Benefit at Silvie’s Lounge with The Squirrel Mummies & A Month of Sundays

Haven’t posted here in a while, but I figured this as good enough a reason as any to break my silence…

Two bands that I’ve been playing with, The Squirrel Mummies and A Month of Sundays, are playing a benefit to help the family of one of the students from the school I work at.   You can find out more here.

Where:

Silvie’s Lounge
1902 West Irving Park Road
Chicago, IL 60613

When:

Saturday, February 2nd @ 8:30 PM

benefit-don

Finished Before it Started

So, in my last post (over a month ago – I really gotta get on the ball here), I mentioned a new music project I was working on. Well, that fell apart. We ended up playing one open-mic, then the singer decided he really didn’t have the time to devote to regular rehearsals and song-writing.

Oh, well.

It is a bit frustrating. I really miss playing in a band. Playing in the Grateful Dead ensemble at the Old Town (which I was doing for a while) is fun, but it’s not the same. I miss the creative input. The collaboration of developing an idea into a song. Just getting out and playing music is not enough.

I’ve got an ad out on Craigslist looking for musicians, and I’m thinking of seeing if any of the people who I played with in the GD ensemble are interested in starting a “real” band.

We’ll see.

What Apple Should Do With the iPod Classic

This is something I’ve been thinking about a fair bit lately, so I thought I’d share my thoughts here. After all, it’s been over a month since I posted anything. (I blame Twitter – most quick thoughts end up get whittled down to less than 140 characters now, whereas I used to expand on those thoughts. This definitely warrants more than 140 characters.)

Earlier this month Apple announced the new iPods. Before the event, some of the tech blogs wondered if we’d see the elimination of the iPod Classic. Of course, that didn’t happen. There’s still a market for the device, and it still makes money for Apple. I find myself squarely in the target demographic for the iPod Classic. Some people care about storage capacity more than running apps and whatnot. We’ve already got iPhones for apps, some of us don’t mind having a separate device for music.

I have a large collection of music in my iTunes library. My iPhone only holds 16GB. Sure I could have gone with the 32GB one, but it wouldn’t have been enough. My 80GB iPod Classic is full, so there would be really no point in a 32GB iPhone for me.

It’s not just the size of my collection, either, but the fact that I have many files that are in either Apple’s lossless format (ALAC), or at least saved at much higher bitrates than what most people use for their digital music. These files take up much more room than the mp3s most people listen to (and sound much better, as a result).

So, I, and people like myself, are the target for the Classic. People who have large collections of music in higher quality formats.

And, when I say my iPod is full, I mean I have to be selective about the music sync to my iPod. I was hoping this month’s iPod announcements would include either a price drop on the existing models, or larger capacity iPods. Neither of these things happened.

So now, if I decide to upgrade my current 80GB model, my only option is 160GB. That’ll do for now, but I know myself; I’ll keep adding to my collection, using higher quality formats, and that 160GB will fill up in no time.

I’m sure you see the point I’m getting at: If people like me are the target demographic for the larger capacity iPods, then Apple should increase the capacity, and they should keep doing this every year as storage technology advances.

What’s more, Apple needs to revisit the capabilities of the current iPod Classic. I don’t mean by adding apps and whatnot, but rather improve what it already does. What do I mean by this? I have files in my library that I can’t even play on my iPod because they are a higher resolution than what it supports. According to the spec page for the Classic, 320 Kbps is the highest it supports*. This is fine for most people, but I’ve got high-def ALAC files that are up to 2800 Kbps. I can’t even load those on my iPod.

Also, I don’t understand why Apple hasn’t added FLAC support to the iPod. Yes, ALAC is technically equivalent to FLAC, but FLAC is the preferred format for higher-quality audio files. Although, both Livephish.com and Livedownloads.com both now offer ALAC as an option, but they’re the exception. People who trade live recordings (legally) tend to use FLAC. There are tools, of course, to convert FLAC into ALAC or AAC, but it’s a pain to constantly have to do this.

I’m glad Apple didn’t discontinue the Classic, as some people predicted. But, I would love to see some updates to the beloved model. So, Apple, do us a favor: Update the Classic with higher storage capacity, support for higher bitrates, and FLAC support.

Sincerely,

Your customers who still buy the iPod Classic.


*The support page only lists bit rates for AAC and MP3, but not for ALAC. The Classic may support higher bit rates for ALAC, but I can’t find anything that says what the max is. I just know it won’t play (or even sync) 2800 Kbps files. Also, it occurs to me that the bit rate might not be the problem, it could be the sample size and sample rate (which, for the files in question is 24 bit/96kHz). Either way, it would be nice if the iPod Classic support high-def files.

Gomez and One Eskimo @ The Vic

Last night I went to see Gomez, with opening act One Eskimo, at The Vic. I thought I’d write up a little review.

