One Hundred Hours of Denial

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So… This has nothing to do with music, but it pertains to an essential element of my life’s groove, and has been my main groove for the last month or so. It is an important topic that I feel very strongly about, and I believe that it deserves a voice (at least this once) in this long-forgotten blog I guess I still have.

ONE HUNDRED HOURS OF DENIAL

by George Krikorian

Photo on 4-24-15 at 6.20 PMApril 24, 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. That day has now come and gone, and there seems to be little hope for any sort of closure to come soon. At least four generations of Armenians have now been made to bear this wound left open by the failure for global recognition of this event, and it seems that a fifth is sure to follow. While some European nations, such as France and Germany have made commitments to properly labeling the events what they were and are—genocide—the United States’ inability to be a leader in giving justice to the Armenian people continues to be an overwhelming barrier to ending a century of denial.

As the first generation of my family to not be one hundred percent Armenian, I often feel very disconnected from my roots. At the same time however, I believe that this is a condition that drives me to learn more, to educate myself and participate in sharing and supporting widespread knowledge of the genocide and its impact on the Armenian people and the world itself. I believe that this generation of part-Armenians, growing up in diaspora, represents a significant moment in our people’s history. We hold a specific responsibility to defy our fractured identity and not succumb to the lingering will of the Ottoman Turks. If this is allowed to happen, then the genocide, despite any kind of recognition, can still succeed in the extermination of our people.

Every year around this time, I make some kind of effort to raise awareness, but it never feels like it amounts to much. I have tried writing poems, sharing articles through social media outlets, and even dropping bits of information into conversations to provoke discussion on the topic. Other than that, I have the Armenia bumper sticker on my car, the Armenia baseball cap I adorn during the month of April, and the flag I keep over my bed. But these are just images, objects and debates—often led more with frustration and anger as opposed to direction and resolution—which after the day is over, another year goes by in near silence.

On April 22, an idea hit me on route back to Vermont after a visit to my hometown of Acton, Massachusetts. I had pulled off to fill up on gas and grab a snack to kill the hunger that had just welled up inside me. This is the story of the road, it seems. A constant urge to use and to fill underscores the whole experience—money and food, gas and coffee—each exit and pull off a divine opportunity to relieve the “exhaustion” of driving with consumer goods. At times, it feels that each rest stop may very well be the last opportunity to sate a hunger, to be content, even while the journey will reach an ultimate terminus—a promise that things will settle back into comfort, the “toils” of the road forgotten once more.

I had made it just past the I-93 tollbooths in Concord, NH, where the rest stop—recently remodeled—is the ultimate pleasure center for the weary traveler. With gas, restaurants, gift shops, and a liquor outlet, one wants for nothing when they stop there. Normally I would have built up a small pantry and loaded up a few bottles of booze, but something held me back from indulging further. I grabbed a cookie that was almost the size of my head. The cashier sang praise to my choice, confirming the worth of my impulsive purchase, and I dipped back down into the car.

Back on the road I wolfed the cookie down, barely taking time to savor the buttery mouthfuls. After brushing away the resulting crumbs from my lap, an eerie wave of dissatisfaction washed over me. I saw myself as weak, gluttonous, unable to push forward without forgoing easy pleasures—a condition of my environment, a creature of comfort. In the strange way that thoughts weave themselves together before the windshield, my criticism turned toward frustration and then reflection as I remembered what day was approaching. I began to think of my ancestors—torn from their families and homes—facing true starvation and torture with no end in sight. These were circumstances I could even begin to conceive of, which, on top of the other horrors and atrocities inflicted on the Armenian people, have gone unrecognized and even been forgotten to time.

GenocideLogoThe past two weeks had already been marked by my usual carpet bombing of news tidbits from the present and past, hoping that any “likes” or shares I made were furthering the caus. No matter how much I had read, how much I had thought, there was nothing particularly poignant about any of my actions. Marches were set in Boston, New York, DC, and Los Angeles, but I had made no plans to get myself to any of them. So, as I stared through my windshield into the night and the endless stretch of I-89 before me, I decided—rather abruptly—that I had to commit myself to something greater this year. At the stroke of midnight, I would begin a hunger strike to protest the United State’s failure to recognize the genocide.

The clock on the dashboard read 10:30, which allowed me some time to think things through, to set the parameters of the strike, and most importantly, decide if this was something I could actually follow through with. What I came up with was a 100-hour strike—one hour for each year of denial—which would fittingly cover just over four days—one day for each generation of my family that has lived with this injustice. I must admit that, upon its conception of this idea, I was very proud of myself. It had the weight of a true and righteous endeavor and the scale of it seemed appropriate. The notion of four days with no food would indeed be a feat, a challenge to notch in the belt, so to say. I have to admit that in the moment I was unable to resist making the Gandhi comparison, something I think we may all be susceptible to in theses situations.

As I continued to work through the conceptual aspects of the strike, I quickly pushed those thoughts to the side, and moved on to more serious motivations. This was, after all, not a weight loss gimmick or cleanse, nor was it an endurance challenge with rewards waiting at the end. It was personal, but not about me. I would not be doing this to seek attention, or even approval of my actions. Just days before, an official release had been made announcing that the Obama administration would once again not label the atrocities of 1915 as genocide. In a sense, this meant that my cause had already been defeated, but as just one person doing this without any sort of organized network, I did not expect that my actions would be making an impact anyway.

