different giant, soulless, out-of-town company now runs the Warfield; but, hey, competition

September 13th, 2008

Mercury News alerted me to the fact that different people are booking the Warfield these days. It used to be booked by Livenation (formerly Clear Channel Entertainment, formerly Bill Graham Presents) but now it’s booked by Anschutz Entertainment Group-owned Goldenvoice, also out of Southern California. They’re perhaps best known for booking Coachella.

How did they get the Warfield? (From the Mercury News:)

Goldenvoice also has the advantage of some very deep pockets. The company, which began promoting punk shows in L.A. 20 years ago, is now owned by AEG, billionaire Philip Anschutz’s corporate behemoth whose interests range from owning the Staples Center and the Los Angeles Kings to producing Celine Dion’s residency in Vegas.

It was Anschutz’s purchase of the San Francisco Examiner in 2004 that enabled Goldenvoice to get a toehold in the market. The Examiner deal included the Warfield property, so when the lease came up, Live Nation was out and Goldenvoice was in.

From the article, I see that the Warfield was shut down for renovations but the changes (“The sound board has been moved downstairs…The locations of two bars have been shifted slightly, and the whole place has been spruced up with new paint and carpet.”) seem pretty minor. Given how much I disliked the venue before, I don’t think those will entice me back.

On the other hand, I think this is an interesting development in the local scene. While I wish everything was booked by small DIY promoters with inexpensive shows it’d a good thing that LiveNation doesn’t have such a stranglehold on the medium-to-large size rooms in the City. In that size range, Another Planet Entertainment (run by ex-Bill Graham Presents people) books occasional shows at the Grand Ballroom (at which Goldenvoice has been setting up shows too), Palace of Fine Arts, and Paramount Theater in Oakland, LiveNation had the Fillmore, Warfield and Mountain Winery completely under their control in addition to booking some shows at the Palace of Fine Arts, etc. So as much as I want small, independent and/ or local promoters to be booking the cities venues[1], at least there’s some competition in that size range at this point.

If you’re curious as to who they’re booking, Goldenvoice lists all of the Warfield shows.

[1] I should note that a lot of the bookers are local and independent in the small club range: Great American, Slim’s, Bimbo’s, Bottom of the Hill, Cafe du Nord, and Swedish American.

on uniquely voiced indie rockers and the perception of authenticity

September 10th, 2008

Everyone’s favorite film lecturer/ Southern folk artist, Sam Beam; promo photo by Emily Wilson

Indie rock (in the broadest of senses) lives and dies on credibility, so much so that ‘indie cred’ is a common phrase. Sure image helps and gimmicks help and music/ songwriting ability may also help, but cred is very important. People still cry sell out if artists appear to be cashing in on their music. Subtler still are fans turning away when artists grasp at music that may not lend itself to credibility.

And yet, indie rockers often take on genres they are not intimately familiar with or don’t have some born right to play. That is, they lack immediate credibility. Beirut takes on Balkan brass music. Iron & Wine (or Will Oldham’s or…) takes on Southern/ Appalachian folk.

Even when indie rockers are not taking on other genres, they are often tackling music that is, in some way, new to the listener. Sufjan’s epic folk, Joanna Newsome’s weird harp screeching, Andrew Bird’s experimental, looped violin pop and Neutral Milk Hotel’s emotive fuzz pop are all examples.

What do these artists have in common? Unique voices. And none of them lack credibility[1]. A significant audience wholeheartedly buys into what they’re doing.

The unique voices lead to the listener to view these artists with more authenticity than otherwise. If they not going to sing “normal” then they must mean it, the listener thinks.

I’m not sure this is a conscious thought on the artists part. Perhaps they just want to differentiate themselves from other artists or that’s the voice they’ve always sung with.

Palace Brothers – I am a Cinematographer (mp3)

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[1] While there is some skepticism of Beirut’s authenticity, the critical majority seems to not have taken notice.

open source stompbox is very cool, expensive

August 27th, 2008

product image from openstomp.com

Open source hits music geekdom! A guy by the name of Eric Moyer has developed a digital effects pedal, the OpenStomp Coyote-1, that has open source software and documented hardware. Users can make their own patches or combine patches into effects or just download effects others made.

I think this is a really cool idea and it would be cool if more things like this were developed. There are a couple drawbacks: 1) The price tag of $350 is understandable for a small-run production like this is, but it’s a big barrier to entry. 2) As with any open source project, the value of it can depend highly on the quality of the community writing for it. Given the price tag, I would be afraid that the number of people in that community could be too small to make this project great.

