Hip Hop Hooray

It’s me: Whit.  If you don’t know me or have just met me, you may not peg me as someone who is into hip hop.  If you know me, you have (perhaps reluctantly) had to embrace the fact that it’s a big part of my life.  It’s been my favorite genre of music since I was old enough to know how to access it.  From A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul back in the day to Coolio and Ice Cube when I was a little older to Jay-Z and Pharrell later on and Kendrick Lamar and… well, let’s be honest.. still Jay-Z today, hip hop just appeals to me more any any other genre.

With that said, perhaps you can understand where my interest in taking a hip hop dance class originated.  When one of my coworkers mentioned that she took a great hip hop class for beginners in the Mission, I agreed to come along, warning her that my only dance experience was the kind you do at high school dances, night clubs, and HiFi.

Boy, was I in for a surprise.  Though the class is listed as beginner level, this sh*t is no joke.    They teach you a dance in counts (which is pretty easy assuming you can gain muscle memory and you can count) but hip hop isn’t really a “counts” style of dance.  It’s more about flowing from one move to the next.  In fact, if you do the moves in isolation and pay attention to the counts, you end up looking either like a robot, or just really…. white.

Here’s an example of the class (taught by my fav instructor David Shrag), from Dance Mission’s website:

So the challenges for me were as follows:

a)  Not looking like a cheerleader for (what’s the whitest university out there?) University of Nebraska

b)  Remembering the moves – there were a lot of them

c)  Putting it altogether at the end to the music.  With swagger.

Challenge accepted!

I’ve actually been taking this class semi-regularly since 2008, and I get SO much out of it.  Mayhaps not surprisingly, I’m still in the beginner class (I took the intermediate class once and instantly demoted myself) but I’m getting a couple key benefits: cardio (he even starts the class with an ab workout), new friends, new music and something-other-than-the-treadmill.  I’m a big fan of taking classes to mix things up.  This is one class I will always keep in heavy rotation.

I’m always looking for people to join me in this class, since the coworker I mentioned earlier has since moved away from the Bay Area.  It’s seriously the best.  If you want to join me, hit me up on one of the 90 social networks I frequent.

Love,

Whit

 

Link

via priceonomics

The Street Kids of San Francisco by Priceonomics

Al here. I am fascinated by homeless people, drug addicts, prostitutes and anyone’s story that feels really far away from my own life. Just read an interesting article about the homeless kids in the Haight, made me think twice about who is actually winning at life:

Our initial hypothesis was that life on Haight Street would be a grim, Dickensian hellhole. Instead, we discovered a world of misunderstood, modern-day nomads, blithely toeing the line between poverty, drug dealing, and hippy nirvana. Most of them seemed to be having fun.

Consuming –> Creating

Hi my name is Alison and I grew up in a minivan commercial. While my sister and I both loved oldies and classic rock, our childhood consisted of soccer tournaments, climbing trees, getting stuck in trees, and cutting Barbie’s hair into mohawks. Standard really. Neither of us really had much interest in learning to play instruments aside from drumming with chopsticks in restaurants to very successfully irritate our parents, yeah…we pretty much nailed that.

While it was always encouraged to learn about music and go to concerts at really intimate venues like Universal Studios and the Hollywood Bowl, music was watched from afar, played on the radio, worshipped on TRL or made into a mix CD and shoved into a crush’s locker. Hi Lance. As I got older, my passion for music pretty much consumed me and long story short, it’s been a very important part of my life ever since.

Guys, after twenty-eight years of watching and listening to music, I started to feel like a huge fucking poser. Now, I’m not saying you need to be a cook to properly understand or enjoy good food. Good food is good food. But I you gotta admit, it makes you enjoy it more when you understand the labor of love and ingredients that went into the dish.

I have invested so much time learning about music and going to shows, but I didn’t understand anything about what I was listening to. It kinda started to bug me that I couldn’t explain why certain artists and songs just effected me the way they did. It got to the point where I decided to entertain the idea of doing something about it.  It’s like loving some marketing collateral and learning the HTML that goes behind it. Okay, I just pushed it, huh? Dammit, too much Alison.

