Posts tagged ‘Animal Collective’

What I learned in 100 Days

May 5th, 2009

Here goes: the last and final “What I learned…” post. But this time, for the whole 100 days.

This is the most exciting time in music that I’ve ever experienced
And I grew with Motley Crue, Guns ‘n Roses, R.E.M. Metallica, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, U2, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Run DMC, Red Hot Chili Peppers and more. These are all legendary, amazing bands. But I’m telling you – right now this is the most exciting time in music. At least for my generation and those younger than me. Here’s why.

The old music model is broken, but that’s okay: the power has shifted to the artist. The Internet is killing majors, but fuck majors. You don’t need them. But bands need you, now more than ever. Bands may not make any money selling records, but they never did anyways. Fans have the power to keep music alive by simply going to see live music, buying merchandise (and yes, records) directly from bands. This has never been more true than ever before. Fans have direct access to more music than any other time in music.

Some might say there’s no quality control anymore. But fuck that. You are the quality controller. You decide. Any band that has access to a computer can record a song, put it on the Internet and let the people decide if it’s any good or not. That’s exciting because there’s more of it, and you can decide what’s worth your time.

Not only that, but look at the music itself. Take the genre of “indie rock” for example. Listen, I hate genre monikers like this (remember “alternative rock”?) but it’s exciting when one “genre” can be as diverse as to include bands like Belle & Sebastian, Matt and Kim, Sufjan Stevens, Feist and Blitzen Trapper, alongside Animal Collective, N.E.R.D., Kings of Leon, The Avett Brothers, Of Montreal, Bell Orchestre, Black Lips, Wolff, and Wilco.

The ’60s sounded like revolution. The ’70s sounded like rock and disco. The ’80s sounded like pop, new wave, DIY and glam. And the ’90s sounded like grunge and hip hop. So what does the ’00s sound like? All of the above and them some. And that’s pretty damn exciting

People like to see other people do things they couldn’t imagine themselves doing
People remained curious about this project from beginning to end. At first, I think they wanted to know about the music. Later when they asked me, “How’s the project coming?” I think what they really meant was, “How the hell are you still awake or alive or sane?

People like being a part of something
This goes for all the friends who joined me on the journey, the musicians, PR contacts, managers, etc who I met, plus the random people who emailed me and generous people who sent donations. When I started out, I hoped a lot of my friends would go to some shows with me, but I figured I’d do most of it alone. Boy was I wrong. Friends came out of the woodwork for this, and it was awesome.

I also tried to meet as many musicians as I could. I would approach them after their set to tell them what I was doing. About 98% of the time the response was really great. A few musicians blew me off, but fuck them. They were too self-involved anyhow, so who cares. I got to meet some great people. And they were as happy to be a part of it as I was to be doing it. See The Wrens entry for an example of how happy.

As you know I also took donations. These were not only a way to help me get through the 100 days, but for everyone to get involved and feel apart of the 100 days. Some were as small as $1, some got as big as $200 or $250, but I appreciated them all equally.

Finally, I was fortunate enough to get on a lot of guest lists. Sometimes that was a result of me unabashedly requesting it, but more often than not they were offered up by different contacts I made, or people who contacted me along the way. The generosity of PR folks, band members, band managers, label people and so on was helpful, humbling and appreciated.

The band (almost always) starts an hour after the venue says they will
Keep this in mind if you’re going to see a show in NYC, at the Bowery or Mercury for example. If they say the band goes on at 8pm, they actually go on around 9pm – or later. This is just how it is, at least in NY. Why? Alcohol.

Venues want to get you in and sell you as many overpriced drinks as they can before you notice that you’re waiting for the band to start. And they’ve gotten pretty good at timing it out. Which meant I got pretty good at timing when I needed to show up. Unless I wanted to see the opening bad, then I was screwed.

But, there are a few exceptions:

The “Early show”
These is the show before the show that’s scheduled to bring in the real crowd that night. The doors for these shows are usually at 6:30pm or 7:00pm, and the bands tend to start 30 minutes after they say they will.

Europe
Shows start on time in Europe. I learned this one the hard way when I missed Ben Lee at La Fleche d’Or. But it wasn’t just France. Shows in England started at or near the listed time, too. Just a word to the wise if you’re gonna see a show in Europe.

Random, unforeseen bullshit
You show up hoping to see the band that starts at 10pm only to find out that they pulled out and aren’t playing. Or their timeslot got swapped with the band at 9pm. Or the band that was supposed to play at 8pm didn’t show up, and so each band got bumped up an hour. All of these happened to me, and it pissed me off, but what can you do?

