Tell the EPA not to let a massive limestone mining project ruin the Everglades

The Everglades wetlands ecosystem, our country's largest subtropical wilderness, has already been devastated by a century of destructive human activity. For many years, NRDC and other environmental groups have been working to stop a gargantuan limestone mining project from causing even more harm to the Everglades, irreversibly destroying critical wetlands and endangered species habitat, contaminating local drinking water supplies and costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Earlier this year, a federal court determined that the Army Corps of Engineers violated the law when it issued permits to the mining industry to turn more than 5,000 acres of Everglades into open pits. But the Corps is now set to re-issue those permits as well as approve the destruction of another 10,000-12,000 acres of wetlands. Together with existing mines, this would amount to converting 30 square miles of historic Everglades and irreplaceable wildlife habitat into mining pits.

As if the devastation to the Everglades were not reason enough to stop the mining, recent studies demonstrate that the proposed mining would endanger the adjacent public wellfield, which supplies drinking water to millions. Alternative mining plans exist, and include large buffers to protect the Everglades and the public wellfield but still allow at least eight years of mining (depending on demand, which has slowed recently).

The Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to stop the proposed mining project by vetoing the permits.

What to do

Send a message urging the EPA to exercise its legal responsibility to protect the Everglades and public water supplies by vetoing the proposed permits and to approve only short-term mining plans that will protect the Everglades and public drinking water supplies.

