Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sound Advice: Bob Reuter's Alley Ghost at Kudzu's

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 11:27 AM

Bob Reuter
  • Bob Reuter
From a Memphian frame of reference, Bob Reuter was something akin to Don Perry and Jack Oblivian having a baby. Reuter was a St. Louis-based musician and photographer who epitomized and chronicled his city’s underground art scene. He had a radio show and played gigs with his band Alley Ghost.

Reuter died after falling down an elevator shaft during the construction of his recording studio in 2013. It is a testament to his influence that his band has continued to play his music. They will headline a fantastic roughhouse of a bill that includes Memphis’ Richard James as well as James Godwin’s project James and the Ultrasounds at Kudzu’s on Wednesday, August 6th.


Summer Movie Journal #4

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 10:10 AM

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum
  • Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum
22 Jump Street (2014; dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) — It may not be as awesome as The Lego Movie, but 22 Jump Street proves that Lord/Miller is the best comic filmmaking team since Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Which isn’t to say that it’s a triumphant laugh fest from beginning to end — the winking meta-commentary about 22 Jump’s paint-by-numbers sequel status and the homoerotic subtext of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill’s partnership are two running jokes that needed a time out or two. But there are very few dead spots in this omnivorous parody machine: Lord and Miller have never built a world safe from their nonstop barrage of goofs, gags, and random chuckles. Some of the best bits involve “The University of the Internet,” a bunch of girls trudging home behind Hill whenever he takes the walk of shame back to his dorm, anything involving the Lucas Brothers, the dance routine/fight scene on the beach, and everything Jillian Bell says and does. The greatest joke of all involves Tatum, Hill, Ice Cube, and a mix-up that’s obvious in retrospect but so surprising at first that Tatum’s ebullient reaction to and celebration of it deserves to go on as long as it wants. Grade: B+

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Skinny's Birthday at Newby's with Clanky's Nub

Posted By on Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 1:43 PM

Brian "Skinny" McCabe, the booking agent and jack of all trades at Newby's, has won so many Best of Memphis Awards that he got a tattoo. Read Bianca Phillips' interview with him about that. Friday is his birthday. What else would one do but celebrate with some Clanky's Nub? The Nub is ... god knows what. But their drummer is Jay Sheffield. Read Sheffield's bio below the video for Clanky's Nub's "Linchpin." Also on the birthday bill are the Soul Thieves, and KPhonix. Happy Birthday, Skinny. 



Jay "Pokechop" Sheffield has been a professional drummer in Memphis for 22 years. He has been in or with in no particular order: The Scam, Snotjet, Mash-O-Matic, The Mudflaps, The Stumblers, Kick'n Chick'n , Chicken Head, Homemade Flavor, Uprisin, Ross Rice, Joe Norman and The Beakers,The Lakesiders, Daisy Cutters, Lance Strode and the Cathouse Ramblers, Greg Hansen, Eric Lewis, Deep Shag, Dust For Life, Corder-McCormack, The Riverbluff Clan, Dave Cousar, Jim Wilson and the mighty neckbonz, The Coolers, Greg Hisky, Jimi Davis, Davis Coen, and Clanky's Nub. He is truly the finest drummer you can afford.

Monday, July 28, 2014

New Reigning Sound Video

Posted By on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 2:55 PM

Greg Cartwright is on a tear. He has the Wall St Journal eating out of his hand and every media outlet following him around like a million pups. It's about time. He writes a great song and shouts with the best. The new record is damn good. We'll review in the next batch. 


On TV This Week: Prince Mongo on "American Pickers"

Posted By on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 1:12 PM

From left: Frank Fritz, Prince Mongo Hodges, and Mike Wolfe
  • Greg Akers
  • From left: Frank Fritz, Prince Mongo Hodges, and Mike Wolfe

The moment we've all been waiting for is upon us: This week we will finally get to see Memphis weirdo Prince Mongo on the History Channel's hit TV show American Pickers.

