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The Thinking Man – Are they really just going to eat us?

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I saw this video clip a few weeks back and tried to park it in the back of my brain.  It keeps pushing back to the front.  As an optimist who generally sees the positive side of progress, the ramifications of this clip are somewhat troubling.  Man has made a consumer-friendly, flesh-eating robot.

Even if you are skeptical about this example, a quick Google search will turn up stories about government funding of battlefield robots design to operate on biomass.   The press quickly spun this fact into battlefield robots consuming biomass in the form of flesh from fallen soldiers.  The creators of the technology tried to point out that the technology would have some built-in sensors to distinguish one form of biomass from another, but isn’t the genie out of the bottle by that point?  Does your garbage disposal let you know when something gets “consumed” that shouldn’t have been?

Whether or not a biomass consuming robot or the mouse-eating table is real is not exactly the point.  The point is that we have arrived at the time when we can have this conversation without talking about some nebulous future.

Thinkers like Bill Joy and others raise serious concerns about what could go wrong with technology.  Over 10 years ago, a lot of time in the world of Moore’s Law, Joy wrote his hugely influential essay “Why the future doesn’t need us.” If and when artificial intelligence becomes self-aware, wouldn’t we be seen as a competitor for scarce resources?  This is a scenario that Joy and countless other sci-fi writers have envisioned.

I’m pretty sure that the group responsible for “Carnivorous Domestic Entertainment Robots” didn’t program the mouse-eating table with Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics built into the CPU. I always thought we were supposed to be wiped out in an Artificial Intelligence directed nuclear disaster or that the human race was to be used as batteries or something when the robot masters take over?  Are they really just going to eat us?

Akron/Family – Mash-up Video – Philadelphia 3.4.11

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Friday evenings Akron/Family show was tremendous!

Watch the video mash-up from The Blockley as these freak folk rock monsters throw-down a heavy dose of their goodness…

Introducing Patrick Lawler – Cinematographer

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In an effort to shed some light on the great creative energy going in this world I want to introduce you to Patrick Lawler and his work.  I was lucky enough to run across this 23 year old cinematographer and avid music lover from California and was blown away by the originality in his body of work.  His films demonstrate how a creative individual with the know-how and guts to try their own thing can create mind-blowing results.  Lawler offered up a nice chunk of his time for an interview.  In order to do it justice it will be split into two parts.  I introduce to you good readers of BOMS – Patrick Lawler.

Name:  Patrick Lawler

Profession: Cinematographer

Age: 23

Hometown: San Luis Obispo California

BOMS – Do you think there is a lack of creativity in the world or plenty if you just know where to look?

PL –  I feel like there is a lot more creativity out there in the world currently. With the invention of the internet and easily accessible media people are finding their creative sides much more easily, and they’re especially embracing their creative sides as viable career moves more often as well. With the price of technology decreasing and the quality of that technology increasing, it is now easier for creative people to make their art. What sets us apart now is our ideas and creativity, not as much our technical execution (although technical execution is my main job so it’s still very important).

BOMS – Patrick could you give the readers of BOMS your thoughts on filmmaking and the state of independent filmmaking in 2011?

PL – I have been honored to have a film accepted into the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for two years in a row now. and the difference between the films I’ve seen there (especially the student films) between 2010 and 2011 is staggering! The quality of affordable video cameras out there is astonishing! Films are just looking better and better, and more and more people are able to make their films, especially with the invention of HDSLR video.

BOMS – Your work is highly creative and unlike many filmmakers I’ve seen you focus on things that seem slightly askew from the norm, but the things you film strike me as stuff you are passionate about.  What moves you creatively?

PL – I have always described myself as a more experimental and creative person. Ideas about cool shots and interesting ways to film things just pop into my head, and sometimes I need to scramble to write them down so I don’t forget. On my phone I have lists and lists of cool ideas I need to film. I started off expressing myself artistically as musician. Music is such a huge part of my life that it heavily inspires my films, which is why I shoot so many music videos and silent films.

BOMS – I know you are a music fan and see quite a few band videos/projects – How has music influenced your camera work/ film work?

PL – Sometimes I’ll listen to a song and all the ideas will surface just from listening to that song. I’ve written entire scripts based off the emotions a single song has made me feel.

