Archive for May, 2014

Disneyland No More: A Teenager’s Rock Pilgrimage To L.A.

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In July, 2013,’s intern Madeleine Buzbee took a road trip down to Los Angeles with her parents. The Mission: come face-to-face with the mythology of the L.A. music scene.

“I am going to Los Angeles and am NOT going to Disneyland.” Big changes were happening, because for the first time I was visiting LA on a music expedition without much of schedule. I wanted to have the full road trip experience, with lots of mixtapes and abandoned town stops along the way. I lusted to have an experience open my eyes to new music. I wanted a new music identity, like someone would want a new wardrobe, and I was going to LA to find it.

For as long as I can remember, music has always been the thing I could relate to the most, and has provided me with the words and concepts to define who I- a 15 year old San Francisco kid- identify as. It’s rare that a few weeks pass without a night at a venue along side my friends.

I envisioned that upon arriving in LA, I would witness paparazzi running down “the-next-big-things” driveway. I expected to see lots of live music, and get a feel for a music culture separate from the open arms culture the Bay Area encompasses. I wanted to see punk rock in a tiny venue in Downtown LA. I wanted to experience the crowd surge around me to the music coming from the speakers above in the oh-so-hip Southern California atmosphere, and I wanted to walk into a record shop and receive recommendations from a local. This was wishful thinking. I had not considered the size of Los Angeles, the mythology of “fame”, and the fact that this self-discovering music expedition was to be executed by a team. Aside from me, the team was comprised of my 56 year-old parents, who didn’t enjoy standing for too long, things that are too loud, nor driving for too far. As I would learn on this trip, all of those scenarios are unavoidable in LA.


Here’s the thing about traveling to somewhere beautiful in California: more often than not, you have to travel through strip mall towns and down highways sandwiched between warehouses to get to your destination. Our first stop on the road trip was the hilly seaside town of San Luis Obispo. Inhabited primarily by Cal Poly students, I expected a lot of pizza by the slice and a couple of record stores. The first record shop I visited was Booboo Records just off the main road. The walls were covered with posters representing every era and every genre imaginable. Amidst the chaos of the crowded record store hung an enormous chandelier. It added to the shop’s charm.

I talked with the man at the back counter about the jist of the store. Booboo has been in SLO since 1974, and sells newer vinyl and lots of merchandise pertaining to bands and SLO. He explained that working in the shop had just started as a way to pay off student loans, but eventually led him to become an enthusiast about newer music and added that he had started making his own music in his dorm. It was always refreshing and inspiring to meet someone acting on his passions and creating art. Booboo seemed to foster a warm and fuzzy feeling amongst the shelves, similar to the record stores I’m accustomed to. The store seemed to provide a ton of new vinyl that I hadn’t seen back in San Francisco. I was having deja-vu; this was exactly what I had dreamt of. This tiny room held so many albums just ready to have a needle dropped on to their surface, and was sprinkled with people who were thirsty for those sounds.

I received a few recommendations from that man, ranging from Boards of Canada to Surfer Blood. I browsed for an hour or so, admiring the posters and large David Bowie selection. Despite this being the first day of the trip on a relatively strict budget consisting of my birthday money, I could not leave the store empty handed. I picked up Little Joy and The Velvet Underground’s always lovely Loaded.

A few blocks over from Booboo is a maze of used records called Cheap Thrills. Cheap Thrills opened up a few years before Booboo and specializes in CD’s, some used records, and, as I learned the second I saw a herd of 11 year-old boys rushing across the store, extensive amounts of Futurama memorabilia. I walked up the attic stairs to their vinyl section, admiring the murky space with endless shelves of rock records. The atmosphere was very similar to what I was used to in San Francisco, and the urge to search through crates for the miniscule chance of finding something to add to my collection drew me in. After an hour of sorting through bins and hopeless, sweaty moments where I was ready to stop searching, a few vinyls clicked. I headed out with a copy of a the Rolling Stones’ Through The Past, Darkly. It had no corners and the track sheet had been previously annotated with gel pen reading “I WANT YOU, MICK!”. I was holding a piece of someone’s past, possibly scribbled during a warm Southern California trip, like I was embarking on.

