Thursday, September 27, 2012
Not since I was a wee lad living on Pennsylvania Ave. during the heyday of Billie Holiday, while my mom was a torch singer at The Ritz slipping around with Sammy Louis, or when I was a middle-aged drunken dockworker spending every other night at The Marble Bar in the Congress Hotel in the late ’70s/early ’80s, have I seen such a rich period of music in Baltimore.
This struck me strongest the other day when I got two new local releases which spent most of the day on the Normal’s turntable.
First was the long awaited Horse Lords lp on mad Dr. Stew’s Ehse label. If you’ve ever been to a show in Baltimore, say an Afrobeat Society night or crunchy sizzly noise jams at The Bank, you have most likely seen a lean balding bespectacled man, whizzing around the rafters like a popped meat balloon shrieking “This is the greatest music I have ever heard in my life! Dear God you are infusing me directly into my heart ventricles with these sounds which have completely changed my life!! Someone feel my leg, there’s an electrified wiggle worm loose in there!!!!”
That would be Dr. Stew (seen at work below), the multi-tasking, word gattling gun, somewhat ADD wunderkind of Ehse.
With the sweet release of the Horse Lords album I am joining him up in the rafters. It’s a strange synthesis of a lost Sublime Frequencies album (one of the smoking West African chugging and skittering guitar ones) with some mean clean saxophone and electronic dynamics blowing up the stew.
For me the heady concoction catches into blazing flames when it goes into what sounds like an electronic bagpipe breakdown. Father Higgs assures me this sound is created by Professor Owen Gaertner and saxophonist Andrew Bernstein playing together in exact note/pitch synchronicity.
And with Owen (above, addressing the Prince Georges County parole board) telling me that these songs and their general music sound even better after they worked on recording together, I will have to dust off my wingtips and catch these lads live.
The second album is “My Society” by Heart of Hearts, which was performed and produced by Greg Hatem. This is a beautiful end of night album or laying late in bed on a rainy Sunday album. Greg is also a member of Mr. Moccassin and Forks of Ivy. “My Society” was just released on Bleek Records, which is based in Brooklyn and also has releases by Nature Boy and House of Wolves.
This imaginative lp sports titles like “Owls Grow Up”, “Grass Mask”, “Goodbye Buttons” and “Feather Fast” and a sound not too far away from the haunted chamber pop of Beach House, but not quite so dreamy and a little more stark and electronic. It focuses on Greg’s experience as an aviculturist, breeding and caring for finches and doves, which is not a topic often touched upon in pop and rock music.
Senor Hatem’s Society is indeed a fine one to join or visit. Thoughtful and sensitive, but resilient, fresh and bound to stay on your mind.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Taking advantage of yet another incredible crisp, sunny, cool September day, another amazing fall day that actually feels like the falls I remember from my youth before September just became a sequel to squelchy August, Everly and I headed out to catch DJ Mills and the band Black Marks at the Abell Ave. festival.
Last Sunday we hit the Polish Festival at Holy Rosary Church on Chester St. in Butcher's Hill and I was almost weeping with rushes of nostalgia. Potato-laden food! Pierogies! Gawumpkis (which they had labeled as Golabki)! Dancers in bright embroidered garb looking truly ecstatic! A motherfucking money wheel!
The money wheel took me back to elementary catholic school. The nuns knew how to get every last penny from your paper thin uniform pants and plaid purses. Money wheels at every gathering, an invented hot pretzel break strategically placed 15 or 20 minutes before lunch break, etc.
The line for food was a huge U-shape, almost to the entrance/exit. But the 40 minute mouth watering wait allowed us to be sucked into the tables selling all things Polska. I searched the crowd of humble potato faces for the faces of my youth, but no Curtis Bay Wondolowski clan members were spotted. The ghost of Uncle Vernon looked down upon us and said "Where's the damn Whiskey Sour Fountain to go with the Money Wheel?
Everly bought a Polish cook book, I bought a pair of handmade socks (that included a third sock) for friends who just adopted a three year old and we bought Christmas ornaments reppiing the country that Alfred Jarry once used as a setting in a play: The action takes place in Poland, which is to say Nowhere.
The pierogies and potato pancakes were well worth the wait. The best potato pancakes I've had since my granny's, but they were slightly too thick to be as insanely savory and possessing of the perfect crisp texture as hers. She also made a perfect cole slaw that keeps me always trying it in restaurants only to be disappointed.
But today, we had only a short drive and our destination was only a few blocks from Normal's, which just today was name checked in the New York Times Sunday travel section. Bring on the groovy New Yorkers with padded wallets hungry for physical culture!!
I hadn't been to the Abell festival for a year or two and it's expanded. Even saw and visited a booth run by Red Prairie Press, a local press which I'd never heard of. Following the scent of grilling meat and the faroff sound of far too smooth jazz (the kind that frightens off the youth and sends them into the leathery arms of Metal), we stumbled upon the art booth of Matt Muirhead. I had meant to catch his show at a gallery in our neighborhood, but had blown it.
Here is an interview with Matt in Baltimore By Hand
Everly and I were both sucked in by the mixed media pieces (acrylic/spray paint?/collage/stencils) that were bright, color saturated and sharp. Everly was immediately drawn to a piece that utilized a diptych image of her Lord and Savior, Elvis (above) while I perused the incredibly cheap $20 bin. As Matt praised the High Zero show he'd caught the previous night as a deeply religious experience and I traded stories about the sets the I caught Friday, Matt explained that the piece I had become transfixed by had the Harundale Cinema featured on it. The Harundale Cinema! The sacred place of my youth where I'd seen The Cross and the Switchblade, Papillon, Swiss Family Robinson, The Jungle Book, 2001 a Space Odyssey, just to name a few.
