Local Rhythms – Give It Away

Pariah Beat @ Main Street Museum
Pariah Beat @ Main Street Museum

Record Store Day was by most accounts a fabulous success.  I stopped in a bit late for Pariah Beat’s free set, but with enough time to snag some cool vinyl.

I also left with some unplanned purchases.

Norwegian rocker Ida Maria’s single, “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked,” is in heavy rotation on Sirius Alt Nation.  Saturday, the entire CD wafted through the Newbury Comics sound system.

I heard, I liked, I bought.

That’s why independent stores matter.  You can’t do that at Wal-Mart.

Here’s a funny thing, however.  As I checked out at the counter, the clerk proffered a stack of promo singles.  It was good, too – Duffy, Jenny Lewis, Kings of Leon and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

“Take what you want, everyone who buys vinyl gets one,” she said.

Among the purchases in my bag, I found more free stuff – a special edition LP, a couple of sampler CDs, even a card for a free song download tucked inside one of the 12” albums I’d paid for.

As the Red Hot Chili Peppers once said, “give it away, give it away, give it away now.”

The file-trading web site Pirate Bay may have lost in court last week, but a fundamental fact remains. Recorded music, for better or worse, is now a commodity used to promote the people who play it.

Used to be, liking an album compelled you to see the show.  These days, enjoyment of the show is expressed by the purchase of a souvenir CD.

How does shutting down a web site help that equation?

Fall Out Boy’s “Believers Never Die Part Deux” tour includes Cobra Starship and Hey Monday.  Both artists are on Decaydence Records, a label started by Fall Out Boy front man Pete Wentz.

That’s smart, and sure to spur action at the merchandise table.

In such a world, it makes no sense at all for fans to leave the show and return home to find the Internet locked up tight.

Of course, the Pirate Bay fight isn’t about keeping Hey Monday and Cobra Starship’s music out of file trader hands.  They’re protecting the Beatles, Stones and AC/DC.

Unfortunately, that’s also what most radio stations are playing, and with a few exceptions, big box stores are selling.

It’s why the rest of us cling to indie record stores, where discovery still matters.

What’s out there to discover this week?

Thursday: Third Eye Blind, St. Anselm’s College – This San Francisco-based band had a big hit with “Semi-Charmed Life” in the late 90s.  Last winter, they released three songs as STEM files and had a contest for the best remix.  Their 3ebarchive.com web site features rare downloads – demos, sound board recordings, videos and other goodies – all for free.  Of course, all this largesse hopefully drives fans to the band’s live shows.

Friday:  Pariah Beat, Main Street Museum – A strange and wonderful venue hosts an equally intriguing band.  PB are joined by Dylan Sneed and the Rogue Birds.  In tune with the economic times, the museum hosts a “Tramp and Hobo Symposium” next month.  The opening “Hallelujah I’m a Bum!” reception has artwork from the nearby Institute for Cartoon Studies.  Later in the month Pariah Beat play an outdoor BYO Hobo Stew concert.

Saturday: The New Legendary Strafford Blues Band, Gusanoz – A change of pace for the West Lebanon Mexican eatery.  The band has a strong Upper Valley following, but this show marks the debut of vocalist Kat Murphy, a one-time American Idol contestant who’s also done recording and session work in New Orleans. LSBB has been around since 1995, playing blues, swing, and R&B; the new blood should be invigorating.

Sunday: Guy Davis, Tunbridge Town Hall – While growing up, blues man Davis said the only cotton he picked was his underwear off the floor.  He told a journalist that the first time he heard the blues was in college, played by lily-white Vermont boys.  Still, Davis embodies the blues, channeling masters like Howlin’ Wolf and Blind Willie McTell, though he possesses his own unique style.

Tuesday: Toumani Diabaté & the Symmetric Orchestra, Hopkins Center – The Malian master of the kora (the 21-string West African lute) has worked with Taj Mahal, Peter Gabriel, Björk and many jazz artists. He and his dance band, the Symmetric Orchestra, inject West African songs with electro-funk.  The result is fresh and modern – “a genre-bending frenzy of hot dance rhythms,”

Wednesday: Hungrytown, Keene Public Library – The music of Ken Anderson and Rebecca Hall should appeal to fans of fellow travelers Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.  Hungrytown faithfully reproduces the music of Appalachia and the American South, from Smithsonian field recordings to the Louvin Brothers.  It’s somehow unsurprising that they’re playing in a library, at an event called “Music in the Stacks.”