The Coyote-1 is available for order now.

soft drugs to release Get Back on Chasing Lions, get Side A free now (or in super limited edition)

August 3rd, 2008

the Soft Drugs (myspace), the current project of TW Walsh, formerly of Pedro the Lion and his own solo projects, are set to release their forthcoming album, Get Back, on the latest in the line of blog-labels[1] Chasing Lions (formerly puddlegum, which, yes, did proceed the other ‘gum.) You know I love me some Soft Drugs, so this comes as some exciting news.

So you’ll have to wait till the fall for Get Back, but you can get Side A for free right now. You can also order it as a super limited-run CD.

“Borrow My Vibe” kind of snuck up on me. It starts with some noodling guitar and goes into a straight ahead rock thing. It lulled me into submission and then the chorus hit. I tell you what, there are some sweet sweet harmonies there.

the Soft Drugs – Borrow My Vibe (mp3)

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Also, a quick reminder that you can get the Soft Drugs’ 2006 EP In Moderation for free as well. Just point your internet right here.

[1] See also Catbirdseat and Aquarium Drunkard’s Autumn Tone.

links links links (and a couple videos)

July 22nd, 2008

Daytrotter posted their Bon Iver session yesterday. The version of “Lump Sum” is magnificent. “Flume” and “Re: Stacks” are really good. And I’m going to pretend that version of “Creature Fear” doesn’t exist.

Gorilla vs Bear posted one of my more favorite hip hop tracks in a while: “The Prayer” by Cleveland-based Kid Cudi. It’s off of a mixtape and the sample he raps over is from those sometimes Walmart-loving Seattlites Band of Horses.

In case you missed it, John Vanderslice posted a teaser video of recording from his next album a couple weeks ago:

The Bay Bridged announced the Rock Make Music and Craft Street Festival they’re organizing with Whizbang Fabrics and Best Bay Area indie band Tartufi. The same day as the last day of Outside Lands, this will be DIY where that is corporate and free where that is really expensive.

Anyone’s Guess posted this really funny video called “Everyday Normal Guy Rap Song”. Watch out! Explicit lyrics! (Audio NSFW.) It’s got some pretty quotable lines: “I’m pretty good at making spaghetti sauce, motherfucker!”

Did you know there was such a thing as the Bay Area Indie Festival? Hard Rock Chick pointed to an SF Weekly article that accuses the promoter, 3 Udders, for being a disservice to the local scene for still not having paid bands from last year’s festival. The promoter says the article is not fair, but admits that he hasn’t paid bands. I don’t know, I think if you’re not paying bands then you’re not exactly helping things. (Also, I find it funny that he accuses the writer of having “very little knowledge about how the music industry works” and then complains that the SF Weekly ran the article while he dilly-dallied on getting them more info. Here’s how the print publication industry works: deadlines.) The promoter also cites this rebuttal if you want a different biased opinion.

Slate has an interesting piece about Jay-Z weaponizing Oasis’ “Wonderwall” when he covered it at Glastonbury (which was a response to the fracas that ensued when Noam Gallagher said that Glastonbury was for guitar-based music.) It also dives into all the subtle and not-so-subtle things people are saying with cross-genre covers. Is Ben Gibbard being serious, like he says, when he covers Avril Lavine’s “Complicated”? Read on.

subpop joins the club and sells nostalgia

July 7th, 2008

A number of music bloggers are excited about the Subpop Singles Club 3.0. For $75 you get a year of a single a month and to be a part of “history”. The first two versions of the Singles Clubs put out a number of noteworthy and, now, valuable singles.

In the past few years, we’ve seen reunions of the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, the Police, the Verse, My Bloody Valentine and others. There are bands that swore they’d never play again and here they are, playing again. Why did they get back together? Perhaps the members matured or made-up or were itching to play together again, but they also saw that while they weren’t active, their names and reputations increased, in many cases, well beyond what they were when they were active. They could reunite and tour bigger rooms with higher guarantees than when they were an active band.

They’d get paid those sums because people are willing to put up the money to buy into that nostalgia–to see what they missed the first time around or to relive their younger days. And these bands are happy to sell it.

Sebadoh, honestly, wasn’t that good during their reunion last year when I saw them at Noise Pop but the show sold out quickly. People didn’t buy tickets after they heard Sebadoh was good or because they heard the most recent album was good or, really, any of the reasons buy tickets to a current band’s show. People are buying tickets to a name and a brand.[1]

Similarly, it seems like Subpop is selling the Singles Club brand here. How many of these bands do you know: Om, Unnatural Helpers, Tyvek, Black Mountain, Black Lips, Arthur & Yu, Mika Miko, Blues Control, Notwist? How many do you like? I know about half and love the Notwist. They’re selling these for $6.25 each (though, like a cell phone, you’re locked in with subscription, so you can’t just buy the ones you want). I go to Aquarius and buy 7″s that I know are good for $5 each.

