Friday, August 13, 2010

Windy Austin

Here's a sweet picture of the recently departed Windy Austin, sharing a piano with Jojo Thompson at the Library Club.  Photo by Orlis.  There's a memorial service for Windy in Fayetteville, at George's on Sunday.  There's also a fund to help cover medical and funeral expenses.  I will be posting songs here on and off throughout the weekend at least.  You can play them through the player and click the link to download for your own sharing.

This first batch is drawn from a live show by Windy and the Hothouse Tomato Boys that I recorded in the summer of 2000 at Georges.  vocals: Windy Austin, guitars: Bob Myers and Lloyd Price, bass: Rick Boyette, drums: Larry Matthews.

Weenie Time/Stand By Me

Rome's Last Go Around


(Weenie Time, Romeo's Last go Around and Margarita all written by Mike Sumler)
If 6 Was 9

Dick and Jane/Mary Lou

Mack the Knife

Highway 61/She Cut Me Off

(She Cut Me Off written by Charles Tubberville)

They All Play Stairway to Heaven

Monday, July 5, 2010

Citations and Revisions

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivatng and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people for whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the LIVES of another. [omitted from the final draft]

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

 Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
 The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In determining the question of reasonableness, it is at liberty to act with reference to the established usages, customs, and traditions of the people, and with a view to the promotion of their comfort, and the preservation of the public peace and good order. Gauged by this standard, we cannot say that a law which authorizes or even requires the separation of the two races in public conveyances   is unreasonable, or more obnoxious to the fourteenth amendment than the acts of congress requiring separate schools for colored children in the District of Columbia, the constitutionality of which does not seem to have been questioned, or the corresponding acts of state legislatures.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world.

Segregation of white and Negro children in the public schools of a State solely on the basis of race, pursuant to state laws permitting or requiring such segregation, denies to Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment 

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

SEC. 2. No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lost & Found

Alright- so there is this argument (and elsewhere) that rock aesthetics are defined by recordings. There are limitations to this insight—like the way it tends to break down if the discourse you’re surveying for evidence favors the participation of musicians, jam band fans, or happens at certain places and times, etc. but basically it’s usually been true in many places during rock’s now glimmering and fading postwar hegemony in the US and the UK. Rock occurs in objects that reproduce recorded sound in moments and spaces different than those it was recorded in. And more often than not the original space/moment doesn’t/didn’t literally exist and is described and surrounded only by that recording; that created arrangement of vibrations over time that I’ll call the sound object. So there’s a very deep affective relationship that gets built up between the sound object and the artifact it’s encoded in. The music industry that exists through rock/as rock has defined itself according to it’s ability to deliver new kinds of sound encoded objects, and it’s depended to some great degree on its monopoly on the legitimate and efficient production of those objects, including the ability of its major actors to define what’s legitimate and efficient (and vice versa) in their interests.

So what happens to rock when the sound object becomes separable from the found object? Well, a bunch of things that I’ll address in another post, though a lot of it is likely familiar, if heatedly debated stuff. What I’m interested in is: if the musical form and the object are coequal, what happens to that musical form when the object goes away, when not just specific kinds of objects become each progressively obsolete, but when the idea that there is a specific, legitimate physical object at all that exists to deliver that sound, what happens to the sound? Not to the record company, the record stores, the musicians, the radio stations, etc. What happens to the music of objects when the musical object is obsolete?

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Alright, so this is for those people up on capitol hill doing the Republican's dirty work for them. Like the song says "If your words are no damn good, maybe you're no good..."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Misc. on the passing of Alex Chilton

1. I'm struck by the sudden blooming of video tributes on my Facebook page. Lots of homemade videos and those songs- ! This is what we do now, right? We seek simultaneity of affect and "Years ago, my heart was set to live, oh..." you know?

2. Rcvd. 1 (1) Cassette [Maxell XLll90] #1 Record/Radio City from the Rev. Wayne Coomers in winter 1987/88. Aassoc. Images: #1 Record sitting in front of a stack of LPs in the living room of the California House/D-Luxe Kitchen, that round dish machine that Barry washed his clothes in/noticing that the "astrological" poster that's in the Willliam Eggleston photo on the cover of Radio City was on my living room wall when we lived on Rush Dr./Millie's Deli, Springfield, Mo.

3. I remember being worried that he wasn't going to make it out of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

4. Chilton was "famous" in a strange way, it was at first a kind of negative fame or conspiracy by record collectors and rock critics. Eventually it would seem like this fame was what he was most famous for.

5. You can really hear just how things are gonna go with him in the second verse of the second song on side one of #1 Record:

There's people around who'll tell you that they know
The places where they send you, and it's easy to go
They'll zip you up and dress you down
and stand you in a row
but you know you don't have to,
you can just say "No."

