Category: Throwback

Tuscaloosa says Goodbye to DIY venue Baby Haus

babyhausLast Saturday was the final show at Baby Haus, a house in Tuscaloosa that had been hosting shows in a few different locations for the past four years. As if Tuscaloosa wasn’t already renowned for being a “party town,” Baby Haus would often take it to the next level with antics such as nude moshpits, fireworks being set off in the house and the now infamous story of two girls getting busy during one band’s set.

I remember my first Baby Haus show in Fall 2010 and how I felt immediately welcomed & had so much fun.

Don’t get me wrong, Birmingham is rad, but Tuscaloosa got wild back in those days.

When it relocated to down the street in Fall 2011, the crunkness continued and the house’s walls eventually turned into a mural of random paintings & sketches. There were potlucks, bonfires, and eclectic bills ranging from hip hop to sludge metal (and of course, always the punk & garage rock).

Once Baby Haus moved to across the street, the house’s owner David Allen proclaimed that he didn’t want to have any shows at his new home. However, low-key backyard shows in Fall 2012 quickly escalated into house shows once again, but without the tagging and breaking things. Some proclaimed “Baby Haus was over” since it wasn’t as buck, but I personally appreciated how it had toned down into a setting for more artistic appreciation instead of constant inebriation. Shit was still getting ‘weird’ as recently as December though, when contact was made with Kurt Cobain through a Ouija board at the “Friday the 13th show,” and several people went down that rabbit hole.

I think we definitely took Baby Haus for granted while it was still here. It’s honestly a little hard to imagine our DIY scene without it, but Saturday was the perfect way to close it out.

The music started around 3:30pm and ended around 2am. All of the sets were solid, and shit got wild, reminiscent of Baby Hauses past, when Capsized’s pedal board got trampled and Billy Luttrell’s guitar got destroyed– missing 3 tuners, bridge and tail. I was in the middle of the crowd for nearly every set except for theirs because the moshing was too intense, even for me. Luttrell told me that it was the funnest show he’s ever played.

Carson Mitchell of The Dirty Lungs (who have an album soon to be released on Birmingham’s Communicating Vessels label) told this story of Baby Haus, having played the final show and at the former house: “Very funny story about the first time we played; we actually had a gig booked at the Mellow Mushroom, but there was some kind of mix up with the booking and they weren’t even going to open that night. We found this out as we were unloading all of our gear to the upstairs stage, and were very bummed out about it. To make matters worse, as we were reloading our gear into the van, our bass player at the time Jordan Sellers crushed his hand in the service elevator everyone uses to load their gear upstairs. It literally was broken for 4 months after the incident. Anyhow, after all of this nonsense had occured, we were still determined to make something happen even if it was just a party. Luckily, I texted our friend Madison (Langston) who was still living in T-Town at the time and already at a show at Baby Haus. She asked David right then if we could jump on the bill and he obliged. We ended up having one of the best and oddest shows of our life. Down a member, we had to play whatever we could think of that another one of our members could play on bass. It was also the first night I ever saw Gull, who is practically a celebrity in Birmingham now. I couldn’t think of a better way to experience the awesomeness of Baby Haus for the first time.”

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We are all really sad that the epic nature of Baby Haus is now over, but the memories will live on forever. I know someone will pick up the torch soon; Ttown is too rad not to have a DIY venue.

Saturday actually almost felt like just any other Baby Haus show filled with good music and good times until David Allen started handing out the goodie bags that included compilations, reminiscent of the Piss Shivers and Sorry Y’all era, and that’s when the nostalgia kicked in.  Birmingham is lucky to be getting David Allen, and Tuscaloosa will surely miss him.

However, though Baby Haus is over now, Tuscaloosa’s music scene is not. We had a huge benefit show for United Students Against Sweatshops in the basement of a dorm in January, a “Valentine’s Day weekend ‘Cupid is a Sonofabitch’ ” house show last month and have a “Spring Broke” house show planned for March 29th. We are aiming to have an all ages show once a month now. You can keep up with the current happenings in Tuscaloosa through the facebook group DIY Tuscaloosa.

In the words of OG-Baby Jake Hinson, “This is rock ‘n roll, baby. Get used to it.”

Anna Thomas is a writer studying Education and Spanish at the University of Alabama. Currently in the band Rumblepak, she also books shows for DIY Tuscaloosa. She’s the newest addition to BHAMFM. 

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY!!

Today I decided to post a classic video from the band Pavement. Bands like Pavement and Weezer were kind of the alternative to the grunge bands of the mid to late 90s. All the raucous guitar and drums but just a little more nerdy. Here’s Pavement with “Cut Your Hair” from their 1994 album “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”. Sing along with those “ooooh’s”!

