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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Politics of Dancing

As we inch ever closer to Super Tuesday and more Presidential hopefuls begin dropping out of the race — or, in Ron Paul's case, inexplicably hang on — we can look forward to the candidates getting down to the nitty-gritty and discussing the most pressing issues of the day. Like the war on terrorism, the economy, stem cell research and why Hillary Clinton's campaign would use a song whose video features a sexual assault on a nun and a frontal lobotomy in which the discarded gray matter ends up as a dog treat. Ain't Democracy grand?

The video was posted on BoingBoing a couple of days ago by an alert blogger from The Netherlands, which happens to be the home of the tune's authors, Golden Earring. According to Jason Linkins from The Huffington Post, the video was actually banned by MTV in 1984 because it featured nudity. The incident with the nun may have played a part as well. Just a guess.

So to borrow/outright steal a phrase, here it is, your moment of Zen:

Thanks to Seven Days food critic Suzanne Podheizer for sending this one my way.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bloggity Bloggity Bloggity

Whew! What a weekend.

Friday night, I finally got a chance to catch local ska revivalists Husbands. What a hoot! I won't delve too deeply into my impressions as you'll be able to read all about it in tomorrow's paper. But talk about a flashback. The band is still fairly new on the scene and as such are a bit rough around the edges. It's forgivable. I haven't been to a good ska-punk show in probably close to ten years and goddamn if it wasn't fun. The whole night kinda made me long for my saddle shoes and checkered suit jacket. Ah, memories.

Saturday night, I acted as a judge for the Higher Ground Comedy Battle. Again, you can read more about this tomorrow. But I have to say that I went in with fairly minimal expectations. Stand-up comedy is sort of like karaoke in that it's only fun if it's either really good or REALLY bad. For the most part, the 11 contestants fell in line with the former. Color me pleasantly surprised.

The winner was a 20 year-old creative writing major at Johnson State College named Roger Miller. Honestly, if this guy doesn't pack his bags and head for NYC after graduation, something is horribly wrong with the world. Dude was hysterical. I think my favorite observation dealt with port-o-lets at music festivals — part of a larger, equally funny bit about drugs, hippies and jam bands. To paraphrase, you know something is truly disgusting if it's too nasty to piss into. Indeed.

Sunday night, I had every intention of pulling the Higher Ground two-fer and checking out Neko Case. But sometimes life gets in the way of the best laid plans. Unfortunately, my girlfriend threw out her back skiing at Jay Peak — on her second run of the day — and I ended up playing nurse all night, which is nowhere near as fun as playing doctor. Whoa!

Anywhoo . . .

I'm not a huge Neko Case fan, but I was really looking forward to seeing Eric Bachman. I dug both of his old(?) bands — Archers of Loaf and, in particular, Crooked Fingers. But alas, no soup for me. I hear it was a pretty sweet show though.

However, I did find myself in a rather strange position on Sunday afternoon as it was the first Sunday with no football since September. I've never put much stock in the whole "Cabin Fever" thing. But I'll be honest: I was kinda losin' my shit. I would have settled for the Toronto Argonauts versus the Montreal Alouettes . . . seriously, the Alouettes? That might be the lamest name in professional sports.

The funniest?  A tie between former Detroit Lions defensive back Harry Colon and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson. And once again, I digress. 

Fortunately, my sports junkie fix came in the unlikely form a Chuck Klosterman article on The piece deals with the New England Patriots pursuit of perfection with a win in this Sunday's Super Bowl and how the team's legacy — and more specifically that of quarterback/golden boy Tom Brady — would actually be more enduring were they to choke and lose. Essentially, the premise is that Americans, on the whole, identify with failure more closely than they do success. It's more humanizing to watch someone like Brady suffer defeat than it is to watch him continue to be virtually perfect. I think it's the same reason American Idol is still on the air — it's fun to watch people fail.

Though I vehemently disagree with his conclusion that Pats should lose, the argument makes sense. Frankly, Brady is a god among men. He's got model looks. He's the best player on the best team at the most high-profile position in sports. He dates one of the most beautiful women on the planet, Gisele Bundchen. And he recently fathered a child with another, actress Bridget Moynihan. If I didn't love him, I'd hate him.

Regardless of your interest in football, it's an intriguing read. Check it out. Except for you, Casey. I know how much you love Klosterman. And football.

