Boulder-based band performs free show in Vail Valley |

Boulder-based band performs free show in Vail Valley

Caramie Schnell
Vail Valley, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyVail Valley music: The band Salem will perform a free show at Finnegan's Wake in Avon Saturday night.

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Boulder-based band Salem, who playsi n the Vail Valley Saturday, is not one to sit on its laurels. The band is led by Todd Anders Johnson, a social activist who certainly keeps busy working on projects that align with his beliefs.

The band was in Alaska in August, toured in Seattle in October and recently they’ve been recording a new album in Atlanta and working to produce Salem concerts using solar power. Johnson himself is a sponsored snowboarder so its no surprise he’s tuned into ski/snowboard events. The band has been touring with film premieres of the ski/snowboard film “Signatures” and will play at the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Copper Mountain on Dec. 12 and the VISA Snowboardcross World Cup in Telluride on Dec. 18.

Vail Daily: You’ve played a handful of shows in the Vail area over the past year. Why has the area become a staple on your touring schedule?

Todd Anders Johnson: The band lives between Nederland, Boulder and Denver. I think the mountain towns are not only great locations to visit with the access to backcountry and resorts for riding, but also to perform for the riding community that naturally congregates there.-

VD: Last time we talked you were working on a documentary on glacier recession. How is that going?

TJ: I put together a preliminary six minute video that is posted on the Risan Project Web site and YouTube from footage of glaciers in Alaska and interviews in Alaska and Colorado with climatologists and mountaineers. I have been in touch with some film producers about the long term project. The current Risan Project tour includes Salem shows and the 100 percent human-powered “Signatures” film premieres – they hiked for all of their riding. The “Generations” film is shown on our set breaks and is very similar to the theme of the Risan Project video in raising awareness about climate change and its impact on the snowsport community. Al Gore’s Climate Project is sending presenters and Olympic athletes to speak at Risan Project/Salem shows in Canada in January and we are working on similar arrangements for our February tour on the East Coast. We will be filming in Alaska in March and April on our spring tour there as well.-

VD: Activist musicians were super popular in the ’60s/’70s and seemed to be less so in the late ’80s, ’90s. You were an activist musician singing about social issues 10 years ago, at a time when most mainstream musicians weren’t. Things seemed to have cycled again. Do you agree?

TJ: I think there have been musicians composing and performing resistance songs continually, though perhaps not in the mainstream. Michael Franti, Zach with Rage and Ani DiFranco have been around for over 10 years and have definitely carved a niche for artists that are producing material that challenges the status quo. I think the campuses are awake and the protest culture is again spreading. I had been working on large concert events for Copenhagen this year and I look forward to seeing what comes of the historic conference. I am now working on producing a climate awareness concert in Washington D.C. on Feb. 28, 2010 to coincide with the kickoff of the World Forum Conference, which is looking at practical methods to attain the necessary reductions in emissions and regulations by 2020.-

VD: Are you finding more and more musicians singing about social issues close to their heart?

TJ: I think artists like Me’Shell Ndegeocello are incredibly progressive in music composition and production. I think Erica Badu has been really cutting edge with her lyrics and music as well, I really enjoy both of there. also think there still remains a strong marginalization of politicized art with its accompanied watered-down version in the mainstream.

VD: What are some issues close to your heart that you sing about?

TJ: Getting your spirit aligned with what it is that you really want to do. I think this is essential so that we can get together about things that are bigger than ourselves. Realizing inequality in access to resources globally and the consolidation of wealth and power in the hands of the few. The concept of coalition building by getting over petty differences and focussing on commonalties in our aspirations in life. The realization that we must take action on our beliefs and to look at recent history for lessons in how to accomplish grand goals of justice.

VD: You had a song featured in Warren Miller’s film “Off the Grid.” Did you have songs included any ski/snowboard films this year?

TJ: We have a-soundtrack in a newly released Japanese ski film called “End of the Line” filmed and produced by my friend Hiroyuki Yamada.-

VD: Are you working on a new album?

TJ: Yes, we began recording at Atlanta’s Treesound Studios with their label Treeleaf Music. We will be tracking further songs there soon and will be filming a live DVD in their live room in February. They have worked with Outkast, Usher, Perfect Circle, Elton John etc. and are an amazing group or people there. Paul Diaz, the owner, is now installing 24 solar panels on the roof there.-

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