ebay, Goodbye.

I had written a long post about the use of various online commerce sites for instruments, my super ultra old dog pro status expertise, and whatnot.  Complete with topical humor and various pop culture references juxtaposed with emotional attachment to my earliest instruments….but it had to be scrapped.

It’s just too much of a headache to buy or sell something used online.  In our younger days we can do the legwork of shipping, take the risks.  But after being burned a few times, you learn a little, and just can’t waste the effort.

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There was a period during which I became addicted to Round Badge Gretsch Drums.  (Hey, some people smoke crack, give me a break)  I somehow hit the wave, and came upon them like one of those truffle sniffing dogs.  I ended up with 5 kick drums, 3 toms, and 2 snares.  Maybe it was a Brooklyn thing, they were after all made in Williamsburg.  Sooner or later, logic and space prevailed, and most had to be let go.  One kick and one tom were shipped to Slovenia (the Fedex bill was RIDICULOUS) and 2 other kicks were shipped to Canada.

The Canadian paid an offensively low price, for drums basically being sold as parts.  Still, he was unhappy with them, and opened a Paypal dispute.  After a Paypal mishap, DOUBLE the amount of money was put on hold from my bank account, which lets just say was an inconvenience in my freelance working days.  Paypal is not the must helpful of organizations, as evidenced by this article, entitled “If you don’t like the violin you bought, just smash it, and we’ll get your money back”

I recently sold a snare drum to another Canadian (I guess I’ll never learn)  who wrote me to request $50 back claiming the snare throw off was broken.  This was not the case, so I asked what was broken, could it have been damaged in shipping, etc….and he said “you know what, let’s just forget about the $50″  WTF is that?  Just phishing for a refund?

So let that be a Lesson to you all, stay away from ebay for anything larger than a priority mail envelope, or more expensive than an iPod shuffle.  This is just on the selling side, I can’t even imagine it from a buyer’s perspective.  I’ve bought 3 drums on ebay, all over 5 years ago, but have heard endless horror stories.  Even Nels Cline was burned in a Jazzmaster ebay transaction, no one is immune!  Where’s the congressional hearing on this?

Jazzmaster

Online descriptions of equipment are rarely as they seem.  The same can probably be said of anything on the Internet.  I recently bit the bullet, and bought a Jazzmaster, scouring Craigslist.  A slightly safer alternative.  The description said:

“I’M SELLING MY 62 REISSUE FENDER JAZZMASTER.
MINT CONDITION. ONLY 3 YEARS OLD.
YOU WON’T FIND A SINGLE THING WRONG WITH THIS GUITAR.
JAZZMASTER’S ARE GOING FOR $1700 NEW RIGHT NOW.
THIS IS A BEAUTY!”

Yes, the first thing wrong, is that it’s in all caps.  Yet still, I went to see the guitar. It was nowhere near mint, full of dents and gouges, the pick guard was stripped in some areas with a screwdriver, the bridge was replaced….But I did get it for a pretty low price.

I think it might be time to stick to music stores.  Is this what adulthood is?  Sometimes you just have to feel comforted by the convenience and possible guarantee of quality.  Is it worth the $300 markup for the guitar you saw on Craigslist at $600 now displayed in your local independent shop for $900?  Sometimes it is.

Just as I finished that paragraph, I got a call from my friend in Virginia.  He found a Ludwig Vistalite kit in a thrift store for $40.  I think that’s the place to end it.

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.

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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.

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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

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?