song obsession friday! (for the week ending July 31)–last one

July 31st, 2009

Song obsessions are those songs that we listen to on repeat. I noticed that my obsessions are often a week long. I also thought that other people might have similar obsessions. I’ve collected a panel of a few like-minded individuals and gotten their “song obsessions of the week.” Quite often it’s easy to explain why the song is good; it’s much hard to explain why we’re obsessed. Maybe you’ll become obsessed with one of these.

Adrian (me):
John Vanderslice – Dead Slate Pacific (mp3) (buy)

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I’ve had various versions of this song running through my head for the last week. I’m not sure what has kept it stuck in my head–the Pacific isn’t even the ocean I’m flying over in a few days–other than it is a gorgeous song.

Keith:
A Girl Called Eddy – The Long Goodbye (mp3) (buy)

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For my money no female singer in recent memory does pain, longing and regret like Erin Moran of A Girl Called Eddy. We’ll miss you Adrian!

Yup, this blog is going on hold very shortly, so this will be the last song obsession post.

how-to guide to concert photography

July 31st, 2009

A while ago I asked my friend Natalie if she’d help me put together a guide to concert photography. We each shoot scores of shows a year and have talked a lot about the various issues with concert photography many times before, so it made sense to me to put together a how-to guide together.

Overview

Concert photography, particularly that in small clubs, is its own beast. It shares some things in common with other types of photography, but it has its own concerns and problems.

Neither Natalie or Adrian claim to be the best concert photographer, but we’ve shot a few hundred shows between us and we’d like to share what we’ve learned.

Despite all the recommendations below, the best thing to do is to shoot a lot. Go to shows, bring your camera and just experiment and figure out works for you.

Equipment

The overwhelming limitation to concert photography is how dark most of the clubs and events are. This drives a lot of equipment choices.

Point and Shoot vs. film SLR vs DSLR

Point and Shoot
Point and Shoot cameras tend to have very small image sensors. In terms of concert photography, this translates into lots of noise at high ISO speeds (which are necessary for shooting in low-light situations). A little bit of noise is acceptable in an image; however, the amount of noise created by Natalie’s Canon SD1000 at ISO 800 and 1600 makes the photos essentially useless. In addition, most point and shoot cameras only allow for minimum (if any) control of shutter speed and aperture settings, which gets very frustrating very quickly. Another frustrating feature is the lag between pushing the shutter button and actually triggering the shutter – not great when trying to shoot a moving subject with a small depth of field.

Point and shoot cameras are also limited by their maximum aperture value (how big you can make the opening that lets light onto the sensor; to make this confusing, the smaller the aperture number, the larger the opening). This is incredibly important for concert photography, as there is usually not much available light, and you want to let as much in as possible.

That being said, some people have made point and shoot cameras work for concert photography, especially cameras such as the Canon G10, which allows you full manual control and the option to shoot in RAW instead of JPEG file format. And on the plus side, these cameras are allowed at most venues without requiring any sort of photo pass.

Sigur Ros @ Copley Symphony Hall, 10/01/2008 by kudoskid0511.
(by Natalie Kardos) Sigur Ros at Copley Symphony Hall, shot with a Canon SD1000 point and shoot – noise due to the high ISO can be seen in the dark parts of the image.

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on sale soon (07.30.09 edition)–last one

July 30th, 2009

Posted every Thursday, On Sale Soon is a weekly series of the tickets going on sale that weekend.

Where to get tickets: The Independent, Great American Music Hall, Slim’s, Fillmore, Shoreline, and other Livenation venues, the Warfield. Another Planet booked venues like Greek Theatre @ Berkeley, Palace of Fine Arts, etc. Bimbo’s.

This is the last week of this series. Enjoy while you can.

