Wednesday, September 24, 2008

People Watching, and Why I Love The New Facebook

I love people-watching. It is truly an art, I've learned, and so much of this art is based on context. People have interlocking back stories. Walls can't physically talk, but the flies on them can if you listen close enough.

I'm convinced that the new Facebook was made for people-watchers. Now, to dispel a common misconception, Facebook is not for stalkers. There is a fine line between people-watching and stalking. Myspace is for stalkers, and Facebook is for people watchers.

Facebook statuses are to wordsmiths what avatars are to everyone else. They are the new Main Street that we can all stroll down and interact with each other on. Sometimes it's a mere peripheral glance, sometimes its a double take, sometimes we pause our busy day, put down our bags, and have a conversation. That's what I like about the new Facebook: we have more control over how we will stroll the virtual Main Street.

The new Facebook also makes it much harder to hide what we really are. People have traditionally been all about making their online personas seem like a really distorted reflection of themselves, like an image from a carnival funhouse mirror. From photoshopped pics to Bios filled with such buzz-adjectives as "chill, random, spontaneous, and drama-free", online personal profiles are as narcissistic as they are dishonest.

The new Facebook, I think, shows us in a much more honest light. We see each other not as our doctored, scripted photos, but as the candid shots we were tagged in, showing up on the news feed. We can say what we want on our bio, but what we will see first is what others say about us. That may sound shallow, but let's be honest, it's a reflection of the real world.

I like the fact that the new Facebook gives us less liberty to litter our pages with applications. To return to the Main Street analogy, we all look pretty much the same as we stroll along and pass each other by. We are all wearing one outfit of clothes, maybe carrying a bag or two. We are not carrying every single piece of flair that we own to advertise our salient features.

I have seen people protest the new Facebook by the herds. Such protest is the new go-to Facebook status du jour. These people just don't understand the art and science of people watching.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chalk one up for FM radio

I realize that sticking up for FM radio is like rooting for a favorite sports team that doesn't have any winning seasons in sight. In the midst of losses, you will ignore the negative and get stoked on the few wins they may have. That being said, I reunited with an old friend, FM radio, earlier this summer when I bought my '94 Subaru Legacy, a car equipped with a luxury I haven't enjoyed in a car for years: a working stereo.

People are quick to dismiss FM radio as an obsolete medium in an iPod world. As much as I love my iPod nano, I will still proudly vouch for the radio any day. I don't go as far as sociologist Robert Putnam, who compares listening to an iPod to "bowling alone". However, I believe that there is a subliminal enjoyment in the act of listening to music that thousands of total strangers are listening to at the same time. We don't consciously realize the static rush, but it's there.

I am also self-aware enough to admit that my music collection is not as comprehensive as I would like it to be. It should be noted that this self-awareness, though, is proportional to the size of one's music library (i.e. people with a sparse collection of top-40 singles who claim to listen to "everything"). Because of this, I appreciate the radio for occasionally exposing me to new music.

Granted, radio stations play a lot of the same stuff. But my radio dial is set to 3 stations: X96 for mostly mainstream rock, 90.9 KRCL for a more eclectic playlist of indie, jazz, folk, and reggae, and Orem High's own KOHS, which is actually a happy medium between the first two. Surfing between these 3 stations, I can get as much musical variety as even the most elite iPod playlist.

Using this new modern radio surfing technology, the radio presets, I can also keep the commercial time to a minimum (God forbid we listen to advertising that pays for the free radio we've enjoyed for years!). Besides, am I crazy, or is listening to radio commercials kind of entertaining, like some sort of cultural mass-people-watching? (I guess technically the more accurate term would be population listening) Ok, before you answer that I am in fact crazy, I should also mention that I'm a Communications major.

So me and my best friend, Jeremy, have this unspoken rivalry between FM Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. Jeremy is from Vernal, Utah, and while he's not a small town redneck in principle, he is surrounded by what I like to call Red White & Blue Millionaires (Redneck, White-Trash, Blue Collar) thriving off of the booming oil town and living it up in their big tricked-out trucks.

Jeremy's truck at his previous job came with Sirius built-in and he has been raving about it ever since. I've pleaded my case to him about how FM radio is better, but we were both set in our ways.

So imagine my joy when, one morning this summer, I heard an exclusive sneak preview of the new Jack's Mannequin single on X96. Granted, I hadn't looked very hard online for it, but this was the first I was hearing the single, and on my very own FM radio!

Jeremy and I have been huge Jack's Mannequin fans ever since I stumbled upon a dozen copies of their debut album, Everything in Transit, which I would later sell for food money during my transient summer of '06. Because of the competitive nature of our friendship, I immediately called Jeremy to taunt/ask him if his precious Sirius was spinning the new Jack's Mannequin track, to which he replied that they were not.

