Freestyle Dance Set to the Beat of Life at Union Sq. Theater

GROOVALOO is a dance theater performance currently being held at the Union Square Theater at 100 E 17th street. But that simply signifies where it is, what Groovaloo means is an entirely different matter. In essence it is a dance troupe, a hodgepodge of dancers from different backgrounds, both in their personalities and technical styles.

The performance of Groovaloo tracks the lives of the performers, letting the audience see into the hearts and minds of these dancers, most often revolving around how they found the stage. These stories display the courage to pursue a creative lifestyle, even if their families said it was a foolish choice.

A prime example is co-creator Bradley “Shooz” Rapier’s story. He was in medical school when he won first place in a talent competition in Canada, and had to make a choice, doctor or dancer. Another prevalent character, Al Star, played by Caity Lotz in the performance this past Sunday, is a former ballet dancer that couldn’t break free of routine and improvise. Her character in the show is someone who loves dance but is scared of not knowing what to do.

Often a sense of personal empowerment could be felt through the dancer's exotic and precise movements. The Groovaloos threaded intricate seat pieces with other dance numbers that appeared improvised. While the more structured sections have the voiceover stories, it is often in the dancer’s freestyle moments that why they chose a life of dance is most apparent.

In 1999 the Groovaloos were created by dancer/choreographer, Rapier, and with the help of director/co-creator, Danny Cistone, this show based on their lives was born. At first a loose collection of freestyle dancers, the Grooveloos vast accomplishments in all aspects of dancing and acting have pushed the troupe to the forefront of freestyle dance. Charlie “Vzion” Schmidt, who delivered the spoken-word portions in the show, has danced with Michael Jackson, Usher, and as an Ipod dancer. Teresa “Rag Doll” Espinosa has choreographed for Missy Eliot, Rihanna, and Miley Cyrus. These are just a few examples of the troupe’s impressive body of work.

Another persistent theme in the show revolves around the older dancer, Steven “Boogieman” Stanton who dances across the stage with a cane for most of the performance. Stanton was a innocent bystander shot in the back at a nightclub shootout. He was told he might never walk again. Stanton struggles to reclaim movement, and his ultimate victory over adversity bookends the performance.

As a theater performance about dance, Groovaloo was spectacular. Every number, and there were 29 of them, was perfectly executed. From an assembly line of metal-face robots pulling one dancer into the world of routines, to two dancers looking through a mock mirror and portraying each other with near perfection. The performer’s natural skill pulsates in every set piece in the show, and the mashup beats and mixes are all fitting and well integrated.

How much a viewer enjoys Groovaloo really depends on one’s expectations before walking through the door. If you love the b-boy culture, freestyle dance, and hip hop, then this show is a must see. It contains moments of genius at every turn, and never feels repetitive for the entirety of the show. However, if you walk in expecting a complicated story with twisting drama, you may be disappointed. Every story the characters told are of reality, these are the stories of the performers lives. When they are shown through dance with a voice-over spoken narrative they can feel one-dimensional. What the stories do excellently however is allow the performers to put their lives on display with the movements of their bodies, and the audience can feel the sincerity behind each story of progression, acceptance, and courage.

Groovaloo is playing regularly through Jan. 3rd. Tickets can be purchased here. The troupe will also be performing as a special guest on FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance on Dec 16th.

What NIN Front Man Trent Reznor has to say to the Struggling Musician

I tend to listen to a guy like Trent Reznor. You-the-reader may or may not be fond of his band Nine Inch Nails, but you’ve got to give credit to his mastery of the new digital music market.

A post on his personal forum lays out details for breaking into a market that may seem dead or dying to corporate music execs, but if an artist can understand what fans of music want they can still obtain a rewarding and profitable experience from The Biz.

Reznor gets right to the point addressing what the elephant record labels won’t talk about, musicians can no longer make money selling just their album.

