C’ville’s First Pride Festival a Success
September 17, 2012
photo by Vannathan Hugh L S
Last Saturday, my beloved hometown of Charlottesville hosted its first ever Pride Festival. I heard about it a month or so ago, when my good friends in Bella Morte contacted me about singing a song during their 30-minute acoustic set. Of course, I couldn’t resist being a part of this event to show my support for a community that has shown me so much support since I decided to speak out about being HIV positive.
More on that in a moment. Here’s me singing The Cure’s “Close to Me”, with Bella Morte’s Tony Lechmanski on guitar. He worked up such a great version of a song that is primarily keyboards and bass.
The energy at this event was wonderful. The Facebook Event page blew up with people RSVPing “Yes”, close to 1,000 by the time the event rolled around. Of course, there was the usual Failbook posts about not being able to get a free t-shirt at the event, or wondering if there were going to be too many couples there. Some people really struggle to see what an event like this is truly about- I’m thankful that I got exactly what this event was, and was happy to see a real turnout of support in a packed park full of great energy.
Tony, Andy and Marshall of Bella Morte (photo by Vannathan Hugh L S)
Performing Earth Angel. Love this photo, another one by Vannathan Hugh L S!
Before their set, Bella Morte’s singer Andy Deane had a funny line. “If we seem nervous we apologize- we just didn’t realize there’d be so many gay people here.” Everyone laughed. After they played four songs and Andy invited me up, I said: “If I seem nervous, I’m sorry- I didn’t realize Bella Morte would be here.” Everyone from vendors, to performers to attendees just had a huge smile on their face. Undoubtedly the result of this past weekend’s Festival will make this an annual event, one I look forward to attending every year.
Why? Because my life today wouldn’t be possible without my “gay allies”, AKA friends. When I was just a confused, 20-year old straight kid in Waynesboro, Virginia with a web site, it was a group of gay men at Poz Magazine that opened my handwritten letter and invited to me New York City. It really was a portion of the gay community that gave me confidence in knowing that, as a positoid, I was a catch as a single man. And, when I wrote My Pet Virus, once again it was the gay community that pulled the strings to get that book published.
I am forever indebted, and forever grateful.
My New Music Video, “Stay Awake My Precious Child”
August 1, 2012
One of the highlights of my summer has definitely been doing music. July was the culmination of months of work and it included two live shows, one in Charlottesville on July 5 and one in DC on July 6. While my bandmate Josh D’Elia was in town for those, we shot a music video with the aide of our good buddy, Jeremi Rimel of Miscreation Toys.
The song is called “Stay Awake My Precious Child” and the video is most certainly inspired by the 80s, the decade that gave me both my love for Depeche Mode and the Cure as well as HIV. Of all of the songs on my band’s new CD, Numb to the Numbers, this is the one I am most proud of. The lyrics are below.
Stay Awake My Precious Child
(Synthetic Division, 2012)
you won’t find your place
searching with a guilty look
so misplaced is gathered rage
an anger that’s misunderstood
sadness goes around
stays until it’s been replaced
i hold hope, you’ve let yours slide
it’s easy, here is your plan
stay awake my precious child
some may act their age
some may turn the other page
some may crack another’s book
some will earn another look
i know where you want to hide
just reach out
help is at hand
i hold hope, you let yours slide
it’s easy here is your plan
stay awake my precious child
The Joy of Music (Lots of Pics)
July 14, 2012
So the CD release shows in Charlottesville and DC couldn’t have gone better- had a really great turnout in my hometown. Having Josh in from Los Angeles (along with his lovely partner, Jenny, both of whom I’ve known and loved since high school) to do the shows and hang out for a week was wonderful. So much of this album was about celebrating survival, and I had the honor of celebrating with a lot of friendly faces last week. In the tradition of incorporating my music with my HIV education mission, Gwenn gave out ONE Condoms at both shows. (Thanks again to ONE Condoms for supplying us with free condoms!)
The trip started on the heels of some epic storms in the area. Thankfully Gwenn and I were not one of the thousands upon thousands who lost power in Virginia. But a trigger effect of the storms caused Josh and Jenny’s flight from DC to Charlottesville forced the cancellation of their 11 pm arrival into C’ville. Gwenn and I sprung into action and drove to DC to pick them up. It was kind of fun, hopping in the car in our pajamas and riding to the rescue. Plus, we had a music video shoot scheduled for Monday… but ultimately, I wasn’t going to let travel hell delay our reunion with Josh and Jenny.
Yes, our good friends and neighbors Jeremi and Nicole offered up their kitchen for the shoot. We hung white sheets on the walls and had access to decent lighting, which is key. We came up with some ideas and just had fun with the whole shoot, which took about 6 hours. We couldn’t resist striking a pose in the cool lighting, and Jenny got this shot of us, which looks like Josh and I are Earth’s only hope against an alien invasion…
After that Josh and I spent the next couple of days rehearsing our set. The shows went over very well, but I was feeling the effects of the week after they were done, too much jumping around on my bum ankle, combined with some sort of pulled muscle in my back. How could I not jump around in these socks?
As stated, the week was about celebrating survival of HIV. Hemophilia just reminded me at the end of the festivities that it has been around a lot longer in my body than HIV. A week later, and I’m feeling great- it’s hard to believe the whole thing came and went.
Huge thanks to all the musicians that shared the stage with Synthetic Division last week- Lenorable (pictured on left), Tony Lechmanski and Lauren Hoffman (middle), Miyazaki (not pictured here since this photo was from C’ville show)… big thanks to the Black Market Moto Saloon and the Velvet Lounge for hosting the shows. And also a big nod to my childhood friend, Patrick Critzer (DJ Hamdinger), who DJ’d the C’ville show. He played some Bangles- few people know that they were my first ever favorite band. My ankle was taxed after the set when he spun some dance-worthy hits from Journey, plus a little “Eye of the Tiger” and the Bee Gees….
