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Category: Music

April 25, 2009

We Got Time

David Wilson's video for Moray McLaren's We Got Time transforms a simple idea and simple animations into a visual feast. I'm trying to think of a more creative music video right now and I can't.

It looks like the only place to get the EP is iTunes, for a whopping $5.94.

Making Of:

February 9, 2009

Radiohead + USC Marching Band: 15 Step

Totally made the Grammys worth watching (can't remember the last time I watched). It was actually a pretty good show overall -- more about music than awards.

June 6, 2008

Vintage Hardware, Nude Radiohead


Big Ideas (Don't get any) from 1030 on Vimeo.

James Houston put together something thats both awful and spectacular at the same time: a remix of Radiohead's Nude using a bunch of old computer hardware. If you've ever wondered whether your hard drive platters make a good speaker or your old dot matrix printer can be the drummer in your band, take a listen.

Hack a Day provides some pointers on making your old obsolete band.

January 9, 2008

Matt Wates CD in the mail

Matt Wates Sextet Picture of You

My copy of The Matt Wates Sextet A Picture of You CD arrived in the mail today, featuring metamanda on the cover and CD label. Its selfish to gush about CDs with your photography on the cover, but I also gush because Matt Wates has reaffirmed my trust in the ways of the Internet: locating a photo he wanted on Flickr, paying for it, giving proper credit, sending a free copy, writing a nice note, etc... Most importantly, I actually enjoy the CD -- the sort of music that goes well with unwinding after a day of work like I am right now. A class act and musician.

Look for the CD to go on sale at the Audio-b Web site.

PS: In other photo news, my gallery at Integrate Fitness is up.

January 4, 2008

DRM (for music) is dead

Sony is finally dropping DRM from its music. Considering that Sony has been the worst offender for consumer DRM format lock-in -- ATRAC, MagicGATE memory sticks, UMD, Sony Connect music store, and infamous rootkits -- this is truly a historic occasion. It comes on the heels of Warner's announcement of DRM-free music, which means that 2008 may be the year for toppling the iTunes Music Store crown (physical sales plummeted 15% in 2007). The Amazon MP3 store already offers cheaper, DRM-free albums than iTunes: Radiohead's In Rainbows is $7.99 vs. $9.99 on iTunes. Now the selection can truly be competitive.

Even with the rise of the Amazon MP3 store, it doesn't look like the NIN/Saul Williams/Radiohead experiments will move forward. Radiohead has followed their "pay what you want" experiment with a CD release and official release on iTunes + Amazon. I imagine others feel a bit ripped off because I do -- the tracks are much higher higher quality (256KBps MP3) on Amazon than what Radiohead offered in the "pay what you want" model. For bit snobs like me, it means that Radiohead effectively gets to charge double because I went and bought the CD anyways. I guess this counts as a success for Radiohead, but I think people might be more wary in the future.

Meanwhile, Trent Reznor of NIN seems down on the success of Saul Williams' release, citing the fact that only 28,322 out of 154,449 downloaders chose to pay $5 for the album; the rest chose the free download. Only 33,897 people bought Williams' 2004 album, but Reznor is focused on the 71.7% that didn't pay. It seems the natural comparison he's drawing is to someone walking into a CD store and buying/taking your album. The comparison I would make is to the radio -- what percentage of people that hear your music on the radio, for free, actually end up purchasing it? I ended up buying it, partly because I couldn't resist the pirate cat on the cover.

Both Reznor and This American Life cited bandwidth costs -- the latter $152,000 -- as a detractor for the online model. They could have lowered their bandwidth costs by uploading to BitTorrent or asking fans to mirror the content. Instead, even though Reznor used BitTorrent for his free GarageBand tracks, he paid Musicane for 150,000 free downloads of Saul's album. Strangely we'd rather pay money to own the mechanism, even when giving something away. I'm sure this speaks something about human psychology, but I'm not sure what.

December 21, 2007

Guitar World Tabs Beta reminds me why I miss OLGA

Update: Mashable reports that Guitar World has signed with Sony/ATV and there have also been some Beatles and other artists slowly appearing.

Sorry, we have not cleared rights from the publisher for the artist you are looking for but we hope to soon. In the meantime, check out these great tabs from Guitar World.

That's the message that repeatedly tempered my excitement after I found out about Guitar World's Tabs Beta. Tabs, for me, are synonymous with the Internet. Even before mp3s had become primary Internet format for angering the RIAA, you could find repositories of guitar tablature to download and practice. alt.guitar.tab was my harvesting grounds until the Web blossomed with sites like OLGA (Online Guitar Archive) that made it all nice and indexed. Then the legal threats came and tabs fanned out again.

I understood the copyright issues behind it all, but it always felt a bit disingenuous to me: how can you claim copyright for something you don't even sell? Even as a high school student with little money, I purchased piles of Guitar World magazines and books of guitar tab -- the professional transcriptions were always better than what was online -- but it always felt as if 90% of the tabs I wanted only existed on the Internet.

