Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Graham O'Brien - 'Live Drums' Review

Graham O'Brien - Live Drums

Ladies and gents, I give to you the link to either DL (free) or purchase ($2-plus) this one-of-a-kind, great, debut album by No Bird Sing's hip-hop drummer, Graham O'Brien.  I stumbled across the write-up and link on Empty's Tapes blog and completely agree that it's mos def worth giving a listen - or two or three or ten.  The sampling, drumming, and guest appearances by other Minneapolis greats Kristoff Krane, Adam Svec, Alicia Wiley, Eric Blair and DVS offer a solid mix of instrumental, experimental hip-hop I've never heard before.  In fact, I'd have to echo what City Pages' said back in September 2009 review of NBS' debut effort by calling their and Graham's albums "groundbreaking".  

The sounds and rhythms he produces on this work of creative genius are excellent.  The album (click for promo video) does a great job of floating back and forth with rap, hip-hop, and just a smidgen of indie rock beats and well-placed instrumental interludes.  I can't wait to get back to Minneapolis to perhaps land a show with him and/or NBS again.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Support The Fresh Air Fund!

I was contacted by a representative of The Fresh Air Fund the other day after she came across my posts about running this weekend's Equinox Marathon as a charity and my volunteering for Fairbanks Counseling & Adoption's Street Outreach & Advocacy Program.  The first is related to my love of running marathons while the other is related to my volunteer year of service to the at-risk youth homeless population within Fairbanks, Alaska.  I want to take a moment to challenge you to take a deeper look into non-profit organizations like The Fresh Air Fund and leave it up to you to make a difference in disadvantaged communities in your local area or elsewhere.

The organization's "About Us" page sums up what they do perfectly: 
Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children from disadvantaged communities. Each year, thousands of children visit volunteer host families in 13 states and Canada through the Friendly Town Program or attend Fresh Air Fund camps.

How could I not help spread the word in a great cause.  This fall, The Fresh Air Fund has teamed up with the 2010 ING NYC Marathon, which is being run on November 7th.  They are currently looking for participants and volunteers to be a part of one of the greatest races in the world.  Consider helping them expand on their huge success from earlier this year in March's 2010 NYC Half Marathon where they raised $100,000.  Over the past four years, they've raised over $400,000.  Amazing work is being done by amazing people.  You can be amazing and help, too.  Just e-mail kbrinkerhoff@freshair.org or call 212-897-8890 to learn more.

VISTA Update!

It's fall in Fairbanks!  Included, are a few pictures I've taken over the past couple weeks of Alaska's changing colors.  The rest can be found on my Facebook profile.  To go along with these, here’s a quick update with what I have going on here within my VISTA role as well as outside of work:

1) I had a blast attending the RHYTTAC Conference with my colleagues in Anchorage last week where we came up with some steps to start a statewide network of agencies improving the at-risk youth population.  During my visit, I was able to hang with Hannah Torkelson and Hannah Albazari, two other VISTAs in Anchorage.

2) I’m in the final stages of starting up an exclusive art club for my homeless youth drop-in center with a local business called Chartreuse that will feature creative arts in sculpture, painting, sketching, and construction.  The first project our client participants will work on is a rather large, public Haunted House to be featured at the end of October in Chartreuse’s basement.  This will get our clients involved in their community, help them expand their creative skills, and learn new skills pertaining to future jobs they might encounter.

3) I’m in the final stages of starting up an exclusive radio show for my homeless youth drop-in center with UAF’s radio station KSUA called The SOAP Opera.  (SOAP stands for Street Outreach & Advocacy Program.)  We’ll be on the air Wednesdays from 2-4pm and can be heard on 91.5FM in the Fairbanks area or online worldwide at http://ksua.uaf.edu/.  This will help our clients explore their creative side, provide publicity for SOAP and awareness of their population, and expand their job skills training.

