Sunday, December 30, 2012

Overthrow 2013 - A battle plan for the resolution-weary


  Are you ready for 2013?  Have you made your resolutions?  Well?  Well?

OK, I hear all the hipsters, cool kids, and well, just about everyone yelling back at me "I HATE RESOLUTIONS!"

  I used to be rather cool on the subject myself, but check it:

The new year is a fun time to set new goals, and cast an eye over the map of life to make sure your ship is sailing along nicely.  Instead of thinking of resolutions as negative (I'll work out so I'm not a shrimp), or even disciplinarian (I'll practice twenty eight hours a day), try to use them as inspiration - and make lots of them.  Last year, I think I made upwards of fifty.  Craziness!  I looked at that list recently, and while many went neglected, there were some triumphs:  Completing a tour (HELLO #JURT!), and learning to rap.  "HO HO SANTA STYLE."  (Yes, yes, I'll tell the story soon about how I rewrote "Gangnam Style" to "Santa Style", sang the song and danced the dance, while dressed in a Santa suit for the local elementary school.)

"'Cause I'm Santa Claus, oh yes I rock this suit of red, 'cause I'm Santa Claus, I know how to fly a sled..."

Instead of resolutions as pressure, think of them as a mini-bucket list.

I'm very excited about 2013, and I'll get up in your face to make the radical statement that YOU SHOULD BE, TOO!

Here's a bit of a template to help you get started on your own set of 2013 resolutions. Feel free to modify, of course - but whatever you do, write them down.  They're written for guitar players, but are easily adapted to other fields.

General Josh's New Year's Resolutions for a soldier of the Revolution  

In 2013, I want to learn to play ______ song by _____.

In 2013, I want to meet _______ .

In 2013, I want to write and record a song about _______.

(you get the time frame we're working with here)  I want that said song to have _____ many plays on Soundcloud/Youtube.

I will improve ____ skill on guitar.

I want to play in the town of ________.

I plan on creating accounts on these social media sites _______ and getting _____ new connections.

I want to learn more about the style of _____ music.  (Example:  Latin.  It's what Jack Black teaches.)

I will learn to sing!  (Learn, comrade, learn!)

I will write, record, play a song, or otherwise collaborate with ______.

Fitness is good!  I plan on being able to do ____ push ups in a row by next December 31st, and ____ pull ups, to fit my rockstar image!

I want to have a tweet retweeted by: ________.

A big musical goal (tour, EP, first gig) I'd like to accomplish in 2013 is:  _______ .

I want to have ___ Facebook fans, ____ Twitter followers, and ____ YouTube subscribers by next December 31st.

Why limit inspiration to music?  An art museum, park, city, or industrial wasteland I want to visit in 2013 is ______.

I want to learn how to ______.

I want to read the book ______.

The non-optional silly resolutions of the State

- Learn a magic trick.
- Try green olives.
- Watch a train (but stay away from the tracks, especially if your name is Anna.)
- Learn something about nature.
- Listen to all 6 of J.S. Bach's Brandenberg Concertos.
- Wear a silly hat at least once, and when someone balks, exclaim in a booming voice "Are you not entertained?"  

Now - go get ready for a superb 2013.  And write your plans down!

As a matter of fact, feel free to post them in the comments as a way to share, connect, encourage, and state to the masses that you are ready to overthrow the  new year.

Speaking of years - thanks for a stupendous 2012.  Here's a bit about how cool my year was, and some thanks to you comrades:


- Josh  

Saturday, December 15, 2012


By now, I'm sure you've heard of the great sadness in Connecticut.  I had heard a flickering of the news in the morning, but didn't realize the extent of the tragedy.

  Battling a sore throat, I hosted a "DJ hour" at the local nursing home, playing and introducing holiday classics to the old folks.  After much great music and joy shared, I was tiredly lugging the speakers onto the elevator after the show.  I heard the nursing staff talking about it.  "Twenty kids."  "Twenty kids?"  I asked, a sickening feeling creeping up.  Last I had heard, it was just the shooter.  Unfortunately, the rumors were right this time.

  It had been an unusually busy week, and I guess I had run too hard, because there I was, nursing a cold on a Friday evening, AND - there wasn't a Christmas tree up.  I resolved to clean the house and put up the tree.

  If you think I'm an energetic person outwardly, you should just see my mind.  The evening was no exception, with plenty of pondering and thinking on the massacre.

  To top it all off, it's the holiday season.  It always brings it's own set of thoughts and feelings with it.  There's the fond memories of Christmas past, the yearning for a simpler time when Santa brought such joy.  The memory of my Grandfather's death a few days before Christmas, the reminder of my cousin who died by her own hand, friends who have died, friends who are dying, and much darkness.  There's the stress of the season, and the kindness of strangers, the magic for the children, and the cold reality of being an adult.  I've discovered the joy of giving, and have come to appreciate the thoughtfulness of gestures of giving.  To top it all off, here's almost thirty people dead at a madman's hand a few days before Christmas, and an indelible stain left on multitudes.  I pictured the mothers finding the carefully wrapped presents for their dead children in the closet, the "Santa staging area", and wondered what they must be feeling.  I pictured my own mother holding such a present and crying.  I wish there was something I could do.

  I avoid talking about my faith when possible, as I have friends and colleagues who I respect highly and who's views are different from mine.  However, it's fairly obvious that I'm very, very agnostic.  As the years have gone by, I've gotten more so, and the holiday season is an interesting one for me.

  I decided last year that since I'm about as Jewish as I am Christian, I'd light a menorah this year in addition to decorating a Christmas tree.  So there I was, in my living room, putting up the tree as the menorah blazed on the mantelpiece.  The Choir of King's College sang softly in the background as I thought about the kids, Grandpa, Kyleen, and life.  There is something so haunting and holy about a congregation of human voices, especially on a day of such sadness.

  I was all alone, it was dark outside, and it seemed like I was surrounded by echos and light and darkness.  Easy answers had gone the way of Santa and the sun for the day, replaced by the darkness of night and grief.

  The thought knocked gently at the front door of my mind.

Perhaps all we can do is put up the Christmas tree and light the menorah.  

 If life is choices, will I choose to shine light into the darkness?    

Keep the fire burning, friends.  Keep it burning with your kindness, your howling wind of intentional music, your art, your compassion.  Light up the world with a guitar, or a violin, or a menorah.  Will we be able to look out into the darkness, and like the glimmer of a neighbor's Christmas lights, see the fires of light in the darkness?

Life is choices...

- Josh  


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Letter to Myself


  An honor of the gig is being asked questions like this from a younger musician named Anthony, posted on my World Domination Guitar Academy Facebook page:

I consider myself a guitarist but i know i can improve far more than I am. I am asking if you could give me tips, music, anything to further my guitar skills. I want to be a great guitarist. I wanna be known. I have started a small band that isn't coming together well. No drummer and members are at each others throats. Any tips, info, or words of advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time if you read this.

Anthony!  Thank you for the question!  I'm sorry it's taken me a minute to get back to you.  