The purpose of the strike, then, would be to stand in solidarity with my fellow Armenians and to act as a personal point of recognition to my ancestors and the horrors they experienced. During the 100 hours, nothing in my daily life would change. As many do during a hunger strike, I would not station myself in an arena of public display outside of, say a statehouse, or in a park somewhere. The strike would be staged everywhere that I was and in every condition that I would normally face. My people had to march through the desert, and so I would not cease to work, to run, to push forward with all intensive activity in spite of starvation. It would be a silent strike, the suffering that accompanied it existing within the system, not removed and put on display.

I had not fully wrapped my mind around what 100 hours or four days without food would actually mean. It seemed impressive still, but a relatively short period of time, which I figured I could manage without worry. When the clock finally reached 12:00am somewhere between Barre and Burlington, I committed myself to the task I had set. There was still a kind of idealism that surrounded it, an illusion or fantasy. Not until I returned to Colchester, fell asleep, and woke again would I really come face to face with what I intended to do.

I woke up and left for work at 8:15 after my morning workout; still a bit foggy from the few hours of sleep I got the night before. Missing breakfast wasn’t terrible, as I have certainly had to pass it up before on days where I am running late. Some gurgles and churns in the stomach come through, but as long as I can get some coffee in me, things settle down. For the sake of my responsibility to work, I allowed myself to have coffee at the beginning of each day. My job has me standing all day, and is mostly based on heavy lifting, and it would not have been fair to my employer to have me falling asleep and slacking off because of my personal interests. Somewhat uncertain of what lay ahead, I packed a small granola bar in my bag. In part, as a provocation and a test, but also as a safety measure and a reminder of the possible risks I might face.

As the day moved on, it became clear to me that getting through work would be the biggest challenge I faced during the strike. I have gotten accustomed to having snacks on hand to keep my energy up throughout the day, and the impulse to eat there is strong. There is a deli just uphill from our building that churns out the steamy fumes of fries and burgers all day, exciting the appetites of everyone that lies beneath. While I do not typically go crazy for this kind of food, it seemed to tempt me more and more each time I got a whiff of it.

By noon, I had managed the hunger from the morning and was beginning to think of other ways to occupy my mind. I started equating the hours to years, counting up from 1915, and tried to imagine what would have been going on in history. At twelve hours in, it would be 1927. My family that survived the genocide would have already made their way to the United States and settled in Haverhill, MA. As they are making a new life for themselves, much of the coverage and outrage over the genocide that had come from prominent figures, such as Henry Morgenthau, and in large news publications such as the New York Times has begun to disappear. The events have begun to be written off, even recommended that they be allowed to slip away from history.

The day finished without too much discomfort other than the occasional rumble, but I found the hunger relatively manageable. After work, I prepared myself for the next major challenge—running. I normally run six to ten miles a day, but for the purposes of safety I cut the volume back and planned on three to four and dialed my pace back to be slightly slower. Seeing that I had not consulted anyone on this, I figured it would be smart to not push things too much. This was not supposed to be easy, but I wanted to make sure I would in fact be able to make it through the entire strike. I put in four miles that seemed to go relatively smooth. The fatigue, if any, that I felt could have been very well chalked up my day at work, and little less sleep than I needed.

Later that night, somewhat as another test to my will power, I attended a show downtown. My roommates are in a band, and I enjoy showing my support to them. I went down early and sat with them as they ordered and ate a delectable spread of dishes, and was surprised to find that I was able to carry on without much envy or jealousy. Like running, I love dancing with live music, and was unable to resist burning some probably very precious energy that night. The show was out a midnight and I headed home promptly, feeling rather impressed with myself for how well the first day went. I was energized—optimistic, even—about the remaining days. As I lay down to sleep, however, I could not help but remember that just twenty-four years after the genocide in 1939, as Adolph Hitler prepared to invade Poland and carry out his own systematic extermination of the Jewish people, he defended his actions with the question, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

The following morning, I rose to meet the centennial, my conviction running strong. I knew that major marches and memorials would be taking place in cities like Boston, New York, and Los Angeles, and it frustrated me that I could not be present for them. While there are some demonstrations each year, this time around would have been a momentous occasion—not a glamorous celebration, but an experience to carry through the rest of my life; to be able to say that I joined with thousands of other Armenian Americans and supporters and stood for something. To starve would be an act commitment that day; an inherent state of being rather than a task.

In contemplating the strike, I had anticipated the second day being the worst—the time when my body would most crave what I had cut it off from. I imagined endless churning in my stomach, caustic loops with no hope of escape. I pictured myself doubled over delirious. I envisioned caving in. It was an impish kind of satisfaction—the flavor of the bite that ended it all—and then, “oh well, I tried.”

As I made my way into the afternoon, I was surprised—and relieved, somewhat—to find that my predictions couldn’t have been further from the truth. It was as though I could feel the energy of my fellow Armenians around the globe and feed off that alone. Not once did I notice the hunger, or even think of food; there were much greater forces at work. I noticed a change in my physical consciousness. I paid less heed to impulse, and became more aware of other parts of my body, in particular the ways in which they related to one another. I felt alive and in action—a dynamic member of the community and causes which I connect myself to.

The run after work seemed effortless. Accompanied by a good friend, the extra boost of energy allowed me to push forward without paying any heed to my hunger, my pace unwavering. This, admittedly, may not have been a smart decision to make. There was still a considerable amount of time facing me, and every extra exertion I made on myself at this point would be a direct tap into precious energy I needed. Still, the run felt good, and it bolstered my dedication. I lay down to sleep that night after having resisted another opportunity to feast at dinner, and thought long and hard about what the next day would bring. As midnight approached, marking the end of the second day, I found myself again placing things upon a timeline.

