Noise du Jour: Jason Cruz and Howl

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Welcome to “Noise du Jour,” a new weekly segment here at Critical Noise. Every week, we will feature either an emerging/under-the-radar artist/band, OR a new release from an established artist/band whose creativity continuously impacts the music community.

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So without further adieu, let’s shift our attention to Jason Cruz and Howl. We were lucky enough to catch them last week at The Redwood Bar and Grill in DTLA.

Of course, we all know Mr. Cruz by way of Strung Out. I suppose after 24 years of punk rock, one has to find a way to mellow out a bit. With his new side project, Cruz ditches the metal riffs and mosh pits, and elects for a slower pace, particularly one fit for dancing and sing-alongs. In the process, he crafts a series of ballads, accompanied by engaging storylines, addictive melodies, and just the right amount of twang.

HowlAlongside Cruz is his supporting cast, “Howl,” comprised of Buddy Darling on (slide) guitar and vocals, Chris Stein on bass, and Kris Comeaux on drums. [Aside: last Wednesday, guitarist Chris Aiken (also of Strung Out) joined the fold, contributing to a great night of music and bad jokes]. Together, the band has created a new genre, dubbed “Loungecore” (which is also the title of the group’s 2013 debut EP), blending elements of americana, folk rock, blues, country, and punk.

Make sure to check out the debut LP, Good Man’s Ruin, out now on Echotone Records. That should tide you over until the new Strung Out record drops, which, by the way, is March 24.

Stream Good Man’s Ruin here.

Standout tracks: “Warsong,” “High and Lonesome,” “Reno,” “Edge of Barstow.”

RIYL: Strung Out, Joey Cape, Old Man Markley, Dave Hause, The Doors

 

Incentives

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What would you do if you won the lottery? You would have enough money to provide for yourself and your significant other, your children, and your children’s children.

Would you travel the world? Would you buy fancy cars? Would you lounge by the pool every day for the rest of your life? Would you run for office? Would you start a charity? Would you continue to live your life as you live it today? (Hint: The answer might be your true passion).

Why do we do the things we do?

A strategic management professor once told me that the art of strategy is all about making sound decisions. But what drives the decision-making process? Why choose A instead of B or C or D or none of the above? Is there a correct path towards achieving your end goal(s)?

Look at this way,

“Why would I spend seven dollars to see a movie that I could watch on TV?”

And furthermore,

“Why go to a fine restaurant, when you can just stick something in the microwave? Why go to the park and fly a kite, when you can just pop a pill?”

Everybody is the same, yet everybody is different. We choose different lifestyles, different jobs, and, on any given Sunday, we root for a particular football team. Crazy, eh?

So what do we know, really? Basically, we are human. We live for moments like this. Still, we are flawed. We learn from our mistakes. And, in the end, we seek redemption (P.S. spoiler alert!).

In an uncertain world, we carry on with our daily lives, because as humans, it is our core instinct to survive.

In the modern world, we are inundated with endless content because everyone wants his/her voice to be heard. Everything matters, but at the same time, nothing matters. But even nothing is something, right? How do you sort through the BS and find the good stuff?

Do you seek out word-of-mouth recommendations? Do you make decisions based on past experiences? Are you willing to take a risk and try something new? Are you in it for the long haul? Are you seeking immediate results? Do you do things to make others wish that they were doing the same thing as you?

Why do individuals spend upwards of $800 for VIP access at The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival? Similarly, why do the kids pay nearly $600 for VIP admission at the Las Vegas edition of Electric Daisy Carnival? (And, more importantly, when will the bass drop?)

Coachella is a three-day event, held on consecutive weekends in mid-April. Hundreds of acts, both living and deceased, descend upon the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.

In addition to the live performances, there are a plethora of non-music related activities that one can engage in. As far as lodging goes, you have the option to camp out (in the traditional sense), or buy a luxury Safari Tent, or, play it safe, and rent a house near the fairgrounds. Meanwhile, you can sample food and craft brews from the hippest SoCal restaurant vendors, purchase collectibles from boutique vendors, or plan a romantic dinner in the Coachella Rose Garden.

But, how about the music? Are you familiar with the lineup? And what happens if two of your favorite bands/DJs are performing at the same time, on different stages? How do you decide whom to see?

EDC generates a similar phenomenon. I am not hip to the EDM culture; however, I have a pretty good sense of what goes down. Basically, it is a huge rave. People are dancing, drinking, and doing drugs in the company of friends. All. Night. Long. And when you are not at the fairgrounds, you are gambling, hanging by the hotel pool, or cruising the strip. Vegas, Baby! Vegas!.

I have not attended either festival, but I predict that the average attendee sees five (full) sets per day, roughly fifteen for the weekend. So, the alternative to attending either festival is seeing those fifteen acts on fifteen different occasions during the calendar year. Assume each act charges $35 for a club show (it could be more or less; let’s just consider this figure a mean average). That’s $525 in (alternative) ticket costs, which is considerably less than the $800 (baseline) VIP admission at Coachella, and slightly below the $600 VIP price tag at EDC.

However, the arbitrage in each scenario is irrelevant. Promoters will continue to raise the prices for such festivals because the opportunity cost of attending pales in comparison to the “fear of missing out”.

At the end of the day, festival attendees are buying an experience, so they can witness the excitement first-hand, and then tweet, post, ‘gram, and tumble about it to all their followers. In the digital age, you want followers. Followers attract clicks. Clicks attract advertisers. And advertisers translate clicks into dollar signs.

So, here we are. Social media has bred a new set of expectations (and insecurities). Our profiles (which might as well be our personal brands) are built upon our experiences. Experiences create stories. Stories generate content. Still, we wonder, who will like my post? Will anyone comment? Meanwhile, our LinkedIn page begins to resemble our OK Cupid profile. We are looking for perfect matches in the digital world, but unfortunately this is not attainable in reality.

In this overcrowded information age, we pose the question, what will it take for people to pay attention? How do you get people to buy your product, or download your app, or attend your band’s show? What sort of incentives do you need to offer?

To demonstrate, consider the growing trend of event discovery mobile apps. The major players in this niche are songkick, applauze, YPlan, Thrillcall, and WillCall (now part of Ticketfly).

These apps provide event promotion and allow the user to track his/her favorite artists while on tour. They can also be synched with other music platforms (i.e. Spotify) to track artists that the user is currently listening to. As an added bonus, the user has the opportunity to purchase last-minute tickets through the application. Typically, the company behind the app secures a nominal fee as a result of forwarding the user to the online ticketing vendor. So, in a perfect world, it is a one-stop shop for spontaneous event goers.

