Thursday, June 25, 2009

Playlist Begins With P

Ends With Dayton Reverie

So Brendan gave me an Ipod Shuffle for Father's Day. You know, the one I gave him a year earlier as my gift on Father's Day to my youngest child. I've barely seen the tiny device since Brendan gave it back. He borrowed it the next day--he was saving his new Nano for other purposes--and misplaced it the next. Still, it's around and, after I relocate it, I fully intend to load it with a playlist designed to help me remember who I think I am.

Like, for instance, I'm not a grandfather. You might think that since that is an actual objective state, I wouldn't need reminding that I'm not a grandpa, but some life trajectories do pass from parenthood and on to grandparenthood (though not always in the straightest of lines). And some mornings I wake up with aches that seem to be "slow down, gramps" messages from my bones. And many of the parents of Brendan's schoolmates appeal to me in precisely the way my own children appeal--I want to stop everything and give them a hug.

So "Playlist" begins with P, which is also the first letter of Pogues, whose music is sometimes cranky and grumpy and angry, or wistful, nostalgic and rueful, but never grandfatherly. Several Pogues songs yet to be determined will make my playlist.

Daniel Emerich, who left a decent job with a mainstream newspaper in Ohio to come to work at the Dayton Voice (and what a slippery slope that started him on) sent me a link for the Felice Brothers' Run Chicken Run, which will surely make my list, once I figure out how to transfer the song to my iTunes playlist and from there to my shuffle.

Citing the opinion of others, Daniel tells me that there is a developing music genre called "Dark Americana" into which the Felice Brothers fit. OK, note to self: find out more about Dark Americana. A Dayton band called Horsefeathers turned up through another link on the same page as Run Chicken Run. Read about them and download some of their music here.

Frankly, I'm not sure about Horsefeathers "Working Poor." It may be too country for my tastes, though Dayton music, even garage band rock stuff, has always been influenced by country and, for that matter, by the funk sound that developed in Cincinnati and in Dayton's Westside in the '70s and early '80s (Ohio Players being the most well-known Dayton funk band).

A lot of Dayton Voice staff were musicians: Steve Bright, Nick Kizirnis, Michelle Bodine, Don Thrasher, Greg Spence and CJ Sexson. When they were still high school students Jonathan and Hans Drexler became the Voice's first delivery staff. Later, Jonathan and Hans moved to Chicago where a lot of Dayton musicians migrated. I don't know what they're up to now, but Steve Bright is in Chicago, too, working at Northwestern University and planning on getting a graduate degree there.

Nick and Greg played together for awhile in a group called Cage, among others. I used to have a Cage CD, but I can't find it. Nick was a great rocker and page layout guy, but for my money, Michelle Bodine (with the O-Matics, among others) was the #1 rocker/page layout combination.

But Nick could play the theramin--the eerie sound effects device from the early days of movies, the one moviemakers used to make brooding, haunting sounds in horror films. At Cage performances, Nick on the theramin was always a showstopper. Sometimes, I think that bothered him, He was a serious guitarist and he didn't want that to be overshadowed by his mastery of something which at times felt to him like a gimmick.

Greg died while we were all still putting out the Voice. His death was pretty hard on everybody, especially the musicians. He was always an absolutely gentle and calming presence. He was a great writer, too, very expressive and competent across a wide range of topics. I think Greg had a lot of friends who would have traded a few years off their own life so that he might live longer.

Not too long ago Michelle started playing with another band that tours occasionally, but I'll have to get the details later.

Then there was Don Thrasher, another relentlessly positive presence around the office. Don gave up drumming for Guided By Voices because touring separated him from his family. After that Don played in a number of local bands that were always a lot of fun. They were also distinguished by their cleverly idiosyncratic and suggestive names. The last one I was aware of was Swearing At Motorists.

Don didn't leave GBV for the Voice, that would have been abandoning a shot at artistic success for an ultimately doomed enterprise. Instead, he went to work in the accounting office of Standard Register, a Fortune 500 company at the time, which would end up slowly chopping off pieces of itself until it disappeared in the maw of some competitor.

Before that, though, Don did leave Standard Register for the Voice, where he became music reviewer and arts editor. For a brief time, the Voice was where he could both be at home with his family and also work where his heart led him. I think Don might be working for the Dayton Daily News in some fashion now, but that's clearly not a job with a future, either.

Right now, I'm listening to another Dayton original, Jayne Sachs. I don't know if any of her stuff is available on the web, but some of it will make my playlist. Jayne has always reminded me of a range of other more successful, but not superior (to my ear) female singer-songwriters. The Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmins comes to mind. So does Liz Phair.

What started out here as an effort to blog my way, with the help of others, to a playlist for my new Shuffle has ended up being a post that needs more feedback than I first imagined and lots more links. I need readers to get back to me with links to music by some of the musicians I've mentioned here. And additions and reflections on the Voice and on the Dayton music scene in the '90s, and since. And other helpful feedback.

Feel free to e-mail me, if you wish, at, but it would also be helpful if you'd share your thoughts in the form of comments right here on this post.


  1. Don't know anything about Dayton musicians but do you remember the Blue Front Persuaders from Ann Arbor. BFP Saxophonist Charlie Tysklind died this winter in his mid-50s.

    So did Ron Asheton of the Stooges, but he was a bit more known. Like ya said ... guess we're getting old.

    But your question got me doing one of those internet tangents ... and I came across a musician I knew working in a GM plant in the '70s. His myspace page has a digitized version of a song he wrote back in those factory days called "Speed it Up". So thanks for the tangent.

  2. Plenty of times while working at the voice I felt positive it would make a great sitcom. The boss passed out beer, the dog howled at the ambulances that went by frequently, and, in a band or not, everyone seemed ready to rock if the moment demanded such. Great people! Stoned mostly, but great nonetheless.

  3. As a Quaker might say, "this friend speaks my mind. However," I add, "you're supposed to help me out with links and further info."

    Regarding Ann Arbor music scene: BFP, yes. At the Charging Rhinocerous, correct? Also, preceding the Stooges and the Persuaders, Bob Scheff's Real Great Band--the rockingest dance band of the late '60s/early '70s. I will check out "Speed It Up," which sounds like an assembly line lament.

  4. There's quite a lot of nice stuff happening in Dayton, music-wise. I keep up with my own part in it at and another fine fellow covers and promotes all sorts of shows, he can be found at ... more as I think about them, I too am reminiscing about Dayton music as I am working on selecting songs for a number of scenes for a feature film that was shot here. More as I find them ...

  5. Hey, Nick. It's so great to know you're out there, still doing your music. I followed some of the links you provided. So many rewarding twists to maneuver.

    I had no idea what might be possible when you first brought the theremin to Dayton music. Your own rap about playing the theremin (at is a nice bit of explanation. Now, I really want to see a video of you playing it.

    In the meantime, the Gnarls Barkley Crazy Theremin Jam (at is something special. For contrast, there is Clara Rockmore playing a Saint-Saens classical piece on the theramin (which others can find by following the link to your theremin page).

    I also loved Tobin Sprout's Wedding Song at

    Thanks for all the tips. I appreciate the notion that you will pass along more links and info about the music you are working with. Please be sure to do so.