(Pre-review: Lin Brehmer was pretty funny introducing Gomez. I know he’s a huge fan, and was probably the perfect person to have do the intro.)

First, the opening act, One Eskimo. I’m not at all familiar with their music, apart from the one song XRT has been playing. (In fact, I didn’t really know the song was them until they played it.) I have to say, they were really good. Their set was a little “arty”, as they had an animated film (which I guess you can download with the album on iTunes) displayed behind them as they played. It certainly added something to the music, but I think they would have been just as good to see without it. I’ll definitely be checking their album out.

Now, as far as Gomez goes, I’ll admit up front that I’m not a “fan”, in the sense that I really only know the music that’s been played on the radio (which I like). I’d heard that they were supposed to be really good live, so when I was invited to go (thanks, Paul) I didn’t hesitate.

Having said that, I didn’t know what to expect from their live show. I was surprised. I knew it would be at least enjoyable, but they completely surpassed any expectations I might have had. It took a while for them to get into their groove, and it seems their playing got better and more intense as the night progressed. This added a natural upward curve, building the set as it went.

Many of their songs seemed to follow that pattern, starting out a bit unassuming, then building into all out “rockers”, with even a little bit of jamming thrown in. If you were unfamiliar with their music going in (as I was), the songs seemed to go to places you wouldn’t naturally expect them to. That’s a good thing.

All in all, it was a great night, and I was highly impressed with both bands. I’ll definitely go see Gomez again the next time they come through town. I highly recommend checking them out if you get the chance.


On a side note: The crowd at this show was older than I expected. I thought it would be a twenty-something crowd, but the majority of the audience seemed to be in their 30’s and 40’s.

Phish to Play Wrigley Field?

There’s a blurb in today’s Chicago Tribune suggesting that Phish will play at Wrigley Field this summer:

Next for Wrigley: Matthews, McCartney, Phish?

While nothing is set in stone yet, it seems likely this will easily pass through approval.  I certainly hope it does.  I think, if Phish were to play Chicago, this is where they should.  Northerly Island is too small for a Phish Concert, and Toyota Park is really not “in” the city.  (I haven’t been to Toyota Park yet, but the location just doesn’t really appeal to me as a memorable concert going experience.)

Soldier Field might be another option, but I think it may actually be too big for a Phish concert.  But a double bill with DMB or Paul McCarney?  Maybe Wrigley is too small for that!

Moving – Part 4

Well, I got the Call it Karma and Posters pages up to date. I don’t have as much flexibility here as I did with a hosted site running ExpressionEngine, but it gets the job done.

The only thing left now is to forward the georgekrueger.com domain so it points here.  I may wait until tomorrow, to give some of the people connected to the RSS feed a change to update their links.

Unexpected

Some days just hit you out of nowhere.  This morning I got an email informing me that CDBaby.com sent me a payment.

Wait.  What?

After Call it Karma dis-banded I left our CDs up for sale on CDBaby*, but it’s been forever since we sold anything.  July of 2008, to be exact.

Needless to say, I was a little surprised that we sold two copies of “Days Go By” last week.  What’s even more surprising is that the purchaser was a music wholesaler in Irvine, CA that specializes in vinyl, indy and import music.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.

*I ended the digital distribution (through iTunes and whatnot), because I didn’t want to have to keep track of sales of the cover songs for royalty purposes.

Phish Announces HD Audio Downloads

The band Phish were one of the first bands* to offer their live concerts available for sale and download online the day after the performance.  Now, they’re once again leading the pack by offering HD audio (three times the definition of CD audio) downloads, starting with their upcoming Festival 8 shows.

I hope this becomes a trend with digital music, as personal storage space and bandwidth keep growing.  MP3 was developed at a time when hard drives were much smaller, and dial-up was still the norm.  Sacrifices in sound quality were made to obtain smaller file sizes.  Today, that’s no longer a necessity, yet the default standard in digital audio remains lower-quality file formats.  It’s time we moved passed MP3 (and AAC, even though it’s better than MP3, it’s still lossy compression) for better formats.

I do think their price point may be a little high (twice the MP3 price, one and a half times the FLAC price) for what the demand will be, but we’ll see.  I may download the Festival 8 shows just to see how good they sound (of course, the performances themselves are bound to be worth the download).

*They’re the first band that I know of that did this, but I can’t say whether or not they’re the first ever to do it.

Hop Cat – Grand Rapids

Hop CatOn Sunday (two weeks ago, now – that’s how long it’s taking me to get caught up) we drove to Grand Rapids.  We had planned on hitting a bunch of different brew pubs, but our first stop was Hop Cat.  While they do have a few beers that they brew there, the real draw is the amazing selection of other craft and import brews.  We chatted with the bartender, Kim, while drinking our beers.  The staff section on their website says that “Kim is everybody’s favorite person. I mean EVERYONE!” I believe it.  She was very friendly and fun to talk to.

