May 2024 be Golden

Jim James is the lead singer of My Morning Jacket, a great band that started in Louisville, KY. He can be a bit “out there” at times, but the email he sent out to the My Morning Jacket mailing list yesterday is worth pondering as we flip the page to another year.

Maybe it’s a bit too “Successories posters” for you.

But there’s probably a nugget or three you can latch onto.

Be generous and compassionate. Pray for an end to all wars, an end to all violence and hatred. Work and pray for equality and love and universal human rights. Try to be honest and kind to everyone you meet – even if you are sad. Help someone along their way. Sing a simple song. Listen to the wind. Listen to the birds. Learn something new. 

May your 2024 be “Golden.”

Shop Local. Listen Local.

It’s Small Business Saturday. It’s also Support Local Musicians Year. OK, the first one’s legit, and the second one is something I just made up. But if you go out to a locally-owned bar, restaurant, or club to see local performers, you’re supporting local businesses and you’re a patron of the arts.

Sure, you could drop a month’s pay on tickets to the next Taylor Swift stadium show. But for that same cash, you could support dozens of local musicians who are just trying to get by. Or doing what they love in the evenings while working a day job or three.

You don’t have to buy the merch… you can just drop some cash in the tip jar. Maybe it’ll help them put some gas in the van, or record their next release.

On Thanksgiving Eve, I went to Arnold’s Bar & Grill (Cincinnati’s Oldest Tavern) to see Maria Carrelli and her band play an album release party. The album was recorded live at Arnold’s back in the spring. The album artwork was done by my good friend Keith Neltner, who runs his own design studio. The record was pressed at MusIcol in Columbus. The record sleeve and jacket were printed at Otto Printing in Newport, KY. All small local businesses. (I need to note that the album giveaway was sponsored by Maker’s Mark, which is semi-local but far from small.)

“These aren’t just regular albums. There is a ton of work that goes into them. Releasing these Thanksgiving Eve albums for free has been a passion project for Arnold’s owner Chris Breeden and celebrated graphic designer Keith Neltner for over 5 years now,” the press release says. “They handle every aspect of this release from the vinyl pressing all the way to stuffing the records into the sleeves at the end. The project actually won multiple Cincinnati Addy awards over the years as well.”

From this article in CityBeat (a local news source)

The album went on sale yesterday at a bunch of local record stores:

Shake It Records, Everybody’s Records, Plaid Room Records, Torn Light Records, Phil’s Records, Hail Records and Oddities, Morrow Records, Black Plastic Records, Hey Suburbia Records, Three Feathers Records and Spiral Groove Records.

So before you go dropping a bunch of cash on “stuff”… think about spending some $ on the live, local music experience. It’s much more memorable, and much more rewarding.

Word. Smith.

Patti Smith, the punk rock poet priestess. She gets it.

27 little words that say so much. Gratitude. Beauty. Wisdom. Love. Peace.

Envisioning that world is a great start. Working toward it is even better. You have the power. I have the power. We have the power.

 I believe everything we dream
Can come to pass through our union
We can turn the world around
We can turn the earth’s revolution

Patti Smith

Beatles? More like Beat(en-to-death)les!

Well thank goodness the powers that be are using Artificial Intelligence to solve climate change and make healthcare more equitable… oh wait, no, they’re using it to create a “new” Beatles song.

Because that’s what the world really needs… yet another song to go along with every other song in the Beatles catalog that has been overplayed over the past 60 friggin’ years.

I could go the rest of my life without hearing another of their songs and would be fine with that.

Me, about a year ago…

America, please stop with the Beatles obsession. For me. For you. For all of us. Two of them are deceased. It’s time to move on, not time to run some lyrics and melodies through AI and generate something that sounds vaguely like a Beatles song being performed by the Starland Vocal Band or the Ray Conniff Singers. It’s not just a bit cheesy, it’s full-on two-tons-of-Velveeta cheesy. It’s the aural equivalent of this:

The alleged song already has 17,635,546 spins on Spotify. And if you think I’m going to link to the recording of this Drab Four song, you’re more delusional than the folks who think the new song is good.

Here’s a song from an artist named Chris Catalyst. It has 6,516 listens on Spotify. But it’s a million times better.

Maybe Chris Catalyst isn’t your cup of tea. That’s fine. But please, for the love of music, go find another new artist… any new artist… and stop living in the past!

Songs and Substance (and Silliness)

If you’re old enough to remember the 1990s, and if you’re even slightly into music, and you appreciate great writing, you really owe it to yourself to check out the 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s podcast.

Rob Harvilla, a senior staff writer for The Ringer, spends each episode breaking down a song from the ’90s. Actually, he spends about half of each episode on a series of digressions, often about his time growing up in northern Ohio in the 90s, before finally getting to the featured song. And the digressions are great – brilliantly written, completely engaging, and typically hilarious… and the humor is usually self-deprecating.

Writing about this podcast doesn’t do it justice… especially when it’s my writing. Just listen to the first three minutes of one of the episodes — pick any one, they’re all great — and you’ll be hooked.

Here’s the opening of the episode that covers Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!”:

The series (which is well over 100 episodes/songs now… Rob himself calls it “the world’s most inaccurately named music podcast”) covers all sorts of tunes from the ’90s – from pop to country to R&B to hip-hop to indie rock. Some songs were monster hits… some have been mostly lost to the mists of our memory. It doesn’t really matter, as they all offer Rob a chance to wax eloquently about music and life (not necessarily in that order).

(Apparently this podcast is the #1 music podcast on Spotify, so I’m probably about three years late in touting it… sorry, I was busy.)

Rob Harvilla just released a book to accompany the podcast.

This book description does the podcast justice:

Ringer music critic Rob Harvilla reimagines all the earwormy, iconic hits Gen Xers pine for with vivid historical storytelling, sharp critical analysis, rampant loopiness, and wryly personal ruminations on the most bizarre, joyous, and inescapable songs from a decade we both regret entirely and miss desperately.

From the Hatchette Books description of Rob’s book

Listen to the podcast now and thank me later!

A KISS Goodbye

Last week, I saw KISS in concert.

A pickleball pal had free tickets, and I’d never seen KISS live, so I figured “why not?” Besides, this is billed as their final tour (although we’ve heard that from them before).

The show was at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum, a venue that’s seen better days. The same could be said for KISS. I think the last time I was in that arena, it about a decade ago, when I took my sons to see pro wrasslin’.

KISS has a lot in common with the WWE – both are heavy on showmanship. The concert featured (in no particular order): Flames. Fireworks. 40-foot inflatables of the band members. Smoke machines. Confetti cannons. Fake blood. Floating platforms. Paul Stanley gliding on a wire across the arena — Peter-Pan-like — to get to a smaller stage. Gene Simmons in a crane bucket that swung out over the crowd.

I went with my buddy Joe, and as he said after the show, it was completely over-the-top… and that’s exactly what we expected from Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and friends (Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer served as decent subs for Ace Frehley and Peter Criss from the original lineup).

Here’s the thing though: Gene Simmons is 74. Paul Stanley is 71. They’ve been in this band for fifty years! And they’re still out there playing a two-hour set… wearing those giant super-soled boots… and getting in platforms that take them 40 feet above the stage, and, in Paul’s case, zooming through the air while hanging onto a trapeze contraption. While most folks their age are wearing sensible shoes and ordering the early-bird special at Denny’s, they’re rocking and rolling all night (but probably taking a nap every day). More power (and pyro) to ’em!