Tuesday, May 28, 2013

PIG HEART TRANSPLANT - "Land Of Marred Normalcy" - Tape - 2007

   I JUST DRANK WAY TOO MUCH COFFEE AND I'M FREAKING OUT!! Anyway, This is perfect for the anxiety-inducing part of a major coffee buzz, but maybe not in the way you might expect. PIG HEART TRANSPLANT is/was the project of my neighbor, Jon Kortland, who is one half of the rumbling mind-fuck that is known as IRON LUNG. Just about everything those guys touch is unstoppable and this tape is no exception. Noise, digital static, tape manipulation, fucked up guitars, industrial landscapes and howling cacophonies all combine to provide a deeply challenging but satisfying listen. I was listening to this on headphones once while trying to go to sleep in a pitch black boxcar and got so freaked out that I had to turn it off. Music can move one in many ways and that is one of those ways that I truly enjoy.

   Sorry for the lack of consistent updates lately. Real life has been really real and extremely busy with non-digital happenings as of late. I'm going to make a more concerted effort to update this more regularly and I'm even going to pay more attention to improving the writing. With this entry, the blog has been viewed over 200,000 times, which means that someone somewhere might be paying attention. Thanks to longtime readers, supporters and people who just stumbled upon this and enjoyed it. Thanks also to naysayers, critics and shit-talkers. It takes all kinds to make the world go round. See you soon. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

JOE SMITH - Tape - 2001

   This is another band that I feel like I could write a book about: the internal dramas, the external dramas, the lasting friendships it created, the jail time, the utter depression, the failure, the success (however one defines success) and so much more. I won't go that far though.
   To begin, Joe Smith is a man from north Georgia who spent a lot of time sleeping on our couches, drinking a lot of beer and playing guitar every waking second of the day. When he wasn't playing in bands (like DRILLER KILLERS and THE SPADES), he was usually being misunderstood and berated by his friends. Unsurprisingly, he moved away from Chattanooga and settled in Gainesville, FL for a while. In his short time there, he started a band that shattered all of the preconceived notions of his friends back home as he delivered hook after hook-filled song. He called that band JOE SMITH and wasted no time recording their songs and setting up a tour. The cast was rounded out by Cinque on bass, Bill on drums and Ski on 2nd guitar (not on the recording though).
   The songs, I believe, were intended to be released by No Idea Records in some form, but like most bands with Chattanooga roots, many of the usual (and unusual) trials and tribulations kept the band from staying together long enough to see that through. The night before their first (and only) tour, Bill's back went out and he dropped off of the tour. Never ones to be discouraged, they moved Ski to drums and left town as scheduled. In Pensacola, FL, they ran into me and talked me into jumping in the van with them as their third (!!!) roadie. That night, they played an unforgettable generator show on a beach by the tracks along with THIS BIKE IS A PIPEBOMB and a then unknown 2-piece band called AGAINST ME. When TBIAPB said "This is a new song called 'Trains And Cops'", a freight train started whizzing down the tracks, as if on cue. The train passed by for the entirety of the song and as the last note of the guitar was fading out, the last car flew by. It was perfect. That night, Cinque and I walked around town, pushing each other in a wheelchair and came upon hundreds of beers in a dumpster. We filled up the wheelchair, giggling, and headed back to the punk house with our bounty.
   Tour went on and a couple of days later, we found ourselves at a house show in Atlanta with a ton of skinheads. Early in the night, I found myself alone with one of the skins by the keg. As I was filling my cup, he asked "Do you guys have any good tapes in your van? ....Maybe some SKREWDRIVER or any other white power stuff?" I found myself visibly shaking and thinking "Great, we have to kill these people." I looked up and the skin was laughing. "I'm just fuckin' with you, man. We're not racist. Do you have any good mix tapes?"
   The rest of the night turned out to be pretty fun and like any good punk show, there were punks passed out on the lawn by the end of the night. I'm not sure why this happened (well, actually I do), but I ended up falling asleep on the sidewalk right by the busy street. I was rustled awake a short time later and opened my eyes to red and blue flashing lights. I was looking into Joey's face though and not the face of a cop. Joey urged me to go back to sleep in the van. I crawled into the loft and fell asleep again after taking two bites of a burrito (also provided by Joey). I awoke in the morning to find out that the cops were summoned by an alarm set off in the school across the street when Ski and Heather (our new friend who lived at the house) decided to break in. Now, they were in jail and we needed to get to Chattanooga. There was talk of calling the whole thing off, but then we got a message from Ski saying that we should just move on without him and I could play drums. So, we jumped back in the van and I learned the songs by listening to this tape over and over on the 2 hour drive to Chattanooga. We played that night and it was 100% mediocre. Tour continues! I ended up playing for the rest of the tour without serious injury, jail time or any other serious maladies.
   Here's the rest in short sentence fragments with little to no detail, because like I said earlier, I could write a book about this tour: Long drives at night while drinking beer. Joey only being able to ride in the van if he had a 40 and a Gameboy. Total crushing depression. Cody driving for the entire tour while drinking 64 ounces of soda daily. Ed providing words of wisdom and, when that failed, tackling me. More total crushing depression. Watching AGAINST ME in Whitesburg, KY and hearing Cinque say "This band is going to be absurdly famous". It's weird to me that I can barely even remember where we went. It was all caught up in a haze of the heaviest sadness I had ever felt (from the uncertainties of my future mixed with a quarter life crisis) and a tidal wave of dumpstered swill.
   By the end of the tour, the band was basically dead. Back in Gainesville, we played a homecoming show with THE FLESHIES and then Cinque and I hitched up to Chattanooga (basically making it in one ride with an insane, speed-addled trucker who named his first born d'Artagnan, after his D&D character's name). Joey stayed for a bit and then drifted back up to north Georgia. Ed stayed in Gainesville and you can still find him there, being completely awesome. Cody drifted up to his homeland of Fargo and now, fittingly, drives for a living....and demolishes cars, I think. Ski got outta jail, lived in Atlanta for a while to deal with court stuff, moved back to G'ville and then moved up to Minneapolis where he now stays. Heather picked me up hitchhiking a couple of months after this tour and had absolutely no recollection of who I was. Now, we're great friends.
    I can't listen to these songs without thinking about that time. Joey far surpassed all of our expectations and wrote incredibly catchy, heartfelt, beautiful punk songs about our lives and the great people we lost too early in the game. I wish that these songs had gotten the proper release that they deserved, but it never happened. I hope that now you'll be able to enjoy it as much as I have over the years.