Forty-eight years after the genocide, in 1963, my father was just half a year old. He was the first member of the family to not be taught Armenian in the home, and he was part of the first generation to shy away from the church as well. This is something I often have mixed feelings about, as these new customs were passed on to my sister and I. Both of us were baptized Armenian Apostolic as custom, mainly for tradition and convenience—as our father often tells us. In doing so, it helps support the continuation of Armenian culture, and provides us with the ability to use the church should it ever be necessary.

Since then, I do not believe that I have ever attended a service or mass, and—thank god?—I have never been to Sunday school. I am grateful for not having had religion force-fed to me throughout my life; I believe this has allowed me to grow and develop in many other ways, keeping me open and receptive to new and alternative perspectives. I am often frustrated by the realization that this is a limiting factor in my ability to connect for fully with my Armenian roots, the culture of which is strongly tied to the church. Because I did not go to church, I did not learn the language, and it seems less and less likely that that is something I will accomplish the older I get. It is the language, more than anything that is important to me. I often fear that if not enough of us can speak the language, it will start to die out. Should that happen, it will be a major blow to Armenian identity—the ultimate sign that the genocide is at work, still enacting a slow and painful violence on our people after all these years.

On the third day, I started to really understand what starving felt like. It took me a few extra minutes to peel myself out of bed that day, my limbs hanging heavy. The centennial having come and gone, along with most of the discussion that stirs up as 24th approaches each year, the efforts of the strike started to seem more isolated, detached from a greater body of protest. I found my few discussions with other about what I was doing to feel less poignant, as I was no longer giving a heads up on a significant event, but rather informing them about something that was again in the past—a reminder that so little is widely known about the genocide.

I kept to myself much more over the course of the day, a practice that actually lent itself quite well to the final stages of the strike. Towards the end of work, my movements were slower, less impulsive, and decisive. This did not happen by choice, but as a natural process. I had to conserve energy to accomplish the same tasks as I normally would without burning myself out. My water consumption was impressive, averaging somewhere in the range of 20 to 32 ounces each hour when I was good about it. I cannot imagine starving and not being able to drink water. How anyone could survive an extended period of this kind of torture is a miracle in its own right, and must require—on top of immense strength in character—a preposterous amount of luck. Armenians marching through the desert—how did any of them make it?

After work, I put in another four miles of running, but took full notice this time of how exhausted I had become. My pace had dropped twenty to thirty seconds off the usual “cruise” pace I take for granted on a day-to-day basis. Little hills sucked the wind right out of me, I had waves of heat that would wash over my head and never seem to quite break, and my legs wobbled slightly as they made impact with the ground. I took a long shower when I finally returned home, almost feeding off the sensation. The comfort of water hitting against my skin tapped into something deep and primal inside of me—a place of total understanding and reason. It was blissful. That night I spent a few hours with some friends before retiring around midnight. Twenty-eight hours remained, and I wanted to be over with them.

All I can say about the final day is that it drove the lessons I learned from this experience into the ground. The whole day I moved so slowly that my feet dragged when I was not conscious of my stride. My pulse had fallen back considerably, which I am usually proud of, but in this case it was a survival reaction, not a health benefit. It reached a point beyond feeling heavy; the muscles and tendons at major joints had tightened up, making it hard to push forward. This, I would guess, may have been to help counteract the unsteadiness in my legs that I started feeling the day before. Each time I exerted myself, my breathing intensified and I would become lightheaded for a few seconds. I often caught myself forgetting to drink water for longer spans than I should have allowed. The final run was what gave me the greatest concern. Again joined by my friend from the previous day, some of the effort was alleviated, but by the end, the muscles in my legs, arms and sides were starting to cramp up. In the last few hundred meters, a small pain—what I hope was just a cramp—sprung into my chest off to the side, rooted in my ribs.

I put myself straight to bed that night and set my clock to go off at 4:00am. Sleep came right over me, and I have never been happier to hear an alarm spring me out of bed in the dark. Fumbling through the dark, I retrieved a Boston cream donut wrapped in paper towels from my bag. I ate it in total silence, in small decadent bites. It was a wash of satisfaction and a guilty pleasure, and I immediately went back to sleep when it was all gone. It was everything I needed and wanted right then—fat and sugar—sweet relief.

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While I still cannot hope to understand the full scope of the struggle my Armenian ancestors faced during the Genocide, I can say that starvation is a plight that no one should have to experience. I was able to manage it during my relatively short stint, but by the end I began to notice the magnitude of the toll that it would take my body should it have lasted any longer.

This was not a proud on taking or a call for attention. It was a commitment to a cause, a testament to a people, and stand against atrocity. The protest was staged everywhere because these issues infiltrate every aspect of our lives. They do not sit stagnant in the place where they believe they will be notice, but corrode the very lining of our existence. The starvation of the Armenian people—or any people that have been the victim of genocide—their culture, and their right to proper recognition are problems that endure while the rest of the world is willing to be ignorant. Even in ignorance however, these things infiltrate all of our lives, and we are all at risk for greater humanitarian crises so long as we do nothing.

