Objects of Interest

I regularly receive emails from Wolfgang’s Vault, promoting the latest items that it wants me to purchase. Wolfgang’s, if you’re not familiar with it, is the archival trove and then some of concert promoter Wolfgang Grajonca, better known as Bill Graham, he of the Fillmore fame. It is a vast compendium of photos, vinyl, books, merch, and posters from the venues (e.g., The Filmore, Winterland, Avalon Ballroom) at which Graham staged what can now only be considered legendary shows, even though back in the ‘60s they were considered, well, shows.

The posters are the most wonderful objects. Graphic artists including Wes Wilson, Lee Conklin and Rick Griffin created a visual vocabulary on the posters they designed. In addition to the full-size posters, these works of art—yes, commercial art, but be that as it may, they were artists, not just layout jockeys—were printed as 5 x 7-inch postcards, which increased the opportunity for ownership.

In addition to the wildly imaginative lettering and graphics that these objects embody, there is another fascinating aspect to them, which are the performers they promote. As the setting was San Francisco, it is not at all surprising that The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane loom large. Often, the two bands were on the same bill.

But what is in some ways more interesting than the art is the selection of performers on a given night. The Who and Cannonball Adderly. Jimi Hendrix and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Led Zeppelin and Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity (in my humble estimation one of the best groups of the last half of the 20th century that never got its due). The Yardbirds and The Doors. Pink Floyd and Procol Harum. These and many other shows are the stuff that audio dreams are made of, the sorts of events that give rise to “If only. . . .”

As I grew up in Detroit, there was the Grande Ballroom and similar handbills created, many penned by Gary Grimshaw, many including the MC5, which was something of the house band but one that would often get top billing, except in cases like playing second to Cream and Jefferson Airplane. Again, shows that only the imagination can capture.

Continue reading Objects of Interest

Listen

When you’re in an anechoic chamber—a room full of pyramid-shaped, foot-long absorbers located on the walls, ceiling and floor (there is typically a large screen providing the footing) that keep sound waves from bouncing around—the silence isn’t, as they say, deafening, but it causes a sensation that makes it seem as though the atmosphere is somehow thicker in there. The sound goes away. You move through the space (I’ve had the opportunity to be in chambers capable of accommodating cars and instrumentation, so these chambers are sometimes like large rooms that you could even dance in) and because the nearly silent audible cues that you don’t even pay any attention to in normal activities—sounds like the fabric of your clothes brushing as you walk—are absent, it is a bit eerie. Or a lot eerie. You can hear your blood pumping, though the sound has more consistency than a rhythmic beat. It is not a place you want to be in for too long.

It makes you appreciate, well, sound.

///

John Cage’s 4’33” (In Proportional Notation) was first performed by pianist David Tudor on August 29,1952 in Woodstock, New York. There are three movements to the composition. The movements, unlike those in other musical works, consisted of Tudor opening and closing the lid of the keyboard to mark each section.

Cage recalled, according to the Museum of Modern Art, “You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.”

Continue reading Listen

New Panda Bear and Sonic Boom video: Edge Of The Edge

Video: Panda Bear & Sonic Boom – “Edge Of The Edge”

Panda Bear & Sonic Boom - Edge Of The Edge (Official Video)

Directed by Danny Perez. From Reset, out August 12 on Domino.

Not sure what I was expecting when I heard that Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom was teaming up with Animal Collective’s Panda Bear, but it certainly wasn’t jaunty bubblegum pop like “Edge Of The Edge.” Don’t get me wrong: It’s great. It’s super fun and it’ll make you happy.

One taste to break the fall
One way to take us all to the shore
Can’t say it’s what you bargained for
It’s forever at the push of a button…

Glad it’s not too heavy. Who needs that right now?

Panda Bear and Sonic Boom: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Panda Bear and Sonic Boom video: Edge Of The Edge

Seeing & Hearing

One of the means by which those who have bought the seats in arenas that are so high that there are reduced levels of available oxygen, which makes vision blurred in some cases and headaches in nearly all (which makes said person wish they’d have ponied up a few more bucks for the ducat), is for there to be massive video screens above the stage such that all of the people in the arena, especially those in those upper tiers, have the sense they are watching TV.

