Scene Report: Carbondale, IL


March 16th, 2010 by

Alright! From the March issue of MRR (#322 — available here), here’s an A+ scene report from southern Illinois. We wanna know about your scene too! Send text and photos to , and please include photo credits and links for the bands you mention. No scene left behind!

Ray Suburbia here with the good word from Carbondale. I’ve been lazy, busy, sleepy, drunk, and too bored to write a new one of these lately. It’s much easier to do drugs in the woods than bike to the library and type while weirdos jerk off using hand sanitizer next to you. But luckily for all of you I’ve gotten over my faux-apathy (and fear of strange semen) and have come to spread the gospel of true small town DIY punk rock.

Conniption Fitts

Mother Nature and bad business acumen have worked together to close two of the three reliable show bars in town. The Hangar 9 closed because the roof collapsed under the weight of a crazy ice storm. Booby’s Beergarden (which in the past had been very, very kind to the punks) ran itself into the ground. Not surprising since it was pretty much a front for an incarcerated, convicted child molester. Giving out $100 dollar guarantees every night was awesome for all of us booking and playing shows this past year, but man, was that a stupid idea for a bar to do. Seriously, it’s like a David Lynch small town around here. There also haven’t been any shows at the Big Muddy IMC space for a long while since the cops starting busting every show. We can thank the kids that fucking advertised a “rave” at the space. Once again, stupid humans ruining it all. The only upside to these closings is that more and more shows and kids have been forced to move to houses.

Lost Cross house (photo by Patrick Houdek)

Along the lines of houses, Lost Cross is still going strong. We’ve got the new housemates John, Wally, and Shawn to thank for that. When Tim moved to Chicago to get married (and I got burnt the fuck out of living there) they stepped up, moved in and have helped keep it thriving. Shows constantly. You can get a hold of them directly through the mail (407 W. Elm, Carbondale, IL, 62901). The Swamp has been having about a million shows a week lately. They tend to have shows that lean towards the noisier/experimental/prog elements of DIY music. It’s not really my scene, so I don’t tend to go to a lot of their shows. But it’s fucking awesome that they’re giving up their house for strangers and friends. I know they have a MySpace, so you can get a hold of them there. The Skihouse has been having the odd show every now and then (maybe once every couple of months). The shows there tend to be more of an event, due to the sporadic nature. Lots of random faces. Their shows are more of the indie punk variety, and are pretty eclectic, actually. It’s a great venue: huge basement with high ceilings and a great sound system. Hopefully they can have more shows regularly. The only reliable bar that does punk shows right now is PK’s. They have them mostly Thursday through Saturday nights, but occasional weekday shows as well. It’s nice cause it’s a local townie bar that doesn’t charge cover (but still pays bands), and is pretty much barren of collegiate douchebaggery. I’ve heard that there’s a restaurant in town that’s starting to do shows, but I’m not too sure what the deal is. No one I’ve known personally has done anything there. Maybe next time I’ll have more on that.

Daddy’s Little Girl (RIP)

We lost a handful of bands with Hateful Tim moving up north. LICK MY BUTT AND BALLS disappeared, as did THE DAMMIT BOYS. And who knows how many bands could’ve started if only that drummer didn’t move. (INTERJECTION #1: If you’re a drummer, move to Carbondale. I will straight up promise you that you’ll be in a band within a month. Hell, if you move here and cite this as your reason why, I’ll start a band with you). GOD’S ON SAFARI broke up a little while back. They were probably the most interesting band in town with their KING CRIMSON meets MELVINS meets, I dunno, NAKED CITY style of prog-punk. I know they recorded a handful of songs. Hopefully they’ll have an official release. The WOODBOX GANG broke up because their singer got busted for running a small scale pyramid/ponzi scheme and now has to go to prison. Someone tell Jello to forward his Alternative Tentacles royalty checks to the people he ripped off. This also broke up The FAMILY STUMP, a roots rock group who also featured Mortimor Bustos (ex-BOURBON KNIGHTS, FIGHTING 407, etc) and Greg Edwards (ex-the same bands as Mort). Coincidentally, Mort is moving away from Southern Illinois. After around a decade of breaking laws, strings, and boundaries in town, it looks like he’s heading southbound to Austin. Good luck to him. The scene definitely wouldn’t be the same without him. LEADERS didn’t make it too long as a band. Oh well. And the only spastic hardcore band in town, DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL, broke up.

