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Friday, June 27, 2008


I had a much lengthier post planned for today, but to be honest, I'm leaving on vacation in t-minus 45 minutes and I've pretty much checked out mentally. So instead, I leave you with this video from ex-Chuch bassist and current Jesus Vanacho member Noah Crowther, recorded last week in Santa Cruz. Enjoy, and I'll see you in about a week . . .

Thursday, June 26, 2008

And now a word from our sponsors...


I'm not usually one for product endorsement. Mostly because I can't afford any products. But last week I stumbled across a little gem that I thought I should share.

Did you know that there's a pair of headphones that your iPod Shuffle can snap right into so you don't have to use earbuds!?

You do? Oh yeah. I forgot that you're all way more tech-savvy than myself.

You don't use an iPod Shuffle? Oh yeah. I forgot that the new hip is to hate Apple.

In any case, I have an iPod Shuffle. I lose it regularly due to its size. But it is perfect for the gym, where my crazy elliptical running technique has on more than one occasion been known to send a disc-man flying across the room.

Recently my workouts have shifted from running on the elliptical to using the gym's studio space to practice Irish Step Dancing. Yeah, I know. But my sister and I are training to become certified teachers, and with the test only offered once a year and costing a butt-load of money, I better damn well get ready.

When I first started using the studio, I hauled my stereo there with me. You know, because I needed another reason to attract the racquet ballers up from the courts below to see what the hell was going on. A reason other than the tapping feet, squeaking floorboards, and panting of a girl who's wife-beater is soaked through with sweat. Let's call a spade a spade, Woolen Mill. That 'studio' is really just an over-sized sauna.


Anyway, it soon dawned on me that HELLO, why not just program all my Irish Dance music onto my shuffle and avoid piquing the interest of passers by with, you know, bagpipes and stuff? BRILLIANT!

And then, while searching for the perfect Father's Day present for my Dad (who, by the way, is the most awesome of all dads), I found this:


Now not only can I dance in "silence", but I can also eliminate the risk of strangling myself with my earbud chord on some over-zealous high kicking!

The headphones are available at Small Dog, where I picked up a pair for my Dad, and where you can pick up a pair for me! After all, I'm always up for anything vaguely similar to holding an old school boom box on my shoulder and rocking out.

OK, it's not similar at all.

I'm just still trying to raise the cool factor on that whole Irish Step Dancing thing.

I'll stop now.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Shut The Fuck Up . . . Please.

Last night, I swung by Higher Ground to check out indie-folk songwriter Jose Gonzalez. It was one of those increasingly rare opportunities for me to go see live music with my critical brain turned off and simply enjoy the show. I wasn't attending as "Dan Bolles," Seven Days Music Editor. Just Dan, a dude who really likes Jose Gonzalez — deep down I'm a sensitive guy, I swear. And I was really looking forward to it.

Gonzalez' performance was stunning. And yes, I'm writing that statement from the biased perspective of a fan, not a critic. Though I'm typically prone to rolling my eyes when I read some lazy blurb about an artist being "the next" anyone — Dylan, The Beatles, Gram Parsons, etc. — I can almost get behind Gonzalez' designation as "The Latin Nick Drake." If you can get past the fact that he's actually Swedish — though he's of Argentinian descent — the  phrase actually does an adequate job of summing up his sound. In fact, there were moments during last night's show where he could justifiably be accused of aping Drake. Sometimes we  lowly scribes get it right. Sometimes.

Though Gonzalez was a pleasure to behold, the crowd was something else entirely, to the point where actually listening to the music became a frustrating challenge. I don't mean to get off on a rant, but . . .

Why the fuck would you spend 17 bucks to see a show, and then spend the entire evening talking? And I don't mean just whispering to your friends in between songs. I mean full-blown, outside-voice conversations about subjects entirely unrelated to the music (By the way, if some guy named Jordan is reading this, that cute brunette you've recently started dating finds you too effeminate and isn't really in to the "hugging thing." Sorry, dude. Just something I overheard.).

Throughout the night, from the opening act — Twi The Humble Feather, who would likely be a lot of fun to see at a venue like Radio Bean or The Bakery, but were virtually inaudible in the Lounge this night — through Gonzalez' encore, the din of conversational chatter was impossible to escape. It didn't matter where I tried to watch the show. I stood ten feet from the stage. I stood in the middle of the room. I stood on the sidelines and in the back by the bar. Everywhere, people talking incessantly.

I get that people go see live music for vastly different reasons. Some folks go just to be "seen." Others go because it's something different from just going out to the bars. Some people go to meet people with similar tastes. And some people even go just to LISTEN TO THE FUCKING MUSIC. Perish the thought.

At this point, some of you are probably saying to yourselves, "Hey, dickhead. It's my 17 bucks and I'll comport my self however I choose when I go out. This isn't grade school. I'll talk whenever and as loudly as I want." To which I humbly respond, "Go fuck yourself."

