Sunday, December 12, 2010

Miami Art Rawkers Pretty Please Throw Themselves CD Launch Party




Miami art rawkers Pretty Please shelved the acrimony and reunited with singer Bianca Pupo just in time to release their self-titled debut CD. With their spectacular kaleidoscopic imagery projected on a large screen behind them--which luckily accentuated their performance rather than took away from it-- and their blend of dense, dark pop ditties, the Awarehouse Art Gallery proved the ideal location for their confluence of art and music. There was a palpable, nervous energy stemming from Pupo's recent return to the band after a very public, contentious departure. But that energy fueled the musicians. It translated into their performance of a lifetime. You sensed you were witnessing something special, something more than a concert by a homegrown pool of local musicians. For this night, the stars that make up Pretty Please aligned, but hopefully unlike astronomy this event is not transient or temporary. Hopefully, the musicians realize what their fans have known all along: when they put the drama aside, they are a musical tour de force.

Friday, March 19, 2010

2010 South by Southwest Blog



La Banda Elástica--sort of like Latin alternative's Rolling Stone magazine but better (Britney Spears would never be on the cover)--has graciously agreed to publish my SXSW musings so someone other than my mom reads it (no offense, mami).

Day 1: March 17, 2010: In 1989, a little known band (at least in the U.S.) with a hyper kinetic front man played SXSW. That band was Mano Negra, led by Manu Chao. Who will be this year’s Mano Negra?

Day 2: March 18, 2010: Bomba Estéreo Rocks The Fort, Conversation with Alicia Zertuche (SXSW Festival Coordinator-Latin Division), Naco's Juan in a Million, LBE and Automático's SXSW Showcase.

Day 3: March 19, 2010: Bands with funny names. Highlights from our interview with Systema Solar. A review of The Very Best's show at the Fort. A glimpse of YACHT. A special guest joins Girl in a Coma on stage. A review of Systema Solar's show.

Day 4: March 19, 2010: Our SXSW coverage concluded on a very international tip: Beijing's Carsick Cars, Israel's Boom Pam and Colombia's Choc Quib Town.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

OK Go - This Too Shall Pass - RGM version



Maybe OkGo can make music videos relevant again. Maybe this is what it takes so we can watch music videos on MUSIC TELEVISION again instead of whatever it is MTV shows these days (other than the Buried Life, everything else can go).

UPDATE: Apparently, OkGo's label EMI was p-o'd that music videos on YouTube do not generate much money. Though the band's lead singer contends that it's an outlet of expression for the artist, which is nice and dandy for them, the question is: what incentive is there for EMI to drop money for OkGo to produce a product (a music video in this case) that apparently has zero return on investment?

I think the answer is pretty damn obvious: exposure, exposure, exposure. I think EMI really fell on its sword on this one, since according to this report by NPR, the band is parting ways with EMI and starting their own label. EMI probably looked at this way too linearly. According to the same NPR report, OkGo's video for the song "Here It Goes" has been viewed on YouTube around 50 million times, thus standing as "one of the most popular music videos of the Internet era."

While those 50 millions views may have not earned them much (about $5,400 according to an opinion piece by none other than OkGo front man Damian Kulash Jr.), the publicity it earned the band, which helped them sell records and fill concert venues, was completely understimated/overlooked? No wonder record labels are in so much trouble. It's understandable that in these difficult times they are looking to make a buck on anything and everything they can, but not realizing that OkGo and YouTube probably saved them hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in advertising to sell a product they CAN make money on, is just stupid. Oh and one more thing: You know how at the beginning I asked what incentive is there for EMI to drop money to produce a video for OkGo? Well, as it turns out, part of their craft is making videos on a shoestring budget. The viral treadmill video for "Here It Goes," you know the one that got the 50 million views? That was shot in the lead singer's sister's house and they didn't even tell EMI they were shooting it, so presumably they fronted the entire cost of production. What the suits at EMI should have done is kissed this band's grimy, worn-out Chuck Taylors and used them as a marketing case study for other bands to emulate. Like I said, pretty stupid.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Free Music by The Ropes

This three-track set is almost too good to be free, so the least I can do for The Ropes is spread the wealth. Download now and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Johnny Cash's 'American VI: Ain't No Grave' Out on Feb. 23



When arguing who is the greatest musician/musical groups of all time, a case could be made for Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson or The Beatles. And while there is no definitive answer, there are strong reasons why Johnny Cash should be--at the very least--considered among the best that ever was. Beyond his influential boom-chika-boom country-rock 'n' roll sound and his historic prison albums, Cash was among one of the first true anti-establishment musical pioneers, who always seemed to favor craft over business. There was his decision to leave Sun Records because they wouldn't allow him to record gospel songs. Who the hell left Sun Records in the 50s? Not Elvis. Not Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny Cash did. And of course, there were the endless Cash musical projects that were much more artistic forms of expression than a way to earn a living (they sold very poorly).