Conversely, there were a couple of notable reunions as of late. SPOKESMEN have gotten back together as a full-time operation. Their old bass player moved to Seattle to make movies, so now the ubiquitous David Allen has filled in on four string duties. They’ve been playing out a bit, and I hear may be working on some new material. But, by far, the coolest reunion these past few months was the DIET CHRIST reunion. The DIET CHRIST guys were who pretty much started the Carbondale D.I.Y. punk scene back in the mid-’80s. They had a really great 7” on Mystic Records that came out in ’89-’90? They also started Lost Cross. So the importance of this band to this town cannot be overstated. They did two shows (with every single member, ever!) over Fourth of July weekend; one, fittingly, at Lost Cross and one at PK’s.

Diet Christ (photo by Patrick Houdek)

The band blew everyone away. Everyone. It was possibly one of the best sets of fucked up Midwest hardcore I have ever seen. Not only did they come out, but it was a Carbondale punk reunion. At one point there were well over a dozen ex-Lost Crossers in the basement; pretty much a direct lineage of people living there from 1986 all way to 2009. Unfortunately, a few months after the show, guitarist (and man who helped get the reunion together) Bill Hartley died from heart complications. I only met him the weekend of the show, but man, was that dude solid. I’m glad he got the chance to see how much his accomplishments meant to so many people so many years after the fact. How all that he helped do, without thinking of posterity or the future, affected so many people’s lives. We can only be so lucky.

Another person that passed away, and is greatly missed was Erik “Big Country” Crews. Erik was one of the most amazing people to ever live. He put in his time in such great hardcore bands as 99 STABWOUNDS, GOOD + GAME, VENGER, and THIS GUY. He was the living embodiment of 618 posi-core. His death was quite a shock, as he was surprisingly diagnosed with cancer and succumbed to it within months. He loved hardcore, punk rock, and Lost Cross more than most people I’ve ever met; he always had a beer for you, and was supportive of everything you tried to create. Big Country R.I.P.

These Magnificent Tapeworms

But looking forward, there are a handful of really amazing new bands in town right now. PARLOR is a three-piece that plays a really cool atmospheric type of garage punk. They’ve already recorded a handful of songs. SPRICKETS used to be just Jessica Bustos with an acoustic guitar, but has now expanded to being a full-fledged band. They’ve got a sound that would put them nicely on a split with GRASS WIDOW (if only they knew who GRASS WIDOW was). In the disastrous wake of trying to do a serious band like LEADERS, Nick O’Neal and I decided to do a fun two-piece stompy garage rock band by the name of the PECAN SANDIES. And in true fashion to many of the bands that Nick and I do, we have not recorded a single note or played a single show outside a three block radius of Lost Cross. Hopefully (meh…how about “maybe”), that’ll change. But who knows. There’s also a brand new hardcore band, NOT HEALTHY, that just played their first show. Seems like the band went over well. And that’s something this town could use a lot more of—hardcore. (Interjection #2: Hey Hardcore Harry/Harriet, bring your band through here on tour! The kids fucking need to know! Plus: we’re much more fun than St. Louis!) BIG CITY DEER ATTACK is a punk rock band with a little of a pop-punk touch to them. It’s the first band Tilley (ex-BOURBON KNIGHTS, WHISTLE PIGS) has fronted in Carbondale and she can seriously wail. The songs are good but the shows kinda suck. Hopefully it’ll get better. And the last new band I can think of is SLOWPOKE. Remember the ’90s college bands like POLVO? Well, they’re kinda like that. I like them, but they’re definitely not “punk” sounding at all. But in a town like this, who the fuck cares? We’re all in it together.

Shithawk

SHITHAWK has proved to be a rousing garage rock time. Not long after adding third member Brett (COPYIGHTS/DEAR LANDLORD) on keyboards they recorded a CD–EP of great original tunes. I just wished they would play more around town. (Interjection #3: Next time, don’t ask a dude who tours fourteen months a year to join your band) I mean Brett’s super busy. There’re those COPYRIGHTS split 7”s that have been coming out, that DEAR LANDLORD LP. And let’s not forget his painting. Moving on, but still keeping in the High Street family, LOS OJOS ROJOS have been continuing to be one of the best heavy bands in town. They put out a demo that I lost a little while back, but luckily they’ve got a full length coming out really soon. They’re starting to get a little less stoner rock and more aggressive post-punk. But they’re just as fucking loud, especially with new third guitarist Funberg (of the COPYRIGHTS) who replaced Mort.

