All posts by loganheftel

Day Four: On The Street

I’ve dabbled in street performance.  Sometimes it has been a liberating outlet for pent up rage, and sometimes it sucks.  Actually, usually it sucks.

I think the first time I tried it was in St. Paul, Minnesota when I was on a lunch break at music school.  I made four dollars in about an hour.  I didn’t try again for a while, probably not until after I left Minnesota.  But as I started to travel more, I began testing out new cities by playing on the street.

When I reached a town, if I had time to kill, I’d walk around a busy place until I found a spot to stop and play.  When you play outside, I thought, no one is safe.  Everyone has to hear to me, at least for the amount of time it takes to walk away.  You get to see an interesting side of people when they are not willing audience members.  Some people look at you like you’re actually crazy, and they’re not entirely wrong.  Most people won’t look at you.  Some of them go out of their way to not look at you.

Almost a year ago I played in front of a closing Tower Records store in San Francisco.  It didn’t matter what I sang or how I moved, people would not stop to listen.  Then I realized they all had earbuds in, and were walking to their own soundtrack.  I had nothing to offer.  I wrote a short song on the street to the people walking by, safe in their own playlists.

I spent part of the summer trying out 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica with Carey Grafmiller on drums.  The idea of going to City Hall and paying for a license to perform in public was fascinating to me.  The year before we showed up in Times Square with a mike and an amp and were able to play four or five songs before the police told us to leave.  With actual permission, we’d be able to play all day, switching spots every two hours in rotation with other performers.

The first time we tried it out was a weekend night.  It was packed.  Every forty feet there were other performers; folk singers, blues singers, belly dancers, break dancers, dog trainers, balloon artists, clowns, hip hop bands, percussionists, fiddle players, and more folk singers.  We had barely pulled our cart off Wilshire when we were greeted by a very friendly Promenade manager named Steve.  He asked us if we were new, then explained the guidelines and pointed us to one of the last spots available.  He marked us down on his map for the 6PM slot and went on his way.

We set up amidst the chaos and began to play.  We were in between two activist groups.  On the left, literally, was an animal rights group with a projector screen showing video of bloody carcasses and handing out vegetarian literature.  The film was narrated by Corey Feldman.  To our right was a church group displaying large poster boards filled with phrases like “Hell is Real,” illustrated monkeys with X’s through them, and photographs of aborted fetuses that were enlarged to show texture.  Both groups had microphones, both groups shouted at people walking by.  Needless to say, no one who was there to shop wanted to hang around our area and listen to music.

We decided to move before our two hours were up.

I came to find out there were two types of performers who are allowed to be on the Promenade.  Artists were in the first category, and they needed to pay the permit fee to perform.  The second category was called Free Speech, and under the protection of the First Amendment no permit or fee was required to set up and speak.  This was the category of the animal rights group and the church.

I think there has been better usage of the First Amendment.  The animal rights group and the church group were basically yelling at people.  As good as their intentions were, their method was angry and obnoxious.  The artists, myself included, were mostly just trying to do what they love.

The point is not whether the anti-meat people or the church people were right or wrong about their issues, it’s just that they were being so mean about it.  I don’t think God or Corey Feldman would be that negative in real life.  The point is also not whether the artists (myself included) were any good or fun to watch, just that they were trying to be positive.

One group expressing love, the other expressing hate.  One had to pay a fee, one could show up for free.

I’m now living very close to Hollywood Blvd.  I have not yet tried going out there and playing for the tourists.  I may do it, though, cause I’ve never seen Freddy Krueger or Sponge Bob be anything but nice to people.

Day Three: Thoughts on Now

I was in fourth grade when I learned about the Internet.  We’d always had computers in school.  I grew up taking typing classes and playing Carmen San Diego.  I vividly remember the year my friends and teachers started talking about the World Wide Web.  A series of commercials on TV showed smiling families with buzzed-cut kids saying “All my friends have AOL!”   My family got a computer and some guy with a truck and wire cutters spent an afternoon connecting our house to the rest of the world.  If I’d been a few years younger, I would have no memory of a time without Internet access.  That is something I’ll spend the rest of my life comprehending.

