Wednesday, September 28, 2005


OK, I missed a few things. This I admit.

On 09/18/05 I finished Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. The story of this book is essentially a frame for a number of short stories (20 or so) written by various characters in the story. There are also bits of what I suppose I'll call poetry introducing many of the stories. The stories are generally good - and at the very least, very odd - but the frame is played to death... Chuck's value is not subtlety, is it. There are interesting things going on there but I'm not sure anyone wishing to absorb the value in this volume we miss much by merely reading the short stories.

That evening I saw the Decemberists at the Marquee Theater. Sons and Daughters opened... the vocals weren't terribly clear where I was (middle, and a bit closer to the sound booth than the stage) which is a shame as much of the joy that is S&D is the vocal interplay. They were still wonderful and played Choked, my favorite from the new album. Hmm, the whole setlist: Medicine, Broken Bones, Dance Me In, Red Receiver, Rama Lama, Start to End, Gone, Johnny Cash, Choked, Hunt, Fight (they only have the two main releases so it's easy to recognize everything.)

The Decemberists were next; they had, I believe, six people on stage, up from four last time I saw them. Chris Funk is back and Petra Haden has been playing with them (I am listening to The Who Sell Out as I type.)

They opened with, well, have a look: The Tain, We Both Go Down Together, The Bagman's Gambit, The Sporting Life, Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect, My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist, Eli The Barrow Boy, Angel, Won't You Call Me [cover], On the Bus Mall, 16 Military Wives, The Legionnaire's Lament, A Cautionary Song, [very short break], Mr Blue Sky [cover], The Chimbley Sweep.

So, yeah, The Tain. That was a trip live. Also interesting was the band "falling asleep" during The Chimbley Sweep, individually, each as they were introduced (it was a special kind of asleep where they were able to keep playing, some.) Then Colin got all but two to sit down... all to be awoken as the band started back up at "O lonely urchin" from Petra.

Then some stuff happened.

Then the past weekend I went to San Diego and saw the Kills. Also I saw my friends, one of whom recently moved there... and one who has lived there for some time. Also their cat Zeke.

I have recounted these events elsewhere so I'll just post the setlist: No Wow, Good Ones, I Hate the Way You Love, I Hate the Way You Love (part 2), Murdermile, Passion is Accurate, Kissy Kissy, Dead Road 7, Fried My Little Brains, Love Is a Deserter, [short break], Cat's Claw, Dropout Boogie.

Suffice it to say that this live performance was quite remarkable. And that if there were no vocals this time I would've thoroughly enjoyed the show... the vocals being audible just served to push this one over the top.

Also I went to a bookstore and bought items for reading (see elsewhere) for the first time since those disturbingly good places of books near the University of Chicago.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

ArthurFest 2005 Day 2

Sunday was about checking things out during the day and the headliners at night. Monday was about two very specific, very different artists... with set-times that scared me by being close.

First band of the day I caught was Dead Meadow. Another band described as a cross between Sabbath and Spacemen 3... heavy and drony... and wow, the sound was bad. It was all lows... and I don't think it was supposed to be. The songs sounded good enough but I was a little eager for it to end, partially because next up was The Olivia Tremor Control setting up for 40 minutes.

Will Cullen Hart was on stage left with Scott Spillane and his sousaphone and cornet (?) behind him. John Fernades was center with a bass, violin and clarinet, Bill Doss was stage right-center; behind them was Julian Koster with a host of instruments (banjo, accordian, plastic sheep, etc.) Stage right was Pete Erchick playing various keyboard instruments and in the back we had Eric Harris playing drums and running the reel-to-reel player. Once they got going, though, they were fantastic and fun. Julian was jumping up and down most of the time, everyone was singing and the music was... well, songs by the Olivia Tremor Control. I was right up in front (only the folks grabbing the barrier in front of me) but the sound was pretty good... except for when we missed a verse of Bill's vocals. They played wonderful and joyous songs... and while I could name a few now it'd so few as to make it less than productive.

