Sunday, May 31, 2009

Radio 92.9 EarthFest

Fun in the sun at EarthFest

When people throw a party in your honor it's customary to show up looking your best. On that front Mother Nature wowed a crowd of thousands at the Radio 92.9 EarthFest on Saturday at the Hatch Shell with a stellar performance.

The musical acts were pretty good too. With sets from '90s artists Shawn Mullins, Seven Mary Three, the Lemonheads, and Soul Asylum, the bill played out like a nostalgia-minded blast from the recent past.

Mullins stripped down for a solo acoustic set that allowed his narrative folk pop songs to unfurl. His cover of "House of the Rising Sun" was chilling. "You don't see storytellers anymore," he said by way of introducing his 1998 hit "Lullaby." "As unhip as that is, that's what I do." All harmonic finger picking and spoken-word verses, his voice cut across the sun-drenched field with resounding clarity.

Meanwhile, on the family stage nearby, a preteen brother and sister guitar and drums duo called Michael and Marisa had a few usually jaded jaws dropping and toddlers spinning circles.

Back on the main stage Seven Mary Three were tuning guitars that could've been older than those two combined. The band impressed with a set of muscular Southern rock anthems and gritty meat-and-potatoes riffing. Their swampy bass grooves and singer Jason Ross's growl fired up shirtless dudes of all ages throughout the crowd, particularly on their hit "Cumbersome."

Boston's own the Lemonheads and mercurial frontman Evan Dando turned in a less enthusiastic effort. Tuning up for a tour in support of a forthcoming record, the band spanned its 20-plus years with fan favorites like "It's a Shame About Ray." And yet for all their success their fuzzy jangle-pop still seems best suited for a smaller club. As an unimpressed Dando sang on the song of the same name, "I'm not the outdoor type."

Alt-rock survivors Soul Asylum fared better at making the outdoor space feel like a sweaty, beer-soaked club with their high energy bar rock. On older tracks like "Somebody to Shove" and the more recent, country-tinged "Stand Up and Be Strong" the band ripped through a riff-heavy, harmony-driven set. On the poignant, crowd-pleasing "Black Gold," frontman Dave Pirner sang, "Let's fill up the tank and go for a ride." Sounds like fun, but maybe not today. It is EarthFest after all.


Boston Globe

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Barcode: The Boston Shaker

Mix-at-home mentor

When Adam Lantheaume began following cocktail culture in earnest a few years back, he'd go around to his favorite bartenders and ask them how he could replicate their recipes. The only problem was a lot of the specialty ingredients and mixing implements they were using weren't readily available for home use. "Whether it was a Boston shaker or a mint julep cup I'd say, where can I get that? No one consistently stocked them," he said. "Or I'd find things that looked good but weren't functional."

So Lantheaume did what any other serious enthusiast would do and started his own cocktail supplies retailer called The Boston Shaker. Open since December, it occupies space in Grand, the stylish home furnishing and apparel boutique in Somerville's Union Square.

It's a small but well-curated resource for the knowledgeable and neophyte alike. For the latter he's been organizing a series of classes covering everything from home-bar basics (June 22) to cocktail bitters tastings (June 8). There are more than a dozen varieties of bitters to choose from alongside cocktail picks, muddlers, spirit measures, juice squeezers, ice crushers, imported cherries, and more.

People would come in and recognize some of the items for sale, he said, but not know the other stuff. "So I said, what if I put together a class to give people hands-on experience?" Unlike a lot of other classes around town, his are more workshop than demo, walking people through basic bartending terms and techniques.

"The idea is to help people get insight into how to make things at home," Lantheaume said. "It's like a cooking recipe that says 'braise,' but what if you don't know how to braise?"

Other classes to come will focus on the history of cocktails. If talking with Lantheaume about his wares is any indication, he's well-versed, indeed. He's also happy to cater his expertise to private classes. He even does house calls, "whether it's a poker game at home and you want to do some Old Fashioneds or Manhattans, or one where I had ladies who wanted a high tea-based party where we did Earl Grey Martinis."

Classic cocktail techniques have experienced quite a resurgence at local restaurants, and Lantheaume sees no reason why you can't do the same at home.

"It's heading back to a '50s and '60s style," he said. "You come home, have a cocktail, like the 'Mad Men' thing."

