Sunday, April 29, 2012

A late tribute to Pete Fornatale, another loss for intelligent music radio

If you know me, you know I think there were very few jocks in the history of commercial radio that were any good. Pete Fornatale was one of them. I listened to his show for years. I was fortunate to grow up within ear-shot of NYC radio, a market that while being the largest, somehow managed to keep pockets of free form alive on the commercial airwaves a little longer than anywhere else in the country. And when not even NYC could resist the homogenization of the airwaves, this is how Pete Fornatale felt about it (quoted from NY Times):

By the early 1980s, stations specializing in what had been known as free-form radio were bringing in business consultants who urged less variety in records and more control over the disc jockeys. Mr. Fornatale later complained that he and his colleagues had been demoted from chefs into waiters, “and fast-food waiters at that,” as he told The Record of Bergen County, N.J., in 1999.

Thankfully, WNEW held out long enough for me to hear Fornatale's Mixed Bag through the late 80's and early 1990's, but it was easy to notice the change happening on the airwaves around him and within that station.

Before mp3's and social networking, I relied on what little good was left in commercial FM and on a lot of college radio to learn about new music, and to get more than a superficial "classic-rock" sampling of older music. Pete Fornatale was one of this Jewish kid's favorite Sunday School teachers.

I'm a little late posting about his passing, but here's the NY Times obit.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A reunion with Small Factory, a review of when I last saw them in 1993

On a few occasions over the years, I've employed google to help me find any documented evidence of one of the strangest outdoor music festivals I ever attended. It was the Indie 500, organized to launch Jiffy Boy Records, in Vincentown, NJ. I decided to look again today, because I'm going to see one of the bands that played it - Small Factory. I haven't seen them since. Incidentally, my friend Mike and I crashed with some members of Small Factory in a Princeton dormitory after inquiring about the camping, which WNYU (or was it 'FDU) told us there would be in their concert calendar. No, there would not be any camping.

As for swag - I bought a Swirlies CD and a festival T-shirt I've since lost. I also have some photos, not in digital form, that I won't dig out to scan any time soon probably.

The funniest part, besides not being able to camp, was Mike's reaction to seeing the half-serious "No Biohazard T-shirts allowed" sign at the improvised entrance. He was worried, because the only other shirt he had on him, for the next day, was a Biohazard one. In his defense, they were sort of a regular act at Studio One in Newark, NJ. They loved them there. (I did not).

Google delivered, this time.  is where I found it, with no author attributed, but it's probably by "Appelstein."

Republishing it here, without a means to contact the author.

Brandon Stusoy's dad's house, Vincentown, N.J.
July 3-4, 1993

    So Brandon and his friend Marc are starting a record label called Jiffy Boy. They chose to kick off their release schedule with a two-day fund-raiser. Somehow, Brandon convinced his father to let him set up a stage in the backyard, invite total strangers on the property for two days, and (as the homeowner) take implicit responsibility for any damage. I'd love to know what Brandon's sales pitch was. Having spent last Independence Day in NYC and hating it, this seemed like the better way to spend the holiday weekend.
    As we drove down Route 206, passing the cheap motels (including the "Slumberland Motel") Wawa convenience stores and the coin toss outside of a gas station, I pondered the whole New Jersey white-trash experience, from which I managed to escape, and how convenience stores and teenagers fleeing for college fit into it all. After making a left at the three bikers hanging around a Wawa parking lot, we were there. The stage was constructed from two hay trucks covered with a tarpaulin just low enough to obscure the heads of particularly lanky band members. In one corner of the yard was a concession stand selling fanzines, records, Shop-Rite soda and Snapple. There was a sno-cone machine later in the day. A band called Ritual was playing as we arrived. Presumably representing the Vincentown scene, they featured a singer who jumped around a lot and a sludgy Black Sabbath/Flag sound. They were the first of 14 bands that afternoon. I won't attempt to list everyone, but I will say that Sugarshock had a great animated drummer that nearly redeemed their overall ho-humness; Spent and Uncle Wiggly were both very good; Smack Dab were interesting; and the two interludes by Ian Garvey, young son of Steve Garvey from the Buzzcocks (he was the elderly-looking English man in attendance) were cute at first, irritating quickly.
    After Smack Dab's set, it seemed like a good time to score some dinner. Six of us piled into a car and found a pizza place back on Route 206. The woman at the counter seemed bemused: "Is there something going on in Vincentown? I've been seeing people with passes around their necks all day!" I tried to explain it in terms of Lollapalooza, but she just got more confused. Yeah, I'd be surprised too I bet. We got back just in time to miss Transilvia (no great loss) and to see Wally from The Lilys play with just a drummer. Next up were Poole, who shined on "Tangle Up." Beth Sorrentino even showed up to reproduce her backing vocals from the SpinART record. By now there were a couple hundred people on the property. Just as Brandon's dad was beginning to express concern over alcohol on the premises, someone lit up fireworks from behind the stage. This seemed cool for about 10 seconds until I realized some were coming perilously close to the bushes. Confusion ensued. Brandon's dad was threatening to call the cops, Todd was berating the audience from the stage, rumor had it that the state troopers were on their way, and I wondered momentarily if we were about to have our own little indie-Altamont right here in Vincentown.
    Actually everyone just stood around confused, waiting to see if the Swirlies would play. Finally, they got onstage and made it through about four songs, fueled by tension and the very real prospect of getting shut down. Amazingly, nothing foolish happened, the crowd dispersed quietly, and no cops showed up.
    Not surprisingly, the second day's festivities attracted a smaller crowd, certainly a mellower one. There was talk of cutting the lineup in half, but in the end only Azalia Snail got canceled (shame, I was looking as forward to seeing her as anyone else). Most of the afternoon's lineup blended together pleasantly. I remember a lot of Richmond bands. I also remember that two of the New Brunswick acts, Remote Control Yeti and Mr. Thumb, were the ones that most depended on gimmickry, failed humor and guitar pyrotechnics. RCY in particular seemed like something Mike Judge threw away as a
Beavis & Butt-Head idea. Far better were Grit, a Rutgers guitar/drum duo who got the most out of their two-man lineup. Later, there was Joey from the Barnabys, whose set included covers of the Go-Betweens ("Rock & Roll Friend") and Jonathan Richman ("Girlfriend"), and then Small Factory, who were coming off of a cross-country tour and played a selection of rediscovered old favorites. Drummer Phoebe was having fun, and she's often the factor that differentiates a good SF show from a dull one.
    The sun began setting, and as fireworks (legit ones!) could be seen in the distance, Versus, Monsterland and the Pushdaisies closed out the weekend in Vincentown. We left Brandon's backyard to the sound of Envelope's lead singer making impenetrable comments about all the people he had to sleep with to get this gig. That seemed as good a cue to go home as any."

 Looking forward to seeing Small Factory at their reunion show in Pawtucket, RI. tonight. This time, it's on their turf.

/Yes I know, this is not a Lynn, MA. post.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Not a random act of art in Central Square

There are new giant photos along the pepto wall in Central Square, including one of mine. There was a good crowd for Centerboard's unveiling yesterday, considering the weather. All one had to do is prepare for it, like this girl...

Sometimes I think people really do catch the Spacebus in Central Square (that one's mine..)


Thanks to Centerboard, all the photographers, the City of Lynn, and the MBTA.

Also, big thanks to the Item for being there and doing a write-up, so I didn't have to do one for LynnHappens. :)