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The Thinking Man – “Brain Talk”

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BOMS is pleased to welcome an old friend and current expat to the mix.  He has been passionate about music, travel, sport and life’s ever changing discoveries ever since I met him in High School 20+ years ago.  Since then he has lived a variety of lives in from our nation’s capital to southern California and currently resides with his wife and son in Zurich, Switzerland.  From Politics to Portishead, there’s not much he can’t discuss.  BOMS will tap into his keen sense of the world and his ability to address a topic in unique and creative ways.    We’ve giving him carte blanche to explore the world around him and report back to us monthly in a column called “The Thinking Man.” 

Neuroscientists and brain researchers seem to be learning about how our brains work at an exponential rate and you can easily find books and blogs about this research everywhere.  We know how our heart works.  We know how our muscles and joints and bones work.  We’ve decoded the human genome and are unlocking its secrets as we speak.  However, we understand comparatively little about the brain, which holds the key to how we engage with the world around us. 

In the past few weeks I’ve read several articles about how we use all of our appendages in the act of communication, not just our brains.  University of Chicago researchers are able to quantify cognitive improvement when using appendages versus without.  In other words, they can measure how much smarter we are when we use our hands….even if they are robotic hands.  Have you ever had a conversation with an Italian?  Of course hands, gestures and faces are part of the “language” they use.  

What about baby talk?  I currently have an infant who is desperately trying to tell me something.  He is using all methods available to communicate with me, including smiling, babbling, crying…often all within 30 seconds of each other. Some parents teach infants sign language because gestures are easier than creating actual sounds.  Watching an infant progress through this stage of development forces you to ask a lot of questions about how the brain works.  What is going on in there?

Our son will learn several languages (his mother speaks to him in Russian, his father in English).  He lives in Switzerland, a country that has four official languages, not including Russian or English, so if he lives here long enough, he will need to learn another.   How will his brain differ from that of his monolingual, American father’s?  According to some studies, he’ll be smarter than me on some levels.

Some neuroscientists, philosophers and people more qualified than I believe that there is such a thing as a “natural language” that exists and has existed forever.  This “natural language” includes facial expressions, gestures and sounds that can cut across all cultures and languages.  Seems like a reasonable suggestion.  You only need to watch the Quest for Fire (with Ron Perlman in the role he was born to play) to see what I’m talking about.

A scream of terror probably sounds pretty similar regardless of your mother tongue.  And a smile works in any country.  Just don’t show your teeth to another primate, since showing teeth is a sign of aggression. 

How about music?  It would seem that music is the great equalizer among all humans.  It allows us to connect through rhythm, beat, tone, and scale. Take Bobby McFerrin’s demonstration of the Pentatonic Scale at the 2009 World Science Festival.

What’s the point of all this “brain talk?”  I reckon that humanity has some pretty interesting ethical and philosophical conversations on the horizon.  Everything from fool-proof lie detectors to “god helmets” to an explanation as to why people like Lady Gaga…it’s all in play.  Thank your local neuroscientist.

The author works in the Pharmaceutical industry and lives with his wife and son in Zurich, Switzerland 

 

Kayce Studies: Ayahuasca – Chapter I

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Joining the BOMS team is Aaron Kayce, a highly talented writer and music journalist living on the west coast.  He will be writing a monthly feature for BOMS that we are extremely excited about.  For those of you not familiar with Kayce’s work here’s what we know in a nutshell.  First and foremost Kayce is a staple in the music journalism scene.  He spent just shy of a decade as JamBase’s Editor-in-Chief and now contributes regularly to SPIN, Relix, San Francisco Chronicle and various other publications.  He has covered some ridiculously amazing bands and musicians in a variety of creative ways.  How are these for some real life Almost Famous situations?  Kayce hung with Neil Young for an afternoon at an abandoned bar and restaurant; spent a month on the road with Stockholm Syndrome documenting their European tour, and chilled in the studio with Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) as well as the The Mars Volta.  Plain and simple, Aaron Kayce is an understated talent.  You’ll get a rare and intimate taste of his musings as he writes fiction for BOMS inspired by the music he’s digging.  So sit back and grab onto your desk chair because it’s going to be a wild ride with Kayce’s words as your guide.

