Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ಯೌಂಗ್ ಮೊಥೆರ್ಸ್ - ೭-ಇಂಚ್ release

Come On, The Cross b/w Good Swords
7” release limited to 500 copies

Young Mothers’ debut single on Fort Lowell Records is a hearty and fun surprise. The seven incher, pressed on nuclear green vinyl, is a delight. Its a yin and yang of emotion rich in catchy melodies and grounded efficacy. On “Come On, The Cross” the band delivers an atypical pop song that is both feverish and sugar laced. It echoes artists like Matthew Sweet and the monochromatic backbeat of T.Rex. On “Good Swords” the track segues from tender Elliot Smith balladry to guttural vocals the likes of Dave Grohl. It’s a tender song that attacks and heals inside just a few minutes, like sudden rage in the midst of trying to hold back tears. Singer Zachary Bennett Toporek does a lot with small amounts, like ending an uplifting lyric like “So lift up your voice and sing for me” before growling through the rest of his sinewy vocals. It’s a beautiful song that belies genre typing. Toporek pours it on, making the b-side somewhat more engaging and memorable than its counterpart. Young Mothers released Arts & Crafts in 2008 to much acclaim. But these tracks show something interesting on the horizon for the band.

-Brian Tucker

Limited to 500 copies, this 7” vinyl can be purchased at Fort Lowell Records for $5.99 or at Amazon.com. Release date: June 8, 2010


Monday, May 24, 2010



Ryan and Rebecca Coseboom, members of San Francisco’s Halou, craft dreamy and scratchy Casio music on this new release, five songs of multilayered and lofty dreamy pop music that seems to care more about ambiance and emotion than force-fed ideas. In Halou, working with DJ Shadow and Cocteau Twin’s Robin Guthrie, has paid off. On ‘Sing Along, My Children’ its easy to hear the beats ok UNKLE and DJ Shadow tracks from the past. Feathersongs is rich in texture and Rebecca’s singing and spoken word cadence wraps the whole like a pretty, worn blanket. Rebecca has a sinewy, computer and candy coated vocal style that feels unnaturally mirrored to the synth and staccato mechanized beats and melodies on Feathersongs. This music has been worked before – think Portishead by way of PC Kahuna. There’s no slight intended – Stripmall Architecture has delivered something that’s meaningful and memorable, definitely music to be embraced and replayed. ‘There’s Only So Much Light’ is a highlight among the five great tracks here. She sings, “There’s only so much light…There’s only so much love/You take more than your share.” For dreamy pop its saying a lot, while doing it in a way that raises the bar.

The cd/album is part one of a two disc offering. Part 2 will arrive later. Can be purchased on amazon.com for $7.95.

-Brian Tucker

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

artist Bess Dolin

from Avenue Magazine July 2006

Bess Dolin is leaving Wilmington for the windy city. There’ll be no more bike rides along Front Street, running into friends sporadically. She’ll continue to do art from her new home in Chicago, creating fine art and producing flyers for bands via her computer and the internet. But one must consider what the new locale will add to her growing artistic palette.
Dolin arrived at the Blue Post via her bike in a long dress and partially curled hair. She’s tall and gracious, brown eyes large and wide. Dolin doesn’t own a cell phone, has an old Wilmington prefix for her home phone. She creates web pages but isn’t a MySpace junkie. (“it’s like advertising for yourself”) There’s an informed innocence about her, you couldn’t push her around but she’d quickly find something to appreciate about you.
She has lived in Wilmington for five or six years. Wilmingtonians may be familiar with her work in a variety of ways. A few years ago she was getting noticed for her colorful and somewhat mad artwork that accompanied band flyers. It was the wonderfully crazed combination of animals interacting as though they were humans that brought attention to such unique work. Though perhaps not for everyone, its originality cannot be denied.
As an artist she has a plus, that her tastes change frequently, a stated concern about becoming stagnant. Dolin has an avid interest in everything, certainly animals. Currently she is fond of foxes and has a tattoo of one on her arm. But everything can be utilized for artistic purposes. While looking on eBay she found some old micro cassettes. She thought about making pins out of them but her boyfriend, photographer Donald Scott, suggested something different.
“He said maybe I could do a diary, suggesting them because they record,” she says. “I thought, that’s a great idea.” The subsequent creations, vastly different from previous work, were micro cassettes mounted on wood at Art Fuel Inc, each suggesting a specific point in Dolin’s life. The series, Timecapsule, was a first, having never done a series of art pieces before. The micro cassettes were decorated one by one and mounted on a stained block of wood with felt and an ornate ribbon ensconced with different dates.

“Each micro cassette suggests a specific point in my life,” Dolin says. Looking over her work there is an apparent evolution, the interests never waning, constantly moving.
Most notable are the bicycles.
Dolin can’t exactly put her finger on it. Not really a love of Americana or nostalgia, although she likes older bikes better, those with more personality, merely something that brings happiness. Recently, a friend went to Amsterdam and brought back scores of pictures of bicycles that she enjoyed.
“I don’t know what it is,” she says. “Some people like cars, furniture. Bicycles, it’s just one of those things.”
Her indecisiveness, and the tendency to go off on tangents, is part of what makes Dolin interesting. Her mind wanders from thought to thought telling engrossing stories and she adds extra words in her sentences, such as really and a lot to reinforce meaning. She’s very enthusiastic about what she means, like an energetic child and in a playful way. Dolin twists words around making them her own. It works in conjunction because there is a playful ferocity to her work, to her very nature.

Talking about the past there’s the evidence of constant change, from moving downtown and eventually giving up reclusiveness to exploring the bar scene only to grow tired of it within a year.
“I moved downtown and came out of my shell,” she explains. “But it’s important that people have time alone, to get comfortable with yourself. If you’re alone with yourself for a long period of time you learn to handle anything.”
But turning twenty-one and living downtown was more than a social situation. After that part of her life calmed down Dolin had a boyfriend who played in a band. It was in high school she made flyers for bands, just to “mess around.”
She started doing flyers for Thunderlip and gained more work from that. People starting knowing who she was and it became a series of six degrees, someone knew someone who knew Dolin and the work grew, sometimes too much work.
“That’s how I started doing that around here,” she says. Currently she is completing the cd cover art and logos for local band Glow in the Dark Scars. The cover has a bear theme going on, continuing the interest in animals.
She considers commission work somewhat frustrating because not everyone knows what they want, or if someone doesn’t have an idea in mind or isn’t about honest about what they want.
The inspiration for the band fliers, she’s not really sure. Dolin is inspired by anything, nothing in particular.
“I like certain animals, right now I’m into foxes, into bears,” she says. Along with the fox tattoo on her arm is a canary she says, pointing and telling of its placement a year ago. There are six total. She points to another saying she got it a few months ago.
“It used to be years between them. I like tattoos a lot, I like tattoo art,” she says.
Her boyfriend Donald Scott has been an inspiration. She’ll look at a picture he has and think I can do something with this. Their meeting was more random than serendipitous. But the burgeoning relationship has seemingly been a welcome addition to her life.
“I was coming out of Blue Post and he was coming in,” she says. Scott appeared during a tumultuous part of Dolin’s life and the two started seeing each other, the relationship moving fast.
Neither Dolin or Scott smoke and citing that the bars can be loud and smoky, she says that they’ll come to a place like the Blue Post and play pool.
“We’re both like old people,” she says. “I like hanging out with people a lot. I did the drinking thing for a year but it gets expensive.”
Dolin enjoys riding bikes around downtown a lot, cruising the strip on Front Street she’ll say with a diminutive laugh.
“We run into people. We ride at night, come down to Water Street or go around Greenfield Lake. If we don’t see anybody we’ll go home,” she says and then pauses for a moment. “I have a job in the morning.”

After high school everyone told Dolin to go to college and she halfheartedly applied to few. At first Dolin was excited about the beach after moving to Wilmington from Chapel Hill but became more of a downtown person gradually, citing that you don’t have to drive. However, on the beach, “it would be nice if you didn’t have all the tourists and parking is a pain, it keeps going up. They need transportation that goes to and from for people.”
A few trips to Myrtle Beach led to an unfavorable opinion about over-commercialism. She’s not about to be down on someone for what they like but places such as Myrtle Beach are not high on a list of places to visit. The busy lanes of traffic, the mall-like atmosphere and the neon nightmare that blares from both sides of the street are enough to make wearing sunglasses at night a must.
“I don’t know what it is about Myrtle Beach but I just don’t like it,” she says. “Guys yelling at you when you walk down the street, following you around.”
Moving downtown provided an advantage such as making a car unnecessary save for going to work. Dolin enjoyed growing up in the country, Chapel Hill, but there’s not as much to do. Upon first moving to Wilmington it was hard to find a job.
“I didn’t have much experience in retail or waitressing.” She’d go to apply and never had enough experience. “How will I get experience if no one hires me,” she says with some frustration. Dolin clenches her fists and shakes her arms slightly, not angrily, but sort of like a child trying to repress anger.
Wilmington is the biggest city Dolin’s ever lived in. She appreciates that it’s a small town, that you can run into people, whether working for or against you.
“I’m not really a phone person, I like running into people I want to run into,” she says. “I don’t really have anyone’s phone numbers.”
Originally from West Virginia, Dolin and her mother moved to Raleigh as a child, which she remembers little of, and then to Chapel Hill.

