Sunday, July 27, 2008

Charlotte came through with the goods!

Friday night was a good one. I was at the House of OM Summer tour at HOM in Charlotte. I was excited and anxious on a few levels. I was arranging the road trip for a few friends, and myself and I always want the details to be perfect when that happens. I was going to be seeing some of my favorite DJ’s at a multipurpose venue that I heard was a wonderful place. I am also a label rep for OM records, so I wanted a good turnout, good energy, I wanted it to put forth a good image for the label, and I hoped that the touring DJ’s would be happy.
A friend of mine picked me up and we drove up together. The party started immediately. We stayed at the Westin Charlotte, which was very nice, well located, and had a fantastic staff – I recommend it. Kicked around downtown for the afternoon, and then came back to the room to re-energize for the night.

We started off to HOM to begin the night with dinner, and meet our third traveling companion for the weekend. Hom is actually 3 different businesses in one. A lounge/bar/intimate music area called LIV, a swanky see-and-be-seen restaurant called FEAST, and a large club called PLAY. There is also a beautiful outdoor patio area with views of the city that pulls everything together. We were pleased to be invited by one of the owners to come early for dinner – as he told us he was having the DJs in early for dinner as well.

FEAST had tasty food, good service, and a great vibe. I knew as soon as we walked in and Charlotte DJ “That Guy Smitty” put Sa-Ra, and Tiombe Lockhart records back to back, that we would have a good night. Smitty played a set that was a perfect sonic match for the beautiful surroundings of FEAST. We were also seated right by the window, and I gotta say……this city has MANY sexy, stylish, and CLASSY looking women – VERY impressed. (Take note ATL. . . especially in terms of sexy but still CLASSY.)

Spent most of the night in the downstairs “LIV” area to make sure we heard sets by Heather, and Fred Everything. If Fred isn’t my favorite house DJ right now, he’s right up there. Heather played the most diverse set a lot of us had heard her play in a while in terms of styles – and did it well. Went upstairs to check out Colette in the main room. That room was jumping and Colette was in voce dolce as usual.

Saw tons of people I didn’t expect to see, people from Winter Music Conference, people from ATL, people from Columbia. Also got a nice compliment on a set I played in ATL early in the summer. Spoke with Fred, and Colette – all the DJ’s seemed very at ease – and comfortable with their surroundings. I made MANY trips to the bar, met a few of the bartenders who were very cool people.

All in all, Charlotte represented. I had been hearing that they support house music better than ATL, and I can definitely believe that. I don’t know how the DJs who played think it measures up to the other cities they’ve played in on the tour, but I hope they were pleased. I know I was.

The Hustle

Saturday, July 5, 2008

I had a difficult time turning my head off so that I could sleep last night. That’s been happening more and more lately. I’ve been thinking about the hustle. Thinking that I am probably going to have to ‘play the game’ in order to get to any place of value in my personal development.

The say you can’t knock it….. The world is changing quickly, and the global community is coming to a difficult crossroads. As with most issues, the U.S. has a way of intensifying things.

Result? More and more people on the hustle.

Yeah, you can still be a success on the straight and narrow – use the traditional methods, but to do that now is a MUCH different ballgame then when my parents did it. If you are going the traditional route, you have to define your goals early, make a plan, be diligent, and stray from that plan VERY little. All of those elements have to be in place, and the way life deals the cards – that’s just not feasible for a lot of individuals. School, good career, family, one or two companies, retirement just doesn’t happen anymore.

Most people I know are hustlin’. There are all kinds of hustles, legitimate/selfish, legal/illegal (actually most people mix a little of both) productive/destructive. Business entrepreneurs are hustlers, drug dealers are hustlers, the music business is DEFINITELY a hustle, politicians may be the ultimate hustlers. Most hustlers don’t get to experience much stability in their lives, everything is read and react, stay on top of the curve. Hustlers often don’t get to experience ‘luxuries’ like – health insurance. There usually isn’t much in the savings account (unless your hustle pays off, then there can be a whole lotta bank in your life.)

