Archive for August, 2008

MixMatchMusic Takes on the Virgin Mobile Festival in Baltimore

It’s been a couple weeks but… it took that long to recoup. On 8/9/08 and 8/10/08 Virgin Mobile and the concert wizards of I.M.P. put on a mammoth music festival called the Virgin Mobile Festival in Baltimore, MD at Pimlico Race Track (home of The Preakness). MixMatchMusic was on site in full force to participate and add to the festivities. The lineup had a wide range of talent from different genres and generations of music. While traveling stage to stage, “v-festers” could run into a number of odd characters. Everything from circus freaks to wandering people dressed as trees and gnomes roamed the festival grounds ensuring an experience hard to forget.

photo by Kenneth Gary

photo by Kenneth Gary

photo by Kenneth Gary

photo by Kenneth Gary

photo by Kenneth Gary

Check out the line-up: HERE

LG‘s Recap: Saturday started off with some hefty chick rock. Cat Power, KT Tunstall and Duffy came in wailing their pipes and warming up the crowd. I heard really good things about Gogol Bordello. Very mad I missed that one. Apparently they put on an amazing live show. I was running around most of the day but caught Bloc Party. AWESOME! They sound great live and the singer was wearing a sweet t-shirt with King Koopa on it.

I made my way over through the crowd of mellow college kids, hippie chicks, and hippies in training to catch a great show by Citizen Cope. Just as I was in earshot, I caught the tail end of “Bullet and a Target” coming from the stage, and I knew the show was going to be one of the better ones I had seen. Cope, who hails from Philly, just a hop skip and a jump away from Baltimore, put on a great set, giving the crowd exactly what they were looking for… a charming stage presence and his greatest hits (predominantly from The Clarence Greenwood Recordings and his self-titled album). Some of my favorites included “All Dressed Up”, “Contact”, and “107 degrees”, but really it all was great. The crowd wailed as soon as girlfriend Alice Smith (back up singer) took center stage to sing one of her own tunes. The couple made a great duo on stage, and Cope left the stage with the crowd wanting more of their favorites which just never seem to run out.

photo by Kenneth Gary

I must admit, although a tough decision being that there were so many ridiculous bands on site, Stone Temple Pilots definitely won my vote as best band performance at Virgin Fest. We all made the Scott Weiland jokes before hand that he would probably pass out on stage on top of drummer Eric Kretz thus solidifying this as his last performance for certain. But in secret, we all really wished that it would be an amazing show…and our wish came true.

Weiland played to the audience’s every whim, feeding off the feigning crowd, giving us exactly what we were anxiously awaiting. Just as the opening chords of “Vaseline” struck, we all knew what the rest of the show was going to be, and for the next 45 minutes, nothing else mattered except for STP’s reunion.

All of the hits were played, predominantly from Core, including “Wicked Garden”, “Plush”, and “Sex Type Thing.” The crowd’s lips moved with every lyric, and we all rejoiced in what was one of the greatest flashbacks we all have had in a long time. Weiland’s bullhorn was in full effect, there was a wardrobe change that included white boots and many neck ties. Also, the old school ’90s STP logo that looks like it belongs on a gas station jacket was plastered on Eric’s bass drum. My rock fist pumped the air more than ever. They looked and sounded perfect… just like it was the ’90s again.

photo by Kenneth Gary

And just when we were feeling like we couldn’t get any more ’90s nostalgia in our veins (no pun intended on Scott) Nine Inch Nails slapped us across the face with their industrial electro rock opening of 999,999 and 1,000,000 and followed up strong with Letting You and Discipline.

Trent Reznor, one of the most reknowned ’90s frontmen, hit the stage running, and didn’t give it up for a second during the set. The 43 year old proved he was nothing less than a ’90s rock legend and fed the crowd hit singles mixed with computer-generated jam out sessions.