The problem is, is that these companies have yet to partner with the venues that bring in the top-tier artists. See, the top-tier acts sell out instantly. Meanwhile, you do not need to scramble to purchase last-minute tickets to see a baby band. You can show up at the door, no problem. And if you are a super fan, you probably do not use these apps. You are already tuned in via social networks, blogs, and word of mouth.

Generally speaking, these companies need to change their approach. We need comprehensive event listings. We need more product-related news, updates, and hyperlocal coverage. It’s 2014. As users, we need more incentives.

We need a loyalty rewards-type program, complemented by a set of membership tiers. Therefore, users that employ these apps more frequently than others would have the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets, or win tickets through registered giveaways. Think about the airline and hotel industries and such rewards programs. The key is exclusivity.

Or, maybe these companies should consider integrating alternative currency into their business models as a means to increase ticket sales and drive promotions.

Whether it is a live event or an app that points you to the live event, humans are always searching for added incentives. It is puzzling, though, because music is already marketed as a drug. We are selling a feeling, a state of mind. But, in some instances, the drug is not potent enough. We need our music paired with “some Morimoto ribs and…a nice glass of Napa cab.”

And, of course, humans love technology. Apps make things easier. But if they do not serve a purpose, if they do not generate results instantly, then why waste the time?

Certainly, our expectations, our lifestyles, and our need to survive influence our actions. But at the end of the day, “Money Changes Everything.”

Timing

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We lost a legend on April 5, 1994. Three days later, The Offspring released Smash (1994, Epitaph Records)To date, “[Smash] remains the highest selling independent record of all time,” having sold upwards of 12 million units worldwide. That said, The Offspring – their approach, their ethos, and their brand of alternative rock – surely would not have been successful without the existence and influence of Kurt Cobain. To illustrate, please bear witness to the following exhibits:

The-Offspring

The Offspring (circa 1994)

Exhibit A: Listen to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (from Nevermind – 1991, Geffen Records). Now listen to “Self Esteem,” via Smash. Pay attention to the melodies, the drawn-out harmonies, and make note of the varying tempos featured in each track.

Exhibit B: Now listen to the drums at the beginning of “Territorial Pissings” (also via Nevermind), and notice the similar drum roll at the start of Smash’s blistering opener, “Nitro (Youth Energy).”

So, does Smash go on to receive such critical acclaim if Cobain were still breathing today?

Kurt Cobain On 'MTV Unplugged'

“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

It’s a classic example of the “Grandfather Paradox.” In other words, if you go back in time to (for lack of a better word) eliminate your grandfather, this means that Grandpa no longer exists, and therefore, your father was never born, and subsequently, you were never born. So, you never went back in time to begin with, right?

In Back to The Future, Marty McFly (a.k.a Calvin Klein) is accidentally transported back to November 1955 in Dr. Emmett Brown’s time machine. His (future) existence is dependent upon the timing of his (future) parents kissing (and falling in love) at the “Enchantment Under The Sea Dance.”

So, if I take the DeLorean for a joy ride, and effectively eliminate The Offspring (circa 1993), what happens to the modern rock ‘n’ roll climate? Meanwhile, if The Offspring no longer exist, am I even writing this blog post? Furthermore, if I had no intention of writing this piece, why would I have gone back in time in the first place? It’s confusing, I know.

delorean

“When this baby hits 88 mph, you’re gonna see some serious shit.”

At any rate, Smash was one of the first cassettes I ever owned, along with Dookie (1994, Reprise Records) and Doggystyle (1993, Death Row Records). I know you’ve heard it before. Now,

“It’s time to relax [again]

You know what that means

A glass of wine, your favorite easy chair

And, of course, this compact disc playing on your home stereo

Smash

It was a smash, indeed.

So, go on, and indulge yourself!

That’s right, kick off your shoes, put your feet up!

Lean back and just enjoy the melodies

After all, music soothes even the savage beast.”

Hands down, this is a great album from start to finish. Every song is a hit, but, of course, I have my favorites. “Bad Habit” depicts road rage in Los Angeles in the early 90s. “Come Out And Play” comments on gang violence in the slums of East Los Angeles. Finally, the title track, “Smash,” reminds the listener that independence and originality contribute to a positive sense of being.

Does “Smash” resonate with you? I know it does with me. After all,

“I’m not a trendy asshole

I do what I want

I do what I feel like

I’m not a trendy asshole

Don’t give a fuck 

If it’s good enough for you

Cause I am alive.”

Swedish punks

Millencolin, a Swedish punk rock outfit, defined the Epitaph sound from the mid-90s through the early 2000s.

When I think of Epitaph Records, I think of Millencolin, Pennywise, Pulley, and Bouncing Souls. I don’t think about The Offspring. However, Smash put Epitaph on the map. Hell, Brett Gurewitz left Bad Religion (BR) in 1994 to focus on the label. He would not return until 2002 for The Process of Belief, which also marked BR’s return to Epitaph, after a five-album stint in major label territory.

BR seemingly fell off with The Gray Race (1996, Atlantic Records), No Substance (1998, Atlantic Records), and The New America (2000, Atlantic Records). Don’t get me wrong, the albums are decent, but the sound just wasn’t comparable to The Holy Trinity era and the early 90s material. Critics commonly attribute Brett Gurewitz’s absence to this artistic lull. And, punk rock music aficionados credit The Process of Belief as BR’s “return to form.”

Mr Brett

In 1994, Mr. Brett catapulted punk rock into the mainstream

Still, it was 1994. The skate punk scene was upon us. In addition to Smash, Mr. Brett and the Epitaph community taught us what it meant to be Punk in Drublic (1994, Epitaph Records). Meanwhile, 400 miles north, a group of street punks were yearning for “Salvation” (via Let’s Go – 1994, Epitaph Records). This was serious business. It was a revolution. It was ironic, too, because punk rock had reached the mainstream.

Look, everyone wants to be successful, but it’s hard to plan for success. In April of 1994, The Offspring’s lead vocalist, Brian “Dexter” Holland, was working towards his Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of Southern California. At the same time, lead guitarist Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman was working as a janitor at Earl Warren Elementary School in Lake Elsinore, California. Gurewitz admits that, “Up until [Smash] I didn’t really think any of our bands would truly break through.” Nobody knew that the album would be a hit, much less go platinum. It was a smash, indeed.

