Thursday, Feb. 12th, 2009

Thursday: Rally for the Rail

If a high-speed passenger railway system connecting west-central Wisconsin and beyond seems like a good idea to you, listen up: we’re in danger of getting left out of the Department of Transportation’s planned network. The current proposal basically states, “Hey, once we get our new railroad up and running ten years from now, maybe we’ll consider thinking about you folks up in the Chippewa Valley. Maybe. We’ll see.”

It’s awesome that the state is putting some real effort towards a passenger railway, but come on. The chunk of Wisconsin between us and the St. Croix River is the fastest growing part of the state. Let’s not crap that up, shall we? The West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition is fighting to change the WisDOT’s current plan, asking that (among other things) it adopts an “Eau Claire to Hudson to St. Paul” connection between Madison and The Cities.

So! You should get in on the action by attending a WisDOT public meeting on the matter – tonight (2/12) from 5-8pm at the Sacred Heart Conference Center (900 W. Clairemont Ave.) You can check out the current railway plans at the Connections 2030 website. You can also call (608) 266-8108 for more info.

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Set to the thumpin’ synth of a mid ’90s rave, CHARGEBALL (it’s best in all caps) is a great little game in the traditional genre of “bounce a metal ball off electric shock paddles to collect glowing orbs but watch out for the red zone because they will explode you.”

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Wide Plans @ Infinitea

Wide Plans of a Palindrome played a quaint, serene show in a packed Infinitea teahouse to start off the new year. And yes, there were horns accompanying.

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Brian Bethke Gets a Handle on It

In a super kind and generous gesture, local musician Brian Bethke sent Volume One an exclusive track from his upcoming May 2009 album Auburdeen titled "Handler". Listen to the track, have an opinion and leave a comment. Personally I like the “whoo-hoo” parts; they could make for some great audience interaction at a live show.

If this song leaves you with an itch for more Bethke, catch him at Chippewa Falls' Snout Saloon (13 W. Central St.) Valentine's Day night and the Hallie Bar and Grill (1713 Cty. Hwy OO) Feb. 21. Myspace.


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Wednesday, Feb. 11th, 2009

Volume One in Italy in the Snow

The Starvin’ Carvists are a snow sculpting team comprised of mostly local gents and captained by artist Steve Bateman (on the left). Last year, they traveled to Italy so they could represent the United States in a duo of multinational competitions. They took first place in one contest with “Fool of the World,” and second place in the other contest with “Mother of Invention.” And if that weren’t enough, the hearty/crafty souls posed with a copy of Volume One whilst squatting within their first place sculpture. In Italy.

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Congressman Blasts Arts Jobs

Caught wind of a GREAT post over on a site called The Artful Manager about the new economic stimulus package – in regards to arts jobs and National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) funding. The blogger (Andrew Taylor) quotes another blogger who quotes Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA). Besides being a Republican Congressman from Georgia, Rep. Kingston appears to have extensive experience at being a major tool. From the post:

  • [quoting] Rep. Jack Kingston's (R-GA) remarks when complaining about the NEA funding (now removed) from the bill:
  • "We have real people out of work right now and putting $50 million in the NEA and pretending that's going to save jobs as opposed to putting $50 million in a road project is disingenuous."
  • Which suggests, of course, that artists, cultural managers, stagehands, gallery staff, technicians, costume designers, and anybody else involved in artistic pursuits aren't actually working, or earning a paycheck, or supporting their families, or any of the other productive things road workers might do. Or, to put it more bluntly, arts workers are not ''real people.''
  • It's perfectly fair to challenge the ''stimulus potential'' of any line item in the massive bill. And there are legitimate arguments to be made that one form of spending or incentive works more quickly, more effectively, more efficiently than another. But this particular line of attack, suggesting that the arts don't involve people doing jobs, is staggering in its ignorance. Read more.

Speaking as someone who supports his family with a job closely tied to the arts industry … um, wow. Not a big fan of Georgian politicians right now. But! The post goes on to point out that much of this attitude comes from our very own people – people working in the arts. And it reminds me: I used to work with a guy who spent years at school (and lots of money) to become a cartoonist, yet he refused to believe that cartooning is a legitimate art form, let alone a real job.

If these feelings persist within arts communities nationwide, we’re in trouble.

