Brandon Wetherbee is the host of the talk show You, Me, Them, Everybody. He’ll be hosting a YMTE Live 5 Year Anniversary Show tonight at the Wonderland Ballroom in D.C. with guests Linsay Deming, Furniteur, Daniel Knox, Natalie McGill, MOTHERKNUCKLE, Jenn Tisdale, Haywood Turnipseed Jr, Typefighter, Rachel Dry and Ruth Rasby.
When I was a jaded college student, working at a radio station, playing in bands, writing about ‘the scene’ for zines and college newspapers, I kept a copy of Steve Albini’s Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll infamous article “The Problem With Music” on me. I read Albini’s direct and brash words on the music industry as gospel. If you’re unfamiliar with the essay, all you really need to read are the first two sentences:
Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit.
In other words, why would you ever want to work with a major label? Why would you ever want to work in the music industry, or at least the aspects of the music industry that can easily be parodied on The Simpsons? So I didn’t even try. I’m glad I didn’t try.
I’ve witnessed some of the best music I’ve ever seen live in the past few weeks. I’ve heard some of the best records I’ve ever heard in the past few weeks. None of it was in a traditional space or in a traditional forum. I don’t think I’m alone.
A few weeks ago Steve Albini sort-of updated his “The Problem With Music” essay with a keynote address at Melbourne’s Face the Music conference. It seems that things have changed. No more pools of shit. No more pools. Now it’s about small ponds with clean water. The 6,800 word speech can be simply summarized: it’s a great time to be a music fan. I agree.
The people that say things aren’t working never really cared about those it didn’t work for. Bands like Shellac (Albini’s current band for the last 20 years) never made a ton of money from record sales. They still don’t. But bands like Shellac are making more than ever from touring. And fans like myself are exposed to more bands like Shellac thanks to this Internet box.
The talk show (hence the name of this column) has altered the way I consume music. I tend to listen to a few track of every artist I program a month or two before the show. I then forget who’s on the show until the week of the show. If their musical performance is good, I obsess over them for weeks at a time. I’m currently doing that. It’s great. Here’s the part where I become a fan boy and lavish praise on artist I think and hope you’ll enjoy.
DDM performed on the talk show last month in Baltimore. Performance of the night. He performed “Mayweather” live and Jesus Christ, it was good.
The next show featured Jonny Grave performing Pete Seeger classics in the Coolidge Auditorium in the Library of Congress. Surreal. Listen here.
The most recent Chicago shows were like a greatest hits compilation. Al Scorch made everyone sad but happy. He’s so good at sad and happy. Lots of great, sad and happy moments. More on sad after a song from Al.
On Saturday we recorded an episode of Important Records at saki records. Three people talked about records they love and three artists played songs from those records. Seth Vanek and Eiren Caffell interpreted Songs: Ohia’s “Blue Moon Chicago” and if it was dark outside people would have cried.
My friend Rock Falls closed the show with a rendition of PJ Harvey’s “A Place Called Home.” I loved it.
I bought some records at saki that afternoon. I listened to them last night. This is a song you may love. I love it.
I also listened to this last night and I think you may enjoy it.
Albini is right. It’s a fantastic time to be a music fan. I’m lucky to have a forum to hear new, exciting music on a weekly basis. Even if you don’t program the music for a talk show and variety show, it’s easier than ever to be exposed to great stuff. I’ve listened to new indie rock from Brooklyn, soul kids from the 70s, covers from overlooked folk should-be classics, brand new country punk and Baltimore hip-hop for the last week. None of it was released on a major label. It’s a good time to be a music fan.
Library of Congress photo by Armando Gallardo