4) I’m running the Equinox Marathon this Saturday morning - yes, all 26.2 grueling miles of it.  It starts at UAF, runs along miles and miles of ski trails, some local roads, then 4000 feet of total elevation change up/down Ester Dome before heading back to UAF for the finish.  I’m doing the race in memory of my cousin Joe Vogel, who passed away to cancer a little over a month ago and has been a huge inspiration in my life and others.  You can read my cause and story here: http://runningforjoe.weebly.com.  Donations are gladly accepted, as well.  This will be my sixth marathon since 2006.  I’m looking for a top-10 and sub-3 hour, 30 minute finish, too.  :)

I’m loving living in Fairbanks and Alaska in general. It’s far from Minneapolis, but there’s enough similarities in nature and personality here that it feels like my home away from home.  As much as I’m not really looking forward to the -40 degree temperatures and winter darkness, I’m thinking the amazing northern lights and endless xc ski trails will completely make up for it.  Maybe check back with me in January and ask me that question again, haha.

I hope everyone else is doing well!  Until next time, peace out.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Crazy Fast Minnesota Adventure

Last Wednesday, I took a red-eye flight overnight back to the great city of Minneapolis to see a couple of my best friends get married.  This wasn't your normal, late-summer wedding that took place.  The groom is the guitarist in my band Paragraphs, a best friend, and pop culture extraordinaire.  The bride is a crafty, animated, law school graduate friend of mine, as well.  Together, they knew how to throw one of the best weddings anyone's ever experienced.

Free pop, popcorn, and noisemakers, The Heights Theater, a close friend officiating the wedding, Jax Cafe, staged performances by Humor, Paragraphs, and Until The Tape Runs Out, free milkshakes and movie-sayings buttons, and props to dance with.  These are all critical ingredients to pull off the wedding of a century.  Also, a big shout out to Sean Horkheimer and Mark Phillips in creating some great short videos for the couple at the ceremony!

After sifting through all my pictures from the crazy day, I'll leave you with this one of my friend Chad, getting his groove on the dance floor with a horse prop.  Thanks for putting on such an amazing event, Chris and Jess, and I'm so glad I made it back home to witness the beginning of your lives together.

Ride it, Chad!  Ride it!

Aside from the weekend's main event, I was happy to be greeted and hosted for the weekend by Ms. Brittany Burris at the airport on Thursday morning.  Paragraphs practice was at noon, then we did some driving around Minneapolis before meeting Chris and friends at Chatterbox in St. Paul.  Friday morning consisted of a long-awaited reunion with my Auggie distance runners and a decent 10k run down on Pike Island.  Brittany and I picked up some things needed for a killer fruit pizza for the couple's wedding BBQ that evening.  The aforementioned wedding events all happened on Saturday, and I was happy to see about 20 of my family members on Sunday afternoon at the new Uptown Cafeteria restaurant on the rooftop for a nice brunch on their rooftop patio.  (Highly suggest the shrimp pita there for sure!)  Sunday evening consisted of Brittany and I meeting up with quite a few friends at Town Hall Brewery, including a few I haven't seen for a long time even before I left for Alaska in April.  Oh, speaking of, thanks Chris for the bells (gift for being the wedding guest who came from the furthest away), haha.  So thanks to everyone who came out to Town Hall.

It was a whirlwind of a weekend with nonstop action.  I think I literally had less than two or three hours of downtime each day, of which I chose by staring into blank space, trying to watch Overboard with Brittany, and hilarious people watching out of her Uptown, street-corner, studio apartment.  To cap it off, we stopped by Lake Calhoun quickly on our way to drop me off the airport on Monday afternoon.  I'll leave you with a pic from there.  Until my next adventure or thought-provoking post, be well.

Nice shades, B.  : )

Equinox Marathon: 16 Days Away

Although I won’t be literally scaling a mountain by running on September 18th, the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks will be my first version of long distance mountain running.  Below is the course for this year’s World Mountain Running Championships in Slovenia.  My friend Chris Lundstrom has been selected as one of several on the USA team.  Congrats and good luck to Chris!  Go Team USA!

