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Discourse & Dischord

The Good

OK Go video debut video for “End Love”

One wonders how long the members of OK Go can keep one-upping themselves. First there was the choreographed backyard dance, then the treadmill choreographed dance, then the enormous Rube Goldberg machine and now this. Feast your eyes on the incredible, painstaking, stop-motion glory that is “End Love.” The video was filmed over a weekend (one very long weekend we suspect) in Echo Park. We don’t know what these hipster imps have up their sleeve for the next video, but it will be infinitely more delightful than semi-nude dancers with bowl cuts.

The Bad

Scientists to determine why Ozzy Osbourne is still alive

Ozzy Osbourne

If we cut open the Prince of Darkness, what would we find inside? A thousand headless bats? A couple gallons of whiskey and a kilo of cocaine? Soon we’ll have the answers to all these questions and more. Scientists at Knome, a genome sequencing company in Massachusetts, will begin testing Ozzy Osbourne’s DNA to determine how one person can survive so many years of drug abuse, while others cannot. The process will take three months, but afterwards we may know the secret to the 61-year-old’s extreme tolerance. And then we can bottle it. And then we can all go out and eat some bats.

The Ugly

ShamWow guy endorses Eminem’s “Recovery”

Vince Shlomi, pitchman for such venerated products as ShamWow and Slap Chop, has a new product to hock—Eminem’s forthcoming album Recovery. “You’re gonna be clapping when you hear Eminem rapping,” he tells viewers. Shlomi’s an interesting pick for spokesperson, considering that he was arrested in March 2009 for punching a prostitute, and Eminem’s got a duet with Rihanna on his album about domestic violence called “Love The Way You Lie.” Maybe the rapper needs to Chop the Slap out of his album promotion? Just a suggestion.

Miscellany

Tour De Force: Free Bird!

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been at a concert and, during a lull in the set, heard someone yell “Freeeee Biirrdd!” Without fail, this happens at nearly every concert I’ve attended. It happened at the Lady Lamb the Beekeeper show, the Amanda Palmer show (she actually started playing the opening riff), at the Tegan and Sara show and more. So, why is it that everybody yells “Free Bird”? There are many theories about the how the cliché term came about, but if I were to venture a guess I would say part of it has to do with the fact that everyone loves a good cover song. For unknown bands who aren’t quite at the point where they have audience sing-a-longs, a cover can be a great way to make a connection with the audience. Even for bands that play to an audience full of fans, it can be a great way to re-engage the crowd—keep them on their toes and make sure they’re having fun.

Jukebox the Ghost

In an interview with Jukebox the Ghost, the band mentioned one of their favorites songs to cover is “Temptation” by New Order. They said, “We’ve used it a lot of times as our “hail Mary pass” if we’re not sure people are having a good time — dance songs never fail.” Looking back through “Tour De Force” history, you’ll see many artists share a similar train of thought. While on the Spring Break Forever Tour, Bess Rogers had everyone rocking out to her rendition of “Pour Some Sugar On Me”. And later, as part of the Ingrid Michaelson band, she and her bandmates did a hilarious version of “Toxic” by Britney Spears complete with a very well choreographed dance. Other memorable TDF covers include Steel Train’s raucous cover of “Under Pressure” during the Tegan and Sara show at The Orpheum and Amanda Palmer’s spirited rendition of “Creep” which began her intimate set at Northeastern University.

Continue Reading Tour De Force

Poptarts: The Season

These “seasoned” OurStage veterans (yes, pun intended) have caught the eyes and ears of fans on the site ever since they joined back in 2008. The Season, comprised of Kurtis Parks, Josh Kim, Jordan Metzger and Jason Jolly, boast an impressive record with six Top 10 finishes in both our Pop and Rock Channels and a 3 Number 1 spots on the Soft Rock Channel.  Lead-singer Kurtis Parks himself has won many industry accolades including Vh1′s Song of the Year for his track “Everything That You Are” and a spot in the Top 50 on the fourth season of American Idol. (Check his solo work out on OurStage right here)

After having found perfect musical balance while attending Virginia Tech, Kurtis Parks and Josh Kim packed up and moved to Nashville to create their first album under the moniker “The Season.” The success of their self-titled debut album jump-started a whole string of great opportunities for the group, including the chance to perform with acts such as Ben Folds, Howie Day, Relient  K and Saving Jane. Thanks to uplifting melody lines paired with the great emotional depth of Kurtis’ voice, The Season’s powerful lyrics are both relatable and moving. It’s no surprise that their songs have connected so effectively with fans both on OurStage all over the world.

Although currently on hiatus and performing separately, The Season hasn’t called it quits. Keep an eye out for stuff coming from these guys in the near future, but in the meantime, check out this OurStage playlist below!

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Tina Fey gets all googly over J-Biebs

If you didn’t catch SNL this past Saturday night, you (A) probably have a better social life than we do, and (B) missed a hee-larious sketch in which Tina Fey fantasizes about our little Canadian pop dauphine, Justin Bieber. Watch him toss his feathery mane while Fey goes weak at the knees. That is, unless you’ve got something better to do … AGAIN.

The Bad

MIA gives Lady Gaga the what-for

It’s always upsetting when two powerful female performers turn on each other. Kind of makes you feel like the sad kid whose parents are fighting. In this case, playing the part of the Mean Parent #1 is MIA, who gripes about the success of Lady Gaga in a recent NME interview. Here’s one of a handful of verbal missiles she launches at LG: “She’s not progressive, but she’s a good mimic. She sounds more like me than I fucking do! That’s a talent… but she’s the industry’s last stab at making itself important.” Sounds like sour grapes to us. Maybe MIA’s just jealous she didn’t think of cigarette shades first.

The Ugly

In which Shaquille O’Neal wears a wig and sings Rick James

Look, no offense and all, but Shaq in a wig makes the Wayan Brothers in White Chicks look like total babes. Almost scarier than the NBA star’s foray into cross-dressing is his inability to lip sync in time with Rick James “Fire and Desire.” It looks like some sort amalgamation of low-budget Kung-Fu and tranny Chatroulette. Which is why we know you’ll love it.

Miscellany

New Scissor Sisters record out June 28
Rihanna joins Lillith Fair
Ben Folds collaborates with Nick Hornby
Coachella scheduled released
Kevin Eubanks leaves Tonight Show
Bieber topples Usher on Billboard charts
Britney releases untouched photos

Viewer Discretion Advised: Stranger Encounters with Ben Folds

Here at OurStage we pride ourselves on being all things music, and music videos are no exception. With so many great artists contributing video content every day, and the growing global popularity of YouTube and other video-sharing sites, we’ve decided to beef up our video discussion for your viewing pleasure. So tune in every Thursday to get the hottest video content and news aroundfor your eyes only!

Chances are by now you’ve heard of the internet phenomenon Chatroulette, the Web site that pairs up totally random strangers and allows them to chat via webcam. Either user can choose to leave the chat at any time by moving on to another random connection.  Chatroulette is a testament to the ability of web content to go “viral,” making the jump from 500 visitors per day to 50,000 per day in just one month.

The huge appeal of Chatroulette has to be the ability to connect with a complete stranger from anywhere in the world and move on just as quickly. As with any chat vehicle on the Internet, whacky characters are to be expected. But what about rock stars? Enter Ben Folds, front man for the alt rock band Ben Folds Five, who recently utilized the Web site for a purpose different than “casual encounters.” And we think its pretty cool.

Folds originally got the idea to launch into this viral/social/musical experiment from an otherwise unknown patron of the Internet, Merton, who first posted a video where he improved funny little jingles about Chatroulette users. Unfortunately, Merton’s original video has been removed from YouTube — always follow terms of use, kids.
Folds went on to film the video in front of over 2,000 people during a performance in Charlotte, North Carolina. Our hats go off to him for taking a Web site that was starting to get a bad rep and using it in a new and innovative way by providing video content that is both entertaining and totally time wasting. Is this a preview of whats to come for artists seeking to connect with their audience? Who knows. Maybe next time you’re “nexting” strangers, Jay-Z could be just a click away. We won’t hold our breath, though.

