Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Music and Feeling Down

One of the things that I have always thought about music is that certain songs come along at a certain point in your life and those songs are absolutely perfect at the time. Yet, times change, your friends change, your life changes, and it hurts to actually hear that song that you once loved so much. The song is played and it actually hurts a little too much to listen to because the reminder is just too hard to deal with. Perhaps, that song will be okay to listen to at a future point in your life, but you still cannot bring yourself to listen to it right then. 

In contrast, there are certain songs that you have loved and will always love, which you will always seek out when you are feeling a little down. For me, the song is the hidden track on Coldplay's first album called Life Is For Living. I tend to screw up quite a bit and when I do, I always return to this song because it gives me comfort. Chris Martin sings, "Now I never meant to do you harm that is what I came here to say. But if I was wrong then I'm sorry, I won't let it stand in our way. Now my head just aches when I think of the things that I should not have done. But life is for living they all say, and I don't want to live it alone." We all have those songs that give us comfort when things are not going our way. The song speaks to us as if the songwriter was actually specifically writing the song for me. I know Chris Martin was not writing that song for me, but it is fun to daydream about that fact. We all have those songs that comfort us in these times and that is a reassuring notion for all of us. That is the beauty of music. If you are feeling depressed, you simply visit an old friend that has some words of advice for you. It may not change anything, but at least you do not have to sit there in silence hearing the sound of your own wayward thoughts. I know being sad and depressed pretty much sucks, but Music can make it tolerable.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Music We Like and Fistfights?

One thing that I have always thought about when it comes to music is the fickle nature of how certain songs hit us. I am always fascinated by the fact that a certain song one person likes; another person simply does not get that same feeling. I have some time struggled with this fact. I will cry out to some of my friends, how come you do not love this song as much as I do. Yet, I will be the one not wanting to hear the great qualities of country music, period. 

The problem exists as I explained in my jukebox article is when people do not understand and tolerate this fact. On occasion, I am guilty of this as well. You then have two choices in how to proceed next. The first choice is to accept that we have musical differences and even try to appreciate the likes of other people. The second choice is to become a music snob. I believe that I have done a fairly decent job, not a great one in trying to appreciate the music of others. My proof is the fact that I try to listen to rap and hip-hop, even though my great musical love is indie rock 'n roll. If I had not done this, perhaps I never would've discovered Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Jay-Z. 

In contrast, the music snobs will not come within 10 feet of a certain type of music. This does not make me angry, but it makes me feel sorry for them. The reason why is they are missing out on music that could possibly bring about amazing feelings inside of them. The same people sit there and complain about your music, but when it comes time to hear criticism on their choice of music, they simply do not want to hear it. Even if the reasons behind not liking that kind of music are valid. 

This seems like such a small argument to some people. People say, come on, it is just music. Yet, people must understand that it is not just music. People are hopelessly devoted to the songs they are attached to in this world. I am guilty of this as well. I have always had a difficult time accepting why people do not love the band the Strokes as much as I do. 

This becomes why music in public places can be risky at times. The songs and the artists that people like is a deeply personal thing that will not only rub them the wrong way if criticized, but will cause them to be outright offended and do something about it. I have seen it before. Not only do they get into a heated argument about music, things almost escalate into getting physical. I love music and I love the music that I love, but I will be damned if I am going to get into a fistfight over it. People can be foolish sometimes.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Remember That One Show...

Going to a live show is wonderful. You can talk about the music all you want. One can talk about the shared experience of seeing these musicians live and up close. Yet, one of the things that I love about concerts are the memories that you take with you forever, especially the hilarious ones. Let me share with you some of my favorite ones over the years.

At Oasis in Las Vegas in 2008, I was sitting in the balcony next to this couple from New Jersey, who had traveled all the way from there just to see this band. Liam and Noel came onstage, but then I noticed that this man's wife had fallen asleep or to put it more precisely, she had pretty much passed out. I said to the guy, "Don't you want to wake up your wife?" He looked at me with a very serious face and said, "Fuck her if she cannot handle her liquor. It is her own damn fault." She missed the whole show.

Another time I was at Lollapalooza watching the band Spoon with a friend of mine. We were relaxed lying on a grassy hill when another guy that we came with bugged us. He said, "You have to come over and meet these guys I just met. They are from Australia." My friend said no. We were fine here. The guy screamed out, "But they are from Australia!" I said, "I don't care where they are from." He sulked away really upset that we would not meet his new friends from Australia.

Other moments are even more surreal when you get to meet members of the band. I attended a show in Chicago for And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead. After the show, I hung out at the bar waiting for my cab to arrive. Suddenly, the entire band surrounded me quite by accident to have a drink or two. I summoned up the courage to tell one of the founding members how much I had always loved their music and they put on a really great show. He said thank you and wondered if I wanted an autograph. I told him that an autograph would be nice, but what I really wanted to do was a shot with him. I asked him if he would like to do a Fireball with me. He said, "I only do tequila." I ordered up two tequilas and I think one more for their manager. yet, when it came time for me to pay the bartender, I realized I needed to go to an ATM. Thank God there was one right around the corner still inside the bar, but I sat at that machine praying that it would give me money. How embarrassing that would have been. We downed the shots and it ended up being a very good night.

