This ’90s Columbus Music Scene Mini-Doc Is Your Gateway Into The World Of Bela Koe-Krompecher, Jenny Mae, & Gaunt’s Jerry Wick

This ’90s Columbus Music Scene Mini-Doc Is Your Gateway Into The World Of Bela Koe-Krompecher, Jenny Mae, & Gaunt’s Jerry Wick

More than a decade ago, Bela Koe-Krompecher started writing the story of his life one blog post at a time. As a former co-owner of the essential Columbus record store Used Kids and the proprietor of the great independent label Anyway Records, Bela was at the center of our city’s incredible underground rock scene in the 1990s, spending his days in a blur of legendary rock shows and drunken exploits. By 2009, he had gotten sober, started a family, and entered into a career in social work. That’s when he started posting vivid anecdotes about his youth, centered on his relationships with two brilliant musicians who also happened to be total firecrackers.

First there was Jenny Mae Leffel, his high school girlfriend, with whom he’d moved to Columbus from an Ohio small town, and who’d go on to release masterful indie rock records under the name Jenny Mae. Then came Jerry Wick, who became Bela’s entryway into the vibrant and chaotic local music scene, which included Jerry’s own incredible punk band Gaunt. Jerry died in 2001, struck by a car while riding his bicycle home. Jenny was still alive when Bela began writing, but she succumbed to complications from alcoholism in 2017, adding another tragic wrinkle to the narrative.

Over the years Bela compiled post after post about the highs and lows of life with Jerry and Jenny Mae, attracting a faithful audience of local readers thanks to his tender, magnetic storytelling. As it turned out, these tales were compelling even for people who live outside I-270. In 2020 Bela published a refined update of his online memoirs as a book called Love, Death & Photosynthesis, a co-release between his own Anyway Records and the esteemed New Jersey indie label Don Giovanni. The book features a blowjob and a suicide attempt within the first two vignettes and remains a compulsive page-turner from there, both thanks to Bela’s winsome writing and the book’s relatable setting. Anyone who’s been part of a bustling music scene can relate to that sense of feeling like you’re at the center of something special. In this case, they really were; Columbus in the ’90s gave rise to bands like New Bomb Turks and helped to launch nearby Ohio acts like Guided By Voices. Anyone with an interest in underground rock history or heartfelt autobiography should give it a read.

To complement the latest printing of Love, Death & Photosynthesis, next week Don Giovanni is releasing a compilation of Jenny Mae’s music called What’s Wrong With Me: Singles And Unreleased Tracks on vinyl. Additionally, Jake Housh — a member of the excellent veteran Columbus indie band Moviola — has assembled a mini-documentary called “That Looks Fun!” that works as kind of a 10-minute teaser for the book. Watch the mini-doc below, where you can also pre-stream the Jenny Mae album.

What’s Wrong With Me: Singles And Unreleased Tracks is out 9/30 on Anyway/Don Giovanni and is up for pre-order here. Love, Death & Photosynthesis is out now on Anyway/Don Giovanni and can be purchased here. If there’s any possibility of reissuing the Gaunt catalog, these guys should do that next.

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