Sunday, January 22, 2012

Peter Stampfel, Jeffrey Lewis, and Dust Busters with Kristin Andreassen at the Vera Project

Jaime tipped us off about the show Friday night in January at the Vera. We filed into the Vera Project out of the night and set our equipment up, saying "hi" to Starr as we came in. The cat walk visuals and sound work well, the acoustic bluegrass/new grass with mild amplification gives a clean accurate sound that is easy to capture.

My pictures were shakier, though.
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Dust Busters kicked things off with Kristin Andreassen dancing and playing harmonica, singing and playing guitar too I think.

The dancing added quite a bit, it worked as a beat/rhythm part as she tapped away on some of the songs. A variety of guitars, fiddles, banjos, and harmonicas were employed by various band members, usually without drums or a rhythm section.

Jeffrey Lewis was selling comic books, and he used his drawings in his performance too. He started out doing some witty acoustic guitar singer songwriter material
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Comics (he sells Fuff comics, which he also writes) informed his musical material, so does his sardonic sense of humor. He did some drawings inspired by an assortment of obscure psychedelic songs and showed them to us on the projector screen behind the stage while he played short samples of the odd songs with each image. He also couched down and sang an a capella bit to some comic material, you can find that on my youtube channel somewhere.

Lewis brought Stampfel and a fiddler from the Dust Busters on for several songs and also charmed me with a song about his band ambitions in the final 4 or so minutes. Winter 405Fuck that man! 'cause we're a rock and roll band! In spite of the heroin addiction, you kind of do want to be in his band.

Peter Stampfel came on and played his unique brand of bluegrass/rock music. The sax is cool, and the layering of instruments and Stampfel's unique vocal approach, wailing and nearly yodeling wordlessly.

The energy and power is wonderful. Happy rolling cowboy brings that kind of yodeling yipping out to full effect.

Douchebag is probably my favorite:

Wonderful chorus, yes sir! When he gets to wailing about hackers stealing all the e-mails it takes on a wonderful nearly demented quality, and now they're frying 'em. Wonderful, powerfully odd. Not much like anything else I've listened to recently, the Maltby bluegrass pot-luck monthly show is traditional bluegrass and otherwise I really just don't listen to that much bluegrass.

To me, "sounds like nothing I've heard recently" is praise. They've managed to stake some new territory, taking me to a different style that's new to me. I like that!

Posting Mechanics

I posted about quite a few shows last year, and any passionate hobby starts to become less play and more work as the total number of hours spent on it passes forty in any given week. I'm not exactly whinging well, only whining a little, I suppose. Going to multi-day festivals (Sasquatch, CHBP, Bumbershoot) and taking hours of video and hundreds of photos a day was fun and occasionally grueling, and I built up "media wrangling debt."

Getting 2 or 3 hours of video footage groomed down to identified bands performing one or two numbers, properly uploaded, titled, tagged and licensed on youtube, photos up on flickr, videos off of SLR onto youtube rather than flickr, audio files identified and labelled, backups of audio, video and photos onto local external HD, refs generated for embedding into blogs, all that has to be slogged through before writing and posting the blog. Half the time I needed the videos to remind me which acts I saw when, and what they sounded like. I have now had the charming experience of wrangling files from a performance a semi-missed that kicked my ass in retrospect. I was there to start the recording, but I was busy doing something like making tacos so I didn't actually experience the performance live. Later as I uploaded all of the files I listened to an audio recording and the song was excellent, I was floored by what I had missed. I don't even know who it was, and I don't have a good method nailed down for posting audio, so you'll have to take my word for it - it was a fascinating experience.

