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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

MTV. Not Just For Hormone Fueled Reality TV Anymore

Good morning-ish, Solid State. As promised, here's a post about music! I know, I know. I'm as shocked as you are. Anyway, this particular cyberspace brain-dribbling is from Seven Days very own Office Manager and all-around swell gal, Bridget Burns. And it's a good one, so perk up, dammit!

Take it away Bridget . . .

Has anyone else noticed MTV’s recent tactic for promoting new music?

Oh, no one here watches MTV? Everyone is much too hip to be bothered with back-to-back episodes of The Hills? You’ve got to be kidding me. There’s no way you’re so hip you can go a full day without knowing at least one more possible culprit of a sex tape rumor. I got that shit on my Netflix.

In any case, it seems everyone’s favorite youth marketing brigade has decided on a new musical assault tactic in which they adopt one band at a time for intense over-promotion. They call it their “Artist of the Week.” I call it . . . awful.

The first “Artist of the Week” I noticed was Paramore, the devout-Christian power pop foursome that adopted a camping theme for their week in the spotlight. During each commercial break, there they were, singing around a campfire, searching for a beach, playing boomerang with drumsticks or talking to a fake bear. The featurettes were supposed to pique my interest in the band, but they pretty much just made me do this:

“Wait… what?”

Since noticing “Artist of the Week,” I’ve witnessed the same weird mix of live performances, music videos and bizarre skits by several other bands, including two of my personal favorites, Rilo Kiley  and Tegan and Sara.

And that’s when it started to bum me out.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for bands finally getting the recognition they deserve. I’ve never been the type of fan to let go of a band as soon as a major label picks them up.

But there’s something depressing about a band making it big because of guerilla marketing tactics. “Artist of the Week” basically slams a band down your throat with such repetition that you wake up humming its songs and buy the CD with a glaze of Kool-Aid on your eyes. Sort of in the vein of Burlington’s own “Buzz Cut.”

And why should a listener buy the new Tegan and Sara CD just because they saw some skit of the duo driving through seagulls in a Toronto parking lot? I mean, shouldn’t the fact that they are lesbian Canadian twins be enough?!

Good thing there’s been good post-season baseball to distract me to another channel.

Oh, SNAP! You guys totally thought you were going to read an entire music blog entry without mention of the Sox! Yeah, right. Like I could possibly utter more than two sentences to anyone without gushing about how Jacoby Ellsbury is so totally my new husband.

Wow, I’m not even bummed about MTV anymore. Jacoby, baby, you do the trick every time.

Monday, October 29, 2007

WARNING: This post contains subject matter of an athletic nature. More music tomorrow.

You knew it was coming. Regardless of the outcome, you knew that I wouldn't let the opportunity pass to write about my beloved Red Sox in the World Series. To be fair, I waited as long as I possibly could. But the time has come. If it bothers you, I apologize in advance. Check back tomorrow and I promise we'll be back on track. The rest of you can feel free to continue reading and bask in the afterglow. Shall we?

For the three of you who are still reading, it's actually kind of sad, isn't it? Seven months and 176 games after we started, it's all over. To be sure, the outcome could not possibly have been better. A division title, another post-season collapse in the Bronx, a thrilling championship series and an absolute rout to capture our second title in four years. And still, it's bittersweet.

For me, and legions of fans of all (pin)stripes like me, baseball really is a pastime. Due to the marathon length of the regular season, rabidly following a team through all its ups and downs is a recipe for madness. As such, baseball is a game that rewards the casual fan. Seven innings here. A few innings there over dinner. Joe Castiglione's familiar nasal timbre crackling through a car stereo on a Sunday afternoon. In many respects, the game itself becomes part of the fabric of summer. But, as Dane Cook obnoxiously pointed out roughly 13,474 times in the last three weeks, "There's only one October." And now it's over. Presumably, so are those asinine commercials — so we've got that going for us, which is nice. But I sense a disturbance in the Force.

On more than one occasion in the last few days, I had this conversation:

Red Sox fan #1: "You know, it'd be really great if the team would lose a couple games so that they could finally win one at home."

Red Sox fan #2: "Yeah. Totally, dude."

Dan: "Fuck you."

Ultimately, the exchange points to the emergence of a new breed of Sox fan, spoiled by the team's recent successes — and likely those of their football counterparts in Foxboro. It used to be that we were cursed. Now we're entitled.

Could you imagine that statement being uttered in 2004? Or, God forbid, 1986? We've gone from America's beloved underdog, to something much, much worse: we've become Yankees fans. And perhaps, the Evil Empire is much closer to home than we ever thought.

