Posts tagged ‘Metallica’

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.

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.

4/1/09: Sophie Alour @ Sunset/Sunside, Paris (69/100)

April 2nd, 2009

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File this under “Things I should probably know, but somehow had no idea.” Paris is known for jazz. So if jazz is the sound of the city, then damnit, I was gonna see some jazz. But where to see jazz in a city known for it? I had no idea. So I asked the Internet. The Internet knows all.

The Internet said there was a good jazz place called Sunset/Sunside (two venues attached) in the Les Halles (“The Market”) district. I thought, “Hey, I love the NY restaurant Les Halles, where Anthony Bourdain is executive chef (but has no time to cook between trips around the world), so that sounds good to me. Ok, maybe the decision wasn’t that easy (or trivial).

It actually took all day. I wanted to make sure I saw something good, considering that I missed Ben Lee the night before. But I didn’t want the place to be an hour away like last night, either. This is the hell that can be this project sometimes – especially when there are limited days remaining, and I want to make every show count.

Here’s what I considered:

Afro-beat bands @ Batofar – a venue on a boat. cool, but way too far away.

The jazzy hip-hop group US3 @ the jazz club New Morning – sold out, and too expensive anyhow (27 ).

Metallica at some arena way out in the suburbs – sold out, way too expensive (65 ) and ridiculous to think I’d go all the way out there. But, could’ve been really cool if I could’ve pull it off.

Sophie Alour Quintet @ Sunset/Sunside – winner!

I chose Sophie because a) she’s Jazz, b) her gig was part of the Blue Note Records jazz festival going on at different venues in Paris, and c) I ran out of time and needed to pick something. And it turned out to be a great choice. We hopped the Metro from our hotel, 3 stops to the Les Halles district, popped out, and within 5 minutes we were at the club.

We rolled up to Sunset about 9pm, Sophie was slotted to go on at 930pm. Walking into the club, it felt like I was back at a NYC jazz club. First, there was the English name. Secondly, it just felt like home: exposed brick walls, tiny tables, a stage lifted only a few inches off the ground, super overpriced drinks – like I said, just like home. As mentioned before, this was part of the Blue Note Records jazz festival. During the festival, Blue Note artists would perform the works of other jazz legends. Tonight’s show Sophie Alour’s Quintet performed the music of Wayne Shorter.

I wasn’t sure who Wayne Shorter is, due to my limited knowledge of jazz. But who cares. It’s jazz and I’m in Paris. So I order an 8,5 (approx $11) Stella, Sunshine gets an 8,5 Kir Royale and we grab seats a few rows back from the stage. Just before Sophie takes the stage, I look back and notice the place has sold out. Nice, I picked a good one.

The quintet is Sophie on saxophone, and a bunch of other dudes on trumpet, piano, bass and drums. They’re all pretty young, and seem pretty good. The drummer was a bit anxious and over the top for my liking. And the bass player was pretty anonymous (maybe because he never soloed). But I liked Sophie, and the trumpet and piano players. They were all pretty solid, but nowhere near the quality of Terence Blanchard – who their style closely resembled, I thought.

They played four 15-minute songs, where everyone got to step in for their solos (save for the bass player, as Isaid). Whenever the drummer got to his solo, the rest of the band fell off quietly – leaving him to beat on his kit. And I don’t know, I guess he was ok – just a bit too aggressive and all over the place for me. But he played with a permanent smile on his face, and occasionally knew when to take a back seat, so I’ll let him off the hook.

Sophie was a good sax player, and good performer. She grabbed the mic after nearly every song to address the crowd. Of course, I had no idea what she was saying. But it sounded nice. Everything sounds nice in French. Even the bums and gypsies around Paris make it sound really nice when they’re asking for your money:

Bum: “Bonjour Monsier. [Something in French], s’il vous plai?.”
Me: No
Bum: “Merci! Au Revoir!”

Man, France is awesome. Some guy could be sticking you up in Paris and it would probably be pretty pleasant. Not that I want to try though. Bonne nuit.

2/21/09: Divergence @ Fontana’s (30/100)

February 21st, 2009

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I wasn’t feeling too metal tonight but there I was, at Fontana’s anyhow. I wasn’t sure what I was  really in for since I knew very little about these guys. show.. I was contacted by Brian from a band named Divergence a couple of weeks ago. He found the blog and sent me an email, asking if would check out his band if he put me on the guest list. Nice. My first official band solicitation of the project. I did some Googling and found out that Divergence is a metal band from Jersey. The song that starts on their site doesn’t sound bad (albeit, pretty obviously “inspired’ by Metallica’s “Shortest Straw – at least the intro), so I figured why not. It would help diversify the project. Indie Rock Thursday. Jazz Friday. Metal Saturday. Plus, it was free. And early, leaving the rest of my night open for a change.

Brian (bass/vox) sent me an email Friday, saying that if I got to the club around 6:30p, we could hang and chat before their set. To be honest, I didn’t want to hang and chat. I wanted to come, watch and leave. Nothing against Brian, I’m sure he’s a perfectly nice guy (they all seemed nice, good vibe in the room tonight). I just didn’t feel like hanging and chatting. I thought it might taint the entry I would write. Ok, unless he punched me in the face (which is always a possibility, this is metal) – I’m sure it wouldn’t taint it that much. But whatever, I was thankful he put me on the list, so I got to Fontana’s at door time, 6:30. Yet, the hang and chat never happened (except for briefly after).

 I’d never seen a show at Fontana’s, so I didn’t actually know where the stage was. But I did know that Fontana’s is across the street from my favorite dumpling house in Manhattan, and was looking forward to $3 dinner after.


But I digress.

I found the door to the stage, said I was on the list, but the woman at the door had no list, so I showed her the email from Brian, and that seemed to be enough. The place actually got pretty crowded for such an early show (50+ people). A lot of family and friends I was guessing. Either that or there’s a big middle-aged metal audience out there I don’t know about.

Divergence hit stage and immediately brought the metal: cranking out song after Metallica-inspired song. Yea, sorry. I can’t write this entry without repeating how blatant the Metallica inspiration is. Thing is, apart from the one song that starts like “Shortest Straw,” the rest seem inspired from post-Black Album Metallica. Which I thought was weird since the pre-Black Album Metallica is the good Metallica (right?). In fact, just in case someone in the audience didn’t catch onto the Metallica inspiration, they actually played “Fuel” from Metallica’s ReLoad. I mean, it made sense. But I was still a bit surprised that they played it. You just don’t usually hear bands be that blatant about their inspiration when picking a cover to work into a set. At least, not until they become bigger. 

But they were having fun, the crowd was having fun, they were good at their instruments and the songs were tight (kind of have to be, this is metal). And I haven’t been to a metal show in a really long time, so it was fine. 

With songs titles like “Eulogy” and “My Prison Still Remains,” the requisite finger tapping, Crate amps and ESP guitars, this show had everything a metal show needs – except the badass attitude. Brian was definitely charismatic, but metal should scare you a bit. At the very least, it should make you a little uneasy. But that just wasn’t there tonight. Which was fine with me. I just wonder what the heavy metal gods were thinking.