Wednesday: The Newton Girls--Indie Rock's Answer to the Lady Gaga Machine, Friends of The Long Winters--Play Rare Show at The Croc

Once upon a time in the mid(ish) 1990s, a few former members of the Bun Family Players, friends of Pedro the Lion, and some fellas who would later hit the road with Harvey Danger played together in a battle of the bands in Centralia. Known then as The Snow Glinter, the band decided to use the prominent gig--their biggest to date--to announce a name change: The Newton Girls. In the room that day was John Roderick, frontman of present-day rock act The Long Winters, and a prodigal Reverb columnist who has confirmed that he and his band will be in the room for Wednesday's show.

The Newton Girls' primary competition that day was a band that would later break up, and create other bands that would break up, and whose members would go on to become The Decemberists. They were called The Principals. They were good, and The Newton Girls knew it. They played a kind of aggressive pop filtered through the post-grunge prism of mistakes that was dropping panties across the country at the time.

The Newton Girls, on the other hand, sounded like girls. They took care in their choice of clothes. They sometimes borrowed their girlfriends' jeans. Scarves weren't optional. Their glasses were big, and their vest buttons bright. They had a choreographed look in a way that was too deliberate to be left to chance. Did this band of barely 20-somethings really all draw from one wardrobe? The coordination got to a point-- before that show in Centralia, in fact--that a few folks started to wonder if they were wearing costumes, if they were being put up to this by powers greater than themselves.

They may have been right.

Aside from boyfriends, girlfriends, bartenders, and bouncers, there were only about six or seven true civilians at that show. None of them were amenable to the kind of independently minded pop music that The Newton Girls packed in that day. There was no room for feelings. No room for sunny skies. Nobody wanted to hear love songs.

Not much is known about what transpired on stage that day. It is clear that The Snow Glinter walked in, but The Newton Girls did not walk out. TNG came out victorious over The Principals, and a riot was averted by the barkeep's quick draw on a sawed-off shotgun. There were rampant allegations of ballot-stuffing, with middle fingers pointing directly at Roderick. What is absolutely certain, without a shadow of a doubt, is that The Newton Girls never played a show again. The world was not yet ready for more silly love songs.

In the days and weeks after the show, rumors began to fly that The Newton Girls were a band only in the academic sense. They were four guys on stage playing bright, poppy chords, but they weren't bandmembers. They were employees in a carefully orchestrated indie-rock machine, hired by a nameless, faceless investor convinced kids in skinny jeans and ironic sombreros were about to be all the rage. For more than a decade The Newton Girls were silent. Popular culture was left to be dominated by a different variety of boy bands.

In the years since, rumor and legend have placed Roderick at the center of the corporation. And it's shown him to be something of a visionary. If Roderick was the one who created The Newton Girls, and created them in his image, he was right, but ahead of his time. Gasoline was tossed onto the Roderick conspiracy theory when a notice for The Newton Girls' show appeared on The Long Winters' web site reading, "...we are happy to help promote a show...The Long Winters are excited to attend this show."

And excited to cash your checks. After all, what better way to kickstart back into gear the corporate machine that is The Newton Girls than the endorsement from a formidable--and bankable--member of the local music community? Rumor and anticipation have clouded our view of what cocktail of band/boss/greed could take the stage Wednesday night, and what will take place is anyone's guess.

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