Thomas Faison: Phase Change Act III finale [opening Friday at Frederick Arts Council pop-up]

All things must come to an end…or does it? One thing’s for sure: my digital recorder has shit the bed. I know this because I’m staring at a screen indicating that a terrific 30 minute interview never actually recorded.

That interview was on Wednesday with Thomas Faison, Frederick’s native son who returned from the hinterland of Baltimore’s wildly creative art scene to see to an innovative installation piece at the Frederick Art Council’s pop up gallery on 11 W. Patrick Street. This is no ordinary installation work – it has evolved over the course of the year. We are about to enter the final act and the last changing of the variables in Faison’s mediation on the phases of water and its broader impact with and within humans, with reference to climate change disasters among the reflections. Lest you think it’s simply environmental activist art, pedantic it’s not. He managed throughout the year this difficult high wire act drawing on powerful emotions with the transformation that water brings, first in it’s destructiveness in Act I (think Ellicott City), then followed by Act II – deliverance in the shape of a boat that carried the weight of loss and the renewal that survivors working collectively brings.

OPENING NIGHT FOR PHASE CHANGE: ACT III is October 11 at 5pm at the Frederick Art Council pop up gallery, 11 W. Patrick St (across from the Weinberg).

Back to the goddamn recorder… I think perhaps it’s now a blessing in disguise. Interviews can reveal a lot, but there’s merit in being able to process a conversation without the literal recording to handcuff oneself to. So here goes. In recollecting the pieces together, it’ll be a re-mix of what we talked about and maybe, just maybe, it’ll interest you further into getting yourself to see this show, before it passes on into faded memory.

Photo: Ashley Hoffman

The discussion began with my fawning over seeing ACT II on opening night, May 10th. I had previously interviewed him for Subversive Zine’s last issue around that time frame. In ACT II, the synchronized looped videos endlessly fascinated me. Therein the mundane task of carrying out steps to phase change water from liquid to steam was given to millennial actors portraying survivors of the flooded urban city in ACT I. Now climate change refugees in the country side, they must adapt and get elemental – namely by finding and burning wood to create boiling water. It was ritualistic, it was hypnotic, and the music added to a boiling point of its own, like a rave reaching it frenetic peak as the videos connected together in its own dance.

Observing this art, you get the sense that this work is brilliantly innovative. So much so that it doesn’t feel like it belongs in Frederick. My spider-sense tells me this is something that will wind up at the Hirshorn in DC…

Opening night for Phase Change: Act II

We talked about the interactivity of the art. Act I people could manipulate the pieces to divert the river that was wreaking havoc in the town. Act II, people could add their own thoughts by typing into an old manual (and on brink of self destructing) typewriter. They could then add it to the proverbial water under the boat. Interestingly, Faison recounted people choosing to draw plants – to replace the ones that died when the Frederick Arts Council shut down access to the building for several long weeks due to mold growth (not from the art installation mind you, that mold for quite some time festered due to leaks in the building roof. Talk about water issues…

Photo: Ashley Hoffman

Moving finally onto Act III with our conversation, Faison didn’t have it all completed at that moment – he was still working to the deadline to have it ready on Friday night at 5pm for the opening. He showed me what he had designed thus far. All the bricks used for ACT I and parts of Act II were reused to build an angled stairway eventually reaching the ceiling and an exploding brick revealing an 8mm film screening of children, who, according to the FAC press release, “build, destroy, and play, demonstrating a creative freedom as a possible answer to this grand tragedy.”

IS there really a way out? I asked him about the news that lent gravitas to his work -the news of rising flood waters – increased frequency and intensity of storms – melting glaciers – islands getting swallowed up by rising seas. How strange that reality isn’t now a dystopian novel. The present has this feeling…like we’re approaching the end of the world. We’re fucked…aren’t we? Faison seemed to be nonplussed; after all, 1+1=2 and hyper-capitalism was all along going to inevitably lead to this unsustainable catastrophic conclusion as we stare and still can’t quite believe what we see on other side of the mathematical equation.

