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The Upstart Pipsqueaks is a biweekly ride through the twisted collective minds of Skid and Rux, two chappies from Soho. When the lads aren’t down in Brighton playing the silver ball, they listen to records and give you the opportunity to listen in on what they think. The opinions expressed in The Upstart Pipsqueaks do not reflect those of Hybridmagazine, any of its subsidiary companies, or the prenatal care industry

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Remember to always listen to something while reading our column, whether it be the album reviewed or not. Send all brownie recipes and hippy hate mail to us at Upstarts@hybridmagazine.com

Now for something to satisfy the joyful, lingering hippie in each of us… The Upstart Pipsqueaks present:



Grateful Dead: American Beauty

 

-Box Of Rain-

Rux: Grateful Dead… American Beauty. Take twenty-seven. Quarter ‘til midnight.

Skid: It’s November 15. 15 minutes ‘til the “Great American Smoke-out.” We are covered in nicotine patches.

Rux: Damn. I don’t even smoke, and I’m covered in nicotine patches. It’s going to do something very terrible and crazy to me.

Skid: Total sleeplessness.

Rux: We seem to have the Grateful Dead playing for some reason…

Skid: “Look out of any window.” This music sounds like Sesame Street.

Rux: It’s got the Sesame Street groove. That is kind of true. I’m glad that it’s this early Grateful Dead stuff, instead of the late 70’s or early 80’s stuff where they really sucked.

Skid: Aigggh. You’re going to have dog crunching on a bone through this whole thing… if you know what I mean.

Rux: This is one of the 2 decent Grateful Dead records.

Skid: Is it? I’m sure I can’t tell the difference.

Rux: Oh, I think you could tell the difference. I think what you’ll find is on this record, and on Workingman’s Dead, I think, that they actually wrote songs that were able to be listened to. And then later, they wrote songs like that stupid song that everybody knows. What’s it called? “Something Gray…”

Skid: “Shade of Gray?”

Rux: “Shade of Gray”… I don’t know if this is Jerry singing, or if this is Pigpen.

Skid: Was Pigpen on this album? I thought he was only on the first one.

Rux: Oh yeah. He was only on the self-titled record.

Skid: They’re both dead.

Rux: That’s true. I guess its kind of a moot point, based on the whole mortality thing.

Skid: They seem to be very slow and kind of noodly, and jangly. Why do you reckon it is that country music never latched on to the Grateful Dead?

Rux: Because of their live show?

Skid: Because they were damned dirty hippies…?

Rux: Because of the drugs. Because of the fact that they did these 2 or 3 records where it was pretty much country. But you went to see them live, and everyone was all toked up, and everything lasted 12 minutes longer than the 3-minute song that it began as. That’s what I think.

Skid: I mean, the psychedelia, really, I haven’t heard any Grateful Dead that is psychedelia. It’s all Crosby, Stills, Nash… Harmony shit.

Rux: Yeah. I know what you mean. When I think of psychedelia, I don’t think of the Grateful Dead. I don’t know what I would classify them as, other than “that hippy crap.” I say to my friends, “Hey, are you listening to that hippy crap?”

Skid: Why aren’t there Jefferson Airplane Heads? And Jethro Tull Heads?

Rux: There are. But none of those bands played live with the consistency and the drug usage that these guys did. Perhaps. But I think that there are, in that era of bands, there are definitely large fans of those bands that you mentioned. But no one that actually followed the band around for 20 years.

Skid: Because the music is not really invasive at all. It’s just a backdrop for the culture.

Rux: You know, that’s the thing. When does the music become a culture? I’m sure it’s different for this band than it was from any other seminal band from any other type of music. You know, you get these seminal bands that somehow define the movement.

Skid: It’s that they were at the right place at the right time. And you can tell by how much we’re talking during this, that really there is nothing in the music itself that is of note.

Rux: I never listened to this enough to realize that it was so Crosby-Stills-Nash-ish. Hey dude, you got some Nashish?