I haven't "solved" using audio in my blogs, but using videos with youtube and photos with flickr couldn't be easier (once the content is uploaded, anyway) and I can link anything in that tickles my fancy so the blogging process is mostly pretty good. Winter 260

In this last week the winter storm and its aftermath made the internet based tools I rely on unreliable and I was reminded how much I take for granted. My camera takes better pictures than I could if I had to do it manually and it's easy to take piles of photos, post them on flickr, and use them in my blogs. Winter 329
No negatives to mail in, no physical prints to pay (and wait) for, no need to scan for on-line access, they're already digital. Now throw in 60 frame/sec HD video with reasonably good audio that can take high volume situations and still deliver reasonable quality and make that easy to trim, label, tag, upload, and embed. No lab work needed, no physical tapes to send anywhere, as long as the internet is available I can publish word-wide in a few hours. The same week wikipedia and other sites went dark to protest SOPA my internet access went intermittent to unavailable right at the peak of being snowed in and really wishing I had internet access. Nobody was hurt and we kept ourselves occupied, so it really wasn't a big deal, it just brought home to me how thoroughly the internet has ingrained itself into my media production and consumption patterns. It wasn't that big a deal because the internet was back working normally within a day; I do require a functioning internet to publish world-wide for free.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January Open Mic at the Vera Project

I caught some interesting performances at the Vera at this week's open Mic.
First up was Mosaic, he has a bit to say in his intro then the music starts about :57 in:

Nicely done, for his first live performance he's quite polished.

Next up was Gabriel, another member of Outside In.

He did a nice spoken word piece.

The final Outside In artist did an old classic a capella, takes some guts and ego to tackle a classic all alone like this:

Next up was Julia doing some autobiographical "fiction."

I'm next, telling a story about wiring the Neptune.

Next up the MC reads some of his own poetry off of his smart phone.

Next a hip hop trio or maybe a quartet took the stage. They have a gig on February 3 at Neumos with Scribes, should be a good show. They're called Some Fresh if I heard them right, and they have a mix tape coming out in the next couple of weeks.

The last performance was by the 4th member of the prior act, he does a song a capella to wrap things up.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Knowmads, Chev, Ilumminatrz, Jamil Suleiman, John Eklof, Fre$h and DJ Same at the Vera Project

Knowmads capped off a fun night of hip hop at the Vera Project. DJ Same kicked things off, spinning some interesting music.
Knowmads 004
I was working green room security so I made sure nobody was smoking or drinking; I only had to confiscate one joint. With the reentry policy it's nice to see the audience is smart enough to keep the smoking out of the venue.
Tom Pepe and Jamil Suleman made a bief early appearance.
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They had a spittin' contest, I enjoy those!
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Fre$h put on a good crisp show, fast cadence with frequent rests.
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Jamil Suleiman put on a solid show, I like the sound and the flow.
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Jamil raps over Tom Wilson beat boxing on the first 1:20 of this, then some party life music that gets the crowd going
Illuminatrz are next on the set list so this should be them (I could be wrong):
Props for using live keyboards, nice!

Chevy was the final act on the set list before Knowmads, so this is Chevy (again, I could be wrong):

Good dense rapping, half sung chorus here and there, reasonably complex songs, nice stuff. I have another Chevy video on my youtube channel. The linked video is hand held, which has good and bad points. Most of the rest are from a tripod on the balcony.

Knowmads tore it up, two or three hundred kids showed up to see them and they came through with classic renditions of favorites like Saturdayzed:

and Wildflower (sorry about the marginal audio), another hand held, this time with the digital SLR with mic that overloads too easily:

They also tried some Knewbook stuff out.

It's nice to see the Knewbook material shaping up, I have some more on youtube. I've been a Knowmads fan since the first time I saw them, these kids bring a crowd and put on a hell of a show! Tom Wilson has one of the best voices in local rap, something that gets overlooked frequently. Pepe and Wilson always freestyle a little, and they can't help turning up in opening act numbers too. Throw in a good crowd sourced spittin' contest and the spontaneity, creativity and crowd involvement and the results are an energetic kick ass show. Excellent stuff, I hope it bodes well for 2012!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January Veracity

We had Rice Baker-Yeboah kick off Veracity for 2011 singing with a Mac sequenced soundtrack.

