I’ve never reviewed a band or a live show before so this will be new for the both of us.

I saw The New Pornographers a The Moon tonight. It was a spur of the moment show, so I had very limited expectations. I find this is usually a good way to go into things. My only prior experience with TNP was a single song I had on a compilation album. “100 of the best indie songs of 2008.” The song was mostly acoustic and piano with forlorn male and female vocals over the top.

Their live performance was anything but acoustic and forlorn. They’re a six piece band with two keyboards, lead vocalist/ guitarist, rhythm guitarist, bass, and drummer. As you can imagine they made quite a bit of noise. And contrary to the one I had heard prior, most of their set was upbeat and rocking.

They we’re much older than I expected too. Not to say they were Rolling Stones-back-from-the-dead-old, but they we’rent dropped-out-of-college-to-tour-with-my-band-young. The majority of the audience was of a similar age. I found this refreshing. It made me feel like I was standing amongst something already established. I felt as if I was an outsider in a world I didn’t understand.

So many shows I go to are played by kids my age which fills me with equal parts jealousy and happyness. The fact that all of the players in TNP were much older than I, a few even graying, was nice to see and made me feel that I was seeing an established artist and not some kids with instruments.

But their experience almost played against them. One of their keyboard players seemed sooo bored on stage. He hardly smiled and barely made eye contact with the audience. I couldn’t hear anything he was playing, which may have well been a factor. I wouldn;t be having a good time if all of my parts were turned down.

Besides that, the melodies and harmonies between their frontman and their pianist/female vocalist were great. Many of their songs seemed similar to someone who didn’t know the words and wasn’t familiar with the tunes. They all carried a similar head-bobbing tempo and chug chug downbeat rhythm. These were punctuated by one or two solemn and downbeat songs, including the one I recognized. By the end of the hour and a half, as they played newer and more well known tunes (and as the audience downed more bottles) the crowd became more animated and sang back the lyrics with more vigor and closing their set with an all-singing all-playing shout chorus of oohs and ahhs, echoed by the audience.

The obligatory encore was played after some thirty seconds behind the stage. One I was surprised I recognized. They exited the stage with a wave and a thank you, polite and friendly until the end. The roadies came out and the audience begrudgingly realized it was time to leave. Cleverly, country music was blared over the house speakers to clear the loiterers out.

With no expectations I found I was pleasantly surprised. I usually don’t like going to shows where I don’t know the music and don’t know the words, but I found their songs easy to bob and sway to, and the small intimate audience made the experience all that much more memorable. Though they seemed like a band not used to playing a venue so large, The New Pornographers were more than up to the challenge, and delivered.

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In my search to become more absorbed in music and PR I’ve come across a whole world of new music blogs and things. Mostly I asked a friend of mine who works in the industry to tell me what he reads everyday and this is what he gave me:

Consequence of sound

Alternative Press

Pitchfork

Hypemachine

Hillydilly

Stereogum

NME

This Song is Sick

Most of these are daily news from the music industry. Who’s releasing an album soon, who’s joint what music festival and the like. All interesting stuff but as a starving college student, I don’t have the funds to travel all over to music festivals. I just read the set lists online and simmer with jealousy. A few of these are music streaming sights. Hillydilly and Hypemachine have proven to be invaluable resources for new music. On Hypemachine, I love sitting on the “newest” tab and listening to the random assortment of brand new stuff coming down the pipe. It even tells you when it was posted; “10 minutes ago.” It feels so refreshing to listen to a track immediately after it’s posted. It’s like I’m there in the studio.  For every track a link is included to eMusic, Amazon, and iTunes where you can buy the song or the album.

I’ve never felt such a direct connection to new artists. I used to read magazines and look for the “newest bands” section and check those out. But I’ve always felt that a thousand other kids are doing the same thing, and the band had to have been somewhat successful already to be picked up by the magazine. But on Hypemachine I feel an instant and intimate connection to bands that spark my interest. I can immediately go buy their album online through Amazon or iTunes. Amazon is great too, because if I like an artist so much I want to buy their album, Amazon will recommend t-shirts and other albums by the artist as well.

It’s mind blowing how hard it must have been for artists before the internet. The struggle of finding your audience and getting people to hear your music. Now it seems the major struggle is getting people to pay for their music. But that’s a different post altogether.

In response to my last post:

I feel human beings won’t limit themselves to only textual nonverbal communication. Having the ability to think about and edit what you say before you say it is nice, but face to face human contact– up close and personal– is something we as humans need. It’s one of the basic needs of life. Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs shows it easily enough:

  Humans need to be around other humans. Force ourselves in to emotionless gray cubicles for hours all day everyday and sooner or later somethings going to snap.

   The fear of offending or being misunderstood may affect how many people communicate, but the effectiveness of dialogue is unmistakable. The ability to transfer thoughts via word of mouth in conversation is always going to be the most efficient and speedy way to do so.

For instance, board meetings. They could be done through group email, but would take days maybe weeks. Things like GoToMeeting are making strides to change that, but I still wonder what kind of first impression you can make without a handshake or a pat on the back.

I do feel that permanence is lost on this new generation. Constantly interfacing with keyboards and typing makes it easy to delete or undo. Could this be leading to a world where every word we use to communicate with is spell-checked and reviewed before being sent or heard?

Words spoken are permanent.

You can’t unhear or unsay something. It’s so easy to type something–read it–and delete it. But if you say something you regret, it takes a lot for someone else to forgive something you wished you could have unsaid. I don’t know how many times I wished I could have grabbed the words that just came out of my mouth and pull them back in.

What happens when we realize we can’t speak face to face because the fear of offence or misunderstanding is too great? Will we become a society inept of eye contact? Slaves to our smartphones, only texting, never speaking.

Turn it off. Look me in the eye. Shake my hand.

“Nice to meet you.”

Johnson talks about his first experiences using a computer in Interface Culture. More specifically he talks about using the computer to write, and how he used to write by hand and then how he transitioned into writing purely on the computer.
He talks about “interface design” and how the Mac’s version lured him into using the computer by making their word processing program seem like paper on a desktop. I can see how that makes sense for someone who grew up using a pen and paper to write. But for me it doesn’t quite work that way. I grew up writing on paper as well and I remember the first time I wrote using Word, but I didn’t really start getting into writing until late high school and early college. Until then I had used word processors, predominantly Word, for writing research papers and five paragraph essays. Now, when I open up Word and stare at the blinking cursor in 12 point Times New Roman, it just feels stale and uninspiring.
I’ve had to find new avenues to go about writing via computer. Mostly I mean using anything but Word. I joined the blogosphere a few years ago and I’ve found it both welcoming and inspiring. Knowing my work is “published” as soon as I hit enter gives a feeling of permanence and encourages me to make sure I’m content with what I’ve just written. I know I have the option to go back and edit it, but I like to be fully satisfied before I send it down the tubes.
Even Blogger seems like a welcome change from the confines of the five paragraph essay and the research papers of olde. It’s funny how similar the two interfaces are, but the subtle changes make all the difference. The orange against the gray background seems to carry so much more warmth than the cold sterile blue on white of Word.
Though, I can tell it’s just me. There isn’t anything wrong with using Word. It’s not like I have issues with the program itself. (Though, they keep coming out with new versions and moving all the menus around. What happened to file-print? Why is it so complicated now!? I digress.) I’ve just associated too much emotional pain and suffering with Word. Strangely enough, the Notes application on Facebook was how it all started. I liked the interface. It was simple, straightforward, and wasn’t Word. It was after that I figured out why I hadn’t liked writing until then. It was the uninspiring, static, dull, coldness that is Microsoft Word.

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