WNnG – Musings from the desk of chaz.

Whatever Brains Apathetically Take the Triangle by Storm.
February 24, 2009, 4:55 pm
Filed under: Bull City Records, New Music

By now, despite my reluctance to post anything about it here, most of you know that Bull City Records released its first 7″ in January. The release has been doing very well on its own steam and I’ve been extremely excited to be a part of it. Actually, I was flattered to even be given the masters to send off to the pressing plant – I thought for sure that they’d realize the weight of what they had and move on quickly to bigger things. Before the release hit the streets, I awkwardly asked if I’d be able to do the next one. Much to my surprise they agreed yet again! Following the second 7″, which we should see in a couple months, I’m hoping they will have been snagged up by a larger label and on to the next tier where they belong.

If you have not taken a second to see the Whatever Brains in all their live glory, I suggest you do so. I’ve got a handful of live video shots that I need to upload to youtube. If you have not heard them, I suggest you march on over to their myspace page and give it a spin.

The point of this post is to announce that our beloved Brains have been given a shot at the bigger leagues. My rep at Matador asked the other week if I’d like for them to try and sell some. All I have to do now is fill out a W9 form and send ’em a batch of thirty! With this batch on the road, it means we’ve been able to move about 250 of the 7″s just in the first two months. It has been very exciting to watch the progress – we’ve been learning as we go along. Let’s not get too excited though, Matador is still able to return them if they don’t sell…so it’s best not to jinx their generous offer. But c’mon, this band is the biggest thing to come out of the Triangle in years.

Here’s Grayson’s write-up and Bryan Reed’s review.

The Scan blog has been revived and is back to doing a marvelous job of documenting the local happenings again.
Just thought I’d give another little update on the state of things around here!


February 19, 2009, 4:07 pm
Filed under: Shows

Don’t forget.

JANDEK is coming to Chapel Hill. Gerrard Hall. Sunday night.

Accompanying him are locals Anne Gomez (CGJ, America’s Next Top Models, etc.) on bass and John Darnielle (Mountain Goats, himself) on keys with Brian Jones (Agents of Good Roots) on drums. Jandek has been recording his music under a shroud of mystery for the last thirty years. Recording and layering his music by himself and releasing it, again by himself, to the masses first through LPs and now through CD. We can be hopeful that he returns full time to vinyl.

Grayson’s article (a discussion about Jandek with John) – here.
Wikipedia article – here.

What’s the total number of performances he’s done? It’s somewhere in the ballpark of 40. Over thirty years. The numbers show it’s not something to miss.

You can grab presale tickets here if you live in Durham and you need them. I think they’re just 20 bucks, I’m too lazy to open the drawer and double check.

February 19, 2009, 3:16 pm
Filed under: New Music

Last night I saw Antony & the Johnsons on Letterman. It was truly something amazing and as much as I find it strange to review a television appearance, you’re just gonna have to bare with me – I have yet to see them live. As soon as I received the new album in the mail a couple months ago, I became a convert and I finally was open to the absolute beauty of his songwriting. Really, I was a bit dumbfounded and embarrassed to have passed over such an artist in the past. I’d always just pushed his music off to the side as part of the new oddball-“avant”-indie-movement. A songwriter joining the ranks of the new phase of faux-eccentric artists looking to make a name through kitsch and gimmick.

