by D. Jeffurious Gonzo Today Contributor and Editor Emeritus
It all stems from a fear of being too bored…
This condition has lasted a lifetime and shows no particular sign of clearing up anytime soon. There have been so many people who have walked away from conversations where I start my typical over-analytical tickle tickle, break the pickle, theoretical musings about music. I am one of those jerky music guys; I recognize it in my behavior. I even agree that I can be a bit much at times, I call it “enthusiastic verbosity.” Music, like wine, must be discussed and celebrated robustly! Still folks get sketched out and find awkward reasons to slink away. But do you know what? That is what truly is best for my humors. I always hope that at least I give them something to think about later and have a chuckle.
Out drinking at the local waterhole as a young man, the topic turned to rock guitar players. We were all in agreement about our favorites, except for one. This guitar player had died tragically. This one sloppy drunken dude was celebrating this guitar player’s birthday. This kept the night from being perfect for me, for us.
I was asked if I knew about this birthday business and just to be a pud I said, “If I gave a double, dripping wet rat’s ass about (said guitar player) I would have a shot and a drink with you. But he sucked! Consistently! I do not want to be hypocritical!” Or something to that effect. It was arrogantly inappropriate; the man was reduced to tears instantly. They were the kind of tears that lead to foul language and snot being shouted at me. It made me laugh. I am not proud of myself. I was once asked to leave a house party for referring to Stevie Ray Vaughan as “Sucky Ray Dick.” The irony is that I am a fan of Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was there during my formative guitar playing years. I was just trying to be a cunt.
This happened a few times over the years. I made a guy cry over a discussion about Rush one night at a party. HOWEVER! Justice was swift for me. Most of the party took notice. After finding out that I had spoken against Rush, I was pelted with beer cans, bottles and random bullshit, all night. I learned my lesson. I had been a “lil’ stinker” and I got smote, and smote but good. Although, there is always a chance that following any conversation I may get bottles, cans AND an empty nitrous oxide canister thrown at me. “HEY! Come on guys! That shit’s flammable! I am smoking here!”
This damage, this short-circuit occupies the same mind space as one who might possess a savant machine-brain that knows a superfluous amount of information about sports, history, or digitally streaming crime-dramas. When I was younger, our crime-dramas came from analogically wired cable. You know, that was good enough. Where did they get all these gizmos from, is it truly space alien technology? There are robots making music now, folks. I find it repugnant and interesting at the same time. The electronic bleeps and farts that passes as popular music these days is horrid, HORRID! Comparatively, it sounds as if weird Europeans are singing into vacuum cleaners.
Life is on a bend towards the bizarre and continues along that trend. So much so that I have heard tales of Elvis being part of some sort of an alleged alien life form experiment. I mean, they beamed his large, ass…band and himself via Satellite one time. Swear to GAWD! So that alone makes the theory credible. Right? Elvis was a transporter…a shapeshifter. Ray Stevens once attested to actually “seeing Elvis in a UFO.” I know, it is silly. It is like that deep darkest web theory that “Miley” supposedly carries the Elvis DNA. A plot cooked up by the defense department, the Chuckee Cheeze Racial purity concept unification division and the short lived DizzKnee attraction, Goofee’s Hall of Yoo-hoo-hoo-Genics!
Which segues nicely into our topic of discussion! Music scenes! Not in Los Angeles, New York, Austin, nor even St. Louis or Chicago. I am referring to music scenes that are exciting and off the beaten path. Miles from anywhere, except the interstate, and in some places a Waffle House. I am looking at the framework of an expanding scene centering around the North-Southeastern area of Illinois. Namely the hovering, metroplex Effingham. The former “Crossroads of America” or some corny, rubbish similar. Ben Folds immortalized the town in his song Effington. I have been paying attention to this scene exclusively for a little over a year. I have found favorites around every conceivable corner.
Personally speaking, the local music scene is how I judge the character of any decent sized city. To me a vibrant music community beautifies the town significantly. Music from all corners of the live musical spectrum. We are talking about middling cover bands to pronounced indie rock trios, intoxicating sweet, southern flavors to full blown progressive metal rock experiences. Chances are if you dig a certain genre of music, you can find it within your own community. As we have moved beyond the restrictive COVID lifestyle, local bands have been tenaciously working to get their music recorded and out to fans. They have hit the road and are playing gigs. Live shows happen every night somewhere. Combined this with bands choosing to put their music on vinyl means that people are buying music again as they did in the past.
Which signifies to me that people are becoming more open-minded towards the music that they are choosing. They are changing what they are habitually listening to. The last time this happened was in the mid to late 1990’s. Now, breathe. Whether people like it or not, that phase opened a lot of new musical doors for many. Those of us who were paying attention began exploring not only new rock, but other kinds of music that beckoned us from our “metal health will drive you mad” mindsets. We scoured record stores in an abrasive manner. Fans of the film High Fidelity can relate.
