Tuesday, March 29, 2011

the Record Low - Chicago, IL

I met the Record Low’s Hank and Robby at a small open mic on the north side of Chicago almost seven years ago. Back then, they were an acoustic duo. I can’t say I was their biggest fan right away, but I saw the potential and talent that was obvious and evident. Through the publication (The Crutch) I ran, I did an event in 2004 called the Best of Chicago’s Open Mics. I chose Hank and Robby as one of the finalists. Then, we became friends.

They eventually added drums and bass – Justin and Markus, respectively. Collectively, they were the Record Low. Hank was beginning to push past his charming Tom Petty-style of writing and seemed to tap the subconscious more often. Robby pulled out his trademark black Gibson SG and showed signs of genius.

They released Here to Stay in 2007. The songs were great – I was now a fan – and they were fun, but one could sense more was to come. They got some local attention and that was that.

Then, Justin and Markus left the band, and the core started deconstructing everything. They experimented with different line-ups, instrumentation combinations, and went into the abyss with I saw as a mission to create something new and potent.

Last year, over two years later, they released Away From Us. They had taken the leap and found their voice.

Robby is one of the most creative guitarist I’ve seen. I’ve seen hundreds from ten feet away and he stands at the top. Hank’s lyrics and vocals are penetrating, yet untouchable. The album has precision, laid over an atmosphere of sound, with Hank soloing somewhere in the cloud. Their live show takes that and turns it all upside down. Busted bottles, stomping on guitars, and screams – there is nothing that can’t happen at a Record Low concert.

This is the beauty of this band. They are ever-changing, and multi-faceted – multi-dimensional. Like some of my favorite people, they’re always looking to better themselves. Both work their asses off in the studio, and all the hard work is now paying off, as they are receiving attention every time they play in or out of town. The Onion’s AV Club has been a fan for some time, and they made a number of "best of" lists last year.

Last summer, they added one of my favorite drummers, Jonny, who is best known for his work with The Changes. I think so much of Jonny’s drumming that I asked him to play on my own record last year. Robby actually auditioned him during that recording session. In the history of rock and roll folklore, this is how perfect matches happen, and Jonny may just be that for the Record Low.

The Record Low is currently working on another album. I was going to do a short documentary on the band, but after one day of shooting, I realized I didn’t have the tools to accomplish what I envisioned. However, I salvaged the day’s footage and created a short film for one of the most dynamic and creatively gifted bands I’ve seen in the last decade.

Go see the Record Low live this Thursday, 3/31, at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. If you RSVP by 11:59pm Wednesday night, the show is free. Send an email to rsvp@emptybottle.com with “the Record Low” in the subject line. Otherwise, it’s $8 at the door. They’re playing with Hospital Garden and F.Y.K.M.A.’s.

Finally, if I had to hand-pick Junk and Howe items for these three guys, this is what I would choose:




Monday, March 28, 2011

Siobhan's Photography & the Samsonite Bag

Samsonite Silhouette Suitcase at The Inn on Bourbon Street

A couple weeks ago, my friend and outstanding photographer, Siobhan, stopped by to say hello and check out a couple new Junk and Howe items I thought she'd like. She was on her way to a still-recovering New Orleans for Mardi Gras that week, and spotted a light blue Samsonite Silhouette Garment Bag/Suitcase. She wanted it for her drive down to Louisiana. The only problem was that someone had put a small lock on it and I didn't have any bolt cutters to get it off yet.

She had some.
Problem solved.

The bag hadn't even been photographed yet, and thus hadn't been added to the Junk and Howe store either. But, for someone I've known for years and whom I've kind of adopted as my little sister, I had no problem selling her the bag, along with a couple other items. My only condition, because I didn't want it to leave without having something to remember it by: "Please take a picture of the bag somewhere in New Orleans." She did, and as with most other pictures Siobhan takes, it's amazing, as you can plainly see above.

Siobhan did her undergraduate work at Columbia College in Chicago - Fine Arts Photography - and is currently doing graduate work there as well. I've known her since I ran my rock and roll publication, The Crutch, and I was always amazed at how easily she could adapt to photographic situations that she wasn't familiar with. After seeing so many bad snapshot type of photographs at small rock and roll shows here in Chicago, I urged her to get up there against the stage at Chicago staple venues, such as Empty Bottle and Double Door. She did, and she has taken some of the best rock and roll concert photos I've seen. Unlike the stuff you see in magazines, Siobhan captures the rawness that is rock and roll. The other stuff is too polished, and lacks the feeling that you get at an $8 show at a small venue.

