Wednesday, January 23, 2013

City in Shadows: The love letter to Missoula

Posted By on Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Behold! Artist Andy Smetanka has made his short film City in Shadows available in its entirety.

Smetanka_4_web.JPG

The silhouette animation shows Missoula landmarks in dusky yet colorful imagery—a style that Smetanka has become known for. The soundtrack was recorded at MAM by musician Shane Hickey. It features a who's who of local musicians: Lisena Brown on piano, Hermina Harold on guitar, June West on banjo, Gibson Hartwell on pedal steel, plus Smetanka, who adds to the otherworldly ambience with wine glasses, singing saw and birdcalls.

Seen all across Facebook ever since this video went up: posts from former Missoulians really missing Missoula.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Record junkie step-by-step

Posted By on Mon, Jan 21, 2013 at 11:00 AM

It always is the same.

You get a paycheck, and rationalize that you will only spend $20 this time.

You tell yourself it’ll be all right. You’ll only spend a half-hour looking for it. You’ll find a cheap one. It will be ok. Just this once. Just one more time. Just one more vinyl record.

You walk confidently into the record shop, thinking you’re in charge. It’s not going to take your whole check today. You look through that first column of new releases closest to the door, and you find maybe six or seven things you want. Now you have to look through the next column.

And the bins below.

vinyl-records-on-a-shelf2.jpg

And all these boxes that are sitting nearby containing as yet unpriced and perfectly shrink-wrapped treasures. Your hands get clammy and sweaty. The six albums you held onto at first are now 15. Then, after perusing all the new stuff, you go back to the gigantic in-stock selection. Just in case you missed something last week. You’ve got to know. Three more hours come and go. Oh and here’s the used section! Sometimes you’ve found unbelievable things for cheap there! The Punk Section! Gold mine! Metal! Psychedelic! Dub, hip-hop, techno! 7”s!
Now you’ve been in the store for six hours.

After putting away two thirds of your picks, finally, you make it up to the cashier and blow $150 on ten albums. You don’t know what you’re going to eat, but at least you have more awesome albums in your awesome record collection. Screw the rent, and the landlord. You have tunes.

Vinyl has all the same features of drug addiction, but at least it’s healthy. Kind of. The satisfaction of putting a needle on the black groove of an album and hearing that warm hiss and crackle of sound isn’t too different than putting a hypodermic in your skin and flooding your system with chemicals that alter your mood. But like a good heroine junkie should clean their needles before sharing, vinyl requires maintenance. Those grooves can deteriorate over time.

Keeping your records in shape is like making yourself develop OCD. Other people who don’t have a record addiction won’t understand why you experience a bout of wrath when they take one of your records and leave it sleevless and unprotected, on top of a book on the edge of a bookcase in perfect range for a cat to jump on. They’ll tell you, “Calm down man, it’s just a record. Gosh.”

Don’t listen to them.

The human race will one day praise your obstinate demands to preserve your record collection. Archeologists will marvel at your well-preserved selections and sell them to museums. But you have to keep them nice. Otherwise, you might as well be listening to CD’s. Otherwise you might as well be lame.
I wish that when I started out, I had learned more about proper care. It’s too late for some of my records. I can’t talk about them, those I have lost. But you people out there. You may not know.
So on that note, here are some tips collected from local vinyl dorks about how to care for your one-day priceless artifacts.

Step One: Handle With Care.

Always get a plastic sleeve or dust jacket to go with your new purchase. It keeps that awesome artwork looking good. You’ll notice just how much it helps as the plastic gets roughed up a bit over the years.

Those little black lines on your vinyl are delicate. Don’t put your filthy fingers all over the thing. When you pull your record out of the paper sleeve, rather than pinching it between to fingers in the middle of the grooves and plopping it on your turntable, use your fingers more like leverage on the sides. You can also put your thumb in the middle on the label sticker.

Step two: Clean Them.

