May 8, 2012
PORTSMOUTH, NH — During a set of Grateful Dead covers last night, Steve Roy and David Surette experienced the phenomenon of relativistic time dilation, with both jammers becoming lost at high-velocity in the un-navigable reaches of outer space before eventually returning to Earth, a planet where far more time had passed.
“It was a classic space jam,” said Lina Tullgren, a stationary observer positioned at a table in the audience at the Dolphin Striker restaurant.
A space jam, (not to be confused with the 1996 movie of the same name starring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny) is a free collaborative musical endeavor that appears to non-participating listeners to be composed of haphazardly paced constellations of random notes, often separated by vast amounts of space or silence.
Roy’s and Surette’s duo, now called Grateful Times, uses just a guitar and mandolin to recreate the magical, jam-oriented arrangements of the entire classic Grateful Dead band. Both men sing.
Prolific guitarist, educator to bridge gap between acoustic music, US federal bureaucracy
WASHINGTON, DC — In the face of a never-ending employment crisis, a weak economic recovery and intractable Republican opposition to almost all legislation of any kind, the Obama Administration is developing bold new initiatives aimed at improving quality of life for the nations jobless masses.
One current proposal that specifically targets young adults coincides with the revelation that one in two recent US college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed.
According to White House sources, the president will soon unveil the United States Acoustic Guitar Initiative (USAGI), a program offering tax credits for acoustic guitars and federally sponsored guitar training for unemployed young men.
“Putting people back to work is still our ultimate goal, but even in the best-case scenario we’re looking at many more years of record unemployment,” said a source within the Department of Labor (DOL).
Indeed, experts are describing the program as a creative and politically realistic stopgap measure aimed at easing the nation’s unemployment problem without actually creating jobs.
“To a good guitarist, food, shelter, clothing, and personal health are not just secondary, they are almost irrelevant,” said Jordan Tice, an expert.
“These young men happily survive on nothing but their own dreams of grandeur,” he added.
Moustache solo in C major dazzles Telluride
TELLURIDE, CO — As progressive banjo players continued their race towards the most innovative style, one picker’s achievement stood alone this year as the most significant artistic and musical advance in all of banjo playing.
Scholars agree that Noam Pikelny’s performance at the 2009 Telluride Bluegrass Festival marked a milestone in modern banjo and established a new paradigm for artistic innovation in acoustic music.
During Punch Brothers’ highly anticipated “Play and Sing Bluegrass” set, Pikelny played flawlessly in a variety of styles but did so with long sideburns and a highly ironic moustache styled after many well-known players’ of the 1970’s.
Critics and fans immediately agreed that Pikelny’s facial hair constituted a breakthrough tour-de-force in musical sarcasm.
For the past ten years, banjo players have struggled with how to achieve 21st century “superirony” through progressive banjo playing.
Despite countless advances affecting fingerings, tunings, tone, amplification, and harmony, the problem of how to make progressive banjo playing less earnest and more sardonic has repeatedly thwarted banjoists.
“I don’t get it. You’d think these guys were working on Sputnik or something,” said M. Murray, a rock music fan.
Indeed, banjo players have historically sought technical solutions to musical problems, an approach which worked well for most of the last century.
Luminaries such as Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, Bill Keith, and Bela Fleck all founded influential music careers on their development of pioneering new techniques.
“Those days are over. Novelty is no longer quite such an important force behind major musical achievements,” said Dr. Sherwood Harman, a pop musicologist.
“As Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Usher, the Arctic Monkeys, Britney Spears, OutKast, the White Stripes, and countless indie bands have demonstrated: the greatest artistic innovation of the ‘00’s has been to unapologetically borrow and recombine preexisting styles, but mix in a shit-ton of irony,” he continued.
“Do you mean like Kanye West’s space odyssey?” asked one student.
“No, actually, that was serious,” responded Dr. Harman.
On the final night of Telluride, Fleck joined Pikelny and the rest of Punch Brothers on stage at the Sheridan Opera House, and the expanded group reprised Fleck’s modern bluegrass classic “See Rock City”.
“But instead of taking a banjo break when his turn came around, Noam just let the audience consider his moustache for like a minute-and-a-half,” recalled E. Helmers, a banjo player in the audience.
Although Fleck played a creative and engaging solo over his own composition, his playing lacked the utter freshness and originality of Pikelny’s moustache solo.
Even skeptics of progressive bluegrass acknowledged Pikelny’s totally unique and highly effective approach.
