Archive for January, 2011

26
Jan
11

Trey Albany show sold out?

Er, if you were considering whether or not to purchase tickets for the February 18th show at The Palace  Theater in Albany, NY it may be too late.  It would appear that fellow Trey fans have made the decision for you, and tickets are no longer available.

 Just for the hell of it I decided to go on Tickemaster.com and try to purchase a ticket (although we here at HiFi Central already have our 5th row seats, yippeeee!) it came back as “tickets are currently unavailable” on their website, or in layman’s terms the show is most likely “sold out”.

There was a 5-day pre-sale on Trey’s website and I’m assuming that the remainder were gobbled up pretty quick once they became open to the general public.  The Palace is a great venue to see anyone live, especially since it is a rather cozy venue and a perfectly restored classic vaudeville theater. If you got your tickets good for you since it’s going to be a great show no doubt.  If you did not get your tickets, bummer, but like the Zappa Plays Zappa concert and others we have warned you well in advance about, heed our warnings and git’ dem’ tickets early!

25
Jan
11

Iron and Wine to play MassMoCA 4/16/11!

A pleasant surprise if you are an Iron and Wine fan and a bit of sunshine for all of us who initially may have felt forgotten about as they announced their recent tour dates and cities.  Although Albany, NY will not get the much needed attention by the band our neighbors to the East in North Adams, MA will!  

As Iron and Wine wraps up the European leg of their tour they have decided to put some additional US dates in their tour schedule.  On April 15th they play in Buffalo, NY, April 16th they will play in North Adams, MA at MassMoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), and April 17th in Burlington, VT.  The tough thing for me to figure out is that there are no assigned seats for this show and is “general admission”, what does that mean?  So, if my wife and I go will it be standing room only?  Random seats that are first come, first serve?

I hate to be a complainer but with a $25 ticket price (which is not that expensive I admit) one normally would like to know if there will be chairs, or at the very least some logical quality experience for a large crowd.  If not, seeing Iron and Wine play for 2 hours standing is not all that appealing for me personally; perhaps when I was 20 yes, but 40, no.

If you have seen a show at the Hunter Theater at MassMoCA, please let us know here at HiFi Central what the layout is like and if the acoustics are good.

Either way, it is nice to see that Sam Beam and his crew will be playing  the New England area after all these years. 

If you are interested in purchasing tickets for this show click here.

20
Jan
11

Happy Birthday Ms. Parton, you rock!

Yes, today is Dolly Parton’s 65th birthday!  I use to have the biggest crush on her when I was 10 years old and of course that love just grew more when I learned more about girls and their (ahem) “attributes”.  Yes, Dolly had some of the largest “attributes” of any Country & Western star at the time.  Yes, she did have an incredible voice and many, many, many  hit records, it was her top-heavy gifts that were often considered her talent when watching an entertaining hour of Hee-Haw for me.  However with the advancements and the popularity of plastic surgery over the past decade she probably doesn’t really stick out in a crowd like the old days.

I think its somewhat sad that in her later years Dolly took the plastic surgery route to retain her good looks.  I think she took it to the extreme and today’s Dolly looks rather frightening, nothing like the vintage shot above.

For this blog I feel that posting an image of the more “easy on the eyes” Dolly is the best way to remember her, I think most would agree.  Look at Kenny Rogers (Da’ Outlaw and Da’ Gambla’),. that dude took the plastic surgery road as well and has stated that he wishes he had made a U-turn before paying the toll both.  If you get a chance Google that dude and you can see that not all plastic surgeons get A’s in medical school, geez!  His clearly got a C- in eye lifts, tragic!

I recall that one of bars I frequented in high school and then later in college had the coolest Dolly Parton pinball machine.  The bar was called The Palais Royale and still stands today, although it is under new management (gone are the days of Rocky the owner, what a guy!). When I moved back Albany, just after the original owner died and that place was officially closing for good (before it was re-purchased) that pinball machine was still there.  I’ve provided a picture so you can see how truly righteous it was.

