Tuesday, July 31, 2012

This Friday.... Open Source RVA

Exciting stuff! Starting this Friday at 4PM, I will be taking over WRIR's weekly radio news program, now called "Open Source RVA," along with fellow journalists Chris Dovi and Craig Belcher. The hour-long program will present local news, interviews and profiles every Friday on WRIR-LP 97.3 FM.

Here is the hot-off-the-printer press release about the program:


“Open Source RVA,” WRIR’s weekly newsmaker-interview program, will resume broadcasting on Friday, August 3, at a new time and with a new team of reporters behind the microphone. Area journalists Craig Belcher, Chris Dovi and Don Harrison will co-host and co-produce the revamped show, every Friday at 4 p.m., on WRIR 97.3 FM.

Open Source RVA is a one-hour show dedicated to investigation, discussion and exploration of the deeper significance of local, regional and state news, political issues, culture and social trends. The show creator Will Synder moved to Massachusetts in June placing the program on hiatus. The suspension of the program was a deep loss to Richmond and WRIR. The combined news team of Belcher, Dovi and Harrison and their 61 years of combined news experience are fantastic replacements for the founding host. 

“Open Source RVA in many ways seeks to continue what began with Will Snyder’s effort, but with multiple co-hosts who can -- and will -- serve to create unique and valuable news content for WRIR and Richmond,” says Liz Humes, local programming manager and president of the Virginia Center for the Public Press.

The term “open source” generally refers to a computer program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design free of charge. The radio program “Open Source” seeks to bring you news from expert sources who can peer behind the headlines to give deeper meaning to what is recounted elsewhere.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Radio Wowsville Crew is Getting Ready!

Radio Wowsville's crack team of musicologists, deejays and "tone specialists" are currently hard at work on tonight's show, as you can see here in this candid, behind-the-scenes photo.

What will they find? What new sounds will they unearth? Why isn't Ted from Legal in his proper Wowsville uniform? Tune in and find out at 11PM on WTJU 91.1 FM.

You can click right here and listen to the show live on the vast series of tubes.

Or you can listen to the program later, by going right here and clicking on "Radio Wowsville." There are some other great WTJU shows archived there as well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Curtain Raising Time

A super theatrical bear hug goes out to David Timberline, who gives me some nice props (and not stage props) on his excellent blog.

Timberline is, of course, the award-winning theater critic for Style Weekly, but he augments his great work at the newsweekly with "Dave's Theater Blog," which is a must-have bookmark for keeping up with Richmond's vibrant theater scene.

When I was the arts &culture editor at Style, it was a treat to have Dave's theater reviews come in. And it's still a pleasure to read him (whether he's saying nice things about me or not).  Thanks Dave!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The City of Richmond: When Typos Strike!

Anytime that I, Don Harrison, can help the City of Richmond fix a “typo” that saves taxpayers $250,000 a year…  well, I guess that’s what I’m here for.
As Scott Bass reports in this week’s Style Weekly, my recent Style editorial on the CenterStage/Landmark giveaway may have enticed some city employees to actually look at the important documents they sign into law. After those important documents pass city council, of course:

"A typo is a typo. We try not to have them, but once or twice a year it happens," City Attorney Allen Jackson says. "It just didn't get changed when the amendments got introduced on May 14."
It's unclear who noticed the error. Mayoral press secretary Tammy Hawley emailed Style seeking a correction to a Back Page essay that first ran online July 3. In the essay, "Foul Play," Style's former arts and culture editor, Don Harrison, rails against the deal, pointing out that the city was reaching further into taxpayers' pockets to give RPAC and the Richmond CenterStage Foundation an extra $250,000 a year, in addition to $14 million to rehab the Landmark.
Hawley's email to Style was sent July 11, the same day Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall and officials with RPAC executed their agreement in which the typo was fixed.

Of course, I owe it all to my crack research staff and all of my unpaid interns.

Here’s a link to this week’s Style story, and you can read my original editorial here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Richmond Arts and Culture Gurus Unite!

