Category Archives: Music
In 1988, my buddy Eric and I got to see They Might Be Giants (TMBG) on their Lincoln tour. They played at a small 16 & Up club in Jacksonville Beach called Einstein-a-go-go. They played a fantastic set on the clubs tiny stage and John F. hung around after the show to sign stuff and chat with everyone. I still have my signed ticket stub in my home office. The club was bulldozed a few years back, and I’m sure if you listened closely you would have heard tones of a pre-goth Smiths tune seeping from the wreckage. Last night, I got to see them again and I was just as impressed as I was 24 years ago.
To be completely honest, I haven’t been the biggest fan of TMBG’s last few albums. I didn’t hate them, but they just hadn’t grabbed me the way their previous work had. I knew that they were coming to play locally but I hadn’t planned on going. Well, I changed my tune when I heard that Nerd Rocker extraordinaire Jonathan Coulton (JoCo) was booked to be their opening act! I purchased my ticket that day and Eric bought his soon after.
I met Eric, his wife and several friends at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. It’s a church that’s been converted into a performance space. It’s small, but it’s far bigger, cleaner, more acoustically sound and noticeably less smoke-filled than Einstein’s was. The crowd was an eclectic mix. There were folks who were at the same show in ’88, plenty of college student types and even kids in their early teens. (Note that this was not a show for one of their children’s albums.)
I had been looking forward to seeing Jonathan Coulton at DragonCon in 2011, but I wasn’t able to make it. He played a great opening set with a few songs off of his new album Artificial Heart like Sticking it to Myself, Sucker Punch and Still Alive which is a song from the popular video game series Portal. Of course, he played several of his signature tunes like Skullcrusher Mountain which is about a mad-scientist who can’t figure out why his captive “girlfriend” is so afraid of him, and RE: Your Brains, a tune about a zombie trying to work out a deal with his former co-worker. JoCo’s set was a little shorter than I would have liked, but awesome all the same.
JoCo tossed the obligatory guitar pick into the audience and I helped a teenage kid find it with the aid of my trusty iPhone flashlight. The short break was just long enough for me to grab a beer and find my way back to my group before TMBG came out.
From what I can remember of the ’88 show, it was just the two Johns on stage. They’ve now upgraded quite a bit, the Johns were accompanied by a drummer, bassist and guitar/keyboardist.
Like JoCo, their set list was a great mix of songs from their latest album Join Us and classic TMBG songs. I was really impressed with their energy, they’re as musically tight as they’ve ever been and they clearly take their craft seriously. You’ve got to love a band that successfully mixes an accordion and bass clarinet into their songs. I was ready to hear to hear Shoehorn With Teeth when I saw the clarinet, instead it was played for one of their newer tunes.
Any good concert is more than just music. The guys carried on with some great banter and general joking around between songs. They make great efforts to connect with the audience. At several points during the show the guys disappeared behind a bass drum at the back of they stage. They grabbed a pair of crudely made sock puppets and proceeded to have a hilarious but bizarre conversation. The puppets came out several more times, engaging in more conversation and even singing a few songs.
At one point the audience was divided into halves to have a battle between People (stage right) and Apes (stage left). The battle consisted of each side chanting either People or Apes when their appointed musicians played. TMBG declared it a tie but the People clearly won.
They wrapped up the show with a few encores including a loud and rocking version of Ana Ng.
For me, this concert served as a great reminder that recorded music is only half of the experience. A lot of bands can sound great on a record, but the great bands are even better live. My love for They Might Be Giants has been fully restored.
-Thanks to Eric Peterson for the pictures!
I received several iTunes gift cards for Christmas this year, which I always love to receive. I decided to spend some of them to pay for a year of iTunes Match. The main idea behind iTunes Match is that once you sign up and match or upload your music, you can access it from any computer or device that’s authorized for your iTunes account. Once you sign up and activate it on a computer that contains your iTunes library, iTunes analyzes all of your music.