Despite her poor plastic surgery, Dolly has done a lot of good things with her stardom; specifically establishing a program to encourage and promote childhood literacy in the U.S. , it’s called Dolly’s Imagination Library and it’s a very successful program.  Dolly was born dirt poor in a one room cabin in rural Tennessee and was one of 12 kids, so I’m sure she was often went without and feels giving back is the right thing do.  She has been lauded for her philanthropy for years and I’m sure she’s a super nice lady, always seemed cool as a kid growing up.  Here at HiFi Central we consider Ms. Parton very cool indeed.

Happy Birthday Ms. Parton!

19
Jan
11

“Why?”-erless Streaming Media Blues

Ok, so it’s been about a month since I purchased a new LED/LCD KDL-NX800 Sony television; a gift to myself after replacing a 15 year old 27″ Sony WEGA.  One of the things that appealed me was the the new fangled built-in wireless internet features the television offered.  Many of the new televisions are offering the wonderment of streaming media from your home network PC or game system (PS3, Wii, or 36o to act as a “media server”); so far it’s been far from the “consistent” incredible experience I was looking forward to when I spent $1,300.  Are the features cool, yes, but consistentcy is main culprit.  Perhaps it is my wireless network set up, perhaps it is a band width issue, perhaps it is such new technology that it wasn’t well thought out or tested prior to its release, I really do not know. 

Just the other day I turned on my television to stream some classical music and noticed that all of my media icons had vanished.  Media icons such as Netflix, Yahoo, AnyPlay, Flixster, and others just did not appear any longer,  however, there was an icon that offered me to “refresh my internet content” and seemed reasonable to do so, but it didn’t refresh anything, well, other than my frustration and subtle feelings of buyers remorse.  Luckily after calling Sony support it appeared that the simple process of unplugging the television was all that was needed and that the “refresh internet content” was a nice way to make you feel that the television actually cared about you, but in reality it doesn’t.

Although all of my media icons reappeared and were working fine, it appeared that I lost access to my music library (but still had access to my photos and video library’s, strange?), and have been having trouble getting the television to acknowledge that it has access to stream those files.  One thing I have found frustrating with Windows Media Player 11 and its streaming feature is actually the act of getting it to, well, stream when I want it to on a regular basis.  Again, it walks  you through the steps all the while making you feel like you are making progress and it wants you to be successful, and then the buzzkill, nothing.

I’m not going to give up since it has worked in the past, but I’m starting to think they should call it “Why?”-erless streaming media, from my experience it still has many bugs to be worked out.

14
Jan
11

Trey @ The Palace (better get dem’ tickets!)


We got our tickets before it sells out, you might want to as well! (Read below)

A limited number of tickets for all shows will be available through a real-time ticket presale beginning Friday January 14th at 10:00 AM EST and ending Thursday January 20th at 5:00 PM EST through Trey’s online ticketing system at http://treytickets.rlc.net . For complete venue and general public onsale information please visit http://trey.com/tours/

TREY ANASTASIO BAND ACOUSTIC/ELECTRIC WINTER

‎2/18 – State Theatre – Portland, ME
2/19 – Palace Theatre – Albany, NY
2/20 – House of Blues – Boston, MA
2/22 – Terminal 5 – New York, NY
2/23 – Electric Factory – Philadelphia, PA
2/25 – StageAE – Pittsburgh, PA
2/26 – Lifestyle Pavilion – Columbus, OH
2/27 – Riviera Theatre – Chicago, IL
3/01 – Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO
3/02 – Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO
3/04 – The Music Box – Los Angeles, CA
3/05 – Fox Theater – Oakland, CA

13
Jan
11

Trey Anastasio Band in Albany!