Other people pay hard earned money to see shows too. And the reason they're willing to shell out big bucks for tickets and overpriced drinks is because the experience of seeing your favorite artists in person can be transcendent. But only if you can hear it. (At one point in the show, Gonzalez finished a swelling torrent of fiery classical guitar work by descending into an intimately gorgeous bridge. Most of the crowd followed along and for a beautiful moment, the idle chatter ceased . . . except for the massive tool loudly discussing the nuances of strumming open chords in drop D tuning. Thanks a lot, douchebag.)   

Some crowd noise at a loud rock show is no big deal. The raw energy of an ass-kicking live band largely negates it. But mellower shows such as Jose Gonzalez have a subtle, but nonetheless powerful, energy of their own. Too bad so many people there last night missed it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

RIP, George

As most of you have probably heard, the great George Carlin passed away yesterday at the age of 71. I had the pleasure of attending the comedian's performance last October at The Flynn Theater. Little did I know it would be one of his last. What follows is brief piece I wrote following the show that appeared in the October 31, 2007 issue of Seven Days. Given Bridget's last post, I find it an oddly appropriate way to say goodbye to a personal hero. 


If any human being ever deserved to copyright a word or phrase, “fuck” should be George Carlin’s. No single person has explored its many meanings and usages as comprehensively as the 70-year-old comedian, and few, I imagine, have uttered it with such frequency. From “Fuck Lance Armstrong, fuck Tiger Woods and fuck Dr. Phil,” his opening line at last Saturday’s performance in Burlington, to his gracious farewell — which, oddly enough, was expletive-free — Carlin expertly thrust and parried his way through an hour’s worth of new material, eloquently wielding the word as if a verbal épée.Scene_2

In Carlin’s hands, “the queen mother of all swears” is less an obscenity than a tool used to deftly amplify the absurdities of contemporary American culture. He was in fine form, surgically flaying societal conventions with calculated ferocity. From the pseudo-wisdom of new-age bumper stickers to the illegitimacy of the current presidency to the fallacy of religion, no topic was safe, and everyone — and their mother — was fair game.

Like the late Bill Hicks, or even Andy Kaufman, Carlin’s greatest strength is his ability to make his audience squirm. And in between the chuckles and belly laughs, a subtle undercurrent slowly wound its way through the aisles of the stately theater: He’s not talking about them, he’s talking about us. In many corners of the theater — including my own — the revelation turned guffaws into gasps. It was brilliant.

Behind Carlin’s veil of blasphemy lies carefully constructed, searing satire. As the adage goes, “It’s funny because it’s true.” But there’s another saying, in this case equal in its poignancy: “The truth hurts.” Especially when delivered with a few well-placed curses.

Some artists work in watercolors, others in oils. Some take photographs, others sketch in pencil or charcoal. George Carlin paints his portraits in profanity — in particular the “F-Bomb.” And as last Saturday’s performance unequivocally proved, there are few moments in life more compelling or satisfying than witnessing a master craftsman at work.


Well . . . Fuck!


According to an article by Alexis Petridis in the UK's Guardian, Fuck is no longer shocking when used in band's names.

Well, duh.

Still, reading the list of band names that no longer provide any shock value is reason enough to click on that link. Because Petridis is right in that it's not at all shocking. It's just kind of funny. Some examples? Fuckpony, Swamp Fuck, the Fuckin' Shit Biscuits, and Holy Fuck.

In fact, three of the bands up for this year's Mercury Prize (an annual music prize for the best album from Ireland or the UK), include the word in their name. So if the point is to make your band stand out . . . well, that point is now moot.

The idea that a word that held such weight just two generations ago, would now do little to make even a nine-year-old blush, is pretty interesting. I dug a little further into the Guardian website to see if there was any other word on the subject, and found a 2002 article by Jonathan Margolis, exploring the cultural significance of fuck.

Apparently the word first appeared in a 1475 manuscript, and even back then, was meant to be offensive. When the Sex Pistols uttered it on live television in 1976, it still caused an uproar. But then, something shifted, and by 1997, the word had fallen in rank. "When several broadcasting organizations produced a ranking of words by severity, fuck only came in third, behind cunt and motherfucker."

The article continues, "Further verification that fuck is, well, fucked, comes from Andrea Wills, the BBC's chief advisor on editorial policy. 'In research, 50% or more people said the words that should never be broadcast are cunt, motherfucker, nigger, Paki and spastic. Young women also don't like whore, slag and twat. But fuck wasn't on the list.'"

So what's a punk band to do?

Well, if the intention is to shock, you might just be fucked. Although no amount of Vagina Monologues will stop me from cringing at the C-word . . . so maybe that's your key.

Then again, it's hard enough these days to find a band name that's not already taken without wasting time worrying about if it will cause authorities to sweat.

What's next, Fuckin' Shit Biscuits AKA?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Scribe's Tale, Part 2

To say that our young chronicler "plotted" is perhaps a misuse of the term. For plotting often denotes some ulterior or sinister motive. Rather, he simply took stock of his recent body of work, making note of where he had done well and where he could do better. He'd had a lot of help identifying the latter as, has been noted, the citizens of Burlingtonia and its outlying regions were quick to point them out, warranted or not. (There is an aeons olde saying that goes "thou art never as fair or as poor as anyone saith thou art." The young scribe did his best to keep that notion close to his thoughts during this time.)

