Rock Shows In The Fort: The D-Rays and The Red Plastic Buddha

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photo by Rob Gaczol

by E.A. Poorman

 

There’s nothing better than a great night of rock n’ roll. Hard working guys and gals offering up some original sounds at high volumes as you spill that well-earned beer down the front of your shirt. After three or four of those draft beauties you don’t care because the music grabs you and slaps you around. It caresses and brutalizes. That’s what a great rock show does for the listener. The only thing that would make this show even better is when it’s right in your backyard. Well this weekend there’s not one, but two amazing shows going on right here in the Fort and you’d be a grade-A idiot not to come out to both.

First up is Friday, August 1st at The Brass Rail. The Whiskey Daredevils, The D-Rays, and Fort Wayne’s own Dag and the Bulleit Boys will be putting on a hell of a rockabilly-meets-surf punk-meets-gut bucket country kind of show. The D-Rays played in the Fort last year with Streetlamps for Spotlights and it was a great eardrum-shattering show. They’re mixing up Link Wray, X, and The Ventures into their own brand of surf punk you don’t want to miss out on. I recently talked to guitarist Erick Coleman about this Friday’s show and the band in general.

photo by Vikas Nambiar

photo by Vikas Nambiar

EA Poorman: So this isn’t your first Fort Wayne gig. How did the show go last time around?

Erick Coleman: The first D-Rays show in the Fort was awesome and in a way a homecoming of sorts for me. I lived in Ft. Wayne for about a decade a number of years ago and was fairly active in the local music scene. In addition to playing in The Beautys and a band called Fat Ass I also brought a good number of touring bands to town during my time there.

EAP: I think when folks here The D-Rays there are definitely some classic bands that come to mind as far as influences. But who or what do you site as inspiration for The D-Rays sound?

Erick Coleman: The D-Rays pull from a wide range of influences but the one that stands out the most would probably be Link Wray. His down and dirty instrumental style really spoke to me as a young player. Other influences include The Lively Ones, The Tornados, The Venture of course. A lot of reviews compare our style to Dick Dale. I can understand why they do but I am by and large unfamiliar with his catalog other than the hits.

EAP: Tell me a little about the show on August 1st at The Brass Rail. Who are you playing with?

Erick Coleman: The Whiskey Daredevils are a high energy rockabilly band from Northern Ohio. They’ve played the Brass Rail a time or two but we’ve never played there together, same with Dag and the Bulleit Boys. Their drummer Dave was in The Beautys, Fat Ass and a band called The Speed Knobs with me so I’m really looking forward to sharing the stage with him again.

EAP: So let’s talk a little about the most recent long player by The D-Rays. You did some recording here in the Fort at Off The Cuff with Jason Davis, correct? Will you have some records available for purchase at the show?

Erick Coleman: Both our 7″ and 12″ records were recorded with Jason and in a way he’s become the 4th member of the band. His production style really goes over well with us and we trust his judgment more than we do our own. Our original intention was to record in a number of analog studios but after our first session with him we all decided Off The Cuff was the studio we want to call home. Jason has put in countless hours behind the board, has some amazing gear and the studio has a super comfortable working environment. Very conducive to making a great record. Yes, we will have both records available at the show.

EAP: Where else are The D-Rays playing this summer?

Erick Coleman: We kicked off the summer with a set on the main stage of the Nelsonville Music Festival, which was super fun. We have a bunch of shows on the books but some notable upcoming gigs include The Aquabear County Fair with WV White here in Athens, OH and the 6th annual Hot Rod Hula Hop in Columbus. Its a cool car show at an old bowling alley. We’ll be playing with the Supersuckers and Coffin Daggers. Both should be a blast!!

Sounds like it’s going to be a hell of a show. Get out to The Brass Rail Friday, August 1st and support local music and show some great touring bands the Fort’s hometown hospitality.

Now on the other end of the musical spectrum there’s a happening going on Sunday, August 3rd at The Tiger Room @ CS3. Chicago’s The Red Plastic Buddha come to town to play a triple bill with Fort Wayne’s own Heaven’s Gateway Drugs and Soft N’ Heavy with liquid lights provided by Dr. Robert’s Ocular Odyssey(say that three times fast.) I was able to chat with Tim Ferguson, The Red Plastic Buddha’s singer, bassist, and spiritual center about the band and their upcoming Fort Wayne debut.

photo by Rob Gaczol

photo by Rob Gaczol

EAP: So Tim, tell me about The Red Plastic Buddha. What should Fort Wayne know coming into this show?

