April turned out to be a rough month. Much of it I missed being sick the last 2 weeks. The best concert of the month was not what I expected. I’d been looking forward to seeing Rina Sawayama for 2 years. I loved her album and expected a rock show. When the show came near the end of the month I was disappointed to see that Sawayama wanted to go more Dua Lipa than Joan Jett. She had dancers and a slimmed-down band. She also stopped multiple times during the first 2 songs because of audience members needing medical attention. The stage chat was about old boyfriends and empowerment.
The show that blew me away was one I was expecting the exact opposite. FEMMUSIC has been featuring Sasami’s videos from Squeeze. Based on the videos I was expecting a melodic experimental set. The night opened with a 3 piece woman punk band from NYC. They were listed as punk but were closer to thrash metal.
Sasami came on with her bassist and drummer in monk’s robes that when disrobed revealed 2 large men wearing kilts. The set was fierce and tight. In 45 minutes Sasami was literally in my face throwing punches and even running the guitar cord into the crowd. The biggest disappointment was that she had no encore. Sasami is alt-rock with a fine edge. Add some covers and more originals so it can be a tight 90-minute set. Sasami made me a fan and should look at metal fests next. If Warped Tour were still around she would be perfect on it.
March was a very busy month and April is even busier. We saw artists from Dodie to Spirit of the Beehive. A show that stuck out was RIKI opening for Choir Boy. RIKI’s latest album is Gold on Dias Records. At the show, a friend said, “I was listening to her music and assumed it was the latest from a German retro artist.” RIKI is an LA artist. What struck us most about the show was how disciplined RIKI is. She has her own complex choreography for every song, and while performing she doesn’t crack a smile. It is only when she cues the synth that she has a moment to thank the audience. Her movements are mesmerizing and seductive.
As we dive into April it is GRAMMY time. It is also the full start of summer tours. We’re bringing in new people and will be covering more shows this summer.
Welcome to March! Welcome to Women’s History Month! March everything is in high gear. Festivals like SXSW and Treefort are happening. New music is coming out by the bucket. Shows went from nothing to everything in a day. Now begins the annual cycle of March to November of touring artists. Take that omicron!!
In February I saw 8 shows. I’d only expected to see 6 but I was offered a few more. I have one later today, even as I write this. The show that sticks out is Dessa. Dessa is a wonder. She is a singer-songwriter, rapper, producer, author. She has given Ted talks and performed with an orchestra. FEMMUSIC interviewed her last year near this time.
Seeing Dessa live is an electric experience. The show was nearly sold out and the people next to the stage knew every lyric to every song. Dessa is personable and honest. Watching the show the words that came to mind were “Humor” and “Grace.” Many artists have the former. Few have the latter. Near the end of the set, Dessa recited a poem called “How to Stage Dive.” The poem is less about stage diving and more an etiquette guide to any touring band. The poem needs to be enshrined and given to any artist planning on going on the road. To our relief, it was recorded. Watch it as many times as you need to know how to be kind on the road.
At the end of Dessa’s set she did something I’d only seen once before. She pulled an inhaler from her jacket and had some puffs in-between two songs. The last person I saw do that was Lily Rose in-between heavy puffs from a cigarette. Dessa will live much longer.
Grab the energy drink. Grab the beer. Grab the whiskey.
First to new music. There was a time when you could turn on the radio and listen to “Top 40.” Although not all of the “Top 40” was new music that week, a large percentage was as the labels were trying for placement of their artists. These days you can turn on satellite radio and select what music you want to listen to. You can set up your playlist on your streaming service, and maybe listen to recommendations. Maybe. We are as a species resistant to change. It is easier to be nostalgic for the music we grew up with than venturing into the great unknown. The only problem is emerging gigging musicians make new music and need a way to survive. If they can’t make music that gets played, they will find a day job and move on. I would hate to think we’re the generation killing new music.
Next, the Spotify mess. I hold no love for Joe Rogan or anyone else who makes a living on lies and bravado. I think Neil Young & Joni Mitchell are leaving Spotify for the wrong reason. Let Spotify program whatever content they wish, as long as they pay a reasonable rate. Spotify paid $100 million for Joe Rogan. Did they pay the same for any musician? Why not? The biggest complaint I hear is streaming services aren’t paying musicians. I agree. It is a Silicon Valley model that doesn’t favor the content provider.