As Olde Man Winter's long bony fingers gradually eased his stranglehold on the barony and the land once again began to breathe anew, the scribe often found himself strolling along the waterfront with his faithful friend, Lord Buckington. Their conversations were mostly one sided, for Buckington, though a most loyal and sweet companion, was a few bales short of a haystack — and, I'm afraid, prone to relieving himself at most inopportune times, and in public. Still, those daily constitutionals helped greatly to clear the scrollsmiths's thoughts  and focus his mind. He resolved that if given the chance, he would approach Sir Thom, Son of Law directly and attempt to clear the air. All he needed now was an opportunity.

Twas the final night of the great Burlingtonia Carnivale of Jazz, a truly glorious and uproarious celebration of musicks. During those ten days and nights, public houses and taverns across the land overflowed with ale and spirits as revelers from all walks of life basked in the hypnotic sounds emanating from nearly every nook and cranny of the towne. Minstrels from all four corners of the earth — and one even from beyond, it is said — descended upon the realm to the delight of thousands.

It became known to the scribe that Sir Thom's merry band of activists and dictators would be making an appearance that very eve on a most bizarre stage, that of Radio Bean. Though beans were plentiful in those days, few citizens of Burlingtonia were aware of radios and fewer still of "radio beans" — it was assumed they were some foreign legume, not indigenous to the realm, which served to further cloak the haunt in mystery, as did the array of tricksters who frequented it. But questing to Radio Bean would prove a perilous adventure.

During The Carnivale of Jazz, the demands on a musick writer are great indeed, and his presence is requested at many a concert, often several at one time. Though Burlingtonia was a magical realm, even the most powerful conjurers (which he was not, by any means) were still limited by their physical bodies and could only exist in one place at a time — though, were he able to split his self into several selves, it surely would have helped stem the tide of aforementioned critiques.

This particular evening was one of the hottest recorded on scroll. Sky watchers had long been warning that world was warming, perhaps to dangerous degrees — sadly, this claim was refuted by a very small but very loud contingent of powerful fools, many of whom still believed that the world was flat, a ludicrous notion, even in those days.

The scribe began his journey at the Waterfront Pavillion a temporary castle erected on the shores of the Great Lake Champlaigne. There, he was ushered into a secret compartment where many of the Queendom's wealthy and elite gorged themselves on food and spirits — including the towne's Crown Prince, Robert Kyss. Though he felt out of place and a bit guilty to be quarantined from the towne peasants (of which he considered himself to be a member), he quite enjoyed the tribal sounds emanating from The Rubblebucket Orkestra. So, it seems, did the large crowd amassed in the castle keep, judging by their orgiastic rhythmic dances and riotous applause.

From there, he ventured into the heart of Burlingtonia to the palatial Flynn Theatre, the most ornate concert hall in the land for a performance by a legendary musickal warlock, Ornette Coleman. Mr. Coleman bewitched the hall with mysterious and melodious spells. As dazed patrons exited the hall, few could sensibly put their impressions into words, including our young scribe — who is, in fact, paid to do just that. Such was the power of Coleman's captivating magick.

His head still swimming woozily from the sonic spell, he attempted to traverse Burlingtonia's greatest throughfare, the Church Street Market. However, on this evening, the cobbled boulevard was throttled with thousands of debauched revelers, thrilling to the bizarre carnival of sights and sounds that had taken the normally serene avenue hostage.   

At last, he was finally able to find his wits, aided in no small part by the straightforward strains of Led LO/CO, a bawdy band of costumed jesters who were entertaining an enormous crowd of drunken carousers near the northernmost entrance to the thoroughfare — and the road to Radio Bean. It was at this moment our scribe saw his opportunity. With so much activity and chaotic sound, the crowd would provide the perfect cover for him to escape and embark on the final leg of his quest. He would hide in plain sight.

Without a word to his companions or even a kiss for his lady — whom he considered to be the fairest maiden in all the land — our scrivener slipped into the shadows undetected and proceeded to make his way through the crowd. Fortunately, the scribe was slight of build and though he was jostled several times, managed to navigate the throng without incident. He may or may not have been aided by his trusty cap, which was emblazoned with a red "B" and he believed to have some magical powers of its own — none the least of which was to make him indistinguishable from those wearing similar headdresses when he wished to be left alone in public.

He crossed the threshold of Radio Bean and was immediately struck by the oppressive heat and smell of the place. As has been noted, it was an unusually warm night and some Radio Bean patrons, I'm afraid, have less than thorough hygienic practices, which can make for an odorous combination on occasion.

There, on the small stage stood Sir Thom, axe in hand. He was flanked by the legendary  — at least in Burlingtonia — David of Kammelot, who once upon a time was a very famous potato farmer. Unfortunately, the great length of scribe's journey meant that arrived only in time to hear but two tunes. But what tunes they were! Witty and melodic, the band of minstrels had the capacity crowd — which, at tiny Radio Bean is a number much smaller than it appears, truth be told — rollicking and frolicking. The crowd — including the scribe — lustily applauded at the conclusion of each song. Though he witnessed but a brief snippet of the performance, the little he did see evoked fond memories of a happier time when  as a boy he would stand enthralled at the altar of the late, great Club Toast watching his heroes — Sir Thom was but one of many — ply their musical trades.

