Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Art/Commerce Tightrope (featuring a cameo by Lou Reed and Metallica!)

"Anyone can sit down write a boring, artistic
song. Pop music is the hardest shit to write." --Britney Spears

For every one thing Chuck Klosterman says that i end up agreeing with (listing Faster Pussycat's self-titled album as one of the best hair metal records of the 80s in Fargo Rock City), he manages to spit out a dozen that sound like contrarian attempts to troll the underground (giving Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy an A- in the AV Club). (Oh, shit, that sounds a little like me, actually, except for the liking Chinese Democracy part.) So i went into this essay about the Metallica/Lou Reed album Lulu on Grantland not expecting to agree with it as much as i did:

I'm glad Metallica and Reed tried this, if only because I'm always a fan of bad ideas. They've earned the right to overreach. But if the fundamental goal of Metallica is to make good music, it seems like trying to get rich while doing so dramatically improves their creative process. The constraints of late capitalism really work for them; they're extraordinarily adept at making electrifying heavy rock that's designed to generate revenue. The reason Lulu is so terrible is because the people making this music clearly don't care if anyone else enjoys it. Now, here again — if viewed in a vacuum — that sentiment is admirable and important. But we don't live in a vacuum. We live on Earth. And that means we have to accept the real-life consequences of a culture in which recorded music no longer has monetary value, and one of those consequences is Lulu.

This sort of avoids the point that even Metallica's "commercially-oriented" music has sucked at least since 1991, but even St. Anger went double platinum (?!?) in America, and in Klosterman's world, sales count for something. If Lulu goes cardboard i'll be gobsmacked. But i'm less interested in discussing the major-label version of an Al Eide record* than i am in discussing an overarching philosophy that is hinted at in Klosterman's final sentences:

I was ceaselessly reminded that corporate forces stopped artists from doing what they truly desired; they pushed musicians toward predictable four-minute radio singles and frowned upon innovation, and they avariciously tried to turn art into a soulless commodity that MTV could sell to the lowest common denominator. And that did happen, sometimes. But some artists need that, or they end up making albums like this.

Rock n' roll is, by design, a populist medium predicated on the (sometimes accurate, oft-times manufactured) concept of dudes and ladies jamming in the garage and rockin' out for the common man. Good on ya, Springsteen! So the theory that some high-falootin' "artists" need to be reigned in by a desire to please folks (or--gasp--"sell out") isn't all that odd. I think i'm one of the only people in the cosmos who prefers Modest Mouse's last two major label releases to most of their independent work--not that i don't love The Lonesome Crowded West, but holy cow does that record have a lot of fat that could be trimmed. With Good News for people Who Love Bad News and We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, the band by and large stuck to a four-minute pop song formula, compressing their strengths into digestible, accessible chunks that, for me, worked more than some of their spacier, more hippie-tastic jams (ironically, their more conventional pop records seemed to garner them more of a hippie fanbase that i'm sure went on to discover their more indulgent indie stuff, so one could say that their later albums may have been a gateway drug for the classic Mouse, but i'm only speculating here because i tend to avoid discussing music with hippies).

Of course, this is me talking, so i'm not about to go the full Chuck K and claim that Van Halen is a better band than Sonic Youth just because more people could "relate" to songs about partying than Karen Carpenter tributes and Richard Kern films. If all rock music lies on a spectrum where the ends are labeled "artsy" and "accessible," i'm more likely to enjoy the weirdo Mike Patton stuff more than the cloyingly smooth Yacht Rock. Don't get me wrong--i consider the eminently populist Cheap Trick one of the best no-frills rock bands on the planet, if not one of the best overall. But i'm more likely to leave a show exhilarated and thrilled about the possibilities of what rock music can do after discovering a band like Drag City's SATANIZED (who blessed Milwaukee last Thursday with a furious tantrum of death-jazz-noise-skronk ala the Flying Luttenbachers and all but about twenty of you missed it) than i am after a show featuring Yet Another Power Pop Band (by the way, sorry that the only musical link SATANIZED has is a g'damn MySpace page; you know noise artists--they release records on commercial cassette too). Then again, as great as the SATANIZED record is, put it next to Cheap Trick and i can tell you which i'll be more likely to gravitate toward more often (hint: they're playing at Potawatomi every weekend until the end of November and I CAN'T AFFORD TO GO AND IT'S KILLING ME, AUGH).

