Rock Gods #13: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene


A band with actual talent, a band we can actually believe in, has ascended the national pop charts. Such unexplained phenomena calls for a bout of excessive drinking at the Finch. In our revelry, we decide that there’s only one explanation: someone has juiced the stats.

We know that the talent exists in our humble burg to engineer such an upset. Breaking into a database and tweaking a few 0s and 1s comes as easily to some of this college town’s scenesters as does drumming one’s fingers to Tide’s “Freshness” riff.

Why, just over  there at the next barstool is Persil Gel, well-known bassist, indie music enthusiast, ace engineering student and suspected hacker. Could he have pulled off this magnificent heist of public adulation for a band that actually matters?

“Of course,” he smiles when first approached for a confession. Later, when the accusation is amiably repeated (we are on our fourth rum and ginger ale by now), he’s asked why he wouldn’t send his own band, Pure X, up the charts instead of an act from outside the city limits? “Too obvious,” at first he smirks. Then, “that’s your shtick anyway.”

It takes us a moment to get our head around the phrase “shtick anyway,” due to the inebriation. Then, when we get it, we feign umbrage. Then, six g-and-rs to the wind, we feel it for real. How dare…?! Who does…?! Why, we…!!

We believed we stood accused of patriotism for personal gain, of impure passion, of compromised community-fueled fandom. We’ll restate again, for the congressional record, that we love this town. We love the sounds of this town. We’re sorry we caused a disturbance. (We left of our own accord, in case you’ve heard from anyone that Q had to eject us.)

The meteoric rise of one of our favorite misunderstood national bands was shorter-lived than our hangover—a hallucination, probably. We have apologized to all concerned for our fervor.

It’s in the clear, sober, light of day now that we consider this burning question: Why do we get so excited about this stuff? For a moment it seemed that our team was winning, and we went wild. We jested about how this couldn’t possibly happen in the real world, and when a decent person bought into our joke and twisted it a little too hard, we went bonkers.

We love this town. We love its sounds. We love the folks who love the music we love. We love those who translate it into the language of far-off lands, or who journey perilously to bring our immortal poetry to the ears of other, less fortunate cultures.

What we can’t do, clearly, is take a joke. We’ll be working on that. Meanwhile, if anyone wants to jigger the chart standing of Zanella a few notches upward, we’d be happy to buy you a drink.

Coming clean about upcoming gigs: Ecos accosts the Finch, shattering the day of rest with Soap Nuts opening…. College jams with Planet Ultra and Squeaky Green at Hamilton’s just before the students all hightail it for home… A daft (or will it be deft?) set by The Drefts begins a banquet at Gamble’s, the restaurant next door to Dollaire’s, where the band will play Tuesday. Is there a closet or a parking space where they can store their equipment in the meantime so they don’t have to lug it home to their overstuffed Dreft studio pad?…

Come! Saturday, Dec. 4, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.: Local Music All-Stars at the United Nursery School Book Fair

Seven or so years ago I was on the fundraising committee at my kids’ nursery school and offered to ask some of my musical friends to play at the annual Scholastic Book Fair there. Mabel and Sally have long since graduated from pre-K, and I’m still booking the Book Fair. Because it’s a gas.

This year’s event, Saturday, Dec. 4 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.,  is one of the most diverse, jam-packed and original line-ups ever. Without further ado:

10:00-10:30 a.m.: Jonny Rodgers (tuned drinking glasses, tape loops, guitar and vocals. Jonny is of course the guitarist from Mighty Purple, whose neo-classical solo material has taken him in fresh new directions.)
10:30-11:00 a.m.: Wayfarers (traditional folk group doing children’s songs)
11:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.: Toddler Tunes (guitar tunes for kids, played by the inimitable Robert Messore)
11:30 a.m.-noon.: Mangold-Heisers (family act featuring world folk music, homemade instruments and even clog dancing)
Noon-1 p.m.: Puppets! Betty Baisden performs a full-length Roxi Foxx show (like the ones she does regularly at the Peabody Museum and elsewhere), plus there’s an added Chinese puppetry performance.

1:00-1:30 p.m.: Bill Collins, fresh from winning a “Giant Steps” trophy from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven at its annual arts awards ceremony this week, is making his UCNS Book Fair debut with a conceptual concert of songs in many styles, all inspired by the P.D. Eastman classic Go Dog Go. Bill is best known locally for his rockabilly stylings with The Swaggerts and The Big Bad Johns, his Irish pub songs and his extraordinary contemporary union rally songs.

1:30-2 p.m.: The Acoustic Sparrows (original and classic roots duo). James Velvet and Johhny Memphis are the toast of the New Haven Cityseed farmers’ market circuit. Their musical collaborations go back decades, to the New Haven Radiators. James, of course, is the co-host of WPLR’s Local Bands Show, a great singer-songwriter and the former leader of Cafe Nine legends The Mocking Birds.
2-2:30 p.m.: Dean Falcone, Chris Arnott (pop fun with guitar and ukulele). Dean is the guitarist and co-leader of the Shellye Valauskas Experience. His local band legacy includes The Excerpts, Dean & the Dragsters and 100 Faces. Christopher Arnott is the proprietor of this website, longtime writer for the New Haven Advocate and leisuretime ukulele maniac.

