"If we can't learn to live together, we're gonna die alone"

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The PUB gives a Venue - and a Voice back to Amherst Music Scene

The first Sunday in October was overcast with the type of constant drizzle that outlasts the stamina of most folks and by nightfall a serious damp had crept into the atmosphere, turning the prematurely fallen leaves into mounds of asthma-inducing clutter. The Patriots had sustained their first loss of the season and many folks had already retired to the warmth of their dens, couches and favorite chairs to escape into Sunday Night football. But a steady flow of patron’s into downtown Amherst’s longtime mainstay latenight bar, The Pub, didn’t seem to notice the foul weather or foul mood of New Englanders across the area.
Fans check out Outer Stylie
            If it was a bad night for live music, someone forget to tell Nate Martel, a local axe-shredder and live music promoter known for his psychedelic wall of guitar noise. Martel was leading the band on stage as well as the hopes of the audience, and his efforts were not going without reward. Having wrapped on a longtime stint as the leader of a Sunday night open mic at Sunderland’s “Snowzee’s”, Nate and compatriot bass player Tom Shack had scoured the area for a new venue to bring their inherited Sunday night crew. Just another in a long line of casualties in the war on live music in the Pioneer Valley, the ownership at Snowzees had recently changed hands. With the changing of the guard, the lights went down on Martel’s long-standing showcase.
            But AJ Jolley, owner and general manager of The Pub, had recently parlayed with Martel and Shack and with the mutual goal of providing the local music scene with a positive and regular outlet, they agreed to revive the Sunday Night affair on a long-term basis in a new location.
            “There’s just nowhere to play in Amherst,” AJ opined as the band was running through its first jam of the evening.
            “I just want to show people that live music can work in Amherst, and we think we have the right place to get it off the ground.”
            He isn’t wrong. On either account. Amherst-based musicians have struggled for many years to implement a thriving showcase in any number of local would-be venues. But often town bylaws calling for low decibels after certain hours, along with other declarations of minutia from Town Hall and the Zoning Board have made it extremely difficult for venues to keep a consistent schedule of live local music. The difficulties plaguing Amherst’s local music scene have been well documented. In the 2000’s, Amherst Brewing Company carried a live music calendar for some time but eventually even ABC was forced to pull the plug as dwindling attendance and constant heckling from town administration made it hard to afford and more trouble than it was worth.
            Nate Martel and Tom Shack’s lineup tonight is a stripped down version of their psychedelic blues and hard driven, up tempo rock outfit Outer Stylie. And at this point, they’ve both become a constant presence in the local music scene. Finding a place to perform on a consistent basis is a blessing and one they hope will start to spotlight once and for all the power of live music in the Amherst area.
            As more local music fans began to pile onto the Pub’s central dancefloor, the band responded by bringing more musicians to the stage. First Tuba player Jay Witbeck and Guitar aficionado Dan Thomas of Primate Fiasco and then elusive saxophone player Bob Moriarty joined the group. Upon taking a break, Martel announced Wildcat O’Halloran would be sitting in with his band’s next set. It became quickly evident that fans have been clamoring for a local spot to showcase the music scene. And by all appearances, the Pub will be filling this void nicely.

Local Music Fans show their support
            The battle for local artists not only to find venues but all manner of distribution outlets for their sounds and scene has been a struggle for several decades now. The five college area, seemingly so conducive to the idea of live music venues, has been plagued by false starts and predictable failures over the past 20 years. In 2012 a proposed music venue in the Hampshire Mall was dead on arrival. Hadley, well known to be more accommodating to new business ventures, seemed ready to take on the addition and Hampshire Mall officials were on board as well, but an 11th hour loss of funding caused the management group to crumble and effort faded. The Quarters, another Hadley-based venture has appeared to be on the verge of opening a vintage video arcade/ bar and grill which has long promised live music to a be a large part of their vision, but their Facebook page has published a number of pushed back opening dates and the doors remain locked. The result is that talented musicians have been forced to take their show on the road, causing Amherst and the surrounding towns to lose out on the economic stimulus, tax revenue and third party vendor sales associated with the operation of a fully functioning rock club.
            For now, with bands like Outer Stylie and the highbrow funk and R&B sounds of  Full Spectrum Dominance, a group that features Darby Wolf of the successful nationally touring dance-rock troupe Rubblebucket and Ryan Hommel of the Grammy-Winning Seth Glier Band, The Pub is poised to be the shield for the local music scene whose heritage continues to be undervalued by those unwilling to take a closer look- or listen. And for the musicians in the area, it’s a welcome port in the ongoing storm.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

To the Pavers of the Information Super Highway and the Cowboys that Cruise it Everyday


