Alive And Well And Tattered

Damn…looks like I skipped out on blogging last month.

Well, I wasn’t tryin to, I swear, but let’s just say things got interesting in the non-blogisphere, so I had to put in some extra time in the outside world, that strange nonsensical place where you won’t find teenagers from the 90′s sitting around feverishly worshipping at an altar of obscure music and radical leftist politics…uh, yeah anyway…

Since I’m still recovering from the overload of interesting things that happened last month, I don’t really have a ‘traditional’ Towson-Glen Arm post ready just yet, so…

This morning, in a groggy/just woke up/zombie-esque haze, I unknowingly put on a pair of pants that I really thought I hated. The reason I hated these pants is cuz a few months ago, while wearing these pants, I fell down really hard in NYC’s Chelsea section shortly after getting off of a bus. I brutally skinned my knee, I even still have scars from the injury. The pants bear the marks of discoloration and still have a tiny rip in them where my knee got ground extra hard into the pavement.

I’ve been avoiding wearing these pants for months just cuz the site of that damage reminds me of how dumb and careless I felt after falling, not to mention how painful the injury was.

It wasn’t until I walked a few blocks from my apartment this morning that I realized I was wearing these most hated pants. The funny thing is, despite the negative association, these pants were actually really comfortable. They felt like any other pants I have. Right now, as I write this hours later, I’m still wearing them even and they still feel very comfy.

What this all means and what this could possibly have to do with an obscure art movement from the 90′s is beyond me, but I really felt compelled to share this with everyone out there…maybe this is just a weird metaphor for the creative work I’m usually covering here. It’s like this: if something is damaged, if something reminds you of a less than perfect time, even if something seems like trash, before you throw it away forever maybe just give it a second chance cuz you might find something of value in it that you’d taken for granted before, whether it’s a tattered pair pants or a warbly old cassette tape of crazy teens bangin on pots and pans all day.

A flyer for a 1994 Towson-Glen Arm show that occurred in the affluent Baltimore City neighborhood of Lake Evesham at The Church Of The Holy Redeemer. If you really dig this kinda crazy art and attitude, stay tuned - before the end of this year there will a post up featuring for the first part of an ongoing blog series all about the rise and fall Towson-Glen Arm's biggest band: avant-garde ska provocateurs The Preschoolers! (flyer art/design: unknown)

A flyer for a 1994 Towson-Glen Arm show that occurred in the affluent Baltimore City neighborhood of Lake Evesham at The Church Of The Holy Redeemer (flyer art/design: unknown)

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Within

(All material here is quoted from the liner notes of Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts 2. These were written by Mike Apichella, aka your humble blogger)

Within's biggest moment was an opening slot at a suburban Annapolis show with two of their biggest influences: Unwound and Universal Order Of Armageddon in the Annapolis, Md. suburbs (flyer design by Colin Seven; courtesy of Lisa Starace)

Within’s biggest moment was an opening slot at a suburban Annapolis, Md. show with two of their biggest influences: Unwound and Universal Order Of Armageddon (flyer design by Colin Seven; courtesy of Lisa Starace)

The experimental garage band Within was my most ambitious attempt to transform art into political action. I was 17 years old when I began working on Within’s material using borrowed guitars and amps off and on from 1991 to mid ’92 while killing time during breaks at the band practices of the various Matt Bray/Violet LeVoit-led groups that I played in (more details on those bands can be found in the TGAF blog posts on Violet LeVoit and Matt Bray, and also in the notes to The Retarded Dogs track on the first Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts collection).

That all changed in late 1992 when I got a part-time job working as a telephone surveyor at the Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens Funeral Home & Cemetery. $110 earned at this unbelievably boring job got me a tiny Grand Prix brand guitar which I purchased from Schubert Music in Reisterstown, Md., a store that primarily sold school band equipment and uniforms, as well as a hodge-podge of new budget priced music gear. Soon after that, I bought the piece of equipment that would go on to define Within’s sound: a Boss Hyper Fuzz pedal. A somewhat fried, vintage Juggs practice amp (borrowed from Violet LeVoit) would be the next contraption added to my sonic cache. With all of this tweaked gear in tow, I began to constantly write songs for Within, which remained a nameless project until late 1993.

Within live at the Powhattan Fire Hall near Annapolis, Md. circa spring 1995; l-r, Tim Kabara (in a rare turn on the drums) and Mike Apichella  (photo by Tricia Lane or John Corcoran; courtesy of Tim Kabara)

Within live at the Powhattan Fire Hall near Annapolis, Md. circa spring 1995; l-r, Tim Kabara (in a rare turn on the drums) and Mike Apichella (photo by Tricia Lane or John Corcoran; courtesy of Tim Kabara)

It actually took me more than a year to find other musicians to join Within. My intense perfectionism, a sincere desire only to play with untrained musicians, and my invented musical approach all made rounding out the band’s membership quite difficult….

The first void to be filled in this band was that of the drummer. Claire Mysko and I had been friends since around the spring of ’93 after we met through mutual (political) activist friends…. I told Claire that my ideal drum sound would consist of ultra primal beats played on a kit with only a snare drum, a floor tom, and a crash cymbal. Mysko had no issue with this set-up, and actually seemed even more excited to give it a go once she knew about the stripped down specs. With a successful try out rehearsal in summer ’93, Claire then officially joined Within.

