The Great Unload I: Jeff Barbush/Painkillers

Don’t know about you, but my vehicle’s got a tape player. For playing good, old-fashioned cassettes. And with my iPod seemingly down for the count, I’ve been revisiting some old favorites from the long-disgraced, but suddenly-hip medium of cassettes.

My big, plastic cassette box is really a vibrant time capsule. Whether it’s pulling out an oddball artist (Shellyann Orphan), a long-forgotten bootleg (Pixies, The Cure) or a personal story-maker (a Concrete Blonde live recording, hand-delivered to me the day after the show by the bootlegger), the cassette box has been a giver of great and surprising things of late.

The tape that got the most play in recent weeks is a mixtape of songs by Jeff Barbush, who headed up bands like the Painkillers and the Deadbeats, and who also did a fair share of home recording. The tape was given to me, if memory serves, by Marcia Pandolfi, whose brother Carl was a member of the Painkillers.* That group, as I’ll ramble on about to anyone, is primarily responsible for my caring about pop music, at all, as they practiced two-doors-down from where I spent a chunk of my teens. Just as I was ready to absorb local rock, a local rock band was playing on the block.

Those Painkiller songs are special to me. And, with a bit of time, the entirety of the Barbush cassette is locked into my head.

Of late, I’ve played with the idea of what to do with material like this, in terms of sharing. It’s solid music, still. It extends the life of a musician who passed too soon. It’s classic Saint Louis pop and is deserving on just that level. It really should be heard by more than just myself and the passengers in my truck; or by the other folks hipped into similar cassettes and home tapings.

So, the thought goes like this: start by finding some of the principals behind the music. See if they’re down with a limited-run CD. Talk to folks like Chris King, whose Enormous Richard recently re-released a long-ago cassette onto CD. Locate someone to bump the original recordings into a more digitally-pleasing form. And then drum-up the couple-hundred dollars to run, let’s say, 100 discs, for those who’d be naturally inclined to also fall in love with these songs.

This idea, it seems, could have legs. Or it could not. I’m open to discussions. And, in the meantime, I’ll be humming along to songs so catchy, so sweet, that I’m not the only deserving to hear such treasures. Thanks, Jeff Barbush, for leaving me something so wonderful, a cassette of magic, as much as a cassette of music.

* Rene Spencer Saller also made for me a fantastic mix-up CD of Painkillers tracks a few years back and it’s gotten steady play over time, as well. But, as determined, I’m not blessed with a new-fangled CD player in the car. Some of those cuts, too, deserve a hearing.

The Great Unload: Preface

As someone who, by and large, works alone, I find myself coming up with ideas. All the damned time. They don’t necessarily have a straight path in moving from my head to some type of reality, due to lack of finances, shaky technical skills and countless other mix-ups that can trip up even the simplest of them.

These ideas come too frequently, at times, and without that over-the-cubicle vetting that office workers can employ (and, dare I say, enjoy), these schemes all seem really, really good. To me. At some point, I begin to act on them, solo or with a small group of (hopefully sympathetic) sympathizers. Some die a gruesome, public death, after being bounced into brief web life. Others are sent to an early passing via countless, unproductive e-mails. More just sit around, flat-lining through a few conversations of marginal encouragement and the bullying presence of newer concepts.

In some cases, there’s still a feeling that a project’s in there, untapped and somehow doable. In others, my thought is that some type of karmic good can come from freeing the information, allowing the germ of an idea to be picked up by somebody with the resources to make them happen.

In other, more-accurate words: I’m sick of the contents of my own skull. And in the spirit of some late-summer, mental housekeeping, I’m going to bounce out as many ideas as I can find from notebooks, scraps of paper, e-mail sent boxes and faulty memories. If this takes a week, it takes a week. It’ll probably take more than a single one, probably well into September. My five readers are welcome to comment, borrow or steal anything along the way, assuming there’s even the mildest basis of usefulness to them.