Little did I know this man was the real thing. A twisted, shining moment that only comes through in the swing of music once every decade or so. Maybe it’s just because I’m in my 51st Velvets/proto-punk obsession phase and I’m more prone to being swept away by the avant, androgynous flirting with the music norms. Maybe it was seeing him on an established variety show like Letterman that excited me – an artist living on the edge of what is accepted, yet too pretty and relevant to hide. Perhaps his appearance has everything to do with Paul Shaffer still appreciating and realizing good music and pushing it on the Late Night crew. Maybe the writers are hip to it, or the interns, maybe even Letterman likes pushing his audience a little – which is actually why I like to watch him. Letterman toys with the audience and pokes them a bit, he brings an edge with a grin into his show, like he’s got a secret on you. But anyway, that’s beside the point. As I watched this enormous, other-worldly voice creep out of this androgynous, black-haired being hunkered behind a piano on a show catering towards conservative, TV-watching America, I was enamored. It was a scene from a smoke-filled bar room with a lost soul perched behind his one love, one comfort, his instrument, crooning out his soul and angle towards an audience unsure if they wanted to listen, unsure if they believed what they were seeing. It was this scene, but broadcast into everyone’s room in every state. I got this swell of pride that there’s room for a genuine edge in mainstream music again. Or at least edge and beauty are allowed to flirt, tangle and clash in front of a large audience that wants it.

The raw emotion and honesty of the performance is what really inspired me. That duality and juxtaposition of beauty and turmoil. Beauty existing in the dark. Pain put on a pedestal. It reminded me of the uneasiness of the perfect Lou Reed performance, when Bowie could chillingly deliver a bent ballad, Richard Hell and Patti Smith creating a jarring background for their biting poetry, Iggy baring himself and breaking down in his primal state to the audience – they all stir that similar, welcome feeling of inspiration deep enough to penetrate a jaded soul. It was beautiful to experience this and it makes his new album that much richer. He’s on to something special here and I intend to follow it. It’s too beautiful and heart-wrenching to ignore.

But then again. I am a jaded record store clerk and I am reading too much on Iggy, the Velvets and the proto-punk generation at the moment. Again. Maybe this is exactly what I’ve been looking for.

Chaz-fact#232: I was working the graveyard at a 24hr convenience store in CO and this memorable, hunkering, short-bleached-hair gentleman comes in. Lou Reed is playing literally 5 blocks away and I could not get off work – it was bad. I was not happy. I was listening to VU & Nico and and as he bought smokes he commented on how he’d have to tell Lou that some kid was playing his music in the local convenience store. I was thrilled. Years later after hearing that Antony had been a backup singer for Lou Reed, I saw a picture of him and realized he was that random, memorable dude. I became thrilled all over again. From Lou Reed backup to starlet of his own show pushing the same eccentric values. Perfect.

Harsh Days.
February 5, 2009, 1:19 pm
Filed under: Ramble

The year itself is off to a great start; however, within the world of rock’n’roll there are some unfortunate stirrings.

A couple days ago marked the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper – the tagged “Day the Music Died.” Granted, most of us have gotten over this by now (the majority of us reading this weren’t even born yet), but it’s still something we can feel the ripples from and we are very aware of its importance and ultimate tragedy. Personally, I think this day should be turned into one of those party days that have been sneakily turned into “holidays” and excuses to either take off work or get nothing done and have a party instead. I won’t name any of these “holidays” but I’m pretty sure you all know what I’m talking about. They might not fall on the same days as each other, but we all have ’em…and we all use them to their fullest extent. So, this will be my new “holiday,” care to join me? February 3rd. See ya next year.

February 4th, 2009, just a couple days ago, we lost a monumental figure in the shaping of punk rock and the American underground music movement. Lux Interior of the Cramps (that’s a video from their infamous set at Napa State Mental Hospital) passed away in a hospital from heart failure. Not only did he bring traditional music and blues/rockabilly into the underground scene, gaining a new found respect for it, but he helped forge a new hybrid of popular music. He smashed horror/sci-fi movie lyrics and mumblings into a sexually charged, tangled, fuzzy mess of blues and rock’n’roll. The Cramps have been cited as paving a pulsing path to both the psychobilly and horrorpunk genres. For that, we owe them heaving amounts of respect and gratitude. Afterall, it was partly the Cramps responsibility for spawning the DC hardcore scene after Ian MacKaye and crew saw them live on tour and there’s no doubt in my mind that it was the Cramps who planted the seed in Glenn Danzig’s head leading him to create the Misfits. That’s something of which to be extremely proud. Lux Interior helped to put the danger back into rock’n’roll, he made it something to be scared and in awe of all over again. The 70s had caused rock to go soft and like the Stooges before him, he was there to rattle things up all over again. Which leads us to the next bit of sad news.