My favorite concert story of all time is when I met the band Weezer backstage at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago before one of their shows. At that time, I had this running joke with a group of my friends that if I ever became a male stripper, my name would be Hurricane. I even had a hat that actually said Hurricane on it. I ended up wearing that hat on the night that I met them backstage for a photo. As I am walking away, the bass guitarist for Weezer asked me what my hat meant. I told him that it was what my name would be if I were a male stripper. Immediately following the statement, I noticed the lead singer, Rivers Cuomo, smile and laugh. I will never forget the look on his face for the rest of my life. I made him smile. As I was walking away, the bass guitarist told me not to give up hope, there was still time for me to become a stripper. 

Live music is fantastic. You sometimes hear things that only on that night would you hear. Yet, these things nowadays are recorded and you can watch them on YouTube over and over. Yet, the memories that people obtain while attending concerts are the priceless things that you cannot go on to YouTube and find.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Supergroups...Super Complicated

Supergroups. They have become so fashionable lately like Them Crooked Vultures, A Perfect Circle, Broken Bells even. Everybody and their mother are joining forces in one way or the other it seems. The thing that fascinates me is the dynamics behind the supergroup, the motivation behind starting one, and the inner workings of these entities. You can't say that the supergroup is merely a group of individuals getting together because they admire each other. Now, the question becomes are we going to start seeing, to use a sports analogy, things like the Miami Heat and their big three. Are we going to start seeing bands completely forsake prior relationships in order to form a supergroup? 

Now, as much as I love the supergroup, there is a sense that people really want to see material coming from the original band. It simply is just not the same as the original. It is a strange feeling to articulate. Yet, one visualizes the original bandmates for each particular musician accompanying that person, instead of who is actually on stage with them. It is in a way kind of like a cover song. The cover song might've been done more skillfully then the original, but that still does not change the fact that it is not the original. The other thing at play here is how do you cater to all these talents. I mean something could be said that these people that join supergroups are going from being a big fish in a little pond to being a little fish in a big pond. I am really not sure what the best analogy for supergroups could possibly be. 

You could say that it is a girlfriend that her husband cheats on, but would never really leave his wife for. The wife has too much history, too much shared experience, and he has put in way too much work to simply throw that all away. I guess you could also look at it as the original band is a bit of a safety net. This is particularly so, if the supergroup has not released anything yet. 

Yet, I believe one of the reasons that draws people to the supergroups is the idea of newness, where these artists can gain fresh experiences that are simply not occurring anymore in their current band structure. They talk and work with these acquaintances and say to themselves, wow, this feels pretty good. I simply do not feel that way in my current band. I just simply do not believe that unless the band situation is so toxic, these musicians will completely forsake their original band to enter into the supergroup. If history and trends matter, supergroups do not last because the egos eventually get in the way after the honeymoon period is over like Cream. This again brings up the comparison of marriage of an original band and the temporary relationship status of the supergroup. 

One of the characteristics of the supergroups is that the reason they get together in the first place is a love for music. These are the artists in their respective groups who eat, sleep, and pretty much shit music all day long. The conflict occurs in the fact that each person probably has their own strong ideas on musical direction and it is probably even harder in a supergroup. This is why I think for the most part supergroup albums tend to fall short of the heightened expectations. Many times there is no true direction because the members in a supergroup are trying their best not to step on each others toes, but also to give each member their say and chance to shine. An original band is not that democratic, where not everyone gets to have their say.

In the end, supergroups are great, fascinating, intriguing, and produce some really great music. Yet, they do not possess the characteristics of long-term or permanent success. The dynamics of the supergroup are so much more complicated and require much more nuance then an original band. Let me also close in saying that the original bands have a certain sense of loyalty to them. These bands made a lot of money for a lot of people, and the leaders of these bands that go to a supergroup simply cannot forget about all of that. If you think about it, when Maynard Krebs goes into the rock 'n roll Hall of Fame and, what band will he go in as first ? Well, you have to say without a doubt that it is going to be Tool, not A Perfect Circle.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Free or Not Really That Free? U2 and Jay-Z

Yesterday with the announcement of the new iPhone 6, U2 released their new album for free for anyone with an iTunes account or an iPhone. This is similar to a move made a summer ago when Jay-Z released his new album to anyone with a Samsung phone. At first, I was rather excited over the prospect of a new U2 album that I get for free. Some people would say who do I have to kill? Yet, I listened to the album and there are some decent songs on there, but for the most part it is a very average album. This is not new because I remember the album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and thought the same thing. You just expect more with this artist. Perhaps our expectations are just too high for them with their past work. 

This is a problem for every major artist that does excellent work. The public is always expecting something to surpass what they have done before. This is unrealistic and unfair, but whoever said life was fair anyway. The album seems to drag along at certain points. The songs that you would like to end very quickly seem to go on forever. There just isn't anything sonically exciting about a lot of the tracks on this album.

