live show, but it wasn’t exactly evident. He might have appeared a little unsure of himself on stage — something he’ll likely overcome with more live experience — but the music was well produced and impressive. Nice lights, too. IIOIOIOII drew a good crowd of folks from Charlotte’s industrial scene.

The whole night was an extraordinary experience. Not unusual for a night at the Milestone. I’m amazed we can see acts like this — 5 on one bill! — for a low $7.00 cover. Add to that being in the company of some of the nicest, most positive people you could ever hope to be around, like sound man Dane Abernathy and Milestone owner Jonathan Hughes. It’s a lucky life I have, and Charlotte’s lucky to have places like the Milestone Club to bring such fine art and entertainment here. Get over and support them. 

What I Might Know About Being Productive. Also Crunk Witch and Brendon Burchard.

It’s 10:00 in the morning already, my day off from work, and I haven’t got much done yet. That’s not totally true. I prepared Ashley’s lunch, played with our dog Milton, made a second pot of coffee, did some bookkeeping, and watched the most recent episode of Supergirl. I’m surprised how much I enjoy that show. This episode was particularly good.

Being productive is kind of a big thing for me. Relaxing and enjoying time is too, but getting things accomplished makes me happy, and with limited time to do stuff, I am somewhat driven to try and make the most of it.

I generally make a to-do list of sorts for each day. Got a few things on a list for today. Here I am sort of doing one of them: blogging. Not about anything important, really, but doing it anyway. After this I’ll work on a section of Brendon Burchard‘s OCourse, Your Next Bold Move. Then there’s housework and errands. I expect I’ll find some time for reading and resting a little.

I’ve found the Next Bold Move course to be extremely helpful. If you feel you need clarity or some extra motivation to move to a higher level of personal performance, I recommend it. Looks like it’s still available if you want to sign up. I know I hype Brendon Burchard a lot, but I really have grown from things he’s taught in his books and videos, and I want to share good things in case anyone else can benefit the same way.

One of my favorite musical groups, especially live, is playing at the World Famous Milestone tonight, so I’ll be going out later. Crunk Witch put on a terrific show. They really give their all at every performance. Totally fun. If you’re in the Charlotte area, I can’t recommend going to see them tonight enough. If you aren’t in the area, maybe you can catch them at one of their other tour stops.

Crunk Witch Heartbeats

The show tonight is packed with other good acts, too. No doubt it’s the work of Wyley Buck Boswell, who always does an incredible job booking fantastic shows. Human Pippi, IIOIOIOII, Height, and Gavin Riley Smoke Machine — each act worth the price of admission alone — are all playing. Amazing. I am so frequently in awe of and very grateful for the number of great shows available to us here.

Okay, time to get active addressing that to-do list. I hope you have a good day, whether that means being productive or not. There is productivity in being still and in enjoying rest, too, of course. Either way, have a good one.

Then I Was an Android Cowboy

Once, not too long ago, I was in an art-rock band.  We were pretty good, too.  This week I have been going through old email while preparing to close an account, and going through all the saved band related correspondence brought to mind a lot of fun (if not conflict-free) memories.

Just one of the positive emails, for memories’ sake:

Hey guys,

I think that BRAND NEW song from Friday night (the jangle-pop one) is going to be called “Calendar.” To be kind of about how managing day to day events can be easy, but somehow the years and decades can slip by too quickly without accomplishing what we might really want. And on that subject…

I’m feeling some momentum with Holster again that is good, and I’m still believing we’re just one show away from the right audience. The shows last week were really good. So was the time over the last month or so working on new stuff and just “gelling” again. We’ve got two decent-profile shows coming up in November, and a TV appearance in December… T-shirts and CDs on the way SOON… good new songs and an improved show… and, although it’s still a long buildup, more people are discovering us and taking notice. I’m hoping to really play up this homeless benefit show to try to get press in the Observer as well as the thing on Fox. I’ve seen the power of the local press around here, and it could really help us.

I just watched “The Nomi Song.” It made me more eager to develop an even more ‘artistic’ stage show. I know Perkins is on board, and I thinnk we all want to continue to separate our band from all the other underachieving performers around. I don’t want a Spinal Tap Stonehenge debacle, but lights and some appropriate props, as well as maybe some, I don’t know, choreography(?) to add… Definitely incorporate the Johnny Quest theme… I guess I’m thinking to play up more of that Sci-Fi Cowboy image… Give it some thought, okay guys?

I’m restless and eager to get some projects going (again). I’ve had a lot on my mind, and a lot already in the works. I’ll keep you all posted as more stuff comes up.

Thanks for being so awesome.


The WHAMS Story

It just won’t let me go.


A couple of years ago I started an organization (of mainly just me) called WHAMS – We Have A Music Scene.  This was, admittedly, when I was actually part of the “scene,” being front man for a rock band and contributing regularly to the local music press.  The original idea was a little vague; primarily, I just wanted to help support local/regional music.  By support, I first meant to bring more attention to the good musical talent in the area, to get more people to shows or buying local product, to help the locals gain some recognition beyond the metro limits.  So it was publicity first, I guess.


Secondly, I had a notion that local music acts could band together — almost unionize — to help each other with practical things, like affording rehearsal space, equipment, and advertising, or trading gigs, or other activities.  Community, I guess you could call it.  This was the organizational part I kind of dreamed up.


