Concert at the Cat in the Cream

Tonight I played a show at the Cat in the Cream, a local coffeehouse with excellent cookies that puts on some pretty cool concerts. The show went well, but was thrown together rather haphazardly (I started planning it about four days ago). Here's a photo:

And here's what I learned:

Warming up is really important. I know this, and have known this, but taking 20 minutes before you go on to stretch, warm up your voice, and get the blood flowing makes a huge difference. The first song or two are the most important for concert-long morale, and if you're spending the first 3 minutes of your show marveling at how your voice just isn't doing what it's supposed to, it's not likely you'll regain that later in the show.

Set lists are even more important. And they take a lot of time. For a serious show, the set list should be finished at least a week before the show, if not earlier. As I found with this show (and throwing it together over the last four days), there is real art to creating a good setlist. The infinitely wise Chris Thile spoke earlier this week about the solo tour he did earlier this year, and how he set up his set list to equalize the music he played (which was primarily folk songs and Bach). He wanted people to approach folk music with the same intellectual approach they may take to Bach, and to approach Bach with the same liberty to move and feel things as they do with folk music. He makes a great point about the many associations people bring to concerts. Stuff to think about.

Also the Punch Brothers rock. That deserves a whole different post, but they've been in Oberlin this past week, and they continue to shake me to my musical core. 

Other things learned: Soundchecks - Hella important. There were a number of weird settings going on at the mixing board that we fixed in the soundcheck, and if we didn't fix them, the show would have really sounded much worse. Whew! 

Also, this is a totally lame blog post. You deserve better. Will try harder in future. 

The College Dropout


10 years ago today Kanye's The College Dropout was released. What this album has meant for me in my life can not be easily summarized, but I can say without fear of overstatement that it is one of the most influential, inspirational, and sublime albums I have ever heard. It is with this album that Kanye's solo career began, and with it, as well as its successors, that he has time and time again rewritten the rules of Hip-hop, altering the very musical landscape we all move within. Without this album, I wouldn't make hip-hop the way I do, nor would I approach acoustic, classical, or dance music the same way. It broke precedent for what a hip-hop album could do, using strings (New Workout Plan) or acoustic guitar (All Falls Down) over drums to make a beat, or combining samples of such eclectic and previously-untouched regions of sound that it's a marvel the whole thing sounds so freaking consistent. On top of changing what hip-hop music could be, Kanye changed the very definition of "rapper," being one of the first rappers to also be the beatmaker/composer for an album, taking full aesthetic and artistic control over an end product. As well as not feeling the need once to take on an extremely violent or gangster persona (as is frequent in hip-hop), instead vying for wit and wordplay as the pillars of a confident bravado. The music is some of the most original, intelligent, and downright jammin' that has graced this earth, and it has inspired overwhelming feelings of joy, excitement, and awe over the hundreds of times I have listened to it.

This album changed me, it changed hip-hop, and I like to think it's changed the world. To make an album that even began to compare would be the towering achievement of my life, and the battle between an intimidation at being compared to such excellence and an excitement that such excellence exists plays out often in my mind.

We walk in your shadow, Kanye, and we will for a while longer. We get frustrated that we can’t see where you’re going, and we question why we have to move in the first place. But I so look forward to the day we step out into the light, for when our eyes adjust, and the dust settles, we’ll realize we’re in a place we never could have dreamed existed. 

Thank you for taking us there,