Category Archives: music

Harvard Square Adidas Performers

I got a note the other day from Afro-D, one of the musicians that performed in front of the Adidas store in Harvard Square last December. Apparently the performance was entirely improvised, and none of the musicians had played together before that day.
The performance got my attention, and probably the attention of others, so now that I’ve mentioned Adidas twice in three months, I thought I’d offer some links to the performers:

The didgeridoo player is from Lifted
The MC is from Audible Mainframe
I am an MC myself, in addition to being a trumpet player. I play in a band called The Eclectic Collective. . . . I also play in two other bands, Giraffe and Soul Movement.
– Afro-D

Pixies Show Report

I saw the Pixies on Wednesday in Lowell, Massachusetts. I’m a huge Pixies fan, and I’d often dreamed that they would get back together for a tour. The show did not disappoint. They played plenty of songs, covering everything I could have hoped to hear, including both versions of Wave of Mutilation. The stadium crowd was full of dedicated fans, which added a lot of energy. Pixies members are definitely aging in appearance, but you’d never know it from the show – especially impressive considering they’re playing almost every single night these days.
The one drawback to the show was the location. Who wants to leave the city for a show? There wasn’t much chance of getting to Lowell without a car, and there were enough cars to cause serious traffic problems. Level 4 of the parking garage remained a parking lot for a full 1.5 hours after the show. At midnight on a Wednesday, I prefer sleeping to sitting in a parked car in Lowell.
To add insult to injury, the Pixies just announced that they actually will be playing a show in Boston. I couldn’t manage to get a ticket though.

Crooked Fingers Show Report

I saw a fabulous performance by Crooked Fingers on Wednesday night. Crooked Fingers is essentially the solo project of Eric Bachmann, the former singer for Archers of Loaf. They’ve been one of my favorite musical selections over the last couple of years, and seeing Bachmann live would have been a treat under any circumstances. What made Wednesday’s show special was that Bachmann played on the floor of the club instead of the stage. There were only about 100 people in the room, so everyone gathered around for an acoustic set. It was dark, quiet, and incredible.
If you like dark, drunken, folky music, I highly recommend checking out Crooked Fingers. KEXP has an interview and performance that gives a good introduction.

Ashlee Simpson: Out of Sync

For some reason, busted lip-syncers and accidental emails are my two favorite social disasters. For a good lip-sync bust, you need the following elements: (1) a popular singer, (2) a performance for a large audience, preferably televised and recorded, and (3) a blatant mistake that exposes the lip-sync. The infamous Milli Vanilli (“girl you know it’s – girl you know it’s – girl you know it’s”) incident had all of these elements, as did Saturday’s Ashlee Simpson performance on SNL. (clip available here [wmv])
The Milli Vanilli incident was actually a little better than Ashlee Simpson’s because Milli Vanilli’s was the result of mechanical, rather than human error, but I could appreciate an argument the other way around.
I’m not a fan of this kind of music (which I call “grocery store music” because I only ever hear it in the grocery store), but I do, of course, have an opinion on the Simpson sisters: just because a close family member is good at something doesn’t mean you will be too. My older sister is in medical school, but I’m smart enough to realize that I would make a horrible doctor.
The family-business scenario that annoys me most is politics. In an ideal country, a president should be among the most intelligent, most dedicated, and most convincing of its citizens – a one in ten million type of person. Electing a family member of a former leader admits that the country is never going to find the truly qualified, and that it’s willing to settle for someone familiar.
Anyway, there are some articles today about Ashlee Simpson that try to explain the mishap. Here’s a forgiving one, and here’s a skeptic.

music.download.com launches

cnet musicThe new cnet mp3 service, born from the downfall of mp3.com, is now live. I’m not exactly sure how much of mp3.com cnet actually acquired because today (perfectly timed with the public launch of cnet’s music.download.com) I got an email from garageband.com offering to revive the songs I had stored on the mp3.com system.
The competition should drive improvement in all services, and it shows that companies believe in the potential profitability of alternative music distribution systems (read: label-less distribution). I just wish they’d stop trying to make money from both ends. Garageband.com wants $7 each to “restore” my songs. They’re nice enough to give me three for free.
I’ll be signing up on cnet next week when I can get to my other computer, until then it’s nice to once again have some tracks online (still being “transferred” at the moment though).