FAILURE REUNION

Failure2014

 

It began on October 17 with Failure’s Facebook page changing its cover photo to simply read “FAILURE twenty fourteen”, an action which gained 1809 Likes and 902 Shares (as of this writing). It was shortly followed by a status which read “ITS (sic) on PEOPLE!!”. I’ve seen a tease rollout like this before recently: Refused posted a teaser image on its webpage before later announcing a reunion tour and show at Coachella last year. Since that tease came to fruition, I hoped that something more substantive than a record reissue would follow. Yesterday this was confirmed, as Failure announced that they are playing a reunion show at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. This will mark the first time in 15 years

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that the band has performed together.

Readers will likely have heard of many of Failure’s former members’ more recent work: A Perfect Circle and Queens of the Stone Age (guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen), Autolux (bassist/guitarist Greg Edwards), and Year of the Rabbit (vocalist/guitarist/bass/drums/everything) Ken Andrews. It’s less likely, however, that some will know the original group’s work as the band that made the perfect marriage of grunge and space-rock that isn’t even remotely shoegaze. If you like any of the members’ spinoff projects and/or Hum, post-“Until Your Heart Stops” Cave In, or dare I say Nirvana, you need to listen to more Failure if you aren’t already.

I have a small CD wallet in my car (yes, I still use CDs) that I try to rotate every once in a

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while, but I get stuck (on you, HAR HAR) in a rut and keep the same handful of essentials in there that I just never seem to be done with. Among these must-listens is Failure’s “Fantastic Planet”, a whopping 17-track monster that is more or less divided into three segments via Ken Andrews’ signature segue tracks (appropriately titled “Segue 1”, “Segue Two”, and Segue Three”: “Segue 1” really just kind of extends one of the tracks, though, much like “Meo Bloonasir” extends “Hoppipolla” from Sigur Ros “Takk” [sorry for my bad Icelandic, Culture Czar]). Within “Fantastic Planet” you’ll find what would otherwise end up on a “Failure’s Greatest Hits” collection: “The Nurse Who Loved Me” starts as a sweet acoustic love song that erupts into a jarring fifth-chord grunge anthem (it was also converted to a vocals and strings only cover by A Perfect Circle on “Thirteenth Step”), “Stuck on You” is another with sappy lyrics–an ode to heroin in disguise as a love song–and a distinct high-pitched guitar riff that cements itself as its own earwig in a very meta fashion, and “Dirty Blue Balloons” is basically another song about heroin (Easter Egg: you can hear a lighter, some fizzing, then boiling during the pre guitar solo interlude).

failure1For me, however, the real highlights are “Sergeant Politeness” (which showcases several signature Failure sounds: Andrews’ penchant for barre chords formed with all six strings for fully textured guitar sound, the acoustic-then-electric intro structure, and the guitar as metronome for the song…not to mention lyrics about heroin), “Pillowhead” (an incredibly depressing ode to sexual frustration set to a killer distorted bass riff augmented by a matching acoustic guitar riff), “Another Space Song” (which uses isolation in space a la “Space Oddity” as a metaphor for the perfect girl always eluding your desperate searches: “She’ll always be what I can’t find/She’ll always be where I break down/She’ll always hide behind a star/I’ll always dream: she can’t be far”. Of course, it’s probably also heroin-related), and the super heavy drone of “Heliotropic” (whose drum and throbbing bass will crush you even before the guitars kick in with dual octave riffs dripping with chorus. Also, heroin.) [note: our editor will attest to me forcing her to listen to this song on repeat].

It seems appropriate to insert a disclaimer that, at least in my opinion, all of the heroin-related lyrics are not celebrations or endorsements of drug use, but rather painfully realistic looks at the effects of it and the way that addiction creeps into every aspect of your life. Those sappy forlorn love song lyrics I mentioned earlier can chalk up the separation to addiction, and the album is long on depressive states and short on joy that isn’t simply euphoria from getting high.

Even though “Fantastic Planet” has all the “hits”, their earlier work is absolutely worth checking out. Their second album “Magnified” opens with one of my all-time favorites “Let it Drip” and also contains the title track that you might be more familiar with due to Cave In’s cover on their EP “Creative Eclipses”, which marked their new direction into their classic “Jupiter”. Failure also recorded a terrific cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” that Andrew Fletcher said he actually prefers to his own version! Demos, outtakes, and other extras can also be found on posthumous releases “Golden” (including another favorite of mine, “Shrine”) and “Essentials” (which acts as that aforementioned “Greatest Hits” compilation of selected tracks from their three albums).