As dissimilar as can be, but both brilliant

I'm a big believer in the richness of grey as opposed to black and white. I'd probably be considered a political moderate if our country weren't populated by radically right-wing lunatics, and i have no problem reconciling a fervent devotion to science with deeply unshakeable faith. So my favorite bands end up being the ones that can effortlessly walk the line between accessibly catchy and artistically exhilarating and in the process become transcendent. Sure, my definition of "accessible" may be a little more liberal than Johnny "New Rock's," but if you can't hear a pop hook in a band like Melt-Banana or HEALTH--and they're in there, believe me--you're not putting enough effort in.

NOTE: Not sure if this particular Melt-Banana song helps make my point, but the opening of this video cracks my shit up, so.

Of course, it's then easy for fans of the even artsier, more abstract stuff to say that i'd, i dunno, finally click to Bon Iver if i only put a little more work in and tried to grasp his whole "mood piece" which i'd respond "cool, you're into mood pieces. Check out this Massona record! ...oh, not into that kind of mood, huh?" But kidding aside, that's sort of the thesis here, that we all have our own place where we like to inhabit on the art/commerce spectrum. I like a heaping, healthy dose of art-damaged nerdery with my pop music, but i sure don't want it to lose the pop music plot.

Where it seems that Lou Reed and Metallica went drastically wrong was in thinking that they could meet in the middle of that spectrum when both parties had drifted to opposite ends in recent years. Some artists just plain aren't able to make that tightrope balance work without a net. Which begs the question, what if 80s Metallica had attempted Lulu with 60s Lou Reed?


*If you do want to discuss the Loutallica fiasco (as opposed to the Wesley Willis Fiasco), my boy Conan Neutron crafted probably the most even-handed dismantling of the record i've seen over on Collapse Board--which, by the way, is my new favorite music blog. Dig it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"I have zero familiarity with any of those"

If you're a friend of mine you know the scoop with the delay behind IfIHadAHiFi's Nada Surf EP, an issue that's finally going to be resolved in the next week when "Somebody Take the Damn Money" gets remixed to replace Harley Race's voice with that of our new buddy, world-traveling indie wrestler "M-Dogg" Matt Cross. Latest Flame has pushed the "official" release date of the disc back to January (along with a 2012 schedule that is shaping up to be balls-awesome), but here's the thing with that--the manufacturing issue with the Harley Race sample came up so late in the game that CD versions of the EP were already out to the press before this happened. As a result, it's possible to find the record floating around out there (my friend Brian, in fact, just informed me that you can listen to it on Spotify, so hey, how about that! I guess we'll find out how much this cuts into what were sure to be bananas record sales).

This also means that reviews of the disc are showing up, which, unfortunately, are now regrettably timed way ahead of schedule (which, i suppose we could be waiting to post the reviews on our pages until release time, but whatever). So far, the reviews have generally stayed true to the form of our last albums' worth of reviews: in short, people who "get it" like it (like Playground Misnomer or PopMatters), people who have no frame of reference for what we're doing don't.

I know how pretentious that sounds--"ooh, if someone doesn't like our record, they just don't get it, is all." Here's the thing--i really don't think our brand of pop-flavored noise rock is that difficult to comprehend. I mean, when compared to some of the more abrasive, esoteric, or just plain weird stuff in my collection, IfIHadAHiFi sounds, to my objective ears, pretty simplistic. Bands like Ho-Ag, Melt-Banana, and HEALTH are doing variations of what we've been trying to do for years, and all of them are doing it way better. So in a way, i'm often surprised when people outside our insular bubble of weirdo spazz-rock can't find anything in our songs to latch onto.

Which leads me to this review of Nada Surf over on It's overwhelmingly negative, which is fine--not the first time that's happened. But portions of the review, a cursory check into the dude's general music tastes, and the fact that he ended up reviewing us twice (because he thought he was going to be reviewing a Nada Surf record, ha) made me realize a few things about us, or more accurately, remind me about some things i already knew and had apparently forgotten through some sort of slowly narrowing perspective.