She doesn’t know much about her father, her parents having been divorced early on. She does know that her father played music and her mother was a writer.
“I have no musical talent at all. I’m too crazy about punctuation and grammar,” she says. “My mother does draw some but isn’t into the visual art aspect. My mom does web page design. I do web page design. I grew up with it. We always had a computer in the house.”
Dolin used to only like drawing, never getting into sculpture or painting. The only schooling she has is at Cape Fear where one teacher would pass judgment on her work.
“When I paint I like to do smooth detail oriented painting. She’d always get on me because it wasn’t painterly looking,” Dolin says.
Dolin explains that she can see how it helps some people, but art is something she doesn’t believe can be taught.
“You have a natural knack for it. I’m not a big fan of abstract or anime, not a huge fan. If I were to be an art teacher I’d tend to lean to or be favorable of fine art instead of cartoons. But I don’t want a teacher forcing their sensibilities on me. I’d rather not have my stuff graded. One teacher was accepting of everyone’s art, didn’t judge on what he liked, accepted everyone’s interpretation. Plus school’s really expensive.”
Hanging out with artists and picking up on their techniques is a way to gain knowledge about art. Dolin tends to like details, and really simple stuff as well. She points to the wall in front of us, a brick wall partially covered in concrete to cover holes, possibly. On a large pipe to the right high up in the corner is a black Sharpie portrait of a man resembling Jesus.
“That would good in black and white,” she says. “Because of the texture.”
Some photos look good in black and white, depending on the photo, some look better in color. Dolin appreciates how colors come together yet notes black and white focuses more on the subject. The indecisiveness seems to work in her favor, having a strong interest in both.
A new facet to her life is to be the subject of Scott’s photography. It’s a strange experience because she doesn’t quite know what to do with herself. Scott is good about providing direction. At the age of seven she remembers wanting to be a model, imagining how great it would be. Dolin’s mother was a tomboy, a sweatpants, sneakers kind of woman. She took Dolin to an audition but it was a scam.
“They said, ‘pay us all this money and we’ll turn you into a model,” she says with added punctuation. “My mom said hell no and I was so mad but then I forgot about it.”
In public school she felt awkward about herself, saying that she’s always felt awkward, because of her height. She’s admittedly clumsy, perhaps coming along with the territory of being tall. Dolin is self deprecating about it though.
“I knock stuff over, beat Donald up totally by accident all the time,” she laughs. “You’d think I’d get a hold of it by now. I haven’t grown anymore.”
Thrust into being a subject of photos and ads Scott shoots for Edge of Urge, Dolin is quite simple about it, stating that if it wasn’t Scott taking the pictures she wouldn’t do it ordinarily. But the photos are rich in color and Scott gets images with Dolin that others probably couldn’t get, photos that encompass playfulness, inordinate colors, style and Dolin’s classic beauty. Scott sees something and is very supportive of Dolin, makes her feel good about herself and it shows in the shots.
“With him I’m so comfortable,” she says. “He shot me on bicycles and that wasn’t hard at all.”
She’s humble about looking at the photos, mentioning that its not really her at the center but the photo itself. She doesn’t see herself but the overall result, that some of them turn out horrible and some are really good. A model would see something else perhaps but as an artist she sees more than herself.
“If I’m changing positions they turn out the best, there are ones with movement… I like the ones with movement the best.”

The month of June has been about packing and saying and enjoying as much she can of her home for last five or so years. There are things to miss but much to look forward to in Chicago, making art and doing work for bands. Dolin doesn’t plan to advertise, she’s quite frugal admittedly so and may try school again. Scott will continue photography. The city will be beneficial for Dolin and her art, a continued artistic growth.
But moving to Chicago in July isn’t a big deal for Dolin. She says she’s pretty easy going about things and that Scott’s been in Wilmington for a long time. He’s wanted to move to Chicago for a while and has family there.
She doesn’t suffer from delusions, knows she’ll have to have a day job. She’s going to work towards supporting herself through art, aware that it’s hard to do, not minding art as a side thing as long as she can do it.
“If I couldn’t do art I couldn’t do anything.”
Things are hectic with packing and preparing to move. Dolin wants to get back into going to shows, shooting photography, looking forward to digital because the ease of it, no darkrooms.
For some, digital photography, makes the art less special because of the easy access to technology. Dolin prefers it to some extent.
“Art should be something that you want to do, to do for your self. It does take a certain eye, a certain something to take pictures. But there’s so much out there. It’s a love hate thing.”



from Avenue Magazine July 2006

Wilmington’s Sai Collins and the Getaway Drivers were invited to play on the bill with a day’s worth of musicians varying in styles, hip-hop, blues, acoustic folk and rock. The Getaway Drivers includes Eric Vithalani on bass guitar and percussion and Dan Maggio on drums. The band takes two vehicles to Band Together in Maryland bringing several friends as long as well, Kristy, Marc, Jayson, Jill and I. Jayson, having become friends with the band from attending performances, will unofficially be part roadie, part photographer and mutual support.
Eric says this is a large show for them to play, at least in its conception. He recounts a story of paying for a metal band long ago where their first show was in a dive.
“It was a strip joint where they put plywood on top of pool tables and ugly chicks danced on top.”
In lieu of cigarettes and stopping to smoke Jayson chews on Slim Jim’s whose smell waifs through the car piercing our conversation. He switches to Fruit Roll Ups, which in all honesty, I thought weren’t made anymore. Somewhere in Virginia, off exit 31, we stop for gas and a stretch. Phone calls are made, bad food purchased and everyone notices the strange skies, expressing concern for the festival.
Kristy steps out of the van and asks who wants snacks. She will have several new names by the weekend’s end, one of which will be Snack Queen, for she always has something to nibble on, from roll-ups to Peanuts Gummi Bears.
The drive to Damascus seemingly takes little time, the six hours pass easily over conversation. Sai’s phone rings a lot, the two vehicles communicating along the road, from event planners and from the friends we will meet with soon. Jayson and Sai navigate effectively with instructions from the Internet, down to the mile. Road trips have been rendered efficient and their surprises lessened. The only surprises left are the people you encounter at pit stops where the counter workers are at ease, always ready to get off work yet the travelers are worn and weary.

In Damascus, everyone hangs at Shari’s second floor apartment arriving not long after the sun recedes. The floors are hardwood and shoes and flip flops pile up near her apartment door. It seems we from North Carolina are the only ones wearing flip flops. We are referred to as surfer and hippie folk. But I think we are somewhere in between.
Sai catches up with Shari and Elsa, sitting on the couch, taking pictures and hugging one another.
The apartment walls are different colors and the decorations elegant. A high wall is painted with texture and Shari says you can see god or Jesus in the texture. Some see it and some do not. Everyone relaxes; some go onto the porch to smoke. The air out is muggy and cool. The porch is small but soon grows crowded.
It isn’t long before Sai, Eric and Dan play music in Shari’s living room. More people begin to come over. Cell phone conversations consist of bring beer and bring alcohol and that Sai is playing. A cast of characters filter into the apartment, a vibrant assortment of life. Choppy Chope steps onto the porch with a wooden cane and Mohawk.
“That’s right, a black man with a Mohawk is on the porch,” he says deadpan looking like Fishbone. He introduces himself to everyone, a local performer and music producer. It quickly becomes evident that Shari has a varied list of friends. She is a delightful host, moving around to everyone. From time to time she comes out to the porch to see how we are and always says something funny, says her neighbors don’t like her because of her parties and that she doesn’t really care. Her energy is infectious and something to be admired. It rivals her generosity. People collect in her back bedroom to smoke and plays Choppy Chope’s cd of music whish is a mellow blend of beats
and ambiance.
The band continues to play an acoustic set in Shari’s living room, improvising and playing their songs or the occasional cover. One of which, ‘Simple Man,’ is a polar opposite of the one Lynyrd Skynyrd made famous. The band slows it down, fleshing it out acoustically with both Dan and Eric on percussion and Sai’s deep vocals bringing it together.

Outside the sky falls apart, raining like torrential downpour found only in the likes of Columbia, South America. It starts and then grows stronger and stronger. The rain is severe enough to set off a car alarm that never ceases. The loud ringing has no effect on the residents and continues until the battery grows weak and then less audible. More people pile onto the porch to which Shari expresses faux concern over the weight, laughs and returns inside.
Just after midnight the rain stops suddenly and the car alarm has finally given out. It quickly feels cooler and less muggy, a good sign for Saturday’s show. Elsa explains that people in Maryland are finicky, that they tend to stay at home with onset of inclement weather.
Shari offers to let us sleep over but there isn’t enough room for the eight of us. Sometime after one in the morning we return to our vehicles and follow Elsa to her town home a few miles away. She has a room in her three story town home. We will sleep in her basement/living room where a ping pong takes up much of the floor.
After settling in we turn on the big screen television to check the weather for Saturday. According to the newscast the day is to be clear and devoid of rain. A welcome sign given what we sat through less than an hour ago.

Cobblers Knoll is a hundred acres of private land in Damascus, Maryland and the location of Band Together, a concert held June 3rd, 2006, organized by the president of Edge International, Siobhan Downs. She is the owner of Cobbler’s Knoll and has planned something along the lines of a modern Woodstock utilizing local music to raise awareness and funds for social and economic problems here and abroad concerning domestic violence and the needs of children living in developing countries.
A long winding stretch of road cuts a path finding it’s to way those hundred acres of land. Trees have not been cut for a long time, curling over the aged asphalt forming a nearly natural roof to which vehicles pass under. The stretch of road is evidence of a neighborhood pleased not to mature into the modern age.
There are signs along the road about snow routes, a reminder of a harsher season. Hand painted signs that read Band Together 2006 adorn poles and old farm equipment pointing attendees to the event. These signs foreshadow the homegrown, hand made feel to the event.
A tall shirtless young man points the way in, smiling with a shovel across his shoulder. The sky is still grey and the morning is cool and slightly wet. The skies are a reminder of the massive rain storm from the night before. We pass a two story blue house in the center of the property and there are large tie-dyed sheets hanging on a small building and clotheslines.
We park at the rear of the field behind Stage B, the ‘rock’ stage. It’s early, and the clouds blanket the sky leaving everyone a little chilled, still not awake completely. A blues based band plays to an early and light crowd just after noon. Jayson and I finish our egg and cheese sandwiches picked from a local eatery. Sai gets on the phone to contact event coordinators and find out the band’s time slot.
Everyone builds their tents, some going up fast and some require extra effort. You hear things like, what’s this pole for or you got an extra stake? I just bent mine. Dan throws up the mansion of tents. It has four rooms and shaped like four igloos connected to one another. It’s ridiculously huge, white and light blue in color.
There is a feeling of community; of common ground to everyone we come into contact with. Everyone is respectful and courteous. The workers have shirts that say Band Together on front of yellow and red shirts and read FAMILY across the back. People wave and smile to everyone they don’t know.
Living in an area where strip malls are plentiful and apartment complexes dominate our general neighborhoods it takes time to digest the massive amount of land that surrounds us. There is green grass that fills our field of vision, for as far as we can see, surrounded by tress and a ceiling of blue sky scattered with grey and white cottony clouds. And there is another stretch of land entirely on the opposite side of Siobhan’s home.
The vastness gives reason to breath, relax and want to never erect another building if it was possible. Just a few miles away from this property lays the concrete and steel, the strip malls dependent on energy and asphalt littered with cars. Here are people, and music, open land and port-o-johns. For the next day we will feel content to be lost in a field, free from contemporary appliances and noise other than music.

