Les Claypool

On a whim, I went to see Les Claypool last night. His bass playing style is a hard-hitting funk that I haven’t seen since I saw Keziah Jones several years back in Tokyo. His finger-slapping style throws out over the crowd like thick waves of jello – as soon as he starts playing, the whole room can’t help but start jumping.

I’ve never seen him play live before so I asked the others there what to expect. Everyone shrugged their shoulders, he likes to mix it up so much you never know what he’ll bring out.

Les took the stage with a sitar player named Gabby La La who wore a bright blue wig with ponytails and looked like an off-duty Japanese Anime character. The percussionist, Mike Dillon, was also amazing. Most of the time he played vibraphone but several times in the show his enthusiasm for the timbales got the best of him and he hauled his set out from the corner over to center stage and laid down a groove with the drummer that near blew the roof off the concert hall. During the entire 2 1/2 hour set he wore a rubber devil’s mask which only added to the pitch of his fever.

All 450 tickets to this Sunday night show at The Independent (the old Kennel Club) were sold out. I was lucky to get a spot right up front. I felt sorry for the bouncer who, good natured as he was, had to have his back to all the weirdness up on stage the whole night. At one point the sounds were so strange that curiosity got the best of him. You could see the question marks come out of his head when he looked up to see Les, donning a full-headed monkey mask, hunched over a one-stringed homemade base, banging on it with the back of a bow and bending the pitch with a springed lever. It just kept getting stranger.

Birf-day Weekend

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Tyler called me on Saturday and told me to look in the drawer under my sock drawer where Izumi and the kids had stashed a birthday card for me before I left. He was so excited to tell me about the suprise and it was so sweet to have something from them to kick off the weekend.

Thank you Mie, Dav, Doug, Brian, Emily and everyone else who spent time with me through the weekend. It was fun! Mie was in full moblog mode and documentated everything down to each tiny detail. Dinner in North Beach, the band we saw at El Rio in the Mission, a visit to the Scrap House, the Alameda Antique Fair, and our visit to Lucky Juju’s Pinball Palace. Old friends from Tokyo, Brian and Emily joined us later on Sunday for a drive up to Tilden Park and dinner at Zachary’s Pizza on Solano Avenue. I should have more of these Birthday things, good for the soul they are!

Hey You Potter!

For Tyler’s 6th Birthday we didn’t have a big party. He chose instead to redirect the birthday funds into a six disc DVD set of the first three Harry Potter movies. We’ve been reading the Potter books and Tyler has found a new world to explore beyond Thomas the Tank Engine. He picks up every piece of trivia, asks detailed questions, and is now studying the movies as eager as an acolyte.

Because her playmate is now entranced by the spell of Potter, Julia’s picked it up a bit as well. She hasn’t quite gotten the name of the the series down yet so she calls it “Hey You Potter” but she’s got the theme music down and both of them came to our bed this morning and greeted us with their renditions.

Fluid Market for Ringtones

In the March 7th New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones writes about the cell phone ringtone industry which, in 2004, generated $4 billion dollars in worldwide sales (only $300 million from the US). In Korea, the ringtone market outsells the CD single market. There is a newer, higher quality version of the ringtone that is just gaining popularity. But there is more than just better quality that makes the mastertone interesting; there is commercial appeal,

Record labels, convinced that they have lost millions of dollars in CD
sales to MP3 file-swapping, have been especially attentive to
ringtones, and they love master tones. Polyphonic ringtones are
essentially cover versions of songs: aggregators must pay royalties to
the publisher, who then pays the songwriter. But master tones are
compressed versions of original recordings, which means that record
labels—the entities that typically own recordings—are entitled to
collect a fee, too.

She goes on to explain the royalty deals signed to get these songs were extremely one-sided pushing up to 25% for some record companies. This boosts the overall cost of the mastertones which keeps people from adopting them. Kind of killing the hen before it can get around to laying it’s golden eggs.

This arrangement is unlikely to last. There are now Web-based
companies, like Xingtone, for example, that will convert songs from
your collection into master tones. Or you can do it yourself: some new
cell-phone models can be connected to a computer by a data cable,
allowing you to create master tones from MP3 files at home. However it
is done, transferring music that you own to your phone is legal under
copyright law.

Like a water balloon, exert too much pressure and the market moves around you.

Dancin’ In the Streets

Songwriter for The Grateful Dead and, more recently, The String Cheese Incident, cattle rancher and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is organizing spontaneous outbreaks of senseless dancing in and around the Republican National Convention. It’s become a movement

We just had another brilliant expedition into elephant country. We encountered many of our quarry, converted a few, and made the rest so nervous you would have thought their thin smiles might shatter their faces. One of them said that he knew we were mocking George Bush. “How are we doing that?” we asked. “By dancing,” he snarled.

And that, my pesky friends, is paydirt

Dancarchy Reigns!

4th Fridays in Pennington

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Starting yesterday evening, the Pennington Borough Business Council has started organizing something their calling, “4th Fridays.” On the fourth Friday of every month, the stores downtown get together with events and free food & drink to entice people to hang out downtown.

Yesterday was the first 4th Friday and two colleagues from work, Greg Merkle and Chris Caine came to play with at the Bread & Breakfast coffee shop. Chris (with the headband) plays with Bob Jones (blond hair, closest to camera) in a band called, “Two Worlds Apart,” and Greg (up on stool) plays on his own. One of Greg’s techniques is an amazing mix of strumming, plucking, and percussion work on the fretboard that creates a multi-layered mix of sounds that are hard to belive they come from one man. For a sample, you can check out the video.