Husker Du, Ramones, Big Black, Tutu & the Pirates, U.S. Maple, Hamid Drake, Elizabeth Coudoux, Matchess, Red Bull Round Robin at Thalia Hall (Chicago, August 30th, 2018), the Headhunters, Andy Mackay

Gotta love PBS, in this case Minnesota Public Television, who have produced Minnesota Hardcore, a very well-done “fast-paced, musical docu-series that examines the punk scene in the Twin Cities from 1980 to 1985.” Apparently you can watch a full-length edit of the whole thing with the PBS app on a smart TV, or one episode at a time on the Minnesota Public Television web page, but for now, I just wanted to mention a very brief excerpt from Episode 2: The Fastest Band in the World, this exchange from right after the 1:20 mark, from a 1980s interview with Greg Norton and Grant Hart of Husker Du:

INTERVIEWER: What got you guys together?

NORTON: What got us together?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, what got you guys together?

NORTON: Records.

INTERVIEWER: Records got you together.

HART: Yeah.

While saying this, Norton and Hart are in fact sitting in front of hundreds of vinyl records, which are on a shelf on the wall behind them, above a turntable at what appears to be a college radio station. It really is all about records. I mean, if someone asked me why I’m doing what I’m doing, this thing called Blastitude, I could surely go on for hours, but I think all of that long wind could be summed up in one word: records.

The doc cuts from this archival footage that tells how Norton met Hart, to a present-day talking-head interview with Norton, where he talks about meeting Bob Mould for the first time. I’m sure I read this all in Our Band Could Be Your In Life, but I’d forgotten: Hart already knew Mould, and introduced him to Norton when they all met up to go see the Ramones together, believe it or not, because the NYC legends were coming to St. Paul, Minnesota… to open for Foreigner! I wonder if any of the future members of Husker Du stuck around for all of the headlining act. Anyway, this show apparently took place on November 18, 1978. The Ramones’ 4th album Road to Ruin had been released a couple months before that. Fortunately, they did not tour with Foreigner, the billing an apparent one-off.


Here’s another proto/punk/postpunk interview excerpt I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing directly from a doc and/or podcast, this time Mark Shippy (U.S. Maple, Invisible Things, Miracle Condition, Billington/Shippy/Wyche) breaking down some micro-evolutionary regional post-punk history while listening to “Kerosene” by Big Black, in which he brings up youthful memories of Chicago band Tutu & the Pirates (this is from a 2015 episode of the highly recommended Now Is podcast, as produced and hosted by Ben Remsen in Chicago from 2015 through 2018) (note that excerpt is barely about Tutu & the Pirates at all, sike):

SHIPPY: [Tutu & the Pirates] was a little different than Crass, but it was similar to that kind of new punk sound of the later 70s, whereas you had the Sex Pistols, and everyone wanted to be the Sex Pistols, but then like Joy Division went off and did their own thing, and thankfully they did. (Even though they claimed they wanted to be the Sex Pistols.) And then the Buzzcocks had this poppy [sound], you could play it on the radio, and Tutu and the Pirates were a little more aggressive I think, so it was going towards that Effigies and Naked Raygun [sound]... I was too young in the late 70s to really know what was going on, but by the early 80s I was going to punk rock shows, and there were bands like Articles of Faith, and No Empathy, and Out of Order, these bands that were really good. I really didn’t know about Big Black until going to dance clubs with girlfriends.

REMSEN: They played Big Black at dance clubs?


REMSEN: Like the Kraftwerk cover?

SHIPPY: No, they played like “Kerosene”!

REMSEN: With a dance beat or just straight-up this song?

SHIPPY: People were out there just dancing to this! It was at these kind of twee punk rock dance places.

REMSEN: I mean, I guess it is kind of, like, gothy. Kind of like gothy dance music.

