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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I Need Cock (Rock)

Greetings, Solid State!

I have to admit, I'm a little "hurt up" today. A touch of the Irish flu, if you will. The reason? Last evening's opening frames of my very own bowling league, The Whiskeyball Gutter League.

I'm an avid bowler. Not an especially good bowler, mind you; I just really enjoy it. I love the feeling of knowing I've rolled a perfect ball the moment it leaves my fingertips. I like the shoes. I love the cheap beer. I love taking an absolutely ridiculous game waaaay too seriously with good friends who should know better. I love the kitschy Americana. I love picking up a split. And I totally dig the music.

My good friend, Jeremy Gantz, and I started the league because we were tired of bowling in public leagues with total strangers — though that aspect surely has it's charms. We approached Champlain Lanes with the idea, assuming we could field at least eight teams. We ended up with 14, nearly filling the entire alley.

Among the conditions we insisted on — draft specials and free shoes being at the top of list — being able to play music was a priority. In typical leagues, music is a Footloose-ian no-no. I imagine for folks who take the game much more seriously than we do, it can be distracting. More distracting than the 14 Bud Lights most of these "athletes" consume over three games? Perhaps.

In any event, after no small degree of haggling, we convinced the powers that be to let us hook up an iPod and play our own music over the PA. In short, it was awesome.

I put together a rough draft of a bowling mix with some of my favorite music and some obvious "bowling tunes." "Take The Skinheads Bowling." Check. Anything by Let's Go Bowling. Check. The Big Lebowski soundtrack. Check. Check. But, as totally rad as the mix was, it was flawed.

While putting it together yesterday afternoon, it occurred to me that I don't own any cock rock. It's not that I'm "too cool" or have anything against overblown guitar wankery. I've just never had occasion to acquire any. Frankly, what's a good bowling mix without hair-metal?

So I need your help, denizens of Solid State. If you were to put together an ass-kicking mix for your bowling league, what would be on it? Don't be shy. This is one opportunity to voice your guilty pleasures to the world and shed the shackles of embarrassment. Whaddaya got?

In the meantime, here's a bowling blooper reel:

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Call To Arms, er, Amps!

Happy Black Friday, Solid State!

I know we're still getting to know each other, but could you guys do me favor? This letter just came in a few minutes ago and it concerns everyone's favorite West African "Warrior Poets," Tinariwen. Read on:

Hi all:

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. I’m gearing up for the Tinariwen concert on Monday, which will surely be an amazing event. The band needs a number of guitar amps, and before I try to rent them, I wanted to see if anyone in the area was willing to lend us any amps from the below list that they may have in their possession.

Imagine, you can tell all your friends that a rebel, nomadic, Touareg, electric guitar star used your amp! Now that’s a conversation starter, don’t you think?

Here’s what we’re looking for. Let me know as soon as you can if you or someone you know would let us borrow any of these. We’d need them by Monday afternoon and could bring them back in perfect shape the next day.

- 1 x Fender Twin Reverb OR 1 x Fender Deluxe
- 2 x Roland Jazz Chorus JCM 120.
- 1 x Trace Elliot Acoustic TA100R
• 1 x 1 Bass Amplifier – Combo type Ampeg or Trace Elliot.

Thanks for your help, and I look forward to seeing you on Monday!

All the best,

Jacob Edgar


You can reach Jacob Edgar at [email protected]

Good Luck, Jacob.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ask, And You Shall Receive . . . Occasionally

Have you folks been outside yet? Ugggh! What an absolutely shit-tacular morning. It's the kind of morning I wish I was a bear so that I could just sleep for the next six months and miss this whole "winter" thing altogether. Is it snowing? Is it sleeting? Raining? Yes! No. Sort of. Whatever it is, it's cold. And wet. And windy. It's the unholy trinity of Burlington weather. Go to to hell, Tom Messner.

OK, now I feel better. There's nothing like directing your rage at an innocent bystander to soothe the demons inside. And no, I don't really want Tom Messner to go to hell. Just his Super Duper Doppler 9000 1.21 Gigawatt radar.

