February 29, 2004

Angelique Kidjo @ Ram's Head

Tonight, I caught Angelique Kidjo at the Ram's Head in Annapolis MD. I have had three other opportunites to see her live, and things just never worked out. I really like her work, so I was pretty much going to go and see this show come hell or high water.

The show was one of the more higher energy shows I have seen in quite some time. I've been to several shows at the Ram's Head, and this is the first one that most of the crowd was up and dancing for a majority of the time. Granted, Ms. Kidjo was rather insistent that people get up and enjoy themselves, but her music has such an infectuous rhtyhm that she didn't have to prod all that much or all that hard. She even invited the entire crowd to come up on stage with her for one song for a communal dance.

Her backing band has been with her pretty much non-stop for the last three years, and it shows. They were very tight with each other, with good communication and sharing. I didn't manage to catch their names, though. Sorry 'bout that.

Most of her set came from her latest album Black Ivory Soul, with a healthy helping of her most popular songs from albums past.

This show marks the second time that the encore was an actual encore. Angelique did the usual thing, where she walks off stage, but the house lights don't come up, nor does the band even pretend that they aren't coming back. So they came back, and went through two more songs. When they were done, though, the backing band started to move to take off their instruments and go off stage when Angelique waved them off to play another song. She did this one more time, and then said that they really had to go.

All in all, this was a really good show; I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys world or pop music.

Posted by Casper at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

A rough mixdown

After finally finishing up recording all the tracks, Chris and I sat in the control room to do a spot check and really rough mixdown of the four songs. Aref sat in as well. This was actually a pretty short mixdown -- none of us intended this to be the final cut. I just wanted a copy that I could take with me to listen to a whole bunch of times and make notes on what I wanted to do when we regroup for the formal mixdown. Still, he and I did some small tweaking as we went and made a few notes for the next time. Chris had tweaked the mix for Waiting For Rain the night before on his own, and it already set up pretty well.

Afterwards, we went out into Aref's car and plopped in the CD to take a listen on normal speakers -- listening to a mix through studio monitors is a bit deceptive. The sound coming from a monitor set is so pure that you can hear everything exactly as it is recorded (which is what you want when your working on the mix). However, most people don't listen to music through studio monitors. The natural coloration of average speakers needs to be taken into account when mixing down tracks.

Things sounded really boomy and bass heavy, but I think that might just be Aref's settings. I'll be listening to the disc quite a few times through several different systems to try and get a good feel on what's going on.

Posted by Casper at 04:23 PM | Comments (0)

Finally Soho

We regrouped at 1:30, did some warming up and started laying down tracks at 2pm. The first two tries were flubs. Not surprising, as we are still warming up. The third one, however, was pretty good. After we were done tracking, we all went into the control room to take a listen. We did quite a bit of wincing and questioning looks: There are some problems with this take (I can think of three or four boo-boos of mine just off the top of my head), but we collectively decided that this take was good enough.

To be honest, I would have rather gone back and punched in to fix some of those problems, but we are starting to come to the end of our budget and the issues weren't big enough. It'll bother me -- it will bother me every single time I hear it. But the whole point of this exercise is to put together a demo that we can take to bars and restaurants to get work. Once we get work, we can put it into a more polished product that won't have me wincing every thirty seconds.

Posted by Casper at 02:41 PM | Comments (0)

Soho ad nauseum

It's 1am, and I'm just now leaving the studio. We've retracked Soho I don't know how many times -- I lost count somewhere around fourteen or so. Nothing was working right; if Brett had a good solo, then I flubbed mine. Or if I nailed mine to the wall, Aref whiffed his. Or some other combination. Quite frustrating, if you must know.

I going to make the prediction that Soho will not survive in it's present incarnation for too much longer; the arrangement is very busy, and I think that some of the musicianship is getting lost in the mix. I know that Brett is playing a pretty darn complex drum line, and Aref and Shahin are really taking their guitars to task. I'm struggling to hold back and give everyone else room to breathe so they can play without tripping on me.

In any case, we decided to pull the plug on the evening and revisit the song tomorrow. Hopefully a night of sleep will allow us to come at the tune fresh.

Posted by Casper at 01:03 AM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2004

First listens

After tracking all four songs, we went into the control room to take a earful of what we've done so far.

Faena was acceptable, and Persian Ballad was probably as good as we are going to do. Waiting For Rain came out pretty well.

Soho, on the other hand, was a bloody mess. Brett was right: the start is an irredeemable mess. The guitars never came in right, and the drum intro doesn't mesh with Shahin's rhythm. We got Chris to try and futz around with it for a bit, but after thirty minutes of his effort, we decided to just re-record it.

Posted by Casper at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

Tracking Faena

Our last song for this studio session is the Gipsy Kings song Faena. The original is a pretty song, and this isone that we are all pretty familiar with. Neither the drum nor the bass line is all that complex.

We got this one on the third take. It was probably too fast (well, it was way too fast for my own personal taste), but that's just me. I can live with the recording, because there were some good performances otherwise -- Aref in particular. I completely whiffed a chord change, so I picked up the first punch-in of the day.

For this tune, I decided to go with my Ibanez Acoustic. I wanted to have the warmth of the acoustic bass along with the extended range of the low B string.

Posted by Casper at 09:32 PM | Comments (0)

Persian Ballad on tape

After getting back from din-din, we tackled Persian Ballad. It's my understanding that this tune is actually a traditional Persian song that we are just doing as an instrumental. It's pretty enough, but kind of boring (at least from a rhythm section perspective).

After three takes, things just aren't gelling. Nothing major, just quite a few boo-boos. The fourth take was almost perfect. We each clicked with each other and the music just flowed. It's not perfect by any means, but more than sufficient for our purposes.

I decided to go with my Kubicki for this one. Not because I wanted the fretless "Mmph-wah" sound, but because the mellow tone of the electronics. It fits nicely between what Aref and Shahin are both playing for this tune.

Posted by Casper at 08:33 PM | Comments (0)

Dinner conversation

Over dinner, Brett kept expressing his displeasure in the way that Soho had come together. He didn't like the drum lead-in, nor the opening start, saying that we needed to be together. His preference was to retrack the tune as soon as we got back to the studio. I suggested that we get through the other two songs and then revisit as needed.

Posted by Casper at 07:21 PM | Comments (0)

Aref and Shahin tracks Soho and Waiting For Rain

After Brett and I finished up the rhythm tracks for both the songs (so far), Aref and Shahin took their turn at laying down the melody tracks.

Waiting For Rain went pretty well. Shahin got his track in one, while Aref retracked his solo.

Soho was another story. The opening of the song has both Aref and Shahin playing on their own for four measures. That's a long time for the two of them to keep on meter without having any other instrumentation to try and help them out. We spent quite a few takes trying to get them to come in at the right place. After a while, we figured out that the count we used at the outset was different than what we used when got four bars into the tune (which might give you an insight into how off tempo two melody players can get in a short period of time). Instead of being four even beats, it was more like 3.75 beats. After about three or four tries, we had something that was good enough, and we broke for dinner.

Posted by Casper at 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

Waiting For Rain, drums/bass

Recording the bass and drums separately worked so well for Soho that we decided to revisit Waiting For Rain using the same technique.

Brett and I knocked out WfR in two tries.

Posted by Casper at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)

Recording Soho

Next on the list is Soho. This is one of our more complex tunes. The blocking is still not quite worked out, and it showed. We spent a lot of time trying to figure who was playing what when. Not the most efficient use of studio time. After six takes with not much to show for it, we took a break.

After ten minutes of walking around outside and just resting, Chris had the idea that Brett and I would lay down rhythm tracks, and then Aref and Shahin could go back and redo their guitar lines afterwards. The concept was that Brett and I were having problems picking out our own work from the mix -- both the guitars and Shahin's synth patch were really overpowering the drums and the bass in the headphones.

So we redid Soho with the drums and bass high up in the mix. Aref and Shahin played, but mostly so that Brett and I could keep track of where we were in the song. It really made a difference; Brett and I nailed it in one. To be honest, my solo was one of the best I've recorded in quite some time.

This is another tune that I used the Fodera. Aref wanted a fairly funky bass line, and that almost always means the Fodera. I rolled the pickups back towards the bridge, scooped out the mids and reset the Ampeg to a shallower parameteric curve.

Posted by Casper at 04:17 PM | Comments (0)

Laying down Waiting For Rain

We decided to lead off with Waiting For Rain. Of the four songs, this is most upbeat one with which we are most familiar. We played through three times, and Aref's solo is kind of weak. I think he just hasn't gotten warmed up just yet. One more take, and then we're going to go on to the next song.

I decided to use my Fodera on this one; this is a song with a driving, pulsating beat. I wanted the Fodera to give that clean sound that I like so much.

Posted by Casper at 03:02 PM | Comments (0)

Load in

The four of us got to the studio around 12pm or so. We loaded in (very steep stairs, not a lot of headroom), and it took quite a bit more time than it probably should have. After getting the rigs and gear physically loaded in, we configured the mics, took a few basic level checks and then got ready to do some tunes.

Chris and I talked about how we were going to set up for the sound. We put a DI in between my guitar and the head, and then a mike in front of the cabinet (in this case, a Peavey 4x10 from the studio). I haven't been a big fan of Peavey gear for a long time, but this cabinet sounds really good. Surprisingly so.

Brett's drums would be miked with a stereo overhead, directional mikes at the toms and each side of the kit, one on the snare, one on the hi-hat, a big ol' mike in the kick, and then one overtop and another underneath the congos/bongos. Aref and Shahin had their guitars directly miked just to the front of their sound hole, with Shahin's MIDI outs running directly into the board.

Posted by Casper at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

A&S studio, day one

Okay, so I wasn't able to blog from the studio. Probably a good thing when I think about it. So, now you're going to get a lot of back dated posts (I wrote things out by hand as we were working)...

Posted by Casper at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

Borrowing a bass

Anthony and I had talked about me borrowing on of his basses (his six string fretless)for today's festivities, but I think I've decided against it. The main reason is that I'm not at all familiar with his guitar. Normally, not a big deal, but fretless basses demand pretty precise intonation, and I'd hate to be paying studio time while I curse myself for hitting the G a few semitones sharp for the 83rd time.

Posted by Casper at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

Music industry not dying...

If anything is in crisis, it is the record industry. The wider music industry is far from it.

The Guardian reports that just maybe the music industry isn't in quite the dire straits that the alarmists over at RIAA would have you believe.

...with album sales rising and the phenomenal growth of ringtones and legal downloads, plus record-breaking years for merchandising and publishing rights, it seems the death of the music industry has been greatly exaggerated.

According to recent record industry figures, UK sales rose by 4% in the first half of last year. The Publishing Rights Society reported that performance royalty collections (everything but record sales) in 2003 were the highest since records began in 1914.

In the US, Billboard Boxscore reported that the number of live music events worldwide was up by 25% in 2003 (generating £1.2bn in North America alone). Legal sales of downloadable songs topped 2m units a week for the first time last week. Apple's iTunes service has sold more than 30m songs, and has yet to celebrate its first birthday.

Moreover, the astonishing growth of the ringtone market continues to take everyone by surprise. Estimates as to its true size vary widely from a conservative £600,000 from Jupiter Research to a bullish £1.9m by the ARC Group.

And all this is happening in the age of illegal filesharing.

Posted by Casper at 01:04 AM | Comments (0)

A possible problem for RIAA's lawsuits

As the Canadian equivalent of the RIAA is discovering, hunting file sharers isn't always an easy thing to do.

Think twice the next time you access the Internet at home on your wireless laptop.

Your next-door neighbour, even passersby outside your home, could be tagging along for the ride and leave no trace of their online adventures, such as sharing music files, something the Canadian Recording Industry Association is intent on prosecuting.

So this does bring up an issue that network security people have been struggling with for some time. How do you conclusively track down someone over a wire? Hacker tactics (spoofing, masking, the usual bag of tricks) aside, it's hard to trace back activity to someone who isn't actively trying to hide their tracks. Throw in encryption technologies (check out FreeNet for this idea taken to its conclusion), and this would seem to be something that could never be successfully achieved.

Posted by Casper at 12:57 AM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2004

A&S Pre-studio rehearsal

Tonight, we had a last minute cram for the four songs we are going to record tomorrow. Personally, I don't like doing this kind of practices; if you don't have it already, another hour or two isn't likely to make a difference. Still, here we are.

I think that one of the songs are ready. Faena is consistent, strong and pretty tight. Soho isn't completely there yet (but it's so close); the blocking isn't 100%. I ended up playing traffic cop, pointing to each of us one at a time when it was our turn to take the lead. Of course, that isn't going to be all that useful tomorrow in a studio. I would have said that Persian Ballad was ready to go until Aref decided (the night before the studio no less) that a jazz feel might be better (we tried to talk him out of it for the session, but I suppose we'll see what ends up happening). Waiting For Rain had been one of our stronger songs, but it was having trouble coming together tonight. I think it will be okay for tomorrow, but I suppose we shall soon see.

As you've probably figured by now, I'm going to be in the studio all day tomorrow. If I have access to the web, I'll blog as I go. Otherwise, there'll be a massive backdated post sometime in the night.

Posted by Casper at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

Pedestrian pacifier buttons

Have you ever seen those buttons at crosswalks in cities saying "Push Button To Cross Street?" We have them here in DC. I call them pedestrian pacifiers; they don't actually cause any change in the traffic, but they make you think they do, so you're more willing to wait at the curb instead of striding into traffic.

I know that so of you think I'm wrong. Well, here's proof that I'm not as crazy as you might think.

The city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the emergence of computer-controlled traffic signals, even as an unwitting public continued to push on, according to city Department of Transportation officials. More than 2,500 of the 3,250 walk buttons that still exist function essentially as mechanical placebos, city figures show. Any benefit from them is only imagined.

Yes, I know the article is for NYC, but I suspect the same would hold in more places. As someone once said, "I try to be cynical, but I just can't keep up."

Posted by Casper at 03:32 PM | Comments (0)

RSS gaining strength

Not too long ago, I got an email from someone telling me that he liked my site (Thanks again!, by the way) and that he was going to subscribe to my RSS feed. I thanked him for the compliment and pretended that I knew what he was talking about. Here's an article in Forbes about what RSS does and why it's starting to be a big thing.

Posted by Casper at 12:21 PM | Comments (2)

Howard Stern booted

For those who have not heard this, Howard Stern has been tossed off of Clear Channel's stations.

This is pretty much a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. Stern was only on six of CC's stations, and he just happened to be dropped as the CEO of clear channel heads up to Congress to testify about indecency.

As far as indecency goes, if you don't like it, just turn it off. It's like the guy who got Bubba the Love Sponge thrown off the air in Florida -- he was so offened by what he heard that he listened for hours. 'Please stop me before I sin again.'

Posted by Casper at 12:08 PM | Comments (0)

EFF proposal is declined

The RIAA has expressed disinterest in the EFF's proposal on file sharing. I like the way that Silicon Valley puts it:

...[the RIAA] summarily dismissed the EFF's proposal as too "drastic" -- a remarkable choice of words given the RIAA's preferred solution to the file-sharing debacle (see "Music industry to recoup alleged file-sharing losses one 12-year-old at a time")

Posted by Casper at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

JoS @ Barking Dog

Last night, JoS played at the Barking Dog Lounge in Bethesda. This was our first outing with Ryan, and I was looking forwards to seeing how he did (it's one thing to play well in practice, it's another thing to play out).

First, a comment on the venue. Load-in was up two flights of stairs. Two long, steep flights of stairs. And bass rigs are both big and heavy. I'm pretty sure that my back will be killing me tomorrow morning. Particularly since we also helped Ray schlep his gear up those same stairs (I'm not complaining; Ray was doing us a favor).

Breakingform opened for us. We've known these guys for a while, and Ray's ran sound for us a few times before. This was the first time I've heard them play. Ray and the guys did a great job; really tight, together, a lot of fun. If you're into harder rock, I would recommend checking them out sometime.