“Punch Brothers are my new favorite band,” said C. DiMario, who is uncommonly skeptical of most things.
Over the course of the concert, Pikelny brought his moustache to bear on everything from note-for-note Radiohead covers to ultra-traditional bluegrass banjo breaks.
“Noam has just brought progressive banjo playing into the new decade,” said Helmers.
MARIETTA, GA — The United States’ practice of torturing detainees and prisoners of war with prolonged exposure to unbearably loud music at Guantanamo Bay and other ‘black sites’ has provoked strong reactions of outrage and concern within the music industry.
But within the world of bluegrass several professionals are expressing support for the use of music in the War on Terror, arguing that very loud music is both legal and highly effective as a tool of interrogation.
Sources close to the band Mountain Heart indicate that the renowned group is urgently striving to play faster, harder, and louder than ever before in hopes that its music help win the war on terror.
“The revelation of music torture or, ‘torture lite’, was a real call-to-arms for these guys,” said a friend of the band.
Music experts agree that Mountain Heart is the only bluegrass band with the skills, intensity, and patriotic fervor to make music significantly more effective than what the US government already uses on prisoners.
“They could make Deicide’s ‘F**k Your God’ seem like a pretty little lullaby,” said bluegrass documentarian M. Miado.
“Back in simpler times, State would send American musicians to perform overseas to promote peace, cultural harmony, and a positive perception of the US, ” said an anonymous State Department official.
One Guantanamo interrogator estimated that excruciatingly loud, repetitive music interspersed with blinding flashes of strobe light could ‘break’ a detainee in just four days.
“Four days is too long when lives hang in the balance,” said one Mountain Heart member. “If we need actionable intelligence we need it NOW.”
The music of Mountain Heart, which to this point has been geared toward audience enjoyment, has nonetheless been characterized by an unyielding display of power, American passion, and complete dominance over the listener and other bluegrass ensembles.
Indeed, medical experts caution that enjoying the music of Mountain Heart for more than two consecutive hours causes a sensory over-stimulation that may result in permanent desensitization to normal human experiences.
“It’s the closest thing the bluegrass fan has to smoking crack,” said J. Harper, an enthusiast.
Meanwhile, numerous pop stars including members of Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, and REM have recently invoked the Freedom of Information Act to force the CIA and FBI to release the names of songs used in their prisoner interrogations.
Among other things, these stars allege that the CIA is using music to “humiliate, terrify, punish, disorient and deprive detainees of sleep, in violation of international law.”
“Dude, Mountain Heart is gonna be all over this,” added Harper.
“This is the real McCoy,” says expert appraiser
MT. JULIET, TN— Vintage banjo expert Curtis McPeake has awed the banjo world and fortified his own legend by successfully validating the origin of a pre-World War II Gibson Mastertone flathead based on smell and taste alone.
“I found this banjo in my grandpa’s attic after he passed on, and everyone told me that Curtis McPeake would be the world’s best guy to appraise it,” said the banjo’s owner, a Michigan native.
“Absolutely nobody else in the world has this level of familiarity with pre-war banjos. His appraisals are definitive, but I must admit there’s a certain element of mystery there,” said R. Smith, a Tennessee instrument maker.
CUMBERLAND, MD — On Saturday, an unfortunate combination of gale force wind, torrential rain, powerful lightning, and crushing downfalls of hail rocked DelFest, the popular musical event hosted by the Del McCoury Band.
Importantly, the relentless onslaught of life-threatening weather was not sufficient to disturb the hair of anyone in the McCoury family.
International hair experts are at a loss to explain how a human hairstyle might possibly resist such extreme environmental challenges, and several music historians have confessed to downright awe.
“I expect this episode to easily elevate Del McCoury’s status from legendary to supernatural,” said Dr. R. Hicks, a specialist in bluegrass mythology.
The Del McCoury Band’s hair, long famous for its eternal ultimate perfection and glorious splendor, likely derives from a dominant genetic element, as it is shared by Del’s sons Ronnie and Robbie, both of whom play in the band.
Interestingly, the group’s fiddler Jason Carter, who is not descended from a McCoury, has somehow managed to achieve a similar style, perhaps by gene therapy and a rigorous application of specially formulated chemical products.
“Let’s just say it’s a trade secret,” said Carter.
But even the McCourys’ most ardent admirers were shocked by the epic triumph of hair versus nature.
