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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Politics of Dancing

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2008 at 5:11 PM

As we inch ever closer to Super Tuesday and more Presidential hopefuls begin dropping out of the race — or, in Ron Paul's case, inexplicably hang on — we can look forward to the candidates getting down to the nitty-gritty and discussing the most pressing issues of the day. Like the war on terrorism, the economy, stem cell research and why Hillary Clinton's campaign would use a song whose video features a sexual assault on a nun and a frontal lobotomy in which the discarded gray matter ends up as a dog treat. Ain't Democracy grand?

The video was posted on BoingBoing a couple of days ago by an alert blogger from The Netherlands, which happens to be the home of the tune's authors, Golden Earring. According to Jason Linkins from The Huffington Post, the video was actually banned by MTV in 1984 because it featured nudity. The incident with the nun may have played a part as well. Just a guess.

So to borrow/outright steal a phrase, here it is, your moment of Zen:

Thanks to Seven Days food critic Suzanne Podheizer for sending this one my way.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bloggity Bloggity Bloggity

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2008 at 2:57 PM

Whew! What a weekend.

Friday night, I finally got a chance to catch local ska revivalists Husbands. What a hoot! I won't delve too deeply into my impressions as you'll be able to read all about it in tomorrow's paper. But talk about a flashback. The band is still fairly new on the scene and as such are a bit rough around the edges. It's forgivable. I haven't been to a good ska-punk show in probably close to ten years and goddamn if it wasn't fun. The whole night kinda made me long for my saddle shoes and checkered suit jacket. Ah, memories.

Saturday night, I acted as a judge for the Higher Ground Comedy Battle. Again, you can read more about this tomorrow. But I have to say that I went in with fairly minimal expectations. Stand-up comedy is sort of like karaoke in that it's only fun if it's either really good or REALLY bad. For the most part, the 11 contestants fell in line with the former. Color me pleasantly surprised.

The winner was a 20 year-old creative writing major at Johnson State College named Roger Miller. Honestly, if this guy doesn't pack his bags and head for NYC after graduation, something is horribly wrong with the world. Dude was hysterical. I think my favorite observation dealt with port-o-lets at music festivals — part of a larger, equally funny bit about drugs, hippies and jam bands. To paraphrase, you know something is truly disgusting if it's too nasty to piss into. Indeed.

Sunday night, I had every intention of pulling the Higher Ground two-fer and checking out Neko Case. But sometimes life gets in the way of the best laid plans. Unfortunately, my girlfriend threw out her back skiing at Jay Peak — on her second run of the day — and I ended up playing nurse all night, which is nowhere near as fun as playing doctor. Whoa!

Anywhoo . . .

I'm not a huge Neko Case fan, but I was really looking forward to seeing Eric Bachman. I dug both of his old(?) bands — Archers of Loaf and, in particular, Crooked Fingers. But alas, no soup for me. I hear it was a pretty sweet show though.

However, I did find myself in a rather strange position on Sunday afternoon as it was the first Sunday with no football since September. I've never put much stock in the whole "Cabin Fever" thing. But I'll be honest: I was kinda losin' my shit. I would have settled for the Toronto Argonauts versus the Montreal Alouettes . . . seriously, the Alouettes? That might be the lamest name in professional sports.

The funniest?  A tie between former Detroit Lions defensive back Harry Colon and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson. And once again, I digress. 

Fortunately, my sports junkie fix came in the unlikely form a Chuck Klosterman article on ESPN.com. The piece deals with the New England Patriots pursuit of perfection with a win in this Sunday's Super Bowl and how the team's legacy — and more specifically that of quarterback/golden boy Tom Brady — would actually be more enduring were they to choke and lose. Essentially, the premise is that Americans, on the whole, identify with failure more closely than they do success. It's more humanizing to watch someone like Brady suffer defeat than it is to watch him continue to be virtually perfect. I think it's the same reason American Idol is still on the air — it's fun to watch people fail.

Though I vehemently disagree with his conclusion that Pats should lose, the argument makes sense. Frankly, Brady is a god among men. He's got model looks. He's the best player on the best team at the most high-profile position in sports. He dates one of the most beautiful women on the planet, Gisele Bundchen. And he recently fathered a child with another, actress Bridget Moynihan. If I didn't love him, I'd hate him.

Regardless of your interest in football, it's an intriguing read. Check it out. Except for you, Casey. I know how much you love Klosterman. And football.

Well, folks. That's all I've got for now. In the meantime, the story I wrote last week about teaching kids to play guitar using Guitar Hero has been getting some attention on reddit.com. And as a result, it's the second most popular story ever on Seven Days' new website. It's even prompted a snarky discussion about my work outside the friendly confines of Solid State. Neat-o! 

