Current events for the GTG family in Lansing, MI this May. Thanks as always to Corey Marie for the sweet flyer-age.
Current events for the GTG family in Lansing, MI this May. Thanks as always to Corey Marie for the sweet flyer-age.
This Saturday, April 23, in Lansing there’s a fantastic all day show called Stoopfest happening at six house venues on the lovely Eastside. A few years ago we at GTG tossed around the idea of trying to have a multi-venue house show weekend fest thing in Lansing but we never seriously pursued it, so it’s been really cool seeing a similar idea come to fruition completely independently of us – and it’ll also be cool to mostly just be spectators and get to take it all in! The Plurals close out things at Lamp House at 10 PM but throughout the day at all of the houses there’s tons of great music, comedy, and more happening. My biggest bummer of the day is that I won’t be able to get to see Lucy because I’ll be busy setting up and then playing at a different house during their set! The schedule is below and they also have a bandcamp page where people can sample the lineup. Can’t wait!
Check it out! Shows at the Avenue, Mac’s, Green Door, house shows galore, Record Store Day, etc etc! Spring!
Let’s get April moving right with the latest GTG Session starring Little American Champ. Little American Champ are a Lansing-based group that we’ve collectively been playing shows with since 2010 or something. They’ve played all of our spaces and multiple GTG Fests, and in fact just held their record release party at GTG House at the end of March. Their debut LP is out now via Save Your Generation Records, and you can hear live versions of 3 of the songs from it at this very session. Hooray!
GTG Sessions returns with a four song burner from The Hat Madder. Check out this fantastic mini-set in the video and then look below for their tour dates!
The Hat Madder Tour Dates:
* = w/ When Particles Collide
3/8 Canton, OH @ Buzzbin w/ Johnny Niemann *
3/9 Kent, OH @ Stone Tavern w/ Pocket Vinyl, Deep Holler
3/10 Hamilton, OH @ Tapout Sports Bar 3/10 Hamilton, OH @ Tapout Sports Bar w/ Mad Anthony, Rhythm & Booze *
3/11 Lexington, KY @ Green Lantern w/ Mad Anthony *
3/12 Newport, KY @ Southgate House Revival w/ Mad Anthony *
3/13 Milwaukee, WI @ Frank’s Power Plant w/ Monotaur *
3/15 Ypsilanti, MI @ Crossroads *
3/16 Saginaw, MI @ Counter Culture w/ The Mongrels, SixGunn El Dorado *
3/17 Lansing, MI @ The Avenue w/ Red Teeth, Ian Graham *
3/18 Toronto, ON @ Cherry Cola’s w/ The Shanks *
3/19 Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place w/ Me N You, Soul Butchers, Slow Mutants
3/20 Mono, ON @ The Tractor Shop w/The Shanks
So much good stuff happening in March, and this is just in Lansing! Stay tuned for further updates about tours by The Hat Madder, Honah Lee, and The Plurals!!
Music scenes are very fluid constructions: you can have a creatively-rich, supportive, close-knit community one year and the next have infrequent, empty shows with no apparent rhyme or reason to how it changes. Then, out of nowhere, a new crop of bands show up and people appear out of the woodwork and it all starts over again. There’s many reasons for this phenomenon, and the fact that its an endlessly recurring cycle is what leads to so many disenfranchised people talking about how “the scene used to be great, but there’s no good shows anymore” when said person’s tastes inevitably become less of a focal point, and a lot of times it’s hard to even recognize when you’re in the middle of a “high point” in the scene. It’s sort of like the “if you remember it, you weren’t there” bullshit that people like to ascribe to the 70s or any sort of “party” scene.
In my (GTG mouthpiece Tommy Plural) fifteen years of performing independent music my awareness of highs-and-lows has been pretty scattered. In 2002 the fact that Drinking Mercury monthly performed in front of 100 high school kids at a rec center in Ionia seemed like we were a part of a huge, dynamic thing but looking back it’s fairly obvious to me that we just happened to stumble into filling a little bit of a void for the background of teenaged socializing, as only a handful of people that were around at the time continued to play or be engaged in DIY music after the 6 months of this being “cool” were up (admittedly, pretty much the entirety of this handful of people later formed the nucleus of GTG Records so perhaps there was something to it… I’ll assume so anyway…). Conversely, for many years I claimed that performing at the Red Light Lounge in Lansing’s Temple Club in 2005/6 was the best local venue experience but it’s impossible to determine if it really was any better than most of the local bar shows I’ve played since as the Red Light Lounge was the first dedicated bar and music venue that the Plurals had any sort of regular/ “scene” presence at so of course my view is going to be rose-colored on that front. I know the Magdalena’s Tea House scene of roughly the same time was a pretty special thing and I still feel a bond with the friends I made in that time even if I don’t see much of them with any regularity (with the exception of the Bermuda Mohawk Productions people that came through this social thread). In some sort of middle ground, we’ve been doing shows at GTG House since 2008 and it’s been through so many incarnations from starting off as living room acoustic shows featuring lots of Earthwork Music Collective artists to general house party location to run-off from Bermuda Mohawk/ Fusion shows to finally coming into its own as a house venue for touring acts and every era has had its ups and downs so its hard for me to say if I’ve ever known when it’s been “thriving.” Most of the time I try and just keep my head down and push onto the next thing and its only years after the fact that I have any real perspective on how well anything went; I just have to hope that the shows we put on are productive for the musicians and enjoyable for the audience.