BOMS –  Three bands you want to shoot in the future (can be a dream list)?

PL – I honestly can’t pick! This is a super hard question to answer because I love so much music. I’m a super huge fan of Deftones music videos, so I’d love to work on one of those, I’d love to shoot something for M83 but I don’t think my style is “home video” or 80’s enough for him, my friend Cameron and I have been wanting to shoot a Black Dahlia Murder music video since we were 15, I think the experience would be super funny and rad, those guys are a crack-up and we’d love to work with them!

BOMS – Three bands that are your ideal soundtrack music?

PL – I am obsessed with Post Rock so my ideal soundtrack bands are: This Will Destroy You (my favorite band), anything off Blalock’s Indie Rock Playlist, and of course Leo Kaliski my composer who writes amazing music that breathes new life into my films.

BOMS  – What means more to you natural light (sunrise, storm,  sunset, etc) or artificial lighting?

PL – If I’m shooting dialog inside of course I’m going to want artificial light to maintain continuity across cuts. However since I have always been restricted by low budgets, I am extremely used to natural light, so I’ve grown to love it. Of course I love having tons of toys to play with, but my ideal situation is having enough equipment to make natural lighting just that much better, Lighting someone to match an amazing sunset for example.

BOMS  – Can you offer insight into a dream project that you would want to work on in the future?

PL – I’m currently in the beginning stages of pre-production on a feature film my best friend and business partner Cameron Alexander wrote.

BOMS – How does the DSLR change the playing field for video production?  How does the Red?

PL – DSLR’s totally kill it! They’re so awesome! They have singlehandedly changed the film industry forever. Back in 2007 it cost me around $8,000 to get HD video with shallow depth of field (HVX200 + Letus Lens adaptor) not it costs $800 and the image looks better! Of course I could spend an hour talking about my ideal shooting codecs and colorspaces but I won’t right now.  The Red One is a truly amazing camera! I freakin love that camera! The amount of information I get as well as resolution has truly helped me execute my vision and pushed me that much further into the realm of what ideas are possible to shoot! I can’t wait to get my hands on an Epic!

BOMS:  Your latest demo reel is a nice overview of the past years work.  This reel builds so incredibly well that I can’t decide if it’s the music selection or the beauty of the shots that I enjoy best.  I know this may be tough but could you dive into what three shots you’re proudest of?

My three favorite shots of my whole life so far are: 1. the shot of my friend Ella’s hair coming up underwater from my film “Surface” it’s one of the most compositionally interesting and elegant things I’ve ever shot. And that entire concept was on accident as well! We were sitting around being bored in a photo studio waiting to shoot a rap video and ended up filling a fish tank with water we found in a prop closet and dunking our heads into it!

#2 has to be the guys wearing black running out into the ocean on the beach towards the sunset. I love the color, and the way it turned out was way better than I could have ever imagined!

#3 This is by far my favorite shot of all time, it was born out of a simple concept where I wanted people to jump on trampolines, and then I’d remove the trampoline with a background plate. The shot is my friend Laykin falling in the most beautiful way. It was shot at 120fps on the Red. I even dedicated an entire video experiment to just that shot.

BOMS – I’m digging that music video for Sean Bones – Could you explain why you paired the “Bring Your Own Big Wheel” event in San Fran with their music?

PL – Sean bones video: A good example of how just going out to shoot fun stuff can lead to great things! I went out for fun and shot the big wheel race with some friends. Sean Bone’s manager loved it so much that he asked me to re-edit my video to Sean’s song and now it’s the official video!

To Be Continued

Kayce Studies – Ayahuasca: Chapter II

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Ayahuasca: Chapter II

By: Aaron Kayce

Rick Ashby was devastated by the news that A Glimpse of The Feather’s plane had vanished over the ocean.  As far as anyone knew, he was the last person alive to have any sort of significant conversation with lead singer/rock god Jackson Rush.  This fact laid heavy on Ashby, a badge of honor and also a burden.  His Rolling Stone feature became the definitive A Glimpse of The Feather story and within a week of the magazine spreading to every corner of the free world, he had numerous book deals being lobbed his way.

