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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Show Review: SIR SLY & Miner @ The Casbah

SIR SLY band

Show Review
@ The Casbah

    There is no part of the music industry that isn't an absolute shit show in 2013 (except maybe publishing) but as someone who primarily interfaces with that industry as a record label partner, I am particularly fascinated by the world of music management.  Historically, succesful managers moved became record label owners- two primary examples being David Geffen and Irving Azoff.  Here is a quote from Frederic Dannen's national best seller, Hit Men- which is about the music industry during the halcyon days of glory (i.e. the 1980s):

   "Though artist management had made them rich, it was only a matter of time before Geffedn and Azoff leaped the bargaining table to become label presidents.  Almost all top managers and lawyers in the record business secretly hanker to run a label.  However powerful the artist representatives may be, the label bosses are the ones who hold the check book."
  "Lawyers and managers never forget, meanwhile, that their power is tenuous.  Artists may fire them or, even more likely, fall from the charts.  The average career of a rock artist is cruelly brief- five years is an achievement, and twenty years is a miracle." (pg. 141-142.)

   These days, the traffic is 100% in the other direction, particularly since record labels don't hire anyone ever these days.  On the other hand, there are plenty of ex-A&R types working as managers. The difficulty of being a manager is that you don't get paid unless the Artist gets paid, and the Artist isn't going to get paid unless they are very, very successful and even then...if you get them after they hook up with an indie label- poof- there goes a huge pot of money.  So I'm never surprised when a manager comes between a label I work with and a band they are releasing- that is the natural order of things.  It's like being mad at Nature for the weather- your time is better spent trying to understand it then being angry at it for what it does to you.

   I'm bringing all this up because the only reason I went to last night's show is because I was curious about "what it takes" to get picked up by Monotone Management- and Sir Sly is the most recent act to be picked up by Monotone Management. I'm always curious to see what people who are actually successful in the music industry are interested in, and what they decide to spend time and energy on.  Monotone Management of course, is the home of Jack White, Vampire Weekend, The Shins and Foster The People.

Kate Miner

  First up at last night's free show was Los Angeles indie-folk act Miner.  Miner essentially treads the same sonic space as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.  Now, they aren't original, but man- think about the potential upside- FM radio and actual record sales for one.  It's not too hard to draw comparisons to Grammy Album Of The Year Winner Lumineers or Mumford & Sons.  It's not music I listen to, but I literally saw dollar signs on top of the heads of the gently swaying crowd.

Miner band

  As I've said before, originality in music is highly, highly, highly overrated- what you want is a twist on something with an established sales track record, and when you are using Edward Sharpe, The Lumineeers & Mumford and Sons as your benchmarks the upside is unlimited. Maybe they make it, maybe they don't but it's hard to imagine that one could lose money putting out an LP on Miner.  Actually, it's impossible to imagine losing money on such an LP.

 They should consider changing their name to something like the Miner Family Singers though- so it's more obvious to casual music listeners what they are about.  Miner sounds like a band on Dischord.

  Headliners SIR SLY lost about half the crowd that was there to see Miner (score a point for Miner.)  They are a five piece- singer/guitarist, lead guitarist, bassist, drummer and key/synths guy- all dudes. To say that they are they are polished is a mild understatement- they are slick like a California freeway after the first rain of the year.  The focus of SIR SLY is clearly the singer/guitarist who fronts the band-   and the sound has obviously been crafted for maximum impact on alt rock FM radio.  Paul Lester of the London Guardian called them a "Chillwave Coldplay" but you could also just call them a super pro synth pop act and leave Coldplay out of it.  Maroon 5- also a comparison made by the London Guardian and also apt, although the singer will have to ditch the guitar and pop off his shirt to really merit a comparison to Adam Levine.

 All told it was pretty darn easy to see why Monotone Management is fucking with  SIR SLY- they sound exactly like the kind of band that gets signed to a major label in 2013.  I'm sure both bands have a viable future ahead of them due to their combination of professional grade sound and performance chops. I say, "Good luck on your journey gentlemen, and may the odds be ever in your favor."

