Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Asobi Seksu

Looking for something to test out that new stereo system? How about some Asobi Seksu?

Asobi Seksu is a dreampop outfit out of NYC that just released their sophmore album, Citrus, earlier this week. I wasn't crazy about their debut album but this thing is sonic candy.

The band is mainly frontwoman Yuki and guitarist/fuzz master James Hanna with a rotating rhythm section. Their sound is a cross between the swirling fuzz of My Bloddy Valentine and the pop rock of Tuscadero with their petite feminine vocals standing strong in the middle of an aural blast. At times, it even has an undercurrent of Phil Spector's 60's girls group sound running through the fuzz.

Play it loud.

Asobi Seksu | New Years
Asobi Seksu | Mizu Asobi

Tuscadero | Holidays 'R Hell
Tuscadero | Angel In a Half Shirt

Thanks to extrawack! for the tip on Asobi Seksu. It took me 18 months to finally see the light but I appreciate the exposure. By the way, extrawack! has an additional tune from Citrus in his post.

Stones Throw Podcast | Contrast Podcast

Lately, I've been listening to a lot of podcasts. Don't know why but I am. Regardless, here are two new ones to check out.

Madlib is a DJ on Stones Throw Records. For one of the label's recent podcasts, Madlib mixed a bunch of 45's of obscure soul and funk. The result is brilliant. Similar to DJ Shadow/Cut Chemist's Brainfreeze except Madlib doesn't layer any of the records; just plays parts of them straight. Here's the beauty of runs for over an hour and is free via iTunes. That's the best deal you'll find today. Towards the end, he lets a lame dope novelty song run waaay too long but otherwise, the mix is consistently sharp.

You can download it via iTunes here. You can stream it from Stones Throw's site here.

Thanks to Analog Giant for the tip on this one.

The other podcast is Contrast Podcast #9. The theme for this one was "local".

I had wanted to submit a song to this podcast from formerly Montpelier's and now Burlington's very own Hello Beautiful. Hello Beautiful's "Boreguard" is a gorgeous song; particularly once the organ and drums kick in. However, I got caught up with a bunch of crap over the weekend and the podcast filled up before I could get a submission across the Atlantic.

Hello Beautiful | Boreguard


Introducing the Frost Heaves' mascot...Bump!

OK. Who's handy with PhotoShop?

The Incredible Shrinking Concert T-Shirts

What the hell is going on with concert t-shirts these days? They are getting smaller by the show. Pretty soon, they'll just fit teddy bears.

Is anyone else noticing this?

I like to support the bands that come through so I always make a point of buying a CD or shirt from the band. However, I often have all of the band's CDs. So, I wind up getting a lot of shirts. Lately though, the shirts seem to be thinner and thinner cotton and smaller and smaller cuts.

Being 6'4", I always wear an XL shirt. But check out the size of the shirt I got from The Spinto Band last February. Their shirt is on the left while my latest shirt from Bo is on the right. Both shirts are XL. Bo's shirts are good benchmarks because they always fit just right. When I wear that Spinto shirt, it's tighter than my skin and completely uncomfortable. My wife now uses it as a night shirt.

This is just one example of many. It seems like 75% of the shirts I've gotten over the last year fall into this category. My first thought was that the shirts Bo was using are a lot more expensive and perhaps bands are trying to make a few extra bucks. However, I checked out this site for prices on having shirts printed. It seems that for an order of about 100 shirts, the thick cotton expensive beefy shirts are $7.23 per shirt. For the cheapest thin cruddy shirts, it's $5.83 per shirt. A savings of a mere $1.40 per shirt! Come on. Charge me an extra $2 and sell me a t-shirt that is comfortable to wear.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Pants | Higher Ground | May 27th

In New Jersey, it was The Nerds. In Bethlehem, it was The Original Sins. In Rochester, it was The Thunder Gods. In Burlington, it's The Pants.

Local Legends.

On Saturday, jds and I headed over to Burlington to catch the much vaunted reunion show of The Pants. Having heard the hype around The Pants for the last few years, I was eager to see what they delivered on stage.

Minutes after buying my ticket, the show sold out. Considering that bands such as The Decemberists, Wolf Parade, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Magnolia Electric Company, Secret Machines and The Pernice Brothers have failed to sell out Higher Ground, it's a nice accomplishment for an indie rock band in Burlington.

We got there in time to catch the end of the set by the opening band, Tell No One. Musically, they sounded OK but their lead singer was straight out of the Cookie Monster Singing School. RAWR RAWR RAWR! I can't stand that sound so I counted the minutes until they left the stage.

jds found a co-worker of his who was into The Pants back in the 90's. So, we hung with them for a while as we waited for The Pants to take the stage. I asked him why he loved The Pants so much but his response was similar to every other response I've heard over the years..."I really liked them. They were just really good."

The Pants finally hit the stage but before they could even play a note, they had audio problems. One of the guitars wasn't coming through the monitors or speakers. So, we waited ten minutes or so as they fixed it. Lead singer/guitarist Tom Lawson cracked a funny joke about it by walking to the mic and saying, "It wouldn't be a fucking Pants show without a technical glitch, eh?" At that point, jds pointed out the similarities between The Pants and The Jazz Guys. Both, hailing from Burlington with hopes of breaking out of town, have heavy guitar sounds with two guitarists, bass and drums. Both have strong local followings, publicity shots of the band in the shower and posess witty frontmen.