Sounds good, but what if you don't know how to get started? A good place to begin might be the Sip and Shop event at Grand tomorrow at 2 p.m., a cocktail reception sponsored by St. Germain and a storewide sale. Or else make an appointment with Lantheaume.

"I'll give people rundowns," he says. "I'll talk them through what will work for them as opposed to a larger store where they don't have the time. I could talk about cocktails all day."

The Boston Shaker, Cocktail Tool and Supply, 374 Somerville Ave., Somerville. 617-623-2429 www.thebostonshaker.com

Boston Globe

Monday, May 25, 2009

Don’t pack your bags

Overseas jobs are just as hard to come by

Considering looking for work abroad? Don’t pack your bags just yet, says Ruth Halcomb, founder and editor of the Network for Living Abroad. “A lot of people think, ‘Jobs are scarce here; maybe I’ll try overseas.’ But it’s not going to be any easier,” she says.

Most other countries have high unemployment rates too, she adds. Institutional impediments can make matters worse. “In the European Union, there’s a rule that says they can’t hire anyone not from an EU country unless they can prove an EU citizen would not be able to do this job.”

There are some exceptions to the rule, however, such as the travel industry. An American working in Paris may be better suited to deal with other American tourists than a French citizen.

On the other hand, a lot of countries, such as Panama and Brazil, are receptive to entrepreneurs looking to start their own business abroad.

“Brazil is not a place you would go and find a job. But if you wanted to be a farmer in Brazil, and you had a little money, you could do that,” Halcomb says.

In other words, countries are happy to bring in people who are going to create wealth and jobs for their own citizens.

Even in neighboring Canada it can be tough, unless you have connections who can work a loophole, or you’re in a prominent field such as entertainment.

And if you don’t happen to be famous? Finding work at a multinational company in the States is a start, particularly if you speak a foreign language.

Or, you might simply relocate and hope for the best.

“If you have some money you can go somewhere and wait out the recession where living is cheap,” says Halcomb. “What you spend on a New York apartment alone could probably support you living modestly in Mexico or Costa Rica.”

“Eventually,” she says, “you might find a way to make a living there. But I wouldn’t count on it.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Barcode: Union Bar and Grille

The interior of Union Bar and Grille is such an assemblage of surfaces and textures - stones, woods, and glass - that one risks design vertigo simply trying to make sense of it, particularly after a few of their cocktails. But that's in keeping with its South End locale, a neighborhood that's all about juxtaposition, from the imposing cathedral across the street to the high-end condos to, oddly, the desperate man outside trying to get passersby to read his poetry manuscript.

We did our best to ignore all that by putting ourselves in the hands of bartender Loryn Taplin, whom we had just noticed on the cover of a local magazine. It didn't take long to see how she earned her reputation as one of Boston's beloved bartenders, as she talked us through the ingredients of the Aloe (Ciroc grape vodka, aloe juice, lemon, $12.50).

"The lemon here is citric acid," Taplin said, instructing us to lick our hand so she could pour some on. "It's like adult Pop Rocks!" Indeed it is, if even more tart. It leans back in the cocktail, however. While you won't find too much actual grape taste in the vodka on its own, combined with the aloe and a touch of white grape juice, it explodes with flavor. The aloe, made from the juice of the plant best known for its medicinal qualities, is a soothing presence. At the very least, if you don't like the taste, you could rub this cocktail on your sunburn.

Taplin's signature drink, the Ginger . . . Snap! (rum, cranberry, lemon, fresh ginger, $10.50) came next. It gets its name from her habit of snapping behind the bar, she says. (But it can also be taken quite literally. "I'm a Southern black girl," Taplin says. "What do you want?") Shaken beautifully, with a brittle layer of ice across the top of the martini glass, the tart fruit and rum spice mingle with the snap of the fresh ginger.

We looked to Union's baseball-themed happy hour menu for our next two selections. From 5:30-7 p.m. Monday to Friday, they offer a handful of cocktails and beer specials and complimentary baseball-inspired hors d'oeuvres.

The Castle Island Iced Tea (vodka, gin, lavender, citrus, cola, $5.95) is an extraordinarily aromatic Southie take on the Long Island tradition, they say. The refreshing Lemon-chaça (cachaça, Triple Sec, citrus, $5.95) is like a caipirinha made with lemon instead of lime. Aside from a hint of spice, the "Brazilian rum" settled into the fresh-squeezed lemon juice and became virtually incognito.

