a gaggle of shows

also: coachella, the australian fire crisis, tweets, & lots of reading

hi! everyone and their mother just announced shows at the music hall of williamsburg! check it out. also, is anyone keeping up with the wiley and stormzy beef? I’m missing a lot of context, but this is getting very exciting. especially now that NME thinks that black midi have joined in.

this week kind of felt like forever, so much going on, like the aforementioned beef, justin bieber’s desperate ploy to be #1, roddy ricch effortlessly stealing the top spot with the infectious “the box”, meghan and harry “stepping back” from their roles as royals, john boyega trolling his trolls, janelle monáe coming out as non-binary and my god so much more.

also in the news is the Australian bush fires, which artists have continued to step up and raise money for. a few weeks ago I published a few of the efforts that have cropped up, and this week I’m going to consolidate it into one section for those who are interested in donating.

upcoming shows 🎟️

1/16 | Flexi / ATM (members of BODEGA) / Pure Adult @ The Broadway ~ 21+

1/17 | Drug Bug, Lobby Boy, Scorpio, Zack. @ Jones Beach Bar

1/18 | The Wants, Grim Streaker, ESSi @ Alphaville ~ 21+

1/18 | Witch Slap, Bad Kiss, MEAL, Venus Twins @ Our Wicked Lady ~ 21+

1/18 | Palberta @ Sugarlife Lounge

  • I honestly don’t know where this is. maybe msg the band? one of the last shows for a while for Palberta

1/19 | Haybaby, Sharkmuffin, Darkwing, Smock, Shadow Monster, Gawn, Lackadazies @ Our Wicked Lady ~ 21+

1/23 | Gustaf, Yaasss, Corbu, GESSERIT, Avishag Cohen Rodrigues @ Rubulad

1/24 | Frank and The Hurricanes, Palberta, Greem Jellyfish, Grout, Sweet Baby Jesus, Poncili Creacion, Knife Wife @ Rubulad ~ cancel your plans and attend, seriously

2/5 | Ghost King (Single Release Party) + Ghost Funk Orchestra + Lushwork @ The Sultan Room ~ 21+

3/14 | Post Animal @ Music Hall of Williamsburg ~ 18+

4/9 | Tropical Fuck Storm @ Music Hall of Williamsburg ~ 18+

4/10 | Disq w/ Pom Pom Squad @ Rough Trade ~ 18+

4/23 | Amyl and the Sniffers @ Music Hall of Williamsburg ~ 18+

in my queue🎶

These two songs are insanely catchy, and I didn’t realize it until now but their cover art is very similar? I don’t mean to group songs by color, it just happens.

what i’ve read 📖

Been reading back on all the 2019/decade in review lists and I am very interested in the ones that talk about how dumb they are (because no one consumes anything like that) but I’m also really glad that I waited to read all of it. when they were all coming out I was getting pretty overwhelmed: there was so much to read! so little time before the new year!

Oh side note, I also read this absolutely hilarious piece on Mura Masa’s new album, which is the literal definition of a pan (how many variations on the word poop can you count?). do I agree? dunno. is it still fun to read? yes.

So anyways I took practically a whole day to do some catch up as well as revisit articles I had bookmarked for later reading, here are some of my fav reads:

Drake’s Troubling Reunion With Chris Brown ~ by Hannah Giorgis

  • wow, gorgeous. also, in the #MeToo era how has it taken so long for us to denounce Drake? this man regularly does weird things with underage girls, and his relationship with chris brown leaves a sour taste in my mouth. leave both of them behind, i’m begging

  • “But the media’s broader inability—or lack of desire—to convey the fact that men with Drake’s sensibility are capable of harm is dangerous. It obscures the multiple ways that gendered transgressions can occur, as well as the ease with which fans continue to support the powerful men accused of them.”

  • keywords: “nice guy”, cringe, “But the project’s musical vacuity is matched only by the curious obscenity of its existence” (cheating cuz its a quote, but wow)

The Art of the Pan: What’s the Point of a Bad Review in 2019? ~ by Rob Harvilla

  • what a fun read! we’re all little critics, whether or not we get paid for it, and this article addresses why we critique (cuz in part its fun), what is worthy of critique, who is worthy of critique, and how critique is received in the digital age.