I gave it some thought and decided to make learning to play an instrument my 2013 New Year’s Resolution. I was, and still am, really intimidated by the steep learning curve- I’ve never done anything from scratch like this before. It’s learning to read and comprehend a new language and having the potential to completely suck at something that I love so much. That’s scary! It’s risking ruining songs that I adore by listening to and attempting to play them by practicing over and over again and butchering them. It’s having to say no to plans because I know I need to practice every day to get better.

It’s kinda fun and kinda rewarding just knowing I am pushing myself past my comfort level and even if I’m awful (which I am), I feel like the climb is interesting and I am learning a lot about myself through sucking. I never purposefully opt to put myself in new situations where I might suck no matter what. I think the last time I knew I was likely going to suck but had to and wanted to do it anyway was taking my driving test.

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So, I decided on bass, bought Fender Squier, a huge amp, a tuner, a metronome, and some weekly workshop lessons. I’m now on my 4th lesson and I can play the beginning of Dazed and Confused by Jimmy Page, as well as most of Children of the Revolution by T.Rex. I’m in a workshop with a Freshman in High School and it’s pretty fair to say she is better than me, so I’m also learning to put my ego in check and just plain struggle and be vulnerable in that way. Learning to discipline myself by organizing my free time to make room for practicing is really new for me too, and probably a good thing. (Hoping my gym habits follow in suit.) I am finding it difficult to stretch my fingers to evenly reach the frets, understand music theory 101, tab and even how to hear music in measures rather than in beats. When I get frustrated, I try remember why I want to do this and keep that goal somewhere in my peripheral thoughts.

“And I find it hard to focus looking forward. So I look backward.”

- Iggy Pop

I will put out a few SoundCloud tracks or make Whitney shake it in my future music video when I feel like I can fluidly play something worthy of sharing. So, stay tuned because I am gonna be persistent and give this bass some serious heart. I really do want this. And in the meantime, how beee–uuutiful is this bad boy!?

I named him Iggy.

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Body Language – Social Studies (Plastic Plates Remix)

Consuming –> Creating,

Al

 

Vine. Madness. Need Intervention.

Whit again.

As you may or may not know, Al and I both work in New Media.  We luuuurve all things social & digital.  In fact, we met in Dolores Park and immediately began chatting about apps & working in social media.

That being said, this post on Vine is long overdue.  Oh, you don’t know what Vine is?  It’s only the best new social app out there.  It allows you to record 6 seconds of stop/start video, making it appear as if you’ve edited the footage on the back end.  Really, you’ve just captured only the footage you want to include, and left out the rest of the nonsense.  The result is six seconds of excellence (or, if it’s your first time Vining, probably six seconds of you tapping your foot – gotta start somewhere).  In any event, Vine is spreading like wildfire, and even causing some controversy.

vine

Some people I know are getting REALLY creative with their Vines.  For fun, try a stop motion Vine or a time-lapse Vine.  It’ll make you feel really artistic.  There are times when I feel like I’ve created a Vine on par with the work of Christopher Nolan.  Then I remember that I’ve just filmed my dog yawning in different locations around the apartment and snap back to reality.

Vinning

Now get out there and start Vining!  And don’t forget to follow me and Al – @WhitneySmithSF and @AliHillman.  See you out there!

SBTRKT feat. Little Dragon – Wildfire (Drake Remix)

2013 Coachella Lineup & How to Process This Information

Whit here.  You know I had to comment on this.

The 2013 Coachella lineup was released last night via their social media outlets around 8:30 pm, and it’s got some people feeling confused about how to react.

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Headliners include The Stone Roses, Blur, Phoenix, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Other noteworthy secondary acts include Jurassic 5, Hot Chip, Wu-Tang Clan, Vampire Weekend and Moby.

coachella lineup

Is the collective community of Californians who attend Coachella each year (and base their annual travel plans around the event) happy?  Or are they disappointed and angry?  The reactions fell all over the spectrum.