The quality cocktails here are stitched together like efficient little poems. Not transcendent, but thoughtful enough to inspire. Maybe we should see what that guy outside has to say after all.

Union Bar and Grille, 1357 Washington St., Boston. 617-423-0555. www.unionrestaurant.com

Monday, May 18, 2009

Kiss 108 Concert

KISS 108 Concert
Comcast Center, Sunday

In a lineup that played out like an afternoon spent listening to the radio – and with almost as many commercials – a briskly paced procession of pop acts made their musical speed dating pitches to a packed crowd of screaming teenage girls. For those with short attention spans and promiscuous appetites for star-gazing, not to mention an indefatigable ability to “get their hands in the air,” it was pop bliss.

The real star of the day however turned out to be the suddenly ubiquitous auto-tuner, an electronic vocal effect that lends singers a robotic tone. Here it was in the new wave sampling hip hop thump of Flo Rida's “Right Round,” and there on Soulja Boy's “Kiss Me Thru the Phone,” an ode to romance via technology which might well have served as the day's theme.

In the roles of the human resistance against the robotic apocalypse were acoustic balladeer Matt Nathanson and emo-pop rockers All American Rejects. Nathanson's heavy-hearted, tuneful “Come On Get Higher” was an intimately warm singalong with a few thousand friends.

Although judging success by participatory singalong standards is moot since almost every act, like the Rejects, enjoyed complete audience participation. Frontman Tyson Ritter seemed to relish his otherwise unlikely promotion to rocker in residence. “We're not the Jonas Brothers. We sing our own songs and play our own instruments,” he said. He could have been talking about most others on the bill. Normally affable on records like the (auto-tuned) “Stand By Me”-sampling hit “Beautiful Girls,” Sean Kingston did little more than bark over his backing tracks. Likewise the new comers LMFAO misfired with an electro hip hop set of little substance. The stylistically comparable 3OH!3 on the other hand had the crowd jumping and squealing for joy with their jokey hip hop riffs and soaring chorus hooks.

Also availing themselves well were r&b songstress Ciara, who put her considerable talents, both vocal and otherwise, on display with a sultry performance perhaps a touch heavy on floor humping. Akon exuded an effortless charisma with his reggae-tinged (auto-tuned) club bangers and lover man come-ons while actress Ashley Tisdale surprised with a crack rock band and memorable tunes. Yes, you read that correctly.

But the day belonged to the Black Eyed Peas, who blasted through one vigorously paced smash hit after another. At the end of a long concert their deliriously catchy “Boom Boom Pow” had auto-tuned itself into our brains. Resistance, as they say, is futile.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Barcode: Beacon Street Tavern

In the long shadow of Fenway Park, there's lots of cheese, literally and figuratively. Many places feel more theme park than bar or restaurant. There are exceptions, of course. Just up the road toward Brookline, the Beacon Street Tavern skews toward the sophisticated but relaxed side of things while remaining close enough to the park for pre- or postgame drinking.

The dark wood and red walls, cluttered tchotchke aesthetic, silky-smooth velvets and dim, dangling lights situate the room somewhere between your average slick Irish pub decor and the type of place you'd expect to get your fortune told. Oversized couches with high-top dining tables are oddly surrealist. Large windows that stretch the length of the building and look out onto an open patio area notwithstanding, the cumulative effect is that of a clandestine haunt that puts you both close to and away from the crowd.

A relatively slow stretch of evening on game night gave bartender Dave Moore plenty of time to talk about his favorite cocktails on their list. The Pisco Cocktail (pisco, muddled strawberries, lemon, Prosecco, $9) was his first suggestion.

"It's OK to muddle a strawberry," he said, shaking the ingredients vigorously. "But they have to be ripe enough to get the flavor out. We don't bruise the strawberries here, we hate them." After shaking, they're strained and served in a champagne flute, but you still get a fresh pulpy texture.

In celebration of a nice little win on the Kentucky Derby last week we toasted our good fortune with a Triple Crown Julep (Kentucky bourbon, creme de peche, Cointreau, peach bitters, mint, $9). We would have liked the ice crushed more, but it stormed out of the gates anyway with a bold complexity. In that respect "it's like a big red wine," said Moore. The bourbon here is hot, and the peach and mint are cool. Too many of these and the ladies at the track would be keeling over in their floppy hats.