After the sound problems were fixed, the band launched into their set. I've listened to each of their albums but don't know the songs well enough to say what songs they did or didn't play. However, the crowd around me had no doubt what songs they were playing as they all sang along in unison. It was startling how into the show everyone was. I'm used to slackers, shoegazers, and scenesters who are too busy looking disinterested and cool to sing along. But it certainly added to the energy in the crowd which was the best I've ever seen at Higher Ground. The amazing thing was that the folks around me nailed every lyric in the perfect time which meant that The Pants were being damn tight in relation to the original recordings. That's an impressive feat for a band that hadn't played together in six+ years.

Having said all of that, I was one of the very few that wasn't fully into the show. Their sound just doesn't reverberate with me for whatever reason. However, like I said, I was in the minority. I was enjoying the crowd, having a few beers and hanging out with friends but The Pants just don't click with me.

After about 45 minutes, Lawson announced that they'd be playing a few more songs, taking a break and coming back for a second set. I've become conditioned to shows lasting between 60 and 90 minutes. So, it was painful for me to hear that the show was going to last another hour or two. However, it was absolutely the right call by the band. If their fans have just one chance to relive all of their memories of yesteryear, the band ought to crank out as much music as it is physically possible.

So, during the break, I hung out with k of Analog Giant and his girlfriend and then checked in with Bill Simmon of Candleblog fame to see how his filming was going. It sounded like Bill was loving the show and was getting good footage.

jds was having similar feelings about the show as me. So, during the break, we decided to just see if the second set was the same as the first set and if it was to hit the road. However, during the first few songs of the second set, jds started to get into it and wanted to stick around. Therefore, we stayed until the very end.

One cool part of the show was how much the band enjoyed playing. Lawson repeatedly mentioned how he was having a great time and the rest of the band repeatedly sported smiles. It's fun to see a band enjoying themsleves so much.

Here's the thing that confuses, annoys and perplexes me...why did so many people show up and act enthusiastically for The Pants while dozens of other indie bands come through town and play to dead half-empty rooms? Where have these people been?

My guess is that a lot of people at the show have strong emotions for those early adult years of their life with few responsibilities and lots of fun times. And The Pants were the house band to those great years. Hence, they've hooked those emotions they hold to The Pants.

The other possibility is that people in Vermont are very provincial. Perhaps they love The Pants because they are one of their own and bands from Portland, NYC, Boston, etc. aren't as important to them. However, the folks in the jam scene seem to support lots of out-of-town acts. So, it doesn't seem to be an issue of people being insular. Unless there is a big difference between the indie kids and jam fiends.

Whatever it is, it's baffling to a recently transplanted flatlander.

By the way, Candleblog has two posts on the show here and here and solidstate's post-show post is here.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Reminder: The Pants | Higher Ground | Sat May 27th

Just a quick reminder that the social event of the season is tomorrow night...The Pants reunion show. I don't have tickets yet but am planning on going. Lat 44.2N says there are about 300 tickets left. So, I should be safe but if it sells out and you see a tall dorky guy outside begging for a miracle (Bring it Dead Style!) a buddy out.

I'll probably miss the opener but be there in time to see The Pants hit the stage. With all of the hype surrounding these guys, there is no way they'll live up to it. It's just too high for any band that hasn't played together in six years. But it should be a fun evening.

Casey has a bunch of tracks up on solidstate for you pre-show perusal.

Seven Days has articles on the show here and here.

Kasey Keller Sings

This happened a few months ago but this is the best video I've seen of it.

After Borussia Mönchengladbach beat their rivals Cologne, US goalkeeper, who plays for Mönchengladbach, led the team back onto the field and led the crowd in singing an anti-Cologne song. It's funny to first hear the crowd cheer after Keller and the team come charging out of the tunnel and then start chanting U-S-A in appreciation of Keller. Keller then picks up the mic and starts singing. The crowd goes nuts.

Check out the homemade flag in the lower left of the screen. Some fan has stitched together a German and US flag along with some other flag (perhaps
Mönchengladbach's team flag). Those guys love their Keller.

By the way, Keller was fined by the German Football Association for singing a derogatory song to the crowd but I doubt he regrets the fun moment.

Programming reminder: US vs Venezuela tonight @ 7pm on ESPN2.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


If you are trying to make it in the music industry, it helps to open shows for The Arcade Fire and Clap Your Hands. That's exactly what Snowden did last year. This year they signed with Jade Tree Records and played SXSW. See how that works!

In August, they'll be releasing their debut LP titled Anti Anti (they have earlier self-released The Snowden EP). They sound like they are from England but actually hail from Atlanta and sport a bit of that retro 80's new wave sound. However, it isn't as overwhelming as it is with other retro 80's bands. But quite booty shaking.

The title track has been rocking my iPod for a week now and isn't releasing it's grip on my ear drums. Great stuff. There's more from them on their myspace site.

Snowden | Anti Anti

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Central VT Connection to the World Cup

When people think of the US National Team in soccer, few people think of Vermont. With five months of winter, VT just isn't a breeding ground for soccer players. However, VT is represented on the US team that will compete next month in Germany. Ryan Maxfield of Rutland is the equipment manager for the team (on the right in photo).

The Times-Argus and Rutland Herald ran a nice piece on Maxfield earlier this week. It's a very complimentary piece and a good read for soccer fans rounding out their knowledge of the national team. The one interesting tidbit about the US team's recent training camp is this quote:

"It's pretty crazy," Maxfield said. "Bruce Arena runs a very relaxed camp, but it's difficult for the players and staff because there is so much publicity. It's great and the players appreciate it, but every day for four or five hours there is the media or some event to get ready for."
I knew there was more press interest than in the past but I didn't know the players and staff were doing four or five hours of media work each day. Hopefully, all of that press will translate into greater exposure for the team and ultimately into higher TV ratings for the games.