-Friend Of The Devil-

Skid: They are even more lax on the harmonies. Crosby, Stills, Nash will go off on a regular basis, but these guys aren’t real tight with their harmonies.

Rux: And they are not real complex harmonies either. They are pretty pat old country harmonies. (Sings) “Friend of the devil is a friend of mine…” Now I like this song… I always forget about this one when people mention the Grateful Dead.

Skid: Nice simple little bass line. “Whacka do whacka do whacka do…”

Rux: It’s a bluegrass tune. And I just like the lyrics in this tune. There’s just something in it that appeals to me.    

Skid: Well, this goes along with my whole theory that the reason they were as popular as they were, and Jethro Tull wasn’t, or 13th Floor Elevators weren’t, and any other number of bands…

Rux: Are you going to tell me that they are in the Rolling Stone’s boat?

Skid: Yes. They sold their soul to the devil

Rux: I’d buy that for a couple bucks.

Skid: That’s the only way that I can explain their popularity.

Rux: Somebody else singing here…

Skid: How can you tell?

Rux: I don’t know. The voice sounds different. I’d go along with your sold the soul to the devil thing.

Skid: There’s a little mandolin in there.

Rux: Yeah. You know, these couple early records had that whole folk/country vibe, and I really dug that. I wish I could have seen them live back here when they were first started.

Skid: I see what happened… They were trying to get players and telling people they were a drug band… but they thought they said “jug band.”

Rux: They did say jug band. But everyone thought they said drug band.

Skid: Oooh… so everyone showed up for this drug band.

Rux: It was merely mistaken phonetics that set the stage for the Grateful Dead.

Skid: Phonetics and Fate… hmmm hmmm hmmm.

Rux: That’s fate with a p-h?

Skid: That’s Phate. That’s phate, bra.

Rux: Bra?

Skid: These grooves be phate.

Rux: Homes… That’s a nice little reverb at the end there.

-Sugar Magnolia-

Skid: Your dog sucks.  (Laughter.)

Rux: Is this “Sugar Magnolia?” This is more of what I think of with the Grateful Dead. It’s got some weird guitar thing that sucks.

Skid: The music is really not God-awful. It’s just that with all the hype that they garnered over the years, I have a natural backlash to them. A natural aversion, if you would.

Rux: Yeah, and you actually went to a show once and didn’t see the band. I only know Grateful Dead-Heads. I never went to a show and was immersed in the culture.

Skid: Yeah. I never saw the stage once. I just saw the audience. Which was quite interesting, and I could see the attraction. But some lady put a sticker on me, and I made sure not to touch it.

Rux: Yeah, cause that stuff will come in through the pores in your skin, you know.

Skid: Yeees.. Some sort of Bart sticker kind of…

Rux: Bart sticker?

Skid: I don’t remember what it was… oh, my Nyquil is kicking in. My hands feel warm. I’ve got the St. Vitus Dance.

Rux: You’ve got the dance? The St. Vitus Dance?

Skid: Yes. My hands are getting flushed. My hands are blushing.

Rux: I don’t understand your biblical comments.

Skid: Ummm… All right. (Sings) “She’s got everything delightful, she’s got hairy legs and feet.”

Rux: Okay, you know why this isn’t country music? It’s too fucking happy.

Skid: It is.

Rux: It’s like feel good country music. And that is that that should not be.

Skid: Why didn’t the Grateful Dead ever have a morning cartoon show?

Rux: I don’t know. Maybe because Fat Albert would have kicked their hippy asses.

Skid: Errrahhhh.

Rux: Hush your mouth.

Skid: Hey, I’m just talking about Albert.

Rux: And I can dig it.

Skid: That song didn’t do anything for me.

-Operator-

Rux: No. There are a couple of Dead songs that I like, and one of them is “Ripple,” which we get later on this record, I think.

Skid: Oh… all right, how many songs have to say “Operator.” Disconnect me.

Rux: Connect me. Disconnect me.

Skid: Information, please.

Rux: Okay, let’s go through them.

Skid: Jim Croce. “Operator, let’s forget about that call.” Sisters of Mercy. “Operator, disconnect me if you can.”

