Monday, February 28, 2011

Where Guster & Art Meet: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The beauty of living in New York City is being able to take advantage of the bounty of cultural events.  For under $30, one can experience a magical evening of music, art, culture, etc.  These events always have produce moments that give you a chill, making you think, damn I'm so glad I experienced that.    Guster and artist Jon Sarkin provided those moments on Friday evening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  You're probably as surprised to hear Guster played there, as lead singer Ryan Miller and Sarkin were to in awe to be playing there.  

Sarkin's art is a big part of Guster's latest project, Easy Wonderful.  From the packaging to merch to the video, Sarkin's art is there.  Drummer Brian Rosenworcel was the first to discover Sarkin's work and as fellow bandmate Adam Gardner said, they all fell in love with his paintings.  Apparently he sent them so much art for the album, that they had a hard time choosing just one painting.  They immediately knew the color wheel would be the cover.  From there Sarkin wound up doing the whole booklet and participated in the video for Do You Love Me.  He is creating art as the video progresses.  Brian brought pieces of art that Sarkin left on the ground at the end of the video shoot and passed them around for the audience to look at.  Sarkin explained that the joy is in creating the art and he doesn't necessarily have to keep it.  He does keep whatever  his wife likes.  His recent work brings to mind Roz Chast, most famous for her New Yorker cartoons. 

The show started off with curators explaining music's relativity to pieces in the museum's collection.  One caught Ryan off guard by asking how he would explain an ancient Greek instrument depicted on an urn to his daughter.  The conversation continued to explore the relationship between the band, Sarkin and video director Chad Carlberg.  The band originally wanted to shoot the video in Sarkin's studio, but realized that wasn't possible as it's filled wall to wall with his work. The interview below from Good Morning Gloucester begins in his studio.  Carlberg talked about the hardest part of making the video.  They got the go ahead from the record company on a Friday and made the video on that Monday.  Nice to see things haven't changed in the making of music videos. 

After the conversation, Sarkin took his place at the easel and began to work while the band performed.  Ryan, Adam and Luke played musical chairs, each taking on the bass, guitar and piano.  They reworked their songs specifically for this "acoustic" show, keeping in mind that it might be a format to take on the road (Yes!).  The bulk of the 45 minute set consisted of songs from Easy Wonderful including Bad Bad World, Stay With Me Jesus, That's The Way To Get To Heaven and a rousing version of This Could All Be Yours.  Harmonies were in full swing.

In a hypnotic and powerful Satellite, the band was accompanied by two guest players on violin and cello.  It made the song a religious experience.  They concluded the set with Do You Love Me.  This has got to be the band's new anthem.  Didn't think they could match the pop magic of Amsterdam, but they did it with this song.  Speaking of religious experience, the encore of Jesus On The Radio brought the band and Sarkin to the front of the stage, all unplugged.  Brian played tambourine and Sarkin on teeny tiny maracas.  It was an epiphany.

Apparently in the next few weeks, the Met will be posting a video of the whole evening.  In the meantime, here's a snippet.

Here are more photos of the evening.

The Oscar Yawn

I didn't even make it past the halfway mark of the Oscar's last night.  The writing was so dull and uninspiring.  Roger Ebert commented on his blog that the first laugh came when Billy Crystal came on stage. I had already given up on the show by that time and missed him. 

The opening was silly.  James Franco has a sleepy way about him which doesn't work for a host.  The big surprise of the evening was not one of the winners, but Anne Hathaway's voice.  She sang beautifully.  The song was silly, but she gave it her all.  She wore a tux, which meant James dressed in drag.  Yikes.  

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fred Wilson Says Don't Market Your Startup

He does and he doesn't say that.  In his blog this morning he got things stirring. My interpretation: don't set aside a big budget for marketing your start up.  You are the best marketer for your company/product and be the evangelist.  He goes on to say that most of the companies he's invested in have not had an initial marketing budget.  