Six Degrees of Politics

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2008 at 10:36 AM

Did everyone watch the State of the Union last night?

I was happy to hear Bush admit that the system of care established for our nation's Veterans needs some tweaking. I was even happier that this was his final address. After all, admitting a problem and fixing a problem are two different things, and the latter is a skill this man clearly lacks. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of our country simply tuned him out this eighth time around.

Luckily, next year's address will come from a brand new president. Who? Well, we don't know yet.

Obviously.

Hence the crazed campaigning and extreme endorsing slamming us from all branches of the media.

Earlier yesterday evening while running my little butt off at the gym, I focused on one of the TV's up front. CNN was reporting on all of the most unusual candidate endorsements after breaking the news of Senator Kennedy's recent endorsement of Barack Obama.

I wasn't fully concentrated on the story as my ipod was blaring Soulja Boy's "Crank Dat" into my ears [KIDDING], but suddenly Kevin Bacon's face filled the screen and it was all I could do not to fall off my elliptical.

I have no idea how I missed this until now, but apparently Kevin Bacon endorsed John Edwards back in December. Endorsed him with music.

Wait, no, that didn't do it justice. Endorsed him WITH FOOTLOOSE.

Skip in about three minutes for the good stuff. And don't get too excited. Playing guitar kind of restricts the famous Kevin Bacon Footloose dance moves. Which I will be happy to demonstrate to you if you're not aware how awesome they are. Just approach me at the Monkey after one Tequila Sunset.

By the way, this is in no way an endorsement of John Edwards. This is solely an endorsement of Kevin Bacon. Who has officially made the political world just one degree of separation away from stardom.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Crank... dat?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2008 at 11:08 AM

So word has it (and by word, I mean MTV), that Soulja Boy claims he's the best MC out there right now. And yes, I am referring to the same Soulja Boy that became famous by demonstrating his "catchy dance number" in an empty pool on youtube.

The artist made the claim in hopes that it would sway the opinions of the minds behind the MTV News "Hottest MCs in the Game" list. And he doesn't just want to be included in the ten, he wants to be the top one.

Soulja Boy even affirmed that he is hotter than Jay-Z. After all, he's "Grammy-nominated".

I'm sorry, Soulja Boy, but to me, you will always only be the artist responsible for the song that convinced that one lonely white guy at 38 Main in Winooski that he looked cool dancing, even if alone.

Mortifying.

There is of course one thing that can make up for his "ringtone raps" and cocky attitude. And that is this:

A part of me is dying to teach the routine to my own little dance class at the Y.

But a bigger part of me really doesn't want to have to answer the first five-year-old to ask, "What does 'Super Man that ho' mean?"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wintry Mix

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2008 at 1:12 PM

Anyone else all set with Winter? Frankly, I think bears have the right idea: just sleep right through that mutha. Sadly, unlike bears, we humans have the little annoyances of modern-day living like jobs, bills and reality TV to force us out of bed during this seemingly endless string of short days and long nights. That, I suppose, is why God invented whiskey. Thanks, big guy!

Anyway, surviving winter and the accompanying malaise clinically known as SAD — that's short for "Sucks Ass, Dammit" — requires a little creativity and, occasionally, an infusion of all-out pop-a-liciousness. Enter Plattsburgh's Hello Control.

I favorably reviewed the band's debut EP a couple of weeks ago. Although pop-punk ain't really my cup of Kool Aid, these kids are very good at what they do. If given the right combination of lucky breaks and a healthy degree of that all-important quality known as "stick-to-it-iveness," I could honestly see them appearing on the next American Pie soundtrack — American Pie: Cougar Hunt, I believe. And if that's not the next title in the bawdy teen-comedy franchise, it damn well should be.

So if Winter blues have got you down, get a load of this video from Hello Control, the latest by Jeff Howlett's Howlerman Productions.  And just think, Spring is technically only 56 days away. In Vermont, of course, it's really more like 80. But who's counting?


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Can you ever just be -whelmed?"

Posted By on Wed, Jan 23, 2008 at 2:09 PM

Yeah, yeah, I know this isn't TMZ, but I still can't help but post something in response to the news of Heath Ledger's death. I realize things like this happen every day, and that in fact, it's not even the first passing recognized on Solid State this week, but for some reason I feel especially sad about this particular news.

It has a lot to do with the bizarre circumstances and the fact that he has a young daughter, of course. But I also think it's because Ledger is the first of the celebrities my friends and I had crushes on in high school, to die.

"Well, sure, except for Chris Farley," my roommate Erin corrected me.

