Sunday, March 29, 2015

Did David Lee Roth ever sing live?

It’s that shit eating grin that drives me nuts.  Van Halen is resurfacing again.  This is where Ed announces a world tour and then pulls out after two weeks.  That isn’t my concern.  I am not even going to talk about Eddie destroying the band over and over.  It’s Eddie’s band, and it’s not my business.  If he wants to take off 15 years in between tours… that is his own business.

My concern here is Roth.  The great David Lee Roth.  Roth is a showman.  A great one.  That is my concern.  I am watching re-union footage (anything in the last ten years with Roth fronting the band.  Has short hair, shit eating grin).  There is one thing I can’t find him doing in the last ten years – singing.  Note, I am not saying he lip syncs.  I wish.  I am not sure what you would call it he does on stage... but it isn't singing.

Go ahead, poke around youtube.  You see him smiling, and kind of talking through lyrics in a smarmy and patronizing way.  You never see him sing, though.  It is patronizing to the fans; Roths’ take seems to imply ‘listen, I know these songs so well… they are ingrained Americana. Heck, you know these songs even better!  Why even bother singing them like they sound on the recordings?  We are here, together.  Isn’t that good enough?  Tell me if I am missing something, please.

When I watch Roth, I see a guy doing ten things. Singing isn’t a single one of them.  We know he can sing like a mofo.  Listen to this isolated audio of ‘running with the devil’.  He just exudes charisma and power and lead singeriness.  Most importantly, though, he sings.  I went back.  The great academic question is this, did Roth EVER sing live?  I mean did he ever really put his heart into a great vocal performance?  Did he ever set aside 3 minutes of a concert to just sing his dick off… and not be DLR?  Um… no.

Watch for the part where he forgets to be a sex god and just loses himself in the music.  Just kidding.  It doesn’t look like it ever happened once.

Here is the most bizarre thing about Roth’s performances… all of them.  He isn’t ever ‘phoning it in’.  He is fully present in every sense at these shows.  He isn't checked out, or not caring. He is just too busy being DLR for a living that singing doesn’t make it on his list of things to do.  Go ahead, prove me wrong.  Find me a live performance, even from 30 years ago... where he knocks it out of the park singing.  Please.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Fives - great songs by bad bands

This is a cross post from my main writing site.  Since it is music based, I figured I would share the love... and the content.  Stick with me, it really is music based.

scalp mandala

name 5 songs by bands you dislike

Creed > My Sacrifice

What’s not to like about this song. That riff is so bad ass. It is just a well written, well performed, and well sung song.
About the band – what’s to like? Scott Stapp is just a horrible person. He was marginal talent at best. Couldn’t even play and instrument, and became a collosal prick. You get to do that if you are Axl, maybe, but not a bunch of half wits who just got lucky. I feel kinda bad now. It turns out Stapp is nuts. Seriously nuts. Like publically said that the President is a secret member of Isis and tried to kill him. He was institutionalized so he would not commit suicide.
We didn’t know this 20 years ago. He was just a prick back then.  He also recently threatened to kill the president. I do like the guitarist, Tremonti.  Oh, and the bass player called Pearl Jam a bunch of Creed wannabe’s. Every song kinda sounds the same. Tremonti (the guitarist) uses this dropped D and super saturated sound that becomes awfully formulaic.  I really like his guitar choice, though.

 Kiss – Beth

 This song is great. It is so dumb, but it’s also beautiful. This was their biggest hit, can you believe that? I think it charted higher than ‘rock and roll all night’. You know that had to kill the band’s egos… that their biggest hit came from their drummer. I just strongly dislike their music. It isn’t about their overt commercialism. In fact, I respect Gene Simmons for being so upfront about their commercialism. Plus, it gave us this brilliant piece of snark. Here is how much I don’t like Kiss. I was trading hard drives of music with my buddies. We all met and brought our hard drives, with about 400 CDs each on them, and copied them to each other’s drives. Brad had 8 Kiss CDs on his hard drive. I had TONS of room on my hard drive, and I went in and deleted every singe Kiss album.

 Black Crowes – Hard to Handle

 I know it’s not cool to say, especially since I am a guitarist. This band is way overrated. Every song sounds the same to me, and I even saw them live. This is a very old song by Otis Redding. Here is how old we are talking, the Grateful Dead used to do this live, before I was even born. See that guy in the video? He was the original singer for the Dead, not Jerry Garcia. That was up until the Crowe’s version. After their version, there is no other. The Crowes just killed this version. No other version should be placed in the time capsule, not even the original.