A big thank you to Amy Ritchie, my former Style colleague and the empress behind the fantastic Richmond Arts Review blog. She sent a sweet shoutout to me yesterday   

If you haven't bookmarked it yet, make Richmond Arts Review a part of your life. If you care to know what's happening around town, that is.

And here's Amy's more recent Style Weekly piece, on the new Avery Lawrence exhibit at 1708 Gallery. (That's Lawrence's "Arranging Suitcases," pictured above).

Thanks Amy!

My Life as an Amazon Editorial Reviewer

I’ve had Amazon.com on the brain lately because of a story I’m working on, and it's been making me flash back more than a decade to my connections with the mega e-retailer.  For a time, around 1998-99, I was one of Amazon’s “Editorial Reviewers.” To this day, if you cruise Amazon looking for an older compact disc title, you may come across my byline. I'm the guy hovering above the customer reviews  who kind of starts off the discussion on the relative merits of the item on sale.

I'd like to say that I got the gig because I'm conversant with different types of music from many time periods --  a writer also able to condense a lot of information into a short space -- but it was actually because my VCU Commonwealth Times/ThroTTle/Virginian Pilot compadre Rickey Wright was music editor at Amazon at the time. He and I seemed to take turns logrolling for each other throughout the years. Rickey passed away in 2009 and I miss him dearly.  He was certainly good to me on this deal. What music nut is going to pass up an assignment like this?

[I should stop here and say: Support your local music retailer! Just do it. While I appreciate Amazon's past patronage, one should always try and buy local first. OK, editorial's over...]
This was also a period when (probably due to Rickey, who loved interview profiles) Amazon actually paid writers to contribute feature articles on certain bands and musicians. I remember I wrote features on the Mekons, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, a piece on Seattle hip-hop and a couple of others but I can’t find existing links to those, or even to some of the reviews I wrote. 

"Editorial reviews" are still published by Amazon but the newer ones I've seen are unsigned and often read like press release excerpts. So apparently I was part of an experiment that failed at Jeff Bezo’s internet empire.  

But many of my reviews do live on:     
George Clinton's post-bicentennial message to those in the "chocolate cities" was that America could be theirs, too, without any loss of their own black, regional identities. One Nation Under a Groove remains Funkadelic's most provocative release, as well as one of the funkiest long-players released in the disco era. The band vamps on a world where people of different color play each other's songs ("Who Says a Funk Band Can't Play Rock?!"), lose their inhibitions (the classic title track), and bond together with the glue of shared secrets (the wonderful "Groovallegiance"). Standout: the slow-grooved "Into You," in which a lover vows to stay true or a patriot pledges devotion to a new flag--take your pick. You might think that a complex and moving ode to commitment is out of place on an album with such political overtones, but it's not. It's really the quiet-storm centerpiece. --Don Harrison

