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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday Ramblings

A happy Thursday to you, Solid State! Feeling a little scattered today, so bear with me …

Higher Ground delighted aging hipsters (like me) around the region earlier this week by announcing that Broken Social Scene will play the Ballroom on Wednesday September 22. Tickets go on sale Friday at 11 a.m. And if it doesn't sell out by, say 11:03 a.m., I will never give Alex Crothers and Co. a hard about time about booking indie bands ever again.


Speaking of Higher Ground: Li'l Kim. Wednesday, June 02. Really.


I'll probably mention this in my column next week, but it never hurts to give new material a dry run, right? Anyway, earlier this week, I was minding my own business, just compiling some club listings for next week's issue when I stumbled across this listing for Thursday, June 20 Langdon Street Café website.

JP and the Tough Choices

J.P. Harris and The Tough Choices play Country-Goddamned-Music. Period. Sick and tired of the modern Pop-Country filth broadcast shamelessly and persistently across our beautiful countrysides, The Tough Choices set out to right the wrongs done to a music so classically and quintessentially American. As we speak, Hank Williams, Buck Owens, Carl Smith, and countless other champions of Honky Tonk are rolling in their graves, groaning with disgust over the watered-down contemporary excuse that Nashville presents us for Country Music. Save a few Randy Travis gems and Alan Jackson hits, this flim-flam is pathetic, at best.

And then, I noticed this curious addition to the band's press blurb …


JP, you had me "country-goddamned music."

(PS- Not that I'm above boozy bribery, ahem, but I'll actually be on my way to Philadelphia that night. Sorry, boys. Another time, perhaps?)


In the last week or so, I've had three or four separate people — none of whom are not involved with the band or promoting the show, mind you — email about how much they think I would personally like The Barr Brothers. The Slip-offshoot will be at Parima this Saturday. I'm only just digging in this morning, but I'll say this, any band that effectively uses a harp and hammer dulcimer is aces in my book. Here's a clip:


As it turns out, Thom Yorke is fan of Vermont's own Bill McKibben and his website Neat-o.


Apparently, my column this week stirred up some grumblings in the local comedy community. Take it away, Wacky Pete …


And last but not least, this week's paper contained an enormous production goof. Long story short, my lead music feature about local hardcore punk band Unrestrained and their upcoming bicycle tour of New England — yes, bicycles — was regrettably omitted from the print edition. Or, at least the first 700-ish words were. Do the band a solid and check out the full story here. And if you really want to help me make it up to them, you could attend their farewell show tonight at 242 Main.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday Link Dump: The Best Show I Never Saw

Word to the wise, if you ever check out a show at the new House of Blues (formerly Avalon) on Lansdowne Street in Boston, don't buy tickets for the Mezzanine. The mammoth nightclub's second floor balcony wraps around the sides and rear of room but has seriously limited sight lines. Unless you are among the first, say, fifty or so people there lucky enough to get a spot along the railing, there is literally no vantage point to actually, y'know, see the show.

So it was that I experienced Spoon at HOB this past Saturday, alternately trying to hop above the four and five deep rows of almost comically tall people in front of me for a glimpse of the stage, and craning my neck at a projection screen simulcasting the concert that was just delayed enough to be annoying. It was sort of like watching a Red Sox home game on TV at the Cask and Flagon, the famed Lansdowne Street bar that is literally twenty feet from Fenway Park — if you've never done this, imagine hearing a David Ortiz home run thirty seconds before you see it. I'm exagerrating a bit. But you get the idea. Thank God for the surprisingly reasonable Narragansett tall boys. And the sound. Good lord, the sound.

I honestly can't remember the last time I saw, er, heard a show with sound so crystalline and balanced. I've long thought that Spoon's Jim Eno (drums) and Rob Pope (bass) form rock and roll's coolest rhythm section. But I have a profound new appreciation for their work having heard them like that. It was electrifying. The same goes for keyboardist/percussionist Ed Harvey. As for lead singer Britt Daniel? Well, I still want to be him when I grow up. All in all, it was the best show I never saw.


Speaking of Britt Daniel, did you know that he used to be this guy?

And speaking of assumed names, Stephen King's kid might just be, well, the next Stephen King. Or would that be the next Richard Bachman?

Are you a local musician wondering how Obamacare will affect you? Our old friend Casey Rae-Hunter at the Future of Music Coalition is here to help.

Your pledge dollars at work! NPR currently has Dr. Dog's new album, Shame, Shame — the band's first for Anti- — available for your perusal here. The record hits shelves, real and electronic, on April 6. And here's an interview I did with bassist Toby Leaman about the record in January.

Finally! The guy responsible for Battlefield Earth apologizes.

The old gray lady of rock ’n’ roll rags, Rolling Stone, unveils its list of "Best New Bands of 2010" this Thursday. Chief among them are none other than our own Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, who got their start in, um, 2002. Nice that someone is finally paying attention to them. (BTW, it's just a coincidence that Thursday is April Fools Day, right?) Anyway, here's a new video for "Tiny Songs," from their forthcoming self-titled album, which is scheduled for release on June 6.

Last but not least, the Montreal Jazz Fest has just announced another slew of concerts for this year's edition. They have also apparently adjusted the scope of the term "jazz" to include the likes of Andrew Bird, Lou Reed, Lionel Ritchie and Steve Miller. On a related note, the Burlington Discover Jazz Fest now has a Twitter feed where they are soliciting suggestions for this year's lineup. I mean seriously, who wouldn't want to see Lionel Ritchie at the Flynn? 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Link Dump

It's Tuesday morning, it's bright and sunny outside and I'm stuck inside waiting for a repairman to show up. Sounds like a recipe for a link dump.

Today marks two months to the day since I quit smoking. Here's yet another reason why I'm glad I did.

I can't remember the last time I read the Sunday comics. I'm guessing it would be the last time I read a physical daily newspaper … on a Sunday … that had comics. Anyway, this past Sunday, local harmonica player Mark Lavoie snuck his way into this week's full color installment of Hi & Lois. I was always more of a Bloom County/Outland guy, myself. But this is pretty neat. In the strip, Ditto thinks he has the "Annoying Sister Blues" so he learns to play his brother Chip's harmonica by listening to old blues records — including one by Lavoie. By the way, you can catch Mark at 51 Main in Middlebury this Thursday.

Pitchfork Media is looking for interns in Brooklyn.

Came across this funny Wikipedia entry for "Music of Vermont" while reviewing the new Lady Lioness album last week. Gotta love Wikipedia.

This Boston Globe article makes the case for professional tribute bands. My one-word rebuttal: no.

Speaking of tributes, with Rough Francis set to release their debut EP of original songs this Friday, feels like a good time to revisit the story of Death. I think Jeff Howlett would agree.

Pure Pop was burglarized last week. According to police, the suspect is tall, male, white and still listens to CDs.

T-minus 19 days until Opening Day.

And last but not least, my current favorite band that I just discovered yesterday, Larry and His Flask, who will be at 242 Main this Thursday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pure Pop Matters

Hey, Solid State.

Burlington's beloved indie record haven, Pure Pop, has recently relaunched their website as a multi-contributor blog. The new site features news and commentary about music and the biz from your favorite record store clerks and a few non-staffers as well. The roster currently boasts some of B-town's more notable expert-types, including Aether Everywhere's Tanner McCuin, Herb "The Vanderpolls" Van der Poll and Adam "Nobody Fucks With The Jesus (Vanacho)" King, among others. The revamped site has only been up for about a month, so content is understandably sparse at the moment. But what is there makes for a pretty good read, especially on a dreary day like this one. McCuin's bit about this weekend's AE/Kranky Records showcase at The Bakery is particularly informative.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Aaaaaand We're Back!

Hey, Solid State! What the fuck is up? . . . hello? Anybody there? He-lloooo . . .

Oh man, I've done it again. I swear, it's really not my goal to singlehandedly kill the 7D music blog. But between Halloween, the Election, Bridget leaving, a lingering beast of a cold that keeps receding just enough to trick me into thinking I'm healthy and then shoots me down like Sarah Palin heli-hunting — I'm really gonna miss her, by the way — I . . . well, you know. We've been here before. I'm sorry. I'll change, baby, I swear. I mean it this time, really.

