Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Popzine adventures

Adventures in teen music journalism

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2016 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge Flashback to Oasis' show in Indy in the '90s - COURTESY OF POPZINE
  • Courtesy of Popzine
  • Flashback to Oasis' show in Indy in the '90s

I realized something about myself this weekend while visiting the Yats on Mass. Ave. While waiting in line for my rice and beans, I noticed a poster for an upcoming concert by the '90s British rock band Bush.

Honestly, I had no idea Bush were still around. Granted it's not something I've spent anytime thinking about, as I've always disliked the band. But the observation sucked me into a vortex of nostalgia that brought forth an epiphany: All the fundamental knowledge I have of music journalism was acquired from my sister Lisa.

Like I said, I was never a fan of Bush. They were one of dozens of dull "grunge" acts that the big record labels were pushing in the wake of Kurt Cobain's suicide. Unfortunately, most of Nirvana's imitators lacked that group's unique ability to meld agony and irreverence into irresistibly catchy pop hooks.

I did see the group once, though. I didn't see them perform – but I did see Bush in Indianapolis, on March 18, 1995 in the lobby of the Tyndall Armory in Downtown Indy. The occasion was a now-notorious concert from Brit pop icons Oasis. Bush played Indianapolis the night before at – of all places — Union Station, and they stuck around an extra day to catch Oasis' gig.

Oasis were touring on their 1994 debut LP Definitely Maybe. The album was a massive hit in the UK, propelling the band to the status of a national phenomenon back home. But Oasis were struggling to find a similar breakthrough in the States and that frustration seemed to be taking its toll. Oasis were in a dour mood when they hit the makeshift stage at Tyndall Armory that night. And when a pair of glasses were flung towards singer Liam Gallagher during the fourth song of their set, the band abruptly left the stage and immediately canceled the concert.

As the the rather small crowd of angry and confused attendees exited the Armory, someone happened to notice the members of Bush in attendance. A crowd of fans gathered around the band for autographs and photos. Bush's presence in the audience that night generated more enthusiasm from the crowd than Oasis' appearance onstage. 

This concert is remembered by most Indy music fans for its abrupt and unusual ending. But the show is lodged in my memory for a very different reasons: it was my first personal encounter with the art of music journalism.

My sister must have been around 16 years old when she and her friend Heather decided they were going to launch their own zine. While most of their local zine-making peers in Indy were documenting the city's skateboard culture or all-ages punk scene. Lisa and Heather decided to write about the UK's nascent but evolving Brit pop movement. They titled their new publication Popzine, and they approached their project with great ambition. Instead of relying merely on record or show reviews for content, they conspired to interview the artists they'd been idolizing from afar.
But how would a pair of teenage kids from the Indiana suburbs gain access to Europe's biggest music stars?

click to enlarge Flashback to Oasis' show in Indy in the '90s - COURTESY OF POPZINE
  • Courtesy of Popzine
  • Flashback to Oasis' show in Indy in the '90s
I jokingly suggested they should call up their favorite UK band's label and scam their way into an interview. "Tell them you write about music for the local university's paper. There's no way they'll check your credentials," I offered. While this strategy would be extremely foolish in the Internet age, where fact-checking requires only a few simple keystrokes on Google, it worked surprisingly well in the mid '90s.
Lisa and Heather had easily set up an interview with Oasis at their Downtown Indy hotel prior to the Tyndall Armory gig. I accompanied them to the interview that day, and I also helped them brainstorm for interview questions. I remember being filled with anxiety as Lisa and Heather made their way into the hotel's restaurant to meet with founding Oasis members "Bonehead" Arthurs and "Guigsy" McGuigan. But the whole thing went off without a hitch.

After the aborted concert, we even circled back to the hotel for further commentary on the cancelation. The band was apologetic, noting they'd had a rough time in Indy. The night before the gig, singer Liam Gallagher had a gun pulled on him during a late night walk around the city. They offered to put everyone in our small entourage on the guest list for their next show at The Vic in Chicago, which sent us all home with a smile.

Lisa and Heather produced several more issues of Popzine before calling it quits, publishing interviews with UK superstars Blur and American indie acts like Medicine and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. I'd occasionally pitch in with some questions, or help out in whatever way I could. But, mostly, I just admired the audacity and ingenuity of their effort.

It's been many years since I thought about Lisa and Heather's Popzine, but as I look back at this time it's become undeniably apparent to me that so much of what I now do as a radio host and writer was inspired by watching my sister's teenage adventures in music journalism.

Though I won't be in attendance for Bush's concert this Tuesday at the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park, I do appreciate them for giving me this opportunity to reflect.

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