King Khan

But it's her original, innate visual artist's eye that puts her on the fine arts level, as she is able to extract the feeling of even inanimate objects - as if she somehow is able to give voice to the walls of the Packard plant ruins in Detroit, or a lonely forgotten railroad track in tiny Argenta, Illinois.

Packard Plant

I did a couple favors by modeling for Siobhan while she was studying her undergraduate. By no means am I a model, and yet while attempting to play natural in a familiar setting, she revealed an emotional skeleton that I didn't realize was visible in every way. I, as a writer, would have a real task to match that kind of temporal breakthrough in words. Her gift couldn't be overstated.

Younger me, as a smoker

The Samsonite Silhouette bag is nothing like I've ever seen. Literally - I've never seen another one of these, and still can't find one anywhere on the Internet. Its design is so interesting, with both sides opening up to create a garment bag - with a hook for hangers and all. It's boxy, but it's rounded, so as not to crease whatever you want to keep unwrinkled. And its fabric zip-up girdle on the inside helps keep those hanging clothes secure against the skin, and separate from all the folded clothing you fill the bag with, as it acts like a large duffel would. It's pretty cool.

It's even cooler sitting on the bed at The Inn on Bourbon Street in New Orleans at Mardi Gras. Thanks, Siobhan!

Check out just a sliver of Siobhan's portfolio at her website. I believe she is going to be making available some stunning prints of her work in her own shop (on Etsy) sometime soon. We'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Newman's Own Organic Fig Newmans

If there’s one snack Julie and I love to take with us while we’re on the road junkin’, it’s Newman’s Own Organic Fig Newmans. They’re so good that I figured I’d take a moment to mention them.

This is one of those things where I feel the pictures say more than I can actually describe, especially since it’s food. The difference between Fig Newtons and Fig Newmans is noticeable in every way, from appearance, to ingredients, to taste, and even where they are made.

If you don’t know anything about Newman’s Own, you may enjoy checking out their history and work. Founded by actor Paul Newman in 1982, it really is one of the more beautiful organizations out there, who have genuine intentions. They give thanks to giant Kraft on their Fig Newmans website for allowing them to use the name (an obvious wordplay on the Fig Newton name). Kraft may go back on that agreement if more people knew about how amazing Fig Newmans are.

A glance at the picture and it’s obvious which has the more fig inside the cookie, and the organic ingredients of the Fig Newmans make them taste…real. The texture feels like a real cookie as well, rather than the sponge-like Fig Newton, and there is richness in each bite that doesn’t come with the Fig Newtons. The Fig Newmans are simply better in every way.

Knowing that some money goes to charity every time I buy a package of Fig Newmans is a nice added bonus for my consumerism, and I feel just as good knowing that they are made in the United States – unlike Fig Newtons, which are made in Mexico. And, with a quick check on Peapod, it seems that Fig Newmans are actually cheaper than Fig Newtons. What else can you ask for? You just have try one.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Connie Mack - East Brookfield, MA

When I was a kid, I loved and lived baseball. I not only played it for over 13 of my first 18 years, but I also studied its history. I learned the names of forgotten stars from decades past, read baseball books when they were available, and read the 2580-page Baseball Encyclopedia a few times through, which is solely comprised of statistics. I scoured thousands of stats, learned about the greats from every generation, and created many, many lists – best teams, best seasons, best in each decade, by position, by era, and so forth. Basically, I was a nerd about baseball.

One of my goals in life is to coach a high school baseball team – or be an assistant coach. While talking about it not too long ago, I vowed that if I ever did manage a high school bench, instead of wearing a uniform like the players, I would dress in a suit – like Connie Mack.

Born in 1862, Connie Mack played in the late 1800s and managed until 1950. Yes, those dates are right. He holds the record for most wins, losses, and games as a major league manager. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame while still a manager, in 1937. He won five World Series and nine American League pennants, mostly with the Philadelphia Athletics.

He was known as a contradiction in personality, but “gentleman” comes up a lot. Taking a look at his career in baseball, and him in his trademark suits, “class” is obvious. A saint of our national pastime, and not a bad dresser to boot, here are a few pictures of Mr. Mack just in time for baseball season.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Junk and the Junk and Howe Store!

Just added a few items. Due to Life we haven't added as much as we've wanted to in the past couple weeks, but our shelves are full of amazing items already, and more is sure to come. As soon as the weather breaks, and the rummage sales begin, it's going to be crazy. Can't wait!

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone from Junk and Howe!

Federal Glass Co. Golden Glory 21-piece Dish Set (BUY IT)

Vintage Women's Zodiac Cowboy Boots - size 7M (BUY IT)

Vintage Henry-Lee Polyester Striped Shirt Dress (BUY IT)

Vintage Women's Sears Red Spring Jacket (BUY IT)

Late 1940s Washington State Apple Commission Slicer/Corer in original box (BUY IT)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Exploding Pyrex?

