We Built This City on Rock and Roll

...and other equally valuable varieties of popular music

For this year's Picked to Click issue, we came up with a bold experiment: get a bunch of musicians to meet in the loveseat department of Gabberts and have them talk about the merits and demerits of agricultural subsidies. Well, that was a disaster. Fortunately we had a backup plan: get some of this year's Picked to Click favorites to sit down together at Grumpy's on Washington and ask them to talk about music. Our round table was made up of Ian Rans, local rock tastemaker, impresario behind the defunct "Punk Rock Karaoke" night at Tubby's Bar and Grill, and host of the cable access rock-talk program Drinking with Ian ; P.O.S., born Stefon Leron Alexander, this year's breakout local rapper who recently inked a deal with the Rhymesayers label; Nick Ryan, guitarist with pop historians Thunder in the Valley; Wes Statler, singer-keyboardist for high school dance-rock hipsters Melodious Owl; and Brian Shuey, guitarist-singer for tuneful punk rockers Die Electric! The discussion was co-moderated by City Pages' Dylan Hicks, formerly a semi-professional musician who was picked to click in the early '90s.

 

THOUGHTS ON THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS--EXCEPT AT NIGHT

 

Ian Rans: What do you all think the strengths of the local scene are?

Wes Statler: Without question, I think it's the diversity of the scene. We just played a show with P.O.S. and [Mark] Mallman. Three pretty different acts, and yet they gel together really well and the people in the scene are into all that stuff. They're relatively open-minded.

P.O.S.: This is a side note, Wes, but there was an adult at the show we played together. I don't want to call you out, but somebody said something about how the aggressiveness of the bulge in your pants turned her on. She had to be at least three times your age. I just figured if I saw you again, I had to tell you that, because I overheard it and I loved it.

Wes: Yeah, Mallman made me uncomfortable. He came over to the merch booth, and he said, "You stuff your pants, right?" I said, "No." And he went, "Oh, my god!"

Dylan Hicks: What about racial diversity in the audience?

P.O.S.: I don't know, man. This is a question that gets asked all the time. Every time someone interviews me about hip hop, they ask, "How come black people don't come out to the shows?" I don't know. There's definitely a little bit of the salt-and-pepper thing at shows, but it's predominantly white. It's a little disappointing sometimes. When I was in [the hardcore band] Building Better Bombs, there were more black people that came to those shows just because there were black punks who wanted to see black punks.

 

YOU'VE ALL BEEN SUCH A
WONDERFUL CROWD TONIGHT.
I ONLY WISH WE HAD TIME TO THANK ALL FOUR OF YOU PERSONALLY.

 

P.O.S.: There's definitely a small army starting to form for [my extended crew] Doomtree: a group of six girls and maybe ten guys who come to every single show who know the words, make their own T-shirts, and buy something at every show--even though we've had the same five shirts and two CDs for the last six months.

Wes: We get a steady increase in the number of TRL e-mails we get, where it's all emoticons and abbreviations--like how many X's and O's can you put in this thing? These are the same girls that show up--we home-make all of our T-shirts--they show up in those shirts and they're singing along with the words, and they're like [assumes young feminine voice] "Can I take a picture with you?" The majority of our shows are 21-plus, though. As much as we were talking about diversity earlier, the kids that are really into screamo or hardcore stuff really don't dig our music. They're probably thinking, "Why are their pants so tight? Why does everything end on C?"

P.O.S.: I think those kids really like us.

Dylan: Has anybody here gotten a post-show compliment that was meant sincerely but felt like a backhanded compliment?

Brian Shuey: Oh, every night. The first show we played on this last tour was in Omaha. When we were done, I was wrapping my cords up and stuff, this real tall guy--with a Gap sweater, hoop earrings, and a black eye--he came up [and said], "Man, I just got to tell you, I fucking hate music...but I liked you guys." And then the dude handed me 20 dollars--he said, "Here man, take this." So I tried to give him a CD, and he said, "You're not listening to me, man! I fucking hate music!"

Nick Ryan: When we first started playing, people said we sounded like Elton John, and I like Elton John, but....

 

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE WASHINGTONS

 

Dylan: Have you guys all lost money doing this?

Brian: Hell yeah. I've been losing money for 15 years.

Wes: We blow all our money on candy. Everybody wants to interview us at a playground...[it's like] we're just little kids, we're saving up for a swing set for the studio.

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