Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ticket Oak is a Creepy Scalper That Will Rape You and Your Favorite Musicians

I debated for awhile whether to use the actual image or not. I didn't want to promote this thing any more than
 it already has. In the end I thought I'd better, for those that have NO IDEA what I'm talking about. 
Also, isn't this stupid oak tree enjoying the labor of the tire swinging girl too much? I know when someone is 
hanging off me, it's annoying and it usually hurts. I don't know about you, but those eyes look rapey to me. 

Obama? Commander in Chief? You want to be re-elected? You want my vote? Fix the ticket problem in this country. Somebody with some power has to step in.

First on the agenda? Find a fucking ax and chop down that scary fucking Ticket Oak!? I HATE TICKET OAK!? Could they have made that thing any creepier? In a way, it’s kind of an accurate representation of shady people you buy tickets from, if not from the proper vender, the MO of Stub Hub. You always have to kind of give them a look over and do some quick Malcom Gladwell Blink style snap judgments, only with bias, racism and whatever else you can reach for.

I know one thing is for sure, if I had a Craigslist transaction and the fucking Ticket Oak showed up with that creeper voice and rolling green eyes, I’m getting the fuck out of dodge. I don’t care if it has free Foo Fighter tickets. FUCK THE TICKET OAK!!!!

I get the campaign. Like a money tree with tickets? Oh, how clever. The execution is what I have a problem with. How did this thing pass screen tests? Not only would I never buy tickets from this thing, but from the moment I saw this tree, I’ve been struggling to get proper sleep. It haunts me!? Not because it has tickets I want. Because, I think its branches are going to wake me up in the middle of the night and I’m going grab my ankles and take some oak until I choke. Some good wood. Rape. I’m going to get raped by a tree with a bunch of tickets I want shaking over me as I get throttled in ways Peter Gabriel never dreamed!?

Don’t we need to cut it down to make the very tickets it’s trying to pawn!?

Next problem. A money tree is free! A ticket tree is free! This commercial is mocking you for a commodity you don’t have, but upping the ante. The price! It’s one thing to drive the consumer economy by showing people something they want and selling it to them. It’s a whole new stratosphere to do what Stub Hub is doing. They are connecting scalpers, people that make a living off of artists’ hard work. Not only is that illegal, but it’s unethical and unfair. I think those are three different things, all in the wrong here. I’m not always one to believe you have to do everything the law says, and we all obviously steal from artists when we download music. They recoup that loss with concerts.  

Ticket revenue belongs to the artist of the particular show or event you’re trying to see. People make a living being “supply and demand” pimps, hoarding tickets to shows and selling them for 200, 300, 1,000, 10,000 percent of the original cost.

You wonder why tickets to your favorite bands are so expensive (let alone so hard to obtain?) 1) Everyone steals music. We’ve accepted this. 2) The band you’re supporting only gets revenue on the ACTUAL price of the ticket you’ve purchased minus the crew, traveling costs, law costs, etc, etc. It’s not cheap to tour. This is ok if you’re Lady Gaga or whoever is popular. This stuff is pretty cake for them, yet again, shouldn’t be a cash cow for a ticket pimp. But, for smaller artists, this is a splicing hair, bodega razor-thin margin operation. And crooks are making money for themselves on your favorite artists work, increasing the cost and difficulty for you the fan to acquire seats. This includes creeper oak hub.

Say your favorite band has a concert and the tickets are 25 bucks. After paying all the costs that are associated with putting on a concert, the artist(s) himself or herself might only make 3-5 bucks a ticket. Now, a scalper, will sell a pair of $25 tickets easily for $200 bucks, making $75 a ticket or 15 times what the artist made on the show. The scalper will do this AGAIN…and AGAIN…and AGAIN.

That’s why some my favorite bands are paying their rent on $40 dollar hoodies and $35 dollar tank tops.  

Even people that want to sell to people in front of the show at face value are tempted, because a scalper will have the spot scoped out and a bigger offer waiting. I understand that this happens and will always happen. I understand that concerts are something that will always be something so crazy awesome—people will pay any amount for it. Getting good tickets takes a great deal of time and effort. If you have money, why not spend your time making the money and then 10 seconds getting the tickets from a scalper. That’s supply and demand. I get that.

The problem is getting out of control.