We went on and started out decently enough, but things never really came together for me. A lot of the songs felt rushed, there were lots of wrong notes, it just never felt all the way there. I tried to throw myself into a few times to no avail. Hopefully next time will be better.

Ryan did well, though. Only two rehearsals and he was pretty spot on with most of the tunes.

-- Update --
Actually, something I forgot to put in here before. One of the nice things about playing in Montgomery County is that the bars are smoke free. So I can walk out without reeking of cigarettes.

Posted by Casper at 02:49 AM | Comments (4)

February 26, 2004

iPods and personal listening

Wired has an interesting article/interview about iPods and the way that people tend to use their personal entertainment systems.

In terms of usage, Apple got it intuitively right. People use (the iPod) as an alarm clock, and when they listen to it at night, they like the fact it can turn itself off. It's how people like to use music. I don't think Apple did much research into how people would use their players, but they got most of it right.

For example, a lot of people use it to go to work, for commuting. I found that they use the same music on a regular basis. They will often play the same half-dozen tunes for three months, and each part of the journey has its own tune....

It gives them control of the journey, the timing of the journey and the space they are moving through. It's a generalization, but the main use (of the iPod) is control. People like to be in control. They are controlling their space, their time and their interaction ... and they're having a good time. That can't be understated -- it gives them a lot of pleasure.

So, for example, music allows people to use their eyes when they're listening in public. I call it nonreciprocal looking. Listening to music lets you look at someone but don't look at them when they look back. The earplugs tell them you're otherwise engaged. It's a great urban strategy for controlling interaction.

It's also very cinematic. The music allows you to construct narratives about what's going on. Or you use it to control thoughts. A lot of people don't like to be alone with their thoughts. The best way to avoid that is to listen to music.

A lot of people don't like where they're going in the day. If you can delay thinking about that until the last minute.... People don't take off their earplugs until the very last minute, until they're inside the door at work. It's a great way to control mood and equilibrium.

Something to remember both when writing music and designing technologies to support music. Give the people what they want, make it very user friendly, take them a bit away from the normal day-to-day and you'll find success (or, more accurately, success will find you).

Posted by Casper at 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

Hip hop rules for Brits

Apparently the hip-hop culture is invading British youth. I have trouble imagining someone talking about "bustin' a cap in yo ass" with a cockney accent, though.

Posted by Casper at 12:36 PM | Comments (2)

Last Second Comeback show

Last Second Comeback will be playing a special show on Friday at Common Grounds in Clarendon as a part of the Six Points Music Festival. Also playing will be Cerulean Groove. I think that a guy I know will be sitting in with them on bass....

Posted by Casper at 12:42 AM | Comments (0)

New link to a band

Gibraltar is a local band that plays music from Algeria and Morocco. I've known one of the guitarists in this band for quite a few years; they're quite good. Check them out sometime.

Posted by Casper at 12:32 AM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2004

JoS pre-show

We got together in the afternoon (there's nothing quite driving on I-95 south at 4pm to put you in a spiffy mood for practice) to do a last minute cram session for tomorrow night's show. I think that we'll be okay. With this abbreviated of a rehearsal schedule, we're not learning tunes; rather, we're just trying to make sure that we all more or less know what to expect tomorrow night when we play. We're still feeling each other out.

I'm suspecting that tempo is springing up as an issue all over again, but I'm not sure. Songs are clearly ending faster than when we started, but there's no clear breakpoints as to when the meter starts to get away from us. I'm trying to keep an eye on it, but I'm just not sure about it.

Posted by Casper at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

Puddle of Mudd singer arrested

15 minutes into their show in Toledo, Ohio, Puddle Of Mudd singer Wes Scantlin threw a bottle into the crowd and spit on them. That's always a good way to keep your fans happy.

Posted by Casper at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

Rights and payments on the web

The EFF has put forth a proposal to allow musicians to be compensated while allowing listeners to legally download tunes. On the face of it, it seems like a potentially good plan.

The concept is simple: the music industry forms a collecting society, which then offers file-sharing music fans the opportunity to "get legit" in exchange for a reasonable regular payment, say $5 per month. So long as they pay, the fans are free to keep doing what they are going to do anyway -- share the music they love using whatever software they like on whatever computer platform they prefer -- without fear of lawsuits. The money collected gets divided among rights-holders based on the popularity of their music.

In exchange, file-sharing music fans will be free to download whatever they like, using whatever software works best for them. The more people share, the more money goes to rights-holders. The more competition in applications, the more rapid the innovation and improvement. The more freedom to fans to publish what they care about, the deeper the catalog.

Read the whole article; it's worth your time. (Thanks to Eric for the pointer)

Posted by Casper at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

Napster hits 5 million

Napster has now legally sold 5 million tunes. Way to go, guys. Hopefully things are getting better in the legal download realm.

Posted by Casper at 12:16 AM | Comments (0)

One of the many reasons why I don't like automatic filtering

Content filters can stop your email if you happen to have a naughty word as a component of your name. Just ask Craig Cockburn.

See, Cockburn has a problem with e-mail. Or more to the point, e-mail has a problem with him. His e-mail doesn't always get where it's going. He first stumbled upon all this more than a year ago when he tried to update his Hotmail account. The online registration insisted that his profile contained characters that were unacceptable.

"After an extensive debate with Hotmail about this,'' says Cockburn, "the obvious explanation was the first four letters of my last name was one of the censored words.''

Never mind that his name is his name and it has been all his life. Never mind that it is a noble and popular name in Scotland, where he lives. Never mind that it's pronounced Co-burn.

Posted by Casper at 12:05 AM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2004

Paco de Lucia @ Warner Theatre

Tonight, I saw Paco de Lucía live at the Warner Theatre. I had never heard of Paco before; the main reason why I was going was that Aref invited me to go as a way of returning the favor of me taking him to see Victor Wooten a while back.

What a revelation this was. According to several write-ups I have seen, Paco is generally considered to be one of the best flamenco style guitarists alive today. I can see why, and I largely feel the fool for not hearing of this guy before now. He plays very cleanly, infused with vibrant passion. Yes, it's fast as all get out, but that's not all that his playing is. One of the more impressive things that he did (well, at least impressive to me) was playing a single note extremely fast (sextuplets at least, maybe even sixty-fourth notes) with each individual note being distinct and clear.

The remainder of the band was comprised of a bass player, a drummer/percussionist, a secondary guitarist, a wind player (sax and flute) and two female vocalists. They all did a good job. Neither the drummer nor the second guitarist got a chance to really cut loose. The other members of the band took a few solos from time to time, each of them performing admirably. Nevertheless, it was still very clearly Paco's show.

The first set of the show varied from Paco playing solo, to having some backing percussion instruments join him, to having the entire band come out (doing handclaps and vocalizing). The second set featured the entire band as a ensemble.

As a side note, this was the first time in a long time that I have been to a show where the encore was not a foregone conclusion. You know, the band walks off stage, but the instruments are still out, the house lights are down, there's absolutely no indication that the show's actually over. This time, the instruments were left out, but the house lights came up and the sound crew at the rear of the venue started to break down some gear. However, the band did come back out and play an encore.

Posted by Casper at 11:26 PM | Comments (0)

CD settlement money

I just got my settlement check from the CD antitrust class action suit. My share=$13.86. Lawyers share=$44 million. I'll take it either buy dinner or another CD. They'll buy a small Carribean island. Sounds about right to me.<⁄sarcasm>

Posted by Casper at 06:53 PM | Comments (0)

Prince going out on tour

Prince is heading out on the road in '04. In his band will be Rhonda Smith on bass, Candy Dulfer on sax and Renato Neto on keys. Unforunately, there are no dates in the DC area as of yet.

Posted by Casper at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)

Marcus Miller In Concert

As a Christmas gift (yeah, it's a bit past Christmas, but I've been busy), I got a copy of Marcus Miller in Concert. I've seen Marcus play live once or twice, so I had my hopes up for this DVD.

The DVD is a recording made for some German TV show (Ohne Filter Musik Pur) in 1994, and the production values are right in line with a mid-90's TV show. Accordingly, the camera work is sometimes off (one person is soloing and the camera angles switch around until the producer finds the actual soloist), and the sounds is hardly the best musical DVD I've ever heard. The crowd is very laid back, to the point of seeming nearly sedated.

Only six songs are included -- Rampage, Panther, Steveland, Scoop, Tutu and Ju Ju. The total play time of the disc is about 60 minutes. Marcus has his usual supporting cast (Poogie Bell, Michael "Patches" Stewart), but no guitarists. Instead, he uses two keyboard players. This produces a rather synthetic sound. I prefer hearing him with another guitarist; the energy is different and more full of life.

It's enjoyable to watch Marcus play; he's one of the best and it shows. I wish that the quality of the DVD was better. This isn't so much a DVD to take notes to, but something to enjoy from time to time.

Posted by Casper at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2004

Cell phones ringing in bucks

Those really annoying cell phones that play Hey Ya when they get a call? Well, that's starting to be big business. To the tune of approximately 3 billion dolllars worth in 2003. And one of the companies that produces ringtones is starting to allow people to produce their own tones without going through a label to get it.

Posted by Casper at 11:40 PM | Comments (0)

TV on cell phone?

Already making strong headway in Japan, some companies are now starting to bring TV broadcasts to cell phones. This technology is still in it's infancy, but there might actually be a market for it.

Why would anyone want this? Well,

We may never want to watch Hollywood epics on a tiny handheld screen, but I'd be glad to pass a half-hour in a doctor's waiting room watching a rerun of "The Simpsons.''

I could live with that.

Posted by Casper at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

New show on the books

It looks like I will be playing with NGB at Jaxx next weekend. Given that I have rather full dance card between now and then, there probably won't be as many rehearsals as I would like, but I think that we'll probably be alright.

Posted by Casper at 08:14 PM | Comments (0)

Daily Show blog

I found a blog that has a mountain of archives of Daily Show clips. So, I added it to the link list. Check Lisa out...

Posted by Casper at 05:52 AM | Comments (0)

Lewis Black on tour

Lewis Black, commentator on the Daily Show, is heading out on tour. If you like political humor, I'd highly recommend him. He's acerbic, with a razor sharp wit. I caught him a few years ago at the Improv, but it seems he has grown his following in to bigger venues.

Here's a website with a few clips to whet your appetite.

Posted by Casper at 05:41 AM | Comments (0)

Harmonica Beatbox

This is an interesting clip of a some guy doing the beat box thing while simultaneously playing a harmonica. Not something that you see every day.

-- Update --
Now with a better link!

Thanks to Divya for the tip....

Posted by Casper at 03:21 AM | Comments (1)

February 22, 2004

Parking Tickets in DC?

I've heard of this service that will fight parking tickets for you. You only pay if you win, and they say they'll handle everything for you.

Call me skeptical, but if it works, the guy's probably hit on a winning business model.

Posted by Casper at 10:41 PM | Comments (2)

Album obituary

The demise of the album has again been foretold:

'Albums are overrated, maybe the music industry is just figuring that out."

It seemed like a casual remark at the time, but an apt one. The New York Times pop critic Kelefa Sanneh said it at the start off a recent audio review on the paper's website, making the point that rapper Missy Elliott's albums sound "more like mix tapes. There's no real theme or storyline, just a whole bunch of beats and jokes and hooks. ...

... Thirty years ago, at the apex of the concept-album era, calling albums overrated would have sounded hopelessly disparaging. It was assumed then that albums made for art, coming after years of pivotal releases from Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, to say nothing of predecessors such as Miles Davis's definitive exercise in modal jazz Kind of Blue and John Coltrane's meditative A Love Supreme. For a critic to have called albums overrated would have been prime bait for ridicule.

Now it seems to be the new orthodoxy. When listing its choice for the number one album of the 1990s, the influential music web site Pitchforkmedia.com led by saying, "The end of the nineties will be seen as the end of the album. The rise of MP3 technology and file downloading returned pop music consumption to [a] collective pre-Beatles mindset, where songs are judged as singles." This was meant as praise for Radiohead's OK Computer, as if describing that record as the passing of an era.

To say the least, the idea of what constitutes a proper album is unravelling, and the artists, as always, are causing a lot of that change themselves. Missy Elliott is only among the latest to push and pull, elevate and trash the album format. The rap duo OutKast succeeded by going the grandiose route, expanding their latest album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below into a double CD and splitting the two rappers' individual styles into separate discs. They managed the nearly impossible: high praise, high sales and a closing spot on the latest Grammy Awards with their win for best album of the year.

This is hardly the first time that the end of albums has been predicted. It's a pretty safe observation to make, and I generally share it. There will still be albums -- even concept albums -- but the market seems to be moving more and more towards singles.

To be honest, I think I'll probably stop reporting this little tidbit; this must be the third time in three weeks that I've posted a link to yet another prediction of the end of albums. I think the point has been amply made.

Posted by Casper at 10:10 PM | Comments (0)

JoS rehearsal

Tonight, we went through about forty songs or so, trying to spin Ryan up in time for the show on Thursday. I think that he's going to make it; the covers aren't really all that technically complex, and he's a pretty solid drummer. The hard part is going to be keeping that many songs straight with only three rehearsals. But I suspect he'll be just fine.

Posted by Casper at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)

A&S studio prep

Today, the four of us when through the four songs several times, trying to get things as tight as possible before the studio session this weekend. There are still some outstanding blocking issues (particularly on Faena), but overall, things are coming together really nicely. Soho has really developed into a tune with lots of character. I think the results should be very pleasing.

Posted by Casper at 03:24 PM | Comments (0)

New JoS gig

JoS has booked a gig for Thursday of this week. Breakingform will be opening for us; I haven't caught them live before, so I'm looking forwards to their performance.

We'll be bringing Ryan along for an outing. By that time, he will have practiced with us three times. This won't be the first time that JoS has used the "throw 'em in the deep end" method of trying out a new musician. The first time I ever played with JoS, I had three rehearsals and about a week of time. So, we did three sets (forty songs total) off the cuff. It went okay, but I'd still rather have more rehearsal time.

Posted by Casper at 01:59 AM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2004

Nick Garrett

Last night, I got a call from Nick; he's looking for a new bass player, and Anthony passed my name along to him as a reference. I had hoped to make it down for an audition today, but things just didn't work out. I had to go in to work for my day job, and things didn't clear up until it was too late. It's too bad, I kind of liked some of their originals.

-- Update --
After speaking with Nick and letting him know that I wouldn't be making it out to the rehearsal, I decided to drive out anyway and apologize in person. Tonight marks the first time in seventeen years that I have ever flaked out like this, and I wanted to let these guys know that it was the exception. As I was heading out there (and, by the way, I think that MapQuest is probably wrong just as often as it's right), Nick rang me up, saying that their 7 o'clock cancelled on them.

So I went on out and sat in with the three guys of NGB for a while. We did a warmup, went through two newer pieces that they are working on and then rolled through some of the existing originals. Afterwards, we just hung out for a while, talking about music and other sundry things. They're a pretty cool bunch of guys.

They have a gig on the 5th of March at Jaxx out in Springfield. I've so far managed to avoid setting foot in that place, but things might change.

Posted by Casper at 06:07 PM | Comments (0)

No more albums?

Some in the industry are speculating that music will no longer be sold on physical objects in the near future.

"Get out of the plastics business!" an analyst implored the music industry at a recent technology conference. He predicted that the CD will be dead by 2007.

New studies show that young people have little interest in owning prepackaged music when just about every recording they want can be had as a download.

This doesn't quite ring true for me. While I suspect the industry will probably head more and more towards downloads, I think that there will always be a market for tangible copies of music.

Posted by Casper at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2004

A tip from someone

I don't watch American Idol; to me, it's just like karoke, but sappier. However, there does seem to be a celebrity of sorts (despite himself) arising from the dreck. He really can't sing, nor can he dance, but he does have fun and he's completely guileless and sincere about it.

