Stuck in a Corner With… Christopher Arnott

I was reading through some old New Haven Advocates for a research project, and was happily distracted by my friend Kathleen Cei’s local band interview column Stuck in a Corner With…
It was a questionnaire format for profile of area musicians. (I had done a similar column for the Advocate years earlier, called Band This Week.)
On a whim, I decided to fill out the questionnaire myself. The answers are true to today.

Age: 54
Music style: jazz-punk on uke.
Plays: a green Flea ukulele.
Other roles: Host, Get to the Point!; arts journalist and critic.
Armed With: a pocketful of black gel pens.
First album bought: The Archies. I owned Beatles, Lovin’ Spoonful, Chipmunks and other albums before that, but the first Archies album was bought (at a supermarket) with my own money.
First concert: The Supremes, March 9, 1968 at The Fieldhouse, Iowa City, Iowa.
In the CD player at home: The Kinks, Everybody’s in Show Biz; Marisa Monte, A Great Noise; Elf Power, Sunlight on the Moon; The Funky 16 Corners; The Shazam, Tomorrow The World; Teenage Fan Club, Shadows; Daddy-O Daddy—Rare Family Songs of Woody Guthrie; 10cc (first album); Adam Ant, B-Side Babies; Elvis Costello Live with the Metropole Orkest, My Flame Turns Blue; The Montgomery Cliffs, Millennium—A Pop Opera; Dave Douglas, Keystone.
CDs in the car: Nilsson box set (RCA Albums Collection); three Fountains of Wayne albums; several Tom Waits bootlegs; The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles; The Beatles, Meet The Beatles; Weezer (Blue Album); Matilda, Original Broadway Soundtrack.
Currently reading: Joe Perry, Rocks; F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned; Neil Gaiman, Trigger Warning; W.E. Aytoun, Stories and Verse; Larry Kramer, The American People Vol. 1; and the entire DC Convergence saga.
Album that changed my life: Live at the Rat, 1976. Introduced me to several of my favorite bands of all time—Willie Loco Alexander and the Boom Boom Band, The Real Kids, DMZ, Marc Thor—and showed me what a robust local music scene could mean.
Game I always win: Most word games.
Game I always lose: All card games.
Buy me a drink: Before the spring of 2001, a dry gin martini. Since then, O’Doul’s.
What’s hiding under his bed: A field mouse.
Join another local band for a day: Jellyshirts.
Most memorable local shows: The impromptu Miracle Legion reunion at the Meriden Daffodil Festival; The Gravel Pit opening for Cheap Trick at Toad’s Place; The Swansons at Poco Loco; Groove Fiction Sex Ceremony at Urban Jungle; Mocking Birds at Cafe Nine; etc. etc.
Lyrics I’m most proud of: I used to parody hymns when I was in the church choir in grade school. A parody I wrote with my sister Catherine of “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God” began “I sing along with the saints of God/ Because they can’t sing too well…”
Fun fact about Christopher Arnott: In my heyday as New Haven Advocate arts writer, I used to get Christmas cards from Teller (of Penn & Teller), Robert Goulet and Maureen Tucker.
If I was a pizza, what would the toppings be? Mushrooms.
Question I wish I’d asked: Why do so many people in the scene mispronounce my last name?

For Our Connecticut Readers

I live in Bethany now, a town without media. Oh, we share a Patch page with Woodbridge, and there’s a weekly paper put out by the New Haven Register that has some original content, and there’s a very informative “Bethany Bulletin” and a monthly newsletter from the First Selectman. But there’s no hardcore beat reporting, no tweeting or posting of breaking news. If I wasn’t on the email list of the head of the town Democratic Party, I wouldn’t have been able to find the full results of the recent municipal elections (without going to Town Hall myself and asking, I guess).
After 30 years of living in New Haven and working at a newspaper there myself, plus living the rest of my adult life in and around Boston, I’m used to deep extensive coverage, even of suburbs. An odd transition.
But not an unwelcome. I’m so used to getting information about where I live from the media, I’d forgotten how you can ask neighbors and politicians and other community members for answers. I’m naturally inquisitive, and I like hearing both sides of a story and bouncing different versions off of each other.
I’m also recalling something I learned when I was a busy, story-chasing journalist myself—that not everybody needs everything to be a story. It can be validating to see something you did documented in print, but it’s not always necessary to be validated. Sometimes things just happen. Sometimes unnecessary arguments fade away if they’re not fought in the media. Sometimes things are so blown out of proportion that they shouldn’t’ve been brought up in the first place. The media is a reflection of what it covers; a bustling city and a quaint small town will operate differently.
I’m all for authoritative reporting and transparency and truth. But I’m learning that in a town where people are more set off from each other, and create their own small quiet cultures, that solitude and privacy and respect are the real story. No news may be good news.

Rock Gods #381: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

Balcony scene at the Bullfinch Thursday night. Mark of the Impatient Fox was hammered and took his moment behind the mic to confess his love to a total stranger in the crowd, whom he announced he’d just been smitten with. Her girlfriend was not amused, and (having downed a few herself) rushed the stage and pulled Mark’s hair, which was twice as long as hers. Q had to put on his bouncer hat and get involved. Nobody was thrown out, but it became awkward when apologies were thrown and it turned out that the women knew exactly who Mark was, even though he claimed to have no memory of them. You can imagine what memory it might have been. A savage ballet kick later and our thunderstruck Romeo had tumbled into a veritable ditch. At which point his longsuffering bandmates, thoroughly sick of him, played sappy love song after sappy love song until Q turned off the lights and started putting the chairs on the tables.

Tonight: Maytrophy at Hamilton’s with ska marching songs… Version Tracker and Hot Downloads at D’Ollaire’s; rewired pop of the ’00s… The Bullfinch is closed. Someone lost their head…

Riverdale Book Review

In its second issue, Archie vs. Predator gets even sillier and sicker. It makes Betty the villain of the piece, for having invoked a curse on Veronica based on the best friends’ lifelong rivalry over Archie. Having shed Betty’s innate goodness for an unnecessary subplot, the comic then proceeds to slay some major players in the Archie universe. I feel like I did when watching badly scripted horror films of the ‘80s, when the arbitrary deaths were much scarier because they wreaked havoc with logic, pacing and common sense. Insanity sets in.

Scribblers Music Review

Michael Gibbs & the NDR Bigband, “On the Lookout/Far Away.” Casual concept. Understated tribute. Or does it count as a tribute if the tributee plays along. The album is intriguingly titled “Michael Gibbs & the NDR Bigband Play a Bill Frisell Set List.” Gibbs has been a mentor and teacher and employer of Frisell, who was first drawn to Gibbs when he realized he’d written many songs by some of his favorite modern jazz acts. This album is billed as “Bill Frisell’s first-ever appearance as the featured soloist on a big band session,” and blends the glory of a large ensemble and written-out arrangements with the unique splendor of two talents who connect almost telepathically. Things sound improvised, except for it also sounded exquisitely planned and prepared. Also, for a big band endeavor (17 pieces or so; lots of brass) it’s amazingly mellow. It’s like prog rock without the annoyance of one vain, ambitious synthesizer geek running everything. It’s Gibbs & Frisell’s show, but they don’t forget who they’re surrounded by.