WBEZ | Music http://www.wbez.org/news/music Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Bombast is bogus: Two promising discs overdose on grandiosity http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/bombast-bogus-two-promising-discs-overdose-grandiosity-110757 <p><p>Merriam-Webster defines &ldquo;bombast&rdquo; as something that &ldquo;is meant to sound important or impressive but is not sincere or meaningful.&rdquo; Of course, critics walk a fine line when attempting to judge sincerity, but the dictionary definition is referring to bombastic speech. Over-inflated sounds are a bit easier to discern and, for this listener, easier to dislike. Think U2 at its most bloated and self-important. Or the Arcade Fire at its most U2.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/strand-of-oaks-heal.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p>Goshen, Indiana-based singer and songwriter Tim Showalter is winning plenty of fans for his Americana underground update of John Mellencamp&rsquo;s Midwestern earnestness on <em>HEAL, </em>his second album as Strand of Oaks. And it can indeed be affective hearing the artist trace his path to music-making from discovering dad&rsquo;s dusty reel-to-reel, to buying used Casio keyboards, to &ldquo;singing [Smashing] Pumpkins in the mirror&rdquo; in &ldquo;Goshen &rsquo;97,&rdquo; or paying tribute to another musical hero, the late Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., in the seven-minute &ldquo;JM.&rdquo; But Showalter doesn&rsquo;t know how to edit himself, and the mood is quickly broken by clunker lines such as &ldquo;That&rsquo;s where the magic began&rdquo; or &ldquo;Now it&rsquo;s hard to hear you sing, the crow has lost its wings.&rdquo; <em>Ugh.</em></p><p>A worse sin than the lyrics, however, is the production. Never has an album crafted in a bedroom studio sounded so designed for the arena, stadium, or festival main stage, with three-note guitar solos shooting right past Neil Young to land at Guns N&rsquo; Roses, and keyboards going straight for Springsteen circa <em>Born in the U.S.A.</em> Then Showalter commits the ultimate sin of wrapping the whole thing up with a track called &ldquo;Wait for Love&rdquo; that really should prompt Chris Martin and Coldplay to sue for plagiarism.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DeadSpace-iTunes.jpg" style="height: 452px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p>The Austin trio the Dead Space isn&rsquo;t quite as egregiously overblown on its debut album <em>FAKER</em>, though the self-deprecation of that title is undercut by the needless capitalization (just like <em>HEAL</em>, and ack, this is an obnoxious trend!). Here the fantastically moody, swirling shoegaze guitars and trance-like rhythms are ruined by derivative and overdone touches of Joy Division solemnity, Bauhaus theatrical/gothic grimness, and an overdose of Echo &amp; the Bunnymen reverb. A good producer sympathetic to these sounds&mdash;hello, Dave Fridmann&mdash;could have pulled back on all of this. But the only time the group rises above its influences and abandons the empty grandiosity is on the short, furiously minimalist &ldquo;You&rsquo;re Fake,&rdquo; which hints at hope for the future. And hey, the threesome is young, so there&rsquo;s time.</p><p><strong>Strand of Oaks, <em>HEAL </em>(Dead Oceans)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 1 star.</strong></p><p><strong>The Dead Space, <em>FAKER </em>(12XU)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 2 stars.</strong></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike></em></strong><strong><em>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong> and </strong></em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/"><strong>Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/bombast-bogus-two-promising-discs-overdose-grandiosity-110757 U2's 'Songs of Innocence'? Yawn http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/u2s-songs-innocence-yawn-110785 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/u2%20cover.jpg" style="height: 620px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>Give the long-running Irish rockers this: U2 continues to force us to grapple with their new product, years (decades?) past the point when the reaction any new offering merits as art is: &ldquo;Yeah? So what?&rdquo; But given the tawdry tie-in with the announcement of their 13<sup>th</sup> studio album and the unveiling of Apple&rsquo;s latest sucker-bait gizmos, to say nothing of its automatic appearance in all of our iTunes queues, grapple we must.</p><p>Now as reactions go, it would be impossible to top either Sasha Frere-Jones&rsquo; savage evisceration for <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/culture/sasha-frere-jones/u2s-forgettable-fire">The New Yorker.com</a> or David Fricke&rsquo;s what-the-hell-is-he-smoking shameless five-star fellation in <em><a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/u2-songs-of-innocence-20140911">Rolling Stone</a></em>. But again, the only reaction really warranted is, &ldquo;<em>So what?</em>&rdquo; And maybe: &ldquo;<em>Yawn</em>.&rdquo;</p><p>To me, the only thing that really rankles in the superstar corporate executives&rsquo; flashback to <em>Boy-</em>era sounds and lyrical celebrations of the powers and mysteries of music are these fellows pretending they&rsquo;ve ever really heard much less been inspired by the Ramones&mdash;neither &ldquo;The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)&rdquo; nor any of the other 10, mostly Danger Mouse-produced tracks have a hint of the melodic or minimalist powers of da brudders from Queens, while there is zero trace of a sense of humor&mdash;and the Clash (dedicated to Joe Strummer, &ldquo;This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now&rdquo; has an anemic hint of reggae to it, but not an ounce of the political fury that Joe and the boys showed on their first four albums, and no, Bono crooning, &ldquo;Soldier, soldier/We signed our lives away,&rdquo; does not count or come close to holding a candle to, say, &ldquo;Career Opportunities&rdquo; or &ldquo;Spanish Bombs&rdquo;).</p><p>While some of his outings have been more successful than others, this really is the first stunningly flat mediocrity of Brian Burton&rsquo;s stellar career, but U2 have run roughshod over otherwise strong and visionary producers before, including, in the post-<em>Achtung Baby </em>period, Brian Eno. The corporation pays lip service to exploring new territory by hiring producers who might actually challenge the board of directors, then the members of the star chamber make the sounds the corporation is best known for making, the better to sell them at top dollar. (And hey, just because you didn&rsquo;t pay for this album doesn&rsquo;t mean there wasn&rsquo;t a huge check from Apple, or another one coming from the partnership with Live Nation on the inevitable summer stadium tour.)</p><p>Anyway, there isn&rsquo;t an emotive vocal howl, soaring Edge guitar line, arena-shaking rhythm, or hackneyed faux-anthemic lyric here that we haven&rsquo;t heard from U2 two, three, four dozen times in the past. Is life really long enough for anyone to waste another minute on this band when so much other music is so much more worthy of our time? &ldquo;Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,&rdquo; William Blake writes in <em>Songs of Innocence, </em>the titular and to some extent thematic inspiration here. &ldquo;Cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.&rdquo;</p><p>Sorry, ain&rsquo;t no angels ringing my bell. Just some annoying peddlers selling some crap I don&rsquo;t want or need.</p><p><strong>U2, <em>Songs of Innocence </em>(Island)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 1 star.</strong></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong> and </strong></em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/"><strong>Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/u2s-songs-innocence-yawn-110785 Return to Canterbury http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/return-canterbury-110756 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Arthur.