Distant Trains – Underwater Ghost Choir by centipedefarmer

I’ve been revisiting my old Flight Attendants approach of sound-collage-based music lately, including going so far as to use remnants of old Flight Attendants tapes as part of the collage itself. Metacollage if you will. I came up with this piece the other day and I’m pretty happy with it. To be included on some future Distant Trains release, I’m sure.

The Old Bending River cover

A few weeks ago in an article related to the Joe Jack Talcum/Samuel Locke Ward/The Bassturd/Coolzey tour, I referred to Samuel Locke-Ward as a “troubadour of the troubling.” Something bugged me about that phrase the moment I typed it. Later I realized that I was cribbing it from an old show poster I’d seen on the wall in Sam’s house, where the wording was “Iowa City’s troubling troubador” — but referring not to Sam, but to Ed Gray. Yep, Ed Gray is the original “troubling troubadour” of our fair state.

A veteran of the avant-folk end of the lo-fi home-taping scene, predating the notion of “new weird America,” Ed Gray built a reputation through sparse cassette recordings interspersing poetic folky tunes with tape manipulation and noise, and live performances in which he would be equally likely, depending on his mood or his perception of the crowd’s response, to assault you with several minutes of feedback, or to lull you with one of his gentle though dark ballads (and equally capable of both by means of playing a nylon-string acoustic guitar with a pickup through an amplifier with a fuzz pedal in between).

The first time I heard a Richard Buckner record I thought I was hearing some new Ed Gray joint that I hadn’t known about. The two men have a similar tone and depth to their voices and some similar melodic mannerisms to their writing. Ed, however, reaches into his upper range more often, and brings along an extra element of mayhem, straying willfully off-key when it suits the expression of the song; and then of course there’s his aforementioned love of the noise. In the height of the ’00s alt-country craze Ed began showing signs of letting his songwriting step out from behind the tape hiss, fleshing out his sound with fuller instrumentation and production on the gorgeous Fresh Coat On The Powder Keg 7″ EP in 2005 and an excellent full-length called The Late Gray Ed Great that followed in short order, of which Kent Williams wrote quite appropriately in Little Village, “It’s a joy to hear folk make such a racket.” The Americana feel of both is unmistakable but Ed worked in enough dissonance on the full-length to stand out from the pack. At points the noisy elements felt grafted-on, not yet fully integrated in Ed’s sound, but the poetry of the tear-jerker songs wins you over.

Whether The Old Bending River represents the completion of that sought-for integration of song and noise I’m not sure. There simply seems to be less noise on it, limited to just enough fuzzed-up electric guitar to keep things appreciably raw, but on the song end this album shines. It sounds as if Ed may have arrived at a fully realized sound that feels right and comfortable to him, and he comes off both more relaxed and livelier than on the tense downtrip of Late Gray. The songs are less tear-jerker and more impressionist, haunted, even raucous at points, with his superb lyrics always a clear highlight. For all the dark imagery, Ed sounds like he’s having a good time making this record.

A couple of tunes — the waltz-stomp “Samson” and the finale “Cold Cold Man” — will remind you a bit of Tom Waits — right down to the hushed spoken vocal over spooky organ that the latter opens with and its wailing sax solo courtesy of Pete Balistrieri. The picked electric bass used throughout the album initially felt out of place on those songs that pull from old-time roots, but I got over it in realizing that it serves to remind that these are modern songs, not merely retreads of well-worn tropes, and thus using a stand-up bass instead would be a bit too obvious, almost hokey, for an Ed Gray record. That point is made even more strongly with “The Old Saw Blade,” which, while pure folk in its structure and melody, derives an important aspect of its atmosphere from distorted power chords and pick scrapes. “Chafe” and “Away” stand up (or sway) with the best of the kind of alt-country ballads they sound like drinking buddies with. While it’s probably unintentional that the title of “Egg Timer Man” seems to reference Mike Watt’s newest work, it’s curious how Watt-like Ed’s vocal sounds on it, and it wouldn’t seem out-of-place if found nestled among the mellower moments of Contemplating The Engine Room. “Bone”, the album’s epic, works a dark, gnarly blues-scale riff for a good long time before building it into the kind of multi-part three-chord ramble that I love Magnolia Electric Company for. But for all the references I can make, on The Old Bending River, Ed Gray just sounds like Ed Gray, except even better than I was accustomed to.