The question then transfers to…what next? If given a process to rebuild, to renew, then perhaps art or creativity will lead us to…whatever that “next part” is. It’s an open ended question, one that Faison is willing to explore with his heart on his sleeve. Rather than approach the end of the world from a nihilistic POV, in his art and in this last act of his installation piece, he transfers a curious wonderment of this unknown future and the possibility of rebuilding that’s just around that corner. Of a cycle that repeats – and as much as it destroys – it also has the potential of rebirth… and of renewal.

Extra Time: Ashley Hoffman‘s companion photo exhibit to Phase Change (I think) will continue at the FAC pop up gallery. Her show opened the same night as Faison’s Act II back in May.

Hear it first! – Crooked Hills ( Live Set )

Hello! AC here of Chili Town Radio,

I just recorded a live set by CROOKED HILLS for an upcoming episode of chili town radio. I wanted some of you to be able to hear it first or in the case at least a couple songs from the set. You will be able to hear the whole set when the full episode is up.

I am still working on the newest episode. You can listen to the podcast on soundcloud and itunes podcast!  – Older episodes will back up when the new one is posted.

Fugazi @ Weinberg 30 years ago + Shut Up & Listen / Cosmic Hallitosis / Cheshi+more January 13

Saturday January 13th 2018 — seems so Frederick to schedule a billion things all on one weekend night (not that I’m mad at anyone – it’s just more challenging to figure out logistics to be 3 different place at once).  So here’s how Western Machines reboots in 2018 after several months layoff – pick a random weekend to preview/list what the fuck is going down in Frederick.  Frederick Playlist highlighted the Cosmic Hallitosis show, but there’s 2 more events to keep tabs on. If you can multitask – you’re going to have a more sonically adventurous Saturday.

But first, it has been too long since I last posted – and it was mostly about the Nov city election. Turns out the dems made a clean sweep (made easier when the GOP candidates either got caught cheating by forging his signature so his daughter could vote for him  -from the Frederick Extra (hilarious irony as it’s the GOP that’s generally always accusing the other side of illegal voting), or didn’t show up to campaign at all – literally.

But nothing since then, though I should have posted about my own writing, having finally published a piece on the improbable events leading to Fugazi having played at the prim and proper Weinberg Center 30 years ago!  Pretty wild scenes in there – mosh pits (CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT AT THE WEINBERG?!) …the thing that blew me away researching the article was discovering there was NO CONTRACT AT ALL!  It was all verbally done, a simple phone call by a the 16 year old Chris Stup.  That would never happen today. I’ll tell you something else that will never happen again (probably -never say never I guess): Fugazi -should they regroup- or another post-hardcore band headlining at the Weinberg.  I do regret not getting in all the different stories and anecdotes about the 3 legendary Fugazi shows at the Weinberg – but through Subversive Zine, I’m doing a more comprehensive expanded version of the article.  Stay tuned for that (not in the next issue, #5 which is coming out soon- the expanded Fugazi piece will likely be in #6).

Fugazi at Weinberg in 1989 / Photo: J. Venverloh

But the flipside is that Frederick had a legit punk rock scene. Actually a few different unique and occasionally cross-collaborative scenes – metal / hardcore / punk / post punk / new wave.  They had all ages venues downtown – they were making waves outside of Frederick.  It happened before.  While there is a legit music scene today, all punching above their weight, I think everyone, including those in those bands know that it could be so much better. The missing ingredient – and common theme since Western Machines came online – is Frederick is in dire need of a mid-size music venue.  Even Scott Ambush, bassist for Spiro Gyra was quoted in the FNP 72 Hours yesterday:

Ambush…believes that Frederick getting a mid-size venue is the logical next step to a more vibrant music scene.

“A 300- to 500-seat venue would be great here,” he explained. “That would allow enough sales for regional and less expensive national acts to play in an atmosphere where food and drink was served. If I had the money, I would do it.”

