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Monday, March 31, 2008

Dan Bolles: Music . . . Editor?

Howdy Solid State.

Sorry 'bout the lack of bloggy stuff last week. I've been neck deep in freelance applications from wannabe writers and I think I'm kinda losing my mind. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

When we ran the ad looking for CD reviewers a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea the response would be so overwhelming. At last count, I had close to 60 submissions from a remarkably wide variety of folks: professional writers, college students, bored housewives, people who "really like music, man." I even received an application from a guy who "has no expertise in music whatsoever" but figured he could "spew 500 words or whatever." Gee, thanks, pal. It's just that easy, really.

Anyway, I narrowed the field from 60 to 20 to about 5. Since I haven't actually informed the successful candidates yet, I can't tell you who they are. But it'll be pretty easy to spot them in the coming weeks. They'll be the folks not named Dan Bolles.

(Note: if you applied but haven't heard back from me yet, I'm sorry. You will. Probably tomorrow.)

So what does this mean for the music section/blog? Great question. Thanks for asking.

Basically, having a few extra hands on deck will allow me to focus more on stuff like, say, Solid State. Maybe even music-related stuff, if you can believe it. Now that we have Blurt,our fancy-shmancy new staff blog, whenever I'm compelled to, oh I don't know, write about baseball — just as an example, of course — I can do it there. Who knows? Maybe I'll even finish up that long-rumored podcast. Whoa! Easy fella. One step at a time.

Having writers at my disposal will also free me up to go to see more live music — or dispatch others, depending. Like last night's sold out Beach House show at The Monkey House, which I couldn't attend because — drum roll, please! — I was writing. Frankly, I was pretty bummed about that. But I'm excited to have more live reviews and the like — interviews, rants, raves, etc. — in the paper. Anybody who did go to the Monkey last night, please dish the dirt.

You can also expect lengthier pieces like the Romans feature that ran in the music section a few weeks back. That was sort of a layout experiment due to space limitations in Section A. But I was pretty pleased with it, especially because it opens the door for similarly longer stories and expanded coverage, which ultimately means more writing for me . . . wait a second. I've been duped! Just kidding. I'm really excited about this aspect in particular.

And finally, the added help will expand the scope and voice of the Seven Days music section. I'm by no means the only person with opinions about music 'round these parts. But for the most part, I've been the only writer — save for the notable contributions of Herb, Josh, Robert and, on occasion, Casey. Hence, music coverage in Seven Days has pretty much been The Dan Bolles Show, which I guess it still sort of will be. But less so. Maybe.

In any event, I'm looking forward to test driving the newbies and having the opportunity to spread my  wings a bit. Hopefully, you guys will enjoy reading some fresh perspectives and everything will be hunky freakin' dory. Or the whole thing will crash and burn and I'll be run out of town on a rail. How's the weather in DC, Casey? 

Friday, March 28, 2008

Not on the list.


I just got off the phone with Alex over in the Saint Michael's College Student Activities office who kindly provided me with a little clarification to some news I received via facebook this morning.

That being, the much advertised WWPV State Radio concert will not be open to the public as previously announced.


I don't know if any of you are State Radio fans, but I am, and after bonding with the band when they allowed myself and the IVAW boys to table at their Higher Ground show last October I was psyched to see them play Vermont again.

Turns out, we can't. The show is scheduled for P-Day (Preparation Day, my Saint Mike's alumni friends tell me), and keeping with Spring Weekend tradition, all activities are open only to students and their registered overnight guests.

Alex wasn't able to tell me much beyond that. Just that it was up to the administration and they decided to follow suit with previous years.

Damn you, facebook event creators! Keep it closed next time, would  ya?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A penny for your... music?


Any Pennywise fans out there?

While driving to Maine late last Friday night and listening to my favorite Maine (by way of Boston) radio station, FNX, I was lucky enough to catch an episode of Loveline. I haven't listened to much Loveline since high school (the only Vermont broadcast comes out of Woodstock), but from time to time I find I'm a little down, and the only cure is to hear Southern teenage gay boys question how soon after their rim job they should be tested for HPV. Not HIV, which you can be tested for, but HPV. Which men can't be tested for, and frankly, only in rare instances even affects you if you only sleep with men.

Oh, sorry, I just went all Mistress Maeve on you.

Back to the music.

So last week's Loveline show featured Pennywise, a band I've never really followed save for seeing them play with Stretch Arm Strong. But they've been around forever. No really, forever. As in twenty years.

This year, actually, this past Tuesday, the band released its ninth LP... for free on Myspace. Yep. Through a partnership with both Myspace and Textango, Pennywise announced that its latest album will be free online from March 25 through... I believe April 6. I can't quite remember the end date. It was late at night and I was distracted by all the rim job talk.

The band admitted while on Loveline that Myspace may have been a little less than pleased with how the deal turned out... something about not really informing the higher ups until after the paperwork had been signed... but in the end no one backed out and the tracks are in fact available. For free. Right now.

So if any of you answered yes to my question of being a Pennywise fan, head right on over here. You do have to be a Myspace member to qualify, which could cost a few cool points if you're too indie for stuff like that, but if you're too indie for stuff like that, you're probably not really into Pennywise anyway.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cult Following


I went to Maine for the weekend to see my family for a Saturday night Easter. While there, I also wanted to meet up with two of my best friends, each of which run in separate circles. After some wild games of phone tag, I was able to fit everyone in - dinner with my family, followed by beers and the Marquette game with Brian, followed by a Cult Maze show with Amanda.

[Yes, Amanda's name is linked, and yes, that is her on that album cover.]

It was the Cult Maze show that I was especially excited for - the band is native to Portland, but recently played the Monkey with local act Husbands and former local act, Pretty & Nice. They also played an even more recent show, also at the Monkey, that I was sad to miss. So I already knew I liked their music.