It was a small win for FM radio, but at this point, it should take what it can get.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I Work the Corner of University & 1st North

Those who have known me over the past several years have usually known me to be intensely focused on one musical project at a time, tunnel-visioned to the rest of my world. These same people have often been the victims of my countless plugs and promotional efforts for said musical projects. Sure, I would occasionally dabble in, at the most, playing in a side project. But for the most part, I'd spend so much time practicing, recording, and performing with my main band that any additional musical projects were kept to a minimum.

That all changed, however, over the past couple months. I recently became a self-proclaimed local band whore.

By joining these ranks, I become part of a legacy of Provo musicians, a list of whom would stretch the length of the downtown gallery stroll route. Among these are some of my closest friends, many of whom I currently play in a band or two with.

It all started earlier this spring, when my buddy Donnie invited me to come play guitar for his newly formed group, Donnie Bonnelli & The Kites. I had some free time and wanted to expand my musical horizons, and it has turned out to be really fun. Like myself, the other Kites are all also involved in other bands.

Then, over the summer, I had offered my musical services to a good friend and gifted songwriter, Nate Pyfer, who's band, Code Hero, had recently lost some members. Nate has also dabbled in band whoring, as he spent most of this summer playing keyboards for Joshua James & The James Brothers on their U.S. tour. When he returned home to Utah last month, he got the ball rolling on re-forming Code Hero. I'll be playing keyboards with them at Velour next Wednesday.

But nothing quite captures the spirit of band whoring like my new project, Chance Lewis. Chance Lewis is a self-proclaimed solo project/franchise whose live band is a constantly revolving "who's who" of local musicians. I suppose one could say that in this band, I employ a slew of band whores for a string of one-night-stands, which I guess makes me a band pimp.

Incidentally, the songs you may have not-so-deliberately heard upon arrival to this blog are some of my new tunes I've recorded for this project. Oh yeah, and these tunes were funded on studio time I earned this summer working part-time as a sound guy at Muse Music, so the mostly-metaphorical title of this blog is also somewhat literal.

On top of all of this, Dan Leach and I are still doing the (very) occasional Abby Normal show. We were recently joking that the only people who should be allowed to ask us "When's the next A.N. show?" should be those who have actually attended one of our shows in the past 12 months, thus eliminating 90% of the people who ask us out of obligatory small talk.

But out of nowhere, we got asked to participate in a college football montage/music video using our song "Poor Us". Despite the subtle contradiction between the song's lyrics and the video's content, the video turned out well. You can check it out here.

P.S. Leach is coming out with some music right now that is gonna blow your minds. When looking for local band whores to contribute to his recordings, he didn't have to look far.

Monogamy may be the way to go in some areas of life, but the older I get, the more I love the freedom and variety allowed by dabbling in several musical projects at a time. Come to think of it, though, until I start making more money through my musical exploits, "whore" might have been a little too generous of a word choice.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Devil Whale Made Me Do It

First of all, let me give this disclaimer: this is not a record review. This is a statement of theory, a huge claim, a broad generalization: at some point in your life, you will have a Dark Side of The Moon/Wizard of Oz-esque experience with The Devil Whale's full length release, Like Paraders.

Mine happened just a few months ago. I was moving into a new apartment, and it was a drastic change from the previous places and situations that I've found myself in over the past couple years. While moving all my stuff into my new room, I popped on Like Paraders, which I had recently purchased at The Devil Whale's CD release show at Velour in Provo. The first words of the first song could have been taken straight out of my mouth then: "And if this house fails should we just rebuild by the shadetree on the hill where we can see...The grass is greener there and there's cleaner air and there's no trace of our careless history."

As the haunting lullaby continued, I unpacked my things. The album's second track, "Conscious, A Friend Who Lies," could have been a narration given by a passerby: "You decorate your house, you hope it makes a difference. The outside matters on the inside..."

I'm probably not even qualified to review this record anyway. Its sound draws on influence from a variety of genres, from alt-country to folk to straight up classic rock. As a person who doesn't consider myself to have as broad a music collection as I would like, I can honestly say that Like Paraders has inspired me to broaden my taste, like a gateway drug into a refreshing new world of sound. But this is a record that both music elitists and commoners alike will love.

I've since moved out of that apartment, and into a new one. I'm sure I will move into many more as I drift around this college town. And every time I do, Like Paraders will be the soundtrack to this bitter twentysomething's travels.

So whether you are a Coldplay-loving sweet-bro or a vintage-clothes-wearing music snob, or anything in between, we all experience certain commonalities in our lives. And Like Paraders, by The Devil Whale, will be right there to provide the soundtrack to those commonalities.