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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Little Bit O' This . . .

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2007 at 1:30 PM

Since last we met — that would be yesterday — I've been inundated with a whole bunch of nifty little tidbits to send your way. Most of it came in too late to throw in the column, which is too bad because I could've used some extra fodder. In any event, I thought I'd send the overflow your way.

Gordon Stone miraculously recovered his 1977 Stelling Bellflower banjo this week. I mentioned this in the column, but didn't have the whole story until today. Here's the e-mail I received recounting the tale:

The Theft – Over Memorial day weekend 2007, Gordon Stone’s van was broken into
at the Four Star Sheraton in Norwalk, CT.  Among the items stolen was the 1977
Stelling Bellflower Banjo that he had been playing for over 30 years –
it’s one and only owner.

The Internet – On May 29th, the word went out over the internet.  Gordon’s own
website, his myspace page, EBay, Craigslist, The BanjoHangout.com,
Cybergrass.com, every possible web connection that could be made or was
suggested was posting the stolen gear and instrument.  People wrote in
from all over the Northeast, (including the bands moe. and Max Creek, to say they too
were posting this sad event on their website.

The Recovery – a Good Samaritan (fellow musician) saw the banjo for sale at a
flea market for $275.00 and immediately was suspicious.  He went home to check
Google and the first item on the page for “stolen banjo” was the cybergrass
mention of Gordon’s banjo.  The Good Samaritan went back to the flea
market and the banjo was gone.  He called Gordon and the search began.  His efforts, the
internet, and the honesty of the owner of the flea market ended in the
reuniting of Gordon and his Stelling Bellflower in a parking lot in
Bridgeport, CT on Sunday July 29th, 2007….not even 30 miles from where it had been stolen.

The BanjoHangout.com? Wonder what they talk about over there? Probably A-Rod.

Colin Clary sent me a link to former Freeps music writer Brad Searles' blog in Beantown. It's all about former Fags front-man Eugene Hutz and his rise from Ukrainian immigrant in Burlington to Madonna's dance partner at Live Earth. It's a great read and there's an awfully cute pic of Mr. Cooley in all his youthful punk-rock glory. Check it out.

You guys ever hear of someone named Grace Potter? I'm told she's pretty hot. Anyway, she and The Nocturnals just did the theme song for VPR's new daily news magazine Vermont Edition which premieres — as a daily, anyway — on 8/13. Apparently, they "jammed out" using their song "Nothing But The Water" as a template. Take a listen starting tomorrow. Heady, bro.

Also, there's a "secret" GPN show at Club Metronome next Tuesday — the day their major label debut This Is Somewhere hits the streets. To get an invite, you have to pre-purchase the new disc at Pure Pop. It's kind of funny because the only time I've seen GPN live was when they opened for my old band, The Middle Eight, at Metronome some three or four years ago . . . sigh.

Finally, I completely spaced on mentioning this in the column, but there's a pretty weird early show at Nectar's next Tuesday. Cellist Helen Money composes instrumental rock songs and plays them — electric with numerous effects pedals — through her cello. Trust me, it's bizarre. But it's definitely worth checking out if you're looking for something to do on a Tuesday evening.






Monday, July 30, 2007

Sticks And Stones . . .

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2007 at 6:29 PM

I'm not sure how often you folks check the comments for each blog post, but I do fairly regularly. I guess that kind of makes sense since this is sorta my blog.

Anyway, I wanted to pass along this little gem because I'd hate to think it had been overlooked.

Here it is, from "Ted," in response to a post entitled A-Hole:

Who let this loser be a music writer? Its bad enough that we have toendure his idiotic musings in the paper every week. Now he'seditorializing about A-Rod? Glad you think he's a total douche. Why notfill up this space with other original red sox fan opinions like "JeterSucks, A-rod swallows"? I could go on endlessly about how a certainloud mouthed red sox picher is by far the douchiest player baseball hasseen in decades...but I'll save that debate for when I'm sharing a beerwith my buddies, and leave this space open for those who want todiscuss local music.

Well, "Ted," I'll be the first to admit that I don't always write about music, local or otherwise. In fact, it seems to me that Solid State has a fairly long-standing tradition of branching out beyond the stated "ramblings of a musical kind" to cover a wide variety of subjects. Casey liked "House," I like baseball. Deal with it.

I'm happy to spend more time discussing local music. But only if I can fit it in between writing my idiotic musings — you know, the ones about local music. Surprisingly, being a loser takes up an awful lot of free time.

