On Saturday, September 25, the bus stopped in Providence, RI at The Spot Underground. To celebrate, The Spot had a planned mini festival outside. Unfortunately, likely rain showers forced them to move artists and other vendors indoors and the acoustic performers they had planned were nowhere to be found. That didn’t stop the people from coming by for the main event, a triple bill of Formula 5, The Jauntee, and Tauk. The three bands each played a set on the main stage with Cosmal playing a short set in between as the bands switched up equipment.
Last night I had the pleasure of checking out the Rebirth Brass Band, a New Orleans funk/jazz/fusion brass band, for the second time. I had caught them at a Phish after-show in New York during the 2012 New Year’s run at the Gramercy Theatre. It was a bigger theatre with a balcony with seats, which came in quite handy after being at a Phish show for 3 hours and walking quite a ways to get to the theatre. Last night, they played at The Spot Underground here in Providence. The Spot is a much smaller venue, making for a much more intimate show.
I arrived at The Spot while the Background Orcs were playing their opening set on the smaller stage in the main bar area. The website called their music “infectious groove” and I can’t say I disagree. While the music was good, it wasn’t the most interesting. I wouldn’t have chosen it for an opening act. When I think an opening act, I think something to get the crowd going and excited. Their music was mellow groove-based rock/funk. At times it picked up, but remained mellow for the most part. It’s great background music, and, based on their name, maybe that’s what they’re trying to do. It was great music to sit with a beer while catching up on Twitter or chatting with some friends. It definitely got my head bobbing and toes tapping, but wasn’t enough to get me dancing. Would I see them again? Probably not if they were the headliner. They seemed young though. I suspect after getting some shows under their belts, they’ll figure out how to be more engaging.
The second band to play was actually the headliners, the Rebirth Brass Band. I haven’t been to a show where the headliners didn’t close the place down, but maybe they had to hit the road that night. They opened with a powerful “Grazing in the Grass” cover with their own spin on it. The set continued with their own take on funk, jazz, and hip hop. They kept the crowd moving throughout their nearly 2 hour set, taking only an encore break. They covered The Rolling Stones’ “It’s all over Now” as the encore. Overall, it was a great set. I was situated front center. The sound at The Spot in its new location isn’t the best and I suspect the sound where I was standing was worse. They come with a fairly hefty price tag at $24. Most shows I see in smaller venues like that are in the $10-15 range at the door. It was worth what I paid, especially since the show in NYC was $35 for what felt like a much shorter set. I’d definitely pay the money again to see them next time they come around.
In the cleanup position was The Electric Church. I had seen them once before open for Primate Fiasco, also at The Spot. We didn’t stay for their entire set, which likely went until 2:30am, but they play a rock-funk fusion. They claimed, after their first song, that they only play originals with some music ripped off from other artists. It was evident in their first song, which sounded exactly like the way Phish plays “Ya Mar” by the Mustangs. In fact, the group I was with was singing “Ya Mar” to their song. They put their own twist on the music and had their own lyrics, but it was clearly not entirely their own creation. They play a fun set, keeping everyone dancing.
All in all, it was a great night. I hadn’t seen any live music since mid-July when I saw Phish at Randall’s Island in New York. It was great to get out of the house and catch some local and national music in a great little venue. If The Spot can work out the sound issues, which I trust they can, that will be one awesome little venue for smaller acts. The two rooms is great for getting the headliner setup while the opener is still playing, cutting down time in between the acts for load out/in. My favorite part about The Spot is that just about all the draft beer is local.
So get out there. Go see live music. Go see local music. Go drink local beer.
David Byrne posted an article today about his thoughts on the current state of music consumption and what that means for artists. In it, he talks about how music consumption is changing from a model where people buy music, either by way of physical media or downloads directly from the artist or via a third party, to a model where people use streaming services to listen to music. He’s mainly concerned with on-demand services, like Spotify or Rdio, rather than internet radio services, like Pandora. He discusses how little money artists/labels receive with each listen from these services, especially since they tend to offer a free, ad-supported option that does not require a subscription.
I can understand his frustration with this. However, his solution has nothing to do with the artists themselves, who continue to allow their music to be streamed via these services. His only solution is that these services must change their models. First, he says the services need to pay artists more. I’m not going to argue with that. He also says the services should drop their free, ad-supported option in favor of a Netflix-style monthly subscription. Heck, he even says they can offer a one-time fee for unlimited listening. I’m not going to argue with this, either. In fact, this would get consumers used to the fact that music is not free. It helps consumers understand that artists are trying to make a living off of it and not just give it away for free. I won’t argue that, either.
My argument is that Byrne ignores one important factor. Streaming services are here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future. They are businesses just like the artists who are trying to make a living off their art. Their goal is to make money, just like the artist’s goal is to make money. The streaming services make money off the service. The artists make it off the art. Byrne does artists a serious disservice by suggesting that the problem is the streaming services and the consumers rather than even hinting at the fact that an artist who wishes to make a living off their art is now a business. Unfortunately, many artists lack business and marketing skills. That’s the catch. That’s also why record labels exist. They provide those services to the artists, but it often comes with a major fee.