  • “Reviews aren’t necessarily meaner now, nor are there necessarily more of them, but the social-media outrage that necessarily follows a righteous takedown might convince you otherwise. Is the critical conversation meaner now? Possibly. Is it louder now? Undoubtedly.”

  • keywords: “universal praise” (whose praise?), invective, gonzo hostility

A Requiem For Hot Topic ~ by John Paul Brammer

  • Very much thinking about how this relates to Kim Pelly’s idea of “frictionless” music experiences, and how we lose some special when we lose the desire to be challenged, to move outside our comfort zones. why has technology conditioned us to be incurious? is this something we naturally seek out, or something that we are told that we want?

  • “I feel this stream, this optimized river of information—Twitter, Facebook, Venmo, Apple Credit, the algorithm—is slowly sanding away my edges and smoothing me out. 

  • “So we grew up, and we grew ininto the way things are, into a late capitalist nightmare world where we feel lonely and sad and clean, everything shiny, everything smooth, everything hurtling frictionlessly into oblivion.”

  • keywords: frictionless

'Do something weird that works on TikTok': how to write a pop smash in 2020 ~ by Aimee Cliff

  • last week I talked about the “death” of subculture and genre. this article addresses the back end of songwriting and hints at why genre as we know it has collapsed. also just in general an interesting read if you’ve ever been into the craft of songwriting

  • “In many respects, what people are looking for now is the weirdest stuff,” Kohn says. There’s no longer as much of a formula to scoring a mainstream pop hit as there might have been 10 years ago – and comparing the artists who went to No 1 this year shows a massive disparity in styles, from Lewis Capaldi to Lil Nas X to Billie Eilish. “Eilish is a brilliant example,” says Kohn. “If something just sounds like completely straight pop, its sound doesn’t go anywhere. In a way, there’s more pressure to be experimental.”

  • keywords: skip rates, TikTok, songwriting

At the End of the End of the Decade Lists ~ by Marty Sartini Garner

  • Is it just me, or does the Outline consistently attract amazing writers? I really loved this piece, because it interrogates what our role as critics should be. Also, I’ve been reading Dan Ozzi’s newsletter (Reply Alt), and his last few issues have spoken about the retrospective reviews that Pitchfork does on albums they critically panned when they were released, but liked/appreciated more later. I often feel the impulse to consume consume consume, but never reflect in order to actually keep up with the pace of information. I’m hoping to do less of this in the New Year/Decade, if only because music/writing deserves my time and consideration in order for me to develop a full understanding/relationship with it. Sometimes I want to sit with an album for a few weeks, rather than give my take on it right away (and other times, I’d rather say nothing because the personal value it has to me may differ from a more critical one). This is an aside, but maybe that’s why we (read: zoomers) are drawn to more analog formats of music, because a record requires that you pay attention and listen in order to flip it, while I can click play on my Spotify and just have an endless stream of music that doesn’t really mean much to me (please read Cherie Hu’s piece on the celestial jukebox).

  • “Almost no publication, regardless of its previously established editorial voice, seems capable of resisting the temptation to participate in the continued hyping of event releases — at least, not if they want to be able to pay the editors, writers, and photographers that keep them going anything like a decent wage.”

  • Nobody actually listens to music this way, preoccupied with how the current album rates relative to the other albums you happen to have listened to recently; why suddenly adopt this posture just because the decade is ending? The critical stance we’ve inherited demands that writers function as an all-seeing eye that stands outside of the world, taking it all in. Shouldn’t a criticism informed by poptimism and set loose on the internet be more curious and receptive, prone to wandering and comfortable with changing the subject?”

  • keywords: poptimism, authenticity, canon-building, Overton window

special mention(s): 8tracks shut down right before the new year, and Cherie Hu wrote a great post that broke down why. if you liked my newsletter on apolitical bands, then consider reading this The Quietus piece by Ben Cardew on Rosalia, her music, and her position in the fraught political divisions between Spain and Catalan. Also part of a continuing conversation is the lack of support for artists, with another insightful piece on rapper Juice WRLD by Craig Jenkins (check out this Popcast episode for more too)

If you want more readings, take a look at this overview of what happened in music journalism in 2019 for some choice picks (I actually got put onto this by the Music Journalism Insider newsletter by Todd L. Burns, which I read religiously).

