Frank Gutch Jr: Who’s Making Up the Rules, Marc Cohn at the Aladdin Theater in Portland Oregon, and Whatever the Hell Else I Want To Write About…..

FrankJr2I’m tired.  I mention this at the outset because this inevitably is going to turn in to one of those stream-of-consciousness tirades in which logic does not play a part.  But I don’t care.  I need to get something off my chest and I don’t care if you stop reading right now, but the stench of what is wrong with the music business has me gasping for air and there is little oxygen available.  But before I start…..

arnoldgrizzleywebPlease tell me, who is Arnold Grizzley?  I got a 45 when I moved to Seattle back in ’78 by Grizzley and the only information I have ever been able to find on him are from people who want to sell their copies.  Who’s Makin’ Up the Rules is a beauty of a record, a hard-driving cross between The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Captain Beefheart, and even while I was working at Peaches Records in Seattle, I could find no one who would admit to any knowledge.  I think what initially captured my attention was the picture sleeve— a crazed looking Jethro Tull-type caricature on the front— a madman, and critical quotes written on the back over a picture of that same madman in a different pose.  It cracked me up first time I read it and it cracks me up today.  It begins with “What the critics say” and goes on in Variety-style hype to list six quotes with attributes.  “Arnold Grizzley screams angry rock and roll with the spirit of James Dean and Johnny Rotten” the first says.  “Lord have mercy.”  Rev. Walter Pierce/Presbyterian Daily Mirror.  “The Godzilla Band (Arnold’s backup band) pumps out rock and roll with the best of ’em” says another.  “…if only Arnold could sing.”  Thom Sintos/New Wave Review.  “A new national anthem for every red-blooded American with an authority-figure complex.”  Art Magellan/Psychology Now.  “I told Arnold he’d end up sounding like Wolfman Jack if he kept screaming like that, but he wouldn’t listen.”  Dr. Phillip Norby/Chicago General Hospital.  “I just wish Arnold would cut his hair.”  Mrs. Thelma Grizzley.  Which set up the piece-de-resistance— “This is a fucking great record.”  Arnold.

Is it good?  I think it’s great.  As Dr. Norby said, Arnold does sound a bit like the Wolfman and the band?  Impressive.  Side One is a mere 2:50, classic single length, and smokes.  Side Two is 7:00 and is stretched into a semi-psych jam and a half and is, according to what is written on the label, recorded live, complete with freak-out mid-section.  It was released on Wolf Records, a division of Music Farm, Inc. out of Seattle and I asked around for years.  If anyone knew anything about ol’ Arnold, they weren’t talking.

I love this record.  I used to put it on what they called mixtapes back in the day, between The Sonics and maybe The Live Five.  No one ever commented.  No one even seemed to notice.  Didn’t matter.  I loved it.  That’s what counted.

But to the point.  Arnold sings about what makes me tired.  Everything, but mostly music.  Well, not the music exactly, but everything that surrounds it.  The business.  The emotional problems.  The apathy.  Everything.

Napster4_logo_270x242What spurred this is yet another article about digital streaming, this one published in The New York Times.  “As Streaming Grows,” it states, “Royalties Slow To a Trickle.”  It is nothing I didn’t know.  It has been going on since the streaming companies planted their flags on Internet turf, claiming the “land” in the names of their respective sovereigns.  If you don’t know who they are, you’ve heard of them:  Spotify, Pandora, Grooveshark, Rhapsody and others.  Businesses which came out of nowhere to take possession of what is not theirs so they can bring riches to King Corporation.  True, the business was in chaos, thanks to major labels and their steadfast refusal to address the digital situation until it was too late.  Thanks to peer-to-peer sharing which shared that which was not theirs.  Thanks to a consumer public which thinks music is produced by rich musicians who don’t deserve any pay for their work.  Thanks to various legislative bodies, the majority of their members in the pockets of anyone with money.  Thanks to people who have become so enraptured with themselves that they take and take and take and give back only that which assuages their guilt, if anything at all.

If you’ve followed my writings at all, you’ve heard it all before.  You may be one of the many who are tired of hearing it.  Hence, my disillusionment.  At moments like these, I wonder if any of it really matters.  I feel like I’m preaching to the deaf.

