MORE BLOGS: Blurt | Stuck in VT | Mistress Maeve

Seven Days Blogs: Solid State Music Blog

« June 2008 | Main | August 2008 »

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Ballad of Love and Hate

Shortly after my rant concerning the level of crowd noise at Jose Gonzales' recent Higher Ground performance, I received the following voice mail message (transcribed verbatim):

"Dan, I read the paper all the time. I don't know what was worse, you mentioning Lee "Scratch" Perry throwing you a bone — the guy who invented scratching — or your stupid review of people talking at . . . at the sh . . . at Higher Ground. I don't know what the fuck you expect. But your fuckin' reviews are the worst. I don't know where you get your ideas. Or what the fuck you listen to. But it all sucks."

Oddly enough, our mystery man left no name or phone number.  Must have slipped his mind.  Well sir, allow me to respond to your query.

Aside from providing more ammo for my theory that the level of a person's intelligence is inversely related to the number of times they errantly use some variation of the word "fuck" in a conversation — and yes, I'm aware the original post was called "Shut The Fuck Up . . . Please." And forget that my rant about talkers at the Jose Gonzalez show was hardly what you'd call a "review" — I couldn't review it because I couldn't really hear it, remember? But it seems exactly the sort of people who would pay 17 bucks to see a show and spend the entire time yakking incessantly have revealed themselves. Sort of. And guess what, folks? They're idiots.

Flash to this past Tuesday's Avett Brothers (pronounced AY-vett) show in the HG Ballroom. I've been a fan since I caught a performance on Conan O'Brien shortly after Emotionalism came out — which I promptly purchased. For those who aren't familiar, the band is essentially an acoustic folk-pop trio, although Emotionalism showcases some beefier arrangements and is a bit electrified. While the presence of of Scott Avett's banjo might lead some to believe they exist on the fringes of newgrass, they're hardly the next Yonder Mountain. To be perfectly blunt, they remind me quite a bit of my old banjo-driven pop band, The Middle 8 — only better. Or, perhaps more accurately, the group that birthed us, The Lazy Songwriter; On record, banjoist Scott Avett bears an honest resemblance to LS front man Arthur Adams (though in concert, Avett eerily reminded me of Clem Snide's Eef Barzelay, another favorite.)

Anyway, I had no real professional interest in the show. I was just going to see a band I really dig. However, I was curious to see what the crowd would be like, especially after my diatribe ended up running in the paper — a fact of which I had no idea at the time. I'm not so delusional as to think the ramblings of one ticked-off small-town music scribe can change the concert-going behavior of the public at large. Still, I've received more feedback on that little nugget than anything I've written since taking the Marathon to task. It's just an aspect of seeing live music I'd never had to give much thought to prior. And this was my first trip back to the scene of the crime.

While HG was far from sold out, the crowd was electric, even mouthing words with tunes from AB's early catalog. From my vantage point, most crowd banter was limited to comments about the show, and usually in between songs.

And the band flat out rocked. I know it's trite to say bands feed off the crowd. But in this case it's appropriate — especially given the number of times guitarist Seth Avett (they're really brothers!) made a point to genuinely marvel at their fawning reception.

As mentioned, The Avett Bros. are an acoustic-pop act. But they also have a definitive punk influence. As such, the majority of their tunes are up-tempo and high energy. More often than not, the crowd would follow suit, dancing and singing — and occasionally screaming — right along. That said, Seth Avett in particular has a knack for heartbreaking, saccharine balladry. In fact, if "The Ballad of Love and Hate" pops up on my iPod, I usually have to skip it or risk tearing up in public. No kidding.

I figured that song might prove the audience's real test. Sure enough, as the lights dimmed following a signature scorcher, and his bandmates left the stage, Seth stepped to the mic and strummed the first chill-inducing (for me, anyway) chords. After a brief "Whoo!" from someone near the back, Higher Ground hushed and for the next 4 minutes, you could have heard a pin drop — or a heart break, I suppose.  At the song's conclusion there was a pregnant pause as the crowd stood in awe — or maybe folks just needed a sec to clear the lumps in their throats. And then: arguably the loudest applause of the night.

So that, mystery caller, is "what the fuck I expect." I expect people to go to shows to see and appreciate music, and to respect the right of those around them to listen unmolested — we are largely talking about adults here, by the way. I also expect people to respect the performers and show them at least a modicum of courtesy. Frankly, I don't think it's too much to ask. And when it happens, it makes for one hell of a show.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Solid State: The Musical!


This past weekend, my sister, brother-in-law and I went to see Mama Mia!, the new movie based on the Broadway hit, based on the book, based on the ABBA catalog. And despite Margot Harrison's less than favorable review, I genuinely enjoyed it.

My sister and I love musicals. And have for our entire lives. Most people know Christian Bale as Batman. Mention his name to me and I have no idea who you are talking about . . . unless you remind me that he played Jack in Newsies. My other favorites include Mary Poppins, Down With Love, Moulin Rouge and of course, Annie. Generally, if it involves a group of people breaking into song and dance in the middle of a city street, I'm down.