Marco Benevento | Me Not Me

Marco Benevento's Me Not Me- for the Grateful Web
Marco Benevento is smiling. Do you know why? Is it the thought of his infant daughter? Perhaps the continual climb upward he has made in his career since bursting onto the scene in the late 90's? Or maybe it's the culmination of his most recent musical phase, the release of Me Not Me, which gave him the chance to combine his original magnum opuses with interpretations of the masterpieces of a number of other artists. But, the real reason he's smiling? Well, you already know what it is.
Despite his immense creativity and originality, Benevento conveys, in the limited number of originals on the album, it is his musical brethren that are most important to the music he is producing. "Everything is connected to everything," an off the cuff comment from the genius that is Marco Benevento when he recently sat down to talk to me about his album set to be released on February 4th. This connection, he went on to explain, is not only between musicians, but between the different things a listener hears. "Putting my tunes with other tunes [covers] is sort of the value of my music. When you play a song for somebody and they say 'Oh yeah, I've heard that. Who wrote that? I love that.' And you say 'I wrote that.'… I've always felt a connection between covers and originals because, ideally, you want it to sound like someone else wrote it. That to me is a connection to the universal energy that is flowing around all of us," a statement perfectly exemplified in the song 'Mephisto'. The hook is incredibly familiar sounding. Is it a vocal chorus from some well-known singer interpreted through the piano? Nope. Perhaps some unknown Thelonius Monk tune reworked by the mad scientist? Guess again. You will be as surprised as I was when you read the album notes only to discover, it's all Benevento, and that is what makes the transitions from cover to original back to cover work on this album. The transitions are unnoticeable. In the midst of Beck, Leonard Cohen and Zeppelin, Marco does more than hold his own, Just as each of these giants he pays tribute to have done before, Marco Benevento forges a new and dynamic path.
An artist best known for his live shows with Joe Russo or the short lived G.R.A.B. with Russo, Mike Gordon and Trey Anastasio or the trio of artists that appear on Me Not MeReed Mathis on bass, Andrew Barr on drums and Matt Chamberlin on drums- Marco understood that what he laid down in the studio had to be different than what he plays to the throngs of gawking onlookers night in and night out. "The mind has less of an attention span when you're listening in your car or in your home. So the song has to be more concise. But, at a show your listening in a different way, so the songs can be stretched out. Jams can last longer." Benevento is selling himself short, for, from the opening notes, you will be hypnotized by the sweet sounding progression of his take on My Morning Jacket's 'Golden', a rendition in which the effects and drum track rush over you like water before Marco's melodious piano tones join the fray.  The piano acts as a parent to the rhythm section, calming it down when its excitement causes the drums and bass to try and separate from their caregiver. Piano timbres drip off the back of each note Benevento plays, as if he is straining to keep up with the fervent pace of the drummer, yet every note is perfectly in time. He conquers the parameters of each note he plays.
marcoCleary, with the number of diverse projects Benevento has played with over the past few years, he can be considered nothing short of a workhorse. Having recorded the music for Me Not Me in a two-day marathon, in the midst of a coast-to-coast tour promoting his first studio effort Invisible Baby, you may think Marco's getting jaded by the amount of work he is putting into his craft. Fortunately, that is far from the case. "It's [music] the thing that I can study until beyond when I die. I cannot be satisfied with how much I know about music. In my next lifetime or my next phase I will still be studying music and learning about it and what it is." He is hungry. He is never satisfied. He overdubs. He listens. He overdubs again. And the next day he wipes the slate clean only to try once more. In his interpretation of Leonard Cohen's 'Seems So Long Ago Nancy,' he breaks from the original and reworks the rhythm into a flowing waltz, and yet with the meticulous overdubs and production, he regains the songs original era, ironically celebrating the songs title all these years later.
It seems Marco is capable of creating irony in the title of the songs he covers, as well as creating it in the songs he writes, as he explained when describing the process of coming up with 'Now They're Writing Music', or as he refers to it, "the circuit bent toys song." "I made a loop with those toys and let them play and walked around, cleaned the house and let the toys loop and loop and loop and loop and I cleaned and washed dishes and then, whoa, that's totally a song. These fucking things are writing music now?" Yet, again, Benevento, always humble, is celebrating the work of others, even if those others are electronic contributors, when in fact it is his contribution that will define the song. It is his piano mastery, if removed form the electronic background, which sounds as if it came from the cool jazz period marked by such heavyweights as Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis.
When listening to 'Now They're Writing Music' and the rest of the songs on the album, the complexity of the music slowly reveals that the circuit bent toys, overdubs and effects clarify what Marco hears in his head when composing his music goes well beyond the eloquent piano leads. And yet, if you were to remove all of the effects, the piano's full sound could standalone. "Ideally no matter how many overdubs you do, when you play it on the solo piano, people will know the tune and know it's a good one."  But Marco, who is forever modest, is quick to point out the value of overdubbing. "The intent with overdubbing is making sense out of your own songs or your arrangements of other people's songs. I chose to overdub certain things because I heard it. A couple of times I would play the song and I'd stop it as soon as I thought of something and I'd run to overdub something right then and the next day you listen to your one minor thing that took 3 hours to do and it makes the tune stand out." Mystifying the process even more on Me Not Me is the addition of esteemed engineer Bryce Goggin and his vision of each song. For 'Call Home', Marco recorded the sounds of crickets and frogs while walking one night in Jamaica. "Katie and I were walking around outside in Jamaica and you could here frogs chirping. I wanted to record the songs of the frogs. We're carrying our baby Ruby, so you hear the sound of her cooing in the background of the song." And yet, the process was only half complete, as Bryce, upon hearing a rough track ran out into the streets of Brooklyn to capture the city sounds. These paradoxical reverberations mix with the saloon piano track to create a memorable trip through Marco's world.
marcoEvery song on the album will leave its own impression on the listener. The punk ballad "Twin Killers' true to its offbeat originators Deerhoof, with Marco pounding the grand piano to recreate the vocal and guitar style of the original. 'Heartbeats,' perhaps the most electrified pop song of the album, features masterful drum work, with riffs and rolls that evoke the lighter side of emo rock.
But I, ever the purist, will always return to those songs with the minimal amount of effects. They stand out in my mind. Pulled from a smoky jazz bar, both ballads. Songs that should be played at the end of the night, when the energy of the room is spent, and the only person left needs something to make those tears well up. Appropriately, 'Sing It Again' and 'Run of The Mill' come near the end of the album, although they are surrounding Marco's ode to the rock gods, covering Zeppelin's 'Friends'. While the rock anthem drains every last drop of energy after listening to the bulk of the album, the two jazz ballads create emotion in the listener. This is no coincidence as the stable of jazz giants who have influenced Marco along the way is an all-star team of cool. "I studied jazz with Kenny Werner. I studied Bill Evans quite a bit. I love Tony Williams. I love Miles Davis. When I was in college I listened to a lot of Ornette Coleman." These players knew how to play a quarter note that dripped with feeling, and Marco is no different. But as a 21st Century man, a man whose connection to the world, to god and to the people all around him comes through music, he has taken what these leviathans have taught him further into the future of music and its connection to the universe. "I read a lot about mysticism and learned a lot about the philosophies of meditating and getting into a zone and how it relates to John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Kenny Werner and probably Beck, and Jim James at the same time." You see Marco has figured it out. He understands these men, just like him, reveled in the connection that exists between us all, musically. A dream he once had in which he was visited by the spirit of Bill Evans, who wanted to pass on the information he had learned, opened up Marco's paradigm. "There is a higher connection and that's why you get hooked eventually or trapped or sucked into music. It's a cool, humbling feeling. It sets the comfort for me. I am patient to know that through the 3 or 4 twenty-year phases of my life I will always be learning. It's a religion. I love performing. I love gigging, I love the rhythm of my life." So that devious smile that's always on his face is only an extension of the connection we all share. If you think it's because he knows something you don't, then you don't get it. "We are all one, so you know what I know too." And through the music of Marco Benevento, we all know greatness.