Anyway, during my most recent blogging hiatus, I spent a lot of time perusing the Internet, much more than usual,in fact. Not much else to do, frankly, when you're laid up in bed and it feels like a 40-pound hampster is clawing its way through your sinuses. In particular, I was looking for some new music resources. It's no secret that I'm not exactly a fan of Pitchfork — though I'll admit the sheer volume of info is impressive and occasionally helpful. And I'm growing weary of many of my old standbys. In short, I need a new drug.

My search was largely fruitless: a lot of the same info and opinions, recycled and regurgitated to death. However, I did stumble across one site in particular I really enjoyed and thought you folks might dig too. I was reading the New York Times "Paper Cuts" blog — which is actually about books. I like books — and found a peice written by British author and part-time musicologist Nick Hornby — see earlier comment: I like books, especially Hornby's.

The post is is Hornby's "2008 Playlist" and is, quite honestly, monumentally lame. Far be it from me to pass judgement on anyone else's personal taste; we all have our soft spots, to each their own, whatever floats your boat and so on. But the fact that his list-topper is Queen's "We Will Rock You" fairly reeks of early-onset fuddyduddyism. I'll concede aging hipster bonus points for Vetiver and Dr. Dog though. But the point here is not to tear down Hornby, who is among my top five most revered pop-culture scribes of the last 20 years . . . I'll stop now.

The point is that in his list, he references an MP3 blog called I Am Fuel, You Are Friends and cites it as a consistent source for cool new music. Damned if he's not right. The blog is maintained by a woman in Colorado Springs, CO who has really terrific taste — or at least taste that aligns fairly closely with my own, which is obviously amazing . . . ahem. Literally within 15 minutes of picking through her more recent posts, I identified four new albums I didn't know I wanted, but simply had to have. I ended up buying three of them, the best of the bunch being Chandeliers, the latest from Lucksmith-y Australian indie-pop outfit The Boat People. If like me, you're looking for a nifty new source for new tunes, I'd recommend checking it out.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

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?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Burned Out

No, no. Not me. I'm not burned out. I just got back from a mini blogging vacay, remember?  I'm speaking of one of my favorite music "journalists"/cultural analrapists, David Thorpe, who today published his final Burn Unit column for Boston's The Weekly Dig. And yes, I realize I've used the term "cultural analrapist" at least once before on Solid State. Sue me. I just love "Arrested Development," OK? Speaking of which, did you hear they're definitely maybe turning it into a movie? That can only be awesome. Or a huge mistake.

This is a sad day indeed. I have a vague, half-recollection of a Beantown friend mentioning the end of The Burn Unit to me over the weekend. But frankly, most weekends spent with this particular friend result in vague, half-recollections. Must be all those forget-me-now pills. That, or I just blocked it from my memory. Either way, it sucks and I'm pretty bummed. True to form, Thorpe gives no true indication of his plans, post BU. He does run down his all-time least favorite columns though. But why are you reading it from me? Click on the link in the first paragraph and read it yourself, dammit.

And while you're there, you can check out this blurb about Burlington ex-pats Pretty & Nice, who just signed a deal with Sub Pop spin-off Hardly Art. Their song "Georgia Belle" has been in frequent rotation on my Tuesday night bowling league mix. It's amazing how well it works sandwiched between the likes of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and Brazilian Girls' "Pussy." Don't ask me why. It just does.

In any event, I'd like to express my appreciation and "pour some out for my homie," David Thorpe. The Burn Unit was one of my two favorite columns — the other being Bill Simmons' The Sports Guy on I'm gonna miss you, man.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New things.

Took a brief break from posting to deal with some life stuff, all of it potentially good. Firstly, we're getting very close to choosing a replacement for yours truly (if such a thing is even possible, right?)

Secondly, Brooke and I are heading down to our nation's capital next Thursday to look for apartments and *stuff.* We'd previously planned to head out West, but DC was always a possibility. Anyway, I may have just been made an offer I can't refuse. No, it's not CIA. But that's about all I can tell you right now.