That margin I was talking about earlier, now applies to the number of actual fans that want to get to the shows. Fewer and fewer real fans are able to acquire the tickets the proper way, because there are now 15,000 Stub Hubs. I always joke that the economy of American is hanging on the profit margin of fountain soft drinks. Every restaurant at any level has them. They serve you something that costs two cents and charge you two or three bucks. The profit margin on these ticket transactions is about the same. You’re almost an idiot if you DON’T scalp tickets. Economically speaking.

You’re still an unethical bastard if you do.  

I just like to think people have more integrity then that. They don't. I know. If this were the Wild West, scalpers would be tracked down by bounty hunters and hung, tried and shot. That simple. It’s THAT annoying and it’s THAT wrong. But, the more simplicity technology creates, the more people depend on others to regulate it. Certainly, nobody is taking a stand, or these places wouldn’t be as fast and frivolous as massage parlors.

Note to Craigslist ticket buyers, you CAN click “for sale by owner” in a side tab to eliminate all these Stub Hub subsidiary businesses from popping up in your window, and deal with person by person sellers, who are mostly looking for the same kind of profit on a product that doesn’t belong to them.

If you take the time and diligence you can usually find someone with some decency that will sell you tickets for the price they paid. It’s getting harder and harder to come by, afterall, there are major campaigns on tv promoting industries that do this. Yet, prostitution is illegal, right? If you ask me, those businesses would make commercials I would want to see. That’s the wood I’m looking for.

Not some fucking oak under cutting my favorite industry. You know, as good of a year as Dave Grohl has had, I bet Ticket Oak has made more money!?!? Let that sink in!?

All this Zerfas ticket propaganda is not the fault of the oak or Stub Hub. Stub Hub doesn’t tell people to be fucking assholes and make money off artists’ creations. That’s a person by person crime, but that doesn’t mean this tumor isn’t growing exponentially in size. Bigger and bigger until something is done.

Seems to me, if Ticket Oak had any integrity, they wouldn’t allow you to post any price over what the listed price of the tickets is. In fact, if Ticket Oak had ethics, the business model would simply be, sell the tickets back to Ticket Oak at 90% of the value. Ticket Oak, as a importer/exporter would make the remaining 10% giving people what the want. Fair ticket prices for the fans and artists alike. Ethical. Fair. Business.

That’s not what this is about. It’s free money taking advantage of all that are involved. And why wouldn’t you throw ad dollars at that? It’s free money!?!?! Like a money tree. They’re mocking us again and reaping the rewards. The only people paying the price are music fans and musicians.

That’s fucking hilarious. Someone plant me a tissue oak.   

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Shearwater, Le Poisson Rouge, May 6th, 2012

I know this piece uses the words Animal Joy 10,000 times
but I just really enjoy looking at this album cover! 

I’ve had a grave misconception about one of my favorite bands. Shearwater ROCKS. Not in that way, that thing, that superlative, I fire away after EVERY concert I see, “yeah dude…it ROCKED!?” I mean, concurrently, I was trying to see an earthy folk rock show with some of the prettiest music known to man, created by man, and, man, did I get my socks blown off.

How did this happen? I’ve had my perception of a band swayed by a live show, but not in any kind of genre bending sense like this. Perhaps, it was selection of songs. They did play 10 of the 11 songs on their new album Animal Joy, but note if I must, the exclusion was my favorite of the bunch, “Believing Makes It Easy.” Figures. Mid-tempo songs don’t move merchandise.

Many Shearwater songs pay spoils to the listener who wade through five minutes of glassy-as-ice reflecting water to wash themselves in the shear electricity of the cascading falls they’ve been building you up for. Rise up O red-tailed hawk! Most Shearwater albums only really feature a couple of “rock” songs per album. Most of them parallel the songs Barenaked Ladies record naked (allegedly they do this for one song per album)—they stand-alone on hallowed ground. Tracks like: Corridors, Century Eyes and Johnny Voila, on Palo Santo, Rook and Golden Archipelago rip through your stereo speakers like a European Swallow on a quest for coconuts.

In that vein, rocking for Shearwater seemed more like an outburst, rather than a comfortable plop on the couch of treble clef homeostasis, but I GET IT now. Rock on Shearwater. Although, I’m not sure if my perception is better or worse for the shape-shifting action.