Anyway, a couple of posts ago, semi-frequent commenter, Thirtyseven, asked, "Can we just focus on how profoundly badass Tinariwen are?" At the time, the discussion had taken on a life of its own and it didn't really seem appropriate to change course midstream. But since he was the only person who commented on my last post, I figure, "what the hell?" So Thirtyseven, this Bud's for you.

As Thirtyseven — a handle which, oddly enough, is not a "Clerks" reference — pointed out, Tinariwen are, in fact, profoundly badass. Leading up to last week's e-mail interview, I honestly didn't know too much about them. World music has historically not been my bag, so my working knowledge of the genre was fairly limited. But digging into the band's back story is like reading a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel. Except that it's real and infinitely more dramatic, laden with powerful imagery of exiled young "poet warriors" wandering the Sahara desert, rifles in one hand, guitars in the other. Their tale is not your typical band bio.

In short, the band was formed as a result of the bloody Touareg rebellion in the West African nation of Mali. Tinariwen's founding members were recruited into Colonel Ghadhaffy's military camps in Libya, lured by false promises of liberation. In response to Ghadaffy's lies and an entire region thrown into tumult, Tinariwen became the backbone of the underground Touareg resistance, funded by its leader, Iyad Ag Ghali, who provided the band with instruments an rehearsal space.

Their music, despite never being overtly political, became the soundtrack to a rebellion, serving as inspiration to thousands of disillusioned Touaregs. My favorite bit of imagery in their bio is of the "cassette tape to ghetto-blaster grapevine" through which their early recordings were distributed. Talk about file sharing.

If you're unfamiliar with Tinariwen, do yourself a favor and check out their full story.

In the meantime, here's a video sent to me this morning from a Left Coast gentleman named Matt Wright. Matt handled some of the more interesting indie bands in Portland, OR, many of whom (Horse Feathers, Alela Diane, et al.) have begun to frequent our frigid Northeast hamlet. Apparently, he's now living in San Fran and is involved with Tinariwen in some capacity. This vid is kind of a glorified commercial, but it does have some decent live footage. Enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Big. Heavy. Word.

Good afternoon, everybody.

I've been meaning to get to this post all week. But between discussing the merits — or lack thereof — of cover songs on the last post, sifting through the remarkable story that is Tinariwen (thirtyseven is right, they're amazing), immersing myself, yet again, in local hip-hop (if you dig rap and/or hip-hop, check out the next Hip-Hop Open Mic @ Nectar's. It's a lot of fun.), and a rather comical run-in with Animal Control (while attempting to berate/fine me for playing fetch with my dog off-leash, said officer stepped in poop. Noting my full doggie poo bag, she let me go with a warning.), time has simply slipped me by this week. Almost.

Woody Allen once said that "Eighty percent of success is showing up." I'm not sure how accurate his percentage is, but I've found the sentiment usually rings true. Even in cyberspace!

Last week, I was asked to take part in a panel discussion for Big Heavy World's IndieCon 2007. For those of you who missed the column mention in last week's paper, Indiecon is basically a music conference/showcase on a Burlington-sized scale. The idea is to provide a resource for area musicians and industry types to get together and share experiences and knowledge in hopes of strengthening the scene and to offer artists a chance to explore the inner workings of the industry, from promotion and booking to song-craft and history. Like everything BHW founder Jim Lockridge touches, it's a noble endeavor. To say the least, the dude's got heart and we're very lucky to have him.

My panel discussion dealt with "Press & Airplay" and featured Freeps A&E writer Brent Hallenbeck — whom I'd yet to meet until then, oddly enough — WRUV Station Manager Pat Floyd, 99.9 The Buzz Program Director Matt Grasso — whom I'd also not met, despite working in the same building — and folk songwriter Rik Palieri.