I crossed the street for a cup of coffee and found a window seat. I looked out at the unfamiliar, yet inviting, streets of San Luis Obispo. The Woman by Rhye played throughout the cafe. At sunset, we set out to Morro Bay for dinner and eavesdropped on the surrounding tables for the final 3 hours in SLO. I overheard stories of love, debt, bad toddlers, and a lost cat. This all seemed like the worthy subject matter for a country song.

Santa Barbara and The Coast

Stopping in Santa Barbara, I received a recommendation from the man at Pizza My Heart. He played all of Telekinesis’ Power Lines as my mom and I stared out at the countless surf shops and hungover UCSB students. For a moment, I felt like I was living that picturesque Southern California beach town dream. It was ephemeral. Moments later, we hit the road again, with our final destination being Santa Monica. I stared out at the picturesque waves that refused to stop kissing the shore, in awe at the land that had inspired so many artists. The albums accompanying the drive seemed so fitting, knowing that some of the inspiration for these albums came from the seaside on which I was feasting my eyes. Best Coast and DIIV roared through the speakers as we descended towards the long awaited music-Mecca below.


Santa Monica

The next morning, I awoke on the edge of the futon bed in our art-deco hotel room to the sound of German tourists splashing around in the Grinch-green pool below. Several episodes of SpongeBob and one bagel later, I walked onto real Santa Monica soil. Clear skies, palm trees, and 70 degree water. I hit the shore. Out off the shore, emerged the pier. I discovered that all games and merchants offered the same thing: a chance to have your very own One Direction pillow and/or a keychain with your name written on a piece of rice.

Back on The Promenade, countless street artists singing over backing tracks serenaded the shoppers. The performers were often very talented but, like it is in any city, maybe 1 in 500 people would drop a few spare coins in their hats. The store fronts were inviting, pumping Disclosures’ newest single through the speakers to lure me in. Then it was time to put the endless maze of chain stores to the test.

I asked Siri, in an effort to feel futuristic, “Find the nearest Record Store”. To my disappointment, Siri could only suggest a Barnes and Noble and an Urban Outfitters, all the way on the other side of the complex. I trekked out to Urban Outfitters, in hopes that they might have some local vinyl selections, despite being a chain. No such luck. Only Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 and unloved copies of Sigur Ros lined the nearly barren vinyl section. The rack was placed among headbands and sunglasses. Here, vinyl was an accessory. I wondered if the music would ever be appreciated by their future owners, or just another object to instagram.

Hollywood and Downtown

On the evening of our third night in the area, my parents and I drove nearly 4 hours to Hollywood to see the only all-ages show we could make: a local electronic alternative band called Kitten. The traffic was accompanied by Los Angeles by Flying Lotus. The drive lacked anything resembling a landmark, so this was the perfect noise to keep the brain busy while stalled at endless red lights. The most exciting thing I managed to see on the road was the West Hollywood Post Office.

A line looped around the block leading towards The Troubadour–the legendary venue found inside a German-inspired woodland church right off of Pico Blvd. The scene outside didn’t differ much from the venues in San Francisco, as the air was buzzing with excitement and anticipation. The man at the door stamped my hand with the under-18 stamp, and rolled his eyes. Everything was dulled down in the venue and the excitement seemed to disappear into thin air. Quiet chatter and blank stares echoed in the lofty church space. My parents went up to the balcony to rest their old knees- so as usual, we separated as I joined the crowd. The only time those around me spoke, they would make some sort of complaint. By the time the music started, all the crowd became a sea of white screens and unappreciative, sweaty middle-aged men, and annoying teenagers. When Kitten began her rendition of Prince’s Purple Rain, the crowd swayed. It was such a relief. The people on the floor below still resembled human beings. No fan pressed against the stage seemed to sing along. Little collaboration occurred between the audience and the performers. The band had great energy, but I realized that if the energy doesn’t carry into the crowd, the whole picture can’t come alive.

The following day, the entire family headed to The Grammy Museum. LA was a tangled mess of highways, dipping over and under each other, filled with cars driven by very busy people. The streets sandwiched between the iconic downtown skyscrapers were filled with the same very busy people whom I had encountered the night before at The Troubadour, but this time in suits. Upon arriving at the museum, it seemed like just another set of encased artifacts and security guards on the prowl for tourists trying to snap a picture next to the Daft Punk helmets. In a matter of sheer moments, I would have my big “ah-ha” moment.