As I posted earlier, in the beginning of January, Ron Asheton, co-founder of the Stooges was found dead in his home. Ron Asheton created the dark, dirgy guitar riffs that made the Stooges who they were. Leaving behind boring chord structures, he played simple, blues-inspired lines with a seething, bottom-heavy distortion. With Dave Alexander on bass and Ron’s brother, Scott on drums, laying down a mesmerizing, rhythmic backdrop, Ron cut and sliced his way in a gnarly, muscly fashion disrupting the relaxed environment the two were creating and locking down. Whatever dark, meditational tones the rhythm section plugged away at, he was there to slaughter it and create an inner-song build and tension. He created the anxious playground over which Iggy Pop was allowed to dance, croon and howl. Not too many guitarist are credited with inspiring literal decades of musicians. Look up the Stooges on Youtube and you’ll experience the full on power of the band.

I’ll wrap it up there since I already talked at length about the Stooges and Ron Asheton last month. Right now as I’m putting this together, the Cramps are being played over the air on WXDU. Thanks guys!

So, where this might be a promising year for modern music, we’re already off to a nervous start for the classics and the ones who have inspired us. Time to show respect for our elders.

Quick Plug.
January 7, 2009, 8:01 pm
Filed under: Shows

Thursday, January 8th.
9:30pm. Nightlight.


2009 starts off with a serious, scattering bang as one hell of a garage show slams into town. The Whatever Brains are one of the most exciting bands to hit the Triangle in the last decade. Yes, they’re a brand new band, with a brand new 7″ (wink wink), but they’ve all been honing their chops in various other bands for years now. This sound was worked over and pieced together in the basement and just recently was allowed to creep out unto the unsuspecting masses. Best local band of the new year? Yes. Best local band of the last five years? Woncha come out and see? Manic, jittery garage pop with a fever of a spin on Phil Spector’s wall of sound.

Judging from what people have said about the Box Elders’ Goner Fest performance in Memphis, this is going to be absolutely amazing. I’ve heard a lot of good feedback from this year’s fest, but nothing has my ears ringing as much as the anticipation of seeing this band tomorrow night. Well, I’d really like to see the Eddy Current Suppression Ring and they might be the only other band that I’ve heard as much praise for concerning their live performance during Goner Weekend (if you haven’t already, listen to their latest LP, geeeeeez). Anyway, I haven’t even allowed myself to go unto myspace to give the Box Elders a spin. I’m too excited just to see them and take it all in at once.

Gross Ghost is Mikey Dillon’s new project. I haven’t heard them yet and I don’t know what he’s doing with this one, but I’m psyched to see it! Shouldn’t disappoint. This is their first show.

As it’s closing time, I’ll leave you with some YouTube footage for enticement purposes.

Whatever Brains:

Box Elders:

Stooges on WXDU
January 7, 2009, 1:09 pm
Filed under: Durham

This is why I love my local radio station. Last night I heard the sad news of Ron Asheton passing away. Ron Asheton (the original, founding guitarist, then bassist, then guitarist again) was basically the one Stooge with his head on semi-straight. While the others recklessly pushed their health and mental states to the limits, Ron hit a point where he knew it was time to stop, or at least slow down. He was the Stooge that always wanted to keep the unit glued together and looked on at Iggy’s post-Stooges solo career with hurt and a bit of embarrassment. Even as the Stooges were gearing up for their reunion shows over thirty years after the fact, he was still humbly living in his mom’s house outside of Detroit.

