Final project pitch

I want take a look at how local, unsigned, artists in Allston/Boston promote their music through social media and music discovery platforms, for my final project. It will be more of a feature, with no time-pressing hook. Nonetheless, several of the local bands I have found and listen to have self-released their music on music discovery platforms such as bandcamp. And although their music is readily accessible, so is hundred of artists’ music so I am intrigued to learn about differentiating factors.

The focus of the story will be a feature on two or three bands, for the written part of my final. I will reach out to artists, as well as older music journalists who have been active in Boston’s music scene for years to hear their perspective about how different promotional methods have changed as well as stayed the same. I am starting a list of people to contact that may be helpful.

For the photo story I want it to be a profile sort-of photo story on one local band in action over a week or so. It may be a stretch, but I think I can convince a band to let me hang out at a rehearsal and shoot some pictures then go to a concert and shoot some more pictures and also interview them about their music. This would enable me to use them as a source for my main feature, but also create a sidebar photo story.

For the video component I want to record interviews to accompany the main feature in a similar way as an intersection of these two examples can be incorporated to a longer text story: subtle, but informational to the story.

The biggest obstacles I can foresee in my reporting is talking to sufficient people that can provide diverse coverage of angles so that one band’s practices don’t speak for all. However, as soon as I sharpen out my angle I will start interviewing people.

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Hassle Fest 8 starts tomorrow

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Hassle Fest 8—the eighth installment of Brain Arts and Boston Hassle’s music and art showcase—will kick off Friday night at Brighton Music Hall with more than 30 scheduled acts over the two-day long fest.

Local Allston groovers Sadha will play the fest for the first time Saturday afternoon. Guitarist Jacob Schwartz said he is excited to be playing, being that he has grown a part of the Boston Hassle community ever since he volunteered tabling and doing sound for Boston Hassle shows a couple of years ago, before he went to college. Schwartz is a freshman studying musicology and music theory at Hampshire College.

“It just feels really nice [to get to play], we are all just a big family and I guess if you put in effort you get nice shit out of it,” he said. “Boston Hassle has put me in touch with a music scene that contains music and art that I care about. I have an incentive to play shows.”

The fest also includes an THRASH LAND—an art environment focused with a theme of recycled items displayed through the work of local artists.

Jilian Medford, singer of Ian Sweet, said that she is looking forward to playing an eclectic collection of songs during the band’s set Friday night.

“Really nice for us to be debuting songs from the new album to people who haven’t heard them live, we play a couple old ones, especially when we are in Boston,” she said. “I wanna dig up some olds […]  just for the sake of messing it up or seeing if it works out. I want it to be a fun set, for sure, it always is, but whenever we play this new record it can be emotional for me so it can be nice to play some of the older ones.”

Ian Sweet is originally is from Boston—Medford met the other bandmates when she moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music—but moved to Los Angeles for a couple of months.

“I am excited to be back in Boston and with all of our friends,” she said.

The Monsieurs have been rocking Boston and Allston for years now, but guitarist Hilken Mancini said she hasn’t lost appreciation for the local scene and events such as Hassle Fest. The Monsieurs will play this year’s installment of the two-day festival on Friday night.

“I am just glad that this continues to happen and I feel lucky to be a part of it as I get older, and as a woman,” she said. “There is so much going on and there is so much support  […] it is good to know that people still give a shit about rock and roll.”     

Tickets are $25 at the door. Music starts at 6 p.m. on Friday and 3 p.m. on Saturday. Tentative set times can be browsed here.

Photo Courtesy DigiBoston, Creative Commons

Northeastern students find new places to study

I went across different locations around Northeastern’s campus at night during midterm week in a search to learn about where students study (aside from Snell Library) and why.

The Curry Student Center, Shillman Hall and Marino Center where the three main buildings which I focused on in my video reporting. Each one had it’s difficulties in regards to my assignment. For example, Shillman Hall’s doors are locked after a certain hour so when I would try to get in at night I had to either knock on the window and ask someone to let me in, or wait for somebody to come out.

I had fun getting to hear different perspectives about where students study and why—specifically because I don’t study at any of these locations, but have learned through friends that they are common alternatives to the library.

When I went to library to shoot some video each floor had an ample amount of students considering the time I focused my shooting (past 9 and 10 p.m.).

Rock and roll isn’t dead, Roger Daltrey

“The sadness for me is that rock has reached a dead end […] the only people saying things that matter are the rappers and most pop is meaningless and forgettable.”

Guess who. Kanye West? Drake?  

Nope, it was Roger Daltrey, frontman of The Who, that said rock is dead in a recent interview with The Times magazine.

Now, I am not going to say that Daltrey doesn’t know what he is talking about, he has been around. But saying rock and roll is dead AND that rappers are “the only people saying things that matter” is absurd—ironically, the type of behavior that you would expect from a rockstar.  

I have had the discussion of “is rock dead?” with too many friends over the years, at this point. And I stand by, and will continue to stand by, the notion that it is not. “Name a current day rockstar?” is the most common follow up question. Well for starters, what constitutes a rockstar? Are rock heroes such as Keith Richards, Joe Perry, Tom Petty, Nikki Sixx, Axl Rose, Morrissey, Liam and Noel Gallagher, Eddie Vedder (and so on and so forth) irrelevant because they are old now? What do you expect from a rockstar? On top of that, the discussion is about rock and roll, the genre, not the entities that fulfill badassness.

There is a plethora of bands that are rock and roll—What is Jack White doing? What are the Strokes doing? What is Radiohead doing? What is Tame Impala doing? What are the Alabama Shakes doing?

