“Bearing Witness” by Fang Peng

The 1994 edition of Dulaney High School’s Sequel literary magazine ran an extraordinary essay called “Bearing Witness” by a somewhat mysterious writer named Fang Peng. At first glance it seemed to be a piece concerning the emotional impact of a visit to the then newly built U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., but quickly the piece took a hard left turn into the kind of subversive twilight zone that TGA artists called home. Instead of offering only praise for the new national landmark’s attempt to create a sensitive and thorough monument to one of war’s most horrifying consequences, Peng uses the description of her experience at the museum as the basis for a scathing critique decrying  the U.S. government’s systematic apathy as it related to the plight of refugees (those who the Nazis referred to as “undesirables”) who attempted to flee Holocaust-era Europe for America.

During the 90’s the American left spent a’lot of time patting itself on the back. The Clintons were practically perceived as the new Kennedys, their mega rich liberal democrat acolytes deflected scrutiny by passionately supporting “band-aid” legislation ala the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, and they constantly focused on the demonization of characters like Newt Gingrich whose scandalous indiscretions in and out of the political realm were no different than anything scarring the careers of enemies across the aisle. Consequently it was rare, even in some radical leftist journals and zines, to find more progressive activist writers creating engaging, well informed, detailed criticism of the moderate left’s weak efforts to push the cause of social justice. Few wanted to raise awareness about why and how all political sides and branches of the U.S. federal government had played a big part in maintaining legislation which reinforced nationalistic/”tunnel vision” approaches to foreign policy. Within the context of all this, Peng’s “Bearing Witness” becomes even more intense. This essay is a prime symbol of Towson-Glen Arm’s desire not to tow any existent party line, it stands as a literary act of protest against mainstream politics’ futile connection to the “Us vs. Them” power dynamic.

And to top it all off, it’s a completely entertaining read – Fang Peng is an amazing writer whose poetic sensibility never once becomes tainted by the boring/predictable aesthetics of a rant or didactic “think piece”. In light of today’s extreme lack of political discourse, not to mention the dominance of contemporary issues facing political refugees throughout the western world, Fang Peng’s “Bearing Witness” is arguably more important now than ever before.

tgaf - fang peng - Sequel 1994 Page 18tgaf - fang peng - Sequel 1994 Page 19

(the pages scanned here come from a copy of Sequel ’94 supplied by Graham Dodge)

There’s not much else to say about Fang Peng. I tried to locate her a few years ago with no luck both through independent searches on my own and through some of her old friends and class mates from Dulaney but came up with nothing. She contributed other work to Sequel ’94 that falls a little bit outside of the scope of this blog, but is nonetheless worth checking out if you can find a copy of the publication (which also features contributions from other TGA artists including Melissa Fatto and Lauren Bereska). Other than her handful of Sequel contributions, and the fact that she was a student at Dulaney during the 90’s,  there isn’t much else that connects Peng to the TGA movement.

Fang Peng, if you’re out there, please get in touch, we’d all love to know more about you and your work!

tgaf - Fang Peng 1994 dhs

(Above: Fang Peng as she appeared in her 1994 Dulaney High School yearbook picture; courtesy of Cory Davolos)

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Mike Apichella – live on fri. August 24th at Trophy House in Baltimore

Mike Apichella early or mid 90's1Hi everybody, your humble blogger reporting here, just checkin in to let you know that on friday night 8pm August 24th I’ll be playing my second ever solo show in Baltimore, Md. at The Trophy Room. I’m probably gonna be the only Towson-Glen Arm artist on the bill, but my close friends Blood On The Mercy Seat are playing too. Like me, they’ve got a deep connection to Towson, and their material is predominantly improvised. They feature members of the great ultra weird noisy pop rock bands Rosemary Krust and Yes Selma, so if you like those bands you’ll love Blood On The Mercy Seat. Other great acts playing this show include the great Philly multi-media freaks Sieve and Boothe, so the whole event will be super fun all around.

Donations will be taken at the door, and Towson-Glen Arm recordings and lotsa other interesting creations will be available for sale so please bring some scratch.