On the sweet side, the Painkiller (dark rum, creme of coconut, orange juice, pineapple, nutmeg, $9) was a surge of beachfront sugar. "A lot of places use simple syrup and fresh-squeezed juices now," said Moore, "but if they make a piña colada, it's straight out of the bottle." The difference in this hand-shaken, nonfrozen version coconut base was noticeable, particularly with the spice of the nutmeg.

Like the appeal of the Beacon Street Tavern itself, the drink is close enough to familiar to appeal to the masses, but spicy and unique enough to stand just beyond the homogeneous shadow.

Beacon Street Tavern, 1032 Beacon St., Brookline. 617-713-2700. www.beacon1032.com

Boston Globe

Monday, May 11, 2009

Top interview blunders

Experts share their humorous war stories on the hiring front lines

Tips on how to do well at a job interview are a dime a dozen. And yet, for some reason, people still don’t pay attention to the available advice, says Peter Nolfo, owner of Express Employment Profession­als, an international human resources and staffing company.

Among the humorous and outlandish interview blunders he recounts is the tale of a man who unwrapped a ham sandwich, potato chips and a soda in front of him while the interview was in progress. On an interview, it might be best to eat lunch before you get there, he says. Seems obvious, doesn’t it?

Dressing appropriately for interviews is another area where people can falter big time. Sharp, neat and professional are par for the course. Sexy? Not so much. One woman Nolfo encountered recently was wearing the shortest skirt he had ever seen. Bad enough, perhaps, until it became obvious she wasn’t wearing any underwear. Probably not the best idea unless you’re interviewing at a strip club.

Another good way to stand out for all the wrong reasons is by insulting your prior boss — particularly if it displays an offensive prejudice on your part. “This guy trashed his boss. I can’t even repeat what the guy said,” says Nolfo. Suffice it to say the job candidate managed to work in epithets against the disabled and homosexuals. Thanks for coming by!

Steinar Skipsness, who recently conducted a humorous and revealing interview experiment he recounts on his Web site, HowToNailAnInterview.com, says that bad-mouthing the boss is the most frequent issue in interview scenarios. “Saying things like, ‘Unfortunately the owner is an idiot who doesn’t know how to run a business,’ is not gonna win you any points,” he says. “Who wants to hire someone who’s going to go around bad-mouthing you after they leave the company? On top of that, it makes an interviewer think maybe the problem wasn’t with the boss, but with you.”

Nolfo brushes those faux pas off as “the funny stuff.” But worse are people who negotiate salary before even knowing what the job is. “That kills any interview in the world.”

What are these people thinking? “They’re not,” Nolfo says

New York Metro

Friday, May 8, 2009

Barcode: Morton's

Like any good son of the South Shore, we spent our formative years haunting bad chain restaurants, those kitschy museums to mediocrity. Now, of course, we tend to avoid them in proper elitist style.

But some high-end chains are worth a visit - and maybe a few. We were drawn to popular national steakhouse chain Morton's Back Bay by a couple of ingredients on their cocktail list, and by the appealingly cheap offerings on their Power Hour menu.

The gleaming corporate vibe of the high-rise lobby upstairs is a bit incongruous with the basement spot's stashed-away, clubby feel.

The room's atmosphere nods to a back-slapping old-boy feel, but it's tempered by corporate chain concessions that make it welcoming for families and tourists alike.

We didn't let any of that get in the way of our enjoyment of the drinks. Although we've absolutely overdosed on drinks featuring cucumbers, the bartender was so enthused about the Cool as a Cucumber (Absolute 100, muddled cucumber, St. Germain, fresh lime juice, ginger beer, $12), we indulged anyway. There's a reason cukes and St. Germain are so ubiquitous of late. The cucumbers give off a natural, almost melon-like taste, and St. Germain adds a sweet note. And of course, ginger beer is high on the list of humankind's greatest achievements, so we'll drink anything that features it.

That was clearly the best option among some of the popular standbys. But for bargain hunters, the Power Hour list is key. Beers are just $4, glasses of wine $5, and cocktails like a standard cosmo or classic martini are only $7. You can't do much better anywhere. And if you'd like a bit of tasty grub with your cocktail, bar bites are an appetizing $6.

