Months ago, back when we could go out of our homes and be among other humans, I was spent the better part of a whole Friday toiling at Evil Twin’s taproom in Ridgewood.
You might wonder how I could be productive sitting almost an entire day at a brewery. Yes, Evil Twin is a brewery but their taproom opened early to offer a coffee service by Bushwick’s Sey Coffee. I got there early, had coffee, worked on a couple of syllabi.
By the time I finished working, I was ready for beer.
At some point that evening, a DJ showed up and started spinning. One of the songs they played was a cover of The Doors’s “Light My Fire.” I wasn’t familiar with this cover, but I thought it would be easy to find.
It turns out… it was very hard to find.
The next day I told a couple of friends about it. I described it “as if Devo covered ‘Light My Fire.'” But it’s not Devo!
In the Age of the Virus, with more time spent at home and feeling nostalgic for that Friday at Evil Twin, I started searching for the song on Second Hand Songs. I remember this song being having percussive rhythm and some synthesizers—hence why I thought it might have been performed by Devo—so I figured it was from the late 1970s or early 1980s. As I skimmed through that list, I saw that Moebius had released a version in 1979. There was a link to the song on YouTube.
Last week, a few of my friends and I went on a tour of four breweries in the Hudson Valley. At Plan Bee Farm Brewery in Poughkeepsie, they had a cornhole set up and a basketball court on the side of their building.
It was a cold day—somewhere in the low 30s—and the cornhole board was put away, resting against the barn. Also, because it was the coldest day in memory, we were all bundled up in winter coats: our unacclimated bodies weren’t yet used to 30° F.
One of us grabbed a basketball and took a few shots. I shot a few photos, and also a couple of videos. My friend Jackie, wearing a winter coat and boots, took a jump shot and made a basket. I had starting shooting just before she took the shot, and I stopped it after she walked away triumphantly. The video lasts all of two seconds.
I posted the short video to Instagram as a post. Over the last few months, I have really taken to posting Stories, but something told me this would be a good video post.
Watch the Instagram video with the sound on. It should loop, and if you listen to it a few times, you should start to notice a beat. I hadn’t noticed the beat until my friend Walter posted a video of my video playing with the sound on and looping. All the while, his girlfriend starts singing to the beat.
It was one of the coolest things I have ever unwittingly and unknowingly participated. A lot of things had to go right:
Jackie’s shot had to hit all of the things it did: first, it hit the basket and the rim. It also had to hit the out-of-place cornhole board and the concrete below. Also, our friend Ian had to affirmingly comment offscreen “there it is!”
The start and end points of the video had to be in the right spot. Remember that I shot and posted the video without any editing. Also, I’ll confess that I forget that recording and posting videos to Instagram include sound. In my mind, I was shooting silent—or MOS, if I can use a term from film studies.
Instagram had to loop the video and maintain a low and consistent latency to keep the start the loop again without missing a beat—so to speak.
Walter had to have his Instagram app with the sound on. And he had to be in the room with his girlfriend within listening range to notice the beat.
Walter’s girlfriend had to have a song come to mind and begin singing it.
The two must have had two iPhones nearby: one to play my looped video, and one to record her performance.
For someone who studies creative works all the time, but can’t make anything to save his life, I am thrilled to have been a part of this. But all I did was having the right friends do the right things at the right time.
Quintron and Miss Pussycat are back with an EP, Erotomania: Quintron at the Chamberlain, and a tour. The tour comes to New York on Thursday, October 31—Halloween!—at the Knockdown Center in Maspeth, Queens, as part of Jonathan Toubin’s New York Night Train Haunted Halloween Hop party. The party, by the way, will also feature a bunch of cover bands, The Make-Up from our nation’s capital, NOLA’s Three Brained Robot, and Protext, who I once called my favorite Irish band of all time.
I found the entire Erotomania EP is available now on Apple Music, but I wanted to buy it to throw a few shekels towards Q & Ms. P’s way. Erotomania is available for preorder from Mind Meld Records on Bandcamp with one track, “Bohemian Caverns,” available now to stream.
I had considered preordering a digital copy—or even a physical one—but evidently only the “digital album” was available for an eye-popping $999 or more.
Yikes! I really like Quintron and Miss Pussycat, but a thousand dollars is simply too steep. Let’s hope that’s a typo. Otherwise, let’s hope I can scoop up something more affordable from the merch table at the Halloween Hop show.