There are some challenges that may get in the way — Ambush cited that a smaller venue means there’s less at stake compared with a mid-size venue.

Imade Borha interviewed Ambush and got that response — I agree with him on the need for a venue of course, but the food/drink thing – I don’t know – we may have slightly different ideas on what the atmosphere would look like for a hypothetical venue.  Anyway, FNP reporter Kelsi Loos tweeted this:

That would be Frederick County’s 20 year plan that incorporates a possible blueprint to making Frederick more livable – including improving entertainment/cultural options in order to attract people to come work and play in the area.  There was a survey (not a great one as surveys go) that went into the just released master plan – check that out here.

But how serious are they at the county or city level about this mid size venue idea?

In any event – New Spire Stages was in the news -the former Frederick Cultural Center on 15th and Patrick –   they’re doing a groundbreaking ceremony next week with a new executive director – eventually a 300-500 person capacity… maybe barebones ready by July…more on that soon…



2 quick plugs – Subversive Zine finally has a website – find it at 

Already lots of more up to date stuff that’s on the online version of Subversive – like covering the new O’Conner mayoral adminstration,  and their super rad playlist on spotify (apple too? not sure but I’m going to check that out) + a comprehensive Frederick band list.

Last plug, I’ve been to Anthem in DC, their new ‘midsize’ venue built and operated by DC independents IMP and I got to review St Vincent’s show there last month (late Nov really) for the FNP.   Check out the review here.  The show was such a blast – Emily Jessee took this incredible photo below:


Photo: Emily Jessee



finally the shows that matter this Saturday, in no particular order:


Local Hip Hop at 611 – neat!


Next up: Cosmic Halitosis 1st full length album release show at Guidos, starting at 9pm.  From their FB events page:

…On January 13, the planets will align, blood will rain from the skies and rock ‘n’ roll will spread through the air like a toxic fume, creeping and slithering into every crevice. Comic Halitosis is releasing their first full length album and will be celebrating at Guidos!!!

Cosmic Halitosis

Slow Reader

My Friday Anthem

and if you missed it, Frederick Playlist interviewed frontman Matt Henry (and relatively new father – he joins the rock dad club) about the new album release called “Where is She?” Good lineup – and I heard My Friday Anthem has a new album nearly ready to drop. Subversive Zine is previewing their new album soon…


Last but not least:


Cheshi and Silent Old Mts did a set last weekend at Baltimore’s Ottobar (hopefully they slayed – this rock dad couldn’t make it).  But I can make up for it partially by going to this show.  Doors at 9, music starts at 10, from the FB events page:

CHESHI (alt-indie)

HEXGIRLFRIENDS (electrofemme punk)

EVOLV (cinematic sound)

It is 21+ show and 3-5$ cover.   You know that WM is all about Cheshi — now HexGirlfriends is a Baltimore band I’ve been wanting to check out, and all the better that they’re coming to Nola. Evolv sounds very ambient/electronic – from DC – could be interesting.

I’m taking in all 3 shows somehow.  Let the transmorgrifying begin…it’s gonna be a long night. Enjoy, be safe, and don’t act like a trump out there. Peace.





(Gabriella Portelles) – Live at The Underground Bike Shop

On January 3rd I recorded 2 songs performed by Gabriella Portelles – Starting out with a cover song by Drake, “Passionfruit” followed by an original, “Stay Still, Midnight”.

I traveled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for a sweet show at a bike shop in town! Gabriella opened for a touring band , DUMP HIM which was on a past chili town radio episode.  They will be having more shows  at the bike shop as well! I definitely enjoyed spending time in that city!

This live recording will be on the upcoming episode of Chili Town Radio, I just wanted to share it with everyone now! <3


Frederick City Election: on Nov 7…just fucking vote

So a couple things happening – but lets narrow all this down to 2 things to focus on.