Tim Ferguson: We are a psychedelic pop group from Chicago. If you like Black Angels and old Pink Floyd, you’ll probably like us too. We’re probably more song oriented and less 20 minute freakout than some in our tribe. I’ve always drawn inspiration from the first wave of British psychedelia, but I’m drinking from the same pool as most of the other new groups. I’m older though, so I went through punk and all that followed. I’m not really a purist about what belongs and what doesn’t stylistically, so there’s bits from here and there. I grew up with songs with hooks and choruses and we tend to go that route.

On record, I like to have lots of small things going on, even in quiet moments. Whirring things. Cicadas. Birds. Most people won’t even hear them, because I might have them mixed off to one side, or up in a corner, but they’re there. I go a little nuts building these sonic universes. It’s all about creating moods with sound that enhance the lyric and create a habitat for the words to live in. We’re a bit more chaotic live. Less glossy, more energetic.
As of this recording, I’m the last man standing of the original lineup. We are now Eric Ahlgren on keyboards, Neil Hunt on drums, Derik Kendall on lead guitar and Mike Connor on rhythm guitar. I sing and play bass.
EAP: How did the Tiger Room gig come about? Have you played with HGD before?
Tim Ferguson: We’re really excited to play with them. We’re definitely big fans, but I’m not sure when we first made the connection.

Psychedelic musicians are a really tightly knit community these days. One connection leads to another and you tend to just have all these friends who

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photo by Rob Gaczol

are in bands all over the world who are making amazing music. HGD are definitely known in the larger community and I think it was a mutual friend who turned me on to their music. I had talked with Derek Mauger about setting up a show and we finally managed to make our schedules work. Our mutual friend Bob Wagner (who does lighting under the name Doctor Robert’s Ocular Odyssey) was available to join in on the fun and we also recently added Soft N’ Heavy to the lineup. It’s going to be a fun night.

EAP: Can you tell me a little about your newest album ‘Songs For Mara’? It’s been stated that this record is a little darker than your previous albums. Listening to a song like “Little White Pills” I can hear that. That song is certainly more early 80s Love and Rockets than a song like “Daisy Love” off of your album All Out Revolution. What was the sea change in the band’s sound?
Tim Ferguson: Love and Rockets? Hmm, I like that. Yeah, I’m not sure what came first on this one, the concept or the songs. Our last record ‘All Out Revolution’ was meant to be a hopeful thing. Psychedelic music as a positive reaction to the turmoil of the times – just like in the 60s. It was more life affirming. I think the songs here though are a result of me continually staring into the void. The name comes from Prince Siddhartha’s struggle against the lord of the underworld (Mara) – which was really just his own ego – on his way to enlightenment. These songs are based more on the things that modern humans are up against.

Modern life gives us distractions in the form of material possessions and drugs to round out the rough edges. Love is obscured by sexuality and enlightenment is promised by owning the latest greatest version of whatever material crap that the Wall Street monkeys are hocking this week. By following the prescribed path, we have become a society (and a species) that is looking without to find a solution to the problem within. I don’t think I’m offering any salvation or answers here, just casting a bit of a light into the darkness. Maybe it all comes off as pretentious. At the end of the day, I’m just another knucklehead trying to figure it out.
Looking back on your question, I’m sure that some of the things going on in my life (and within the band) got me started down the dark path. I lost some people. The band was falling apart. But life goes on and things get sorted. There’s some lessons I learned over the process of making this record that I needed to learn. I think that too often, we live in pain avoidance instead of accepting pain as a teaching tool and a dark blessing. If you don’t walk through it, you’ll never get to what is on the other side.
EAP: Where was ‘Songs For Mara’ recorded? Do you have a home studio?
Tim Ferguson: We’ve recorded Songs for Mara and our last record at Joyride Studios in Chicago. I’m certainly guilty of the ‘jack of all trades/ master of none’ syndrome in most areas of my life, but when it comes to recording, I leave it to the experts. Brian Leach and Blaise Barton have a wonderful facility, Brian is absolutely telepathic on the board, and he get the sounds we’re aiming for.

I find there is real value in having a neutral set of ears tuned in on the process, and although I feel a real kindred spirit thing going with Brian, he’s experienced enough to reel me in when I start orbiting a bit too far out.
EAP: What other shows does The Red Plastic Buddha have lined up for this summer?
Tim Ferguson: We’re in Grand Rapids on Friday, Toronto Saturday and finishing the weekend in Ft. Wayne. We’ve got some Chicago things going on throughout the year, including opening for Big Head Todd at Soldier Field in August. I’m working on more Midwest shows for later in the year, with Wisconsin, Minneapolis and Ohio on the radar. There’s also some talk of working with our friends The Orange Drop out of Philadelphia, but we’re still working out the logistics of that.

