Friday Fives – more music because my editor is a lazy bastard

I can say that, right?  I mean… it’s with love.  Plus, it’s about music.  I can hold forth all day long about music… but you poor sucks already know that, don’t you?

Who is the worst band you’ve ever seen live and why?

Flaming Lips at Red Rocks.  They were opening for someone, I don’t remember.  I was initially very excited to see them.  Wayne Coyne is famous for his great live shows.  Red Rocks is also a magical place that has coaxed amazing performances out of mediocre bands… like Radiohead.  The Flaming Lips were horrible.  I finally realized they are built on kitsch and novelty.  They are not good songwriters, they are not good musicians, and Wayne Coyne is not a good singer.  10 or 15 minutes into their set I have to leave. I went up top to drink and look at the amazing view.

See, if you go up top, the sound is horrible… which is best for the Lips.  It means it is also the quietest up there.  Red Rocks doesn’t put speakers anywhere but the base of a stage.  Normally, this would be fine… were you not on the side of the mountain.  If you are not in the first 30 rows, the sound is terrible.  This is especially true when the wind whips around, which it tends to do on the side of a mountain.

but why were they so bad?  The music just wasn’t compelling on any level.  Not catchy, nor thoughtful.  You know those kids songs Charlie Sheen’s character wrote on 2 and a half men?  It was stuff like ‘who cut the cheese?’.  Yeah, that is Flaming Lips catalog.  Anyone who likes Flaming Lips is a hipster douchebag!  Trust me, it takes one to know one.

But… any concert at Red Rocks can’t be that bad, right?  It’s like how they say a bad day fishing is better than the best day at work?  Well, they weren’t at this show.  To close, Will Rogers never met this band.

Who is the best band you’ve seen live, and why?

Oh golly, I have see a LOT of bands, and a LOT of great bands.  It is almost impossible to pick 1.  So, I’ll pick two.  This answer goes out to Cody in Utah, a month late.  Sorry on that, bud.  James Taylor and Barenaked Ladies.

James Taylor I have been seeing since high school, possibly longer.  For one, and maybe this is a given, he sounds perfect… every time.  80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s… every decade I have seen him he was amazing and crystal clear.  Every show gets the obvious hits.  Here is what people don’t know who haven’t seen him; he is hilarious.  He is a seriously funny and engaging guy.  I have seen comedians live, many of the great ones:  Richard Lewis, Mitch Hedberg, Lewis Black, and Brian Regan.  I have laughed that hard at every single James Taylor show.

Barenaked Ladies have always killed it live.  First time I saw them, it was the ‘Rock Spectacle’ tour, which was a very early greatest hits tour… of sorts.  I wasn’t a big fan, but I Gordon.  The internet wasn’t everywhere yet, so I hadn’t seen clips or read reviews.  After that show, I was amazed.  As everyone knows now, they are amazing live.  Funny and sweet and musical and surprisingly improvisational.

Every show becomes a very unique experience.  It becomes about your city, and current events.  I have seen them 3 or 4 times, and every show was better than the last.  I should have to mention this was all back when Steven Page was with them.  I can tell you every person who has ever seen BNL at any era with Steven Page will tell you it was the best concert they have ever seen.  I agree.

What band has your go to perfect album?

Again, SO many.  How about three?  Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti,  Guns & Roses Appetite for Destruction, and Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream.

What are the best comebacks you know?

The question implies a witty rejoinder, a la ‘the jerk store called’.  In the spirit of the questions leading up to this, I will assume it is a poorly worded question about career comebacks in music.

I have been seeing bands for 30 years now (it starts with the Police in 1983 and Rush in 1985… and keeps going).  One day, ask me about the golden girl I saw at the Rush, and how that kinda changed my life. Hint, it involves boobs and a 13 year old boy. A lot of the acts I have seen were regarded as ‘comebacks’, but never left.  I saw Pearl Jam in 1997, and the critics were calling it their ‘comeback’ tour.  They never went anywhere, never broke up, and never stopped making music.  Same has been said for seeing Page & Plant together, James Taylor, and Paul Simon.  To qualify, we have to count a band who fully broke up before I saw them.  I think these guys broke up a lot.  Heck, they just re-broke up again last fall.  This time, I think it’s for good.  Greg must be in his 70s.