Ayahuasca

By: Aaron Kayce

Chapter I

Ayahuasca (pronounced [ajaˈwaska] in the Quechua language) was never meant to be a recreational drug.  But after the band A Glimpse of The Feather’s Gulfstream IV jet disappeared into the North Atlantic ocean (presumably, no wreckage or bodies were ever recovered), the Amazonian hallucinogenic plant concoction became the hottest high in America.

Two days before he died, Jackson Rush, lead singer of Feather (as fans call the band) and the world’s biggest rock star since U2′s Bono, had given a four-hour interview to Rolling Stone journalist Rick Ashby in an opulent hotel suite on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.  The band had just completed a very successful tour of Latin America and was getting ready to finish the year with three sold-out shows at London’s Wembley Stadium before returning home to L.A. for some much needed R&R.

Lounging on plush overstuffed couches the two men, who had known each other for almost a decade, with Ashby being somewhat of the band’s unofficial-official journalist, smoked huge joints of a very strong strain of indoor sativa marijuana, drank tall glasses of Johnny Walker Blue and listened to a sublime iPod playlist heavy on Fela, Miles, Radiohead, Scratch Perry, and Jack White.  During their intimate conversation Rush finally opened up and confirmed his deep connection to ayahuasca.  Intrigued by stories of musicians like Paul Simon (who’s song “Spirit Voices” is said to chronicle his experience with the plant-medicine) and to a lesser extent Sting, as well as writers William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg taking ayahuasca, Rush initially sought the elixir when Feather first conquered South America in 2006.  During some off time while playing a number of dates in Brazil, Rush and his bandmate, guitarist Ian St. Pierre, took an honest to goodness vision quest deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle.  With a trusted local indigenous friend Rush and St. Pierre traveled to Peru where they embarked on a five-day journey that culminated in a humid shack on the banks of the Amazon River where a shaman led all three men through a life changing hallucinogenic pilgrimage. “The old man was chanting while his tribe hypnotized us with their drums.  He had crazy-ass face paint made from berries and animal blood on his cheeks and over his eyes, and he smeared the shit on us too.  We each drank a small cup of the brew, which was a fucking disgusting, putrid mix of leaves, vines and bark, one of the worst things I’ve ever put in my mouth, and about twenty minutes later I started vomiting; intensely” Rush told Rolling Stone.  “I also pissed out of my ass for more than a week, but it fucking cleansed my soul man.  It was the single most wonderful, horrifying, profound experiences of my life and it washed away all of my fears.  And it fucking cured Ian!  He kicked his heroin
addiction right then and there.  He hasn’t had a touch since.”

Rush went on to explain that, as a sect of passionate fans suspected, A Glimpse of The Feather’s multi-platinum 2008 record Visions was directly inspired by the event.  “It was more than inspiring, that’s not the right word, it has allowed me to see the world, and myself, in a different way.  It changed everything.  I wrote all of the lyrics and Ian sketched out all of the music by the time we finished that 2006 tour down in South America” Rush confided in Ashby.  “Shit, we knew had a record when we left the jungle.  We fucking saw it that night in the hut.” Like Rush, Ashby knew this epic story could change his life as well.  Walking out of the hotel room, stoned off his ass and more than a little drunk, he was sure this would be the cover for Rolling Stone, and likely a career-defining moment for the 33-year-old journalist.  When he got word two days later that his friend’s plane had disappeared over the ocean and that everyone on board was presumed dead, Ashby inadvertently kicked off the biggest drug frenzy since ecstasy hit the scene back in the 1990s.

A Glimpse of The Feather was already arguably the biggest rock band on the planet, when their plane went down at the peak of popularity they instantly achieved a level of legendary status only attainable in death.  The fact that Jackson Rush had given the most revealing interview of the band’s career just two days prior to his untimely demise made for Rolling Stone’s best selling issue in the magazine’s 40-plus year history.  Dedicated entirely to the band with artists ranging from Keith Richards to Kanye West proclaiming their love, the cover featured a suggestive picture of a very fit Jackson Rush, waves of sandy blonde hair dropping just below his shoulders, shirt open across his chiseled chest, laughing as his steel blue eyes lock onto the camera’s lens.  The caption read: “Rush bares all in final interview, revealing the ayahuasca-fueled visions that produced the band’s best material.  ‘It was the single most wonderful, horrifying, profound experiences of my life.’”