Things are going well. There’s a real energy and it’s a lot of fun to be leading a band again.
Thanks to places like The Brass Rail and CS3 -as well as excellent folk like The D-Rays, The Red Plastic Buddha, HGD, Dag and the Bulleit Boys, The Whiskey Daredevils, and Soft N’ Heavy- your weekend is already made for you. Just show up at The Brass Rail on Friday August 1st and the Tiger Room @ CS3 on Sunday August 3rd and let these fine bands do the rest. See you there.

Music From Way Out: The Interstellar Psych Of Jakob Skott

jakob skottI can remember being a 9-year old punk growing up in the Midwest and feeling like I was living on an island of corn and soybeans. The only thing connecting me to the outside world was the six channels our 40 ft antenna tower allowed us to see. Then in November of 1984 my parents bought a Betamax VCR and I suddenly had this vehicle to take me to the far reaches of the universe. From 70s Italian horror to slapstick humor to zombies shopping in an abandoned mall I always had a way of escaping the Midwest island I called home for greater places. The one thing that stuck with me through the years were the soundtracks on these 80s videos I watched from Vestron Video, Thorn EMI, New Line Cinema, and Gorgon Video. The analog synths that belched, bleeped, and pinged on these soundtracks to movies like The Terminator, Dawn of the Dead, and those Fulci horror classics I wasn’t supposed to be watching at 1am informed my tastes for when I became an adult(or whenever that will be.) A few years back when I first really discovered Boards of Canada listening to their music felt like stepping into a time machine and reliving an analog childhood. Their music became a mainline to those feelings I nurtured and nestled deep down on those warm summer nights and cold winter evenings when no one was around but some B-sci fi or horror film. I never thought I’d ever find another artist that could bring those feelings out of me like that, but low and behold I have indeed discovered another musical purveyor of the analog synth that makes me feel all warm and dystopian inside. His name is Jakob Skott.

I first heard Jakob Skott via his band Causa Sui. Causa Sui are a four-piece psych(and so much more) outfit out of Denmark that make these expansive, free-form psych songs that are more Bitches Brew than Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Skott is the drummer keeping the band on a merciless path to existential, jamming bliss. After being won over by their Summer Sessions series of records I bought their latest studio record, titled Euporie Tide and became an instant fan. I started going through the band’s record label’s back catalog(Causa Sui started their own record label called El Paraiso in order release their albums the way they wanted to release them) and noticed that Skott and guitarist Jonas Munk had solo records on the label. Munk’s Pan was this beautiful, hazy mix of NEU! and Tangerine Dream. Just really great stuff. Then I dug into Jakob Skott’s discography. The first was Doppler, a lo-fi mix of Boards of Canada sci fi sounds and Tangerine Dream soundscapes. Then in March he released Amor Fati, a electronic masterpiece filled with Miles Davis-like fusion skronk and these dystopian soundscapes of analog synth with Skott’s incredible drum work spread throughout. It plays like a soundtrack to some lost post-apocalyptic cult film that you recently uncovered on a record dig. It’s truly a work of art.

I was lucky enough to get in touch with Jakob Skott and he agreed to answer some of my prying, fanboy questions. I thank him for taking the time and for putting up with me.

J. Hubner: How did you get involved in music? Were the drums your first instrument of choice?

Jakob Skott: I always wanted to play the drums, so that’s the only instrument I got into as a kid.­ I still don’t know anything about notes, scales or chords, so I’m totally puzzled how sounds intersect with each other on every level ­ it’s total alchemy!

JH: Who or what have influenced you in your life to make music? 

Jakob Skott: I’ve always liked how making music keeps changing. ­ There’s different dimensions in it. ­ It seems like most other things you do, you kind of get the grip of it and continue doing it the same way to get better and better until you get bored. ­ I never felt that way about music. It’s not linear and it’s not predictable.

JH: What was the first band you played In?

Jakob Skott: That was a band I started with Jonas and Jess from Causa Sui when I was about 12. ­ We never really stopped, just changed the genre around a few times. But that’s the only band I’ve ever played in.

JH: As well as playing in Causa Sui, you have released two albums under your own name. ‘Doppler’ has more of a lo fi vibe to it while ‘Amor Fati’ sounds a bit sharper, though both have a futuristic, sci fi vibe to them. Boards of Canada and Tangerine Dream come to mind when I listen to your solo albums. What do you get out of your solo records that you may not with your work with Causa Sui? You play everything on your solo albums, correct?