Claire Mysko as she appeared in her 1993 Towson High School yearbook picture (courtesy of William Jones/Towson High School)

Claire Mysko as she appeared in her 1993 Towson High School yearbook picture (courtesy of William Jones/Towson High School)

For the vocalist’s role, my friend Tricia Lane recommended that I tap her Spastic Cracker bandmate Lisa Starace. Lisa had done some ear-shredding back up vocals on one of SC’s harder songs. After Tricia played me a tape of that impressive performance, I asked Lisa to do a try out rehearsal in August of ’93…. so after we successfully ran through a few of my songs I convinced Lisa to join the group…. as she already had a leadership role in Spastic Cracker, she decided to join my group just for the change of pace provided by the work of a side musician. Nonetheless, Starace alone would go on to write most of Within’s blaring vocal parts.

Like many other TGA kids, Claire Mysko was an accomplished student. This led her to skip over a grade to become an 11th grader at the young age of 16. Not only that, but in her junior high school year she was incredibly busy and stressed out preparing to skip her senior year in order to make an early admission to college at The Eugene Lang New School For Social Research in NYC. The New School gave her an offer of substantial scholarship money as a result of her superlative SAT scores and her participation in several of the prestigious writing workshops that catered to the mid-Atlantic’s gifted teen scribes. With all of this frenzied academia, initially, getting Claire on a regular Within practice schedule was a bit daunting…

Claire Mysko (2nd on the far right front row, to the left of The Nudists' Alicia Rabins) posing with the staff of the seminal 1994 edition of Towson High's Colophon literary magazine. Other TGA artists appear here also: top right - writer Tyler Roylance and writer Ian McDonald both of Skull & The Cross Bones, and Spence Holman of The Nudists; far right in the 2nd row in the fourth, third, and second spots from l-r: Steph R. of The Preschoolers, writer Beach Carey, Liz Bishop of Loch Ness and Susan Murphy's Law (courtesy of William Jones/Towson High)

Claire Mysko (2nd on the far right front row, to the left of The Nudists’ Alicia Rabins) posing with the staff of the seminal 1994 edition of Towson High’s Colophon literary magazine. Other TGA artists appear here also: top right writer Tyler Roylance and writer Ian McDonald both of Skull & The Cross Bones, and Spence Holman of The Nudists; far right in the 2nd row in the fourth, third, and second spots from l-r: Steph R. of The Preschoolers, writer Beach Carey, Liz Bishop of Loch Ness and Susan Murphy’s Law (courtesy of William Jones/Towson High)

(Claire) managed to make just enough stray practices throughout early fall ’93 to prepare us for our first show – an October 29th Food Not Bombs* benefit gig put on at my mom’s house which also featured my performance art/joke band Young Death and a headlining set from Pittsburgh, Pa. crust legends Aus Rotten.

A flyer for the first Within show; Towson-Glen Arm band Young Death also made their debut at this gig. (flyer art/design: unknown; courtesy of Lisa Starace)

A flyer for the first Within show; Towson-Glen Arm band Young Death also made their debut at this gig. (flyer art/design: unknown; courtesy of Lisa Starace)

Around December ’93, the three of us began rehearsing about once a week at my mom’s house in Glen Arm, Md. and occasionally at Claire’s parents’ house in Lutherville. Like Lisa, Claire also turned out to be exactly the kind of musician that I needed for Within – a drummer who didn’t give a crap about solos or playing fast thrash beats or weird time signatures; she was just a hyped-up kid who loved pounding the hell outta the drums…. By the end of any given Within practice or show, Claire would always emerge from this zoned out haze drenched in sweat and flushed beet red as if she’d just completed the most grueling triathlon imaginable.

Claire Mysko -  looking typically flushed - performing live at a Within basement show in the Annapolis, Md. suburbs; Cesar's House, April 30th 1994. (photo by Melissa Fatto)

Claire Mysko – looking typically flushed – performing live at a Within basement show in the Annapolis, Md. suburbs; Cesar’s House April 30th 1994. (photo by Melissa Fatto)

The odd parameters I set for Within were created to highlight my extreme political leftism, something which, for the most part, was shared by my bandmates. Playing my own style of music was not merely done to “show off” how original I could be, nor was it a pure reaction against other kinds of music. Instead, by using invented music theory, I felt that Within’s work served to demonstrate an ideology which could be constructively applied to more than just artwork. The invented concepts of Within were things that I had hoped would inspire oppressed/disenfranchised people to refuse any kind of constraint imposed upon them by evil authoritarian forces. An invented chord, an alternate tuning, a thick layer of distortion coating a melody – these were all examples of how the utility of music composition itself could be radically manipulated in many unusual ways while still providing a strong backbone for something more individualistic, therefore far outside of what most musical “authorities” thought of as melodic structure, technique, or dynamics. To me, the fact that I could create songs without either destroying or strictly adhering to the tenets of conventional music *proved* that a better way of life was inevitable for those who really wanted to create a grass roots political system outside of the corrupt bureaucracy run by the world’s exploitive “super powers”.

