East Lansing Rock City?

[1]This ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no foolin’ around. This is Lansing.
We ain’t got no Mudd Club or CBGB. We’ve got Mac’s Bar and the Temple Club. But in the last few years, and especially over the last few months, the Lansing area’s finest live music venues have had the draw of the aforementioned-Talking-Heads-referenced New York rock institutes. But with the news of a major booking company movin\’ out of town – the future of the scene hangs in the balance.
Psychedelic freaks/indie darlings Animal Collective sold out the Temple back in February. Alt-country siren Neko Case stopped by a month later. On April 17, mega-hyped hip-hop act Spank Rock shook Mac’s while drawing a sizeable Monday-night crowd. The man responsible for bringing these broken, breaking and just-about-to break acts to town is Steve Lambert, owner of Lansing-based Hood Booking, who plans to leave Lansing this summer.
“What I do is bring the big city to Lansing,” Lambert said. “The big city acts, the bands that are right now, making a name for themselves, covers of magazines, I try to bring those to Lansing, to give that big city vibe. Go to Mac’s Bar, it feels like New York or something like that. And it does on some shows, and the people in there, it’s like a Williamsburg, Brooklyn fashion show in there, which is cool and I like to see that.”
But are the people of Lansing and East Lansing turning out for these glimpses of major metropolitan entertainment? Lambert said that much of the crowds for his shows come from outside of Ingham County, and that he does little to try to draw students away from the lure of Grand River bars.
[one]“Bar people, like the Rick’s and Riv crowd, you know they’re just gonna go to the bar, they don’t care about bands and music, they’re not into that stuff, which is fine. The biggest thing, I guess, is bringing a mix of all different kinds of music, so you know college-oriented bands bring out their friends that do just go out to the bars in East Lansing and stuff like that, but other than that, I don’t even try to compete with that.”
“You cannot compete with ridiculously low drink prices seven days a week, you know. The turn over in East Lansing is so huge on alcohol sales it’s just, why even try?”
A lack of alcohol sales nearly killed Mac’s in late 2005. After a change in ownership, the bar underwent a few changes to guarantee the kind of money being made by its flashier East Lansing contemporaries. Several amendments were made to the drink menu, to make sure the people coming to shows were buying booze. For instance, all-ages shows were discontinued, a highly talked about change.
There’s also a new coat of paint on the inside, and some of the bar’s more idiosyncratic decor is gone. Personally, I found it quite heart-rending to enter Mac’s for a show in late March and not be greeted by the massive posters of Johnny Cash and the Rat Pack doing what they did best—being pissed off and hobnobbing, respectively.
To hear Lambert talk about it, the changes are mostly superficial, and the possibility exists that the all-ages show could be resurrected. “Honestly, we could probably start them up again,” he said. “It was really just a preliminary kind of thing. Initially it was like, ‘Let’s just do some 21-and-over for a while. Then, it was like, ‘OK, we’re back, it’s full-blown, now everything’s 18-and-over…unfortunately, those [all-ages shows] were so successful, way more successful than when I do them at the Temple Club, way more. But this town is not much of an all-ages thing, most people are 18-years-old anyways.”
As owner of Bunches Continental Cafe, East Lansing’s “original hipster coffee house,” Dave Bernath went through plenty of changes to keep his restaurant/concert venue afloat. Originally just serving coffee and pastries, the restaurant added a full menu and then eventually acquired a liquor license. Though they had already been putting on shows, the liquor license gave Bunches an added twilight hour pull. “Alcohol and bands, it makes for a bigger night-time ticket,” Bernath said. Bunches stayed open through two subsequent changes in ownership was in operation through the early 1990s, when it closed it doors for good.
Bernath owned Bunches from 1980 to 1982, during which he put on shows and hosted local acts as well as national acts like Gun Show, Bad Brains, and a pre-fame R.E.M. At the time, it was a bit of a bargain to bring the Athens, Ga. alt rock luminaries to East Lansing.
“I paid them 300 bucks to come play, and there was like 30, 40 people there,” Bernath said.
And what of the performance? It was, he said, with a hint of indifference, “OK.”
Bunches was somewhat of anomaly, with “fine dining by day and punk rock by night” as Bernath put it. This mixture of interests had the tendency to turn off clientele on both ends of the spectrum, and — during rowdier shows — create harrowing circumstances straight out of a restauranteur’s worst nightmare.
“There was glass tables…we had nice chairs but then there was glass tables that I was afraid people were going to jump on and break,” Bernath said. “Luckily, no one ever went through a table, we got a couple cracked, but no one ever went through one. I don’t know any other punk rock place that had glass tables that could have survived, it’s kind of unique.”
No one ever went through a table, but Bernath went through “thousands” of dollars while running Bunches.
“It gets frustrating after a while,” he said. “So I retreated out of the restaurant business up to retail here.”
Even while bringing to town acts such as U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More, Fishbone, X, and Buddy Guy, other East Lansing venues suffered a similar fate. The names of the acts will live forever in the annals of popular music, and at least one of the venues — Rick’s American Cafe — is still in operation, but Bunches, Dooley’s, and Small Planet now exist merely as ghosts of East Lansing concerts’ past. After incurring 31 liqor violations and $127,000 in fines in nine years, Dooley’s had its liquor licensed revoked and closed in January 1996. The Small Planet ceased spinning in the summer of 2000.
Jon Howard, manager at Flat, Black and Circular booked many a show at Small Planet, but putting on concerts eventually became too much of a financial risk. He saw little support from students. “I found it was impossible to get students to come across the street to Small Planet,” he said. “It was absolutely impossible.”
Being on campus just might be a boon for ticket sales. And if students wouldn’t cross Grand River for a show, they’re probably even less likely to head down Michigan Avenue towards Mac’s.
“Steve, you know, he’s got some great bands down there and I’ve been to see them and there’s like 10, 20 people there,” Bernath said. “You go across over here to the auditorium of kivas for so-so bands, and there’s hundreds if not thousands of people.”
After a fall semester nearly devoid of on-campus music events, the Resident Hall Association busied the bills of the university’s auditoriums and the Union ballroom with five shows in March and April. It was an impressive undertaking, but students couldn’t have been blamed for experiencing a sensation of deja vu when reading the lineup. After all, it has only been two years since Mustard Plug, Guster, Ben Folds, and Switchfoot last graced MSU stages.
Nonetheless, those gathered outside the MSU Auditorium for the April 19 Switchfoot show were an enthusiastic bunch. Some, like secondary education freshman Luke Swanson, made the short walk from the dorms to the show. Originally from Ann Arbor, Swanson said that when it comes to concerts, East Lansing had just as much to offer as his hometown.
“It’s just about the same atmosphere, they’re both college towns, lots of bars and places to play,” he said.
[two]A Lansing-area show doesn’t have to be put on by Hood Booking to draw out-of-town fans. Ryan Van Cleef, 21, and Crisy Henderson, 20, made the three-hour trek from Valparaiso, Ind. to East Lansing. When asked what brought them so far, they answered, in unison, “SWITCHFOOT.”
Come August, Lambert himself will be an out-of-towner. He’s leaving for the Washington D.C.-Baltimore area, but it’s nothing against Lansing — he’s got two job offers and his girlfriend will be attending graduate school in the area.
“I’ve always been super critical of Lansing, you know, but it’s Lansing, man. It’s got 150,000 people here, I’m trying to sell it to like 10 percent, and that’s hard…\” he said.
Lambert is uncertain whether the current quality of concerts would continue after he leaves. \”I wish Lansing all the best when I leave, but I don’t know if those bands who have come through here over the last five years will come through here any more. Or maybe they will, who knows?\”
And what must happen in order for these acts to keep Lansing and East Lansing as a stop on their tour itineraries? The bands need to see their fans and the fans need to see their bands. “For it to continue to be strong, people have to come out and attend the shows, because if there’s no attendance for the shows, then there’s no reason for those bands to come back to Lansing,\” Lambert said. \”Not every show has to be packed, but it has to be moderately decent.”