The Morton's Spritz (Lunetta Prosecco, aperol, orange juice, $6. Pictured below), served in a oversize wine glass, was our favorite. Just a touch of aperol hints at some bitterness, enough to give the sparkling citrus bite. We could drink these all summer, noon or night, especially considering the price.

Less perfect are the selections on their Heavenly Drinks list, all of which feature a topper of raspberry foam made from raspberry puree, Chambord, egg whites, and sour mix and charged with CO2. The Heavenly Strawberry Margarita (Cuervo Gold, Cointreau, agave nectar, fresh strawberries, mint, lime, $14) resembled a fruity, frozen dessert and tasted like melted sorbet. You'd have no idea it was a margarita if no one told you.

To accompany your meal, you'd be better off choosing from the ample selection of reds ranging from the B.V. Coastal Estate Cabernet ($5) or the Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet ($19.95), perfectly smooth and round, but hearty enough to stand up to any rib eye. After all, you're probably here for the steak. Leave the kitchy drinks for another night.

Morton's Steakhouse, 699 Boylston St., Boston. 617-266-5858. www.mortons.com

Boston Globe

Jango

While mainstream artists appeal to Congress to get paid by radio stations, lesser-known bands have begun paying out of their own pockets to have their music played online. For $30 per 1,000 plays, Jango, a free Internet radio site with 6 million monthly listeners, will incorporate a band's songs into the playlists of people who have expressed an interest in similar-sounding music.

Unlike terrestrial radio, which only pays royalties to songwriters, online radio stations have to pay royalties to both songwriters and the musicians who performed on the recording. The digital royalties seem minimal (.0018 cents per play), but they add up, says Jango CEO Dan Kaufman, which is why his model shifts the burden back onto the bands.

Jango has approached a number of Boston-based promotion companies about moving clients toward their pay-for-play format. Adam Lewis of Planetary Group plans to look into it but remains somewhat skeptical. "On one hand, I am generally supportive of anything that helps new music get heard," he says. "That said, having paid, placed music is everything that is wrong with terrestrial radio and the whole reason a whole generation migrated to the Internet."

It seems to have worked so far for Jeevan Menon, a Boston hip-hop artist who performs as Jeevz. "I've found it to be of great help in terms of promoting my music," he says. "I certainly have gained more fans since I got my songs on rotation under Jango."

Who knows, before long he might build a big enough fan base to migrate to terrestrial radio, where, unless things change, he won't get paid at all.

Boston Globe

Monday, May 4, 2009

Adele: ‘Chasing Pavements’ to all the right places

Adele goes from ‘uncool’ Motown to the Grammys

Like synchronized schools of fish, musicians have a way of instinctually moving together as genre styles come and go. Perhaps the most significant trend in the past few years in the UK has been the resurgence of the sort of soulful, Motown style pop driven by the likes of Amy Winehouse and Duffy.

When the dust clears after the initial explosion of hype, there’s usually one or two who remain standing. After a whirlwind year and a half in which she saw her debut album “19” go to No. 1 at home and No. 10 in the States, won two Grammy’s including Best New Artist, and performed a career making performance on “Saturday Night Live,” it seems likely the survivor will be, or rather should be, twenty year old London born singer Adele.

“There’s certainly something going on in the UK with Motown and soul ’60s singers,” she says of the movement. “You know when you’re a teenager it’s really important to be involved in a certain kind of scene that’s going on? I was kind of listening to like Marvin Gaye and remember thinking I was really uncool.”

“I think it’s kind of a coincidence that all of us that are into it and … it ended up being released at the same time.” Adele says she also grew up listening to shameless pop like Spice Girls and Britney Spears, but she insists that’s not where she learned how to sing.

“When I was fourteen I discovered Ella Fitzgerald. And then I heard Etta James and it just changed my life.” Her appearance on “SNL” was a life-changer as well, coinciding as it did with the show’s highest rated episode ever. “Josh Brolin was the host, which I was so pleased with because I’m the biggest ‘Goonies’ fan!”

“And then Sarah Palin ended up being on the show. It was meant to be like another show, but it became this huge deal. In the back of my mind I remember thinking this could be a big deal. Thinking that ‘if you perform well, this could change your career.’ Lucky for me it was a week before the ballot for the Grammys!”

