Talkin’ ’bout My Generation

I still think it’s weird when I meet people who were born in the 90’s. I shouldn’t, considering I was born in 1988. That’s practically the nineties, right? It’s only a two-year difference but it feels significant. People born in the mid-nineties missed out on a fantastic decade (well, except for that whole Pogs thing). But lately I’ve been getting the feeling that I missed out on the nineties, too.

I was alive for the whole decade, sure, but the nineties were my childhood years rather than my—how should I put this?—listening-to-dance-music years. I wasn’t going to clubs and playing vinyl, I was going to Little League practice and playing Super Nintendo. My generation came of age in the 2000’s (the aughts? have we agreed on what to call this past decade?). The decade I love belongs to an older group of people. So does the music I love–early nineties house.

I know music doesn’t really “belong” to anyone. Everyone listens to music created before they were born. That’s life. And I shouldn’t feel too bad about missing the nineties. Imagine how Beethoven’s fans feel! The music is still “there,” technically speaking. The 12-inch vinyl pressings are on eBay. Some popular songs made it to CD, a few even float between hard drives as MP3s. I can listen to it whenever I want.

So I guess it’s not the music I missed out on, but rather the “scene” that supported the music. I’ll always have access to the songs. But while the music is still here, the decade is gone. A lot of the people are gone too—they’re not dead, they just aren’t releasing new music. I don’t look forward to new songs in the genre; instead, I just dig deeper into the library and try to find some hidden gems. Listening to nineties house music is a constant ear-tease, if you will, the audio equivalent of watching a Hitchcock movie and knowing the director will never make another film.

In a lot of ways I’m glad I grew up when I did. I honestly can’t imagine having to carry a crate of vinyl to play a set. And I love having the ability to find any song I want within five minutes. There’s so much amazing music being made today that I’m not completely cynical (and I hope this post didn’t come off as such). I hate those “nobody makes good music anymore” misanthropes who complain about the state of modern music. I’m more nostalgic, really, if it’s even possible to be nostalgic for something I never really experienced. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the Chicago scene of 1993 and listen to house music until my ears bleed.

Watch the video below for the kind of stuff I miss (MP3 available underneath). You’ll probably have one of two responses: “This is totally amazing” or “This is totally ridiculous.” I hope it’s the former.

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Uncanny Alliance – Got My Education

I know this next song has been floating around forever, but I’ve gotta post it for the handful of people who still haven’t heard it. Remember that one friend who knew all the words to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song?

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Will Smith – Fresh Prince Of Bel Air (Mustard Pimp Remix)

The List: 20 Awesome Things at Concerts

Despite what many people think, I don’t spend all of my time thinking/reading/talking about music. In fact, one of my favorite websites has nothing to do with music; it’s a blog called 1000 Awesome Things. The site is basically a list of things that the author finds, well, awesome. He started at #1000 and counts down another one every weekday. The list includes things like “finding money you didn’t even know you lost” and “shooing a fly outside without having to kill it.” Many of them are laugh-out-loud-funny. All of them are totally true.

He’s got a few awesome things that have to do with concerts: “the moment at a concert after the lights go out and before the band comes on stage,” “the moment at a concert when the crowd figures out what song they’re playing” and “singing in the car on the way home from the concert.” All awesome, right? Here’s another twenty.

#1 When you get an actual ticket
Not that 8.5×11 piece of paper with a barcode on it that you print out at home. I mean a real ticket. Something with a cool design that you can put on your bulletin board or use as a bookmark.

#2 Opening bands that don’t suck.
I knew there was a reason I came two hours early to this thing. Extra points if you’ve never even heard of the openers before.

#3 The crowd chanting in unison.
It doesn’t matter what they’re saying. Chanting rules. The only thing better than chanting is….

#4 When the band stops playing and the whole crowd sings that part anyway
We all know the words. Everybody let it out.

#5 Recognizing your favorite song from the first note
Wow. I’ve listened to that track way too many times.

#6 When you’re all the way at the front and someone from the stage pours cold water in your mouth
I was about to go spend $6 and lose my spot at the front. Thanks, guy on stage!

#7 When the corwdsurfer goes right over you
If you’ve ever had someone land on your head and give you a mini-concussion then you can really appreciate a near-miss.

#8 Bumping into people you’re sorta friends with and realizing you like the same music and should hang out more
You love these guys, too? You were at that other concert a month ago? …so what are you doing after the show? (By the way, it’s totally fair game to judge people on what they listen to.)

#9 That part in between the main set and the encore when everyone knows what’s coming but the band is just killing time backstage
Time for more chanting?

#10 Cover songs
Hit or miss, really. But when they hit…awesome!

#11 When you see your friend all the way across the venue and think you’ll never make it over there but then finally do
Like a mini-version of The Odyssey, but with a better soundtrack. Warning: making the journey and realizing your “friend” is actually just a t-shirt on top of a garbage can is incredibly un-awesome.

#12 When the DJ samples something you recognize

It’s usually a rap song from three years ago you didn’t even like, but for some reason it sounds awesome right now.