The music I’m playing at this event will probably sound something like this:  https://nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com/track/mike-apichella-space-bike

(above: Mike Apichella circa the early/mid ’90’s; photo by Evelyn Apichella)

mike a 8-24

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Rabelaisian Hardcore: The Spectacle Of Lard Star

UPDATE – For the first time in nearly 25 years the music of Lard Star has been re-issued. A “new” Lard Star” digital e.p. featuring 8 of the craziest tracks from their split with Eve Pagoda is out now on Nuns Like To Fence:

https://nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com/album/lard-star

New track notes are included as a part of this release. These fill in some of the blanks left by the piece re-blogged here partcularly in regard to L.S. member Jon Woodstock’s extreme attachment to the work of this infamous ‘Rabelaisian’ hardcore band. And a significantly higher quality copy of the only known photo of Lard Star serves as cover art for the e.p.

All profits made from this download release will be go toward the future educational costs of Penny Woodstock, daughter of the late Jon Woodstock.

Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts

Lard Star-Eve Pagoda Front Tape Cover Original The original front cover art and some of the credits of the spring 1994 Lard Star/Eve Pagoda split tape ‘The Glen Arm Garage Band Hotshots’. The title of this release was created by Jon Woodstock in tribute to a Yazoo Records collection of pre-World War II pop music called ‘Hawaiian Guitar Hotshots’* (art/design: Mike Apichella and Jon Woodstock)

Something very strange happened in suburban teenage America shortly after the 1991 Christmas holiday. The jock boys who used to pick on weirdos, punks, and nerds were suddenly wearing mohawks, Black Flag t-shirts, and ripped jeans. The cheerleaders and preppy girls who once poked fun at all the low budget thrift store styles preferred by arty kids and goth chicks were suddenly showing up to school in clashing plaid skirts and socks, dying their hair pink, and stomping about in the skinhead approved Doctor Marten brand boots. Only a few short weeks before that Christmas skinheads could be…

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TGAF1 now available in NYC, Chicago, Boston, and beyond

Here’s yet *another* updated listing of record stores where you can purchase the first volume of the Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts compilation record series

Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts

A limited stock of the first Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts compilation is now on sale in the New York City area and beyond

In Brooklyn, NY it can be found on sale at this wild record store:

Deep Cuts Record Shop
57-03 Catalpa Ave.
Ridgewood, Queens, New York

You can check’em out online too: https://www.facebook.com/deepcutsbk

The Wicker Park location of Chicago, Illnois’ legendary Reckless Records is the first brick and mortar store in Chi-town to carry copies of TGAF1. Here’s the store’s address:

Reckless Records 1379 Milwaukee Ave.  Chicago, Il. 60622

You can also find TGAF1 for sale in Chicago via the Rainbow Bridge Distro. table, a fine one-stop for all your far out experimental music needs. Rainbow Bridge’s proprietor Angel Marcloid is one of the Windy City’s best avant garde music makers and they frequently tour with their numerous projects. Everything on their distro table can also be purchased via…

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The Multi-Media Art of Jon Woodstock – Part 1: The Bomb Tapes

Jon Woodstock bomb Droppings tape cover 1994

The cover art for Bomb Droppings, the 2nd volume of the Bomb tape compilation series which was created, compiled, and released by Jon Woodstock in the early 90’s. All of the lettering and design here was done by Woodstock himself, but the main cover images comprise a mix of original Woodstock motifs, clip art, and an altered portion of the King Features comic strip ‘Mother Goose and Grimm’ (originally drawn by Mike Peters)

Figuring out how to start off a retrospective about the late Jon Woodstock’s creative ouvre is a monumental task. His artistic canon (much like his complex personality) had so many compelling and wildly conflicting sides: there was mystical hippy poet Jon Woodstock with long flowing curly locks looking and often acting like he just stepped out of a William Blake engraving; there was Jon Woodstock the angry contrarian who refused all gods and all masters, and had no fear when it came to shock value and provocative outbursts; there was Woodstock the melancholy psychedelic, experimental singer-songwriter whose chiming acoustic guitar and rough hewn vocals simultaneously recalled the rural bliss of Mississippi John Hurt or Beck and the intense east coast neurosis of the two big Lou’s (Barlow and Reed); the acerbic wisecracking Jon Woodstock, an outspoken commentator on socio-political tension and pop absurdity, sorta like the one-man equivalent of George Carlin riffing on stage with Steve Martin after a night of perilous hedonism; or should we highlight the “skin bangin animal (who’ll) never be tamed”*, the cow bell obsessed drummer/percussionist Jon Woodstock who crafted 5 years of solid poly-rhythm for some of the 90’s weirdest avant garde/improvised music?