Pretty much as soon as that ended I bolted to wait in the line for the Gallery Theater. I was only about 20th in line so I was OK. As sets ended they let folks out while the people holding the doors tried to count how many left so they knew how many they could let in. During sets I assume they manage the people shifts more immediately... but I dunno. I got in about ten minutes before Brad Laner took the stage and once he started playing I pretty much forgot about the concept of outside.

Brad sang - when there were vocals - played guitar - when there was guitar - and ran the laptop wtih drum machine and white noise generators... so everything took a little longer to develop than normal (which is quite a feat.) Behind Brad and his setup they played his movie, 30 minutes of oddly interesting images and shapes, usually kalaidascoped/mirrored/quater-mirrored/or whatever might be the correct term for that sort of visual effects. It was all very peaceful and soothing - since I love the showers of white noise - plus it was cool and dark... I came precariously close to falling asleep... though I very distinctly remember my face starting to glow as I realized he was starting One More. I can begin to describe how glorious it was to hear that bit of music... that was my song highlight of the weekend.

After that I ventured back outside so the folks getting eager to see Earth/Growing/Sun O))) could get in... but in the interest of sleep I'm gonna - temporarily - end this post here.

To be continued...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

ArthurFest 2005 Day 1

ArthurFest was held at Barnsdall Art Park... which is on a hill in Hollywood, CA, on September 4th and 5th. There were three stages, the Lawn Stage (mainstage, outside, with decent viewage from a drinking area with daytime shade), the Pine Stage (outside, in the entrance (columns and a raised concrete area) of some building, surrounded by trees which is nice for shade but bad for viewing) and the Barnsdall Gallery Theater (inside, limited to the 299 seats.) I rode out from Phoenix with some folks I had hitched a ride to Coachella with and we stayed at a parent's house in Mission Viejo (or something like that.)

I was expecting a small festival and I was still surprised by how few people were there. I've heard that they had a sold-out crowd of 2,000 each day; it was a small area so it certainly wasn't empty, empty, at least once it got dusky.

The first band I saw was Radar Brothers, they sounded much more mellow than I had expected. A very indie, almost Brit-pop feel. They were on the Lawn Stage, and, in fact, I didn't see more than a song or two from the other stages all day on Sunday (there wasn't a chance of me getting into the Gallery Theater to see Merzbow with the lines and other bands I wanted to see.)

After they finished up we wandered around the grounds to see if we had missed anything... finding that we really hadn't. There wasn't a central merch area but there was a booth selling ArthurFest T-shirts and make-your-own t-shirts (with patches and such) as well as various scattered inconstant, unstable other artist/label tables. We then decided that we should've stopped for food before coming in and set to choosing from the options at the three avaiable food booths. It was all expensive (even compared to other festival/venue prices) but my pita and humous was good enough.

While finishing eating we heard Wolfmother come on. They are an Australian heavy stoner/psych-rock group that sounded pretty strong if not terribly exciting. It was still worth moving closer for, though.

It was around this time that I ran into some friends from L.A. (I knew they were coming, but) and we moved to the shaded over-21 area by the Lawn stage for talking and cards and, well, a total lack of $7 beers. We were in a good place to hear the wanderings of Sunburned Hand of the Man... a band with a huge cast of characters that appeared (to the untrained eye) to be randomly noodling, though not in a jam-band sort of way... we're talking about a deeper haze, heavier sedation, and bursts that are louder and cooler. You couldn't always tell that they weren't just warming up... but when they hit it was pretty sweet.

Last time I saw Sleater-Kinney, the Black Keys opened for them. It was the same sequence here, with Sonic Youth closing out the night.

The Black Keys are a guitar/drums rocky blues band (wholly different from the White Stripes, who are a sometimes-bluesy rock band.) Their set was yummy. I'm no more familiar with them than I was back in 2003 so the main difference for me here was that Dan was longhaired and cleanshaven.

I knew S-K were going to focus on their new songs but I was surprised that they didn't even touch any of their "old material" (defined as anything before One Beat.) Corin had a bit of a sore throat and there were other sound issues (see below) but the songs still sounded strong. At times, though, the new heavy psych guitar and rocking aspects seemed just a touch embarassing, really. They've still written great songs (that do well with the more aggresive sound) but I've heard this sort of guitar done better before (a lot.) I dunno, I've never had a problem with the album so it could just be a live issue.

Setlist: The Fox, Wilderness, Jumpers, Far Away, Modern Girl, Rollercoaster, What's Mine Is Yours, Oh, Let's Call It Love, Entertain.

Just to be clear, though, I was still very happy to see them.

Sonic Youth closed out the night with the my favorite set of the festival, partially because it was a good 100 minutes long. Thurston wasn't quite as on as when I saw them at the Marquee in Phoenix but he was still a wonder to watch. Kim sounded a little rough (at least partially due to mic issues) but she was still a bundle of energy, bouncing and spinning around. The setlist included Rain On Tin, Drunken Butterfly, Schizophrenia, I Love You Golden Blue, Pattern Recognition (plus a couple other Sonic Nurse tracks) plus the ever-popular closer, "Teenage Riot plus 15 minutes of guitars being rubbed/struck/rested upon/bounced over available objects."

We were up in front (between the soundboard and the stage) for the last three sets which was good for watching facial expressions, interaction and the actual playing of the instruments... but it wasn't a good thing for the sound. Everything sounded boomy and the vocals were hard to hear to the point that most of the time I had to fill them in myself (in my head, that is.) At times it also sounded (or, rather, didn't sound) like the toms weren't miked. Note: I suspected but didn't test the notion that the sound with be much, much better back by/behind the soundboard until the following day during Spoon. Seeing what's going on up on stage is most of why I go to shows; pristine, predictable sound is available on CDs, you know.

A review of Monday to follow... eventually.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Content Protected

I just figured it out. Yes, I'm a little slow. Sue me.

OK, the backstory: I bought Howl by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. This is the first album across which I've come which has non-trivial content protection. The CD had the above logo and some text alerting the consumer to this... but the back also has loads of other text so I missed it. Last time I went to a local CD shop these logos seemed to be on most every new release on any major label (including their subsidiaries.) Will it spread to indies? I don't know.

When the CD is put in a computer an application starts up which allows you listen to the CD, created up to 3 (total) back-ups (full copies... except for the ability to make more back-ups or digital music files) and rip digital music files. These digital music files, however, are of limited use. Most PC-based music players won't play them... and neither will most any digital music jukebox (read: iPod, Creative.)

I'll note that various folks are working to get it so these files will play in iPods (since they have most of the market) and probably some other digital music jukeboxes... but many will be left out to dry. But this doesn't matter anyway.

Now supposedly you can rip mp3s by first ripping their special digital music files, burning a CD from them and then ripping from that CD... but I'm not sure that this'll work (I haven't tried it but I don't expect those files to let me burn a CD.) This, however, doesn't matter. Even if that doesn't work someone will figure out how to make it work... or some version will be released somewhere without the content protection and mp3s will get out.

This may slow down piracy a little... but it won't stop it. That's not why this was done, though. This was done as a prosecutorial tool.

If I get caught with mp3s of Take Them On, On Their Own on my computer or Creative it doesn't matter; they have to prove that I acquired those mp3s illegally. If I get caught with mp3s of Howl on my computer, Creative or an mp3 CD then I can be prosecuted as there is no way to legally acquire mp3s of these songs.

Disclaimers, in no order whatsoever: I am not a lawyer. I don't work for any major labels so I don't actually know what they were thinking. There are court cases pending on numerous bits covered here. I'd figure they'd still have to have a warrant to search digital music jukeboxes and computers for offending files. I actually don't know what happened to all those high profile cases where RIAA or record companies or whoever sued folks who downloaded music. I realize I might could've been writing about ArthurFest rather than getting into this now... but that'll come later.