When this story touched down in America some 5,000 miles from its origin in Brazil, it lit the fuse on the ayahuasca revolution; or, as some in the media have taken to calling it, “the ayahuasca crisis.” 
Prior to Rolling Stone’s exposé, which went deep into the history and mystery of the sacred rainforest tea, ayahuasca was a whisper from old hippies and something you might read about online, but it wasn’t something you could ever get, or really ever wanted to get.  There were stories of adventurous souls seeking ayahuasca in remote regions of the U.S. where pockets of indigenous Latin American elders carried the plant across the continent and even a few rumors of people finding ayahuasca through the cultish new-age PaDeva Church which uses the ancient plant to commune with the gods, but in general, most Americans had never even heard of ayahuasca before Jackson Rush.

There was however a segment of society that used DMT.  N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT as it’s more commonly known, has been used recreationally since the ’60s but began to show up more prominently in the late-’90s and early-2000s at music festivals, Phish shows, communes, college campuses and, at least in small dosages, anywhere psychedelic drugs were ingested.  The crystal-like powder, which costs upwards of $300 a gram, is often freebased or sprinkled over a pipe of marijuana (though some people do inject it) and within seconds of the smoke filling the user’s lungs intense visual, auditory and mental hallucinations begin.  Ranging from pleasurable to overwhelming, and though very acute, unlike LSD, mushrooms or ecstasy, the hallucinations are generally short-lived.  DMT is also the primary psychoactive compound in ayahuasca.  It is also found naturally in the human body.  DMT, or “deemsters” as it’s often called on the street, was becoming the drug of choice for young psychedelic warriors.  University students, like those at the small upstate New York liberal arts college Hobart & William Smith, began smoking this expensive, rare drug with near religious intensity; some flipping out alone on the couch with Pink Floyd on the stereo, others sitting in circles, holding hands, chanting and getting blasted beyond their wildest dreams, and in many cases, nightmares.

When A Glimpse of The Feather disappeared over the ocean it was like John Lennon being shot, Kurt Cobain offing himself or Jerry Garcia dying.  The world stopped.  Public mourning broke out like hives.  People cried and screamed “Whyyy!?!?”  Dylan Michaels, a junior at Hobart, sat with a group of friends at an off-campus house playing Feather live bootlegs (their favorite was the Summer ’07 run from Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado), pulling bong loads, drinking Jack Daniels and smoking DMT.

“I can’t fucking believe it bro” said Dylan’s roommate, Chris Holston.  “I mean, if they didn’t find the plane or bodies how the fuck do they know that everyone’s dead, man?”

“They didn’t say that everyone is dead” responded Dylan, who never used words like “dude,” “man,” or “bro.”  Even as a child Dylan possessed a fierce vocabulary and always spoke in a manner that made his parents very proud.  “They said that the plane made an S.O.S. call after experience catastrophic engine failure and the pilot appeared to have put the jet down in the ocean.”

“Right, and then search parties trolled the area for three days and the fucking dude on CNN just said they called off the search” Chris grunted, pointing at the barely audible TV.  “They’re fucking dead man.  A Glimpse of The Feather is fucking dead.”

Two weeks later, the day the Rolling Stone posthumous interview with Jackson Rush hit newsstands, Dylan, Chris and Tyler Fitzgerald gathered at Charlie Conway’s second floor room inside Coxe Hall overlooking the impossibly green expanse of grass at the center of campus known as “the Quad.”  Even before the magazine reached upstate New York quotes from the story were all over the internet.  Rush’s ode to ayahuasca was all anyone could talk about.  One particularly liberal and hip sociology professor even devoted an entire two-hour class to ayahuasca.

“Dude, ayahuasca is basically DMT, I knew Jackson was onto some heavy shit” cracked Charlie.  “Fucking pack that shit up!  We are puffing for Jackson today my friends.”

“Yes, of course, but my stash is running terribly low” cautioned Dylan.  “I need to meet with the guy again, but he won’t be back from Fort Collins for another week.  So we must go sparingly.  But yes, you are right Charlie, we are smoking in honor of the finest rock & roll singer ever, and we shall do so in proper fashion.”

