R.I.P. Michael Larsen of Eyedea & Abilities: A Tribute To His Life And Rhymes

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Sad news about the death of indie-rapper Micheal “Eyedea” Larsen, of Eyedea and Abilities, was announced yesterday. So let’s pay tribute as fans mourn his passing and celebrate his life and rhymes.

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Weekly Wrap-Up: John Lennon, MGMT Concert Pee Test, Riot Fest, Deerhunter & Free Books…

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Watching the Chicago Bears beat the Carolina Panthers, or scoping out the above creative John Lennon birthday Google doodle sure are fun ways to enjoy yourself on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

But you can also kick it with us here at Live Fix by checking out all the fun we had this week wondering about and exploring: John Lennon concerts in the afterlife, MGMT having a cultural piss-understanding, punk rock drama at Riot Fest, Free books at concerts, Suzanna Vega and more. So make like Devon Hester and run this post back for a touchdown baby!
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Imagine: How Is John Lennon Celebrating His 70th Birthday?

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Our friends over at Wolfgang’s Vault are celebrating John Lennon’s 70th birthday by featuring one of his famous concerts from their vault. Let’s join in and start to wonder how Lennon might be celebrating his own birthday today.
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Was Gang Starr’s GURU Forced To Tour?

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Bizarre, sad, and strange are not words I would use to describe the music of iconic hip hop group Gang Starr who revolutionized the genre in the mid-to-late nineties with albums like Daily Operation and No More Mr. Nice Guy. But, unfortunately, those three words do describe the story surrounding the death of the group’s legendary emcee Keith Elam, aka GURU, who died last month at 43.

So let’s explore a part of this tragic story that involves artists being forced to tour even when their health is failing.
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RIP Jay Reatard: A Special Note For Live Music Fans

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I have some sad news to share with you. As Pitchfork reports, garage-punk rocker Jay Reatard died in his sleep early Wednesday morning due to unknown causes.

Whenever a musician dies I always feel weird writing about or calling attention to it.  I’m reluctant to blog about it because it makes other deaths seems less important or significant in some way.
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Saul Williams Spares A Penny: My Eternal Afterthought

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That video above is evidence that something eternal happened last night at the Saul Williams show.

It was a case of my brain processing one thing while my heart processed another.

During what I believe was the song “A Penny for a Thought”  I misunderstood the lyrics in a way that surprisingly served my soul and comforted my mind and heart.

It was an unusual show in that the energy of Williams wasn’t quite at his normal level, which is still pretty intense compared to most artists.

That said, I had a hard time finding an emotional entry point into the show. 

But then, towards the end of the show, he played what I believe was “A Penny for a Thought,” but I’m still not sure. 

In any case, there was a verse that caught my ear as Williams kept repeating it:  “Even death is a part of life…Even death is a part of life..”

And each time he repeated that verse the doorway to the emotional entry point I was looking for opened wider and wider.

So I stepped in.

And then it hit me. 

For the last three days, my wife and I have been mourning the death of her Uncle John who died last Thursday after his battle with brain cancer.

One of the reasons it’s been hard for me is because I got to know Uncle John’s love for live music earlier this year when I interviewed him for Live Fix about meeting Kid Rock backstage.

And naturally, that conversation and John’s death have been on my mind and heart in some pretty heavy and profound ways.

So during the Saul Williams concert I believe something eternal happened because this morning as I was writing this post I looked up the lyrics to “A Penny For A Thought” and realized that the actual lyrics were “Seven mountains higher that the valley of death/Seven dimensions deeper than the dimensions of breath..”

Now, I’m pretty sure I heard Williams sing “…even death is a part of life..”

But what I think was eternal and even spiritual about last night was that, for whatever reason, I heard what I needed to hear so that I would find some level of comfort and clarity as I grieve and process John’s death.

Whether I misheard the lyrics or not, what happened last night my friends was an eternal aspect of live music. 

