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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Taxes done! Time for SIGNAL!

Did you know that Chapel Hill hosts the Southeast Electronic Music Festival this week? SIGNAL is the name of the electronic music festival, now in its 4th year, and every year it draws more people, notable national artists, and of course, an outlet for the thriving local electronic music scene.

Here the story of how it all began, as told on the SIGNAL website:

Held on April 7th and 8th, 2006, the festival drew over a thousand electronic music fans and curiosity-seekers from across the Southeast. Signal provided something for everybody: internationally-renowned DJs, producers, and bands in more than a half dozen venues ranging from large clubs to cafes covering a wide spectrum of musical styles. Because the electronic music scene is so rich in the Chapel Hill area, Signal drew from lots of local talent as well. While the nights were full of music, seminars were held during the day for festival-goers to meet artists and learn about the music industry.

One of Signal’s most unique characteristics is that it was able to be held in venues within walking distance from each other. This allowed festival-goers to freely move between events in such a way that it was possible to experience part of almost every event. When SIGNAL 2006 had come to a close, festival-goers left inspired and enthusiastic for the next year’s festival.

This year's schedule features a wide range of artists, including our local friends Subscape Annex (aka Steve Burnett), Ted Johnson, Joe Hendrix, and many others.

The fun starts TONIGHT! Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

HNMTF Releases Gladiator-Style Smackdown!

This week, Durham's own Hammer No More The Fingers released its first full-length album, "Looking For Bruce" available on Churchkey Records. This album builds on the music from their self-titled EP, including many of the tracks off the debut, but with a bit more production, and the benefit of many more performances. I caught up with lead man Duncan Webster on the origins of the album's curious title. He fills us in on the LFB story!

We were making an eleven hour late night drive from Richmond, VA to Bloomington, IN to play a show in March 2008. We passed through the town of Nitro, WV. At the same time I got a call from a friend who had some good news, so I replied "That is so nitro!"

A week later, we started jamming on the song that is now "Nitro". It sounded like it should be called "Nitro", just because of the fast paced, sort of cheesy, but bad ass rhythm. The whole passing through Nitro, WV and saying "That is so Nitro!" was still on the mind as well. I thought it might be funny to actually make the lyrics be about Nitro, the somewhat forgotten American Gladiator. I did some research on him, and he turns out to be a very active person. He mentors at a teen center, he just wrote and published an autobiography, he's a consultant on the new "American Gladiators". But most of all he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in an action packed Kung Fu movie called "Looking for Bruce". We've been looking for a copy of the movie for a year now--no luck. It remains a mystery. The whole thing we have seen is a trailer that Dan "Nitro" Clark posted on YouTube (That's Nitro's full name). We decided to call our album "Looking for Bruce" as a tribute to the man, and also to poke fun at us never being able to find a copy of the movie. We're really into campy B Movies as well. Somehow he found out what we were calling our album. He got in touch with us. He seems like a really cool guy. He sent us his new book. We haven't yet had the guts to ask him to send us a copy of you know what. We've made plans to take him out to lunch if we ever make it out to LA.

That's quite a story! Let me just say that this album is absolutely fantastic, combining the band's upbeat but intricate writing style, tight musicianship, witty and occasionally hilarious lyrics, and catchy hooks galore. It is rare that an album bears repeated listens within the same day, but with LFB I literally wanted to play it over and over. It's like Chinese food--you eat an entire meal, and in another hour you are ready to go back to the buffet! Mmmm... buffet... What were we talking about?

Musically, I can hear several stand-out qualities. Outstanding use of dynamics, variations on themes, vocal harmonies, and interesting rhythms make for an great ride. At the end of "Radiation", for example, we get a taste of polymeter, a phase-shifted guitar riff in 6/8 against the main 4/4 beat. It is difficult to choose just one "hit single"--there is not one weak track on the album, but "Shutterbug" is one of the strongest, inspired by Webster's one-time relationship with rock icon Patti Smith's daughter when the band lived for a time in New York City.

If "Looking For Bruce" were matched up to just about any other release I have heard lately in an "American Gladiator" style competition, they would probably win the gold.

You can catch Hammer No More The Fingers opening for Superchunk at Cat's Cradle on April 15th, as they continue with many more performances in North Carolina, Virginia, DC, and Maryland.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

I am the last guitarist alive

WARNING: following the advice given in this blog could lead to injury or death!

I went to the fourth installment of the discussion panels known as Secondhand Freespace last night at Local 506 in Chapel Hill. The topic was "online music marketing", moderated by Heather MacDonald who oversees the music section at, and including Jed Carlson of Reverb Nation, Lindsey Kronmiller of Merge Records, Mike Robinson of the band Annuals and their label Terpsikhore Records, and David Rose from

Everybody was cool, but the entire experience just underscored the fact that the music business completely sucks. As Exhibit A (in case you need evidence of this), we have the Raleigh band Annuals, who are arguably one of the more successful bands from our area, attempting to make it in the music industry nationally and internationally. They cannot yet support themselves as a band full time. The money just isn't enough for them to do it.

I think David Rose hit the nail on the head when he said that now musicians have so many tools available to them that were never available before, but the bad news is that now they also have to compete with the Dave Rose band, "which is pretty bad". (I haven't heard the DR Band, so I don't know. I'm just taking Dave's word for it.)

Therein lies the problem. There are just too many musicians out there. Period.

What we need to do is go back to the feudal system. No more capitalist crap! Basically, we will just have Lord Brussel Sprout LVII who appoints his royal minstrels, and THAT'S IT! Nobody else. Lord BS will just cut a fat check for his minstrels every month, and the rest of you musicians? Well, you just have to die right now.

So here's what we do. Go find all those extra rolls of duct tape you stockpiled during our last Code Orange Terror Alert. Yeah, we know you've got 'em. OK, now seat yourself comfortably in a chair where you won't knock anything over. Oh wait, before we go any further, please write the following on a piece of paper: "I hereby bequeath all my stuff to Blogger Dave, Royal Minstrel of Lord BS LVII", and sign it in blood or something. Anyway, now take the duct tape and wrap it firmly around your mouth, being careful not to leave any air holes. (.. and now, kids, here is the part where we tell you not to try this at home, because we are only after the musicians. If you are a kid who is an especially good musician, well, get your parents to help you with this part.) Now, take two Number 2 pencils, and shove them firmly up each nostril. I think the eraser end first is probably going to work best here. Lastly, count backward from 57 slowly...

La la la... we will just wait a bit here. Are they gone? Yes? Ha!

So now I pretty much have it made and I can be a full time musician. Lord Jim Goodnight can hire me to play at his SAS piano bar, nevermind that I don't play piano, but hey, what choice do you have? I guess I can find bandmates somehow, those few who did not get the memo. But tell me this--will you honestly miss the Jonas Brothers? No, you won't. You have me.

Next week check back for my review of Hammer No More The Fingers' new release. I just may let them live as well, because I care.