Friday, September 30, 2011


Since i was such a grumpy gus on Wednesday, let's focus on something overwhelmingly positive and good.

In less than an hour i'll be leaving my house to pick up the other HiFi dudes and head to this season's three-times-per-year PRF BBQ, the Auktoberfyst version, at Klas German Restaurant in Cicero. PRF stands for "Premier Rock Forum," a sarcastic nickname bestowed upon the Electrical Audio message board. Yes, it's an internet forum full of nerdy, loud-rock-listening goofballs. But if you dismiss the community that has sprung up around the PRF as a group of "Steve Albini acolytes," just because the forum happens to be hosted by the Shellac guitarist's studio, well, you'd be as guilty of dismissing and underestimating what's happening here as most of the Chicago music press.

"Albini-worshiping," eh? Sure, one of the forum's most beloved moderators isn't even a Shellac fan, but if it's easier to use blanket judgment and dismiss a music scene that's rejecting the majority of what the music media sees fit to cover, instead of taking a careful, thought-out, and well-researched look at what we're accomplishing, hey, that's cool too. As my friend Bradley said on the forum after seeing that Time Out Chicago listing:

Not that I give a shit, but whoever wrote this little bit of Dead Medium fluff knew just enough to be snarky about: (i) the PRF "name", which is simply funny, ironic, and self-deprecating; and (ii) "Albini-worshipping", which is just a superdumb thing to say given how obvious it is that Steve is on the ground with the rest of the troops.

Hooray, writer!

You worked in "rawk", too, even though that doesn't begin to describe the Thursday show. Like, not in the least. You, TOC writer, apparently didn't do a second of research, like not even one hit on a band hyperlink. So lazy, this way to write about music!

Please, world. Leave us the fuck alone.

We do not speak your language. We do not use your tools. We do not aspire to your goals.



The only shit that I give is to hope that the world does not give enough of a shit about us to give a shit.

Me, i'd be ok not being left alone if people bothered to actually pay attention instead of looking at our events and thinking, "oh, yeah, it's just a bunch of dudes playing Jesus Lizard ripoff music because they all worship Albini." Yeah, sure. That's why The Blind Shake and Big'n have kicked our asses at past events, and why Call Me Lightning will be hanging out and melting faces tomorrow.

As i type this, friends of mine from the United Kingdom are convening on Klas for another night of killer rock music. Our tour in August was booked at least 66% by people we have met on the EA Forum. There's a word for a music scene that's so close-knit that friends merely need to shoot friends a date and a city, and a show is booked, or that inspires people to travel insane distances to hang out and enjoy great food, great music, and great people. That word is community.

And yeah, i said music scene, and i meant it. The PRF is a music scene as vital and powerful, and way more close-knit, than most scenes based on geography. And i'm including Milwaukee in that. As much as i love Milwaukee and consider it my band's home, we feel even more at home among out fellow PRFers.

So hey, there's some great music happening at Klas Restaurant in Cicero this weekend. It's open to the public and costs $10 for tonight, $15 for tomorrow, and $20 if you attend the whole weekend. The price includes food, people. So don't be afraid to come check out something a little different, off the beaten path, and is warm, inviting, and with thoroughly kick your ass from here to the United Kingdom and back.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hold the (Yellow) Phone

I suppose that, what with we in the Latest Flame roster brainstorming ways to promote the label and bands in a more aggressive manner, i should be thrilled that the Yellow Phone Music Conference is coming to Milwaukee this weekend. But it probably surprises no one that the descriptions i've been reading on line fill me with a vague sense of...what is it? Oh yeah, bile:

Yellow Phone Music Conference (YPMC) is a three day gathering of talented artists and music professionals. YPMC will present engaging panel discussions and mentor sessions with experienced, respected leaders in the music business, bringing professionals, artists and fans together to share ideas and discover new opportunities.

Yellow Phone is a more focused version of larger conferences which seem to have become less accessible to up-and-coming talent and new industry professionals. The priorities of those conferences have been redirected toward launching signed acts instead of showcasing undiscovered talent. Yellow Phone, on the other hand, is focused on the unsigned artists. With fewer artists and fewer venues, the quality of the talent presented is paramount.

