Boss’ Day: A Tribute to Three Jerks That Made Me.

My nifty Sunrise calendar app tells me today is Boss’ Day. I didn’t know that was a real thing, but I live by a “if it’s on the calendar, it’s a thing” code so I’m rolling with it. I actually have quite a bit to say on this topic, as I’ve had the good fortune of having three great bosses in a row, and the even greater fortune of calling them each friends (and jerks) as well.

Below I talk about Jeff Rummer, Geoff Deakin, & Jesse Noyes, three men who haven’t just been “cool” to me, but have gone above and beyond to nurture my career. Seeing as how the word “career” wasn’t even in my vocabulary as recently as Fall 2011, that’s not something I take lightly.  Here we go.

Jeff Rummer

Jeff Rummer Boy Band

Jeff Rummer during his boy band days.

I profiled Jeff at length (and also his awesome wife Rachel) previously, but was reminded just the other day by my nifty Timehop app that it has been exactly three years since a conversation I had with Jeff jumpstarted my life. If that sounds overly dramatic or mushy, it’s not. Almost overnight I went from wasting away in a bland, corporate sales environment I was wholly and absolutely unfit for in Chicago, to feeling the Colorado sunshine on my face with a sense of purpose. I was working for someone that I trusted creatively and someone who understood my value.

Jeff Rummer likes me.

What made Jeff a great boss, is that he was a great teacher. He didn’t overlook my inadequacies or lacking of certain skills, or business thought or vocabulary. He knew I was missing a lot. So he taught me. I became a better writer, designer, coder, budgeter and critical thinker under Rummer’s guidance. Really, I became a marketer under Rummer’s guidance. My abilities would be further realized down the line, but Rummer helped refine them in me. So Jeff? Thanks, jerk.

Geoff Deakin

Geoff Deakin Rides Unicorns

Geoff Deakin. Unicorn Rider. Cat herder.

At some point Rummer left. After realizing this didn’t open the doors it should have for me, I was left planning my own exit strategy. I reached out to what I call the “Why Don’t We Still All Work Together?” Club, a group consisting of now 15 or so talented marketers who have found success in companies other than the one we all worked together for. Among that club is Geoff Deakin who scooped me up to be a community manager at his company. Again, he recognized something in me and was ready to let me try some things I couldn’t before.

During my time working for Deakin I came to appreciate his ability to manage personalities and conversations. Many times he would get a riled up Coate (or an entire riled up department) in his office with complaints/brilliant ideas.

Somehow Deakin could not only absorb that chaos but pull some relevance out of it. He made us feel heard. That, or he was just really damn good at making us feel like we were heard. Either way, I came to appreciate the bigger picture, strategic thinking. He taught me to pause a bit more. Absorb a bit more. React a bit more calmly. I also appreciated thousands of Simpsons references and his photoshop abilities on long conference calls. It was a pleasure working for him…and now with him (more on that later). So Geoff? Thanks, jerk.

Jesse Noyes

Jesse Noyes knows.

I think this speaks for itself.

If Jeff Rummer and Geoff Deakin helped refine me, Jesse Noyes was the one who let me loose. Beyond the hundreds of things I’ve learned about marketing from Jesse (before I worked for him and since), I learned so many things about management. He has a very “hands off, trust your team” approach to things, which works because he knows how to hire a team. What that approach does is it tells a team you’re willing to invest in them. It says “I believe you’re talented, I believe you know what you’re doing. That’s why you’re here. Now go do it.”

Jesse Noyes thinks Andrew J. Coate Rules

He writes such kind emails too. *cough*

That approach has done wonders for me. With plenty of guidance from Jesse when needed, I’ve able to achieve more in one year working for him than all other years combined. Jesse has helped me cement my position as an authority on something, and he’s also taught me what it looks like to make adjustments. Jesse is a master of adjustments. If something’s off, we tweak it.  Jesse’s also taught me how to look forward. I, for the first time, have a clearer outlook. Not with 100% clear, but my 3-5 year plan no longer looks like this:

3-5 year plan

Actually, it’s going pretty well if you ask me.