I liked Shearwater as a dorky, Earth folk band. I enjoyed their place in my catalog closer to Andrew Bird and the Decemberists, rather than, the distinct possibility of blending in with Midlake. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s just how I disseminate what I’m going to listen to on any particular occasion.

It’s not just me though. Something happened on this last album. Something bigger than switching labels, from Matador to Sub Pop, and toggling producers. I thought Pitchfork’s review hit the nail on the head, “Even when trying to describe what makes something like Rook’s "The Snow Leopard" a staggering listen, you're left with chin-stroking explanations, like how a trumpet's fanfare finally breaks the tension of John Congleton's immaculate production, but it lasts three seconds and takes four minutes to get there.”  
--Ian Cohen

On Animal Joy Shearwater seems to have buttoned up their respective lapel. In title and execution, the topics remain Earthy and soil-like, yet, when I first listened to the album, the catchiness and immediacy of the effort caused me to soil, myself. Everything’s a little tighter on texture and a little lighter in composition. Kind of like when I make chili for my friends that don’t like as much spice as I do—the new album has a squirt or two less of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce in favor of more tomato broth. With the other ingredients I use, the chili will still be distinguishably my own blend, unique to my taste, but in a way that’s accessible to others that don’t want the fire.  

The live show Sunday night at Le Poisson Rouge was nothing short of a thunderously raucous wingding, though, noticeably devout of banjos, ominous falsetto ladled breakdowns and the beautiful Frank’s Red Hot Sauce drizzle that sets fire to my folk forest. I still got an amazing rock show. It was just 20 percent unique, instead of the 45-50-percentile of uniqueness I prescribed for the voyage.

Jonathan Meiburg took the stage, switching between keys and electric guitar, looking like a dorkier, disheveled version of Jack McBriar. Key lines hit hard. The drumming was underrated, yet ferocious. Stage banter was honed, but chipper. Opening on keys, Meiburg’s choice to begin with “Snow Leopard” about brought me out of my seat. As a guy who regularly pontificates, “Shearwater’s Rook is in my Top 5 albums of all-time,” it was a welcome initiation to a band I was long overdue to see live. Ten of the 18-song set was off Animal Joy. The highlight, for me, was the solo rendition of “Hail, Mary” which I previously thought of as a relatively easy going number, again, much to my dismay, and jubilation, featured a soul thrashing big-rock-finish that left nothing but the dissonant feedback of squawking hens and fluttering feathers.

So, perhaps I know nothing about Shearwater? You might as well pull the underwear over my head and conclude the “covered wagon.” But, there are pros and cons to that as well. 1) It’s always a good thing to get new underwear 2) perhaps at the underwear store they’ll be selling a copy of Animal Joy 3) A movie script scenario could shine its way upon me, in such a way, that I find a hopeless youth ogling over a copy.

I’ll be able to tell such a chap that the album, in fact, rocks. Factually.

The Snow Leopard
Animal Life
Dread Sovereign
You As You Were
Pushing the River
Open Your Houses (Basilisk)
Leviathan Bound
Run the Banner Down
Breaking the Yearlings
Star of the Age

Hail, Mary (solo)
Landscape at Speed
White Waves
These Days (R.E.M. cover)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Album Review: Ulysses Cannon, I (EP)

Music today isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Popular rock bands are so few and far between they’re cultivating themselves as identifiable genre comparisons, simply, from lack of reference. Rock songs with arena hooks are Foo Fighters. If you once used a piano and you’ve moved on to more dance-infused music, you’re Coldplay (who was once U2). If anyone dares to slap a bass, the Red Hot Chili Peppers (this has kind of been true since the mid-90’s) come to mind. Deal with it as you may, cd’s are being shipped to museums and Train is somehow in the Top 40, again.

What about blues music? Oh yeah, you mean the Black Keys right? The bearded flannel donning hipster, and the nerdy looking drummer with horrible posture hipster, from Ohio, remains the 2012 perception of the blues. Good grief. Would it kill anyone to make a Robert Randolph and the Family Band reference!?

I only bring it up, because I’m pretty sure the first time I saw Matthew Snow & the Way it Was, I said to my bass crunching friend in the band, “yeah…you sound like the Black Keys,” to which the band put their drinks down and carted me over to the nearest bowling alley and removed my hand Kingpin style. That’s right; blame the prices at Brooklyn Bowl on my insurance claim!