On sale now/ Thursday July 30:
9/18 Sea Wolf @ Slim’s
9/26 Blowoff @ Slim’s

10/14 Great Lake Swimmers @ Great American
10/18 The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Depreciation Guild, Cymbals Eat Guitars @ Great American

On sale Friday July 31:
11/15 Playing For Change @ Palace of Fine Arts

On sale Saturday August 1:
9/3 Mos Def, Erykah Badu @ Davies Symphony Hall
9/19 Jack’s Mannequin, Placebo, The Gaslight Anthem, The Airborne Toxic Event, The Limousines @ Event Center at San Jose State University

10/17 Brother Ali, Evidence, Toki Wright, BK-One @ Slim’s

On sale Sunday August 2:
9/6 Wavves, Ganglians @ Rickshaw Stop
9/8 David Cook @ The Fillmore
9/9 GLAY @ The Fillmore
9/10 Brendan Benson @ Great American
9/12 Michael Franti @ the Fillmore
9/15 Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Fool’s Gold, Local Natives @ The Independent
9/24 Manic Street Preachers @ The Fillmore
9/25 Galactic @ The Fillmore
9/25 Fishbone, Living Colour @ the Regency Ballroom/ the Grand
9/25, 9/26 Tainted Love @ Bimbo’s
9/29 Crown City Rockers @ The Independent

10/2, 10/3, 10/4 Dark Star Orchestra @ the Fillmore
10/2 Collie Buddz and The New Kingston Band, Devin The Dude @ The Independent
10/3 Shinedown, Sick Puppies , Cavo and Adelitas Way @ The Regency Ballroom/ the Grand
10/5, 10/6 Billy Bragg @ Great American
10/6 The Cave Singers, Lightening Dust @ The Independent
10/9 A Hawk and A Hacksaw, Damon and Naomi @ the Independent
101/10 Buju Banton, The Shiloh Band and New Kidz @ The Regency Ballroom/ the Grand
10/10 Satyricon, Bleeding Through, Toxic Holocaust, ChthoniC @ Slim’s
10/10 Kyle Hollingsworth Band, Zach Gill @ The Independent
10/16 Wax Tailor @ Slim’s
10/17 Monsters of Folk @ Fox Theater
10/25 Gossip @ The Regency Ballroom/ the Grand
10/31 Swingin’ Utters, Throw Rag, Thee Merry Widows @ Slim’s

11/3 Atlas Sound, Broadcast @ Great American
11/5 Hanson, Hellogoodbye @ The Regency Ballroom/ the Grand
11/10 Over the Rhine @ Great American
11/30 The Vic Chesnutt Band @ Great American

Double check all information as venues and promoters often change on-sale times and days up until the last minute.

how to write a music blog

July 29th, 2009

I have some strong opinions on how to write and run a music blog. I thought I’d share some of my recommendations on that. If you don’t feel like reading my opinions about this, tune in tomorrow for a different post entirely. I realize I’m not the right person to tell you how to start a music blog that’ll get huge but I have a decent readership and more importantly, I think what I’ve done here is good.

Originally, this was going to be a rant called What’s Wrong with the Music Blogosphere, but I thought I’d turn it into something a little more positive. If you’re interested in the technical aspects of how to run a music blog, I’m sure they’re covered elsewhere.

  1. Create original content
    This is the most important thing here. What sets your blog apart if all you do is post mp3s that other people are posting with the same promo photo that everyone else is posting? Write interesting things about the music you like or shows you see. Take and post your own photos. Make original videos or post mp3s of exclusive sessions with bands. Do interesting interviews with bands. There are so many different ways you can create original content. Be, well, original.
  2. Don’t do it for money or page views
    You’re not going to become rich or famous starting a music blog in all likelihood. You might make some pocket change from advertising or you might choose to do without ads, but the point is you should have a blog because you love music and want to share it. If you find yourself changing your blog just for the hits or posting something just because you think it’ll bring page views, reconsider.

    I think it’s okay to want more readers, but the way you get new readers and the way you get page views are different.