Hilariously, the dude provides a great pull-quote when taken out of context:

Forget how the word 'punk' is mostly used these days. You'll find no buzzy yet warm guitar melodies here, nor any raw yet sentimental vocals or nostalgic songs about hometowns, best friends, ex-girlfriends etc. What you'll get is a truck load of noisy feedback, distortion and discord, crashing drums and tuneless yelling, delivered with no hint of relent or compromise whatsoever.

It also provided a peek into what the dude primarily listens to, and sure enough, when checking out his profile page on the site, his "favorite bands" list includes low-rent mallpunk fare like Fall Out Boy and Jimmy Eat World. As i skimmed through the rest of the writer profiles, i started to realize that it was fairly unlikely that anyone on the site, except for maybe the editor-in-chief (who posted in the comments to both of our reviews on the site saying that he liked the music just fine, even going so far as to essentially tell the writer that, yes, he probably just doesn't "get it"), was going to find any common ground with us at all. It led to an interesting string of comments on the review in which a number of our influences were thrown at the reviewer and he confessed to zero percent knowledge of 100% of the bands listed. The thread was spurred by Chris from Police Teeth and myself, which, yes, i know that commenting on your own band's reviews is pretty sad pool, but i was honestly drawn to post more through the exasperated disbelief that this kid had never even heard Archers of Loaf or The Jesus Lizard, much less Brainiac or Poster Children, and the hope that maybe he'd check out those bands and find something he liked.

When co-workers ask me what kind of band i play in, i generally tell them "noisy punk rock," and leave it at that, knowing and being ok with the fact that those words probably mean a wildly different sound in their heads than what's encoded on our CDs. What this whole exchange with reminded me of (and depressed me to remember) is that even in the subculture of independent bands and internet music publications, the stuff that we fell in love with in our teens and 20s and are emulating now is, in many corners of the internet, becoming completely forgotten. And while it's freeing to know that, since large slices of the population won't ever like what we're doing, we can just not worry about it and do what we will to our heart's content (which also means, of course, that we're never making any money from this stuff), it's kind of a shame to know that even so-called music reviewers could go their entire lives without hearing a Brainiac song. I know that real hipsters are supposed to treat their favorite bands like secrets to protect, hoard, and lament when they become popular, but that's just not me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Dole Rut

I'm about to complete my fifth month of unemployment. Thinking about it, i'm fairly certain that this was the first Summer Vacation in which i haven't worked (for a paycheck) consistently since sixth grade. And it has continued into October.

I've made a hell of a go at the whole staying productive thing. I've blogged; done band stuff; applied (and got accepted!) to write for a fairly well-known music site (no, i haven't written anything for them yet); and of course there's that whole job hunting thing. And it worked for the first four months. Every so often i managed to put together a piece of writing i was especially fond of, and of course, there was that whole two-week tour thing that went pretty well too.

But lately i've been an a serious emotional and motivational rut, one leading to hours of vapid television watching and Facebook browsing and less and less activity that could be construed as "constructive." I can feel the entropy taking hold as the "gap in my employment" that i have to explain on most job applications glacially expands over my fatigued, slipping-into-hibernation sense of self-esteem. My attempts to be productive on days when scary, lazy, self-defeating corners of my brain serve to remind me that i don't really have anywhere to be or anything to do are bring undone by the mental and emotional exhaustion of trying to assign myself busywork for the last five months and not really knowing that it's achieving any goal other than taking my mind off the fact that i'm currently contributing precious little to society while drawing a check from it every week.

Here's something all those armchair quarterback conservatives who think the unemployed just aren't "trying hard enough" to find work don't really understand--the longer a person remains unemployed, the more oppressive their situation becomes. Not only does that unemployment gap look more and more unappealing to prospective employers by the day, but the sense of personal defeat, of personal worthlessness, compounds daily, making the simple act of browsing Big Shoes Network or a soul-sucking chore in and of itself, to say nothing of applying to another HR Department that likely won't respond.

I'm not writing this for pity, nor am i trolling for "you're not worthless!" comments--i'm just trying to illustrate how difficult this is on the mental constitution. I'd wager most people i've hung out with over the last few months have generally seen me put on a smile and keep a positive outlook, and overall, i've been able to cling to that. But little stuff is starting to pile up.

I owe my former roommate several hundred dollars in bills that i can't even begin to repay on a weekly unemployment check (not when a medical bill collector is already grabbing $100/mo. for the next two and a half months).

