This week for a special Faces of Kingston, I was pleased to chat with popular media personality, entertainer and all around good pet mom and rock ’n’ roll local MK Burnell. Let’s get right to it.
Morgan Y. Evans: How are you today? I am glad we are doing this because you are an interesting person. How long have you lived in Kingston?
MK Burnell: Thanks! I grew up in Connecticut before finding the Hudson Valley. I first started hanging out in Kingston back when BSP was still having weekly open mic nights, which was where I first started making friends and musical connections. It’s the best place I’ve ever lived.
You seem like a really busy person from taking care of funny animals to working as a music director at Radio Woodstock to performing live or interviewing people yourself.
I know a lot of us around here are in the same boat with working a full-time job and also having a lot of “extracurriculars.” I also DJ weddings sometimes. Most Kingstonites probably know me as the girl walking the big white fluffy dog pretty much daily.
Coolest moment with Radio Woodstock?
Mountain Jam 2016 jumps out, when the Avett Brothers’ set got cancelled due to a tornado warning, so they came up into our broadcast area and played impromptu songs on air. Those harmonies and the lyrics of “Smithsonian” being sung five feet from my face an hour before the end of the festival was extremely cathartic and I was just sitting there with tears running down my cheeks.
I love that. I am hoping to make the Shannon and the Clams show tonight at BSP. Do you have a memory of the first concert you saw in our area?
Oh, I completely do! This was shortly after I moved to the Hudson Valley. I got set up on a blind date, who invited me to Snug Harbor to see a band. The band was Snowbear, and my mind was absolutely blown. I’d never seen a local band get a crowd dancing so hard, you know? I didn’t even know that was a thing that happened outside of, like, Of Montreal concerts. My old band Locofreeq was a direct attempt to fulfill the fantasy of being that band, turning people on like that. Oh, and we’re playing with Snowbear Nov. 2 at Snugs! Locofreeq technically doesn’t exist anymore so this is a rare chance to see both bands together, maybe the last chance.
But yeah, that one night really started my love affair with the Hudson Valley music scene and made me want to not only be a part of it musically, but also use my role at WDST (once I started working there) to give local bands airtime.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Kingston? I think I saw you for maybe five seconds this O+ but honestly the whole weekend is a blur.
O+ is always a blur! A wonderful blur. I obviously love seeing music at BSP, the Anchor, Tubby’s, Rough Draft, wherever. I’m such an old lady though. I just love walking my dogs. Dog owners will relate — when you move to a new neighborhood, you get to know it by walking your dog, and when I moved to Green Street and started finding places to walk around uptown I just fell in love with it. The architecture, the variety. Walking around Kingston just makes my heart happy, you know?
Is it safe to ask about … um, Uncledad? I am also a fan of the term Bruncle in these horrible MAGA times we live in. I didn’t know you play fiddle! “Whiskey In My Coffee” is a bop.
So I usually describe Uncledad as my “weird girl band.” It’s myself and my friends Jenny, Rixey and Colleen. We all play multiple instruments, all write songs and take turns singing lead. It started when Jenny and I started talking at this full moon party about how it would be fun to start a casual jam session type thing, and Colleen and Rixey were interested too and it just became Uncledad. I just wanted an excuse to practice my fiddle more and now we have like 15 songs.
You meet and talk to a variety of people. Do you feel like people generally have a more positive or negative view of how things are going in Kingston these days? What would you like to see happen here?
It’s really a mix, isn’t it? A lot of the out-of-towners I talk to — bands who are touring through the area, people visiting for the weekend — are so enthusiastic about Kingston, but for those of us who live here there’s a certain amount of anxiety because most of us don’t make that much money and there’s a very real danger of getting priced out of this community we’ve helped rejuvenate.
I was lucky enough to be able to buy my very modest house which is affordable between my boyfriend and I, but a lot of my friends who would love to own a house in Kingston are beaten to the punch or outbid on the starter homes or fixer-uppers by wealthy investors snapping up entire blocks to turn into AirBnBs or expensive rentals. But that’s the pattern — a run-down community gets inhabited by young, ambitious, low-income people who make it “cool” by bringing in music and art, the wider world discovers it, property values increase. So many of us are against the Kingstonian project — we see it as a cold-blooded move to further gentrify the Stockade district and cater to the influx of high-income Brooklyn transplants while intentionally pushing out the folks who already live here.
So I guess my answer is less what I would like to see happen, and more what I wouldn’t like to see. Hope that counts!
If I’m allowed to plug socials, I have a million instagram accounts — @mk.ultramatic; (personal); @uncledadmusic (band); @figgy_dog (my dog); @razaketh666 (my other dog).