Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles, Year in Review: 2015

Year in Review: March 2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 16

A high fueled melodic roar, audio octane for speed heads and gear jammers who keep hearing police sirens above the music. Perfect for hanging out in parking lots, smoking schwag, sippin' Schnapps and cranking Ant Farmers out the speakers in the old Ford ...... till some fuckin' old-timers put the kibosh on the party by calling APD. Hands up, don't shoot!

Veteran KOB anchorman, Tom Joles got into a verbal/physical altercation shortly before a broadcast. According to an eyewitness, “Joles interrupted while a young reporter was being counseled by News Director Michelle Donaldson. Reporter Stuart Dyson intervened, Joles traded F-bombs and punches with Dyson and photographer Joseph Lynch” After order was restored, Joles packed up his belongings and left the station. Donaldson gathered the news staff and told them how her heart breaks for Joles and that he’s having a tough time adjusting to the modern era of TV news. KOB then issued a statement explaining Joles absence from the newscast as a “cool down period

This is just damn fantastic. Look out – Howard Beale, Tom Joles is gonna getcha'. The online comments (not surprisingly) leaned towards Stuart Dyson more than deserving a punch in the face. Not a fair assumption by any means. Tom Joles (for reasons we'll never really know) had a cleansing moment of clarity and a wicked roundhouse right.... since Stuart did not take a knee, I will score that round 10-9 Joles.

Dyson as many of you may not know, was once a member of the Gutterleaves, an early 1990s cow punk outfit. This was long before he honed his skills as an investigative reporter at K-Circle-B in Albuquerque. Stuart is a much better reporter than musician as his KOB bio states “He plays guitar and sings with a wandering herd of local musicians who are much better than he is, although he makes up for his ineptitude by writing murder ballads and songs about cowgirls and moonshiners”

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 17

I was aware of a growing buzz around a local band, Angry Babies. Nonetheless, finding a review of the band's 1992 album “Mr. Toyhead” in Creem magazine (briefly reincarnated as a glossy after its initial demise in 1988) was an unexpected surprise. The gist of the short review being: Strange things happen out in the desert and there's a an “odd” music scene taking shape in Albuquerque. Someone at Creem had their ear to the ground, listening for hoofbeats.

I'm tying up some loose ends after a three episode flashback to the 1990s. Man I loved the 90s, best five years of my life followed by the worst five years of my life.... Hoo-ah! Truth be told, while I'm well versed 90s music, I have no clue as to the drug culture of that era. See, I was clean and sober for nearly the entire decade. No shit, from July of 1989 until Nov. of 1998, I walked a straight edge.

My steadfast perseverance was finally broken by an unexpected find. While rummaging through the cabin of an airliner parked on the Sunport tarmac (I worked for a Lufthansa subsidiary, Sky Chef) I came upon a small baggie stuffed full of purple bud, apparently abandoned by a panicked passenger.
It didn't take long for me to drain a can of Canada Dry Pale Ginger Ale and fashion it into a rudimentary Steve-O (UNM 96-97) certified smoking apparatus. Damn near ten years of clean time, up in smoke. That's how I kicked the 90s to the curve.

“If I was Young, I'd flee this town” Hold on as I double clutch this beast and slip it into cruisin' gear. Let's set the controls for El Quinto Sol..... the heart of that forsaken outpost on the very edge of Mesoamerica known as New Mexico. Mayan Prophecy be damned, we still bask under the fading light of Nahui-Olin. Give me some heat, man, give me some heat over here.... Namaste Ya'll.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 18

Recording software that allows users to capture online streams as they ooze from the speakers, combined with broadband servers, totally turned the world around. Music downloads, once queued up round the clock on Audio Galaxy or KaZaa became a thing of the past. I could argue over the semantics, but I won't. Just don't give me that look.... we all did it.

The main drawback to Napster 1.0, Audio Galaxy and such, besides the shady legality of “Free downloads” was the absence of local musicians and bands (unless you happen to call NYC, Los Angeles, Minneapolis or Seattle home) My Space not only fixed that, it also allowed you to tag and search for music by locale.

If MySpace music was the 800 pound gorilla in the room, then YouTube quickly became the 12,000 pound elephant. Once YouTube to mp3 software was added to the arsenal of sound capturing apps, all hell broke loose. Quasi-legal downloads using quasi-legal software.... who saw that coming? Not the record labels, for sure.  Archive the fuck out of this era, because the internet as we knew it back in 2000 is long gone and the web as we know it now, will soon be gone. To be replaced by some over regulated, homogeneous version of the networks that made television no fuckin' fun what so ever. Here we are now, entertain us.

