Category Archives: Music

tamed by the purr of a jaguar

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. I had no idea so many new readers were visiting my blog; I'd just assumed that the Internet had gotten bored with me, moved on to whatever the new hotness is, and I was writing for the few, the proud, the geeky who had been here forever.

Knowing that there are a significant number of you who are new to my words is incredibly inspiring to me, and I woke up early this morning (not my choice – more on that in a second) feeling pretty excited to fire up Typepad and write in my blog. I haven't felt like that in a long, long time. So thank you to those of you who have been here for a while, and thank you to those of you who are recent arrivals. I hope to make it worth your while to spend some of your time with me.

So let's talk about this morning, shall we? Last night, I celebrated the 4th of July the way the founding fathers intended: I went to the Hollywood Bowl with my wife, our son, his girlfriend and our good friend BURNS! (his actual name, with the ! and everything) to see Hall & Oates perform with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

It was a very short concert, because of the 10pm noise curfew, but it was still a whole lot of fun. Initially, Ryan and I thought that Darryl Hall looked like Hasselhoff, but we later decided that he actually looks sort of like Thor, if Thor were a rocker. Oates doesn't have his epic moustache, and I'm not going to lie to you, Marge: a little bit of me died inside when I saw that.

But then I was clapping along with Private Eyes (CLAP!)* and I didn't seem to mind all that much.

Even though we took the Red Line to Hollywood like intelligent people who don't want to spend an extra fifty hours** waiting to get the hell out of Hollywood, we still didn't get home until almost 11. We were all pretty amped up from the fireworks and clapping along with Hall & Oates, so we were all awake well after midnight. I actually ended up reading comic books in bed until almost 2, before drifting off to sleep to dream of maneaters and the M-E-T-H-O-D-O-F-L-O-V-E.

Four hours later, at six fucking o fucking clock in the fucking morning, my asshole cat decided that he was going to chase a ping pong ball around my bedroom, jump up onto my bed and attack my feet, and then make that one particular sound all cat — I almost said "owners" but we all know the correct term is "staff" — hear when the cat wants to go outside. So I dragged myself out of bed and opened the door for him to go do whatever the hell a cat does at six fucking o fucking clock in the fucking morning … which, as it turns out, is make that same noise again ten minutes later until I let him back into the house.

And that's the story of how I only got six four*** hours of sleep last night, but don't really care because I woke up feeling energized and excited, knowing that writing silly stuff in my blog is actually worth the effort, because you — yes, you — are still coming around to read it, even if it's only a stupid story about my cat.****

* They're watching you (CLAPCLAP!)

** Duration possibly exaggerated for comedic and editorial effect.

*** Okay, maybe I'm a little more tired than I originally thought. Also, math is hard.

**** But the writing is the thing, even if it's something stupid about my cat. I have to get this stuff out of the way so I can write the good stuff.

three incredible indie bands you should listen to

My brother has been making these cool time lapse videos of life on his ranch in Montana. In a recent video, he used music that I instantly loved … but he didn't say who it was.

Luckily for me, I live in the future, so I fired up Shazam on my Android, let it do its thing, and in less than a minute, I was streaming Telekenisis' album Telekinesis! from Rhapsody through my Sonos.

While I listened to my new favorite album, I read Jeremy's blog. That led me to another video of his where he played music from a band called The Smith Westerns. Again, I went straight to Rhapsody, and added Dye It Blonde to my Sonos playlist. I had those two albums on repeat for much of the day, yesterday.

Seriously, living in the future is awesome, even if I still don't have a jet pack, death ray, or a flying car.

Those of you who are good at math will have noticed by now that I said there were three bands, but I've only linked to two. Good job, give yourself a gold star and a check plus!

The third band is actually on the page I linked above for Telekinesis. They are called The Love Language. I heard them about a year ago, when I got an e-mail from Merge records offering to share some new music with me, based on my loudly-proclaimed love of similar-sounding bands. I've been meaning to play The Love Language on Radio Free Burrito forever, but as I am reminded at least once a day, I haven't done a new RFB in months. (Also, if you like Camera Obscura and She & Him, spend some time at Merge; they have a ton of great artists you probably haven't heard, yet.)