With the launch of Guitar World Tabs Beta, I feel teleported back to 1997. Even though the site tries to style itself as the iTunes of tabs, it's more like the eMusic: a lot of nice touches, but without content who cares? I tried as many Guitar World staples I could think of and got the "Sorry" messsage: Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Satriani, Santana, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, and Audioslave. The only two searches that returned results for me: B.B. King (1 tab) and Nirvana (1 tab).

guitarworldtabs.png

On the plus side, it's free, users can submit tabs to fill out their database, and their 'premium tabs' are really nice -- they even appear to be synced to the music so you can press a 'play' button to have it automatically scroll. Sadly it seems that you can't easily print these premium tabs as they're embedded in flash, but the user-submitted ones are plain text that you can copy and paste.

Note to music industry: I'll pay for this stuff -- I've got the collection of Guitar Worlds to prove it. Let us buy it. License it. Stop dooming these promising efforts by refusing your content that you weren't making money on anyways. While you're at it, start selling GarageBand versions of songs. If you want to make more than $0.99 a song, give us more.

November 12, 2007

Robot Guitar

robotguitar.jpgApropos some dinner conversation last night, Gibson launched the "Robot Guitar" today. The name implies a guitar that plays itself -- instead its much simpler and more useful: a guitar that tunes itself. It should help you get up and running from a broken string much quicker, or keep you from having to change guitars between songs with different tunings.

A glowing LED knob lets you set the desired tuning and also illuminates the current setting. Some advanced perks include changing your fundamental frequency, custom tunings -- you store it by strumming the guitar in the desired tuning -- and string winding/unwinding for when you want to change your set of strings. You do have to charge the guitar every 200 tunings or so, but that can be done over your normal guitar cord with a special adapter.

The Web site features a countdown to the 12/7/2007 release of the limited edition first run -- a general release won't be until 2008.

Gibson has previously innovated with an ethernet-capable guitar.

Link

November 1, 2007

Bridge School 2007

This year's Bridge School was a bit more low key than others. Eddie Vedder, Flea, and Jack Irons canceled late and were replaced with My Morning Jacket, which tipped the mellowness balance a little too much. The Saturday show was without the special moments that usually define a Bridge School concert, like Billy Idol and Neil Young performing together, or Tony Bennett and Paul McCartney. The local papers were begging for Bruce Springsteen to make a visit, but that was a pipe dream.

The highlights for me were the Tom Waits and Jerry Lee Lewis sets. Tom Waits performed with the Kronos Quartet, which was theatrical and beautiful, in a noir sort of way. The director gave Waits a Halloween-appropriate lighting scheme -- I'm hoping that the video I took came out decently well. Jerry Lee Lewis was also a joy to watch, especially the combination of innuendo and age. At one point his lyrics were, "twirl for me", which he accompanied with a comically slow gyration of his arms. He may be 72 years old, but he can still rock.

The Metallica was the headliner, but their set ended up being a bit odd. They opened with four straight covers, including Only Happy When It Rains by Garbage and I Just Want to Celebrate by Rare Earth. They then moved on to "covers of Metallica songs", which included Turn the Page, an official Metallica cover song. In other words, it was Metallica covering a bunch of songs, which didn't get the audience too engaged until they ended the set with Nothing Else Matters. You can already buy the songs from the Metallica Web site, which shows that Metallica has come a long way from its Napster days.

October 27, 2007

More free songs

Join the Ticketmaster group on Facebook and get five free iTunes songs.

Also, buy a $5 Starbucks+2 card and get 2 free iTunes downloads.

Extra song of the day cards

In case anyone is looking for them, I have extra Starbucks Song of the Day cards (free iTunes download of a particular song) for:

  • Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds
  • Rogue Wave
  • John Fogerty
  • Angie Stone
  • Sony Kitchell
  • Ceu
  • Brandi Carlile
  • Alice Russell
  • Band of Horses
  • Herbie Hancock
  • Spanish Harlem Orchestra
  • Bitter:Sweet
  • Annie Lennox
  • Alice Smith
  • Gloria Estefan
  • Rissi Palmer
  • Patti Scialfa
  • Mavis Staples
  • John Legend
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Keith Urban
  • Sia
  • John Mayer
  • Joss Stone
  • Federico Aubele
  • Sara Bareilles
  • Paul McCartney

Speaking of which, if anyone has an extra Midon code...

October 23, 2007

Down Cows

IMG_2398.cutout.gritty

IMG_2417.bw.noise

I awoke from my photography slumber to do a quick 20-minute photo shoot with the Down Cows. I have been in bands but never shot bands, so I was up for the experience. After shaking off the rust I emerged with two usable photos, which I then used for Photoshop CS3 practice.

The Down Cows were rehearsing for their upcoming gig with Wisely November 13, 3pm in Sunnyvale.

September 25, 2007

They have Radiohead

I've been browsing the Amazon MP3 download service to build up a list of tracks to buy. I've been on a blues kick lately but so many classic blues artists are sold in overlapping "Best of" compilation collections -- this will let me build my own compilations. Then again, I really can't go wrong with prices as low as $7 for an entire album.

Amazon's new music downloads trumps Apple in one huge regard for me: they have Radiohead. Amazon had to concede the right to sell all of Radiohead's songs album only, with the exception of two singles available on compilation CDs. Strangely, even the tracks on singles are available album only, which calls into question Radiohead's artistic argument.