So, I shouldn’t have said that, and the Keys shouldn’t have released El Camino. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but everyone involved paid the price equally—occasionally I’m relegated to writing, “I’m an asshole” in my check memos.

This I do know: Matthew Snow & the Way it Was have evolved into a four-piece, Queens based juggernaut, Ulysses Cannon, and have completed a rip-roaring six-song EP titled, simply, “I.”

Just in time for summer, the fun, easy, digestion of the music, as well as their logo design, remind me of the cleansing waters of Cedar Point’s Thunder Canyon. The best part of any trip to the world’s biggest and BEST amusement park was the unscripted, mid-day, sun escape through Thunder Canyon’s swirling waterfalls. The arraignments of Ulysses Cannon hit you in the same way, you have an idea of what’s coming, but no idea how soaked you’re about to become.  

The opening note of the album is a harmonica—allow that to sink in. Nanoseconds into the hard rocking “Self Induced Insomnia” the mood is locked in for a bar room rump shaker. Dim the lights and allow your soles to spin in the sawdust. Somehow, Ryan Adams’ “Shakedown on 9th Street” blends perfectly with that magical call-and-response dance circle when everyone says “and a little bit softer now.” The comparison holds water (dirty Thunder Canyon water?), because 1) that’s easily the best dance circle chant 2) I always mix up this particular Ryan Adams title with “Tina Toledo’s Streetwalking Blues,” with Toledo being a city in, Ohio, where the Black Keys are from 3) Ryan Adams is the second artist (Neil Young is first) that comes to mind when I think of “best uses of the harmonica.”

Following a big rock finish when lead vocalist Matthew Snow successfully tries to oxidize recording tape vocally, Ulysses Cannon transitions unequivocally into vast green pastures with their catchiest offering, “Want” in what should be the quintessential sun-soaked, BBQ, bikini-car wash accompaniment of the summer. 

“Holding On” evokes the essence of Steely Dan with the effervescent joy of having a beer after work while a hired choir sings to you, all about it. Like a throttle parched freight train, "She's In Control" revs up and down ignoring the local stops, meanwhile, "Got it Bad" is an epic closer that must have been co-written by B.A. Baracus, uncredited. 

Expect an EP packed tight with energy, variety, shouting, simmering breakdowns and summertime shenanigans, like for instance, screaming, “You may never know my motherfucking name!” Other times UC will simply turn the keys over to lead guitarist Hiro Suzuki (I’m certainly the first person to make that pun) for a “take this one out” solo—guitar work that’s bound to elicit a classic squinting double-take.

With raspy charm, things like “Pretty Lady” and “I wait 100 days to feel you one more night,” are sung without sounding ponderous. Confidence is a quantification that can’t be forced, taught or beckoned. It’s just a pleasant present for the senses when the whole package comes together with such zeal.

There’s no chart for finding the best skipping stones. You find them, when you get your hands on them, sifting for yourself, or your buddy hands you one.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Andrew Bird, Beacon Theater, May 4th, 2012

This was a very cool stage prop. The two horns would move and it would make the sound
move right to left across the Beacon Theater. And it just looks cool. Vintage vestige.
Photo: Stolen

The tone was set early at the Beacon Theater Friday night. It was abundantly clear that this show was destined to be epic. Amongst a sock monkey, hanging sea creatures and an old-style record player with two horns that apparently rotate, Bird baffled the Beacon audience without saying a word. It felt like the opening scene to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. I thought to myself, “perhaps he doesn’t feel like singing tonight” as the first 13-17 minutes of the program was a one-man cloistered fit of violin playing, xylophone, tapping, various whistle patterns and guitar—looped with what must be an expansive foot pedal system. Mouth open. Completely fascinated. 

Why don’t more people know about this guy? SOME people know him, because he was able to sell out two Beacon Theater shows, but in casual conversation, even with people that know music pretty well, he draws a great deal of crickets.  

Bird really holds a precarious niche. He’s been around forever, most notably as the fiddle player on at least the first Squirrel Nut Zippers album. His new album, Break it Yourself, is his 12th studio album. Recorded in his barn around Western Illinois near the Mississippi River, the album, according to Bird is his first truly “communal album.”  It couldn’t come at a better time, because the album is a masterpiece—easily one of the best of the year and perhaps his finest. It’s full, rich, and emotive and more than his previous offerings seems to communicate better lyrically.