I mention all of this as exposition to highlight how ephemeral most pillars of local arts scenes can be, and to put into perspective one of the only times where I was aware that we were doing something awesome pretty much the entire time it was happening. In 2012 Isaac from the Hat Madder made good on something he’d been talking about for a couple years and started putting on shows with his fellow sound engineer Eric at a warehouse in Old Town that they had access to. Isaac and Eric launched the space and were gracious enough to invite GTG Records as a collective to be a part of putting on and running the shows. The Hat Madder rehearsed in this space at the time and that was just one of many factors that caused the space to be full of professional audio and lighting gear. This time also coincided with some of the other occupants of the space brewing their own craft beer so when we decided to hold our first event at the space in April 2012 we were also featuring unique craft beer by Mash Pit Brewing, some of which only existed at those shows. Talk about ephemeral…
The first show featured the Claudettes, an instrumental piano-drums duo from Chicago formed by two members of Oh My God that was doing one of their first tours, and locals The Hat Madder and The Plurals (in what was a homecoming show for our second extended west coast tour). Everything was largely in place at this show – with Isaac spearheading the show with the help of other GTG people it basically was turning a bunch of people with many years of experience putting on and playing shows loose into a room that was perfect for putting on a show, with no real “boss” to answer to in terms of how we could run the show. It was sweet! It took a little while to fully utilize the space- there was a lot of extraneous gear and miscellaneous storage items that we had to sort through for the first run of shows, it took us a few tries to find the best location for the bar, and we had to try a few different options for beer supplies – but we basically immediately had a venue not only with all of the best qualities of doing a show in a basement or, uh, garage, but also the facilities to produce a live show that rivaled and in some cases bettered the sound and stage setups of actual bar venues. I’ll always feel bad about the bathroom though… open ceiling and we somehow never got around to replacing the latch to keep the door shut. I guess we can retroactively claim that we were trying to give the space some CBGB-cred.
We had no name for the venue for the first several shows, just referring to it as “the garage,” “old town garage,” “the warehouse,” “Isaac’s work” and I once tried to get “Hat Box Garage” to take off as it was the Hat Madder’s rehearsal space but it semi-unofficially settled into “The Mystery Garage” around October 2012 when we held GTG Fest 2012 at the space. The space was also known as the “Local Music Appreciation Club” so that the venue could operate as a private club to maintain legal credibility. The Mystery Garage can certainly be credited with saving GTG Fest and, in reality, establishing it as a true local event. For the first three years of GTG Fest we held it as an all day party on my parents’ property in Ionia, so it was both out-of-the-way and impractical to promote. In 2011 (after my parents were sick of it basically, ha) we held two separate daylong shows at now-defunct Lansing DIY space Basement 414, as well as a GTG House show, and used “GTG Fest” and “GTG Festivus” as a banner to connect all of them. In 2012 we really had no idea when, how, or where we would do GTG Fest and the Mystery Garage popping up made it possible. Finally holding it as a proper event in Lansing and seeing how well it went as a one day thing at the Mystery Garage prompted us to experiment with the multi-day and multi-venue format that we’ve pursued int the years since. Thanks Mystery Garage!
It’s to the credit of the people of Lansing that we were able to operate the space with little to no problems from the people that attended the shows. Opening up the doors of a private space to people on the street and allowing those over 21 to consume alcohol can have all kinds of risks but everyone seemed to love the space so there was an element of self-policing going on as no one wanted the space to be compromised and all of the organizers of shows kept a pretty good eye on what was going on as well. So our sincerest thanks are owed to all of the amazing people that attended our warehouse venue. I always loved seeing the looks on people’s faces as they entered the venue for the first time; the exterior was so unassuming but then this truly awesome space existed inside. And trying to explain the space to people with little prior experience at DIY spaces was always pretty fun… “wait, so it’s a bar… but just in someone’s warehouse? And bands play?” Yeah, basically… and the bands were diverse and pretty kick ass most of the time, and maybe not even from this country.
