Cairo, IL… from MRR #324

June 4th, 2010 by

In the May issue of Maximum Rocknroll we ran feature about Chris Johnston of Plan-It-X Records and his move to Cairo, IL, with some other punks, and the opening of their coffee shop called Ace of Cups. Interviewer Aaron Lake Smith also wrote a feature about this in TIME magazine, and appeared on Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty Eight, where the subjects of race (Cairo is about 60% black and about 35% white) and economics were again glossed over by Smith. The word “mission” was used often in the description of the project going on in Cairo, IL. It is no secret that punks are often guilty of aiding mass waves of gentrification in larger cities, but what does it mean when white punks move into an ailing, forgotten city with a majority African-American population? Is a coffee shop going to bring the town back or is it an attempt to gain the trust of its residents? What about involving the community and serving their expressed needs? What does it mean to “rescue” a town. It’s a complex question that goes beyond the realms of punk and idealism. Decide for yourselves…  —Mariam, MRR magazine coordinator

Chris Johnston (photo by Aaron Lake Smith)

Cairo, IL (pronounced “Kay-ro”) sits on a narrow peninsula hemmed on both sides by the Mississippi River and protected from flooding by a set of rusted, vine-entangled levees. The land surrounding the little outpost of civilization looks like it would be untamed and lushly green in the summer. The town in some ways feels like a miniature cross between New Orleans and Detroit—reliant on the logic of dams and levees like New Orleans, but then vacant and possessing a rusted-out sense of lost splendor like Detroit.

Chris Johnston is the 36 year-old proprietor of Plan-it-X Records. After years of living in “cool” places like Bloomington, Olympia, and Gainesville and swirling through an endless kaleidoscope of punk shows, vegan restaurants, and community spaces, Johnston recently decided it was time to do something. Last summer, Johnston bought a building on Cairo’s main drag and has since opened Cairo’s first coffee shop-grocery store-community space, called Ace of Cups. Johnston and a number of others live upstairs of the massive building (it used to be a Knights of Columbus hall), though it has no heat in the winter. In going to Cairo, it seems that Johnson was actively pursuing what we all want after the mix-tape listening, rooftop-climbing, forty-drinking hangover wears off—a sense of purpose, a direction; a reason for existence, a town that could never be gentrified. And with Cairo, that’s what he got.

This interview was conducted in the dead of winter, in the warmest room in Ace of Cups: a room with maps tacked up on all the walls, and the space heater running at full blast.

Intro, interview and photos by Aaron Lake Smith

What brought you to Cairo, Illinois?

It’s been a plan of mine for a while to have a big building and do something productive and creative in it. For various reasons, we wanted a big place to do something and wanted to start a community center, but couldn’t afford to do so in places like Gainesville and Bloomington. Those places already have a lot going for them. The people who live there don’t even need the stuff people build for them. In Gainesville, at the community spaces, almost no one comes in anyway. Here in this tiny town that has almost nothing, we get almost the same amount of people. We wanted a little more freedom. Then I found Cairo. The more I read about the town, the more intrigued I got, how it has nothing and real estate was dirt cheap. I realized my plan could encompass not only making my life better, but increasing the quality of life for people that live here. Myself and various people discussed “The Plan.” Most of them aren’t here today. But we talked about how doing anything here would be productive. Just by opening this space, we’ve done something for the community.

When did you first come to Cairo and how did you hear about it?

March of 2008. From touring a lot, you see little towns everywhere. Occasionally, you get off the interstate and find a small town in decay. I noticed these towns were usually by rivers, because a lot of river cities fell after the steamboat era. My first thought was, “I’ll look at the rivers.” I wanted to live in the Midwest. There’s lots of cool abandoned towns farther out West, but I didn’t want to move out there—if you were living in Montana or Wyoming you’d never see anybody you knew again. From a touring standpoint, the Midwest made sense—you can go in various directions on tour. And then I said, “Which river? Mississippi or the Ohio?” I grew up on the Ohio River. I looked on the map and the first place I looked was right here. I said, “Cairo? On the two rivers? That looks weird, let me look that up.” There were all these train tracks on the map, and the town looked crazy.

So you had never heard of it, spending most of your life in the Midwest?

