The Winnifred Smith Hall at University of California Irvine Jazz Show

was sparsely filled with a mixed crowd: students and other youths were sprinkled throughout the rows, though most of the seats contained more ripened individuals. On the dimly-lit stage sat a formidable relic: a black Steinway and Sons grand piano, played by generations of students and professionals. A sparkling flute sat beside the piano, perched atop the amplifier for a curvy blonde upright bass. A continuous murmur rippled through the crowd, making small waves in the sound barrier. 

The “Whinnie” has held many different types of artistic events, ranging from improv comedy to orchestra performances. Irvine is not typically a city that people associate with music culture, however, on occasion, there are performances by talented individuals that spark up conversation throughout the community. On the evening of February 4th, 2107, the Winnifred Smith Hall was to be filled with the melodically complex sounds of the Nicole Mitchell Ensemble. Nicole Mitchell emerged from the music scene in Chicago in the 90’s, and has been the recipient of many accolades, including the Jazz Journalists Association’s title of “Top Flutist of the Year.” The ensemble playing with her included Mark Dresser on the upright bass, Billy Childs on the piano, and Dwight Trible singing vocals. Dresser is a renowned bass player and composer and is Professor of Music at UCSD. Childs has been regarded as one of the leading composers of his era. He has received four Grammy awards, two for Best Instrumental Composition and two for Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist. Trible uses his vocal abilities to allow audiences to transcend social barriers. He has collaborated with many notable musicians such as Oscar Brown jr., Charles Lloyd, LA Reid, and DJ Rogers. 

As the lights dimmed and the performers walked one by one onto the stage the chatter died down to silent anticipation. The hall was filled with cascading arpeggios after Mitchell cued the ensemble with a quick snap on the beat. Mitchell’s soulful, jazz-inspired playing was interspersed with eclectic passages and personalized touches. She mesmerized the audience by singing in between notes and pausing throughout the performance to direct attention to her fellow musicians. Childs’ fingers were light as a hummingbird’s feathers on the keys of the grand, and the sounds emanating from his instrument strung the ensemble together. His glasses sat atop his head while he alternated between reading the sheet before him and closing his eyes to feel the music around him. Dresser held the rhythm together on his glorious instrument, swinging his arm around to powerfully strum the strings of the bass. In a lithe movement, he would pull out his bow and stroke the strings a few times before slipping it back into its holster to continue with finger-plucking. Trible came into the performance after a few songs, and brought with him his vocal transcendence. His wailing, melodic voice burst into the hall and created a completely different other-worldly vibe.
The performance by these talented musicians seemed to end too soon, a quality that is shared by all pleasing activities. After a bow and a wave, the buzz of voices slowly rose in the hall and the individuals filed out. With a bit of luck, the members of this collective consciousness left with a different mindset than they possessed upon entering. 

Alorion covers “The Weeknd-Starboy” and it sounds awesome!

The guys from Alorion released a cover song of “The Weeknd-Starboy” yesterday. Even though the original track is catchy on its own. Alorion brings that extra kick, heavy riffs and its own style. Check out the video down below for the cover song and follow Alorion on Facebook and check out their website for merch, their latest EP and upcoming shows.

The Gitas release new album, “Beverly Kills”

It was pouring down rain in Los Angeles. The Gitas had their banner posted up on the wall by the door to Redgate Recorder Studios for the release party of their newest album “Beverly Kills”.  I made my way back through the hallway to the stage room. A good handful of people were having drinks and chit chatting while the bass player, Salvador Ramazzini (Sal), was setting up his instruments and microphones. He saw me on the floor and pointed at me; he set down his bass, and came over to greet me. Sal had a fire in his eyes, you could hear it in his voice. He was more than ready for the show tonight. I walked with him over to meet the second half of The Gitas, Sasha Chemerov. Sasha was a bit more solemn than his counterpart. Very focused, and relaxed. He didn’t use many words to communicate but he had the same fire in his eyes that Sal did. The Gitas returned to the stage