I spent a little while gathering information from the internet and corresponding back and forth with Isaac, and I think I’ve managed to compile a list of every band (plus the group of comedians and the artist that did live caricature drawings whose names are somehow alphabetically right next to each other!) that played the Mystery Garage between April 2012 and February 2016. If I’ve forgotten anyone, let me know… since there was never a regular show calendar it wasn’t the easiest thing to organize. Everyone that performed at the Mystery Garage, in alphabetical order…
A Couple ‘A Cowboys, Adam Balbo, Aimcriers, Antilogical, Amoeba Boys, The Arrangement, Banned and Burned, BerT, Bobby Meader Music, The Break-Ups, Calliope, Cat Midway, Cavalcade, Cave Needles, Cheap Girls, City Mouse, the Claudettes, Comedy Coven, Corey Marie, The Cost of Living, Couches, Croatone, The Crushtones, Dead Ben Rooster, Distorted Waltz, Drinking Mercury, Elroy Meltzer, Emily & the Complexes, Fencemen, The Fiction Junkies, Fools Rush, Frank and Earnest, the Free Life, The Foreign Resort, Geistlos, Genocya, Ghoulie, Giygas, Hailey Wojcik, The Hat Madder, Honah Lee, The Hunky Newcomers, Hut Two Hike, I Am Sunday, Immanuel Can’t, Isaac Richmond Vander Schuur, The Jackpine Snag, Jake Simmons, Jeremy Porter & the Tucos, Jessi Spreitzer, Johnny Unicorn, Jonny Janis, The Lippies, Little American Champ, Lovey Dovey, Mad Moon, middleman, Miski Dee, Mr. Denton on Doomsday, The Mongrels, Mudwest, Narc Out the Reds, Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band, The Need You Nows, Newday Dreamers, Nocturnal Aviators in Action, The Plurals, The Plurettes, Provost, Racket Ghost, Re-Evolution, Red Teeth, Sam Goodwill, Scary Women, So Long Naota, Spit For Athena, Stargrazer, Stereo Artifacts, The Stick Arounds, Stonecutters, Summerpunx, Sunn Burn, Terror Terror! Oh My!, Tommy Plural, When Particles Collide, and Worriers. Some of those bands didn’t play too many shows, barely toured, or we were fortunate enough to grab them on an early tour. A lot of talent graced the “stage.”
We also have the lovely what-if alternate universe we can all theorize about in which these bands that were all booked to play a Mystery Garage show but had to cancel for whatever various reasons managed to pull off a set too: Benny the Jet Rodriguez, The Chirps, Elliot Street Lunatic, Murderburgers, People Grinding Axes, The People’s Temple, and Toys That Kill.
Having a true alternative venue for the people of Lansing and DIY touring bands for four years has definitely been an amazing experience, but as all things must come to an end after February 13th the Mystery Garage shall be no more. Professional and life changes came along, nothing more, and it’s just time to move on. The four years since Eric and Isaac opened the doors have seen the Avenue Cafe rise as a premiere local venue, the opening of the Robin Theatre in REO Town, and Mac’s Bar, GTG House, and various other pop-up house venues and spaces continue to provide many opportunities to stage cool and unique shows so our fine tertiary market that is Lansing is in a good place in 2016. Having the experience of the Mystery Garage with us now has definitely motivated us to maintain high standards for the shows we put on and if things fall in place again hopefully we’ll have another space like it in the future.
Let me ask you a question: have you ever tried to book a show? A fundraiser, a comedy showcase, a large dinner reservation, a dentist appointment? It’s fucking hell. The back-and-forth that goes into trying to capture the attention of anybody on the other end, plus the non-stop volley of times/details/the most boring minutiae, is a long and mind-numbing process. I highly recommend avoiding it! Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in, and as we travel on across the long and winding road of life, we must all take on unpleasant responsibilities, go to the dentist, plan shows, and try to recall all of the details when we’re asked to write blog articles about them years later.