Rux: Yazoo. “Got to get the operator, make a telephone call. My bags all packed and I’m ready to go.”

Skid: “Long distance information…”

Rux: That’s Johnny Rivers.

Skid: “Smooth Operator.” Chardonnay.

Rux: That was Sade.

Skid: And who did it before her? That was a cover song.

Rux: Was it, really?

Skid: Yeah. The original was about 5 years earlier, but it was just a small hit.

Rux: There was one in the 80’s. Thompson Twins or Berlin. Some chick singer had a song about operator.

Skid: All right folks, we’re done with it. Moratorium on the operator songs.

Rux: No more operator songs… But you’re not including train operator songs, right? Engineer songs?

Skid: I was thinking about that. I heard “Engine # 9” today.

Rux: Did you? Sweeeet. This just kind of makes me want to light up the incense and turn down the lights. We’re just not getting the full effect.

Skid: Oh… I forgot: “Hello operator, give me number 9, if you disconnect me I’ll kick you from behind.”

Rux: The traditional folk song. The traditional American folk song.

Skid: Yeah… the traditional small folk song. That small folks would sing.

-Candyman-

Rux: Okay, we’re on to the next song now. This one I like more, because I don’t have to think about it at all. It’s kind of got some noodling around here in it. Kind of a Roy Orbison vibe happening.

Skid: Go away dog. (Chases dog away.)

Oh wait. I see why fantastic they were all so very. Oh yes, indeedy…

(Laughter)

Rux: Hmmm. I sense some sarcasm in your voice.

Skid: Oh no, it just hit right then. That was the point…

Rux: Indeedly-oodly.

Skid: It finally sunk through my skin.

Rux: That was a Grateful Dead flashback getting to you. So, you’ve decided to sell your soul to the devil?

Skid: Well, blues has already been taken, boys. Rock’n’roll. Blues rock… You’re going to have to do some blues country. Errrrrr.

Rux: Well, we’ll do what we gotta do… I can’t imagine sitting through this crap night after night and being a deadhead. They must have to have the drugs.

Skid: Well, you could probably – if you weren’t all doped up – get a lot done, because the music doesn’t require you to sit here. You could get up and clean the house. Shave your legs, and get a shower.

Rux: But it’s not really making me feel motivated.

Skid: No?

Rux: No. It’s kind of putting me to sleep, and maybe that’s the hour, but…

Skid: Its not grabbing me and making me lean towards the speakers though.

Rux: I see what you’re saying. You may as well get up and walk around, because there is nothing to captivate.

Skid: You may as well spin crazy circles. What the hell…

Rux: Here’s kind of a fake steel guitar thing.

Skid: How do they play this without falling off their instruments?

Rux: I don’t know. When I play music this slow, I fall asleep.

Skid: Have any Grateful Dead members ever fallen asleep on stage?

Rux: I should imagine… Undoubtedly.

Skid: I wouldn’t blame them. You tell me they had two drummers?

Rux: Yeah, they had the original drummer, and then the Mickey Hart guy they brought in to be a drummer and I guess the percussionist. Maybe they don’t actually have two drummers, per se. But they have a drummer and a percussionist.

Skid: I thought if one fell of his stool…(laughter) I imagine they brought blankets to the shows…

Rux: Blankets and pillows?

Skid: That’s where the teddy bears came in…

Rux: Oh, the sleepy time teddy bear rock?

Skid: That’s why they have Grateful Dead bears… fall asleep with their pillows, their slippers.

Rux: Five dollars at the door for San Francisco’s largest slumber party.

Skid: It’s a sleep-in, everybody!

Rux: Drug and slumber! Drug and slumber! (Laughter) Stop, drop, and slumber.

Skid: “Candyman” must be very similar to the sandman…

Rux: I don’t really know what the whole “candyman” thing was. But I do know about the spoonman.

Skid: That’s Seattle.

Rux: You say Seattle, I say Seetle.

Skid: You say Be-at-le, I sat Beetle. The organ was the only interesting thing in this song.