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p>No matter how esoteric or overlooked in its own time, if you wait long enough, every underground rock movement eventually is rediscovered and newly celebrated by indie upstarts. Remember when names like Neu!, Nick Drake, and Serge Gainsbourg were confined to the musical history books instead of readily dropped in every third review on a hipster blog? Now comes the turn of the Soft Machine, Caravan, Camel, and fellow travelers in the progressive/psychedelic/folk/jazz-rock scene based in the Northwestern British cathedral city of Canterbury in the late &rsquo;60s and early &rsquo;70s.</p><p>With its wispy vocal melodies, twisting rhythms, burbling synthesizers, snaking guitar lines, and soaring violin, Syd Arthur&rsquo;s debts to the Canterbury sound are obvious. But hey, the young quartet actually <em>lives</em> in modern Canterbury; these serpentine sounds hardly an easy or obvious thing to replicate, and the group does have a few other elements in its mix: Its moniker is alternately described as a joint tribute to Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett and the Kinks&rsquo; rock opera <em>Arthur </em>or a nod to the Herman Hesse novel <em>Siddhartha, </em>and violinist Raven Bush is none other than the nephew of the great Kate Bush<em>.</em></p><p>Beside, one doesn&rsquo;t need to know or even like the inspirations and influences here to enjoy the trippy, infectious pleasures of songs such as &ldquo;Hometown Blues,&rdquo; &ldquo;Chariots,&rdquo; and &ldquo;Autographs&rdquo; from the group&rsquo;s second album <em>Sound Mirrors. </em>History aside, they stand as some of the most unique, entrancing and genre-defying sounds of 2014.</p><p><strong>Syd Arthur, <em>Sound Mirror </em>(Harvest)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 3.5 stars.</strong></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike></em></strong><strong><em>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong> and </strong></em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/"><strong>Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/return-canterbury-110756 Ty Segall: Prolific but brilliant http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/ty-segall-prolific-brilliant-110755 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tysegall_manipulator_01.jpg" style="height: 620px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>The problem with most prolific home-recording heroes is not the inflated ambition, but the batting average: The mere fact that Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices), Nick Salomon (the Bevis Frond), and Will Oldham (Bonnie &ldquo;Prince&rdquo; Palace, etc.) put out lots and lots of records just ain&rsquo;t enough when only a third of the material on each new offering was really worth our time. The amazing thing about Southern California lo-fi garage-rock hero Ty Segall isn&rsquo;t that he gives us a truckload of new songs every year; it&rsquo;s that so many of them are great. In fact, he keeps getting better, and song for song, the new <em>Manipulator </em>is the strongest album yet in his long discography.</p><p>In part, Segall and his now steady and reliable band are synthesizing sounds they&rsquo;ve explored before on individual discs&mdash;filligreed Beatles psych-pop, Syd Barrett madcap acoustic-folk, Standells-style garage-rock snarl&mdash;all in one place, while also adding some new flavors to the mix, including glam-rock style and sneer and hints of Love/<em>Forever Changes </em>orchestration. Mostly, though, the success of <em>Manipulator </em>comes down to the songwriting and the musicianship: The inescapable hooks of &ldquo;The Clock,&rdquo; &ldquo;The Faker,&rdquo; and the title track and the absolutely ferocious guitars and pummeling rhythms of &ldquo;The Crawler&rdquo; and &ldquo;Feel.&rdquo;</p><p>Seventeen tracks, seventeen wins, and a beginning-to-end joy ride that I just can&rsquo;t stop repeating. Hot damn, this boy is good.</p><p><strong><em>Listen to the review of </em></strong><strong>Manipulator <em>on </em>Sound Opinions <em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/458">here</a></em>, <em>and catch Ty Segall&rsquo;s live performance and interview <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/360/#tysegall">here</a>.</em></strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ty-segall-manipulator.jpg" style="height: 460px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Ty Segall, <em>Manipulator </em>(Drag City)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 4 stars.</strong></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong> and </strong></em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/"><strong>Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/ty-segall-prolific-brilliant-110755 Trombone Shorty trumpets musical education http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/trombone-shorty-trumpets-musical-education-110763 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202014-09-04%20at%2012.30.50%20PM.png" style="height: 309px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>Genre-blurring New Orleans artist and <a href="https://soundcloud.com/soundopinions/trombone-shorty-orleans">former <em>Sound Opinions</em> guest</a> Trombone Shorty knows the benefits of a musical education, and he performs tonight at Lincoln Hall with 100-percent of the proceeds benefitting youth music programs. Tickets are $59.50 and <a href="http://www.lincolnhallchicago.com/Shows/09-08-2014+Trombone+Shorty">can be purchased in advance here</a>.</p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong> and </strong></em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/"><strong>Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 06:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/trombone-shorty-trumpets-musical-education-110763 This weekend: The 18th annual Hideout Block Party http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/weekend-18th-annual-hideout-block-party-110741 <p><p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HBPAV.png" style="height: 652px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>As it prepares to mark the end of its second decade, the Hideout Block Party is, by the standards of the current summer music festival business, a dismal failure.</p><p>The event barely breaks even, with most of the money generated going to charity. There are no plans for global expansion, no ubiquitous corporate sponsorships, and no egregious radius clauses tying up the artists to exclusive bookings. Indeed, many booking agents won&rsquo;t even return its calls, since it&rsquo;s so much easier to ride the international Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, Riot Fest, etc. gravy trains.</p><p>And yet&hellip;</p><p>The big celebration by the little club that could by the garbage trucks in the middle of nowhere off Elston on Wabansia remains the best shindig of its kind in town, a gathering of the heart and soul of the Chicago music community, with good sound, great music and fine libations. And, really, isn&rsquo;t that what matters most? Indeed, shouldn&rsquo;t that be the <em>only </em>thing that matters? (Yes, in my book!)</p><p>The lineup this year is topped by the always-rewarding Death Cab For Cutie (<a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/131/#deathcabforcutie">here&rsquo;s the group live on <em>Sound Opinions</em></a>) and Chicago ex-pats the Handsome Family, riding the crest of the biggest wave of attention they&rsquo;ve garnered in their devotedly eccentric career, courtesy of that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-01/handsome-family-kills-it-hbo-109589">theme song for <em>True Detective</em></a><em>.