  1. Subversive Zine #4 is out. Rad af.  Get it at a subversive joint in and around Frederick and read it front to back now.  I’m just getting caught up and didn’t realize there’s a spotify Subversive playlist – that’s how subversive this whole thing is – it slipped under my own radar!
  2. Frederick City general election is taking place Tuesday Nov 7 – polls open at 7am and close at 8pm. If you already voted when early voting was an option – you get a prize: having a democratic say in who will be the next mayor and who will represent you on on the city council – otherwise known as the Board of Aldermen.

Already early voter turnout last week was better than expected, 1400 showed up – but that’s in contrast to historic low turnout in the primary elections in September AND the last general election several years ago. 

Subversive has written about the anemic and incredibly lame voter turnout and how it’s contributed to the “bland arts” in Frederick visa vis Mayor “do nothing” Randy McClement getting re-elected. The newest piece on Frederick’s turnout is both shame inducing but hopefully constructive in urging people to come out and utilize their democratic right to regime change and a better direction for Frederick:

[from Subversive Zine #4]

And the winner of the Frederick City
Primary is: APATHY
Seriously folks, we’re talking 13.73% turnout here. Congrats
Frederick, that’s one of our lowest voter turnouts in recent history.
That’s a little over 4,000 voters determining the city’s fate out of
31,000 registered Republicans and Democrats (in a city whose
population is nearing 70,000). Maybe this does not seem too bad,
and likely compares to other similarly-sized cities, but I’m pissed,
and you should be too. Here’s why:

Frederick is growing…fast. Really fast. Anyone driving up and down
Route 15 can tell you that the rate of bulldozing farmland for shitty
condos and townhomes is way way up. The downtown seems to
be flourishing (particularly for the khaki/polo crowd), and, I am told,
Frederick is a hotspot for tourists. This means money is coming in,
and that means the city will continue to grow, and cities can grow
in intelligent ways or really dumb ways. This is a critical juncture in
Frederick’s existence: will it continue to grow in the most bland way
possible, complete with Jimmy Buffet cover bands and so many fountains that even they become
bland, or will its people
seize this opportunity to
city from the surrounding
Washington D.C. suburbs?

Electing the “right” people
is just one approach. We still need awesome people working at
the bottom to challenge the complacency of this town…make weird
art, organize anti-gentrification demonstrations, engage in urban
gardening, dive headfirst into the cultural diversity of the Golden
Mile, ride bikes with fancy leather seats that conform to your unique
ass shape, whatever…BUT we also need a more cohesive vision of
Frederick’s identity and future. It helps when the leadership can fulfill this need by listening to the people, thinking creatively, and
unifying a city. That’s all the city: diverse neighborhoods out on the
west end, weird townhome people living north along 26, the stalwart longtime downtown folks and their burning desire to have bulk trash pickup return, the metal crowd, and newcomer hipsters. Interesting cities that people actually bother to visit: Asheville, Lancaster, Shepherdstown…all have support for the arts and visions of what makes themselves unique. If we want to attract that kind of attention, not to mention interesting people who want to open businesses etc. we had better start cultivating a better identity.

So, that’s all to say that I am sick of our nonexistent leadership. I want a mayor and board of aldermen that I actually want to rally behind and give me the sense that they are forward-thinking and not just good at cutting oversized ribbons. I want a mayor that appreciates the potential this town has and gives a
damn about being proactive about
pointing it in the right direction. Was
I enamored with any of the primary
candidates? No, frankly I think we
need new blood, but at this point I
do know that I sure as hell do not
want another 4 years of Blandy

From Subversive Zine #4

Please, register and GO VOTE.
Fight off apathy for just the few minutes you’ll be in the voting booth. Give it a try and maybe you’ll start to feel like you have some more control over the city’s future. Maybe not, but it would be nice for Frederick’s fate to be determined by more people than the same few thousand that decide to vote.

