As a blog based in the same city (hell, the same neighborhood) as the prolific Will Oldham a.k.a. Bonnie Prince Billy a.k.a. Palace Music a.k.a. Palace a.k.a. Slint’s Photographer a.k.a. El Guapo, we feel it’s our duty to aggregate all available information about what Will is up to at any given point obviously, regardless of its newsworthiness. This shall be in an effort to save the news media some time keeping up with who this whacky guy is collaborating with when and for what movie. A veritable one-stop shop, if you will! Luckily, this inaugural installment of YO! So What is Will Oldham Up To, Huh? features some important releases coming up.
Bonnie Prince Billy continues his hang time with the Cairo Gang, and for a good cause this time. The just announced Island Brothers/New Wonder 10”, which drops February 22 everywhere via Drag City, is a charity effort, with a huge portion of the proceeds benefiting Louisville-based non-profit EDGE Outreach. EDGE “trains, equips, and mobilizes ordinary people in sustainable solutions for clean water, health and hygiene, and sanitation, around the world,” and has spent most of their 2010 helping the devastated communities in Haiti. I’ve heard the record, and it’s expectedly weird, country-fried gypsy folk freewheelin’ rustic pop. Good jams, good cause… support this!
Sean from Buzzgrinder recently spotted Will Olham at Quill’s Coffee on Baxter Ave. in The Highlands. He got coffee. He proportedly paid for said coffee with a cash sum that included no less than two buffalo nickels. He was NOT dressed in his Crocodile Dundee best at this occasion.
Vinyl specialty label and best good friends Sophomore Lounge recently released some deets on the 10″ Mindeater – a split between Will Oldham, perennial TDT favorites The Phantom Family Halo, and Todd Breshear. Many know Todd Breshear as the gingerly bearded fellow who runs one of the freshest joints in town, Wild and Woolly Video. Learned ears, however, will recognize that name as the bassist and co-songwriter during Spiderland-era Slint. My guess is that this collaborative idea stemmed from their show together with the legendary Roky Erickson last June at Headliners (which I have some video). A serious meeting of the minds on this here Mindeater… look out for it this May.
Hey neat-o! Billy is scoring a flick with the man that has the funny voice, starring the fuckin’ rad surfer dude from Fast Times and the only likable character in Fargo. Despite the fact they just got straight up sold, Paste has the scoop you guys!
Bonnie Prince Billy was just added to the Portishead-curated All Tomorrow Parties I’ll Be Your Mirror in Asbury Park, NJ this fall. Of course, the big news is the stateside return of the aforementioned Portishead and just plain return of Neutral Milk Hotel, but that don’t mad dog Bonnie. Not one bit. He’ll hold his own.
Finally, Will was also recently spotted on The Island circa 1977 in this DHARMA new recruits file photo. Can you spot him?
Bonk! Until next time – namaste!
UPDATE 2.1.11 – Oh, of course Will Olham interviews R. KELLY. Two of the strangest motherfuckers in the world in the same room. The plot thickens! (via Interview)
KELLY: Alec Baldwin? Yeah! Don’t he have a brother and they all kind of look alike?
OLDHAM: They’re, like, four brothers.
KELLY: Steve Baldwin . . .
OLDHAM: Yeah, exactly. [laughs]
Less fun is the artwork for the aforementioned Cairo Gang charity 10″. It’s pretty intense actually.
Countless online and print music publications, as well as grassroots campaigns such as Record Story Day, have extolled ad infinium the virtues of supporting your local brick and mortar music store – a seemingly altruistic notion in the presence of free and cheap music online. However, when you buy music at the record shop, you’re not just supporting them, you’re helping yourself in the end (at least if you’re a music fan). Some people, as recently demonstrated here in Louisville, don’t see the value in an influential and active physical goods music destination, so The Decibel Tolls is adding another commentary to the fray before our holiday shopping season ends. This one’s for the haters.
Just before Thanksgiving, ear X-tacy – a record store that publications like Rolling Stone, SPIN, and Paste have ranked as one of the best in the country – created a FaCeBoO!k event with this video message from owner John Timmons asking for the city’s continued support.