In Maine over the weekend, I caught my little brother hitting on a girl at the beach and immediately scolded him, questioning his loyalty to his college girl back in Buffalo.

"Bridge, come on!" he retorted. "This is just a summer thing! Haven't you seen Grease?"

Haven't I seen Grease? Yes, actually I have. A number of times. I've also choreographed amateur dance routines to several of the more popular numbers, thank you very much.

The adaptation of Broadway plays to screen has become increasingly popular. 2002's Chicago and 2005's Rent were both hits, and, surprise surprise, I enjoyed both adaptations. Especially watching to see if A-list celebs could pull off the high notes with the best of Broadway!

Whether or not I have shelled out to see a particular show in the traditional theater, I usually know the soundtrack courtesy of my mom and dad, bargain hunters who take the train to New York for half price show tickets. Such was the case with Mama Mia!, although c'mon. It's ABBA. We all know a little of the soundtrack just from growing up, am I right?

Mama Mia! is in no way a great cinematic achievement. The plot is hokey, the background story unlikely, and the songs . . . well, they're ABBA songs. They're good because they are bad. Oh, so bad.

But aren't those the requirements for a good musical?

There were plenty of times during the movie that I groaned. Actually, when Pierce Brosnan had his first solo song, the entire theater groaned. James Bond, it turns out, cannot sing. But to be honest, the only thing that really bothered me about the film was its use of bluescreen when the actors were flying through the Greek Isle on an old Jeep. Really? Do people still use bluescreen? It looks so . . . Gidget.

Despite that one technical faux pas, the movie was fun! Goofy, stupid fun. And perfect to see with little girl "dancing queens" of all ages. In fact, earlier that same day my sister and I had witnessed a beach rendition of "Dancing Queen," courtesy of a group of precocious twelve-year-olds.

Meryl Streep was captivating — and has a great voice to boot. Colin Firth was awkward, but funny. And Christine Baranski was Christine Baranski.

Plus, for all you men out there, did you realize that the young lead is played by Amanda Seyfreid, also known as ditsy Karen from Mean Girls? Yeah. No shortage of eye candy in this movie.

So if you are in need of a little musical therapy (i.e. 90 minutes of groan-worthy dance routines set against a striking Greek backdrop) head out to Mama Mia! If you don't like musicals, though, don't bother. And please, pardon the rest of us while we suddenly suffer a renewed interest in Swedish pop.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Apropos of Nothing

It's a simply beautiful summer afternoon and frankly, my thoughts are wandering all over the place as I await my 3:30 interview with Phish bassist Mike Gordon. While we're just hangin' around, let's take a peek inside my stir-crazy head.

Proof That God Has a Sense of Humor: American Idol host/massive tool Ryan Seacrest was bitten by a shark while swimming in Mexico over the weekend. Had he been seriously injured — which he wasn't — there would be nothing even remotely funny about this. But of the thousand or so people basking in the surf and sun, he was the only person attacked. Well played, nature.

Rosehilldrive_4 Where's Clark Kent?: Has anyone ever seen Rose Hill Drive (pictured) and now grown-up Hanson in the same place at the same time?

Things That Go Boom: Unfortunately, I didn't get home from New Hampshire in time to catch Vetiver at Metronome on Sunday night. However, while in the White Mountains I did discover what happens when you mix cheap fireworks and a camping tent. Despite the what the label might tell you, tents are really not flame retardant.

Vantastixprintalbumcover_smallThis Week in Unintentionally Funny Press Releases:
Dick Van Dyke — who, apparently, is still alive — has just released a new album with vocal group The Vantastix. It's a cappella. And it's a children's album. When originally asked if he had any interest in making an album with the one-time Mary Poppins star, Vantastix member Mike Mendyke replied "I thought he was joking." If only.

Bullshit PR E-mail of the Week, or How Not to Impress the Media:
I have recently picked up a phenomenal Pink Floyd tribute out of Music City called ECLIPSE. 
    I would have to classify ECLIPSE as "phenomenal" because they have such a BIG FLOYD SOUND and they hold so true to the recordings, as well as the live performances of Pink Floyd.
    Since their 2007 debut, ECLIPSE has modified their roster to include THREE guitarists, TWO keyboardists, bass and drums. Six of the members have strong vocals with two of them being female. This allows ECLIPSE to utilize the perfect voice to sing leads on a given song while stacking harmonies in the background. Up to five-part harmonies, STACKED. The vocals are LUSH!
    Yes, you heard correct. ECLIPSE now boasts having THREE incredible guitarists. They play various electric, acoustic and steel guitars. Although each guitarist is fully capable of pulling off all the classic Gilmour leads single handed, they all pass 'em around to each other . . . sharing the spotlight. All three play through vintage tube amps and know how to get that classic Gilmour tone.
    ECLIPSE also prides themselves on NOT using "backing tracks" like so many other PF tributes.  IT'S ALL LIVE!
    In other word, ECLIPSE is NOT an ordinary tribute band. They are the real deal and I am looking forward to work with them. I am looking forward to the chance to be able work with you in the near future.

