Random thoughts, dubious rants, curiosities and worthy citations on the media, politics, marketing, music, inanity, and animals, among other things. Words and pictures and stuff, mostly from south central Wisconsin USA
1. The only way to get decent pavilion seats is through a broker. Period. But it was worth it.
2. Some people actually tow their boats into the parking lot so they can have a pre-concert party on a boat even if it isn't a boat on the water.
3. Costumes aside, this is a crowd of people who really don't give a fuck how they look as long as they are comfortable. Even if at times it is not comfortable to be looking at some of them.
4. Nothing separates the novices from the veterans like the mix of vast quantities of alcohol, high humidity and temperatures in the 90s. Saw more than a few newbies who missed the actual concert but probably had a good time before they passed out.
5. Drunk young women are willing to encourage strangers to sing with them... even strangers as strange as me.
6. It's both hilarious and pathetic to see a drunk teenager puke out the door of a slow-moving vehicle. Mostly because I have been that drunk teenager.
7. I really do know all those songs by heart. And I am proud of that.
8. There is a lot of gray hair (or no hair) on those Coral Reefer Band members. But they sure look like they enjoy what they do. I would too if I had the same job for 30 years and only worked summers.
9. The concert is definitely more fun if you tailgate. And tailgating is definitely more fun with a gallon of mojitos.
10. Even though it took over 90 minutes to get out of the parking area, it was more than tolerable because with a Buffett crowd there are tunes blasting, everyone is so laid back, and there are so few jerks. The few jerks we saw were the guys throwing beer bottles into the grass from their vehicles... vehicles that had either McCain/Palin or "W" stickers on them. Just sayin'.
11. I was surprised I didn't smell any weed at all in the pavilion during the show... and I have a finely tuned sense of smell for that particular thing. My hopes for a contact high were dashed but I totally enjoyed the show anyway.
Looking back, I realize that I was very fortunate to have parents who supported my creative endeavors, however mediocre they may have been. I also appreciate that I worked for a long time at an ad agency where management (for the most part) fostered a culture that allowed us the freedom to fail.
Creativity needs room and time and encouragement to grow, and kids need to know creative activities are not a waste of time. That's why so many people including myself credit Michael Giacchino, composer of the original score to the film Up, with delivering a most memorable and meaningful acceptance speech at the Academy Awards presentation last night...
“When I was 9, I asked my dad, ‘Can I have your movie camera? That old, wind up 8 millimeter camera that was in your drawer?’ And he goes, ‘sure, take it.’ And I started making movies with it, and I started being as creative as I could. And never once in my life did my parents ever say, ‘What you’re doing is a waste of time.’ Never. And I grew up; I had teachers, I had colleagues, I had people that I worked with all through my life who were always telling me, ‘What you’re doing is not a waste of time.’ So that was normal to me, that it was OK to do that. I know there are kids out there who don’t have that support system. So if you’re out there and you’re listening, listen to me: If you want to be creative, get out there and do it; it’s not a waste of time. Do it.”
Well said, Mr. Giacchino. Well said.
Best. Acceptance. Speech. Ever.
Here's part of the beautiful piece of music for which he won the Oscar, one that should leave you smiling...
Take down the lights on the Wang Dang Doodle stage at ChicagoFest. The Queen of the Blues is dead.
Koko Taylor, the Grammy Award-winning "Queen of the Blues," died
Wednesday afternoon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital of complications
from surgery, according to Marc Lipkin of Alligator Records. She was 80.
Taylor, born Coral Walton on a sharecropper's farm outside Memphis,
came to Chicago in 1952 and worked as a house cleaner. She began to sit
in with blues bands and in the early 1960s signed a contract with Chess
Records after being approached by Willie Dixon. In 1965 she recorded
her signature song, "Wang Dang Doodle." [Chicago Tribune]
No one did it like Koko.
Let the good tmes roll, but not tonight. Koko's gone. Godspeed, Queen of the Blues.
Matt Alber, a native of Wichita, Kansas, is a school teacher turned musical artist. From his Facebook biography...
I grew up singing in choirs. I enjoy singing with other people with
wide eyes and open hearts. I went to school to study music. The best
parts were spent in a rehearsal room where we all trusted each other.
San Francisco I sang with an acapella ensemble called Chanticleer
directed by a quirky genius of a man named Joe Jennings. He taught me
how to challenge a choir to leap forward and discover the miracle they
already had in their hands. We toured the globe and made many records
together. (2 of them won the Grammy even. How about that?!)
year I'm pushing myself to improvise on stage and rearrange my songs
continually. I'm also starting my own choir of gay and lesbian seniors,
or rather, they might be starting me.
Alber's voice reminds me a bit of Rufus Wainright, with a hauntingly beautiful range and quality that makes it, to me, instantly likable. His music is available at both iTunes and Amazon (who presumably has not blacklisted his Amazon rank due to "adult content" in their recent "glitch.") You can also sample his recordings and videos at his MySpace page.
"You still buy CDs?" asked Ross the Intern. "Why?"