I would also like to take the time to remind you that I'm running this marathon as a fundraiser and memorial to my cousin Joe Vogel, who passed away to cancer about a month ago.  He was a brilliant young man who's undying spirit will live in us forever.  His family would be eternally grateful if you could dedicate your thoughts, prayers, and any amount of financial means you feel comfortable offering.  His family and I have set up a web page for easier access to his story and my "paying it forward" in a way I know best.

My training for this race has been pretty shady at best this entire summer due to traveling as much of this amazing state as possible since getting here in April.  However, I got back on a more regular running schedule about two months ago and have ramped my mileage up to a certain extent, which has included some hefty, long hill runs.  My longest run to date is 18.5 miles.  We'll see if I can crack that 20-mile mark this week.  If not, I'll save it for race day.  I have a feeling I'll need the energy then, haha.  Thanks again for following my adventures, everyone!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Alaska Railroad

I traveled The Alaska Railroad from Fairbanks to Denali to meet my mom after her first two days of adventure in Anchorage a couple weeks ago.  We hit up Denali National Park & Preserve for an all-day wilderness tour and saw some amazing animals and natural beauty.  Later that day, we took the rail back to Fairbanks and I showed her around town the next few days, which included an unexpected 8-hour round trip drive to the Arctic Circle, checking out UAF's Museum of the North, Pioneer Park, and picking blueberries just off the Steese Highway.  This video highlights my meeting her in Denali the first couple days.  My sister also visited the week before.  I'll see about trying to compile a similar video that highlights that fun, too.
[Music: "Train" by Mother Mother]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Eyes in the Sky: Voices from Youth on the Street

While I'm waiting to hear back from a potential funder to start my music lessons and receive an approval from my organization's board for an exclusive art club with an amazing local retail store, I'm happy to inform you of an exciting event that the Street Outreach & Advocacy Program (SOAP) is putting on soon.  On Friday, September 3rd from 5-8pm at The Artisan's Courtyard, we'll be showcasing photos and videos that have been taken by our homeless, runaway, and at-risk youth clients over the past few weeks.  My colleague Anna Dale and stellar, multimedia extraordinaire Caleb Kuntz have been working hard in compiling their artwork this month and getting it ready for the big show.  It's been great to see our clients' creative skills at work and allow their stories to be told - stories they can tell through their eyes.

We invite the general public to attend this First Friday event and open your eyes, heart and mind to some breathtaking imagery.  These snapshots and short video clips should give you a great idea of what our clients experience on a daily basis on the streets of Fairbanks.  See the flyer above for more details and we hope to see you there!  If you have any questions, please contact Anna at 907-374-9913.  Do your part by helping those around you who might otherwise not be easily recognized in our usually busy lives each and every day.  My AmeriCorps VISTA experience thus far has only enhanced these values in my personal life and I invite you research the same.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wildhorse Mountain & Sevenmile Lake

I finally found some time to compile some of my previous footage of a few of us hiking up Wildhorse Mountain over Memorial Day Weekend this year.  You can reach the area by driving the Richardson Hwy to the Denali Hwy, drive to mile marker 40, then park off the road at Glacier Lake Trail and hike a few miles into the Amphitheater Mountains.  We hiked muddy marshes, camped valley plateaus, scaled near-vertical mountain cliffs, sled down mountainsides, and somehow still survived.  Pretty much one of my favorite holiday weekend adventures to date!

Enjoy the sights and sounds of pure Alaska nature while a couple of my favorite bands score the adventure - Minus The Bear & Talkdemonic..

Monday, August 2, 2010

Running For Joe

Equinox Marathon Course Map and its ridiculousness.