The background effects were mesmerizing to say the least, and helped create an intensity in the crowd that was unmatched by any other performer. Fists pumped the air like it was 1999, and mosh pits formed left and right. The performance ended the festival just as it should have…with heart throbbing music and big flashing lights.

The worst act all weekend was Lil’ Wayne. Basically, he sucked. First of all, he was 45 minutes late on stage. Second, he sucked. Third, he has no talent what-so-ever. Fourth, he sucked. Some bands that stuck out, didn’t suck and deserve recognition: Lupe Fiasco, Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club, The Go! Team, Soulwax, The Black Keys and of course… the slightly scary yet highly entertaining… Iggy and the Stooges. I conclude my recap with this tragically ridiculous photo. Iggy, rock on.

photo by Kenneth Gary

Gavroche‘s Recap: What a weekend this was! Between manning the MixMatchMusic tent and meeting the wonderful people of Bal’more, I managed to slip away to catch some of the music at Vfest. For me, there were several bands that clearly separated themselves from the clutter.

Nine Inch Nails killed. Frankly, I’m still thinking about it…it was that intense. Trent Reznors’ voice was prestine yet edgy, as he perfectly hit every note in his emo-soul-industrial sorta way. The instrumental parts were precise and experimentally layered (in the good way). Their performance was full of energy, regardless of whether the song was mellow or driving. And the visual production was better than anything I’ve ever seen – various layers of trippy screens and lights that matched the beat of the songs.

Next on my list is Soulwax. I was expecting to see a DJ set, as I know these guys primarily for their works as 2 Many DJs. But, out comes a full band in white tuxedos, with drums, bass, vocals, and plenty of fun little synths and effects. Their style is a dirtier, more industrial, daft punk. They had the entire DJ tent moving to their beats in this mid-afternoon dance party, including a bunch of 16 year olds jumping up and down (this made me feel real old). Later on that evening, Underworld took over the dance tent with their fast, hard, and ambient grooves. I had waited years to see them, and 4 computers, a singer, and trippy lights = me dancing.

Gogol Bordello was just as much of a party, in their own gypsy punk kinda way. Their violinist and accordian player brought a very eclectic sound, and the singer/guitar player is a total rock star. Wilco definitely did not disappoint, although I wish they’d played more from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Their chops were on and I felt like I was watching new classic rock.

LJ‘s Recap: This was my first time doing any crowd promotion and my first time behind the scenes at a concert. It was a trip to show up on Friday the 8th and see the entire race track being set up, and having free rein to wander where I pleased. We had planned our tech setup very well, so it went very quickly the next morning, and we were free to promote, and of course, see shows. LG and Gavroche covered plenty, so here’s my quick recap of what they missed: the Offspring was amazing – they played very little of their new stuff (always a good strategy IMO for bands with classic hits) and rocked the stage with their original stuff. Dexter’s voice still sounds awesome.

On Sunday, the day started with the “Book the Band” winner, Hollywood Undead. Usually “local” bands at concerts are underwhelming since they have little experience playing to large crowds and dealing with professional sound systems (in other words, they turn up all their instruments too loud so you can’t hear the singer). However, I was quite impressed – very ska-ish.

Next I went up close to see Paramore. Hayley Williams is really hot, and chick rock or no, I’m a huge fan of their music. The show was great, a lot of energy. They assumed people knew their lyrics a bit too much, but once they got past that, it went very well.

Taking Back Sunday, who is great on the radio, made that rookie sound system mistake I mentioned; their songs were harsh and you couldn’t understand the words – a shame. I did get a chance to meet the backup vocalist, Matt Fazzi, and handed him a business card – we’ll see if he wants to engage his fans in new ways over the internet :-).

One of the best non-music-related ideas I saw was the TRASHed recycling store. You brought them empty cans or bottles, and they gave you points towards schwag. Next year, they should have a trash store, where for every pound of trash you bring you get points too. There were kids running around cleaning up the concert all weekend.