Just about everything in this country has been processed to the point of degradation – our food, our public services, and our everyday tools – everything has been cheapened. It’s the Industrial Revolution’s worst nightmare, and a businessman’s dream. In the kitchen, Pyrex is still king – except it’s the old Pyrex that is worth the money, while the new stuff turns out not to be, and it’s even shown to be potentially dangerous.

Consumer Reports did a fantastic report on exploding glassware in their January issue. They point out the differences between soda lemon glass, which is used today, and borosilicate glass, which was used a generation or two ago. They tested both in various ways, using Pyrex and Anchor Hocking (owned by the same company today), along with European contenders and even a vintage Pyrex dish, like the ones we sell at Junk and Howe.

They also bring to attention a good reminder for anyone who cooks with glass ovenware, which is to read the warning labels and be informed as to how to use your glassware safely. At Thanksgiving last year, while waiting for the oven to warm up, my dad put a Pyrex baking dish on the electric range top. He didn’t know it was on, and within a few seconds, the dish exploded. When you watch the Consumer Reports video, you’ll see it happen in their test lab.

It’s not to say that the vintage dishes will never break – they’re simply less likely to bust because of what they were made out of in the past. It’s also just another addition to the long list of things that have diminished in quality over the last few decades. When it comes to glassware, whether it’s Pyrex, Fire King, Mckee (Glasbake), Hazel Atlas, etc., the quality of the vintage dishes have stood the test of time. They really don’t make them like they used to. ***

Friday, March 11, 2011

Howlin' Wolf - White Station, MS

It's Friday - enjoy yourself this weekend.

Howlin' Wolf - Smokestack Lightning

Made in the USA

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pyrex Percolator - Made in the USA

As you can see in our “Diane Sawyer Loves Junk and Howe” post from a few days ago, they (ABC News) had a hard time finding a coffeemaker that is made in the United States. They couldn’t find one at all, actually.

Many nights, Jules and I will make coffee, and we make it the “old fashioned” way. We use a Pyrex Percolator – made in the USA. It may take a few minutes more than an electric coffeemaker, but it tastes much better, no matter what kind of coffee you like, and you never have to flush clean a coffeemaker. I saw a commercial for CLR the other day, demonstrating how to clean your coffeemaker with this toxic product. And then you’re supposed to brew coffee through that? And drink it? Multiple cups? Ack.

I’m quite fond of this classic piece of flameware by Pyrex. It’s one of my favorites, and probably the one we most often use. We have a 6-cup – they also made 4 and 9-cup versions. Since we have the 6-cup, we use 6 tablespoons of coffee for 6 servings. Here are the instructions.

1. Fill water to the line at 6.

2. Place a filter in the glass and metal basket. You will have to poke a hole in the center/bottom of the filter in order to do this.

3. Fill the filter with 6 tablespoons of your favorite coffee. We recommend Chicago favorite, Intelligentsia.
4. Place the top on the glass basket, and place the stem and basket in the middle of the pot. Put the lid on.

5. Turn the flame on high. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT use glass percolators on electric range tops. They will shatter. Flame only!

6. It should take 8-12 minutes for it to begin percolating, causing the water to begin turning brown. After about 30 seconds or so, the entire pot of water should be brown.

7. Keep flame on high and let the coffee percolate for 4 more minutes.

8. Turn off the flame.
9. Using a kitchen towel, carefully remove the lid. Wait 2 minutes, and then carefully remove the stem and basket.

10. Replace lid and pour your coffee.

To clean, simply use a sponge with soap and water as you would with any other dish. The inner pieces – the glass stem and glass basket – are fragile, and should be handled with care. You can leave the handle and stainless steel band on for several uses, but it is ok to unscrew it and the handle to clean under the band once in a while. I would not put any pieces in a dishwasher.

We will have a few in the Junk and Howe store in the first couple weeks of May. There are a number on Ebay, but they’re often overpriced. If you can get your hands one, we’d recommend it. You’ll never want to use anything else.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Recent Junk and Howe Finds!

We're very happy to reveal some new stuff. We're keeping some of it - the Formica top metal kitchen counter for one - but we're also putting some of it in the store very soon. We always announce new items being put on the shelves via Facebook and Twitter, so please follow us. This is a good way to hear about 24-hour sales and other random things as well.

Update: The Pyrex Red Hostess Set sold in about an hour after it was put on the shelf! Some other items are now up - go grab 'em before they're gone!