OK, first bit of advice - never take advice too seriously.  Even when I'm playing the arena circuit (and I'm not exactly there yet, but working hard at it!) my opinion should be taken with many grains of salt.  However, I do love talking about this stuff, and it sounds like your situation is very similar to the way mine was.  So, here's a few ideas for you.  I hope they prove helpful!

One of the coolest ideas that I've come across for musicians actually comes from the investing book Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  In it, the author states "Mind your own business."  

This doesn't mean "go away, dude."  Nope, it means develop your own business, brand, and sound that's truly yours, and not dependent on anyone else.  Bands are totally awesome, but I think it's a great idea to always have your brand, too.  

For me, if I could write a letter to myself at a younger age, I would have done these things:

Dear Josh,

  Believe it or not, someday you're gonna cut your hair.  In the meantime, enjoy the wolfman look.  However, short hair can rock, too.  As an older version of yourself, here's a few things I could recommend.  

1.  Learn to sing ASAP!  It's a ton of fun, and this way, solo gigs are much easier! 

2.  Start writing songs right away.  It's a skill that's great to practice, just like alternate picking.

3.  Build a side project, complete with a Facebook page, SoundCloud account, etc, that's either just you, or the Josh Urban band.  That way, you'll always have something that you're moving forward, regardless of what band you're in.  

4.  Practice what you're interested in.  Listen to your teachers, but if you'd rather shred than play jazz, do that.  

5.  Get really good at people skills and salesmanship.  Not only are they fun, but very helpful with the business side of music.  Speaking of the business side...

6.  Jump into the business side!  Learn how to book gigs, start building connections with everyone you can (providing they're cool people), and do cool stuff with your music that's a bit out of the ordinary.  

7.  Record all the time!

8.  When you meet music people, do radio interviews, etc, make sure you develop a personal connection with the people, and don't rely on your manager or band leader.  You want to know them yourself.  

9.  Have a blast.  It's music.  You're living the dream, buddy!  

By the way, remember not to fry your hearing, young Josh, and watch out, there's lots of cops in Front Royal, VA.  Your Camaro is awesome, but slow down, son.

Yours truly,
Your older self Josh  

Anthony, best of luck to you, comrade!  Please let me know if I can be of any assistance to what is sure to be a brilliant career.  

Rock on!
- Josh

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Getting on the map


  Boy, oh boy!  There's a LOT to talk about!  I completed my first tour!  THAT was so much fun, and I haven't gotten tired of walking around saying "Oh, that must have been while I was on tour."

So, here's a video recap of the northern half of the excursion (Alexandria, VA, Philadelphia, PA, and New York City.)

Now, for the most recent story - How I got on the map - literally!

I've been stalking around grumpy-like today.  On my way to my teaching studio, I stopped by my mom's house to say hello and eat some food.  It's been pointed out to me recently that I'm like Kramer, always walking in and opening the fridge (usually one that doesn't belong to me.)  As I was finishing up my meal, a funny looking car drove down the street.  "HEY!  THAT'S THE GOOGLE STREET VIEW CAR!" I yelled.  Bolting out the door with a hurried goodbye, I tore off down the street to catch it.

Then - a big yellow school bus lumbers to a halt RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!  AHHHH!  And the kids - the kids.  The kids know the law  is on their side.  I think we should Mitt Romney the whole thing, and make stopping for a bus dependent on the free market.  Then we'll see how fast those little terrors decide to cross the street.

Meanwhile, the Google Street View car, and my sure shot at immortality, is driving away.

So, I did what any stressed, morose, Type A east coast resident would do.

I honked at the stopped bus.

A little girl sitting in the last seat turns around and just starts staring icily at me.  Now, no matter how stressed out a morose, Type A east coast resident is, one can't take the conventional measures in a situation like this.  I was at a loss, and she just kept staring at me.  The bus started off real slow, and was intent on repaying my courtesy.

THEN - I saw the car zoom on to a side street behind me.  BOOM!  I flipped around, and passed the car in a neighborhood.

I waved like an idiot, and held a Revolution sticker up for the cameras to see.  The driver smiled and waved back.  BOOM!  Now I'm literally on the map!  I'm so excited.

I just got to thinking, though...That little girl will continue to grow up, harboring a deep resentment of me.  I'll continue to grow old, and she'll probably end up as my nurse when I'm in an old folk's home.

Then I'll do what any old, stressed, morose, Type A east coast resident would do...and ring the call button repeatedly.

- Josh  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

#JURT eve

Hey hey!

  It's the eve of the tour, and I could not be more excited.  Big things are going on - the tour got a tweet by ReverbNation to over 100,000 followers today.  That made my eyes get big!

Check THIS - My brother made a video for the tour.  It's EPIC.  Share it with your friends if you're going on tour with the #JURT!  Special thanks to Noah at for his artistic wizardry.

People are joining in all across the world.  It was tomorrow in Japan earlier this afternoon, and one of my buddies of many years got the distinction of the kick off post with a photo of a high-tech train in Japan.  He posted it on Instagram with the caption Future #JURT tour?  

Another friend is releasing a song tomorrow in conjunction with the tour.  Two DJ buddies are putting promos on the air as well.

I'd better try to get some sleep.

See ya on tour!

- Josh 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Interactive Rail Tour


  Man oh man, it's been quite a while!  Well, I've been scribbling things like "ALX 11:02" and "#98 PHL" and the like on scraps of paper.  So I have an excuse!


See, it goes like this.  It's official - I'm going on tour.  

I've waited years to type that!  Here's what's up.  On September 7th, I'll be boarding an Amtrak train, and playing street music in seven cities over two weekends.  It'll be old-blues style, traveling by train, playing the street corners and byways, singing with an acoustic guitar.  (I've gotta learn "Crossroads!")

It'll be new style in the fact that I'll be broadcasting the whole thing over social media!

Now, a lot of musicians go on tour, so you could rightly say "BIG DEAL."  BUT: here's why it's way cool, and different.  

It will be completely interactive.  Everyone has a story to tell.  The world is made up of us ordinary people with extraordinary stories.  In the past, it was only the people with the stage (musicians, actors, poets, etc) who could share, interpret, and inspire.

Now, it's everyone.  That's right, I'm taking you on tour with me.  It's the world - on tour.

So how do you do this?  It's simple.  During the weekend of Friday 9/7 to Sunday 9/9, and again the following weekend (Friday 9/14 to Sunday 9/16), tag your view of the world with the hashtag #JURT (Josh Urban Rail Tour) back to Twitter @dontjoshme, , Instagram @JoshUrban , Google + @ , SoundCloud @JoshUrban , or  

My audience will be your audience, and vice versa.

What should you tag?  I've gotta come up with a theme for each day (I'm thinking a different color for each day), but really, it's a platform for you to tell your story, your view of life, and your way to contribute to the snapshot in time.

At the end of the tour, I'll be taking all the media, and making a video out of it.

Make sense?  Let me know if you've got any questions.  I'm envisioning quite an event here...Just think:  People running a power plant could share with photographers in London.  California girls could Instagram the sunset, and skaters in Japan might put a video up of their art of defying gravity.  Meanwhile, I'll probably be trying to talk to a nun on a train.