See what I have to put up with? Three guitarists!?! Holy cow! You could double as half an Eagles tribute! My favorite line: "They are the real deal." No. No they're not. Pink Floyd was the real deal. You're a COVER BAND! With a big BUDGET! And a CAPS LOCK problem. Sigh, er, SIGH!

News Somebody Must Care About:
Boy George's August 12 show at Metropolis in Montreal has regrettably been canceled. Insert your own joke here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Weekend Ramblings

It never fails. Every weekend I have to be out of town, there's a whole bunch of stuff going on that I would much rather stay home to do. Like what, you ask? Actually, in this case almost anything. But I digress.

For starters, there's the Daryl Rabidoux benefit tonight at Metronome — featuring Daryl! I've already spilled a fair amount of ink on this show, so I won't waste your time covering the same ground. However, I've been asked by a certain concerned party to report that The Jazz Gu . . . er, The Vanderpolls are actually going by the new name of The MaxFranks. I'm still rooting for The WonderPoles, but that's just me.

Also, there may or may not be a secret wink-wink dance party happening in the relative vicinity of the benny show. I'm not really supposed to divulge any more info about it, I'm afraid. So I apologize if that TICKs you off. I'm like a TICKing time bomb here.

Moving on, I've always wanted to take part in The Ramble's North vs. South Field Days happening this Saturday at Battery Park. We North End toughs will likely crush you bourgeois South End ninnies with or without my help. But still, it sounds like fun. Plus, the Ramble Round-Up lineup is pretty awesome. Any chance to see Space Tiger is always recommended. Also, Blowtorch is playing. I didn't discover this until recently, but Blowtorch is actually guitar god Bill Mullins' old band from like 20 years ago. Crazy.

Hopefully, I will be back in time to catch Vetiver with Cannon Fodder and Greg Davis at Metronome on Sunday night. And if I'm not . . . shoot me.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sir Elton Rocks It


The verdict is in, and Elton John wowed the crowd at Monday night's Essex Fairgrounds performance. I know, because I was lucky enough to be amongst the crowd.

When the opportunity presented itself to attend what had been predetermined the "Concert of the Year," I couldn't turn it down. For someone on a budget like mine, seeing Elton John live was more than a once in a lifetime experience. It was my big night out for Summer, 2008!


My excitement reached new heights when the usher showed me to my 6th row seat — with ecstatic fans on one side, and Free Press reporters on the other. Brent Hallenbeck (music editor for the Freeps) confided that the seats were some of the best he's seen reserved for media over his tenure of covering shows. I thanked my lucky stars. And the cloud-free sky.

With an outdoor show that starts before night fall, there is no drama of dimming lights before a performer takes the stage. Still, as Sir Elton's band calmly walked to their respective instruments, a collective sucking in of breath could be heard in anticipation for the singer himself. With the first appearance of a foot from back stage, the crowd erupted in cheers. And as Elton emerged in full, the cheering continued.

Clad in black shoes with red hearts, black pants with red stripes and a red silk shirt, the performer topped off his outfit with a full tuxedo jacket, bejeweled with an image of himself flying across the back in (what else?) a rocket. He calmly smiled at the crowd before pointing at various sections and mouthing, thank you. The audience continued its hoots and hollers, and tiny bits of boa could be seen floating in the air.

I am not one to get starstruck. But as John sat down at his piano to start the set, I realized that my mouth still remained open from when his walk on stage cued my jaw to drop.

Elton John was a staple of my childhood. Or as Brent Hallenbeck corrected me, he was a staple of a lot of our childhoods. After all, the artist has been around for 39 years now, having made his American debut in 1970. One of the most impressive parts of Monday night's show was Elton John's drummer. Nigel Olsson played with John when he made that debut. Olsson rejoined the touring band in 2000, and is still with John today. And as always, he drums with white gloves on.


This tour was advertised as featuring John's biggest hits, and from the first chords of "Funeral for a Friend" to the closing notes of the encore, "Your Song", he fit them all in the two and half hour set. It was after "The Bitch is Back" that he addressed the crowd for the first time, saying, "Good evening, Vermont! It's only taken me 39 years to get around to coming here, and I'm so glad we made it and it's a beautiful night. Thank God!"

The crowd continued to stand through the first four songs, before some finally took respite in their seats. Most remained standing, however, dancing and singing along in outfits picked out specifically for Elton John. Most common were sparkly sunglasses, boas, and wigs, but some more outrageous outfits could be spotted as well. To the girl in the front row sporting the silver sequined mini dress and dancing for the full two and half hours I just want to say: you are awesome.