</em></p><p><a href="http://www.hideoutchicago.com/event/569099-hideout-block-party-onion-chicago/">Here&rsquo;s the link for tickets</a>. And here is the full schedule for this year&rsquo;s fun, once again co-sponsored by the Hideout and The Onion A.V. Club.</p><p><strong><u>Friday, Sept. 5</u></strong></p><p>Bad Luck Jonathan featuring Jon Langford, 5:30 p.m.</p><p>The Handsome Family, 6:20 p.m.</p><p>Hamilton Leithauser, 7:15 p.m.</p><p>Death Cab For Cutie, 8:30</p><p><strong><u>Saturday, Sept. 6</u></strong></p><p>Plastic Crimewave Vision Celestial Guitarkestra, 1:30 p.m.</p><p>Empires, 2 p.m.</p><p>Valerie June, 3 p.m.</p><p>Sylvan Esso, 4 p.m.</p><p>Mac DeMarco, 5:15 p.m.</p><p>The Funky Meters, 6:30 p.m.</p><p>The Dismemberment Plan, 7:30 p.m.</p><p>The War on Drugs, 8:45 p.m.</p><p><em>Follow me on Twitter </em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em>, join me on </em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em>, and podcast </em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em> and </em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/"><strong>Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</strong></a><em>.</em></p></p> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/weekend-18th-annual-hideout-block-party-110741 The slacker-rock mudslide continues http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/slacker-rock-mudslide-continues-110740 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Gotobeds.jpg" title="" /></div><p>Named for the enigmatic (and very tall) drummer in Wire, Pittsburgh&rsquo;s Gotobeds have less in common with that band&rsquo;s focused, angular minimalism than with the sloppy brilliance of <em>Let It Be</em>-era Replacements, the postmodern curveballs of early Pavement, or the simultaneously slack but unrelenting assault of Parquet Courts. And that&rsquo;s a fine, fine thing on the group&rsquo;s debut album <em>Poor People Are Revolting </em>(nice pun!), released this week by Gerard &ldquo;Matador&rdquo; Cosloy&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.12xu.bigcartel.com/">12XU Records</a>. (And all these nods to the world&rsquo;s greatest art-punks, I love &rsquo;em!)</p><p>Formed by guitarist Eli Kasan and drummer Tom Payne, veterans of underground favorites Kim Phuc, the quartet released a few head-turning singles dating back to 2013, including the anthemic &ldquo;New York&rsquo;s Alright,&rdquo; which appears again as one of the stand-outs on its debut full-length. The lyrics to that ditty can&rsquo;t really be quoted here; let&rsquo;s just say they recall a time when much of Manhattan was gritty, dangerous, and far from the Disneyfied tourist mecca it is today, and you&rsquo;d have risked life and limb to visit C.B.G.B. to see these guys (though it certainly would have been worth it).</p><p>And so it goes throughout these 11 tracks, allegedly all recorded in one day, and with a third of them coming from first takes. Seemingly off-the-cuff, beer-soaked, sometimes profane and always wise-ass sociological observations ride atop entrancing subway-train grooves (<em>is</em> there a subway in Pittsburgh, or is that just more love for the Rotten Apple of yore?), caressed by waves of feedback and snaky, intertwining leads.</p><p>&ldquo;Everyone in this bar is a clown,&rdquo; the band sings in the chorus of &ldquo;F---ing Machine.&rdquo; &ldquo;What does that say about this sound?&rdquo; I really don&rsquo;t know, but when someone follows that with a shout of &ldquo;Here we go!&rdquo; and the guitars erupt into glorious, chaotic cacophony, it&rsquo;s a moment as great as the infamous &ldquo;And then my mind split open!&rdquo; in &ldquo;I Heard Her Call My Name&rdquo; by the granddaddy of any band mining this turf, the Velvet Underground. And it&rsquo;s absolutely irresistible.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Gotobeds_iTunes.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>The Gotobeds, &ldquo;Poor People Are Revolting&rdquo; (12XU)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 4 stars.</strong></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong> and </strong></em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/"><strong>Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 08:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/slacker-rock-mudslide-continues-110740 Talking with Matt Adell, Part Two http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-08/talking-matt-adell-part-two-110694 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/adell%202.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 650px;" title="Matt Adell" /></div><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-08/talking-matt-adell-part-one-110693">As noted yesterday</a>, former Chicagoan Matt Adell has had a singular career in the new music industry. The one constant: his love for and support of electronic dance music throughout its development in the U.S.</p><p>In part two of our interview today, Adell talks about the current state of EDM, its massive and ever-growing popularity, and the changes wrought by corporatization, chiefly via SFX Entertainment&mdash;the new company launched by Robert F.X. Sillerman, who many say destroyed radio in this country when he created Clear Channel, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-02/sfx-entertainment-buys-react-presents-109765">and who recently bought Chicago EDM promoters React Presents</a>.</p><p><strong>J.D.:</strong> <strong>We left off talking about the recent sale of Beatport, where you were CEO, to SFX, and that brings us to something I&rsquo;m really interested in: your perspective on where EDM is today, as a business and as a culture. I can square you being CEO at Beatport with the kid I met so long ago, proselytizing about life-changing raves. But a word that you used to use a lot was &ldquo;community,&rdquo; and the electronic dance scene today is a very different one.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> Well, my number-one headline at the broadest scope is &ldquo;dance music changed my life.&rdquo; I think it&rsquo;s changed millions of people&rsquo;s lives, and the more people that can be touched by it, the better. I genuinely believe that.</p><p><strong>J.D.:</strong> <strong>But what about the encroaching bro-ism, sexism, and racism&mdash;all of those things that it was never about, in the days before the leap from underground raves to stadium shows and massive EDM festivals?</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> Those are the things that our larger society is about, right? And what&rsquo;s happening is that dance music is coming into the larger society. In fact, I think rather than look at it as larger society invading dance music, it&rsquo;s dance music that is invading larger society. There are more small, cool things for me to go see here, DJs in L.A., than ever before. Literally, I just don&rsquo;t go anywhere where there is a line; that&rsquo;s not my cup of tea.</p><p>But just as punk rock got digested by the Man, if you will, it didn&rsquo;t prevent lots of great music from still being made. In some cases, by major labels, but in most cases, on the independents. There are still plenty of different kinds of raves, for lack of a better word, that people can go to if you don&rsquo;t search for the word &ldquo;festival&rdquo; on Google, and avoid that word. The festivals aren&rsquo;t just part of an electronic dance music tradition, they&rsquo;re part of a state fair tradition, they&rsquo;re part of a circus tradition, that Europe and North America have both supported for generations.</p><p><strong>J.D.: Sure, and it was surprisingly late coming to America, before Coachella and Lollapalooza Mach II and those kind of big corporate events with rave tents.