June 13, 2007

Misheard: Yellow Ledbetter

Kenji sent me this, probably remembering my incessant playing of "Yellow Ledbetter" both on the stereo and with my guitar. Singing the song, of course, requires that you put on your best Eddie-Vedder-drunken-goat voice and slur your way through.

To simply come up with new lyrics would hardly merit a mention, but to find a photo of little horses on a beach for illustrative purposes, that's creativity.

beach.little.horses.jpg

May 13, 2007

Coulton and Scalzi: leveraging Internet fandom

The New York Times has an article, Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog, that focuses on Jonathan Coulton -- Hodgman compatriot and Internet geek music star -- to illustrate how a new generation of musicians are using Internet-based fan interaction to create a new business model for music. The model is fairly simple: give away your music and rely on your fans to pay you anyway. A famous example is Jane Siberry's pay-what-you-want model that has resulted in an average price of $1.30/track. This model has two main element of success: that your fans like your work and that your fans like you. The latter leads to e-mail, blogs, MySpace, and other sorts of fan-facing interactions.

We've seen this model evolve over the past several years and it's nothing new, but I find it fun to track it across multiple media. The New York Times article tries to force the implication that the fan interaction becomes a new burden for the artist, but can also provide relief. Sci-Fi writer John Scalzi recently gave a talk at Google in which he mentions that his laziness led him to put his manuscripts online for free. Instead of creating submission after submission, he has been able to draw the book companies to him and sell multiple books.

Scalzi and the NYTimes article do seem to agree that this business model requires a particular type of artist -- it is not a model for a J.D. Salinger, but it can assist the author pushing product on the book tour circuit. To bring back a lesson from the NYTimes article, Jonathan Coulton is able to sample his audience and target his concert performances to where he can sell 100+ tickets. Coulton's performance with John Hodgman also shows that a book reading can be as much a performance as any concert (see also: Lemony Snicket). The fact is that any interaction with your fans is a performance and, like any performance, we buy tickets.

Scalzi talk at Google:

April 27, 2007

Garageband (NIN)

I was very excited when Trent Reznor first released the master tracks for "The Hand That Feeds" in Garageband format. I imagined bands following Trent's lead and releasing Garageband files on iTunes. I thought about what it would be like to be a kid again learning my guitar songs and being able to lay my guitar solo directly into my favorite song's master mix. But I had to be content with my imagination because I didn't have a Mac.

And then I forgot all about it, even after I got a Mac.

Last night I was reminded as Trent Reznor went ahead and released even more tracks. As far as I can tell, bands haven't followed Trent's lead, but that hasn't stopped him from stepping it up. There are now 3 tracks from Year Zero available for download with the possibility of even more. Its refreshing in a DRM-laden period, where artists and companies alike are so intent on control down to the individual note, and takedown notices are issued even to guitar tablature sites, that a successful musician can completely give up control of his music to his fans. NIN still makes a ton of money; now it might make more.

I played around with all of them until late in the night. I made the songs super fast and super slow. I made Trent sound like a chipmunk and a demon. I stacked vocals on top of each other in a "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" fashion. I ran guitar tracks through the Atari effect to make it sound more 8-bit.

It was fun and also a bit inspiring -- the individual tracks were much more simple than I thought they would be. I won't say that creating music is incredibly easy -- several failed attempts to do so in a band taught me that -- but somehow having a sample to dissect made it seem much more approachable.

April 20, 2007

Take Away Shows

shins.takeaway.jpg

I've just recently stumbled upon blogotheque's Take Away Shows -- I was pulled in by their Shins performance (the 44th Take Away performance). The premise of the Take Away Shows is extreme simplicity: the band stops in some location in Paris, performs a song, and then moves to a new location, while a single camera and microphone follow them around. The result is something to watch streamed to the comfort of your Web browser or downloadable to your iPod.

The Take Away Shows ever-so-vaguely remind me of the Washington Post's virtuoso-violinist-meets-Metro experiment, except it leverage Pop instead of skill, is targeted at people who are in a position to enjoy (Parisian tourists), and comes without the social commentary. In other words, it was more enjoyable for me because you are watching a simple performance of The Shins strolling around from street corner to street corner, truly unplugged. What a treat it would be if the Washington Post could release the Joshua Bell performance in similar packaging.

February 7, 2007

Bridge School Vol. 2 + Cheaper Neil tracks

The Bridge School Collection Vol. 2 is out on iTunes now with 54 new tracks (still no Trent Reznor). The new tracks are mostly from shows I haven't seen so they are a little less interesting, but I went back to the Vol. 1 collection and noticed that they redid the ridiculous pricing they setup there. Previously they had marked the Neil Young songs "album only" -- the 'album' is $60! But the tracks are now available individually, which has finally allowed me to start purchasing some tracks from the collection -- I had been deadlocked by the fact that I couldn't buy any of the other tracks individually because those don't count if you later decide to buy the 'album'.

FYI: I'm a bit puzzled that the Neil Young tracks are now listed at "9:59" in length -- "Cortez the Killer" is actually 15:52, so maybe there is some magical 'album only' flag that iTunes kicks in if a song is over 10 minutes.