Hey!  I wanted to plug that I’m running the tough-as-nails Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks on September 18th as a fundraiser for my cousin Joe Vogel and his family.  He's been a HUGE inspiration to me, my running and life in general.  The same can be said for so many other people's lives he's touched, too.  This makes-ya-wanna-sweat-just-looking-at-it course spends just over half of the distance traversing about 2,000 feet in elevation on mostly wooded, uphill ski trails within UAF, then connecting to Ester Dome Road and a few trails all the way to the top - only to repeat most of the same type of course on the way back down.  My legs will be screaming, "STOP!" many times, I'm sure, but doing it for Joe will only keep me going no matter what Alaska's terrain throws at me.

Please, show your support by visiting the website above and donate whatever your pocketbook might allow.  All thoughts, prayers, and contributions are greatly appreciated! :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I was in Anchorage a couple weeks ago for some Continued Development Training as an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer, met some excellent people, and discussed some great topics related to the projects we are completing.  One of the topics was entirely related to poverty, specifically in terms of its relative and absolute values.  While the entire group of VISTA volunteers shared their thoughts and impressions on how we define poverty, my table had an internal discussion taking place by way of note-passing.  Haha, yeah, just as if we were in middle school passing notes during a lesson on the War of 1812.  But this was good kind of note-passing in the fact that we were discussing our views on poverty a little separate from what the big group was going over.

I was trying to sort my thoughts and views on money in its most basic form and how I value money as a citizen within a society that sets so much value on currency.  It's mostly assumed that in developed societies the more money and material possessions you have, the richer you are.  Well, I always am open to discussion of this related to the fact that there are several societies that have virtually no money and material possessions, yet are able to boast a life that's rich in culture, traditions, and life worth.  I'd almost say that some cultures like these can boast a better quality of life and that's what intrigues me and mostly sparks my interest in traveling.  Not that I'm serving for the Peace Corps for a tribe in Kenya; I'm in Alaska.  But the questions till remains.

What is traveling?  It's having new experiences, meeting new people, and creating new memories.  But what does one usually need in order to travel with the exception of websites like CouchSurfing and family and friend ties?  Money.  What I've done for the past 10 years or so is save my "paid time off" and money earned to use for a week or longer vacation to somewhere I've never been before.  This is part of the reason why I'm here, living in Alaska until next April.  Not that I had to save PTO to get here, but I most definitely saved a lot of money to do this without having the complete understanding that one can totally have this experience on a paycheck-to-paycheck budget.  Call me stupid, but I guess it's a good thing that I'm still able to pay my student loans with those reserves while I'm only making enough of a living stipend to barely cover my expenses each month.

What I'm trying to get at is the fact that money isn't necessarily needed to explore as much of life as you can and is only considered evil if you place a negative value on it.  Money can be seen as opportunity - the opportunity to fly overseas and explore the medieval architecture of Europe, the indigenous tribes of Africa, or the rushing waters of Rio Pacuare in Costa Rica.  It can be also be used to displace populations of people, plants and animals like some worldwide corporations do in rural Alaska and all over the world all in the name of making  or saving a bigger buck by exploring new methods of extracting natural resources.  To explain this further, the note-passing I had with two fellow VISTA volunteers during training spoke volumes.  Here's what Erik and I ended up writing off the top of our heads.  Take it for what it's worth and feel free to comment as you'd like.  I'm curious to read up on your reactions.  All said and done, I feel fortunate to have led a great life thus far and have been graced with caring people, several traveling experiences, and flexible jobs.  I do my best to not take life for granted and believe that with each traveling experience I have, the more lives I touch.  I hope you're doing your part as well in as many ways possible.


Dan: Money to me as a value is being able to make connections with people and experience cultures outside and within the US by travel, and it costs money to travel. Then again, not necessarily. The using money for travel point is rooted in my upbringing that involved several family, school, and sports trips, which all aligned with the "save for the trip" concept. Recently, since falling in love with traveling to run marathons, I basically realized I love meeting new people and having experiences - seeing new things. Traveling costs money and I usually use my saved money and paid time off from work to make these experiences happen. My point: WHY DO WE WORK?