Rux: You like the organ, huh? At the end…

Skid: Yeah. It started to seep through. Like the Lysergic Acid.

-Ripple-

Rux: There is some very nice instrumentation… Okay, here is “Ripple.” This is a great song. As done by Jane’s Addiction.

Skid: Ugh.

Rux: Don’t start that again.

Skid: Look, the Grateful Dead is not interesting, but at least they don’t sound like Gonzo.

Rux: Oh, really? I wouldn’t go that far either.

Skid: You think they do sound like Gonzo?

Rux: On occasion. 

Skid: (Sings in bad Gonzo voice) “With the cone of sunshine… why are there so many songs about rainbows.” (Laughter)  I’d say yeah. More Kermit than Gonzo…

Rux: (sings) “Would you hold me close, as if it were your own. It’s a hand me down…” Hey… watch me punch the dog in the head! No animals were harmed in the filming of this episode. It’s this thing we have… I punch him in the head and he likes it.

Skid: This is a pretty song.

Rux: Yeah, I dig this song… a little mandolin solo for you?

Skid: Hmm. Is this like a campfire song to you, or… some of it sounds like it was stolen from Vaudeville.

Rux: Yeah, it’s kind of got that vibe to it… the traveling show vibe.

Skid: It also sounds like a hymn… “There is a valley”.

Rux: Yeah, some of the lyric. “There is a road…”

Skid & Rux: (sing in unison) “No simple highway, between the dawn and the dark of night…”

Rux: Its very poetic lyrics. They probably don’t mean anything, but they are very poetic.

Skid: I thought the whole song was about Ripple wine.

Rux: Was about what? Ripple wine?

Skid: Yeah. You know?

Rux: No.

Skid: Like it was some hobo song, drinking ripple.

Rux: Oh… drinking ripple… with a silver spoon, and drinking that green Bubble-up. See, if they had just done this one song, and then left off, I would have been fine with the Grateful Dead. But they went on to do all this stuff that I don’t care at all about.

Skid: You know, when bands like the Grass Roots and the Lovin’ Spoonful put out good song after good song… how can you justify following this around?

Rux: For 20 years…

Skid: I mean, you can only get so much sleep at concerts, before you have to get up and buy a sprout sandwich.

-Brokedown Palace-

Rux: Right… and that was only recent. I doubt that that was going on back in the day. There was no time for sprout sandwiches in the 60’s and 70’s. You only had time for LSD and such…

Skid: Sprout sammiches? Why when I was a Dead Head, we didn’t have sprout sandwiches.

Rux: We just took our acid and saw people sprout sandwiches.

Skid: I’m sprouting a sammich! Oh boy, I gotta go sprout a sandwich.

Rux: Pardon me, I sprouted a little sandwich there.

Skid: We had to graze in the grass, if you know what I mean. I mean, can you dig it? We had to eat carrots, mushrooms…

Rux: Lots of mushrooms.

Skid: You know, some of the tunes start to sound like barhouse blues. But…

Rux: This one to me sounds very gospel.

Skid: Right, but if they played any bars, they would have had a bottle in their head.

Rux: Right, because what drunk biker is going to put up with this in their roadhouse?

Skid: I don’t know, and that’s the thing, a lot of the bikers like them.

Rux: True. What’s wrong with them. I can understand the bikers liking the Stones… I can understand people liking the 'Stones.

Skid: Yeah. Altamont. Altamont.

Rux: Altamont, baby. I can understand bikers beating the crap out of people because of the Stones.

Skid: But these days, the bikers like Yanni. I don’t understand it.

Rux: HUH?

Skid: Brother, I went to these parties with these bikers, and every time they would put on Yanni.

Rux: Nuh uh.

Skid: Yes…

Rux: I’m saddened and disillusioned.

-Till The Morning Comes-

Skid: And they’re like getting all weepy and asking me if I can get them tickets to see Les Miserables, you know… And I’m like, what the hell?

Rux: Did you put your hand on their face and push them away. And say to them, you’re no biker.

