I Like Everything I Get in the Mail for Free
Great Plains "Directions to the Party"
Great Plains "Letter to a Fanzine"
So of course, despite all my periodic grumblings, Athens is actually a pretty awesome town to live in, particularly if you are of a certain age. A small college town can start to wear on you as you age, but when you’re in or around the college years the benefits to living in such a town probably outweigh the greater opportunities afforded by a big city. I went to school in New York for a year and, due in part to being completely overwhelmed and underfunded, didn’t accomplish or experience a fraction of what I had hoped to. Athens, on the other hand, is fairly easy to get a reasonable handle on. It takes little time or effort to get around, almost everything is dirt cheap, and, thanks to the strong music and arts scene, the social drop off from New York to Athens isn’t quite as unfathomably massive as one would think. And really, what’s the benefit to having a good rock show in town every night of the week if you can’t afford to go to a single one? Athens is way too insular and self-congratulatory, of course, but it’s not a bad place to waste your extended adolescence.
What’s this got to do with the Great Plains
? Nothing, directly. They were from Columbus, Ohio. But, like the Embarrassment
, the Great Plains are one of those quintessential college-town indie-rock bands, canonized locally but largely ignored everywhere else. If these were guys I’d see around town every day, serving me pizza, or filling my glass, I’d probably love them beyond all reason. As is, they were a fine band who made a few good records and a handful of great songs back in the 1980’s. And, though they were operating a decade and a half before my heyday, the college experience proves universal. "Directions to the Party" reminds me of countless nights spent outside the old ER, with friends trying to figure out how to get to houses of people we barely (or sometimes didn’t) know, in hopes of keeping the night from ending at a marginally respectable hour. Some of the lyrics to "Letter to a Fanzine" might be outdated, but the general sentiments should still ring true to adherents to the underground / indie-rock non-culture. Ohio-based scene archivists Old 3C
released a wonderful two-disc Great Plains compilation called Length of Growth, 1981-1989
in 2000, and that’s where I got these two from. You can buy a copy of the record from them
, or through Amazon
The Great Plains’ head guy, Ron House, is something of an underground legend in Ohio, due to his work in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s and also to his 1990’s group Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments
, who some folks went nuts over ten years ago or so. I don’t know much about TJSA
, but I have a brother who dug ‘em, and lots of minor-league journos bore their torch. I remember hearing a few songs on the radio when I was in high school, but nothing that really stuck out. I’m interested in checking them out, though, and they’ve been on my list for a long while now.