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The Local Access Zone

You are entering another dimension. A dimension of sight, sound and mind, of high school concerts, government meetings and puppets. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of the imagination… and a tight budget. There’s an informational slide and some classical music up ahead — you are now entering The Local Access Zone.
[tv]If you live off campus and have a cable subscription, chances are you’ve been here before. You may have happened upon it while traversing from the local network affiliates to ESPN or TLC. Maybe you were channel surfing one lazy Sunday and ended up here when nothing else was on. You may know it by other names. Maybe you refer to it as “the channels in the 20s,” but, in fact, this is a territory that defies such simplistic monikers. It is a realm of television stations of varying categories of access — education, government and public. It is the realm of such people such as Matt Ottinger, the telecommunications coordinator for Okemos Public Schools, who is also the host of WKAR’s QuizBusters. Much of Ottinger’s work involves the district’s access channel, The Okemos Channel (channel 26), which broadcasts school board meetings, district sporting events, concerts and student-made programs.
“Our mandate is to create programming and to present activities that are of interest to Okemos families, most specifically school families, but not exclusively so.”
On the government side of things is Lynn Meikle, station manager for HOM-TV, the Meridian Township access station. HOM-TV regularly broadcasts meetings of the township government, but as Meikle explained, the station’s original programming ranges from the local law enforcement show, “Beyond the Badge,” to the recently launched children’s show, “HOM-TV Fun Factory.”
Public access is a more free-form affair, where creative and production elements are left to local residents. Employees of East Lansing public access station WELM declined to comment due to negotiations with cable provider Comcast (more on that later), so in order to describe the public access mechanism, here’s a theoretical situation based on outside research and the informational slides shown during WELM’s non-programming hours:
Let’s say there’s this guy named Dwayne. Dwayne’s a cool guy, a youthful rock ‘n’ roller type, and he thinks he’s got a pretty good idea for a TV show. It’s a talk show of sorts, featuring himself and his friend Arthur (who likes to go by “Arth”) discussing the issues that most matter to them—music, local happenings, and, on occasion, attractive females. Dwayne and Arth need only contact WELM in order to use their facilities and get their show, which we’ll call “Dwayne’s Universe,\” on the air. And should their lack of television experience make our future access stars feel like they’re “going to ralph,” they can enroll in the station’s workshops on production and editing. And it’s all free. Schwing!
Knowing how it works is only part of understanding The Local Access Zone. To truly appreciate its depth and breadth, one must know its history, which according to Ottinger begins in 1975.
“That’s when cable was first coming into the area, and some very wise men, most of whom were professors at Michigan State University…convinced the cable company at the time to set aside a much larger variety of access channels than most communities realistically have,” he said. “And ever since then, there’s been pressure on the cable companies as what’s called the franchise agreement [a legal agreement between a cable company and a community, allowing the company to use the public right-of-way to string up cable lines and provide their service] comes due every few years, to continue to provide those stations.”
Ottinger also noted that originally East Lansing and Meridian Township were to receive distinct cable signals, and thus receive only the access channels that applied to their respective community. However, the signals eventually consolidated, allowing for all subscribers in the greater East Lansing area to receive all the access channels the area has to offer.
But it has been within only the last decade that this variety has been fully utilized. And while some of the government stations (ahem, East Lansing) remain underused, the three school districts—East Lansing, Haslett and Okemos—broadcast much of their own programming, while the college stations—MSU and Lansing Community College—play a range of original and re-broadcasted material.
“MSU uses their slots to rebroadcast PBS programming that they wouldn’t normally be able to offer on WKAR,” said Ottinger. “And LCC either has their own original programming or they show The Arts Channel. So they’re all being used, it’s not just running a bunch of text messages, and that’s what’s really impressive. I mean, it’s wonderful that we have it, it’s unique that we have it…but it’s not like they’re going to waste; we are providing content.”
We now know some of the minds that are creating and showing the content, but who belongs to the minds and eyes that receive it? Who are the souls that come looking for something unique, local and relatable? Who’s out here in The Local Access Zone?
“It’s real easy to assume that not many people watch,” Ottinger said. “My experience has been that that’s simply not the case, that it’s certainly a narrow audience that we’re programming to. If you talk about just Okemos families with school-aged children as our audience, we probably get an enormous percentage of that audience.”
Unfortunately, local access does not figure much into the Nielsen ratings, so in order to quantify their audience, access channels must rely on in-house surveys, word of mouth and viewer feedback. According to Meikle, viewers will be frank with the station when they notice a mistake.
“Feedback is always hard,” she said. “When a township board meeting doesn’t play correctly, they call.”
HOM-TV’s voicemail isn’t all negative messages, however. Meikle said “HOM-TV Fun Factory” has generated plenty of phone calls since its first broadcast in early March.
“Fun Factory” may be HOM-TV’s chance to grab viewers in the community who aren’t necessarily ensconced in the government goings-on of Meridian Township. The show features “Coach” Mike Devlin; his puppet sidekick, The Professor, and a studio audience of excitable elementary schoolers. Meikle divulged the reason why the kids in the first few episodes seem just short of being out of control:
\”Before the show starts, [Devlin] had them with these balloons, like whipping balloons around. I mean we had the whole thing filled with balloons. I mean they were hyped-up kids, all over the place.”
With call-and-response audience participation and guests that include local animal experts and children’s authors, “HOM-TV Fun Factory” harkens back to the days when Howdy Doody and Bozo the Clown ruled the kiddie-oriented airwaves. While it doesn’t have the hipster-baiting potential of Washington, DC’s, “Pancake Mountain,” it’s still a pretty entertaining viewing experience.
Of course, no discussion of hit local television series’ would be complete without a mention of The Okemos Channel’s student-made dramatic series “Anything But Ordinary.” Created by then-Okemos High School senior Christin Vasilenko during the 2003-04 school year, the show revolved around three female protagonists in their freshmen year of college.
“The show was basically about them trying to figure out their relationships with each other, their relationships to guys, just figure out their lives, figure out who they were and what what they wanted out of college,” Vasilenko, now an English sophomore at MSU, said. “And also there was the love story between the next-door neighbor and basically all the girls had some in-ter-tangling with their quirky neighbor guy. It was just a silly show to make people laugh.”
Ottinger swelled with pride when talking about the phenomenon the show created in its six-episode run.
“That’s wonderful stuff, and people watched it. People who weren’t in Okemos, who didn’t have any idea who these kids were, watched ‘Anything But Ordinary,\’” he said. “That was by far the most popular thing we ever showed.”[remote]
When the show first aired, students at Okemos would stop Vasilenko in the hallways to sing the show’s praises. As time went on and more people got the chance to see the show, Vasilenko and her cast found themselves being recognized on the streets of East Lansing.
“And we’re like, ‘Wow, you still remember it!” she said. “So it was very cool and it got us noticed and it was just neat that people appreciated it and appreciated the work that got put into it.”
Vasilenko said “Anything But Ordinary” proved more popular than any other Okemos Chan-nel program because a broader audience could relate to it. However, she still has to wonder as to how the show became a Facebook-group-spawning cult success at MSU.
“That I do not know…people will tell us all the drinking games they made up to [the show] and I think they just like it,” she said. “It’s about college kids, even though I wrote it in high school, so I really didn’t know what I was talking about. But I think they enjoy having it be about college and supposed college experiences. I think it’s just funny, and they like to watch it and laugh at it and have a good time.”
“We initially thought, ‘We’re just making this show for fun, our parents and our friends will watch it, but we were just amazed that people were that into it that they would make that group,” Vasilenko said. It was really cool.”
Although “Anything But Ordinary” has been taken out of regular rotation on The Okemos Channel, Ottinger said the DVD of the show (available from the station for $20) is always on standby for broadcast.
“That thing we always keep in our back pocket,” he said. “During certain times of year where it’s a little bit slower, we’ll pop it on. We don’t really have a set time for it, but it’s something we keep, it’s something we know people like.”
Is there life beyond local access? Do those involved in local access dream of bigger studios, bigger productions, bigger audiences? Submitted for your approval: Lynn Meikle, a station manager quite content with her station in life.
“I like it here,” she said. “I don’t have any aspirations at the moment to move on, because the station is still growing, it’s something new all the time and we’re constantly coming up with new programs…Access is probably one of those jobs that you just kind of fall into. When you’re looking for a job, you apply everywhere, and if you can find a job in access, it’s great, because it’s something that’s a little bit out of the ordinary. You know, you don’t necessarily think of working in access, but once you start working in access you understand that whether it’s public, educational, or government television, you’re providing a service to the community, and you’re allowing people to have a voice in their community…”
It’s a service that could only be provided in one place. You guessed it, The Local Access Zone.