 Lou Reed –Walk in the Wild Side

 Lou Reed is wildly, wildly overrated. I find his ‘music’ boring and pretentious and just shitty. For one thing, he doesn’t sing. I am not talking about Velvet Underground. I am talking about solo Lou Reed. He just talks, and it bores me to tears. He is like Patti Smith. All I hear is adoration, and how influential they were. I call shanigans!
This song, though, is just genius.  It is beautiful and catchy and weird as all fuck.  I think this put him on the map as a solo artist.

The Roots - You Got Me

I am not against the Roots.  Questlove is the bomb.  I read his autobiography.  Thing is, their music does nothing for me.  I am sure it's great, I don't know.  I have to admit I don't care.  I am neither furrit, nor am I agin it.  The Roots are like the NFC in the NFL.  I know it exists, but I don't pay attention.  This song, though, is just amazing and beautiful and perfect.  All credit to Erykah Badu, really.  Btw... that thing on her head... it's a wig. Another interesting thing about her, she has kids with Andre 3000 from Outkast. Weird, huh  It's about as subtle as Marge Simpson. Their singer, Tariq, calls himself 'Black Thought' as his stage name.  That is so badass it is unspeakable.

Rob Thomas & Carlos Santana - Smooth

I don't like Rob Thomas or Matchbox 20.  It just sounds like it looks - white bread safe rock for white people.  Rob Thomas seems like a very nice guy.  He'll take your daughter out, not bang her, and even have her home on time.  When he calls you sir, he means it out of respect... not because he is banging your daughter.  I get no passion from these guys.  In fact, if I had a daughter, when she turned 16 I would replace all her Cds with Matchbox 20 Cds.  No one is going out and getting pregnant listening to that stuff.
This song, though, is the bomb!  Maybe it's because they have Carlos Santana, who I love.  Also, to give full credit, Rob Thomas wrote this song.  It's a really great song, and it (re)introduced a whole new generation to Carlos Santana.  I love Santana. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Where do all the concert tickets go?

Wanna go see the big show?  You aren't going.  You can't get tickets.  NO ONE can get tickets. It has become almost impossible.  Here is how, and why, you will never get seats.

Warning, this is a long and complex piece about a long and complex issue.

Recently, there has been a lot of interest in visibility to access to concert tickets.  The big story was the demand for the Grateful Dead reunion tickets.  They did not expect the demand.  You have a band that broke up 20 years ago.  The singer is long dead.  They never really had a hit.  This band was going to play a football stadium for three nights.  Keep in mind, there is no bigger band.  The Eagles could not fill three nights in a football stadium (approx. 70,000 seats).  U2 couldn’t either.

This issue then came up again as rumors of the Rolling Stones playing Red Rocks. It's still a rumor at this point (March 2015). I mentioned to a buddy who is a big, big fan so he could prepare.  He wrote back “I sure hope I can get good seats”.  Poor fool.  He won’t get good seats, because he won’t get seats at all.  Red Rocks is about 10,000 people.  Those tickets will literally sell out in less than a minute.  People from around the country will be trying to get tickets.  First off, the venue is the greatest in America.  Second, the Stones won’t tour again.  Third, the location of Denver is damn near middle of the country.  So, if you were picking one show to road trip to… this would be it.  Lastly, this is by far the smallest venue they will play.  In fact, people will come from around the world to see the show.

Where are all the concert tickets going?  When I was about 16, I saw Ac/Dc live.  They were doing a greatest hits tour (Who made Who) and were in the middle of a big ass resurgence.  The show was widely expected to sell out.  So much so, they had a second night booked and were going to announce after the first sold out.  How long did it take the first show to sell out?  3 days.  There was no computers back then, see.
I want to look at a few issues here, let's bang 'em out.

                      1)    Where are all these tickets going?

                      2)    Why are they selling so incredibly fast?

                      3)    So… how can you get tickets, with all of this bad news?

                      4)    Can anything be done to allow actual fans to buy tickets?

Where are tickets going?  Not to you, that is for sure.  Few tickets actually go onsale.  According to a recent study, only about 10% of tickets go onsale at all.  Well… not onsale the morning of.  There are a lot of ‘holdbacks’.  This is industry speak for tickets you will never get access to.  The band gets a bunch, the local radio station gets a bunch.  Fan club members get a bunch, though not nearly as many as they could.  Worse of all?  Ticketbastard allows employees to buy tickets to anything for 15 minutes before public onsale.  This graph helps with the depressing reality.  Sure, we'll get to scalpers... but scalpers can only grab the tiny percentage that actually go onsale.   See that little green slice of key lime sadness?  Only 7% of every seat ever makes it to onsale day for the general public.


