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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Under the Dome

Spoiler alert if you have DVR’d this past Sunday’s episode- the show still sucks. Kidding aside I had one foot out of the door and was leaning to get off this cliche driven piece of summer fare. Tonight I resigned myself to spend the 40 minutes in a more constructive manner next week, whatever that may be. It all ended when a furniture truck took out the town’s water tower.

Yes, during a crisis of a town cut off from the world by a dome, shortly after the government tried to MOAB the dome and town off the earth, Ashley’s Home Furniture is still willing to deliver you a sweet naugahyde sofa/love seat deal. The wheels were coming off before that, but that was the coup de gras.

I have not read much Stephen King after the Dark Tower series ended. I read Cell (which was good) but found myself not connecting with other works. I pulled back from the buffet with a Thankee Sai directed at one of my favorite authors. I will pick up The Stand again someday because I just seem to read that book. I have read it through five or six times and have cherry picked storylines in the past. The Drawing of the Three is another surefire revisit.

On the newer side I plan on reading the novel Under the Dome. The premise is fascinating, but it is being told in the most brutal, dialogue
telling-not showing and inviting every ugly writing/character issue a place to shine and have its 14 1/2 minutes. When they do shave the edges off the cliche it is by half a minute at best.

Add Under the Dome to the sad, long list of poorly transferred Stephen King works onto a visual medium.

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Posted by on 07/30/2013 in Dirt

 

Walls and Fences

Our house had a backyard with a few too many security breaches to allow my son Obi Wan to have free reign of the outside unless you were prepared to follow along like an agent on a VIP. He had a few juke moves starting too. 

We picked out some fencing from a big box and had an experience.  That is more than the encounter deserves, but two weeks after the fencing was purchased we finally obtained a gate.

It seemed a fitting weekend activity, a literal barrier to keep something in and a figurative one to keep something out were both under construction. 

Obi Wan was out there today. Breaking a potted plant (in fairness I think he was trying to use the force to hold it up) and testing his new barrier. He did have a bit of a sithy reaction to being told to leave the fence alone.  He does love the ability to play with dirt and rocks though.

I feel like I have a Tom Petty Walls/R.E.M. World Leader Pretend thing going on. At times I feel like I am on both sides of the equation in the Petty song.  World Leader Pretend, well I imagine there are different degrees of World Leader Pretend in many if not most peoples lives.

I spend 40 hours a week in a toxic environment.  I have to shut down for those 40 hours. Zero bullshit tolerance level. Plugging in is your friend.(podcast recommendations anyone?) It doesn’t sound ideal, but I recognizing that life is always about changing, adapting perhaps this is a short term solution.  Long term the seas look choppy and the crew is already at mutiny readiness.  Strap in!

“It’s amazing what devices you can sympathize”

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on 07/28/2013 in Dirt

 

Cook the Byrd

I have been a long time advocate for Jairus Byrd’s place as the elite free safety in the NFL. With that he should be fairly compensated as one of the elite safties in the league. I believe playing on a bad Bills team coupled with name recognition holding too much power in the  selection processes was the only reason he was second team  All Pro this year.

Watching Byrd grow into a complete player has been one of the bright spots in the Bills recent dismal run. He could hawk balls but was atrocious as a tackle his rookie year. He came back next season in a new system with significantly improved skills and now is one  of the surest tacklers on the team. He has yet to be exposed to Mike Pettine’s system, which is worrisome. Like Gregg, Mike likes to come in waves. Mike seems to pick a greater degree of difficulty though.

Here is where I jump off the Byrd bandwagon and wonder just how much Eugene Parker (Byrd’s agent) hates the Bills. The window for a long term deal is closed until after the season. The only options Byrd has are to sign or sit and I guess wait for Godot. He is well past any reasonable point of ‘looking out for his’ as there is nothing else to hash out. Sign or sit. He may be trying to arm bar the Bills into agreeing to no tag in 2014.

If Byrd isn’t in Rochester by weeks end with his signature on the tender they should let him sit a full season out. I am hoping the safeties we have look promising. This is some of the seedier stuff in pro-sports. The I in team is too strong.

Go Bills

 
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Posted by on 07/26/2013 in Gamehenge

 

My Favorite Albums, a top ten #5 Pearl Jam Vs.