So, what does this all mean, really? Granted, not everyone is this fortunate; however, we all have access to the same amount of time: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. So, tell me, how do you spend your time?

Do you know how to build an avid following (or a recognizable brand name)? After doing so, do you know how and when to execute? In other words, when is it the right time to move to the next level? Furthermore, do you know how to manage expectations? And, finally, do you know how to roll with the momentum? It’s all timing, my friends. Are you ready?

Remember, life is short, so, “Before you run out and change the world, ask yourself, what do you really want?” 

Take a moment to reflect. Are you stuck in a routine? Are you doing what you love to do? Are you making decisions that will impact your future in a positive manner? Meanwhile, are you aware of your surroundings? Do you ever wonder why people do the things they do? Finally, how do you classify the actions, interests, and beliefs of others?

Like it or not, society is a collection of cliques, derived from the presence of stereotypes. Do you remember March 24, 1984? Which character were you during your high school days? Were you “the brain”, “the athlete,” “the criminal,” “the princess,” or “the basket case?”

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The Breakfast Club

 

Unfortunately, stereotypes linger as we grow older. In turn, we align ourselves with topical brands (i.e. schools, sports teams, professions) that appeal to our specific interests and beliefs. So, which subCULTURE do you belong to? Are you the slacker, the one-hit wonder, or simply the businessman in search of the American Dream?

 

It’s fascinating to think that,

“Everyone I meet is so damaged

And I kept thinking they were strange

But I’m scared to realize that we might all be the same.”

If, in fact, we are all the same, then success is what sets us apart. Our dreams, our endeavors, our relationships – they are only successful if we plan, execute, and follow through on various objectives. In business, success is driven by engagement and brand awareness. First, can you get people excited about your product or service? Second, can you give your customers something tangible to associate with your brand, or at least “Something To Believe In?” Can you guarantee that your brand will still resonate with customers in 20 years? How about 50 years?

If you didn’t know by now, I am a die-hard Oakland Athletics fan; always have been and always will be. The team (or the brand, for that matter) has a storied past, and a promising future. I believe that the A’s are primed for a deep run in October. Statistics don’t lie, folks. Entering play on Friday, May 23, the Athletics are a staggering +96 in the run differential department. It’s no surprise that they own the best record in MLB.

Moss

Mr. Clutch

I know, the A’s philosophy is so cliché, right? It’s the whole underdog mentality, anchored by a working class fan base. Then there’s general manager Billy Beane, who is a genius when it comes to buying and exploiting underpriced assets. Michael Lewis wrote a book about it, for heaven’s sake! Then Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon. And, still, only 13,000 fans will show up for a Tuesday night game! So what’s that all about?

Well, I hate to break it to you, but most everything is a cliché. Clichés are time-saving mechanisms used to speed up the decision-making process. Hey, why didn’t you get the last job you applied for at Company X? Because you aren’t a Harvard Business School graduate, so the hiring manager pushed your resume aside.

It’s so cliché to analyze clichés. So, for the purpose of our educational discussion, let’s use the term, trope. A trope is “a common or overused theme or device” used in a creative work which carves out a particular cliché and/or stereotype. Tropes are often illustrated via typical character types, symbols, or images. When something is predictable, over-the-top, or downright corny, it is probably a trope. Think about it – Hollywood is an anthology of tropes. Executives will use these devices to create a cast of characters, and subsequently build off the core dynamic in an effort to tell a story (i.e. a movie) or a series of adventures (i.e. a sitcom).

Entourage

“Let’s hug it out, bitch!”

To demonstrate, consider the hit comedy series, Entourage (2004-2011). Vincent Chase is a trope. He is loosely based on Mark Wahlberg (who also co-produced the show), and his experiences as an up-and-coming Hollywood actor in the early 90s. Vinnie is the stereotypical Hollywood type – a young, attractive, successful, buzzing actor. Eric “E” Murphy is the talent manager trope. He manages Vince’s successes and failures, and deals with Ari Gold (the stereotypical, high-strung Hollywood agent). “E” is level-headed; he keeps things in perspective. Meanwhile, Vinnie’s older brother, Johnny “Drama” Chase, is the wannabe actor, who’s garnered minimal acclaim. Lastly, Turtle is the careless soul, who is simply along for the ride. He rounds out the crew (after all, the boys are life-long friends from Queens), but he is just in it for the glamorous experiences.

How about Seinfeld? This is interesting, because it is a show about nothing. But even nothing is something. It’s a depiction of our daily lives. Every day, we get up and go to work. Sometimes, we take the subway. All along, we yearn for better things. We argue with one another, we eat, and we exercise. We pass the time by talking about sex, dating, and baseball. Sometimes, all you want to do is “unwind,” but unfortunately, you’re stuck in traffic.

Seinfeld

“See, this should be the show. This is the show…This, just talking.”

The defined character tropes in Seinfeld generate an effective formula susceptible to random plots. Jerry is the successful comedian living the single life; George is the loser; Elaine is the tomboy; and Kramer – well, Kramer is just plain eccentric. But mix accordingly, and we arguably have the best show in television history.

Tropes are common in the music industry, as well. Popular music is comprised of superstarslegacy actsfallen heroes, “socially active do-gooders,” and “pranksters.”  And, of course, there are buzz bands. Think back to the early to mid-90s. Remember MTV’s “Buzz Clips,” featuring acts like Cracker, Nada SurfWeezer, and Gin Blossoms? I know – it’s hard to fathom that MTV was, in fact, cutting-edge in the 90s.

Weezer

Weezer, like The Offspring, were buzzing in 1994.

Again, it’s all timing. Your band is probably only going to buzz once in a blue moon, if at all, so it is necessary to execute at the right time. Because it’s all hype and short-term expectations. It’s what generates a list like this. Or this. Major labels aren’t in the artist development business anymore; they’re only interested in investing in a proven brand name. So, ask yourself, are you ready to move over to the mainstream? Are you ready to jump to a major label?

together PANGEA are ready. I can feel it. Badillac (2014, Harvest Records) will appear on the 2014 year-end lists. Have you heard it yet? Burger Records, the Anaheim-based hybrid label/record store, is riding the together PANGEA wave. You should, too.

