Thursday, March 13, 2014

Neil Young has started a Kickstarter campaign to bring the authentic music listening experience to music fans

On Tuesday, March 11th, the Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Neil Young has started a Kickstarter Campagin to raise $800,000 for his PonoMusic project. Within the first 24 hours his project raised over $1,000,000, and within the first 48 hours it raised over $2,000,000. The success of the campaign, and even more the product inspired me to write about it in my blog post.

What is this product and why is this Kickstarter campaign so successful? The PonoMusic project is about technology, which helps to bring original music sound from the studio to music listeners via PonoPlayer at the highest digital resolution. According to the project Kickstarter campaign page, “PonoMusic is not a new audio file format or standard. PonoMusic is an end-to-end ecosystem for music lovers to get access to and enjoy their favorite music exactly as the artist created it, at the recording resolution they chose in the studio.“ The high-resolution music will be available for purchase on the PonoMusic online store. The store will use the FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) audio format as its standard, but the player will be able to play other most popular high-res music formats from other sources.

The difference between the low-res format such as mp3 and FLAC format is that in order to support a small file size, the mp3 compresses the original music file so much that it loses a lot of the original musical information affecting the final sound of the record, whereas the FLAC format has a very high resolution, which allows all details of a song to stay maximally close to the original resolution of the record. Mp3 format has a bit rate of 192kbps or 256kbps, while the ultra high resolution FLAC format utilized for PonoMusic has a bit rate of 9216 kbps, which is “about 30 times more data from which your player reconstructs the “song”, according to PonoMusic.

The PonoPlayer has an unusual triangular design, bringing memories of the “Toblerone” chocolate bar. The reason why the player was designed that way is because in order to support the desired functionality its creators needed to use larger audio and battery components. The triangular shape was able to accommodate all these components in the best way.

The device has a touchscreen with “swipe” navigation, which allows users to easily manage their music and the settings of the player. The player can be held upright or horizontally, the display automatically rotates depending on the orientation of the device.

50 PonoPlayers were produced for testing to date. Artists such as Pearl Jam, Tom Petty, Foo Fighters, Dave Mathews Band, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting, Beck, Norah Jones, Jack White, James Taylor and many others were able to test the product, and all of them were impressed by the music sound quality according to the promotional video created for the campaign.

The PonoPlayer can be pre-ordered by participating in the Kickstarter campaign or on The PonoMusic creators plan to deliver the first PonoPlayers to the Kickstarter campaign supporters in October 2014. It will have a 1-year warranty and will retail for $399 at the PonoMusic website.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

My First Red Hot Chili Peppers Show (Impressions and Duluth Concert Review)

I was waiting for this day for so many years! Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of my favorite rock bands, came to Duluth (a small town near Atlanta, GA) in the 10th of April, 2012 (after their January Duluth date was cancelled due to the Anthony Kiedis's injury). While living in Russia I was dreaming of seeing their live show. They came to Moscow once in 1999, and had a huge gig on the Red Square within one of the MTV shows. I lived in my home town of Yekaterinburg that time, and watched that show on TV being impressed and excited by the performance of the band, but was not financially independent enough to even consider traveling over 1500 km to Moscow to see them. Later, in 2007, I first time did travel that distance to see Aerosmith, but that's a different story. 

So back to RHCP in Georgia. When I found out they were coming it was already too late to buy tickets at Ticketmaster for the initial not expensive price, because all the tickets were sold out within few minutes of the sale. Unfortunately I was moving from Russia to the US those days to pay close attention to the official tickets sale date and be able to buy tickets in the first seconds of the sale. So my boyfriend (at that time) and I had to buy tickets at a much higher price (about 50% more expensive) from a re-seller we found at Craigslist. All other tickets resale web sites had the same rows tickets being 2+ times more expensive than the initial Ticketmaster price. (Such a profitable business, isn't it? I wonder how it is not controlled and not restricted in the USA). We ended up buying tickets from the same Floor zone, but different rows, because the guy who sold them to us didn't manage to buy two side-by-side tickets since the tickets around were bought almost instantly by other people. Well, we were happy that we at least bought those tickets, since I was not willing to buy tickets for $150+ each, and therefore could miss the show I was dreaming about for so long. Jumping a little bit further in the story, we in the end watched the gig from a closer raw, because there were two empty side-by-side sits. However, it took us a while to find them. Also, if there were still Ticketmaster tickets available, I would buy tickets to the front Floor section to better experience the show (the tickets there cost about $80), but the re-sellers were offering those tickets for $500-600! Insane!

