For Our Connecticut Readers:

Insomnia Cookies opened a couple of weeks ago, delivering fresh-baked sweets around town nightly from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. The local media, of course, couldn’t wait for the first batch to come out of the oven, and has been extolling the freshness and novelty of the business.
But the batter-scoop goes to the Yale Daily News, which reported on Insomnia long before its opening, and reported the most interesting story: that a charming small-time operation—a hardworking student who’s using his oven and his car to put himself through college—has been doing the late-night cookie thing on campus for a couple of years now. Aaron Seriff-Cullick’s business, Call Me Cookie, is obviously threatened by the franchise-strength, fully staffed might of Insomnia Cookies.
Call Me Cookie is not throwing in the dishtowel; fliers for the concern are seen in more places than ever: “Call Me Cookie is Back,” they read. (Seriff-Cullick was studying abroad during the incipient Insomnia incursion). According to Call Me Cookie’s Facebook page, a “Cookie Hour” was hosted last week on Lynwood Ave.
Choice and competition is crucial when choosing cookies. Let the chips fall where they may.

Tropical Chris

I had a ukulele gig Friday night at my kids’ school. The theme was “Sweets ‘n’ Sounds from Around the World.” I—or, rather, my uke—represented Hawaii. A couple of musicians from the Yale Symphony Orchestra (who were testing a new model for school outreach by sending individual musicians rather than an ensemble) covered Flamenco and other Spanish or Mexican musical and dance traditions. Another performer staged a Jewish courtship ritual. Of course the concluding African drumming and dancing was the biggest hit of the night.

I was introduced in the accustomed manner for non-professionals—as a member of the school’s “community.” “I am not from Hawaii,” I pastily declared. “I am from the school community. This ukulele has relatives in Hawaii.” Then I played “Aloha Oe,” the music hall ditty “Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula” and a medley of American turn-of-the-century Tin Pan Alley immigrant classics: “Bye Bye Blues,” “Whispering” and “Yes, We Have No Bananas.”
Sweet enough sounds, you think?

Rock Gods #255: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

Volk’s Music Dump would appear to be in trouble, and that’s because Volk himself is. He’s the one who does the rejiggering of used and broken equipment, so that bands that can’t afford to be bands can be bands. Volk does detailing. He’s a mechanic. He has a roofing business in the summers. He paints signs (and the occasional drumhead). He fixes the merry-go-round in the park when a horse works loose of its pole. He did that kinetic art piece with the chairs and the hubcaps in the modern art gallery at the college on the hill.
The only thing Volk does not do, it seems, is sire children. He’s always seemed kind of immortal, but he must be in his 60s now and is slowing down. The shop is now closed three days a week. We worry that the invaluable Volk is shifting his lifestyle from diversified businessman to idle tinkerer. After a bunch of unanswered knocks on the door of the Music Dump and a few worrisome anecdotes from scenesters, we’re bringing our concerns public.
What the Volk?

Power pop with Missing Chums and Hunting for Hidden Gold at the Bullfinch… Two cover bands which rule the cabanas at the beach bars in summertime and have trouble getting gigs this time of years, Cabin Island and Tower Treasures, are holding a “Winter Surf Sun Bash” at Hamilton’s. Why not just learn some carols, or blues?… Aged folk duo Cliff and Old Mill at D’ollaire’s, doing all three of their “classic” albums…

Listening to… Howler

Howler, America Give Up. RELEASED JAN. 17. In the first 40 seconds of “Back to the Grave,” opening song on America Give Up, Howler has given us what I felt as a Velvet Underground reference (“What goes on…”) connected to a garage-rock vocabulary (“…when you’re under the ground), connected to a beat simultaneously reminiscent of Bauhaus, Stones and Ramones that shifts into a commercial-rock harmony chorus thing for a moment, then happily descends again. A couple minutes later, we’re onto the next song, “Told You Once,” which opens with acoustic strums; stick with it, and the deep vocals and funny lyrics come in, and you’re ultimately rewarded with a fine surf-rock guitar solo. Howler keeps you guessing for the whole album—songs range from “Wailing (Making Out)” to “Pythagorean Fearem”—but what keeps them linked is the quintessential savage rock & roll beat, the very reason why America should NOT give up. Just howl.

Literary Up: Moon Unit

Good Night Keith Moon
By Bruce Worden and Clare Cross (Word of Mouth Press, 2011)
It’s no Go the Fuck to Sleep—that book brilliantly takes magical fantasy into the real-life deadlines and frayed nerves. Good Night Keith Moon, not to mention the Goodnight Our World series which revises Good Night Moon into geographically and historically specific details, takes Margaret Wise Brown’s delightfully disorienting randomness and makes it real. And there’s not much humor there. Good Night Keith Moon’s funniest moment is its title; after that, it’s just filling pages with drunken rock star stereotypes. What it needs is not far afield—the absurdist and open-ended imagery of a good Who song.

