I was at a lovely barbecue the other night in the woods near High Falls and my friend’s screensaver in her apartment was shuffling through random word definitions while people were preparing food to grill. A word that caught my eye was cic·a·trix (sik??triks/) noun = the scar of a healed wound or a scar on the bark of a tree. I didn’t know this word but thought about how great art often comes from embracing our scars and becoming stronger. Growing like trees. Hard to say if I would be as grounded today without my harder times in life. The key is to learn and find positive growth.
I saw my friend Josh Eppard of Coheed and Cambria outside Stockade Tavern the other night. We have both battled with poor health choices in the past and I have argued with some of his bandmates, including Josh, about various things over the years I won’t get into today. But it was so great to see my friend and both of us sober and healthy. It felt like even after being through the wringer, you can have friendships back if you can face things head on. Shout out to Josh and his rap project Weerd Science. I heard from BSP affiliate Daniel Sternstein that Josh made a great cameo at the rapper Upgrade’s recent BSP album release show joking about how he, like Upgrade, has dealt with anxiety issues over the years. Daniel said they brought the house down. I talked to Upgrade himself to find out the scoop on his new indie hip-hop record Chemical Imbalance.
“This album is really about mental illness and battle with depression and anxiety for over many years,” Upgrade says. A talented MC, the youthful rapper is part of a growing Upstate hip-hop movement that favors creativity over thuggery. “I have mentioned it in a few songs but never really let myself be really vulnerable to the listeners as I did on this project. I wanted to speak on a subject that I felt strongly about without worrying about the way it will be received by everyone,” Upgrade adds. “I don’t expect everyone to understand each topic I hit but I would really like to connect with those who battle with mental illness in their life. And to those who don’t, I’d also like to shine light on a topic that they might not know so much about and can maybe learn more and understand it better.”
Ghost’s ghoul army
I’m listening to Ghost this morning, the spooky, almost B-52’s sounding “Zombie Queen” from their recent sophomore release Infestissumam. You have to respect a band that gets tons of money for dressing like a Satanic pope with a ghoul army entourage. Ghost burned the house down at The Chance last week and people are raving about it. If you have read this column before you know I try and plug those dudes as much as possible. They are simply one of the most inventive and fun satirical bands in rock today.
Speaking of fun and smart, edgy bands, I was talking last week about The Sharp Lads. The punk band are recent signees to local Altercation Records (known for putting out killer slabs by the likes of Two Fisted Law and American Pin-Up). Well, I heard the Sharp Lads’ new CD Death By Misadventure recently and was blown away. This week we’ve rounded up their guitarist Fudge to ask if he feels rock ‘n’ roll still has any desperation or a pulse left.
“Making the album was a long, hard, sometimes very painful, but ultimately super-rewarding process,” says Fudge. “We recorded at the best studio ever, Big Blue Meanie recording studios in Jersey City, which is helmed by Tim Gilles, a mastermind of rock and roll punk energy! They understood exactly the kind of record we wanted to make. We went through a lot of ups and downs, trials and tribulations, hells and high waters to make this album, but we couldn’t be happier with the end result. It feels absolutely superbly tremendously excellent to be part of the Altercation Records family. We are blessed to be working with the most passionate and dedicated indie punk label around. and it doesn’t hurt that some of our label-mates (Svetlanas, New Red Scare, The Obvious, to name just a few) are some of our own personal favorite bands. I feel like if done properly, rock ’n’ roll will always have desperation. Because that what makes it rock ’n’ roll! No matter how safe, saturated, cautioned, coddled, and overly PC our society becomes, there will be always a place for true rock ’n’ roll to come in, piss all over everything and smash it all down!”
Thank you and amen, Brother Fudge!
Uncle Willy is a Kingston legend, a native son who has hosted some of the country’s most legendary musicians while providing hospitality, wit and wisdom to three generations of Ulster County music fans. From The Band to Dickey Betts, Jorma Kaukonen to John Hammond, Papa John Creach to Hot Tuna, Uncle Willy has provided stages for them and many more, at his legendary Rosendale venues The Well and Astoria Hotel, to his locations on Broadway in Kingston, and now his new eponymous Tavern and Kitchen at the corner of North Front and Wall streets in Uptown.
No Uncle Willy venue is complete without live music, and Willy has hand-picked some of Ulster County’s finest players to entertain diners and drinkers each week. Every Friday, “Big” Joe Fitz, the three-decades host of WDST’s Blues Break (Sundays 10 p.m.-midnight) brings his band The Lo-Fis for a raucous Friday Happy Hour session from 5-8 p.m. (The Lo-Fis include guitar whiz Mark Dziuba, Robert Bard on bass, and Chris Bowman, owner of CHBO Drums in New Paltz, hittin’ the skins). Lovely local barkeep Therese Cole never lets anyone get thirsty or hungry, and there is no cover charge. Dancing is allowed and encouraged!