Yellow Phone's goal is to bring together career oriented artists and positive, forward-thinking leaders in today's music business, taking the best qualities of the larger industry conferences and downsizing them into a concentrated, quality experience with powerful, pertinent takeaways.

I suppose that once i read the phrase "career oriented artists" i should stop bitching and just realize that this whole dog and pony show isn't targeted at me, but i remain conflicted. The organizers, local entertainment consultants Doug Johnson, David Silbaugh and Scott Ziel, make some great points in their interview with Even at the Shepherd Express; in particular, they're exactly right about the problem with SXSW and CMJ these days:

"We have all been going to South by Southwest for a long time, but we found it increasingly hard to find unsigned, new and upcoming bands there amid all the established acts," Johnson says. "We had talked to some of our cohorts out in Los Angeles and they had a similar impression. They said they weren't going to South by Southwest because there weren't bands on the spot they could sign, since every act they saw had already been signed. We all thought that these events would work better for both parties if bands were able to network with industry professionals in a boutique situation, where they could actually talk one on one."

Obviously these guys care about making Milwaukee a hotspot on the national music scene, so their plan to lure Big Music Industry Folks from the coast by luring them with hot unsigned talent from New York and L.A., only to subject them to Milwaukee's Most Accessible, is crafty. (What, you think they'd come out to a Milwaukee music fest without bands from the "big" cities? Cool, how many execs were at WMSE's Radio Summer Camp this year?) Where things start to fall apart for our new Little Music Fest That Can is the pricing, which feels more like a Little Music Fest That Cons:

Panels, which will be held at the Intercontinental Hotel, 139 E. Kilbourn Ave., are reserved for attendees paying $99 in advance or $199 the day of the event. However, the shows that will be held at clubs downtown and in the Third Ward will be open to the public for $5 each at the door, with weekend show passes going for $20.

A weekend show pass for $20 is a hell of a bargain, but how many broke-ass "career oriented" bands have $199 lying around to spend on a roundtable discussion on getting your music in a commercial? (Let me save you some money--hire a girl singer who sounds like Feist, and your music will be ready-made for commercials.) That's a level of pricing that screams "scam," and if you don't agree, check out the list of panelists, find the magic word "SonicBids," and get back to me. (As my esteemed labelmate Sean Kirkpatrick of the excellent Nervous Curtains tweeted yesterday, "I would like to pay a monthly fee to be able to pay another submission fee to possibly get a gig that we definitely won't get paid for." Speaking as a former SonicBids sucker customer, i can back this up.)

Still. Conflicted. I want Milwaukee to get the recognition it deserves, but like the selective radio play of Milwaukee acts at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee (where you will get significant local support, provided you play music palatable to easy-listening suburban white liberal "arts enthusiasts"), the local bands showcased by this event are, predictably, mostly commercially viable (ok, i'm not sure why Elusive Parallelograms got on the bill, but in fairness, neither does the band). Does this music conference really showcase the diversity of Milwaukee's music scene? I don't think so, and if you disagree, i have $50 that says you'll never see Northless or Holy Shit! get invited to one of these.

But like i said earlier, this is a festival for "career oriented" bands, a phrase which excludes probably 90% of Milwaukee's finest. Which is not to disparage the Milwaukee bands in this festival, as the musicians i know who are playing aren't exactly looking for fame and fortune doing what they do. So i wish the Brewtown bands well in their shows this weekend (attending the conference shows but don't know which are the Milwaukee bands? They're the ones without emo swoop haircuts).

And hey, if the Big Music Execs without the Wisconsin ties fall in love with our little city over the weekend, i hope they come back and dig a little deeper, maybe even visiting the aforementioned Radio Summer Camp next year. I'm not holding my breath, however, because unlike the Yellow Phone Music Conference, Radio Summer Camp is about the music--not the money behind the music.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My money's on Al, or: THUNDERDOME

First, many sincere apologies to the dozen or so readers i have here who missed the blog last week. The new apartment i share with the gf isn't hooked up for internet yet, and thanks to a backlog of new-school-year orders, AT&T isn't getting to our house until Wednesday (the appointment was booked at the beginning of the month), so i'm dependent until then on my lady's laptop, which was with her in Arizona last week (my laptop mac mini doesn't have wireless; "why would i need wireless on something that's not a laptop?" i asked in 2005. 2005 me should be slapped).

