Still Alive

I just found this video of Jonathan Coulton performing "Still Alive" here, and what the hell...I didn't do a single thing last month about the best whatevers of 2007, so I'm hereby naming "Still Alive" the song that brought me the most momentary joy all year long.



Nobody Writes About: Bridges Fell

bridges fell innocence again without a call
Seriously, I can't even find a picture. One of the only working links Google's able to provide me leads to this playlist at mixtape collective, which quips -- probably accurately -- that Google has more information about the playlist's creator than it does about Bridges Fell. This, then, is me jumping to take advantage of an excitingly rare opportunity: to remind the Internet of something that it used to know (bridgesfell.com used to exist), but has long since forgotten.

Formed at the University of Rhode Island just before the turn of the century, Bridges Fell was, for a short while and at least in my own estimation, a phenomenon. In fact, it's not an exaggeration to state that hearing them make the impossible leap from late-night local music showcase to daytime rotation at 95.5 WBRU with "Little Leah" was the reason I became interested in working at said station in the first place, and the reason I spent so much of my time in that city championing The Ocean State's local talent (and why I still do...cough, cough).

The first time I saw Bridges Fell play, it was on a giant stage in front of the Providence Place Mall, in an opening slot at a free outdoor concert headlined by Guster. They'd already been receiving some radio play, and although it was a decidedly Guster crowd, many of the local fans were familiar enough with the hometown heroes to pay attention. Those that did, I imagine, were all as impressed as I was by the 5 not-even-21-year-olds from URI exhibiting an impressive display of poise, talent, and style on what surely was the biggest stage they'd ever played at the time.

The man behind the whole deal was a URI student and RI native named Andrew Mook, a soft-spoken and gracious young songwriter with great melodic and dynamic instincts, and a real nose for like-minded, super-talented bandmates. I had a chance to meet him a few times in my local music role at BRU, and always ended our meetings musing to myself about how much more together he was than most "national" artists I came across. He just came off as a really nice, genuine guy.

When all was said and done, Bridges Fell gave us two good records -- Without A Call and Innocence Again -- and then they just sorta disappeared. The writing had been on the wall, I guess. There were rumors of label interest and band member cold feet. As together as Andrew was, his lineup kept changing, the way the lineup of a band made up of college students is wont to do, but the purity of the whole thing seemed diminished with every new iteration*. In the end, everybody involved just appeared to let it go. One of the saddest radio shows I ever did was the one during which Andrew came by to officially announce the end of Bridges Fell. I think I have that on tape somewhere.

As stated above, there's not much to be found anymore on the Web about Bridges Fell, but Andrew's not hard to find at all. He now directs an alternative service called "Sanctuary" at a church in Rhode Island, and keeps a blog. The blog has a few links to other musical projects Andrew's been involved in, and one Bridges Fell song streams on one of his myspace pages ("Against the Wall" here), although there's no direct mention of the project.

Perhaps Mr. Mook would rather not relive the past. I don't especially blame him, if that's the case. But I can't be the only one out there that still puts on my Bridges Fell records once in a while, I can't be the only one that types the name into Google once in a while, and is disappointed in the lack of results.

So...there. There's this now.

* I don't say this from the standpoint of an early fan that bemoans every change a band makes. It just seemed to be a very palpable change in stage chemistry. The twinkle, I guess, just sorta went away. When a band has some success, and then some members leave, it's tough to find new members that don't expect something more than just being in a band that's pretty good. I guess. I don't really feel like fleshing this out further. That's why it's a footnote.


Nobody Writes About: Shootyz Groove

Brilliant sticker placement in High Fidelity* reminded me last night of a band that I haven't spent much time thinking about since high school. Like pretty much everyone that went to high school in Connecticut in the mid-late 90's, I had a brief and ill-advised love affair with rap rock at that time: my beloved Rage Against the Machine provided a gateway into winding, seemingly never-ending couloirs stacked high with ill-advised guitar/emcee combinations. Still, not all of it was bad, and there are a few bands that I still remember fondly, when I have occasion to remember.