But to get back to the source of my exhaustion— the article.  It is yet another look at the problems facing artists and their struggle to survive as artists.  Nothing really new except maybe the stark contrasts in position.  For it is now the “business model” versus the musician.  And to listen to asshats like Sean Parker, it is only business.

Parker is a board member at Spotify (and was formerly attached to Napster).  The article states that “he believed Spotify would eventually attract enough subscribers to help return the music industry to its former glory.”  If, that is, they can continue screwing the artists, I am assuming.  “I believe that Spotify is the company that will make it succeed,” said Mr. Parker, who is also a former president of Facebook. “It’s the right model if you want to build the pot of money back up to where it was in the late ’90s, when the industry was at its peak. This is the only model that’s going to get you there.”

nospotifyAnd I have to ask, get who there?  As long as it is Spotify and, more specifically, him, I am sure he doesn’t much care.

Indeed, I am  beginning to wonder if anyone cares.  Musicians moan and bitch but I don’t see many of them pulling their music from Spotify or the others in protest.  Songwriters moan and bitch but if they have a deal with a publisher I am not sure they have any power beyond that afforded by those deals.  True music fans moan and bitch but let’s face it, if the people they are supporting don’t care, why should they?

Oh, I’m not giving up, but at times like these I think about it.  When musicians curse Spotify but won’t do anything about their situation, I have to wonder why I care.

Then, just when I’m ready to throw in the towel and start writing about dung beetles or maybe just plain dung, a Jon Gomm comes along and does what I think all musicians and songwriters should be doing— pulls his music from Spotify with not so much as a “by your leave” and controls his own destiny, sans machine.   And a glimmer of hope appears in the distance.

jongomm1See, there are questions which should be answered and are not being addressed.  Questions like who is makin’ up the rules and do they even have authority to do it or are they just bluffing their way in, hoping that if they are already established, whatever comes after will not affect them.  Questions like who makes decisions on how much to pay for “plays” on digital services and why there was absolutely no negotiation at all.  Questions like do these companies even have the right to use the music they way they are using it?

Well, I don’t know, Arnold, who exactly is makin’ up the rules, but I can tell you straight out that there are few ethics involved, if any.  And you can bet that if asshats like this Sean Parker clown has any say, there won’t be.  So Spotify is the best business model with the greatest chance of success, eh, Parker?  Well, I hope someone takes a class action suit and shoves that statement right up your ass.  You and Spotify deserve each other.  You both suck!

(Read the full New York Times article here)

Marc Cohn— The Old Business Model Lives!

Like Neil Young trumpeted in his anthemic Union Man, “’Live music is better’ bumper stickers should be issued!”  I’ve always thought live music was something to be treasured and every once in awhile, as old and frail as I am, I partake.  Like I did this past Saturday at Portland’s Aladdin Theater.  Turns out Marc Cohn was playing and even though I didn’t know of Mr. Cohn (his popularity coincided with my exit from the real world for a short while), friend Glenn Patscha of Ollabelle was playing keyboards for Cohn’s band and passed along an invite.  I accepted.

The night was a study in contrasts.  I mean, it’s not like I don’t see a show here and there, but for me it’s usually a night in a tavern with friends and relatives of the musicians and few others.  It is a study in frustration, watching bands like Crushed Out and Picture The Ocean and even local favorite Xenat-Ra play amazing sets to empty or half-empty rooms.  People just don’t take in live shows anymore, friends tell me.  They don’t buy music, either.  So was I surprised that the line outside the Alladin was around the block (in a manner of speaking) when I got there, minutes before the doors opened?  More than a little.  Even the show for the vaunted David Bromberg last Spring did not have long lines an hour before showtime.  It was obvious something was up.  I just had no idea what.

Marc+CohnWhile I had no clue as to Mr. Cohn’s music credits, I had heard his name and more than likely read it a few times, but exactly who he was and where these fans had been hiding?  No clue.  I was soon to learn a lesson.