Tour De Force: Jukebox the Ghost

When did you guys start touring?
We booked our first tour on our own in 2005 — It was unbelievably bad.  Our manager, Seth, got us touring seriously in the summer of 2007, right after we all graduated college.  That was a lot better.
How often do you tour?
There hasn’t really been a pattern so far, but we’ve played over 250 shows since 2007, and no signs of stopping.
What’s your general mode of transportation?
Our E-150 Econoline van.
Who are some of the artists you’ve toured with?
Ben Folds, Via Audio, the XYZ Affair, The Winter Sounds, Pretty and Nice, Say Hi, Jenny Owens Young…..There’s more, but those are the ones we toured with the longest.
Are there any songs you only play live that you haven’t recorded?
Quite a few.  There were about ten new songs that didn’t make the record we just finished, some of which we played every night for awhile…Hopefully we’ll get the chance to record everything we’ve written at some point.
What are your favorite songs/bands to cover?
This year we’ve had a lot of fun covering “Temptation” by New Order.  We’ve used it a lot of times as our ‘hail mary pass’ if we’re not sure people are having a good time — Dance songs never fail.  At special shows in the last year or so we’ve also done a cover of the ending sequence from Abbey Road, which is always a blast.  We’ve covered a lot of artists in the past — The Cure, The Clash, Queen, Rage Against the Machine, Danny Elfman, They Might Be Giants, and the Smiths, just to name some off the top of my head.
What is your favorite region/city to play in?
The west coast is always exciting — The scenery is always exciting after being on the east coast for so long.  But as far as shows and fans are concerned, it’s hard to beat NYC and DC.  Our fans on the east coast are amazing.
Sketchiest hotel you’ve ever stayed in?
Sort of difficult to say, since we’ve stayed in dozens and dozens of gross motels all over the country.  We’ve had our share of strange-smelling rooms.
Which city has the most enthusiastic crowd?
DC, hands down.
Any crazy/funny tour stories you’d like to share?
Hm, so many to choose from…..The first one that comes to mind is tne time we went rock-climbing off the highway in some desert mountains in southern California only to be apprehended by the US border patrol — Apparently we were hiking around in a major drug trafficking spot on the Mexican border.  Whoops.

OSBlog02_TourDeForce_01Jukebox the Ghost has been compared to everyone from the Ben Folds Five to a “muted incarnation of Queen.” While these comparisons are both flattering and overall pretty accurate, the description NPR offers is spot on; “If School House Rock morphed into an actual band, it’d be Jukebox the Ghost.” Like School House Rock, their lyrics are witty and thought-provoking and the piano hooks and memorable melody lines prove that catchy and superficial don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. I mean who hasn’t had “Conjunction Junction” stuck in their head at least once in their lives.

Continue reading ‘Tour De Force: Jukebox the Ghost’

OMNIVORE’S DELIGHT 2: DOUBLE DIPPING

The last decade has seen a veritable spate of actors, seemingly driven by outsized egos strive for the coveted occupational “/” after their names—as in Actor / Sommelier / Perfumer turned Hip-Hop Artist/Pop Star/ MC/ Songbird/Diva/ Sultry Chanteuse etc. Although the argument can be made that the silver screen and the concert stage were never meant to cross pollinate talent, some surprisingly legitimate music has been created by the sparkle of Tinseltown in recent years. Therefore, this week’s Omnivore’s Delight posting pertains to a “special” breed of musician: actor turned rocker (the good, the bad and the downright peculiar).

It would be too time consuming to rant about the all the ill-advised ventures into the vocal booth (Hilton, Lohan, Murphy, Hasselhoff) so instead I’m going to pick my favorite.

Steven Seagal - Songs From The Crystal Cave - 2004_FrontBlogTwo words: STEVEN SEGAL! Yes, Segal came out with his debut album Songs from the Crystal Cave in 2005. After a quick listen, it’s not quite clear where this crystal cave exists. The tracks suggest hip hop Americana, somewhere in the African jungle or simply in Segal’s 50-year-old libido. And while his song “Lollipop” may not contain the same sexual connotation as 50 cent’s “Candy Shop,” the aboriginal percussion and a tropical horn section is at least, shall we say, unique. Oh, and don’t forget to checkout the album artwork. It’s gnarly.