The artist and distribution method in question was the Beastie Boys and the relatively new and innovative TopSpin Media. Of course, the Beastie Boys have the advantage of being firmly established with millions of fans and record sales already under their belt. But the message he has is, “give your music away as high-quality DRM-free MP3s [and] collect people's email info in exchange.” To make money, Reznor suggests creating custom hand-crafted premium packages, similar to what both Radiohead and NIN did, with In Rainbows, and Ghosts I-IV, respectively (this is relevant to any independent artist, not just musicians, but cartoonists, writers, etc. as well.)

The music industry is in flux and there is no shortage of theories on what to do about it. Reznor's opinions are clearly on adapting to the market not fighting it. His take on the current market and where creativity should be focused is to, “offer a variety of premium packages for sale and make them limited editions/scarce goods. Base the price and amount available on what you think you can sell. Make the packages special.” Once you’ve established a fan base through building online connections, Reznor believes that it will be easy to reach those who will want to hear about concert dates, new records (which are free) and deluxe vinyls and art.

A distribution platform like TopSpin is viable, but there are others like it. And, for the tech savvy, building a website with everything mentioned above can be done for nearly free with enough time and dedication.

Reznor’s admission that “music is free” whether musicians like it or not, is painfully accurate. It is however, infinitely better to have a curious music fan visit your band's website, download your latest album, and feel like the artist just wants fans to have it. Especially when the alternative is to have that same person download the album off a torrent site, (especially with the likelihood of said person purchasing the album at a big-box record store being essentially nil), and then maybe or maybe not ever buying the album online or otherwise. With such an impersonal approach, the listener is probably not likely to keep track of the artist’s gigs, or even remember the band two weeks later.

I agree with Reznor here, that society has become too accustomed to free media, and the up-and-coming artist is severely disadvantaged. But Reznor is explaining how to play the game. It might be unorthodox, but it also just might work.

[Read the forum thread here]

Art Can Help People

An international art exhibit and competition, known as Canstruction, is now on display in the Financial District.

Using only cans of food and bottled drinks, —to later be donated to City Harvest— design firms from around the city built structures now on view at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center.

All the food used to make the skillfully crafted sculptures will be given to the soup kitchens and food pantries of City Harvest, a non-profit organization trying to alleviate the stresses of New York’s needy.

The exhibit had three winning creations: Best in Show won by Arianna Braun Architects which crafted “Feed the Bank,” Best Use of Label went to Ted Moudis Associates, who designed the Beatles-inspired “We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends,” and Best Structural Integrity awarded to Platt Byard Dovell White Architects and the gravity defying “A Fungus to Feed Us.” Of course the real prize is that the food will go to help the less fortunate.

Canstruction is a foundation run by the Society for Design Administration (SDA). The SDA claims over 10 million pounds of food have been donated to local food banks through Canstruction. Later this year and into 2010, Canstruction events are being held all over the country, including the founding cities of Denver and Austin in the following weeks. The event has grown to include over 130 competitions in the '09-'10 circuit.

You can view the free exhibit until Nov. 23rd, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The public is invited to donate cans of food at the event.

Decapitations Run Wild On the City's Billboards

A graffiti artist known as "the Decapitator" with a penchant for replacing ordinary poster images with a beheaded replacement has begun a reign of terror on New York City streets.

The anonymous artist has a flickr pool displaying the multitude of decapitations.

The latest victim, Shakira on the Rolling Stone cover poster, has been vandalized around the city and even on the actual magazine cover in newsstands.
The decapitator plasters on a perfectly detailed image on top of the advertisements. The replacement often creates a disturbing image including blood splatter on the surroundings and putting the lone headless victim in a group of others cheering and smiling.

I would give this graffiti artist some credit for making waves in the mainstream media, (there was an article in Wired about the artist's work in London) but the decapitator's portrayal lacks the subtlety of say Banksy, obey, or Neck Face. While these new pieces may give the other talented, socially motivated, graffiti artists in the city a run, the decapitator seems to be more of a one-trick-pony along the lines of the splasher, the lame “artist” who threw buckets of paint on other graffiti artist’s work.

Words and Pictures (a webcomic), makes a fair point as well, while the decapitator had been hard at work in London tagging many clothing and movie posters, the headless characters have predominantly been female models. There have been exceptions, including Daft Punk, the UFC fighter Shamrock, or a chicken, but overall there is a certain misogynistic feel to the work. (Although there is no physical proof that it is even a male perpetrator.)