So Jesse? Thanks, jerk.

BONUS ROUND: At the time of this writing, I now have the pleasure of pushing forward in my career with two of the three jerks mentioned above. Deakin has brought his talents and Simpsons references to join Jesse and I, which is sorta cool, too I guess.

Deakin Jesse

That’s Jetpack Jesse on Deakin’s screen.

A Great Day

I just read this post on LinkedIn called “12 Powerful Ways to Create a Cohesive Team” and my first thought was how fortunate I am to work on a cohesive team, and how the man who brought us together was 12 for 12 on that list, I’ve written before about the awesomeness of the group I work with (it’s only gotten more awesome since), but now I want to reflect on how I came to be a part of it all.

A year ago today, Jesse Noyes sent me a LinkedIn message saying he has recently joined some company called Kapost, and that he was “on the hunt for someone to join as a manager of community and content. Primarily, this person would oversee building out our social media strategy, our influencer relations, and the community we plan to grow in a new online content academy. So the person needs to be badass.”

Coate Badass

I don’t think this is what he meant when he said that last part about badasses.

We talked on the phone probably an hour after that email, and just over two weeks later I had an offer from Kapost in my hand. I joined the company as their very first Community & Content Manager (employee #19 I think?) on November 11th, 2013.

That original phone conversation is forever stuck in my head. It was a career AND life-defining conversation. I was comfortable at my current job, but hearing Jesse passionately talk about the company, their plans, and the plans for the position, comfort suddenly didn’t have much appeal any more. He described the chance for me to accomplish some great things, and I realized I had an opportunity to turn long dormant (and/or stymied) ambitions into reality. Not to mention, Jesse Noyes was a person whose career (and beard) I had admired for some time. I was honored he’d think of me.

Jesse Noyes

This is Jesse Noyes and totally not photohopped at all.

Just under a year later, I have no complaints about my decision to jump to Kapost, and I’d like to think Jesse doesn’t have any either. I have risen to all the exciting challenges working at a startup brings with it, and far exceeded all the goals I set out to meet in less time than planned, and I just received a promotion that comes with a whole new set of exciting challenges.

I’ve never been more proud of who I work for, work with, and the work I’m doing alongside them.

Today’s a great day in my history.

The Worst Day

I hate September 20th. It’s a day that taunts me for months and turns my stomach inside out. It’s the day Bud & Wendy died. That day, 10 years ago, changed my life and the lives of so many others.

I know September 20th is just a date on a calendar, but it’s one my mind and heart have decided to circle, to focus on, to never move past with ease. It’s a hard day. I fear sounding selfish in saying that. Bud & Wendy were survived by children, by older siblings, by closer-by-blood family members than I, and I can only imagine the weight this date carries for them, considering the crushing feeling it gives me every year.

Bud & Wendy

Bud & Wendy

They say it gets easier. My father lost his, my mother lost a sister tragically. They’ve told me you never move past it, you just move on. I’ve had to try to figure out how to move on more than than one should. Death & loss have been predominant themes in my life, and predominant factors in who I am. Those themes define why I work so hard, maintain so much focus, keep so many people at a distance.

But death and loss aren’t just mine to bear. They linger around us all, haunt each and every one of us. We’ve all experienced death, or at least the loss of something we wish we hadn’t lost. They are universal themes. So while today I mourn, I also take comfort in knowing many mourn with me.

But you know what? Screw mourning. This day has already taken way too much from me, from us. The Bud & Wendy I knew stood tall in the face of adversity. So while it’s unrealistic to pretend I’m fine, it’s not unrealistic to find joy from pain. Jon Foreman said it poignantly when he sang, “every lament is a love song…

I loved Bud & Wendy. They built me up when I felt no one else could. They gave me reason to smile when all I felt was bitter and dark. I celebrate them for that. I joke about being a jerk these days, but I used to be a real one. Bud & Wendy are why I’m not. They put me on a path to releasing bitterness, to opening myself to a life I wouldn’t despise any longer. I have more to say about that, but I’ve chosen to write a private letter for them. Publicly, I’ll add that the Coate the world knows now was heavily influenced by the love and care I felt from these two, long ago. My life is less because of their loss, but so much more because I knew them at all.