photos by Phil Emma- for the Grateful Web

On February 3, Marco Benevento will release Me Not Me, a new studio album featuring his interpretations of songs by artists including My Morning Jacket, Leonard Cohen and Deerhoof among others.  The ten-track collection arrives within a year from release of Benevento's critically acclaimed debut studio effort, Invisible Baby. Like its predecessor, Benevento is joined by bassist Reed Mathis and drummers Matt Chamberlain and Andrew Barr.  The band recorded at Chroma Sound in Seattle during days off on a West Coast tour earlier this year. Engineer Bryce Goggin (Pavement, Antony & The Johnsons, Phish) mixed the sessions in Brooklyn. Of further note, Benevento takes a giant step into the 21st century with the formation of his own label, The Royal Potato Family (distributed by MRI/Red), for the worldwide release of Me Not Me.

"When I first started touring with the trio, in addition to my own material, there was a great opportunity for me to perform tunes from other artists that I'd always wanted to play, both a combination of older rock songs and modern tunes that are part of our current culture," explains Benevento. "So the next step was to make a record with some of this material. I decided to leave the harmony of the songs pretty close to the originals, but really get into messing with the arrangements. I got into sculpting sound around the original piano parts by using some of my favorite keyboards and re-amping them in interesting ways. This album has more layering and textures than the last one. Bryce and I worked closely in developing that idea as an underlying concept for the music."

Marco Benevento, who first attracted national attention playing Hammond B-3 organ and Wurlitzer in The Benevento-Russo Duo, shifts the focus to acoustic piano with his own trio. Throughout Me Not Me, he proves to be one of the most compelling sonic innovators of his generation, re-imagining the instrument through guitar pickups, delay and distortion effects and a Fender Super Reverb Amp.  He shapes and shifts the aural depth of the recording by adding layers of Ace Tone drum machines, Farfisa, Optigan, Mellotron, tack piano and other unconventional keyboards, while using circuit bent toys to develop the emotional character of the songs. Beneath the blanket of colors, the core of the album is the collective energy of Benevento's trio. Reed Mathis, Matt Chamberlain and Andrew Barr provide a take off point for magnetic post jazz improvisations.

The three original compositions on Me Not Me underscore Marco Benevento's inclination for simple pop melodies, multihued sound and playful composition. "Now They're Writing Music" was first debuted in a rough sketch when the pianist was a guest on "The World Cafe With David Dye." Benevento asserts the "toys" themselves wrote the song. The instantly familiar "Mephisto," often performed by The Benevento-Russo Duo, is the closest the album comes to straight-ahead jazz, hinting at 1970's Keith Jarrett. On the other hand, "Call Home" seems to summon the spirit of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Marco Benevento will launch Me Not Me with a residency at Yoshi's in Oakland, appearing every Tuesday night in February with different special guests. Additional West Coast tour dates for February will also be announced shortly.

The track listing for Me Not Me is:

1. Golden (My Morning Jacket)
2. Now They're Writing Music (Marco Benevento)
3. Seems So Long Ago Nancy (Leonard Cohen)
4. Mephisto (Marco Benevento)
5. Twin Killers (Deerhoof)
6. Call Home (Marco Benevento)
7. Heartbeats (The Knife)
8. Sing It Again (Beck)
9. Friends (Led Zeppelin)
10. Run Of The Mill (George Harrison)

Tell the Bush administration not to let mining companies destroy valleys and streams

Stop Bush from polluting our streams!- for the Grateful Web

The Office of Surface Mining has proposed changes to its stream buffer zone rule that would make it easier for mining companies to bury natural streams and valleys under piles of mining waste and vast ponds of toxin-laden sludge. The changes would weaken environmental standards for mountaintop removal mining operations that, even under the stricter existing buffer rule, have buried hundreds of miles of streams and contaminated mountain waterways. The headwater streams threatened by the rule changes provide valuable habitat and feed larger waters that provide drinking water, fishing and other recreational opportunities.

An environmental review of the proposal confirms that the proposed changes could permit the destruction of hundreds of miles of streams and valleys in Appalachia, the region already hardest hit by these irresponsible mining practices. But despite these conclusions, and ignoring the pleas and protests of thousands of activists, the agency is pressing ahead with its proposal.