I walk into work today, go about my usual routine and flip on WXDU. Cranking out of the speakers comes a familiar raw, dark mantric sound. It’s the Stooges. And it’s great. I can’t think of a better way to walk into work today. It’s a crummy, overcast day, probably gonna be slow in the shop, but I’ve got my Stooges and I’ve got my WXDU. The three Stooges LPs are untouchable, unsurpassable masterpieces of simplicty, rawness and brutal passion. They locked into meditation-like grooves with a manic, inner-agitation creating this amazing, nervous confusion of emotions. Iggy and Ron would surge and sear through the locked rhythm creating a frenzy and mini-riot onstage. They were well ahead of their time and suffered a severe crash and burn amidst hails of mostly bad criticism, sending all members splayed out in different directions. The Stooges combined free-form, psychedelic rock and a snarly take on blues rhythms with unbridled outpouring from a split personality frontman. Part poet, part madman. This style would soon find a name in punk rock and inspire four decades worth of kids (and counting) to pick up instruments and bash out noise.

This morning, WXDU played three Stooges tracks resulting in a great 15 minute block tribute to one of the finest bands of the last thirty years. Thanks WXDU! For anyone reading this out of town, WXDU is our local college/community station. It’s based on the campus of Duke University and is run by a combination of undergrads, grad students and community members. The programming is phenomenal for such a small station in such a small town, there’s hardly a dull moment. I owe them a lot of gratitude for turning me unto new stuff and simply just keeping me entertained throughout the day.


Directly following the block that gave this day a headstart over all other days this week, the DJ, Mark, played the first track off the new Whatever Brains 7″! More on that very thing later. Probably this afternoon as I need to plug a show that they’re playiong tomorrow night. Gotta get on that.

Quick Update on Show.
December 8, 2008, 1:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

(just sent this out in an email too, sorry if you’re seeing it twice!!)

Hey guys!
Last minute, I know. I’m guilty of it a lot. Just wanted to write real quick about a show tonight. (And maybe plug a couple more with details to follow.)

Tonight (Mon) @ BCHQ.
7pm. (Really)
5 bucks.

Off With Their Heads are truly one of THE BEST current punk bands. Hands down. Dark, super catchy and melodic. They’ve got releases on Recess, No Idea and countless 7″ labels and biggies like Fat Wreck Chords and Dirtnap have been scratching at their door. The lyrics are dark and a bit creepy at times, the songwriter is an uberfan of John Darnielle and the Mountain Goats (and it shows), but the music has more in common with the Dillinger 4 and NOFX. This combo makes for
some of the best anthemic, dark music this side of Lookout Records. If you’re missing bands like Crimpshrine, J Church, Pinhead Gunpowder and early Green Day, this here is for you!

Dear Landlord has released a split 7″ with these guys and probably shares a member or two. Also, fun, catchy punk with some dark tendencies. Also shares members with midwest pop punk greats, the Copyrights. This is the first chance I have gotten to see them live and I’m pretty psyched, word is that it’s a sight to see!

The Begin-Agains are the Triangle’s great punk hope at the moment. These guys are either fresh outta high school or still pluggin away behind the chalkboard, and still manage to bring the true youthful spirit of rock back into our shows. They combine the energy of Screaching Weasel and the Ergs with the songwriting and bite of early Alkaline Trio. This is not a band to miss. One of the current best in the Triangle, but their shows have started to become a little more rare. (Remember getting grounded?)
The Aints are a brand new Durham band. Haven’t seen ’em yet, but I’m pretty excited about it. I should have more to gush about them tomorrow. As of right now, alls I know is I like how their myspace page plays and some of them are obsessed with Black Flag, while others are obsessed with the New Bomb Turks. Ummm…I really don’t see how you can go wrong anywhere in there, so I eagerly await their BCHQ debut tonight.
Hope to see ya out!!!
And again, sorry for the short notice. But hell, what’s a Monday night punk rock show without a little sense of urgency and last-minute excitement.
Thanks for reading!!!!