One hundred years have passed by since the Armenian genocide was set into motion, and it is without a doubt still at work. If we are willing to stand in the face of corruption and disappointing political action however, it does not have to be allowed to succeed. The great Armenian-American writer, William Saroyan once said at the end of a famous quote, “Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it…. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a new Armenia.” I have found this to be one of the truest statements ever made. Any Armenian I have ever met, I have felt an instant connection to them. There is a bond and a kinship that transcends all other emotions I am aware of. We are able to talk freely and share an understanding from a common ground. It is because of this that I believe that we will never be silenced.

Still, our identities are spreading further (not thinner) with each generation of Armenians that arises. As such, think that the way this dialogue happens is changing to a point where it could become a universal language. When you tear a pomegranate in half, it’s seeds scatter across the table, they fall into the earth, and the juices are free to run. Seeds buried in the earth are able to grow new plants, the ones that are scooped up and eaten nourish us, and the juice leaves beautiful red stains on the surfaces it makes contact with. The Ottomans may have torn Armenia apart, but in doing so, they unleashed us upon the world. We are now all over the globe, our blood tied into many other peoples and cultures that we would not otherwise have been a part of.

In carrying out the hunger strike, the only hope was that for those I was able to reach during that time to take a moment to investigate and educate themselves on this issue. In a world where we must learn to exist more and more as citizens of a global community, if this kind of knowledge can become widespread, then I believe that Saroyan’s words will extend further than he intended. For wherever a conversation can begin between two people, see if they will not create a new Armenia. In this sense, we are all Armenians now, just as we are all on this earth together. We share a responsibility to care for one another and be accountable for our actions. If we can achieve this, then the net generation will not have to know another hundred years of denial.

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Went Out On A Whim, Danced My Ass Off!

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Last Thursday (October 9th) I was driving home after a long day and as I passed by the Green Room, I saw that Cosby Sweater was playing with local DJ Andy Bruh, and duly noted my night was far from over.

Andy Bruh is an animal – a real bass head who spins those low, juicy beats that rock you to your core and make you whomp around on the dance floor. I first caught him at the Umphrey’s McGee After Party at New Earth Music Hall back in September after emerging from the back room where the Kinky Aphrodisiacs were playing. I posted up in front and got down… way down.

Bruh works hard to deliver notable original content with some great covers and remixes of hard rolling standards. Still developing, some of his transitions aren’t quite there yet, but the quality of what he’s giving his audiences is so good that any (unintended) glitches are immediately excusable. He definitely holds roots in dub step – particularly from industry giant, Bassnectar – but Bruh clearly brings his own unique spin to the music he produces. I fucking love the grumbly lion growl he throws in throughout his sets! I’m looking forward to catching a lot more of him in the future!

I first saw Cosby Sweater in Burlington, VT at Higher Ground‘s Showcase Lounge back in June of 2013 and I must have got hooked on a loose thread, because man did I unravel that night. They throw down a pretty awesome show with a distinctive sound that has only been developing since then. At the Showcase Lounge show, they were still very DJ oriented, with their general feel leaning towards heavy, pounding beats embellished by some gritty sax and live drums. Because they’ve split the roles over three musicians, they are able to take on little more distinctive interaction between the instruments elements and keep more of the music mixing without looping or using prerecorded tracks.

I caught them again at Camp Bisco X (RIP?) and enjoyed a similar sound, but at the Green Room, I noticed a different, somewhat more mature dynamic in the group. These days Cosby Sweater seems to have found a greater balance between its members, giving them much more of a livetronica/jamtronica than they used to have, and it sounds fantastic! The drums (Jeff Peterson) really shine through as an aggressive participant now and the sax (Nicholas Gerlach) takes on lengthy, raging solos on the tenor and the EWI that are an absolute blast. David Embry keeps the energy high with his mixing, production and vocals, and knows just when to bring the energy up and down.

Full House for Myriad

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Myriad Interactive Arts & Music Exhibition, previously known as Perennial Fest, experienced a huge turnout this past Tuesday night. New Earth Music Hall was packed; finding a place to stand proved quite a bit more difficult than weeks past. All in all it made for a very different atmosphere, a feeling of being inside an event rather than an intimate open mic. When I say “inside” I mean it! The perception of a barrier between the stage and the audience was broken down, adding to the interactive nature of the event.

Curtis Vorda

Curtis Vorda

American Mannequins‘ frontman Curtis Vorda felt no hesitations jumping down off the stage and strolling through the crowd during their performance. The group, a five-piece  “from Athens, GA… mostly,” started off the evening with a set of expressive and driving rock. While they definitely have a harder edge to their sound, American Mannequins are difficult to pin down. Their music is at once alternative as it progressive, indy, and punk as well. Influences seem to come anywhere from the raw to the exotic, from the heavy and rhythmic to the melodic. They never quite reach a transcendent state, but bring about at times an uplifting sense with their soaring and sweeping melodic capability. The lyrics play a big role in their music, touching on a number of topics on all things cerebral and personal; from growing up, to the dangers of methamphetamine. As he sung, Vorda has an quirky stage presence, somewhat reminiscent of Thom Yorke. Throughout the show he prowled the stage and worked himself into the occasional shaky fit. American Mannequins brought a great energy and set the tone for experimentation with sound for the night (Vorda occasionally plays on a machine that amplifies feedback and frequencies).