All in all, it was an amazing weekend full of awesome shows and AMAZING weather.

Sandra‘s recap: As anyone who has been to a big, hot, dusty music festival before knows, there are a lot of factors other than the line-up that contribute to a successful event. One of my particular favorites at Virgin was the Oxygen Bar!

Other places to recharge included the many Kyocera tents which had such cool amenities as free massage, recharging of cell phones powered by stationary bikes, and one rain forest-like tent full of plants, mist, and showers. This was a very well put together event to say the least. There was even a half pipe.

Musically speaking, if I had to choose, the general vibe and ambiance of the DJ tent was my favorite. I think DJ Tony Z of NetMix captured the enthusiasm of the crowd and the electricity and magic in the air in there well in his photos below:

photo by Tony Zeoli

photo by Tony Zeoli

Large scale music festivals like this one reinforce how universal of a language music really is. The stunning diversity one comes across just walking from one stage to another proves that regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, income, culture, or style people can find common ground when it comes to sharing a love of music. And the planning, technology, and collaboration that go into (successfully) producing this kind of event are not to be sneezed at.

MixMatchMusic was thrilled to not only be able to attend Virgin, but also be a part of it.

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Why Musicians Should Jump on the Twitter Bandwagon

Twitter is not just for tech geek bloggers anymore. (Yes, that was a Scobleizer shout out.) Oh no, my friends. Twitter is for everyone. Especially DIY musicians.

Before you read the rest of this post, open another tab and listen to “You’re no one if you’re not on Twitter” in the background. It’s in the little music player at the top of this page. Just a little soundtrack for ya.

And, while you’re distracted, go ahead and follow evolvingmusic on Twitter.

Now, not everyone agrees with the merits of twittering as a part of an overall marketing strategy for musicians. I, however, would not only include Twitter in my strategy, I would make it one of the main features.

I know, Twitter can be mildly reminiscent of a 90s chat room sometimes. (I never really understood the appeal there). But instead of creepy old men posing as teenage girls and lonely housewives looking for excitement, it’s an entirely different crowd. Twitter is full of intelligent, resourceful, witty people who are passionate about new technology, endlessly curious about a wide range of topics, and more than happy to share helpful information. Twitter has become a great resource for all kinds of things, and perhaps surprisingly, for as-it-happens news as well.

But it seems to me that not very many musicians are taking advantage of this brilliantly simple tool. Yet.

As most of us know by now, the music industry has dug itself into a deeper hole than it can get itself out of for the time being and musicians are pretty much on their own when it comes to creating their own success. Obviously, you need a MySpace Music page. (I hate MySpace. I really do. But it IS necessary for musicians.) Obviously, you need a website, where you post your photos, tour dates, bio, etc. The next steps are also important: your blog (let your fans get to know you), your Facebook page, a Last.fm account, a YouTube channel for your music videos. These are all part of a multi-pronged approach to creating your musical identity online. Let your fans find you in the places where they are already spending their time. Give them the content they are already looking for.

Ok, so if I do all this, do I still need Twitter? Who cares what I had for lunch? Isn’t it a waste of my time??

Absolutely not! And here’s why.

First, it’s another way to broadcast the key things that you already have on your MySpace, Facebook, website etc, like tour dates, album release dates, and what not.

Second, and more importantly, it’s a way – similar to blogging – to get more personal. To let your fans get to know you, the person, in addition to you, the musician. Whereas blogging allows you to rant and rave and express your opinions in a very personal way, Twittering (which is technically microblogging), allows for the same thing. Just, you know….in 140 characters or less.

Those who follow you (presumably your fans) are interested in what you have to say, what you are doing, what you are feeling and thinking. They care. Whether you tweet about what city you’re in for your tour tomorrow or how much you hate the president today or what color underwear you have on, they care. (And if they decide they don’t care, they’ll just unfollow you.)