  Oh last thought- having a live drummer play drum pads instead of actual drums seems like a solid move in 2013- like the drum break in Phil Collins In The Air Tonight:


  You can't go wrong with that sound.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book Review: Thomas Jefferson - The Art of Power by Jon Meacham

Thomas Jefferson

Book Review
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
by Jon Meacham
p. 2012
Random House

  Here is the funniest thing about Thomas Jefferson and his legacy.  Historians spent close to two centuries denying that Thomas Jefferson banged the enslaved half-sister of his wife and fathered a half dozen children by her.  "Oh no- that's impossible- it was his, no no, he would NEVER EVER do such a thing."  Across the board- historians denied it coming up with dozens of excuses.  Then- in the 1990s they finally got some quality DNA tests done AND GUESS WHAT YEAH HE DID.    Jefferson not only fathered a half dozen children by Sally Hemings, he kept the children AS SLAVES.

  So now of course, historians are like, "Oh you have to judge him by the standards of his times."  Oh rly, historians?  Is that why y'all spent two centuries bending over backwards to deny the truth?  What a crock of shit.  There were plenty of founding fathers who didn't enslave their own children- like- oh, I don't know- all of them.

  Meacham, to his credit, I guess, acknowledges the factual truth of this relationship and tries to place it into the context of Jefferson's life and times but man- the more I think about it the more it grosses me out.  Which is not to say that Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power is a gross book- quite the opposite.  Meacham's one volume biography of Jefferson won the Pulitzer Prize last year.

  It clocks in at 500 pages with an additional 200 pages of footnotes.  It's pretty hard to write a one volume of Jefferson's live- and to do it you need to assume that the reader is already familiar with the historical events in the Revolutionary/Early Republic era.   With 43 chapters Meacham keeps the narrative moving along- 10 pages on this, 10 pages on that- the pace more resembles a well researched feature film then a scholarly biography.  Perhaps for that reason Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power seems destined to maintain a position as a primary source for people looking to canvass the various stories of the founding fathers.

Show Review: Some Ember & Cathedral X @ The Void

Show Review
Some Ember
& Cathedral X
@ The Void in San Diego, CA.

  Grand opening of the Void last night.  How come SD Dialed In left the show off of the weekly listings?  Didn't think that was how SD Dialed In rolled.  Surely an unfortunate over sight, although truth be told being left off the SD Dialed In listings is probably the coolest thing that could happen to an SD show.

  Decent turn out despite the sub arctic (for San Diego) temperatures which were scraping the mid 40s by midnight last night.  They took that stupid ass long table out of the front room/bar area- huge improvement over the lay out at Eleven.

  Cathedral X opened- they are down to two people now- see last weeks Local's Only in San Diego City Beat squib about what happened to member 3.   So now it's Amanda singing and the other member during the costumey/dancey thing.  They had heavier beats- it reminded me of Zola Jesus performing to early Autechre (new double LP out now!)

  Amanda needs to engage the Audience more and move around more on stage- the live show is pretty static the way it is now.

  Some Ember was in town from Oakland.  They were a bit of a revelation, traversing the same general area as Cold Showers, i.e. gothy pop influenced by Bauhaus, The Cure, Joy Division, etc.  They had a four piece band with a live drummer and a girl playing the keyboards.  The songwriting was strong and the delivery of the material was impassioned- it was a promising melange.  Unfortunatly gothy pop bands don't seem to be striking the fancy of the indie blogger nation ATM so it we'll see how far Some Ember can take it- I'm going to support them though.

  If you are in the SF Bay Area give them a shot- looks like they gig fairly often up there.

  Not trying to dis SISU by omitting them from the review but I'm more or less friends with a couple members of the band and any review would lack objectivity.

  Tomorrow night is Monotone signed band SIR SLY- for free- at the Casbah- check it out- they could have a hit single on the radio in a matter of months.

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