Well, folks. That's all I've got for now. In the meantime, the story I wrote last week about teaching kids to play guitar using Guitar Hero has been getting some attention on And as a result, it's the second most popular story ever on Seven Days' new website. It's even prompted a snarky discussion about my work outside the friendly confines of Solid State. Neat-o! 

Six Degrees of Politics


Did everyone watch the State of the Union last night?

I was happy to hear Bush admit that the system of care established for our nation's Veterans needs some tweaking. I was even happier that this was his final address. After all, admitting a problem and fixing a problem are two different things, and the latter is a skill this man clearly lacks. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of our country simply tuned him out this eighth time around.

Luckily, next year's address will come from a brand new president. Who? Well, we don't know yet.


Hence the crazed campaigning and extreme endorsing slamming us from all branches of the media.

Earlier yesterday evening while running my little butt off at the gym, I focused on one of the TV's up front. CNN was reporting on all of the most unusual candidate endorsements after breaking the news of Senator Kennedy's recent endorsement of Barack Obama.

I wasn't fully concentrated on the story as my ipod was blaring Soulja Boy's "Crank Dat" into my ears [KIDDING], but suddenly Kevin Bacon's face filled the screen and it was all I could do not to fall off my elliptical.

I have no idea how I missed this until now, but apparently Kevin Bacon endorsed John Edwards back in December. Endorsed him with music.

Wait, no, that didn't do it justice. Endorsed him WITH FOOTLOOSE.

Skip in about three minutes for the good stuff. And don't get too excited. Playing guitar kind of restricts the famous Kevin Bacon Footloose dance moves. Which I will be happy to demonstrate to you if you're not aware how awesome they are. Just approach me at the Monkey after one Tequila Sunset.

By the way, this is in no way an endorsement of John Edwards. This is solely an endorsement of Kevin Bacon. Who has officially made the political world just one degree of separation away from stardom.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Crank... dat?


So word has it (and by word, I mean MTV), that Soulja Boy claims he's the best MC out there right now. And yes, I am referring to the same Soulja Boy that became famous by demonstrating his "catchy dance number" in an empty pool on youtube.

The artist made the claim in hopes that it would sway the opinions of the minds behind the MTV News "Hottest MCs in the Game" list. And he doesn't just want to be included in the ten, he wants to be the top one.

Soulja Boy even affirmed that he is hotter than Jay-Z. After all, he's "Grammy-nominated".

I'm sorry, Soulja Boy, but to me, you will always only be the artist responsible for the song that convinced that one lonely white guy at 38 Main in Winooski that he looked cool dancing, even if alone.


There is of course one thing that can make up for his "ringtone raps" and cocky attitude. And that is this:

A part of me is dying to teach the routine to my own little dance class at the Y.

But a bigger part of me really doesn't want to have to answer the first five-year-old to ask, "What does 'Super Man that ho' mean?"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wintry Mix

Anyone else all set with Winter? Frankly, I think bears have the right idea: just sleep right through that mutha. Sadly, unlike bears, we humans have the little annoyances of modern-day living like jobs, bills and reality TV to force us out of bed during this seemingly endless string of short days and long nights. That, I suppose, is why God invented whiskey. Thanks, big guy!

Anyway, surviving winter and the accompanying malaise clinically known as SAD — that's short for "Sucks Ass, Dammit" — requires a little creativity and, occasionally, an infusion of all-out pop-a-liciousness. Enter Plattsburgh's Hello Control.

I favorably reviewed the band's debut EP a couple of weeks ago. Although pop-punk ain't really my cup of Kool Aid, these kids are very good at what they do. If given the right combination of lucky breaks and a healthy degree of that all-important quality known as "stick-to-it-iveness," I could honestly see them appearing on the next American Pie soundtrack — American Pie: Cougar Hunt, I believe. And if that's not the next title in the bawdy teen-comedy franchise, it damn well should be.

So if Winter blues have got you down, get a load of this video from Hello Control, the latest by Jeff Howlett's Howlerman Productions.  And just think, Spring is technically only 56 days away. In Vermont, of course, it's really more like 80. But who's counting?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Can you ever just be -whelmed?"


Yeah, yeah, I know this isn't TMZ, but I still can't help but post something in response to the news of Heath Ledger's death. I realize things like this happen every day, and that in fact, it's not even the first passing recognized on Solid State this week, but for some reason I feel especially sad about this particular news.

