I didn’t pay to download Cloud Control‘s album, Bliss Release. I received a newsletter from The Bootleg Theater that the band from Australia would be playing there in August, which reminded me I wanted to check them out.
I went to Cloud Control’s website and was pleased to see they have full streams of their songs available so we can listen to them. I listened for about as long as I could stand to be indoors, on the computer, during a beautiful summer day. Then, I reached out to a friend of mine who also writes about music to ask if he had heard of Cloud Control and find out whether he had any of their music.
Within an hour, the album awaited me in the cloud. I imported it into my iTunes, transferred it to my iPod, and took a walk down to the beach. It felt good to be discovering music again and Cloud Control’s upbeat vibe reinforced that feeling.
I was really enjoying the album, so I Tweeted about it to my 32,000+ followers, who share my passion for music.
I also emailed, called, and texted some other friends I thought would appreciate Cloud Control. Then, I sent the band a Tweet, letting them know their album was contributing to the enjoyment of my day.
That began a conversation with the band. Which alerted me that they have at least one person on their team who is adept at building relationships.
That led to a Direct Message from Jeremy, who plays bass and sings in the band. We transitioned from Direct Message to email and now I’m hooked. I like the music, I care about the band personally, I’m going to see their shows, and I will purchase whatever merchandise they have available on the road – vinyl, a hoodie… something that will put more money in the band’s pocket than an album download.
Jeremy took the time to see who I am, what I write about, what part of the world I’m in, before he responded to me. “You’re LA, yeah?” he confirmed, as he invited me to the band’s LA shows. That’s more than 97% of publicists who reach out to me, on behalf of bands that are paying them, do.
He then went on to talk about the evolution of Cloud Control’s music from their previous album to their forthcoming one. “It’ll be interesting to hear your take on it,” he wrote. Well, I haven’t heard it yet, but I’m predisposed to like it simply based on the current experience I’m having with this band and their music.
Jeremy gave me contact info for the label, so that I can request an advance copy of the new album. Dear VOTIV: you’re lucky – you’ve got a smart band that’s really working for it and doesn’t take for granted that anyone else is going to do it for them.
If they’d like the $7.99 for the album I didn’t pay for, I’ll give it to them. I’ll buy a copy and gift it to a friend. Now that they’ve engaged me, artistically, personally, and professionally, I’ll spend money on Cloud Control, no problem. During the course of any given band’s career, I have easily spent upwards of $1,000 on tickets, merchandise, and music. I’ll also make sure everyone I know knows about the band.
It doesn’t happen often, but when I do tap into the cloud for new music, it’s to achieve one of two objectives: to truly listen to – and hopefully discover – new music I enjoy; or to get an album I’d purchase anyway, 8-10 weeks prior to its scheduled release. In the case of music discovery, if I like the music, if I connect with the band, I’ll spend a significant amount of money supporting them, throughout their career.
In the case of early access to music, I’d pay for early access to new music. Which, actually would be real-time access. I’d pay to download a song or an album when it’s complete, but that’s not how it typically works. Instead, an album is completed and sits on desks, shelves, hard drives, and inboxes, while all the teams coordinate and execute some semblance of a “launch plan”.
This year, among others, I had the new albums from The National, Sigur Ros, and Atoms For Peace, well in advance of their advance release. I listened to them in the car, during my morning runs, while working, and falling asleep. I spent a lot of time with the albums and recommended people purchase them when they were released. I’ve since bought tickets to see each of those bands two or more times during their tours this year.
Why should we have to wait for music while the label gets their marketing plan together? Marketing is nothing without engagement. You should have been talking to us all along. That’s what Cloud Control is doing. They’re doing whatever it takes, and as much as they’re able.
If you’re putting out quality music, something people can truly connect with, file sharing could be your greatest asset. Your “marketing team” is then comprised of your fans and they know how to promote your music and your shows better than anyone.
If, on the other hand, you’re afraid once people hear the music, they wouldn’t find it worth $7.99 or $9.99, then you have a bigger problem – you don’t have a product nor experience you can stand behind. That is what you should be worried about.
Cloud Control: I wish you all the best. I’ve been listening to the album a lot (my neighbors can attest to that) and enjoying it. Thank you for making your art and yourselves accessible. I can’t wait to see you play in August and look forward to the new album. If there’s anything else I can do, let me know.