From the show's home page: "Eccentric Prince Mongo answers to an other-worldly power and commands Mike and Frank to buy, but refuses to quote them any prices ... "

The episode is titled "Alien vs. Picker".

The Memphis Flyer encountered the experience live when Frank and Mike were in Memphis back in March.

You can see Prince Mongo in all his rubber chicken glory on American Pickers, the following scheduled times:

Premier: Wednesday, July 30, 8 p.m.
Thursday, July 31, Midnight
Wednesday, August 6, 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sound Advice: The Grifters on Beale

Posted By on Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 11:08 AM

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Memphis legends The Grifters play W.C. Handy Park tonight at 6 p.m. After a long period of working on other bands and projects, The Grifters made a comeback last year at a show for the a Shangri-La Anniversary party. The band seems to be keen on playing more shows, as they are also scheduled to play Goner Fest 11 in September. Check out a video from The Grifters below and get downtown by 6 tonight for the free show.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ross Johnson Remembers the Antenna Club

Posted By on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 3:45 PM

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In honor of the Flyer Flashback page that's been running in the Flyer this year, here's a history of the Antenna Club that Ross Johnson wrote for a cover story in October of 1997.


Til The Well Ran Dry

A selective history of memphis' original punk club.

by Ross Johnson

The plain-looking bar at 1588 Madison has been known variously as the Mousetrap, Detroit Rock City, Good Time Charlie's, the Well, Antenna, the Void, Barristers, and currently as Madison Flame. In its incarnations as the Well and Antenna, it served as a backdrop for the development of Memphis' punk/underground music scene. From 1979, when the Well opened its doors, until 1995, when manager Mark McGehee closed the Antenna Club, this site produced an endless variety of noise and musical aggravation. That such a scene developed out of a Midtown watering hole is an interesting story. That it thrived and persisted for 16 years is an even stranger one.

In 1978 the bar was known as Good Time Charlie's and owner Frank Duran featured live music after hours from Memphis bands like Crawpatch, but in early 1979 he changed the club's name to the Well and began featuring local rock bands on weekend nights. In February of that year local pop-rockers Hero (featuring soon-to-be Crime drummer Carlton Rash) had a Friday/Saturday booking there. Randy Chertow, bass player for the Randy Band, went down that Friday night to check out the club as a possible site for his group.

Hero did not draw much of a crowd that evening, but Chertow liked the club and wanted a booking as soon as possible. To speed up the process, he called the next afternoon, saying he was an agent from New York City with a band needing a place to play that Saturday night. When the conversation ended, the Saturday-night bill at the Well featured Hero and the Randy Band. This event marked the beginning of the punk scene in Memphis.

Previously, vaguely punkish groups like the Klitz, the Scruffs, and the Randy Band made do with bookings anywhere they could get them, usually misrepresenting themselves as kickass rock groups to club owners who wanted only cover bands who could draw drinking crowds. Any group that was arty or that played original tunes was less than welcome on most Memphis club stages. Frank Duran didn't care about any of this; he simply wanted customers for the Well. And the Randy Band provided that on a regular basis with weekend bookings there.

The Randy Band was largely responsible for pulling the strands of Memphis' burgeoning underground music scene together at that time. Singer/guitarist Tommy Hull and bass player Randy Chertow met in 1976 and began playing in local clubs as the Randy Band in 1977. Chertow cites early Memphis pop-rockers the Scruffs as inspiration and competition, but the Scruffs left Memphis for the New York scene in 1978, discouraged with the lack of live music outlets in Memphis for any band that didn't play boogie or metal.

The Randy Band played Uncle Ernie's, the Cosmic Cowboy, Prince Mongo's, the Oar House, the Midtown Saloon, and even numerous times in the pub at Rhodes College. But it was at the Well that they found a sympathetic, interested audience, consisting mainly of teenage girls and friends of Chertow's, who was an expert at getting the most unlikely people together in social and musical situations.