Skid: Pansy ass.

Rux: So you’ve decided to be a pansy ass biker?

Skid: But try to drive a Suzuki and see what happens… these people.

Rux: So you have to ride a hog, but you can listen to Yanni? Now that is a serious triple-standard.

Skid: Triple standard?

Skid & Rux: I did.

Rux: This is very gospelly to me.

Skid: Yes, the last 2… but the last one was Pentecostal, and this one is more Baptist.

Rux: Right… I think we’ve figured it out. The devil couldn’t get his hand on the Staple Singers, so he went for Jerry Garcia. I guess Pops was a little more blues though.

Skid: Oh yeah… you’ll see a lot of posters where the Dead played with John Lee, and Muddy Waters.

Rux: That’s true.

Skid: So, if nothing else, they brought about another blues revival. Although their music is obviously watered-down-whitey-white version.

Rux: Yeah. I don’t get much blues out of this at all.

Skid: It’s very light.

Rux: So the next hippy that tells me they’re a blues band, I’m kicking the shit out of them.

Skid: Well, I get more blues out of it than psychedelia, though.

Rux: The only blues thing about this band is the blue bear.

Skid: The Church is more psychedelic than this.

Rux: Oh yeah. This is just kind of a happy little pop song. Don’t touch. Don’t touch me. Yeah, see, we should have done this review right, and taken a little bit of LS…D.

Skid: You didn’t?

Rux: Dang it. I knew I was missing something. (Laughter) I’ll just hold my breath for 5 minutes, and maybe the oxygen deprivation will simulate the drugs…

Skid: Ummm. I think the effect is a little more permanent that way.

Rux: So, so far I think there has been this song, and that other one, that I said sounded like the Grateful Dead to me. So obviously they had an idea of where they were going to go. Because this one kind of sounds like later Grateful Dead. Like what they started doing after this era.

Skid: Oh yeah?

Rux: “Touch Of Gray.” That’s the name of the song. (Sings) “Jerry of the nine fingers!” It was because of the Mord Wraiths, dude.

Skid: Mord Wraiths?

Rux: The ring wraiths. And Golem.

Skid: Ring wraiths? Golem?

Rux: Took Jerry’s finger off.

Skid: Oh… oh, yeah. That’s heavy. Here’s my take. I think their contribution to music is about as significant as that of… Oasis. And I think a bunch of people have been schtupped into thinking they were the greatest thing ever. And actually, they were merely adequate.

Rux: Yes. Early 70’s harmonies. Fades out… Lots of fade-outs here.

Skid: Well, you know… that technology. They were on the cutting edge.

-Attics Of My Life-

Rux: A little swimmy bass.

Skid: That was kind of a weird ass maneuver.

Rux: This is total Stills, man. CSN and Grateful Dead.

Skid: Is this their altar call… to the devil. Ooh. That was a bad harmony there. Somebody hit a clinker. They sprouted a sammich. (Laughter)  This sounds like more church music… Not THE Church, since I made a reference to THE Church, but…

Rux: Right. A church.

Skid: A church. I think they are up there dressed like altar boys.

Rux: Youth Choir. They’re the Grateful Dead Youth Choir?

Skid: Undercover.

Rux: Every downbeat in this song, my eyes get a little closer to being completely closed.

Skid: Ugh. It’s completely uninteresting.

Rux: Why? Why must they do this to us? Maybe Yanni is the extension of the Grateful Dead?

Skid: I’d buy that… I’m getting a little yawny right now.

Rux: It’s contagious. Even in my top ten list of 1970, this would not have been in it.

Skid: I can’t imagine going back to see them a second time, let alone over and over again. I mean, if their harmonies are this off in the studio… I can only imagine.

Rux: I wonder if they continued that into the later days, or if they just let Jerry of the Nine Fingers sing.

Skid: The harmonies? What happened on “Touch of Gray?” He was the only one singing on that?

Rux: I think so. There may have been some doubling, but I don’t think there were actual harmonies.