-- Update --
Here's a story on the Hung phenomenon.

Posted by Casper at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)

Netflix business model

NetFlix has found a great niche; allow people to rent DVDs at a set monthly fee; no late fees, no hassle, just movies in the mail. They have been wildly successful, and for good reason. It's a good product at a decent price. I used NetFlix myself last year when I was laid off. Unlimited movies in the mail at a low monthly rate seemed like a good way to pass the time in between job interviews.

The concept behind NetFlix has spun off into a number of similar industries (video games, porn, most anything that could be rented at Blockbuster). The interesting thing about NetFlix is that they acquired a patent on their model:

In June 2003, Netflix obtained a patent on a "method and apparatus for renting items." The patent covers "a computer-implemented approach for renting items to customers (in which) customers specify what items to rent using item selection criteria separate from deciding when to receive the specified items." In addition, it covers what it calls a "Max Out" approach, which allows a certain number of items to be rented simultaneously.

If enforced, the patent could conceivably turn all of Netflix's competitors, no matter what they rent, into paying licensees -- or run them out of business entirely.

Posted by Casper at 01:41 PM | Comments (0)

Real heavy metal

Taking the heavy metal motif just a bit far, one guy has built his own heavy metal band.

Posted by Casper at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

Click Track Concerns

The usual timing variations that exist in most music (the guitarist is a little ahead of the bass player who's a little behind the drummer) works well enough in live situations when everyone can be in contact with each other (that contact should keep each other from running too far away from one another). This doesn't fly in a studio situation.

Recording in a studio is far more stressful than playing out live. If you screw up (okay, to be a bit more accurate, when you screw up), no one else other than the people in the audience might be aware of it, and then only if they are paying attention. Even if they are paying attention, they can't go back and try to catch the boo-boo again. Making an album changes that; everyone who listens will be able to catch every mistake made, no matter how large or small. And not only will they hear it, they'll get the golden opportunity to hear it again and again. And since the cliché is true -- no one is a harsher critic than yourself -- when recording, there is an acute awareness of any error whatsoever.

So, in a studio situation, there's lots of stress and pressure and emotions tend to run high (particularly after re-recording the same f-in' song for the seventeenth time). Any natural meter variations that might have already existed between the members of the band will only be exacerbated. Couple that with isolation rooms and the odds of the band staying together quickly decrease. And if the music lines are rhythmically complex in anyway, then things fall apart in very short order.

As a quick digression, when playing in a studio, it's common to have the different members of the band in completely separate rooms (to isolate one person's sound from anothers'). All in all a good thing, as it allows one musician to go back and clean up a flubbed note without affecting any other instruments in the song.

As you might guess, keeping everyone together during a recording can be a challenge. One of the most common ways to do this is to pump a click track into everyone's headphones so they can hear a clear deliniation as to where the beats are at any given time. Most click tracks are produced by an electronic metronome that has some kind of output that can be processed as a signal.

Two primary purposes are met with a click track. Everyone stays together (or close to being together) and a consistent meter allows for a musician to revisit a part and be able to pick up the beat very quickly.

The first time a musician plays with a click track can be rather embarassing. No matter how good someone's internal metronome is, a machine never fails. If there's anything I can suggest to people who are preparing to enter the studio, if you are planning on using a click track, practice with a loud metronome a few times before you walk in the door. It's much cheaper to be flustered at home than at fifty dollars an hour (if not much more).

However, click tracks are far more useful than they are annoying. If you do any kind of studio work for any length of time, you will almost certainly encounter the track fairly quickly. Should the recording project be using any kind of sequencer, click tracks are required (to keep everyone in sync with the machine).

Posted by Casper at 01:41 AM | Comments (1)

February 19, 2004

A&S rehearsal

Tonight, we went over the same four songs again. And yes, we're starting to get rather sick of them. A good sign as to when you're ready to go into the studio. I also introduced the click track to both Aref and Shahin.

For those who aren't familiar with what a click track is, it's a raft of humiliation for public display of your own personal time failings. Or, it's a steady, chirping noise (also known as the "click") played through headphone by a machine to keep every member of the band on the beat with the same meter.

Aref took right to the click; he worked with it pretty naturally and had no problems. Shahin was struggling a little more (particularly during Soho, but that's a very rythmically complex part for him, and he was having trouble keeping both the rhythm he was playing and listening to the click). Brett and I have both done the click track thing quite a few times, so it was not an issue for either of us.

I think that we are going to be ready for the recording session next weekend.

Posted by Casper at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

Dave Matthews tour dates

The Dave Matthews Band is going back out on tour in 2004.

Some relevant dates for people in DC:

Sat, July 10 / Hershey Stadium / Hershey, PA
Sun, July 11 / Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge / Bristow, VA
Wed, July 14 / Merriweather Post Pavilion / Columbia MD
Fri, July 23 / Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheatre / Virginia Beach, VA

Posted by Casper at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

No rehearsals lately

I haven't had a rehearsal in a while (cancellations, miscommunications, etc.), so I'm starting to feel a bit out of practice. I mean, I still practice on my own, but that's not really good enough. You need the synergy of playing with and playing off of other people to really make strong steps forwards. When I practice on my own, I can improve my dexterity or my understanding of theory. What doesn't get better is my ability to listen to other musicians and play with them. Practicing by myself leads to playing with myself (and that's in a strictly musical sense, gutter boy), which is not what I want to do.

Posted by Casper at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2004

RIAA goes after flea market

Okay, the RIAA is probably going too far this time.

A California flea-market owner is liable for copyright infringement because he failed to stop vendors from selling pirated music, a federal judge ruled.

The Recording Industry Assn. of America sued Richard Sinnott, operator of the Marysville Flea Market near Sacramento, after notifying him at least four times that vendors at his market were selling thousands of illegal CDs.

The ruling, which the judge wrote is probably the first to hold a flea market owner liable for copyright infringement, may bolster the music industry's nationwide campaign against illegal music sales at flea markets.

What I don't get is how Verizon is off the hook but the flea market can be held liable. My understanding of the Verizon case is that Verizon was not liable on the principle of a telephone system vs. a magazine editor (I'm not a lawyer, and I can't find the actual citation right now) -- a phone system has no person monitoring the communications, so they cannot be held liable for the actions of anyone using the system, but a magazine has an actual person who approves or disapproves each individual article, there by giving an imprimatur of sorts to the content.

Posted by Casper at 11:02 PM | Comments (0)

Your own personal UPC

Just in case you decide to skip the middleman and actually sell yourself.

Posted by Casper at 05:50 PM | Comments (0)

Video game soundtracks

The business of creating soundtracks for video games is becoming more and more lucrative for composers.

The video game music revolution is both a product of and a reason for the larger gaming boom. According to the NPD Group, the leading market-research firm tracking gaming, the industry took in $11.7 billion in domestic revenue in 2002 -- more than the $9.5 billion in annual U.S. boxoffice receipts reported by the MPAA. According to the Electronic Software Assn., more than 221 million computer and video games were sold in '02 -- enough to put two in each American household.

Many game scores also have been recognized at international awards ceremonies, including the Grammys and the BAFTA game awards. Their enjoyment and development are the focus of dozens of fully dedicated Web sites, and they are performed worldwide in recitals by the likes of the Czech Royal Philharmonic.

Having played one or two video games, I can attest that the music (as well as other production values) have clearly improved over the last few years, but I don't quite think that it's gotten to a point where I would want to pick up a soundtrack just yet.

Posted by Casper at 04:32 PM | Comments (0)

Fighting back against the RIAA

Someone has gotten the idea to counter-sue the RIAA. How very interesting. While I rather doubt she will be successful, it might give the RIAA a little pause with their ham-handed tactics.

Posted by Casper at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

Rush tour dates announced

Rush has announced new tour dates for 2004.

For people in the DC area, here are some relevant dates:

May 29: Virginia Beach, Va. (Verizon Wireless Amphitheater)
May 31: Burgettstown, Pa. (Post Gazette Pavilion)
June 2: Columbus, Ohio (Germain Amphitheater)
Aug. 3: Bristow, Va. (Nissan Pavilion)
Aug. 4: Camden, N.J. (Tweeter Center)

Posted by Casper at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

Adding some song samples

I've added a few tracks that I've recorded with one or two bands. Feel free to check them out and let me know what you think....

Posted by Casper at 12:49 AM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2004

RIAA suing. Again

The RIAA is suing another 500 (or so) people. More dirt on the shovel, I suppose.

Posted by Casper at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

Don Henley on the music biz

Don Henley (of solo and Eagles fame) has penned an editorial in today's Washington Post. Most of his focus is on the music studios themselves and how corporate the music business has become.

The executives who run these corporations believe that music is solely a commodity. ... At one time artists actually developed meaningful, even if strained, relationships with their record labels. This was possible because labels were relatively small and accessible, and they had an incentive to join with the artists in marketing their music. Today such a relationship is practically impossible for most artists.

Labels no longer take risks by signing unique and important new artists, nor do they become partners with artists in the creation and promotion of the music. After the music is created, the artist's connection with it is minimized and in some instances is nonexistent. In their world, music is generic. A major record label president confirmed this recently when he referred to artists as "content providers." Would a major label sign Johnny Cash today? I doubt it.

If this writing has the ring of "in my day, we walked uphill to school -- both ways -- and we liked it," well, that's probably not by accident. From what I have read about the olden days, they were anything but golden. Labels paying radio stations to play music is hardly a new thing (payola anyone?).

I actually think that Henley's right on some things; the music business is heavily tilted towards labels. There's a reason for that; a label takes a chance on an artist hoping that the artist will pan out and pay for all the ones that flopped. I would argue that the labels take that rationale and carry it rather far afield (particularly on some of the cross-collaterization of sales).

Posted by Casper at 02:34 PM | Comments (0)

Dido on tour

Dido is going out on tour over 2004. I rather liked her original album; it had quite a few well-crafted plaintive pop songs. I haven't heard her new one, yet, so I can't really speak to it. I don't know if I'd want to pay Ticketmaster prices to see her, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

Posted by Casper at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)

Innovation in guitars

There's an interesting article on Tech Central Station about innovation with regards to guitars. The major premise of the author is that

...[M]ost guitarists buying an electric guitar want to buy instruments that resemble, as closely as possible, those guitars and amps used by their heroes: Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Pete Townshend. So radical attempts at redesigning the instrument's technology often make an initial splash, garner some press and trade show coverage, but rarely succeed long-term at being incorporated into the musical vernacular.

It seems to me that the success of amp sim modelers like Line 6 provide more evidence to this; since the actual vintage hardware is both expensive and hard to come by, people are spending lots of money to try and emulate the old sounds.

The same holds for bass as well. Anthony has told me on more than one occasional that the ideal funk bass is a 21 fret Fender P bass from 1957 (i.e. Jamerson's bass). Ampeg has been riding their halycon days of the massive SVT for decades. There has been some innovation in bass guitars, but not much. Ibanez has a bass made out of Luthite (a composite material). I owned one for a while; it was bright and loud, but not very warm, so I traded it for a bass with a more traditional wood body (and a warmer tone). Synth-Axe tried to reinvent the guitar as a MIDI controller, but failed to materialize into anything other than an odd looking curio (well, excepting Futureman).

I'm not sure what the next innovation in guitars will be; I don't think that the Gibson MaGIC will take off as anything more than a special effect. I suspect that most of the changes in guitar technology will be small and discrete (a slightly better speaker cabinet, a mildly more responsive pickup, things like that).

Posted by Casper at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

Music museums a growing thing

Since the establishment of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, more and more musical museums have been popping up all over the world.

If Cleveland could make itself a rock mecca, so could cities with a stronger impact on musical evolution; Memphis, Seattle, Kansas City. Over the past decade, popular music has decisively joined visual art and science as a subject for museum treatment. Just in time for the midlife crisis of rock 'n' roll, advocates of popular music and chambers of commerce found common cause: suddenly, music was not a diversion or an embarrassment but an asset. And these museums promise visitors an irresistible package deal: a pilgrimage, a party and some painless education.

But while people go to art museums to closely examine paintings and sculpture, and to natural history museums to marvel at dioramas and skeletons, few people go to music museums for music, since it's available everywhere else: on radio and TV, in album collections, onstage, online. As it turns out, music museums do best at presenting everything but the music: the fashion, the detritus, the technology, the business, the biographies, the buzz. They're great places to soak up trivia and gawk at guitars.

Not too long ago, I was talking with a friend about famous people and the instruments they played. The two of us agreed that it would be worth a trip to the Smithsonian to see the bass that Stanley Clarke played School Days on, or the one that Victor recorded Sinister Minister with. The Smithsonian has the jacket that the Fonz wore; surely they could find room for majorly influential musicians in that most American of idioms?

Posted by Casper at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

The future of CDs

The record lables are frantically searching for the best media solution for sales. There's the standard CDs that we all know and love, Super Audio CDs, DVD-Audio, wma/aac/mp3s, as well as other various and sundry options.

My personal take on the format wars is that Super Audio CDs are going to fail; it requires specialized hardware to play. DVD-Audio has potential, given the pentration of DVD players into the home market. DVD also would allow for extra content (commentary tracks, sheet music/score embedded with the songs, etc.),

"From my perspective, we're heading into a DVD-based world. I think this is going to be the feature-rich medium," Jeff Skillen, vice president of the sound company DTS Entertainment, said at the music conference. "You don't see Super Audio CD-based movies. DVD players play compact discs."

DVD-Audio has video as well as interactive features. One album Skillen is behind includes software on the music disc that lets buyers remix the songs and e-mail them back to the artist.

Posted by Casper at 09:48 AM | Comments (0)

Muzak under fire from sat radio

Muzak (also called elevator music) is synonymous for most people as being bland, washed out, Lawrence Welk interpretations of pop songs. That's not all they do anymore, but even the updated version of the service is under assault from satellite radio.

Just before Christmas, Mr. Gaeta decided that at $24.95 a month with no long-term commitments, Sirius was a better deal than Muzak. While roughly double the cost of Sirius's standard consumer service, the business rate covers all fees that must be paid to artists and recording companies for the right to play the music in a commercial setting.

While Muzak, based in Fort Mill, S.C., says its business is expanding, moves like Mr. Gaeta's and by other business customers in the direction of satellite-radio alternatives suggest that pressure may grow on the company and other other commercial music specialists.

A friend of mine has Sirius in both of his cars, and he swears by it. I haven't tried it out myself, but I'll probably put it (or XM) into the next auto I buy.

Posted by Casper at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

Some Sting shows cancelled

Sting has been cancelling several of his shows on his latest tour due to some sort of an illness. I hadn't planned on seeing him this time around, since he is traveling without a drummer (only a hand percussionist; the kit drum is programmed in a sequencer).

Posted by Casper at 12:05 AM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2004

Rush tour dates to be announced

Rush will be going out in '04, with dates to be announced on the 18th.

Posted by Casper at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

Amazon reviews suspect

Amazon.com (in the interests of full disclosure, I am a reseller for Amazon) allows shoppers to review the items being sold. As shocking as this might seem to some people, it appears that some of the reviewers are not disinterested observers. In fact,

...friends and family members are regularly corralled to write glowing reviews and each negative one is scrutinized for the digital fingerprints of known enemies.

Keep that in mind when should you happen to see that the latest CD from Britney has a gazillion stars in the reviews....

Posted by Casper at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)

Washington Area Music Awards

The DC area music association has announced their best of 2003.

Posted by Casper at 02:03 PM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2004

A&S tonight

Tonight, we decided to map out the tunes we are doing for the studio session (thirteen days and counting). You might think this is something that we would have done before, but you'd be wrong. We needed to do it, though. During the recording session, Chris is going to set us up in isolation booths (so that our instruments don't bleed into each other's tracks), which means that we aren't going to be able to watch each other for a nod of the head or a raised hand. We have to have the songs planned out so we know when the transitions are and when to make changes.

