Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

“. . . the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting.”
–Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

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The theater where I saw the Faces—with Ronnie Wood and Stewart hiding behind the amps–, the Birmingham Palladium, no longer exists.

The Grande Ballroom, where I saw the original Fleetwood Mac—the one with Peter Green—is gone.

The Eastown Theater, where I saw Derek and the Dominos, is a memory. As are Derek and the Dominos.

What is important: the building or the memories? One could point out that were it not for the building there wouldn’t be the memories, which is absolutely true. But were I to drive down Grand River and see the sad remains of the Grande (if you’re interested in seeing it, the address if 8952 Grand River, Detroit; Google Maps has an image of the remaining structure), would it make much of a difference with the exception of a brief wave of nostalgia? If the Grande was purchased by some corporation and transformed into some faux-hip venue, would that make my memories any better?

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Two miles southeast of the Grande on Grand River, the Olympia Stadium once existed. There is now an Army National Guard facility on the site and most of the property appears to be a shitty parking lot. Olympia was opened in 1927 (the Grande opened as a dance hall in 1928), closed in 1980 and was torn down in 1987.

I saw the Rolling Stones there. That band apparently continues to exist. I have no interest in seeing the present incarnation of the Stones. That the site where I saw one of the best concerts of my life is now something entirely different doesn’t much matter.

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Right now we are in the midst of a plague. A plague that is burning through our lives, leaving charred and devastated rubble in many cases. Things that we did, places that we went to, activities that we were a part of are in all-too-many instances irrevocably changed. They won’t come back.

The National Independent Venue Association has been established to help save independent music performance centers that are likely to be closed as a result of COVID-19.

In a letter sent to Congress in efforts to get financial assistance for the ~800 operations that are members of NIVA, assistance in the form of loans, tax relief, insurance, and other measures, Dayna Frank, board president and owner of First Avenue & 7th St Entry in Minneapolis, writes, “Our stages give artists like Adele, U2, Keith Urban, Prince, Lizzo, the Eagles, Wu-Tang Clan and Foo Fighters their start. The world could be without the next Lady Gaga, Kenny Chesney, Chance the Rapper or Bruce Springsteen if we cease to exist.”

The letter is addressed to Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Kevin McCarthy, and Mitch McConnell.

Does anyone think McConnell would be convinced by that argument?

To her credit, Frank also points out, “While we are small businesses”—and aren’t the Republicans the bulwarks of small business?—“the estimated direct annual economic impact we bring to our local communities is nearly $10 billion.”

That should raise some sleepy eyelids.

Continue reading Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Bonamassa Raising Money for COVID-19-Affected Musicians

Joe Bonamassa, at age 12, in 1989, opened for B.B. King. Imagine: not only was he 12 but there he was, playing guitar ahead of one of the guitar-playing greats.

That worked out well. Bonamassa has become something of an axe-wielding phenomenon in the 30 years since.

Speaking of the situation that COVID-19 has brought on, Bonamassa said: “Musicians have a tough road ahead and this will help them regroup until they can head out on the road again when everyone gets a green light.”

He is talking about a live-stream fundraising event that he is holding tomorrow night (May 14, 8 pm EST).

Bonamassa is going to perform and talk about his vintage Fender guitars.

The proceeds will go to his Fueling Musicians Program, which is an emergency relief plan that was created by his 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, Keeping the Blues Alive (KTBA).

The program will provide musicians with financial assistance for living expenses as well as pre-paid fuel cards so they’ll be able to literally get on the road.

The Fueling Musicians Program is being supported by Fender Premium Audio and Volkswagen. (VW offers Fender audio systems in many of its vehicles.)

The event will be on the VW Facebook page.

Over the years I’ve cracked car companies on their sometimes-craven use of music.

Not this time.

Musicians need all the help they can get, and credit to VW for its support of Bonamassa’s efforts.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in contributing to the Fueling Musicians Program or if you’re a musician who needs help and would like to fill out an application form for assistance, go here.