IMG_0967Out on the patio, featured artist Marc Lineberger had some of his paintings on display as he worked on a new piece. Watching Lineberger paint was a treat in and of itself. His process feels improvised, on the fly, but at the same time is painfully exacting and calculated, often employing the use of a ruler to get perfectly straight lines and correct measurements. This comes out in his finished paintings as a captivating and divine harmony of the natural, the cosmic, the geometric, and the surreal. If Escher and Dali candy-flipped together and collaborated, Marc Lineberger’s work would be the end result. His sense of fluid in motion throughout the mathematic, interlocking patterns he creates is inspiring, to say the least. Each painting is an adventure, a discovery of a path through the cerebral chaos that permeates the natural world.

IMG_0976The open jam started off with a customary Talking Heads jam before diving headfirst into an evening of super funky, rock oriented, and blues-heavy playing. The turnout for this week’s jam was fantastic! New Earth was teeming with musicians; it seemed like everyone there could play something. The variety was excellent as well! Thrown in the mix were two harmonicas, a trumpet, and a saxophone, and Curt Vorda even jumped in briefly on his noise machine. It was a truly interactive night, with musicians jumping in and out of the jam throughout. You never knew if the person next to you was going to get up and grab an instrument.

This Tuesday’s Myriad was an amazing event! Don’t miss out on next week. See you there!

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I even wrote and recorded a poem at the end of the night. Check it out:

Don’t Listen to Me? I Think I Will!

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Halem Albright Band, source: Facebook

Halem Albright Band, source: Facebook

Thursday night I missed both Moon Taxi shows in town, but things turned out alright in the end… or should I say Albright! Later in the evening I strolled into the Green Room and caught a good chunk of a set from the Halem Albright Band (H.A.B), who absolutely lit the place on fire. The shear number of jam bands in Athens never ceases to amaze me, and still more amazing is that each of them have their own distinct sound; not once I have found myself saying, “This sounds just like…” or “Didn’t I see these guys last night?” H.A.B. was no exception to that trend, and by the time the show was over, I found myself, jaw dropping, loving another band.

3462After the show I spoke with guitarist and frontman, Halem Albright, who hooked me up with a copy of his 2012 album, Don’t Listen to Me, which has now been on repeat the last few days. Predating the 2013 formation of H.A.B, Halem’s solo release is a work of major collaboration between some top-notch local musicians and producers (John Keane, Jeff Mosier). The results are an impressive, highly polished sound that presents an eclectic, but masterful blend of instruments and styles that takes listeners on a kind of musical road trip.

As the album plays through, one can imagine gazing out of a car window at the changing environment rolling by; being aware of the distinct environments, but understanding the whole picture as part of one journey. The pacing of the album matches this sentiment well, driving forward with relaxed, but energetic drum beats that fall anywhere on spectrum from dance to rock steady, but aren’t afraid to get real tight and complex when the moment is right. Over this, the range of melodic influences are just as vast, using a blend of electric and acoustic to play blues, reggae, southern and classic rock, and even a little bit of that wistful western sound, too. Featured instruments include flute, banjo, violin, several types of organ, harmonica, and a horn section, broadening the diversity even further.

10600624_911700295511079_2470095596923669479_nHalem Albright shows his versatility as a guitarist and singer on this album, showcasing his talent without showing off. The melodies and soloing achieve a more structured tone than plain noodling on the guitar, keeping things interesting and grounded through some of the more lengthy tracks. He also creates some wild noises; every now and then a siren will scream through the music, and it takes moment to realize it came from the guitar. The vocals are well harmonized and pristine, allowing the lyrics to be just as relevant as any other part of each song. While Halem shines through, every instrument featured gets to have its moment, making for a tasteful and balanced total composition that keeps the album interesting over multiple listens. It can be dangerous to give comparisons to bigger names, but for anyone who needs a little orientation, blend up Phish with String Cheese Incident and some of the jazzier Lotus, throw in the lyrical consciousness of Twiddle, and you’re in the right ballpark.

Don’t Listen to Me has been thoroughly enjoyable so far, and I look forward to catching more of H.A.B. in the future. Their live presence is much different. As a four-piece, they ramp up the energy to a much more heavy-dancing level, taking time to do some serious shredding and extended jams. Worth mentioning is that the Green Room was fairly empty when I saw them, and they still raged their set. Respect to bands who still give everything to tiny crowds; they got me moving! It would be interesting to see what an album from H.A.B. would sound like after performing together for a year or two now.

The Halem Albright Band plays next at New Earth Music Hall on September 18th with The Heavy Pets. Don’t miss it!

http://www.halemalbright.com/index

 

Moonrise Festival 2014: A Model for Diversity and Safety in EDM

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Source: Facebook

Let’s hear it for the moon! One final resounding cheer roared up from the crowd of thousands gathered at Moonrise Festival, the two-day EDM event held at Pimlico Race Course on August 9 and 10 of this year. The command was given by visionary DJ, Bassnectar (Lorin Ashton) after a mind-bending and exhilarating set beneath the massive supermoon, which had that night reached it’s full golden peak against the deep purple Baltimore night sky. The resulting howl was a moment of profound celebration, of respect and acknowledgement of what everyone there had just been apart of; what may have been the most successful EDM festival to happen in recent years.

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Bassnectar, source: Facebook, DS Photography

Bassnectar never disappoints. He throws his entire soul to the audience and the music in every performance as he bends, twists, and lunges across his expansive arsenal of equipment, dancing like a maniac with his long, messy hair flying around him all the while. Moonrise was no exception. During the set, which included a variety of classics and new tracks off the album Noise Vs. Beauty such as “You and Me,” “Pink Elephants,” and “The 808 Track,” as well as some delicious remixes of Estelle (“Freak”) and The Beastie Boys (Sabotage), he expressed his love for the crowd repeatedly. Special respect and gratitude was given to the Hudson/Mudson Project family that had come, seeking revenge for the disaster that stole away Bassnectar and many other acts from the festival.