My car broke down in September and i don't have the money to get that fixed either. Sure, i'm using the band van to get around right now, and the band is fine with it, but i still feel like a leech.

And i suppose all the stress of worrying about my father for the last couple months hasn't really contributed in a positive sense.

I don't really have a solution for this, other than get over it and buckle down and keep on the job hunt. Baby steps are the order of the day, i suppose--one cover letter here, one blog post there, one new set of song lyrics here.

So i suppose this blog post, while not a glimmering slice of prose in the least, is at least a start.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lessons Learned, Postscript

An observation that i wasn't able to shoehorn into my last post:

After everything my family's gone through in the last week, the fact that Newt Gingrich divorced one of his wives while she was seriously ill in the hospital now strikes me as the most grotesque of evils.

Lessons Learned in Backyards and Hospitals

Dad, my sister Tracy, and me, pre-other-kids

"Dad, what do you think love is?"

Dad and i are on our backs in the backyard, staring up at the Perseid meteor shower one August night in the mid-1980s. We spent a lot of time behind the house staring at the stars, either with the two telescopes Dad bought for us, or with our own eyes. The backyard made for optimum stargazing, as the house blocked the only street lights in town that messed with our view. On the other hand, the backyard faced north, and all the cool Messier objects and planets travel across the southern sky, so sometimes we sucked it up. But tonight, we're in back, facing east. And Dad's in one of those philosophical moods that gazing at Heaven (and possibly drinking a few beers, but hey) tended to trigger back then.

"Love is what happens when you care about someone so much, that you'd give your life for theirs."

I remember being surprised at how quickly he came up with that one. All the movies and songs i'd been absorbing treated love like a Great Mystery. I wanna know what love is. How will i know when it's love? Is this love? Maybe love is a battlefield, in which case that whole "giving your life for theirs" thing makes sense. So many artists seemed confused by the question, but apparently all they needed to do was ask my dad.

And why shouldn't they have? When i was a preteen my dad had all the answers. I asked him once why he didn't have to go to Mass with the rest of us; i knew it had something to do with the fact that Mom was raising us Catholic and he was raised Methodist, but he didn't drive the six miles to Stockbridge for worship either. "I'm a non-denominational believer," was his answer. This sounded like a pretty convenient excuse to sit at the local diner getting coffee with his pals while we sat, stood, and kneeled, but it still planted an organized-religion-questioning seed in my head that adult independence (and a similar desire to sleep in on Sundays) allowed to flower post-Confirmation. But as his penchant for breaking into "How Great Thou Art" whenever a particularly bright meteor blazed across the sky illustrated, his faith was deeper and more thoughtfully vetted than that of the most vocal, front-pew visible "pillars" of the community.

Do parents realize that when they impart wisdom on their young children, it stays with them forever? I hope not, because if i ever have kids that thought will surely paralyze my tongue. Regardless, that sentence - "Love is what happens when you care about someone so much, that you'd give your life for theirs" - has stayed with me my entire life, although i haven't always understood what it really entails. As a child i took it literally and assumed that if i ever feel compelled to throw my body in front of an oncoming train to save a young lady's life, i'd know it's true, bullet-stopping love.

As i entered adulthood and started dating, i got into relationships that let me see the idea of "giving your life for theirs" through the distorted lens of codependency, thinking that somehow, subjugating my own needs for that of the other would prove that i was willing to give my life to make them happy. Whether they were willing to do the same for me was irrelevant as long as i was fighting to have my sacrifice recognized. I'm fighting for you! Love me somehow!

Those movies and songs kept muddling the picture, too. Sure, Wesley was willing to sacrifice his life for Princess Buttercup, but what happens when "happily ever after" evolves into beer guts and postpartum fat rolls? Will Princess Buttercup still love Wesley when he passes out in front of the TV every night surrounded by Old Style cans with a lit cigarette dangling in his mouth? Rob Gordon figured it out when he got back together with Laura in High Fidelity, but for the longest time i couldn't stop thinking how hot the music journalist who interviewed him at Championship Vinyl was.

I know i'm not the only one who's ever confused drama for romance, dreams with reality. We all have heard some version of my dad's words to me, thinking that grand gestures and sweeping, epic romance are the only things capable of living up to such a bold definition of love. But.