I fully understand and feel for artists trying to make a living off their art. The problem, however, is that Byrne should be encouraging artists to learn to market themselves. If you are trying to make a living with your art, you have become a business. You must adapt and come up with innovative methods to get your name out there and make money from your art. It is not up to the services you choose to allow to have access to your catalog to change their ways (as nice as it would be). In fact, I just read about this band who suggested all their fans play an album they “wrote” on Spotify on repeat while they sleep. The album is silent. They’re then using data retrieved from that to plan tour in the areas where they have the most listeners. They’re using the funds from Spotify to fund the tour of free concerts. Yes, you read that correctly. They are playing free concerts because of this. That’s pretty awesome. It’s also highly innovative.
If you’re going to sit there and whine and not innovate your business model, then you deserve whatever it is you get. As I said above, this is the reason major record labels exist – to handle the business and marketing stuff which artists tend not to know how to do themselves. If you want to remain independent, you gotta figure all that out on your own. It sucks, but that’s how any small business works.
So… at work we (and by “we” I mean my student employees) made a pretty sweet video promoting the Helpdesk.
There has been a lot of discussion recently about Phish and their recent performance at Bonnaroo. The complaint I’ve heard is that the music wasn’t very original, the guest performer sucked, and there were a lot of repeated songs from the previous 2 shows in Worcester.
I haven’t listened to their Bonnaroo sets. I attended the two shows in Worcester, but have yet to have time to listen to their sets from Tennessee. That said, Phish has traditionally taken on a different sort of vibe when playing at a music festival that is not their own. At their own festivals, the crowd is there to hear Phish. At a festival with many different acts, especially one as diverse as Bonnaroo, the crowd is there to hear all sorts of different acts. Phish has traditionally played a “festival set” at these types of festivals – that is, a set of “greatest hits” and standard songs. They keep it fun. They give people a little taste of what makes Phish who they are without overwhelming them.
Music festivals with many acts also allow the bands to collaborate. When Phish first played Bonnaroo in 2009, they had Bruce Springsteen join them on stage. By all accounts, it was a good time. This year, they were joined by Kenny Rogers. Also, by all accounts, a good time. While these sit ins may not produce the most spectacular music, mainly due to the little time available to practice together, they can produce a fun once in a lifetime experience for those in attendance. They can also fulfill dreams of those on stage by allowing the artist performing to invite their friends and influences to join them. This happened when Trey invited Bruce on stage in 2009.
When a band plays a concert, they play it for the people at the concert. Phish was playing for the crowd at Bonnaroo, which occurred 2 days after they played in Worcester on the last night of the four day festival. The vast majority of Phish fans in attendance at Bonnaroo were not at Worcester. Having repeated a lot of songs played at Worcester, those in attendance had not already heard them at the previous show. Phish is known for playing a completely different show each night. The Grateful Dead were also known for the same thing. However, the Grateful Dead also commonly played the same songs on multiple consecutive nights, sometimes at the same venue.
I think it’s time that Phish fans lose the chip on their shoulder and learn to just have a good time. If it’s fun, isn’t that really all you could ask for?
So as I mentioned in my last post, I attended Super Ball IX last weekend. It was Phish’s ninth festival and held at Watkins Glen International, the famous auto race track in Watkins Glen, NY that last held a music festival in 1973. The most amusing part of the whole thing is that the people from the area seemed worried that this festival would end up like that one, which saw 600,000 people show up to see the Grateful Dead, The Band, and The Allman Brothers play for a single day. There are plenty of in depth reviews of the music. I’ll just write about my experiences and some brief thoughts about the three shows Phish played over the weekend. Continue reading Super Ball IX
and by “Holy Land”, I mean Bethel, NY.
This past Memorial Day weekend, I traveled to Bethel, NY to see Phish play three nights at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Bethel Woods is located on the property that was once part of Max Yasgur’s farm, the piece of property where the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held in 1969. Visiting Bethel was like a pilgrimage for me, having been quite interested in Woodstock and the 60’s hippie culture since I was about 10 or 11. This post is mainly about my visit to the area, along with some pictures, and what it was like being there, and my thoughts on the venue. I will cover the three Phish shows in another post that will follow. Continue reading Journey to the Holy Land
OK, not really. But I am going to be spending this Memorial Day weekend at the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Phish is playing 3 nights at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. It’s on the site of Woodstock. I, personally, am pretty pumped for it. I have been obsessed with Woodstock since I was a kid. I remember one of the first cassette tapes I bought was the Woodstock soundtrack. I think I was 10 or 11 at the time. I plan on visiting the museum there as well. Expect some reports of both the shows and the experience of visiting a place with such rich musical history.
Last Thursday, I went to the Roots Cafe on Westminster Street in Providence to check out a free show that Scott Murawski announced on Twitter that day (though apparently, it was known before then). Roots Cafe has only been open for a month or two, so I got double the excitement in seeing a new bar/restaurant/venue in town and also checking out some live music. Continue reading Jazz Jam at Roots Cafe
Someone over at the Online Phish Tour wrote an article about why the Mike Gordon Band (MGB) is better than the Trey Anastasio Band (TAB). It got to me. I’ve seen both, though I’ve seen TAB many more times. I’ve listened to both enough to know that the general sentiment is wrong. Now, I know I recently wrote a post about the most recent TAB tour. Some issues will be rehashed, but it’s not quite the same. Continue reading TAB vs MGB