In reality, forming the vague hopes of a music scene organization into concrete actions become difficult.  Sure, I had plenty of other things on my plate at the time, including trying to find a way to support myself and my son financially, working on the ever more demanding needs of the band, and trying to fix up and sell a piece of property I had unintentionally become responsible for, but I still thought I could (had to) make the time an find the energy to do some good for the ever deserving local music scene.  I could only do so much, so many of the ideas I had never became fully realized.  I helped with a couple of local festivals, set up a website with a large listing of local artists and venues, and promoted local shows through myspace.  Because I wound up working at Manifest Discs, the biggest independent music store Charlotte has ever had, I also helped the store and the local bands by building up the local consignments and booking shows for the store’s stage.  It may not sound like I accomplished a lot, but I was actually putting a LOT of time into the WHAMS idea, especially with all the networking and putting a lot into the website.


I always intended to recruit more help for WHAMS, and did have some enthusiastic volunteers, but we never got organized or developed specific strategies.  Always meant to, just never got around to getting everyone together.


Then I started to get discouraged.  The more I saw awesome bands get overlooked for lame, boring groups, talentless DJs and disappointing cover bands, the less confidence I had that the people in our area could recognize or appreciate real talent.  I believe I am being objective here, not simply applying my tastes.  The Charlotte Observer, the city’s daily newspaper, increasingly devoted less and less space to music, featuring more space on eating out and going to movies.  That editorial decision led me to believe that was how the Charlotte public felt regarding entertainment.  “Just give us our TV, restaurants, blockbuster movies and teen comedies, and meat market bars to rub against the opposite sex; forget local theatre and definitely keep us away from local music, which can’t possibly be good, since it’s not featured on Grey’s Anatomy.”  Wow.  That came out even more bitter than I expected.  But that’s how I felt.


The rest of the local press wasn’t much more encouraging.  Creative Loafing, the weekly ‘alternative’ paper, also lost perspective on local music.  Amps 11, a monthly music zine, changed management to become a tool for a Charlotte music company.


It was sad to see both local acts and adventurous national acts at terrific venues pull in less than 20 people per show, over and over.  I had been such an unwavering believer in the local music scene, envisioning a continuously vibrant future, but my faith started to, well, waver.


And then there were my personal issues.  The band had problems, and even though we seemed to be gaining some great momentum externally, internally things were rough and seemed to be pulling in different directions.  My son developed some behavioral issues and we began to grow apart suddenly.  I continued to get further behind in my bills, to the point where it was getting scary.  I didn’t have a job that could really sustain me.  And I think I was starting to feel like I was aging, and needed to get my act together quick or I’d wind up poor and unhappy.  I realize now some of those feelings were just effects of pressures working against each other.  But I was feeling a little overwhelmed, and knew I needed to come up with some solutions.  Quickly.


So I started methodically de-cluttering my activities and commitments.  I let go, one by one, of many of the distracting or demanding or unrewarding (at the time) or irritating things that were placing some pressure on me.  The trade off was going to be worth it since I would gain focus on the one or two projects that would make the greatest improvement on my situation.  So I stopped writing for Amps 11.  Left the band.  Dealt with my son’s decision to move out.  Stopped pursuing high effort/low payoff contracts in my consulting.  And totally gave up on doing any more work with WHAMS or local music.


Things did improve for me since then.  It certainly took — and continues to require — a great deal of effort.  I zeroed in on a professional path as a paralegal and put every minute, thought and action I could into getting my debt under control and fixing my finances.  Over many months I continued to release or conquer more and more of the pressures and tasks that had been sucking away at my time and attention.


Although I had made peace with giving up WHAMS, there was never a very long stretch of time before I would have ideas about reviving it.  Sometimes after seeing a local act or reading something I would get a little spark of inspiration.  Every couple of weeks I was jotting down some note to myself about things I could do to help the local music scene, or new ways I could contribute, or needs that just weren’t being met, or new approaches to some of the issues local bands and venues were facing.  I even restarted efforts to update the website.  I thought maybe just doing that one thing wouldn’t put too much on me, and would provide a useful resource for the scene.


Maybe I haven’t made it clear, but promoting and helping local musicians — as well as other local promoters and venues — was something I was passionate about.  Have been for a long while.  And doing something purposeful — helping people; contributing what I have to offer — has been a huge driver for me.  It was NOT EASY, at all, to just give up on the WHAMS stuff.  I felt like I needed to do it, though, and don’t regret it.


I worked on the website for a few days.  It was taking up a lot of time… again.  Afraid of getting bogged down and off track of the other high priorities I had, I gave up on it.


Still, I find myself reacting, especially after reading local media and being amazed at the amazing lack of press being given to the music.  I KNOW I can do better than that.  I KNOW I could make a difference.  I am a realist, in some ways, and know that it is just a sign of the times that popular music is just not as important to people as it has been.  I know not all local music deserves attention (actually and surprisingly, it is often the lackluster acts which seem to get press, while the true innovators are overlooked).  I know a lot of people just don’t care.  But there are SOME people who do care, and I believe they are being underserved.


So, like a weed that struggles and grows where it’s not supposed to, the WHAMS ideas keep coming up in my head.  I am not yet where I want to be in terms of my other goals, and don’t want to interfere with reaching them, but I have to wonder, if I continue to be drawn to it, is working with WHAMS possibly precisely the right thing I should pursue?  Am I denying my own initiative by not following through with some of the projects or ideas I have?  Can reviving WHAMS actually contribute to helping me succeed in my other goals?  Or am I just being seduced by a gigantic distraction?