I visited my parents on Labor Day. I had just come home from tour, during which i got the news that dad had landed back in the hospital, the price he's paid for a lifetime of those Old Styles and dangling smokes. His teeth rotted from radiation treatments 11 years prior, he finally had their decayed remains yanked to hopefully prevent yet another inflammation. As i walked through the door, Mom was walking Dad through a video tutorial on the new food processor she had purchased for him. He can barely talk these days, much less break into a hymn, but 11 years after the cancer surgery that initially took pieces of his jaw and tongue, Mom is able to decode his spittled, slurred speech with little effort (she has to speak up in order for him to hear her, however).

On their recent trip to Madison for a consultation with the doctor who may be able to reconstruct his jaw after the latest round of cancer is removed, Dad collapsed once again. This time, he fell asleep waiting for the delayed appointment and, upon notification that The Doctor Will See You Now, he didn't wake up. His carotid arteries were clogged, we were told, and his blood wasn't oxygenating properly. Why he collapsed was up for debate because he showed no evidence of a stroke or heart attack--he just stopped breathing. He was whisked to the Emergency Room, then to the ICU, where he then lay in critical condition hooked up to machines while i drove to Madison, my mother's sobs still fresh in my ear from the phone call alerting me to his condition.

Not long after he was moved to the ICU, the family members (we all were there) were allowed in to see him. Mom and i went in first. This giant in my life, this man who i so often assigned responsibility for nearly everything i am today, had never looked so small. He was contorted and bent in the pose where i imagine he had been sedated after unconsciously struggling with his breathing tube and miscellaneous needles and instruments. He looked less like my dad and more like a grotesque cyborg approximation of the man who started me down the path to unrepentant geekery by taking me to see Star Wars when i was three. But it was my dad all the same, and i knew that i would not leave his side until i knew that he still had brain activity. That he was still my father.

When they revived him, we had no idea what the damage may have been to his brain; our debate over the question of DNR or No DNR was resolved by deciding that we needed to table the question until we knew whether or not he was braindead. Within five minutes we had arrived at this decision and walked back into the ICU to see Dad waking and struggling once again with his breathing tube. Mom leaned in close and asked him, "do you see me?" He nodded in recognition. She took his hand and he squeezed it with all the limited strength he could muster.

My little brother called me last night with an update. Mom had "conned" (his word) an intern into telling her that they detected a weakness in his heart as a result of his collapse. They labeled it "stress-induced cardiomyopathy," or "Broken Heart Syndrome," which is really just too poetic for me to try working into this without it sounding like Comp 101. He and Mom were at the end of their collective rope with the doctors' lack of communication--they would tell Mom that they were going to do a test, then ignore her for hours on end until she tracked them down to pull more information out of them. He was determined to go in and "raise hell" because seeing her frustration and stress had put him in the mood to lay down some serious smack on the doctors that were stringing her along while tending to our dad.

Here's what love is to me, now--the real, messy, dirty, honest, till-death-do-us-part kind of love that we all claim to be searching for but rarely grasp what it entails:

Love is a woman who, when her husband has used up his body and had parts of his face cut out, re-learns how to understand his speech so she can still talk to him.

Love is a family who sees their patriarch at his very worst--barely covered by a hospital gown, plugged in to machines keeping him alive, and won't leave until they know he's on his way back.

Love is a son who used to get into screaming matches with his mom while he grew up, but now is so enraged by the thought of her being mistreated that he'll jump into a fight guns blazing to stand up for her (and believe me, my brother and mom could get into it way back when).

That's the real shit, y'all. Messy, painful, and unconditional...and willing to give of ourselves.

Giving your life for someone else's can mean all those things that i thought it meant; i wasn't necessarily wrong. Those examples i cited are all different versions of love, and that's why so many people struggle with the answer to that question i asked Dad under the meteors so many years ago. The answer Dad gave me is absolutely the correct one; it's just what you make of it where people get lost, lost among the dramatic plot twists and Manic Pixie Dream Girls.

If i can take one positive from everything that's happened to Dad in the last 11 years, and the last two months in particular, it's that my family--especially my parents--have taught me more about love in the last 60 days than a lifetime of songs or movies ever taught me.