February 6, 2007

Well-played Mr. Jobs

With Apple under threat of litigation in Europe for its closed DRM for iTunes/iPod, Steve Jobs counters with a call for the record companies to end all DRM:

Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free. For Europeans, two and a half of the big four music companies are located right in their backyard. The largest, Universal, is 100% owned by Vivendi, a French company. EMI is a British company, and Sony BMG is 50% owned by Bertelsmann, a German company. Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.

Perhaps a bit disingenuous, but it's hard not to rally behind the right call.

November 24, 2006

Bridge School Collection on iTunes

Within my own memory banks, some of the great tracks there are Billy Idol doing "For What It's Worth" and Dave Matthews and Neil Young doing "Cortez the Killer". The latter track will cost you $60 as it is marked "album only", which seems rather crazy applied to 80 tracks -- buy 78 tracks, get two free! The Bridge School concerts are good, but I'll have to decide whether or not they are $60 good.

I'm sure there are other great tracks in there as well, but from my limited attendance I do know that there's plenty missing, including Trent Reznor's set from this year, Paul McCartney singing "Hey Jude" with the audience, Dave Matthews and Neil Young doing "All Along the Watchtower", and Neil Young and the audience doing "Imagine". I don't know if these are awaiting a future release, stuck in licensing issues, or what. With Pearl Jam releasing full recordings of their concerts within 24 hours, I thought we were finally in an age where it might finally be possible to have it all. But at least with iTunes, we have 4x as many tracks as were previously available.

October 22, 2006

Bridge School 2006: Trent Reznor

NIN at Bridge School

Photo from nin.com

This year's Bridge School was filled with many fun performances: older folks groovin' to Brian Wilson (probably the fan favorite of the night), Dave Matthews Band and Neil Young performing a 13-minute jam of "Cortez the Killer", an all-hands performance of "Rockin' in the Free World". But I think the show was stolen by Trent Reznor. Instead of muzak-ing up his music (e.g. the Foo Fighters performance), he got a special acoustical arrangement with string quartet and piano. It absolutely blows Still (NIN's previous acoustic effort) out of the water. I can't believe they did this just for Bridge School -- if they don't make an album out of that it would be a shame.There was the goose-bump raising "The Fragile", a jazzy "Piggy", a haunting, slightly eastern, "Something I Can Never Have", and beautiful versions of "Right Where It Belongs" and the unreleased "Non Entity". NOTE: I didn't actually know the names of most of these tracks, but I was able to look it up using the video I shot video of every song. I would upload the low-quality video, except I have no desire to lose my Youtube or GV accounts.

As for the rest of the concert:

  • Gillian Welch did a great song together with Neil Young did a great song together that I don't know the name of; David Rawlings did some nice guitar solos but d says he was "off"
  • Death Cab for Cutie was rather boring acoustic. I've seen better from them
  • Foo Fighters was overly muzak-y even if Grohl went through the effort of having songs rearranged for violin, accordian, etc...
  • Pearl Jam gave a good performance but nothing amazing (cover of Tom Wait's "Picture in a Frame", a brief "I Used to Work in Chicago" ditty, an organ-accompanied "Betterman", "Crazy Mary" with piano solo)
  • Brian Wilson had even the security guards dancing. It was amusing to see old and young alike breaking out their best beach dance mooves. Wilson had the crowd esctatic even if he seemed like an unhappy puppet forced to perform his past hits -- he walked off stage even before the last song finished.
  • Dave Matthews Band was good even if Dave Matthews was a bit hoarse and I don't like their music. "Cortez the Killer" with Neil Young was awesome and I'm grumbling at my camera for running out of battery with 30 seconds left to record (still have 12 awesome minutes of it). It was as good as his 2001 All Along the Watchtower jam with Neil.
  • Neil Young was good but isn't the best closer. It is his concert, so it's only fair that he can close out the 20th anniversary concert however he wants.

The goods news is that Bridge School is finally releasing more of their back catalog on iTunes (November 14th). I've long wanted to buy many of the unique Bridge School performances (Billy Idol + Neil Young, Paul McCartney + Tony Bennett), but their previous release of 15 tracks doesn't do justice to Bridge School's 20 years of concerts. I'm hoping that will all the hyping they did for the iTunes release that it will be an extensive catalog of songs (and videos) to spend all my disposable income on.

September 7, 2005

iPod nano, pico, pinto

galleryimage012.jpgApple introduced a whole slew of music stuff: iTunes 5, iPod: Harry Potter Edition and the Motorola ROKR photo (100 songs on your phone, rather paltry for an otherwise uninteresting phone). The one that caught my attention the most was the iPod 'nano', the successsor to the iPod mini. It's tiny. It uses flash instead of a hard drive, making it about the width of a #2 pencil. It's small enough that I worry about whether or not the scroll wheel on it will actually be usable. It also comes with a color screen and new features like a better clock, a lap timer, and stopwatch.

The Apple marketing team must have taken a cue from the iPod flea parody: one of the first accessory items that will be offered are 'nanotubes' -- green, purple, blue and pink slipcases -- presumably a step up from the iPod sock.