After we mapped out the four songs (we decided to cut one of them as being too raw for the studio at this time), we then revisited some of the older songs we haven't played for a month or so. We have a performance in two weeks time, and we'll need more than four or five songs to fill out the set.

We went about to the Gipsy Kings song Inspiration. The way the song is written, the verse progression rounds itself out with a 2/4 measure before going back to 4/4. We struggled with this for about three weeks, but then we worked out an arrangement and things were okay. We seem to have forgotten that arrangement, because we're back to the same ol' problems... Ah, well, that's what more rehearsal is for.

Posted by Casper at 10:01 PM | Comments (0)

JoS with YAD, round fifty-seven

I think this must the fifty-seventh YAD we tried; I lost count a while ago. It turns out that Ryan and Rich have played together in a band some years ago.

Ryan was very well prepared; he said that he had learned about a dozen songs, and he had them down. He also took a stab at winging his way through some other tunes, doing a pretty darn good job at it. Ryan has a nice feel and a good ear. He's also serious about the music.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that he clicked with both Rich and I. So it seems that JoS will no longer be looking for YAD; we've found the guy we were looking for. Now if only a guitarist can be found.....

Posted by Casper at 03:47 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2004

JoS @ Main Street

Tonight, Rich and I did another acoustic show, opening for the Wrecking Crew. I had never been to this club before (Stafford's a long hike from DC). It's a nice club, though; laid out well with two levels (although the cow bell over the bar might tell you this isn't the most urbane of places).

With the Wrecking Crew's gear on stage, there wasn't a lot of room to stand, and that did affect the set. We played pretty well -- the biggest problem was in my new wireless unit. I had tried it out with Rich in a rehearsal, but this was the first time for the unit in a live setting. It did pretty well, up until I tried to use two different transmitters (one at a time to the same base unit). Once I tried the switch, neither unit worked for the rest of the show. Good thing that I always bring a cable for backup.

After the show, a number of people came up to us, telling us how much they liked the set. It's always nice to get good feedback. A few of them told us that they'd rather her us play than the Wrecking Crew (which isn't necessarily fair; JoS and WC play two very different styles of music). But, hopefully we'll go back to Main Street for a full set.

Posted by Casper at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

Spreading the bottom end

I was spending some time in Guitar Center today, looking for a good used bass (I'd like to find either a high end five string, or a mid tier one that I can turn in a MIDI controller). While I was there, this young kid came up to me and started asking some questions. He was thinking about picking up bass as an instrument, because "...guitar was boring, even if his dad wanted him to play it." He said that he wanted to learn how to slap like Flea, so I handed him the bass I was playing and showed him the basics of slapping.

Who knows, he could be the next Flea. In any case, it's nice to see a new convert to the bottom end.

Posted by Casper at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

Restringing my Fodera

I restrung my Fodera with a different gauge of strings. I've been playing Fodera's medium lights (.044, .062, .085, .106), but I've been through three sets of strings in the last two months. So I've decided to try a higher gauge of strings (.045, .065, .085, .105) and see if it holds together a little better. As I was stringing the bass, it seemed to me that the E string didn't feel quite right. Looking at the string gauges, it's actually thinner than what I usually use, but there was just something odd about it.

Posted by Casper at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2004

Tobias bass

The other day, I was at the Guitar Center in Rockville MD. They had this pretty nice blue Tobias five string bass hanging on the wall in their used pile. I will be the first to admit that I regularly shop the used sections of music shops, hunting for deals. In fact, my two major basses I grabbed out of a used pile. Anyway, this particular Tobias was one of the ones made by Gibson and not by Michael. Ergo, it's crap.

I don't know what the deal is with Gibson's acquisitions, but almost everything they buy becomes worthless. Trace Elliot used to be a great Brit-Pop sounding amplifier; now, they're great doorstops. Not to mention that they stopped carrying any kind of amps that aren't for acoustic guitars (see here vs. here). Toby's were great basses (if they weren't, Gibson probably wouldn't have bought them). However, none of the original Tobias staff is making these guitars anymore. And, after a while, Michael started making basses again pretty much to reclaim his own good name.

Gibson's not alone on this. Kubicki sold his design to Fender, and Fender basically dumbed down the electronics.

I'm not sure why manufacturers choose to do this; perhaps to try and squeeze a few more bucks out of the buyers. You might think they wouldn't be so shortsighted; more people may buy, but they will also not get what they are expecting, so more people will end up unhappy.

Posted by Casper at 05:37 PM | Comments (0)

A guest at a Wooten show

In Anthony's tour dairy for the show in Eugene, OR, Anthony tells about how Victor invited an alumnus of the BassCamp up on stage to play.

The highlight of the show was when Victor whispered in my ear to invite Jonathan Chase to come up and play with us. During one of the songs I waved for Jonathan to come to the front of the stage, but I was pretending like I just wanted to talk to him. At the end of that song, Victor thanked him for bringing Joe's mic stand and then invited him up to play with us. Jonathan & I had played 'Thankyouforlettingmebemyself' during jam night at the bass camp that he attended. I had mentioned to Victor that it would be a good choice to get him to play with us. I handed Jonathan one of Victor's basses to play - I thought he was going to pass out at one point! He had that 'deer caught in the headlights' kind of look on his face. Even though he was nervous, he wasn't too nervous to break out into the groove. Jonathan was 'holdin it down'.

For what it's worth, I can so understand what Jonathan must have been feeling. I have met some really amazing musicians through Anthony. More often than not, I spend most of my time just hoping that I don't say or do anything stupid. My powers of speech fail me and I probably drool a little.

A few months ago, Anthony was joking with me that Victor had called him to ask for some lessons. I started to laugh, and I think that Anthony was a little offended, because he asked me, "What, you don't think I could teach Vic anything?" (see, there's the saying something stupid thing rearing it's head) I told him "No, I would just be too intimidated to even touch a bass while in the same room as Victor, let alone play a note." Anthony kind of smiled a bit at that, saying that it's can be a bit much for him as well. I can't imagine what it must be like for Wooten, to have that kind of affect on people.

Posted by Casper at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

Bass Boot Camp

Last weekend, I was down in Richmond, visiting with my family. While I was there, I dropped into a Sam Ash shop to pick up some Fodera strings. The sales guy told me about a bass boot camp to be held in Philly in March.

Gerald Veasley hosts the bootcamp just outside of Philly. This year will have Gerald Veasley (obviously), Victor Wooten, Gary Willis and Adam Nitti as instructors (as well as some other folk), and the plan is to cover quite a few topics.

I think that this would probably be a pretty interesting experience, but I question how much can be gained from three days of study, no matter how intense. I know that I saw a marked improvement in my playing after studying with Anthony for a very short period of time, but I don't know if the same kind of improvement would occur here. The cost isn't small, either. Not only is the fee about $600, there's also the missing a day of work thing.

Posted by Casper at 04:18 PM | Comments (0)

Rap-A-Grams

"Carolyn? I'm gonna deliver a Rap-A-Gram for you," says the man in black.
"A what?"
"A Rap-A-Gram."
She scowls. "This is a joke, right?"

And all of this for a mere $129.99. You, too, can get a Rap-A-Gram.

This is innovative, but I'm not sure how successful this particular venture will be.

Posted by Casper at 02:56 PM | Comments (0)

When rock stars die

Blender, that magazine of high tea and scones, claims they can predict when rock stars are going to die.

Whitney Houston loses six years for being a Black female, gains five for being married, but loses four for being married to Bobby Brown. She's expected to die in 2022.

Clay Aiken is expected to live to be 82 because he lives so squeaky clean. Courtney Love earns five years for having new breasts, which increases her self-esteem, but loses eight for enjoying "the occasional truckload of cigarettes." She's projected to live to be 62.

Dr. Demko figures Ozzy Osbourne will live another nine years, but he's determined Keith Richards should have died in 1995.

You'll forgive me if I don't place wagers based on this info....

Posted by Casper at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

Opera scores a win

Opera (the browser, not the music idiom) landed a pretty nice deal with Motorola. I use Opera when I want a nice, lightweight browser, so I'm glad to see they're getting some traction.

Posted by Casper at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2004

Internet radio growing

With the benefit of hindsight, it all seems quite obvious. MP3 players, like Apple's iPod, in many pockets, audio production software cheap or free, and weblogging an established part of the internet; all the ingredients are there for a new boom in amateur radio.

While I fully intend to post a few mp3s when I get the chance, I don't think I'll be doing any audioblogging anytime soon.

Posted by Casper at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)

JoS rehearsal

Tonight, Rich and I went over a few tunes in preparation for the acoustic show this Saturday. Not really much to it; we're going to be playing songs that we've played far too many times.

While we were loading out my rig afterwards (well, a part of it anyway), Rich and I talked about singing, working on finding the right pitch and finding harmonies. I'm not a good one to talk about it, though.

I've managed to develop a decent ear over the years, and I've learned how to account for the difference in the tone I hear in my head and what comes out of my mouth (because there is a difference). So what I do is to use my ear to figure out the right note, and then sing that note (with the difference factored in). But it's a bit hard to explain that in any more depth than what I just said here.

Posted by Casper at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

Queens of the Stone Age kaput

It seems that the Queens of the Stone Age are to be no more. Both the bass player and the singer have decided to go their separate ways. As far as I can tell, though, the usual 'irreconcilible differences' aren't being cited this time out.

Posted by Casper at 03:35 PM | Comments (0)

iPod imitators

The NY Times reports on the many companies that are attempting to knock the iPod off it's throne. Some of the contenders:

iRiver iHP-i20
Rio Karma

And the also-rans:

Dell DJ15
Gateway DMP X20
Samsung YP-910
Creative Labs Nomad Zen

Posted by Casper at 02:23 PM | Comments (2)

Teens spending less $$$

Teenagers, long the mainstay of music purchases, are spent less money on music in 2003.

Music sales to teens between the ages of 13 and 17 declined last year by 15 percent, due in part to increased online file-sharing and competition from other entertainment, research group NPD said on Tuesday. The age group usually accounts for about 15 percent of music sales in dollars, according to Port Washington, New York-based NPD, which found that video games software unit sales to the same age group rose 12 percent in 2003 as music sales were falling.

NPD said its data also suggested that the new releases of 2003 were not as appealing to young consumers as in 2002.

Posted by Casper at 09:11 AM | Comments (0)

The Radiators @ The Birchmere

Last night, I caught the Raditators at the Birchmere in Alexandria VA. I had never heard of this band before, and was only going at the invitation of a manager in the music industry.

When I got there, the venue was about half full. The demographics of the audience were pretty varied, but skewing towards the older side (the largest category of people was probably between upper 30's and mid 40's). The dance floor of the Birchmere filled up pretty quickly, a number of people ready to dance.

I had no idea what kind of music the Radiators were going to play. As it turns out, blues. Any kind of blues you might want (shuffles, Nawlin's style, pedal, honky-tonk etc.), but blues nonetheless. Well, occasionally a rock tune. If you like blues, you'll be in heaven. They're good at it.

The band have been playing together for 26 years and it shows; very tight, very together. There were minimal (if any) transitions. Songs would end, one of the musicians (typically the keyboardist) would almost immediately tickle out a few notes, and the rest of the band would jump in.

The Radiators are comprised of Ed Volker on keyboards/vocals, Frank Bua on drums, Camile Baudoin on guitar, Dave Malone on guitar/vocals and Reggie Scanlan on bass. Ed's vocals are very reminiscent of Dr. John, while Dave has a very strong whiskey blues timbre to his singing. The Radiators are a very guitar dominated group with keys present primarily as color. The drummer held a nice groove, and the bass player was competent. Each musician's sound is pretty stable; occasionally one of the guitarists would bring in a Leslie cabinet to change his tone, but not often.

The long and short of it is that the Radiators play toe-tapping, fun blues. It's not my personal cup of tea, but I wouldn't be opposed to catching the again at some point in time. You don't hang around in the music business for 26 years without being pretty good at what you do. Most of the people who came to the Birchmere show were into the performance, did a lot of dancing and had a good time. Can't ask for more than that.

Posted by Casper at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)

Ozzfest lineup announced

The Ozzfest has announced it's lineup for this year's outing. Judas Priest (with original lineup) and Slipknot on the main stage. Oh, and Ozzy himself. Yippee.

Posted by Casper at 12:09 AM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2004

Courtney Love to do the pokey

Courtney Love is probably going to be heading to jail soon.

A Beverly Hills, Calif., judge issued a bench warrant [on 2/11] for singer/actress Courtney Love after she failed to show up for a hearing on felony drug possession charges.

I'm thinking that she didn't get the memo.

-- Update --
Courtney went on to the Howard Stern show and claimed that "...I didn't show up for court because I didn't have a professional bodyguard". Why didn't I think of that? That makes perfect sense to me.

Also, the whole reason why this got started is clearly a misunderstanding...

In an unscheduled rambling, expletive-laden phone conversation with Stern, Love addressed the charges against her. "I didn't throw any rocks at the window," she said. "I kicked in the door because I didn't have a key. That's the god's truth."

Well, that convinces me.

Posted by Casper at 11:22 PM | Comments (0)

New gig for A&S

A&S will be performing at a charity benefit. It's for a good cause, so try to make it out if you can.

Posted by Casper at 06:11 PM | Comments (0)

More music downloaded than sold in UK

It seems that more music (as singles) has been legally downloaded than purchased through other means.

More than 150,000 downloads were sold last month, exceeding sales of 12-inch, seven-inch and DVD singles, the Official Charts Company reported.

Album sales are also looking good.

Between 1998 and 2002, the last full year for which data was available, worldwide sales of recorded music fell by 18%. Over the same period the value of sales in the UK rose by 6%.

But not all is sunshine and light in the land of boiled cabbage. Single sales are starting to suffer. The author of the article suspects "elastic pricing" to be the culprit.

So what does this mean overall? Well, when I put both of these pieces together, it tells me that legally downloaded music is the largest segment of growth in a shrinking market. Um, bravo?

Posted by Casper at 05:07 PM | Comments (0)

More music nominations announced

The Christian music community has announced their awards for 2003, as has Canada. Hopefully, there is someone that will care about these awards more than I cared about the Grammys.

Posted by Casper at 01:45 PM | Comments (2)

Oscar musical performances

Some of the musical performers at this year's Oscars have been announced.

Sting, Annie Lennox, Alison Krauss, Elvis Costello and T Bone Burnett will be on hand to perform nominated songs

Posted by Casper at 09:59 AM | Comments (3)

A sign of the apocalypse

It seems that Justin Timberlake will be, um, starring in a major motion picture. Lucky us.

Posted by Casper at 09:54 AM | Comments (1)

Chuck D on the TV

Chuck D (of Public Enemy) will be at the forefront of a new cable network.

Posted by Casper at 09:47 AM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2004

No rehearsals tonight

But I thought that there was. I drove up to Montgomery Village MD (where A&S rehearse) anyway.

Aref and I talked for a while about the business of music and some possible ways to approach it. Street teams, merchandising, all the kinds of things that make a band happen (other than the music). Don't get me wrong; the music is the most important thing, but the world is littered with good bands that didn't get anywhere because they didn't have good marketing.

Posted by Casper at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)

P2P getting more legit

Some of the legal wrangling that has been going on with regards to file sharing has been moving more and more towards established legal precendent.

When asked why this suit was different from Sony's case, the counsel representing the RIAA and the MPAA said that Sony had no way to prevent unauthorized copying on VCRs, but that Morpheus and Grokster, the two file sharing networks named in the suit, could apply the filters.

This is not technically true. Sony could have placed a file listing every piece of copyrighted work in existence on every VHS device and made it impossible to copy them. However this would have made the product economically impossible. But that's what the RIAA is now asking the file sharers to do now. And we don’t think a court will impose a sanction on file sharing networks that makes it economically infeasible to carry out their business.