A friend suggested I use the editorial as a “Gig of the month” area. In January I saw 6 shows. They ranged from indie rock, folk to hyperpop. There were few national shows due to omicron. I caught a local act that looked like a work in progress. The lead singer was aiming for Amy Lee and had the pipes to get there. Her band was a range of egos. They didn’t play as a band but as 5 individuals. It was hard to tell originals from covers and the lead singer wasn’t the bandleader. I’ve seen worse trainwrecks but this still had injuries. The lesson to be learned is band communication. If you can communicate without saying a word it helps. A band is not a democracy. If your name is on the billboard and you’re not the bandleader, you better trust the person who is will have your best interests at heart. If not, they can be a bigger diva than you in your own band.
I write this as 2021 quickly comes to a close. The new word is omicron. The question is will it shut everything down again. Same problem. Different year. As we head into our 3rd year of the pandemic it feels depressing to come back to the same ground. We don’t know what new rules will stop us from going out… if we can go out.
The good news is music is back. The bad news is it may be delayed. NYC Jazzfest and Folk Alliance are just some of the events being rescheduled for the next wave. It still looks like SXSW, Treefort and others are still in person but we wait anxiously for any news.
During last month’s Best Of I found myself in a heated e-mail exchange. It was about the categories I missed. The Blues, Folk, and others that went by the wayside. I grew up on folk and acoustic so it was surprising to me that I didn’t have a category for it. I also have known many a blues player. That said, I can remember long before FEMMUSIC existed talking to someone about the sales figures for jazz and blues compared to the rest of the industry. I also have noticed that the Grammys have become repetitive in winners in the Blues. Shemeika Copeland should have a bookcase full of Grammys now.
That brings up legacy artists. When I started FEMMUSIC I wanted to interview the big names but I was too small to do it. I did interview a number of them over time but still missed Tori Amos, Sheryl Crow, and many more. These days I’m more interested in “who’s next?” It is my pleasure to find an artist no one has heard of who changes my perception of music. I want to look to the future…not be bound to the past. Legacy artists are beginning to stop touring and are selling their catalogs. New artists are just making theirs. I also want to stop being repetitive. Consider it a resolution.
In the past few months announcements have been coming in from SXSW, Folk Alliance, Treefort, and others. Music is on for 2022. This weekend I was eyeing getting a ticket for June of 2022. As we wind down 2021 and continue to fight COVID, live music is back from Australia to LA. 2021 was an amazing year for music. There were more releases than ever before of good music. Now we need to see it on tour.
Last year we missed doing an end-of-year Best Of issue. There was too much going on. There is still too much going on, but there are a lot of BEST’s this year. Last year we also missed Melbourne Music Week. This year it is a month later with an incredible line-up. We also have been bombarded with Holiday music and expect to be for the next few weeks.
Welcome to the end of 2021 and the end is near. Doses of vaccines are being approved for children. Australia is opening up. Minus the continued death toll it would seem like normal.
Apologies for the late issue. The end of October was a whirlwind and the end of November looks the same. I look at my “to do” list and it is killing me. As I’m receiving Christmas songs, I’m thinking about the Best of 2021 issue, Melbourne Music Week, and more all to do be done in a few weeks. I’m stressed.
Welcome this month the return of Lindsey Whitehead. She used to shoot for us in Denver. She will now be shooting in San Diego. We are looking for photographers and writers. Please e-mail me if interested.
I’d like to relax and catch up on sleep but that will be a while.
This week I went to 2 networking events. Prior to COVID, I loved networking. It was a place to meet new friends and contacts. During COVID I tried to adapt to Zoom networking and didn’t find it the same. It was harder. You could share more direct info but never knew if you were making a connection. This time I felt like I was getting on the bicycle again. The pedals were new and stiff. The first night I saw many old friends, which was wonderful. It was more of a reunion than networking. The 2nd night was harder. I knew some people but had to find a way to barge into conversations to find out who was there. Both nights were scary and wonderful at the same time.
Welcome to October. The scary part of the month is that everything is busy. As we begin the journey into the cold months my schedule looks busier and busier. There are still festivals to be had and booking is crazy busy. Normally as it gets darker, earlier shows begin to slow down leading to a lull in December and January. Not this year. This year everything is busy. In many ways, the concert season is 2021-2022. I’m not sure what the new normal will be, and when we will see it.
In September I had one week where COVID reared its head to many friends. Some needed testing. Others had a family member who caught it. It was a dark rough time. Now I’m hoping for good news this month. My mother turns 80 this month. She is a role model. She is often busier than I am. It is a family tradition to be busy and have your hands in many things.
I’m raising a glass to everyone who is touring now. It is harder but so good to see you live. It’s been too long.
Welcome to September which feels a lot like July. Instead of the summer winding down things are heating up.
This past weekend I was at a 3-day outdoor music festival but the music was only part of the reason. It was more a chance to catch up with friends I haven’t seen since COVID began. It was a reunion. Some people were standoffish. Keeping a few feet away while talking and fist-bumping, or elbow-bumping. Many others were ready for the full long overdue hug. The question was “How are you doing?” which could be read many ways – “Thank God you’re still around”, “Did you/Do you have it?”, “Are you safe?” There is a desire for everything to be normal, and a fear that it is not. There were many masked faces and hand cleanser dispensers. There was also a lot of music, smiles, and a sense that we aren’t done yet. Now we wait to hear if there were any infections from the music fest (there have been from others). This coming weekend I have more multiple-day music events.
While I was at the music fest I texted a friend of mine. He was unable to make it. He was waiting for the results of a COVID test after a possible exposure. He was someone I’d been looking forward to seeing. There will be more reunions.
July has come and gone quicker than I expected. It’s a Friday night and I received nearly 60 new videos and songs today. It is new music Friday when music drops worldwide. To get a glimpse at my schedule, new music Friday normally begins for me at 10pm MST on Thursday. That is when new videos drop at Midnight EST. If I’m lucky I’ll see something good and have a lead on it for a few hours. I’m normally up by 5:30 to prep for 7am MST which is 9am EST when the next big batch hits. Around 10 or 11 MST I’ll start to get any West Coast releases. I usually try to keep a list of what is upcoming so I can prepare for it. The list is 24 pages long and growing. Normally by 5pm MST I’m slowing down posting.
August is Underground Music Showcase (UMS) a local music festival over 3 days. It normally happens in July but because of COVID has been pushed back. It is a 3 day festival with national and local acts. This year it will also be a reunion of friends I haven’t seen since COVID began. We’ll see if Delta has us masked during it.
The year is quickly coming to a close. This year the cycle is different. Normally I’d expect things to slow down for December & January. This year we’re still catching up with delayed tours so there will be no break. We’re all in overdrive. Welcome to the summer and the year of music which stretches from 2021 to 2023.
Alix Dobkin died recently and I was surprised by the lack of coverage. Dobkin was a singer-songwriter and feminist activist. She pre-dates Ani DiFranco and came from that generation born during World War II. According to Wikipedia she was the first American lesbian to do an European tour. As we jump into pride month I think it more than appropriate to remember her.
It is a rainy Memorial Day weekend and I’m looking at my “to do” list. In May we started the “Arts Lead Sheet” and the response has been good. It also feels good to me to be able to give you resources that can help. As we dive into a non-pandemic summer the shows begin to multiply. You may have also noticed we have new live show photos. My antsy photographers are more than glad to be shooting again.
On Friday I was speaking with a new friend in Melbourne about the latest lockdown. It is a reminder that, although live music is back, everything can still change in an instant. Welcome back to summer.
May 1 is officially two weeks after my 2nd vaccine shot so my immunity is built up. I have shows on my calendar to see live again. I feel like Rip Van Winkle waking up from 100 year nap to explore the world again. I hope things are improving where you are. May is the start of summer festival season. As you’ve already seen FEMMUSIC is previewing a lot more events. The good news is there are more events to preview. We’re also sending our photographers out and hope to have more photos soon. We’re back and hope to bring more and more and more.
