I Do Not Like The Beatles.

I don’t like The Beatles.  There, I said it.  It felt good to get that out there.

I never have, ever since middle school.  Something about it just didn’t sit right with me. I tried to pretend at times, in the Napster/Limewire heyday downloading select songs, and listening for a bit, but the charm just wore off.

Yes, they wrote beautifully crafted songs.  Perfect melodies.  Groundbreaking arrangements.  But so fucking what?  To me, most of it seems to come from a self satisfied point of view, with an uptight feel, lacking any real darkness or mystery.  Rock music is about the mystery, the unknown, ghosts and shit.  It all came from blues…that’s all blues was! Pain and ghosts. It just may be the whitest music of all time.

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You could make the point that The Beatles were just a pop group writing pop songs for the masses, but some people don’t seem comfortable with that.

This leads us to the Stones Vs Beatles question.

The world is not divided into Beatles and Stones people.  It’s divided into Beatles people, and people who enjoy other types of music, and don’t believe in putting a god like figure (or group of figures) at the top of it.  Beatles fans are really not that far off from The Tea Party.  Funny how that works, isn’t it? Lennon is definitely Regan.

If anything, it’s comparable to Mac or PC, in which case the Beatles people are definitely the PC, no getting around that.

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It’s not that I hate every Beatles song.  If it’s on in a bar, I won’t go into a rant (maybe a small one.) It’s just that I would almost always rather listen to something else.  My choice of song to play will not be a Beatles song.  Unless it’s Desmond Decker’s instrumental of “Love Me Do.”  If I want some beautiful orchestral pop, I’ll listen to Harry Nilsson.  If I want a British sounding rock song, I’ll listen to The Who.  And If I want someone heavily influenced by American rhythm and blues music, yes, I’ll listen to The Stones.   For the life of me, I just can’t imagine a time when I think “You know what I need to hear right now?  A Beatles Song!”

Just had to get that out there.  Thank you for listening.

11 Thoughts On Touring: A Guide To The Occasional Traveler

Well, hello!

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I’ve just returned from a jaunt around the northeast, and I’m just as confused as ever.  Here are some observations I’ve compiled from a month on tour with a folk-rock-americana type band.

1 – People act differently towards musicians.

When you check into a hotel at 2:30 am by yourself, the clerk does not usually say “What’s your band called?  Where did you play? Ooooh that sounds fun! Where are you going next??”   Music and the thought of traveling as a result of it excites the most unlikely of people, even when you’re just traveling through Pittsburgh on a Sunday.

2 – It’s incredibly hard to eat well.

After about a week, all I craved was something that was grown on a tree.  We at one point discovered a juice bar near a venue, and went back several times.  I was so full of wheat grass I burped lawn clippings for days.  Not really, but it sure tasted like it.  The lady at the juice bar even came to the show.  She was a life saver.

3 – You do not know what day or time it is.

Yes, this is a cliché, but it’s true.  I had no idea what day of the week it was.  When getting to sleep so late, just as a result of work (and the occasional good time)  you wake up and feel like eating breakfast at 2pm.  There is a delightfully euphoric zombie like feeling that goes along with this.  I’d imagine that’s what causes so many problems for musicians with nothing to do after a tour.

4 – Stop calling it “Tour”

That’s just stupid. Put a fucking article in there. You’re not leaving for “Tour,” you’re going on tour.  Please stop saying that.  Hipster asshole.

5 – It’s probably easy to develop a drinking problem

You could see how a successful band could develop substance problems with no effort at all.  We were traveling small time, but were still given plenty of booze at all hours.  Imagine if you had a rider full of alcohol?  And people who just wanted to hang around?  And if you were bored out of your mind, didn’t have to drive yourself or carry your own gear, you’d probably take part in whatever buzz is available.  Then repeat this every night for weeks/months/years….It could get iffy pretty quickly.

6 – No one is fighting off groupies.

If you’re carrying your own equipment, people are likely not fawning all over you.  Spouses or significant others don’t have too much to worry about…again until you’re very successful and someone else is carrying your stuff.

7 – You get very close with people

Remember those family road trips?  This is like that.  We had 6 people in a sprinter van, and although there were no fights or arguments, the air does fill with tension on occasion.  You’re rooming together, eating the same meals, basically being within 10 feet of everyone for the majority of the day.  You better like the people you’re traveling with, that’s all I’m saying.

