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Thursday
Jul032008

Iraq Dental

Note from the Editor:
    When I first set up this Blog, I had the Music and Entertainment industries in mind. After a short while, I received what I considered a sort of "beta" feedback; not super-popular, but with more of a "community response" feel to it. I want it to be more popular, of course, but I am realistic, and I know these things take time. I don't expect a huge change, but just wanted anyone who reads this to understand that as time goes on, things seem to be growing "organically".
    Not only do I have what I consider a decent, musically inclined knowledge base, but have acquired military experience as well. After being in the Army for some years, I have made -and lost- many friends. Those surviving are still serving. I have the privelage of being in contact with old Army friends currently serving over-seas. With their permission, over the next few months or so, (or until they get tired of e-mailing me), I will be posting a series of e-mails I have been receiving from said friends. I hope these entries will help to enlighten American civilians of some of the things that take place in a war setting that we may have no idea even exist. The personal experiences our soldiers encounter are often overshadowed by the negative aspects of battle. (Not to mention American media.) These e-mails highlight the somewhat positive and more light-hearted routines our soldiers endure on a day-to-day basis, while also showing some of the injustices and mistreatment given to them by the very Government they are representing. No matter what your opinion is about the happenings and politics in the Middle-East, these stories should shed some light on things we wouldn't normally get insight to. The following post is one such e-mail. I hope you enjoy. And please... never forget, that even though war is hell, we have angels in the form of soldiers fighting to keep us safe.

(The following e-mail was sent to me by my good friend, SFC [Sergeant First Class] Lima. My edits appear in "[ ]" throughout, to explain some of the terminology used. Otherwise, content has NOT been altered.)
Editor's page