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Adventures in Blogosphere

Jan. 29, 2006
mood: anxious/elated
music: The M’s-Plan of the Man

Got my assignment for the March issue of The Big Green today, tentatively titled “Adventures in Blogosphere”.[hand] I’ve been mulling this idea over in my head for a while, and it was good to get all my ideas out and receive input from the rest of the section. One suggestion was to format the article as a series of blog entries. We’ll see how that works out…
The focus has been narrowed to music and mp3 blogs, which is great, because
a) I have one (http://fathertoasisterofthought.blogger.com)
b) I spend most of my Internet time perusing other music blogs.
I’m going to e-mail some of the tastemakers of the music blog scene: You Ain’t No Picasso (http://youaintnopicasso.blogspot.com/), Gorilla Vs. Bear (http://www.gorillavsbear.net) and Stereogum (http://www.stereogum.com), just to name a few. I’ve got a good feeling about this. I also have the feeling I’m going to be writing the word “blog” a lot. Gross.
Feb. 15, 2006
mood: What, me worried?
music: Sufjan Stevens-The Upper Peninsula

Deadline day. How am I going to write this thing? I got some great responses to my e-mail requests—Matthew Jordan of You Ain’t No Picasso, Craig “Dodge” Lile of My Old Kentucky Blog (http://myoldkyhome.blogspot.com), Sean Michaels and Daniel Beirne of Said the Gramophone (http://www.saidthegramophone.com) and David Gutowski (http://blog.largeheartedboy.com) all got back to me.
But where do I even start? How is this thing going to stand out from the endless stream of blog-related articles? New York Magazine just did a blogging cover story, which has been met with much sarcastic praise from the bloggers not profiled in the article.
And who came up with this vernacular? Blog? Blogger? Blogosphere? We all sound like idiots!
But I digress. Let’s start at the beginning, a place which a singing nun once suggested is a very good place to start.
[top]1999 was a watershed year for the weblogging community, as it saw the launch of two prominent hosting services—Blogger (which hosts My Old Kentucky Blog and You Ain’t No Picasso, in addition to my blog) and the more networking-intensive LiveJournal. Gutowski said this was the year he became aware of blogging, though it wouldn’t be until 2001 that music-related blogs caught his attention.
Two years later, Gutowski registered the Largehearted Boy domain, though not with blogging in mind.
“I had registered the domain name to house my [indie-rockers] Guided By Voices radio stream, GBV Radio, and decided to start blogging as a lark,” he said. “The focus of the blog soon became music, and has shifted to music and literature.”
Largehearted Boy’s just-for-kicks origin isn’t typical of all blogs. Michaels founded Said the Gramophone as “an outlet for music writing that fell outside of the usual print categories of longform album reviews and artist promo features”, while Jordan began You Ain’t No Picasso as a more convenient way of recommending bands to his friends. Lile saw My Old Kentucky Blog as his chance to counteract the broadcast powers that be.
“I think there is such a lack of good new music being played on the radio, especially in small markets, and so many music fans are frustrated by some of the junk being forced into their ears. I discovered this whole new media that provided unlimited alternatives for fans like me, and I just knew I had to be a part of it.”
Nov. 1, 2005
mood: dejected
music: Fiona Apple-O’ Sailor

