Category Archives: Original Video Produced by Others

“Do the Funky Sidewalk (Snow Dragon)”

What becomes a growing legend most? How about…his own 70’s soul theme song?

Video:@BTVSnowDragon. Song composition, performance, and production: Nate Orshan (AKA Nato)

Snow Who?

@BTVSnowDragon is a made-up character who’s supposed to be one of (or all of?) the many sidewalk plows that are used to keep Burlington (Vermont) safer in winter for pedestrians. Whoever created and keeps this fun and funky character alive is still a mystery.*

The song was actually inspired by another fellow Vermonter, stalwart Twitter user @MeowVT (AKA Kitty), who posted this last summer:

It took me about a nanosecond to reply with something like, “A SONG? Did somebody say, ‘SONG’?!?”. I volunteered, and I encouraged @MeowVT to send lyrics…which, unfortunately, I then ended up not using.**

OK, and you did this…why?

You really have to follow @BTVSnowDragon to get a sense of his fun personality. The person behind Snow Dragon has done a bang-up job bringing this heretofore nonexistent character to life, and I’m sure it’s no easy feat to keep a fictional, online persona going all the time with style and consistency.

Unlike some other famous and mythical Vermont creatures, Snow Dragon is actually a very recent creation. The story is that it all started with Seven Days Digital Media Manager Tyler Machado, who wrote the following in January of 2012 in the midst of covering an interminable mayoral debate on Burlington transportation:

The next day came an unexpected yet fateful answer, a short sentence sure to join the ranks of immortal lines such as, “Watson, come here, I need you”, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”, and “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ means”:

All right, so, truth be told, that was actually Snow Dragon’s second post, as he had written his first tweet the previous day:

But apocryphal or not, Snow Dragon’s birth has been linked to Machado’s tweet, so much so that for most of last year I would have bet money on them being one and the same. I’m fairly confident that’s not the case, but the uncertainty highlights what makes Snow Dragon all the more intriguing: Nobody knows who the heck he is!***

OK, but…a soul song?

The truth is I have a sincere and abiding love of R&B from the 70s, and I’ve wanted to try creating a retro-soul song for a long time.

When I started thinking about a theme for Snow Dragon, I was quickly inspired by Isaac Hayes’ one-of-a-kind “Theme from Shaft”, and that song became a touchstone throughout the writing and production process.**** Among other things, the song gave me the opportunity to try out my best, soulful chest voice.

And what’s “The Funky Sidewalk”?

Essentially, it’s just a play on what some people would say after hearing Snow Dragon visit.

“Why’s the dog barking?”
“Oh, the plow just came by and did the sidewalk.”

But where most of the song might be an Isaac Hayes homage, the “Funky Sidewalk” bridge is a straight-up ripoff tribute to The Godfather of Soul…you know, that part of the song where he’d exhort the crowd to “Do the Mashed Potatoes”, “Do the Popcorn”, “Do the James Brown”, etc.

And here’s your chance to get in on the fun:

Send @BTVSnowDragon a video of you doing “The Funky Sidewalk”!

Snow Dragon wants to do a follow-up video showing people doing their own version of “The Funky Sidewalk”. What would that look like? Here’s a little inspiration thanks to Vermonters @RowGirl2012 and @n8zog:

I was also delighted recently to see WPTZ’s Bridget Shanahan and Tom Messner getting into the spirit of things, asking their viewers to send Snow Dragon their own “Funky Sidewalk” videos. Will they contribute a dancing video of their own?

WPTZ's Bridget Shanahan and Tom Messner talk about 'Do The Funky Sidewalk (Snow Dragon)'

So, hey, funky people near and far: Film yourself doing “The Funky Sidewalk”, then write to SNOWDRAGON {at} GMAIL.COM.

In the end, if “Do the Funky Sidewalk (Snow Dragon)” helps cement Snow Dragon’s fame as an (unofficial) mascot for our Department of Public Works or a quirky (unofficial) representative for Burlington, Vermont, then I can say we did a good job by doin’ the Funky Sidewalk.

Do the Funky Sidewalk (Snow Dragon)

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

Now the blizzard’s on and freezin’ winds blow
(Snow Dragon!)
Comes a mighty sound outside your window
(Snow Dragon!)

When the flakes begins to fly
Snow Dragon’s on your side
Don’t you wanna take a ride?

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

In the Queen City’s cold and stormy hour
(Snow Dragon!)
He pushes through for me and you with power
(Snow Dragon!)

Beams high, blades down low
Goin’ where angels fear to go
Nothin’ more he loves than snow

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!


   Do the Sidewalk
   Do the Sidewalk
   Do the Funky, Funky Sidewalk…

Clearin’ sidewalks like no one else can do now
(Snow Dragon!)
Makin’ sure you can get to work and school now
(Snow Dragon!)

With his blade so well-endowed
The Queen City’s safe for now
So give a wave to our favorite plow

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

   Snow Dragon!
   Go Dragon!
   Go, go, Snow Dragon!