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> I mean, we&rsquo;ve had circuses in North America, and state fairs, and now we have EDM at them. And so with the bro-ism, the sexism, I would say that I don&rsquo;t think EDM has any greater problems with those things than society as a whole, especially among that generation. Let&rsquo;s not forget that you and I are 40-something men talking about people in their late teens and early 20s. But those things come with bigger crowds. And I say this at work&mdash;actually, it was part of my closing speech at Beatport&mdash;I know we&rsquo;re all concerned about the rave scene growing, but dance music changes lives, and can we think of anyone who need their lives changed more?</p><p><strong>J.D.:</strong> <strong>That&rsquo;s very idealistic. But I recall the early raves in Chicago in the <em>Reactor</em> days, at the roller rink on Clark Street and the go-cart track in Hixton, Wisconsin, and much like the early punk days or the early hip-hop days, there was a real sense of community there. If someone was having a bad time on some substance, others would take care of them, and if someone was pawing someone of the opposite sex, someone would step in. There was sex, there were drugs, there was wanton hedonism, but there was also a mutual respect. And it seemed to be that part and parcel of the &rsquo;90s American rave scene was, &ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to build a community along a certain set of values: no racism, no sexism, no homophobia, plenty of support for one another.&rdquo; That seems to be absent in the corporate festival scene.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> I don&rsquo;t disagree, but I would argue that it&rsquo;s broader: A very large crowd has a hard time behaving that way. In my travels, and going to clubs and smaller parties and after-parties, that core PLUR&mdash;peace, love, unity, respect&mdash;that sort of vibe is still there.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/spring%20awakening.jpg" style="height: 333px; width: 500px;" title="Promotional image for the Spring Awakening Festival hosted by React Presents/SFX at Soldier Field." /></div></div><p><strong>J.D.: But that&rsquo;s the underground, not the mainstream.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> Our culture&mdash;and I hate to sound like an old man&mdash;but I think our culture has gotten much more disconnected. Remember that the community you and I are talking about from the past predates widespread use of the Internet, and so physical companionship was social networking; that&rsquo;s what you had. And when we talk about Internet communities, what we&rsquo;re really talking about, if we want to use those words appropriately, is a shared interest group, and that&rsquo;s not really the same thing.</p><p><strong>J.D.: That&rsquo;s not a community, in the sense of people taking care of one another.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> I think there is a community on the scene in Berlin, and in the clubs there. As a matter of fact, I don&rsquo;t think that communities can be global; to some extent, they have to be local. There are regions and pockets that have a lot of this; Denver is a great example. When I got to Denver, I was blown away when I realized they never stopped raving, like old school-style raving. They never stopped, there was never a pause. And it was really because of those three guys who founded Beatport, because they also owned a club separately from Beatport, and are DJs. &nbsp;That vibe, that community vibe, was very much present there, and it was a benefit from being a smaller town.</p><p><strong>J.D.: But you said you don&rsquo;t think anything was lost by the dance scene getting as big as it&rsquo;s become.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> I&rsquo;ll say it slightly differently: A lot was lost as the market for the scene decayed, after the &rsquo;90s. But I wouldn&rsquo;t place a value judgment on that because what I see is, even though I see a bunch of bros, I&rsquo;m face to face constantly and in the crowd with kids who are having transformative moments in their lives. All the freakin&rsquo; time! And it might be different than the kinds of transformative moments I had, or that I would want for my kids now, but I see it all the time. So yeah, I still think it&rsquo;s worth it.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pills_1.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>J.D.: You said yesterday that there are things you said as a young man in <em>Reactor</em> that you wouldn&rsquo;t want to say to now, and I think you were talking in part about the celebration of the psychedelic experience. It <em>is</em> a big part of the EDM scene, except that now you have raves happening in Soldier Field or Union Park, sites owned the city, with hundreds of off-duty cops being paid extra for security. And that seems really weird to me! These big spaces also conflict with that Timothy Leary idea about controlling &ldquo;set and setting,&rdquo; to say nothing of these events now being taken public on Wall Street as SFX tries to dominate the live EDM market worldwide.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.: </strong>It <em>is</em> fascinating. You know, I know next to nothing about the live music business, other than going to a lot of shows, and I know little about Wall Street, because I&rsquo;ve never engaged at that level. But what you&rsquo;ve just described is a rational thing to wonder about. However, I would say EDM is a moment, it&rsquo;s a genre, and what we&rsquo;re really experiencing is the end of the guitar and the beginning of the laptop as the most important new musical creative medium. And the market and the business around that, and the way those artists are going to reach their fans, is transformative and really different.</p><p><strong>J.D.: Really? I look at Skrillex, and I just see the EDM version of Journey or Poison. I mean, it&rsquo;s the same thing: corporate crap. He&rsquo;s using different tools, but it&rsquo;s still a sort of tawdry cult of pandering entertainment and celebrity.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> That&rsquo;s entirely possible. What I meant was the business route to him reaching his audience, and he&rsquo;s a great example, is that he reached and cultivated his fan base in a pretty unique, non-major label sort of way.</p><p><strong>J.D.: Well, major labels basically don&rsquo;t exist anymore. </strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> That&rsquo;s another interesting thing: There&rsquo;s no one left to invest in dance music; I laugh every time people want to talk about how the music business is in great shape. The live business is in great shape, but the recorded music business is 20-percent of what it once was, and that&rsquo;s where everyone&rsquo;s profits, including the artist&rsquo;s, came from in the past. What I mean is that this new breed of artists are reaching fans and developing their businesses and their careers very differently than traditional acts.</p><p>You were asking about big companies coming in. Live Nation has been throwing big events like this for a long time. In Europe, Camel cigarettes used to sponsor the Love Parade. So in fact, there is nothing new about this. Heineken has been the sponsor of giant stadium events for 20 years in Amsterdam, throwing these amazing large-scale parties. So, people have been doing that.</p><p>One of the things that I think is interesting about young people, and this is different from our generation, they literally don&rsquo;t even know what the term &ldquo;selling out&rdquo; means. And if we can get Heineken to pay for someone to have a transformative epiphany, who absolutely might not have had access to that some other way, then I can live with that.