Charlie dialed up Visions on his computer as Dylan fixed a bowl of weed topped with a healthy mound of mustard-yellow DMT powder.  He raised the glass pipe towards the sky and said, “For you Jackson, may you and all of Feather rest in peace.”  One aggressive hit later and everything in Dylan’s line of sight turned into kaleidoscopic geometric fractals, and somehow, so did the music.  Though he’d smoked DMT hundreds of times it never failed to kick open his third eye, producing wild hallucinations of every stripe.  Sometimes even when he wasn’t high on DMT he could feel it in his blood, saturated in his fat cells, giving the flowers fresh colors, the teacher’s face new dimensions, and even helping him see the inspired possibilities that lay before him on the football field. 
Dylan couldn’t even look at his friends, their faces a mash of video game blocks and sharp angles set against painfully bright fluorescent lights, so he took to staring out the window; the natural landscape and open spaces far more appealing to his twisted mind.  The grass outside had a neon glow and the trees at the far end of the Quad looked like 3-D wall paper plastered against a movie set.  The music was coming out of the stereo in waves, for a moment almost silent, then rolling over his ears in a violent crash.  It was getting pretty weird for 3:30 on Tuesday afternoon.

“You know what we should do” said Dylan with a smile bordering on creepy, “we should go to the source.”

“And exactly what fucking source might that be?” asked Chris.

“We should go the source of this DMT we’re smoking.  We should do some ayahuasca.”

“Where the fuck are you gonna get ayahuasca?” quipped Charlie.

“Same place Jackson Rush did.”

Tune in next month for Chapter II…

 

KidRockers @ The World Cafe Live

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The World Café Live has been hosting weekend afternoon concerts for the youngsters in your lives under the guise Peanut butter and Jams.  I have got to admit that on more than one occasion I’ve been a tad jealous that these shows aren’t geared more for adults.  Who doesn’t want to catch a Saturday nooner with a couple rocking bands?  So I jumped at the chance when the Shackeltons Mark Redding told me about their Kidrockers afternoon show with Reading Rainbow at the World Cafe.  Kidrockers general gist is that they invite indie bands to play their own original music except it’s in the afternoon and it’s not for a bar full of adults.  This show series was billed as kid friendly, but not necessarily containing kid’s music.  It turns out that these Kidrockers shows are amazing!  Each band played a 30 minute set of their music taking an onstage set break to do a humorous Q&A session with the kids before inviting the whole lot of them onto the stage to rock out with the band during a one song encore.

The prime real-estate of the pit was set-up as it always is for kidrockers shows, sectioned off with chairs and covered in a no shoes needed mash-up of Twister boards and Kidrockers branded squishy seats.  This set-up appeared to make the kiddos go wild.  As each wide eye caught a glimpse of the mosh-pit turned romper room the begging and pleading with mom and dad proved unbeatable.  When the music was in full swing so were the kids.  Each danced to the music uninhibited and free, the way only a child could who had yet to develop a conscious fear of acting like a kid.  During the show both The Shackeltons and Reading Rainbow were tossed classic no-holds barred kid questions at a random.  Each child asked how old they were?   Even the kids timid nature on stage seemed to
dissipate quickly in the limelight. By mid song they shook the shakers and tambourines at a feverish pace and began to warm to the notion of the eyes that were on them.  There was a glimmer of possibility and stardom in each of their eyes.   They attacked the foot of the stage as Mark Redding presented flowers and hula-hoops.  This Kidrockers show, by all accounts was going off and I was psyched to be there to see it.   The Shackeltons had a stage full of kids whose initial shyness with Reading Rainbow turned to wild abandon during encore number two.  In what was apparently a first for the kidrockers shows one boy had removed his shirt and was spinning it around over his head in bliss.  It was as pure a rock moment as I’ve witnessed in my entire life.  To learn more about Kidrockers visit -  http://www.kidrockers.com/

Watch the kids go wild with the Shackeltons and Reading Rainbow in the video below!

Doc Rock #1 Death: “For The Whole World To See”

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The BOMS Team warmly welcomes Doc Rock, an ER Doctor who works at a hospital in the wilds of Northern New England.  Doc Rock has been working the night shift for the better half of 25 years and can be found late night dealing with a variety of head wounds, gut shots, snow mobile chaos as well as treating the many mishaps based on over-indulgence.  Doc Rock’s crazy nights lend one to think he may enjoy quieter days.  This folks is not the case.   You can find Doc Rock in Bull Moose Music hunting through rock rarities by day as he blasts the likes of Bad Brains, The Stooges, Living Colour, Death as well as plethora of other artists.  His years of experience and bedside manor will come into play with his writing.  Quite simply the man has amazing taste in rock music and he has a way of reexamining an older album in ways you may not have thought to before.  Doc Rock will bring you monthly reviews on what he is listening to as well as what he sees and experiences in the world.  So ladies and gentleman roll up your sleeves and scrub up because it’s going to be a long night in Doc Rocks ER.