Once darkness fell, the big screens on either side of the stage came on, giving those sitting in the grandstand a close up view of Elton John at the piano. Every time the camera zoomed in on John's hands, as his fingers zipped across the keys, I couldn't help but stare in awe. At 61 years of age, and after 40 years of performing, it makes sense that John's voice might wane at times. But his hands have still got it.


Throughout the evening John played "Tiny Dancer", "Levon", "Daniel", "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues", "Honkey Cat", "Sad Songs Say So Much", and many more including my personal favorite, "Bennie and the Jets". It was his fifteen-minute epic version of "Rocket Man", though, that got the loudest applause from the crowd. In fact, with the opening line of " She packed my bags last night pre-flight," I actually witnessed one fan pull another fan's hair in excitement.

Fans who rushed the stage also held up various items looking for autographs. The standard choices (hats and tee-shirts) met the bizarre, as one fan triumphantly pumped his fist after Sir Elton signed his baseball. My favorite moment came when, during "Crocodile Rock", one fan held up a stuffed crocodile to be signed, and behind him, another whipped off his own Croc (shoe) and held it in the air as well.

John included a couple dedications throughout the night, the first for his hit "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road". This, the performer dedicated to the people at Ben & Jerry's, calling them "generous and inventive" for their limited edition flavor, "Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road". The ice cream was sold to raise money for Elton John's AIDS Foundation, in honor of his first performance in Vermont.

The second dedication came with the final song of the singer's encore, "Your Song". Sir Elton addressed the crowd saying, "Thank you so much Vermont, It's been a fantastic night and I love you dearly." He then explained that America is where his career started and that is why he wanted to play all 50 states. As of Monday night, he has. The dedication was an emotional moment both for the performer, who accomplished his goal, and for the crowd, who took the words "this song's for you" very personally.

The excitement in the air was palpable as fans filed out of the grandstand and back to their cars, buzzing with satisfied reactions to the night's show. "Bennie and the Jets" could be heard blasting from another vehicle as I waited in line to exit the Fairgrounds, and people in surrounding cars joined in for one last sing-a-long.

It may have taken Elton John 39 years to make it to Vermont, but the mutual feeling of Monday's night crowd declared the performance worth the wait.

*Photos by Stephen Mease*

Singin' In The Rain

Hey there, Solid State.

Sorry 'bout the lack of posting lately. To be honest, things have been eerily quiet on this side of the computer screen this week. And I'm told the cardinal rule of blogging is that if you've got nothing to say, it's best not to say anything. So there you go.

Anyway, I do have a quick bit to pass along. Tonight's Battery Park concert featuring Tift Merritt and local blues hounds The Eames Brothers may be moved to City Hall Auditorium if, as expected, it continues to rain. No official word as of yet, but if you show up to the park and no one's there, you'll know where to go.

Tune in tomorrow for a run-down of the weekend's activities — almost all of which I will miss, since I'm being dragged to New Hampshire tomorrow afternoon . . . sigh.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tuesday at Metronome


Tuesday night I attended what now ranks among my favorite shows for 2008. That is, Vanderpolls, Heartthrobz, and The Mae Shi at Metronome, hosted by the ever ambitious (and stylish!) Tick Tick.

Things got started a little late, but thanks to Esox and the All Star Game, I had plenty to keep me busy in the meantime. When the show did open, it was with Luke Brandfon, one member of Heartthrobz, playing solo. His solo artist name? Luke.

His music was catchy and dance-able, but the room was still fairly empty, and I fully admit that I fell victim to my own awkwardness and stood in the back. Still, with his keyboards and simple lyrics, Luke was completely endearing, and a great preview of what was to come with the Heartthrobz set. Head over to his myspace page and listen to "That Place" for a good taste. Its opening line, "Hey, I like your style, I like how you wear a fanny pack with every outfit", is my personal favorite.

[If you check out that song and love it, you can check out Luke himself TONIGHT (Friday) at The Ground Round. Seriously. 9 p.m. for awkward fun and drink specials!]

Next up was Vanderpolls, who sounded surprisingly like The Jazz Guys! Ha. Bad joke courtesy of Herb. Same look, same sound, same members, new name. The crowd filled in a little more by this point, and everyone moved closer to the stage to enjoy the music. My friend, a Vander-virgin, pointed to Max, and asked, "Why is he wearing gym shorts? Is he a basketball player?". I calmly assured him that the group's energetic performance would prove the workout outfit necessary. And as usual, it did.

I asked the boys after their set for their reasoning behind the name change. They shrugged and said that it was just time, and a good New Year's Resolution for 2008, to boot. My other sources indicate that a name a little lighter on the irony could present them with more touring opportunities. Especially on the college circuit. I agree. But it might take me a while to get used to it. On Tuesday, every time Herb would get on the mic and say, "Thank you, we're the Vanderpolls!", I would think to myself, Well, you and Maarten are...