Rolling Stone just released an article with music business predictions, most of which I glanced over. One prediction I’m most interested in is that “artist-fan relationship will see drastic changes” — I already know bands that are using Patreon to fund/support themselves, and I’m interested in seeing how this will evolve as it becomes harder and harder to make money in music.

One last recc! Here is a list of music moments from 2019 by Jeremy D. Larson, a read that is both fun and a good recap for a hectic year.

australian bush fires 🐨

in no particular order:

  • Good Morning are playing a benefit show where 100% of all the proceeds are going to Rural Fire Service, CFA, WIRES, and The Fire Relief Fund for First Nations Communities. they will also be donating all the money from their bandcamp store to the same places.

  • King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have released two live albums, Live In Paris '19 & Live In Adelaide '19, whose proceeds will go to Wildlife Victoria and Animals Australia, respectively.

  • Dr Sure's Unusual Practice have a mini concept album, written from the perspective of PM Scott Morrison (whose response to the fire crisis has been widely critiqued). All proceeds go to the Rural Fire Service.

  • Mall Grab has released a four-track EP called “Don't Keep The Fire Burning”, and all proceeds with go to RSPCA's Bushfire appeal and The NSW Rural Fire Service.

  • Twin Peaks have announced that they will be launching fundraisers to combat the bushfires.

  • The Nude Party have announced that they will be playing a benefit show in the Catskills on 2/1. The ten dollar cover will go towards WIRES Wildlife Rescue.

the discourse™️

Alright, let’s talk about Coachella, if only to talk about the bigger issue of monopolies in the music industry. I’m inspired to write about this in part by mannequin pussy’s tweet regarding the decision to play at Coachella. they aren’t the first to bring up their distaste for AEG’s founder Philip Anschutz, who has donated to anti-LGBT groups in the past (Downtown Boys notably penned an open letter after performing at Coachella).

Hopefully, by the end of this section, we can come to the conclusion on whether or not there even was a choice, to begin with. for those who don’t know, small independent venues are having a tough go of it. not just in the US but worldwide (the UK has some truly fascinating data to track the success of live music venues). big companies like AEG and Live Nation tho, the two companies with the largest control over venues, are doing pretty well and even expanding.

while they dabble in almost all parts of the music industry (with Live Nation being the reason we have to deal with Ticketmaster), AEG and Live Nation are well known for (1) owning an astonishing number of venues in the US and (2) putting on some of the world’s biggest festivals. AEG actually puts on Coachella, which is very important for this discussion.

AEG controls all of the larger and high-quality venues in major markets in the U.S., as well as many important venues worldwide, making it difficult for an artist to refuse one event at an AEG venue and then hope to perform at another event in the future. AEG Presents is also the second-biggest promoter in the world. Speaking out against Coachella could mean losing opportunities to perform at one of the company’s other festivals, such as Camp Flog Gnaw or Firefly.” - Ella Boyd, The downbeat: The price and politics of the free-spirited Coachella

Besides swallowing the fact that the owner of Coachella is a bigot, artists also have to agree to a radius clause, which means that if they agree to a festival they also have to agree to not play a show in the same area (defined by x miles) for x amount of time. It’s industry-standard but makes it hard for artists who travel far to capitalize on their journey by playing multiple shows. It can also hurt independent promoters and venues:

“Such consolidation makes it possible for talent buyers to offer artists multiple festival dates over the course of the touring season, effectively buying out talent and, in some cases, making it nearly impossible for other promoters to book them. Last year, for example, LCD Soundsystem announced a reunion tour that included headlining sets at Coachella, FYF and Panorama, all festivals operated by AEG Live/Goldenvoice. The band later added shows at Pomona's Fox Theater and Colorado's AEG-operated Red Rocks Amphitheatre, effectively announcing their initial tour dates via a single promoter.”

