Monday, November 28, 2016


Birdie Busch - The Ways We Try (January 1, 2005)
Birdie Busch - Penny Arcade (September 27, 2007)

Emily "Birdie" Busch, "Philadelphia's whimsical, verse-weaving siren," according to NPR,  has always had a way with storytelling. Her lyrics are introspective, offbeat, and oozing with  sentimentality. The nickname "Birdie" has nothing to do with singing; "it was bestowed upon me by a friend after a beret with metal studs was bestowed upon my head. It had nothing to do with singing, just silliness. So when they ask, 'what came first, the beret or the bird?' I say the beret," she told YellowBirdProject Blog.

After ingratiating herself in Philadelphia's alt-folk scene in the early '00's, Birdie's debut album The Ways We Try was recorded with producer Devin Greenwood (Amos Lee, the Weeds, JF Maher) and released on Bar/None in 2005.  At only age 25, Birdie captured the sweetness and complexity of some of America's finest singer/songwriters; A.D. Amorosi in the Philadelphia City Paper described the record as "Not dag funky but odd funky - her crackled rosiness draws you into [the songs] as would a painter's smallest strokes, asides that speak volumes when you stand closer. So get closer." Birdie worked with Devin Greenwood again for her Bar/None follow up album Penny Arcade two years later, recording the bulk of the album at Devin's South Philly home studio (dubbed "The Honey Jar,")  imbuing the album with a homey intimacy.

One of the standout songs is “The Huff Singers (North Philly,)” about a gospel singing group Birdie met while waitressing at a gospel brunch. “Mr. Huff, who is in his 80’s, carries a Polaroid camera around and he asked me if he could take my picture and then he gave me the copy. I love to visit the group in their rehearsal space and listen to them swap old time songs and recordings; we have made an effort to bridge the gap between cultures, and it’s a real pleasure for me,”  Birdie said at the time.

These days, Birdie Busch continues to perform and record in Philadelphia, with strong support from NPR's Acoustic Cafe and Philly's WXPN.  She released her latest album Thunder Bridge in June, 2016, and will be appearing at Ortlieb's in Philadelphia on December 7.

Birdie Busch On Philadelphia:

Philly has been a city that has allowed me time and space to react, write,, love, and everything in between. It's not a "hustle" kind of place although it is incredibly diverse and amazing. My relationship has changed in that I've come to feel more responsible for my contributions to this place, not only artistically but civically. I do a lot within the context of my community and use my art and music to make it all happen, including using albums to raise money for public schools and also visual art grants, which you can check out at link below.

For me, the dawn of the Internet had less computer time and more real time. Not that that wasn't an element of it. But initially, there was a lot of hanging out at bars, open mics, etc. And when hanging at bars, you were really there! Ha. No one was looking down at the screens, present focused energy seemed to still be upheld. Gosh I miss that. The collective experience without fractured attention.

Philly has so many amazing musicians and that's always felt like a constant to me. Right now, I've been really enjoying Rosali Middleman.
I also really love this group that plays a lot of vintage Hawaiian kind of stuff.

But I could honestly send you a long list of great music from Philly of all different feels.

Being in a smaller city has benefits and setbacks. I have had friends that left for bigger cities to seek more paid work in music, especially engineers and people in the production side of things. Many of us here combine many different things to make our lives work. Music is a huge part of my vitality, but with the state of music and living here I do a lot of different things. In the end I think it all informs each other and strengthens my soul.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Standard Fare - The Noyelle Beat (March 16, 2010)

Music was the family business for Emma Kupa. Her mother was in the Eighties anarcho-punk band Poison Girls. So perhaps it wasn't too surprising when she and teenaged pal Danny How started playing together.  When they poached drummer Andy Beswick from Danny's brother's band, Standard Fare's alluring blend of adolescent crushes, young adult sexual longing, and gleeful indie-pop melody was born. wrote of the Sheffield, UK trio, "The album's highlights-- 'Fifteen (Nothing Happened),' in which lead singer and bassist Emma struggled mightily with her temptation to sleep with a 15-year-old, or 'Philadelphia,' where she waited a year to revisit an overseas fling in the titular city-- hit upon an acidic, wide-eyed middle ground." Bar/None released Standard Fare's debut album The Noyelle Beat in March, 2010.  After a second album, Out Of Sight, Out Of Town in 2011, the group disbanded in 2013 but remains on friendly terms.
Standard Fare today
A Conversation With Standard Fare

Q.) Emma is playing with Mammoth Penguins these days. What are Dan and Andy up

Dan: We have a couple of bands together; Skeletal Shakes, where we play indie-punk-pop, and The Hangtown Thieves, which is old-time country-rockabilly. They're quite different but both great fun to play around with. We don't take them out much, but we're always writing and recording new things.