To go back to Allen's quote, it's a shame more folks didn't show up. I learned a lot just listening to the other panelists speak about what they do. And being asked to put into words what, exactly, it is I do was a refreshing experience.  Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day grind, it's easy to forget just how important a role we media types can play, especially in an insular community such as ours. It's good for me to keep that in mind.

Anyway, as stated, the discussion was woefully under attended. In a strange way, that may actually have been a good thing as the evening took on a more conversational tone than it otherwise might have. Topics ranged from the best way to approach the media for press to what to send and when to send it and almost everything in between. Should you be overly aggressive? No, but it doesn't really hurt. Should you just "drop by" the office? Never. Should you send as much info as can possibly fit in a padded mailer? Please, God. No.

The overriding theme of the evening for each panelist, regardless of discipline, was perhaps the simplest and most fundamental aspect of promotion: knowing what you're asking for, who you're dealing with and making it as easy as possible for that person to access your info. You'd be amazed at how many bands, on every level, haven't figured that out. I don't need a Yo-Yo with your band's logo on it (I have one if anyone wants it). I do need a hi-rez pic of your band.

I have boxes of CDs in my office that I will never listen to. Why? Because they have absolutely zero relevance to my job. I'm just not gonna write about some indie band from Western Illinois that opened for Bright Eyes unless they're connected to/playing in Vermont. I will however, respond to their PR person's inquiry and let them know not to waste their time and/or money and why. I believe the estimable Mr. Rae-Hunter's term for this particular aspect of the job was "The Velvet Fist." I prefer "Nerf-Hammer."

Obviously, if you're a musician reading this blog, you know what I do and what I cover. So in terms of getting press in 7Days . . . well, duh. But, the concept resonates beyond the friendly confines of Burlington. I believe Jason Cooley's response to my very first Solid State post is appropriate here, "Do your homework." It'll save you a lot of headaches and cash.

This was only the 3rd installment of IndieCon and, in many ways, the event is still gathering its feet. Hopefully, future editions will draw a few more people. Even if you deal with this stuff every day, like I do, it's still a great learning experience with potential to be an invaluable resource to our cozy little music scene.

In the meantime, my Inbox is always open and my Nerf-Hammer is always at the ready, should ever you need it.

Have a great weekend, Solid State!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gotcha Covered

Hey there, Solid State. How's things?

I just finished up an interview with Kevin Russell, from Austin, Texas progenitors of absurdist intellectual hillbillyism, The Gourds. Anyone who reads the paper regularly knows that the "rock interview" is not my particular forte. As such, I've decided to tackle the issue head-on and try as many different interview tacks as possible. Throw enough shit against the wall . . .

Last week, my interview with Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew went from amiable to near-suicidal as I pressed a wee bit too much on the stresses of BSS A.F. (After Feist). You should see some of the shit I chose not to print. Isn't there some axiom about salt on open wounds? Whoops!

I'm currently gearing up for an interview with Tinariwen, an African group touring as part of the Cumbancha World Music Series. Should be interesting, but for one minor detail: no one in the band speaks English. So not only are my interviewing skillz a big-time work in progress, the Q&A will be conducted either through a translator — if we can find one — or via e-mail, which is pretty sterile. Sigh.

I was actually fairly pleased with The Gourds interview. Kevin seemed like a pretty laid back guy and lacked the pretentiousness of a number of the musicians I've spoken with thus far — nationally and locally. Plus, I've been a fan for years and have always wanted to ask him how he feels about their "biggest" song being attributed to everyone and their mother but The Gourds. (For the uninitiated, The Gourds recorded a hillbilly version of Snoop Dogg's "Gin & Juice" that achieved fairly widespread popularity on the interwebs . . . as a Phish song. The Napster version of the tune was also attributed to Ween and a number of other acts that don't even remotely sound like The Gourds. Damn hippies.)

I can't spoil it, since the interview is running in  this week's edition. But he had an interesting perspective on the phenomenon and some good stories about the song.

