Posts tagged ‘Rockwood Music Hall’

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.

4/12/09: Matt Lenny @ Rockwood Music Hall (80/100)

April 12th, 2009

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Let me start off by admitting that yes, this was an easy day. But I needed an easy one today. I had too much shit to do and I have to get up at 6am on Monday to go to Bristol, CT for work all day, so whatever. Sometimes you just need to knock one out. I do want the last 20 bands to all be as high a caliber as I can make them, but I still gave myself a pass today.

That’s not to say Matt Lenny was bad. He was fine. Ok, the songwriting wasn’t great, but he’s a great blues guitar player. But I couldn’t really hear or get into his songs because the fucking audience were so rude, and talked through his entire set. Which is what today’s post is going to be about:

Manners.

Seriously people. You should be ashamed of yourself. Rockwood Music Hall isn’t a huge venue. There were about 25-30 people in the venue today, and that’s almost full. It’s a tiny place. And Matt was standing up there solo, just him and an acoustic guitar, so when you think you’re little whispering that you’re doing, with your back turned to him (some people), isn’t going to be noticeable – think again.

He didn’t seem to care, at least, he didn’t let off that he did. But I cared, and you are all on my shit list now. I don’t even know you, and you don’t know me, but you’re still on my shit list. Show some manners. There’s a guy on stage in a tiny room, and you’re talking through the whole thing. I don’t care if you showed up to hear the band before and don’t care about this guy. You still have to listen. It’s common courtesy. Hell, Rockwood doesn’t charge a cover. So you’re not even paying for the show! They do pass a hat around for band donations, and I didn’t see a ton of you ponying up, either. Fuckers.

Shut up, drink your drink, and wait until he’s done singing to talk. Or just leave. Go to a coffee shop, or a bar. Hell, there’s a bar in the back, attached to the music room. Go back there.

Sure, Matt doesn’t have the most powerful voice that would demand you pay attention. But he’s on stage and you dipshits are not. In fact, most of you probably have zero musical ability, and don’t know how to write a song. But you certainly know how to ignore someone who does.

Ok. I’m done now. Sorry, but I had to say what Matt probably wanted to, but was professional enough not to. Instead he stood up there and played his songs. And I sat there and listened, while trying to drown you rude fuckers out. If any of you are reading this, watch this video below. Fuckers.


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.

2/8/09: Pete and J @ Rockwood Music Hall (17/100)

February 8th, 2009

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Sunday nights are tough. I don’t want to go out and listen to music on Sunday night. I don’t even want to leave my apartment, to be honest. Sunday is a down day for me. But, I got myself into this mess, so I have to do go through with it. That’s why I tried to knock out today’s show at the Living Room at 1pm. They were having an event called “kidrockers” with Jeffrey Lewis, who I like and have never seen. And it’s an early show so I’d be done for the day by like 2pm. Perfect. That means an evening of chillaxin.

So I head over there, step into the Living Room, and it’s like it had been transformed into a daycare. Kids running around everywhere. But I guess that’s the idea: to host bands for parents who want to go out and see bands on Ludlow on a Friday or Saturday night, but can’t because they have kids. So I walk up to pay, only to be completely stymied by the woman working the door who sees I’m obviously without child.

Her:  Hi, are you on the guest list of either of the bands?

Me:   No. 

Her:  Oh, did you bring a kid? 

Me:  No.

Her:  Then I’m sorry, but you can’t come in. You have to bring a kid. It doesn’t have to be your kid, but you have to bring a kid. 

Me:  Shit.

Her:  And that’s why. 

We laugh. She at me. Me at how ridiculous this rule is. I mean, I guess it makes sense. Otherwise it sort of defeats the purpose if the place fills up with people who can go to shows on the weekend nights. But I’m still fuming that I have to go see a show later on still. I think for a second about maybe explaining the project I’m doing, but figure the response would be “Well, we have bands playing later on.” So I leave, annoyed.

Fast forward about five hours and I’m walking back toward The Living Room to see whoever the hell is playing the 7pm time slot. At this point, I really don’t care. I just want to knock it out and get back to my couch. It’s been another long week of music and I just want an evening to catch up on doing nothing.

On the walk over, I decide to check out Rockwood Music Hall’s website to see what they have going on (Suck it, Living Room). As turns out, they have Pete and J, an act I was thinking of seeing next month. The show is part of a series called “Second Sundays at Rockwood Music Hall” hosted by Danielle Gasparro. It’s on the second Sunday of each month, and one part performance, one part Q&A. The artists sit on stage, Danielle asks them about their career, they play songs, she asks more questions, they play more songs…et cetera, et cetera. 

There’s no cover and only a one drink minimum. I get a Shiraz and settle in. It’s really chill, Pete and J talk about how they met, formed, being musicians, writing songs — blah blah blah. They play some songs. Pleasant, relaxing, Sunday night kind of songs, and then it’s over. I remember reading a comparison (or at least inspiration) to Simon and Garfunkel somewhere. And I don’t know, maybe. J’s hair could be compared to Garfunkel’s, I guess. Anyhow, that was pretty much that. A small, intimate evening with some nice quiet musicians. I talked to them for a few minutes afterwards and they seemed interested in the project – and couldn’t resist reminding me that it was really ambitious. 

Yeah, no shit.