January Veracity 2012 005
Good voice, he used a wide range from smooth baritone on up to a good controlled falsetto in his performance. Rice sang somewhat more than most hip hop performers I've seen, maybe 60% rap vs. 40% singing. Good use of multi-tracked vocals so he was harmonizing with himself and occasionally doubling parts.

Ironwood Run headlined the show.
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Bluesy crunch, sax driven rock, fun stuff.

I got quite a few good songs, very nice performance over all.

Music: Live, Recorded & In Between

I saw a huge variety of live performances this year. From the Vera

to the Showbox

and the Festivals, with a very nice Space Needle callout in the RunDown by Sol:

not to mention bars - and sometimes the bars were at Festivals, or is that sometimes the Festivals were in the bars?

Lots and lots of shows, almost 400 for the year.

I watched the EMP Nirvana 20 year anniversary fund raiser for Suzie Tenant "streamed live" over the internet. So I was watching their live performances, but I was sitting at home watching my computer screen. It was fun and interesting but not nearly as fun as actually being there - tinny speakers rather than a loud well tuned PA, small view port into the performance rather than being 5' to 10' from the performers, the whole process has much less impact for the "streamed live" especially since I'm running it all on my laptop. If you had a large screen TV or better still a projection based system that improves the visual effect. A good stereo setup would also make a huge difference. I saw the performances in very near real time and the sound was quite reasonable so I could hear what they were doing better than I could see it. That was the only show I live blogged, yet it was also arguably the only show I didn't see live. Live blogged a non-live show, how interesting.

Music changed fundamentally last century. In 1900 you heard live music or no music at all. Social gatherings frequently involved music and singing, so not being able to sing or play anything was a bit of a social handicap, and being a good singer or musician meant employment, and it probably got you invited to the best parties too. In order to have music you either had to employ musicians, or play it yourself. A few well off people had player pianos so there was a tiny bit of prerecorded music available, but it was just a niche.

Magnetic wire recording then reel to reel recording changed things fundamentally. Musicians unions opposed the whole concept. Union opposition led to black men (who weren't allowed in the unions) getting recorded early - Leadbelly and Robert Johnson recordings from the thirties are the earliest recordings I've ever listened too.

It took a few decades, but most people listen to prerecorded music most of the time now. Live performances are infrequent for most, they take money and effort, most people listen to hours of prerecorded music daily and live music for a couple hours a month at best. Occasionally you listen to a recording of a live performance.

Even a live performance nowadays can be largely automated, from the Rice Baker-Yeboah show where he sang against tracks off his Mac to pervasive drum machine and MIDI playback.

Santana plays his guitar in this wailing intensely personal way that feels so organic yet relies on the amplifier feedback loop (magnetic input from strings to amplifier to speakers to strings, repeat) for it's characteristic sustain and tone.

The most intense immediate live playing could only be heard by a very small crowd if we didn't have amplifiers and PAs.

I worked with Trimpin on the If VI Were IX: Roots and Branches installation where we took the MIDI code and played it on stringed instruments in real time. We put together robotic guitar and basses, one string per device with pluckers and frettles.
Pluckers use a motor driving a shaft with a pick two mounted on it to pluck the string. Given the setup, every pluck from top to bottom is always followed by a bottom to top pluck. It can only go back and forth by plucking across the string. Any "note on" for the current channel in the correct range (channel and range can be set via bits on a DIP switch, or hard wired in at programming time if desired) causes a pluck. The "louder/faster" the note on the higher duty cycle we use to drive the plucker's DC sevo-motor. Once we get past the 60% point (the pluck is complete) we go into a hunt for the end point mode and servo to a stop.
Frettles are solenoids driving felt pads against the guitar fret board. By putting one string on each robot Trimpin keeps the frettle design simple. In the EMP exhibit he put 12 frettles per string, allowing a full octave of notes above the open note, so the open note can be repeated an octave up.
As I tweaked the algorithm that controlled the position of the shaft that plucked the string I almost had it right. It had a bit of instability in the termination routine: I'd shut down the system too soon and the last bit of motion would put the pluck just a bit further or nearer to the next "pluck" point. That caused the next pluck to not quite perfectly reflect the volume/speed setting from the note-on command: we'd set the requested value, but there was an additional random factor on top of that. I started to dig into the problem and Trimpin said "No, don't change that; it gives it an organic feel, less like a machine." The robot guitar sounded a bit better if it's careful mechanical precision had an overlying hint of randomness, giving it an almost ragged feel when playing almost-too-fast music. The system could handle pretty brisk banjo music, but if you start speeding it up the system starts missing notes when it approaches inhumanely fast by a factor of 3 or 4.