Tangible Music Sales

Pixies Live CDIt’s no secret that musicians are emphasizing live performances and non-piratable merchandise to bolster slumping record sales. I’m intrigued by the concept of selling live recordings of concerts as collector’s items.
The Pixies are recording every show on their warm-up tour this month and releasing a limited edition CDs of each show. The recordings will no doubt be available on KaZaa within hours after each show, but the limited edition CDs are selling out before the shows even take place. This is a creative way to sell 15,000 CDs (1,000 for each show) and still make them rare enough to charge $22 – $25 each. The Pixies aren’t selling their music in this format – they’re selling the format itself. The CDs are actual tangible property that can’t be copied or recreated. The music makes them great, but the format makes them sell.
I can’t decide which show I should be buying. The Coachella show is already sold out.

Dance Music Guide

Ishkur’s guide to electronic music is a gem of a site. (via naj) Many musicians hate to be defined, but dance music producers know full well that the track their working on is Gabber or Goa or what have you. I’ve even given little “lessons” to friends by digging through my records, but most non-enthusiasts tell me they can’t tell the difference between various styles anyway.
I actually wrote in to mp3.com to suggest an “Atmospheric Drum & Bass” category back in the day – and they actually created it (though they called it “Ambient Drum & Bass”). You’ll once again be able to listen to my tracks as soon as CNET gets their act together. Maybe they’ll even name the category correctly.
Ishkur even has a couple famous breaks listed in his guide. Here’s a great article on some of the most famous breaks ever (with samples of course). I’m a little suspicious of any site that lists babes, booze, and cars in it’s navigation menu, but the article is worth it. (and it’s not just “for men” despite the slogan of the site – and it’s not “just for men” either – that’s a hair product of course)
If you want to do something of a reverse lookup of samples, try the Cover Songs Database. There used to be a site called Sample Spotter that was off to a good start, but now it’s just a bunch of sponsored links.

Death Cab for Cutie Show Report

Death Cab for Cutie TicketI checked out the last show of the Death Cab for Cutie European tour last night in Amsterdam. If you ever find yourself going to a show at Paradiso in Amsterdam, know this: there is a smaller stage upstairs from the main room. After watching many of the people filter out of the main room as the staff started sweeping the floor, my co-show-goers and I became suspicious. We missed a good portion of the Death Cab for Cutie show before we finally started asking and looking around.
Nevertheless, it was a good show. The room was absolutely packed with fans, but only a few people so much as nodded their heads to the music – a very reserved crowd. The band asked, “Is this a normal night for everyone? You guys seem… tired.” There was no response.
I’ve heard that Dutch men and women are, on average, the tallest people in the world. This was evident last night too. Luckily, I’m 6’4” so I had no trouble seeing.

Grey Tuesday Thoughts

If you haven’t heard, there’s a big copyright protest going on today regarding a certain remix album that juxtaposes the Beatles’ White Album with JayZ’s Black Album – thus making a Grey Album.
I’m pulled in both directions on this one. There’s no question that EMI, the owners of the copyright to the sound recording of the White Album, have the exclusive right to reproduce and make derivative works of that sound recording. Thus DJ Danger Mouse is in violation of those rights. I think the protestors concede this point, but they argue that the law should be changed or that EMI should just ignore the fact that their legal rights are being violated.
In my opinion, we do need legal tools that allow works to be used as building blocks for future works. On the other hand, creative works need to be protected to some degree to provide incentives to the creators. I think the law is too rigid in the sense that it protects works for such a long time period (the social costs of which outweigh the incentives to create). I don’t, however, think that people should be able to take large portions of another’s work when that person clearly intends to enforce their rights in, for example, a famous album that is less than 40 years old.
Copyright law must strike a balance between incentives to create and a rich public domain. Right now, I think the incentives are poorly planned, but I’m not in favor of ending protection entirely. Many protestors today seem upset with the fact that EMI is enforcing their legal rights. I can’t blame EMI for that.
Grey Tuesday / Downhill Battle
Illegal Art (has the album)
Wired Article (a clearly written introduction)