OnlineRock Blog

02 October 2008

Neil Young at the Nokia Live Theater

Neil Young is one of those artists that amazes me each time I see him and he did it again when I saw him at the Nokia Live Theater in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. The structure of the show revealed the both sides of him that have always appealed to me.

The first set was just Neil alone with his acoustic guitars, banjos and pianos. Selecting a diverse set-list from his vast collections of songs, he connected with his audience who were paying close attention to every note he played. Sometimes you could hear a pin drop.

The second set saw a four piece band with Neil plugged in and ready to rock. Once again choosing songs scattered throughout his career. Late into this set he launched into "No Hidden Path" from his newly released CD "Chrome Dreams II" and I looked around to see everyones head bobbing in time with the groove. As his shimmering watery guitar started to follow the groove and work its way into every little nook and cranny I watched the crowd one-by-one, including myself slowly rise to their feet. He does it to me every time.

On the last song of the night he sat in front of the piano and was having some problems with his monitor. He finally said "Bruce Berry would have this fucking speaker fixed" and with that he started playing "Tonight's The Night". At the end of the song, as he laid on top of his piano in exhaustion singing "tonight's the night", we all knew it was.

18 August 2008

CD Submission Tip: Gracenote Database

I apologize for my lack of postings lately. I've had a few projects over the summer that have limited my ability to stay in touch as much as I wanted to. Things have pretty much cleared up now so I hope to be back on track.

One thing that I wanted to do during this hiatus, when the thought occurred to me, was to post some short tips and ideas about submitting a CD for review. At OnlineRock we receive about 100 CDs a month for consideration. I personally open up every package and some strike me instantly, either in a good or bad way. I wanted to share those initial impressions with you in hopes that it would help others when submitting music, not just at OnlineRock but anywhere.

I recently received a CD from a pretty well-know publisher that seemed worth checking out. I popped the CD into my computer to listen to it in iTunes. Apparently they didn't enter the new CD into Gracenote's database and therefore I couldn't determine the track name,s CD title or even band name without some effort. I know you probably think "What effort? Just look at the CD cover" but sometimes there is no cover.

In case you don't know, Gracenote is the company that stores all of the track info for each CD so that when you put a CD into iTunes, the information pops up and you don't have to type it in.  It's really easy to submit your new CD to their database. Just insert your CD into iTunes, type in the proper information (band name, CD title and track titles) then under advances, click on "Submit CD Track Names". In a short period of time, your CD will be in the database and anyone who puts the CD into iTunes will have all the information right in front of them. We do it with all of our CDs as soon as we get the master back and before it goes to the duplicator.

Well that's my tip for today. Until next time...

20 March 2008

SXSW 2008 Recap

Well I'm finally settling in from last week's SXSW in Austin. I got to see some great music, some not-so-great music and hook up with new and old friends alike. I also had my fair share of BBQ. I have to send out kudos to the sound engineers in Austin. They went from the full sonic assault of the Fuck Buttons to the soft kalimba music of Laura Barrett. A few artists that really stood out were Headlights, Dawn Landes and Time Fite. Below are some others that I saw perform:

The Blakes, Von Bondies, Moby, Lightspeed Champion, The Weakerthans, Bon Iver, Wye Oak, Aloha, Danial Lanois, These United States, The Radar Brothers, Evangelicals, Black Angels, Raveonettes, Pleasant Grove, Hopewell, Peasant, My Brightest Diamond, Nada Surf, Loquat, Scrabbel, South, Sia, Emmy the Great and the Bo Deans.

And, as some of you may know, Lou Reed's Berlin is probably my favorite album of all time. I was able to see the movie (directed by Julian Schnabel) and attend the Q & A sesiion afterwards. The film features some great guitar work from both Steve Hunter and Lou Reed. There are also three "encore" songs that work really well. Antony (from Antony and the Johnsons) brings a tear to your eyes with his take on Candy Says and the version of Rock Minuet is one of the best I've seen. There is also a rendition of Sweet Jane as the credits are rolled. I hope these encores are included as extras on the DVD as Berlin should be just that.