Never once. I never passed this way. So I looked it up and started reading about it, and one of the first things I read was “It looks like the set of a 1920s movie, but all the actors are missing,” then I read the line, “It looks like the town that history forgot.” Everything sounded insane. I started looking up real estate and found very livable houses for $8,000. Most places—like Gainesville—you pay $800 a month for a three-bedroom house. Every place I’ve lived, you move into a crappy four-bedroom house for a thousand a month. Here, in a couple months you could have it all squared away and never have to rent again. Then I thought, “I should keep looking,” so I kept looking, but couldn’t find anything. The diversity of the population was a big part of it. A small poor town in Indiana is like 99% white. If you go further South, any poor town is 99% black. I didn’t want to be the weird white hippies moving into the small black town in Mississippi. I also really didn’t want to move into an all-white town, full of conservative rednecks. Here, there’s diversity and you can be on the fence between the two populations. Racism destroyed the town in the ’60s. All the racist white businesses evacuated to avoid integration. The more I read about it, the more interesting I found it. It was also a stand against capitalism: the businesses with the capital left town and the people left behind didn’t have capital to start a business. It’s interesting because it’s a lesson; If we ever succeed in overthrowing capitalism, we’ll probably be in a pretty rough situation.

You run a folk-punk record label. What precipitated this decision to do this crazy thing?

I’ve thought about doing this forever. I started a record store in Bloomington once, in 1997, and it was horrible. My friend Sam started Secret Sailor Books in Bloomington and that was awesome. Sam, a militant anarchist, started this bookstore and ran it as an anarchist bookstore and didn’t want any money to be earned by anybody. During that era, Bloomington had the best political movement ever—protests, direct action, tree-sits. It was cool because you could see the direct correlation between having a space for ideas to happen and stuff happening. The volunteers of Secret Sailor started to feel like it was too dirty and felt like they needed to clean it up and turn around the business. They said they would no longer volunteer unless they changed the name and gave it a whole new look. Sam walked away and said, “OK. You can have it.” This seems to be the way a lot of radical things go down—a person a little too radical is the one brave enough to get something started, and the more conservative radicals move in later and take it over. They are perhaps more structured, and have a little bit more money, and they keep it together. It sucks the way it happens because it takes the brave person to start the thing.

So Secret Sailor became a cool indie rock bookstore. It’s not the vision that it once was. Since all that I’ve thought, “We’ve got to do something.” I’ve rented houses and gone on tour and always felt that I should be doing something better than that. The label [Plan-It-X] kept going and I started saving money. I moved from Bloomington for various reasons. Everything I loved there was turned into something I hated, and nobody seemed to notice. Everyone was just going to bars. If you watch the link of capitalism and culture, as things get like that, it affects everybody.

How did you have the resources to buy a building?

The thing that really made this possible was iTunes. A lot of what sold on iTunes was Paul Baribeau and Antsy Pants. Kimya Dawson is in Antsy Pants and two of their songs were on the Juno movie soundtrack, which was on the Billboard charts. I give half of what I get on iTunes to the bands. The first check I got that was outrageous was $14,000. That allowed me to cut checks for my friends in bands. It was pretty fun being able to say, “Here’s a check from your band. Enjoy this virtual money from the Internet.” I borrowed a little bit of money to buy the building from a friend and from my family, which I’m almost squared away with. We had a lot of little expenses—it cost us a couple thousand dollars to run all the electricity and buy materials.

Was there a turning point in your life that brought you out here?

I felt stagnant in Gainesville. Bloomington, Gainesville, Olympia, all the cool places I lived in, I felt that nothing I could do would ever make an impact on the community. I wanted to live in a place where I could make a decent impact. I wanted to take the little bit I could afford to do to a place that had nothing, and make a bigger difference. I think if everyone thought that way we could have a lot better country in general. I hate when you meet the small town punk kid who just tells you how they’re going to move to Portland. You want to say, “Don’t move to Portland. You have 30 kids that come to every show you book out here. These kids have nothing and you could make a difference in their lives by staying here and doing this for them. Then none of you would have to move and you could all stay here. Eventually, you could have sweet stuff going on. When you turned 35 or whatever, you could buy this building and turn it into your space that you’ve always wanted. When we came on tour, we could see it.” I wish people could spread out a little more and stop that urge of joining.

What is the racial dynamic like in Cairo?

If you go to the grocery store, you see everyone talking to each other. There’s not a clear racial division. We’ve heard stories about really racist people. But we’ve also heard stories about the “white devil.” People saying, “Oh, I’m surprised he talks to you guys. All he does is preach about how the white man is the devil and we should stay away from the white man.”

How much did it cost to buy this building?

It was $24,000. It used to be a Knights of Columbus building. A hardware store and the unemployment office were downstairs, that both went out of business. Then it was an in-home health care provider. That’s why there are all these little office-like rooms everywhere.

