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Anything for a Weird Life

Tape World 004: The Six O’Clock Alarm S/T (1995)

There was a point in my life where I was primarily known in the Maryland underground scene as a noise artist from Dundalk.”

This made sense. After moving with my family out of our rowhome in Bayview, a neighborhood in Southeast Baltimore, I now lived in a house with a much larger basement. In that basement, I hatched a practice of making music and performing by encouraging large group spontaneous improvisations. At shows, I (and whoever had decided to join me) would start making said racket, but we would soon hand off instruments to other basement show attendees, encouraging them to also make a racket, and walk away. It was based on my observation that the most guaranteed pleasure to be gained in making this sort of music was through performing it, not always listening to it. I also had some pretty radical ideas around the anyone can do it” DIY democratization ethos. It was great! I could leave my own band’s set, wander around, and then come back to see how it was going. Power tools were only involved once.

During that time, I came in contact with a group of fellow exuberant underground travelers from Towson and Glen Arm. I was soon welcomed into their extended network of artists and musicians and began attending basement and church hall shows. Admittedly, it was a bit like coming into The Lord of the Rings at Return of the King”; so much had already happened with these folks. To get a full and definitive picture, check out Mike Apichella’s excellent work to document this scene via the Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts blog and accompanying music compilations, of which two volumes have been released.

One of the first shows to introduce me to the scene was seeing The Six O’Clock Alarm at some hall somewhere in suburban Maryland… I was relying on my new friend Tricia to get me there. The headliner was a band called Cainus Lupis, with Guru Magpie in support. A fiery take on garage rock, the Six O’Clock Alarm ended their set with what they said was a Fleetwood Mac cover that sounded like no Fleetwood Mac song I had ever heard! Clearly, these folks were part of the new thing I was looking to be involved with.

It seemed at first like I was the student and they were the masters; I did learn a lot of tricks, tips, and ideas from my time hanging out and absorbing their art, political ideas, and methods. But I did know a thing or two about how to do things on the cheap.

I remember telling folks that you could go to the dollar store and buy blank cassette tapes for…yep, a dollar. This knowledge, however gleaned, lead to a way to very cheaply replicate and distribute the scene’s music at a reasonable price.

And so here I am, 29 years later, listening to The Six O’Clock Alarm on a cassette tape I bought from the band (or a former member) for a few dollars somewhere along the way, eight songs of rocking good times. Everything in the release is hand-made, the transmission reduced one to one”, merch table to attendee. None of the songs on the tape appear online; there is no Discogs listing for it. One non-release compilation cut by the The Six O’Clock Alarm can be heard today. If a band puts out a release and it does not have a Discog listing, does it make a sound? Yes, it does. And, with the way things are going, it might be wise to return to analog/hard drive backups of your online/ cloud-based music.

I think it was around here that my long tradition of being a merch hound” began. You know if I am a fan of your band, I want that tape or record or even CD. I will try to buy it from you before your set. I may even interrupt a conversation to do so. Sorry to bug you! It will go home with me and join a collection I have built up over decades, a part of my world of music that never gets sold, traded, or bootlegged online. If you come and find me in ten years, twenty years seeing your music… sure, I’ll make you a copy.

Just hit me up.

Tim Kabara

IG: @kim_tabara

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