Skid: Well, it’s the same thing with Crosby Stills and Nash. I didn’t see their show, which I heard from others was good. But I saw some footage, and it was so awful. They were way off.

Rux: Yeah, I never did see them live. And on that note, I will beat the crap out of the next person who tells me they like Crosby Stills and Nash better than Young. I’ve had about enough of that… attitude. That’s the kind of attitude that starts world wars, right there.

Skid: Well, with as off as they are getting, they’re getting worse with each go ‘round of this song. And then add to that the cacophony of the drug addled audience chiming in. That’s got to be one hell of a racket.

-Truckin’-

Rux: It’s got to make you want to be truckin’.

Skid: “Truckin’.”

Rux: They’re mostly… in tune.

Skid: Well, it’s the beginning of the song.

Rux: Now, you hate this song, don’t you?

Skid: Yes…

Rux: Because of this part that I like, sort of.

Skid: Yeah, I hate this part.

Rux: I think it’s funny when he talks fast… ish. Well, I’ve got this thing about the fast-talking.

Skid: Yeah. You’ll always fall for a fast talker, won’t you?

Rux: Yep. I’m kooky like that. I’m nutty; I’m crazy like that. The little organ thing behind him.

Skid: It is nice where they’re not singing harmonies. I’ll give you that. Do you think he just finally said, why don’t you guys shut up during this part?

Rux: Maybe… It sounds like a different vocalist to me. This does have some nice guitar work in this song, though. With the twangy baritone.

Skid: Listen to the clicky bass tone.

Rux: I think Phil Lesh, the bass player, was probably the best musician in this band. The Beatles were more psychedelic than this.

Skid: That’s true. And the Beatles were more experimental than this. Not necessarily the drugs, but the sounds.

Rux: Yeah… long before this, even. It’s a Beautiful Day was more psychedelic than this.

Skid: It’s a beautiful day?

Rux: Yes it is… 2 a.m. They were another San Francisco psychedelic band… to clarify. It was them and the ‘Airplane.

Skid: I’m thankful that not a lot of their music got played on the radio. I feel the same way about Pearl Jam. At least I don’t have to be subjected to a lot of it.

Rux: But again, it’s like the regular mode of operation for radio. Anymore, you hear the crap-ass Grateful Dead. You don’t hear any of the good stuff… Any of the 2 good songs.

Skid: Well, according to this, if the 2 good songs they played on the radio, everyone would fall asleep.

(Laughter) At their office, and on the road…

Rux: This song has the “Sweet Jane” reference. There are a few of those in the history of the world. Jane seems to be a very rock’n’roll name.

Skid: She says she’s going to kick tomorrow… Which, by the way, it’s time for the “Great American Smoke-out.” I’d better go have my last cigarette.

Rux: Well, that was also the end of the Grateful Dead record.

Skid: Oh thank God it ended… it was a pretty short record.

Rux: Yeah. Bonus. Closing comments?

Skid: Uhh. It was pretty boring. It wasn’t real painful, but not a lot there.

Rux: All right. My opinion of the Grateful Dead remains unchanged by listening to a full record. I agree that it is certainly not painful, but had I not known that I really liked that one song previously, I would probably not have liked it by listening to this album this one time.

Skid: American Beauty, huh? Beauty, eh? So is that a tribute to spaghetti? American Beauty.

Rux: I don’t know. That mandolin thing in that one song was definitely a tribute to spaghetti.

Skid: Was it?

Rux: Sure.

Skid: Where is the Kevin Spacey part of this album?

Rux: I saw that movie a couple nights ago, and I liked it. I was not expecting to with all the hype, but it was very fulfilling.

Skid: I heard it won some Oscars or something.

Rux: Which is more than the Grateful Dead ever did.

Skid: So this is their best album?

Rux: I would have to say, probably. It’s probably the shortest, also, which contributes to it being their best. I would say anything past this is not good…

Skid: Yeah, but dude… You should hear the Stanford show from 1978… See, that part… oh, did you hear it? He did that different.

Times Rux gets the last word: 0

 

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