 [Received  12 June 2008]
    So let me tell you about the worst experience I have had in Iraq so far. And for me to say that is pretty bad, considering I have slept on the desert ground on the Iran border, been shot at, blown up from IEDs [Improvised Exploding Devices], have had mortar rounds land all around me, and have had a severe ankle sprain from playing basketball (had to throw that one in) during my 3 deployments to Iraq.
    So I will take you back about a week. Currently we are transitioning from Camp Liberty (a suburb of the Baghdad International Airport- BIAP) to a smaller more operational camp called JSS [Joint Security Station] ADL. JSS ADL at some point was a 4-story mall (ADL MALL) with many store fronts in the heart of Baghdad. We are moving out to get a better feel for our area of operations and be more involved with the Iraqi Security Force (ISF). All this means to the average soldier is that we are leaving a nice and comfortable base with hot showers to live in a hot but safe building without the commodities of a nice long shower, good DFAC [Dining Facilities], and PX (shop). Oh well, we have to do what we are told. So I have been focusing all my attention on how to move my soldiers and their work out there without shutting down operations. It is easier than it sounds.
    While I was in the middle of completing my two day mission, my jaw starts to ache. To be more exact, my upper right (#4) tooth starts killing me. It's one of those pains where it doesn’t hurt while you are doing something like moving furniture or running, but kills the second you decide to lay down or attempt to relax. So here I am suffering through the pain because well, there is a mission that has to get accomplished, and it is my job to see it finished. We finally get back to Camp Liberty and I head straight to the dental clinic.
    This is where the story gets interesting. First off, going to the dentist sucks but then and on “going to the dentist in Iraq”. That just doesn’t have a nice ring. So let me describe the dentist office: a large room inside a wooden building with 1 patient chair in the center, there is no overhead spot light or fancy dental drills. There are weapons stacked in the corner next to their body armor and helmets. The dental assistant is a 22 y/o, SGT, who has probably been doing her job for 3 years and was trained by the Army (doesn’t say much), and the dentist comes in looking like Hercules. I think he had to turn sideways to get through the doorway. He is probably a 26 y/o, CPT, and has been practicing dental work in the Army for 4 years. Call me old fashioned but I want the 60 y/o veteran working on my mouth because he has seen it all. So they come in, throw me in the chair, poke around my mouth attempting to find the tooth that hurts. They take an x-ray right there in the room (which takes literally 5 seconds to process, so why does it take so long every where else?), and then gives me the verdict.
    Dr. Hercules says, “SFC Lima, the bad news is that a filling shifted and is pinching/ killing a nerve in your tooth, the good news is that we can save the tooth.”
    I say, “Great”.
    Dr. Hercules says, “So we will book an appointment for your root canal tomorrow.”
    “Isn’t that the bad news!”
    The next day I go in for my appointment. They don’t mess around. I walk in, they throw me in the chair again, recline it all the way back so I feel as though I am going to slide off into his lap. They put these sunglasses on me that make me feel like I am the 3rd cop on the TV show CHIPS. Dr. Hercules shoots 4 shots of Novocain up around the tooth. And here I thought he would just punch me in the face to put me out. He shoves this wedge in my mouth that I can only describe as a door stop so I don’t bite down. They do the normal tooth clamp and latex wrap. At this point they are both joking about the 2 wisdom teeth they pulled out of the previous guy and how easy it was for Hercules to accomplish. So I am numb, hanging almost upside down while the dentist is drilling. The instruments sound like the normal drills, except for the sucking tool that is supposed to get all the spit and water and tooth shavings. No this thing doesn’t work one bit because all of that is running down my face from my mouth to my ear and then the top of my head. (Remember I am almost upside-down sliding into Hercules lap). I manage to block all this out because I can’t feel anything, yet!
    Now we are done drilling and he is using the little acupuncture type needles to poke around in my tooth to do what ever it is they do then. I start feeling it, no sweat. It starts to hurt a little more every time, so I raise my left hand just like he told me to do. He says OK lets get him another shot. They give me another one then continue on. It still hurts but I figure the shot should kick in shortly. No it doesn’t, so I raise my hand again. He says OK and gives me another. At this point it isn’t helping anything. I decide I can deal with it because it isn’t too bad. Yeah I spoke to soon. He shoves that needle in further and my body starts to jump on its own, tears start to form and I am doing everything I can to control myself.
    The dental assistant says to Dr. Hercules, “He can feel that, he isn’t numb anymore”. That’s when I couldn’t hold the tears back any more and they just start running down the face. I now know what it feels like to be in such pain but can’t do anything about it. I am like a beaten dog just laying there on this chair of pain trying not to slide down and biting the hell out of the door stop shoved in my mouth. Then I hear from both of them almost in unison “no way”. Those aren’t words you want to hear. Next thing I know, they are raising the chair, pulling the door stop out, and undoing the latex wrap. They shove the x-ray pad back up to my face and snap off another pic. I am all dazed and sweaty wondering what the hell is happening. They both stare at the x-ray. They turn around.
    Dr. Hercules says, “We both thought you had a second canal in that tooth and that would have been a paper I could write." I wanted to kill him... no really - get up, grab my pistol, load a magazine, chamber a round, and shoot him. Granted I would probably have to shoot him about 10 times for him to fall, but whatever.
    At this point they finish up, give me a filling, and push me out of the office just as quick as they throw me in the chair. I still don’t understand everything that happened. All in all, that experience sucked so bad that I will not be going to the dentist in Iraq again. I will have a buddy hit me in the face repeatedly to get the tooth out before visiting that dentist again.
    So there you have it, my day at the dentist office in Iraq.

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Tuesday
Jun242008

Post Jobcore or Domestic Punk or...

When we are asked to describe our music or our image, we like to be asvague as possible. It's not a mean-spiritedthing. It's a rebellious knee-jerk against the barrage of assumptions that comes from pigeonholing  music into neat little compartments. Often we use labels like "Post Jobcore", "Southern Fried AlternaRock", "Domestic Punk" or "Progressive Power Pop Punk Rock" which almost always are followed by "What does ___ mean?" We don't really know what those labels mean, but for now, they sound like us.    

And the image thing. Who says you need to be dolled up 24/7 and look like a Vegas drag queen to "look like a rock star"? Aren't you tired of being told that you have to be different to stand out? The same people that are selling "different" are the ones telling you this and everyone ends up looking different which makes everyone look like everyone else. The 80s are over. Glam is dead (as much as I loved it) and MTV doesn't play videos anymore. Images are perceptions and perceptions are made by you. In our Hot Topic/Urban Outfitters, fashion-magazine-driven world, is it really a faux pas to wear a Target polo shirt and shorts? If so, who cares. Do you? Does an image REALLY matter that much these days?