Say important things, say meaningless things, say witty things, ask questions. It’s all relevant if it’s on your mind.

Next, as a way of rewarding your loyal followers, give them stuff. Much like Obama sent his VIP pick out by text message first, you could announce a small show or party only on Twitter, or include a link to a free download in a tweet so your followers get it first.

Lastly, it’s a way to interact with your fans. Ask them for suggestions, like song requests for a set list at an upcoming show. Ask them which songs they like best on your last CD. Let them show their adulation with their @ replies.

One mistake to avoid: Don’t let someone else produce your Twitter content for you. Letting a PR manager or college intern or your unemployed roommate write your updates for you will defeat the purpose. Only you can mold your online identity and make it actually you.

Another tip: Share music with your fans on Twitter! You can do this by using Tra.kz, which will shorten your long audio links into cute, little links that point fans to a player page for the song; the song’s Tra.kz page  displays all the tweets about the song and makes it easy for people to share.

Which artists are currently on Twitter? Only a few have caught on so far. Here is a sampling: Snoop Dogg, MC Hammer, Jimmy Eat World, Sara Bareilles, Bjork, Brett Gurewitz (of Bad Religion), A Fine Frenzy, and Patrick Wilson (of Weezer).

Radiohead at Outside Lands

Last night, on the first evening of Outside Lands in San Francisco, Radiohead took the stage as the final act. Playing to an absolutely packed Polo Grounds, the band tackled some new favorites and some old classics in what I thought was a pretty well balanced set list. Thanks to 58hours.com for the complete set list. The group came out promptly on time and rolled through their first songs. I thought the standouts of the show were “Videotape” and “Idioteque” followed by “Karma Police” and the ending duo of “Fake Plastic Trees” and “Everything in Its Right Place.” The problem, however, was that when everyone who wanted to see Radiohead at this three day festival paid $100 for their tickets, I doubt they thought that they would get a show with not one but two audio cut outs. Once in the beginning of the show and then, very unfortunately, in the middle of “All I Need,” the sound cut out completely for 20-30 seconds.

While Radiohead kicked ass in their set, turning dark and somber tunes into crowd-aweing pieces and their more upbeat tracks into high energy beautiful chaos, I have never seen a professional concert of this magnitude have the kind of inexcusable sound issues that they had last night. Yorke apologized for it multiple times, but for the price people paid to see them, there shouldn’t be issues like this.

Outside Lands continues today and tomorrow in Golden Gate Park with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers headlining this evening and Jack Johnson on Sunday.

R.I.P. LeRoi Moore

LeRoi Moore

LeRoi Moore

I was shocked and saddened today by the news that the saxophonist for Dave Matthews Band, LeRoi Moore, has passed away at age 46. Apparently, in June, Moore had suffered an ATV accident that left him with a punctured lung and his death was due to complications arising from that injury. As an avid DMB fan who’s seen over 25 shows, I was always amazed by his skill on a variety of instruments. This passing is not only unfortunate to family, friends and fans, but a huge blow to the band. Moore’s work on the various woodwind instruments was always a highlight and a most important part of the band’s chemistry and sound. His trademark sunglasses on stage supposedly helped him close his eyes and overcome his stage fright, while letting his music speak for him. In his years with the Band, Moore helped explore the various world themes of their music while also expanding the jazz sound within a rock genre. His live solos on “#41,” his signature baritone sound on such songs as “What Would You Say” and “Too Much,” and his woodwind work on such songs as “Cry Freedom” and “Say Goodbye” helped shape the sound and momentum of the band. He will be sorely missed and impossible to replace. Moore was a musician who was constantly looking for ways to evolve and diversify his sound, and his contributions to both the saxophone and the rock scene will be remembered.

Rock the Bells at Shoreline Amphitheater, 8/16

For all the art, click this link.