If you don’t have a record brush, get one. Now, you heartless monster. Once you have one, determine if it’s a wet or dry type. Ideally, you want to have one of each. If it’s the wet type, you should either buy some cleaning solution, or make your own. I have had record store clerks talk me out of buying stuff because making your own is cheap and easy. Here’s a recipe and you can always find more ideas online. But I’m also lazy, and buying the premade stuff is about $5 and can last a year.

What I generally do, (which is not to say that I am right, this is just what I do) is place the record on the turntable, and gently spin it clock-wise while lightly resting the brush on the grooves. If it’s a wet brush system, squeeze a line of fluid down the edge of the brush. I do about three to four laps. Then I take a tiny little brush, and brush off the record brush. Feeling psychotic yet? No? Then reexamine your record to make sure you got it all. Don’t feel bad until you’ve spent a longer time cleaning it, than it would take to play the thing. For developing truly neurotic routines in your life, repeat this step every time you put an album on, even if it’s one you just cleaned. The important thing is that they get cleaned.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Spotlight On KBGA: Ink Mathematics

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 12:45 PM

Quietly and unceremoniously is how we imagine one of our all-time favorite radio shows absolutely anywhere will be celebrating its upcoming sixth anniversary on-air this March. That show is Ink Mathematics and it's the luv child of Collin Pruitt, psych aficionado, record collecting wildman, and understated ruler of the airwaves on Wednesdays from 6:00-800 PM.

It's a little hard to withhold the bombast when I try to write about Ink Mathematics, because it's that good. It's got the similarity of vibe that's a hard-fought thing to find when you like a lot of types of music, but Ink Mathematics has certainly found it, and has done so without becoming a strictly genre or musical sub-category show. The specialty at Ink Mathematics is mostly 1960s/70s psych, much of it I imagine culled from collections and yard sale scores that Collin's made over the years. The show's a agenda is simply excellence, and it ranges from frat rock and garage to psych and folk, folk rock and all the weird stuff in between. I challenge the most calloused among you to tune in and have a freakin' heap of fun, no matter what your tastes are, this show is done with love and skill and it's a pleasure to listen to from start to finish.

Captain Beefheart
  • Captain Beefheart

You can normally expect to hear some Love, some Velvet Underground, Beefheart, Fahey, Dylan, Kinks and the 13th Floor Elevators but from there, it starts getting excellently weird and obscure and there's never a show I don't check out KBGA.org Now Playing link to figure out what band he just played. Of particular note, and what's just one thing that sets Ink Mathematics apart from say, some dude in New Jersey or Montreal with a similar show is this: Collin plays all kinds of the sort of lost-gems from Montana's garage/psych past that are incredibly hard to locate anywhere this side of Dave Martens' Long Time Comin': Lost Sounds project. More about Dave and his project later. For now, let me blow your mind with a fact you could've learned last week: Love Buzz was only covered famously by Nirvana, it was written by a Dutch band called Shocking Blue. Okay, music dorks already knew that. I know, I know.

(this is part 2 in a series of pieces about KBGA 89.9 FM)

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Friday, January 11, 2013

ZooMA voting and a nod to the Moondoggies

Posted By on Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 3:46 PM

The Zoo Music Awards are brand new, but have already made an impression by unveiling several entertaining band names that are new to us. Wind Before Wolf? Flatt Cheddar? Monkey & Roast Beef Sandwich? If you haven't heard yet, ZooMA is a new thing put on by the Missoula Independent's promotional department and The Trail 103.3, so we in the Indy's editorial department are just as curious about the line-up of contestants as you are.

Before you start listening—and voting—let's start with some background. Since late November and until Jan. 6, Montana-based musicians and bands were invited to enter the contest, which features nine different categories, from bluegrass and country to heavy metal and punk. There was a whopping 180 submissions. It's ended up being an interesting mixture of new-to-us bands/musicians, plus the usual suspects, like Secret Powers, the Magpies and Three-Eared Dog. (There are also usual suspects who are absent from the line-up because they didn't submit.)