Anyway, I wanted to use this experience as evidence that the music industry should make it easy for people to discover music this way. People like my brother who aren't looking to profit in any way from using music (and podcasters, and YouTubers and other bloggers) should be able to do it without applying for expensive licenses and bullshit. It's valuable – and free – promotion, Music Industry Guys! I don't listen to the radio very much, and when I do, it's mostly oldies stations that play music from my youth (FML). I don't like pop music at all, so I find new indie music via recommendations from friends, or when I tell LastFM to build me a station based on some band I already like. Because Jeremy played music from The Smith Westerns and Telekinesis on his videos, I was able to discover them, buy their albums, and hopefully introduce a few thousand other new listeners to their music. That's awesome.

Now, about that death ray and jet pack…

wil wheaton vs. paul and storm at Largo this Tuesday

REMINDER: Wil Wheaton vs. Paul and Storm is this coming Tuesday, March 29, at Largo.

As you might possibly guess (if you are incredibly perceptive), we are doing a show with our old w00tstock fellow-traveler Wil Wheaton. This time, we’ll meet on the battlefields of Los Angeles at one of our favorite venues everwhereplace: Largo at the Coronet. There will be music from us, stories from Wil, more special surprise guests, and pirates everywhere. This will be one for the ages, folks. (All ages, that is) (Get it?)

Tuesday, March 29 – Wil Wheaton vs. Paul and Storm
Largo at the Coronet, Los Angeles, CA – 7:30 pm
Tickets: http://bit.ly/h2vuPk

At w00tstock, I only have time to do one story with musical accompaniment from Paul and Storm. At this show, I will have time to perform a couple of stories that were not part of w00tstock 1.x and 2.x. You could say it's ALL NEW ZIPPY WHOOO YEAH if you wanted to do that sort of thing, even. Paul and Storm will join me for some things, and I'll do some things on my own. Also, we're putting together something kind of rad for this show that you absolutely want to see.

Paul and Storm will play a set, we will all sing a song about pirates, and we have some secret (and awesome) special guests dropping by. Tell your friends, and come on down, because it's going to be a really fun show.

WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton wears the fanciest of pants.

Sunday night, I took my entire family and a bunch of our friends to see Jonathan Coulton with Paul and Storm at Largo.

A special evening (it was the first time Anne and the kids saw them perform live) was made extra-special for me because I got to open the whole show.

Earlier this year, Paul and Storm ran this thing called Geek Madness, which was a bracket competition designed to choose Obama’s Secretary of Geek Affairs. Somehow, against all odds and a final round matchup against Joss Whedon, I emerged with the most votes. I think I can thank GeekDad and Fark for making sure that my platform (“a d20 in every dice bag and a slide rule in every pocket”)* was heard.

Paul and I talked about a week ago, and decided that it would be fun to do something together at the show, and ultimately decided that it could be awesome if I wrote and issued some kind of proclamation in my official capacity as the Secretary of Geek Affairs.

I did some research on the wording of these things, grabbed a list of some of my favorite JoCo songs, and came up with this:

DEPARTMENT OF GEEK AFFAIRS OFFICIAL PROCLAMATION

On behalf of the Department of Geek Affairs, I hereby make this special salute to Jonathan Coulton and hereby officially proclaim that Jonathan Coulton is the 2009 recipient of the Presidential d20 of Geekdom, in honor of his many contributions to Geek Culture. Jonathan Coulton, like Tom Lehrer and Al Yankovic before him has and will continue to inspire geeks, dweebs, dorks, nerds, spazzes, dorkwads, and neo-maxi-zoom-dweebies forever with his unique musical talents.

WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton reminds us that it will be the future, soon.

WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton makes us feel fantastic.

WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton is not unreasonable, and will not eat our eyes.

WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton singlehandedly preserves the rich historic legacy of Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton keeps trying, until he runs out of cake.

WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton risked his life to deliver greetings from Chiron Beta Prime.

WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton uses passive voice to show how gentle he will be.

WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton brought the lonely plight of the giant squid out of the depths of the ocean and into our hearts.

WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton likes Fritos, Tab, and Mountain Dew.

WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton makes the first of May extra special.

WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton wears the fanciest of pants.

WHEREAS Jonathan Coulton is a Rorschach test on fire, and changed the world in a tiny way.

NOW, THEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE CONTRIBUTIONS BY JONATHAN COULTON TO THE WORLD IN GENERAL, AND TO GEEK AND MUSICAL CULTURE SPECIFICALLY, IT IS HEREBY PROCLAIMED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF GEEK AFFAIRS THAT

JONATHAN COULTON IS THE 2009 RECIPIENT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL d20 OF GEEKDOM

So say we all.