</p><p>But I&rsquo;m agreeing with your premise. I look back all the time to the Grateful Dead; we all knew what was going on. I was at those shows at Soldier Field, and everyone knew what was going on then and there. Grateful Dead shows were all-ages if I recall&mdash;I know I saw kids there&mdash;and I never felt unsafe. But I would bet that there were more people on psychedelic drugs at that Dead show at Soldier Field than the React Presents guys could ever get in there. I think also something really significant that&rsquo;s changed is the drugs themselves. I&rsquo;m no expert, but I think there&rsquo;s a really interesting story to be told there. When you hear about large groups of people dying in one place, there&rsquo;s two reasons for it: environment&mdash;meaning no shade, no water&mdash;or they were all taking some bad, adulterated drug. There are pills now, and kids don&rsquo;t know what they&rsquo;re taking, and that&rsquo;s really scary. They&rsquo;re playing Russian roulette with a Colombian drug lord.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rave%20on.jpg" title="" /></div><p><strong>J.D.: I would say that another difference between the current festival rave scene and the Grateful Dead is that the Deadheads remained very much a community, at least until the last few years. Toward the end, there was encroaching bro-ism, and that morphed later into something like the Dave Matthews crowd. But for most of the long, strange trip with the Dead, if you were having a difficult time on your particular trip, there were people who were going to help you, and sexual assaults weren&rsquo;t tolerated, nor was racism or any prejudice, really. I don&rsquo;t know if Robert Sillerman and SFX are providing that kind of idealistic, nurturing environment.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> That is absolutely provided at all European festivals. In Europe there&rsquo;s an organization called <a href="http://www.dancesafe.org/">DanceSafe</a> that is available at lots of different festivals and clubs all over Europe, and they test your drugs for you on site. They scrape a little off, test it on site, and tell you what you&rsquo;re about to take in that pill. I&rsquo;m not suggesting that it&rsquo;s a good idea for the U.S., and I certainly can&rsquo;t imagine it ever happening...</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dancesafe.jpg" style="height: 350px; width: 350px;" title="The DanceSafe logo." /></div><p><strong>J.D.: Well, that doesn&rsquo;t square with taking your company public on Wall Street, advertising: &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll test your drugs before you swallow them!&rdquo;</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> I won&rsquo;t speak to it, but&mdash;I don&rsquo;t know if you&rsquo;ve looked up in the [SFX] filings&mdash;there&rsquo;s a doctor on the board of the company, and there are safety statements and safety disclosures. As a public company, they have to be really up front about where their risks are and what they&rsquo;re doing about it. And I will tell you, from my experience, if 100,000 people go into Soldier Field for an experience like this, those guys in New York are equipped to run it, safely and with care.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sfx%20logo.png" title="" /></div><p><strong>J.D.: That&rsquo;s one argument: With a global public corporation like SFX buying out the smaller promoters, like React Presents in Chicago, things are going to be safer and better-run. Whereas React was putting on shows at an unsafe venue, the Congress Theatre&hellip;</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.: </strong>And that&rsquo;s not going to happen anymore. And this is the one time I&rsquo;ll speak directly of the executive team at SFX. Beatport was the third company that SFX bought; the first two companies that they bought were ID&amp;T and Disco Donnie, and those were the greatest, most awesome, old-school, know-how-it&rsquo;s-done, keep-people-safe and throw-wild-parties people in the world. And from the very first meetings I went to, it was, &quot;How do we make sure people are safe and having a great time without being intrusive?&quot; and &quot;Can we give away water?&quot; which I believe is happening at almost every event in the world now where there is not a preexisting water contract. Water is free.</p><p>These aren&rsquo;t stupid people&mdash;which I know you&rsquo;re not suggesting&mdash;and they see these risks, too. But Bob [Sillerman] lived through rock &rsquo;n&rsquo; roll, and I think they see that as a challenge. And interestingly, almost all of the executives have kids in college who are massive EDM fans. All the main executives there, all their kids are at these events. They&rsquo;re not disconnected from it; their daughter is there!</p><p>But it <em>is</em> freakin&rsquo; weird. The whole thing is weird, but to me that&rsquo;s just a reflection of how freakin&rsquo; weird capitalism has gotten! Everything gets eaten and digested by bigger things, and I would say this isn&rsquo;t even a very good reflection of capitalism unchecked. Look at other things, like GM. But it <em>is</em> interesting. People invest in alcohol companies that have a risk associated with them, tobacco companies that have a risk associated with them. Dennis McNally, who used to be the publicist for the Grateful Dead, used to equate having these experiences with risky skiing: It&rsquo;s a big risk that adults can take.</p><p>For me personally&mdash;and I am willing to sound like a fuddy-duddy here&mdash;I don&rsquo;t believe these experiences are for anyone under 21. In the rave scene, it was all people of our age when we first got started, and then younger kids started coming in. I remember the first time I was dancing next to a speaker and I looked over and there was a 17-year-old, and I&rsquo;m 21, and that feel like it&rsquo;s a huge difference at that age. Even at 21, I looked over and thought, &ldquo;This is wrong. I can&rsquo;t do that with this young person.&rdquo; They can; more power to them. But that&rsquo;s when we all retreated to the clubs. That&rsquo;s when Shelter really took off, and all the events were happening in clubs then. That also, frankly, made it more of a community, and that&rsquo;s another interesting point worth bringing up. Young people are terrible at community at that age, or at being responsible. By definition, the brain is not responsible at 17. So, 25,000 17-year-olds is really different from 25,000 21-year-olds.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sillerman-billboard-cover-650px_0.jpg" style="height: 298px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>J.D.: What about Sillerman&rsquo;s track record? What he built with Clear Channel and what it did to radio in America, he certainly sped up its death&mdash;its blandification, its loss of soul. As someone who&rsquo;s loved this music his whole life, you don&rsquo;t see that looming for EDM?</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.: </strong>I don&rsquo;t see it looming with SFX in particular, or Bob in particular, mostly because, frankly, I think if Bob&rsquo;s sole focus was to make tons of money, he&rsquo;d be doing something else. There is a labor of love here. Bob really believes, and I hope he doesn&rsquo;t mind me saying this, that rock &rsquo;n&rsquo; roll changed the lives of African-Americans and women for the better and permanently. And obviously we&rsquo;re not done with those evolutions, but he believes that rock &rsquo;n&rsquo; roll helped forward those people, and he believes that young people will make the same of this, and I do, too.</p><p>At the other end of it, does everything become different when it becomes a big business? Yes. So go to a smaller club.</p><p><strong>J.D.: But geez, that <em>Billboard </em>cover of Sillerman holding the world in his hands in the form of a disco globe with a &ldquo;F---You&rdquo; kerchief in the pocket of his leather jacket... I mean, what is that about?</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.: </strong>He&rsquo;s his own man, that&rsquo;s all I can say. But there have been a lot of other people entering into this market with huge amounts of money as well. I think that if it&rsquo;s Bob or someone else, it kind of doesn&rsquo;t matter.</p><p><strong>J.D.: If it wasn&rsquo;t him and SFX, it&rsquo;d be somebody else?