iTunes Likely to Retain Uniform Pricing

According to a news story, although negotiations between Apple and the recording industry are at an impasse, the issue of variable pricing is apparently dead:

Negotiations between Apple and the four major music companies – with which iTunes deals all expire in the next two months – have reached a crucial point as several record executives now say they are unlikely to convince Jobs to allow variable pricing, sources said.

No news yet on Apple's demand that the four majors put out albums that don't suck. 

Local Rhythms – April 20, 2006

Feel the Benefit

There’s a video on YouTube.com (a web site I’ve been spending way too much time on lately), a hilariously cheeky spoof of musicians and charity. In it, Boston-based rockers Damone bemoan the plight of “broke rock bands” in the wake of music business decline.

Shot in grainy black and white, it’s a pitch perfect plea for help that only takes “pennies a day… won’t you save the rock?” “Without the financial resources for drumsticks,” the fake ad implores, the band’s drummer “can’t throw out his only pair to screaming fans at the end of each show.”

Send a donation, chokes teary-eyed lead singer Noelle. “Keep our van running, provide us with hot meals, cheap motel rooms and beer money.”

As they say on the Internet, ROFLMAO.

Seriously, though, musicians are usually the first to step up for others in a time of need, be it a natural disaster, or a guitarist without health insurance.

Tomorrow, Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky perform a benefit concert at the Lebanon Opera House for COVER, a nonprofit organization similar to Habitat for Humanity, but they repair existing homes instead of building new ones. They work throughout the Upper Valley. In two weeks, they’re shingling an elderly couple’s roof – right here in Claremont.
One of New Hampshire’s oldest charities has relied on the generosity of the talented for 21 years. The 2006 version of NH Child and Youth Services’ “Concerts for the Cause” brings another great lineup to raise money for society’s most vulnerable citizens. Three shows are scheduled, one each in Concord, Manchester and Lebanon.

Kicking things off at Concord’s Capitol Center May 20 is America, known for songs like “Ventura Highway” and “Sister Golden Hair.” Manchester’s Palace Theatre welcomes Suzanne Vega June 2. Her heartbreaking “Luka,” became an anti-child abuse anthem when it was released in 1987. Finally, Don McLean, of “American Pie” and “Vincent” fame, arrives at the Lebanon Opera House June 3.

The shows, say the organization, “benefit child abuse prevention, intervention and treatment; runaway & homeless youth services; home-based family strengthening and preservation programs; child advocacy; adolescent substance abuse treatment; crisis care for at-risk youth; adoption services; and summer camp for disadvantaged youth.”

It’s a way to do something noble and hear some good music. There are VIP packages available with artist introductions and premium seats if you’re feeling especially generous.

Now, for the weekend’s entertainment:

Thursday: Gandalf Murphy & The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, Flying Goose – The final show of the season is quite likely the wildest. They whip up a mighty froth for a four-person band, and I’m curious as to whether this sedate venue can contain them. Their music is a bit like Rusted Root at the Renaissance Fair, with a dash of Frank Zappa’s wit thrown in for good measure. No one in the band’s named Gandalf, but they’re definitely a circus.

Friday: Hexerei, Electra – Speaking of broke rock bands… Seriously, these guys cashed every chip they had to get their latest CD, “27,” made, and it was worth the effort. Go see them, buy a T-Shirt and help their cause – “pennies a day” and all that, OK? Though I’ll use this space to wonder why Electra brings the TSA in for Friday night rock shows.

Saturday: Gypsy Reel, Salt Hill – Traditional Irish music is this band’s stock and trade, but they whip out a few high energy numbers at the Pub to get the folks dancing. Case in point: their cover of the Corrs’ “Toss the Feathers,” one of the great Celt-rock romps of all time. They also do a sweet “Eleanor Rigby,” so grab a Guinness and step lively.

Sunday: Guster, Keene State – An early heir to the Phish throne, I’m tickled that they’re still a hot ticket for the college crowd. Their music works because of their harmonies, which stood out in the muddy mid-90’s when bands did everything they could to bury the vocals and hide song titles. They haven’t changed much, but the recent chamber pop movement made clean sound cool again – thank goodness.

Monday: Bell Orchestra, Iron Horse – Chamber pop meets avant-garde. A side project for members of the Montreal based indie band the Arcade Fire, this music sounds like Philip Glass learning to dance. It’s tough sledding at times, but you’ve got to give props to them for working outside of the box. Should sound interesting live.