I was only three months old when Bucky "bleepin'" Dent broke the hearts of Red Sox Nation — decades before the faux-nationalism concept even existed. But I'm pretty sure I experienced it through osmosis. I do, however, remember Bill Buckner. And I still have nightmares about Aaron 'bleepin'" Boone. I remember the last time the Red Sox won their division. And how they promptly collapsed in the playoffs, swept by none other than the Cleveland Indians.

But I also remember how the Sox battled back in 2004 to do the unthinkable and take four straight against the rival Yanks and then blow through St. Louis en route to their first title in 86 years. And I'll remember this season just as fondly — and graciously.

It doesn't get any better than it is right now, folks, regardless of where the team actually wins. And there's no shame in hopping on the bandwagon. Just be sure you know the road it's traveled before you do. We take nothing for granted, here in the Nation.

So baseball is over, and summer with it. And now, just like everyone else, we too have nothing left to do but to wait 'till next year. And that's just fine with me.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I am so very tempted to ramble on about my beloved Sox snatching victory from the jaws of defeat this weekend. So very, very tempted. But, rather than subject myself to the inevitable backlash that follows when I merely mention something sports-related, I'll refrain . . . for now. We are in the World Series, after all.

Instead, I thought I'd take this opportunity on a dreary Tuesday afternoon to wax nostalgic for a moment. Plus, I'm really under the weather and exerting much more effort than what will follow just ain't in the cards. So here we go...

It's funny how random little moments from the past will occasionally rear their heads when you least expect. A few weeks ago, my brother sent me an MP3 of a song we recorded together from our first band, Ska-Ka-Doodle-Doo!. We were in high school and were just about as awful as our name would imply. I was the drummer, my good friend and current musical comedian, Jon Murray, was the lead singer and trombonist — despite never having actually played the instrument before — and Tyler played bass. He was probably the only reasonably talented player in the band at the time, as the rest of the group was made up of random kids with very marginal ability — though I do recall we had a pretty good sax player for little while.

Anyway, that song — a ska cover of the jazz standard "All Of Me" — really knocked me down memory lane. We totally sucked. But we had a blast and you can hear that, even on the crappy Tascam 4-track recording. I sent the file to Jon, figuring he'd get a kick out of it too. He did, and then he one-upped me, sending back a song that I had completely forgotten ever recording.

At some point between the dissolution of my other ska band, The Skamaphrodites — who were much better than the name implies — and moving to Boston, we recorded this bizarre little tune that Tyler wrote, presumably while on a Beach Boys kick. Again, I'm playing drums — poorly — Tyler is on bass and lead vocals, Jon is on rhythm guitar and a guy by the name of Mark Aronsen is on lead guitar. We all help out on backing vocals and hand-claps.

Here it is, for your listening pleasure, "Super Woody" by Richard & The Rhythm Kings, recorded in a random basement somewhere in Burlington, circa 1999ish.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Throw Another Blog on the Fire

'sup? (head nod)

Sorry 'bout that. I'm preparing myself for tonight's fifth and potentially final game of the thus far catastrophic Red Sox-Indians ALCS and need to get into full-on "dude" mode. I know you folks hate when I talk about sports, but does anyone else think the Cleveland fans bedecked in cartoonish red-face is just a bit offensive?

92950e2c662547bf8806edcfb242db60 The debate over whether or not it's acceptable to use Native American stereotypes and imagery in sports is nothing new, but this is ridiculous. Why not just write something like "We Have 'Reservations' For The World Series" on the sign to complete the ensemble? As if I needed another reason to hate Ohio. Sigh . . .

Anyway, the real point of this post was to direct you toward Eva Sollberger's "Stuck in Vermont" Vlog. Her latest effort is a nifty video from last weekend's Gogol Bordello show in Montpeculiar. I was all set to espouse my own thoughts on the evening, but then Eva went and rocked my world and pretty much said it all. Check it out.

I will add this, though. The last time I saw Eugene Hutz perform was with The Fags at Club Toast in front of maybe 30 people. That had to be a good 10 years ago. To see him now, holding a crowd of 800 people in the palm of his hand, was remarkable.

At the moment, Phish and Grace Potter are the biggest things to come out of Vermont. By the time he's done, it might just be Eugene Hutz.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dan Bolles: Superspy!

I knew it! I'm a fine piece of ass and now I have proof. And no, I don't mean the "homeless Trey" silhouette adorning the header of Sound Bites — I've really got to do something about that. Anywhoo . . .

Whether they choose to admit it or not, the first section of Seven Days that most people turn to on Wednesday is "I Spy" — and usually on the can. The latter fact actually helps me put my job into humbling perspective; It's hard to get too worked up about angry letters to the editor when you realize that most were likely formed in the author's most personal moment of the day. But I digress.

