Thursday, May 28, 2009


I'm guilty of shooting whilst boogieing.

This review originally appeared in the 5.28.09 issue of Metroland

We’ve been waiting what, oh, five years or so, for somebody, anybody, to bring Sharon Jones to town. Note to local venues: duh-uh people really, really like soul music. Getting her and the Dap-Kings for Mass MOCA’s big party was a brilliant, inspired choice, and while I can’t begrudge the Museum the $80 ticket (it’s their party and they can charge what they want to) hopefully the next local gig, which better be soon, dammit, will be something everybody can afford.

The Hunter Center was packed with a couple of generations of shined-up socialites, Important People (Hey! There’s Michael Dukakis getting’ his jammy on! Fo-shizzle, Gov, and rock on, Bro!) and the-hell-with-my-car-payment artsy types, all yellin’, dancin’, and checking each other out. It was pretty surreal, which in the context of Mass MOCA is saying something.

Which brings us to Ms. Jones. Holy Moly! I have never, ever seen anyone work a stage or a crowd harder, or better. She’s a tiny lady, and she prowled the stage, owned the stage, dancing like a primal dream, engaging and including the crowd, while yelping, howling, and testifying like this was the Apollo in 1961 and everything was possible. She was yanking people onto the stage, almost to the point of distraction. A beaming blind guy, very big people, very little people, a line of young lovelies, shimmying and singing the choruses--and a young man jumped onstage, grabbed one of the lovelies, got down on one knee (as the band vamped quietly) and proposed. Ms. Lovely grabbed the mike and said yes, the band cranked it, Sharon hugged everybody. Next song. Unh! Heh! Good God!

The legendary Dap-Kings band (3 horns, bass, guitar, drums, percussionist) were dead-on, perhaps a little understated. I’m tempted to say they’re too Brooklyn hipster by half, but I won’t. I mean, they’re the friggin’ legendary Dap-Kings band, they made Amy Winehouse sound talented fer chrissakes, and look at everything else they’ve done in the last ten years. All due to respect to Justin Timberlake (or not), these are the folks who brought sexy back. But dudes, you’ve gotta have one of the best gigs in the world. It’s OK to show us you’re enjoying it.

From James to Otis to the beginnings of Sly, this was a greezy textbook of sweaty soul. The only thing lacking was the sound quality, which was distant and not particularly lively. It was clear enough, though, and it may well have been as good as it could possibly get in the big, gymnasium-like room. But this stuff should shake your pant leg, blow your hair back, and hijack your heartbeat.

Next time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


This article originally appeared in the 5/21/09 issue of Metroland

There’s some interesting phenomena going on in the music world. Record companies are shrinking and failing. The cost of making good-sounding recordings is becoming negligible – I have a decently equipped recording studio right here at my finger tips, on my computer (not that I have any idea how to use it). People’s demand for music is, as always, insatiable, whether they pay for their music or not. Listenership is fragmenting among niches, as a result of broadcast radio’s demise, internet services like Pandora and, and people’s ability to create massive and portable personal libraries of hand-picked music.

Musicians struggle to get noticed, and the savviest are banding together, creating collectives that pool all the talents necessary to run an independent record company. Except they’re not really record companies, at least not in any kind of formal, traditional sense. These collectives are generating huge amounts great music, are presenting the music in innovative and exciting ways, and are supporting both local and visiting acts, cooperatively with other collectives, on the road and, most importantly, on the internet. I think these collectives are just about the most important force in music today.

And we’ve got a bunch of them right here, and we’ll be talking to some of them at the next CRUMBS Night Out event at the Linda Norris Auditorium on Thursday, May 28. Matthew Loiacono of Collar City Records and Alex Moro of B3nson Recording Company will be on hand to talk about how they do business, how they wound up running their pseudo-empires, and pretty much anything else they want to talk about. And live music will be supplied by Saratoga’s astonishing band Railbird. If you haven’t seen Railbird yet, if you’ve never heard Sarah Pedinotti sing, shame on you. You should fix this arch deficiency in your existence next Thursday at the Linda. Railbird goes on at 7, the music collective panel’s on at 8.

If you follow the rock press even a little bit you’ve probably heard about Joe Satriani’s plagiarism lawsuit against Coldplay. Seems Satriani discovered that Coldplay’s hit Vida La Vida shares a melody line with Satriani’s previously-released If I Could Fly. Almost immediately, somebody posted a mash-up video on YouTube showing the two songs side-by-side, and the similarities were compelling. Until someone else came on and demonstrated that the keys and tempos of the two tracks were manipulated to create an illusion of similarity.

More to the point, as pointed out on Mike Masnick’s ace website Techdirt, the fairly pedestrian melody line, like almost any melody line under the sun or moon, sure didn’t start with Satriani. There’s a track from Argentinian rockers Emanitos Verdes, there’s Marty Balin’s Hearts, there’s Cat Stevens’ Foreigner Suite, Billy Joel’s Honesty, and at least a dozen more that have been pointed out by clever folks on YouTube. Which you can go investigate yourself. At least you can look at the ones that have escaped the efforts by EMI, Coldplay’s label, to remove all these tattle-tale videos off of YouTube, the stupidity and illegality of which could be the subject of a whole ‘nother column, but we’ll move on.