I stood next to Ringo’s drum set– the very one he recorded Abbey Road on. The surroundings were adorned with Beatles paraphernalia and replicas of Ringo’s costumes, along with photos of The Beatles’ first time in LA.

Standing with my face pressed against the glass panes protecting the drums, I found what I had been searching for–a glimpse into the world of fame and excellence from the stories I had been told, and the trip I had envisioned. I was inches away from the instrument where history had been banged into. Yet, I did not breathe the same air as it. The days when those snares sounded had passed many decades ago. I was only 3 inches of bulletproof glass away from the connection to the music that I had been searching for.

The Road Home

We left the flats of LA and back into the hills, hoping to reach San Francisco before nightfall. Passing through countless valleys and farming towns, I listened to The Black Keys, Mac Demarco, and Christopher Owens. I was going to return with a memorable moments, but not nearly to the extent I envisioned. The experience with Ringo’s drums served as a distilled experience. On one hand I was experiencing a piece of what made pop possible, but I was still detached.. I was aware of the talent and wonders that burrowed in LA, but I couldn’t access them. I imagined LA to be so different than my previous travels–it harbored a reputation across such a large stretch of busy and annoyed people, that it is hard to expect everything in sight to reflect that ideal.

Crazy weather creates crazy people. That can be a positive thing– inspiring Flying Lotus’ and DIIV’s vibes that are hard to internalize, but so satisfying once finally decoded. It can also result in angry, drunk people in tiny venues feeling self-entitled. Perhaps the glorious fame and talent that had been rumored to live in Southern California was not a myth after all. Maybe that talent just had gone on vacation in the summer of 2013. Maybe I had experienced a copy of a copy, or a fabrication of the genuine aspects of talent. It all felt filtered. My parents experienced the trip similar to the way I had, but seemed to lose hope in finding that genuine experience we were chasing. Even the bones of that ideal were impressive, and if you looked far and wide, you might catch a glimpse into the wonderful, creative madness of the City of Angels.

Does LA’s music industry really value fame over excellence, or are the real gems hidden away in the cassette rack in San Luis Obispo, or in the presence of Ringo’s Sergeant Pepper costume? LA had proved to be a weird, hauntingly mysterious sprawl, but more than anything, begs for exploration. Rolling past hundreds of gas stations and tomato fields, Devendra Banhart played- the perfect music for reflection. I was more than eager to return to my friend, Karl The Fog, with armfuls of vinyl and the mystery of the elusive Los Angeles on my mind.


Madeleine Buzbee has been an intern at since late 2012. She was born and raised in San Francisco, and is currently a high school student Jewish Community High School in the Western Addition of San Francisco. She spends her summers in Montreal and uses mixtapes as a way to score her travels. She loves writing and curating various mediums. She hopes to go into journalism some day, and has her mind set on living in New York City. On any given day, you can find her mistaking herself for a Ronnette or eating over-priced toast while listening to Mac Demarco.

Maddy’s playlist from her trip:

Song she’s listened to more than any other: “Is This It,” by The Strokes

The F-Word: Homophobia in Hip-Hop

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A Exclusive Report by Joseph Bien-Kahn

Warning: Strong and derogatory language is present throughout this article. in no way condones discrimination of any kind. We felt it necessary to present the raw language used in the form of lyrics, comments, and quotes in order present an honest story addressing homophobia and sexism in hip-hop.

A rapper recently told me, “When you say, fuckin’ faggot, that’s like the worst possible thing you can say about someone, besides like, dirty cunt. Those are terrible words and when they’re coming out of your mouth, you have this feeling of, almost, hyper-masculinity, this feeling of like extreme power. When you’re saying those words, you feel badass, you feel like you’re dominating somebody.”

The rapper who said that, Sam “Oh Blimey” McDonald, explains herself as “exactly the opposite of what I know the face of hip-hop looks like.” She’s white, she’s female, she’s homosexual.

I squirmed in my seat when I heard that opening quote; your stomach might have turned reading it. But that’s where hip-hop’s at today. It struggles with mainstream success and its all-too-present misogyny and homophobia. Rap is big enough now that the headliner acts say all the right things about homosexuality and hip-hop. But the truth is, homophobia is still a living, breathing force in the rap game.