Note to self: Self-promoting your blog is not kosher. I posted a \”Father to a Sister of Thought\” plug on the message boards for indie-rocker-approved webcomic Questionable Content, which prompted another user to comment that such plugging was comparable to pedophiliac abuse.
I had no idea the damage I was doing. I’d be a little angrier if it wasn’t such a stupid figure of speech.
Buzz is such a precious commodity in this sector of the blogosphere (Knights of Columbus, I hate that word). Not just for the musicians profiled therein, but for the bloggers themselves. How does one get noticed in a sea of like-minded music geeks with decent typing skills?
It’s apparently an effortless process, one which none of the bloggers I contacted claim to engage in. There certainly are differences, but they’re unconscious; Michaels and Beirne would probably make their Said the Gramophone posts as literate as possible if they were read by two or two million people.
There appears to be a similar disregard towards musical buzz, and that I really admire. Everybody mentioned a degree of passion for the music they write about. When asked what it takes for a song to grab his attention and warrant posting, Michaels put it best.
“If the song makes your heart go boom!”
And when a band gets talked up a lot, it might just be because they deserve it.
“I think in a lot of cases it happens because the bands are really good,” Michaels said. “NPR has said that we were instrumental in breaking Clap Your Hands Say Yeah; the Canadian press talked about our contribution to the Arcade Fire’s break-out. But I think stuff such WHAT?? is total nonsense: these bands succeed because people fall in love, once they hear them.”
Gutowski noted that bloggers aren’t alone in rallying around artists.
“…the blogging community is like any other, there is often a ‘herd effect’ when it comes to a band,” he said.
It’s when this herd effect grows to overwhelming proportions that the content it creates starts to suffer.
“I do think a lot of mp3blogs (sic) feel the need to keep up with their peers, to celebrate the stuff other people are excited about,” Michaels said. “This kind of groupthink is exceedingly boring to read.”
Jan. 4, 2006
mood: accomplished
music: Animal Collective-The Purple Bottle

Posted my Top 9 Albums of 2005, with Sufjan Stevens’ “Illinois”, the White Stripes’ “Get Behind Me Satan” and the Decemberists’ “Picaresque” taking the top three slots. List-making season is coming to a close, and when I compare my list to other blogs, it makes me wonder: how do they find all this music? As much as I fancy myself a pop connoisseur, I’ve never heard a good majority of the bands on these list (Though “Illinois” pretty much dominates every list). Are their inboxes constantly overflowing with new music? Are the labels spoon-feeding them? Are the artists themselves contacting the bloggers?
“Labels are like the buildings on the skyline,” Beirne said. They don’t do a lot, but really powerful people live in them.”
Record labels and recording artists are waking up to the impact of blogging, which is interesting, if not a little bit confusing, given the brouhaha these collective entities raised when file-sharing brought free downloadable music to the masses.
“I remember for a while all the younger bloggers like myself were deathly afraid of being sued for posting any songs not already available for download,” Jordan said. “But now a lot of us are routinely sent albums and encouraged to post whatever songs we like.”
But is there a point where label involvement metamorphoses from seemingly-innocent buzz building to straight-up advertising? A January post on the blog Marathon Packs (http://www.marathonpacks.com) hypothesized that major labels Capitol and Virgin were doing just that to promote the bands Morningwood and We Are Scientists.
“While I’d never allow myself to get caught up in a tired, banal indie vs. mainstream dialectic, both bands’ appearance on countless blogs over the past few months is the result of Virgin and Capitol holding open the internet and pouring promo down its throat,” he wrote.
The labels aren’t alone in seeking the affection of the blogging community. An increasing number of recording artists contact the bloggers themselves, forming a relationship which while beneficial, eschews Lester Bangs’ (by way of Cameron Crowe and Philip Seymour Hoffman) number-one music journalism no-no: don’t make friends with the bands.
“I’m in contact with lots of [artists],” Lile said. I’ve developed friendships with a couple even. I go to their shows, we talk, we drink together—it’s great. They love it—it’s free exposure.”
Lile did acknowledge a major drawback to being chummy with the band.
“Of course if I give something a bad review or don’t post something that is sent to me they want to know what’s up.”
Nov. 28, 2005
mood: ecstatic
music: Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins-Rise Up With Fists!

OH EM GEE! The Jenny Lewis solo album has leaked, and it is, in a word, awesome. Exceeds expectations on every count. Do I feel bad for hearing it two months before it’ll be in stores? A little bit. But right now, I just want to hear it and let everyone else in the world hear it!
“I think [blogging has] helped to \’democratise\’ indie rock a little more, if nothing else; tiny regional bands now have the chance to blow up much faster,” Michaels said. “The impact on the mainstream is much slower to happen.”
I hear tell of a time, long long ago (like a whole ten years ago!) when listeners had to actually leave their place of residence to find the latest, greatest, most-cutting-edge music. Widespread Internet availability made an anachronism of this process, reshaping not just how people got their music, but how they learned about and discussed said music.
Blogging is just another filtering offshoot of this process.
“Musically, I knew I liked certain songs or music, but I couldn’t always tell you why,” Lile said of the days before he set up his Old Kentucky Blog. “Through and because of MOKB I’ve worked hard to really learn about music, learn about all the styles, genres, sub-genres, etc…I am a much more knowledgeable reviewer than I was when I started. I can pull much deeper from the history of music and bands in order to describe a song, album or artist.
[side]I listen to so much now, I have a wide base to compare and contrast from. I see so many more live shows, and talk to so many more artists than I used to as well and that really helps me understand an artist and his/her music more than I ever did before MOKB.”
Thus is the boon and the bane of the blogger. To be useful and successful in the eyes of their readership, a blogger must be on a never-ending quest for newness.
“I kind of listen to music with an ear for postable songs,” Beirne said. “And I constantly HAVE to listen to new music, which can be great, but also draining sometimes. Sometimes I just want to listen to the Islands album all day, you know?”
It could be said that bloggers have displaced DJs, record store clerks, critics and other assorted snobs (including myself) as the most influential force in musical discourse. The capabilities of the internet certainly make them more versatile than any other form of pop music writing.
“Well you can get the word out much faster and you can include audio,” Lile said. “The reader can hear, see and read about a band instantaneously.”
Not to mention that it gives anyone with an internet the connection the opportunity to spout off about music and broadcast that spouting-off across the globe.
“The barrier to entry is so low—anyone can start writing about the music they love,” Michaels said. “Of course this means that most of what’s published online is utter crap. But it’s so much fun, digging through the online junkyard, huntin’ (and hopefully findin’) a few treasures.”

