Sunday, August 07, 2016

Willie Nelson live in Denver 2016

I have never seen Willie before. I was very excited.  Not just because he has made some great music.  Not just because he was carrying what I regard as the last great free holy relic of guitars, Trigger.  Not just because he is an icon, and a great man.  But… because… let’s be honest… I was pretty sure he will die any second now.  He is 83, and he looks like a man who has lived every second of it.  I didn’t want to know the setlist, but I was looking for a gist of how the show might go.  The day of, I snuck a peak at a review from the night before, in Utah.

First thing that came up was this piece
It said right up front –

I stopped reading. I was a little worried, but still knew it was worth it.  Plus, an evening with Regan and Trav is ALWAYS terrific. I figured an early evening home is always nice, and it will still be exciting to see Willie.  Stay with me to the end, though, that quote above figures heavily here.  I stopped reading because I didn’t want any more spoilers.  When Willie stepped out that night in Denver, it was still very hot. It was probably 85 degrees.  It wasn’t good.  He looked horrible, he sounded horrible.  He was barely even trying.  It was sad, really.

Even his guitar playing was off (and he is a good guitar player.  He has a melodic ear & execution I can only compare to Jerry Garcia).  The tone on Trigger, for some reason, was distorted, and his playing was all over the road.  Basically, as described above, the first 70 minutes were a shit show.  That was all Utah got.  We got so much more.  As it got darker, and cooler, Willie began to become human.  He started smiling, and really singing well… with heart.  As the evening cooled, his guitar playing also got much better.

I didn’t expect to know more than about 10% of the setlist.  I don’t own a single Willie Nelson album.  Wait… I have his AMAZING performance with Johnny Cash on VH1’s Storytellers.  Stop reading now and go buy that if it is available.  I turned out I knew about 75% of the setlist.  It was too bad some of his biggest hits were jammed early into the set… where they were just left to kind of die on the vine.  For example, I am looking at the setlist.  I see my absolute favorite song of his, Me and Paul.  I was there, and I swear I did not hear that song at all. 

Willie’s first hour reminded me of seeing Bob Dylan back around 1990.  I was absolutely horrible. I am a BIG Dylan fan, and I didn’t recognize a damn thing he played.  The only thing I recognized was his lead guitar player, G.E. Smith… because I knew him from Saturday Night Live.
Basically, this is the Willie that showed up.

but as the evening went on, this was the Willie he became… warm and lovely and fun and happy and heartfelt and sometimes even silly.

his band was good.  He had two drummers who weren’t really needed.  However, his piano player (whom is also his sister) just fucking killed it all night long.  She was a beast of awesomeness in jazz and country… and a light and fun ragtime feel.  She is even older than Willie!  Wiki tells me she is 85, but you would NEVER know it from her playing.

He also had a terrific young harmonica player who looks alarmingly like Pat Mongahan from Train.  Just look at those pics and tell me I am wrong.  Overall the show was terrific, and I am SO glad I powered through the first half to stay with Willie.  I also feel SO bad for the folks in Utah who didn’t get to see Willie become his old self.  I don’t know why it was such a slow and painful start.  Sure, it was really hot… but Willie is the Texas state flag.  Heat should be nothing to him.  Also, one might think being on stage for 2 hours would lead him to falter towards the end.  Nope, he came more and more alive with each song (and each dropping degree).  Colorado is cruel with weather, and it changes FAST.  It was probably 30 degrees cooler by the end of the evening with the breeze factored in.

In closing, Willie is still kicking, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him again in many years.  Would I go?  Only if he promised to play Me and Paul.  Most importantly… only if he saved it until the end.  Here, enjoy.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

that's not exactly found sound

In the last year or so, cell phone bootleg video source material is showing up everywhere… and in LARGE publications.  Every day on, TMZ, and Rolling, they post fan videos of concerts.  How can they do that without clearing it?  Meaning, how can the air that stuff without the band’s permissions?  One would assume you would also have to pay the artists.  Rolling sells commercials and ads on their website.  The website that you go to for music news.

Maybe they have been cleared, and the artists paid, right?  It’s possible, but not likely.  For one, if the artist cleared and approved it, they would hand over better footage.  It would have better audio.  Allow me to be specific.  When G&R finally re-united, they started with that awesome secret club show on April Fools day in Hollywood.  For super obvious reasons, no cell phones were allowed.

Of course, people smuggled in phones and snuck some pics and videos.  Of course they did, I would have, too.  Since Guns didn’t have their own camera crew (or maybe they did)… they clearly want to control the information about what gets out.  The very reasons that Guns didn’t want cell phones in is because they didn’t want their reunion to be captured and shared on a grainy and shaky fan shot from 200 feet away.

Note, this is not a complaint.  I am a BIG music fan, and in the cassette age most of my music collection comprised of bootlegs.  Us bootleg fans are kind of music vigilantes.  We want live music from our favorite bands, and the record companies won’t give it to us.  They don’t like live music releases. Record companies feel that live releases dilute the demand for the studio created records, where all their profit it is.
Point being, I LOVE these leaks as a music fan.  I am under no delusion, though, that I have a right to this music, or that anyone owes it to me.  If I were these rock bands, I would be SO pissed.
Let me make a poor analogy.  Rolling Stone comes to me and asks me to write for them (fuck, I I WISH).  For this narrative, though, I say no.  I say it is my art and I want control and I am not publishing for ‘Big Paper’ and the ‘big paper lobby’.   I say no.  Then, I find snippets of my pieces in Rolling Stone.  Are they going to say it’s ‘found sound’?  ‘Found Sound’ is a legal discussion about saying no one owns the environment.  I could go outside and record birds chirping or cars driving by and make it a record.  No one owns that stuff.  In Italy, you can actually record live concerts.  When that music is being put out into the world, it is now public domain.