Listen to “Ghost Story” from Cloud Control’s album Bliss Release:
Their new album will be out September 17 in the U.S.
Great Northern kicked off the evening with songs and a performance that sucked you in like a good novel. It almost felt like a trick; a welcome trick. The songs went places I didn’t expect them to go, not because they were new to me, but because they actually had an arc, momentum, story, and fervor to them that (I feel) is becoming a lost art in both mainstream and indie music.
Becky Stark took the stage next and cooed songs about love. Optimism and naivety were in a constant dance. On the surface, rose-colored glasses. Yet Stark allows you to peer through the window, and deep into the uncertainty that sparks a once silent prayer into a song.
Next up was one of my favorites, Daniel Lanois. Among the things I love and respect about Lanois:
He’s a kind, wonderful person
He’s a brilliant musician
He has produced some of my favorite albums
His instrumental songs express more than many songs that have lyrics
He is a reminder to make sure we let people know how much we appreciate them, every time we have the opportunity
Lanois sounded amazing. His shows are always a treat. They will spoil you, as you constantly feel you’re being rewarded, just for being there, just for being alive. If you don’t think you’ll remember to check his website for shows in your area, set up a Google alert. If you’ve seen Lanois before, see him again. And again. And again.
Father John Misty’s entertaining set concluded the night. This was my first time experiencing Josh Tillman’s solo endeavor, though I’ve surely heard the buzz. At this point, buzz makes me skeptical so I’ve been cautiously and intentionally avoiding Father John Misty. Last night’s performance was a buzz killer – in a good way.
Tillman’s voice, his expressiveness, the content of his songs and the improvisational way that he delivers them is refreshing. Tillman is an artist who’s adept at integrating the current environment into his show, giving me confidence that although I’ve only seen him once, every show is unique. The audience’s enthusiasm often sparked banter, mid-song, that Tillman artfully wove into his performance, so that it was additive rather than distracting.
Tillman’s quick wit is as admirable as it is entertaining. It requires full presence and awareness in each moment, while he is simultaneously lost in song. I look forward to seeing him again.
I wasn’t going to write about the show tonight. I wasn’t going to capture video of any portion of it. I was merely going to listen, watch, and enjoy myself.
As is always the case when I see Joseph Arthur play, I enjoy myself so much that I have to write about it. Every Joseph Arthur show is so unique and inspiring that I don’t want you to ever miss out, especially should you have the chance to see him play live (even if you’ve seen him 100 times before).
Joseph Arthur art show in the venue
When you see Joseph Arthur play, it’s more than a “show.” He’s not just playing songs – you can feel that he’s truly sharing himself with you in that moment. It’s as if he’s saying “thank you for being here. . . step inside my mind for an hour or two” and then he really let’s you in. What that means is – Joseph Arthur is going to tell you what he’s thinking and let you hear what he hears, layer by layer, so you can really absorb it. This happens through the music, the banter between songs, a change in direction which highlights another aspect of his personality, an acknowledgment of someone specific in the audience, or what and how he paints during the set. Every show is unique, a shared creation and experience.
During last week’s exceptional show, Joseph remarked that he wanted to “lighten the mood,” that the set felt “too heavy.” This week he showed us what he meant. He frequently joked between songs, declaring that malfunctioning equipment is begging “just hit me,” making definitive sounding statements followed by a pause and then, “that can’t be true.” The mood was playful and light. In one way or another, Joe seemed to acknowledge every person in the room, all the while creating music before us, track by track.
The light mood in no way diminished the serious genius of Joseph Arthur’s songwriting. In fact, it almost highlighted it further. One moment Joseph is leading the audience in a chant of OM (yes, that happened) and the next he’s singing a song that lifts your heart up to your throat and lodges it there until he gently sets it back down. Joseph Arthur has written some of my all-time favorite lyrics and each time I see him I feel more and more blessed to be there.