A Brief History of Local Music

Meanwhile back on the ranch, Joe Bufalino and Associates, a booking agency, still had a firm choke hold on local live music venues. Nobody could play anywhere in the Duke City without signing a one year contract with Bufalino and paying him up to a 15% fee for his “services” Cookie cutter cover bands (known locally as “Buff bands”) were losing their appeal. The emphasis now was on original compositions, stripped down instrumentation, no more glam rock bells & whistles.... come as you are. Local bands started finding alternative venues, sidestepping Bufalino while playing to a more experimental group of listeners than your average inebriated barfly.

You could say that in fact there were numerous variables at play in Albuquerque in 1990. The DIY, Indie, LoFi movement was sweeping across the country. Arena rock was waning in popularity and some Seattle based bands were starting to make some noise. It was rock and roll's last big wave, the one before the world wide web became a matter of fact and a way of life. Between 1990 and 1999 there was an explosion of bands on the local music scene, more than ever before. The size and scope of that timeline is mind boggling, so it'll have to wait for another day.

Just as Internet Explorer is the browser that you use to download a better browser, Albuquerque is the city where musicians hone their skills before moving on to bigger and better things. Eventually the same trail that led local musicians to the Golden State, forked to the northwest as San Francisco, Portland and Seattle became more desirable launchpads (along with Austin, Tx. and to a lesser extent, New York City) Despite this continuous exodus of talented musicians, the music scenes in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe keep right chuggin' along. Enduring, self sustaining and never boring. Coming from the most humble of starting points, Albuquerque now garners a well earned reputation as a “hip music locale” I must say, that both 'Burque and Santa Fe wear it well.... oh yes they do!

Year in Review: April 2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 19

“Men haunted by a vision of great achievement, who cannot be bothered with conventional success, because they reach for transcendence”

It's delusional, I know. It's a New Mexican condition, the desperate need for validation from the rest of the nation. The need to join the major leagues. UNM athletics (men's basketball in particular) pursues this as an act of sheer folly and quixotic madness, resulting in a sense of gratification equivalent to that of drilling a dry hole in Little Texas.

Just before Flake Music segued into The Shins, 'Burque's music scene was caught in a quandary brought about by the numerous stops, starts and near misses that had raised hopes that one day soon a band would bust out of Albuquerque. Only to see those hopes dashed, time and again.  Who would be the first penguin reckless enough to break the ice?

After Nirvana broke, every Seattle band wearing flannel (which is to say most of them) suddenly found themselves entertaining offers from corporate Satan. Why wasn't that happening in Albuquerque? The music industry insiders working the business end, men with nothing creative to offer, yet deemed important to the process  had dropped the ball. The system let everyone down, which is fine because that system is fucked up beyond all recognition now.

The garage band model is out, replaced by visionary bedroom savants armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of the current indie rock scene, working their magic at home before springing their twisted tweaker tunes on the masses.  New is back, because newer is always better, that's the American way. And the Hits just keep on comin'....

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 20

Anne Tkach died in a tragic house fire in Webster Groves, MO. April 9th, 2015. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation. Unless you followed Albuquerque's music scene through the mid to late 1990s you're probably not familiar with Anne and her prolific musical legacy.  I didn't know Anne, though I was fortunate enough to have caught a couple of Hazeldine's live performances before their local concerts grew sparse.

One could be excused for not noticing Anne playing bass on stage during her days with Hazeldine. Tonya Lamm's achingly endearing vocals and Shawn Barton's seductive radiance got all the attention. Even Jeffrey Richards had a je ne sais quoi about him. Not that Anne wasn't beautiful nor lacking in stage presence (a friend of her's Ryan Adams, wrote this on Facebook about her: "I'll never forget watching Anne Tkach play bass for Magic City, duck walking across the stage, putting her foot on the monitor, playing the most badass bass lines in the world, all while wearing a dress”

Anne was a consummate professional musician with a distinctive style of her own. This becomes readily apparent as you listen to the extensive catalog of recordings she participated in. Anne could hold her own regardless of genre (case in point; check out her work with Magic City, available on YouTube)  A native of Webster Groves in the St. Louis area,  Anne followed the trail west to Albuquerque, where she became part of a band that many local music aficionados consider the best to ever come out of these here parts. ~ Anne Tkach, que en paz descanse ~

CW Ayon Blues Redux

Much of what I do is retrospective and with seven well received albums under his belt, it's time to revisit New Mexico's native son,  CW Ayon. If the blues are epitomized by an image of the itinerant musician making his way from one juke joint to another in search of an audience then Coop fits the bill. Keep in mind, unlike many New Mexico musicians who moonlight as musicians while holding down day jobs.... CW Ayon to my knowledge is a full time musician.