March 10, 2005

It's your fault

Nobody seemed passionate enough about music to offer a recommendation on how I spend my free iTunes song, so I blame you all for my purchase of The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins by Leonard Nimoy. If I happen to repeatedly inflict this song upon you, know that it is your own fault -- you should have known better than to leave me to my menacing predispositions. Those of you who have heard it before know just how infectious it can be.

Bilbo, Bilbo, Bilbo Baggins, the bravest little hobbit of them all...

December 18, 2004

Mix tape 1 redux

I've made some modifications to mix tape 1.

  1. Looky Looky Yonder - Leadbelly
  2. Summer Babe (Winter Version) - Pavement
  3. Boogie Chillen - John Lee Hooker Sugar Sweet - Muddy Waters
  4. Heroes - David Bowie
  5. Rusty Cage Heart of Gold - Johnny Cash/Neil Young
  6. We're Going to Be Friends - The White Stripes
  7. Supernova Nashville - Liz Phair
  8. Where Is My Mind? - The Pixies
  9. Let the Good Times Roll - B.B. King
  10. Summertime - Doc & Merle Watson
  11. Malaguena Salerosa - Chingon

November 29, 2004

Jolene on iTMS

The White Stripes' cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" is available on iTunes, which is nice, as the version on the "Hello Operator" LP single runs about $40 if you can find it. The iTunes version is from their upcoming Under Blackpool Lights DVD. You can check out streaming video versions at MTV.com.

November 17, 2004

Mix tape 2

  1. Signe - Eric Clapton
  2. My Friends - Red Hot Chili Peppers
  3. Malted Milk - Robert Johnson
  4. The Needle and the Damage Done - Neil Young
  5. Fault Lines - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
  6. Poems For Byzantium - Delerium
  7. So Fresh, So Clean - Outkast
  8. Sarangi - Hooverphonic
  9. Tweaker - Girls Against Boys
  10. Trip My Wire - Garbage
  11. Hip-Hop - Dead Prez
  12. Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  13. Bonaparte's Retreat - Doc & Merle Watson
  14. There There - Radiohead
  15. Voice of the Voiceless - Rage Against the Machine
  16. I Held Her in My Arms - Violent Femmes
  17. Black Jack Davey - The White Stripes
  18. Hard To Imagine - Pearl Jam
  19. Fall in the Light [with Lori Carson] - Graeme Revell
  20. Sent for You Yesterday and Here You Come Today - Jimmy Rushing and Count Basie's Orchestra

Mix tape 1

  1. Looky Looky Yonder - Leadbelly
  2. Rusty Cage - Soundgarden/Johnny Cash
  3. We're Going to Be Friends - The White Stripes
  4. Supernova - Liz Phair
  5. Heroes - David Bowie
  6. All Tomorrow's Parties - The Velvet Underground
  7. Summer Babe (Winter Version) - Pavement
  8. Where Is My Mind? - The Pixies
  9. Boogie Chillen - John Lee Hooker
  10. Let the Good Times Roll - B.B. King
  11. Hound Dog - Big Mama Thornton
  12. Screenwriter's Blues - Soul Coughing
  13. That Day - Poe
  14. Summertime - Doc & Merle Watson
  15. Malaguena Salerosa - Chingon
  16. If I Ruled the World - Tony Bennett

November 2, 2004

Today's playlist

Feel free to contribute and keep me angry today:

"Fortunate Son"
"Rockin' in the Free World"
"The Times They Are A-Changing"
"Star Spangled Banner" ala Hendrix
"Imagine"
"Born in the USA"
"Ohio"
"Take the Power Back"
"Old Mother Reagan"
"Masters of War"
"Mosh"
"War Within a Breath"

Missing mp3s: "Know Your Rights", "Revolution"

Update:
"For What It's Worth"
"If I Rule the World"

Update 2 (per pqbon's comments):
"Man in Black"
"Freedom"
"Know Your Enemy"
"Anarchy in the UK"
"Killing in the Name"
"The Ballad of Ira Hayes"

October 24, 2004

Bridge School 2004

(photos over on flickr)
This is just a draft to get some stuff down before I forget. Assuming I have time, this will become a full entry later.

This was another fun Bridge School. Paul McCartney brought down the house at the very end, and in the three years that I've been there, I think only Billy Idol has come close to rockin' the place in the same way. McCartney does have the advantage with the entire Beatles catalog at his disposal, and he used it perfectly. There's something great about ending a long, all-day concert with a Beatles song. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that 20,000 people all know the words, so you get this tremendous chorus that gives you this buzz at the end of the concert. At the Bridge School Concert a month after 9/11, it ended with everyone singing a tearful "Imagine" (technically not a Beatles song, I know). This year the concert ended with everyone singing the na-na-na-na portion of "Hey Jude."

Tony Bennett was also awesome, and Red Hot Chili Peppers played a great set. I didn't care much for hearing Sonic Youth go acoustic, and Eddie Vedder's solo is a little boring, but hey, it was great to see all of them in one concert.

Continue reading "Bridge School 2004" »

October 12, 2004

Bridge School, anyone?