Now, this brings me to the entire point of this article. Jay-Z's album Holy Grail from last summer suffered under the exact same conditions. I remember calling it lazy, common, and pretty average. My point is, if an artist or band is releasing an album for free to a certain population like a certain phone user, do they present a less desirable product? Maybe it is just a coincidence that I found both these albums to be simply average. I feel the question must be asked because if another major album comes out unexpectedly for free on Virgin Mobile phones and it is very average, what are we to think? 

I am beginning to think perhaps that the artist knowing that the album is going to be on all of these devices and they are still going to get paid from the phone company may not try as hard. I am not accusing either of these artists of doing so. Yet, one does have to wonder whether or not the factor of being able to sell your album ever crosses the minds of these artists when they've been given this huge payday from the phone company. I do not wish to question anyone's artistic integrity, but the proof is in the pudding and the pudding says these albums are not as good as previous ones. 

Now, I probably still would've purchased these albums anyway. This is based on the previous track records of these artists, so perhaps my perspective in this article really makes no difference at all in the end. Yet, I simply find it hard to believe that U2 has been working on this for five years with such noted producers as Danger Mouse turned out to be so average. 

Now, magazine articles have compared artists like Radiohead with U2 and Jay-Z. I am assuming they're talking about the In Rainbows album, but that was a much different situation altogether. Radiohead did not receive a huge payday from releasing that album for free. Fans could donate whatever they wanted to Radiohead, if anything at all. They left it up to the fans. In contrast, Jay-Z and U2 are being paid monstrous sums of money to allow their album to be downloaded to phone users. The problem with this is some music fans will look at these artists as selling out and aligning themselves with the corporate nature of the music business. One of the things that I know about music fans is they hate sellouts. 

I guess in the end, we will just have to wait and see if this is a trend where artists are giving away their albums for free, just for the exposure. This is a point that must be emphasized about U2. They have not come out with an album in about five years. The music world has changed quite a bit since then. The band is getting older and Bono probably wants to remain relevant. Yet, then again, Bono has always had a thing for Apple anyway. If you remember, they sold U2 iPods when How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was released. Is it any coincidence that it was pretty average as well?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Music Releases: The Good and Bad

Yesterday, a number of high profile albums were all released on the same day including Ryan Adams, Interpol, The Kooks, Karen O, and U2 the next day for free no less. This only happens once or twice a year, but it does present certain issues for the music fan. First, let me say, that having some of your favorite artists come out with albums all at the same time is a good thing. I would rather have these albums be released, than not at all. Saying that, let me point out a problem with this. For example, four albums came out yesterday and I wanted all of them. I will get all of these albums at the same time. Which one do I listen to first? How much time do I spend on each album? Am I rushing through listening to a certain album? How do I find the best songs as fast as possible for an album? All of these things go through the music fan's mind when trying to digest multiple albums all at once. You cannot even go to reviews to find out the best songs because some of these albums are so new; they have not even been reviewed yet. 

In contrast, one of the more annoying traits of buying a new album is when the only good song was the single that went along with the preorder. This can be very frustrating moneywise, but for me that is not what I get annoyed by. I hate the fact that I wasted a certain amount of time actually listening to the darn thing and not being able to pull out any songs that I liked besides that single. This is what I hate about the pre-release singles that are always coming out months ahead of an actual album. These singles are the best songs on the album. The artist know that if they release the singles, people will think the rest of the album is just as good when this is not the case. I found this out first hand with Interpol's new album, El Pintor. 

These pre-release singles are a problem because they are too good, which causes heightened expectations for an album that cannot live up to them. I would much rather discover these songs within the confines of the actual album release. Yet, I know music is a business and they have to sell records somehow. An entirely different discussion is how the album is dead and digital singles are all that matter in the music business world now anyway. 

In the end, if a number of albums come out at the same time, I feel blessed and take however long it will take to fully listen and appreciate each of them. Sometimes this can take up to a month, but I want to make sure I don't miss any golden nuggets that are out there on these albums.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Solo Album: So Very Complex

One of the things that has always interested me in the music world is the concept of the solo album. There are varying trends and issues that emerge when looking at the solo album as a concept. First of all, what prompted the artist to create a solo album? One of the things that worries me is that the band is on the verge of a breakup. What if the solo album takes off and the artist decides that he or she would be better off without the band? I think of Stevie Nicks when she had a couple of hits on her solo album, which caused her to resist returning to Fleetwood Mac.

To me personally, there are reasons that a solo album makes a heck of a lot of sense, but on the other hand there are times when it makes no sense at all. The times that it does make sense is when an artist has music inside of them, but cannot communicate those ideas within their current band or group. Albert Hammond Junior of the Strokes is a key example of this. It is a well-known fact that Julian Casablancas, the lead singer of the group has a very difficult time allowing other ideas to come across when they are making the new album. Albert needed to go outside the group to express his music and once he did so, everyone discovered that he was a pretty good artist on his own. 