So today, I cry. I hurt. I hang my head. But I celebrate too. I celebrate my life being touched by theirs in a profound way. If you knew Bud & Wendy, share a story about them below. If you didn’t, share a story about someone who you loved, then lost.

We hurt. We heal.

The Secret Skills of a Community Manager

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

What, really, is a community manager and just what the hell does that person do all day?

Here, I’ll answer some FAQs:

Q: “You manage online communities? What’s that like?”
A: Herding cats.

Q: “Do you just tweet all day?”
A: Pretty much.

Q: (after explaining the job) “I still have no idea what it is you do, exactly.”
Don’t worry. Neither do I.

In all seriousness, I get asked often what being a community manager is all about, and not just by people outside of marketing. It’s actually pretty common to get an email or LinkedIn note from people who have community manager in their title. I won’t bother answering the “what’s a community manager?” question here though.

Jenn Pedde already did that in “What A Community Manager is Not” and Kapost in their “Content Marketing Hiring Handbook”.

The characteristics of great community managers have already been covered in depth by DDN Corp’s Erika Heald in “7 Traits to Screen For When Hiring a Community Manager” and Tim Nickles in “How to Hire a Community Manager.

What I will do in this post is let you in on some lesser known (or at least lesser mentioned) humorous traits of community managing talent.

If the question starts “Did you see the…”, yes we did, and have already queued it up in our social tools. It’ll go live shortly. “But what about the -“ Yep, saw that too and responded already. Load us up with networks and notifications. We got this.

The secret here? Sometimes nifty tools that pull multiple streams into one place, but the more likely answer is a microchip implanted in the brains of all community managers.

We know every pop culture reference ever.
Community managers have the uncanny ability to cite pop culture references that span far beyond what would be a normal realm of knowledge. Case in point to the left.

I responded to Ann Handley from the Kapost account with a timely and appropriate Kojak reference. I have no idea how or why I know who Kojak is, nor how or why I recognized Ann’s original reference. But I did. And I nailed the reply.

The secret here? Being really good at Google.

We’re really good at Google.
Community managers excel at finding things on the internet and that’s in large part because of Google. Really, you can find anything on Google. Seriously. I just Googled “Unicorns in Florida” and look what came up:

When we have to find valuable information quickly – like a person’s contact information or a GIF for the brilliant pop culture reference we’re about to do – we often turn to Google. We know the productivity tips and tricks to search efficiently and effectively.

IF you need help looking something up, turn to a community manager. But be warned, if it’s a dumb question your response may come in Let Me Google That For You form.

The secret here? Well, let me Google that for you

We have a meme and/or GIF ready for all scenarios.
Some community managers keep a folder or database handy for snappy, visual responses to online interactions or internal emails. I prefer the improv method, allowing inspiration to strike me on the spot. I frequently get asked where I come up with the responses I send. The answer lies in a mix of an over active imagination and a great set of GIF websites I totally won’t tell you about.

The secret here?

We’re awesome.
Finally, we’re awesome. Check that. We’re hashtag awesome. As anyone who has ever worked with a community manager knows, the awesomeness is hard to contain, really. It just radiates off us at all times.

With being always online comes the necessity to be always “on”. That means we always have to be monitoring activity within communities, looking for opportunities to engage, and then always engaging with timely and appropriate responses. That level of “on”-ness takes awesomeness and even hashtag awesomeness.

The secret here? You’re given your awesomeness when you get hired. It’s kind of like how cops get a standard issue badge, gun and mustache.

Okay, if you made it this far, you’re a champ. While I jest throughout this post, the traits here are founded in reality. Community managers are on the go at all times, and seem to be everywhere at once. It’s stretching, but it’s what comes with the position. We’re a special breed of person, and I personally love the sometimes madness involved in being a community manager.