Music is planned for the entire day, noon to midnight. Bands from all over attend. Damascus’ own, Soup’s Uncle and Diacritical from Virginia. The Natural Breakdown is from New Jersey. Sets are typically forty five minutes. As soon as one band finishes another is rushing to get set up.
One of the event coordinators, John, is in charge of getting everyone to the stage. He approaches Eric who is sitting on a lawn chair far behind the stage near the tents and says that their band is supposed to go on in ten minutes.
“We were told five o’clock,” Eric explains. John apologizes and says there was a mistake. Eric immediately gets on the phone to find Sai. “Hey, they want us to go on now. You need to get over here.”
Initially the band was to play a slightly longer set because another had to cancel, but now their set has been adjusted. It is unclear what happened but irrelevant now because John keeps pushing to get them onstage. John keeps apologizing and remarks about going faster to which someone says, it can’t go any faster.
The band gets onstage and Sai makes changes to his guitar. The band works through familiar numbers such as ‘Shawna’s Star,’ ‘Scarlet Butterfly’ and ‘Worth the Drive.’ Sai is passionate in his delivery, even after singing these songs so many times. He regales each one with a brief story about them, that one is for a friend he was close to and their effect on his life and another about driving all night to surf.
The most engaging number, ‘Sober Me,’ in which the chorus ends with a lion’s yell of this song is not about war! In a time where much public protest is focused on the justifiable concern over our country at war the song is about needs that are sometimes forgotten, unprotected sex and pregnancy, hunger, domestic violence and education. Sai intersperses part of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’ towards the end to grand effect. The set ends and Sai thanks the audience and mentions the importance of awareness and events such as Band Together.
Sai’s friend, Asia, has driven down from New Jersey for the show and takes the opportunity to shoot photos of the band in a field of tall straw grass as the sun sets. They play impromptu songs on a djimbe drum and tambourine.
Bands that follow are just as engaging. The Natural Breakdown follows with their mix of jam band hippie rock, soul and a guitarist that burns through songs like Stevie Ray Vaughn. He will occasionally look out to the crowd, seemingly shy and covered in a black beard and lengthy dreads. They have their own message to spread as well.

“You will not know unity until you know there’s no difference between you and me” the singer belts out as the final chorus. “The revolution is not physical,” he says over and over. His vocals are like recent years Van Morrison but more soulful and melodic.
The band plays the type of music that disintegrates spine and muscle, creating a looseness that people will spontaneously dance and swirl to. The music is a surprise, mixing that positive, hippie vibe with music that absolutely cooks when played live.
The sun sets on the band as they close the set. While departing they are asked to play a little longer to which they do. The band returns, proceeding with the encore, three additional tunes, and everyone is pleased.
A guy dancing in front of the stage does a front somersault landing flat on his back. He lies still, breathing rhythmically. He doesn’t move and people stare, their eyes diverting from the fallen guy and back to the stage. His girlfriend, perceived as his girlfriend, comes over and touches both of her hands on both sides of his face. She smiles as he smiles, his red face matching his red shirt.
As the set finishes we return to the tent area at the rear of the woods behind of the stage. Dan comes away from the van with a Bud box and Eric starts in on a package of Oreo’s and then crawls in his tent for a power nap. It is quiet and relaxing there, a welcome crowd of friends and new friends. Pablo and Amy have come down from the Bronx to hang for the day.
I sit in a tent cooling off from the heat now that the sun is out and warming everything up. I reach into a large bag of peanut M & M’s and talk about traveling with Jill. She has lived around the world as a teacher. There is a heavy band playing in the background, part Alice in Chains, part Mad Season. They’re heavy without wearing out the crowd.

The next band, Soup’s Uncle, take the stage as night takes over. We step outside after they begin the first song. Like Natural Breakdown, there is looseness to their sound, more groove heavy in places, a sludgy Black Crowes crossed with Phish.
Their singer, slightly heavy set, plays guitar and pushes out vocals that shouldn’t come form him. He has curly dark hair and a goatee that makes him look like a cult leader, but his delivery is sanguine and subtle. He is part Canned Heat, part Bob Weir, vocally. And he blisters on the guitar, trading seemingly cold looks at the bass player whose long hair flops back and forth. They are from Damascus and the skinny shirtless guy from the event entrance used to be their drummer.
“I quit cause I knew I wasn’t good enough,” he says. “I told ‘em, I know a better drummer.” He is an avid supporter, hands out free cd’s to the audience.
They close their set with two covers, ‘Beautiful Disaster’ which sounds better than the original and ‘Bulls on Parade’ which comes off almost note perfect. The singer gets Zack Delaroacha’s vocal inflections down.

It gets cooler, cold for most wearing shorts and flip flops. People break out long shirts and pants, socks and shoes. I have come unprepared, not thinking that the night would get this cold. So out come blankets and sleeping bags. There are no lights around the field, only the glow from festival workers’ flashlights and headlights on vehicles from ATV four by fours used to travel across the acreage. The stage is a beacon of light amongst all this open land. Everything else is black as night, the ability to only see a few feet in front of you and the vague distance. The generator for the stage runs quietly, powering stage lights and music equipment.
In the band area, deep behind the stage, people have collected. There are chairs and blankets. Jill and I rest flat on a blanket and under a sleeping bag. The stars burn small like flashlights far away in the night sky. Their dim light pinches the dark blue sky, a half moon sliver floats just left of center. Everything in sight has the heavy glow of dark blue. The ground is dark, the grass barely visible, yet the very same dark blue. Skin and hair appears a shade of black and blue. A red sleeping bag is purple.
Just in front of us sits Asia’s car, blocking out the bright lights of the stage perfectly. The light is blocked almost entirely and what light available slips around the shape of the car, splintering through the windows, glowing like something unseen and approaching. I am reminded of a scene in Close Encounters where the spaceships are imminent from below a hilltop road, the light reaching upon the seekers.
Intermittently lightning bugs glow in the distance, and in the sky above us the sharp glow of lightning bugs falsely appears as a shooting star.
There is the smell of smoke, of firewood. A small stream of it moves across the sky.
We turn around to see that Snack Queen started a fire with Marc. Marc cut thick limbs and is laying them in as Snack Queen works to get the fire going. She is persistent, determined and successful. So her name changes to Fire Goddess. The timing couldn’t be better for it has grown colder and the dew has made everything feel wrong. The smell of the fire is soothing and brings extra light to the darkened field. The fire brings others around. Sai returns with a girl but they leave again to check out a group at the hip-hop stage.
The fire burns long enough for everyone to enjoy and get used to before the Yellow Shirts arrive, part of the Peace Patrol, security. They’re cool about it, asking us to extinguish the fire but keep on talking about it, almost talking down, explaining how fires can’t be within a hundred feet of the tree line or something. This irritates Dan who sarcastically says something about how they can leave now. They stay longer. I believe they just want to hang out, enjoy the fire, but eventually leave.
Regretfully the fire is extinguished and it gets cold again fast. It’s as if we were shown paradise for fifteen minutes and someone burned it down. Back under the blankets for warmth. The smell of the fire gone out is an unhappy reminder. Sai returns later and says that it’s okay to have a fire because there’s one up by Siobhan’s house. So another fire is struck and fresh wood is cut and torn hurriedly from limbs. It hasn’t burned long before Eric comes back and says that a volunteer fire department truck is on the premises. We can see their truck rolling in the distance, headlights on the prowl. This being more serious than the Peace patrollers, we pour water quickly on the fire. There’s not enough so Eric pisses on the fire. It goes out and we can see the volunteer truck driving around trying to locate the fire. They circle, stop as though searching, and then drive away.
Everyone decides to walk down to the house where a large bonfire is going in a pit with large tree logs. A half drunken guy in a white T-shirt stands next to the pit holding a blue Solo cup. He doesn’t say much and motions for people to move. He does it so carefully that it appears he’s eyeing a fight. People move back and he tosses the contents of the cup on the fire and it explodes upwards with a burst of flame like a mushroom cloud. A wall of heat moves away from the fire and a trail of fluid falls outside the pit into the dirt. Someone comes over and stamps it out.
A large group of people circle the fire, staying warm, drinking beer and smoking. The sound of djimbe drums all around, people laughing, people coughing, the smell of smoke fresh in the air.
Some have drums and guitars. On the other side of the fire a group of people begin playing music, tribal and rhythmic. I can barely see them, the wisp of fire flames casting enough light and movement that the players seem like ghosts in the near distance. Their playing and movement appears animalistic, slowly in sync with the music. They make up songs, creating within the moment. It calls to mind what life what must have been like before so much technology, people getting together for comfort of one another, for the love of music.
The music constantly changes from song to song. The last I remember them playing was an old Stone Temple Pilots song, ‘Plush’, and it sounded wholly different. If only someone was there to record it besides the recorder in my brain.

Marc, Kristy, Jill and I retreat into the blackened field, walking quickly to stay warm. The sound of the music at the bonfire is still present in the night. It can be heard all the way back to the tents. Marc and Fire Goddess starts up a third fire and we all sit nearby for a while until feeling tired brings the night to a close. I don’t know if Siobhan is happy with the result of her gathering. She’s been inside most of the day. It’s a good idea. There’s another concert planned for September. There need to be more shows, things that aid problems that can’t always be solved through bureaucracy, events that pull awareness out of the black.

