Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Venues, Artists, Social Media and the Web

Music venues in my town are horrible at social media and their own websites leave much to be desired. If I were an artist, this would not sit well with me. However, artists themselves could do more.

Venues

In a town with a population of about 100,000 we have at least 20 venues that have live music on a regular basis, probably more. I don't know all of them because some I don't care for the music they feature. To be fair, there are a few that do a good job of promoting shows, but there are far too many who don't. If you're a regular at said venue, then you know what's going on, otherwise it's a crap shoot.

A newer venue has artists every weekend. Their website makes no mention of shows. I was in the other day for lunch and was asking for details from the waitress. I mentioned the poor website and she said they were working on it but to check Facebook because it's all there. Checked Facebook, clicked on upcoming events, nothing. There was one post that indicated live music on Friday and Saturday with the names of the artists. ONE POST. They don't have a Twitter account.

Another venue, which is predominately a restaurant, has a pretty cool outdoor music vibe.Their Twitter account is nothing but food pics (which is ok, but who is playing?) The website has no mention of who is playing.

Surely at some point a venue has a bartender or a server who has been around long enough to have gained trust. Pay them some extra money to promote on social media. They're probably already active there anyway.

Or maybe there is a market for social media managers on a small scale, I don't know. But do something.

Artists

This is much less of an issue. Most artists today promote themselves through social media. Here's the rub: If i don't know who you are, I'm not following you on social media. BandsInTown is a great tool. Last weekend there were more live shows in town than I knew about. Friday night had three artists on BandsInTown. There were probably  4X that many shows.

I don't know what it takes for an artist to use that app, but for a music fan, it's free and useful. Especially if the venue sucks at promotion. If I don't know you're in town, I'm only going to find you by accident (which has happened, but it's a crap shoot). 

You may think it doesn't matter. So maybe one person knows we're playing tonight. It may only be that one person on that particular night, but if that one person goes and likes what they hear/see, then you have a fan that will promote you the next time you're in town. It all matters.




Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Appetite For Destruction Story

So, Guns N' Roses debut album Appetite For Destruction was released 30 years ago. I contend that it is the best hard rock album ever made from start to finish. But that is not the point of my story.

I was in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area that summer (I was in college at the time) and listening to the now defunct (I think) Z-ROCK which had mandatory Metallica every hour (played one Metallica song every hour).

I kept hearing this song by this new band Guns N' Roses. Never heard of them, but, damn, that song was good. That trip also introduced me to Faster Pussycat, apropos of nothing.

I knew I would be entering radio wasteland on my trip home, so before I left I stopped by a record store and purchased Appetite, on cassette (I wore out two of those before I got a CD player).

Four hour drive and it played the whole time. I was so enamored with this album. I played it a lot the rest of the summer and when I returned to college was excited to share it with my buddies. Their reaction was pretty "meh". Whatever. There were a few of us that really dug it and listened to it all the time.

Fastforward a year. "Sweet Child O' Mine" was released as a single in August of 1988. MTV blew it up. Suddenly all the "meh" people had a copy of Appetite. At that point I was already on my second cassette.

Did I feel vindicated? Maybe, a little. I was just happy that this masterpiece of an album was being appreciated.

Side note: Slash's and Izzy's rhythm parts are not stereo. Slash is on the right and Izzy on the left. Slash's solos are stereo, Izzy's solo in "Think About You" is only on the left. So, if you're a real music nerd/audiophile, you can hear two different albums.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Album Spotlight: ZZ Ward - The Storm

The new album from singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Zsuzsanna Eva Ward, better known as ZZ Ward is an amalgam of all things blues, alt-rock, R&B, Americana, smokiness, and swamp. The Storm brings all that together in an 11 song album that works.

If you're a regular reader, you know I prefer interesting and unique. Starting with Ward's voice, this whole album encompasses both interesting and unique.

It's not hard to tell when an artist is making music they want to make and when an artist is going through the motions. The Storm is the former, bringing in all of Ward's influences in which every song feels like she means what she's singing and the instrumentation backs it up, whether sparse or layered or anywhere in between.