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Best You\’ve Never Heard: The High Strung

[heard]Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a towering pyramid of cement and glass jutting out of the Lake Erie shoreline, a testament to both modern music and modern architecture.
An artist must wait 25 years after their first album release to be allowed to penetrate its glittering walls and join the ranks of the Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, Hendrix and Janis. If you’re as optimistic as retro rockers the High Strung, however, you can just leave your old tour bus at the entrance after hours.
“We donated it,” said the band\’s guitarist and vocalist, Josh Malerman. “So we put it out front. I wrote them a letter, that was, I think, on the windshield, but [drummer and vocalist, Derek Berk] made a plaque, like behind plexiglass, on a stand, with like a cement base, that made it look like a real exhibit for anyone that might have came through.”
Their new bus waited around the corner with the engine running while Berk drove the old one up the steps leading to the Hall of Fame. “That was my master planning, because I knew that he’d probably be the only one that had the balls to actually put it right up to the door,” said Malerman.
This guerilla addition to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s collection fits the High Strung well for two reasons: the band’s brand of heady, yet hook-filled, garage rock would not seem out of place on a bill with ‘60s favorites and hall inductees the Who or the Kinks, and any vehicle that could carry said band through the majority of four continuous years of touring deserves to be enshrined somehow.
The group, from Brooklyn-via-Detroit, is composed of Malerman, Berk and bassist and vocalist, Chad Stocker, and has an on-the-road lifestyle that spills into their music. In fact, Malerman, the band’s principal songwriter, has made a rule he applies to his songs. “The rules are no songs about the road, no songs about how shitty the music industry is and no ironic covers,” he said. “If you cover a song, do it because you love it.”
But all the personal rules in the world can’t affect interpretation by your listeners, or even your own bandmates, as was the case with “On Your Feet” from the High Strung’s 2005 LP Moxie Bravo. “It’s…a story about a traveler or something, you know, who’s kind of like an outlaw almost,” said Stocker. He noted that it’s pretty similar to a “being on tour” song.
The first four songs on Moxie Bravo sound like a band tweaking something that isn’t broken, following the formula established on the High Strung’s previous full-length, These Are Good Times: guitars ringing, buzzing or jangling; bass coated in fuzz with Stocker’s fingers taking pentatonic flights of fancy up and down the neck; Berk absolutely punishing his kit and Malerman’s double-tracked vocals telling quirky three-minute narratives backed by Beatle-esque harmonies. The songs are immediately catchy and frenetic, even high-strung at times.
Then comes “N Over C.” All the elements from the previous song are present, but this one feels spacious. It’s not quite the white R&B of the Zombies’, “Time of the Season,” but it is somewhere close by. And in one final psychedelic flourish at the 2:10 mark, the band forms a vocal round on the phrase “If your love should ever stop growing” (with Berk and Stocker echoing “love,” “ever” and “growing”) wrapped in a knotty guitar line.
“We’ve had a lot of prettier songs in our knapsack over the years, but then for some reason with [“N Over C”] we were able to do a pretty one that still moves,” said Malerman.
Like so many under-the-radar bands, appreciation for the High Strung increases exponentially by seeing the band play live. It reassures the talent of the individual members: Malerman’s inimitable upper-register vocals are in no way forced, Stocker really can play the bass that fast and Berk does pour every ounce of his body (and perspiration) into drumming.
The live setting also gives the band some room to dig around within their own songs and expand upon the recorded versions. At Mac’s Bar in Lansing on Dec. 3, the caterwaul of an interlude in “Rah Rah Rah!” became a massive wave of noise, with Malerman wandering into the crowd and using a chair as a riser as he conducted the song’s climax. Rah, rah, rah indeed!
Catching the High Strung at Mac’s is akin to spotting wild creatures in their natural habitat. Now imagine this scrappy herd setting up shop at your district library. Though it may seem like the least rock ‘n’ roll idea ever, the High Strung did just that in the summer of 2005 — 34 times.
It was all the work of “maverick” librarian Bill Harmer, who had previously held a show at his library with former High Strung tour-mates, The Brian Jonestown Massacre. When the band’s label suggested Malerman read the outline he had written for Moxie Bravo for children, they hooked him up with Harmer.
“That actually happened, I went and talked to the kids about it,” Malerman said. “Months later, [Harmer] said, ‘Hey, let’s do this again, but let’s do it with the whole band…’ and then he laid out his whole plan, us playing full volume, and the whole thing. He went to some convention, I don’t know what it’s called, but…he asked the libraries in Michigan and he got 34 takers.”
Given Malerman’s songwriting method, the High Strung was made for a tour of libraries. “For me, a lot of times when I’m writing a song or a batch of songs, I’m like, ‘Oh, I want this to be as good as…’ and I’ll think in books; I want this to be as good as Tender Is the Night, I want this to be as good as Stephen King,” he said. “I really do, I think about it, it’s like I relate more to the author as artist than the rocker as artist, I just do…the thing I get from authors is different, because a lot of the songs are character sketches and stuff.”
Harmer’s intent for the library tour was to reshape the way kids see their local library. This being so, the average crowd at the shows wasn’t the standard rock concert set. “It was fun because you got the feeling, you could tell that it was the first time any of [the kids] had seen loud rock music, especially so close, you know, they’ve never experienced it before, a lot of them.” Berk said. “We made sure to ask at every show how many of them it was their first rock show, and for most of them it was. Or they had seen Green Day. For some reason a lot of them had seen Green Day.”
On Mar. 13, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will welcome new inductees Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, Lynryd Skynyrd and the Sex Pistols. And while Ozzy is mumbling through his acceptance speech and Johnny Rotten (or John Lydon?) is refusing to answer questions from the press, the original High Strung tour bus will probably be sitting in some Ohio landfill, an unappreciated gift ahead of its time. Meanwhile, its current counterpart is still rumbling around, planting the seeds of rock ‘n’ roll, from district libraries to dive bars and beyond.
The High Strung will play at Mac\’s Bar in Lansing on Thursday, Feb. 16 – check out the venue\’s Web site, www.macsbar.com, for more details.

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The Culture of Me

If I meet you in the night
You’re free to covet all you like
Don’t you try and stop me
I cling tightly to this life

-Neko Case, “Tightly”
I was having dinner at some friends’ apartment a few Sundays ago when, from the apartment above us, came a loud thud that could only be likened to the sound of a wrestling elephant performing a flying elbow drop. I was a little shaken by the interruption of what was an otherwise quiet meal, but my friends were enraged; apparently the rumble of the floor above occurs at all hours, regardless of the rumblers’ level of intoxication.
All this racket begged plenty of questions, for instance, WHAT THE HELL WERE THESE PEOPLE DOING? Why did they do it all the time? Who are they? What are they studying at MSU? Does their level of academic commitment allow them to stage this ongoing aural recreation of the Blitzkrieg? Only a flight of stairs, a door, and the willingness of the neighbors separated us from the answers. The mystery of the thumping would be solved, we would gain a better understanding of our fellow students, they could get back to whatever they were doing, and we could finish dinner.
Of course, none of that happened. We kept eating and hypothesizing about what was happening above our heads (Basketball? Sumo? Competitive weightlifting?). An air of apathy pervaded the entire situation, which raised a slightly frightening conclusion: here was a group of people that, in all likelihood, was of my same age, and I was 100 percent out of touch with them. It’s too early for me to be out of touch with a segment of youth culture; this shouldn’t happen until I’ve had at least one child and a mid-life crisis.
The upstairs noisemakers aren’t the only MSU students I don’t get; It’s probable that I can’t relate to at least 75 percent of the student body at this here university. This could be because, as of fall 2005, that student body is composed of 45,166 people, and as many “friends” as I accumulate on Facebook, knowing what makes that many people tick would be impossible. For the most part, I have only myself to blame. During my two-and-a-half years (and counting) of higher education, I’ve managed to carve out a comfy niche for myself, and everything I know, love and hold dear fits within that niche.
Before an ensemble of the world’s smallest violins strikes up, let me explain myself a little better: I live in what I have come to call (for the purposes of this letter) the culture of me. There is no greater meaning hidden in that moniker, it says what it means. Everything I listen to, read, watch, play, work on, write, buy or eat and everyone I associate with reflects (in some manner) a persona that I’ve perfected since my freshman year.
Even the courses I take have only my greater interests in mind. This semester, for instance, I am taking two journalism courses, a public relations course (a course within the College of Communication Arts and Sciences) and a literature course, which, while I maintain a legitimate interest in literature, am really taking because it’s a degree requirement.
There is little room for adventure, academic or otherwise, in this culture of me.
All too often, I spend time with myself (quite literally within the culture of me), sometimes accompanied by the likes of Rilo Kiley, Chuck Klosterman, or Rory and Lorelai Gilmore. When I do venture into the world, it’s usually with friends with whom I’ve developed such a rapport that it forces me to use the term “rapport”.
A wide vocabulary is highly valued in the culture of me.
When I make an effort to meet new people, they are soon absorbed into the culture of me. Those who are not (usually encountered via neighborly nuisances, intoxicated walks home and episodes of MTV’s “Room Raiders”) are either derided or forgotten. Maybe it’s not that I don’t get my fellow student, I just have little patience with him.
My last relationship was heavily invested in the culture of me. I was dumped when she realized all we had going were common tastes.
Can I really expect any courtesy? If anyone outside the culture of me reads this letter, I wouldn’t blame them for dismissing it as elitist within the first paragraph. For those of you who have made it thus far, allow me to welcome you to the culture of me. If this disrupts the culture of you, I apologize. We can return to our niches as if nothing happened.
My intention is by no means to unite the collegiate cliques; this is a Big Green letter, not “Mean Girls” (a reluctant favorite of the culture of me.) I guess I just want a better understanding of other people– and not just people at MSU– but people in general. I’ve taken sociology and psychology courses, but they didn’t enlighten me enough. And The State News crossword (official newsprint distraction of the culture of me) always got in the way.
Then again, I’m an outgoing person; I have an engaging enough personality to have formed an entire fake sub-culture around, maybe I’ll just start approaching strangers on the street to see if they’d be willing to tell me their life story. That’s a surefire way to understand people…but really creepy at the same time.
Besides, I’m too comfortable where I am right now to actually do that. I’ve got another three semesters to wallow in the solipsistic mud of the culture of me, because after that, I’d either turn into a misanthrope or a hermit.
Or maybe I’ll start jackhammering the apartment floor to see if anyone comes up.

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Best and Worst Music of 2005