The more and more I read about online file sharing, the more it seems to that that the RIAA and the MPAA are fighting what can only be a losing battle. The only way to enforce copyright law to the degree they are asking is to let slip the dogs of a draconian police state in which only authenticated users would be allowed to connect to the network.

Posted by Casper at 12:09 PM | Comments (0)

Godsmack unplugged

Godsmack is going unplugged for their latest album. Why they are doing this is an open question. Perhaps because they get to recycle old material for half an album and still charge full price....

Posted by Casper at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

Garage Band growing in popularity

Apple's Garage Band software is growing in popularity amongst musicians of all stripes. I haven't used this software myself (I use ProTools myself). Aref has been waxing enthusiastic over it for sometime, though.

Posted by Casper at 10:57 AM | Comments (0)

Teenage girls in download vanguard

MacWorld is reporting that teenage girls are leading the charge into the digital music environment.

Nearly one-half read about musicians or bands online. Girls are also more likely to use the Web to listen to streamed song samples and watch music videos, and they're twice as likely as boys to research concert and tour information online. The only online music activities that boys are more apt to participate in than girls are downloading music and burning CDs.

I have commented to Rich many times that the key to be being successful as a DC bar band is to play "chick-friendly rock." Looks like that approach might just be the right way to go online as well.

Posted by Casper at 10:20 AM | Comments (2)

Bad publicity is, well, bad

It used to be the case that it didn't really matter what they said about you, just as long as they spelled your name right (to use an old cliché). Perhaps the tide is turning.

"The old saw of no publicity is bad publicity no longer applies," warns Allan Mayer of Sitrick and Company, one of the leading Hollywood damage-control experts with a client list that includes R. Kelly and Halle Berry. "After this kind of event, the public tends to start thinking of you as a character rather than as an artist. People may be talking about Janet Jackson, but they're not talking about her singing and dancing."

Indeed not. Weary real-world souls this week saw not the media's designated moral apocalypse, but a star hoping to cash in on bad behavior. To many, this seemed like yet more irritating evidence that the pure of creative heart languish for lack of attention in today's America but you can take boorish behavior all the way to the bank.

I think that it's well established at this point that this was a pre-planned publicity stunt. Perhaps it will work out for Janet; I suppose we'll see in a few weeks when her album is released.

Posted by Casper at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

Parody site supporting bootlegging

Just to get this out of the way, bootlegging = bad. Having said that, the ham-handed approach of such groups as the RIAA has probably done more to romaniticize and encourage bootlegging than it has made headway on stopping it. The MPAA is trying their own tack, mostly trying to guilt people into not downloading movies by pointing out all the 'smaller people' who would be hurt by the activity (not Tom Cruise, but Tom Cruise's stunt double). In response, some guys have thrown together a pro-bootlegging parody site. Some of their thoughts --

Put simply, bootlegging promotes creativity and diversity in the marketplace by exposing literally millions of people to the great works of literature, art and action blockbusters.

Are you afraid bootlegging impinges on the intellectual property rights of writers, directors and actors who have worked long and hard to make movies?

Not to worry! These artists have long since gotten screwed by their distributors, producers and agents! Chances are, they won't be seeing a dime in royalties from so-called "legitimate" distribution of their films. They don't call it "Hollywood accounting" for nothing!

Posted by Casper at 09:54 AM | Comments (1)

An honest ad man

Commenting on Janet's exhibitionism, an unnamed ad man makes an honest statement:

Boobs conquer everything from the networks to the media to corporate America.

Truly a revelation for the ages.

Posted by Casper at 09:42 AM | Comments (0)

Support the Staff

When most people think about concerts and playing out live, the things that lead to mind are the musicians – the singer, the drummer, the guitarist. This is not a bad thing; the band is the primary reason why the concert is happening in the first place. But, it's not only the band that puts a show together.

No band is successful if the team consists only of the musicians. Every band needs support staff: roadies, agents, managers, accountants, lawyers, vendors, etc. And, while all are important, necessary and deserving of respect, I'm going to take some time to single out a few of them (the ones that most people will encounter during their musical career) for special attention.

Sound guy:
This is probably the single most important member of the support staff; he (and for some reason, almost all of the sound people I have encountered are male) is arguably more important than some of the members of the band. He has final control over how the band sounds to the audience. No matter how hot the band is -- you could have Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorius, Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin and Dennis Chambers on stage, all on fire, in sync together, everything’s perfect, but the band will sound like garbage if the soundman’s zoning out, not paying attention to things with the 2k Hz rolled all the way down and the 500 Hz all the way up on the master parametric EQ. A good soundman can make a bad band sound good, while no band will sound good with a incompetent moron running the desk.

If you happen to find a great sound guy with a good ear, hang on to him for all he’s worth. Buy his gear if you have to, but soundmen with golden ears are irreplaceable. Which brings me to the next point….

While it's generally a good rule of thumb to be as nice to people as you can, it applies even more so the sound guy. No matter how much of jerk he might happen to be, no matter what has happened to you, never take it out on the sound man. Or, at the very minimum, wait until the performance is over and you don’t have to deal with the guy anymore.

When a band performs live, they typically find themselves in one of three scenarios:
• the band runs their own sound,
• the venue has a soundman on staff that the band uses (sometimes by choice, sometimes not), or
• the band has their own soundman.

Of the three setups, the first is usually the least desirable -- while it is true that no one will know what kind of sound the bands wants more than the band itself, generally, the members of the band are far too occupied with the actual playing of music to worry about the overall mix, the overall balance and all the moment to moment adjustments that are required during a show.

When the venue provides their own sound guy, it can be a good thing. He’s likely to be familiar with the acoustics of the venue, as well as the house equipment. In my experiences, a good indicator of the ability of the soundman is whether or not the venue makes his working optional. If it's optional, then they are confident of his skill. If it's not optional, he may still be competent, but the experience level will vary from place to place and time to time. The downside to this arrangement is that the sound guy's loyalties will be to the venue, not the band, and he is less likely to be as familiar with the material the band will be performing.

If the band can afford to bring their own soundman, this tends to be a better solution. He will be sufficiently familiar with the band's material and playing style that he will be able to anticipate changes and cues during the show, and he will understand that his success is directly tied to the success of the band. On the other hand, he'll probably be winging it when it comes to the acoustics of each venue. Good sound guys can figure out the acoustics during sound check relatively quickly, but that's only going to go so far.

The optimal solution is when the band brings their own sound guy and he coordinates with the venue to best fit the band's sound to the acoustics of the venue. In many higher end places, this is the norm, but not always.

Roadies:
Roadies get the grunt work of a show. Loading in gear and loading out gear is probably the worst part of any gig. When bands are starting out, they are their own roadies (with whatever help they can find). This is usually par for the course until a fair amount of success has been attained.

I know that I cannot wait until I get to the place where I can afford to have someone else do this bit of the work for me. Even still, even the most successful of bands typically don't have simple muscle as part of their traveling crew. Instead, these bands have contract riders which specify a number of people at each venue to help (item #10, paragraph 2) with loading and unloading. The roadies that travel with the band usually have multiple duties (security, gopher, support system) and extra skills (electrician, instrument tech, amateur psychologist). And speaking of extra skills....

Techs:
Techs are the unsung heroes of a show. They are the people who ensure that the band's setup and instruments are right. It can be a pretty thankless job, as some musicians tend to be a little bit picky when it comes to their setup and the horror stories of abuse rained down on techs from various musicians are legendary (Buddy Rich quickly comes to mind). If you ever go to a show and you see someone dressed in black run up to a musician and hand him a new guitar, or switch snare drums for her, then you've just seen a tech in action. It's part of the tech's job to make sure that all the instruments on stage work correctly throughout the entire show.

Most bands don't get to the level where they have the luxury of techs; rather, the band acts as their own techs. And, most techs typically pull double duty as roadies for the gear on which they work. If you are lucky enough to have a tech, try to keep in mind that they are probably as passionate about the music and the instrument as you are and treat them accordingly. And, sometimes the techs play on stage when a member of the band gets hurt (see #23).

Agents:
When a band is just starting out, the hardest part of the business is getting anyone to listen to them. And even harder still is getting anyone to pay for the privilege of listening to an unknown band. The primary job of an agent is to get bands work. Once the work is available, the secondary job of the agent is to get the best deal possible for the band at the specific gig. During the earlier part of a band's career, this is a hard slog, with lots of frustrating phone calls and unreturned messages. When a band is very successful, an agent may get overwhelmed with people wanting the band to come to their venue and perform. In the middle, the agent will typically have both ends -- lots of lower tier venues requesting the band and frustration of not being able to get into the top tier venues.

Managers:
Managers have some of the same duties as agents, but that doesn't really begin to scratch the surface. Managers are more involved with almost all business decisions of the band -- the promotion and marketing, producing of CDs, touring, handling personnel, interacting with other businesses, working with record labels, fielding requests for the band's time and that's just a small list. Good managers take a massive load of a band's shoulders. Bad managers can bankrupt you (just ask Billy Joel).

Others:
The above people should hardly be considered an end all-be all listing; it's just a start. Successful bands need accountants who are familiar with the music industry so as to hunt down every cent buried in royalty agreements; entertainment law is it’s own arcane specialty that most lawyers do not understand well enough to represent a band’s interests with sufficient zeal (not to mention that lawyers tend to know everyone in the business and are good intermediaries through which to make connections); lighting engineers who work the lights during a show (which can either greatly heighten a performance or dash it to bits); even merchandisers who help the band make a few extra bucks by selling CDs and such.


The long and short of it is to remember that there are a small army of people involved in a successful show. No matter how big anyone gets, they didn't get there alone, and they surely do not stay there alone. So, if you're a musician, be appreciative of their work; if you're a fan, just keep the supporting staff in mind.

Posted by Casper at 09:29 AM | Comments (1)

February 09, 2004

Tip Jar

I added a tip jar for Amazon.com. Not because I'm all hard up for money or anything (but I won't turn it down), just thought I'd try it out for a while. So, feel free to hit the jar, and I promise to send an email in thanks....

Posted by Casper at 10:09 PM | Comments (0)

JoS rehearsal

We're going to cancel for the night; Rich's throat is killing him (something with which I can sympathize), so we're going to hold off so he can hopefully heal before Saturday's show.

Posted by Casper at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)

Porn and music online

Eric has an interesting article on copyright law with regards to pornography. Taken from the NY Times, it draws a direct comparison to nodes like Kazaa sharing music to Playboy giving out a limited form of their content for free in order to attract subscribers. There's a lesson that can be learned here.

Throughout most of the development cycle of the web, pornography has really led the technological charge. They pioneered secure ways of doing monetary transasctions, banner ads, pop-ups/-unders, using cookies to track activity, animation, streaming of video and audio; you name it, it probably had it's .0 release on some porn site. It seems that the pornographers are again on the cutting edge, but in grappling with both the legal and the financial aspects of intellectual property on the web.

...Pornography merchants say that they have the advantage over free file-sharing networks, at least for now. They say the networks are not well suited to the needs of their consumers, who like images and movies that push their very specific buttons for, say, blondes or cheerleaders.

"Free is very anarchistic and hard to deal with, and you don't know what you're getting," said a pornography entrepreneur who goes by the online pseudonym T. Lassiter Jones. "Cheap is more convenient." [my emphasis]

That notion could be the great hope of the mainstream entertainment industry, where fledgling services like the iTunes store and Rhapsody that offer inexpensive, easy access to legal music are beginning to catch on.

So, yes, sex sells, but so can music.

I'm very sympathetic; in a sense, that's basically what I'm doing here. I'm trying to create interesting content for people to read, and I'm giving it all away for free. And one of the reasons why I do it is to get my name out in the public eye, to raise my visibility. If I'm successful, then hopefully I'll get one or two more people to come out to one of my shows, or maybe buy a CD on which I play.

Posted by Casper at 01:57 PM | Comments (1)

Live Performance Awards

The Concert Industry Awareds were announced over the weekend. Some highlights:

Major Tour Of The Year Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Most Creative Stage Production Blue Man Group
Best New Artist Tour Good Charlotte
Best Small Outdoor Concert Venue Wolf Trap Filene Center
Nightclub Venue Of The Year 9:30 Club

Congradulations to Good Charlotte, Wolf Trap andthe 9:30 club for representing the DC area....

Posted by Casper at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

Tower Records bankrupt

It seems that Tower Records has declared bankruptcy. This isn't all that surprising; CDs and DVDs are uniquely well suited for sale on the web. They're small, easy to ship, and you get exactly what you expect (unlike, say, a car).

Thanks to Tyler for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 10:44 AM | Comments (2)

Google hacking

For anyone who might be a little concerned with privacy on the web, this article in today's Washington Post is worth a gander.

Posted by Casper at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

Ken Auletta's Backstory

Today, I finished up Ken Auletta's Backstory. I should probably start off by saying that the title to this book is somewhat of a misnomer; it's not a story, it's a collection of previously published essays on the media. I was hoping and expecting some cogent media criticism (along the lines of Howard Kurtz). What I got instead was banal puff pieces about New York journalism cloaked in vaguely hard hitting phraseology. Not even Fox News could raise Auletta's ire beyond a mildly disapproving rebuke.

For a collection of essays published in the New Yorker (as well as one or two other places), quite a few of the pieces could have stood a bit more stringent editing, both for grammer as well as for coherence. I would not recommend this particular book.

Posted by Casper at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2004

Performances at the Grammys

I came late to the Grammys (given a choice, I'll take the Simpsons over much anything else that's on TV), so I'm picking up about a half hour into the show. Apparently I missed Prince, Dave Matthews and several others.

As an overall observation, the backdrops for the performances were well done. If only the same could be said for the technical issues. For a show all about music, you would think they'd have the sound rock solid. Such was not the case, though.

The White Stripes -- I've never been all that big a fan of their work; going for them is a raw intensity, going against them is a raw intensity. They did a medley of some of their tunes, with pretty good results.
Martina McBride -- I think I've caught snippets of this song on the radio from time to time. The arrangement of the performance tonight seemed to be more stripped down in general, but also with a full string section swelling during the middle section of the tune.
Alicia Keys -- Alicia was introduced by Patti LaBelle, and she played well, with the exception of a little diva-esque oversinging. To be honest, I didn't recognize the tune (it was a Luther Vandross song), but it came off well
Celine Dion -- You know, if it wasn't for me wanting to be complete, I would have turned the TV off. I'd rather listen to lawn mowers than Celine. So, imagine my sheer delight when the CBS audio feed completely dropped out during the opening of the tune (replaced by several audio techs struggling to get the backup online). Unfortunately, they fixed the problem. Richard Marx accompanied Celine (so glad to see that he is getting work). Luther's song was very touching; even Celine couldn't kill it (I wonder how much of a threat they had to issue to keep her from doing her trademark over the top singing shtick). For what it's worth, here's to hoping that next time it's Luther who belts it out.
Sting and Sean Paul -- These two did the Police standard Roxanne. If I didn't know any better, I think that Sting was using the original Fender jazz bass that he used for that album. Sean Paul came out and added a heavy dancehall aspect to the song. Since the Police pretty much always had a heavy reggae feel to their music, this fusion worked.
Justin Timberlake -- To me, it seems like a bad thing when the singer has to ask people to get into the music. Also, given that Timberlake's primary asset seems to be his dancing, why would he choose to spend his one shot at this audience sitting behind an electric piano? Anturo Sandoval sat in for a bit of the song, doing a trading licks thing with Timberlake. It's just me, but I would have so much rather listened to Sandoval for an entire song than Justin's, um, crooning.
Black Eyed Peas -- I caught these guys performing on SNL a while back. This was a better show. Perhaps having more real estate in which to move around let them be more active on stage.
Beyonce -- The stage show was, um, unusual. Again, her forte in the past has been dancing and very high energy dance music. So she decides to go with a slow, showy, way over the top song? Even if it's the title track of the album, I think there would have been better choices.
Earth, Wind & Fire, Outkast, Robert Randolph, George Clinton and Funkadelic -- I've always loved EW&F. This performance was Shining Star, and they did a bang up job; great energy. Phillip Bailey probably was ragging out his voice just a bit on the higher end. Outkast did their hit tune I Like The Way, and EW&F jumped in harmony. Robert Randolph turned a country instrument (a pedal steel guitar) into a funky explosion of gospel tinged passion. As much as I love Clinton and Funkadelic, they sounded ragged out and tired on Tear The Roof Off. It was good to see Bootsy having fun, though. And, if they ever do this again, please someone muzzle Samuel Jackson.
Foo Fighters with Chick Corea -- This was a match that I would have neither thought of nor made. Corea's laconic style and the Foo Fighters' aggression would have seemed to naturally clash. But what do I know. The result started as a very laid back version of the Foo Fighters' song Times Like These. After the first verse and chorus, the song reverted to the more normal Foo Fighters version. Unfortunately, that left Chick Corea trying to fit in his playing to their tune. And it was not a good marriage.
Sarah McLachlan -- McLachlan performed well. I have a soft spot for her and have liked her work for the better part of a decade, so I'm a little biased. Allison Krauss sat in on violin. I'm not real sure as to why; the intrepid Grammy sound engineers struck again and Krauss could not be heard when she played. And could just barely be heard when she sang.
Outkast -- Outkast came back to perform their other tune, Hey Ya!. This rendition seemed particularly soulless and empty, though. Even adding the marching band towards the end of the performance only highlighted how little there was actually going on. I have no idea what was going on with the whole Native American theme, though.