…Get your plow on, Snow Dragon…

…”Beep, Beep!” means I love you in Snow Plow…*****

© Copyright 2013 Nate Orshan

* And, no, I’m not Snow Dragon. As of this posting, I still don’t know who their true identity. I think it’s someone who identifies as male…but maybe that’s just more subterfuge to throw me off the trail…

** By the time I sat down to work on the song writing, I had a pretty definite idea of the song’s melody and structure, and, try as I did, I just couldn’t fit Kitty’s lyrics into the form and meter. I did make an attempt to write a different soul tune with them, and, although her lyrics were great, the music itself just didn’t have the same oomph as the current tune. It calls into question whether I’m actually any good at adapting someone else’s lyrics, a hypothesis I should test again…

*** For the record: I’ve never met Snow Dragon and have only communicated with…him?…via email. I’m not Snow Dragon, nor do I play him on TV.

**** What? You’ve never heard it? Who’s the cat who won’t cop out when there’s danger all about?

***** “Get your plow on” and “Beep means ‘I love you’ in snow plow” are both real Snow Dragonisms, just like his snowplow smiley, “:]”.

“Let’s Go Miro”: Promoting Burlington’s Future Mayor

I would like to honor today, Kit O’Connor’s and my 13th wedding anniversary, by letting you know that none of this music would ever see the light of day if it weren’t for Kit’s vast reservoirs of patience and support. Everybody should be so lucky as to have someone like Kit by their side.

It’s been over half a year now that I came out with “Let’s Go Miro”, my song promoting Miro Weinberger’s candidacy for Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (USA):

I did it partly as a challenge to myself. I had recently come out with a goofy hip-hop video promoting an adult onesie as the consummate clubbing couture, and, having also recently supported candidate Miro Weinberger during an unusually tumultuous Democratic caucus that included a run-off vote a month after the initial vote, I felt that I was in a good position to do something that I assumed few other Burlingtonians were planning to: cough up a catchy song for my guy.

The easy part was the chorus. It was one of those classic, “comes to you while you’re in the shower” ideas, and the refrain just presented itself to me shortly after the winning caucus. After hurriedly drying off and getting dressed, I raced out into our truck, took out my phone, and recorded the following (which, since I never posted it before this week, you’re hearing it here for the first time ever):

In a sense, much of the hard work was done at this point. This is propaganda, a pop song that’s supposed to rally people around a political candidate. The most important thing is to have a singalong chorus, and I knew right away that I’d met that objective.*

The rest was harder. At that point in December, I didn’t feel there was quite enough meaty content on Mr. Weinberger’s web site from which to furnish a song. In fact, having seen him address the Democratic caucus, I thought he came off as an awkward speaker, so I didn’t want to try to set expectations for him giving rousing speeches. (Note: He got steadily better as time went on and now is a polished pro behind a mic.)

However, I knew I could get in a few points:

  • He’s a native Vermonter, which might make some inroads among voters who might otherwise like his opponent**, long-time Burlingtonian, City Council member, and all-around good guy Kurt Wright.
  • Though never having run for office –a HUGE liability, especially in a city that seems to like its Mayors to have City Council experience–, he’d worked in the offices of two Senators, so that absolutely had to make it in there.
  • He had a plan for Burlington…though the specifics of it weren’t immediately clear to me. No matter: The man had a plan!***
  • Having worked for Habitat for Humanity and, later, included affordable housing in the mix of his real estate development, he qualified as a legitimate affordable-housing candidate.
  • He had extensive negotiation experience that would be brought to bear with our creditors.

Luckily for me, a song like this doesn’t have to go too in depth into any of these points, so I was able to refer or even allude to these things in the verses which, in a sense, were just there as placeholders between the catchy choruses.

And then…the verse melody.

As you can tell from the first demo, I intended to have a mostly single-note verse that would, in theory, make the chorus seem even more exciting because of the contrast between the two. After recording the singing a few times, I had to face the fact that the verses were just plain flat and unexciting. I’d succeeded in establishing that contrast, all right, but to the detriment of the song itself. What’s more, I wasn’t liking my singing voice on the song. Again, it was just too flat-sounding.

Running out of time, and out of sheer desperation, I reverted to my touchstone: John Lennon. I’ve been a Beatles fan since before I was born (just ask my mom), and my singing style is heavily, heavily influenced by Lennon (e.g., listen to the chorus of last week’s song, “Stay in Your Spaceship”). If I couldn’t sing this song…maybe John Lennon should give it a go.