Saturday, Gavroche and myself got out for SanDisk‘s Rock the Bells tour at Shoreline. If you’re in Denver on 8/23 or Washington on 9/6, don’t miss this show. Rock the Bells continues to set the standard in terms of large scale festivals bringing together a fantastic line-up that often doesn’t happen with hip-hop. Whereas some tours or shows will have one or two big names with a bunch of unheard of artists (not that they’re bad!), Rock the Bells this year features one of the most star-studded hip-hop line-ups I’ve ever seen. Even if you’re not a huge fan of hip-hop, this show features enough classics that it can serve as a tasty introduction to some music you haven’t heard and might enjoy.

Furthermore, one of the major plagues of festival shows, the lengthy and crowd-angering set changes between acts, was completely eradicated by the crew of this show. Utilizing a simple stage set up with a DJ above a large black screen with the name of the act, it took very little to get in and out of sets, and towards the end of the show it was 10-15 minutes between every performer. When you look at the Kanye fiasco (no matter who’s fault that was) at Bonnaroo and some of the problems that always come with numerous acts, the artists and the crew of this show have a lot to be proud of in their speedy set changes.

The event started with SanDisk’s royal treatment in their VIP lounge. They had an open bar and food served all day, as well as scheduling meet and greets with Supernatural, Dead Prez, Murs and De La Soul. The event is sponsored by them along with their new product, the Mobile Ultra Mini SD card, which gives your phone 2 gigs of memory. Seems to me the type of thing anyone with a love of music or movies needs. All I can say is that I hope the fans appreciate what SanDisk did in compiling this artist line-up and sponsoring the show.

The show kicked off around 11 with a short set from Wale, who is gearing up to release an album off Interscope. He was followed by MURS, who, despite being a kick-ass rapper, somehow got stuck with a mostly empty amphitheatre. But he brought energy to the stage in his quest to promote not only the free internet release of Sweet Lord, but also his upcoming Murs for President. With shorts, a concert promoted t-shirt and his signature dreads, MURS carried with him less pretension and more of a laidback aura than you might expect from a rapper of his caliber, but he’s truly about the music and the fans. At the meet and greet after his set, he not only posed for pictures with fans, but I even saw him take a girl’s cell phone and talk to her friend to convince the friend that this girl was actually backstage with him. Seeing him chat it up with some girl’s friend on the cell phone, just to help her verify she was there was one of those fan friendly moments that most artists will never get involved in. Murs seemed happy to.

MURS for President

MURS gives a fan's friend some proof (and continues his Presidential campaign)

Following Murs, it was a surprise to see Blackalicious released so early in the show. Between Chief XCel and Gift of Gab, they’re one of the truly gifted hip-hop groups that can take difficult songs straight off the album and reproduce them flawlessly live. More than that though, Gift of Gab is just plain fast. When you hear a song like “Alphabet Aerobics,” you don’t think there’s any way it could be performed live. It’s just too fast with too many tongue twisters. Gift of Gab makes it sound easy. At one point in the set, he did a fantastic mixmatch, using an old Puff Daddy beat to rap “To Know You” from 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up. To close the set, they freestyled at a frenetic pace, just to prove it wasn’t all just a stage show.

M-1 of Dead Prez

M-1 of Dead Prez

After Blackalicious, Dead Prez took the stage and put together a set that got the steadily growing crowd energized. They played about 6 songs, finishing with “Bigger Than Hip-Hop” which pumped life into the stage just as they were leaving it. One of the great things about Dead Prez was that they, like Murs, were extremely accessible to the fans backstage. M-1 set up shop on a couch with a bottle of Patron and stic.man spent most of his time talking to people. They’d pose for anyone that came up with a camera for them. Very friendly.

stic.man of Dead Prez

stic.man of Dead Prez

Immortal Technique followed Dead Prez with a set that I think pleased every Tech fan in the crowd, and shocked everyone else. I’ll start with a thank you to Immortal Technique and his crew over at Public Wizard as they set up the interview with Tech and put us in touch with the press department for this festival. For people who don’t know Immortal Technique’s music or message, hearing him on stage for the first time could have a very jarring effect on someone chilling on the grass drinking and smoking at a hip-hop festival. But as anyone who’s a listener knows, and as he told everyone at the show, he really doesn’t give a fuck what you think.