My next post will feature a more realistic look behind the scenes of community management. Thanks for reading.

What I’ve Learned After Four Months at a Startup

This is the second post in a periodical series chronicling my ups and downs transitioning from the corporate world to a fast past startup.

In my first similarly-themed post a few months ago, I shared what I felt were some essential lessons I’d learned after just a month’s time working at a fast-paced marketing technology startup in Boulder, Colorado. Rereading that post, all four of the lessons I learned still hold true – now four months in – while additional lessons have cropped in.

I value every hour of my time spent working for Kapost (which covers a lot of hours), and what I include here are things that have made my time worthwhile. While it might go without saying, it’s worth noting these thoughts are entirely my own and do not reflect the viewpoints of my employer or coworkers, though the latter part might not be as big of an issue because…

We’re All In It Together

In a recent coffee shop conversation with our Sr. Director of Content Marketing Jesse Noyes, I described how challenging my time at Kapost has already been. While I tend to thrive when I’m stretched thin, this job is certainly testing my upper limits, primarily because I’m doing a lot of things I have never done before. I have brand new responsibilities and brand new accountability in a lot of areas where no precedent exits, neither in my career nor at the company.

I have no idea what I'm doing.

Kinda like this only less drooling.

While I’m thoroughly enjoying my work, there’s certainly a great deal of unique stress that goes with being a trailblazer. But that’s the thing. I’m a trailblazer on a team of trailblazers. Jesse noted how he feels our marketing team is clicking so well with each other because we’re all stretched in ways we’ve never been before. Each and every one of us is facing new pressures and new stresses.

On the flip side, we’re all experiencing new triumphs as well. The point is there’s a common understanding of the intensity of our situation and we all share in the highs and lows together – high-fiving and disco ball dancing when it’s good, and drinking together when it’s tough. Which brings me to my next point.

There’s Drinking

When stress levels are elevated, there are a variety of healthy ways to relieve tension, especially when you work and live in a super active place like Boulder, Colorado – as most of us at Kapost do. We all have a variety of stress relievers including healthy exercise like running, hiking, biking, yoga, rock climbing, as well as other tension tamers like hourly walks around the block for fresh air, soothing tea and, well, booze.

These guys have life figured out.

Or, you know. All of that stuff together. Plus chess.

Kapost is not one of those fancy startups with a built-in kegerator, but our CEO Toby does do a great job of making sure our fridge is at least partially stocked with Colorado craft brews and PBRs. He’s also great about walking around on Friday afternoons making sure those who could use a brew have one in hand. The company sponsors a monthly all-company happy hour as well.

Content Fuel

Content Fuel: Part 90 Shilling, Part Genius

When I mention these facts to my friends with more traditional jobs (especially my schoolteacher fiancée), they tend to think we’re this super relaxed, anything goes workplace. It’s actual quite the opposite. The beer and drinking exists to help us slow down after fast paced days and weeks. It also contributes to the camaraderie referenced above.

Teetotalers and casual imbibers are not immune to this section. Whether you drink or not, you have to acknowledge the gesture behind offering a drink up. It’s a sign of acknowledgment. Beer, wine and liquor have long been used as tools for “cheers”, and offering to buy a drink for someone or providing a group of people who work very hard with some cold beverages to enjoy shows appreciation and a tip of the cap. It says, “You’ve worked hard. Drink up.”

Many startups offer booze as merely a recruiting tool, but for the most part I choose to believe it’s symbolic of a greater trust in and admiration for the work ethic of the team you’ve hired. However…

Even in a Company with “No Jerks” Some Jerk Will Steal Your Beer

This sticky note used to live on a beer. Now it doesn't.

This sticky note used to live on a beer. Now it doesn’t. What a jerk.

…or your trail mix, or your half-and-half, or your leftover pizza. I once put a pastry in the fridge which I meant to bring to Jill later on. It was wrapped up so you couldn’t see what it was, but I wrote very clearly on it “Dead Dove. Do Not Eat.” Even that disappeared. It doesn’t matter where you work. If there’s a community fridge, at some point, someone is going to take your stuff. Fact.