Moondoggies
  • Moondoggies

What happens now? The polls are open and anyone can vote for one artist in each category between now and Feb. 10. Public voting determines the top 5 bands in each category, and those winners will play Feb. 16 in one of nine different local venues (Funk, Soul and Reggae will take over Monks, for instance, while the Palace plays host to Psychedelic and Jam Bands). A top three in each category will move on from that epic night of sound and, finally, a panel of judges will decide the big winners, red-carpet style, at the Wilma Theatre on March 2. Winners in each category get some cool things, like a photo session and professional recording session. Check out the details of the contest and prizes here.

One last thing: The Moondoggies, who we once praised in a review and who played with Blitzen Trapper at the Palace in 2010, headline the awards show at the Wilma. Here's what our reviewer, PJ Rogalski, wrote about the band: "...harmony-rich tunes that rock more like Crazy Horse than CSNY, and feature delightfully depressive moments that evoke the gray coastlines of the Pacific Northwest. Hearty, hook-laden songs swirl around your head for days after. If the often-misappropriated Americana label that's being slapped on any band with a bearded bass player has you wanting to jam a pencil in your ear hole, don't fret. These dudes defy that trendy definition."

Okay, that was a lot to take in, so now go listen and vote.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dance Up Close: The Art of Is

Posted By on Thu, Jan 10, 2013 at 3:30 PM

Few words are defined as loosely as “art.”

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Not only does the term encompass any range of disciplines, from painting and sculpting to photography and dance, but it can be generated at any skill level. A kindergartner’s watercolor of a rainbow is certainly not at the level of, say, the Sistine Chapel, but depending on who you talk to, it could be considered art.

Entering this debate over the level and quality of something as subjective as art is one that should make any beginning critic nervous, and I was no exception:

It’s Dec. 4, a little after 7 p.m. A light, cold rain pelts me as I hurry from my car to the Masquer Theatre at the University of Montana. Tonight is the night of the School of Theatre and Dance’s first showing of Dance Up Close, a performance the school calls “its most intimate dance concert of the year.”

Chairs are lined along carpeted choir risers on three sides of the scuffed theater floor, allowing the audience to be in as close of proximity to the dancers as possible.

Having never been to a live dance performance like this before, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but I wanted to write about it, and that’s why I had decided to attend. Well, that and I was somewhat of a closet dance critic, as I had been a member of the dance team at my high school and for a while was addicted to FOX’s “So You Think You Can Dance.” (Laugh all you want, but if you watch that show enough, you pick up a few things, I’m telling you.)

The overhead lights fade to black and then turn back on, signaling the beginning of the first performance, “The Breathless Zoo.” Eight dancers in pastel-colored blouses and dresses have taken the floor. One begins a monologue into a mic set off to the side while the others stomp back and forth across the stage. There is no music. The theater is silent save for the steady thump of bare feet.

The lights shut off again.

The lights come back up on a group of performers making awkward movements with their bodies.

After a few more silent minutes, the lights fade again, and the audience then watches as one of the dancers ties a large, white bra around her head, covering her eyes. The piece continues to move along in sections split by the fading and raising of lights: a girl does what seem to be floppy jumping jacks and asks the audience, “Does it look like I’m flying?”

All of the dancers seat themselves on the floor and scoot their bodies back and forth (and nothing more) while staring innocently up at the audience. Capes and high heels are brought out, and some of the dancers attempt to put them on, while another girl lying on one of the capes is dragged across the floor.

I had no idea what was going on.

I don’t even remember what the monologue was about because I was so caught up in what I was witnessing. This was dance? The peculiar, graceless movements seemed to want to make you feel uncomfortable. There was no music, no clear story, it just ... happened.

More unusual still, I discovered afterward by reading the program more closely, this piece is different every time it is performed. The dancers knew of all the roles that could be performed in the choreography but did not know who was doing what until they got on stage. The choreographer, Anya Cloud, chose not to solidify the performers’ roles in order to let the piece “breathe.”

