Musical dispatch from the middle of massachusetts

Cover bands and DJs are taking over. They are similar to a kind of spreading virus that seeks to numb our ears and make our tastes complacent, tired, and worn out. They are safe and they represent a determined dollar figure that club/bar owners can rely on, as the now tired mantra post-economic collapse of 2008, “but the economy is so bad right now” is repeated and playing it safe has never seemed so appealing. You have your chinese restaurants, your bars with several karaoke nights, tribute bands that sometimes pay tribute to acts that are no older than 10 years, and several places trying out the DJ angle. (Or primarily drawing in more females, to then draw in the male dollars.)
 
I think it comes down to choice and the ability to get all of your musical needs met via your iphone, itunes, and the internet at large. Pre-internet, let’s say 1995 and before, people wanted more than what was on the radio, and had a more flexible attitude towards discovering new acts. I think there was an open mindedness that was more rampant and ironically, as we evolve as a people, maybe we’re becoming less open minded and more into the idea of having a “closed circuit” approach towards entertainment and media. We all plug in our favorite bands into pandora and a self-generating web of related artists can play on for us for as long as we like. Why step away from the screen? Surround yourself with strangers, with an unpredictable environment, and pay too much for drinks? Hell no. The “I” generation model is taking over and it’s much more preferable to hear music when you want to and to know exactly what you’re getting into beforehand. This is similar to the online dating model which seeks to pinpoint everything down in such a precise way/essentially acting as the human resources department for your heart/mind. Leaving anything to chance is quite intimidating as we continue to morph into a partially robotic society.
 
But I have to say, this great access we now have, being able to play virtually any piece of recorded music from the last few hundred years, will be a good thing in due time. It forces bands and musicians to truly bypass the tired routes of promotion that acts have been using for the last 50 years. It forces musicians to be just as much businessmen as they are creative entities. It forces you to create your own, self-sustaining musical empire, without a staff of people that are really only their to leach off of your talent and success anyways. Sure it’s all in its infancy and we all cried the most when we came out of the womb and took our first falls.
 
So what does any of this have to do with live music? Gone are the days of idolizing musicians, as everyone can be in their own rock band via playstation. Everyone can at least work on their vocals and maybe try out for american idol or another talent show in the area. Gone are the days of not having enough outlets to explore your musical side. And when life becomes fairly normal and humdrum, all people want to do is hear the songs of their teenage/college years. They don’t want to chance one of their only nights out on a developing act. They either want to drunkenly grab the mic and belt out some Journey or dance to some ZZTop while sucking down Mai Tais. Gone are the days of the tried and true rock band that plays in the suburbs and builds up any kind of grassroots following. The larger cities have been and still remain the only areas to play to a large group of people on a consistent basis. Rock music is about the youth market, playing to college aged kids, and capitalizing on that energy and expendable cash. It’s not about serving up alternative/progressive music to people that only yearn for traditional means of entertainment and something that is safe.
 
I guess it comes down to being a 28 year old playing original music in the suburbs, but stuck here because of my job. I guess I play it safe as well, as I could hypothetically move closer to a larger city and pursue music more directly. I’d say writing original music is similar to painting, or at least it should be viewed in this manner. Most famous/successful painters aren’t discovered until after they’re dead. And while they’re alive the focus is less on just getting large amounts of paying crowds to constantly view their work and more on just having the time/freedom to create what is relevant to them.
 
I’d say it’s the act of creation that is much more of an orgasmic payoff, then a few hundred bucks per gig. However this naive approach fades too, the longer you live in the great united states of america. Our society is so wrapped up in rapid progression and if progressive dollars are not tied to a creative act, then we view it as failing or falling behind. Of course some kind of payoff is expected, when considering the amount of time/energy/emotion put into anything in the art realm. I just think that art has become too tied in with commerce. I think the fact that music is free in so many ways now, will be a good thing for the industry moving forwards. Bands will really only be able to make a living off of live shows and this will seperate the legits from the studio fakes. This will bring music back to the 60s when it was more about the community and less about just listening on your own. Recorded music should be free, it should act as a gateway drug to see someone live. Record companies were the real devils in disguise as they packaged music as commodity from day one, rather than an experience that should be available to the most amount of people. My hope moving forward is that the “live, be here now, kind of experience” is placed at a higher premium and we revert back in this way as music listeners.
 
Or we just wait for a grand EMP attack and everything electronic is fried, forcing all of us to start over with bare bones acoustic tools, coupled with a 21st century mindset.

Playing in an original band, central massachusetts style

Playing a local show, or a reaction piece.
 
My band recently played a club in Worcester, MA. We’ve played this club several times and it has a really good atmosphere for a rock show. It’s been around over 50 years, so there’s some wear and tear, but this adds to the nostalgic feel. The Stones even played a surprise show there back in the 70s, so there’s some definite history attached to it.
 