Anyway, the conversation got me to thinking about great cover songs. Generally, I hate covers. In how many other mediums is that notion even an option? Would an author "cover" Hemingway or Faulkner? Would a painter "cover" Monet or Picasso? Granted, the phenomenon exists in film under the guise of "remake."  But frankly, I usually hate remakes too — though "3:10 to Yuma" was pretty bad-ass. The cover is an enigma, only truly relevant in the world of music.

It's not that I dismiss the creative validity of reinterpreting another artist's work. Rather, it's that most bands do just that and choose to play straight of versions of their favorite tunes rather than invest any energy or thought into how they could put their own spin on an old song. It's too bad, because in the right hands, a cover song can offer brilliant new insight or completely re-invent the way a song is perceived, sometimes transcending the original altogether.

Take, for example, the queen mother of all cover songs, Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah." Not only is Buckley's version about a bazillion times more emotionally engaging than Leonard Cohen's original, it's become the standard version of the song. Listen to the version Rufus Wainright recorded. He's not covering Cohen. He's covering Buckley, covering Cohen. And he's not the only one. Scores of artists in hipster coffeehouses and rock clubs the world over cover Buckley's cover. Not only is it a testament to Buckley's otherworldly ability, but to Cohen's remarkable poetic lyricism.

In a similar, if less iconic, way, M. Ward's version of David Bowie's "Let's Dance" turns a high-energy romp into a mournful, slow-burning elegy. Maybe Bowie's song wasn't meant as a party tune after all.

The cover song can be a powerful weapon in an artist's repertoire. But only if they take the time to flesh out the deeper subtleties of the original or turn the song completely on its head and arrive at remarkably different destination. The Gourds did and it — almost — made them famous. Damn hippies.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Is it Miller Time Yet?

I really am a dumbass.

All week long I've been promising a glowing review of last Tuesday's GWAR throwdown at Higher Ground. Here we are on Friday afternoon, and I got nuthin'. Unfortunately, I can't find my camera and thus, have no visuals to go along with with my awed ramblings about Antarctica's finest metal band. If you've ever seen them, you know that their stage show is virtually unparalleled. As such, no worthwhile review is complete without some fetching pics. Alas, I have none until I figure out where the hell my camera is.

However, I will say this: for the last several nights, I've been having the most vivid cartoonishly violent nightmares imaginable. Plus, my ears only stopped bleeding yesterday. Thanks GWAR!

Anyway, I wanted to take this opportunity to relay an item that didn't make it into the paper this week, mostly due to space issues.

Electronic dance music fans will want to head up the hill this Saturday and check out Elixer at The Grand Maple Ballroom of UVM's newly minted monstrosity, The Davis Center. The show is free and will feature some of the area's finest DJ's. They are:

Matt Joseph: Matt has a weekly radio show on Montreal's www.Techno.FM, a bi-monthly radio show on from Norway and is a rotating DJ on one of Australia’s biggest dance music FM radio stations, 91.5 KIK FM
DJ Haitian: Haitian is one of the most popular local electronic music DJs. He is part of 2kdeep, and basscamp.
Vasilis: Vasilis is one of WRUV’s most popular electronic music DJs.
MDE: Miles Ewell a.k.a. MDE is one of the most talented hip-hop producers in the area. Expect the unexpected from this live keyboard/DJ set performed alongside Matt Joseph.

I don't know too much about most of these guys, but their cred is impressive. MDE, however, did some spectacular work as the the producer on local rapper Matty C's latest disc. If you like to boogie . . .

That's about it of now. I leave you with this vid of Romans, from the inaugural show at Wasted City Studios:

Swayze Express! at Wasted City

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Howling At The Moon, Emotively

So I was all set to deliver a recap of last night's epic GWAR show at Higher Ground and then I realized that I left my effing camera in my girlfriend's car. D'oh!

Sadly, I wasn't allowed to shoot pics in the concert. But I did get some pretty cool shots of the hardy souls who dared to stand within 100 feet of the stage emerging from the club after the show. Tomorrow I will regale you with horrific tales of madness and mayhem in South Burlington.