I could do a top 20 song list and Pearl Jam could easily fill out half, perhaps even 3/4, depending on what kind of day I am having.  The band certainly offers a full catering menu of emotions and subjects to play off of- Having a day where politics is in your ear, some Riot Act could match up well… or not.  Youthful angst, some Ten please. Yes dining a la carte would be nice, but this is an album list. I adore both of the previously mentioned albums. In fact I enjoy every album in their catalog.  The most complete album for my is Vs. which is why it is the #5 album for my list.

Go and Animal bring Ten to the album. It is a bridge from where they have been to where they are going. They are fast tempo, grungy and angry. They are both good songs.  They have not been near the top of my favorite on the album for quite some time, but they are solid songs.

Daughter was one of the airplay darlings of the album and I think it is a credit to the song that it doesn’t feel overly worn when I hear it.  So many songs from the 90’s lost their sparkle for me due to overplaying. I worked in restaurants where the radio or cable radio was the music source. Daughter is and was welcome as an old friend.

Glorified G has actually grown on me as time has passed.  Perhaps it is due to how outrageous arguments can get over fire arms these days. One look at our entertainment and its reliance on gun violence reflects with certainty how much we glorify firearms in the USA.

I certainly understand the want to regulate who can have what and what can be had. All weapons are designed to kill, but some are portals to large scale carnage in a short amount of time.  Why those need to be readily available I can’t quite get a grasp on.

Dissident is a top 5 Pearl Jam song. I received a Pearl Jam boot leg CD for Christmas in 2005 that has a live version of the song. From the limited exposure I have had to their live catalog it appears they rework some of the songs to keep them fresh. Eddie’s vocal meanderings are also enjoyable.  I tend to find myself on the “other” side of many arguments and conversations.  This song always feels like a celebration of that.

W.M.A. a/k/a Pearl Jam palate cleanser.

Blood… is there any doubt that heroin use was rampant in the Seattle scene and perhaps PJ had their dalliances? This song on its surface would seem like a solid yes. I love it for its intensity.  Whether telling a story or an actual experience you get the anxiety of a junkie’s perspective.

Rearviewmirror is one of Pearl Jam’s finest achievements. It tells a story as classically as any story song I have listened to. I have always felt some connection to the song, not literally, but emotionally.  I can’t think of higher praise to give an artist but to say they made that connection.

Rats is probably one of the more underrated (unhearlded? I don’t know…) songs on the album.  I love the lyrics and the way Eddie spews them, almost venomously at times-

They don’t eat don’t sleep
They don’t feed they don’t seethe
Bare their gums when they moan and squeak
Lick the dirt off a larger one’s feet
They don’t push don’t crowd
Congregate until they’re much too loud
Fuck to procreate till they are dead
Drink the blood of their so called best friend

They don’t scurry when something bigger comes their way
Don’t pack themselves together and run as one
Don’t shit where they’re not supposed to
Don’t take what’s not theirs, they don’t compare

They don’t scam, don’t fight
Don’t oppress an equals given rights
Starve the poor so they can be well fed
Line their holes with the dead ones bread

Yeah, they don’t compare.

Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town is Pearl Jam commercial success number two off the album.  The song, just like Daughter, still shines in my eyes, maybe even more than a bit brighter even.

Ed Ved takes us on a journey vocally, the hope, despair and recognition of change.  I still get the lift to my spirit during certain lyrics. I used to wonder why people got stuck on “their” music.  Like many things it all becomes clearer further down the road.

Leash has not aged well to me, perhaps because I am out of the angsty range (finally!). It actually  has me reaching for some W.M.A.                                       not really.  It just doesn’t resonate like it did at say, 20, 21.

Indifference is one of the grandest traditions on Pearl Jam albums for me, the final song.  Typically, I love them.  The are often at the top of my favorites list off any album.  This one is no exception.  

Eddie hits it out of the park. It is equal parts vocal delivery, vocal nuance and lyrical mastery.  Pearl Jam knows how to close out an album. Despite this songs mellow pace and ambient noisiness in the background it is formidable, intense and beautiful.

