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The ongoing saga of Joel Tenenbaum

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If you keep up to date with developments in the digital music world – and seeing as you’re already reading the BAMM website, we’re gonna go ahead and assume you’re pretty clued up – you’re probably familiar with the ongoing story of Joel Tenenbaum, a former Boston University student who was fined $675,000 by the RIAA for illegally downloading and sharing 30 songs on the internet.

Tenenbaum decided to fight his corner. Viewing the punishment as deeply out of perspective, Joel enlisted legal assistance and took the RIAA to court (with the help of Harvard professor Charles Nesson). A federal judge agreed that the punishment was excessive, but it was alas reinstated by a court of appeal.

Infact, if you want to know the story in full, just spare a few minutes to take a listen to this episode of BAMM Insights, in which we interviewed Tenenbaum himself:

Enjoy that? Good (and there are several more episodes of Insights you should check out too, covering a wide range of digital and music issues). Now take a peek at this BAMM.tv clip in which our very own Phil Lang examines both sides of the piracy/punishment argument:

Why are we bringing this issue up today? Because Joel’s most recent appeal has failed, and he’s still in the firing line for that none-too-pleasant 675K fine. Joel just graduated on Sunday, and – while he’s no doubt justifiably proud of his achievement – this ongoing saga can’t help but take the shine off that.

The thing is this: let’s look at the consensus here. In the episode of Insights posted above, Joel admits breaking the law, and is more than ‘happy’ to accept an appropriate punishment. The key word here is appropriate. If you were to hit the streets right now and ask people what the punishment for illegal file-sharing should be, what sort of answer do you think you’d get (barring any RIAA employees you might happen to bump into)? A relatively small fine – maybe five hundred or a thousand dollars? A brief stint of community service? Something in perspective, surely, because the vast majority of people have either a) dabbled in the world of the online five-finger discount themselves, or b) agree with Paul Resnikoff (see above video) that it’s a crime on a par with a traffic violation. Illegal, yep, and you’ll get your day in court. But you won’t be destroyed.

What will happen if Joel refuses to pay up? Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t have a spare $675,000 down the back of the sofa. Will he face jail time? Music pirates have been sent to prison in the past – admittedly for far greater offences, but nonetheless precedents have been set.

No-one would deny the right of artists to get paid, nor that those who steal music should be punished. But look at it this way – someone who illegally downloads music could theoretically face a prison sentence. Conrad Murray, the doctor convicted of the manslaughter of Michael Jackson, was sentenced to four years in jail. Conclusion: there’s not too much difference between the punishment for downloading a Michael Jackson song and killing Michael Jackson. Is that fair?

What are your thoughts on the issue? Feel free to share in the comments box below.

Check out the latest antics from OK Go …

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There are few podcasts/radio shows better than This American Life (maybe Radiolab is on par, and – of course – the mighty Best Of BAMM podcast) – Ira Levin’s weekly look at the narrative underbelly of the nation, packed with amazing journalism, stories and insights. If you’ve never heard, you’re missing out.

Why are we even talking about it? Because This American Life have teamed up with Ok Go – the Chicago-born four piece indie act whose curious viral marketing techniques have long been the subject of analysis here on this very blog. After these fame-snaring antics with treadmills and rally courses …

… they’ve hatched plans to do something really special.

New Yorkers can catch a live theater recording of the show tomorrow, and those of you outside the Big Apple should be able to catch live-feed screenings at selected cinemas across the country. During the show, Ok Go will be performing, and they’ve released an app which they’re requesting viewers to download – something which add a little extra magic to their stage show. No-one is sure what exactly, but we’re guessing some sort of augmented reality fun and frolics. Given their track record with a good gimmick, it’s safe to say that attendees won’t be disappointed.

Take Part In The Musical Yearbook Project!

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Yesterday we treated you to our latest podcast, which continued our theme of exploring the Musical Yearbook – those moments in life in which music undergoes an effortless synergism with present events and creates lasting memories (good or bad, but nevertheless always unforgettable).