Following the performance, the scribe waited patiently for a moment to approach Sir Thom. Though he had been absent from the land for several moons, Thom had a great many friends and admirers in Burlingtonia, all of whom wanting to wish him well. Finally, he saw the tunesmith slip away to a doorstep away from the crowd which had gathered on the street in front of the Bean, and sit down to light a stick of tobacco. Seeing a window of opportunity, the scribe excused himself from a rather boring conversation about himself — for whatever reason, folks often want to ask the scribe questions about his work when they encounter him in person — and ambled, somewhat nervously, to where Thom was seated.

"Hi, Thom," said the scribe.

"Dan! How are you?" replied the minstrel with a smile. He motioned the scribe to sit. The scribe did, happily.

I'll not recount for you the particulars of their palaver. Frankly what was said between them remains their business and none of ours. However, a fly on the wall would have overheard a conversation in which two men settled their differences amiably, with no small amount of regret on both sides. Ultimately, understanding was reached, both men realizing how the folly of their actions had affected the other and how silly the whole issue was to begin with and how simply and quickly it could have been resolved. At the end, they shook hands and parted ways, leaving each other to go on about the business of living. And so it is that we leave the hamlet of Burlingtonia — at least for this tale.

I'll not suggest that all lived happily ever after — for who ever really does? And if that conclusion strikes you as boring or anti-climactic, I can only say that I agree. It is. However, if more people would merely take the time to address their problems with one another directly, and with a modicum of respect and humility, we would likely all be a happier lot.

The End

Daryl Rabidoux Needs Your Help

I'm very sorry to report that Daryl Rabidoux (Cancer Conspiracy, Strangeways Recording) was recently seriously injured in a car accident in Rhode Island. Like most musicians, he is without health insurance and is racking up enormous expenses during what looks to be a lengthy hospital stay. Below is all the info you'd want to know about the accident, his injuries and how you can help.

Godspeed, Daryl.

Current mood: bummed
Category:  Friends

Our good friend Daryl was in a severe car accident and needs your help.

Paypal Donation link keeps getting screwed up so go here to donate:

This is a repost from our good friend and the producer of our cd ESCAPE Mike Poorman regarding Daryl Rabidoux who is also a good friend and had a big hand in the recording of our cd and stayed up many a late night to make us sound awesome. Aside from that, he's one of the best dudes you'll meet and he needs all of our help right now.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and please pass it on.

Love you all,
Brian, Alex, Chris, Travis, Jim

Please take the time to read this and repost:

"This past week my best friend, and partner here at Strangeways, Daryl Rabidoux, was involved in a serious car accident that has left him in the hospital with a list of serious injuries. Daryl sustained 2 punctured lungs, many broken ribs, a torn liver, a fractured sternum, and head trauma from the accident. Daryl was released from the ICU Saturday and is still in the regular ward at RI Hospital while he is healing. One of the most tragic parts of the accident is that Daryl does not have any health insurance. When all is said and done his hospital stay will total near 2 weeks. That is a serious expense for anyone, with or without insurance, but even more so without.

I have set up a Paypal account so that people can donate money to help aid Daryl in paying his medical expenses. If Daryl has touched your life through his music with The Cancer Conspiracy, through his friendship (it is unparalleled), or just in passing as an all around good guy, please donate even a few dollars to help him out. The world wouldn't be the same without this guy, he is one of the best people out there.

Thanks a lot for reading this and taking the time to care. The Donation button for the Paypal fund is on the front page of the Strangeways myspace account. I have also set it up so that you can send Daryl a note as well if you want to say hello to him while he's getting better in the hospital. Take care everyone.

Please if there's anything you can do to help Daryl, who is an incredibly awesome guy and one hell of a producer himself, click the button below to donate even a FEW BUCKS to help him out with these medical bills


Feel free to drop him a line at his myspace too I'm sure he'd appreciate it and love hearing from all of you whether you know him personally or not.

Links in case this is reposted and the html gets messed up:

Paypal Donation Page:

Daryl's Myspace:

Strangeways Recording:

The Cancer Conspiracy:

Monday, June 16, 2008

This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse

I know you're all anxiously awaiting the conclusion of "A Scribe's Tale" from last week, and for that I do apologize. Frankly, I can't wait to see how it all turns out either. But due to circumstances beyond my control, I haven't had a free moment to put pen to paper and finish the damn thing since I posted it last Wednesday. Tomorrow, all shall be revealed, I swear.

In the meantime, I'd like to offer a Solid State version of "This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse" for you to chew on. Here it is:

Gordon Stone is offering free ring tones via his MySpace page.

Heaven help us.

Pop in Winooski


I've been meaning to write about my Wednesday night for . . . well . . . three days now, but with various other projects in the works, I've been booked. Luckily, working a table at the Vermont Culinary Classic comes with the blessing of the Stowe Mountain Lodge wireless signal. So here we go!

I had known from my Tick Tick updates that The Smittens would be playing with Seattle-based indie pop outfit Tullycraft at the Monkey. And I had also known that seeing as the Monkey is my haunt, Wednesday means free wings — and The Smittens mean smiles all around — that I would likely be there.