SHIPPY: Yeah! Oh yeah, there was this one club out in the suburbs called McGreevy’s, and you had to be under 21 to go there. So I barely made it, I was like 18 or 19, and I would go, and there were little kids running around with mohawks, and there was the Goth Room. Actually, that was more for like Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Bauhaus, stuff like that was played there. I think Tones on Tails had just come out with their first record; the Tones on Tails and other stuff was played in the Jungle Room, next door, because it was more like, boppy and dancy. The Goth Room had more like Joy Division and stuff like that, and the more doom stuff. Everybody wanted darkwave. And in the other room was the more dance stuff. That was where Big Black was played, in the Jungle Room.

REMSEN: Whoah, that’s crazy.

SHIPPY: Where it was like, and this isn’t homophobic at all, but it was the gay guys with their shirts off and dancing with each other and sweating to “Kerosene”! In the mid-80s!


POSTSCRIPT: Following up on Shippy’s memories of the suburban Glenview, IL teen new wave club McGreevy’s, here’s a vintage 1986 mainstream media (Chicago Tribune) article about the place, as well as Medusa’s, another legendary 1980s Chicago-area teen club. Medusa’s was in the city’s north-side Lakeview neighborhood, appropriately close by all the Belmont/Clark/Halsted countercultural hullabaloo.


There’s Mark Shippy, in the foreground of this video, wearing the fancy grey suit, on second lead guitar for his band U.S. Maple in the year 1997. Or is he on first lead guitar and Todd Rittmann is on rhythm guitar? Or are they both on co-lead stun guitar? Not sure, but I can verify that they were a stunning band, amazing live as you can see here, that I was lucky enough to see once myself, opening for Jesus Lizard in Lincoln, Nebraska,maybe in 1998? J-Liz (sorry) had released their final LP Blue in spring of 1998, and I remember it being warm out, so it probably was 1998 and they were touring for that release. The drummer after all was Jim Kimball from Laughing Hyenas and Mule, who joined the band late in their run. They broke up not too long after, but certainly ripped that night. The crowd went crazy, myself included (they’re a great band that, not counting this show, I’ve listened to for maybe 35 minutes total my entire life?), but U.S. Maple stole the show. Whether or not the Jesus Lizard crowd liked them or not wasn’t really the question. The crowd were too busy just reacting, not really dancing but just kind of generally freaking out, more or less yelling at the band throughout the show, kind of like in the video above, but more so, and it was definitely not all heckling. A lot of it was appreciation, and even strange attempts at conversation and camaraderie. There was one long-haired guy doing a full-on headbanger #hairwhip to the songs, right in front of the stage, for long periods of time. He even kept it going between songs, and the beauty of U.S. Maple is that their rhythms, no matter how obtuse, and whether starting, or stopping, or some strange place in between, always fit with the rhythm of the hairwhip, and vice versa.


Since I’ve already spent about 30 minutes of #myprecioustime transcribing stuff people say on the Now Is podcast, I’m gonna go ahead and give you a full hour so you can also read these #inspirational #deepstatements from the episode in which host Ben Remsen welcomed legendary Chicago drummer/percussionist Hamid Drake. Take it away, Hamid…

We Have the Capacity to Contain All: “I want my heart to always be like we were talking earlier, about the flower in the flower garden. But, there’s a garden inside the flower, so I want my heart to always have the ability and the capacity to contain many worlds. Any world, you know? Because I firmly believe that we are an expression of all. So, if we’re an expression of all, then in one sense nothing should be foreign to us. Because we have the capacity to contain all. Like Rumi said, ‘You think yourself only a puny form, but within thee the whole universe is folded.’ And the universe being in us doesn’t just mean the things we happen to like in the moment! (Big laugh) But everything is there, you know. All the emotions, all the different categories, this, this, that, all the different gender type relationships. I mean, every thing. It’s there. It’s contained inside of us. And whether we have a choice for certain things, I can’t say. Different things happen in life that cause us to move in different directions.”

