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Class of 2017: Pink Owl

Interviews with the likes of Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, or the Edge rarely take the time to refer to their subjects as Jimmy Osterberg, Robert Zimmerman, and (believe it or not) David Evans. It’s not that those icons’ lives before the stage were any less interesting, nor that the story hasn’t already been told, it’s [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Interviews with the likes of Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, or the Edge rarely take the time to refer to their subjects as Jimmy Osterberg, Robert Zimmerman, and (believe it or not) David Evans. It’s not that those icons’ lives before the stage were any less interesting, nor that the story hasn’t already been told, it’s just that once they transformed, there was never any reason to call them anything else.

One gets the same kind of vibe with Columbus’ Pink Owl.

His mild-mannered alter ego of former art student/substitute teacher begets the persona he’s been cultivating since he was a teen in Belpre, Ohio. Across the river, his Parkersburg, West Virginia location has left a definite holler in his drawl, the shell of country radio in his subconscious, and a particular wanderlust searching for primal truths in his songwriting. The “crummy apartment” where the Pink Owl was born in bedroom-acoustic recordings on a hand-held tape recorder, remains a remnant in his music—a starting point for his gypsy time-warp to launch.

I’ll readily admit to knowing the man for years, but never knowing him as anything other than the Pink Owl. He’s enjoyed that anonymity throughout his gnarly bildungsroman, a story that is better told outside the realm of social media. His tenure at Ohio University is when the Pink Owl found rock and roll to be “tangible,” dancing a fool, soaking up the touring garage bands (“before garage became whatever it is now”), and getting an alternate education at the Union.

But as the singer in the now-defunct Red Feathers, the Pink Owl was encouraged to put on a tint of artifice and bravado—lipstick and feather boas—and engage audiences entirely unscripted. It fit the slash and burn punk and psych of that band almost to a destructive fault. Think of the Stooges infiltrated by a quartet of outlaw Appalachians.

Perhaps too much Jimmy Osterberg and not enough Pink Owl?

“At a certain point, I really had to front the band,” says the Pink Owl. “It allowed me a complete lack of inhibition. I got lost in it. More than anything it was fun. It was oppositional, hopefully. I wanted some excitement. When you’re wearing women’s pants, that becomes a major part of it.”

A move to Ann Arbor in the name of love delineated a definite dissolution for Red Feathers, and a break for the Pink Owl and his music. That said, the Pink Owl’s true love remained in his songs. The opportunity to see them grow with a new circle of friends, the Supernatural Fears—consisting of Aaron Troyer of Day Creeper on bass, Blake Pfister on drums, and Steve Shurtz on lead guitar—is what quickly brought him back to Columbus. Knowing the prolific freakiness of the Pink Owl, Superdreamer Records owner, Spencer Morgan instantly asked the group to record an album for the label.

“There was a point where I was wholly committed to these songs and doing what I wanted to do with the Pink Owl. When Spencer asked for a record, I knew I had to accept that challenge.”

Fully Delusional, the second full album by the Pink Owl (but first credited to himself and the Supernatural Fears) was created last summer and finds the character reeling back the confrontation and androgyny of old. It’s no longer about “the show.” The record allows the Pink Owl’s junk drawer of influence to shine through. There is honky-tonk, glammed-up pop, itchy Cramps snarls, Aftermath-era Stones, the loosely dirigible jams of T. Rex, and bedroom experiments converted into Technicolored cosmic wanderings. And he dresses the part, preferring a trucker hat, handkerchief, and high-strung acoustic guitar to spit, stale beer, and Cinemax antics. It’s not that the Pink Owl has never been serious or sincere about his work, his art, but hearing his skewed folk in the context of this weirdo caravan feels like a new level—the next step in his evolution.

“I love it because it still feels spontaneous. I’m a generative machine, so I’m always having to invent in the moment.”

Even if it all fell apart tomorrow, the Pink Owl could survive as a lone nomad—a Zappa or Ariel Pink type figure who could create within his own bubble. With the next phase, he’s committed to making a concerted push for whatever the big time consists of in modern times.

“Why do you think I’m a substitute teacher?”

For more information on The Pink Owl and his Supernatural Fears, visit superdreamerrecords.com.

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Community

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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Community

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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