The event page has since been taken down, as it turned into a huge squawking argument with the type of vitriol generally reserved for The Huffington Post comment section, filled with naysaying, unfounded criticisms, and general malaise. Of course, Kenny Bloggins here decided to use his hatin’/real talk prowess for good, to defend the store and my friends that work there against these clowns, rather than just incessantly rip on WFPK as I am known to do. More importantly, there’s a larger message here that needs to be discussed.
To backtrack a bit, ear X-tacy moved to a smaller storefront last summer to help cut overhead, thinking that the business would stay afloat with its (then) current traffic in a less lavish space with cheaper rent and utility costs. As one of the employees told me, the move ended up hurting ear X-tacy again, since many people didn’t even know the store had moved from its Sherwood Ave and Bardstown Road storefront – their outpost for the last decade. Recently, shorty and I had dinner at Seviche, directly adjacent to the old location. We ran into a middle aged man peeking into the abandoned building confused, and he asked us where ear X-tacy was as we passed by. This was December 8th. They moved in July. For reference, ear X-tacy is right here, mmkay:
This week, LEO Weekly in their annual excellent tounge-in-cheek Loserville issue opined that Timmons’ (and subsequently, ear X-tacy’s) message came off as a sort of begging or panhandling. Perhaps the word “plea” might come off distasteful without proper context, but isn’t all advertising a form of begging, pleading, and/or appealing? “Please come check out the deals at Jibber Jabber Ford Mercury!” And the nature of that advertising becomes a little more urgent when a business’ existence has a far greater reach outside just the employees and neighborhood regulars. Of course, it’s impossible to convey such nuances in a minute-long video (this is how people get themselves in trouble on soundbite-driven cable news programs), so in that regard, it’s understandable why people who didn’t critically think about ear X-tacy’s unique situation were turned off. However, I think Timmons’ intent was more than clear. The store truly doesn’t want handouts, it just wants consistent patronage. More important, I think the unspoken purpose of this video was to serve as a reminder that ear X-tacy has moved to a new location, bolsters a new live stage, and offers a revamped inventory. None of these facts were true back in February when Timmons initially went public with the store’s troubles, and this move comes in the face of already battling the plights that all record stores nationwide face. I can appreciate this level of transparency. Essentially, if the viral nature of this video (and the ensuing dialogue) helps people like the aforementioned gentleman become aware of the new location and store features, that effect outweighs all the criticisms.
Some of the other arguments brought up act as a microcosm for the digital vs. physical music argument – ear X-tacy needs get with the times, no one likes physical music anymore, a local business’ merchandise tends to cost more than the big box stores, etc. Some even claimed that the staff wasn’t friendly enough to warrant their money, supporting the idea that people actually like having the shit bothered out of them when shopping for pants at J Crew. If you happen to agree with these folks, cool, whatever. Fly your flags high and storm the castle if you must. Me, I find that none of these arguments hold any water. Record stores are an institution, due to both the cliched arguments as well as points not often roused.
True story. Whenever I’m in a city I’m not familiar with, the first thing I do is find out where the big independent record store is. I’ll stop and peruse their selection – sometimes I buy something, sometimes I don’t – but a celebrated local record store in any given North American city will point you in the direction of a distinct, less corporate area of town worth exploring. This should appeal to anyone who isn’t pumped on the homogeny of, say, airports from city to city. The neighborhoods with cheap local fare, awesome nightlife, and the types of boutiques and businesses that give a community character – that remind you you’re in a totally different location – all tend to be in the same neighborhood(s) as the city’s big indie. ear X-tacy is no exception – The Highlands in Louisville is home to hundreds of excellent local businesses. Restaurants, cafes, coffeshops, microbreweries, bars, eclectic stores, some of the most beautiful historic architecture in the region, and hundreds of acres of Frank Olmsted-designed urban park are all within a stone’s throw of ear X-tacy. Travel up I-71 to Cincinnati and find Shake-It Records. It’s in Northside, a neighborhood I love, and home to awesome music venues, delicious hole-in-the-wall diners, and a community that doesn’t resemble any place else. In Chicago, choose between obscure soul/funk/blues vinyl shop Dusty Groove and psych/experimental/hard-to-find treasure trove Permanent Records. These shops bookend the Ukranian Village, on the near west side between Ashland and Damen, and you’ll find a good time at a great price. If 6th Street wasn’t already a name brand destination as the command center for South By Southwest, Austin’s Waterloo Records would help you find that killer strip. That’s just what I can think of off the top of my head. There are countless examples, and few instances where this isn’t the case – making the record store a sort of colloquial lighthouse for tourists and townies alike looking for a unique experience.