You Can’t Fear Change

In my last post about life at a startup I said, “change happens at breakneck speed at a startup” and mentioned that if you were not equipped to do what REO Speedwagon preached, you might not be cut out for startup life. Change is a certain constant at Kapost. Since that post, even more members have joined our team (I think we’re pushing 50 or so employees now) and a few have left.

In mid-February our marketing team had our plan completely disrupted, scrambling us to put all hands on deck toward launching something that had previously been planned for later on. None of us were ready for that call to action, but all of us bonded together – as did all other departments of Kapost from product to engineering to customer success to sales – to successfully launch. We still met each of our original marketing goals on top of that as well.

we fear change


We did this because despite a potential wrench in our plans, none of us got bent out of shape or even flinched about the change. We said “ok” and rocked that initiative with the same gusto we would have given other prior plans. Change happened, but we adapted to it.

Even the stupid cubicle walls I notoriously complained about in my last post saw change. As I predicted, the growth of the company forced us to rearrange our office layout yet again, which meant tearing down part of the offending wall. It would have been silly for me to get caught up on something long term, because in startup-land any and everything is subject to change, and you have to move right along with it.

Cubicle destroyed

Sorta just like this, actually.

These are just some of the lessons I’ve learned 4 months in, and just as I felt a month in, I wouldn’t trade my current experiences for anything. The stressors I’m putting up with are already reaping vast rewards, and I’m having so much fun working on really cool stuff with really cool people.

I’ll continue to chronicle bits and pieces of my life and lessons at Kapost, intermittent with other ramblings and writing for the Content Marketeer and Kapost Academy. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

In Awe of Content Creators

A loyal follower of my blog (the only loyal follower of my blog?) sent me an IM the other day and noted how I haven’t written very much lately, following that up with a classic “what gives?” While I haven’t given this blog much love, I’ve actually been writing like crazy lately. At Kapost, I’m a member of our content team, which cranks out daily doses of awesomeness in word-and-picture form on them interwebs.

I’m personally responsible for at least one blog post a week for the Content Marketeer, but have also written 14 full-length research articles, and some blog and email content to support some larger projects. As Kapost’s Community & Content Manager I write a few hundred unique social media posts a week, spanning Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, & even Pinterest – not to mention hundreds of responses to folks who interact with those posts.

Brilliant Social Media Interaction

I’m pretty hilarious.

I moderate the Content Marketing Academy LinkedIn group, which means jumping into 10-20 discussions per week – often multiple, thought out comments per discussion with other marketers. I’ve also written countless email and LinkedIn exchanges, responded to questions, networking & starting conversations on behalf of Kapost. I’ve been writing an internal social media guide that might actually turn into something larger & public if it’s any good. Finally, I’ve ghost written some social media & blog posts for some folks pro-bono because, charity and stuff.

All of that to say that I’ve written more since the November 11th, 2013 than I probably have in the past year and half prior. My coworker Ben describes me a “always heads down, silent with my headphones on.” While the coworkers who sit next to me might beg to differ on the silent part, the full truth is I spend almost my entire day, from dawn to dusk communicating. Im always talking to someone, even if it’s over chat or email or LinkedIn or the tweeter machine. It’s exhausting and a bit intimidating to be honest.

More Social Media Brilliance.

See? Freakin’ hilarious.

A lot hangs on the words I choose, whether they be witty quips on twitter, or a longer form piece on choosing the correct marketing content for various stages of the buying cycle. My job is to drive web traffic, and eventually revenue through things I say to people. That’s not to mention creating a wider brand awareness, positive sentiment & hopefully loyalty through things I say as well. This all seems like a daunting task, and admittedly can feel a bit crushing in those weak moments in the wee hours of the night when you haven’t slept and you’re in the no-mans land of “drank too much wine” and “didn’t drink enough wine”.

So, this part of the evening.

