The Segregation of America’s Live Music Experience


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Today I grabbed the cheapest tix possible to see Dead & Company here in L.A. with some dear friends. The concert will be on Dec. 30th (we’re skipping the New Year’s show). Our seats are in the nosebleed section behind the stage with an obstructed view. While excited to see this band live and hear some of my favorite songs again, I will be forever dismayed at what the concert scene in general has devolved into.

Even though ticket prices for the cheapest seats are lower for Dead & Company than your average concert, the prices are still considerably high. Ticketmaster is offered as an only option (with outrageous fees and surcharges), and like so much else in America, the less money you make/have to spend, the more you are penalized, marginalized and physically and statistically separated from those with more money than you. Growing up, I could pay $12.50 and get a seat in the first row. Or the twentieth row! …Or the last. All that was required of me was that I wanted to hear the music and had a desire to partake. It wasn’t an experience just for the rich and well-off. And we all sat together, intermingled, rich and poor, young and old. It was a communal experience that celebrated what we had in common, not accentuated what separated us. We weren’t isolated into roped-off sections, divergent tiers based on income. The only difference, perhaps, were those who camped out overnight for tickets (pre-internet) and those who bought them later. But that wasn’t class separation. What we have here and now is just a reflection of the attitudes and gross disparity our country has come to not only represent, but in some circles celebrate.

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The Segregation of America’s Live Music Experience

A Deathbed Perspective on the Business of Art


linds-reddingLinds Redding died of inoperable espohageal cancer. He was an art director who worked at BBDO and Saatchi & Saatchi. Linds kept a blog and one of the last pieces he wrote before he died, “A Short Lesson in Perspective,” explores his final frame of mind on the ad business and how many of us choose to live our lives and approach our art. It is a devastating and scathing piece. And desperately worth the read, I think.

With over 20 years under my belt in the commercial casting business, I’ve worked a lot with the folks from BBDO and Saatchi & Saatchi. May have even worked with Linds. I think what he discovered at the end of his life is considerable and noteworthy. Particularly while living in any Capitalist society. Not that Capitalism is all bad, but it does promote a state of mind that can be –how shall I say this — a tad misleading. Our goals and definitions of success are oftentimes out of sync with the greater elements and offerings of the human experience. It’s one of the main reasons I have such a hard time with the Hollywood mindset surrounding film and filmmaking. I think it almost entirely misses the point. At the same time, it has its own alluring gravitational pull that is hard to break free of. Lord knows I’m still struggling with it.

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A Deathbed Perspective on the Business of Art

Fear The Walking Dead Writers


FTWD-NewKeyArt-400x600You know things are off to a bad start when you can feel the writers’ fear more than the characters’.

I always thought the writing on THE WALKING DEAD was terribly inconsistent. Sometimes downright awful. But I love the zombie genre (saw NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in a movie theater at age 9 and it has been burned into my psyche ever since), and if there are some good visceral moments now and again, I find myself drawn back. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that the writing on THE WALKING DEAD improved in the last two seasons, it felt more consistent, more organic.

So when I read that there’d be a spinoff series, I hoped that the writers, creators and anyone else involved with the series had evolved in their storytelling sensibilities to offer something interesting, maybe even slightly provocative or, god-forbid, original. Instead, what I found was an hour of the kind of silly character reactions and scenarios I would expect from network TV at its most benign. Why is this?

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Fear The Walking Dead Writers

Fare Thee Well Chicago: The Ephemeral Resurrection


grateful-dead-fare-thee-well-chicago-04-july-3-2015-billboard-650-1For anyone who read my most recent posts, you know I was not a fan of the music-making that took place in Santa Clara, CA. at the Fare Thee Well Grateful Dead celebration. To clarify, my intent is not to diminish the experience of those who were there or those who genuinely loved the music. So much goes into a concert experience and these particular concerts are so very emotionally charged. I’ve not talked to one single person who was in attendance in either Santa Clara or Chicago who did not remark on the amazing energy that was present in both stadiums. Through the roof. The outpouring of love must have been tremendous. That experience in itself transcends the quality of the music-making, no question. The sheer celebration and flood of emotional and spiritual experiences. The sheer importance of this music in our lives, this bond we share through it, the journeys we’ve taken both internally and externally, the absolute life-affirming nature of the entire Grateful Dead experience.

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Fare Thee Well Chicago: The Ephemeral Resurrection

Fare Thee Well Night Two: Desire & Admission


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You can read my post on the first night here

It’s an odd experience feeling disappointment around something so very special and important in my life. Some have shared my experience and interpretation, others have their own and it varies wildly. No experience is wrong.

I’ve been accused by some in the past few days of judging too harshly and being overly vocal about it. Maybe that’s true, but it seems more to me like there’s this unspoken notion that it’s clear heresy to express disappointment surrounding this occasion, to criticize any element of it. In essence, to have my own experience and voice it. It feels like going to see the Grateful Dead in 1994 and 1995 and commenting on Garcia’s playing and health. To me, something was clearly going on. It seemed like he was using again, in very ill health and the music suffered greatly. When I remarked on it at the time, there were those that suggested I was just being negative. But there’s nothing more I would have rather been doing than celebrating Garcia and this music and the band that I love. Perhaps for those who had just hopped on the bus at that time and had little previous experience to compare to, 1995 was a stellar year in Grateful Dead history and Garcia was in top form. But history has shown us that was not the case. There are very few out there now who would deny the difference, the change, the obvious.

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Fare Thee Well Night Two: Desire & Admission

Fare Thee Well Stumbles Out Of The Starting Gate


Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 12.23.12 PMLet me begin by saying I love these guys. I’ve been a hardcore DeadHead since 1975. It was a joy to see Phil Lesh smiling and having so much fun up there on stage for the first night of the 5-night Fare Thee Well 50th celebration of the Grateful Dead with the “core-four” remaining members of the band plus guests.

For many of us, there is no Grateful Dead without Jerry Garcia. But the songs themselves and Garcia’s legacy seem to be (and hopefully are) undying; The spirit of the band, the essence of the music and all that it has inspired. And the band certainly tried to capture that spirit with what might well be the most ballsy setlist imaginable for a first night gig of this long-anticipated reunion. It was a DeadHead dream come true in terms of song choices. Not a single post-1970 tune was played. The jams were long and casual. Incredible rarities like Cream Puff War and What’s Become of The Baby were played, as well as one of the most beloved trifectas of all time, Dark Star-> St. Stephen-> The Eleven (with the William Tell bridge!!!). On the surface, this looks amazing. Unfortunately in my opinion, the quality of musicianship on display could not match the clear and loving intent of all involved.

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Fare Thee Well Stumbles Out Of The Starting Gate

Observations on Cinema vs. the Capitalist Feeding Frenzy


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Filmmaker William Friedkin was recently interviewed for a piece in The Telegraph titled “Superhero movies are ruining cinema, says Exorcist director William Friedkin.”

I agree with Friedkin’s sentiment and I would take it one step further and say that it’s not “Superhero movies” that are ruining cinema, but that those films are a product of what has so dramatically changed since the 70’s.

The corporate greed and the paint-by-numbers mentality that has now driven cinema for many decades is, in itself, a product of a state of mind that has been vigorously taught, conditioned, indoctrinated and embraced in the U.S. Its impact is reflected in all aspects of our lives socially, culturally, politically and, yes, artistically…

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Observations on Cinema vs. the Capitalist Feeding Frenzy