“At the height of the storm, when hail was shattering car windows and the winds were literally ripping the sides off industrial buildings, I looked off into the distance and I saw the whole McCoury Band with my own eyes. Their hair was f—king perfect,” said Kimber Ludiker, fiddler in the band the Broken Blossoms.
Indeed, multiple eyewitnesses have confirmed the details of this episode, which was also caught by a documentary film crew.
“We have captured on film the greatest moment in the history of bluegrass hair, and we didn’t even plan to,” said one of the cameramen.
All Proceeds To Benefit American Humane Society
LOUISVILLE, KY — With an astonishing combination of digital age savvy and gangsteresque boldness, Texas event producer Bradford Shifflette has pulled off a plan that radically redefines the entire enterprise of bluegrass concert promotion.
Even his detractors, who have expressed some concern about Shifflette’s “appalling lack of shame” and “very, very low integrity,” are hailing his latest feat as an ingenious and totally original coup de grace.
Shifflette, who claims to be promoting a concert for the fortieth anniversary of the historic Bluegrass Hotel, has staged the supposed abduction of former New Grass Revival guitarist Curtis Burch and is using it as leverage against numerous celebrities.
LEXINGTON, KY — Fiddler, singer, and longtime teetotaler Rayna Gellert has about-faced, and she is taking an innovative and methodical approach to becoming a raging alcoholic and old-fashioned moonshine addict.
“My final goal is an uncontrollable problem, immense harm to my loved ones and coworkers, and a total repudiation of God, as I understand Him,” said Gellert.
“And of course, moonshine,” she added.
Gellert, who now enjoys spiritual enlightenment as well as a stable and productive life, announced her plan in response to criticism that her life has diverged too far from the dark folkloric subjects she addresses in her music.
According to critics, the evenness of her personality has become so striking that it now threatens her artistic credibility and limits her potential for mainstream success.
“It’s a long hard road to excessive drinking and misbehavior from where Rayna is starting out,” said Gellert’s sponsor, a musician and fellow Indiana native who goes by the name Uncle Daddy.
“You can do it, baby,” he added.
“The twelve steps provide well-established, clearly defined, attainable goals and logically they do work in reverse,” he continued.
The traditional twelve-step method promotes recovery from various forms of addiction, and the steps are typically executed in order from step one to step twelve.
Gellert, who has simply reversed the process, will begin at step twelve and work backwards.
First, she will experience the exact opposite of a spiritual awakening, suddenly stopping to spread goodwill and assistance to those who need it.Then, she will forever cease all prayer and meditation that might improve her conscious contact with God.
Having totally lost all knowledge of His will and the power to carry that out, Gellert will then make a personal inventory of her future moral shortcomings.
“And that’s only the third step,” said Gellert.
She will then start to make direct damage to other people whenever possible, except when to do so would help them or others in any way.
In the next step, she will make a list of all persons she intends to callously harm, and after getting drunk and inflicting that harm, she will destroy the list.
She will proceed by arrogantly demanding that God Almighty bestow numerous additional shortcomings upon her, regardless of whether she is ready to embrace all these defects of character.
She will then deny to God, herself, and other human beings the exact nature of her wrongs.
In the tenth step, Gellert will make the conscious decision to reclaim her will and life from the care of God, as she understands Him.
She will then come to believe that no power greater than herself can restore her to insanity, and believing this, Gellert will set up a moonshine still and continue drinking heavily.
Finally, she will deny that she is powerless against alcohol and that her life has become unmanageable, and she will enter a brief but exciting period of self-destruction and reduced productivity.
“I know Rayna, and this is not going to be easy for her. But with small enough steps and all of our support, hopefully she can do it,” said J.P. Jones, a mandolin player and supportive fan.
“Um, I’m not dead yet, people,” says Molsky
CORVALLIS, OR — A daring attempt to expel the immortal soul of old-time fiddler Bruce Molsky from a young girl’s earthly body has ended in disaster, leaving the girl, Tatiana Hargreaves, 13, possessed by Molsky forevermore.
According to her family, Miss Hargreaves first began to show the extraordinary signs of diabolical possession several years ago, when with no practice whatsoever she acquired an almost superhuman ability to play the old-time fiddle, the long-established instrument of the devil.
Around the same time, she spontaneously and inexplicably became fluent in an entire repertoire of rare, often apocalyptic songs from Appalachia, which she sang in an antique dialect.
AFRICA — Jimmy Mills, renowned prewar instrument expert and banjo star of Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, has lost all contact with the outside world and vanished somewhere deep in the former Belgian Congo.