…Imbuing Within… with a political consciousness, however, was not the only action used to spotlight the progressive nature of our work. Attracting even more attention to that element was the way in which Within worked in aesthetic realms beyond music through our conscious effort to put on visually spectacular live concerts… These elements were further complimented by the use of instruments that were compact in both size and number, a choice which led the audience’s attention to focus upon on the fact that we were sweaty flesh-and-blood people first and musical conduits second. In no uncertain terms, Lisa Starace has expressed that this was the most unique, powerful element of Within:

“People responded to our performances viscerally…we were so brutally raw emotionally, physically, and sonically, so demanding of ourselves and of them, our audiences couldn’t just sit and watch/listen. We dragged them into the moment and made them experience the whole thing with us. So people loved it or hated it…they either embraced the rawness and honesty or they were afraid of it…. I was always proud that we were never easy and never just ok to anybody…”

Lisa Starace roarin' the roof off at a Within show; Cesar's House - Annapolis, Md. suburbs; April 30th 1994 (photo by Melissa Fatto)

Lisa Starace roaring the roof off at a Within show; Cesar’s House – Annapolis, Md. suburbs; April 30th 1994 (photo by Melissa Fatto)

If reference points must be named, some of Within’s main influences as a group included the chaotic leftist hardcore of Born Against, Man Is The Bastard, Huggy Bear, and Universal Order of Armageddon (UOA). My personal influences, however, were a little more “across the board” than that of my bandmates, particularly when it came to my songwriting choices; these were often informed by the noisey garage punk of bands like The Gories, The Cramps, The Swamp Rats, and The One Way Streets (aka my all time favorite punk band). Though Within’s music theory ideas were mine and mine alone, these were certainly a by-product of my love for Sun Ra, Beck, Ornette Coleman, Stereolab, and other artists who refused to jump on any bandwagons or stoop to the bottom-feeder level of reactionary pop music. Phil Ochs, Woody Guthrie, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan gave me a’lot of my lyrical ideas and reinforced my belief that music could be fluidly combined with political sentiment….

An original 45 rpm 7" by  ultra-aggro/noise laden 60's punks The Swamp Rats, one of Within's main influences

An original 45 rpm 7″ by ultra-aggro/noise laden 60′s punks The Swamp Rats, one of Within’s main influences

As Within’s avalanche of noisy art rock plowed through central Maryland throughout the early/mid 90′s, many of our most defining moments were those shared by the group’s original line-up: our hyperactive live shows, our 7″ e.p. (released on Matt Bray’s short lived Sunshine label/distro and produced by scene veteran Christian Sturgis), and high profile gigs supporting Unwound and UOA at a suburban Annapolis house show and Half Man in NYC at ABC-NO-RIO. Still, to me, Within’s most important recorded work was made in late 1994/early ’95 towards the end of our existence during the group’s brief period as a duo featuring only Lisa Starace and I, and, also, when Lisa’s Towson State University classmate Tim Kabara became a Within member. At around this time we arranged to have my friend Eli Jones come in to produce what would end up being Within’s last and only four track sessions (most of Within’s earlier material was recorded/produced by me on a boom box).

Jones was already a big Within fan before I asked him to produce some music for us, plus, thanks to his seminal work with Lesbian Chicken Maggot Blasters and Glorious Fourlane, he’d developed a special knack for getting the most out of any recording driven by effects processing and unconventional melody, so he was very enthusiastic about the work we offered him. My favorite of Eli Jones’ Within productions is the medley ‘Golden/Your Wound’….

Hear ‘Golden/Your Wound’ by Within here: http://nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com/track/within-golden-your-wound

Within live in 1995 at Powhattan Fire Hall in the Annapolis, Md. suburbs; l-r, Lisa Starace and Tim Kabara (photo by Tricia Lane or John Corcoran; courtesy of Tim Kabara)

Within live in 1995 at Powhattan Fire Hall in the Annapolis, Md. suburbs; l-r, Lisa Starace and Tim Kabara (photo by Tricia Lane or John Corcoran; courtesy of Tim Kabara)

…the first chunk of the track… is highlighted by an aggressive performance from Tim Kabara whose bestial vocal attack interprets critical lyrics that I wrote about a problem which often impeded the success of the political activism in Baltimore city that me and my north County friends occasionally took part in. In the mid 90′s, the city’s leftists were plagued by a ‘law and order’ attitude that was supposed to make protests and such more efficient, but really this only stifled creative thinking and diplomacy in order to support a form of weaponized elitism designed to eliminate the participation of those who didn’t follow the “rules”. These “rules” governed how often activists were to demonstrate, what they were to do when those demonstrations commenced, and even the acknowledgement of political correctness as a crucial part of activism.

This all seemed totally fascist to me. It just seemed like the most overzealous activists were setting an unobtainable ‘gold’ (or ‘Golden’) standard so they could have a sense of power and accomplishment at the expense of everyone else’s dignity. (i.e. “You should just totally quit fighting against oppression because you’ll never be as politically correct or aware as those who follow the rules”). The snobby ‘law & order’ attitude made activism in Baltimore ineffectual and boring, so, consequently, around late 1995/early ’96, I chose to cut any close ties that I had to most leftist organizations in that area.

….the ‘Your Wound’ section…deals with a subject frequently found not only in Within’s lyrics, but also in those of all my other early bands. This was my belief that a complete return to a rural/agrarian way of life and an intense focus on natural beauty could save the world from environmental disaster. I also surmised that the competitiveness which often characterizes inner city life contributed to the conflicts of Baltimore’s activist culture; this latter assertion is why I felt that ‘Your Wound’ was a perfect companion for ‘Golden’….