Immortal Technique

Immortal Technique

He’s far more politically oriented than any other rapper at the show, and he delivers his lyrics with an uncompromising style that doesn’t care if the audience likes it or not. He played a great set with “Industrial Revolution,” “The 3rd World,” “Harlem Streets,” “Point of No Return,” and “Peruvian Cocaine.” More than any rapper I’ve seen in concert, he never truncates his lyrics or songs, which makes sense for someone with that kind of power in the message. If Tech is in your town, check out the show. He’s intense.

In between Immortal Technique and Raekwon and Ghostface, Supernatural took the stage and ripped one of the longest and most interesting freestyles I’ve ever heard live. With people at the edge of the stage, he freestyled solo for about 5 minutes, rhyming about whatever random objects the people in front of him handed to him. He talked about the San Francisco Giants, Trident gum, a bracelet, anything. It was like watching an extremely gifted improv actor who knew how to rap. I hadn’t seen Supernatural before this concert, and I was blown away by the depth and length of his freestyle.

Following Supernatural came, in my opinion, the weak link of the show. Raekwon and Ghostface took the stage and fell flat. Despite having a large bottle of orange juice and a blunt on stage with them, Raekwon and Ghostface just don’t deliver live like other members of the Wu-Tang Clan that I’ve seen.

Raekwon and his OJ

Raekwon and his OJ

It’s not that they’re not solid rappers in their own right, major contributors to the Wu-Tang crew, and fantastic studio rappers, but live they just don’t perform like GZA and Method Man. While other artists at the show were able to engage me with songs I hadn’t heard before, I couldn’t get into any part of the set. I also took some issue that these guys forgot where they were, thanking Los Angeles at the end of the set. Some people thought they said, “The Bay,” but I know I heard them say, “L.A.”

Next up was Rakim who unleashed solid song after solid song. The crowd was heavily invested in this one as a rapper so old school that he’s referenced in an old school 2Pac song called “Old School” ripped through an energetic set in which he rapped with enthusiasm, skill and what seemed like an urge to have everyone in the crowd feel what he was feeling when he let it out.

Rakim enjoying the music

Rakim enjoying the music

I hadn’t heard any Rakim other than his work with Eric B., and I was thoroughly impressed with how natural he sounded even removed from the sound of the ’80s. What’s more is that you can see in his reactions to the music and his delivery how much he loves the genre. This was one part of the show I wasn’t sure about going in and was very pleased with coming out.

When De La Soul took the stage, the passion from the crowd poured out. Posdnuous went off stage and into the crowd and was immediately surrounded by the fans. The entire set was upbeat and very strong for a group who has been dealing with numerous release and record label issues over the past 8 years. Along with Murs and Dead Prez, this group was the most accessible backstage, taking time to joke around and take pictures with Pharcyde.

Dave of De La Soul

Dave of De La Soul

De La Soul’s grind was followed by the rowdy duo of Method Man and Redman. From the minute they ran on stage to the time they left it, these two brought the show and the crowd to a new level. While some people not too versed in hip-hop may have thought The Wire‘s Cheese was trying his hand at rapping, there was no question to a listener that Method Man showed up.

Redman opened up a shook can of Coke on stage and then did an interesting dance trying to avoid the spray. But the cameras in the photo pit had no such luck as the box of bottled water on stage quickly became projectiles for Meth and Red to chuck into the crowd. There’s usually a 5-6 foot space between the photo pit and the seats near the stage. Method Man invites the crowd to come up and they quickly fill in the gap, providing him a place to dive off the stage and into them. These two slammed through their set of well rehearsed fan favorites such as “Y.O.U.” and “Mad Crew” with incredible precision despite the crowd surfing and water hurling antics. There were several excellent moments throughout every artist’s set, but for the passion of performance and raw energy, no set rivaled Method Man and Redman.