For us, our music and image has only one true label: "Ours". Since back in the day, we have had a motto in the band "Form Your Own Opinion". We don't try to be vague or indecisive, we just like to leave it up to you to "classify us" as you need to. We feel an image or a genre can be limiting and restrictive. Although many successful bands have used an image to permeate the mass consciousness, we like to believe that our lack of a "typical" image is our image. Four (maybe six) dudes who are not hip, trendy or particularly fashionable rocking out, playing music that makes you want to bob your head, tap your toes and puts a set of devil horns on your hands.

Soulfound is a rock band. Nothing more. Nothing less. I don't think what we look like, or [what we] say we are, would change that. Don't let "them" classify your taste by giving you a label and making you part of a demographic. Don't let them figure out what you like so they can sell more of what you like to you. Music should be free and unfiltered.

Ever so devoted,
Ivan
Soulfound

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Tuesday
Jun172008

Rearview Mirror

In my Top 5 "Songs That Make Me Want to Rock", Pearl Jam's "Rearviewmirror" is number 2. Thursday night, Disqo and I saw Pearl Jam at the Forum. The band rocked. PJ has been one of my favorite bands for the last 17 years, and it was great to see them still drawing the same crowds, still playing with the same intensity, and still being true to what they set out to be back in 1991. A band of great musicians and businessmen, Pearl Jam has been the idea of success that we [Soulfound] have always wanted.

Then I thought, would we ever be able to achieve this? Still rocking in 15 years playing out to packed rooms... could we make that happen -- in today's economy and democratized entertainment -- is it even possible?

Back in the day, a label would find you and magically thrust you in the limelight with the help of MTV, rock radio, and the occassional mega charity event. Now, with the incredible supply of music through the Internet, the devaluation of the album by the a-la-carte mp3, and MTV becoming a reality TV channel, it's harder and harder for a band to achive megastardom... unless it's a Disney band!

The last bands to get there were My Chemical Romance and Fallout Boy, but I think it's too early to say they'll still be huge in 15 years. I mean, Gin Blossoms isn't packing arenas. Neither is Candlebox. And those two bands were huge in the mid-nineties. The media is no longer interested in rockstars as a source of aspiration, inspiration, and worship. Now they are punchlines and watered-down puppets that drive marketing revenues.

Also, bands need to tour, but with gas being so expensive, it is NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE unless you are raking in some real dough, which is tough if it's your first or second time on the road. As scenes take time to build -- although faster now, than than ever -- buzz is diluted by the weak economy and our over-catered preferences. People don't want to drive far to see a new band, or pay the exhorbitant ticket charges. Now they can go on YouTube and see their favorites anytime for free.

So what? Should we quit because the glamorous twinkle of music stardom is a mere flicker? No. The answer is to find the new source of shine and make it happen. And that greatly depends on the fans.

[The answer to the question: "Is it even possible?" Is Yes.] You need to realize that you are empowered to make any band famous. You don't want to be force fed cookie cutter crap and you don't want to be sold to. So why not make things happen on your terms?

If you want to listen to music on the Web, then make it known! If you want free mp3's in exchange for purchasing a concert ticket, let us know! We want to encourage you to take a more active role in the shaping of your music library.

What do you want from your favorite bands? Never be afraid to demand things [from them]! The most they could do is ignore you, which will hurt them either way. Us included. Want to hear a certain song we didn't play live that you like? Let us know!

I am not sure what my point was here (sorry it's a tad lengthy), but I feel better now that I wrote it all down. Thanks for reading. Comments? Please let us know what you think... of anything!

Ever so devoted,
Ivan
Soulfound

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Thursday
May152008

A Rant from Ivan

Time for a little rant from me...

The sheer volume of information on the Internet is overwhelming to say
the least. The number of opinions about life, liberty and our pursuit
for fame are as plentiful as beads during Mardi Gras. Throughout our 9
year ride as Florida's best kept musical secret, we have encountered
many critics, pundits, consultants, hipsters, jokesters and industry
insiders that all seem to have "the answer" for us to succeed.

