Thursday, June 25, 2009
The first morning at the Bonnaroo campground was deceptively cool. We were able to sleep past 10 AM, leading us to believe that our improvised canopy would keep the tent cool as the sun punished us over the course of the weekend. This would later prove false, but getting one full night’s sleep early on was essential to our survival.
Thursday is usually a pretty chill day at Bonnaroo, as Centeroo doesn’t open until noon and there’s not much music going on for the rest of the day. However, as soon as we ventured out of our campground, we found ourselves staring a massive rain cloud in the face. The storm caught us out in the open, dumping torrential rain on us for about ten minutes. Even though the storm passed quickly over us, it was enough to dismantle many of the campgrounds around ours, though our shelter stayed put reasonably well, considering the amount of duct tape used to keep it up.
After making the trek to repair the shelter and back to Centeroo, we spent the remainder of the day trudging through mud that would stick around for most of the festival. However, we were able to catch a couple acts here and there, the first of which was MURS, a relatively underground rapper who put on a surprisingly good show for the stylistic simplicity of his music. His stage antics were enough to keep a good-sized crowd under the Other Tent for the full hour of his set, though the consistent rain couldn’t have hurt.
Two hours and a couple slices of Spicy Pie found us back at the Other Tent for the last big act of the night, West-Coast hip-hop duo People Under the Stairs. I was especially excited for PUtS, as I’ve always thought of them as one of the better underground hip-hop acts to find relative prominence in the increasingly muddled rap scene.
Let me just say that I really wanted this to be a good set, for my own enjoyment as well as for the success of PUtS. This was probably the biggest crowd they’ve ever pulled, and it was a huge chance for them. However, about two songs in, it became clear that the larger venue did not suit their style. They came out with about as much energy as a Willie Nelson show, with none of the character. The crowd started to thin about ten minutes in, the two of us included. In a smaller, more private setting, I can see PUtS kicking way more ass, especially if more devoted fans were present. The Bonnaroo crowd simply didn’t stick with them, and their stage presence suffered because of it.
So, the last show of the night was disappointing, but by that time we were both ready to get of the rain and mud and take one last shot at a decent night’s sleep before the festival really kicked into gear on Friday.
Check back for part 3 soon.
Monday, June 22, 2009
As much as I hate to admit it, eastern Colorado is fairly boring. However, it serves a vital purpose on drives like this: preparation for the barren, forgotten wasteland that is the majority of Kansas. Let me preface this by saying that Kansas is a truly, truly terrible piece of America, and that you should probably avoid it at all costs. However, we managed to stave off boredom for a few minutes here and there by pondering the various pieces of rightist propaganda that scatter the highway, featuring such gems as “Pornography Destroys Families” and the ever-classic “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart.” Boredom also lead us to pursue what was billed as the world’s largest prairie dog, among other unsavory bits of perverted nature. The prairie dog turned out to be all-too wooden, but the rattlesnakes, mangy foxes, and six-legged cows turned out to be terrifyingly real. Seriously, the place was surreal; it’s a wonder PETA hasn’t shat on that relic of forgotten Americana.
Interstate 70 eventually brought us headlong into a giant, tornado-spawning thunderstorm that only the Midwest could have produced. The night hours, punctuated by near-continuous lightning, was made infinitely more intense by Nine Inch Nails’ “The Downward Spiral,” our chosen soundtrack for the evening. I wasn’t driving, but hallucinating a tornado from the passenger seat while listening to “Eraser” (a singularly creepy track, even for NIN) was disturbing enough for me.
An uneventful morning preceded an uneventful afternoon, in which we became lost in the mire of St. Louis highway construction, though we somehow found the correct road eventually. By early evening, we found ourselves in Nashville rush-hour traffic, made worse by the woman ahead of us who repeatedly extended her flabby arm in a vain attempt to solicit passing truck horns. Believe it or not, this waving chunk of flesh was actually amusing for a few minutes, likely due to the hours of nothingness we had endured already.
We found ourselves at the Bonnaroo site not long after 8 PM, though a long wait delayed our entrance to the campground, which was unreasonably far from the main venue area. However, our amazingly well-constructed shelter soon brought repose after the long drive, and the knowledge that we had actually made it halfway across the country comforted us in preparation for what would turn out to be a miserable morning the next day.
