Thursday, November 08, 2018

Swimming With The Current

I noticed a friend posted on social media about releasing new music. He alerted his friends about a new single being available soon where folks purchase or steal music. He meant stream, but he decided to leave it.

I get that. Artists aren’t being paid properly for the music they produce and supply to the masses for streaming consumption. As someone that thought the original Napster was the equivalent of robbing a bank, I totally get that. It costs money to produce music if you want studio quality.

The streaming music industry is woefully behind when it comes to paying the artists. I have sympathy for those artists… No one hires a painter only to pay them a small fraction for their work.

But I feel there is a catch-22 as big as the Hoover Dam with streaming… Live original music is dying a slow death. And I admit that I just don’t really care about going to live shows anymore. I will list my reasons.

1. The start times are too late for my old mandom ass. I simply don’t abide by the same schedule as I did 10 years ago.
2. It can be a hassle. Parking for most venues are limited and rare to find on the cheap (free). If I were to go to the Ramkat in Winston, that would be a major pain in my ass. That’s exactly why I only went to 3 shows at the Ziggy’s in downtown WS.
3. I have gotten older and fatter. Standing on concrete for 4 hours just isn’t for me anymore. And I certainly do not want to pay more for the VIP treatment to just place my ass on a chair from time to time.
4. Ticket prices have gotten a little out of hand in my opinion. Local artists are a little different, but 1, 2, and 3.
5. Most of the shows that I want to attend are at least 30 to 45 minutes or more away. That also pertains to the number 1 reason. I no longer want to drive home in the wee hours of the morning.

Do I miss going to live shows?

Yes. That’s the short of it.

The big ol’ Hoover Dam… Streaming.

Streaming is a simple way for others to find out about an artist’s music. We pay $15 a month to Spotify for their family plan. Instead of paying from $10 to $15 or more per new CD or digital download, I gladly throw my money at Spotify. I’m not risking my money for a purchase of one CD/DL when I can stream it for the same price or just a little more. PLUS, I’ll have access to hundreds of thousands of other releases by the same number of artists at NO RISK. For me, that’s the perfect situation. Sure, I have a handful of artists that I will gladly spend my money on for a hard CD copy of their latest release. But over the decades of acquiring music, I’m running out of room to house them. So, streaming really cuts down on that. And my wife definitely appreciates that even though she wants to get my vinyl collection back out and running for listening pleasure. Personally, I don’t get the whole vinyl thing being hip again. Sure, I miss the crackles and pops of the vinyl but I have fully embraced the ease of the MP3 player and now streaming. And the ability to switch to just about ANY artist is amazing to me.

The kids today don’t seem to be interested in seeing live music unless it’s a huge artist they’re listening to on streaming services. I’ve seen and heard about the dismal turnouts for club shows. There are just too many distractions for our attention these days. TV is showing signs of a death rattle. Radio is on life support. And streaming is now king. We want what we want when we want it. I will make no apologies for embracing that same philosophy. And besides, with Spotify I’m listening to what I WANT. I choose. Radio is the LAST thing that I want to listen to simply because they refuse to offer anything new or different. They just keep pushing the same ol’ same ol’.

But let’s get back to the “stealing” aspect that pertains to the Hoover Dam catch-22…

An artist wants to be heard. Artists want people at their shows. But people won’t attend shows unless they’re familiar with the music… And don’t get me started on that. I despise hearing “When is it going to play something that I know?” question when friends are sitting around visiting with us. I mean, how do they find out about new music?? Seriously, did you just know “Wagon Wheel” the first time that you heard it??

But that seems to be the herd mentality when it comes to original artists out there making music. Personally, I want to hear what the artist is bringing to the table with their own experiences and the pictures they paint with words and music. I will ALWAYS want to know and learn about new music.

Everyone isn’t like that. So, for the local artists that feel that they’re not getting paid for their work when it comes to streaming… I get it. I totally do. I do think the trade-off comes with the ability of discovering their music through streaming. And maybe, just maybe, those new listeners will show up to the gigs of the local artists. Buy some merch, purchase a couple of adult beverages, and maybe even talk to the local artist.

I urge everyone that streams music to give your local artists some room on your playlists. And if possible, promote their music on social media to spread the word. Spotify has an easy way of doing just that with Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I know that Spotify creates a little sample of the music to try right there in the Facebook news feed.

I have a playlist with artists that make music from North Carolina that I call “Homegrown NC Goodness”. From bluegrass to hard rock to country. There’s something for everyone. Try it if you’re so inclined. You can lift the songs that you like and put them into your own playlists.

