Tag Archives: Features

Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)

Arguably the biggest cohort of people who attend concerts—which seem to be the means by which a number of performers are finding to be the means, perhaps the only means, by which they are able to make a sufficient amount of money to keep the lights on—are students, and directly after them are those who have recently been students.

According to FinanceBuzz the average ticket price for classic rock acts between 2017 and 2021 was $119.14. Pop: $100.65. Rock: $85.94. Then within those categories, the performer with the highest average ticket price during a single tour for Classic Rock was Bruce Springsteen, at $508.93. Pop, Lady Gaga: $337.43. Rock: Metallic: $229.31.

These numbers are enough for one to shout Jesu!

Which then might lead to a solid financial move, in that the least expensive musical genre is Christian, with the average ducat going for $39.38.

That’s a third of the average price of a ticket for Classic Rock.

The Christian performer with the highest average ticket price was Laurent Daigle, at $58.64.

That’s about 12% of the price of a ticket to see the Boss on Broadway.

Which brings me back to students and those who have recently attended organizations of higher learning.

A recently conducted survey by Morning Consult based on the fact that the federal student loan payment moratorium is going to disappear in 2023 found that 30% of the respondents said that they would “probably not” be able to afford their student loan payments and another 28% said that they’d “definitely not” be able to pay.

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No Riot Fest for us this year :(

We’re supposed to be pulling into Chicago right about now. On the Skyway, driving into the city.

We’ve gone to each Riot Fest since 2016, the year we finally gave up on the bloated Lollapalooza. Compared to what Lolla had become, Riot Fest was a breath of fresh air. An independent music festival that featured lots of guitar bands (“punk-adjacent” is how I describe it to my normie dad friends), and they seem to care about its attendees (plenty of port-a-potties, relatively cheap food options, lots of room, chill security). It was cancelled in 2020 because of covid but came back last year after it was proven that you could safely do that if you required proof of vaccination or a negative test.

Remember those hopeful months before omicron? Back when we still believed that immunity would last at least a year and possibly a lifetime, including from mild cases. Shouldn’t even need boosters. Remember that? Oops.

But that’s science for you, always learning, always updating. New variants change the rules. So it goes.

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Two Things: One Disturbing, One Puzzling

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis*

Last week the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released a report titled “Provisional Life Expectancy Estimates for 2021.” To calculate how things are going for those of us who are, well, living, “Provisional life expectancy estimates were calculated using complete period life tables based on provisional death counts for 2021 from death records received and processed by NCHS as of April 24, 2022; provisional numbers of births for the same period based on birth records received and processed by NCHS as of May 3, 2022; and July 1, 2021, postcensal population estimates based on the 2010 decennial census.”

The results are not good. “U.S. life expectancy at birth for 2021, based on nearly final data, was 76.1 years, the lowest it has been since 1996. Male life expectancy (73.2) and female life expectancy (79.1) also declined to levels not seen since 1996.”

1996 was the year that Lisa Marie Presley filed for divorce from Michael Jackson. Chris Isaak appeared on Friends. Garth Brooks refused his American Music Award for Favorite Overall Artist because he said music is produced by a collective of people, not individuals (something that has only increased geometrically but which seems to be something not talked about). Snoop Dogg was acquitted of first-degree murder, but the voluntary manslaughter charge led to a jury deadlock and consequent mistrial. Alanis Morissette received Album of the Year Grammy for Jagged Little Pill. Phil Collins announced he was leaving Genesis. Sammy Hagar left Van Halen in June and in September the band appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards (we’re going to be getting to that) with David Lee Roth. Kiss reunited and kicked off a tour at Tiger Stadium (which the Tigers exited in 1999). The Spice Girls released “Wannabe,” their debut single. Tupac died. Eminem released his debut album.

Yes, the life expectancy today is what it was back then.

And back then seem quite back then.

Continue reading Two Things: One Disturbing, One Puzzling

Kisses and Concerts

You Just Put Your Lips Together and. . .

Rock and roll, from the very start, has always been about love. Not necessarily deep, abiding love because, let’s face it, the audience for a classic 2:30 song is not someone who is necessarily going to spend time pouring over the Compleat Works of John Donne

“Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks.”

–after listing to “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” #15 on Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”; #1 is Aretha’s “Respect” and there is something about more than kissing going on here:

“Ooh, your kisses, sweeter than honey
And guess what? So is my money
All I want you to do for me, is give it to me when you get home”

Uh, yes.

And on the subject of kisses, there is the all-time lip-locking Hall & Oates’ “Kiss on My List”:

“But if you insist on knowing my bliss
I’ll tell you this
If you want to know what the reason is
I only smile when I lie, then I’ll tell you why

your kiss is on my list”

Which leads to this fun fact of the staple of songs, kissing.

So far as I know, there are no songs about cold sores. (Perhaps an opportunity there for someone.) [I apologize in advance, Mac, for introducing you to this one. -ed.]

According to a study recently published in Science Advances on DNA extracted from a 5,000-year-old tooth, HSV-1, the herpes strain that gives rise to said sores, “hint that changing cultural practices during the Bronze Age—including the emergence of romantic kissing—could have factored into HSV-1’s meteoric rise,” writes Nature.

As the uninestimable Toby Keith has it in “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This,”:

“I got a funny feeling
The moment that your lips touched mine”

I’m thinking HSV-1.

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All That Is Solid Melts Into Digits

The first time I opened my Kindle “library” on a browser I was surprised: There, next to several titles, was an indication that there is an “Update Available.”

This was the case for books written by authors no longer existent. For books of a recent vintage.

These updates are for the most part invisible to the reader.

There are several reasons why a given book might need an update.

For example, typos could have been identified and of need of fixing. Sometimes the conversion from the page plates to the digital format results in seriously bad breaks that require adjustments.

It could be that a given author who has published a hardcover version of, say, a biography has obtained additional information and so the paperback edition of the book includes that. Consequently, that information might be rolled into the Kindle version of the book.

But there are conceivably other things that could happen that are less benign, especially in this age where we seem to be reverting to book banning: Might someone who is so politically inclined not go into the digital file for a book or several and take a metaphoric ax to the content that she or he feels is in some way inappropriate? For a physical book on a shelf that is something that cannot be done in a way that doesn’t leave the paper in tatters. For the digital book that is something that could go without much notice. This would give a whole new notion to the concept of an “abridged edition.”

The question this raises is when is something “done”? When is it complete?

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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