What I didn't know was that The 500s, friends of mine from back in Maine, would also be there.

The text message came at noon from my Portland-based gossip connection, Amanda. "ISAAC AND SAMMIE WILL BE AT THE MONKEY TONIGHT!" My response? "SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!"

Apparently The Smittens invited them to town. And with that, my decision to attend was finalized.

The 500s opened the show and the Winooski crowd welcomed them with open arms. Their pop sound, matching "500" tee-shirts, and sharp dance moves completely wooed the bar. And I don't know if any of the other girls in the room caught on, but Sammie's M&Ms scattered across his keyboard was totally reminiscent of Robert Schwartzman in The Princess Diaries, and in that, awesome.

Next up were The Smittens, who we all know consistently put on a good show. Their friends, The 500s were right up front, and the locals who had held back for the unfamiliar opener, moved up from the back, and came in from outside. Former Seven Dayser Brooke Dooley even had a guest spot on backing vocals.

By the time Tullycraft took the stage, the bar was packed and frankly, sweaty. I was "glistening" in my sundress (That's right. I'm a lady, so I glisten.), while the band's Jenny Mears sported a polyester dress with tights. I don't know how she did it, but their performance certainly didn't suffer, and the banter between her and lead vocalist / bassist Sean Tollefson stayed lively through their entire set.

Also lively throughout the entire set were my boys The 500s, who took over the front row with their Maine dancing that I miss so much about shows in Portland. I jumped right in and joined them, in a style that can only be described as seizure-like. I am sorry, Vermont, but you have SO got to man up on the dance moves. The Tullycraft set was the first time in a long time that I actually broke a sweat from rocking out.

While I loved their pop sound, smiling faces and constant background of 'oohs' and 'aahs', my favorite part of seeing Tullycraft was hearing what they did during their day in Vermont. No, seriously. Apparently while Jenny took two of the other band members for a ride on the bike path (all the way out the Colchester Causeway!), Sean and one other member opted for an Ethan Allen lunch cruise. This not only made the entire bar laugh, it also made me want to be their best friend. Because I swear to God, the next time I swing by Higher Ground in the afternoon and see that night's featured band hanging out in the parking lot — as if Williston Road is really all Vermont has to offer — I am going to walk right over and slap them.

Overall, the night was the perfect pop summer evening, with everyone overly-polite to each other, and smiling way more than Winooski usually warrents. And that's why I love pop shows to begin with! Sammie of The 500s lamented that Maine doesn't seem to appreciate pop quite the way Vermont does, so I guess we can count ourselves lucky in that respect. In fact, the boys will be back later this summer, and once details are finalized, I will be sure to fill you all in. Because I honestly think we can all use a little more pop in our lives. And certainly more dancing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Scribe's Tale, Part One

Many moons ago, in the queendom of Burlingtonia, an enchanted land filled with faeries and hippiegryffs — the latter a strange and hairy beast whose only known weakness was said to be the mystical strains of the electrifyed lyre, the mere sound of which would induce the creatures to ritualistically convulse like a phish on dry land for days on end — a newly minted chronicler offered these words in one of his first ever Sowndebites scrolls:

Last week, I ran a blurb about the Walt Whitman birthday celebration at Club Metronome. The show featured the poetic stylings of several local bands including Cccome?, Swale and Activists/Dictators. Note the “s” at the end of the word “Activists,” because apparently I didn’t. The following day I received this email from someone in the band:

“Casey and Dan, you fucks. Activists is PLURAL. Activists/Dictators are all about EQUAL relationships between opposing forces. If the Activists part of the name were SINGULAR it would be an ADJECTIVE describing the Dictators and there would be no need for the /. Seriously, you’re good people but you NEVER get it right. Please come and rock out with us at the shows but don’t write about us anymore. Love/Hate, Yin/Yang, Life/Death, Create/Destroy, T."

Well, “T.,” my face is red. I goofed. I would have responded personally but, curiously, the return address was blocked and I couldn’t. I know it’s unusual to respond to an email publicly, but as a writer, I understand how some typos cut deeper than others and I couldn’t stand the thought of not offering my sincerest apologies and taking full credit for the mistake. Casey Rea had nothing to do with it — he’s far too busy planning his evil escape. So, “T.” — who is certainly not Tom Lawson — I promise never to write about Activists/Dictators again. However, can I still write about ¡The Pant!?

The scribe, though unquestionably talented and witty (and strikingly handsome), was very young, at least in writer's years, which are quite different from normal years. And as such, he had yet to fully comprehend the true depth and strength of the powers at his command. Though his intent was merely to address his folly with levity, his actions were rumored to have quite the opposite effect, indeed. For you see, Burlingtonia, whilst a fayre and beautiful barony, was also a small and talkative place.

Throughout the local meadhalls and town squayers, whispers of an unseen evil lurking in the shadows leapt from lips to ears, and as weightless notions tend to do, twisted and deformed with each successive telling until finally it no more resembled the truth than a wind-blown feather does the bird from which it came. Though the Dark Lord had recently been banished to the outer realms, it was said he may still be conjuring from afar, using this new scribe as but a conduit to continue his reign, as if some deranged puppet master.

