March 30, 2009
‘09 Gumbo Release Tour begins in May
“Our music, while good, has always come second,” said Louisiana band
LAFAYETTE, LA — The Red Stick Ramblers, a mainstay of countless summer music festivals, will soon stop performing music in order to devote themselves more completely to the promotion of the culinary arts.
The band, which has earned equal acclaim for its music and its frequent all-night camping parties, will continue to tour on a full time basis and will still host its Black Pot Festival and Cook-Off in October in Lafayette.
Traditionally, touring bands such as the Red Stick Ramblers have earned a living by releasing new CD’s on a regular basis, each time hitting the road to promote their music through an intensive performance schedule. For such independent artists, CD sales at live shows provide a critical revenue stream.
The Ramblers’ new touring concept crystallized during the group’s last trip to the recording studio for Sugar Hill Records.
“We were in the studio this winter cutting an album with Gary Paczosa, our producer, but we spent a lot of the time just cooking, hanging out and eating,” said bassist Eric Frey.
“All week in the studio Linzay was obsessing about this new gumbo recipe he’d invented. In the end, it was Paczosa who was like, ‘F—k the CD, you guys should just release this gumbo,’” said guitarist Chas Justus, who is now independently wealthy as a result of producing the hit recording Christine Balfa Plays The Triangle (Valcour Records, 2008).
“All of us just kinda dropped our spoons and looked at each other like, ‘Wait a second!’” said Linzay Young, the band’s head chef and former fiddler.
For the last several years, the Ramblers’ extensive performance obligations have often conflicted with the band’s large-scale cooking projects.
“At a festival, Linzay can’t even start prepping dinner until the Ramblers’ last set ends. Well, if that’s after midnight dinner won’t be ready until four in the morning at the earliest,” said fiddler and non-vegetarian Stephanie Coleman.
“By that time the whole campsite is so drunk that not only can people not fully appreciate the food, a lot of them wake up and can’t remember eating it at all,” added Ms. Coleman.
“I’m good at the fiddle, and I can sing, but quite honestly, that is a waste of my talent,” said Young.
For their upcoming gumbo-release tour, which begins on May 3 at New Orleans JazzFest, each Red Stick Ramblers performance will consist of the band’s cooking delicious Cajun food from scratch in front of a live audience. The band will also provide brief musical interludes to pass the time while the food cooks.
At the end of the show, each audience member can buy a large serving of gumbo for $15, roughly the cost of a CD.
“We love playing music, and it’s fun, but really that’s such a small part of what we’re all about,” said Frey.
Revolutionary social resource to go online soon
CAMBRIDGE, MA — The enterprising young musicians behind the Internet startup called Daterbasix now report that their company is close to launching its first online database, an ambitious venture to systematically catalog every romantic relationship from the world of bluegrass and acoustic music between 1981 and the present day.
This flagship project, called the Americana Daterbase, aims to provide its information free to the public in a highly useful, well-organized format.
Users will be able to query the database with an individual name, email address, phone number, or band name. For each search, the web server will return all known relationship data for the search subject, including names of partners, date and duration of each liason, and a very brief classification of each encounter.
“And from there you can link to the full history of any of the partners listed on the page,” said Laura Cortese, a staff member and co-founder of Daterbasix, Inc.
WEST NEWTON, MA — Gabe Hirshfeld, a highly promising teenage banjo prodigy from Massachusetts, has returned home to be with his family as he recovers from a severe, acute loss of vision suffered during a recent late night jam.
The jam, which took place in West Newton, MA, at local band Crooked Still’s afterparty, started out very well but soon grew beyond a controllable size, beginning a steady descent into musical decadence and depravity.
Hirshfeld, who is known for his sweet banjo tone, flawless technique, and a very refined sense of taste, also has a well-deserved reputation as a restrained and considerate human being.
But even he was powerless to resist the party’s musical temptations, and as the jam slowly but inevitably devolved into an amoral orgy of self-indulgence the hesitant boy gradually succumbed.
