It was a beautiful weekend in the gulch
Bloomington, Indiana scene report (and other stuff)
Photo by Alex Swartzentruber
This past weekend, I did something that I’ve known about for well over a year — I flew to Indiana to record an episode of It’s a Beautiful Day in the Gulch live from a hot air balloon. Did it happen as planned? Keep reading to find out. But I will say this: it was delightful to experience one of the best-ever esoteric podcasts in 4D. The cicadas and street performers are much different when you experience them IRL, and it’s so fun to walk up and down the streets of Bloomington where Alex and Miles do a stop-and-chat every 2 minutes or so, because everyone knows everything about each other, and always has. It was truly like entering the world of Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up, although I still made them take me to Target, where I literally bought Funkos and a disgusting Oli Pop.
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Here’s some stuff we’re thinking about this week.
Ryan Hemsworth “if you wanna cry”
Sam: Nature’s nicest boy Ryan Hemsworth has been releasing some appropriately nice music since he blew up thanks to an appearance on the… NOFX episode of 155 (had to search it, kind of a weird one maybe?) but it’s nice to hear him doing some EXTRA nice solo Ryan stuff again. Because I’m soft, I think maybe Alone for the First Time is my favourite Hemmy material, and hearing a return to that slinky contemplative sound is really nice. I do want to cry. Not now. But sometimes.
Jos: I’m so glad Sam put this on here, because I was really excited when Ryan tweeted that his new songs were harkening back to the Lali Puna era. Do we finally get to have a Morr Music revival??? This song is awesome, but I definitely love the A-side even more for the way it makes me feel like a blog-reading folktronica mouthbreather in 2004. It’s all making me want to listen to music.
Star 99 “Guide Thy Hand”
Sam: This is absolutely a band I know through some pod recommendation but for the life of me I cannot connect the dots and credit whoever brought this nifty power pop outfit into my damn life! Anyway thank you. Their new record is full of nifty power pop gems but on my first listen the solo here LEAPT out at me. There’s some extreme pop-punk palm muting that doesn’t actually sound pop-punk that really brings out the sweetness of the licks. Whole album worth your time if you like this, and you will, because you’re here.
Jos: What the hell. This is so good. Sam you’re not supposed to like stuff like this. It definitely sounds like a certain kind of early 2010’s jorts punk, before that stuff all got a little out-of-hand. In fact, what’s ruling about this is just how not out-of-hand (inside-of-hand?) this is. The production is so nice and gritty, and the best part is that the vocals are never pushed. Most bands would just absolutely belt it out and make it disgusting. Instead this is just perfect. What the hell.
The Cowboys “The Sultan of Squat”
Jos: The shocking thing about Bloomington is that, despite being cartoonishly tiny and tightknit, it seems like every person I met is running a small empire of interesting music. There’s like 10 people there and they’re all carrying American underground music on their backs. Gulch heads will know The Chode for his thoughtful ice cream and french fry reviews (and characteristically iconic nickname), but he’s also the bassist for The Cowboys, a rock band that is seemingly too out-there to get massive internet hype but incredibly worth your time. This week, they announced their sixth (!) LP, and they’ve previewed it with “The Sultan of Squat,” an oddball doo-wop adjacent (?) rock tune that is really fun on its own but also an excellent introduction to the world of The Cowboys.
Sam: This sounds like “Girl U Want” being covered by the Tranzmitors if they weren’t doing their whole schtick. Although maybe I’m way off — I saw Home Front in Toronto last week and was reminded of when I compared them to the Transplants here based on one song WHICH to BE FAIR does have SKINHEAD ROB vibes and I HAD NOT listened to the full album. Anyway maybe this guy just kind of sounds like Mark Mothersbaugh OR I have only heard three bands. Love it.
Angel Du$t “Racecar”
Jos: While I was in Indiana, previous newsletter appearer and solo star Steve Marino resurrected his band Jacky Boy for a show in Indianapolis (or, as us local hoosiers call it, “Indy”). It was insanely sick as Jacky Boy delivered some shreddingly timeless, shimmering alt pop-rock alongside the heavy, doom-laden country of Wind (fronted by Gulch videographer Laura) and the bouncy, accessible-yet-complex indie rock of Wishy (who were called Mana at the time, it’s complicated). But when Steve isn’t holding it down at shows like that, he’s also the guitarist for Angel Du$t. The past week has seen normie hardcore kids become the most annoying they’ve ever been on Twitter, saying all kinds of crap about all kinds of things and just generally making it embarrassing to have ever liked a breakdown or a collegiate font letter jacket. The only way to counter the annoyingness of hardcore is to become even more annoying (obviously a compliment… being annoying is my only skill), which is the calling that Angel Du$t seems to be living up to. This new song has gotta be one of the most out-there things they’ve ever done. As usual, it has children’s TV show vibes, but then it gets extra freaky in the middle section. Something about the video and song feels like it would fit right alongside “I Collect Rocks.”
Sam: ANOTHER annoying thing happening on Twitter this week (it’s back tho right? It’s annoying in the old way and I love it) was people sharing stuff they think everyone else lies about enjoying. It was mostly filled with bland attempts at being unique through disliking coffee or whatever, BUT seeing this here I honestly gotta say: it’s Angel Du$t. So many people I love and trust love this band and when I put it on I can’t explain what I hear, but it’s like the aural equivalent of how cilantro tastes like soap to some people. It’s gotten to the point where, assuming I HAD to finally like this song, NOT liking it — in a way that I feel BLIND to the potential of ever enjoying it — makes me feel DUMB, like I’m illiterate and pretending to be able to read so no one will judge me (I’m in a movie where there is a crucial plot point or way of understanding my character). I’m not saying it’s bad. I’m saying it must resonate at a frequency I just can’t hear. Happy for Josiah and everyone else in Indiana for all of that stuff, though.
It’s a Beautiful Day in the Gulch “Zoom Flume” (ft. Josiah Hughes)
Jos: Did we end up going in a hot air balloon? To be honest, no. It was so much planning, traveling, and dreaming, with Alex even securing a grant to book the trip, but it all came crashing down when the dude canceled it on us 12 minutes before liftoff. We were so pissed, as you’ll hear in the episode, but then, after recording, there ended up being an enormous tornado, so it’s probably good we didn’t get blown up in that. But there was something deeply healing about my visit to Bloomington — like going back in time to visit my inner child via messy back seats of cars, short road trips to shows where everyone’s friends with everyone and watches every band, meandering weekend walks through semi-vacant but unbelievably well-stocked antique malls — that it felt just as magical as a hot air balloon podcast would have felt anyway. Still, Alex and I got in a good 48 hours of hanging out before the balloon cancellation, where we had hyped it up as the be-all and end-all of whimsical pod magic, so when he read his hot air balloon poem on mic I actually almost cried hahaha. I’m glad Laura wasn’t filming my face directly at the time (though she did make a video version of the episode too). Anyway, learn more about our saga and follow along as we visit an abandoned, graffiti’d waterslide, and seriously if you don’t listen to Gulch already you really should!
Sam: I want to be clear that no part of me wishes Josiah had died in a podcast-related hot air balloon accident. But I do want you to imagine that this happened, and be honest with yourself about how funny you’d think it was. I’m personally glad Josiah didn’t die and instead enjoyed this magical weekend. But I am saying.
Since this is a Bloomington-themed newsletter, we’re required to inform you that Miles’ sick punk band Laffing Gas has a rare midwest tour coming up!
Thanks for reading 155! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.