By 1979 the group consisted of Chertow, singer Hull, guitarist Ricky Branyan (formerly of the Scruffs and glad to be back in Memphis), and a number of drummers that came and went. With Branyan's boyish good looks, Hull's expertly crafted and catchy pop songs, and Chertow's melodic bass playing (people often joked that the Randy Band had two rhythm guitarists and a lead bass player), the band started pulling good crowds with regular weekend bookings at the Well. People still speak of those early Well performances in glowing terms; it is a shame that the Randy Band's sound was never adequately documented on vinyl (this was before CDs, folks). But they did start things rolling at the Well, soon attracting the attention of other Memphis bands desperate for a new place to play.

Tav Falco's Panther Burns had just formed in early 1979 and were looking for somewhere besides a cotton loft on Front Street to play. Falco's crew noticed the rather large crowds the Randy Band was drawing and wanted to be a part of that scene. They also noticed the growing numbers of teenage girls attending Randy Band gigs, but that's another story.

So the Burns and the Randy Band started sharing weekend dates at the Well. During this period Duran would occasionally pull the power on the Panther Burns when they got particularly noisy and unmusical (which was pretty often in 1979). Duran had no problem ejecting unruly drunks from his club or offensive musicians from the stage. He would always let performers know when they had gone too far and if they didn't quit then, he would make them stop one way or another.

Memphis all-girl band the Klitz, got in on these Randy Band/Panther Burns bills too. The Well was very much a drunken social club in those early days, with band members swapping out both musically and sexually, quite a lot like other developing punk scenes across the country at that time.

The Well gave the Memphis scene something of a working-class orientation to go along with the expected dose of drink, drugs, noise, and excessive emotionality. Older regulars from the Good Time Charlie's/Mousetrap days still hung out at the bar in the afternoons for cheap beer, and if they got particularly drunk they would often stay for the band sets on Friday and Saturday nights. Band members were often treated to impassioned critiques of their estimable musical talents from the happy-hour regulars who were too drunk to get off their bar stools and crawl home. Some of the Well musicians also started dropping in early to drink and debate with the older crowd who came in during the afternoons. A number of unlikely friendships between redneck barflies and punk-rock irregulars developed during those foggy happy hours.

When the legal drinking age in Tennessee changed from 18 to 19 in 1980, the problem of underage drinking raised its head. The police started making regular late-night raids at the Well checking for underage drinkers. More than once Duran came close to losing his beer license.

Tiring of the aggravation, he decided to sell his interest in the club to local hair stylist Jimmy Barker, who wanted to turn the Well into more of an arty new music club. With financial backing from Phillip Stratton, Barker opened the Antenna in March 1981 with a show featuring Memphis' Quo Jr. and rockabilly trend-jumpers the RockCats (at the time featuring New York Dolls drummer Jerry Nolan).

Plastic forks hung from the ceiling (the health department later made Barker take them down); the walls were painted black; the mirror behind the stage was gone (a memento from the bar's earlier tenure as a strip club); and there were television monitors showing what soon came to be known as "videos." Barker's videos featured himself and a number of his friends dryly emoting in front of a static video camera. From March 1981 until the Antenna closed, the bar featured these monitors which were turned on immediately after bands played; those flickering images were often on during bands' live sets as well. This practice had a disconcerting effect after a while, especially when one of your favorite bands finished a set and a Duran Duran video came on immediately afterward. Many people got their fill of rock videos at the Antenna long before MTV killed off popular interest in the form. But it was one of those things you got used to if you spent any time there.

BARKER CHANGED MORE THAN JUST THE look of the club; he booked national acts at the Antenna. Previously the Well had featured Memphis bands exclusively, allowing a rather fragile scene to develop musically and commercially without competition from out-of-town groups.

A few weeks after the Antenna opened, Barker booked the Brides of Funkenstein, who put on an extravagant show, the likes of which most Well customers had seen only on television or in live concerts at larger halls.

Of course, Barker lost money with this practice, and soon partner Phillip Stratton was looking for someone else to help him with the more mundane aspects of club management. Enter Steve McGehee from Frayser.

