Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pizzeria Offers a Slice of Heaven

It is no secret that Fort Wayne is full of places to dine. Upscale, corporate, ethnic, and locally owned diners and pubs are on every corner. Sadly the corporate chains get most of the attention, and six or so locally owned restaurants have closed in the past year alone. This being so, I wish to expose you, the reader, to some of Fort Wayne’s best kept secrets: those “mom and pop,” restaurants that bring character, life, and culture to The Fort and its downtown area. Places I believe deserve to flourish based on service, quality, atmosphere, originality and their contributions to the improvement of our beautiful downtown.

Downtown Pizza and Ice Cream (or DTP as some of the patrons refer to it) is located on the corner of West Berry and Fulton St. Once through the door, you are immediately taken out of the midwest and dropped into a pizza joint in the Village of NYC. Family friendly, quaint and, clean, their dining area offers a few small bistro tables and high round tops with stools. The Downtown improvement project agrees that the “Little Italy” bistro d├ęcor is worth notice, having bestowed it a Golden Broom Award for Improvement of the Interior just last year. Here you have the option of sitting back, enjoying a cup of their locally roasted Red Brick Coffee or Mighty Leaf Tea to unwind while you look over their menu. It’s a great space for a small party or even the customer on the go, who can easily place an order at the window.

When perusing the menu, you will first be taken back by it’s incredible affordability. Pizzas range from $4.29 for the personal “Pizza Stick” to $15.99 for a large supreme. DTP isn’t known for skimping on the toppings either; these ‘zas come locked and loaded with fresh toppings, including glorious, gooey, bubbling cheese. Three things make a good pizza: a crispy on the outside chewy on the inside crust, a sweet and robust sauce, and good quality, salty cheese (and lots of it). Any one of their pizzas passes all three test with flying colors. They also offer a buttery, cracker thin crust as an option.

In true pizzeria fashion, Downtown Pizza’s menu includes a few standards with slight twists. For example, their garlic cheese bread is piled high with a blend of five cheeses, including feta. This is serious cheese bread; as your taste buds do the tango and your belly the happy dance, your wallet will do the two-step all the way to Thrift Town.

A new addition to the menu is the “Ulimate Veggie.” Layers of fresh spinach, basil, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and banana peppers are topped with feta cheese and sesame seeds. They also offer ciabatta sandwiches, grinders, wings, and sausage rolls.

If you live or work in the downtown area they offer free delivery and are a great place for lunch, when you can get a slice, a small salad, and a scoop of their signature ice cream. for $4.99.

At any given time ,Downtown Pizza carries around 30 flavors of rich Michigan produced ice cream, including Java Chip, Ultimate Moose Track, mango, and lemon custard. They also make their own waffle cones daily. A double dip is a modest $2.99 and is close to a pint in size. At such a price it won’t kill the atmosphere simpler times when an ice cream cone on a Sunday afternoon was enough to lift your spirits. If ice cream isn’t to your liking, you can also treat yourself to a slice of Purple Mountain Cheesecake, produced right here in Fort Wayne.

Any way you slice it, Downtown Pizza has a little something for everyone. I give it two totally enthusiastic thumbs up. I hope that you take my advice and stop in or call. Tell Calvin I sent you.

Bon Appetite!

Downtown Pizza and Ice Cream (534 W. Berry)
(260) 424-2030 (call for seasonal hours)

Running to the Devil

Not many fans of dark country and other horror-tinged roots music genres know that a record label dedicated to just that lays hiding in peaceful Leo, Indiana. Devil’s Ruin Records just released three CDs in their “Best of Dark Roots Music” collection. We exchanged emails with DRR founder Eddie Obituary about the past and future of the label.

How did your label initially start?
Devil's Ruin was the culmination of being incredibly frustrated for years over the lack of music being released that I was interested in. There were hundreds of great artists creating music, but there were few labels behind them releasing and pushing their music. Foregoing any sense of a business plan I formed the company and immediately began releasing music I was interested in as a fan.