Hey, did you see the episode of NCIS: Los Angeles a few weeks back? Yea, neither did I. I don’t have time to watch television anymore. But it airs on CBS – “America’s Most-Watched Network” – so I assume that most of the nation saw it. No, the garage rock trio did not actually appear on the show, nor was their music synched. Instead, the album cover to Badillac was used as evidence to solve the mystery at hand. “Interestingly enough, [the crooks] left behind one single Dorito and this CD booklet for a rock band.”

Together Pangea

together PANGEA

So, viewers are aware that the band exists. People are curious. Meanwhile, producers want to bring together PANGEA back for an episode next season. The proposed story line has the band “playing outdoors on Venice Beach…[and] their amps get blown up by a hijacked drone so the NCISLA team has to come to the rescue!”

Look, industry insiders are talking about together PANGEA, all while bicycling through the Santa Monica mountains on sunny Saturday afternoons. Does it get more cliché than this? Oh yeah, “check this shit out – it’ll set you straight.”

I could go on and on – talk about the buzz levels attributed to PUP, The Ambulars, Cayetana, and Tweens, but I’d rather brush on a story developing in my own backyard. So, let’s talk about the dreamy, surf-rock inspired local band with unlimited potential. Yeah, I’m talking about French Cassettes.

I have seen them live on four separate occasions since February. I stumbled upon the group during Noise Pop in San Francisco. A couple weeks later, I caught their performance at Stubb’s in Austin. In mid-April, they opened for Surfer Blood at The New Parish in Oakland. Most recently, they were featured at the Live 105 “Locals Only” showcase at Rickshaw Stop.

There’s a reason why I keep going back. They’re buzzing. It’s fun to be a part of a cultural movement. It’s history in the making.

frenchcassettes

French Cassettes

If you haven’t heard French Cassettes yet, I think you will be thoroughly surprised. Formed in 2007, and originally from Ripon, California (a.k.a. “The Jewel of the Valley”), the group has since relocated to the more music-friendly (and the more temperate) confines of San Francisco. In 2011, they released the Summer Darling EP. Their debut LP, Gold Youth, followed in 2013. No record label; just a lot of persistence, a little luck, endless harmonies, and good timing.

Again, you can’t plan for success. You don’t know when you are going to “break.” French Cassettes have been a band for roughly seven years. These things take time. You can’t build a brand name overnight. As young’uns fresh out of high school, the band members would wait outside of the 21+ clubs in San Francisco until it was their turn to play. They stuck around, because they were kids.

See, the kids have time. Adults don’t have time. Adults are jaded, and they have other headaches to deal with – careers, their own kids, and mortgages. Adults don’t have time to discover new music.

marty be goode

“I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet, but your kids are gonna love it.”

This is why the music business has and always will be a youth-oriented business. If your band can attract the 16-25 year-old demographic, and has the opportunity to play all-ages venues, well then, you’re set. This is why EDM is so popular today and why Outkast and The Replacements reportedly “flopped” at Coachella.

Lately, French Cassettes have taken the Bay Area music scene by storm. My advice – pay $10 now. Or, wait to pay upwards of $200 when they play Outside Lands in the summer of 2016. Or maybe you’ll check them out on Sunday, June 1 at Live 105’s BFD, alongside Fitz and The Tantrums, M.I.A., and Foster The People. Maybe you won’t. It’s up to you. It’s your time. It’s your money. I’m just the middleman.

So, will together PANGEA and/or French Cassettes manage the buzz accordingly and be able to jump to the next level?

Back in 1994, Epitaph Records was not capable of managing the buzz attributed to Smash. The independent operation lacked key major label resources – that is, access to the radio, an abundance of press outlets, and a distribution arm. Gurewitz recalls, “It was overwhelming and kind of scary. At the time Epitaph was a company of maybe five or six people, myself included. And we had to meet this incredible demand.” As The Offspring grew in popularity, Smash accounted for nearly 95 percent of Epitaph sales.

By 1997, The Offspring had inked a deal with Columbia Records. After all, it’s the music business, and the major labels maintained positive cash flows in the 90s. Epitaph simply could not meet their upfront demands. The Offspring felt as if they deserved more in return after delivering such a monumental album. As a result, Dexter Holland and company were ostracized by the punk community, and labeled as “sell outs.”

The beef has settled over the years, and the rest is history. You can catch The Offspring this summer on The Summer Nationals Tour, with support from Bad Religion, Pennywise, and The Vandals, among others. They’ll be playing Smash in its entirety. You don’t want to miss this.

swingers

“Nikki? Great! Did you just walk in or were you listening all along?”

Remember, my friends, timing is everything, It’s the difference between a “can of corn” and a home run. It’s the difference between purchasing a suit at the regular price versus the “unadvertised” sale price. It’s playing it cool and knowing when to ask the girl out. And, it’s the reason why Apple is in talks to buy Beats. Is it the optimal time for the world’s biggest brand to jump into the streaming music sphere? Are they too late? Only time will tell.

P.S. I never really got into The Offspring beyond Smash.

The Greatness Factor

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the_menzingers

The Menzingers

Greatness: The quality of being great, distinguished, or eminent.

Is it true what they say? Do strip clubs serve a great steak lunch? Or does the steak only appear tastier, juicier, and enormously tender since you are eating it while simultaneously peering at scantily clad women, as they strut their stuff on the catwalk?

What makes something great? No, not good, but FUCKING GREAT. Can something be intrinsically great, or is greatness dependent on the environment and/or the atmosphere of the situation at hand? Conversely, do we tend to write things off if our experiences are lackluster? Think about the last time you were at a trendy restaurant and you had to wait over an hour for a table. How would you rate the service? How about the food?

Consider something as simple as the Big Mac. It’s an American institution. “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, onions, pickles, and cheese – on a sesame seed bun.” If your mouth isn’t watering right now, you don’t understand what it means to be American. The sandwich, alone, is great. Look at it this way, “Seventeen [Big Macs] are sold every second of every day…in the US alone.”

BIG MAC

Mmmm…

However, McDonald’s, and fast food in general, is not focused on capturing an upscale dining experience. The burger acts as fuel to get us through the day, or perhaps it serves as an unnecessary indulgence at 2am. Certainly, eating mass amounts of fast food is unhealthy, and over time it can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other such health complications. Furthermore, no respectable dude is going to plan a first date at McDonald’s. Society doesn’t work that way.

In Office Space, we learned that “People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, okay? They come to Chotchkie’s for the atmosphere and the attitude. That’s what the flair’s about. It’s about fun.” Suffice it to say, this is the atmosphere at Chotchkie’s:

[Office Space Script at IMSDb]

office space

“Now, it’s up to you whether or not you want to just do the bare minimum.”