Hopefully, WCAX or WPTZ will pick up on Ryan's story as we get closer to the cup. Any local slant always helps raise the interest level.

Ryan's brother, Todd, who I'll be traveling with in Germany also was mentioned in the the kind banana fetching big brother. Ha!

Speaking of the trip, my travel plans are finally looking settled for the cup. I fly out on Saturday afternoon and arrive in Frankfurt around 9:30am on Sunday. Todd's flight doesn't get in until noon so I'm planning on meeting a bunch of fellow soccer nuts from BigSoccer at a bar in the Frankfurt airport. It should be a fun way to kill a few hours.

Todd has a friend in Wiesbaden, which is about a half-hour from Frankfurt. Todd will crash there while I stay at Hotel Braun. Nothing fancy but it's close to where the other guys are staying. In fact, their place is right on the other side of a park from Hotel Braun and there's a bier garten right along the path on my way to their place. Could this trip get any better?

On Monday, we'll travel up to Gelsinkirchen for the US-Czech Republic game. If the US wins or draws, we'll probably stay in the city for the night partying. If it's a loss, we might just head back to Wiesbaden that night.

From Tuesday to Friday, we don't have tickets to any games and the only game during those days in Frankfurt, Kaiserslauten or Cologne is the Togo-South Korea match on Tuesday afternoon in Frankfurt. If we are back in town and feeling good, I may try to scalp a ticket to that game. I don't care about either team but the atmosphere at any World Cup match is worth the cost of admission.

Otherwise, from Tuesday to Friday, we are going to spend some time sight seeing but whenever there is a game on, we'll make a point of finding a bar or large outdoor viewing area in the towns. Frankfurt has potentially the best outdoor viewing option. Those crazy Germans are putting gigantic TV screens on barges in the middle of the River Main and seating for 15,000 fans on either side of the river for watching the games. That could amazingly entertaining (although I wonder how well we'll be able to see the screen in the daylight).

The other highlight for me will be living kid-free for a few days. I love my kids but not having to live on their schedule for a few days is going to be great. Wake up whenever I want to. Eat whenever I want to. Sleep whenever I want to. That hasn't happened since January 2002. It'll be nice.

Then we'll go to Kaiserslauten on Saturday for the US-Italy match. However, I fly out the next morning, so we'll have to travel back to Wiesbaden that night. Having said that, if we pull off a miracle and upset the Italians. It'll be impossible to resist the urge to stay and party all night. With the US military bases in the area, I'm guessing there'll be a lot of Americans out celebrating a stunning US win. It could be quite the party.

On Sunday morning, I fly back and arrive in Burlington late in the afternoon with a headul of memories.

Because I'm so excited about the trip, I am trying to temper my hopes for and emotional attachment to the US team. I often slip into a nasty funk following big losses by the US team that can often take a few days to climb out of. However, I don't want my week in Germany to be derailed by that sort of a funk. So, in case the team lays an egg against the Czechs, I'm trying to lower my expectations for the team.

With that in mind, the US helped hold down on any hopes I had for them by looking fairly crappy against Morocco last night (lost 1-0) in the first of their three final warm-up matches before they travel to Germany. They'll play Venezuela on Friday in Cleveland and Latvia on Sunday in Hartford. Both games will be on ESPN2 at 7pm.

Most likely, the team was a bit worn out from two tough weeks of practice in Cary, NC. Before the last World Cup, the team laid an egg against Canada immediately following their training camp. So, it doesn't matter much. But we did look poor.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Email From Warren

A few years ago, my friend, Warren, moved from Montpelier to Athens, GA. After running into him at a Magnolia Electric Co. show last year, we started sharing the occasional email which is great because his emails are fantastic. As an example, here's the one he sent after reading my post about the VPR Community Forum and specifically about elitism and classical music. Enjoy the rant.

Subject: Pretentious Fucks Are Everywhere and They Have the Power

Oh Brian,

I loved reading about our expieriences with VPR. In response to that lady whose worried about intelligence, I'd like to add that I think her attitude is unspoken but pervasive in Central VT. It always seemed to me that a lot of the people that shopped at the Co-op were there to purchase status, not necessarily eco-friendly detergent. Be wary of Volvo's with Bernie stickers, that's what I always say. And I loves some Bernie.

But I digress,

I'm dealing with something very similar to what you're going through with VPR. I recently was accepted to UGA's Music School for my Master's (it was quite a hassle since I went to Goddard and had no GPA). Anyway, what I'm discovering is that there is a deep rooted snobbery from classical musicians or academics towards any forms of "popular" or "folk"/vernacular music. In terms of curriculum, there is very, very little offered in terms of rock studies or any other popular music form in the Graduate program, and they literally have the guy who wrote the book on it on faculty. Just to get my Master's I'm going to have to take several music theory courses which will do me next to no good (again, rock and folk music, guys) and courses on the History of Western Music, which, and this is soooo cute, use "Roll Over Beethoven" as their rock example. Again, I think it's safe to argue that this hierarchical system of looking at music has clearly been shown to be inaccurate and faulty. I'd have to say that "Won't Get Fooled Again" is more important and enjoyable than Steve Reich's collection of abstract tape loops. Who really cares about the Twelve Tone compositional style (12 notes to an octave instead of 8, I think) when we could be listening to a little "Foggy Mountain Breakdown".

It's been 50 years and these people still can't admit that only a selective few care more for Mozart and the other dead honkies over Radiohead. We gotta watch out because these fools are writting the histories that are going to be studied later. Just like we need to watch out for books like "A Patriot's History of the US" (a real book) which is a re-revisionist history of the US and a reaction to Howard Zinn's "People's History"(which popularized the bottom-down style of history).

