Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Take a whispering class!

Any down time in my last 24 hours have more or less consisted of jumping between Cee-Lo's delightfully profane "non-video" video and this magical journey to the stage of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists:

Interestingly, The AV Club (along with the plague mouth-breathing, mutant commenters that render that otherwise great site mediocre) are viewing this clip as pure mockery of Green Day, though I didn't see it that way at all.  I think it's no doubt satirizing the trend for Broadway to latch onto pop music as opposed to other original content, but it's not "mocking" anybody specifically, except maybe the Rx themselves.

That said, the video didn't remind me of Green Day nearly as much as it reminded me of the AMAZING disaster from four years ago, when a musical based on the music of Bob Dylan was actually greenlit, and actually on Brodway for a month before everyone realized it was terrible and nobody was going to see it and they should all stop making it.

If you've never seen this, it's amazing. And you will never be able to un-see it as long as you live.

How does it feel? It feels terrible. To describe my feelings any better, I'd need a giant ball to bounce on.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Off the Record

A couple nights ago, I was watching POV on PBS. One of the short films that aired was based on record collector Paul Mawhinney, who has been trying (unsuccessfully thus far) to sell his collection of 2.5 million vinyl records. The 7-minute-feature (shot two years ago) can also be seen here, and I highly recommend it, as the direction is top-notch, and the lighting of Mawhinney's cramped archive is truly gorgeous.

Judging from the majority of responses on the POV site, people see Paul Mawhinney as a martyr who spent his life devoted to collecting an artform that society has deemed basically worthless.  People see him as an ultimate victim who has sought after and cared for these items, yet now in his time of need he's unable to sell them for even pennies on the dollar.

I'm clearly in the minority, because I see him as kind of an asshole.

Obviously, Mawhinney's health concerns inspire a large part of the emotional response, and indeed it's sad to see these ailments taking hold of his body, understanding that he could no doubt use the money this sale would bring. But a significant amount of Mawhinney's own commentary raises some red flags as to A) his status as a "collector" vs. "dealer," and B) His understanding of the marketplace.

My issues started literally within the first 20 seconds of the video, with Mawhinney showing off this supposedly priceless artifact by pawing at it, slapping his entire palm over it like a gorilla ready to toss its own feces. And he doesn't say anything along the lines of "Imagine the history of what I'm holding, etc..." He just mentions (twice!) that it must be worth a boatload.

Throughout the rest of the video, I have a hard time seeing this guy as someone who's truly in love with what he possesses. The way he talks about records is the exact same way that show dealers at Eastgate Mall talked about baseball cards when I was 11 years old. They enjoy what makes them money, and they are always in sell mode when showing off what they've got.  When he shows off The Rolling Stones crown jewel of this collection, he doesn't make mention of how many copies were printed, or whether it's a UK or US edition, or any of those music nerd details. But he sure as shit knows the price range for it. Of course, his range of $6k-$10k is pretty wide, and a copy sold on Ebay last month for less than $1,800, so perhaps he sould take it easy with throwing that 10 grand figure around. By that same token, Mawhinney's dealer-enhanced claim of the collection being worth $50 million means nothing without a buyer. Shit, how about if I hereby appraise the entire collection of Ken Griffey Jr. Starting Lineup figures through the years at 15 grand! Do I hear a bidder?  Act now and I'll throw in every Dante Bichette model from 1995-97!

I'm highly skeptical of his claim that 83% of the music in his collection isn't available through other media formats. We live in a time where releasing reissues with a built-in and known demand is a far safer business proposition for labels than bankrolling new bands, so it would seem a safe assumption that most of the music in his collection that legitimately won't be re-released to the public is most likely not that valuable to being with.

Granted, Mawhinney's commentary about people "not giving a damn" about vinyl have been disproven in the time since the video was made, so he can't be chastised for not knowing that in the time since he made those comments, vinyl sales would be the ONLY media form of the record industry actually thriving. But Mawhinney's insistence to sell the collection as one lump all-or-nothing transaction seems...well...stupid. If these albums truly mean something sentimental, why not keep them and pass them down when death comes knocking? If they don't hold that attachment, sell what people are willing to buy.  Either way, Mawhinney's act of martyrdom seems played out at this point, nearly a decade after he first had a deal fall through with the U.S. Library of Congress.  I'm guessing that deal (which he rejected) was for more than $3 million.  That small plot point wasn't mentioned in this feature, but I'm guessing it just didn't fit the narrative.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Drift Shaft records not included

I made peace awhile ago in regards to what Weezer has become.  Despite the diminishing returns of each album, they still have become masters in marketing themselves in ways that have nothing to do with their songs themselves (Exhibit A-Z: Snuggies!)  Perhaps Weezer truly are the second coming of Kiss?

The pitch of style over substance was on display again this week.  I saw the band's new single linked a few different places, but those mentioned were dwarfed drastically by news of the album's cover photo.

Delightful!  Although Hurley was partial to another band, this photo couldn't be more joyous if he were fully decked out in a Mr. Cluck's uniform.

Will the album be good?  Who knows?  Probably not that good, but maybe kinda good!  Does it matter?  Not really!  What matters is that I want LOST connections on all indie rock album covers from now on!  So I took it upon myself to make several of them!  Feel free to print these at and glue them to your CD covers. (That is a joke - nobody buys CDs.  Please copy and past into your magical lower-left iTunes box to your heart's content.)

