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Friday, August 29, 2008

This is Just a Tribute

Happy Friday, Solid State!

I know most of you are probably out prepping yourselves (feathering mullets, shotgunning Coors Light and spit-shining firearms) for tonight's epic performance by The Nuge at the Champlain Valley Fair. But for those poor souls who are, like myself, strapped to their computers this afternoon, I have a tidbit to pass along that just recently came across my desk.

This Sunday, Burlington's Battery Park will be abuzz with the melodious strains of nine local acts paying homage to the late, great Neil Young, who . . . what? Really?

This just in: Neil Young is actually still alive. Said nine local bands are apparently just big fans. Boy is my face red.

The real scoop is this: local streaming web radio station WBKM is presenting a slew of Young acolytes for a family-friendly evening of Neil-worship at Battery Park this Sunday at 5 p.m. Among those carrying the torch are Duane Carleton, Katie Pearlman, Mia Adams, Red Hot Juba, Patrick Fitzsimmons, Silent Mind, Chad Hollister, The Kind Buds and Ragged Glory — who are, in actuality, a Neil Young tribute band. Nifty.

Joking aside, this show actually sounds pretty cool (I really do love Neil Young), especially compared to some fare in the park of late — I'm not naming names, but I live right next to Battery Park and there have been a few afternoons and nights this summer I've been driven from my apartment by the off-key caterwauling of one poor band or another. Anyway, this time around, I imagine I'll be made in the shade, taking in the show from my VIP roofbox seats (OK, it's really just a flat roof with some folding chairs. But still . . . good times).

Now, if you'll all excuse me, I have to get to the dry-cleaners to pick up my Canadian tuxedo for tomorrow's Toby Keith concert — I'm only half joking right now. You guess which half . . .

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This just in from local alt-country duo-turned-supergroup (originally Burette Douglass & Bill Mullins, now also featuring Creston Lea and Steve Hadeka on bass and drums, respectively) The Lonestar Chain, which I assume is a reference to songwriter Burette Douglas' native Texas and not the character Lone Star from Spaceballs — that reminds me, does anyone want to start a hardcore band called Dark Helmet?

Anyway, the boys have a not-so-super-secret gig tomorrow night (Thursday) at The Bakery at 10:30. It should serve as a good warmup for Monday's opening slot with The Gourds (a personal favorite) at the HG Showcase Lounge. I haven't heard anything about other acts on the bill as of yet, but The Bakery is a great space. And no, I'm not really supposed to tell you where it is. If you don't know . . .

What I can tell you is that the "Ghetto Advance Copy" of Lonestar Chain's new disc is terrific, especially if you love rootsy Golden Smog-esque country-rock, which, of course, I do.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Holy Smit!

As alluded to in the previous post, I have a backlog of of Smittens-related stuff to pass along. So let's get right to it, shall we?

First up, The Smittens released their latest record, The Coolest Thing About Love, earlier this summer, shortly before hopping across the pond for the Indietracks Indiepop Festival — much of which took place on a train! Awesome.

I have the album. It's great. But that's all I'm going to tell you about it for now, because I also have a serious backlog of CDs to review and wouldn't want to spoil the fun when we actually get around to reviewing the disc in the paper — such is life when you only print two reviews per week, I suppose. In the meantime, check out this clip of the band from their recent performance at PopFest in Athens. These guys really get around, don't they?

And if you're really jonesing for someone to glowingly tell you more about the new album, you can check out this review from Treble reviewer Tom Lee. The band was also recently featured on NME's website performing The Monkees' "I'm a Believer." Check it out here.

That's probably enough for now. Don't want to overhwelm your delicate twee sensibilities.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back in Black

Hey, Solid State. How have you been?

You may or may not have noticed an appalling lack of posts lately. To be perfectly honest, I just haven't been feeling especially writerly of late. Kinda down in the dumps, really.

If you read last week's Soundbites, you know that my friend Bryan Kapschull passed away in the wee small hours of the morning on Sunday, August 17. Bryan was canoeing off Grand Isle after serving as the "Man of Honor" at his sister Jenna's wedding to Husbands AKA guitarist Sean Fitzpatrick that Saturday night. His boat capsized and he never made it back to shore.

Over the last week or so, I've tried several times to get some stuff up on Solid State. There's been a bunch of cool news I wanted to share. The surprise Smittens show at Red Square and a whole bunch of other Colin Clary-related stuff, for starters. I'll get to the latter this week, I promise. Yow!

