Archive for September, 2009

The Soulsavers feat. Mark Lanegan

September 22, 2009

The Soulsavers came to the nation’s capitol on an absolutely beautiful day, and the Soulsavers only added to the day’s beauty. Touring for their new CD “Broken” (and we are all thanking them for choosing a shorter album name) they decided to play intimate venues. For Washington DC, that meant the Rock and Roll Hotel. The venue was indeed small. They had a soundboard on the stage and there was barely enough room on the stage for all of them, but there were still rocking out.

The opening act was Red Ghost who provided vocals for the cover of “Praying Ground” on “Broken”. I got there in time to hear about half her set (My apt is not Metro accessible and neither is the venue, so getting there was quite a journey). The songs I did hear, however, really impressed me. She has some pipes and can really belt out a tune. I am going to have to get her EP. The rest of the crowd agreed with me as she left to a good ovation (as good as it could be with small crowd).

She walked off stage and I knew what was next. The last time I saw the Soulsavers was in 2007 in Los Angeles. I count that as my favorite concert of all time. A lot of stars were aligned that night. It was the first time I had seen Mark live in over a year, it was at my favorite venue, it was with a band I really enjoy, and I was there with good friends. Now seeing Mark play live is old hat. I’ve seen him 3 times since then and 6 overall. But it is always different when he comes around with the Soulsavers and tonight was no different.

They started with a rocking version of “Ask the Dust” off of the “It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s the Way You Land” CD. Mark walked on stage and they went right into “Ghosts of You and Me” and we were on our way.

The night was a mix of songs from “Broken” and songs from “It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s the Way You Land” with highlights that included “Some Misunderstanding”, “Paper Money”, “Jesus of Nothing”, “Unbalanced Pieces”,  “You Will Miss Me When I Burn”, and “Kingdoms of Rain”. The band was in top form, it seemed, really adding a lot to the music and the live experience.

They ended the set with the seminal “Hit the City” and they walked off stage. The facade quickly ended as the band walked back on stage (minus Rich and Mark) and sang a stirring rendition of “By My Side”. After the song was over, Mark and Rich joined the band back on stage and BLEW us away with the powerful “Revival“. I’ve heard that song over 50 times in the last 2 years, and it still blows me away every time.

The show seemed to end as quickly as it started, but we were left in amazement. After the show was over I made my way over to the merchandise stand to pick up a shirt and a live CD I had heard about. To my great surprise, the live CD was from the show at the Troubadour back in December of 2007. It came full circle.

Interestingly enough, due to the “no flash” rule, I was able to snap probably the best picture I have ever taken.

Mark Lanegan

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Pop Music: The Bell Tolls for Thee

September 2, 2009

Popular music had a good run in America. It lasted from the late 1800s to about the mid-1990s. So, roughly 100 years. We had everything from Ragtime, to Jazz, to Blues, to Rock, to Rap, to Country. Since the vast majority of this time frame was dominated by rock music, I will focus on that. It is, after all, what lead to the downfall of popular music. Some will argue and say that it is not dead. It rose from the ashes of hair metal and glam rock, and it can rise again. I would argue, though that it is dead. We have factors that are in place now that were not in place during other times when good music was pushed aside. I am going to explain why this time it is dead.

There are several factors that lead to the demise of pop music, but the Internet is not one of them. A lot of people (most notably, record executives). It can’t be the Internet. Ever since the early 80s, with the invention of recordable cassette tapes, the technology has been in place to illegally obtain music. Is it easier? Sure, there is no denying that. However, it was not hard in the 80s and 90s to borrow a CD from your friend and record it on to a cassette. A bigger reason than the Internet is that record companies are not putting out music that people want to own. Here is a little case study to prove my point. Fed up with record labels, Nine Inch Nails (NIN) decided to release their record themselves. Granted, you need a lot of money to do this, but that is not the point. They had several options for users. You could buy a super deluxe version for $350, a double CD for $10, or you could download the entire album for free and only pay if you want to. The results were astounding. People were very generous paying for free downloads and NIN sold out of the super deluxe $350 versions as well. They were able to do this because they were giving people music they liked. It was so successful that Radiohead did the same thing a few months later.

A bigger reason are music clubs. Most of them are 21 and over. That presents a huge problem. Most people decide what kind of music they like when they are in high school. Going to a club to see a new band perform is no longer an option for them. If they want to see live music, they are forced to go to the arena shows. Inherently, there is nothing wrong with arena shows. Some really good bands band s have become popular, and have been able to have these shows. However, times have changed. It began with the death of radio.

For a band to get radio play these days is very, very difficult. There are about 5 media companies controlling all the radio stations in the country. They care about ratings so they can charge more for advertising. It’s simple business. They do not entrust DJs to be able to pick songs that will keep listeners from changing stations. No. They have focus groups and only select the most popular to be played on the radio. the popular songs are chosen because the songs fit a pattern they are familiar with. This pattern was started by the record company executives who think they know what hit records are. When Kurt Cobain said that he was waiting for the “dinosaurs” in the music industry to die, it may have sounded hip and cool, but, ironically, it killed music. You see, the dinosaurs knew that they did not know what was popular with kids, so they were more willing to try different things out and were happy with whatever was popular. Now, these young executives think they know what sells with the kids and only accept records that fit into their vision. Music has never been “one size fits all” until now.

Kids today, have a very hard time discovering music that is away from the “mainstream”. That’s too bad because they are missing the best music out there without a doubt. They think they are getting the best. When will perception be reality? When that happens, we’re all going to be sorry.


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