Erik: Work - a huge concept to be sure. Work is an expression of your being - it, for me at least, is a reason to live. It expresses and creates positive inhabitants in the world. The better you work, the more fulfilled you are through, the more positivity and being-in-the-world you express. It should show who you are and let people understand you and your values. Work in America (or its current definition) hinges on money, status, and material relations. If work is reconceptualized as being-in-the-world, an expression of freedom, then it's a reason to live. You seem to be mixed on the idea of what money does. I would never ever say that money is a zero sum game - that it is either evil or it's not. In fact, money makes the world go round. In that capacity, money needs to be reconceptualized as a resource or tool and not an evil unto itself. It is just another means to an end and doesn't have any real value unto itself. Travel, your experience of new cultures, etc are a product of money, but money doesn't tie in its value (i.e. paying $2000 to go to Mexico or $100 doesn't change your experience).

The idea here - money isn't bad. It is necessary even. It is relational and has a quality that connects people to things. Don't feel bad for having it; just know how you're using it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Making Another Moose Friend

I was just about to start packing for my trip to the Arctic Circle and Ocean this weekend when I looked up and saw a shit-load of fur in front of my window, haha. Low and behold, my other moose friends must have told this guy to come over and say, "Hi" to me, too. How nice! I decided to inch myself outside to get this lil' clip. Oh, and that's Don's dog Jessie makin' a ruckus in the background.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mario Kart in Real Life

I just took the bait on a lil’ go-kart of a car: 2000 Hyundai Accent GL 5-speed with 118,000 miles on’r.  Lookin’ forward to doing some Mario Kart corner bursting; banana peel-, turtle shell-, bob-omb-tossing; mushroom boosting; and a lil’ stunt jumpin action around Fairbanks over the next year.

Monday, June 21, 2010

An AmeriCorps VISTA Update

It's been amazing getting used to the 20+ hours of daylight.  It's funny having nightly events starting at 10pm or later and not being done till like 4 or 5am!  It really causes for lack of sleep if you're not paying attention, but I love it!  Today's the Summer Solstice.  There was NO sunrise this morning and will be NO sunset tonight due to the sun riding just above the horizon at those times and hanging high and bright in the sky during the day.  I picked up some fabric at the local thrift shop the other day and fashioned my own curtains to keep at least some sanity to experience my own version of night for sleeping here in the summer.

Other than that, I've adjusted very well here from Minnesota seeing as though the woods, streams, rivers and bluffs/foothills remind me a lot of my hometown in La Crescent, MN.  I've been living in Minneapolis for the past nine years, surrounded by plenty of asphalt, people, traffic and skyscrapers, but this is great to explore the great outdoors again.  So far, I've taken on the fun challenge of living in a dry cabin (no running water), run the ski trails of UAF, and hiked the 6,060-ft summit of Wildhorse Mountain off the Denali Highway.  This weekend, I'm planning on either climbing the 6,480-ft summit of Rainbow Mountain or road tripping to the Arctic Circle and Ocean with some friends.  Tough decision!!  Over July 4th Weekend, I'll be headed to Skagway, AK and Whitehorse, Canada with a couple friends to visit a friend of mine who gives helicopter and dog sledding tours on glaciers in the area.  I guess you can say I'm trying to take in as much of this great state not only while I'm here but because the warm weather only lasts so long, haha.

One other thing I've been involved with is the Fairbanks music scene.  I drum in my rock band Paragraphs back home and knew that I couldn't go an entire year without my drum set, so I shipped it up here and have befriended several local musicians and bands.  I was involved in a music mish-mash event called Fairbanks Pub League a couple weekends ago where they take about 25 local musicians and randomly put them into four-person bands.  They give you four hours to put together two covers and an original to perform at a bar later that night.  I'm happy to say my band (Lil' Wayne feat. Lil' Wayne) performed with few mistakes, haha.  I hope to be playing in a band sometime in the coming weeks.