Anybody else get/getting tickets for the Oct. 24th (Sunday) Bridge School Concert? Just checking so we can coordinate if we want. This year's lineup is Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ben Harper, Sonic Youth, Los Lonely Boys and Tegan & Sara. Saturday was already sold out when I bought tix, so you may want to hurry if you're interested.

June 28, 2004

Pop is Dead

If you can stand listening to two Nickelback songs simultaneously, this track should be enough to prove to you the demise of pop music. Someone mixed one of their songs on the left audio channel and another of their songs on the right audio channel. Listen as the two songs play on in perfect synchrony.

The next step, of course, is when someone writes a computer program that generates both Nickelback songs automatically, but perhaps the music industry already has this written?
- Brandon: As if there weren't already enough reasons to laugh at Nickelback

(via Mr. Happy)

June 26, 2004

Concert: Mike Doughty

We went to go see Mike Doughty perform last night. I would describe it as listening to all the slow (non-jazzy) songs on the Soul Coughing albums (e.g. True Dreams of Wichita) for an hour. That's not to say it was slow, but it definitely had an acoustic performance feel even if Doughty was playing his strat. Perhaps I'm biased from having seen Doughty onstage with in the Soul Coughing days with flashing lights, film reels of smoking cartoon monkeys, and samples blaring through the air. Doughty played with another drummer with an unspellable name and a keyboardist, though for several songs he played solo.

Several Soul Coughing songs were performed:

St. Louise is Listening
Super Bon Bon
True Dream of Wichita
Circles

I was hoping for a little Screenwriter's Blues, but that was a little too much to hope for given their arrangement.

Overall, a good show to be at, but the Soul Coughing comparisons were inevitable for me and I couldn't help thinking, wouldn't Sebastian Steinberg (of Soul Coughing) playing upright bass make this show awesome?

May 4, 2004

YAMS

New music stores are becoming as commonplace as new social networking sites, and Sony, inventor of the Walkman, has finally launched their effort. I wanted to write a fair review, rather than read the press releases and viscerally react at their stupidity, so I've taken the time to download the software for the new music store and I've poked around, all so that I can have a more informed visceral reaction.

I have two ways to summarize my basic reaction. One is, "This is your response to beat Apple?" The other is, "MINIDISC IS DEAD! GET OVER IT!"*

If you're interested in a slightly more detailed explanation of these reactions, you can read the extended entry, where I try to examine in more detail what Sony is trying to do, and why I think it's doomed.

* Caveat: This will probably play well in Japan where MiniDiscs have managed to survive, but it's mind-boggling to me that Sony is letting itself have it's ass handed to it on a platter in the American consumer electronics industry.

Continue reading "YAMS" »

April 15, 2004

Concert: Mixmaster Mike

photo I saw Mixmaster Mike in SF last weekend. A friend got us in free, and you can't go wrong with a free show.

I would lump Mixmaster Mike and DJ Jazzy Jeff in a similar category, which is convenient for me, seeing as I've seen them both. Both are good DJs that got their celebrity by backing someone more famous, and they draw much of their fame from the late 80s and the 90s. The combination of these elements meant that both shows had a nostalgic view, and each featured climaxes of spinning skillz demonstrations. I remember being a little more impressed at DJ Jazzy Jeff's abilities, but perhaps time is playing tricks on my mind.

I'm not good at identifying pure electronic tracks, and there's this one hip-hop song that I keep hearing at so many shows and still don't know the name of, but what I think I remember was Mixmaster Mike having a good transition into Rage Against the Machine's "Know Your Enemy (?)", followed by a transition into Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." There was also the obligatory Beastie Boys with "No Sleep Til Brooklyn (?)" and "Intergalatic Planetary," the latter of which he transitioned into Steve Miller's "Rock 'N Me."

meta reminds me that in addition to the hip-hop, white boy rap, classic rock, alternative rock, and electronica, there was also a bit of bangra thrown in.

(?) Indicates songs that I recognized at the time, but I'm now unsure about because I listened to my iPod on random the next morning and it messed with my memory.

Update: meta informs me that the song was probably "Scenario" off of Low End Theory by Tribe Called Quest, which has Busta Rhymes on it, which would explain why I've heard it before in concert (Busta Rhymes concert at MIT).

March 16, 2004

My Pepsi iTunes Stats

I'm now nine for seventeen on the Pepsi iTunes sweepstakes, which is surprising considering I'm getting the bottles out of a vending machine. I'm ten for eighteen if you include one instance of cheating, which I maintain was necessary: a sampling of the bottles of the supermarket made it clear that others were cheating, which meant that the contest was no longer fair, so it was necessary that I cheat as well :). Not quite game theory, but close enough.

Here's a list of my current purchases:
- "Black Jack Davey" (The White Stripes)
- "You Know You're Right" (Nirvana)
- "Heroes" (David Bowie)
- "Soul to Squeeze" (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
- "Dark Was the Night" (Blind Willie Johnson)
- "Fault Lines" (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan)
- "Tracery" (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan)

These pretty much all fit my criteria of songs that are:
1) not one-hit wonders
2) are not on albums that I would purchase

Blind Willie Johnson might be an exception to (2), as I may buy the album now that I've listened to the track.