#13 Seeing that annoying kid get thrown out

#14 When the band refers to the city you’re in by name
Sure, he gives the same speech at every tour stop. But it still feels special.

#15 Seeing a video or listening to an mp3 of the concert you were at
It’s the closest you’ll ever get to experiencing that night again. People who weren’t there think it’s just another low-quality recording. They missed out.

#16 Getting on stage
Even better: narrowly avoiding the fat security guard and jumping back into the crowd.

#17 Epic openings
It builds and builds and builds until….awesome!

#18 Really good acoustics
How did the sound engineers make this abandoned pretzel factory sounds so good?

#19 When the performers are dressed up
Cool t-shirts, masks or costumes…the whole thing is just a lot more fun.

#20 Finally making it home and changing out of those clothes
It’ll take three wash cycles to get rid of that concert-sweat-and-cigarette smell.

If you’re looking for a song to use for an epic opening (see #17), try either of the two below. They both follow the same format: a non-dance song that slowly builds and then drops into a very heavy beat. These songs are actually so “epic” that I’ve had them backfire at a couple of gigs. They build for so long that sometimes the crowd gets annoyed and adopts a just-play-some-dance-music-already attitude. Other times I’ve opened with these and the whole place went nuts. Good luck, and have something loaded on the other deck just in case you need to do a quick emergency crossfade.

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Larry Tee – Carmina Burana vs. I Love U (Bart B. More Remix)

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Mustard Pimp – Gold!

Mixtapes, Radio, and Elevator Music

Living in the digital age makes it difficult to find an excuse to listen to the radio. Radio used to find its allure, among other things, in the fact that it was almost entirely free, but since computers in the music industry have managed to soil the reputation of the word free to a point where the holy choir that used to sing at the very mention of the word has been all but replaced by that trombone-wah wah-how unfortunate sound, digital has taught the world to associate free with mediocrity, and has hence significantly deflated impact of radio.

Instead of listening to radio, we’ve all moved on to mix tapes. You know how it goes. You discover an artist you quite enjoy, and so you run a Google search and track down his or her Radio 1 Essential Mix and presto, you find yourself smack in the middle of a set to remember. Don’t like a tune? Not to worry; The track listing is posted. Find a track you want to listen to and skip right to it. Right?

(Sidenote: Is anyone else sick of the word “track”? Who wants to come up with a better word to use that doesn’t so forcefully imply that a song has been stripped of all its soul in order to comply with the guidelines of mixability?)

See, this is where the sweet sentiment of old time radio perks its head up like a dog in a purse; Track listings and the freedom to cycle through mixes as one chooses–they’re almost a curse, or at the very least, a blessing that most of us aren’t strong enough to handle. Because what are we really going to do when that mix falls into our hands? We’re going to judge it by it’s cover. We’re going to listen to the tracks that have intriguing names, and the ones that are catchy within the first five or ten seconds. We’re going to skip through to the middle of most of the tunes “looking for the good parts,” and even worse, we’re going to skip some titles altogether, for no reason at all. Even worse, when we happen to find a mix that we’re particularly fond of, it’ll make its way into our daily rotation to be listened to over and over again, at the expense of the discovery of new music. Digital mix tapes give us more control over our ears than we were ever meant to have, and in most cases, we don’t have the restraint to keep ourselves from using it.

I miss the radio. I miss being forced to listen to songs (hand picked by DJ’s who are paid to cater to my taste 24 hours a day) in their entirety, even when they veritably oppose the mood I’m in, because it’s unpredictability lies at the root of creativity, and unpredictability is one thing I’ve never been able to pull from a prerecorded mix.

So here’s the thing. Thinking about these ideas the other night prompted me to take a turn away from my regular playlists and to dive into one of the many online radio stations that I’ve long known about, but never actually made an effort to listen to. Scrolling through the electronica section (Does anyone else cringe at the fact that so much good music is continually forced to bear the title “electronica?”) I spotted a station that looked interesting, and proceeded to lock in for the evening. Long story short: Best choice ever.

Not only did the radio open my eyes to a wealth of tunage that would otherwise have zoomed over my head and gone unnoticed, it also reunited me with the childlike excitement that comes from listening for a first time to that occasional masterpiece that tickles your groove box just a little bit better than all the rest. I heard a track I’d never heard before, and the wait for the DJ to speak its name was an almost unbearable eternity. He did eventually reveal the artist’s identity, but it didn’t do much to alleviate the tension: Google was quick to explain that the track in question had yet to be released, and that I still had exactly one month to go before I’d be able to hear it again.

Fabric Presents Elevator Music, Volume 1

Long story short, that one month was up two days ago, and the track is every bit as good as I remember. It was released (among a slew of other extravagantly simple tunes) by Fabric (you know, that London club that’s behind the “Fabric Live” phenomenon) on a compilation entitled Elevator Music Volume 1 (which is ironic, considering the whole reason I discovered the tune was in my attempt to avoid compilations) but hey, sacrifices will be made for that which makes one’s blood boil.