The Office of Surface Mining is now preparing to finalize these changes to the rule. Before it can do so, however, the Environmental Protection Agency must give its approval.

What to do:  Send a message, as soon as possible, urging the EPA to reject the Office of Surface Mining's plan to allow mining companies to destroy America's streams.

Tell Congress NOT to allow drilling off our coasts

say NO to offshore drilling- for the Grateful Web

Oil companies and their allies in Congress claim that drilling in America's oceans and coastal areas would help solve the energy crisis and have proposed ending the 27-year moratorium on new offshore drilling. But offshore drilling would neither solve our energy needs nor significantly lower gas prices. Instead, drilling would harm America's economy, health, oceans and

Proponents of offshore drilling claim it would reduce gas prices, even though the Department of Energy has determined that it would not significantly do so. Oil companies currently have 5,500 offshore leases they are not drilling, and with 80 percent of the untapped oil in offshore areas already open to development, they do not need access to more areas to increase supply. And while the U.S. oil industry says it wants even more access to sensitive ocean areas to reduce reliance on foreign suppliers, American-based companies are shipping record amounts of gasoline and diesel fuel to other countries. This proposal is simply a way to give oil companies unfettered drilling access to our oceans and coastal areas.

In addition, opening up additional offshore areas to drilling poses real threats to our ocean and coastal ecosystems and economies. Offshore drilling creates toxic waste products that contaminate fish and marine life. Offshore wells emit air pollutants that are known carcinogens, cause respiratory problems and worsen global warming. And current cleanup methods can only remove a small fraction of oil spilled in marine waters, where it is toxic for most species.

America needs real, long-term solutions for the energy crisis, but oil companies and their allies are not delivering them. We need to use less oil by improving energy efficiency and utilizing renewable energy. In doing so, we can achieve energy independence, fight global warming, and jump-start our nation's economy.

Attempts to lift the offshore drilling moratorium could be attached to several different bills and come up for a vote at any time.

== What to do ==
Send a message *right away* urging your senators and representative to say NO to offshore drilling.

If you prefer to call your senators and representative, the Capitol Switchboard number is 202-224-3121.

Bonerama Teams Up With OK Go for "You're Not Alone"

photo courtesy of Madison House- for the Grateful Web

This Mardi Gras (February 5th), Bonerama and OK Go will release You're Not Alone, a five-song digital EP.  Bonerama and OK Go spent the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina recording at Piety Street Studios deep in the city's Upper 9th Ward.  One hundred percent of the proceeds from the EP – available exclusively at iTunes – will benefit members of New Orleans' music community such as R&B legend Al Johnson, who are still struggling to rebuild their homes and their lives in the aftermath of the flood.

"New Orleans is one of the last places in America where music is truly a fundamental part of everyday life," says OK Go singer Damian Kulash. "People get together on the weekends and parade through the streets just playing songs; 12-year-old-kids learn funk on the tuba; everyone dances.  Life elsewhere in the world simply isn't as celebratory.  If we allow the culture of New Orleans to die by leaving its musicians marooned around the country, America will have lost one of its great treasures."

This weekend, OK Go and Bonerama will finish up the second of two benefit shows: a January 11 th gig at New Orleans' Tipitina's (as part of the legendary club's 30th anniversary celebration) and upcoming February 2nd show at The 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, which will be streamed and podcast by NPR. Bonerama will open the DC show, then play material from You're Not Alone with OK Go, who will close the evening with a full set.

On Monday, February 11 th, Bonerama and Kulash will perform " A Million Ways " on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman.

Engineered by Mark Nevers (Bobby Bare Sr., Calexico, Bonnie "Prince" Billy), You're Not Alone is an astonishing collaboration, with Bonerama lending its loud, trombone-and-tuba New Orleans swagger to OK Go's bombastic rock.  Together, they re-interpret three tracks from OK Go's most recent album, Oh No: " A Million Ways," "It's A Disaster" and "Oh Lately It's So Quiet."   A pair of covers – David Bowie's "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" and Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" – round out the collection. Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, who wrote "Carnival Time," the unofficial anthem of Mardi Gras, contributes haunting vocals to the latter.

Johnson's Lower 9 th Ward home was washed off its foundation by the levee failures during Hurricane Katrina and later demolished by the city without his knowledge or consent.  He has been living in Houston, TX for the past two years.  Proceeds from You're Not Alone will go towards building a new Habitat For Humanity home for him as well as to Sweet Home New Orleans, an organization dedicated to helping repatriate and support the thousands of local musicians who were scattered by Katrina.