Once I lost my Bloomington connection, I felt like I had no home anymore. I needed to do something. I wanted to build a home. I travel all the time, which I love. I love traveling and going to all the places in it, but I pretty much hate it at the same time. You see the cool aspects of towns, but then you look around the corner and see all the garbage. Kids in every town say, “Oh, it used to be cool because we had this and this, but now…” It sucks to hear those stories. I didn’t want to invest time in a place that was going to just change on me and turn into a place I didn’t want to live. I’m pretty sure that Cairo is never going to get gentrified. There’s a Wal-Mart in 30 miles in any direction, so I don’t think they’re going to need to complete the triangle in a community that has no reputation for buying anything. It’s not a “growth” market.

I found this building for sale on the Internet and came and looked at it. It was pretty scary—the lights weren’t on and you had to use flashlights. Upstairs was totally trashed, tattered curtains, everything that a haunted old house would have in it. It took a while to make the decision. We paid $24,000 for it.

So you had a group of people that were interested in moving here and helping out?

Right. My plan was to get a ten-person group originally, enough of us to hang out in groups and not always be around the same person. Enough of us so that when some of us go on tour, some of us will be back home. I gave up on that plan. I did serious recruiting for at least six months. I wrote a manifesto and a plan and emailed it to all my friends that I thought might be interested, people I’d talked to before. A lot of people have this “Oh, we should all move to a crazy place” idea. No one really came through. Zach, who’s here now, was 24 and had just quit his job and was trying to figure out what to do with his life. I bumped into him at just the right time. Adrienne always wanted to do something like this too. She was bored in Gainesville. She had been working in restaurant jobs. People did drugs, going out after work. “Where are you going out tonight?” was the topic of all conversations. That’s not a life. It’s fine for a couple of years. Being social is one thing, but what are you going to do when you’re 45? To me, you have to have some sort of plan.

How did Adrienne (Johnston’s girlfriend) end up coming here with you?

I met Adrienne right when I was planning this and we hit it off. Some tour was ending around here, so me and another friend from Gainesville came here in November. We drove around town with a video camera and shot every street, and every empty building. I put it on YouTube so I could share it with my friends easily. I made that and told her my plan, fully expecting her not to be interested. Then she basically said that she had always wanted to do that. It was a pretty new relationship, so I didn’t know if she was actually going to go through with it or not. She came and looked at the building with me. We stood outside after the real estate lady left, and I said, “Do you really think we should do this?” and she said, “Yeah.” And then I said, “Do you really think we should buy this building right here?” and she said, “Yeah. Do it.” That made me like her a lot more. I like people who are willing to be as crazy as I am and not flake out on stuff.

So your main problem now is that the people who’ve moved to Cairo with you don’t have any way to make money?

We’re trying to start some kind of export industry, like silk-screening or crafts. I’m trying to encourage people who have outside ways of making money—bands, mail order businesses, or people that do Internet work—to move here. We don’t plan on making any money from the community here. We don’t want to. We talk about wanting customers to come in. But that’s just to make us feel better. We sell coffee really cheap and everything is barely over what it costs to make. We don’t get paid to work here. I’d rather we figure out something where all the money we earned came from outside the community and we put it into the community, so it’d be like channeling. I’d really love to do something here that made jobs for people. If I could ever give one local Cairo person a job, that would be the coolest thing in the world.

What’s the response been like from the community?

It’s been good. It’s slow, we don’t get many customers. But probably once a week, two or three new people come in who haven’t been in yet. They ask what it is; we tell them and give them a card or a calendar of events. Everyone comes in and tells us we’re doing a great job, but don’t really hang out or come back. There’s never really been a place to “hang out” in town and I think people are accustomed to their lifestyle. For me, the coffee shop idea was that a social space is really important in life. It makes for better people if you have a place you can go and loiter with your friends. We’ve had very little loitering. There’s a couple of different groups of people that come in: one family, the grandpa, grandma and daughter and their kids all come in. Sometimes they come in together. They come in and bring food and stay for a couple of hours. The grandpa does karaoke.

Some high school kids come in and hang out every now and again, but they mostly stay in and play Call of Duty 2. They still come in every now and again but after Call of Duty 2 came out, we lost them. We didn’t see them for about a month and we figured something was wrong. We thought, “Oh man. There must be some nasty rumor spreading about us in the town. Or they looked us up online and found out we’re anarchist or something.” One of them came in and Ken asked them about it and they said, “Oh, we’ve been at home. This game came out and it’s just really good.”