Another reason that I find valid for an artist to go outside of the band or group is that they wish to get more experimental than any album ever made by that band. I think of Julian Casablancas and the Voidz or Thom Yorke of Radiohead in this instance. Artists such as these wish to expand their sound, experiment with their sound, but doing so in the natural framework of their original band might cause issues. Some of the possible consequences of doing so in the original band would be turning off fans, underselling an album, alienating the other band members. Sometimes going outside the group would be the only way for the music to see the light of day as other band members may not want to go that experimental. Being experimental is interesting and fun, but people do start to get scared when it becomes risky and affects potential earnings growth. 

Another time that a solo album makes sense is that a particular artist in the group is going to make a complete break from the group anyway. This has happened over the course of time throughout music history. You think of an artist like Rod Stewart or more recently Noel Gallagher, who really needed to be on his own due to his enormous ego breaking free. The fact that this happens is sometimes sad, but explains the complexities of group dynamics and smacks of the inevitable. 

Now, there are other times when a solo album seems pretty pointless. One of the examples in the recent past that I remember is the one done by Brandon Flowers of the Killers. The album was basically made up of songs that had been rejected by the band. If you play the album, the average listener probably could not tell the difference between that and a regular Killers album. I believe what happens is a driving force in a band from the songwriting standpoint gets really anxious to create and produce new music, but other band members simply do not want to record at that time. Instead of being patient and waiting for the band members to come around, they simply go ahead and call it a solo album. One of the issues with this is the fact that the other bandmembers do finally come around and are ready to record, but that songwriter is not ready to record because he is out touring his solo album. I remember Julian Casablanca's during the recording of the album Angles recorded his vocals on his own and emailed them to the group. This really is not a very effective way to make an album.

The solo album simply put is a complex creature. You never know the dynamics or the emotions behind it. So album could be quite harmless, but it also could cause damage to a band that is beyond repair. That is before the album is even made, toured with, and received by the public. I guess for me with some of my favorite bands when a solo album is on the horizon; I get a bit angry and jealous because I simply do not want to wait around even longer for the band to come out with new material. Let me close by saying that I think that in rock 'n roll the solo album becomes a much more complicated venture because of the prevalence of bands or groups when compared with other genres of music like country and rap where the entire substance of that kind of music is solo related. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Long Awaited Music and How Long Is Too Long

This week Julian Casablanca released a new single from his long awaited solo album, which he has been teasing for probably like a year. This brings up certain thoughts I have about waiting for new music to appear. I find that there are certain levels within this idea of realistic expectations for new music. 

There is the absolutely ridiculous, which you can put into the categories of Dr. Dre and his Detox album or Chinese Democracy by Guns and Roses. The problem with albums such as these is so much time passes that the music world simply does not care anymore. The music world will roll its eyes at the fact that any news regarding the release is out there. Fans simply do not believe it anymore. The other trend that appears with these decade long-awaited album releases is that the style of music is no longer in style. This is quite clear with Chinese Democracy as it became just an ordinary album, but I have to think it would've gotten slightly larger buzz if it had been released at least five years previously. 

Now, you have artists in the medium-range like a Julian Casablancas or his band the Strokes. This is the best way for the music fan and the musician for many reasons. For example, the artist is working very hard to produce quality music and it shows, while in contrast if they're coming out with new albums every few months, then you begin to wonder whether they are in it for the money. They are interested in quantity over quality. Another facet of this is if their output is to prolific, then you may get tired of hearing this music. Here you have a Catch 22 where the artist if he or she waits forever to release something is criticized for a lack of passion, but if they release too much material people seem to feel that their music product is somehow dilluted. 

Yes, and this brings us to the final group of artists, who release something new almost every six months. Some people tend to view these artists as creating music based on a formula that does not really change that much. Me personally, I like to see artists that stretch themselves, expand themselves, work on different sounds, and I know that this takes time. Perhaps, this is why I do not enjoy country music or electronic music as much as the next person because it is more based on a kind of formula, then anything else. That is not to say that acts like Coldplay do not create some of their music on a formula because they do. I noticed with Coldplay that as much as they want to be experimental they always return in some way to their formula that has made them so much money in the past. Yet, this viewpoint is an entirely different article altogether, which shall be considered at a later time. 

Let me just close in saying that artists that wait too long for their next album run the risk of the music world passing them by. Yet, artists that put out too much material too quickly also run the risk of losing their music fans due to overexposure. I simply do not have an exact equation in order to perfect when and how an artist should release their next album after they do strike gold. Lady Gaga is a prime example of this. She did not wait forever for her next album, but she did not push one out there immediately after the success of her first album. Yet, she still suffered from over exposure. I guess it just goes to show you how fickle the music world and what is popular and what is not popular can be sometimes.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hmmm...Rap and Our Culture

I like rap music. Now, I am not a diehard rap music fan, but I do like artists like Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Jay – Z. Yet, when these artists go on tour; I was sometimes a little apprehensive to attend the show. I do not want to make this out to be any sort of racial stereotype, but I do worry being a white man going to these shows. Yet, this fallacy in my own mind, was disproven when I attended a Jay – Z show at Soldier Field a few years ago. I walked in and I looked around at the crowd attending the show and it was more white than black. All this time, I had been wrong about rap music. This genre of music is now in the mainstream for everyone, no matter what the color of your skin. Many young white teens and adults across this country listen primarily to rap music. Yet, this is where a question or a conundrum does appear because of the content of the lyrics in rap music. I sometimes wonder why so many young whites are embracing what is essentially an authentic black experience. This leads further to the question of why they want to identify more with the black experience, rather than the white one. I am not saying there is anything wrong with this. I am just asking myself why is this so. For this, I simply do not have a good answer. I never said in this blog that I would be able to have all the answers. I think we must continue to ask the questions, despite the presence of a good answer. We must keep going on with such discussions, if we are to move forward as a culture.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Is The Deal with Maroon 5?