The 11th song, a bonus track from "Cars 3", is a fun song featuring Gary Clark, Jr. How can that be bad?

All in all, The Storm is a complete album. There's some fun, there's some heavy, there's some heartbreak, there's some snark and sass. And there is lots of ZZ Ward.




Sunday, June 25, 2017

Joe Bonamassa vs Tina Guo

I'm going to preface this by saying I don't listen to any classical or orchestral music. So, I'm sure there are other cello players on the planet who could have done this, but they didn't.

During an acoustic show at Carnegie Hall, Joe Bonamassa dueled with Tina Guo, Joe on guitar, Tina on cello. The winner was anyone who gets to listen to this fantastic piece of musical genius.

I'm just a big fan of musicianship on all levels. This is at the top level. Enjoy.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Retro Album Spotlight: Queensryche - Operation: Mindcrime

Concept albums generally don't play well in today's music world. It was even a risk in 1988 when Queensryche released Operation: Mindcrime.

If you like 80s progressive hard rock and care to follow a story, nobody did it better than Queensryche with this album.

Sex, drugs, religion, politics, anarchy, unrest, brainwashing, redemption. It's all there.

Then there are the characters: The angst-ridden, fix-seeking late teen/early twenties Nikki. The evil mastermind behind the flawed revolution, Dr. X. The "whore from the underground" turned sympathetic sexually abused church-going counter counter culture heroine, Mary. And then the sadistic priest, Father William.

I'm not going to lay out the storyline here. If you are intrigued, listen for yourself and take it in as your own.

Operation: Mindcrime was the fourth output from Queensryche, one EP and two full length albums which never broke them through. So putting out Mindcrime at that juncture in the arc of the band was risky, kind of their 2112.

It didn't hurt that Queensryche landed the opening bill for Metallica's ...And Justice for All tour. All this led to the followup album Empire being a big hit with songs such as "Silent Lucidity" and "Jet City Woman". So the gamble paid off.

The songs on Operation: Mindcrime don't just further the story, they hold up on their own merit. Geoff Tate is a phenomenal vocalist. Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton's twin and/or dueling guitars are some of the best of that era, Scott Rockenfield is a monster on the drums while Eddie Jackson holds it all down with the bass.

I'm not going to embed a video because it's not about one or two songs, it's about the album. If you're reading this, you have a google machine and can listen to the entire album, which is the only way it can be appreciated.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Album Spotlight: Vandoliers - The Native

From the first line of the first song, "I was born September 1st, in a little town outside Fort Worth" to the album closer "Weclome Home" the new Vandoliers album The Native is Texas through and through.

If you want to know what Texas music is all about, this album is a crash course. It takes snippets of Red Dirt, Southern Rock, Tejano, mariachi, Rockabilly, Texas swing, honky tonk, country, 80s pop rock, punk and beach/island music to create a diverse 10 song journey. Some of it may be a bit too inside baseball to resonate with everyone, such as the song "Pantego", but hell, if Cairo, IL can get a couple of songs recently, why not Pantego?

The Vandoliers are self aware and The Native never takes itself too seriously. Sure, there is some introspection and some nostalgia, but all in all, it's just fun summer fare with a perfect release date, the Friday before Memorial Day, which kind of indicates the beginning of summer in the United States.

The Native may not be for everyone, and frontman Joshua Fleming's vocals are unique, but they fit perfectly in the context of these songs.  The instrumentation and playing is spot-on throughout the album. This is just a fun album and these guys sound like they'd be great live.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Album Spotlight: Biters - The Future Ain't What It Used to Be

Everybody reading this has access to the Google machine. If you want history and context, look it up.

The new album from Biters is great. The Future Ain't What It Used to Be is 70s British glam, 80s Sunset Strip sleaze and Southern Rock all rolled into a fairly eclectic package.

