Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Stranger Flashback: Memories of the Walkabouts

Here is a revived version of a Line Out post about the Walkabouts (these posts were purged from the internet after The Stranger pulled the plug on their music blog).

BLOGS Jan 9, 2012 at 9:11 am

Memories of the Walkabouts

I was a freshman in college when I met singer Carla Torgerson, who was a senior at the time. I had just arrived in Walla Walla, WA from Anchorage, AK. In the 1980s, Whitman was 50% Greek, so I decided to check out the sorority scene. I can’t speak for other schools, but for the most part, I liked what I found.

When it came to Kappa Kappa Gamma, I remember talking to Carla during Rush, and thinking, "Man, this woman is the coolest." Suffice to say, she wasn’t your stereotypical sorority girl. I got the distinct impression that it was okay to listen to punk rock, to major in studio art, and to wear whatever the hell you wanted.

That was encouraging, and so I did all those things—and pledged KKG (other Kappas, non-Whitman division, include designer Kate Spade, broadcast journalist Jane Pauley, and entertainment reporter Nancy O'Dell...who fits the sorority template to a T).

But I didn’t hang out with Carla. Most of my friends were freshmen. A couple of years later, she returned from Seattle to play a gig as a member of the Walkabouts, which featured two other Whitman alums,* her boyfriend, Chris Eckman (vocals, guitar), and his brother, Grant (drums). It was Oktoberfest. Someone stole a keg, and we set up a makeshift club in the spacious art studios, where Chris Peters and I spent most of our time. Peters went on to provide the wood-cut print that adorns their full-length debut, See Beautiful Rattlesnake Gardens (though I hung up my brushes a long time ago, Chris still paints from time to time).

I don’t remember anything else about that night, just that Carla had gone on to do something interesting with her life—exactly what I would've expected, based on that initial encounter. I ended up moving to Seattle a few years later, at which point the Walkabouts had become one of the city’s premiere musical outfits, along with Room Nine, Pure Joy, and a few others who were starting to gain national exposure though fanzines and region-friendly publications, like Option.

*Others include Adam West (Batman) and Dirk Benedict (Battlestar Galactica, The A-Team). I don't know whether ex-Walkabout Curt Eckman went to Whitman.

  • Popllama

When the Seattle Scene blew up, the Walkabouts, against all odds, didn’t wind up as roadkill, though there was never anything particularly grunge-like about their roots-oriented sound. That was the beauty of Sub Pop 200, which combined tracks from acoustic artists like Terry Lee Hale with rock & rollers like Soundgarden.

The label would go on to sign the group, but they never hit it big nationwide, despite consistently positive reviews and a devoted fanbase. Instead, they became more popular in Europe, much like California's Thin White Rope and Oregon's Dead Moon (now Pierced Arrows). Don’t ask me why Americans weren’t more enthusiastic about these West Coast stalwarts; I have no idea.

  • Sub Pop
  • Illustration by Charles Burns

Like every band I’ve mentioned, the Walkabouts have experienced their ups and downs, but they’ve beaten the odds yet again, releasing a new record in 2011 and prepping for a European tour this year. 

I wouldn't have seen that coming in 1982 when Carla was just an aspiring musician like so many others, who play out for a few years and then pack it in when they find a more stable career path. On the contrary, Carla has issued a solo album, Saint Stranger, and several Chris & Carla releases with Chris Eckman, though they're no longer romantically involved.

But we were never friends or even acquaintances, and I didn’t run into her again until she showed up at a friend’s Christmas party a couple of years ago. We had a lovely chat, just like that first time. She’s still the same attentive and engaging woman she ever was. And I don’t know much more about her than that, but that’s enough, and I look forward to seeing her group when they play Seattle tomorrow night. I’ll be with my friend, Chris. Maybe we’ll sneak in another stolen keg or two.

  • Glitterhouse

The Walkabouts play the High Dive (513 N. 36th) on Tues., January 10th, with Terri Tarantula (Walkabouts' drummer Terri Moeller) and Disinterested (Matt Brown from Trespassers William). $10 presale, $12 at the door. Purchase tickets here.

Saturday, January 06, 2024

January Reviews

These are the 
reviews and 
other projects 
I'm working
on this month. 

Video Librarian: Le Combat dans l'île [Blu-ray] and Youth (Spring).

Credit: Red Sun/Rote Sonne image (Uschi Obermaier, Diana Körner, and Sylvia Kekulé) from Mubi. All three women are still with us. 

Monday, January 01, 2024

Songs for Cineastes: 2023 Edition

Click here for the 2022 edition.

Every year, I listen to less new music, but I still listen to a lot. I've never wanted to become one of those former music writers/disc jockeys/music retail workers who stops listening to new music altogether. I'll never be that old. Music trends come and go, people age, they have kids (in some cases), their jobs take over their lives, they gravitate to other things instead. I get it, but I can't relate. 

It has become more challenging for me to keep up, but that's on me. It's not on music, aging, or ever-changing technologies. It's largely that I've become more easily distracted--a tendency exacerbated by social media--and I listen to more podcasts (time I used to spend listening to new music), but I still listen to and write about music, both new and old. I just spend more time watching, reading, and writing about film. 

