Review and Rant: Nels Cline and Thurson Moore, Rockwood Music Hall 1/13/2012

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.

Nels Thurston
I Took Two Pictures. This Is One.

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?!

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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?

Tom Petty On Technology.

A friend of mine once told me while negotiating the purchase of a house, that his real estate company will be called “Tom Petty Real Estate”  because The Waiting Is The Hardest Part.  And he was damn right.  Not that I am speaking about a real estate purchase.  Oh no dear reader, oh no.  What I am speaking about is The New iPhone.

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I’ve resisted the smart phone for a long time.  Perhaps too long.  Yes, I still know how to get places based on memory, or direction based intuition, but how am I going to upload pics to facebook while on the go?  How will I check in at Stumptown enough times to become THE SUPREME MAYOR OF ALL TIME?  Eh??  There are many legit concerns, which you can locate elsewhere on the Internet, we all know smart phones are nearly essential to life.

But the question is, do we wait it out?  When is the time to pull the trigger?  Gadgets just freak me out, man!  Lets relate this to something related to my usual repertoire.  Recording equipment.

A few years back, I made a well documented move away from the mothership of Pro Tools, over to the confusing free-for-all software based clusterfuck that is Logic.  I made this move based on hardware concerns, just before Digidesign became known as Avid, and did away with their proprietary hardware model and opened it up to all.  Yeah.  Timing!  Anyway, I made a fantastic purchase of an Apogee Rosetta 800 for all conversion, and was satisfied for a few years.

This satisfaction is now beginning to wain.  Apogee did away with the rosetta 800, as well as the Symphony Mobile System I purchased to integrate it.  Apple will most likely do away with PCI slots on laptops, and this will cause a few problems.  This all goes along with the concern that apple is making its “Pro” gear decidedly less “Pro”.  Yes, we all have the hope of Thunderbolt to resolve all these issues, but that appears to be a few years off.

This has me thinking…what an incredible and shitty gamble buying any piece of equipment is in this age we live in.  At any point, a manufacturer can discontinue a product, stop creating updates, and cease all support.  I emailed Apogee about this specific issue (of whether the rosetta or symphony mobile would be able to work with future Apogee products, and the response was

We don’t really have any plans to upgrade any of our discontinued models

So the question is, will I have a several thousand dollar brick on my hands in a few years?  There is no long term guarantee anything will be supported a few years down the line.  The line between the present and future of technology is a strange blurry one.  People are still using Instruments, Amplifiers, Effects Devices and many other instrument related things from the long distant past. Sometimes exclusively.  These devices were all inter-connect-able regardless of the manufacturer, and usable for an infinite amount of time.

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Technology of this type carried weight.  Heft if you will.  Like Taft.  Well, it just souns like Taft.  And he was a heavy guy.  Yeah.  The point is, are current devices completely disposable?  Is there anything made today that will be heralded for its quality and cherished for years to come?  Or are we better off buying the quickest and easiest, waiting for it to become obsolete, and re-buy.

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We all love the Prius, but you know that thing is going to explode into flames in 15 years.  Then again, maybe I’m completely wrong, Toyota is not the American car manufacturers of the 1970’s who designed cars to turn into giant robotic grizzly bears while exploding mid air at every yellow traffic light they encounter.  (statement based on 100% fact)

My point here?  I’m likely going to buy the iPhone 4, even if the Wall St Journal reports the new one will be super awesome looking and have a better camera. I just can’t take the waiting anymore kids.  As soon as the iPhone 5 hits, the 6 is gonna be THE BEST THING EVER.  It’s so easy to get caught in this cycle of perpetually waiting for the next to come along.  I’m breaking it.  Deal with it.