But every time I sat down at my trusty keyboard, the words simply failed me. That doesn't happen often. I'm by no means a prolific blogger, but even if I'm struggling, I can usually fight my way through and come up with something. But this was profoundly different from mere writer's block. I couldn't write because I just didn't want to. I didn't have it in me. That kinda scared me. 

Until Bryan, I had never dealt with the death of a friend. I consider myself very fortunate in that regard. My only brushes had been losing both grandmothers. And in both cases, those had been somewhat expected passings. But Bryan's death caught me completely off guard. I'm still not entirely sure how I managed to write my column on Monday morning. And frankly, I hardly remember doing so. 

Anyway, I was wondering if you'd indulge me and allow me to tell you a little bit about this past weekend. If nothing else, I think I just need to get it out. Tomorrow, we'll start playing catch up, I swear. Here goes . . .

Early Saturday morning, 14 Magic Hat employees, past and present, gathered at the brewery to make the trek down to Waymart, PA for Bryan's funeral. I know it sounds stupid, but walking into the building where I'd worked with him for four years, I honestly found myself expecting to see Bry Guy atop the brew tower. Or maybe strolling through the retail store. Or harassing the keggers. Several times during the drive, I allowed myself to believe that I'd see him in PA. Maybe it was a defense mechanism. Maybe it was the fact that I was working on about 3 hours of sleep following a week of averaging less than that. Maybe I really believed it — on more than one occasion during that day, a few folks I was with admitted to thinking that the whole thing was a big joke, that Bryan was just pulling our legs and would stroll into the proceedings from around a big tree with his big, goofy smile. I guess I wasn't alone in deluding myself.

After changing into our funeral/wedding/only-dressy-clothes-most-of-us-own in the dirt parking lot of a ramshackle Lenox, PA diner — in which it's still perfectly acceptable to smoke, we found out — we finally neared Waymart. We turned onto a side street in order to get to Route 6, the last leg of the journey that would take us to the funeral site. And that's when Bryan showed up.

We stopped at a red light in the heart of some nameless factory town. But something was amiss. As we waited, several old fire trucks slowly rumbled down the cross street, lights whirling — by "old," I don't mean "antique." These trucks were still in service and likely had been since roughly 1984. They were followed by an assortment of military vehicles of roughly equal vintage. A dark sense of foreboding grew over us as more and more cars lined up behind our small caravan. "I think this is a fucking parade," I marveled to no one in particular. Just then, a Budweiser-emblazoned golf cart puttered into view, trailing a camouflaged Hummer and carrying two old men clad in Shriner's fezzes. It was, indeed, a fucking parade.

Driving the truck in front of me, my friend Jim — like me, an MH ex-emplyee — leaned out his window to inquire of two gentleman who bore an eerie resemblance to Cletus The Slack-Jawed Yokel as to just what in the name of all things holy was going on. "Flemhgf shmup dpugfs gfluph, man," he replied. Right, of course . . . fuck.

After a member of our crew pleaded with a police officer to let us through — he couldn't, because the "cheerleaders were about to walk." And what lovely ladies they were, I assure you — we broke roughly 9 separate traffic laws in turning our cars around and sped in what we hoped was the right direction. It wasn't.

We stopped at a general store to ask directions, already late. Clad in black slacks, a white shirt and a black tie, my friend Justin approached the storekeeper, who replied — and I swear this is true — "Waymart? You can't get there from here." Sensing a ruse might be afoot, Justin explained our situation. "Well sheeeit," said the shopkeep, "I thought you was a Jehovah's Witness!" He gave us directions.

I'm not really sure how fast we drove from that point. It may or may not have been roughly double the posted 35 mph speed limit. In any event, we made it — albeit 20 minutes late. And I couldn't be more grateful that we did.

The service itself was really . . . well, nice. It was at an outdoor chapel overlooking a small lake. Friends, family, teachers and old band mates relayed their — often hilarious — remembrances of Bryan. A childhood friend played an elegy on trumpet. An old man pleaded from the back row to turn up the PA ("Hey, Billy. Could ya turn it up?") Bryan's dad tried to sell the crowd Amway products — what's that saying about the apple falling from the tree? Trust me, it was funnier than it sounds. And hey, you can't spell funeral without f-u-n, right? Sorry.