When pressed about whether the reunion show was a once only thing or the beginning of a reunion tour, the band replied that the LA show “is the only show confirmed at the moment”. I hope and pray that this extends to a tour, and we will update you if and when that happens. In the meantime, tickets for the LA reunion show go on sale this Thursday. As a bonus, the first 250 ticket purchases from axs.com (or at Amoeba Records and Origami Vinyl in LA) will receive a special edition 7″. I’m getting a 7″ just thinking about a reunion tour WAIT WHAT WHOA WHOA WHOA STAHP.

ICYMI: SPIRITUALIZED – Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

Author note: ICYMI is a new series of posts where I review albums from yesteryear that you might have missed for whatever reason. It could be a totally obscure work, an underground classic, something you may have heard of but never really delved into, something I have a particular affinity for, or it may be something legendary that I felt like reviewing anyway. This is one of many to come. Enjoy.

Ladies_And_Gentlemen_We_Are_Floating_In_Space

Growing up, my brother was the one in our house that listened to music from the British Isles. While I was primarily fixated on American heavy metal, he was listening to U2, Oasis, Radiohead, Travis, Morrissey, The Verve, etc. With the exception of Radiohead and Oasis, I didn’t fall for a lot of “his” bands right off the bat, though there were certainly songs that grabbed and held my attention.

Such was the case with the title track from Spiritualized’s 1997 album Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. I was dumbstruck by the near medicinal haze the song induced. Looped vocal track piled upon looped vocal track upon looped vocal track sailing on an ocean of strings, sustained guitar notes, subtle percussion and heart monitor beeps create a heady, intoxicating cocktail of music with a trance-inducing mantra over the top that renders the song more like a prayer than a rock n’ roll album opener. With lines like “All I want in life is a little bit of love to take the pain away” and “I will love you til I die and I will love you all the time” it’s clear this a broken man searching for solace and meaning and refuge. It’s like Ravel’s Bolero on prayerful hallucinogenics. It’s one of a handful of songs on my Spotify playlist called ad infinitum meaning that I can listen to them forever without getting tired of them. I put it in such a pantheon of esteem that I think it should be taboo to play live, even for the band. I saw them play it live for the first time a few years ago and was honestly a bit let down because the studio version is so perfect.

I seldom made it past that first track back when my brother first bought it in 1997, but over time, I’ve grown to love the record more than him I think. The title track explodes into “Come Together” which feels bombastic because of it’s immediate use of drum kit as opposed to the slight, textural percussion of the opener. The stilted vocal delivery and grandiose, swirling horns put Jason Pierce’s dynamic songwriting on full display within the first pair of tunes.

A rock band employing string sections and brass sections often comes off as facile or schmaltzy as it’s typically done in the most superficial of ways. Pierce is in full command of the instruments at his disposal though. He uses the great dynamic range of the mini orchestra to swing the pendulum from elegiac solemnity to nearly free jazz chaos, sometimes in a single song. These songs aren’t grand because the can be, they’re grand because they have to be. That said, Pierce can also dial it down to minimal instrumentation on a track like “Stay With Me” that has flourishes of peak era Pink Floyd without being derivative.

Lyrically speaking, Spiritualized has typically stuck to three main themes: earthly love, god, and drugs…and sometimes two or three of them intertwined together. He never shies away from acknowledging his addictions/demons/muses:

I sometimes have my breakfast right off of a mirror / and sometimes I have it right out of a bottle

Sometimes things are crystal clear, sometimes they’re obscured by who knows what. The lyrics and the meaning fade. And just when it feels like all is lost, in comes a song like “Cool Waves” that sounds like the church music you wish existed.

The album wraps up with the 17-minute “Cop Shoot Cop” which would normally be considered a bloated, self-indulgent, overly long run time, but makes perfect sense here in context of the entire album. This album is grand and deserves a grand finale which “Cop Shoot Cop” delivers while oscillating between bluesy gospel and guitar driven cacophony.

At 70 minutes, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space is rather long on the surface, but there’s so much here to explore that the ride seems incredibly brief. I listened to the album nearly twice all the way through while writing this and it felt like no more than 45 minutes or so. This is not background music. This is music to pay attention to. Listening to this IS the activity. Listen to it loud while reclining on your sofa, listen to it on headphones and melt into your bed. Turn the lights down low and settle in for the ride. They don’t make albums like this anymore.

You can stream the full album on YouTube here.

(Banner image courtesy of Julio Enriquez)

Arctic Monkeys Hangover

This is the part where I write about seeing what is probably my favorite modern band play my hometown last night.

