Monthly Archives: April 2010

Beyond Borders – What does Illegal Immigration mean to you?

Illegal immigration is a very divisive hot-button issue these days. With Arizona’s strict new immigration laws in place, many people have been up in arms over this new legislation. Personally, I do not know exactly where I stand on illegal immigration. It appears to me that is an issue that is full of smoke and mirrors. It’s a subject that can naturally alienate groups and create dissension, but the smoke and mirrors come in when the media shines a heavy spotlight on the often explosive protests surrounding illegal immigration and not the core economic statistics and administrative provisions that are attached to the subject.

One of my good friends is a young Hispanic man named “E. Antonio” and he is slowly dipping into activism. He sent me an article that he posted about racial profiling and how it ties into the current illegal immigration debate. This what he has to say:

I am a Latino-American citizen currently residing in Cobb County, Georgia. In Cobb County, police officers have the right to deport illegal immigrants under probable cause. This means that officers can set up road blocks in strategic places around town and ask for proof of drivers license (which they most certainly take advantage of). Once I tried to avoid one of these road blocks on the way to a friend’s house when a police officer pulled me over. He asked me why I didn’t want to go through the block and asked for identification. After a bunch of questions and rude attitude, he finally let me go and told me to go through the road block, but this isn’t the story I’m writing about.


The story I’m going to tell is of an incident that happened to me last year. I had just returned from my two year stay in Miami and, unknowingly, was carrying a suspended drivers license. I had received a ticket in Miami for speeding (my first speeding ticket actually) and due to certain circumstances ie my car breaking down, I was unable to handle it upon immediately coming back into town.

So I was taking my younger sister to buy some shoes for a wedding and all of a sudden, we’re stopped in traffic and a vehicle slams into the back of my mom’s car. The police come and after checking our info, they began to look at me with bizarre smiles on their faces. My first thought was “this can’t be good,” next thing I know I’m being handcuffed and read my rights. I asked the officers why I was being arrested and they said I have a suspended license in Florida which could possibly be due to my social security. When they said that, I was alarmed and told them, “no I’m a natural-born citizen and have always lived here.” The officers said “We’re sorry, but we don’t know why your license was suspended so we have to take you in.”

This is despite their records indicating that I had been issued a drivers license in the same county years back and that it had been revoked due to the issuing of a Florida license.

I have never been handcuffed in my life, never sat in the back of a police car and I was mad. Thankfully, since my sister was with me, she called my mom. My mother spoke to the officer over the phone and explained that we were on our way to a wedding and asked if there was any way he could let me go. If my mom didn’t speak English in an Anglicized and formal manner, I know I would have been at the police headquarters until they found out I was a citizen. In other words, had it been my dad (who is also citizen, but speaks with a strong Latino accent) speaking to the officer, I wouldn’t have been let go so easily.

Point blank, I was suspected of having a bad social security simply because of the way I look. Had I not looked Hispanic, I may have not been arrested for carrying a suspended license. The officers probably would have let me go with a warning. Even if they arrested me for having a suspended license, the fact that he made several comments about my citizenship and social security left me frustrated and without a doubt I knew I was a victim to racial profiling.

This is what goes on now with police having the ability to deport people with probable cause, imagine what will happen when given “reasonable suspicion”?

Hate and bigotry support a new law in Arizona which allows for police officers to criminally charge illegal immigrants under “reasonable suspicion.” To many Americans this may sound great and have nothing to do with hatred. To them, it means that there will be stronger enforcement in ridding people who, “destroy our economy, take our jobs and are responsible for increasing crime.” Many Americans think they can take their country back and this brings them feelings of security and a tranquil peace of mind. Unfortunately, abiding by such a law does nothing of the sort and as President Obama has stated,  it is “misguided.”

There are better alternative solutions to the problem of illegal immigration. For instance, providing easier access for residency to Mexicans. In this manner, border crossings would decrease and the U.S. could have better control of declining people with criminal records from entering our country. It also would allow better taxation methods for those that want to work and at the same time allow for deportation of individuals who do not abide by the law.

Support smart alternatives to illegal immigration laws based upon “reasonable suspicion.” How do we define “suspicion,” who does this genuinely target and what will this encapsulate?