The Pharcyde took the stage next. The DJ gave them a little flak for the length of time since their last album, and they got the “with special guest” billing from the tour. The set was good, and of course closed with “Passin Me By” and included “Runnin” which had the crowd enthused. For a group who hasn’t been together in years, it didn’t show in their on-stage chemistry. The set was well done and while most know Slimkid3 and Fatlip, there wasn’t any sense of animosity between them or competition for stage time.

Tre of Pharcyde

Tre of Pharcyde

The always eclectic Mos Def followed, coming on stage in a shirt from a Louisiana coffee/beignet shop, sunglasses, a trucker hat and an 80s windbreaker style jacket.

Mos Def

Mos Def

This changed throughout the set as he lost the jacket and hat, traded them for a bandanna and gradually got more relaxed with the crowd as the set went on. Up to this point in the concert, the sun had been on the other side of the stage, so it fit perfectly as the sun started raining down on the front side of the stage for Mos to perform “Sunshine.” Although it’s still hard for me to separate Mos Def the rapper from Mos Def the Def Jam Poet and Poetry MC, he carries a stage presence and swagger that just works.

Nas was next. While Method Man and Redman put on the performance with the most juice, Nas had the best set of every artist at the show. He started with “Sly Fox” off his new album (we’ll leave it to other outlets to decide whether to call this one Untitled or the N-word Nas originally wanted to slap it with), and then went on an all-out retrospective of his work with varied length pieces of “New York State of Mind,” “The World is Yours,” “Life’s a Bitch,” “Street Dreams,” “If I Ruled the World,” “Nas is Like,” “Got Yourself a Gun” (complete with an interlude featuring Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.”) and then doing a heartfelt rendition of “One Mic.” One problem with all the favorites is that rappers will drop out and let the crowd do some of the work…they paid to see YOU rap it! If they wanted to listen to themselves rap, they’d do it in their car or at home or at a karaoke bar.

Nas

Nas

Regardless of this fact, Nas’ set was more complete than any other in that he gave a taste of his new music but threw out all the favorites to remind the audience of his lyrical supremacy, and sometimes more importantly in rap, his longevity and ability to continue evolving while maintaining a quality of lyrics that rarely suffers from repetition even eight albums later.

To close the show, Q-Tip did three songs with Mos Def before he was joined by the rest of A Tribe Called Quest to finish out an excellent afternoon of hip-hop. Q-Tip initially seemed very agitated, angry almost that the crowd volume was not what he expected. He yelled “LOUDER” several times and was obviously frustrated. He of course performed “Vivrant Thing.” As for Tribe’s set, it was a throwback worthy of the concert, playing a host of fan favorites that had everyone dancing and rapping along. But why go through the setlist when I can simply show you?

A Tribe Called Quest Set List

A Tribe Called Quest Set List

So that was that, 2008’s Rock the Bells. With 2 more shows left, there’s still a chance for people to get out and see it, and if you don’t, don’t forget it when it comes around next year.

The Future of Copyright Law: Moral Rights & Attribution for Music

As a musician, my biggest concern with releasing my music over the web for others to remix is not that I’ll get paid if money is made, but that I’ll be attributed for my work. This is because, as an unsigned and unknown artist, I am currently more interested in cultivating a fan base than profiting from my art. As I see it, I will find creative ways to profit from my work once I have actually formed something that resembles a fanbase.