I will tell you how great it was. How Alex Turner was so cute and OMG HE COMBED HIS SLICKED BACK HAIR ON STAGE.

But this is going to be different. Last night, I was lucky enough to stand in a huddle with my friends and completely lose it. I also woke up with no voice or muscle movement this morning so I would call that a success or a stroke and I bet I had both because I got to stare and point and pound my fist at Alex Turner all night.

The first strange thing of the night was seeing the tangible surroundings of a sold out show. I mean, I knew it was sold out, but I didn’t think more than two seconds about it.

Tagging along when they played Brighton, maybe 2006ish

I guess I was in Special Snowflake mode, because all I could think of was my experience. I kind of have a past with the band. When I was younger, thinner and much poorer, I dated a touring musician. That doesn’t make him or me or anyone special. Like I said, pay attention to that “poor” part. Well, their particular brand of cutthroat yet bouncy songs about girls could actually get them booked in the UK and so off we went. I say we. I tagged along but remember it fondly. After a year or so of watching my ex play massive festivals and me stalking Alex Turner in the bus area and craft services tables behind every stage, their band was miraculously asked to open on a string of dates for the Arctic Monkeys. So I have met Alex. And I have met Matt Helders, who is the only famous person I’ve ever been lost in Wales with, by the way. I’m gonna stop with all this and say yes, I am still allowed to have hero worship if I kinda knew them once. They wont remember me, I’m sure because they are guided and greeted by countless new people every time they step off a bus, but I am very glad they finally made it to play for the first time in Birmingham and maybe even remember that they once had some sleepless and cramped days with a girl who told them a thousand times that she was from here but they still kept making jokes about Tennessee. I’m very cool with that.

That’s why I was in awe of the amount of people who live in my city were into this band. You hear “they’re huge in Europe” alot, but these guys ARE the most famous band in the UK. They are number 1 with a bullet and get more press than the economic crisis — and have for the past decade. Every British citizen knows every member’s name and love life almost by accident. The world watched them grow from what everyone thought was gonna be a punky boy band into a band full of grown ass musicians led by a man who can juke lyrics so well that when you listen out for the intricacies and the poetry inside them, he’s already taken you hostage on a jagged switchback turn. I often get jealous of how bands as good these guys get actual air play and TV time on mainstream broadcast in the UK but we get Miley Cyrus weirdness & Big Sean all over my dial.

The second strange thing from last night was seeing how many VERY YOUNG folks came out. I always sort of thought of the Arctic Monkeys as a band that got big during my prime (Alex Turner and I actually share the same birthday), so feeling old in my late twenties was definitely in effect. I had to remind myself they’ve been a band long enough now to absorb Gen X, Y, Millenials and whatever idiot “tween” synonym we’re supposed to call the youngest among us.

I didn’t memorize the set list order but I recall every song they did and didn’t play just because their songs are written on the tapestry of my twisted little brain.

I turned my phone off for the entirety of the show because I wanted to see and feel every minute. This video turned up of them playing their biggest hit I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor at Iron City last night. As you can see, the crowd moved to every beat and the band was on point.

Also, look below for a bit of the encore. It was insane. The place went crazy.

The band must’ve played for 2+ hours. The crowd was super involved and at one time, Alex Turner stopped to wipe his face with a towel and said “Do you want more? We definitely have to come back to Birmingham!”

This is more of “how is Whitney holding up” post because this was my hajj back into all the experiences that I associate with each of their songs. For example: I played “Crying Lightning” during a particular shitty part of my life where I had to get poked and shot up and hooked up to machines as part of a treatment for something that scared the shit out of me. The nurses knew that I wasn’t ready until I put my earbuds and closed my eyes and the “escape” playlist began with that song. The feeling is still very strong because I usually only get one verse in before my face is hot with painful memories but also relief that I got through that all alone.

So there’s one. We all feeling closer? Good.

Another example is “I Wanna Be Yours”. I’ve written about the famous poem that inspired the last song on their latest album. I even considered getting a tattoo of a few words of it at one time.

They graciously played “Do Me A Favour” which is one of the best love songs ever written. It’s an amazing song that describes the parts of love that hurt. The unrequited bits or the times when you care about someone so much that you’ll let them hurt you or themselves “for the greater good”.

Hearing the tracks from the new album though, especially, live was exactly what I wanted & needed at this point. I’ve seen them 5 times on my own and Ive been along for the ride on 4 of their dates in the UK. I’m a big fan of “new” Arctic Monkeys. Anything Humbug and after is my jam because it is a window into how artists grow. However, I have massive love for earlier stuff because the upbeat music and insane wordplay is what brought me into their fold.