When applying this to a new band/music artist, I must agree. In my experience, most acts that hire marketing companies come away with mediocre results and a lot less money in their pockets.  The act's manager (and the band) is still struggling to pay the bills (she/he gets paid a commission on money earned) but the marketers have made their monthly fee and usually get it for a minimum of three months, which they say is necessary to launch a project. 

Times have changed so drastically over the past 10 years, that an artist can build their own marketing machine using existing free tools, which is what Fred recommends.  If you're engaging in your Twitter, blog and Facebook posts, you can begin to gain an audience. Obviously your music has to be good.  It's been proven that word of mouth endorsements will trump any promotional scheme a marketing company can come up with (see the Grateful Dead).  I've seen the results of hiring marketing companies.  I've never come away from an experience where I've just wanted to tell everyone to hire that company.  I've seen some nice awareness building campaigns and I've seen marketers do exactly the opposite of how you'd like to see your artist promoted.  I've never had a home run or even a triple.

Kudos Fred. You got it.  If you're a musician, take control of your marketing.  If down the road it gets to be too much for you to handle, then hire someone who clearly knows your vision and will stick to it.  At that point, you're probably making money and things are rolling along. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Producers' Fuhrer

Kenneth Mars played one of my favorite film characters, Franz Liebkind. He was the author of Springtime for Hitler who cared for pigeons on the roof of this building.  Without him, there would be no Producers.  Kenneth passed away this past week.. His beloved portrayal of Franz is classic and I thank him for it.  To quote his character, "Not many people know it, but the Fuhrer was a terrific dancer!"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Urban Mayer & Jones

Not a law firm, just a nice collaboration on the Grammys.  Their tribute to Dolly Parton and worth a watch.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Mr. Bitchin': A Character, An Artist, A Film

Robert Williams' images jump at you.   He relies a lot on pop culture references.  In  the movie Robert Williams:  Mr. Bitchin', the images literally jump at you from the screen.   The filmmakers of this documentary isolated certain images from his paintings and bring them to the front of the screen, which made you pay attention to his details.  There are details everywhere in a Williams' work.  In dissecting a few of his paintings in the film, he details where his inspiration comes from, why he likes certain colors and how he would love to paint tiny details all the time if it wasn't so taxing.  The movie had it's New York premier last night at the MOMA.

He wanted to depict delusion, he thought of King Farouk.  He read extensively about him and his rule over Egypt (which of course is very timely) and portrayed him in several vignettes on a large canvas.  Gluttony, thievery and conspicuous consumption are played out in his typical bright colors.  As in most of his paintings, cars figure.  In this case it's a shiny red Cadillac convertible.

A Life Of Delusion by Robert Williams
Early in his career, Robert was the art director for Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's studio in Los Angeles.  Big Daddy customized Hot Rods, which were themselves customized cars.  The movie gives a nice history of the Hot Rod's beginnings.   Ed Roth saw Robert's car, which he described as one big dent and his long hair and thought there was no way this guy could paint this beautifully.  Robert proved him wrong and secured a job at the studio.  Robert is seen driving his cars (and a unicycle and sting ray bike) in Mr. Bitchin'.

Robert was part of Zap Comix and eventually started his own art magazine JUXTAPOZ, which is a forum for both established and up-and-coming artists.  Juxtapoz was different than other art magazine which seemed to focus on text and not the art.

He creates characters and comes across as a character himself in this film.  Many artists will not discuss their art and that's why Mr. Bitchin' is a breath of fresh air.  Williams freely lets you into his process, which for me made his work that much more alive.  It's a fun romp into an artists head. 

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Citi Records?

First came Citi Field, could Citi Records be far behind?  Citigroup took over EMI today under a restructuring of debut. Not quiet sure why Citi even got involved in the recorded music business in the first place.  According to the NY Times, it's likely that Citigroup will sell EMI.  Will Martin Luther King lll, James McCartney and Carnie Wilson form a coalition to buy it?