High Fidelity in the Age of Spotify


220px-HighfidelityDVD

I’m of the mindset that to be a good blogger you have to read good blogs. I try to do this and think I do a good job. The best part is that every now and again I’ll come across a blog that inspires me to write my own post, like this one that the Dead Kennedy’s shared a few weeks ago on Facebook (http://www.buzzfeed.com/awesomer/music-experiences-you-never-thought-youd-miss-but-you-do).

It got me thinking about life, the universe and everything. But then I stopped and started to think about what’s happening to the physical CD stores now that everyone is so madly in love with Spotify. What would the film “High Fidelity” be like if made in 2013?

I know the main way Spotify has changed my record buying habits is to make me much, much pickier. I can guarantee I would have bought Soundgarden’s “King Animal” if it weren’t for Spotify. I was teetering on Staind’s self-titled 2011 release because “Not Again” was an awesome tune, but after listening to the entire album I decided it wasn’t worth the money. And I’m sure Spotify would have saved me a lot of money if I’d been able to listen to albums by bands like Our Lady Peace and Default before I bought them. Sure, that one Earshot song was bad ass, but the entire album sounded exactly the same and it got boring really quick.

Of course, if it weren’t for Spotify I never would have bought In This Moment’s “Blood,” an album that I’m extremely pleased with and still enjoy. Then again, I downloaded it from Amazon so that sort of skips the High Fidelity aspect of the experience. But it was that, Walmart or FYE in the mall. My choices are limited and though I may not have chosen the least of three evils, I did choose the cheapest.

Vintage-Records (1)I’m sure that all of these technological breakthroughs are hurting the sales of physical CD’s, but I doubt that it’s doing more damage than the opening of public libraries did to bookstores. I’m sure there will always be a market for the items, but just like I don’t buy every new book that comes out, I no longer have to purchase every album I want to listen to. I still buy albums by my favorite bands like GWAR, Alice in Chains and Fiona Apple (and have a friend that buys EVERYTHING from Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Bad Religion and NOFX), but why waste money on something I only casually listen to.

There are still ways to get people to buy an album. I’m not sure if people realize what they are, but to me they’re common sense.

  1. Be original. Or be another Faith No More. Either way, you have a market because you’re unique.
  2. Be Shuffle/Mixtape friendly. I love albums, but I’ve been listening to all sorts of stuff thanks to shuffle on my MP3 player.
  3. Be Identifiable. Make it so people know their listening to you without them having to check.
  4. Bribe college professors to make your album required listening. If college kids have to buy your album from the campus bookstore you’re definitely going to make a lot of money.
  5. Make sure you don’t have all your songs available for free download on Soundcloud or Reverbnation because if you do I’ll never buy your album from Bandcamp.

I’m not sure what will happen to one hit wonders in this future age of Spotify and browse before you buy. I’ll never buy another UPO or Catherine Wheel disc, and I’m glad that I no longer have to buy CD’s from bands at shows and can instead just check out their Facebook and maybe buy an album from Bandcamp.

I just hope there aren’t a bunch of future Justin Beiber’s and Miley Cyrus’s that keep acting kooky and somehow get people to pay attention to them despite (or perhaps because of) their horrible music. Sure, I’m guilty of having the hots for Miley, but I didn’t buy her album.

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If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy “Thoughts on the Digital Music Revolution.”

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The Last Show for Dimebag


Every now and again someone mentions Pantera and Dimebag Darrell. And every time that happens the conversation turns to his murder at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, OH.

I don’t mention that I was there every time. Sometimes people talk so fast and so much that I have trouble getting a word in edgewise. And anyway… even if they asked what it was like I couldn’t explain it as well as I did in this story I wrote for a college class a few years ago.

It was originally published on Buzzbin Magazine’s Website, but it was brought to my attention that this link is no longer working so I’ve posted the text below.

http://www.buzzbinmagazine.com/home/2011/12/08/the-last-show/

I took this shot on a digital camera a few seconds before the end of the show.

I took this shot on a digital camera a few seconds before the end of the show.