This put Ashby in a difficult position.  He had pitched the band on an officially sanctioned book a few years ago, and Rush was into it, but the singer said, “Not yet.  The story isn’t finished yet, Rick.  But when our story is told, we want you to tell it.”  So on the one hand Ashby felt he had the band’s blessing, but in light of recent events it just felt like exploitation.

The majority of book agents and publishers were pushing for a fast-tracked Feather book that would more or less reorganize existing interviews and bio notes, combining them with photos and getting it out as soon as possible, hopefully within six months, to capitalize on the public’s fresh wound.  Ashby considered the band to be friends and no matter how much money was thrown his way he couldn’t stomach the deal, until a sympathetic agent at Simon & Schuster convinced him otherwise.

Melissa Ives was a 28-year-old passionate music fan and she adored A Glimpse of The Feather.  She also loved Ashby’s coverage of the band over the years and particularly his already legendary story for Rolling Stone.  She didn’t want to push this biography out as soon as possible.  Ives had convinced the big brass at esteemed publishing company Simon & Schuster that the world didn’t need another half-assed book on Feather.  Like any superstar band there were already countless unauthorized books that were exactly that, which were flying off shelves, hence the desire by many to get a new book by the definitive Feather source done immediately.

But Ives had a different angle.  “How about we send Ashby back to the jungle” she said in a closed door board room meeting with the head honchos at Simon & Schuster.  “We’ll get it done as soon as we can, but let’s not rush this.  Ashby has tapes upon tapes of interviews with everyone in the band, much of it never seen by the public, so that along with his extensive knowledge and history of the band will be the focus” she continued.  “But if we retrace Jackson Rush and guitarist Ian St. Pierre’s final days where they trekked into the Amazon and drank the ayahuasca, if we get Ashby in there, talking with the tribe, reliving the experience and using that as a way to tell this story, I think we might have something much more compelling, and important, than a quick-hit music book that brings in some cash.  You’ve seen the news.  Ayahuasca is on the tip of everyone’s tongue and at the forefront of the nation’s thoughts.  No one really knows what it is but they can’t stop talking about.  This is a cultural event and it’s having a profound effect on society.  This is more than the story of a band and its demise, this could be a Pulitzer.”

When Ashby got off the phone with Melissa Ives he sat motionless on a weathered fake leather coach inside his one-bedroom San Francisco apartment.  It was only 3:00 p.m. but he was already on his second whiskey drink (Makers Mark as he isn’t able to afford the Johnny Walker Blue he so enjoyed drinking with Rush) of the day.  Since returning from Brazil Ashby had been in somewhat of stupor.  Drinking heavily, barely working, smoking enough weed to kill an elephant and sniffing coke off car keys in dirty restrooms more often then he’d care to admit.  Though he couldn’t figure out why and was aware the notion was ridiculous, but for some reason Ashby felt partially responsible for A Glimpse of The Feather’s demise, and more specifically for Jackson Rush’s.

It was easy to convince his mind that of course he had no part in the plane crash, but his heart felt otherwise.  The psychotic e-mails from various religious groups and hand scrawled letters from desperate mothers that might have well been written in blood blaming Ashby for glamorizing drug use and introducing their kids to ayahuasca and its shady cousin DMT, certainly didn’t help.  He wanted to get out of town, out of America, and the book deal offered by Ms. Ives was too good to deny.  Due to Ashby’s extensive archive of interviews he’d conducted with the band over the past decade, his personal relationship with the members and the fact that he was publicly recognized as the Feather authority put the deal somewhere in the ball park of $500,000.

The figure tossed over the phone by Ives crippled Ashby.  It was so much more than anyone had offered and though he’d probably say otherwise, deep down he knew that no matter what the parameters were, at 500 large he was taking this deal.  Ashby was a blue collar guy.  A well-educated and very bright one, but blue collar none the less.  He didn’t come from money.  Everything he had he earned and $500,000 was more money then he’d ever dreamed of.

Ashby graduated with honors from UMass Amherst, where he earned a double-degree in Psychology and English, and after college gradually taught himself the journalism trade.  He worked at daily newspapers and weekly publications covering politics, local news and arts.  He started contributing to a small music website called Pitchfork and pretty soon his music journalism was garnering massive praise.  He started writing for The New York Times music section, SPIN and Rolling Stone, before long he had established himself as one of the premier music scribes of his generation.