Update: According to the organizers, King Khan and the BBQ show have replaced Protex on this show because Protex could not secure visas in time for the show. The organizers are offering refunds for those who want them. That’s cool because I really like King Khan and the BBQ Show, even if I just saw them at Our Wicked Lady two months ago.
This is not my first time seeing King Khan (a.k.a “Black Snake”) play with Mark Sultan (a.k.a. “BBQ”). There was a show back on November 2015 at the Brooklyn Knitting Factory.
And there was another show the following November at the Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan.
Our Wicked Lady stages their shows outdoors, and for a while, I was concerned that it might rain on us.
Other than a few drops of drizzle, the rain held off. The show went on, although it was unusual in a number of ways. First, there were lots of people who jumped on stage to dance.
KKBBQ shared the stage with “Uncle” Joe Coleman, who came on stage to address the crowd for a minute.
King Khan also celebrated Jen from the Lower East Side on stage for, among other things, attending all of their New York shows for almost 20 years.
Perhaps most memorable was the woman who came on stage and almost immediately fell into BBQ’s drum kit.
And then she grabbed the microphone and made some unintelligible moaning sounds.
Finally, she went over to King Khan and proceeded to dance with him.
Despite all the on-stage theatrics, which included a lot of banter between the two performers, they continued to put on a great, raucous show, complete with a few sing-a-longs with the crowd.
Another unusual thing about this show as that it ran really long—over two hours.
I could see stage manager anxiously pacing around the stage and gesturing towards KKBBQ to move things along. You can see him kvetching behind the stage—on the right of the photo below.
The show basically ended when, around 11:30 PM, BBQ walked off the stage. However, King Khan wanted to continue playing and stayed on-stage to play a few bars on his guitar. Finally, the stage manager apparently disconnected his guitar amplifier, thus ending the possibility of any more music…or any further on-stage banter.
One concern for the lenghty show was that Jonathan Toubin’s weekly dance party was supposed to start around 10:00 PM, but things didn’t quite work out that way. It started closer to midnight, but no one who came to see KKBBQ on a single-day’s notice seemed to mind.
Jody Rosen writes about the value of a master recording:
The master contains the record’s details in their purest form: the grain of a singer’s voice, the timbres of instruments, the ambience of the studio. It holds the ineffable essence that can only truly be apprehended when you encounter a work of art up-close and unmediated, or as up-close and unmediated as the peculiar medium of recorded sound permits. “You don’t have to be Walter Benjamin to understand that there’s a big difference between a painting and a photograph of that painting,” [Andy Zax, a Grammy-nominated producer and writer who works on reissued recordings], said in his conference speech. “It’s exactly the same with sound recordings.”
Of course, I have students in my media criticism class read Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” each semester. And though they groan and complain, this passing reference to Benjamin’s hallmark essay reaffirms my decision to assign it.
If nothing else, it allows me to teach students the precise meaning of words in an essay that is different from their colloquial understanding. Case in point: aura.
My friend Moira bought an decommissioned school bus and, over last summer, converted it to an art studio and clubhouse-on-wheels, that she named the Art Heart Bus. Currently the bus is parked in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, inside the shared outdoor cafe area of the Italian restaurant Ringolevio and the adjoining bar-lounge Four-Fix-Six. It’s winter and the outdoor patio space is closed, but it’s being used a holiday market, and Moira’s bus is there.
On Saturday, she invited a few musicians over to play inside the bus. After running an extension cord to power a space heater and a couple of amplifiers, the music got off to a start. I snapped a few photos of the event.
I have been impressed with how quickly and effectively Moira planned this whole bus project and how she hustles to organize and promote events. And this one was a nice, small gathering that brought us together on a bus.
The bus and the Humboldt Holiday Market will be there on Saturdays and Sundays, from about 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, through Sunday, December 23. I kinda hate the concept of brunch, but I can confidently admit that the restaurant has pretty solid and reasonably priced brunch.
After the holidays, the bus will be returning to the streets of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, usually around McCarren Park. You can also rent the bus for a party or other event.