But this post isn’t to whine about my workload, because if you know anything about me, you know that I most fulfilled when I’m being challenged, and I’m at my best when I’m stretched super thin. No, this post is to tell you that I’m in awe of the others around me who I see daily thrive in the areas I feel weakest. I work with a special team of people right now and constantly get the feeling that I’m a member of something great and memorable to come.

I’m a die-hard White Sox baseball fan and I remember watching the 2005 World Series champion team come together. A variety of complimentary pieces were added and everything just seemed to gel just right. The team had great talent, but more importantly, great balance. They were built to consistently produce winning results that season, and they didn’t do it with the highest payroll or the biggest names either.

Answer: It's Willie Harris

Seriously. Name this guy without looking it up and I’ll give you a dollar.

I know sports analogies are cliché but I really don’t care. I want to believe I’m in the starting rotation of a World Series contender right now.

Kapost Content Team

The Starting Lineup: Jean, Anne, Liz, Jacob, Mark, Coate, Jesse (sorta)

I’m in awe of our Sr. Managing Editor Anne Murphy. She was the content team prior to October, and her ability to write and edit as much as she does, at the high quality she does, and the rapid speed she does, makes my head spin.  We couldn’t have a better center piece to build a content team around. She’s led by example in her production, process and demeanor at Kapost. Amidst an often stressful job, she knows how to laugh and make it fun to work around.

Our fearless leader, Sr. Director of Content Marketing Jesse Noyes comes next. He manages to be our GM, Manager, batting coach, pitching coach as well as hitting cleanup in the batting order & playing Gold Glove defense at third base as well. I love his knack for strategy and releasing the next big thing. I admired his early career from afar, so when he called me personally to work for him, it was an exciting honor. I trust his leadership, because I’ve seen his production in roles similar to the team he now leads. He does a great job of keeping us focused, while encouraging a supportive environment for all of us. Also, he didn’t fire me for photoshopping him into a bunch of stuff or turning him into a video game character called Jetpack Jesse.

Mini Jesse

He’s like a little mascot. Also, hi Toby.

After snagging me, Jesse went right to work hiring a pair of high energy Content Marketing Managers in Jean Spencer & Liz O’Neill. These two made their impact felt from their first days on the job, picking up some pieces from Anne, Jesse & I while also adding their own creative ideas to the mix. Like Anne, Jean & Liz have a remarkable ability to churn out multiple blog posts in the time I agonize over a few paragraphs. Posts like Jean’s A Look at Hiring: What’s the Best College Degree for Content Marketing? & Liz’s 5 Principles of Highly Effective Content were well received by the intended audiences. They’re writing great stuff like that while I’m writing posts called How to Market to Humans. Brilliant stuff, I know. Aside from the content they churn out, these two add a great deal of energy and fun to our group and were quick to fit in and add to our culture and vibe.

Our new videographer Jacob Collins similarly has stepped right in and contributed. He brings a bit calmer demeanor to the group which really helps balance the energy in our area. Though he’s still brand new as I write this, we are all excited to add his talents to the mix. I mean, look at the dude’s film reel.

Finally, I call out Mark Peck, our stud designer. Mark’s been my favorite to work with so far, because he has the reMARKable (get it?) ability to bring our ideas to life in design-form. This predates my Kapost tenure, but the Kapost50 webpage is spectacular, and his recent collaboration with Jesse on a project called “Masters of Slideshare” has been lauded far and wide by the marketing world and received almost 8,000 views on Slideshare in just 3 days, which is 5x the amount of views our most popular Slideshare prior received.

Mark and I work very in sync with each other, better than any designer I’ve ever worked with, which is high praise because I’m fortunate to know a lot of design talent. In our second week of knowing each other we managed to take a funny joke and turn it into a funnier one in the form of Jetpack Jesse mentioned above. Mark did all the heavy lifting and through working with him on a joke project we learned how to work together on real projects. He learned how I thought and how to make things I thought be things you can look at.

Recently, he turned the random scribbles you see from my notebook into the infographic below. It’s exactly as I envisioned it and better. This is typical of Mark. He’s wowed us all with the things he’s created. Also, he puts up with the fact that I pick on him like a little brother, and to date has not yet brawled with me. So, there’s that too.

