Synthetic Division is the synth pop project of Shawn Decker and Josh d’Elia. Shawn was born with hemophilia and diagnosed with HIV in middle school, and after years of denial, he is an AIDS and sex ed spokesman and advocate. Courtesy of the Make a Wish Foundation, in high school he met Depeche Mode, who he credits with making a huge impact on his life. All of this influences Synthetic Division’s sound and lyrics.
On July 5th I drove up to Charlottesville for the Synthetic Division Numb to the Numbers album release party. The relatively new venue, the Black Market Moto Saloon, was a very interesting space (but was shortly after blocked from hosting live music events due to zoning restrictions). Show openers Lauren Hoffman and Tony Lechmanski played a surprisingly mellow and melodic country set, and DC’s Lenorable picked things up a bit. You can check out my photos from the night on flickr.
Shawn & Josh did a great job, but unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to let them know as I had to speed home to take a friend to the airport early the next morning. Fortunately, the next time I went up to Charlottesville, a solo Synthetic Division performance from Shawn ended up being a last minute opener for Brighter Fires at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar (they had to change venues after the Black Market was cut off, and their original openers hERETICS iN tHE lAB drove all the way up from VA Beach only to discover that their instruments were too numerous for the new venue’s small stage – they had “too much rock”, trufax). It was lovely to meet Shawn and Gwenn , who were so friendly!
You can check out a lot of tracks from Synthetic Division on bandcamp. While it’s not the most lyrically sophisticated of his songs, this track always make me laugh (and is ridiculously catchy & geeky to boot):
I also have to throw in a recommendation for Shawn’s autobiography, My Pet Virus: The True Story of a Rebel Without a Cure . At the album release he described it as “the funniest book about AIDS that you’ll ever read”, and I can’t say I’ve read a funnier one. I started reading it while walking around the block. I was only planning on doing 3 laps (about 1 mile), but I definitely went at least 9 because I couldn’t put the book down!
On the 7th I vended at FantaSci, a science fiction convention at the Chesapeake Central Library. I had never attended the event before, and didn’t know what to expect from a free one day con at a library, but I was pretty impressed. The library is HUGE and the con had a pretty wide range of guests, vendors, and programming. The only thing that was slightly disappointing was that our booth was in kind of an auxiliary room that was also holding panels and demonstrations. Did I mention that there was a lot going on? The booth had a mixture of vintage sci fi books and collectibles along with my usual stock of handmade jewelry and recycled pop culture accessories, plus Thirteen O’Clock’s bowties and iPad cases!
Someone posted some great pics of the con, including a very awesome Ten and Eleven (who made her own bowtie, which impressed me since I leave all the sewing to Thirteen O’Clock!), Nick Fury playing the only arcade game I was ever any good at (which I totally missed!!) and a very friendly customer sorting through my newest product line, luggage tags, which I debuted at this event. They’ll be making it to etsy eventually!
Unfortunately, FantaSci’s website isn’t the greatest, and I didn’t have a whole lot of time to study the programming list since I was flying solo for this event so stayed pretty glued to my table. I did appreciate that there was a blood drive, as well as Klingon jailing fundraiser, presumably run by the IKV Devestator fan group (someone please correct me if I’m wrong). I really like this element of the cons I’ve attended recently. All in all, I had a fun day, and I’ve signed up to vend at MonsterFest, a free one day horror convention at the same library in October. I’d encourage you to stop by and check it out if you’re in the area! (Actually, I’d encourage you to stop by and check out the library regardless, and it seemed pretty nice to me!)
My story with Carbon Leaf is a bit paradoxical. I always have a favorite band of the moment, and that has never been Carbon Leaf. That said, I’ve seen them more often, driven more miles for them, and own more of their CDs than any other band. So as far as my use of the phrase “favorite band”, well, I do not think it means what I think it means… Carbon Leaf are a Richmond-based band, and yet I didn’t start listening to them until I lived in England, and it wasn’t until last year that I’d actually seen them play in Richmond. They formed in 1996 and started off with a pretty heavily celtic-influenced sound. The Boxer is a great example of one of their early hits which they still play today, at least in Virginia, where they seem to include more of the celtic and folk style songs in their setlists than they may do elsewhere.
I’d say their more recent songs are a bit more mainstream sounding, but Barry’s voice remains pretty distinctive. One of the things that always strikes me when they’re setting up for a live show is the sheer number of instruments that the five of them bring onstage with them.
I caught a great show from them in May as part of the Groovin’ in the Garden concert series at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA. They were in top form, playing for what seemed like forever and covering the highlights of their career. I also saw a shorter set earlier this month down in Newport News at Victory Landing Park’s Independence Day celebration. That probably makes about a dozen times that I’ve seen them now, but the Lewis Ginter show may always stand out for several reasons, but most particularly one special moment that a fan caught on video. Too sweet! (although that’s always an idea that could backfire badly!)
Below is one of my favorite photos from the Newport News show. You can see more pics of various CL concerts I’ve attended in my Carbon Leaf flickr set. I’d encourage you to give them a listen – if you’re interested in more of the celtic-influenced sound, Echo Echo is a must, or if you want to hear their more recent alternative/mainstream sound, I’d start with Indian Summer. They’re touring all over the US this summer, and I’m hoping to catch them next at the American Music Festival in Virginia Beach, VA, on 9/1. Do try to catch them if they’re coming your way. I’ve never left a show disappointed!
If you haven’t read anywhere, this is my last month of teaching jewelry-making classes at Michaels. I will genuinely miss my coworkers and all of my students from the past 2 years, but I am excited about the new crafting opportunities that have been opening up for me this year. Also, since I won’t have to keep up with my Bead Corner Design Academy blog or facebook listings anymore, I hope that that will give me more time for this Ripping It Down blog! As part of the reboot I’m going to be doing some theme posts, starting with Music Mondays! No promises that these will stay regular, but it’s a start!
Thanks to everyone for sticking with me. I hope to see you all at a class or show soon!