I read this in front of the sold-out Coronet theater, doing my best not to tremble with excitement, and the audience seemed to really dig it. When I was done, I presented the Presidential d20 of Geekdom (a giant d20 I bought at Orccon last year) to Paul and Storm, who accepted it on behalf of Jonathan (who they joked, “couldn’t be here tonight,”) as they took the stage to start the show.

The show was awesome. Paul and Storm were fantastic, and Jonathan was as wonderful as ever. They were joined by their friend Molly, who plays the hell out of the ukulele, for a few songs, and she was incredible. They all did a song together where they stepped in front of their mics and played 100% acoustically to a theater that was filled to capacity and utterly silent, hanging on every note that was played. It was delightful.

After the show, a few of us got together for this crappy cellphone picture, which makes me squeal with nerdy nerdosity, even though it’s a crappy cellphone picture.

Also, there was an earthquake about 5 minutes after I walked off the stage. Coincidence? YOU DECIDE!

*not actually my platform. I made this up just now because it made me laugh. Have I mentioned that I’m easily amused?

wilco (the stream) happens

I just got this e-mail from Wilco HQ:

Well, we made it nearly a month with copies of Wilco (the album) floating around out there before it leaked. Pretty impressive restraint in this day and age. But the inevitable happened last night. Since we know you're curious and probably have better things to do than scour the internet for a download (though we do understand the attraction of the illicit), we've posted a stream of the full album at http://wilcoworld.net/records/thealbum/. Feel free to refer to it as "wilco (the stream)" if you must.

We also have our usual guilt abatement plan for downloaders. If you have downloaded the record, we suggest you make a donation to one of the band's favorite charities, the Inspiration Corporation — an organization we've supported in the past & who are doing great work in the city of Chicago. Information and donation button here: http://inspirationcorp.org/.

That's all. Enjoy the stream. Tickets for summer shows, etc. http://wilcoworld.net/tours/ Note that we'll be holding a free online midnight screening of the "Ashes of American Flags" film this Friday night (at both midnight US Central time and again at midnight Pacific). So get the popcorn or whatever together and be sure to log on and tune in on Friday.

Wilco HQ

This is so smart, and I hope Wilco gets some public recognition for doing this. Sure, they could play whack-a-mole and try to get it offline until it's officially released, but what's the point of that? It's impossible to win that fight; it just wastes a lot of their time, money, and energy.

Giving their fans a legitimate way to hear the album reduces the incentive someone would have to steal it, builds excitement and buzz for the official release, and acknowledges that Wilco's fans love their music so much, they (we) just can't wait. They even suggest a really great way for people who downloaded the album to get some kind of "I was sort of a dick" offset.

I really admire the way Wilco embraces their fans (and reality) when they do things like this. I'll be listening to Wilco (the stream) in about five minutes, and I'll be purchasing Wilco (the album) as soon as it's available.

On the off chance that anyone from the band sees this: Thanks for all of your music, guys. I love what you do, and it's really meant a lot to me.

Books I Love: A Saucerful of Secrets

I’m very busy working on a few different things, including the craziest idea yet, but it’s important to me to maintain momentum and keep posting in my blog, so it’s time for another series of Things I Love.

This week, I’m going to highlight some books that were important to me when I was becoming an adult in my late teens and early twenties. All of them will be instantly-recognizable to certain people, but I think it’s likely that they’ve flown beneath the radar for most of you, and are worth pointing out. All of them, though, were very influential on my young life, and played a significant part in shaping the person I am today.

First up is a wonderful biography of Pink Floyd.

A Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey starts in the late 1960s when the band was formed by Syd Barrett, and continues all the way through A Momentary Lapse of Reason. It chronicles the band’s rise, the tension among them, and their eventual breakup.

I read this when it was published in 1992, at a time when Pink Floyd – especially The Wall and The Final Cut – spoke to me on a visceral level. I still enjoyed performing, but I was struggling with my distaste for the film and television industry. I was lurching from one shitty forgettable movie to the next, and wondering just what happened to my once-promising acting career. I felt like everything I’d spent my whole life working on was falling apart, and I wasn’t even sure if it’s what I really wanted to do with my life in the first place.

When I read this book, and followed the entire history of this band that meant so much to me, including all their creative struggles, it was comforting and inspiring, and I think it may have played an unconscious role in my decision to leave Hollywood (literally and figuratively) and go work for NewTek on the Video Toaster 4000.