I like to think that i'm on my way to having that level of long-term, permanent, unconditional, unflinchingly ugly, beautiful love, and if it ever results in a child that asks me, "Dad, what do you think love is?", i think i'll tell that child exactly what my dad told me, and hope that it doesn't take my failing health for him or her to figure out what that answer can mean.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"A Scrupulous Cultural Ignorance" - The 2011 PRF BBQ Auktoberfyst

Gothamist: "It just seems from my perspective that there aren’t many bands that are making dark or ugly music anymore."

Steve Albini: "Well, it sort of depends on the idiom really. There’s a lot of sort of grungy metal and punk stuff where every single band is trying to make aggressive music."

Gothamist: "Yeah, I guess I’m referring more to the..."

Steve Albini: "Bands that play at the clubs you go to."

Steve Albini is at his quotable best in this interview over at The Gothamist blog, in which he shares his always smirk-inducing opinions on New York City, the asinine Odd Future dustup ("It was a message board thread about Odd Future and I happened to have an anecdote about them so I share my anecdote and what passes for Journalism these days is repeating things that other people link to you on Twitter so that’s what it boils down to"), and his interactions with mainstream popular music:

I’m an exceptionally lucky man in that I’ve never heard a note of Lady Gaga’s music and you could sit her on my lap and I wouldn’t recognize her. I know that she’s a cultural force at the moment but I’m quite satisfied in having dodged that one. It’s like a truck drove by spraying shit from a nozzle over the entire neighborhood and I happened to be under an awning. You know?

What it boils down to is that I’ve maintained a scrupulous cultural ignorance since about 1985 when I realized that what’s going on out there in the regular world means nothing to me. If it’s not being done by people I can identify with in some way or people that say something that punches through the distance between me and them and makes me pay attention to it. If it’s not that, if I don’t find it rewarding then I’m not going to spend any energy trying to think about it.

I oft times envy Albini's ability to screen out the portions of the music world he finds undesirable. While i tend to think of myself as at my most entertaining when i'm yelling acerbic nonsense about Stuff That Sucks, there's definitely a generous slice of myself that gets up in arms about that shit because of some deep unresolved issue with how little validation the stuff i like (and maybe, by extension, my own fragile ego) gets outside of my own keyboard. Obviously Albini hasn't ever had that issue, or if he has, he's long come to terms with it (helped, i'm sure, by being successful in a creative field that he loves on his own terms).

Thankfully for dumb, attention-hungry fucks like myself, the PRFBBQ Auktoberfyst served this weekend as a reminder that awesome music doesn't need to be validated by any kind of mass media approval system to be, well, awesome. For three days, an online community of music enthusiasts convened in the meat world to share their creations with each other, bereft of any but the most dismissive, patronizing press blurbs promoting the gathering. Three days of music produced and consumed by a close-knit group of folks who would be thrilled if you stopped by too, but won't be losing any sleep because you didn't.

Ironically, the three-day lineup (beginning last Thursday at Quenchers saloon on Fullerton and Western and continuing on Friday and Saturday at Klas restaurant in Cicero) was full of something for nearly everybody, which is not how those who prefer to dismiss the EA Forum folk prefer to think of a group of "Albini-worshippers." All aluminum guitars and abrasive, Jesus Lizard and Shellac-ripoff noise rock, right? Well, there was plenty of that, to be sure, but not in the quantities online commenters might expect.

I unfortunately missed Thursday's show (my bandmates are not as courteously unemployed as i), but Friday's was positively stacked. PRF favorites Bottomless Pit, the earthy, soulful ensemble featuring ex-Silkworms Andy Cohen and Tim Midgett, debuted six new songs of the same measured, thoughtful, atmospheric rock that still evokes fond memories of Silkworm and drummer Chris Manfrin's former outfit Seam. Whales followed with a set of dreamy indie pop that calls to mind infectious 90s standouts like Velocity Girl and Versus with a little shoegazer love thrown in the mix.