The answer is ‘ALL of the above’.

There was one Woodstock work that best represents the full breadth of his own work and that of Towson-Glen Arm’s unified effort. This would be Bomb, a two volume various artists compilation series which the artist assembled from around 1992 to August 1994. These cassettes were made up of excerpts from the mountain of tape recordings made and horded by Woodstock which documented most of his early 90’s audio output:  private home recording sessions, practice tapes, one-off jam sessions, snippets of spoken word poetry pieces, and sound collage. Woodstock’s participation in many of these cathartic moments represents the only recurring theme that ties the Bomb series’ recordings together. A visionary graphic designer, Woodstock created all of the artwork for these bizarre 90 minute extravaganzas, and he also supervised the replication and free distribution of these tapes which were issued in editions of roughly 10-20 copies (but probably also copied and dubbed unofficially thus making an exact number for the editions unknown).

The simply titled Bomb was the first volume. It was released in July 1994; the second volume, titled Bomb Droppings, was probably the bigger therefore more well known edition of the two. Bomb Droppings came out in late August of ’94 just before Woodstock briefly relocated to Eugene, Oregon.

Jon Woodstock Bomb ffront tape cover 1994

DETAIL jon-woodstock-bomb-ffront-tape-cover-1994-e1516305084362

Detail from the front cover art of the first “Bomb” tape designed by Jon Woodstock, July 1994. The photo’s origin is unknown.

To put it lightly, the Bomb tapes were all over the place. The innovative melodies and improvisations of T.E.A.M. were presented randomly with 10 second long recordings of impenetrable inside jokes and stoned crowd banter lifted from a lofi bootleg of a 70’s James Taylor concert. The sprawling noise-laden experimental music of Eve Pagoda and Big Huge Fucking Machine rubs shoulders with a sample of anthemic Donna Godchaux vocals from a DEAD show. There were baffling quiet versions of songs by ‘Rabelaisian hardcore’ band Lard Star recorded by LS itself. We hear Woodstock drumming in a trio with Lou Thomas on bass and future indie music hero David Berginder (of Celebration and Arbouretum) playing acoustic guitar, a recording that shares space with audio pastiches made from public domain interviews and performance excerpts that feature Woody Guthrie, Bob Marley, and even a raw confessional from an anonymous elderly black man who had been under aggressive surveillance by the KKK and racist police. Woodstock’s own one-of-a-kind introspective solo recordings were sprinkled liberally throughout all this chaotic weirdness.

The Bomb series also showcased the work of numerous TGA artists other than Jon Woodstock: Dave Willemain, Mike Apichella, Cory Davolos, Jim Sajor, Devon Till, Violet LeVoit, David Richardson, and the aforementioned Thomas all are well repped, plus there are guest appearances from members of the jam band Driver who featured the aforementioned David Berginder. Some of Berginder’s Driver band mates who might have been on the first Bomb include Dave Heumann, Scott Dorfler, Jason Wallace, and possibly others.

Jon Woodstock Bomb inside tape cover 1994

This is the inside cover art of the first volume of the Bomb tape compilation series. While Woodstock certainly was a great and imaginative curator for this series, his ability to accurately credit the artists whose work is compiled on Bomb wasn’t so great. Here now is an attempt to correct any major mistakes Woodstock made in his attributions: on side 1, track 6 drumming credits are given to ‘Shades’ (aka Mike Apichella) but this blurt of electronic sound manipulation features only ‘Hubcap’ (aka Woodstock); track 17 (“Girls Smell Good” by Hubcap) features an unknown drummer and probably not “Shades” who is erroneously credited for this. On side 2, track 16 once again features an incorrect drumming credit for ‘Shades’; that’s a ‘Hubcap’ solo recording sans percussion. Speaking of Hubcap solo recordings, here’s an interesting note: track 11 on side 2 (the first Bomb comp’s title track) features no recording date and according to Woodstock himself this was probably the first solo recording he ever made. He wasn’t sure what the exact date was when he put this song to tape, but said that this could’ve been made as early as 1992; if it was recorded in ’92 that means this is the first recorded & released example of acoustic Towson-Glen Arm music. Last but not least, the biggest mistake of all here comes with the complete lack of credits for “Engine #11”, side 1 track 13. This track was made by the recording-only project Big Huge Fucking Machine. This group also appears on side 2 performing “Tuli In A Box” where they’re credited as ‘Lil Devil’ aka Cory Davolos, ‘Shades’, and ‘Hubcap’. One last note on the production of these recordings: apparently Woodstock had both Bomb compilations mastered by a hippy audiophile whose nickname was ‘Grizzly’ (real name: Michael, last name: now forgotten). ‘Grizzly’ had a minimal home studio which he operated out of his 1 bedroom apartment in Timonium, Md.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             A note on the text/caligraphy: the messy hand written absurdities on the far left are mock “track notes” written by Mike Apichella who made the aesthetic choice to use either a magic marker with a torn tip or a leaky ball point pen