Jakob Skott: I’ve done electronic music since 2002 as Syntaks on electronica labels such as Darla, Morr Music and Ghostly International. Amor Fati was made while I was on 3 months paternal leave from my job last year ­ I really wanted to have guests play on it; ­ guitars, vocals, etc, but I had this crazy time frame so it ended up just being me. ­ You can hear that some of the edits are done a bit quickly, especially in the end of the songs; whereas they are nicer in the beginning ­ probably because the baby just woke up(laughs). But I left all the original impulses in on these albums, using mostly first takes, and then applying some edits and mixing ­ which is an approach more similar to Causa Sui than my other electronic stuff.

JH: Besides playing drums in Causa Sui, you also design all the album artwork. I love the artwork you create with Causa Sui, Papir, and pretty much everything El Paraiso-­related. What influences your art? Have you designed all of El Paraiso’s album art catalog?

Jakob Skott: Thanks. ­ Yeah, that was a big motivation for starting a label, having continuity in everything visually. Obviously the music is what influences it. ­ I make whatever artwork is needed for the album. If I can’t nail it, we get someone else to make the main artwork. I don’t see it as art, more like packaging that suits the music, ­ like a book cover. A book cover isn’t art and they change from edition to edition. ­ I can relate more to that than the idea of the iconographic album artwork.

JH: Who are some of your drumming influences? I can hear some Stewart Copeland in your playing, and ‘The Rhythmatist’ comes to mind in­-particular when I think of similarities in sound..although you have certainly created something quite unique on your albums, sound­wise. Sorry, I’m rambling.

Jakob Skott: No­ no, ­ I love Stewart Copeland!­ He said something about originality and drumming in some drummer magazine from the 90s that my brother had lying around: If you want to create something new, you have to combine different styles; ­ like having a reggae ­beat, but playing it with a punk sensibility or whatever. He said it better than that, but I’ve always thought that was very true. ­ Making something like that work. Blending styles like that is what’s truly original. ­ He totally pulls it off.­ The sum is greater than the parts, etc. I like to think of my style as a slacker sludge dude playing electronic jazz.

JH: I recently saw a post that Causa Sui are working on Pewter Sessions 3. How is that coming along? What can we expect?

Jakob Skott: The Pewt’r Sessions don’t really come along, ­ they’re just suddenly THERE. The first two albums were jammed up on the same day and released a few months apart. The new one is also a fun day of jamming, but the approach to the album is different ­ it’s all the best segments edited together into a collage. Jonas edited out all the guitarsolos, and just kept the atmosphere parts. He did a brilliant job at that.­ It has such a great flow!

JH: When you’re playing with Causa Sui, how do their records come about? To me, it sounds like you, Jonas, Rasmus, and Jess just hit record and let things just happen organically. Summer Sessions and Pewter Sessions both have that ‘Desert Sessions’ vibe. Is that the case or is there more control and planning involved?

Jakob Skott: Improvising! We always start out jamming. It’s just a question of when we record it for the album. Sometimes we work on the songs more, sometimes less, ­ but we try to keep it as organic as possible and just let it flow even though we’ve played some of the same ideas for a while.

JH: How does El Paraiso get new talent to record and release? Do you guys have a strict guideline that you follow? Currently you have one American band, Psicomagia, signed. How did you get involved with them? Their album is amazing by the way. Would you like to sign more bands from the US?

Jakob Skott: We never wanted it to be that kind of label,­ constantly expanding, etc. We’ll put something out when it’s good. ­ If we have a whole year when we don’t put out a single record, I don’t care. ­It would simply mean that we didn’t have the right album ready. So far only Psicomagia has been able to “sneak in” from the outside of projects that aren’t directly related to me or Jonas. ­ Why? You said it, It’s THAT good! I’m so happy to have helped that album get into the physical world! As well as every other El Paraiso release, these albums wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have the label so everything feeds off each other. It’s a tremendous privilege to have that kind of setup now doing everything surround a release yourself.

JH: ‘Amor Fati’ is one hell of a record(one of my favorites of the year so far.) How often do you work on your own music? Do you have songs ready for release on a new album yet?

Jakob Skott: I’ve just recorded new drums so work is well on the way ­ it’s very much in the vein of Amor Fati, but an expansion of that sound once again ­ It’s massive sounding!

JH: Living in the Midwest in the United States I don’t have a chance in Hell of seeing you or Causa Sui live. Will there ever be a chance of seeing Causa Sui in the states? Or some Jakob Skott solo shows?

Jakob Skott: You can always hope, right? But wouldn’t count on it ­ Jonas and me played there a couple of years ago and did a recording session in Chicago with some of the Tortoise dudes (called Chicago Odense Ensemble) ­ but if I get a chance to go again, that would be the main priority: recording sessions with a bunch of friends: Ron from Sunburned and the dudes from Psicomagia and Tortoise. Some session if we could get them all in a room together, huh!?