(Photo: Christie Goodwin)

Living the Live Nation Life

When Live Nation announced its earnings for Q1 2020, they were down 20% year over year, which is surprisingly not bad. Convert revenue was down 25% and ticketing off 16% compared to the same quarter in 2019. According to Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, “Globally, over 90% of fans are holding on to their tickets where refunds are available, which is the clearest demonstration of pent up demand that will enable us to quickly start concerts back up.”

Of course, there are other considerations as to why a number of those people may still have their tickets, which has absolutely nothing to do with their fervor to see a show.

For one thing, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, as I am writing this there are 3,965.863 total confirmed COVID-19 cases globally, of which 1,284.708 are in the U.S. There have been 275,527 deaths, of which 77,201 are in the U.S.

Presumably there are a whole lot of people on the planet who have been otherwise occupied.

And given that 20.5 million people lost their jobs in the U.S. in April, bringing the overall unemployment rate to 14.5%, odds are that even if they have a cache of ducats, they’re probably spending their time trying to file for unemployment benefits than dealing with trying to get refunds for tickets, as expensive as those tickets may be.

But CEOs must be optimistic.

Live Nation put out some stats with its earnings numbers that are lack only a bright, big smiley face.
For example, according to a survey it conducted, “when event restrictions are lifted”—which in some states can’t happen fast enough, which makes one wonder about what the governors of those states really think about their governed—the most “likely attended type of event” will be. . .live music.

Continue reading Living the Live Nation Life

New Winnetka Bowling League video: Kangaroo

Video: Winnetka Bowling League -- “Kangaroo”

Winnetka Bowling League - Kangaroo (Official Video)

Directed (from home) by Zack Sekuler. Single out now on RCA.

It shows what a dork I am that I know of Winnetka Bowling League as former Regrettes bassist Sage Chavis’ new band, not Hilary Duff’s husband’s band. I didn’t even recognize Duff in her cameo in this video until after I read that it was her. I was just happy to see Chavis working the bass again.

Sage was the Michael Anthony secret weapon in the Regrettes, her backing vocals and muscular bass giving the band an extra somethin-somethin that’s been missing since she’s been gone. Her charisma shines through in the “Kangaroo” video although she doesn’t play on the recording since she “just started playing bass with us and we’ve only had one rehearsal,” Matthew Koma told Percolator. “So this is sort of the first time we’re playing as a band.”

Koma has written songs for Carly Rae Jepsen, Kelly Clarkson, and Shania Twain so the guy is no slouch even if his lyrics are self-deprecating.

I’ve got a bathtub the shape of a swimming pool
A drum set and a Tele that stays in tune
A wife who’s got a better job
She backs me and my indie rock
I’m kidding ‘bout the indie part, I ain’t that cool
But I’m so happy.

That’s a good attitude. Be happy! Refreshing.

Koma says, “‘Kangaroo’ is a song about being okay with yourself. There’s a freedom that comes with no longer allowing the fear of how people see you influence how you see yourself. Also, there’s a descending bridge section that rips off ‘Born To Run’ and lands into some self-indulgent section I wrote after seeing an ELO concert.”

Good for him. It’s probably relatively easy to be okay with yourself when you’re married to a movie star and you own the publishing on a bunch of hits. Still, the sentiment is good. We’re all right where we’re supposed to be.

Winnetka Bowling League: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Regrettes video: What Am I Gonna Do Today

Video: The Regrettes -- “What Am I Gonna Do Today”

The Regrettes "What Am I Gonna Do Today" (Official Music Video)

Shot by the Regrettes. Edited by Claire Marie Vogel. Single out now on Warner.

The Regrettes are back with a new single to help you make it through another day at home. On Instagram, the band describes it as “a song we recorded ourselves remotely in quarantine and we hope it brings you as much joy as making it did for us.”

both of us are always waitin
for a time with nothin in our way
both of us anticipatin
for a day that can turn into tomorrow
without sayin goodbye.

Well, the wait is over! All the days are turning into tomorrow lately without a lot of difference from one to the next. But that’s alright. Listen how good a band can sound, recording themselves at home. Pretty soon we’re all going to realize that there’s no point in ever leaving the house again!