Possibly his best, and likely his most accessible work so far (but there are still a couple of his old cassette releases I’ve never heard), The Old Bending River asserts Ed Gray’s rightful place, overdue perhaps, among Iowa’s finest musical craftsmen. Ed is experienced and at the top of his game here, and backed up by an ensemble that sounds like it’s made up of people who are just as much loyal longtime fans as collaborators. As good as it is, I wouldn’t put it past him to keep on and surpass it yet. But I’m mighty glad not to have missed it.

Just out, this compilation that I have a track on that kinda marks my return to the 4-track. I haven’t got around to listening to any of it yet myself but am looking forward to doing just that. Please to be checking it out.

So this supposed metal band from Canada came down, on the latest of several DIY tours, promoting their fourth proper album. And they come to Des Moines, spend the whole show dicking around on their laptops and ignoring people, intro their set with “let’s get this shit over with” then put out a video on their tour blog wherein they slag on Iowa, insult the opening bands and bitch about the paltry size of crowd they had to play for and how they sold no merch and made next to no money. OK, these guys were jerks, but their complaining did get me thinking, because the real surprise to me was that after how many years playing music and touring, they weren’t already so used to having bum shows that they wouldn’t just let it roll off their backs and move on, and instead made a bitchy video about it. Because playing for 6 people and making no money is, let’s be completely honest, not at all an unusual thing to have happen when you’re an indie-level band. Most bands find this out pretty quick and learn to take it in stride and develop a little perspective; after all, if you’re playing your cards right, there should eventually be enough good shows to make it all worthwhile.

Still, I wonder if there’s something we can do to help this situation. I don’t want to see things get to a point where only the independently affluent or lucky are able to get by as musicians. Already we’ve hit a point where it seems like one can be serious about one’s music, or have a family, but not both. So many talented people are driven to write songs and record them and play them in front of people but see themselves as stuck just playing hometown gigs at the same venue over and over until they die. But that’s the macro-level view of the problem. At a smaller level where we might be able to do something, we have to ask: how can we make gigs work out better for the musicians?

Often times we’re so used to the way we do something being just “the way to do it” that it doesn’t occur to us that the formula might be out of whack for our situation. And the formula I’m talking about in this case is: schedule some bands to play on a given night; charge people some money to get into the venue; use that money to pay the sound man, the door man who you hired to collect said money, and then maybe, if there’s anything left, the bands. Never mind that the door man and sound man are working for you part-time, and live just around the way where there’s food waiting for them in their refrigerator — whereas the bands have hundreds of miles to drive by tomorrow, have just lugged hundreds of pounds of equipment into and out of your establishment and probably haven’t eaten all day. Yeah, shit, where did we go wrong with this plan?

I think this formula was developed under a set of assumptions that don’t hold up under scrutiny. Those assumptions are: any band you book is already well known enough that people in your town are chomping at the bit to see them; and they have money pouring in from records being sold at stores all over the country. This comes from the layman’s view of the music business, where as soon as you see guitars, you immediately free-associate to all the trappings of the rock-star mythos. This thinking probably works if you’re booking a big venue in a big city that brings in big bands. It’s a fallacy that I’ve seen happen in other kinds of businesses as well: the idea that because your small business aspires to be a big business, then the proper way for you to conduct business is to imitate what the big boys do that seems to be working for them.

