Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Beer Giant Busted for Unauthorized Use of a Dead Kennedys Classic

Talk about extreme irony: about 20 years ago, a major soft drink manufacturer sought the rights to the Dead Kennedys’ Holiday in Cambodia for a tv commercial. As you might have guessed, the band’s label, Alternative Tentacles, turned down the request. Fast forward to 2011: as reported in NME and the Guardian, Heineken was supposedly forced to remove a Spotify banner ad featuring Nouvelle Vague’s sarcastic loungey cover of the DKs’  Too Drunk To Fuck because of complaints that it would “encourage binge drinking.” The official story is the ads were removed not because of copyright infringement, but because an industry watchdog group flagged them as being inappropriate. As a matter of principle, the DKs remain unwilling to sell out their music for use in commercials: the band’s attorneys have been in contact with the beverage conglomerate, which might be a more plausible explanation for the ads’ sudden disappearance. Stay tuned…

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July 21, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, rock music, snark | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Live Nation’s Club Passport Is a Scam

[by Lucid Culture’s chief cook and bottle washer]

When I was a kid, my family went through a hiking phase. I must have been about nine when they first became obsessed with it. By the time I was twelve, I’d been to the top of most of the smaller mountains in New England. One of the first was a humble little peak in New Hampshire called Red Hill. It barely qualifies as a mountain, but assuming it hasn’t been bulldozed for McMansions, it’s probably as good a place as any to show a fourth grader how much fun it is to set out for the summit hoping there’s water somewhere along the way. The day I was there, so was the fire warden, who had a peculiar sense of humor. He gave me a ticket which read, “This is a free ticket from the top of Red Hill. It’s not good for anything. It’s just free.” Same deal with the Live Nation Club Passport – except that it’s a scam that’s probably illegal. With a passport like this, you might as well stay home. And call the Department of Consumer Fraud at your State Attorney General’s office while you’re at it.

For the first time in music history, here’s a ticket that won’t get you into the show you just paid for. “Introducing the Live Nation Club Passport, – see unlimited club shows for remainder of 2009 for just $50, all-in, no fees, limited time offer.”

Yeah right. See below.

As the fine print says, purchase of this ticket DOES NOT GUARANTEE YOU ENTRY.

Now wait a minute – that’s what a ticket is, isn’t it? A voucher that proves you purchased a seat or a space at a show, that proves you’re not trying to sneak in?

No. This ticket costs you $50 but it won’t get you in anywhere. It’s a glorified CMJ pass, except that the bands at CMJ are way better, which is pretty depressing. What Live Nation is trying to do is A) get your personal info so they can spam you about a million overpriced shows you’d never want to see and B) fulfill the task known in club circles as “papering the house.” See, no club owner wants to look foolish when nobody shows up and the band plays to an empty house. Now combine the depression with overpriced concert tickets and the picture becomes clear – other than shows at small, reasonably priced clubs and a few jam band gigs, people simply aren’t going out anymore in numbers like they used to. So to avoid looking foolish and getting bad press, wannabe-monopoly concert promoters Live Nation and their soon-to-be-sister firm TicketBastard are dumping cheap tickets by the truckload for shows that are selling badly. To take one recent example, wish you’d seen AC/DC in Foxboro, MA? You could have. For free. Once you get out of the small clubs, it’s amazing to watch the corporate rock world imploding before your eyes.

But the Live Nation Club Passport is a complete ripoff. First of all, you can’t even use it as a ticket, which if for some reason you couldn’t attend an event, you could sell or give to a friend. The Club Passport is non-transferable and requires that you show photo ID when attempting to enter a venue. Secondly, you have to attempt to reserve admission to the show you want to see before 4 PM the day of the show – when you will learn whether your reservation has been accepted OR REJECTED. See, Live Nation reserves the right not to let you in because they think there are a few more full-price ticket buyers out there. Of course, the Live Nation website encourages you to show up at the venue right before showtime and then try to get in.

But what if they still won’t let you in? Isn’t that fraud?

If you read the fine print, you’ll see plenty of other nasty nickel-and-dime rules. For example, what if you’re a diehard fan who wants to see a band at the club in your hometown and then at a Live Nation venue in an adjacent state? No way. They’ll only accept your Club Passport in your home state.

Realistically speaking, people everywhere are doing the same thing as Live Nation and TicketBastard: realizing they can’t afford the concert they stupidly shelled all that money for, they’re unloading their tickets on craigslist, facebook, the bulletin board at your local laundromat…pretty much everywhere. And you may want to see “Andrew Bird, the Mars Volta, Dragonforce, All Time Low, Common, Pitbull, Trey Songz, Psychedelic Furs, and many others,” as Live Nation’s site advertises, but a check of available Club Passport shows at New York’s Irving Plaza and Gramercy Theatre revealed that those aren’t available. Can anybody say “bait and switch?” Still,  if you’d like to see once-popular 90s ska-punk band Bowling For Soup, actress Juliette Lewis – who’s also apparently a singer  – or the Sam Roberts Band – oh boy, can’t wait! – and don’t mind paying $50 for the privilege, the Club Passport is probably right up your alley. In fact, if you added Craig Owens of screamo band Choidos to the list, your Club Passport would almost pay for itself. Assuming, of course, that you weren’t denied admission to those shows – and you know that the day Craig Owens of Choidos sells out a club will be a cold day in hell.

Comments from consumers and law enforcement are invited, just use the comments button below.