Anyway, the gig was amazing, the band's performance was great, however being not close enough to the stage has made our experience not as incredible as it could be. The crowd around us was rather calm too, so we didn't feel the uniting energy you sometimes feel at other gigs when the energy of the band's performance at the stage naturally merges and mixes with the crowd's mood, and creates unforgettable experience no matter how far you are from the stage.

Right after the gig in April I wrote a concert review, and would like to share it with you:

Red Hot Chili Peppers came to Georgia again, this time supporting their latest album ‘I’m With You’. 

Like in the other cities of the North American tour, the concert has started with Santigold opening act. Her performance accompanied by the band and two dancers was a fun start of a great night.

After 45 minutes of a warm-up show and a small break during which the stage equipment was changed, the lights were turned off and the long-awaited Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith and Josh Klinghoffer appeared on the stage. However, it should be mentioned, that along with the RHCP members there were guest musicians. One of them was Mauro Refosco – a Brazilian percussionist, who performed on several songs of the ‘I’m With You’ album and who is currently traveling with the band on their world tour. His playing beautifully complimented the show.

Photo. The start of the RHCP gig in Duluth, GA, April 10, 2012. Mauro Refosco is at the photo on the right.

Similar to the previous tour cities, the gig started with the first song from the ‘I’m With You’ album – Monarchy Of Roses, accompanied by the bright lights on the huge stage screen. The crowd was slowly becoming more and more captured by the show.

During the whole concert Flea and Josh were jumping, rolling and doing other crazy things on the stage with their guitars. Flea even managed to walk on his hands at one point. No doubt, the crowd really loved it! Anthony and Chad were also rocking on the stage and actively interacting with the crowd. 

Talking about the band-fans relationships, it’s worth mentioning that the band has recently announced that they will make a book about their fans. You could actually see at the concert how the band tries to emphasize the importance of their fans: at different points of the show random people from the crowd were showed on the huge stage screens in real time.

Both set-lists and number of songs were different in different cities of the tour. Particularly in Duluth they played 5 songs from the last album, 3 songs each from ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’, ‘By The Way’, ‘Californication’ and ‘Stadium Arcadium’ and a few other songs. The gig was full of improvisations and jam-sessions from the band. The first song was followed by the long intro jam, which kept the crowd in anticipation of the next song. Flea played solo preceding Throw Away Your Television. Chad Smith excited the crowd by playing a long intro to the Dani California. After the encore Chad played a great solo accompanied by Mauro Refosco playing on various percussion instruments. Then Josh and Flea joined in a jam session slowly moving to Freaky Styley. The gig ended with the final jam by Flea, Chad and Josh while Anthony left the stage after the energetic performance of Give It Away brightened up with images of the random people’s faces on the big screens above the stage.

Among the memorable moments of the show was a performance of Happiness Loves Company when Flea put away his base guitar and played the song’s accompaniment on the piano. His brilliant playing once again proved his many-sided talent.

In the end of the show Flea addressed some words to the audience and asked people to support live music. 

Chad Smith was the last one who left the stage. He spent some time traditionally throwing his drumsticks to the fans and thanking the crowd.

It was a great gig, and hopefully it’ll be not too long till we see Red Hot Chili Peppers in Georgia again. Meanwhile, let’s congratulate the band with their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction on April 14, 2012.