Cohn, I soon found out, had had hits.  Yep.  Downright bona-fide hits.  I have been laboring under the true indie banner for so long, I can barely remember what they are.  Walking In MemphisSilver ThunderbirdTrue Companion.  Songs I had never heard of and probably had never heard, I thought, but as usual I was wrong.  Little did I know, I was about to be schooled.  But first, let’s talk a little…

Rebecca Pidgeon.  Now, here’s a weird thing.  Rebecca is an actor.  She studied at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (I’m not sure if that’s as good as it sounds, but it does sound good, does it not) and has appeared in numerous movies.  I recognize her, though I didn’t Saturday.  She was too far away and my eyes are not what they once were, but when I got home and looked her up on the Net, I recognized her.  I even confess to my heart skipping a beat now and again during her screen performances.  But I am glad I did not know that Saturday night.  To my mind, she was another musician waif, struggling to be heard in a din of white noise and I listened with that in mind.

pidgeonslingshotWhen she walked out on stage, she seemed almost lost, walking in small and mincing steps.  There was no sense of self-confidence or bravado— no “How ya doin’, Portland” with a casual wave of the hand.  She picked up her guitar tentatively and stepped up to the mike (her guitarist, Tim Young, on the other hand went straight to his guitar and amp and plugged in as if he belonged) as if she was not really supposed to be there and was on the verge of being caught.  Little did I know it was a ploy.  She introduced herself with a few humorous quips, plucked a few strings and laid her first song out for dissection.  It was a good song.  A really good song, perfect for breaking the ice for herself and for her audience.  She has such a soft and breathy voice, I wrote in my notebook, and a feel for the music.  She would have that same breathy voice throughout her five or six song set except for the too few moments when she rared back that lovely little head and gave the audience what for and during those moments, I was in love.  With the voice.  With the girl.  With the song.  Between songs, she bantered with the crowd.  Cohn fans, I was slowly finding out, are vocal and inclusive.  Did they know who she was?  Did they know about her acting career?  Not all of them, or maybe they did and, like myself, just did not equate the two or maybe just didn’t recognize the name.  Had they seen her on TV, they may have known.

Would it have made the show better for them?  I think not.  Rebecca was in charge and the crowd was more than willing to go along and perhaps knowing her would have gotten in the way.  Regardless, she (and Tim) played a set that kept building right to the last and had the crowd’s total attention.  No rousing or standing ovation, though I think she had earned it.  Well, there was this one lady who stood and in my mind I stood right next to her, but the applause was mainly polite.  The crowd, I think, just did not understand what they has just seen and heard.  I loved it.

The highlight, besides that last song, had to be when Rebecca introduced Tim as THE Tim Young and then altered the introduction to include him as member of the band— Rebecca Pidgeon & The Tim Young, as if he was a band in himself.  I laughed hard.  I got it.  I got it because he was the band.  Whereas Rebecca plays solid acoustic guitar and has this beautiful voice (and writes damn fine songs), The Tim Young laid down licks almost worthy of a Lester Quitzau in their simplicity and aptness to the song.  If you don’t know who Quitzau is, you don’t know how much of a compliment that is.  Not only that, but Young’s voice blended perfectly with Pidgeon’s.  Right after Rebecca said it, I knew that was how I will always remember him.  The Tim Young.  Well done, Mr. Young.

The lights went up and the crowd started milling and the young lady sitting to my front had her smartphone out, checking for messages, I assumed, and I asked her if she thought the whole iThing had not maybe changed the world for the worse and we began talking— about society and the media and culture and music.  Turns out her father was a musician.  Played with Heart, for one, and whether that was on a song-to-song basis or if he was actually a member of the band at one point, I don’t know.  It never came up.  But it was an interesting conversation in that she was young and I’m a fossil and we come from completely different worlds and it was interesting to compare.  I wish I would have asked, now that I think about it.  She said her dad didn’t really talk much about his music days, even when encouraged.  That’s too bad.  There are a lot of good stories out there.  Musicians should be telling theirs.