TWEAK BIRD is now a Carbondale band (again?). These guys became part of that whole BIG BUSINESS/MELVINS stoner-punk/rock scene when they moved to LA few years ago, changed their name from CASH GAL, turned into a two-piece, and starting writing killer fucking songs. Ashton moved back a few months back and (frighteningly) quickly started hanging out at The Cross and starting new bands. He’s 1/3 of PARLOR. Anyway, TWEAK BIRD rules. They’ve got a couple of 7”s and a 12” and a split 7” with IT BURNS coming out beginning of 2010. They did a North American/Canadian tour opening for TOOL (?!), and did a European tour as well. They’ve also recently added a third member, John McCowan (ex-THE HELL, GOD’S ON SAFARI) on saxophones. Check them out if you like anything remotely MELVINS-esque.

Tweak Bird

With yet another name change, JOSH PLEMON AND THE LONESOME DRIFTERS has now become the SWAMP TIGERS. They still play straight ahead classic country/rockabilly/Texas swing. All the name changes over the years (the LONESOME 4, etc) have been weird, but I do think it’s pretty rad that they finally have a band name that doesn’t have Josh’s name in it. BROKEN BRICKS are great punk rock’n’roll band. Good riff heavy, beer friendly band that fits in well with locals IT BURNS and THE CONNIPTION FITTS. Speaking of the latter, they haven’t been all too active as of late. With two fifths of the band living on the other side of the state, they’ve only played a handful of shows in the past few months. But don’t worry, they’re still a band. They’ve been sitting on a couple songs for a split 7” that didn’t work out. Now turning toward the former—IT BURNS has been sporadically active lately. The aforementioned split with TWEAK BIRD was recorded, along with two songs to be on a four-way band Let’s Pretend/A.D.D. Records split with THE SASS DRAGONS, SHANG-A-LANG, and TOO MANY DAVES.

Near Death Experience

The NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE really needs to not just lay waste at shows but record some new stuff. I don’t think they’ve released anything since 2005. Maybe when they do they can throw a record release party like the one the WHISTLE PIGS did. After two years of playing every Tuesday at PK’s, Carbondale’s favorite house band (sorry BOURBON KNIGHTS, you broke up), put out a full length CD themselves. And you know what they did to show their love of their fans? They made the first 150 drinks at the bar the night of the release show free. They took their $150 pay, and just had the bar keep it so as to pass it to whoever came to their show on $1 drink night. Pretty fucking rad, if you ask me.

Nighty Night

NIGHTY NIGHT have proven to be the great DIY indie band in town this past year. They put out a 7” on Let’s Pretend Records, did a West Coast tour and are doing a Southeastern one as well. Their songs seem to be getting a bit more twee, more indie, and less aggressive, but in no way less good. The BLACK FORTYS have been playing out now and then, doing some sporadic shows and weekenders. Same with SECONDARY MODERN who also found time to put out a CD and do an East Coast tour over the summer. I’m stoked that Carbondale bands are finally going on more and more tours. It seemed that a few years back, only a couple bands ever played shows outside of the Carbondale/St. Louis/Chicago axis. But now you have people going all over. GORILLA HERITAGE is about to head out on a Midwest tour as well. They went on a summer hiatus, got back together, worked on new songs (recorded some, I think), and are now about to hit the road. I’m glad to see some Carbondale noise-punk getting out there. (Interjection #4: I wonder who’s gonna be in charge of the shows at The Swamp while they’re out of town…)

THESE MAGNIFICENT TAPEWORMS put out an album earlier this year, and went on tour. It’s nice that with the DAMMIT BOYS being gone there is still a surf-garage band in town. Dan from the TAPEWORMS is starting up a new label named What’s For Breakfast. The first release is going to be a split 7” between Milwaukee’s TRUTHDEALER and HEAD ON ELECTRIC. (Interjection #5: Everyone knows that Carbondale loves Milwaukee!) HIMALAYAS are still banging out their burly post-punk, just not as frequently anymore. They’re another band I’d like to hear some new songs from. And YOUNG LOVES were a band I was just starting to get into over the summer, but haven’t really heard much about them in the past few months. Fuck, maybe I should start going to more indie shows in town. I’m losing my fucking cred here! At least I can tell you that SKINNY JIM & THE NUMBER 9 BLACKTOPS are getting big … in Europe. They went to Europe earlier this year, and now are heading back to Germany. I guess rockabilly is played out in Southern Illinois, but not in the Old World.