"Everyone I know has given a piece of their heart"

Thanks to Joey, Cinque and Bill for writing these songs.
Thanks to Joey, Cinque, Ski, Ed, Cody and Dutchess for getting me in the van and changing my life. 

p.s. first song is a little cut off in the beginning because that's how my tape is. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SHORT STACK - "Got Soul" - Tape - 2006

   New York City in the mid-00's was pumping out loads of quality punk bands who never really left the city. I'm sure that NYC still produces these bands, but I don't know who they are. SHORT STACK were one of those bands who were drinking in Tompkins Square Park, walking the streets, eating cheap pizza, and recording their songs on 4 tracks in the basement.
   I visited NYC on tour and Ella (guitar/vocals) handed me this tape when I got to her house. I was stoked, but then promptly lost it among all the other piles of detritus in the tour van. I was never able to track it down. Luckily, I found this a few weeks ago in a free box at a punk house, which seems like a fitting way to acquire this tape.
  I don't know much about this band, but you can hear the beer, the NYC streets, the desperation, the oppressive heat and the grit in these songs. "San Pedro Post Office" and "Chuck Berry" will pull you in and the rest will hold you there for the full 14 minutes of this tape. Enjoy.

Features members of DEAD DOG, RAW//WAR, SLEEPWALK, SIX PACK FOUR, BEER GARDEN and more. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

IMPRACTICAL COCKPIT - "Thanks" - Tape - 2006

   As I'm sure I've said before, IMPRACTICAL COCKPIT is one of my favorite bands. Years back, they were getting ready to go on a tour and their drummer, Don broke his leg. Rather than call the whole thing off, Don learned how to use a combination of percussion and electronics, which ultimately sent the band to a new plateau of weirdness. That trajectory took them into a later tour where they would play sprawling hour long sets, employing the use of hand made horns, staticky radios, tape loops, half-broken amps and miscellaneous debris. The results could be hypnotic, challenging, abrasive and cleansing.
   I got a ride down to a show of theirs in Kentucky during this time and was dropped off at the bar hours before they even arrived. At the time of the show (8 hours later), they were the only musical act scheduled to play. They took their time setting up and the clientele of the bar eyed them warily. As they hit their first notes of the night, a huge Midwestern storm started brewing in the neighborhood. The doors to the bar were wide open and sheets of rain started pouring in. I looked at the middle-aged, burly, biker-style bartenders standing there...arms crossed, not batting an eye or making a move to close the doors. About five minutes into IPCP's set, every paying customer in the bar got up and left, deciding to brave the potentially tornado-inducing storm rather than listen to this band. I looked around. I was left alone with the band, the guy who set up the show, my friend Christina (who lived there and actually came to see the band), Stella (IPCP's roadie, who was laughing at the predicament) and the still-stoic and immobile bartenders. The band did not bat an eye and played their full set. It was great and the insane storm added an extra element of dreaminess to the whole thing.
   At the conclusion of their set, there was an awkward silence after our smattering of applause died down. We were then left with these burly dudes at the bar after driving out their entire clientele. I looked over after a heavy silence and one of 'em said "So, do ya'll like SUN RA and BEEFHEART or something?" Tension broken. The guys loved it and were happy to talk to some other weirdos. Drinks were on the house. The other act was the promoter, Kris, doing a "DJ set", which meant that he would put a record on and let the entire thing play. Then, he would flip it and listen to the other side. (I just now realized that I have told this entire story before in an earlier post. Oops. I am now senile).
   On that tour, IPCP had a mailing list and they said that if you signed it, they would send you free stuff. A lot of bands used to say that, but I never got any free stuff from them. At the conclusion of their tour, the band actually did send this tape out to people who signed the list or set up shows for them. It's called "Thanks" and it compiles live sets, field recordings, jams, talks about botox and random sounds. Listening to this reminds of that night and makes me miss their challenging sounds. I think the thing I love most about the band is that they were somehow always a year ahead of me. What that means is that every time a new LP came out (and they have a lot), I would listen to it and think it was pretty good. I wouldn't quite get it and it wouldn't really hit me, but something let me know that I had to hang onto it. Within a year, that record would become indispensable to me. The same thing happened with this tape. It's pretty out there and it's also really, really good.