TV star takes blame for lookalike’s NYC misbehavior
MANHATTAN — For over a month now, gossip columns and blogs have been storming with allegations that Kiefer Sutherland, star of FOX’s hit TV show 24, has repeatedly engaged in egregious public misbehavior all over New York City.
Most recently, the New York Post reported on its famous and widely-cited Page Six that Sutherland had been spotted in the audience at the Lower East Side’s tiny Rockwood Music Hall, where he loudly heckled bluegrass singer and guitarist Michael Daves during Daves’s weekly solo performance.
According to the report, a clearly intoxicated individual matching Sutherland’s exact description suddenly began shouting profanities at Daves between songs.
“The first thing he yelled was, ‘You’re a motherf—cker!’ But in a very positive way,” recounted Daves.
Believing the man to be Kiefer Sutherland, Daves engaged him in a spirited back and forth shouting of “You are the man! No, you are the man!”
Which climaxed with both shouting, “We are the MEN!”
Egan, a founding member of the Irish band Solas, has often been mistaken for Sutherland in public, especially in poorly lit bar environments such as the Rockwood. But this episode is their most damaging case of mistaken identity so far, as multiple eyewitnesses confidently misidentified Sutherland as the heckler.
The Post report, which has since snowballed into an avalanche of bad publicity for Sutherland, notably marks the first time a bluegrass guitarist has ever been mentioned by name on Page Six.
Sutherland, who has admitted in the past to having a drinking problem, is now widely reputed to have fallen off the wagon into a pattern of public wastedness and belligerence.
Egan, on the other hand, who regularly wakes up in strange beds covered in other men’s blood, maintains an excellent reputation as an upstanding and moderate musician.
SILICON VALLEY — Next week, artificial intelligence researchers from the Turing Institute for Computer Science will publish the results of a monumental six-year study describing the creation and subsequent testing of the world’s first fully viable, self-sustaining simulation of a human personality.
By integrating cutting-edge neural network modeling, a first-principles approach to behavioral psychology, and a linguistic repertoire specialized for written communication within online social networks, researchers developed an artificially intelligent construct with highly interactive capabilities.
“The primary protocol we used was a Target-Optimized Reactive Intelligence (T.O.R.I.), so we named our artificial personality Tory,” said Dr. S. Viswanathan, the assistant director of the research group.
“That’s a homonym,” he added.
Researchers programmed “Tory” to represent a friendly, well-adjusted teenage female with excellent mandolin playing skills and a deep but believable enthusiasm for acoustic music. According to her programming, Tori claimed to reside in a remote Appalachian region that few were likely to ever visit.
“The reduced complexity of online conversation made comprehension and outcome selection much more manageable, but even so we needed an entire building full of supercomputers running at all times,” said project spokesman Dr. Nicholas Rivington.
“We optimized her intelligence to include knowledge and opinions about bluegrass and folk music, but we didn’t have the computing power to make her freely conversant on other subjects,” said Dr. S. Viswanathan, the assistant director of the research group.
“Luckily, online acoustic music enthusiasts converse about non-bluegrass topics less than 0.1% of the time, so that didn’t affect our data in a statistically significant fashion,” said Dr. Viswanathan.
The Tory construct was released into the online community, where for 24-hours a day, every single day for over four years, it interacted with human bluegrass musicians and enthusiasts via social networks such as MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, and AOL Instant Messenger.
Tory’s online interactions, which were recorded and studied by researchers, were typically conducted through a profile page supplemented with massive numbers of very believable digitally generated images supposedly depicting Tori in various musical situations.
“There were a few glitches here and there, mostly involving duplication of various queries to the online community, but nobody seemed to notice that anything was amiss. Overall, our construct was a tremendous success for the whole AI field, and most of the bluegrass community is still under the impression that T.O.R.I. is an actual person,” said Dr. Rivington.
OAKLAND, CA — Fiddler Jeremy Kittel, long renowned for the intellectual rigor of his compositions and his impressive, idea-driven improvisational style, has now radically enhanced his live performances with a state-of-the-art microphone apparatus that amplifies the musician’s own thoughts as well as the sound of his actual instrument.
“With this new microphone, Kittel is unstoppable,” said guitarist Kyle Sanna of the Jeremy Kittel World Band.