The Allman Brothers.  I first saw them in the late 80s.  They had already been broken up and reunited several times by then.  Over the years, I saw them more than any other band, except maybe the Grateful Dead.  I have seen both bands around 20 times.

When I count the Dead above, I am talking about with Jerry Garcia.  Since his passing, I have seen another 20 shows of their very many offshoot bands.  Also saw Bobby and Jerry solo while Jerry was alive.  Still go see Bobby every year.  Going to see him this summer, too.

The Allmans are a unique class of band that got better with age.  They are also a band that thrives live.  I say the same about Iron Maiden.  They not only get better, they get more popular.  Iron Maiden is amazing, and one of two bands I NEVER miss when they come to town (the other is Pearl Jam).  Sorry, since we are talking about great live bands, I had to get in a plug for Iron Maiden.

The radio is on and you are driving down the road, a song comes on. At what moment did you realize “Damn.. I’m getting old”?

HA… I remember the exact moment.  Wifey and I were driving through Northern Arizona on our bi annual trek to see movies.  We were in a car that likely only had a cassette deck, and we were sick of our tapes.  Maybe it was CDs, who knows?  We were searching the radio for anything.  Of course, when you are in the middle of nowhere, you only get county and bible shit.  Why is that?

FINALLY we find a good station.  Prince was on, from his Purple Rain heyday.  We were so pleased with ourselves until the dj came on.  “you’re listening to Northern Arizona’s golden oldies.”.  we listened for another hour.  We knew, and loved, every song.  We were OLD, man.  I swear we were only in our early 30s, if even that.  We are early 40s, now.

* for the record, Wayne did this.  It was cool and all, but clearly a distraction from shitty music.  Prince never had to do this.  Also, he was afraid to get passed back/up.  Reasonable, since Red Rocks is built into the side of a mountain.  Still, though, that woulda been cool.

Friday Fives – Travolta edition

The Fives are late today because I didn’t care for the questions I was given.  So, I blew it off.  A reader reached out this afternoon chiding me for my non post. I challenged him with the following: ok, send me five questions – on or about anything. I will answer them.

First, he sent me this picture. You have likely seen it around in the last week. Some guy was at the gym at 3 am, and ran into John Travolta. Travolta was cool enough to take a selfie with the guy. That photo is above, and sparked some pretty important questions from ‘Jamie’. Out of respect for my buddy, and out of sheer fear of being sued by Scientologists***… we will call him ‘Jaimie’. Since that is his name, and all. You may recognize the name from this legendary exchange. I would say a good 50% of my non Friday Fives posts come from conversations with Jaimie over email.

john-travolta-gymWhat is your favorite John Travolta movie

Easy – Pulp Fiction. It’s a masterpiece. Easily one of the greatest movies ever. I have several copies. DVD, VHS, and Blu Ray

Have you ever been to the gym at 3 am

No. I mean, you won’t find me at the gym. I am not proud of that, but that is the reality. 3 am? NOTHING good happens at 3 am. A comedian did a great bit about how ATM.s should give out a max of $50 after midnight. His reasoning was nothing good can come from you taking out $300 at 3 am.

 Who are you most likely to see at the gym at 3 am

Apparently, John Travolta

Why would you build a house with an airplane hanger any no gym

Totally never occurred to me until ‘Jaimie’ asked. I mean, look at his house. He flies jumbo jets for Qantas… and he doesn’t have $300 worth of gym equipment? This is a guy who requires a 20 pack of high ed nice new clean white tees for every day on any movie he shoots.

 How gay is john Travolta

Well, it’s not my business. I like John Travolta.  Never heard a bad word about him, outside of those masseuse gay sex scandals.  Whatever.  Again, it isn’t my business… and it certainly isn’t yours. He is a good actor and has a sense of humor about himself.  Plus, he flies jumbo jets.  That is super bad ass.  We just need to get him the Iron Maiden jet (Ed Force One).  That might help those pesky gay rumors.  However, with the evidence presented… pretty gay. As my buddy Eddie once coined ‘he was strollin’ for colon.  Also, that movie Michael was good.  The one where he is an angel.  It’s not great cinema, but neither is anything else.