Tuesday: Black Eyed Peas with Pussycat Dolls & Flipsyde, Mullins Center – Two reasons I like this show: it’s a reasonably priced package deal, and the Peas play a brand of hip-hop that doesn’t glorify violent lifestyle choices like, say, 50 Cent. The Pussycat Dolls, ex-strippers turned pop singers, are something else entirely. Parents, beware – they’re coming out with a line of action figures soon.

Love Monkey – Episode 4

Love Monkey

 

Watching this last night on VH1, I'm still baffled about why CBS killed the show. What's not confusing is how they did it – originally slated to run against some B-list sitcoms, they moved it to 10 PM, where Law & Order: SVU has a solid following, then proceeded to give it no support. It's the self-fulfilling prophecy again, reality shows are popular because the networks spend less money on talent and more on promotion – and thus, they can't be avoided.

 

Last night's show was mostly satisfying. What love most about "Love Monkey" is the genuine passion for music. The opening scene, Tom Cavnaugh crawling through a used record store in search of the late 60's gem "Merry-Go Round," Emmit Rhodes' first band, was charming enough, but having the narrator make a point of mentioning Rhodes as a hero is a joy – he's one of mine too.

 

OK, the plot was a bit pedestrian (old girlfriend returns with band and ex-boyfriend in tow with guilty sex and rumination inevitable), and I could do without the "Nash Bridges" style multiple storylines. But any show that has Aimee Mann demurring on every question with "it's a mystery," a very pregnant Samantha Bee as a Letterman show booking agent giving Tom the option of having his body or his spirit broken for a professional indiscretion ("I won't do it myself," says Bee, "I have people who do it for me."), and works plenty of mostly good live music into it is all right by me.

 

I do wish the invented bands (Teddy Geiger, Gladwell) were better than mediocre. But it's the only damn show about the music biz, it will disappear completely in four episodes, so I'm gonna enjoy it while it lasts. You should too.

Merle Haggard Unloads

Maybe it's because he's touring with Bob Dylan, but it sounds more like righteous indignation.  The Poet of the Common Man has nothing nice to say about the current state of affairs in America:

I worry about America and the outcome of the next few years from what we do now – if anything we do is too late, and if we're already sold down the river. All these questions come to mind. These are the events that shape our future.

Check out the entire interview here

MTV Overdrive = Underwhelmed

MTV announced a new service aimed at exposing new acts, but it uses Microsoft DRM and won't work on Macs, so who cares?

When are these idiots going to figure out that hobbling any content, free or otherwise, is a recipe for opting out completely?  Ironically, the big feature band is the Arctic Monkeys, who gained a toehold in Britain by making their music available everywhere for free download.  How long before bootlegs of their MTV performances show up on Limewire

Ingrid’s Ruse – Good Ruse, Bad News

First off, the newest edition of Ingrid's Ruse has an edge that I never imagined would work, but does.  The best analogy I can offer is a female-led Buffalo Springfield – they descend into very delicate musical valleys, then rise aggresively and head for the clouds.  Ingrid's vocals possess way more authority than they did in the days when she was barely out of open mike nights.  But she's matured overall.

With Ezra gone, and every position from the original combo changed over, she had to become a band leader instead of just a lead singer.  But nothing about it feels forced. She worked a difficult room like a pro, and held her own with Josh Maccio's frenetic guitar solos. New bassist Cam McIntyre is settling in, and Seamus on drums is a force of nature.

It's a very different band – I can hardly imagine them doing "Carey," for example – but I like it a lot.

Can't say the same for Skunk Hollow, the room they were in Saturday.  It's tiny, with horrible acoustics, and patrons who could care less about music.  Right as the band was about to go on, two tables of four sat down right next to them, and I swear, every person at both tables was talking simulatenously.  I looked around the bar for one person whose lips weren't wagging, and could fine none.

This hole in the wall has no business presenting talent in any form.  I can't imagine a worse venue.  Just because Vermont has banned smoking in restaurants doesn't mean Skunk Hollow isn't polluted.  The food's not that great either, whatever their illustrious reputation.  Go see Ingrid's Ruse at the Windham, where fans go FOR the music, not in spite of it.