Where does the name Ace of Cups come from?

It’s the name of a tarot card. The night we were coming here, we had a pack of tarot cards with us for some reason. On the drive down we decided to do a one-card reading, with the question: “What is this Cairo plan going to end up in? What becomes of this dream?” The card we pulled was Ace of Cups. The Tarot book we had with us gave us this really awesome description, “This is a water sign. This means the overflowing of creativity and the fertility of ideas. The coming together and convergence of ideas.” All of it made sense and felt like the perfect thing. Then the idea came up: that would be a good name for a coffee shop. Most people don’t know it’s a tarot card, and that generally works out in our favor.

Has there been a lot of misunderstanding about what this place is?

A lot of people would come in and not know that we’re a coffee shop. That’s why we put a sign out there that said, coffee and books. We got customers right after we put that sign up. We’re next to the Catholic charities soup kitchen next door. A lot of people thought we were going to be an extension of the soup kitchen. They asked us what we were going to give away and we had to say: we’re not giving away anything. We just sell coffee.

You had mentioned that you had a minor disaster with the roof this summer?

It was maybe mid-August, beautiful sunny day. We had just put the Ace of Cups sign up and painted the front of the building. It was probably 90 degrees, really warm and really nice out. We finished all the work on our list of work to do. Then this huge thunderstorm or tornado came out of nowhere and peeled off about one-third of our roof and wadded it all up. We couldn’t get out onto the roof and work on it. We had to get an electric saw and cut a hole to get on top of the roof. As we were on the roof, lightning was striking and we were trying to save the building. We had just fixed up so much and water was coming all the way down to the first floor. Ceiling panels were turning brown and collapsing. It pretty much ruined everything we had done other than the electricity and plumbing. We shut off the power because it was running through all the electrical outlets too. We all had headlamps on, walking through a building that was pouring down with water.

(by Walter DuBois Richards, 1934)

We realized that the Plan-It-X office was starting to get wet, so we had to evacuate hundreds of boxes of CDs and records. You didn’t know which was going to be the next room to go, so we put them in the middle of the room and covered them with plastic. The storm quieted and in the distance we saw this insane storm coming. It really looked like something was trying to kill us. It was a big solid black cloud, one monstrous cloud with lightning shooting out of it coming toward us. We only had ten minutes to solve the roof situation, but we didn’t have anything. We spent the next three hours trying to direct the water and put buckets all over and dump them out. Around midnight, I drove to Sikeston, Missouri to buy plastic at Wal-Mart. I wandered through Wal-Mart soaking wet and then I came back and we stapled that up over the roof. After that, it was beautiful for four days in a row. I really wanted to quit after that. It seemed like a sign that said, “We don’t want you here. We’ll destroy whatever you build. If you look back on the history of the town, everything gets destroyed, including you.”

We called a few roof places. If we would have had it done by professionals it would have been $10,000. We talked about trying to do a fundraiser, but I didn’t want to rely on the punk community. I didn’t want to say, “Hey, we just moved to this new building. We need $10,000.” I thought it would be an ultimate sign of failure and weakness if we told people that we ran into a problem already. The roof was good. I tell people and they think we bought a crappy old building, an abandoned warehouse with holes in the walls. It’s a real building, not a piece of junk and I didn’t want to give the idea that we bought a piece of shit. We decided to fix it ourselves. I called my dad and got roofing advice from him, and then looked up tips on the Internet. We spent $1,100 at the hardware store. It took us four days, and I had thought it would be a one-day job. It was hard.

What is this you were telling me earlier about toads?

Toads were a different thing. In the summer, when it was still muggy and warm, you’d go up on the roof and there would be a dozen toads jumping around. We have no clue how they got up there. There’s the rain of frogs from the Bible, but I have no clue how they got up there. It is a little weird.

A missionary group in town were the first people to introduce themselves to us. They call themselves Mighty Rivers Ministry. I think they’re slightly Catholic-based, but they’re an independent group. They all felt this call at the same time, this attraction to Cairo for some reason. They believe that this might be the site of the original Garden of Eden, and they believe it’s the start of where the Rapture will begin when it starts. We don’t really talk about these things with them. We’re just polite because we don’t want to have any enemies. Zach got asked, “What is your denomination?” which is a kind of inappropriate question. A lot of the response we’ve gotten is, “Usually, when anything like this happens, it’s church-based.”