Looking back now, the entire concept behind ‘Your Wound’ is completely impractical. I no longer maintain the belief that all cities must be sacrificed in the name of Arcadia. None of life’s problems (urban or otherwise) can be solved with such a simple/’cut & dry’ solution….

Regardless of all that, it was great to have Within as a therapeutic outlet for the aggression provoked by my once distorted view of political turmoil. The group also taught me some important lessons about how to helm an anomalous creative project in a democratic way, something which was a fringe benefit of the kinship that Lisa, Claire, and all the other former Within members shared with me. I wouldn’t have been able to pull off something this weird and complex without their creativity, patience, and dedication. Really, what set Within apart from many other noisy young 90′s bands was a ridiculous sense of idealism, something that, for better or worse, was destined to be smashed to bits by the unforgiving rigors of the “real world”. Bearing that in mind, the fact that Within’s work remains interesting or entertaining in any way seems almost miraculous.

Within live in 1995 at Powahattan Fire Hall in the Annapolis, Md. suburbs; l-r, Tim Kabara, Lisa Starace, Mike Apichella (photo by Tricia Lane or John Corcoran; courtesy of Tim Kabara)

Within live in 1995 at Powahattan Fire Hall in the Annapolis, Md. suburbs; l-r, Tim Kabara, Lisa Starace, Mike Apichella (photo by Tricia Lane or John Corcoran; courtesy of Tim Kabara)

(*for more info on Food Not Bombs go to

http://foodnotbombs.net/story.html)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tim Kabara’s early documentation of Towson-Glen Arm

writer Tim Kabara's 1994 Towson State University i.d. card (courtesy of Tim Kabara)

writer Tim Kabara’s 1994 Towson State University i.d. card (courtesy of Tim Kabara)

Picking up from where I left off on the last post, recently I made a big geographical jump that’s plopped me down me in the New York City area mostly in one piece. It’s been a heck of a ride so far; I’ve stumbled over everything from my own shoelaces to my own identity and an infinite number of other things. Regardless, as much as I am grateful to have spent my younger years in Maryland, it is truly gratifying to know that I’m able to make a home in one of the craziest places in the world.

Despite all the positive energy of greater metropolitan New York, my process of getting fully settled in the place is still on going. This means that the lengthy Preschoolers chronology mentioned in the previous entry also remains as a work in progress. It should be finished around Christmas or maybe little earlier.

In the meantime, over the next few months expect some quick but essential posts about a few of the more forgotten corners of this blog’s already obscure subject…

In the 90’s extensive press coverage for Towson-Glen Arm was extremely rare. While TGA bands like Spastic Cracker, The Preschoolers, and Within all received capsule record reviews in the major indie press and some local zine/school yearbook attention, the alt rock era only ever witnessed the publication of one comprehensive article about the north County underground’s unusual approach. This piece was written by Tim Kabara and it centered around a Towson-Glen Arm concert held on September 26th 1997 at the now defunct Baltimore city all ages venue The Small Intestine. This show featured the pre-Oxes group International Sounscape Internationale, and two TGA bands: The Boom Boom Cats, and The Superstation – a grungy indie pop group lead by the bizarre singer/songwriter Josh Marchant . This band also featured Mike Apichella (aka yours truly) on drums, the lead guitarist-producer-composer Eli Jones, and bassist/composer Chris James. Kabara’s article focused heavily on The Superstation as the concert in question featured one of that group’s last performances. The article originally ran in a fall 1997 issue of Towson State University’s student newspaper The Towerlight.

The musician/author/journalist/documentarian/1999 Towson State graduate Tim Kabara would become a staple of the Baltimore underground in the aughts and he continues to be an important part of that city’s ever growing creative milieu. During the 90’s Kabara was a great supporter of Towson-Glen Arm, as well as many other underground art movements up and down the U.S. east coast and beyond.

Kabara also played a major role in the birth of a strange local art scene in the rough working class town of Dundalk, Md. where he spent much of his teen years. Many odd bands and recording projects that combined the efforts of young TGA artists and Dundalk freaks emerged directly as a result of Kabara’s patronage of and collaborations with north County artists, things which occurred primarily once he graduated high school and began attending Towson State. A deeper inspection of Kabara’s early creative efforts will grace this blog soon, but for now we’re going to focus on the distinction he’s earned as one of the very few 90’s journalists to crystalize the Towson-Glen Arm wildness in essay form.

Below are scans of an earlier essay about The Superstation done by Tim as an assignment for a college English class. This was completed about a year before the 1997 concert which eventually became the focal point of Kabara’s Towerlight article*. In this earlier rough essay, poetic descriptions of The Superstation’s artistic versatility served to present the band and “the Towson scene” as a Merry Prankster-esque raspberry blowing mightily into the cold facade of the mid-90’s’ alt-rock homogeny. After each scan, the always compelling Tim Kabara has contributed some contemporary impressions of his younger self’s artistic intent…

...PAGE ONE I like the opening! You are struggling with how to explain the “Towson scene” of the 1990s. Yes, something was changing at the time this was written. People were growing up and older, bands were coming and going… this is cyclical. It is hard to see that when it is happening for the first time, but you are getting it. Are you sure the Towson scene music is “punk rock”? Would your audience understand what you mean? I would consider revising this in the next draft. How are you speaking with such authority about “taking yourself seriously”? You immediately contradict yourself by talking about “serious” bands being a part of the scene.

