Photos: Mark Zimin and Katherine Gaines
Words: Cale and Mark Zimin
This past weekend major cool points were awarded to Artipshere for hosting the 20th anniversary celebration of fanzine Chickfactor with two nights of sparkly indie-pop. The jaw-dropping lineup included the first show in 21 years by seminal noise-pop act Black Tambourine, a solo performance from Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson, some classic Slumberland acts like the Lilys and Lorelei, current indie darling Frankie Rose, plus Honey Bunch, Dot Dash, and Fan Modine.
Yeah, I bet you’re kicking yourself right now if you somehow missed this.
Being a rabid fan of Belle & Sebastian’s solo work, but a frustrated fan of their uneven live performances over the years, I had set my expectations correctly for Stevie’s solo performance. I was then set straight when he delivered a competent, engaging, and really fun set Friday night, full of both solo and B&S tracks. The “delta blues” version of Step Into My Office Baby was a highlight, as was of course Chickfactor. Sure he was nerdy and awkward as ever, but also adorable and surprisingly hilarious between songs.
Then Frankie Rose played Interstellar and all was right in the world.
But I’ll stop babbling and give you a nice little mini-essay from Mark Zimin, whom I will now deem The Godfather of Indie Dance Nights In DC partly because it’s true, and partly because I know it will annoy him. Also enjoy his pretty pictures.
CHICKFACTOR 20th ANNIVERSARY
At some point in the 1990’s I discovered the “Munch part 1” videotape issued by Season Records. It was absolutely chock-full of superb twee-pop, from The Magnetic Fields to the Cat’s Miaow, and single-handedly introduced me to some of my favorite bands. Tucked on that half-worn tape was a sonic anomaly: a 2 minute shambolic feedback-drenched 3-chord ditty by a band I thought must be from the UK. The guitars rang out like the Jesus and Mary Chain, and the song was a love letter to Stephen Pastel, to do away with his bandmate Aggi (Annabel Wright of the Pastels). I could tell what the band listened to, I loved the sonic and lyrical references and how I felt when I cranked the volume all the way up.
It took a long while before I was helped to put two and two together. When I brought up Black Tambourine in a conversation with some friends it came out… they were from HERE. Actually, they were among us: Archie was in Velocity Girl and Pam was singing for The Castaway Stones. This was my first realization that I was living amongst my heroes: music people that listened to what I listened to, and made music the way I’d like to make music for the sheer joy of it. Black Tambourine was a short-lived side project that almost never practiced nor played shows, maybe 10 all told. I had Pam send me the lyrics to my fave track around the time she was moving to England. Dan Searing was throwing a going-away party, and for some reason I brought over a guitar and felt compelled to sing back her song “Throw Aggi Off The Bridge”, as a tribute to this author I so admired.
So now it’s over a decade later, and Pam Berry has overcome her fear of flying to come back for the 20th anniversary of her co-creation CHICKFACTOR (with Gail O’Hara). As great as the band line-up has been for the two nights, all I wanted to hear was the one band that never really existed. A band whose sparse recorded history has brought me the kind of joy I saw in the face of the girl who grinned madly at Stevie Jackson the whole time he played his acoustic set on Friday. As I looked around the front line of the crowd on day two, I saw that look everywhere. Pam was back, Black Tambourine was playing.
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