Was this good use of a couple hours on a Thursday?  Or THE BEST use of a couple hours on a Thursday?  You do the math.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Bad Idea Show Review: Lollapalooza 2010 at Grant Park

It's 2010, everybody.  We as a nation need to examine proper crowdsurfing situations with a more discerning eye.  I'm not going to go so far as to say it's inappropriate in every situation, but there is no acceptable reason for why crowdsurfing is occurring during sets from Yeasayer or The Black Keys.  Let's all make better choices.  Go with yourself.

My Lollapalooza weekend started a night early, as I unexpectedly had the chance to see Soundgarden at the small Vic Theatre on Thursday night with a friend. It was a really fantastic show, consisting mostly of Badmotorfinger and Superunknown tracks. Cornell’s hair was at 1992 length, as was his voice which sounded great. Kim Thayil is now fat, with a gray beard and goofy hat that at first made me wonder, “When did Dr. John join Soundgarden?” Anyway, after getting the rock endorphins flowing, the weekend was off and running. And by running, I mean walking carefully. Nobody needs to run at festivals, kids!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Last Nite

photo via Kate Gardiner

Of the 37 Strokes songs on my iPod, roughly 2/3 of them have been listened to 4 times or fewer each.  Of course the first two Strokes albums were released before I had an iPod, so those numbers may seem a bit deflated in relation to my actual enjoyment, but the fact remains that as much as I still love hearing one of their songs, I haven't particularly had an urge to listen to them much in recent years.  With Lollapalooza serving as their U.S. reunion debut, I was looking forward to the set, but by the end of a long, action-packed, not-that-hot-but-still-pretty-hot Friday, I wasn't expecting a whole lot.  

Since Lady Gaga started 30 minutes before The Strokes, I watched the beginning of her set.  If it had been worthwhile, I was contemplating staying there, but it ended up being mediocre community theater, complete with terrible between-song "dialogue" and lots of screaming the words "Chicago!" and "Lollapalooza!" to force undeserved screams.   So to the North stage I moved, noticing when I got there that in all honesty, the crowd disparity was 75/25 for Gaga.  Huge gaps in the crowd allowed me to move within 100 feet or so from the stage.  And then we waited.  The 8:30p start time came and went.  After about 15 minutes (during which time I honestly thought to myself "Maybe they've broken up for good just now!")  At that moment, the stage went black, and Queen's "We Will Rock You" blared through the speakers.  And another thought took over.  This might be good.

What it ended up being, hyperbole aside, was one of the best shows I've ever seen.  As in, top 5 in my life.  Since the moment it ended, I've been trying to think about what made it so fantastic.  The band was as perfectly tight as ever.  Casablancas' voice was on point, bouncing from slurs to screams while still rocking a hooded sweatshirt AND leather jacket in decidedly non-chilly conditions.  But what put the night over the top was the crowd, and I don't think I've ever thought that at any point during a festival show.

I'm placing the credit firmly on the counter-scheduling of Gaga.  Throughout the day, it was shocking to me how many Gaga fans were in attendance, but it was also obvious that she was going to get all the casual Lolla-goers as well.  This of course is perfectly understandable.  If she had been playing opposite Phoenix or Green Day, I probably would have gone to her set as well out of sheer curiosity.  The Strokes, on the other hand, were not going to have anyone seeing them out of ambivalence.  Even people who hated Lady Gaga were going to opt for just going home as opposed to standing and watching a band they don't really care about sing songs that were never on the radio.  If you were going to see The Strokes, it was because you loved The Strokes, not because you wanted to stand and watch while chatting with friends.  Again, this a mindset that really never happens at festivals, but last night was a perfect storm, and from the moment the band opened with "New York City Cops," it became evident that this was something different

Festival shows can provide a lot of great performances, but they hardly ever result in transcendent moments.  When they do connect, it's a lightning strike of collective energy.  LCD Soundsystem at Pitchfork this year was a perfect example of an otherwise outstanding set, that contained within it a moment of something different during "All My Friends" wherein a  switch was flipped, and the collective power of the crowd went off the charts.  The Strokes' set last night was that moment, for about 70 minutes straight.  Every word to every song was screamed by every person, fists in the air and dumb grins on our faces.  (Okay, maybe not every word, but only because nobody can really sing the chorus of "Hard to Explain" without butchering the order of the lines.)  

Gaga had the majority of people on her side of the park, but there is no possible way they were louder or happier than we were.  Her stage set was the most expensive in Lollapalooza history, and from what I saw it was sterile and underwhelming.  The Strokes had an Atari version of Pac-Man being played on the screen behind them, and it was perfect.  From one song to the next, the collective energy just kept going, to the point where everyone had a look in their eyes wondering "Is this happening?" and the only answers you would get were the looks in other peoples eyes asking the same thing.  The set was a little short, but nobody cared.  We just filed out, hearing seemingly every person around mumbling "Oh my God," at what just happened.  Everyone was saying the same thing, but it wasn't quite as synchronized as our collective chorus of "Juicebox."

Your work is cut out for you on Sunday, Arcade Fire.  Act accordingly.

The Setlist:
New York City Cops
The Modern Age
Hard to Explain
What Ever Happened?
You Only Live Once
Is This It
Vision of Division
I Can’t Win
Last Nite
Under Control
Heart in a Cage
Take It or Leave It