The wake would actually prove to be more emotionally draining than the ceremony, which was curiously devoid of pictures of Bryan. Jenna and Bryan's girlfriend, Sarah, had compiled a slide show set to music to play underneath the outdoor pavilion adjacent to Bryan's favorite pizza joint, The Waymart Hotel and "Pizza" — the quote marks are not mine, they're on the sign out front. I watched through two songs — the first a blues tune I didn't know and then an instrumental by Devotchka. At that point, the pictures began to cycle through again and folks started to mill about. "Wait, there's two more songs," Jenna said, trying to hold our attention. 

As I poured myself a beer from the keg, the first hushed strains of Bon Iver's "Flume" filled the speakers. That's just about when I lost it — it was actually the song's opening line, "I am my mother's only son, that's enough." Oddly, the tune was the first I had played in the car at 5:30 that morning, and I almost had to turn it off then for fear of crying. Combined with the pictures of my fallen friend, it was just too much. I retreated to the back of the pavilion, unable to watch any longer. When the slide show ended, Jim approached me, cheeks red and wet, and said, "I think it's time to go." Wiping my eyes, I had to agree.    

We camped that night in Oneonta, NY and mourned, Magic Hat-style. Again, I kept expecting to see Bryan across the fire-pit, pounding Hocus Pocus like the rest of us. Upon arriving home the following afternoon, I slept for roughly 16 hours. When I woke up today, I still felt pangs of grief. But as I walked my dog along Battery Park, staring out at the lake that claimed my friend, I also felt a calming sense of ease. I guess you could call it closure. For the first time in more than a week, I felt something resembling normal.

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Flobots start a radio friendly Revolution


Over a week ago now, I went to see Flobots play Higher Ground. I've been occupied with another writing assignment since, but I wanted to fill you all in before I go ahead and forget; that band is amazing.

I know what you're probably thinking. The band that sings that handlebars song? Yes. That band.

A few months ago a friend of mine fell victim to a Buzz cut, and bought the Flobots CD. After giving it a listen, he gave me a call.

"You would love this," he told me. "It's all political!"

Like other glassy-eyed radio listeners, I had completely missed the point of "Handlebars" the first few times I heard it. That being — the discovery of power and the subsequent abuse of it. A perfect example being our current president, who rides a bike with no handlebars in that he leads our country with no sense of proper steering.

So I went over to my friend's house to check out the music. And he was right. I liked it. I tend to like any music working for social change, but radical hip hop is a favorite, mostly because in spite of liking the sound of most hip hop, I fail to connect to the genre in any of its other incarnations.

I made plans to attend the August 11 Higher Ground show, even knowing that the crowd would likely be filled with naive teeny-bopper "Handlebars" fans. The good news is that, in the end, even the crowd pleasantly surprised me that night.

Arriving at Higher Ground, I had my bag searched — maybe because of the featured bands? But the girl who searched me had no problem with me taking my pepper spray inside. On the other hand, she did confiscate the cigarettes of a boy I met later. So apparently pepper spray is OK in a crowded ballroom, but cigarettes are not.

The show was sold out — and to fans of all ages. There were plenty of teenagers, but the back bar was packed with the 21+ crowd, and the right side wall had a line of ten-year olds standing on chairs to get a better view. I can only hope I will one day be as cool a parent as those that carted their eager children to the show, including (no surprise!) Seven Days' own political columnist, Shay Totten.

Opening the night was Busdriver, a one man Los Angeles hip hop act, whose muffled lyrics made him hard to judge. My friend confessed that the songs on the myspace page were much more impressive and I lamented that such is often the case with hip hop. As such a highly produced genre, it is always interesting to see how an act will hold up live. The truth of Busdriver was that one man with backing tracks can be swallowed by the Higher Ground Ballroom. And he was.

Next up was People Under the Stairs, a Los Angeles hip-hop duo that has been making a name for themselves, most notably in the UK, since the mid-90's. Their experience was evident in their stage presence as they excited the large crowd, which had grown notably restless during the previous act. Plus, their act included an impressive display of old school beat boxing.

Not only did People Under the Stairs engage the crowd, they involved it, with call and response choruses, and some light hearted joshing during interludes. Hip hop is the only musical genre where you can self-promote and get away with it, and People Under the Stairs mastered a seamless inclusion of their name, their newest album's name, and its drop date.