Band Together

cd review - The Quarter After

Hailing from Los Angeles, The Quarter After’s new release Changes Near, echoes a period of music reaching back forty years or so, of bands like The Byrds and The Grateful Dead, who embraced rock guitar and complimented it with sky high harmonies and gentle, wispy vocals.
Lead singer Dominic Campanella alternates vocally, from even keeled vocals on ‘Sempre Avanti’ and ‘Early Morning Rider’ to what sounds like Tom Petty’s brother on ‘Turning Away’ and ‘See How Good It Feels’ – that song’s heart built around mid-west rock and roll. Dominic’s vocals twist and turn, nasally and velvet smooth all at once. The denouement of the track is guitar groaning coupled with soothing chorus that flitters away with the trickle of piano notes. ‘Counting the Score’ is a kicking country number, one that would make The Grateful Dead appreciative.
But while there’s a sweet (and obvious) laid back appeal to the album, there’s the specter of ghosts, of something elusive and perhaps mysterious to material on Changes Near. It breaks beautifully through the surface on ‘Nothing out of Something’ in which the band channels Broken Arrow era Neil Young and Crazy Horse with its moodiness and rusted surface guitar groans. ‘Winter Song’ is tempered, and patient, but is paced as if something is about burst free – perhaps its created by Miles Shrewsbury on the Tablas or Andy Campanella using something as simple (and perfect) as an egg shaker to lace the song.
The album doesn’t drown in folk rock, it may be the foundation, but there’s much boiling to the surface in varied flavors. From the trumpets on ‘Early Morning Rider’ to handclaps and jingle bells, The Quarter After mine anything as a instrument to craft a layered musical landscape. The majority of Changes Near is blanketed with a dreamy quality and it soars, echoing not just the past but the springtime escapades of future days.

from Bootleg Magazine March 2007

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


from Avenue Magazine June 2006

Joe Van Dyke’s birthday is Cinco de Mayo and every year he celebrates by having a pig roast. This year was the seventh and held once again in Charlottesville, Virginia,. Friends come from all over to celebrate and the party gets bigger every year. Around Charlottesville he hands out flyers and there’s a website, eatapig.com, that basically has the name and a Mapquest link.
Cody, Eric and I leave early Friday morning to attend with plenty of rain to follow for the five hour drive. We stop several times and drive hard through the heavy rain, rain that spirals off eighteen wheels like miniature storms. There are wrecks, blue flashing lights from state troopers and red tail lights, all blending together to appear purple from afar. There numerous wrecks, cars ripped open as if by a giant monster. Their destruction, while repugnant, is terribly beautiful.
Cody decides to play a letter game, in which you look for a word on a sign that starts with A and then you proceed to B and so on. It’s a great way to pass the time but a way to end up on the side of the road mangled. But he and I play competitively, finding letters in words written on vehicles, restaurant and hotel signs, bumper stickers and license plates. The hardest letters are Q (look for Dairy Queen or Quality Inn’s) and of course X. The game goes on quietly for a t least thirty minutes trying to find that elusive X. An eighteen wheeler carrying cars slides past and Cody searches the cars and their license plates. He lucks out because I’m watching the road. He eventually wins finding words for the letters, Y and Z. I am still trying to find my X.
Just inside of Charlottesville, moments before reaching Shamrock Road, the rain stopped. The streets glisten, the weather cool. The strangeness of it sets a tone for the rest of the weekend. Cody drives around, feeling his way to Joe’s house. Cody hasn’t been back to Charlottesville for some time now but remembers much and points out places where he knew people and girls dated. He drives through an area and says here’s the ghetto and two seconds later he says that was it. After a few wrong turns we get to Joe’s house.

Joe’s black hair juts from under the straw hat and he has a clever, cheerful smile. He sits comfortably in a Hawaiian button down shirt and a festive straw hat behind a homemade bar. The bar is located at the base of a hill that is his backyard and his laptop plays music through speakers in the window. Many homes in Charlottesville are built into the side of hills and the streets climb up and down adding a specific quality to an already attractive town where old world sensibilities meet the new.
After Cody catches up with Joe we walk to wait for the free trolley. We walk up a street only to be stuck by a train that is slowing down. It finally stops, taking as long as a ship in the wide ocean, and we climb across it like hobos. We catch the trolley that will take us to Fridays After Five downtown where a band plays every week and the downtown area is blocked off and people arrive after work to hear music, drink and meet people. It’s there we meet Jim, who’ll be cooking for the pig roast, and The Mayor, because he seems to know everyone, and Melanie, who’ll be singing for kids at a Catholic church very early in the morning, and Heather who we’ll find out is waiting on a phone call from her man in Richmond, and Big Jason who is the biggest kid you could ever meet, soft spoken and friendly, and several others that escape memory now. The atmosphere is that of a tiny festival, as if the town is aware that Joe’s throwing the pig roast but actually is the vibe of the town. People we see and meet are individuals, diverse and friendly. It grows dark quickly and the lights cast a purple shade over the locale. Everyone agrees to move on to somewhere else.
South Street Bar makes their own beer and it’s more than good. The bar is loud from conversation, music is played very low if at all. The wooden design accompanied by brick walls seems like a cross between a Tatami room and a fireplace. It’s elegant and comfortable. Cody sees a crooked painting on the brick wall behind the bar and wants to straighten it but the bar is crowded, hard to get a bartender. It’s killing me he says. He shares war stories of bartending with Joe at the Wild Wing Café in Charlottesville several years ago. Everyone knows Joe, likes and respects him. When he leaves in November it seems as though the area will be losing something. He seems the center of something in everyone’s lives. Heather and Melanie show up after visiting friends at another bar. They share a story about silly pick up lines and how to measure up a guy, if you know what I mean. We all exchange some dark humor and remind Heather about her late night rendezvous. Melanie promises to sing at the pig roast for us.

Joe suggests a pub crawl that will unknowingly get aborted. First stop is West Main where Zoe pours four shots of Jager who sits atop the cooler after and talks. The bar is located well below the street floor and people walking in can look straight down to the bar. Zoë talks openly, says she may come to the pig roast but has a wedding to attend. Cody attempts to talk her out of going and she is impressed with his ability to convince her. Finish your beers Joe says. We have eight more bars to go. We talk to Zoë longer and then some people in the bar and then we leave only to not find Joe. In what seems like a few seconds he’s disappeared.
We continue down Main past Starr Hill where Shooter Jennings is playing. His distinctive voice can be heard into the street. The next morning we’ll see the glass store front of Starr Hill has been smashed and held in place by artistically placed duct tape. We keep walking thinking we’ll catch up with Joe. Everyone has drunk enough that staying together was bound to go wrong.
So it starts to gently rain and we make it to Mellow Mushroom. The doorman is adamant about putting wristbands on us and marking hands with Sharpies. He gets Cody and myself but Eric slips through. Hey, where’s that other guy he says. He has to run to us anyway because he’s busy talking with friends on the street. Inside the bar we set about ordering drinks. Looking back I see the doorman grabbing Eric to ink him with a Sharpie.
I gotta mark you the door guy says. No Eric says plainly. But I got to and Eric dryly says no, I don’t think so, as if he’s being asked if he wants an enema or something. I’m allergic to that marker, I broke out before Eric lies. Eric tells him to write on the arm band. So Eric has this little black ring on his armband and the rest of us have black rings on the tops of our hands.
Inside, Cody is still looking for Joe but I look to my right after ordering whatever and see Joe’s straw hat and that he’s talking with a girl. I pull out the HOOK, a local mag, and sporadically turn the pages.

Is ‘V for Vendetta’ playing? a woman’s voice asks me looking down at the mag. I look over, noticing dark hair and tanned olive skin. It’s loud in the bar and I say I don’t know but I’ve seen it, my voice still raw from staying at a friend’s smoky house a few nights before. But I’m not from here I say. Is it good she asks. Not bad I say. I ask her name and she prefaces by saying this is really my name, it’s Alex. She says that people don’t get it. I tell her I’ve heard of girls named Alex. I see my friends are gonna leave and I say goodbye. What are you doing later she asks. Dunno. I walk outside and its raining and they’re waiting on a ride, to another bar. So I go back inside and ask what she’s doing later. Do you wanna go somewhere else she asks. Yeah, let’s go. So we do. Bail on my friends and disappear into a city where I don’t know my way around with what turns out to be a very cool girl.
We go to O’Neil’s where it’s loud and the old wooden floor is moist as though a leaky pipe is going strong. Its two levels and people play pool and others talk or dance closely. We pull two tables together and it seems awkward and both unanimously say let’s go, ending up at an after hours restaurant drinking margaritas and Dos Equis. It’s not loud and it’s a good place to get to know someone, after meeting so randomly. But time quickly passes over good conversation and the lights come up signaling time to leave.
Out on the street people are piling out of bars, it’s sprinkling now. Some guy keeps approaching people and asking do you like Pearl Jam?
We walk through streets heavy with fog and across campus where Jefferson is king and I am reminded of that maze in The Shining. There are endless, almost spiraling, walkways and ornate shrubbery and the image of campus is beautiful even under the dense night. On a vast stretch of grass between two main buildings is six inch wet grass that we walk through. In the distance there are a few people running from one end to the other, the pounding of flat feet on soft earth in the night. There is the faint sound of clapping. We talk but the people running seem odd. It dawns on me that in the distance someone is hitting the runner with a small spotlight and I see something. Are they naked? I ask. Alex says that they are naked, that its tradition, that everyone does it prior to graduating.
I get home later via cab and the pig roast flyer that has Joe’s address and invite the cabbie who’s lived in the city for most of his life. I enter Joe’s basement apartment and turn on the light to see Cody passed out on an ottoman, on his knees, facedown. It’s lurid and funny at the same time. I get my camera and snap one. He won’t believe me otherwise. Eric is asleep, snoring. I make a bed on the floor and try to get Cody to wake up. He mumbles like a little kid. I brush my teeth and then slide what I think is an old bean bag chair next to him (it’s really a dog bed, sorry, man) and sort of roll him onto it.
Sleep doesn’t come, only in short bursts. Ears ringing, the snoring, the dog growling and then a knock at the door. Cody has somehow made his way to a couch to sleep. I get up and turn on a light. Cody, there’s somebody at the door I say. Half awake he says let him in. I lay back down and soon after the knocking comes again. I open the door to find that it’s Jim. He goes to wake Joe, never stumbles over anything in the dark and says, Joe, we gotta get the pig. The sun is breaking in the sky and I try to sleep, burying my face in the dark of a pillow. But it won’t be long.
There’s Bloody Mary’s upstairs Steph says. It’s after eight and the day of the pig roast has begun. We pick up supplies from the ABC store and have breakfast in a packed restaurant where Cody keeps singing out loud to the girl sitting next to him, that she can’t have his potatoes. An older waitress comes up to me, she’s short, and is wearing a brown shirt with glittered lettering and a foxy cat on it. My eyes are mesmerized by the glitter but looks like I’m staring at her breasts. Yes, I’d like some water, thanks I say. Not your fault, Cody says. There’s a brief pause, the girl next to him watches Cody from the corner of her eye and smiles at her friend. You can’t have my Po-Ta-Toes! he sings out loud. The girl next to him breaks out laughing.
Cody and I drive to South Street to pick up a keg. There’s no place to park because the lots are used for selling art or something, a tiny gathering of something creative. We drive around and Cody points to a place to park close to South Street. There’s a fire hydrant I say. We won’t be long he replies. I say okay, thinking it’s a bad idea, but I park and out in a cd.
A few minutes later I hear this faint metallic voice, like someone talking really low with a bullhorn. Looking up and then to my left I see a police car. I turn down the At Budokan cd. You will be towed he says through the little speaker. I get out and walk over to him. As I do Cody is wheeling the keg to my truck and loading it. The officer has the handset in his right hand when I approach. Sorry, man, I couldn’t hear you I say. He is immediately rough, You are in front of a fire hydrant. I will tow you. I’ve been there only through the first verse of ‘Surrender’ and I figure he’ll see the keg being loaded and be reasonable. We’re loading the keg now I say. I don’t care, I will tow you if you don’t move he says firmly. I assume that there must be an overabundance of spontaneous flash fires in the lower downtown area and walk away to move my vehicle. As I cross the street I think to hand him a pig roast flyer and deem that he’d take it the wrong way.
The pig roast lasts all day and late into the night. Joe has frequent wardrobe changes. He changes his shirt after his parents leave to put on his signature shell bra. Cody changes his shirt too, sporting more edgy slogans, this one from Boondock Saints. It gets chilly and people make s’mores from the fire logs and Kate keeps everyone set up with drinks. Everyone who came to the party brought beer and bottles of liquor. Instant bar, plenty to go around.
You look like a man of adventure a guy says across the home bar three deep. He hands me a red Solo cup of something orange. Is this a Bar Mat I ask. No, I just made it he says. It looks like murky Tang and tastes like Cholulah and vodka. Insanely salty. I hand it back with a murky thank you. He smiles, walks away to find another victim. Leave the drinks to Kate.
There’s plenty of food to go around. There are brief tournaments of beer pong and flip cup. The guys beat the girls 6-2 but Tana insists that we were cheating or something.
Sam calls from NC asking how the roast is going. He says he can’t get Cody or Joe to answer their phones. He says he’s hung over a little, maybe a cold, asks if we like C-ville. I tell him I saw pictures of him on the wall of Joe’s apartment, from a wedding maybe. It’s high on the wall with many other pictures at the hallway to the bathroom where there’s been a line most of the night.
Late in the night it gets chilly and the smoke from the fire in the yard gets strong. Joe announces loudly to crowd from the bar that he isn’t drunk yet. Eric and I go upstairs to talk with Tana. She’s finishing up school this week with a degree in Environmental studies and philosophy. She’s not sure where she’s going afterwards and I look through her dissertation, thick as a phone book and loaded with stuff that I’ll never understand but she does. She goes to bed and Lindsay comes in. Eric heads out to the party again.
My phone rings and its Alex asking, where are you? I say I’m upstairs, come on up. She tells me that she’s back at the dorm, that she came by and that no one knew where I was. She must have come by just after we came upstairs. You just wanted to avoid me she says. No, I say, I wanted to see you, annoyed at the bad timing. I had fun last night she says. If you have time before you leave tomorrow maybe we could hang out. I say absolutely and that I’ll call after lunch.
I go downstairs and pour a few shots of Jager and call it a night passing some idiot hitting himself in the head, claiming that he’s Ultimate Fighting Championship material. The pig roast goes on for a few more hours.
Sunday morning means clean up and about fifteen bags of trash get hauled out to the street. All the beer is gone, the kegs are empty but there’s plenty of alcohol to play with. About ten of us go to St. Maarten to have brunch. Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas get made and conversation lends itself to the night before.
The mood is tired and light. Outside there’s the certainty that it will rain soon, the morning still damp into the afternoon. The orange glow inside St. Maarten’s echoes everyone’s early morning temperament.
It is a makeshift family that we were welcomed into for the weekend. The pig roast wasn’t just a birthday celebration but a celebration of life. It also may be the end of an era. Joe plans to sail away to the Caribbean in November, having saved up and bought a boat to leave on with his dog Leah. One gets the sense that there will be a hole left behind, hard to fill. In some ways, like Jefferson, Charlottesville has garnered and committed to history another fine individual. Something tells me that Joe will spread his spirit wherever he travels.