I still have three tracks left to buy (someone gave me a winning cap), so we'll see how it goes.

Update: eleven for nineteen (~58%) 13/22 17/31 now

March 8, 2004

My first iTunes Music Store purchase

I've managed to win three free songs from Pepsi cans (out of five tries from the vending machine down the hall). I've been debating my purchases carefully, as I would prefer to purchase songs that I wouldn't otherwise want to buy the album. One hit wonders fall into this category, but I'm not really into one-hit wonders. New tracks released just for a greatest hits compilation also fall into this category, as do B-sides for an album you already own.

I had my heart set on getting White Stripes' cover of "Jolene," as the vinyl 45 with the song on it sells for $25, but iTMS doesn't carry it. I then checked for the extra tracks that Soul Coughing had on their greatest hits album, but iTMS doesn't carry that either.

Nearly defeated, I saw a link on the front page to an "exclusive track," White Stripes' cover of Black Jack Davey, which is a B-side of Seven Nation Army. It's pretty rockin'.

Two songs to go... (Nirvana's "You Know You're Right" is a likely candidate)

March 7, 2004

Concert: Matt Nathanson

To be honest, I still don't know who Matt Nathanson is. When we first got to the show we tried to peg the demographic, but all we could come up with was "20-30 something non-hipster San Franciscans that are of above-average height."

meta got tickets after her friend Joe recommended the show to her, so we went over to Slim's last night to watch him perform. He provides amusing commentary between songs that keeps the audience laughing and throws in some funny covers here and there (Prince, Neil Diamond, James, etc...). He's also a local boy and is pretty talented, but, alas, he's not my type of music. Joe has a quote on his blog that says, "Matt Nathanson-Beneath These Fireworks: This CD will go head to head with John Mayer and Howie Day!." Well, I don't listen to John Mayer or Howie Day aren't my type either, but I imagine if you like those two then you'll like Nathanson as well.

Joe also recommends Victor Wooten, who is playing tonight at Yoshi's (it's actually a Mike Stern show, with Wooten and Dave Weckl). Unlike Nathanson, I have heard Wooten before, and he appeals to my "amazing (bass) guitarist" interest. If you were lucky enough to have tickets to the Wooten show, I hate you, but you should post a description of the show because I'm still wondering how in the world Wooten plays some of his amazing riffs without growing an extra set of arms.

March 2, 2004

Concert: Liz Phair

this entry contains an image, click to view

meta, honeyfields, and I saw Liz Phair last night. meta already beat me to the post, but here's goes my thoughts.

First off, I'm not a huge Liz Phair fan, but spend enough times in meta's car on trips up to Tahoe and you'll have heard all of her old stuff multiple times over and it will start to grow on you. This also means I haven't heard any of her new stuff, with the exception of the lame video on MTV. So judge what I say accordingly.

The Good

My favorite performance of the night: 'Supernova.' This goes against the grain of everything else I will say in this review, because this song was cranked-up, full-ensemble-blasting rock performance. It ended the first set beautifully, and I think her guitarist may have even played the riff better than she does on the album.

In general, Liz Phair's best performances were with her older lo-fi material ("Flower," "6'1"", "Supernova", "Chopsticks," and even throw in "Polyester Bride"). I say this with an extreme bias, but her older material mostly shared the quality that the rest of the band didn't play as much. She was strong and charismatic enough to carry the song on her own, and her voice goes much better with her barely amped telecaster.

meta broke out the biggest grin when she figured out what Liz Phair meant when she said, "We like to bookend our sets. Sauce at the beginning with 'Flower' and sauce at the end," leading into the final song. I'll leave it to your amusement to figure out which song, but I will hint that you don't need to know the lyrics to guess the song (not 'Flower' obviously).

honeyfields also broke out an occassional grin or look of surprise when she understood the lyrics :)

The Bad

She mentioned during the concert that she had played at the Warfield before with just her and her guitar -- I wish I could have gone to that concert instead. This is the only time I've seen her perform, but I imagine that concert must have been better.

Like meta's review pointed out, Liz Phair and her backing band don't mesh. While meta approached this from a chemistry standpoint, I think the idea of having Liz Phair stand onstage with a guitarist, keyboardist, bassist and drummer just doesn't work, and the dynamics were terrible. Liz Phair, while a good performer, does not belt out the type of vocals that can soar over blasting distortion and bass. For some reason, who ever engineered her sound interpreted this conflict as an excuse for pushing Liz Phair's vocals through this boosted reverb that turned her vocals into a mix of clipping and echo whenever she sang the chorus. During the verses there was the opposite problem that the band members didn't know how to use volume pedals or strum more lightly, so her voice dodged in and out.

February 25, 2004

Jolene

We heard "Jolene" by the White Stripes on the radio and none of us knew what album it was on. I had heard the song before, but I wasn't sure why. So for those of you who were in the car, here are the details:

- Jolene was released as a b-side to the "Hello Operator" vinyl single
- Jolene was also a bonus track on a Japanese version of White Blood Cells
- Jolene is played a lot in concert, so I was probably remembering the song from the Berkeley concert

Jack White does five songs on the Cold Mountain Soundtrack (credited to him solo, not the White Stripes)

Update: alejandra points out that this is a Dolly Parton cover.