Samples take recording and slice and dice them into new material. Remixes take whole productions and re-purpose them.
Our robots and recordings and replays and re-recordings and remixes and streamed live and streamed recorded in the end still mostly needs a beat and better still a groove to succeed. Sometimes music is a soundtrack - what you're playing in the background. Sometimes you'e listening to music directly and it has more impact. Live music and a crowd amp that impact way up. A good beat or groove gets the crowd going and the band can feed off of the crowd's energy and sometimes performances feel transcendent, sending goose bumps down my spine through sheer beauty and power. I live for those moments!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Plan for music in 2012

I've been thinking about New Years Resolutions (NYR) as 2012 starts. Last year I resolved to see more shows and blog about them with videos and pictures and that worked out quite well. I'll continue blogging about the shows I make it to, but I probably won't get quite so psycho about it. Bear in mind going to a Veracity show plus a Vera show each month, plus Bumbershoot and probably the Capitol Hill Block Party, Folk Life Festival and maybe West Seattle Festival and Reverb Fest is cutting way back, probably more like 200 in 2012, rather than the 380+ of 2011. I already volunteered for the Knowmads show at the Vera on Saturday, I'm running the monthly Veracity show tonight and I plan on attending (and performing at) the Vera Project Open Mic next Wednesday.

I want to play more music, so each month I'm going to try to learn a new song with my son Ben (who is studying guitar) and also memorize one of my favorites (probably mostly Neil Young, the Who, or the Beatles) so I don't need the sheet music. Working out favorites so we don't need music can and should involve Dana, Carina and Ben on occasion so we can make it a family affair. Heather has a great voice, so getting to practice or perform with her is a bonus. Getting the extended circle involved (Jan, Greg, Dan, etc) is even better.

I want to perform more, so I plan on doing at least something every few months. Open mic nights are the most likely venue for this, with maybe a bit of karaoke mixed in. Live music performances in public are worth bonus points; as the Veracity chair I can arrange something if I get a band with material together.

I get to contribute to a MIDI controlled musical robot that Trimpin is building. I'll post some details on that if I can find anything interesting to say about it.

I'd like to learn more about music production so I plan on signing Ben and I (and maybe Dana and any other kids who want to) up for the Vera Project's sound classes.

I want to record some music, so I'll fiddle about with recording Ben & myself if we can work out songs together, and myself (or even the wife and kids and I) playing our favorite covers. I'd like to make both with video and audio recordings.

I should try my hand at writing some songs. I've written a few in the past, and with more playing and practicing planned I can mix that in with my recording goals and try to get some samples/demo level stuff. Submitting some recordings is a stretch goal here.

My friends Jan, Greg and Dan all play music so I should look for opportunities to play with them. Recording them would be cool too!

I'm around musicians at the Vera all the time, but I'm usually too bashful to bring up playing together. Maybe I can overcome that hump in 2012, we'll see.

Some non-music aspects of my NYR bear on this: I want to get in better shape and lose some weight so that I have more energy and get more done. A regular schedule helps - I can plan in Wii Fit workouts and music practice sessions too. More structure and planning are called for!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Top 10 in 2011

I went out of my way to see a huge amount of live music in 2011. I've decided to pick my favorites in 3 main categories: favorite national acts, local favorites and new favorites. There aren't always ten winners, I only pick 7 national acts, 11 local favorites and eleven new favorites. I also pick 5 best songs and 4 additional accomplishments.