Not that he's riding in boxcars or hitching rides in the back of pick-up trucks, come on, it's 2015 a man's gotta have a place to plug in his phone, tablet, laptop etc. A bluesman better have Expedia bookmarked and some plastic handy if he wants to stay on the road. CW stays busy and over the past few years he's expanded his range away our lonely corner of the state, across this great land and beyond. Case in point, Coop just returned from a successful turn at the Terri' Thouars Blues Festival.

If you judge a man by how well he's received when he's far away from home, then without a doubt CW Ayon is the real deal. Here in the sticks of New Mexico we already knew that. Now the world wants in on the fun. The French refer to CW as “Le Chant/harmonica/guitare du Nouveau Mexique” which sounds a lot cooler than “guitar picker” Not Coop's first international foray, three years ago he sallied forth to Australia with Old Gray Mule (CR Humphrey) blues picker extraordinaire out of Lockhart, Tx.   Well, Well, Well.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 21

Mitch Hedberg once said “My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them”
Greetings from the land of the big mañana.... The hissing of summer lawns signals a change in the weather. We've been blessed with a March that came in like a lamb and went out like a.... lamb. April has been borne of the Zephyr. Gentle and serene.

The lack of southwesterly haboobs has given us a much needed respite from the usual sandblasted spring weather pattern. You don't need a weather man to know that even under optimal conditions, New Mexico is dry as a bone. Unlike Californios (or future New Mexicans as they're known in Santa Fe) we figured out (more or less) how to get by on meager rainfall and below average runoffs.

All day I've faced the barren waste without the taste of water... cool, water. The Gaia Theory observes that species thrive which live in harmony with their natural environments, while those that do not are eliminated. Humanity is the dominant species and we're living in disharmony with our environment.

These crackers are making me thirsty. “Hold mighty man, I cry, all this we know. He spreads the burnin' sand with water, he's the devil, not a man” I'm here to tell you now each and ev'ry mother's son, You better learn it fast; you better learn it young, 'Cause, the big monsoon it never comes and It's a hard rain a-never gonna fall.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 22

From its humble beginnings as a single rock station in Dallas, Tx., Z Rock (owned by the ABC Radio Network, now Cumulus Media Networks) grew to anchor the network's 24 hour satellite format, also known as “Satellite Music Network” Programming features such as Blistering Leads, Wounded Radio, Back Rockwards, Bad Ass CD Side and Old Stuff For an Hour, kept the dweebs locked in. Loud and obnoxious personalities were the norm, with on air hosts such as Crankin Craig, Sharkman, Dave Bolt, Loud Debi Dowd, Madd Maxx Hammer and Scorchin' Scotty crammin' it down your throat on a daily basis.

You may recall Z-Rock's slogans “If it's too loud, you're too old!” “Lock it in, and rip your knob off” “Flip us on and flip them off” Albuquerque's Z-Rock was based in the studio complex at the corner of Edith and Baker Lane NE in the North Valley. At the time I lived at the north end of Edith NE and every so often I would come across some random hesher wearing a black leather jacket in 90+ heat, trudging up Edith towards the station on a pilgrimage to collect some free shit or to loiter at the gate, as if hoping to catch a glimpse of Loud Debi herself.

Z-Rock of course broadcast via satellite from their flagship studios in Dallas, Tx. See race fans, Z-Rock was America's first coast to coast rock network (i.e. radio version of TBS & WGN) marketing nationally for local broadcast with local ads inserted. Z-Rock's network became the template de rigueur for modern over-air broadcast media. So, while these loudmouthed knuckleheads were rebelling against everything we had..... they were also clearing the path for the sanitized, dull as dishwater radio stations that most of us hate so fucking much.