I can change the world with my own two hands is inked across the underside of Sai Collins’ arms, between the elbow and wrist. With Sai I firmly believe it. Seeing this on someone else’s arm I might not think much of it. But knowing Sai it is concrete. It just may happen if he’s got a hand in it. If there’s anyone I’ve ever known to be passionate about changing the world it’s him. In all this time as friends many conversations come to the subject of the world and how people tend to interact, both positively and negatively. And with Sai I’ve never known a harsh moment. He’s completely positive. Completely dedicated to making a difference where he can. Always volunteering his time, his talents and his energy. There are probably more like him but this story isn’t just about a musician but a person confounded by the world and their desire to make a difference.

“I got these tattoos two Tuesdays ago,” he says. As a kid, he used to draw a lot and would tattoo sleeves on his arms, usually before going to church in which his mom would yell to wash it off.
“She’d yell, ‘what are you doing, we’re about to go!” he says with a big laugh.
For his current tattoo he wanted something he’d still connect with at sixty. What would he want at 28 and still be happy with at 60? He remembered something from the bible as a kid and how god communicated with the Israelites. The statement was, “What I give you, what I tell you, wear it upon your forearms, your head, and write it in a visible location so you remember what you’re supposed to be doing.”
“And (pointing to the tattooed words) this is a line that comes from a Ben Harper song. It goes deeper than liking a song. That I can make this world a better place with my own two hands,” he says.
The mentality is that we’re a community and we get together and work towards the good of others. He brings up a statement made by Gandhi, be the change you want to see or expect.
“Change is a word I’m so fond of. We’re constantly changing even though we don’t want to. There’s so much change that is needed. Change will never come if no one takes initiative. It states so many things that I want to be as a person.”

Would you take the time to see what its like for me
As people pass me by would you wonder what they see
It looks like I’ve become a monster in some bad dream
Little children stare and parents won’t say nothing

Sai uses the word ‘door’ a lot. You hear it frequently during a conversation with him. Much of what he says pertains to making change or creating opportunity. The meeting of two people from different walks of life can create opportunity, open doors. Volunteer work that helps others can open doors.
Sai is hoping to do a music art show where music, art and even film covers lifestyles, surfing, vegans, vegetarianism, to get all types of people together to experience different things in one gathering.
He’s interested in a benefit show and mixing up different things. “I wanna keep changing things; change the scenery where we do benefit shows in diverse locations.”
Another idea is to start a beach walk where people meet and pick up trash. On a Sunday people meet and walk and pick up trash. It’s a simple situation where people meet new people then meet back somewhere and play music.
“I recently came up with the title of a show I want to start called, we all live here. All the songs on Through My Eyes are related to social or government issues. These issues touch all of us. The song ‘Through My Eyes’ is about a homeless man that he created based on an encounter with a real homeless man in New York and imagined what his life is like.
“When you walk by someone don’t just give them a weird glare” Sai says. “Stop and talk with them.”
Through My Eyes is an album that covers homelessness, vegetarianism, emotional displacement, things that most people can relate to. It is a direct extension of Sai, a collection of songs that emulate his philosophies and daily life. But it brings a certain duality that echoes his humbleness.
“Sometimes I feel weird just promoting music,” he says. “But music gives me a platform to talk about other things, to promote something else.”
Creating and playing music is also a healing process. Although talking with Sai one might think he’s gregarious but he claims to be something of the introvert. He’s very open and engaging once he starts talking. He’s energetic in his speech, talks with his hands, his head always moving and shuffling his frame.
“The music thing is helping me to overcome fears, to understand more about my life,” he says. Sai performs in front of people several shows a week all year long, and for the last two years.
“I get afraid to talk to people in groups. I go to parties and feel I’m not a party person,” he says. Sai confesses he’s reserved and deals with a small amount of social anxiety. At shows he doesn’t talk as much as he feels he should. He’d like to do more speaking at shows depending on the venue but time will tell.
So he gets a lot of practice. For the last year he’s played solo or with his band The Getaway Drivers, encompassing Eric Vithalani on bass and percussion, Bret Ekstrom on guitar and Dan Maggio on drums.

I’m looking for someone that I love
Can you tell me more about the one I speak of?
Cause they’ve been missing for sometime and
I’m never sleeping cause they’re on my mind

In 2004 a friend who worked at Tidal Creek, Emily, entered a singer songwriting contest at the Soapbox. She asked him to do it but he did it more out of supporting the friend. He played ‘Scarlet Butterfly.’ Monica Caison from the non-profit organization Missing Persons NC.org approached Sai about a contributing a song for the organization. She gave him a DVD that explained the mission of the organization. Sai went home and tried filling his head with what it would be like to lose someone, the emotional side. And he came up with the song ‘Missing Faces’ playing at River fest where the song was sold to raise money. Sai didn’t want to play alone so he asked Dan to play drums and then the idea of a band fell together. “Well, we could get a bass player. A three man band at least.” So they put up a flyer.
“I didn’t have a goal or a strong desire to pursue a career in music,” he says.
Dan was a vegetarian. Eric came to the band by way of the flyer at Tidal Creek. Coincidentally he was also a vegetarian. It wasn’t purposely done that way.
“We all laughed, it was ironic, off a flyer we got another vegetarian,” Sai says.
Within a year of playing with the band and as solo, Sai Collins and the Getaway Drivers performed a hundred and twenty plus shows in 2005. The band played House of Blues after Sai asked about performing after eating in the restaurant. He dropped off a cd with the manager and got a call back a few weeks later. Playing inside the restaurant is how HOB screens bands that will open for bands on their main stage.
“A year after our very first show we played at House of Blues for their Bluesapolooza,” he says. “It felt like a privilege. It was packed out which was a good feeling too.”
Sai plays more solo shows out of simplicity, even playing a My Space house party in New Jersey. He was contacted by a girl via the web site and bought a cd. Her parents liked the cd and invited him up to play at a party.
“I couldn’t promote music without My Space. I don’t know how bands did it without it. Putting music on there I’ve sold music as far away as Japan,” he says. “I got contacted from someone in the Philippines.”
He’s been able to share not only music but poetry. My Space lets him communicate with people much better.
“These are just cool people who like music,” he says.
You may have caught him play at the Black Horn Bar down at Carolina Beach or a performance at Sweet and Savory Café. But he’s been focusing more on the Myrtle Beach area recently. Being out of town so late doesn’t afford the opportunity to play early in the morning at Dixie Grill, a place he played many weekends last summer. It was a place where he met a lot of people from varied walks of life. He cites meeting a man who would bring his two daughters every Saturday.
“Playing there is a great sense of community,” he says. ‘The Dixie is very cool. The people there are cool. It has a more natural, grassroots feel to it.”
Playing at places like the Dixie Grill are important to him. He prefers the smaller venues, coffee house and the like. It is more personable and allows time to practice his music.
“I’m more partial to coffee house and smaller venues when playing solo versus bars.”