 

 

Flyer for the last Damgeplan show

Flyer for the last Damgeplan show

I was expecting to see the best concert of my life. What I got instead was one of the worst heavy metal shows of all time.

I nearly shit myself when I first saw it advertised. Damageplan was playing at the Alrosa Villa for $8. To see a band like this in a 640 capacity venue was a once in a lifetime opportunity. They were not a big band. They only had one album under their belts and hadn’t even been on the radar for more than a year, but the guitarist and drummer were living legends. Dimebag Darrell and his brother Vinnie Paul had formed the band Pantera in the eighties and became one of the biggest metal bands of the nineties. When singer Phil Anselmo took time off to play in other bands and get addicted to heroin, they decided to start afresh with a new project.

I never got the chance to see Pantera live, so I figured Damageplan was the next best thing. They didn’t have the history or set list that Pantera had, but I was sure it was going to be a great time. A lot of my friends weren’t really into Damageplan, but I bought two tickets because I was sure there was no way any of them would let me go alone.

On Dec. 8, the day of the show, my rock trivia calendar asked me, “On this day, where was John Lennon murdered?” After a normal day at work I arrived home to a message. My friend whom I had planned on making the hour and a half trip to Columbus with was sick; he wouldn’t be joining me. I was disappointed and pissed off at his last minute bail-out, but I remained optimistic. After calling everyone I had a number for my optimism faded. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to make a long car trip by myself; it was also that I had one headlight, no radio and not a penny for gas. But nothing was going to keep me away from the Alrosa Villa that night, even if I had to make the voyage solo. I handed my disposable camera to my stepdad and he snapped a picture of me giving the finger to all my friends who were too busy to come with me. Then I hit the road.

I stopped in Coshocton and held my breath as I swiped my debit card in the gas pump. There were a few dollars in my account, but I would be over drafting. I bought 11.617 gallons at $1.80/gallon for a total of $21.02 at the Second Street Shell. The only positive light I could find was that Ohio Route 16 is a scenic stretch of road. I strapped my seatbelt on and headed west, out of the Appalachian foothills and into the plains. When I passed the Longaberger basket I knew I was getting close. I made it to the Alrosa with time to spare for the 6:30 start.

ticket

There was nothing great to be said about any of the opening bands: 12 Gauge, Position 6, and Volume Dealer. I remember Volume Dealer doing a cover of “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J and giving a shout out to Vinnie Paul, who watched their set from the side of the stage. Other than that, they’ve faded to the ether of my mind along with the hundreds of other local acts I’ve seen at the dozens of shows I’ve been to.

I really wanted a beer. I had only one dollar to spend. It was already in the form of four quarters, which I traded for two cups of water throughout the night. When Position 6 was finishing up their set, I knew it was time to make my way to the front of the crowd. When Damageplan began there would be no moving through the crowd.

It’s always late by the time the headliners take the stage. My impatience was compounded by three mediocre openers, no money for beer or soda and loneliness. Then the show was held up because some asshole had parked in the wrong space and needed to move his vehicle. My heart pounded with excitement. I was sure this was going to be the greatest event of my life. I knew I would tell my grandchildren about it.

I can’t tell you the exact minute they walked onstage. One moment I was standing comfortably in the middle of a crowd smoking a cigarette (this was still allowed) and the next minute I was crushed between a dozen other fans jostling for a position in front of the stage. I didn’t have the greatest spot in the house, which belonged to the guy in front of me. I was in the second row. That didn’t stop my neighbor from trying to shove me out of the way; of course, I had an advantage over him. I had both of my legs and he was rocking a prosthetic.

But I didn’t care that there were people smashing into me and I had to fight just to be able to stand in the same place. I was in heaven. Dimebag Darrell, arguably the greatest metal guitar player alive, was 10 feet in front of me. The band was rocking out to “Breathing New Life.” I was snapping pictures and banging my head.

I didn’t think anything of it when I saw the tall guy in the orange jacket on the stage. I figured he was a crowd surfer. I’d been on that stage before and had jumped off myself. Crowd surfers were a pain in the ass and you’re sure to get kicked in the head when they’re around, but I didn’t mind. Nothing could ruin this show.