Posted by Casper at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

Random thoughts on the Grammys

Justin Timberlake was awarded the Grammy for the best male pop vocal. He had enough awareness of the absurdity of the previous weekend to at least acknowledge it and issue yet another apology.

Luther Vandross sent in a taped message, which included a little bit of him singing. He still sounds amazing, and I hope that his recovery is speedy.

When Sean Paul came out to sing with Sting, I hope that you were watching the show with the subtitles on. As soon as Sean Paul started with his dancehall patois, the subtitles froze up. I can imagine the subtitle guy in a booth just cursing heavily, trying to figure out what he would possibly type in for the hearing impaired.

Christina won best female pop vocal and also referenced the Janet incident. Which is ironic, considering how she and Britney pretty much paved the way for it to even happen.

....To be honest, I pretty much stopped paying attention to the show sometime after that. The Grammys are always such a bore. I'm a musician, and I don't even care. I can't imagine how bad this must be for people who really aren't into music all that much.

And, of course, as I write this, one of the guys in Coldplay announces his wish for John Kerry to be president. While John might appreciate the plug, it's too bad the band is British and can't vote for him....

As a closing, the president of the recording industry (I'm not sure if he is the guy from the RIAA or not) came out and plugged for money to support music education, took a swipe at the Bush administration and tried to get the people watching the broadcast to not download music online. He did this with a new commerical emphasizing a new website. Bad commercials do not seem like a really good plan of attack in this particular conflict...

Posted by Casper at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

JoS rehearsal

Today, we went over the same songs as before as well as working in a few new ones. It's going to be a week or so until we can all get together again. Neil suggested a few songs that he would like to try, so we have a dozen songs or so to learn for next week. I think that he's fitting in with the group pretty well.

Posted by Casper at 08:13 PM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2004

Mike Stern @ Blues Alley

Tonight, I caught Mike Stern at Blues Alley. The backing band was comprised of Richard Bona on vocals and bass, Dennis Chambers on drums and Bob Franceschini on tenor sax.

I've been looking forwards to this show for some time. I was not disappointed. I had seen Bona play before as a side man to Pat Metheny. All I have to say is what an idiot Metheny must have been to have wasted such an unbelievably talented musician like Bona the way he did.

I spent almost the entirety of the show with a big ol' smile on my face. There was a font of positive energy flowing from all the members of the band that didn't let up for the whole set. They all had a very relaxed enjoyment about them, cracking jokes, goofing through a Rolling Stones tune (and then turning it into Stanley Clarke's School Days just for grins). Unlike most of other shows I have seen, Chambers occasionally departed from his normal bored/chewing gum look that he normally adopts for a much more engaged persona, openly laughing and smiling as well as showing passion and intensity during his solos.

The opening two numbers had every member of the band taking a solo. Stern took an empty stage solo a few songs later. One of the things that I really like about Mike's playing is both his restraint and his expressiveness. Many people compare Stern to Metheny (and I can see why; they tend to produce a similar voicing in their playing). A major distinction that I would draw between them is that Pat has a tendency to overplay, as if to try and prove how great a player he is. Mike holds back, playing as many notes as are needed and no more. Which is not to say that he can't fly around. I just think that Stern gets it the space between the notes is just as important as the notes themselves.

Stern has a history of surrounding himself with highly accomplished musicians; tonight's show thoroughly kept in the same vein. Chambers is one of the best drummers in the business today and Bona is an incandescently hot up and comer. To be honest, I can't really tell how good Franceschini is, not being a big sax guy and all.

From a technique point of view, Chambers and Bona pretty much held a clinic (which is not to say that Stern or Franceschini didn't, just that I'm a bass player with roots as a drummer, so that's where my focus is). Bona primarily plays fingerstyle, frequently utilizing all four fingers (but keeping each note clear and distinct) either in a clear articulation or in a rake. His occasional thumping showed Bona popping with his thumb as well as his first two fingers. Bona's playing is extremely clean. I absolutely cannot wait to catch him on his own.

Chambers laid in the background of the music, but never dropping control of the groove. Dennis also showed off his brush technique several times. Unlike so many drummers that I have heard, his brushing is infused with passion and power. During his third solo of the set, Chambers reprised a solo technique (from the previous Stern show I caught); he kept his hands at the same tempo and meter, and then began alternate between speeding up and slowing down either the entire drumline or only specific parts of it while maintaining the groove and meter of the song. What's left of the drummer in me was stunned.

Some photos from this show can be found here. I would highly recommend making the trip to catch Bona play any chance you get. Anytime that Chambers plays in a jazz club (particularly a smaller one), it's worth the cost of admission. This marks only the second time that I have seen Stern play, but there will be a third.

Posted by Casper at 11:57 PM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2004

Les Triplettes de Belleville

I caught the Oscar nominated Triplets of Belleville tonight. It was a, um, very French movie. There were no subtitles (which was not what I expected for a foreign flick), but that wasn't an issue. The story (such as it is) was very easy to follow. Some of the animation was rather well done; in particular, a dog barks at a commuter train. The speed slows down as one commuter makes a connection with the animal.

The best thing about this film was the music. It was the aural equivalent of found art; lots of creating sound through everyday objects (a newspaper, a vacuum cleaner, a fridge). I don't know if could recommend this film, though.

Posted by Casper at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

Webcasting royalties announced

The US Copyright office has announced the legal rules by which copyrights and royalties must be paid for webcasting. Much like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC managed the royalties for radio broadcast royalties, Sound Exchange will monitor and collect the royalties. For a small fee, of course.

For most people like me (who will eventually get around to putting a sound clip or two in the not too distant future), this will have no effect. In most cases, they will own the copyright outright (which will be my situation).

Thanks to Kurt for the pointer.

Posted by Casper at 05:22 PM | Comments (0)

Lilek's songs from the 80s

You gotta read this. Had me laughing out loud at work. An example:

"Owner of a Lonely Heart." Hmm: it's by Yes, a group about which I always thought, well, no. Too much noodling. The singer made the guy from Rush sound like James Earl Jones.

Posted by Casper at 05:10 PM | Comments (0)

VA's musical influence

Both the NY Times and the UK's Guardian proclaim the near supremacy of Norfolk VA's musical producers. Timbaland and the Neptunes seem to be able to do no wrong.

Pop seeks transparency, a language that will read quickly and clearly everywhere. Over the last decade, hip-hop has become that common tongue for global pop, and what we might call Timbatunes [their word, not mine --C] are establishing how that language is spoken right now. The collapse of larger categories like pop, hip-hop and R&B is partly a result of their innovations, which are now the default moves for much of pop music. Neptunes and Timbaland tracks fit into D.J. sets alongside German techno, popular Jamaican dancehall and the Asian-British hybrid dance music bhangra. The biggest-selling rock band in America, Linkin Park, uses the kind of sampled beats and keyboards Timbaland and the Neptunes use. At the top of the food chain, the Rolling Stones hired the Neptunes to do a remixed version of ''Sympathy for the Devil.'' Jagger was an early adopter of country rock, disco and rap; his papal nod is, at the very least, an indication that something or someone is not going away.

I'm actually a fan of both of their work from a production point of view. The actual music itself I can usually take or leave.

Posted by Casper at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

Online music standards

There's a coming battle for file standards in the online world. Think VHS vs Betamax.

An emerging version of this conflict is being fought out now over standards for music purchased online. It boils down to this: will Apple support Microsoft's "Windows Media Audio" (WMA) format for purchased music on the iPod music player? Or has the Apple-preferred (but not Apple-owned) "Advanced Audio Codec" (AAC) format that it uses through its own iTunes Music Store become a de facto standard that others - including Microsoft - will have to adjust to?

To me, this seems to be somewhat of a strange argument. I know that on those rare occasions when I have gone on to Kazaa and it's ilk (just for research, officer), the predominant standard has been mp3s, not WMA or AAC. Mp3s have good sound, aren't encumbered by the somewhat ridiculous rights management overhead that WMAs are (I can't speak to AAC) and pretty conclusively have the mindshare of the general public when it comes to online music.

...[M]ost people listening to music on digital players have most of it in MP3 format. I'd also bet that every music player out there now has at least one MP3 file on it. People who've got into digital music assume that MP3 is the default format. The challenge for Apple, and Microsoft, is to join MP3.

Posted by Casper at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

Kazaa offices raided

The Austrailian governmental equivalent to the RIAA has raided some offices in Austrailia on the hunt for Kazaa.

MIPI general manager Michael Speck told ZDNet Australia the order was specifically targeted at the operators of the Kazaa network. "This is not about individuals, this is about the big fish," said Speck".

-- Update --
Eric has an update as to the goings-on.

-- Update 2 --
Eric has yet more info...

Posted by Casper at 01:14 PM | Comments (0)

Urban Lillith Fair

Billboard is reporting that Beyonce, Missy Elliot and Alicia Keys are going to go out on the road together. While they might be considering this to be like Lillith Fair, I think they'll need a few more acts than three to get to that level.

Posted by Casper at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

Patrick Stewart against space travel

It seem that Patrick Stewart (most famous for Star Trek: The Next Generation) has decided that he is against space travel.

"I would like to see us get this place right first before we have the arrogance to put significantly flawed civilizations out onto other planets," Stewart said.

The 63-year-old British actor says manned missions are too expensive. "It would take up so many resources, which I personally feel should be directed at our own planet," he said.

I have to agree with Lileks' on this one.

Oh: right. Actor talking. "Get this place right." What would that look like, exactly? And how would we know? If in 2079 there's one monomanical Marxist sub-saharan leader starving his people for political gain, does this obligate other nations to shut down their rocketry programs until the guy dies and crop production returns to pre-tyrant levels?

Making movies takes up many resources which could be directed at our own planet. For that matter, millions of pounds are spent in England annually for theater productions – I propose a ten-year moratorium on all stage shows, with the money distributed directly to our own planet. And after we have gotten things right on this planet we can get back to such frivolous luxuries as theater. What's that, you say – theater employs many people? Theater inspires imaginations, adds to our store of knowledge, helps us define what it means to be human?

And exploring other words doesn't, eh. Noted: the future of humanity shall consist not in getting this place right but watching angry Pinter screeds about that wretched meat we know as our own flawed species. And when we leave the theater we can look up and behold an infinite world we must never pollute.

Posted by Casper at 10:42 AM | Comments (9)

TiVo to share data with Neilsen

Adding to the disturbing trend about TiVo monitoring subscriber's viewing habits (ála Big Brother) comes this bit of news:

TiVo and Nielsen Media Research, the television ratings company, announced a deal Wednesday in which TiVo will provide a breakdown of how some of its customers are using their digital video recorders.

That means Nielsen will find out whether participating viewers are watching ``American Idol'' live or watching it a day later and, more importantly, which commercials they're skipping and which were watched a second time.

I have to say that I am a huge fan of TiVo; it has completely changed the way that I watch TV. But this whole monitoring of data is rather disturbing, to say the least.

Posted by Casper at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)

CD/DVD releases

According to Reuters, all five major record labels are experimenting with a hybrid CD/DVD release package (CD on one side, DVD on the other). This could be an interesting development, particularly if the artists start to include DVD-like features (commentary tracks, sheet music/storyboards, videos and/or photos, just general extra material). However, this would mean the elimination of art work on the top of the CD. To me, losing graphic images is not a big loss, but losing the text might lead to confusion (all discs would look basically the same, hope you don't put a disc in the wrong case...).

Posted by Casper at 09:37 AM | Comments (0)

Pepsi/Apple parody ad

James Saldana has created a parody ad of the Pepsi/iTunes ad from the Superbowl...

Posted by Casper at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2004

Hidalgo

Tonight, I caught an advance screening of Hidalgo. The movie is supposed to be a true story about an American who enters in a three thousand mile race across the Arabian desert in the late 1800s. The film is supposed to be based upon a true story, but I don't know how much is dramatic license and how much is factual. From the blurb:

Based on the autobiography of distance rider Frank T. Hopkins, “Hidalgo” is an epic action-adventure and one man’s journey of personal redemption. Held yearly for centuries, the Ocean of Fire—a 3,000 mile survival race across the Arabian Desert—was a challenge restricted to the finest Arabian horses ever bred, the purest and noblest lines, owned by the greatest royal families. In 1890, an American, Hopkins, and his horse were invited to enter the race for the first time.

For starters, I'm glad that I got to go for free. This was a completely formulaic, paint-by-numbers filck. Nothing was unexpected. Hey, look, it's the quirky comic sidekick. And over there's the required love interest. That must be the bad guy. I'll bet that there's a bonding scene just at the start of the 2nd act. This film could have easily been thirty minutes shorter and no one would have noticed.

I can tell when I'm bored in a film because I start to play the "where-do-I-recognize-that-actor" game (for the record, C. Thomas Howell as the opening race competitor, J. K. Simmons as Buffalo Bill, Omar Sharif as the sheik and Malcolm McDowell as a husband on an ocean liner).

The actual standout actor in this movie was the horse (or, more accurately, group of horses). Far more expressive than anyone else in the film. The horse, I cared about. The humans, not so much. It's not a knock against the actual actors; I just don't think they had all that much to work with.

Watch time :47

Posted by Casper at 11:05 PM | Comments (0)

Yahoo to provide online music

Two things stand out in this article.

(1) It looks like Yahoo might be exploring ways to become a content provider.

According to knowledgeable sources, Yahoo bought music software developer Mediacode in December to help create a digital jukebox and media player--the key components in many music download services.

(2) Apple's iTunes is a money loser.

Few analysts expect music downloads to make money anytime soon. Apple Computer, whose iTunes Music Store dominates the market, makes its money on the sale of companion iPod music players and concedes the service is not yet profitable.

Posted by Casper at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

Kai Eckhardt's Honour Simplicity...

To the best of my knowledge, this album marks Kai Eckhardt's debut as a solo artist. I've been looking forwards to this cd for some time: It's almost always a good thing when an artist you respect steps out on his own. Having studied with Kai, I really wanted to like this album a lot -- I really did. But I just can't quite get there.

One of the things that I did like immediately is that the entire album is recorded in a single shot; no overdubs, no edits, nothing like that. At least according to the liner notes. (Yes, I'm one of those geeks that reads all of the liner notes either before I put the CD in or as I'm listening to the first song or two.)