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The lights were dimmed and the crowd pushed their way forward. As a projector on the back wall started flashing images of a traditional hindu prayer ceremony. Sasha straps up his guitar, and then gently lights some incense on top of his amp. The ring of a sitar and chimes rises into the air, like the smoke from the incense burner. “Mantra” is the first song to begin the night. A “mantra” is either a sound, or a phrase that is uttered over and over to bring peace to the mind, body, and soul to prepare for meditation. The first song comes to an end. Four symbol crashes introduce the next song, and the crowd loses its shit! Not a single person in that room was standing still. As the Gitas play the energy continued to rise through the entire set. With the vocal range of Sasha and energy in the bass lines by Sal- the room began to levitate. There were no more instruments, no more crowd, only the power in every note, every beat they played. At the end of their last song Sasha played the last note and let it linger in the air. The crowd is screaming, and he lifts his guitar over his head and throws it on the drums, the finale to The Gitas album release show.
For more information and to find The Gitas new album “Beverly Kills” visit: http://www.thegitas.com/

5 Ways to Build Your Scene While Playing a Show

5 Ways to Build Your Scene While Playing a Show

1. Get to the show before the first band goes, load in and support their set. You want them to stick around for yours, right?

2. Load out and get back inside the venue to support the other bands. The scene is only as strong as we make it. If you don’t support each other, why would anyone else?

3. Encourage your fans/friends to stay and watch the other bands with you after your set. The other bands brought people to watch you as well. After all, they paid to get in. Get their money’s worth!

4. Mingle with the other bands, become friends, buy merch from touring acts and help the promoter create the fun environment that people want to be a part of. Support starts from within.

5. Stay until the last band is done with their set. We all have day jobs and have to wake up early. This is Rock n Roll, you have to be able to stay up late.

In closing, if all the bands were at the show from beginning to end, it would keep the other people there to watch more of the bands. We are all working our ways up, and we will all get there faster if we work together. Shed the ego at the door and support the other bands in the scene.

-John Safari

Game Theory and Pay to Play

Game theory is a branch of mathematics concerned with testing behavioral systems in competitive situations where the outcome of a participant’s choice of action depends critically on the actions of other participants. A popular game that tests the efficiency and success rates of different behavioral algorithms is called the public goods game, the scenario is as follows:

“The public goods game is a standard of experimental economics. In the basic game, subjects secretly choose how many of their private tokens to put into a public pot. The tokens in this pot are multiplied by a factor (greater than one and less than the number of players, N) and this “public good” payoff is evenly divided among players. Each subject also keeps the tokens they do not contribute.”

This situation plays itself out daily in myriad situations. In our case as event producers and artists, our dilemma involves cooperating with pay to play for a short term gain that damages the industry as a whole, which is equivalent to holding on to your tokens while others put money in the pot. When played out repeatedly initial cooperation eventually breaks down. As everyone begins to game the system, fewer and fewer tokens make it to the center of the pot and everybody suffers. When you introduce a new element that allows participants to see who is gaming the system and punish them, what tends to happen is a complete correction of the system.

We know which shows are pay to play and which bands are playing them. We know who is producing these shows and what venues are hosting them. We have the necessary information to address cooperation among our peers and pay to play. We have to hold each other accountable and refuse to support elements claiming an anti-corruption ethos while simultaneously cooperating with the very system they claim to be fighting.

The most successful algorithm is not the most severe nor the most forgiving but one that starts off by assuming cooperation with the public goods and punishes selfish behavior but also forgives in subsequent rounds. Since we are limited in our ability to “punish” offenders what we can do is support each other and retract that support when our peers stray from the movement. If we can effectively carry out that behavioral system, we will starve pay to play. Success then depends on participation by as much of the music community as possible.

The beauty of the age that we are living in is that we can test ethical situations and find a way to make cooperating with corruption an unprofitable enterprise. As a final word of warning it is important to note that without an element of punishment, the public goods game almost always unravels completely. If we don’t support each other and withdraw that support when the time comes, we can expect the downward spiral of our movement at worst and its total stagnation at best.

We can ignore whatever may be gained in the short term by keeping focused on a greater victory over a longer course of time. We can overcome the corruption of the industry. We can and we will.

Why You Should Stop Supporting Major Labels

The messages in media, specifically in music aimed at youth are either entirely devoid of meaning or actively destructive to the purpose of creating a better world. We are pumping up preteens with messages that glorify the extravagantly wealthy and reduce women to role of a sexual objects. Since time immemorial the spirit of revolution has been nurtured and cultivated through music. From the hymns of the American slaves to the sounds of bands like Rage Against the Machine. However content is becoming evermore watered down with superficial and empty lyrics. How can we expect music to say something important about the status quo if all popular music is produced by the establishment?

