I’ve been a fan of Jon Hopkins for a year or two now. I discovered his music when someone said I sounded like him, which I now take to be a huge compliment. Earlier in the week I saw he was going to play in SF, and since he hails from the UK and I’m on my show bender, I figured I should catch him. He was opening up for Royksopp, whom I’ve never heard of. I checked them out online, decided they were sorta fun, and figured I’d go pick up a ticket at the show.
On Thursday morning, I discovered that the show was sold out. Royksopp is far more popular then I realized. I checked craigslist, saw many people looking for tickets, and figured it wasn’t going to happen. No big deal. I was haphazardly checked craigslist every once in a while, when I ran across a fresh post selling a ticket for face, but the buyer had to come pick it up. I was downtown with no car, so it wasn’t realistic with the demand for the ticket. I called the seller, got the address, google mapped it, and saw it was in the far south part of the city. There was no way I could get there fast. Google maps will now plot your public transportation options, and upon clicking the pub trans link I learned there was a bus that left from right in front of my building, and the line ended at the exact address of the selling. And the bus left in 3 minutes. So I went for it. I dropped everything at work, ran downstairs, jumped on the bus, and headed to south SF. Sure enough, the bus dropped me off at the exact location I needed to be. I found the seller, bought the ticket, and since we were at the end of the line for the bus, the driver was smoking a cigarette, and I was able to get back on the same bus to bring me right back to work, just in time for our weekly social gathering. Booyeah.
Then off to the show, which was at the Grand. I hate the grand. Security made a huge stink over my metal water bottle last time I was there and the sound is generally terrible. It turns out that the Warfield just bought the Grand. Shockingly, security didn’t care at all about my water bottle or laptop, and they’ve put in an entirely new stack of speakers since I’ve last been there. Issues magically resolved. I got there right when Jon Hopkins took the stage, and his set blew me away. The way he adapted his mostly mellow musing to a dynamic, occasionally bombastic, live show was inspiring. His setup was all tactile and no laptop, so watching him deftly trigger and manipulate tracks was fairly engaging, which is unusual for this type of music. The light show brought it home. I was really impressed, which is no easy feat with my extreme electronic music snobbery. My only complaint was that it was too short, under an hour, but that’s what happens when your the opener.
There’s always a voice in the back of my mind that when I go to a show like this that it would be perfect if I could meet the artist, do a short shpiel and a cd handoff. The likely hood of this happening is almost nil, since the artist has to be milling around in the audience and I have to capture their attention. After Jon’s set, I scoped out the two areas that he was most likely to appear, and lo and behold, I saw him appear from the stage door. So I went up to him, chatted about venues in the city, and I asked him if he knew about echoes, and it turned out he just recorded a living room concert from them a couple weeks ago. Perfect. That gave me a fantastic license to do my self promotion thing and make the connection. I felt on top of the world. I don’t expect anything to come from these connections. They rarely do. Its just an unbelievable feeling to accomplish a really unlikely goal. I just felt completely in tune with the universe – that special combination of luck and preparedness.
I have to admit, Royskopp didn’t reel me in. They place got jammed, hipsters were everywhere, and it just wasn’t my scene. They do write some fun music though. I stayed for an hour and then bailed, hoping to make it home before Stiners went to bed. I made it back in the nick of time. After tucking Stina in to bed and saying goodnight, I actually felt like the luckiest guy in the world.
Echoes, a nationally syndicated radio show, ran a listener poll to honor their 20th anniversary of broadcasting new age/downtempo electronic music. The poll was to rank the top 200 cds played on their station.
Are you kidding me? I didn’t tell anyone about this poll. Not even my wife. Obviously, I’m deeply indebted to echoes/John Diliberto for promoting my music over the past few years. It’s such an exquisite honor to be listed so close to BT’s “This Binany Universe” (which is truly the album of the decade IMO) and Moby’s “Wait For Me” (which I love, and am psyched to see him in concert on Thursday). Just browsing through the list is to walk through some of the most brilliant music ever made. I certainly don’t deserve to be ranked higher then Sigur Ros, Air, Ulrich Schnauss, or Vangelis (to name just a few). I’m sure it helps that my music was more recently featured then some of these outstanding albums.
Anyhow, if you read my lessons page, you know that I don’t often get feedback on my music. Therefore, when something like this comes along, I really don’t take it for granted. My deepest gratitude to those who voted for me, and to echoes for supporting my music.