To be honest, my time as a VISTA has been challenging so far here in Fairbanks.  I come from a very formal, dress-up, commute-to-work-in-a-skyscraper-cubical type of career, and being exposed to the nonprofit, social services sector has been very eye-opening to say the least.  I'm learning how to open up to my at-risk homeless and runaway youth clients and understand their needs as a population so as to find appropriate partnerships that should help them.  One thing I'm working on now is starting up formal music lessons at the local library for a few of my clients to participate starting in mid-July.  This will give those interested in music performance the ability to not only express themselves creatively but also know what having time management skills is like.  It's sustainable partnerships like this that I hope leave at least some sort of impression on those I'm serving even after my service year is done.

Overall, I'm having a blast here while missing my family and friends in Minnesota.  It was great meeting all the new faces at PSO in April as well as making new friends so far here in Fairbanks, including other VISTA's Bryan Whitten, Randy Russell, Krista Cassidy, and former VISTA's Katie Robb and Cassidy Phillips.  I'm looking forward to many more adventures and meeting many more people.

From the land of the midnight sun,

Sunday, June 20, 2010

2010 Midnight Sun Run 10k

After competing in this year's Midnight Sun Run 10k, I decided that I should compile a checklist to show what a runner might experience in running 10,000 meters of hilarity during Solstice Weekend here in Fairbanks.  Results should be posted here.
(I'm right behind #3699 in my Hawaiian shirt and shorts.)

2010 Midnight Sun 10k Run Checklist

✔ Dress in costume - Hawaiian Tourist with sunscreen on nose works for me.
✔ Run in daylight at 10pm - Bright as noon!
✔ Run sub-6:00 opening mile - 5:51
✔ Actually dress in costume and run with leaders - First costumed runner to finish.
✔ Unexpectedly get pelted by water guns and balloons by kids AND adults - Made me think I was on an episode of Wild & Crazy Kids.
✔ Run through several sprinklers in sketchy neighborhoods. - Did I mention run fast through sketchy neighborhoods with crazy drunk parties?!
✔ Be told “Aloha!” about 100 times. Respond with the “hang loose” sign.
✔ Be told “The Boatel’s THAT WAY!” by a drunk standing in the bed of his raised Chevy mud-bogging truck.  Respond by ignorning the comment.  (Click link for details on this one-of-a-kind Fairbanks establishment.) 
✔ Get passed by guy running barefoot. - With his feet slapping the ground, all he said was, “How ya doin?”  I was waiting for some broken beer bottles to be on the route at some point.  Evil, I know.
✔ Get beat by a few high schoolers. - Helps put me in my place.
✔ Finish sub-38:00 - Finished within top-20 in ~37:37 out of about 4,000 runners.
✔ Get liquids past finish line - Couple that with fresh watermelon and oranges.
✔ Stand and stretch while watching hilariously costumed runners crossing the finish line. - A giraffe and zebra, The Incredibles, The Beetles (yes, three girls in beetle costumes carrying two cardboard guitars and drum sticks).
✔ Walk back to truck to head home - Nothing like walking to a hip-hop version of “Candy Man” blasting from a children’s ice cream truck with a driver who looked like a meth dealer on Breaking Bad.
✔ Laugh to oneself, establish the night as a success, and go for a long, recovery run tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fairbanks Music Scene Thus Far...

It looks like I have another music-related blog post for you today.  Since deciding that I was going to ship my drum set the 3,183 miles (according to Google Maps) via USPS Ground from Minneapolis to Fairbanks, I knew that I was going to immerse myself in the music scene here as quickly as possible.  In doing so, I've befriended several great people who have an extraordinarily diverse background in performing.  Some are living hundreds of miles outside of Fairbanks and might only practice for the first time in weeks or months during sound check for their show.  Others get together several times per week to replay their most popular tunes over and over until they are blue in the face.  And then there's the rest of us - outsiders with musical skills who are just looking to join a band or group of people on a whim to have fun for the hell of it.

