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The Politics of Dancing

Operators’ crystal ball into our dystopian failures If it holds true that great art proliferates in times of political strife, then we may be in for a wild ride—a  cultural renaissance even. For Operators’ Dan Boeckner, the decline of Western Civilization is the counter culture fighting over exactly what it is we must counter. The [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Operators’ crystal ball into our dystopian failures

If it holds true that great art proliferates in times of political strife, then we may be in for a wild ride—a  cultural renaissance even.

For Operators’ Dan Boeckner, the decline of Western Civilization is the counter culture fighting over exactly what it is we must counter. The quick spiral toward illiberalism made the whole “let’s move to Canada” strategy necessary for Boeckner, but that was easy, as he was born and raised in British Columbia. Crossing from his adopted home of several years in California and back to Montreal before the border got thicker was a huge impetus for Operators’ sinister and sparkling sound. Released last summer, their debut album, Blue Wave, came as the perfect hybrid of pop radio nostalgia and dystopian electronic arrangements. It was also a prescient warning about where we are headed and from the perspective of Boeckner, who’s lived a lifetime under what he calls “democratic socialism,” we are kind of doomed.

“I felt like things were going totally f*cking haywire,” says Boeckner. “I had noticed during my time in the states this unpleasant trend towards fencing off information, the way two people can have a debate on something as simple as health care or vaccines—and as a Canadian, I can see it clearly—but the other side is someone who is completely uninformed. That psychology scared the shit out of me, and I think it was that psychology that led to the 2016 election.”

As one of the founding members and principal songwriters in the celebrated Wolf Parade, Boeckner is used to questions about that band being the focus.  For much of this millennium’s first decade, Wolf Parade was the gold-standard for Canadian indie pop. With them in the midst of a huge reunion, a new album in the fall, and festival dates all summer, he’s using what little time he has remaining to assure the proper appreciation for Blue Wave. After all, Operators originally filled the void left by the Parade’s hiatus and the dissolution of his first solo venture, the Handsome Furs. In bonding with local legend, and Operators’ drummer, Sam Brown, as members of Divine Fits, Boeckner also recruited Devojka to round out a trio that dabbled heavily in synths and sequenced beats, the personal and the politics. Something Boeckner says was the template from which he began.

“I’ve always loved that sound palette and that wheelhouse of music. Listening to the radio all my life, it was those great pop productions that seeped into my subconscious. All I ever wrote in my teens was metal or some kind of ’90s post-punk when secretly I was really into OMD. But no one could sing the praises of Dazzle Ships back then. It’s a lot less dogmatic now. Everyone listens to everything now.”

With nods to New Order and Kraftwerk, a handshake to Gary Numan, Operators still project a sustained modernity contrary to their retro reverberations. “Rome” and “Control” both deal in Orwellian romanticism, topical in a world of increased surveillance and decreased civic responsibility. It’s a utilitarian message through a conduit that’s slick and evolved. As a child of the ’80s, Boeckner, like many, suspected an apocalypse much more intriguing, and that’s reflected in the music.

“The stock dystopias that we got in the ’80s were ones I actually enjoyed,” remembers Boeckner. “There was post-nuclear annihilation survival, the Commie takeover, that was a good one, and then maybe the Blade Runner dystopia. Very few people wrote about the dystopia that we actually live in now, which is a grinding and insidious dystopia that is not sexy at all. There’s nothing f**king cool about it.”

Instead of those fantasy dystopias, we’ve got the equivalent to “the t-shirt rack at a truck stop in Arkansas.” And instead of Operators and Boeckner creating freely in and out of the U.S., they are met with an ignorant resistance. On his last trip to Seattle to record with Wolf Parade, Boeckner was asked by a TSA agent, with whom he’d been familiar for years, if he intended to participate in any “demonstrations” while in the country.

“That really put a chill in me,” says Boeckner. “Things are a lot colder in America right now. The idea that security could ask that question affected me.”

