‘Merican Pride

American-Patriot

Let me get all patriotic on you.

What’s made in America that we can all get behind?  Apple designs in California…but manufactures overseas, which is true of most major technology.  Cars?  We all know how that turned out.  Even the high quality denim market has been taken over by Japan, ironically after they mass purchased the antique American denim producing machinery!

I’m not the most patriotic of people.  I do not read the declaration of independence aloud on national holidays.  My main political news intake comes from Gawker and The Daily Show.  But I do try to buy American made goods.

We still do 2 things very well in this country when it comes to goods.  Clothing and Music.  Go ahead, think of another actual good.  When budget allows, I take part in the recent revival of American made clothes.

I bought one pair of jeans made in New York, and according to instructions, have not washed them in nearly a year.  Yep, that’s what you’re supposed to do.  You know what?  They haven’t worn out at all.  Far better than any cheap pair of Levis (I believe only their super top line is made here.)

American instruments continue to reign supreme though.  Ask someone what type of car they would have, if money were no object, it would likely be Italian or German.  Ask the same question about a guitar, it would be a Gibson or Fender, made here.

It does feel good to support the homeland in these efforts.  I’m frankly surprised that Obama hasn’t picked up on this.  Even Romney!!  They’re all about being job creators, American ingenuity, and these are products people take pride in, partially because of where they’re made.

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The Nashville Gibson Factory

As far as the top “rock” type instruments are concerned, their heritage begins in America, and has remained here.  Gibson is built in Montana and Nashville (formerly Michigan) Fender’s top line is built in California, Martin is built in Pennsylvania (after their earliest origins in Manhattan, in what is now Tribecca.)  The original Williamsburg factory of Gretsch, still bears the logo on the building, yet it is now luxury condos.

The Actual Face Of Electro Harmonix
The Actual Face Of Electro Harmonix

This doesn’t even touch on the boutique brands, which are nearly all centered here.  As far as Effects, Electro Harmonix is in Long Island City, NY.  Zvex is somewhere in an underground lair, but still within US soil.  Analogman, Strymon, Death By Audio in BK, countless others.  In Amp Land, Swart, Victoria, Carr, Bogner, Mesa, they’re all local.

Yes, many of the larger companies produce their more budget gear overseas, or in Mexico.  But the highly sought after equipment remains in the US.  These are certainly luxury goods, but functional/technical/artistic luxuries.

1200564889386US music

Musicians are an odd bunch.  Quick to speak out against “The Man” …or whatever….trying not to sell out, don’t trust the government….or whatever…but it’s an oddly patriotic bunch.  Ask which parts of a musician’s arsenal are made in America, and they are likely to be able to tell you.  Just something to think about.

Trends..Musical, Economic, and Whatnot.

I had some interesting experiences last night, why not share?  I believe I’m at the forefront of this new technique called “sharing your personal observations with the internet”  a patent is in the works.

This definable era of bands will soon draw to a close.  How do I know?  Because trends are emerging.  And once a trend emerges, it’s only a matter of time.  “No!” you say.  “The trend of pop punk Emo/Screamo bands with sleeve tattoos and vented snare drums will continue forever!”  Yes, it very well may, but not in the eyes of the general public.  Except that vented snare thing, what was that all about.

OCDP_SNR_FlatBLK

Last night, the band I’m in played a show after a short hiatus.  It was at a downtown Manhattan venue, known for their indie rock type aesthetic.  As we loaded equipment in, this is what the stage looked like

Keyboards

Notice anything?  Yeah.  That’s without the 3 keyboards we added.  Several years ago, in the aforementioned pop punk era, every guitar player had a half stack with a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier.  Do they even make those anymore?  Every bass player had an Ampeg SVT 8×10…which is still in use, but only for appropriate occasions, like a venue which requires a bass amp the size of 2 people.  Drummers had elongated cannon type kick drums, toms hanging with RIMS mounts, all sorts of elaborate crap.

Is it ironic this photo came from myspace?
Is it ironic this photo came from myspace?

All of that is gone.  Every band had at least 2 keyboards.  There were 6 Blackface Fender combo amps, every single bass player had a Fender P Bass (it used to be the Musicman Stingray!) There were 3 Fender Jazzmasters between 4 bands, and shit tons of Reverb.

Fender+Jazzmaster+50th+Anniversary+Concert+TsdPZidXA-tl

Gibson Les Paul’s have completely vanished.  This could also be similar to the original Punk era, musicians just buy what’s cheap.  A Gibson Les Paul Standard costs $2,500.  That’s just plain ridiculous.  In this economy, what musician can approach that?  Pre housing bubble, I’ll bet a lot more were sold, perhaps dude to less worry about taking on credit card debt.

You see a ton more of Gibson’s less expensive model, the SG (for a used one, you can spend $800-1000 for a standard!) And Fender Guitars have pretty much taken over.  Jazzmaster prices are on the rise though,  same as the Strat’s in the 6o’s, which Fender used to have to cut prices on repeatedly, until they were popularized by that dude with the bandana/Afro and the British guy who played Layla on Unplugged.

(This concludes my economic report)

When one looks back on this era, it will certainly have a definable sound.  Yes, the lo-fi thing is very present, but it’s a very clear type of lo-fi.  We all got so used to those super balanced, scooped mid, high wattage, predictable giant tube amps, that everyone revolted.  You don’t necessarily know how those low wattage amps will react when you turn them up, but they really do sound so much more natural.  Everyone probably also got tired of carrying a 4×12 speaker cabinet up a flight of steps.

And the reverb….oh the reverb, how we love it!  Think of those late 90’s, early 2000’s vocal sounds.  There was so much compression!  As the gold standard of slightly alternative yet poppy records, think of Jimmy Eat World as an example.  We just don’t want to hear things that clearly anymore!  We’re literally washing it out!

Its not as extreme as Hair Metal to Grunge, but it is similar.  Screaming metal wails…..mumbled hoarse vocals.   Scooped mids wall of Marshall full stacks….whatever old crap you could get your hands on (hence the resurgence of the Jazzmaster!)

It’s just a slight rebellion against what was popular before.  What will come next?  Who knows.  I’m gonna say shit gets stripped down even further.  Back to the economics of it, touring is the #1 source of income for musicians.  If you have to travel constantly, you need to be light on your feet.  More overhead is more money lost…so why carry 3 keyboards, 3 combo amps, and a 4 piece drum kit…..when you can play all acoustic, kick and snare, with just some more focus on the PA effects?

Just throwin’ it out there.  Someone get me a show on CNBC, after Cramer.

We saw Andrew Bird at the Beacon theater earlier this month, and a good portion of the show was the entire band unplugged, with ONE SINGLE MIC at the foot of the stage.  It sounded fantastic.  Its also a rebellion against the over-processed pop music available.  Auto-tune has invaded nearly every recording produced today, we’re dying to hear something natural, without a net.

If our generation loves one thing, it’s being cynical.  But the optimist in me fully believes, that we love being proven wrong, and amazed by artistic endeavors.  When the next round of independent bands begins touring the land with solely a guitar case each, I will be first in line at the show.

Well, maybe a guitar case, and one of these…..GRAIL