Now, if I'm in your city - I'll be playing street music.  You should TOTALLY come jam, or at least say hey and hang out!  Here's the tour dates:

Alexandria, VA 9/7
Charlottesville, VA 9/7
Charlotte, NC 9/8
Richmond, VA 9/9

Washington, DC 9/14
Philadelphia, PA 9/15
New York, NY 9/16

It's gonna ROCK!

So, tell your friends that you're going on Tour with the #JURT, get 'em involved, and get ready to rock the world!  Ya with me?

And dig this groovy poster (thanks to my brothers for standing around for two hours to get this shot!):

See you on the road!  The rail road!

- Josh

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Symphony is Back

I heard it - as I walked across the gym parking lot from one of my rare short visits to that establishment - the Symphony Orchestra was tuning up under an orange moon looming large in the turbulent summer dusk.

The Katydids were back.  A Katydid is a large bug that looks like a leaf, and is my favorite musician.  They sing at night in the trees, and say "Katy did, Katy didn't."  (I hear the hipster Katydids prefer to be called Katydidn'ts.)

They adjust tempo according to ambient temperature.  The hotter it is, the faster they play.  In the middle of August you'll hear Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee (or, Katydid), and you'll think "oh man this isn't good.  In late September, Barber's Adagio will creep out from among the trees under a bright cool moon, signaling the end of the festivities of summer as the Symphony prepares to gently fade into the longer nights.  My mom first introduced me to The Symphony.  I remember sitting on the front porch one summer night, and she said "Oh, listen!  It's like it's a symphony in the forest!"  I've loved that sound every since.

So, when I got my iPhone years ago, initially skeptical about the need for a video camera, I had my mind changed when I had the opportunity to interview one of these members of The Symphony.

So, if The Symphony is playing in a forest near you...Take a listen.  I think you'll like what you hear.

- Josh  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Emily White vs. David Lowery - Today is Today


I saw two interesting blogs today.  One was by a woman named Emily White, an intern at National Public Radio, outlining an accurate portrait of today's music consumption among a younger demographic - namely, not paying a dime for it.

The second was a lengthy reply by a professor from the University of Georgia named David Lowery stating the case that they should, in fact, pay many, many dimes.

I encourage you to read both posts, and arrive at your own conclusions.  

Here's what I've got.

David says:  Musicians on average make 35 grand a year without benefits.  

Emily says:  I've only bought 15 CDs in my life.  

David makes the case: that if musicians actually got paid for their tunes, this would be better.  

Emily says:  Nobody is ever going to do that.  

I agree with David's numbers.  They paint an accurate, if grim, picture.  Album sales are down, artists are starving, and things are not looking good.  It's darn hard to make a buck in the industry.

Emily wins the argument hands down, however.  David's numbers prove her right.  People generally don't buy stuff when they can get it for free - as much.  If they didn't at all, iTunes would collapse tomorrow.  So people still pay - they just pay a lot less.  I don't buy music, either, and I'm a musician!

What strikes me is this:  Emily is stating how things are, David is stating how things were.  It's very understandable, especially when there's data to back it up.  However, upon closer inspection, they're really comparing apples and oranges.

The debate is framed as a moral one.  However, the train has left the station, and it won't be coming back.  It should be instead - what the heck are we going to do to survive?

Sure, it would be great to have a musician's utopia where artists are paid based on merit, and if people actually paid their dues.  

Will a girl please get me a sandwich?

Oh wait, back to reality.  The business model doesn't apply any more.  If musicians are making 35k a year on average - doubling album sales (with the simplistic math of it doubling our income) only puts us at 70k.  Now, I'd love to be making a cool 70 g's by playing my guitar, but here's the thing - I think we can do better.  I don't know about you, but if I have to convince the human race of fairness, not only do I want to be paid a heck of a lot more, but I'd rather end war or solve hunger first.  Maybe we should stop looking so closely at what the numbers are, and start envisioning what they could be with a good bit of self and industry re-invention.

Perhaps us musicians live in an entitlement culture.  Every time I turn around I hear someone wishing they got paid for what they were worth.  "Oh, nobody appreciates the arts."  Actually, all you hipsters who say this - my grandmother has been saying this for as long as I can remember.  Famous painters have had to burn their paintings to keep warm.  This isn't a new blight on our artistic society.  This isn't a problem that sailed into Pirate Bay.  And this isn't a problem that the tech world seems to have.  

Perhaps we should concentrate on service, and bringing the coolest thing ever to town.  
Maybe an album is the just the beginning of a participatory experience that immerses the fan in a new world. (Trans-Siberian Orchestra magic, anyone?)  If reality TV can thrive, why shouldn't we be able to?  There's photos, there's YouTube, there's blogs, there's fan remixes, there's international concerts over video chats (Daria, anyone?), there's weird music videos (OK Go), and so much!  

I was thinking about this blog on my drive home today.  I saw a guy in front of me bobbing and dancing in his car so much, that the whole vehicle was moving.  If we can gain access to people's minds and nervous systems, I think we can monetize it with very little trouble.  

The point is - If musicians have only $35,000 a year to aspire to when people are moving thousand-pound chunks of metal because they want to, there is a disconnect, something is wrong, something is broken, and it's up to us to fix it.  I'll venture to say that we can make more money while moving more people with a reinvented industry.

Maybe it's power.  
Don Corelone, granting a favor to kill two guys (who really had it coming) to an angry father, tells the man "Someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me.  But until that day - accept this justice as a gift."  Ol' pops didn't worry about a fee, but his power and influence grew even more that day.  That's intriguing, and some darn good networking.  As music seems to shift from a revenue-based model (pay for music) to a traffic-based model (hits and views), how can we apply the lessons of the Don and the usefulness of power?  I could see an old school musician in that room:  "OK, we'll take care of one guy for $10, and we'll throw in a T-shirt and the second for $25."  Somehow, I think the Family would have been far less effective.  

In closing:  

I am very, very excited at the possibilities of the challenges that are staring us in the face.  Yes, they're grim, yes, things look bleak - but you know what - an empty canvas could be described as bleak, too!

I'd like to thank both Emily for pointing out how things are, and David for verifying it.  I think with all of the talent, creativity, and hard workers in this field - we'll be able to build an even better future than we had imagined.  I look forward to working with both of your viewpoints.  By the way, I'd like to take both you out to coffee in DC.  My treat.  We will, however, be paying for the drinks, regardless of what I think about business models.

Rock on!
- Josh


Tuesday, June 12, 2012



  TODAY is a  very exciting day, and that is not just because I've downed a Mountain Dew and an oatmeal creme cookie before lunch.  Man, I don't feel so good.  No, it's exciting because...The new music video is out!

I've assembled quite the special forces of promotion - the "social media spetznaz", as I call 'em.  (Interestingly, I think I spell that word, meaning Russian special ops, differently each time.  It was either Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson who said "I have nothing by pity for the man who only knows one way to spell a word" or something like that.)  These folks are posting the video on Facebook and Twitter, and sharing it with their friends.  Comrades, I salute you!  This Revolution sure is fun, and I get to "fight" alongside some great folks!

