O.A.R. Concert Video Series: Innsbrook

I’ve been an O.A.R. fan for a decade or more now. After seeing them randomly on a talk show, I hunted them down on-line and downloaded lots of bootlegs off the Internet Archives, which they supported and encouraged.

Nowadays, they record all of their own shows and make them available on their website for $10 a pop, less on some holiday weekends. (They were only $8 over Labor Day, for example.)

In the last couple of weeks, without any warning that I had seen, five concerts popped up as high def downloadable videos. The whole package was $50, or you could buy them individually for $12.99.

O.A.R. Live goes video, with high def material from Innsbrook

There were no previews on the website or on their YouTube channel, so I took a flyer and bought just one to sample: the Innsbrook show, which looked like O.A.R. was playing a small picnic more than anything else. I’m so used to seeing them at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ where the crowd is over 10,000, or in concert videos like Red Rocks and Madison Square Garden. This venue looks tiny by comparison.

I’ll save you that experimentation: If you like the band and you like their concert performances, go ahead and buy whatever shows you want from this list. You have nothing to worry about. They’re worth the money. We could quibble over any number of things, but for the price they are well worth it.

The video quality is excellent. It breaks down a little when you enlarge the image, with some shots later in the show as night falls looking like they got boosted a bit to be brighter and suffering the consequences. However, the default size on my Quicktime Player window works out great and minimizes those effects.

The audio to go along with that is obviously straight off the board and well mixed. Solos come out crisp and clear, no one part of the band ever shouts down the other. All the typical mix-ups from live music mixes are avoided here.

And how about this for a nice bonus: When you buy the concert video, you get the MP3 tracks from the show along with it. Suddenly, your $12.99 purchase includes a $9.99 gift. Not a bad deal at all.

O.A.R. Live goes video, with high def material from Innsbrook

Cameras are scattered around the stage for the show. Of course, there’s one from the soundboard front and center to get the “hero shot” of Marc Roberge singing, or to go wide to get the whole stage filled with people. There’s one or two clamped down around the drum set, from the looks of it, which often provide nice two shots looking over Chris Culos’ shoulder to someone in front of stage. There’s plenty of movement, though. There might not be a camera man sitting on a train track zipping back and forth in front of the first row, but the video never feels static.

Most of the camera angles feel really close to the band. It’s not about placing a bunch of cameras at a discrete distance and then zooming in for ‘clean’ shots. The long shots include the crowd in silhouette at the bottom. Lots of wide angles get used because the cameras are so close.

O.A.R. Live goes video, with high def material from Innsbrook

This one looks like an 11mm or 14mm wide angle lens. Check out the distortion on the far sides.

It’s a bit looser than what you might expect from a high end concert DVD. Cuts are made on the beat and all, but there are some moments where it feels like the wrong performer is being featured. Some solos are missed — though very few. I’d bet the camera aimed at the soloist had someone else standing in the way, so the weird cut was to hide that loss. (Like, at the end of “I Want Peace,” why is the trumpeter shown singing along with the final line of the song, rather than Roberge?).

The more I watch it, the more I appreciate some of the less traditional concert camera angles, like the two shots that fit the rule of thirds. This is a video shot with a still photographer’s eye almost more than a music video director’s eye. And given how many music videos are headache-inducing and unwatchable, that’s a high compliment.

O.A.R. Live goes video, with high def material from Innsbrook

While there are crowd shows inserted into the concert, it’s not too many. I hate crowd shots. The last thing I want to see is a bunch of drunk college kids with red cups in their hands singing along and dancing awkwardly. (To be fair, the audience for this particular concert appeared slightly older. Maybe O.A.R. fandom has grown up in the last few years.)

Oh, and all the iPhones. That’s the worst part. I feel sorry for the people who get stuck watching the iPhone screen held over the head of the person in front of them all night.

Forgive me, for I am an old man now…

O.A.R. Live goes video, with high def material from Innsbrook You might be bothered by the bugs in the bottom corners throughout the movie, but I do like that the song titles get flashed on the screen between them at the beginning of each song.

This is a single file download. You don’t get easy track access. This is not a DVD. There is no jumping from chapter to chapter. Each concert is a roughly two hour file with no markers. That might be the biggest drawback, but I’m also not sure how you’d fix that. The last thing I’d want is to have to deal with managing 20 different movie files and setting up a playlist to play through them in order or something.

The long and short of it is this: It’s not a perfect concert film, but it’s a good value for the money and the ease of access. It looks a lot better than I was expecting, and I hope they do more. I might not buy a lot of them (as much as I’ve love to), but I’d definitely pick and choose a few more examples.