The Great White North may not be utopia, but it provides a pretty sturdy plateau from which to see our Pompeii.  So then, what advice does Boeckner have, as a secure Canadian, for us Southerners?

“Sustained, focused protest,” concludes Boeckner.  “Being super local and putting aside these petty differences that divide the left.”

Good to know that Operators intend on being the soundtrack, no matter where we’re headed.  •

Operators play Saturday, April 8 at Ace of Cups. Visit operatorsmusic.com for more information.

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Arts & Culture

Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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Arts & Culture

(614) Music Club: Sarob

Julian Foglietti

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Every week (614) Music Club teams up with your favorite local artists to build a playlist of what they’re listening to, and what’s inspiring them. This week’s playlist is brought to you by the R&B artist Sarob.


Photo by: Wyze

Tell me about some of the songs you’ve selected.

"The first one is Sobeautiful by Musiq Soulchild. So every week with my vocal coach, I have to learn a song. And I've been trying to figure out how to do vocal gliding. Which is not a strong point for me, and I remember hearing that song and being like, OK, this is it. The song is just beautifully written and composed, so when you add the technique to it, it’s just great. The other song was Workin On It by Dwele, who is one of my favorite artists of all time. Workin On It uses this J Dilla beat that just feels really timeless."

Have the past few months changed the direction or mood of the music you're creating. 

"So I have been making stuff here and there, and then I'll go into something creative for like two days. I'll just be making like a bunch of songs and then I'll stop for two weeks, not even want to look at a microphone or anything. I mean, it's a lot more inward, so I’m learning how to better communicate the things I'm experiencing, and set the scenes for people and talk about what is going on. Also not having my band has been a challenge. I’m more of a thinker, I play the keyboard, and I can build a song, but I’m not the most gifted musician so having to build a lot of it on my own is tricky."

Do you have any plans or releases coming up? 

"Yeah, so I had a song Pleasures U Like that was made for my last album, but it didn’t quite fit the story of the album. So I just forgot about it until recently and I finished the vocals just before the lockdown, and now I’m releasing it on Bandcamp as part of a fundraiser for The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. All of the proceeds from the song are going to go to support their Pandemic Emergency Fund, and it just felt like a good way to do something that would impact everything going on."

Sarob's Playlist

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Coronavirus

Breakaway Music Festival will not take place in 2020; to return in 2021

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Those in the music festival community have continued to rally their broken spirits behind live streams and classic archival sets in lieu of the live event industry being put on indefinite hold. 

With each passing day, though, hopes for any large concert gathering happening in 2020 seem incredibly bleak and unrealistic.

News from Midwest college market concert and music festival promoter Prime Social Group on Thursday further confirmed the modern hippie’s greatest fear: a summer void of camping out in otherworldy open fields and following their favorite musicians across the country. 

PSG operates a network of festivals under the Breakaway Music handle that take place annually in Columbus; Charlotte, North Carolina; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Washington D.C.; Nashville; and San Diego. The promotion company made the difficult decision to cancel all six of its 2020 editions of the EDM and pop-focused Breakaway Music Festival with a fully-committed plan to return in 2021. The decision was made due to health and safety concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Tickets to the event can be carried over for the 2021 edition of BMF. For those who choose this option, you’ll receive an extra ticket and merch bundle. PSG will also provide refunds if transferring tickets for 2021 is not an option.

Columbus has been making its claim as a music festival destination over the past few years. Breakaway, along with events like Sonic Temple, Wonderbus, and Buckeye Country Superfest, has been bringing quality acts to Columbus consistently. The festival’s presence will be greatly missed this upcoming August.

“Now more than ever, we could use that special sense of unity achieved through live events and music festivals,” said Prime Social managing partner Zach Ruben. “We cannot wait to Leave it All Behind and make memories with all of you again. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and be kind to one another.”

In the meantime, Breakaway plans to release exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from past editions, new digital content, and various live streams. Visit breakawaymusicfestival.com to keep up to date with what PSG has in store.

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