One of our writers, Culture Czar, has a wise saying about this band. That each album is better than the last. I’m one of those who agree.

He’ll be doing a proper & detailed review of the set last night tomorrow complete with better photos and video from our staff, so I’m sorry if I just took up your brain space with story time. But man, was that shit awesome last night.

 

 

ShuffleLove: The Hold Steady – Stuck Between Stations, Boys And Girls In America, 2006

I never liked Jack Kerouac. I’m pretty sure that I was introduced to him way too late in my life–I was no longer a whimsical teenager who believed that anything was possible; instead I was a college graduate who was reading all of the classics that I should’ve paid attention to during those formative years while working at a golf pro shop.

The job was simple enough: I worked the desk, checked folks in & out, & from time to time, I would suggest various pieces of golfing equipment for customers. I would give vague advice in regards to club speed: you need to be able to hit the ball as far as you can, but you don’t want to sacrifice accuracy, I would vacuum the tartan-patterned carpet.

But most of all, I would read those classics–most I would slog through for the benefit of “bettering” myself; I was hoping to attend graduate school the next year & I figured I needed to at least have these books ready in my ‘have-read’ catalogue provided that I would find myself at an awkward party where someone would chastise me for never reading Rilke, or Kerouac, or that other white dude who did that thing.

During this classics binge, I decided that if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to know as much about writers as possible, & so I started reading through interviews in The Paris Review–I learned about Carver & Coover & Bishop & Eliot & Vonnegut & Didion, so on & so forth. I distinctly remember reading John Berryman’s interview, which was conducted shortly before he flung himself into the Mississippi River. In it, the interviewer asks him about ranking certain poets & writers: if he were to give the world a top five list, where would he fit. He refuses to do so, saying that it is hard to distance their work from his personal relationships with the work & the writers; he has dinner with Robert Lowell, so he can’t possibly put him 3rd or 4th.

This is all to say is that when we write about music, we tend to rank things: we obsess over year-end lists, we talk about who are favorite bands are, what is the best concert we’ve ever seen. Even in the previous iterations of this series, I’ve found myself mentioning how a particular album is still an all-time favorite; this other band was my favorite band in high school. The Hold Steady, especially Boys and Girls in America, would rank pretty high on the list of favorites–I have an intimate relationship with this album; it brings me back to the beginnings of my second year in Tuscaloosa–driving home from the Downtown Pub & not turning off my Ford Explorer until the pianos built back up during “First Night,” or running as fast as I can on a treadmill the next morning to “Stuck Between Stations,” trying to forget a Midwestern girl who didn’t show up to the bar even though she said she would.

And that’s the problem: the album arrived at a pitch-perfect time for all of these moments–I was about to turn 24, I was one-year into something that I was completely unsure of, yet entirely devoted to, I had things sorted out for a hot second before they cooled into something unrecognizable. I liked the warm feeling but I was tired of all the dehydration; I knew some damn good dancers & some terrible girlfriends; I was pretty good with words, but they were delivering me nowhere & nowhere fast.

So I sang along & deemed these songs anthems; told everyone that this was my favorite album of the year. But perhaps I had grown too close to it–as Berryman said, it’s hard to think rationally & critically about something when you had dinner with the artist the night before. To this day, “Stuck Between Stations,” is still on my iTunes Top 25 Most Played, & I haven’t come across it in at least two or three years now.

One of the great things in life is stumbling across songs from your past & re-evaluating them with an older ear: occasionally you’ll listen to something that you couldn’t get enough of when you were younger but it now sounds hollow. Other times, you hear something & have a new appreciation for. With the case of “Stuck Between Stations,” it’s hard to say that I would love this song as much if I came into it at a different point in my life; if, say, I had first heard it when I was 25, or, hell, even now, where my musical palate has shifted strongly away from guitars & towards synthesizers. I could’ve loved “On The Road.” I could’ve found Craig Finn’s rambling grating instead of endearing. I could’ve been a different writer. A different person.

And yet, I listen to “Stuck Between Stations,” now–the ringing piano coming in with its stop-start motions, the shouts of “on the radio,” & I get excited. I hear the references to Berryman, & the Golden Gophers, & the Twin City kisses & I think of my girlfriend from St. Paul who is sleeping with the lights on as I write this essay. I think of the randomness of static: the millions of patterns on loop, how every variable is unsystematic–& yet, in the end, the white noise is universal: a symphony of low frequency, the hum of a vacuum cleaner across golf cleat pocked carpet, the whirr of a transmission as it upshifts up the hill near the library, all things stray, yet all things delivered comfortably–a flat signal with no timeline to speak of.