This is my debut entry, so here’s the deal. There’s a good chance I’m older than you are. And believe me; I haven’t spent much of that time sitting on my butt sniffing the Roses. Some of that period I’ve devoted to studying medicine, though I’ve also committed a prodigious (and admirable) number of hours listening to rock music. Along the way I’ve heard a bunch of musical gems. I’ve also listened to some real disasters.  So here’s my promise to you.  The young bucks on the staff will keep you abreast of the latest and greatest modern music coming down the pike. My job is more that of Rock Paleontologist. I’ll comb through my collection of 50 years of Rock and Roll and present to you only the real gems and promise to keep the disasters to myself.

Recommendation #1:  Death: “For The Whole World To See”

At a time when much of the Detroit music scene was dominated by Motown, three young African American brothers David, Bobby and Dannis Hackney recorded an album of politically charged hard rock bordering on Punk.  This three man power trio from mid-1970′s Detroit could be the long lost fore fathers of Bad Brains, 24/7 Spyz, and Living Colour.  The tapes sat dormant for over 2 decades gracefully aging until 2009 when Drag City Records officially released the album.  This was all apparently due to conflicts in 1975 with the label regarding the band’s controversial name “Death”.

Their music is as timely today as it was ahead of its time then. Take my favorite song on the album, “Politician in my eyes.” This ode to politicians slams their goals of self-enrichment and questions why they don’t have a clue about the people they should be serving.  The song’s lyrics and music ring as true today as they did in the 1970′s. The other songs on this album are amazing featuring drumming that is insanely tight, lyrics that pack a punch and guitar work will shake the dust off your old stereo cabinets.  My wife likes to remind me of the first time I listened to the album at a level that may have disrupted our neighbors.  The music struck such an amazing chord with me that I absentmindedly yelled loudly after each song “I really like that tune, and that tune, and that tune.”    I don’t care who you are, you shouldn’t be without this music.  It may be hard to find and you should stick closely to any music store that has it on the shelf.   ’til next time…..the doctor is in.  Side Note: This past year the SXSW music conference and festival invited the remaining members of Death out for a Q&A session and a performance.  The video below is them performing “Politician in my eyes.”

Getting Freaky with the Free Form Funky Freqs

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 free-form-funky-freqs-8

free-form-funky-freqs-4This past Thursday Philadelphia was treated to the 46th show that the Free Form Funky Freqs have ever played.  In fact they don’t practice and definitively don’t pen set lists.  G. Calvin Weston, Vernon Reid and Jamaladeen Tacoma simply announce the show, arrive, and start playing whatever they are feeling.  This particular evening was a wild romp through some pretty far out jazz and freaky funk that demonstrated just why these cats are a must see anytime they play.  Jamaladeen Tacoma ruled this show with a mighty hand on the bass.  Weston was a force on the drums and Vernon Reid spent most of the show in the shadows adding some tasty riffs to the mix.  http://www.myspace.com/freeformfunkyfreqs

Check out the video which is a wild mash-up in its own right filled with the highlights of the evening. …and Yes, those are silver chucks Vernon Reid is sporting!

 

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Aaron Kayce’s Top Albums and Shows of 2010

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kayceSoon the BOMS team will be joined by Aaron Kayce, a highly talented writer and music journalist living on the west coast. He will be writing a monthly feature for BOMS that we are extremely excited about. That work will start in January. Until then Kayce has offered up his top 10 albums, top 5 live shows and a couple of releases that he is most looking forward to in 2011.  From The National to Big Light and My Morning Jacket to The Mother Hips – you’ll see quickly that Kayce’s tastes spread far and wide.  Enjoy expanding your ears!

