News Note: Roger Miret, Vinnie Stigma and their band Agnostic Front played a key role in defining, shaping and establishing the culture and ethos for New York hardcore punk music. Film and music video director Ian McFarland is currently working on creating a portrait of these two men in a documentary dubbed The Godfathers of Hardcore. Miret and Stigma have remained close friends through adversity and band changes and the duo remains active touring the world. The Godfathers of Hardcore will serve as a look into the lives of these different yet inseparable musical icons and their tenacity in life and the underground music scene. The Godfathers of Hardcore is already in the midst of production and features footage captured by McFarland over the past several years. The movement the band helped pioneer has had a profound effect on fans and musicians, as well as skateboarders, bikers and others who refuse to accept the status quo. Their music has resonated with many musicians over the years including Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Anthrax’s Scott Ian and Pantera’s Phil Anselmo, Cremaster’s Mathew Barney and electronica artist Moby. Roger Miret, 50 (vocalist), a Cuban-refugee and Vinnie Stigma, 59 (guitarist), a second-generation New York Italian, found each other on the rough streets of NYC in the early 1980s, becoming fast friends and developing an unbreakable bond. Together, over the next three decades, they created one of the most influential bands of all time. The film will be released in the fall of 2016. For more details on the documentary visit www.godfathersofhardcore.com.
(News Notes are edited press releases sent by publicists, labels, bands, and musicians)
By Samir Shukla
The four-day roots music gathering MerleFest took place from April 23 - 26 on the campus of Wilkes Community College, Wilkesboro, NC with over 78,000 folks attending. MerleFest has been showcasing “traditional plus” music, including bluegrass and old-time folk music of the Appalachian region along with country, gospel, Americana, blues and rock since 1988. The festival hosts an eclectic mix of artists performing on its 13 stages during the course of the event.
The Del McCoury Band playing Woody Guthrie songs as well as originals and Chatham County Line’s harmony-laden gig were among the highlights of Friday’s performances.
On Saturday night guitarist Peter Rowan joined the headliners Avett Brothers to perform “‘Til the End of the World Rolls ‘Round,” a song from the 1974 bluegrass album Old & In The Way, which was recorded by Rowan, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Vassar Clements, and John Kahn.
A Saturday afternoon highlight was “The Hillside Album Hour,” which was hosted by The Waybacks and included guests Joan Osborne, Jim Lauderdale, Sam Bush and Jens Kruger. The performers featured Bruce Springsteen’s classic 1984 album Born in the U.S.A. The annual “Hour” highlights performance of one selected album, which remains secret until the show begins.
Dwight Yoakam headlined on Sunday. The festival also featured jam sessions all throughout festival grounds on all days. Folks brought their guitars, banjos, fiddles, voices, and joined the informal jams.
Other performers this year included The Marshall Tucker Band, Trampled By Turtles, Lee Ann Womack, Hot Rize, Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Robert Earl Keen, Steep Canyon Rangers, The Kruger Brothers with the Kontras Quartet, The Earls of Leicester, Bruce Robinson and Kelly Willis, Scythian, The Spinney Brothers, The Gibson Brothers, Blue Highway, The Steel Wheels, Paul Thorn and many others.
The festival also featured heritage crafts demonstrations, instrument picking lessons and jam sessions, dancing, instrument contests, music education workshops and the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. The Shoppes at MerleFest showcased heritage crafts, merchandise vendors, and concessions.
MerleFest organizers strive to give back to the community. An outreach program took place on Thursday, with MerleFest artists giving performances for nearly 7,000 children at local schools. On Friday morning more than 3,000 school children from Wilkes and surrounding counties attended the festival. MerleFest is the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.
The festival was founded in memory of the son of the late American music legend Doc Watson, guitarist Eddy Merle Watson. MerleFest 2016 will be held at Wilkes Community College on April 28-May 1, 2016. Details at MerleFest.org.
News Note: The National Blues Museum in St. Louis this week announced that it has received a six-figure contribution from musician Jack White that will fund the “Mix it Up” creative Blues experience within the museum. “Mix it Up” will be the culminating experience of every guest’s visit to the new museum, which is scheduled to open in late 2015. Traveling through the Museum’s chronological galleries, visitors will be able to sample a variety of musical styles and influences within the complete history of the Blues. Ultimately, visitors will conclude their experience by entering “Mix it Up” where using intuitive editing tools, they can blend their selections together and share their new compositions with others. “Perhaps as well as anyone, Jack White understands that the Blues is truly the foundation of all American music and remains relevant today, said Rob Endicott, the museum’s Chairman of the Board. Blues icons including Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Derek Trucks have also supported the 23,000-square-foot National Blues Museum, which will include more than 16,000 square feet of interactive technology and artifact-driven exhibits, a theatre, special event space and classrooms. The museum will explore and preserve the historic significance of the Blues as the foundation of American music and celebrate the musicians who both created and advance the art form. The facility will explore the various Blues styles and trace its history and American roots music from the Mississippi Delta through St. Louis to Chicago, its expansion across the U.S. and internationally. For more information, visit NationalBluesMuseum.org
(News Notes are edited press releases sent by publicists, labels, bands, or musicians)
Rock legend Paul Weller (The Jam, Style Council) has announced the release of Into Tomorrow, his first book documenting his solo works. The book, to be published this June, offers a pictorial record of his solo years from 1992 onward. Captioned with his handwritten text, Weller has selected over 800 photos taken by friend and photographer, Lawrence Watson. The nearly 300 page set will be published in a leather-bound volume with previously unheard live recordings on an accompanying 10" vinyl disc. Housed in an acrylic slipcase, each numbered book will be signed by Paul Weller and Lawrence Watson. There will be only 2,000 copies made of the book. It will be available at www.WellerBook.com.