JH: Do you have a studio set up at home where you record your solo stuff? What do you use for your albums, instrument-­wise? You have such an organic sound. Do you use analog synths? Tape or digital when you record?

Jakob Skott: My drumkit is 100 miles away in the Causa Sui rehearsal room so I just play a couple of times each year when we’re recording or getting ready for a gig, and I have my smaller gear at home. ­It’s a mix of analog and digital synths and effects. The one instrument you’re hearing more than any on Amor Fati is the Moog Sub Phatty. ­ It’s an amazing synth that blends in with drums perfectly.

JH: What can we expect to see and hear from you and/or Causa Sui in the next few months?

Jakob Skott: The Pewt’r Sessions 3 will feature a limited 10” (300 copies) from our webshop. ­ Linoleum hand-printed sleeves by our friend Martin Rude. ­ I always wanted that: to do a truly unique album where every sleeve is different. It has the wackiest Causa Sui track on it. ­ Totally heavy fuzz jam. Don’t snooze on it!

I haven’t snoozed on it. I’ve preordered mine and I’m currently waiting at the mailbox. I may be here for a while, but I don’t care. I can’t get enough of Causa Sui, and I really can’t get enough of Jakob Skott’s interstellar psych squall. It soundtracks my futuristic hopes, dreams, and aspirations. I plan on having “Earth of No Horizon” playing at my funeral. I’m amending my Will so this will happen. If you haven’t, listen to Causa Sui and most definitely devour some Jakob Skott. Doppler and Amor Fati are the two best records you’ve never heard. Go here to learn more.

 

 

 

Plaxton and the Void :: Still Alive

plaxtonBack in late 2012 Warsaw, Indiana’s Plaxton and the Void made their music debut with the great Ides. That album was filled with expansive, cavernous songs written with their Midwest roots in mind and proudly displayed. No trends or fad-filled songs; just songs written with heart-on-sleeve and ready to sing along to. Plaxton and the Void have returned to the album fold with the six song e.p. Still Alive. They’ve stuck to the Plaxton formula they did so well two years ago, this time only tweaking a bit to create an even more focused and sublime listening experience.

Singer and guitarist Joel Squires writes earnest lyrics and simple, strummed songs that allow for the rest of the band fill in the between the words with lush instrumentation. “It’s You” is the kind of song that would sound great on an open mic night with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a vocal or with a full band blasting through a PA system. “Drive” is a song with emotional momentum and music that builds into a big chorus. “Drowning” has a country rock tinge to it in the jangly riff as Squires sings “He’s been sniffing too much coke/yet another line is on the drawer/And he’s been chasing down a high/Yet another low is just behind”, later stating “He’s been drowning way too long”, a song about hitting rock bottom and maybe or maybe not getting things right. There does seem to be a little more darkness in the lyrics this time around. Things seem more personal on Still Alive, with the song “Bitter and Frail” telling a tale of loss and loneliness. “Coraline” is lilting and gentle while “Winter Waltz” ends the album on a more raucous note with a belted out chorus and some great guitar noodling. Keyboardist John Faulkner adds some great otherworldliness with some wobbly synth at the end.

Plaxton and the Void continue to put out solid tunes that are part coffeehouse strum and part arena-ready rock. Still Alive is a great chunk of dusty Midwest indie rock. Check them out and grab Still Alive at http://plaxtonandthevoid.bandcamp.com/.

7.2 out of 10

Steve Gunn: “Milly’s Garden” Is Transcendent

gunnI’m not sure where I first heard Steve Gunn. All I know is that something led me to his Bandcamp page and more spins of his album Time Off than I can count. It was like a cool breeze hitting you in the face on an otherwise hot and humid day. Fluid, languid guitar playing throughout giving the album a chilled vibe. A buzzed, stoned carefree quality on Time Off made it easy for me to keep coming back to it. I’m not saying Steve Gunn was tokin’ and then hitting record, but he gives off a vibe like he could be and it comes across in the great laid back vibe of his songs.

Gunn is getting ready to release a new album on October 7th called Way Out Weather, and if lead single “Milly’s Garden” is any indication he’s delved into a bit of Workingman’s Dead and At Fillmore East for inspiration. The song flows and grooves like Gunn’s previous work, but with more confidence. His guitar playing is looser with more of a southern feel. Gunn is quickly becoming one of my favorite players. Where a lot of guitarists feel blocked into certain modes and bogged down in guitar theory, Steve Gunn’s playing sounds light and loose; not locked into to any particular theory. His fingers go where the song takes them. At five and a half minutes the song doesn’t feel that long. It could go on for ten minutes and I think I’d be happy. The Grateful Dead aren’t really a band I’ve ever loved or even moderately liked, but “Milly’s Garden” gives me a little insight into what those die-hard fans of Garcia and company fell so hard for. There’s also a bit of the Black Crowes’ The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion in this track as well.