Pearl Jam has had an album on every musical device I have owned. Sometimes it is down to one album, other times it is most of their catalog.  Vs. doesn’t spend much time off portable music playing device. To me it is one of the bands most complete works and it stands the potential erosion of being exposed to almost two decades.

 
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Posted by on 07/23/2013 in Weekapaug Groove

 

My Favorite Albums, a top ten #6 Built to Last- Grateful Dead

I am sure any Deadhead who happens upon this post will recoil in terror not only at the selection of a Dead studio album, but one that was released in 1989. Oh, the horror… oh please.

Built to Last is not only amazing in the quality of the work, but in what it makes me think of and remember.

In 1992-1993 I was not in a good way.  Issues, issues, issues.  I did have a couple really good friends I made during that first whack at the college ball.  While they didn’t introduce me to the album, we spent some time with it, good peaceful time in the midst of frantic late teen/early adult angst. It was comforting in a time of endless self induced misery.

I have owned the album a few times since then.  A few years ago I found one of my long lost copies that came back to replace the copy it was replaced by. Every time I give it a listen after I put it down for a short while it has some deeper layer it exposes to me.

It is not a Jerry or Bobby based album (perhaps the first affront to many fans) rather Brent Mydland takes center stage on a majority of the tracks.  It does however open up with a Jerry song, Foolish Heart. No this is not a cover of the Steve Perry song.

It is a light an airy song though, especially for this album.  Actually it is downright whimsical in this atmosphere. I think it may a bit low on my radar  because of this lyric- “A selfish heart is trouble/but a foolish heart is worse.”  I am inclined to  disagree, though to be fair selfishness has gotten further away from us since 1989. Couple this with my ability to over analyze and viola, a good but not great song in my estimation.

Just a Little Light is the first of four Barlow/Mydland penned songs and it opens with keys, to a funky guitar that bleeds into Brent tearing it up vocally in his Cockeresque throaty style.  On more than a few occasions I have wished to have his pipes.

“So you know I’ve been a solider in the armies of the night/and I’ll find the fatal error in what’s otherwise alright”

This makes me think of my long career in the late night food business. I was a solider in the army of the night.  I had a few short breaks between stints as your resident sub shop cook, but from 1994-2005 I spent most of my time watching the sun come up before going to bed. It still has its affect on my circadian rhythm.  So it goes, I suppose.

In regard to the second portion of this verse it makes me think back to growing up, heck even well past whenever I have tried to do something off the acceptable path or maybe even wrong I got busted for it.  Play poker against me. You should do well. You can read my face and then gander at my arm for a view of my heart.  I find the fatal error in what is otherwise alright for 99.9 percent of participants.  So it goes.

“I have always heard that virtue oughta be its own reward/but it never comes so easy when you’re living by the sword/It’s even harder to be heartless when you look at me that way/You’re as mighty as the flower that will grow the stones away”

In trying times I have thought the first part of the verse is bunk, especially in places where merit has no place, rather how long you have put an ass groove in the seat. Where conducting personal business is the same as doing the business of earning a paycheck.  It grates me, but I won’t yield. If the people whose behavior vexes me need a hand, I am usually there.

I am certain that I can’t explain these lyrics and their effect as well as Mydland sings them, he breathes that much passion into them.

Built to Last is a great Garcia/Hunter ode to a long, loving relationship.  It was introduced to me in 1990? by an ex-girlfriend on a mixed tape. My brother Rob loving referred to her as bat face. He would even sing the portion of Call Me Al that references a bat-faced girl. It is love through attrition.

Well that “love” wasn’t built to last, however I have been with my wife as a couple for 19 years, almost 13 married.  I think of her when I listen to this song. “All the stars/ are gone but one/morning breaks/ here comes the sun/cross the sky/now sinking fast/show me something/ built to last”

In the opening of this song I think of her plight as partner in our relationship.

“There are times when you can beckon

There are times when you must call

You can shake a lot of reckoning

But you can’t shake it all.”

I consider Blow Away one of the crown jewels of the album.  It is not a happy song. It is a song about growth in life and relationships and how it is often apart from whom you were once close.

I thankfully can’t cite any recent struggles with this. It is the power of Brent’s point of view, his struggle that touches me heart.  I own 4 live versions of this song from the late 1989-early 1990 run before Brent died of an overdose. Each one has its own powerful, sad and haunting quality about it.