The Grammys appearance was another big deal. Her relative sincerity and honestly amidst a sea of predictable phoniness and bravado stood out. “I wasn’t expecting to get nominated at all. I felt really uncomfortable there. Where I come from and the reason I do music has nothing to do with that glamour side of life. So to be included in that when I never intended to be was the nicest thing ever. “

She certainly didn’t expect to win. “I was truly shocked,’ she says. “I had gum in my mouth, I took my shoes off and I undid my belt!”

If she can manage to replicate the heart-stirring soul and pop tunefulness on a second album she’s writing at the moment, it probably won’t be her last trip on stage to nab an award. She’ll just have to keep her shoes on till the end from now on.

New York Metro

Ben Harper and Relentless7

Ben Harper and Relentless7
White Lies For Dark Times
Virgin
ESSENTIAL "Lay There and Hate Me"

Ben Harper and Relentless7 play a sold-out show at the Paradise Rock Club Sunday.

For an artist with such an omnivorous appetite for musical styles and an aptitude for executing them all well, it must be hard to come across the next, next thing. But sometimes all it takes is a new cast of supporting characters for a spiritual recharge. Ben Harper seems to have found that in his new band, Relentless7. Whereas Harper has navigated his trademark slide guitar through funk, soul, folk, gospel, and acoustic singer-songwriter territory in the past, here his wanderings with the band find him rooted in the mire of the blues, as on the swampy grind of "Number With No Name" and the rambling barnburner "Why Must You Always Dress in Black." "Lay There and Hate Me" works up a sweaty funk groove and tortured, growling vocal, while "Skin Thin" tickles the strings for a sensitive, soft-spoken ballad. Harper leaves a few arrows unstrung from his deep musical quiver here, but the ones he fires all seem to hit their mark.

Boston Globe

Royalty ruling looms for radio stations, musicians

Radio stations and musicians have a uniquely codependent relationship. Like any long-term couple, they need each other in order to thrive, but inevitably, one starts to think the other is taking them for granted. Then the arguing begins.

Record companies and artists have taken their beef to Congress, demanding to get paid more for the content they provide. Radio stations, not surprisingly, are digging in their heels, saying the exposure they give musicians is more than enough compensation. The outcome of the heated battle, which may come as early as this week, could have a significant impact on the way we listen to music in years to come.

In one corner of the ring, we have big names like Bono - no stranger to fighting against perceived injustice - and others like Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, who are speaking out about the fact that radio stations (not including Internet, satellite, or cable stations) don't have to compensate recording artists when they play their music. A group called musicFIRST (Fairness in Radio Starting Today) Coalition, a collection of music industry organizations including the Recording Industry Association of America, has their back. They're lobbying for a bill before Congress known as the Performance Rights Act. It proposes that everyone who performs on a record - session players, background singers, and so on - be paid for the use of their work. Under current law, only songwriters are paid a royalty fee when their works are played publicly.

The National Association of Broadcasters isn't taking this lying down, of course. It's introduced a resolution known as the Local Radio Freedom Act, cosponsored by Representative Michael Capuano (D-Somerville), which states that "Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge" for radio stations. "For decades, performers have received what is essentially free advertising from radio broadcasters in exchange for the right to play their music," Capuano says. "Now is not the time to subject radio stations to additional tax burdens."

Ken Irwin and Marian Leighton-Levy, cofounders of Burlington-based Rounder Records, think the proposed fee is just, and they went to Washington recently to lobby on behalf of the musicians. Leighton-Levy compares the current situation to a beef stew company that sells and makes a profit off beef stew without having to pay for the ingredients: "In this case the radio stations making the beef stew - what it is you're listening to - don't actually have to pay for the beef."

A royalty is paid to both songwriters and performers, however, when their recordings are played on Internet, satellite, and cable radio stations.

To further thicken the already convoluted plot, other countries refuse to pay American artists performance royalties under their own laws because of the lack of reciprocity. Irwin estimates that American artists could be getting between $70 million and $100 million a year in royalties from overseas airplay. "It's like getting kicked when you're down," he says.