The landscape of the music industry has changed over the last 20 years. I used to work for Capitol Records and that joint shut down before the 1990s were in the record books. The labels saw the writing on the wall, but stuck with the same ol’ same ol’ until it was too late. The flood gates are open and the current has become too strong to shut them. Streaming has created a “wild blue yonder” of possibilities for discovery. So, there’s the catch-22. Artists are driven to create. Creating music takes money. But if there’s no Horton to hear the Whos then what is it all worth?

Hopefully, the streaming music industry will find a suitable solution for everyone. The artists, the labels, and the listeners.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Bad Somethings

Riffs that were steeped in the hard rock of the 1970s, lyrics that don’t require much brainwave activity, and there’s even some cowbell. And you’re gonna want that cowbell.

“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” opens up the festivities with straight ahead hard rock sensibilities and even manage to work in a rhyme with “cat’s meow”. It’s the opening track on the debut album from The Bad Somethings. They're from the North Carolina Triad area. Business picks up the pace with an obscure cover of the Albatross tune “Let It Roll”. Now what would a 70s style hard rock tune be without an obligatory Ace Frehley style lick in the guitar solo?

“Along For The Ride” definitely caught my ears because I’m a sucker for the flange effect and “headphone music”. I’m hearing a little bit of The Knack in this particular cut from the album.

“Oh Honey” sounds like it could have been a track that wasn’t on Ace Frehley’s 1978 solo album. So yeah, Kenny Richie and Leo Davidson certainly wear their hearts on their sleeves. And judging from influences, they’re wearing sleeveless shirts because we’re hearing that they’re actually sporting those influences as tattoos. That’s not a bad thing because the songs aren’t regurgitative crap. The Bad Somethings are merely celebrating a great time in hard rock history.

“Body Language Psychology” sounds a bit like a Bob Seger tune with a Marshall stack steroid shot. The opening riffs of “My Bike” sounds like a tribute to Deep Purple, but then it becomes a KISS-like tune. But I’m not sure if the lyrics are actually referring to masturbation or not. “High Speed King” is a tapestry of influences both musically and lyrically. The guitar solo isn’t flashy, but it certainly brings attention to the melodic messages underneath the lyrics. “End Of The Night” has practically the same lyric melody of KISS’ “Tomorrow And Tonight”. It’s a toe-tapper without being a total rip-off. The last track finds the band tucking the “rooster” back in the pants for this rocker… Which is the only song that I could do without. It’s one of those self-help type of cheerleader type of songs… “Rah! Rah! You can do it!”

Overall, the self-titled new album from The Bad Somethings is pretty darn good. It certainly speaks volumes when it comes to the music that influenced Richie and Davidson. The Bad Somethings self-admittedly aren’t out to break new ground. It’s a fun album. And if you’re a fan of hard rock from the 1970s, then you should definitely check it out.

I grade it a B-.

You can find the videos here on YouTube. The album is available for streaming on just about any platform.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dating In Bloom

My youngest stepson has been driving for 2 months. And he hit another milestone in his life just last week… His first date.

I’m being very courteous by not saying a word unless it’s totally positive. I don’t want to say anything that could make him self-conscious about hitting the dating scene. He’s a rather shy guy and I don’t want to come off like I’m ribbing him. I know that I got some ribbing when I came of girl-digging age and it seemed counterproductive to me. I want to support his dating endeavors, not hinder them.

Of course, his mother is beside herself with excitement. She’s snapping pictures and asking WAAYY too many questions. She didn’t know about the girl and I told her… “This is WHY he doesn’t tell you anything.”

He brought her over by the house this past Sunday. They had gone out with her family to celebrate her birthday. She’s a shy, sweet, and pretty girl. But we didn’t really spend a whole lot of time with her… The Redskins were in the middle of defeating the Carolina Canthers. So, we were just kinda smiley, breaking eye contact with the TV, and saying things like “Good to meet you” before turning towards the TV again. I think he planned it that way so everyone wouldn’t sit her down at a table, shine a hot light in her face, and interrogate her. I think Jamie got a set of fingerprints before she got away from us. Perhaps even a urine sample, I don’t know. I could be wrong, but I think I heard Jamie from the other room ask her to spread her toes. It could be a mother thing.

And apparently, they went to a church function last night. Oh, what wonderous powers this young lady must possess.

I can’t speak for his earlier years, but going to church isn’t even on the radar of priorities around the Big House. Sure, the MIL is a believer, but I cannot get her to attend anymore. I sure would like my Sunday’s back where I play music through the house to gently ease us into the day as I prepare brunch for everyone.