Amazon CD Conversion

Amazon has had a feature for a few weeks now where you could now download MP3 versions of any CD you’ve ever purchased. That includes, yes, the CDs you didn’t purchase for yourself. It makes for an interesting mix of music. Still, it’s pretty cool, even if I did rip all of those albums myself already.

I have to believe the Groban CD/DVD there was a Christmas present for my mother. I should be a good son and download those MP3s to her computer for her, right? She IS the rightful owner fo the disc.

Track 5

Only $2.99 at Amazon now. Track 5 is better known as “What’s Opera, Doc?” minus the speaking parts. For those, you’d need to buy this one:

Of if you want the DVD:

This public service message comes to you from — well, me. And the potential Amazon Affiliates points.

Things That Have Changed in College Radio

I spent a couple of hours at my alma mater over the weekend last month. It was alumni/reunion weekend, and the radio station opened its doors to any previous radio hosts who wanted to do a shift. Friend Frank and I, who did a show together sporadically over our four years there, teamed up once again to inflict the masses with bad humor, 90s music, and our trademark witty repartee.

Here’s what I learned from the experience:

  • I am old. One of the radio station hosts met us. He said he thinks 90s music is the best, and that he was born in the 90s. My head had to quickly do the math. Every student at the school, save a few seniors, were born in the 90s, two decades ahead of when I was born (mid-70s). Yikes.

  • Radio isn’t dead. The internet took it over. The school no longer has a transmitter. The old 10 watter didn’t power the station past two miles, but now it’s gone all together. If you want to listen to the radio station on campus, you can stream it over the website. The sad part is, the website is in flash. You can’t stream the radio station through your mobile devices. Sad.

  • Digital, Digital, Digital. When we were on the air from 1994-1998, we brought stacks of CDs with us. We juggled them across two CD players and a couple of cart decks for the PSAs and whatnot. We made it work. Today, they still have two CD players, but most of the music comes through the “LapLine.” That’s the wire that goes to the DJ’s laptop/iPhone/iPod. There’s not a single CD, cart, or vinyl album in the studios. There is a turntable over on the side, but it’s not plugged in.

  • Everything is automated. Like all radio stations, there’s a computer hooked up to the station that automates everything. If the next host doesn’t show up, just turn up the volume on the automation and leave the station. It’ll take care of itself. That’s nice. In professional radio, of course, the automation is used to carefully plan for that station’s specific brand of homogenization. The hosts are there to pre-record their bits that the engineer then intersperses with the music to make it seem authentic while always “hitting the post.”

  • Radio, front and center! The radio station moved out of the basement of one of the dorm buildings into the University Center, where you work in a fishbowl. The studio is up front with tall glass windows so everyone can see the DJs on the air. It’s a nice advertisement for the radio station, but I liked hiding behind the microphone in the basement of the dorm building and not being seen while at the station. By the way, and the station doesn’t play inside the University Center at all.

It was a lot of fun, particularly with all the cool toys to play with — mics on swing arms, the mixer board with all the sliders, the automation as backup, etc. etc. I’d love to do it again.

It almost makes me want to podcast again, but there’s no way I could commit to that schedule right now. It’s the same reason that I’d love to have Dragon Dictate on my computer but never will. I use the computer the most in my den/home office/Man Cave after my wife and daughter go to sleep. The den is right next to their rooms. I can’t be talking to myself in there all night or I’d be waking them up. Someday, I’ll get a Cat5/6 cable run down to the basement and be able to plug into the network, rather than use spotty Wi-fi. Then I could theoretically podcast from the laptop. If I was doing a solo show, I could record to my iPhone, for goodness’ sake. I’ve done that before. Time is the enemy of us all, I’m afraid.

But being on the radio is really cool, even when you have no idea if anyone is listening. . .Things that have changed in college radio

The Talking Heads


Something for the whole blogosphere to learn:

 You start a conversation
 You can't even finish it
 You're talking a lot
 But you're not saying anything
 When I have nothing to say
 My lips are sealed
 Say something once
 Why say it again?

“Psycho Killer”, Talking Heads

I understand David Byrne’s desire to never reunite with the group, and that the last concert tour was as perfect as it gets, but wouldn’t it be awesome to see them back together, anyway?

Bands Backed by Orchestras

First, there was Elton John:

Then came Meat Loaf:

(Yes, same orchestra in Australia.)

There were video recordings for both of those, by the way. I’m not sure if the Elton John one ever made it to DVD.

The Wiggles just did a series of performances in Australia with an orchestra, but did not record it. What a wasted opportunity! (I have a three year old. I’m a big fan.)