Unlike Presley and The Beatles, Cash enjoyed a longer career: 48 years to be precise. And though, he never enjoyed the popularity or numbers that Presley or The Beatles pulled--in volume alone, Cash dwarfed most. But perhaps what makes Cash such an important artist in the pantheon of music artists, was his resurgence under the guidance of producer Rick Rubin.

Throughout the 80s, it seemed fairly certain that Cash had relegated himself and cemented his place as a true American has-been: an artist who had a long-gone golden era and who would occasionally tap into his oldies to make a living--sort of like Don McLean (only with a lot more hits than "American Pie") or even Mike Love and his so-called Beach Boys (only Cash was more like the Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys).

Cash continued playing little honkytonks and dive bars. Although, he continued to make new music, it wasn't slick enough for Nashville nor contemporary enough for mainstream. He wasn't earning new fans, wowing critics nor exciting his die-hards. Cash was just there. Artistically, his career was over, even if he could still bank on nostalgia.

This is the Cash that Rick Rubin found in the early 90s. So Rubin proposed a simple plan: recording Cash in a primitive setting: just an old tired country legend, his enormous baritone and his acoustic guitar. The plan worked. It's important to note that Cash had the same idea nearly 20 years earlier. But it was one of those ideas that either never materialized or he simply thought it was too personal to publish (following his death this body of work was released in a double album titled "Personal File."). Not surprisingly, when Rubin proposed the idea, Cash jumped on it. These came to be known as the American Recordings sessions. Knowing what we know now and understanding that these sessions made Cash's career flourish again and draw a new generation of fans, these sessions could easily be called Johnny Cash's Encore Sessions. After a long, full career, it was almost unprecedented that Cash would have that much great music to offer. But he did. Not only was Cash making relevant, important and critically acclaimed music again, but arguably he left the best stuff for the encore--the twilight of his career.

Although many of the songs in the American Recordings volumes were covers, Cash played them with such grit and honesty, that he made them his. Look no further than Cash's rendition of Nine Inch Nail's "Hurt." But he also delivered some of the best original songs of his career--no small feat for the man who gave us country standards such as "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Walk the Line." Yes, in his encore, Cash may have been at his very best. It's like if Elvis Presley would have jumped in a gym, tossed the gaudy body suits in some closet in Vegas and been better than the young, handsome man who wowed the youth and pissed off the parents in one hip-shaking swoop back in the '50s.

Simply put: Cash remained relevant until his last gasping breath. Following the death of his beloved June Carter in the spring of 2003, Cash had only one reason to outwit his failing health and broken heart: making music. Rubin literally put a sound engineer at his bed side and whenever Cash was strong enough to record, he did. Talk about not going gently into that good night. Cash kept on keeping on until his death on Sept. 12, 2003--only a few months after June's passing. The result was a handful of contemplative, visceral songs sung by a dying legend with an slowly extinguishing voice. The songs made up most of the two final American Recordings volumes: "American V: A Hundred Highways" and "American VI: Ain't No Grave." American V came out in 2006. American VI will finally be released on Feb. 23 to celebrate what would have been Cash's 78th birthday (Cash was actually born on Feb. 28, 1934).

While there plenty of reason to think Elvis, Michael or the Fab Four had a greater impact, none of them remained so relevant and important. Johnny Cash so loved the world that he gave us such compelling music until death. Among his best songs, were the last original songs he wrote: "The Man Comes Around" and "Like the 309." For this reason, one of the most anticipated songs in the final American Recordings volume will be "I Corinthians 15:55"--the last Cash original we will ever hear.

To read more details about the upcoming album.

UPDATE: Amazon is reporting album will now be available on March 9.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rock 'n' Relief for Haiti

The devastation in Haiti is simply unprecedented. It's a terrible, terrible situation and people will continue to die. It's a race against time. Money speaks, so if you want to help with a small donation, there are a few really easy ways to do it through a simple text message. The donations will appear on your next phone bill. You can donate $5 to Wyclef Jean's fund by texting ""Yele" to 501501 and hit send. I did read that some of the accounting in Jean's organization was a little shady, but I would have to imagine Jean would ensure everything's legit for this cause. But if you want more peace of mind, you can also donate $10 through the Red Cross by texting "Haiti" to 90999 or the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund by texting "Quake" to 20222.

But for those of you who want dig a little deeper and get rock out to some great music. Here are two opportunities:
Emergency Benefit Concert for Haiti in NYC Jan. 20 - 21, 24-25
Haiti Mizik Relief in Miami, Fla. Jan. 23-24