If you liked what you heard, here’s something that you should find very, very interesting indeed. BAMMers Phil, Sonia, Zach and Brock have kickstarted a new labor-of-love project which hopes to create a communal archive of all these amazing musical moments – and they need you to take part. Here’s a summary:

Based on the universal truth that music is a highly effective entry point into our pasts, Musical Yearbook is a growing collection of audio recorded autobiographical essays/short stories in which people of all ages, professions, and backgrounds share written snapshots of their lives through the lens of the music that chose them. It is the first experiment in a series for a larger, tentatively coined Social Music Project.

In the end, Musical Yearbook has a simple goal—to tell and learn our stories through the common thread of music. We are all far more interesting than what can be summed up in an “About Me” section, and we are far more interested in others than what is extractable from a friend’s or stranger’s “About Me” section. Similarly, there are more ways to share music than Spotify telling our “friends” what we’re listening to at the moment.

Like music, the digitization of community has created an efficient, but oftentimes shallow interaction. Our emotional investment in each other has been reduced. Musical Yearbook looks to deepen that interaction and increase our respective emotional investments.

If you want to help share your musical memories with the world, head on over to the Musical Yearbook site and find out how you can take part for yourself.

Check Out The New Best Of BAMM Podcast – The Musical Yearbook

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It’s been a while, but the BOB Podcast is back – this time with something very special indeed. San Francisco writer Lewis Buzbee (The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop) stopped by BAMM.tv to read all four of his essays/short stories for Musical Yearbook. He then chats with BAMM’s very own Phil Lang about the Musical Yearbook project, and the excitement of a parent and child turning each other on to music.

Lewis Buzbee is the author of three novels for younger readers, The Haunting of Charles Dickens, Steinbeck’s Ghost, and Bridge of Time, coming in May 2012. His most recent book for adults is The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. He teaches in the MFA Program in Writing at the University of San Francisco. For more info on Buzbee, take a look here.

Oh – and remember to check the BAMM blog tomorrow for details on how YOU can take part in the Musical Yearbook project! Excited? You should be …

The Bob Podcast #15 – “All Summer – No Bummer”

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The Bob Podcast #15: “All Summer – No Bummer” by BAMM.tv

The sun is still shining in San Francisco. So before we start biking in the rain for 6 more months, we’re going to bring you some songs that are new to BAMM.tv as of this summer.

We have filmed at Phono del Sol Festival in SF and Photosynthesis Festival in Neah Bay, WA. We let the City Beer Store celebrate their 5th birthday party in the studio (best beer selection ever). And even though we’ve mostly been editing or on the road, we managed to have a few in studio concerts as well. Enjoy our newest additions to the BAMM.tv library and have a great rest of the season.

Featuring Music From:

-Lulacruza
-Bartel
-Religious Girls
-Keyzer Soze
-The Soft White Sixties

Lulacruza

There is an aquatic quality to Lulacruza’s music that draws you in. Somebody have these two score a film already.

Religious Girls

A big thumbs up to Tyler McPherron on this one. A sedate park setting isn’t exactly ideal for a band like Religious Girls, but his edit on this really captures the energy these guys have at a live show.

Keyser Soze

Jammal Tarkington (vocals and sax) first came through BAMM.tv with the killer Who Cares. He’s a major talent, and although not seen in this performance, he’s an assassin on the flute. Flute Assissin…band name available, folks.

To subscribe to the Bob Podcast (they come out weekly), head over to our SoundCloud Page

Like the column? Hate it? Let us know and comment below.

Musical Yearbook – The Early Years

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The Bob Podcast #12: “Musical Yearbook – First Impressions” by BAMM.tv

Sonia Pina, Zach Ryan, and Phil Lang read essays from their earliest musical memories in our last installment of “Musical Yearbook.” Pina examines her early life as the daughter of one of the lead members the biggest band in Cuba. Ryan digs into his bowl cut and the moment his father shared a record from a little known band called The Beatles. Lang tells of Little League and his first Rock & Roll moment while listening to The Chronic.