  Hey, I urge you to join in!  Share the link on your page, tweet it (join in the fun using the #Trollboy hashtag), blog about it, send it to your crazy Uncle, whatever!

Now, here's some inside scoop about the song, the vid, and the idea.

 I'm usually high strung, but have spent the last year especially freaked out.  I was talking to my mom one day, and I was fretting about something.  (Ha, guitar player pun!)  She said "Josh, I think everyone is freaking out.  If those guys we just saw would stop drinking for a second, they'd see they're in the same boat as you."

  I'd been struggling with songwriting, but that just seemed to click.  The song Desperate Situation emerged slowly, through much distracted pacing, ADD checking Facebook, face scrunching, and guitar jamming.  But  it was written, recorded, and then it was time for the video shoot.

  Have you ever thought about writing a music video?  It's trickier than it seems!   The idea was finally reached, and shooting took place on Easter Sunday:  My subconscious mind/fears/life splits off from me, calls me on my phone, and unsettles me at first, as I'm walking along.  I've been called "Trollboy" by family and friends before (for obvious reasons.)  This was the theme for that subconscious/fear/life person to be represented by a troll.  I took an old shirt, glued leaves and sticks all over it, put mud on my face (freaked out a neighborhood kid during the filming as I was digging in the leaves.  She was like "man, what the heck is going on!"  (didn't say anything, but must have been thinking it)) , and ran around crazy like as I called my "real self" on the phone.  A brief note about the mud:  I said to Noah "I'd like to put mud on my face."  "Where you gonna get mud?"  "I don't know, there's got to be some around here!"  "Why don't you dig down through the leaves, troll-like, and find some?  We'll camera it!"  "Ooo, great idea!"

 My brother Zakk was the body double wearing the other colored Chuck Taylors (the Troll wears black chucks, the Josh wears pink chucks.)

  In the second verse, my "real self" decided to call the Troll back and talk at him.  

My brothers were filming the video for me.  Noah was walking backwards with the camera, encouraging me to really get into the acting.  The idea took hold, and I started running - forwards.  Surprisingly, he was able to run backwards, keep his footing, and get the shot.  Look for it in the second verse.

There's an old pumphouse down the road from my house.  I had found it on a walk, and figured it would be a great location for the bridge.  Chucks don't really stop nails, but good thing I wasn't stomping around then, and felt the rusty spike before I stepped completely on it.  I spent the rest of that shoot gingerly stepping around while trying to look like I'm rocking out.  Noah really went to town with his artistic camera work, and I think it came out way cool!

  At the last part, the Troll runs out of the woods, chasing Josh up the hill.  I've always been accused of having a silly run, and seeing the footage, man, I say..."guilty as charged!"  Zakk portrayed Josh, I was the Troll, and poor Noah had to zip along running sideways like the biggest crab you've ever seen to get the shot.  It was hard at first, and then I said "OK, now let's try it running."  Everyone was like "whaaaaat?  I'm out of breath already!"  

  Josh continues to run up the hill, looking over his shoulder, and then the camera goes black.  We all are in a desperate situation, after all.  But, like the song says, we've gotta "See where we are to see where we wanna go."  and "We've got to do something!"

  It was great fun, and a rockin' way to spend Easter!  I'm lucky to have such a creative, talented, and supportive family, and all of you to share it with!  I hope you enjoy it, and I'd like to sincerely say - Thank you!  

Now, go do something with your life to make sure that troll stays far behind.  Better yet, call him up and talk to him.  And don't forget to tweet the vid.  #Trollboy

- Josh  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Operation Northwind


  HOLY SMOKES!  3 gigs in 24 hours!  That's a fun weekend, let me tell you.  OK, so I was halfway through a lame blog saying "well, I had some water to drink", and I'm like DUDE this is LAME.  

So, here's the report of the crazy Revolutionary weekend.  Too bad for y'all - I just saw the final installation of the Bourne trilogy.  It's the same info, international action movie inspired!

Beep beep beep beep Friday, La Plata, Maryland, Panera Bakery, in the blazing sun

"Comrade Ben, how are you, sir?  How's college?"

"I'm good.  Growing the hair out, I see!"

"Yep, I guess we're swapping styles!"

Guitar strings were procured, Ben's songs were listened to and given the highly deserved praise - they rock!

Beep beep beep beep 3 Hours later, Ebenezer's Coffeehouse, Washington DC, USA, 2 blocks from Union Station  

There's me.  There's a young Adele.  There's a young Taylor Swift.  There's...there's...Florence?  Hard to say, so you should just check out the host of the showcase I played at:  She'll make you sit down and say "holy smokes!"  Actually, all of 'em would.  Their names were Orla, Camille, and Margot.  I was representing the fellas, they were representing the ladies, emotion, love, life, and giving voice to the soul.  With all due respect to myself, a laundromat was mentioned.  The evening was an honor.  It was also worldwide on Google +.  THANKS, Rob, for your guidance with the audio!  (There was a bit of an issue.)  THANKS, Kevin, so the in-person house sound was rockin'!

Beep beep beep beep 3 Hours Later, somewhere between Washington, DC, and Indian Head, Maryland, USA

They played "Radar Love" on the radio.

Beep beep beep beep Way too early, Saturday Morning, Indian Head, Maryland, USA

The alarm clock went off.

Beep beep beep beep 9:00 AM, Accokeek, MD, USA  

String cheese, a gallon of water, and a single banana were procured.  The cashier was told that I didn't rip it off the bunch.  I wasn't lying.

Beep beep beep beep  10:00 AM, I-270 North, Maryland, USA  

They played Radar Love on the radio.  Again.

Beep beep beep beep 11:00 AM, 2 hours north, outskirts of Frederick, MD, USA

A threatening photo appears on Instagram.  It shows an idyllic field and a distant city with the warning "Watch out, Frederick.  Revolution time!"

Beep beep beep beep  11:30 AM, dusty parking lot, Fairgrounds, Gate B, Frederick MD, USA

Revolution time, indeed.  Steve and Josh's old west guitar show, from the looks of the funky platform and tarp tent rig at the Great Frederick Maryland Flea market.  It was fun, the lot was overthrown, CD's were sold, hands were shaken, stories were told.  Josh's German side kicks in, worrying that the next gig fifteen miles away and two hours later might not be able to happen on account of the distance.  Steve's logical side kicks in, assuring Josh he's out to lunch.

Josh accidentally sets off car alarm.  Steve says from the stage "Josh Urban, ladies and gents!"

A photo appears on Instagram:

Speaking of lunch, Josh realizes that string cheese, a banana, and water just aren't cutting it.

Beep beep beep beep  2:30 PM, headed northwest towards Brunswick, MD, USA  

Josh's GPS refuses to shut up, perfectly emulating it's owner.  It interrupts the communication "Steve, I'm stopping to get a sub."

Beep beep beep beep 2:50 PM, Highway sign on Rt. 340 West appears for venue  

A Revolution first.