In the meantime, take a deep breath and read this. I think it'll help.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

God Bless You Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2007 at 3:25 PM

I was just sent this by Seven Days staff-writer extraordinaire, Ken Picard, and thought of you, Solid State. And guess what? It has music!

A-Hole

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2007 at 11:37 AM

I know, I know. This is supposed to be a local music blog and I keep writing about stuff that has nothing to do with music, local or otherwise. But I heard this little nugget on my way to work today and thought it was pretty interesting. I promise this will be the last time I write about sports for a while. But stay with me because this is weird.

Last night, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez hit his 499th career home run. For the uninitiated, this is kind of a big deal because every player with 500 home runs is in the Hall of Fame and A-Rod would be the youngest player in history to achieve the mark. Plus he's a total douche.

Tomorrow the Yankees will play the Baltimore Orioles to conclude a game originally played on June 28th which was suspended in the 8th inning due to rain. Should Alex Rodriguez homer in the resumed game, it will have statistically occurred on June 28th meaning that his 499th home run — hit last night — would actually be his 500th. Where's Doc Brown when you need him?

On an absolutely unrelated note, here's yet another reason why I hate drum circles:

Monday, July 23, 2007

Filling The Hole

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2007 at 5:09 PM

Howdy folks.

I apologize for the lag between posts, but what can I say? I'm a lazy, lazy man. It won't happen again. Haven't I said that before?

Anyway, if you read the physical version of the paper, you are likely aware that we've replaced the Pop Ten. For those of you who follow only online, this is probably news to you since the new section hasn't made its cyberspace debut — we're still working on that.

Due in part to the general decline of independent record stores and in part to the feature being a raging pain in the ass, we rather hastily gave Pop 10 the boot a couple of weeks ago with no real idea of what we were replacing it with.  Seriously, no idea.

Ultimately, we decided to let the space be a sort of free-jazz version of music journalism with no real rules or template. The original installment was an interview with Built To Spill guitarist Brett Netson. The following week was a live review of Gabby and Burette of The Cush at Parima's Acoustic Lounge. Future editions might be editorial rants or photo essays or whatever the hell else I feel like throwing in there. Think of it a a schizophrenic Sound Bites on steroids. Mmmm . . . steroids.

Well, so far so good. We've gotten a good response from the first few stabs and folks are already starting to contact me about future uses of the space — if others want to write it, that's A-OK with me, as long as you don't suck. Please, just don't suck. That's all I ask.

The only real problem is that the feature needs a name. Currently, the spot is known as "The Hole" among Seven Days staff. To me, that doesn't exactly scream destination reading. "Hey. Did you read that shit in The Hole?" No good.

So I call on you, citizens of Solid State. Help me name this thing. If you do, I promise not to ask you anymore Chuck Klosterman questions for a while. Oh, and the winning entry gets a spiffy new Seven Days t-shirt.

The contest is open to anyone and will be announced in this week's Sound Bites, but I thought I'd give you guys first crack at it. Let the games begin!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs — Part 1

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2007 at 5:50 PM

As I get older, birthdays become less and less important. As a kid, I remember being shocked whenever I'd ask my dad what he wanted for his. "It's just another day . . ." he'd sigh, staring off in the distance at what I can only assume was his waning youth, before cracking open a Miller High Life and lighting a Marlboro.  Ah, childhood.

It defied every sensibility I possessed at the time not to lie awake every night for two weeks prior to the big day, dreaming of the loot I was sure to acquire if I didn't burst from anticipation. I just couldn't comprehend my father's depressing indifference.

In many respects, my 29th birthday was the worst ever — however, the trip to the dentist when I turned 10 comes close. Not only am I now watching days fly off the calendar in an irrevocable descent into Thirtydom — although according to the NY Times, 30 is the new 21. So I've got that going for me, which is nice — I spent the day slaving over a column and a feature, and the evening praying that sweet death would rescue me from my flu-like malaise. Nothing like celebrating the last birthday of your twenties with a bottle of NyQuil and a comforter . . . in July.

Physical ailments aside, gift-wise, I made out like a bandit. The crown jewel was tickets to a Sox-Yankees game at Fenway in September, but my friend Ben came through with a close second.

I'd never heard of Chuck Klosterman until Ben introduced me to Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs. Being as culturally aware as many of you are, I'm sure at least a few of you are familiar. However, I have only recently become enamored with Klosterman's witty brand of criticism. Page by page, he's becoming my favorite pop-culture analrapist. Thanks, Ben.