Heartthrobz followed Vanderpolls.The Ohio-based band is made up of EdHeart, LuKiss (aka Luke), and Alluren, and as their myspace claims, sounds like "a party". Really Heartthrobz is an electro-pop outfit, complete with drum beats, keyboards, and lots of voice effects. Apparently the group is living in Burlington until the end of July, and after seeing them live, I want to call them up and ask them to play in my living room every morning around 7:30. After all, I've been having a hard time waking up lately, and I really can't think of a more effective solution than my own personal Heartthrobz dance party.

Alluren and EdHeart flirtatiously played off each other, and the crowd at Metronome jumped on board with the band. There was soon a packed crowd of dancers directly in front of the stage and after their set, everyone was... glistening.

I have to pause here to thank Tick Tick for arranging such a great lineup, because when Heartthrobz finished, I heard more than one person hiss excitedly, "and there's still The Mae Shi!". Luckily the set break gave us all enough to time to grab some water and take a turn in front of the fan, as another dance party was about to start.

The Mae Shi are a little bit harder to qualify than Heartthrobz. Their sound switches from hardcore punk to pop and right back again. On their myspace page, they say, "At its core the rock and roll band is a surrogate family for our culturally extended childhood, it's our self-help group, it's our soap box, it's a way to see what we're really capable of. Growing up is tough. This is our attempt to grow up." I love that quote and I love that I had a chance to experience them "growing up" first hand.

But don't worry if you missed it, because the music video for "Run to your Grave" more than sums it up. This was already my favorite song by The Mae Shi, but I didn't watch the video until after seeing them live. And now, I can say from experience that its an accurate portrayal of their live show. Well, clones aside, anyway.

So check it out, and while you're at it, check out what Tick Tick has on the rest of its summer calendar. As Tuesday reaffirmed, these guys know their shit when it comes to putting together a great show.

Daryl Benny

Continuing on a theme, the lineup for the Burlington installment of Daryl Rabidoux benefits — in addition to the Boston and Providence shows — has just been announced. And it's a good one. Check it out:

8:30 - Zac Clark
9 - Lowell Thompson solo
9:30 - Ryan Power
10 - Swale
10:30 - Neil Cleary
11- Blowtorch
11:30 - The Vanderpolls (formerly The Jazz Guys . . . really)
12 - Brett Hughes (formerly Brett Hughes)
12:30 - Workingman's Army
1 - My Dearest Darling

The show is Friday, July 25 at Club Metronome. $5 — that's the minimum, feel free to donate above and beyond — and proof of legal drinking age gets you in the door. 100% of door proceeds go to Daryl. The one and only Jason Cooley will serve as emcee for the evening and provide between set entertainment, Koolaoke-style.

Kudos to Club Metronome and Max Schwartz (of the Jazz Gu . . .er, Vanderpolls) for pulling this all together. No word yet as to whether Daryl will be in attendance.

On a related note, the early returns from last night's Mikey Dread benny are pretty remarkable. I've received e-mails from a number of folks who've said they couldn't even get in. No word yet on how much much was raised, but that's a pretty good sign. Just a reminder that if you couldn't go — or get in — you can also donate here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mikey Update

More info about Mikey from various sources:

From Andy Foeshel @ Higher Ground
In case everyone is not in the loop, Mikey Vangulden was struck by a cab that ran a red light on 7/4 while he was biking home from work. He is in bad shape on needs some help. There is a blog link below that will explain everything plus a link for donations. Please pass this on so that all that Mikeys friends and family around the world know what happened to him.

From Adam King of Turkey Bouillon Mafia and Jesus Vanacho
We're raffling off 2 tix to Upnorth Festival in
Maine, some bongs and shit, a snowboard and some other stuff. I know
Grippo and Seth Yac are planning on joining us on stage - should be a
pretty insane night. Turns out Cabbie has no insurance so shit's a
big mess right now. Mikey broke his jaw in 3 places, his left arm in
like 100 places, and I know he had to have both his knees operated on
too. They had to pry the bike out form underneath the cab's wheel-
well. Scary shit, but hopefully we can have a good night come out of
it at least.

In another bit of related news, I spoke with Mikey's neighbor, DJ Big Dog, this morning. He relayed that Mikey wasn't wearing his helmet when he was hit. However, Mikey's backpack apparently shifted over his shoulders upon impact and actually served to protect his head when he hit hit the ground. He also surmised that Mikey's physical stature — dude is flat out jacked — likely lessened the overall severity of his injuries.

Also, the lovely ladies from House of LeMay are updating on Mikey's status with some regularity. You can check it out here.

Once again, the benefit show is this Thursday night at Nectar's. Get well soon, Mikey.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mikey Dread

I'm once again very sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the word on the street is that doorman-about-town Mikey Dread (I assume that's not his real last name, but I've only ever known him as Mikey) was seriously injured when he was hit by a car, riding his bike home from working at Higher Ground on July 5.

At the moment, specifics are pretty vague. From the little I've been told so far, he has several broken bones — according to an e-mail from Turkey Bouillon Mafia's Adam King, "too many to mention." Apparently, he was hit by a cab driver who had no insurance. No word on Mikey's health insurance status.