You’ve deviated drastically from what most people in our society do. Most people live in towns with punk bars, regular jobs, and identity-based friend groups that share the same interests and ideology they do. You’ve changed your life, bought a building, and what now?

It’s challenging, and I feel a bit stressed. Winter is a big part of it. We’re settling in. Now we’re really running the coffee shop. But then what? What’s the next stage? Is this all we’re trying to do? We’ve achieved it all, and this is it? We obviously want more people to come in.

Do you have a plan?

The fact that this is, is one step. If it’s all we’ve ever done, I’d still feel okay about it. The deeper I get into it, there’s all these political corruption stories in town. There’s very well documented acts of corruption by previous mayors and current politicians. Then you think, “We could apply our political thoughts to this and make a difference here.” We talk about it. Once we get a lot more friendly faces, we’re going to try to do something outside of the building. The plan has always been to do more than just our space, and work on the whole town. It’s so challenging just to get things done here than to go out. We want to politically work on the town, we want to get involved in the local government and stop corruption. We want to fight the chain stores and be thankful that we don’t have outside corporations ruining our economy more. We want to get real jobs here of some sort. It would be great to get a responsible community to move here. We do want to physically work on the town too. We have this plan to start the Volunteer Cairo Restoration Project. We’re going to silkscreen shirts and go out into town and find one of the many physical problems in town and clean it up. We want to get people to volunteer and restore property and to get people actively involved.

People here are used to being dicked over by their mayors, by the economy, and by white businesses. How do you deal with the mistrust of anyone trying to do something like what you all are trying to do?

It’s a challenge. That’s why it’s slow going right now. I’m hoping that by staying here and being open, eventually people will realize we’re serious about it. We’ll earn their trust slowly. At least once a week someone interesting and intelligent comes in and talks to us about what we’re doing and is really impressed by it and excited. That’s got to be spreading slowly. Even if the town doesn’t want a coffee shop, if they know we’re here and believe in it that will help. If it turns out we don’t need to be open all the time that would be fine too. We’re going to try to evolve into whatever we need to be. I want to have classes and meetings here. I want to have music lessons for kids, or anybody. I want to figure out the stuff that all of us know how to do and teach it to people.

I’d like to give people something. My plan for the music class is to get the kids in and say, “I’m going to play you my CD. You’re going to laugh at it.” I would play them my bands’ albums and let them make fun of it. And then say, “Now I’m going to show you some pictures of me traveling around the world.” And then have a little slide show and say, “This could be you. Ever want to go anywhere or do anything? See the country? See Europe?” and tell them that you can make money on tour and see the world. Then say, “If you think my music is bad, and you think you can do the same thing or better, if you can do it this well, you can also do this with your life. I’m going to teach you how to be in a band. I can’t read music or tell you much about theory, but I can teach you how to write songs and be in a band.”

Most of the kids here have a plan of becoming a basketball star, then they’ll get out of this shithole that way. Anything we could think of to give kids another idea of what to do would be cool, to offer the “I’m going to become a rock/rap star and get out of here” alternative. Here, there’s a lack of a dream. Nobody thinks they’re going to do anything here. They think they’re going to turn eighteen and move to St. Louis where they can get a job. I think in 2004, the high school principal addressed the graduating students and his advice was, “You should move away.” Which is depressing to think of. It’s a realistic thing to say, but it’s depressing to think that they young people are being told to just move away, not “Please help us save our town.” If that was the attitude, it might be a better situation. Even if we don’t run for offices or anything ever, it would be cool if we got involved in local elections and tried to get people to actually register and vote on issues in town. I don’t personally want my name on a ballot, or to be a political official, so I’m hoping we get some more sociable people in here. Then it would be awesome, so the community could say what they want to say about it.

But it’s hard because a lot of people say, “Do you even want to save the town? It’s not even your hometown.” That does feel a little weird sometimes. When people ask us why we started the coffee shop, we never mention anything about “saving the town” because that’s what the missionaries are doing. We’re not here to “save’” anything.

Here’s a link to an older video with Cairo residents talking about their town. Some of the language will be uncomfortable, so be warned.

Here is a link to stats about Cairo, IL.

7 responses to “Cairo, IL… from MRR #324”

4 06 2010
David Baker (13:18:37) :

Being from Illinois I have spent some time in Cairo Illinois. I applaud what Chris is doing, but man he has a long uphill climb in Cairo it is one poor little town.