…PAGE ONE
I like the opening! You are struggling with how to explain the “Towson scene” of the 1990s. Yes, something was changing at the time this was written. People were growing up and older, bands were coming and going… this is cyclical. It is hard to see that when it is happening for the first time, but you are getting it.

Are you sure the Towson scene music is “punk rock”? Would your audience understand what you mean? I would consider revising this in the next draft.
How are you speaking with such authority about “taking yourself seriously”? You immediately contradict yourself by talking about “serious” bands being a part of the scene.

PAGE TWO I dig on your description of the set! I was there, and totally don’t remember those details.

PAGE TWO
I dig on your description of the set! I was there, and totally don’t remember those details.

PAGE THREE I like how you see this sort of messy “multi-musicality” thing and describe it as a strength. Maybe that is a “punk rock” aspect of this Towson scene? The rule bending and breaking? The general “YOLO” vibe? Just a thought… Um… hey. I have to level with you. You were doing such a good job of being objective and even-handed and nice and then… you launch into this “snowball’s chance in hell” invective? Why? Like Edgar Allan Poe did when he was working as a literary critic, you are spending too much time on a “hatchet job” on these local groups and the Baltimore scene at that time. Why not stay positive? Don’t hate, appreciate! Oh well… I’m going to chalk this up to youthful inexperience and advise you cut this stuff out in the next draft.


PAGE THREE
I like how you see this sort of messy “multi-musicality” thing and describe it as a strength. Maybe that is a “punk rock” aspect of this Towson scene? The rule bending and breaking? The general “YOLO” vibe? Just a thought…
Um… hey. I have to level with you. You were doing such a good job of being objective and even-handed and nice and then… you launch into this “snowball’s chance in hell” invective? Why? Like Edgar Allan Poe did when he was working as a literary critic, you are spending too much time on a “hatchet job” on these local groups and the Baltimore scene at that time. Why not stay positive? Don’t hate, appreciate! Oh well… I’m going to chalk this up to youthful inexperience and advise you cut this stuff out in the next draft.

PAGE FOUR Still, your youthful strum and drang does nail something about the spirit of the scene at that time. Saying The Superstation will “shove wacky fun up your ass” is a bit over the top, but the point is made. Okay. Now this last part is baffling/ bizarre. Why would you weirdly attack The Great Unraveling, your friend’s band, in this last part? You totally like that band! Your band toured with them! They played a show in your mom’s basement! I am seriously confused. Tim Kabara from the 1990's, I think maybe you are trying to attack bands that are imitating an existing sound/style? Some advice… those kids who are really into Unwound and all that great music, people like Chris Coady and Guy Blakeslee and Walker Teret, are going to grow up and make some seriously awesome music and make great art. Put the literary “knife” down. I assure you, we are all in this together.  Trust me. I am from the future. I know. Regards, Tim Kabara from the 2010s

PAGE FOUR
Still, your youthful strum and drang does nail something about the spirit of the scene at that time. Saying The Superstation will “shove wacky fun up your ass” is a bit over the top, but the point is made.
Okay. Now this last part is baffling/ bizarre. Why would you weirdly attack The Great Unraveling, your friend’s band, in this last part? You totally like that band! Your band toured with them! They played a show in your mom’s basement! I am seriously confused.

Tim Kabara from the 1990′s, I think maybe you are trying to attack bands that are imitating an existing sound/style? Some advice… those kids who are really into Unwound and all that great music, people like Chris Coady and Guy Blakeslee and Walker Teret, are going to grow up and make some seriously awesome music and make great art. Put the literary “knife” down. I assure you, we are all in this together. Trust me. I am from the future. I know.
Regards,
Tim Kabara from the 2010s

[*a scan of that appears here also. If anyone can give full bibliographic info on this autumn '97 article, please get in touch asap]

[*a scan of that appears here also. If anyone can give full bibliographic info on this autumn '97 article, please get in touch asap]

(A million thanks go out to Tim Kabara for his help with this post, and the thorough archival/fact checking assistance which he’s given to the TGAF project as a whole. You can catch up with Tim Kabara via any major social networking platform, his work as a presenter on Baltimore, Md.’s WYPR 88.1fm, and as a record reviewer for the now defunct – but well archived – Beabots website)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Big Changes/Big Plans

A short update here: For awhile now I’ve been working on a lengthy serialized piece all about Towson-Glen Arm’s most popular band: avant-ska masters The Preschoolers. It was originally supposed to be completed next month, but I’ve recently had some huge changes go down in my personal life, the biggest being my permanent relocation to the New York City area, so, while getting used to a new awesome routine, I may need to take some time away from TGAF.

For now, I’m thinking things will be back up to this blog’s normal speed of one post a month by this summer.