Shootyz Groove had one semi-national semi-hit in the summer of '99 (I remember this because it was played on at least 3 different radio stations as I made my way up the Taconic State Parkway to Woodstock '99, a shitshow if there ever was one), but I knew and loved them prior to their short-lived radio fame because of an opening slot they tore apart at the Webster Theater in Hartford before 2 Skinnee J's, a band I'll continue to defend as long as I shall live.

High Definition (purchased at the show) was...fine. Okay, at the time I thought it was amazing. Not all of it sounds good still, but the aforementioned hit (download it or watch the video below) still sounds as good as it ever did, the live cut "Faithful" continues to satisfy, and when album opener "Mad For It" fades in, I'm taken right back to driving around town in the first car I ever owned, playing music louder than I ever could anywhere else. What a feeling.

But Shootyz Groove was a better band to see live than their records let on. I've seen a lot of bands since then, but they still have a special place in my heart as one of the greatest opening acts I've ever seen. Ironically, on the day that I decided to write about them, I checked around the web for them (figuring they'd long since broken up) to find they were playing the Highline Ballroom AS I WAS TYPING ABOUT THEM. I'm buried too deeply in Brooklyn to have been able to make it, but believe me when I tell you that I would've jumped right on a train if I'd had a chance to catch them.

So not only are they still together and performing occasionally (spent the summer on the road with 311, hitting The Living Room in Providence soon), they're putting out a new record, One, this year. I'd be lying if I said I expected to be blown away based on what I've streamed at their site, but I'd also be lying if I said I wasn't still going to check it out anyway.

If there's even a shred of fondness for well-done rap rock left behind the hardened indie rock husk in which you currently dwell, check out what Shootyz Groove has been up to at shootyzgroove.com, or at myspace.com/shootyzgroove.

Shootyz Groove - L Train (video below)

* The "WHAT FUCKING IAN GUY!?!?" scene: Rob goes into his back office and closes the door behind him so Marie DeSalle (Lisa Bonet) doesn't hear him flip out, and there's a Shootyz Groove sticker behind him on the right. I used to have the same sticker on my first car.


Reality check: nobody reads blogs

On one hand, it's not news to me that the traffic on most good blogs hovers just above embarrassing: the traffic of this blog has yet to poke its nose out from under atrocious. On the other hand, if you spend as much time as I do clicking around the Internet in search of everything in particular, you start to believe that you're not the only one in the world that actually reads shit and clicks on shit and consumes at least some of the information you stumble across on a daily basis. You begin to think that everyone else processes stimuli in the same way that you do.

Trent Reznor went and disclosed the numbers behind the great Niggy Tardust experiment. Aside from being a brilliant move to get people talking about the record again*, his screed shocked me not for its admissions that even the people in this business who know the most what they're doing still have no idea what they're doing, but for the underwhelming numbers contained within.

I agree with most of the Internet, including this guy, that Trent's reasoning is a bit specious as far as who those downloads represent, and I think even if his assumptions are correct, an 18.3% conversion rate isn't half bad. The number that shocked me was the total downloads.

Granted, there wasn't a front page piece in the Times about the record, but when a guy like Trent Reznor gets behind a project by a great artist with a name like this one had, and it's released the way this one was, people pick up on the story. In case you never did, you can (but you won't) read about it here. For a while, this was the buzz of the blogs. Saul Williams enjoyed top billing on elbo.ws, and useless exposure on Technorati.

And after all that huffing and puffing, just over 150,000 people downloaded a record for FREE!? I guess I just thought there were more people like me on the Internet. People who read about something on a site they trust, and try it. Especially something very likely to be cool -- especially something entirely, legitimately, free.

But maybe not. Maybe nobody reads anything because they're too busy fighting over who commented first, and all the traffic that keeps your favorite blogs in business is just the result of great keywords hidden in mountains of back content, and irresistibly clickable ads.

When I was a boy, we had to ride our 14.4k modems uphill both ways to get to the Internet. These whippersnappers are taking the web to hell in a handbasket.


An anecdote to bring my point home: this particular site enjoys a small but consistent trickle of traffic from people Googling for "naked in the bath" and finding this post (even more from now on, I suppose). Unsurprisingly, they don't stick around very long. But once in a while, they click on an ad.

* I'm playing right into your hands, you clever bastard.