It was at this point during the show that I looked around the room and realized that the Vermont crowd deserved a lot more credit than I had originally given them. They were not Flobots one-hit-wonder fans. They were hip-hop fans. And they knew all the words to the People Under the Stairs set to prove it.

[The crowd also deserved more credit than the girl in the bathroom gave them. The girl who was used to hip-hop shows in Brooklyn and now found herself "embarrassed to be white." Hey, lady! You were still white when you were in Brooklyn, no matter who you surrounded yourself with! And also, tell your friend with the cigarette that there's no need to stink up the bathroom. It's not like they are carding in the smoking area outside.]

When Flobots finally took the stage, the crowd was more than ready for them, cheering loudly before Johnny Utah could finish his Buzz cut introduction. The set started with "Same Thing", track 3 from their album, Fight with Tools, and the energy was infectious as the crowd sang along.

We say yes to grassroots organization
No to neoliberal globalization
Bring the troops back to the USA
and shut down Guantanamo Bay!

While the other acts of the evening had relied on backing tracks (certainly not at all shameful at a hip-hop show), Flobots came with a full band, and stood out as more impressive for that reason. Of course most impressive was their use of viola, which added an almost haunting sound to the already heavy lyrics.

Another highlight of the set was "Stand Up", track 4 off the album, with lyrics encouraging solidarity against what we believe to be wrong. Flobots also covered "So Happy Together" by the Turtles, encouraging the crowd to jump up and down along with the song. The encore would later feature another cover, of Pat Benetar's "Heartbreaker".

The speeches between songs were just as encouraging and eloquent as the rhymes themselves. Flobots asked the crowd to remember to support our Veterans, even those overseas, because they have opinions too. They also urged their listeners to look to the American flag as a flag for the future, one that represents our hope, efforts, and dreams. They asked us to stop waiting for the America we long for, but to instead fight for it and make it right now.

And then came "Handlebars".

While I had thought of the song in the most cynical light possible, assuming that it was made a hit only by the thoughtless requests of kids who liked Cake, and a song about bike riding, Flobots managed to put a political spin even on their one-hit success.

The band's two emcees talked about how people calling in and requesting a song until it rises in the charts is just one example of people making something happen.

"Burlington," they asked the crowd. "If we get together, do you believe we can build a better world together?" As the band was met with the loudest cheers of the night thus far, the viola player started her plucking to begin the hit song.

I'm not sure what it is about politically motivated music, but I always leave shows of this nature feeling so incredibly inspired. Last Monday was no exception. I would be lying if I said that I didn't think of my little unborn niece and how I can only hope that with Bush out of office, we can start to turn this country around to create a better tomorrow for her. Lofty goals for a girl in Vermont, sure, but if a commercial radio station is now playing a buzz cut that brings me to that state of mind, then there really must be hope for us after all.

And if you blew off this band because of its commercial success, I urge you to give them another listen. You might just find yourself politically inspired as well.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympic Fever

I promised myself I wouldn't do it. But alas, the lure of the world's largest sporting stage has proven too strong for me to ignore and I have been glued to the Olympics. I'm even watching on the Canadian channels (French and English!).

There are loads of reasons not to watch, of course. China's disturbing record of human rights violations, for starters. And their decision to censor the media covering the event by restricting access to certain websites. And the air pollution. And the lead in children's toys. And, well, you get the idea. However, the competition has been fairly gripping when we're not forced to sit though mind-numbing 15-minute human interest pieces from Bob Costas.

Some of my favorite story lines, thus far:

Can USA Basketball, the so-called "Redeem Team," return the country to prominence in the sport we invented? And will LeBron(ze) James refer to George H.W. Bush as "pops" again? 640georgebushvol_788317c_4

Can Michael Phelps nab 8 gold medals and eclipse Mark Spitz as the world's most decorated swimmer?

Will Chinese gymnasts start mysteriously disappearing if they fail to sweep the medals?

Does anyone really care about Equestrian events?

And, of course, is George W. Bush as big a perv as this pic makes him out to be?

The world watches with baited breath.

Friday, August 08, 2008



I really hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I must report that Boyz II Men has canceled their Higher Ground appearance, originally scheduled for Tuesday August 19.

According to Higher Ground's (spiffy! new! green!) website, the cancellation is the result of a scheduling problem, and the Boyz do not plan to make up the date.

The news has cast a dark cloud over us all here at Seven Days.