Part 2 coming soon.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way first. The presiding judge commanded that Jammie Thomas pay the sum of $1.92 million to the RIAA for damages on those 24 "stolen" songs. There's very little I can say here that that sentence doesn't say for itself. Remember that this woman is a single mother of two children living on a very modest income. Consider also that it's likely that her children downloaded the songs. $1.92 million. The fact is that the RIAA knows full well that it won't get that money; Thomas simply has no means of paying it, even if every cent of her income for the rest of her natural life went to the RIAA. Therefore, consider the message that the RIAA is sending here: Do not fuck with the recording industry, or you will be fucked. Painfully.
However, there is much more being implied here. It's important to think about the state of music in today's world, the environment in which this travesty was created. Consider these offhand examples:
Radiohead releases "In Rainbows" through a variable-pricing scheme in which the listener chooses how much to pay.
Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) releases "Ghosts I-IV" independently through a staggered pricing scheme. Months later, Reznor releases another full-length album completely free of charge in a variety of formats.
Girl Talk releases "Feed the Animals" independently, and most listeners receive it for free.
The point is that music, and the technology used to distribute it, is evolving at an unprecedented pace. The music industry is simply failing to keep up. Not only this, but they have actively chosen to turn a blind eye to the obvious path of the industry in favor of a constant struggle for control that they cannot hope to win.
The underlying message of the Jammie Thomas ruling, then, is that the music industry is becoming increasingly and obviously desperate. Last Christmas, record sales were down a staggering 21% from a year before. This simple statistic shows that the industry as it currently exists is failing, dying a slow death brought on by the revelation of freely shared music through the advent of widely-available internet access.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the RIAA seems to be thinking the same thing. With massively popular artists like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and Girl Talk going outside the previously established lines, the industry sees its demise approaching. Unfortunately, it is too late to capitalize on the growth of filesharing technology, so the record labels are left with no choice but to pursue petty copyright cases until it is finally put out of its misery.
So, in light of this, I encourage any readers I have to load the shotgun and fire. Take what you want from the vast pool of freely available music; you're cheating yourself not to. Eventually, this dying industry will be forced to change radically or finally suffocate. It's fucked, and everyone knows it.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
For those who don’t know, Stallworth recently plead guilty to charges of manslaughter for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk. He was clearly at fault, and there is no excuse for what he did; a man is dead because Stallworth made a colossal mistake, one that hundreds make yearly, albeit usually with less serious consequences.
The court system handed Stallworth a 30-day prison sentence, along with two years of house arrest and eight of probation. Undoubtedly, Stallworth got off on the light side; he could have served 15 years in prison, as many others certainly do for the same crime. The presiding judge likely thought that Stallworth’s obvious and apparently heartfelt remorse, along with a private settlement he made to the victim’s family, deserved a certain amount of leniency. In this case, I agree; the man clearly knows what he did wrong, and while I think the judge went a little on the light side, I do not think a 15-year sentence would have been appropriate.
More confusing to me is the second piece of Stallworth’s punishment, an indefinite suspension handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Read again: indefinite suspension. This means that Goodell could change his mind and reinstate Stallworth tomorrow, but it could also mean that he never touches a football again.
Have no doubt, friends: Stallworth’s career will never be the same again. I have my doubts as to whether or not he will ever play again. This places him in the same category as Michael Vick and Pacman Jones, to a lesser extent. Think about Vick’s current situation: he is in house arrest, out of prison, but utterly and completely broke, having filed for chapter 11 weeks ago. Some think that he will find a place in the NFL again, but I have my doubts. I seriously doubt that he will ever be an effective quarterback ever again.
What concerns me about this comparison is the arbitrary nature of Roger Goodell’s decisions. The man has complete disciplinary power in the league, and he has made questionable decisions before. He wants to send a message that resonates with fans, but by being so harsh on Stallworth, he has called his legitimacy into question. Stallworth owned up to his mistake, and while he deserves punishment, Goodell is not the man to hand it down. Vick was suspended after making plea agreements with the courts, and throughout the judiciary process, his ‘remorse’ was little more than regret at being caught. Make no mistake: Michael Vick is a first-class douchebag, or at least was before bankruptcy ruined him. In light of this, it is unfair that the two men receive identical punishments from the league. Personally, I think it’s time that the disciplinary process in the NFL receives an overhaul: one man should not have this kind of power over an entire league of players, especially an inconsistent, unfair individual like Goodell. These issues will continue to arise until the system is fixed, and though plenty of responsibility sits with the players, the message the league attempts to send time and again has lost its value. In the end, I have faith fans will figure out that Goodell is a terrible commissioner, and the sport will begin restoring its once admirable image.
Holy shit, that was a long post. My bad. Music stuff coming soon.