Intro and outro music by Ana Tijoux. Check her out here.

We are looking for Musical Yearbook submissions! If interested, please submit essays to info@bamm.tv to be included in the blog. To hear the other three chapters of Musical Yearbook, check out the “The Bob Podcast” set.

“My Dad’s in the Cuban Rolling Stones”

Sonia Pina

My first musical memory has no date, place, album or song. The memory or memories are a collective blur that seem like a dream. I’m the daughter of a musician. My home was always awaken with the sound of trombone exercises. I’m trying to remember when I realized that music was the sustenance of my family.

My father isn’t just a musician; he is part of one of the biggest bands to date in Cuba. He has been in the band for 28 years and I honestly think he can’t imagine himself outside of that. To him, music is the way to survive in this world, and the only thing he can conceive of doing.

Los Van Van, the name of my father’s band, is my family. There is a connection that I, and everyone else that has some link to the band, feels that is not only inexplicable, but never fading.

But now, back to this memory thing.

I remember standing on stage holding my dad’s leg and not letting go, even though he needed to start playing. I don’t know why I felt that I needed to stay with him, I mean, I’m sure my mom and sister were around. But I held on tight until he could no longer stand it. “Sonia I have to play,” he’d say. Who knows if I actually answered him back, but knowing myself I probably had one of two reactions, cry and throw a tantrum or give him a face and hold him tighter.

I’d hear the bands’ intro and, automatically, have this full body experience. By the way, this still happens. Every time. They start playing and all of the sudden… Oh yeah… That feeling. The bass line hits my heart, the trombones blow a message into my brain, the violins sooth me, the percussion gives me goose bumps, the keys make me move and the singers remind me that it’s all happening, right there, in front of me.

Another part about my memories is not only what my reaction was but the people around me. The fans, the groupies and roadies. See, this is all part of being Van Van. It’s not just the band, it’s all the people that around them. The roadies that talk too much, the desperate girls wishing to become someone by being with one of them, the fans that sing every word, from every album, like there is nothing else happening in the world but that song in that moment.

That was my surrounding, being one of my dad’s and the band’s biggest fans. I love their music and have a deep emotional tie to it. As I think of the past, I can identify their albums and songs to times in my life, experiences, and places.

As you can tell, I have a deep love for the music and always did, but that wasn’t enough. My dad needed to know I could at any given time, with any given style of Cuban music find the clave. Clave is rhythmic pattern that unites, organizes and propels all of Cuban music. The clave is to Cuban music, what Van Van is to my life. It’s the past and present, with variations and different speeds.

I think I knew that what I wasn’t living the typical life. There were those moments where I’d go somewhere and be treated a certain way, until my dad showed up or someone said, she’s the daughter of… and they’d all change. Music did this, music made me be part of a different group, an exclusive group. Strange.

I now search my brain for the best description of memories, of past melodies, rhythms and lyrics that compose my life. There are too many, there are so many that it’s not a memory, it’s my life’s story. Infinite moments and experiences, some that repeat and some that could not be more different than the last.

So, as I go back to that little girl, I think of how fortunate I am to have had such a rich musical childhood. To know that music is not a memory, but that I was born into it, and will forever be part of it.

As the Van Van lyrics says: “Qué tiene Van Van que sigue ahí? Ahí, así.” What does Van Van have that it’s still there. It continues.

Sonia Pina is one of BAMM.tv’s Audio Engineers and also oversee all BAMM Latino productions.

“Dad Digs a Pigmy”

Zachary Ryan

I’m certain that by the time I was six years old, I had heard my fair share of tunes. Back then, my parents constantly played music. The top choices from my mom being Linda Ronstadt, Paul Simon and the Beach Boys, while my dad was more of an Eagles, Rolling Stones kinda guy. I can remember singing along in the car to some of these albums, and I can even remember requesting some songs by name long before I knew how to read. But I don’t count any of these as my earliest of musical memories.