My (Ben Kahlil Hassenger) first introduction to Bobby Meader was sometime in late 2013. I was immersed in the aforementioned unpleasantness of tour-booking while working with my band mates to book the first major tour for The Hunky Newcomers. We were leaving the Midwest and its Polar Vortex for a month and heading West, meeting up with City Mouse for a block of dates in the middle. I found Bobby through a show posting on the website Punks In Vegas. I remember checking out his tunes and thinking, “Yeah, these are fine.” (The endorsements get better as the article goes on, Bobby, I promise!) I shot him an email seeing if he could possibly help us set up a show. To my surprise, he responded almost immediately with information and promised to help. Receiving any answer at all – even a “Hell no!” – when booking a tour is almost a victory in itself, but the fact that somebody was so quick to jump in and ready to help was fantastic and felt really fucking positive. In the end, we ended up booking a different show through another promoter, but Bobby came out with his large beard and even larger smile and greeted us to his fair city. We shot the shit throughout the show and he told us that we’d see him soon.
Since then, we’ve been able to bring him through Lansing on three separate occasions and each time has been a treat, both musically and just in hanging-outs and getting-to-know-yous. My favorite story was when he came and played at The Mystery Garage. He got to Lansing early and made himself at home at GTG, where he was staying for a few days, then picked up a fifth of vodka and a burrito. He ate half of the burrito early on, then drank considerably more than half of the fifth. In his drunken state, he must have polished off the rest of the burrito. However, once we all returned home after the show, Bobby set out to finish his burrito. Upon finding it gone and the wrapper in the trash, he immediately concluded that one of our housemates had eaten the rest of his food. He was pretty pissed about it, going on for quite some time.“Who DOES that?” he cried. I shrugged. Perhaps it was a little mean of me to not remind him that he had, in fact, eaten the entire thing, but I wanted to see how the whole thing played out. I’m an asshole, I know. I did assure him that if anyone at GTG house was going to steal his food, it was probably going to be me – my girlfriend backing me up on my food-stealing tendencies – but he was not persuaded. This went back-and-forth for a year or so, until I finally had to set him straight at GTG Fest 2015 when he was telling his side of the story to the audience. I swear, you call my house and its food thievery into question…
Anyway, lest I paint Bobby Meader as merely a drunk who misplaces food, let me get into those glowing endorsements I promised earlier. This guy may be the hardest-working performer I’ve ever met on the DIY circuit. He’s on the road for a solid six months of the year and does everything himself: booking, promoting, interviews, the whole shebang. He has hit me up for dates four/five months in advance; what DIYer is that organized? On top of all of that, he’s an absolute pleasure to work with. Bobby is so laid-back but focused and determined. Can’t forget about the music either: Same description. Never too loud or abrasive, while always managing to kick a hole in your heart. It’s soft and loud simultaneously, emotional and distant… I find myself feeling so many different things throughout the course of each song.
GTG Records is super excited to be bringing Bobby Meader Music back to the Mystery Garage this Thursday, January 28, alongside local favorites Little American Champ and GTG Records artists The Hat Madder and Cat Midway. The show’s going to be pretty rad, with a great lineup and a promise for a pretty special time. More information about the show can be found here. See you this Thursday, and for the love of all that is holy, please don’t eat the guy’s burrito.
That’s the Jason Alarm photo that I had saved on the website from several years ago. Ha! But it kinda ties into my overall thoughts as we approach their reunion show THIS SATURDAY DECEMBER 5TH AT MAC’S BAR WITH SPECIAL GUESTS THE PLURALS, MR. FOX AND THE HOUNDS, AND DEAD HOUR NOISE of time passing without realizing and how it’s totally okay.
My relationship with Jason Alarm began in early 2008 when my old-but-still-together-sometimes band The Break-Ups played an all ages show at Mac’s Bar that was also the first show by a band from the Grand Ledge high school called Jason Alarm. This show was actually supposed to be at Replay Entertainment Exchange but had to be moved to Mac’s after Replay dropped their show calendar – I forget if it was because they were moving or some other reason. Replay moving to different store locations was kind of a running joke for awhile as in their first two years or so of business they were in four different locations. They’ve been at the same one in East Lansing now for over five years, so that’s another thing that’s changed over time and isn’t really a thing anymore.
Anyway, Jason Alarm were surprisingly good at that show, definitely talented and full of potential, and they made the members of The Break-Ups – old, wizened veterans at the age of 20/21 – feel like rock stars with their youthful enthusiasm for what we were doing. I kind of hate the fact that every time Jason Alarm or any of their members come up I automatically jump into this “those kids” conversation as I’m only five years older than them and I have tons of friendships of equal or greater age difference where that’s not even a thing, but it’s all about context I guess. They don’t deserve to have that vaguely condescending language about them as they totally proved themselves to be an original, hardworking band that did things that bands twice their age never do. And I respect the hell out of them, which I need to state before I go into the self-centered, caffeine-fueled, thought-exorcism that this supposed website update about another band is turning into.