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Furthermore, the mainstream media coverage of the public’s reaction to the lineup announcement was mostly negative:

Business Insider – People Are Up In Arms Over the Coachella Lineup

Huffington Post – Coachella Haters: Disappointed Concert-Goers React to 2013 Lineup

So how are YOU supposed to feel?

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Naturally,  I’m here to tell you.  Here are some major takeaways from last night’s announcement.  Feel free to quote them (they’ll make you sound festival-savvy):

1)  It seems this year, Coachella is returning to its roots as a music festival rather than a national pop culture event.  This is good in a lot of ways.  It weeds out the goobers. Many of us would like to see a lot more music fans at Coachella, and a few less morons.  While you’ll likely always encounter a 16-year-old girl in pigtails savoring a ring pop and hanging out with her crusty drug dealer in the Sahara Tent no matter what the lineup, 2013’s event will surely lend itself to a better balance of idiots and normal people.  So we’re not due for a divalicious Beyonce cameo on the main stage at any point, but methinks we can collectively sacrifice that gift in exchange for a music festival filled with good people.

2)  2013 is the year of the danceable band.  You heard it here first.  2012’s EDM-heavy lineup was great, but may have prompted some to opt for the Sahara Tent’s booming bass over fun, lively bands.  Example: Grouplove was SO FUN last year!  Obviously, their performance of their delightful hit “Tonguetied” was a blast, but the real highlight came when they encore-covered Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” … and nailed it.  We danced, we cried, we hugged, we had the best time.

Danceable bands to look forward to in 2013 include: Of Monsters and Men, Divine Fits, Two Door Cinema Club, Franz Ferdinand, Vampire Weekend, La Roux and Tanlines.

3)  Coachella is asking patrons to take a leap of faith.  By booking bands that aren’t immediately recognizable for everyone (a la The Stone Roses), concert-goers are pushed outside of their comfort zones a bit.  It’s never good to be locked into one genre of music.  It’s also never good to limit yourself to “artists I’ve heard of,” or, much worse, “artists I’ve heard on the radio.”  Hopefully, patrons will do their due diligence before the festival and check out bands they’ve never heard of on Spotify or Soundcloud.  Not only is this good because it opens people up to appreciating new music, it’s also good because we won’t see a massive tidal wave of pop scenesters flocking from one famous band to the next.  Circumnavigating the hoard of fans rushing from Avicii to Dre and Snoop last year was daunting, and at times violent.  I’m optimistic that the “playing [polo] field,” so to speak, will be much more leveled this year.  Bueno.

With all that said, I have to admit that upon reading the lineup for the first time last night, I went through a range of emotions about as bi-polar as Vincent Van Gogh.  I nearly cut off my ear, and then I practically ran through a wall in my kitchen out of excitement.  All within a 20 second span.  Someone should really supervise me whenever they release a major music festival announcement.  Loving music this much is debilitating.

I’ll leave you with a top-level play-by-play of my emotions from last night, for your entertainment:

8:26 pm:  This 30Rock is SO funny!  I’m so mad it’s the second-to-last episode.  What will become of Liz Lemon?

8:27 pm:  Holy SH*T.  HOLY SH*T.  Did they just Tweet the Coachella lineup?  Is this real? Oh my God, this is real.  THIS IS NOT A DRILL, PEOPLE!

8:28 pm:  No Daft Punk.  Ugh.

8:29 pm:  No Rolling Stones?  I thought that was a done deal.  Who are The Stone Roses?  Should I be embarrassed that I don’t know who The Stone Roses are?  Probably.

8:30 pm:  I love Phoenix!  But why are they a headliner?

8:31 pm:  Where’s the Sunday hip-hop headliner?  I was really hoping for Outkast!  I love me a good Sunday rap headliner to close out the weekend.  How could they do this to me?  Don’t they care?

8:32 pm:  I should put up a Facebook status about this.

Screen Shot whit reaction

8:33 pm:  Red Hot Chili Peppers are great.  Fact.  But they do a stadium tour every summer, right?  Couldn’t I just see them at Oracle?  On second thought, though, I’ll bet the production will be really cool at Coachella, and it will certainly be amazing when they do “Californication…”

8:34 pm:  OK, don’t let the headliners get you down, Whit.  Maybe it IS all in the fine print.  Find your reading glasses.

