Best You’ve Never Heard: Jacknife Records

CD Warehouse, on the corner of Abbott and Albert, sells music just like any other store you might find in the Meridian Mall. However, the people that work in this store don’t just sell music, they make it through their own label called Jacknife Records.
Jacknife Records is mainly run out of CD Warehouse by its manager, Rick Pniewski, to support local talent. The label was passed down by local group Eight-ball Grifter when the band left for Florida. Currently, the label has five bands under its label: The Fighting Hellfish (which Pniewski is a member of), Honesty and Steel Reserve, Heroes Love Revenge, Red Ship and Skaty-8.
The label is truly grassroots –it promotes its bands through fliers and live promotion- but the lack of investors doesn’t keep Pniewski down.
[jacknife1] “The label’s main goal is to create a community and have name recognition,” he said. The main goal of Jacknife Records is to work toward a large musical community of bands working together to support each other. They’re looking beyond the borders of Lansing, too, considering adding a band from Grand Rapids and even one from Indianapolis.
Sean Murphy, bassist for Heroes Love Revenge, said that Jacknife Records is still getting things ready and focusing on helping the bands that they currently have in any way that they can. The label tries to get the name out there as much as it can with limited resources, he said. “Name recognition is huge,” Pniewski said.
According to Pniewski, bands and labels that receive name recognition in the community will attract more people to buy their CDs. On a student’s tight budget, no one is going to just throw down $10+ to check out a band that they know little about. They have to hear about the band from someone they trust, or see the band live. In steps Jacknife Records.
The bands in the label have done a number of “Jacknife Record Sets” in area venues to work up a little of that coveted name recognition. And it works both ways, bringing in customers to local venues as well. According to Murphy, the label is looking to get these shows to occur on a regular basis.
[jacknife2] Many of the label’s members currently play in full-time bands while maintaining a full-time job, like Pniewski’s day gig at CD Warehouse. Although they’re hoping to hand over the reigns of the label to someone full time, until that time comes, members of the label are doing it all.
Jacknife Records may not have money or management, but Pniewski still has high aspirations. He wants to see the label become the Epitaph Records of the Midwest. Epitaph was started in a closet in California during the 80’s and has now come to have bands such as NOFX, Bad Religion and The Offspring – not too shabby.
Until then, students can check out what Jacknife Records has to offer at local venues. The next “Jacknife Record Set” will be at Mac’s Bar on Dec. 10 featuring Fighting Hellfish and Heroes Love Revenge.

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Best You’ve Never Heard: Flatfoot

Big Sid is on the loose in the Lansing area after being released by local band, Flatfoot. The band’s second album, The Legend of Big Sid, follows the theme of “rootsy” rock with influences from blues and country twisting through each song.
The album stretches the meaning of “rootsy” to its fullest extent. It covers a wide variety of styles from rock ‘n’ roll to acoustic, and of course the band’s trademark twang of alternative country.
The song “Jesse James” uses an old-time blues guitar and kicks off the album with a harmonica solo that draws listeners into the album. Later songs on the release go for a more acousitic, twangy feel. Some of the works even resemble some modern rock tones, according to band member and co-lead singer Aaron Bales.
Bales said the band’s defining song is the title track, Big Sid, describing it as high energy with a good story behind it.
“Everybody got to put their stamp on the song,” Bales said.
Despite the album’s many different sounds, the band has a few consistent points, which makes for easy transitions from track to track. The consistent harmonic singing by Bales and his fellow bandmates pulls most of the album together. Also, many of the songs on the album have dark undertones, according to Bales.
“We wanted to make it [this album] what we wanted it to be,” he said of the limitations the band faced on their previous album, such as time constraints and the inability to digitally master the raw sound from the studio.
For this album, the band was able to invest a good amount of time and create a much fuller sound than its predecessor. And it has paid off. Bales said the twangy influences of Elderly Musical Instruments, the blue collar workers and the wide variety of music in Lansing have allowed their band to flourish.
“We have never gotten a bad reaction from the crowd,” Bales said. “We can go and rock out the freshman at MSU and then play at Dagwood’s where 20 to 30-year-old customers will appreciate what we are doing.”
Sean Murphy, of the band Heroes Love Revenge and CD Warehouse employee, said that Flatfoot’s live shows are some of the best in the area. He does admit that it is hard to sum up the band’s complex and intricate sound in just a few words, but said that the album is very well done.
The most satisfying feeling for the band is getting a positive reaction because that means they are doing something right, Bales said. Although the band plays only about two shows a month, they really enjoy what they do and want people to have fun when they come see them.
The Legend of Big Sid is available at the CD Warehouse and Flat, Black and Circular, both close to the MSU’s campus, or online at +CD Baby. For two-minute samples of each song on the album, check out www.flatfootmusic.com.
Flatfoot’s next show will be at Mac’s Bar in Lansing on Dec. 7, with Anders Parker and Starlite Desperation.

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Don’t Turn on the T.V.