Fresh off Phish’s majestic New Year’s run at Madison Square Garden, guitarist Trey Anastasio is not taking a break. He has reassembled his 7-piece band (known as “Classic TAB”) and is hitting the road next month, which includes a stop at Albany’s Palace Theater on February 19th. The lineup will once again feature Natalie Cressman (trombone and vocals), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet and vocals), Russ Lawton (drums), Tony Markellis (bass and vocals), Ray Paczkowski (keyboards) and Russell Remington (tenor saxophone and flute). The shows will also feature a full solo acoustic set from Trey along with a full electric set, marking the first time that Trey has toured in this format since 1999.
For those not familar with this band, the sound can best be described as a mix of funk, rock and jazz with Latin and African rhythmic elements. It’s mainly up-tempo, with many songs allowing room for improvised jamming. Jennifer Hartswick is a fantastic vocalist, belting out solo tunes and duets with Trey. All the musicians are stellar in their own right, making for a wonderful congolmeration of talent.  Here’s a taste of what you can expect:

As for Trey’s acoustic work, right now you can download a FREE mp3 here of his recent show in Princeton, NJ featuring Trey with a string quartet performing his songs along with some classic Phish tunes.
You can see all the info including other tour dates here. Hope to see you there!

12
Jan
11

Classical On-Demand and loving it!

Much of the stuff we write about on this blog is often rock oriented or something far remote from Classical music.  Yes, there was that odd entry a few months back about Christopher O’Reilly’s incredible new Tango album, but other than that Classical does not get the highest attention on a regular basis.  To a degree it’s very sad too, with the all too frequent fund drives that local public radio stations are forced to put on these days (it seems like every other month they are begging for support) the one thing they mention over and over again is the death of Classical as a format on many stations nationwide. 

Classical music was a staple in my house growing up, my father primarily was the music lover and introduced me to many genres of music, however, I have surpassed him exponentionally when we discuss music, artists, albums, etc.  Regardless, Classical was something I was introduced to at a very early age.  Granted at the time I thought it was the most boring music created, rather designed for funerals than for fun.  Over the years and the older I became, Classical music became very senimental and soothing, something I could always rely on in times that I needed some calm.  I recall that even in high school I had an art teacher who always had Classical playing in the background for his students; he felt it was the one true music that would allow creativity and inspiration to flourish, and to a degree he was right.  Even today you can find me in my office with some random Classical playing in the background. 

Children, and for that fact, even many adults are not familiar or appreciate Classical music.  I recall one student at the school that I teach asking me if I was interested in being the advisor for the “Classical Music Club”, I was so excited to see what these students were listening to only to be shocked that “classical” was comprised of REO Speedwagon, Rainbow, and Zeppelin, ouch.  When I brought up the possibility of making it a true “Classical” music club, they all scoffed and said that their grandparents listen to that stuff.

In one of my December posts I mentioned that I bought a new television and it is internet ready, something that seemed more like a marketing scam than something truly useful (like 3D television, dumb I think), well, I must admit that Sony really provided some forethought about their consumer base when they created this new generation of televisions and how streaming media (audio or video) can actually enhance your ownership experience. 

Now to the point and topic of this blog entry, sorry for the long intro but I feel it has some merit setting the (ahem) “stage” of my intention.  Last night I decided to plunge deeper into what streaming media capabilities my television had; one of the things that caught my eye under the “Video” section of my internet options there was an icon for the Berlin Philharmoniker – Digital Concert Hall, this is a MUST for any Classical music aficianado!  There were about 30 to 40 concerts HD filmed within the last month and were catagorized by both symphony performing and what composer they were covering.  Most of the featured concerts  had trailer highlights which made choosing what you wanted to watch much easier.  My 3-year old and I had a great time watching several trailers; they were taken had numerous vantage points and all in high definition so the viewing experience was sometimes SO real! The clarity and the sound were top notch as should be expected.  I like the assortment and variety of what they offered, whether they keep updating the performances is yet to be seen.  I also like the concept that it appears to be free and not a charged service though Sony or provider, it appears to be simply a complimentary option for owning the television, very cool.

The other features in the video feature of internet television was the Sony / BMG alliance of MyPlay and the ability to watch free on-demand music videos.  Under “Rock” I think the total was 900 videos that were searchable, under “Pop” (which included bands like Prong, Lamb of God, and Slayer, hardly “Pop” for sure) there were around 9,000 videos to watch, very impressive.  I was surprised to find several Rodrigo y Gabriela video’s available of both live shows and professional MTV quality videos they had done, who knew?