Beep beep beep beep  3:00 pm, gas station complex five miles outside of Brunswick, MD, USA 

A tweet appears from @dontjoshme:  "If I hear banjos, I'm running."

Beep beep beep beep  Ten billion hours later, after every good ol' boy has his order

"Sir, what order number are you waiting for?"


"Uhhh...I think someone took your sub."

Josh 0, Rednecks 1...or...

Estimated number of residents of surrounding areas who are vegetarian, and who like pesto along with swiss cheese:



Beep beep beep beep 3:30 pm, Beans In The Belfry, Brunswick, Maryland, USA  

"WOW!  What a cool old church turned into a coffee shop!"

Beep beep beep beep 4:00 pm - Operation Wired commences

Josh gets cup of coffee while Steve's onstage.  Pounds it, decides he needs more.  Gets half a shot of espresso.  Feels much better.  Or...FEELSMUCHBETTERHAHAHAHA!

Beep beep beep beep  5:00 pm  

A fierce jam on Stormy Monday happens, which was not part of the plan, but from now on, will be.

Beep beep beep beep  5:45 pm, load out finished, downtown Brunswick, MD, USA

"Hey man, I'm going to watch some trains.  They always get by me, but I'm gonna catch one on camera this time!"

"OK, I'll come along."

Josh and Steve head down to the tracks.

Beep beep beep beep  6:00 pm, rail yard, Brunswick, MD, USA  

(Train whistle)  "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  I'm gonna get it!"

"Run, Josh, run!"

Coffee does wonders for the sprints, but probably not for PR for the quiet townsfolk.  Maybe the yellow nikes had something to do with it.  But even though the cops were hovering, nobody bothered us.

Beep beep beep beep  6:30 pm, rail yard, Brunswick, MD, USA

"Wait, wait, did you hear that?"

"hear what?"


Random railfan:  "I think it's over there."

"I don't see it."

Josh runs off to other side of parking lot.

Runs back.

Runs to other side.

"Was it just a truck?"

"No, see that smoke?  It's on the other side."

Runs back.

Sees it.




Gets it.

"I'm still waiting for that train to come by on the other track.  It's been a green light for an hour!  I know it's gonna show up as soon as I leave!"

Beep beep beep beep  7:15 pm, Rail Yard, Brunswick, MD, USA  

(thinking)  "Guess I should go before that cop tells me to."

Walks up the street.

(thinking)  "WHAT WAS THAT?"

Runs back.


Walks up street.

(thinking)  "WHAT WAS THAT?"


Walks up street.

(thinking)  "WHAT WAS THAT?"

Nothing.  I hate flowmasters and loud cars.  Unless they're mine.

Beep beep beep beep  7:20 pm, sub-stealing gas station complex, middle of nowhere, outskirts of Brunswick, MD, USA

Is it always this crowded?  I'd better leave before I get hurt.

Beep beep beep beep  8:15, en route to Accokeek, MD, USA  

They played Radar Love on the radio.  AGAIN.

Mission complete.  

Thank you, Maryland!  And DC!  And Austin!  And the UK!  And PA!  And Everywhere!

- Josh 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


  I just got back from overthrowing Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, USA.  Assisting me were 220 high school sophomores and 90 adult volunteers.  Sure, sure, they weren't officially there to help with the Revolution, but there was much distributing of stickers, talk of Siberia, and rock 'n roll.  They were under the banner of HOBY, or Hugh O'Brian Youth leadership, a four day conference designed to teach leadership skills and critical thinking.  Thinking sure was critical, but difficult, seeing as most people including myself only got about 12 hours of sleep the whole time.

  I had such an incredible time, and learned some way cool lessons.  I was technically the facilitator for a group of nine sophomores, but I was more of a student than any of them.  Check it.

1. You shouldn't cry during an emotional program.  It's bad for group morale, especially when sitting next to a 16 year old girl.  Tears, apparently, are contagious.  Much apologies, m'am!

2.  I heard a quote the other day from some ancient Greek dude.  Just because you can't do something doesn't mean it's impossible.  There I was, surrounded by the raw power of idealism and youth, and I was going "blah blah blah", speaking from the bitterness of defeats I had endured.  (OK, at 26, there haven't been that many battles lost, but still...)  Thankfully, I snapped out of it, and realized that I was sitting in the midst of the new wave.  And just because there was another wave, didn't mean that mine was finished.  You know how us insufferable grown ups say "youth is the future", and somehow make it sound like a pathetic excuse for our failure, somehow allowing us to sit idly by while the world burns?  I'd like to say the same thing, and add I'm proud to have you join my fight to save the world.  

Shoulder to shoulder we shall battle on.  Comrades, I salute you.  Let's do this.

3.  Learning goes both ways.  I realized that I had been looking at the program as me doing the instructing, guiding, and inspiring.  Wrong.  Here's just one example.  While I was in a meeting, my group snuck up to my dorm room, and, having purchased these index cards called HOBY hugs (PAID FOR by one of the 16 year olds), covered the door in the most incredibly kind, funny, thoughtful messages.  I stumbled back to my room after two in the morning, and had my mind blown by this.  I was so touched and inspired by the kindness and thoughtfulness shown.  Lesson for me:  Everyone's a teacher, everyone's an inspiration, and every single thing we do affects each other, no matter who we are, what age we are, or what station in life we currently hold.  

In that spirit, I'm starting a new bit in my guitar lessons.  Students have the option of giving me a two minute lesson.  I tried it today with great success - the client loved it, gained something, and I learned something.  We're all in this together, after all.

Thank you, everyone.  Thank you.

4.  Man, life sure can be fun.  I wrote a little tune for the good folks back at the conference.


Thank you, Emmitsburg!  You've been a great crowd!

- Josh  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Fallout!


  Now, now, now...What a fun gig on Friday!  With the first big show being broadcast over the "interwebs", YouTube stats tell me that we had 13 countries viewing!  I'm not sure if that was live, or right after the fact, but STILL, WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!


See, now, we all really are taking over the world!

Highlights included - accidentally dropping the vocal mic (a Shure SM57) right on my laptop, probably deafening anyone viewing the show and listening through headphones...Having the whole room clap along to the Johnny Cash A Boy Named Sue for the whole song!  I think everyone collaborated, and tried to see how fast they could get the beat to go, but I hung in there!...But the best event of all was having one of my guitar students join me onstage to play lead guitar for Tribute.  He played some awesome lead guitar, and totally rocked the house!

 It was so cool to have people joining in the festivities from literally across the world, across the room, and across town.  This video feature is wayyyyyy nifty!

Here's the video for those of you who missed it! 

Now, the sound quality isn't that great, but that's another project.  Improved audio shows coming soon!  I think I'll need to use an external mic.

THANK YOU, WORLD!  You were a great audience, and are comrades of mine!

- Josh

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Video Concert

Comrades, friends, and family!

  Boy, oh boy, I'm excited to bring you my first big video concert!  I'll be playing a hometown show in White Plains, MD, this evening, starting around 7:00 pm EST.  However, many of you have the great good fortune to live somewhere other than Charles County, and therefore won't be able to make it in person.  