The process starts to play out tomorrow, with one that’s actually a project that could happen without a ton of cash and with marginal amounts of legwork. From there, bullets fly in all sorts of directions. Enjoy this embarrassing display of unfocused creativity and feel free to comment, pass along to idea-thieving pals or simply ignore.

The Great Unload, 2010. Should be stupid. And freeing. Type at you tomorrow…

Programming Note

Greetings, five readers. A week from today, the site’s namesake will undertake a one-week airing of grievances, with the results no doubt lingering well beyond that Friday. Tune in, yes?

Trivia, Scavening, Mirth: Sunday, September 19

Let’s officially debut the first, and potentially last, CreativeSaintLouis Trivia Contest and Scavenger Hunt. It’s a name that really flows (doesn’t it?) and the event promises to do just the same. The experience kicks off and ends at Mangia Italiano, a popular South Grand eatery and drinkery, from 2-5 p.m., Sunday, September 19.

The basics are as follows:

At 2 p.m., teams of (up to) five will pick up a packet at Mangia. This packet will contain instructions that will then be executed in the Saint Louis community-at-large. The instructions may call for people to collect things. Or to collect photographs, or autographs. Or to build things. Or even be wearing specific pieces of clothing, for bonus points. The experiential scavenger hunt will run for up to two-and-half-hours, at which point teams will roll back to Mangia for a timed, 30-questions-in-30-minutes trivia blitz, which will be Saint Louis-specific, but will allow for teams to use whatever forms of information they choose to bring, from classic STL reference books to super-phones. At 5 p.m., the day wraps and the counting begins. Winners will be notified that night and will receive a fantabulouis Saint Louis prize pack.

Team registrations will cost $30, or $25 for the first 15 teams. Funds will support the continued publication of CreativeSaintLouis.com along with a Saint Louis-based web series being developed for spring 2011 production.

Registrants should contact Thomas Crone directly for info on registration, via: thomascrone@yahoo.com. Further instructions and confirmation will be sent via e-mail between now and the event day.

For a true Saint Louis experience and a twist on the usual trivia experience, register early and often. Thanks you and please pass along. Word.

The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat

Let’s get the worst out of the way, first. I went to the track yesterday, a last chance for foolishness at Fairmount’s “horse hookey,” the last matinee racing before the start of the school year. At this point in my personal education, I know enough to get myself in trouble at a horse track. There’s something about the same horses, the same riders, the same ticket takers, the same beer vendors, the same scenes played out over an entire summer that make you think you’ve got it figured it. But you don’t. That’s the worst place to be, in the realm of half-knowledge. That nebulous place in which you feel you can work some kinda angle, but you can’t.

You’re a sucker. And when you can’t afford to lose $30 and you lose $30, at least you know you’re a sucker.

At that point, you need a pick-me-up.

And, as sports go, on any level, you can hook into the crushing lows and jubilant highs.They come and they go.

Yesterday afternoon, still mulling over those failed straight exactas and boxed trifectas, the word came in and the word was good.

All four kids that I coached last fall, now heading into their freshman years of high school and trying out for their respective soccer teams, made said teams. Four-f0r-four and I couldn’t be happier!

Three cheers to all these lads, who I’ll be following this fall:

Kyle Davis, Dubourg

Jordan Griffin, Saint Louis University High

Sean Groh, Gateway Tech

Dashawn Wilson, St. Mary’s

My high school experience was marred by moments that went the other way, by sheets of paper posted to a wall without my name. And I don’t, for a second, assume that these kids (and the boys that didn’t try out for teams this fall, but spent countless hours on South Side soccer fields over the last seven years with me) have it made, now that they’ve simply cracked a roster. But I always wanted them to have a chance at some successes in high school. I’m happy, satisfied, pleased as punch to have played a bit of a role in these cats improving their games over the years. And all did, noticeably.

I might be banning myself from pro sports for the time being, but I’m suddenly a local prep fan. Gotta fill those late-afternoon hours somehow, and living vicariously is a healthy and affordable way to go.