Q.) You got to tour America twice around the time of The Noyelle Beat. What was

your biggest surprise in the States, something you weren't expecting?

Dan: The biggest surprise to me was how far this scene went. We traveled all that distance and to cities we'd never been to, but we'd still meet these bands who played and loved the same music as us. 
We'd meet people in the afternoon and they'd drive 2 hours just to see the show that night, and people who'd let 3 strangers stay at their house just because they had guitars! Everyone really looked out for us.
Andy: Having the chance to tour the US, twice! with the guys and the band! was the best thing ever, and was a lot of fun! The roads there are much much longer than any road in the UK, haha.  However every gig we played was well worth the drive! I'd say the Splorks gig was something I wasn't expecting, when they combined chucking an array of teddy bears around the audience in a mosh pit (and we all joined in). That was the most insane thing I had ever witnessed :) 

Emma: The DIY scene in the US is full of such lovely people. We were shown such kindness. The first Philadelphia show we did was in a warehouse in the middle of nowhere and we were getting electric shocks off the microphones but it was fun. There were a lot of long drives but the drive from NYC to New Haven was the worst as it was during a major storm and we had to keep driving past and even getting out to move fallen down trees in the road. We got to a dive bar pretty shell-shocked but played our set anyway.

Q.) I know you played SXSW in Austin and a festival in Athens,GA, two
cities that have produced great U.S. indie rock. Did you have any heroes or landmarks in those cities that you were especially excited about?

Andy: I just remember weaving through people, with beers in our hands, in the sun, walking around the streets at the SXSW festival and there was a different sound coming out of every door we passed! It was incredible there being a part of it. We had a busy schedule, but I do remember getting the chance to see Rival Schools set. I had never seen them before, and they were awesome, they had a massive sound with popping drums!

Emma: There was a great buzz in both cities while we were there. SXSW is such an experience and I remember a hairy late night drive with a red-neck taxi driver… We were keen to play Athens because Happy Happy Birthday To Me records had put out some great bands including Sourpatch.

Q.) In NYC, you got to play Death By Audio, one of the city's (now sadly
defunct) all ages, DIY venues. I've met people from Europe and Japan who marvel at the concept of illegal, unlicensed underground clubs like that flourishing in a major city. What was your reaction to DBA and are there venues like it in your part of the UK?

Dan: I don't think we really understood the concept until we tried to find the place! I think it was a brilliant idea really, that music should be available to everyone.
It might be the difference in legal drinking ages making pubs more accessible but I've only recently started to see similar places in the UK, like an old vegetable warehouse in Nottingham. We played a couple of warehouse shows whilst we were in the US, everyone was totally up for it, it felt really in the moment and it never got out of hand.

Emma: The all-ages thing is really important in the US I think and it is getting more so in the UK. I think it’s difficult to start up unlicensed venues here in the UK but there are more DIY spaces that are legal but are all-ages and bring your own booze like JT Soar (Nottingham) that Dan mentioned and The Audacious Art Experiment (Sheffield) and DIY Space for London.

Q.) As one of the few non-American acts to have been on Bar/None, do you
have any bands who have recorded for the label who were big influences or favorites of yours growing up?
Dan: When Bar/None first got in touch I remember seeing they put out Evan Dando's solo album and that was it, I was completely in. He's an absolute hero of mine, the varying sound, slow-soft/fast-loud, I still have the same albums of his on repeat now. It's something I can always go back to and suits many different moods.  Now, whenever I hear They Might Be Giants on the radio, it reminds me that we were a part of something really cool.

Andy: I'd not listened to a great deal of the stuff on their label before we were in contact with them, but now, I seem to have records and follow quite a few on it now! Like the Front Bottoms, The Moms, Parlour Tricks, and Of Montreal. It was a pleasure meeting Glenn and Mark and was great fun working with them too, they have a great studio!

Emma: I had a similar experience to Dan in that the connection to Evan Dando was really exciting for me.


Monday, November 14, 2016


The Ordinaires - One (April 26, 1989)

The Ordinaires were a nine-piece art-rock ensemble who came out of New York City's post-punk/No Wave scene of the Eighties, a band whose avant-garde eclecticism drew comparisons to everything from Henry Mancini, Captain Beefheart, Philip Glass, and Stravinsky.  In truth, though, the music of the Ordinaires was simply unclassifiable, which is perhaps why the band found a much more receptive audience in Europe than in the U.S.  Bar/None released One in 1989 in an effort to find the Ordinaires wider stateside distribution and appreciation.  Co-produced by Martin Bisi (Material, Sonic Youth, Live Skull), Bill Krauss (They Might Be Giants) and The Ordinaires, One's cover art featured an eerie computer-generated composite photograph of all nine members of the band. The Ordinaires disbanded in 1991.

