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Prairie Pop: To Hell in a Handbasket – “Paradise Lost” and the story of the West Memphis Three

In 1993, three second grade boys were murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas—a deeply conservative community in the heart of the Bible Belt. Naturally, Satanism was blamed and suspicion was cast on a trio of outsiders: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. “Fears of satanic cults reached their peak last week when the teenagers […]

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Prairie Pop: Black Rain Onslaught – Pitchfork Preview + Interview with Tim Hecker

So, you are a composer and performer whose music requires close listening, preferably in the dark. Your recent Iowa City show at the First United Methodist Church blew the audience away—or, rather, it sucked them into an all-enveloping temporary autonomous zone created with pipe organ and electronics. This aural explosion transported some listeners into the […]

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Atomic Andy Kaufman: The Comedian That Loved to Bomb

  Early in Andy Kaufman’s career, the comedic performance artist sometimes opened for musicians—including, implausibly, schlock-popper Barry Manilow and R&B greats the Temptations. The latter group’s predominantly black fan base wasn’t feeling his inept Foreign Man routine, so they unleashed an avalanche of boos as he wept uncontrollably. Kaufman then pulled out a large cap […]

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Prairie Pop: Identity Adorned

“Come with us through melody to the four corners of the earth,” the KTLA station announcer said as a mysterious man mesmerized viewers with a blissful gaze. “Hear music exotic and familiar spring from the amazing hands of Korla Pandit, on a musical adventure!” This attractive, androgynous figure massaged the organ with his slender fingers, […]

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Elements of Style: How a Gender-Bending Wrestler Changed Pop Culture

Professional wrestler Gorgeous George, the self-proclaimed “beautiful” showman, was a man out of time. Few entertainers—or anyone, for that matter—can claim such an eclectic and iconic list of devotees: James Brown, Bob Dylan, Muhammad Ali, Andy Kaufman and John Waters. Each borrowed a different element from George’s transgressive persona and style, adding their own spin […]

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Prairie Pop: Pitchforked

Photo by Benjamin Franzen My editor assigned me to find out, in his words, “Is the Pitchfork Music Festival still fun?” As luck would have it, I’ve been perfecting an algorithm that calculates the objective quality of the festival experience using the Pitchfork website’s well known rating system, from 0.0 to 10.0. Heat is a […]

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Prairie Pop: In Slack We Trust

Dead Kennedys were punk provocateurs that made satire a central part of their concerts, song lyrics and, for that matter, band name. (Lots of baby boomer parents felt it was offensive, but for lead singer Jello Biafra, “Dead Kennedys” was a metaphor for the death of the American dream.) They were political pranksters in the […]

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