McGehee, who had worked for a number of years at TGI Friday's, was looking for a club to manage. Barker was forced out rather abruptly and McGehee took over the day-to-day operations of the club in June 1981 with Phillip Stratton remaining a partner until 1984, when McGehee bought him out. The Antenna remained McGehee-family-owned and -operated until it closed.

McGehee booked a combination of local bands along with national and international acts. He recalls using Bob Singerman's New York-based booking agency a lot in the early days. More often than not, agents would call him with a group they wanted to book at the Antenna.

As the years went by, McGehee saw more contracts and riders from the out-of-town acts that appeared there. When the Irish group Hothouse Flowers played, he had to add some extra stage planking to accommodate a rented grand piano they insisted on having; he had to have the piano tuned as well. German noise-rockers MDK played the Antenna in 1983 and insisted that Steve provide a meal, shoving a copy of their contract in his face and saying,"McGehee, feed us." He obliged with a few of "Burrito Bob" Holmes' special burritos that were languishing in a freezer in the club's little-used kitchen. They ate them greedily and in appreciation flooded his bathroom and stole several pairs of blue jeans after they stayed at his house.

The Antenna became a regular stop for SST record-label bands in the early to mid-'80s. Black Flag played there numerous times with Henry Rollins before he turned into a professional careerist and self-promoter. Word of mouth played a part in bringing national groups to the Antenna. Touring bands would tell other groups that the Antenna was the best place (or only place) to play in Memphis.

In 1991, McGehee produced T-shirts to commemorate the club's 10th anniversary. On the shirts was a list of every band that played the Antenna during that period. McGehee compiled the list from booking calendars and memory. Looking at that list now one sees the names of groups that have gone on to sell millions of records as well as obscure loser bands that played once and then broke up.

R.E.M. played the Antenna several times. The band once called Tav Falco to see if the Panther Burns would be interested in opening for them. Falco, who had never heard of them, passed on the offer.

Davis McCain's (of Easley Recording) band Barking Dog took that opening spot and even supplied the PA which R.E.M. blew that evening. Those were the days before Michael Stipe and his boys became college favorites, and they often played in an intoxicated state on stage. By the time their first IRS album was released in 1983, they were pulling crowds too large for the Antenna to accommodate. But Steve McGehee had them first and their recently fired manager, Jefferson Holt, used to take the door for them, even lending beer money if you were broke and particularly desperate for a beer.

THE CLUB DEPENDED ON LOCAL bands for the most part, of course. The Crime and Calculated X were big draws in the early '80s, peddling Memphis versions of power pop and British synth rock respectively. Hipper bands may have looked down on these two, but they also envied their ability to fill the Antenna to capacity. The Panther Burns waxed and waned in their drawing power over the years at the Antenna.

"You either hated or loved the Panther Burns," McGehee says. "They were either really good or really bad. There was no in-between with them. The same was true of the Modifiers."

Probably no other Memphis band personified the Antenna better than the Modifiers. The core of the group was singer Milford Thompson and guitarist Bob Holmes with second guitarists, bass players, and drummers coming and going. They played a brand of music that could best be described as a cross between Ferlin Husky and Black Flag years before the current interest in bands that rock up country sounds.

Unfortunately for them, the Modifiers were ahead of their time, and after an extended period in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, they broke up.

"People would get mad at me for always booking the Modifers as an opening act, but I didn't have to pay 'em anything," McGehee recalls. "They played for beer. They would show up at noon for soundcheck and by 5 p.m. they would be so drunk they could barely see."

The Antenna was more than just the bands that played there. Steve's sister, Robin, tended bar in a cheerful manner and served countless drunks who never stopped trying to pick her up.

The Antenna had a reputation as a violent club, but in reality there were few fights in the bar, quite a feat when one recalls the sheer volume of drunken Memphians who came to the club for the express purpose of "punkin' out." Rebel from Frayser took money at the door and always had a good story for anyone who cared to listen. And finally, there was broken-hearted Rowena (immortalized in a Modifiers song of the same name) who sat at the bar night after night looking for a kind word or gesture.