Beer is only as good as the tap it comes out of
I drank a lot of beer over 100 days, which is why I’m not drinking any for another month or two. But I didn’t do this for me. I did it for you, the readers. Ok, that’s what I tell myself. But either way, I did it, and now I’m here to report back.

Here is your guide to the best/worst beer taps in NYC: (from worst to best)

Mercury Lounge: Shitty
The PBR is the worst, but it’s also the cheapest, which makes it tempting. Don’t do it. It tastes and smells terrible. The Bud Light is ok, but I would step it up if you’re at the Merc.

Bowery Ballroom: Just ok
Stella isn’t bad here, but can be a bit average, and lose some of the sweetness it should have. And it’s $7, which is bullshit, so they should clean the taps and figure a way of making it worth the price.

Webster Hall: Not bad
Plastic cups suck, but the beer wasn’t bad.

Pianos: Pretty Good
I drank mostly PBR cans at Pianos, but the times that I drank from the tap, I got a Stella and it was pretty decent – mostly because it comes in a glass, not a plastic cup.

The Bell House: Good
Didn’t really drink too much from the tap here, the cans are too cheap ($4), but the one time I did, it was good.

Cake Shop: Good
The music room may be a dive, but the tap beer is good.

Rockwood Music Hall: Good
Pretty decent, but I’d suggest getting a glass of wine instead. They pour them pretty deep.

Music Hall of Williamsburg: Very good
Probably because it’s new, but all the beer I drank here was good.

Le Poisson Rouge: Very good
I hate the stupid mandatory 20% tip if you use your card at LPR, but it’s a new enough venue that the beers come out of the tap tasting delicious.

Joe’s Pub: Excellent
It’s a nicer and more expensive venue, so naturally, they care about their bar.

Going to shows alone isn’t as bad as it seems
Before this project, I would go see a band alone, but not that often. And I’d feel sorry for myself, and hate that I didn’t have anyone to talk to, and waaaaahh waaaaahh waaaaahh… Then I realized, seeing a band can be like seeing a movie. Once it begins, being alone is fine. You shouldn’t be talking during the music anyhow. Granted, some bands are a lot more fun to see with friends. But don’t let the fact that no one else wants to go keep you from going. Just go.

Get to know unknown bands
It’s only natural to want to blow off bands you’ve never heard of before. You’ve never heard them, so why would you care? That is, unless you need to see music every single night, like I did. And sometimes there’s a night where you don’t know who to see, so you have to pick a band at random – as I did. And you know what you’d find out? It’s worth taking chances on unknown bands.

Music will never cease to amaze me
The fact that I can find live music in downtown Hartford, CT on a random Monday night amazes me. How I can still see Les Paul, the 93-year old man who invented the solid body electric guitar, every Monday night, have him flick me off for a picture and meet him afterwards amazes me. The fact that I can be asked on stage to perform with a band that’s been together for over 20 years, to a sold out crowd in NYC amazes me. And the fact that I can see 100 consecutive days of live music and still love music amazes me.

Thanks for reading. Now do yourself a favor and go buy a ticket to see a band, right now.

3/22/09: Great Elk @ Rockwood Music Hall (59/100)

March 22nd, 2009

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What a beautiful day: sunny, 50s, and a bit windy. The perfect day to see music at Rockwood Music Hall, where the front window lets the sun pour into this tiny, intimate club. And there I was, ready for some one, two, three o’clock, four o’clock…um, folk. Yes, another daytime show. Thank you, thank you, thank you Rockwood. This means I get to relax at home tonight, maybe make some dinner, tidy up the apartment – you know, normal life stuff.

But first, Great Elk. A band I knew nothing about 24 hours ago. I literally picked them off a list of artists playing at Rockwood starting at three today. After a listen to their myspace page, they seemed a good choice. Plus, a band with an animal name is often a safe bet. See Deerhoof, Animal Collective, Band of Horses, Panda Bear, Grizzly Bear and Dr. Dog, to name a few. Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch, but what did I have to lose?

Check this out. On the walk to Rockwood, I think I passed Adam Yauch(MCA), but I couldn’t be sure. If it was him, then I missed my chance to ask if he and the rest of the Beasties were actually following my Twitter. Or if it’s just some dude in marketing/PR (most likely).