Why are they selling so fast? 

Well, remember how few are getting out.  Red Rocks holds 10,000.  7% of that is 700 tickets.  Only 700 tickets may actually make it to sale.  Red Rocks is owned by the city of Denver, too.  So, you can bet they get a chunk.  In fact, I saw the mayor of Denver at the Van Morrison show.  To his credit, though, he was in seats worse than ours!

How can three days of a football stadium sell out in 20 minutes?  Scalpers is the answer here.  You may think that scalpers don’t have any advantage over us, right?  No.  The scalpers have ‘bots’.  The ‘bots’ are computer programs that are designed to ping Ticketbastard hundreds of times each second to buy up as many seats as possible.  You may think a computer program can’t buy tickets.  I mean, they have that stupid capcha thing for just that reason.  That doesn’t stop the computer programs at all.  Europe has already banned Capcha… because all it does is slow you down.

Here is a working example.  For the Dead shows, my very educated guess it that tickets got split up roughly three ways.  A third being Phish fans, a third being Deadheads, and a third being scalpers.  Why Phish fans?  Phish's main guy is going to be the main guy for the Dead shows.  If I may stereotype freely, Phish' fans are going to be wealthier and more computer savvy.  This is a dig on myself, I am a Deadhead.

So, how the hell am I supposed to get tickets?

In short, you won't.  You aren't going, not for 'face value'. Knowing that you can’t wait until the public onsale is the first step.  You have to get way out in front of this.  You need a pre-sale.  Pre-sales work in many ways, and are built around those hold banks I mentioned before.  The fan clubs from the band get a bunch.  Radio stations… promoters… etc.  You need to get into the pre-sale.  The way to do this is be a fan club member of the band, be on the distro for your local clear channel radio station, and watch who the promoter is.  For example, most Red Rocks shows have some kind of CitiBank credit card offer.  If you have a Citibank Visa, you can use that Visa to get tickets a day early.  Lastly, you must hunt presale codes.  There are tons of sites like this one.  And this one.  And this one.  They offer the secret code word needed to get into the radio station/credit card, fan club tickets.
Some sites are free, and some charge.  It being the internet, there is not much of a way you can find out who is legit and who isn’t.  I wish I could tell you my secret resource but I don't have one.  All of this bullshit, along with TM fees ranging from 50% to 150% means I don't really want to go to shows anymore.  There are two bans I never ever miss.  Pearl Jam and Iron Maiden.  I use the fan clubs for those. ****

I wish I could tell these presale code guys to f’ off.  I wish we didn’t need these sites, but we do.  Here is an example.  A few years ago, Elton John played a very special concert in Denver for the Matthew Shepherd foundation.  He came without a 2 billion piece boring ass orchestra.  It was just him and a piano, and he only was going to play #1 hits.  On top of that, it was a small theater (not the pepsi center).  I really wanted to see this show.  I have never seen Elton, and so did NOT want to pay $200 to hear bloated orchestral treatments of his songs.  This show was so promising and unique people from around the country tried to go.  I knew I never had a chance at public onsale.  I went to one of those sites above (sadly, I don’t remember who) and bought the pre-sale code.  I paid about $40 to get a single word to type into Ticketbastard a day early.  It worked, and it was incredibly worth it.  If you want to see a show, you need to try all of these.

*racist side note.  Wanna know how to get tickets day of?  Buy from the scalpers.  His tickets may be worth $200 before the show.  After the first song is played, though, those tickets are worthless pieces of cardstock.  Just wait until the show is about to start.  If it’s a rock show, find the black guy with the cardboard sign.  It says, without fail, ‘I need tickets’ on one side.  The other side says ‘tickets for sale.  I know that is a generalization, and a bit racist.  However, it is a fact.  I have been to hundreds and hundreds of big shows.    

Enterprising bands hold back the absolute best seats and sell them themselves on the black market and make a ton of money.  This doesn’t bother me like it should.  I am fine with the band making these business decision.  Note that Springsteen not only doesn’t do this… he holds first row seats for every show.  They can’t be bought.  Before each show, his manager then goes around to see the biggest fans with the worst seats and upgrades them free.
Can anything be done to stop the scalpers?  

 Yes.  Will Call. 

Pearl Jam and Springsteen both have robust fan club seating options.  With each, though, you have to show up day of at the will call window with your state issued ID to pick up tickets.  The reason why most bands don’t do this is that it is a monster pain in the ass for everyone involved. I don’t blame the Dead for not doing it.  Can you imagine 70,000 people standing in line outside Soldier Field waiting for tickets?  Logistically, it isn’t feasible.