If you’ve ever had a conversation about music with me for more than five minutes, then The Beatles are certain to have come up. Saying that I love The Beatles is almost an understatement. I worship them. I’ve spent days on end pouring over their records, reading books about them, and studying their history like it was some kind of assignment. In the instances where I’ve been in the company of people (anyone, loved ones, best friends, complete strangers) who have said “I don’t get what the big deal is about The Beatles,” I’ve launched into diatribes about their legacy and forced their music on said people until I feel that they might have just a fraction of the love that I do for this band. It’s weird, but I can’t deny it, to me (as to many) they are the greatest band of all time, and no one has even come close in the 41 years since they broke up. And it can all be traced back to one single afternoon when I was six.

Allow me to set the scene. It was a Sunday in early December of 1991. My sweet bowl cut was in full effect at the time and my LA Gears with the light up heels were hot out of the box. This particular morning my dad had tasked me with helping him clean out the hall closet. I’m not sure if it runs concurrent with other families, but for us, the hall closet was essentially a black hole in the middle of our house. A sort of double-door abyss that my parents opened once in a great while to throw in a musty old jacket, clothes that didn’t fit anymore, boxes of paperwork that would someday be filed. You know, junk. Needless to say, it was chore I wasn’t looking forward to.

We started early; haphazardly removing items one at a time and cross checking their usefulness with my mom. “Toss this,” she’d say. “Save that, put that over there, I never want to see that again.” The usual. It was mid afternoon and I had managed to sneak away for a couple of hours, hiding in my room and hoping that my dad wouldn’t notice I wasn’t helping out, when he called out to me. “Zach” he shouted from the down the hall. “Come here quick.” I was six, so I ran the way that kids do to the end of the hall where he stood holding a giant box and staring into it with a huge grin on his face.

He set the box on the floor in front of him and lifted out a big plastic square.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked.

“No.”

“It’s a record player!” he said. “And these are my old records”

“What’s a record player?”

“You play music on it!”

That was enough for me. Even at that tender age I considered myself an aficionado. I quickly pulled out the stack of records and started slowly going through them. Staring at the covers, asking about each particular band. It didn’t mean much to me then, but looking back my pops had a pretty bitchin’ record collection. I can remember seeing The Eagles (Hotel California), The Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers AND Tattoo You), Hendrix, Creem, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Animals, dozens more. But when I came to Let It Be by The Beatles he stopped me.

“Do you know who The Beatles are?” He asked me.

Shit yeah, I knew who The Beatles were, they covered that Raffi song, “Octopus’ Garden” right?

“I think so,” I said.

He picked up the record player and snatched the album from my hands. He got to the end of the hall, turned around and looked at me impatiently.

“Well, come on,” he said. I watched intently as he hooked the record player up to the speakers, took a step back, darted off down the hall and came back with a pair of the biggest headphones I’d ever seen. “These’ll be better,” and he popped them on my ears and dropped the needle onto the record.

There was a moment somewhere between the analog hiss of the record starting and Lennon shouting out those infamous opening lines “I dig a pigmy…” when I though I might protest. It was a perfectly good gloomy Sunday afternoon. I could watch a movie, or play ninja turtles, anything but listen to some dusty old record. But from the moment the song started I was entranced.

The house across the street was being remodeled and even though it was Sunday, there were construction workers doing their thing all day. I sat cross-legged in the front room and stared out the window, watching them work and listening to the album from top to bottom. When it concluded, I ran to my dad in the living room and asked him if he had any more Beatles records. Oddly, he didn’t, but he did have a copy of “The White Album” on cassette somewhere…

I’m not exaggerating when I say that from that afternoon until I was probably 13 years old, I listened almost exclusively to The Beatles. And when I listen to “Let it Be” I still get goose bumps at the opening chords of “Two of Us,” I still get choked up during “Across the Universe” (every time), my mind is still blown when Lennon and McCartney trade off vocals during the third verse of “I Got a Feeling,” but most importantly I still go back to that moment, sitting in the front room with my dad’s headphones on.