  3. Respect artists
    We all do this because we love music and want to promote great artists, right? Posting full albums doesn’t help an artist. Posting without linking to where someone can buy the record or failing to inform readers of an upcoming live date when you post mp3s doesn’t hep the artist. And if an artist asks you to take down an mp3, do it politely.
  4. Write the blog you want to read
    Don’t write the blog you think people want to read. Besides a few comments here and there, you probably won’t get a good idea of what most of your readers want to read, so just write what you think is good. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever listen to constructive criticism, just that you shouldn’t tailor your blog to something you think people want.
  5. Have a singular vision
    I really think the biggest benefit of music blogs, besides being able to point readers directly to music (as mp3 or video), is that they can have a singular vision: a consistent opinion or taste. After reading a blog for a while, I’ll get to know what the writer’s taste is and how much trust I put in their opinion. For example, I know I should at least consider any band Frank at Chromewaves highlights. Does this mean I think you shouldn’t have co-writers? Not necessarily as it is possible for people to have similar enough tastes that the site still has a consistent taste, but few multi-writer sites achieve a singular vision. HearYa is one of the better ones at having multiple writers while having a consistent taste.
  6. Know what you’re talking about
    No one is immune from mistakes and no one can known every band, but nothing makes me want to read a blog less than obvious factual mistakes or a gross lack of knowledge of bands.
  7. Share news in limited quantities
    This is a tricky one and I know some people disagree with me on this, but I really think you can assume every music fan reads Pitchfork news, Brooklyn Vegan or Stereogum, so they know when Band Goes on Tour! or Band Reveals Album Art! Of course there are times when news is appropriate. That artist you love is doing a house concert in your area, tickets will sell out quickly and you haven’t anything about it elsewhere? Go for it. An alternative to posting a list of tour dates is to use the tour stop in your town to do a feature about the artist where you write about why they’re good.
  8. Make your blog’s presence multi-faceted
    Promote live shows with bands you support, have bands into the studio, or have a radio show or podcast. I just think it’s more interesting than a straight-up mp3 blog.
  9. Find your niche
    Whether it be a region or a genre or whatever, I think blogs with a more specific focus tend to be more interesting and have a more loyal readership. What could be a more narrow focus than digitized cassettes from one continent? But Awesome Tapes from Africa is incredible.
  10. Ask for what you want
    There’s no point in wondering why another blogger got a press pass to an event or an interview with an artist if you didn’t even bother to ask for it. Do you want to do an exclusive session with a band? Ask for it. You might get rejected, but it’s worth a try.
  11. Be mindful of hyperbole, but be enthusiastic
    Blogger hyperbole is almost a cliche at this point, so be weary of saying everything is the best ever. At the same time, no one wants to read emotionless chatter. Every time I hear someone talk about I am Fuel, You Are Friends, they say they love how enthusiastic Heather is in her writing.
  12. There’s nothing wrong with criticism, but don’t spend all your time doing it
    I really think there’s value to honest criticism. If all you’re saying is that everything is incredible then the value of your praise becomes diminished. On the other hand, if all you’re doing is criticizing, you may come across as ornery or overly snarky.
  13. What’s with all the redesigns?
    Especially in an era where a lot of people read their blogs in RSS readers, if your site is readable and fairly easy to navigate, there’s no reason to redesign it every six months. Spend your time creating content instead.
  14. Figure out what to do when you get burnt out.
    If you post all the time, you’re probably going to get burnt out. Figuring out what works for you when you get burnt out is important. I tend to shift focus a bit, talking about types of music I like but don’t blog about a lot. For you it might be going through some old favorites or reviewing some out-there concert or who knows.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know why in the comments.

soul gospel 8 (plus two bonus tracks)

July 28th, 2009

If you listened to my radio show you almost definitely heard me play soul and you probably heard me play some soul gospel. There’s so compelling about some of it–fervor mixed with hard soul. I’ve pulled out some my favorites to share here.

Soul Gospel 8:

  • Shirley Ann Lee – There’s a Light (mp3) (buy)

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    This one is so simple: guitar, steady rim hits and voice, but it also succeeds by making all those work together so well. Her voice has so much depth to it.

  • The Wright Specials – Ninety-Nine and a Half Won’t Do (mp3) (buy)

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    Who doesn’t love a real rouser? This is an soul song that’s been done by everyone from Diana Ross to Wilson Pickett to Creedence Clearwater Revival, but there’s something about the energy in this one.

  • Sam Cooke – Were You There (mp3) (buy)

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    I had to include a song that brought soul from the church context to the secular. “Touch the Hem of His Garment” is amazing, but this version of the traditional song can’t be missed. Sam’s voice is top notch here but so are the backup vocals.

  • Trevor Dandy – Is There Any Love (mp3) (buy)

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    I think repetitive songs are just fine if what is repeating is completely awesome. I love the beat and the vocals and apparently so does Kid Cudi.