See you in Austin next year!

03 March 2008

Planning for SXSW 2008

It’s that time of year again. When the days grow longer, birdsong fills the air, and I prepare for my upcoming trip to Austin, TX for the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW), March 12-16. This will be the eighth consecutive SXSW I’ve attended, and I’ve learned over the years that planning ahead can make the trip not only more productive, but also more enjoyable. There’s ample opportunity for mixing business with pleasure and to enjoy some good BBQ as well.

The planning actually starts in September when I purchase my badge and book my downtown hotel room by the convention center. This way I save money on the show registration, and ensure that everywhere I go - conferences, clubs, parties, etc. - will be within convenient walking distance. As long as I bring my favorite walking shoes I don’t even need a cab.

As far as the exhibition and trade show goes, I study the floor plan in advance to see who’s going to be where, and make a list of the companies to whom I plan to introduce myself. To that end, I bring a small mountain of business cards with me to Austin - that mountain becomes a molehill fast! For the panels and conference sessions, after making time for the keynote speaker (this year it's Lou Reed), I decide on which to attend in part on whether the topic interests me, but also partly on the speakers themselves. Sometimes it’s interesting to see leading figures or notable characters of the music industry speak on broader topics just to see and hear them in person. Over the years I’ve found the panel discussions are fine - if somewhat generic - but have really enjoyed the one-to-one interviews.

The real fun, of course, starts when I leave the convention center for Sixth Street and Austin’s bustling rows of clubs and bars. This is where pre-planning really comes in handy. In fact, I constantly add bands my “wish-list” throughout the year, and, when SXSW schedule’s unveiled, I cross check it against my list. This year there are nearly 1600 bands performing, twenty percent more than a year ago and that doesn’t include the day shows not sanctioned by SXSW. Click here for the official schedule.

To be safe, I select three bands that I’d like to see for each time slot. That way, if one show is too remote to get to or too packed when I arrive, I can quickly maneuver to another show of interest. Among my highest priorities is seeing bands that don’t often make it to the San Francisco Bay Area where I’m based. For that reason, I’m including Pleasant Grove, South and The Weakerthans on my agenda for this year plus about 80 other bands.

10 January 2008

Pop Beat No Longer Beats

I don’t know if this is the case where you are, but the Bay Area’s major newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, is giving short shrift to the region’s pop music scene. It’s sad to see, as the Bay Area has spawned some of rock’s greatest bands over the years, from the Grateful Dead to the Tubes, from Metallica to Green Day.

One of my favorite columns in The Chronicle’s Sunday Datebook section was Pop Beat, written by Bill Picture. It provided up-to-date coverage on the Bay Area’s local bands and clubs, and kept die-hard music fans (like me) in the know concerning the present state of the San Francisco music scene. Not too long ago, in fact, Pop Beat wrote about my band, Needle.

So I recently wrote the paper to inquire about the column’s status, even offering to pen the column myself if that would bring about its return. Not surprisingly (I guess), I was informed that Pop Beat was a victim of The Chronicle’s recent downsizing measures since Bill Picture wasn’t a regular staff writer. So far it appears that no one “on staff” is going to pick up the slack.

Of course, alternative weeklies like the SF Weekly cater to rock enthusiasts and music goers, as do many online sites like The Bay Bridged. Still, their circulation and viewership is but a small fraction of the San Francisco Chronicle. So it’s hard to believe one of the world’s leading daily newspapers no longer “chronicles” the vibrancy of its region’s local music scene, especially one with such a storied history as here in San Francisco. I can’t imagine the same fate befalling cities like New York, Seattle and Austin, but hey, you never know these days. With media consolidation and newspapers running almost exclusively with an eye on the bottom line, some aspects of our lives just seem to get in the way. Like music and culture.