Peep:

Sure these bands don’t all sound exactly the same nor fill a heavy-first template of sound, but they are modern day rock. I would hate if every band in the last 40 or 50 years sounded exactly the same as what came before them. Even back, 40 or 50 years, not every “rock” band sounded the same; they sounded similar. Led Zeppelin was not the Who the same way Pearl Jam wasn’t Guns n’ Roses the same way the Strokes aren’t Tame Impala. The new bands were influenced by older artists. For example glance The Last Shadow Puppets and Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner’s “What I’m Listening To” playlist on Spotify—the first track on the playlist is Leonard Cohen’s “Is This What You Wanted?” which The Last Shadow Puppets recently covered in their own way.

The aforementioned bands prove rock isn’t dead because they took a sound that they liked and then molded it into something new, still preserving elements that suit the rock genre, like distorted guitars and powerful vocals. Kind of familiar how the Beatles started out with the music that influenced them into finding their own original sound, and as the Rolling Stones did, too and just like many other bands.

I can see where Daltrey is coming from, as he once said that when the Who was the most creative they tried to avoid outside influences by not listening to anyone else’s music. Times have changed, though, and it is nearly impossible to avoid music. For Daltrey to say that rappers are the only artists that have a meaningful voice and that top stars don’t have a lasting effect is just disrespectful. Ultimately, it is his opinion and things are different for a man who has taken the stage in front of thousands many times—I disrespectfully disagree with Daltrey. Rock is evolving and always will be, perhaps now there are just more sounds accessible to listeners that make it more difficult to categorize one specific sound to “rock.” That is not to say the genre is dead, though.

Photo courtesy Ingrid Richter, Creative Commons

Artists should cover songs to add their own touch

The Rolling Stones shared another song (“Hate to See You Go”) Friday off the band’s forthcoming “Blue and Lonesome”—a studio album of blues covers.

The album’s tracks were cut live in three days at British Grove Studios, down the street from where The Stones began their career frequenting stages at pubs and clubs, according to the press release.

Releasing an album of covers is not unheard of to fans of The Stones, though.

“The Rolling Stones,” the band’s debut release, was an homage to R&B and blues hits that guitarist Keith Richards and frontman Mick Jagger loved, with the exception of the album’s sole original song “Tell Me (You’re Coming Back).”

Given, the songs in “The Rolling Stones” had a “dangerous edge” but cover songs should have an artist’s edge: their distinct brush stroke. What is the point of covering a song to completely recreate another band’s sound? When I hear a cover I like to wonder why an artist is covering that specific song and how the cover differs from the original—more often than not growing my love for both the songs.

This applies across all genres of music (see some of my favorite below)—from Judy Chong’s cover of Porches’ “Mood” to Guns N’ Roses’ cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” to complete album-length covers like Ryan Adam’s take on Taylor Swift’s “1989.” A cover is to a singer/band what a remix is to an aspiring producer: A little bit of originality met with a little bit of influence. Or what a family dinner recipe becomes over time as it is subject to personal preference or restricted by access to ingredients.

The Stones are tying their career back to their roots and closing the circle of where it started, even though this may not be the end (At least I like to think until I get to see them live at least once) with a stamp of their own sound. The two songs that they have released from the forthcoming album did not have distorted guitars nor a tempo as fast as The Stones have played the. Although giving credit where credit is due is important, so is originality. Artist’s shouldn’t cover a song just to cover it and call it a day.

Some of my favorite song covers:

“Journey Through the Past”

Cover:

Original:

“Sorry”

Cover:

Original:

“Back In the U.S.A.”

Cover:

Original:

“Just the Way You Are”

Cover:

Original:

Check out Big Thief

Sometimes friends suggest that I should listen to an artist and I end up liking what I hear, but then forget about it. Sometimes I Shazam an interesting song in a coffee shop and then forget about it. And sometimes I even forget I had already listened to an artist. Naturally, I can’t remember all the music I hear every day.

Nonetheless I do remember artists and try to find at least one new artist to incorporate into my music diet, per week.

Big Thief is one of those artists I found a month or so ago.

Straight out of Brooklyn, N.Y., this band’s debut release “Masterpiece” is a 37 minute journey that takes the listener from an intimate first-person account told in “Paul”:

Yeah we hopped inside my car And I drove in circles ’round the freight train yard/And he turned the headlights off/Then he pulled the bottle out/Then he showed me what was love.”

To timeless despair spoken of in “Masterpiece”:

“Years, days, makes no difference to me babe/You look exactly the same to me.”

Adrienne Lenker, Big Thief’s singer, said that she writes Big Thief’s songs in “the process of harnessing pain, loss, and love, while simultaneously letting go, looking into your own eyes through someone else’s, and being okay with the inevitability of death,”  according to the band’s Saddle Creek record label page.

There is something about Big Thief that makes me listen to them and not feel sad—makes me appreciative of the intense words that articulate feeling.

Big Thief is currently on tour supporting Frankie Cosmos. They will make a stop at the Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, Mass.) on Saturday, Nov. 12.

Bob Dylan awarded Nobel prize and good for him

This morning I woke up to a news notification informing me that Bob Dylan won this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature and good for him—he deserves it. Dylan is one of the most covered musicians and he indisputably changed music that we listen to present day.

There have been numerous negative reactions that Dylan did not deserve the literature award. Anna North of the NY Times claimed thatHe is great because he is a great musician, and when the Nobel committee gives the literature prize to a musician, it misses the opportunity to honor a writer.”

The recognition is for innovative work which Dylan’s music catalog suits. There is no Nobel Prize for musicians, so why can’t musicians be considered writers if they write and influence culture through the power of words—as, say, a poet or author would?

Dylan was awarded the prize for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Even though music is a unique medium for poetic expression, Dylan’s innovative songwriting progressed prose with his originality and can stand alone, apart from his music.

So…