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Linear Notes: Vincent Valentino

“Good art can both satiate creative wants and inspire idealism in others.” Interviewing Vincent Valentino is essentially agreeing to an interview yourself, or at the very least, an introspection. Our conversation is full of rhetorical questions, and rightfully so: just about anyone writing songs today is battling some sort of unknown about the changing world. [...]
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“Good art can both satiate creative wants and inspire idealism in others.”

Interviewing Vincent Valentino is essentially agreeing to an interview yourself, or at the very least, an introspection. Our conversation is full of rhetorical questions, and rightfully so: just about anyone writing songs today is battling some sort of unknown about the changing world.

The front man for the wildly popular new band Montezuma (made up of some portions of respected outfits Brujas del Sol, Turtle Island, and Fingers) is no different, straddling a philosophical precipice:

One side is blasting full steam ahead with managers and branding and music videos and tours, capitalizing on band buzz; and the other side is a world in need of art and healing.

“The struggle isn’t so much about what art can do, but what can I do,” he said. “Making art is absolutely how I’d like to spend my life, but it takes a support system and a social safety net. These days there are people actively destroying those supports, and it’s both infuriating and heartbreaking. So I look at that and ask myself, ‘What should I do? Pursue my own art? Or put down the guitar and pick up the protest sign?’”

Well, we think just asking that question is a good place to start…

Who are the artists that first brought out the notion in you, that music must mean more than just a good song? There’s so many, it’s honestly a bit hard to say. I mean, D’Angelo put out Black Messiah half a year early because of the Eric Garner and Michael Brown rulings. Radiohead warned about the post-millennium gloom that we’re all feeling today as early as 1997. On top of that, all of the rock, soul, and folk music that was coming out in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. The emergence of hip-hop alone was an entire class of disenfranchised people impacting pop culture and disrupting the middle-class zeitgeist of the ’80s, followed by the anti-popness of ’90s grunge. Good art is always impactful. We’re all trying to say something and be impactful. Sometimes the scale is personal, sometimes the scale is global.

Last month, you donated proceeds from a show to Planned Parenthood. And you have plans to to further this social enterprise model of local touring? What we want to be able to do is donate from every show we do in Columbus, at least from our own door money and merch sales, so at the very least it’s always something we’ll do while we play [here]. Alone, we won’t raise a lot—a single band doing this will be a drop in the bucket. But if we can show that it works and that people care and that the Columbus artistic community can make an impact by organizing and working together, then maybe we change what it means to be an artist in Columbus right now. Or maybe we’ll all just starve together. Who knows.

You guys hit like a light right out of the gate, and this isn’t your first rodeo. Is it hard to reconcile taking advantage of potential career moves and weighing that against helping the community around you? That’s the crux of the issue, really: both things take a massive investment of time and creative energy. You can’t phone in a song and you can’t phone in a protest. And to really make great art, to really create change, you need to be all about it all the time. So inevitably, there has to be a split; you can’t do everything at once. So right now the question is, do you take advantage of what could potentially be your one and only shot, or do you get involved and get organized at one of the most pivotal moments in American history? Which is true to yourself? Which is good for your community and your brothers and sisters around the world?

Are your songs, or at least many of them, really structured in three acts? Not all of them, but we’re working to make the album flow that way. There is a distinct beginning, middle, and end. The first song is written to be an overture—the lyrics talk about this character from an omniscient point of view and kind of foretells what’s going to happen throughout the story; that might be the only one with a three part act structure.

While we’re having fun with that, let’s play a game: you actually have to turn Montezuma’s songs into a piece of theater. What’s the plot? I’m actually working on making this in conjunction with the album release. Not to steal a page from Father John [Misty], but I’d like to release an actual short story, a written version with the album.

People in Columbus need to go to one show this month and it can’t be a Montezuma show. What’s their national and local option?

Bummers EP Release @ Ace of Cups (4.22).

Spoon @ Newport (5.11).

What was the first concert you went to? Do you remember being like, I’m gonna do that someday? My first concert was MGMT with Tame Impala in 2010, so I didn’t actually see my first show until I was 18. By then, I’d been playing in bands for a couple years so it was more of a “How do you even do that?” moment.

What’s the best lyric ever written?

Jesus don’t cry/You can rely on me honey

You can come by anytime that you want

I’ll be around/You were right about the stars

Each one is a setting sun (Wilco, “Jesus, Etc.”)

What was the first album you ever bought with your own money? And first album you owned, if different.

The first album I ever owned was The Offspring’s Americana, a gift from my older sister in fourth grade. The first album I ever bought with my own money was The Beatles’ Past Masters, I split it with my brother in the 8th grade.

Finally: what’s the ultimate compliment you can get from anyone that hears your music? “Where can I listen to your stuff?”

You can see Valentino and Montezuma live this month at Ace of Cups, opening for the Yellow Paper Planes (4.21).

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Arts & Culture

What’s Open: Venues slowly start to roll out live music

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When it was announced in mid-May that wedding venues and banquet halls would reopen at the beginning of June, the next question became: When will music venues be next?

Although the rollout has been slow and will be gradual, Columbus venues and attractions that regularly house live music are making their comeback. When the high-spirited, good-feeling cover band Popgun graced the Natalie’s Music Hall & Kitchen on May 27, many people’s greatest fears of being robbed of live music for the rest of the year were eased maybe a little.

The only way for us to get currently get down to live music is to sit down, which is a fair trade-off given the times.

Check out a few Columbus venues that are set to reopen or have reopened under strict coronavirus guidelines.

  • The Forum Columbus -- The Forum welcomed back live music on May 29 with a tabled RSVP DJ showcase. For this event, guests were required to come in groups of no more than 10, be seated six feet apart from other groups, and remain seated unless you have to use the restroom. There are no future events planned as of this publishing.
  • Otherworld  -- The immersive art installation that took Columbus by storm in 2019 is set to return on June 11, according to the venue’s webpage. Otherworld will be operating at a capacity of one visitor per 160 square feet, or around 20 percent of the regular admittance. It’s unclear when the next time Otherworld will host live music, but this is a giant step in the right direction in terms of venue re-openings.
  • South Drive-In -- It’s not a venue in Columbus that traditionally holds music, but it’s become one and may stay one for the time being. Viral DJ Marc Rebillet will be bringing his sold-out drive-in show to the South Drive-In on June 14. With these types of performances popping up all around the country and the South Drive-In owner getting plenty of event requests, we will hopefully be seeing more shows of this nature in the warmer months.
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Community

Music industry designates Blackout Tuesday as time of pause

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To honor the memory of George Floyd and fix the injustices surrounding his death, the music industry has designated Tuesday as a time of pause to collaborate on ways to better support the black community.

Businesses and organizations within the music industry have been asked to pause regular work to reflect on how they can better serve the black community, according to a report from Variety. In general, businesses and organizations across the board have been asked to use Tuesday as a way to focus on the effort.

The message that circulated around social media quickly on Monday stated that “Blackout Tuesday” is being used as “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” and “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.”

The movement has been gaining momentum under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. Major labels such as Capitol Music Group and Warner Music Group announced their alignment with the “Blackout Tuesday” cause. 

Companies have also announced practices such as pausing social media activity throughout the whole day.

Spotify and ViacomCBS have already announced an 8 minute and 46-second moment of silence for Tuesday. The time reflects how long the Minnesota police officer dug his knee into the kneck of Floyd.

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Community

Curbside Concerts brings live music, hope to those in need

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Can’tStopColumbus took a quick pause when the pandemic shut down the world and asked two questions:

  1. Are we sure we're solving the needs of everyone in our community during this time? 
  2. Are we not just coming up with ideas based on our own experiences?

Our elder community was one of the major demographics to have stricter socially distancing guidelines suggested to them. Holidays and birthdays went by without hugs from grandpa or grandma’s cookies.

Out of the need to fill that missing love in the life of American seniors, the idea of Curbside Concerts was born. Anyone is able to jump on the Curbside Concerts signup page and request a concert for an elder, sick people not able to leave the house, or a simple celebration.

Sending a concert telegram is free, and you can also leave a message for a loved one and suggest what type of tunes the organization-selected Columbus-area musician.

So far, the feedback has been inspiring. 

“People cried. I cried. We cried. It was beautiful,” said Zach Friedman, one of the service’s founders and creators. “We had a powerful idea on our hands, and the amazing power of the #Can'tStopColumbus community to scale it and bring it to life.”

To date, Curbside Concerts has had over 50 volunteers. Their job is to drive around a Columbus musician and their equipment with trucks provided by Ricart Automotive. It’s a road trip around the Columbus area, delivering concerts to those who may just need their spirits lifted. It’s like a non-depressing version of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Support has come from all ends of the Columbus creative community, including The Columbus Foundation, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Streetlight Guild, and What? Productions. Through these organizations, musicians are able to be paid for a route that usually lasts five to six hours. 100 percent of the donations they receive on their route also goes to the musicians.

Friedman is asking people to keep requests to older audiences.

“Working with local musicians to perform curbside at people's homes is the vehicle or medium, but the real thing we are doing here is connecting those to older people they love, with an authentic and emotional experience to send love over,” Friedman said.

We found out pretty quickly how much as a collective that we take live music for granted. Live streams have been a temporary, dulled-down replacement. You realize how long people have been robbed of the experience when you see a musician pull up in a pickup truck, set up in five minutes, and serenade neighborhoods with songs like “Lean on Me” and “What A Wonderful World.” It starts off with a message to one house and then resonates down the street, like the citizens of Gas Town rushing to The People Eater for even a drop of water.

Photos by Zak Kolesar

For most people, it was their first taste of live music since mid-March. While we may want concerts to return as soon as possible, its productions like Curbside Concerts that display the emotional power of music.

To request to send someone a concert, follow the link here: https://sendaconcert.herokuapp.com/request

To volunteer for Curbside Concerts, follow the link here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b45abaa22a4fb6-curbside

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