I think one of the principle powers of music, besides giving the listener something to relate to, is to give the listener something else to consider that they either haven’t experienced or perhaps the opposite of a point of view they hold.  I am certain back in 1992, 1993 I was directly relating to the pain I was in through this song. If I wasn’t I was a larger fool than I consider 1992, 1993 Jon from my current vantage point.  This is a song that will suck in the wallower. Come relate to this pain.

The opening is wise for any relationship really(sub in and out what gender you may feel is relevant).  It is probably more of an actuality than a possibility in many if not most cases-

“A man and a woman come together as strangers

When they part they’re usually strangers still

It’s like a practical joke played on us by our maker

Empty bottles that can’t be filled.”

I remember the struggle to find someone to be your partner in life.  I was struggling with it at times when it should have been the farthest thing from my mind. When I stopped considering it so much (I was an early adherent to pondering) Marlene came along.  We have been together for 19 years. I have not struggled with the above as a consideration let alone a reality in that time, save some frosty toes near the bells.

I have considered using these musings that seem so palpable when listening to this song to a character’s motivation in a short story.  It is probably something best unleashed instead of being on permanent spin cycle in my grey matter. Perhaps I shall, but that is the power of this song. It makes me think because it makes me feel.

The following lyric succinctly lays out my feelings toward those that overreach and mistake my kindness for weakness.  It happens, often proceeded by an sh.

“Your case against me is so very clearly stated

I plead no contest, I just turn and shrug

I’ve come to figure all importance overestimated

You must mean water when you get on your knees and beg for blood.”

The next song was more than likely an attempt by Bobby Weir to get Jerry and Brent to consider their heroin abuse. Victim or the Crime leaves no doubt from the intense instrumental opening to the opening line of “Patience runs out on a junkie” what the subject at hand is.

It is a song that always leaves me sad and a tad embarrassed. I remember when Brent died in 1990.  I was talking to my friend Jay on the phone and he was sad about Brent’s passing. Being a naive asshole teenager I tried to play it down as it least it wasn’t one of the main guys, or something to that effect.  What a tool teenage Jon was. Ironic that he is my favorite member for the better part of the two decades that followed that ignorant statement.

The song is about loss, regret and dealing with your demons.  I don’t think you need heroin as a monkey on your back to relate. I know I don’t.

“And so I wrestled with the angel

To see who’ll reap the seeds I sow

Am I the driver or the driven?

Will I be damned to be forgiven?

Is there anybody here but me who needs to know?”

It is an extremely mournful, conflicted song, though apparently not strong enough to have the desired effect on his band mates. It resonates with me, gives me pause when I need it and motivation as well.

We Can Run is more relevant today than ever. It is a Barlow/Mydland song about society and how we run away from our problems we create with no thought or plan for what comes in its wake.  It is shockingly on point with its observations and beautifully performed by the band.

It opens with these lyrics and builds strongly from this base

“We don’t own this place though we act as if we did

It’s a loan from the children of our children’s kids

The actual owners haven’t even been born yet.

But we never tend the garden and we barely pay the rent

most of it is broken and the rest of it is bent

Put it on our plastic and I wonder where we’ll be when the bills hit.”

Just reading it brings a sad nod.

Further on.

“I’m dumpin’ my trash in your backyard

making certain you don’t notice it isn’t so hard

You’re so busy with your guns and all of your excuses to use them.”

“Today I went walking in the amber wind

There’s a hole in the sky where the light pours in

I remember the days when I wasn’t afraid of the sunshine.

But now it beats down on the asphalt land

Like a hammering bolt from God’s left hand

What still grows cringes in the shade like a bad vine.”

That is evocative poetry.  I am unsure how I can do proper credit to it other than to suggest others who believe we have been shitty custodians for a few decades should take notice.

We are not alone in these thoughts and feelings. We just need to do a better job of rallying like minded people to the cause.  That is what We Can Run brings to me.  It is a rallying cry that is over 20 years old that resonates more than ever. The reckoning is likely to come soon.  I sure hope we figure out what to do then.