One of the more fascinating musical acts out there in existence is the band, Maroon 5. This group began almost I would say a decade ago and everyone in the band was pretty much equal. By equal, I mean that everyone in the band probably had an equal say on things. In their early Videos, you could see that they were a band, instead of some vehicle for lead singer Adam Levine. Yet, as time has passed, their lead singer's star has continued to rise as he has made quite a large name for himself through the television show, the voice. Now, this is the part that I find so I don't really fascinating. These guys still tour under the name Maroon 5. Maybe I am completely missing something here, but most times when the lead singer moves into superstardom, that lead singer breaks away and becomes a solo artist. Examples I can think of our Stevie nicks, Rod Stewart, don Henley, John Fogerty, and so many more. It is very strange that they still tour around the country as Maroon 5. I saw this live in action when I went to a concert for Maroon 5. Adam Levine was front and center, while the rest of the band was at least 20 feet behind him where you could barely see them. This can be put to a further test if you have even watched any of their recent videos. All of their videos have Adam Levine as the star, while the other members of the band are simply cameos. I guess my question would be: are the other members of the band being paid such a good amount of money that they are okay with being basically a backup band? I mean couldn't Adam Levine simply hire professional musicians to do this just like say Trent Reznor does? I am not sure but I know bandmembers throughout rock 'n roll history or even pop music history that would have never played second fiddle once the lead singer became a superstar. I mean it has become obvious that nobody really knows who the hell besides Adam Levine is actually in the band.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chicago Music Venues: A Review

Chicago, Illinois has a wide variety and long history of music venues. These clubs and theaters run the full gamut. I have seen shows in almost every single one of them. Each place has its pluses and minuses, which I am now about to elaborate on. 

The first is the metro on Clark Street near Wrigley Field. This venue is pretty great because of the closeness, in which you get to see the performer. I believe the place only has a capacity for about 2000 people. This means that there is not a bad place to see anything. One of the major drawbacks is the fact that it is so small, so tickets for premium performers sell out very quickly. For example, Coldplay did a show there one year and I did not even attempt to try and get tickets because it would've been pointless. Yet, there is another cool benefit to seeing the show here because if it lets out early enough, you can go downstairs and check out a DJ at the very hip Smart Bar. 

The second place is the Vic Theatre, which is located very close to the Metro. This is a nice venue because unlike the Metro, the Vic has balcony seating and even some seating right on the floor. You simply do not see seating on the floor at hardly any of these venues. The drawback of the Vic when you compare it with the Metro is simply that they do not offer enough shows. The Metro offers shows on a weekly basis, but the Vic will go two to three weeks without offering anything. Let me also point out that both the Metro and the Vic are located in nice neighborhoods, where you can feel comfortable you are not going to run into any trouble. 

Another such venue is the Park West, which is located in Lincoln Park. This is a terrific venue because it is even smaller than the Metro, so you can practically high five the performers from almost any place in the house. The venue not only holds concerts, but holds wedding receptions for crying out loud. I once saw the Strokes here and I swear the lead singer was actually throwing beer on me because that is how close I got. We did not even get there until the show started. The major drawback of this venue is the lack of top-notch performers. You simply do not see shows scheduled here that you are dying to watch. Many of the acts would've been listed as B list most places. Only once or twice a year do you see a top-notch one. 

The next place is the Riviera Theatre and this venue was formerly a movie theater. This becomes it's major drawback because the venue raises up into a slant vertically, then towards the back goes down. This means that if you are near the back and cannot get up any higher; you are simply looking at people's backs. This happened to me when I saw Keane here or shall I say I only heard that band that night. Yet, it is a really cool venue if you can get up high enough to see the stage or even get lucky enough to get a seat in the balcony. 

Unlike the Riviera Theatre, the nearby Aragon Ballroom is completely flat because as the name suggests it was formally a dance ballroom. This is my personal favorite. The venue has kept much of the same look from the days it was a ballroom. The Aragon maintains the Native American motif everywhere. A huge benefit to this venue is the fact that it is the largest one out of all of these venues. Only big time, popular musicians will play this venue. If ticket demand is too great for some of these other venues, they will sometimes move the show to the Aragon. Some of my best concert memories are from shows at the Aragon. The major drawback of the Aragon is the fact that the acoustics are awful in the venue. Most of the time it really does not matter, but sometimes you do tend to notice that it just does not sound right. 