8 – It’s work

Yes, it’s work that people choose to do and many do for little or no pay, but it’s not that easy.  I was lucky enough to not have to drive this time, but everyone shares in the carrying of equipment.  Want someone to help you move?  Ask a musician.  They’re very efficient and have had years of practice.  Packing, unpacking, carrying up steps and narrow doorways, loading and unloading…it’s a universal musician skill that survives by evolution.  Those who do not carry things are probably not invited back.

9 – You get very little sleep.

This is true for even the most successful of bands.  No one gets any great rest in a moving vehicle, and things need to be done at odd hours.  You need to check out of the hotel early, regardless of what time you got it.  You also need to be at the next destination at a certain time, the schedule remains constant despite each day’s activities being different.  Then on the day you have off…you bolt out of bed at 8am

10 – Everything depends on monitors.

You’ve spent thousands of dollars on your equipment, many hours practicing alone and with the group…but by the time you get to a venue, none of it matters if you can’t hear yourself.  And you rarely can.  I never harbored much animosity towards sound men until this trip.  Everything is feeding back, none of the monitors are loud enough, the whole PA has a terrible buzz, the DI sounds like a dying frog….it goes on and on.  Yes, it’s not always the fault of the sound man, but a majority of the ones we encountered seemed to have no idea what they were doing.  And you could instantly tell the ones who did.

11 – Technology is amazing.

For the life of me, I cannot imagine doing this in 1994. I have always loved technology, but I want to kneel at the feet of the iPhone.  And Google Maps.  And Google in general. And Yelp.  Say what you will about technology being too present in every day life…our life is far better for it.  We would have missed out on a whole lot of great food, coffee, and all sorts of things.  For any place you can think of, someone has been there before you and logged their experience for you to learn from.  Think of how amazing that is.  Don’t even get me started on driving directions.  That’s worth twice the price of whichever device you’re using.  We never got lost, beyond an occasional wrong turn which was quickly corrected.  Unreal.  Now we just have to solve that battery life problem when you’re not near an outlet for 6 hrs…..

Well, there you have it.  11 is one beyond the classic list form, so let’s leave it at that for today.  I’m feeling a little restless, like when you’ve been swimming in the ocean and still feel the movement on your sleep, but I’m happy to be home.  It turns out being in the space where most of your life has occurs can be a comforting experience.

Father John Misty @ Maxwell’s, May 17, 2013 – And Commotion On 6th Avenue

It’s a risk every time you leave the house.  Step off the curb…you’re hit by a bus.  Catastrophist?  Yes.  But on the way home from the Father John Misty show Friday night, we stepped off the PATH train into this.

We had finally reached the West Village after an arduous journey.  Walking down 6th ave from the 9th st PATH train stop, all we could do was exclaim how great it was to be back in New York.  Then, just in front of Gray’s Papaya…we heard a loud bang.  The block went silent for a minute.  The crew of party boys on the corner exclaimed “Yeah, that’s how we do it in the hood!”  They were obviously joking around, the consensus was that it was an M80.  There was a general feeling of unrest though, so we crossed over towards Greenwich Ave.  People seemed ready to dismiss it, but a man ran straight into traffic to hail a cop.  Within the time it took us to get to 7th st, one block south, there were 5-6 police cars on the scene.  We even saw the undercover police taxi.  If anything, it has given me renewed faith in the NYPD.

We saw no action, and had no idea what happened until the news trickled down through Twitter, but you could feel the commotion.  It was an unsettling end to an unsettling night.

The question that has come up most often recently is “What the hell is wrong with people?”  A few weeks back during a friend’s show at Brooklyn Bowl, some jerkoff unloaded a fire extinguisher during the final song.  Everyone thought it was a fog machine until it became difficult to breathe.

This lead to the venue being cleared out, 2 fire trucks called to the scene, a good portion of the venue covered in fire resistant powder, and instruments damaged.  A gigantic waste of resources at the behest of some entitled hipster fuck.  What the hell is wrong with people?