The National Association of Broadcasters sees the bill as a last-ditch attempt by struggling record companies to squeeze a few more dollars out of their catalogs. "This issue wouldn't be around if it weren't for the record labels trying to make up for their failing business," says spokesman Dennis Wharton.

"Nobody denies that radio airplay generates enormous revenue for labels," he says. "Ask an artist if they want to have their song on the radio, and the answer will be yes. They know it will help bring fans to their music."

The "performance tax," as Wharton calls it, could have grave effects in an already dismal economic climate, possibly forcing some radio stations to stop playing music altogether.

Rounder's Leighton-Levy is skeptical about the idea of a music radio Armageddon. All the bill is proposing, she says, is that radio stations pay the same rate to musicians that they pay to songwriters through performance rights groups like ASCAP and BMI. In other words, "a few dimes" per play, she says.

According to musicFIRST, the Performance Rights Act will not impose major costs on small radio stations. "They will pay $5,000 or less a year to clear the rights to all the music they use," says spokesman Martin Machowsky. "Public and college radio stations will pay only $1,000 a year. Talk radio, radio stations that carry religious services, and other stations that make only incidental use of music will pay nothing."

"It's definitely not going to be to anyone's advantage to put radio stations out of business," says Leighton-Levy.

Successful Boston stations like WBOS-FM (92.9) and WMJX-FM (106.7) may not go under, but the bill will have a negative economic impact, according to Peter Smythe, chairman and CEO of Greater Media, which owns those stations and others in the Boston area. "A lot of people will lose their jobs through this kind of stuff," he says. "The radio station has to stay somewhat profitable, we have to make our bills. So we'll cut down on music programming; it will just be too costly."

That could mean more syndicated talk radio, or something far worse. "When Rush Limbaugh is on every station in America," Smythe says, "well, you made me do it."

Boston Globe

Friday, May 1, 2009

Barcode: KO Prime

Peaceful spirits

Street-level bars are fine, particularly the kind with big open windows where you can watch the world go by over a pint. But there's something about bars a level removed, be it in a basement or a second story, that can more readily pull you out of the day to day and into your own private world.

The bar and lounge at KO Prime, a chic downtown steakhouse, is far from a clandestine, underground affair, but walking up the stairs, you might find that essential transportive effect. With heavy curtains obscuring the waning early evening light over the historic Granary Burying Ground, and the dim flicker of candlelight dancing off the bottles stacked behind the bar, you might also lose track of the time of day. Cow-skin patterned couches and kitschy antler chandeliers wink at the restaurant's theme, but for the most part this is the type of dim lounge atmosphere you could lose yourself in, and maybe lose an entire evening.

We set to work doing just that by ordering the Grapes of Wrath (Grey Goose La Poire Vodka, Sauvignon Blanc, muddled cucumber and pineapple, cucumber garnish, $14; below right). Sauvignon Blanc is usually our white wine of choice, so the effects of the mixture here were well suited to our taste. The combination boosted the profile of big, dry fruit, citrus, and grass. In keeping with the bovine theme, it put us in the mindset of grazing in a peaceful pasture.

Speaking of nature, the Blackberry Apple Julep (Makers Mark, muddled blackberries, apple, and mint, $14; below front) sent us off into a contemplative pastoral setting. A gorgeous dark purple, its strong nose hits you before you take a sip. Although a touch less syrup in the muddling process might give the fresh fruit more room to breathe.

The popular Shiso Smash (Hanger One Kaffir Lime Vodka, red shiso, St. Germaine, lime juice, and sparkling rosé, $14) was a touch too sweet as well, but interesting all the same. We usually relish the aroma and Thai-cooking flavor touches of kaffir lime, and were intrigued by the muddled shiso leafs, a complex herb related to basil and mint that is often used in Japanese cooking. But here the St. Germain dominated. Maybe we've finally had our fill of this ubiquitous liqueur.

OK, we take that back because here it is again in the delightful, refreshing Spring Fizz (Rosé Cava, St. Germaine, Fee Bros. orange bitters, soda, torched orange peel, $9; below back). The soda gives the cocktail a fuller carbonated body, and the St. Germain falls to the back, just hinting at its elderflower sweetness. The rosé is a find on its own, with tons of dry berry fruit. Hit with the Fee Bros. and the orange peel it takes on a bitter, sun-kissed glow. Just enough sun to remind you about the world going on outside.

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