Largely ignored for more than a decade, the Ordinaires became the obsession of radio producer, field recordist, and songwriter Myke Dodge Weiskopf, who has produced a fascinating audio documentary about the band.  "Nine Views Of The Ordinaires" can be enjoyed below.  Myke Dodge Weiskopf then explains what inspired the documentary and some of the challenges in completing it.

Myke Dodge Weiskopf:  Any music documentary worth its salt has to start with the music. I came of age listening to the Ordinaires' albums in the Midwest in the pre-Internet era, so their music always seemed like a gloriously strange anomaly. Even now, with the ability to dive deeply into any genre of music from every time and place, their music still sounds utterly unique. And from a storytelling perspective, the backstory of the Ordinaires seemed like a no-brainer: a nine-piece orchestral rock band coming out of this crazy downtown New York art/performance scene and trying to make the big time. So the documentary served two purposes: to expose more people to this unjustly obscure, yet brilliant and idiosyncratic band, and to explore the individual and group dynamics that went into keeping a project like that afloat. Fortunately, all I had to do was scratch the surface and the stories came pouring out. It was a dream come true in every way
What I find fascinating about the Ordinaires is that their trajectory seems to mirror that of the Lower East Side scene more broadly. They started off as a modest but idiosyncratic home recording project - with echoes of Arthur Russell, to my ears - and then adopted this very brittle, post-punk/No Wave sound, which was very much the archetypal sound of that scene in 1980-1982. But as the Lower East Side scene swelled, with folks like They Might Be Giants and Ann Magnuson and Steve Buscemi and Eric Bogosian breaking out into the larger world, the Ordinaires' sound blossomed magnificently into this new kind of organism that featured very lush and ambitious arrangements, but still welded to that rock'n'roll core. And I think by that point - say, 1986 and onwards - the Ordinaires were entirely their own thing. As Elliott Sharp says in the piece, they represented the maturing of that scene into a beautiful and expressive new art form. Then, as the LES scene fractured and imploded due to gentrification and other social factors by the end of the '80s, the band was also splitting at the seams. So in a way, the Ordinaires are a perfect allegory for the scene from which they came. It was a glorious moment in time, perhaps one of the most riotously creative in NYC's musical history, but it was never built to last. And that is both the poignancy and the perfection of the Ordinaires' story.

The Ordinaires and their extended circle were almost universally enthusiastic and helpful in putting the piece together. They were generous not just with their time, but also with their material keepsakes: gig posters, cassettes and DATs of archival material, VHS tapes of TV appearances and videos, you name it. And they each gave such great interviews: reflective and honest and funny and clear-eyed about the history and legacy of this most improbable band.
The hardest thing, really, was just putting it all together afterwards. I conducted 15 interviews in five days and received hours and hours of archival audio. It was just an overwhelming amount of material. It took me a long time to sit with it and let it marinate and allow the structure and the key elements to rise to the surface. And there were other personal mitigating factors that kept me from getting it done ... but here we are.
And yes, there are still a few members of the inner circle that I'd like to incorporate into a revised version of the piece, and I'm hoping those folks will come through once they've had a chance to listen to it. I think it's only natural that some folks aren't as interested in looking back, but it would be a shame to miss those voices in the freewheeling cacophony that defined the Ordinaires. The piece will go on either way!

The Ordinaires on iTunes



"The Dance Of The Coco Crispies"

Ordinaires - Kashmir from Ernie Fritz on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 13, 2016





GLASS EYE - Bent By Nature (1988)
GLASS EYE – Christine, Hello Young Lovers (1989)
KATHY McCARTY – Dead Dog’s Eyeball (1992)
KATHY McCARTY - Sorry Entertainer (1995) 


Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

We've revisited Glass Eye's contributions to Bar/None before,  but we wanted to bring this to our readers' attention:  In this 2007 piece from The Austin Chronicle, Glass Eye's Kathy McCarty interviewed her former bandmate Lisa Cameron, who transitioned from Dave Cameron after decades as one of Austin's most popular, beloved musicians.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


Starling Electric - Clouded Staircase (August 19, 2008)

Originally the solo project Ann Arbor, Michigan native Caleb Dillon, Starling Electric had morphed into a full-fledged band by the time Dillon boasted that on his self-released, homemade power-pop debut  Clouded Staircase "we
specialize in everything truly great about pop music from 1965 to 1977."   Robert Pollard, the Posies, and the underground music press quickly became champions, and Bar/None gave the album a wider release in 2008.  Pitchfork opined, "it hits all the right notes-- the harmonies, the chiming guitars, the baroque arrangements, the slightly psychedelic twists and turns," equal parts "Beach Boys, Byrds, Beatles, Big Star, and even a few bands that don't begin with B." A decade later, after innumerable lineup changes, Dillon and Starling Electric have just released a fourth album,  Electric Company.