Gee, fan club seating seems perfect.  Good seats, money goes to the band directly, and you avoid the dreaded TM fees.
Of course, Ticketbastard has done what they can to eliminate this.  Some years ago, Pearl Jam and String Cheese Incident were on the verge of cutting out as much of TM as possible.  TM, understandably, no likey.  So, they put a couple new rules in place.  One is that if a band wants to sell tickets themselves, the fan club has to cost a minimum of $20 annually.  This was a specific revenge jab at Pearl Jam, who was only charging $10 a year.  * disclosure – I have been a Pearl Jam fan club member since 1997.  I know of what I speak.  Even meaner, and more clever, is that TM doesn’t allow a band to hold back more than 10% of total seats.  Again, these were specific attacks against two bands, but its effects are rippling.  Pearl Jam, famously, took TM to Congress for monopoly concerns.  They got out-lawyered. StringCheese sued Ticketbastard and Clear Channel for a big payola scandal.  In short, they got out-lawyered.  There is a LOT to talk about regarding TM, Live Nation, & Clear Channel.  If you want to read more about String Cheese and their battle with TM, click here.  I have created an appendix site just for stuff like this. We need to drop off this tangent to just talk about ticket availability and you.  Well, just this last super depressing bit from (literally) the book on the subject.

Why is everyone working so hard to not use TM?  They are an amazing ticket distribution system.  You can call them, go online, order from your phone, go to the venue... there is no limit to the way you can get tickets. Think of it like this - It isn't that there are only 2 ways to get to those 10,000 tickets.   It's more like 10,000 ways to get to those 2 tickets.

Why all the hatred for TM?  Their service fees are now hitting up to 100% of ticket costs.  A few years ago, Motley Crue toured and wanted to do $5 lawn seats.  I am in!  Well, those tickets actually cost $25 each after fees.  What is that, a 400% mark up?  TM used to allow you to go to the physical venue and buy tickets in person with no service charge.  That is no longer the case.  You now pay the exact same as you would online, so just stay home.
I have talked about my serious problem with TM over the years on my blog.  HereHereHere. and yet again here.

ok, stop.  We said we were just going to talk about how you and I can get tickets.
What then does a regular guy do to get tickets? 

First, sign up for all the pre-sale crap and fan clubs and radio station memberships.  Program your favorite radio station phone numbers into your phone.  When they say "I got Tom Petty tickets for caller number 9" you don't have time to google their number.  Do this NOW.  It is how I went to Dallas to see the Clapton Crossroads festival for FREE.  Including airfare.  This was because I had my local rock station programmed in my cell. Get in early as possible on pre-sale.  If you find yourself still looking for tickets on day of sale… you need volume.  Get as many computers as you can.  For the Dead shows, we (collectively amongst 2 couples) had 9 computers running.  1 of them, thankfully, got through.
If that still doesn’t work… just show up. 

There are always tickets available.  Always.  Just show up with some cash.  Have different increments in different pockets.  Have $20 in one, $50 in another… etc etc.  This way you can say to the scalper “dude, $50 is all I have.  Look, I am emptying my pockets.  $50 means no beer money or anything”.  This is a trick I invented back at the swap meets.  I have never failed to get into a show I wanted to see.  I remember sitting outside a Pumpkins show at a bar in Phx.  They were still pretty underground back then, as they were playing bars.  Show was sold out.  Found a dude looking for a cheap ticket to the sold out show with his wife.  I sat with him and chatted.  I could see he wouldn’t go in without her.  I said “I am looking for a ticket. We’ll sit together.  If you can’t find a ticket for your wife, and are going to leave, I’ll give you $30 cash for your ticket.  I got into three sold out Pumpkins shows on that tour without a single ticket ahead of time.  Did the same for the Fleetwood Mac re-union.

Wow!  In a 20,000 seat venue, less than a 1,000 tickets may go onsale to the mouth breathers like you and me.  That is far less than 1%.  I credit N Sync with breaking this scandal wide open many years ago.  True story, but we aren't going into that yet.  If you want to know that story, ping me in comments.

Good luck out there!

**** I thought you said you were a Deadhead, yet you only mentioned the bands you always see are Pearl Jam and Maiden.  Why not mention the Dead?  
Well, the Grateful Dead are now splintered into about 8 different bands.  I can't afford to see them all.  Any time Phil and Bobby are together, I go.  Here are the different full time times just between Phil and Bobby:  Ratdog, Phil and Friends, Further, the Dead, Scaring the Children.