What I can’t get my head around is what amount of risk is ideal to have the best chance to succeed. Some people seem to be able to make the huge risk/huge reward thing work out for them – but an even larger number put themselves in a world of pain with that route. You have to be inventive and take chances. If your back is against the wall, you’ve got no choice but to do what you have to do to make sure things turn out right, don’t you? Won’t that sink or swim instinct pull most relatively intelligent resourceful people through in the end? I don’t know.

Maybe that’s enough to get me through and maybe it isn’t. See, realization standing in the corner at the back of the room giving me the wink wink. Telling me that I’m probably going to have to jump in with the current and get my hustle on. It’s no secret that I’ve been a holding pattern for a lot of years now, and you can only watch so many friends, and opportunities pass you by before it gets a little tough to take. I don’t know if I’m cut out for this personality wise, and I’m not sure how many of my chips are the right amount to push into the middle of the table for this bluff – but I can’t help but feel like its going to take a little explosion to get things moving in SOME kind of direction.

Question is, how much dynamite do I use, and how will things fall in the end…..

Oh - and one other thing...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

An addition to yesterday’s blog - - - -
Another type I forgot to add:

The Underground Guerilla Marketer- I’m thinking more and more that THESE are the people to learn the game from. They usually have several projects going that are related (Example: Marketing team – record label – graphics shop – management company, maybe even distribution if they’re good.) They know ALL the tricks to cut costs, and are always looking for new ones. They put out some dope shit that you may have heard and remember (b/c it’s dope) but you have no idea where it came from. They are smart enough to know when to put something out that may not be their favorite style. .b/c every now and then you gotta go with something that will just sell or chart well to pay for the ‘labour of love’ projects.

They are the people you rarely see in magazines – or anywhere visible, but go to a conference or an important event with them – one where lots of major players are present. EVERYONE knows them and most respect them. They have AT MOST one degree of separation from anyone you can name b/c they have worked behind the scenes with so many people on so many things. This is usually not just ONE person; it’s usually a small collective of peeps.

Sometimes the big labels/brands start this way…….but if they’re smart, they don’t go mainstream/mass market – b/c then they have to start spending lots of money, and that just goes against the mindset that made them successful in the first place.

Getting this kind of a ball rolling usually takes the right combination of people coming together (i.e. – each participant having a different area of expertise to bring to the table, kind of like the Superfriends in the Hall of Justice) – and each person has usually spent SEVERAL years on their individual grind, doing work and meeting people, before they find each other and form a successful group. In other words, some stars have to line up correctly for this to happen. Also, it AINT glamourous. There are occasional big shows, or exotic locales that remind everyone, “yeah – this is why we grind the way we do” but in between those are lots of small offices, packed van rides to events, and smallish crowds. The art they contribute is important, in many ways they drive the scene, but there is very little shine involved for them.

The Biz-ness

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yeah so ummmmm. . . . it’s been a minute – I know. Not exactly the best way to get the momentum going on a new blog, but – hang with me. I’m not ready to throw the towel in on this one just yet.

Today, I think I am going to focus on my early efforts to figure out ways I can do something I care about – and have said activities provide enough money for me to eat, live on my own, and pay my bills.

Ah yes, my early inquisitions into the world of entertainment – more specifically music.
Let me tell you about my perceptions so far. . . . . Now I ain’t sayin all of the following descriptions are FACT, I’m just sayin this is the SENSE I seem to be getting. Perception isn’t always reality.

I have come across a few different kinds of people who I would say are “Making It” in the industry. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are rich, or famous….but what it DOES mean is that they are involved full time (i.e. don’t have a BS day job) and they are either working on projects that they are excited about, or well on their way to working on worthwhile endeavors. Occasionally, it actually DOES mean they are doin ok money or fame wise as well.