*** bonus – My blog application spell check does not acknowledge the word ‘scientologist’

I got your convenience charge right here

When Ticketmaster and Live Nation merged, they promised to use economies of scale to serve the customer base.  This is what the asshat of a CEO, Barry Diller, said about service fees and their impact on ticket prices.

Ticketmaster does not set prices. Live Nation does not set ticket prices. Artists set prices. Everyone else is just a distributor or service provider to artists and content owners.

Barry Diller is an asshat, and the reason why Pearl Jam took these crooks to Congress years ago.  Ticketmaster has a HUGE impact on ticket prices.  A lawn ticket is $18.50 before Ticketmaster, $36 after.  That is a pretty big impact.  Double the price.  I can’t conceivably think of a bigger impact that doubling the goddamn price.

Indeed, Ticketmaster does not set prices.  However, their impact is felt.  Here are some examples of the service fees, which now stretch to well over 100%.  I will only reference Denver ticketing experiences, because I am in Denver.  So, these are personal experiences with , and actual figures.  Last summer, Ticketmaster sold tickets to Motley Crue’s big tour.  They were playing a ‘shed’, which every big city has.  It’s outdoors: half seating and half lawn.  Ticketmaster and the venue (Fiddler’s Green) were offering $10 lawn seats.  That is a crazy good deal.

Problem is, the tickets actually cost $25 each after fees.  Yes.  That is a 150% service fee mark up.  “Convenience” indeed.  I went this weekend to buy Iron Maiden tix (for the same venue).  Those lawn seats were $18 each face value.  Online, those $18 tickets were $32 each.  So, I decided to wait and drive to the venue and buy the tickets directly from the venue box office.  It used to be that these tickets didn’t have fees.  Wrong.  Since the merger with Live Nation, it now costs MORE to buy tickets directly at the box office.  The $18 tickets cost $36 at the box office.  That is a 100% service fee.

Where the hell are the tea party folks on this?  Ticketmaster is a monopoly.  I can not buy tickets through any other avenue, I have tried.  They are more expensive at the theatre, and the band’s website directs me to Ticketmaster as well.   Could you imagine if you went to Burger King and you ordered the #1 combo?  It says $4.99.   Now, imagine if they told you that would be $10.  You would laugh and tell them to kiss your backside.  Guess what, imagine there is no competition.  The only restaurant that is open is Burger King and they charge a 100% convenience fee for heating and distributing your burger to you.

Now that Ticketmaster and Live Nation have merged, all consumer choices are out the window.  I just want every consumer out there to know what is happening.  If you are going to a concert, expect service fees to be between 80 to 100%.  I had also heard that Creed was selling $5 lawn seats to their shows, which were costing $30 after fees.  However, I can’t substantiate this because Creed sucks.  So, I would never buy a ticket for them.  The ticket prices referenced above were done by me… this isn’t ‘friend of a friend’ data.

* Here is something funny.  Right here at this site, two years ago, I was railing against 40% service fees.  Read here.  Read my prophetic words:

Live Nation will now monopolize every aspect of the business, one can only hope they will pass on a modicum of the savings to us.

I was super correct on that one.  Want to know what ‘every aspect of the business’ means?  Google the term ‘360 deal’.  Wait, I have done it for you.  I have started a Facebook group to protest the fee escalation.  I know it won’t do shit, but it we can get it up to a million or more, it might send a lesson to the greedy suits.  Here is the name of the group, please join us, and forward it around.   Stop Ticketmaster’s 100% service fees

* update Oct 2010

I was… er… Correct.  Ticketmaster is being sued now for their bullshit service fees. The chickens have come home to roost.  I sure would like to go back to seeing concerts.

Update Nov 2011

I was right.  I was correct.  They were wrong, and guilty.  They were caught stealing and lying about service fees.  Guilty guilty guilty.