All around, “Milly’s Garden” is a sweet and soulful song. Finding out that Gunn was part of Kurt Vile’s Violators band and is from Pennsylvania as well makes the fact that I love his music so much more understandable. Vile’s penchant for extended jams within his songs is here in Gunn’s songs as well; though with Gunn his sound is more earthy and organic where Vile is more street-grimed jean jacket rock n’ roll. I love the idea of getting lost in your own creation and playing on till you walk out the other side. Kurt Vile does this beautifully and Steve Gunn has proven adept at this as well. Tracks like “Water Wheel” and “Lurker” off Time Off were meditative. You could truly get lost in the music. They flowed like some natural spring from Gunn’s hands onto his guitar. The ebb and flow like a mantra he repeated for the song’s length. “Milly’s Garden” is an extension of this musical philosophy done with bluer skies and broader horizons.

Make sure you grab Way Out Weather on October 7th courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors. Listen to “Milly’s Garden” here. Preorder the album here. Keep up with all things Steve Gunn here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down In Front: Sunday Night at the Drive-In

photo 1There are a few things that still exist today that are a direct link to our past; both the past we exist in and the one that existed before us. Cultural significance can be debated all you want(there are plenty of folks who love that s**t.) For me, in order for something to have cultural significance it has to pull up all those gooey emotions that make us pine for those things we so loved but can no longer see, touch, and experience again. That 10th birthday with all your friends at the pizza shop, followed by cake and ice cream at home. Then a GI Joe toy battle followed by the late night horror show. Getting your driver’s license and driving your car home, alone, for the first time. Graduation. Your first roller coaster ride. These are things we all more or less experience, though in different ways with different feelings of longing.

One item of cultural significance for me was the drive-in movie theater. Growing up in the Midwest we had two drive-ins in the town I grew up in. We had the Warsaw Drive-In and the Lincolndale. The Warsaw Drive-In was the oldest drive-in with one screen, while the Lincolndale had two screens, each showing two flicks. My parents took me to both several times growing up. I can remember seeing Superman, Food of the Gods, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Warlock, Down and Out In Beverly Hills, and countless other 80s gems at the Warsaw Drive-In. At the Lincolndale I remember one Friday night in-particular where my parents and I saw a double feature of House and Return of the Living Dead. It was pretty great. The last movie I ever saw at the drive-in before they closed here in town was the The Island of Dr. Moreau remake, so that would mean the last season for the Warsaw Drive-In was 1996. The Lincolndale closed long before that. There was another drive-in near my house back in the 70s and 80s called the WaWa Drive-In. I never went to the Wawa as it was an adult drive-in theater, showing all the latest and greatest double and triple X films of the day. I’m still floored thinking that there was a dirty movie drive-in twenty minutes from my house growing up. Oh, the 70s.

So on Sunday night the wife and I took the kids to a town about 25 miles west of us called Plymouth, Indiana. We hit the Tri Way Drive-In movie theater and saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Transformers: Age of Extinction. The Tri Way is one of two drive-ins that are still in decent driving distance of us. The Tri Way also has four screens so each screen has different genres. Ours was the action but not too violent films. There was one with some comedies, one for kids, and one with more suspense. This was the first time for the kids to go to a drive-in, and the first time I’d been to one since 1996. I was excited.

I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed. Neither was the wife and kids. The concession stand has improved greatly from popcorn and candy. Breaded tenderloin sandwiches, cheeseburgers, nachos, fries, bosco sticks, and of course popcorn. Also soft pretzels, candy, and ice cream. Not gonna lie, that stuff wasn’t cheap. Hell, a bottle of water was $2.50 out of the vending machine. Really? I had to tell myself you can’t put a price on the kids’ happiness. Well, actually you can. That price was $42 for the first round of food and $26 for the next round, not to mention the $39 it cost to get in. But still, what’s $107 when your kids are having so much fun, right? And I only counted 30 welts from mosquito bites, not to mention the massive muscle spasm from sitting in a folding chair for 6 hours. Then attempting to sleep in the front seat of the van while my wife and son attempt to finish that three-hour behemoth of a toy commercial called Transformers: Age of Extinction. Jesus Michael Bay, ever heard of someone called and EDITOR????….