You can also hear, I think, why his constituency was so broad and deep. Because we all needed to hear someone say that in a pop song, in a great pop song, just like that.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Things Look Different...

This ran in the Fayetteville free Weekly last week. It was written in reply to this article by Joe Katzbeck. It might make more sense if you read Joe's take first. I'm moving mine here and will likely expand it a little bit. Feel free to leave suggestions, revisions, and corrections in comments.

Things Look Different: Another Story of Punk Rock in Fayetteville

“You can tell when the reality changes. Things look different.” That’s written in a comic book dialog balloon that I cut out and pasted into a poster I made for my favorite Fayetteville band, Rex Rootz, in the summer of 1985. The poster was for a rent party, featuring the Rootz and Wayne Coomers and the Original Sins, held in the practice studio at 347½ West Avenue, a location soon to be known across Fayetteville simply as The Icehouse. That dialog balloon proved to be faintly prophetic. Things did look (and sound) different in Fayetteville after that party. It was the last show for Rex Rootz, but the scene that had started to jell at the summer rent parties grew, eventually linking Fayetteville with independent bands, record labels and scenes in towns and cities across the country.

You can read about that national scene, including several bands that played Fayetteville, in Michael Azzarad’s fine book Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991. The local histories that made up these scenes however are still largely unwritten. Last week the Free Weekly published A Story of Punk Rock in Fayetteville, Joe Katzbeck’s account of his experience of this changed reality in the mid 1980s. I don’t intend to offer a complete history of the Icehouse here, or to dispute most of the events described by Joe, my good friend and first real musical teacher, but I do want to offer a different perspective. This is another story of punk rock in Fayetteville, one of many, because those changes looked different from different angles, and this history is still being written.

As Joe suggested, part of the story of the icehouse was a story about how anger, one of the most visible colors in punk rock’s palette, can be a constructive force. Some of the original energy that catalyzed the icehouse group came from the break up of the Rex Rootz, the dispute between the band’s erstwhile leader and its putative sidemen and women who took over the practice studio. But that’s hardly the whole story. The other crucial, transformative happening in the summer of 1985 was the meeting between the small but tenacious crowd of townie punks that made up Rex Rootz’s core audience, and the crowd of college students, mostly out of town émigrés, who were members and fans of Wayne Coomers and the Original Sins. The instant bands that sprang up in the month between the last Rex Rootz show and the first icehouse party owed everything to the mingling between the fans and former members of these two very different bands.

The Rootz were self consciously punk rock. They had started in 1980 with a small catalog of songs written by founding guitarist Sam Karnatz, and other's cooked up collaboratively with input from soon-to-be surrealist poet Fred Mclain. Those songs had titles like “I Don’t Want No Friends” and “Paranoid Man” and "Mama Thinks I'm Crazy."  As they matured, and Mclain left, the rhythms became trickier, the chords more complex and the guitar solos longer. By the time that Joe joined them they were a guitar band with a bad attitude, which is certainly one way of playing punk rock.

Wayne Coomers and the Original Sins were punk rock in a different way. They mostly played loose, loud versions of 60s garage classics, and whatever else they could figure out over a few beers. Like Lenny Kaye’s primal Nuggets sampler they drew on the first body of music that was ever called “punk” and made it their own thru sheer enthusiasm. In fact both bands drew on the legacy of 60s rock, but even there the contrast is instructive: the Rootz covered the Yardbirds and the Doors, while the Coomers covered Count 5 and The Standells, not to mention the Velvet Underground. The Rootz had become increasingly professional in the process of butting their heads against the Dickson Street bars, depending on virtuoso performances from their lead guitarist, drummer, and new organ player to get their darkly humorous songs across in a town where blues rock was the universal language. That made for a fun band to watch and dance to, but one that was more exciting than inviting. I first saw Wayne Coomers and the Original Sins at a houseparty on California Street. The hardwood floor in the back bedroom was literally shaking. All the songs were three chord wonders. They didn’t have a bass player. I thought “hey, maybe I could do this!”

For those of us who had followed Rex Rootz through the lean years, the Coomers’ aesthetic was invigorating. So was having our own place to play and not depending on bar owners who were happy to look at your list of covers in lieu of a demo tape. The parties that we held at the icehouse between July of 1985 and March of 1986 attracted the ire of those club owners not because we had pulled a huge crowd of local punk rock fans out of their bars, but because we had created a crowd that hadn’t been there before, and that crowd was attached to a place more than any one band. And that place, the only place on the street bringing in large crowds amid a recession and a whisper campaign about how “dangerous” Dickson had become, was ignoring the codes and regulations that the bars were bound to follow.