Plus, they were playing at The Space, my favorite Portland venue, and comparable to... well pretty much nothing we have here in Vermont. That is, unless any of you can name for me an alternative arts venue that serves as both gallery and music space and carries Pabst Blue Ribbon in bottles.

Yep, PBR in a bottle. If you thought there was no way to class up PBR, well, you would be wrong.

[Side note: My parents' friends Ted and Marty were on their honeymoon when Marty accidentally set her negligee on fire with her cigarette. Always practical, Ted grabbed the nearest bottle of PBR and put her out. I'm totally including that story in a novel someday.]

Amanda and I were running a little late, so we missed opener Baltic Sea, but luckily arrived just in time to see Cult Maze take the stage.

And imagine my surprise when they started one song with a shout to the audience, "THIS ONE GOES OUT TO WINOOSKI, VERMONT!"

They rocked it. The songs available on their myspace page are good, sure, (I especially love "Treble Treble"... probably because it sounds like a product of Saddle Creek), but their live show is just really amazing. Made all the more amazing by the fact that they were all wearing plaid flannel. GOOOOO MAINE!

And since a little scenester... errr... birdie told me that the band might be breaking up soon, you might want to make a point to check them out while you still have the chance. They're playing Friday April 4 at Geno's in Portland, and I just might make the drive.

On a totally different note, have you all read the recent interview with DMX regarding our presidential candidate-hopeful, Barack Obama?

It's... priceless. You can see a good recap here.

Thug Life

One of my favorite Queen City themed t-shirts reads: "Burlington: A Safe Place To Be A Thug" — although "Girlington" and "Burlingtron" are certainly contenders. I claim no real urban roots, though I was born in an unsavory neighborhood in Providence and, in my early twenties, spent a year living in Dorchester . . . the Polish section of Dorchester (insert joke here). Still, I'm an average middle-class white guy from New England and my experience with life in the ghetto — and no, the Old North End does not count — comes mainly through books, newspapers, TV and movies. And I'm grateful for that.      

About a week ago, I was returning from my afternoon constitutional with my faithful, half-crazy half-pit bull, Buckley. As I strode up the steps to my apartment, a thuggish looking kid with a native Vermont accent standing in front of the house next door stopped me in my tracks with the following line: "Did your fucking dog shit on my steps?"

Taken aback, I turned toward him and, trying my best to sound sympathetic, replied, "No, man. It wasn't my dog." "It fuckin' better not have been," he said, adding, "If I ever catch him again, I'll kick his fuckin' ass. It's fuckin' on." For emphasis, I suppose, he proceeded to take a drag of his cigarette, holding it between thumb and forefinger like a joint.

Internally, I began keeping a running tally of the number of times my agitated neighbor dropped the F-bomb. (This is something I frequently do to amuse myself. I firmly believe there is an inverse relationship between the number of times an individual uses some form of the word "fuck" in a sentence and said individual's level of intelligence. I'm still working out the exact formula. George Carlin — who is a fucking genius — is, of course, exempt.)

Slack-jawed, and more than a little unnerved that this punk had actually threatened my dog — who, though generally a colossal wuss, is still a freakin' pit bull . . . well, half pit anyway — I restated the facts. "Dude, my dog didn't shit on your steps. You didn't see my dog shit on your steps. Frankly, I'm not sure why you think he did. But he didn't, OK?"

As if processing the info, staring at the ground — or perhaps, the dog shit — he mumbled, "It's a fuckin' warning."

Bewildered by the unfolding stream of events, I shook my head and replied, "Uh . . . fuckin' thanks?"

A couple of nights later, I left my apartment to buy some beer at the store across the street. As I opened the door, there was my neighbor, standing with a much smaller, but similarly thuggish friend, smoking cigarettes in front of the house next door. "I feel like slapping the shit out of somebody tonight!" he exclaimed. I crossed the street, hoping the remark was a general sentiment and not aimed specifically at me. Turns out it was.

When I returned, neighbor dude, perhaps emboldened by the presence of his pint-sized pal, approached me. "What did I tell you about about your fuckin' dog?" he said, striding onto the sidewalk. Oh shit, I thought. Here we go. Pulse and mind racing, I desperately searched for the right thing to say to diffuse the situation before it escalated any further. I'm a writer, not a fighter.

Before I go on, I'd like to point out that I'm borderline fanatical about cleaning up after my dog. Regular readers know that errant dog doo is, pardon the pun, one of my biggest pet peeves. That night, my excremental religious fervor might have been my saving grace.

"Would you like a beer?" I asked, extending the six pack of Harpoon IPA towards my potential attacker. "What?" he replied, genuinely stunned by my reaction. Seeing the opening, I set my plan into motion.

"Come here, man. I want to show you something," I said, motioning towards the garbage can sitting at the end of my driveway. I walked toward the bin, waving to encourage my neighbor to follow. He did.

I opened the lid to reveal about a week's worth of poop-filled plastic bags. The aroma was stunning. "Shit!" he exclaimed, recoiling in disgust and covering his nose. "Exactly," I replied, dropping the lid. "It wasn't my dog," I said as I walked past him and into my apartment.


A few summers ago, I was sitting at a patio table in front of Radio Bean with a friend, drinking Five Dollar Shakes and just generally enjoying a pleasant summer evening in Burlington. A middle-aged gentleman approached our table and, nodding toward a vacant chair, asked if we'd mind if he joined us.