1.Universal, Motown, Interscope, Def Jam

These music labels and others are all assets of parent company Vivendi. They represent about 25% of the market share. Vivendi began a massive sale of its assets as it had overstretched its acquisitions during the CEO term of Jean Messier. In 2002 they were raided under suspicion that they had made misleading claims to sell assets (Enron style). The French monolith also deals in water privatization around the globe. Privatization of utilities began when the free market religion began spreading around the globe. Once the idea that private corporations could do everything better and for cheaper than government, privatization became rampant. However when Vivendi takes over water utilities the cost tends to rise while the quality of service suffers. A scathing report from Puerto Rico cited over 3000 deficiencies in administration, maintenance, and operation. Operating losses went from $241 million to $695 million in just two years. These inefficiencies were of course absorbed by the tax payers in the form of rising costs.

2.Sony Sony controls about 20% of the music market share, as well making electronics.

Sony is so greedy that it violates Chinese labor laws that are themselves insufficient. The working conditions at Sony’s sweatshops are so terrible that workers are often driven to suicide. Overtime is legally limited to 36 hours a month but is routinely in excess of 140 hours.

These workers are forced to work standing up for ten consecutive hours and must complete an action every 3 seconds. Often they get no more than 10 minutes in the middle to use the restroom but because there are many people and few bathrooms they are often forced to forgo basic bodily functions for the duration of their entire shift.

3.Warner

Owned by Leonard Blavatnik through the parent company access industries whose roots are somewhat seedy. Even his friends don’t know what he did to acquire his capital back in Russia. One acquaintance referenced a saying prominent among Russian business men “ Never ask about the first million”.

Currently embroiled in privatization problems, Leonard also made a lot of money moving around Russia’s natural resources, primarily aluminum. Organized crime groups fought with investors both at home and abroad, this period was known as the time of the “aluminum wars”.

A partner in one of Russia’s most environmentally destructive oil companies. He pours money into American political campaigns on behalf of the GOP . His own company has contributed over a million dollars to candidates and has spent over 700,000 lobbying.

The big three labels Universal, Warner, and Sony are collectively owned by companies that steal natural resources, destroy infrastructure in numerous nation-states, and openly uphold a tradition of violating labor laws. These companies don’t deserve our support, this is why local music is so important. We must encourage a culture of musicians who can make a vital and popular living without contracting with the dominant corporations who hold the deed to the musical and creative landscape. Everyone is raised by music. And what we’re raised on matters. Taking back music is taking back youth. We the consumers have the power to foster a music community that inspires people to be better, inspires them to love people instead of money, and speaks about important geopolitical themes. Every time you attend a local show instead of a big concert you are doing just that. Every time you buy merch from a local band you are supporting the spread of music untainted by corporate influence. It’s time that we had a choice to enjoy music and not have to support evil by proxy!

The Magic of Music

The Magic of Music

Music is more than a background accessory to chores and more than an excuse to drink. Music is the symmetry between emotion and expression. Words often fail and fall short, imprecise and clumsy but you can use a song to convey a feeling so much more accurately. Don’t tell a girl you like her tell her she makes you feel like the first time you heard “Amber” by 311. A lot of great movies are often defined by their soundtracks and some of the worlds leading peace activists have been musical artists. Music is a refuge where we can all go and lose ourselves both in tough times and in celebration.

Recognizing the importance of music is vital to the continued existence of music that is intrinsically good and not just marketable. You can make a book a best seller, a movie a blockbuster hit, and a record go platinum by paying the right people. We’re being sold macaroni pictures as Picasso’s simply because money is the motive. Some bands are easier to market or fit into a more accessible economic niche. That’s what they say but in a world full pet psychologists, life coaches, and designer baby carriers how can there not be a market for good music?

So can we blame companies for not driving through neighborhoods listening for unique music hoping that they happen to drive by a garage that produces this generations Doors and Van Halen? Of course not music is a Democracy and if the only ones voting are going to be tweens then all that’s going to be remembered are the Biebers of the world. From the drummers in Napoleon’s armies to the soldiers to the hymns sung at churches music is an inextricable part of our oldest institutions. This isn’t a new music revolution, art is always in a state of perpetual transformation. Music is the forefront of the arts, the most relatable medium of abstract expression. So get out there and enjoy local music. Listen to the artists playing music while waiting tables. You’d be surprised how much soul music can have when it’s not generating millions of dollars for someone and is instead the only medium someone can express themselves in. It doesn’t have to be auto-tune, crappy lyrics written to stir up preteens, and studio magic. In the words of Winston Churchill:

“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

Thanks for reading

-John Safari