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Reclaim’s In on the Kill Taker

In on the Kill Taker Thing

As chance would have it I stumbled across Joe Gross’s book in the 333sound series on Fugazi’s 1993 album In on the Kill Taker. I even got a note from one of the Dischord Records folks, namely Aaron, thanking me for the purchase, which is always nice. Thank you, Aaron!

Dischord Notes

The book is both a look at Fugazi’s remarkable career as the defining independent punk band of the 1990s, especially against the backdrop of these being the years that punk broke. There were many things I enjoyed about the book, Joe Gross is obviously a fan and the book is book a love letter and a chronicling of just how impressive Fugazi’s 15 year run was. I also loved that much of his recent source material is taken from Tumblr blogs, it was kind of like reading a book-length blog post, and I mean that with all due respect. It seems the most appropriate way to capture the DIY spirit that Fugazi, and their broader distribution network of Dischord Records have represented for over 30+ years—talk about a punk rock institution with an ethos. One of the best quotes from the book comes from Steve Albini, who produced the first, abandoned pass at In on the Kill Taker,  from a GQ interview in which he reflects on the impact of  Sonic Youth’s signing with Geffen Records in 1990:

Sonic Youth chose to abandon it [the independent music scene] in order to become a modestly successful mainstream band– as opposed to being a quite successful independent band that could have used their resources and influence to extend that end of the culture. They chose to join the mainstream culture and become a foot soldier for that culture’s encroachment into my neck of the woods by acting as scouts. I thought it was crass and I thought it reflected poorly on them. I still consider them friends and their music has its own integrity, but that kind of behavior– I can’t say that I think it’s not embarrassing for them. I think they should be embarrassed about it.

As Joe Gross points out, Sonic Youth would broker the deal between Geffen and Nirvana, and the rest is kind of 90s music history, the currency around the punk/post-punk scene is at its peak for much of the decade and Fugazi’s In on the Kill Taker comes in 1993, what might arguably be a high water mark year for the grunge craze with the release of In Utero and PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me, both produced, interestingly enough, by Albini. Fugazi’s previous album, Steady Diet of Nothing, received lukewarm reviews being criticized for not capturing the legendary energy of their live performances—in many ways the album for many seemed like an afterthought (though I personally love it). So, in shot, the pressure was on with Kill Taker, and Fugazi did not disappoint—it is a masterpiece of the punk ethos—the band is branching out into new territory, the avant garde elements of their music (which defines their later albums) shines through, and they are even homaging titans of independent art like John Cassavettes and Gena Rowlands—in arguably the best song on an album filled with gems. But read Joe Gross’s take, he van actually talk about music intelligently, unlike me. But for many it is a turning point, a moment where Fugazi doubles down on who they are and what their music is all about, and you gotta love that. In 1993 they play two shows in NYC at Roseland Ballroom that Gross refers to (I think I saw them on the same tour at the Palladium in LA) and they were particularly amazing for an already stellar live act),  but as the story goes after one of these shows Atlantic Records music mogul Ahmet Ertegün met with the band backstage in an attempt to sign them offering as much as $10 million. Joe Gross talks about the episode, but does not mention a dollar figure. The figure comes from album’s Wikipedia page. It’s a big number, and I am not sure if it’s real, but you have to believe they offered them something significant, and Fugazi said no. And with that, the turning point in their career, the showdown with Satan in the desert, a high point for those of us who want to believe that not everyone will sellout when enough cash is put on the table.

They kept control of their music, they controlled the vertical and horizontal of their distribution and press, and they kept a sense of the integrity of “that end of culture” Albini refers to in the above quote. So, Fugazi has the distinct honor of being the first band to have its second Reclaim Hosting server named after them (they already had another we named after them which housed several virtual machines for Domain of One’s Own schools) because 2018 is our double down year on independence in educational technology! Cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-champions!

