Rock and Roll


Author’s note: Apologies for the long absence. Occasionally, that thing called grad school demands my attention. Also, as of late, I’ve become obsessed with the Olympics. Remedies for my case of Phelps fever, which has now developed into Phelps pneumonia, are welcome. Thank you, Bob Costas. I’ll try to post more regularly.

Driven beats with silky smooth vocals dominate Uh Huh Her’s new album, Common Reaction. The first track, “Not a Love Song,” is an excellent lead-off for a solid electro/pop/rock album. The song captures the seemingly contrasted atmosphere of the entire album—determined, upbeat songs laced with languid yearning. “Not a Love Song” begins with a fairly standard electric guitar intro that is quickly overlaid with almost angelic vocals. The chorus kicks in without apologies. Several layers of guitars and keyboards create an ethereal atmosphere tied down by an unrelenting, solid drum beat. Although the beat isn’t terribly innovative, it serves the purpose of sharpening the meter’s focus. “Not a Love Song” is probably the album’s best song, and the band chose it for a music video, complete with unicorn.
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I discovered Fountains of Wayne when I was a freshman in high school. I loved their first, self-titled album with a fervent passion intensified by the fact that they felt like a secret club only me and my best friend, Mary, belonged to. No one had heard of Fountains of Wayne. And that had never happened to me before — I had always felt behind the curve, music-wise. I listened to the old rock music my parents liked.

But there was nothing about the band that was inaccessible — the songs on that album are guitar-heavy, middle-period-Beatles-esque pop with insanely catchy hooks and lyrics that tell small stories about weirdos (or beg a beautiful woman to leave her biker boyfriend). It seemed incredible to me that everyone in the world wasn’t humming these songs. What more could you want? How could you not listen to these funny, smart, hummable songs over and over? (more…)

After reading Colin’s posting regarding venues and how they can affect the kind of night you’re going to have at a show, I decided that throwing in my two cents on the fine art of having a blast no matter where you are or who’s on stage (and the attendant concerns accompanying pre- and post-concert time) would not be a bad way to kick off my first ever foray into the world of blogging. So from the top then…
1. Playing in front of the beat:
Whether it’s a show you’ve been looking forward to for months or a spontaneous decision to go absorb some local tunes tonight, there are ways to help ensure (or at least increase the odds) that you’re getting what you want from the event.
Get a list of your 20 or so favorite acts and keep an eye on their websites or Myspace pages to see if they’ll be in your town or reasonalby close by. The list will probably change as you figure out certain people aren’t that great live, or are only worth seeing in intimate venues, as you realize the new band that won’t get out of your CD player or Ipod is more important right now than an old favorite you’ve seen several times, etc. Obviously if they’re recording an album or the next tour isn’t in your region, there’s no need to check again for a while, but periodic updates will make certain you don’t miss a show you wanted to see. If the artist is touring near you but not in your town, you can always roadtrip (more on this later), but also check the listings frequently, as show can be added to tours fairly late in the game. (Case in point, I recently took a roadtrip to Chicago that was actually unneccessary, as the band added a show in Minneapolis after I’d already bought the Chicago tickets, thinking that was as close are they were going to be. I saw ’em both nights, and they were great, but gas money is a bitch these days.) Once you’ve spotted the show(s) coming up that you want to attend/can afford, but your tickets early. This will allow better choices if the venue has assigned seating, prevent you from missing the show because it sold out, and save the few extra bucks they usually charge at the door.
Alluding back to Colin’s article for a moment, before you type that Visa number into the ol’ Ticketmaster website, do a little research. If it’s a venue you’re unfamiliar with, check the website to get a feel for the place, and get feedback from anyone you know who may have seen a show there (or check “Howwastheshow.com or concert reviews from the local paper if available, which may provide a little insight into the space you’ll be occupying for a few hours.) Maybe the band you want to see is going to be no fun in that place, and you can wait for the next tour. If everything checks out venue-wise, think out the logistics: Do you need to drive, and how long a commute is that going to be; how much is parking; is there reliable public transportation you can use instead; do you need to cab it? Plan accordingly, and leave time for late cabbies, busses, traffic in general, etc. I realize that this is not always posssible, but if you have the luxury, use it.
Understandably, the situation differs slighty if you’re headed down to the local dive bar on a whim because you just read a review of some up-and-coming act, but the same general rules apply (exempting the ticket situation: you’re going to pay a cover for that band and several others. On the off chance that the rest of the acts are terrible, is is worth it?)