How did your label become internationally reputable?
From the beginning the label has been very internationally based. Our first two releases are from artists in Germany and Brazil, respectively. The main reason for the continuing association with foreign artists and popularity with international fans is rooted in the rest of world's intrigue into the old west. The U.S. as a whole is desensitized to the sound of a banjo and writes it off as a Deliverance joke. The rest of the world is quicker to take a chance on a sound that may be new to them. Once they take that chance, they understand what we are doing and we've make a new fan.

How are you being the change that you want to see in the music industry?
The only rule that I have when I decide whether to release an album is if I like the music. We don't have a research department figuring out current trends on what fourteen year old girls will purchase or what our market group is. What big label executive would fund an album of a crazy German kazoo wielding banjo player singing gospel songs?

When looking for bands to put out on your label, what exactly are you looking for?
There is a scene in Dead Poet's Society in which the students are asked to graph what makes a good piece of literature and the task is absurd. There isn't a way to quantify anything in regards to what we release. No exciting sales expectations equations or anything, I am the A&R department.

Did making Amazon's top 100 Americana albums provide a sense of accomplishment?
The moment of our album hitting the top 100 was really redeeming. It showed that we are indeed onto something. It also helped to know that the thousands and thousands of albums I'm sitting on are now finding homes.

Where do you see the label in five years?
We have some really big releases on the way, actually. I hope with these artist positioning themselves with Devil's Ruin we can continue to gain momentum that allows us to release albums that otherwise would go unheard.

What do you think is the best method of getting the word out about independent labels/music in general?
With the internet allowing everyone to be segmented into such specific communities the biggest thing that has worked for us is that we have created our own brand. Fans have an idea of what a Devil's Ruin release is going to be. I would push a label to do the same. Major labels throw darts randomly and hope something hits huge. Though success is on a different scale, we, however, have fans we know will dig our bands and purchase every album we release.

What do you detest about current music trends?
I'm a little taken back by the piracy of our music. I don't want to use the word detest, because I want fans to hear and enjoy the artists music. The current mentality is that all labels are evil, but I don't think people realize how much small labels have at stake with each release.

You have released over 30 albums now under Devil's Ruin Records, which is your favorite and why?
My favorite album is one that we will release in the summer entitled Animal Index by JB Nelson. The album is a fantastically bizarre combination of Swans noise, old blues, and Nine Inch Nails epic album quality spread over two CDs. The album was recorded by JB with the studio time he booked for his brother "Sleepy Eyes" Nelson, but when Sleepy experienced an episode and locked himself in a hotel room for a week, [JB] was inspired to create something. The result is Animal Index. You can hear the lament and frustration within the album and it really phenomenal. We have released a free album to download tracks called Animal Extracts on our website.

What do you have planned for the near future?
We have released four albums of dark roots music on five discs featuring 84 bands and are really happy about the response we are getting for that. Also, we have a project called Kithfolk in which we are releasing one CD a month, limited to 100 each from different artists. Fans can subscribe on our website.

Hells Fire Sinners

There is an old adage that says in order for good to exist there must be evil. Well, the fact that bubble gum feel good pop exists means that here must be another sound that exists on the opposite end of the spectrum to keep the universe in balance. Hells Fire Sinners play that music.

From their first gig in a "piss smelling burned out basement" to becoming regional powerhouses, Hells Fire Sinners have converted a large fan base with the Devil's blessing. Combining traditional sounds in a toilet bowl moonshine concoction, the band is finds itself in the forefront of the surging neo-roots scene.

Comparisons abound when describing the sound of Hells Fire Sinners. The hellbilly chugging of Th' Legendary Shack Shakers, the 80's punk snarl of Social Distortion, the acceptance of damnation of Joe Buck Yourself, the lawlessness of Johnny Cash, and the spit and whiskey attitude of Hank Williams III are all parallels drawn by critics and fans. All are valid, but the parts don't equal the whole. Hells Fire Sinners walk the line perfectly between being a screw the establishment band with a good vibe and making serious artistic statements about religion, life, and death.