(A digression: If you are in a situation where your view of a person or persons on stage is really quite reasonable and there is an array of giant screens, to what extent do your eyes tend to drift to the screen rather than to the actual human(s)? I must confess that I often look at the screens, not because it necessarily shows anything that I can’t see by moving my eyes down a few degrees toward 0, but possibly because in a lifetime of looking at screens, there is simply a tendency. So let’s say for the sake of argument that the performers on the stage are simply good look-alike mimics and the audio is a recording of the actual performers. However, the screen shows the actual performance as recorded. Those who have good seats would be able to discern the difference, but the majority of the people in the arena, who are watching the screens, wouldn’t. If they were to watch the show and leave, not knowing that the people on the stage were stand-ins, would their experience be any different than if the bona-fide performers performed?)

Last week in Hong Kong during a performance of Cantopop group Mirror, a metal suspension cord snapped and a giant screen fell to the stage, injuring a dancer who was on stage in support of the band. An AP photo of the falling screen is potentially horrific: it is hard to image that there was only one person hospitalized, especially given that there are 12 members of Mirror, so the stage was crowded. (Earlier in the week, at another performance at the Hong Kong Coliseum, a performer fell off the stage. Performing can be a dangerous thing.)

Maybe the cheap seats for Springsteen have a benefit: safety.

///

Also last week Spotify released its Q2 2022 earnings.

Continue reading Seeing & Hearing

The Price of Performance

“Keep me searching for a pot of gold/And I’m growing old”—with apologies to Neil Young

For the past several months, climate activists in London have been staging protests at the British Museum. They want the institution to stop taking sponsorship money from bp. bp (formerly British Petroleum) is, of course, an oil and gas company. There is probably a bp station close by to where you are right now. The company says, “Our purpose is reimagining energy for people and our planet. We want to help the world reach net zero and improve people’s lives.” I don’t know what “reimagining energy” means. Probably some clever copywriter came up with that term. It is hard to imagine (to say nothing of reimagine) precisely how a company that is primarily predicated on drilling holes to pump out fossil fuels that are then processed so that they can be combusted in various things like motor vehicles is going to get to net zero, even by 2050 because as long as these carbon-based fuels are burned, the consequences are, well, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration: “the substances produced when gasoline is burned (carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and unburned hydrocarbons) contribute to air pollution. Burning gasoline also produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.”

Just how the elimination of the sponsorship by bp for the 990,000-square-foot history museum—which, by the way, has free admission—is going to have an effect on the chemistry of combustion or on the use of petrol there or gasoline here is difficult to suss, but there is something to be said for the pluck of those stalwart Brits who are gluing themselves to things like paintings to prove their dedication to the mission. (What, I wonder, do they do when they have to go to the loo? Bust out the nail polish remover and make a quick break?).

Whether it is a museum or a band, the importance of sponsorship—a.k.a., funding—is absolutely important.

Continue reading The Price of Performance

New Daystar video: Saints & Sinners

Video: Daystar – “Saints & Sinners”

Daystar - Saints & Sinners (Lyric Video)

Single out now.

Check it out. A new double-A-side seven-inch from GLONO co-founder Derek Phillips’ band Daystar. “Saints & Sinners” is a brooding psychedelic burner while its flipside “Get Your Gun” is more of a riff-driven choogler.

The lyric video for “Saints & Sinners” is an appropriately creepy mashup of footage featuring Jim Jones and Elvis Presley, two fellows with big personalities and killer sunglasses. If one is supposed to represent a saint and the other a sinner, it’s anybody’s guess which is which!

Philosophy and The Recording Academy

The Recording Academy—which, if you think about it, is a rather unusual name for the organization in that Merriam-Webster has it that academy, when used in a capitalized manner as it is here, is “(a) the school for advanced education founded by Plato; (b) the philosophical doctrines associated with Plato’s Academy,” and near as I can tell, there is not a whole lot of philosophizing going on during the annual GRAMMY Awards®; the third definition has it as “a society of learned persons organized to advance art, science, or literature” and the fourth “a body of established opinion widely accepted as authoritative in a particular field,” so while it is clear that there’s nothing Platonic about it, we have to wonder whether the Recording Academy Voting Members are “a society of learned persons” or if they somehow are the keepers of “opinion widely accepted as authoritative,” which doesn’t seem to be the case due to controversies associated with some awardees each and every year—has come out with a set of rules and guidelines for the 65th GRAMMY Awards.