It’s no coincidence. A record store is an epicenter of culture. Timmons touches on this point, but I’ll take it a little more in-depth. With few exceptions, most of the concerts and shows you see in your community happen because of a handful of forces – a radio station, a promoter, an on-staff venue/bar talent buyer, a blog/website, or a record store. Record stores are ingrained in the fabric of a local music scene. How many shows in your city were booked or assisted in some way within the past 18 months because of (insert your local record store)? A couple hundred? Additionally, when booking agents are routing tours, they look at both the show attendance history and the Soundscan numbers in a particular market. They’re not looking at iTunes downloads or who pirated what in your city. This is specifically what Timmons means when talking about how shows and local events can be affected by the big indie going belly-up.
Yes, a record store sells music a couple of bucks higher than the big box, but that’s their bread and butter. Good deals on CDs and DVDs are a profit-loss promotion for other stores to get people in the doors who will buy countless other products that yield a greater profit, like shaving cream or whatever. At 16, I worked at the video department of Best Buy to pay off my car. They really didn’t give a shit whether I sold a TV or DVD player. Small profit. But selling accessories – cables, extended warranties, etc. – got you the back pat and a “good numbers, son.” Not so at your record store. They only make their money selling what they intend to sell – music, movies, and pop culture memorabilia. Additionally, Best Buy won’t have that NEU! box set with the vinyl, CDs, art, and T-shirt. ear X-tacy will, and that jam will be prominently displayed and easy to find.
Additionally, record shopping is an experience. You can chat with the employees for recommendations, or go exploring. The feeling isn’t the same perusing Hype Machine. When you want a beer or cocktail, do you just run to Party Mart and pick up a jug of gin and 2-liter of Canada Dry tonic water, then sit at home, slam your highball and LOL at Two and a Half Men? I mean, maybe you do. It certainly is cheaper, but that sounds like a shit time to me. I enjoy spending a couple of extra dollars to enjoy drinks with friends at any number of my favorite watering holes, and I enjoy flipping through the wax stacks at ear X-tacy. I like the experience of art in hand. I certainly have discovered new music because I found the artwork and packaging of an album intriguing. I can preview the music at home on Last.FM, and if it’s up my alley, I go back to the store next time I’m out and pick that record up. You can’t replicate that online, unless you find Arial typeface mesmerizing.
You also can’t digitally replicate the sound and feel of physical music either. Yes, this argument has been presented many times before (and one the vinyl fiends at Backseat Sandbar and We Listen For You are probably better suited to make), but it’s true. A high bit-rate digital file simply does not have the fidelity of a 180 gram vinyl record. It’s physically impossible from the signal loss of cables coming out of your computer, to a receiver, and out of the speakers. Paul McCartney’s bass knocks pictures off my walls when pumping a scratched copy Rubber Soul through the stereo off vinyl. Scratch Perry’s booty bass blasting out of my computer doesn’t do a goddamn thing. If you actually like music, physical records are irreplaceable. I understand that convenience of the MP3 (I’m a blogger for Christ’s sakes), but when actually sitting down with a record and entertaining friends, a vinyl listening party can’t be beat.
ear X-tacy’s video hitting right before Thanksgiving was no accident. It’s the holiday shopping season, and you’re going to spend money anyway. No reason to not spend it at ear X-tacy, especially considering that they, as with most record stores, sell awesome products other than music. That’s really what Timmons and company is asking, in my opinion. I will buy every item on friends and family’s wish list that I can from ear X-tacy. My dad gets The Town on Blu Ray, and I contribute to the vitality of ear X. Pretty dope for all parties involved if you ask me. Louisville, I ask you to do the same. If you’re in another city, I ask that you pledge to buy your gifts from your local record, book, or clothing store. If I find out you’re jockin’ Amazon for everything, I will come find you and pull some Ezekial 25:17 type shit.* Believe it.