Best National Acts local favorites who've gone national and my favorite non-local big acts

Presidents of the USA - I saw them twice, at PUSA Fest and at Bumbershoot on the main stage. Both times I had Ben, Carina and Heather with me, and enjoyed the crap out of it. The Prez still rock out and get big crowds bouncing around to the beat and sweating all over each other. Having my kids along puts it over the top, the Presidents kept me and my kids rocking in 2011!

Das Racist played the Sasquatch Preview show, Sasquatch, the Capitol Hill Block Party and Bumbershoot, so they went from unknown to my favorite rappers. All tan everything indeed.

Two of my top national acts - Death Cab For Cutie and Maklemore & Ryan Lewis - get props for best live song (Where Soul Meets Body and Just Dance, respectively) below.

Decembrists added an additional voice, I think the original female vocalist left the band later in 2011 after this show.

Finally caught up with The Reverend Horton Heat live, the kids and I have some fond memories of his hits a decade or so back.

Foo Fighters did their bombastic rock show at the Gorge Friday night at Sasquatch.

Local Favorites

Mad Rad always puts on a great show with standout songs like Life On Party Mountain and You Only Live Once (air keyboards!)

Kimya Dawson is an idiosyncratic performer who brings passion and creativity and thoughtful patter into a show like nobody else does!
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The Thermals reliably kick my ass and this year I got multiple ass kickings at the Sasquatch kick-off show, at Sasquatch and Bumbershoot.

PWRFL Power made a rare appearance at Magma Fest doing thrashy guitar work, nice to see him again, it had been way too long.
March 2011 004
Brite Futures matures into an arena rocking heavy weight. I remember seeing them as Natalie Portmans Shaved Head at the EMP Sound Off many years ago, they've made it almost to the top.

Land of Pines - saw them at least 3 times: at the Vera, CHBP, and Reverb.

Ryan LaPlante

Kinski always puts on a solid set of great music

Silicon Girls - got to know a nice kid in the band while he was volunteering for the All Ages Movement Project, I enjoy their shows.

Hey Marseilles has consistently brought it - I still remember a cover of Love Insurgent from a few Bumbershoots back that ruled. They were in prime form in 2011.

Bear Cove from Bellingham kicked it out

New Favorites - Bands that I immediately liked that I had never seen before, sometimes I'd never heard them either.
Titus Andronicus

The Globes - listed in best song for "A Stitch Can't Save the World" and here's "Stay Awake" from Sasquatch:

Antlers - one of many excellent Sasquatch performances, need to see them again

The Smith and Westerns - another band I was unfamiliar with that played an excellent set at Sasquatch.

Other Lives were another discovery at Sasquatch

Tokyo Police Club - another unknown to me band that ruled. Sensing a trend?

Champagne Champagne did shows at the Vera Project and CHBP and Bumbershoot, I believe. Hip hop rap duo, excellent material and the two voices are different and play well together; every performance is an instance party, worth checking out if you ever get the opportunity. They've spent a fair amount of time touring with STRFKR recently.

Sol broke out some, I like the live lineup here with a drum set, bass, backing vocals, and a DJ who might have some keyboards.

TacocaT - palindromes and bright punk thrashing, gotta love it!

Sleeper Agent

My Goodness packed quite a punch for a duo.

Best Live Song

I Like Giants by Kimya Dawson 2011 January Vera 039Kimya had another one about a friend dying that had me in tears, and Alphabut is the Stairway to Heaven of little kids songs

And We Danced by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. The Town, My Oh My, and Dark Side all hit it out of the park or is it the Key

Where Soul Meets Body by Death Cab For Cutie (I'll Follow You Into the Dark, Title and Registration, that one jealous one "Gotta spend some time love... I will posses your heart")Listening to Where Soul Meets body at Sasquatch as my Mom's soul was losing it's last tenuous hold on her body sure gave it a wallop.

