Posts tagged ‘Les Paul’

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.

Week #9: What I’ve learned so far

March 28th, 2009

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When you go out every night you sleep when you can, where you can: I slept for about three hours on the flight to London, and I never sleep on planes. I’m usually that guy on overnight flights who’s still reading or watching a movie at four in the morning, while the rest of the plane is passed out. But not this time. I wonder if that means I can sleep in cars, buses, subways, etc now. Not sure if I want to find those out.

We are all pussies compared to Les Paul: The next time you decide against seeing live music on a Monday, remember that the 94-year old inventor of the solid body electric guitar plays two shows, every Monday night. Then he sticks around after the second show to meet anyone who wants to meet him. Sure, he doesn’t have to go to work the next day, but still. You’re a pussy and you know it. And so does Les.

Some things get worse with time: The band Live’s songs sucked in the 90s, and they suck even more today. Sorry, but it’s true.

3/23/09: Les Paul @ Iridium Jazz Club (60/100)

March 24th, 2009

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I haven’t been touched by greatness, I’ve been flicked off by it. By the man, the myth, the fucking legend who invented the solid body electric guitar:

Les Paul.

As Les and his trio began their set tonight, they announced that it was ok to take pictures. So I walked near the stage, Les saw me coming, and gave me a picture worth taking. After the show, I met Les and he signed my written record of this project. I told him what I was doing. His eyes lit up like all of the other bands I’ve told after they performed. Then he signed,”Good luck Nick!” (see pic). Which is awesome.

Listen, this man is 94 years old, so you’d think he’d heard it all at this point. I mean, he was alive during the Great Depression – you know, the first one. He was a teenager then. How’s that for a mindfuck? Poor guy has had to live through two of them. But something tells me he’s doing fine now. But I digress.

I also told him how my favorite guitar that I own is my Les Paul. That’s like telling Thomas Edison that you really like the light bulb. It’s that significant. Think about it. This man paved the way for every other band after him – every band I’ve seen in this whole project up until now, and every one after. Hell, every band I’ve ever seen in my life. If they play a solid body electric, that’s because of Les Paul.

Seriously, I’m sorry to harp on this, but how often will you come into contact with someone who invented something that completely changed the world? There just aren’t inventors like him around anymore. Everything has been done now, it seems. Ok, maybe not digitally. Something will come around that is the next Google or Facebook. But even those are not as important as the electric guitar – at least, not as far as I’m concerned.

They don’t make ‘em like Les anymore. He’s nearly 94 years old, and still playing two sets (8 & 10pm), every Monday night. EVERY. MONDAY. NIGHT. Then, after the 10 o’clock set, he often hangs around to meet everyone who wants to meet him. He’ll take pictures and autograph anything. Meaning he’s not getting home and getting to bed until maybe 2am.

How’s that for showmanship? Un-fucking-believable

I had seen Les once before for my birthday. My girlfriend Sunshine surprised me a few years ago. She knew how I loved my Les Paul guitar, and that I really wanted to see him before he wasn’t around anymore. So she got me one of the greatest birthday gifts ever. At the time, I didn’t think I’d ever see him again. Just figured it was one of those things you do once. But then this project came around, and I knew I had to make him a part of it. Now I wish I could go see him every Monday night.

What a trip Les Paul is on stage. You just have to see him to understand the kind of performer he is. Not only with the guitar, but with the audience. Put kindly, he’s a dirty old man of jazz and rock and roll. But he can get away with it because, a) He’s Les Paul, and b) He’s almost 94 years old.

So when he introduced Nikki, the new, pretty bass player in his trio as a “great ass…um, asset.” Thensays the Les Paul Trio is now the “less balls trio” and he tells Nikki that she can play with his pacemaker anytime, you just laugh – because that’s Les being Les. And then when he starts playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and it is possibly the best version you’ve ever heard in your life, you just smile – because that’s Les Paul being Les Paul.

Thanks Les. For flicking me off. For one of the greatest inventions of all time. For playing every Monday night. And for hanging around long enough to meet me and sign my book. I hope to see you again soon.