In all seriousness though, Heath Ledger once earned a spot on my bedroom wall, as well as the bedroom walls of thousands of other teenage girls, when he serenaded his high school bet/crush in 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You.

I watched my video copy so often the tape wore thin.

And then I grew my hair out long like Julia Stiles so my own Heath would sing me an invitation to prom.

And so, as a somewhat cheesy tribute to a very talented actor, here is the musical scene from one of my favorite movies for your viewing pleasure:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

R.I.P. Andy Palacio

Posted By on Tue, Jan 22, 2008 at 3:17 PM

The world music community suffered a tremendous loss this week as Belizean singer Andy Palacio passed away due to respiratory failure, following a major heart attack and stroke at age 47.

Palacio was Garifuna, a culture descended from shipwrecked slaves who settled and mixed with Carib natives along the eastern coast and islands of Central America. An established musician in a variety of genres, he dedicated the latter part of his life to preserving the traditions of his dying culture through its music. Released on Charlotte-based world music label Cumbancha, his final album, Wátina was an all-star celebration of Garifuna roots music, garnering global acclaim.

Palacio toured the US in support of the album and I had the pleasure of interviewing him in preview of his performance at Higher Ground's Showcase Lounge in August 2007. Still relatively new to Seven Days, the interview was one of my first for the paper — my second, if I'm not mistaken. Despite English not being Palacio's first language, the inherent technical difficulties of speaking to someone in Belize on a cell phone as well as my then-novice foibles, the singer was as accommodating and pleasant as any I've spoken with since, and likely guided me through the conversation more than I did him.

What follows is an excerpt of that conversation.

SEVEN DAYS: You got your start playing Punta music and were very successful in Belize prior to focusing on Garifuna roots music. Has that helped raise the profile of what you’re doing now?
ANDY PALACIO: Absolutely. I had actually made attempts earlier to expose the diversity of Garifuna music in other media. In 1999 we did The Paranda Project. It was an attempt to document an art form that was in a way endangered because the main practitioners were all from an older generation.

SD: How has Wátina help to re-invigorate younger generations’ interest in Garifuna culture?
AP: If you look at it as an ethnic minority, the similarities between us and other ethnic minorities come into sharp focus. It takes a toll on one’s self-esteem, especially for this younger generation. We have to come up with something that is able to boost that sense of pride and have a positive effect on the culture. Wátina has had the effect of reconnecting that generation with their roots.

SD: You brought in Garifuna artists from all over the Caribbean and Latin America to record Wátina. It seems this approach is an apt reflection of the origins of the culture itself.
AP: Garifuna has been characterized as a nation across borders, and that’s just the experience we live. My Garifuna brothers and sisters come from Honduras and Guatemala and all over the Caribbean and Latin America. Our culture supersedes our colonial or political differences. So that had to be reflected in this collaboration. That was very important.

SD: The word "wátina" is Garifuna for “I call out.” Is this a call to the world or more specifically to the Garifuna people?
AP: On one level it is a reflection of the difficulty of ordinary man trying to get from point A to point B. Wanting a ride, so to speak. Or sympathy from everybody passing by. On another level it’s about the Garifuna people shouting out to the world, saying, “We are here and we have a culture to share. Don’t pass us by."

SD: Your early influences were fairly conventional North American and reggae music. How did your interest veer towards what you’re doing now?
AP: It was at the point where I recognized the threat to our culture. In the early ’80s, my commitment changed to prevent the disconnect of the Garifuna people from their culture and focus more on what was ours than what was imported from abroad.

SD: What would you like American audiences to take away from your performances?
AP: I think it would have to be the discovery of a component of the Americas that is totally new. It’s easy to assume that all people of African descent in the Americas have been enslaved. Or that all people of African descent speak the language of one of the colonizing countries. But to find that, somewhere within all of that, that we exist with our unique characteristics should be interesting to people.

Andy Palacio was an iconic figure, in Belize and beyond, and was instrumental in the ongoing preservation of Garifuna culture. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him and his music.

For more on Andy, the Garifuna and Wátina, watch this:


And finally, I received this letter from Cumbancha founder, Jacob Edgar. It contains information about funeral services and planned tributes to the fallen singer, as well as links to obituaries published throughout the world.

Dear all:

News about the untimely demise of Andy Palacio has been spreading across the world, and we have received hundreds of messages offering condolences and support. Please feel free to post your own thoughts and memories about Andy at Andy's MySpace page and on the Cumbancha blog. The messages coming in from all corners of the globe have been very moving.

A number of major media outlets have published or will be publishing obituaries, including the New York Times, Reuters, El Pais, CBC Canada, Chicago Sun-Times, Le Monde, The Guardian, Liberation, among others. I have posted links to some of these at the bottom of this note.