  • Aretha Franklin – People Get Ready (mp3) (buy)

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    There are so many good versions of People Get Ready. I love the original by Curtis Mayfield/ the Impressions and the live version by the Chamber Brothers is great too, but between the sweet production and Aretha’s unsurpassed voice on this one, I had to pick it.

  • Rev. Columbus Mann – They Shall Be Mine (mp3) (buy)

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    Motown (often on their sub-labels) actually put out some gospel, including the Wright Specials track above and this one. This one is very straightforward, but it’s just a really good example of this style.

  • Gospel Supremes – Sinner Man (mp3) (buy)

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    From the first notes of this song, I feel like it’s running away and all I can do is hold on. There’s something untamed and uncontrolled about it.

  • Universal Jubileers – Childhood Days (mp3) (buy)

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    This is a great soul funk song with some sweet pop sensibilities that happens to be about Jesus. The music definitely reminds me of another song, but the vocals are all original.

Bonus: pre-soul gems:

  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Didn’t It Rain (mp3) (buy)

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    I feel like no discussion of soul gospel would be complete without bringing up Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who mixes blues, driving guitar and distinctive vocals with gospel songs.

  • Rev. Sister Mary Nelson – Judgement (mp3) (buy)

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    This is a pretty old gospel recording but you can definitely hear some stylistic elements that carry over into the soul gospel tunes above.

If you want to hear more and better selections of music like this, hope Deep Fried and Sanctified comes back on the air at KZSU.

bay bridged benefit show (or, the whale; french miami) and dorkfest (heavenly states, french miami, railcars) this week

July 26th, 2009


Or, the Whale @ Cafe du Nord during Noise Pop 2008

This week there are a couple cool events with lots of good local bands.

Friday hols Regional Bias, the Bay Bridged’s benefit show, in store for us. Two bands that I always enjoy live are playing: French Miami and Or, the Whale. I’ve seen both of these bands in recent weeks (and many times in the past) and they both put on excellent shows. John Vanderslice is also DJing. Tickets are $15-$30 if you buy now, or $20-$30 at the show.

(Incidentally, Or, the Whale have a new album coming out in September and they have three of the new songs streaming on their myspace page. Also this video/ mp3 session by Luxury Wafers is worth checking out. )

Or, the Whale – Prayer for the Road (live) (mp3, Luxury Wafer session)

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7/31 French Miami; Or, the Whale @ Verdi Club, 7:30pm, $15-$30, 21+

french miami
French Miami @ SxSW

On Saturday you can go to Dork Fest at Cafe du Nord. Though I thoroughly disagree with the premise of the event (“Looking out across the cultural landscape of San Francisco there appears a disheartening absence.”) I still think it’ll be a good show. French Miami are also performing at this show, along with the Heavenly States and Railcars who I’ve been meaning to see–I’m intrigued by their experimental rock.

8/1 the Heavenly States, French Miami, Railcars @ Cafe du Nord, 7:30pm, $12, 21+

song obsession friday! (for the week ending july 23)

July 24th, 2009

Song obsessions are those songs that we listen to on repeat. I noticed that my obsessions are often a week long. I also thought that other people might have similar obsessions. I’ve collected a panel of a few like-minded individuals and gotten their “song obsessions of the week.” Quite often it’s easy to explain why the song is good; it’s much hard to explain why we’re obsessed. Maybe you’ll become obsessed with one of these.

Adrian (me):
Bookmiller Shannon – Buffalo Gals (mp3) (buy)

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My head is so skittish with all the things related to my upcoming move going through it that nothing stays in it very long. But the other side to the move is finally ripping a lot of stuff I’d let fall by the wayside, including this excellent (really truly excellent, not just some blogger hyperbole) volume of the Alan Lomax Southern Journey series. I was listening through it the other day and this 57 second gem of a banjo track really stuck out. It’s so compelling in its combination of frantic playing and beautiful melody.

Keith:
Lilofee – Lock & Key (mp3) (free with purchase @ insound)

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Well if you enjoy electro-pop songs with narrators that overtly taunt the listener we’ve got a discovery here. I especially enjoy how the singer layers on a few extra unsettling details after the “watcha gonna do?” line, yet leaves the eventual conclusion of the scenario to our imagination. Considering the balance of the lyrics are a dissertation on the sexual mores of today’s youth I have a feeling plenty of research was done before positing their findings in song form.