One of my favorite pieces of the book is the list of 23 questions he asks everyone he meets to determine if he can really love them. Since I can't make up my mind about most of you, I thought I'd give it a shot.

Question the first:

Let us assume you met arudimentary magician. Let us assume he can do five simple tricks--hecan pull a rabbit out of his hat, he can make a coin disappear, he canturn the ace of spades into the Joker card, and two others in a similarvein. These are his only tricks and he can't learn any more; he canonly do these five. HOWEVER, it turns out he's doing these five trickswith real magic. It's not an illusion; he can actually conjure thebunny out of the ether and he can move the coin through space. He'slegitimately magical, but extremely limited in scope and influence.

 

Would this person be more impressive than Albert Einstein?

Whaddya say, Solid State?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Roid Rage

Posted By on Thu, Jul 12, 2007 at 12:41 PM

Those of you who know me personally are likely aware that I'm a bit of a sports nut. It's a passion  I rarely indulge in local hipster circles, but if I have to choose between going to Metronome to see a great band or watching a Red Sox - Yankees game at Nectar's, you'll find me downstairs almost every time.

Baseball was my first love. I discovered the pure joy of swatting a small leather ball with a wooden stick long before I paid any attention to girls and years prior to diving into music. From the time I was 6 until I turned 13, all I ever wanted to be was the starting left-fielder for the Sox. Unfortunately, a lack of size and/or any appreciable baseball talent prevented me from living that dream beyond riding the pine in middle school. C'est la vie.

Though my aspirations of becoming a pro ballplayer eventually faded, my adoration of the sport never did. I love baseball at every level, from the sandlot to the majors, so it should come as no surprise that I tuned in for Tuesday's MLB All Star game.

Unless you live in a complete bubble, you're likely aware of the ongoing steroid/HGH controversy currently ravaging professional sports.  At the heart of  the scandal is San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, who is presently 5 home runs away from breaking Henry Aaron's long-standing career mark of 755 and is widely believed to have used performance enhancing drugs to get there. Follow the link at the end of the previous post to learn more.

This year, the mid-summer classic happened to take place in San Francisco — do you think the announcers said anything about the controversy?

Hardly an inning went by that some idiot Fox broadcaster didn't bring it up and boldly put in their two cents on the issue — or Fox's anyway. Since Fox shares broadcasting rights with ESPN, both networks are sleazily trying to gloss over the scandal to create some air of purity around the embattled player's impending achievement — and of course, boost ratings.

While there was no shortage of inanity streaming from the TV, perhaps the most intellectually vapid and morally bankrupt argument came from Ken Rosenthal, who prefaced his entire argument that Bond's record should stand even if he is found guilty of cheating with the cornerstone phrase of Fox News spin tactics: "Some people say . . ."

Rosenthal claims that "some people" say 70 percent of MLB players are, or were, on steroids during Bonds' run for the HR crown. Just which part of Rupert Murdoch's ass did you pull that number from, Ken?

His point was essentially that because so many players were allegedly on drugs — including pitchers — we need to view Bonds in the historical context of the Steroid Era and therefore, it's OK that he cheated.

Bullshit.  If everyone jumped off a bridge . . .

Rosenthal's logic is ethically flawed and entirely based on an assumption that's impossible to prove. But he may actually have a point — though it's not the one he was trying to make.

Do we view Babe Ruth's 714 with any less reverence even though he never faced a Black, Hispanic or Asian pitcher? Is Henry Aaron's mark less impressive because it took him nearly 800 more games to do it than Ruth? We routinely give our heroes contextual free passes. Perhaps we should do the same with Bonds. Not as an athlete, but as an entertainer.

Major League Baseball — or any professional sport, really — is entertainment. Fans pay hundreds of dollars per game to see overgrown freaks play a child's game at its highest level. Just like we'll pay through the nose to see drugged out musicians or artificially enhanced movies. When I go to a MLB game, I want to see gargantuan brutes hit baseballs 500 feet. When folks would see Phish, they'd want the band to be as high as they were. Performance-enhancing drugs are not solely the realm of sports and to malign athletes for trying to conform to a climate created by the public's appetite is disingenuous at best.

In 1998, Major League Baseball was on life support after barely surviving a fierce labor dispute. That summer, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's epic home run battle revived a dying game — with the help of performance-enhancing drugs. McGwire has all but admitted as much. A much smaller Sosa returned to the game this year after two seasons of physical breakdowns.