For Our Connecticut Readers: Print Run

With so many writers and editors having been ousted, or accepting buyouts, in the first zillion rounds of newspaper downsizing, the common cost-cutting (and quality-lowering) strategies have shifted to the production arena. You don’t hear so much about these victims, because they tend not to have columns and blogs and such with which to spread their discontent to hordes of readers. But these are longtime, hard-working career journalists all the same.
A couple of weeks ago, Matt Ford, Production Manager of the New Haven Advocate, was let go. The three papers in the Advocate/Weekly chain now have just one full-time Production staffer. (The extremely nice Peter Uus, who’s been with the chain since the early ‘90s.) I worked closely with Matt for years, and while he didn’t always do the things which I tried to browbeat him into doing, he was always amusing about it. He also had “alternative” values that were needed at the paper—a taste for Z-grade horror flicks, local bands and social media that really enforced the Advocate atmosphere. I made Matt a regular contributor to the the short-review “Advocations” column I edited.
Some months ago, the Advocate/Weekly chain had most of its production duties taken over by workers in another part of the country, at a daily owned by same corporation which owns the Hartford Courant (which owns the Advocate/Weekly threesome). With Matt’s layoff, the papers—which have endured pinch after pinch, and now subsist at the lowest page-count and lowest amount of editorial content in the chain’s 40-year history—are in yet another phase removing them from the robust, interactive, community-based team-sport which these publications distinguished themselves as just a few years ago.

Meanwhile, next door to the Advocate’s old (1990s) offices near Long Wharf, New Haven’s equally hardhit daily, The Register, has announced plans to close its pressroom and outsource the printing of the paper to—hey, wow!—the Hartford Courant. Then the Register will sell its landmark highway-abutting headquarters at 40 Sargent Drive. The editorial operations will move downtown, where the Register hopes to start a community-friendly “open newsroom” along the lines of its sister paper The Register Citizen’s Newsroom Café in Torrington.

This is stunning news for those of us who remember the days when two separate dailies (the morning Journal-Courier and the evening Register) were still being created at 40 Sargent, not even 25 years ago. There are massive advantages to the move, including a new mobility for Register reporters. I recall when the New Haven Advocate offices moved downtown, and suddenly we could see whether there was big doings at the courthouse just from looking out our window. I once saw a protest marching down Church Street and was able to catch up with it within a couple of minutes. I watched the wrecking balls take down the old Hallock’s building through the window at my desk. It’s intoxicating to report on a city from the center of it, and I wish the Register reporters the best of luck in their (as yet undetermined) new location. The Register’s always been about “Community rooms” at their old place and “What should we cover now?” on their website, so they should be a great addition to whatever neighborhood they turn up in.

Winter Vacation

Seven-year-old Sally plays the soundtrack from Chipmunks 3: Chipwrecked constantly. (Amazingly, the film was not nominated for a single Oscar this week.) Her favorite track, most days, is “Vacation.” Unlike the blissfully ignorant younger brothers of some of my friends back in high school, who thought Van Halen wrote “You Really Got Me,” Sally at one point openly asked if “Vacation”
was a Chipmunks original.
I found the Go-Gos video of “Vacation” on Youtube and showed her that. Sally liked it fine but we didn’t even get through the whole thing before she started asking if there were any Ramones videos we could watch. The image of a girl group flailing fakely on water skis before a blue-screen ocean simply doesn’t have the staying power it did in 1984. And even Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock and Belinda Carlisle can’t compete cuteness-wise with Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor.
Meanwhile, midweek I usually wake up the girls with some melodic pop-punk, which tends to happily hasten the get-dressed-for-school process. On Wednesday I arbitrarily chose the 1990s Canadian “cuddlecore” band Cub, with which the girls are slightly familiar. (Archie comics artist extraordinaire Dan DeCarlo did the cover art for a Cub EP, which cements the band’s coolness in our house.)
“I wasn’t sure if this was Cub, or that group that did the ‘Vacation’ song first,” were Sally’s first words upon waking. Which led me to a buried memory—I went and grabbed a different Cub album, and there on track ten was Cub’s own cover of “Vacation.”
Small world, though clearly a nice own to take a vacation in. It’s one which Sally, who’s developing some pretty great pop-punk instincts, is keen to navigate.

Rock Gods #254: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

We’ve written of Ellie’s Place, the downtown diner where the local scene was born. Some recall it as a place of shared tastes, town/gown equality, democracy.
Not so fast. The seating area next to the salad bar was known as Fortunate Fields because that’s where the prissy, slumming students from the college on the hill all sat. Likewise, the benches with the best view of the small stage and the quickest route to the bathroom was dubbed Aisle of the Blessed. The cheap seats—where the waitresses circulated less often, or behind posts—tended to go to townies. The economic disparity was clear—college students drank and ate more expensive stuff.
Still, at least these members of a formative downtown scene recognized each other as human beigns. The clubs on the highways out of town were regarded as dwellings of demons and monsters, pewrhaps because some of them doubled as strip clubs or illicit casinos. Those that lasted for a few years were soon able to be full-time clubs, with enough cheap local music talent to book every night. But these were still the dark ages.

Tonight: Submarine Caper (formerly Deadly Chase) at the Bullfinch, with Tic-Tac-Terror… Four-Headed Dragon and Crimson Flame, spandex covers at Hamilton’s… Cave-In (aka Cave-In!) at D’ollaire’s, featuring vocalist-for-hire Sky Sabotage.