People in Belize and Garifuna people everywhere have been mourning Andy's death. On Friday morning, there will be a tribute concert at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts in Belize City. The funeral ceremony will take place on Saturday in Barranco, the small village in southern Belize where Andy was born and raised. His body will be brought by boat (weather permitting) to Barranco, where there will be a traditional Garifuna wake as well as a Catholic service.

A foundation is being established in Andy's name, where people can make donations. Information will be posted on the MySpace page and Cumbancha blog as soon as that becomes available.

A major tour was in the works for Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective with special guests Umalali starting in April and running through the fall. After discussing it with the musicians and agents, everyone agrees that Andy would have wanted this tour to continue, in tribute to his memory and to further his goal of exposing Garifuna music and culture to the world. A number of rising stars of Garifuna music will be added to the lineup, and we are confident that this tour will be a magical tribute to Andy and his work.

Best wishes,

Jacob Edgar
Cumbancha

ANDY PALACIO OBITUARIES:

The New York Times

Reuters

CBC Radio 2 Canada

Chicago Sun-Times

El Pais

Reuters España

C-c-c-coachella

Posted By on Tue, Jan 22, 2008 at 9:29 AM

I know all you hip kids are probably more up on this than I am, but in case you have not yet seen it, here's the official poster for this year's Coachella!

Photobucket

As usual there are some bands I'd like to see, namely Tegan and Sara, Animal Collective, Cold War Kids, Death Cab for Cutie, and Akron/Family. But like every other year I will choose to pass on the cost of plane tickets plus concert tickets plus food, and lodging only to bask in a heatstroke-filled weekend.

Festivals really aren't my thing.

Still I find it kind of inspiring that out of my choice bands from the lineup, three have spun through Burlington in the past year. And some others that I'm less familiar with, I'm sure. Kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about our little corner of the scene, don't it?

And for those of you who are festival people (i.e. in favor of heatstroke and opposed to showers), but just can't make the cross country trip, don't worry. Apparently the genius minds behind Coachella will be putting on an East Coast festival as well, later on in the summer.

Unfortunately for everyone, it is slated for Jersey.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Great Americans

Posted By on Mon, Jan 21, 2008 at 7:07 AM

So apparently I'm in a band. Apparently.

Yeah. That soulful crooner in last week's Shot in the Dark really is me. Who knew that much diva lived inside a suburban choir girl, eh?

Let me back up and explain.

I have never known how to play an instrument. Back in fourth grade when I had the chance, I decided I wanted to play drums. Unfortunately, the school's band instructor decided I should play violin. My parents actually had to call the school before the instructor would concede to let me play the instrument of my own choice. By that point, I decided I had no interest in being in his band.

And so I sang instead.

But it wasn't until last weekend that I ever sang at a bar...

I have been attending shows of the various musical projects of Eric Carlson and Tyson Valyou since I moved to Burlington. No wait, since before I moved to Burlington. I remember arriving at my friend Erin's Vermont apartment for a weekend away from Maine only to be greeted by Pretty & Nice set up to play in the living room.

So when they told me they were starting another band, it was no surprise.

And when they asked me to sing in it and I agreed, I never for one second took it seriously.

That is, until I called Tyson the following weekend on my way home from Jazzercise and asked what he was up to. When he told me he was loading his drums into the Monkey I said, "Why? Are you playing tonight?"

Which was when he informed me that WE were playing that night.

Um... what?

For those of you like me, who have never had the balls to sing in a bar, listen closely. The secret, it seems, is to chug two tallboy PBRs during the time it takes to study the provided lyrics sheet, and BAM. That stuff is like Mariah Carey in a can.

Lucky for me the songs were all my old choir favorites: "Going to the Chapel", "Build Me Up Buttercup", and everyone's favorite, "American Music".

And also lucky for me, I was not the only one singing. I was one of four. Or five.

Which was truly a gift since it was my first experience with a monitor and I didn't know enough to ask anyone to turn it up. As in... I'm pretty sure I visited every key, including the correct one, during my short flirtation with songstress.

I can't guarantee Tyson and Eric (and all other... oh, thirty-five members of the band) will invite me back to sing again, but I'm still totally grateful for that one night.

Because for the first time since the fourth grade when both the band instructor's and my own stubbornness deemed me choir-bound, I GOT TO BE IN A BAND!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

PSA

Posted By on Sat, Jan 19, 2008 at 1:58 PM

Just as a warning...

Please do not try to simultaneously take off your pants AND download Eddie Vedder's new song onto your cell phone.

Because as my co-worker Judy can testify, you WILL throw your back out and you WILL have to go to a chiropractor.

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