Don't worry, Boyz, I know eventually we'll be together. One sweet day.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Band On the Run

This just in from our friendly neighbors to the north: Iggy and The Stooges were burglarized this week in Montreal. Unlike Gordon Stone's fiasco in CT last year in which the thieves broke in to his van and made off with a bunch of equipment, these dudes stole the entire fucking truck. Now that's ballsy. Kinda of reminds me of that Dane Cook bit — y'know, when he was actually sort of funny — that every guy's secret ultimate fantasy is being involved in a heist.

Anyway, the chances that the crooks would be silly enough to try and cross the border in a stolen rental truck filled with rock equipment — and possibly driven by a monkey — are pretty slim. Still, being the closest "metropolis" to Montreal, I suppose it's possible they could be holing up in the Queen City. Here's what to keep and eye out for:


all equipment was in a rented penske 15 foot yellow truck
with u.s. (michigan) license plate number AC46493
and the theft had to have happened in the morning,
between 6:30 and 7:30 am

there's a web page at: that will soon have pictures and updates to more stuff found missing

Item      Country of Origin   Serial Number

Red roadcase containing:      USA   No serial number
      Red Gibson 1963 EB-3 bass (this is mike watt's bass!)   USA No serial number

Black roadcase containing:      USA   No serial number
      Reverend Flying V guitar - Volcano black   USA   #08001

Black roadcase containing:      USA   No serial number
      Reverend Orange guitar   USA   03416 ZSL7

Black fibre case containg:      USA   No serial number
      Gibson red SG short scale bass   USA   No serial number

Black roadcase containing:      USA   No serial number
      Marshall Vintage/Modern Amplifier   UK   M-2007-07-0926-2 RoHS

Black roadcase containing:      USA   No serial number
      Marshall Vintage/Modern Amplifier   UK   M-2007-07-0927-2 RoHS

4x Marshall 4x12 Cabinets (with Tuki cover)      UK   #1 Slant: M-2007-05-0149-0

4x Marshall 4x12 Cabinets (with Tuki cover)      UK   #2 Straight: M-2006-49-0380-0

4x Marshall 4x12 Cabinets (with Tuki cover)      UK   #3 Slant: M-2007-05-0150-0

4x Marshall 4x12 Cabinets (with Tuki cover)      UK   #4 Straight: M-2006-49-0381-0

Orange Calzone road case containing:
      Guitar pedal board and pedals   USA/Japan   No serial number
      Assorted leads    USA/UK   No serial number
      2x mic stands   Germany   No serial number
      Assorted strings and spares   USA   No serial number
      2x Boss TU2 Chromatic Tuner
      Boss CH1 Super Chorus
      Fulltone OCD Overdrive
      Crybaby Wah
      Peterson Strobo-Stomp Tuner Pedal
      Whirlwind A/B Boxes
      Whirlwind Cable Tester
      and many many istrument cables
      various tools ( screwdrivers, soldering iron, pliers, etc... )
      tambourine and maracas

Cardboard box containing:
      Assorted replacement drum heads   USA   No serial number

Gretsch Silver Sparkle Catalina drum kit      USA   No serial number
      26" Kick Drum      No serial number
      13" Rack Tom      No serial number
      18" Floor Tom      No serial number
      4x Cymbal Stands      No serial number
      1x Snare Stand      No serial number
      1x Hi Hat Stand      No serial number
      1x Drum Throne      No serial number

Eden D810 Bass cabinet      USA   D810RP4 0703E5001

Eden D810 Bass cabinet      USA   D810RP4 0703E5002

Cardboard box containg:
      Eden VT300 Bass amplifier   USA   0601E5115

Cardboard box containg:
      Eden VT300 Bass amplifier   USA   0507E5033

Floor Fan      CHINA   No serial number

Floor Fan      CHINA   No serial number

Green clamshell suitcase containing:
      Yamaha snare drum   JAPAN   No serial number
      Yahama kick pedal   JAPAN   No serial number
      Zildjian Mega Bell cymbal   USA   No serial number
      Zildjian 15" Hi-Hats   USA   No serial number
      3x Zildjian 18" 19" 20" crash medium cymbals   USA   No serial number

Brown Epiphone guitar case:
      Black Epiphone EB3 short scale bass   KOREA   F300503


if anyone has information, ANY INFORMATION!
please, please, PLEASE as soon as possible contact
Eric Fischer at:
[email protected]
cell phone: +1 646 932 1907

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