Some highlights from the actual music itself:

  • Re-United -- This song has a real jazzy feel to it. Lots of nice rhythmic variation over the 9/8 sections, and the 4/4 breakdown towards the end of the tune was a welcome change of pace.
  • Captured Flow -- A solo bass tune (which is to be expected on a bass player's album). It's very nicely done. All of the high end was rolled off for some reason, though.
  • Queen of Cups -- A good tune. Kai uses a fretless for a nice sound.
  • Remember Yourself -- This song reminded me quite a bit of some of the work that Kai used to do with Trilok.

The rest of the music on this album seemed to be either overindulgent noodling or unremarkable jazz-ish tunes. Interesting to listen to for about two minutes, then wearing out it's welcome in pretty short order.

The hardest thing about this album actually buying it. When I went out to SF, I hunted around for the CD in the usual haunts but could never find a copy anywhere. I finally ordered it from the only website I where I could find it in early January, hoping that it would come before the Garaj Mahal show at the end of January. It didn't, so I ended up buying a copy at the show. The ordered CD arrived three days later.

Would I buy this album again? Perhaps. I don't think I would go through the hassle that this purchase was (ordering from the UK, etc), but I would consider picking it up if I happened across it one day at Tower.

Posted by Casper at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

Fodera strings

Last night, I was trying to restring my bass (from when I went through a G string at my last show. When I break a string, I usually try to replace the entire set, to keep the sound even. But, this time I hosed things up royally. First, I string up the D string in the G slot (Fodera does not label their strings individually), so I wasted that string. Then, when I was trying to do up the G string, I cut it too short, and thus killed off that wire.

Bass Techs really earn their money.

Posted by Casper at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)

New show added

JoS will be opening again for the Wrecking Crew on Valentine's Day. We'll be doing this one acoustically again. Hope to see you out there...

Posted by Casper at 12:47 AM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2004

JoS rehearsal

Tonight, we were mostly focused on auditioning a potential lead guitarist. Neil came out to one of our shows, and was interested enough to come again. He and Rich had done some acoustic noodling with each other a few days earlier, and things seemed to go well between the two of them (it's always a good thing when the two guitarists in a band click).

Things went pretty well with the whole group. Neil knew several of the songs that we cover, and he had them down rather well. As a side note, Rich was hanging back and not playing much. I hope that he doesn't decide to only sing all the time. Having two guitarists allows for a lot more flexibility when playing. But perhaps he's working on figuring how to fit Neil in so they don't step on each other's toes.

Neil's going to come back out with us for Sunday's rehearsal. I hope that things go as well as they did tonight.

Posted by Casper at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

Finder's Paranoia

I just finished up Joseph Finder's Paranoia. It was a decent, escapist read. The book centers around a young man working for a technical firm who gets in over his head (misappropriation of funds) and basically gets blackmailed into spying on a competitor. Once he gets to the competitor's firm, he finds that he respects the people in the other firm far more than his original firm (even putting aside the blackmail). The open question becomes how he will balance the competiting interests.

This book reminded me a lot of another book I've recently read (Money For Nothing, also about a guy caught in espionage against his wishes). I found that I could relate to a lot of the political machinations in Paranoia -- not because I'm a spy or anything, but because I've worked too many places where people smile at you just before they knife your back. Or your front, depending on how bold they are. If you have worked in any high pressure places (or highly political places), you'll probably recognize the types: the win at any costs boss, the smarmy guy who pretends to be your friend only to set you up, the just-don't-give-a-rat's-anymore sideline workers/slackers.

I also got a kick out of the not-too-subtle characterization of the original firm's CEO, Nick Wyatt. It's very clear that this character was modeled pretty closely after Larry Ellison (huge ego, fascination with all things Japanese -- particularly in his home, even the same joke about God).

The book's a good way to while away a few hours, perfect for a trip of some sort.

Posted by Casper at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)

A ray of reasonableness

An article worth a read about some of the consequences of the FCC getting all investigatory with Janet's, um, malfunction.

These points won't satisfy the Repressive Right, but even the FRC and other right-tilting authoritarians ought to remember that its Republican/conservative friends won't always be running Washington. Someday, maybe sooner than we know, it will the Politically Correct Left that is reviewing all shows. And when the political/ideological wheel turns, the same state machinery that the FRC wants to use to wallop its foes will be used instead to wallop the FRC and its friends. As Ronald Reagan said many times, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it all away."

To be honest, I'm getting rather tired of reading and listening to all the riga-ma-role about this whole thing. I'm adding this link because I think it's important to remember both that free speech is one of those things that requires active protection and that free speech is oft time not good speech.

Posted by Casper at 12:44 PM | Comments (0)

New earplugs

I finally got my earplugs from the doc today. Hopefully, this should keep the tinnitus at bay for a while longer.

-- Update --
I tried them out tonight, and I have to say that I'm a fan. The overall db level was lower, and I was able to hear what was going on better. The mids were clearer, the highs brighter. Thumbs up all around.

Posted by Casper at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)

Fat Albert casting

It seems that the old cartoon series Fat Albert is going to be made into a live action film. And that casting for two roles will be happening in Washington DC.

Twentieth Century Fox will hold open casting calls this weekend for its upcoming motion picture FAT ALBERT, based on Bill Cosby’s famed character.

"FAT ALBERT"
CASTING FOR THE ROLE OF AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN MALE 18-22 YEARS OLD (to play 17-18), Big Guy! MUST SING/RAP/DANCE/MOVE WELL

"OLD WEIRD HAROLD"
CASTING FOR THE ROLE OF AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN MALE 18-22 YEARS OLD (to play 17-18), SLIM MUST BE AT LEAST 6'5"’/BASKETBALL PLAYER

What to bring?
1. Bring headshots, resumes and pens
2. If you do not have a head shot or professional resume, please bring in two snap shots or Polaroids, (1) Head shot from the top of your shoulders up, showing your straight-on full face (no angles), and, (2) Full length shot. Please make sure to print the following information on the back of each shot:

Print full name, address, and all contact numbers, email address (very important), height and true body weight.

Casting location details are as follows:
Saturday, February 7th
4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
South East Tennis and Learning Center
701 Mississippi Avenue, South East
Washington, DC 20032

-- Update --
Another notice has gone out with altered information. The changes are reflected above.

Posted by Casper at 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

No go on JoS Friday Gig

JoS was possibly going to have a gig this Friday, but it fell apart (no confirmation from the venue). There are a few more possible floating out there, but they haven't come through as of yet.

Posted by Casper at 08:35 AM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2004

DH/CC rehearsal

Tonight was the four of us, going over some of the ones we've already picked up and then trying two songs written by Brian. They're pretty good, in a honky-tonk/country vein.

I also let them know that I will not be playing with them for too much longer; it's just too much for me to keep up. I've had a rehearsal or performance basically every night for the last three or four weeks. I just think that I need some more free time. Especially since my application to the Marine Corp Marathon has been accepted.

Posted by Casper at 10:55 PM | Comments (1)

Dave Weckl's loss

I just got a call from Blues Alley about the Mike Stern show coming up this weekend. Dave Weckl will not be performing. It seems that his father has died, so (for obvious reasons) he will not be playing. It's too bad on many levels; I wanted to see him play and I'm very sorry for his loss. Dennis Chambers will be sitting in instead.

My sympathies go out to Dave and his family. (Not that we're buddy buddy or anything, but for what it's worth....)

Posted by Casper at 07:15 PM | Comments (0)

Janet Jackson and the Super Bowl

I've decided to pull the info from a few other posts and centralize it into a single place....

---------------------------
So, Janet and Justin also had a little pseudo-nudity during their halftime act that I just completely missed. Probably because I was more listening than watching. It's kind of sad when you have to do pull those kind of stunts to get sales.
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Drudge reports that the whole Jackson thing was pre-planned and CBS knew about it in advance. If this is true, then I'm just shocked -- shocked I say!! -- that this happened. Of course, it is Drudge, so take it with a grain of salt.
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The FCC is investigating the Jackson incident for indecency.
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BlogCritics has lots and lots of coverage about Janet and her, um, Super Bowl publicity stunt here. Note that some articles have been cross-posted both here and there.
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RAIN reports that MTV absolutely knew what was going to happen:

Last week, the headline on the [VH1] press release read, "Janet Jackson's Super Bowl Show Promises 'Shocking Moments.'" The executives at all of the responsible corporations (Viacom, CBS, AOL, the NFL) must have known that was how the event was being promoted.

Supposedly those executives, or their subordinates, were watching rehearsals. There are only two possibilities: Either (A) they saw nothing "shocking," in which case they should have known the press release was a lie, or (B) they were assured that there would be at least one "shocking" element in the actual performance. (Perhaps, to assure themselves of a post-event claim of plausible deniability, they didn't want to know precise details on what the shock would be. But still yet.)

The current alibi as of this morning -- "At the time of this report, MTV thought that the 'shock' was going to be the as-yet-unannounced appearance of Justin Timberlake as part of Janet's performance" -- does not hold water: The appearance of a guest performer could be described as a "surprise," but the word "shock" doesn't fit.

If one believes that the Viacom crowd speaks English as their first language, Justin's appearance can't be what they were alluding to! There had to be some kind of "shock," in the contemporary American English sense of the word, planned.

It just beggars the belief that Viacom would think that anyone would buy this denial. Come on, guys, I know that "you will never go broke underestimating the American public," but this is ridiculous. To make matter worse, the brillilant geniuses at Viacom have tried to cover their tracks:

Yesterday, if you tried to access the "Shocking Moments" press release on the VH1 website , you got a "Page Not Found" error and the message, "Due to the recent redesign of our site, the page you are requesting has been moved or is no longer available" (pictured). (Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, Google saves cached versions of web pages, so it's still available to the whole world if you simply access it through Google.)

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TiVo claims that the Jackson incident marks the high water mark for replaying a moment of TV.

When Justin Timberlake tore at Janet Jackson's leather outfit, TiVo users took notice.

Then they took notice again and again, using the digital video recorder to replay the event and to pause at the crucial moment in order to discern just what it was that Jackson had revealed to a billion people worldwide.

TiVo said that particular halftime stunt was the most replayed moment not only of the Super Bowl but of all TV moments that the young company has ever measured.

TiVo said it used its technology to measure audience behavior among 20,000 users during the Super Bowl. The exercise revealed a 180% spike in viewership at the time of the -- as Timberlake refers to it -- "wardrobe malfunction."

While it doesn't particularly surprise me that this extra-special moment in small screen history would be played over and over again (particularly since the Super Bowl's demographic skews so heavily towards younger males), it's a bit disturbing that TiVo tracks the activities of their users that closely....
---------------------------
Today's NY Times takes some stabs at everyone involved. CBS gets a poke

The beauty of the Janet Jackson to-do is that it could well be the one case in which CBS is telling the truth, and like the little network that cried wolf, nobody is listening.

as does Janet

Even trussed as she was in a shiny "Matrix"/dominatrix outfit, Janet Jackson, 37, has never had much luck being taken seriously as a sex symbol, and it is unlikely that her Super Bowl surprise will be of much help there. But if her aim was to grab all the attention, as Madonna did when she kissed Britney Spears at the MTV Video Music Awards, then she did herself proud. And if she wanted to distract attention from her older, more famous and now more infamous brother Michael, then she achieved even that for a moment.

I'm sure the indiganation over this whole fiascso is only just starting...
---------------------------
MTV now claims they "...were punk'd by Janet Jackson." Come on, guys. This doesn't even pass the laugh test.

Posted by Casper at 02:25 PM | Comments (0)

People Power

An article in the Chicago Tribune (registration required, but free) talks about the way in which digital media has been influencing both record sales as well as royalty payouts. Basically, people have more freedom now, and the labels aren't all that happy about it.

"This explosion of options is giving consumers more choices, and more control over those choices than ever. 'The labels were selling five-pound bags of flour to people who only wanted to bake one cake,' Flanders says.

"'Consumers have never been more informed, have never had more opportunity, have never had this many tools at their disposal ... I'm 43, and I've seen video games, computers and cell phones all evolve in my lifetime. I think back to when I was 16, and the options available to someone of that age now. You're in your room with a laptop and an iPod, and the world is your oyster. In music, it's a new world order: The audience is controlling the marketplace instead of the other way around."

Posted by Casper at 10:13 AM | Comments (0)

Isaiah William's Let The Kid Play

Isaiah Williams' debut cd Let The Kid Play is a good rookie outing for an amazingly talented musician. With most songs either being covers or written by Drue (Isaiah's father), the album comes across as a little raw, with a tendency towards overplaying and being about thirty to forty-five seconds too long.

As an example, the first cut (with the same title as the album). It's a very out there tune, but way too busy for its own good. The bass line has so much slapping in it that it overwhelms the melody as well as crowds the drumline. On Top Of The Off (towards the end of the disc) also falls into this category. It's a well done drum solo, but a bit repetitive and probably too long in the running.

Some of the more interesting songs on this album are:

  • Seven, walking through several time signature changes (9/8 segments, 4/4 chorus and 7/8 verses) while holding it all together with a nice feel. Isaiah has a good solo overtop one of the 9/8 segments.
  • Groove Attack, which features the native DC sound of Go-Go.
  • Glory, a showcase for Drue's highly competent basslines.
  • Feel'n Good, a solid groove tune with a nice jazz feel. The middle section of this song has a neat way of dividing the 4/4 meter into a heavily syncopated pattern.

There are even two Christmas tunes on the disc. For those who don't know me, I generally detest Christmas songs. Isaiah's take on The Little Drummer Boy (which is a great choice for the title, if nothing else) is to slow it way down and inject a lot of funk into it. Joy To The World becomes a heavily bluesed out meditation.

Victor Wooten guests on two tunes -- Chick Corea's Spain and Larry Graham's People Make The World Go Round. I really enjoyed the version of Spain, but I was far more into Victor's playing than any other of the accompanists. Victor and Isaiah do trade solos back and forth towards the end of the song. Jeff Coffin and Futureman also make appearances. Actually, the final track on the disc is Futureman interviewing Isaiah. It's interesting both to listen to how Isaiah thinks and approaches music, but also to hear how he's pretty clearly a nine year old kid.

Posted by Casper at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2004

A&S again

Tonight was not one of the best rehearsals we have had. Both myself and Shahin got there late, and Brett wasn't feeling 100%. We went through the five tunes for the demo and then pretty much called it a night. Hopefully, things will be better all around next time.

Posted by Casper at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)

JoS on radio?

SLim called me and let me know that a JoS original might just (maybe, possibly, you never quite know) happen to make it on to airplay on 104.1. During the afternoon sometime.

SLim sat in with us at Willie And Reed's, and she brought some friends out with her. And one of those friends knows someone who knows someone who dated someone who's mother's brother's cousin knows someone at 104. And that's how things sometimes work in this industry...

Posted by Casper at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)

New Jimmy Buffett Album

Jimmy Buffett is preparing to release his annual summer album. I'm sure it will sell well, but I think I'll be passing on it. I used to be a disciple of Buffett, going to a concert every summer for something like fourteen years. But a few years ago, I decided that the thrill was gone and it was time for me to move on.

Posted by Casper at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

Legal downloads slow to pay

As reported by the LA Times, it seems that legal downloads are costing the industry a lot of up front cash and are slowly making it back (if at all).

...It all goes to show that record companies looking for paid downloads to fill the void left by dwindling CD sales may be in for a long wait. Global record sales dropped to an estimated $28 billion last year from a 1999 peak of roughly $40 billion. ... Industry analysts estimate that total U.S. sales from online music stores and subscription services were only about $60 million last year.

A small nit about the article and the above quote: Glocal sales dropped $12 billion and US online sales increased $60 million. That's sounding like a very apples to oranges comparison.

Posted by Casper at 12:47 PM | Comments (0)

More on Pepsi's download ad

An interesting article on Pepsi's download ad from the Super Bowl is in today's Washington Post. Lots of links to other articles, with a somewhat jaundiced cast to the eye.