I’ll start playing some music through the house and she’ll drag herself out of bed. It’s like she has a desire to join us only to sit down in the living room and turn on the television while she clearly hears the music. She MUST have her first dose of televised news. I don’t know if it’s some kind of passive aggressive crap or what, but I just give it up and turn it off.

Sometimes Jamie and I will bet on how many songs it’ll take her before turning on the TV. It’s usually under 5. She must lessen the bladder, prepare a cup of coffee, and take a stack of medication that would choke a giraffe. And here’s the funny thing… Some of the meds must be taken with food. So, what’s her idea of taking with food? Two peanut butter crackers. Oh, it’s hilarious!

Anyways… Let’s get back to the stepson and his dating.

It’s an exciting time. The oldest stepson’s dating just kind of happened. No fanfare. No fuss. No muss. The youngest seems to be taking it all in stride while I field questions from his mother… “He’s leaving so early in the morning. Do you think he’s taking his girlfriend to school?”

“I don’t know, dear. He could be going to Taco Bell for those wonderful and delicious A.M. Crunchwraps.”

“Do you think that you need to talk to him about… about… you know?”

I kind of glazed over that the other night after he took her home. Jamie was grilling him with questions and I asked, “Do you know why they call most teenage pregnancies unwanted?”

Oh yeah, I’m suave and sophisticated. Someone should give me a talk show to host!

I have no desire to be a step-grand-dad anytime soon. Hell, I’ve got eternally housecoated MIL to deal with every day. And she isn’t as easy to deal with.

I’m happy for the youngest. I didn’t have a good dating life in high school. Parents of the girls saw me as some kind of weirdo because I certainly walked to the beat of a different drum. And one parent didn’t like me because my father was a deputy sheriff… I found why out later. He had some substance issues and there were rumors about the guy “dealing”. One girl was pulled out of school and her own mother actually insinuated a rumor that she was pregnant. She was mortified when a teacher expressed her feelings of shock. The other girl was forbidden to go out with me, but hey… Forbidden fruit definitely worked in my favor.

But I hope that the youngest doesn’t have to deal with any of that. I want his dating life to be smoother than mine. He certainly doesn’t need any of my stupid comments to fester and spin around in his cranium. I will maintain a respectful distance from his personal life.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Circling The Awareness Wagons

Yesterday’s post ended up with quite the discussion on Facebook. I learned something outside my scope of narrow understanding. But the greatest thing about it… It was a civil discussion. Yes! A civil discussion! Something that’s as rare as finding a Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card. Finding an Amazing Spider-Man number 1. Finding a Yugo that still runs.

I was waiting all day for things to go screaming off the tracks and crashing into a house of rescue puppies. Because as we all know… People just cannot be civil to each other on social media. If folks disagree they simply cannot let someone be entitled to their opinions, they must get angry and throw civility to the wolves. If a differing opinion arises, it must be tracked down, hunted, and gutted.

I experienced that with a friend in real life on Facebook when I wrote about the first time that I walked into the room to see Dr. Ford before the Senate Committee to give her statement about Kavanaugh. Until I read the crawl on the bottom of the TV screen, she looked like Dana Carvey with a Garth wig on. I prefaced the post with all kinds of disclaimers, but that didn’t stop the rage with my particular friend.

She said that I attacked her looks, her intelligence, her achievements, and called her names. Which I clearly did not, but in her mind I’m guilty because she believes that I disagreed with Ford’s testimony. Which I did not. She deserved to be heard. But that didn’t keep my former friend from insulting me. Well, she tried to insult me. As a Scorpio, I appreciate good sarcasm even if it’s directed towards my thick radio skin that repels insults like hail stones bouncing off pavement. I’m used to being insulted for entertainment. Nice try though. I responded in kind because I was misunderstood and I just couldn’t let it pass. Don’t poke the bear unless you want the claws. I found it amusing and I found it rather disconcerting.

We have known each other for 18 years and I thought that she knew me better than what she misinterpreted. She had no desire to discuss. She was right in her mind and unfriended me… I love the ol’ cheap hit and run tactic… I took a few moments to think about her feelings until it clicked. She rarely “likes” my posts or even comments on them. We’ve only been friends simply because we worked with each other for over 8 years. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was her problem and no big loss. I don’t need a sorehead friend that gets angry with my stupid observations that they misinterpret.

So to quote the great Cheap Trick… “Buenos noches o senor, Senorita see ya later, Buenos noches bye-bye”

But to get back to yesterday’s post… Ladies, get your mammograms. Everyone is trying to make you aware of the importance of getting them for the whole month of October. And that’s the part that eluded me. The “awareness” isn’t for all of us. It’s for the ones of us that just keep chugging along with the “it’ll never happen to me” mindset. Get those mammograms!