Coming this December: O.A.R. is performing with an orchestra in December as a charity concert. There’s not a video recording being made of it, but it will be recorded for audio download on the usual LiveOAR.com website. I’m very excited for that one. In the meantime, O.A.R.’s Red Rocks concert will be available on CD in November, and there is a DVD/Blu-ray release at around the same time. You can pre-order “Live on Red Rocks” through Amazon.

(Yes, I realize there were other bands who’ve played with orchestras. I know Metallica did one, too, for example. I don’t like Metallica.)

Weird Al’s Tour Rider

(The following was written a year ago and accidentally never published. Let’s make up for lost time tonight…)

While looking up some information on “Weird Al” Yankovic’s current tour, I found a PDF of a rider from his contract for the 2010 tour. It’s filled with all sorts of nitty gritty stuff that you’d expect a concert contract to have: No advertising signage within 50′ of the stage. 50 tickets in the center section must be given to the artist. What local laws might affect this performance? Where is the rigging? What’s the venue’s layout? Etc. etc.

Then, there’s the M&M section. This is the section that you see occasionally quoted across the web or in wacky news stories of the day. The most famous one is the artist who wanted a bowl of M&Ms with one specific color removed. Well, Weird Al has one of those sections, too. . And it’s not too crazy, but some of it is curious:

– 6 plastic bottles of assorted organic fresh fruit juice (Evolution, Naked, Odwalla, Bolthouse Farms, etc.)

I believe Weird Al is a vegetarian. He’s in really good shape, so this stuff doesn’t surprise or bother me.

– 12 Heineken (in bottles) – 6 Heineken Light (in bottles) – 6 Miller Lite (in bottles) – 6 Bottles of Stella or Pyramid Hefe Weizen beer

Hey, the band has to drink, too.

– 24 bottles of water (no Dasani brand please)

What’s up with that? Very courteous to say “please” here, I must say. But no Dasani? It can’t be an anti-Pepsi thing, because Diet Pepsi shows up later in the contract.

– 24 cans Coca-Cola CLASSIC

Because that new stuff still sucks, 25 years later.

– 6 cans Diet Coca-Cola – 6 cans Diet Pepsi – 12 cans 7-UP – 6 cans Dr. Pepper – 1 Bottle Patron (ON FRIDAYS ONLY!!)

What’s so special about Friday nights?

– 3 bottles of good red wine (Pinot Noir) – 1 bottle of good Sauvignon Blanc wine – 1 bottle of good Chardonnay or White Burgundy – 2 bottles of good Merlot – 10 additional large plastic cups

Is this so they can tailgate out in the parking lot, with a good Merlot?

– 2 Rolls of paper towels

Accidents do happen.

Dressing room assignments section includes this:

# 6 – Local 501st Legion (very large room). These performers are featured during the Star Wars-themed song in the show. Room needs to accommodate up to 15 people with general seating (couches and/or chairs) and a central area for rehearsing. Please provide (1) ONE boombox for playback/rehearsal. NOTE: Where possible, this room should be located in a SEPARATE AREA from AL and band.

I love Al…

Walk Off The Earth

Just discovered this band and think they’re interesting, so I thought I’d pass along this Video-Made-To-Go-Viral:

They have an album or two up on iTunes that I’ve seen so far.  Listened to a couple of the previews there and I like what I hear so far.

I Could Have Looked Like a Genius

When Christina Perri’s debut album came out a couple months back, I wrote up a song-by-song review. For some inexplicable reason, I never posted it. Here’s one song’s review:

“The Lonely” is a dark song, and the most likely to be used on “So You Think You Can Dance” this season. I haven’t checked her tour schedule for the summer, but I’d bet anything there’s a hole in it sometime in June or July for Perri to be there for a victory lap to perform a song from this album. The blatant reference to “Dancing slowly in an empty room” in this song makes it an easy choreographer target. (Though “Bang Bang Bang” would make a kick-butt Quick Step. ;-) I love the piano progressions in this song. It acts as both piano and percussion in the song, which is a nifty trick.

Guess what song they used on “So You Think You Can Dance?” this week? Perri is out on tour and not available to perform on the show, but I almost nailed that prediction…

Meanwhile, over on AugieShoots.com…

Jake Shimabukuro!

jakes_generic-01Virtuoso Ukulele Player!

Seriously, the guy’s insanely good.  The flamenco song he played would rip anyone else’s tendons right out of their arms. And then there’s the crowd-pleasing covers of “Hallelujah,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that are classics.  Here’s a sample:

8.5 million views on that sucker.  Well deserved.

Check out more of my concert pictures and the stories behind them right now at Augieshoots.com.