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The Gossip

Late on a Monday night in Iowa City a few weeks ago I went to Gabe’s Oasis, the last stronghold of indie music in town, because I wanted to meet someone I once knew as out of place. It’s not often I know someone in any band that comes to this town, but that night the band was The Gossip, a band that says it’s from Olympia, Washington, but which really began when its guitarist (pictured here, at right) and former drummer escaped to there from my (and Chris’s) hometown in Arkansas. The guitarist? Nathan Howdeshell, who when I was in primary school sat beside me on the school bus. He grew up about three miles from my own home, as he explained that Monday night, “I grew up on a farm and covered my room with Morissey.”

To be honest, when we sat together on the bus was as close as we ever were. He was younger than I by a few years. When I was in college in the same town, he worked at the campus Chick-fil-A and Burger King. I bought a Whopper Jr. from him on occasion. I don’t believe either of us has ever been known for being gregarious, and I think, on top of all that, Nathan was thoroughly out of place. He published pseudonymous ‘zines on the staff photocopier at a place where anything that took the “maga” out of “magazine” was not just strange, but deviant.

I met Nathan that Monday before any show started. He was wearing a faded white t-shirt with cutoff sleeves and a black bandana tied tight around his neck. His stage name is “Brace Paine,” which is how he introduced himself when filming a promotional spot for the university television station. (“Hey! We’re the Gossip. Thanks for watching KRUI-TV!”) We talked for close to an hour about Searcy and what it means to move away from there. The band’s former drummer, Kathy Mendonca, was once on my yearbook staff in high school; by Nathan’s report, she is now a midwife in Portland, Oregon. The band is on a long tour, hitting college towns (and Little Rock, Oct. 10) in preparation for Europe this winter. When they’re not touring, Nathan puts on art shows in Portland and writes.

I stayed late for the show. They’re a good punk band: Beth (who is from Judsonia) has a voice like a gospel singer, a fact more evident even in a dirty, dark hole like Gabe’s than it is on record. The drummer is solid, but I don’t know how to listen to drums enough to say whether she’s great (must a drummer be great to play for a punk band?). Nathan’s guitar is melodic in the way that a punk guitar should be. These days my ears buzz when I go to shows; if I have no plugs, I am in pain for days afterwards. I had no plugs that day, but I think the pain in the end was worth it: it was the least I could do, anyway, for someone who, even though he never was at home there, will always be from home.



What a lovely piece. How did you find out he was coming to IC? He was a pal of my brother when they were both in Searcy. I’m glad he is feeling more in place these days. And envious of that European tour.

Actually, I read it in the newspaper the day of the show. They were here two years ago when Kathy M. was still drumming, but as I remember it was finals week, and I didn’t make it.

Aside: speaking of European tours, a Netflix movie for you: A Very Long Engagement, which we watched last night. (With Jodie Foster in her first froncophone role!)

they are interviewed here sounding grumpy about our hometown. they sound so much younger than they really are. not to say that i don’t like their music b/c i really do.

haven’t heard the music but that’s the 2nd or 3rd interview I’ve read in which they make searcy a major schticking point. funny that hating it so much has become idealized.
in even funnier news, rose begged me to open her new play doh and then was scared of it.

(The only possible response to news of Rose’s new fear of the interiors of colorful cans:) Doh!

They do enjoy emphasizing their origins. The brief article I read before the show even supplied hometown, rather than place-of-band-origin, news. I wonder: are they using their disenfranchisement from small-town life (which population-speaking, isn’t that small; it’s the countywide prohibition-era prohibitions that make it seem that way) as a way to legitimate their voices to speak/play music/be alternative? They talk about their places of origin in the same way that they talk about record labels. I find it oddly balanced: they hate the small town, but they also hate the big labels. Caught in medias res, only rather than “things,” subsititute “places.” (I don’t know Latin enough to do it myself.)

so would it be better, if they ala dylan, changed their names (oh they have)and concocted stories about moving around the usa growing up as sharecroppers…knowing the land…oh wait, that’s the folksinger myth…and he, of course, signed with columbia as fast as he could

in medias locus?
just a guess
no, i just think it would be better if they didn’t try to pretend a bedroom community of LR was a podunk hillbilly village. i called my bro’s bluff on the same thing on his law school apps.
of course, this is coming from someone who never lived in a town with a population above 19,000 (not counting research stints).

I agree with Mary. It’s one thing to be out of place in a city like Searcy; it’s another thing entirely once you’ve left to cast it as if its city government was staffed by a dozen cousins who fed their chickens the meth they made in their bathtubs. The town has spawned a major-party gubernatorial candidate, after all, and even though it’s on the wrong side of the state from the greatest economic growth it’s still a fairly well-off place what with the two hospitals and such. What I’d say about it more than anything is that it’s got a case of Southern suburban blight—but then, so does nearly every other city these days. For sure, the Gossip’s hometown is a fabrication that plays on the a priori dismissals made by coastal folk on the continent’s center.

in medias locus? That sounds good to me!

sort of has two hospitals. the white county one just bought the other one.

oh. that I didn’t know. But then I haven’t been back in three years. it had 2 hospitals when the g. lived there, anyway!

well, i lost a post…but the gist of it was…

they need this anger at small town america…otherwise they wouldn’t be punk…and wouldn’t be oh so american 20th century (winesburg, ohio…spoon river anthology…even great gatsby)...though, i assume that they want to be 21st or beyond or something.

MOVIE REC a great, quirky french flick is 8 Women. it’s a musical meets agatha christie. the clothing is 50’s, the music is somewhat 50’s/60’s teeny-bopper rock (ala parent trap…let’s get togehter, yeah, yeah yeah…or annette funicello style). it’s quirky and fun. saw it about a year or so ago.

thanks for both movie recs above.
and for the punk explanation. am reminded of my squareness every time i try to make sense of my bro/’s friends.

oh… the punk wasn’t directed at you, in the least.

there is an irony to their anger. rather than actually being free from this distopic searcy, that they created, as long as they continue to define themselves as the ones that got away from the oppressive little town, they will always be from that oppressive little town.

in (media) situ

yes, i am totally procrastinating!

here is the chorus to a wonderful little song by Clem Snide…called wierd from their End of Love album

i think it apropos

So you’re mother found God,
and your dad likes to drink.
You’re not as weird as you’d like me to think.