There's also a 12" out there called "Thanks II" that is more stuff like this, more field recordings and  moreeeeee weeeirdddddd. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

FLORAL BEEF - Demo - Tape - 2008

   FLORAL BEEF started out with Sean, Emmalee and Jen playing their songs at a new band show in Sean's backyard on a half pipe. Later, they asked Billy to "try out" by getting him to make distressed animal noises and dance around. When he succeeded, they put him on the 2nd drum set.
   Jon Paul recorded this demo on a reel to reel at the 3rd St practice space in San Francisco. The drummers used an old school bell (as a cymbal) that JP had swiped from a school that he squatted.
   Like many bands, FLORAL BEEF went on a tour that destroyed them and strained friendships. Their roadie (Matty B) almost got them in many fights for drugs, unrestrained wildness and matters of religious differences. He was also their "chef", which just meant he poured Tapatio and lime juice into Fritos bags and shook it up.
   Some band members continued to live next door to each other, but barely talked. Jen moved into my house once, but I don't ever think we slept there at the same time. I know I only saw her once. The band got back together a couple of years ago for a reunion show where they took their shirts off, spit beer in each other's mouths, slow danced in the kitchen and tried (and failed) to crush up & snort Horny Goat Weed pills from the corner store. Maybe they even played a tape loop of Ron "Tater Salad" White's comic routine where he talks about getting his dick super-glued to his stomach like they used to...I don't know....I wasn't there....All of this info came from their drummer, Emmalee, not me.

  I only had 2 chances to see FLORAL BEEF and I totally squandered the first one. I believe the band was playing a mere 3 houses away from me, but I was locked up in an attic room alone stressing out and getting depressed. I shared a room with my friend Matt and laid on his bed while he was playing a movie awards show in Hollywood, schmoozing with Deniro and fighting over free Ipods with Jason Bateman. I should've been jumping up and down to FLORAL BEEF, but I was probably reading about total bullshit. If I opened my window, I probably could have heard them. 
  The second time, I raced with a group of bicyclists across SF to the Tenderloin (that's a neighborhood, for out-of-town readers) to try and catch them at their reunion show. We reached the door of the house where they were playing and started blitzing the door guy with questions. "FLORAL BEEF?! HAVE THEY PLAYED YET?!!" The door guy was trying to take our money without answering. "Yeah man, all the bands are great. I'm sure they'll go on soon." Suddenly, Emmalee appeared and said "We already played. It's a shit show." We took out money back and opted to drink on the street instead. Minutes later, a guy from the house walked out and started yelling at us about how we were assholes by drinking out front. We were "blowing up the spot." I looked up at the open window of the house where music was blasting out into the streets. I looked at the guys next to me drinking openly and dealing crack.  I looked at the Friday night hordes also drinking and shouting about nothing. I looked at the whole city going completely ass wild and then glanced back at my friends serenely drinking tall cans on the street. A cop car drove by without a second glance. The guy threatened to call the cops. We laughed and left. 

I've still never seen FLORAL BEEF.

Emmalee wanted me to add this at the last minute: "The most important thing to remember in the telling of FLORAL BEEF is that Jen and I went to the same elementary school (Mark Twain Elementary. Isn;t it weird to name a school after someone's pen name?), but she was in class with my little brother and remembers him being a bad kid."


I know I didn't say anything about what they sound like and that's okay because you can just download it. It's sometimes simple yet deceptively, brilliantly catchy. Abrasive but tender. Songs like "Void in my Head" and "Tell Me" will be stuck in your head for days.