A good way of providing artists with attribution, irrespective of the destiny of their art, is through implementing a moral rights scheme that would ensure attribution for authorship, even if ownership of the music belongs to a third party. Originally laid out in Article 6bis of the Berne Convention of Literary and Artistic Works, moral rights were extended to music in 1996 through the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. Article 5(1) of that treaty reads: “Independently of a performer’s economic rights, and even after the transfer of those rights, the performer shall, as regards his live aural performance or performance fixed in phonograms, have the right to claim to be identified as the performer of his performances…and to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of his performances that would be prejudicial to his reputation.”

Moral rights generally include three rights: the right of attribution, the right to have a work published anonymously or pseudonymously, and the right to the integrity of the work. These rights are separate from economic rights, and belong exclusively and perpetually to the original creators of the work, and not any third party who assumes ownership of a copyright, such as a record label.

In the music context, I don’t believe in the right to integrity, as in my mind, a piece of music is never finished, but rather constantly evolving. But, the right of attribution is paramount in the digital context. Since media can so easily be shared today, sharing should be embraced as long as the original authors are always attributed. Creative Commons has embraced this notion since its inception, and it’s time for Congress to recognize that this needs to be added to the Copyright Act to meet the necessities of the digital era. In fact, the United States Court of Appeals held, in Jacobsen v. Katzer, that Creative Commons licensors are entitled to copyright infringement relief. This means that if somebody uses a CC work that requires attribution without attributing the original author, a claim for copyright infringement exists.

With this legislative change, the US, a Berne and WIPO signatory, would seemingly be killing three birds with one stone: 1) deal with copyright law’s inadequacy in the digital age, 2) comply with Berne by adopting am adequate Moral rights scheme, and 3) comply with the WIPO treaty by extending moral rights to music. While the US became a member of the Berne Convention in 1989, the US has chosen to narrowly adopt a moral rights scheme and to apply it exclusively to visual arts under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) of 1990. By omitting to do so, the US is failing to comply with the Berne convention and the 1996 WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. So, maybe its time for Congress to actually got off its ass! I mean, are musicians less important that visual artists? Or is it that visual artists have more lobbying power?

An adoption of a music moral rights scheme would greatly tickle my paranoid pickle in the digital era, and it would help me feel comfortable in distributing my digital music in creative and innovative ways. Evolve, damnit!

International Music Spotlight: Japanese Reggae

The first entry in our international music spotlight series focused on Ugandan hip hop. Today we head east to explore Japanese reggae. Numerous sub-genres of reggae have a presence is Japan, though dancehall is arguable the most popular – perhaps due to the erotic nature of the accompanying dance moves? Try googling “Japanese dancehall”. Woah. Anyway. The focus here will simply be on reggae in Japan.

Here’s a little taste: Pang. (Now there’s a girl that looks good with a shaved head.)

Many are surprised to learn that there is a reggae scene in Japan at all. From what I’ve found, the big names seem to include the following: Rankin Taxi, Ackee & Saltfish, Pushim, Ryo The Skywalker, Mighty Crown, Megaryu, Lecca, and DJ Tokiyas.

Megaryu is one of my favorites. Check out this song. There’s something about it that reminds me of a Los Pericos song, Pupilas Lejanas…perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of a sad, sort of soaring melody filled with melancholy (at least that’s the emotion that I get from it without actually understanding the words) against a light, simple reggae beat.

According to the Rastafari Wikipedia page: “A small but devoted Rasta community developed in Japan in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Rasta shops selling natural foods, Reggae recordings, and other Rasta-related items sprang up in Tokyo, Osaka, and other cities. For several years, “Japan Splashes” or open-air Reggae concerts were held in various locations throughout Japan.”

In recent years, dancehall reggae has emerged as the dominant form of reggae in Japan. One might wonder why that particular subgenre has risen to the top. What is it about dancehall that appeals to its fans in Japan? Do the faster-paced, more flashy, less political/religious facets of dancehall resonate more closely with Japanese culture? Or just with a subset of energetic Japanese youth?

Perhaps Blake More can shed some light on these questions with his unique dissection of the culture, Jamming in Jah Pan.


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