I’m not saying that this version of the Single Club won’t put out anything noteworthy–after all, it has a pretty good track record so far–I’m just raising the point that Subpop is selling nostalgia in the same way reunited bands are.

[1] The “Beach Boys” current line up has fewer Beach Boys in it than “Brian Wilson” does but who do you think sells tickets faster?

mini reviews of 6 albums you can stream now

June 12th, 2008

It really seems like there’s a ridiculous amount of music out there for people to listen to these days. Perhaps the shift to this new business model people are talking about is well underway?

  • Adele 19 (stream it here) Some good songs, a good voice and a nice overall sound but not as engaging as I wanted it to be.
  • My Morning Jacket Evil Urges (stream it here) I don’t like classic rock.
  • Beach Boys U.S. Singles Collection (stream it here) Some of the ol’ favorites on here but there’s also some really goofy gems and some so-so filler on here.
  • James Hunter the Hard Way (stream it here) I love this guy and I love this album. I really recommend it if you’re into soul, the early R&B sound or oldies at all.
  • the Hold Steady Stay Positive (stream it here) Hold Steady has always taken me a while to get into, mostly because the lyrics are what does it for me and I don’t find their music terribly enthralling overall. That said, I’m not sure if this album will grab me on later listens or not.
  • Sigur Ros með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (stream it here) I liked it from the get-go!

I’m from Barcelona @ the Independent, photos, review

May 1st, 2008

Last night I saw the Swedish over-the-top top behemoth I’m from Barcelona (myspace) at the Independent.

name this chord

I’m from Barcelona is a giant band–a collective, I think you could call it–consisting of upwards of 29 people at times. I didn’t how many filed onto the medium-sized Independent stage but I could believe it was 29. The stage was packed. Guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, saxophone, clarinet and a variety of other instruments were scattered around. There were perhaps a half a dozen or more people just singing/ dancing/ playing miscellaneous instruments.

There set started out with my favorite of theirs, “Treehouse”. The stage was alive. Balloons and confetti were flying. Elaborate choreographed hand movements were in action. Within seconds the crowd seemed to go from staid to joyous, from subdued to exuberant.

The show continued in this vein for its entirety. Some songs clicked better than others (“Oversleeping”, “We’re from Barcelona” and “Jenny” stick out), but the band–and quite-possibly-extroverted front man Emanuel Lundgren–kept the energy up and the crowd hopping, singing along, hitting balloons, and throwing confetti.

The comparisons to another large and happy choral band seem obvious. I’ve walked out of PS with an insatiable feeling that I’d been somehow drugged by joy, a feeling I couldn’t shake for days. I’m from Barcelona’s show was great, a lot of fun and a joyous experience but–perhaps I’m old and jaded–but didn’t quite leave me with the same feeling. I’d still recommend catching them live if you have a chance.

You can check out more photos after the jump or view my entire photo album online.

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melodyne direct note access possibly spells the further degredation of musicianship in music, is definitely awesome

April 26th, 2008

Here’s a rather long (7+ minutes) but impressive demonstration of the Direct Note Access technology by Melodyne.

It’s like pitch correction, which is a common place tool in digital recording these days, but instead of only being able to correct and change single notes, it can change any note in a song, whether it’s by itself, in a chord, or in an arpeggio. Technology-wise it’s pretty impressive.

I heard many stories from friends of friends about pitch correction’s overuse these days–singer having each note corrected a 1/4 tone and things like that. It really points to a degradation in talent among “musicians” this days.

Obviously my concern with a system that allows access to each note is a substantially bigger degradation of musicianship. If musicians no longer need to be able to play anything, then what are they there for? To look cool and strut on stage?

On the other side of the coin, though, is this: someone’s going to have to have some sense of musicality. Records don’t just get made by computers (…yet). If the musicians don’t have it, then it may end up being the engineers and producers.

But, if you think about it, that’s not exactly new either. In the Holland-Dozier-Holland/ Spector sort of school of recording, the producers were the creative forces and, while the studio musicians were top notch, neither they nor the performing act was really in control of things.

In the underground music world, I think there is less reason for concern. There always are forces that correct the music when things get too “fake”. Punk was a reaction to disco; lo-fi was a reaction to 80s pop music. I think they’ll always be a segment of the population that demands authenticity from their music and so there will always be some music that delivers on that need.

Record Store Day at Amoeba Records

April 19th, 2008

For Record Store Day today I went to Amoeba. Still blocks away on Haight, I saw a lot of yellow bags going by so I knew things were busy.

I picked up those tasty exclusive Death Cab and Built to Spill 7″s. They didn’t have the double vinyl limited edition version of Odd Couple that they’d advertised for the Day or I would have considered getting that as well. I also picked up a couple not-very-exclusive-at-all soul records.