One look at a list of this fall’s new television shows and it is once again made clear how unoriginal Hollywood is these days. “Charlies Angels”? Again? Oh, but one is black this time, so that makes it different, right? Oooh, but there’s a new Tim Allen show about a man being a man! (cue animal sounds). The critics seem to like “Pan Am”, a show about 1960s stewardesses making it in a male chauvinistic world. That’s TOTALLY different from “Mad Men” because it’s about women in the 60s…not men! Go get’em gals!
But the new show that has been overdone beyond necessity is Simon Cowell’s “X-Factor”. He claims that it will be a completely new twist on the singing competition, but one look at the line-up of judges and it’s pretty obvious that not much has changed. Sure, America loves a good singing competition, but why not truly do something different? Take Chile’s show “Me Nombre Es…” where Chileans step onto the stage and try imitating American music icons. Just check out this clip of Javier Diaz, some dude from Chile who wails out the best Eddie Vedder impression I’ve ever heard.
Watch out Eddie…don’t forget how easily Journey ditched Steve Perry for a Filipino kid.
About a month back I took a trip to Portland with my brother and his wife. After a week of hiking and visiting breweries, I decided I needed to take in the local music scene, and fortunately, none other than Beirut were in town performing at the legendary Crystal Ballroom (supposedly this is the venue where Little Richard fired Jimi Hendrix). The show was as spectacular as you’d imagine, although the fact that the over 21 crowd was barricaded about 20 feet away from the stage so that the teeny-boppers could be up front annoyed me. I suppose I could have set down my beer and joined them, but what’s the fun in that?
At the show I realized I’d forgotten my Flip-Cam, which isn’t a big deal although I do enjoy posting show clips on here. I figured someone else had to be capturing the performance and that I’d just post their clip. Wrong. A month later, a YouTube search for the show (that was sold-out) results in a list of a dozen videos, most of which are 45 second clips.
This leads to so many questions: why did they only film for 45 seconds? Or if they are fans of 45 second excerpts, why did they choose to post it online? Is there a big following for 45 second clips of performances? Is this the new hipster trend? It also made me think about video taping etiquette. Someone needs to set down the ground rules since ever person now has a camera of some sort in their phone. Here are just a few rules I came up with.
1. Don’t ever raise your camera above your head
No one wants to see your video footage live; they want to see the band live. So quit obstructing my view you hipster douche! When I record a band, which is always self-consciously, I try to keep my camera close to my body/face so as not disturb those around me with the glare of the video screen. I’m blessed to be a taller gentleman, but I don’t know why anyone can’t simply keep their camera down while still capturing the show.
2. If you post a song online, it better be the entire song (or be a clip of the singer punching women in the crowd)
This goes back to the sea of 45 second clips for the Beirut show which floors me. And even if you are filming for your own viewing, what joy do you get out of a 45 second clip? It boggles the mind. I imagine them sitting at home, showing friends, “Look! This the first 45 seconds of Beirut performing that one prostitute song!'”
I stand corrected; it’s 52 seconds:
3. Don’t film if your camera came out before 2007
A week after my trip to Portland I bought a flip phone that has to be over 10 years old (I went through four phones this summer, an entirely different story). It has a camera, but photos turn out like pixel images from a Nintendo game. I’ve seen video footage from phones like mine, and I don’t get what the videographer is trying to accomplish. Do they think they will later enjoy the garbled quality? Or is it just a way of showing off to their friends that they did indeed get to see Def Leppard in person?
This video should be called “Pour Some Acid On Me”:
4. If you have to video tape the big screen to actually see the performer, you’re probably too far away
I don’t get what people enjoy about watching a concert in the upper deck (or lower deck for that matter) at an arena, yet the majority of Americans who say they love going to concerts are referring to the act of watching a video screen located almost a mile away as you listen to the performer lip sync (if you can’t see their lips, are they really lip syncing?). But even worse than enjoying this experience is filming it and posting it on YouTube.
This girl can’t even see the big screens at this Lady GaGa show. For all they know it could be Madonna performing “Express Yourself”:
5. Only film one song
It’s okay to film one song as a keepsake. Filming more than one song makes your video into a movie. Put the camera down and enjoy the show.