I have had the opportunity to hear a few bands on more than one occasion since arriving and have decided to shed some light on Work, the Moon Knights , Rebecca File, and Feeding Frenzy.

To start, I saw Work and the Moon Knights open for Tokyo Police Club on April 22nd at UAF.   The Moon Knights were on first with their ridiculous costumes and loud, lo-fi sound.  They were a bit too abrasive and obnoxious for my taste.  So, I was happy about 30 minutes later when the first notes were picked by Caleb Kuntz of Work, who along with Eric Lonn, Chad File, and EJ Skinner, Jr., paved the next 40 with some great instrumental rock.  I've seen some great showmen on stage at concerts before and Kuntz easily ranks in my top 10.  Top hat, retro glasses, stringy mustache, red button-up shirt, basketball shorts, and slippers are all main ingredients to his rock star recipe.  Throughout their set, File threw down some great time signature changes and fills on the drums; Lonn whacked out the mini keys; EJ strummed, slapped and picked the bass; and collectively, they all screamed and clapped at perfectly-timed moments.  They were a great act to get the crowd hopping before a solid act by TPC for the rest of the night.  Upon returning to my abode later that night, I didn't hesitate to recommend their sound to Radio K's Nowlikephotographs show back home.  I figured, why not get some of these local bands exposure to the lower-48.  I can't say I've ever specifically sought Alaskan bands before so maybe NLP would be interested in giving them some airplay.  I'm looking forward to seeing them at least a couple more times before EJ leaves the country in a couple months and any other reasons why they may not be around soon.

What prompted me to start this entry was the fact that I came across the MySpace page for a vocalist here in Fairbanks named Rebecca Menzia-File earlier today.  She's married to the drummer of the aforementioned band Work (Chad File), is a backing vocalist for another Fairbanks band called Feeding Frenzy, and apparently does her own solo stuff.  Her MySpace tracks are very chill and interesting to listen to.  She has a mix of opera, indie, and experiment in her style.  It wasn't until I came across the track "Let Him" on her page that I really realized her ability to put out a good sound as a solo artist.  Oh yeah, she's also expressed interest in teaching singing lessons for my clients here at the at-risk youth drop-in center to coincide with the music lessons I'm planning on starting sometime in July.  I think I have about seven teens interested in learning how to play anything from piano, violin, drums, bass, and guitar.  We'll see how it pans out.  I think Rebecca will do a great job.

Feeding Frenzy is another great local band here in Fairbanks.  I first saw them at a 200+ person cabin party and bonfire the night before Fairbanks' hippie music festival called Clucking Blossom, where they also played and captivated the audience with their banjo, violin, acoustic guitar, floor tom, mallet, tambourine, and catchy vocals.  The first streaming track "Winter's Getting Cold" is their main crowd-pleaser, quite obviously, because of its several "bop bop da da daa" lines, the speed-up tempo, and yelling lyrics throughout the song.  "If You Don't" is another one they play quite often.  Daniel Fermin, Ryan Bateman, Rebecca File, and Ephy Wheeler know what it takes to master the art of sing-along in the mixed style of indie, bluegrass, folk-rock.  To edit Mr. Walken's famous line on SNL, "I've gotta fever!  And the only prescription is more [banjo]!"

I'm looking forward to obtaining a copy of studio quality tracks of these bands and others here in town to give them a full listen through.  Then again, this is Fairbanks we're talking about.  So no guarantees on that by any means.  I'm guessing that I'll be getting those copies by way of mp3 cds burned by a couple people at some point.

Until my next Fairbanks/Alaska musical discovery, enjoy the links I've shared above!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fairbanks Pub League

Have you ever wanted to collaborate with other musicians in an already tightly-knit music scene?  Well, I learned a very easy way to do it in Fairbanks this past weekend.  It's called "Pub League."  