You’ll have to be patient for the next album. I’m made some real headway on it, but there’s a long way to go. It won’t be finished before our first child arrives in Feb/Mar, and therefore it’s not gonna happen for a little while after that. But I assure you I have no plans to stop creating music. There will be a sixth album eventually, and now I have a renewed spark to spend a few long nights this week working on it.
As the year comes to a close, I’m very proud to say that I ranked on both of the ’08 echoes polls. I’m #9 on the listener poll (thanks very much for voting for me!) and #12 for the echoes essential picks. This is really quite an honor.
I recently received an email from a music student which said that while its a great gift that I give my music away, its disheartening for someone like him who wants to make a living from his music. This is something which I’ve thought about a great deal in the last few years. Its a tough to justify against the argument that I’m devaluing something that people do as a means to support themselves. I hope that free music doesn’t discourage people from supporting other artists. The bottom line is that I am very fortunate. Its a joy to create music, its amazing to have such powerful tools at my disposal, and that I’m lucky enough to have a day job which pays the bills. I do it because I can, and I try not to take that for granted. I hope its helping make the world a better place. It’s certainly is something that fulfills me.
In no way should this devalue other peoples art. There is going to be an accelerating amount of freely available art whose sole purpose is to be shared. The Internet, the availability of inexpensive sophisticated tools, and a digital native population will ensure that. It will always take a combination of hard work and luck for your art to be seen beyond the scope of your peers.
Music is very much a thing of value, and I can’t imagine that will ever change.
The first Soulful Filling review just popped up on the intertubes, and it’s pretty fabulous. Many thanks to Scott for writing it.
For those who are interested, echoes is broadcasting the interview taped at my living room concert on Monday, June 25. You can see if you pick up echoes on a local radio station here. Otherwise, you can always hear it through their podcast, where I believe they make the interviews available for free.
I don’t really remember what we talked about, so it’ll be interesting (at least for me) to hear it.
The concert will air sometime in July.
I was rather pleasantly surprised when John Diliberto, host of Echoes, starting including some of the downtempo tracks from Cool Aberrations on his show. I was blown out of the water when he told me he was doing a short west coast tour and asked if we could do a “living room concert”. Echoes does a series of recorded concerts every year, capturing intimate live shows in either artists homes or in the Echoes studio. I was extremely honored that he would even consider me for this series.
I had my work cut out for me preparing for this show. John selected 4 tracks which happened to have different performers on each track: acclimate (JP Culter and Adam Blomberg of guitar), flow tater (Sarah Holzman on flute), summer (Stara on vocals), and reflective moment (Steve Sparapani on cello). I was rather surprised and delighted that they all were interested in playing the show. Scheduling rehearsals with so many people is always an interesting endeavor, and in true rock and roll fashion, they all happened the week of the show. For a couple of songs, we ended the rehearsal with some homework for the musicians to do. Therefore, I had a little trepidation about the show. That, and I had no idea what to expect, really.
We spent much of Wednesday moving my studio from the office to the living room. Stina brought it huge, helping prepare a sumptuous buffet table of nibbles and wine.
People starting showing up at 7 for the 8 o’clock show. When John and Jeff (the engineer) arrived, things kicked into high gear. They had much more equipment then I anticipated, and cables and mic stands appeared all over the place. Our living room looked completely different. Jeff couldn’t have been a nicer, more accommodating guy.
When the equipment was tested and the scene was set – it was time to play. John would do an intro, and we’d play a song. It was pretty exciting. Each song was a totally different head space due to the musician on the track. Everyone really brought their A game. There were plenty of flubs (mostly by me), but I really felt that the music was top notch. There was definitely an energy to the music that I’ve never felt before. John did interviews with the performers in between tracks. Then they went house with their cameras. We did lots of being perfectly silent as they recorded the sounds of our house/Irving street. They whole thing was pretty surreal.
It was especially cool to have these musicians meet each other for the first time. I had always wanted to bring them together, just cause I think they are all amazing people (aside from being ludicrously talented). John and Jeff are truly warm people, dedicated to the art of music and sharing it with others. Jeff has been engineer the show for almost as long as John has been running it (along with his wife). It was a truly special evening, that waaaay exceeded my expectations. Not a bad way to kick off Memorial day weekend . . .