It has a lot to do with the bizarre circumstances and the fact that he has a young daughter, of course. But I also think it's because Ledger is the first of the celebrities my friends and I had crushes on in high school, to die.

"Well, sure, except for Chris Farley," my roommate Erin corrected me.

In all seriousness though, Heath Ledger once earned a spot on my bedroom wall, as well as the bedroom walls of thousands of other teenage girls, when he serenaded his high school bet/crush in 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You.

I watched my video copy so often the tape wore thin.

And then I grew my hair out long like Julia Stiles so my own Heath would sing me an invitation to prom.

And so, as a somewhat cheesy tribute to a very talented actor, here is the musical scene from one of my favorite movies for your viewing pleasure:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

R.I.P. Andy Palacio

The world music community suffered a tremendous loss this week as Belizean singer Andy Palacio passed away due to respiratory failure, following a major heart attack and stroke at age 47.

Palacio was Garifuna, a culture descended from shipwrecked slaves who settled and mixed with Carib natives along the eastern coast and islands of Central America. An established musician in a variety of genres, he dedicated the latter part of his life to preserving the traditions of his dying culture through its music. Released on Charlotte-based world music label Cumbancha, his final album, Wátina was an all-star celebration of Garifuna roots music, garnering global acclaim.

Palacio toured the US in support of the album and I had the pleasure of interviewing him in preview of his performance at Higher Ground's Showcase Lounge in August 2007. Still relatively new to Seven Days, the interview was one of my first for the paper — my second, if I'm not mistaken. Despite English not being Palacio's first language, the inherent technical difficulties of speaking to someone in Belize on a cell phone as well as my then-novice foibles, the singer was as accommodating and pleasant as any I've spoken with since, and likely guided me through the conversation more than I did him.

What follows is an excerpt of that conversation.

SEVEN DAYS: You got your start playing Punta music and were very successful in Belize prior to focusing on Garifuna roots music. Has that helped raise the profile of what you’re doing now?
ANDY PALACIO: Absolutely. I had actually made attempts earlier to expose the diversity of Garifuna music in other media. In 1999 we did The Paranda Project. It was an attempt to document an art form that was in a way endangered because the main practitioners were all from an older generation.

SD: How has Wátina help to re-invigorate younger generations’ interest in Garifuna culture?
AP: If you look at it as an ethnic minority, the similarities between us and other ethnic minorities come into sharp focus. It takes a toll on one’s self-esteem, especially for this younger generation. We have to come up with something that is able to boost that sense of pride and have a positive effect on the culture. Wátina has had the effect of reconnecting that generation with their roots.

SD: You brought in Garifuna artists from all over the Caribbean and Latin America to record Wátina. It seems this approach is an apt reflection of the origins of the culture itself.
AP: Garifuna has been characterized as a nation across borders, and that’s just the experience we live. My Garifuna brothers and sisters come from Honduras and Guatemala and all over the Caribbean and Latin America. Our culture supersedes our colonial or political differences. So that had to be reflected in this collaboration. That was very important.

SD: The word "wátina" is Garifuna for “I call out.” Is this a call to the world or more specifically to the Garifuna people?
AP: On one level it is a reflection of the difficulty of ordinary man trying to get from point A to point B. Wanting a ride, so to speak. Or sympathy from everybody passing by. On another level it’s about the Garifuna people shouting out to the world, saying, “We are here and we have a culture to share. Don’t pass us by."

SD: Your early influences were fairly conventional North American and reggae music. How did your interest veer towards what you’re doing now?
AP: It was at the point where I recognized the threat to our culture. In the early ’80s, my commitment changed to prevent the disconnect of the Garifuna people from their culture and focus more on what was ours than what was imported from abroad.

SD: What would you like American audiences to take away from your performances?
AP: I think it would have to be the discovery of a component of the Americas that is totally new. It’s easy to assume that all people of African descent in the Americas have been enslaved. Or that all people of African descent speak the language of one of the colonizing countries. But to find that, somewhere within all of that, that we exist with our unique characteristics should be interesting to people.

Andy Palacio was an iconic figure, in Belize and beyond, and was instrumental in the ongoing preservation of Garifuna culture. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him and his music.

For more on Andy, the Garifuna and Wátina, watch this:

And finally, I received this letter from Cumbancha founder, Jacob Edgar. It contains information about funeral services and planned tributes to the fallen singer, as well as links to obituaries published throughout the world.