Honestly, given the clusterfuck that is national politics we should all be taking a harder look at the local level and start to change things for the betterhere. With only a 1500 vote margin between the winning mayor and 2nd place last election it is a lot easier to have your voice heard here than it is when you’re yelling at Trump. Both are important, one just starts in your community.


Thanks for that Subversive —who will be finally putting some of their content on the interwebs after counter intuitively going analogue in a digital world all this time since launching in March.

This might not be a thing we’ll do with each election but we’re going to do it and take the plunge. WesternMachines endorses:


Michael O’Conner (D)



Ben McShane (D)

Roger Wilson (D)

Derek Shackleford (D)

Donna Kuzemchak (D)

Kelly Russell (D)


Find your polling place here.   Get out…and fucking vote.

Extra Time: November 25 might not register as a particularly important date but on that day in 1987, a weird and wonderfully unexpected thing happened. Fugazi – then really unknown except to the Dischord post punk scene in DC – drove up a few miles from their homebase and played the historic Weinberg Theater in Frederick.  Don’t want to give too much away but I’m doing a piece about this, it’ll be a little more expansive on just some unlikely events transpired into an even more unlikely venue pairing featuring THE most influential underground band of the past several decades  -at the prim and proper Weinberg. What impact would Fugazi coming up to Frederick have on the city?  Stay tuned…


(RHIN) – Live at Guido’s Speakeasy

Hey! It’s AC of Chili Town Radio. I am currently testing out and practicing live recordings at cool shows! I figured I’d  share my progress in between main episodes of CTR. The first recordings are two tracks by the band RHIN, A heavy punk band from Shepherdstown, WV.

RHIN is also on Grimoire Records.

J Berd : Representing at Pop Montreal 2017 Today

Art and hip-hop goes together like rolled joint to a flame.  Today marks the start of the Pop Montreal Festival. As diverse & eclectic a lineup as that festival is, from ASMA to Wu Tang Clan, Frederick/Hagerstown’s own J Berd will be holding it down by opening the festival tonight at 6-8pm. Along with DJ Blaze, he’ll be doing his set (my guess: a mix of stuff from “Latchkey Kids” and stuff from his upcoming “Overtime” album).  That’s not all – he’s bringing his artwork and installed it yesterday. His art exhibit, titled Adventures in Boom Bap “depicts his friends and fellow musicians in his local scene as well as heroes from Rap history,” and will be up during the festival.

J Berd has been doing some high profile shows lately, including a May 5th Pittsburg show opening for Method Man & Redman. He was also scheduled to do an opening set, opening for Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) at Rams Head in B’more in late September – that’s been postponed until later in the year – we’ll try to update when we have the new date.

Continue reading J Berd : Representing at Pop Montreal 2017 Today

Frederick City Election Tuesday: WesternMachines + Subversive Zine want YOU to VOTE!

Less than 17% of Frederick city voted in the last election in 2013. That is atrociously low – and as a consequence, Mayor Randy McClement was re-elected.  In office since 2009, McClemment is Republican that has – how do we put this- has done virtually nothing. In the meantime, gentrification has blossomed in the city like weeds, and little cultural improvements to the Frederick landscape has encapsulated his time as the hands off mayor. In a moment captured several years ago over the future of the Carmack/Jay building on 5th and Market, he was laughed at by hundreds in attendance when he said he thought things were going well in Frederick. Status Quo, same old same old?  Naw.  The people in that crowded city hall weren’t buying that.

An opportunity has emerged: Frederick City wide primary voting will take place September 12 from 7am and polls close 8pm.


Early voting has come and gone, but here’s a chance to take the reins of democracy in your hands. It’s the punk thing to do.  Subversive Zine’s debut in March highlighted the incredibly low participation rate in the 2013 elections.  Can the narrative be flipped?   Both WM and Subversive thinks so, especially in light of how galvanizing the threat to democracy  ‘president trump’ has been.  The question is will it translate to a city election tomorrow? Continue reading Frederick City Election Tuesday: WesternMachines + Subversive Zine want YOU to VOTE!