I’m certainly all for the culture-jamming movement, and guerrilla subvertising can sometimes show the absurdity of a media saturated world. But to convey a message, often one just needs satire and humor, not necessarily violence. Still, it’s a better outlet than having another Jack the Ripper roam the streets.

First TV Show About a Twitter Feed Is Happening Now

The magnificently funny Twitter feed, “shitmydadsays” is being made into a television comedy. editor Justin Halpern, 29, started the Twitter account after moving back in with parents. He had already landed a book deal with Harper Collins for the rampant success of foul-mouthed witticisms by his 72-year-old father, when he got the TV deal with CBS.

The show is getting serious treatment, being produced by Will & Grace creators, David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, and will be written by Halpern and Patrick Schumacker.
Unfortunately, the show will not be called Shit My Dad Says.

Shitmydadsays is the second newsfeed style Internet property to land a TV deal. TextsFromLastNight, which has exploded in popularity, having exposure on Facebook, Twitter and its own independent website, also has a TV deal in progress. Fox is developing TFLN.

Drink Corona? You Must Know Where the Party is

An online study by market researching firm Mindset Media found some interesting correlations between the beer you choose to drink and the personality traits that go along with it.

Mindset described their psychographic findings to, and the results fit within many of the established advertising methods these beer companies use, but some were less clear.

A prime example of how beer can be marketed to very susceptible parts of the human psyche, i.e. the ego, is seen clearly in how Michelob Ultra drinkers see themselves. According to the survey, Michelob Ultra drinkers:

“Think highly of themselves and can be a little bit conceited. They care what other people think about them and want to appear perfect. They also tend to be take-charge types with strong opinions, and can even be confrontational. Michelob Ultra drinkers are 43% more likely than the average person to consider sustainability a priority, and 34% more likely to buy life insurance.”

Interestingly enough, that is spot on with their current TV ad. In the video, two young, sexy, corporate exec-types are working hard, then are quickly out running excitedly through the city, and moments later sipping Michelob Ultras at a chic Manhattan rooftop bar surrounded by other beautiful people sipping their energy drink, oh I mean beer. (You can see the ad here)

Mindset Media questioned about 2,500 people through online surveys on their favorite beer and many personality-describing questions relating to how to market to these individuals.

The director behind the survey, John Durant, said that, “he doesn’t just like beer, [he] loves it.” Personally, he drinks Stella Artois, and that means, “I’m a little bit immodest,” he said, “but it also means I’m very open minded, and like to experience new things.”

Craft beer drinkers were found to be social liberals. They separated craft beer from Blue Moon drinkers even though many don’t realize the orange flavored sorority favorite is part of the Coors Brewing Co. but instead that it is an independent brew. Regardless, patrons of both had relatively similar standpoints on most issues. Those that enjoy Blue Moon, and craft beers in general, lean socially liberal and according to the survey if you drink Blue Moon you are “105% more likely to drive hybrid cars, 77% more likely to own Mac laptops, 65% more likely to purchase five pairs or more of sneakers every year, and 32% more likely to not be registered voters.”

Values of beer drinkers and their choice of drink is a tricky business, there is certainly some stigma associated with drinking certain brands of beer, same as there would be for different brands of clothing. Some interesting correlations made in the study included the data that Budweiser is the choice for the practical, sensible, minded. Bud drinkers “are 42% more likely to drive a truck, [and] 68% more likely to choose a credit card with flexible payments.” Coors Light is a tried and true choice, and a drinker is probably more likely to get in a bar fight, and be less creative.

Corona, expectedly, attracts extroverts and people going out to bars a lot. Dos Equis was an interesting case. The Dos Equis ads featuring “The Most Interesting Man In the World” haven’t been around too long, and his catch phrase, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis,” matched up perfectly with those who most often drink the double ex.

Of course, an analysis like this does tend toward a chicken vs. egg argument. Has Dos Equis always been the beer of choice for connoisseurs of life, or was that image solely created by Dos Equis? The same of course could be said for Michelob Ultra, and to lesser degrees all beer, although none limit themselves in a market slice as these two.