The older I get, the quicker time passes, and it’s quite unbelievable to think that it’s been over twenty-three years since I first went to an informational meeting to began doing a radio program on KCSB. I started as a trainee on the closed-circuit AM station in 1994, moved up to an on-air program on the FM-broadcast station and also worked as the publications director in 1995, and was then elected general manager of the station in 1996. Having peaked early in life, I began my steady decline including being less involved with the radio station. After 1997, I remained an active volunteer and still did my radio show, Die Social Misfit, but I ultimately left the station around 1999. I passed on the tape archives of my last program to a friend. I don’t know if she still has them.
A lot has changed in the twenty-or-so years since I left KCSB. In the 2014 KCSB video made Film and Media 103 students, I noticed that some visible changes that have occurred over the years. Some things I noticed include:
a new mixing console in the FM control room, although it looks like the same microphones we had in my day.
a new computer system that probably does more than just play electronic CARTs, which was why we installed computers in the control rooms in the first place.
a new title for the internal music director, who is now called the “Librarian.”
a newish KCSB advisor named Marta Ulvaeus. I guess she was around before Ted Coe took the reigns.
Yet, there are somethings that remain unchanged. In the video, KJUC manager Madeline Kardos references how she spends downtime at the radio station. I did the same. As a young adult, I gravitated towards the radio station offices after I finished classes and after I finished working. It was a great gathering place for other people, and I found a nurturing community there. It was also, in an age before smartphones, a place to read and write emails. I’m sure there are tons of places like that on every college campus, and I’m glad that KCSB was there for me during those years.
Another thing that appears unchanged about KCSB is its commitment to diversity and eclecticism. Cutting my teeth at KCSB was a blessing for me because it made me curious about what else there might be out there: be it for music, TV shows, films, etc. It is important not only for the young people who do programs at the station but also for listeners in a rapidly gentrifying and homogenizing Santa Barbara–area.
Finally, another thing about KCSB hasn’t changed is the phone number for the request line. There’s something musical about “893-2424,” and anyone who had a radio program will have recited that phone number hundreds, if not thousands, of times.
Longtime readers of this site know that I am almost universally appreciative of everything that Apple does. But over the last few years, there was one thing about Apple that has bugged me: their taste in music—and now TV shows—is pretty lame. I think this casts a shadow over their otherwise nifty products, which reflect a refined sense of taste in their hardware and software design that is unmatched. And now that they’re getting involved in TV and movie production, I worry about what they’ll produce.
iTunes Podcast Directory
Back in the summer of 2005, Apple first entered the podcasting game by integrating it into iTunes. Up until that point, listening to podcasts was an exclusive domain for nerds. It required third-party software: I used iPodder. It required some understanding of RSS and how it worked, and it required expertise in knowing where to find podcasts in the first place. I vaguely remember listening to a subscribing to a few podcasts back then. Some related to “budget rock” music, some to news and politics, and a bunch other nerdy fare. Suffice to say, these reflected my own personal tastes.
Apple's Podcast Directory, July 2005
Apple sought to introduce podcasts to the masses when it integrated podcasts into iTunes 4.9, making it easier to add podcasts to your IPod. They also added Podcasts Directory to the iTunes Store, a feature that remains to this day. However, I disliked the store because it highlighted the podcasts of the big media companies, especially Disney, a media conglomerate that Apple has had a close relationship by virtue of Steve Jobs and Pixar. I wrote as much on the old, Moveable Type version of this site:
But what is most significantly different from all the various podcasting directories and the new iTunes is that its podcast directory spotlights the podcasts from large content producers. When you first open the directory, you’ll note the presence of the big media companies. When I opened the directory this afternoon, I got a podcast for ABC News and one for ESPN. Clearly, there’s an arrangement with Disney. But the other partnerships seem a bit more tailored for the iPod crowd’s tastes, according to Madison Avenue. There’s NPR affiliates (KCRW, WGBH), CBC, and Bravo’s Queer Eye. If you dig a little deeper, you can find a large number of independent podcasts, but it’s like finding that rare imported beer at your supermarket. You’re going to have to dig past all the Bud, Miller, and Coors to find it.
The popularity and variety of podcasts has exploded since 2005, although its rise has been uneven. While there have been podcasting stars, such as Adam Carolla and Serial and now Bill Simmons and The Daily, podcasting remains a relatively open platform with an wide variety of choices for every possible taste. Podcasting in 2018 is not wholly determined by the Podcast Directory of 2005.
