There was a time when musicians, critics and normal folks complained about the profligate greed and dubious taste of the American music industry. This, of course, was back before digital downloads and disillusioned consumers helped reduce major labels to mere shadows of their former selves.
And while the music biz as a whole has yet to reach the impoverishment of, say, Detroit auto workers, it may not be long before popular distrust turns to actual empathy, not least because we're losing the handful of industry folks who were actually able to identify and promote interesting music.
The concert promotion business, on the other hand, appears to be in the opposite situation, at least economically. Ticket sales rose 8 percent to an all-time high between 2006 and 2007. And while some expect gas prices to finally catch up with it, such growth was largely fueled by smaller tours that brought the industry "strength from the bottom up."
But what does unite the recording and concert industries is a phenomenon that might be called the Brazilification of the industry, were it not for the fact that America is rapidly eclipsing that country when it comes to the disparity between upper and lower classes.
Touring bands these days are routinely divided between highly successful, industry-subsidized arena artists and the scruffy road dogs in unreliable vans who can be found after shows scouring the audience for free lodging.
All of which helps explain why this fall's tour calendar appears to be dominated by the Madonnas (Pepsi Center, Denver, Nov. 11-12) and Coldplays (Pepsi Center, Denver, Nov. 21) of the world, as well as hordes of Midwest indie bands you've likely never heard of. Fewer and fewer musicians appear to be occupying the space in between.
Is that an excuse to stay home? Hell, no.
With record sales contributing less than ever to most artists' survival, touring has become musicians' bread and butter. Hey, even drummers deserve to make a living, and audiences can rest assured that, now more than ever, their concert dollars count.
On a more selfish level, it's well known that surrounding yourself with music keeps you alive. (Sure, Keith Richards may look like the living dead, but we all know that he and the cockroaches will one day inherit the earth.) So get out that calendar and start planning your autumn!
Old but (mostly) not in the way
Old but (mostly) not in the way
If you've been in the Springs for any time at all, you know that you don't have to travel far to get your fix of blues, gospel and R&B-influenced music. Take, for instance, New Orleans' most beloved dynasty (sorry, Wynton et al), the Neville Brothers, who will likely have a thing or two to say about both New Orleans and New York when they come to Colorado Springs along with Dr. John (Pikes Peak Center, Sept. 11).
The day after, the rhythms keep rolling with the infectious music of former Dirty Dozen trombonist Big Sam's Funky Nation (Venue 515, Manitou Springs, Sept. 12) while the relatively young Chris Duarte (Crystola Roadhouse, Woodland Park, Sept. 4) and the Grammy-grabbing Chris Thomas King (Jimbo's Take 2, Sept. 12) will also carry the torch.
And for those of you who miss those five-night stints of days gone by, gospel legends the Blind Boys of Alabama will prove they can still do it like no other (Lincoln Center, Fort Collins, Sept. 16-17, 19-21). Likewise, elder statesman Guitar Shorty, who probably doesn't do any more backflips at age 69, can still belt out a mean Texas blues (Thirsty Parrot, Oct. 9).
As for reunions, both Van Halen and A Flock of Seagulls have sadly passed Colorado by, but we will be getting New Kids on the Block (Broomfield Event Center, Broomfield, Nov. 14). Britpop nostalgics can catch a resurrected Supergrass opening for the Foo Fighters (Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Sept. 8-9) or just sit down to the gentler post-punk of Manchester's James (Odgen Theatre, Denver, Sept. 29).
In the "artists that never actually went away" department, there's the unstoppable Motorhead (plus a reunited Misfits, Fillmore Auditorium, Denver, Sept. 6), up-and-coming guitarist Carlos Santana (Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, Englewood, Sept. 13), Fleetwood Mac neurotic Lindsay Buckingham (Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver, Sept. 24), hirsute Texas blooze-rawkers ZZ Top (Pikes Peak Center, Oct. 30), emo godfather Jackson Browne (Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre, Denver, Nov. 1), and Talking Heads frontman David Byrne (Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre, Denver, Oct. 12) singing songs from his new collaboration with Brian Eno,
For the more bleakly inclined, check out the mopey Tim Finn of Split Enz and Crowded House fame (Soiled Dove Underground, Denver, Sept. 5) and the even mopier Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (Ogden Theatre, Denver, Sept. 26). And don't forget the mopiest of them all, Magnetic Fields (Boulder Theater, Boulder, Oct. 15).
Rap on indie
Rap on indie
Is hip-hop the blues of today's generation? The Springs gets this year's second chance to see conscious rap duo People Under the Stairs (Black Sheep, Sept. 20), followed not long after by local hero Black Pegasus (Black Sheep, Sept. 22). Meanwhile, up north, you'll find the silver-grilled Paul Wall (Gothic Theatre, Denver, Sept. 3), the cooler-than-cool Ice Cube (Ogden Theatre, Denver, Sept. 7) and, returning for their fourth Colorado show this year just to celebrate my birthday, the Roots (Fillmore Auditorium, Denver, Oct. 21). Thanks, Ahmir!
As for the blues of white folks (Charley Pride and Leadbelly notwithstanding), country fans will get plenty of chances to shed tears in their beer with Hal Ketchum (Black Sheep, Sept. 27), Mark Chesnutt (Cowboys, Oct. 25) and Tracy Byrd (Cowboys, Nov. 15).
This autumn's indie award, meanwhile, goes to the Monolith Festival (Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Sept. 13-14), two days of groundbreaking music from French electronica duo Justice to Denver's own DeVotchKa, plus Vampire Weekend, Del tha Funky Homosapien, the Kills, Port O'Brien, TV on the Radio, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, and many more.
Closer to home, you'll find Ohio's raspy rockers Two Cow Garage (Triple Nickel, Sept. 13), neo-hardcore survivors Crime in Stereo (Black Sheep, Sept. 17), former House of Pain guy Everlast (Black Sheep, Sept. 18) and Parisian darkwave diehards Electra-Kill (Rocket Room, Nov. 14).
Finally, not necessarily indie, but in a similar spirit, are alt-rock darlings the Dandy Warhols (Gothic Theatre, Englewood, Sept. 27), Iceland's willfully strange Sigur R's (Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Sept. 27), British electronic popsters Stereolab (Gothic Theatre, Englewood, Oct. 14), the South's mighty Kings of Leon (Fillmore Auditorium, Denver, Oct. 23).
There will, of course, be more, so stay tuned for updates and interviews.