Interview with POZIAM Radio, Shows Thursday and Friday!
July 3, 2012
I had the privilege of speaking with fellow Dab The AIDS Bear Ambassadors Robert Breining and Maria Mejia on Sunday. Check it out below:
If that embed is reading funny for ya, just got to Robert’s website here
After I spoke with Robert and Maria, I kicked back and was waiting for my friends Josh and Jenny to arrive in Charlottesville. Then a text came in from Josh that his flight from DC to Charlottlesville was delayed… then a phone call came in. Their flight was cancelled. Since Dulles Airport is less than two hours away, Gwenn and I sprang into action and drove to pick them up.
I’m thinking the delays were due to the massive power outages that hit quite a few states over the weekend.
Last year, when Josh and I played some Synthetic Division shows on the East Coast, we were literally dodging Hurricane Irene. Even though we only play a handful of gigs a year, we seem to attract natural disasters. I’m just thankful that they made their flight to DC, and that our home wasn’t one of the thousands that is without power in Virginia.
Hope this update finds everyone well and beating the heat.
—- Reminder that the Synthetic Division shows are THIS WEEK! See below—-
Don’t forget, you can pre-order the limited release Synthetic DIvision CD at: http://synthetic-division.com
CD Release Shows July 5 (C’ville) July 6 (DC)
June 18, 2012
I’m very excited about the CD release show here in Charlottesville on Thursday, July 5 at the Black Market Moto Saloon, and in DC the following night on July 6 at The Velvet Lounge. Check below for details!
Don’t forget, you can pre-order the limited release Synthetic DIvision CD at: http://synthetic-division.com There are less than 100 copies left after starting pre-orders last week. Big thanks to everyone who is checking out the new music. You can listen for free at the music site.
That’s the update on the music front. On the HIV front, I’m going to be speaking to teens tomorrow with Gwenn thanks to a Planned Parenthood event. We spoke last year about healthy relationships and HIV, and had a great time imparting some important information. I’m so thankful that our message is received with laughter and thoughtfulness. People always laugh in the appropriate places, and my proudest accomplishment as an HIV educator is making people feel comfortable enough to do that. I strongly believe the brain absorbs knowledge easier is the person hosting the brain is at ease.
Close to Me – The Cure – Synthetic Division cover/music video
June 14, 2012
Here’s the music video for our cover of The Cure’s “Close to Me”. The Cure have always been a favorite- if you enjoy them then I hope you enjoy our take on their classic tune. If you pre-order the Synthetic Division CD, you get this track and two originals as an immediate download. Synthetic-Division.com
New CD Pre-Orders (limited to 100 copies)
June 12, 2012
My new Synthetic Division album, Numb to the Numbers, is now available for pre-order on synthetic-division.com. And no, yesterday’s reveal of a lower than (you guys) expected t-cell count was not a savvy marketing plan to drum up more CD pre-order sales.
I couldn’t be happier with this album, which celebrates 25 years of HIV diagnosis. Back when I got the news at age 11, I never dreamed I would live to see the day that I am now living in- I have a wonderful partner, good health, am an uncle two times over and a Godfather. Also, around the time I was diagnosed is when I started to get heavily into music. I like to think that, if through some time travel shenanigans in the spirit of Back to the Future, that if a copy of Numb to the Numbers found it’s way into my 11-year old hands that I would have enjoyed it and not believed that some day I’d have a hand in making music myself.
I dedicated this album to Barton, who was always supportive of my artistic adventures and lended visual beauty to two of my previous albums. Big thanks to my partners on this release, Josh D’Elia and Alan Siegler. Wouldn’t have been possible without these guys.
There are 3 songs available for listen on the site, including “Close to Me”, a cover of The Cure’s hit song. Hope you take a moment to check it out and that life is treating you well today.
Labtest Contest VII: Numb to the Numbers!
June 5, 2012
It’s that time again- time to guess my t-cell count for the chance to win a fabulous prize! So what is the prize this time around? Well, it’s something I’ve been working very hard on this year- it’s the new Synthetic Division album, Numb to the Numbers! I’m celebrating 25 years of being diagnosed with HIV. It’s about being thankful for being here and enjoying my fourth decade (end of 80s, entire 90s and 00s, and now the ’10s) with my pet virus. The CD is officially out on July 5, and we’ll be playing a CD Release Show is Charlottesville followed by another show in DC on Friday, July 6 at the Velvet Lounge.
On Monday I’ll announce the winner of this contest and also post information on how to pre-order the CD for anyone else who is interested. Here’s the album’s cover art, created by bandmate Josh D’Elia.
So take a guess for a chance to win! Post your guess on my Poz blog- see the official rules below. Good luck!
CURRENT CHAMPION: Bob Geise (guess: 595 actual count: 590)
March-July 2010: Charles Oliff (guess: 567 actual count: 565)
July-December 2010: Aimee Lee (guess: 516 actual: 511)
December 2010- March 2011: “Satan” (guess: 666 actual: 662)
March-July 2011: Sharon Paul (guess: 520 actual: 508)
August-January 2012: Justin Starkenburg (guess: 570 actual count: 579)
1. You have to post your guess (between 400 and 700 t-cells) on my Poz blog Comments section
2. Relatives are allowed to guess!
3. Closest guess wins- no Price is Right logic applies.
4. One vote/guess per person.
5. Deadline is Sunday, June 10, 2012 11:59 pm EST