Dave:
Chad Vangaalen – Clinically Dead (mp3) (buy)

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It’s catchy. I mean, it starts off with a great hook and a nice beat. The chorus is the kicker though, I love the fuzzed out keys (or whatever it is). It’s also short, which always adds to obsessibility(sp?).

on sale soon (07.23.09 edition)

July 23rd, 2009

Posted every Thursday, On Sale Soon is a weekly series of the tickets going on sale that weekend.

Where to get tickets: The Independent, Great American Music Hall, Slim’s, Fillmore, Shoreline, and other Livenation venues, the Warfield. Another Planet booked venues like Greek Theatre @ Berkeley, Palace of Fine Arts, etc. Bimbo’s.

On sale now/ Thursday July 23:
8/13 Slowfinger, Orchid, Nylon Heart Attack @ Slim’s
8/17 Dickey Betts & Great Southern @ Slim’s
8/28 Hammers of Misfortune, Ludicra, Amber Asylum @ Great American

On sale Friday July 24:
10/29 Joshua Radin @ Great American

11/9 The Raveonettes @ Bimbo’s

On sale Sunday July 26:
8/17 Third Eye Blind @ Fox Theater
8/28 Marilyn Manson @ The Warfield

9/3 Brave Combo, The Pine Box Boys @ Slim’s
9/4 Mew @ The Independent
9/9 Cass McCombs, The Papercuts, Girls @ Great American
9/16 Arctic Monkeys @ Fox Theater
9/17 Phoenix, The Soft Pack @ The Warfield
9/18 Method of Defiance @ the Regency Ballroom/ the Grand
9/23 Dance Gavin Dance, Emarosa, Of Mice & Men, Tides of Man @ Slim’s
9/23 Revolting Cocks @ The Fillmore
9/24 OM, Lichens @ The Independent
9/24 The B-52s @ The Regency Ballroom/ the Grand
9/25 Billy Talent, AM Taxi @ Slim’s
9/25 Kid Koala, Adira @ The Independent
9/27 Blitzen Trapper @ The Independent

10/11 Dolores O’Riordan, Jeremy Lister @ Great American
10/15, 10/16 The David Bromberg Big Band @ Great American
10/17 Why?, Mount Eerie, Au, Serengetti & Polyphonic @ Great American
10/22 Echo & The Bunnymen @ Fox Theater

1/30/10 Nile @ Slim’s

Double check all information as venues and promoters often change on-sale times and days up until the last minute.

vintage song obsession: bizet – the march of toreadors (1990-1991)

July 21st, 2009

My dad only listens to classical music. And even Stravinsky or Ives are too modern for him. He likes the old stuff. So I got a fair dose of classical music growing up.

At some point when I was in elementary I heard the March of the Toreadors from the Carmen Suite and I wanted to hear it again. The next Sunday, when WQED had an all-request program, I requested it. My dad sat by the radio all afternoon–knowing him he probably didn’t even go to the bathroom–until it came on and he taped it for me.

I listened to that tape a lot.

Cincinnati Pops Orchestra – Bizet: Carmen Suite 1: The Toreadors (mp3)

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This is the first song I can remember being obsessed with.

You can buy the track at amazon.

lost vinyl gem: david bazan “the poison makes”

July 21st, 2009

david bazan David Bazan by Adrian Bischoff

I don’t think I was the only Pedro the Lion fan that was a bit disappointed with Achilles Heel. There are some good songs on it (“Start Without Me” for instance), but it just didn’t seem to fit together right to me.

And then there was the problem with “The Posion”. The album version is fine, but it’s just a song. On the otherhand, I’d heard the 7″ version that Bazan had put out on Ben Gibbard’s Bedside Recordings label. To make a bold claim, that version was not just a song. For a man that makes his name writing depressing songs, this may be among the best: a heart-wrenching song of a woman leaving the narrator because of his problems with alcohol.

David Bazan – the Poison Makes (mp3)

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The Bedside Recordings 7″ sold out long ago, so I don’t think it’s available anywhere, but if you know, leave a link in the comments.