November 4, 2003

I own zero

...and I'm kinda wondering how this person even bought these albums...
Stone: Worst Album Covers Ever

Update: even more Bizarre Records to trouble you, including poignant entries by Terry Bradshaw and young Drew Barrymore.

(via Dave Barry's Blog)

October 26, 2003

Concert: Bridge School 2003

I was wiser this year and didn't go at the very start, though I probably should have delayed even a bit longer. I didn't really pay attention to Incubus or the Indigo Girls (we missed the bands before them), as I was really just waiting for the final three acts (Pearl Jam, Willie Nelson, CSNY).

Willie Nelson covered a couple of Hank Williams' songs, played a couple with Neil Young, and did his typical fare (at least from the last time I saw him). He was good, though I wish he did some more high-energy songs. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, given their varied collaborations, did some CSNY (Teach Your Children, Our House), Buffalo Springfield (For What It's Worth), and Stills-Young (Long May You Run).

Pearl Jam did a much better set than I saw them do two years ago. They stuck with older material and covers (Dylan, Beatles, Victoria Williams). Eddie Vedder's voice was sounding a bit restrained, but the performances were tight. They had an organ player playing for the first half the set that was actually quite good and made the performances a bit more distinct.

Continue reading "Concert: Bridge School 2003" »

May 9, 2003

Wired: Sony Civil War

This is an interesting Wired article on why my favorite electronics company is forced to make terrible mp3 players: full text.

It's slightly dated, but especially relevant given Apple's new music store and Sony's failures with Pressplay. Apple has it a lot easier, though, because nearly everyone who buys an Apple:
- uses iTunes
- if given the choice of mp3 player would buy an iPod
- is used to Apple controlling their entire digital life


Sony, on the other hand, makes PCs, and OpenMG is a terrible music player when compared to the best-of-breed PC applications. Thus, being forced to switch over to OpenMG or RealOne just so I can buy music online and transfer tunes to my Network Walkman isn't a great user experience for me (as I own a Sony mp3 player, I speak from experience: it's sloooow to transfer songs with the unnecessary mp3->ATRAC re-encoding).

February 11, 2003

Concert: Willie

I took Amanda to a Willie Nelson concert as a present. I'm personally not much of a fan, but, man, that dude is four times my age, ten times a better guitar player, and is in two times better shape than I am. I was getting tired just standing there for the length of the set, while he was standing there playing guitar and pumping his arms. After the set was over he took the time to shake the hands of everyone who could make it to the front and signed anything that was handed to him (boots, tickets, bras). I managed to be the last person to get something signed before he launched into a two song encore, with Amanda and I in the front row. We were close enough that we were looking at the "Willie" embroidered into his New Balance shoes. We could also read the signatures on his guitar (I only remember "Annie" and Paul English).

On another note, the Fillmore is a great concert venue.

August 10, 2002

Concert: The King

Just saw BB King at Shoreline Amphitheater and it was awesome. The man can still play it with the masters. Instead of selling CDs they should sell DVDs - the amount of emotion BB puts into every lick and bend is awesome.

I also got to see George Thorogood - he may still play the same stuff as always but I still dig it.

October 21, 2001

Concert: Bridge School

My first Bridge School concert. Worth every penny/hundred dollar bill. Bring pants next time. Pearl Jam was a big disappointment, seeing as I came mostly to see them. They hadn't played together in awhile, and it showed. They were also playing some new songs that I didn't think were particularly good, and they were also in a rush to get up to Seattle with REM for another concert.

Billy Idol was definitely the highlight of the night, especially for his theatrics and for the way that he performed for the Bridge School children, performing his sexually charged lyrics directly to them. In an acoustic concert where most artists interepret that to mean their hit songs, but slower, having Billy Idol going full blast was a big energy booster and got everyone going.

Neil Young
Sugar Mountain and Blowing in the Wind (how many cannonballs´┐Żbefore they are banned?)

Jill Sobule
Kathie Lee loves me
Slutty Mouseketeers (Bitter song)
Survivor

Ben Harper
songs to sleep by
Song w/ mother

REM
The other song from automatic for the people
Everybody Hurts
Sugar of life (or whatever that crappy song is called)
Losing my religion

Dave Matthews
Song w/ Tracy Chapman
Sometimes I find its better to be somebody else
Crash
I did it
w/ Neil Young: All Along the Watchtower. This was actually cool.

Pearl Jam
The Kids Are Alright
Wishlist
2 new songs (last hope? Written by Mike). Very appropriate for acoustic
Lowlight (first live performance)
Nothing as it Seems
Black
1 unidentified song (truth)
Indifference w/ Ben Harper
Soldier of Love

Tracy Chapman
More songs to sleep by

Billy Idol
White wedding
For What It's Worth w/ Neil Young (in cowboy hat) - Buffalo Springfield cover
Rebel Yell
Mony Mony

Neil Young
Blowin' in the Wind
Imagine