Here’s some numbers I’m completely pulling out of my ass but that I suspect are not far from the truth: 99.9% of people have not heard of 99.9% of bands. And given a random person A and person B, of the .01% of musical acts currently in action that A has heard of, there is no telling how little the .01% that B has heard of overlaps A’s. Now take that set and find its intersection with the set of bands sending press kits to your little venue and you’re extremely lucky if have more than zero. So relying on people coming to your venue because they want to see the bands is pretty stupid unless you’re booking big-time acts. There just aren’t going to be that many people in it for most bands. And trying to increase turnout by cramming more bands onto the bill doesn’t help; it just hurts the overall quality of the show.

I’m going to propose something radical here: let’s get rid of the cover charge. You ask me, “then how am I going to pay the bands?” Newsflash, genius: you’re not paying them now. I’ve seen so many people turn away at the door of a venue simply because there’s a cover. People don’t want to part with $7 just for the privilege of walking into a place to hang out and have a beer just because some joe shmoe they never heard of is on the stage. It’s not because they’re lame-asses, they’re just acting rationally: they have no idea if they’ll like the music or not, and if they don’t, they’ll have wasted money that could have gone toward a couple more beers, and there’s another bar next door that they don’t have to pay to get into where they know that even if they don’t like what’s playing on the jukebox, they can ignore it easily because it won’t be as loud. On the other hand, if you could get them into your venue, you can be pretty sure that they’re going to buy drinks, and there’s at least an outside chance they’ll enjoy the band enough to buy merch from them (provided it’s reasonably priced; if the band’s trying to get $20 for a 7″ and no one’s biting, that’s their own idiocy hurting them).

What I’m saying is, it doesn’t make sense to expect all your potential patrons to be showing up because of the bands. You’ll still get those people showing up, but that’s a small group of people who are already pretty plugged-in to the indie music scene. How many of those people there are in your city is up to you to figure out because if music is part of your business plan you should probably be paying attention to that kind of thing. What makes more sense to me in most cases is to bet on people’s curiosity: “oh this place has live music tonight? Wonder if it’s any good.” Save the cover/ticket charge for the acts that warrant it — which acts those are, again, depends on your community; I think the rest of the time it would pay off better for everyone if you just let people come in and check it out.

Any thoughts on this out there? Am I missing something big here? Am I crazy?

samuel locke-ward/joe jack talcum cover

This article wraps up a trilogy highlighting recent releases by four artists who are touring together at this very moment: Joe Jack Talcum, Samuel Locke-Ward, Coolzey, and The Bassturd. This show hits The Blue Moose in Iowa City this Friday night and The Vaudeville Mews here in Des Moines on Saturday night.

Joe Jack Talcum’s main claim to fame is having been a member of The Dead Milkmen. Not just any member: on certain songs he was the lead singer. One of those certain songs just happened to be their biggest hit, “Punk Rock Girl.” One of those songs that a huge chunk of my generation remembers with fond smiles and can probably sing to you verbatim on request. That’s a big bullet point to have on your résumé. But it’s also the kind of thing that for an artist can become a big item of baggage you end up trying to struggle out from under to get people to pay attention to what you’re doing now. Maybe with The Dead Milkmen reformed with a new album out, it’s not a problem. But even before that, Joe Jack Talcum had already started asserting a new concept for himself, and a string of recent collaborations and tours with no less a road-warrior than Iowa City’s troubador of the troubling Samuel Locke Ward seems to have a bit to do with it, Sam lending Joe Jack the rhythm section of his crack backing band The Boo-Hoos with himself joining in on keys, under the name The Powders.

To judge by this record, Joe Jack Talcum’s recent material is really good. Part of what makes it work so well might be hearing the same voice that delivered “Punk Rock Girl” (largely unchanged, but perhaps a bit more consistently on-key) taking on a richer emotional palette and more grown-up subject matter that we can relate to in the present. Joe Jack spends these songs searching for [answer](http://092.me)s, happiness, and understanding, coping with loneliness and confusion over the phase of life he finds himself reaching and the world he finds himself reaching it in. There’s an almost Johnathan Richman kind of innocence, even when the skies get grey as on “Head To Toe” and the poignant “Smoke & Mirrors,” but most especially on side-closer “Come Ride My Funny Car,” wherein he attempts to lure a woman away from hanging out at the bar to come with him instead, through the charm of a 60’s beach-rock groove and lyrics like “to the top of the yeah yeah go go star” — silly, yet seriously committed to fun. Throughout the six songs, the Powders do much more than merely follow him through the changes, navigating the swells and dynamics of the songs with extraordinary sensitivity and working in some very [nice](http://092.me) instrumental passages.

