Get in the Van
|Eye on the prize: National Eye rock the hirsute hipster look.|
How a New Orleans label snatched a scene in Philadelphia.
by Mike McKee
Welcome to the global village. Maps are still sort of cute if
you're a cartographer, but really, what's the point? The notion of a geopolitical
border is nearly as outdated as the mashup. Still, we Philadelphians are nothing
if not territorial.
Park the Van Records has been siphoning good Philly talent behind
our backs with the sort of tenacity usually reserved for a Nike job fair in Mexicali.
Formed last year by Devil in the Woods label boss/publisher Michael Cloward and
former label manager Chris Watson, the New Orleans-based imprint has stocked its
roster with Philadelphia groups.
The label's inaugural signing was none other than Dr. Dog,
a sunny, somewhat psych group of sprawling membership, culled from the remains of
the recently defunct Raccoon. In fact, Watson says the label was started with the
band in mind.
Well, that's fine-I guess. Only Watson didn't
stop there. Giving little thought to the many labels that've earned
a 191- zip code, he then turned around and signed the Teeth. And before you could
say "neo-liberal globalizing motherfucker," he started drawing up a contract
for fellow 215ers National Eye.
"Park the Van has been pretty word-of-mouth from the get-go,"
Watson squirms, trying his best to give this all a positive spin. "Dr. Dog
told us we had to work with the Teeth. Then their guitarist Andrew Jones
told us we had to work with National Eye. Then they've told us
we have to work with the Capital Years ... we're not signing the Capital
Years, but that's how it's worked. The label has just naturally progressed
into this big circle of friends."
After Hurricane Katrina, Watson was left to start nearly from
scratch, having lost office equipment, a workspace and hundreds of copies of PTV
releases. Evidently George Bush doesn't care about indie rockers either.
In a bid to consolidate his power, Watson followed the goldmine
of talent he'd already struck upon, shipping the company up north to suburban
Schwenksville, Pa., where he could monitor his Philadelphia interests with an even
And now he just waltzes into town expecting a hero's welcome.
Predictably, big business has gotten behind our new neighbor.
Industry magnate Sean Agnew of R5 Productions has ponied up to back-scratch for
the upcoming Park the Van showcase.
"It's new blood that's sorely needed," Agnew
bellows between hearty munches on his unlit cigar. "It's a refreshing
take on how a label should operate."
Fat cats like Agnew may be content to replace their monocle and
work out their own advantage to a strong pack of bands and a new label with growing
national attention. But if you're looking for any sort of popular uprising,
don't get your hopes up. Watson even has labor in his pocket.
Zach Miller, guitarist for Dr. Dog, who'll be headlining
the upcoming showcase, has nothing but praise for Park the Van. He doesn't
see his band as being exploited. If anything, he welcomes Watson's borderless
new world order.
"I hope the rest of the world catches on to what's happening
here," he says. "I really think we have something very special in Philadelphia.
All of our favorite bands are still Philadelphia bands, and now just happen to be
Park the Van bands too."
We might as well book the ticker-tape parade already. Welcome
"home," Park the Van.
Park the Van Showcase
Thurs., May 4, 7:30pm. $12. With Dr. Dog, Teeth, National Eye
+ Rifle Nice. First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St. 866.468.7619. www.r5productions.com