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.