In 1988, the state of Tennessee assessed McGehee a rather large amount in unpaid sales taxes, effectively keeping the Antenna in perpetual bankruptcy until it closed. No matter what resentful musicians may have thought at the time, McGehee did not make a fortune running the Antenna.

"I lost more than I made," he says. "I promise you that. A lot more."

McGehee married in 1988 and started a family, putting a further financial strain on his situation. He recalls that on St. Patrick's Day 1991 he was ready to close the club down, but he asked his brother Mark if he would take it over for him. Mark McGehee stayed on until the Antenna closed.

Mark had to scramble for bookings while local groups played at the New Daisy and other Memphis venues. Steve recalls that Club Six-One-Six seemed to take away a lot of his business after it opened with a similar format as the Antenna.

By June 1995 the brothers McGehee, tired of the struggle, decided to sell the bar. It reopened later that year for a brief period as the Void, and former Barristers owner Chris Walker ran it as Barristers Midtown for a few months during the spring of '96. Currently the club is known as the Madison Flame. Local bands appear there on an irregular basis.

Essentially the club's history came to a halt in 1995 when the McGehees threw in the towel.

"It got to be more of a hassle trying to pay off the back taxes than it was to keep it open. I only regret that more people didn't hear and see the stuff I did there because there was some incredible music that happened in that place," Steve McGehee says today. "I remember many nights when I was in there by myself seeing great bands and saying I can't believe there's nobody here to see these people. Now there were also a lot of times when I wished I wasn't there. But great bands would come and go and nobody would ever know it."

And what ever happened to Barry Bob anyway? (Ross Johnson was a drummer with Panther Burns. His retrospective on that band appeared in the February 1-7, 1996, issue of the Flyer.)

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Funny Elvis Thing

Posted By on Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 8:38 AM

Monday, July 21, 2014

Booker T. Jones on Civil Rights

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 3:32 PM

Booker T. Jones at the Levitt Shell
  • Booker T. Jones at the Levitt Shell

Booker T. Jones was asked by CBS to write about his experience in the Civil Rights era. Jones recounts a life in which the letter of law of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was constantly under attack and in need of presidential involvement even after it passed. He writes of Rosa Parks and what she meant to so many.

I imagine my very own mother suffered identical belittlement as she worked as a domestic on Memphis' affluent Park Avenue, taking the bus from Walker Avenue in the mid-1920s. She passed her positions down to my sister, Gwen, who was a maid at the Park Hotel in the 1940s near the time of my birth.

Read the full essay here.

Al Kapone Threw a Party. How Memphis Was It? Slide Show!

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Al Kapone - JOHN SHAW
  • John Shaw
  • Al Kapone
A month or two ago, people started wearing T-shirts that read ‘Memphis As F__K.’ It wasn’t long before Al Kapone was wearing one, and shortly thereafter he recorded a song with that slogan as the title, featuring up and coming Memphis rapper Tori Whodat. Perhaps the next logical step was last Friday night’s Memphis As F__K concert at the Hi-Tone, featuring DJ Witnesse on the ones and twos, and an all-star cast of Memphis rap artists, including the Trackmen, Tori Whodat, Knowledge Nick and of course Al Kapone, who was aided and abetted by his hype man Tune C as well as a stage full of Memphis legends, including Skinny Pimp, DJ Zirk and Mr. Sche. Altogether, it was a night of Memphis rap nostalgia as well as a pep rally for those who really love Memphis. Slide Show!

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James Govan: 1949-2014

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 7:51 AM

James Govan
  • James Govan
James Govan, who was known to many for his work on Beale Street with organist Charlie Wood and recorded in Muscle Shoals at the height of Fame Records, passed away last week. 