Still, I have to go back to the Digital Concert Hall as the most impressive feature of internet ready televisions so far, the experience and ability to watch great symphonies whereas you feel like you have front row seats (I highly suggest getting an 46″ LED  that is 1080p and 240Gh like the Sony KDLNX800, if you can find it!). 

It is my ultimate hope that with options like on-demand Classical, it may provide some mode of exposure to a younger audience about the validity of Classical music today.  Luckily, performers like cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist’s like Joshua Bell and Nigel Kennedy,  Chinese piano prodigy Lang Lang are doing their part to enlighten younger listeners, so perhaps there is still hope for a rebirth in the popularity of Classical as a viable alternative to well, Alternative.

If you have one of the new Sony LED’s check out the  Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall series of concerts that are offered.   Classical fan or not, I’m sure you will agree it is worth taking the time to watch.

10
Jan
11

Dave Matthews and Friends (Boston 2003)

I’ve never been one to be obsessed about live concerts about my favorite musicians; often I have made the point not to buy anything live since it seems like a marketing ploy or filler album for the artist; buying them time since to release anything of substance at a later date. 

Recently, and in my old age, I’ve come to appreciate the art of the live concert and what gems they can provide with enlightening the listener with new perpectives and opinions about the artist.  Last month I posted my new discovery of the live music repository Nugs.net and the incredible vast assortment of live material recorded free to the masses; better yet is that the recordings were made directly off the soundboards, so the quality is near perfect!

This might be where my disdain for live shows may have root; the quality.  Back in high school the only live recordings you could get of shows were either the ones the artist released or some bootleg recording made with a hand held tape recorder (yes, I’m that old!).  I recall one trip to NYC in the West Village there was actaully a store (I think on MacDougall) that sold bootleg concert tapes; I think I picked up some random Rush and Van Halen shows and dreaded my purchase all the way home; that was the first and last time I invested in live material.

Yes, there have been the random quality live releases such as Rush’s first live album, 1976’s  “All The Worlds A Stage” and Peter Frampton “Frampton Comes Alive” (but to be honest “Do You Feel Like I Do” and “Show Me The Way” are the only two songs that anyone really remembers, the remainder of the album is not very impressive).  But really I cannot recall any live shows that really were worth the investment long term.  Of course, my new found interest in Phish has changed much of my opinion; Phish’s “A Live One” and “Hampton Comes Alive” are great examples of  incredible live material, but then with technology changing and also Phish taking true “pride in ownership” about their sound, they have redefined why live shows have merit and provide lasting listening pleasure.  The catalog of live Phish that LivePhish.net offers is astounding; and 99.9% is recorded directly off the boards; each show is a quality listening experience.

Although there are many incredible shows available on Nugs.net (I believe a sister site of LivePhish.net), the one I have been listening to non-stop has been the Dave Matthews and Friends show at the FleetCenter in Boston 2003.  Of course having lived in Boston for over a decade, the old Boston Garden has taken on too many names due to greedy corporate sponsorship, I think today it is called the “TD Banknorth Boston Garden North Station Thingy” or something like that, ugh.

The show is a culmination of various artists joining Dave on stage as he released his first solo album entitled Some Devil.  The biggest hit off of this album was “Grave Digger”, but during the concert he plays a plethora of both old and new material; some new solo work and classics from his well known band.  One of the highlights are the songs he plays with longtime friend Tim Reynolds; songs like “Dancing Nancies” and “Typical Situation” are just so well done that you find yourself listening to them over and over.   Matthews is accompanied by the legendary Emmy Lou Harris on songs like “Save Me” and “Oh Sister and the meloncoly sounds of both artists create a tempo that compliments both artists styles.  Trey from Phish accompanies Matthews on classics such as The Bands “Down on Cripple Creek” and Billy Preston’s classic  “Will It Go Round In Circles”.   It is a gem of a show and the sound quality is second to none.

