Britney in Grand Forks

Britney Spears Montreal Concert - Smiling Britney uploaded on May 5, 2009 by Anirudh Koul
Last Saturday night Casey and I attended the Britney Spears Circus tour at its stop in Grand Forks. It was quite the experience, and easily one of the city’s biggest events of the year. I’m glad we were able to see Britney once, but I don’t think I’d go again if she came back to town in the future.

As the countdown hit zero and the giant video screens wrapping the center stage lit-up, it was clear what we were about to see: Not a concert, but a show. And looking at it from that perspective, it was pretty good. It was a spectacle in every way, with its dancers, circus performers, the audio/visual experience, and, of course Britney herself. In many ways, it reminded us of the Cirque du Soeil Delirium show we in Grand Forks three years ago, though not nearly as ambitious.

And though Britney’s music was always playing, it wasn’t the focus of the show – it was the backdrop that drove the her and the other performers. In contrast, we saw Green Day in concert just two months ago, where the band’s music was front and center for two straight hours.

So, I think that sums-up the Britney Spears Circus experience:  It’s not really a concert, but a good – not great – music show. I don’t think the performances would ever stand-up on their own, but then again, I don’t think anyone is expecting them to. The event is all about Britney, and everyone knows it.

Come in with those expectations, and when the lights come up at the end, I think you’ll walk away satisfied with the show.

Green Day Live in Fargo

This year’s Father’s Day gift from Casey and the boys was two tickets to see Green Day (one of my all-time favorite punk rock bands) live in Fargo. The concert was last Friday (July 10th), and they put on a great show.

I became a fan of Green Day as a teenager with the release of Dookie, the band’s major label debut, but really fell in love with the band after they released American Idiot in 2004. That album, along with their latest effort, 21st Century Breakdown, rank among my all-time favorites.

Needless to say, Green Day puts on an amazing live show. They played loud and long – over two hours of music ranging from their newest record back to the pre-Dookie classics. Billy Joe did a pretty good job of energizing the crowd and keeping them engaged. A few lucky fans even got to sing vocals on Longview, while one Grand Forks teen got a chance to play lead guitar on Jesus of Suburbia.

Green Day is one of those band you’d expect would simply fade away after a few years of hits. Instead, in the second decade since their mainstream debut, their music is even better than their original material. It’s a testiment to great song writing and a willingness to evolve and take risks, such as creating rock operas and a musical.

For Your Enjoyment: An Original Song From Kael

Kael, our three year old, loves his music. He’s been known to play drums on almost anything that makes noise, and likes to strap the Guitar Hero plastic guitar on and play around the house.

Well yesterday I took the day off for some much needed family time, and we made a trip into Grand Forks so the boys could play at the mall and burn off some winter energy. On the way home, Kael improvised an original song, which he sung for us a couple of times. I managed to capture it on my Blackberry the second time. Enjoy!

And here’s the direct link if the player above isn’t working.

Weezer’s Pork and Beans Video is Pure Genius

Although a full schedule at work and at home have prevented me from writing much here lately, I wanted to take a minute to share an awesome song and video with you. It’s called Pork And Beans by the band Weezer, and you can view the video below, or at YouTube.

In case you didn’t recognize a few of them, the Wikipedia entry for the song has a pretty good rundown on all the Internet memes referenced in the video. In addition, Wired’s Underwire has a good behind-the-scenes interview with the video’s director, Mathew Cullen.

I’ve been a huge fan of Weezer since the release of their famous Blue Album when I was in high school back in 1994. I’m glad to see that they’ve still got a lot of great music left in them!

Video from the Blue Man Group in Fargo

I finally managed to pull the last few videos and photos from last month’s Blue Man Group concert off the digital camera last weekend. It was an unbelievable show that I’d recommend to everyone.

Our seats turned out to be really good, which gave me the chance to take some decent photos and videos with our digital camera. Here are some of the best.

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The opening act was a DJ named Mike Relm. The thing that made him so unique (and fun to watch) was how he seamlessly manipulated audio and video at the same time to create some pretty cool effects. I captured one short segment in the video below, from the class movie Office Space.

Blue Man Group in Fargo Tonight

Blue Man Group - Lego Edition uploaded to Flickr by Kaptain Kobold

The Blue Man Group How to be a Megastar Tour will be in Fargo tonight, and Casey and I will be taking in the concert. Friends who’ve seen it say it’s the best show they’ve seen, so we’re pretty excited.

It seems that they encourage fans to bring their cameras, so I might have some good pictures or videos to share with you sometime next week.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Music Wants to be DRM Free!

Digital music fans received some great news this morning: EMI (one of the largest record labels) is going to start offering DRM-free songs on iTunes. This is big, big, big.

I’ve written about my extreme distaste of DRM before, but I didn’t think we’d see the beginning of its death so soon. I fully expected that entertainment companies would resort to increasingly draconian means of “protecting” its content from the very people who buy it. That had been the recent trend — see Amazon’s Unboxed movie downloads and Microsoft’s Zune player.

I believe Steve Jobs’ recent essay on digital rights management and music will go down in history as the catalyst for this dramatic turn of events. Many others have been fighting DRM for years, but Steve has major clout with iTunes and the iPod — when he talks, people listen.

To have EMI’s entire digital music library for sale on iTunes is a turning point for customers. We’ll now have the choice between the current $.99 DRM’ed version, or the higher quality $1.29 unDRM’ed copy. EMI says early tests show people preferring the non-copy-protected versions 10 to 1, so I hope that’s validated in the sales numbers.

My only gripe: I don’t know, and shouldn’t have to care, who is and isn’t an EMI artist. I don’t think Apple has shown how they’ll handle the different versions in the iTunes interface, but I hope they make the non-DRM music easy to find.

That said, this is a starting point, and a good one. If all goes well, this will be a big success and the other labels will play follow the leader shortly.

Goodbye DRM: You won’t be missed.

Nine Inch Nails, Buzz Marketing, and Lost

The Presence

I’m not a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails, but I think their gorilla marketing campaign for their upcoming album Year Zero is awesome.

The band gave its first clue on the back of a tour t-shirt, which lead to a cryptic website. This, in turn, led to more sites being discovered, which unraveled a storyline straight out of a show like Lost. Throw in some USB drives found at concert venues containing songs that themselves contain images, and you’ve got yourself a fan created frenzy.

Rolling Stone has a great summary of the Year Zero storyline on its site, including links to each of the websites involved.

All I can say is that Nine Inch Nails and their team behind this project are pure geniuses.

What Are You Listening to Right Now?

I am constantly keeping my ears opened for new music of all types, most recently with my discovery of the Silversun Pickups yesterday.

So, dear readers, I’m asking for your help. In the comments area of this post, tell me what artists/albums/songs you’re currently listening to right now? Even if you don’t consider it new, it might be to me or someone else. By the way Sam, I’m looking for you to pull through on this one since I know you’re a music junkie.

If you’re looking for some good ways to find new music yourself, I’ve got a few great sites for you:

While I’m still talking about music, I want to point you to a CBC interview with the Barenaked Ladies (Windows Media Player required). Besides being one of my all time favorite bands (Canadian or otherwise), the Ladies really get the changes affecting the music industry. They even distributed their last album (The Barenaked Ladies are Me) as DRM-free MP3s on USB thumb drives. The band’s new music label, Desperation Records, was also featured in a recent Wired Magazine story about the music industry – worth checking out.

Silversun Pickups

I just discovered a new band today: the Silversun Pickups out of L.A. Their song “Lazy Eye” is unbelievable. I can’t get it out of my head. So, I thought I’d spread the love. You can view the video below, or on Youtube.