Zach Ryan edits, directs, and shoots for BAMM.tv. Check out his band, Genius and the Thieves at http://on.fb.me/pyTUL3

“Dan George, Steven Seagal, and Dr. Dre”

Phil Lang

My earliest experiences with popular music are split between two camps: Dr. Dre and Garth Brooks. It would make for a more comedic story if I had a foot in G-funk and Pop Country ever since then, but a man must choose, folks, even a 10 year-old man. The day comes when he must choose his colors, his team, his philosophy, and his music is no damn different. I spare you the suspense—I went with Garth. I’ll pause while you laugh. Go on, now. I deserve it.

But there was a day—a June day in 1992—when I came dangerously close to repping Death Row hard. It’s all because of The Indians.

Year ten was a big deal in Roseville to a kid who loved baseball as much I did. At ten you could try out for the Little League, a six-team league (the Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, Giants, White Sox, Indians) comprised of the best 10,11, and 12 year-old players in town. It was a seminal moment for a kid in Roseville. Do not mistake this for hyperbole.

Not only did I make the league, but the best team—the Indians, drafted me. We were the Yankees of the league. We won. Year after year, we won, and everyone hated us for it. They accused our retired insurance agent coach, John Treager, of cheating every which way. They hated his white and gold Lincoln Town Car, his snowbird tan, and his team kicking their asses every damn game.  We had Tom Fischer and Chris Dubay on the team that year, which is like saying we had Randy Johnson and Albert Pujos in a league full of minor leaguers. Dan George was also on the team. He was a wild haired, sharp tongue Lebanese kid and a wall behind home plate. He also had a new CD from Dr. Dre called The Chronic. No, I didn’t know what “chronic” meant.

This team and these kids—Dubay, Fischer, Fischers younger brother Tim, Dan Kamrath, Chris and Dan George, Eric Boyd, Joe Clifford, Jay Kurtis, Dan Schleickert—marked the first time I interacted with kids either off of my block or at school. You see, I was the catholic school kid.

I was in the lower level of Dan George’s mom’s house when I first heard The Chronic. I was an Indian, so I was good enough to hang with, even if I was a year younger. It was split level on the North side of County Road C, the other side of County Road C.

I experienced what I can only assume someone my father’s age experienced when he first heard Elvis, James Brown, or Zeppelin. (You see, my father has since admitted—and matter-of-factly so—that he “really didn’t listen to music” when he was a kid. He insists it’s true, as impossible as it is for me to believe.)  The only way I can describe the feeling of hearing “Nuthin but a ‘G’ Thang” for the first time is that I’m sure I said “What the hell is this,” while knowing that I had used that phrase correctly for the first time in my life. It was foul, dangerous, misogynistic, sexual. It was Black. Yet my head was bobbing. It was smooth. So smooth, and clever, and the lyrical phrasing was something I couldn’t have imagined until hearing it. It was genius, and even that 10 year-old white kid from the suburbs knew it. It was my Rock & Roll moment.

Dan watched as I listened. I was a mile away from home in distance, but I was in another land. The land of divorced parents, kids’ bedrooms with locks on the doors, public pools, garages with Harleys, and rated-R VHS collections. The land of kids who didn’t have older sisters as assistant moms. I was on the north side of County Road C, and I was listening to The Chronic, nodding when Dan asked me if I knew what that word meant. The view expanded, as skewed as my perspective of the view was.

We listened for awhile longer, had a regular Coke—not water or a warm Diet Pepsi from the closet like at home, but a cold, red can of Coke—then watched Under Siege to see Erika Eleniak pop out of that birthday cake topless. I was loving life on the north side of County Road C.