Anyway, while i work on a bigger post for tomorrow, i have a listening exercise for you:

Here is the just-released new track from the "eagerly awaited" Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration, LULU:

The View by Lou Reed & Metallica

Now, i would like you to listen to "Caught in a Circle," perhaps the defining moment in the career of Oshkosh, WI guitar god Al Eide, from his early-90s gem Wild Fury:

Find more Al Eide songs at Myspace Music

Aside from obvious differences in production, i'm not seeing a whole lot of difference here.

Pictured: Wisconsin's Greatest Album Cover Ever

Al, all of us who giggled at you in Oshkosh in the 90s and early 2000s were merely trying to compensate for what we all really knew, deep down: that some day you would end up more culturally relevant than the rest of us. To say that Al Eide foreshadowing a collaboration between two once-important, now-hilarious artists makes him "culturally relevant" is perhaps a sad indictment of the rest of the Oshkosh scene from those days, but there it is. I mean, what counts for more--inspiring what is sure to be the musical laughing stock of 2011, or getting your band on a trial episode of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon? (Which, incidentally, i will always be insanely proud of the guys in The Willis for achieving, because holy shit.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sell Out With Me, Oh Yeah

When Miller Park announced their 32nd sellout of the season on Sunday during the Brewers' game against the Philadelphia Phillies, they played a snippet of "Sell Out," a cutesy take on the 80s/90s debate on the pros and cons of whoring oneself for money by novelty ska jokesters Reel Big Fish (otherwise known as the band responsible for about 80% of the cutesy "ska versions of popular 80s songs" craze of twenty years ago that most people my age would rather powerblast from our memories (or at least should rather). I couldn't help but smirk at the irony of an anti-corporate statement being repurposed to celebrate a Major League Baseball franchise selling over 40,000 tickets for a game in a ballpark named after a multinational beer-producing corporation, but hey--the Great Sellout Debate is long over, and the sellouts won. What's my evidence? Well, you never hear about having that debate anymore, do you? These days, getting a song placed in a commercial, video game, tv show, or movie is the new radio play.

That sentiment is shared in this excellent piece by Bill See, the former member of a band called Divine Weeks that i had never heard of until now. See takes a very even-handed look at where the debate has gone over the years, coupled with some insightful observations about how FCC deregulation in the 1990s and filesharing have altered the debate:

There was a reason we invested heavily in music and in bands back in the day. It felt like our music because we were buying it. A decade plus of illegal downloading has created an environment where no one feels like it’s their music because it’s been pilfered. People can say they don’t feel guilty about stealing music, and I’m not going there, but my guess is people are less inclined to condemn a band for selling its songs because they’ve been stealing it their whole lives.

At this point, who can begrudge indie bands for taking advantage of every opportunity they can get? Bands have been screwed out of royalties and publishing payments for eons. The chance of getting played on commercial radio now is a pipedream at best. An argument can be made that placement in a commercial or TV show is the new radio.

See seems to land somewhere around where i do on the issue--it's a different world from where we came from. As we discussed last week, people don't value music in the same way they once did, so if a band is looking to get compensated for their work (i'll pause for a brief parenthetical right now and point out that whether or not a band should expect financial compensation is a larger and more philosophical discussion that i may want to have on this blog soon, but for now let's stick with the premise that bands wanting to get paid for their work isn't a bad thing), finding a paycheck through partnering with media isn't unacceptable on its own merits.

However, like See, i like to look at these situations on a case-by-case basis. As he points out, The Thermals turning down $50,000 for a Hummer ad because they ethically are squicked out by Hummer's product is something to be lauded, even if that money probably just ended up in the pockets of Godsmack or Smash Mouth or someone equally bankrupt artistically. On the flip side (and to bring a little Milwaukee into the mix), now-defunct local band Temper Temper had a song used on an episode of The OC, and no one in the city necessarily considered that a sellout move. Sure, if you want to really gray the issue, we could discuss what corporations were sponsoring the show while it was broadcast on FOX, the network behind the nation's Most-Trusted "News" Channel, but no band is an island, and unless we're going to discuss the ethics of letting Rupert Murdoch spend $12 on your album when you disagree with his politics, maybe we should avoid that slippery slope discussion. (Besides--and no offense meant to Temper Temper, because no one gives a rat's ass about my band either--in the long run, it's not like they were a band large enough in the American consciousness for their product alignments to matter to anyone.)