The Regrettes: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Virtuosity

Rei Toei is the title character of William Gibson’s Idoru. “She”* is an artificial intelligence-based hologram, a pop performer. When looked at by an individual, she adapts to that person’s taste in J-pop. When she performs in concert, the performance is predicated on the group’s consensus of what they think she should be.

While Rei is a synthetic performer, there have been, during the past few years, a number of biologically dead performers—Tupac, Roy Orbison, Ronnie James Dio, Frank Zappa, Whitney Houston, etc.—who have “performed” in digital renditions. And reading the reviews of these shows leads me to believe that this is something that is well accepted among the fans of the deceased.

Why is it that people find it fascinating to see a “performance” by someone who is in absolutely no condition to perform? Would it be just as engaging for them to watch, say, a movie of said performer rather than a hologram? Back in the early days of movies there were often orchestras who played the soundtrack live. (In 1981 I had the opportunity to watch Abel Gance’s reconstructed Napoleon (filmed in 1927) at the Fox Theater in Detroit with a score written by Carmine Coppola; Francis Ford’s American Zoetrope was behind the showing of the 3.5-hour film in venues across the country, which probably had a little something to do with why dad wrote the music; and it may be interesting to know that Francis was born in Detroit when dad was a musician with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra: the middle name comes from Henry Ford, for whom the hospital Francis was born in is named.) Now there need be nothing but speakers, projectors and a sufficiently robust GPU-based processor.

Is the digital performance better, say, than a cover band version of the performer(s)? Wikipedia has 24 pages of Beatles tribute bands and there is a disclaimer on the entry: “This list may not reflect recent changes.” Odds are there aren’t fewer people who are pretending but more. Could many of them, however, go away, were there to be some sort of licensing deal with the estates of John and George and the existing Ringo and Paul by companies like Base Hologram or Eyellusion?

As we are all under various stages of lockdowns, as concert venues are closed and not likely to be reopening anytime soon, might people start strapping on the HoloLens2 headset and watch their favorite performers?

Continue reading Virtuosity

New Exbats video: Ghost in the Record Store

Video: The Exbats -- “Ghost in the Record Store”

The Exbats - Ghost in the Record Store

Song for Record Store Day, April 18, 2020 released on invisible vinyl, limited edition of zero, for sale nowhere.

Are you missing shopping for inessential things like vinyl? Sad that Record Store Day has been postponed (or whatever it is they’re doing with it)? Well, just remember that some shops are haunted!

At night you might hear a quiet song
You sense his moves but the lights aren’t on
It’s just that friend and he’s still right there
Filling orders in his underwear!

Too bad you won’t be able to pick this one up on invisible vinyl. I’d line up over night for the chance to score one of these babies in its limited edition of zero! Rock and roll!

The Exbats: bandcamp, insta, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Run The Jewels video: Ooh LA LA

Video: Run The Jewels -- “Ooh LA LA” (ft. Greg Nice & DJ Premier)

Run The Jewels "Ooh LA LA" feat. Greg Nice & DJ Premier (Official Music Video)

Directed by Brian & Vanessa Beletic. From RTJ4. Single out now.

There’s nothing like a Run the Jewels song to make you feel better about the world and give you hope for the future! So glad these guys are back right when we need them most.

And it looks they got this video made in just the nick of time!

We shot this video only a few weeks before the pandemic hit with no clue as to what the future held. The fact that we got the chance to do it is damn near miraculous in hindsight.

In conceptualizing the video with our friends Brian and Vanessa Beletic we imagined the world on the day that the age old struggle of class was finally over. A day that humanity, empathy and community were victorious over the forces that would separate us based on arbitrary systems created by man.

This video is a fantasy of waking up on a day that there is no monetary system, no dividing line, no false construct to tell our fellow man that they are less or more than anyone else. Not that people are without but that the whole meaning of money has vanished. That we have somehow solved our self created caste system and can now start fresh with love, hope and celebration. It’s a dream of humanity’s V-DAY… and the party we know would pop off.

