Well, thanks to everyone who clicked through from the Lefsetz Letter, and especially to those who commented. Some are for, some are against what I had to say, but that’s what makes the internet the leading source of information among humans age 4-65 in this country, Monday through Friday and occasionally on weekends.
One particularly interesting point was how we basically wait for the backlash after any media coverage of an article like this. That just furthers the point that the guage of what sucks and what does not has never been more obvious. This article was written by a douchebag indie rock trust fund collective, and instantly they were called out on it. The world is a safer place, please return to normal activities.
The moral….Make sure something is completely fantastic before putting it out to the public.
In other news, I moved yesterday, and am just beginning to dig myself out of boxes. There will be a beautiful mini studio set up in the new place, perhaps some resulting tracks will be posted.
I’ve once again fallen victim to the Craigslist eBay monster, so in addition to moving boxes, shipping boxes are now involved. Did you know it costs fucking $60 to ship a guitar? All relevant search results told me around $30 would do it. Lesson learned.
In gear news, I want to get my hands on that Zvex J Mascius pedal. Someone get Zach on the phone.
Abner and Harper Willis have parents who have paid over $100,000 for them to be musicians. Lessons, gear, rent, publicity, studio time, all of it. And poor Abner and Harper, have had to turn down day jobs where they could make minimum wage, in order to struggle to be rock stars. (please never use that term) They have played such prestigious venues as The Mercury Lounge and Highline Ballroom, they’ve gotten “some press” and all of that. Also, let me grab a tissue, because all the money they make at shows goes to pay for their drummer. And cabs! The dreaded cabs they must take to carry their gear! WHERE IS FEMA ON THIS SHIT?
Now that there is literally smoke coming out of my ears, let me discuss this a bit.
Dearest Abner and Harper,
My name is Steven Weiss, I’m 28 and live in New York. No one aside from my employers contribute to my finances. I have a full time job, student loans, and play in a band too! I also rent a space in Brooklyn! I also have played venues such as these! I’ve even played some bigger ones! Also some smaller ones! We’re pretty much twinsies! Since there are 2 of you, were triplitsies! I have a very simple response. Fuck you both. You’re making a mockery of anyone who tries to make an honest go of being a musician without the luxuries you have both been afforded.
Where do you get the giant inflated monster balls to write something like this? Of course it’s hard to be a musician. No one is going to pay you to play your own music. That’s not why you do it. You want to get paid, write commercial music or jingles (nothing wrong with either of those, its a legit skill and job) but no one will pay your salary to be in an indie band.
Here’s the thing. In that little video you posted, you can clearly see that no one is in the audience at the Highline Ballroom, and that line you show outside the Mercury Lounge is for the dance club next door. That line is always there, and its never for the Mercury Lounge. Hiring a publicist to do email blasts does not get you fans. It doesn’t get music blogs to like you. In fact, it might have the exact opposite effect. You think people can’t identify a faceless email blast?
We live in a time where anyone playing music is extremely lucky. Its more in our own hands than any time in history. We don’t need record labels. We barely need recording studios. A&R men are irrelevant. We don’t need traditional distribution. But because of this, there is a higher standard than ever before. Anything can be put out there, but anything that is shitty can just as well be forgotten. Wonder why you’re not famous?
The fact that you whined about having to turn down low paying day jobs literally makes me want to fight you. I am not a violent person, but you have awoken such a primal rage in my soul, that I fear I may never be able to turn it off. I work 40 hours a week. I rent a monthly practice space which I have a few days a week after work, then take a train to rehearse with a band on weekends. When I have a show far from my house and I cannot borrow some type of car, I take the train. I take cabs, but that is a luxury. Have you ever taken a subway with a 20″ bass drum, snare drum, and cymbal bag? Your shoulders are not so forgiving the next day.
Economically, being a musician in a city is nearly impossible. It costs tons of money to have a practice space, maintain your gear, get to shows, pay rent, all of that. But you fucking buy used gear. You share a shit rehearsal space off the JMZ or G with 3 other bands. You use shitty house gear. You beg your friends to come to shows. You live in a place with roommates. You record your album in that rehearsal space on whatever gear you have. Stop fucking complaining. You want to go to a studio? Get a job at a studio. That’s what I did.
Having your family pay for your struggle, takes the struggle out of the equation. It negates it. It takes away your right to complain. And as a New York Jew, I’ve EARNED my right to complain, and I take full advantage of that. You sirs, have not.
OK, we’ve gotta discuss an ongoing epidemic at shows. No, not the loud talker, not the drunk girl yelling at her friends, not even the guy texting. We’re talking about photographers. I understand you would like to capture the moment. At times, I would too. But here’s the difference. I take out my phone, snap a few quick pictures, then I put it away. I. Put. It. Away.
Friday night, as part of the New York Guitar Festival, Nels Cline and Thurston Moore played as a duo at Rockwood Music Hall. They called it “Pillow Wand” maybe because it feels like being hit with a magical pillow. These possibly the two most widely known Avante Garde leaning guitar players, who have crossed over into the mainstream world. Cline as a part of Wilco, and Moore founding Sonic Youth. Needless to say, lots of people were in that tiny room.
This was my first time at Stage Two of Rockwood Music Hall, a lovely addition. It seems to be reserved for more well known acts, were as on Stage One, there’s always the chance that dude with a weird Jew Fro will go on right before your friend’s band and play the entire Plastic Ono Band album front to back. Its a cozy space, the sound was great, and despite it being packed, it was not that hard to obtain a beverage.
Oh right, it was packed. It was definitely over fire department capacity. People would walk down the entrance stairs, see that there was nowhere to go, and literally just set up camp on the stairs. That can’t be safe.