6. Quit zooming; you aren’t Coppola
And I will end on a guilty note; I am the KING of zooming. The day after a show I’ll watch my video clip only to find that I’ve zoomed in and out throughout a song, making the video more about me being a drunken cameraman and less about the band actually doing the performance. Despite this mistake, I continue to make it. No matter how much you want to add your Spielberg touch to the show, resist the voices in your head and just hold the cam steady. Let the band do the work.
During SXSW this past spring, my friend Sewer asked me if I like Tom Petty. This question caught me off guard for two reasons:
1. Sewer was my punk rock compass growing up, and the idea of him liking Tom Petty seemed alien to me.
2. I’d never considered Tom Petty as a legitimately respected artist.
I mulled the question over: Do I like Tom Petty? I don’t dislike him and his merry band of Heartbreakers (side note: worst back-up band name ever). My mom played albums like “Full Moon Fever” and “Into the Great Wide Open” in the car when I was a kid, and I never protested. Now that I think about it, Petty’s “Refugee” was my favorite song on Alvin and the Chipmunk’s “Chipmunk Punk” album (an album completely devoid of anything that resembled punk – Linda Ronstadt, Billy Joel, and Queen?!).
Sewer’s question got me thinking. Petty is obviously a talented songwriter with hits like “Running Down a Dream” and “Free Fallin” under his belt, but does he belong in the same pantheon as Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan? At the time of my conversation with Sewer, I didn’t think so, but recent albums have me questioning my petty treatment of Petty.
It all started with Kurt Vile’s “Smoke Ring for My Halo.” My obsession with this album has been well documented here at BDWPS. I’d heard Petty comparisons with Kurt Vile, yet I didn’t put much merit to them beyond the jangly guitars and vocal stylings. Petty’s lyrics have never delved into the morose terrain that is the region Vile traverses for over 45 minutes on “Halo.” Maybe that’s all Petty’s music is missing? Sure he can write catchy melodies like Neil Young and tell entertaining tales like Springsteen, but none of it means anything if it doesn’t have the same soul and honesty behind it. Am I going to far to lump Petty in with the rest of the music making machine?
Last week my indifference to Petty was challenged again upon first listen to The War On Drugs “Slave Ambient.” Not coincidentally, The War On Drugs happen to be Kurt Vile’s former band. Without Vile, the Philadelphia outfit doesn’t sound like it misses their frontman much (more than I can imagine The Heartbreakers could say for themselves). The absence of Vile is difficult to discern thanks to Adam Granduciel’s ability to pick up the reigns. Both these 2011 albums feature that distinct Petty sound, which ironically, I never found to be distinct before now. Yet there it is, the steadfast drum beats, the anthemic rock guitars, and of course, the crooning style that Tom Petty stole from Bob Dylan years ago. And maybe therein lies the true influence; legend has it that Vile and Graduciel met at a party a decade ago and hit it off due to their shared love of, not Petty, but Dylan. The entire driving force behind The War On Drugs was to create a modern interpretation of “Highway 61 Revisited.”
Acolytes of Dylan still keeping his influence alive on “Blackwater” (no relation to the Doobie Brothers):
If taking Dylan’s harmonica, narrative lyrics, and nasal vocals then adding a wall of reverb and krautrock synths results in something that sounds like Tom Petty, than I suppose the comparisons are merited. On the surface every song on “Slave Ambient” has that oh so familiar rock n’ roll pop song demeanor, but the lyrics and the wall of synthesizer drone constantly takes each song into a cozy, lush direction that is somehow, always unexpected. It sneaks up on you; enveloping you in a mist of disorienting proggy atmosphere. It sounds like such a simple pairing, yet I can’t think of another artist who has so masterfully taken these two unique colors and mixed them so subtly.
Krautrock, meet Dylan. Dylan, meet Krautrock- “Your Love Is Calling My Name”:
In the end, I suppose critics are either giving Petty too much credit by calling him an influence on these guys, or maybe they haven’t given Petty enough credit over the years due simply to his ability to make one hit song after another. Whatever the case, I have to admit that I’m in love with “Slave Ambient,” an album that sounds eerily like something Tom Petty would have done 3o years ago if he had the creative fortitude to venture into darker territories, and of course, if he had just a smidgen of soul.