I can sum up Hop Cat like this: Great beer selection, good food, friendly service, and great music playing in the background (which was loud enough to hear, but not loud enough where you had to shout over it to have a conversation).

After a couple of beers, we headed out to Founders, taking a side trip down Division street to some of the shops (what was open on Sunday).  We stopped into a “vintage” clothing store (just off of division), which had mostly non-vintage, trendy stuff mixed with some hippy-ish clothes and some antiques.  There was also a back area with beads.  Lots and lots of beads.

We also stopped by a local record store.  I don’t remember the name of the place.  I picked up a copy of My Morning Jacket’s Celebracion de la Ciudad Natal (on vinyl), and I almost got a copy of Leo Kottke’s Mudlark, but when I took it out of the sleeve to check it out, side two was badly damaged.

We headed on to Founders, which was a bit of a walk (had we gone straight there from Hop Cat, without the side trip, it wouldn’t have been bad).  I hate to say it, but we were highly disappointed.  The beer was good (we each only had one), but the service was slow and inattentive.  And food service is non-existent; you have to go up to a little window connected to the kitchen to order.  Really?  Is it too much trouble to have the wait staff bring out menus and let people order from their table?  And, when Carrie paid with a $20 bill, she was given change for a $10.  Luckily, the waitress didn’t make a big deal of this when we brought it to her attention.

Anyway, we only stayed for one beer, then headed back to Hop Cat.  (We had fully intended on having lunch at Founders, but decided to wait until we got back to Hop Cat to eat.) We spent the rest of the afternoon there, tasting different beers and having friendly conversation with Kim.

The take-away from all of this?  If you’re visiting Grand Rapids, skip Founder’s and go directly to Hop Cat.

Holland, Michigan, New Holland Brewery, and Weird Coincidences

The second day of our trip to Michigan was probably our most eventful.  We drove to Holland, Michigan, which is a place that Carrie and I had both been several times when we were children.  (I suppose that’s one of those weird little coincidences life throws at you.) The main focus of our visit this time, however, was not Dutch Village* (which is someplace you should definitely visit if you have kids of your own).  No, this time our focus was New Holland Brewing Co. I’ll talk about that in a bit.

We walked around the downtown area right around where New Holland is.  It was nice, but again it is one of those touristy small towns with a bunch of stores that are all the same (see the previous post about Lake Geneva).  But, (like Lake Geneva) there are other things to do there.  I mentioned Dutch Village and New Holland, there’s also Windmill Island, home of De Zwaan.

De Zwaan is billed as “America’s Only Authentic, Working Dutch Windmill”.  It’s located on an island (which is only technically an island by being cut off from the rest of the geography by a couple of small steams) not far from the downtown area.  We went on a lark, but it was fun.  There are lovely gardens and a miniature Dutch countryside village dubbed “Little Netherlands”, and presentations about windmills and Dutch culture (we missed the klompen dance only by minutes).  And, of course, De Zwaan.  It’s actually pretty impressive to see up close (pictures on Flickr).  If you visit Holland, MI, I’d definitely recommend making it a part of your trip.

Before all of this, we stopped for lunch at New Holland.  We enjoyed it very much – the food was good, as was the beer.  Carrie got their version of a Vienna lager, and I got their the barrel-aged version of their Mad Hatter (they had several specialty versions of the Hatter available when we went).  The Vienna was very much what you would expect from a Vienna-style lager, malty and smooth.  It was very good.  The barrel-aged was excellent, with some nice vanilla undertones to it.

I didn’t get the Poet Oatmeal Stout, even though it is one of my favorite oatmeal stouts, since a) oatmeal stout isn’t a really good “summer” beer, and b) I can easily get it in Chicago.  It would have been nice to have it from the tap, but I liked the barrel-aged so much I just stuck with that (since it was a special offering, I knew I wouldn’t be able to find it elsewhere).

Before we left New Holland, I saw a poster advertising their live music schedule.  I decided to check it out to see if anybody interesting was playing that weekend.  Much to my surprise, that night’s act was a blues guitarist that we had gone to see several times in the early ‘90s in and around Chicago.  Keith Scott**.  We had become acquaintances with him at the time, and he even invited me on stage with him and his band a couple of times.  It had probably been about fifteen years since we last saw him.

Another one of those weird little coincidences.

We decided to go back that evening to hear him play.  We had a good time – good music and good beer.  We spoke a bit to Keith between sets, getting caught up.  It was really a pleasant, unplanned part of our vacation.


*Next time I’m out by my parents’ house I’ll see if I can dig up some of the photos that were taken when we went there as kids.

**Unfortunately, Keith hasn’t updated his website for a couple of months, so none of his upcoming gigs are currently listed.