“Radius clauses hurt all independent promoters and in the end the artist, because instead of marketing their name, they are co-branding on a festival,” says Mitchell Frank, president of Spaceland Presents, which has been doing shows in L.A. since 1995. Frank says his company, which runs the Echo, Echoplex and Regent Theater, has lost hundreds of bookings because of festival radius clauses.” - Katie Bain, How The Music Industry Uses a Pervasive Secret Weapon to Keep Bands from Freely Touring

So, if Coachella is so horrible, why attend? Mannequin Pussy effectively answer this in their twitter post, but for more:

“Coachella is just one of the company’s hit properties, which also include the southern mammoth Firefly, Tyler The Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival, and the legendary New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. As an artist, speaking out against just one festival could ensure that you couldn’t get booked at any of the others, or worse, at any of the company’s venues across the world.” - Myles Tanzer, Boycotting Coachella's Problematic Owner Is More Complicated Than It Seems

Okay so we’ve been talking about AEG for most of this section, which is fine but I also want to give Live Nation the attention it deserves. Like I mentioned before, Live Nation is sort of the reason why we have to put up with TicketMaster (AEG runs the AXS ticketing service). Below is an excerpt from a deep dive of Live Nation’s business model, from around the time that Eventbrite was going public.

“Live Nation, under the consent decree, is allowed to bundle its services together in any combination; but, it's not allowed to punish any potential ticket services customer who may not choose Ticketmaster as their ticketing services company, which is, again, a huge part of Live Nation's profit driver. If an arena or a venue doesn't choose Live Nation for their ticketing services, they can't punish them by not driving artists to those venues and those sorts of things. There have been some accusations earlier this year, I believe it was March, The New York Times had a report out saying that some of live nation's biggest competitors had alleged that Live Nation was, in fact, doing that. If a venue did not choose to use Ticketmaster for their ticketing services, then Live Nation would divert artists away from those venues, and deprive them of the big events that Live Nation drives.” - Nick Sciple, How Live Nation Dominates Big Concerts

This article is a little outdated: The Justice Department did allege that Live Nation was violating an antitrust consent-decree from its merger with Ticketmaster (which happened ten years ago). Essentially, to merge, Live Nation had to agree to not forcing venues to use Ticketmaster. As of Dec. 19, The Justice Department has moved to amend and extend this consent-decree in order to promote competition (this admittedly is pushing my area of expertise, so read below)

“Nightclubs, theaters, arenas and stadiums typically enter long-term contracts that give a ticketing provider the exclusive right to sell tickets to any event they host. Those ticketing contracts usually last three to five years. The government said a  5½-year extension of the consent decree would ensure that at least one full cycle of most venue ticketing contracts would be free from Live Nation’s “coercive tactics and give true competition a chance to take hold.” - Anne Steele and Brent Kendall, Justice Department Details Alleged Live Nation Consent-Decree Violations

so TLDR: independent artists, promoters, and venues that decide to go against AEG or Live Nation risk being essentially blocked out of the live music industry. so can you really blame them when they (begrudgingly or otherwise) “decide” to go along with these two behemoths? Is there really even a choice, and even if there is a slim one, as both companies continue to expand, will there be any choice left in the future?

tweets i loved 🐦

if you read anything in this newsletter, read this. i came across so many tweets that I wanted to share, so I pulled them all into one section:

questions 🤔

What’s your favorite post-show snack?

I already said it in a previous newsletter, but mine alternates between tacos, ice-cream, or chocolate. It also depends on which venue I’m at. Don’t you wish there was an easy list of tried-and-true places to eat nearby a venue that are actually open after the show? Shout out The Broadway for having a taco spot in the venue, I apologize for being absent-minded and almost taking off with my tacos before paying (i did pay tho).

concluding remarks ⌛

This one was kinda a beast! thanks to all who managed to read through all of it. I shouted out a lot of newsletters/writers that I follow, and I’m thinking of compiling a straight forward list for that. I’m also trying to figure out the best way to display all of the shows that are happening in a given week (a calendar, a separate email?). for now, you can expect this newsletter to return to a regular schedule, with new releases on Wednesday. If you like it, please share it! If you don’t have any friends, then click reply on this email and join the conversation.

I also wanted to take a moment to say that if newsletter/readings ever feel overwhelming, please just archive it. I can relate to the particular mounting frustration that comes with constant bombardment, and I never want this newsletter to feel like that. Enjoy it when you can, or don’t at all! I also reached the email length limit for this edition, so I wouldn’t blame you if you clicked skip lol