In these people's world this stuff is really important, but it's time to face up to the fact that the most important opera written in the past 50 years is "Tommy", and it doesn't really even make sense.

I have spoken,


Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Hero Cycle & Fire the Cannons | Positive Pie II | May 19th | UPDATE

Let me right up front say I'm a moron. I had taken pictures of the show but just accidentally deleted them rather than downloaded them. I've never made that mistake before. Oh, well. I'd rather have it happen with concert photos than shots of the kids or something important. But it's still frustrating and rather stupid.

Thankfully, jds is more on the ball and has loaded a bunch of his shots from the show to his flickr account. Plus, he's been kind to let me use a few. So, the pictures here are his.

Now I have that out of the way, let's talk about the show. After a music filled day of the VPR meeting in the morning, recording a brief interview in Burlington for a super double-secret project by filmmaker Bill Simmons of Candleblog fame and swinging by the Smalldog Electronics showroom to check out their weekend sale on used and refurbished iPods (my 20 GB is maxed out), it was time to cap such a fine day with a good local show.

I wasn't 100% positive what time the show was supposed to start because I had heard both 9:30 and 10pm. Since, my main interest of the night was catching The Hero Cycle and Fire the Cannons and they were supposed to be the second and third bands of the night, I decided to get down there around 10pm. I had been up until 4am the night before and was running on about 2 1/2 hours of sleep. So, I didn't want to get down there and wait around a long time.

I got down there and found a few friends including local bloggers k, jds and bobby domino. It's funny to go to these local shows now and finding a bit of a "scene". I'd guess there were about 100 people there which is pretty good; it made the room feel active.

Overall, I had a great time during the show. However, I have two complaints right off the bat.

The first is that the show didn't start until about 10:40. The fact is that it wasn't a late arriving crowd. Everyone that was in the room when the bands started had been there since 10pm. Just get on with it for chissakes. Perhaps, I was just being cranky since I had slept so little the night before but if you have four bands to play and the room is two-thirds full, just start playing. Then to exasperate the situation, Sharron Van Etten came on first. She plays solo with an acoustic guitar which I'm sure works well in certain settings but not when it's late and there are a lot of bands to get through and I'm running on fumes.

It reminded me of the Amnesty International concert at Giants Stadium when I was in high school. After a long day in the sun listening to a dozen or so bands, there were only two bands left to perform...U2 and a Police reunion. So, the only energy the fans have left is andrenelin in anticipation of the two big acts. So, what do the organizers do???? They send Joni Mitchell out as a surprise guest with just an acoustic guitar. After about two songs, Mitchell was booed off the stage by tired and annoyed fans.

Van Etten wasn't booed off the stage and didn't deserve anything like that. In fact, most people there seemed to enjoy her. However, for me, it was draining to hear her folk songs after waiting a long time on little sleep.

After a few songs, Van Etten left and The Hero Cycle started. I am completely in love with the tunes they've put up on their myspace page. Great textured sound with lots of hooks to pull you in. However, this was their first show ever so they may not have been aware of how their sound would work live. Because they cranked that sound system up SO DAMN LOUD! It was so loud that it was actually funny. I just started laughing. However, then I realized I couldn't hear myself laughing which just made me laugh even harder. It completely overwhelmed anything they were trying to do on stage. The only thing I can compare it to is the sonic blowout that Sonic Youth does at the end of their sets where you feel the vibrations against your innards.

Towards the end of their six-song set, the owner of Positive Pie seemed to tell them to turn it down a little which helped. By the time they closed with "You vs Them", it actually sounded pretty good.

After another brief set by Sharon Van Etten, Fire the Cannons came on. For their set, I moved from the back of the room to the side of the stage. I could certainly see better since the column was now out of my way. However, their sound was poor also. The drummer just overwhlemed the guitar bass and vocals. They seemed to have gotten rid of their drummer since I last saw them in January and this guy wasn't any better. He had a boring style and was so loud that it dominated their sound. I enjoyed them more in January but I'm not going to hold this show against them because it was hampered by sound problems. They still have good songs. We just couldn't hear them because the drummer was mixed too loud.

I think Positive Pie is a tough room to get good sounds out of because bands can't sound check while people are eating dinner and the room is filled with bricks, glass and cement. Nothing absorbs the sounds excpet for all the fleece in the crowd.

Around 12:30, I called it a night. So, I missed Carrigan's performance. However, I heard that they showed their experience by cleaning up the sound problems and playing a good set.

UPDATE: I received an email from Frank Smecker of The Hero Cycle explaining the sound problems and the delay. His comments support the issues Shawn raised in the comments.

By the way, The Hero Cycle and Fire the Cannons will be playing together again on Thursday, July 13th at Club Metronome in Burlington. I'm guessing the sound issues they dealt with at PPII won't hamper their set there.

Thanks for making it out to the show in Montpelier and we apologize for the antagonizing antics of the night. You werent the only one feeling frustration though, as every member of each band felt the same. First off, we arrived at 7 being told to get there so we could rewire a PA to handle the night's worth of music. At 7 the promoter was no where to be found and the owner of PPII said not until 8 30 could we set up. It wasnt until 9 45 when we were given access to set up, on top of Sharon who arrived 2 hours late from being stopped at the border from a previous show the night before in Montreal. As for the sound, we realized at 10 30 we couldnt wait any longer and still had more setting up to do with the PA, decided to say fuck it and just get up there. We were frustrated as well as Carrigan , because they relied more on the PA than we did. So frustration was in the air. However as the night went on, each band kind of learned from each others mistakes and by the end of the night sound gradually got better. Again thanks for coming out and taking pics, do catch us next time.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

VPR Community Forum | May 19th Meeting

On Friday, I attended my first meeting as a part of the VPR Community Forum. The concept of the forum is to have listeners provide feedback and suggestions to the staff at VPR regarding programming, coverage, etc. As I've written before, my reason for joing this forum is to provide a voice for folks younger than VPR's typical listeners (45 and up) and ultimiately push to have some good indie rock on the station. Having said that, going into this thing I had a bit of a feeling like I was tilting at windmills. It was going to be a long shot but why not see what happens.

