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Hiding Out, Fighting and Finding Aural Love in Fort Wayne
An outsider's view
By DA Fisher
Fort Wayne Reader
I was wearing my homemade “Teenage Jessica Alba Fanclub” T-shirt and smelling of last Tuesday when it happened. Sitting alone in back half of The Dash-In, reading/drinking/hiding, I caught a glimpse of the Fort Wayne Reader delivery man in between pages of Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming - he was there to drop off new issues of his paper and take a dump.
I don’t know if that errand boy caught a glimpse of my book or a whiff of my condition, but he (who ended up being not an errand boy, but some bigwig editor) stopped his exit and talked with me, the ragged stranger, following his flush, first asking about my book and eventually inquiring about my history. He learned some lies, but also believed that I’d recently left my hometown headaches of Brooklyn (Bed-Stuy) in favor of the assumed quiet, pseudo-urban lifestyle of Fort Wayne, leaving in my tracks a so-so job as a music writer/editor for a lousy website you’ve maybe heard of. Errand Boy also learned that, since moving to town, I’d been working my way through a stack of albums made by Fort Wayne bands. And thus this article.
Let’s back up a bit before I get on with the music …
After renting the cheapest downtown dive I could find I went out looking for the job that would give me the least amount of headaches. A few weeks later I was working with some younger kid who looked entirely too much like my mirror, but with more hair, newer Chucks, shit-hot hipster glasses and the kinds of spirited smiles I could no longer manage. Idiots, the both of us.
After a few semi-magnetic smoke breaks we started talking about - what else? - music, the bitch version of me swearing that Fort Wayne had a surprisingly great “music thing,” as he put it, going on. He explained how he went to shows two or three nights a week and collected albums from local bands - claiming to have over 200 local CDs, tapes and 7” singles. Being new in town and without money for drugs or movies, I decided to take an interest. Maybe I’d find some good songs. Maybe I’d make a friend. Maybe I’d get laid at a show. Most likely, I’d kill time, get drunk and jerk off while listening to mediocre “music things.”
At first my idiot twin (let’s call him Alba for the sake of cohesion, beauty, charm and jerking off) brought me a shoebox full of music, also including a printed off sheet of paper with typed notes about each disc (geek). Two things popped out immediately: Left Lane Cruiser and Lee Miles. I’d seen those Left Laners play once before on a fluke, and damn if they didn’t melt the ceiling and turn out the riff-raff. Beautiful noise, much of it. And my old Brooklyn boss, the sonofabitch, was a big fan of Lee Miles (whom he’d discovered on Pandora) and many other obscure songwriter types. Needless to say, as a Miles and Left Lane fan myself, I took that shoebox home with plans to actually spend some time with it.
Oh, one more thing before I get to the music: by the time I worked my way through Alba’s fourth shoebox (the typed notes stopped after box #2), the idiot and I were chasing the same little indie rock chick who got hired in after me. She didn’t look like Jessica Alba or even Jessica Biel, but she walked around our workplace all day, quietly singing Guided by Voices, Rilo Kiley and Rolling Stones songs in the most feminine voice you’ve ever heard. Alba and I were both dosed with dumb love the moment she arrived, sparking up a rivalry before ’ol gal got her first paycheck.
Okay, fine, the music. Over a three month stretch or horrid winter weather I listened to five shoeboxes full of albums, skipping discs here and there due to cover art or band names or song titles that put me off. All in all, I would guess that I listened to at least 150 of Alba’s discs, at least half of those 150 from front-to-back. Of those 75 or so there were at least 20 that I … wait for it … loved. L-O-V-E-D, to varying degrees, of course.
The first disc that really hooked me was a record called “Midnight Hymns” by a trio called Missing Murderers (brilliant name, btw). Damn. DAMN. I’m told that the guys aren’t really around anymore, and that this incredible album was more or less ignored upon its release. You idiots. “Midnight Hymns” reminded me very much of the Velvet Underground, Guided by Voices and The Walkmen. Incredible stuff.
Next in the way of standouts came three albums by a bearded handsome man named Kevin Hambrick - a 10-song collection called Blueberry Hurricane, a fuzzy rocker called “Serotonin” and a long-but-incredible disc called Football Weather. Alba, who claims to be one of Kevin’s biggest fans, explained to me that Kevin is responsible for a pretty deep, rewarding catalog. He also insisted that I check out Kevin’s friend, Mark Hutchins, which I’ve yet to do (save for a BRILLIANT song called “Monoman,” which Alba plays constantly at work).
Of the many other bands I enjoyed to varying degrees (End Times Spasm Band, All Nite Skate, The Beautys, Jinx and the So-And-Sos, John Minton, The B-Sharps, James Ellsworth, Stun Guzzler, goodbyewave, House of Bread, Jackie Fly, Streetlamps for Spotlights, Somnambulist Red, The New Pale Swimmers, Lee Miles, etc.), there was one that REALLY sold me on Fort Wayne, and that’s an album called Down In a Mirror by someone named Jon Keller.
At first it was the song “Hope and Depression,” the immediate standout. Then it was “Bottom of the Barrel,” then “White Tornado” and so on. This wasn’t just the kind of album I liked within the confines of my New Town Experiment, this was/is the kind of CD I bug my friends back home with. It’s the kind of album I burn onto a CD-R, write my own name on and send to ex-girlfriends, just to mess them up that much more. Jon Keller, you idiot stud, even your album artwork is spot-on pleasing to a great mind like the one I waste.
In the end, that prick Alba and I fought for weeks, both trying to get the other canned and both working to charm the Rilo Pixie into sticky bedtime rollarounds. As it goes, the younger, more desperate and aggressive man got the girl. But that’s fine, I kept the CDs I liked most and left the job and fools behind.
And, I suppose, I wrote this column and found Jon Keller. Maybe I’ll start a band, or at least start leaving my hole to watch some of these Fort Wayne rocker types in action.