It turned out he was a veteran of the first Iraq war and a native of Chicago. Specifically, the Cabrini-Green housing projects, one of the most notoriously violent neighborhoods in the country. We asked which was scarier, Iraq or the projects, and he emphatically answered, "Cabrini-Green, hands down." As if on cue, a tricked out Honda Civic, complete with pulsing neon and mag wheels rolled to a stop at the intersection of North Winooski and Pearl. The bass emanating from the car not only shook the vehicle's frame, but was loud enough that you could actually see rhythmic ripples forming in the beer glasses on our table, a good thirty feet away from the intersection.

The Chicagoan chuckled and shook his head. "Have you ever heard of The Fresh Air Kids?" he asked, referring to the program that brings inner city youth to rural places like Vermont during the summer. We nodded. "I have this idea for something called The Stale Air Kids," he continued. "The gist is that you take fools like that guy," he said, thumbing his finger towards the Civic, "and drop 'em off in the ghetto. If they last a week, then they can wear their hats to the side." At that moment, the light turned green and the Civic took off, loudly screeching its tires before hurtling down the street. "I will never understand why these kids think the thug lifestyle is so cool," he said. Spreading his arms as if to the entire city of Burlington, he added,  "I would have taken this in a heartbeat."


I've encountered my neighbor on a couple of occasions since that fateful night. If he acknowledges me at all, it's with a mumbled "'sup" and a head nod. Honestly, that's fine by me. Still, I can't help but wonder how this dude — or any number of kids seemingly just like him in Burlington — would fare as a Stale Air Kid. It's one thing to be a tough guy for fun, or out of boredom. It's another entirely to be one to survive.

Burlington: A Safe Place To Be A Thug.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fried Day

Here's some random stuff for your perusing pleasures . . .

It didn't take him long, but former Weekly Dig columnist David Thorpe is back and snarky as ever. I for one, am tickled.

I've been extolling Thorpe's invective-laden virtues for a long time now and was genuinely dismayed when he decided to hang 'em up about a month ago. But I'm happy  to report that he's found a new home with the Boston arm of The Phoenix. And not a moment too soon.

One of his recent columns inspired an veritable shitstorm of cranky e-mail missives from humorless readers, enraged by a well-placed barb aimed at The Black Crowes. Here's what he wrote:

I never thought I’d be giving the Maxim crew kudos for their journalistic chops, but I’m proud of them this week. They got busted for giving the new BLACK CROWES album a negative review without having listened to the whole thing. As the review went to press, the album wasn’t even done, and the magazine had been sent only one track. Maxim explained that the review was an “educated guess.” Sounds reasonable to me. Anyone who has to listen to a Black Crowes album to tell you it’s a piece of shit has no business being a critic.

First of all, that last line is a classic. Pure gold. Secondly, I just want to be sure you folks read the second line closely: the Maxim reviewer didn't actually listen to the album! I can't decide if that's tragic or hysterical. Then again, if you rely on a magazine like Maxim as your musical taste-maker, you really get what you deserve.

Reading Thorpe's feelings about the deluge of angry responses made me feel a lot better about a parcel I received in the mail earlier this week. The envelope — which, not surprisingly, bore no return address — contained only a clipping of the March 12 edition of Sound Bites with a few barely legible scribbles written over certain sections of the column. Near as I can figure, here's what it said:

"Disgusting drivel" with an arrow pointing to this line: Everyone is Irish on St. Paddy's Day, as evidenced by the throngs of soused revelers bedecked from head to toe in green garb, Guinness paraphernalia and, usually, vomit. Ew.

I couldn't agree more, mystery critic. I think Guinness paraphernalia is gross too. Thanks for reading.


I'm heading over to The Monkey House this evening, ostensibly to catch Portland, OR-based indie oddball, Nick Jaina. But also because there are a few local acts on the bill I've been meaning to check out.

Honky Tonk Tuesday fans are no doubt familiar with the sultry country crooning of Ms. Marie Claire. What you might not know, mostly because she's been awfully quiet of late, is that she's a hell of a songwriter too. I'm told this will be her first MH performance ever. Nifty.

Next up is Jenny Montana, whose latest album was recorded by none other than our own prodigal indie genius himself, Ryan Power. Rumor has it Mr. Power is back in town, which, contrary to the weather, is a sure sign of spring.

Jaina follows, and while I'm curious to see how the sparkling orchestrations from his latest album, Wool, play out in a live setting, I'm really looking forward to the headlining-because-nobody-else-wants-to-play-that-late act, Paddy Reagan. I was genuinely impressed with Reagan's debut EP, Hey! Hi! Hello! but have yet to see him live. Should be a cool night.


If you've ever worked in the food service industry, you need to check this out. It's called Waiter Rant and is sort of a bloggy version of the greatest restaurant movie ever made, Waiting.


Finally, on behalf of Red Sox Nation, I'd like to thank Major League Baseball for scheduling the Sox season opener to take place in Japan. In order to watch it live, East Coast fans will have to wake up at 6 a.m. next Tuesday — Left Coasters, you do the math for Pacific Time . . . ouch.

That's awesome. I can't imagine why anyone would want to actually watch the defending champs' opening tilt. Good job, MLB. The Nation salutes you.


Low Budget Apple? Seriously?


Steve Jobs just might be alright.


According to Financial Times, Apple is considering offering unlimited access to iTunes music to customers who pay a certain premium on iPods and iPhones. The premium could be as low as $20.

Um... seriously?

I have no idea how this would work, but I will fully admit that I'd be quick to sign on. A one time fee in exchange for all the free (legally! free!) music I want? Yes, please!

My only concern is that there's no way artists could be fairly compensated for sales. And with that being the case, how could labels ever possibly agree to the deal? Unless Apple has suddenly turned a philanthropic corner and feels the need to hand over its wealth to all the struggling musicians in the world and at no profit to themselves. Which is unlikely.