One other point that See briefly touches on that deserves some thought is the idea of supporting a band vs. supporting a song. See writes:

Digitizing music and file sharing was the response of people fed up with paying $20 that record companies were trying to get people to pay for a CD with only one decent song. Now we’re at a point where the art of the album and artist development has been rendered moot.

I asked my 16-year-old daughter if she cares more about bands or songs. Duh, songs, of course.

It's an attitude that is completely alien to me, but in a world where American Idol has exposed the cold, corporate separation of songwriter and "artist" to the outrage of positively no one, it makes sense. Thanks, Simons Fuller and Cowell!

In 2011, the sellout debate is assuredly not the same conversation it was twenty or thirty years ago, but i do know this--i still want to throttle Jason Newstead for that quote in the Metallica Behind the Music where he says, "yeah, we sell out--every seat in the house, every time we play." Nice Miller Park wordplay, jackass.

What do you think? I'd love your comments.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Martian Dance Bands of the Week (all-Boston edition): Pile and Ho-Ag

You know where i hear most of the new bands that excite the hell out of me these days? It's not the usual media outlets like Pitchfork, AV Club, what have you, because let's face it--what the big boys choose to cover just isn't in my wheelhouse at all most of the time. Sure, occasionally Pitchfork will happen to give a stamp of approval to viscerally thrilling, noisy music like HEALTH or Ponytail, but each of those bands found their way to my ears in a different way (HEALTH live, Ponytail from a friend's recommendation, then live). And yeah, AV Club's Loud column is doing some good, but the focus on metal and straight-up punk results in a lot of skimming.

Nope--my online source for all things baller awesome is the Electrical Audio Forum, home of the PRF BBQ music fests and thread after thread of killer recommendations (and no, you derisive naysayers, it's not just a bunch of bands that sound like mid-90s Touch & Go Records or Shellac soundalikes). A few days ago i finally got around to checking out a thread about Boston heavy-folksters Pile, and they have been kicking my ass up and down my apartment ever since.

There's not a lot of biographical info on their Bandcamp site or on their home page, but here's what i do know: they are from Boston, and they play loud, meaty rock and roll that sounds like the Melvins playing hard-hitting 70s folk-rock jams. Their current full-length, Magic Isn't Real, is a trove of bluegrass licks run through the most Sabbath of fuzz pedals. "Levee" and "Two Snakes" are big time highlights, while "Octopus" manages to pound out some serious grunge touchtones in a way that sounds completely fresh, more Mudhoney than Pearl Jam, but definitely its own thing. 2009's Jerk Routine, while not as indebted to the stoner gods of yore, has a heaviness all its own, while keeping the dark, thick, country-rock groove. It calls to mind a long-defunct Western Massachusetts band called EZT, actually, but that's probably way to obscure to work as any sort of a functioning comparison.

Pile just came through Chicago on a two-night stand, and while i wasn't able to catch them, crucial dude John Yingling of Gonzo Chicago captured them on film and uploaded a taste of their crazy, badlam inducing set at Casa Donde:

Meanwhile, i was massively stoked on Wednesday to learn that some old Boston pals of mine, Ho-Ag, had reconvened to unleash a new two-song single into the ether: "Seal the Room​/​Kuzka Mom."

While Pile strip-mine the burly forests of the Pacific Northwest for their inspiration, Ho-Ag's always looked toward the industrial desolation of Ohio for their Devo proto-punk influences. Kindred spirits with my band's weirdo brand of noise-punk? Absolutely, although while we embrace walls of noise and pop hooks, Ho-Ag's gone deeper into Area 51, jerking through alien hallways with sharp corners and dead ends with nothing more than a theremin's whine and a Moog's asphyxiated gurgle to guide them. Their previous full-lengths, 2006's The Word from Pluto and 2008's Doctor Cowboy were my favorite albums of their respective years, and would have likely made my all-decade list had i crafted one. "Seal the Room" and "Kuzka Mom" are more of what makes them great--solid, boilerplate entries into their spazzy, sci-fi Plan 9 catalog. Not a lot new happening on either track, but still better than your band (and mine). Careening drums, synthetic bridges, and faux-unnerving horror-film "woah-ooohs"? Check, check, and thank god, check.