Enthusiasm for the project has proved contagious.  iTunes has agreed to donate all proceeds from EP sales, and digital distribution powerhouse IODA is servicing and promoting it free of charge.  In addition, free freight shipping was provided by EFM Worldwide/Horizon Cargo, and Music Travel Management contributed free airfare for the two benefit shows.

About Bonerama:

Bonerama carries the brass-band concept to places unknown.  Hailed by Rolling Stone's David Fricke as "The ultimate in brass balls" last Fall, the band served as the House Band for the live all-star comedy event COMIC RELIEF.  The 2006 event, which featured a long list of A-talent including hosts Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams, was recorded live from Ceasar's Palace last November. Recently, Bonerama snagged the coveted "Best Rock Band" honor from the 2007 Big Easy Awards.

The current list of confirmed Bonerama tour dates is as follows:

February 01 8x10 Club Baltimore MD

February 02 9:30 Club Washington DC Benefit performance with OK Go

February 04 Howling Wolf New Orleans LA

February 07 The Pour House Charleston SC

February 09 Berkeley Cafe Raleigh NC

February 10 The Garage @ The Biltmore Asheville NC

February 13 Smith's Olde Bar Atlanta GA

March 08 The Gretna Jubilee Gretna LA

March 26 Iowa City Yacht Club Atlanta GA

March 27 Cabooze Minneapolis MN

March 28 Overture Center For the Arts Madison WI

March 29 Martyrs' Chicago IL

April 04 First Energy Berks Jazz Fest Wyomissing PA

April 05 The Swamp Thing and Crawfish Festival Austin TX

May 02 Mid City Lanes New Orleans LA

May 20 Bourbon Street Music Club Sco Paulo Brazil

May 29 Chans Woonsocket RI

June 01 Mike Arnones Crawfish Festival Wakefield RI

July 05 Iowa City Jazz Festival Iowa City IA

More dates will be announced.

Not Missing a Step: An Interview with The New Riders of the Purple Sage

photos by Sanjay Suchak- for the Grateful Web

There is a new trend in the music industry today, bands which have been broken up for decades reforming suddenly in order to cash in on the pocketbooks and prosperity of their baby-boo

Hunter Thompsons Ghost I: The Afterlife does not disappoint

The afterlife does not disappoint.  I share a room in Hell with Gordon Liddy's mother, (not a bad gig if you don't mind mustached women on the "bony" side) a floor above Nixon, who, as is only fitting, is rooming with his mother.  They seem to get on quite well with each other and refuse to stop blaming JFK for the fact that they are here.  One of the few pleasures afforded me is the opportunity to remind them, as I pass en route to my afternoon torture session, that the sole reason I've taken up residence in this mindless dump is due to a technicality…  It seem

Not On Mars

Not On Mars is the culmination of years of evolutionary change, tectonic plate shifts deep within the crust of the Great Divide that has kept Jazz and Rock at relatively safe distances from one another. Not On Mars dares to be among those intrepid explorers that made venture into that Great Wilderness.

At least that's what we are trying to do ...

Not On Mars is a five piece Madison based band that blends rock, blues, jazz, and funk in an improvisational setting. Thus far, Not On Mars is an instrumental band. Balancing structure and free improvisation, Not On Mars weaves a sonic tapestry of rhythmic groove and melodic coolness.

The band is:

Greg Dalbey: Guitar. Greg has been in Unkle Pecos and the Country Funkins, and has played many-a-show with Sloppy Joe.

Dylan Heckman: Keys. Since relocating to Madison in 2001, Dylan has been involved in a wide variety of projects, including a three year stint in The Spirit Plane through their transition from surf and instrumental rock to a lyrically driven cinematic rock multimedia project, and recording work with Tyvek and Sons (led by Andrew Yonda of Arena Venus and Buffali fame) and State Street's infamous troubador UFO Jim (aka Reverend Jim). He also really loves extra-sharp cheddar cheese.

Jed Heckman: Bass. Jed is Dylan's younger brother. Jed has played in several bands around Madison, including the band, Hue, and The Spirit Plane, as well as on a few tracks of UFO Jim's 2003 release, 'Dancing With Aliens'.

Chris Marr: Drums. Chris has been in many bands in Colorado. He says he can get us some great gigs out that way. Boy, I can't wait! I think that would be a lot of fun. We'll let you all know as things develop.

Aaron Hanusa: Guitar. Aaron played guitar in the Madison, WI, band, The Sugar, and currently plays Logarhythm.