There's got to be some catch. Like, they say it's 'unlimited' for the life of your iPod, so perhaps iPods will now be programmed to die after one year? Or maybe the songs are unlimited in downloads, but limited in listens?

Something's gotta give.

Of course if it doesn't, I'll be first in line. All the music I want for the price of one CD is too good an offer to ignore.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tom Morello Rages Solo


As Dan just filled you all in on, with the help of some sobering statistics, this week is the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq. Awesome.

Along with all of the regular protesting happening to mark the occasion, last weekend, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (also known as the little nonprofit that weaseled its way into my heart and just won't get out) testified about their experiences fighting the war at an event called "Winter Soldier". If you're interested more in the political side of things, you can read more about it all here.

If you're interested in how Tom Morello got involved, read on.

Aside from being the well-known guitarist for everyone's favorite anarcho-frat band, Rage Against the Machine, Morello also has his own acoustic project, The Nightwatchman. And The Nightwatchman is very much in love with our young Veterans. Morello has been known to pull members of the organization up on stage at Coachella, sneak them into shows down in DC, and in fact, even convinced Sony to let little ol' me use one of his songs on my compilation CD in support of the nonprofit.

So when my co-producer, Riot-Folk's Ryan Harvey, took on organizing the night time entertainment for the Winter Soldier participants, he approached Morello. And Morello of course agreed.

What follows is a short clip of Morello covering Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" (he sang the real version, but this video only shows the verse we all know anyway), followed by a little motivational speaking and a lot of swearing. Based on the amount of fist pumping in the video's foreground, I'd say the Vets enjoyed it.

Just thought you guys might enjoy seeing this other side of the artist... Every time Johnny Utah plays a Rage song on my way home from work, I can't help but think about Morello's solo project and how cool it is that someone with such commercial success genuinely practices what he often preaches on stage.

Happy Spring?

You might not know it from the gloomy weather currently besieging the Northeast, but today is the first day of Spring, which, in Vermont, means virtually nothing — we probably won't see leaves for another month . . . sigh.

Coincidentally, it is also the fifth anniversary of the day combat operations began in Iraq. President Bush declared war on March 19, 2003, but the attack actually began the following day, March 20, at 5:30 a.m.

In recent weeks, assessing the cost of the second longest war in US history has been a hot topic amongst media pundits of all political persuasions. The estimates range from hundreds of billions of dollars to several trillion. In either case, that's a lot of dough. Good thing there's nothing wrong with our economy, right? (or should I say, "eh?")

But to gauge the true cost of war, one needs to look beyond mere financial tolls and reconcile the deeper effects on soldiers, families and communities from both sides of the firing lines and the global society as a whole. What follows is a sobering statistical breakdown that helps to put some the larger, less obvious intangibles into perspective.

This was sent to me by my good friend Ben Hudson from We'll get back to music tomorrow, I swear.

The Costs of the War in Iraq By the Numbers

The Cost to Our Forces in Iraq

3,990: American troops who have died in Iraq since the start of the war. [, 3/17/08]

29,395: Number of U.S. service members that have been wounded in hostile action since the start of U.S. military operations in Iraq. [AP, 3/11/08]

60,000: Number of troops that have been subjected to controversial stop-loss measures--meaning those who have completed service commitments but are forbidden to leave the military until their units return from war. [US News and World Report, 2/25/08]

5: Number of times the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment has been sent to Iraq. They are the first Marine Corps unit to be sent to Iraq for a fifth time. [San Francisco Chronicle, 2/27/08]

2,100: Number of troops who tried to commit suicide or injure themselves increased from 350 in 2002 to 2,100 last year. [US News and World Report, 2/25/08]

11.9: Percent of noncommissioned Army officers who reported mental health problems during their first Iraq tour [Los Angeles Times, 3/7/08]

27.2: Percent of noncommissioned Army officers who reported mental health problems during their third or fourth Iraq tour [Los Angeles Times, 3/7/08]


 The Cost to Our Military Readiness

Percent of current and former U.S. military officers surveyed in a recent independent study who believe that the demands of the war in Iraq have "stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin" [Foreign Policy/Center for New American Security, 2/19/08]

94: Percent of Army recruits who had high school diplomas in Fiscal Year 2003 [Larry Korb, The Guardian, 10/12/07]

Percent of Army recruits who had high school diplomas in Fiscal Year 2007 [Larry Korb, The Guardian, 10/12/07]

4,644: Number of new Army recruits who were granted moral waivers in Fiscal Year 2003. [Houston Chronicle, 10/14/07]

12,057: Number of new Army recruits who were granted moral waivers in Fiscal Year 2007. [Houston Chronicle, 10/14/07]

67: Percent of captains the Army managed to retain this year, short of its goal of 80 percent, and in spite of cash bonus incentives of up to $35,000 [Armed Services Committee Hearing, 2/26/08]


 The Cost to Our National Security

Number of global terrorist incidents from January – September 11th, 2001. [American Security Project, "Are We Winning?," September 2007]

5,188: Number of global terrorist incidents in from January- September 11th, 2006. [American Security Project, "Are We Winning?," September 2007]

30: Percent increase in violence in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007. [Reuters, 10/15/07]

21: Number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan in 2001. [Center for American Progress, "The Forgotten Front," 11/07]

139: Number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan in 2006, with an additional increase of 69 percent as of November 2007. [Center for American Progress, "The Forgotten Front," 11/07]

30: Percent of Afghanistan controlled by the Afghan Government according to DNI Mike McConnell. [Associated Press, 2/27/08]

2,380: Days since September 11th, 2001 that Osama Bin Laden has been at-large.