As we've already noted, Burlingtonia was but a provincial hamlet, and it took very little time for these whispers to reach the ears of our young scrivener. Though he considered himself to be quite strong, the allegations saddened him nonetheless. And for good reason.

To begin with, the object of his perceived ire was none other than the young bard's boyhood champion, Sir Thomas, Son of Law. As a squire, the boy greatly admired Sir Thom and his noble roundtable of pants-wearing knights — for pants were quite rare in those days, you see — and kept the melodious odes to their heroics close to his heart in many of his own endeavors. He felt no small tinge of remorse at the thought of offending a personal hero, and moreso at the notion that from that fateful moment on, a spell so powerful had been cast that not even his mighty quill could summon the strength to break.

Secondly, the mysterious Dark Lord, though viewed by many to be a fearsome creature, was, at his heart a kind and generous and misunderstood soul who had bequeathed a great deal of knowledge to the lad during his apprenticeship. (Though in truth, he was correctly assumed to dabble in the dark arts — and some of that knowledge was passed on as well.) Still, those who spake ill of his mentor did so at their own peril, for, as the boy was quickly coming to know, the pen truly is mightier than the sword and perhaps even the axe — though that certainly depends on the axeman or axewomyn.

Summer waxed and waned and gave way to Fall, a truly wondrous time in the Queen's City. The young quillsmith continued to diligently hone his craft and explore the the scope of his abilities, encountering a great many daemons, dragons and ne'er do wells along the way. Sometimes he failed — for which he was often reprimanded by the citizenry. Sometimes he succeeded — for which he was still sometimes reprimanded by certain factions. But such is the way of learning and the burden and responsibility of power. (Such also is the fickleness of the citizenry, truth be told)

As the harvest moon laid its head upon a bed of fallen leaves for the last time, the first snows of Winter began to fly. Winter in Burlingtonia can be cruel and harsh. For many of its denizens, it is a time for introspection. For writers, who are a notoriously self-reflective — and some would say self-absorbed — lot, this is especially true. For writers of musick, even moreso, for Winter also tends to be a quieter time in Burlingtonia, when many of its finest artisans spend the long, bleak eves crafting new sonnets and tunes to offer the world when it awakens.

During this time, our young writer found his own thoughts often drifting to that early letter, and despite his numerous victories — which he took no shame in recounting in great detail, I'm afraid — he very much wished he could go back in time and reverse the events of that day. But as we know, such thoughts are the wishes of fools and dreamers. To slay this daemon, he would need be more brave and cunning than mere boyish fancy allows. He continued to work and play with his art, hopeful that one day he might seize an opportunity to right what had been made wrong. Made wrong by his own hand. And so he plotted.

To Be Continued . . .

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

AC/DC: Watch For Falling Integrity

Howdy Solid State.

I had been planning a recap of my epic Saturday night about town for today. But then I realized that my one year performance evaluation — yes, it's really been a year — was due like, last Friday. Guess I'll have to lower my grade in the "meets deadlines" field. Anyway, I'll fill you folks in on recap stuff — and why I am once again "allowed" to write about Activists/Dictators — tomorrow. Sorry, Brad.

In the meantime, Mistress Maeve forwarded along this Reuters story about AC/DC releasing their upcoming album exclusively through Wal Mart. You read that correctly. Fucking Wal Mart. According to the article, the band joins the illustrious company of Garth Brooks, Journey and The Eagles as iconic pop acts who've sold their souls to that quintessentially American testament to over-consumption. Too bad I already blew my "economic stimulus" check. I could have bought, like, 250 copies. Sigh . . .

Monday, June 09, 2008

Window Seat: At High Altitude With Luminaries of Norwegian Jazz

In the coming weeks, you'll notice a new voice or two contributing to the cyber-pages of Solid State — in addition to myself and the lovely and talented Bridget Burns. At the moment, we have an abundance of freelance music writers adding their two cents to the the physical manifestation of the paper, and with only two CD reviews per week, the workload is a little light. So in an effort to give the newbies something to do — and to help keep their chops in order — we thought, "why not unleash them on the blog?" We couldn't come up with a good reason not to, so I'd like to introduce Mr. John Pritchard.

Solid State, John. John, Solid State. Welcome to the fray.



Munich-based improvisational jazz label ECM Records is releasing to some of the most remarkable music being made in the world right now. That’s a bold statement, yes. But one that can be made with confidence. It is perhaps better said that they have been releasing remarkable music, several hundred records across numerous styles, incorporating a vast group of artists since their inception in 1969.

Many a friend has shirked at the prospect of improvisational music, let alone jazz from Norway, upon my introduction of the idea. But few have been disappointed after listening. I doubt there is a music lover of any genre who would not appreciate the work of the Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen, leader of the eponymous Tord Gustavsen Trio.Tord_gustavsen_trio_2005_combined_2

The Trio’s three ECM releases, Changing Places (2003), The Ground (2004)
and Being There (2007) can unflinchingly be described as melodically groundbreaking
– an apogee in the long evolution of not only the piano, but of human sound.