Ho-Ag's been baffling the straights about as long as we have (the first release on their Bandcamp dates back to 2002, a year before we played with them for the first time), and have about as much success and exposure to show for it as we do. Crank this nonsense and tell your friends, and we'll see if we can lure them into another long-overdue US tour.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"The Black Flag touring model is long, long dead"

Tuesday night i unpacked my CDs and began to arrange them in the apartment i now share with Liz (as opposed to my original idea of stashing them in the basement since most of them are on my computer anyway). I'm glad i didn't hide them away, because the process of going through my CDs always stirs years of half-remembered memories of bands that otherwise would be long forgotten. There's a disc on the top row called Juvenile Anthems by a band called Anger; i remember them as a run-of-the-mill punk band that i found entertaining at the time but i might not be as into today, 14 years later. Thanks to their show at the Concert Cafe in Green Bay, i've got the Black Halos' The Violent Years, which i'm positive i only listened to once. Digging around in my car i located a CD i picked up at the Borg Ward by a rad weirdo-punk band called Beings; did they open for Torche? I can't remember, but i remember liking them and hating that my aging disc drive refused to rip the songs onto my Mac Mini. Red Planet's Let's Degenerate? Another more power-pop reminder of my Concert Cafe years.

It's a good thing i have these CDs; otherwise, there's a very good chance that i'd have forgotten about every last one of these bands, good and bad. It reminded me of something i wrote on our tour blog, something that i thought about a lot during our road trip:

As i stood around at the Caledonia Lounge on Tuesday night watching everyone drink, chat, and completely ignore our merch table (save the bartender and Chris Dragon's friend Sarah, who accounted for our first CDs sold in four days), i thought about the hundreds--thousands?--of touring bands i've seen over the years from the Concert Cafe in Green Bay to the Cactus Club in Milwaukee, and i'm sure that many of the ones i've forgotten were damn fine. Do any of the attendees at the Longbranch in Knoxville even remember the name "IfIHadAHiFi?" Or are they more likely to say "oh, man, that band...I Wish I Had A HiFi? They were great," their memories of the bands they saw on a random Monday night in August 2011 already fading into a jumbled mash of beer and feedback? As in love with our self-constructed image of the band too crazy to ignore as i am, i realistically get the feeling that by tomorrow it'll be "those bands with the crazy drummer" and "yeah, that night our pals played with some touring bands" by September, if not Friday.

I count twenty-one CD copies of our new EP remaining out of 50 we started tour with. That's twenty-nine copies out there along the East Coast. Assuming they don't get dumped at a CDMax in a few months, that's hopefully twenty-nine people who will, at the very least, have that same "oh YEAH!" moment i just had while eying my Anger CD for the first time in years. As i said elsewhere in that paragraph, this tour was a pretty inefficient way to encourage memorization of our band name, but for us, the biggest reason to play shows is to visit our friends and play music for them.

Unfortunately, that's not the most fair attitude to have when we have an awesome dude at Latest Flame Records mortgaging his future to promote bands he loves. If we want to move product (if we don't, it sort of makes us assholes, really), conventional wisdom would normally dictate that we have to tour more often than the middling two weeks per year we generally embark on. However, it's 2011, and certain truths have taken hold in our post-Napster age: people are buying less and less physical music, and the number of touring bands competing for that ever-shrinking fan dollar is higher than ever. Also dwindling rapidly is the number of people who value music, period, as evidenced by the basement show we played in Bloomington, Indiana that earned us a cool $13 in donations from about three of the twenty-some kids in attendance. "Hey, man, cool show! Your band is really good!" "Hey, thanks! Did you donate anything for the show at all?" "Aw, dude, i have like no money. *drinks BYO beer #5* So when ya coming back to Bloomington?"

It's obvious that young people don't put a price on music the same way that those of us who grew up with vinyl, cassettes and CDs did, and hell, many of them don't seem to value live performance over the beer they're drinking that night (though i doubt that's a recent development). Yes, money isn't the main reason that anyone should play in a band, but without it, producing recorded music--even the digital kind--becomes less and less appealing of an idea. Look, we can all talk until we're blue in the face about how we make music for ourselves, and how none of us are looking to do this for a living, and that may even be true, but let's be honest--validation is pretty damn sweet too.