Sai grew up in public speaking training school in Los Angeles. His parents being very religious, Christian oriented, they taught him the importance of discipline and giving back to society.
“They were two hippies that found a new way of Christianity,” he says. Fueled with all this energy the family moved to an area in Bladen County, uprooting them and embarked on a five day road trip to North Carolina.
His father played trumpet and my mother played classical guitar. Sai’s interest in guitar came from a friend who was into heavy metal and played electric guitar. He was a year or two older than Sai, and into skateboarding which led to them becoming fast friends.
“I asked for a guitar, hoping for an electric and I got this classical guitar that my mom had been playing for years,” he says with a deep laugh. But Sai worked and saved enough money and purchased the whole rig. He started learning to play Metallica and Guns ‘N Roses.
“It’s funny when I tell people that, that I used to listen to Sepultura and Pantera,” he says.
But that was who he used to be and has no regrets or anything negative to say about that type of music. It’s just not who he is today.
“That was my interest then and there’s reasons why but I’m more into a peaceful existence now,” he says.
He played music but never was open with others. “It was something did in my room,” he says. “When I mention New York to people they assume I was playing there but that’s not the case.”
‘Worth the Drive’ is a song about growing up near Fayetteville and having to drive to get good waves. At sixteen, Sai and a friend would drive after work to the Outer Banks just to surf on the weekend. He doesn’t remember the germination of the song, but recalls possibly sitting in front of a surf video on the television, picking at the guitar and having images of being tired driving back .
“I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened but that’s how songs come about,” he says. “Just sitting around and playing.”
With Through My Eyes he wants to do more shows in conjunction with art and promoting causes.”
“I’m interested in getting with other artists like Mike Blair and creating more shows that open the door for us to invite people who are interested in our music and talk about other issues as well.”
Much of this stems from his upbringing. “I just grew up in an environment where my parents were doing work that helped people. That’s what my parents were always doing.”
He offers that he’s not a proponent of organized religion, that he severed himself from organized religion, but at the same time hasn’t lost respect for people who choose that for themselves.
“I try to find a balance within myself and produce something that’s good, positive. I get excited meeting new people and doing something positive together. It really comes from my parents.”
He mentions as an afterthought that his parents are currently learning sign language so they can missionary or preach to those that are deaf as a way to open up a door to communicate with others.
When not working or playing shows Sai does volunteer work. Every time we speak he seems to be involved in something, playing a benefit, such as Band Together in Maryland in June. But mostly it’s local. One such place is DREAMS. It came about after he overheard a conversation. Somebody said that there’s a non profit organization that gets involved with kids that are underprivileged, for art and music, dance and theatre.
“I went up and knocked and their door and asked how I could help out,” he says. But there have been rewarding moments and those of consternation. One afternoon the teacher who normally instructs the class was called away and Sai was left to conduct. The class was going crazy, bickering. Something had happened and he wasn’t sure what to do but felt that if he got the kids to talk about it, instead of fighting, then perhaps progress could be made.
“I guess this kid was in a gang. He seemed so mature for twelve,” he says. “I sat them down and talk about what was going on. The courts had this one kid at DREAMS to serve some of his time. The kid said he was glad to be there because he knew that being around those other kids was bad.”
Sai’s mindset is that, who else is going to show the kids that they are interested in them as individuals and how else will these kids reach their dreams if no one is encouraging them. He believes DREAMS provides that outlet to kids coming from troubled homes.
“I feel very privileged to help out and help raise money,” he says. It is the contacts made with other people that have also benefited the non-profit organization. It helped them get six acoustic guitars to start a class.
“Just talking to people,” he says about the volunteer work. “You never know what someone might want to donate.”

Sai has lived as a vegetarian for nearly eight years. The choice to become one originated from an alternate route from what one might expect. His cousin was a vegetarian for reasons that he can’t remember. Sai was about 18 and thought it was the stupidest thing.
“Why would you give up meat,” he says. So he made himself a bet to see if I could do it. To see if he could go without meat. And he did. But becoming a vegetarian grew out of a challenge, out of personal discipline. But when people ask him about it they learn that it was for more than just healthy eating or animal rights.
“I don’t consider myself an activist for animal rights,” he says. “Sometimes people choose modes of a lifestyle.”
He merely appreciates the value of eating in a better way, not contributing to factory farming which is problematic.
“The person I want to be, I can only achieve that if I discipline myself. If I went and did just anything I wanted I don’t know who I would be.”
Discipline is something he grew up with and mental discipline. His home life was regimented. He went to New York as a young person to do volunteer work and it too was regimented.
“I’m not as regimented anymore but I respect that value of discipline,” he says. “It’s important to me to have it in my life.”

In April Sai traveled to California to play a school benefit. It was the biggest he’s ever performed at. It was a solo performance, no band mates to rely on. And for close to a thousand people.
“Curtis Freeman found out about me from doing all these benefit things and put together this show to raise money for kids,” he says. Humbled by the request, about being invited to play with other musicians for a cause on the other coast, he still wondered about the invite.
“Why bring me from North Carolina for this when there are all these people in California?”
But it isn’t just the humility of being invited to perform, it’s who he is. Sai considers himself not a musician but a musical artist that likes to express emotions through music.
“I don’t consider myself a good performer,” he says. “I’m more of a writer and I’m learning to be a performer and how to be the business person in the middle of all this. It can be stressful.”
In this process he’s also found that no one will put the energy into projects as he will, wearing thin sometimes trying to keep things moving. Other projects include wanting to start an underground music label and helping other artists get exposure and fulfill their goals.
“I’m open about where I book my shows when people ask how I got all these shows. I’ll give them the phone number,” he says, citing the idea of utilizing a newsletter through the web site that coordinates local musicians to help promote them.
When people ask why he doesn’t play other types of music because they think he can., or is asked to sing for other bands, he graciously says no thank you, not wanting to participate in something that isn’t his. Sai’s interested in his own projects, wants to have control over what he’s doing. It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate what others are doing or other types of music, he’s an avid Soundgarden fan actually, but doesn’t want to compromise. People also inquire as to why he doesn’t venture into other types of music.
“I want my energy to be complete in my project and not have to sing other people’s lyrics or sing songs about something I don’t agree with. So I decline.”
Sai’s talked with a label in South Carolina that is owned by Universal and the level of monetary input that’s invested in an artist was deterring. He felt he was green and wanted to learn more, so he entertained the business side briefly to grow. But the influence, the huge investment, told him that they wouldn’t relinquish control with an untested artist.
“People don’t invest that kind of money in an artist and relinquish control. So I can see why the labels dominate so much of what’s on the radio. As a mode to make money record labels will invite people in who can make them a lot of money. But I don’t agree with what that artist is saying because it’s contributing to something to bad in society.”
He’s also working with a company who submits music to established performers who don’t always create their own music.
“Which is how much of the industry is run anyway, you know, Avril Lavigne doesn’t write her own songs. But it’s how songwriters make extra money.”
His songs are inspired by people, the environment, or issues. And songs like that put an artist in a certain category in the minds of record labels. Someone like Jack Johnson has been able to break through that wall because of the musical nature of the songs yet still covers similar territory.
“My spirituality healing through music is what I want to share with people. Healing myself as a person. Two years ago I removed myself from organized religion and my life started over,” he says. “I had to start over, new friends, everything. I knew I had to find something outside the system of just paying bills”

"I promised myself I wouldn’t end it this way
But now my skies they fade to deep shades of gray
Nobles say I should want what I have
But my heart tells me that I should have what I want

The meaning for the song ‘Scarlet Butterfly’ has increased over time. And the meaning has increased from being on MySpace. People send him e-mails about how the song has affected them personally.
“It kind of gives me chills,” he says. “I mean, I’m a nobody in Wilmington, N.C. and my music is having an effect on somebody…To get feedback like that on a serious level…” Sai pauses and then utters a deep laugh in amazement.
People have traveled from far away to see his shows. “It blows my mind,” he says simply. “You’re writing things that are on your mind. But the value of their meaning increases with each time you sit down with it.”


Mark Chadwick is asleep in the back of an ambulance parked behind the Soapbox. The guitarist and singer for Portable Folk Band is suffering a late winter cold brought on by fatigue, touring and little sleep, all things pertinent to keeping a cold in good shape. The ambulance is not a vehicle in service with a hospital in New Hanover County. It was one purchased by the band two weeks ago off eBay for around six hundred dollars. Not a bad price given that its quite roomy, was well maintained by previous owners and if you’ve seen that old Burt Reynolds flick, The Cannonball Run, you know that it might save the driver a little grief when driving above the speed limit.
On the shelf just inside the passenger’s sliding door is drummer Ian Collin’s chemistry book where he studies while on the road. There’s vegetables and other groceries for band members to eat or snack on from town to town. The back is packed efficiently with musical equipment and other gear, a large bench seat has been installed for them to sleep while taking turns driving.
The old seat went the wrong way, designed for a stretcher to be slid in the back, something not ideal for long distance driving. It was a bear to get out and Shelley Salamon has become architect and mechanic very quickly. She tried sawing the seat out but ended up taking a big axe and chopping it out. Once removed a bench seat was installed in its place across the axle instead of lengthwise. It wasn’t very stable. So the day leaving for the tour Nat Lownes was under the ambulance with a drill.
“Four fucking holes in the bottom of the van to hold the seat in,” he says. “Won it on eBay.”
Named the van yet? No, Shelley says, not wanting to jinx anything. They changed the oil in Virginia and then the serpentine belt fell off. Shelley figured that one out.
“I’m a mechanic now,” she says. “It’s a diesel and has 76000 miles on it.”
“Its loud but its fun,” Nat says.
I won’t see Chadwick until he and the rest of Portable Folk Band perform onstage. It’s a relatively quick set, about fifty minutes worth, in which they work through a frenzied performance of songs from their current release Royal Postal Bazaar. Chadwick is red faced, from his cold and tension on his face from singing. He sings forcefully and passionately, moving about as if about to implode from the energy. Music has its way, even with the tired and sick, has its way to wake up the soul and body.