And I think it was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve had at a concert in recent memory.  I didn’t plan on having it.  I just happened. 

Writing this post makes the whole experience even feel predestined or preordained in a way. 

It was as if God knew I needed to hear Saul Williams croon those words right into my heart.

So, as I mention in the video,  I encourage you to take time to listen for moments like I had last night when you go to your next show.

Have you ever had an eternal or “misheard” moment during a concert?

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Experiencing Grief, Joy and Community in Live Music

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Two things have been brewing in my mind lately.

1) The Community of Cathartic Mourning

and

2) Building Relationships in Live Music

The Community of Cathartic Mourning

A good friend of my wife and I shared this Bonnie Raitt Star Tribune review with me a few weeks ago (the video above is one she excitedly posted on Facebook before the concert).

I share this review with you because it was one of my favorite reviews I’ve read this year.  And when I finished reading the review I thought about something very important that happened to me when our friend sent me the link.

My life changed.

I was transported straight to the heart of Raitt’s palpable concert atmosphere.

I read the review and I felt rushes of  joy, sadness, hope and an overwhelming sense of cathartic connectedness with the fans at the concert that captured the essence of live blues so beautifully. And this review represented one of the aspects of live music I love the most:

I love how live music can be an unexpected yet appropriate environment for group mourning (just like it was for fans at Rock the Bells after Michael Jackson died).

And it goes both ways.

Because live music can be just as cathartic for the artists as it can be for the fans.

The review writer/reporter, Jon Bream, didn’t say it overtly, but because of the way he wrote the review and captured the emotional intensity of the moment, I could feel that he too was traveling through and expressing his own version of cathartic mourning.  I could feel the emotion in the words as he took me step by step through the emotional progression of the show.

And the progression allowed me to travel though my own internal emotions from the past.

As I read the review, I recalled similar emotionally intense situations were I’ve been ambushed by grief at concerts. One that always stands out is Lollapalooza 2007,  where I unexpectedly mourned a friend who died.  That friend loved Modest Mouse and specifically their song Float On. During that song I welled up and had a moment of grief that was unexpected and somewhat undesired (like most of us I’m still working on expressing sadness and grief among strangers).

When you read the Lolla 2007 review you’ll see that I didn’t mention the Modest Mouse moment because I wasn’t quite sure how to make it appropriate for the review.

But nonetheless that moment was good for me.

And I’ll never forget that moment.  Ever.

Judging by Bream’s review, I imagine Raitt did her own mourning during the show as she mourned her brother Steve who recently died of cancer.

And I know, too, by reading the fan comments after the review, that other fans at the show were mourning in a similar way like I did at Lollapalooza 2007.

Which brings me to my second reason for this post: connecting with others during the live music experience.

Building Relationships in Live Music

Recently my friend Benjamin Slayter–who I had the pleasure of meeting at Rothbury this summer–asked me in a Facebook comment how I write my live concert reviews. This was the first time any body had ever asked me.  It was a honor to answer Benjamin’s questions and a pleasure to share what I’ve learned about writing live music reviews. So I gave him a short version of my approach which led me to write a more fleshed out and formal rundown that I’ll be sharing with you in a future post.

LFMourningCommunity

The reason I mention Ben’s request is because meeting him at Rothbury was one of many relationships and connections I’ve made over the last year with other music writers, photographers, business owners and fans. And lately, I’ve been really excited as I think about how cool it is when relationships and community can be built because of live music.

So what I did was compile a list of people I’ve connected with over this last year or so because of live music.  The list is in no particular order and is a mix of artists I’ve interviewed on-site; writers and photographers I’ve met and had great chats with in the media tent; vendors and PR I’ve connected with at concerts. I’ve included links to their online work so you too can enjoy their words, music, photos, businesses and daily experiences as much as I have.

If I’ve forgotten anybody I do apologize. It’s not because I’m a jerk. It’s because I suffer from the occasional brain fart. So by all means feel free to send along your link so I can add it to this post.

