Awwwww yeah! Soooooo… what we were talking about? Right! Tonight’s “I Play RVA Music” fundraiser! This is quite the action-packed Friday, with the Lumineers/Brandi Carlile Groovin’ in the Garden show I mentioned recently and the last installment of Friday Cheers, but I’d urge anyone and everyone to head to Gallery 5 at some point this evening for their summer fundraiser, which starts at 8pm.
If there’s one thing that You Hear That stands in stark opposition against, it’s nepotism. With great power (like the power wielded by this blog) comes great responsibility, and using influence as tremendous as that which is thrown around on these hallowed pages to advance the agendas of family members or friends would be straight-up wrongsville. I mean, look at George W. Bush. People were so outraged when they found out his father had also been president that they made him stick around for four additional years to think about what he’d done. Or how about the Williams sisters, who always seem to produce a winner when pitted against one another in tennis matches. How “convenient.”
That’s why I refuse to write a blog post saying that you should definitely go see The Lumineers open for Brandi Carlile at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden this Friday. Furthermore, I will not provide a link to the site where you can buy tickets, with the recommendation that you snag yours quickly before they sell out. You see, I went to the same college as Wesley Schultz, the lead singer of The Lumineers, and even played in a band with him for a short time near the end of our senior year. Given that background, it would be unethical for me to launch into an explanation of why I absolutely love his group’s eponymous album, and why I think Friday’s show shouldn’t be missed.
Y’all ever watch that show Diary on MTV back in the day? You remember, the one where they’d follow around a celebrity for a few glamorous days, and the diarist would start each episode by saying, “You think you know… but you have no idea.” Now that’s a catch phrase! It still runs through my head every once in a while. Probably because I was always tickled by how this intimidating phrase sounded in the mouths of less-intimidating subjects. Listen to the beginning of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s episode. That shit cracks me up.
Now watch this interview and tell me Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard wouldn’t have knocked that line out of the park. I’m almost tempted to start a letter writing campaign to get MTV to revive the series… but thankfully I don’t have to. I heard Howard deliver the Diary catch phrase just a few days ago. Well, not those words exactly, but Friday’s Alabama Shakes show on Brown’s Island in Richmond made one thing abundantly clear: I thought I knew Alabama Shakes, but I had no idea.
On June 16, this post about music ownership in the digital age, penned by an NPR Music intern, landed on the All Songs Considered blog with an echoing electronic thud. Emily White’s post spawned a whole mess of reactions, ranging from the self-righteous to the self-deprecating, and after a week of surprisingly reasoned Internet debate (I didn’t see anyone compare anyone else to Hitler, so that’s good!), it seems to be dying down a bit. So what’s left? Have any decisions been made? Have we figured out how artists are going make money from their music? Sadly, the answers to those last two questions are probably “No” and “No.” But I’m a little more hopeful about that first question. The optimist in me wants to believe there is something very real and very productive left behind by the frenzy that White’s piece whipped up — a lingering residue of awareness. Awareness and maybe a little well-intentioned guilt.
I love Daytrotter. If this isn’t your first You Hear That rodeo, youmayalreadyknowthat. I believe wholeheartedly that it’s one of the best sites for music on the entire interweb. Actually, “site” doesn’t really do it justice; Daytrotter’s massive archive and mobile platform give it the feel of a streaming service like Spotify, except that it trafficks in exclusive live performances, each one with an incisive write-up and beautifully stylized in-house cover art. The $2-buck-a-month membership fee even grants you the ability to listen to these sessions being recorded, which is a really neat way to get behind the scenes and learn a little about the idiosyncrasies of performers’ personalities.
That being said, there’s a lesser-heralded aspect of Daytrotter that I enjoy almost as much as the site’s actual content: founder Sean Moeller’s twitter feed.
So guess where I was this weekend? If you said, “On your couch, watching hours of European soccer, NASCAR and playoff basketball, without exhibiting the slightest inkling of productivity,” you’d be DEAD WRONG, alright?
I’m proud to say that this weekend, I was up in the fine state of New Jersey, providing the music for my cousin Leigh’s wedding ceremony with the dinged-up, pink-tape-sporting guitar amp pictured above. This was my second gig playing guitar at a wedding (the first was at my sister’s in Chicago a few years ago, in which instance you could technically say I opened for David Vandervelde), and I’m so happy Leigh and her newly-minted husband Dan asked me to be a part of their special day. One of the best parts was corresponding with Leigh beforehand about which songs I’d play and when in the ceremony I’d play them. Helping my cousin choose the soundtrack to one of life’s most meaningful events was an incredible honor.