New to this as I was, I did not know what to make of what I just saw. I’m pretty sure I could have crawled around or sat on the floor as well as any one of them. And lastly, I couldn’t help but feel an amused sense of guilt when I saw the dumbfounded look on my boyfriend’s face, who had generously agreed to be dragged along for company but was now probably having second thoughts.

But the thing about art is, it doesn’t have to mean anything to anybody except the person who made it. As a writer, I go through the same thing. It’s an expression. Of creativity. Of imagination. Of self.

Sometimes it has a purpose, perhaps to ignite a certain emotion or send a message. It can be beautiful or ugly, powerful or subtle.

But that’s the thing about art.

It just is.

This article is part of a partnership between Green Room and Lee Banville's Online Journalism class at the University of Montana.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Six Big Sky docs you should start planning for now

Posted By on Tue, Jan 8, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Only the Young
  • Only the Young

For each year of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival's 10-year existence, it has programmed a gazillion worthy flicks from all over the world, and expected the general movie-going public to find time for all of them. It never happens. Inevitably, every year, you miss one or two choice docs and end up having to replace watching it on the big screen at the Wilma with watching it on Netflix on your iPhone in the bathroom.

We don't want that to happen. That's why we pored over this year's 100-plus films to select the six that you should be scheduling for RIGHT NOW (even though there's not an official schedule out yet). Our focus is on newer releases that have considerable pre-BSDFF buzz. Here they are, and our reasons for highlighting them:

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters
Crewdson is a photographer who, you could say, is meticulous in his setup. We're not talking about how he sets up light stands; more along the lines of, he'll set a house on fire to get a certain image. Literally. Filmed over 10 years by director Ben Shapiro, Brief Encounters offers "an intimate portrait of one of the most heralded image-makers of our time." It's also on many best-of lists for the year.

The Central Park Five
Ken Burns (yes, that Ken Burns) co-directs this racially charged story of five black and Latino teenagers who were wrongly accused in the 1989 Central Park Jogger rape case. It won the 2012 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Non-Fiction Film.

Only the Young
The description of this film may make you a little suspicious. ("Only the Young powerfully summons up an evanescent moment: that potent stew of teenage urgency, boredom, and young love that adults misconstrue as aimless wandering.") But by all accounts the work of directors Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet is a powerful look at love, rebellion and skateboarding among two Christian friends. The National Board of Review named it one of the year's five best documentaries and it received honorable mention in the category at the Philadelphia Film Festival.

Tchoupitoula
  • Tchoupitoula
Downeast
Big year for directors David Redmon and Ashley Sabin. The pair also received acclaim for Girl Model, but this one was nominated for a special Spotlight Award at the Cinema Eye Honors. It tells the story of Antonio Bussone and his desperate attempts to open a lobster processing plant in rural Maine after the local sardine canning factory closes.

Herman's House
Another winner from the Cinema Eye Honors for Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design or Animation. Director Angad Bhalla's feature follows "the unlikely friendship between a New York artist and one of America’s most famous inmates as they collaborate on an acclaimed art project."

Tchoupitoula
The latest from directors/brothers Bill and Turner Ross ended up on a ton of year's best lists, won the Gold Hugo for best doc at the Chicago International Film Festival and took the grand jury prize at the Dallas International Film Festival. The American Film Institute described it as a "dreamlike documentary [that] follows three young boys across the Mississippi into New Orleans’ French Quarter for a kaleidoscopic night of revelry.” This one is at the top of my must-see list.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Big Sky Doc films announced for 2013, including Howdy Montana

Posted By on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 10:41 AM

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival just announced its 2013 lineup.

In the mix is Howdy, Montana, which follows Joey Running Crane of Goddammitboyhowdy, who grew up playing punk rock on the Blackfeet Reservation and has made a name for himself in the Missoula punk scene. We wrote about him in a 2008 piece called Reservation Rock.

Joey.jpg

Director Matt Cascella traveled to Montana in 2010 to film Joey, but he found a multitude of other Montana stories—artist Bill Ohrmann and ice-fishermen, for instance—that struck his fancy and he's woven those into the film.
It'll be interesting to see how it all works together as a portrait of Montana.