Over the past year, I have evangelized Father John Misty every chance I get.  It took a minute to warm up to his debut album, but once it connected, I was all in.  It’s a mix of great songs and showmanship, a magical combination.  And with the next New York show being at Prospect Park’s “Great Googa Mooga (which will forever have a giant shitstorm cloud hovering over it,) followed by the West Side Highway cavern known as Terminal 5, I jumped at the chance to see him across the river at Maxwell’s in Hoboken.  Despite Hoboken’s reputation as Murray Hill literally on steroids, I’ve had nothing but good experiences at Maxwell’s.  It’s so far north, that the bro’s usually find some trouble long before they reach the quiet northern streets.

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It was billed as a Solo Acoustic show, and I was willing to give Misty (Josh Tillman)  the benefit of the doubt.  Seeing songs performed by one person with an acoustic guitar is like a look behind the curtain.  If a song can’t stand up to this bare bones arrangement, then it’s just sauce without a sandwich.  So while there would be no Freddie Mercury style dance moves, we would get to the essence of the music, and I was ok with that this Friday night.

A friend’s father was a police lieutenant in Jersey City, and told us no officer wants to take the Hoboken shift, because the bro’s don’t think twice about fighting a cop.  I have no doubts about this.  I am a Hudson County defender.  As a former 5 year resident of Jersey City, there are plenty of things to love about New York’s annoying little brother.  Great food, cheaper rent, lovely views…but it’s hard to defend Hoboken.  While standing on line for the bathroom at Maxwells, I heard this exact conversation:

“Dude, we’re two short guys with muscles, we’re definitely starting a riot tonight.  Someone’s gonna wanna fight us.”

“Yeah Bro!”

Had I been a more instinctual and spontaneous decision maker, I would have left right there.

The show was sold out  – The place only holds about 200 people, and the man sold out Webster Hall, so this was to be expected.  But the crowd was still a surprise.  Usually at Maxwell’s, people who want to talk and whatnot hang towards the back, so up front you get a good experience.  But this was no holds barred. Upon taking the stage, Misty (let’s refer to him as this from now on, because it sounds better than Tillman) invited the crowd to sit on the stage.  The phrase “oooh, mistakes were made!” was uttered from the crowd.  He immediately seemed to regret the decision.  “Now, don’t abuse your privileges!” he muttered.

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An adorably sad looking girl clutched the giant stuffed white tiger, perched on a stool as a stage prop, and clung to it for the remainder of the evening, singing every word.  A more enthusiastic yet lyrically challenged girl sat directly behind Misty, throwing herself fully into only the verses she knew.  And just to her other side, the VERY bro who made the “short guys with muscles” statement, plopped himself directly on the chair set up for Misty to sit on.  The guitar tech kindly asked him to sit on the floor, much to the bro’s dismay, and he proceeded to drunkenly knock over said chair, and sit with his feet just inches from the performer.  Not the best of omens.

Despite a few weird sound adjustments in the beginning of the set, it was great to see these stripped down arrangements.  The hits were just as exciting.  Also a slew of new material was performed, and it’s fun to guess how they will sound on record.  It’s reassuring to see that he’s still a magnetic performer in this setting.  There were times when the rowdy crowd was enraptured, unable to text, talk, or take Vine’s with their smartphones.  The highlight of these included a slowed down version of “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” which is not one of my favorites from the record, but tends to be favored as the one to belt out at the show.  But slowing it down without the admittedly awesome broken sounding electric on the record, the song came through. And that’s a great chorus.  Even the meat head enthusiastically erupting with laughter at every remotely sarcastic lyric was stunned silent.

The performer was aware that the vibe felt off.  The on-stage-chair-knocking-muscle-bound-tiny-bro began talking to the girl next to him.  And texting.  While on the stage.  Yeah.  Misty had had enough.  He turned around before a song….

“Oh my god, SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

The little stout and surly fellow looked stunned, and shifted uncomfortably.  While tuning, Misty paused again….

“You’re SO close to me right now.  SO CLOSE!”

It continued this way for a bit.  When someone is on stage with an acoustic guitar, and there is a sold out crowd there to see them, just use some fucking manners.  That’s really all there is to it.  Yes, sing along at the big parts.  Laugh at the jokes between songs.  But relax with the fucking iPhone videos every song.

Recently, I’ve begun to turn the brightness on my screen all the way down before the show.  Then, I allow myself a few quick photos.  I don’t take videos, and it’s not hella distracting.