Taking it from the ridiculous to the absurd, Yusuf Islam (the artist f/k/a Cat Stevens) last week announced that Coldplay copied from him, not from Satriani. Islam was apparently alerted to this by his kid, and I’ll bet you a nickel his kid got hipped to it from...YouTube! But hey, does that mean that Satriani ripped off Cat Stevens, too? And does Cat Stevens seriously believe that he came up with that melody line first? Really?

To try to put this in a little perspective, Techdirt quoted a 1940 Federal court decision in a music plagiarism case that I hadn’t seen before and that’s fabulous:

It must be remembered that, while there are an enormous number of possible permutations of the musical notes of the scale, only a few are pleasing; and much fewer still suit the infantile demands of the popular ear. Recurrence is not therefore an inevitable badge of plagiarism.

And that suits the infantile demands of my popular brain! Taking Satriani’s and Steven’s claims to their logical conclusion, one could argue that at least 80% of popular music should be owned by Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Otis Blackwell, King / Goffen, Barry / Greenwich and Dozier / Holland / Dozier. And there’s probably hundreds of geezers from the ‘20’s and ‘30’s who’d have a big problem with that.

In other news, get out yer hankies. Mike Pauley pointed me to an astounding set of photos by photographer Sebastien.b of the old Colonie Coliseum / Starlight Theater in decline. You can see them at Oh, the memories.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


This article originally appeared in the 5.7.09 issue of Metroland

Craigslist has been in the news a lot lately. The mainstream media has taken an apparent delight in chronicling the ways the online classified service is destroying society. That guy who killed a “masseuse” in Boston will forevermore be known as the “Craigslist Killer,” as if Craigslist were little more than a steaming cesspool of degrading sex and an accessory to murder. Politicians are calling for Craigslist’s head, too, and newspapers are all over this like hate on Republicans.

We’ll save the discussion about the morality of erotic services for others.

What’s more interesting is the subtext of all this. Newspapers are dying, and Craigslist is a big reason why. Why? Because Craiglist is destroying newspapers’ classified ad revenue stream. Why? Because Craiglist offers a service that is infinitely better, faster, cheaper, and more efficient than newspaper classified ads.

I’d never used Craigslist until last week. We’ve got a house we’re looking to rent. I tried putting an ad in a big metropolitan newspaper and was directed (after some surfing around the newspaper’s hideous Web site) to an online inputting system. It sucked. I mean, it was absolutely frustrating, and I wasn’t sure when or if I was finished, except there was nothing else to do but log off. The whole thing took me 20 long minutes, and then, because there was no acknowledgement sent to me via e-mail, I decided I’d better call the newspaper on the telephone to make sure my ad got in all right.

For all this aggravation and $250, I got a little three-line small-type advertisement that ran for a couple of days. The promised opportunity to run a concurrent ad on the newspaper’s Web site for free simply didn’t materialize, which was fine with me because the Web site was horrible. The response? Two telephone calls from salespeople at small, local Jewish newspapers trying to sell me more ads.

So I tried a local advertising weekly. Remarkably, the Internet interface was much better than that of the Big Newspaper (although still no e-mail acknowledgement). The price was reasonable, but the response was tepid. Most of the people that called weren’t exactly what you’d call A-list prospective tenants. Most seemed to think I’d take less than the advertised rent. Great. I was starting to think there was no market out there for the house.

Then I tried Craigslist. Duh! Posting an ad was follow-your-nose simple. I could bold a bunch of words. I could post pictures. I could shield my identity with a blind response option. I was encouraged, a couple times, to proof my ad. I got an e-mail acknowledgement (immediately) that asked me to proof it again and then respond to publish the ad. The ad went online immediately.

It took a couple of minutes. It was satisfying. It was fun. It was FREE.

And it was effective. I posted every morning for five days, and every day I got at least four inquiries via e-mail. Surprisingly, most came from a different area than where we’d assumed our target market was, which was a revelation in itself. We’d been barking up the wrong tree, and Craigslist set us straight. Inside of five days, we got a deposit from some folks who appear to be perfect tenants. It was the pictures that got them interested.

I have a writer friend who just posted a passionate plea on Facebook, urging legislators to ban Craiglist in order to save “the newspapers.” C’mon. Is Craigslist killing the newspapers or is their death simply the result of technological evolution? Or, more to the point, are newspapers killing themselves? After my experience, I can’t fathom why anyone would put a classified ad in the newspaper. I just had that dubious pleasure and it bit. And newspapers aren’t where people go anymore to get stuff.

It’s with this gloss that I look askance at the headlines about the “Craigslist Killer” and the brouhaha about “erotic services.” The inferences are wrong and disingenuous, the hysteria shrill, and the journalistic conflict screamingly obvious. Let’s blame Craigslist. Spare us the sanctimonious bullshit, and report some real news. Or don’t. You’re going down either way.

Maybe soon I’ll dismantle the argument that the newpaper’s demise threatens the core of democracy and will leave us rudderless to get our tainted information from unchecked online crackpots and knaves.

For now I’ll just say give me a freakin’ break. I’ve got two words for ya: Judith Miller. We’ll be fine.