</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> I know that&rsquo;s such a cliché, and you can&rsquo;t saying that about everything in life, but the desire for electronic dance music and the market explosion was already happening. And before Sillerman was involved, there were people asking, &ldquo;What is the market size of this business?&rdquo; Because it happened sort of on the sidelines from traditional business, and it got huge. I think it was Electric Daisy Carnival that really highlighted that in North America. You know, money does what money does.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Adell%204_0.jpg" title="" /></div><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong> and </strong></em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/"><strong>Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-08/talking-matt-adell-part-two-110694 Talking with Matt Adell, Part One http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-08/talking-matt-adell-part-one-110693 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/adell%201.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 650px;" title="Matt Adell" /></div><p>Former Chicagoan Matt Adell has had as unique a career in the new music industry as anyone I know, progressing from electronic dance music super-fan to fanzine editor, record store clerk, indie-record label employee turned label head, Internet radio and streaming audio pioneer, and finally executive at a top online music store.</p><p>The names of some of those companies alone chart the history of and the seismic changes in the industry during the last quarter-century: Wax Trax, Napster, Amazon, MusicNow, Beatport, SFX Entertainment.</p><p>Not only is Adell singularly poised to share the insights he&rsquo;s gleaned while following his remarkable career path&mdash;part one of our conversation today&mdash;but he has a unique and deeply informed viewpoint on the current state of EDM, its massive popularity, and the changes wrought by corporatization (part two of our interview tomorrow).</p><p><strong>J.D.:</strong> <strong>So, Matt, my recollection of our first meeting is back in the early &rsquo;90s, when you and David Prince and Gary &ldquo;Sir Real&rdquo; </strong><strong>Kuzminski were working on a fine dance-music fanzine called <em>Reactor </em>and really </strong><strong>proselytizing about the joys of the nascent American rave movement, as well as your big plans for Chicago.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> Yes! I don&rsquo;t remember the conversation, but that sounds like me. The magazine was published out of my house. You know, the nice thing about <em>Reactor</em> is none of it&rsquo;s on the Internet.</p><p><strong>J.D.:</strong> <strong>That&rsquo;s kind of sad, though. I remember some extraordinary interviews: early Moby and the Aphex Twin&hellip;</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> Moby, Aphex Twin, Terrence McKenna, Tim Leary, a great conversation with the Stereo MCs about being Christian&hellip; there was just great stuff in there. &nbsp;You know, I lost my archive in a fire in Chicago. It was Christmas Eve of 2000. I went to the movies by myself&mdash;the <em>Star Trek</em> movie&mdash;got home, and I&rsquo;m like, &ldquo;Where the hell am I gonna park? There are fire engines everywhere!&rdquo; And then I realize it&rsquo;s my building that&rsquo;s on fire! Mercifully, my dog was fine, so the magazines I was happy to lose. But every now and then I see people reference <em>Reactor</em>, or with some of these rave archives, people have scanned the covers. But it might be just fine, frankly, that it&rsquo;s not fully available. It certainly is not [full of] the kinds of things that I would say to young people today.</p><p><strong>J.D.:</strong> <strong>How so?</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> As a young person, I think young people can use certain language when they&rsquo;re speaking to each other, and it&rsquo;s different from adults. And so there&rsquo;s lots of stuff that I did growing up that I wouldn&rsquo;t tell other people I recommend. I don&rsquo;t have any regrets, but it doesn&rsquo;t mean I tell people things are a good idea.</p><p><strong>J.D.:</strong> <strong>Well, like I said, you guys were proselytizers&mdash;your generation&rsquo;s version of Tim Leary or Ken Kesey.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> Yeah, no s---!</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/96evenfurthur.jpeg" style="height: 470px; width: 300px;" title="Flier for one of the largest raves in the '90s run by some of the Reactor magazine folks, though Adell had no part in this one." /></div></div><p><strong>J.D.:</strong> <strong>So what was the trajectory? How did you go from local electronic dance enthusiast into building a very successful career?</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> Before I started my label, Organico, I was at Wax Trax Records, working for Jim Nash. I had gotten into Chicago dance music when I was working at a record store in San Francisco in the &rsquo;80s; I was out there for a bit going to school. Then I moved back to Chicago.</p><p>I started my label Organico after Wax Trax. It was a total labor of love, and to this day I&rsquo;m incredibly proud of it, especially the Derrick Carter record as Sound Patrol. And we put out stuff by Dub-tribe Sound System from San Francisco, and a great local act with Gary Sir Real in it called Squishy...</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/carter%20ep.jpg" style="height: 253px; width: 350px;" title="Derrick Carter Sound Patrol EP on Organico." /></div><p><strong>J.D.: I remember all of those&mdash;great records, one and all! Were they successful commercially?</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> It was a struggle, you know? These were the days when most of your revenue was in vinyl. You had to manufacture it, which was expensive, and you had to ship it, and in those days, independent record sales were all effectively consignment. So the label didn&rsquo;t get paid for, usually, at best, 180 days after shipping the record. Sometimes, if you were waiting for a check, you might get a box of records back instead, if the distributor had over-ordered. It was a nightmarish cash-flow business. I really admire Dan Koretzky [Drag City] and Bettina [Richards, Thrill Jockey] and what they did with their independent labels at the same time.</p><p><strong>J.D.: When did TVT come into the picture?</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.: </strong>TVT bought Wax Trax before I left Wax Trax. That was my time with TVT. I signed the KLF to Wax Trax, which was a <em>Billboard</em> No. 1 dance record, and still a record I love very much. You know, I think arguably you could say the Beatles, in their relatively short recording career, did everything that rock &rsquo;n&rsquo; roll had to offer. And KLF has changed dance music still to this day. I&rsquo;m not equating them with the Beatles, other than having, in a very short career, defined the entire growth curve of a genre. As a matter of fact, the KLF, they called their music &ldquo;stadium house,&rdquo; which at the time was a joke. But when you listen to their records, every single KLF record has a huge stadium-sized crowd sound in it, so it sounds like you&rsquo;re in a stadium. It sounds like you&rsquo;re at a contemporary festival.