Anyhow…I went to SXSW in March, and I attended a concert at The Owl. The space is billed as “an experimental/independent music venue.” But, let’s be honest, it’s simply an old house on East 12th Street, way off the beaten path. And, on this night, the lineup was stacked with buzz bands du jour: Parquet Courts, TyvekEagulls, and Amanda X, to name a few. Oh, and admission was FREE, and there was FREE beer. You know, extremely last minute, under-the-radar stuff. There were probably 150 people there.

parquetcourts

Parquet Courts

So, are all of these buzz bands great? I don’t know yet. To tell you the truth, the Miller Lite was flowing, so my memory is a bit hazy. But, I’ll tell you this much – I had a FUCKING GREAT time! It was all about the exclusivity, the experience, the people, and the atmosphere. On this night, the music was almost secondary. However, as I write, Parquet Courts’ recent LP, Light Up Gold [2012, Dull Tools; 2013 (reissue), What’s Your Rupture?], is blaring in my headphones. I can assure you that they’ve mastered their craft.

Now, I encourage you to check out Perfect Pussy. Then, read the Wondering Sound interview.

I haven’t seen them live yet. Hell, they’ve only been a band for a handful of months. So, are they (intrinsicallygreat? Rolling Stone and Pitchfork seem to think so. Indeed, the music is loud, there is a lot of distortion, and you might not comprehend the majority of Meredith Graves’ vocals. But that’s what makes it so great. It’s raw. It’s honest. It depicts real life. Graves says, “I was mad when I wrote the [debut cassette] tape. I was mad at other people. But when I wrote [the debut LP, Say Yes To Love], I was mad at myself. So it’s sad. It’s me being really upset with myself. It’s probably the most vulnerable thing I have ever done. It’s scary.”

Look, Perfect Pussy are not your run-of-the-mill pop act. This five-piece, Syracuse-based punk band bucks the trends. Screw fashion. They bring their own style to the table. They adhere to their own set of values, and they are firmly entrenched in this lifestyle. They know the how the game works. Forget the hype, it’s all about the experiences, doing what you love, and pushing the critics aside.

Perfect Pussy

Perfect Pussy

To say Perfect Pussy are a hard-working band is an understatement. Unfortunately, the intersection of art and commerce is a “weird” place. Graves confirms, “I literally have not made a nickel off this band…[but] I’ve been presented an opportunity to have an experience that some people will never get to have.”

At any rate, let’s continue our trek through the valley of greatness…

The future is unwritten; for now, let’s reflect on The Story So Far (TSSF). Based out of Walnut Creek, CA (about 25 miles east of San Francisco), this rock quintet has reinvented the pop punk genre. They’ve released two albums through the Berkeley-based label, Pure Noise Records: 2011’s Under Soil and Dirt, and 2013’s What You Don’t See. They’ve been on the cover of Alternative Press, they’ve played the main stage on The Vans’ Warped Tour, and they’ve toured overseas.

Sure, TSSF wouldn’t exist without Blink-182 or New Found Glory (NFG). After all, the name is an homage to the NFG song of the same name, “The Story So Far” (Sticks and Stones, 2002, Drive-Thru Records). Nevertheless, the hooks draw you in, the harmonies are addictive, and the energy at their live shows is unprecedented. There’s an abundance of crowd participation, including, but not limited to fervent sing-alongs and adventurous stage dives.

TSSF

Walnut Creek’s finest

Something is great when you can get lost in it. The environment, the atmosphere, whatever, it doesn’t matter. I saw TSSF in Austin at the Pure Noise Records/Equal Vision Records showcase on March 13. It was nuts. Words cannot describe. On March 21, I saw them at the Oakland Metro Opera House, as they headlined the Pure Noise Records’ Five-Year Anniversary Party. Yes, twice in one week. They’re that good. After all, it was their homecoming. And, let me tell you something – hometown pride is big thing in the world of music. The Beatles were Liverpool. Nirvana defined Seattle. And, TSSF carry on the tradition of punk rock in the East Bay (à la Rancid, Green Day, AFI, and NOFX, among others).

We can relate this idea of greatness to professional sports, as well. Strip it down to their purest form, and competitive sports are great. Baseball is our national pastime. Football carries such intricate strategy. And basketball is an engaging, fast-paced affair. Just watch this slideshow and tell me that you’re not excited for the MLB season. Baseball’s back, baby! (Just for fun, queue the slideshow at 0:51 and 1:36).

But add in big business, and we get a watered down version of greatness. It doesn’t matter if your team is in the Super Bowl. It is merely a spectacle; it is a showcase for brands. And, on the first Sunday in February, a large majority is engaged for reasons other than football.

And what about the increased trend of instant replay in professional sports? It’s going to change the whole complexion of MLB – you know, the flow of the game. Furthermore, could it be that the application of such technology is simply a bridge to more brand-building opportunities? Think about it – while the referees (or umpires) are in the review booth, there is either a commercial break or the announcers are reminding viewers that, “Today’s game is brought to you by Subway. Eat Fresh.”

Granted, the business end influences professional sports immensely, but let’s not forget about the greatness attached to athletes. In doing so, let’s look at Sonny Gray’s (potential) impact on the Oakland Athletics. Is Sonny great, or is he poised for greatness? Is the hype simply a result of good timing?

Certainly, Gray rose to the occasion last October, outdueling Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the 2013 ALDS (No Decision, 8 IP, 4 Hits, 0 Runs, 2 Walks, 9 Ks, 111 pitches; A’s Won 1-0). I was there. It was unreal. But then, he wasn’t good enough when he faced Justin Verlander in Game 5 (Loss, 5 IP, 6 Hits, 3 Runs, 3 ER, 4 Walks, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 98 pitches; A’s lost 3-0). Again, I was there.

Sonny

It’s Always Sonny in Oakland

But this is a new season, with bigger expectations. I’m talking World Series expectations. Billy Beane knows that it’s now or never. He’s frustrated with the trend of first-round exits in the playoffs. The A’s have been eliminated in the ALDS in 2000, 2001 (The Jeter Flip), 2002, 2003, 2012, and 2013. To buck the trend, Beane constructed a deep arsenal of talent for the 2014 campaign. Now, with Jarrod Parker undergoing Tommy John surgery (and thus shelved until the start of the 2015 season), Sonny has been tabbed as Oakland’s ace. Can the 24-year old live up to the hype?