8:35 pm:  2 CHAINZ!!!!!!!!!  2 CHAINZ!!!!!!!!!!

8:36 pm:  Jurassic 5 will be dope.  I love the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, without a doubt.  Passion Pit, sure, why not.  I can get down with some Vampire Weekend, even if they are Vampire Weekend.  Believe it or not  (if you know me, you believe it), I’ve seen Wu Tang before and it was messy but enjoyable.  In for that.  Yeasayer is fantastic.  Franz Ferdinand will always have a special place in my heart.  Lumineers!  Cool!  La Roux?  Love her.  I see you, Pretty Lights!

8:37 pm:  ERIC PRYDZ!!  YAYYYYYz!

8:38 pm:  OK, Tommy Trash will be so fun.  So will Nicky Romero.  The whole EDM roundup isn’t bad at all.  It isn’t last year, but it isn’t bad.

8:39 pm:  My heart is beating so fast.  I should drink some water.

8:40 pm:  Wouldn’t it be funny if I recounted, minute-by-minute, my initial reaction to the lineup announcement?  People would think I’m so weird.

See you in the desert, folks!

Lyrics Born Visits My Office

ImageAli here.

Just had the pleasure of meeting Lyrics Born. Like me, he is an Aggie (REPRESENT), huge music fan and a Bay area local. Unlike me, he is a hip hop artist who has collaborated with bad asses like Santigold, DJ Shadow, The Tuneyards, Nate Dogg, Gang Starr (sup with the double letterss?), Diplo, Jurassic 5, Galactic, Morsheeba and Blackalicious.

I saw him open for Murs back in ’10 and then bits of him again at Outside Lands Music Festival. He brings a ton of energy to the stage and after listening to him chat, I’d be stoked to support him again live. He is touring with Galactic this year, I am jumping on that boat for sheez. I asked him about his fave SF music venues and he said that the Independent is his fave spot to watch AND perform. Hells yeah. That was pretty much my second home/entire paycheck from ’10-’12. I also asked him about what makes a show memorable, I mean can you even imagine touring for 150 days a year? Sheesh! He explained that the audience’s vibe is what creates the entire direction of the show which was so satisfying because I love it when artists chat and engage during a show. It should be interactive and reflexive, that’s how you connect and build a relationship with an artist.

Then I asked him what up and coming artists I should be listening to. I was slightly interrupted so I forgot what he said, but like a businessman…he quickly replied to me on Twitter:

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http://onesheet.com/specialrequest/splash/

By the way, you should follow him on Twitta, he is full of all kinds of eloquent and not so eloquent knowledge, but this guy is fun and worth your time. Do it.

Here are some good quotes from his Q&A session at Trulia:

  • “Fear is healthy. It forces you to make good choices & feels great to overcome. The world remembers your wins, not failures.”
  • “A lot of artists struggle with and hate deadlines. I LOVE deadlines. They force me to focus and finish.”
  • “The self-made person is a myth. Anyone who ever “made it” got help, mentoring on the way. Some more than others but all did.”
  • “I don’t believe in following a path set by others. You have to create a path for yourself.”

Fireshrine by Purity Ring

My Monday > Your Monday,

Alison

On Loving GIRLS (the show AND the band)

Last night, after watching the Golden Globes with some vino and girlfriends, we tuned in to watch Season 2, episode 1 of Girls. After judging movie stars prance around in gorgeous gowns (NOT talking to you Halle Berry), I was in the mood to be a lil’ skeptical and catty. What? I was late to the bandwagon on this show, and actually didn’t like the first half of season one, because it was so damn spot on and that made me uncomfortable. Per usual, I watched most of it back-to-back, when I commit to a show, you likely won’t see me for a few weeks because I drown in it. Also because I likely waited for my friends to tell me if a show was worth my time, and now I have to play catch up.

