Posts tagged ‘The Roots’

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.

3/19/09: The Roots present The Jam @ Highline Ballroom (56/100)

March 20th, 2009

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Simply put: The Roots and their special guests were great. The Highline Ballroom and crowd was not.

Here’s why:

I bought these tickets way back when. Might’ve even before The Roots became the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. So they’ve been sitting in my desk, waiting to be used. And when my friend Ricardo and I got to the club for the show, we would have to wait a little longer. The doors were supposed to be at 10pm, but we didn’t get in until almost 11pm.

Inside, it seemed like a cool venue: nice and intimate. But the drinks, not so nice: 10 bucks for a Jack and Coke. Really? That’s the same price as the ticket. Oh, right. I’m in the fucking Meatpacking District. Doucheville, USA.

When we got there, we ran into some people from work – Russ, Crystal and Lisa – which was cool. And not too shortly after that, The Roots finally started. Also cool. The title of the night was “The Roots present: The Jam.” So it was all about them inviting friends on stage to jam with them.

First up was a few guys from Antibalas. An well known afrobeat band, according to Ricardo. I’d never heard of them (a reoccurring theme for tonight…I need to get out more.) I shot off a few pics from where I was standing, but wasn’t satisfied so I moved up to the front – having no idea what was in store for me. Holy shit, I don’t know anyone put up with the bass up there the whole night. The kick drum literally shook my entire body with every beat. Even with earplugs jammed into my ears, I had to move back after 20 minutes. I want to be able to hear after these 100 days.

The guys from Antibalas stayed on stage most of the night, as more guests/friends stepped up to jam. The only names I remember are: a guitar player from Soulive, D.C. rapper Wale and Corey Glover, former singer of the band Living Colour. But there were a lot more


When Glover came on is coincidentally when the night got super annoying (no connection). I wrote a few weeks ago how the Black Lips show felt like party I showed up to, where everyone else had used up all the drugs. But that was just a metaphor. Tonight, I think it was actually true.

For starters, there was a guy who looked like Philip Seymour Hoffman playing a creepy guy who seduces young NYU girls – and that’s exactly what appeared to be happening. It was bizarre. Here was this older looking guy with three or four young girls hanging all over him, while he was double fisted beers, and never lets the girls go without a fresh cocktail. The girls smoked cigarettes like they could, danced like they were the only ones there, bumped into me every five fucking seconds.

To keep from strangling them, I moved over towards the bar. There I was next to a guy who was so totally gone. He was holding onto the wall for dear life, and then nearly collapsed to the ground at one point. I looked in his eyes, he was in another world. Ricardo tells me later that the creepy pimp guy said, “Smells like someone is cooking” at one point. I’m guessing that was this dude by the bar. Crack? Meth? Who fucking knows.

Ok, so I’ve got a weird, Philip Seymour Hoffman/pseudo pimp/pedophile guy to my right, and crackhead to my left, so I take a few steps back…and run into a big, meathead guy’s stiff leather jacket. I look and he’s got his back turned to the stage. That seems like a weird way to watch a show, but whatever.

Eventually all of these insane people disappeared and I could relax. Just in time for show to come to an end. Fine, I don’t care anymore. I just want out. But, of course, not without a fight as some asshole lowered his shoulder into me as I pushed toward the door. And I yelled “get the fuck out of the way!” But didn’t turn around to see if he heard me. I just looked back at Ricardo as got outside, and said, “What the fuck just happened in there?”

3/18/09: Isabella Lundgren @ The National Underground (55/100)

March 18th, 2009

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I found myself strolling down Houston tonight, looking for a band to see. I didn’t have anything planned, and I was tired of the Bowery, Mercury Lounge, Cake Shop, Pianos, etc. Don’t get me wrong. I love those places. They’ve become like second homes. But I just couldn’t do it again tonight. I couldn’t stand around and wait until 11pm for another indie rock to hit the stage in a dark rock club. I needed something different.

And the thing is, there were decent bands playing, too: Clem Snide @ Bowery, Old School Freight Train @ Mercury. Either one of these would’ve been good show I’m sure, but like I said, I just couldn’t do it. I needed a night off.

Before I made it to the LES, I was walking around the Village. It was still light out, and I was hoping for a miracle in the form of music flowing out from a bar somewhere that would draw me in. Then, I’d grab a drink, and have a nice relaxed day 55. But I was coming up blank.

Nothing happening on Bleecker, damnit. Nothing happening on W. 3rd, damnit. Finally, Sunshine called me up and helped me try and find someone to see by playing music from Myspace pages of bands playing at The Living Room, Arlene’s Grocery, etc. But nothing seemed worth it. I had resigned myself to going back to Mercury tonight.

But then…

As I ambled towards the Merc, I passed The National Underground – a place I’d walked past a million times before, but never stopped into. From the sidewalk it looks more like a bar than a music venue. But there’s a small stage opposite the bar, and another room downstairs. So it’s legit, and just what I was looking for: soothing jazz flowing out from a club, drawing me in. I checked the window for a poster, to see who was playing. Looks like a female jazz singer named Isabella Lundgren. Good enough for me.

I’ve talked about my neophyte status as a jazz listener before (but I’m getting better, I hope). I didn’t recognize a lot of her songs, wasn’t sure how many were originals, standards, or what. I did recognize the classic “All of me,” but not to many more. But so what. This was just the kind of evening I wanted.

To stumble onto a band while it’s still light out, and be home before it got too late. I don’t want you all to think that I’m losing steam. That’s not the case at all In fact, quite the opposite. The second half of this project has totally re-energized me. I just felt like changing it up tonight. To go somewhere I hadn’t been, see something less predictable . Tonight was as much about retaining my excitement for the usual venues I love as it was about keeping the project diverse. How am I doing on that this week? Let’s see:

80s metal/rock on Monday.

Quirky Euro indie folk on Tuesday.

Jazz tonight.

Hip-hop on Thursday (The Roots).

Friday still TBD

Electro-pop on Saturday (if I can get into the Cut Copy show).

Now that I look at it, that’s not too bad at all. Here I was stressing about making sure the bands in the last half of the project live up to some standard, or at least help contribute to diversifying the total outcome. But I’m fine. This week is what this project is all about.