Last Tuesday, just as Georgia Kral and I were putting the finishing touches on the questions for the blogger-run labels roundtable we would host on Newtown Radio later that week, I received what was probably my first true-blue blogger-run label PR email. The missive was addressed to Elish Oh of PIXELHORSE and myself, and signed by Mr. Michael P. McGregor of Chocolate Bobka/The Curatorial Club, one of the four music writers/labelmen invited to the discussion. Like The Report, McGregor’s new print publication, this new limited-run cassette label purports to be a space for projects in need of a home — here, “lost” musical footnotes in the careers of some of his favorite artists that are too minor for large-scale distribution, but too sweet to be forgotten.
This particular Curatorial Club release, the label’s fifth, hit unusually close to home. Not only was it recorded inside the very four walls where the blogger ethics panel was slated to unfold — the Newtown bunker — but it featured a musical project by Ari Stern, one of the moderators of the discussion and my very own cohost on Underwater Visitations. I think you could justifiably argue that I am too close to these head-spinning radio sessions by Family Portrait — and to the various people involved — to write about them. But since I was there in the room when they took place, and even contributed some memories of the event to the liner notes, I don’t think I can really get away with not saying anything at all.
These particular sessions went down the day after all four members of the band had reunited on stage for the first time since the epic Underwater Peoples Summer showcase at Market Hotel last August. The occasion was the secret Real Estate show Micro-Pixel-Rites hosted at the PIXELHORSE headquarters as a fundraiser for our unofficial SXSW showcase, so I guess we are partly responsible for the pronounced hangover vibe. As you can see from the following four memories salvaged from the fallout of this brunchtime tangent, Family Portrait didn’t just take the brainfreeze and run with it; they sublimated it into an entirely new sound. If the Ranch Party these cats hosted at SXSW this was sort of like their own mini-version of Woodstock, I guess Altamont had already happened well before the fact.
“It was a heavy session fueled with heavy smoke blasts and riffs, cyclical and meditative like a balloon that keeps floating upward.”
“I couldn’t see much of anything because there was so much smoke, but I’m pretty sure there were about 10,000 people in the studio that day — not to mention all the tailgate parties in front of the high school outside.”
Emilie Friedlander, Visitation Rites
“There was definitely a morning-after vibe during that brunch set. Possibly out of consideration for our hangovers, their usual heart-throbbin’ rockstar nighttime vibe was replaced with something softer and, dare I say, more sincere.”
Elise Oh, PIXELHORSE
“I walked in late, almost halfway through the set. A huddled mass of spectators glared up at me, wide-eyed, and almost cautionary. Dark Magic was brewing. A single howl arose from Family P’suncharacteristically murky depths: ‘Call me Mr. Flintstone, I can make your bed rock!'”
Family Portrait, “Gene” (Family Portrait Curatorial Club Cassette)