Keep Music Personal
Another example of my distaste for Apple’s taste is the live musical performances integrated into many keynotes.1 I relish each and every keynote address and product launch Apple does. These are not just well-produced media events; they’re often studies in great theater. But I cringed, for example, when John Mayer came on at the end of the iPhone’s introduction at the 2007 Macworld Expo.
John Mayer playing at the Macworld 2007 keynote where the iPhone was announced / Photo by Derrick Story
It’s understandable if no one remembers Mayer playing this keynote. After all, he followed the introduction of what would become the most influential computing device in a generation, and no one can really tell you what else Apple also announced that day. I don’t have anything against John Mayer. I hear he’s a fine musician, and I feel bad that he had to follow the iPhone in the same way I feel bad that the Rolling Stones followed James Brown in The T.A.M.I. Show. But having these performances felt like Apple was trying to shove some middle-of-the-road rock music into our iPods and, later, our iPhones. Apple has continued this tradition with having Coldplay’s Chris Martin perform in 2010 and Sia take the stage in 2016. Neither is music that I would ever listen to on my own. And when these performances start, I always stop watching the keynote.
The public seemed most upset about Apple’s middle-of-the-road tastes in 2014 when they “bought” U2’s new album, Songs of Experience, and added it to everyone’s iTunes account. Undoubtedly there must have been some U2 fans who appreciated getting this album on their iPhones, but I think Apple overestimated the breadth of U2’s appeal. A lot of people were angry about this unwanted gift. Even if U2 was the most popular living rock band in the world, which they arguably were, I understand the backlash because, for years, Apple has marketed their devices as personal and adding U2 to everyone’s device seemed invasive.
I initially feared that Apple Music would turn out to be a disaster because they focused so heavily on the Beats Music aspect of it. I watched the June 2015 WWDC keynote with great interest, and the Apple Music introduction was by far the least impressive of all their announcements that day. Not only that, the Beats Radio stations and programs reminded me a lot of what we saw featured in the iTunes Podcasts Directory: a bunch of middle-of-the-road offerings that betrayed why I liked podcasts and streaming music versus terrestrial and satellite radio, and why I liked buying CDs online instead of the limited selection at the local music store.
If you watch the video of the Apple Music introduction, there’s something off-putting about watching Eddy Cue make playlists. His personal, eclectic taste isn’t mine. Did you just tell me to listen to Loren Kramar? Kramar, by the way, hasn’t released anything since the 2015 single that Cue demos.
There’s no way for me to prove this, but I think that Apple Music is succeeding despite Beats Radio not because of it. Apple Music is doing well because it lets users stream music in much the same way Spotify does, although I suspect Spotify’s recommendation algorithm is better than Apple Music because Apple kinda sucks at AI.
All Apple Music had to do to succeed was flawlessly allow subscribers to find and play whatever music they want, reflecting each user’s personal taste, not the middle-of-the-road taste that Apple seems to espouse.
Of course, nobody except Fuller really knows the exact “creative differences” that led him to leave the series, and Snell and Hurley indicate as much. But their reasonable speculative explanation shows that Apple has established a specific taste for content, and it’s not necessarily as groundbreaking as they might think it is.
There’s also the comedic bits at the beginning of recent keynotes. While I normally like James Corden, I’d much rather listen to Craig Federighi tell some dad jokes about macOS than watch Carpool Karaoke with Tim Cook and Pharrell. ↩
The “Internet” gets riled up about a few things from time-to-time that, in the great scheme of things, don’t really matter. Earlier this month, the Internet got mad that Netflix was apparently closely examining its customers’ viewing patterns to produce this tweet:
To the 53 people who've watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?
While I appreciate the point that @xor makes by reminding us that our VCRs and record players didn’t make fun of us, allow me to remind all these analog dweebs what it was like to visit a video store or a record store. Part of me dreaded visiting these kinds of stores because of the clerks who worked there, passing judgement on what I movie I was renting or what CD I was buying.
Perhaps, I should have been less self-conscious and been proud of my cultural choices. Or maybe were it not for those clerks, I would not have curated my hipster tastes more carefully.
Nonetheless, when I first got on the Internet and bought a CD through CDNow in 1995, I really liked this experience because…
the selection was much more diverse than what I could find at a local music shop, or what Chris Anderson refers to as the “long tail.”
there was an impersonal anonimity in that I could buy whatever I wanted
I don’t remember what I bought and if it was all that embarrassing, but I seem to recall that I was programming a radio show on KCSB at the time, which likely meant it was something hard-to-find in the Santa Barbara–area.