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/12in_KLF_chill-A.jpg" style="width: 350px; height: 350px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>J.D.: The group was prescient in a lot of ways, you&rsquo;re absolutely right. </strong></p><p><strong>M.A.: </strong>So I worked on that, and with Thrill Kill Kult, which I was incredibly proud of. Meanwhile, with my label, I worked on it for fits and starts as I could afford it for a number of years, and eventually the Internet happened. And I was lucky enough to be invited by a buddy of mine to join a company called RadioWave.com, which was Motorola-funded; it basically was Motorola investing in an incredibly nascent Internet radio station. RadioWave was one of the first big national Internet radio networks; we worked with terrestrial radio stations and companies like the Loop and Clear Channel, getting their signals online and replacing the ads with different ad inventory, and then we built the first really large network of programs for an Internet radio station. I built branded channels for Blue Note, the Smashing Pumpkins, and Vans Warped Tour, and there was a time when we were several of the Top 10 genre stations on the Internet, very early on. It was a really exciting time.</p><p><strong>J.D.: The company was ahead of its time.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.: </strong>Really. We spent a lot of time pitching things that didn&rsquo;t go anywhere, and eventually Motorola shut it down, shortly after 9/11, if I recall.&nbsp; And then I was mercifully unemployed very briefly, until I went to work for a company in Chicago called MusicNow. Before Spotify, it was the first nationally deployed and licensed streaming and on-demand digital music service. And I fell in love&mdash;that&rsquo;s when I really, really fell in love with music on the Internet. Because what I enjoyed about record stores and what I enjoyed about DJing was sharing music with people, and getting the feedback of whether they loved it, instantly. And you can do that online through digital music services. You can learn instantly, and in great detail, if people like what they&rsquo;re consuming.</p><p>I remember the first time I saw a report showing me on our radio stations the most common songs people were skipping; my head exploded! It was so fascinating. If a song was a big hit, we were programming it a lot, but nobody wanted to hear it! I love that about the Internet. Because, you know, my personal taste is not a massive factor in my pleasure in helping other people find music they&rsquo;re gonna love. If it&rsquo;s not hate speech, and people love the record, then I&rsquo;m gold. Other people have much more important things in their lives to worry about than who the next cool band is; they&rsquo;ve got kids to take to soccer practice. I learned that working for Rick Addy at the Record Exchange in Evanston, and that stayed with me my whole career. And besides, what I like is f---ing weird!</p><p>Anyway, I worked at MusicNow for a while, and really dug in on the product side there. It grew from not just being a music programming creative thing, but also a user experience for digital music services at that time. That&rsquo;s where I got to know developers and started to understand how things work. And to be perfectly honest, digital music services haven&rsquo;t changed at all since then. They&rsquo;re all a giant pile of music, with a search box, a display area, and some sort of algorithmic listening. They&rsquo;re all the same&mdash;identical.</p><p><strong>J.D. We haven&rsquo;t seen the next generation, have we?</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> Well, what really changed is that music subscriptions services did not matter until the Smartphone was predominant. That&rsquo;s why MusicNow was too early, and even why the legal Napster was too early, because the value to the consumer wasn&rsquo;t obvious until it was on your phone. And so with Spotify, their service is basically the same as everyone else&rsquo;s, but their timing, with the arrival of Smartphone culture, was impeccable.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Napster.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>J.D.: When did you go to Napster?</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> After MusicNow in Chicago, I moved to Seattle to work at Amazon. When I was there, Amazon was interestingly organized; the team I was on had nothing to do with the music group. About six months into my time at Amazon, I got an offer I couldn&rsquo;t refuse: Come be the vice president of the music group at Napster, which meant all the licensing, all the programming, everything with music. I moved to L.A. to take that job and it was a blast.</p><p>It was a phenomenal experience, but it&rsquo;s a painful struggle to have the brand be both a help and a hindrance, which was the case at Napster. It was just like Spotify, the same technological techniques, the same value proposition for consumers, but it had been branded earlier [as &ldquo;illegal downloading&rdquo;]. Still, whatever it was named, it was too early, because Smartphones won.</p><p>While I was at Napster, we sold the company to Best Buy, which was a great exit for the folks who had been nurturing it. And shortly thereafter, I started thinking, &ldquo;What am I going to do next?&rdquo; I got a call from a headhunter one day, and the headhunter says, &ldquo;Would you ever consider working in Denver?&rdquo; And I said, &ldquo;Only if I could work at Beatport.&rdquo; And 90 days later, I am the COO of Beatport. That&rsquo;s really how that happened! Beatport was looking for more experienced executives to help the founders out, and I was really the only person I know of that they met with my experience who had a hardcore dance music background.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/beatport_logobox_large_blu.jpg" style="height: 233px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>J.D.: For people who don&rsquo;t know, explain what <a href="http://www.beatport.com/">Beatport</a> was and is.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> Beatport is the world&rsquo;s largest online record store for DJs. Some do it professionally, but I would say many of them to do it aspirationally. Like how many more people buy basketballs to play in their driveway than to play on the court. But they are all acting like DJs with the music. That&rsquo;s really a key differentiator: They&rsquo;re gonna use the music as a root element of creating something new.</p><p>It was already the most important brand in dance music when I arrived, it&rsquo;s just that dance music was not having its moment yet. But I do believe that in the time I was there we helped grow the dance music market globally&mdash;helped it reach a more mainstream or larger audience, I would say.&nbsp; And in my time there, we also doubled the size of the company.</p><p>What we did was really transform Beatport into a community hub. What we saw was that fans wanted to be where the DJs were, so they were coming to the record store and using the record store as a music-discovery engine. They knew, for instance, if they looked at the Top 10 charts, that was a reflection of what the most important DJs in the world were buying. So what we began doing then was a Beatport dance music news blog, remix contests, big social activity, live DJ broadcasts, so that we really became the connecting tissue between the DJ and the fan. For that fan who really wants what I would call the number-one experience of feeling most closely linked to their favorite artists&mdash;the super-fans, if you will&mdash;that&rsquo;s where they all comingled, and that grew Beatport&rsquo;s audience substantially.</p><p>By the time I became the CEO, which was about a year after I started, the directive from the board was to find a buyer. And I spent a lot of my time building a company and a process to make that happen. The company had already taken venture capital money a few years before I got there, so by the time I got there, it was very close to time for any venture capitalist to say, &quot;Hey, where&rsquo;s my money?&quot;</p><p><strong>J.D.: So it wasn&rsquo;t a surprise to you that Beatport was sold to SFX; it was part of your marching orders.</strong></p><p><strong>M.A.:</strong> Beatport had a very corporate board that I worked for, that I did not vote on, so Beatport was sold by the people who owned it. I&rsquo;m extremely proud of the results I achieved with them.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Adell%204.jpg" style="height: 237px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p><strong><em>Tomorrow: Matt Adell on the current state of EDM.