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May show calendar

Saturday, May 1

Kaki King, An Horse @ Variety Playhouse

Saturday, May 8

Spring Tigers, Nuclear Spring, Brave New Citizen @ Caledonia Lounge

Monday, May 10

Minus the Bear, Young the Giant @ Variety Playhouse

Tuesday, May 11

Growing, Lyonnais, Brainworlds @ the Earl

Vegan Coke, the Future Now, Liquid Limbs @ Club 529

Wednesday, May 12

Stinking Lizaveta, Miles From Pangaea, Humboldt Trio @ Drunken Unicorn

Thursday, May 13

Caribou, Toro y Moi @ the Earl

Saturday, May 15

Aqua Teen Hunger Force @ Center Stage

Friday, May 21

Self-Evident, Bronzed Chorus, Cinemechanica @ Caledonia Lounge

Alex B of Pnuma Trio @ the 5 Spot

Foreign Exchange @ the Masquerade

Saturday, May 22

Music Hates You, Black Skies, Pride Parade, Shark Heart @ Little Kings

Tuesday, May 25

Tealights, Little Tybee, Sour Notes @ the Earl

Wednesday, May 26

Hold Steady, Twin Tigers @ the 40 Watt

Friday, May 28

Converge, Gaza, Black Breath @ the Masquerade

Saturday, May 29

WonderRoot 2 year Anniversary Party @ WonderRoot

Campus Progress – Choosing Students over Banks

Student loan debt is a major issue in our country. Considering the current economic climate, it can be quite intimidating for a young college graduate to think about their thousands of dollars  in debt and weigh the marginalized chances of getting a job to help finance that debt.  In addition, with more people applying and enrolling into graduate programs, there are fewer financial resources and options at the graduate level. The Pell Grant runs out once one has completed their undergraduate degree, so student loans take up the bulk of very costly graduate level tuition fees.

I, myself, am a young college graduate. Truthfully speaking, I have silently brooded over my own educational debt for the past  few months and decided there must be some kind of change. I did some research and found out about some of the great work being done by a non-profit based out of DC. It is called Campus Progress and they are a part of a non-partisan research and educational institute called the Center for American Progress.

Both of these organizations have taken strong, open-minded stances on pertinent issues in regards to public policy. In addition, they are committed to creating a powerful and progressive movement that links people across the divides of background, region, and issue interests, working to keep them connected over time.

I had the opportunity to speak to Pedro de la Torre, senior advocacy associate for Campus Progress, specifically about the issues surrounding student loan and educational debt.

Campus Progress launched a campaign called Students over Banks. I’d like to focus on this campaign and the victories behind it. Can you enlighten readers on what the Students over Banks campaign was about?

Campus Progress launched the Students Over Banks campaign to support historic efforts to cut wasteful subsidies to student loan companies, and invest the $68 billion that this would save into Pell grants and other programs that benefit students. It was a difficult year-long effort against a multi-million dollar lobbying and PR campaign by student loan companies, but Congress passed these reforms last month.

How long had your organization considered doing a campaign like Students over Banks?

Campus Progress has been engaged in efforts to both make college more affordable and reform the student loan system for some time. For example, Campus Progress ran a campaign called “Debt Hits Hard” around the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007. When President Obama indicated in his budget for 2010 that ending lender subsidies and increasing student aid would be a top priority, we knew that we needed to act. No major reform is easy, especially when there are so many special interests prepared to fight it tooth and nail, so we wanted to make sure that the voice of students was heard.

Personally as a college grad with thousands of dollars in student loans, I’m very grateful that your non-profit put so much effort into student loan reform.

However, considering all the issues within our country, it seemed for a long time that student loan debt and education were being put on the congressional back burner. Was it hard to galvanize efforts for this campaign?

Unfortunately, college affordability did not seem like a priority for Congress until it passed the College Cost Reduction and Access act in 2007. That bill cut (but did not eliminate) lender subsidies, and used the savings to increase the Pell grant program, create the income based repayment and public service loan forgiveness programs, cut interest rates on some student loans, and more.

Since that time Congress has been doing a much better job at investing in student aid. They, for example, also increased the Pell grant in 2009 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“stimulus bill”).  We still have a long way to go before college is truly affordable for low and middle income students and even further before we have a post-secondary education system that works for everyone. Congress has been taking big strides, but their work is not finished. We are looking forward to working with Congress and other to continue taking steps in the right direction.

It is also important that both state governments and schools make access, equity, and affordability real priorities. We are concerned, for example, that some schools use their own financial aid budget to recruit students that will improve their rankings or increase revenue while leaving some qualified and accepted applicants with unmet needs.