Furthermore, does greatness peak at certain points in time? Is greatness sustainable? Can one be great, fall off, and then return to form? To illustrate, let’s dissect Bad Religion (BR), a seminal punk rock band that came of age in the Southern California skate punk scene in the mid-late 80s and early 90s.

Critical acclaim followed their debut LP, How Could Hell Be Any Worse? (1982, Epitaph). The album is a collection of supercharged, fast-paced, hardcore punk rock songs. It’s a classic. Seemingly, out of nowhere, BR decided to change the pace, and released the prog-rock inspired, Into The Unknown (1983, Epitaph)The album featured long guitar ballads and synthesizers, thereby delivering an entirely different brand of rock music. As a result, their fans were alienated, and BR took a two-year hiatus.

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Bad Religion

BR re-emerged in 1985, and released Back to the Known, a five-song EP that marked a return to their punk roots. Brilliance followed. Suffer arrived in 1988, No Control was released in 1989, and Against The Grain hit record stores in 1990. BR fans refer to this artistic peak as “The Holy Trinity.” “With so much writing being done is such a short time you might think the quality would suffer. You would be wrong.” One might even argue that their peak (and subsequent mainstream success) continued into the early 90s with Generator (1992, Epitaph), Recipe For Hate (1993, Epitaph / re-released on Atlantic), and Stranger Than Fiction (1994, Atlantic)Any way you look at it, Bad Religion are largely influential, and in some regards, are still quite relevant in today’s punk rock scene.

Finally, how do we monetize greatness? Hey, it’s tough to monetize anything in the music business nowadays. However, in professional sports, the extrinsic value of greatness is in the hundreds of millions, and it will only grow exponentially. Last week, two similar, yet very different contracts were executed. The makeup of each contract is quite fascinating. One rewards the potential for greatness; the other rewards past achievements.

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Mike Trout

First, the Los Angeles Angels agreed to terms with center fielder Mike Trout, rewarding the young man with a six-year deal worth $144.5 million. He is only 22 years old. He is great. He is the next MLB superstar – the next Derek Jeter, if you will. And he will continue to be great for a long time, barring any serious physical injuries.

 

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Miguel Cabrera

Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers re-signed Miguel Cabrera, effectively doling out $292 million over the next 10 seasons. Yes, he is still great. But, he is 31 years old, and he is currently peaking. And he can barely run. How many more years will he be able to play third base? How many more MVP-type seasons does he have left?

The Angels struck gold with Trout, no doubt. He’ll only be 28 when his contract is up. That’s still a prime age for a ballplayer of his caliber. The Tigers, on the other hand, are banking on short-term results, and effectively using Cabrera’s presence to stimulate their brand name. The contract will most likely increase advertising revenue; it will present more opportunities for corporate sponsorships; and, there will likely be a noticeable spike in Miguel Cabrera t-shirt sales. As for this season, it’s quite possible that the Tigers could win the World Series. After all, they’re built for the playoffs. They arguably have the best three-man (playoff-compatible) starting rotation in MLB – Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Annibal Sanchez – and, of course, they have Cabrera.

So, what really defines greatness? Is greatness attached to the environment or the atmosphere? Can something be intrinsically great? Do we perceive greatness through our (favorable) experiences? Furthermore, is greatness sustainable, or is it merely a trend? Does greatness peak at a certain point in time? Can we return to form? Or is it like The Menzingers say, in that “All good things should fall apart?”

Brand New

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Actually, they’re not brand new. They’ve been around since 2000. Based out of Long Island, New York, they formed during the post-hardcore/pop punk explosion in the late 90s/early 2000s. But, understand, they are not a pop punk band. They are so much more. Each album (they have four) presents a brand new style. And, yes, it’s meant to be ironic.

Sure, I knew about Brand New during high school and college. But I lived in California. I was busy listening to the Fat Wreck/Epitaph sound coming out of SF and LA. You know, bands like NOFX, Strung Out, Bad Religion, Rancid, Lagwagon, and Pennywise. I didn’t live in the Tri-State area – that is, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Sure, I dug Midtown, The Starting Line, The Movielife, and Senses Fail. Meanwhile, Taking Back Sunday’s Tell All Your Friends (2002, Victory Records) was and forever will be a masterpiece about unrequited love. Hell, Jesse Lacey was a founding member of Taking Back Sunday circa 1999, but an internal feud led him to form his own band. I look back, and I remember when “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” hit the airwaves during my senior year in high school. But other than that, I never really got into Brand New.

Then I lived in New York City for two years.

It’s funny how music has the power to create genre-specific, geographic “bubbles.” One might call them “scenes.” Think of the Mersey Beat in Liverpool in the early 60s, the San Francisco sound in the late 60s/early 70s (i.e. Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead), or the LA sound during the same time period (i.e. The Doors). Meanwhile, you got punk rock in New York City in the late 70s spawned by The Ramones, grunge based in Seattle in the early 90s (i.e. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden), and gangsta rap (i.e. N.W.A, 2pac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg) in Los Angeles around the same time. You get the point. Where’s the next music/cultural explosion? Are we experiencing one now and not even aware?

At any rate, let me run you through Brand New’s discography.

YFW

Your Favorite Weapon (2001, Triple Crown)

Your Favorite Weapon (2001, Triple Crown) is fast-paced, melodic, and very reminiscent of early Blink-182. It brushes on heartbreak, teenage angst, the thrill of exploration, and the joys of being young.

“Jude Law And A Semester Abroad” 

Deja

Deja Entendu (2003, Triple Crown/Razor & Tie)

Deja Entendu (in French, “already heard”) addresses some more serious topics. The record features mix of soft-spoken and harsh vocals, coupled with soaring melodies and complex instrumentation. It’s brilliant. It was 2003, and I think it sounds a lot like The Used (a contemporary band at the time), but it stands the test of time.

“The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows”

Devil&God

The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me (2006, Interscope)

My introduction to Brand New was by way of The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me (2006, Interscope). I was really confused. Then I went back to the early material and gradually put things together. It’s my favorite record by far. Lots of different styles going on here. But if you’re just getting into Brand New, don’t start here. You won’t get it.

“The Archer’s Bows Have Broken”

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Daisy (2009, Interscope)

Their most recent effort is Daisy (2009, Interscope). This record is intense. It takes a lot of patience. Again, don’t start with this one. It’s like when someone walks into a movie halfway through and wants to know the plot lines thus far. Very rough at the edges, but still some good standouts tracks like “Vices,” “At The Bottom,” “Gasoline,” and “Bought A Bride.”

