The Thermals Feature From The Inlander

Space Rock

The Thermals don’t like change. But when they try new things, it seems to work out.

Bigger is better. Bands are always seeking a bigger audience, bigger tours, bigger record sales and a bigger sound. But when the Thermals moved into a new and bigger practice space last year, the mantra didn’t quite ring true.

“As it turned out, the room we moved into sounds terrible,” Westin Glass, the band’s drummer says. “It’s this big cube with hard floors, hard walls, hard ceilings.”

The move was in part to accommodate Glass, who joined the group in late 2008. The Thermals’ core has always been guitarist Hutch Harris and bassist Kathy Foster — who also wrote and played the drum parts on group’s last two albums. Despite the duo’s longstanding music chemistry and rotating cast of drummers, Glass was welcomed with open arms.

To ease the transition into the band, Glass immediately went to work learning the Thermals’ entire catalogue exactly how it was recorded. For him it was a way to internalize the band’s DNA.

In order to accommodate the new full-time member and extra gear more comfortably, the Thermals moved into the much larger practice room. Continue reading

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Syracuse CRT Feature From The New Times

A Matter of Trust

New and underutilized, the Cultural Resources Trust has money for arts organizations to share; the trick is to get to it.

During the current Great Recession, financial support for the arts is drying up like the Sahara Desert. In this fiscally arid climate, the arrival of a new funding source would be like a downpour of life-giving water to the cultural scene. The new and little-known Cultural Resources Trust (CRT) could just be that source.

Take the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, whose latest financial woes have been well documented. During the 2009-2010 season the SSO was facing a large rent payment to the OnCenter in order to continue performances at the Mulroy Civic Center. If the symphony couldn’t come up with the funds, it would have had to severely cut back on its performances elsewhere in the community. But thanks to a $75,000 grant from the CRT, the symphony was able to pay the rent and keep playing.

While there are many places arts groups can go to apply for funding, the emergence of a new source that’s specific to Onondaga County is crucial. Both the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts have cut back their funding substantially over the past few years. Additionally, the pool of corporate donations is drying up as companies either move away from the area or slash budgets to deal with the recession. The CRT hopes to help fill this void.

The CRT’s source of funds is tied to the bonding process for non-profit institutions. For example, when Syracuse University wanted to raise $165 million to build a green data center and make renovations, SU went to the CRT as its conduit for placing the bonds. Underwriters, such as banks, then sought out investors to buy the bonds. Since SU is a non-profit, the CRT was able to provide tax-free sheltering for the bonds, which leads to lower interest rates.

As part of the deal the CRT collected a fee of approximately $700,000 from SU. This became the trust’s first pot of grant money for the arts.

The CRT is optimistic about future bonding prospects. Many non-profits in Central New York—SU, Le Moyne College, area hospitals—sell bonds to finance large capital projects. While there are no current bond applications, neither the members of the CRT nor those in the arts community seem too concerned about this. The belief is that there will be plenty of demand for the CRT’s bonding authority down the line and that the resulting fees will replenish the arts fund.

In addition to the grant to the SSO, the CRT partnered with the Gifford Foundation and area arts groups by providing $20,000 for the Community Engagement Project. This project is currently studying the local cultural scene and surveying the area’s arts patrons to determine who attends cultural events, and why. Once completed, it should give arts organizations a better idea of how to build audiences.

Deputy County Executive William Fisher hopes the study will draw attention to the role of the CRT and encourage non-profits to use the CRT so as to keep bonding fees in the area for local use. “We hope that some of the things the CRT has spent money on will bear fruit and generate some notice among people making these {bonding} decisions,” Fisher said.

Onondaga County already gives more than $1 million a year to arts and cultural organizations, generated from the 5 percent room occupancy tax on hotels and motels. For the CRT it is important to coordinate its funding strategy with the County’s to maximize the value of the grants. “We really are still trying to get {our} sea legs as far as providing grants,” said Mary Beth Primo, the CRT’s executive director.

In its first year, the CRT has given out 10 grants ranging from the $75,000 to the SSO to $500 for Baltimore Woods. The total given out so far is just under $140,000.

Syracuse Stage received $5,000 to support its season-opening production of No Child… “In these times, new funding sources are always welcome and really appreciated,” said Jeff Woodward, Syracuse Stage’s managing director. “So we’re very happy the county has figured out a way to allocate more funds to the arts.”

With many local arts organizations facing serious financial difficulties, there is a serious need for funds to support infrastructure and core missions. “In the past, a lot of grants have focused very much on projects,” said Steve Butler, executive director of the Cultural Resources Council. “{Now} there is a real need to justify general operating support, which is unrestricted funding, so that you can perform your operations and keep staff in place to do the good work—the programs—that you’re already doing.” Continue reading

Hurley – Weezer

Saying “their old stuff was better” is such a worn out cliché, but there’s nothing else you can say about Weezer at this point.

For die-hard fans of Blue Album and Pinkerton, Rivers Cuomo and company’s last few efforts have been painful. It’s the memories of those earlier records that keep fans coming back. And Weezer’s newest album, Hurley, is the latest serving of punishment.

The band has regressed both emotionally and lyrically. Weezer has somehow gone from champions of rock wit to cheesy pop-makers stuck in a moronic adolescence. While the few tunes that are stripped down to their pure pop cores are passable (“Ruling Me”), the rest is a mess. Continue reading

Japandriods Feature From The Inlander

Live or Die

Sure, buy a Japandroids record. But don’t call yourself a fan until you’ve seen them live.

There are really two types of bands: record bands and live bands. Japandroids are the latter, and they aren’t ashamed to flaunt it.

The Vancouver, B.C., two-piece barrages listeners with a wall of hard rock, despite its meager size. As drummer David Prowse pounds away on the skins and cymbals, guitarist David King wails away on his guitar with its signal split into two different amps: one for high harsh sounds and one for the lower-end bass-like sounds. Both men share vocal duties.

The signal-splitting thing came after King got tired of hearing people say his guitar was too bright, noisy and abrasive, and the band really needed a bassist. So he became both — and the result is a wave of noise that holds up both in the small clubs and the large outdoor festivals. It’s a sound that has drawn between 800 and 1,000 people to see Japandroids at Seattle shows (according to RSN Production’s Dale Strom) and landed the band a performance this past January on Jimmy Fallon.

No one talks about that bright guitar anymore. And for King, satisfying the people who come out to see his band is always priority No. 1.

“Whenever we’re writing something or recording something, the first thing we’re always thinking of is, ‘OK, now we have to make sure we can do this live even better than how we’re recording it.’” That commitment to delivering live was partially shaped by being let down by concerts they’ve seen. Continue reading