Bird is the consummate professional, dressing the part, entering the stage Friday night looking like a business version of Josh Grobin, rocking a 5 O’clock shadow and a suit adorned with a scarf. He’s not too busy-busy fluttering from one flummoxing arrangement to the next to adhere to his audience. When someone loudly requested “Measuring Cups,” he without flinching quipped, “We can do that. We hadn’t planned to…” The bass player even had to retrieve the bass he’d just put away. “Happy to oblige,” remarked Bird before playing the song he had originally scripted. When it was time to close the set with “Tables and Chairs,” Bird foreshadowed dryly, “It’s time for snacks.” Yes, yes it is.  

Some of the songs rocked ridiculously hard for the billing (“Fake Palindromes” comes to mind). I really thought at times I was watching a metro-sexual Jethro Tull. At other times the lavish love of indie-folk-rock-violining made me want to weep for joy, whether playing and singing (which I didn’t know was possible) or straight up plucking as if it were a mandolin (I’d also never seen this style on a violin, therefore didn’t render it possible). Occasionally he’d prophesize his gesticulations singing the lyrics with his hands in the air, flowing to and fro like a college professor giving a dissertation on Zach De La Rocha’s lyrical propaganda.  You can’t spell range without RAGE.

Another sensational dynamic of the show was when the band would break down into a three-piece in front of one microphone and play bluegrass style. They did this in the middle of the set for a couple of the newer songs, as well as, in the encore when they played Charley Patton and Townes Van Zandt covers consecutively. The guitarist stood to the left, straight up and postured high like a mariachi-man, with the standup bass to the right and Bird manning violin and vocals. Scintillating and simple, it grounded the show in vintage vestige.

A whistling renaissance man conjuring a plan to take over the world with a guitar slung over his shoulder, violin in hand, wheeling a xylophone and whistling—smiles are bound to light a path to glittering glory.  

Stock in Andrew Bird…is…wait for it…yes…SOARING!?!?!?  

I don’t have a setlist for the show. It’s pretty similar to the Philly show from the previous night (on Setlist FM), only with the addition of “Measuring Cups.” He also did a KILLER rendition of "It's Not Easy Being Green!?"  

I did, however, come up with some marketing ideas for how to ratchet up Bird’s market share.

Coming soon to stores near you, these fine Andrew Bird products…
  • Andrew Bird Risk: You are not fighting for world domination, rather to educate the world with musical culture. Countries and spoils will be decided with complicated looping dice challenges (like Yahtzee on speed blended with pre calculus) and classical music trivia. Risk matches double if you can whistle the national anthem of a country on your card. Games are only sold at Ivy League school book stores, but, somehow, most of the orders seem to come from Ann Arbor, MI.
  • AB’s Snack Line: Marketers need not worry about the atmosphere. Tables and chairs not included, but there will be snacks, there will.
  •  Andrew Bird’s Billy Joel cover album: Come on. We all want to hear how he’d personally recreate the whistle in “Allentown” or his complex layered version of “The Stranger” and of course the Chicago barn sing-a-long and hootenanny, “The Xylophone Man.”
  • Spirit of the Wild: Andrew Bird joins Ted Nugent on the often-ignored low budget hunting show. Bird shows Nugent how to call birds with various musical instruments. When Nugent actually starts killing the animals, they square off, bow and arrow against violin bow. You think I’m an idiot? Well, I’m pretty sure this scenario inspired an actual Bird song called “Spare-Oh.” You can find this at most NYC street illegal DVD vendors.
  • Andrew Bird’s Clothing Line: Wear it Yourself will sell AB’s featured concert gear. Doesn’t it suck that you can’t wear your concert t-shirts in the office? Fear no longer, you can dress like the cerebral, stoic violin virtuoso five days a week. And just like when you listen to him, nobody will know what the hell is going on.
  • The Andrew Bird Humidifier: Yup, it whistles while it works. It taps exquisite xylophone beats when it’s about to run out of water, leaving your living space cool and well moisturized.
  •  Andrew Bird’s Measuring Cups: Instructions for the game to measure your brain not included.