Having a rough day at work? Winter blues got you down? Maybe this will help warm your spirits. Take a break from your routine with this compilation of photos I took during my time back home in Hawaii (specifically on Oahu, where I grew up, and Kauai). Photos were taken with my iPhone, as I left my DSLR in San Francisco, and originally posted online (hey, follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!).
You get Chinese Man, the French trip-hop collective and my newest musical discovery. I was enjoying the night at Muka, a hip underground French wine bar in San Francisco, when I heard “Miss Chang” (video is below) off the owner’s playlist. Utilizing influences from around the world, it’s some of the best genre fusing I’ve ever heard. Each track on their 2011 release Racing With the Sun is unique and inspired.
Continue reading “Chinese Man – Incredible trip-hop group from France”
Occasionally I’ll write a reference post for the independent musician based on my own personal band experience. These are the points of advice I wish I had when I first started. If I’ve missed anything, I gladly invite you to contribute by adding comments, so that others, including myself, can learn from your experience as well. And please check out my band, Festizio, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.
THE FIRST GIG
If you haven’t performed before, the first show can be intimidating. With images of professional musicians recalled in mind, you’ll inadvertently make an attempt on living up to the musicians you admire. The first, and probably most comforting, bit of wisdom is knowing that everyone is scared the first time. If you give a damn about what you’re doing, it’s only natural to feel self-conscious. And that’s okay. The trick is to remember why you’re performing in the first place (hopefully you love music) and to focus on having fun, because more often than not, the audience wants you to succeed.
Understanding Your Venue
It’s important to take into account the type of venue and, consequently, the type of audience you’re about to perform for. There are essentially four types of settings you’re most likely to encounter when you first start out:
– Traditional club
– Small bar, pub, or saloon
– Coffeehouse or equivalent
– Outdoor venue
Each comes with a different set of expectations, and so you should set your own expectations accordingly. While a traditional club may offer a soundcheck and adequate monitoring, a smaller venue may not provide sound support. An outdoor venue will diffuse your sound more than an enclosed space, altering the impact of your music as heard by the audience. A coffeehouse most likely will offer only a PA for vocals with restrictions on overall volume. In this situation, you may opt to play an acoustic set if you’re usually anything louder. Knowing your venue can help tailor your performance appropriately so you don’t seem awkwardly out of place.
Planning Your Set List
A carefully planned set list provides the emotional balance for your set. A good general order is to start upbeat, keep downtempo songs in the middle, and end with your strongest song. Like movie scenes, you progress the experience from high to low to highest in terms of energy. Maintaining an appropriate mix keeps the audience interested. If you can, space songs in the same key apart. Additionally, adding some artistic transitions between songs dramatically enhances the show.
Before the Show
Aside from your standard instrumentation, it’s a good idea to bring backups whenever you can. Personally, I always pack a spare guitar for the possibility a string might snap. It never hurts to be a little prepared. Be sure to check your patch cables and connections before packing for the show. Maintain and clean your instruments. A little organization goes a long way during both pack-up and load-in. I also find it helpful to bring a few extension cables in the event there aren’t enough sockets for everyone. If you’re a guitarist, a separate portable tuner proves useful in tuning backstage before a show, so you can warm up while ensuring you’re in tune before hitting the stage.
If you’ve been offered a soundcheck, be pleased. A good soundcheck session turns night to day for live performances. Be sure to pick a song to check that encompasses all your instrumentation so that the sound engineer has a good idea of how best to set the various instrument levels. Make sure the engineer gets a taste of any surprise instruments or sounds you plan on using throughout your set so there aren’t any mid-show surprises. Finally, don’t just be on time for soundcheck. Be early. Introduce yourselves and be nice. The sound engineer is your best friend.
During the Show
There are only two rules for performing authentically:
– Be yourself
– Have fun
Seriously. If Cat Power can vomit on stage and still win over the audience (for the most part), you’re allowed to do anything. It’s your show, so don’t feel hard-pressed to live up to any other standards beyond your own. Have high goals but don’t compare yourself too much to others. Take a second to enjoy the moment. Time moves faster than you think when you’re on stage.
After the Show
Despite popular belief, the show really ends when everyone is home and asleep (assuming you sleep). The period after your set is the most opportune moment to connect with others. Thank attendees for coming, make some friends, pimp out your record, or, if you don’t have one, share your mailing list. The goal is to connect with the audience, so that your relationship with them doesn’t end when the night is over. Facebook. Twitter. All that. Thank the venue manager with a free album or shirt.
If you’re still reading this, you’re probably a musician or a close friend of mine reading out of pity (thanks!). If you’re the former, you already know that you do what you do because it’s what you love. So enjoy what you have and be grateful for the rockstar life that you lead.
– Extension cables
– Extra instrument cables
– Backup instruments, when practical
– Instrument stands
– Spare tuner for tuning backstage
– Set list for each member
– Mailing list for fans
– Merchandise, whether an album or free info cards
– Positive attitude
I would surmise that a conscious being capable of creating the living world would possess an intellect far greater than our own. If someone that omnipotent spoke, would we really be able to clearly understand?
The analogy I like to use is the ant on the computer (Mac or PC, for once it doesn’t matter). The ant knows that it’s on the computer – it can feel the hard surface and warmth from the glow. It knows the computer exists, and the existence of the computer directly affects the life of the ant, if only in that the ant has to crawl over it.
