The past year has seen both highs and lows in the music world, locally, regionally and nationally. Here are a few favorites worth noting...
The growth of female-led bands. The women have spoken! Whether Grace Potter is shakin’ it in a much-too-short skirt, Sharon Jones is belting it like Aretha or Sister Sparrow is whipping her hair like Willow, front-women are in. Potter and the Nocturnals, who played the Westcott Theater in 2010, Jones and the Dap-Kings, who were there on Dec. 10, and Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, who played the hot spot on Dec. 1, are all part of the new girl power movement. But this one is way better than the Spice Girls’ version. We just can’t seem to get enough lady love.
Bands of brothers. The popularity of both the Felice and Avett brothers, who have performed in and around Syracuse within the last few years, has been growing steadily for some time, but they seem to be becoming even bigger, more common favorites as of late. Perhaps serving as the folksy alternative to the Kings of Leon brother-band phenomenon that exploded in 2008, both the Felices and Avetts tap into old-time songwriting themes and instrumentation, giving them a homey, organic, roots rock vibe that listeners are loving.
Worst thing to happen to music. Whoever chose Nickelback to perform at halftime of the Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions game on Thanksgiving Day needs to join the ranks of the unemployed. In a year of all kind of musical travesties—Can Rihanna release anymore meaningless, sound-the-same songs? Can Rebecca Black get more annoying? Can I please purge the 2011 Super Bowl performance with the Black Eyed Peas and Slash out of my brain forever?—I think the cake frosting comes from that Nickelback debacle.
Some vindication came with the vehement reaction that followed, on Facebook, Twitter and the petition organized by change.org, where I was one of more than 50,000 to sign. Among the more brutal comments: “NICKELBACK TORE MY FAMILY APART,” “Why am I signing? It’s for the good of the human race,” and “Haven’t the good people of Detroit been through enough?” The people have spoken.
Remember. With every year new musical stars come to shine and others fade away. This year saw many greats pass: jazz poet and musician Gil-Scott Heron, Delta blues guitarist Honeyboy Edwards, singer-songwriter Dobie Gray, folk musician Bert Jansch and the premature death of the enormously talented and troubled Amy Winehouse. Gray’s lyrics seem more appropriate than ever: “Oh, give me the beat boys and free my soul/ I wanna get lost in your rock and roll/ and drift away.”
Favorite billboard. As I sat at a traffic light at the intersection of West Fayette and South West streets downtown, I took a moment to observe my surroundings: the Redhouse, the Warehouse and eventually up to Syracuse University’s Connective Corridor billboard. There was a drummer on that billboard and although the head was cut out of the shot, eventually I distinctly recognized the torso behind the kit: the Syracuse Area Music Award (Sammy)-winning Liz Strodel. Even better, Strodel had the same reaction when she saw the sign.
“I was stopped on West Street about to get on 690 when I looked up and thought, ‘That looks familiar to me,’” Strodel says. “I remembered the set from Blues Fest and then recognized my blue drum and then the necklace and then the tank top. I pulled over, called my sister and said, ‘I think I’m on a billboard.’” The Connective Corridor strives to bring students downtown via a Centro bus that makes regular stops at arts hotspots like the Redhouse and Jazz Central.
The ad campaign uses words with “use” to connect the ‘Cuse to the cause. Strodel’s billboard reads, “Pause.”
“I think it’s cool to be part of something so good for the community,” she says. “It was weird—but cool.”
Best excuse for a music-inspired tattoo. Before the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra’s sad collapse, when they declared bankruptcy on April 5, they ran a furious campaign to raise funds for the failing organization. One brilliant tactic was to offer tattoos in exchange for a $25 donation at Biographix Tattoo, 3056 Burnet Ave.
I wear my eighth-note finger tattoo proudly along with the many other SSO supporters that got themselves inked up during the campaign…even if that $25 didn’t change the outcome.
Best new music technology. For those slow to catch on to the trend, Spotify takes music discovery and sharing to new levels. By combining free archives, buildable playlists and social media sharing capabilities, Spotify creates the best of all worlds: a music and friend-filled universe of almost unlimited tunes.
The new technology, straight off the boat from Europe, was launched by a Swedish startup in 2008 and reached 10 million users in just two years. The U.S. model, still in its infancy, is already making a splash by offering free, unlimited ($4.99 per month) or premium ($9.99 per month) versions.
In simply offering an alternate model to the monopolizing iTunes or illegal downloading programs, Spotify has reinvigorated the race of the music industry to catch up with current capabilities, especially by incorporating the appeal and power of Facebook. In addition to being able to share songs and albums personally with other Spotify friends, users can also connect with Facebook and allow the world to see every song they’re listening to. Now you can even keep track of your ex’s playlists. Technology does wonders for the art of stalking.
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