Dear all:

News about the untimely demise of Andy Palacio has been spreading across the world, and we have received hundreds of messages offering condolences and support. Please feel free to post your own thoughts and memories about Andy at Andy's MySpace page and on the Cumbancha blog. The messages coming in from all corners of the globe have been very moving.

A number of major media outlets have published or will be publishing obituaries, including the New York Times, Reuters, El Pais, CBC Canada, Chicago Sun-Times, Le Monde, The Guardian, Liberation, among others. I have posted links to some of these at the bottom of this note.

People in Belize and Garifuna people everywhere have been mourning Andy's death. On Friday morning, there will be a tribute concert at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts in Belize City. The funeral ceremony will take place on Saturday in Barranco, the small village in southern Belize where Andy was born and raised. His body will be brought by boat (weather permitting) to Barranco, where there will be a traditional Garifuna wake as well as a Catholic service.

A foundation is being established in Andy's name, where people can make donations. Information will be posted on the MySpace page and Cumbancha blog as soon as that becomes available.

A major tour was in the works for Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective with special guests Umalali starting in April and running through the fall. After discussing it with the musicians and agents, everyone agrees that Andy would have wanted this tour to continue, in tribute to his memory and to further his goal of exposing Garifuna music and culture to the world. A number of rising stars of Garifuna music will be added to the lineup, and we are confident that this tour will be a magical tribute to Andy and his work.

Best wishes,

Jacob Edgar


The New York Times


CBC Radio 2 Canada

Chicago Sun-Times

El Pais

Reuters España



I know all you hip kids are probably more up on this than I am, but in case you have not yet seen it, here's the official poster for this year's Coachella!


As usual there are some bands I'd like to see, namely Tegan and Sara, Animal Collective, Cold War Kids, Death Cab for Cutie, and Akron/Family. But like every other year I will choose to pass on the cost of plane tickets plus concert tickets plus food, and lodging only to bask in a heatstroke-filled weekend.

Festivals really aren't my thing.

Still I find it kind of inspiring that out of my choice bands from the lineup, three have spun through Burlington in the past year. And some others that I'm less familiar with, I'm sure. Kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about our little corner of the scene, don't it?

And for those of you who are festival people (i.e. in favor of heatstroke and opposed to showers), but just can't make the cross country trip, don't worry. Apparently the genius minds behind Coachella will be putting on an East Coast festival as well, later on in the summer.

Unfortunately for everyone, it is slated for Jersey.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Great Americans


So apparently I'm in a band. Apparently.

Yeah. That soulful crooner in last week's Shot in the Dark really is me. Who knew that much diva lived inside a suburban choir girl, eh?

Let me back up and explain.

I have never known how to play an instrument. Back in fourth grade when I had the chance, I decided I wanted to play drums. Unfortunately, the school's band instructor decided I should play violin. My parents actually had to call the school before the instructor would concede to let me play the instrument of my own choice. By that point, I decided I had no interest in being in his band.

And so I sang instead.

But it wasn't until last weekend that I ever sang at a bar...

I have been attending shows of the various musical projects of Eric Carlson and Tyson Valyou since I moved to Burlington. No wait, since before I moved to Burlington. I remember arriving at my friend Erin's Vermont apartment for a weekend away from Maine only to be greeted by Pretty & Nice set up to play in the living room.

So when they told me they were starting another band, it was no surprise.

And when they asked me to sing in it and I agreed, I never for one second took it seriously.

That is, until I called Tyson the following weekend on my way home from Jazzercise and asked what he was up to. When he told me he was loading his drums into the Monkey I said, "Why? Are you playing tonight?"

Which was when he informed me that WE were playing that night.

Um... what?

For those of you like me, who have never had the balls to sing in a bar, listen closely. The secret, it seems, is to chug two tallboy PBRs during the time it takes to study the provided lyrics sheet, and BAM. That stuff is like Mariah Carey in a can.

Lucky for me the songs were all my old choir favorites: "Going to the Chapel", "Build Me Up Buttercup", and everyone's favorite, "American Music".

And also lucky for me, I was not the only one singing. I was one of four. Or five.

Which was truly a gift since it was my first experience with a monitor and I didn't know enough to ask anyone to turn it up. As in... I'm pretty sure I visited every key, including the correct one, during my short flirtation with songstress.