One of the neat things about a split LP is that it’s kind of like getting two EPs. Especially since the format lends itself to playing whichever side you’re in the mood for. The moods of these two sides are very different indeed, making it a record you could pull out often. All the more surprising if you take into account that much of the band lineup is identical on both sides, modulo a couple guitarists. The versatile engineering of Luke Tweedy at Flat Black Studios, where both sides were recorded last October (reportedly in one very quick, very live session), certainly doesn’t hurt.

If Joe Jack’s side of the record is a pick-me-up for rainy days, Sam’s side is another kind of mood enhancer, one you’d use to prepare for either a night of fucking shit up or a day when you have shit to do and may need to push some fuckers out of your way to do it. Though the songwriter and lead vocalist, with The Boo-Hoos, Sam seems to be operating chiefly as instigator to a project of rocking out as hard as possible, with his vocals sometimes pushed almost to the background, and as usual for him taking on various taunting falsettos and bellows. As interesting and welcome as it is to see Sam working in a loud rock format again, it was a bit harder to really get on the split 7″ with Mumfords, but the project seems to have really come into its own here. The seven quick songs showcase the band with a big guitar sound and sweaty rock and roll energy, reminiscent of The Pixies’ swan-song album Trompe Le Monde but with more satirical lyrics. Sam presents a Luddite alternate history in “This Edison Nightmare,” presents warfare as a dance craze in “Do The Pinewood Box,” and looks back fondly on some sort of riot on the infectious “Fine Was The Night.” Joe Jack Talcum guests on keyboards, harmonica, or additional vocals on a few of the songs.

I’m struggling for a good wrap-up paragraph that doesn’t just boil down to “this thing sounds really great” so I’ll just reiterate my suggestion that you go see these guys on this tour.

dark side of the turd cover

The story of The Bassturd, otherwise known as Dan Butler, starts out a bit similar to that of Coolzey: a kid from rural Iowa who began making a name for himself rapping and making music in Iowa City. I believe they make have both been members of the jokester rap crew The Sucka MCs at some point. The most recent chapter is also similar, in that it involves a successful Kickstarter campaign to press up his latest release, The Dark Side Of The Turd. The two are presently tourmates along with Samuel Locke-Ward and Joe Jack Talcum on an aforementioned tour that hits Iowa City at The Blue Moose on June 17 (my birthday, by the way) and Des Moines at Vaudeville Mews on June 18 (if you think I’d miss it, you’re nuts). Copies of this CD will probably be for sale at the merch table.

But while Zach shows little sign of quitting or slowing down soon, Dan made the announcement at least as early as the start of the Kickstarter campaign a few months ago that The Dark Side Of The Turd would be The Bassturd’s final album, and that the tour now newly underway would be The Bassturd’s final tour. Whether this means that he is quitting the music game entirely, or that Dan Butler is merely retiring The Bassturd as a concept, is at this time unknown. Certainly enough people care: the Kickstarter campaign reached its modest $1000 goal with startling quickness, prompting Dan to add additional goodies to the package — including a split 7″ with Joe Jack Talcum to be given to all backers — if a new goal of $2500 was reached. Which it was. Indeed, the premiums were almost outrageous — $15+ backers also received a CD-R of 14 additional songs and a song written especially for them about a topic of their choosing — giving The Bassturd 79 new songs to come up with (I don’t think I’ve written 79 songs in my life). The 29 finished so far are among the already huge amount of material to be found at The Bassturd’s bandcamp page. Certain backers were to receive a complete Bassturd discography in physical formats, of which the majority was released on CD-R — including the series of 20 EPs made from 2005 to 2008, out-of-print material including the The Bangler CD, and possibly such early material as the first Bassturd recording I personally ever heard, Live From Your Mom’s Bedroom, featuring his more famous one-time roommate and friend Wesley Willis on a live recording of “You’re A Fucking Asshole.” Hinting that Dan may in fact planning on giving up music for good, some of the upper-level Kickstarter prizes were items of his musical equipment. But maybe he’s just looking to replace those with some new stuff.