Gustavsen’s piano is ravishingly expressionist – it bends; it levitates. Songs like
“Still There” and “Blessed Feet” off last year's Being There are, in moments, conspicuously traditional jazz. Until they plunge into esoteric lows or ascend to magically biting trebles.

Since its release (and despite its title), I have made the trio's seminal album The Ground my listening choice each time I am on board an airplane. There is something that correlates the delicate double bass of Harald Johnsen and cold cabin air; something in Jarle Vespestad's spare but faultless drumming
that is perfect for cruising altitude. It is a sound that, although unadorned, manages to somehow embody the very essence of modernity.

Every artist on ECM is worthy of exploration, however audio samples are (strangely) not available for listening at their homepage. But here are links to some particularly interesting ECM artists: Tord Gustavsen Trio, the Christian Wallumrud Trio and Trygve Seim.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Freakin' Friday

I'm running a little short on time today and, to be honest, a little low on energy after last night's terrific Celtics-Lakers game — do they really need to start these damn things at 9 o'clock at night? Really? Even as a night owl — both by trade and natural biorhythms — I find the late start times borderline offensive. And if you're wondering if I skipped out on doing Jazz Fest stuff to watch basketball, the answer is yes. Yes I did — however, I did turn the sound off and listened to Ornette Coleman's Sound Grammar for the first half. Heady free jazz adds a whole new element to hoops, man. Try it sometime.

Anyway, back to the point — there really is one, I swear — I'm short on time today. So rather than dig too deeply into the weekend's festivities, I thought I'd just point you folks in the direction of some pretty nifty stuff happening 'round here in the next few days.

Up Your Alley with Bill Mullins @ Red Square
Shameless self-promotion since this is a 7D event. Still, Bill is a certifiable guitar god. And a super nice dude to boot!

Bryan McNamara & Souls Calling @ Radio Bean
I caught Bryan at last Thursday's jazz sessions with Anthony Santor. The man simply wails on the saxomaphone. Sax-uh-muh-phone!

The Magic Hat Block Party, Street Bizarre, Local Band-A-Thon or whatever the hell else they're calling it now.
I know. I've been pimping this thing for months. But c'mon! It's gonna rule.

Ornette Coleman @ The Flynn
See previous point about free jazz and basketball. The only downside is that I think NBA finals tix are actually cheaper than this show. That's a bummer. But it should be pretty spectacular if you can afford it — or if you interviewed him and get to go for free . . . ahem.

Activists/Dictators @ Radio Bean
I'm not allowed to write about these guys anymore, so don't tell them I told you. Still, you should go.

PBR Punk Nite @ . . . RJ's? Yup. RJ's.
Pibbers, punkers and . . . what's a good "p" word for "meat market?"

Wye Oak, Pontiak, Forrest Mulerath @ The Monkey House

I just got word that Mulerath was added to the bill. This delights me to no end as his last CD was one of the coolest local discs I've heard in a while. The guy doesn't really play out very often — not, I'm told, by choice — so this oughta be a good one. Thanks Tick Tick!

The Lee Boys @ Waterfront Park
I don't know what "Sacred Steel" is — does it have something to do with The Highlander? But I like the sound of it. Plus, it's going to be like 90 degrees and humid and the Waterfront tent has beer. Sweet, sweet beer.

Thanks, that's my time. Be sure to tip your waitress.

And have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Beat L.A.!

You have to admit. I've been pretty good lately. Aside from my marathon rant — which I would argue hardly counts — I have kept my sports grumblings largely to myself. In fact, I'll even spare you my thoughts on the potentially epic Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals set to start tonight — at 9:07p.m. . . . WTF? Besides, I likely couldn't offer anything Bill Simmons doesn't in this terrific and utterly unbiased (wink wink) look at the history of the greatest "rivalry" in pro basketball. Seriously, it's hysterical. Thanks to 7D freelancer John Pritchard for sending it my way.

Instead, I'd like to submit this first video as a tribute to the perfect union of my two guiltiest pleasures, sports and cheesy hair metal. And also as the answer to the eternal question: What has nine arms and sucks?

The second video is meant as a tribute to the Basketball Gods — the 1986 Celtics, for those scoring at home. And as the answer to that other eternal question: What has 10 arms and sucks? (Hint: the L.A. Lakers).

We'll get back to music tomorrow, I promise — and it's gonna be a hell of weekend! But for now: GO GREEN!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What is... Drop it like it's Hot, Alex?


Is anyone else here a huge fan of Jeopardy?

Erin and I always switch to channel 5 right at 7:00 (after getting our Keagan Harsha fix), and yell our answers at the screen for a half hour, while using commercial breaks to catch each other up on our days. Whereas Erin usually pulls an impressive number of answers out of nowhere, my own knowledge fluctuates based on the category. Either I rock all five answers, or I know none. At all.

French language? BAM!

Beers of the World?  SNAP!

Hip Hop / Rap? Apparently... yeah!

My knowledge of music trivia is embarrassing. Because I post here, and own a record label of sorts, my friends tend to assume that I actually know things about the music world. My poor performance at Nectar's trivia night week after week, would suggest otherwise.