MarcCohn-live2010When the lights went down, you could almost feel the tension.  For Marc Cohn, I asked myself?  Who the hell is this guy!  Let me tell you who he is.  He’s the guy I sat and listened to for almost two straight hours, not even realizing that I really needed to take a leak.  He sat down at a baby grand piano to a cheering crowd, Glenn Patscha on the other side of the stage in front of his small, inadequate-looking keyboard (it may have looked inadequate, but Glenn can make it squeal and a half) and Kevin Barry sitting on a chair to the rear of the stage, and tore into a song vaguely reminiscent of what Elton John might have done in the mid-seventies.  From there, it was all uphill.  Were Cohn not a musician, he might well have had a career in standup comedy, his one-liners and short quips keeping the entire audience in stitches between songs.  Indeed, the comedy was half the show and there were moments I was almost in tears.

How was it?  First off, Cohn is a commanding figure in stage.  He controls.  And he loves it.  His fans love it too.  Yes, he has fans.  That half-empty theater I was expecting was almost if not completely sold out and Cohn could feel the love.  He gave back.  Song after song, he and the band played like there was no tomorrow and the crowd loved it and Cohn made sure they knew that he appreciated them,.  They walked off stage a little over halfway through the show.  I thought it was over.  Maybe an encore.  He came back and played close to another hour.  No wonder he has fans.

I didn’t get a chance to talk with Patscha.  Kevin Barry had family there and Patscha was visiting and I had a long drive ahead, so I told Cohn (who was signing autographs out front) to please let him know that I dug the show.  My words to Cohn as I walked out the door were “Hell of a show, Marc.”  I echoed those words in a message I sent to Ms. Pidgeon later that night.  “Hell of a show at the Aladdin tonight,” I wrote.  In the morning, I saw that she had replied.  “Thanks, Frank!” she wrote.  Almost as good as an autograph.

But wait!  My point!  My point is that it forced me to dip a toe in reality.  There are venues which do fairly well with shows, even in this day of a crumbling music industry.  There are people willing to brave a night on the town to see musicians and to hear music, even if most of the music they want to hear is way past the “best by” date.  There are even people who sing along and wiggle in their seats and whoop and holler because their nads are in a bunch.  It was good to see.  I had forgotten what it was like.  Now, I’m not saying it was better than my experiences in the dives and hovels hearing the bands I love to hear.  It is just different.  And a damn nice breath of fresh air.


Here are a list of artists I think you should check out on bandcamp.  Just some suggestions…..

No Small Children/Dear Youth EP  This rockin’ all-female trio hails from Los Angeles and cranks out some serious over-the-top rawk (if you get my drift).  A lot of power behind these songs.  Start with Mystical.  It’s anthemic.  Click here…..

genesee-ep-cd-cover-artTed Pitney/The Genessee EP  I will never understand why this EP was not an out-of-the-box success story.  Pitney has a way with song and this is produced perfectly.  An amazing EP.  Start with October Fire just because I say so.  Every track is a winner.  Click here…..

Sydney Wayser/Bell Choir Coast—  If you think I’ll ever stop talking about Wayser, I’ll take that bet.  Won’t happen.  Wayser is one of the best singer/songwriters around these days and Bell Choir Coast proves it.  Astonishingly good.  Start with Geographer.  It sends chills up my spine, it is put together so well.  Click here…..

The Violet Archers/The End of Part One—  This is a Tim Vesely-fueled band, which should be reason enough to listen.  Vesely came out of the much revered Canadian band Rheostatics to form The Violet Archers, a Pop-Rock juggernaut.  Listen real close and you will hear some amazing production, bits and pieces buried just deep enough to give certain songs the push over the top.  Start with Path of Least, a beauty of a song for the clean sound of the guitar alone.  Click here…..

Ticktockman/Ticktockman  If you like your rock powerful and rhythm-driven, these guys are for you.  Just enough prog here to keep it interesting, band starts and stops on a dime and the music is something else altogether.  A perfect album for musicians.  Start with The Architect to hear why certain types of music just can’t survive without a drummer of immense skill.  Click here…..

Sandrider/Sandrider—  You want to rock?  These guys rock!  In fact, this is one of the better hard rock albums I’ve heard in a few years.  Three-man.  Crankin’.  Start with The Judge.  It smokes!  Click here…..

Know what?  I’m burned out.  Not too many notes.  Here they are…..