It’s mid March and students have only returned from spring break. The show is scheduled for a Tuesday night and downtown is sparse with visitors. It’s cold out still, enough to make you shiver and bristle when the wind blows downtown.
Its day five of the tour, they will travel to South Carolina in the morning and then on to Jacksonville, Florida the next. Shelley booked much of the tour and the stop in Wilmington came from hearing another band mentioning the area.
Yesterday was Raleigh. Before that DC in which Nat says he stuttered through a radio interview and passed the microphone to Ian.
“We did some radio interviews that were weird, ” Nat says.
Standing amongst washers and dryers in the laundry area of the Soapbox, Nat Lownes (guitar, vocals), Shelley Salamon (bass) and Ian discuss the formation of the band.
Shelley’s hair is short, unlike the length of black hair in the band’s promo photo. She quickly punctuates a sentence, unconsciously with a small doses of profanity. So quick in fact that you’re not sure if that’s what you really heard. She’s probably picked it up from living with Nat. Ian’s hair is shorter now as well. He is tall and relatively soft spoken, but can tell you a story at length and deadpan. Nat is stocky, small piercing eyes that talk to people directly without shuffling. They are tired from traveling but pleased to be out of ambulance and on solid ground.
Portable Folk Band had its origins as a recording project between Nat and Mark. In high school the pair would drive around in Mark’s car taking a 4 track recorder with batteries taped to it, using it so they could record out in public or whatever.
“We would improvise shit on acoustic guitars and harmonicas. Somehow that got named Portable Folk Band,” Nat says. “And we never came up with another name. It’s a little misleading. It might do more harm than good.”
Nat started playing saxophone in the 4th grade. He played drums in his first band then picked up guitar.
“I like the drums the best, drum are awesome,” he says.
Shelley started on guitar senior year. Her boyfriend played in a band and she attended shows.
“I said ‘I wanna do that,” she says of seeing him onstage.
The boyfriend played drums, and not wanting to copy him, she played guitar. She played a while and got frustrated. Five months later she could play power chords.
“My fingers didn’t feel stupid anymore,” she says.
Shelley played nine months and then went to college and started recording her own material. Then she borrowed her boyfriend’s uncle’s bass. Playing the bass became more common than guitar, discovering she could do different things. The boyfriend was in a band called Mini Band in which they played mini instruments.
“I went to all the shows, enjoyed it,” she says. “It was guitar and drums only. Someone offered Shelley a mini bass and she wound up playing in Mini Band. She was going to all the shows and knew the songs anyway having attended the shows over the course of a year.
“I fell in love with it and guitar looked boring after that.”
Shelley met Nat and Mark and the band started to come together.
“We had to make this happen live,” she says. “So I learned all the songs.”
Drummer Ian Collins is the only band member who is still in school. He brought his books on tour, to study on the road, something Nat refers to as a “recipe for motion sickness.”
Ian is a bio major, taking classes in chemistry, calculus and physics. He needed one class, any class, to fill his requirements so he took a golf course.
“Everyone thinks it’s a joke,” he says but seems to like it. “A lot of touring is entertaining yourself, it’s not too bad, doing some reading. That’s what I do, school, drums.”
Shelly was recording a friend of Mark and Nat’s and liked what the two were doing. She made some cd’s of all these songs the pair had recorded and together they put a live band together.
“It was pretty much unnamed. Coming up with a band name is hard. What are you going to call that?” she recalls asking them.
PFB has been together about a year and a half. The current ensemble lived in the same house outside Philadelphia. The location was great in that everyone was together but the lease was coming up.
“There were various reasons to leave that house,” Nat says.
“Yeah, the heating bill was too high. Five hundred dollars,” Shelly interjects.
Shelly’s parents recently bought a place in Boca Raton, Florida where the temperature was nearly a constant seventy degrees. No one was living there at the time, the parents not moving in until the following year, so it was an opportunity too good to pass up. So for a short time the band was split with Nat and Shelley in Florida and Ian and Mark residing in Florida.
“We go back to Philly in May,” Shelley says.
“Missing winter,” says Nat with a smile.

Recording the album Royal Postal Bazaar took place in a small room with no windows. The environment, in many ways, affected the results. The album is an acoustic fever dream mixed with psychedelic guitar and hip hop sensibilities. It is not an easy thing to categorize and probably shouldn’t be. It is not folk music, as Nat said, the band name can be misleading. But then again, what did the name Pink Floyd mean when they first arrived?
The album’s name came form a dream Mark had, that he was part of a group of people who transported very fancy silver plated handguns in suitcases on public transportation. It was very secretive but everyone knew who they were because they had black suits and suitcases. They were called the Royal Postal Bazaar. Although not direct, the title and back story lend a quality to the self released debut. The album is many things, especially mysterious, as the back story and the place recording area.
“Our friends had an extremely tiny room, maybe it was a cooling cellar for vegetables but it was very small,” Nat says. “We insulated the walls with carpet and recorded there.”
The band’s musical interests are there to some extent, The Beatles, RJD2, D-Plan, but listening one can hear early days Beck and The Flaming Lips as well. They are also fans of a now defunct Philadelphia band, Dispatch.
“Acoustic party music, what OAR used to be, but 5 times as good,” Ian says. “They sold out a 5000 seat capacity in Philadelphia but couldn’t get on the radio.”
On RPB there is the aural garage sounding guitar on ‘markruok’ and ‘100 Greatest Robberies n History’ that takes the ear back to the sixties. It’s frenetic and soothing all at once. It’s funky and at times heavy, layered and definitely unique.
“Reviewers have gotten it wrong, seemingly reviewing without listening, saying its folk and its portable and that’s that,” Shelley says.
Even open music web sites such as Garageband.com where random people can review music have made positive and vague comments such as the bouncing and childlike track ‘Baby Food’ as sounding like The White Stripes.
“That’s weird,” Shelley says appreciative but a little confused. “Baby Food is pretty catchy.”
The songs themselves came from disparate places, all written separately. Nat says they had no idea going in, that they recorded demos never to be recorded for the album.
“We had nothing in mind and just recorded stuff,” he says. “Going from instrument to instrument.”
Nat’s take on the genesis of the songs comes from the way he likes the way some words or phrases sound together. He says with a laugh that he was brought up in a household where cursing was part of the norm.
“An NC paper brought that up,” he says. “They said there seems to be an extraordinary amount of cursing on the album. I’m not trying to be badass by saying the F word.”
But it’s not cursing in the sense that it’s in the listener’s face either. It’s not overly noticeable and seems to fit the song without being a bump in the road.
“Any song without cursing is Mark’s song, he doesn’t curse,” Shelley says and they all laugh.
‘Hinge Door’ always gets a really good response from crowds. Mark was strumming on the B string and started out writing that because Nat was writing a song that had a similar pattern.
“Then he wrote this great song that I really like,” Nat says.
It’s an album of material that places effort on the soul. Lots of finger picking and non-finger picking, loud drums, a bunch of bass and vocal harmonies coalescing into something that only be described as an experience and not a direct category, mixing different styles of music. It’s hypnotic, in that good/bad dream kind of way, one that you’re fascinated by and moves along as one long song.
And there was a lot of music that was left off Royal Postal Bazaar. When you buy the CD another CD accompanies it because there were 15 songs that didn’t go on RPB.
“It split it up too much,” Nat says.
“There were ten other songs too that we didn’t use either,” Says Shelley.

Nat and Shelley want pizza. They just pulled into town from a gig the night before in Raleigh. Nat wears two t-shirts and shorts, walks with Shelley down front Street. They carry on as if a couple but are not. Ian is soft spoken and quiet. He recounts something he heard recently, a story that is surreal and strange but fits.
“In Sweden, or is Norway? Anyway, our music was put on a video blog. It’s this man ranting set to our songs, it was hysterical.
Shelley turns around and asks Ian what he’s talking about. “You don’t know? I’ll send you the link. It’s on archive.org”
Ian walks a few steps and then chuckles. “We’ve never been to Sweden. Internet. Amazing.”


from Avenue Magazine Aug 2005

“Hi, Tom,” the teenager says as Tom Fleming moves through Fanboy Comics, past boxes and boxes of comics and walls hanging older ones. He’s an accomplished artist whose range of work straddles the comic book universe, the sci-fi and fantasy genre that focuses on voluptuous heroines and bulky warriors and nature inspired imagery. Fleming could pass for one of the subjects in his fantasy pieces that echo Heavy Metal magazine and Frank Frazetta’s work. Fleming’s a big guy – muscular, angular features, piercing eyes and long black hair pulled back. And friendly.
Another kid walks by, also says hello to Tom. It’s clear many of the patrons there know him. Fleming has lived in the area for ten years after visiting Wilmington with his wife many years ago.
“There’s a laid back atmosphere in Wilmington,” he says. “There’s diversity, a little bit of everything.”
Fleming is also a fixture at comic related events alongside Fanboy Comics, its staff and owner Thomas Gilbert.
“Tom’s a great guy,” Gilbert says. “He’s always willing to help out.” For a recent promotion for Star Wars III, Fleming created a pencil drawing that was given away for the film’s opening night.
Fleming is a professional artist fortunate to earn a living from his talent. But not all creations are ideas generated solely from his imagination. That’s where the moniker, professional artist, applies. Some creations are generated from assignments from comic book companies or commissions from individuals and sometimes professional models. He’s worked as a full time artist for fifteen years but it hasn’t always been easy.
“It’s been tough but in an uplifting way,” he says. “There’s a lot of promotion.”
For a long time he fought the idea of promotion, believing that the work was what sold an artist. But promotion is probably sixty per cent or more of the total work a successful artist puts forth. Talent is much less of an aspect than the marketing and promotion these days.
“It’s all about branding now,” he says with a wince. Name recognition and the style of an artist go together in a way that a fickle and short minded public easily pick up on.
Fleming primarily does comic book art for a living, producing covers and trading cards. He has produced numerous covers, from magazines such as Cracked and Pin Up Illustrated to comics Captain Marvel and Elektra, for which he is probably most known for. Currently, he is waiting to hear from Heavy Metal about doing a cover. Aside from his comic related work, Fleming’s fantasy pieces seem a natural choice for the cover of Heavy Metal. He even produced a piece of art, ‘Agency 32,’ as a book cover for local author David Beauchamp.
“I’m just happy doing art for a living,” he says, having no pretensions about subject matter. Fleming’s art ranges from the dark images of ‘Dead Mime’ to nature images serving as backdrops for outdoor thermometers. These images, such as a bass bursting from beneath the water were commissioned for Koch Measurement Devices.
Commission work has come from professional models looking to have an image of them painted by Fleming or locals who desire something exotic for their home. Fleming refers to it as the ‘Fantasy Portrait’ concept in which portraits are painted from a photo of a person, or couple, putting them in a different environment.
“They’ll ask me to put them on the moon or in a garden or with aliens,” he says.