So, assuming that there are still people who care about physical music products, and people who still care about seeing new or more underground live bands, what's the best way to reach through the sea of apathetic bodies and connect with those more "active" (for lack of a less douchey, less marketing-sounding term) listeners? I have some thoughts on this, but would love to read some in the comments too:

1) Quality over Quantity. Being able to tour three months out of the year would be awesome, but it's also unrealistic for dudes in their 30s with day jobs, and a lot of those shows would be of the Bloomington basement show sort anyway. But there are ways to tour smarter instead of tour harder. Coordinating with the label to see where the record's getting played; more aggressive regional touring (we could probably stand to hit Minneapolis more than once every two years, honestly); and working those bigger shows wherever possible. That one Archers show was probably more effective than a week of touring as far as getting the name out and about.

2) Teamwork, online and in the meat world. Videos. Twitterz. Podcasts. Facesbooks. Blogs. ENTERTAINING CONTENT. Yeah, establishing a solid base of followers on the internet is a long commitment, but at least you can do it from your living room. During a conversation with James from Police Teeth, he said he was pretty sure PT has sold more records online than via shows. "The Black Flag touring model is long, long dead," he said, and i think he's right.

So how do we coordinate that stuff? Like i said, it's got to be entertaining, and then shared like crazy amongst like-minded folk. The Latest Flame bands have been walking around saying "less of a label, more of a street gang" ever since NAP JUSTICE; maybe we should start acting like an online street gang? Heck, i wear the shirts of other Latest Flame bands at nearly every show i attend these days, and i wore Waxeater's shirt on stage at the Archers show. I dunno how much love that gets the other guys, but there's a mentality involved that puts me in the frame of mind to hype my pals every chance i can get. I was wearing the Waxeater shirt when we arrived in Philly on tour, too; when some of the other bands showed up, they reacted. "Oh hey! Waxeater! All right!" Familiarity compounds on itself and breeds more familiarity.

Any other thoughts? I'd love to hear 'em.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Track Grifters on Kickstarter So You Don't Have To: A Nataly Dawn Update

About a month ago i posted about the massive grift being perpetrated by Pomplamoose (name spelled correctly for Google indexing purposes) singer Nataly Dawn over on Kickstarter--a campaign to raise money for her first solo album after building her reputation by using other people's music to buy a house and remove any need for a day job: a twee, cover band Captain & Tennille, but with a lamer catalog. At the time, her campaign had well exceeded her (seemingly arbitrarily chosen) $20,000 target, netting $43,393 as of August 1.

The campaign ended at Midnight and--strap in, believers in a just and fair God--pulled in a final tally of $104,788.

Pictured: your only sane response

Clearly, Slayer isn't really the house band in Hell; it's Matt & Kim or some shit.

Let's break down what these dolts suckers patrons paid for with enough scratch to keep the Latest Flame roster in vinyl and weed for two or three years:

$10 Pledge: A download of the album before it's released (982 backers): OK, fine. Nearly 50% of the initial target was raised by offering advance mp3s. For $9,820 my band could record three albums, but whatever.

$30 Pledge: A signed hard copy of the album + a digital download of the album before it's released (557 backers):
Are they getting vinyl? A CD? DAT? Wax cylinder? Anyone else see the format specified anywhere? For $16,710 my band could record three albums, advertise them, and shoot Pitchfork a bribe for a "Best New Music" mention--and by "bribe" i mean we'd donate $250 to this campaign and ask Nataly to Skype dirty with Ryan Schreiber--we'll toss in an extra sawbuck if necessary ($250 pledge, limited reward SOLD OUT [0 of 10 remaining, Sweet Chocolatey Jesus]).