You can download the show for free on Nugs.net (look at the top right of the home page “Free Stash” and scroll down to Dave Matthews and Friends) it is a two-set download and well worth your time, trust me.

We here at HiFi Central are curious on what you think about this show and about Nugs.net; have you found a show that is your favorite?

07
Jan
11

Spike Jonze Music Video Appreciation Post!

For no other reason than to have fun on a Friday, here are some of the best music videos ever made, courtesy of the great video/film director Spike Jonze.

The first is “California” by Wax, and it’s the first Jonze video I remember seeing. I’m not a big fan of the song, but the video is amazing…the end is pure genius.

The next one is very well known – it’s a great song made even better by Jonze’s 70’s cop show video. Unfortunately I could not find a version without an ad before it, sorry:

The next offering is an odd song by tat odd Icelandic nymph Bjork. And who better than to direct a video of an odd song by an odd artist? Spike Jonze of course:

The Pharcyde was a pretty cool group back in the 90’s, and Jonze puts his mark on this video of theirs…backwards!

This last one is more famous for the actor dancing in it than for the song itself. It’s all-around genius at work here:

07
Jan
11

william basinski: the disintegration loops

Entropy is the physical process by which things fall apart. Order merges into chaos. Things decay and die. For those of you unlucky enough to have suffered through a full course in thermodynamics (by far my least favorite part of physics) you find out that it has a firm mathematical foundation in the physical workings of the universe as the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I firmly prefer Isaac Asimov’s treatment of it in his famous short story “The Last Question”. I’ve read this story aloud in my physics, math and astronomy courses as a special treat when the semester is coming to an end, with reactions ranging from awe to utter confusion.

It’s such a simple concept though, that it’s almost second nature to us, from the expected state of affairs in one’s house if you have small children, to the fact that food rots if you leave it out and “let nature take its course”. Perhaps as discussed in Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, we must in some sense be born knowing of our own mortality.

Whatever the philosophy of it may be, it is inevitable that things break, run down, become more randomized. William Basinski has managed to capture this concept of entropy in a unique and utterly effective way. A well-known figure in the field of ambient electronic music, Basinski’s compositions are definitely down-tempo, oozing sublimely usually without a hint of percussion over sedate but stark landscapes.

As the story goes, Basinski was in the process of digitizing some 20-year old tape loops when he noticed that the brittle magnetic coating was starting to flake off. These 5-10 second loops were disintegrating, and with them the music encoded on them started to die. Little by little, bit by bit, the sound would change subtly in an unpredictable and uncontrollable way. A way that could only come from the realm of analog sound reproduction. Basinski decided to capture this process of nature taking its course on the four album set The Disintegration Loops.

Now, a five hour selection of repetitive tape loops breaking down might not seem like something that would hold anybody’s interest for very long. However there is something compelling about it all. The loops themselves have a distantly resonant and solemn quality to them, as if coming from a string orchestra echoed to infinity. Haunting and somber tones ache with a sad beauty, and to hear them fail bit by bit is more than a little heartbreaking. Even if it is easy to restore the loop to its original glory by going back to the beginning of the track, the sense of loss is palpable and one feels powerless to stop the inevitable process, the sinister decay.

Each track falls apart in a different way. Some take much longer than others, stretching their death knells across the better part of an hour. For those with shorter attention spans who want to hear noteworthy changes after only a few iterations, the track “d|p 4″ from Volume III is your best bet. It decays in rapid fashion after about the half way mark 10 minutes in. The last few loops are merely fragments and pops and clicks.

To call it a gimmick seems grossly unfair. This is the universe, nature, doing what it does best: follow the rules built into the very fabric of itself. Is it the music dying, art destroying itself? Perhaps. But Basinski has merely shown us an accelerated version of the fated outcome of everything from magnetic tapes to buildings to people. The unique, almost loving treatment of it, of entropy, is what makes The Disintegration Loops mesmerizing, unforgettable, irresistible.




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