Campus Progress worked with a few different organizations (US Student Association, US PIRG, the Campaign for College Affordability, etc.) on this issue. Was it tough avoiding inter-fraternal politics and establishing a core mission statement amongst all the groups?

We did not establish a “mission statement,” but Campus Progress, USSA, US PIRG, and the Campaign for College Affordability had a very clear goal in mind: increase investments in student aid and other programs that will help students by reforming the student loan system. There are always, of course, some differences in opinion or emphasis in a coalition, but I have always believed that with good communication, these differences can be a source of strength.  Overall, we were extraordinarily united in our goals and in our efforts.

What were some other difficulties you faced when presenting this issue to key policymakers?

The biggest difficulty that we faced was the steady stream of misinformation and rhetoric being created by student loan companies and their allies. For example, one senator that is particularly close to the industry even made wild claims that, to get their loans, students would have to “line up at offices designated by the U.S. Education Department,” and that “getting your student loan will become about as enjoyable as going to the Department of Motor Vehicles.” This is misleading in two ways.

First of all, getting a student loan is never enjoyable (laughs). Even if you could obtain student loans at Coachella or Mardi Gras, it would still be a necessary evil!

More importantly, the only difference that students applying for federal loans should see is one less step in the process. The “offices designated by the U.S. Education Department” are college financial aid offices, run by school, and the same place students have always gone to receive federal student loans. On top of this whopper is the fact that students rarely, at least in my experience, have to “line up” anywhere, as most of the process is done online or through the mail.

Does Campus Progress have any other future campaigns or upcoming events?

We are always planning events with students throughout the country, but we are currently gearing up for our biggest event of the year: the 2010 Campus Progress National Conference. The conference is last two days. The first will feature big speakers and discussion with at least 1,000 students from across the country. Some few of the speakers at previous conference have included Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, John Lewis, Keith Ellison, Seymour Hersh, Asra Nomani; Majora Carter, Van Jones, Ryan Gosling, and John Oliver. It is free, and some travel scholarships are available. You can learn more and apply here.

We are also working closely with the Trail of DREAMs (trail2010.org) to promote the DREAM Act and other immigration reform efforts. The DREAM Act would create a path to citizenship for those who were brought to the US as children and who either graduate from college or serve in the military for two years. Four brave students have been walking from Miami to DC since New Year’s day to build support for a just immigration system. They will be arriving in DC at the end of this month for a lobby day, rally, and more.

For more about Campus Progress, click here

Big K.R.I.T – “Hometown Hero” OFFICIAL Video

Big  K.R.I.T is a rapper I heard about via Creative Control. I’m a huge hip hop fan, but right now I can count on one hand the number of rappers that I’m honestly psyched about. I feel Big  K.R.I.T has potential and may experience some mainstream success if he has the right people behind him.

This video is from his new album Krit Wuz Here. The album is being released on May 3.  For more about this artist, click here

The Doves – “Lost Souls Webisode” OFFICIAL Video

The Doves are one of my favorite groups. They’re from Manchester, England and have been working together as a trio for at least 15 years. I first heard about them on pre-reality tv show era MTV and they were doing an artist spotlight on various indie acts. This was around the time their first album Lost Souls was being promoted and not many people were familiar with the group or their previous band Sub Sub.

I’ve been a hardcore fan since that initial release and now Doves is in the middle of releasing a greatest hits album called The Places Between. Usually I’m not a fan of best of/greatest hits compilations, but with these guys I can make an exception. This disc serves as an excellent opportunity for new people to connect with the band and have their own unique Doves experience.

For more details, click here

Is the Filth and Fury Gone in Today’s Music?

“An artist’s job is to be a witness to his time in history.” – Robert Rauschenberg

As I read the above quote and relate it the current music industry, I feel frustrated and confused. I feel as if too many artists are telling monotonous and one-dimensional monologues in a world full of very vivid and complicated dialogues. I think what happened to challenging the establishment? What happened to standing up to the man and pointing your middle finger at him? What happened to all the filth and the fury?

For the past three or four years, music listeners and musicians alike have been engaging in this happy go-lucky courtship of nice, apologetic pop tunes, glamorous lifestyles rid of malcontent, and generally good vibes. Looking at some of the most current and even dying trends (glo-fi, shoegaze revival, hipster rap), music has been in a very cozy and comfortable state for a while now.

