Good to be back
Well, I made it back from NYC safe and sound. See, there was this big conference thing, with, like, lots of bands. And these bands were really cool and I watched them. And I rode the subway all by myself. If you can’t tell already, I’ve told all my stupid CMJ stories a million times, but here goes: First off, let’s explore what I learned from the experience. For one, I recognized the limit of how much conversation I can take of what I like to call the “I’m not here to see the band. I’m here to talk loudly about the band right in front of people who came to hear the band” variety. “You see, the drummer’s psychobilly group in high school, called the Sugar Hyena Thunder Bumper, put out this sweet 7-inch in ’94 on this label in Oklahoma. And then it got re-released on this other label and then he got a headache and took some aspirin and made his next album, called Aspirin, which was more, like, Jad Fair-esque, like back when he was into that slide two-chord guitar shit. It wasn’t released in the United States, but I got it on eBay and, dude, it’s fuckin’ awesome!” What’s worse are the people who make the effort to come to shows and then spend the entire night in the back of the room blabbing “business.” I love New York, but it sure is nice to be back. As one of my travel companions shared on the way home: “New York would be pretty cool if there weren’t so many fucking people.” Exactly.
Bloomfield Hills-based Le Grand Magistery put on two sold-out showcases with 13 bands of pop-romantique bliss, dance-electro-futurama and folk-songing swank. Pretty impressive from a one-man outfit that got started just five years ago by someone who “had no idea whatsoever how to run a record label.” Throughout the weekend, LGM’s Matthew Jacobson spoke in passing about how he planned to stop putting out records and move to Las Vegas to become a hypnotist and mind reader. “It seems that just about every five years something inside me changes and I need to move onto something else,” he explained in an e-mail. But after the New York shows, he’s rethinking retirement. “All the bands played incredibly well and what started as a bit of a wake for the label ended up turning completely around.”
He came home to a ton of supportive e-mails from fans and industry folk, and he realized that he can still put out records while following his dream in Vegas. “I’m probably going to be taking on a partner and my focus in regard to the bands will shift a bit, but with all the knowledge I’ve gained over these years and all the incredibly talented, intelligent and unique artists who are on my roster (Momus, Stars, the Dears and Mascott, to name a few), I can’t see ever wanting to let it come to an end.” Now that’s good to hear.
Sound for sore ears
Another highlight from the weekend was Nebraska’s Bright Eyes. When I saw this band a few months ago opening for Grandaddy at Magic Stick, I knew good things were coming for vocalist-guitarist-keyboardist Connor Oberst. His angst-ridden tales of lovelorn misery are a bit naïve — heck, the guy’s only 20 — but that makes them all the more honest and brilliant. His nervous energy is the passion that sucks listeners into his consciousness, even though he’s been performing since he was 14 as the singer-guitarist of Commander Venus. At the Saddle Creek showcase, I watched as fans glued their eyes to his every move, slowly mouthing out the words to each song. He’s the first musician I’ve seen in a while who pours every ounce of his being into every strum on his guitar and every whisper gasping from his mouth. Keep your ears within listening range of Bright Eyes. Oberst just may be the one to help us weather the pop stupidity storm and carry us into the next realm of music. No pressure, though. Let’s let him ease into it. It’ll be worth the wait.
Nuts and such
Another Detroit area-based label is making waves on the left coast. Small Stone Records is hosting a release party for its Aerosmith tribute album, Right in the Nuts, at Los Angeles’ Spaceland this Saturday (Nov. 4). Bands performing include Fireball Ministry, the Men of Porn, Altamont, Drunk Horse and Core. The album is full of nonhits from one of the most quintessential rock bands of our time. Whether you love the band or hate the band, it’s hard not to like this album. If you can’t make it out to LA for the party, at least give the CD a listen.E-mail In One Ear at firstname.lastname@example.org