The vaccine is what makes returning to normal or semi-normal possible. If you haven’t had a shot, get one. Make sure you get both doses for the vaccines that require it.
It’s April. It’s Spring. We’re heading towards 25% of 2021 being done and there are signs of re-opening. SXSW had its first online festival and we’re looking forward to Canadian Music Week doing the same. I’m hearing of national shows coming in October, or earlier where you are. The question is now Festivals. This month we restarted our Festival of the Month area with a big disclaimer: FEMMUSIC is returning to having a Festival of the Month. Currently, we are only listing festivals that are actively selling tickets or are only online. Yesterday I was talking with some photographers and we’re curious to see what rules will exist to shoot live shows when things re-open. Will there be limits on the number of photographers? Will it squeeze out small outfits? There are still many unknowns as we move forward. The good news is we’re moving forward.
If you know me then you know FEMMUSIC is not my only gig. Since before FEMMUSIC started I’ve been involved in the local scene and a local non-profit called The Colorado Music Business Organization. COMBO for short. During Covid COMBO has taken up a lot more of my time. COMBO works to inform and educate Colorado musicians on the business side of the biz. It has been around for 20 years. In 2020 I rejoined the Board of Directors as Secretary. I also work on helping program general meetings. It is unpaid work that benefits the community. I take great pride in it. Post-Covid the local community will come back and we need organizations like COMBO to figure out what the new normal is.
Welcome to Women’s History Month. For FEMMUSIC, it is just another month. February flew by so quickly I felt like I was constantly trying to catch up. Now the marathon begins. SXSW starts in 2 weeks. You will find some SXSW artists featured this month as we work towards our annual preview. Canadian Music Week is not far behind.
In February Facebook banned News in Australia. I was reading how “news” included music festivals and other sites. It made me ask the question, “Is FEMMUSIC news?” If Facebook wanted to do the same thing, would FEMMUSIC go? It is a strange twist to see a private company ban a country. Normally it is the other way around. China banned BBC. Trump tried to ban TikTok. Where and when will it stop?
This month should be insane. I’m spending the last days of February trying to catch up because everything moves faster now.
The vaccine is out. Numerous ones from England to China. People are getting vaccinated. 2021 may be the end of COVID-19. Except for:
1. Rapidly spreading variants
2. Supply issues with the vaccine
3. Too many people getting sick and dying everyday
February is Black History Month. It is a month to honor leaders who have made a difference. I heard this morning that the Black Lives Matter organization may be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. It is great to hear, but like so many other nominees, we are still waiting for peace. The demonstrations of last summer still pound in our ears. The promised changes have become minutia to COVID-19. The problems remain unanswered.
Late last week I received a concert notice from a major promotions company. It promised a live show at a large local venue in April….2022. This week the first artists were announced for SXSW 2021. I will be scouring them soon. SXSW 2021 is virtual this year. For every ray of sunshine I see, there are as many clouds. 2021 will be the year of change.
We made it to 2021! We have a vaccine. Now we only need to vaccinate 7.60 billion people for our life to be back to normal. The sooner the better.
2021 is shaping up to be a big year in music. 2020 was gigantic with quarantine albums across the spectrum. 2021 will be a big launch year for the big labels and the big name artists. I expect to see the usual flood of releases before and after SXSW (Virtual) 2021 in March. We also have the Grammy awards in January.
The question we’re all waiting for is when will touring return? Touring could start tomorrow if people were vaccinated and people would come. Both are hard questions. We’re all hoping summer of 2021 will be filled with tours and festivals. We’re all wanting 2020 to be a bad dream. We’re ready to wake up now.
Here’s raising a glass to see 2020 gone and a new year begin.
In 2019 I saw 172 shows. I came home late and woke up early and every night was an adventure. I was working with 5 photographers and working on getting them access every day. Before COVID hit I’d seen over 30 shows for 2020 and was eyeing some great shows to come. Then the world stopped.