In my late-twenties, I feel like I finally maybe have my shit together (huzzah!). I know what I want, what I like and who I am, and it’s genuinely awesome. But my gawd, that wasn’t always the case, so watching Girls is sometimes a little painful and awkward. It’s not because it isn’t well done… it’s only because the show feels blatantly familiar. Making it in a big city like SF or NY means different things to different people, but there are some agreed-upon markers that most people tend to grasp for as they cruise through (read: flail wildly) through their 20’s, mostly having to do with careers, relationships and bad hair choices. It’s nostalgic in a way that I wouldn’t choose to think about if I wasn’t forced to, however Lena’s writing recreates social and monetary plot dynamics in a way that makes the struggle of entering the grownup world sweet, if not endearingly sentimental. I’m excited for this season, if only because I am past that part of my life, and can now look back on it with smug rose-colored glasses, than fine, so be it.

Also, Allison Williams is hot, so there is that.

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I saw the band Girls perform with the Dominant Legs at Bimbos back in April. My roomie and I got up nice and close (see my Instagram shot) and I could feel JR White’s bass vibrate through the floor and walls. We had to relocate a few times because even though I am a shorty, I insist on getting right up in the mix. I feel bad for my future ears. The entire audience was singing along with Chris Owen’s brooding ballads and catchy pop-rock tunes, he was at home and he knew it.

Girls had just released two albums, 2011’s Father, Son, Holy Ghost and 2009’s Album, as well as 2010’s Broken Dreams Club EP. They were quickly becoming SF’s Indie rock darlings and everyone who listened to them was a fan. In some ways, I still felt like they were still my little secret and I wasn’t really ready to share them with the mainstream yet. It’s so selfish, I know. I’m working on it. I remember looking around at the audience and thinking to myself, “if you are here, and you are digging this as much as I am, you are probably date-able.” Secret society. Minus the whole “playing at Coachella thing” which I was very happy to overlook.

But just a quick month later, Chris Owens, (who I think goes by Christopher, but I feel like I know him because we share the same favorite SF view spot, so am going with “Chris”) announced via Twitter that he was leaving the band. His statement, tweeted in three parts:

Dear all, This may come as a surprise to many & has been an issue of much thought for me. My decision was not easy to make. I am leaving Girls. My reasons at this time are personal. I need to do this in order to progress. I will continue to write & record music. More will be announced soon. I thank you all for everything. Sincerely-Christopher

Wait, whhhaaaa? Rude. Just because I didn’t wanna share you doesn’t mean you can leave me! Since the band disolved, I have been stuck getting my 60’s inspired indie rock fix from bands like Tennis, Best CoastWILD FLAG, The Walkmen etc. It’s aigghhht, but I was looking forward to several more years worth of groovy Girls hits and was left feeling a little unsatisfied and bewildered.

However, the other day, I found out some exciting news! NPR interviewed Chris about his first solo album, Lysandre. I didn’t really learn too much from the interview, as he usually talks about his upbringing in a cult in most interviews. However, it sounded like the flow of the album might make it worth listening to all together in sequence (‘a la my style for binge watching tv). I like that. I also like that his first solo project comes out today.

You can buy it here or sneak a listen by streaming it here (on the left under Multimedia).

I still love his voice, and will need to listen to it all the way through a few more times, but I miss the beachy Beach Boys + snappy Elvis Costello-ness from Girls. I was really drawn to Girls because of the ethereal rawness, listening to them made me feel like I need to learn to play the bass (more on that later) and throw on some beat up Converse and wander through an old book store.

Lysandre makes me feel like I am going through a breakup and drinking cold decaf coffee, alone. Umm… I guess that means it is effective because he wrote it mostly about the end of a relationship, but I don’t think I will be listening to it on a random Monday afternoon just for kicks. But then again, I am not a The National/Iron and Wine/Fleet Foxes person either, so maybe it’s just not my style to brood.

The track “Here We Go Again” will probably be my favorite on Lysandre because it’s the sexiest, happiest and has the most bounce (it’s the most reminiscent track to the style of Girls). Not hating on the classic guitar, flute and sax at all, but I am not ready to think of Chris in a romantic and gentle light.

And that my friends, is my take on Girls this week.

Hurricane by MS MR

Girl Power,

Alison