Year in Review: May 2015

The Josephine Street Yacht Club

Rolling Stone magazine described them as, “post-punk power pop” though I like to think of them as “pop-punk nerdcore” No matter... Lousy Robot defied being pigeonholed into any one genre. On 'Burque podcast, Ten Drink Minimum, Phillips described Lousy Robot as “me and Dandee Fleming with revolving keyboard players (primarily Jack Moffitt and Ben Wood) and five thousand drummers. (the actual count is six with Joey Gonzalez being the latest)

Life is such, that along the way we lose the ones we love. The cruelest loss of all is when those blessed with creative vision are taken from us. Jim Phillips was such. The guiding force behind popular Duke City alternative rockers, Lousy Robot, Phillips passed away on May 12th, 2015 at his Albuquerque home, which he referred to as, the Josephine St. Yacht Club (named after a song by I Love Math) Jim was born in Golden, Co. raised in Memphis, Tn. and moved to New Mexico after college. Phillips was also an accomplished writer (Weekly Alibi, Local IQ, New Mexico Compass) and an aspiring urban farmer who successfully cultivated backyard crops in the heart of Old Town.

Behind every successful band (regardless of genre) is an exceptional person (or two) of exceptional talent willing them on. For Lousy Robot Jim filled that role. Jim's perpetually muted vocals brought life to the band's calculated beats and poetically cynical lyrics. Laid out in a series of three minute primers on love and life for those living in a permanent state of quiet desperation. Wry anthems that dwelled on finding liberation in being nothing special.

Year in Review: June  2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 23

Slackeye Slim (Joe Frankland) a musician from Wooster, Ohio with stops in Colorado, Montana and Wisconsin along the way. Now relocated to Tijeras N.M. he's described as “a musician from the desert usually, but sometimes he lives in the woods in a gigantic bird's nest” Slim takes the whole “gothic country” thing a step further.... “cubist country” perhaps. Frankland paints with a broad brush, recreating a wild west that is strictly a product of his own vivid imagination. Zombies, gunslingers and other nefarious western characters come to life through Slim's stylized drawl and sparse instrumentation. Cliches and conventions be damned, Frankland gets away with being goofy as hell... because cynicism made audible is a taste that we never get tired of.

Finding one's self a thousand miles from the nearest beach (Tingley not withstanding) doesn't necessarily impede a love of surf music. New Mexico's affinity for the genre is just one of those enigmatic things that can't be readily explained. Self proclaimed purveyors of “high desert surf noir” Phantom Lake consists of Bud Melvin, Jessica Billey, Clifford Grindstaff and Roger Apodaca. All talented veterans of 'Burque's music scene, they're more authentic than Kahuna's beach shack. The Surf Lords revolve around Tom Chism's pipeline licks.... they're so so authentic that you'll be scanning the radio dial for surf reports.

Bryce Fletcher Hample's sound project, Reighnbeau is similar in style to Jeff Mettling's ELU and Joey Belville's Pristina. Ambient dream pop that builds around breathy sugarcoated female vocals. A pleasant milquetoast distraction that ultimately leaves you high and dry. Great background music for stroking the cat or putting on the dog.

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 24

Luigi Russolo was a man ahead of his times. Russolo's essay L'Arte dei rumori (The Art of Noises) published in 1913, explores the origins and evolution of man made sounds. Russolo notes that while early music tried to create sweet and pure sounds, it progressively grew more and more complex. Luigi envisioned a world dominated by industry and he saw no reason why this industrial dissonance couldn't be forged into aesthetically pleasing music. It goes without saying that Signore Russolo never gave a listen to Contact High with the Godz, otherwise he may have had a change of heart.

Paul Hegarty, music writer for The Guardian poses the question: “So what do we seek if we are drawn to noise music? How and why would anyone want to be assaulted by it?” The overwhelming human desire to stave off boredom combined with our need to differentiate ourselves from the mob would be my best guess. Which leads us back to Russolo, who in the age of gramophones proclaimed “music has reached a point that no longer has the power to excite or inspire. Even when it is new, it still sounds old and familiar, leaving the audience waiting for the extraordinary sensation that never comes”

With that in mind, Russolo devised noise-making machines that he called “intonarumori” from which he drew a clamor of sounds that was music to his ears only. Others may have liken it to the hideous bellows emitting from Perillos of Athens barbaric Brazen Bull. There's no accounting for other people's taste and in all likelihood, Luigi probably had no fucks left to give. A performance of his Gran Concerto Futuristico (1917) had met with strong disapproval and violence from the audience, as Russolo himself had predicted.