The best place out of all these venues that I have mentioned for acoustics would probably be the Vic. The reason for this is probably because the Vic was formally a theater, while some of these other places were not necessarily such a thing. I also exclude the Riviera because a movie theater simply does not count. Let me finally mention that the Aragon and the Riviera are located in not the nicest of neighborhoods, so you may want to buy a car alarm if you drive up there. In my next review, I will take a look at some of the bars and lounges that host major concerts in the city.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Thing About Classic Rock Music

In my high school days one of the things about me was I primarily only listened to classic rock. I found it great to be hearing this incredible catalog of music from artists such as Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, The Eagles, the who, and many more that I probably could not list here. Yet, this brings up an issue with me because when I started to enter college, the well began to run dry. There was absolutely no new music for me to listen to from these classic rock acts because how many times can you listen to Stairway to Heaven. Oh yes, they would release acoustic versions, bootleg versions, demo versions, deluxe versions, but that just did not seem to fulfill my musical needs. 

In college, I began to listen to all the bands that I missed out on in high school. These included acts like Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Nirvana. Now, do not get me wrong because I did listen to these bands while in high school. I did not completely ignore them. I remember going to see the Smashing Pumpkins in high school, but classic rock seemed to fill up much of my musical tastes. 

As soon as I finished college, I began to realize certain truths about what I was doing. These acts and even some of the newer ones had one thing going against them. Their time had passed them by. For some of these groups, for a brief period of time they could do no wrong, but that time was no more. Oh, bands like the Rolling Stones would come out with a new album and even have a hit here or there, but it was never the same. This is because musical tastes, musical sounds, musical times, all seem to change. Many of these groups do not change with them. You do get the outliers that do change with the times like a Radiohead and even the Rolling Stones in the early 1980s. Yet, it is never quite the same as when they were in their heyday. The songwriting was never quite as good as when they were in their heyday. The songs were less catchy, lower quality, or just plain boring. 

This leads into my next point, which is classic rock concerts. People spend hundreds of dollars each year to go see these groups break out their hits. The problem I was finding was that I found classic rock concerts completely boring And sometimes wondered about how much the fans at the shows truly love music on its own. I have heard all this before. Go ahead, break out your hits, then we can go to the parking lot. There was nothing new to get excited about at the shows. I almost looked at it in a way that these groups were basically cover bands of themselves. There was no anticipation and excitement for them to break out something new that you knew would be the first time that you heard it and it was really good. This is why I began to listen exclusively to new music. Oh, I would still occasionally listen to the classic rock and the 90s rock, but I began to seek out newer music that was on the cutting edge because it made me more excited about it. Now, do not get me wrong in the fact that this is not for everyone. Many people out there love to return to the past, their youth, or simply do not like newer music. 

This leads into my next point. The onset of EDM music across this country and its popularity everywhere has somehow turned me into a person that cannot embrace some of this newer music. Oh, I still find some gems here and there that are DJ remixes, but more times than not I am beginning to find that I really dislike artists like Skrillex. 

What are we to make of all this? For one, the age-old answer is that one undeniable truth: everything including music runs in cycles as we get older. You simply cannot escape this fact. The second thing to make of it is that I personally think EDM music pretty much sucks.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Why People Hate EDM...

In the recent past the popularity of electronic dance music has gone through the roof. Yet it seems to be a very polarizing genre of music. One either loves it with total conviction or hates it with the same amount of conviction. Me, personally, I am somewhere in the middle where some EDM music I cannot stand, but other music I really like. Yet, this is not the case everywhere else. What are we to make of all this? I have begun to analyze reasons why so many people hate this kind of music.

One of the first things  that springs to mind comes in the art of it and the actual musicianship that goes along with EDM music. Some feel that DJs are not real artists. They use machines to do all of the work, but there is no real art to it. I do know firsthand that creating these tracks is a difficult skill requiring computer skills. Yet, we cannot ignore artists like Daft Punk who feel that the technology has overcome the artform. Computers are not true musical instruments. They reproduce sounds, but they are not authentic, musical sounds. Another thought about this is that many EDM tracks are essentially remixes that utilize sounds created or invented by someone else. One of the things that I personally do not like about the EDM artists is that there is no regular structure to their music . Skrillex is the biggest offender of this in that his music seems to be filled with random electronic sounds. This facet is further seen by the fact that people feel DJs simply go up on stage and just press play. There is no true performance to it. 

The next trend I see comes in the listeners of this type of music. Some feel that going to an EDM show is simply an excuse to get high. I recently heard the opinion that kids that go to these shows are using drugs at alarmingly high rates because there is no real performance from the DJ. The kids are bored. Drugs are a natural consequence of this fact. Some places have even begun to refuse to deal with that fact. The Congress Theatre in Chicago recently changed its policies and prohibited strictly EDM acts from performing there because the crowd was not going to be tolerated by the community. 

The next trend that I have been seeing is that people simply hate EDM music for the way it sounds. I will admit that sometimes it simply fills the air with this heavy bass sound that can only be described as a huge oncoming headache when played very loud. That gigantic bass sound can resonate in your head for hours after it has stopped especially when you go and see this live. 