At one point in time, we were fortunate enough to rely on the indie and underground scenes to voice alternative opinions and bear the brands of the counterculture. Now many indie acts have gone pop and are exploiting the pop trends. I can name a million groups that want to imitate the glittery pop sounds of  MGMT, Waaves, Vampire Weekend, Neon Indian or Beach House. And none of them have a unique message that speaks to any particular demographic. It’s as if they want to make music that is as friendly and unassuming as possible – the new motto is don’t create conflict, enjoy what already exists.

I suppose the real question is, are artists morally obligated to produce material that questions the status quo? Is it our duty to have an ulterior motive and stand for something greater than music?

One of the last records that  really moved me was Fleet Foxes‘ record. It’s such a lush and beautifully written record with all kinds of ambient sounds and nuances woven into the tapestry of the album. But there’s nothing threatening about it, it’s just magnificent songwriting, but does not challenge any kind of system. I think about artists/activists like Rage Against the Machine and wonder what happened? Do musicians no longer feel as if we are entitled to voice our opinion on politics, social injustice, and crimes against humanity?

I think about John Coltrane composing “Alabama” or Bob Dylan writing “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.” Or I reminesce about The Clash and Bad Brains’ social and anti-political messages. Even Metallica and Slayer personified symbols of brutality and rebellion back in the day. I don’t see too many people mimicking those gestures and I wonder…have we left an “era of cool” and moved into an era of complacency?

I don’t even recognize resentment or defiance in many of the youth these days. I see teenagers who enjoy going to coffee shops on the weekend and downloading the latest Drake or Lady Gaga song onto their ipods while sipping white cafe mochas. Kids wearing plaid shirts, horn-rimmed glasses, and Vans. Teenagers who check Pitchfork Media religiously – they remind me of yet another clique-ish and “hip” social group whose lifestyle has filtered into the mainstream. I almost miss the weird goth kids with the huge Jnco jeans and black eye liner who hated the world.

Nonetheless, as this article comes to a close, I cannot find clarity or truth. And the only way I can find inspiration is from you, the readers. I encourage you to leave comments and debate the questions within this post. Tell me I’m wrong, tell me I’m right, tell me I spelled something wrong.  Either way, voice your opinion – is it still the artist’s obligation to be a witness of his or her time in history? Or are we moving in the opposite direction?

Waiting for the Signal – Attention System

According to Attention System‘s bio, they, “manage to fuse electronics, post-punk and ’80s synth pop creating a sound that is fluid and marketable, familiar yet different, sinister yet playful. They’ve been compared to The Faint, The Presets and Does It Offend You.”

Yeah – they do that. I just label their music as slightly dark synth-pop/electronic in the vein of the Killers. But some of the guys in Attention System look like they might rob you in a dark alley and ironically I don’t get that impression from the Killers. So maybe these bands should trade names.

Either way, Attention System is releasing a cd called Wait For My Signal and I had the opportunity to sit down with their bassist Chris Edmonds and discuss the new record.

Let me throw some of the hard-hitting and gritty questions first. When and where did Attention System form?

CE:  Attention System came together here in Atlanta around August of 2008. We all knew each other from playing shows together with our previous bands. For numerous reasons those bands had fallen by the waist side and all of these loose elements were kind of floating around town. I had a feeling something good was going to come out of that. I’m pretty happy with the results so far, I feel lucky to be a part of it.

What musical projects have you and your bandmates participated in prior to Attention System?

CE: Too many to count to be honest. None of us are originally from Atlanta, so I’ll just limit it to the bands we’ve worked with once we arrived here. Slow Motion Crash, Creve Coeur, Leechmilk, Siberia My Sweet, The Sexual Sideffects, The Villains (Athens), Liquid Image, Nigredo, etc.

You were a founding member of the stoner metal band Leechmilk and now you’re in a synth-pop/electronic group. What caused the sudden change of heart?

CE: Well, that didn’t happen all of sudden. Leechmilk disbanded in 2001, I had started playing sludge metal stuff in New Orleans around 91 or so. That was ten years in that genre. It meant a lot to me and I was there in the beginning of it. When I lost Leechmilk I kind of lost myself for a while. I didn’t pick up my instrument for three years. I was completely disgusted and had “retired” in my own mind. I couldn’t even go to shows. I hated to go see other bands get off because I knew what it would do to me. I just ran away from everything.

Eventually I started going out to see bands that were in different genres. I could at least cope with that, it didn’t freak me out at all. After a while I just decided it was time to get back in. I had to do something different to keep my interest level high. It’s not easy being in an original band…if you aren’t excited about what you’re doing you will not put up with the hardships for long. Doing something different was essential for me.