We tracked down all the Led Zeppelins and the Pink Floyds, but you would also snag things, such titles as Four Raga Moods featuring Ravi Shankar, Miles Davis’s Water Babies or A Musical Trip with George Burns. Within that thick cloud of overwashed fuzz, psychedelia, and indie-alternative sounds, we huddled and toked it all up copiously with our friends. Then, people started bringing in Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart. Lives changed; attitudes adjusted.
Enhancing our listening palettes, refining, enriching, and receiving broadcasts out of time showing up in our imagination’s reveries. The first time that I heard Atmosphere by Joy Division I was sick with a hellacious flu. Napping and drugged up on codeine, I became semi-conscious. I arrived awake surrounded by this melodic majesty and crooning lyrics. I had to listen to it later just to make sure it was not all a fever dream. It was still as beautiful as I had experienced. I had been subconsciously affected by this song. That was fresh territory.
I obsessively listened to Joy Division trying to find another divine experience for months afterwards. It had pulled me out of my comfort zone in that moment of twilight. But then again, Duke Ellington’s record Jazz Party had a similar effect. I was proud to be moved by that jazz. It swirled and swayed and made your toes tap. With this diversity going on back then, in some cases, people did a complete one-eighty. I have had to explain the atrocities of the short-lived Ska and Swing period of the late 90’s to my kids. Life is strange man. What else can I say? We have all done some daft things as college students.
At that point keeping the scene local was the best way we could protect it, keeping the sluiced-through hogshit outside the gates. Bolstering a local scene meant a lot of leg work. These days it is all done at lightning speed via a single button and the internet. The potential music “communities” now happen at light speed and the numbers can be significantly higher. But there is still a lot of legwork required to promote a band to success. Plus, anyone who has been in a band knows it takes an enormous amount of word-of-mouth. I mean…a band could have the best record contract in the world but if there is no promotion that contract means dick.
For the past year and a half or so, I have been haunting the bins of America’s Groove Records in Effingham, Illinois. I first stepped through the doors searching for Peter Gabriel-era Genesis albums. For a different, private project I was working on that was all about justifying the existence of Phil Collins. Turns out…he was justifiable! The owner of the shop, Aaron Wilson, became my tour guide back into the physical realms of music. A striking thing about the shop is the very well stocked Local Artists section. America’s Groove provides a wonderfully warm, welcome place, an ideal hub for a localized music community. I have been in the store shopping when some of those local musicians come in to shop as well.
One local label that I found there is Drift Loud Records. It embodies a splendid example of an indie production company that goes the extra mile to promote its growing roster of locally sourced, varied, and talented music groups. They have many artists worth taking a listen to. I encourage you to check out Drift Loud’s webpage. While you are there, please consider picking up the latest Drift Loud artist compilation. There are two main bands on which I would like to focus, Muddy Creek and Co., and Rabbit in Red. I merely chose to zero in on these two bands that were a bit more from my neck of the nape.
Muddy Creek and Co., a tall drink of sweet, country rock “y’allternative” is a band with momentum with an enormous online presence as well. They play a tight game. Their first album In Front of God and Nobody, is a firecracker 4th of July record. Their first single release from that album Good Times, Moonshine is a perfect summertime anthem. I am talking a full-fledged sacred song. The song invokes deep feelings, phases and changes and transitions in life then gathering down by the river to contemplate all of them.
The rise and fall dynamic of this song requires multiple plays just for the sake of absorbing its entire vibe. I recently met the band at a record fair and subsequently enjoyed an incredible live performance later that afternoon. The band has scores of fans up and down Highway 50 (The loneliest road in America) and beyond. They are currently in production to release another record. There is a single out called Peach Tea and it is delightful! I truly wish that you would grab up a copy of their record. Keep it handy and make it a habit for your next random road trip and handy starts with “H” as does the word habit and habit rhymes with Rabbit, which brings us to Rabbit in Red.
Another outstanding music group with a very extensive following like Muddy Creek and Co, Rabbit in Red has strong neo-progressive rock leanings. They certainly prove their meddle on their release called 1512. It opens on Sound of the Morning Sun. Layered completely in fantastic guitar and reflective lyrics. Rabbit In Red is one of those bands that blend so well that it becomes wonderful magic, you question your own senses. “How can this be music so good like this here?”
The song Time (To Hit the Road) is a splendid example of what happens when the band opens up the “kick-ass” on all 8 cylinders. Guitarist Drew Robinson displays his guitar skill. The song Razorblade highlights Robinson’s prowess at the guitar, and he is one hell of a guitar player. Rabbit In Red’s music makes the listener contribute. To dance, to swirl around, to tap a toe, to hug it out with a friend, or to allow having their face scorched off for the sheer thrill of the guitar solo. Although their records are a little hard to find in stores, they are available on most streaming services, select stores and of course directly from Drift Loud Records. Rabbit In Red, entering your earholes very soon.