The Cost of Funding the War in Iraq

$50-60 Billion:
Bush Administration's pre-war estimates of the cost of the war. [New York Times, 12/31/02]

$12 Billion:
Direct cost per month of the Iraq War. [Washington Post, Bilmes and Stiglitz Op-Ed, 3/9/08]

$526 Billion:
Amount of money already appropriated by Congress for the War in Iraq. [CRS, 2/22/08]

$3 Trillion:
Total estimated cost of the Iraq War. [Washington Post, Bilmes and Stiglitz Op-Ed, 3/9/08]

$5 Trillion - $7 Trillion:
Total cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan accounting for continued military operations, growing debt and interest payments and continuing health care and counseling costs for veterans. [McClatchy, 2/27/08]

Percent that the cost of the Iraq War has increased from 2004 to 2008. [CRS Report, 2/22/08]


The Cost to Iraqis and Journalists

8,000: Number of Iraqi military and police killed since June 2003. [Brookings Institute, Iraq Index, March 13, 2008]

82,000-89,000: Estimate of Iraqi civilians casualties from violence since the beginning of the Iraq War. [Iraq Body Count]

4.5 Million: Number of Iraqi refugees both inside and outside the country. [Washington Post, 3/17/08]

61: Percent of Iraqis that believe the U.S. military presence makes the security situation in Iraq worse. [Agence France-Presse, 3/17/08]  

127: Number of journalists killed in Iraq since March 2003. [Committee to Protect Journalists]


Economic Costs of War in Iraq                   

$33.51: Cost of a barrel of oil in March 2003. [Energy Information Administration]

$105.68: Cost of a barrel of oil on March 17, 2008. [NYMEX]


U.S. Troops and Contractors in Iraq

132,000: Number of U.S. troops in Iraq in January 2007, before President Bush's escalation. [Brookings Institution, Iraq Index, 3/13/08]                                     

155,000: Number of U.S. troops currently in Iraq. [Brookings Institution, Iraq Index, 3/13/08]                                                         

Number of U.S. troops projected to be in Iraq in July 2008. [Associated Press, 2/26/08]

35,000: Number of private security contractors operating in Iraq. [Human Rights First, Private Security Contractors at War]

180,000: Number of private contractors operating in Iraq. [Human Rights First, Private Security Contractors at War]


Progress Towards Political Reconciliation Made By Iraqis

3: Number out of 18 Bush Administration Benchmarks Met by Iraqi Government As of January 24, 2008. [Center for American Progress, 1/24/08]

Number of provinces President Bush said would be secured by Iraqis as of November 2007. [President Bush Speech, 1/10/07]

Number of provinces actually secured by Iraqis as of January 2008. [NPR, 1/7/08]  


Bush-Republican Intransigence on Staying the Course in Iraq

Number of times a majority of the Senate has voted to change course in Iraq.

Number of times Bush Republicans in Congress have blocked changing course in Iraq.

1: Number of vetoes issued by the White House over changing course in Iraq.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Saint Patrick and Saint Peter


I'm so glad St. Patrick's Day is over.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I was born and raised in an extremely Irish household and genuinely appreciate the holiday for more than just the green beer, but I'm exhausted.

Growing up as an Irish Step Dancer, St. Patrick's Day was never a holiday, it was a season. A season during which me and the rest of my troupe performed multiple shows a night around Connecticut. We were even required to take the actual 17th off from school each year, as we'd have several shows to attend during the day. Probably because back then, Michael Flatley was a relatively new name, and finding a group of Irish Step Dancers was uncommon.

This year I dug out my old shoes, shined their silver buckles, and again performed, this time as the percussion for Everybody's Favorite Irish Drinking Songs Band (/Orchestra?). And after a total of eight hours of stamping my feet over the past few days, I'm done. In fact, I worry I may have actually caused permanent damage to my left foot, which, by the time we hit Red Square Monday night would not support my weight on its own.

'Tis the season.

The part I'm not sick of, however, is the music. Practicing over the past month has reminded me of just how oddly comforting the sound of a bagpipe can be (I know, right?). I guess it boils down to the fact that traditional Irish music is what I grew up listening to. And as much as I love the raucous versions of older songs that bands like Dropkick Murphys continue to release, it's the real traditional sounding bodhran, fiddle, and accordion infused songs that I secretly (or not so secretly) prefer.

Which is exactly what I found at Burlington's City Hall this past Sunday when I brought the kids I used to nanny to experience a real Irish Ceili. While the chance to dance was somewhat limited (totally fine with me seeing as my legs had already been reduced to a permanent state of Jell-o), the music was even better than I had anticipated.

Across the stage of the auditorium sat two rows of musicians - I counted twenty-five total - which, much to the delight of my babysitting charges included Robert Resnik of Robert and Gigi fame, on spoons.

The group played a wide variety of tunes, some with words, others without, some specifically for Zack Warshaw and his group of dancers, and others just for the kids who wanted a chance to spin around the room together. And it was awesome.

I know that there are a variety of Celtic music nights around town, but I think it's rare to see such a huge group playing together, and with that in mind I urge you way far in advance, to attend next year's Ceili.

Especially if you're looking for a more traditional way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. You know, one that doesn't include a Guinness pint served with ONE POUR and into a COCA-COLA glass. No, seriously T.Rugg's, what was up with that?

In other news, you probably know by now that Peter Freyne is retiring from his post here at Seven Days. While I have only been with the company for one year, Peter has been a routine part of my Tuesday afternoon, and I will sincerely miss him plopping down in the chair next to my desk to talk politics. Freyne once took a second to mention my anti-war efforts in his blog, and I received it as the biggest of compliments. So I thought I'd in turn take a second here at Solid State to thank Peter for always encouraging me to continue the fight, and to generally say 'hats off'.