I can't guarantee Tyson and Eric (and all other... oh, thirty-five members of the band) will invite me back to sing again, but I'm still totally grateful for that one night.

Because for the first time since the fourth grade when both the band instructor's and my own stubbornness deemed me choir-bound, I GOT TO BE IN A BAND!

Saturday, January 19, 2008



Just as a warning...

Please do not try to simultaneously take off your pants AND download Eddie Vedder's new song onto your cell phone.

Because as my co-worker Judy can testify, you WILL throw your back out and you WILL have to go to a chiropractor.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


If you read closely enough, every now and then there's some pretty interesting stuff in the Burlington Free Press. To wit, today's front page featured a lengthy (for the Freeps, anyway) piece on a ballot proposal by Burlington City Councilmen Tim Ashe and Ed Adrian to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Essentially, the gist is that our law enforcement resources could be more wisely spent elsewhere. So why waste time, money, manpower and legal proceedings arresting and prosecuting stoners with little more than dime-bags? It's a fair question. And Ashe and Adrian are wisely seeking to bring the issue straight to the people — rather than directly sparring with legislators — by challenging the council to include it on the March ballot.  I don't partake anymore, but I'm awfully curious to see how this one turns out.

This isn't the first time Mr. Adrian has championed a cause related to smoke-ables and their legal status.  Two months ago, the Ward-1 Democrat proposed an initiative — Disney-rrifically titled "Family Friendly Smoking Restrictions" — to ban cigarette smoking on Church Street Marketplace. Initially, the resolution met with enough skepticism to be defeated by the council 8-5 — even CSM director Ron Redmond called the proposal "a solution in need of a problem." But the motion could still potentially find its way onto the March ballot. So if the cards fall the right way, smoking cigarettes could be a more serious offense than having weed. Yikes.

Before I continue, I need to admit I'm a smoker. At least until after the Super Bowl, when I've promised friends and family I'd quit.

When the bar smoking ban went into effect a few years ago, I was skeptical. Like a lot of folks, I wondered if the ban would cut into bar revenue, or worse, make going to bars suck. Obviously, it didn't on either count. And, once I got used to what drinking holes actually smell like without smoke to mask the odor, I actually found myself enjoying them just as much, if not more. For one thing, you rarely encounter self-righteous non-smokers standing outside a bar in the smoking area. I'm not saying segregation is a good thing, but it's nice to enjoy a smoke without some asshole feigning a cough like they've got Black Lung and/or telling me I'm going to die. As the late, great Bill Hicks put it, "Non-smokers die every day."

That said, I still disagree with the bar smoking ban because — drum roll, please — bars are private property. If I own a bar, I want the right to allow my patrons — who are, by the way, adults — to enjoy their legal vices.

Or, perhaps I want to provide refuge for folks who'd rather not come home from a night on the town smelling like a pack of Winstons.

The point is, it should be up to bar owners to decide what kind of bar to run, employees to choose the environment in which they work and patrons to decide what sort of establishments they visit.

At best, barring smoking on and around Church Street seems like yet another step towards the "pussification" of  downtown Burlington, as I believe former Red Square owner Jack O'Brien put it — though at the time he was referring to the bar smoking ban and the enforcement of noise ordinances, if I remember correctly. At worst, it seems a thinly veiled attack, directed at alienating a specific undesirable segment of the population and sweeping them under the cobblestone.

You know who I'm talking about.

The folks who congregate around the Town Center are frequently cited as an unseemly blight on the the city's crown jewel, both in conversation and the press. Frankly, I can't say that I disagree. They're loud. They're obnoxious. They engage in very private arguments in a very public place. But they have a right to be there too. Church Street is, after all, a "commons" and doesn't exist solely for the prissy pleasures of the double mocha-sipping Eddie Bauer crowd. Besides, if the cops can't enforce loitering laws, how will they tackle smoking? Would they confiscate the Camels but leave the grass?

I have a litany of reasons why I think the ban is a bad idea. But rather than occupy the soapbox any longer, I'll point you in the direction of a rock star. This is, after all, a music blog, right? . . . Right?