Bars on Dickson paid premium rent, and closed at 2:00 AM. Our posters read “Doors open at 9:00, music stops when you do.” The Icehouse charged three dollars at the door, our bands played for free and we regularly paid traveling punk bands more money than they made anywhere else on their tours. Nobody got paid for working shows. Audiences showed up and lost their minds not because the bands were so good, but because we had created an unpredictable situation for playing and hearing music. In fact, with the exception of the Rhythm Method, most of the early Icehouse bands made music that people would have walked out of a bar to get away from. People even walked out of the Icehouse when my band, The Urge, decided to all switch instruments during our second time through the 9 songs we knew one very late night. But they just went out on the porch and came back in when the song was over.

Many of us did eventually learn to make sounds with our instruments and voices that could hold people’s attention someplace outside of the Icehouse, but it didn’t happen overnight. I had gone from poster artist to bass player in about 3 weeks and others had made similar transitions. There were plenty of hiccups and missteps along the way. People graduated, or left town for school or jobs, or decided that they didn’t really like being on stage after all. The parties were amazing, joyous events, but as the beat cops explained to the city council, there was a problem of “no control.” Like Joe said last week, the city had to close us down. Not having a venue re-introduced money into our ecosphere, a challenge which we handled like true artists: not very well. We eventually sorted this out, but not before we lost the space and a few of our founding members. And it’s typical of our quixotic approach that, faced with imminent closure, we decided to rent a bigger space and put on bigger shows.

The last public show at the icehouse was March 8th, 1986. The headliner was Tav Falco, an esoteric hipster blues singer from Memphis. The opening act was Fayetteville’s own Crazy John Lowe, who now lives in Memphis and tours as Johnny Lowebowe, playing the 1 string cigar box electric guitars he makes and sells. The space at 347½ West had physical issues that we couldn’t resolve so we had rented the much larger warehouse next door and cut a doorway between the two sides, intending to use the small space only for recording and practicing. Chris Gail, A carpenter friend who probably still hasn’t been thanked enough, led a volunteer crew and built a large, sturdy wooden stage in 48 hours. The entire affair was typical of our powerful but unsustainable process, something like a cross between a punk rock keg party and an Amish house-raising. It’s probably good that we didn’t understand that we’d never, ever get the conditional use permit we needed to keep doing shows there.

So we went back to practicing in the small side and booked bands at Lily’s where the punks and the folks that the punks thought were bikers mixed like oil and water, and we kept looking for new places to do our own shows. By the fall of 1986 we were renting the old Brass Monkey club in the basement of the Mountain Inn on a regular basis. We never found a space quite like the Icehouse, and eventually our own volunteerism wore us down, but for the next three years word spread through independent bands, booking agencies and small record labels that Fayetteville was a great place to play, that the promoters would find houses for you to crash at, cook vegetarian meals and be honest about the door money, and that audiences would show up and lose their minds.

During this stretch the town hosted Green On Red, Dinosaur Junior, Black Flag, Jason and the Scorchers, The Flaming Lips, Mojo Nixon, Eugene Chadbourne, The leaving Trains, The Screaming Trees, M.I.A., and many more bands that should have been famous enough to mention here too. In many ways this was a more active and vibrant period than the original run of Icehouse shows, and it’s tempting to call it a “third wave” of musical activity, as Joe did in his account. But these things are relative and to me this all felt like a continuation of what we had started on West Avenue. Paul Boatright and Wade Ogle met and first collaborated after a Brass Monkey party. Their bands, Punkinhead and Dali Automatic respectively, re-defined the Fayetteville sound in the 1990s, after some bar owners decided that yes, there might be some money in this “alternative” music after all. Paul and Wade are still making great music in Fayetteville today. Keith Hollingshead, the drummer for Rex Rootz, The Urge and The Rhythm Method plays with The Staggering Odds. It’s all part of one long story and it has different endings and beginnings depending on who tells it and why.

The very last band to play at the Icehouse was Camper Van Beethoven, who went back to the big, shut down side and played on borrowed instruments until 5:00 after their show at Lily’s on March 29th. When they came back a year later, freshly signed to virgin records, they had a new song called “Shut Us Down” that my new band, Jesus Lee Jones had been playing in our set for a few months. It went like this:

I’ve got an electric guitar and half a bottle of warm beer.
I’ve got some funny ideas about what sounds good.
Better shut us down. Better shut us down.
I’ve got a dollar fifty and nothin’ better to do.
I’ve got a half tank of gas and nowhere to go.
Better shut us down. Better shut us down.

We were sure it was about us, but it was likely the same story in a lot of towns across the country where musicians and audiences had tried to find new ways to get together.