- The Washington Times - Friday, July 3, 2009

Staind rose to international prominence in 2001, when “Break the Cycle” topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Propelled by the hit single “It’s Been Awhile,” the album introduced Staind’s melodic approach to melancholy, a sound that relied heavily on Aaron Lewis’ self-flagellating lyrics and Mike Mushok’s guitar arpeggios.

“Break the Cycle” wasn’t Staind’s first album, but it did mark the beginning of the band’s heyday. Eight years later, the group continues to wield power in the modern rock market, having sold more than 12 million albums worldwide. Part of the explanation for that endurance is the band’s willingness to grow, which is demonstrated on its chipper sixth release, “The Illusion of Progress.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Mushok yields most of the credit to Staind’s die-hard fan base. “We’re fortunate to be doing this for 10 years,” he stresses. “It’s not an easy thing to maintain, and we’re very happy to have our fans. That’s the reason we’re doing the Stimulate This tour. We’re trying to give something back.”

Launched on Wednesday, Stimulate This is a unique package tour that pairs Staind with several like-minded bands. Shinedown, Halestorm and Chevelle are all part of the musical caravan, which will visit more than 20 cities in two months. The music will sound familiar to most modern rock fans, although the show’s price tag carries a welcome twist.

“We thought it would be a good idea to put together a solid lineup and charge less than $40,” the guitarist says. “We decided to get involved. In this economy, people should have the chance to go out and enjoy themselves.”

Staind partnered with managers and concert promoters to turn Stimulate This into a smart, financially feasible event. A tiered pricing scheme allowed some seats to be priced as low as $10, while partnerships with local vendors ensured that concertgoers would be able to save money after the concert as well. Bars, restaurants and local shops all chipped in, offering discounts in conjunction with a Stimulate This ticket stub.

“It’s not just a ticket,” Mr. Mushok notes, detailing some of the local promotions in each city. “We’re getting vendors to help out and offer different incentives in different areas.”

Although America’s concert attendance has remained stable in spite of slumping album sales, tours such as Stimulate This may become more prominent in the coming months. Such tours emphasize the entire concert experience by bundling music, food and drinks into the same package. They also encourage patrons to watch multiple bands, emphasizing the importance of opening acts as well as traditional headliners.

For the four musicians in Staind, however, Stimulate This is chiefly a gift to the band’s fans, a token of appreciation for 10 years of support.

“Wall Street got its bailout,” reads a statement on the band’s Web site. “Now it’s time for you to get yours.”

• Staind, Shinedown, Chevelle and Halestorm will bring the Stimulate This tour to the Merriweather Post Pavilion on Thursday. The show lasts from 6 to 11 p.m., and tickets start at $10.

Pitchfork 2009

Music magazines have lost ground in recent years, as readers increasingly bypass the newsstand in favor of the Internet. Meanwhile, Web sites and blogs have managed to secure a growing audience, drawing new fans with the promise of free content and swift updates. Music fans have grown accustomed to obtaining music for free, thus fueling their desire for quality criticism with a similar price tag.

Pitchfork has emerged as one of the premier voices in online music criticism. Labels cite the Web site’s reviews in promotional materials, and albums often bear a quote from Pitchfork’s critics. It is hard to secure an extremely favorable review from Pitchfork.com, thus making the site’s stamp of approval all the more valuable.

To get an idea of Pitchfork’s sensibility, look no further than the site’s popular music festival. Launched in 2006, the annual event draws upward of 40,000 visitors to Chicago’s Union Park. The lineups often reflect the site’s discerning taste, mixing critically acclaimed headliners with a wide range of indie bands, dance acts, jazz musicians and experimental performances.

The 2009 Pitchfork Music Festival will launch on July 17 and run throughout the weekend, closing on July 19 with a concluding set by the Flaming Lips. Other acts include Built to Spill, Yo La Tengo, the National, Beirut, Grizzly Bear, M83 and the Walkmen.

Single-day passes to the festival are just $35, while admission to the three-day event is $75. Unlike other festivals profiled in Riffs, Pitchfork does not permit on-site camping.

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