How the hell does a kid who has a day like that choose Garth Brooks? Blood is thicker than water. I was the youngest of six, and bunch of my brother and sisters got into Garth. It was the music that played out of the speakers propped up in the window by the pool, and they were his tapes and CDs always around. I went to a concert. I memorized every lyric from The Chase the following winter on the family ski trip in Colorado. All that, and I should add that I’m a momma’s boy.

Besides, my mom and dad would have flipped if they found The Chronic, even though they wouldn’t have known what “chronic” means.

Phil Lang is the Music Operations Director at BAMM.tv.

The Bob Podcast #11: Musical Yearbook – Present

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The Bob Podcast #11: “Musical Yearbook – Today” by BAMM.tv

In the third installment of the four-part series Musical Yearbook, Brock Alter, Zach Ryan, and Phil Lang examine their respective present-day relationship or stories with music. To hear the earlier essays, check out The Bob Podcast.

The conceit behind Musical Yearbook is that everyone associates a song or a band with a time in his or her life, so we thought it would be cool to take a swing at recording some of those memories as essays or short stories. In order to insert some consistency in structure, we decided to focus on four important stages of human development: 4th grade, 8th grade, the transition between high school and college, and present-day. Over the course of the four essays, one can map the author’s musical endeavors, and in the process have a look at four snap-shots from vastly different times in a person’s life.

WE ARE LOOKING FOR SUBMISSIONS! If you would like to contribute, please send essays to info@bamm.tv. If we like them we’ll add it to the blog or even ask you to record.

Note: Brock Alter’s essay was not available to print, but we’ll get it up here just as soon as he’s back.

Musical Yearbook: Present-day

Paul Simon — “The Boy In The Bubble”

Phil Lang

Note: Revisions have been made to the essay since being recorded.

My parents’ cabin is eight miles from nowhere, which is to say 8 miles from Finlayson, MN. The town counts its population in the 100s and is just under two hours from St. Paul. The lake cabin is far from the rustic, out-house-type cabin in northern Minnesota, but there is no cell service, Internet, or TV, thereby making Finlayson the closest connection to the world available by the almighty Smartphone. More importantly, it’s where we buy beer and bait. I love it there and some day I’m going to buy a cabin on the Pine Lake and build a small recording studio.

When making the beer run into Finlayson in the family suburban, one’s musical selection is limited to the five CDs that have been in my parents’ suburban for the past three years. This selection, all but one greatest hits collections, very rarely changes, so I knew my options when I took my turn to make trip into town this past 4th of July:

  • Anne Murray
  • Rod Stewart
  • Bob Dylan (the newest addition, which warranted a legitimately excited phone call from my dad)
  • Bloomsday Rising (the band I was in)
  • Paul Simon

Try as I might, Anne Murray and the balladeer Stewart will never sit well with me. I’ve listened to Dylan more than any other musician, and I’d rather not listen to myself trying to write epic rock songs five years ago.  In other words, my choice was all but pre-determined. Mr. Simon.

I quickly skipped over the first ten songs before I reached “Diamonds On The Souls Of Her Shoes.” I listened to the African tribal choir introduction as I headed East on Highway 18. The pine forests quickly gave way to open fields and sagging telephone wires. The landscape widens, almost urging propulsion. One would think “Diamonds…”—a song from Graceland, one of the greatest “on the road” albums ever—would be the exact song for the moment. But it was too precise of a cut. Too obvious. I wasn’t in an obvious mood.

I “seeked” to the next track. “The Boy In The Bubble” intro kicked in. That’s an accordion, right? Surely at least a sibling instrument to the accordion. I’ve heard the song many times—enough to sing along with lyrical changes in the third chorus without a stutter—but my reaction to the song was always one of respect, and not emotional. In fact, over ten years ago my brother Matt and I drove to Colorado so he could apply for firefighter positions…and also to ski, and we got into arguments filled with disbelief. “How could I not like Paul Simon?” he asked over and over again.

