5*C October 11 Lawrence KS

Confirmed: Five Star Crush will play October 11 at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence with Sirens Sister (formerly Vendetta Red) at 9:00 PM.  This will be our last show in our current iteration; Joel moves to Atlanta the week following.  Please come and say farewell, for now.

I’m moving all week, and what that means for MFR is that once I’m settled at 512 Gladstone, Carriage House, my mastering/recording pace will pick up dramatically.  You can’t be looking forward to it more than I am.

Just under the deadline,


We Were Five Star Crush

Maybe we still are.  But that’s what Joel told the crowd about nine hours ago at The Brick as we closed down “Under Spinning Lights.”

He’s moving to Atlanta to take care of family, most like.  Most of you don’t know Joel, but he  has probably spent more time than any of us taking care of family.  Maybe not always his first choice of what he’d like to do, but he’s done it, and that’s truest love in my book.

I’m a little broken.  I’ve been getting my hopes up about the way we were starting to move our sound, a way that could fulfill all three of us.  We’ll try recording and sending tracks back and forth on the interwebs.

For what it’s worth, the whole process, and Joel’s move, have my blessing and support.  The three of us are in complex situations, each balancing more possibilities than can be realized and aware of both the transience and significance of being the pop band we are.  Two waves of change and a tsunami; as we each surf our way through what’s upon us, it’s going to take some grace and some acceptance and we don’t know how this ride ends, what it looks like, or when the next one starts.  -h

New Jams in the Works

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks at MFR, and our fall/winter is looking busy.  I’ll outline the new music we’re working on.

Katy LindhartUntitled.  Katy is a friend of mine and up-and-coming opera singer.  She burned me a disc of my favorite material from her recitals over the past two years, and we’re going to release nine art songs; three by Clara Schumann and six by Debussy.  Art songs occupy sonic territory that’s entirely new to MFR, and I can’t wait to bring you Katy’s work for its’ own sake, and also because this kind of music has been such a part of my life since moving to Kansas City.  I’m going to master the songs and have it out ASAP.

The CombineUntitled EP.  I’m mastering Nick and Lane’s hip-hop project, and we’re also in fruitful talks about putting out an EP on MFR that combines a couple exclusive tracks with a few songs from their record.  Again, new sounds and new friends; this is what MFR is supposed to be!

Robot, Creep Closer! Untitled EP.  The crew has recorded a four-track goodbye that we anticipate will be released on MFR.

Mr. Furious RecordsXMAS and Sally RideYou Have To Wear the Boots.  I hope to have year three of XMAS out immediately after Thanksgiving and Boots at New Year’s.  I’ve been talking with Scott Morris, who’s cruising the Carribean playing jazz on a boat, about how to involve him in XMAS once again.

My priority in 2008 will finally be Ventura, my record of colorful acoustic pop and the mainstay of my current live sets, along with constant effort on Five Star Crush. -howie

Guest List: Sally Ride

Welcome to the MFR edition of Pitchfork’s Guest List. This week, I asked myself to fill you in on what I’ve been up to lately: which tracks I can’t stop spinning, what books I can’t put down, and what new bands they’ve caught on tour. This week it’s Sally Ride’s howie.

>> Favorite New Songs of the Past Year

There were a couple tracks on a recent Paste mag CD that I really liked; The Mooney Suzuki’s “99%” (I thought it was a cover! But heard the rest of the record isn’t much) and Henegar-Union Street Sacred Harp Convention’s “Antioch 277.” Hearing that for the first time was spiritual. I always feel six months or a year behind on new music.

I like to see where critical opinion sort of settles out, because most new bands/songs are forgotten by that point. I was more than a year behind on the Arcade Fire’s first record and they kept popping up, so I finally got it, and dug it.

I’m sure there will be some “favorite” stuff from the new Return record, when I get it. I don’t know. “Favorite” is hard for me. I guess that’s going to make this list kind of weird to do. Now that I think about it, everything on the new Spoon record is a favorite. And Kansas City’s OxBlood Records put out a local comp; “Made Concrete” by Republic Tigers and “How To Love Her” by In The Pines are favs.

>> Favorite Older Songs at the Moment

Elvis Costello, “Lipstick Vogue.” I’ve been on an Elvis Costello kick, but this one always stands out. Joe Henry, “Richard Pryor Addresses a Tearful Nation.” Joe has a new album, Civilians, coming out real soon; this song is from Scar, which I discovered when I was in college radio. U2, “Bullet in a Blue Sky.” I can’t think, some 70’s band, “Hot Child in the City.”

>> Favorite New Band

I discovered Snowden this year, and their Anti-Anti is super-good. Ladyfinger (ne) are still “new” in my book. Lovers in Transit. Phoenix is new to me!

>> Best Recent Concert

It’s been a long time since I went to a show that I wasn’t also playing. We played with Black Tie Massacre, and that was fun.

>> Favorite Song Ever

This is an impossible question, but there are some songs off the top of my head that I give five stars in my iTunes. It’s a rare thing.

  • “Fitted Shirt,” Spoon
  • “What’s Golden,” Jurassic 5
  • “Our Mother of Perpetual Helpdesk,” The Marlboro Chorus
  • “You’re It,” Halloween Alaska
  • “Crie,” Blacklight Sunshine
  • “Fully OK,” Shacker/Cory Kibler
  • “Sweet Lord in Heaven,” Mike Doughty
  • “Her Loss,” JV All*stars

>> Last Great Film I Saw

Ack. I don’t see enough film. Children of Men, maybe?

