Tag Archives: Features

Riot Fest 2023: We’re All Alright

Don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 52. I was a little nervous about attending a three-day music fest this year. Would I have the stamina? Could my feet survive standing up all day long all weekend? Would I still have fun? We missed Riot Fest last year because of fucking covid, so I knew my fest game would be rusty. Nevertheless, I persisted.

And you know what? I had nothing to worry about. And by the looks of some of the people in the crowd, I’ve still got a lot of years left in me. Looking strictly at age demographics, Riot Fest is surprisingly diverse. I was definitely not the oldest person there. And despite its punk and punk-adjacent lineup, they draw a lot of young people too. Turns out plenty of kids still like guitar music. Thank goodness. They’ll be able to push me around in my wheelchair when my feet finally give out on me.

As always happens at fests, there were a couple of bands I wanted to see first thing on Friday. And as always happens, I missed them. I would’ve loved to have seen Olivia Jean and the Bobby Lees. But nope. At least we made it in for Quasi, who were everything I was hoping they would be. After the 2019 car accident that broke her collar bone and her tibia, all fans of rock and roll drumming were scared that we might never get to see Janet Weiss behind the kit again, so it was wonderful to see her back at full strength and as powerful and explosive and musical as ever. And Sam Coomes is a great frontman…or sideman or whatever you call the singer in a two-piece that place their instruments facing each other on the stage.

It’s been thirty years since I’ve seen any incarnation of P-Funk. Back in the 90s, George Clinton would come out on stage in dreads made out of yarn and wearing a Smurfs bed sheet. These days Clinton wears a bejeweled captain’s hat and a custom Cosmic Slop hockey jersey and he’s like DJ Khaled up there, where nobody really knows if he’s contributing anything to the music. He’s the host of the party, making sure everybody’s having a funky good time. And then he goes back to sitting on the drum riser until the party needs another boost. Whenever a survey asks about the greatest American rock band, I always immediately say Funkadelic. George Clinton has had more of an influence on today’s music than just about anybody and he deserves our eternal respect. “Cosmic Slop” is one of the greatest songs of all time, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from this performance. He’s been on a farewell tour since 2019 and I’m glad I got the chance to see him one more time. But I won’t be sad if he retires for real now.

Continue reading Riot Fest 2023: We’re All Alright

“Ain’t it hard when you’ve discovered that. . .”

I’ve been getting solicitations from Rolling Stone to subscribe in a way that brings to mind donation appeals from the likes of the World Wildlife Fund and National Public Radio. The logos on the tote bags on offer aren’t the only things that are different. After all, the WWF and NPR are not in the business of making a profit (yes, they need money to exist, but there is another reason for their existence other than something measured in terms of EBIT).

Rolling Stone, however, is owned by Penske Media Corporation, which owns what can be thought of as a frightening number of properties including:

  • Variety
  • The Hollywood Reporter
  • Billboard
  • Rob Report
  • ARTnews
  • Artforum
  • Art in America (clearly they’re big on art)

And in the non-publication space:

  • American Music Awards
  • Dick Clark Productions
  • Golden Globe Awards
  • SxSW

There are more.

It is in the profit-making business. (Which could be redundant.)

The company unapologetically proclaims:

Our Mission:

To be the world’s premier publishing and media organization through delivering superior and innovative content, with a commitment to upholding journalistic excellence and driving today’s media evolution, all while offering the finest opportunities to the industry’s brightest talent.

As mission statements go, it pretty much checks the boxes.

Continue reading “Ain’t it hard when you’ve discovered that. . .”

“And I won’t quit. . .”

During 2017 to 2021 Bruce Springsteen appeared at the Walter Kerr Theatre and St. James Theatre in New York, “Springsteen on Broadway.” As Weil/Mann/Leiber/Stoller had it:

“But they’re dead wrong, I know they are
‘Cause I can play this guitar
And I won’t quit til I’m a star on Broadway”

There was a hiatus until February 1, 2023, when Bruce got the whole band back together again and kicked off a tour in Tampa, Florida. By mid-April the band played from coast to coast and in between. Then it was off to Europe, with shows in Spain, Ireland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Scotland, Switzerland, England, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria. . .then back in August to play Wrigley Field and a continuation of the tour.

When he was singing, playing and storytelling in New York, Springsteen was on one of the two stages—just a few blocks away from one another (48th and 44th Streets)—about 260 times.

Looking at the itinerary of the current tour, it seems like he is working to top that while racking up more sky miles than most mileage whores could even dream of.

Continue reading “And I won’t quit. . .”

Time Marches On. Or Does It Dance?

The remaining Beatles and the Stones—which could also be described as “remaining,” although for some reason that doesn’t seem to apply to that band, when arguably it should—together making music.

That is what Variety reports could have happened, given that the Stones are finishing a new album, Hackney Diamonds, in Los Angeles and Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr happened to participate in recording sessions with them within the past few weeks.

Once, this would have been the stuff of wide-eyed amazement. Those two bands essentially dominated the 1960s and defined music for years to come. It was a battle of the bands that the two were in, although this was in terms of the fan base, which picked one over the other.