The full study data will be released shortly on Mindset media’s website.

Eli Escobar Interview

Adem Cengiz: You've been in the DJ scene in NYC for a while now, gaining popularity and getting in with the right people. Who has helped you with your success the most?

Eli Escobar: I would say first and foremost being a NYC club kid... By the time I was ready to play out at clubs I already knew a lot of promoters and DJ's so it was a bit easier to get work than say if I had come from out of town and was starting from scratch. Also, by now a lot of people know Bobbito Garcia was very instrumental in helping me during my early days... putting me on the radio and getting me club gigs. I definitely will always feel indebted to him for all his help.

AC: You've got your hands in a lot of mixtapes and albums, which is a great thing to see, and you¹re a skillful producer. Do you enjoy working the studio more now, or is the live DJ set still your passion?

I think I have an equal love for both. And for me, they go hand in hand. The more exposure I get for my production, the less Top 40 gigs I have to do!

How has the international DJ scene been? Is it more fun to be traveling around, bringing your vibe to the hotspots of the world, or do you like being in one place for a while?

Well I do love being home in New York, but unfortunately night life here is not what it once was. So in terms of playing out, I'm far more excited to go to Toronto or Moscow or Helsinki than I am to play here. It's also great to meet people all over the world and see what's happening in their respective club scenes.

Have you always been, and always will be, a NY DJ?

EE: I suppose so. People say they can hear it in my music and in my DJing. There's definitely an old school NY style of playing that I think I still subscribe to. Light on the scratching... more about pacing and well rounded sets.

Your blog OutsideBroadcast, has it been really useful for your career?

EE: Sure. When I started it, I put it up so I could share some records with friends of mine. Suddenly I was getting readers from all over the world and before I knew it, traveling all over the world as well! I was still a bit of an internet novice at that point and was completely unprepared for the response it got.

And do you feel like its essential for a DJ to have an online voice in the industry today?

EE: Seems to be that way, huh? I go to record stores every week and buy new vinyl and cds but I know most people don't. Most DJs included. If a song doesn't get blogged, it seems most people don't know it exsists. I think it's different overseas where people tend to get music off of Beatport and Juno.

AC: Or is the popularity and knowledge of a DJ still determined by word of mouth?

EE: There's always a word of mouth thing when it comes to DJ's. We are a tight group and tend to put each other up on new music we're feeling.

AC: What mixes are you working on right now? With who?

I'm making a mix with my friend Amanda Blank... We did a lot of music that didn't end up on her album. And more since the album came out, so we're putting it out for free so people can hear what we've done. I'm also putting out a mix CD of a bunch of my best disco edits. The cd will come with a bonus disc of unmixed songs.

AC: What has been your favorite collaboration recently?

EE: I did a remix for Phoenix, and they are so good! They didn't put it out but nevertheless it was fun to break apart their song and have a go with it.

AC: The DJ'ing world, and the music world in general, has lost a lot of heroes recently. I read that you were close with DJ AM. How influential was he in your early career?

EE: I met Adam on myspace about 5 years ago. He messaged me saying how much he liked my work and we became close almost instantly. He was a guy who would not shy away from playing anything in a club. Took a lot of risks. I always respected that and I think a lot of DJ's are better off for having followed his example.

AC: Do you feel like there is a vacuum of leadership in the DJ and mixtape realm of music?

I don't really know... My biggest influences are old Chicago radio DJ's from the 80's so I think you're asking the wrong person! When I was young and starting out, I looked up to a few guys in particular, I'm sure it's that way now for the young kids. But there are so many different styles of DJing, music and different scenes. So I don't really know... Haha

AC: Who are the up and coming musicians/DJ's/producers that you would most like to work with?

EE: As a producer I'd like to work with some old singers like Alison Moyett or Boy George! That would be the dream...But as a remixer I always hope to get jobs remixing whoever's making great music at the moment.

AC: How often are you on East Village Radio? Do they have a pretty receptive audience for your music?

EE: I have a weekly show with Stretch Armstrong called the Delancey Music Service. We're on Monday nights at 10pm. The reception has been great. Online radio is exciting ‘cause you get listeners from all over the world.