To be sure, I know that my personal preferences, listening and viewing data, and my shopping habits are all tracked by a multitude of companies. However, I also don’t remember those algorithms making fun of me whenever I brought something to the counter. And, as far as I know, no algorithm ever its friends that I would see around town about what I music or movies I like.
Finally, the whole Internet backlash against Netflix might have been overblown. I heard one theory that the @netflix social media team just might have fabricated that fifty-three people had watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past two weeks.
If that’s the case, it’s not creepy, it’s comedy.
However, Swarm/Foursquare did something similar and reported on some extraordinary streaks that its users have made.
Given that Swarm/Foursquare offers almost no benefit other than reporting check-ins, I would avoid annoying its users, lest they feel they’re being judged for liking donuts and sandwiches.
<p class=”text-muted small”>The above link to Amazon are affiliate links. Shopping through those links will kick back a referral fee to me. </p>
Twenty years ago, literally the lifetime of a current college sophomore, I began hosting a college radio music show called Die, Social Misfit!!! on KCSB-FM, 91.9, in Santa Barbara. I used to play a lot of garage rock, surf, and the occasional exotica, all of which were popular genres among the hipsters of the time because of multiple revival movements concentrated on the US west coast. A friend from the east coast refers to that music today it as “budget rock.”
Die, Social Misfit!!! was my third attempt at doing a radio show, and it sort of mirrored my experience as a college student. The first two radio programs were, quite frankly, pretty bad, and I don’t want to describe them in detail out of pure shame. Suffice to say that those programs were series of ugly messes, not unlike the many essays I wrote for my freshman (and sophomore!) composition courses. In the case of essay writing, it really wasn’t until my junior year of college where I felt that finally “got it.” I learned how to research and use sources, how to structure an essay, how to write a compelling thesis, and how to develop a voice that would need only further refining in graduate school. (Who knew topic sentences were still a thing?!?) The same was true for the radio show, and it was around 1997 that I developed Die Social Misfit!!!. The entire program, while not necessarily a themed show, had one central idea behind it: what my friends and I would describe as “rawk!” The show aired on Friday afternoons, between 3:00 to 5:00 PM. I used to imagine countless workers listening to KCSB throughout the week, breathlessly anticipating my program as it signaled the last two hours of their workweek. I wanted to rawk them out of their chair come quitting time.
Late December is an exciting time because it signals the Christmas season, the end of the year, and also the end of the semester. As I grade scores of undergradaute student essays, I think of my poor students and how many of them still haven’t “gotten it.” Many essays aren’t worth the paper they didn’t bother using to print them. (I accept only electronic submissions.) But I also think of my old radio show. I never did a proper Christmas themed show, but over the years, I’ve maintained an iTunes playlist of Christmas songs that I would have played on Die, Social Misfit!!! had I not been a cynical twenty year-old at the time thinking that Christmas was lame. Christmas isn’t lame! Being a cynical twenty year-old, however, is lame.
A lot of the songs are rocked out versions of old favorites, such as The Humpers doing “Run Run Rudolph.” The Mexican-American Elvis impersonator, El Vez, adds a little color to old favorite with “Brown Christmas.” There are also some Christmas-themed songs that are, as far as I know, not at all versions of traditional favorites, such as Lillian Briggs’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll Polly Santa Claus.” But there are some songs that I’m sure you’ll recognize but likely never heard like this. For example, the New Bomb Turks does a cover of U2’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” at a such a breakneck pace that, according to legend, it blew The Edge’s hat off his head when he first heard it. And speaking of meta covers, you can hear The Ventures playing a version of “Sleigh Ride,” and Los Straitjackets doing an almost note-for-note cover of that Ventures cover. And, of course, I even included the Phil Spector Christmas album because even though he pulled a gun out on the Ramones and shot a woman dead, I really like that album.
Forgive for the songs that appear more than once.
I know that all college sophomores today prefer to share their music mixes on Spotify or YouTube, but since I have had this playlist in iTunes for over a decade, it was really easy to make it public with a couple of clicks. Also, because I’ve been adding to it for myself over the years, I never bothered to curate a proper order. Instead, I just shuffle play it whenever the mood strikes for rawkin’ Christmas music. You should shuffle play it too.