Yes, there was the participation of Lennon and McCartney on the Stones’ “We Love You,” from 1967. There was Lennon performing with “Yer Blues” with Keef as part of 1968’s “Rock and Roll Circus.”

Those were but moments.

But now it is, I think, rather sad.

Continue reading Time Marches On. Or Does It Dance?

Living in a Virtual World

Although it might seem as though concerts are in full swing—after all, there is the galactic phenomenon of the Taylor Swift tour, to say nothing of Beyoncé and others (yes, The Who Hits Back! is still running in earnest because Townsend and Daltry just can’t get enough)—as Phaedrus told Socrates, “Things are not always what they seem.”

For one thing, concert-going has become an economic issue for most people, and we’re talking Federal Reserve Board-level for the regular person. Th average ticket price in 2022 was $111, up from $90 in 2018. While $21 might not seem like that big a deal, look at it another way: that’s a 19% increase. Add 19% to all of the related aspects of one’s concert-going experience and it is, as they say, real money.

According to Morning Consult, 37% of adults say they’ve attended fewer concerts this year. That’s not none. But when more than a third of those who would don’t, then there are more than moderate warning signs for those who may not be a first-tier draw.

When that 37% is broken down demographically, the warning signs are in LARGE LETTERS and with all manner of flashing lights and other attention-grabbing aspects.

40% of Gen X members say they’ve seen fewer shows. Only 10% of them say they’ve attended more.

And while there is often a gulf between Gen X and Boomers, that’s not the case when it comes to attending concerts: 41% say they’ve seen fewer shows and 9% say they’ve seen more. (It is also worth noting that the Elders have actually stayed moderately more consistent, as 36% say they’ve attended the same number of shows as they have previously. That’s 4% better than the 32% of Xers who have done the same.)

And while those two generational cohorts have good levels of income vis-à-vis those who are either up and coming or who have student loan debt that is about equal to that of a small country, the macro finding is that 82% of those attending fewer concerts say that it because. . .the tickets are too expensive. That’s the number-one reason.

Continue reading Living in a Virtual World


One of the things that has a certain resonance during a concert is if a member of the band mentions the name of the city where the event is being held. Given that these people are endlessly on the road playing in venues that are probably pretty much interchangeable from the point of view of back stage and on stage, there is something to be said for their speaking the name, as though there is a personal connection.

(This naming convention also carries over to recorded music, even if it is Huey Lewis enumerating bergs.)

The Killers are on a world tour that recently brought them to Georgia. No, not the Peach Tree State. The country that shares a border with Russia, just south of Chechnya. Georgia had been annexed by the Soviet Union in 1922. During the 1980s a successionist effort grew such that in 1991 the country regained its independence. The country turned toward the West, which annoyed the Russians. In 2008 Putin wasn’t the president of Russia because that would have meant three consecutive terms, so he, in effect, turned the position over to Dmitry Medvedev, his First Deputy Prime Minister, and he took the Prime Minister position. In effect, he maintained control. In August 2008 Russia invaded Georgia. As Brian Whitmore, nonresident senior fellow of the Atlantic Council put it: “In 2008 Russia invaded Georgia, occupied 20 percent of its territory, and got away with it.” Arguably one of the reasons why there is substantial Western support for Ukraine today is because of what Putin did in Georgia 15 years ago.

Remember: Russia seized 20% of Georgian territory and still occupies it.

And when Putin invaded Ukraine, the Georgian people became profoundly concerned that they could be next. (The Ukrainian border with Russia is northwest of the Georgia-Russia border.)

Which brings me back to The Killers.

Continue reading Politics/Music/Law

Too Crowded

“On the expressway to your heart
The expressway is not the best way
At five o’clock it’s much too crowded
Much too crowded, so crowded”
— “Expressway to Your Heart,” The Soul Survivors

One of the things that is generally part of the concert experience, almost regardless of size, whether the venue is a comparatively compact club or a stadium that is capable to handling the population of a small city, happens twice, both before and after the event.


First is it a challenge of finding it, which can mean a lot of driving around, looking for a spot that won’t result in a ticket after the show. What’s more, there are other calculations that have to be taken into account: what if it is forecast to rain and the spot happens to be blocks away from the venue: getting drenched isn’t exactly something to look forward to, even if the storm occurs after the show.

Or it could be an event of sufficient magnitude such that when you buy your tickets there is the option to also buy parking in one of several lots or structures. While the destination for the parking is certain, there typically a long line that inches forward into the lot as people scan the QR codes on their phones, a scan that sometimes takes several tries for some of those ahead of you in line.

Anticipation for the show becomes alloyed with the frustration of the lag in actually getting there.

Then there is the exit.

Continue reading Too Crowded

What’s There That We Don’t Know

John Constable was an early 19th century British landscape painter about whom you—even if you took an art history course at some point—probably know very little about. In fact, you’ve likely not heard of him.