This Thursday night, Nectar's is hosting a benefit show featuring the reunion of Turkey Bouillon Mafia, who haven't played together in over a year. There will also be a raffle and a good old-fashioned all star jam to close out the night.

Counting DJ A-Dog/Mike Device and Daryl Rabidoux, this would mark the third time in as many months that a serious calamity has befallen members of the Burlington music community. If it's true that bad things happen in threes, let's hope this is the last one for a while. I'm getting really tired relaying this kind of information about people we know and love.

Internet Tough Guy

Every week — it may even be a couple of times per week, actually — the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) sends out an e-mail containing small blurbs of note about other papers around the country. Typically, the posts concern the comings and goings of various editors and writers or perhaps the merging or demise of less fortunate papers than Seven Days — say what you will about VT, but the insular nature of our state tends to protect us, to a degree, from many of the misfortunes of the outside world, including the "death" of print media.

I'll be honest, I generally give these missives little more than a courtesy glance. Rarely do they contain any nuggets of info that directly pertain to me or my job. However, today I saw something that raised my eyebrows and hit very close to home indeed. Here it is:

July 14, 2008
Guest Blogger Quits, Rates Mention in Time Magazine
Source: Time Magazine/The Stranger
The Stranger's first guest blogger, Chelsea Alvarez-Bell, quit last month because of the "vicious bullies" who tormented her in the Slog's comments section. This week Lev Grossman ledes with the incident in his column in Time Magazine decrying "the horribleness of commenters."

(Yes, the blurb actually contained the misspelling "ledes." I just read 'em, folks.)

Grossman's Time column is a good rede, er, read, especially for anyone who has been on the business end of the unsettling phenomenon known as the "Internet Tough Guy." I'll not waste your time or mine describing these people. If you read Solid State with any regularity — or, sadly, most blogs and message boards — you know exactly who I'm talking about. Remember the Daryl Rabidoux ugliness? There you go.

What is disheartening is not necessarily that these people exist — assholes have flourished long before the advent of the Interwebs. The disturbing thing is that these ass clowns were able to spew their vitriolic bile to the point that they badgered Alvarez-Bell out of a job. And she was The Stranger's first guest blogger. So she's been around for a long time — the Seattle alt-weekly is something of a gold-standard in the industry, particularly in terms of Web-based content.

I've never read Alvarez-Bell's work or the offending comments. I can only imagine how bad it must have gotten based on my relatively brief experience in cyberspace. As such, I can sympathize with her decision — although I've never entertained thoughts of leaving based on the ramblings of anonymous half-wits.

Here's a clip from Grossman's piece:

The horribleness of commenters isn't really a mystery: Internet anonymity is disinhibiting, and people are basically mean anyway. Nor is it a mystery why the people who run websites put up with commenters: the economic model for Internet content is based on advertising, which means it's based on traffic volume, and comments mean traffic. They're part of the things that make online publishing work.  enables comments on its blogs, including mine.) It's just hard to tell whether they're ruining the Web faster than they can save it.

Commenters tend to respond with surprise--they're shocked, shocked!--when people call them on being not nice. In their social universe, this kind of rhetorical slap-fighting is just how you do business, and anybody who feels otherwise is thin-skinned and humorless. As lame and self-serving as this excuse is, we can learn something from taking it at face value. Maybe commenters are just on one side of a cultural disconnect between two incompatible ideas of what the social conventions of the Internet should be. One is based on the standards of real-world, off-line politeness. The other is a kind of communal game in which whoever is cleverest and pushes the most buttons wins.

That pretty much sums it up. Us versus Them. At stake: the future of online journalism.

OK, it's not that dramatic or black and white. However, Alvarez-Bell is certainly not the first online writer to walk away as a result of anonymous bullying. And, sadly, I doubt she'll be be the last.

Can't we all just get along?


Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Morning Smorgasbord


Happy Monday!

All last week I kept coming up with one line blog posts, but then getting distracted by free burritos and babysitting jobs. Now that I have a moment, here they all are.

First off, The Smittens had a hell of a CD release party last night. This is something I definitely should have posted about earlier, but in any case, it was a lot of fun. I arrived in time to catch the end of Missy Bly's set in Parima's Acoustic Lounge, which I was grateful for, since I had never seen her live. From there, we moved into the main room for performances by both Brooklyn's The Specific Heats (um, Wow! Definitely going to look for more of them!), and Portland, Maine's The 500s (also known as my awesome friends!).

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Pop shows are great.

And you know what other shows are great? L.A. punk shows!

This Tuesday (that would be... TOMORROW), Tick Tick is bringing The Mae Shi to Metronome. Every time Eric Carlson (Pretty & Nice) comes to the office to pick me up for lunch, I find out him outside drumming his steering wheel to The Mae Shi. And every time I say, Who is this? I really like this! And every time he tells me, It's The Mae Shi! Until that one time where he finally made me program it into my cell phone and shut up about it.

Needless to say, I'm excited to finally catch them live!