Find A Gig Near You

Having trouble treading through the tumultuous landscape of New York’s music scene? (Or any major city with throngs of young musicians playing shows weekly for that matter.) GigLocator, a new concert aggregator, is trying to build a community of concert lovers around their easily navigable sea of local concerts.

There are a few other sites that do what GigLocator is attempting, but none have created so seamless and intelligent an interface. The very new website (still in beta), was designed by 18-year-old James Proud, who won a web entrepreneur competition (Tomorrow’s Web) with the concept.

Packed with features that make organizing favorite bands and genres simple, once signed up with the website you can keep track of concerts attended, see who else went the same concerts as you –and eventually– view and upload pictures and videos of the shows.

The site draws upon major concert databases from the large ticket distributors (ticketmaster, livenation etc.) as well as independent venue listings and lesser-known artists that might otherwise be more difficult to find.

One part of the smart feature set is the site’s concert recommendation engine. Drawing upon your favorite bands listed in linked and Pandora accounts, GigLocator will then suggest other artist’s shows in your area that would match your taste. This integration is made more useful by the fact that these sites do not offer concert-locating systems nearly as robust as this one.

Such a service is a welcome addition to the available concert searching options. Other concert aggregation options in New York are typically genre- or venue-based, and while magazines like Timeout and NYMag list many concerts, listings are not usually comprehensive and are more like suggestions for the most popular shows available.

The company plans on reaching profitability by tapping into one of the last remaining areas of income in the music scene (concerts are the primary money-maker for lesser-known, or unsigned artists). By charging a small commission on the ticket seller for linking to them through GigLocator, the price of tickets for patrons is not increased, making the site useful without being a burden.

Reni Lane Interview

Reni Lane, rising pop singer and keyboardist for the LA-based band, The Like, has just come off a week’s worth of shows for CMJ ’09 and touring with Arctic Monkeys. She took some time out of her busy touring schedule for an interview dealing with life on the road, her new projects, and her yearly homage to Bowie.

Adem Cengiz: You're entering into the realm of new wave female pop stardom, getting on MTV’s First Ladies of Rock. I know no one wants to here that they’re pop, but your star is certainly rising, is the popularity helping your music?

Reni Lane: I have no problem with the word pop, I mean, The Beatles were pop. To me "pop" means having singable, melodic lines. Who doesn't like a great melody line they can chant to? Thus I am totally fine with the popularity being labeled a "pop" artist brings. However, I think what I have to offer as a pop artist is a bit different because of my lyrical content and alternative production.

AC: On tour with The Like and Arctic Monkeys sounds like a good line up. How is it playing keyboard with The Like?

RL: Playing keys with The Like on the Arctic Monkeys tour was a lot like summer camp. We met and started spending all our time together, so we became really fast friends and shared amazing experiences almost immediately, because they are amazing girls! On the first night I rehearsed with Tennessee and Z, the hills in Los Angeles were on fire, and after rehearsal we were drawn to the light of the fire like moths to the flame. We drove onto the highest hill we could find and then sat in silence looking out over what looked like Mordor. It was a crazily intimate moment between three people who just met and it says a lot about their character and personalities. I love them so much!

AC: Their style of play is certainly a little different since you and Laena came on board. Have the studio sessions leaned towards collaboration or is there a little conflict?

RL: There has not yet been any studio sessions together since their record was pretty much already done by the time Laena and I joined. When playing live with the girls I approach the parts same as I would my own: with an open mind, with willingness to modify my role in creating the sound, and by always striving for excellence! So I do mix it up a little and do my own thing regarding the exact notes I play, but it's all in the vein of what's come before to respect the record they've made - which is already amazing and fun and easy to get into.

AC: Are you still managing to remain a New Yorker while being on tour? I know touring can sometimes be consuming, what have you been doing in your off time?