However, in art circles he is something of a big deal. Writing for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Elizabeth E. Barker observed, “Today he is often considered, along with J. M. W. Turner, one of England’s greatest landscape painters.” And Turner is sufficiently widely know such that Mike Leigh made a biographical film about him in 2014, Mr. Turner, with Timothy Spall (yes, of Harry Potter fame), portraying the painter: this is a movie that must be seen—or at least heard—to be believed because there are more grunts and other noises coming from Spall’s character than words (to exaggerate just a wee bit), and he’s the focus of the film. (I suppose most of us would like our artists and other characters to be more articulate and refined.)

A couple who live in a castle in Scotland, Craufurdland Castle, which has been in the family for 800 years, have a painting, Old Bridge Over the Avon, about which Simon Houison Craufurd, laird of the castle said, “It’s a painting that I have seen I don’t know how many times and have never actually paid any attention to it.”

The painting has been owned by the Craufurd family since 1918. Yes, he probably saw it plenty of times even if it wasn’t over some massive fireplace. (Constable liked to pain on big canvases: He wrote in 1821: “I do not consider myself at work without I am before a six-foot canvas.”) Yes, no surprise at this point, the painting was determined to be by Constable.

The painting is worth on the order of $2-million.

While this doesn’t change the reputation of Constable in any way, it seems remarkable that there was the work of one of the masters of British painting in plain sight for over 100 years and it was not known to be what it is. (Presumably it was known to be a Constable when it was purchased by one of Craufurd’s forebearers.)

Continue reading What’s There That We Don’t Know

“There’ll Be Spandex Jackets. . .”

A painting known as the de Brécy Tondo recently went on display Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in Bradford, England. This is notable because the painting, for decades, has been controversial.

Some people claimed it was painted by Raphael. Others claimed it was a copy of the artist’s Sistine Madonna alterpiece done sometime during the Victorian period, more than 300 years after Raphael worked.

The conclusion that the work was done by the artist and not by some imitator was largely predicated on artificial intelligence. Of course.

Hassan Ugail, a professor at the University of Bradford, and the director the its center of visual computing, developed an AI model that was evidently trained on Old Masters.

Hassan told The Guardian, “My AI models look far deeper into a picture than the human eye, comparing details such as the brush strokes and pigments. Testing the Tondo using this new AI model has shown startling results, confirming it is most likely by Raphael.”

Somewhat more substantive that it was done in the 16th century not the 19th is that Howell Edwards, a molecular spectroscopy professional at the University of Bradford, determined the pigments used were Renaissance-era appropriate. Odds are that some Victorian didn’t chance upon a cache of 300-year-old paint and decide to fake a Raphael.

Whether it is actually the work of the artist is something that, until someone invents a time machine, will never be completely known, AI techniques notwithstanding.

How do we know that the de Brécy Tondo wasn’t painted by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino’s dad, Giovanni Santi, who had been a painter, as well?

Continue reading “There’ll Be Spandex Jackets. . .”

Look for the Union [Record] Label

With the current SAG-AFTRA strike, there are plenty of actors who are not trodding the proverbial stage but, assuming they are supportive individuals who care about their colleagues (and who are sufficiently self-interested in the union getting a good contract with the studios), walking the picket line.

But it is evidently the case that performers like to perform (which could explain, in part, why there are so many performers, particularly of the musical genre, who continue long after you’d think they’d have wandered off to Del Boca Vista).

For some of them, the answer is fairly straightforward: They can return to a full-throated embrace of where they once belonged.

As musicians.

Here are some:

Dwight Yoakam: Although Yoakam is associated with the Bakersfield Sound, he was born in genre-appropriate Pikesville, Kentucky. Bakersfield is a couple hours north of LA, which is the place where Yoakam moved to in the early ‘80s. The distance from LA to Hollywood is, well, in some cases, nothing. Anyway, Yoakam released Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. in 1986, followed by Hillbilly Deluxe (1987) and Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room (1988), which contains the cover of Buck Owens “Streets of Bakersfield” (to close the loop on the opening sentence here). In 1991 Yoakam appeared in an episode of a TV series, “P.S.I. Luv U,” as a stuntman and. . .country singer. Then it was from the small screen to the large, as he played a truck driver in a crime caper with an interesting triumvirate on the bill for Red Rock West: Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper and Lara Flynn Boyle. That was released in 1993, the year of YoakamThis Time, which includes “Ain’t That Lonely Yet,” which garnered him his first Grammy. His biggest film performance to date was in 1996’s Sling Blade, where he co-stars with Billy Bob Thornton—himself a musician as he was a drummer in a band named Tres Hombres. Yoakam then appeared in The Newton Boys (1998) directed by Richard Linklater, and headed by Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke and Skeet Ulrich, which I mention because “Skeet Ulrich” is such an interesting name. Getting closer to his métier, he appeared in a thriller, The Minus Man (1999)—also starring Sheryl Crow. Perhaps trying to get some sort of EGOT, in 2000 he co-wrote, directed, starred in, and wrote a soundtrack for South of Heaven, West of Hell. 2002 put him in David Fincher’s Panic Room. There were a few more acting rolls, with one of the more notable being in the streaming show “Goliath” (2016), where he was (1) creepy and (2) reunited with Billy Bob Thornton. 2016 was the last year he released an album, Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars. . . . The time may be right.

Continue reading Look for the Union [Record] Label