In theory, capitalism resembles a form of democracy. Vote with your dollar.
* = to the best of my ability
Oh, and there’s another way you can help ear X-tacy. On Boxing Day, Sunday, December 26th, ear X-tacy is hosting a huge show at Headliners – ear X-travaganza. Tons of Louisville luminaries – Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Scott Carney of Wax Fang, Cabin, Ben Sollee, The Watson Twins, and more will all be hitting the stage for some truly memorable performances, and all proceeds go to the store to give ear X a much needed boost. All these artists give a shit, so why shouldn’t you? Tickets are $20 and are available at the store and etix.com. You know what to do. Doors at 7 p.m.
UPDATE 12.21 – Oh damn, that show’s already sold out. So, you can’t buy tickets at the store or at etix.com because you slept on in, dinguses (dingii?)! Guess you’ll just have to help out by not being a horse’s ass and remembering ear X-tacy next time you’re looking for a great gift.
You’ve no doubt seen a lot of the chatter online concerning Target’s streaming yule-time compilation The Christmas Gig, featuring the Bradgelina of indie rock – Wavves and Best Coast – performing a duet that has taken up some face time on the blahgosphere. Additionally, you may have seen a number of decriers on the social networks criticizing the move as a “sell out” sort of thing. While I, under normal circumstances, find the Best Wavves Snacks Complex the most annoying personality in music, it’s worth mentioning that there’s no such thing as selling out anymore when considering you can’t sell albums like you could a decade ago. While I defend artists perusing placements in many cases, the Interwebs are missing a more important point here – one that leads me to take serious issue with all the artists who participated in this project.
This year, shortly after the Supreme Court struck down the ban on corporate campaign contributions, Minneapolis-based Target was one of the first major companies (if not the first) to take full advantage, floating a cool $150,000 to staunchly conservative Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Emmer is not just passively LGBT-unfriendly… he is actively anti-LGBT rights. His friends and financial beneficiaries even moreso. Did everyone forget about this piece of news?
Perhaps you might not care about gay rights, but I do, espeically in light of current events.
The state is still recounting the votes from this month’s election, and it looks close. Emmer vowed in his campaign that, if elected, he intends to push legislation through that “protects” the “sanctity” of marriage in his state – a nice throwback to the culture wars of 2004 – in addition to blocking same sex couples from parenting. Compared to the various financial crises our country currently endures, it seems that Emmer should have bigger fish to fry. That’s another conversation though.
Though it’s reasonable to infer that Target’s contribution was motivated by his pro-commerce platform, you still tacitly approve of both the economic and social issues of a candidate when you donate money, particularly such a large amount. What a shot in the ass too, considering Target’s demographic is probably younger and more progressive than comparable big box stores.
This, of course, led to a nationwide and highly publicized boycott of the store last summer, and one I currently participate in. The Awl sums up the call to action rather nicely:
By approving direct influence on elections in Citizens United, the Supreme Court handed power to corporations. But at the same time, when they do so, corporations abandon their old black-ops approach and make themselves unusually transparent. This actually puts the true power in the hand of the consumer.
So: “Target supports causes and candidates based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business interests.”
Target is giving every American, nearly literally, a vote with his or her dollar. So, self-respecting progressive Americans who profess to support the gay community, it’s put up or shut-up time; here is your chance to go beyond complaining about the Citizens United ruling and actually act to define what a strict “business interest” is.
Dawwww… who knew the folks with such a cute puppy could be responsible for such nefarious shit?
So this brings us back to Nathan, Bethany, and friends. Knowing that a substantial group of rational people found the connection between Target, their political activity, and the social views of Tom Emmer offensive enough to take a stand with their wallet, isn’t it also fair to find the contributions of these artists, many of whom probably have a sizable LGBT and LGBT-ally fan base, in poor taste? Particularly when considering what Target has come to represent for a segment of the population in 2010?
