On the other hand, here’s how you DO get me to Like yr Band Page!

Sarchasm-Help_I_Need_An_AdultI felt a little bad posting this little screed the other day about bands asking people to “Like” their FB pages before hearing their music. Today I have a happy footnote to that!  A young band sent me a nice email asking if we could put them on a show sometime, with a link to their bandcamp page. So I popped over and pressed play, and it is freakin’ GREAT! So I’m a fan now. So, I went over to their FB page and clicked “Like” and added them to the Uptones’ likes as well. And now I’m posting it here. Because it really rocks my ass, OK? Not because I’m being nice. This is firmly in the East Bay punk / ska / power-pop tradition, and it really stands on its own merit. The lyrics are sincere and smart and passionate, the combo playing is tight and dynamic, the guitar playing and vocals are lovely and powerful, the production is marvelous and look. Here’s the thing. I pressed play on song 1, and it kept my riveted attention all the way to the end, and kinda made my morning. I like it because these kids put in WORK and turned in a real gem of an album, for which I have no problem sharing my “Like” with the world. Let’s see, will bandcamp let me embed this whole thing, along with Buy and Share links? Let’s see.. Yes! Like! Heh.. Where’s the “Love” button? Listen to this:

How Not To Get Me To “Like” Your Band Page!

not_likeSigh. Invited to “Like” a band on FB. I go to their page. Band looks cool. I click Play and it prompts me to Like before I can hear ’em. Not doing it!

I’ve been sharing some of my bands’ music for free on the Internet since 1998. If someone likes us, great! But I’m not going to ask for a “Like” unless you actually like us and want to help spread the word about us. Gawd. That said, you can hear The Uptones at our FB page, heck yeah we’d appreciate your Liking! Love it even more if you like it enough to want to buy our music at iTunes or put it on a playlist in Spotify or play the Uptones channel in Pandora. We get a little revenue from that and it really means a lot to us. Encourages us to release more music, I mean we have a way to distribute our music world wide without having to invest in CD’s or deal with storage and shipping. It’s potentially a great new world emerging for recording artists as the subscription sites and youtube etc. all figure out how to pay the artists and copyright owners in this era of nearly universal access to recorded music.

But the work has to stand on its own merit! If you’re going to compete with a bazillion other records, compete! Make the best record you can, and then let people hear it somehow. I know it’s not easy to choose the best ways to get your work noticed in today’s crazy playing field, but the model of using a “Like” as currency before even hearing the work, is just kukoo. I might just “Like” the band that invited me, then listen to their stuff, but then I’ll be in the awkward position of having to un-Like them if I didn’t dig their music. Or leave the “Like” standing, thus recommending something I’m not down with, and diminishing the value of my real recommendations. I don’t Like either option.

Thus endeth the rant.

Your comments and rants and musical recommendations are always invited.

UPDATE, Jan 30!-> Here’s is how you DO get me to Like your Band Page!

Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola Pucker and Get Not Behind

One of the best album titles in recent memory is Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola’s “Not Getting Behind Is The New Getting Ahead.” It’s also a hugely entertaining work of virtuosity from two hard working and dedicated musicians. I had the pleasure of seeing this amazing duo in concert at The Independent SF in December. Touring the west coast on the heels of their latest record, “Pucker,” they played two full sets of instrumental music which were as musically astonishing as they were joyous and fun. No opening act, packed house, and these guys held the room from beginning to end. Between sets and after the encore, who manned the merch table? Charlie and Scott. They greeted everyone kindly, and when we spoke with Charlie before the show he gave us each our own Pucker Lip Balm. Here is proof:

pucker-libbalm

Charlie Hunter and I have been friends since we were kids learning guitar, listening to records and starting our first bands. Among his many endearing traits was this thing where he would laugh while playing – just something would strike him about what he heard or discovered, and it would crack him up and he would keep playing. I’ve often said that if you’re not having fun playing music, you’re doing it wrong. Let’s just say Charlie does it right. Same with his longtime drummer and collaborator Scott Amendola, whose beautiful original compositions are core pieces in the duo’s repertoire. The joy that comes off the stage from these guys is contagious, and when I’d look around the crowd, I found I was not the only one there with a smile bigger than my face. Charlie still cracks himself up while he’s playing. We left this concert feeling happy and uplifted. I don’t know what more you can ask for in a show.

Here’s a tune from “Not Getting Behind Is The New Getting Ahead” called Blind Arthur:

You can hear more, order their vinyl albums, and learn about their show dates and other projects at charliehunter.com and scottamendola.com.

Here’s a lo-fi cell phone shot of the hi-fi proceedings:

charley-hunter-scott-amendola

Goats With Your Coffee

I was just reminded of a blog called OneGoodMove that I used to visit regularly. Run by a smart and opinionated fellow by the name of Norm and his occasional smart and opinionated guest bloggers, OneGoodMove was one of the first blogs I discovered when “blogging” was a new word. Pleased to find that Norm still does his recurring “Links With Your Coffee” bit, in which he simply posts a link or five that he finds interesting and worthy of sharing that day, presumably with coffee.