Govan was a Beale Street highlight for three decades, including two decades with Rum Boogie Café’s Rum Boogie Blues Band. A multi-instrumentalist who sang Otis Redding's songs as well as anyone except Otis, Govan played the Poretta Soul Festival in Italy for five years in a row. But he should be best known for the tracks he cut in Muscle Shoals.

“I knew him when he recorded the tracks at Fame,” says friend and collaborator Travis Wammack, who produced one of Govan’s albums and may have played on the long-lost recordings at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. Those recordings were found and released in 2013 by Ace Records, a company that has released several albums from the vaults at Fame. The tracks on Wanted: The Fame Recordings place Govan alongside Clarence Carter and Wilson Pickett in quality and vitality.

“He was like Otis Redding,” Wammack says. “His voice was so good. He was an awesome talent. He was a great guy and a great singer and a great musician. We did an album on him in the 1980s down at Broadway Sound. I produced Help Me, I’m in Need, which was released by Charlie Records over in England.”

Brad Webb knew Govan for some 30 years. Webb organizes the jams for the Memphis Blues Society and knew Govan as a versatile musician and member of a supportive community of musicians.

“James played drums and sang his ass off," Webb says. "If one of us didn't know how to do something, he would say, ‘Watch me do it.’”

CORRECTION: The year of Govan's birth was originally written as 1951. Govan was born in 1949. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Movie Journal #3

Posted By on Sun, Jul 20, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz
  • Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz

The Counselor (2013; dir. Ridley Scott) — For a while, all I knew about this collaboration between the director of Blade Runner and the writer of Blood Meridian was that Salon.com’s Andrew O’Hehir declared it one of the worst movies ever made. Bad press like that curtailed its theatrical run last fall, so I didn’t get to see what all the fuss was about. Now the pendulum is swinging back; in a recent review of the bonus-crazy Counselor Blu-ray, Film Comment’s Amy Taubin called it “the most underrated and indeed ridiculously maligned film of 2013.” If you don’t mind elliptical storytelling or long, slow, deep, soft, wet disquisitions about the evil that men do that last three days, then you’ll probably agree. Michael Fassbender is the luckless, nameless criminal dilettante of the film’s title, and Javier Bardem is the bewildered playboy who helps Fassbender make his one big, bad decision. Cameron Diaz’s all-knowing leopard woman is supposed to be the film’s central metaphor, but for me, Brad Pitt’s smug, paunchy middleman performs that function just as well. He sort of knows what he’s doing is wrong, but even when he has to face facts, he can’t believe it’s really happening to him. The hangman’s delight with which Pitt recognizes the seriousness of his and Fassbender’s predicament is one of the many reasons why this is the most frightening movie I’ve seen in a long time. Grade: A-

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sound Advice: Party with The Wans

Posted By on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 2:42 PM

Sometimes you just have to start your weekend on Wednesday. If that's the direction you see your work week going, then head to the Hi-Tone tomorrow night to catch The Wans with local rock and rollers River City Tanlines and Werwulf. Check out a video from each band below and get to the Hi-Tone by 8 p.m Wednesday night.

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Hank III at Minglewood on Wednesday

Posted By on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 11:46 AM

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Hank III brings the intergenerational talent mess to Minglewood Hall Wednesday, July 16th. His live show reflects his unwillingness to be pigeon-holed. There is usually a country set followed by a descent into metal. Having put his feud with label mogul Mike Curb behind him, III issued three albums on his own. Those records reflect his multiple musical personality disorder revolving around country, hellbilly, and metal. Works for me. Tickets are $18.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Sound Advice: Reigning Sound at Goner this Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Jul 11, 2014 at 10:36 AM

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This Saturday, Memphis legend Greg Cartwright returns to a familiar spot for a free solo performance. In addition to the recently repressed Reigning Sound Live at Goner Records LP, Goner will also have copies of the new LP Shattered. for sale, the first full-length record by the band since 2009's Love and Curses. Check out "My My", a new song off Shattered, and make plans to be at Goner Records by 5 p.m. on Saturday the 12th. Oh yeah, its BYOB.

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