August's 13

By popular request of one (Jim Utz, looking at you, bub), here’s the return of The 13, after a three-month summer break. Speaking of which, 11 days ’til school begins, so…

Outings, Fairmount Park: This Tuesday. Racing starts at 1. Ends around 4. Pubs nearby are kicking by 5. Methinks all interested parties should book a date for the afternoon and/or should simply reunite on the Illside. Feeling like an eight-race day, myself. You know, ’cause school’s starting.

Publications, Yeti: Not as sharp as I used to be, on many levels. Including the ability to track publications that seem just right there. Still, it’s a bit of a shocker to scroll through Amazon and find a long run of a zine/CD series that’s exactly in the ol’ personal interest wheelhouse. Yeti. Have you read it? Heard it? And you’ve still not told me, after all this time we’ve known one another. Shame on you.

Drinks, Drank: I wouldn’t say that Drank exactly slowed my roll. In fact, I’d say that I woke up a few hours later with chest pains. Obviously, your results may vary. Enjoy!

Old guy clothes, Urban Pipeline cargoes: Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the perfect pair of pants.

Reunions, Enormous Richard: There’s something about traveling to Granite City with good company, piling into a jammed-up neighborhood tavern and having a band that helped define your early-20s crank up the quirky rock, some five years after their last reuniting-type-experience. Thanks, Enormous Richard. You’re pals, every one of you, seriously.

Books, The Beats: A Graphic History: A big fan, I am, of the Popular Reading shelf, just inside the doorway of Webster’s Emerson Library. Most of my summer reading came from those shelves and this title, read just before the passing of co-author/writer/editor Harvey Pekar, helped pass some enjoyable, instructional hours. Even when the stories are ones that you’ve read a dozen times before, the illustrations and general spirit of this book are winners. Pick it up at your local library, okay?

Documentaries, You Weren’t There: A History of Chicago Punk, 1977-1984: Speaking about some hours well-spent, this doc (which covers exactly what the title specifcially suggests) is a two-plus-hour exhumation of a vibrant, underground scene. Great live footage, relevant contemporary interviews, a bit of inter-band hatred still simmering and, for a week, a free showing on Pitchfork’s TV channel. Well worth finding.

Reality shows, Jersey Shore: Confessing. Admitting it right here. Yup. Watched 75% of the first season. Thought it mindless fun, then. Didn’t exactly await season two and caught the first two Miami episodes back-to-back, just this week. Findings? It was more enjoyable when the fools didn’t have fame. It was more watchable when it was shot as a straight-up reality show, instead of an exercise in fast-cut editing and camera trickery. The charm of the idiocy is now lost.

Vegetables, okra: What a delight to grow (cool, five-sectioned leaves; heh-heh!) and eat (they work with anything). Nothing to not like here. Three cheers for okra. Keep kickin’, plant.

Bars, Daddy’s Money: When you take over the old On Broadway Bistro and Car Wash, then mix Granite City tough with North City tough, offer cheap drinks and late hours, some pool tables and a hip-hop-meets-classic-rock jukebox, you’ve got… this weird little mess. But an enjoyable little mess, indeed. On the right night, with the right crew and in the right head, this is just the 3 a.m. stop you need. Say no to wack South Side late nighters, say yes to Daddy’s Money.

Fighters, Jamie “The Chosyn 1” Yager: Now that I’ve officially renounced sports (bending, bending… but not yet broken), there’s gotta be one exception that allows for some healthy steam to be blown off. Hello, MMA. So, I’ve gotta have a favorite fighter. And though I don’t think Jamie Yager’s got a long career on the way, he’s got the look, the talk, the nickname and all the other requisites to make him an amusing anti-hero in the short-term. Hope he fights in the Midwest, sometime, it’d be fun to see.

Not this Halloween, Munster Mansion: It’s never to early to plan for Halloween. Unfortunately, this year, you will not be able to visit the replica house of Munster Mansion. The 10-year-old version of me would be beside himself at this news, while I’m merely crestfallen.

Video, “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty: Never knew the name of this song. ‘Til this week. Now, it’s firmly rooted.