"I don't know," I replied, truly not knowing why I still accumulate plastic discs that are left in stacks after being loaded onto the MacBook, never to be touched again. It's an interesting generational issue, one that most certainly has effects on how people discover, buy, share and collect music. I know a lot college kids who never buy a hard copy of any music. On the other end of the spectrum, my friend Phil has one of the most incredible music collections of anyone I know. This man has vinyl, 8-tracks, cassettes and CDs to fill his entire basement. I wouldn't be surprised if he had piano rolls down there. As for me, I would estimate I have about 2500 CDs plus maybe 250 LPs and some cassettes. All of my stuff would easily fit on the 500GB external drive I have.
It's not just the hard copy versus electronic file preference thing that intrigues me. The very way people get their music now has undergone a sea change in the past ten years. Unless you've been living in a cave, you know that. Still, it's amazing to think that ten years ago, national chains like Tower Records, Sam Goody and Musicland, along with the radio and video programmers, really ran the music distribution business. Now, the only brick and mortar retailers that matter are Wal-Mart and Target. And then there's Amazon. Once i-Tunes hit cyberspace, Amazon and others quickly retooled their models to deliver MP3s. Sure, radio and video still has influence. But with XM and Sirius taking away share, along with no end of streaming opportunities, long gone are the days when local radio play really matters to new artists.
All this got me to thinking about the factors of influence on the music buying public these days. Driving this musing in part is that I have a couple papers to write this semester; one is for a media theory class and the other is a media effects class. In the effects class, we've been talking a lot about the power of personal influence. There are a lot of angles to that area of study. The theory of Two-Step Flow of Communications, which suggests people rely on opinion leaders to help them shape and understand what the media is telling them, has given way to a more complex theory that has everyone influencing everyone else. (That description will not get me far on a test.) For these papers, and perhaps ultimately building up to my thesis, I want to zero in on how the confluence of digital technology and the nature of blogs and social networking are impacting the discovery, sharing, distribution and finances of the music business.
As for myself, I used to owe a lot of my new music discovery to WXRT-FM in Chicago. XRT is a great station that has remained as true to its roots as possible given its transition from independent rebel to corporate property. Some music press added to my information net, along with the occasional recommendation from a friend. Now, with limited access to good over-the-air radio in Madison, I am accommodated by the web in my pursuit of new and different music. Sources of information are still, in part, tools of the industry. I buy everything from Amazon, and their logarithms are always offering suggestions... and I am occasionally acting on them. But, more and more, I am turning to blogs and other internet sources for recommendations. These aren't necessarily major sites. Case in point, my current fascination with Vampire Weekend.
I first heard of this quirky band from a friend's blog:
I've been listening to the self-titled debut album by Vampire Weekend, and its pretty damn good. I was a little apprehensive at first because the band members are all Columbia grads and many of their songs have pretentious titles like "Oxford Comma." So they had a strike against them before I started listening.
But I love their shit. What do they sound like? Imagine Paul Simon circa Rhythm of the Saints getting drunk on a boat with Sublime and Peter Gabriel. A lot of their songs have a quality that I can only put into words as "summer lakehouse-y".
--Mike at Irrational Exuberance
Mike, the blogger, is half my age. We listen to different stuff for the most part. But the way he wrote about this band sent me right over to Amazon to order the CD (hard copy!) sound-unheard. It was worth the ten bucks to take a flyer on it. I am not alone. On the heels of their Saturday Night Live appearance, their debut album holds lucky number 13 right now on Amazon. More interestingly, they are the number three album on iTunes. That kind of supports my research hypothesis that the kids buying music are operating under a different paradigm.
But not all is sunshine and roses for these guys. Their rapid ascent, lightweight songwriting and musical prowess, and instant stardom are also already being chronicled. This guy hates 'em, if I interpret his one-line review correctly. Another blogger-reviewer put more thought into why he's not impressed. And he makes a good argument, including this part:
And then I got home and found out who these guys were: a bunch of prep-school white boys from Columbia University. For an indie pop band, this is not entirely surprising, but from a musical standpoint, I find their ubiquitousness kind of troubling. Why? Because they're doing Afro-pop.
I just think there's something inherently racist about what this band is doing, or something at least condescending toward Afro-pop artists who will probably never explode in America in the same way: they're putting a white face on African music and getting the approval and encouragement of their establishment.
I think, but can't say for sure, that Vampire Weekend is a good example of a band with a CD to sell whose success is being driven by the web, specifically by blogs and music sites. And with two videos up on iTunes, they are on their way to the fame, however fleeting, that awaits them. In another era, they may have been a one-hit wonder with a novelty song driven by record company promotion and DJ payola. (Think Winchester Cathedral or Don't Worry, Be Happy... if you must.)
I don't know yet if this is a good idea for a series of research projects. It will depend on how much study has already been done... that has data I can get. But common sense tells me that the power of multi-step communications flow (aka interactive media and media users) means end users of content (aka people who listen to this stuff) have a whole lot more sway on what makes it in the music business these days. At the same time, the technology allows even the lonely musician with three fans not including family to put something out in the ether and hope for the best. Publishing is, well, as easy as this tripe I put up here.
So who is the next Vampire Weekend? Watch the blogs and Facebook and you may know before I do.