But I’m getting off point here. It’s about nostalgia, and the kids having fun, and the wife and I reliving those fun times at the drive-in when we first started dating. But back then we didnt’ have to worry about helping the Tri Way finance the purchase of four new digital projectors priced at $75,000 a piece. Yep, $300,000 they have to spend in order to update their theater or else they close. So now I gotta feel guilty when I’m cringing at a $2.50 bottle of water, or a $5 funnel cake, or a $7 bucket of popcorn. Yeah, I’m a bastard for not wanting to spend $4 on a Pepsi. Sorry about technology and all. I didn’t invent digital media. Blame Sony…or George Lucas. Not me!

But hey, we had fun still. I’m sure we’ll go back, and I’ll bring an extra $100 in case the kids want an extra popcorn or funnel cake.

Nostalgia is an interesting thing. Until you step out of the warm, reminiscent glow of it everything “back then” seems better. Hitting a drive-in with my family was both a subtle reminder of childhood and all those warm fuzzies I had sitting in the back of my dad’s pick-up watching Beverly Hills Cop or some cheap B-horror movie as we snacked on Chicken In A Biskits, Doo-Dads(thank you Nabisco for your saturated fats-filled party kibble), and maybe an occasional bucket of oily popcorn from the concession stand. It was also a reminder of my mortality. Sitting in a lawn chair at 1:30 am on a hill watching “roid rage” versions of my favorite childhood toys violently disemboweling each other as Marky Mark YELLS LOUDLY and pretends to be a hillbilly engineer from Texas with a “Bah’stun” accent, made me realize that sometimes family fun can be had and enjoyed well before the witching hour and heads can still hit pillows at a decent hour. What can I say, I’m a curmudgeon. Hats off to my parents for taking me on several occasions to the outdoor theater. Granted, this was also before Daylight Savings Time and it was usually just me with them. By then my older brother was working, going out with his friends, and more than likely getting high. So my mom and dad had it a little easier than me. Yeah, take that nostalgia!

Kids had fun, that’s all that matters in the end. Maybe the wife and I will head back there someday. When something good is playing. Or for the triumphant return of the Wawa Drive-In. You know, to picket it or something.

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Plaxton and the Void are ‘Still Alive’

plaxton

 

by E.A. Poorman

In the quaint little seaside town known as Warsaw, IN there lives a band called Plaxton and the Void. You know of them? Well, you should if you don’t. They’re making some pretty epic music amongst the treasure trove of orthopedic takeovers, karaoke on Thursdays, and a church for every non-affiliated, non-denominational moderately conservative weekend warrior this side of Kosciusko county, USA. If you’re not privy, let me fill you in: Plaxton and the Void make big, cavernous indie rock that takes equal parts The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket, and a touch of A.M.-era Wilco, and serve it up with a hefty portion of Midwestern matter-of-fact grit. They released their debut full-length Ides late in 2012 as the snow fell over Pike, Center, and Winona Lake. It was a great beginning for a band hungry to write and play. After a couple years of gigs and writing they have just released the excellent follow-up to Ides, the aptly titled e.p. Still Alive. I spoke to the band about the new e.p. and how the last two years have gone.

“We began writing and arranging the new songs right as Ides was being released” says the guys in Plaxton and the Void when I ask about the process of writing and recording Still Alive. “Spring 2013 was mostly writing and learning new songs. Then we were working on the Kosciusko’s Got Talent competition. After we won that, a Stacey Page Online(a Kosciusko County online-based news source)reporter interviewed us. That guy was John Faulkner. We had been looking for a keys player and we kind of interviewed him back during that interview and found out that he had just moved here from Nashville and was a keys player and went to recording school down there. We tried him out and he was a good fit, so most of the rest of the summer and fall was teaching him the songs and getting him up to speed. We were able to integrate and write some new keys parts to all the new songs before we started recording. Back in October, Joel started a business with his old boss (the Light Rail Cafe in Winona Lake) so that has been owning him and putting a crimp on his availability for recording and playing shows. We began recording Still Alive in December. We’ve been busy with that process for the first half of the year.”

There is a definite sonic change from Ides to Still Alive. I asked the guys if they went in going for a particular sound, or if they just let things happen naturally. “We have been focusing more on quality and on perfecting arrangements. it is becoming more important with a fifth member in the band to really nail the arrangements. Joel is also maturing as a writer, even as his time is more limited… so we are getting that distilled flavor of a more powerfully concentrated spirit. We wouldn’t say the individual songs on Still Alive are leaner. There’s a lot of instrumentation, like organs and strings, that you don’t hear on Ides. We were trying to do what best served the songs. So if that meant paring down some parts to make other things more powerful, that was what we did.”