As always,  thanks for reading. And I hope to see you at a show, or talk live music with you very soon!

Ann Teliczan: photographer, artist at Michigan Sweet Spot

Greame Flegenheimer: writer at Brooklyn Vegan

Mike: writer, editor at Sound Citizen

Garret Woodward: writer at State of Mind and RFW

Jesse Borrell: writer at  Jam Base

The crew at Rock for Kids

Lewis Cooper: writer, photographer at Gonzo Shots

Photographer Leigh Ann Hines

The crew Arts of Life

Dan Hyman writer at Popmatters

Jules Esh at Earphoria

Chicago emcee, producer, activist, poet Jessica Disu (AKA FM Supreme)

Jamie Ludwig: editor, writer at Alarm Press

Jen Cray: writer, photographer & editor at Ink19

Steve Wienberger: author of No Air Guitar Allowed

Chicago producer and beatmaker Radius

The crew at Pitch Perfect PR

The crew at Madison House

Sgt Tibs at GoWhereHipHop

Scott Legato: photographer at RockStarProPhotography

The Crew at Future of Music Coalition

Ben Ratliff: writer at New York Times

S.D. Green:  writer, editor at Ink19

Eric Mueller: Pirates Press

The Crew at Cornerstone Promotions

Drew Fortune: writer, editor at Popmatters

The Crew at Open Books

emcee, poet, activist Saul Williams

Ben Slayter: photographer, designer

Lily: Director of Popmurals.com

David Miller: writer, editor at Matador Travel

Photographer: Anthony Nowack

Dean Budnick: writer, editor at Relix Magazine

Janine Pumilia: writer, editor at Northwest Quarterly

The crew at Live Music Blog

Writer David Shehi

Frank Krolicki writer, blogger at Windy City Rock

Jason Petros editor, writer at Chicago Independent Music Review

The crew at I Pledge Eco

Wolfgang's Vault - Bonnie Raitt Live Concert Recordings

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Is Michael Jackson’s Death His Final Gift To All Live Music Fans?

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Do You Remember The Time?

Do You Remember The Time?

When I posted my heartfelt thoughts about Michael Jackson and his London shows on Tuesday, I had no idea what would happen on Thursday afternoon. (See my Facebook trail from Thursday afternoon, bottom to top).

And over the last three days I’ve felt a wave of different emotions ranging from happy and nostalgic to guilt and sadness. It’s not that often that I respond to my own writing with such a wide range of emotions.  and It’s a first for me to have something I’ve written be so closely related to, or seemingly foreshadow a world-changing event. A friend asked me if I ever get premonitions. I said yes. But not about Michael Jackson.

I first heard of Michael Jackson’s death via a New York Times alert about him having a heart attack. Then came the big bomb. He was dead.

Like most of us, I was stunned.  First I couldn’t believe it.

And then as I read the Internet reports, I felt a sense of eerie creepiness run through me. Because two days earlier I had written about how his music was such a important part of my childhood and musical upbringing, one that still impacts how I listen to music today. It was like I had jumped ahead and started the tribute two days ahead of time.

And like the rest of us, I watched the non-stop news coverage with a mixture of sadness, guilt and denial. I also watched as Twitter and Facebook exploded with RIP tweets, updates and links directing fans to the scores of musical mixtape tributes that erupted after the news broke.  One of my personal tribute favorites has been Chicago rapper Rhymefest’s mixtape tribute  that he actually released in early 2008 to celebrate Thriller’s 25th anniversary and his love for Jackson’s music.  And I’ve also thought back to how we all celebrated Jackson’s 50th birthday at the 2008 Hideout Block Party.

And as the story of his death developed I struggled with how I was going to respond to the original post.  I wanted to respond quickly but I didn’t quite know what to say or how to say it. But I knew I wanted to wait a bit to sort out my emotions and also see how AEG Live would handle the cancellation of the London shows.