One final trend in all of this emerges in the followers themselves of EDM music. They come across sometimes as jerks because they are so defensive and combative towards their music. They feel the entire musical establishment is out to get them and their genre of music trying to stop it from being played. Older people simply do not look kindly upon this.

The question now becomes what are we to make of all this. There emerge some simple truths that can be taken from the current state of EDM music. The absolute popularity of it will eventually die down. This is a simple fact that cannot be denied because it has happened with every other genre of music. Something newer, fresher, and brighter will come along and replace it. One of the problems Daft Punk had with the current state of EDM music was that it did not progress anywhere. Nobody out there is pushing the envelope on EDM music. The genre is running in place. The popularity of the genre will also depend upon the well-being of its fans. If people keep going to EDM shows and keep dying then this genre of music will die a much quicker death.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lollapalooza: 10 Helpful Tips

• Always check your pockets. Wallets and phones can easily fall out when you sit on the ground.
• Bring alternative identification and emergency cash if you lose anything.
• Do not get completely hammered as something bad will happen without a doubt.
• Stay away from spicy food then you will not have to use the porta potty. Related to that try to hold off breaking the seal as long as possible because the lines will get enormous for the bathroom.
• Do not count on your cell phone working pretty much at all. Always have a non cell phone way to meet up.
• Plan on at least 20 minutes between ends of Grant Park. The park is huge and takes that long for the end stages.
• If you leave early then you have a much greater chance to actually catch a cab but if you wait until the very end you probably will have to take the train or walk.
• Bring a battery operated charger for your phone because they will die over the course of a long day.
• Wear sunglasses, suntan lotion, hats, and white clothing because it gets really hot there.
• Write down important information on a piece of paper just in case your cell phone dies including your hotel room number, your hotel address, the address to any place that you would like to go afterwards.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Jukebox Is America

One of the reasons I loved going to this bar in the first place was the jukebox. I put in dollar after dollar after dollar after dollar into that machine. I am insane about music and I would drive people crazy with my domination of the jukebox. People would complain again and again about my selections, but I did not care. Sometimes, I'd play new music that I really liked, while other times I would just play guilty pleasures. A major complaint against me was that I too often played sad and depressing music. Yet, I never thought of things that way. I look at a song and say, I like it. I don't think of whether it is fast or slow. I think of whether the song is good or not. Yet, guilty pleasures were the fun nights. Do you know how fun it is to hear Hall and Oates in a pool hall at midnight? Boy, did it piss people off, but sometimes you would see people dancing to it. After a while, people would just ask me how many songs I played because they wanted to know whether it was even worth popping any money in the damn thing. I usually played a few Strokes songs a week and it would drive people crazy. Quit playing the fucking Strokes, no Strokes! They would yell at me. I even got into a fight with a waitress once over the jukebox and I had to run to the bartender for officiating. Sometimes, my love of music on the jukebox got me in trouble and I felt bad. I simply could not see through my thick glasses that the way I hate their selections is the way people felt about my selections. I don't even want to think about how much money I put into that jukebox over the time I spent there. The amount was probably biblical. Yet, the one thing I could not play was rap. This jukebox filtered out all hip-hop, which was fine by me because I only liked probably 3 rap artists anyway, Kanye, Jay-Z, and the Beasties. The Beastie Boys were originally a punk rock band, anyway. If I was in the house, you would hear almost every popular movement in music over the past 50 years, except country. I played it all. The owner did not want any fights started over rap, which always seemed to happen at other places. I didn't care that much. Too bad they could not put a filter on Country music. That would have made my year. Take that ya Tim McGraw loving bastard. I think in the end many people respected my love for the jukebox and the fact that I was willing to pay and play dj on nights when eerie silence would have filled the place. Why would they always give me money when the place was quiet to pop in some tunes? Man, I used to love and play that jukebox. The other place I went to down the street only played the radio. The owner did not want the wrong type of music playing because he wanted to control the atmosphere. Only God can control atmosphere. To me, this may sound crazy, but the jukebox symbolized a kind of freedom. Play whatever the hell you want whenever the hell you want to and if somebody complains, fuck 'em. Tell them if they don't like the music, go play their own fucking music. The jukebox is America!

Kanye West: The Man or the Music?

I am here to talk to you today about one Kanye West. He is probably one of the biggest douche bags on the planet. I do not deny this fact. I will not try to refute this fact. All of the names and Internet jokes out there do you have an element of truth to them. He is egotistical and self-centered and only in it for himself but there's the rub. The rub is he is a musical genius. I do not take the word musical genius lightly and and do not bestow the term on anyone easily. The man has taken wrap to new levels with his ability to be both producer and rapper and singer at the same time. Have you ever noticed like I said before that Jay-Z has crappy songs when Kanye does not produce them. Tis true, tis true. Now I will not go into the elements of why Kanye's Music is so much better and for that he has my utmost respect. I did so in another post. Here I would like to ask the question if you do not like I musician as a person can you still like their music? This is a tough question to define and to answer simply because some will take the lyrics very seriously while others will not. So I'm simply will turn off a person's Music because of their personality or their previous actions. I don't know if this is an ethical thing or if it is just completely pointless to turn off someone's music simply because you do not like the person. People will say oh Kanye I hate his music he's an asshole. I will always argue wait a second is his music bad because he's an asshole how can that be? I guess the question comes down to can you separate the person from the music. Now if you argue that Kanye the person and his lyrics are completely related that I can see your point. But most people I talk to about this really have no idea about the content of his lyrics. I just say is the world of rap and hip-hop a better place with or without Kanye? I would say with Kanye simply because his musical contributions transcend any part of his personality. He not only defines the cutting edge the trends in hip-hop today, he is hip-hop. Kanye is telling everyone where to go as far as music goes but as a person he needs a little work.

Bell of the Governor's Ball

I recently returned from governors Ball in New York City. In this article I would like to compare that particular concert festival with lollapalooza. At this festival the focus was on Music not electronic music. Not to say lollapalooza does not have its share of regular in the rock folk music but increasingly lollapalooza has become a haven for all the DJs in the entire world. One of the first things that struck me during the music festival was the fact that you were in fucking New York City. The location was on an island which made it 10 times cooler then lollapalooza has grown to be. It was not as huge as lollapalooza, but that could turn out to be a blessing. You did not have as many miles and I mean miles to walk to see one headlining band versus another headlining band. Yet, as the crowds got larger over the weekend, that fact it was a smaller venue did come back to bite you. There seemed to be less and less space available as the days went by and on Sunday at night you could barely even move. Maybe I am biased,  but there was a stronger emphasis on indie music which some of this EDM stuff actually is, but you are not overwhelmed by it as at lollapalooza. You got the sense that the crowd was a little bit more intellectual and savvy towards music as well. Lollapalooza in contrast has become a place for these bratty douche bag tools who are into DJs that are 14 years old and annoying as fucking possible. Another thing that I liked was the fact that this festival brought a couple of hometown acts back, Interpol and the Strokes. This made for an awesome show because the crowds were going nuts while in contrast lollapalooza has never catered to the Chicago music scene. They are so inconsistent as to who plays and when and on what day. VH1 might as well put on lollapalooza and you would never think that perry Farrell is the promoter of lollapalooza. I will talk about the Strokes at this festival in another post because it pretty much deserves it's own post. Yet, I will ask over and over again the question why doesn't lollapalooza try to bring in some of these hometown heroes. where are the smashing pumpkins? where is Kanye West?where is Wilco?. Now you get a slightly lesser amount of bands to go see at Governor's Ball but you do not get the sense that it is one huge cash grab like lollapalooza is. The tickets are cheaper and they do allow for a payment plan while lollapalooza tickets or at least $75-$80 more and you have to pay it all at once. So is lollapalooza still worth going to? Yes I think it is still worth going to simply because it is the only festival in America where you are not completely isolated from the city. Even at this music festival you were on an island and had to take a bus to get off the island. You get on the bus back into the city, then you're in the middle of not a very nice part of Manhattan. New York City can be very problematic because the damn town is so fucking spread out. The other bonus for lollapalooza is the fact that they have after shows all over the city. Hypothetically you could skip all the festival and still have a great experience going to three different clubs or bars every night. Yet in the end what I think it came down to was when I looked at the New York festival lineup I said to myself holy shit that is probably one of the best lineups I have ever seen. In contrast,  lollapalooza lineups almost every year seem to disappoint even worse than the year before. There just has not been one must see experience at lollapalooza since probably 2010 maybe. And finally one of the things that I noticed about the New York festival was the fact that the bands and musicians that I had no idea who they were seemed completely awesome. At the airport I was on iTunes downloading 4 to 5 new artists which has never really happened at lollapalooza. Lolla will give you maybe 1 to 2 new artists that you would be interested in but for the most part I was amazed at how good the people on the under cards were. Yet that's just my opinion and somebody probably out there thinks I'm wrong.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The New King of Music...Newness!

I would like to take a little time to discuss something that is bugging me. This has been annoying me for some time. The Internet has created so much media content for us to consume that keeping up is pretty much impossible. I can remember earlier this year when I couldn't believe the number of really good albums coming out in consecutive weeks. I could not buy enough blank cd-r's. They say that the rock band is dead, but the amount of content coming out, rock bands included, is mind boggling. There is so much new music being released that you think long and hard about a piece of music for a week, then forget about it or remember the songs you really liked upon your 2-3 listens. U2 had an album and you forgot about it within 2 months. Before you would tour and that would keep your album going but that does not work so well anymore. Arctic Monkeys had a perfect album in NME and now that album seems a couple years old. There is just too much noise out there for someone to keep up with. The albums that stay at the epicenter for a year are no more. Radio is dead. Concerts seem to be dying. The answer as I see it is that artists need to release more singles and EP's, less albums. This way you are always coming with something new and shiny. Albert Hammond Jr. said he would only make ep's in the future. For example, I had heard the best songs on Kid Cudi's album save one before it was even released and not through a bootleg. Sorry Radiohead the album is dead. iTunes fixed that. Music may want to go to a model of comics, single issues before the omnibus is ever released.