I definitely see fewer shows, though, to the extent that I saw exactly one this year: the Gories at Freakout Festival. They were great, of course. Sometimes, that's all you need; one really good show, rather than dozens of mediocre ones. Granted, I'm sure I missed a lot of good shows I didn't even know about. With fewer sources for local listings--and fewer show-going companions--that's bound to happen. 

Top 10 
1. Meshell Ndegeocello - The Omnichord Real Book (Blue Note) 
2. En Attendant Ana - Principia (Trouble in Mind) 
3. Sleaford Mods - UK Grim (Rough Trade) 
4. Wreckless Eric - Leisureland (Tapete Records) 
5. Meg Baird - Furling (Drag City) 
6. Lewsberg - Out and About (12XU) 
7. The Necks - Travel (Northern Spy) 
8. Kate NV - Wow (RVNG Intl.) 
9. André 3000 - New Blue Sun (Epic) 
10. Nia Archives - Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall EP 

Note: A show I missed: Meshell Ndegeocello. I only found out about it afterward. For what it's worth, I've seen her in person at the Pop Conference, but I've never seen her play live.  

11. Anohni - My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross 
      (Secretly Canadian) 
12. Melenas - Ahora (Trouble in Mind) 
13. FACS - Still Life in Decay (Trouble in Mind) 
14. Lorelle Meets the Obsolete - Remezcla EP (Sonic Cathedral) 
15. Rocket 808 - House of Jackpots (12XU) 
16. Barbara Manning - Charm of Yesterday…Convenience of 
      Tomorrow (Ba Da Bing) 
17. Jamila Woods - Water Made Us (Jagjaguwar) 
18. Fay Victor - Blackity Black Black Is Beautiful (Northern Spy) 
19. Yo La Tengo - This Stupid World (Matador) 
20. Everything but the Girl - Fuse (Buzzin' Fly/Virgin) 

21. Guided by Voices - Welshpool (GBV Inc.) 
22. Various Artists - I Killed The Monster: The Songs of Daniel 
       Johnston (Shimmy Disc) 
23. Martin Frawley - The Wannabe (Trouble in Mind) 
24. Jessie Ware - That! Feels Good (EMI/Universal) 
25. Lupo Cittá - Lupo Cittá (12XU) 
26. Irreversible Entanglements - Protect Your Light (Impulse!/Verve) 
27. Lankum - False Lankum (Rough Trade) 
28. Gina Birch - I Play My Bass Loud (Third Man) 
29. Matthew Shipp - The Intrinsic Nature of Shipp (Mahakala Music) 
30. Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert 

31. Janelle Monáe - The Age of Pleasure 
       (Wondaland/Bad Boy/Atlantic) 
32. Various Artists - Synthetic Bird Song (Mappa) 
33. Be Your Own Pet - Mommy (Third Man) 
34. Olivia Rodrigo - Guts (Geffen) 
35. Wimps - City Lights (Youth Riot) 
36. Immaterial Possession - Siren's Tunnel (Fire) 
37. Kerry Charles - I Think of You (Grind Select) 
38. Best Fern - Earth Then Air (Backwards Music) 
39. Joel Styzens - Resonance (Relax Your Ears) 
40. Mary Lattimore - Goodbye, Hotel Arkada (Ghostly International)

41. Doom Flower - 
       Limestone Ritual 
       (Record Label)  
42. PJ Harvey - 
I Inside the Old World Dying (Partisan)  
43. Omar Ahmad - Inheritance (AKP Recordings) 
44. DJ Shadow - Action Adventure (Reconstruction/Mass Appeal) 
45. Cloudland Canyon - 
       Cloudland Canyon (Medical Records)   
46. Field of Fear - Lost (Whited Sepulchre)  
47. Gabriel Birnbaum - Entitled Nightwater | 
       All the Dead Do is Dream (Western Vinyl)    
48. Joel Styzens - Resonance (self-released)

1. SZA - "Kill Bill" 
2. Little Simz - "Gorilla" 
3. Melenas - "Bang"
4. Lol Tolhurst, Budgie, and Jacknife Lee - "Los Angeles"
5. M83 - "Oceans Niagara" 
6. Janelle Monáe - "Float" 
7. Everything But the Girl - "Nothing Left to Lose" 
8. DJ Shadow - "Nobody Speak" feat. Run the Jewels 
9. Caroline Polacheck - "Welcome to My Island" 
10. Allison Russell - "Springtime" 

Reissues & Collections 
1. Mike Cooper - Life and Death in Paradise +  Milan: 
    Live Acoustic 2018 (Paradise of Bachelors) 
2. Sonic Youth - Live in Brooklyn 2011 (Goofin'/Silver Current)
3. Lady Lamb - In the Mammoth Nothing of the Night 
     [box set] (Ba Da Bing) 
4. Peggy Lee - I'm a Woman: 60th Anniversary Expanded Edition 
5. Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra - Nancy & Lee Again 
     (Light in the Attic)

Endnote: For Rock and Roll Globe, I wrote about two 2023 albums, six 1973 albums, and one 2023 music documentary. You can find all nine here. Images: Charlie Gross / The Guardian (Meshell Ndegeocello), Dusted (En Attendant Ana), and RE:VIVE (Lankum).