If it can find the same song in iTunes, you now have access to a high quality 256 bit AAC copy of it through iCloud (I talked about bit rate in an earlier post). If it can’t find a match, it uploads the song from your computer to iCloud. Depending on how much music you have, this can take several hours to complete. You can now access those songs from any computer or iOS device (iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch) that is set up to access your iTunes account. As a nice side-effect, you can download all of those high quality songs back to your computer, replacing the possibly inferior ones that you’ve collected over the years. Oh, and they’re DRM free!
I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 songs in my library. Some of those songs were purchased right from iTunes, some were ripped from my CD collection and some were acquired from other sources. I’m a bit OCD when it comes to my music, so most everything in my library was ripped at a decent bit-rate and it’s all well organized and properly tagged. I have some older stuff that may not be quite as high quality and I have some skips on some of the tracks that I ripped from CD, so I was looking forward to replacing them with nice clean iTunes fresh copies.
Pretty cool huh? It would be if it was that easy!
I have some fairly eclectic tastes and I know that I have music that’s not even available from iTunes, so I didn’t expect all of my music to be matched. I did however expect that most of it would be. After the initial run, I had around 1,100 songs that couldn’t be matched. That seemed like a high number to me, it’s over 1/8th of my entire collection! I started looking at what didn’t match.
Some of the stuff that I expected not to match didn’t, surprisingly some did (like The Dead Milkmen and Attractive Eighties Women). A large portion of the unmatched songs were fairly mainstream and are available for sale in iTunes. What’s more annoying than that, many of the songs were parts of albums that iTunes managed to match! For example, the Beastie Boys album The Mix-Up (which I ripped from a CD purchased from a local shop), matched all but two songs which showed as “Uploaded” instead of “Matched”. The more I looked, the more albums I found with similar results.
I can live with an artist or album not matching, but it really bugs me to have one or two songs from an album be the CD rips and the rest are iTunes sourced files. This may seem trivial or picky to you, but it’s just how I am and I’m sure that I’m not alone.
I hit the search engines to try to find some help. I found several posts pointing out that if the song in your library was a few seconds too long or short, it may not match. They suggested using an editor to chop off or pad a few seconds on the track, then try to match it again. Every file I tried this with didn’t get any better results.
A few folks suggested converting from MP3 to AAC, so I tried that with no success. Some suggested deleting one album at a time, re-importing and then re-matching, still no luck.
As of right now, I’m giving up for a bit. I may try to re-rip from my CDs, or I may just wait until Apple comes up with a better way to match tracks.
I really dig the idea of iTunes Match. Having access on all of my iDevices is great. Knowing that my music is backed up in a massive Apple Data-center somewhere is comforting. Having nice clean copies of my music is very cool, but they’ve still got a few kinks to work out.
Since the advent of early file sharing services like Napster and more recently BitTorrents and the like, media producers like record labels, movie houses, etc. have been concerned (read paranoid), about losing control of the distribution of their products.To media producers, Digital Rights Management is a tool to protect their product, their distribution chain and their revenue stream. By most accounts, the artists themselves only receive a small portion of the profits made by media companies, sounds crappy huh?
So what keeps an artist from producing and distributing their media without giving the big guys a cut? Apparently not much!
Comedian Louis CK decided to do just that. He paid a production company around $170,000 to produce a video of a show that he did at the Beacon Theater, (over)paid about $32,000 for a web site and put the video up for sale for $5 a pop… without any DRM!
No DRM, no regional restrictions, no crap. You can download this file, play it as much as you like, burn it to a DVD, whatever.
So how’d that work out for him? In 12 days, he’s made over $1,000,000. Yes, there’s six zeroes behind that number! You do have to consider the fact that he’s already a very well know comedian, so he’s got fans willing to pay to watch a video of him but it’s impressive none the less and a great example of what can be accomplished without the interference of “the man”.