While the debut releases by Lesbian Chicken Maggot Blasters, The Nudists, The Preschoolers, and Spastic Cracker all did an amazing job of illuminating the wide artistic scope of work by individual TGA groups, so much of what made Towson-Glen Arm special was the intense feeling of community which bonded the young artists together making the entire scene itself occasionally seem like one big amoeba-esque collective that just kept shifting its conceptual form with each of its various artistic evolutions and ideological epiphanies.

The Bomb series stands as the major vintage document of Towson-Glen Arm’s work because it shows how the scene was defined by an ever evolving aesthetic and an unbridled force of art-as-community. Woodstock put these records out in order to showcase some of the scene’s high points and its most spectacularly messy works in progress, fleeting moments of hidden camera intimacy, his own unique ability to create a single work within many contexts, and everything in between.

Ultimately, the Bomb series is Jon Woodstock’s eternal tribute to the artistic movement that he helped create, warts and all.

~

Re-issued Bomb tracks that appear in The Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts compilation series:

Big Huge Fucking Machine – “Engine #11”

The version of “Engine #11” on TGAF is actually two Bomb tracks edited together: “Engine #11” and “Tuli In A Box”. The combinartion of the two tracks is a restoration of their original/pre-release form as one long extended improvisation.

T.E.A.M. – “March Of The Rent-A-Cops”

Hubcap – “Girls Smell Good”

The Retarded Dogs – “Harmonica Song (excerpt)”

T.E.A.M. – “Awe Shucks (excerpt)”

Hubcap – “Daddy”

Eve Pagoda – “Alan Thikk, Macho Capitalist Or Vanguard Of The Revolution?”

This track appears on the Bomb tape cover’s track list with the name ‘Thick’ spelled incorrectly with a ‘c’ ; Eve Pagoda member Dave Wilemain was the creator of this song title which originally featured the word ‘Thikk’. Assembling/preparing the Bomb collections for release was generally a solitary activity for Woodstock which found him rarely consulting any of the other artists featured on the tapes for any reason. This is probably why the Bomb series includes many credit errors.

T.E.A.M. – “Bison Pie (The Vegans Are Coming!)”

~

The following two T.E.A.M. recordings appear as c.d.-only bonus tracks on the Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts 2 compilation album: an excerpt from “Fencelicker Jones” (originally released on Bomb) and an excerpt from “Crisis” (originally released on Bomb Droppings)

———————————————————————————————————————————

* This is a paraphrasing of the lyric “This skin bangin animal will never be tamed” originally from The 6 O’Clock Alarm’s 1995 Jon Woodstock tribute song “Rock’N’Roll Man”

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The Fine Art Of Towson-Glen Arm: Tricia Lane-Forster – part 3

Tricia Lane-Forster - 'mom-mom's backyard' 2000

“Mom-Mom’s Back Yard” – 2000; vinyl, cloth, and cotton thread. Though the Towson-Glen Arm arts community ceased to exist around 1998 many artists remained loyal torchbearers for the TGA approach long after the echoes of late night copy shop trips and chaotic basment show blasts began to fade. Tricia Lane-Forster continues to aesthetically uphold and expand on the common TGA theme of freely mixing the mystical with the mundane. Tricia Lane-Forster: “This piece was in a small show I did at an ice cream shop on Cold Spring Lane (that is no longer there). The show was called “Meandering Embroideries”… It (depicts) my (grandmother) Mom-Mom’s backyard in Catonsville. She had a screened in porch and pretty gardens that I loved playing in/around. She had these great vinyl covered chairs with aluminum frames on the porch, there was fake grass on the floor and we would sit out there in the summer playing checkers and drinking cokes. I’m sure that vinyl was part of my love of the material…leading me to work with it so much later.”