Having had my coffee I have decided to borrow Norm’s headline as a tribute for helping inspire me to run my own wee blog. Without further ado, here’s some reads I enjoyed this morning, all for different reasons.

Melvins’ Buzz Osborne picks songs by “bands that were good, but blew it”

Anatomy Of A Hit Job: Expert Featured On 60 Minutes Exposes How Show Knowingly Ignored Facts On Clean Energy

The Goatening: Conservative Facebook page is outraged, suddenly inundated with awesome goats

Satanic Temple unveils 7-foot goat-headed Baphomet statue for Oklahoma Capitol

And most importantly, here are some goats bouncing.

goats

Elvin Bishop Testifies In Joel Selvin’s Basement Record Library

Just really diggin’ this episode of Selvin On The City tonight. Elvin Bishop is such a brilliant guitar player, and his comments in this interview are informative and fun. The tracks are all just burnin’.
Speak, Red Dog, speak!

Jesse Michaels, Renaissance Punk

Here’s a new site about Jesse Michaels, featuring his music, art, and writing.

Michaels is most well known for his songs and life-altering lyrics, first introduced by Operation Ivy, and later by Common Rider and several other bands he has fronted. Op Ivy’s short but blazing run in the late 80’s was quite a thing to witness, and I am glad to have been at a few of their early shows. Heh.. People often talk about liking a band’s “early stuff” best, often for good reason. In the case of Op Ivy, ALL of their songs are their “early stuff!” If there was ever a band that finished their work and got the fk out, it was them. Jesse’s bandmates Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman later formed Rancid and became one of the top acts in punk, while Operation Ivy’s only records – the “Hectic” EP and “Energy” LP – spread by word of mouth, to eventually reach millions of fans all over the world. It’s an unusual story, driven by the power of the message in the music and the songs.

Whispering-Bodies-FrontWhat has been a bit more of a secret until recently, is that Jesse Michaels’ unique voice is as strong and clear in his fine art, and hilarious fiction, as it is in his songs. Check out the site, and put Whispering Bodies – A Roy Belkin Disaster (Michaels’ first published novel) on your reading list. You might die laughing, but it’ll be a happy death. The book is really damn funny, and as original as you would expect. Hopefully it’s the first of many Roy Belkin disasters.

As a final note, if you are among the many who have burning questions about the true essence of punk rock, the real meaning of life, and proper mosh pit etiquette, you will find answers to all of that and more in this short, informative video, by Mr. Michaels himself.

Stiff Richards by Stiff Richards

This was recorded in about 3 days at Sharkbite in Oakland. One of the standout tracks for me is “Fell In And Out Of Art” by Paul Jackson. Album Typical of Paul’s compositions, the individual parts don’t make complete sense when played solo, but when they’re all played together, they create a moving tapestry of chords and melody and mayhem. Check it out:

It was so fun playing guitar on this song and the whole album. I sang lead on a few tracks as well, including our cover of “My Girlfriend Is A Rock.”

stiff-richards-album-300px

Available in all the digital places.

From Russia With Love: English Translations of Soviet Era Songs, by Andrei Marcon

Before Moscow native Andrei Marcon emigrated to California as a young man in the 80’s, he acquired some cassette tapes of Russian underground music, which were passed around person to person against the wishes of the Soviet authorities. He has since taken it upon himself to translate into English some of these songs which he loved as a kid. They were “hits” of a kind, in the Soviet era, in that many people heard and loved these songs, and shared and sang them. But it was all on the down low. Thing is, if you got caught distributing music, you could find yourself in serious trouble. You could be arrested, charged, convicted and even sent off to “the camps” for “unlawful commercial activity and/or private entrepreneurship!” Activities like building amps, hiring a sound engineer for a recording, organizing shows – anything where money changed hands – including duplicating and distributing cassettes, were all verboten.

Andrei Marcon Photo by John Seabury
Andrei Marcon – Photo by John Seabury

But music, being the universal language, has a way of getting around. Andrei related to me that in fact, western popular music was also passed around surreptitiously in this way. 5th generation cassettes of everything you can think of, found their way to the hungry ears of Russian music fans and musicians. I had heard about this back then. But what I didn’t know, is that there were also homegrown music stars in the Soviet Union, somehow recording and releasing their material to the public. Songs that connected with people were shared widely.

In that setting, there were some notable songwriters and bands, none of whom I had heard about until Mr. Marcon generously shared this information with me a few years ago. At that time, he sang and played for me a few translations he was working on, faithfully rendering these lost gems from his native tongue in his 2nd language, English. Since then, he has recorded and posted some of these versions on youtube. The results are brilliant, and in fact, if I didn’t know these were translations, I’d easily assume they were written in English.