Attention System is releasing a new record called “Wait for My Signal.” Can you tell me about the songwriting process behind some of the songs off the record?

CE: This record represents our first year working together so the process itself evolved over that time. The earlier songs were part of the learning curve, blending the electronic elements of our sound with the more organic, traditional, rock instrumentation and it took time to develop. It took a few songs before we started to notice a template that worked for us. To be honest, I feel like that evolution is still in process. Sometimes I think we are just now reaching our terrible two’s and this record reflects our infancy in many ways.

For us it’s pretty rare for someone to walk in with a finished product. Normally a member will bring in an idea and present it to the rest of us – if you get that big eyed look from everyone around the room then we know we’ve got a good starting point.

What are your favorite songs on “Wait For My Signal?”

CE: I’m kind of fond of the ones with the bass cranked way up in the mix!! HA (laughs)! No, let’s see, I can’t help, but like the ones that I’ve seen crowds get off on first hand. Maybe they’re the stronger tracks and that could explain it. I just know that Siren’s City gets a reaction every time. In every city, every crowd without fail, the same goes for Miss Machine. The energy that we get from the crowd for certain songs can change everything. That’s why we play live. We could sit in the bedroom and please ourselves (laughs – did I just say that!) or we can get on stage and see what the public has to say about it. Everything that made it onto this record has passed that test, I doubt that we would ever put anything out that didn’t

Considering the current music business climate, more and more artists are going digital with everything. Why did you decide to release a cd at the local level?

CE: Two reasons , one was a business based decision and the other was more personal. We’re not in any position to limit ourselves at this point. We need to use every medium available to get our music into peoples’ hands. We’re still working hard to get our name out there. A large percentage of press that’s available to us at this point is “review” oriented. Most media outlets that would review our record would prefer a physical copy. It also makes a better impression than sending them a digital record. The physical copy also gives us something to sell on the road. It helps with gas money and if we pair the record with a t-shirt for a price break, we can move more of everything.

The more personal part of it is similar to the reason people carved things into stone tablets for thousands of years. Music comes from the ether, it’s created in your mind, the digital world just can’t satisfy that unexplained urge to introduce your work into the real world. If you spend a year creating work that’s important to you, the thought of never holding it in your hand can be unbearable! Plus, we decided our van was too clean for any respectable rock band. We needed more stuff all over the floor (laughs)!

Many readers may not be aware of this, but you have a long history of working behind the scenes within the music business. Where do you predict the industry will move over the next five to ten years? Do you feel that the era of giant superstars is in its last and dying stages?

CE: That’s a tough one man…things are pretty bleak right now. In the next five to ten years, I predict that the main vehicle for music consumers will be an app. It just seems logical to me. More people are embracing the technology each day, soon there should be a large enough market share for it to be a viable option. It appears to have the ability to make everyone happy. If a band releases a record via app they have more control over the purchase amount and the content as a whole. The fan gets something a little more satisfying than a few songs for a few bucks. They get a constantly updated “link” to the band, artwork, news, blogs, tour dates, special releases, you name it. They have you in their pocket for good.

When I was 14, I would have flipped out to have a Metallica app in my backpack! I think that’s worth $10 – $15 as opposed to $0.99 per song downloads.

So what killed the music business, was it the crappy bands on myspace, the rampant downloading, or all the fat, greedy puppetmasters who control the Big Three – or is that simple?

CE: The music business as a whole is having problems because of downloading. I don’t care who denies it. It’s right there in the numbers – when these companies are having trouble making profit the first place they make cuts is to anything in the “risk” category. That mainly means NEW unproven artists. Offering a new artist a record deal is similar to an investment, when times get tight the investment funds dry up in a hurry. Without new artists things tend to get boring pretty fast!

That’s where things are for the time being. It’s a never-ending loop of rehashed, reworked, repackaged derivative versions of things we’ve seen before. You have to admit it’s getting pretty lame when rock music gets its ass handed to it by the out of control oversexed rebels in the world of golf (laughs)!

If you were starting a band right now in 2010, would you do anything differently?

CE: Not a single thing.

For more about Attention System, click here. The band’s cd release party will be at the Drunken Unicorn on April 17.  Get a free copy of Wait For My Signal with the purchase of a ticket.
*Gavin, Chris would like to thank you and Surrounded by Light for helping to coordinate the show. Also Mario Panebianco took one of the photos.