2020 is not the year the music died. It is something else. This year I’ve listened to more music than ever before but lost the live element. The streaming world has come in and I’m watching pre-recorded, or pre-staged shows. There isn’t as much stage chat and you feel a gap of the interactiveness of a live show. I miss the clubs. I miss the obnoxious drunk singing in my ear. I miss the overzealous teens rushing to the front of the stage. I miss the sweaty insanity of a sold out night. I miss the chance to talk to the band live and buy merch. I miss that moment when you exit a hot club to a chilly outdoors.
I feel Zoomed out. I miss seeing my friends in the club. There is a magic to live music. You see both the good and the bad. Some of the best nights have had improvs and mistakes that make it human.
2021 is the hope of live music…eventually. Will bands tour? Will fans come out? Will live venues survive to have them?
My December issue is always my best of the year. I judge a lot by live performance. You can do anything in a studio. What you can do live changes it. This year it feels like a virtual extravaganza. I have more music to choose from but less of the soul of seeing it live.
Happy holidays and let 2021 be the year it comes back better than ever.
Normally when I start a new issue I’ve been building up all month and have notes and leads to follow. Not this month. I feel more like I’ve survived a storm and am holding on to debris as I sort everything out. Sadly the storm hasn’t passed. Today is Halloween. I look forward to Halloween and watch scary movies. I’ll do that tonight after the work is done.
November is coming down to the first week. Forget Thanksgiving. Forget Veterans Day. In the US, Election Day(s) have been fought over for years now. I’m a Politico. I read multiple news sources when I wake up. I follow city races. I follow state races. I follow national races. In October I’ve seen multiple platforms dive into the election. FEMMUSIC is not a political site so I haven’t saturated you with my opinions nor made every post a political message. That is not to say that we don’t have themes that reverberate in FEMMUSIC. FEMMUSIC by its nature is about equality. FEMMUSIC is not about white men, nor white women. It is about music and trying to shine a spotlight on voices you may not have heard. Music is not a neutral platform. Music is a megaphone to the world of our views, our heartbreaks, our values…whether you dance to it or not. FEMMUSIC will always let the music play.
The Terror this November is the paranoia, fear, anger, sorrow that has made us all lesser beings. We have been bombarded from morning to night with messaging, ads, txts, calls, saying that the world will end if you choose the wrong candidate. We’ve been bottled up and subjected to this for months. We’ve been living in our own echo chambers. We worry about whether we will sing “Hallelujah” or “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” when it ends. I’m an optimist. I believe the sun will come up on November 4, and 5th. The planet won’t fall off its axis and leave us spinning into the unknown. The world will survive and so will we. The music will play.
Take a deep breath. Exhale slowly. Repeat. One day this will be a memory.
Is there sunlight? Is it day? It is night? The days have blurred together so much it is hard to tell what month it is. All we know is it is still 2020 and things are still bad. Last week SXSW announced 2021 would be virtual. Last year when they cancelled the world stopped. Now it is one more festival to watch on a monitor instead of in person.
The title of this month’s Letter comes from an interview I saw with Phoebe Bridgers. Artists live to express themselves and without the energy of an audience it is all static. When your ego is based on that feedback, you are unsure of yourself in this time. The clichés of WWII perseverance have grown old as well live behind closed doors. Sadly all the forecasts I see say no live music until 2021. Keep writing. Keep producing. As the winter comes the days will be shorter and the nights longer. Use the dark to your advantage. Your ego is as much who are you, as what you do.
I’m still eyeing some online festivals for the end of the year and the music keeps coming.
In March the term “Zoomed Out” meant nothing. In September it is more than a buzzword. In a normal week I’m catching 2-3 webinars about our industry. These focus on the big questions of music festivals and venues, to the important questions of generating revenue by streams alone. I watch Indie Week, Mondo, Music Cities Together and continue to search for more. It keeps me plugged in to where we are worldwide and if/when we can see each other at shows again. On top of that I’m trying to catch the music festivals that are streaming, or FB Live shows. Many days it feels like I never leave my computer.
In our brave new world I feel like I’m getting an education on a world we are still discovering. It is filled with more questions than answers. The vast majority have the answer – next year. Maybe. Possibly. The music keeps flowing and expanding as my inbox is filled daily. What happens next is the question we all want to know.