There seem to be a few types of people in this situation:

Those that know a LOT important people, but don’t really DO very much of anything. AKA the – “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know crowd.” Now believe me, I understand the importance of the proper contacts, and working the room from time to time – but for some of these folks it seems like that’s all they’re really good at. Oh – and partying, they’re good at that too. They get a dope title with a good label, or promotion/event company, or management company – and they front like they’re on the grind – but there’s no proof in the puddin at the end of the day. Fact is though, they’ll either keep their job – or lose it and get another one just as good. They are charmers.

The Street Hustla – this is actually one of my favorites. They are often ‘jacks-of-all-trades’ – they always have 50 projects goin on. If they are successful, it’s usually because they have done a good job at making computers and modern modes of communication work for them – using these things to help them get their money from the art that they love. Occasionally they got something goin on the side to supplement income that is . . . . . how shall I say. . . . Less than legitimate – but not always, many have their hustle down so well that they can keep things above board. Here’s the thing though, I don’t know when these people sleep…..I think a lot of them are insomniacs, or they just plain don’t need many zzzzz’s. Also, I don’t know how they make ends meet – fact is, it takes a while to achieve any kind of financial stability with this approach. So what are they doin when they on the come up?

Of course there is the successful person that knew in school what they wanted to do – got their shit together early, did some internships that may have been not quite what they were after, and now are doing what they always wanted, and doing it well. The traditional mode of climbing the ladder doesn’t happen nearly as much in the entertainment world as it does in other businesses though.

There are also those who use some sleazy methods to get where they need to go – but usually they’re more interested in fame or LOTS of money than they are in being part of fulfilling projects.

So where do I fit in this world – how can I utilize my strengths best so that I can be noticed and do some work that makes me feel fulfilled?

I certainly can’t do the soulless paper pushing I’m doing right now for much longer.

I don’t fit any of these molds completely, and I know I gotta be myself in the end – but will that get the job done?

Do I focus on a certain field, or do I hustle as long as I can until I find my place. How can I make some $ so I can live and eat in the big city – but at the same time keep my jobs related to the direction I want to go in? These are things that have been on my mind lately…..

Hopefully more to come soon.

In And Out In A-Minute-and-Five

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Hip Hop Party Style - The DMC style. - shoot, even the electrohipstermash-up it what you will. I'm referring to party/club DJing where you're in the record, then out of the record, then on to the next REEEEEAL quick-like. Somewhere around the one minute mark, maybe faster.

There are lots of different versions of this game. Most people who rock it are good technically. Technical skill is pretty much a prerequisite when you are choosing and blending that quickly.

The only person I have seen who I could call 'sublime;' who I think brings a true artistry to it, is Jazzy Jeff. He brings block party flavor, constantly combining his mood and his crowd's reactions to give some sensual quirks to his set. It's not super-predictable when he does it, and the choices are ALWAYS on point. The flow keeps you wryly grinning without even knowing it.

All the others, regardless of their genre of choice, I tend to put in the same boat. I don't care if you're talking about 2 Many DJ's, Klever (who I had the pleasure of getting dance-floor sloppy to on Saturday night) or the multitude of rapid attack rap party DJ's. Their routines are usually planned out, and if they don't "wash-rinse-and repeat" they tend to have a pretty small cache of records that they choose from at any given time. The goal seems to be to blow the roof off the joint from start to finish.......there ain't a whole lot of subtlety. Most of the records are sing-along or hands-in-the air. Don't misunderstand me, the shit can be fun - LOTS of fun, especially if you're ready to put down some alcohol and you're dressed to sweat. It's just not something that leaves me wanting more. I couldn't have fun with it often. It produces a blinder of a night when it's right, but can lose it's potency quickly if you keep going back to the well.

All this being said, Klever rocked it for Sloppy Seconds at MJQ on Saturday night, and we had a funky good time. My brother and I were on the 5th row blue line of Phillips arena earlier in the evening to watch our Pittsburgh Penguins lose to the Atlanta Thrashers. Not only did they lose, but they lost at the hands of one of their beloved former players who now wears that ridiculous multi-hued blue uniform. We weren't too sad though. Being that close to world class athletes was the reward in itself, and we had good times and good friends waiting for us later that night.