It was a startling evening.  The fashion/freak  show that is Washington Street in Hoboken on a Friday after midnight is astounding.  It was a mad dash for the PATH.  Couples were fighting (possibly about who was more tan,) dudes were sniffing each others asses and asserting alpha male dominance.  Something is in the water over there.

Closing the night with a hate crime shooting in the West Village…well I don’t know what to think about that.  At least we made it home unharmed.  I’m going to let it stir for a minute.

Festivals and Streaming: Coachella And The Death Of Dealing With Sweaty People In A Field

Festivals.  Let’s talk about them.

On the one hand, it’s the Costco/Music Mall/Best Buy of shows.  Every band you’ve heard anything about on many stages across a vast landscape.  Sets are truncated (sometimes severely due to scheduling,) and the first few songs always sound terrible due to lack of sound checks.  Food and water are impossible to obtain, you will either bake in the sun, or be covered in mud from hours of torrential downpours.  Your fellow attendees will be hallucinating, screaming, passing out, and just generally being all up in your space, and you will get no rest, because the partying goes all night, and the hot sun will wake you up at the crack of dawn.

On the other hand….You get to see every band you’ve heard anything about in one location, and maybe a few of those will be pretty good!  That’s about all I have for positives…I’m not one for endless groups of people for days on end.

In my younger days, I was a festival enthusiast.  These mostly existed in what one might call the “Jamband” scene.  The Gathering Of The Vibes in Bridgeport CT was a prime example.  A few years in a row, it was a utopian experience.  Easy parking and transportation, not a massive crowd, good lineup, friendly people.  As it gained popularity, it literally became a shit show.  That’s literal…during a storm which included tornado warnings, porta-potties overflowed on a massive scale.  It was also pretty much a farmers market for sketchy drug dealers, who heard there would be some hippies in town.  Not good vibes.

What, you don't want to hang with these people?

Years later, at my final festival as an attendee, I went to the Phish IT event in Maine.  The drive was 12 hrs from New York, then 12 hours once we got to the location, on the mile long road leading to the festival entrance.  It was a not so fond farewell to a music I was not longer in love with.

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In 2010 I was fortunate enough to play the Winnipeg Folk Festival with the band Depedro, in Winnipeg Canada. The other side of the coin looked completely different.  As a performer, you were driven with your gear to stages by golf cart, people carried equipment for you (photo above,) you were fed great meals at any time of day, shade and seats were readily available.  We saw tons of great music, made great friends, played Beatles songs in the hotel ballroom at all hours of the night….the complete opposite experience.

Well, this weekend, we discovered the middle ground.  And not surprisingly, it appeared like a desert oasis thanks to technology.  Streaming.  It’s pretty much the answer to everything (media related anyway,) and festivals have become Youtube enthusiasts.  I’ve tried to access some streaming events in the past to some dismay – probably due to wonky internet connections…but it seems to be making some progress! Coachella, the hipster paradise and its own desert oasis to some, decided to stream nearly the entire festival.

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Sunday night, after a day of biking, a trip to Smorgasburg in DUMBO, and  an obligatory visit to 16 Handles, we retired home to the comfort of our livingroom to watch Father John Misty do his evening set at Coachella.  There were a few hickups in the stream, and the sound was a little weird during the first few songs….but would it have been much better in a windy desert?  No one was standing in front of me, no drunk idiot looking up the lyrics on their phone to sing along (which happened at a previous FJM show) no line for beverages…..all in all, pretty good!

FJM via Brooklyn Vegan
FJM via Brooklyn Vegan

Yes, you can call it COUCH-ella.  The Office already did that a few years back in a surprisingly well timed joke! Give it a little time.  The picture looks great, there are no commercial interruptions, and the sound mix gets better as the performance continues.  I’m sure as bandwidth becomes less of an issue we’ll move to higher resolution, but I’m not complaining.  If they decide to charge a bit for it, that’s fine.  If the quality increases, its totally worth it.

Yes, nothing can replace the live experience.  But As I get a little older, the experience as a whole is what’s important.  The band needs to be great, but I just can’t deal with all the other shit that goes along with it.  Hundreds of people holding up  iPhones for entire songs.  Drunk pushy people.  The Talkers.  It’s endless.  I’ll venture out if its a favorite band at the right venue, but you just never know.  Even the Village Vanguard attracts “Bro Dudes On Date Night” from time to time.