The meeting was held in one of the conference rooms at the Elley-Long Music Center at St. Michael's College. I had never even heard of the place and, from the outside, it didn't look like anything special; just a long building with a high vaulted ceiling. So, I was very surprised when I went inside and looked around. In addition to the conference/small performance rooms, the last third of the building is a large performace space. It's a pretty cool space. Huge stage with high ceilings but lots of suspended tiles to keep the sound low (see photo). I clapped in the middle of the room a few times but, despite the hardwood floors and windows, there wasn't much of an echo. Nice. I've since learned that the place is the home of the Vermont Youth Orchestra but I wonder if it's rented out for other bands. Parking would be a problem but it would be cool to see a band with an intricate sound perform in there.

I then headed over to our meeting room, found my table and woofed down a quick continental breakfast. A quick look around the room revealed exactly what I was expecting to see...a lot of older folks. There was one other guy that appeared to be in his 30's but everyone else looked 10-40 years older than me. It certainly didn't look like a crowd that wanted to hear The Go! Team.

The meeting started with some general opening remarks and presentations as you would expect. Then the moderator posed a question to the group: What's the purpose of public broadcasting? I don't remember everyone's responses but the discussion lasted a while. Knowing I was eventually going to want to make a plug for some indie rock programming, I decided to lay a bit of a foundation for my later plea by standing up and stating that the purpose of public broadcasting is to fill in the gaps created by the market failures of commercial radio stations. If there is a demand for a type of programming that isn't being satisfied, public broadcasting should pick up the slack. aka indie rock.

The discussion took a weird turn when some lady said that the purpose of public broadcasting was to provide programs for more intelligent people. Huh?!?! Thankfully, the other guy in his 30's immediately laid the smackdown on her by standing up and saying "I think we should keep the elitism out of this." The scene gave me a bit of a chuckle.

After a break, we broke up into groups of about six to discuss what VPR should look like in five years and what the station should add. The first lady at our table to speak said VPR needed more younger listeners. Hey! Right on. I liked the way this was going. But then I realized she was talking about kids as she suggested teen discussion programs and whatnot. In hopes of steering the conversation back to attracting post-college listeners, I brought up my idea of better music programming. I specifically mentioned KEXP, The Current and WRUV's Exposure program. The other people at the table seemed to like the idea but when it came time to report back to the full forum on what each table discussed, that suggestion got shortened to "attract more youth." Foiled!

The interesting thing was that, as each table reported what they had talked about, almost each table mentioned that VPR should attract a younger audience. Hey, it sounded encouraging! At least everyone's thoughts were in the right spot. However, my encouragement quickly dissipated when they opened the floor to individual comments from people. Anyone could suggest something to add or remove from the VPR schedule.

All of these people that had twenty minutes earlier had said they wanted to bring in younger listeners, now stood up and said "MORE OPERA ON SATURDAYS!" or "BRING BACK SUNDAY MORNING BACH!" or "I WANT MOZART ON MONDAYS!" What the fuck?!?! These people wanted to pull in younger audiences with dead musicians? Obviously, they really didn't give a rats-ass about bringing in a younger audience. Just wanted more of the same. At this point, I felt my hopes sink through the floor as I looked for a wall to bang my head against.

But before I was fully dejected, I stood up to say something along the lines of, "I'm confused by the difference between what I was hearing earlier and what I'm hearing now. A little while ago you all said you wanted to bring in younger listeners but what you are now asking for...that's not youthful music that anyone I know is going to listen to. If VPR wants to bring in folks in their 20's and 30's, they should add programming from KEXP in Seattle, The Current from Minnesota Public Broadcasting and they should pick up WRUV's Exposure program since it may be going off the air when WRUV moves to their new smaller studios. Those kinds of programs would attract younger folks."

My comments were then written on the board with all of the other suggestions and the conversation immediately went back to "ANOTHER HOUR OF FOLK MUSIC ON SUNDAYS!" Ugh! This was the final part of the meeting besides lunch. So, at this point, I was feeling like this may have been a big waste of time. It didn't seem like my fellow forum members were truely interested in pushing for a more contemporary music schedule.

Then something kind of amazing happened. While going to grab some lunch, a few staff members stopped me to say they wanted to talk about what I had said during the meeting about adding some indie music to the schedule. It turns out that the staff has been wanting to do this for a while and were excited to have someone stand up in this forum and express that view. The Director of Programming, Jody Evans, then asked if we could talk about the idea during lunch.

Hold your hats, folks. It turns out that Jody is completly on board with this idea. She a 36-year-old lady who digs Clap Your Hands, Jolie Holland and others. She totally gets it. I was stunned. Suddenly, my wish of hearing good music on VPR actually seemed like a realistic possibility.

Jody said she would like to add in some good indie music but it isn't as easy as I had thought. The stations I had mentioned earlier during the meeting, don't create programs for sale to other public broadcasting stations and creating some original programming is difficult due to obtaining legal rights to the music. I'm not a lawyer so I don't understand all of the rights issues but I take her word on it. However, she said there are some interesting music programs that can be purchased. It's just a matter of wading through all of the options to find the right programs to purchase. Then it's always a matter of deciding where it would fit into the schedule.