Standing on the Moon was one of two songs that was supposed to be the song my wife and I danced to at our reception.  I forgot the CD. It was decidedly not mixed among Cecilia or YMCA in the DJ’s arsenal.  We ended up dancing to a James Brown song. No, I am not sure which one.

Standing on the Moon may be my favorite Jerry song.  The narrator speaks from the vantage point of standing on the moon… yes I know hard to delineate that from the title. Jerry is wonderfully emotive here. I appreciate the lyrics on this song, but they are truly served by how measured they are performed.  They would seem out of place without the music, other than to say to my wife “What a lovely view of heaven, but I’d rather be with you”.

The next song, Picasso Moon is a Weir song that exudes the same 1st person zaniness of Hell in a Bucket. I never imaged I would be rocking out to lyrics like –  “I had a job trading bits for pieces/we made wrinkles, advertised them as creases.”  Nonetheless, every time I listen to the song I am in full rock out mode by that point.  “Bigger than a drive-in movie ooo-wee” loses me a bit, though it plays out a function in the story. To me this is Barlow/Weir at their most irreverent.

The other crown jewel of the album. is I Will Take You Home, Brent Mydland’s ode to his daughter, with the help of John Barlow.  I have always enjoyed this song, but until the birth of my daughter in 2006 I didn’t appreciate its power. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to protect and nurture both of my children. Depending on my mood I am either reveling in memories of my own with my daughter or I am pondering how Brent’s daughter  Jessica did, how she is doing and whether this song was a source of comfort for her.  This is a version from 6.17.90, Father’s Day, with Jessica at the show. It was just over a month later that Brent was found dead.

I have grown as a person during my 20 plus years of listening to this album.  Songs have ebbed in importance to me only to flow back the other direction a month or two later.  Like many albums and songs I listen to this one has enriched my life.  Like all the albums on this list have in their own way, though this one along with everything else deeper, taught me not to talk out of my ass about things I don’t know about. Brent Mydland was a rock of the Grateful Dead at the time of his death.  Thankfully my ignorance in this matter (and many, many others) wasn’t built to last.

 
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Posted by on 07/22/2013 in Weekapaug Groove

 

My Favorite Albums, a top ten #7 Automatic For the People – R.E.M.

Some albums are released at the wrong time to be received as glowingly as they should be. Automatic For the People is one of these albums. Released in the midst of the grunge movement blowing up it was overlooked by many. My brother Rob and I were early believers. Kurt Cobain was an R.E.M. fan as well. It is rumored that Automatic For the People was in his CD player when he was found dead.

The album is deep. Full of many styles and layers.  It opens with the moving Drive.  It always struck me as an odd anti-authoritarian song.  It is something I usually associate with Folk or Punk.  This song hits it from a very even keel.  Tick…tock…tick…tock.  It is a proper start to a fantastic album.

It leads into one of my favorite R.E.M songs (this album contains a handful) Try Not To Breathe.  I have pondered this song quite a bit.  On the surface it is a tale of someone who is ready to pass. Their suffering is on the road to overcoming any sense of joy.

Of course, there is also a metaphorical approach considering the death theme as an end to a part of life, a relationship or a partnership.  I have gotten the most of this song when I have used it to sort out negative or painful scenarios.  There is a sense of protecting others from something bad or harmful “I will try not to worry you/I have seen things that you’ll never see/leave it to memory me/don’t dare me to breathe”

New Orleans Instrumental 1,  The Sweetness Follows and Star Me Kitten are well placed in the album to “lighten” things up.  The instrumental in particular reminds me of a palate cleanser.  It is an aural pickled vegetable.  All are fine songs that contribute to the balance of this work.

Monty Got a Raw Deal.  It fits so perfectly on this album instrumentally.  Lyrically, it reminds me of stream of consciousness R.E.M., maybe off Murmur or part of the Murmur sessions. It is a great song that feels like a blending of R.E.M through their evolution.

Everybody Hurts was the iconic hit from the album. It is not a bad song.  The overplaying of it didn’t ruin it for me per se.  It just shocks me that it was the song people identified and gravitated to.  If it had that impact in 1993 (I believe that was the year it made it big)  I wonder how many can identify with it in the internet age?  What’s even worse to consider does anyone take it to heart and empathize with others in pain?