Anyway, Joe Jackson — you may remember him from such classic 80s tunes as "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" and "Steppin' Out" — is an outspoken champion of "smoker's rights." He's written pieces for the New York Times and the London Daily Telegraph challenging the philosophical and scientific arguments behind anti-smoking campaigns. His latest manifesto is an interesting and (occasionally) illuminating look at a side of the debate rarely given much publicity. I can't say I agree with him completely, even as a smoker. But it's certainly something to chew on . . . and then spit out in a disgusting brown wad into an empty beer can.

Ah, nicotine. I'll miss you so.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

"All them Mocha Latt-ees, You gotta do Pilat-ees..."


I recently joined Jazzercise, and with the help of the best company Secret Santa gift EVER, am attending classes several times each week. Cause it's 2008, baby! 2008! Time to get my ass in gear.

Jazzercise no longer includes leotards and legwarmers (I know. Damn.), but luckily does still include one hell of a workout mix. With artists ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Justin Timberlake, the songs truly help me keep my energy up and get my dance on. Which got me thinking about what kinds of songs keep me the most motivated, and why.

Apparently someone at the New York Times was thinking along the same lines as me because they ran this article last week. Titled "They're Playing My Song. Time To Work Out." the article looks into the science behind workout music by speaking with Dr. Costas Karageorghis, who has spent the past twenty years studying the effects of music on physical performance. In fact, the good doctor even created a music rating system to rank the motivational qualities of certain songs in a fitness context.

The findings of Karageorghis' studies? Apparently the ideal song for a high intensity workout is "The Heat is On."


That one did not make the cut on my personal workout mix but I did listen to Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" twice while on the eliptical this morning...

Karageoghis bases his rankings on the beats-per-minute or B.P.M. of the song, which you can read more about in the article, though it seems pretty self-explanatory. Apparently the ideal B.P.M. for a workout song is 120-140.

I'm not sure about the B.P.M. of any of my own workout songs, but I do know that pop-hip-hop and hardcore tend to be the genres I choose. I run pretty damn hard to Kanye West's "Stronger" and I don't believe there's any better song to stairmaster to than "94 Hours" by As I Lay Dying. I mean, think about it, any song that drives a curly-blonde-haired girl to want to open up a pit in the middle of the Y is likely to burn some extra calories.

So what gets you all moving?

That is, assuming your workouts include more than a mop-top hair toss and a casual drag on your Parliament Light...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Late Afternoon Ramblings

Hey there, Solid State.

Since we've (sort of) been  talking about band marketing, I thought I'd pass this along. I'm not sure if this kind of thing has been done before — I'm guessing it has, though maybe not locally — but it seemed pretty creative to me.

Local reggae outfit, Pulse Prophets, are releasing their new CD, Breathe,  this Saturday night at Nectar's and have an interesting promotional gimmick lined up. For $5, you can enter a raffle to have the band play your house party. The proceeds from the raffle will go towards converting the group's van to run on veggie oil. So it's sort of for a good cause to boot! In a self-serving sort of way, I guess.

There are, of course,  a few stipulations involved. According to the band, they are:
- The Pulse Prophets will not be responsible for any noise violations.
- The Pulse Prophets will perform two sets with a break in the middle.
- The Pulse Prophets will rock your party!

Fair enough. But who supplies the weed?

Additional restrictions are that the party must be within 100 miles of Burlington, the band needs a 10'x20' space in which to perform and that the scheduled date will be mutually agreed upon. Sounds fair to me. However, I might have pushed a little harder on the rider if it was my band.

Back in the day, I briefly did some intern work for Higher Ground as Alex Crothers' assistant. One of my duties was photocopying contracts and mailing them out to bands. My favorite part of the job was reading the "artist's demands" section because they were often hysterically over-the-top.

I'm guessing I'd be violating some sort of code of ethics/law by divulging specifics, but let's just say that a certain heartthrob singer-songwriter, in addition to the standard booze and food requests, actually included condoms as part of his deal. Specifically, Trojans, if I remember correctly. I'm not sure a particular size was designated.

Some of the requests were almost comically simple in comparison. A rather iconic folk figure asked merely for this: a pot of black coffee and a ham sandwich. Awesome.

In closing, here's a picture of an idiot:

Head That is an actual tattoo of the New England Patriots' logo emblazoned on the side of this gentleman's head. Not only that, the dude has plans to replicate Patriots QB/golden-god Tom Brady's helmet by tattooing another logo on the other side of his head and the number 12 at the base of his skull. But "only if the Pats win the Super Bowl." Right. 'Cuz, that'd just be really dumb otherwise.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Weather Or Not

Sooo . . . nothing much to report from this side of the interwebs today. With the surge of April-esque weather currently sweeping through our little corner of the world, my thoughts are drifting out the window and my body will soon be following them out the front door. Speaking of which, why the hell are you reading this right now? Go outside.