Why I Love Music:’s Nick Hansen

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To my alarm, the assignment from our VP of Programming, Phil, read: “Write an essay on what music means to you, and do up a playlist to accompany your thoughts if you have time.”

Oh? Really? Has he lost his mind?? Music! — of all topics, music — boil it down to “my life in a nutshell”, then? How?!

“What does music mean to me” is like “what does water mean for a fish” or “what does fuel mean to an engine”. It’s the sine qua non of life!

Even if you’re imprisoned and held solitary confinement, you still can hum a tune out loud. I read recently about a “locked-in syndrome”, sadly someone prominent drew attention to it through his eventual death last year in England. Google it — you can’t move, you can’t talk, but you can think clearly. Probably, even if you’re so completely unfortunate, you can still dream up a song, one that you’re not hearing with your ears.

The world around us is full of sound, and you know that everyone is seeking your attention, and combinations of sounds can form melodies and harmonies can form stanzas and compositions and songs and albums and compendiums and all that. We are human, we are alive, we make music.

From birth, our first outpouring of expression is in tonal mono-syllables. Over time, some of us are better than others in stringing those together to form song and to vocally express their compositions. Singing for others. It helps if people love the output, but either way, if you’re into it, you’ll probably sing it. Nothing wrong with that.

The public seeks a performer as the performer seeks an audience. They get together. The intense feeling of heavy, deep drum and bass in the middle of a crowded dance floor with its tactile sensibilities, including perhaps unwelcome olfactory experiences and unexpected visual references. The fleeting thoughts. For those willing to put in the effort, when it reaches this stage, the experience isn’t just “brought to you” by music, it is music in its complete intensity, a memory maker.

That sort of intensity regarding music is there to lullaby you as a newborn and to see you off from planet Earth. And every point in between. The tense times, the times you need energy, the times you need to relax, the times you’re running, moving, pushing yourself, fun sexy time, the time you’re tired and lethargic, down in the dumps, that time you cried.

Music is the facilitator that helps everyone smooth over the rough patches in life, both big and small. It’s there for you, it keeps you going, it sets memory points, it reaffirms your existence and defines, a bit, your camaraderie.

OK. Well. Where are we now? Oh. I’m happy that I did my homework in the end. Music means I’m going to wake up tomorrow and get on with it, and hopefully the next day will be at least as good as the day before.


Why I Love Music:’s Chris Hansen

Why I Love Music:’s Jerad Fox

Why I Love Music –’s Phil Lang

Why I Love Music –’s Jeff LaPenna

Why I Love Music –’s Sophie DeWitt

Why I Love Music –’s Christopher Davies

Why I Love Music:’s Sarah Levitt

Why I Love Music:’s Diana Gamboa

Why I Love Music:’s Diana Gamboa

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There is no definitive answer to such broad question, and certainly not one that skips clichés, although they do point out core elements that help identify why individuals love music; so why not embrace them and move on, shall we?

Most music is universal, and doesn’t require a common language to understand and enjoy it; at its most basic form, is a combination of melody, harmony and rhythm, and even if we don’t recognize these elements separately, we can feel them, there is an instant reaction, and that in itself is pretty lovable. I would say lyrics are secondary. Listeners don’t instantly love a song because of words, otherwise we would really be into poetry.

Spanish is my first language, and although I’ve been exposed to music sung in English pretty much since I was born, I never really knew what most of the songs meant, until maybe a few years ago. Certainly, what made me love a song wasn’t the subject matter, it was all about the sonic experience, and how those sounds made me feel and where they could take me, which leads me to another clichéd reason of my love of music: otherworldly.

Music is a trip. It takes us places we wouldn’t otherwise be able to go, and yes, cinema and photography do an excellent good job at it, but music does it different, better. It’s the most affordable getaway; we can escape our reality whenever we want. It enables a bubble that protects us from the outside world. “I Listen, Therefore I Exist”.

Walking down memory lane is another aspect I love about music. It’s a sonic look at the past in such a vivid way. Often times I find it even more powerful than the memories evoked by a photograph, and trust me, I document a LOT.