“Vices” 

I’ve never seen them live. I want to. Really badly. It’s something that I need to do, so I can tell my grandkids, “Yes, I saw Brand New in concert.” Like Baby Boomers tell their grandkids about The Beatles, The Stones, Springsteen, Dylan, and their experiences sliding in the mud at Woodstock.

The music geeks and the industry folks always say, “Eh, Brand New – they’re not that great live.” Yet, Brand New are notorious for making it nearly impossible for fans to gain admission to their shows.

Check out this Tumblr.

“Oh, it hurts to be this good.”

Lucky me, they just announced a string of west coast dates on Wednesday. They are playing August 28 at The Fox Theater in Oakland. Apparently, though, I was a little late to the party. By the time I saw the Facebook post, the exclusive pre-sale through their fan club website had expired. So I think, “Okay, no problem. I’ll snag a pair, maybe three or four tickets on Thursday at noon when they go live on Ticketmaster. But I gotta be quick. Because these babies are gonna go FAST!”

Granted, they are not U2 or Green Day. Sure, they’ll play big music festivals, such as Riot Fest or Boston Calling. But, they don’t play arenas or stadiums. They want to play mid-size venues across the country (~2,500 – 3,000 capacity) – think Irving Plaza in New York City, The Wiltern in Los Angeles, or The Fox in Oakland. They want to cater to the fans in their niche.

They’ve got old fans and (relatively) new ones (like me). They’re past the point in their career where they will have a hit song on the radio. But it doesn’t matter. Word still spreads amongst human beings. Growth is organic. It is not forced.

Ticketmaster is aware of the power of Brand New. The same goes for the promoters, the venues, and the ticket scalpers.

So, Thursday morning is upon us. Die-hard fans stare at their computer screens, ready to go at 11:55am, constantly refreshing the webpage, ready to purchase when the clock strikes 12. I should have been paying more attention at noon. Unfortunately, I had a dentist appointment at 11:30am. I got home at 12:15pm, and it was too late. Yeah, I tried the Ticketmaster mobile app, too, but no luck. It sold out. Or did it?

Currently, there are over 300 tickets available on StubHub (see the screenshot below). Are you kidding me?! There are probably hundreds more on other secondary ticket sites. On StubHub, the cheapest ticket is around $80. The most expensive ticket is $999. Look, no sane person would sell a concert ticket for $999, and no one is crazy enough to buy a ticket for $999. So, inevitably, there are going to be some empty seats at The Fox. And that’s a shame because Brand New are a rare find in today’s rock music scene.

Brand New -- StubHub

Do we blame Ticketmaster’s poor user design? Was it simply an Internet traffic jam? Did the so-called “bots” scoop up multiple tickets and place them on the secondary market? Was I really that late to the party? Did they really sell 2,800 tickets in 15 minutes? Was it an inside job? Did promoters and/or Brand New’s management buy tickets and place them on the secondary market? We’ll never know for sure. What we do know is that every Brand New show is in high demand, so the market economy dictates the price of the ticket.

As a music fan, it’s frustrating. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last. Who knows how much longer these guys are going to be around? After all, they’ve been playing for nearly 15 years.

The real fans simply want access. The rest of the parties – venues, promoters, and scalpers – want to make as much money as possible. And, frankly, it sucks.

Bottom line, Brand New are successful because they keep their audience engaged. The level of anticipation is palpable. They tell a new story through each album. I have a feeling that their live show is pretty awesome, too.

I’ll be at The Fox on August 28, somehow, someway. I’m going to plunk down money for this. This is what life is all about. The experiences. The prices will fluctuate over the next five months. I guarantee it. People’s plans will change. Real fans that cannot make it will sell their tickets at face value. Trades will be executed. Who knows, maybe a second show will be added to meet the overwhelming demand.

In a world where transferable, physical tickets exist, a concert like this will never really sell out. Access is attainable; it’s simply a matter of assigning a proper value to the ticket. Lately, the trend of non-transferable tickets has taken shape. Companies like Ticketfly, Eventbrite, HoldMyTicket, and In Ticketing partner with local venues to establish will-call-only tickets, thereby eliminating the threat of the secondary market.

It probably wouldn’t fit their niche, but if Brand New had instead booked a two-night run at Slim’s (where In Ticketing is a vendor), would I have had a better chance of scoring tickets? Which method will dominate the next 10-15 years? Can the two ticketing options co-exist? Is it healthy for the live music industry as a whole?

Who knows, maybe the naysayers are right. Maybe Brand New are awful live. But, they sure are great salesmen.

#FaceOfMLB (Part 2 of 2)

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David Wright is the #FaceOfMLB

Just a quick update to this, because I find all of this quite fascinating, and it offers a lot of good parallels. Then we can put it to bed, because after all, it’s old news.

If you didn’t hear, Sogard lost in the finals to David Wright. Albeit, it was a very close call – 51% to 49%. Sogard was leading by a hefty margin at one point. Sports Illustrated reports that Sogie held a commanding 55% to 45% advantage as of 3am PST on Friday morning. Then, all of sudden, the East Coasters got in gear and catapulted Wright into the winner’s circle. Or did they?

Studies have shown that social media usage has peaks and valleys throughout the day. Trends have developed to capture engagement, and thereby increase response rates. Increased engagement strengthens your brand. To illustrate, Facebook posts are common between 1pm – 4pm, with 3pm Wednesdays being the peak (probably because everyone is bored at work and looking for distractions to get through the day). Meanwhile, Pinterest posts generally peak on Saturday mornings (because that’s when you actually have time to share your new muffin recipe). Research also indicates that Twitter is a beneficial tool when used Monday through Thursday from 11am – 3pm. The worst time to tweet is between the hours of 8pm – 9am. Generally speaking, your tweets will evaporate into the cloud and go unnoticed during this time frame. Fewer individuals are online between 8pm – 9am, so there is less engagement.

The voting ended (strangely) at 8am EST, which is Twitter downtime. Furthermore, this meant it was 5am PST – a time when a large portion of West Coasters (and, in particular – A’s fans) were still under the covers or were focusing on their morning routines. A’s fans weren’t actively voting in the wee hours of the morning, so this presented a slight disadvantage. Furthermore, how can we be so sure that the Mets’ community was, in fact, executing a (legitimate) comeback? More importantly, how did the Mets’ fan base construct such a rapid turnaround?