Til then, have a great spring,

Mike Apichella

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sabrina Alano: The Hidden Mysticism Of Everyday Life

a page from an old Chinese manuscript depicting the supernatural being known as P'an Ku, the inspiration for Sabrina Alano's poem of the same name. If anyone out there can shed more light on the origins of the image above please get in touch asap. (this scan comes from a website about Chinese tourism: http://blog.chinatraveldepot.com/2012/07/chinese-mythology-how-heaven-and-earth-were-created/)

a page from an old Chinese manuscript depicting the supernatural being known as P'an Ku, the inspiration for Sabrina Alano's poem of the same name. If anyone out there can shed more light on the origins of the image above please get in touch asap. (this scan comes from a website about Chinese tourism:
http://blog.chinatraveldepot.com/2012/07/chinese-mythology-how-heaven-and-earth-were-created/)

The first volume of the Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts compilation series comes with an 11×17 insert which reprints many of the scene’s major literary works – bizarre poems, essays, satirical works, and prose pieces of many shapes and sizes which all represent a colorful patchwork of radical leftist sentiment, outrageous humor, and obscure philosophy.

Unfortunately, the TGA writing of Sabrina Alano couldn’t be included in either of the recently released TGAF album packages. To make up for this glaring omission, now, for the first time in nearly two decades, Ms. Alano’s awesome work can be re-introduced to the world at large.

With respect to the north County underground’s many other fine writers, I must say that Sabrina Alano is probably my favorite Towson-Glen Arm scribe. Her incomparable, visionary style reached its apotheosis in meditations on everyday life’s hidden mysticism:

originally published in the 1997 edition of Dulaney High School's Sequel literary magazine (courtesy of Greg Storms)

originally published in the 1997 edition of Dulaney High School’s Sequel literary magazine (courtesy of Greg Storms)

originally published in the 1997 edition of Dulaney High School's Sequel literary magazine. (courtesy of Greg Storms)

originally published in the 1997 edition of Dulaney High School’s Sequel literary magazine. (courtesy of Greg Storms)

originally published in the 1995 edition of Dulaney High School's Sequel literary magazine. (courtesy of Greg Storms)

originally published in the 1995 edition of Dulaney High School’s Sequel literary magazine. (courtesy of Greg Storms)

Sabrina Alano as she appeared in her 1997 Dulaney High School yearbook picture. (courtesy of Andy Devos)

Sabrina Alano as she appeared in her 1997 Dulaney High School yearbook picture. (courtesy of Andy Devos)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TGAF2 – OUT NOW

The cover art for Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts 2 by Tricia Lane-Forster (originally created for a flyer advertising a late 1994 concert at Towson State University that featured her band Spastic Cracker)

The cover art for Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts 2 by Tricia Lane-Forster (originally created for a flyer advertising a late 1994 concert at Towson State University that featured her band Spastic Cracker)

The second volume of the Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts compilation series is out now, another volcanic eruption of mega-obscure 90′s nuggets from Baltimore County’s teen avant-garde.

TGAF2 is now available as both a download from nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com , and as a cdr release pressed in a limited edition of 150 copies. The cdr version of TGAF2 features 4 bonus tracks that you can’t get on the Bandcamp version: two more crazed improvs from T.E.A.M. (including a live recording made at the group’s debut gig at Matt Bray’s house), an awesome toy piano-driven track by the Eli Jones/Shawn Phase project Glorious Fourlane, and an excerpt from what is probably the wildest version of The Nudists’ ribald epic “Sodomy Ska”.

The release comes with complete track notes including lengthy essays about the storied venue Matt Bray’s house (TGA’s most important show space*), the politically charged saga of my experimental punk band Within, and a detailed examination of Josh Marchant’s totally asbsurd multi-media project The Decency Squad.

Two inserts featuring reprints of rare graphics and writing from the original TGA era are part of the packaging of the newest TGAF comp, most notably an 11×17 poster containing the nearly complete reproduction of a 1994 letter written to me by Jon “Hubcap” Woodstock who adorned this correspondence with some incredible psychedelic illustration and calligraphy. If you loved the visual art of Tricia Lane-Forster and the cover design from the Lard Star/Eve Pagoda split tape reprinted on TGAF1′s insert then you need to see this gorgeous Woodstock piece.

Downloads of Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts 2 are $7.00 each and the cdr version of TGAF2 is $12 postage paid direct from Nuns Like To Fence. To purchase a copy of TGAF2 on cdr please send a paypal payment to the email address in the ‘about’ section here. For orders of more than 4 copies of TGAF2 and for TGAF2 wholesale orders please message the same email address before sending your payment.

All profits from records in the Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts series go directly to these two charity groups:

music4more(music4more.org) – a Baltimore, Md. based organization dedicated to supporting music education programs with a special focus on benefitting those of schools in low income communities in the U.S.

and

Grass Roots Crisis Intervention (grassrootscrisis.org) – based in Columbia, Md., Grass Roots provides a comprehensive resource to individuals who may be contemplating suicide, a 24-hour phone and walk-in crisis center, and educational resources for any one who has been touched by the tragedy of suicide.

Mike Apichella – January 2014

(* More info on Matt Bray’s house, and a few excerpts from the essay about the venue can be found here: http://towsonglenarmfreakouts.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/matt-bray-and-the-early-days-of-towson-glen-arm/)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Matt Bray and the early days of Towson-Glen Arm

anti violence flyer by matt bray

The story of Towson-Glen Arm’s genesis has been explored at length in the first Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts compilation’s track notes*, and in a recent post contributed by the illustrious author Violet LeVoit**. LeVoit represents one half of the pair who informally built the Towson-Glen Arm movement’s communal framework from scratch, so I figured since she got to share her side of the scene’s origin tale it was time to shine the spotlight on her pioneering counterpart: the d.i.y. promoter/writer/activist extraordinaire Matt Bray.