Being at a Bassnectar show is a special experience. The people there are some of the friendliest you could hope to have around. The “Bassnectar Family” is always in some form of coordinated attendance, spreading good vibes and caring for one another. It’s a beautifully mutual kind of respect to share in. If you need water, you will have it; if someone else needs water, you help him or her out; no matter if they’re a dirty hippy or the most kandi’d-out raver you’ve ever seen.

Lorin Ashton is fairly outspoken about his straight-edged approach to the EDM scene. Despite the beats being downright filthy sometimes, he takes a keep-it-clean philosophy to his music, hoping that the sound he creates will take away the need for the excessive amount of chemical enhancement strongly tied to the EDM fans; the root cause of just about all the bad press the scene has received in recent times.

Bassnectar shows are models for responsible raving, usually featuring a crew known as “Bass-sitters,” who make certain that water is flowing through the audience. This is where Moonrise set itself apart from other festivals. Organizers took this concept and applied it to every minute of every day, hiring teams of volunteers to patrol the grounds with what seemed like an endless supply of water. There was never a shortage; no matter what show was going on. In this sense, the whole festival took on the tone of a Bassnectar show, following religiously with the tenets of Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect (PLUR) throughout the weekend.

Moonrise showcased a supremely diverse collection of artists from al sectors of the electronic genre. From brand new artists, to old favorites, from heavy trap (more about that later), to deep house, to dub step, and transcendent jam bands, there was something for everyone. There was never a moment that a change of pace could be had if needed. Moonrise was a testament to the wide growth and expansion that EDM has undergone in the last few years since it made its clear infiltration of the greater popular consciousness.

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The Supermoon, source: Facebook, DS Photography

And not only was there variety, but festivalgoers were more open to experiencing out for the first time new artists or genres with people they had never met in their life. There was a definite culture of sharing present, and it added to the overall atmosphere of the event a sense of friendship and understanding. There may be nothing more powerful than the elation a new friend exudes when they have just discovered a new favorite artist, had an experience that blew them away. Likewise, the discoveries you can make through these festy friends have just as much impact as they impart their own wisdom on you. Everything and everyone gets a chance.

The perspective of this article admittedly has a slight bias in favor of electronic jam bands. This genre, which has been present for quite some time (pretty much since the dawn of the synthesizer), holds strong roots in classic powerhouses of the scene such as Lotus and STS9, both of whom are long-standing staples at festivals across the country. The blend of traditional instruments with synths, turntables, drum machines, and other computerized elements makes for a listening experience and a variety in sound and style that is near impossible to match otherwise. It’s all done live, pushing the limits of experimentation, and interacting (and reacting) with the crowd in a way that sets a perfect mood at every moment of performance. Originals and covers blend together in endless combinations, often catching you off-guard. The same show never happens twice.

 

Lotus raged a preposterous show right before Bassnectar, which even included a cover of Deadmau5’s “Ghosts n’ Stuff.” Their set was unbelievably complex and hell-bent on testing just how hard members of the band were willing to jam, peaking at the end with a wild reprise of “Greet the Mind.” Other standouts from their set were a lengthy jam on “Tip of the Tongue,” a down and dirty “Lead Pipe,” and a suprememly funky “128.” STS9 gave a stellar and intimate performance to cap off the first night featuring a seductively smooth take on “New Dawn, New Day,” as well as flawless versions of favorites including “Vapors,” “When the Dust Settles,” and “The Rabble.” STS9 was, as always, irresistible to dance to. Even with their new bass player, Alana Rocklin, who replaced David Murphy, their sound was on-point, promising a bright future for the band’s 2.0 phase.

Source: theindieblender.com

Source: theindieblender.com

Relative newcomers to the scene are Zoogma, a particularly hard-edged and filthy jam band from Memphis, who tested the bounds of just how wild a show in the middle of the afternoon can get. Their set included a cover of Rusko’s (also at Moonrise) “Everyday (Netsky Remix),” as well as maybe one of the heaviest versions of their massive track “M10” ever played. Zoogma have come a long way in the last year, making a serious climb from unfamiliar after-party rockers to sought-after electronic jam staple at festivals all over the place. It would be a surprise if their name were not seen rising up into higher tiers of lineup announcement by next summer. No longer will the question “What the fuck is Zoogma?” be asked, but “Where the fuck is Zoogma?” 

The high quality of daytime performances at Moonrise was quite impressive. At a festival that begins at 11am and ends at 11pm, covering only two days, not every act that deserves an after dark set is going to get one. Very frequently, this “jip” can really sap the energy of the crowd and the band itself, negatively impacting everyone’s experience and leaving everything feeling ho-hum at the end. This was not the case at Moonrise. Every artist or band was on their A-game, putting down sets that left fans wanting for nothing but more time with them. At peak afternoon heat, Papadosio, Rusko (who couldn’t have played louder), GRiZ, and many others all raged their shows as hard ever.