Lastly, music is a reflection of our state of mind. It adapts our mood, our thoughts, it’s the invisible companion that gets us through the day.


Why I Love Music:’s Chris Hansen

Why I Love Music:’s Jerad Fox

Why I Love Music –’s Phil Lang

Why I Love Music –’s Jeff LaPenna

Why I Love Music –’s Sophie DeWitt

Why I Love Music –’s Christopher Davies

Why I Love Music:’s Sarah Levitt

Sampling and the case of Jay-Z and Eddie Bo

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A record label representing the now-deceased R&B artist Eddie Bo has filed a copyright claim against Jay Z for allegedly using Bo’s 1969 funk single “Hook & Sling Part 1″ without permission, according to New York Daily News. The label, TufAmerica, claims the sample appears in Jay Z’s 2009 Grammy-winning single “Run This Town,” which featured Rihanna and one of the song’s producers, Kanye West.

Which leads us to a very confusing topic in the Hip Hop world. Just what constitutes “sampling,” when does sampling require permission, and what – if any – monetary compensation is required? Sampling is a fundamental aspect of Hip Hop, and yet it remains a very gray area of the genre.

Host Ian McPherson sits down with BAMM Editorial Director Chris Davies hash it out and test the general public’s opinion in the form of online comments and on-the-street interviews.

Comment Box is a production.


Host: Ian McPherson
Executive Producers: Chris and Nick Hansen
Producer: Phil Lang, Chris Davies, Ian McPherson
Sound and Recording Engineer: Jerad Paul Fox

Music provided by Niteppl –

Why I Love Music:’s Chris Hansen

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The first truly co-ed parties I remember started the summer after 6th grade. With the exception of pool parties, these events always seemed to involve poodle skirts and white t-shirts rolled up at the sleeve as we danced awkwardly to the music of another era. Our parent-chaperones relived their youth to the sounds of The Big Bopper and Jerry Lee Lewis as they sipped on spiked punch in the kitchen.

I liked the music well enough, but it dawned on me that there must be something more. It wasn’t long before discovering CCR’s Chronicle vol. 1 & 2 on cassette, and I ran the ribbon raw with “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Walk On The Water” and “Run Through The Jungle.” Sure, I also liked “Suzie Q,” “Proud Mary” and “Looking Out My Backdoor,” but I was craving something a little more disorderly.

About that time, I invaded my brother’s collection of records, tapes and new-fangled CDs and was awakened to all things British. I listened to everything I could find from The Beatles, The Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Echo and the Bunnymen. I most loved singing along with Morrissey’s depressed choirboy vocals beginning with “Reel Around the Fountain” and going straight through to “Paint A Vulgar Picture.” I was shocked and ashamed to discover that the band had already broken up by the time I heard The Queen Is Dead.

Then I went to a Phish show at Red Rocks. All I can say is: epic.

I was forever changed. After buying the entire catalog on CD I learned that you could go into certain record stores and ask for the “Italian imports,” whereupon the clerk would reveal a hidden stash of live bootlegs from under the counter. I saw Widespread Panic at the HORDE tour and indeed my horizons of rock developed further.

On my first date with my wife, she introduced me to The Black Keys with a compilation CD from The Big Come Up and Rubber Factory. Even though I was hearing it for the first time, it was like I had always known each song. A year later when Attack and Release came out, “All You Ever Wanted” became our song.

Back in college, I would set my alarm clock every day to a random track from Mozart’s Requiem.

Today, I begin my jogging routine the same way every time with “The Divided Sky” off Phish’s debut album.

I can recite the entirety of Vivaldi’s aria “Nulla In Mundo Pax Sincera” in my head even though I don’t understand most of the words.

I’ve played in several bands with my friends, and now I stumble along on a melodica playing Stan Getz tunes to my daughter.

So why do I love music? Because I can barely remember what clothes I was wearing two days ago, but all of these memories are lodged permanently and warmly in my brain. They are as much a part of me as my skin.


Why I Love Music:’s Jerad Fox

Why I Love Music –’s Phil Lang

Why I Love Music –’s Jeff LaPenna

Why I Love Music –’s Sophie DeWitt

Why I Love Music –’s Christopher Davies

Why I Love Music:’s Sarah Levitt