But this post is about being in a band, an unsigned band, a “do it yourself” band. Being your own roadie, playing free shows for the coveted drug called “exposure”. However ultimately, with torrents the increasing norm for musical consumption, the live show is the last avenue for most up and coming bands. It’s your last stand at presenting the unique product. There’s no hiding behind slick producers and flashy websites. It’s raw and immediate.
My band has been playing for over a year now and we’ve played close to 10 shows. Most have been free, a few where we got part of the door, but mostly it’s been the experience of writing original music and then airing it out for whoever may be there on a given night. And most nights it’s about playing for other musicians, which is fine by me. I’d say our music is more suited for those that play an instrument, however i’d never want us to be solely exclusive to this crowd; it’s not an ego thing, just the truth as I see it right now.
 
Back to the live experience. You are your own roadie at this stage, which means hustling to get your gear on stage, fishing through your cables, adapters, and power chords. Remembering your keyboard adapter for starters, then going from there. (Which I forgot for this last show) A little back and forth with the sound guy, who is usually quite neutral, like a pay per hour recording engineer at a small studio, and then your set begins. Play your set and the immediate break down begins. No time to recap the show on the spot with your other band members, just an efficient effort at taking your gear apart, and shuffling it off stage – with enough effort not to piss off the band eager to go on after you.  
It often feels like an assembly line.
Band A sets up gear, plays set. Band B waits by the stage, not really listening to what Band A is playing, more so thinking of all the things that need to be done before you’ll be able to start off on your set. Band C is on drink number 1 at the bar and their heads are no where near listening to live music or actually “being at the club”, they’re just getting settled.
 
So Band A, the opener, plays their loud and frenzied set (maybe they only have 30 minutes) and then they seamlessly transform into their own roadies. Band B edges towards the stage and there’s no real interaction between both bands. Both bands heads are in completely different places. Band A might be spent from their set, some sweat on their shirts, and anxious for their next round of drinks. No real band to band comraderie is present. Just a conveyor belt mentality.
One band exerts their musical stylings, while the next band swears they have a more unique sound and can’t wait to prove to the crowd that they’re the more interesting of the two. Although there’s a good chance, both bands styles are completely at odds.
So these songs are shot off into the bar’s atmosphere with an acute immediacy, there’s always “something” to prove in playing live.  Maybe the live experience is much less mechanical than this, it could just be my own perception.
Generally though, I’d say the reception for original music is pretty much non-existent in central mass/worcester area. Cover bands are much more likely to draw a crowd of floozies and dudes looking to cut loose. There’s a comfort, a predictability in hearing songs you may have just heard on the radio.
 
Original music from unknown bands is too random, too risky. In a world full of people making very specific choices as to their entertainment, taking a chance on a band is becoming more and more rare. There’s no time to be that careless with my entertainment choices!
 
Not that I want to come off as bitter, as this band is not the only thing I do in life. It’s more of an overall reaction to it all. Karaoke makes you the immediate star. And in an age of the individual controlling their whole online identity, submitting to a band is so 20 years ago. If you go out you want to sing along to a cover band, or try to nail that Keisha song, and maybe have a few drunks clap for you. The idea of handing a large portion of your night over to an unknown band, might be just too time consuming and selfless in this very selfish-infotainment society we find ourselves in. Even me playing in a band and wanting to get noticed is selfish. Not that that’s ever a bad thing, as we all want to get compensated for what we love to do.

Abolish toll booths in Massachusetts and break ground on Casinos

Here is my proposal to Deval Patrick. Remove all toll pikes and build 3 casinos. A very simple idea and worthwhile to consider. Massachusetts is one of twenty-six states that imposes toll fees on its drivers. It’s a nusance and I’ve heard that the toll pike authority is still in the red. This could also give way to the opening of 3 casinos throughout the state of MA. Something like 60% of the money received at the casinos in Connecticut is coming from Masschusetts residents. This amounts to nearly 1 billion in tax revenue, that we never see.

“Gambling is a vice, it creates addicts, and it only provides low paying jobs.” Alcohol, cigarettes, scratch tickets, the lottery in general, have the ability to ruin lives. They create harmful addicts, can lead to prison sentences, and also hurt familes and communties at large…and yet playing cards and quarter machines is such a greater burden to the individual/state?? To call a spade a spade, is the question at hand. (sorry too easy)

So how is gambling so far removed from these activities? How is having a centralized location were gamblers of many years, can gather and do their bidding, such a downfall for a community or state? It’s similar to legalizing marijuana and the tax implications inherent with such a move. I’m definitely much more of liberatarian/independent as you can see with most of my views, so social conservatives can move to Alaska or join the Amish for all I care.

We have to face that we are steadily becoming an entertainment based society/economy. It’s where everything is trending towards. Higher paid athletes, higher ticket prices – thousands ALWAYS willing to pay, more importance around celebrties of any stripe, and ridiculous money offered for individuals that are full of supposed camera charm, lacking any hint of talent.

 Vice taxes have to be the yang to the collective yin. Or else we really do promote a nanny state, where the government reduces our ability to reason and think for ourselves.

 Look it as a way to weed out the degenerates from society, while our state benefits at the same time. It’s a very proactive way towards natural selection. Man and woman do not gravitate towards said degenerate gamblers, gamblers do not reproduce, and their numbers thin out over time – what an efficient system! Plus by eliminating tolls, us non-gamblers put some change in our pockets, see some entertaining shows, and our kid may get through college by being a blackjack dealer.

Umm..this all seems too easy.