The funny thing is, though Leigh and I exchanged messages about the playlist, brides actually miss out on like half of the tunes. Seems unfair, right? Some random second cousin’s +1 gets to hear everything, but the bride, fulfilling her role as the fashionably late piece in the processional puzzle, only gets to hear the second-to-last and last songs? An outrage! I thought I’d remedy this by recreating the experience for Leigh via some favorite cover versions of all 4 songs played, along with a link to a runner-up for each (sorry, YouTube has way too much cool stuff to choose just one), starting with the music that helped the guests get settled in their seats.
I hate it when famous people I like don’t get along.
The subject of music feuds came up a few hours before my friend Coyle and I saw Radiohead in Washington D.C. And before you ask, no, the music feud I’m talking about isn’t the one about us buying the same M. Ward shirt, though I am wearing it as I type this — hear that Coyle?!? No, the subject came up because our pre-show listening regimen leaned heavily on Arctic Monkeys, to whom Coyle’s been listening quite a bit recently. As we talked about Suck It and See, Arctic Monkeys’ most recent album, it dawned on me that I hadn’t given the band a fair chance over the years, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of something Thom Yorke said a little while back. Of AM and their rapid rise to fame, Yorke was quoted in 2006 as saying:
“The fact that poor Arctic Monkeys are getting so much attention is purely based on the fact that the mainstream music business is such a bunch of fucking retards as far as I’m concerned.”
Looking back at this incident with the benefits of hindsight and Google, it seems totally unfair (and dumb) for me to have let a single utterance, especially a flippant one that was mainly directed at the mainstream music industry, steer me away from a group I’d been starting to enjoy. But a half decade of tepid listening, a heavy Radiohead bias and the fact that AM drummer Matt Helders had fired back a shot about Radiohead being boring all worked together to warp my memory, and I found myself saying to Coyle something like, “I haven’t listened to them much. I think they said something not so nice about Radiohead at one point.” It’s embarrassing to admit it, but I seem to have passively chosen a side in a disagreement that took place 6 years ago between two people I’ve never met, which means that I’m just now finding out how great Suck It and See is. Crazy, right?
Well, the crazy train keeps on rolling, with a stop two days later at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, where I was set to see tUnE-yArDs for the first time.
Consider for a moment the nature of applause. Giving someone “a hand.” Fairly straightforward, right? You applaud someone or something to show approval, with vigor acting as a measure of enthusiasm (excepting of course the legendary slow clap, which dramatically inverts the vigor dynamic and belongs in the nonverbal communication hall of fame, in this humble Rhetoric and Communications minor’s opinion). Cultures all around the world do it. You can golf clap, fast clap, clap seriously, clap sarcastically, clap enthusiastically, clap dispassionately, clap at completely inappropriate times… the variations are many; but one thing unites all of these types of applause: they’re externally directed. A tool for communicating outwardly. Which is why there’s something just a little bit weird about theater audiences clapping after movies (it’s not like the director can hear it), and why there’s something more than a little bit awesome about Mariachi El Bronx’s set opening up for tUnE-yArDs at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville on June 5. I’ll never forget how Mariachi El Bronx rescued me from a pit of despair… with my own applause.
I love picking music apart. Like some eager high school biology student with a scalpel in his hand and a dead frog lying belly-up on his desk (The album art above seems downright icky after reading that, doesn’t it?), I like dissecting songs, finding out what makes them tick, what makes them exceptional, and what they reveal about the people who wrote them. Actually, “like” might not be the right word to use; after years of playing in bands and nearly 250 posts on this here blog, this type of analytic thinking has become almost totally involuntary. I’ll sometimes catch myself coming up with angles for posts about even the dumbest pop music, like why that video of Jimmy Fallon and the Roots playing “Call Me Maybe” with Carly Rae Jepsen is actually pretty great, or how “Am I The Only One” by Dierks Bentley perfectly encapsulates the way relationships with your friends evolve during your mid-20’s (please someone dare me to actually write this).
With this propensity in mind, I had a quick chat with my brain as we hurried into the Verizon Center to catch the beginning of Radiohead’s June 3 performance. It went a little something like this…
“I would rather watch somebody actually going through something.”
Her words jumped off the ‘Pad (See? Just doesn’t have the same ring to it…) for a very specific reason — they immediately made think of Justin Townes Earle. May 22’s fantastic installment in the Groovin’ in the Garden concert series at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was my fourth time seeing Earle perform, and a common source of amazement I’ve found in each of these experiences is the substantive nature of the connection he forms with the audience.