Monday, March 2, 2015

Memorial Monday

Today's Memorial Monday is a special, tearful farewell to a band that has been a leader in the South Bend pop-punk scene for the better part of six years. They've played every church basement, secondhand clothing store, and dive bar within 100 miles of their humble hometown, not to mention a number of stages along the east coast. And besides that, these dudes are some of my oldest friends.

Shortly after graduating high school, I was driving my relatively dilapidated 1998 Ford Escort with my good friend Jake Hueni riding in the passenger seat. I don't remember where we were going or what we were doing, but I remember our conversation. The Escort was about three feet wide and its close quarters were the venue for lots of memorable conversations. Whether this was because the closeness inspired more intimate and emotional topics, or because you could always clearly smell the last thing your passenger had eaten lingering on their breath, I don't really know.

Anyway, on this day, Jake took the opportunity to confide in me some thoughts that it was clear he had pondered for some time, but was just beginning to get comfortable with.

"Dude, I think I might be done with Poets and Posterboys," he started.

Poets and Posterboys had been the band that Jake had been in for three of the four years he had been in high school and the band was composed entirely of our very good friends, so I was surprised to hear him say this. I thought maybe he was looking for some reassurance that what the band had been doing was worth his time, so I offered him some comforting words, but he clearly wasn't seeking coddling.

"I'm actually thinking of joining another band. I've been talking to this guy who's worked up quite a few demos that I really like. I think it's time for me to move on," he told me.

I was awed by the idea that, during that turbulent time, while he was preparing for his first semester of college, he would consider leaving the one thing that seemed it could remain constant. The band that had been the result of his and our best friends' first full-fledged attempt at crafting themselves as musicians would die in favor of Jake's new endeavor, a band called Trash the Dress.

*image credit
While I was sad to see Poets go, I can't imagine a South Bend pop-punk scene without Trash the Dress. From the beginning the band was bold. They wore their hearts on their sleeves and quickly won fans over with chanted melodies, high energy riffs, and breakdowns in the style of A Day to Remember.

The years that followed brought many lineup changes and, in turn, a move away from the band's heavy sound. The release of their second EP, "Why Do I Do the Things I Hate," showed a marked change. This short album chronicled the anxieties of the imminent struggle of self discovery during college years through angry, but contemplative lyrics, and a more nuanced and melodic approach.

Ultimately, the release of "Why Do I Do the Things I Hate" and a summer heavily laden with tour dates landed the band a deal with Michigan based label Capeside Records. The band recorded and released a full-length album, titled "Empty Basements" while on Capeside and arguably perfected their simultaneously melancholy and energetic sound.

Since their first appearance on the South Bend scene, Trash the Dress has become a pop-punk powerhouse and has gained fans and friends in droves with their gutsy performances and generally friendly attitude. However, all good things must end. On April 24th, the band will bid the public farewell with a final show at Smith's Downtown Tap & Grill.

As it was when the end of Poets and Posterboys came, I will be sad to see Trash the Dress go. Infinitely more sad, as a matter of fact, because of the musical growth I've witnessed in this band since its inception and the friendship that I have developed with each of its members. I have shared the stage with Trash the Dress many times as a member of a few different bands, and I will never forget the constant support I have received from them.

I will share the stage with these boys on their final evening together, and while I'm sure it will hurt to watch them leave these songs behind, I can't wait to see what each of these talented dudes will do with their best days. Days which I am sure are yet to come.

If you are a fan of Trash the Dress, leave a comment about your favorite experience seeing the band live, an anecdote about a Trash the Dress song that has particularly affected you, or a simple goodbye, come to Smith's to see the band kill one last set, and watch the music video for "My Best Days" below.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Memorial Monday

Hi all,

This is the first in a series of posts that I'm going to call "Memorial Monday." Let me begin by explaining what exactly I plan to do here. 

The South Bend scene has seen lots of bands. Bands with great staying power, bands that played a few nearly empty shows and fizzled into nothing, bands that everyone thought would soar like eagles to new heights of national recognition, dragging South Bend in their sharply clenched talons and dropping it directly into the center of the map, and bands that, though they weren't from here, made major contributions to the local scene. 

These posts will be memorials to bands that have come and gone, bands that gained or, more often, nearly gained national attention, and South Bend bands that have been around long enough that most of us have forgotten what they sounded like the first time we saw them play. Think of this as the throwback Thursday of South Bend music. I'd also like to invite you to create your own Memorial Monday posts. Tell everyone about your favorite South Bend artists and include video or audio clips so that we can hear them, too.

I'm going to start in the emo scene of the mid 2000s, right where most 20 something members of the South Bend music scene would start when memorializing local musicians, and I'm going to talk about The Honour Recital.