All of this saying nice things about people is important to me, because writing it out here makes me realize I’m in a fortunate place and inspires me to keep up and continually better the content I create. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go write a post called “How to Market to Gorillas” and respond to some tweets with pictures of cats high fiving or something.

Coate Notebook

Mark took my scribbled notes here and made them into the awesome infographic you see below.

A Night Reunited

The people I profile today (Philip Toscano, Model Stranger, Pete Falknor) are formative characters in my life. I’ve spent many hours with these folks, and in the case of Model Stranger, many hours in tight quarters. These are creative people, and together we created many things from films to music albums, to live events. I got to see them all a few weeks ago in a single night that began with a show at The Hideout in Chicago. They’re all still creating amazing things, and it was incredible to catch up with them all, and to introduce Jill to people who spent a lot of time with past versions of Coate.

Philip Toscano

Philip is a person I’ve known most of my life but didn’t really get to know until our junior year of high school, when I walked up to him in the cafeteria one day and said “wanna make a film together?” We ended up scribbling down some ideas for a film we eventually called Pill Poppin’ & Train Hoppin’. While the final film was nowhere close to the original concept, it was still an ambitious attempt for a pair of high schoolers working with a bunch of other high schoolers, none with any training in what to do of any kind.

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From that point on, Philip and I realized we shared many creative interests and inspirations. We hung out a lot over the final years of high school, dabbling with other (often weird like below) film, photography, music & other art projects, and forming a lifelong friendship. Philip is among the more multi-talented people I know and these days has turned a larger focus toward music. He has a band called The Bribes, which packed The Hideout the night we were there. You see a lot of potential in his tunes, and I’ll be excited to watch the continued growth of Philip as an artist.

Model Stranger

Shortly into Philip’s set at The Hideout, I got a tap on the shoulder, and was excited to see a familiar, goofy, mustache-clad face belonging to Stephen Francis of Model Stranger – a band I used to manage. I had been texting Stephen’s bandmate Kevin James earlier in the day but wasn’t sure they’d end up making it to the show. They did, and brought a few friends with them, which was no surprise to me.

The Model Stranger guys (including drummer Vincent Joseph) are among Chicago local music’s most avid supporters. These guys know the meaning of hustle. On top of working full time jobs and finding time to book and promote their own shows, they constantly attend concerts – both of local and national touring acts. They understand you can’t really call yourself part of a “scene” if you’re not giving as much as you take from it. They know the more live music they absorb, the more conversations about music they have, the better they’ll become.

While they haven’t had that “big break” yet, it’s not for lack of effort. Model Stranger is probably the hardest working band in Chicago. I may be biased, having witnessed their work ethic and focus up close and personal over 2009-2011, but I doubt I’m the only one with that opinion. Of the craziest stories I have to tell, quite a few involve being on the road with Model Stranger It was good to catch up with these guys a bit, and hear about some of the new things they have going on – including some upcoming tours in support of their newest EP The Changing Score.

Pete Falknor

Just prior to leaving the Hideout and calling it a night, I received a text from my great friend Pete Falknor, a man who makes the busiest person seem lazy with ease. Pete’s a man of many, many hats. For a living he’s the Production Manager at an amazing music venue in Chicago called the Empty Bottle. He’s also a member of the bands Martin van Ruin and Planetsexploder, while formerly playing with The Innocent, Bare Mutants, Derek Nelson and more.

More recently, he helped restore a turn-of-the century building in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and turn it into multi-level restaurant/lounge/music hall called Dusek’s Board & Beer/Punch House/Thalia Hall. We met Pete there to tour the recently opened venue and catch up on his ever-in-motion life.

The place is INCREDIBLE, and I’m not surprised Pete’s a big part of it. Since our days at Columbia College Chicago together, Pete and I connected over large ambitions to do something head-turning in Chicago. He’s done that a few times over already and I’m proud of him. Visit Pete at the Empty Bottle or Dusek’s or check out the new album from Martin van Ruin.