Now on to the peculiar. William Shatner’s first album (yes there is more than one) was 1968’s Transformed Man. Known for the seemingly drug laden interpretation of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” this creation was more of a novelty than anything else. Captain Kirk hopped back on the saddle in 2004 with Has Been, another spoken word album consisting of both social commentary and self-inspired poetry. This time however, the backing music takes a turn for the better; noise with a time signature instead of unpredictably ambient sounds. Why? Ben Folds arranged the album. And he’s not the only VIP Shatner fan. Henry Rollins co-wrote “I Can’t get Behind That,”  a laundry list of the gripes with American society, and even supplies guest vocals on the track. Country star Brad Paisley wrote the song B0002RUPH4.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_“Real” especially for Shatner and sings the chorus as well. No matter what you think of the spoken word genre, the man is a very descriptive story teller. If you ever want to guarantee yourself a night full of vivid dreams, I suggest falling asleep with Shatner’s voice ringing in your ears.  Once you can get past the strange vibe, this music is at least thought provoking.

Now, onto the artists who could earn some musical recognition—celebrity status or not.

album-the-futuristFor all of Robert Downey Jr.’s past troubles, he sure can write some gorgeous, piano-driven music. The Futurist (2004) is a solid album all in all, boasting cool piano tracks with an autumnal sound that’s perfect for crisp mornings and falling leaves. Downey’s talent, (as a vocalist, pianist and songwriter) is adequately displayed through these exquisitely nostalgic songs, most of which combine jazz with singer/songwriter and a tint of R&B. “Smile,”  one of my personal favorites, shines through as the most optimistic track on the album. A percussive-less song, the triad of piano, bass and Downey’s unrefined vocals really make the song both honest and sincere. He even covers Yes’ “Your Move,” simmering it down just a tad, in turn producing the quintessential wind down atmosphere.

Zooey Deschanel is one of those actresses you can’t help but adore. Her music is no different. Turns out her quirky roles translate flawlessly into the musical realm, forming 20080228_she__him_33clever indie pop with twang. She and Him consists of Ms. Deschanel and M. Ward, a musical partnership that spawned on the set of the movie The Go-Getter. Their 2008 album Volume 1 is a treasure chest of simple and charming songs like their stunning cover of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Gotta Hold On Me,” and pieces where Deschanel inserts a little more audacity into her voice like the hit “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here.” The duo’s melting harmonies mix with poppy piano and slide guitar to form an irresistible balance of backbone and vulnerability.

From one idiosyncratic star to the next we travel. Notice a trend? Jason Schwartzman, formerly of Phantom Planet, put together Coconut Records in 2006 and released the debut album Nighttiming a year later.  Warning: This stuff is incredibly hooky. A few listens and you’ll be addicted for weeks. The strongest song on the album is “West Coast,” a feel good anthem for any displaced Western native. It’s light-hearted and mellow on the surface but contains a subtle, compelling pulse underneath, marching forward with increasing force as the song drifts on to it’s outstanding climax—the fortified shout chorus. Then there’s the title track “Nighttiming,” a song emitting a less urgent feel good vibe with synth happy hooks and a straight ahead rock beat that would feel more at home in the 80s. And what do you know—his collaborations on Nightiming include none other than Ms. Zooey Deschanel. Coconut+Records

It’s always nice to find a stereotype disproved. Hopefully in years to come, actors who decide to give music a try will be given attention earned for the caliber of the music they create, not because of their star quality. If the aforementioned artists offer any foreshadowing into the future of multi-hyphanted actors, then we’re in for some fantastic music!

ARTISTS RALLY AROUND THE SAVE PASTE CAMPAIGN

paste_logo2From Seattle to Boston, economic hardships are hitting many major players in the world of print media and the entertainment titles are not exempt. The latest would-be causality is the independently published entertainment magazine Paste, but not if its readers and an arsenal of artists have anything to do with it. To counter-balance the impact of rapidly decreasing advertising dollars, the two-time National Magazine Award nominee has launched a campaign appealing to its record-high readership. Contribute to the Save Paste campaign and receive exclusive tracks from artists like G. Love and Special Sauce, Josh Ritter, The Decemberists and many more.

Paste has long been a beacon for people who relish the discovery of new music, literature and independent movies. Many of the artists covered by the magazine are showing their appreciation for the taste-maker and industry leader by donating rare and exclusive tracks to anyone who donates to the cause. Other bands, like R.E.M. and Band Of Horses, have donated autographed posters to be given away to random supporters.