But over the next four minutes on the way into Finlayson it happened. It took over a decade, and then I was emotionally shaken. It felt sudden, and there was no obvious explanation. This song, its lyrics and melody, were not the soundtrack to my state of mind or location or philosophy. I did not find solace in the line “These are the days of miracle and wonder.” These are not the days of miracle and wonder for me. I am spiritually adrift. Professionally I am challenged and head down, striving for a nebulous and ever-shifting goal. I am not in love.

Yet, the wind through the open window was causing the tears to streak.

My history, specifically my time spent in grad school studying creative writing, caused me to instinctively analyze the lyrics, the historical context of the song, my entire life as I knew it on that day in order to hypothesize the subtext to my reaction.

And just as quickly as I started analysis, I stopped. I stopped thinking, connecting dots, looking for metaphors and symbolism that could map out an explanation to my emotion. I stopped fucking thinking.

The farmland gave way to another lake. People were swimming and fishing and drinking beer, as if celebrating the mere anticipation of the Pine Lake fireworks.

I was fourteen for four minutes, when every great song didn’t cause me to list off said song’s earlier influences, debut dates, and little known back-stories. When a great song didn’t lead to a debate about everything surrounding a song that doesn’t amount to a pile of shit. When a great song was an axe splitting the compressed ambiguity surrounding what you felt.

Isn’t that the rub for all of us long-time music lovers? We become jaded, and it’s inevitable. Our first experiences are hyperbolic to an outsider, and we spend a lifetime trying to replicate the third time we listened to Highway 61 Revisited or The Suburbs. But the more we listen, the larger the context grows, and the mystical nature of music gives way to the genealogy of music (thank you, Pandora).  I guess you call that a loss of innocence.

But I got it back for a few minutes while driving a suburban into Finlayson that day, and I did not check my almighty Smartphone when I arrived in town. I played “The Boy in the Bubble” again, only louder.

Phil Lang is the Music Operations Director at BAMM.tv.

Musical Yearbook: Present-day

Zach Ryan

I came to a pretty impressive realization recently. For the last 12 years, I’ve been in a band. Not the same band, in fact by my count, I’ve been in and out of at least nine bands since I was 14. I’ve sung, played guitar, bass, ukulele, tambourine, keyboard, organ, drums, and a whole host of shakers. I’ve played at every shitty, backwater café, and I’ve even managed to play with some noteworthy bands, and on some noteworthy stages.

This would be impressive, if any of my bands had achieved even a modicum of success, but let’s be real, it ain’t easy. The great Pete Doherty once said “I’ve been told if you want to make it in this game, you gotta have the luck and you’ve gotta have the look.” Well, there have been times when I’ve been very close to both, but no real luck just yet. It’s cool, I figure I’ve got at least two years before we’re too old to be considered for any sort of real commercial success, that’s enough time, right?

Currently I’m playing in two bands. I’m the lead singer and occasional keyboard player for and indie-rock outfit called Genius and the Thieves, and I play bass for bluesy-garage band called The Meat Packers. The remainder of this tale will be mostly about the former, and very little of the latter. You see, I was tasked with writing about my current relationship with music, and while I could talk for ten minutes about my favorite albums of the last year or so, nothing is more prevalent in my musical life than my band.

A brief history, we played off an on for a while in college, but decided to get serious around October of 2008 and since then we’ve managed to put out an EP, a music video, tour for a bit, and play a handful of successful shows here and there throughout California. Outside of that, I wouldn’t really say that we’re a hit. Yet.

The thing is, being in a successful band takes a lot of hard work, kind of like having a second full time job. In my band I’m the guy that handles all that work. So, first: my frustrations. One: Everyone’s schedule is fucked up, so getting together a time to practice is pain in the ass. Two: Booking shows is hard, you’ve gotta get the right bands, on the right night in the right venue for people to even pay attention to what you’re doing. Three: it’s not enough to write good music anymore, you’ve gotta be good at marketing also. In this day and age, hundreds of thousands of bands can have their music heard by anyone willing to listen. Myspace, Facebook, Soundcloud, BandCamp, ReverbNation, PureVolume, YouTube, if your music, press-kit, videos (both produced and live) photos and blog aren’t posted and up to date on each of these (and about a hundred others) good luck getting any traction outside of your hometown. And if you don’t have management, guess who gets to take care of all that shit.

