Friday, September 23, 2022

Spotted in the wild—ME!

Photo by Joseph Harnish
I've largely been a hermit for ~2.5 years, so it's still a bit of a shock to see a recent photo of me that wasn't taken by me!

I was standing in the back of a packed crowd for GWAR last Saturday at Riot Fest—two of my friends ventured a little closer but I'd found a spot I knew my height wasn't blocking anyone's sight—when I saw a bright, purplish light appear to the side of me. But after a decade-plus shooting bands in the photo pit, it takes a lot to actually get me to look at a distraction when I'm framing a photo at a show, even if only on my phone. But once I got my shot I looked to my left and there was my friend Joe, grinning from ear to ear, a smile I quickly matched when I realized it was Joe!

And that's the story of the first photo of me by another human in quite a while. 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Tuscadero resurfaces!

Tuscadero used this promo photo for forever if I recall correctly. Photo by Will Weems.
One of the more pleasant byproducts of our current era in music is the ability for unsung or under-recognized bands from decades past to get their music back out there. Olds like me get a chance to snag some things that were either long lost to history or provide a new glance into what the band was doing at the time. And everyone else? I'm guessing most have no clue who is and isn't active when they're streaming music, so it reintroduces bands to the cultural conversation after sitting on ice for a while.

At the beginning of the pandemic I had started planning a whole series covering these resurfacing groups, and those plans never died so much as they just kept getting shunted aside. So while this isn't technically part of the series I planned, maybe it'll spur me to start sharing more of these discoveries with you.

Tuscadero was a band out of the D.C. area that could be both twee as all get out and muscular as fuck when they played live. I saw them a few times and watched them grow from a shaky but fun indie act into an excellent live act that could could command a room and still feel more nuanced even as the volume of the music increased. 

Tuscadero pretty much disappeared after their Major Label debut, and I always suspected their years on the indie Teen-Beat label were probably more fun for the band. Maybe if I was smarter I would've asked them that when I interviewed them in the mid-'90s for one of the Chicago dates they played. For a while they were one of my favorite bands, and I still return to their albums every once in a while. But I never expected to hear from Tuscadero ever again.

But then!

This morning I stumbled across a live release from the band's 1996 tour, which might've been the tour I interviewed them on (though I am having a hard time remembering, and the UIC newspaper digital archives for that era don't exist). But more importantly it clued me into the fact that Tuscadero had a Bandcamp page and there was music there I'd never heard before! It appears the group is sharing their early Teen-Beat EPs and singles for now, so if you are new to the band I would HIGHLY recommend starting with those.* But the 1996 NYC show below is a brand new discovery of a time capsule for me, containing a nice overview of their material as the band was starting to stretch beyond their original comfort zone. 

A word of caution to set context—this is a show recorded at an indie club in the '90s. Back then, most of the time, if you wanted a live recording you just patched into the soundboard. And that seems to be the source of this recording. So this doesn't sound like you might now expect a professionally recorded gig these days, and it misses some of the more nuanced bits with the flatter board mix, but to my ears it's a glorious revisiting of a different time. And it brings back all the feels. Hopefully we'll hear more from the band, but if not this was a nice coda for me.

*In fact, I'm reasonably sure someone at Teen-Beat started the Tuscadero Bandcamp page, but I'm not 100% certain. I don't really care who started it as long as it gives other people a chance to fall in love with this little band too!

Friday, September 09, 2022

Dianel Romano's Outfit shoots for the moon.

Photo by Colin Medley
I personally discovered Daniel Romano early in the pandemic, stumbling across one of his albums and then going down the rabbit hole that is his sprawling catalog. But it was 2021's Cobra Poems that made me realize what a restless genius Romano and his merry crew (dubbed the Outfit) truly were. In fact, that album is on my list of the best releases in 2021.*

On La Luna, Daniel Romano's Outfit tackles the always challenging concept of a—ahem—concept album composed of a single song broken into multiple movements. In lay terms, it's a really long song that never gets boring.

I have found that listening to this album on my own terms has revealed a deeper and deeper engagement with the music on every listen, so I don't want to color your perceptions in that arena. I think it's better if you just let yourself sink into the sound and make sense of it for yourself.

And if that sounds challenging; it is not! Yes, it's a single one song cycle, but it's filled with hooks and emotional transitions and Romano's Outfit always endeavors to keep your attention, so there's no filler to be found here, even in the transitional segments.

*No, you didn't miss it. I have yet to actually publish the final list. But I will!

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

The solitary shoot desires to become part of the forest again.

I'm still trying to find my way back to whatever "normal" will be. I've got the solitude and self-reflection parts down—the things that should set me up for a positive re-entry—but worry I've somehow missed my re-entry window after so many false starts. And now that most people are living their lives as if the pandemic never happened, those of us that stayed isolated to keep ourselves and others safe are still trying to navigate a world we find both startlingly different in many ways, and depressingly familiar in others. But how do you explain to people that you need a few days to mentally prepare for social interactions any time you want to leave the house?

Instead I spend all my free time walking and reading and playing Best Fiends, and confess I'm often lost in deep mental labyrinths that are healthy and necessary explorations ... but it does make one feel like a hermit that's trapped in their seclusion after a while. 

Early in the pandemic I would text friends to check in on them, but as time passed I worried my honest concern might be interpreted as being needy in some fashion, so I stopped texting anyone who didn't reach out to me first. And now even when someone does text me it can take me days to reply. In my attempt to not be a bother I think I accidentally secluded myself even further. So I come off a long holiday weekend like this last one feeling I covered a lot of mental ground and filled my brain with beautiful, peaceful scenery while doing so, but I also feel I've made no progress in the realm of acclimating myself to social events and interactions beyond the professional.

So yeah, this is more a check in than anything else. I wish it was a chirpier, happier check in, but if anyone else is feeling this way I think it's important that they know they are not alone. I know that would help me.

Friday, September 02, 2022

Living Hour's sound swells and expands and fills your head with light.

Photo by Adam Kelly
It's Bandcamp Friday so it's a good time to pick up anything from your favorite artists you may have been sitting on buying. But it's also a day to support music that may be brand new to you, right? So if you're looking for something to sample and potentially buy today, Living Hour's new album just dropped and I think it's worth your time.

Don't be fooled, while Someday Is Today starts with hushed tones it grows deeply engaging as it unspools. The album slowly blossoms and opens up, and next thing you know you're covered in its bittersweet pollen and don't want to escape.

Living Hour isn't unafraid to build up walls of guitars around their tender missives, but the sound never overwhelms—somehow all the elements remain balanced and it's a remarkable trick to these weathered ears. 

It's a lovely album to soak in as you sit in a park or wander along on a woodsy walk this holiday weekend.