I'm not sure how long "I Spy" has been running in the paper. But I'll come clean that prior to my employment with the paper, I religiously scoured the section hoping upon hope that someone, anyone, had thought enough of me in one fleeting moment to to put pen to paper and call me out. Week after week, month after month and ultimately year after year, no dice. As Harvey Pekar might put it, it's been a reliable disappointment. Until now.

Let it be known that I've been happily involved with the same woman for over two years. That said, my inner narcissist has generally refused to go a week without at least checking to see if I'd been spied. However, since I began writing for the paper, I've focused less on personals and horoscopes and more on what my colleagues are producing on a weekly basis — who knew they had articles in this rag?

Anyway, I'd all but given up on ever being spied until a friend pointed this out to me last weekend. I was shocked.

Red-bearded Red Sox fan walking your white dog at Battery Park, Oct. 3, morning. I rode by on my bike and we shared a smile. We also share a team and a hair color. What else?
When: Wednesday, October 3, 2007. Where: Battery Park, Burlington. You: Man. Me: Woman.

Sweet Jesus. I got spied.

Over the years, there have been a few close calls, but nothing that I could ever say for certain was me. I vaguely remember the incident with the red-haired girl — how delightfully Charlie Brown! My girlfriend, however, would really like to know just what the hell I was doing smiling at bicycling redheads in the park. Ummm . . . I'm just a happy guy? Hoo boy.

In closing, if you're out there red-haired girl, thank you. You made my week. I'm sorry it won't work out, but we'll always have Battery Park.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Weekend Rambling

Happy most worthless holiday of the year, Solid State. How was your weekend?

Mine was pretty OK, thanks for asking!

Friday night I journeyed across the river to the revitalized Monkey House to check out one of my favorite new-ish bands, Horse Feathers. Regular readers might remember my review of their show at The Skinny Pancake a few months ago. As such, it's no secret that I have something of a "thing" for the Portland, OR duo. Unfortunately, Friday's show was not their finest hour.

It appears that the band has multiplied. Their masterful debut disc, Words Are Dead, was primarily the product of songwriter Justin Ringle and multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick. When they came through town in June, they added Broderick's sister Heather on cello. Nice touch.

This time around, they took the stage as a quartet, minus Peter Broderick who is touring in Europe. Sadly, the extra help seemed to do little in making up the difference. For me, a major part of the band's appeal is their remarkably well-blended harmonies. It's the sort of skill that requires a great deal of time and effort to master, particularly given Ringle's unorthodox vocal delivery. The new folks simply weren't up to par and often sounded disjointed/disinterested.

It didn't help that the sound system at the Monkey isn't really designed to handle much beyond your standard garage rock band. Don't get me wrong, I love what Paddy Reagan and Co. have been doing with their little bar in Winooski. They've been booking some really interesting shows and provide a great alternative to the downtown bar/club scene. But something really must be done about that PA. Perhaps we can take up a collection?

I suppose another factor contributing to the overall tone of the evening might have been the conflict between folks who wanted to sit and and wallow in melancholia and those who were more interested in the Red Sox-Angels playoff game on TV. I have to admit, I was torn. Also, I imagine the cheer that went up as Manny Ramirez belted a walk-off three-run shot onto the Mass Pike didn't aid the cause . . .  my bad.

The opener, Johanna Kunin, was pretty solid in that cute-indie-girl-with-an-organ kinda way. Sadly, I missed Farm — see above Red Sox conflict. I am however, pleased to report that St. Albans' finest are taking refuge in the Cave of Legends to record new material. Can't wait to hear it, guys.

Due to an unforeseen scheduling gaffe, I also missed out of The Capstan Shafts show in Stannard. Word is that Horse Feathers and Johanna Kunin got in on that one too. If anyone went and has a report, I'd love to know how it was.

So yeah . . . Happy Columbus Day 'n' stuff.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Can Can


So there it is, in all its glory. The hunter's orange can from Miller High Life. Kinda pretty isn't it?

Not since Abercrombie & Fitch began marketing thongs to grade schoolers have we seen such a brazen display of marketing impropriety. Do you hunt? Do you drink? Now you can can do both without fear of a most unfortunate casualty befalling you in the woods: having your beer mistaken for a whitetail and accidentally blown away. Thanks, Miller! (High Life's actual slogan: "Common Sense in a Bottle" . . . indeed.)

Last weekend, some friends and I put the new design to the test at my girlfriend's parent's cabin on the edge of the Northeast Kingdom. None of us are hunters, but we do like drinking in the great outdoors. Adding legitimacy to the experiment, the normal parameters of "hunting season" don't really apply in that particular neck of the woods — which is red, and I ain't talkin' about the leaves.

I'm pleased to report that all of our beers emerged from the weekend unscathed. My poor half-crazy half-pit bull, Buckley, had a few close calls — he's mostly white — and I take full responsibility. Next time, he'll be outfitted with a beer helmet and have twice the protection! Safety first, don'cha know.