They will be joined by Totally Michael, Hearttrobz, and Vanderpolls. That's the Jazz Guys, by the way.

Speaking of Metronome, Brad of Bradley's Almanac, sent me a link last week to a post recalling an epic Metronome weekend! Back in 1992, Sub Pop (who just celebrated their 20th Anniversary) hosted a two day festival at our downtown club, called Vermonstress. I missed it, as I was busy being a third grader in West Hartford, Connecticut, but Brad attended. You can take a trip down memory lane with him, here.

I did some experimenting with my own memory lane after an interesting discovery last weekend. Driving in the car with my ipod on random, Modest Mouse's "Sleepwalking" came on, the first Modest Mouse song I ever heard. When it did, my face suddenly relaxed completely, and I was met with the startling realization that my brow had been furrowed in the first place!

I'm not exactly sure what had my thoughts troubled, but I was more curious about that particular song and why it completely relaxed me. From there I started wondering what other songs have a similar effect. A little random, but interesting to explore. This experiment will continue I'm sure.

And now to bring this full circle, back to The Smittens! Their music video for "Gumdrops" is now available. I just checked it out on YouTube and have to say, wow. As if The Smittens weren't adorable enough on their own, they've now added dancing children, and a feisty cat. The cute overload might not be everyone's cup of tea, but babysitter me loved it. Especially the part where Colin is dancing with one of the kids and they are sporting matching striped sweaters.

That's all for now! See you all at Metronome tomorrow night?

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Howdy, Solid State.

I wish I was writing under better circumstances, but I thought I should inform everyone about the rather tragic misfortune which has befallen my little black (Mac)book.Yesterday my hard drive completely shit the bed. It has since been replaced and I am again up and running (sort of). However, my computer is now essentially an empty shell. In short, I lost everything.

The list includes, but is certainly not limited to:
- All files not backed up on the 7D server (this is mostly published work).
- Most e-mail contact info.
- All digital pics (band photos, CD covers, shots of my crazy half-pit bull Buckley, etc.).
- My ridiculous iTunes library (dating back to Ethan Covey's tenure: 60+ GB, somewhere in the neighborhood of 60,000 songs).
- My porn . . . totally kidding (I always back up my porn!).
- My coverage schedule (lineup for Soundbites, CD reviews, spotlights, etc.).
- My cool Fenway Park Desktop(s).
- A whole bunch of other stuff I probably won't miss until I really need it.

The point of sharing this with you is that I need your help rebuilding. Many Solid State denizens are also musicians, booking folks, promoters and others with whom I work in a professional capacity. If you've contacted me recently about coverage, please do so again because I no longer have the info. And if you haven't contacted me about your band before, now is the perfect time! In fact, you could even pretend that I promised you a cover story next week and I'd have no real way of denying it — please don't do that.

Anyway, I'm pretty much starting from scratch, trying to rebuild six years or so of resources. If you have high resolution pics, digital versions of albums you've submitted, pictures of my dog or anything else you think might be helpful, please send 'em my way. And feel free to spread the word to anyone you think might want/need to know. I mean, I know everyone reads Solid State, so the chances of folks missing this are pretty slim. But just in case . . .

I'm a Music Editor with no music. How sad is that?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Just When You Thought It Was Safe . . .

They're baaaack . . . maybe.

Click the link and discuss.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Thumbs Down, Phoenix!


A few days ago, web lady extraordinaire Cathy Resmer sent me a link to a feature by the Boston Phoenix in which they weighed in on the best musical acts in each of the fifty states.

Here is me weighing in on the feature: It blows.

I didn't read each state's wins. But I did read those of the four states I have lived in. And of course, I paid particular attention to the choices from our great state of Vermont.

And so without further ado, here they are:

All-Time Best Band: Phish
All-Time Best Solo Artist: Rudy Vallee
Best New Act: Yvel

Let's break this down one category at a time, shall we?

Ok. Phish. We've discussed this before. And while I'm not a Phish fan myself, I get it. They were huge, and they came out of Vermont. If notoriety is what makes them best, then yes, they are the best. Job well done, Phoenix.

Rudy Vallee, on the other hand . . . are you freaking kidding me? I have nothing against Rudy Vallee as an artist. I would even go as far as to say that I admire his work, and have an appreciation for his influence in early to mid century music.

All that said, dude's not a Vermonter.

Ok, yes, he was born in Island Pond. But he spent all of his formative years in Westbrook, Maine. And his music career? That took place in New York. I mean, I guess if he was schooled in Vermont and then moved to New York I would kind of get it, but the guy's birth is literally the only thing connecting him to our state. He's even buried in Westbrook, proving that "home" to him was always Maine.

Phoenix, are you suggesting we've had no notable solo artists in residence?

Best New Act: Yvel. See above? I get that some people move away to make it big. And I get that this guy is good and hey, he came out of Vermont! But, Phoenix, COME ON. You are within four hours of Burlington, and two of the Vermont border. You seriously couldn't find someone who lives IN STATE and is talented? It's insulting.