P.S. - Went to a little heat trap in ATL called El Bar for the first time.........VERY curious about the future possibilities of the joint. Gotta see Presto there!

Enter Soundboy

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Some time ago, my good friend Peter (cheers for the New Year's Celebrations Pete) suggested that I chronicle bits and pieces of my various thoughts and experiences, especially as they pertain to music. This suggestion came months and months ago, and being that I am naturally wary of blogs (I have winced FAR too many times as I have read the blogs of acquaintances putting their deep feelings on the superhighway for everyone to drive around in) I have had the idea banging around in my brain for some time now.

Well, in the end, I decided that he was correct. Being that we have a bit of a clean sheet going with the New Year and all, I figured that this was as good a time as any to get things started.

Although this will probably focus on things music - and music business related, it may go onto other topics from time to time. Who knows......

I chose the title b/c at the current moment - I'm not quite a performer or DJ, definitely not a casual fan, and not on the payroll for any record company, magazine, or nightclub. I'm just a bratty punk who thinks he knows better than anybody else. ;)

So here we go:

Over the extended New Year weekend I came to the conclusion that going to see local music acts doesn't necessarily suck, you just have to know how to 'pick your spots.' I started off Saturday by going to see the James Brown Band in a very small, but very well loved spot called The Soul Bar in James's hometown of Augusta, GA. The vibe and energy both from the group and the crowd was definitely made a difference that's James's memorial statue was right down the road, and that his spirit was kind of floating around. To be fair, the fact that a documentary was being shot (and subsequently, the band members were probably putting a little money in their pocket as a result - some of them looked pretty haggard) probably didn't hurt. The current version of the Bittersweets weren't too bad as they handled most of the vocals - especially one larger black lady who looked and sang quite a bit like Rosie Gaines, she was the shit!!! Ray was even there to handle the MC duties - completely suited up with hat stylishly cocked to the side as always. The sax player told me afterward that they hadn't all played together in a year. This just proves that the godfather drilled the SHIT out of them; to the point where they were practically robots. Even with all the interplay, sound and vocal cues, and changing on the fly their musical performance requires, there were VERY few mistakes. Kind of like riding a bike I guess.

I spent New Year's Eve in Columbia, SC. Going back to my college town always sparks some trepidation with me, b/c I'm a bit afraid when I see people from that period that they will automatically superimpose on me all the old roles and perceptions that may (or may not) have applied back in those times. Obviously things have changed quite a bit since then.

So it takes a bit of cajoling, and a very good reason for me to go back to Columbia. Cajoling provided by Peter. Reason: getting a chance to see Peter, Erik, and Richard again - - - and to goof off to the DJ stylings of DJ Keane and Erik Hess as I rung in the New Year. My brother was also coming along, and that means when I've exhausted the small talk with people I don't know well - or the girls who I'm not really interested in, nor they interested in me - I don't have to just stand in the DJ booth all night with my arms folded looking like a knob. I can always go into the goofy shared language and inside jokes of brotherhood and ignore the other stuff I'm not interested in while I enjoy the music.

The lads delivered as always. Several years ago I used to like to tell people that per capita, Columbia probably has better DJ's than most places in the US. It may not be quite what it was then, but it hasn't lost much. These two guys especially have always been good at using their eq's and effects to blow up records, and using their record selection to blow up crowds. I've always been impressed with how they know the environment and crowd they have in a certain venue - and doing little things to cater to their audience without completely playing a record or style that they're not feeling just to cop out to the crowd. They do a great job of finding the balance. If I was starting a club, I would want DJ Keane as one of my residents, b/c he is especially good at essentially playing his sound, but keeping recognizable melodies or vocals involved from time to time so that he doesn't lose the dance floor.

So, local musicians don't HAVE to necessarily suck. I realize that in this case, we weren't exactly talking about your local 'beer band' badly jamming in the hope that a record deal or an orgy of dumb groupies is right around the corner...those still do suck. But it at least proves that going out in smaller towns doesn't have to be a complete loss - it can occasionally still be a good time.