So when I totally rocked the Hip Hop / Rap category of Jeopardy last night, it warranted a text message to another Trebek fan to let him know. And determined office chatter of this morning. Because I was just that proud that my white suburban upbringing had properly schooled me in the ways of gangster rap.

Well that... and I'm a slave to pop culture.

In any case, more amusing than my own correct answers, were the blank stares of last night's three contestants.

The three were very much of typical 'Jeopardy contestant' mold. That is, solemn, conservatively dressed, and middle-aged. Well, I guess the 'conservatively dressed' statement could be argued. Last night's winner did sport a goatee, and a silver dangly earing in his left ear.

In any case, the contestants were clearly not huge hip hop fans. But one was a high school English teacher. And somewhere along the way, perhaps during their Shakespeare unit, one of her students must have let it slip that there is a hip hop artist named Lil' Romeo, because man, did she know that. She may not have been sure of of Jay-Z's use of the Annie soundtrack, and she certainly didn't know who was referred to as "Notorious", but she knew the name Lil' Romeo, and she made sure Alex knew the name Lil' Romeo. Over and over again.

It was awesome.

Luckily no one crushed her pop culture glow by informing her that the artist has adhered to the hip hop rule of name changes, and now goes simply by "Romeo", likely to be replaced by the more traditional "Percy Miller Jr." once his basketball career takes off. True to form, he already has a clothing line called simply PMiller.

Hip hop and Jeopardy. What a match!

Monday, June 02, 2008

How music saved the month of May


On a Friday night in October, two years ago, I joined some friends at Koto for a birthday dinner. From there we headed to the OP for some birthday drinks. When my new friend Michelle decided to leave with some other friends she had just introduced me to, she came over to say goodbye.

"We're going to head to another bar for a while, but I'll meet up with you guys later," she told me.

"Alright, I might head home soon, I'm pretty tired.... but I'll see you at my place for the party tomorrow night, right?"

"Yes!" She said, enthusiastically, "I'll see you then!"

I'm pretty sure you all know the rest of that story.

The past few weeks has been incredibly draining, for obvious reasons. The emotional toll of attending the murder trial, combined with spending time with a group of people who has not spent time with each other as a group in over a year, was intense. And on top of everything, I had Brian Rooney's face staring me down from every copy of Seven Days, in every little corner of our office.

But through it all I found one calming force. Music.

The trial's two weeks worked itself into a soundtrack of survival, and looking back over it all with a clear head, I found it interesting to look at what we chose, almost unconsciously, to listen to during that time.

For drinking in the hotel room the night before proceedings, it was Against Me! with "Pints of Guinness Make You Strong". The drives back and forth to Rutland were filled with Kanye West's "Stronger" and Wolf Parade's "You Are a Runner and I am my Father's Son", both on repeat. When Erin switched out my ipod for hers, we immediately put on Weezer with "El Scorcho". And as we drove away from the courthouse after the verdict, we flew down Route 7, screaming and listening to Ol' Dirty Bastard's "I Like it Raw". Later that night I drove circles around the beltway trying to process what had just happened while debating whether or not to accept WCAX's invitation to appear on the news. As I pondered, I played Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah", over and over again.

The uniting factor of all those songs in all those different genres? Familiarity. And maybe that's the key when faced with an unpredictable and completely unfamiliar situation. Make it more comfortable by including things that you know.

Waiting in the hallway of the courthouse for the verdict, I visited with another woman associated with the trial, who I won't identify here for her own privacy's sake. She asked about the bands that played at the benefit I threw for Michelle's Earth Foundation, and I abashedly admitted that while Michelle would have probably preferred something a little more hardcore, we went the female folk-y route.

The woman smiled and confided, "You know Michelle learned all that hardcore stuff from me, right?"

From there she told me about how she had been a part of the original DC punk crowd. How she had dated Brian Baker from Minor Threat. How Stephen Malkmus had lived in the dorm room directly above hers in college. How she used to hang out with Dave Grohl when he was part of the DC outfit, Scream. (Seriously, click that.)

And so guess what she was listening to during her time in Vermont? A mix a friend had made of all the old DC punk bands they used to hang out with and listen to.

Because it was familiar. And in that, comforting.

"I've been out of the scene so long," the woman continued. "What do you guys listen to now, anyway?"

"Well... we still listen to some of that stuff, actually," I told her. "I mean, I own Minor Threat CDs. And I still really like Pavement."

"Bridget! That's weird!" she scolded me. "That's like me listening to bands from the fifties!"

I had to laugh at her gross exaggeration... and there it was. We were laughing. Whereas a minute earlier we had both felt like we were about to throw up from stress and anticipation. Well, that and the fact that the only food available to us came from the Rutland courthouse vending machine.

A week after the guilty verdict, a friend of mine's aunt went missing, and was later found dead. A sure reminder that despite our small victory, violence against women is still a very real and horrible issue facing us today.

But I had to remain positive. Thankful that music had somehow saved my May. And Sunday, I started June with a fresh perspective. Most of the other people who were out with us that Friday night two Octobers ago have since left town. I chose to stay. And now, with May behind us, this is a new Burlington for me.

And so I hope that now, with the help of all you local musicians, I can create a new soundtrack to go with this new town.

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