Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Summer We Went West


The Summer We Went West were a pretty incredible band from College Park, MD.

Featuring current/ex-/former members of current D.C. sweethearts Monument, as well as Dawn Treader, Boat Water, Gentlemen, For The Agenda, (and others I'm sure), The Summer We Went West has kind of flown under the radar in comparison to projects they have played in, or friends they made while a band (like a band you may have heard of named Algernon Cadwallader), but that does not mean that they should be counted out. These guys are a great, great band.

The band began as more of an acoustic project featuring Erik Pecukonis and Anton Krupp before they enlisted their rhythm section and grew into more of a Kinsella-esque emo band. Anton explains it in TSWWW's Scene Point Blank interview, which you can find a link to below.

Anton: We all lived in this suburb in Maryland called Columbia that had a surprisingly active music scene while we were all in high school there. That's how I met Jeremy, Erik and Al originally, though I only recognized them from shows I went to. When I went to school at the University of Maryland, I saw Erik at one of the dining halls and asked him if he wanted to play some music with me. We actually started as an acoustic duo, famed for our ridiculously drunk performances. Jeremy had seen me around campus and at shows at the University and started to come onto my radio show that I did at WMUC, and we started to become friends there. We all moved in together because Erik and I were at the WMUC recording studio one day and Jeremy called asking for roommates. Erik and I immediately agreed. The Summer We Went West as a full band came out of Erik and I drunkenly playing the guitar in our living room and Jeremy saying "lets take this party downstairs" which really meant "I'll play drums, you two idiots play the guitar." Al has known Jeremy for a really long time and hung out at our house all that year. It was only natural to ask Al to play bass because he was the only bass player we knew. Al lives with Jeremy and I now, and Erik moved to an apartment down the street but still sleeps on our couch more often than not.

The 8/9 split and WMUC set features the Anton/Erik line up, and "Following The Holy Moon Goddess", the band's first full length and first release as a proper band shows progression in the group's sound by leaps and bounds. The album incorporates elements of emo, punk, folk, indie rock, and even electronica (the instrumental tracks which feature Baltimore native Frank O'Hara reading poems over the glitchy beats are actually some of the highlights of the album). The album also features TSWWW's most popular and well-known song, "Jackon Hole, Wy." which is an absolute giant of a song. I'm not sure anyone who has heard this band hasn't become obsessed with the song for at least a week or two. Pecukonis' bare-bones honesty and wild, drunken vocal deilvery is instrumental to TSWWW's power as a unit. Other highlights on the album include "Gin" and the epic nine minute long "Drive, Green Sky and Blue Grass".

My favorite release by these guys by far though is the Summer 2006 Tour CD-R. It takes all the elements that made "Following the Holy Moon Goddess" a great album, cuts the slack, and amps up the energy by a few notches. One listen to the opening track "Counting Time with Coins" should be all it takes. The album's flow is also a major accomplishment: the album swings between loud, racuous, tracks that are much louder and heavier than anything on "Following", (largely due to more band members piping up to add vocals, which gives the songs a chaotic feel), and beautiful, lilting "emo-folk" (I'm going out on a limb with that one) ballads like "Mr. Johnson", and "Red Carpet Blues," a song which is unbelievably moving both lyrically and musically. The album closes with "That Midwestern Town", which seems like it could be a kind of sequel to "Jackon Hole, Wy.".

The other three releases here include a drunken acoustic set at Small Brown House, a collection of b-sides compiled from their website, and their posthumous cassette release, which features some really great acoustic songs that Krupp and Pecukonis were working on early on as well as some electric tracks recorded before the band's break up. It also features the playful "Ashlee Simpson", a love ballad about...well, you can guess who, and a spoken word track with an acoustic guitar in the background while one of the band members tells a story about being on tour on the west coast, which may well be the highlight of the tape.

Really cool guys, I've had the pleasure of playing a show with Anton and hanging out with Erik, and their music, past and present, deserves to be listened to. Check it out.

Read an old interview from Secne Point Blank.

Check out the band's website here.

The posthumous cassette release was just put out by Anton (guitar/current guitarist in Monument) and is limited to 100 pieces. It can be purchased on their myspace here for the reasonable price of $5, so if you like the mp3s, BUY THE TAPE.

Here is a video of "Praise the Holy Moon Goddess", the intro to "Following the Holy Moon Goddess".

8/9 Split

Songs From Third Rail Radio (WMUC 11/13/05)

Following the Holy Moon Goddess (2005)

Live at Small Brown House (2006)

Tour CD-R 2006

B-Sides and Demos

The Last Recordings (2009)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bill Callahan at The Black Cat 6/12/09


When I heard Bill Callahan was touring to support his new album, Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, I got pretty excited.

Callahan, a native of Silver Spring, Maryland before re-locating to Chicago, and currently, Austin, Texas, is one of the more prolific singer-songwriters of his generation; his career spans just over 2 decades and 13 full length records (not to mention numerous EPs), from his first humble lo-fi cassette release to his latest LP.

Under the guise of his Smog moniker, Callahan's music morphed from lo-fi, mostly instrumental experimentation on 4 track records (his early career seems to have been heavily influenced by such artists as atonal pioneer Jandek), into
more country-tinged, lushly recorded outings such as Red Apple Falls and Supper, not to mention his monstrous 1999 outing Knock Knock.

Following the release of 2000's Dongs of Sevotion, Callahan found himself with 7 LP's under his belt, 6 of which were released on the Chicago-based Drag City Records (which he remains signed to today), as well as one LP and several cassettes released by himself as Disaster records. A third major shift in artistic direction would take shape beginning on 2001's Rain on Lens, which would see Callahan stripping down the instrumentation on his records while continuing to write lyrically driven songs.