In case it hasn’t become clear already, The Bassturd’s prolificacy is astounding. The 24 albums and EPs on the Bandcamp page probably only constitute about half, if that, of his total output over a history beginning in the mid 1990s. So, how does one explain The Bassturd to anyone who isn’t already familiar? One might reference Atom & His Package or other sonically-rich synth-driven solo artists as Self or Spookey Ruben, but those are just the easy comparisons. The Bassturd is an artist quite unlike any other, a one-man wall of sound seemingly inspired by Devo, Ween, and Zappa, who sometimes raps and sometimes plays accordion, is often uproariously funny, and comes with enough strings of blinking Christmas lights and miscellaneous cheap light-up accessories seemingly acquired at various truck stops and Spencer’s Gifts locations that clubs frequently cut the house lights entirely when he plays. When I first saw The Bassturd, it was around 1998 and he was performing in the basement at an Iowa City house party singing on-the-spot improvised songs with his accordion, working from topic suggestions solicited from the partygoers, keeping the whole room laughing with his quick-thinking wit. In those days he put out some goofy homemade cassette albums, and later expanded his performing setup to include a Casio keyboard festooned with blinking Christmas lights. Lots more house parties and a couple moves later he landed in Austin, where he lives to this day despite often billing himself as “The Bassturd From Las Vegas, Nevada.” The freewheeling spirit of that early house gig still permeates all of his work, even if he only makes songs up on the spot at most once per set.

The Dark Side Of The Turd, like the 2008 limited (75 copies) CD-R release EVOLVE and 2000’s The Bangler CD, leans heavily toward the epic synth-pop element of The Bassturd sound that began to develop in earnest in the late 1990s. A more rap/hip hop styled track, “Fade II Beige,” was slated to be included but had to be left off the CD due to copyright issues, probably stemming from DJ N-Wee’s Pavement-sampling beat; it remains on the Bandcamp version. It’s a bit stylistically out of sync with the rest of the album anyway, but is still a fabulous track, a great populist political rap that serves to remind that The Bassturd can more than hold his own on the mic; if we’re lucky, the live show will feature he and Coolzey rapping together on something. But even without “Fade II Beige,” Dark Side is still a satiating 26 tracks in 68 minutes.

The Dark Side Of The Turd is also The Bassturd’s most overtly socially-conscious album to date, packed with lyrics dissing corporate greed, government corruption, and consumerism, possibly material worked on in connection with his supposed run for the 2012 presidential election that he just sort of stopped mentioning a year or two ago but of which still remains his tendency to refer to his fans as “patriots.” It makes for a few odd moments when the subjects do veer back into classic Bassturd silliness like on “Bean Bag” (a song about why he doesn’t own a bean bag chair even though he wishes he did) and “The Floor” (complete lyrics: “I’m bored / Let’s fuck on the floor / Like we did before”). You might suspect that the reduced emphasis on madcap laughs would make this album a less enjoyable listen than such material as “Bling Ballz” (this really is the “dark side” of the Turd, taking a more pessimistic tone than usual), but Dan’s lyrics, on those tracks that have them, still provide many memorable moments; while on the other hand, the album includes a number of instrumentals and near-instrumentals and many of the vocals are vocodered or heavily effected — on these tracks, it’s the music that gets your attention, detailed electronic compositions full of melodies that are by turns soaring or jumpy, peppered with bitcrushed noises. Perhaps it’s a hint of things to come and Dan Butler intends to orient his activities more as a composer and/or keyboardist. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part. While it may not make for the ideal introduction for newcomers (I’m not sure if there even is one release that would be), The Dark Side Of The Turd is a damn fine note to go out on.