Oh, and speaking of creepy and gross:

$100 Pledge: SPECIAL EDITION SIGNED POSTER AND ONE-OF-A-KIND POLAROID OF ME TAKEN IN THE STUDIO WHILE RECORDING + special edition t-shirt + signed hard copies of "Her Earlier Stuff" and the upcoming album + a digital download of the album before it's released (110 backers): Ooh! A one-of-a-kind Polaroid! For $11,000 I could take the entire LFR roster to Glamour Shots and offer fetching portraits of Billy from Trophy Wives in rouge and a feather boa, which would be way more entertaining than your very own private dead-eyed gaze from a Christian Fundamentalist hipster on washed-out-looking, obsolete film stock.

If you don't think this is more awesome than a Nataly Dawn polaroid, i'm not sure why you're reading this blog

$2,000 Pledge: I WILL COVER THE SONG OF YOUR CHOICE (within reason) AND UPLOAD THE VIDEO TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL! I'll give you a call and we can talk over the details! (+ poster + t-shirt + signed hard copies of "Her Earlier Stuff" and the upcoming album + a digital download of the album before it's released) (limited reward SOLD OUT [0 of 6 remaining]): I'm guessing that "within reason" means that we couldn't have all pooled our cash and made her cover "I Got Athlete's Foot (I Showered at Mike's)" by Anal Cunt or "Victory Day" by Prussian Blue. People, for $2000 IfIHadAHiFi will cover the song of your choice, without reason. "Forever Your Girl" by Paula Abdul? Done, but "Opposites Attract" is the clear jam, c'mon. "Beverly Hills" by Weezer? OK, maybe i'm being hyperbolic.

$3,000 Pledge: A HOUSE SHOW at YOUR HOUSE with ME playing all of MY SONGS for YOU! If your house is more than a 4 hour drive from my place, you will also have to cover travel and one hotel room for 2 people. If you have any questions, please message me. Thank you!!! (Includes poster + t-shirt + signed hard copies of "Her Earlier Stuff" and the upcoming album + a digital download of the album before it's released) (limited reward [3 of 5 remaining]): I have a message for the two people who spent THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS for a Nataly Dawn house show: is your company hiring? Wait, i have another message: next time, just book David Bazan--he only costs around $800, he sells tickets so it's cheaper for you, and the music's wayyyyy better. And he's better looking.

For hosting the Passion of the Christ of online fundraisers, Kickstarter gets their standard 5% fee, which comes out to $5239.40. Hey, it's a free country, so good for them, i guess. But i feel the need to repeat the last section of my previous post on this matter:

Even more than this just being an extended "other people don't like what i like, i guess i'll go eat worms" snit-fit, it begs to be asked: is this not a complete abuse of Kickstarter's mission? Am i wrong in thinking that a project like this undermines the projects of real struggling artists who legitimately need Kickstarter in order to fund their films, albums, and other projects? I can't be the only one who thinks that this campaign is a classic lesson in Doing It Wrong.

Stay tuned for future Kickstarter projects like
"Help U2 Fund Their African Concert Tour"
"Help Google Buy"
"Buy Cher a New Face And Help Her Cheat Old Age For Another Decade"
"Help Keep Prince Fielder in Milwaukee"

OK, i'd actually donate to that last one.

Fuck. Let's end this post on a positive note. Here's something that kicks the entire Pimplepoofamoosealump empire into the dirt: the new Wild Flag video, made, as far as i can tell, without Kickstarter donations.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Back at it, y'all, with some weird stream-of-consciousness nonsense.

On Wednesday the big Facebook linkfest was all about the news that Jack White has produced/collaborated on a single with Insane Clown Posse for his Third Man Records label. Weird as hell, but anyone who's done more than the cursory research that i have into what Jack White's been doing with the label (read: Everything I Know About Third Man Records I've Heard From The Wizard) knows that Mr. RaconteurWeatherStripe is essentially running his label as a crazy-ass doing-it-because-he-can vinyl nerd boutique (just check out the catalog and dig all the crazy two- and tri-color vinyl runs, as well as some of the other less-than-conventional choices: a Conan O'Brien 7-inch? Pairing the Black Belles with Stephen Colbert and using them to record Elvira's Movie Macabre theme song? Apparently one of the Dead Weather singles comes inside a 12-inch, and then the 7-inch detaches from the inside of it or something. I dunno, sounds like some crazy rock-n-roll warlock shit). So, Jack White working with Insane Clown Posse? Hey, sure.