Other films to get pumped up about:

Iceberg Slim: a film that blends pulp fiction imagery with biographical digging to tell the story of legendary pimp/author Iceberg Slim, whose gritty and poetic books about ghetto life gave birth to Street Lit.

The 99%: a documentary about the Occupy movement not made by the movement, but created by independent filmmakers.

Bad Brains, A band in DC: Archival footage and comic illustrations that reconstruct the punk/reggae band's history.

Glow, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling: chronicles the rise and fall of the first ever all-female wrestling show.

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival runs from Feb. 15—24.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Spotlight on KBGA: Take One, NAKED MISSOULA

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 3:00 PM

If you're in your thirties or forties, you probably know this feeling: lots of things you thought you understood now are completely different and it's a little hard to talk intelligently about them. It has to do mostly with the internet, and I guess more broadly "technology," whatever that exactly means. Don't worry though, I won't be taking you into any theoretical rabbit hole discussing technology. Other, better writers will continue to do that job. Most of the things I'm referencing have specifically to do with media, here's my short list: radio, TV, record labels. All of 'em are different. Having high speed internet means you don't have to watch whatever M.A.S.H. rerun's on on Sunday afternoon, or whatever the analog is to that in radio or record label terms. Goddamn, it's obviously more than kind of awesome.

On the flip side though, in a place like Missoula, Montana we run the risk of turning our focuses too broad, and missing out on the folks locally putting in the time to make music, art or even curate radio shows. This is probably a good time for a disclaimer, I do a show on KBGA, alternating Thursdays from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM. I'll let somebody else write about it.

Francis Harold and the Holograms is just one band you might hear on KBGAs Naked Missoula show.
  • Francis Harold and the Holograms is just one band you might hear on KBGA's Naked Missoula show.

Anyhow, each of the things (radio, TV, record labels) from my original premise are kind of simple concepts: sound over airwaves, pictures and sounds, people releasing music. But if you look at what the internet has done to them your head kind of spins. Like I said before, whatever. All of this is kind of a long way around to an introductory statement, here: I think more people need to listen to KBGA, and with greater regularity. For a town with such A) a deeply-ingrained independent, noncommercial bent, and B) rich source of curated (mostly musical) content, I think KBGA should be kind of ruling the roost a little more. I mean, I'm not expecting the secretaries with the Mountain locked in to change their behavior, but I'd like a few more folks to tune in when High Life, or Dane, or The Mermaid, or Dave Martens, Rashid, Hana Montana, Bryan Ramirez, or Dirty Flannel, or Gang of Fun (etc., etc.) are on. So, rather than just bitch about it, I'm going to use this miniature bully pulpit to introduce, or in some cases I'm sure, re-introduce you to some of my favorite regular shows on KBGA. Like any good radio station, you do have to kind of figure out when your shows are on. If all this is brand new to you: KBGA is a UM student and community volunteer run station that broadcasts at 89.9 FM, and streams at KBGA.org , several DJs archive their shows, but there isn't any central directory for that at the moment.

I said I was gonna write about somebody's show, and now here I am about three paragraphs in... Uggh. Well, howbout this: I'll keep it short. Every Friday from 2:00-4:00 PM, airs Naked Missoula with DJ La Dane. Dane's tastes lean toward the garage and noisy punk end of the spectrum, though there's more to it than some dude with only the latest Hozac whatever. Dane started his broadcasting career in 2010, and has introduced me to more, and more excellent bands than I can begin to remember. An average show has some stuff like: blown out masked weirdos Francis Harold and the Holograms, local Shags-cum-Ronnettes deal Needlecraft, SF super group Thee Oh Sees, Local one-man weirdo Abe Coley, Timmy from Clone Defects newish group Human Eye, Jay Reatard's Lost Sounds, Running etc. He's recently started archiving shows here. I suggest digging in, and tuning in.

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