Despite the siren song of sunny skies, I did manage to begin updating the Solid State blogroll. It's a task I should have tackled months ago, frankly. But, to be honest, until a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea how to do it. I'm special that way. But you learn something new every day, I guess.

I mostly focused on adding some new bands to the roster and there will be more to come. If you don't see yours, feel free to send me an e-mail and let me know.

I also added a few local music and culture blogs. For some reason they show up in black type. I'm not sure why, but at least you'll know which ones are new.

Anyway, check 'em out and we'll see you tomorrow.

Until then, here's another bizarre music video from India. I really enjoy these way too much.

Monday, January 07, 2008

I claim 'Wife'!


I had the pleasure of seeing Husbands perform live for the first time this past Saturday, and... wow. If any of you are feeling a little jaded, with music or life in general, go see this band. Not only are they local, but they're so freaking cheerful you can't help but have a smile on your face watching them perform.

The band labels themselves as Ska / Punk / Reggae, but should really add a third slash followed by 'gymnasts' because I have to believe that Justin Gonyea installed some sort of sub-floorboard trampoline into one corner of Wasted City for that much bouncing to have gone down.

Did you know that Tyson Valyou can simultaneously play a Casio B3 and do the running man? And yes ladies, he's single.

Plus any excuse to see Alex Pond's face while drumming is worth it, you know? That's got to be one of the highlights of the greater Burlington scene right there.

Anyway, they're playing January 25th at The Monkey House. I'll be there, and so should you. I might even consider taking my chucks out of retirement for the occasion, if only to better get my skank on...

Friday, January 04, 2008



Have you all gone to see Juno yet?

Mistress Maeve has recommended it as the date movie of the season and I have to say I agree with her. I mean, what could beat free clinic jokes, snarky teenagers, and a throwback soundtrack including The Moldy Peaches?

I fell in love with The Moldy Peaches early on in college when a friend put them on a mix tape for me to listen to on my rides to and from Maine. I liked their humble feel, and I felt a strong connection to the lyrics of one of their songs.

So imagine my surprise when two of Juno's main characters started singing "Anyone Else But You," as I sat in the theater in Connecticut next to my own "part time lover and full time friend" with whom I had always shared the song.

At first I got really excited, and grabbed my date's arm. Then I suddenly felt angry towards whomever had chosen to feature that song in such prominence. That had been our song! And no matter how many other couples had shared the song before us, it would now forever be known as the Juno song.

Obviously my anger is completely irrational, but I'm wondering if anyone has similar possessiveness over a song or album that later (in this case, much later) sprang to national attention. You know, the kind of song you want played at your wedding but that you'll never tell anyone you want played at your wedding in case they play it at their wedding?

I have one of those, too.

Some fun trivia relating back to Juno - apparently star Ellen Page was the one to suggest that her character might be a fan of The Moldy Peaches, and also the solo recordings of Kimya Dawson. I might be mad, but she was... well... dead on. The music really makes the movie. The soundtrack also includes tunes by Belle & Sabastian, Buddy Holly, and Sonic Youth, and ranked in the bestsellers on iTunes for over a month. So if you're the kind of person that needs musical motivation to go to the movies, there it is.

And while we're on the subject... what are your favorite movie soundtracks?

Mine include Empire Records, Ghost World, and The Royal Tenenbaums.

And Clueless. I own that one on cassette.

Oh and P.S. — here's a video of The Moldy Peaches performing the aforementioned song at the Juno premier. Their mic situation was a bit of a nightmare, but fun to see them perform live for the first time since 2004!


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Brave New World

There's hardly an aspect of our modern existence that remains untouched by the evolution of the Internet. No longer merely a global porn network, the web is redefining the way we communicate with each other and share information, the way we consume and the way we do business. Whether the on-line onslaught is a blessing or a curse is open for debate. But regardless of where you stand on the proliferation of the 'net, one thing remains clear: it ain't goin' away.