  Sad you'll have to miss the show? Fear not!  I'll be broadcasting the whole thing over the Internet with the help of my trusty laptop, webcam, and Google +!  

Here's two ways to watch

1.  On my YouTube channel:  Go to (Or, go to my channel, poodlemanjosh, and click the "feed" tab.)  

2.  On my Google + page:  click "Join Hangout" when you see it say "Josh is hanging out."  Note:  You'll need the (free) Google video plugin installed:  (It's the one on the left.)  

I recommend the hangout - the first 9 people to get in can interact!  And an unlimited number of people can watch.  I'll hear you clap, jeer, cheer, etc.  However, if you throw a tomato at me - that's your screen that you'll be bombing.  Ha!  

  Why only 9 people?  It's a feature of the group chat.  I didn't set it.  However, again,  an unlimited number of people can watch!

I'm very excited about how people from all over the world will be able to participate in any concert that is live on the web!  As a matter of fact, I got to call in to Andrew Apanov's presentation in Finland a few weeks ago.  Check out his post about the technology here, and see the video of the cameo!  

  Plus, note that the expression of "I'm so glad that guy's on a screen, and not in the same room with me" is universal, as displayed by some of the guys sitting in the audience.  Not to worry, good Finnish sirs!  I don't have a fighter plane...yet!  

See you comrades online soon!

- Josh

Friday, April 27, 2012

Speak your mind, even if your voice squeaks


  Well, it's almost time for the student recital, and my students have been working hard to get their songs ready for prime time.   I teach guitar in Waldorf, Maryland.  I'm always yelling about overthrowing things, so we are going to be renaming the town WalGRAD, in honor of the Revolution.  And one of my students thought the recital would be boring...

  I had a great lesson yesterday that I'd like to share with you.

Sam stopped by for his lesson yesterday.  Sam is about nine years old, and has been taking guitar for about two years.  He is naturally verbose, something that he says is discouraged by his teachers and cousins.  "You've got some cool stuff to say, man!"  I reply, then encourage him to express himself.

  Well, it's crunch time with the recital less than  24 hours away.  He sits down in the chair, and just as I'm about to ask him what he's been up to, he holds up his hand with a very sincere look on his face, and says most intently "We shouldn't talk this week, we've got to practice for tomorrow's show."  He dives into his practice, pauses where he would normally mention something cool, and says "I went to my aunt's work today!", then remembers his goal, and dives back in.  Surfacing again, he says "I made a castle!...but I'll tell you about that next week!"

  We're working on the George Thorogood tune "Bad to the Bone", and we've decided to play a duet.  I'm singing and playing guitar, and he's playing guitar with the occasional "YEAH!" thrown in, as instructed, blues-style.

"B-b-b-baaad"  "Yeah!"

  "Wow, my voice sounded really high there"  Sam says with dismay.

"Nah man, it's fine."

He doesn't seem convinced.  So, I tell him about falsettos, have him listen to the end part of "Stairway to Heaven", and tell him that since he's "like nine, dude, your voice is gonna be a little higher, no worries!"

  "But wait - your teenage cousin teases you about it, right?"  I ask.  "All the time."

I told him that his voice will be lower in a few years, but in the meantime, never, ever be ashamed of how it sounds.  I told him that while we as a culture always seem to be striving towards the lower voices, certain styles of music like the higher sounds, and that his voice was always something to be proud of, no matter what anyone says.  I should have told him there's always a "cousin" around to tell us what's what, and how we might not want to pay them any attention.

  I wonder how many of us are going around, literally or metaphorically, "singing" through life with a false voice because someone, somewhere, told us it wasn't right.

  I'm not just talking about vocals - our song doesn't even have to deal with words or speaking.  It is the act of living.

  I wonder how many of us are striving for uniqueness.  Many of us artistic folks are.  But doesn't this just lead to false notes and sung lies, too?

  What if, instead, we strove for authenticity, and sang how we really sound?

At the gym the other night, given the choice between lifting weights or watching Christina Aguilera on TV, I found myself watching The Voice.   Man, what a lousy show, though!  What the heck is wrong with us?  Who can judge musical merit, or any merit, for that case?  Sure, sure, notes can be hit or missed, skill can be practiced - but man, what a shame that we would take anyone's opinion serious enough to put them in...way cool red chairs!  (Man, so Revolutionary - I want one!)

  But seriously, folks...

What people in your life are sitting in those red chairs, saying "Ehhh.......your voice squeaked."?

More importantly, how long will we continue to say "Yes, cousin?"

Now, I'm off to go set up the stage for this overthrowing of Waldorf.

I think the night sky is going to be filled with stars.  Red ones.

- Josh  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Don't waste my life, bro!


  Man oh man, I hope spring has been treating everyone well!  Each year I'm reminded what a cool season it is.

Plus, the frogs and crickets are back, who are, in my opinion, the best musicians around.  #winning!

  I've been doing a lot of music marketing lately, as well as watching even more happen around  me.  It is both fascinating (on a good day), and discouraging and frustrating (on a bad day.)  There seems to be quite a bit of noise cluttering the airwaves, and I wanted to talk about that in a philosophical and practical sense today.  While this post is aimed at musicians, I think it can apply to anyone.

Here's the question:  Remember when we were little kids, thinking "Man, I can't wait to grow up, be a musician, and... harass my friends until they buy my CD or come to my show."?  No!  We wanted to be stars!  We wanted to change the world!  And yet, here we are, endlessly inviting each other to events that we don't really want to go to, and pushing merchandise.

For, indeed, there seems to be a lot of taking going on, and I think it's worth a look, both from a tactics standpoint, and a life purpose view.  (That being said, I just got some really cool wristbands.  You should buy one!)

  The advent of the Internet has created almost limitless possibilities for to connect with people.  We have this magnificent vehicle for building meaningful connections all over the world.  However, since we're humans, we have promptly turned around and used it as a means to get in people's faces more effectively.

  Perhaps we need to re-examine what we're asking for.

We're generally asking for people's time.  "Come to my show!"  "Like my Facebook page!"  "Follow me on Twitter!"  Sometimes it leads to money (you should really buy that wristband!), but most often, it's time.

  Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with engaging an audience.  It must be done to succeed. There are fresh, creative ideas all around us, and it's nice to be told what's going on. The danger perhaps is this - maybe we don't value people's time as much as we should.  It's funny, because time is the most precious commodity in existence. Yet, any time we tweet something lame, we're wasting both ours and theirs.  If we play a show, and we don't give it our all, even if there's only one person watching, and they're the bartender, we're stealing time from people.  As the noise fills our screen, our lives are literally being taken from us bit by bit.  I resent that, and I think you probably do, too.

 So, definitely keep on engaging, tweeting, taking cool shots with Instagram, releasing EP's, and playing shows.

  Just know that your audience is giving you part of their lives.  Make it worth it.

Thank you for reading this post!