RL: I always make sure to reserve some quiet alone time for myself while touring to keep centered and not get too caught up in any tour drama (not that there was much to begin with). Usually to do this I would read or watch documentaries and old movies. I watched "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg," "The Lovers," and read a lot of Choygam Trungpa during this tour. It kept me inspired and fresh and reminds you that your whole world isn't stuck on a bus. I think this helps with my performance every night. As far as remaining a New Yorker, a few episodes of "Mad Men" (thank you Z) and "Gossip Girl" was all the New York City I needed.

AC: Have you pulled the rest of the girls into the New York music scene? Or is SoCal the better spot to be this time of year?

RL: I don't necessarily think SoCal or NYC are better than the other, but are better for different things. In this case I think the mix of locations suits us. I'd like to imagine with the girls being based in Los Angeles and me being from New York that I add a bit of toughness and mystery into their sunny, sexy, and feminine Los Angeles looks - like who is that crazy orange-headed chick? Where did she come from? That's why the band is so unique - because each of us has our own star-powered personality and look that stands out.

AC: Are you thinking about taking a run at Britain with Arctic Monkeys in the future?

RL: Well, that would have to be totally up to the Arctic Monkeys! In the very least we had an amazing time and got along really really well and I'm happy to have been a part of it.

AC: If you could tour with any band other than these two, who would it be?

RL: I would love to tour with other really rocking bands like The Walkman or Kings of Leon. Although I'm labeled as a pop artist I think nothing beats the energy and excitement of a live rock show and I'm always tailoring my live experience towards that.

AC: I watched your "10 Random Things About Reni Lane" video. Did you come up with the concept, or how much was the director’s input? Either way the videos are great; short, snappy and funny.

RL: Why thank you so much! My dear friend and director Joe Turner Lin came up with the idea with the help of my other great friend and composer David Poe. Then, armed with a long long list of random things about me that I rattled off, Joe thought up hilarious scenes and together we picked the 10 that would best inform people about the many sides of Reni Lane. It was a collaboration but Joe definitely spearheaded the whole thing and worked the hardest to make it a reality.

AC: The trombone is pretty badass instrument to learn, especially when added with your other talents. I mean singing, guitar, keyboard, impressive. Have you always been a multi-instrument girl, or have there been some recent pick-ups?

RL: I've always loved picking up new instruments and this pretty much has never stopped. Guitar and then just before that singing, were the most recent additions. But as they say, 'jack of all trades, master of none,' so my goal is not to learn everything but to master what I already know. I still have a lot of work to do on becoming a better piano player even though it's the first thing I picked up.

AC: And wow, throwing shows in your dorm room at Columbia, how did the University like that?

RL: I'm sure Public Safety wasn't too happy when I started throwing live shows and listening parties in my dorm room for college musicians to share their music. I remember at the first party I threw freshman year - a sexy Santa Claus themed ditty - that the cops showed up before the party even started! But as long as it was all over before "quiet" hours everything was OK, and I was really good about respecting the neighbors and noise levels. Plus, all my neighbors ended up coming to the performances anyway, or the party would move into someone else's room once things started winding down.

AC: Since you’re a different version of David Bowie every year for Halloween, does that mean that for your show at Rouge Tomate the audience is going to get to see it, or will you dress up afterward?

RL: How I dress up for Rouge Tomate on Halloween is a safely guarded top-secret government operation. Under oath from President Obama I cannot comment on it to any extent!

AC: Is it difficult not to go back to the Ziggy Stardust every time? And have you ever been Jareth from Labyrinth?

RL: The David Bowie personalities I've already done are Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke. So I still have a long way to go, but I didn't even think of Jareth from Labyrinth until you mentioned it - thank you for that! It's definitely now added to the list.

AC: Thank you for the interview, and good luck with the music career.

Interview conducted and edited by Adem Cengiz.

Don't Get on the Governator's Bad Side

Governor Arnold Schwarzernegger recently sent a veto notice to the state congress with a rather odd message if read in a certain way.

The Message was in response to a bill proposed by state Congressman Tom Ammiano who recently shouted, "Kiss my gay ass" to the Governor at a democratic dinner party. The Governor's press secretary, Aaron McLear said it was a, "weird coincidence."

OK Governor, intentional or not, it was a clever rebuttal. But maybe you should play nice with your congress until California isn't drowning in debt.

[Via SFGate]