There were suddenly references to E-mail on Seinfeld, “Dot Com” was heard at the end of every radio add, and Chat Rooms were said to be more dangerous than riding a bike without a helmet.  As Yahoo and Hotmail overshadowed AOL, I was entering Middle School.  Instant Messaging was more popular than talking on the phone.  I started seeing things like brb, ttyl and LOL.  No person explained these shorthands to me.  The Internet, who had seemingly spawned these lingual mutations, was eager to define its new children.  A simple Yahoo search for LOL solved my worries that it meant something dirty or intellectually complex.  “Laugh Out Loud” was both a relief and a disappointment to discover.  It was so vague and lame.  I vowed to never use it.  I figured that a little maturity and adulthood would replace it with beautifully specific and descriptive language.  I thought for sure that LOL was doomed to be short-lived.

One of my first tours was spent driving from Spokane to Chicago and back with no one but a Tom Tom GPS.  I had toured before using a paper map, and by the time I hit Coeur d’Alene I knew I’d never want paper again.  It told me where to turn, where to stop, what to see, and through the magic of Bluetooth, even read my text messages aloud to me as they came.  It spoke in a female voice with a British accent.  During the course of our magical journey, I noticed the Tom Tom had trouble saying some basic things.  It was notorious for mispronouncing names of towns and rivers, but it had a lot of trouble with some uses of the letter R.  Every time I was instructed to “Head North…” it sounded like “Head No-do-oth.”  This digital stutter was amusing at first, and annoying after the first day.  I couldn’t believe that in a navigational system, they couldn’t at least program correct pronunciation of the four cardinal directions.  Then came a text message.  As always, before I could read it Tom Tom read it out loud for me, in perfect Robot Brit: “We’re having fun without you Laughing Out Loud.”  I pulled over.  I looked at my phone.  “We’re having fun without you LOL.”  My friends were having fun staying home, and my GPS, who couldn’t pronounce “North,” could translate “LOL” into phonetic “Laughing Out Loud.”  That day I finally accepted that LOL wasn’t going away anytime soon.  Language was changing, permanently.

I still don’t use LOL.  Unless I’m really in a hurry, I will spell words out and use capitalization in e-mails and text messages.  I don’t know how long I can hold out.  Even Bill Maher tweeted “becuz” to save space.  When I was in fourth grade, if you wrote “becuz” you might be held back a year.  Now, LOL is found in dictionaries.  As we leap forward with 140 character sermons, I can’t help but think that we all are being held back by trading correct for quick.

I guess what I’m getting at is, I’m interested in seeing what the consequences of brevity will be.

The late start to the New Year

The first week of a year never counts anyway.

I started my online spring cleaning early. You may have noticed my blogs and my website are gone. I’m starting over this year. A new website will be up someday. Right now I’m refocusing my social networking efforts.

First off, I’m syncing my pages. I’ve been too sporadic and unorganized in the past. I have accounts with myspace, facebook, a facebook artist page, twitter, ilike, mindsay, virb, youtube (old videos: gone. new videos: soon.) and last.fm. Probably some others I forgot about. It’ll all come together.

I was aware of this shift toward online self promotion early, but I procrastinated. I started my myspace page in 2005, after watching from the sidelines for over two years. I joined the others slowly. I always join late, most recently with twitter. Each time a new site made it big, I knew I’d eventually have to participate. For some reason, I’ve been hesitant to really jump into this social networking craze. I like to say I’ve been “careful.” I’ve been observing. Passive.

But musicians, like almost every other profession nowadays, have to be self-promotors. I’ve had a fairly successful time these last five years traveling, performing and writing, despite my neglect of the online community. How cool would it have been to have updated my sites every day? How many stories have I lost, how much better would I understand myself? This year I’m starting this project to see what happens. Along the way I’ll talk about some of my experiences these last few years living out of a suitcase and playing my songs.

I now have an apartment here in Los Angeles. Our internet was hooked up today. So, day one is now. I made a few simple rules for myself as I join the ranks of bloggers and tweeters. First, I will write a blog every day, short or long. Second, I will publish a video blog every week, short or long. Last, I will update my status as I see fit. I still hate the idea of constant notifications of daily errands. But, that may change. Everything does.

This is how I will stay on track as I work on my next release. So far songs are being written and demoed, slowly. I’ll give you some previews and take your feedback. Hopefully, this year, an album will take shape. And hopefully, you’ll play a part.

Thanks for caring.