Except that he didn’t jump into the crowd.

He crossed the stage to right in front of me and behind Dimebag, pulled a silver handgun out of his pocket and shot him in the head.

The thing that bothers me the most about this whole experience is that I may have cheered. I thought it was a stunt. Marilyn Manson had been known to do this at his shows. I had seen all of the Pantera home movies and couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to take the life of someone who appeared so caring, genuine and generous as Dimebag Darrell.

Even having seen the mist of blood explode from his face when the bullets hit the back of his skull, I didn’t believe it.

After firing numerous shots (the papers said one number, a book about the event said another and I only heard two) and killing three more people, the gunman took a hostage and disappeared behind a wall of speakers. My eyes tricked me into believing that Dime was still breathing. Of course he wasn’t.

Seconds…Then Minutes ticked by. I didn’t know what to do. I just stood there. The lights came back on, but that could have been part of the joke. When I finally did turn around, the building was nearly empty. And there were police officers rushing in with guns. Not the pistols that they carry in neat leather holster on their hips, but shotguns. When I saw the brown pumps on the dark gunmetal I knew that this was no joke.

I don’t remember hearing the shot that took the assassin’s life. I was too concerned for my hero lying there on the stage. When a group of fans took hold of his arms and began dragging him away from the danger, I joined in. The flesh of his forearm was as cold as if he’d just spent an hour covered in ice. It was hard to believe that a few minutes ago he’d been slamming power chords out of his guitar. Someone started CPR. I just stood there. I could see that it was him. The face, tattoos, and razorblade necklace that I had seen in so many videos, posters and magazines was lying at my feet, but gone.

Realizing there was nothing I could do to help I walked out of a side door. I had stayed inside thinking that maybe I could have been of use to someone, I am trained in CPR and first aid, but there were plenty of police officers and management wanted us out anyway.

I didn’t leave right away. I stood outside the door taking in the scene. I’ve never seen so many grown men openly weeping. I asked the next person out if that had really just happened. He said, yeah, it had. Then he agreed to smoke a bowl with me. My God did I need it.

The tragedy left scars on me. I wasn’t hurt physically and I don’t suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but you can’t see a life taken right in front of your eyes not feel something. You wouldn’t be human if you could. For years afterward I wouldn’t listen to that song, because I could still hear the shots right before the bridge. I’ve been back to the Alrosa a few times but it’s not the same for me. Security is tighter and I can’t look at a certain spot on the floor without seeing his ghost.

 

 

 

 

 

More Awesome Movie Gigs


The best thing about factory work is that you have plenty of time to think (incidentally this is also the worst thing about factory work). I usually spend a lot of time thinking up song lyrics (it’s so hard to pick my nose/ with my face covered in pantyhose), religion (if Jesus was God, does that mean the Crucifixion was an extremely elaborate suicide?) and human anatomy (I would love to see Hayley on a trampoline).

 

I also think a lot about blogs. Sometimes I come up with good ideas for future writings and sometimes I just think about ones I’ve already read. Today I spent quite a lot of time thinking about a blog by Ross vs. Ross titled The Top 16 Best Music Gigs in Movies and I couldn’t help but think of about two dozen scenes he failed to mention. Or perhaps he’s just not partial to them as I am.

 

So here I present you with The Top 26 Best Movie Gigs.

 

26. Kill Bill (2003) – You know you love it.

 

25. Velvet Goldmine (1998) – Would have been a lot better without Ewan McGregor’s penis.

 

24. Winter Passing (2005) – Will Ferrell doing a pretty good version of “I Can’t Tell You Why.”

23. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)

 

22. Saving Silverman (2001)

21. Swingers (1996)

 

20.Animal House (1978)

 

19. Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

 

18. Eurotrip (2004) – Scotty Doesn’t Know!

 

17. Be Cool (2005)

 

16. A Star Is Born (1976)

 

15. Howard the Duck (1986)

 

  1. Immortal Beloved (1994) – “Ahh, the Glorious Ninth”

 

13. Ray (2004)

 

12. Sid & Nancy (1986) – Gary Oldman pretending to be Sid Vicious pretending to be Frank Sinatra. What could be better.

 

11. Strange Days (1995) – I had a huge crush on Juliette Lewis and always wondered why she never started a band, until I listened to Juliette and the Licks and they were among the worst bands I’ve ever heard.