I will miss you very much, Peter, but you can rest assured I'll be hunting you down at your local haunts to get my Freyne fix!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cut And Paste

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Solid State! In honor of this most ridiculous of fake holidays, I'm writing this entire post in an annoyingly green font. And no, I'm not drunk. Yet.

This was a pretty quiet weekend for yous truly. Aside from Thursday night's Moses Atwood show at The Skinny Pancake — which was incredible — I made a point of staying in, getting lots of rest and experiencing South By Southwest vicariously through Paste magazine's online coverage. Here me now and believe me later: next year, I'm going.

Within four hours of each other last Friday, My Morning Jacket, Del The Funky Homosapien, Spoon, Yo La Tengo, Jay Reatard, Bon Iver and Mark Kozalek all played shows in various locations around Austin. And that was just Friday. The keynote speaker of the day? Lou Reed at — drum roll, please — 10:30 in the morning. Does anyone else think this one probably got a late start?

I discovered some other interesting tidbits while geeking out. For example, Tom Waits is touring this summer. I would kill everyone reading this post for but one ticket to any of these shows. OK, maybe not everyone. But two or three of you anyway. I'll even take standing room. When the tour dates are officially announced, watch your back, Solid State.

In other news, Weezer is planning to release its sixth album later this Spring. This of course begs the question: why?

Weezer is one of my all-time favorite bands. I firmly believe that Pinkerton is one of the greatest albums ever recorded and defy anyone to prove otherwise. But frankly, Rivers Cuomo hasn't written a good song in, like, 10 years. I'll admit, The Green Album had its moments. But everything after that, including the gag-inducing Maladroit, has been an affront to the delicate sensibilities of wuss-rocking nerds everywhere. That said, I'll still probably buy the album, 'cuz I'm a sucker. And a wuss. And kind of a closet nerd.

Finally, here's a site guaranteed to waste more of your time than Scramble on Facebook — or I suppose, Solid State (rimshot!). It's called Songkick and it might just usher in the next generation of web-geekery. The premise is basically that the site functions as one-stop shopping for music fans to keep tabs on their favorite bands. You can subscribe to feeds and receive updates whenever your favorite artist does anything. Want to know what Colin Meloy had for lunch? Sign up and find out.

OK, it's not that comprehensive. It does, however, let you know when major artists are swinging through your area. I'm guessing they haven't invested much energy in places like Burlington yet, because all they have for upcoming VT shows are: 311 at Memorial Auditorium (yawn), ZZ Top at The Champlain Valley Fair (I take it The Moody Blues were busy?) and — are you sitting down? — Toby muthafuckin' Keith! I'm working on getting an interview as we speak. No really, I am.

But back to wasting time. The real draw is the site's "Battle Of The Bands" feature which allows you to pit virtually any artists you can think of — provided they have some degree of online presence — against each other to see who is more successful/generating more buzz, either via Amazon sales, blog mentions or MySpace plays and visits. Want to see how Grace Potter stacks up against Vampire Weekend? (hint: not well) You can do it.

I believe it was about a month ago that I suggested MySpace plays are becoming more relevant than chart success in the music biz. Nailed that one!

Before we part ways for the day, I'm pretty sure I promised a podcast debut for last weekend. Um, yeah, about that . . .

I'm still working on it. I'm not what you would call "technically savvy." And even though podcasting is super easy, I'm still working on mine. It's a-comin' though. And it's gonna be good. I promise.

Top O' the evening, folks!

Friday, March 14, 2008


Because of some unavoidable confusion, this week's issue of Seven Days contains no listings — beyond typical weekly events — for everybody's favorite hipster haunt, Radio Bean. In my column, I promised online updates as they became available. Well here we are on Friday afternoon and I finally have some info to pass along.

The Radio Bean music schedule for this weekend is: Absolutely nothing! And that includes residencies such as Irish Sessions and Honky Tonk Tuesday. The slate, this week anyway, has been wiped clean.

I wish I was joking, but alas, the Bean has scaled back its schedule from now until Sunday, March 23. I'd rather not get into the particulars of why, exactly, the change was made — I'm sure the more able-minded among you can figure it out on your own. But I will tell you what Lee Anderson and Co. have lined up in the interim.

Here's a snippet of an e-mail I received from the man himself:

The scene at The Bean is going to be totally different for the next 9 days. We're not going be having any music at all, including our usual residencies. We're calling it "The Aye-Yi-Ides" and it can be listed in the paper that way. Basically, we're going to be serving dinners, home-made ice cream, having an open discussion salon every night with different topics, and generally see what happens. Then, Sunday 3/23 everything goes back to 'normal' (whatever that means around here).

So there you have it.

On the plus side, this is the perfect opportunity for the jackasses who like to go to The Bean and talk through entire sets to gab to their hearts content, without fear of drawing the ire of folks around them who actually show up to listen to music. See? There's always a silver lining.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Apropos Of Nothing

Just some random brain dribblings for a Thursday afternoon.

Jack Kevorkian, a.k.a. "Dr. Death," is making a bid for a congressional run as an unaffiliated candidate in Michigan. While that's bizarre in and of itself, here's the kicker: The dude is still on parole. God Bless 'merica.


Moses Atwood is playing The Skinny Pancake tonight. My adoration of Mr. Atwood's music has been well documented in the pages of Seven Days, as well as on The Radiator. Oddly enough, I've yet to see him live. Expect that to change this evening.


I just took a look at the latest installment of The Burlington Free Press' effort to appeal to the ever-important young, beautiful and dumb demographic, "Ob-Scene," er, "B-Scene." Seven  Days' readers should be familiar with the new rag because, for some reason, BFP uses our newsstands to distribute it. This, of course, leads to the inevitable misconception that we have something to do with its publication. We don't.