But it was more than the money.  And it was more than the manner in which Ives and Simon & Schuster had crafted the deal, sympathetic to not only the band and their story, but to Ashby’s altruistic nature and with no time, or budget, restraints.  The bottom line was that ever since leaving Jackson Rush’s hotel suite in Rio Rick Ashby was determined to have his own ayahuasca experience.  Ashby was an adventurous soul, growing up in the music scene he’d experimented with just about every drug he could get his hands on and as Rush announced his adoration of ayahuasca, crediting the psychedelic root for inspiring his greatest works, one way or another Ashby was going to try it for himself.  Now someone was offering him $500,000 to go do it.  Ashby realized the book deal wasn’t specifically about him getting high on ayahuasca, but Ives did indicate that to tell the story the way she and her bosses saw it, drinking some of the sacred brew would probably be a good idea.

Within a week Ashby had signed the papers and faxed them back to Ives’ secretary.  The book deal was official and he was told to forward all expenses to Ives and promptly received a $50,000 advance to start his journey.  The plan was to retrace Jackson Rush’s final days as closely as possible.  The details were sketchy at best, but Ashby had some guide posts.  He knew to book a suite at the exclusive Copacabana Palace overlooking the famous Copacabana Beach just outside Rio de Janeiro.  He also knew to search out a young Brazilian man named Gabriel, the same one who brought Rush and St. Pierre into the jungle.  And if he could, Ashby was to track down Maria Vasquez, a young woman Rush had spent several nights with while in Brazil.

The influx of money brought with it a large send-off for Ashby.  Finally starting to shake the funk that was holding him down since Feather’s disappearing act, Ashby and a few friends went out on the town for a night of drinking and general debauchery in honor of the big book deal.  The length of the trip was unknown and it seemed appropriate enough to gather his closest cronies, eat a giant steak dinner, have some drinks and get fully blasted before staging his own Brazilian disappearance.

Ashby’s flight was at 8:00 a.m. out of San Francisco International Airport and when he started to see the sunrise from his buddy’s apartment he knew that he was in trouble.  Some people like seeing the sunrise after being up all night, Ashby hated it.  He knew what it meant and it instantly made him feel dirty and used up.  He longed to tick back the sun just a few minutes, enough to get himself home and under the covers, hidden away from the new day.  But there was no time for that, day was breaking and he had to leave for the airport immediately.

Tune in next month for Chapter III…

If you missed Chapter I – Visit Here

SXSW Prep in Philly on Friday, March 4th

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Hey folks, this coming Friday March 4th Philly goes off with a sweet mix of freak folk rock and electro pop shows in such close proximity of each other that you can make an evening of it bouncing in-between both like your own mini warm-up for SXSW.  Start the evening with a trio of bands at the North Star Bar in the cities art museum hind quarter region. At 9pm An American Chinese kicks things off with music that may be a fitting soundtrack to a Wes Anderson film.   Their debut album Utopian Tree is jam-packed with bits of psych, folk and indie rock. This should warm up the crowd for XYLOS whose singer Monika Heidemann offers an intriguing 80’s electro-pop mix that sounds like it could make for quite a live show.  Think a mix of the Siouxsie and the Banshees and a new Brooklyn version of the Cocteau Twins.  Peep the video below:

Then kick back for The Seedy Seeds – it’s a banjo, an accordion and a toy keyboard creating lo-fi dance tunes – You know you are intrigued.  I’d try to describe it more but the video below does it justice.