This compilation from one of the most influential bands in rock history is, like Neil Young's Decade, one of those rare summation packages that stands on its own in the discography. Released at a time in the early '70s when the Kinks, led by songwriter/vocalist Ray Davies and his guitarist brother Dave, were attempting to reestablish themselves in America after being banned for years, The Kink Kronikles still makes a strong case for the band's high place in the Rock Hierarchy. Assembled by longtime Kronicler John Mendelssohn, this isn't exactly a hits package, although you'll find mid-period staples like "Lola"; it's a shoulda-been-hits package. With essential B-sides ("Big Black Smoke"--the best in a long line of portraits of a tired Britain), album tracks (lots from Arthur, the band's cult 1969 rock opera), and ageless singles ("Dead End Street," "Waterloo Sunset"), this makes for an unusually dense and highly concentrated set of period must-owns. --Don Harrison
This is the Cure album to start with. Robert Smith and company's best and most coherent statement, The Head on the Door is a successful, if schizophrenic, synthesis of the best of '80s rock, boasting danceable Eurobeat anthems ("In Between Days"), world-music-flavored exotica ("Kyoto Song," the Latin-tinged "The Blood"), and more sullen statements of post-modern angst from the band that gave you such downer epics as Faith and PornographyMore than any other Cure album, Head rewards those who don't subscribe to the darker side of the group's ethos. The use of Spanish guitar and other colorful arrangement touches help to create a rich dynamic. The softer, more introspective cuts (like the claustrophobic "Close to Me," Smith's confessional classic) are also far more effective for them. --Don Harrison
Rank 'em how you like, Rubber Soul is an undeniable pivot point in the Fab Four's varied discography no matter where, or how, you first heard it. The album was softened up in its original 12-song American edition to jibe with the Dylan/Byrds folk-rock sound, as well as squeeze money from the Parlophone catalog. The 14-song U.K. edition--the version now available on compact disc--is a different, more dynamic, and ultimately more accomplished achievement. So many classics: "Drive My Car" and "Nowhere Man" (both omitted from the U.S. edition) merge the early combustible Beatifics to a burgeoning studio consciousness; "The Word" can be read as a pre-psych warning shot; the sitar-laden "Norwegian Wood" and the evocative "Girl" (the latter written on the last night of the sessions) stand as signposts in John Lennon's oeuvre. George finally emerges too, with the McGuinn-ish "If I Needed Someone." --Don Harrison
It may have been a crass marketing assemblage of this U.K. group's successes up until their second-chance 1972 hit, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," but this also contains some of the greatest pop songs to be found under one chronologically fudged roof. Singer Allan Clarke was one of the most versatile vocalists of the British Invasion, able to pull off cute pop vignettes ("Bus Stop"), whoop it up like the original rockabilly ("Long Cool Woman"), lament majestically ("King Midas in Reverse"), and add distinctive blues colorings to the band's R&B covers ("Just One Look"). All in all, the Hollies were pretty good album artists, but Greatest Hits is what you really need. Clarke's boyhood chum Graham Nash adds faultless harmonies, guitarist Tony Hicks contributes sparkling fills, and the unheralded Bobby Elliott is on the skins. Pure pop manna, bad sequencing be damned. --Don Harrison
He wasn't Little Stevie, the 16-year-old phenom who set mid- '60s London blazing with his Ray Charles-like vocals, anymore. He was a half-forgotten ex-member of some of rock's most progressive (Traffic) and vilified (Blind Faith) bands, and he was considering leaving show business while recording this--his second album--alone and without a backup band. Arc of a Diver reflects a resigned-to-fate mood. It boasts a synth-heavy, dub-like ambience, with dirge-y tracks like "Spanish Dancer" and the wistful single "While You See a Chance" all but zoning out of your speakers. The fates were kind, though. Recording the single, Winwood inadvertently erased the drum intro. This spacey alteration, together with his catchiest tune since "Paper Sun," catapulted the song onto the charts. In a few years he would be among the top-selling vocalists in the world. His mood was lighter. He could afford to hire engineers that didn't make mistakes. --Don Harrison

And more: James Brown’s Star Time, Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schmilsson, Billy Joel’s The Stranger, Marshall Crenshaw, The Jackson 5’s Greatest Hits, Something Else by the Kinks, Paul McCartney’s All The Best, The Mekons’ Me, the Long Ryders’ Native Sons  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Virginia Living: The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Prof. Cline

Foamhenge, a full-sized replica of one of the oldest manmade prehistoric sites in the world, has captured the imagination of thousands of astonished travelers since local artist and entrepreneur Mark Cline erected it out of molded Styrofoam a few years back. The man the Lynchburg News called “the poor man’s Disney” says he constantly thinks about new ways to thrill people. “If they’ve got a mouth, they can smile, and that’s my goal: to make them smile.”

Virginia Living Magazine has started to post some of my older VL features online, including my profile of "Foamhenge" artist Mark Cline.

Click right here and read it.

(Now if we could only get them to post my Mid-Atlantic Wrestling piece and my feature on the history of the Virginia Squires, we'd be good to go. )

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cover feature on Tony Booth

Having a live Tony Booth in the car is not unlike traveling around with his voice in the speaker. Sooner or later, there will be music trivia.
Click here to read my Style Weekly cover feature on legendary oldies DJ Tony Booth.
Booth, currently the afternoon drivetime jock on Oldies 107.3, celebrates fifty years in broadcasting next month.