Does anyone really have the answer? Do critics? Is their flowery
reductio ad absurdum of all things unhip, and the blind zeal for all things
that are on the fringe, right? Does a good review grant you access to
success' tightly kept secret grotto? Although some critics are very good at
what they do, they merely react and advise.

Do pundits and industry insiders? Is their vitriolic criticism of the
way things are and should be the catalyst for change? Are their personal
agendas getting in the way of their subjective interpretation of the
status quo or the trends? Most likely. A man's soul is his greatest
repository of personal pollution.

But despite all these naysayers and disinformationeers, someone does
have the answer. The fan. That's the only opinion that carries any weight
in the end. If people don't come out to a show, or buy merchandise, or
tell their friends about the awesome new band they just discovered,
then no amount of press or media saturation can create a career for you.

Notice I said create a career, not make you famous. Fame doesn't exist
anymore. Not in the neo-classical sense instilled upon us by the 80s
and early 90s. Thank MTV's lack of video showing and radio's closing of
their playlists for that. Not Napster or Limewire or Kazaa. The fan
controls the distribution channel and the technology path. All we need to
do is follow it.

We all are fans. We all love music to some degree or another. That's
why we do what we do. That's why Disqo is in a car to Chicago today to
attend a music conference. That's why we send out 100 bulletins asking
you to check out our new vides and vote for us for a radio contest. We
want you to know your help does impact our life directly and we thank you
for the time you spend helping us succeed. We wish we could do
something for you in return. Just let us know.

To finish this little rant, I would like to ask you a few questions:
What do you want? Or maybe more importantly, what don't you want? Do you
want a hit single? Do you want an album full of singles? What's an
album to you 7 songs? 10 songs? 20 songs? Do you want a CD or an MP3
download? Do you want a new album every year? Do you even know what you want?
Does it really matter? Not knowing is OK too.

You don't need to have the answers, but you do hold the key to making
sure that we keep asking the questions. If we stop asking, then we
aren't doing this altruistically. The music business needs to change to
become about passion and expression not about branding and selling the most
units possible.

Let's make it happen together.

Ever so devoted,

Ivan,
Soulfound
 
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Sunday
Jan202008

Soulfound + Weaksauce = SoulSauce?

Sometimes we forget why we do what we do. Work is what we do because we have to do it. A hobby is what we do because we enjoy doing it. However, hobbies oftentimes become stale or are left incomplete. Last night I was reminded of why I still do what I do...

Ever since I met Soulfound, I knew they were onto something big. To my surprise, I was immediately embraced by them, which is very rare in this business, and of which I am truly greatful for. They have given me an opportunity to re-start my promotion company, FEN Entertainment, and get back into recording and production. At times, since joining forces, we have grown tired and complacent. It happens. We are only human... but last night, being completely sober once again, I had one of the most fun, exciting, and memorable evenings since my induction back into the promotions world.

Very early on, I was introduced to the bands that are included in Soulfound's circle of friends. Knowing Stu, Tailgunner Joe, Weaksauce (R.I.P.), and many others. Great people. Great times. But after so many shows... things start to get repetitive, and dare I say, boring. No offense to any of these bands, but I know even they can get discouraged sometimes. It's the nature of the music business. And when I went to Trax Music Hall last night, I was hit by an overwhelming sense of boredom. It had nothing to do with the bands that were playing (Anareta, Stalling Dawn, and Greymarket) in fact, if there was no live music before Soulfound performed, I probably would have left crazy early. I know I'm still getting used to not drinking when I go out, but that had little to do with how I was feeling.

 As it neared showtime, I started helping set up as usual, I noticed that the energy in the room had changed. I saw faces I had seen before, but never at Soulfound shows. They were Weaksauce fans! A slew of thoughts ran the gamut through my mind. I was experiencing what the band was sure to feel later on... a sense of new beginnings. A sense of "new-ness". It was refreshing. And even before Paul and Brad (formerly of Weaksauce) joined the stage for the special treat everyone had been waiting for, I was caught in a camera flash by a mutual fan, in a picture of myself with my eyes closed, donning a huge smile on my face. I realized at that moment, that I was enjoying Soulfound's music, like it was my first time seeing them all over again. I'm usually on the 'sidelines' watching the show until it ends. But the woman behind the camera smiled at me. I smiled back. Then I joined the rest of the crowd in front of the stage.