Biters hail from Georgia, so the Southern Rock connection is easy to digest. The British glam ala The Sweet, T-Rex, Ziggy Stardust is not a natural connection. Then there's the 80s sleaze reminiscent of L.A. Guns and Faster Pussycat.

Somehow, it all works.

And here's the thing. There is no one song that makes me perk up and say "That is great!" On the other hand, there is not one bad song on the album, no filler. It all just flows.

Because of where my wheelhouse is, I'm going with my favorite 80s influenced song here: "Vulture City".


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Album Spotlight: John Mellencamp - Sad Clowns and Hillbillies

John Mellencamp's new album Sad Clowns & Hillbillies is an odd collection of songs; two covers, two songs he recorded in the 80s, two songs in which he gets songwriting credit for basically finishing a song, five duets with Carlene Carter, appearances by Martina McBride and Izzy Stradlin. All that may make it seem as though the album would be disjointed, but it turns out to be a very cohesive effort.

You may be wondering why I'm covering a John Mellencamp album at all, since I stay away from mainstream anything. Well, Mellencamp hasn't been anywhere near mainstream music in about two decades.

This started out as project between Mellencamp and Carter that was born out of their collaborations on other projects and playing together each night on Mellencamp's last tour, which Carter opened. They wanted to do an album of old time country gospel songs, but in the writing process it evolved into something quite different.

Sad Clowns & Hillbillies starts out with a cover of the 1971 Mickey Newbury song "Mobile Blue" which fits exactly into Mellencamp's American roots rock wheelhouse.

I'm not going to go song by song here, but just want to point out some stuff that stood out to me. "Grandview" was written in the early 90s by Mellencamp's cousin Bobby Clark and features Martina McBride on one verse and original Guns 'n Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin on guitar.

"All Night Talk Radio" was originally recorded for possible inclusion on the 1995 album Mr. Happy Go Lucky. New elements were added to the version on the current album including backing vocals by Carlene Carter.

On the newly recorded tracks (which is most of the album) Mellencamp's voice shows the wear and tear of years of smoking cigarettes and drinking. That doesn't detract from the quality of the songs here. Hell, he sounds like John Hiatt has always sounded.

Start to finish, Sad Clowns & Hillbillies is one of the best albums I've heard this year.

Here is "Grandview":



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Album Spotlight: Dalton Domino - Corners

Hailing from Lubbock, Texas, Dalton Domino's latest album Corners come out of the gate and straight into the swamp with the album-opening song "The River". That's both a bold move and a statement. A bold move because most people are expecting a Texas/Red Dirt album. A statement by letting it be known that this is not your run of the mill Texas/Red Dirt album.

Not my usual style, but I'm going to take this one almost song-by-song because it's diverse enough where there is no over-arching statement to be made about the album.

"The River" is a swampy, dark song with interesting instrumentation, replete with strings (or at least synthesized strings). After that the album settles into more of the pocket that you would expect from a Texas artist for a bit with the Southern Rock influenced "Decent Man", the modern Red Dirt of "Corners" and the easy pop country leanings of "July".

"More Than You" is an interesting musical journey. It starts out with the grit and groove of a Ray Wylie Hubbard song. Then it moves to a bluesier feel and ends up almost Motown, horns and all, while not changing the beat or tempo. In its texture, it's sublime.

"Rain" is a subtle, stripped down song about loss. Great in it's simplicity.

The funky guitar tone of "Sixteen Years" drives the verses of this Southern Rock-tinged song.

"Mine Again (I'd Be a Fool)" is the closest thing that comes to a skip-worthy song on the album, but it's really just too catchy to fall into that category. It kind of has a an 80's pop rock feel to it.

With "Sister" Dalton takes us back to the swamp with an almost "Juke Box Hero" verse vibe throughout the entire song. Then he stays there with the album closer "Monster" but brings in a Pink Floyd-like prog element.

Corners is the kind of album that always interests me. Diverse, and you never really know what to expect next. I know that some people want something with a more consistent sound. If so, this album is probably not for you. But, hey, here are a couple of songs, decide for yourself.