Vote Bush! Vote Kerry! Yes to Proposal 1! No to Proposal 1! Turning on that television in the next week will only result in being bombarded with political ads not afraid of telling you what exactly you should be thinking when you step into that voting booth.
There is no doubt that the media plays a huge role in the upcoming elections. In fact, both parties have collectively raised around $1 billion to influence voters through television ads, concentrating a large portion in the swing states, like Michigan, forcing students like us to sit through such a barrage of advertisements, especially negative ones, now with a random assortment of wild animals.
[neg1] Richard Hula, professor and department chair of political science, said that ads will only increase in negativity as election day approaches since negative ads are shown to be more effective.
“In close races, candidates tend to go negative,” Hula said.
With the race running close, media corporations will put their two cents into the campaigns by unleashing their own biases onto voters. For instance, Republican-friendly Sinclair Broadcast Group aired parts of a controversial documentary called “Stolen Honor,” which paints candidate John Kerry’s Vietnam record in a not-so-flattering light. On the other side of the political fence, liberal Michael Moore released “Fahrenheit 9/11″, a documentary highly critical of the Bush Administration, on DVD only weeks before the election.
Jamie Brunet, a MSU sophomore, thinks that these kinds of films have a positive affect because it allows the public to access information on the candidates. Scot Yoder, a MSU Professor of Philosophy, doesn’t share the sentiment, saying he believes it’s hard to distinguish credible sources.
“People who play by the old rules in the new environment get screwed,” said Yoder.
Yoder suggested students use a wide variety of sources when gathering their information because they can no longer trust only one source for the truth.
“[The media] sway ignorant people to be more for a party that the really don’t understand,” communications sophomore Tori Boden said.
While ad agencies and media outlets may be able to influence the opinions of ignorant viewers, only those who get out to vote have a say in who will run our country. So, this Tuesday, when you enter the voting booth, vote based on what you believe is right, not what negative ads and biased reporting tell you is wrong.

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An ‘Unruly Night’

It isn’t often an independent movie breaks through the velvet ropes of local theaters. It’s even less often that a movie written and filmed in Lansing has the chance to reach a large audience on the big screen.
“Unruly Nights” and it’s creators hope to change it all. The movie, written and produced by MSU theater junior Nathaniel Nose, premiered in NCG Theaters located in the Eastwood Town Center in East Lansing on Thursday Oct. 8. Nearly 200 people, ranging from 17 to 70-year-olds, piled into theater 3 to view the film, a 1970s take on William Shakespeare’s “MacBeth.”
[unruly] Not only was the opening a first for the independent film scene in Lansing, it was a first for the theater, as well. “This is a new avenue for us,” said Kristy Smith, day manager of NCG. She said hopes the community really responds positively to the local involvement of the theater.
Nose was working with Brett Smith on a movie when he showed Smith the trailer of “Unruly Nights.” Smith was impressed and suggested Nose show it to his father’s theater, NCG. Nose and his partner, Jeff Croley, then showed the movie to theater management who agreed that the movie was good enough to run for a week, Nose said.
After fifteen months of work and a tight $1,000 budget, the film was shown free to everyone. Major productions, on average, spend $39 million dollars on advertising alone. But, actor Shane Hagedorn doesn’t want to compare the movie to a major Hollywood picture.
“In the end, you just want people to see your stuff,” Hagedorn said.
Nose, who said he is surprised by the “staggering lack of support” of the arts in the area, wants his movie to open the door to other independent filmmakers in the area.
“I leave with the knowledge that anything is possible and if you dare to dream and have brass balls, you can do it,” Nose said.

Check out “Unruly Nights” before it’s out of NCG on Oct. 14.

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Hummus Breath

It’s Friday afternoon, and the week has dragged on far too long. Time to eat. Choices abound both on and off campus, but the food in the dorm cafeterias or pizza just sounds boring today. Today, something different sounds mouth-watering.
[pizza] Middle Eastern food fits the bill: it’s new, it’s different and, if you know where to go, it is mouth-watering. Four restaurants in the East Lansing area dedicate themselves to bringing the best Middle Eastern food to the table. Each place offers a little something different and is a healthy alternative to a greasy pizza. Most important of all to students on a budget, it’s cheap.

Sultan’s Restaurant
Sultan’s, located at 4790 S. Hagadorn, has a warm atmosphere at their Hannah Plaza location. With booth seating, takeout and catering, Sultan’s is perfect for a lot of occasions. Better yet, they offer a 15 percent student advantage.
Bassam Mahmoud has owned Sultan’s since 1995 and prides himself on making everything fresh and as authentic as possible.
“It is generally Mid-Eastern food, not Americanized at all,” he said.
Mahmoud has definitely found a market for his restaurant. Sultan’s won an award in 1998 for the best vegetarian food in the area. But, don’t worry, meat-eaters: chicken shawarma is a customer favorite, along with hummus. The average cost of a meal is $6-10.

Woody’s Oasis
Woody’s Oasis, with two area locations, offers casual dining and takeout. Its style is simple and straight-forward with a fast-food style ordering system. The Grand River location has a cozy interior and even offers outdoor seating in the back.
Manager Jimmy Raad has a personal stake in the food.
“My mom has been cooking here for twenty to thirty years, the food is pretty authentic,” he said.
A chicken and rice dish called hashwi and falafel sandwiches are the most popular dishes, said Raad. Prices average around $5 a plate. Woody’s has two area locations, 211 E. Grand River and 970 Trowbridge Rd, as well as a third location in Okemos at 2398 E. Jolly Rd.

New Aladdin’s
New Aladdin’s, 300 N.Clippert, is conveniently located in the Frandor shopping plaza, making it a short hop on the number 1 CATA bus line. New Aladdin’s is mainly a take-out place, but there are a few booths. The focus is Lebanese cuisine and everything is made from scratch. Tabbouli, kibbee and other customer favorites are cheap, ranging from $5 –9.

Sahara’s Middle-Eastern Restaurant
Sahara’s is farther from campus, just off of Jolly Road by the Okemos Road intersection, but sometimes, good things are worth the drive. The restaurant caters to the needs of both the student and the family with takeout, casual and fine dining, and catering. The booths are inviting, and the space is intimate. Favorite dishes are the chicken kabob, Moe’s chicken, and falafel.
Manager Jamil Jaber promises Sahara’s cuisine is definitely worth coming out to try. Prices range from $9-16.

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