The first round of voting for the awards, which will be presented on February 5, 2023, opens on October 13 and closes 10 days later. Nominations are announced three weeks later (November 15), then a month after that the final round of voting begins. What are the voters during that month doing? Wouldn’t one assume that they’ve already heard the music of the nominees? After all, they have voted to put those musicians in that category of finalists. But there is one thing that is somewhat curious vis-à-vis the presumed learned or authoritative Academy: two weeks after the nominees have been announced is the “Deadline for errors and omissions to the nominations.” So does this mean that somehow there has been a GRAMMY-level individual or group that has somehow slipped by the voting members of the Academy? If that’s the case, what has been going on since October 13?

The final round of voting begins on December 14, which means, that there is roughly two weeks for those who were overlooked (overheard?) to have been put on the ballot so they can be considered. The voting ends January 4, 2023.

One of the criticisms of the awards is that of relevance. So the organizers have come up with some new categories or names for previously existing categories. There is now “Alternative Music Performance” and “Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media.” They recognized that for the 64th award there was “No performance Category to acknowledge the popularity of Americana music” so for the 65th there is the new category, “Americana Performance.”

Note the word popularity there. A question of whether the GRAMMY Awards are presented to the best or the most popular seems to be answered with the use of that term by the learned individuals.

Continue reading Philosophy and The Recording Academy

New Hallelujah The Hills video: Superglued To You

Video: Hallelujah The Hills – “Superglued To You”

Superglued To You - Hallelujah The Hills [Official Video]

Directed by Ryan H. Walsh. Single out now.

An exciting week for Hills fans! On Monday I received my long-awaited copy of I’m You on vinyl and then today we get a brand new song and video. Not only that, but hints that a bigger project may be on its way.

“So, what’s this song for? What’s it’s a part of? We’re not ready to say quite yet, but we will later this summer, and at that point we’ll show you exactly which cards are up our sleeves and reveal our hand.”

Is this going to be the official follow-up to I’m You, or something else? We’ll see. Until then, we’ll be playing this new song on repeat.

How long has it been now?
It feels like maybe two years
You could tell me ten and I wouldn’t even blink an eye.

That’s the set up. It’s about two people bumping into each other for the first time in a while, but of course it’s about much more than that. Covid has warped our continuum and rendered the measure of time irrelevant if not impossible. So it goes. The rest of the song tells the story of the doomed romance with the stop-action video fleshing out some of the details. It’s weird that little plastic figurines can elicit genuine emotion but that’s filmmaking for you I guess!

PS – The I’m You double-LP is a beautiful object and it sounds great. Definitely worth seeking out. Looks like there are still some available via Bandcamp right now.

Hallelujah the Hills: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New First Aid Kit video: Angel

Video: First Aid Kit – “Angel”

First Aid Kit - Angel (Official Video)

Directed by Mats Udd. Single out now on Columbia.

Is First Aid Kit becoming Abba? They’re both Swedish groups with tight harmonies and groovy jumpsuits, but “Angel” might be the poppiest thing we’ve heard from the Söderberg sisters.

They describe the new song as “a hopeful tune for these crazy times about accepting other people even if you don’t always see eye to eye. It’s also about being kinder to yourself. We wanted it to feel really big, but vulnerable at the same time, something you can cry to and dance to as well.”

So basically: Abba.

Firs Aid Kit: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong–or Can They?

While the numbers are not laser etched in diamond*, Michael Jackson has sold some 258.9-million albums. This puts him behind the Beatles (289.5 million) but ahead of his first, former father-in-law (well, he would have been had he not been dead for 17 years): 230.6 million. All of these are/were (how do you count when the Beatles no longer exist, nor do either of the two Kings?) pikers compared to Rihanna, who has sold an estimated 334.7 million albums and the 34-year-old billionaire has, presumably, a long career ahead of her.

But back to Jackson. According to Spotify, he has 30,531,780 monthly listeners.

“Billie Jean” has had 1,149,441,023 streams. Consider: the population of China is 1.4-billion people, so it is as though most all of them know that “She’s just a girl who claims I am the one.”

Given these numbers it is safer than houses to claim that there have been a lot of people who have listened to Michael Jackson, either then or right now.

Continue reading 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong–or Can They?

Rock and roll can change your life.