Notes…..  I guess I am always the last to know.  Jim Henman (original member of April Wine and solo performer in his own right) recently posted this video of two ladies named Kim Wempe and Carmel Mikol, saying that he loved the way their voices sounded together.  After listening to this video three or four times (it will be more by the time this appears in print), I would say that was an understatement.  The voices offset one another beautifully.  Why has nobody mentioned them to me before?  Watch here…..  One thing I have always admired about Greg Godovitz is his support of musicians of all genres, especially my girls Hashmagandy.  Here Greg is onstage with the Carla Olive Trio doing I Don’t Really Want It, a solid two-guitar blitz.  Carla, for those who don’t know, is the lead guitarist for said HashmagandyClick here…..  People who know me know how much I hate anything i-related, but Toni Vere has chastised me into taking a listening leap because Greg Godovitz‘s new album is there.  Titled AmuseMe.  You might want to take a listen yourself.  Godovitz is well worth hearing.  Click here…..  As if we don’t already have enough asshats raking in the money from other people’s labor, the New York Times published a piece which proves an asshat is an asshat.  Chek out some of the quotes in this (click here) andf tell me we don’t need to write laws which stop this fucking nonsense.  And, yes, I mean you, Spotify, though you’re not the only asshat doing it…..  New release out of Seattle you might want to check out.  Dutch Hare.  Very impressive on all fronts.  Click here…..  If I haven’t mentioned Hem in awhile, it’s because I was unaware of anything new.  The band has corrected that.  Here is an early look at their brand spanking new video.  They are outstanding!  Click here…..  There is an awful lot of fundraising going on out there and I have a couple of favorites I will be backing.  One is carlanderson_coverCharlottesville’s own Carl Anderson who put out an album a year or so ago which has yet to grow old after many, many listens.  It was titled Wolftown and I heard it because Anderson had sang with Carleigh Nesbit on her outstanding Flower To the Bee album and I couldn’t help but follow from there.  Wolftown is a stunningly good album and after watching the video put together for Carl’s fundraiser for the new Risk of Loss project, I am sold.  This guy has depth and talent.  You can check out his Kickstarter page by clicking here.  I don’t mention it because he needs the help.  He’ll get there.  I’m just letting you know because if you have a musical bone in your body, you’re going to want this record.  The other involves two of my favorite people and two-thirds of one of my all-time favorite bands, Maggi Pierce & EJ.  That two-thirds calls itself Hymn For Her but they have taken on alter egos of Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing.  Their Lucy & Wayne & The Amairican Stream is one unique shitkicker of an album.  I guess they want to kick shit again.  Fine by me.  I have complete faith in them.  I have seen them live three times, sports fans, and they kick ass.  You can check out their page here…..  Promoting fundraisers is nothing I want to get involved with, but you have to love the concept.  Give the fans something and let them help fund the record?  Hell, if we had thought of this back in the seventies, there would have been a lot of music today that they didn’t have the money to record back then.  Damn!  I think Notary Sojac owes me ten albums!…..


Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

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DBAWIS ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

4 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: Who’s Making Up the Rules, Marc Cohn at the Aladdin Theater in Portland Oregon, and Whatever the Hell Else I Want To Write About…..”

  1. Have no fear, Frank. What the original music industry fucked up during the course of 50 years, the NEW industry gluttons are about to crash’n’ burn in 10. It took quite a while to destroy the original model because there were so many players, so many variants they all didn’t collapse simultaneously (HMV managed to hang on by its tit straps the longest). However, the streaming sites, the cable companies and the slew of digital control chambers will milk the system so quickly it will implode in a fast and furious implosion just like the Dot Com Crisis did. And we’ll be back to mining for indie product of our own accord – once and for all. Unlike the old days, there now work arounds for indie artist – Amanda Palmer proved it.

  2. Kevin Malley Says:

    Is this the same Frank Gutch that was in the Army at Fort Lewis WA in 1971 that lived in the wood barracks behind the brick billits and wanted to be KING? This is the guy who was going to be in charge of your Air Force because you had one plane.

    • Fort Lewis. Those wooden barracks were a prison. I swore the Army was going to put me in the stockade and tell everyone I deserted. I don’t know about King. I think all I wanted was to be free. Oursiders rarely read my column. Do I owe you money?

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