However, if we did, here's what I would do to spice it up a bit:

1. The 100+ pretty pictures of young, attractive white people spending money are all fine and dandy. But I need something that really grabs my attention. The center spread should have a "pop-up" feature depicting drunken What Ale's You revelers in white hats bearing clever phrases like "Cocks." As an aside, whatever happened to those "Co-ed naked" t-shirts?

2. Scratch-n-Sniff sections, especially for the bar pics. Since I can't go to every bar every night, like most folks, I need to live vicariously through pictures. But man cannot survive on visuals alone. To get the full sensory experience, I need sights, sounds and, of course, smells. Who doesn't want a good whiff of RJ's on a Saturday evening to complete their virtual night on the town? Perhaps each issue should come with a gravy fry from Nectar's too.

3. Words.


I am already knee deep in freelance submissions resulting from the house ad we ran in this week's paper seeking additional writers for the music section. The ad makes it sound as though I'm overworked, which, to some degree I suppose I am. But who isn't, right? Ironically enough, the idea is to free me up to write even more, particularly on the blog. By the way, expect installment number one of my long overdue podcast series to make an appearance this weekend.


Finally, here's the latest vid from Jeff Howlett's Howlerman Productions.  The band is local hardcore act Waiting For A Miracle. The tune is called "Dressed To Kill." Enjoy!

I just may stop believing...


You are all aware that I am a fan of Journey. And in fact, have on more than one occasion, judged another person's worth based on whether or not he too was a fan of Journey. But today could very well be the day that my love affair with Journey must come to an end.

According to the news ticker over at Rolling Stone online, the band plans to release a three-disc CD/DVD package featuring one CD of re-recorded classics, one CD of new tracks, and a live DVD. The package will be available June 3... exclusively at Wal-Mart.

Um... seriously?

First off, can we all agree that the concept of a "re-recorded classic" is a total oxymoron? It's a classic for a reason. Don't mess with it. Especially if messing with it means changing the vocals from that of Steve Perry to one of his many replacements. They could never do those tuxedo tails justice.

I also cringe at the idea of a whole new CD. New Journey songs should only be created in late night karaoke bars when patrons get too drunk to follow their video prompts and instead sing their own lyrics to the rock ballad backing track.

And finally... Wal-Mart?

Actually, no wait. As much as it disappoints me, the Wal-Mart angle is the one part of this story that I kind of understand. I mean, let's be honest here. The only thing more American than singing Journey in a karaoke bar has got to be singing Journey in the karaoke machine display aisle at your local area Wal-Mart.

With some fast food in one hand.

And the keys to your SUV in the other.

The part that really finds me conflicted though is the supposed plans for a 2008 tour with the new lineup.


For the record, Perry's latest substitute, Arnel Pineda, notes on the band's web site that he "is looking forward to the scrutiny he will get from Journey fans," and also acknowledges that "there's only one Steve Perry in this world."

Whether or not the rest of the band agrees, is unclear. After all, guitarist Neal Schon was so desperate for a new singer that he actually found Pineda after spending days perusing Journey cover bands on YouTube.

DAYS, people.

Hey, Schon! If there are enough bands covering Journey out there that it takes you DAYS to watch all of the resulting YouTube clips, then I really don't think there's any need for Journey to claim 'reborn' status and start covering... itself. With the singer of an actual Journey cover band.

The whole thing just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I may have to change my ring tone.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Air Guitar Nation

Have you guys seen Air Guitar Nation? I haven't yet, but Seven Days staff writer Ken Picard was kind enough to send along the following clip from the film, featuring Air Guitar World Champ C-Diddy. Frankly, I'm salivating. Check it out:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008



Yikes, sorry for the lack of posting. I got the flu. Nuf said.

I assume you've all heard by now that Phish will be receiving a lifetime achievment award from the Jammys. Wow. I can't even type Jammys with a straight face, let alone say it. Stick me at that awards show with a couple people playing a game of Risk next to me and Lord of the Rings on the big screen and you've officially created my own personal ninth circle of hell.

Which is not to say I don't appreciate Phish, I just don't listen to them. Or any jam band actually. Although I did really enjoy The Casual Fiasco while they were stationed in Vermont.

I will always be humored by the expectation that if you live in Burlington, you like Phish. This is not an expectation held by actual Vermonters, but rather by the brand new trustafarians that infiltrate UVM each fall and take over our town with their dreadlocks and SUVs.

My favorite Phish story has got to be the time my friends and I crashed a UVM party, and after surveying the apartment's classic college posters, indie-film boy James asked, "Who's Trey Anastasio?"

Did you just hear the record stop? It was like a bad college movie with the big dramatic silent pause before the onslaught of ratty-haired boys slinging around bad keg beer and screaming, "WHO'S TREY ANASTASIO!?"

Poor, James. He had spent his college years listening to Tom Waits. What did he know?

It's not clear whether or not all members of Phish will even attend the May 7 awards ceremony, and at this time there are no plans for a reunion performance.

Maybe they'll pull a Madonna and have Iggy Pop and The Stooges do a couple covers instead.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Man, The Radiator is freakin' awesome!

Last night, I made my debut appearance on everybody's favorite local low-power FM station. I was a guest host for Jim Lockridge's totally ass-kickin' local music hour, "Rocket Shop." If you haven't listened, or at least seen the playlists he posts after each show, you're missing out. Especially if you remember "the good old days" when The Pants, Envy et al. ruled the scene. Every week is like a trip back in time, as if Club Toast is somehow inhabiting your transistors. He plays a bunch of newer stuff too, from a wide array of genres. Where else would you see Romans and Guppyboy in the same setlist?

Anywhoo, yesterday I couldn't share the exact tunes I'd chosen since that would have violated FCC codes. Some sort of protection against recording songs and distributing them to 50 million of your closest friends, I suppose. But that was then and this is now.