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Tuesday, Feb. 10th, 2009

You Just Got Daytrottered, Gentle Guest

Well, look who it is! V1 covered The Gentle Guest back in September when they released their debut full-length, We Are Bound to Save Some Souls Tonight. Today, Tuesday, February 10th, Rykal and friends are featured on the widely popular and innovative blog, (the image above is lifted from there). The site brings in a new band five days a week to record a handful of live songs at Futureappletree Sudio One in Rock Island, Illinois. Not only did The Gentle Guest hammer out chilling live versions of four of their songs, but they also got a damn good review on the site from Sean Moeller, who also contributes to Rockpile, Filter, Punk Planet and Skyscraper, just to name a few. Of course, a lot of Moeller’s focus was on Eau Claire’s recent explosion of good bands, of which he had this to say. “They have a saying about hotbeds of talent and that saying hinges on the water and something being in it, something formidable and magical…It sometimes also has to do with a city having cornered a small market of indie rock and roll the way that humble Eau Claire, Wisconsin has in the past year.” The site has also featured Eau Claire-based bands Bon Iver and The Daredevil Christopher Wright.

Congrats, boys! Drinks on me. Actually, you, since you're famous now.

Darlin' Darla (live on Daytrotter)

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Menards Gets Pat on Big, Corrugated Metal Back

People around here find it pretty easy to complain about/criticize/blast Menards (and John Menard in particular) for a whole variety of reasons. But some people also find it pretty easy to praise the home improvement super chain/super rich guy, as well. Like who? Well, the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corp for starters. From the L-T

  • Menards earned the 2009 Paragon Economic Impact Award on Monday at the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corp.'s annual banquet at The Florian Gardens.
  • … recognized for its innovation, economic development role in the Eau Claire area and other criteria.

Despite the many complaints about Menards, ranging from working conditions to philanthropic motivations, it’s hard to deny that a lot of locals are paying their rent (and a tiny part of their health insurance) through the Save Big Money payroll – around 3,000 at last count. At any rate, I imagine that (as you read this) John is using a cordless Tool Shop drill to bolt his new Paragon Economic Impact Award to the wall right above his bed.

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A Brilliant Valentine Party
(Feb. 17, 1895)

A Brilliant Valentine Party: The Social Event of the Week
The Eau Claire Telegram | Feb. 17, 1895

Durand - A St. Valentine dance and reception was given by the Misses Dorwin with Mr. and Mrs. W.K. VanHoessen at their pleasant home just completed, Oak Grove Farm. The house was appropriately and artistically decorated for the occasion, being in the form of a St. Valentine party. The rooms were decorated with festoons and cit flowers, among which was a large heart of roses, pierced by a silver arrow and suspended from the ceiling of the spacious dining room. Refreshments were served on plates in the form of hearts. Very tasty souvenirs of the occasion were presented. The evening was very pleasantly spent in dancing, cards and other games were indulged in.

Chad’s Take: Par-tay

I bet most of you are unaware that this Saturday is St. Valentine’s Day. Don’t blame yourself, it is just that the media and businesses tend to pass over this date without making much fuss, but I thought I would bring it to your attention so you don’t feel bad if you find yourself sitting in that empty restaurant with your loved one on Saturday.   

As you can see this article is not overly strange or bizarre, but I wanted to include it because I think it illustrates just how different life is today in the Chippewa Valley. This article was literally one of dozens that I found, all of them telling about these elaborate parties and social events taking place on Valentine’s Day throughout the Chippewa Valley. What I found very interesting was the fact that back then Valentine’s Day was seen as a community event. These parties would be comprised of a combination of married folks, their children, widows and widowers, and an assortment of single men and women. The whole community would gather to celebrate the day together at one of these socials. Things are much different today, as the closest thing you might have to a community Valentine’s Day event is passing by an acquaintance as you leave Haymarket Grill. So there you have it, nothing bizarre, and nothing supernatural, just another normal Valentine’s Day in the Chippewa Valley.

Keep an eye out ...

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Monday, Feb. 9th, 2009

Jim Pullman: A Great of 2008

Yes, yes, yes, we've heard a lot about how the Eau Claire-based Jim Pullman Band was on The WB. Yes, he's played a fajillion shows. There's just one thing, have you actually listened to Pullman's most recent album, The End of the Beginning? (CD Baby) Released last summer without a ton of hype (and that's typical of all these guys' work – lots of goodness without a ton of bells, whistles, and gimmicky thrills) it took me this long to really sit down with it. Eric "pedals" Thompson, and Joe Gunderson lay down track after track of solid, if fairly mainstream, indie rock while Jim's voice croons over churning guitars. These guys have been doing this forever, and it totally shows in the production and polished sound that has quickly become JPB's hallmark. "Meteor" is by far the best track, a song that conjures up the best parts of Foo Fighters or Ryan Adams, but that's not to say you won't find a ton of awesome stuff on this record. When you're done with all the angsty winter of Bon Iver, it's nice to know that we have a group that can conjure up at least one other Wisconsin season. Best if enjoyed with a giant PBR and a good attitude. Check them out on Myspace, Virb, or Reverb Nation.

LISTEN: "Meteor"

LISTEN: "Fiasco-A-Go-G0"


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