“If you ask me now what punk is, I would say it’s the free space. It’s a spot where new ideas can be presented without the requirement of profit, which is what largely steers most sorts of creative offerings in our culture.” — Ian MacKaye

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Hardcore Show Flyers

The other day at Reclaim Hosting we were having some issues with the Devo server. Load was high and while investigating it I happened to see traffic to the domain hardcoreshowflyers.net through Apache status. I was intrigued, so rather than fixing the server I headed over to the site (I jest, Tim fixed the server—per usual ? ) to see if it was what I thought it was, and boy was it ever.
Crumbsuckers' "Life of Dreams" album advertisement

Crumbsuckers’ “Life of Dreams” album advertisement

The site was a full blown archive of hardcore punk show flyers from the 1970s through 2017. After this chance discovery I proceeded to lose a good part of the day. One of my earliest music shows was a Sunday matinee at CBGBs in 1985 to see the our hometown punk band The Crumbsuckers. It just so happens that they were playing with New York City hardcore legends The Cro-Mags—I was pretty blown away. I am not certain, but this flyer could very well be an advertisement for that show I went to in 1985: How this fuels my penchant for nostalgia. But the craziest part is looking through the flyers to see what shows I was at. Crumbsuckers were my entré to the scene, and I quickly learned to love the Cro-Mags, Murphy’s Law, and Agnostic Front (a kind of trio of NYC trashcore), but the Bad Brians were something else all together for me. It led me to the DC scene and the straight-edge movement defined by Minor Threat, which then led me to Dag Nasty. At the same time the straightedge scene was gaining steam led by Youth of Today, Judge, Uniform Choice, and Bold. I went to more than a few Youth of Today shows, and after a while it began to get fairly boring and preachy with Ray of Today talking shit on “the dope smoking longhairs” —and then a whole bunch of bands (including the Cro-Mags) became Hari Krishnas and I was outta there.

Bold, Supertouch, and Sick of it All flyer for a show at The Anthrax in 1987

I know I saw Youth of Today and Uniform Choice at CBGBs, and I believe a show with Bold and Judge (though not sure if they played together) at The Anthrax in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1986 or 1987. But the site also reminded me of bands I have seen but not thought about in a long while like Supertouch, No for an Answer, Sick of it All, and many others. There were a ton of bands associated with the scene, and it’s amazing how these simple flyers capture not only my imagination, but chronicle the various sinews of a entire subculture. This is very cool work, and once I fell down the rabbit hole I noticed the site was looking for patrons. I could not resist, for me the folks who have the time and patience to collect and curate an archive like this provide an indispensable service that takes a ton of effort. What’s more, it directly feeds into my personal interests and history. I immediately benefitted from it, so it only made good sense to support he work. But cooler than that is it was using Reclaim Hosting so we could waive hosting fees to try and ensure a site like this stays online as long as possible. Hardcore Show Flyers represents the best of the web for me, a niche collection someone has amassed and wants to share freely over time. This is obviously a passion for the proprietor, and the small, passion-driven web wins for me every time. Thanks for this.
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The Indie EdTech Movement

I’m just returning from a deeply energizing trip to California. I spent the bulk of my time in Los Angeles, but also spent two days at Stanford University for the dLRN conference. This post will focus on the presentation I did with Adam Croom at dLRN, and I’ll follow this up with another post about the sequel Indie EdTech  presentation at Whittier College the following week.

paloalto

Palo Alto was an interesting spot for the presentation Adam Croom and I came up with for this conference because it’s ground zero for mainstream visions of tech culture more generally (Google anyone?). What’s more, the same can be said for edtech after the Fall 2011 AI course at Stanford taught by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig got called a MOOC. This was the course that launched 1000 MOOCs, effectively mainstreaming edtech (the year that edtech broke—in both senses of that word). The context was not lost on us, and we decided to use the occasion to introduce something Adam has coined “Indie EdTech” —which I love!

Hipster_6cc5be_1758503

Before the talk, Adam and I got the opportunity to warm up for our presentation a bit when we were invited by Maha Bali to do a Virtually Connecting chat a couple of hours before our talk. The session included Autumm CainesApostolos KPatrice Torcivia Prusko (onsite Buddy), resident punk expert GZ, Kelsey Schmitz, and Jack Norton, and Christian from Hamburg (didn’t get his last name). You can watch/listen to the session in the video below.  Read more