Fleming has been creating art since the age of eight, encouraged wholeheartedly by his parents, especially his mother. He started out creating work strictly in black and white and then later dabbling in watercolor. Today, he uses watercolor, colored pencil and acrylic to create comic related artwork and fantasy creations.
“My mom was a very creative person in general and has dabbled in watercolor,” he says. “I think I get it from her.”
Fleming grew up in Putnam Valley, New York and attended Syracuse University where he majored in art and finished at the top of his class. While school can concentrate on craft and history, Fleming fostered his interest in fantasy art and tongue in cheek pieces such as ‘Dead Mime’ and ‘Feet’ (this issue’s cover).
“I jokingly refer to it as ‘Agony of the Defeat’,” he says.
What’s great about ‘Dead Mime’ is that it first grabs a viewer as a violent image and then slowly reveals its, albeit dark, humor – a mime having murdered himself with his own finger, as a mime can only do. Twisted humor, but done elegantly - at first grotesque then silly as realization sets in. The style and theme of the piece are captivating in both appearance and process.
“That particular piece is big with the Goth crowd,” he says. “I get my biggest reaction about it from people.”
Spectrum, a Sci-fi art competition, the Emmys or Grammy’s of the Sci-fi art world, named it one of the top 300 in the world and published it in a book called The Art of the Fantastic. As far as selling his original art it’s a particular piece that he doesn’t want to part with. Prints are available for most of his work but he doesn’t want to part with the original painting of ‘Dead Mime’ and ‘Feet’ for “sentimental reasons.”
During his college years Fleming attended a class in which the instructor assigned the students to create anything with clowns. In class, the instructor would play the song Bring in the Clowns. The ensuing torture inspired Fleming differently from other students. The original idea was to have the mime putting a finger to his head, mimicking a gun, and confetti blasting from the other side. The instructor was a little reluctant to Fleming’s finished work.
“It was me, doing a painting overnight for an assignment due the next day,” he says. “I got an A minus.” Fleming plans to do a series of dead mime pieces. He has begun a second piece depicting a mime in the desert hanging but without a noose.

Fleming graduated from college with no interest of going into comics.
“I was more into sci-fi and fantasy,” he says.
A friend introduced Fleming to an editor at DC Comics. They needed someone to do artwork for trading cards. Fleming didn’t put much thought into it thinking the editor would never call him back. Two weeks later the editor phoned him about doing Superman trading cards. Fleming would later go on to earn acclaim for a card depicting the funeral of Superman.
He also did black and white drawings for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine where he was garnering a hundred dollars per drawing. It was the first thing he worked on as a professional artist, and not bad for right out of college in 1988.
Still, the work was temporary. In between jobs Fleming took work making pizzas and selling waterbeds. Then another call came, from Minwax Stains to produce a label for a pastel line of stains. Unsatisfied with the work by another artist Minwax hired, Fleming got the call and was given twenty four hours to come up with something. Reminiscent of college, Fleming pulled an all-nighter and produced something that impressed the company. The job landed him a thousand dollars. The label he created consisted of pastel colors in one broad paint brush stroke.
“I believe they still use it,” Fleming says with a laugh. “The best paydays are from advertising jobs anyway but they’re not the most creatively satisfying work.”
In the early nineties, Fleming got his first big break working for the World Wrestling Federation by answering an ad in the New York Times where he went to work designing costumes, props and merchandising art. Between 1991 and 1994 he produced thirty seven portatrits of wrestlers.
“Some of those guys were real professionals,” he says, “and a few were animals.”

But today Fleming buys comics, “mostly for the art” (giving kudos to the New Avengers) but as a youngster, he was a Marvel Comics fan over rival DC Comics. It’s ironic, given that Fleming is in the middle of a big job of creating trading cards for DC. Trading cards are enjoying resurgence after over saturating the market in the 1990’s.
“It’s hit or miss, doing trading cards, the characters you’re given to draw,” Fleming says. “In the past I’ve been given some lame characters to draw. That didn’t happen this time.” For the assignment Fleming was given Characters Batman, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Firestorm.
There’s also talk with Marvel about doing an all painted graphic novel, in which the panels in the comic are not hand drawn but each are painted. Such a project will take a long time to produce but the pay off would be merit the huge undertaking.
“They’re gung ho about working on a project but its still in talks,” he says. “Once they decide on a script we’ll go from there.”
It’s a lengthy process, but once he gets the go ahead Fleming will be looking for local models to work on the project.

Inspiration for his work comes from anywhere. For his fantasy pieces the seed of an idea can germinate from any given source. “Sometimes I get a model with a cool pose,” he says. “Or I simply have an idea I want to do.”
Sometimes his wife poses with her hands and arms or she takes pictures for him as a source of reference for a particular piece. There’s the need to get an image correct, a hand coming at you, thrusted, to show the effect desired in the finished drawing.
“I prefer to take the pictures myself, to be behind the camera to get the light,” he says. “So I know how it strikes the object.” Usually Fleming uses a digital camera but for reference he likes to use an old film camera.
Several years ago Fleming converted a garage into a studio that is now adorned with toys and models and original art. There’s an original Mort Walker Beetle Bailey comic strip and a Don DeCarlo Archie. Fleming once met DeCarlo as well as the real Josie that inspired DeCarlo’s Josie and the Pussycats.
Fleming confesses his own challenges and attempts at something new. Currently, he’s working on a new style based on the field of classic romanticism. It’s a style he thinks will be taken more seriously and accepted by the general public versus pieces that are classified as Fantasy, pieces that are as much sexual as they are artistic.
In recent months Fleming has discovered turn of the century artist Jay W. Waterhouse. It was the first time, in a long time, that Fleming was inspired to paint in a different style. His wife bought a large painting of Waterhouse’s and hung it in the bedroom.
“It’s tough for me to hang big art,” he says.
Fleming explains that Waterhouse’s work has a more painterly feel – in the style of realism. Realism was brought about by Classicism (adheres to Greek and Roman art and literature, restrained and restrictive) and Romanticism (characterized by heightened interest in nature emphasizing on the individual’s expression of emotion, imagination and rebelling against social rules, conventions) as a sort of middle ground, an inclination towards literal truth, the representation in art of objects, actions, social conditions as they actually are. Waterhouse focuses on the details of important areas but gets painterly in areas where a viewer’s eyes does not need to go thus creating more of a mood. And it saves a lot of time too. For Fleming, to not be detailed on every inch of the canvas, was a learning experience.
“It was hard for me to break those detail oriented habits,” he says. In the past he would obsess over putting in the most minute detail ion every inch of the canvas.
Other artists he admires are Alphonse Mudka (“one of the masters of art nouveau”), Frank Frazetta, (“of course”) most known for his fantasy artwork and Norman Rockwell. This may seem an odd choice given the company of Fleming’s peer choices but the variety makes sense for him.
“Rockwell was very underrated because of his subject matter,” he explains. “As an artist he viewed the world in a different way and doesn’t get the validity because of the subject of the paintings he did.”
Fleming responds to Rockwell, in part, due to Rockwell’s realism in the paintings. Fleming prefers realism in his art, understandable given his history of acute attention to detail in his own paintings. But with all creative people there’s a facet that those who don’t create in the same way never fully grasp – self criticism.
“There’s never a time I feel it’s perfect,” he confesses. “I’m very self critical.”
Even in the trading cards there is an extreme sense of reality to the art. One knows it is a piece of art but is at times is devastatingly real. Take ‘Dead Mime’ again as an example or even the bass for artwork to accompany a thermometer or ‘System Shock which Fleming refers to as a combination of gaming art and advertising. But all three examples are fraught with detail..
“Michelangelo makes things very detailed,” Fleming says. “Loosen up. You don’t have to have every detail to a painting.” Fleming still strongly makes the case for realism.
“I’ll take Da Vinci and Michelangelo over Monet and Van Gogh any day.”
Fleming answers questions with candor and direct uncalculated answers. He is attentive and open to every inquiry. In answering a question about what artist he has seen recently that knocked his socks off, Fleming mulls over the question for awhile. A long silence ensues. Unable to comment the conversation goes in another direction, discussing the business of art and the desire to create his own limited edition prints. Then, his eyes light up, stopping himself in mid sentence.
“To answer your question – about someone knocking my socks off – I went to the D.C. National Gallery and saw an exhibit of Toulouse-Lautrec’s work,” he says in a voice still rich in his native New York. It was an exhibit of cabaret art work; Lautrec’s work was comprised of realism and impressionism, oils and ink drawings.
“His work smokes Van Gogh in my opinion as far as craftsmanship and painting skills.” Fleming seems pleased that he has answered the question and returns to the previous subject.
His plans for now include books of his art work; continue building a fan base and his own limited edition prints that can be bought on his web site. Fleming’s artwork is on display at the Blue Moon gallery on Racine Drive where prints are also for sale. Cassandra Peruzzi, manager of Blue Moon, says of Fleming’s work “that there’s never been anything like it at Blue Moon before.”
Peruzzi has worked at Blue Moon since it opened four years ago and also commented that his subjects are varied. “There’s not enough space to really show all his styles of work,” she says.
Several years ago, Fleming put his talents to work on the Jodie Foster film Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys as an illustrator of still work used on screen. He was responsible for creating the art work the kids in the film created. The production gave him specific pieces to draw and other times allowed him to be creative.
“It was hard because they wanted me draw as a sixteen year old,” he recalls. “It was difficult in the sense that I had to deconstruct what I’d learned since that age as an artist.”
Challenges aside, Fleming has worked infrequently for other film productions such as Stateside doing storyboard work and storyboarding a scene for current production Surface. Some of his artwork is featured in a gory horror film shot in Louisiana, called Stay Alive. Like Altar Boys, his artwork serves as the creation of one of the film’s characters, a teenager. He was told that in one shot the camera pans across a wall where his work hangs and stops over his signature.
“The guy said it will be the size of a Toyota on screen,” he says proudly.
There are things Fleming confesses he’d like to have more time to do, reading for one. He just doesn’t get the chance to do it. There’s not a lot of free time. There’s always work and promotion, like the recent comic convention in Charlotte or the upcoming Dragon Con in Atlanta where the city will surely be filled with the wild, bizarre and exotic.
Fleming is fan of music, seventies punk, Black Flag, Ween – but has never created a cd cover for a band.
“I’d like to do it,” he says. “Definitely.”
There’s so much Fleming wants to do but there’s the notion of time. Art, and the business of art, take up much of that time. He gets cards and other mail from fans all over the world, especially Europe where fantasy art is very popular. He says he’s never gotten a letter or an e-mail and not responded to it. But the original spark always calls.
“I always feel like I should be painting,” he says with a reticent smile.

You can view fleming’s work at www.flemart.com