Songs such as "Piss On You" showcase the band at it's best live. The adrenaline rises and the crowd starts moving just as they would at any good punk show. Lyrics warn of bar fights and celebrate bad tattoos. The blue collar ethos provide the perfect high energy performance that virtually guarantees you are going to get beer spilled on you.

Their Zodiac Killer Records debut is due sometime in 2010 and finds the band tearing up the studio much the same way they do live. The album combines the energy of their live show with a nuanced approach to organizing chaos.

Hells Fire Sinners perform with Rustbelt Homewreckers on Friday March 19th at the Brass Rail.

Visit myspace.com/hfsinners for more.

-Grimm

Koffin Kats Back in Fort Wayne

Greetings, creeps and creepettes! Your fearless promoter of low-brow entertainment, Gravedigger Grimm, is writing you to announce another artistically meritless fun, a mysterious new project devoid of all redeeming social value. This year will see the launch the first in many of underground high-energy live music shows under the banner of Bad Vibes Entertainmen, and what an opening show we've got to kick off the festivities! March 16 will see the glorious return of the finest Detroit band to bleed on an upright bass, the Koffin Kats!

You may remember this intense hard hitting trio from 2008 when they played the Brass Rail with the Lurking Corpses and Zephaniah. Conceived in 2003 (from the ashes of V-8 Nightmare), the Koffin Kats are popularly labeled a "psychobilly" band, but have constantly evolved, shedding many of the conventions of the subgenre. This year proves to be no exception as they continue their relentless touring to every corner of the world that will let them preach their unholy gospel of drugs, alcohol, horror, and evil.

Band leader (and sole constant member), Vic Victor, is perhaps more accurately described as a bass-climber than bass-player. Just the same, his skills are unmatched by most, and to be sure, the man is not afraid of his own red stuff either as he serenades audience after audience with lyrical material ranging across wild automobiles, evil women, substance abuse, death and monsters and other assorted scalawag behavior. These days, the melodic onslaught is reinforced by guitarist and newest member, EZ Ian, and original drummer returned, E-ball Walls. Though many a long time fan was said to say goodbye to original guitarist, Tommy Koffin, I for one look forward to the road ahead. The new lineup has already been tearing across the US and will leave for Canada and Europe in a few short months.

If this at all intrigues you, then I urge you to check out their latest release, Forever For Hire (2009, Stomp Records), and come to the Rail on Tuesday March 16 when the Koffin Kats will stop to drop jaws in the Summit City one more time.

The Sour Mash Kats are already confirmed to open and more are to be announced. The party starts between 9:30 and 10:00 PM.

For more info visit myspace.com/koffinkats

Rock Hard, Sleep Tight, and turn GREEEEEN!!!
-Grimm

Word from Poopdeflex

Now I know why they call it the downward spiral. You keep going in circles but it gets worse and worse. You see the same things happening to you, affecting you the same way, but still find yourself there over and over again. And if you get them same feelings, then you must be doing the same things, right? But isn’t that living? Repeating the acts that get you by? We are creatures of habit, comfortable in routine. Even the punk rockers that are spitting on this right now do the same shit over and over again. Even if it’s constantly packing shit and hopping trains. It’s a habit, a way of life.

So… oh yeah, what the fuck do I do when that downward spiral is my habit? When life’s routines cause them same damn feelings that make me cry without a sound? Before you say the obvious answer of “change my life,” I’m not a fucking retard. I do not take my life for granted. I know from the bottom of my low-self-esteem heart that I have a good life. Family, friends, and enough money to afford my music, drugs, and comic books. So why can’t I shake this feeling of falling slow? Where else is there to go after you hit rock bottom? Up or sideways?

Well I went with sideways and guess what? There are people living down here, scraping their weary bones to fit the shape chance sees fit. Let them be fully bathed and cleanly clothed, and they still drag along in the filth, struggling to make it one more day. And though they struggle and hurt, they hold onto one thing: when you’re already on the bottom, things can’t get any worse. Because they know this, their smiles are honest.

So here’s to… (Goddamnit, this is a toast. Go pour yourself a shot.)