See? Cool line-up?!

The event is a benefit for United Community Nursery School, a downtown institution for over four decades. So there’s a small admission fee. The Book Fair also features a Scholastic Book Fair with hundreds of books, a bake sale, kids’ activities and other stuff.
The United Communited Nursery School Book Fair is Dec. 4 from 10-2:30 p.m. at the school itself, inside the Parish House of United Church on the Green, 323 Temple Street. (The parish house is NOT the church itself—it’s a block away, at the corner of Temple and Wall streets.) There’s parking in the lot behind the building, and in the lot across the street from the front of the building, plus there are meters all along Temple Street.

Be there, and be a kid again.

Rock Gods #12: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

Rock Enroll!

First, a couple of academic annotations: Zanella (formerly Prunella) has an accent over the second “a” in the band’s name, something we can’t figure out how to do on this keyboard. It’s important to Zanell-ehh anyhow; after getting denied the rights to their previous name in a nearly legal throwdown with a band in Canada, they’re not taking any chances, and are also considering an umlaut over the “e.”

Shantung, along with Red Stammel, who oversees the Bullfinch BandFinder series, took offense with our astonishment that the band, which has been around for years, would be part of what has been advertised as a “New Band Nite.” You can find a detailed Letter to the Editor printed about this in another Note-able publication, but their argument essentially boils down to “they’re new to SOMEBODY.” Oh, and they have a new bassist. Who doesn’t? …

Perhaps you can tell it’s a slow news day. Time, then, to dig our teeth into one of those ongoing local-band stories that never ends: the “Rock Course of Study” at Occlusal Community College.

We have heard four of the supposedly umpteen bands which have emerged from this program: The Pathogens, Space Maintainer, TMJ and Midline. Of these, only The Pathogens seem destined for anything other than Thursday College Nite gigs at Hamilton’s. They have two songs already that would make for a great, timeless, seven-inch. But we suspect that the quality of these tunes—the monster ballad “Maxilla” and the exhilaratingly sickening screed “Cross Contamination”—has nothing to do with book learning or with the lectures of Prof. Caries and Crown, who oversee the program. Nah, it’s all about the studio. In case you’re wondering, completing the “Rock Course of Study” gets you no course credit, no degree, not even a certificate which might get you a job sweeping up a real studio. But it does—for a fee they can’t honestly call “tuition”—gets you access to a rehearsal room and equipment which, while not exactly state of the art, is at least as functional as any other affordable studio in town. Oh, plus you get to sit in class while Prof. Caries plays you old Diagnosis records, while Crown explains such terms as “debanding” (i.e. going solo) and Bruxism (the 1970s Franco-German electronic philosophy that governs the records of Mathieu Plier and his followers, which include Bite Stick and Eztraoral). Seriously, they’re on the quizzes.

We’re not opposed to modern music infecting college curricula, but this program seems antithetical to a business-minded community college program. Why even have the classes? Why not just pay for the studio time?

We ran our learning-by-doing theory by The Pathogens’ Arch Form, who says we might have a point. “I missed a lot of the classes—I know the history, and the tests are mostly multiple-choice facts. But I never missed a studio session. At night, they let you stay until the custodians [that is, the OCC janitorial staff, not the band) come to lock up.” Form (ne Farmaglia) tries to break the class payments down into an hourly figure for me, then laughs and says maybe he should’ve taken a math class at OCC instead. But he adds “Don’t diss Crown & Caries. They’re cool. A lot of that equipment is their personal stuff. This is how they want to do things, it’s fine by me. I learned a lot.”

More on this educational development later…

At the Bullfinch Wednesday, by coincidence, is another OCC-trained band, Acid Etch, with Scaler and Christian rockers Curing Light. … Hamilton’s is dark Tuesday due to bad taste. … This just in: The Consultations’ “Twirl On” got three spins in a row on a commercial radio station in Spain, and is getting college radio play throughout Europe. We’ll investigate, and report soon …

Me, I Want a Hula Hoop

We broke out the Christmas CDs this morning. Mabel laid them out carefully so they covered an entire table, then sorted them into stacks of the most important. Here’s today’s top ten. Expect the seasonal tone to become more sentimental as the holiday draws nearly.

1. The Chipmunks: Christmas with the Chipmunks (the 1950s/60s version of Alvin et al.) and A Very Merry Chipmuck (from 1994, and more in debt to the Chuck Jones chipmunk treatment).

2. The Rat Pack: Christmas with The Rat Pack, Dean Martin: Making Spirits Bright and A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra.

3. The Fleshtones: Stocking Stuffer.

4. Ella Fitgerald’s Christmas.

5. The Macaroons: Let’s Go Coconuts.

6. Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Charlie Brown Christmas.

7. The Archies Christmas Album featuring Betty & Veronica.

(Local-band, soul/R&B and other Christmas music lists forthcoming. Just getting started here; the tree lighting on New Haven Green was just last night.)