Without further ado I’d like to share with you a few of these songs, performed solo by Andrei Marcon, starting with “The Fiddler” by Konstantin Nikolsky. You can also find these vids and more at Andrei’s youtube channel.

This next one, “Who Is To Blame” is originally by Alexei Romanov of Voskreseniye, a famous Russian band which started in the 70’s and remains active today.

And here finally is Voskresenye’s 1979 Russian undeground hit “I Have…”.

Hope you enjoy! Please share if you like, and who knows, maybe these versions will also be covered! Music traveling beyond borders and time, as it has always done.

Today’s Lesson: Fun Playing Is Good Playing!

Jeff_BeckPart of what makes a good musician great, is just how much fun they have. “Fun” can mean the fun of playing joyous music, sad music, funny music – absolutely anything in the vast range of human emotion.

I’ve always found Jeff Beck to be one of those players who has so damn much fun it’s contagious, whether you’re in the room watching, playing in his band, or listening to a recording.

Check out:

And all of Jeff Beck’s records, really. They just get better over time.

FASHION SLAVES Went Insane with WILD ASS and The RAVEUPS

Had a great time at Starry Plough on Saturday night, here’s my recollections and raves.

WILD ASS!

wild-ass-300pxI admit I was predisposed to liking WILD ASS before seeing them, because they are called WILD ASS. But they exceeded my wildest ass expectations. Fronted by the formidable young Carla Selvin – resplendent in black satin bell bottoms, platform heels and a shiny red microphone – this sexy sextet delivered a choice set of 70’s rock covers to feather your hair to. From their scorching opener with Heart‘s “Barracuda” thru their epic closer, “Free Ride,” their show was seamless, tight, and relentlessly fun. Their lead guitarist, Jesse Cobb, is one of the best young 6-string rockers I’ve seen in a while. Dude can seriously play a Strat, and like the rest of the band, he’s also really fun to watch. Bassist Theresa Sawi (AKA Girl Named T) is always great onstage in her various acts, and she was right at home in this material. I love the hard rock / pop tunes and style from that era, and this crew owns it hard. Look for ’em!  Their version of Van Halen’s “Dance The Night Away” was amazeballs.

The RAVEUPS!

RaveUps

Man, you can’t find a heavier bunch of bay area rocker vets delivering 60’s covers with such precision and warmth. The guys in The RaveUps have all played over the years as members of Santana, The Rubinoos, Psycotic Pineapple, Dick Bright’s SRO, and too many other local champs to list. Turns out Chris Solberg – bass player extraordinaire, music educator and stalwart keeper of the rock flame – is also a superb guitar player. Known him all these years as a bassist, but Saturday night he was rippin’ some gorgeous guitar work, while Kit Newkirk held it down heavy on a vintage 1964 Epiphone Rivoli bass. Dave Seabury fronted it all beautifully on lead vocals while putting the cherry on top of their sound with a double tambourine attack. On drums was the magnificent Donn Spindt. What can you say about Donn? Drummers like that do NOT grow on trees! He was a great drummer as a young star in The Rubinoos, and now he’s a seasoned vet, doing EVERY little rock drumming thing just so right. He’s the kind of drummer singers dream of singing over, and bass players try to kidnap. It was such a joy to hear him play again. Needless to say these guys completely rocked the house. You’ll have another chance to catch them, when they play with The UPTONES at Ashkenaz, this Friday!

The FASHION SLAVES!

This was a fun night for The Fashion Slaves. Our lead singer and frontwoman Emily Jayne had just escaped from the asylum, so when she showed up at the gig, we had to help her out of her strait jacket. I have no idea how she even made it to the venue, and when we tried to ask her she yelled “JUST SHUT UP AND ROCK!” and we complied.  Eric Knight and Pete D’Amato laid into a bass n’ drums groove, while Emily greeted the audience, and we swelled into the only reasonable opener we could do under the circumstances, “Psychotic Reaction.” Then we launched into “Astral Plane,” “Your Toy”  and “Suffer For Fashion,” from our new EP, appropriately titled “Go Insane.” “Suffer For Fashion” was composed by Emily, with help from Payam Imani, the aforementioned Theresa, and myself.  It’s the song that inspired the creation of the band, and gave us our name. Miraculously, at the end of the night I still had my lab coat and guitar, and somehow, no one ended up back in the looneybin this time. You can hear these tunes on our EP, available on iTunes and other mp3 stores, or you can get a limited edition CD directly from the band.

Thanks Starry Plough Audience!!

The audience deserves the biggest applause, they were great and they stayed the whole night. I rarely see a club fill early and stay late thru three bands these days, but wonders never cease. The Starry Plough is a great venue, especially now with their Meyer Sound system and Michele Kappell-Stone‘s exemplary booking instincts. Great folks, great music. What more ya want?

Left at 1:00 AM, and I swear I saw Nurse Ratchet lurking just across the street. Just paranoid, I guess.