I started with "Dreams of Lisbon," by dynamic NEK hip-hop duo, Algorhythms. The tune was one of my favorite tracks from the recently released Projectivity/GTD comp, Projected Vol. 2. Take a listen here.

Next up, from his debut disc, Gringolandia, Mickey Western's "Las Vegas." Solid cut from a solid disc. Even if he does sound like Bob Dylan.

Following Mr. Western was maybe the prettiest song I've heard since Weezer's "Butterfly," "Seventh Sin" by Moses Atwood. I kinda bent the rules on this one, since Atwood isn't technically a VT product. He did spend last summer living out of a van in a friend's B-town driveway, so I think that almost counts, right? The dude is playing something like five VT shows in the next 10 days, so do yourself a favor a check him out. Listen to the track here.

Finally, I closed the set with Paddy Reagan's "Coffee & Cigarettes" from his nifty debut EP, Hey! Hi! Hello! While the tune was playing over the studio monitors, Kelsey Hanrahan, who does the "Weekend Update" — a run down of upcoming shows not to miss — remarked "Oooh. I like this one." Me too, Kelsey.

Hopefully, this will become a regular gig or at least happen as often as I have good tunes to share.

Thanks again to Jim Lockridge and crew. I had a blast, guys.

Bright Ice.


So my car broke down Tuesday night. Which, considering my not-so-central location combined with my crippling fear of walking alone at night is really just... totally awesome.

A situation made all the more awesome by this week's icy rain.

All I could think when I looked out the window Wednesday morning was that if I still lived in Connecticut, it would almost be spring.

Of course there is an upside to walking everywhere. That is... ipod time! Because as much as I dislike icy puddles, I do love tuning out the world for a half hour to listen to music I forgot I even liked.

You know when you fall in love with a song and you listen to it over, and over, and over, and then eventually stop, and then four years later it randomly shows up on your shuffle playlist and you almost fall over with the brilliance of the tune you had long ago forgotten? Well, the brilliance... and the ice?

That happened to me yesterday with "Something Vague" by Bright Eyes.

The song appears on the 2000 release, Fevers and Mirrors, and I still remember the winter in Maine that my friends Erin, Laura, and I discovered it. When it suddenly came into my earphones yesterday I was instantly brought back to the Halloween that our plans to go to Salem were ruined, and we instead drove around the backwoods of western Maine listening to that one track over and over again. You know, right after we stopped at the local tattoo shop to get Erin's lip pierced. All hail my extremely emo college years.

I love that the song has a definite crescendo and a definite resolution, and while I know Conor Oberst has his share of haters, I've always been a fan of his lyrical ability. The way his voice cracks over "And I'll hang like a star, fucking glow in the dark" gets me every time.

I realize the song is pretty depressing, but sometimes when life sucks, the only thing that helps is to listen to a story of someone whose life sucks even more. I'm certainly not saying Bright Eyes can cure Seasonal Affective Disorder, but if you just feel like moping because you're sick of being iced over, this could be the song for you.

Ooooor you could just head over to the Monkey tonight around 8:00 for the benefit show I'm hosting in support of the fight against Crohn's and Colitis. Gregory Douglass is playing. And Paddy Reagan, and Colin Clary and A Magog too!

No, seriously, do you want to go?

Because this really isn't a shameless plug. I just really need a ride.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Rocket Powered

It's Wednesday night. Do you know where your local music critic is? On The Radiator, that's where.

Tonight I'll be making my debut appearance on Big Heavy World's "Rocketshop," hosted by Radiator co-founder Jim Lockridge. And I'm pretty psyched about it, I am. 

Here's the gist: I show up with a few select cuts from records recently reviewed in the esteemed pages of Seven Days and play them on air. Simple, no?

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that you guys don't run out and buy every disc that gets ink in the paper. So the idea is to afford our readers — and Radiator listeners — the opportunity to hear some of the more interesting music they've (hopefully) been reading about. Kind of put a face (or ear, I guess) to the words.

Because of some predictably silly FCC regulation, I can't tell you exactly what I'll play. But I can tell you who.

This week, you'll hear music from Paddy Reagan's new EP, Hey! Hi! Hello!, Mickey Western's debut full-length, Gringolandia, the hip-hop comp Projected Vol. 2 and Moses Atwood's eponymous debut, which, if you haven't read today's paper, I really, really, really liked. A lot. Really.

Anyway, tune in tonight. 8 p.m. 105.9 FM.

PS- along similar lines, I'll be releasing podcasts featuring local music in the not-too-distant future. Or, as soon as I figure out what the hell a "podcast" is and how to make them.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Bombs Away!

A few months ago, I requested the assistance of the loyal denizens of Solid State to help me craft the ultimate iPod mix for my bowling league. I'm not sure that I've ever quite nailed it, exactly. But over the last 12 weeks or so, my partner-in-crime, Jeremy Gantz, and I have come awfully close. Currently, my iTunes library runneth over, so this could be the week. We'll see.

Believe it or not, this week is basically my last chance at perfection, both in terms of actual bowling and ultimate iPod mix wizardry, as it's the final week of regular season play for the Whiskey Ball Gutter League. We do have two weeks of playoffs lined up, but this is likely the last hurrah for the whole crew. Sniffle. By the way, we're taking applications for next year's league, so if you're interested, let me know.

Anyway, as tonight marks the end of arguably the coolest thing I've ever done, I though I'd pass along this YouTube clip that was sent to me by a WBGL member. It's pretty much the greatest clip ever.

It does however, contain a remarkable amount of profanity, so if foul language ruffles your feathers, fuck off.

In honor of the 2007-2008 Whiskey Ball Gutter League, I present "The Big Lebowski: The F*cking Short Version." Enjoy.

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