Luke the Knife, of Lotus, got everyone’s boogie on despite the tiny crowd gathered for him, absolutely killing

Luke the Knife, source: Facebook, Vinyl Penetration

Luke the Knife, source: Facebook, Vinyl Penetration

it as he spun some slick Nudisco mixes. EOTO, another jam band who completely improvise every show, threw down a gnarly and incomprehensible show, bending and melting the meaning of genre. Tritonal rocked a jump-crazy set worthy of an ice bath for the sore legs that ensued. Morgan Page brought the house. Djemba Djemba and Mr. Carmack got things turnt up with their ratchet trap sets.

Trap, it appears, has taken a strong grasp on the EDM scene at the moment. To the dismay of many, it has definitely won the title for most dominant sub-genre, making its way into almost every DJ’s repertoire. Festivalgoers will be hard-pressed to find a set that doesn’t have them – however briefly – feeling the desire to lean back and crank their hands in the air as they get rattled by hyper-speed tight snare samples. However you may feel about the trend, trap has made its mark… but something new can pop up at any moment.

Of course, one cannot go without mentioning Kaskade, who headlined the fist night. Kaskade, who is one of the masters of deep house in the United States, gave his massive crowd a blissful and hard dancing set with stunning visuals that were impossible not to feel good while looking at. The performance included, among others, his classic “Eyes,” which had the whole crowd singing along to the vocal parts and feeling rather elevated.

During Kaskade’s set, Infected Mushroom could be seen across the grounds getting absolutely weird with their heavy trance. Tradeoffs always have to happen at festivals; they are something that will remain a part of the experience no matter how well organized the even may be. Other overlaps at Moonrise were STS9/Adventure Club/DJ Snake, Bassnectar/Carnage, and Lotus/Excision. Given these provided clear choices for many at the festival, for someone with a more diverse taste in music, there were some tough calls to make.

Kaskade, source: Facebook

Kaskade, source: Facebook

Moonrise was exactly what a festival should be; a safe environment for the sharing of music, arts, and ideas; a place where new friends are met and great memories are made. It was a true escape from reality during its hours of operation, and an indulgence in self-expression and experience. Everyone there let their freak flags fly knowing that they were surrounded by like-minded people all gathered to just go enjoy some music together. The weekend passed without a single drug-related medical incident, only reporting a few non life-threatening injuries. Whether attendees or organizers are to be praised (or both) for demonstrating responsibility at this event, the future looks bright for this festival, and there is no reason it shouldn’t be back in full force next year. Though the sun may go down, the moon never sets on Moonrise.

 

http://moonrisefestival.com

https://www.facebook.com/moonrisefest/photos_stream?tab=photos_albums

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2014-08-10/news/bs-md-ci-moonrise-festival-20140810_1_starscape-festival-minor-injuries-mdma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things Get Kinky

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The Kinky Aphrodisiacs at New Earth Music Hall

Upon exiting the Classic Center on Friday Night, there were two main options for after parties: Dank Sinatra and Funk You at the Green Room, or The Kinky Aphrodisiacs at New Earth Music Hall. Little four-up flyers were strewn across the streets and being doled out countless promoters. For yours truly, Dank Sinatra and Funk You were recognizable names from festival lineups over the last few years. It seemed like a good idea; the words “dank” and “funk” beckoning relentlessly. Kinky Aphrodisiacs was a different story. What could it be, a drag show? A freak fest? An orgy?!

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Gabe Sugarman

The sudden intervention of one mustachioed man altered the course of the evening, insisting with all sincerity that The Kinky Aphrodisiacs were the choice to make. “They’re kind of like RAQ,” was all the comparison needed to tip the scales in their favor. If a band is similar to a psychedelic progressive group from Burlington, VT, then have to be at least worth checking out. As an added bonus, the after Party at New Earth was free with a Umph’s ticket stub (Green Room was $5).

Ending up again at New Earth was far from a disappointment. This venue is just an awesome place to go listen to music; not once has it been a let down over the last few weeks. Friday night at New Earth was quite a bit fuller than previous visits. There was a regular crowd there, many of whom were recognizable faces from Umphrey’s McGee. On stage, the band was still setting up. They looked like the meant business. New Earth, by the way, plays the best music at set breaks.


 

The Kinky Aphrodisiacs are a three-piece based right here in Athens, consisting of a guitar (Ryan Banks), bass (Kyle Denis), and drums (Gabe Sugarman). It doesn’t really get much more simple than that, but simple structuring doesn’t mean simple music. The band describes itself as sounding like “The Beatles one minute, Rage Against the Machine one minute, and Phish the next,” with “solid drumming and driving bass” complimenting “melodic and some times grungy guitar.” They made their way into the jam scene in 2009 and have been staples in the southeast since then, playing solo gigs as well as opening for bigger names names, such as The Heavy Pets.


 

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Ryan Banks and Gabe Sugarman

Finally set, the three band members took to their microphones and broke into a powerful and spectacularly harmonized vocal opening. The energy produced from this could be felt rising up and out of the three musicians, circling around them and pouring over the audience. Just as the vocal sound bath had begun to subside, they erupted forth into a heavily percussive song introduction. It was aggressive, pounding, anthemic, and yet somehow uplifting; a sign of something magnificent to come.

And was it ever something magnificent! The Kinky Aphrodisiacs took its audience through a rip-roaring set of long, complex, highly composed and energetically-jammed songs that got everyone grooving, moving, jumping and thrashing around. The feel changes up regularly, and the synthesis of sounds could form a list too convoluted to bother with. Their music has the driving danceability of STS9 and the argumentativeness of Lotus, but with a distinctively raw and non-electronic sensibility (moe.?). That’s not all! The Kinky Aphrodisiacs take on a distinctive Southern sound, call it a “nuts and bolts twang” that’ll have you kicking your heels out. It’s a veritable progressive hoedown! Not to mention the guitarist can shred like a ’94 Trey.