5 06 2010
icky (07:16:13) :

From the missionary-like befuddlement of the punk revolution to the glorification of extremely low expectations….
(this land was made for you and me)

This article was depressing.

5 06 2010
Blair (08:27:26) :

My last comment can be removed ha but can history, what is history, is it necessary, I applaud him. I think perhaps he should do it for him and build around that or burnout, plus if he leaves, that can leave a gap that won’t be filled, nor should it be forced but passion helps. Ya often don’t need to make a complex issue more complex, just do it with a bit of foresight. Often punks hanging by a pope don’t ‘reach out’, not everyone wants to be a touring punk band either haha, get this story ‘out there’. more often than not people don’t need help just a hand up, create diversification of all things without being ‘weird’ by nature, then let the people see what they can build and do, keep tabs on it as it were, you are also learning and create alternatives and reiterate what they have, in comparison to an untangible future without community; so the basketball diaries don’t end in perhaps tears but maybe a paycheck instead. I mean we’re all immigrants right, i say that behind closed doors ha, i hope he/all sustain a succesful project and changes lives, no really. In the end it’s just somewhere to live which has included famous people who are/were proud to call it home, i mean i’ve heard of Cairo and not just for bad stuff, bricks and mortar don’t mean shiza but a lick of paint around town and lifeforms can change the mood especially if anyone aims to stop for 2 secs, a whole italian ghosttown is now a mecca for artists and an area tourism plan is better than one. Some people like living and fishing out of rivers, it has history that brings in cash etc, i have lived in places and do live in places like this. Cairo(wat a name) is not alone, big upz the dirty south!, what industry is there?(rhetorical) and there are! others doing stuff, an inspirational story

6 06 2010
JH (16:45:54) :

“So your main problem now is that the people who’ve moved to Cairo with you don’t have any way to make money?

We’re trying to start some kind of export industry, like silk-screening or crafts. I’m trying to encourage people who have outside ways of making money—bands, mail order businesses, or people that do Internet work—to move here. ”

I understand the allure of forgotten small towns and cheap real estate, but there’s a reason they can’t charge more than $8K for a house in these places. No jobs. But hey, hope you can make it work.

6 06 2010
ray suburbia (21:42:24) :

I live in Carbondale, IL – about 40 minutes north of Cairo. I’ve been to Ace of Cups and have seen what Chris and everyone is doing there, and I have to say that its incredibly impressive.

Southern Illinois has a terrible economy everywhere, but especially the further south you go. Its easy to say that punks moving to a small, desolate town is going to cause gentrification, but it’s a completely different issue when theyre creating economy. Being that Ace of Cups is the first new business to open in Cairo in years, I dont see any question of their presence doing anything but being positive.

In repsonse to Icki’s comment about “the glorification of extremely low expectations,” the expectations for the people in Southern Illinois are low. You get stuck here. There is very little opportunity for the improvement of community or of the individual. You are born here and either you stay here your whole life, or you move away as soon as you can and never return. It is rural and depressed. So perhaps instead of looking at it in such a negative way in regards to what you perceive as “low expectations” you could see it as realistic expectations. Its more about small steps than grand gestures.

The efforts of everyone involved in The Ace of Cups are immense and I cant see anything but positive results for the community in which theyre located. Im sure its going been a much harder, and slower process than anyone can imagine, but i guess thats the difference between building a community and buying one through monoculture.

To me this is activism through punk rock that has an emphasis or true change and lasting effects. What Chris is doing isnt crimethinc academia, or black bloc resistance, its subtle grassroots belief in hope and constructive change. If you ever want to see how capitalism and “the system” and the american dream has completely failed, go visit Cairo. Its just great that instead of singing songs about trying to build a better community out of the ashes of our fucked up world, someone is actually, really, and almost literally, doing just that.

10 06 2010
Zane Grant (09:30:03) :

Though I don’t want to move back to a small town, I’m glad this is being done. I’m sure people had different experiences growing up in small towns, but 18 years was long enough for me. We had a lot of shows and projects all things considered and even looked into buying the old newspaper press warehouse, but people were generally more interested in video games. The best turnout we ever had at any of the shows was for a band from Houston called Hilt and it 30 some odd people in a welding supply store room. Most of the people had never seen a live band play, and that band was so high energy they sold out of all the demo tapes and shirts they brought. amazing. long live the small town popup show space.

3 05 2011
Tony (13:04:42) :

I am listening to NPR right now on May 3rd talking about the flooding threat that is currently going on in Cairo- do you MRR folks have any updates on how Ace of Cups is faring in this situation?

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