So here’s to walking the rock bottom, where you’ll find me, spiraled all the way down, with the biggest fucking smile on my face.

(Clink, slurp, slam.)

- P. Deflex

Zineophobia

I received this letter the other day and thought you might find it interesting. The names have been left out as to not hurt the reputation of a good band.

To whom it may concern;

The band, '_________', which is scheduled to play at your venue on ________ is having some major issues, financial and otherwise. The lead singer (________) and the bass player (________) are both dealing with drug problems, and there is a lawsuit against the band that will prevent them from ever moving forward. Their reputation in _________ is destroyed. Be aware of this when they come to your town and be cautious. Good luck to you.
~ Disgruntled Ex-Band Member


I chose to include this letter not only for a quick joke, as it describes pretty much every band everywhere, but to make a point. The jerk that wrote this letter is pretty upset about not being in the band anymore, but instead of moving on and starting a new band with some like minded people, this jerk scours the internet looking for where his old band’s next shows are so he can trash their reputation. I don’t know the full story, but it seems that there must be better ways to solve the issue than not being a jerk (a still failing to solve the issue).

No matter what path you choose in life, you will always find people who don’t want you to succeed. It’s not that what you doing is bad (though sometimes this might be), it’s mainly that some jerks feel better about themselves when they bring someone else down. It's as if they've already accepted their own failure, and since you're having a little success, they can't let you enjoy it.

No one is destined to fail. The Chubby Funster philosophy is if you learn from your mistakes, don't give up and don't rely on people who always disappoint you, then you'll eventually find some success. You just can't give in and let the jerks be right.

We received some mixed reviews on last issue, and we'd sincerely like to thank those who gave us their opinion. Some of you were helpful, some of you were jerks. But it's the jerks who made us realize who we're doing this for. Those of you who “get it,” those of you who put time and sweat into building up the scene, this issue's for you to rub in the face of the jerks.

A few weeks ago, we were worried that the lack of submitted items meant nothing at all was happening in March. But at the 11th hour things turned around, and it looks like there might be a thing or two worth doing this month after all. Which is good because when that snow finally melts, we don't intend to stay inside.

~A. Fanger

The Best Band You've Never Heard Of: The Singing Loins

An English trio formed in 1990, the Loins consist of lead singer Chris Broderick, guitarist and backup singer Chris 'Arf'ur' Allen and multi-instrumentalist Rob Shepherd. They describe themselves as “authentic raw folk from the Medway Delta,” but their music covers a range including a Dylan-esque folk bordering on Celtic, blues-touched music-hall, and something damn near klezmer. Lyrically, they're satirical and witty, yet heartfelt. They can tell you a story with a quirky character you'll immediately love, bitch about anti-smoking laws, make you cry about lost loved ones, or simply argue amongst the band in a three minute song, never once passing up a pun along the way, and yet you'll believe every word of it.

If I've talked to you about music at any length, chances are you've heard me mention The Singing Loins. So it was with great pleasure when they responded to my request for an email interview.

Lyrics. Who writes 'em? And how do topics get decided on?
BROD: I write the lyrics. Mind you, we've recorded a couple of Arf's. He's good with words and occasionally slings me a line when I'm stuck. Sometimes I'll have a backlog of subjects I want to write about, sometimes the music will suggest something unexpected.
ARF: Words are Brods thang. He doesn't mess with our musical genius and we don't mess with his.

Music. Same question. Describe for me if you can, your song writing process.
BROD: We hate jamming for starters - Leave that to the hippies and proper musos. We've developed a system where Arf & Rob will record loads of rough individual ideas and send me mp3s, then I'll choose the ones I get an emotional response to and set the words to the music. I love that discipline, the real craft of a lyricist, I'm very strict about scanning and rhyming and rhythm. Most times the melody comes with the words, but sometimes Rob & Arf will suggest a great hook. Then we'll meet up and quickly knock it into shape - try a quiet bit here, put a bridge there. Sometimes I'll have put a verse over what they imagined was going to be the chorus, so I show them how to do it properly.
ARF: I rarely write a complete song. Bits of verses and choruses to be worked on as a band. Rob is very good at adding whats needed.
ROB: Yeah, Arf does nice little pencil sketches and I go completely over the bloody top with my box of infant school water colours. Messing up the paper.