I got to Rockwood a few minutes before four, and some guy who isn’t Great Elk was still on stage. I didn’t feel like seeing anymore music than was absolutely necessary today, so I wandered around the neighborhood for a few minutes. I returned in perfect time, grabbed the exact seat I sat in last time I was at this venue (for Pete and J) and ordered a $3 Coke. No beers today. Can’t do it.

I have to admit that while I was happy to be knocking out some day music, this is the first time I did that while being able to see the sun, which is bit weird. Music is supposed to be played at night, in dark clubs, with mood lighting and shit. Unless you’re at a festival. And Rockwood is the kind of place that makes avoiding the sun impossible, since the windows run the length of the club.

The songs were simple, yet not simplistic. Paul’s (vox/guitar) guitar work reminded me a lot of old Son Volt (circa Trace, Straightaways), and I liked the dropped D and dropped C tunings. The songs didn’t necessarily sound like Jay Farrar songs, just the guitar. I think it also helped that Patrick (guitar) captured a great pedal steel sound without having a pedal steel – just a glass slide, volume pedal and look alike Tele. They were sans rhythm section for today’s show. Which was fine with me. I could use some calm, peace and quiet today after that Cut Copy/Matt and Kim show, and post-partying with Ryan and Erin last night.

As nice as it was, a couple songs in it was really bugging me who these guys reminded me of. Ok, I identified some of the guitar work sounded like old school Son Volt, but couldn’t figure out the voice. Part of me heard traces of Damien Rice here and there. But that wasn’t entirely it. There may have been some Jack Johnson in there, but I blocked that out since I hate him and wouldn’t be able to enjoy the show.

Ok, I know it’s annoying to compare artists to one another, but that’s just what happens. Most of the time, you hear something and think, “Hmm, where have I heard this before?” Rarely are there bands that don’t show their influences in some way or another.

I settled on the weird Son Volt/Damien Rice combo so I could get past it and enjoy the moment. Which I did. Until the moment passed, and Great Elk ran out of time. They thanked us. I thanked them, for the show and free CD (Thx Paul, go to radio.wk.com, Tues @ 2pm). Then headed home, to enjoy my Sunday night.

2/12/09: Lambchop @ Bowery Ballroom (21/100)

February 13th, 2009

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Kurt Wagner is king.

He sits on his throne in the center of the stage, flanked by his band who comprise the rest of Lambchop, and spreads musical goodness. Lambchop’s music isn’t for everyone. Some might find it boring or uneventful. But I find it beautiful and comforting. So happy I went to this show. I don’t know why it was so good. It just was. 

There’s just something about Wagner’s unorthodox singing voice — like a cross between Bob Dylan (circa now) and Leonard Cohen (circa before) — and the Nashville influence/songwriting that just completely does it for me. The performance isn’t gong to make you jump up and dance. In fact, Bowery probably could’ve put out tables and chairs for this one. But it just works. 

Before the show, friends of mine and I ”celebrated” the dire conditions of our country’s economy with $3 beers at Emerald Pub. Then continued our “celebration” at Tom & Jerry’s after that. I slunk away around 9:30p to catch what I could of Twi the Humble Feather’s opening set. So by show time, I had already been out for like four hours. WTF? I swear, Thursdays are becoming very college-like for me. 

Twi (rhymes with why)  is an interesting, all-acoustic trio that has more in common with Philip Glass than early Animal Collective (as many try to compare them to) – at least according to one of the members of the band I spoke to at the merch table following their set (sorry if I wasn’t making any sense guys). They’re essentially three classical guitar players, playing in alternate tunings and singing in whispers. Ethereal and otherworldly. I, feeling otherworldly due to an abundance of beer and lack of food, totally got it. Not sure how how many others in crowd did.

Not that surprisingly, Bowery was fairly empty during the opening set, allowing me to get right up next to the stage, where I met some new friends for the evening. But I have to say, I thought the place would get packed and sell out for Lambchop since he doesn’t seem to play out that often – at least, not lately. But I don’t ever remember looking back and seeing it super packed. Hmph. Well, their loss – those not in attendance.

This was the show I’d been looking forward to all week. After a week filled with a faux French band, a hard rocking art-rock band and an uber hipster band, I was all fired up for this Nashville anomaly of a band. And as I have made it abundantly clear thus far, Wagner and Lambchop did not disappoint. After the show, I hung around as the place cleared out, and Wagner jumped down off the stage to head out for a post-show smoke. I caught up to him on his way out, introduced myself, told him about the project, and how I was on Day 21, to which he replied, in his Tennessee twang, “Well, then you’re just getting started.” 

(sigh)

Yeah, I know.