My not-at-all-scientific take on the whole thing was that maybe this stunt will call enough attention to Third Man that my pals We Are Hex will sell a few more copies of the single they just released on the label, "Twist the Witch's Titty." I'm all for anything that will cast a light on pals of mine, not that it's all that likely. (How many music fans are there these days that pull the old Sub Pop allegiance trip and swear fealty to record labels as eagerly as they do to bands? Yeah, not many.)

Of course, that was before Chris from Police Teeth alerted me to a cryptic breakup notice on Hex's Facebook page, which...well, shit. Now i have to post a eulogy for this fantastic, urgent band.

So. We Are Hex.

My band's known their singer Jilly for ten years in October. We met her in Muncie, IN on our very first multi-day road trip out of Wisconsin, and ever since, we've been hooking up shows in the Dairy State for her bands, many of which she would prefer us to wipe from our brains. (I can say that because she told me that personally. "Dear god, forget any of those bands ever existed.") She started to hit her stride, though, with a band called Ari. Ari. that she formed with future Hex drummer Brandon. A swirling melange of Sonic Youth-y feedback walls over post-punk, gothy synth waves, Jilly swirled around the eye of the Ari. Ari. hurricane, stabbing the occasional black keys while wailing about god knows what, a blur of black hair and tattoos. They were loud, crazy, driving, and thrilling as hell, but as is the case with many a band that shines too brightly too quickly, they burned out in a matter of months.

Enter We Are Hex, Jilly and Brandon's next step in refining the Ari. Ari. cyclone into a more focused weapon of mass destruction. The synth-and-feedback carpet bombing approach was replaced with stabby guitar licks and precision drumming, a post-millennial Siouxie and the Banshees filtered through Touch & Go's back catalog, their makeup washed off with lighter fluid. Their sophomore release, Hail the Goer, will stand as their definitive mission statement--a deliberate tension-and-release exercise that, of course, should have been on every goth bar DJ's playlist for the past year. I'm pretty sure i've seen gamer nerds, metalheads and science fair enthusiasts unscrewing imaginary light bulbs while dancing to this record, but don't quote me on that.

Then again, "should have" will now be used quite a bit when discussing this band. I have no idea why they're calling it quits, but i know this--with a charismatic lead vocalist, tightly-wound, killer songs, and a record on Jake White's label, We Are Hex should have been on the verge of blowing the fuck up instead of imploding. But if there was ever a band that matched my band's ability to hatefuck Murphy's Law, it was We Are Hex. Every time we got together with these guys, the stories would flow about canceled shows, shady clubs ripping them off, and all sorts of random drama. Heck, very few of their Milwaukee shows were without some incident or another.

In Spring 2009 they played Frank's Power Plant with The New Loud and us during that period where the club's owner was getting noise complaints from some asshat neighbors. Soon, the owner was yelling at Hex and telling them they couldn't use their full stacks and would have to borrow gear or not play the show. The band was ready to say "fuck it" and bail before we calmed the owner down enough to remind her that amps have these things called "volume knobs" that can turn the loud boom sounds down if necessary. They, of course, went on to stomp everyone's teeth in that night.

November of last year we brought them to town at Stonefly with our labelmates Trophy Wives. In classic HiFi hometown fashion, no one came to the show save about 15 of our best friends, who can now rub it in to everyone else in Milwaukee that they saw one of the most exciting sets to be played in our city last year, and everyone else missed it, so screw y'all. On top of the low attendance, the "sound guy" took all the money from the door for his "fee," a fitting reward for the bang-up job he did setting up barely audible vocal mics and one kick drum mic.

So if We Are Hex finally ran into one obstacle too many, i suppose i can't blame them for packing it in, although part of me hopes that they looked at the news articles about Jack White working with ICP and thought, "wait, we're gonna be labelmates with Insane Clown Posse? Fuck this, we're done."

In any event, if i know Jilly just a little bit after ten years, i know she'll be back at it with something new and perhaps even more exciting than We Are Hex, and honestly, i'm a little scared of what that could entail.

In the meantime, let's have a wake. Go to the We Are Hex Bandcamp site and listen to their debut, Gloom Bloom, the aforementioned Hail the Goer, and a few other choice treats. Chances are you screwed up and missed seeing them live; make up for it by at least discovering them posthumously, since that's apparently all we've got left.