Connor Rainor, EJ Skinner, and a few others get a hold of about 25 interested musicians from all over the area, divvy them up into five bands, give them four or five hours to come up with three songs - usually two covers and an original from scratch.  My band "Lil Wayne, feat. Lil Wayne" opted for two originals and one cover instead.  Later that evening, ya head to a local bar, perform in a battle of the bands type of competition and a single one is crowned the Pub League Champions.  We took that crown last night.

It consisted of a bassist named Poncho, keyboardist Eric Lonn (from the band Work), singer/keyboarist Isaac Paris (from the band Paper Scissors), and a guest "rapper," Patrick, who's a roommate of Connor's.  We ended up meshing pretty well from the get-go.  Here are the tracks and a brief explanation of what we performed.

1) "Cowboy Cassanova ST" is a jam we came up with at the very beginning of practice just to get a little loose and continue from there.
2) "White Liar Demo" is our ridiculous take on "Digital Love" by Daft Punk sung with the like-vocals of Louis Armstrong.  My only backing vocals come in the form of a "woooo!" around 2:30, haha.
3) "Cowboy Cassanova Demo" is a rap we all collaborated with by writing random lines on pieces of paper and passing them around to add more lines.  Patrick sounded super uncomfortable rapping while Isaac did a pretty good job of taking on the style of the Beastie Boys.

I'm already looking forward to the next one.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sunshower in Fairbanks

Have you ever been caught in the middle of some amazing artwork created by nature? I came home from work the other day to a beautiful sunshower and had to document it. I felt as though I was in a nature film and was following a script set before me. This is my interpretation of that experience.  [Let the video fully load and watch in full-screen mode for an optimal viewing experience.]

(c) Dan Vogel 2010
Music: "Foreign Thoughts" by There Will Be Fireworks

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Getaway

[Seven Mile Lake & Gulkana Glacier, Alaska]

[Updated 5/25/10]
I've been in Fairbanks for just over a month now.  When I arrived, there was still a little less than a foot of snow, the trees were bare, the ground was brown, and the temperature struggled to reach 50 degrees even on sunny days.  Over the past four weeks, the snow has melted, the trees have budded, ground vegetation is ripe and green, and it’s been ranging from 60 to 75 degrees most days.  Perfect if you ask me!  Although, I do hear my friends and family back in Minnesota are suffering with 90-degree temperatures and 80% humidity.  I know what that feels like and can assure you, it is NOT fun!  I do miss a good Minnesota thunderstorm every once in a while though.
To couple the great weather here with great adventure, I’ve been itching to go on my first, formal hiking/camping/kayaking trip in some rugged Alaskan wonderland.  As luck continues to run its course in my adventures so far, it looks as though a few us are planning on hitting up Seven Mile Lake (click for map) this Memorial Day weekend.  It sits about halfway between Fairbanks and Anchorage, just east of Denali National Park and west of the Tanana Valley State Forest.

[Seven Mile Lake]

It all starts Friday night, with a drive down to mile 40 of the Denali Highway.  We'll disembark and ford our way through a system of cured and uncured trails 6.5 miles off the road through a natural amphitheater of 4,000-foot mountains and a marshy valley until we reach Seven Mile Lake.  We'll set up camp, enjoy the ever-fading sunsets and sunrises, kayak the lake, and hike a summit or two in the foothills.  To rub in a little more amazing-ness, the weather forecast is as follows.  It doesn't get much better than this:

FRI: Hi 65+, Lo 35+
SAT:  Hi 65+, Lo 35+
SUN: Hi 65+, Lo 35+ cloudy, scattered showers
MON:  Hi 65+, Lo 35+ cloudy, rain likely

I've hiked, camped, kayaked, and fished in state parks before, but they have almost always been on property with other travelers’ tents or RV’s next to mine, owned by KOA, and treated more as family getaway experiences.  THIS and other trips over the next year up here will be much more true to the camping and hiking form - far from anyone else and completely immersed in nature.  I’m so excited for this and many more adventures to come.

[My new hiking boots!]

Stay tuned for more pics and stories from this weekend.