Tuff Junior & Mr Husband Sept 2 @ cafe nola

This non-frequent posting thing just has to end, might as well end the loooong break on labor day weekend as Tuff Junior AND Mr Husband team up for a killer show at Nola tomorrow – that’s Saturday night Sept 2.

Tuff Junior is a post Old Indian project of frontman Cory Springirth and while we’re waiting for their EP,  the few shows they’ve done in Frederick and the 2 online singles released on their bandcamp page have given a pretty good indication of the awesomeness that awaits.

Mr Husband – we’ve written about before so I’ll let the promo from Cafe Nola do the talking…

Mr. Husband is the songwriting and comedy persona of Kenny Tompkins.  He is best known as co-founder of noteworthy indie-upstart Yellow K Records who released one of 2016’s most critically acclaimed albums “Psychopomp” by Japanese Breakfast.   In his live band Tompkins is joined by Chris Morris of Cotton Jones on drums and Jasen Reeder of Page France on bass. The group is quickly making a name for itself with their unique live show which mixes in small doses of comedy, theatrics, and faux-self-help all centered around extremely well crafted songs.   Mr. Husband is currently on tour in support of their debut  “Plaid on Plaid” which was released on May 5th, 2017 via Yellow K Records. Continue reading Tuff Junior & Mr Husband Sept 2 @ cafe nola

Fun Boys EP release & Kai Orion/Luna shows today

I’m on the run (what’s new?) but quickly now – this should b on yr radar:

Fun Boys EP release show at Guidos.  Starts at 9pm – until 1am maybe. They just played Baltimore with Cheshi and Middle Kid last night. And tonight Fun Boys brings some Baltimore bands to join in the fun: Micah E. Woods, Hexgirlfriends, and Albert Bagman (I think Albert Bagman is from b’more).  Here’s description from their FB event page:

Get ready!

The Fun Boys- Hometown heartthrobs

Micah E Wood- Baltimore sad boy indie hip pop

Hexgirlfriends- Electrofemme punk from Baltimore

Albert Bagman- Baltimore avant-garde freak folk

Free show!
Support the bands!
Tip your bartenders!
Party! Guidos: 543 N. Market St

Also tonight at Cafe Nola: Kai Orion’s bday show: from the FB events page:

Kai Orion is an experimental-pop songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Frederick. His work blends unconventional techniques with accessible songwriting, drawing comparisons to the likes of Peter Gabriel and Tom Waits. Orion’s debut album, “Pots & Pans,” was created using only common everyday objects and sounds as instruments, in addition to vocals. The Frederick News Post called it “the most ambitious record of 2015.” In 2014, Orion won a cover contest held by indie rock band The National for his cover of their song “I Need My Girl.”

Alexander Gallows is a versatile singer-songwriter from the D.C. area. His work focuses around the acoustic sound and lyricism. His debut album “Solitude” is available on CDbaby, Soundcloud, and Spotify.

Luna is a Frederick based singer/songwriter, playing dreamy acoustic pop with an experimental aesthetic and sophisticated lyrics.


Frederick Playlist highlighted Kai this week – giving Kai a celebrity playlist. Tom Waits, Peter Gabriel + prog rock era Genesis among other good picks like the National, Massive Attack and Talk Talk  – pretty decent listening – check that here.


We’ll try to update when we can, lots of talking points including:

  • Successful New Spire Spaces open house last week – tons of people showed up – another event July 21 Media Town Hall  make sure you put that on yr calendar
  • Brunswick’s SmokeHouse brewery looking to refurbish an old firehall event space that once hosted Duke Ellington and Patsy Kline – it be interesting to do some musical archeology to see what other bands once played during the venue’s glory days.
  • July 21: first run arthouse cinema returns to Area 31 now that LEDA principal filming is over.  LOST IN PARIS is another fantastic Oscilliscopes Lab release – get tickets on eventbrite and check out the trailer:


culture pushing in frederick