GTG was officially one of the labels that put out Jason Alarm’s EP Engage in 2009 but we didn’t do a single thing to enable the release of that record! Ha! Maybe we encouraged them somehow, I dunno. Back in 2008 this guy Jeremy was a part of GTG and he wanted to produce a Jason Alarm record so he brought them over to the GTG studio and recorded demos but then moved to Boston fairly unceremoniously, so I was left in this awkward position of trying to salvage the friendship with these younger musicians who kind of had the rug pulled under them for their “debut” recording project. Plans were made to record with me but I was busy whenever they wanted to record – what I was doing back then I have no idea… going to school… what else? This was before The Plurals were a touring band and with the way I operate now the only way I wouldn’t make time to work on a recording project, especially one for the label, is if I were on the road and physically unable to be around. Hattie and I were talking at Plurals practice the other day about how we don’t even really remember what being in The Plurals was like before we really dove into touring, and that’s weird because there were several years and songs, shows, and bands we played with that in some weird way don’t even “count” in my mind when it comes to what I’ve done with the band and the label. This doesn’t mean that these things don’t actually matter or are in any way inferior, but my perspective on things has changed so much in the last five years (because everybody remains the same throughout their twenties right? What a terrible fucking world that would be…) that the things I did prior to 2011 when I really went all-in on this music stuff is that all of that was part of some vague “set-up” to what I do now and it’s like a series of blacked out passages with footnotes. And Jason Alarm is squarely in the middle of that bizarrely blacked out part of my mind so the reunion show this Saturday is like my 20-year old self is checking in with my present-day 28 years young person to see what’s up.
And that’s how the show Saturday is going to go in ways: people from previous scenes are going to appear out of thin air with slightly-differently shaped faces, different colored hair, beards, tattoos, glasses… ex-straight edge kids are going to buy me a shot, reformed party animals are going to show me pictures of their healthy, happy children, and I’m going to say that everything is cool, I’m just working on the same stuff. And in my mind I’ve just been stepping on and off stage for five years, jumping back and forth between the same few part-time jobs, seeing the country a few times a year, and thinking about songs, while everyone else will be reminding me that, oh yeah, almost a decade’s worth of things have happened since I met these people. And it’s gonna be a great time! Unlike any so-called “real world” reunion that I mostly succeed at avoiding (sorry 10 year high school reunion).
I’ve always felt bad that GTG Records didn’t really partner up with Jason Alarm in the way that I wanted to. The agreement early on was that I would donate my time to record it, Cale from Bermuda Mohawk Productions would press the EP, and it would come out as a BMP/GTG co-release. Everyone involved still put the GTG logo and stuff on the release when it did ultimately come out (at the Sun Theater in Grand Ledge with an all ages show featuring Jason Alarm, The Plurals, and Cheap Girls… that’s a show I want to go to now!) without me or anyone else in GTG doing anything, which was cool, but… it was probably one of those watershed moments that made me think “hey, we need to be better at this label thing.” And it took us many more mis-steps before we finally settled into this present day thing that I’m so proud of, so I guess I can thank them for that. But it was also really cool that they excelled on their own, and I got to watch from the sidelines as they broke up once in 2009, reformed a few months later, became more ambitious musicians, had members come and go, toured and put out some singles, and then called it a day a couple years later to move onto other things. And it was awesome to witness the whole evolution of someone else’s adventure, which is something that I really enjoy doing as part of the label and general music community. So while in ways I want to slap twenty-year old me and tell him to just get over himself and make time to record this cool young band, I can appreciate what happened in the non-idealized Tommy-does-whatever-he-should-do reality that we all occupy.
Maybe it’s the arbitrary “year-end” self analysis that I tend to go through every December, but I have a lot of appreciation for everything that happened in the patchwork representation of events that I’ve written about above, and I’m glad that I still get to be a part of it. Enjoy your own adventure, don’t get bogged down by the past, and, seriously, I promise you there’s no reason to shoot anybody. That’s a 2015 timestamp for future readings of this entry if there ever was one. Now, here’s another random photo that I found on the website media archive while looking for that old Jason Alarm photo:
And I’m also partial to this photo that I used for Josh David & the Dream Jeans for awhile, solely to spite Josh David for harassing me about not updating the page about them enough:
Thanks for reading if you made it this far! And if you just skipped down here for some reason that’s cool too! – Tommy Plural
It’s here! The latest episode of GTG Sessions featuring 6 songs from the original Trenton, NJ party machine Honah Lee!
This was taped in the middle of the GTG Fest weekend and you can see it on their faces! Grab your favorite vice of choice, click play on the video above, and join the party. And check out their new record if you haven’t yet!