Top 10 New Releases

1. The National – High Violet (4AD)

2. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Roc-A-Fella Records)

3. Junip – Fields (Mute)

4. Damien Jurado – Saint Bartlett (Secretly Canadian)

4. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)

5. The Black Keys – Brothers (Nonesuch)

6. Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame (Anti)

7. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (DFA/Virgin)

8. Yeasayer – Odd Blood (Secretly Canadian)

9. Everest – On Approach (Warner Brothers)

10. Big Light – Animals in Bloom (reapandsow)

Top 5 Concerts

1. My Morning Jacket with Preservation Hall Jazz Band – 4/24/10 – Preservation Hall, New Orleans, LA

2. Thom Yorke Atoms For Peace – 4/15/10 – The Fox Theater, Oakland, CA

3. Levon Helm Band Ramble with Jim James & Phil Lesh – 8/13/10 – The Independent, San Francisco, CA

4. The Mother Hips – 9/18/10 – The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA

5. Paul McCartney – 7/10/10 – AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA

*2011 Release You Are Most Looking Forward To

Tie: My Morning Jacket and Radiohead

Behind the Lens – A Look at Pro Skier Nick Martini’s Video Work

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nickathood1Nick Martini grew up in Winchester, MA, and began skiing at Cannon Mountain NH. Since then he has risen in the ranks to pro skier travelling around the world greasing rails and throwing huge airs for the masses to ponder.  He suffered a nasty ACL injury in 2010 and spent the last months recovering for the 2011 season.  In Nick’s down time between classes at University of Colorado Boulder and dodging gapers he and brother Alex have been producing some sick videos under the guise of Stept Productions.  Nick has been generous enough to let beatofmystrut showcase a bit of his work.  To see more of their work visit http://www.steptproductions.com

BOMS caught up with Nick Martini after the first stop of the Winter Dew Tour (aka The Nike 6.0 Open) this past week in Breckenridge, Colorado for a quick Q & A -

BOMS: Did you have any formal training with a video camera/still camera or editing equipment or are you self-taught?

NM:  I was completely self-taught for all my DSLR use.

BOMS: Can’t live without piece of gear for video creation?

NM: A good tripod makes the world of difference. So I think that’s something I can’t live without.

BOMS: Piece of gear you would love to have?

NM: I would love have a set of Zeiss primes with EOS mounts

BOMS: What are you working on project wise for your next video?

NM: Stept Productions will be making another movie that I will be helping direct. I’m stoked for that.

BOMS: What is your favorite ski movie?

NM: Happy Dayz by Poor Boy Productions is my favorite ski movie, shot all in 16mm film, it’s awesome.

BOMS: I notice your musical tastes are all over the place from Biggie to Bon Iver.  What’s a must have album or artist for a future video soundtrack?

NM: You’ll know why I like it whenever I drop my next edit, my music taste is always changing.

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BOMS thoughts on Franconia Weekend - This is an intimate look at an obvious place that holds Martini’s heart.  Loving the Nike Hi-top’s into the 180 to natty rock water slide.  Plus, the lighting in the second half is superb.

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BOMS thoughts on A Day at the Lanes – Motion and depth of field play partner to some simple human emotion.  Martini has an eye for what is interesting in this expertly edited expression of video.

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BOMS thoughts on The Breck Edit – we couldn’t pass up a bit of skiing so the Breck edit seems to express well the new era of skiing’s pure joy.  The opening in the trees is classic Breckenridge and adds a touch of local flair.  Peak 8′s Freeway park is notorious for being perhaps the best in the country – it’s massive hits and tasty rails shine as these cats throw down as smooth as Biggie delivers.

martini_2 

Top 10 Albums of 2010

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beat_of_my_strut_best_2010_albumsWhile compiling a list of my favorite albums of 2010, I was reminded of a quote someone said in the comments section of an article I did for Jambase several years ago.  The comment said, “rating music is much like rating that last breath of air you just took.” You can interoperate that comment in several ways.  I took it that music is as much a necessity to some of us as is the way our bodies process oxygen. Whatever albums are your favorites, just make sure that you consume as much great music as you can in 2011.

This list was easier in ways this year than others because I knew what I wanted to include, but the battle between Dr. Dog and the Black Keys for that top spot was insane.  Both albums have stood up to the test of the year and both are still at the top of my iPod playlists.  Usually I would settle the debate with who had the better live show and who brought the best live interpretation of the albums songs to the stage. This year both Dr. Dog and the Black Keys slayed the stages they played and climbed just another rung higher on that scale of greatness.   But Dr. Dog inched out the Black Keys in depth and passion that they exuded on their album.  In the third spot is the Barr Brothers self-titled album which has yet to be officially released, but is available in small doses at the site below.  These cats have once again blown me away with their delicate touches on guitar, drums and vocals.  Shooter Jennings concept album is a small wonder with Steven King offering apocalyptic story interludes between the music ( watch a movie called Ponty Pool), but it’s tracks like “The Breaking Point” with its ’70s hard rock meets Nine Inch Nails sound that makes this one of the best this year.   Sufjan Stevens is a master at aligning sounds to make emotions explode.   Even at 30 minutes long “Impossible Soul” wreaks havoc on your mind in the best of ways. 