The album was recorded at Squidtown Music, which is bassist Dave McCall’s basement studio, as well as recording some drum tracks in an old chapel which gave the drums some great, massive sound. Song-wise, there seems to be some heavier themes of loss and healing. Singer, guitarist, and lyricist Joel Squiers explained further. “I think this album is a bit darker because at the time when I was writing some of the songs I was going through some major life changes and battling with whether or not I’d made the right decisions. Also I was trying to write less from personal experiences and draw from things outside of myself in the writing. Also, this winter sucked and I think a lot of people were thinking darker than they might normally.”

Now Plaxton and the Void have a great new set of songs to share, are there going to be some shows to see them at? “Now that the EP is finally wrapped up, we’re actively booking new shows. Nothing is confirmed yet, but we’ve got a few in the works. We’ll also be hosting a show of our own to launch the EP. We’re hoping to get some Fort Wayne, South Bend, and Goshen shows lined up soon (in addition to hometown Warsaw shows). All our booking info is on our Facebook page if anyone is interested in us playing at a specific event or venue.”

Speaking of playing shows, Plaxton and the Void had actually won a Battle of the Bands in their hometown of Warsaw, IN. I asked them for some details about this. “We’ve won two big contests. The first was in 2013 when we won the Kosciusko’s Got Talent contest put on by the largest online news source in our county(Kosciusko), staceypageonline.com. That one was a youtube video contest for videos under 3 minutes, so we had to rearrange (to fit within the time limit) and record a song and video for that. More recently we won the Judge’s Choice award in the Cancer Care Fund fundraiser (put on by the K21 organization). We raised a lot of money for the fund and had a lot of fun performing for the crowd and judges. That one was a live performance competition.”

Okay, so a great new 6-song EP done and ready for ears, hometown accolades and county-wide recognition for the band and their skills; both in songwriting and live performance. What’s next? ” We’re just five guys with day jobs that love writing and playing original music. We have fun doing our best and sharing that with our friends and community. We’re hoping to share that with a few more communities in 2014. But ultimately, it is up to the fans to spread the word and share our music with their friends. We live in a viral world.”

Indeed we do live in a viral world, so I’m about to cough and not cover my mouth. Check out Plaxton and the Void’s Still Alive at http://plaxtonandthevoid.bandcamp.com/. And keep up with everything Plaxton and the Void at https://www.facebook.com/plaxtonandthevoid.

 

Honeyblood :: Honeyblood

Hoenyblood-Album-CoverHave you ever wondered what the Foo Fighters might sound like if they were fronted by Neko Case? No? Well then you can be excused. For the rest of you cue up Honeyblood’s self-titled album and check out opening track “Fall Forever” and you’ll find out. It’s as if that blonde guy was kicked off the drum throne and Dave Grohl took his rightful place back behind the kit as The New Pornographers chanteuse took over mic duties. It’s a stunning sound, really. Of course “Fall Forever” isn’t the Foo Fighters or Neko Case, it’s Honeyblood and you won’t be forgetting that name anytime soon.

Stina Marie Claire’s vocals possess a power that harken back to the glory days of the late-80s and early 90s when bands like Throwing Muses, The Breeders, and Blake Babies were making their presence known in the world of dude-dominated alternative music. Besides vocal duty Stina also plays guitar with as much force and machismo as any flannel-clad dude did back in Aberdeen or Seattle. This Scottish two-piece band, which also consists of Shona McVicar on drums are making a sound that guys like Gil Norton, Butch Vig, and Steve Albini produced back when President Clinton had just been sworn in. Besides “Fall Forever”, “Super Rat” seethes as Stina sings “You are the smartest rat in the sewer,” followed by “I will hate you forever” as the song buzzes and hums like classic Pixies. “(I’d Rather Be) Anywhere But Here” starts up like Concrete Blonde covering “Lithium”, while “Bud” has a Grant Lee Buffalo vibe with more of that Neko Case vocal phrasing. This is classic early 90s alternative. Honeyblood are tapping into a musical vein that has sorely been left to shrivel and fade. That space between the over indulgence of the 80s and the anti-establishment 90s indie music; that place in alternative music where a band could still sound good without losing street cred for doing so. “Choker” “No Spare Key”, and “No Spare Key” all grind and slither with the spirit of underground rock and the vibe classic 120 Minutes. Closing track “Braidburn Valley” sounds like a big, sweeping Mazzy Star track with a hint of Straitjacket Fits. Melancholy and angry all at once.

So we may not have Neco Case fronting the Foos, and I suppose that’s just kind of weird when you think about it. But Honeyblood have given us one hell of a debut record. For those 80s and 90s kids that remember Alternative Nation, 120 Minutes, and being exiled in a place called Guyville.

7.9 out of 10