Until then, check out this new video from local emo-core outfit Waiting For A Miracle whose self-titled debut album was one of the first I ever reviewed for the paper. It's directed by 5 Seconds Expired front man  Jeff Howlett's production company, Howlerman Productions.

Enjoy . . . but in an angsty way, of course.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Like Strippers

Happy GWAR day, everybody!

These comic strips showed up in my inbox this morning and I thought of you, Solid State. They come from an artist named Jeff Noise and appear in about a half-dozen alt-weeklies in Canada and the US. On his website, Mr. Noise bills his work as "the world's first and only comic strip record review." Nifty.

We're not accepting new submissions at the moment, which is too bad. But I figured y'all might dig 'em.

Here you go (click the thumbs for a larger version!):

Kfitty07_copy_5  Liars07_copy_2  Peej07_copy_2   Turbonegro_07_copy_2

Monday, November 05, 2007

Out On The Weekend

Howdy, Solid State.

It was a pretty sweet weekend, music-wise. I didn't make it out on Friday night, since I wanted to save my strength for the birthday marathon at the Bean. I'm glad I did.

I wandered into the cozy coffee house on North Winooski around noon and despite already having downed a few cups of coffee, refilled my trusty travel mug and pulled up a cushion in the corner nook by the door. Prime real estate, to be sure.

The Cleary Brothers were about mid-set by the time I sat down and had a packed house bobbing to some delicious fiddle tunes. The dance floor — if it can really be called that at Radio Bean — was overflowing with toddlers awkwardly gyrating and bouncing into one another. Good clean family fun!

Which brings up one of my favorite things about little kids; they always seem drunk. They have yet to fully master the subtle intricacies of balance, tend to speak in garbled gibberish and often times get a little too grabby. Just as I'm sure many of their adult counterparts were later in the evening. Unfortunately I didn't make it back to the Bean for the evening session to find out as the lure of cheap pitchers at Esox was too much to overcome. C'est la vie.

I did, however, stick around for a healthy chunk of the afternoon and was treated to some really great stuff by a number of acts I'd yet to see during my tenure at Seven Days.

I've been trying to catch Nose Bleed Island for months but sadly, the scheduling has never quite worked out. Though lacking the full band, Joey Pizza Slice managed a delightfully quirky — and PG — little set featuring a few of my favorite tunes from NBI's last disc. I'd heard rumors that the band wasn't doing live shows until next year, but lo and behold, they're playing this Wednesday at Higher Ground. Sweet.

The Fatal Flaws — or 2/3 of them, anyway — served up a brief set of garage rawk that likely would have been better received later in the day/evening. Through no real fault of their own, a healthy portion of the kid-heavy crowd left amid a cacophony of distorted guitar and drums. It's too bad, since James Kochalka joined the band for a tune midway through their set. Despite having publicly called for both Casey and my heads, I've got no ill will and imagine their upcoming "Punk Soiree" at Red Square this Sunday will be more reflective of the band's true nature. A word of caution though: If you go, don't show up late . . .

I hadn't caught local indie chanteuse Marie Claire in quite a while and was stunned by how much she's grown as a performer and songwriter since the last time I saw her — not counting playing Patsy Cline to Brett Hughes' . . . um, Brett Hughes at Honky Tonk Tuesdays. In particular, her vocal control has really matured. She's always had great pipes, but it seems she's discovered how to use them tastefully. She certainly has the ability to pull off the diva thing, but wisely chooses to let her songwriting do the heavy lifting, favoring controlled flourishes over heavy-handed wailing. If you haven't seen her lately, I'd recommend it.

Following that, alt-country heartthrob Lowell Thompson played an unscheduled two-song set which Bean-proprietor Lee Anderson dubbed "the best he'd ever heard" the singer play. I'd have to agree. Like Marie, Lowell is truly coming into his own as a songwriter and singer. And as my girlfriend never fails to point out, he's soooooo dreamy . . . ahem.