Starling Electric, 2008

Q: Promo for Clouded Staircase boasted that it was "recorded entirely in bedrooms, basements, closets, and bathrooms." How are you recording these days?

Caleb Dillon: For Electric Company, we recorded in every possible way and with every level of fidelity and equipment quality. A small handful of songs were recorded in a local studio that we briefly had free access to, but then I smeared on layers of gross 4-track cassette parts over them. In the instances that I'd started recording something at home, it often ended up in a more polished version through our home studio.

Whenever I record anything it's a huge mess, especially since I don't use computer programs. It's up to our resident genius, Ben, and the other amazing musicians in the band to figure out how to make my feeble, noisy, garbage music as palatable as possible. To someone unfamiliar with recording, it's definitely NOT the way to do it - but it works for us. Anything recorded "incorrectly" is enormously appealing to me.

Q: You've been compared to bands as intimate as 10CC, as sophisticated as
Genesis, as pop as Elton John, and as grandiose as ELO and Queen. When you create a new song, are you writing to a certain imagined audience, or just to the muse in your head at the time?  Does the song dictate the arrangement, or do you conceive the "sound" you want first and work backwards to achieve it?
CD: A lot of those musical associations were meant to describe our live show and attitude, as opposed to how the songs are presented on an album. My imagined audience is never anyone but myself and what I happen to be into in that moment. I try to set the bar high, so that what I write has to sit comfortably in my mind alongside some of those musical influences. And I rarely achieve that, but at least I start out with pretty lofty standards!
It's more about the "feel" that I'm looking for than the "sound," since the "right sound" is not something I do very well on my own. I might be really obsessed with Gary Lewis & The Playboys on a particular day and want to try to write something similar...but I'm so inept at what I do that I'll end up with a synth-and-drum-machine-fueled Gary Numan ballad or something. That's not an official example, but it may as well be. Basically, anything good I've ever done has been an accident.
Caleb Dillon, 2016
Q:  Are you still in Ann Arbor?  What's the political climate been this past year in the middle of America?  Are you rooting for fellow Michiganers MC5 to get into the RnR Hall of Fame, and was the legacy of Detroit's MC5 and Stooges an influence on your development as a musician and songwriter?

CD:  I lived in Ann Arbor for about 10 years, and recently relocated to Grand Rapids. I really don't care about politics. It's not interesting to me personally, and it has nothing to do with music. Music is supposed to be an antidote to all that business and trickery and money and ridiculousness...they're just not even in the same universe.
I respect and appreciate the Stooges and MC5, but they weren't important to me or my good friends growing up. My songwriting is much less informed by having grown up in Michigan specifically than having lived in small towns and rural areas in general, where the spirit of making your own fun permeates every day. Even when I was a teenager, Detroit seemed scary; a dirty, morally bankrupt dead-end place that I had no desire to even visit. I realize that's exactly what made it appealing to a lot of other people!
I love punk, and Iggy Pop is clearly one of the great minds of our time. I love "Bored" by Destroy All Monsters. I love Motown and "96 Tears." But if you're talking about home state music, I'm much more of a Del Shannon kind of guy.

Q: What's the nicest thing anyone's ever said/wrote about your music, and what's the most incomprehensibly wrong-headed?
CD:  Whatever anyone's opinion is of my music is valid; it's their opinion, and it's not for me to say what's right or what's wrong. Once I create music and put it out into the ether, it's irrelevant how I think someone should feel about it. Several people with immaculate musical taste and knowledge have singled out one or more of my albums as one of their favorites of the modern age, and it's pretty hard to beat that. When your heroes put their arm around you and tell whoever is with them "you gotta listen to this guy", that's pretty intense. I can run on that energy for a long, long time.


Friday, November 4, 2016



Bar/None released They Might Be Giants' debut self-titled album on November 3, 1986.  It became a sensation on college radio and MTV put the video for "Don't Let's Start," filmed at the New York State Pavilion from the 1964 World's Far, on heavy rotation.  The team of John Flansburgh and John Linnell, childhood friends from Massachusetts, formed the band when the duo found themselves living in the same Brooklyn apartment building after college. The group's unusual name came from the 1971 film They Might Be Giants, which in turn was taken from a Don Quixote passage about how Quixote mistook windmills for evil giants.  And Cervantes was inspired to create that image by a canto in Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem, "The Inferno."