In 2005, R. Kelly found himself trapped in a closet, Gwen Stefani declared fecal matter was bananas, emo went stadium-sized thanks to My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy and music executives thought it would be a good idea to release songs called “My Humps” and “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” (by the Black Eyed Peas and Trace Adkins, respectively).
To use an increasingly annoying and tired journalistic cliché, it was clearly a year for pop music that defied any means of classification or generalization. Looking back, how does one sift through the massive pile of tunes and determine what goes in the bin marked “best” and the one marked “worst”? (Well, you can guess where “My Humps” goes…)
I’ll tell you how: ask the most musically inclined minds in East Lansing what they thought were the best and worst pop songs of the year. I consulted with Dave Bernath and Jon Howard of Flat, Black and Circular at 541 E. Grand River Ave.; Jaime Wilkins of Code of tha Cutz at 317 M.A.C. Ave.; Shawn Parker, music manager at Barnes & Noble at 333 E. Grand River Ave. and State News music reporter Benita Mehta (via e-mail). With their recommendations, here’s a list of must-have albums and some tips for what to avoid from the year that almost has been.
So sit back, enjoy the show, take some notes and remember to turn off all pagers or cell phones or put them on “Viiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiibrate!”
BEST ALBUMS of 2005 (in alphabetical order by artist):
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals-\”Cold Roses” (Lost Highway)
“It’s just a really good disc. I’m a big fan of his music in general, and it’s his first since [2000’s] “Heartbreaker”; his first solo album, real big return to alt-country, and he has a great band who shared co-writing credits, so it’s just not his ego. It’s a terrific double disc album.”
-Shawn Parker
Animal Collective-“Feels” (Fat Cat)
“I quite liked the new Animal Collective. Shocked and amazed how much we’re selling for such a strange album. It’s not easy listening, not your typical indie rock.”
-Jon Howard
Beck-“Guero” (Geffen)
“I love Beck. He\’s a genius. Guerois one of those rare albums in which every song is catchy and fun. This has been my favorite album to walk to class with this year.”
-Benita Mehta
Blood of Abraham-“Eyedollartree” (Basement Records)
“They’re a little darker, more introspective hip-hop. They also have these weird funky things where they’re singing, like they took part of a song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and made it into more like an abstract-funk song. I mean, if you didn’t know the words, you wouldn’t recognize it because it doesn’t sound anything like the original song… I was very impressed by the way they did it because they didn’t strictly sample it, they made it their own and put their own little twist on it.”
-Jaime Wilkins
DangerDoom-“The Mouse and the Mask” (Rhymesayers)
“That was more on the funny side. I know my employees really like that.”
The Decemberists-“Picaresque” (Kill Rock Stars)
“I didn\’t think The Decemberists could surpass Her Majesty The Decemberists, but they did it with Picaresque. “16 Military Wives” is the best song on the album. The video is fabulous. The lyrics are outstanding and the band is so awesomely quirky.”
The Eels-“Blinking Lights and Other Revelations” (Vagrant)
“This is an album I listened to on repeat for weeks when I first got it. I\’ll go as far as to say it\’s the best Eels album to date, and I\’m a big fan of their previous albums. I love listening to this when I\’m in a reflective mood or when I\’m on a long drive.”
The Fall-“Fall Heads Roll” (Narnack)
“This is something like their thirtieth album. They can’t be stopped.”
Lafayette Gilchrist-“Towards the Shining Path” (Shantytone)
“That’s good jazz. Sounds as cool as he looks.”
-Dave Bernath
Konono No. 1-“Congotronics” (Crammed Discs)
“An African troupe that makes their own instruments and brings their own PA with them and it’s all thumb pianos. It’s like afro-funk, but done on thumb pianos.”
Bettye Lavette-“I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise” (Anti-)
“Kind of sounds like Tina Turner, like she used to sound in the \’60s.”
One Be Lo-“S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.” (Fat Beats)
“The best lyricist I’ve heard in a long time. He’s conscious and positive as well. I mean, he has one verse that says, ‘Even when I’m dissin’ you I’m bein’ sincere,’ which means he’s really heartfelt, like even if he doesn’t agree with somebody or he’s not feeling them, he let you know why, and not just like, ‘Oh, you suck.’ He’s like a teacher.”
Giles Peterson-“Giles Peterson in Africa” (Ether)
“He’s got a great African one and a great soul one too, for a record-collecting geek. It’s basically playing his record collection.”
Sleater-Kinney-“The Woods” (Sub Pop)
“This is S-K\’s most experimental album. It\’s pure rock \’n\’ roll. They have always been mostly a punk rock band, but they jam a lot on this album, showing off their great skills. There\’s even an 11-minute song on here. They have so much talent and they\’re also amazing live. S-K will always be my number one favorite band of all time and have been for seven years. They continue to astound me with each new album; every time I don\’t think they can come up with anything better than the last, but they do.”
Sufjan Stevens-“Illinois” (Asthmatic Kitty)
“Sufjan Stevens is like the indie wonder artist. He\’s all anyone who loves music has been talking about for the past couple years and he deserves all the credit. He\’s really innovative and the album as a whole is very good.”
Tin Hat Trio-“Book of Silk” (Artemis)
“Tin Hat Trio’s kind of classical, ethnic, acoustic, cello, violin… nice dinner music.”
Various Artists-“Searching for Soul” (Luv ‘n’ Haight)
“Old-school funk reissues, that was really big this year. Companies seemed to find a lot of good stuff.”
Various Artists-\”Tom Middleton Presents Cosmosonica: Crazy Covers, Vol.1\” (Family Recordings)
“A bunch of all-over-the-map people doing different covers.”
Zion I-“True and Livin’” (LiveUp)
“A musically-infused hip-hop act. It feels really musical, and it’s just a DJ/producer and an MC, and they create really good music. It’s kind of jazzy, funky hip-hop.”
WORST of 2005:
“We’re always disappointed here,” said Howard when asked about the musical dregs of 2005. “Some things, you wonder why they’re so popular.”
One style the guys at Flat, Black and Circular could not avoid was that ever-divisive punk sub-genre, emo. “They were all nameless, faceless,” said Howard. “There seemed to be an endless supply of 19-year-old boys going emo and we’d get them sent in the mail to play in here, and it’s just one after another, they have nothing new to say. Stuck in a rut there, kids stuck in a rut.”
It had been threatening to do so for the past few years but Mount St. Emo erupted this year, spewing heartbreak and stupid haircuts across the land. My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy, bands that had put in their time toiling in the indie underworld, were suddenly thrust headfirst into the mainstream. Having been completely unaware of this, I was shocked to see the pasty-faced, paramilitary-uniformed MCR on the cover of the May issue of Spin. Once the teens on MTV started screaming for Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar We’re Going Down,” it was clear rock was going to be whiny for a while.
\”There’s always something that we don’t get,” said Howard. “That was particularly perplexing.”
Sometimes an artist crawls up from the underground to annoy listeners. And sometimes an artist crawls up from the mid-\’90s with the same devious intentions. Both Parker and Mehta gave their disapproval of the debut release from Institute, the new band fronted by Mr. Hollaback Girl, Gavin Rossdale.
“The world doesn’t need Bush again, 10 years later,” said Parker.
Mehta used the reach of The State News to warn music fans of the coming of Institute. “I gave it zero stars. One song on the album stands out – it\’s called ‘When Animals Attack’ and it\’s pure crap. I\’m sure I\’ve heard some other bad stuff this year, but Institute is the first thing that popped into my head.”
Sonic wash-out is not a phenomenon exclusive to rock ‘n’ roll. However, Wilkins was reluctant to say if there was anything in 2005’s hip-hop that let her down. “I don’t really think I want to put my name on those ones,” she said.
I, on the other hand, have no problem putting my name on a critique of awful hip-hop – for example, songs with sexual innuendoes made with the sweet tooth in mind. Certainly this isn’t a new phenomenon, but 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” and D4L’s “Laffy Taffy” transgress any sort of “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” and go straight for “puke-puke, hurl-hurl.”
It was a bad year all around for the hip-hop metaphor, and nowhere was this more apparent than in the Black Eyed Peas “My Humps.” A few of my friends have staged an ongoing battle between the Black Eyed Peas and Los Lonely Boys for the title of worst band in current pop music. For my money, “My Humps” nudges the Peas past the Boys. There’s no possible way this song could make the human anatomy less attractive (HUMPS? LADY LUMPS? COCOA PUFF? COME ON!). Also, there’s really nothing sexy about the song’s delivery. It’s cold and robotic, and Fergie sounds like she’s about to fall asleep. This song would be absolutely genius if it were a satire of the continual sexualization and objectification in pop music. Speaking of which, “Don’t ‘Cha” came out this year too, didn’t it? Oh man…
But it’s going to be all right. There’s enough good music to drown out the bad. After all, I managed to get a whole list of good albums, while people could give me only little samplings of what they thought was truly bad. And nobody recommended the new Ashlee Simpson album. You’ve got to accentuate the positive, right? So go get at least one of the records on the Best list. Increase the proliferation of good music, because there’s a whole new crop of crap awaiting us in 2006.