By 2007, Callahan had dumped the name Smog and released his first record under his own name, Woke on a Whaleheart. In comparison with his previous realease, a melancholy masterpiece that many consider his crowning achievement, A River Ain't Too Much To Love, Whaleheart seemed upbeat and even a bit psychedelic (just check out the album cover).

The brand new Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle is somewhat of a return to Callahan's darker side; tracks like the haunting "Eid Ma Clack Shaw" and the nearly 10 minute long closing track "Faith/Void" are testaments to Callahan's wry sense of humor and lyrical abilities. There are also more upbeat (for Callahan at least) tracks to be found here; "Rococo Zephyr" and "Too Many Birds" are almost whimsical in nature. The heavy use of strings add a lot to album and Callahan's sound, in a way that took me a few listens to fully appreciate.

After buying my ticket a few days previous to the show and then finding out that all my friends had bailed on attending the concert with me, I set off alone down the beltway and into the city. This was actually the first time I had ever been to a concert alone, and I have to say that it was a pretty enjoyable experience, minus getting slightly lost in the clusterfuck that is our nation's capitol and having only myself to curse.

By the time I finally found parking on 14th St., by some stroke of luck, and getting 4 dollars in change and then walking BACK to the car to feed the meter ($4 got me a measly 1:35), and then BACK to the club, Callahan and Co. were about ready to begin.

I caught only about a song of the opening act Lights; I had never heard of them before. they played psychedelic, jaunty music, and featured a female vocalist/guitarist (donned in heavy eyeshadow and a shimmering gold hooded blouse and white heels) and drummer, as well as a brutish lookin' fella playing the bass. To be honest, I was not that concerned with the opening act.

Callahan took the stage, took a few moments to tune and fetch a glass of wine, and slowly walked up to the mic, and decidely, against the pound of the punk music playing from the PA, said, "We're ready." The music was cut, and his band, featuring a drummer, second guitarist, cellist and violinist kicked into the opening track on Eagle, "Jim Cain".

Callahan is as striking a figure in person as he is in photographs and on album covers. His calm demeanor and quirky yet graceful mannerisms gravitated all eyes on him for the entire set. He played for about an hour and fifteen minutes, with a set list that included "Rococo Zephyr" and "Too Many Birds" from the new album, "Our Anniversary (from 2004's Supper), "Diamond Dancer", and a more downtrodden version of "Sycamore" (from 2007's Whaleheart), as well as a heavily applauded performance of "Bathysphere", from 1995's Wild Love LP. He played a truly riveting version of "Say Valley Maker", complete with a tensely-wound string driven climax, and closed with Rock Bottom Riser (both off 2005's A River...).

After announcing "Rock Bottom Riser" as his last song (to which someone in the crowd responded, "Impossible!" as someone else quipped, "I seriously doubt it Bill!") and leaving the stage, the crowd politely clapped, hooped, and hollered until he re-took the stage, and to my great pleasure kicked into a raucous version of "Let Me See the Colts", one of my very favorite Smog tracks. As the song ended someone yelled, "One more! One more!," and Callahan, putting down his guitar and heading over the keyboard stated simply, "Two more," which was recieved with heavy applause. The band kicked into a stunning version of "Eid Ma Clack Shaw," and finally closed with "Cold Blooded Old Times," from 1999's Knock Knock.

Definitely one of the best shows I have ever seen. Below I have all three of Callahan's releases under his own name...Look out for a Smog post eventually.

Below are two videos: Callahan performing "Sycamore" with current love interest Joanna Newsom and the video for "I Feel Like the Mother of the World".

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Woke on a Whaleheart (2007)


Diamond Dancer (2007)


Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle (2009)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Castevet - Summer Fences


Snagged this from Lyrics Will Not Reach the Audience. They beat me to it. My copy will be arriving in the mail shortly. Purchase your own here.

Read the first Castevet post here

And their myspace here.

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Summer Fences (2009)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009



For some reason, throughout my whole life, I have had a great love for traditional American music. Maybe it was being raised on artists like John Prine and Bob Dylan, or maybe it's just the honky in me, but every damn time I hear a banjo twang of a harmonica hum I start tapping my foot. Throughout generations, folk troubadours and singer-songwriters have often been the voice of the workingman, the social outcast, and the progressive thinker. From Guthrie and his gang to Dylan and his inner circle, these individuals and their peers often become cultural icons. But for every great singer-songwriter or group who ends up getting written about in your high school history book, there are those great artists who's success never quite live up to their talent.

For Frederick, Maryland's own Drug Money, this has never been a problem. The quartet-turned trio consisting of Jordan Romero, Alex Zachreal (sorry if I butchered that Alex), and Alex Kaufman, (and formerly Justin Whittaker) write roots music that is as grounded in the folk tradition as it is grounded in the DIY punk tradition. Humble beginnings and a demo recorded on a laptop led to...the departure of a snare player and an almost equally humbly recorded full length on a laptop. The songs themselves seem frantic; even the down-tempo jams seemingly hang by a thread as if this were the last time that it may ever be performed. While the lo-fi aspect of these recordings may make some guffaw or turn their heads, one listen to an early Bill Callahan record should humble naysayers quickly - recording quality can hardly hamper an amazing song - most times it adds an aura of mystery, an embodiment of the rebellious spirit of the artists approach to recording.

The true accomplishment here is "Baby, Let Me Home" a sprawling LP recorded in Jordan's bedroom. But the demo cannot be dismissed. Missing from the LP is "Next Wednesday," a great singalong that has been retired at live shows, and the demo version of "8 AM" is far superior to the version found on the album.

These guys are some of my good friends, and I love them. Check out their music!

Interested in a CD? Check out their myspace, they probably have some.


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Drug Money Demo (2008)

Baby, Let Me Home (2009)