...where Pepsi crossed the line was in featuring a teenager who was slapped with a lawsuit by the Recording Industry Association of America for illegally downloading copyrighted songs. In effect, Pepsi is saying music piracy will not only get you free music, but potentially money-making endorsement contracts.

Posted by Casper at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

Super Bowl commericals

Let's face it; the commercials are almost always the best part of the Super Bowl. In fact, it's probably the only time where people Tivo-ing a show and then blow through the content to get to the commercials (instead of the other way around). This year's was a bit different; it was actually a game.

Here's my take on the ads (note that these titles aren't official, it's just what I'm choosing to call them). I'm choosing to ignore the CBS ads; there wasn't much there there to review.

The ads that didn't suck:
McDonald's "Burger Wrapper Dryer Sheet" -- Cute, amusing, off beat.
Bud Light "Two Dogs" -- Unexpected, if sophomoric humor.
Bud Light "Bikini Wax" -- Amusing. Cedric the Entertainer was good casting.
Tostitos "The Wedding" -- Amusing with the best man breaking into tears.
Ford GT "The Racetrack" -- Very austere; nothing put the car driving really fast on a European style race track with a voiceover. Probably perfect for the target demographic (which doesn't include me).
Pepsi "Leftover Bear" -- Cute, a slyly subversive take on some of the identity issues going around these days.
HR Block "Willie Doll" -- Particularly ironic, given Willie Nelson's tax history.
Sierra Mist "Scottish Relief" -- Actually, I didn't like this at all until the kid at the end quipped "That's just wrong, dad".
Bud Light "Donkey Clydesdale" -- Cute enough. Not the best ad, but cute enough.
Mitsubishi "Accident Avoidance" -- Quickly got your attention, ended on a cliffhanger with a redirect to a website (which I'm sure was immediately farked out of existence). Well done.
Visa "Snow Volleyball" -- Loved it when the ball went into the water and they did Evens/Odds to see who had to go into the ice floes to get it back.
Chevy "Soap Bars" -- Great setup with a perfectly executed payoff.
Lays "Bag Race" -- The competitive spirit lives!
Wachovia "Free Air" -- Nice nostalgia pull for when air at all gas stations was still free.
Expedia "Magique" -- I liked the pseudo-Cirque Du Soleil reference.
Staples "Supply Godfather" -- This one worked for me, but I'm a fan of the Sopranos.
Gillette "The Best" -- Black and White was a nice touch, particularly with all the iconic sports references clicking through.
Cadillac "Desert Water" -- Good special effects, definitely a high end commercial.
Budweiser "Lipstick" -- Very cute, converges with the Ford GT ads.
Busch "Designated Driver" -- Nice, responsible ad. Not one of the better ones, but not horrible either.
Mastercard "The Simpsons" -- Well, I've thought the Simpsons were one of the best show on TV for years. This perfectly captured Groening's sense of humor in the context of the Priceless ad series.
AOL "Top Speed Car" -- Nice reference to Back To The Future.
Nextel "Earnhardt" -- While I detest that Nextel chirpy thingie, this was amusing.
Busch "We ID" -- Another nice, responsible ad.
Truth "Glass Pops" -- While this was another ad from a tobacco company proselytizing people not to smoke, it was a funny one.
7-Up "Slam Dunk" -- Laugh out loud funny.
Subway "Be Bad" -- It was the "sorries" at the end (Wang Chung, the coffee in the laps of the bad tippers, etc,) that worked for me.
Cadillac "Break Through" -- Continuing with the Desert Water theme, picking up where the last commercial left off.
Anti Drug "Help Them" -- The music was very reminiscent of Mark Snow's work on the X-Files, so that worked for me.

The spots that blew chunks:
Taco Bell "Chalupa Clubbin' " -- Okay, I'm biased because I detest Taco Hell. But why would I want to buy some food that would have me acting like those three losers who though the local Taco Bell was a rockin' night club?
Bud Light "Ambient Images" -- A rotating bottle and various text words over ambient music. It didn't even move me enough to say that I didn't like it.
Pizza Hut "The Muppets" -- And Jessica Simpson is one of them, just with more movement. I'm glad she's on minute thirteen. I also wonder how many takes she had to do.
FedEx "Alien Jenkins" -- Was probably funny at some point in time, but the alien idea didn't really go anywhere.
Dodge "Monkey On My Back" -- Other than calling to mind an old Aldo Nova tune, this didn't do much for me.
Schick "Quattro" -- Sheesh, why not five blades? Or thirty-six?
AOL "Top Speed Jumping" -- Only works if you are familiar with American Chopper, and then only vaguely amusing.
Chevy Aveo "Little Outside" -- The elephant thing was amusing, but the basketball players becoming midgets fell flat.
Levitra "Football vs. Baseball" -- Okay, so you're attempting to alienate all the diehard baseball fans? Good thinking.
Levitra "The Challenge" -- Throwing footballs through the hole in the middle of the tire? My, that's not even slightly subtle....
Pepsi "Downloads" -- I'm thinking that the RIAA hated this commercial; it muddled the waters regarding illegal downloads.
Bud Light "Rocket Sled" -- Probably was considered to be funny somewhere along the line. It didn't come out that way.
Pepsi "Sandwiches" -- I think I'll switch to Coke.
AOL "Amped Wheelchair" -- If the first AOL ad was bad, this was much worse.
NFL Network "Tomorrow" -- Please tell me that no one will be singing on this channel. If so, I'll never watch even once. Not even on a bet.
Microsoft "School Girl" -- This entire ad series has been pretty insipid.
Sierra Mist "Good Dog" -- This ad was trying to recapture some of the magic from the previous good dog ads, but it just never clicked.
Bud Light "Monkey Frank" -- A lecherous monkey. Hilarious. To other lechers.
Honda Pilot "Raised By Wolves" -- Buy this car if you're feral? Another great marketing ploy.
Cadillac "Silence" -- Do many drivers of Caddies actually desire to go over the speed of sound? I don't think so.

The commercials that had me scratching my head as to what the heck they were saying:
California Cheese "The hot cow" -- Definitely didn't make me want cheese. Aficionados of cattle probably ate it up, though.
Ford GT "Silhouette" -- Didn't really show enough of a car to allow you to know anything, but a decent set-up for the next few.
Cialis "Two Tubs" -- I have no idea what this might be selling, other than two older people sitting in a pair of claw foot tubs outside watching the sun set.
Monster "Soulmates" -- Apparently Monster.com has the ability to let you search for the exact person who will be interviewing you and doing personality matches?
Charmin "Illegal Hands" -- A good fit with the Super Bowl, but still a strange, vaguely homoerotic ad.
IBM "Muhammad Ali" -- A left field ad that didn't really sell any benefits of Linux.
Monster "In Love" -- A bunch of people getting ready for work. And this makes me want to use your site why?
SBC "Looking Back" -- What exactly are you saying here? You've been around a long time. So what?

Unremarkable ads:
Florida Orange Juice -- Very standard ad.
NFL Fallen Heroes fund -- Nothing remarkable, but it seems like a good cause.
Van Helsing -- This looks to be a very big budget summer movie flop to be. I could be wrong, but it looks way too much like The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Troy -- Looks like a decent flick, harkening back to the "cast of thousands" days of movie making.
50 First Dates -- Looks like a standard Adam Sandler Film.
Bud Light "The Ref" -- I can't decide if this was amusing or annoying. Or just misogynistic.
Miracle -- Standard film commercial.
The Alamo -- nice reference to Jaws in it ("We're gonna need a lot more men").
Philip Morris "One Of Five" -- Getting past the irony of a cigarette company advertising for people not to use their product, it was strictly average.
Starsky And Hutch -- Pretty standard movie trailer.
Secret Window -- Pretty standard vaguely Stephen King-like movie plug.
Chevy "Ten Vehicles" -- Standard car ad.
Nissan Altima "Attractive Car" -- I've seen this one many times before, so not much there.
Sony "Exchange Student" -- Also not new.
Acura TL "Wired Car" -- Neat toy, but nothing new as far as the ad goes.
Hidalgo -- Standard move trailer
The Anti-Drug "Life Rewind" -- a standard anti-drug ad.
AIG "Chalkboard" -- While fitting with the Super Bowl, it wasn't all that compelling.
Ciba Vision "Contact Lenses" -- ho-hum.

Now, I actually have a lot of sympathy for the people who come up with these ads. You only have thirty seconds to get across your idea, so you don't have a lot of room to move. Commercials may actually be harder to make than some TV shows.

-- Update --
The NY Times weighs in with their take on the ads, as does Slate and AdAge. IFilms has also posted all of the ads online.

Posted by Casper at 01:24 AM | Comments (1)

February 01, 2004

Musical performances at the Super Bowl

I didn't find any of the musical performances particularly motivating or all that interesting. The main issue with musical performances at an event like the Super Bowl is that the producers try to cram so many diverse musical acts in a rather short period of time that no performer can make any kind of impact. They only perform shortened versions of songs before the focus shifts, and then usually to a different style of music. As a result, the pacing is uneven and the overall feel doesn't flow.

Aerosmith -- If there was more of a pre-game show, I didn't see any of it. These guys sounded okay as they went through a medley of their songs (as well as a one or two blues songs), but man, they are starting to look their age. Joe Perry should have kept his hair long; it's a better look for him.
Josh Groban -- He performed a truncated version of one of his songs to honor the members of NASA space shuttle Columbia. It's the first time I've ever heard him sing. I think that he was lip-synching, but he sounded okay.
Beyonce -- She sang the national anthem. Singing-wise, she hit all the notes, but her performance would have been much more apropos at some Destiny's Child concert than at the Super Bowl. She did some small gyrations, hand waving and the usual vocal flip-flops of the Britney set. I suppose you can dress her up, but she's still a teeny bopper singer.
Jessica Simpson -- What did she do to earn a credit other than scream "Houston, choose to party!" Minute thirteen and counting...
Janet Jackson -- Very produced and heavily choreographed. Again I suspect lip-synching since her voice never flagged, no matter what dance move she was doing or how her mouth was facing in relation to her headset mike. After Kid Rock, the focus returned to Janet as she reprised Rhythm Nation, both the music and dance steps from the video, for some reason. After the song, she went to a breakdown with a drumline -- easily the best part of her act.
P. Diddy -- Didn't do all that much in the first three seconds he rapped. Came back just for a bit after Nelly's Hot In Here.
Nelly -- He did the "Hot In Herre". Clearly lip synching -- he dropped the mike away from his mouth at the end of his first verse and the words still came flowin' on.
Kid Rock -- Thankfully, he was clearly not lip synching; the vocal line matched his exertions. He did the first verse from Bawitdaba as well as the initial verse and chorus from Cowboy
Justin Timberlake -- Came out after Janet's Rhythm Nation, did his Rock Your Body tune. Also did a lot of close freaky dancing with Ms. Jackson -- possibly a little dig directed towards Britney?

-- Update --
Apparently, Janet and Justin also had a little pseudo-nudity during their act that I just completely missed. Probably because I was more listening than watching. It's kind of sad when you have to do pull those kind of stunts to get sales.

-- Update 2 --
Drudge is now reporting that the whole Jackson thing was pre-planned and CBS knew about it in advance. If this is true, then I'm just shocked -- shocked I say!! -- that this happened. Of course, it is Drudge, so take it with a grain of salt.

-- Update 3 --
The FCC is investigating the Jackson incident for indecency. More to come...

-- Update 4 --
A reader has pointed out to me that I made an error. Joe Perry plays guitar for Aerosmith. Steve Perry sang for Journey. My apologies.

-- Update 5 --
BlogCritics has lots and lots of coverage about Janet and her, um, Super Bowl publicity stunt here. Note that some articles have been cross-posted both here and there.

Posted by Casper at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

Garaj Mahal's Mondo Garaj

Garaj Mahal's latest album marks the first time I have ever heard any studio work from this band. To be honest, the studio album does not live up to the performance Garaj gave a few nights ago. It's good, but the show was much better.

As with the live show, there are a number of musical influences throughout the songs -- Zdecko, hip-hop, Indian ragas, blues, 70s rock. The entire disc is musically accomplished, but it just doesn't feel as charged as the live show did. I do know that this is an unfair comparison, but it's still what I think and feel.

The disc opens up with an interesting bass lick from bassist Kai Eckhardt and then goes into an interesting 2 bar groove. While the groove is actually in 4/4, it feels more like a 7/8 measure attached to a 9/8 measure, resulting in a rather interesting feel. The next tune (Hindi Gumbo) lays down a Cajun/Zdecko shuffle and drops a very Indian guitar line over top of it. It comes together rather well. Junckt calls to mind a darkened heroin den of the late 1800's, with men in suits reclining on red cushions, smoking a hookah. Poodle Factory uses a 6/4 groove during the chorus quite effectively; it's a good counterbalance to the lyrics. The last three cuts on the disc are all very mellow, but didn't particularly resonate with me.

I think that if I were to buy any other of Garaj's albums, I would probably pick up one of their live ones.

Posted by Casper at 04:43 PM | Comments (0)

Clear Channel gets fined

Clear Channel, the nation's largest radio chain, has been fined $755,000 dollars for indecency. Apparently, some of the stations in the chain's family aired Bubba The Love Sponge a few times, totalling up to twenty-six times altogether. The FCC issued the maximum fine ($27,500) for each pop and then added $40,000 on top "because [Clear Channel] failed to keep proper records of the possible violations". And yes, the amount of the fine is a record.

Having not heard the actual violation itself, I can't really speak to it. I have, however, found a description of the particular transgression:

In the July 19 broadcast, skits in which Bubba show members imitated cartoon characters and discussed drugs and sex were inserted between Cartoon Network advertisements. In one instance, a cast member portraying George Jetson began by saying he no longer needed Viagra because he got a "Spacely Sprocket (bleep)ck ring." Another bit featured a show member imitating the voice of cartoon character Alvin The Chipmunk, in which "Alvin" complained that he hadn't "been laid in almost six weeks." Another chipmunk responded that the problem was due to the "f(bleep)cking pussy music we play" and sang a "kick ass" song directing a "filthy chipmunk-whore" to "suck on my [inaudible] chipmunk (bleep)s." The FCC determined that all seven segments reviewed for indecency "unquestionably involved on-air discussions relating to descriptions or depictions of sexual organs, excretory organs and/or activities of a sexual nature. The broadcasts involved conversations about such things as oral sex, penises, testicles, masturbation, intercourse, orgasms and breasts."

It seems, though, that Bubba is attempting to out-Stern Stern. By focusing on strippers and sex, the lowest-common denominator theory of radio will pretty much guarantee him an audience.

My general response to this kind of protest is to tell people that if you don't like what you hear (or are offended by it or whatever), then turn it off. The Supreme Court has carved out an exception in the 1st Ammendment to allow some supression of free speech via radio because

"Broadcast mediums (TV, radio) are uniquely pervasive presence in our lives – hard to avoid and easy to accidentally come upon harmful material, and uniquely accessible to children...There is (was) a limited spectrum of radio/TV frequencies and gov’t was justified in monitoring/regulating this spectrum"

--FCC v Pacifica(1978)

That particular exception does not seem all that compelling to me, though; if you happen to turn on the radio and something comes on that you are not expecting (no matter how vile), you can always change the station or just turn it off. But that's just me.

Posted by Casper at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)

Yes on the road

It looks like Yes is going to go back out on tour. I've liked a lot of Yes' work over the years, and I caught them out at Wolf Trap a few years ago when they were touring with a full symphony. That show was definitely for the hardcode Yes-heads, as the shortest (and most mainstream) song they played for the evening was Long Distance Runaround (mostly they strayed towards their longer, more baroque songs like Gates Of Delirium). If this tour is a more stripped down version, I think I'd be interested in catching it.

Posted by Casper at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)