The microphone, whose active element is only slightly bigger than a pea, is unobtrusively mounted to Kittel’s head where it receives dual signals from his fiddle and brain.
This takes the listener closer than ever before to the pure sounds that the Kittel is hearing in his own head.
A small cable transmits the input from hundreds of thousands of intracranial nanoelectrodes that simultaneously measure neural spikes within both the auditory and rostromedial prefrontal cortices.
A microprocessor then converts these signals to an amplified musical output based on complex algorithms developed by Jeremy Kittel’s brother Jonathan in his spare time.
The result is a preternatural perfection of concept and execution that is earning critical praise throughout the country.
“Does this mean Jeremy Kittel is actually a cyborg? Cool,” said Z. Voytek, a high school student from Fort Myers, FL.
However, some of Kittel’s musical competitors have alleged that Kittel’s technology gives him an unfair advantage.
“At first I thought he’d just been practicing a lot. I couldn’t believe how good he sounded. But then I saw the microphone mounted to his head and I knew he was up to something,” said rival Scottish-style fiddle player Hanneke Cassel.
MEMPHIS — Questlove, the most celebrated drummer in all of folk music and a cornerstone of the Philadelphia folk group the Roots, recently made a surprise appearance at the 2009 International Folk Alliance Conference where he baffled and confounded the attendees with his presence.
Despite an apparently serious full-page advertisement for Questlove in the official Folk Alliance program, most conference participants seemed completely unaware that a Questlove concert might actually be happening.
“What the hell would Questlove be doing at Folk Alliance? I assumed that was a joke, or a misprint, or maybe someone was f—king with us,” said old-time fiddler Matt Brown.
Folk Alliance, the annual industry convention for folk music professionals, takes place for one week each February in Memphis, TN.
Folk music experts have hailed it as “the world’s largest open mic night” and a “very ingenious” way to write off a weeklong party on one’s federal taxes.
Every year, thousands of musicians come to the convention, where they outnumber the sum total of promoters, booking agents, managers, festival representatives and all other professionals by at least twelve-to-one.
“Is it really only twelve-to-one? I would have guessed quite a bit higher,” said one aspiring singer-songwriter from Boston.
For four days, these numerous musicians perform in hotel rooms, foyers, stairwells, balconies, utility closets, elevators and bathrooms, hoping to somehow attract a paid performance opportunity, or gig, for later in the year.
The musicians’ aspirations, however illogical, seem to take root in the unverifiable rumor that a four-piece band once got a gig by playing at Folk Alliance in 2004.
“Yeah, that’s totally true. Group called Crooked Steel, or something. I heard they totally blew up right after that, too” said nyckelharpa player Bronwyn Bird, whose band Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers was showcasing at Folk Alliance.
During Questlove’s showcase, the drummer repeatedly dazzled the crowd with his undeniable rhythmical abilities.
Then, as part of a brief question-and-answer session, he delivered a cogent, insightful, perfectly worded and altogether brilliant address on the musicological relationship between folk music and hip-hop.
Finally, he jammed with banjo player Bela Fleck whose intricate finger patterns soon hypnotized the drummer, ending the showcase in a triumphant moment for folk music.
Despite the success of Questlove’s showcase, some attendees remained skeptical.
“I know it’s tough times and all, but if Questlove is desperate enough for gigs that he feels the need to showcase at Folk Alliance, we’re all screwed,” said Nashville fiddler Billy Contreras.
Ex-heartthrob forgoes female companionship forever
BROOKLYN — Young bassist Paul Kowert, who recently landed his dream job as a member of the popular band Punch Brothers, has just startled the bluegrass world by announcing that he is newly married.
According to his publicist, Kowert has taken a three-year-old American upright bass as his lawfully wedded spouse.
Kowert, who moved to New York City late last year, is an alumnus of the Curtis Institute of Music and the winner of SPBGMA’s Bachelor of the Year award in 2008.
Kowert’s highly unconventional marriage has both appalled traditionalists and delivered unthinkable disappointment to enormous numbers of female fans.
“He is a true Punch Brother now,” said bandmate Chris Thile.