Somehow I don’t feel guilty about this at all.  As I said, I’ll pay to stream shows, I don’t care.  As long as musicians can all be in the same room playing together, Music will continue.  Just the thought of having to rush to get tickets when anything goes on sale, only to be defeated by The Bots, then have to worry about a shitty experience even if you do get in….it’s just too much to take.  I sound old, and I’m pretty OK with that.

I Miss The Mixtape

We all know about DRM, SOPA, CISPA, FROLUTA (I made that one up) and so on.  This will not primarily be a diatribe on these restrictions, but rather on the joy they are taking away.  With technology advancing as rapidly and powerfully as it is, its still a wonder that any law can even attempt to stop the sharing of music.

It seems like we’ve been focusing on nostalgia recently, and maybe that’s true.  I turned 29, so why not see it as a chance to look back and reflect, while anticipating the various apocalyptic events that the internet tells us are about to happen.

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How is there not the greatest app on the planet for creating a “Mixtape” or playlist, and sending that to your friend.  Like, fucking really.  Can the soon to be pointless RIAA really prevent a programmer from anonymously writing this app and just putting it out there?  Napster 2.0.

Most of us came up in the CD era.  Mix CD’s were fantastic.  I guess they’re still out there, but at a rapidly dwindling rate.  I’ve only used a CD recently on one car trip, but before that, it was many months before I hit an actual play button.

Sure we have a billion blogs out there, but you really can’t trust one of them all the time. Once in a while a gem comes through, but you don’t hang out with a blog.  You don’t know who it’s going to try and yell at when it gets drunk.  You don’t know its real favorite bands, not just the ones various PR agencies get it to promote.  Music should come from your friends.

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The majority of new music I have fallen in love with has come directly from live humans telling me about them.  And you know what?  They still cant just send me a link to a fucking mix they’ve created so I can load that shit on my iphone, enjoy the music, pay $20 to see the band live where a way bigger share of that $ goes to the band, then buy their release on vinyl.  All because someone sent me a link.

Bands will always record music.  It’s just something that happens.  It’s getting cheaper and cheaper to record.  Make it yourself.  If it’s a successful band, spend some money and do it in a studio, and you will have better sounding music that will inspire people to come see you live and buy your kick ass merch (signature spatulas, twisty straws, temporary tattoos, that stuff) and special release music.

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Amanda Palmer raised A MILLION DOLLARS on kickstarter.  Stop complaining.

Back to the point though, I miss the mix.  You get a chance to peek inside someone’s brain.  What song did they open with?  Is there a common theme to discover in everything they want you to hear?  THIS SHIT IS FASCINATING.  I can tell you precisely the last Mix CD’s I recieved.  A group of friends would all pass around burned copies of mixes, numbered by volume.  I even took part, dubbing mine “Serious Business.”

All of the elements involved only contributed.  Even writing the tracklist, putting your handwriting on there, it all makes it more personal.  Not that I’m pining for the analog days, the same effect can come from any text, turn your mixtape cover into an internet meme.  (I’m In Ur Tape….Mixin.)

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The labels are going away.  There’s really no point to it now.  The rights holders to anything recorded before this very minute, will all seek to defend their copyrights to the death, which is understandable if someone is using music for commercial purposes, but perhaps one day, music sharing will not be seen as so negative.  All we can hope, is that it becomes almost like prohibition. The RIAA either needs to disappear, or run out of money so they can’t sue single parents on welfare who rescue adorable puppies and walk old ladies across the street, for downloading a Toby Keith album.

Spotify is an annoying mess, the search doesn’t turn up the results you’re looking for.  And if you have to link it to Facebook, its just a headache.  A mix of music isn’t something you want to share with ALL of your friends, just a select few.  When I see that a friend has used Spotify to listen to the collective hits of Collective Soul, they don’t want me to see that.  Frankly. I don’t want to see it.  Some things need to be kept private.

We need another Napster.  It killed an industry that was already dying and exploiting all sorts of people.  Some things can’t be monetized forever.  Why not just share it?  Yes, that’s the most idealistic free love sentence I have ever typed, but I stand fully behind it.  Let’s end on that note.