 

 

10. Black Snake Moan (2006)

 

9. Eddie & The Cruisers (1983)

 

8. Step Brothers (2008) – Boats and Hoes!

 

7. AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001) – The next best thing to seeing Ministry live.

 

6. Purple Rain (1984)

 

5. Kingpin (1996) – Arguably Blues Travelers best performance ever.

 

4. Queen of the Damned (2002)

 

3. Singles (1992) – It was worth sitting through the awful love story just for the awesome scenes with Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.

 

2. Airheads (1994)

 

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) – How can you forget about the birth of Ninja Rap!

 

DisHonorable Mentions

Rock Star – Actually Worse than the Judas Priest album with Tim “The Ripper” Owens.

The Howling:New Moon Rising (1995) – Country Music as the background to a horrible Werewolf movie. Or is it the other way around?

Gordy

Get Rich or Die Trying

The Bodyguard – Just because someone is dead does not mean their awful movies are now great.

Rollerball – The only question more perplexing than “Why was Slipknot performing in the arena?” is “Why didn’t somebody stop production of this awful mess?”

 

Maid Myriad “Camera Eye”


Maid Myriad – Camera Eye (2013)Camera Eye cover

 

After reviewing bands from faraway lands like Damascus and Oakland it is nice to turn my attention back to my own little part of Ohio.

 

The last time I was at the Buzzbin Shop I picked up a business card advertising the new Maid Myriad EP and leading me to a website where I could download it for free. I actually had to consider this for a moment because I’ve never been a fan of the band. I’m not sure if this is because I heard a song in the past and didn’t enjoy it or if it’s just because I think the name is stupid. I was pretty sure that Jeff “JCK” Klemm had something to do with the group and I loved his previous project, Via Lotus, so I decided to give it a spin.

 

I nearly thought my prejudices were justified when I heard the high pitched vocals and clean guitar, but for some reason I didn’t turn it off. Then I started enjoying the slow arpeggiated chords, the feedback and layers that I heard over the basic tracks. Once the bass and drums kicked in I was hooked and though the chorus features vocals well above my range and lyrics I can barely decipher I was still tempted to sing along. “Azure Planes” is a bit more indie rock, but still features some great stop/start dynamics and atmospheric lead work. I feel the closer “Chardonnay” is the weakest track on the album and is probably the most similar to whatever Maid Myriad song I heard in the past that turned me off of them. Not that it’s completely devoid of good qualities, but all of those qualities are more abundant on the first two tracks.

 

From someone who is getting a little sick of listening to nothing but heavy metal and is always on the lookout for great new bands I would strongly recommend clicking here and downloading this album. They’ve crafted a very enjoyable set, even with the stupid name.

https://www.facebook.com/maidmyriad

 

Anything That Can Go Wrong 8


Anything That Can Go WrongSL2056

Part 8 – The Sandbox Politics

 

While many people feel the biggest threat to the United States is China’s low wages, Al-Quaeda’s underwear bombs or special interests some would disagree and say that our internal political differences are the thing most likely to bring our country to its knees.

 

I would argue that the band Ockym’s Razyr is a microcosm of our great nation whose biggest problem is not competition for gigs, bad reviews or opinionated girlfriends, but rather their own inability to get along.

 

Since firing founding bass player Matt Vance and bringing Harold Busch in to replace him there has been more infighting that musicmaking in the camp. It hasn’t helped things that Vanessa Hill has dumped drummer Josh Randall and kicked him out of her home leaving the band without a suitable rehearsal space. They’re now crammed into the one stall garage on the side of Adam Gillis and Paul Ode’s triplex. That’s where we’re sitting on this Thursday evening after practice discussing the next move.

 

“I’m sick of trying to show him the riffs,” Paul complains. “He should know the songs already.”