I know it's a long way to go from a promising lunchtime conversation to actually hearing indie rock on VPR but after talking to Jody, Michelle and Jill and hearing where they're coming from musically, I'm incredibly encouraged. This may actually happen folks.

By the way, before I left, I recorded one of those VPR testimonials that they play during the fund drives. For all the reasons I had trouble recording my 30-second intro on Contrast Podcast, I struggled recording the testimonial too. So, if you hear some moron prattling on during the next fund drive, that may be me.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Reminder: The Hero Cycle & Fire the Cannons | Positive Pie II | May 19th

Quick reminder of the show on Friday night at Positive Pie II In Montpelier. The show is scheduled to start at 9:30pm. Here's the line-up in the expected order of performance:

Sharon Van Etten

The Hero Cycle

Fire the Cannons


$4 for four bands. Good deal.

Plus, the show will be the debut live performance for The Hero Cycle who I was raving about a few weeks ago. It'll even be entertaining to see how they fit seven band members including two keyboardists on Positive Pie's stage.

See ya there.

Velvet Underground | Paris | 1972

The first video is "Heroin" and the second one is "Femme Fatale". Courtesy of Boing Boing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Kris Gruen

I have a review of Kris Gruen's debut album, Lullaby School, in today's edition of Seven Days. It was a good album for me to review because a lot of the artists that influenced Gruen (Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine, etc.) are ones I'm regularly enjoying. So, I had a good sense of what he was trying to accomplish. Plus, it gave me another opportunity to take a shot at the local folk scene.

The local folk scene is bland and stale. It's basically populated with a bunch of people who grew up listening to Carole King's Tapestry and never progressed beyond it. The whole scene is completely disconnected from what it going on outside of Vermont. That's why I like Lullaby School. Whether you like the album or not, at least it utilizes contemporary influences better than the rest of the folk scene in central Vermont.

You can read the review here.

Kris Gruen | Tender Theory
Kris Gruen | Further Down
Kris Gruen | In the Clearing

Contrast Podcast

Is it ever too early to start compiling "Best of 2006" lists? Nah.

With that in mind, I submitted a song to the current Contrast Podcast which carries the theme of "Best of 2006 (so far)". I sent over The Jazz Guys' "The Best Five Minutes of Your Life" which is available on The Jazz Guy's website. The killer song will also anchor their debut EP, A Blessing In Disguise which will be released in early June. In fact, the CD release party will be at Club Metronome on June 9th. I leave for the World Cup the next morning so I won't be able to make it but I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the EP.

The hardest part of submitting a song to the podcast was recording the intro. Tim Young, who complies and posts the podcasts asks bloggers to submit a song along with a 30-60 second intro to the song. First, I had to get a mic ($9 at Staples), then I had to figure out how to use the Windows Sound Recorder including adjusting the sound levels and then I had to decide what to say. Writing about music is easier that putting together one fluid smooth explanation of why the song is so good. Plus, like everyone, I hate the sound of my voice. So, it took me about 417 takes befoe I got something that was even marginally acceptable. Thankfully, as bad as my intro is, the quality of The Jazz Guys saves the day to make it a worthwhile submission.

New Nouvelle Vague

Guess what? Everyone's favorite French electronica 80's new wave cover band is back with a new album full of re-interpretations of our childhood's record collections. Last year around this time, I was raving about Nouvelle Vague's self-titled debut album. However, I didn't have a blog at this time last year so the only people that heard my ravings were my wife and kids.

Bande a Part won't be available until June 27th. However, this thing is leaking fast. The half-dozen tracks I've heard so far don't rank as high on the ear candy meter as last year's album but they don't suck either. They're still cool, sexy and fun. Particularly thier take on The Buzzcocks' "Ever Fallen In Love".

Nouvelle Vague | Ever Fallen In Love (Buzzcocks)
Nouvelle Vague | The Killing Moon (Echo & the Bunnymen)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Is Galaxie 500 Coming to Montreal? | June 16th | Update | Another Update

OK. This is kind of weird. I'm sure there is a logical answer for it but I don't know what it is yet.

According to the website for Le Spectrum in Montreal, Galaxie 500 will be playing at Le Spectrum on June 16th. Considering that the band broke up 15 years ago under strained circumstances and there hasn't been any news regarding a reunion tour, I'm guessing this is a mistake or some band is somehow using the Galaxie 500 moniker.

I checked Dean Wareham's website, the site for Damon & Naomi and the Galaxie 500 myspace site. However, none of them mention this show.

Anyone know what's going on?

Galaxie 500 | Parking Lots
Galaxie 500 | Instrumental

UPDATE: I sent an email about this mystery show to some guy named Al whose email address is listed as the contact person on Damon & Naomi's website. Here's his response:

Save your Canadian dollars, cause it must be some other band -- but if you find out any other information about them, please forward it -- thanks, -- Al
So, it's a no go. Still, if anyone knows anything about who this other Galaxie 500 is, please send the info to:

Andy from the Galaxie 500 fan site, A Head Full of Wishes, sent me an email today saying that the band playing Le Spectrum is probably this French-Canadian band. They just spell their name Galaxy 500 rather than Galaxie 500. Le Spectrum probably just spelled the name wrong accidentally. Or they were hoping some local music fans would make the mistake and buy tickets. Regardless, I'm guessing if Galaxy 500 reaches any level of success, they'll be hearing from Galaxie 500's lawyers.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Pinback | Higher Ground | May 7th

After spending the day hanging in the sunshine with the hippies, I spent the evening hanging in the dark club with the indie kids. Last Sunday, a friend and I headed over to Higher Ground to catch Pinback.