Hanging cosmically over the cinema is the unblinking eye of Baltmore writer and musician Dina Marie Varsalone of the band The Daily Lion and the zine "Take Me I'm Yours". This piece is going into Normal's, so beware evildoers, the all seeing eye of Dina gazes upon you and you don't want her to tear you a new one! During her tenure at the Charles Village Barnes and Noble upwards of a dozen headless corpses with copies of John Grisham novels half stuffed into their waistbands were found abandoned in the Self Help section.
After getting a kind, gentle deal from Matt on both the Elvis and the Harundale Cinema piece we continued toward the stage and meats and ran into DJ Mills getting the sad news that he had already gone on from 1 to 2 and was done. Sigh. Then I spotted the swollen pill popping beer swilling swamp grifter lady who'd stolen from Normal's after years of selling her boyfriend's books to us. Time for food and better music!!!
It was a bit of a challenge procuring the humble hot dog and hamburger but they were tasty and then Black Marks featuring Sam Wylie and Carol Menetrez of the dear departed Charles Village People took the stage. Two good singers up front, Sam playing well crafted lead guitar and some very tasty keys being played, plus a ubiquitous Pickled Lawncare Guy playing air guitar and making devil horn signs with his fingers while his trousers slowly, inexorably made their way down his buttcrack.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Even as I type these words, damp half-chewed gummy bears blocking some of the keys, my vibrant ascot tied a little too tightly by my Japanese man servant robot, Joel Dailey, editor of Fell Swoop Press, is hosting our very own Baltimore's Special Angel Chris Toll in Dailey's hometown of New Orleans.
Joel is putting out books by Chris and myself, mine being Mattress In An Alley, Raft Upon The Sea, Chris's being, I think - I'm paraphrasing - "I'm a Little Tart, a Fiery Little Tart, I Will Hump Upon Your Leg and Chase After Golfballs, Yes Thank You Please".
While Joel is distracted running a reading at some New Orleans hot spot with Father Toll wowing the boozy N'awlens crowd, I will run this gem of a poem by him. It will be in Shattered Wig #29, which is beginning to stir like the Baltimore Orioles after decades of slumber.
THE PROBLEM OF HOW TO LIVE
for Clark Coolidge
Caught a ride on a passing halibut
an ever-present IT Team jogging in place, "hut, hut, hut ...."
Drowsy on the non-drowsy
The ultimate status update
Yellow parasol sustains a straw hat or golden sponge cake with creamy filling
Often mistaken for Sir Osbert Cribbage, infamous cave ejectee
A strident personality (speed bumps)
Riichly lyrical in nature
Conversant yet slightly out of tune
Fact is this here fingerblaster springs leaks
Here's the Complete Dickhead Forecast
Emanating from a testosterone based lifeform (free brochure)
Rapid fire beverage burps
Single out the Destination Oriented
The shift has focused the focus has shifted
Thursday, September 13, 2012
I haven't been remembering my dreams too well, they are as fleeting as pixie dust of late, but I had an epic crazy one a few nights ago. I was living with Carrie Brownstein (things weren't going too well between us) in a weird cylindrical old tower apt. building.
I went over to Mark E.
Smith of The Fall's house and when he was out of the room grabbed about
four tubes of paint from him. The next day I went to see him again and
he knew! He knew.
I tried to return them as if I was just borrowing
them, but he was going to kill me. I resorted to my dream power of
flying and he chased me all through the streets firing a pistol and
throwing soccer balls.
Finally I snuck back home and sought refuge in
some sort of hospice run by elderly Asian women healers thinking it
would be like sanctuary. Mark E. then hired a bunch of street thugs to
break down the hospice door brandishing guns and began shooting people.
I gathered my nerve and gave myself up, saying "It's me they want, then
they'll go away."
Thursday, September 6, 2012
I must start this post with full disclosure: one of the four musicians above is from my same cursed blood line, one - when not foolishly shaving his skull to the bone - has a lustrous shiny wig that I would go all Wayne Gacey on to have it rest red and gooey on my lumpy head, a third person here I am happy to work with and the fourth owns a comfy "Campus" zipper sweater of the kind I have been seeking out for over two decades since the breakup between me and the girlfriend who owned a bunch of them and lorded over her collection like King Faruk and his gold toe rings.
That being said, me and my wife came back from the beach to find these four making some refreshing music down in our basement. Sure, there were Natty Bohs sweating on top of $1,000 books I have up on ABE and Amazon, and with each funky fresh beat of young Amanda of Sea Coucht on the her overturned bucket another one of my priceless Hummel figurines vibrated off a shelf to a fragmented death on the cement floor below and our aged cat Peanut was trapped beneath said bucket, but they were creating a nice concoction that seemed to blend early Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine with electrified country Delta blues.
Three of the members - Fletcher, Dan and Geff - were part of a long ago big group called The Jumping Off Point and are part of the Soulgasm Records collective, also known as The Pasadena Mafia. Geff is part of the gritty futuristic mountain punk country group The Baltimore String Felons, which is on hiatus as their percussionist Megan is making field recordings of Gregg Allman's liver. Dan and Amanda perform together as the wondrously sublime Sea Couch.
This new conglomeration, known as Documents, which sstarted as a way for Dan and Amanda of Sea Couch to get their rock on with their pal, eccentric reclusive author Fletcher, soon began to have a life of its own and ramblng Geff of the Felons got caught in their meticulous whirlpool when he returned from his months long tour.
Look for Documents at a venue near you soon, plus keep an eye out for their zine arm, going on its second issue, which publishes micro-biographies that blur the lines between history, dream and tallish tales.