Now, before we get to the problem of people preserving their memories on compact flash cards, lets talk about the music. They played a continuous set of sound….not really just noise, but not melodic compositions. It was basically a fucking giant explosion. Tons of effects pedals, lots of volume, several Jazzmasters. They played like they meant it. I would compare it to some type of experimental painting. You see some weird shit thrown on a canvas and you think “I could totally do that.” Well maybe in the case of some phony artist who just wants the image, you could. But look at one of those giant Jackson Pollock canvases, and there is no way you could. That’s what these guys were like.
Every sound seemed like they meant it. There was no phoning it in. It’s a wonder their guitars didn’t just fall in pieces to the floor. They put these instruments through incredible abuse. Cline plays the strings with a little kitchen whisk, Moore sticking a drumstick under the strings on the neck and thrashes back and forth. They hit the tremelo so hard, it would be no surprise if the bridges just popped off. Yet somehow, they did not. But that was the good part, lets get to the other thing.
There seems to be a rule with professional photographers. They respect those around them. And when they don’t, its brief. A guy asks you if he can switch spots for a minute to get some shots, then moves along. Its a mild inconvenience, but you live through it. When I was about 11, we went to see Slash at the now defunct NY Club Tramps. His manager came out beforehand and told all of the photographers, “YOU GET ONE SONG! THEN YOU’RE OUT OF HERE!” lo and behold, he came back out after that song, yelling “THAT’S IT! GET ‘EM OUT!” fucking professionals.
Somewhere between 1994 and now, things have changed. I don’t dispute that the iPhone camera is awesome. I love it. I use it all the time. It makes life better. You can remember any moment, because you always have it with you. And the pics look pretty good! But think for a fucking minute. How many pictures do you need? Can’t you actually live in the moment and enjoy the amazing things happening in front of you? You really need to look in a 3″ LCD monitor to experience what’s in front of you? Fuck you.
The light from all the iPhones and cameras rivaled the stage lighting, which was minimal. Its 2 dudes with guitars. The lighting doesn’t change. They aren’t even switching guitars. How different is it going to be? That’s not even the issue, I guess if you want to get all artistic, that’s fine. But don’t do it in a tiny club. The amount of dudes with fucking giant DSLR’s with huge telephoto lenses on them was just ridiculous.
We got pushed in front of several times, and the photographers just planted themselves. Also, those cameras are kind of loud if its not a big rock and roll moment. If the music gets quiet…..CLICK CLICK CLICK….really? I’ve heard a bootleg of Neil Young at the Bottom Line, where he asks a photographer not to shoot during the songs, because people can hear it. Jeff Tweedy would call out anyone with a camera and tell them to get rid of it on Wilco’s last tour. Just last month at Carnegie Hall, Ryan Adams stopped the show and went on a hilarious rant….to paraphrase “oh my god, you HAVE to have gotten that shot by now. You need to keep taking them? What is your camera from like 1975 and you need to change flashbulbs or something? Want ME to take it for you?? Just put it away” They have a point.
At one point, the asshole with the Hubble Telescope in front of me changed cards…because you need to fill up more than one giant flash card during a 45 minute set. Then he was fucking reviewing and deleting photos! Are you fucking kidding me? This place is the size of a shoebox and you’re standing in front of everyone just doing that? And those people with the iPhones who just leave them held up the whole time! Are your poorly lit out of focus shots going to be that great?!
OK, I need to calm down. I’ve decided next time this happens, I’m going to get right in front of every lens I see, and just give the F.O.B Peace Sign. Or yell “CLICK CLICK CLICK!” or just point my phone directly in front of their camera, turn the flash on, and just go for it. We need to do something about this, kids. Who’s with me?
Here’s what bothers me about breaking bad. It’s incredibly stressful. Yes, its an extremely well done show that does not rely on sex or explosions to keep your interest, but it just stresses me the fuck out. Mad Men, I can handle. You know everything is going to be ok, and the characters aren’t that likable to begin with. But Breaking Bad, you just want everything to turn out ok for everyone involved! Oh man, I’m getting worked up just thinking about it!
Let me rewind. I had never seen a single episode prior to last week. We just finished season two on Netflix, and I think I have to call it quits. In the season finale, I found myself futzing with my phone, just so I would have an excuse to look away from the screen.
I knew a friend of a friend, lets say acquaintance, who told everyone he had cancer and acted traumatized. It later turned out he was making false statements. Yeah, special place in hell. Watching Walter White (w-w-w) makes me even more offended by that person. But I feel nearly the exact anger when someone on Breaking Bad does something stupid. I’m literally yelling at Jesse. I just can’t take it.
Am I just running away from serious things and taking shelter in Seinfeld reruns or episodes of Planet Earth and Antiques Roadshow? Yes, I probably am. But sometimes you don’t want to confront the darkside, you just want to know how much someones charming heirloom side table is worth. Am I Right?
Well, its a new year, should we talk about some reflections or thoughts? Here’s a concept to wrap your head around. There comes a time we all must accept that people we don’t like are very talented. I think if you wanted to put your finger on what it feels like to be an adult, that’s probably it. I think it’s quite a discovery. It can make us work harder and think differently though, so there is an upside. Someone get me some grant money. Let’s get Marc Maron involved, it’s pretty much all he talks about.
There are lots of shows coming up in the new year, Nels Cline and Thurston Moore later this month, Andrew Bird way off in April, I’m sure there will be one or two more. The Bad Plus did their annual run at the Vanguard last week, inspiring and confusing all at the same time. So much so, that I felt the need to drink about 13 Old Fashioned-s (what is the correct tense on that?) in celebration. Sometimes, that’s all you can do.