One particular aspect modern Western life likely irrevocably changed is the music industry. The so-called "death" of the music biz has been discussed ad nauseum, so I won't belabor the point here. However, the way the business works now is markedly different from any point in history and continues to evolve and improve(?) with increasing rapidity. In my line of work, I'm reminded of it several times per day.

I still receive "outdated" modes of promotion like one sheets, glossy photos and — gasp! — actual CDs. But, more and more, the way bands, labels and promotions companies spread their gospel is through electronic methods. Downloadable albums, photos and press kits, links to "special" press websites and MySpace pages — I never realized my MS profile would have professional applications! — are almost par for the course these days. And it's not just the means of delivery that's changing. The promotional content is changing as well.

Rarely will you see a band boast about how many CD units they've moved, since very few bands have success with actual discs anymore. Instead, they'll point to the number of MySpace hits they've accrued, or how many Last FM plays they've had. Chart success is now essentially social networking success. And in many ways, building a fan base is easier now than it ever has been.

Or at least that's the commonly accepted/practiced wisdom.

The real truth is that while there are more avenues open to fledgling artists than ever before, the apparent ease of self-promotion has empowered an enormous glut of artists all vying for what is essentially the same slice of the same old pie. Major labels, thought to be a dying breed, have recognized this fact and are adjusting their strategies accordingly. For more on this — and a thorough debunking of the Arctic Monkeys/MySpace myth — check out this article by Adam Webb in UK's Guardian Unlimited.

So then, what's a struggling indie band to do? Answer: Research.

Though the methods of promotions are changing, most of the principles remain the same. Assuming your band doesn't suck, you just need to do your homework. Actually, not sucking isn't even a prerequisite. Just look at Arctic Monkeys. Zing!

Here's a good place to start. This e-book link was sent to me by NEK MC Thirtyseven of Wombaticus Rex and contains some very insightful — and up to date — information on dealing with the changing face of the music industry as an artist or promoter. And it's free! Written by Andrew Dubber  of UK-based independent music advocates/strategists New Music Strategies, the book weighs in at 96 pages and is, pound for electronic pound, one of the most helpful guides to modern promotion I've seen. Dubber runs the gamut, challenging popular misconceptions of independent music marketing strategy and offering sensible solutions to common biz roadblocks. Think of it as Indie Band 101. Check it out. You just might learn something.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

What The Yvel?

Roughly a decade ago, there was an awkward skinny kid named Jamie who played drums for a local ska band called The Skamaphrodites — which was largely made up of awkward skinny kids, including yours truly. As many a teenage drummer does, Jamie had aspirations beyond merely pounding the skins and took to writing songs of his own. We all thought his heart-on-sleeve pop confections were really cute in a lost-puppy-dog sort of way, patted him on the head and went back to the business of crafting juvenile pop-ska, taking ourselves waaay too seriously and drinking underage. Ah, the folly of youth!

As most young bands do, we eventually flamed out — in a blaze of Natty Light-fueled debauchery, of course — and went our separate ways. At that point, we all lived together in an Old North End hovel and I distinctly remember the soundtrack to our breakup being the off-key caterwauling and clumsy acoustic strumming emanating from Jamie's second floor bedroom. I wonder what ever happened to that guy?

Well, that awkward, skinny kid named Jamie became an awkward, skinny man named James and is seeing his star rise in ways few Vermont-born musicians ever have.

Signed to Bjork's One Little Indian label, James Levy is becoming something of a big deal at home and abroad, as evidenced by this recent blurb in Spin magazine. The clip was sent to me this morning by a friend in Boston and I almost spit coffee all over my computer screen when I read it.  I mean, I had breakfast with the dude at Magnolia last weekend. And now here's his pouting mug staring back at me from one of the world's most popular music rags. Crazy.

However, you know you've hit the big time when a disgruntled music critic creates an entire website devoted to espousing his hatred of your music. In what might be the first MySpace-inspired fracas in the history of rock feuds, some hack calling himself "Andersonenvy" rips into Levy and has produced two animated shorts on the topic. Here's the first:

To see the second and read the review that started it all, click here.

Frankly, the whole thing is pretty ridiculous. But still, it's got to be at least a little bit flattering for someone to have such a strong opinion of your work that they devote so much time and energy into telling the world. Even if they hate you.

The old adage is that living well is the best reward. Snark-laden cartoons and all, it appears that James Levy — don't call him Jamie — is doing just that. Congrats, man.

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