From here you could stay for Philly’s own Organ Blues.  The long and short they sound like a rough mix of Big Head Todd and The Monsters , Modest Mouse and some Pixies.  Well worth staying for, but a wild, wild freak-out will be only 12 blocks away at the Blockley where Akron/ Family which is guaranteed to be some of the best home spun psychedelic rock and roll of the evening.  That show goes until 1:30 so arriving at 11:30 will give you plenty of  time to fly your freak flag to end the evening as you enjoy the sounds of the band’s latest S/T II:The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT – whatever that means – no matter this sounds fun. Peep the new song “Silly Bears” below

Doc Rock: A Novel Concept…..Artwork with your music

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The late 60’s and early 70’s were rife with concept albums.  These are albums in which all the songs contained are somehow connected by a unifying theme. Many premiere bands of the day such as Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, The Who and others joined in the fray.   This month I’d like to focus on Jethro Tull, another band that were not about to be left out of the concept album mix.  1972’s Thick as a Brick was this band’s offering and it remains a classic to this day.  In contrast to the heady, seriously themed offerings of the others, Thick as a Brick was a humorous, bizarre parody of all that came before.  Jethro Tull was riding the critical success of Aqualung their mainstream Rock offering from the year before.    However the critics repeated assertions that Aqualung was a concept album despite front man, Ian Anderson’s staunch denials.   Anderson finally commented “If the critics want a concept album, we’ll give them the mother of all concept albums and we’ll make so bombastic and over the top…..”.   Anderson was surely a man of his word.

Thick as a Brick is a poem written by a fictitious English schoolboy named Gerald Bostwick about the trials and tribulations of growing up (Very tongue in cheek and over the top as promised) wedded to some of the finest progressive rock music of the day. Instrumentally, all of the usual suspects appear on this gem; guitars, piano, drums, organ and bass, but listeners are additionally treated to Anderson’s flute riffs and the sounds of xylophone, Tympani, harp, trumpet and violin plus an assortment of other strings, a rarity for the rock tunes of the 1970’s.

And if that wasn’t enough, the original L.P. was contained in a cover that was actually a several page “newspaper” which contained the entire lyrics to the album, a review of the album itself, and several other fictitious articles which should make you laugh or scratch your head but nonetheless hold high entertainment value.

A compact disc has an advantage over an L.P.  It is small, portable, durable, and requires inexpensive equipment to play (The needle alone from a decent turntable could cost several times that of a standard C.D. player).  However this modern technology comes at a price.  You lose the big production album cover art and if you ask me, that’s a real shame.  In the days of the L.P., record companies often spent a small fortune producing cover art (remember, L.P. covers were approximately 12×12 inches).  Many an hour was spent by listeners enjoying these creations as well as the contained “liner notes” those envelopes which contained the L.P. were also often adorned with artwork and other interesting ditties.  The miniaturized versions contained in today’s C.D.’s just don’t cut it folks.   Thick as a Brick is a huge case in point.  The C.D. version comes with a heavily abridged, barely readable, quite laughable version of the newspaper.   So if you want the full impact of this month’s recommendation get your hands on the L.P. version of “Brick” and enjoy.    Your prescription is written.  Refill as needed.  Until next time the doctor is in…..

Dr. Dog – Live at the Electric Factory – 2.11.11

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Dr. Dog at home again finally!!!!  A superb show homecoming at Philly’s Electric Factory.  The video below is a mash-up of the evening featuring bits from: I Only Wear Blue, The Way the Lazy Do, Shadow People, Heart It Races and Jackie Wants A Black Eye.

The Thinking Man – Singularity

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Surely you’ve heard of “Moore’s Law”.  It’s the moniker given to the trend in computer processor power that keeps our computer technology getting faster and more powerful, while the costs stay about the same.   Exponential growth is a powerful force.

Some people believe that the concept of Moore’s Law can be applied across a range of scientific and technological disciplines and that this exponential growth of technology has frighteningly huge ramifications.  One of these people is Ray Kurzweil, a self-described futurist, who believes that you might live long enough to become a robot.

Seriously.  Kurzweil believes that within my lifetime (hopefully, but probably not his), Moore’s Law and the convergence of a variety of technological advances will push humanity into strange a new places.

Whether you believe that Kurweil has the dates right, it’s hard to argue that technology isn’t creating some rifts in society that are only likely to grow.  Sure, we can Facebook and Tweet our way to revolutions, but what Kurzweil and whole groups of scientists and technologists are talking about is tangible, physical, hardware that will become part of us in the future.

Do you consider your iPhone or Android or whatever an extension of who you are?  If not, why not?   It contains personal, perhaps work related, account info, access to banking, and storage for all sorts of things that you can’t be bothered to remember. Consider that you’ve begun outsourcing your memories in the forms of photos and home videos?  What if your mobile phone or in the info contained in it was somehow seamlessly connected into your body through some sort of implant?