Singer/songwriter Cary Brothers summarized the sentiments of many industry insiders when saying, “Times are tough in the music industry, and now more than ever we need people like the team at Paste looking out for artists on the fringe of the mainstream.”

We at OurStage hope the music lovers and indie artists in our community will be inspired to save one of the most respected voices championing independent music. Donations to help out our friends at Paste can be made HERE.

Artists contributing songs for the Save Paste Campaign so far:
A Camp, Ari Hest, Army of Me, Arrested Development, Ben Folds, Ben Wakeman, Betty LaVette, Bill Mallonee, Birdmonster, Bloodkin, Bob Mould, Brandi Carlile, Cara Luft, Cary Brothers, Cowboy Junkies, Dan Zimmerman, Derek Webb, Duncan Sheik, G. Love and Special Sauce, Gomez, Greg Laswell, Indigo Girls, Islands, Jamie Lidell, Jason Harrod, Jennifer Daniels, Jesse Sykes And The Sweet Hereafter, Joe Henry, John Doe, John Roderick (The Long Winters), Josh Ritter, Josh Rouse, Keller Williams, Liam Finn, Loney Dear, Luke Brindley, Marc Broussard, Matt Nathanson, Matthew Caws, Matthew Sweet, Meiko, Neko Case, Of Montreal, Ortolan, Over the Rhine, Passion Pit, Patterson Hood, Portastatic, Robert Pollard, Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3, Rosie Thomas, Samantha Crain, Sandra McCracken, Shawn Mullins, She & Him, Slow Runner, Soul-Junk, Southeast Engine, State Radio, String Cheese Incident, Switchfoot, Thao, The Avett Brothers, The Clarks, The Decemberists, The Jayhawks, The Low Anthem, The Minus 5, The Rosewood Thieves, The Spring Standards, Umphree’s McGee, Venice Is Sinking, Welcome Wagon, William Fitzimmons
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Are you leading a Second Life?

snapshot_001

My avatar in a Rock ‘n Roll dance club within Second Life

Sitting on the cutting age of the music industry is the strange entity we all call “the Internet”. While at this point, it is getting to be old news, it is still an invaluable tool when it comes to marketing yourself as an artist or musician.

I stepped back to try and find the most innovative way to market yourself online, and Second Life fits the bill. The concept is that you create your user profile (or in this case, a three-dimensional avatar), and walk around and participate in a fully interactive world: talking to others, building a virtual career and yes, even performing your music live. The kicker is, you do this all from the comfort of your desk.

Industry giants are already taking notice. Sony BMG recently invested money to have their very own “island” within this world to feature their artists, their brand, and their image. In fact, in late 2007, Ben Folds held a listening party to help spread the word about his latest releases. If “meeting” Ben Folds in Second Life isn’t enough, then perhaps the prospect of earning money as an artist may intrigue you. DJ Doubletown, a Second Life performer, was recently approached by Def Jam Records (Jay-Z, Kanye West) and signed to the label due to his success within Second Life. Even the smallest of artists (such as stay-at-home mom, Grace Buford), can make connections and earn money through live performances on Second Life.

Whether you’re a rising artist trying to be discovered, a company trying to market yourself, a hobby-driven songwriter, or just a fan trying to connect with artists in a new way, Second Life is an innovative option to succeed online. Visit the Second Life website, and start wielding the full power of the internet to make the connections that are so valuable in the music industry.

Free MP3: Benny Strange

Discover Benny Strange, indie pop/rocker, currently broadcasting from Los Angeles. Beautiful arrangements and witty lyricism that calls to mind Belle & Sebastian and early Ben Folds surround his work. The music has a sense of originality that relays images of the unique individual, exemplified by hitchhiking from New York to California at 18-years old, with nothing more than a sleeping bag, an acoustic guitar and $112, who wrote it. Benny is the all time most favorited artist on OurStage, and with a new EP rising up the charts Mr. Strange should be a Blip on your radar.

And be sure to check out his new EP, “When Continents Collide”

FREE DOWNLOAD: Benny Strange | Blip
Need help downloading? Click HERE for step-by-step instructions.

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