Let's get you fixed up with some reading material courtesy the wide world of alternative-newsweeklies:

You can't do windmills with a laptop. (Dallas Observer).

UMaine says "F-U" to RIAA. (Portland Phoenix).

Modern r&b chicks = no shame listening.  Sort of(City Paper).

Raccoon eyes does not a feisty "punk" chick make. (St. Louis Riverfront Times).

Some of you may be wondering what is going to happen to your beloved SolidState. Rest assured that Seven Days will still have a  music blog, presumably overseen by the new hire. I have been busy constructing a brand new blog (with all of the old posts and comments intact)  called The Contrarian. URL to be revealed soon.

Still, I'm planning on haunting the 7D music blog, most likely through annoying comments. I highly encourage you to do the same. Minus the annoying, of course.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Arthur Magazine R.I.P.?

Over the weekend, I heard via one of the music crit listserves I'm on that San Francisco's Arthur Magazine was calling it quits. The rumor was, that after four years of print excellence, they'd simply run out of funds.

I love Arthur, and not just for its coverage of freaky music. The rag seemed to recognize a gestalt in today's fringe culture, with cross-pollinated coverage of psychedelics, modern shamanism, magick, media and activism. Plus Thurston Moore did CD reviews.

This morning, PitchforkMedia corroborated the news of the paper's demise.

However, I now find out that the obituary may have been premature. The ever-knowledgeable blog Idolator reports on a rift between editor Jay Babcock and publisher Larry Kreslins over financing, which has put Arthur on "indefinite hiatus."

No word on whether or not Babcock will continue with the organization once they return. And in what form, I wonder?

In case you missed it, Here's Babcock taking the frontman for Godsmack to task over the band's ties to military recruitment efforts.

And an L.A. Times article about the shutdown kerfluffle.

Better rush down to Pure Pop and scoop up those last copies, if there are any...


Monday, December 11, 2006

Gift idea.

Bc_2012_4 Looking for something for that mystically-minded, Buddhist-centric, shamanic, night tripping, archetype-oriented, mythically-curious writerly psychopomp in your life? This book would make an interesting choice.

I haven't yet decided if Daniel Pinchbeck is a New World Man or just a drug-addled, dilettante cult leader. One thing's for certain: he's a very talented writer, which is rare in fringe culture. With prose like this, who cares if he believes himself to be the reincarnation of the Buddhist ruler Ashoka? Besides skeptics and historians, that is.

This is my favorite review from

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!

1. TEOTWAWKI is coming in 2012 because the ancient Mayan Calender [sic] prophesied thusly.

2. Secret messages in UK crop circles, which only the author can understand with the aid of his Super Secret Decoder Ring, confirm the TEOTWAWKI date in the Mayan Calender.

3. If the above is not enough to convince the reader that the TEOTWAWKI arrives on Dec 21st, 2012, the author brings out his final piece of credibility-building information in the closing pages. There he informs us matter-of-factly that he is the reincarnation of ancient emperor Ashoka. I quote from page 372:

"To make matters worse, along with the potentially reality-shifting reception of the Quetzacoatl transmission, I had accessed a hypothetical past life as an Indian emperor, fulfilling all New Age cliches."

The author lost me with that final bit of nonsense. This may get him dates with airheaded New Age chicks, but it doesn't work with the rest of us. Until that page I was working hard to remain credulous enough to keep reading page after page of silly New Age claims, all completely unverifiable.

If you know the author's background, you know his "hobby." My suspicion is that it has killed one too many brain cells.

As another reviewer said, Pinchbeck has "inherited Shirley Maclaine's crown as the new Queen of the New Age Movement."

If you're a New Age stoner, you might like this book. If you aren't, then avoid this pointless nonsense at all costs.

Good thing I already picked myself up a copy. Next stop, Scientology?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Music and Spirituality: A Real Sticky Wicket.