While I never had an opportunity to see these guys play live, the early years of my life as a South Bend musician were shaped by their legacy. Any time I thought I had played to an impressively large crowd, someone a few years older than me would chime in, "you should have seen what it was like in 2006 when The Honour Recital was playing." These dudes were in a class of South Bend bands that would become legendary in the years that followed.

Their catchy melodies and heavy guitar riffs put their early releases on level ground with Take This to Your Grave in the eyes of young South Bend music fans, and if any show in 2009 was ever as full of nervous energy as an Honour Recital show used to be, the bands that played could basically say with confidence that they had made it.

A reunion show in the summer of 2011 proved the powerful draw of this South Bend great. Five years after the band had reached the height of its popularity and original members had gone their separate ways, The Honour Recital came to roost in South Bend to pack a dingy church basement one last time.

While The Honour Recital might be foreign to many young South Bend music fans, many older members of the scene remember them well, and will probably never stop using them as a standard for the measurement of local talent.

Submit your own Memorial Monday post to Submitted posts are subject to editing.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Starving Artists in the Digital Age

Since the rise of the digital download, internet users have searched for, found, and taken advantage of free sources of music. Sources such as Napster, Limewire, and file sharing services, which were once extraordinarily popular, served as user friendly alternatives to the iTunes store and other pesky digital download services that force users to pay for songs.

The only issue with using these sources, one that, for most users, was not at all difficult to get over, was that they were illegal. Because users paid nothing for the music they wanted, record companies and artists were paid no royalties. The sites were nothing more than middlemen in a massive heist resulting in 12.5 billion dollars in economic losses every year.

But who cares if some big time record executives don't get their bonuses, right? People in the music business make plenty of money, do they really need yours?

Unfortunately, 12.5 billion dollars is a lot of dough, even for music moguls. As a result of illegal downloads, over 70,000 music industry jobs were lost and artists, who usually receive less than 10% of royalties produced by music sales, suffered as much as anyone.

Enter Spotify. Riding in from the horizon on a glowing white horse, the online streaming service offered free music to the masses without the risk of computer viruses that was so prevalent with illegal downloads and with just enough paying users that the company could pay royalties to the record companies.

Despite the fact that a single Spotify play generates only $.006 according to Time magazine, artists with many plays are able to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars on song plays. So it's a win win.

But what about small-time, independent artists who are just getting their start? How do acts like the ones you see in South Bend, who haven't already struck gold with a new single or sold 500,000 copies of an album fair in this new musical economy?

Where it was once hard to make a career as a new artist, it is now almost entirely impossible. The overarching sense that everyone is entitled to free music has forced new artists to distribute through services like Spotify, which essentially give their art away.

This creates an enormous problem when you consider that the cost of recording in a professional studio is often in the range of 300-600 dollars per song and paid gigs are few and far between.

Ultimately, the belief that people have a right to free music, which led to the rise of illegal downloading and streaming services like Spotify, discourages new artists from putting in the work that is necessary to distribute music on a broad scale, as they must fund their work with a guarantee that there will be no return.

So what can you do to help encourage artists to continue producing?

If you're feeling a little guilty about that hard drive full of illegally downloaded music, let me just say, it's ok. I don't blame you. The temptation to access music you love cheaply and easily is one that almost everyone gives into and unless you did it with the intention of destroying the livelihood of independent artists, it doesn't make you a bad person.

Now that you know the effect illegal downloads have on the music industry, consider not using illegal free sources for music anymore. Go to shows, talk to local artists, and buy their CDs, buy a t-shirt or donate some for gas so that they can make it to their next show, download albums legally, or, if you insist on illegally downloading music, consider supporting artists in some of the ways mentioned by Amanda Palmer in this Ted Talk.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

About "Bands in the Bend"

Hi all,

I am Seth Umbaugh, writer, lead singer of TheTides and former lead singer of From The Rooftop, and, this blog, local music lovers, is a call to arms.

Here, you'll find information about upcoming shows in the South Bend area, reviews of new releases from local artists, and a forum for telling stories about your experience with local shows, sharing your opinion about your favorite local acts, and submitting your own original music. 

My experience with the South Bend music scene began in 2008, when several of my friends and I decided that the coolest thing any 17 year old could possibly do was start a band.

Turns out, we were right. We scraped and saved doing odd jobs around our parents’ houses, bought new gear, started a few bands, and played shows for kids who danced, laughed, and sang along.

Everyone involved made dozens of new friendships, connected with artists who encouraged and inspired them, and found it was possible not only to create, but to find acceptance of our creation among friends.

There was a sense of community like none I’ve ever known anywhere else.

Seven years later, most of those old friends of mine, and many new friends in local bands that we’ve met throughout the years, are still playing, but much of our audience has disappeared.

So, my message to you, lover of local music who has submitted to illegally downloading the music of artists you’ll never meet, is: I know you're still there. We're still here, too.

Keep reading for future updates and I'll see you at the show.