So now it’s Sunday. Just three days after one of the biggest, greatest and most influencial performers  in rock history has died. 

And I wonder: has his death impacted live music?

Yes, it has. It has shook the very core of the live music experience.

Yesterday, I was at the Rock the Bells  hip hop festival in Chicago.  And with all the Michael Jackson shout-outs and in between set musical tributes coming from the stage,  it almost felt more like a Michael Jackson tribute festival. And I imagine other festivals and concerts will have the same feel as the summer continues.

So over these last three days I’ve tried to figure out how to write about this. And I’m not exactly sure how to begin. But like I did on the original MJ post. I’ll speak from the heart and mix in the facts of what I know and what’s been reported thus far. And hopefully we can all figure things out from there. 

There are many angles to Jackson’s story. But I’d like to focus on the ones that impact live concert culture. Namely, the ticket refunding mess and the insurance issues AEG Live faces. 

“The Biggest Mess in Concert History”

First, according to Billboard’s Friday report, AEG Live faces an $85 million refund of  750,000 tickets to the London shows, which experts say “is one of the biggest refunding efforts and the biggest mess in the history of the concert industry.”   

But what about the fan’s experience over the last three days? While AEG Live issued Friday’s statement about the possible refund, their customer service line instructed customers to “await communication”  while also including this message:  

“We understand this is an upsetting time for all Michael Jackson fans and we want to thank you for your patience in this matter.”

And to make matters worse, Billboard says that “fans who bought tickets from unofficial sources, such as from sellers on auction sites or agencies, may lose their money.”

Then AEG Live  did eventually issue a statement  saying they would refund all the tickets to the 50 London shows. But AEG Live’s battle with Jackon’s  family and financial woes are far from over.

AEG Live’s financial future: between a rock concert and a hard place

As Billboard reports, the ongoing investigation of Jackson’s cause of death and the concert contracts he signed still impacts AEG Live’s financial future.

“AEG’s yearly financial results may now depend on Jackson’s cause of death. One entertainment insurance industry insider says that if Jackson died from a drug overdose or a pre-existing condition, the producer could be on the hook for any loss-which would include any money already sunk into the production, as well as the considerable cost of refunding consumers for the 750,000 tickets already purchased. If Jackson signed a contract saying he would return his advance in the event he didn’t perform, the company could end up in court with a long line of other Jackson creditors.”

That said, we might be looking at a blessing in disguise.

 The King of Pop’s passing gives us a chance to improve the concert experience

Judging by the outpouring at Rock the Bells yesterday, I know concerts this summer are going to be very different. And it turns this summer into one of the longest and largest group mourning experiences in the history of concertgoing.

But what about the concert industry and the business of selling tickets? Will Jackson’s death forever change how promoters and artists do business? It should. And it should also benefit fans.

On Tuesday, I wondered whether or not giving fans more control over ticket pricing would help the concert experience. And now with the impact of Jackson’s death on the concert industry, I think this question is more poignant then ever. Because reading all these Billboard reports tells me that Jackson’s death might have more power to forever change how promoters sell tickets than we realize. It’s a prime time to rethink the whole ticket selling process.

Having dealt and struggled  in the wake of death many times in the last several years, I’ve seen someone’s passing somehow turn into a blessing and become a benefit to those left behind on planet Earth. Death is usually a catalyst for change. That’s why I think Jackson’s death could lead to helping fans better understand the whole ticketing process and get them more involved in how it’s structured, which will hopefully lead to a better process that gives fans more control in determining a more realistic price of the concert experience.

Coming up…

Jackson’s death brought up a whole bunch of other issues we need to take a look at, such as pain. So stay tuned as we discuss how artists deal with physical pain before, during and after a concert.  

So tell me:

How have you mourned Jackson’s death? 

Did you ever see him in concert? 

And would you go see a Jackson Tribute tour?

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