a giant vacuum.

The months of January and February of 1994 are, in my records, a giant vacuum.  Within the next few entries, you’ll see why – between starting a new job and all the craziness that happened with Dromedary in the early part of the year, it was all I could do to stay afloat, much less keep good records.

This is why I have absolutely no record or memory whatsoever of a record release party for Wobbles From Side To Side.  

We must have had one.   I also recall being disappointed at a show where they did not play “Belly” – I remember this because I recall hoping that Bill from American Standard would jump onstage and sing it with them.  Maybe that was the release party.  Maybe not.  I don’t know.

Here’s the one thing I do remember:

Rich was in the middle of putting together the second issue of Indier Than Thou!  I had already done the interview with Jenny Toomey of Simple Machines that would serve as the centerpiece for the issue.  Rich had already written a bunch of reviews, as well as an editorial response to a lengthy letter he had received about the college radio article in the first issue.  He had accepted money from a few labels – including Silver Girl – for advertising.

In fact, when I was in San Diego, Keith from Silver Girl specifically asked me about the status of the zine.  He had paid $50 and had his check cashed, but wanted to know when the issue was going to come out.

One night, in trying to get Rich to finish the next issue, I suggested that he do an interview with Footstone.

Indier Than Thou! is not the promotional wing for Dromedary Records,” he responded, with an irritating tone in his voice.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“I gave you an interview with cuppa joe in the last issue, and I reviewed two of your records.  Dromedary was, like, a third of the last issue.”

“Dude, that’s because you had no access to anyone else,” I said.

“Well now I do,” he replied.  “And I’m not going to use the zine to promote Dromedary Records.”

I was pissed.  Sandy and I had helped him out so much with the first issue, there’s no way it would have happened without us.  We hooked him up with Blake, who wrote a big article.  We hooked him up with cuppa joe.  We hooked him up with Jim Testa, who gave him lots of advice about how to do a zine.  

It wasn’t that I thought he owed us anything; it was that I thought we were doing these things together, and to come out with an uppity comment like that took balls, as far as I was concerned.

“You know, it’s not like Footstone hasn’t done anything for you,” I said.  “They’ve supported you just as much as they’ve supported us.  And now they have a new record out, and this would be a great opportunity to document what they’re doing.”

“I’m not publishing a zine so I can document Footstone,” he said. 

“No, you’re publishing a zine so you can get free records,” I retorted.  “At least that’s why you started it.  Now all of a sudden you think you’re Jann Wenner.”

“Well, at least I’m not some fucking Gerard Cosloy wannabe,” he said.  And with that, he stormed out of my apartment.

It was the only argument Rich and I had ever had.  And it lasted about as long as it took for him to drive home.  My phone rang about fifteen minutes later.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “You’re not a Gerard Cosloy wannabe.”

“You’re not Jann Wenner.”

“It’s just that we’ve always sort of had this unspoken agreement when it comes to putting my music out on Dromedary.  I’ve never asked you to do that.  And you’re asking me to write about your bands in Indier.”

I could see his point.  That was true.  “But they’re not my bands,” I said.  “It’s not my music.  I’m not asking you to interview me, I’m asking you to interview Footstone – same as I would with any other zine.”

“Have you ever asked another zine to interview Footstone?”

“Well, no.” I said.

“Why not?”

That was a good question.  It hadn’t really occurred to me to try and get a zine to interview Footstone.  Or anybody else, for that matter.  Up until then, I considered myself lucky if I got a review.  But really, there were hundreds of zines, all looking for stuff to write about.

Rich decided to interview Gapeseed for Indier.  That was a good compromise – we hadn’t finalized anything with them, record-wise, and Silver Girl had paid for an ad.  

Footstone existed in the New Jersey music scene in a number of different circles.  Obviously they did shows with the other bands we knew – Melting Hopefuls, cuppa joe, Ditch Croaker, and other indie rock bands.  They also did shows with the heavier, punk-influenced bands like American Standard, Ff, and Outcrowd.  They also fit in with the heavier, sludgier bands that played in New Brunswick (partially because Ralph went to school there and tended bar at the Ale and Witch) and down the Jersey Shore.

They weren’t a typical indie band (no, they were “inkie”), they weren’t a punk band, they weren’t a grungy, sludgy band.  They were the one band that existed in all those circles.

They knew everyone, and they played everywhere.  That’s one of the things that made it very cool to work with them.  

It’s also one of the things that made it very frustrating to work with them.  They would play a show with a great band like Ff, and then the following week they’d play a show with Ditch Croaker, and they’d play in front of a different group of people each time.  Unlike Melting Hopefuls, who promoted their shows by sending postcards to their mailing lists, updating the show calendars at the Aquarian and Village Voice, plastering handbills all over Hoboken and the Village, and updating their own “Meltline” – an answering machine that listed their upcoming gigs, Footstone just sort of played.

And as much as that was frustrating, that’s also what was great about them – they’d play anywhere, in front of anyone.  They’d hop in their van and drive through the snow to Hartford, where they’d play in the basement of a dorm.  They’d play an all ages show at a barbecue in Allentown.  They’d play in Philly with cuppa joe, in an empty bar.  And they’d play a Friday night at Maxwell’s.  

And they never played a bad set.  I’d see Melting Hopefuls on an off-night, when the vocals were too low or the guitars didn’t sound right.  I’d see cuppa joe play a set where the entire band was out of sync.  I’d see even the most popular bands in the area come out and play a lackluster show.  But Footstone was always there, always tight, always with some sort of surprise.  Whether they’d play a set wrapped in tinfoil or Christmas lights, keep going back to Eddie Money covers during their set, or just carry on conversations with people in the crowd during their set, they knew how to play.  There was never a disappointing Footstone show.

Which is why it bugs me that I can’t remember the release party for Wobbles From Side To Side.  Because I’d love to tell you about it.

~ by Al on March 18, 2009.

One Response to “a giant vacuum.”

  1. I don’t remember one either.

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