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Kyle Denis

Not only do The Kinky Aphrodisiacs rage the stage, but they have amazing audience interaction. Throughout the set, they kept up contact and connections with members of the audience, spreading around the energy even more. It made for an extremely intimate, while still high-octane show that had the kind of atmosphere one would hope for at any show. This band is a must-see if you’re in their touring area. They bring something to their music that makes them truly unique and leaves a feeling of friendliness and welcome. I know I will be seeing a lot more of these guys in the future!

The Kinky Aphrodisiacs next play next on 9/5 in Valdosta, GA and 9/6 in Milledgeville, GA. Go see them!

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/TheKinkyAphrodisiacs/timeline

 

 

 

Nothing Too, Too Fancy: Umphs at the Classic Center and Miracle Tickets

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August 29, 2014

I need a miracle every day

-The Grateful Dead

 

Miracle tickets. They’re an easy, but crucial part of jam culture and fandom that are often overlooked in their significance. At any moment, one can swoop in, radically altering the course of a night. For anyone who has ever wandered a Phish lot, baking in sun – becoming more and more delirious for any number of reasons that could afflict a body in this situation – finger in the air, calling out who’s got my miracle, the emotional roller coaster, the anxiety of the experience is all too real.

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Miracles can happen!

Sometimes the ordeal is over in minutes, sometimes hours go by without so much as glimmer of hope. And when the masses start funneling their way into the venue, the lot hollowing into a disturbingly quiet ghost town, those left behind still holding that one finger up, now slightly limp, things get real. To land a ticket in that moment is an experience everyone who loves live music should have. Once the stub is in hand, no matter where it leads to inside the venue, it is understood that everything is going to be just fine. You made it, and you’re not gonna miss a minute of the show.

So it was that around 8:45pm, as I paced madly around the kitchen, about to abandon all hope, that I received a call from a post on craigslist I had responded to earlier in the day, telling me that I had a ticket if I needed it, that the show starts in 10 minutes, that I could make an offer. I spat out $40 over the phone and leapt into my car. Every red light I hit was a penance in purgatory, agonizingly slow to change. It seemed like I hit one every hundred meters or so. Despite this, I found parking, sprinted to the doors, and received my beautiful ticket from a hand extending out of the building, struggling to make the connection as security strictly enforced no-exit policy. I was in.

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Inside the Classic Center for Umphrey’s McGee

Up until this point, I had been contemplating wandering the streets of downtown Athens and people-watching as the swarming thousands that had arrived earlier in the afternoon for the UGA-Clemson football game the next day. It was quite a sight, but now was not mine to have, and believe me, I was more than okay with that.

The Classic Center is a small, but classy looking auditorium. It feels inspired by old theaters (think the Landmark in Syracuse, NY), but with a sleek, modern spin. The flat white walls of the auditorium’s interior make it a very pristine and elegant space, and act as a perfect canvas for whatever displays a lighting rig might display. It’s a perfect fit for a band like Umphrey’s McGee, complimenting their tightly polished, somewhat glamorous storm of power and piercing notes.Going to a show alone can create a lot of apprehension or doubt about the experience you’re going to have, but it wasn’t long before I remembered the fact that it is impossible to not enjoy yourself at Umphrey’s McGee. The energy in the music is always ramped up, and it carries listeners away on a journey through a wild blend of hard rock, metal, pop, funk, and just about any other genre conceivable.

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Some nifty light work

Having just recently released their new album, Similar Skin, the six-piece rage-fest from Chicago that Umphs is played sets that were full of fresh tracks (“Cut the Cable, “No Diablo,” “Loose Ends,” “Little Gift”) and classic jams (“Plunger,” “1348,” “Booth Love”). Despite being in an auditorium, the show felt very intimate. When I think intimate shows, Higher Ground in Burlington, VT comes to mind. The playing was a little more laid back, relaxed but rocking, and there was nothing but love for Athens. I was not prepared for the show to be sold out, which was part of the reason for my last minute scramble.

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“Spot” lighting the crowd

The popularity of Umphrey’s McGee here was much stronger than I expected, but apparently, they have quite the following down in my new home than they did up North. Flagpole‘s most recent release had a short promotional piece for the show in which it stated that Umph’s has “made Athens a second home over the years” and it certainly seemed to be true. There was more audience interaction than I’ve ever seen at one of their shows, and it felt like we were all getting a special treat.

The climax of the show hit at the end of the second set, with a steady and heavy cover of
Radiohead’s “The National Anthem” under dark red lighting. Immediately following this to cap off the set was “Wizard Burial Ground,” the preposterously hard romp of a metal unnamed-2anthem that’s enough to make your head do flips no matter what state you find yourself in. The break before encore was a raucous and joyful period of cheers between the audience on the floor and in the balconies. The classic “We got the Umph, gotta have that Umph” call and response resounded through the auditorium. The three song encore started on a clear response to the cheer with “Soul Food II,” a song that sounds almost exactly like Parliament’s “Give Up The Funk”. After playing through “Glory,” the final conclusion of the show came with a tender and powerful cover of the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See,” which they announced with a shoutout:

This one’s for the South.