Speaking of overplayed I still adore Man on the Moon.  R.E.M. did a better job with a Andy Kaufman tribute song than Milos Forman did with film. Michael is perfectly hammy at certain points when singing the song.  The song is perfectly placed on the album.  The R.E.M. “ponder magic” was dusted heavily on the final two tracks. This is the sorbet of aural palate cleansers. Onto the marrow and meat.

Nightswimming is a story that is about a loss of innocence or a loss of selfs place in the world.  Of course innocence was around 25-30 years ago, yet this song takes me to some of the moments in my life.  It is not always the same, though often I get caught up in a memory. Digging at memories is a lot like writing.  You have to nuance it out. If you try and force it you break it.

The opening instrumental of the song reminds me of going to the Buffalo Philharmonic for their Saturday Kids Series. My Dad, my twin brother and I would go.  I only vividly remember two of these events- Peter and the Wolf and when Bob from Sesame Street came.  Good times.

This song gives me the lake to swim in. It isn’t too deep and there are no waves or riptides because I am not in a turbulent ocean.

My life is extremely satisfying on every level except one, my job and its financial contribution.  That is the problem. I have a job now.  It weighs like an invisible shawl of chain mail.  Find the River is a song of comfort and mission to me.

The river to the ocean goes,
A fortune for the undertow
None of this is going my way
“There is nothing left to throw
Of Ginger, lemon, indigo,
Coriander stem and rose of hay
Strength and courage overrides
The privileged and weary eyes
Of river poet search naivete
Pick up here and chase the ride
The river empties to the tide
All of this is coming your way”

R.E.M. are American Poets. This album has been in steady rotation for twenty years now. I am waiting for my children to be old enough to start to voice their opinions on my musical selections and how they feel about them.  They better lay off any negative comments about  the men from Athens Georgia.

 
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Posted by on 07/16/2013 in Weekapaug Groove

 

My Favorite Albums, a top ten #8 Mental Jewelry – Live

I first heard Live at my High School’s Battle of the Bands.  I don’t remember what song was played (my guess is Operation Spirit ) but it put the band on my radar. I think my brother Rob owned it.  I purchased it in 1993 and it has endured as a favorite since.

Mother Earth is a Vicious Crowd.  Yes she is.  That I can relate to the message here, sadly.  It has become a world of communication that has no local definition.  Do you talk to the stranger next to you or do you text your friend a joke saw on some website? I am guilty of this myself at times.  I am sure of it.  I As a natural introvert I am more like to withdraw, though lately I am actively fighting it. Ed K.’s voice is full of energy and the plea for connection is raw and painful.

The Beauty of Grey has a protest song feel with a message about self, your views and how they may not gibe with what ideals you claim.  It is a song about finding a middle ground, becoming one and moving forward.   

 

 

Note: The guy who put this video up has the Secret Samadhi cover art, not the art from Mental Jewelry.

 

Pain Lies by the Riverside and Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition) both received a lot of air play and are solid songs. They are not the most familiar songs to fans of Live (Throwing Copper was more of their breakthrough success, at least mainstream) but they have the angst and questioning that was the strength of this album as a whole.

Brothers Unaware plays off alienation that is present in society.  The things we get caught up in, what we let drift by.  While the themes of this album could never be described as happy or upbeat on a whole, this is a dark song.

The final song on the album is 10,000 Years (Peace is Now).  How fitting, the album ends with an apocalypse of sorts.  Snide comment aside ” Poets and Preachers and Politicians/they’ve all had their say/ And we’ve got 10,000 years/ devoted to nothing/ but tomorrow and yesterday.” that right there, poetry in song form.  Truthfully the written word does not do justice to Ed’s wailing on this one.  

“If all of the ignorance in the world had a second to go/ what would you say?/ and who would you obey/I am here to say Peace is Now.”

Album number 7 is a must have if you are only going to purchase one Live album. This album is why I have purchased every Live album released.  The others are fine, in fact if I were ranking songs a few would be quite high, but this is about a whole piece and all of the above plus the other six songs make for a spirited first album by any band.

 

 

 
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Posted by on 07/15/2013 in Weekapaug Groove