coolzey cover

No doubt if the profile of Zach Lint, a.k.a. Coolzey, increases, publicity will give some attention to his back-story and persona, as it’s an unusual one in the field of hip hop/rap music. A kid from a farm town north of Des Moines, Iowa who moved to Iowa City and turned himself into a DIY juggernaut as a rapper, songwriter, and rock musician, launching an independent label and adopting the DIY ethic of underground rock towards all his projects, especially his rap/hip hop work, then took to touring the country relentlessly in a van, changing his city of residence frequently while running all his own business affairs as an underground artist. Despite the relative lack of the usual adversities that similar stories play on — Zach is, after all, a healthy middle-class white kid from one of the friendliest parts of the country — it’s his work ethic, which has enabled him to build an underground career from next to nothing in resources — that inspires in a “you could do this too” kind of way, no matter who you are or what you come from.

That work ethic has a lot to fo with the story of Coolzey And The Search For Hip Hop Hearts Vol. 1: He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper. In the summer of 2010, even as he continued a hectic schedule of touring and making up the rest of his living in the remodeling business, Coolzey embarked on an impossibly ambitious project: over the 12 weeks of summer, he would complete an album of 12 songs, one per week, each based on a beat from a different DJ, and each with its own music video created in collaboration with his Public School Records partner and video producer Jason Hennesey. Each track and video was released online, right on schedule, and the album available for free download from the Free Music Archive.

And that might have been as far as the project went, but it became evident that there was demand for a hard copy. So earlier this year Zach put up a Kickstarter campaign to fund having the mixes cleaned up and the album and videos mastered and pressed to a CD-plus-DVD package; the campaign was successful and the resulting product can most likely be acquired at the merch table at dates of Coolzey’s upcoming package tour with three other heavy hitters: Joe Jack Talcum, a singer-songwriter best known as the member of The Dead Milkmen who sang on “Punk Rock Girl”; Austin-via-Iowa City rapper-singer-songwriter-composer-keyboardist-improviser-raconteur The Bassturd; and Iowa City’s maestro of the disturbing Samuel Locke-Ward. Said tour hits Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines on June 18 (and The Blue Moose in Iowa City the night before, for those of you out that way). This show promises to be amazing and you would be a fool to miss it.

There are those, and I occasionally claim to be among them, who profess to miss the fun vibe of the early rap and hip hop of the 1980s and their youth as we find ourselves now so many years deep into the tuff-guy gangsta era wherein each artist tries to appear more “hard” than the last. Perhaps some of this sentiment has latched on to the underground phenomenon where you find Coolzey, and through Coolzey I have been turned on to the likes of Rashaan Ahmad and I’m not sure if there’s a rap peanut gallery that degrades this kind of thing as “hipster rap” the way there is in the metal scene, but if so I could give a fuck about that kind of talk. At the end of the day what matters is quality, and while there may be some hearkening back to the attitudes of classic hip hop, you’d be mistaken to consider this material as merely throwback or retro, as the sounds are new and varied, and you’d be even more off the mark to pigeonhole Coolzey into “nerd rap” with some of the other outsiders, even if he does look like he would fit in with their crowd.

I can’t claim to be much of an expert on hip hop music but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Zach is a hell of a lyricist. The way he puts words together makes me as a songwriter a bit jealous. He has obviously devoted himself in a big way to honing his craft. He also manages to sound positive even when while he’s savagely dissing lesser/lazier MCs and doing it more cleverly than anyone else around. He delivers his criticisms in a way that makes him sound above the fray even as he participates in it: “If I don’t eat their lunch, they’re in the next room chumpin’ me / Sizing me up, trying to figure out the best way to get at my cheese / Here’s an idea: ask me / I wouldn’t put it past me to give it up for free / My soul is infinite, so there’s no way to outlast me.” Zach’s values and ethic as an artist and toward life itself make it to the forefront of most of his lyrics, and the philosophy he espouses is that life is too short to waste hating on others or expecting anyone to come around and hand you anything for free.