Anyway, it was a great afternoon spent at one of my favorite spots in town. Here's hoping you folks made your way down at some point during the day to pay your birthday respects. If anyone caught the night sets, please chime in. I'd love to hear about it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a few small animals to sacrifice before tomorrow night's GWAR show at Higher Ground.

Friday, November 02, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different

Happy freakin' Friday, Solid State.

I had a few ideas for the last post of the work week, but rather than limit myself to one topic, I thought I'd just throw a bunch of shit at the wall and see what sticks. Here we go, in no particular order.

Greg Davis is my hero. From creating some of the most wonderfully strange music you'll ever hear in the Green Mountains to touring with Akron/Family, the dude just seems to embody the spirit of independent music in Vermont. While his creative endeavors are worth a week's worth of blog posts or SoundBites columns on their own, it's his efforts as a concert promoter/organizer that I appreciate the most.

Much like the ever industrious folks over at Tick Tick — and often with their help — Davis is responsible for putting together/spreading the word about some of the most interesting bits gracing the Seven Days Club Listings.  And he's at it again.  From the man himself:

Mike Tamburo is coming back to town to play. he'll be doing a special solo hammered dulcimer exploration this time. He is on tour with Horseback who makes "fuzz-washed, blessed drone". and a Snake in the Garden starts things off with some New England noise.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and check out the links. This is some crazy-cool and oddly beautiful shit. The show is 7 p.m. this Sunday at Kriya Studio. And no, I won't tell you where the hell Kriya is. Finding it is half the fun.

In other news, Burlington's laziest ex-pat Arthur Adams has been up to some pretty nifty stuff lately. Apparently, the moniker switch from The Lazy Songwriter to Blammos! has given the mercurial tunesmith a kick in the creative ass and he's attempting to post 30 videos in 30 days on his blog. Here's the first one:

Moving on, my good friend and half-Japanese girl (any Weezer fans out there?), Ms. Aya Inoue is emerging from her semi-retirement and playing a gig tomorrow night (Saturday) at Red Square. Back in my heart-on-sleeve songwritin' days, Aya wrote a song called "Crescent Moon" that inspired me to write a song called "Make You Swoon," which was an unabashed rip-off of Ryan Adams — he didn't mind, I even asked him. That song, in turn, inspired her to write a response song. Good times. Show starts at 8 p.m.

In shitacular news, The Nightbirds done got screwed by a sleazy booking agent who promised to set up a tour and then split town with their deposit money — presumably in a bag with a dollar sign on it. Here's the story, from front man Brenden Shinosky:

Basically I started booking this tour and it got a little to heavy for my taste. So I called upon a company by the name of Red Sea Booking based out of Western, NY. It seemed totally legit. He had other bands he was dealing with that I got in contact with (that have now also been scammed).

I told him (him being Mike Marlinski) what we were looking for as far as cities and dates go. He responded with an OK. He said he would take on the 10 or so dates we were missing to make this tour happen. A contract was made up, signatures were exchanged (between him and our manager, Tony Gallucci) and bam, that was it. He received our deposit through paypal. I think we spoke with him once after that in which he stated he was 48 hrs away from closing all the deals with the venues. Bullshit.

He never got back to us after that. Instead he deleted the company MySpace profile then he deleted his personal email address. So we called and called and to this day he still hasn't picked up. All I know is I've left him some pretty strong voice mails expressing how I feel about his sorry ass.Now were stuck trying to fill the gaps in our tour and we leave tomorrow. Oh feel free to call him ( 716-907-8599). He won't pick up. And we've left so many messages now that his voice mail box is full.


I don't know about you, but I'm thinking I might call this dude. Sometimes the power of the press can convince even the most tight-lipped assholes to spill the beans. They still need help filling dates, so check out their MySpace page if you know places between here and Chi-town. Good luck, guys.

So that's about it. Hope to see some of you folks at The Bean tomorrow for the birthday shindig. After that, I believe I'll take up residency at Franny O's in preparation for this Sunday's mid-season Super Bowl between the Pats and Colts.

Have a great weekend!

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