</em></strong></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong>Facebook</strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong> and </strong></em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/"><strong>Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-08/talking-matt-adell-part-one-110693 Enough with the ‘Footloose’/EDM nonsense http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-08/enough-%E2%80%98footloose%E2%80%99edm-nonsense-110684 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/EDM-electronicdancemusic.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><p>As first reported by <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140815/logan-square/edm-banned-from-congress-theater-for-current-future-owners">Darryl Holliday at DNAinfo.com</a>&mdash;and subsequently repeated by every other blog in town, most of which made superficial comparisons to the 1984 film <em>Footloose</em>&mdash;troubled Congress Theater owner Erineo &ldquo;Eddie&rdquo; Carranza has signed a city-crafted plan of operation for the venue that prohibits him or any future owner from hosting the sort of electronic dance music concerts that got the theater in hot water in the first place.</p><p>The 4,500-capacity, 88-year-old former movie palace in Logan Square lost its liquor license in May 2013, and that, coupled with numerous and serious building code violations and some hair-raising police reports, has kept it shuttered ever since.</p><p>Buried in the new, six-page plan of operation signed by Carranza and Chicago liquor commissioner Gregory Steadman is the stipulation that &ldquo;the licensee shall not allow any EDM shows/events at the premises.&rdquo; The plan adds that &ldquo;the sale of the business to other persons&hellip; does not void the conditions [and] any and all potential new owners of the licensed entity shall be subject to the same conditions.&rdquo;</p><p>As Holliday noted, the document includes a handy but pretty much clueless definition of EDM as &ldquo;any performance by a DJ or multiple DJs&hellip; incorporating electronic beats or prerecorded music,&rdquo; if the performers do not sing or play an instrument. Hence the snickering from hipsters and EDM fans.</p><p>Yet while Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1<sup>st</sup>) initiated proceedings against the Congress in 2012 because of a long list of complaints from neighbors, he is the least tone-deaf member of the City Council, and possibly its biggest fan of underground music. He called the plan of operation &ldquo;a blunt instrument&rdquo; and defended EDM as a genre while maintaining that the long list of problems at the Congress were not the fault of the music but of venue owner Carranza, who partnered with promoters React Presents to hold some of the most problematic shows.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-02/sfx-entertainment-buys-react-presents-109765">React since has been purchased by the giant global EDM corporation SFX Entertainment</a>, and it continues to throw massive dance concerts in Chicago at, among other venues, the city-owned Soldier Field and Union Park. So it&rsquo;s hardly as if Chicago is reverting to the draconian days of the anti-rave ordinance in the &rsquo;90s, much less turning into that small town in Oklahoma that tried to ban rock &rsquo;n&rsquo; roll and dancing in <em>Footlose</em>.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/footloose.jpg" title="" /></div><p><strong><em>So what really is going on here?</em></strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-01/sale-congress-theater-pending-109543">As this blog first reported in January</a>, Carranza is trying to sell the Congress to developer Michael Moyer, best known for restoring to its full 1920s glory the Loop showplace now known as the Cadillac Palace Theatre, and a lynchpin of Broadway in Chicago. But a troublesome lawsuit by React/SFX is blocking that sale and taking its time winding through the courts.</p><p>React/SFX and local rock promoters Jam Productions both claim to have the right of first refusal to buy the theater based on earlier agreements predating the one Carranza made with Moyer. However, sources say Jam is willing to step away, and that it&rsquo;s SFX that has been blocking the sale and slowing things down.</p><p>Moyer did not respond to a question on Wednesday about the status of the lawsuit. But the developer told this blog in June that he remains optimistic, adding: &ldquo;I am under contract and still working toward closing, [but] the litigation thing is arduous.&rdquo;</p><p>Said a city source close to the situation: &ldquo;What this really is about is convincing [React/SFX] to get out of the way and accept a settlement in its lawsuit so that this sale [to Moyer] can go through and the theater can be restored for the benefit of the neighborhood and everyone in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;When that happens, the city will reassess any act, including EDM performers, being able to perform there, because the theater finally is going to be run the right way. That&rsquo;s all that the neighbors or anyone else has ever wanted.&rdquo;</p><p>So, dance fans, fear not: There&rsquo;s no need to call Kevin Bacon to save the day for EDM in Chicago just yet.</p><p><strong><u>Here are some of the key reports in this blog&rsquo;s coverage of the Congress Theater:</u></strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-06/whither-chicago%E2%80%99s-historic-theaters-110273">June 3: Whither Chicago&rsquo;s historic theaters?</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-01/sale-congress-theater-pending-109543">Jan. 19: Sale of Congress Theater pending</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-08/jam-productions-block-rival-promoters-congress-theater-108505">Aug. 23, 2013: Jam Productions Blocks Rival Promoters at the Congress Theater</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-05/congress-theater-liquor-license-revoked-107360">May 24, 2013: Congress Theater liquor license revoked</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-05/congress-theater-safe-or-not-106931">May 1, 2013: Is the Congress Theater safe or not?</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-04/city-wants-congress-theater-shut-down-immediately-106698">April 17, 2013: City wants the Congress shut down immediately</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-01/congress-theater-liquor-hearings-begin-undercover-cops-testimony-104950">Jan. 16, 2013: Congress Theater liquor hearings begin with undercover cop&rsquo;s testimony</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-11/congress-theater-defaults-4-million-loan-104101">Nov. 29, 2012: Congress Theater defaults on $4 million loan</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-11/congress-theaters-new-security-chief-ex-cop-troubled-past-103611">Nov. 2, 2012: Congress Theater&rsquo;s new security chief: An ex-cop with a troubled past</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-10/congress-theater-police-calls-rank-soldier-field-united-center-103569">Oct. 31, 2012: Congress Theater police calls rank with Soldier Field, United Center</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-09/congress-theater-splits-development-partner-102451">Sept. 16, 2012: Congress Theater splits with development partner</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-25/congress-theater-responds-complaints-97597">March 25, 2012: Congress Theater responds to complaints</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-22/city-congress-theater-clean-your-act-97549">March 22, 2012: City to Congress Theater: Clean up your act!</a></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong> and </strong></em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/"><strong>Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-08/enough-%E2%80%98footloose%E2%80%99edm-nonsense-110684