High Carb Low Life ‘zine is still going strong. They’ve managed to put out five issues already. The last two issues were pretty fucking good. A lot of material from people involved in the scene who aren’t just musicians. I’m not exactly sure how to get a hold of Tracy or Rick (who co-edit the zine) via real world mail, but you can via Good articles and great art. Babie Mecca is a local blog that just started up recently. There’s not much to it right now, but I’m sure it’ll get better as it goes on. Right now it’s mostly show updates, with the occasional video and review. Still, check it out at babiemecca.blogspot.com.

Well, I guess that’s pretty much all there is to say about this little town in the middle of nowhere. When it’s not so cold out, I’ll take you swimming and then to The Dragon Wizard park. Maybe we can ride bikes to the abandoned insane asylum. Or hit up the taqueria in Cobden that easily beats your favorite. (Interjection #6: No. Really. I don’t care if you live in either the Mission or San Diego. Taqueria Pequena dominates all.) But as a young Nicky Hangaround once summarized, “nothing to do but hang around with you,” so get a hold of me, if you want. I’ve got the time.

Love,
Ray Suburbia

6 responses to “Scene Report: Carbondale, IL”

17 03 2010
Ra Bob (03:07:30) :

Awesome work by Ray Suburbia. Way more than the average ‘friend rock’ report posing as a ‘scene.’ Haven’t been to Carbondale but once since the daze of Diet Christ — back when the Lost Cross House was a relatively new basement house venue. Incredible that it is still going. Must be one of the longest continuously running private houses with regular punk rock basement shows in the world. Feel like I’ve been filled in on missing decades. This is a top notch scene report!

29 03 2010
clifton (19:53:56) :

I run little dready boy productions and I was the guy running shows at the resteraunt in question. working out at the crown jewel lounge now. still looking to get up some punk shows. booking for a wesr coast tour for a band called the eunuchs. get ahold of me if you can help.

1 04 2010
David Ensminger (07:00:28) :

Ray,

I do concur with the others: this is a fair and detail-rich overview of the very overlooked scene down in the bottom neck of Illinois. I attended SIU in the summer of 1996, when bands like Nitro Jr, with my bro-in-law Stu on drums, held raucous gigs at Lost Cross House, which truly is a continuous hive of DIY activity. I even shot a short 8 mm b/w film there — a four minute ode to ‘film noir/sci-fi.’ One thing I might have missed in the report is a look at local community radio activity. There was a station near downtown supported by a thrift store. Is that still in action? Also, the town used to feature three record stores — RIP, or not?

Again, great work, David E
from Maximum R n R/Trust!

23 04 2010
clifton (05:42:14) :

radio station still there, but only two record stores now.

16 02 2011
Blair (20:56:48) :

Crikey this rules Rob, i obvs live in boondockery unless u like german tourists, total agreez Ra, it’s for realz maan ie: has an opinion and i’m sober by numbers so maybe i should just go study music, thats all i talk about anyway, that and not being cool(ya know how they don’t want you in the van cause you won’t be their playtoy) but no douche. It got me thinkin woaaa, sorry i won’t be drinkin, Have Fun! so says the fun police, do wat ya want and b good 2 1 anotha, sussed, hickery tickery tock aotearoarrr

10 04 2016
Mark (15:46:41) :

Hey Ray! Just wanted to comment that your blog is really great – it brings back LOTS of memories. Just wanted to clarify a few things though – you mentioned that Diet Christ “were who pretty much started the Carbondale D.I.Y. punk scene back in the mid-’80s”.

Well, they actually did a truly fantastic job to move it forward, but the punk scene was thriving way before that time. There was an underground bar called the Trench Bar and it was one of the first basements to host nationally touring acts. Then there was the club called, um, The Club. It burned down somewhere around 1981. It hosted many a local and national punk and band.

Then arose the vaunted Airwaves, which went from 1982 to 1985, the predecessor to 611 Pizza. Airwaves hosted a huge number of local punk bands, national and international bands – but most were set up by local promoters to help punks play gigs at bars. Far too many bands to mention here, but just FYI. I think Lost Cross started somewhere around 1986ish. Right?

There were lots of house clubs too — just to add to your great list of the punk scene in C’dale! I forgot the names now but might add in later. Keep up the great work!

Leave a comment

Comment moderation is in use. Please do not submit your comment twice -- it will appear shortly.