So I tried it again, threw away the verse melody, and just let John do whatever he wanted. The result: It yielded a more nasal vocal, but damn if John didn’t come up with a more exciting verse melody and response vocal (the “What you say, you say, you say you sayin’?” part in the chorus). Is it acting? Maybe. Did it work? Well, after I published the video (for which there’s a whole other story, maybe a future post), I emailed as many local and political outlets I knew, and that led to…

  • A blog post in Seven Days.
  • A post in The Vermont Daily Briefing, the long-time blog of Vermont State Senator/novelist/UVM English professor/politics writer Philip Baruth.
  • The opportunity to perform the song for a Miro for Mayor fundraiser (video).
  • A generous and well-produced piece by WPTZ’s Bridget Shanahan:

And, honor of honors, joining ace singers and dancers The Mirocialites for a final performance of the song…after the results were in at Mayor-elect Weinberger’s victory party!

It was an enormous amount of fun producing and promoting the song, and I hope it serves as an example that artists can have a impact on political campaigns. As for influencing actual governance after election day’s over, that’s another story…or song.

Maybe that should be my next little civics experiment?

Bonus #1: Bridget Shanahan’s teaser to her WPTZ piece with me playing guitar live.
Bonus #2: Video of The Mirocialites practicing “Let’s Go Miro” in their secret, ultra-high-tech studio.

Let’s Go Miro

A Green Mountain boy through and through
Worked for two US Senators and knew just what to do
Got his Master’s and he came back home
He’s got a plan to dig us out so take a look and help me shout it

Oh, oh, oh, let’s go Miro!
(What you say, you say, you say you sayin’?)
Oh, oh, oh, let’s go Miro!
(I’m votin’ for Miro, and I ain’t playin’)

He’s got mad negotiation skills
Gonna get with our creditors and sort out all our bills
Makin’ sure your taxes won’t go to waste
He loves our city, just like you, so come on down and help him do it

Oh, oh, oh, let’s go Miro!
(What you say, you say, you say you sayin’?)
Oh, oh, oh, let’s go Miro!
(I’m votin’ for Miro, and I ain’t playin’)

We’ve put up with trouble, don’t wanna defend it
We got in a muddle, it’s time that we end it
The Queen City’s ready for a brand-new day
Won’t you come and help him? Your Fresh Start is on the way

A genuine affordable housing champ
And he cares about food stamps and wheelchair ramps
He’s wicked humble with a giant heart
There’s way too much for just one song, go see

Oh, oh, oh, let’s go Miro!
(What you say, you say, you say you sayin’?))
Oh, oh, oh, let’s go Miro!
(I’m votin’ for Miro, that’s where I’m stayin’)

© Copyright 2012 Nate Orshan

* Though I regret mispronouncing my candidate’s name. As Thread Magazine informs us, “Miro” is pronounced “muh-ROW”, as in “The Island of Doctor Moreau”. My songwriter’s ear wanted it to be “mee-ROW”, and you could argue that it sounds better in a singing context, but facts is facts. If I could do it over, it’d be “muh-ROW” throughout. Apologies to Mayor Dubs!

** A third candidate, Wanda Hines, joined the race in January, long after I’d written the song. I’ve known Wanda for decades and have tons of respect for her, but, honestly, I thought –and was proven correct– that her campaign was ill-conceived and quixotic from the get-go.

*** Not to be confused with the original “Man With A Plan”, Vermont icon and senior-farmer-turned-actor-turned-actual-candidate Fred Tuttle.

“Get Along, Amazon” Live at Phoenix Books

In spite of my sordid past and shady acquaintances, Phoenix Books allowed me a couple of minutes to play “Get Along, Amazon” at their grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, June 8, 2012:

I had just put out the produced version of my, pro-Phoenix-Books song a couple of days before, so it was a thrill to be able to play the thing live for real. I can’t thank co-owners Renee Reiner and Mike DeSanto enough for letting me be part of the festivities and, even more important, for opening Burlington’s only indie, new bookstore in the first place.

I hope I made a good enough case for the store’s importance in last week’s post, so I’ll just add for anyone reading about this for the first time that you, yes you can be a part of this community-supported and community-supporting endeavor. Just visit to learn more.

Delivering remarks and cutting the ribbon? None other than Burlington’s brand-new Mayor, the Honorable Miro Weinberger:

From L to R: Phoenix Books co-owner Renee Reiner, Nato, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, Phoenix Books co-owner Mike DeSanto

From L to R: Renee Reiner, Nato, Mayor Dubs*, Mike DeSanto. Note the “Miro for Mayor” sticker on my guitar case.

Thanks and hugs to Rich Nadworny for being such a strong supporter of local Vermont business, not to mention for filming the video in the first place as well as taking the pic! His digital branding efforts are starting to become the stuff of legend.

* “Mayor Dubs”?!? OK, so maybe I’m the only person in #BTV who says that. But let’s face it, the name “Mayor Weinberger” is intimidatingly multisyllabic, and “Mayor Miro”, while alliterative, is completely inappropriate. But “Mayor Dubs”? OK…also inappropriate…but flows nicely. Calls to mind those old “VDub” ads for Volkswagen with Peter Stormare or even, more au courant, dubstep. I’ll keep using “Mayor Dubs” until his lawyers inform me otherwise…