September 18, 2009 Posted by | concert, Culture, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Pay to Play

Went to the MEANY Fest last night at Arlene’s. All I knew about this was that they’d moved it from CBGB, and that if you emailed them, you could get on the guest list (typically, bands and the club each have their own lists). As it turns out, it’s a competition: more about that later. Wanting to see Devi and to give the club a chance to redeem themselves after the sonic fiasco that was the Sloe Guns show here last week, I went to the MEANY site and signed up using our email (we get enough spam here, never mind giving them my personal email). Sure enough, the door girl didn’t have any record of it. This time around, however, she’d apparently done a couple of lines of meth off her baby’s belly, which seemingly calmed her down to the point where she finally handed over a wristband for club admission.

The good news is that the sound was good tonight, with the regular sound guy here running things. But there were bad omens everywhere. The bands were only getting half-hour sets to play (as opposed to the 40 minutes to an hour that Arlene’s gives bands onstage). Despite this, the night was running an hour and a half behind schedule, even though the clock had yet to strike nine. While the band’s email listed a 9 PM showtime, there had been two other acts put on the bill before them. To their credit, Arlene’s runs pretty much on time: you’re always assured of seeing the band you came for without much if any delay if you get there at showtime. That wouldn’t be the case tonight, and that was a drag. My days of showing up right when the club doors open, and then standing for hours and suffering through the likes of the Suburbs or 54-40, just to make sure I was in the front row when the Church took the stage ended a long, long time ago. Call me unadventurous or closed-minded, but that’s what the internet and myspace are for. If somebody I trust (NOT a promoter or a band manager) tells me that I should check out such-and-such, I’ll google them, I’ve got better things to do than sit through one wretched wannabe after another without being able to stop the track when it’s obvious that the band really sucks.

After taking what seemed an eternity to set up, trumpeter/pianist and Tom Waits wannabe John McGrew and his competent if uninspired backing band played a set that ran about as long as it took to get the band going (even though the club has a backline, with all the bands using the club’s gear instead of switching over to their own amps and such between sets). The wait grew longer as Uncle Pumpkin took the stage. While we don’t usually do negative reviews here, Uncle Pumpkin warrants an exception. This corporate rock act with a silly analog synthesizer from the 70s is stupefyingly bad. Watching them live was a vivid reminder of how equally vomitific corporate radio has become. This band sounds exactly like every other loud, tuneless corporate act that the corporate stations play but never tell you who they are or what song they’ve just played, as if you’re supposed to know who they are by osmosis or telepathy or something. Even though their vocalist (I wouldn’t call him a singer) doesn’t bray or mumblemouth the lyrics, Pearl Jam style, Uncle Pumpkin could easily win this whole thing. Which is saddening beyond belief.

Bad music may be good comedy, but this kind of comedy gets old awfully fast. There was no way in hell I was going to sit through a whole set of this shit. And on a Thursday night (or pretty much any night, even a Monday, if it’s late enough), there’s absolutely nowhere in my old neighborhood to go where you can have a drink and get away from the throngs of tourists. There was a girl in the back of the club with ballots for the audience to fill out, so I stopped there on my way out to vote for Devi. The promoters told the crowd that voters had to choose two bands, which stumped me: McGrew hadn’t earned my vote and I didn’t know any of the others. And while scanning down the list, I noticed that the promoters had scheduled a band for 1 AM. Meaning that at the rate the night was going, they were probably going to take the stage somewhere around three.

Now if you’re in a band whose fan base is a bunch of drunks who don’t mind staying out late and going to work the next day on hardly any sleep, and if you’re also a drunk who doesn’t mind staying up late just to play a brief, half-hour set in the wee hours and then going to work the next day hungover on no sleep, that’s great. But let’s say your fan base isn’t likely to stick around til 3 AM on a rainy night when they have to get up for work the next day. What do you do, play to an empty room? That’s absolute fucking bullshit. This is exploitation. Fuck you, MEANY Fest. You chose the right name. I gave my other vote to the 1 AM band.

And a little googling afterward uncovered something considerably more revealing: each band that played tonight paid MEANY Fest $40 to play this gig. And that’s bullshit. I predict that within five years, since the only young people who can afford to come to New York now are independently wealthy, clubs are going to start making bands pay if they want to do a show (CB’s Gallery tried to do this with their downstairs space in their last couple of years, without much success).

But til then, there’s absolutely no need for this kind of shit. You want exposure? The promoters put a Tom Waits wannabe back to back with a corporate grunge-pop act, followed by a melodic indie rock band with psychedelic tendencies. Tell me that anybody from the first crowd is likely to stick around for the next band, and so on. Talk about bad segues: it’s Brownie’s, 1999, all over again. That’s no way to build a fan base. At this point in history, bands can play the Dives of New York tour, a new venue every month and never run out of places to play. And the way to build a fan base in New York isn’t by playing live shows, anyway: the new permanent-tourist class here doesn’t have any interest in music, or film, or art, or literature. They’re into what everybody else in New Jersey, or wherever they come from, is into: they watch tv. The only way for New York musicians to reach a wider audience is to reach out to that audience and go where they are. Because musically, artistically or otherwise inclined young people can’t afford to come to New York anymore. You have to go out of town and find the pockets of coolness where these people are hiding. They’re out there, trust me. And they’ll gladly pay a $10 cover and buy your merchandise and regale you after the show about how good you were because you ARE good, especially by comparison to the Clapton wannabes and cover bands which is usually the only kind of live music you can find outside of urban areas.

So forget all the gaudy promises on the website, the prizes, the record deals, the hookers, the blow. Don’t waste your money on MEANY Fest, or Emergenza, or any of these scams. These assholes are just looking to make a buck at your expense. Let’s put them out of business.

October 12, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, Rant, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments