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I was hoping to catch Chris Lutzko during his happy hour phase. Logically, the best content for this story would come in the moments just before the Unholy Two leader mutates from a (somewhat) mild-mannered starving artist to the rowdy, egomaniacal tough he becomes on stage. “I could slag on other bands if you want,” [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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I was hoping to catch Chris Lutzko during his happy hour phase.

Logically, the best content for this story would come in the moments just before the Unholy Two leader mutates from a (somewhat) mild-mannered starving artist to the rowdy, egomaniacal tough he becomes on stage.

“I could slag on other bands if you want,” cracks Lutzko.

That’s not what we’re here for, I say. We’re here to talk about the music. We’re here to talk about art, about hardcore.

“It seems like the only art people buy into these days is victim art. Fingerpainting, that’s what a record has become now,” says Lutzko. “It’s a bunch of grown men acting like 13-year-olds on their deathbeds, acting like children.”

Lutzko has had run-ins with controversy before – writing about young girls who cut and infamous serial killers will garner a reputation – but no more than any other post-modernist raging against the mediocre tide of popular culture and the media’s PC constraints.

With song titles like “Redskins” and “OKC1995” it’s likely some modicum of revulsion will follow the release of the band’s sophomore record, Talk About Hardcore, out in May on Austin-based 12XU Records. Lutzko explains, though, that these are just “songs;” there’s no pressing ideology or political agenda. Adam Smith, the band’s guitarist and engineer, takes it further by calling Lutzko’s rabble-rousing rants “character portraits.”

Likewise, those jabs at celebrity excess and the dark side of humanity seep into his visual art. Eventually we sift through the last five years of Unholy Two flyers. There’s one with a cartoonish image of our mayor beheaded, some featuring pornographic playing cards, or Hank Williams Jr. clad in Satanic garb. It’s more satire or Warholian Xerox than anything misogynistic or hateful.

“It’s fan fiction,” continues Lutzko. “It’s not ‘you’ writing these things, it comes from a different perspective. It’s true crime. It’s noir.”

Even musically the line is blurred. To call the tracks of Talk About Hardcore“songs” is a stretch. First impressions result in instant shock and awe. Lutzko makes brutal, punishing punk – the kind of noise most might consider only suited for enhanced interrogation at Guantanamo Bay. There’s a worship of the prickly nihilism of the Brainbombs and local garage legends the Cheater Slicks, who Lutzko considers kin. The goal, though, is to make what has come before irrelevant. After a roadside fire destroyed the band’s van and all of their gear, Smith went into the lab, custom designing distortion pedals and amps to take the recordings to the next level of disorientation. Now there are air-raid sirens, smoldering drone jams, visceral riffs repeated into oblivion, and above it all Lutzko’s tilted chants leading the charge. Hardcore is sonic terrorism compared to the group’s few contemporaries.

If there’s anything tangible connected to the larger-than-life veneer of the Unholy Two, it’s the colorful characters and Greek tragedy of professional wrestling. Throughout the interview there’s plenty of talk about Sgt. Slaughter’s days as an Iraqi militant and the implications of winning the Intercontinental belt. Lutzko wants to project that same aura of “might” – the Royal Rumble mentality – even if it’s just for a destructive 20-minute show in a Memphis dive bar.

In the beginning, the band was more in line with the braggadocio of the Honky Tonk Man; with Hardcore, it’s the Great Muta, a mysterious Japanese destroyer known for spitting green mist at his opponents. Muta’s face dons the cover and is a perfect symbol of the Unholy Two’s evolution into what Lutzko calls “going ape.”

It’s survival of the fittest, and the Unholy Two are winning.

Catch Unholy Two live on Record Store Day (April 19) at Used Kids Records (1980 N High St.). For more, visit www.unholytwo12xu.bandcamp.com.

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Music industry designates Blackout Tuesday as time of pause

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To honor the memory of George Floyd and fix the injustices surrounding his death, the music industry has designated Tuesday as a time of pause to collaborate on ways to better support the black community.

Businesses and organizations within the music industry have been asked to pause regular work to reflect on how they can better serve the black community, according to a report from Variety. In general, businesses and organizations across the board have been asked to use Tuesday as a way to focus on the effort.

The message that circulated around social media quickly on Monday stated that “Blackout Tuesday” is being used as “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” and “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.”

The movement has been gaining momentum under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. Major labels such as Capitol Music Group and Warner Music Group announced their alignment with the “Blackout Tuesday” cause. 

Companies have also announced practices such as pausing social media activity throughout the whole day.

Spotify and ViacomCBS have already announced an 8 minute and 46-second moment of silence for Tuesday. The time reflects how long the Minnesota police officer dug his knee into the kneck of Floyd.

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Curbside Concerts brings live music, hope to those in need

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Can’tStopColumbus took a quick pause when the pandemic shut down the world and asked two questions:

  1. Are we sure we're solving the needs of everyone in our community during this time? 
  2. Are we not just coming up with ideas based on our own experiences?

Our elder community was one of the major demographics to have stricter socially distancing guidelines suggested to them. Holidays and birthdays went by without hugs from grandpa or grandma’s cookies.

Out of the need to fill that missing love in the life of American seniors, the idea of Curbside Concerts was born. Anyone is able to jump on the Curbside Concerts signup page and request a concert for an elder, sick people not able to leave the house, or a simple celebration.

Sending a concert telegram is free, and you can also leave a message for a loved one and suggest what type of tunes the organization-selected Columbus-area musician.

So far, the feedback has been inspiring. 

“People cried. I cried. We cried. It was beautiful,” said Zach Friedman, one of the service’s founders and creators. “We had a powerful idea on our hands, and the amazing power of the #Can'tStopColumbus community to scale it and bring it to life.”

To date, Curbside Concerts has had over 50 volunteers. Their job is to drive around a Columbus musician and their equipment with trucks provided by Ricart Automotive. It’s a road trip around the Columbus area, delivering concerts to those who may just need their spirits lifted. It’s like a non-depressing version of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Support has come from all ends of the Columbus creative community, including The Columbus Foundation, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Streetlight Guild, and What? Productions. Through these organizations, musicians are able to be paid for a route that usually lasts five to six hours. 100 percent of the donations they receive on their route also goes to the musicians.

Friedman is asking people to keep requests to older audiences.

“Working with local musicians to perform curbside at people's homes is the vehicle or medium, but the real thing we are doing here is connecting those to older people they love, with an authentic and emotional experience to send love over,” Friedman said.

We found out pretty quickly how much as a collective that we take live music for granted. Live streams have been a temporary, dulled-down replacement. You realize how long people have been robbed of the experience when you see a musician pull up in a pickup truck, set up in five minutes, and serenade neighborhoods with songs like “Lean on Me” and “What A Wonderful World.” It starts off with a message to one house and then resonates down the street, like the citizens of Gas Town rushing to The People Eater for even a drop of water.

Photos by Zak Kolesar

For most people, it was their first taste of live music since mid-March. While we may want concerts to return as soon as possible, its productions like Curbside Concerts that display the emotional power of music.

To request to send someone a concert, follow the link here: https://sendaconcert.herokuapp.com/request

To volunteer for Curbside Concerts, follow the link here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b45abaa22a4fb6-curbside

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Arts & Culture

Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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