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Essentials V.8: X102 unleashes its annual compilation of local bands

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2005-01-10


I have to admit, when X102 began releasing its Essentials compilation CD of local bands playing original music years ago (though the station wasn’t X102 then, and I think they were called the Edge), I thought it was a gimmick that would peter out pretty quickly. Not that the quality of music was bad, or that I doubted the sincerity of the people involved, but I just thought… well, I can’t remember what I thought, and it doesn’t really matter since apparently — with the eighth Essentials CD just hitting the streets — I was totally, completely, utterly wrong. The release of a new Essentials CD is a highly-anticipated event among many local rock fans, and the X102 Sunday night local music show that serves as its on-air equivalent is still going strong.

And frankly, an Essentials CD can be a pretty darn good listen. As with any compilation designed to showcase a variety of styles, you’ll find a track or two that isn’t to your taste, but you’ll find several tracks that are, and the quality throughout — musicianship, songwriting, performance — is very impressive.

Essentials V.8 is a more streamlined affair compared to last year’s sprawling two-disc, 30-track set, and features long-time local favorites like Sunny Taylor, The Migraines, and Rosemary Gates, as well as some newer acts like Third Frame, Mike Conley, and Lurking Corpses, (just to name a couple) making their first appearance on an Essentials CD.

Matt Jericho, the assistant program director of X102 and host of the station’s local show on Sunday nights, says that there are no genre restrictions on the Essentials compilation. Most of the submissions they get are rock-based (obviously, since X102 is a rock station), but there are a few exceptions on Volume 8. “We had two hip-hop songs make it this year,” Jericho says. “That’s the most non-rock based music we’ve ever had on the CD. We have acoustic stuff, and stuff that would fit on a Top 40 station, but most of it’s still rock-based. We haven’t had a Britney Spears submit anything. But as far as that goes, we’ve never had a country band submit for the CD, either.”

Putting together the annual Essentials CD is actually a pretty long process. Jericho coordinates the project with fellow X102 DJs JJ Fabini and Jack Hammer. They nail down the schedule in June, and submissions start rolling in during July and August. After that, it’s selection time. During the first round, the entire staff sifts through an average of 125 submissions, though Jericho says that one year they had over 200. 50 bands move on to round two, where an “undisclosed panel of mystery judges” picks the 18 or so bands that ultimately make the Essentials CD.

The audio quality of the submissions runs the spectrum from a professional studio sound to boombox recordings in the basement. “We make sure to tell all the judges that they should listen to the song, not the production,” Jericho says. “We score a song on how we think it would sound if we re-recorded it. We don’t penalize people for not having the money to go to a recording studio.”

Neal Parnin at Ozone Studios decides which tracks need to be re-recorded, which need to be re-mastered, and which might need a little tweaking on the mix. The songs that need to be re-recorded are done so free of charge. Parnin has been involved with the Essentials projects since Volume 4, and every year, he says that some band will seemingly come out of nowhere and surprise him with a great tune. “There were some songs this year that the recording wasn’t all that bad, but the song was so good that it just needed a better recording, a fatter, louder, sexier recording. You’ve gotta help out. I’m compelled to do it.”

While Parnin is getting the sound right, Jericho gets together with graphic artist Brian Waikel to come up with a visual concept for the album. Once it’s all together, the CD gets sent off for mastering, and finally the whole process is topped off with a CD release party in December. Just like clockwork, right? “Well, that’s the ideal timeline, but that never happens,” Jericho explains. “Something always goes wrong. This year, the company that we’ve used to press the CD went out of business about two days before we were supposed to send it to them, so I had to find a new pressing house really quick.”

Jericho did, and Essentials V.8 is out and available for purchase. The profits from the CD will go to Fort Wayne Community School marching band programs. It costs a marching band $2500 to participate in the Three Rivers Festival Parade, and the goal is to raise $12,000 so that all five of the district’s marching bands can enter.

Jericho thinks the Essentials series is a great testament to Fort Wayne’s original music scene. “I talk to people in Indy and a lot of different places, and they’re actually surprised that a market our size has so many quality bands,” he says. “The guy that’s pressing our CD just popped it in to listen to it, and he said it was one of the best local comps he’s listened to in a while. Things like that, it’s nice, because it tells me from an outsider’s perspective that doing the show and doing the project every year is worth it. I like it, but then I’m biased.”

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