How about if I start tearing out pages of Rolling Stone and publish them under their own name.
Even when I was stealing music, I would never profit off of it.  Oh, I know this is still stealing, but it wasn't business.  if the record companies sold access to live catalogues, we would pay.  But, they don't, so we would steal.  Er... trade.  To me, that is the line we are crossing.

note, that is’t grainy below because of buffering.  It’s because its’ from a cell phone from a drunken pirate… and hero of the proletariat.

* funny side note about Axl's feeling on piracy like this.  He caused one of the biggest concert riots in history because someone was taking a picture of him.  Seriously.  That story is over here.

Here is some pirated footage that is up on
Let’s say Peter Travers was reviewing movies on their site.  Well, we don’t have to imagine, it is what he does.  Would he put up pirated cell phone clips of the movie?  No.  He would use the official trailers they gave us.
RS isn’t the only one who does it.  Everyone does; TMZ,, probably even CNN.  I use Rolling Stone as the example here because they are the standard bearer on contemporary music news.  Soon enough, someone is going to sue them for leaking this stuff.  Who has the balls to stand up to the biggest rock magazine in the world?  Who in the world would literally bit that hand that fed them?

Now that Prince is gone, there is literally only one guy left who refuses to pander to ANYONE.  Neil Young!
Go get ‘em, Shakey!

outtro thoughts
·       Perhaps you are thinking ‘how is this any different from what TMZ does?’  I am glad you asked, and I am of two minds of that.
Pro-TMZ  perspective – they aren’t stealing performances, or creative works of others for profit.
Anti-TMZ perspective – they ambush celebs and record them without permission.  Then, they play that back and sell commercials to it.  It feels a little unprincipled.  The reality is most of their stuff is staged by publicists… so no one is being victimized.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Prince and the battle over his name

There is a lot to be said and written about Prince.  I just want to hit on one very specific thing.

Remember when Prince changed his name to a symbol?  Know why he did that? It’s fascinating, and quite brilliant.  He didn’t change his name to a symbol to be a dick.  He didn’t do it to be arty, or expressive.  It was pure business, and he never talked about this angle.

He had a beef with his record company.  A big beef.  This is way more common than you realize.  Because he never spoke about it directly, we can only guess what his beef was.  However, I can tell you with about 80% certainty what it was.  They likely wanted him to do something weird… put out LESS music, and tour LESS.  Prince was oversaturating the market with Prince, because he was putting out like 4 album
s a year.

I can tell you with total certainly what Prince’s terms were; “ok, if you give me my masters back”.
When a musician makes an album, they do no own those songs, or the performance.  Warner Brothers owns all that.  I can count on NO hands how many artists owned their masters in their heyday; U2 and Annie DiFranco.  To own the masters just means control… and money.  Mostly, though, it is control.  Wanna use a Prince song for your commercial?  Don’t ask Prince, it ain’t his song.  Go ask Warner Brothers… it’s up to them.  If Prince (or any artist) wants to do ANYTHING with their music – maybe do a remix, or let a friend use a sample… he can’t.  He would have to ask permission to use or release his own music.
Point being, a long time ago he demanded his masters and Warner Brothers laughed and told him to eat a big fat purple dick.  Prince then would have said ‘then fuck you, I am leaving!’.  Then, Warner Brothers would have had a big big deep belly laugh.  You can’t, Prince.  We own you, literally.  We own the name ‘Prince’, we own your likeness, and everything you have ever recorded.  Prince then had the huge purple balls to say “ok, cool.  You win.  You own Prince.  BUT… Prince will never record another note for you.  I am no longer Prince.  I am the artist.  “Prince” has retired.

even more fun?  During this period, he wrote the word ‘slave’ on his cheek whenever he was out.  He wasn’t being a ‘slave’ to love, or art.  Oh no.  He was saying, in no small terms’ “these crackers think they own my black ass.  That is, in no small terms, slavery.  Warner Brothers music feels they own black people.’  I don’t why they didn’t sue him for defamation.
He did all of this until his Warner contract ran out.  Then, he could go back to being Prince… and he did.

Interestingly, very very recently (I mean like two weeks ago) he made nice with Warner.  It was a very good trade for both.  Prince said you can take my whole Warner Brother back catalogue and re-issue it, remaster it. Throw together some box sets… whatever the hell you want.  I’ll even stop talking shit about you guys.  You stand to make zillions.  All you gotta do is give me the rights to the masters back.

They very wisely did that.  I think this was a true win win for both. 
What do I think about the whole name change thing?  I am conflicted.  On many levels, it was a pointless ‘fuck you’ to the world… including his fans.  More than anything about artistic freedom, he just made everything difficult.  It was total pointless high level narcissism.  He made it tough to promote his music, discuss it, write about it… anything.  BUT… I also respect the shit out of it.  He kinda threw his whole career out the window just on principle, and I really admire that.
How many Prince albums do you own post ‘Purple Rain’?  That 1 with Raspberry Beret?  He has put out about 25 albums since Purple Rain.  Famously, he has another 25 albums in the can just sitting in his archives.  Prince made it very tough to be a Prince fan.  Didn’t do press or tv, and barely even toured.  I feel you had to work hard to be a Prince fan, and I think we all just tuned him out for the last 30 years.  I admire the shit out of Prince.  Only Neil Young has the integrity that Prince does.
With all that said, I still can’t think of a better or cooler song than ‘When Doves Cry’.