I would argue yes. This compilation, while free to stream, still promotes Target and their brand identity, ultimately leading to sales. And we now know where some of that money – our money – goes. Were these artists uniformed, or did they not give a shit? It’s hard to say what the motivations of Best Coast, Wavves, et al. were when they agreed to participate, yet the news about the Target boycott was almost certainly widely disseminated by the time they signed on to The Christmas Gig. Even if they weren’t sure what they were getting into, I do feel it’s unequivocally socially irresponsible for anyone to not to be aware of the corporate culture of the companies one agrees to do work for – especially when providing something as personal as art or music. It’s part of being an informed, contributing member of society, something that’s reasonable to expect from well-liked artists.
At least that’s how things should fall into place. I can’t remember who said it, but I always enjoyed the addage “morality is the way the world should work, economics is the way it actually does.”
With that said, perhaps it’s unfair to single out Wavves and Best Coast among the other artists who appear on this project, but since they seem to be the crowning jewel in this collection of songs, at least if you pay attention to the blogs and press releases… well, that’s part of the gig when you become a public figure. Life is hard.
I have argued in past conversations that you can always, when following the money, find yourself sending your hard-earned dollars toward something you don’t morally or academically agree with. I still feel this way, and there are certainly countless examples. However, in this small albeit noteworthy scenario, the controversial move on Target’s behalf was too highly publicized, too incendiary, and, most importantly, too direct to ignore. In other words, “too soon.” I wish someone within these artists’ professional circles had thought such issues through before moving forward. Maybe they figured no would would care, notice, and/or discuss it. Guess they were wrong.
So I’d like to hear what you all think. How far can you, feasibly and sensibly, follow your dollar and attention up the ladder? Since this compilation is not directly related to the political happenings within Minneapolis, is it fair to hold these artists socially accountable? Or is this simply the case that these artists needed some, as Mr. Williams so eloquently articulated, “E Z $”? I guess it’s hard to think through the implications of the message you send, inadvertently or otherwise, when you’re stoned out of your dome off the fresh ground dank you enjoy daily (via your own custom grinders replete with the visage of shorty’s cat). Rippin’ on Nathan aside, there’s certainly a lesson to take from this that deserves some good conversation.
At any rate, a finer holiday treat is Low’s Christmas EP, which Kranky recently made available on vinyl for the first time ever. It’s my favorite contemporary holiday jam, and you can rest assured that your money is well spent. Kranky doesn’t donate cash to candidates who don’t support uniform equality – partly because they don’t necessarily have a shit-ton of money anyway, but mostly because they have strong values, you dig? Something Wavves, Best Coast, and the rest of the gang would do well to take some notes on. But that’s me.
that album cover looks really familiar and is fucking with my listening experience. Where have I seen this before? Hmmm….
OH JUNK! That freaks me out, and not just because that kid is chillin’ so hard. Thieving bastards! Did Wiseblood straight lift the photo from the cover of Amen Dunes’ Dia, one of my favorite releases of 2009, like they lifted all them samples? That ain’t no count, mane. Controversy!
Nah, I’m just funnin’. That’s a classic public domain photograph. The Wiseblood record is good – The Avalanches on mescaline. Psychedelia chopped and screwed like their home of Houston. They call it “future music,” and I find that fair. Grip it on Bandcamp. Also see about that Amen Dunes record if you haven’t already. I’m in love with rock and roll and I’ll be out all night.
POSSIBLY RELEVANT :::
Amen Dunes – Dia
Forecastle Festival, now in its ninth year, certainly came a long way from its humble origins as an environmental awareness plus folk music party in Tyler Park. While the organization still tries to stay true to its roots as an “art and activism” festival, the idea of Forecastle finds itself in a tough spot. It’s challenging trying to balance bringing in A-list headliners that extend far outside the drum circle with honoring its mission statement and folksy image (Forecastle is the only annual summer festival personified by one figurehead – festival founder and local personality JK McKnight). Packing 30,000 people in a large city park running immeasurable wattage is hard. Trying to offset that carbon footprint is really hard, even with disposable corn-based plastic cups and solar panels. Was it successful in that regard, while being successful as a large national festival? More on that later, after the jump.