Listen to Tonight's Radio Wowsville

Tonight, on WTJU 91.1 FM, listen in to Radio Wowsville at 11PM and find out who put the bomp in the shama-lama-ding-dong.
Live outside the Central Virginia area? No problem. You can tune in to the show by clicking right here at wtju.net
If you can't stay up that late, you can stream the show anytime over the next two weeks by going right here to wtju.net/vault. Just pull the rugs back, have the beverages cooled and click on "Radio Wowsville."
And are you curious to know what you've missed? Check out some past Wowsville tuneage here, at the Wurlitzer-winning WTJU Rock blog.

Don Harrison: Who is He?

My standard bio doesn't say everything that needs to be said  -- it doesn't tell the reader what a fantastic ping pong player I am, or dwell on my obsessive love for the Boston Celtics... and it includes nothing about my famously bushy eyebrows or the many bands I've been in over the years (Draw the Kitten, Mood Lions, Utility Dog, Oui Doggey, etc.).

It also doesn't say much about my extracurricular activies (after-dinner speaking, public access TV production, emcee-ing, consulting, books and scripts I'm pitching, radio projects in the works, etc.) but it does give folks a small taste of what I'm all about.

Please enjoy... especially if you are a potential client or employer who needs someone on the team with serious organizational skills, an eye for quality and a proven track record:

Don Harrison is a freelance writer and editor, and the former arts and culture editor of Style Weekly, Richmond's award-winning newsmagazine.

At Style, Don oversaw the team that provides weekly arts, culture, dining and calendar content to the magazine as well as original content to StyleWeekly.com. In addition to planning special issues devoted to the region's music and arts scene, Don contributed news articles and feature stories, including cover pieces on radio mainstay Tony Booth, Virginia ghost hunters, local government watchdogs, the James River's thriving bald eagle population and the legacy of the legendary gospel group, the Harmonizing Four.

During Don's tenure at Style, the magazine's print readership increased, its online web traffic more than doubled, and Don picked up nearly a dozen individual and collaborative Virginia Press Association awards for news, editorial and feature writing. Under his editorial watch, various arts and culture writers (from longtime Style theater critic Dave Timberline to newcomer Dale Brumfield) also won first-time VPA awards.

Before he joined Style Weekly, Don served as contributing editor of the bimonthly Virginia Living magazine and was associate editor of the award-winning 64 Magazine. The founder of two regional arts and music publications, Catharsis Monthly and Grip, Don has contributed to a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including Parade, Goldmine, Richmond Magazine, The Virginian-Pilot, AOL-Digital Cities, The Daily Press, C-Ville Weekly, Daily Progress and Hampton Roads Monthly. He also co-founded SaveRichmond.com, a blog that received the Laurence E. Richardson Freedom of Information Award from the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

Over the years, Don has produced numerous various artist CDs and compilations of regional music. In 2009, he completed a two-year project as one of the chief researchers and writers for "Virginia Rocks! The History of Rockabilly in the Commonwealth;" a two-CD set and museum exhibit produced in conjunction with the Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College. "Virginia Rocks!" was the first-ever survey of Virginia's early rock 'n' roll history. The exhibit, which had a successful three year run at various cultural institutions around the region, was partially funded with a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Parts of the exhibit are now housed in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame's permanent collection.

A product of Virginia Commonwealth University, and in particular its student newspaper, the Commonwealth Times, Don has been a Richmond representative to the Virginia Commission for the Arts' Central Virginia advisory council and served on the Arts Council of Richmond's Arts and Culture Funding Consortium. He's also a longtime member of the programming committee for the popular Richmond Folk Festival. In April 2012, he curated Style Weekly's Shadrock Music Festival, a day-long concert filled with local, regional and national music on Brown's Island.

Don has co-hosted “Radio Wowsville,” a music program on WTJU 91.1 / wtju.net in Charlottesville, for 17 years. He lives in Richmond with his wife Tina, an associate editor at Richmond Magazine, and their 10-year-old daughter Olivia.

All Things Don

Hello and welcome. I'm Don Harrison and I approve this blog.