Set-list in Duluth, GA (04/10/2012):

Monarchy Of Roses
Cant Stop
Look Around
Flea solo
Throw Away Your Television
Wet Sand
The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
Chad Smith’s intro
Dani California
Happiness Loves Company
Right On Time
Under The Bridge
Higher Ground
Chad Smith’s Solo and Jam
Freaky Styley
Sir Psycho Sexy
They’re Red Hot
Meet Me At The Corner
Give It Away
Final Jam

Friday, June 15, 2012

Roger Waters with The Wall Live in Atlanta, GA, USA (June 13, 2012)

Last Wednesday, in June 13th, 2012, my husband and I went to see the show of former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters. It was The Wall Live show, which is touring the world from September 2010. It was the second time I witnessed this outstanding high-tech visual music performance. The first one was in Moscow, Russia, in April 2011.

Like the most of The Wall Live shows, Atlanta show was held in a huge sports venue – Philips Arena. The tremendous white wall was partly built across the venue’s width before the show. The concert started slightly later than stated, but the delay was hardly noticeable. The venue looked almost full.

The show’s start with “In The Flesh?” was as always spectacular. In its culmination the stage was illuminated by intense pyrotechnic effects and the fire from the airplane crash into the side of the Wall.

Photo. In The Flesh?

During the first part of the show The Wall has been slowly built by construction crew, more and more separating the band on the stage from the audience. The last brick was laid by the end of the “Goodbye Cruel World” song with the last words by Roger Waters: “Good Bye”. The intermission then followed.

Photo. During “The Last Few Bricks” instrumental medley, when The Wall was almost complete.

The Wall, being a perfect plane for various visual content, embodied by modern projection technology, was the main character of the show. It was reflecting not only what was happening on the stage, but also the video of 1980 Pink Floyd show in London with Roger Waters singing “Mother”, fragments of 1982 The Wall movie, documentaries, multiple text and graphic messages to the audience. However, various high-edge 3D projections The Wall was a canvas for were the most impressive. The Wall was transforming into the building with columns, into the TV-set, into cities and streets. It was surrounded by flying birds or wriggling worms. It was rotating around its axis and exploding surrounded by bright colors of the sunny sky. Its bricks were detaching and flying into abyss…

The whole show was carrying important social messages from Roger Waters. Being a pacifist, Waters delivers an anti-war message in his show projecting documentary war pictures and videos on The Wall, which remind us of all the horrors wars bring. On his web site he asks people to send photographs of the loved ones who died in any war, and then projects these photographs with names and other short information on The Wall during the show to commemorate “the fallen ones”. The performance of songs “Vera” and “Bring The Boys Back Home” emphasize anti-war message of the show most of all.

The other message from Roger Waters is unity of people against controlling governments and corporations. This message appears in the song “Hey You” with words “Together we stand, divided we fall”. Various graphics on The Wall – starting from images of tyrannical leaders of the world’s history to the logos of corporations and currency symbols falling from the bomber plane like bombs – strongly support this message too. When singing the song “Mother” Roger Waters asked “Mother, should I trust the government?”, the answer “No F*cking Way” appeared on The Wall, which was immediately approved by the crowd in Atlanta and impressed us a lot, because it was not expected.

Photo. Mother

The show as always ended with an impressive destruction of The Wall along with the repeating “Tear down the wall!” exclamations from “The Trial” song. As the Wall was destroyed the images of happy girls waiving at the crowd appeared. 

Photo. The Trial

Some moments after all 12 people from the band, including Roger Waters, appeared on the stage in front of the destroyed Wall. They played and sang, and Waters introduced each musician as they were leaving the stage one by one. By the way, one of them was Roger’s son Harry who is playing Hammond organ, keyboards and accordion at The Wall Live show and who is a wonderful jazz pianist outside The Wall.

The Wall Live tour 2012 is going to have its last show on the 21st of July in Quebec, Canada. However, the tour might return to Europe in 2013 according to the Roger Waters interview for Rolling Stone magazine in 2011. Well, let’s hope more people get to see one of the most spectacular and powerful performances on Earth! By the way, forgot to mention, the sound in Atlanta was just perfect – my huge respect to engineers who worked on it!

Photo. Happy me after the show.

Until the next time!