Music is a Branch of Yoga: “Even growing up there was always that kind of intuitive sense, but I didn’t have the vocabulary for it per se, and that is, to me: music is a branch of yoga. It’s a branch of yoga, it’s called nāda yoga, because nāda means sound. Also, there’s a whole ‘nother thing that goes along with that, it’s called Nada-Brahma, which means “God is sound,” or the divine, however we look at that. And it can be looked at, like Sri Ramakrishna said, for every being there is a pathway to some sort of ultimate understanding. So that means there’s as many so-called religions as there are people. You don’t even have to use that word, but just modes of awakening, or modes of, like, coming to some type of understanding of consciousness, and however that might relate to a sound in whatever way it relates. So for me, music has for a long time been like a yoga or a pathway to come to some deeper type of understanding, and we can talk about that on and on and on without even using the word religion, we don’t have to use the word spirituality, but since we do use words, and words help us to define the meaning of things, sometimes it’s good also to use words that some of us might not agree with, because then that can evoke other types of conversation to get to deeper levels of understanding.”

HAMID DRAKE (right), discussing all (as in, “every thing”), with fellow Chicago master drummer and annual Winter Solstice duo partner Michael Zerang (left).


Heard this #mindblowingsolocellotrack “In Sounding Bodies” by German musician Elisabeth Coudoux on WNUR 89.3FM Evanston while driving to work a while back. Still haunts me. Cool to find this interview with Coudoux where she mentions listening to the music of Chicago’s own Whitney Johnson aka Matchess, something I’ve been doing too, the Sacracorpa album in particular. Also realized while researching that Coudoux and Johnson were both born in the new-wave 80s, right around the same year that previous Chicago Tribune article on punk and post-punk teen clubs in the greater Chicagoland area was published. Shout out to all Millennials for bringing all this radical shit into the 21st Century, #notbeingsarcastic. To wit:


#HeyIwasatthisshow and #speakingofMatchess, I just came across this excerpt on YouTube from the “Red Bull Round Robin” at Thalia Hall, Chicago, on August 30th, 2018. A whole bunch of various local musicians/poets/etc played like 5-6 minute improvised sets, and they all overlapped with each other in various duos and solos. Yes, it was sponsored by an energy drink company, and yes, it was completely amazing. I have a note in my phone with all the performers in order, indeed dated August 30th, 2018. Remember, they each played solo, but also in overlapping/segueing duos with the previous and next person on the list. So the note on my phone reads like this, “Haley Fohr > Ben Lamar Gay > Matchess > Jeff Parker > Lisa E Harris > Jaime Fennelly > Katinka Kleijn (cello) > Matthew Lux > Jovia Armstrong > Kevin Coval > Akenya > Makaya McCraven > Matana Roberts > The Twilite Tone > Angel Bat Dawid > Roscoe Mitchell > everyone,” which actually means “Haley Fohr solo > Haley Fohr/Ben Lamar Gay duo > Ben Lamar Gay solo > Ben Lamar Gay/Matchess duo > Matchess solo > Matchess/Jeff Parker duo,” and so on. The video embedded above is the “everyone” finale, as conducted by Roscoe Mitchell. Just a mind-blowing line-up, even more so looking at it now. (Angel Bat Dawid/Roscoe Mitchell clarinet/soprano duo!?) Glad I went! #chicagoshowreport.


Whoah, #notaChicagoshow but a #preposterouslyfunkyperformancealert nonetheless, this version of “Doin’ It” by Herbie Hancock & the Headhunters that starts around the 10:35 mark of the Don Kirshner Rock Concert telecast embedded above is #preposterouslyfunkyindeed.


When I first heard that Roxy Music multi-instrumentalist Andy Mackay released a solo album in 1974 called In Search of Eddie Riff, I thought it was a joke. But it’s real. I’ll leave you with that thought, and that thought only, with nary an embedded YouTube to guide it… (I still haven’t heard it either) #InSearchofEddieRiff