Aside from the obvious appeal of drinking schwaggy American lager in the great outdoors, perhaps the best part of the weekend was sitting by a fire in one of the most remote locations in Vermont and listening to a ton of great music. I think you know you've settled in to your job as a local music writer when you shuffle your iPod and discover there's equal parts local and national material. I've always listened to a lot of local stuff intermingled with well known groups. But perhaps because I have so much access to it now, never before have the two been pretty much on par.

There's something deeply pleasing about listening to Sufjan Stevens transition to Nose Bleed Island which then melds into Band Of Horses, segueing nicely into Farm. It was even cooler to have an Aesop Rock track blend seamlessly into VT Union and then turn around and spit out Andrew Bird — it was like the iPod had been observing my entire week and taking notes . . . creepy.

One band that stood out and made frequent appearances in the mix was the deliciously subversive acolytes of Beefheart, Man Man. With healthy vaudevillian nods towards Tom Waits, the band is a circus freakshow whose sinister musical machinations were magnified by the eerie shadows cast by the flickering flames. Picture David Lynch remaking The Blair Witch Project, and I think you'll get the idea. 

It probably won't, but I'm hoping tonight's show at Metronome — with experimental weirdos Yip Yip and local boys Yes and No Stories — has a similarly chilling effect. Perhaps I should bring some High Life along, just in case.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bird Droppings

Good afternoon, Solid State!

Friday night, I found myself at Higher Ground bouncing between the two rooms as venerable Chi-town tunesmith Andrew Bird headlined the Ballroom and one of my local favorites, Chuch, was the main event in the Showcase Lounge. On the plus side, the show times were staggered such that I caught all of Bird's set and nearly all of Chuch as well. The bummer was having to choose between Bird's opener, Plants and Animals and the two local openers in the Lounge, Party Star and Burette Douglas' high-lonesome side project, The Lonestar Chain.

Feeling the local vibe, I chose the latter and was treated to a solid set of stripped down alt-country tunes delivered in Douglas' trademark laid-back Texas drawl, aided by some nifty backing vocals and acoustic guitar lines from guit-box wizard, Creston Lea. Sadly, I was whisked away to the Ballroom before Party Star took the stage, but I'm told they were pretty rock-tastic. Maybe next time.

Andrew Bird was jaw-droppingly, show-stoppingly, art-poppingly indie-credible. Combining Devotchka's bohemian artistry with Joe Henry's articulate song constructs and a hint of Jeff Buckley-esque vocal dramatics, the dude was flat out brilliant. But then, I'm a sucker for loop effects, especially with a violin. I'm also a sucker for soaring falsetto. And melodrama. We all have our weaknesses.

The show let out just as Chuch was taking the stage, so I ducked back into the Lounge and was treated to the best denim-fueled speedwestern this side of the Mason Dixon. It's just too bad there weren't more people there to see it.

As my eyes drifted toward the door beside the bar and saw hundreds of indie-rock fans filing out of the Ballroom, I had a thought: Why not let folks who paid relatively big bucks to see the national act check out the local product in the next room?

Chuch and Andrew Bird share next to nothing in common, musically. But it's a good bet that more than a few of the folks who paid to see the latter would dig the former. I know I do. However, most people don't have my writerly access, so the idea of paying another cover on top of the 20 or 30 bucks they've already spent — not including booze — is probably unrealistic. But if you let them in for free — or even at a reduced rate — I'm guessing you'd have pretty close to a packed room rather than the 100 or so people who showed up to see Burlington's reigning kings of the road.

It's a proposition that benefits everyone involved. Rather than competing against Goliath, smaller acts could benefit from the proximity of larger attractions. Chuch typically doesn't need help in that regard — they've come pretty close to selling out the Ballroom on a couple of occasions on their own. But they could have used a hand that night.

From the club's side, more people in the small room means more bar sales. Where were most of the folks leaving Higher Ground likely headed at 10:30 on a Friday night? The bars downtown. I know because I saw a bunch of them later that night. Why not sacrifice a few bucks on ticket sales and make it back — and then some, given HG's beer prices — by keeping people in your club for an extra hour?

Higher Ground will never be a bastion of local music and that's fine. They're  a marquee club that focuses on national acts and do well in that regard. However, the concept works at similar venues like Paradise Rock Club in Allston and there's no reason it couldn't be just as effective in Burlington. Perhaps we should propose the idea over at Higher Ground box office dude Nick Mavadones's new blog?

As an aside, I was going to tie this whole thing into the new Miller High Life can design but then I just had to go on a rant. Tune in tomorrow for a crash course in hunter/drinker safety!

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