A Stitch Can't Save the World by the Globes

The River Runs Deep by Knowmads

Special props

At 4,078 views Macklemore & Ryan Lewis playing "And We Danced" is my most popular video. I managed to post it a few weeks before they got the song out which drove traffic; their video came out a little later and it has 652 thousand views.

My blog on the Craft Spells show at the Vera Project was my most viewed blog. Every week multiple people were viewing it; I'm not sure why it had so much more staying power, I have to attribute it to the audience - the fans. I can't see that I did anything special that was different from my other blogs. If it was something I did, I'd do it more!

I saw Knowmads at the Vera Project right before my fiftieth birthday. Shortly after that I took a class in interviewing musicians and had to select somebody to interview so I contacted their agent and set up an interview. They were young and therefore less intimidating, I suppose. My first on camera interview was with Knowmads Tom Wilson and Tom Pepe.

My video of the interview got 567 views, and blackout3842 (who does media, social media and web wangling for the Knowmads) posted excerpts that got more than 2,300 views.

Sea Cats were my son's first local band crush. We saw them at a Veracity show and got an inexpensive CD that Ben enjoyed, then he randomly got to see them do an outdoor show at the Seattle Center when he and Carina were wandering around. They got a nice gig at the Vera Project and I interviewed Josh Davis before it.

Local Bands in 2011

2011 was a banner year for local bands.
Some pretty big bands like the Presidents are local, that's why I get to see them so often. I took the kids to this one.

I consider Portland local.

Dustin's band My Parade got to open for The Ex (I saw them twice):

I saw around 30 bands at Veracity shows and got some good video:

Classic Vera shows like STRFKR, Champagne Champagne and Land of Pines were all local if we include Portland.

I aleady included a bunch of local acts like Lisa Dank, Spaceneedles, Mad Rad, Head Like A Kite, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Kris Orlowski, PUSA, the Globes and so on in my earlier 2011 review too. All that, and I haven't even gotten to the local music festival: Reverb Fest had another 20 local bands in one day.

This doesn't do justice to all of the local shows I saw this year - I saw several hundred - but it's a nice selection. There is an amazing pile of talent in the area playing a wonderful variety of music, we're lucky to have so much available.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 In Review

My December Retrospective also turned into a look back at the first few months of 2011 up to Sasquatch. That was a great start to the year, and the rate of shows shot up as festival season arrived. CHBP was awesome, so many bands!
Ra Ra Riot was good, I downloaded a sampler of their music in 2010 that I enjoyed and the live show was solid fun.

Constant Lovers were good

Lisa Dank was fun

My Goodness!


TacocaT! finally saw them, I knew they were going to be good because their name is a palindrome. Sure enough, they were awesome.

and that's only a fraction of the fun music and talent at the Capitol Hill Block Party.

We ended the Summer with Bumbershoot. Once again, almost too much good music.
Brite Futures ruled stadium shows, who knew? I'd seen them at the Vera in the Spring, now they had a 10,000+ person dance party in the Key.

Kris Orloski ruled

Champagne Champagne was one of the year's consistently good hip-hop outfits.


Also, check out about :30 into this one

Dave's principle of lousy videos for great shows: the best shows make me bounce in spite of myself and the videos end up shakey and hard to take. I'd say sorry, except I'm not, I'll take a lousy video because the band was busy kicking my butt into frantic dancing any day, those are the shows you remember most fondly. OK, that's some of the fun stuff from the first day.

Next day had so much good music

Mad Rad killed all year on 2 numbers: Life On Part Mountain

...and You Only Live Once, worth the hall of fame for the air piano alone, and the song is a kick.

Words fail me, I saw a boatload of great music in 2011 and had a great time doing it.

Next up I give some love to local acts and I've still got to do my Top 10 Lists blog.