So here we go. Song of the hour:

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Untold – Bad Girls

If you dig it, the rest of the compilation is highly recommended. You can rest assured, it’s both sarcastically and aptly titled.

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Martyn – Friedrichstrasse


Remember two weeks ago when we brought to the east coast and you guys all came out and partied with us? Great news: we’re doing it again!

It’s all going down this Saturday, January 16th from 10pm-4am at a bar called Royale (157 Ave. C. between 9th and 10th St.)

That’s right, a six-hour set by Uh Oh Disco’s Nick DiLallo. Excited yet? It get’s better– there’s no cover charge. Cha-ching! I can’t wait to see everyone there. Feel free to come up and say hello.

Royale Flyer

(Special thanks to Joey Sabani for the flyer design!)

No doubt the bar is gonna be crowded. If you’ve been to Royale on a Saturday night before, then you know how it fills up. So rally the troops and come on out! This party’s going to explode.

It’s 21+, so tell the young’uns to go see Avatar instead.

Wear your best outfit; and you just might find your photo posted here.

And don’t forget to RSVP to the facebook event and invite as many people as you can.

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Armand Van Helden – Funk Phenomena 2010 (Starkillers 2010 Remix)

Vive le Conan!

At a time in the world where unemployment is the highest it’s been in years, electro music is being fed to meatheads as though it were a newly discovered substitute for muscle milk, and 60% of adults in Swaziland have AIDS, the last thing we need is to be stripped of our beloved Conan O’Brien.

NBC, we know you’re hurting, but to force Conan out of a spot that you teased him with for six full years and that he’s only held for 7 months, is nothing short of a crime. Not only are you destroying the integrity of the Tonight Show, but you’re simultaneously showing your preferential affinity for Jay Leno (a man who’s time in the spotlight could hardly be considered short) and his generically generated ratings, by thrice forcing poor Co Co to follow a show that, frankly, isn’t even that good.


Don’t take Conan for granted. He’s the guy who never went Hollywood. He’s the guy that will smile and wave when you see him on the street instead of hiding behind his coat collar and a pair of sunglasses. He’s the guy that brought his own personality to TV and let a young generation of people who appreciate his humor become his fanbase, rather than simply adapting to the adults 50+ demographic that makes up the plurality of TV viewers, and at the same time, he’s also the guy that would be too humble to ever admit it.

If this is goodbye to the man who can make me laugh amid even the deepest despair, then NBC, you’ve successful submerged yourself in the pool of fallen enterprises and have become indistinguishable from the rest of the broken corporations out there who simply cannot fathom the value of art.

Conan, on the off chance that you’re an Uh Oh Disco fan and are reading this, I salute you, and Andy, and Max, and La Bamba, and that hilarious back stage guy that randomly show up in your skits, and everyone else that helped define my childhood. You’re the man. And I swear, there will be a point in my life where I will walk into a barber shop (in slow motion, I might add) with a picture of your face in hand.

Music in Two Dimensions

Here’s a game I used to play in college when my friends and I were killing time before class. All it takes is a piece of paper, a writing utensil and some imagination.

Start with a topic everyone is familiar with (let’s do actresses). Now draw two intersecting axes and pick different adjectives that apply to that topic (say, acting ability and sex appeal). The finished product is a bastardized Cartesian plane that let’s you describe the topic using two different qualitative variables (is this getting too math-y yet?). Now here comes the fun part: start plotting points. You’ll get something like this:

Actresses Axes

Don’t agree with the graphic above? Of course you don’t. That’s the whole point of the game. Get prepared to spend hours arguing. Switch around the topic and adjectives until you run out of ideas. Some topics that have worked well for me include fast food restaurants, movies we’ve all seen—especially Disney movies—and (everyone’s favorite) the opposite sex. You can also try expanding this game into the third dimension (it gets very hard to draw) or even an arbitrary n-space (virtually impossible).

It’s fun to think about music this way, too. Imagine you’re trying to describe the sound of the Bloody Beetroots to a deaf person. What would you say? It’s hard to accurately describe music with words. And it’s impossible to do so using the method I explained above. Still, if I had to put the Italian duo’s sound on a made-up coordinate system, I think I’d draw something like this:

Sound Axes

These guys perfectly straddle the line between music and noise. I don’t mean that as an insult or a compliment, just an observation on their style. Someone actually once said to me “Is your computer skipping, or is the song supposed to sound like that?”

Below is a song from their recently-released Christmas Vendetta EP. It’s a perfect case study. The first seventeen seconds are just distorted guitar whining noises. The song itself is heavy, screechy and repetitive. You can tell Bob Rifo grew up listening to a lot of hardcore punk music. I think it sounds fantastic, but I can totally see why someone else might think it sounds like a broken computer. Love it or hate it, I definitely wouldn’t recommend listening to it after a night of heavy drinking.

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All Leather – Mystery Meat (The Bloody Beetroots Remix)