But Friday's clear standouts were the phenomenal Lines and Terminals and Maple Stave. L&T should be a well-known name in Milwaukee by now, as they've blessed the stages and floors of the Cactus Club, Borg Ward, and Circle A more than regularly. Their experimental, mostly instrumental approach has evolved over the the last year or so, dropping most of the guitars in exchange for more analog synth licks and photo-theremin squeals. The set was full of chewy synthetic bass fuzz, bright organ stabs and escalating, driving riffs that pulsed and built to dramatic, powerful crests. Post-set, one show-goer remarked that Lines and Terminals need to work out a deal to score the next Michael Mann cop drama. Some entertainment lawyer needs to make that happen with a quickness as that idea is genius.

And Maple Stave...ok, here are some aluminum guitar, Touch & Go Records-worshipping noise-rock nerds, but if there's anyone doing it better right now, please sendspace me their records because i'll scream to the heavens about their genius. Evan Rowe is one of those drummers (and one of several that played over the weekend) that i, as a fellow percussionist, am borderline intimidated to play in front of. He's a rare talent, and he anchors a loud, scratchy, heavy-as-shit BEAST of a rock machine. Seeing them play is always a gift.

Saturday's lineup continued the nonstop amazeballs: The Viper & His Famous Orchestra brought old-timey fun to the proceedings, all dandy appearances and suitcase percussion and trombone-flavored ragtime; St. Louis' Spelling Bee dazzled with noisy-experimental guitar shredding and drum wizardry; the Sinking Suns rattled the Klas chandeliers with earth-moving pigfuck that would have made fellow Madisonians Killdozer proud; Begin By Gathering Supplies continued their ascent into shoegazey Britpop royalty, with the emphasis on the pop--the addition of the Heavy Bombers' Brent Mix on baritone sax adding yet another layer to the ever-expanding cloud of sensuality that BBGS envelops you in, as inviting as the sexy new neighbor with the bottle of wine, a joint, and cable TV that just happens to need fixing.

For our part, we tried to make things memorable by setting up our gear so that instead of facing into the room, we faced out the large bay windows behind the stage and into the beer garden (directly following Spelling Bee, we had no choice but to lean on gimmickry). We kicked everyone out of the main room and sent them outside (our soundman, Rich of the venerable Bear Claw, announced that all non-band members had to get the fuck out of the "backstage area" and get in front of the stage), kicking into "Paradise By the Paulding Light" with panes of glass separating us from the crowd, like a rock and roll zoo exhibit. After one song that featured Yale losing his balance and plowing into the guitar amp he was using, the powers that be at Klas demanded we turn back around, as people were keeping the door between beer garden and inside open, blasting the hapless restaurant patrons as a result. Hey, whatever, we at least got video.

But once again, the PRF saved the best for last, as Latest Flame beasts Trophy Wives pummeled the throng with their usual southern-fried combination of stoner-rock sounds and northwestern post-punk riffs. TWives bassist Tony Ash brought along his fellow miscreants in Louisville band Nixon, who dispensed with the "post-" and blasted away on some no-bullshit, blistering punk 'n' roll, delivering a Kentucky ass-kicking Quadrajets style with Zeke's tempos, anchored by the umpteenth brain-busting drummer in attendance. And the PRF finally got their first live taste of Milwaukee's best rock band, Call Me Lightning, who left everyone agog.

It was evident to anyone who showed up that there was some serious communing going on (held together not only by the music, but by the amazing sausages being grilled in the beer garden, courtesy Mr. Albini), and i cannot overemphasize the importance of what's happening here. A music scene, a community, built up and self-sustained by like-minded people that create for the sake of creating, and for sharing those creations with their peers. No, it's not being documented by anyone outside the group, and that could be misconstrued as insularity, but make no mistake--it's not like anyone from Spelling Bee or Call Me Lightning are even registered on the forum, if you get my drift.

The community, and what that community has accomplished here, is its own reward, and while i would love to see my friends get the recognition they deserve, i'm sure i could benefit from the words of the guy whose studio brought us all together, and embrace the benefits of keeping "scrupulously ignorant" of what the rest of our culture deigns to declare as relevant.

That being said, i'll still be writing stuff like this and pleading my case, and if just a handful of people outside the circle manage to discover Maple Stave, i will feel like i've done my part to contribute.

Postscript: all videos in this post were shot and edited by Caffeinated Recordings, the unofficial documentarians of all things PRF. All videos are from past events, but video from this year's Auktoberfyst is slowly making its way to their YouTube channel, so keep checking back there for amazing footage of every band i mentioned and more.