- Josh

Monday, April 2, 2012



Man, oh man, it's been a rough couple of weeks. I went to three funerals in just as many days. One was for the lady who was helping me become an adjunct professor at a community college, one was a friend's mom, and the last was for my Aunt Janene, who finally lost her battle to cancer.

Sitting there in a suit and tie, watching the family circus, and wanting to utter so many profanities that it would be must unfitting of the occasion, but perfect for the underlying and all-too-real situation, I got to thinking, grieving, and changing a bit.

The question has been asked so many times it's been beaten into a pulp of cliches, but seriously, man, what is it all about?

I don't have an answer.

You know, I think at my funeral, I want somebody to stand up, and say "Josh is dead. It's really sad. There's no happy ending. Perhaps we'll never see him again. Perhaps he's burning in hell. Perhaps he's jamming with Jimi Hendrix. All I know for sure is that he's in the ground, and now I'm gonna go cry." I'd like someone to grab a guitar and sing "One Kind Favor" with the line "Now you'll know the poor boy's in the ground." (To be honest of what I REALLY want, perhaps the guitar could be from my personal collection, and encrusted with diamonds and rubies for that "authentic delta blues sound.")

In times of distress, we grasp desperately for answers. Maybe there aren't any.

I seem to be growing into an adulthood where things are a bit more somber, grayer, sadder, and more poignant than I had expected - and that's OK.

I read the achievements on the cheap paper that litter the pews after the masses shuffle off, equally as uncomfortable with death as with the ill-fitting suits they wear, and think how empty the degrees and towns and jobs sound.

I pick up my guitar, glad to be able to feel the strings under my fingertips, and play to the early evening street corner, where only a few people pass by, none of them really listening.

And I'm so glad that I'm alive and well to add to the night music.

Maybe what my mom said is right - it's not what you do, it's how you do it.

- Josh

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, Bach!


First off, I'd like to wish a very happy 327th birthday to Comrade JS Bach! It brings up the question - will people be playing "Stairway to Heaven" in the year 2340? Probably not. I bet they'll be jammin' on Justin Bieber tunes, 'cause, well, you know how people are. Send 'em to Siberia!

I'm pumped! I've got not one, but two gigs this weekend, plus a radio show! I hope you can tune in! I'll be on the air from 3-5 pm EST.

If you're in the DC area on Friday, stop by the free gig up on U street. Here's the vital stats:

If you're in Richmond, VA, I'll be playing a funky little coffeehouse. This gig is also free admission: I'm playing an unplugged set, something a bit unusual for me. Hey, Three Little Pigs is Three Little Pigs, no matter what you play it on, though!

Which brings me to the next story: I was playing at a marathon this St. Patrick's day. The stage was at mile 17, and the runners were amazing - AND wearing green! I asked one girl if her green tutu helped with aerodynamics, and when I offered to yell encouragement at her, she said quite seriously that she'd hit me. I promptly backed off, and stressed that, above all else, I'd prefer not to be kicked.

Well, there I was, playing Three Little Pigs, and, at mile marker 17, mind you, a runner joins in the chorus when I yell in a falsetto "not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!" It made my day! Remember, that takes a lotta air anyways, and this dude had just run seventeen miles!

I'm off to go fix my acoustic guitar. It keeps eating strings. Popped an elixir-brand string right in the middle of playing Ain't no rest for the wicked at the Marathon. Bummer. I'll have more stories from the road soon!

Remember, tune in to this Saturday, 3/24, and stop by a show if you're in town! And happy birthday, Johann!


- Josh

Friday, March 2, 2012

Images and Reasons


Well, this sure is a funny time for a musician to be writing a blog, but as my comrade Miche just pointed out, artists are hardly...what is that word? Oh yes, predictable.

It's a quiet, rainy night here in Maryland, and surprisingly, I'm not out running around town making fun of Pat Buchanan, introducing unsuspecting people to The Annoying Orange video series, or otherwise making a nuisance of myself. "Apple! Apple! Hey! Hey! Hey Apple!"

I was driving home after watching a few movies with my folks, and I got to listening to one of my new favorite songs, War by Poets of the Fall.

I've been thinking a lot lately about why I'm playing music. Perhaps you've thought the same thing.

Now, it's not really a question of it being my passion, or a connection to my home galaxy of M82 or anything like that. No, it's a train of thought of who I'm doing it for.

I played a gig in Richmond last week, mostly as an emcee, but I got to share a few tunes. This picture was taken at the show.

I'll sound silly, but I'm really a fan of this shot. I look like Eddie Van Halen's little brother, for cryin' out loud!

And, for once, my good-natured vanity will prove useful in the illustration of a point...I hope! (The funny thing is, too, there weren't even that many people at the show, even though it looks like I'm on a mega-stage.)

It took me a long time to get to this shot. Countless hours of guitar practice, vocal lessons where I was so uptight I was literally sweating, thousands of miles driven, and even a bit of time at the gym - AND extra small shirts. Ha! (It's my new brilliant strategy. For some reason, it's not working as well as I though it would.) And this is just the beginning of my musical journey. Now, let me tell you, it's been so much fun in addition to the work.

But - if I could have portrayed any image that evening, this would have been it. Boom, I got it, even though the audio component wasn't in my top ten or even fifty performances. I was in another city playing music, and I even had a hotel room to go back to.

Then, the strangest thing happened. I got off the stage, finished putting tables and chairs back a bit later, and then went to my hotel. I woke up the next day with exactly the same hopes and fears, problems, aspirations, and quirks that comprise a Josh.

That image I presented to the world the previous evening didn't change a darn thing.

Now, the trip was a blast, I got to wander around Richmond, chase trains, meet new people, have way too much caffeine, and sing along to songs on the car stereo. I wasn't, however, any different than before my projection of the image. And strangest of all - The whole sorority didn't turn out and bow to my music. Good thing, too, 'cause they kept staggering by in the strangest assortment of hunting camo shirts and neon shorts. I'm guessing it was a Ted Nugent 80's throwback theme party. I blame it on the alcohol they were obviously consuming. (It does funny things when it mixes with the extra oxygen contained in their skulls.) Maybe if I wear my blaze orange turkey suit next time?

The whole thing made me realize that I've drifted into the ambition of projecting an image, rather than painting a picture, and of talking at, and not with, the audience. Additionally, I was rattled at how dependent I am on other people's opinion of me. This wouldn't be a problem if I was playing music to give my inner self a voice.

Sitting in my car this evening, listening to War, I was pulled back into the soul-stirring reasons that we're all practically compelled to express ourselves. There's just so much inside all of us, and regardless of how we let it out, be it music, sports, nurturing, art, spirituality, or whatever else moves you, it simply must be heard.

So, I'm going to start asking myself why a lot more. Sure, sure, I love entertaining, the comedy bug is biting me (watch out, there's going to be an annoying time when I'm learning the ropes), and it's fun to make rock the venue. But why am I using up my short time on Earth in this particular way? And why are you?

You can tell you're on to something when your soul wants to raise a lighter as you sing along to the music - even if you're not in key.

Rock on, brave souls!

- Josh

Monday, February 27, 2012

Revolution in the River City


WOW, I am pumped! I just got back from my first overnight out of town music trip. I had the honor and privilege to host WDCE 90.1 FM's Benefit the Beats concert at the University of Richmond. I felt like such a rockstar, checking into my hotel room, going to the show, getting back late...waking up, saying "WOW that is a mega TV! Oh wait, that's the wardrobe." Sleep deprivation does funny things. Just wait till a big tour happens!

Let me tell you, it was such a fun time. There were four main acts who donated their time and talent to the concert, allowing the station to raise funds for a new transmitter. First off, check these guys 'n gals out. Here they are, in the order that they played on Saturday:

William Rousseau - This fellow makes his guitar sound like a million bucks, and is a super nice guy. Good acoustic tone is a rarity, in my opinion, so I was quite enthused to hear how great he sounded. I got to try his guitar after the show, and unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to buy my way to his sound. It's all him! I learned a lot by watching how he turned a venue into his living room, and made everyone feel like they were guests in his home. I talked to him later, and he mentioned how he thinks musicians always take themselves too seriously. "We're just playing music, man, it should be fun and welcoming" he said. He certainly practices what he preaches, and everyone loved it. It's definitely something that I'll be working on incorporating into my shows. Check him out at:

Quango Almo
Man, these guys have an awesome, unique jazz-rock-maybe even a bit of Latin infused fusion tone...and Freddy, the guitar player, had the COOLEST guitar cable ever. Sure, it sounds geeky and industry-specific to mention, but let me tell you, this thing looked like a telephone cord's big brother that had been hitting the gym. The poor keyboard player, naturally a reserved fellow, had the misfortune of having ME on a wireless mic. I pounced on him while the band was setting up onstage, and interrogated him until he skillfully referred me to talk to the bass player. Kudos, sir! It's hard to break my grip! Haha! Their sound was smart, tight, and combined the intelligence of jazz with the snappiness of loud rock. Check 'em out at:

Cardinal Compass
If you think bass players don't jump around, drummers don't show up, and girls can't play guitar, check out this band to have all of your misconceptions sorted out. Not only did they jump around, show up, and play, but they ROCKED! The format of a power trio seems to allow great communication and super tight arrangements, and Cardinal Compass certainly used all of these qualities to their advantage. Their show was engaging, entertaining, and rockin'! They sang a song (and I'll probably mess up the lyrics) that went something like "I wanna be your house cat, so no more of that stray cat strut." Unfortunately for them, this tossed a pitch right over the Josh plate, as I was up next, with "Stray Cat Strut" already on my set list. Try as I might, I couldn't resist cracking the "Hey, so, do girl house cats make sandwiches?" joke. (I don't know why the "bring me a sandwich, woman" gag is so funny, but I always get a kick out of it.) Fortunately for me, I mumbled it, so all the women in the joint didn't rush the stage and beat me up. Hannah, the guitarist and singer, could certainly have stomped my toe pretty good with the way cool boots she had on. Anyways, they've got a new album due out soon, so check 'em out:

Money Cannot Be Eaten

There must be something about the water in Richmond...There are some GOOD musicians around here! Money Cannot Be Eaten wrapped up the show, and MAN, these guys tore it UP with some fusion, funk, rock, even a bit of blues...The guitar player hit a few notes in soundcheck, and I came running over to see what the heck he was playing through. His sound was off the charts. The keyboard player reminded me why the cheesy plugins in Cubase are no match for a guy who knows how to play and has really spent some time on his sound. The bass almost rumbled down the half-million dollar multi-colored wall in the next room. Bravo, sir! And Jake, the drummer (and later, guitar player), kept a fiery groove blazing by hitting that snare drum with the force and precision of a Hellfire drone. It proved his point that he made earlier at dinner: "Drumming is great for aggression." Something in the jazzosphere must have ticked him off, 'cause MAN did he hold it down like a boss! You've gotta check these guys out, and definitely get out to see them at a show.

After the bands were through, a few of the station DJ's hopped onstage and treated the crowd to a wide variety of music. Will, the soundman and a DJ, got up with program director Whitney, and played a great little unplugged set. I've got an inside joke with my dad about a Fleetwood Mac song following me around, so I chuckled when Whitney opened up with a great rendition of Landslide. Will then brought his rock band up, and they played three rockin' covers, my favorite being The General by Dispatch. It was cool to see how they remixed it for more of a rock format.

There was another acoustic set by a fella who's name I should know, but escapes me right now. He was cool enough to share some pizza with me earlier, and man, it was almost as good as his tunes! Thank you, buddy!

Last, but not least, DJ Black Liquid brought a few of his rhyming buddies onstage and William Rousseau joined 'em jammin' some rap tracks on his Taylor acoustic guitar. It was unique, and it was jammin'!

It was a memorable evening filled with top-notch music, and I left the River City knowing that the Revolution to Overthrow Bad Music is alive and well in Richmond.

- Josh

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Joshua Bell, inc


THIS post should prove once and for all that I'm not a communist! (Although I am enjoying telling people that I'll send 'em to Siberia.)

There's a story going around on Facebook right now. It's quite an interesting one - it's the tale of famous violinist Joshua Bell playing street music outside a train station in Washington, DC - and nobody noticing.

There are many interpretations of this tale, and the main lesson that folks seem to be getting from it is: We don't stop to listen.

While this is a quality moral to take away from the story, I believe that people are missing another, vital, intriguing component of the story.

The difference between the metro station and Carnegie Hall is one of marketing.

An artist left a comment on the story saying "It's sad that sometimes nobody appreciates art in our lifetime."

This is a defeatist attitude, and I place the blame squarely on that artist, not the audience, for being unappreciated.

Look, Joshua Bell's talent alone didn't stop people. If his can't, nobody's can. OK, snapping back into my Leader Urban role now, I believe people need to be told what to do.

Oh boy, I just saw my whole future campaign for president flash right before my eyes.

But seriously, folks, the world is so chock full of great things, it's hard to sort it out. People need to be shown. Case in point - I use Spotify, a music streaming service, with access to about a gazillion tunes. I typically listen to the same twenty. Weird!

The Joshua Bell as a street musician story resonates especially with me. I've done a bit of busking myself, and man, people really need to be cajoled into stopping. I've seen my more successful colleagues do this by being loud and flashy to catch their eye. (And I was wearing green wrestling shoes with pink laces, and I STILL wasn't loud enough!) There's a whole system of marketing on the street, and an entire psychology into convincing people to part with their money. In other words - marketing.

Justin Bieber fills arenas, and Joshua Bell gets chump change on the corner. Talent and recognition are not necessarily related.

Art is the commodity, and marketing is the distribution. Art without exposure perishes in oblivion, and exposure without something meaningful, valuable, and important to express is vapid, shallow, and dies quickly or lives in disgrace (ie, Las Vegas! Ohhh! BOOM!)

Marketing doesn't have to cheapen our art. If we write a song that will save lives and change the world - the world needs to be told about it. How are you going to move people if they haven't heard your song, read your book, seen your art, or were inspired by your story?

I have faith that people like good stuff. They just need a bit of help finding it.

- Josh