Yeah, I know, I’m bitching. But, believe it or not, it’s all totally worth it. There are very few things in life that feel more spectacular than playing a great show. And if there’s a decent crowd to witness it, even better. For every time I’ve ever felt frustrated, hopeless or angry, there have been a handful of moments that are compelling enough to encourage me to keep fighting the good fight.

I don’t have any real delusions of grandeur. I know that we’ll probably never open for The Strokes, or play some giant stadium gig. I would be perfectly happy to make a decent living just touring for a while. If I could earn the opportunity to see America, once city at a time, playing music for people, I would consider it the greatest of my successes. And it’s that dream, that simple rock and roll fantasy that keeps me in it.

It also doesn’t hurt that I’m fortunate enough to be in a band with my best friends. Some of my most treasured memories come courtesy of those guys. And yes, all my band mates can be so difficult that it’s occasionally like having four extra girl friends, but when we’re playing music together, or trying to make each other laugh on stage, it all seems worth it. Hell, who knows, we may never be successful, but at least I can say I gave it my best shot and had an awesome time doing it.

Oh, and as long as I’m here, my favorite albums over the last 18 Months:

-       Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

-       LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

-       Beach House – Teen Dream

-       Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

-       The Black Angels – Persephone Dream

-        The Strokes – Angles

-       Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

-        Surfer Blood – Astro Coast

-        Wavves – King of the Beach

-        Ty Segall – Melted

The End.

Zach Ryan edits, directs, and shoots for BAMM.tv. Check out his band, Genius and the Thieves at http://on.fb.me/pyTUL3

Check out the new BAMM podcast: ‘Musical Yearbook – College’

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The Bob Podcast #10: “Musical Yearbook – College” by BAMM.tv

A little later than usual this week, but we hope you agree that the podcast is well worth the wait. We’re back with another selection of essays written and read by the staff here at BAMM.tv! This week’s theme (another in ‘Musical Yearbook’ series) takes a look at the transitional year between high-school and college. In addition to the podcast, you can read the essays below, after the jump. If you would like to submit your own essays, just send them to info@bamm.tv. We’d love to post them on the blog!

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Check out Episode Five of BAMM Insights

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BAMM Insights – Episode 5 by BAMM.tv

In this episode of BAMM Insights, Aidan and Christopher examine the story of Joel Tenenbaum – a young man who became famous for refusing to cave in when he was the target of a massive RIAA lawsuit. Joel shares his thoughts on the experience, and where consumers/the music industry can go from here. Remember: we’ll be putting an episode on the blog every week, or you can mix and match the whole series right here.

The Bob Podcast #7: Lyrics

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The Bob Podcast by BAMM.tv

With Brock Alter out-of-town, Zach Ryan, Sonia Pina, and Phil Lang dissect what makes a great lyric by analyzing some of their favorites (The Clash, Mason Jennings, and Jarabe de Palo). Each host then picks some of his or her favorite lyrics recorded at BAMM.tv. Who are some of your favorite lyricists out there? Post a comment to get the discussion going.

Also, a huge thank you to SoundCloud for posting last week’s podcast to their Facebook page. It received over 1,000 plays in just one week!

Music Featured (links to BAMM.tv performance videos):

- Hollerado (opening and closing credits)
Hollerado – \”A Good Day at the Races\” (Live at SXSW)
- Lael Neale
Lael Neale: \”Tell Me Lies\”
- il Gato (This video is a different song from il Gato’s performance at BAMM.tv)
Il Gato – \”Chocolate Lemonade\”
- HOTTUB
HOTTUB: \”M.A.N.B.I.T.C.H.\”

Okay