>> Last Great Book I Read

“The Essential Tillich,” an anthology of Paul Tillich’s theology taken from his academic work, popular books, and sermons. It’s changing my life and has led me to other great books of his like “The Courage to Be.”

>> Favorite Piece of Musical Equipment

Right now, Jill’s bass, which she loaned to me to use on 5*C demos. I’m practicing a lot at home, just figuring out how not to play it too hard and building up some strength in my hands.  I might have to go get a bass, it’s pretty fun. It’s like doing line drawings, where guitar chords are more like solid shapes.

I’ve been into my classical guitar lately, too, fingerpicking and playing quieter. That’s been a big thing I’ve learned in the last year or year-and-a-half that I haven’t talked about much; learning to play quietly but maintain the sense of motion and dance. I kind of had to because of the Pilgrimage experience on Sunday nights and playing around the table after dinner without inhibiting the conversation. All my acoustic stuff from here on out will be the better for it.

>> Favorite Record Shop

KC doesn’t have jack for record shops, as far as I can tell. I hit Half-Price Books every month or two for a load of used stuff, so I never know exactly what I’ll find. It’s always a surprise. Sometimes I’m amazed at what they’re selling for three bones.

>> Best Purchase of the Past Year

Did I get my keyboard over a year ago? Yeah, I think. I don’t know, between music, good food, and the Tillich book… those are all good purchases. I don’t buy too much.

>> Best Thing I Did This Year

If 5*C ever makes a record, then it will have been keeping the band together. If not… maybe writing SR’s upcoming You Have To Wear the Boots. That, or singing All-4-One’s “So Much In Love” at Nick & Lara’s wedding!

>> Favorite Music Venue

In KC, probably recordBar. Good food, comfy room, good sound. I really liked the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis, though.

>> Favorite TV Show at the Moment

Joss Whedon’s “Firefly.” I’m watching it a third time on DVD with Tim, Jill, and Brandon. We still have disc 4 and the movie, Serenity, ahead of us.

>> Favorite Radio Show

I just discovered Radio Lab, and their episode on morality was insightful. Sonic Spectrum is starting up in Kansas City again on 96.5 FM, Wednesday nights, and I mean to check that out more consistently than I did the old show on 89.3.

>> My Ringtone

“Clubbin’,” one of the presets on my Nokia candybar. Pretty intense. “Hey Howie, is that your phone? 2004 is calling!”

Rick Rubin & the Weekly Update

Tomorrow’s NYTimes magazine includes “The Music Man,” (free registration may be required) an in-depth look at Rick Rubin’s new role as co-head of Columbia Records.

I take Columbia’s move to bring Rubin on board as good news. If anyone can make something interesting out of the recording industry, it might be him.

Columbia [doesn’t] want Rubin to punch a clock. It wanted him to save the company. And just maybe the record business.

What that means, most of all, is that the company wants him to listen. It is Columbia’s belief that Rubin will hear the answers in the music — that he will find the solution to its ever-increasing woes. The mighty music business is in free fall — it has lost control of radio; retail outlets like Tower Records have shut down; MTV rarely broadcasts music videos; and the once lucrative album market has been overshadowed by downloaded singles, which mainly benefits Apple.

“The music business, as a whole, has lost its faith in content,” David Geffen, the legendary music mogul, told me recently. “Only 10 years ago, companies wanted to make records, presumably good records, and see if they sold. But panic has set in, and now it’s no longer about making music, it’s all about how to sell music. And there’s no clear answer about how to fix that problem. But I still believe that the top priority at any record company has to be coming up with great music. And for that reason, Sony was very smart to hire Rick.”

Are answers really in the music?  There is a wealth of great music being made right now.  We don’t lack good art.  The problem is at the interface between good art and business, and I think Rubin digs that; it may be the old guard at Columbia, and/or perhaps Lynn Hirschberg (who wrote the Times Magazine article) who think the answers are “in the music.”

With so much music flooding the interwebs and everywhere else, there is a business role – i.e. money to be made – for a company that can build a reputation for finding great musicians, making recordings, and delivering their music to listeners in ways that listeners want.  Rubin has impeccable taste for the finding and making.  It’s the delivery that’s both satisfying to listeners and profitable to the artist and company that no one has figured out.

From the article, Rubin seems convinced that a universal subscription model is inevitable.  As a customer, I don’t immediately feel good about that.  That may be because my listening is still mostly tied to plastic discs; I haven’t even joined the iPod iRevolution iYet, which tends to change listening habits considerably.  I have been pretty excited about the subscription-based “Netflix-for-books” services out there, though.  And the fee would have to be less than I currently spend on music.  So logically, it would seem I should be all for it.

Rubin’s co-head of Columbia isn’t convinced of the subscription plan.  But I agree with Rick that it will take a shift of that order and magnitude to transform the recording industry into something positive for both art and commerce.


I spent one night at Matt’s for 5*C this week, and we laid down a really rad new jam and started messing with “Silver Yellow Girl” (I want to do a new version from the ground up, sounding similar to the “v2” on myspace but cleaner, starting over with those ideas in mind).  We played last night at the Brick with Aubrey and Distance to Empty (went well) and Joel said he’s stoked to hear what we’ve been cooking up.

I also talked to a couple people about Sally Ride’s upcoming …Boots this week; Katy Lindhart, who will sing a role TBD, Jill Gillespie, who had an excellent casting idea for the character of the Teacher, and Jody Wright, who expressed interest in staging the whole mess (dream come true if it happens).  -h