I'm not a big Pinback fan but I like a few tunes off This Is Pinback. Plus, I generally enjoy that post-rock sound.

We got into the club late and completely missed the two opening bands so I have no idea what they sounded like. Due to another event (I think it was a canoeing movie or something) in the smaller room, Pinback was booked for the Grand Ballroom. As soon as we walked in the door, I knew that idea was unfortunate. There was only about 100-150 people there which looks horrible in a room that holds about 650. It looked like a Kansas City Wizards home game in Arrowhead.

When Pinback took the stage, the crowd moved together and up against the stage. However, the large space with a small crowd still sucked any energy or atmosphere out of the room. If that same crowd had been in the smaller room, perhaps that wouldn't have been the case.

By the way, what was the deal with Higher Ground's lack of beer. About eight of their ten taps were kicked. I was still able to get an Otter Creek but what the hell? Do they get their deliveries on Mondays or was there some heavy beer drinking crowd there the night before?

Despite the small crowd, Pinback plowed through a good set. Like I said earlier, I'm not very familiar with their catalog but enjoy "their sound". That would be true for their live show too. An hour+ of good music. Plus, their bass player, Zach Smith, is pretty entertaining to watch. His right hand is a blur as he plays a combo of picking and strumming while using his thumb to bang against the top string. And he plays a lot of chords and notes way down the fret board by the body of the guitar which gives their sound a unique undercurrent.

My only complaint is the same one I had when I saw The Sea & Cake a few years ago. I love that mellow atmospheric post-rock sound. However, both bands seem to morph when they are playing live into rock rather than post-rock. The beat speeds up a bit and the mix removes that airy post-rock sound. It was still good but not as interesting as their studio work.

The show ended before 11pm which was nice since it meant getting back to Montpelier at a decent hour. That's always nice after a long day of watching/smelling hippies and indie kids.

Pinback | Tripoli
Pinback | Hurley

Hippies On Parade

I'm about a week behind on this post but the photos are too good to just dump the whole post. Last Sunday was All Species Day in Montpelier...or Montpeculiar because on All Species Day, the town certainly makes a solid claim to its nickname.

Here's the official description and schedule of events for the day:

Details: All are invited to participate. Come dressed as your favorite species, celebrate our interdependence with one another and welcome the arrival of spring.

Schedule of the days event - Free

Noon: Calling All Species opening performance, Hubbard Park, Soccerfield
12:30 pm: All Species Circus, Old Shelter, Hubbard Park
1 pm: Parade leaves from Winter Street Gate, Hubbard Park
1 pm: Performance by River Rock School Children on Spring Street Bridge; Samba dancing and parading continues down Main Street and State Street, arriving at the Statehouse Lawn
2-3pm Birth of Spring Pageant: Statehouse lawn, performances with dancing, singing, puppet pageantry and more.

Oh, I can still smell the patchouli oil in the air. Seriously, we actually had a lot of fun. We got down to the statehouse lawn around noon because someone had told me the parade started around that time. I didn't know there an hour of festivities up in the park before they started marching. And, for some stupid reason, I failed to factor in "hippie time". Why I ever thought this would start on time, I have no idea.

Thankfully, it's pretty easy to kill a few hours running around downtown and the statehouse lawn with the kids. They kept asking were the animals were but in general were pretty cool with the long wait. Finally, around 2:30pm, the parade reached the statehouse.

The parade was largely made up of kids in their homemade costumes and adults in their very serious "I Am a [fill in favorite animal] Today" costumes. My favorite was the Cats on Broadway reject. It had a part proud...part bitter look to it.

They then did the maypole which my kids loved. It's one of those simple activities that kids love to do.

The final thing was the ceremony which seemed to wed different species. I'm sure there was more to the symbolism than I was able to decypher but I was busy trying to keep up with the little ones to be able to pay much attention.

Overall, it was a wacky hippie day but a lot of fun and a good chance to hang out with some friends in beautiful sunshine. Montpelier has more parades than any small town I've ever known which is cool. The best is the 4th of July parade but the general abundance of parades and special events on the statehouse lawn is another reason why it's such a fun town to live in.

Words & Numbers

Being a blogger and a financial analyst makes me interested in both words and numbers. So, what site would be better than Word Count. It's a stupid little site but kind of fun to poke around on. Basically, they've taken the 86,800 most common english words and ranked them by how often they are used. So, you can plug in a word and see where it ranks and therefore, how common it is in relation to other words.

Then they created a separate page that ranks all of the same words based upon how often people query that word. As you would expect, the most queried words are not appropriate for work.

Here's kind of a weird thing...on Word Count, "Montpelier" is ranked 54,159 but on Query Count, "Montpelier" is ranked 29,695. That means "Montpelier" is more commonly queried than used. Who the hell besides a dork like me is querying "Montpelier? I guess there's a lot of fellow dorks in town.

By the way, if you aren't tired of words and numbers, you can head on over to Trendio. Trendio is a "for fun" online stock exchange where you trade shares in words rather than companies. As a word becomes more widely used in 3,000 media websites, it's value increases (and vice versa). So, you make money by correctly predicting what words are going to become trendy and which ones are "so yesterday". I think buying heavily into "Gnarls" right now would be a good bet.

Magnetic Fields | All My Little Words (courtesy of Moistworks)

Friday, May 12, 2006


Tired of the ubiquitous tulips and daffodils each spring? Try planting some primula.

A few years ago, I started noticing primulas showing up in garden nurseries that had a wide selection. However, it seems that they become more popular each year. In a year or two, they'll probably be sold in supermarket parking lots.

