Casual Evangelist

A mission to learn a little about a lot…

Archive for February, 2008

“Before the Music Dies”

Posted by Andrew on February 15, 2008

Sometimes, when I’m determined to veg out in front of the tube, I wind up “surfing” TiVo – checking out what’s coming up over the next week or so on a handful of channels I like. This is how I discovered “Before the Music Dies” by filmmaker Andrew Shapter. Not unlike to how I discover music.

On its surface, “Dies” is a doc about the tribulations of the music industry over the last decade or so. Something we’re all at least vaguely familiar about. Consolidation. Napster. Wilco and its label(s). Metalica and its fans. Britney. Cratering sales.

But “Dies” goes deeper, painting a picture of the Western music *world* and the schism that’s currently in full swing. If you haven’t noticed, there’s a major disconnect in music right now between Wall Street and actual music as an art form. One sells, one doesn’t. Which is which? You might be surprised.

There’s always been beautiful people playing music, but music always took the lead. But now, with video, pop culture worship, and technology that can turn any vocalist into a perfect-pitch siren, image has taken over. “Dies” hilariously demonstrates hit creation using a gifted songwriter, a model who can’t sing, and computer wizardry that produces pure candy that fits right into radio or MTV.

“Dies” peeks into focus-group testing, *Artist and Repertoire*, and commerce. It explores why great artists don’t “cut” it (sell hits), how country music can be “too country,” and what it means to be a “band.” Would Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and U2 have made it today? What does the Internet and file-sharing really mean? What happens when the artist takes control of their business?

You see, corporations are throwing good money after bad, and they’re running out of money. But there’s a lot of success to be had in the biz with really good music. And success can mean a lot more than just money.

Heart matters. Improvisation is exciting.

“Dies” includes great live footage of Doyle Bramhall with Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews Band, Calexico, The North Mississippi Allstars, and Erykah Badu.

“Before the Music Dies” is playing on the Independent Film Channel (IFC) on Wednesday, February 20. Record it and watch it.

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Posted in Movies, Music | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

RAQ at the State Theatre

Posted by Andrew on February 4, 2008

The first and only time I saw RAQ before Saturday’s show at The State Theatre in Falls Church, VA was when they opened for my band at the Grog and Tankard many years ago. That was one of those instances where you ask your bandmates: “Do we really have to follow these guys?”

Back then, they were a blisteringly-fast technical jamband with oft-noted similarities to Phish. A lot has changed.

RAQ’s recent performance bore little resemblance to the band that played at the Grog, or to Phish. The RAQ of today has slowed things down, added in heavier – dare I say metal elements. The guitar-keys interplay wizardry that dominated the RAQ of old has given way to a more unified musical machine where much of the drama now emanates from the rhythm section. The band has more in common with Umphrey’s McGee these days, and they’ve got the chops to pull it off.

The six string histrionics of Chris Michetti are still available in abundance, and keboardist Todd Stoops masterfully dabbles in the lower registers of his instrument. But it was the precise interplay of bassist Jay Burwick and drummer Greg Stukey that stood out. Burwick, with his pronounced bass accents, and Stukey, with his heavy right foot, produced something akin to a crowd carpet-bombing.

Interestingly, the band’s vocal interplays and harmonies were more effective than solo vocal performances. Overall, they successfully avoid the typical jamband trap (the vocals suck). The originals provided enough interesting turns, catchy refrains, and bass-bombing breakdowns to keep the crowd moving and on their feet. A few covers, including takes on Ween and the Allman Brothers (the latter featuring a very capable Cris Jacobs of The Bridge standing agog at Michette’s guitar solo) added enough familiarity for those unfamiliar with original RAQ material.

If the “Grog RAQ” > “State Theatre RAQ” progress continues at this pace, these guys have a very long and bright future ahead of them.
RAQ Frontline
Burwick and Michette doing the two step last October. Photo by Aaron Williams.

Posted in Music | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »