I’m Running for Mayor of Musictown

Hello everyone, my name is Arielle and I’m running for mayor of Musictown.

Musictown is one of my favorite places on Earth, and I imagine the same is true for many of you. It’s a magical city where some of our most precious and joyful memories lie; where we forge soulful connections with others, experience powerful emotions, and, well, where we have a lot of fun.

I had always been a frequent visitor to Musictown, until about 6 years ago when I moved here for good. In that time I’ve been to nearly 500 shows, in the largest of stadiums and in venues that were basically just a small stage in an alleyway. I’ve been in an audience of 5 and an audience of 50,000. I’ve given my heart, soul, and wallet to this city, and I truly do not know what the last few years of my life would have been like without it.

Life in Musictown is one sparked with passion. But this city of dancing and singing and clapping and celebrating, while it brings so much light to so many people, that light is not without darkness. I’ve spent 5 of my 6 years in Musictown taking copious notes on my experiences here. I’ve jotted down my thoughts about what works and what doesn’t, what I hate and what I love. But over the years I’ve also spoken with many of you, my fellow music lovers, trying to understand what elements of our wonderful city help instill meaning in your lives, and where the pain points are. I’ve chatted with you not through official interviews, but through informal conversation relaxing at our campsites at music festivals or while in line for coat check at a show. I’ve spoken with you not because I knew I wanted to run for office someday – in fact, I began these conversations long before I even knew that Musictown had a mayor. I’ve spoken with you because you, like me, understand, seek, and crave that feeling of pure bliss that only comes with seeing incredible live music in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. When the stars align and your experience feels so perfect as to be transcendent. I’ve spoken with you because music is what we love, and sometimes we just don’t want to talk about anything else.

This is why I want to be the mayor of Musictown. I want to utilize the knowledge I’ve gained over the years to improve upon those pieces of the live music experience that are less than ideal. To make it easier for all of us to achieve the perfect, hassle-free concert experience.

I have many ideas about how Musictown can be improved. I won’t bore you with all of them today, but here are a few.

As some of you know, my first inclination to run for mayor of Musictown came about when I expressed that every show – no matter how large or small – should publish set times in advance. I still stand by this. Our time is valuable, and I firmly believe that we should be able to plan our evenings accordingly. Many concerts have relatively predictable timing, but others do not. Some venues open their doors at 10pm and the headliners don’t come on until 2am. Those same venues will, on rare occasion, bring the headliner on at midnight. Being forced to guess at possible set times is frustrating. People need the power to make informed concert-going decisions, and I plan to work for full set-time transparency. For all shows.

Even more important than transparency at shows, however, is safety. If elected mayor, I plan to implement a number of measures to ensure that concert-goers have a safe and comfortable experience.

First, I want to see ear plugs for sale at all music venues. Citizens, I cannot force you to wear ear plugs, though I strongly encourage them and you will never see me at a show without mine. But for those moments where the volume is just a bit louder than you’d like, you should always be able to purchase a pair of single-use, foam earplugs for a dollar. I’ve had friends leave shows because they were too loud. This should never happen to anyone.

Next, I believe that all concert venues should have free water. They may also choose to sell bottled water if they wish, but there must be a water fountain or cooler available. Water is a critical component of concert safety, particularly at outdoor summer events or very crowded indoor events. No one should be forced to pay $5 for a bottle of water just to avoid passing out from dehydration and overheating.

The final change I hope to implement to enhance concert-goer safety is to do a thorough investigation into each venue’s maximum capacity and, where necessary, lower it. I have definitely been to shows where people appear to be packed in far beyond what could possibly be legally permitted, and I’m sure you can think of a few as well. Choosing to go up to the front of a show and be in the thick of a crowd is one thing, but being unable to even lift your arms anywhere in an entire venue is another. Not only is it unsafe, but it’s not fun. Every live music event should have ample open space in the back for those who need a little more room to breathe or dance.

There are tons of other issues I hope to tackle in my time as mayor: ticket scalping, improving security screenings, and increasing the number of women’s restrooms, to name a few. But before I leave you, I want to share with you one of my more innovative ideas, to hopefully demonstrate that I’m a creative thinker willing to take risks on your behalf.

If elected mayor of Musictown, I plan to implement a pilot program to test the feasibility of having a 25+ section at select venues or shows. Those of you who, like me, are on the slightly older side of full-time Musictown residents may agree that sometimes it’s difficult to be around a group of teenagers. Allowing attendees to opt in to being around people closer to their own age has the potential to improve the concert-going experience for everyone. I plan to conduct a number of focus groups to collect ideas before the pilot goes into effect, so if you’d like to share your thoughts on this plan, please be in touch! My door is always open – not just for this issue, but any other issue that may arise. Because, as mayor, I will be your representative. And I want to know what I can do to to help.

I hope that I have your vote, and I hope to see you out on the dance floor.

This post inspired by this tweet:

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Hijinx: The Music

It’s only  been 2 weeks since I attended the first-ever (hopefully of many??) Hijinx Festival but it already feels light years away. As a two-day event with only one stage, there were fewer acts on the lineup than most festivals but I still managed to catch some really amazing sets. Here are some highlights!

RL Grime
Somehow it had been, I think, 4 of 5 years since I last saw RL Grime, on a random Tuesday evening at Webster Hall. The Hijinx set was just incredible and really demonstrated to me that while some artists shine in intimate venues, others are meant to be seen on a giant stage with a massive sound system. The combination of dark sound and high energy is an experience best shared with thousands of other people at once.

Big Gigantic, GRiZ
These artists didn’t even play on the same day of the festival, but I’m lumping them together because there was a common theme here – artists who normally play funk music who didn’t play that much funk music.

This was my only Big G show of the year, so I was pretty amped to get to squeeze in this set from one of my favs before the close of 2018. Somehow, though, it fell flat for me. There’s a joyfulness in their shows that I was missing because they focused a lot on creating heavier, bass-filled sounds over dancey sax music, which is where they excel.  I didn’t dislike it but it was forgettable.

GRiZ’s set was similar – my only one of the year, and he leaned towards more generic, crowd-pleasing bass. I thought this was much more successful than Big Gigantic’s set, at least, and still really enjoyed it, but I wanted to hear the GRiZ songs I know and love and he didn’t play that many songs that I recognized. Both artists played this song below, though, which was a highlight both times.

Bassnectar
This was the best Nectar set I’ve seen in probably 3 years. It was really vibey which I loved, although Bassnectar diehards probably wanted more of the headbangy stuff that’s sort of his signature. A few people mentioned that, with a huge New Year’s Eve show coming up right after Hijinx, he was holding back and saving some of his most intense tracks for NYE, which was perfectly fine with me.

Illenium
I don’t know much about Illenium but this set was exactly what I was expected to be – kind of light, fun, musical tracks with just a touch of thickness thrown in to get the crowd going. I can’t name a single song of his but I would absolutely see him again.

Odesza
Odesza just gets better and better for me every time. They’ve played “Loyal” a lot at their shows over the years, but it was never officially released until September so a lot of mystery surrounded it for years. A brooding and intense highlight in an otherwise ethereal discography, “Loyal” always serves as a climax of any live set they throw it in. I was eagerly awaiting this song at Hijinx, and they did not disappoint. A perfect way to close both the festival and the year.

2019 festival lineups are already dropping, so while I won’t be attending any fests for awhile, the planning is already very much underway!

2018 Goals Update, 2019 Goal-Setting

Every year I set music goals for myself, write them in a blog post, and immediately forget them. Because of this, any time I’ve met my goals, it was totally by accident and a nice surprise when I did my goals recap the following year. I should probably just stop setting goals at all, but it’s fun to think about so even though – spoiler alert – I did really poorly on my 2018 goals, I’m going to press on.

How did I do for 2018? Let’s see.

Meet 3 new artists
I met 0 new artists this year! Doh.

Get my money’s worth from Jukely every month
This would be a great goal if I had more time and energy. In theory I could just pick up a Jukely pass to any ol’ show and check out a random artist I knew nothing about, but I’m at the point in my life where, if I don’t have plans, I don’t want plans. I would get my money out of Jukely if they had a better selection of shows, but it’s gone pretty steadily downhill over the last few years. As it is, I only got my full money’s worth out of Jukely for 5 months of 2018, which is abysmal. Overall throughout the year, I got about $28 more dollars worth of shows out of my Jukely membership than I paid for it, which is at least on the positive side, but barely. While there’s definitely an intangible value to having access to shows that I either a) wouldn’t have known about or b) wouldn’t have gone to without Jukely, I’m still going to have to seriously reevaluate if this is worth it.

Write at least one real blog post a month
HA. Okay.

Get my record collection to 50
At the end of 2017 I had 25 records. I currently have 25 records. I’m okay with this because records are expensive, and I do a lot of work from home, which means I’m not listening to music because I can’t concentrate otherwise. Plus, I could honestly get by with just 4 or 5 of the records from my collection.

What are my 2019 goals?

Go to one new music festival
I have a few on my radar for this summer – Bonnaroo and Summer Camp already announced killer lineups, and my friend and I are eagerly awaiting the Lightning in a Bottle lineup. All possibilities.

Write one real blog post a month
Even though I failed spectacularly at this in 2018, I want to do better. Blogging is such a joy for me, it’s a shame I don’t devote more time to it. Every time I go to a show I feel super inspired and jot down post ideas in my phone, and then I get home and don’t do anything with them. I want to change that.

Visit at least one new NYC music venue
There are somehow a bunch I still haven’t been to! I don’t know how this is possible but I want to see what else is out there.

Go to Colorado for a Red Rocks show
I don’t know which one, but it has to be something. It was 3 years in between my first and second RR visits and I refuse to let that happen again. I’m going to try really really hard to make it to Rowdytown, which is Big Gigantic’s annual Red Rocks weekend, but it often falls on the Jewish holidays which sucks. Maybe 2019 is the year!

This seems like a nice and mostly doable list. I’ll have forgotten it all by tomorrow but I look forward to checking in a year from now and being disappointed! Bahaha.

Hijinx: The Experience

To end my 2018 with a bang, I went to the inaugural Hijinx Festival in Philadelphia, PA. As a first year, indoor, winter festival, Hijinx really had a lot of factors working against it. But I have to say, and everyone else I spoke to both friend and stranger agreed, this event exceeded all expectations.

Check-in/Security
The event website told everyone to arrive an hour before the first artist they wanted to see. While this is definitely solid festival advice, it set the tone for long lines and disorganized security checks. What we found when we arrived each night, however, was clear signage, friendly staff stationed near the doors solely for the purpose of giving high fives, and a really quick and smooth entry process. The fact that this event was held at the Philadelphia Convention Center and not just in the middle of some field like many music festivals meant the staff were prepared for crowds of this size (roughly 18,000) because this is part of their normal business operations. I’ve said this before about Camp Bisco, too – going to a festival at a venue that is an actual venue and not a pop-up in the middle of nowhere has massive benefits when it comes to organization, and thus, attendee experience.

The Crowd
Pretty standard, relatively non-obnoxious festival crowd. No great or horrible standouts, which is just fine by me. Though I’m really starting to notice just how much older I am than everyone.

Fun Stuff
Okay, Hijinx didn’t really have any fun stuff, per se. But…it was a convention center, so I didn’t exactly expect a secret garden or yoga classes or any of that stuff. I was pretty pleased with the sort of minimal but still cool and enormous inflatables hanging from the ceiling, because “I’m right under the upside down pyramid!” made meeting up with people pretty easy.

Water
Water fountains!! What a treat.

Layout
Even though it was one big room they still had a cute little vendor area and a good amount of bars, and though you could never really get away from the music (see: one big room) there was plenty of space. Considering that the center is probably most often used for conferences they did an incredible job of making it feel like a real festival.

Transportation
The convention center is located super centrally in Philly. There were hotels galore in the immediate vicinity and traveling to and within the city is a piece of cake. Having a short walk to and from the event was a nice change considering that most festivals have longggg walks back to your campsite afterward.

Price
My first tier ticket was super reasonable. I would have paid a lot more for this lineup (though I’m glad I didn’t!).

Bathrooms
Yet again the convention center-ness of this festival shines through. Real bathrooms! And just to keep it real (and reduce lines), they brought in port-a-potties, too. There were still some bathroom lines but it was never more than a few minutes. They were clean and there was toilet paper. In the grand scheme of festival bathrooms they may as well have been gold-encrusted toilets. It’s a low bar, you guys.

Misc.
Holy sound system, Batman. I never knew bass could be so clear. Truly one of the best if not THE best sound I’ve encountered at a music festival.

Stay tuned for the Hijinx music recap!

The Best of 2018

The time has come to think critically about the shows I saw last year and select the creme de la creme. It’s a tough job, but I’m prepared to do it. Here we go.

Top 10 Shows of 2018 (in chronological order)
1. Emancipator Ensemble – Brooklyn Steel
2. Lorde – Barclays Center
3. Gramatik – Upstate Concert Hall
4. Matt and Kim – Brooklyn Steel
5. Remember Jones (808s and Heartbreak tribute) – Brooklyn Bowl
6. The Glitch Mob – Schimanski
7. Umphrey’s McGee – The Stone Pony
8. Pretty Lights – Red Rocks Amphitheatre
9. Big Data – Gramercy Theatre
10. Manic Focus – Brooklyn Bowl

Top 10 Festival Sets of 2018
1. Rezz – Minus Zero
2. Aerosmith – Jazz Fest
3. Tipper – Camp Bisco
4. The Floozies – Camp Bisco
5. The Funk Hunters – Camp Bisco
6. Big Wild – Camp Bisco
7. Robert Delong – Panorama
8. Odesza – Panorama
9. RL Grime – Hijinx
10. Odesza – Hijinx

10 Worst Shows of 2018
As with last year I’m not doing this list anymore, but believe you me, there were some less than stellar regular concerts and festival sets. Inquire within!

And the award goes to…

Coolest Weather Event
Tipper at Minus Zero. The snow created some seriously beautiful glitter lasers.

Biggest Disappointment
My friend and I missed almost all of Run the Jewels’ opening set for Lorde. For no good reason, we just assumed it would start later. While RTJ was playing we were near the Barclays Center, eating hot dogs at Shake Shack and taking our unfortunate sweet time to go inside.
Runner up: showing up to Lindsey Stirling at the Beacon Theatre and realizing it was a Christmas show.
Second runner up: making it to the Garden in time for Childish Gambino’s encore. At least my ticket was free.

Best Crowd
Minus Zero. I don’t know how a few thousand people dancing outdoors in 15 degree weather could possibly be so happy, but this was the best festival energy I’ve ever experienced.

Weirdest Crowd
The Little Mermen, Gramercy Theatre. The Little Mermen is a band that does rock covers of Disney songs. I probably could have assumed that there are some Disney-obsessed folk out there, but the thought had honestly never crossed my mind until that night. The level of Disney fandom was sort of frightening.

Best Throwback Show
Barenaked Ladies/Better Than Ezra, Coney Island Amphitheatre
Runner up: Everclear at Irving Plaza

Worst Throwback Show
Sheryl Crow at Jazz Fest. From where we were standing it sounded like a recording, although I’m sure it wasn’t.

Most Consistent Performer
RJD2 at Brooklyn Bowl. I saw him play this venue in January 2015, January 2016, and January 2018. The shows were remarkably similar, with the same opening and closing bits, the same guest vocalists doing the same songs, and many of the same tracks. I’m sad he took off in 2017 (and 2019, apparently) because even though the shows were the same, I loved them.

Least Consistent Performer
Remember Jones. The Kanye West tribute at Brooklyn Bowl was my favorite show of the year, hands down. He performed with a 24 piece orchestra and it really brought the 808s and Heartbreak album to life. A few months later I went back for a tribute to Amy Winehouse, and it really fell flat for me.

Most Pleasant Surprise
Walking into the HP pavilion at Panorama to try to get a free water bottle and stumbling upon a completely unadvertised Macklemore DJ set.
Runner up: Hijinx Festival at the Philadelphia Convention Center. I’ll get to writing a festival recap sometime soon, but this event exceeded my expectations in pretty much every way.

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Best Venue (NYC)
The Knitting Factory

Best Venue (Non-NYC)
House of Blues, Houston. I wish we had a HOB here.

Best Non-Typo Typo
Every time I saw a promo for “Sven Lions” I laughed and laughed at how no one noticed or corrected this obvious typo for “Seven Lions.” Until I learned that Sven Lions is Seven Lions’s psy-trance alter ego and it is not a typo at all.

Moment I Would Most Like to Relive Forever
Pretty Lights’s rendition of “Shakedown Street” to close out the first night of Red Rocks.

Don’t forget to check out all my 2018 concert stats over here!

2018, By the Numbers

Today is the day, my friends. The day I get to bust out the spreadsheet I maintain all year with my concert-going data and do some year-end and year-over-year analysis. Spending the day in Excel is a beautiful way to kick off the new year. I’m only kind of joking. Let’s see what happened last year, shall we?

Total shows

60 shows this year. I’m okay with this, despite that the number has dropped significantly since my highest of 115 shows in 2015. I don’t know if I got any sleep that year.

Venues

1 out of every 6 shows I went to was at Brooklyn Bowl, my #1 venue for the third year running. Worth also noting that even though only 1 venue I went to last year has now closed (Output, I’ll miss you!), American Beauty, which was in my top venues list in 2017, also closed in 2018. And Webster Hall just posted on social media that they’re reopening in 2019! I’m excited and afraid to see what the new venue will be like.

Free

I went to 12 shows for free, but for the first time ever, none of the shows I went to for free were actually free. I’m pretty shocked that I somehow didn’t go to any free concerts in 2018 because NYC is usually full of them in the summer. But at least I’m still pretty good at winning tickets to things.

Price

I’m going to say this pretty much every year that this comes up – of the 6 shows I paid more than face value for, all 6 of them were due to me not making full use of my Jukely membership in those months. I pay $35 a month for the service, but in December, for example, I only used it to go to one show, the face value of which was somewhere around $17. It balances out because there are months where I get hundreds of dollars worth of concerts for $35, but I still hate those wasted months.

Artist

ODESZA 4EVER. I didn’t even bother adding the second place artists here because there were a bunch that I only saw twice, which doesn’t always feel significant.

Show days

Pretty impressed that I went to 4 shows in 4 days. I wouldn’t typically count this because 2 of those days were Bungawiz Music Festival and I don’t usually include festival days in the count, but the day after Bungawiz I went to Panorama, and the day after that I went to Kesha and Macklemore on Jones Beach, and all of that involved a lot of traveling, so I’m allowing it.

monts

April has come back from the dead of being my month with fewest shows to my month with the most shows. Well done, April.

1 day

I’ve spent the last few years trying to coordinate a day where I match something I did in 2015 and go to 3 legitimate shows in 1 day. I kind of did it this year but I didn’t stay at the 3rd one for more than a few minutes, so it really shouldn’t count. But I’ve woven it into all my other stats, so…it stays.

And as I always do in this post, here are some highlights from the notes I put into my spreadsheet about the shows I went to:

“I left after the 3rd subpar opening act because it was taking too long and it was too cold for life.” (RZA at City Winery)

“The guy from Zeds Dead turned Eleanor Rigby into a trap banger. He went there.” (I’m still in awe of this)

“I like the weird monster voice thing he does.” (Thriftworks at the Knitting Factory)

“All the hits and some Disney deep cuts.” (The Little Mermen, a Disney cover band, at Gramercy Theatre)

“Man, I think I’m just not that into dubstep anymore. I was just not having any more of those heavy wub wubs.”

“There was a car on fire.” (Twenty One Pilots at MSG)

 

On Repeat: Gramatik, “No Place Like NYC”

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about a song I’m obsessing over (it’s been awhile since I’ve really written anything here, but whatever), but the new Gramatik is TOO GOOD not to share.

Early in his career, Gramatik put out a few albums called Street Bangerz, which, despite the name, are not typically bangers in the way we think of a “banger” as an upbeat, party-ready track, but actually collections of smooth hip-hoppy jazzy mellowness. I became a fan of Gramatik right around the time of Street Bangerz 4, which was a moment in time not too long before he changed gears musically and started producing much heavier tracks. This sonic shift created a divide between OG Gramatik fans (a term I use loosely, because I’m not really OG but definitely a fan of his older work) and newer Gramatik fans. Both groups love the same producer but their favorite albums sound almost like they come from completely different people. A love of the older albums managed to bring some of the OG fans along for the ride during the transition to thicker bass and more actual bangers, but other fans fell by the wayside. While I’m not one of them, I also can’t blame them.

This is all to say, however, that Denis has blessed old and new fans alike with the long-awaited SB5!!! (Much like Kentucky Fried Chicken becoming KFC, Street Bangerz now just goes by an acronym).

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It may just be the new album novelty talking, but I think #5 is my favorite of the SB collections. It’s incredibly diverse but has a consistent, old school funk and soul sound that made so many of us become obsessed with Gramatik in the first place. He has a knack for choosing samples and flipping them to really make you feel like you’re traversing decades with each listen. I’ve had this album on repeat as I worked from home all weekend and cannot imagine being able to listen to anything else any time soon.

The best track off the album, in my humble opinion that could very well change by this time next week, is the first one – “No Place Like NYC“. I am 100% convinced it is at least partially to do with the name of the song, but also to do with the fact that when I start the album over and this song comes on, I have to stop what I’m doing and jam out in my chair for a bit before I can settle down and start working again. In fact, I’ve had a hard time writing this paragraph because the song is on and it is Just. That. Good.

I have no idea how to link to just this one song because sometimes technology escapes me, so here’s the whole album. Enjoy.