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

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Sullivans, an open mic, and new comrades


How goes the fight?

Man, it's crazy over here! First off, if you're in DC tomorrow (Friday), come on by and say hello at Ebenezer's Coffeehouse. I'll be playing at an open mic there, and man, I'm looking forward to it! I'll be debuting my song Desperate Situation for the good folks there. I'm always freaking out, so I've decided to put it to music! A single and music video will be out soon, so stay tuned!

I was just talking to one of my Lieutenants (guitar students) about songwriting. It's amazing how inspiration is everywhere. It's really that there's a lot of stories that need to be told, and we're the people to tell them.

I was eating my oatmeal the other day, and I was through reading politics, so I turned my attention to I read that it was the day that the Allied forces gained control of Guadalcanal in the Pacific campaign in WWII. A footnote to the story caught my attention - the loss of the five Sullivan brothers. All five boys - gone. As a fellow who's very close to my two brothers, I was especially affected when, after doing some further research, I learned that the last brother survived the initial torpedo attack, but went insane from grief of the loss of his brothers. He ended up jumping off the life raft, and was never seen again. Back home, the surviving sister, mother, and father carried on the best they could, but the father died in the 60's "a broken man." If I'm not mistaken, the sister's fiance was killed in Pearl Harbor, spurring her brothers to join the fight to avenge him. I'm sure to say that everyone was sad would be an understatement.

Well, I found a punk band was moved to write the following song about such a tragedy:

I've been listening to it a lot - it's quite a song about quite an event. There's people's stories all around us that need to be told. For some reason, they might not be able to tell them, be that they're gone, or silenced, or even unable to articulate their feelings. So, comrades, let's start telling their tales.

Lastly, I'd like to leave you with a funny story.

I stopped by the grocery store yesterday, and picked up a few things, including a carton of eggs, and a toothbrush. I got to thinking that it might not be a good idea to get both of these at once, in case it resulted in a case of salmonella poisoning. "Nah", I told myself, "the toothbrush is in a case." But bam, then the cashier rings everything up, and puts the toothbrush right on top of the eggs. The poor lady was tired, and must have been dealing with morons like me all day. "Hey, could you not put the toothbrush on top of the eggs?" I asked. I continued "Sorry, I guess I'm being a little over the top. But then again, that's sort of what I do."

Just then, the guy bagging the groceries looks at me and says "do I know you?"

"I'm not sure, I have a pretty loud mouth, and lots of people know me."

"You're the guy who had his face on his shirt!"

"Yeah, that's me! Here, have a sticker! Join the Revolution!"

He's now involved in the fight. Welcome, comrade!

I guess being over the top really is what I do.

Vive la Revolution!
- Josh

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhogs Unite!

Hard to believe old men in fancy hats choose if he'll see his shadow or not! Sounds like the ultimate class struggle! Groundhogs Unite!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Out of season, but still...


One of of the coolest parts of being a musician is when we hear a cool song, we can exclaim "I'm gonna cover that!" even if it's say, Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Practicality doesn't really matter in the reaction. Reality can set in during rehearsal, but sometimes with creative arrangements, almost anything is possible.

However, in this case, I think I'll be able to hit these notes no problem. Check it: I was looking through statistics of my Santa is a Communist video, and saw that it had been posted on a weird Russian site. Right next to my video was this one. I can't stop listening to it, and I so want to sing it during the holiday season! Check it out! I think you'll love it. I'm not sure how I'll replicate the cuteness of communist cats in a live setting, but I'll see what I can do. (The thought of a cat mask actually crossed my mind, I kid you not!)

I can't stop listening to this tune. Enjoy!

- Josh