I'm always interested in what bands and musicians influence the bands and musicians that influence me. What do you lot listen to on the off days? Or the on days.. Whichever.
BROD: Not much. I don't mean that flippantly, it's just the truth. I'm as much influenced by literature, visual art, or observing people at my day job. Whoever you think we sound like must be who we listen to. But we don't.
ARF: Guitar playing influenced alot by 60's country rock stuff, The Byrds, Neil Young, etc and my sister. She used to play around the folk clubs in late 60's early 70's. Got her old guitar when I was 9. Also have an Irish family and lived in Dublin for a year with my Uncle when I was small. I remember traveling on a bus to the zoo with my cousins singing rebel songs. That's gotta be an influence.
ROB: The Fall. Good days & bad days. I wish they'd never been invented. Noisy fuckers.

Of all yer songs, what's your favourite?
BROD: I'll pick three moods off the last album: Ballad - 'Since You Were My Girl'. Music Hall - 'Please Take My Scissors Away'. Fun - 'Cunny Ann'.
ARF: Fat Boy and Ferry Lane off new one. Oldies...Low November Sun.
ROB: Leytonstone Tom has always been my favourite. All those nurses fussing with sheets. And the fucking & fighting & what not. Can't play it, mind.

So, how hard was it to get Arf in drag for that video?
BROD: You should ask how hard it was to get him out of drag! I was jealous as fuck!
ARF: Yeah. Apparently Ive been gagging to drag up for years. Taught me to appreciate open gusset tights tho. Those dresses are hot hot hot.
ROB: Looked a luv though didn't he. Bit of a coincidence his wife's dress just happened to fit perfectly.

There was a goodly amount of time in between the Complete and Utter recordings, and the reformation. Were there other bands or projects in between?
BROD: I started up a similar sort of combo called cat.fish.dog,I also wrote a few screenplays and stage plays and then started writing musical theatre with Rob. We've done four 'musicals' now.
ARF: Lost my folky mojo and formed a noisy electric band with some mates. Organizing it all was too much like hard work tho.
ROB: I was only a bystander first time round, though I saw em scores of times. I remember standing with a mate when they did the re-union show, with a big smile on me face, turning to him & saying "now that's what they should have been doing."

Where'd the band's name come from?
BROD: When my ex-wife was happy she used to say her loins were singing. She's from Coventry.
ARF: That's no excuse.

Weapon of choice when the zombie apocalypse finally happens?
BROD: Custard pie.
ARF: A pretty dress and an Uzi.
ROB: A ukelele. Scares the shit out of zombies.

Horror stories from the road?
BROD: Resolutely playing all original stuff to two old cunts and a dog in poxy pubs. I've literally had beer glasses chucked at me. I've no idea where the desperate self belief to carry on came from. Oh, did you want something funny? How about the time our guitarist, Graham, who looked like a stick insect, electrocuted himself onstage (which I hadn't seen) and as he stood there rigid and rooted, with his heart stopped, I started booting him up the arse for not moving about enough. (He survived)
ARF: Serbia [is] always interesting. Rob and me spent best part of a night after a show, pinning the promoter, who had downed a bottle of Jim Beam, to a bed in a hotel to stop him trashing the room. Thought it was a good idea to shut him in bathroom only to hear him trying to break the mirror and tiles with his head.
ROB: Now that was a good night. And all the time Brod was in a bar across the road with the driver, who couldn't speak a word of English, singing along to Smiths records, in blissful ignorance to the carnage going on around the corner.

So, when demand finally makes you decide to hit stateside, and my ceaseless hounding convinces you to come here... can I buy you lot a pint?
BROD: If you can find someone to finance it we'll buy you a pint!
ROB: It would be a pleasure. Looking forward to it already.

If you fancy it, you can sample the Loins' loins at www.singingloins.co.uk.
-Tom McSod