There’s gold in each and every other album listed whether it’s the poignant weirdness that MGMT has evolved into or the glorious soul coming from John Legend and the Roots as they recaptured the spirit of another era.  All of these albums are worth owning.  I encourage you to share your favorite albums below in the comment section and please let everyone know what they missing out on.

1.       Dr. Dog, Shame Shame – http://www.drdogmusic.com/

2.       The Black Keys, Brothers – http://www.theblackkeys.com/

3.       The Barr Brothers, The Barr Brothers – http://www.thebarrbrothers.com/

4.       Shooter Jennings, Black Ribbons – http://www.shooterjennings.com/

5.       Sufjan Stevens, The Age Of Adz – http://www.sufjan.com/

6.       Ray LaMontagne And The Pariah Dogs, God Willin’ And The Creek Don’t Rise –  http://www.raylamontagne.com/us/home

7.       Spoon, Transferance – http://www.spoontheband.com/

8.       The National, High Violet - http://www.americanmary.com/

9.       MGMT,Congratulations – http://www.whoismgmt.com/us/home

10.   John Legend and The Roots, Wake Up! http://www.johnlegend.com/splash/

Rotary Downs Vs. The Shackeltons – Northstar Bar – 12.9.10

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Words, Images, and Videos by Jake Krolick

Rotary-Downs-1New Orleans’ own Rotary Downs played my backyard venue the Northstar bar on Thursday.  They opened for a heap of other local artists and really impressed our small but hearty group of onlookers.  With the Northstar Bar surrounded by Italian motor bikes and north philly X-mas tree pushers, Rotary Downs rocked the cold December chills away.  These cats mixed up an enchanting lather of psychedelic rock music blended with just the right worldly vibesRotary-Downs-b and wailing guitars.  Their quick set concluded with a lively cover of the Beatles “Get Back.”  They packed the cover full with some hot keyboard work from Michael Girardot and a nasty little exchange jam at the end between singer James Marler and lead guitarist Chris Colombo.  Check out Rotary Downs in the video below.  We dare you to not tap a foot to it… www.rotarydowns.com

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The-Shackeltons-3
Part Pixies, part Walkmen, part something else entirely, The Shackeltons are doing something worth seeing live.  Their changes made you feel like tipping your head back and just enjoying the ride as they whipped us around from slow somber ballads to charging full frontal rock.  Their lead singer Mark Redding showed brooding warmth in his voice and its layered complexity was as much fun to hear as Redding was to watch.  He opened up with a song about losing someone he loved violently in the power of a storm.  As he stripped away the songs layers, he questioned “did you, did you want me baby?” He swatted at himself and the air with a dozen mixed flowers sending the flower pedals flying.  He ripped and The-Shackeltons-1twisted the stems in his hands as the song peaked in guitar and crashing of the drums.  Redding was in a trance and clapped his hands free of the floral remnants as his nightly routine of releasing his demons came to an end.  The Shackeltons went on to kill it from here hammering at our emotions with a strong mix of drums, guitar and bass.  The band effortlessly shifted from the somber to the aggressive moments producing some well played indie rock. 

Check the Shackeltons out opening their Northstar Bar show in style in the video below. www.theshackeltons.com

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PEEP THIS: Rocco DeLuca vs. Stardeath & White Dwarfs

Posted on by jake Posted in The Beat | Leave a comment

Words, Video and Images by Jake Krolick

Rocco_DeLucaRocco DeLuca plays a solo set at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia.  Known for his band Rocco DeLuca and the Burden and for the documentary “I Trust You To Kill Me” featuring the band and actor Kiefer Sutherland, who acted as the band’s tour manager during their 2006 European tour.  Here is Rocco doing what he does best playing a mean Dobro and digging into one deep well of human emotion that may leave you gasping for air.

 

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Stardeath__White_DwarfsHere is Stardeath and White Dwarfs playing Philly’s First Unitarian Church in an amazing display of rock prowess.  Dennis Coyne locks into a groove with the audience early on as he and the band drip sonic bliss into the ears of some very impressed onlookers.  You can hear the similarities to The Flaming Lips  in the way they present themselves and their music.

 

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