At the end of the show, as his talented guest musicians started to walk off stage, Joseph turned and said, “wait – stay here.” He grabbed an acoustic guitar, decorated with his hand-painted art, and began singing “In The Sun,” unplugged. It was dark, it was intimate, the audience moved in closer and sang along. In a moment that epitomizes graciousness, connection, and openness, artist and audience became one. Joseph sat down on the steps leading from the stage to the crowd, the audience gathered around him as if at a campfire, and what happened can’t be described in words. Here’s video of that moment. The lighting was low so the video is very dark, hard to see at times. But as you watch through to the end, enough light comes into the frame throughout to illuminate what I’ve been trying to say all along: you had to be there.
When I say I want to be inspired by live music – THIS is what I’m talking about. I want to stay up all night and scream (or write) about how exceptional the show was even though I have a full day of work and meetings, beginning very early in the morning. I want to leave the venue without saying “goodbye” to friends I haven’t seen in a long time, to rush home and write about the experience. I want to buy tickets to the next show before I publish this review because once people read this, if they live anywhere near L.A., they’ll buy tickets to see Joseph Arthur‘s final show of his 4-week residency at Bootleg Theater next week. It will sell out.
Paint on Joseph's Left Hand: Music is Art
If you’ve been reading Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend for a little while, then you know about my history with Joseph Arthur, which spans more than a decade. One of my favorite Joseph Arthur memories was several years ago when my friends and I learned Joe was playing a last-minute show, in the small room, at The Knitting Factory. It was about 4:30 pm and we were sitting at work, looking at each other, until we devised a plan (which didn’t take long). My friend, Jen, called The Knitting Factory. “Yeah. . . so we heard Joseph Arthur is playing there tonight. . . in the small room. . . Yeah. . . This may be a dumb question, but are there any tickets left. . . ? And. . .what do we have to do to get them?”
Jen slammed down the phone, “Grab your coats ladies! We need to go to The Knitting Factory right now! They only have 3 tickets left for the show tonight and we need to go get them!” First of all, imagine getting anywhere – quickly – at 5pm, in LA. We looked at each other, without hesitation, vowed to come back to work after the show, and sprinted to the car.
We somehow got to the venue while the remaining 3 tickets were available and Joseph Arthur treated us to a brilliant show. It was special because the venue was exceptionally small and the sound (at that time) was really good. It was special because there were some technical difficulties. . . which allowed time for Joe to get out his notebook and show us some recent artwork he’d created. It was special because Joseph Arthur was playing.
Twelve years later, and I still feel that privileged to see Joseph Arthur play.
Building The Song Piece By Piece
What was special about tonight’s show? The paint on Joe’s hands, reminding you that music isn’t just “music” – it’s art. The way Joseph re-creates songs in front of you, piece by piece, looping percussion, vocals, and guitar, with relaxed precision. “Relaxed precision” may seem like a contradiction but that’s how he pulls it off. Watching Joseph paint, not just a picture, but what is to become a central character in the show, while singing. The look on Joe’s face as he
Painting A Character Into The Show
contemplates and serenades the painting he created while singing the early verses of the same song. Watching and listening, awestruck, as Joseph reads several pages of spoken word, the words flowing so fluidly, you can’t imagine he’s actually had the time to read them off the page. The apparent set list written on the back of the poetry – the songs are familiar, but the set is different. . . it always is. Joe’s sense of humor as he introduces a song, “This song is new. . . except for countless clips on YouTube. Oh, the mystique of the music industry.”
The fact that every person who has spoken to me about Bootleg Theater has said what a terrible venue it is; and that it actually turned out to be quite wonderful. The way I was greeted at the door by security, with open arms and a smile, and treated with genuine kindness while getting my ticket. The feeling of gratitude upon remembering that, after a lifetime of seeing shows in LA, some venues truly are home and treat me like family. And, the realization that after all that time, I can walk into a venue for the first time, and that it too can feel like home. Walls upon walls of Joseph Arthur’s paintings in the gallery, leading to the music room. The fact that there is still a music venue that only charges $2 for a bottle of water.
This acoustic rendition of “In The Sun,” featuring C.c. White and audience sing-a-long. No microphones. Vocal mastery from C.c. White (be sure to watch through the end). A chorus of audience back-up singers – the experience of community and collective passion they contributed is another thing that made the night special:
Not just playing songs; re-creating songs:
“Crying Like A Man”
If you missed that show, you missed that show. It’ll never be the same. That’s Joseph Arthur.
The final show of Joseph’s residency at Bootleg Theater is next Tuesday, March 1. Tickets