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One Nation Under iPod

[eat]It could be described as a little box of joy. Some are white, some are black and some have been touched by rock stars, but each is beautiful in its own way. Some even have names. I call mine “Lovely Rita,” after the saucy meter maid of Lennon/McCartney fame. Oh, and everyone has one. I am talking, of course, about the iPod.
All suggestive joking aside, Apple Computer’s miniature digital jukebox has become a cultural fixture. It is seemingly impossible to leave your home and not encounter at least one pair of white earbuds. Since 2001, 28 million iPods have been sold world wide. Chances are, you own one of those 28 million.
[play]Whether you’re a casual listener or rabid audiophile, the iPod makes you an offer you can’t refuse: a convenient storage unit for thousands of audio files you can take anywhere you please. “It’s become more of a companion than perhaps I would like it to be,” English senior Anne Petrimoulx said. “I’m sort of dependent upon it when I go anywhere; like, if I’m going on a walk and my iPod is dead, I’m like, ‘Oh, I can’t go on a walk anymore.’”
Expansive storage capacity and positive word-of-mouth led film studies junior Carrie Shemanski to the iPod. “Most [other players] have less space,” she said. “I’ve heard good things about [iPods], people have them and when they have problems they seem easy to fix.”
Sometimes, an iPod comes to those who aren’t even looking for one. Arts and letters sophomore Nick Graff purchased his as a package deal with an Apple PowerBook G4. “I paid only $50 for it, so I got it,” he said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have one.”
iPod users pointed to the player’s ease of use as another key deciding factor. Linked with Apple’s iTunes software, getting files from your computer to your iPod is as simple as click and drag. [cara3]According to Forrest Carter, associate professor of marketing, this, along with innovative marketing and branding, has made the iPod the “must-have” digital music player.
But even the iPod breaks down sometimes. “It showed this little screen that was just like an iPod with a sad face and a big ‘x’ across it…that’s when I knew I was f—-ed,” museum studies senior Matthew McKinley said. It is a horror of unimaginable proportions: your iPod has mysteriously stopped working, holding your collection in a digital limbo. For McKinley, this musical nightmare occurred during a study abroad session, making a quick fix a non-reality. Thankfully, the friendly folks at Apple could eventually bail him out, for a nominal fee. “I wasn’t really surprised – a lot of iPods break, a lot of Apple products break,” he said.[melissa3] “It seems like they have a very good customer service department, they break so often. I paid like 47 bucks for the shipping plan for the next two years, and they fixed it for free, which is nice. I mean, I still paid almost $50, but at least they fixed the $300 iPod for free.”
Shemanski has had a trouble-free seven-month relationship with her iPod, but she was quick to knock on some nearby wood while discussing the subject. “I would probably be more upset that I had to spend some money to get it fixed than I would to be without it for awhile,” she said. “But if I had to be without it for a week or so, I think I might start feeling the pain.”
Living in the high-speed Information Age, obsoletism is a nuisance we all cope with. Yet, with the iPod, obsoletism has become almost cyclic; once one consumer group has settled down with one generation of iPods, the next generation is going into production. [erik3]Even as I prepared this article, Apple announced and released a sleeker generation of iPods, with greater storage capacity and video capabilities. This announcement came a meager few weeks after the release of the iPod Nano, the digital music equivalent of the wafer-thin after-dinner mint. “I know that’s inevitably going to happen, and I’m not going to rally against it, but it’s kind of stupid,” said Shemanski. “I’m happy with the basic 20 gig one.”
McKinley said the constant stream of iPod updates is an indicator of Apple’s continued dominance of the digital music marketplace. “They have such a hold on the mp3 market; iTunes is such a driving force in music today, and they going to be successful in whatever they’re marketing,” he said.
Shemanski considered the possibility that one day iPods may be so widespread that they would literally be inside our heads. “I’m sure one day we’ll all have iPods in our brains, but right now, I’m happy with what I’ve got” Shemanski said.
[white]Of course, there are still those unfortunate souls forced to wander the streets ‘Pod-less, like anthropology junior Laura Bell. Bell lives in an apartment with three iPod owners and many of her other friends own one as well.
“I feel jealous,” she said with a laugh. “My CD player doesn’t really work all the time, it’s missing a cushion for one of the headphones, I have to change the batteries…it’s a little frustrating, and I see all these easy, nice iPods, and I really want to buy one, but I can’t bring myself to spend $300 on it.”[last]
But one doesn’t have to spend $300 on an iPod; in fact, you can spend $399.99 on the latest 60 gigabyte video-equipped model at bestbuy.com. Those looking for comparable storage space and price tag can look to the 40 gigabyte Zen Touch player by Creative Labs ($299.99 at bestbuy.com), the 30 gigabyte Phillips GoGear Jukebox ($279.99) or the 40 gigabyte Toshiba gigabeat ($329.99)
Journalism junior Amy Oprean is the proud owner of a five gigabyte Dell Pocket DJ. While she admitted that the smaller song capacity may compromise her mobile musical selection, Oprean said she is very satisfied with the device, even if it isn’t as eye-catching as an iPod.[kari3]
“iPods come in a lot more colors, and everyone seems to be more excited about them, but I really don’t care what color my Dell DJ is, so it’s good enough for me. I don’t find myself wishing I had an iPod or anything.”
[megan3] In the face of breakdowns and obsoletism, iPod Nation marches on. With each new generation comes more and more iPod owners. Go outside and count the number of earbuds you see. Even the fact that the word “earbud” is part of the general lexicon is a testament to the hold of the iPod. “…you see a lot of people with white headphones,” McKinley said. “So many people walk around campus like that, you see more people with headphones than without. I feel like it’s almost a community. Not that you’re listening to the same thing, but you’re all doing the same thing as you’re walking around listening to music.”

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