tricia lane-forster 'a moment of silence in a very loud room' linocut 1992

“A Moment Of Silence In A Very Loud Room” – 1992, lino-cut print; inspired by a 70’s era photo of one of Lane-Forster’s cousins, elements of this piece were later incorporated into art for record covers, stickers, and even advertising by TGA band The Unheard Ones. Lisa Starace formerly of The Unheard Ones/Spastic Cracker/etc.: “For me, this piece captured this little moment where a kid, who doesn’t have a whole lot of power about his surroundings, takes control of the one thing he can do…blocking out the noise by covering his ears. I always loved the juxtaposition of the visual noise and the audio noise because I felt like (The Unheard Ones) were immersed in a creative community that blurred the two. And I felt like in the world at the time, there was a lot of noise…a lot of expectations of what music should be or what art should look like, and we were like the defiant kids who did our own thing, played our own way, and shut out the noise of what we were supposed to sound like or look like or act like. We used it on some stickers. It was always one of my most favorite of her pieces… she somehow managed to capture us individually while also showing how we interacted with each other and maybe even the people who listened to us. Tricia and I had been collaborating and living together and creating alongside one another for a long time, so it almost seemed like second nature that her work would (symbolize) our work…her visual voice is genius storytelling… out of its time and of its time… totally individual… She understood what we did better than almost anyone.” 

tricia lane-forster 'crazy banquet hall wallpaper' linocut 1992

“Crazy Banquet Hall Wallpaper” – 1992, lino-cut print. Tricia Lane-Forster: ‘The third print is a self portrait and a portrait of Paul Petersan* from 1992. It was a huge printing plate that took hours to carve…..maybe 18″ by 24″…’  

tricia lane-forster 'a sense of balance to search for' linocut-mixed media collage 1993

“A Sense Of Balance To Search For” -1993, mixed-media (lino-cut print/plastic/vinyl/stitching) Like a few other Lane-Forster pieces of this vintage, “A Sense…” contains design elements that were concurrently used as part of the cover art for Spastic Cracker’s self-released tape “Valve”, one of the earliest known Towson-Glen Arm records 

tricia lane-forster 'untitled' marker 1991 or 92

“Untitled”, marker drawing, 1991 or ’92. Tricia Lane-Forster: And then that really crazy marker drawing… it’s probably from 10th or early 11th grade. I was obsessed with Baroque and Rococo patterns that we learned about in art class. I drew doodles like that in all my notebooks at the time also.”

tricia lane-forster 1993, photo by Lisa Starace

Tricia Lane-Forster circa 1993 hanging out in Towson somewhere near Loch Raven Blvd. ; photo by Lisa Starace

*The musician Paul Petersan was a member of early TGA band The Retarded Dogs whose first concert was also the debut gig for Lane-Forster’s band Spastic Cracker

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R.I.P. Jon Woodstock, 1974-2017

The pioneering Towson-Glen Arm artist Jon Woodstock has passed away at the age of 43.

A longer post about Jon Woodstock’s important contributions is forthcoming.

Please send prayers and positive energy to Jon Woodstock’s family and friends in this time of grief

From Mike Apichella’s track notes to ‘Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts’ volume 1:

The unbelievable life story of former Glen Arm resident Jon Woodstock simply cannot be summed up in a paragraph. I’d say a 10 page essay might even be an inadequate way to tell Woodstock’s tale, so I am not even going to try to distill his complex, tragic, thrilling hurricane of existence….but I will say this about him: on his best days Jon Woodstock has been a great friend to me and one of the most positive influences in my life mostly for his haywire sense of humor, his raw honesty, and his masterful work as a multi-media artist. For all that and a litany of other things, Jon Woodstock is a legend in the purest sense of the word.

(below: Jon Woodstock – at third from left, holding a fake rifle – with experimental ska ensemble The Preschoolers; Woodstock served as drummer for this group during the early/mid-90’s; photo by unknown, courtesy of Sarah Kershaw)

Preschoolers 94 or 95 RAD photo by Sarah

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