Brooke and I have been whiling away these colder evenings by reading aloud from the newish book, Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. It's been pretty fun, even though I already know the story inside and out. When Brooke is reading, I sometimes stop her to tell an anecdote related to the subject she's on. Nine times out of ten, the info is revealed in a subsequent paragraph, with a similar amount of hyperbole. If this is annoying to her, she keeps it to herself. One of the many reasons I love that woman.

The book itself is so-so. There are enough word redundancies to drive a writer (especially two of 'em, as is the case in our household) completely batshit. Brooke actually threatened to "throw the damn thing across the room" the next time she encounters the phrase "interlocking harmonies." Personally, I'm more put off by the author's use of the word "band" three times in a single sentence. But I digress.

Despite its faults, the book has reminded me of the intensely spiritual nature of Wilson's songcraft. As an often vehement opposer of *organized* religion, ie The Judeo Three, I'm aware that my love of his devotional-sounding productions contradicts my otherwise polemic views on religion. Many BW works display strong Christian convictions; why am I forgiving of this but annoyed by other displays of faith?

With a ruling percentage of humanity skewed towards believing in some kind of Santa In The Sky, I find myself increasingly at odds with not just my own culture, but the majority of the species. It's cool, I'm kinda used to it. Still, I figured it was time to examine where my own attitudes toward art and spirituality intersect.

Music history is chock full of expressions of faith, from sacred chant to U2. And don't get me started on visual arts. Anyone who has wandered the Renaissance rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art knows what I'm talking about.

I'm also in the middle of a book about Toltec, Mayan and Aztec civilization, and the specific reasons behind their rampant use of human sacrifice. The author's thesis is that these cultures moved progressively from direct mystical experience as directed by their local shaman, towards a kind of mechanized system of offering in order to appease of the hungry demons of their cosmology. In even more ancient times, these metaphysical foes had been forces of positive transformation. Well, according to this dude, anyway.

So what does Quetzalcoatl have to do with sunny Californian pop? I could surely find a link, but you wouldn't want to read a post that long.

Here's a footbridge:

There's a spiritual longing in the artist that's comparable to the desire for religious transcendence. Practitioners of both spiritual trance and applied creativity experience similar states when in the throes of their respective ecstasies.

Unfortunately, there are obstacles.

The priest seeks to canonize, dogmatize and chasten the unpredictable otherness of spiritual revelation; market forces seek to streamline, repackage and uniformly distribute artistic dynamism.

But what's good for the artist is good for the mystic.

Solitary investigation and development is definitely key, as is failure and humiliation. Success, in as much as it can be quantified, is bitchin', too.

Desire is important, but not to the degree that it becomes superficial ego enhancement. Ever wonder why modern radio sucks? Everybody wants to play rock star. Donning the trappings of a sonic superhero or putting on priestly vestments is empty unless the true charge of spirit is underneath.

If you can't become entranced by your undertaking, stop. You aren't fooling anyone, not even yourself. But do try again.

OK. Enough with the lecture. Let's get back to the Beach Boys and Christianity. I was raised semi-Catholic (one of my grandmothers was Poped to the Extreme) and have a fairly good grasp of the origins of the religion — dare I say better than some of its adherents? Anyway, it's not like I have any problem with the teachings of Christ, whether or not he was a real historical figure or an amalgamation of several wild-eyed Judaic visionaries. I could write a lot about what I believe JC was up to during his self-imposed desert exile; let's just say it's consistent with the transformative experiences cataloged in nearly every spirit tradition.

I'm an intermittently lapsed Buddhist, meaning I believe that meditation is just the best damn thing ever. This in and of itself is not incompatible with Christianity.

But there's a major difference between following the advice of a pacifist Kabbalist and believing that you should abuse women and hate homosexuals. How 'bout we burn an ox tonight? I hear it delights Jehovah's nostrils. Yeah, that's in there, too.

I'd like to think that Brian Wilson was more interested in the compassionate teachings of brotherhood than a close-minded doctrine of prejudice and control.

Ergo, I'm cool with the Christian connotations in his music. But keep that Jesus Camp pseudo-goth shit away from me!

PS: Check out Undead Molly's epic pumpkin-carving adventure. What skillz!

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