To celebrate the impending release of Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts 2, here is a pastiche that features excerpts from an essay I wrote about Bray’s work as the first TGA show promoter; the much longer, complete version of this essay is a part of the TGAF2 track notes. Some of Matt Bray’s contemporary ruminations on the TGA experience and other elements of 90′s counter culture are here as well, along with scans of the spirited print material which Bray created during the north County underground’s halcyon days (i.e., the chaotic, early 90′s anti-moshing flyer above).

“The humble town of Lutherville-Timonium, Md. played host to Towson-Glen Arm’s spiritual nexus: The Bray Family house, an inconspicuous suburban structure roughly halfway between Cockeysville and Towson. During the early 90′s…Matt Bray booked a concert series there which featured some of TGA’s most memorable moments. These shows also created a rare direct link between Towson-Glen Arm and 90′s pop culture, a connection that would go on to dilute TGA’s powerful originality despite the positive effect it had in giving the scene unparalleled national exposure. Even worse, when Bray left Maryland for good after closing up shop at the end of ’94 his departure played a key part in the scene’s downfall. Nonetheless, Matt Bray’s basement shows represented the north County underground’s off-the-wall joi de vivre better than any other live events of their time.

Bray’s role as a show promoter developed directly out of his status as a political activist working with left wing groups… During the 90′s, organizations like these had an immense presence in many underground art scenes throughout urban America. In Baltimore County, Towson-Glen Arm provided faithful suburban support for the Clinton-era’s dominant leftist groups and their related causes. Matt Bray was the most zealous booster of this kind of activity in the TGA movement’s earliest days: …he served several years as president of Dulaney High School’s Enviromental Issues Club, he created, self-published, and distributed educational material regarding various social justice issues, and in 1991 he was part of the editorial staff of David Woodberry’s proto-TGA zine ‘Styrofoam’.

While myself and all my Glen Arm area friends knew Bray as one of our weirder classmates at Dulaney High, the Towson underground came to know him through Violet LeVoit. Bray and LeVoit grew up together and attended Ridgely Middle School in the 80′s, but were separated when they went off to different high schools at the turn of the decade with LeVoit ending up at Towson. Despite the separate schools the pair stayed in touch and eventually Bray developed a close relationship with many of Violet’s arty Towson friends all of whom identified themselves as radical leftists. Though his musical taste differed dramatically from that of most of these misfits, Bray and artists like Dave Willemain and Lou Thomas all shared a mutual adoration for avant garde poetry and philosophy, and in general Matt was impressed by the organic cohesion that Violet and her friends maintained as outspoken foils to the THS hierarchy of despotic administrators and jocks.

Enthused by his new alliance with the Towson underground, Matt Bray started booking all ages concerts specifically as a way to create a stronger local activist presence, something which he surmised would be the natural consequence of unfiying his many radicalized friends through their love of art. The TGA artists’ outbursts were prominent at Bray’s shows, but his gigs also featured guest spots from more conventional national acts that held extreme political views similar to ours; really, Matt would book any artist as long as they weren’t racist, sexist, homophobic, or narrow minded, a policy that illuminated Bray’s shows with an unprecedented aesthetic diversity that could only exist in harmony with leftism…”

MATT BRAY: I did actually think that I was exposing the suburban kids to radical politics. and that I was trying to unify different scenes – the increasingly popular emo hardcore scene, the old school crust punk anarchist scene, and the new suburban art scene (Towson-Glen Arm)…

I was simply trying to create community based on movement principles in the place where my parents dumped me. In fact, I was a terrible musician and not at all an artist, and though I loved it and the emotion and the aesthetics, I did want the art to be in service of the movement and a radical community…

A mid 1994 flyer created by Matt Bray which advertises all of the shows he booked during the summer of '94. Some line-ups listed here are incomplete or incorrect, particularly when it comes to documentation of the Towson-Glen Arm bands who filled out these bills, i.e., the pre-Shovel garage punk band Subversion opened up the June 11th show; T.E.A.M. headlined and made their debut at the June 17th show; Grrls Of The Grid Iron played July 9th; The Preschoolers, Ashcan, and seminal Pa. emo band Frail played August 1st (courtesy of Lisa Starace)

A mid 1994 flyer created by Matt Bray which advertises all of the shows he booked during the summer of ’94. Some line-ups listed here are incomplete or incorrect, particularly when it comes to documentation of the Towson-Glen Arm bands who filled out these bills, i.e., the pre-Shovel garage punk band Subversion opened up the June 11th show; T.E.A.M. headlined and made their debut at the June 17th show;
Grrls Of The Grid Iron played July 9th; The Preschoolers, Ashcan, and the seminal Pa. emo band Frail played August 1st (courtesy of Lisa Starace)

“Graduating from Dulaney High in 1993 with honors not only landed Matt Bray acceptance and scholarship money from NYU, but also a’lot of pride and support from his family. As a reward for all of his school acheivements, Bray’s parents let him promote and manage their suburban basement as a concert venue for the entire summer of 1994 …Before finally giving him free reign with their home, Matt’s family let him set up a few “warm up” shows prior to summer ’94. These gigs were carefully scrutinized by Matt’s parents who worried about the possibility of property damage, confrontations with kids on drugs, and other problems normally associated with wild “rock concerts”. Of course, many of the nerdy Towson-Glen Arm kids who came to these shows were far too worried about their g.p.a.’s and college transcripts to really cut loose in any truly embarassing or destructive way, and, more importantly, with its organic weirdness and spontinaiety the TGA scene’s creative work was like a giant, drug-free, hallucinogenic trip and certainly not something which begged for any synthetic garnish.