The prolific sluggers' race to break Roger Maris' single-season HR record of 61 wasn't baseball. It was drama and it captivated millions of fans and revitalized the sport. Now, as Barry Bonds nears his own record, the country recoils in horror as it becomes more and more apparent that growing three and a half shoe sizes at the age of 37 just ain't natural.  This is a monster we created, folks. Don't act so surprised.

There is no purity left in the game of Major League Baseball and maybe there never was. If you want to see pure hardball, go to a minor league game, or better yet, find a sandlot. And when Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's record, tip your cap, 'cuz it's been a good show.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Oooh! Pretty Pictures!

Posted By on Wed, Jul 11, 2007 at 1:33 PM

I promise this will be the last Wilco-related post for a while. I'm sure there must be some other stuff I can blather on about.

Anyway, Ben Hudson — a talented up-and-coming photog and all around good dude — took some pretty nifty shots at the show and I thought y'all might like to see  'em.

Here you go:

AT THE REQUEST OF STATE OF MIND MAGAZINE, THESE PHOTOS HAVE BEEN TAKEN DOWN. YOU CAN STILL SEE THEM HERE.

                                     
Tune in later for a rant on steroids!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

"Sky Blue Sky" is neither sky, nor blue . . . Discuss.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 5, 2007 at 12:59 PM

I was going to just reply to the last few comments on the last post, but then I realized I could kill two birds and just start a new post. I'm so clever.

In response to you last comments, Casey: Word. And I want my 2 (thousand) dollars!

Low kicked ass as well, though I admittedly listened to most of their set doing keg-stands in the parking lot. Not sure if that aided or hindered my perception of their music.

Seven Days wonder-boy Mike Ives had an interesting take on the show — which methinks isn't the show you heard, Casey. The only link I could find was to the Boston gig the night before. Then again, I'm somewhat net-tarded, so maybe I'm wrong — according to this week's letters to the editor, that's not out of the realm of possibility.

I did find a link at bt.etree.org. And no, I won't link you there, even if BT files are "legal."

Anyway, Mike's comments were in regards to "Via Chicago," from Summerteeth. Throughout the song, Cline & Co. interspersed bits of distorted bleats and feedback. Just a little at first, but by the middle of the song had built a cacophonous wall of noise. All the while, Tweedy just strummed and crooned almost as if totally unaware of the sonic anarchism surrounding him. It was stunning.

Ives called it a "microcosm of Wilco," pointing to the myraid ways the band seems to effortlessly fuck with our collective heads. I'm paraphrasing at this point, BTW.

Not to put words in our all-star writer's mouth, but I think what he was getting at is that "Via Chicago" in many ways summed up Wilco's evolution and approach to their music and, perhaps, the variety of public perceptions of the band. I would guess that how one viewed that particular version of the song would be a good indicator of one's general opinion of the band.

Summerteeth or Sky Blue Sky? Jay Bennett or Nels Cline? Jetta or Beetle? The debate rages on.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2007 at 3:50 PM

Ask and you shall receive, Ari and Casey.

Unfortunately, I'm quite under the weather at the moment, so I'm going to print a snippet from my upcoming SoundBites column, rather than rehash what I've been writing all day. I know this is totally cheating, but it's my party and I'll cop out if I want to.

Think of it as a sneak preview! And don't say I never gave you nuthin'.

So it was that I found myself at Shelburne Museum last Friday, seeing my old friends for the first time as professional music writer.
    If you’re looking for a hard critique of the show, stop reading right now and go pull up Pitchforkmedia.com on your web browser. I’m sure they have plenty of self-important, hipster-chic ramblings on the decline of Wilco. I’m just not gonna be that guy.
    Are they dad-rock? Sure. Whatever. Is Tweedy’s post-rehab songwriting a bit blunt and clumsy? Absolutely. But does the new incarnation of the band still rock? You’d better believe it.
    Wilco tore through a full set and two encores sounding as vital and inventive as ever. Avant-guitarist Nels Cline not only faithfully re-created his precious work from the new disc, but added flourishes and melody lines that breathed new life into a slew of songs across the band’s hefty catalogue. “Shot In The Arm” from Summerteeth was especially impressive with Tweedy’s new toy at his side, as was Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’s “Jesus, etc.”

Hopefully that will get ball rolling. Tomorrow, I'll be happy to debate you all on the relevance of Wilco. But for now, I have to go back to bed and feel sorry for myself. Happy birthday to me . . .

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