The ant, however, can never conceive the full potential of the computer. While it may see the light, it doesn’t comprehend text, spreadsheet cells, wacky fonts or viral videos. The reality of the computer and the ant are both intertwined but with wholly separate purpose.
So when people talk about the “word of God,” I find it a little ridiculous. How can you understand something that big when you’re just an ant on a computer?
But then I guess if something created Heaven and the earth, it could learn to speak human too…
Before our show at Red Devil Lounge last night, I had been watching music performance videos to sort of get me into “the mood,” which is, I think, the equivalent of watching porn before having sex. Though who does that, I don’t know. Anyway, I ran into a Rolling Stone article on Kurt Cobain, discussing the sixteenth anniversary of when the rock icon committed suicide. The article commemorates his life with an amazing photo collection and some updates on his legacy, including his inclusion in Rock Band and the planned biopic on his life, Heavier Than Heaven. Here was a guy, loved and hated musically, that stood for something beyond music, injecting something more meaningful than sex and booze into rock culture. And as destructive as he was, he was/is pretty damn inspirational.
As a musician, I think it helps to constantly reevaluate why you create music. I think great music comes through if it stands for something, if you’re motivated by something more than simply creating melodies for the sake of creating melodies. That’s what separates an artist from a hobbyist, I guess. Artists create largely because they have to. Like the need to drink water or breathe air, their medium is an ingrained form of expression that, whether they want it to or not, needs to come out. Not allowing it to would be akin to never speaking for a kid that can’t shut up.
Nirvana’s performance at Reading, regarded as their greatest, is available on an NME award-nominated DVD. I’m seriously considering finally picking this up.
Few bands exhibit the robust and bittersweet sounds of Americana better than The Wallflowers. Fronted by Jakob Dylan, Bob Dylan’s son (though he often disconnects himself from the lineage), their melodies of overdriven guitars and lush vintage keyboards really draw up images of the heart of America, from wheat fields and highways to Hollywood and Vine.
The Wallflowers always set off something pleasant in my soul when I hear them, and they are one of few bands where I actually own all the albums (physical albums – remember those?). With the upcoming release of their greatest hits album, The Wallflowers, Collected: 1996-2005, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit some of the best songs from one of my all-time favorite bands.
Here are my favorite songs in dramatic descending order:
10.) From The Bottom of My Heart – Rebel, Sweetheart
9.) Sixth Avenue Heartache – Bringing Down The Horse
8.) Sleepwalker – Breach
7.) We’re Already There – Rebel, Sweetheart
6.) Used to Be Lucky – No Boundaries: A Benefit For The Kosovar Refugees
5.) Invisible City – Bringing Down the Horse
4.) How Good It Can Get – Red Letter Days
3.) The Beautiful Side of Somewhere – Rebel, Sweetheart
2.) Josephine – Bringing Down The Horse
1.) One Headlight – Bringing Down The Horse
I remember sitting by the radio, waiting for this song to come on. I can’t recall the last time I liked a song enough to do that. Or maybe I should say, I can’t remember the last time I liked the radio enough…
Yesterday, Muse released an exclusive download of a full-length track off their upcoming album, The Resistance. The track, entitled “United States of Eurasia,” continues their Queen-inspired musical journey through sonic battlefields of crazy sounds and lyrics about weird stuff.
Download here or just have a quick listen.
A little corny but I like.
What do you think?
Coldplay finally releases an album that tops even Coldplay itself. Produced by the great Brian Eno, Viva La Vida is an open and ambient masterpiece that celebrates life through glorious pronouncements of strings and beats.
I’ve been searching for something spacious like Radiohead’s Kid A, sans any of the depressing qualities, and Viva La Vida seems well suited for the job. It’s not quite as poignant as any of the Radiohead albums, but it also doesn’t leave you feeling like you just shot your cat and then thought too hard about why you did it. There’s a similar difference between rockets and fireworks, where the former creates more of a lasting effect, while the latter seems a tad prettier. Coldplay is the latter.
The other obligatory Coldplay comparison draws you to U2. On their last album, X&Y, the band professed an adoration for the Bono/Edge sound. While I think it worked for the most part, X&Y often suffered in garnering any semblance of boundary or form. Words sort of spilled out from Martin’s mouth, and the instrumentals blended into a blur. On Viva La Vida, Coldplay successfully finds the balance between all their previous work, discovering truly who they really are.
Viva La Vida opens with “Life in Technicolor,” a multi-textured instrumental opening that sort of explodes with, well, color. The following track, “Cemeteries of London” contrasts its preceding track with a haunting opening leading quickly into pounding rhythms propelling a full orchestration of sounds.
Later songs expand the juxtaposition between the first two tracks and the variation that conducts them. On “Yes,” violins jump between what resembles a Middle Eastern breakdown into a seemingly Western groove during the verses. Then there is the notoriously catchy “Violet Hill…”
One cannot discount the album’s first hit and title track, “Viva La Vida,” showcasing Martin’s exquisite and illustrative lyrical work: “I hear Jerusalem bells a’ ringing / Roman Cavalry choirs are singing / Be my mirror, my sword and shield / My missionaries in a foreign field…” I’m a sucker for escapism.
The album concludes with the choir-driven “Death And All His Friends,” finishing with a reprise of the opening track. It’s an almost symmetrical end to an asymmetrical album. And, in doing so, Coldplay succeeds in crafting something bigger than themselves, which, given their earlier successes, is no easy feat.
Good work, Coldplay! You don’t suck again!