It’s almost here.  It’s called “Augmented Reality“and it’s a killer app away from splashing into daily lives.

I’m guessing that the volume of the ongoing debate about healthcare will only get louder.  How do you decide who gets the Six-Million Dollar Man treatment?

Finally, for a bit of perspective…think for a moment about what the recently discovered, completely cut off from civilization, indigenous tribe in the Amazon.  What would they think about all of this?

Girl Talk – Mash-up Video from 2.4.11 Electric Factory

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Gregg Gillis aka Girl Talk hit Philly this past Friday evening and threw a monster party in that old girl the Electric Factory. 

Check out some of the highlights in the video below 

Preview – Greensky Bluegrass, Cornmeal, USPS – Feb 10th Sullivan Hall

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Every now and then a show so sweet comes along that it becomes necessary to set off flares and sound the alarm.  On Feb 10th Brooklyn’s Sullivan Hall slices off a triple bill of bluegrass, folk and Americana music in what is sure to be a grand evening of live music.  I’ve caught both Greensky Bluegrass and Cornmeal before and can vouch for their abilities to sway the crowd bringing some serious wear and tear to dance floors everywhere.  Special guests at this shindig are The Union Street Preservation Society .  From the sound of it these local cats will make you want to arrive early.  BOMS caught up with Alex Borsody guitarist from The Union Street Preservation Society for a Q and A prior to the show to fill you in on what you can expect.

BOMS – Alex what is your role with The Union Street Preservation Society and how long have you been with them?

Borsody – My role with them is principally as guitar player, I have invented my own style of playing where I play with slightly higher than normal action and open tuning with a slide to give it that Dobro twang.  It is also an alternate tuning similar to the banjo where the high string can be used like the open G string on the banjo, just a little adjustment and I can play most banjo rolls on it too.  Like most other members of the band I also help with booking shows and PR, plus we do all our own design work, etc.

BOMS – Could you elaborate on this statement “The society is always accepting new, honorary members who are willing to delve deeper into the music, both intellectually and spiritually and physically.”

Borsody – Well this was just something I wrote up when we were writing early band bios, we formed out of the bluegrass jam scene and had a few people coming and going that were playing with us, we liked the open feeling of the jam scene and how people learned so much there.  It doesn’t really have any more truth to it right now; it seemed like a cute thing to say at the time.

BOMS – What can someone coming out to see USPS at Sullivan Hall expect – Musically? Visually?

Borsody – Musically they should expect some of the most unique roots and folk music being made right now, our repertoire includes at least 50 songs. We will be playing some fast, barn burners, chicken killers and foot stompers you know… bluegrass songs, as well as some blues. Each member in our band has a very distinct bio which contributes to their playing style. Bassist Jason Bertone studied jazz bass at Hampshire College and has played in a wide variety of bands from reggae to bluegrass, Sara Bouchard on mandolin is a classically trained pianist who also has recorded two albums of her own and plays a variety of instruments. David Lieberman on guitar went to Yale around the same time as Sara and studied cognitive science; he is a walking encyclopedia of folk and country songs. Harrison Hollingsworth on violin and is the youngest musician at the New York City Ballet, as well as first chair Bassoon. I came into folk music at the height of the jamband scene in the mid 2000’s at a very “alt” school Eckerd College and played in some bands since then, I contribute to a number of music magazines and enjoy photography, and my new favorite site is The Deli. I have my own consulting company developing web 2.0 projects in the music space and beyond. Visually I would expect you to see 5 very sexy people onstage playing music in a stunning manner.

BOMS – Give me 3 tips to prepare for your show on Feb 10?

Borsody – Come early stay late, tip the shot girl, and enjoy one of the most unique and interesting venues in NYC where magic is manufactured by machine elves that live behind the red curtain.

Union Street Preservation Society will be the special guests at the Greensky Bluegrass CD Release Show Co-Bill with Cornmeal at Sullivan Hall February 10 | 214 Sullivan St., New York, NY, | www.sullivanhallnyc.com | $10 adv/$12 Day of |Doors 7 PM | Ages 18+