2. The Day Of . . .
A breif disocurse to be adhered to if applicable: Get plenty of sleep or drink plenty of coffee; trying to rock out if you’re exhausted can be tough. Whether it’s the local band or the national tour, get there early. There are a few reasons for this: You can stake out your territory early if it’s not an assigned-seating event, & the openers/other acts might be really good. I could rattle of a list of twenty great people I’ve discovered just by getting there early enough to see them and really digging it. If the opener sucks, you can always laugh about how bad they were afterwards, or use the time for trips to the bathroom, smoke breaks, or buying beer. Speaking of beer, I know not everyone neccessarily wants to be buzzed at a show, but if you want to indulge yourself in a little debauchery, a few helpful pointers: Pregame, pregame, pregame. Booze will be exhorbatantly more expensive once you’re in the door than if you pound a few in your living room ahead of time. Obviously, any other substance abuse should also be handled beforehand so you don’t end up with front row tickets to that great new band “Mugshot” or at the least a fine (it’s not likely, per se, but why risk it?). A caviat about the preceding senteces: DO NOT show up so messed up as to be apparent to everyone around you. I have seen people turned away at the door, tickets in hand, for being too wrecked. If you are going to put a good buzz on ahead of time, please travel safely. While you’re in line, don’t be that obnoxious idiot talking too loudly (the same people who inevitably try to get the “START THE SHOW, START THE SHOW!” chant going if the headliner is five minutes late coming on stage). Be courteous to the folks working the door and selling tickets, they put up with enough bullshit every night. A breif note on concert- going fashion: fuck it. Wear whatever you want, and ignore the pointed sneers from any hipsters or other morons, with two exceptions: Closed-toed shoes are always a good idea, unless you like your feet being sqooshed, and I’ve noticed that occasionally some fool will think it’s cute to grab a hat from your head if you’re wearing one and fling it towards the stage, not often, but I’ve seen it happen a few times. So maybe not so much with the headgear (up for debate), but definitely wear shoes, not sandals.
OK, so now you’re in the door. Go to the bathroom if you have to, or get a beer, but first: Stake your claim. Look around and figure out where you want to be (it really helps to go with friends wo can hold a spot for you if you absolutely have to move for some reason). Designate one person to go get beers or whatever for the group, and make sure everyone understands the concept of taking up slightly more space than they actually do to preserve your turf. Under no circumstances should this be done aggressively or rudely, that just makes everyone’s night a little worse, but do know how to hold your space. If you’re not in an ideal spot when the first band starts, don’t sweat it, set breaks are a great opportuniy to grab some more suitable real estate.
Behavior during the show: get into it, do your thing, dance, cheer, sing along, whatever strikes your fancy, but try not to do anyhting that will make the experience less enjoyable for those around you. (ie – stepping on toes, dancing outside your space, moving in such a way that the poor short girl two rows back can’t see for half the show. If you want good karma, as a matter of fact, spot a short person who might be having a tough time and let them stand in front of you if it will help. It won’t be detremental to your night, and it might make theirs.) If you do find yourself by one or a few people who are serioulsy fucking with your groove by being morons, you have a few options: move slightly away from them, try and ignore them, or confront them. If you must choose option three, be chill about it. If they get saucy with you, it’s probably better to move than keep dealing with a bad situation, or worse, get thrown out for fighting when some drunk jackass throws a punch because you had the audacity to ask him not to repeatedly elbow for a third time. No matter who you’re seeing, with very few exceptions, there will be some of these in every crowd. If you end up in close proximity, how you deal with it can make all the difference.
After the show, the options are yours: afterparties, bars, going home to crash. Whatever you do (and I don’t mean to sound like your nagging mom here) be safe. If this means leaving your car in a parking deck for the night or getting some grub and coffee to sober up, do it, you’ll be glad, and dno’t forget that all-important glass or two of water before bed, so you can be excited to relate the night to everyone and not hungover the next day.
A brief note on roadtrips: line up your crash spot ahead of time. If you have freinds in the area, be grateful. If not, try to scope a hotel within walking distance or a short cab ride from the venue.
On festivals: These can be the best times you have, but bring the right gear if you have to camp. and stock up on as many gallon jugs of water as you’re likely to need (plus food, smokes, booze and anything else, if you don’t want to pay out the yang for ’em, or be caught without, as many festivals won’t let you leave and re-enter).
If you’re going to be extra-ultra hardcore and follow a band on tour, all of the above applies, just on a broader timeline.
And there you have it. Enjoy, and rock on.