The resplendent glory of Matt Bray’s basement was a feast for the mind, body, and soul. Along with the unruly atmospherics of loud live music, Bray drenched his basement in images that symbolized Towson-Glen Arm’s political solidarity by adorning the walls with Seth Tobacoman posters, TGA artists’ homespun visual art projects, leftist bands’ promo materials…d.i.y. political leaflets… The basement was also furnished with a long folding table where these informative pamphlets shared space with a veritable flea market of low budget zines and records made by local and national d.i.y. music acts. On that same table you’d also find fresh vegan dishes lovingly prepared by TGA artists and patrons and served up gratis with a smile – a goodwill gesture, and a profound representation of TGA’s connection to the animal rights movement.”

On August 1st 1994 Matt Bray booked his final basement show: a gig featuring the influential political emo-core bands Frail, Floodgate, and Half-Man. Towson-Glen Arm heroes The Preschoolers headlined and the Within/Spastic Cracker side project Ashcan also played; both of the latter groups provided the show’s main draw, and the emo groups were actually ignored by the majority of the people who came to this gig. In Late ’94 TGA was at the height of its popularity, so the non-plused reaction to emo which characterized this show wasn’t surprising at all…

“Though Matt Bray would eventually denounce the political significance of emo-hardcore, summer ’94 was still a very idealistic time for all of us, so, initially, opinions held by Bray and his Towson-Glen Arm brethren were intensely at odds when it came to the common trends of 90′s indie music. That rift was perfectly illustrated by Bray’s dissaproval of this show’s outcome. Bray was sure that his parents’ basement would become a hotbed of radicalism via the promotion of overtly leftist emo/hardcore bands, so he was very annoyed by the fact that most of the 50+ kids who attended this show weren’t very interested in any of the non-TGA groups.

Instead of being defined as a revolutionary spark, many TGA kids critically viewed the emo/political h.c. community as a predominantly elitist, authoritarian crew who comandeered the d.i.y. scene with all sorts of ineffectual, self-indulgent grand standing disguised as political action. The apathy which Frail and co. were subjected to on August 1st was a direct expression of TGA’s lack of respect for emo/h.c., and one of several things which eventually influenced Bray to withdrawal from the d.i.y. art movement forever.”

MATT BRAY: What I took from the TGA scene over that summer was the impression that it would be very easy for (the TGA artists) to become cynical as a defense against sincerity or political commitment. Basically I liked the people who showed an interest in the politics and the potential for…a countercultural movement. I liked Dave (Willemain) because he knew and cared about black nationalism and black political prisoners…Another characteristic of the emo hardcore scene that was poisonous was sarcasm…I was afraid that the earnestness of the TGA kids would sour to sarcasm if they were taught to be indifferent to political conviction as a way of showing you’re “beyond” it, post-it… I mean, this was a time when there was a lot going on in the world to protest and work urgently on!! I was ok with the smart satires of political dogmatism and I was anti-authoritarian myself but the indifference for the sake of being an artist?! I just couldn’t deal. I suspected that the indifference by design and sarcasm as primary tool of communication were rooted in a fear of losing privileges as punishment for defying the system, and in an interest in maintaining the safety net that their parents’ approval won…

Towson-Glen Arm’s creative embrace of tolerance and diversity knew no bounds – case in point: an excerpt from an article by Matt “Neitzsche” Bray that criticized stereotyping through an analysis of heavy metal music. (originally published by David Woodberry in his zine ‘Styrofoam’ – spring 1991)

MATT BRAY: Overall I think the TGA kids were great because…they really forged an artistic community for themselves that was not mainstream, and being a young person in suburban america at that time was stifling so any crack in the armor was welcome…

We were the last generation before the internet, and we had the possibility to invent our own cultures based on our own hard-fought influences – not content to take what was handed to us. There was some great fun and community, and it was an alternative! That is cool no matter what.

Matt Bray at Dulaney High School in 1993 with English teacher Elizabeth Fanto who also served as advisor for DHS' literary magazine Sequel. In the early/mid 90's Sequel showcased many classic pieces of Towson-Glen Arm writing. (from the 1993 Dulaney High School yearbook; photo by Brian Storms)

Matt Bray at Dulaney High School in 1993 with English teacher Elizabeth Fanto who also served as advisor for DHS’ literary magazine Sequel. In the early/mid 90′s Sequel showcased many classic pieces of Towson-Glen Arm writing. (from the 1993 Dulaney High School yearbook; photo by Brian Storms)

(* http://towsonglenarmfreakouts.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/excerpts-of-music-and-track-notes-from-the-first-towson-glen-arm-freakouts-compilation-album/)

(** http://towsonglenarmfreakouts.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/violet-levoit-on-towson-glen-arm/).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment