The main band is usually the best

Mimi Parker of the band Low

I’ve seen a lot of live music over the years.  My favorite shows are always in small venues. I love to see musicians up close. Their interaction with the crowd is often more personal. And it’s fun to think that we could shake hands during the show if we wanted to.

Small venues like to feature local musicians as the opening acts. It’s great for smaller bands to grab a little of the spotlight often reserved for national acts. Sometimes that propels them to fame.

But often the contrast is huge. Professionalism, musicianship, and overall quality of the performances are often massively better for the national acts.

Occasionally, opening bands are better. Sometimes I’ve seen shows where I went for the main band and ended up being introduced to an opening act that became a favorite band. That’s a refreshing surprise.

I always like to give each band a chance. I may not like their style or attitude, but I try to listen with an open mind and open ears.

The photo is Mimi Parker of the band Low. I saw her and the rest of the band on Friday night, March 8, 2019.


Feeling guilty on a Saturday

No one else was home.

That meant I could stream the crazy music I enjoy, at volume, without bothering anyone.

And then I started to feel guilty.

Not about the music I was listening to…  but about the luxury of being able to listen to music in a house with no shared walls.

I remembered living in Kenya – when I felt guilty about having a microwave oven, knowing that it represented about ten times the average monthly wage of many around me.


Don’t wait

Ceiling speakerI waited.

For more than a year, I heard Taylor Swift – and her friends – singing the same songs over and over and over. The company that runs the building I work in hires Muzak to pipe tunes into our halls and bathrooms.

My brain has a problem with repetition – when I hear the same song over and over, it starts burrowing into the deep crevices of my consciousness until I feel like I’m about to die.

Well, not really, but you get the point.

My daughter heard me complain, over and over, about the music in my office building. She finally asked, “Dad, why don’t you ask the company that runs your building if they could change the music?”

I came up with a few excuses. She kept asking me. Finally, I tracked down the building management company, and they agreed to change the music.

Why did I wait so long?!

Moral of the story – don’t wait. Ask the gatekeepers to change. They just might!

By the way, Muzak is now called Mood. For those of you who haven’t heard of Muzak, that is the company that caused the creation of the term, “elevator music.”


On musical creativity

james-and-carlyJames Taylor has produced more than 16 albums that sound relatively the same. He gets bored too,* but he doesn’t need to break out of that mold to stay alive. I truly like his sound, but it has not changed much over the many years he has been a musician.

Some artists are limited by their creativity and others seem to have a bottomless fount.

Thom Yorke is the leader of the English group, “Radiohead,” that produced some very popular music during the 1990’s and 2000’s. Thom’s solo albums are weird. He went from almost mainstream pop in Radiohead’s early years to excursions down various trails of weirdness. My theory is that he was bored delivering what the masses wanted. (I like that weirdness, at least part of the time. And he stretched music in new ways that it needed to be stretched.)

There are countless musicians who have not created even one good song. A few of those have become rich making their sound available to the masses. There is no accounting for taste. And I’m glad everyone’s taste is not like mine.

* The James Taylor song, “That’s Why I’m Here” is referred to part of the way into Sylviebead’s blog post.

Photo is Creative Commons licensed, via Peter Trudelle on Flickr.


Local Food and Local Music

The Bell JarI know some people that are really into local food. And the reasons to eat food grown locally are good:

– You’re saving a ton of fossil fuels, since the food has not been flown from South America or Africa.

– It’s probably fresher.

– You’re supporting local farmers.

Why not apply the same principles to local music? By asking the bands you see to drive all over the country, they are using a lot more fuel than local musicians do in bringing their art to you.

Obviously, this analogy breaks down.If you restrict your diet to only local food, in many parts of the world, you’ll never taste a mango or a papaya. And with music, if you’re an American, you’ll never hear the rich sounds of many British bands.

I do want you to come out to support your local musicians. (The band is The Bell Jar. Local to my town. And good.)


Words to describe music

Mercuria and the GemstarsI am challenged when coming up with terms to describe music by the bands I like. The best way I know how to do this is, “They sound like ___ .” (Insert similar band’s name there.) And what if they don’t sound like any other band? I don’t have a good way to describe their music.

Along the same lines, wine terminology leaves me cold. “Oak-ey. With a hint of banana.” Etc. When was the last time you drank or ate some oak? And would you like a wine that tastes like banana? Wine terminology also adds in a snobbery factor… people who don’t spend a lot of time and money pondering the nuances of fine wine can’t really understand it.

The relatively poor photo is captured from a video I took of the band Mercuria and the Gemstars, a Denver band that I do like.


Unclaimed $100

(Yes, I know you’re wondering, has Paul gotten into spam? No, I haven’t.)

During my last year of college, I made a bet with my roommate. It was a significant bet. It was perhaps the only real financial bet I’ve ever made (in the strict definition of betting). I bet him $100 that ten years after we graduated from college, I would be more into classical music than I was into rock.

It was based on my love affair with the Andante movement of Mozart’s 40th Symphony. To this day, in my opinion, it’s one of the finest musical creations ever. Even though I’ve heard it tons of times, it still evokes deep emotion within me.

But alas, I lost the bet. Rock is still my first love. If you like, compare rock to cotton candy (UK: candy floss), but it keeps me consistently coming back for more.

So Brian Wells, if you are reading this, shoot me an email and I’ll send you $100. (Sadly, I lost track of him several years ago.)


Limited plays

Unfortunately I have this flaw whereby I can only listen to any recording a limited number of times. Some songs – or even albums – are spent and can never be enjoyed again. The pain comes when my kids start liking those tunes. Then I am forced to listen again.

Certain songs, of course, lend themselves to more listens than others. And I can enjoy some songs again after a really long break.



15 random

So Eddie tagged me. I took the challenge.

1) Turn on your MP3 player or music player on your computer.
2) Go to SHUFFLE songs mode.
3) Write down the first 15 songs that come up–song title and artist–NO editing/cheating, please.

I did cheat – I didn’t actually listen to the songs, as I was trying to get other stuff done that required thought-without-music while my jukebox was playing. But you still get a glimpse into my iTunes library.

And I pass on the challenge to you.


No Ping

Ping is a music-matching thing that Apple bought up and added to version 10 of iTunes.

I don’t like it. Problems?

1. All the bands I like are too obscure to even be on Ping’s list.

2. My kids’ buy music through my iTunes account. (Don’t worry – it’s with their money!) I’ll simply say that their tastes in music are different than mine.