King of Queens

“What does ‘Met’ stand for, anyway, you know? I mean, what’s a ‘Met?’ What’s the deal with that?”

Granted, the Mets have a devoted fan base – actually very similar to that of the A’s. The people in Queens are a very simple bunch, much like the working class in Oakland. (Hell, both locales could benefit from urban renewal, but that’s another can of worms). You ever watch The King of Queens? Yeah, I know it’s cheesy, but Kevin James’ character is pretty accurate. People from Queens love the Mets. Just mention “Game 6” to anyone in Queens, and I’m sure you’ll have a great conversation.

Meanwhile, the Mets play in the shadows of the New York Yankees and their 27 world championships. Here in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Giants have executed recent championship runs in 2010 and 2012. In turn, they have been able to bring in more business, because they have proved to their fan base that they are a winning team. And, seriously, that’s how you grow a business. Instill confidence in yourselves and your customers. Now, they can easily cater to the tech crowd and the San Francisco elite.

Just this week, the Giants offered the A’s somewhat of a consolation residency should Oakland move forward in their plans to build a new ballpark. Do the A’s take it? I don’t know. There are lots of factors at play – there are legal issues to flesh out, scheduling conflicts to acknowledge, and a bigger issue called pride. Will A’s fans be able to enjoy a home game in an unfamiliar park? This is something A’s management has to digest and sort out.

Trout 3

Mike Trout

Look, MLB wanted to see Trout versus Jeter in the finals. It would have been a story that the mainstream cared about. Everybody loves a story. Trout, the center fielder of the Los Angeles Angels, is the up-and-coming MLB superstar.  He’s the first baseball player ever to sign a $1 million guaranteed deal before he is eligible for free agency and/or arbitration (i.e. a big payday). He’s going to be a rich man, and he deserves it because he’s got the talent to back it up. This kid is 22 years old, and he can play. He’ll hit 30+ HR, drive in 120 RBI, collect 35 doubles, steal 30+ bags, and his defense is superb. Just wait.

The Captain

The Captain

Meanwhile, Jeter is retiring at the end of this season, much like Mariano Rivera did last season. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, you know who Derek Jeter is. So, it’s another way for the Yankees to make money. It’s an insurance package, because if the Yanks don’t perform well on the field this season, they can still put asses in the seats, because everyone from all corners of the world wants to see The Captain play one more time.

Is there a Mike Trout in the music scene nowadays? Someone so talented in all facets – recording, live performance, stage presence, general appeal, etc? I’m not talking about the Lady Gagas of the world. I’m talking about music created today that we can still appreciate 50 years down the line. Like The Beatles.

Deon Cole

Deon Cole

Consider this – I recently witnessed Deon Cole’s stand-up routine at Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco. It was hilarious. Do you know who he is? He’s a writer (or at least he used to be a writer) on CONAN. He also appears on some of Conan’s sketches. He’s clever, personable, smart, and he has great stage presence. But can he appeal to the mainstream? Does he need to? Or should he simply focus on his own fans?

That said, have you ever heard of the Long Tail Theory, a concept developed by Chris Anderson? To quote, “The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream.”

Sogard in the field

This is Nerd Power

To circle back, was the voting process in #FaceOfMLB genuine? Were there other factors at play? I guess we’ll never know for sure. Hey, CSN Bay Area reminds us that David Wright does not even have a Twitter handle! How did he connect with all of his fans the way Sogard and the A’s community did? Furthermore, go ahead and track #DavidWright on the Trendsmap (via CSN Bay Area), and you’ll see a lot of tweets coming from South Korea. Is it possible MLB bought tweets, the same way that Facebook buys “likes” via “click farms” in Southeast Asia, and other pockets around the world? At the end of the day, David Wright received more votes, but were Mets’ fans actually more engaged than A’s fans? Do you follow? To better understand, watch this video, courtesy of Veritasium. It’ll blow your mind. I’d subscribe to the YouTube channel, as well.

That’s all for now. I’m gonna go watch The Oscars.

#FaceOfMLB (Part 1 of 2)

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Sogard

Are you following this? Do you even know who Eric Sogard is?

It’s okay if you answered “no” to both questions.

He is one of four, five, maybe even six middle infielders (if you count prospects from each affiliate team – that is, A, AA, and AAA) vying for a spot on the Oakland Athletics’ roster this spring.

Granted, he is a major league ballplayer. He’s got a good glove, maybe he’ll bat around .260, hit 5 HR, collect 25 doubles, and drive in 60 RBI over the course of the season. So what sets him apart from every other MLB superstar – Derek Jeter, Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and so on? Why did he just outduel Buster Posey (yes, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants – a team with a bigger fan base, and better resources) in the semifinals of the #FaceOfMLB contest on Twitter?

Because he’s original. He’s unique. He brings his own style to the ballpark everyday. He wears huge glasses, old-school stirrup socks, he hustles, and the die-hard fans in Oakland have developed a saying – a calling card, if you will, that is attached to Sogie, for better or for worse. It’s called “Nerd Power.” And it’s sweeping the Twittersphere.

So, alas, this proves the point: be weird, don’t be cool. Make music that you want to make. Fuck the gatekeepers. Fuck the critics. Build an AVID following. Record. Tour. Repeat. Constantly work to improve your product/service. Coolness grows organically.

Early adopters get high on innovation. The mainstream gets high on coolness. The critics didn’t believe in the Beatles’ potential, but the kids ate that shit up. Then, by the time the mainstream caught on, the Beatles had disbanded.

Look, everything is a trend – music, tech, film, food, fashion, you name it. That’s just the way America is. Here today, gone tomorrow. Remember the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics? Guess what, no one cares about it this week.

Do what you love, do it well, and, remember, timing is everything. Go out and create something unique – a masterpiece, a true work of art – that will stand the test of time.

Rest assured, you’re playing with house money, because everyone loves an underdog. A 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed during March Madness, but it’s bound to happen in our lifetime. We’re only human.

Much like the Mid-Summer Classic (aka The MLB All-Star Game), #FaceOfMLB began as a popularity contest. In the past few days, it’s transformed into the feel-good story of Spring Training. The underdog prevailed.

That said, make sure to vote for Eric Sogard on Twitter. Tweet or re-tweet (RT) anything with #FaceOfMLB and #EricSogard. The final round is upon us. Sogard is neck and neck with David Wright, third baseman of the New York Mets. You can tweet/RT up to 25 times through 5am PST on Friday, 2/28.