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New Song. Old Song.

Tue Jan 9, 11:45 PM
Gondola - Melting Hopefuls

Most people we’ve met that started record labels did so to help promote a band, or to have a vehicle to put out their own bands’ records. In our case, we wanted to have a record label. We didn’t have a band. We just wanted to find bands we liked, and turn as many people on to them as possible. So we started Dromedary. There were three of us, we were 22 years old. We had no idea what we were doing.

At some point in late 1992, in Jim Santo’s demo column for Alternative Press, we discovered our reason for living for the next year or so: Melting Hopefuls. Rich read a review, and recognized the name of singer Renee LoBue as someone he knew from high school. The review sounded promising, so he caught the band live and bought their demo tape. The following morning he was knocking on our apartment door far earlier than any of us should have been awake on a weekend day.

“You’re going to love this,” he said, handing me the tape. And it took about ten seconds – right when all the instruments come crashing together to open the lead track, “Gondola” – for him to be right. Melting Hopefuls were just the right blend of powerful noise and beautiful melody, propulsive rhythm and angelic vocals, right on our wavelength. When they agreed to kick off our first release, the compilation Nothing Smells Quite Like Elizabeth, there was no question what song we wanted to use: “Gondola.”

Over the next year we grew very close. We shared all our highs and lows, we bitched and we dreamed and we collaborated and commiserated. Melting Hopefuls were the first band we called “our” band; we talked about them with the pride and the love of a parent. Worshipping every solo by Max, straining to hear Sue’s quiet backing vocals, crunching along to Lorraine’s noisy guitar accompaniments, marveling at every perfectly-placed Ray Ketchem drum fill, and JESUS, those lyrics! So wise, and simultaneously so whimsical, it felt like Renee always knew something the rest of us didn’t, she was fearless and funny and a step ahead of everyone.

I find myself, at 48 years old, reciting a Renee LoBue lyric almost like a mantra, trying to explain something that made little sense to me at 22 but means the world to me as a father of a young woman, as a greying old guy chatting with young female punks trying to create and produce and move forward. It goes like this:

“I always notice one thing – whenever they review a ‘he,’ foremost is his playing.
I always notice one thing – whenever they review a ‘she,’ first comes what she’s wearing.”

It’s like a bolt of lightning that still strikes every time I read a stupid, sexist review. I never noticed it before 1992, and I notice it every single time since.

Anyway, time did what it does, we grew in different directions, moved on to other triumphs and hardships. Other bands became “our” band and our designs got much less grand. Melting Hopefuls evolved into the band Elk City, who have released four wonderful albums and a host of singles and compilation tracks, and recently signed to the great Bar/None Records label. Ray and Renee have been creating music together for more than 25 years.

We’re celebrating 25 years of kinda putting out records for a handful of people, and our greatest success is this idea that I have in my head that somewhere out there, there’s a person who’s favorite song came out on Dromedary Records. If I were to lay odds on what song would most likely be the song, “Gondola” would be a good bet.

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