Forget about clichès and memorable quotes. This marriage of familiar Soulfound and familiar Weaksauce, created a wall of unfamiliar sound that made me feel like I was in another place. A place where I knew not of the performers on stage, nor the notes or lyrics to follow, but of a place in which big things are to come. It was most definitely a night for the books. Thanks to all of you that came out and supported. I hope you had as good a time as the rest of us. I'm sure we will have plenty more. Cheers!

Sunday
Dec302007

...A Week in the Life of a Promoter.

Well, it's only been a few days since the last post, but a lot has happened! I have been to 5 shows in the past week, and 3 of them were in the past two days. On December 22nd, I attended the "Brennan's Christmas Bash". Tailgunner Joe and the Earls of Slander were there, along with Knowing Stu and Soulfound. Holy crap! I was completely sober [I know it's hard for some of you to picture that, but it's true] and I had an effing blast! Most of the regular supporters were there along with some new faces... and that's ALWAYS a good thing. You can check out pics of that show here! Fast forward a week or so to Saturday, December 28th. I headed over to a bar called Big Shots in Clearwater after work, to check out Tailgunner Joe and Soulfound for one last time before saying goodbye to '07! I had never been there before, so it was cool to see billiards, darts, and beer pong tables. Those places are a dying breed. I think I was the only douchebag there in a tie, though... oh well. I felt out of place, but most of my friends were there [and they all know that I don't have to be dressed up to look like a douche, so it was all good]! Soulfound's final show of 2007 was the next night, but I couldn't go to that one because my good friend Aaron bought us a pair of tickets to go see Sevendust and Ten Years at Jannus Landing in St. Petersburg. What a show that was!

Aaron and I hung out at the Tamiami Bar behind Jannus for the first band. We gave them a shot, but we opted for watching part of the Giants / Patriots game instead. We drank some beers and B.S.'ed with the locals there until Ten Years came on. They were good, but I only know a few tunes from them, so we walked back and forth between the show and the game until Sevendust finally went on. I took more videos than pics, so unfortunately there are only a couple on FEN's MySpace page, but videos should be available soon. Anyway, we walked from the bar back to the main venue to try and get closer to the stage as Sevendust was setting up. This was a big mistake. We ended up picking the exact same spot that everyone decided to use for the mosh pit. Luckily, we made friends with the biggest dude there. We immediately got behind him so as to encounter the least amount of excrutiating pain during the show as possible. I'm not the most attractive guy in the world, but I like my teeth where they are... still in my mouth! I've never seen more females in a pit than I did that night, not only at Jannus Landing, but it seemed to be a theme throughout the night as we visited different shows. I'll explain as you read on...

From Jannus Landing, we walked over to State Theater where the usual group of smokers were listeneing to the music from outside like a bunch of exiled criminals, but you can't smoke inside State Theater for some reason, so there's that. I walked up to the guy at the door and asked if Weaksauce had played yet, but as soon as I said that, I recognized the sounds that were coming from beyond the bar inside. The bouncer said that they were almost done playing, and waived us in for FREE. Score! So being that I knew it was the last time I was ever going to see Weaksauce, I weaved my way through the crowd of moshers (there they are again, complete with even more females in the mix), to get closer to the stage. It was hot as hell, and smelled of spilled beer and sweat... AWESOME! Even though their set was "almost over", I got to hear quite a few songs, including "ISW" [one of my favorites]. (If you don't know what "ISW" means, check out their music here). Aaron had yet another show to go to, so I didn't get to stay and party with Weaksauce like I normally do, but I'm sure I'll see those fellas around. I'm glad I was able to make an appearance and show my support. Those guys deserve all the success they have received, and I wish them even more success as individuals as they go their seperate ways. It was a great show, and I saw some hugs and tears in the crowd. They have extremely loyal fans. We'll miss you.