By Samir Shukla
The loss of musical fidelity while listening to digitally delivered music is palpable. Unless you are listening to uncompressed files on a recording studio stereo system, there’s a level of warmth and subtlety missing in the sound that CDs and streaming music deliver. It’s an old complaint of long-time music listeners. The transportability of digital music, the vast storage capacity and multi-media aspect of digital devices trump records, to be sure. But the richness of sound is where the old-school records still matter. The presentation of artwork on large format record covers and gatefold covers are mini posters of the musician or band’s artistic vision.
Most people have written off records. They wear out, get scratchy, or warp in the heat. I owned an independent record store for a dozen years from 1987-1999. It was the era of vinyl with CDs slowly elbowing their way into the mix. By the time I sold the store, CDs had overtaken vinyl, and especially cassettes, as the prime mode of musical delivery. But sound enthusiasts never gave up on vinyl. It was kept alive in specialty stores and at collector record shows.
Well, there’s good news for vinyl lovers as they’ve been making a comeback of sorts for the past several years. Records have reentered the discourse of recorded music. Of course, records never went away. There are millions and millions of old records still floating around. Since the advent of CDs and streaming music, they’ve been relegated to specialty markets.
The astonishing thing is that youngsters, the digital generation, are rediscovering one of the oldest modes of recorded music. Most record labels are now releasing limited amounts of new vinyl, including new recordings as well as reissues of old favorites, to feed the resurgent appetite for vinyl.
Stroll into a nearby independent record store one of these days. There aren’t too many left, but, yes, they still exist. Spend some time listening to vinyl that they’re probably cranking on the store’s stereo system. You’ll hear the difference. It’s no snobbish love here. Records have warmth of sound, even if a bit scratchy, over the sound of CDs, MP3s or streaming music.
So now there’s a day to celebrate vinyl. A new holiday, if you will. It’s called Record Store Day. This year Record Store Day is set for April 18.
It’s a celebration of music, the culture of independent records stores, and most importantly records. Those fine vinyl slabs still impress musical enlightenment.
According to the organizers’ website, “Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding independently owned record stores in the United States and many similar brethren around the world. There are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica.” It has been held on the third Saturday in April since 2008.
“This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, DJs spinning records and on and on. Metallica officially kicked off Record Store Day at Rasputin Music in San Francisco on April 19, 2008.”
There’s even a Record Store Day Ambassador. This year it is the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl.
Here’s Grohl pontificating on the Record Store Day website. “I found my calling in the back bin of a dark, dusty record store. 1975’s K-Tel’s Blockbuster 20 Original Hits by the original Stars featuring Alice Cooper, War, Kool and the Gang, Average White Band and many more, bought at a small record shop in my suburban Virginia neighborhood, it was this record that changed my life and made me want to become a musician. The second that I heard Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” kick in, I was hooked. My life had been changed forever. This was the first day of the rest of my life. More recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to rediscover this sense of excitement, that magical feeling of finding something all one’s own, by watching my kids go through it. Watching them realize how crucial and intertwined every part of this experience is, I relive the magic of my earliest experiences with vinyl singles and albums, their artwork, liners notes etc. all over again and again. I believe that the power of the record store to inspire is still alive and well, and that their importance to our next generation of musicians is crucial.”
Find the full statement from Grohl, along with his special Record Store Day video, participating record stores and more at www.recordstoreday.com.
Every year MerleFest gathers varied musicians and bands that play traditional music as well as myriad other forms. The festival serves as an annual homecoming for musicians and music fans. Held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, NC, MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the late Eddy Merle Watson, son of American music legend Doc Watson. MerleFest is a celebration of ‘traditional plus’ music, a unique mix of music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock and many other styles. The festival hosts numerous artists, performing on 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. Doc Watson explained the origins of MerleFest, "When Merle and I started out we called our music ‘traditional plus’, meaning the traditional music of the Appalachian region plus whatever other styles we were in the mood to play. Since the beginning, the people of the college and I have agreed that the music of MerleFest is ‘traditional plus'”. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs. MerleFest 2015 takes place from April 23 - 26. This year's performers include Dwight Yoakam, The Avett Brothers, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush Band, Steep Canyon Rangers, Kiran Singh, Donna the Buffalo and many more. For full details on the fest visit www.merlefest.org.