You know that part in "Wedding Crashers" when the dick-head fiance yells, "CRABCAKES AND FOOTBALL! THAT'S WHAT MARYLAND DOES!"

Well . . . isn't art (i.e. music) what Vermont does? Or at least what Burlington does?

I went to Maine over the weekend and ran into Chris Gray who writes a column for the Portland Phoenix. I immediately asked him what was up with this feature. And also what motivated a Boston paper to assume responsibility for naming the best music acts in 49 states in which the paper is not distributed.

"Bridget, do you have any idea how much web traffic that feature drives to the site?"

Ooooooh. You mean like the additional traffic I just sent them by linking to it in my blog? Got it. Chris went on.

"Have you seen the thing they do where they name the 100 Unsexiest Men? The content is nauseating. But everyone reads it."

Yeah. I have seen that thing. Because blogs as big as VH1's Best Week Ever link to it. I was just too naive to realize that the main point was to drive people to their site.

I guess I shouldn't waste any more time being put off by the poor choices assigned by the Phoenix, all in the name of web traffic... but I still am.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008



Friday night at the Monkey, I visited with the boys of Husbands AKA. They mentioned that they were playing a show at 242 Main on Sunday, and seeing as it was their first show back since Dylan's accident (or at least the first I heard of), I promised to attend.

I was still a hardcore girl when I moved to Vermont. Ha! I know, I can barely say that with a straight face myself. I guess, I was still a hardcore girl wannabe? I used to work for an online music magazine and I specialized in interviewing hardcore and metal bands. But I was known to do so while sporting the uniform of Kennebunkport; linen pants and flip flops.


Anyway, the magazine eventually went defunct, I fell out of the scene, and the next thing I knew, it had been almost three years since I attended a show at Burlington's youth-oriented and substance-free venue.

The first time I attended a show at 242, I had driven from Maine to interview Todd from With Honor. Of course by the time I arrived, the show had sold out, and I hadn't bothered to contact the band ahead of time to guarantee entry. Luckily Aaron from BANE recognized both me and my distraught look of "I was supposed to buy a presale ticket for a hardcore show?" and let me help load in.

The last time I attended a show at 242, it was the end of 2005 and I had decided to try and meet some of Burlington's musicians by throwing together a compilation CD to fight AIDS. I distinctly remember my roommate Erin giving me a little shove towards Alex Pond, saying, "That's Alex from From the Ground Up! Go ask them to be on the CD!"

Which I did.

Well, now Alex is in Husbands AKA, along with Tyson Valyou, Chris Valyou, Sean Fitzpatrick, and the ever badass Dylan Burns. And their show at 242 caused me to have a bit of a revelation.

We're all growns up.

The average age of the attendees on Sunday was sixteen. And there were a few kids there that I'm pretty sure I am old enough to have mothered. But "ohmygod ska fans are young" sentiment aside, the show made me realize that the "scene", hardcore, punk, ska or otherwise, is all about the cycle of audience-turned-entertainers.

There comes a point when, should you choose to remain in the same music scene as your youth, your role switches. That doesn't mean that those who leave lose all touch with the music. But your priorities change. And unless you're in a band, or working for a band, or even reviewing a band, you realize that the world won't end if you miss a show.

You might even stop considering it badass to get pushed around with the boys, and instead, grab that fifteen year old punk by the arm and warn him that he better watch it around the ladies as that's no way to impress a girl.


[You MIGHT even turn to your roommate during an episode of A&E's "Intervention" and say, "She would be so much prettier without that thing in her lip!" and then promptly die of mortification when you realize the full weight of what you just said, and how dismissing a piercing in such a manner pretty much merges you directly into your mother.]

I remember interviewing Stretch Arm Strong and asking them about the fact that several members of the band were married. Married! It seemed like such a grown up concept. So unlike anything we kids in the audience had going on in our lives.

Fast forward to this past Sunday and I had to leave the show at 242 early to go get drinks with my friend the bride, and all of my fellow bridesmaids. Because I'm a bridesmaid now. Because that's what you do when you're 25.

I'm having a hard time reaching my point... but I think what I'm trying to say is that seeing the audience at 242, seeing how pumped they were to rock out to the night's bands, and simultaneously remembering how psyched I used to get for a night out with my friends and our band of the moment, gave me a really warm fuzzy feeling inside. Not just that someone else out there is continuing to provide that release that I used to crave so much, but that the people providing it are friends of mine.

Husbands is a really fun band to watch. And they've been known to rock 21+ shows at the Monkey just as hard as they rocked 242. But it makes me really happy that they recognize the importance of the kids at 242, and happily book those shows along with the ones catered to an older crowd. After all, they used to be those kids.

And what better way to say thanks to the bands that helped shape your teenage years than to turn around and provide that same service to the next group of teenagers?

Recent Comments

Blurt (7D Staff)

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © SEVEN DAYS 1995-2010 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802.864.5684