Even if you’re not having a Seldon Crisis about your life, it’s still a great book. While a lot of the information contained in it can be found online in various places, it’s well-organized and enjoyable to read it in this format, and the hardback edition I have comes with a bunch of great art, as well.

next time: the ghost in the machine

theresa andersson is phenomenal

I heard Theresa Andersson earlier this morning on Morning Becomes Eclectic, and I fell in love with her music after about 30 seconds, and that was before I saw how she creates it:


Phenomenal.

Theresa Andersson on MySpace.

“Hummingbird, Go!” from Amazon MP3.

From the Vault: the safety dance

Last night, Nolan went through my iTunes library so he could put some of my awesome music on his iPod. He’s been after me for months to give him Radiohead, The Beatles, Tool, Decemberists, and a lot of my 80s stuff.

While he looked, the following exchange occurred:

Nolan: Why do you have The Safety Dance in your iTunes library? Me: So I can dance, if I want to. Duh. Nolan: You are so weird.

He ended up taking a little over 5 GB of my music, and I enacted a don’t ask, don’t tell policy about Men Without Hats. Shortly after he went to bed, I was washing dishes, and remembered this old blog post from 2003:

Anne and I were listening to Fred while we were driving home from Burbank the other day. That stupid “Safety Dance” song came on, and I said to her, “This is the weirdest song, ever.”

“Yeah, who thought this was a good idea?” she said.

“I mean, think about all the steps that went into this: someone wrote down all these words, then composed music, then produced the whole thing . . . and at every step of the way, they believed that this was a song worth releasing.” I said.

“Hey, Neil,” she said, in a really bad British accent, “Let’s make a song about the Safety Dance!”

“Oh, that’s brilliant!” I said, in my own bad accent, “We’ll have them all hoppin’ and dancin’ and –“

I started to giggle, and was unable to continue.

“You can dance! You can dance! Everybody look at your hands!” I sang, involuntarily.

CLAP! CLAP! went Anne’s hands.

“You can dance! You can dance! Everybody’s taking the chaaaaa-HAAAAA-nnnncccceeeeee . . . ” I continued.

“With the SAFETY DANCE!” We shouted out in unison.

“We are such dorks,” Anne said.

“Yeah,” I agreed.

We sang the remainder of the song with extreme gusto.

I should also point out that when we got home, Ryan told us that he wants to buy “Thriller.”

I think there’s something in the water here.

2003 seems like an eternity ago. I guess in some ways, it was, wasn’t it?

end user blog: the slacker media player (or, the good kind of nostalgia in the palm of your hand)

This month’s column for the End User Blog is now online for your enjoyment:

Kids, I want you to take off your jetpacks, and step out of your flying cars for a minute. Come sit down over here, and let Old Man Wheaton tell you a tale of a time when television didn’t have a pause button, renting videos meant actually going to a store – during hours that they set – and listening to the radio meant hearing the same 27 songs every two and-a-half hours, with ten to eighteen minutes of commercials every 60 minutes.

Now, I realize that some of you think I’m just making this up to scare you, but it’s true. We didn’t have any control over how we got our entertainment back then. We couldn’t skip songs we didn’t like, and we couldn’t tell the radio how frequently it should play certain songs. It was a different time, when nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them and the King of England would just show up at your house and expect you to make him a cup of tea.

Those of you who have grown up in a world where you have unprecedented control over your media (DRM, which is beyond the scope of this story, notwithstanding) may have a hard time believing that we who came before you would actually wait for a song we hated to go away, or sit through loud and obnoxious commercials and DJs because we knew a song we loved was coming up. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true; that’s just how the world worked back then, and we accepted it without question.

Then it gets weird. Well, not really, but I can’t think of a better segue. Anyway, give it a read if you want to know what I think about the Slacker portable media player.

Warning: it’s way longer than I thought it would be, probably because I spent so long fighting my brain to actually let me write it, and once I beat my brain into submission, I couldn’t turn it off.

this friday five kicks ass

My love for music is well-documented here, so I’ll spare the warm up and just get to the point: Every Friday, Amazon MP3 releases 5 albums for 5 bucks each, and the sale lasts through the weekend.

Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s crap, but today, it is awesome. They grabbed 5 albums from their list of 100 greatest debut albums of all time. I own all of these already, but in case you needed to fill some glaring holes in your collection, I present to you, for five dollars each:

Boy – U2

Birth of the Cool – Miles Davis

The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground

Led Zeppelin I – Led Zeppelin

Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division

I write a column for Amazon’s End User Blog, but Amazon is a giant company and I have no idea who picked these, from an already-impressive list. I wish I knew who did it, so I could give that person a high five.