After getting back to the Tampa side, we headed to Pegasus Lounge where a bartender friend of ours was celebrating her birthday. (I used to have a crush on her back in the day when we did open MIC there. She still looks hot...) We didn't get there in time to see a band called Sins of the Father, but we enjoyed some more cold ones as we watched Elysium perform. I noticed yet another group of moshers, but these guys (and again, some females), were doing it a little differently. They were all on rolling chairs, and people were pushing them around throwing them into each other like bumber cars on crack! It was wild, and no one was hurt. It was a crazy ending to a crazy night full of music and good times, but it comes with a price. I'm exhausted and broke, but I'll never forget the memories. It sounds cheesy, but it's true.

Now I know that there are a lot of people out there thinking that promoting is all fun and games, but it's VERY time-consuming, tiring, and expensive trying to be at 3 places at once. Regardless of the adventures we all have together, at the end of the day it's like having a second job. Planning the past week was not easy, and it's heart-breaking when you can't make it to a certain show due to a snag. Some bands/acts take that personally and it takes a lot to regain your loyalty points afterwards. The thing to remember is that it is impossible to make everyone happy all the time. You can only do your best and hope that the effort  is asppreciated. It can be a thankless position sometimes, but I think the few nods I receive at the end of a show is completely worth it!

New Year's Eve is tomorrow, and I plan on making even more memories... hopefully I'll be able to remember them all come New Year's Day. Please be safe. I hope you enjoyed reading about a week in the life of a promoter. Happy New Year!

Thursday
Dec272007

Getting Old, I guess...

- Originally Submitted by FEN Entertainment artist Analysis489 on 21 Dec 07 

As most of you should know, I am what most people would call a “night person”. Working “P.M.” shift at a hotel during the week, and promoting for indie, local acts at night and on weekends. Due to the holidays, things have slowed down quite a bit at the hotel, and management is looking for ways to cut down on labor costs. Very rarely would I volunteer for an “A.M.” shift, however [again, due to the holidays], a friend of mine purchased tickets to the Orlando Magic / Utah Jazz NBA game tonight… I’m not a big NBA fan, but I switched things up to change the pace a little this weekend.

I got to work this morning at around 9 A.M., and was almost immediately asked to run an errand. A guest apparently had an antequated laptop with no wi-fi capability, so I was sent to buy a wireless bridge from the local Best Buy. A hotel engineer had gone there before me and an associate sold him a wireless USB adapter. While this was a possible solution, it was not the solution we were looking for.

When I arrived at Best Buy, I immediately headed to the computer department. I ended up speaking to the exact same “expert” that my engineer talked to. I noticed the look on his face when he saw I was returning the USB product he just sold.

“Am I missing something? Because I can’t seem to find where the wireless bridges are…”

The sales rep takes a look at the product, then takes a look back up at me, “That does the same thing… that’s why I sold it to that other guy.”

“Yes, but this requires a software installation, and the bridge we are looking for, does not require that. The guest at the hotel isn’t allowed to install software on her business laptop at this time,” I said back.

“Why not?”

At this point I’m thinking to myself, “What?! Did he REALLY just say that to me? What the f@*# is this guy’s issue?!”

“What do you mean, ‘Why not’? Do you have them or not!”

After a smug chuckle, he looks at me and says, “No… we don’t carry those anymore…” as if I had asked for something like an 8-track player. “Go to Staples.”

“Go to Staples?! That’s a great suggestion, smart-ass. That’s exactly what I plan on doing. Have a nice day.”

Fortunately, I received the full refund in cash, and proceeded to the nearest Staples. As I looked around, I noticed that they didn’t have any wireless bridges on display or in stock. I asked a sales rep about why wireless bridges were so scarce all of a sudden. He tells me that they have them on sale on-line only, and that they hadn’t sold them in-store for “a long time”. I consider myself pretty well-versed when it comes to tech, and even now technology is moving too fast… even for me. And that’s when it hit me. Not only did that make me feel old, but apparently I look old, too.

After all was said and done, I ended up purchasing a network card for this lady’s laptop. Upon arriving at check-out, not only was I not greeted, but the girl at the register was on the f@*#ing phone! Are you kidding me?! Great way to polish off a crappy shopping experience. When technology becomes too much for you to keep up with at the “young” age of 28, and when lack of customer service actually upsets you, one could start sounding like a senior citizen to these fresh-out-of-school, 20 year-olds that talk down to us like we were born in the 1970’s. Oh wait… WE WERE! Looks like I’m just getting old, I guess…

 

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