I love that word.
Originally it was used to describe a literary genre. A genre described as “postmodern science fiction noted for focus on information technology, corporations taking the place of government and the need for fundamental social change.” The creation of which has generally been credited to William Gibson. With his first book, Neuromancer. Gibson first coined terms like “the Matrix” and described, long before the public knew about the world wide web, a concentual hallucinatory universe where people could “go” via their computers, a place where people went to increase the flow of information. Now we just call it the Internet but it’s definitely the Matrix. And our kids will wonder how we got around in that place with just a keyboard.
But to be an actual cyberpunk, that always sounded romantic to me. Neuromantic I suppose. IDYL is a Neuromantic notion.
With IDYL we have a goal to make an essential change. We’re working from within the music industry but the goals go beyond that. We want to make you think about the way you go about your day, your business. Take a hard look and decide; are you doing this the best way? Is this the best you can do or is it just the only way you know how? Because we think there is another way.
            Cyberpunk can also be described as the chronicles of the High Tech and the Low Lives…the struggles of characters that live on the fringe and conduct themselves according to a morally ambiguous or at least different set of standards. It sounds pretty cool. And it’s definitely a “lived in” genre. There’s grit, grime, cigarettes, booze…and energy. It’s all pretty rock n roll to be perfectly honest. Maybe its even punk rock n roll. Punk was originally about turning your back on the way things were being done and doing it yourself. DIY. Building something new. It wasn’t really cool then, that came later. The truth is that the Clash and the Sex Pistols were always pissed about being on a t-shirt. Well, Joe Strummer was pissed. Sid Vicious was probably pretty satisfied with himself and… oops. Got off track. I get emotional.
            There’s another element of Cyberpunk and that is the idea that the only way forward is through change. The characters tend to get caught up, through their everyday struggles, in a major reality shift; An essential and radical change in the social paradigm. Through their movement, actions, however mundane for their lifestyle, a new order arises. The shift occurs via information technology. And it turns these characters into heroes.
            Renegade revolution has always been part of the foundation for the information cowboys. That’s why we still see groups like Anonymous, Wikileaks, etc…and these people’s actions divide us as a society because change is never easy. It creates turmoil but ultimately it creates progress. Our grandfathers witnessed the actual birth of the computer. And in the 70’s the cell phones we conduct huge tracts of our daily life on, from business to the most intimate personal interactions, were fantastic whimsical impossibilities only hinted at in the best science fiction. Like Star Wars.
            If I’m really honest, the heroes I always go back to are the heroes of Star Wars. But in a way the basic tenets of Star Wars can be described with a cyberpunk analogy too. And what is always so striking about Star Wars, the thing I think captures imaginations to this day, is that the hero is plucked from obscurity and mediocrity and asked just to do his best and see what comes of it. Do or do not. There is no try.
            What we’re doing is making a change in how we think about business. For the moment, we’re talking about music business. But again, we’re asking; is the current model the best we can do? I think there is a better, cooler way. In our vision of the music industry, when you buy music it becomes a tool you can keep using to make money, not just sit in a collection. Your playlists become your portfolio; an investment, not just disposable entertainment. And the reason I want to take part in this change is because I’ve witnessed first hand how the music industry doesn’t work.
            I was on the road, in different bands, for several years and I’m not a famous or exceptionally successful musician, from a certain point of view. But I have seen a lot of bands rise and fall and I know how much time and energy, blood and sweat went into trying to succeed for those bands.  I also know that for my part I made it farther in the music industry than many musicians ever get. But even that wasn’t enough to make a living. Still, I stood next to people on stages that had been my heroes and got to call them peers and I will always cherish the moments I got to spend performing in front of hundreds of people. On a few rare occasions, thousands. When people choose to give you their attention, that’s an intimate gift and I think you have an obligation to do not only the best you can, but to use that time in a transformative way. You have to use your voice to make a stand and if you’re lucky, make a change.
            If I’ve got your attention now, then I have to tell you; I have been in the music industry and many people fail there. But RIGHT NOW if you feel like it, you can help us challenge that system and bring about a sea change of success. There is so much money in the entertainment business that in a time of economic crisis – and make no mistake, our country is on the edge of an abyss right now – we think we can harness the energy, and with it the money, and put it in the hands of the artists we respect and love. And for our efforts we can share a piece of the pie too. We think we can make an essential and radical change to the social order. And what’s cool is that regular people: you, me, and the rest of the folks out there in the matrix, called forward to just do their best, can bring about this change.
            So now while the country writhes in agony, trying to find a new balance and a way forward, we hold the cutting edge of information technology in our hands and we’re discovering that maybe that’s all we need. I don’t want just use my cellphone to “check in” or get angry at a few birds, I want something more. And I know that with a few mundane motions the tiny actions of many, galvanized into a single driving force, can turn an idea into an IDYL.
            We’ve got a shot at being true cyberpunks. Maybe even being heroes. And that’s all anyone can really ask for; a shot.
            Please come see what IDYL is about. If you like it, I encourage you to go to Rockethub.com and help fuel our campaign to turn this IDYL into a reality.

* as of 10-31-13, our RocketHub crowd fueling campaign profile isn't actually up yet. But it will be by Monday. If you are super interested, please go and check it out. But as of right now you can definitely check out

It is a massive undertaking and it's gonna be amazing. 


Most of the Science Fiction Vehicles in the known multiverse TO RELATIVE SCALE

PANDORA's BOX - Some of what I'm Listening to..

Showing some of my most recent Pandora Station Selections. If you want a serious 90's hip-hop "fire-and-forget" party mix, I always recommend "Black Sheep Radio"