Streetlight Manifesto

I know I’ve probably mentioned it a few times, but I’m quite the fan of the band Streetlight Manifesto. Last night they were playing here in town, on the last leg of their last tour, ever. It was legendary.

The show was at a local place called Fitzgerald’s, which is quite possibly the 2nd smallest venue I’ve ever seen anyone at. The closet otherwise know as the “Velvet Elvis” in Savannah GA is the only place that comes to mind that could possibly be smaller. Coincidentally, that’s where I first saw Catch-22, nearly 14 years ago (Jason, you remember that show?). Door were at 7:00pm but we had to pick up the tickets from will-call a bit earlier. I went with my brother-in-law Chris, who is about the only other person (in my local circle of friends) that enjoys Streetlight like I do. We arrived exceedingly early, picked up the tickets, and even had time to grab a couple beers across the street before the show. Online and on the tickets there weren’t any opening acts listed, but when we arrived they had Mike Park (Skankin’ Pickle) and Dan Potthast (MU330) as openers, which was awesome since I had never seen either live.

As I mentioned, the venue is incredibly small, so much so we were essentially standing in the hallway/stairwell before a break between Mike and Dan had all the smokers rush outside before Streetlight came on. We worked our way to nearly dead center in the room. The smokers came back and it got exceedingly crowded. There were probably 300 people in the space reserved for about 150. Dan played a great set and was fun to watch and then even more people started show up for Streetlight’s 10pm stage time. Now it was getting uncomfortably crowded. Japanese subway crowded. When SLM hit the stage, all hell broke loose. It was a massive sea of undulating humanity. It was all good for the opening song and then it started getting violent. I’m all for a good pit. I’ve been in my fair share. This was turning ugly. People falling, not being let back up, people punching. I got kicked in the head several times by a crowd surfer (not really his fault), and shoved to the ground by this guy trying to protect his girlfriend (definitely his fault, but understandable) who was looking like she wasn’t having a great time. If you’re not wanting to be in a pit, leave the pit. That’s what I did. By the middle of the set, I had had enough and I moved back about 15 feet and enjoyed a good majority of the rest of the show without having to kick anyone’s ass.

Towards the end I noticed that there was an entire balcony where the sound board had been set up, and there were empty stools there. I moved over and grabbed one. Now I was even closer to the band, but slightly to the side, and up above the crowd. It was perfect. They started playing old classics and I had the perfect spot to enjoy the end of the show from. Chris was lost to the crowd at this point. I had held on to him in the pit, but once I went down I lost sight of him. Apparently he had a great time but during the melee somebody swiped the t-shirt he had bought.

I really enjoyed seeing the band one last time. They always put on a fantastic show and I got not one but two pretty awesome hoodies. It’s a shame they’re hanging it up (in terms of touring, new albums aren’t ruled out) but they certainly deserve the break after all the crap they’ve been through with shitty ass Victory.

I’m totally and completely exhausted today, but it was worth every bit of it. It was a blast and I’m glad I made it to what will most likely be their last ever show in Houston.


New Music Monday

If you know me in real life you probably have a good idea what my personal musical tastes trend towards. For those of you that don’t, despite all outward appearances of being a “computer geek”, I’m actually into quite a wide range of music. 50% Punk, Ska, and Rock in general, another 30% techno (trance and progressive mostly) and 20% jazz and swing make up the majority of my collection. I hardly ever dabble in country, rap or death metal, although there are a few cross over tracks I can appreciate from just about genre.

For the most part, I don’t really mention it on my blog. I’ve noted a couple instances when I’ve purchased a new CD I enjoy, but largely the discussion of music is avoided in my blogging. That’s not necessarily on purpose, but I tend to believe that each person’s musical tastes are generally unique and a deeper personal expression of who you are. So, by talking about what I like, it’s not necessarily something that would resonate with anyone but myself.

That said, again if you know me in real life, you also know that one of my greatest joys comes from sharing music I’ve found. So, personal friends and family are normally the recipients of tracks I’ve discovered.

That’s the really long and excessive way of saying, “I found new stuff, but you may not like it”. Still, I like it enough to share it anyway.


Speed of Darkness

All this talk about music reminded me that I was going to mention that the new Flogging Molly CD is simply fantastic. There are a few bands that still I religiously pick up the CDs for every album. Flogging Molly is one of those. The new CD “Speed of Darkness” is an entire battle hymn for American revolution. Tracks 2, 4 and 5 are a call for all out war. Recorded and emotionally brewed in Detroit, the album’s theme is generally economic in nature and speaks to the troublesome times we find ourselves in. Being poor, out of work and tired of the continuous bullshit from the government and the rich weaves it’s way across all 12 tracks. Gone are the old sea chanties and traditional Irish backing. The entire CD is as raw and American as you can get.

Musically, the sounds is unique, especially within the FM catalog. I can say that the departure from acoustic guitar and mandolin for the gritty sounds of electric and bass are compatible to Dylan going electric in 1965. It’s a huge artistic statement for the band. A few tracks are even reminiscent of other bands take on social-political topics. “Don’t Shut’em Down” sounds eerily similar to a few tracks off GreenDay’s “21st Century Breakdown”, which is actually a good thing.

It’s not all new sounds however. A good number of the songs still feature the same poignant Dave King warble and raw lyrical power, including a fantastic duet with his wife (and the bands fiddle player) on Track 11, “A Prayer for Me in Silence”.

As a huge fan of the band in general, I’m clearly biased when I say that you should really pick this up, but the impartial music lover in me easily agrees. I found it at Target for $7.99, it’s the same on Amazon as well. I highly recommend it. It’s already the soundtrack to my summer. If you care to purchase it via Amazon, you could always do so via my affiliate link. In full disclosure, I think I get like $0.50 or something if you actually do.


The Cloud

I would send a trackback to Chris’ post on the subject, but since I can’t (and will continue to raz him for it) a link will have to do. I can’t help being perplexed by the concept of “the cloud” as it pertains to music. I can see documents, I can almost see photos, and I can easily see email and online services. Music is a tougher sell, at least to me. Most of that may be due to my usage of the medium. The vast quantities of music, both legally obtained and, well, not, that I consume simply wouldn’t fit into a cloud. At least not a cloud with limited space. I’ve mentioned my vast music collection in the past and in fact it was Chris who actually witnessed the majority of it being purchased. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have purchased nearly as many Global Underground collections if it weren’t for him, for which I am eternally grateful.

Part of me agrees with the concept of having things available to me, any time I want it. Being able to pull up a song from some vast sky based storage labyrinth with a couple buttons has great appeal when I want to have someone listen to something I’ve found. The other part of me cringes that the concept of sharing or physically handing someone the same content would be lost forever. Being able to access my music is inviting, but not having the physical item (file, CD, etc) with me or at least accessible in the end, is a deal breaker. That cage has always been a part of iTunes and Apple’s attitude towards music, but we won’t get into that.

What do you do if you put everything on the cloud, then want it back, and it says no?

From a technical standpoint, I would have to invest countless hours to upload and sync the collection initially and as Chris pointed out, there’s still quite a bit missing. While a “Search & Sync” feature is nice in theory, what about things it can’t find? The sheer number of “Essential Mix” mp3s I have is staggering. I also don’t cherish the idea of Apple/Amazon/Google knowing exactly what I’m listening to. If you think for a second that any of those services wouldn’t turn over information about what they’re storing if faced with legal action, you have far too much faith in them. I hate to be the paranoid type, but if I uploaded the music I had, through iTunes, into the Apple cloud, the flags it would raise in the legal department would rivial a semaphore competition.

I also lack the number of devices it would really take to make a service like that useful. I don’t have an iPod that I can plug into a stereo system. I don’t have a HTPC to stream music to. I don’t have an iPhone to listen to music on the go. In fact, I actually don’t have any music loaded into my Android smart phone at all except the few tunes I use as ringtones. The vast majority of my music listening is done in the comfort of my own home, where all the music current resides. If I’m 10ft from the music in the first place, I don’t really suppose it needs to be “in the cloud” to begin with. I do a lot more listening at home/work than I do on the go.

That actually brings me to an idea. Since the concept of the cloud is completely valid, and having things accessible on the go is nice, my only real objection to it is the services/companies running it in the first place. What if you could combine the old and the new? What I’m talking about is a personal cloud. A home server, or a home device, that synced and fed content on demand. Your own personal cloud, probably with a web interface. We’d most certainly need a few prerequisites: cheaper home high speed connections, IPv6, cheap physical storage media in large sizes. Just imagine the possibilities of having music.yourname.whatever and simply having the gateway to it on your portable devices. That would be magical.

Apple does a great job of taking ideas, refining them, making them great and then putting them in an iron cage with a fence around it. Your information is YOUR information. You should manage it. Having your stuff, on the go, without the need to pay someone else to manage it for you should be the end goal. Apple wants to hold your hand and help you make your things easily accessible, and that’s an admirable goal, especially for the less technical of us, but their failing has been in never recognizing that some of us simply want the mechanism, and not the hand holding that comes with it. Give me the concept, give me the tools to create it, then stay out of my way. Everyone should have a cloud. Everyone. It should be a concept that’s embraced, not bottled and sold by a single company.

Also, and maybe this shows my age, there’s something to be said about the “collection” in the first place. I want my daughter to SEE the music that her Dad has. I want to have her listen to everything from Miles Davis to the Beastie Boys to John Digweed and not have to buy the music a 5th and 6th time to do it. I have it all on CDs and tapes and vinyl, and whether or not the medium still exists is besides the point. It’s real. It’s in a box. It can be shared. The vast amounts of it speak to the diversity of it. If I had a bigger house I would literally have a room that housed nothing but music and movies. Something about digitizing it all into a 3×4″ device with a headphone jack seems to cheapen the experience, and removing even that device from the equation all together completely destroys it. I’m not suggesting that we all sit around our living rooms listening to phonographs, but there’s certainly something that was gained by doing so that we seem to have lost over the years.

In the end, perhaps it’s just my media lifestyle choices that define the way I listen to music. I have sympathy for the old ways. While I embraced digital photography, I still have a love for paper and chemicals and the darkroom. In the same way, I embraced the MP3, the software and eventually I’ll embrace the cloud, but I still have a love for record players, the fuzz and the pops, and listening to jazz on rainy Sunday mornings. I can’t wait to share that with my daughter.

The Good Old Days

You know what I want? I want music software to be the way it was in the 1990’s. I want this:

Instead, I have this bloated, full of shit, piece of festering software monstrosity that looks something like this:

I have YEARS worth of music. I can’t physically load that much music into iTunes. Why? Because it would have a fucking aneurysm. I personally take the time and organize my music, on my hard drive, into folders, with correct labels and tags and album artwork. I do NOT need a program to do that for me. If you do, then I can only assume you welcome the day that our computer overlords will pick out socks for you to wear from your personal vast collection of socks, because we’re talking about something as equally simple.

You know why the iPod Shuffle is such a success? Because it’s so small the only thing it actually does WELL is play fucking MUSIC. I don’t want music on my phone, I don’t want music on a iPod Touch, I don’t want music on my TV, my toaster, or anything else that’s a pain in the ass to carry around. Nor do I want one universal media brick/phone/blender/air-conditioner that does everything for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my phone, but I use it to make PHONE CALLS… and play the occasional game of Angry Birds. I don’t watch YouTube videos, I don’t surf the web and I don’t play music on it.

My non-need for a multimedia device is just a reflection of the over all point I’m trying to make. Let me be exceptionally clear.


That’s it. Just listen to it. I know, it’s mind blowing. I want to click play and for my ears to enjoy the sonic vibrations of artists playing instruments.

I don’t want to organize it. I don’t want to categorize it. I don’t want to tweet about it on my facebook. I don’t want to track it on Last.FM. No. I want to play it. The song I chose. The one I clicked “play” to hear. That’s it.

Please, someone, anyone, PLEASE make me a music player that doesn’t suck. That’s it. I’m not asking for much. Something little. Something tiny. Something that simply plays the music I give it.

This comes close. It’s a Bowtie theme, but you have to run iTunes in the background. I don’t want that. I just want the player. Please, someone help! Save this generation from thinking that EVERYTHING needs to be inter-connected with everything else. Let them know that it’s completely ok to sit on the floor and listen to Miles Davis and NOT be building a “Genius” playlist around your listening habits. Someone save us!

New DKM and Flogging Molly

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, a bevy of new music from the only two bands fit to claim the title of Irish in the first place. Actually, it’s not really new music, just new CDs. Both bands released new live albums within the past week or two, with the Dropkick Murphys putting theirs out yesterday. I had to stop by Target to pick up a few other items so I checked out the music section briefly and to my surprise not only were both albums there, but both were on sale for $8.99. Not a bad price, especially for the Flogging Molly album which is a double-CD set and live concert DVD. I thought the DKM CD was as well, but apparently I got the wrong one. There was a CD/DVD combo, but it’s a couple bucks more and wasn’t at Target yet. I checked online and sure enough, Amazon has it for just $12.99. (Amazon Affiliate Link: Live On Lansdowne, Boston MA (CD + DVD)). That’s ok, how often would I actually watch an entire concert on DVD anyway?

I had a chance to listen to both abums last night and the DKM album is pretty standard fair for those guys. High energy, great show, good set list, 20 songs from both old and new albums. I think it’s a little less impressive compared to the original live album, which I believe had a few more songs but were more of the classic hits and much more in-between song commentary from the band. That’s really one of the reasons I like to buy live albums. I like to hear the band actually talking to the crowd and having fun, not just performing the songs. I think the difference is that this new album is a collection of songs from multiple nights and therefor edited down, where as the previous live album is a single show, strait through.

The Flogging Molly album is actually quite impressive. Double CD set (although just one show, 21 songs total) and a DVD. The DVD is nice since you get the entire show, 90+ minutes plus a bunch of other stuff. Since the show was so long, I can see why they had to break the CDs into two, but even so, having only 9 songs on the second disk is a little sad. They could have thrown a B-side, or a bonus track, or something on there. Music wise it’s very Flogging Molly. One of the single greatest acts I’ve seen live in my life. I’ve seen them four times now and they’ve never disappointed. The DVD is great at capturing the experience of being at a show, although a little bit from the outside. Somehow it misses that close intimate feeling that always present at a Flogging Molly concert, but that’s more than likely due to the fact that it’s filmed in a large outdoor amphitheater and they shot it using cranes rather than being right up on stage with the band. Still, solid show, and much more enjoyable to share with others who might like the music but might not want to get Guinness soaked and pushed around in a crowd all night.

Both are great, and for $8.99 a piece, you can’t really beat it.