And guys, it can happen to you too! Peter Criss, former member of KISS, is a breast cancer survivor. So, give yourself an examination the same way the ladies do. I do it. There’s a history of breast cancer in my family. And my wife will occasionally supplement my own self-examination with her inspection. If you let your significant other give you an examination, chances are good that you’ll enjoy it. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

I Am Aware

Let me be upfront here… This may upset some of you.

With that being written… I’m aware of breast cancer.

I get it. Breast cancer exists. It has been around for as long as I can remember. I’ve been fully aware of breast cancer. We lost my Aunt Penny to breast cancer and the complications. I became painfully aware seeing the woman on her death bed in her home. I became so upset that I couldn’t stay the night in the house when she was begging someone in her family to put her out of her misery. I called up a cousin from the other side of my family that lived nearby to see if I could crash on his couch. He obliged. She died in the early morning the next day. I was a pall bearer that carried her casket to the grave.

The family met her the week before to bid their farewell, but I couldn’t make it. I believe that she waited a week longer to see me before dying. I could be wrong. She had a last request of me that will remain private.

It was one of the most unpleasant things that I have ever dealt with. Losing a friend or family member is tough, but to hear them begging to be put down is heartbreaking.

I was aware of breast cancer before my mother was diagnosed with the disease. She had a double mastectomy and occasionally still has problems associated with the surgery and disease. I still wear the shirt that we made to support her and her fight.

I was aware of breast cancer when I saw some friends posting on Facebook about themselves or someone else with the disease. I’m happy to say those women have kicked breast cancer’s ass.

I was aware of breast cancer when my sister was diagnosed with the disease. She had a mastectomy. And just recently, she was proud to “show off” her replacement breast to which I replied, “I never thought my sister would ever ask me how I like her breasts.” Now keep in mind, there were no baring of the breasts… You pervs! And maybe “showing off” is the wrong term. I don’t know. If you believe that I’m guilty of being insensitive, so be it. Our mother got a chuckle out of my comment. People condemn folks quite easily these days so, condemn me if you must. I believe that she felt confident in beating breast cancer and proud of what she regained through the miracle of modern surgery.

It is not my intention to make fun or put down anyone with breast cancer, breast cancer survivors, or otherwise.

I’m just aware of breast cancer.

Ask ANYONE within your space right this second if they’re aware of breast cancer and I’m 99.99% sure that they’ll say, “Yeah. I’m aware of breast cancer.” Or something to that effect.

So… Who ISN’T aware of breast cancer? Where are these people? Are they in the deepest jungle hundreds or thousands of miles away from civilization? Can we fly over and drop pamphlets onto those unaware of breast cancer to make them aware? Why aren’t the Susan G. Komen folks organizing walks through those jungles to bring breast cancer awareness to those that do not know?

Instead we have football players wearing pink. Newscasters are wearing pink dresses and pink ties. NASCAR even has some pink races cars, pink painted walls, and pink painted curbs at Martinsville. Folks are taking walks all across the country to raise money while wearing pink. I see pink ribbons on vehicles on the roadways. Lots of folks are saying that it’s to make people aware of breast cancer.

You know, the people that are ALREADY aware of breast cancer. So, yeah… I don’t get it.

Can we drop the “breast cancer awareness” bit?

Can we just make October the month for the Breast Cancer Pledge Drive?

Make people aware of the Breast Cancer Pledge Drive. That’s the ticket! We’re ALL aware of breast cancer. And folks have been using the word “awareness” instead of “asking for donations”. Lets just call it what it is… We KNOW about breast cancer already. I know it’s a way to increase the funds for researching a cure by saying “breast cancer awareness”. There’s nothing wrong with raising money for such an endeavor. But I have grown sick of bringing awareness to something that we ALL know about. It makes me jaded. It makes me unsympathetic to the cause because “awareness” is constantly being shoved down my throat when I KNOW that it’s all about raising money.

Again, I know my thoughts on this are going to upset someone. Everyone seems to have an exposed nerve just itching to get offended or outraged over something. Did it occur to anyone else that bringing awareness to something that we’re already aware of kind of insults our collective intelligence?

Perhaps we should be upset with the marketers that use “awareness” as a nice way of hitting the population up for donations.

Of course, I know that I’m spitting in the wind here. October and pink ribbons will most likely continue to bring breast cancer awareness to the masses that are already aware long after I’m gone.