However, they come in a boatload of different varieties. So, even if they do become more and more popular, you'll still be able to find a variety that is unique. We have Danova Mix which you can see in the photo and Drumstick primula. The two cool things about them is that they require zero maintenance and are the first things to bloom each year. Sometimes, I'll even find the Drumstick plants emerging from the ground despite a few inches of snow on the ground.

The only downside to primulas is that they are done blooming by the third wee of May in Zone 4 and the foliage dies back by mid-summer which leaves a hole in your garden. But if you put them on the edges of your flower beds and plant some late summer blooming plants around the primula to hide the hole.

Or just get some supermarket annuals in July when the foliage dies back.

By the way, if you are looking for a great nursery in central Vermont, my hands-down, no-doubt-about-it favorite nursery is Cady's Falls in Morrisville. The place has a fantastic selection of plants and they are all field grown so you know they are hardy enough to grow around here. Plus, in June, when their display gardens are in bloom, the place is fantastic. You don't even have to buy anything. Just pack a lunch and hang out in the gardens. One key point is to get good directions before you go there. It's a pain-in-the-ass to find the first time you visit.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Team Band | Sambassadeur Cover

The other day I posted the song, "If Rain", from Sambassadeur's self-titled debut album. A week later I'm back with a cover of "If Rain" from Team Band.

Hailing from Chicago, Team Band maintains the pop melody of the original but shakes it up with a shredding garage rock guitar line. In my iTunes library, the Team Band tracks are immediately followed by the Ted Leo tracks and it's a pretty seemless transition in terms of their sound.

There are other Team Band tunes at their myspace site.

Team Band | If Rain (Sambassadeur cover)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Buch Spieler Opening at Midnight for Neil Young Release

Montpelier is a haven for hippies. With that in mind, Buch Spieler has decided to open at midnight on Sunday night to sell the Monday, May 9th release of Neil Young's latest political rant Living With War. The store will be open until 1am for everyone to get their impeachment ya-ya's out.

I heard about this yesterday when I was in the store picking up a copy of the new Essex Green album. I applaud the idea and effort to create some excitement. However, I told them I probably wouldn't come down since I'm not a huge fan of Young's latest efforts and judging from the song titles & sound clips I've heard, Young's political rants sound a bit ham-fisted. Quite frankly, The Flaming Lips have released the best anti-war/Bush album this year but nobody would show up at midnight to buy the latest Flaming Lips album.

However, after saying I wouldn't show up, I remember that I had pre-ordered the new Gnarls Barkley and Beirut albums at Buch Spieler (both albums are slated for a Tuesday release date). So, I asked if I could come down at midnight to just pick up those albums rather than the Neil Young album. Unfortunately, they said my albums won't arrive until Monday after the festivities. It's too bad. I would have liked the contrast of picking up the Gnarls Barkley album while everyone else was gathering their Neil fix. Without having heard either album in its entirity, I'm willing to bet that the Gnarls Barkley album will finish the year higher on the Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll.

Having said all of that, tomorrow night, I'm planning on going to the Pinback show which may get me home around midnight. If I roll into town around that time, I'll have to swing by the store to see what the scene is like.

Neil Young | Let's Impeach the President (courtesy of Kwaya Na Kisser)
Neil Young | Shock & Awe (courtesy of in house with jeremy petersen)

Friday, May 05, 2006


One of my favorite Swedish pop bands last year was Sambassadeur who dropped their debut bomb on our collective ear drums last spring. Well, the quartet is back this spring with a new EP called Coastal Affairs.

I haven't heard the entire 4-track EP yet since it just came out on Wednesday and isn't available in emusic yet. However, the track, "Kate", from the disc available on their label's site is another gem featuring the beautiful and sexy vocals of Anna Persson and more irresistible hooks and melodies.

I think it's time for a US tour for these guys.

Sambassadeur | Kate
Sambassadeur | Between the Lines (from their self-titled debut)
Sambassadeur | If Rain (from their self-titled debut)

You can watch their video for "New Moon" here. It takes a long time to load but it's pretty cool. Very European feel to it.

Farmer's Market | Season Starts Sat. May 6th

I love the weekly farmer's market in Montpelier that runs from the beginning of May until the end of October. It's a great combination of social function and shopping trip. We always run into a few friends, have some food to eat, pick up some veggies, cheese, bread, etc and pick out a few plants.

Tomorrow, I'll be looking for a few starter plants for our garden. It's still too early to put tender starter plants like tomatoes in the ground. However, if I wait until the weather is right, all of the interesting varieties will be gone from the shelves. So, I'll pick up a few now and stick them in a sunny window for a few weeks.

I'm also looking forward to seeing what plants Boots, everyone's favorite socialist gardner, has in stock. I've had great success over the years with his perennials. So, I always make a point of checking out his stuff.

And what's a trip to the farmer's market without a freshly poured (from the tap) cup of Pop Soda. I know Bo is not vending at the market until the end of the year but I wonder if Tiny Meat will be there. See ya there.

Pinback Coming to Higher Ground | May 7th

Here's one for the post-rock fans out there. San Diego's Pinback will be playing the big room at Higher Ground this Sunday night. Pleaseeasaur and Faun Fables are the openers. So, Pinback should be hitting the stage around 10pm.

Pinback's sound runs along the lines of American Analog Set. Accessible yet open and airy. Generally mellow stuff with a few experimental sounds in the background to keep it interesting.

I'm surprised the show is in the big room but perhaps there are more Pinback fans out there than I realize. Regardless, I planning on going.

Pinback | B
Pinback | Tripoli (Tin Foil Remix) (courtesy of I'm So Sorry For This)