 

“He should already know what you’re trying to teach him?” Adam asks. Paul has been complaining about the new bass player since he was brought on board. Though most of the teaching is being done by his co-guitarist Hal Levatine, Paul is only ever happy when complaining about a fellow musician.

 

“I just think he should be learning the tunes a little faster it all.”

 

“Give him time,” Josh Randall says. The three of them are hanging out morenow that they’re all living together. Josh has been sleeping on the couch for the past week and shows no intentions of moving on. And of course they’re joined by Nora Tomason, Gillis’ omnipresent girlfriend. “He’s coming along well.”

 

What no one in the room knows is that they’ve all been secretly plotting to have the others fired. Paul is working to build a coalition against Harold. Adam wants to build one against Josh and Josh is working to build one against Paul. Fortunately for the group, Hal doesn’t participate very well in the ongoing politics and Harold is too new to have been fully accepted. All that they’re really accomplishing by their scheming is to drive a wedge down the center of their already precarious unity.

 

“I’m just sick of him saying he wants to write new songs instead of learning the old ones.”

 

“You were like that when you got here,” Josh says.

 

“No I wasn’t!”

 

“Yes you were,” Nora says. “That’s why none of the songs off the first album are in the setlist anymore.”

 

“Nora, why don’t you go choke on your own false sense of superiority,” Paul suggests as he lights another cigarette.

 

“Okay,” Adam says. “That’s enough of this for me. Let’s sleep on things and see how we feel about the situation in the morning.”

 

Adam departs quietly but Nora gives Paul the finger as she leaves. Josh cracks open another beer. “Why don’t you guys just screw and get it over with?”

 

“Fuck you, Josh.”

 

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy: Part 3

 

 

 

Anarchadia “Let Us All Unite”


Anarchadia – Let Us All Unite (2013)cover

 

I haven’t heard good thrash metal for a while. The last ‘thrash metal’ album I bought was Lamb of God’s Sacrament and though I enjoyed it, it wasn’t long before everything started sounding the same. With the rise of ready for mainstream thrash-pop like Avenge Sevenfold, Five Finger Death Punch and Bullet For My Valentine I was completely lost. Not that I stopped enjoying the genre. I still jam to Megadeth, Chimaira and some old favorites. I’m still turned on to newer black metal via Underworld, but as for as I could tell thrash was dead.

 

That is until I heard Let Us All Unite from Syria’s Anarchadia. Finally I was able to hear a band that was brutal, violent, heavy and had no chance to hit the mainstream in IslamArabophic America. Sure, we’ve had one Mideastern band make it in the states, but System of a Down broke big before 9/11. Sweden’s Ghost managed to raise a few eyebrows by advertising their satanic beliefs, but that hasn’t been cutting edge since Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar in 1996. Lets face it, in 2013 America, Allah is the new Satan.

 

But none of the songs have a dominant Middle Eastern sound to them. The intro, “Devolution” begins with gunshots and shell casings falling to the ground the way Pink Floyd’s “Money” starts off with cash registers. “Beasts of Burden” contains some great harmonized guitars that sound different from anything Slayer has ever done. “Narchaotic” features breakneck riffage with harmonics thrown in for flavor and some rare clean vocals. The instrumental “Elevation Call” is as interesting and innovative as anything I’ve heard from the great shred guitarists. “Adagnito” switched between pummeling metal and soft plucked acoustic guitars before ending with a few flamenco sounding licks. “Occupy The Wall” begins with a George Carlin sample but quickly builds to an anti-totalitarian anthem that may have sparked the anti-Assad movement.

 

The most moving song on the album is the closer “Let Us All Unite.” It’s a sampled speech set to quiet background music and featuring a touching message of love, understanding and compassion for our fellow man. It helps me to remember that though I see this band through a certain political lens, they are still human and we are all part of the same race.

 

The only song I don’t care much for was “True World Order” which features Iced Earth’s Jon Shaffer and sounds a bit like a throwback to eighties metal.

 

Let Us All Unite is definitely among the best metal albums I’ve heard this year. And the best part is, it’s available for whatever you want to pay on Bandcamp. It only cost me a dollar. I’d say I got my ,money worth.