Love, RTJ

All hail Run the Jewels, the pride of this great republic!

Run The Jewels: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

A Hamburger Today: The Wimpy Approach to Tickets

One of the cartoon characters that has pretty much disappeared from the scene is Popeye the Sailor Man, the bizarrely configured individual with forearms the size of barrels and upper arms the size of twigs. He gained strength from eating spinach, not of the variety that most people might be familiar with from salads (which often had a warm bacon dressing, canceling any of the nutritional benefits), but from a can that he would crush in the middle such that it popped out of the top for quick consumption. Popeye needed the strength to take on his rival, Bluto, or Brutus, which at some point was claimed to be a set of twins, who typically was kidnapping Olive Oyl, Popeye’s girlfriend. Not even a 1980 Robert Altman movie starring Robin Williams (Popeye) and Shelley Duvall (Olive Oyl) with a screenplay by Jules Feiffer music by Harry Nilsson could save the strip.

At this point you are probably wondering whether you’ve accidentally stumbled onto some comic-book related website or that GloNo has transformed during this time of working from home.

Well, not exactly.

There is another Popeye Universe character that has recently come to mind: Wimpy. Apparently his full name is J. Wellington Wimpy. Something of a ne’er-do-well who seemingly came from a place of higher station and has fallen to a lower one. And who has become a con.

Wimpy’s catch phrase is: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

And you know that Tuesday never comes, even if it is Monday.

Even with states “opening up,” the likelihood that there will be concerts of any size anytime soon is slimmer than Olive Oyl.

Yet there are companies including Ticketmaster and AEG have sold tickets for concerts, and seem to be having a refund policy that would be familiar to Wimpy. You can get your money back on Tuesday.
Part of the approach is that a concert must be officially canceled or new dates have to be set for the show before a refund is considered.

Continue reading A Hamburger Today: The Wimpy Approach to Tickets

The Mountain Goats – Songs for Pierre Chuvin

Video: The Mountain Goats -- “Until Olympius Returns”

the Mountain Goats - Until Olympius Returns

From Songs for Pierre Chuvin, out now on Merge.

It’s hard not to feel doomed these days. Democracy, empathy, our general welfare: all of these things have been eroding away for the past few years. Longer, of course, but the erosion has ramped up lately like the rising waters of Lake Michigan eating away the shoreline.

Maybe it was inevitable. It’s probably irreversible.

This pandemic and the response to it might be the final nail in the coffin. Will our culture survive?

Our temples are record stores, independent book shops, and small restaurants. Our ceremonies are sweating with strangers in dark clubs with live music. Will any of that even exist in a couple years?

I hope so. We’ll see. Or maybe we won’t.

Do you think the fourth and fifth century pagans throughout the Roman Empire thought about stuff like that while the Christian mobs and Roman armies were systematically wiping them off the face of the earth?

On Songs for Pierre Chuvin, John Darnielle goes back in time to an era that’s hardly recognizable anymore: the 1990s. It was a time when dudes sat on the living room floor and recorded earnest songs about ancient esoterica into boomboxes. They dubbed copies of their cassettes and passed them around to their friends, who dubbed copies and passed them around to their friends, who picked out their favorite songs and compiled them onto mixtapes to impress pals and woo women. The world was physical and the exchange of these artifacts took place in dorm rooms and shitty apartments, face-to-face or delivered to mailboxes.

I first became aware of the Mountain Goats at the tail end of this era. All Hail West Texas was the last album that John Darnielle recorded on his Panasonic RX-FT500 portable cassette player. Since then Mountain Goats albums have gotten gradually more sophisticated, recording in professional studios, adding a bass player, then a drummer, eventually even a saxophone. Darnielle’s compositions have matured as well, as has his musicianship, and several recent recordings feature Darnielle on piano instead of guitar. 2017’s Goths features no guitar at all. It’s jazzy.

Continue reading The Mountain Goats -- Songs for Pierre Chuvin

Rock and roll can change your life.