Elsewhere Zach extols the virtues of creativity and the DIY hustle and devotes an entire track, “Put Me Away,” to an extended metaphor about how he just likes to stay busy and bring joy to people any way he can, by portraying himself as some kind of all-purpose As Seen On TV helper robot. The track, like much of the album, is clever and hooky, and Zach backed up its concept in his Kickstarter campaign by offering as a premium at the $3000 level that he would come live with you for 5 days and clean your house, babysit your kids, do remodeling, or anything else you ask for (there were no takers but he definitely would have followed through). Most of the music has a laid-back feel but there are darker, more sinister tones as well, especially the spooky yet inspirational examination of human mortality “Faces Of Death” and the tough-talking “Ten WA” and “Keef.”

The variety of approaches however, does result in some moments that seem out of place and throw off the album’s overall focus. “No Reply” is an intriguing though incongruous mix of a Coolzey rap over some avant-garde electronic sounds by The Rhombus, a bit hard to follow, and while fairly enjoyable to a noise-head like myself, is likely to get the skip button treatment from most. “No Solicitations” also comes off out of place, but taken on its own terms works well, Zach portraying a dull office-drone character who we’re not sure whether to laugh at or sympathize with or both. And on some tracks the lyrics can veer disorientingly from philosophical meditations and on the human condition to political issues. But for the great majority of its running time, The Search For Hip Hop Hearts is a collection that once again showcases Coolzey as an artist capable of making you laugh, dance, and think all at the same time.

Also, not enough has been said about the videos, which come on a second disc in this package. Writing about videos is if anything even harder than writing about music. Jason Hennesey definitely plays up the fun aspect of these songs, featuring Zach rapping with a plush puppy dog hand puppet, Grace Locke-Ward’s cats wearing graduation caps, drunken camera shenanigans, live show footage and vintage educational films. You can watch all of them on Vimeo.

I don’t know how the folks at bandcamp would feel about this if they found out, but somebody’s using the site to make downloads available of various old demos, 7″s, etc from certain now defunct eastern Iowa bands here, and it’s a treasure chest. Classic material from The Vidablue (later known as Ten Grand), Matt Davis’s pre-Vidablue band Brazil, Burmese (where’s the Bottledog! stuff, Mr. Dude?), Kita, Epileptic Cheetah, Sludgeplow, Autodramatics, The Pee-Pees, Los Marauders’ classic You Make My Cum In My Pants 7″, and a whole lot of stuff I either never or barely heard of. I love these kind of underground-musical-historical-preservation projects.

Bandcamp is catching on so fast I can hardly keep up posting here every time someone I know or know of in or near or connected to Iowa starts putting their music up there. Here are some I’ve hit upon recently but haven’t posted about before. I’ve listened to all of this stuff and it’s all good stuff or I just wouldn’t bother mentioning it.

The Cryogenic Strawberries


The Twelve Canons

Meth And Goats


Brooks Strausse

Bob Bucko Jr.

Aural Resuscitation Unit

Alex Body

The Poison Control Center

Pythias Braswell


X-Ray Mary

And here are a few that have less (as in, mostly nothing) to do with Iowa, though I think at last a couple of them work with labels from around here:


Black Tusk

Bubonic Bear

Combat Astonomy


Het Droste Effect

Look What I Did

Neon Lushell

Seventh Rule Recordings (label)

Thunder Bunny

Wreck And Reference

R. Stevie Moore



Steve Lawson (also check out his blog, I highly recommend his writings on modern music promotion and internet DIY)

Also Fetal Pig will have one up soon with our forthcoming album on it. So that will be rad.