Thursday, June 28, 2007

"The kids still listen to Hammer, right?"

I finally got around to hooking up my PC to see what files have been gathering dust over the last couple of years. And to free up trunk space in the car. AND to retrieve the music files that have yet to make the transition to my iTunes.

The iTunes reason should really be at the top of the list. During the summer our clientele at the lanes is about 80% kids courtesy of Oberlin City Recreation and the sport and music conferences that visit Hotel Oberlin. Most of these groups do glow bowling which requires one thing: Music. This presents a challenge, surprisingly enough. We don't have a DJ setup where we can take requests or tailor the music selections to the group demographics -- we have mix CD's. Now I have been making mixes since I started working at the lanes, but I have more leeway in terms of obscurity and the occasional naughty language when I am making mixes for college students. Kids mixes are TOUGH.

I am not alone in this challenge. We have had a number of prolific mixers the last few years, each of whom has had their own aesthetic: Susie was alt-rock; Jeanne was hipster with Spanish and hip hop influence; Oneida was R&B with a focus on Soul; Kimi is modern dance/hip-hop with Phil Collins/John Mayer tendencies (I'm still on the fence about that second part); my style has been described by myself and others as reminiscent of middle school dances. I suppose my style can be described as oldies in a sense, since there will always be at least one song in a mix that is older than the youngest person in the group and sometimes the entire group.

After a birthday party a couple of weeks ago, I was determined to make a mix that would meet the following guidelines:

  1. No swearing
  2. Contemporary without being entirely disposable -- basically the songs will need to still be enjoyable/recognizable 6 months from now
  3. Even though the target demo is kids, the mix should be accessible to adults also
The first criterion is the easiest one, obviously. Number 3 is relatively easy -- if I have it in my iTunes it must be somewhat tolerable to adults. Basically I didn't want the Kidz Bop versions of songs creeping into the project. Number 2 I think is the major stumbling block. If you pick a song that has been around for six months, you run the risk of it being played out and annoying the listener. If the song is relatively new, you have to try to predict the future in terms of how popular it will be. Also, I might like it but it might drive everyone else crazy, or vice versa. Also, older songs (1-2 years old) shouldn't be off limits, but what still qualifies as "cool"?

The answer: American Idol, Now That's What I Call Music, and Kidz Bop. Those entities thrive on market research and are time capsules of the zeitgeist. AI also has the added benefit of expanding to older music (thanks retro theme weeks!) so I have a little more flexibility in breaking up the beats in a given mix. I finally made what I think is the quintessential birthday mix (for the time being).

HOWEVER, when I showed up to work yesterday and today, Tom had a few reports from the field. Specifically, requests for rap/hip-hop. Balls. I was also given specific song requests: "Party Like a Rockstar" -- a song that I heard once on the radio and instantly went, "why is this popular? There's nothing going on."; "Gimme That" -- which Kimi has included on a mix, so I may have to track it down; "I'm in Love with a Stripper" -- no. I know we will need at least one more kid friendly mix (because I will go crazy if I have to listen to the current one 25 more times) but rap/hip-hop -- particularly current songs with little to no swearing -- is going to be a tall order.

Though listening to Tom try to be conversant about current pop music is remarkably entertaining.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Carpet Bagger

The following people are dead to me: People who ask if we have socks to rent at work. I have a number of issues with this. First: EWWWW. Okay, I can understand people who are kinda grossed out by the idea of bowling shoes. Even though we are meticulous about spraying shoes between uses, the idea of community shoes is just too much for some people. But socks? Seriously?

I suppose the theory is that we would launder socks after each use, but let's break it down. We charge a dollar a pair, a little high for a "rental fee" but a good unit price. But how many pairs would we have to rent before we got enough to do a single load of sock laundry? Also, what if someone tried to walk out with our socks? With shoes it is worth it to chase someone because those go for as much as 40 a pair.

Anyway, that's not what the crux of this post is about. While the sock thing was the later bookend to my day at work, the early bookend dealt with carpet samples and the future of the walls of the lanes. We've been working with two potential ideas for the new wall carpeting.

Idea One: The Glow Bowling Wall. With this design, the bottom half of the wall would have a black background and a blue/orange cross-hair motif. There would be a thin stripe of orange separating the bottom half from the top, which would be a blue similar to the one in the pattern.
Pros: Will look great during glow bowling.
Cons: Will look hideous/ridiculous the other 90% of the time.

Idea Two: The Oberlin Wall. Our school colors are Crimson and Gold, and the pattern would be half and half, with a swoop towards the end of the lanes.
Pros: School spirit and will hide dirt better than the Glow wall.
Cons: The swatches may turn into something severe in greater quantities.

Tom asked for my opinion, and I couldn't come up with a good answer. When we discussed it a couple of weeks ago I was okay with the Oberlin wall at first but the more I thought about it, the more I realized we would be rivaling the set of the $25,000 Pyramid:

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Looking at the swatches today, the Glow wall may rival the set of the $10,000 Pyramid:

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I'm hoping the next round of swatches ease my concerns. Otherwise, I may have to start building a winner's circle. Here is your first subject: "Things on your Feet"

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

I'm Like a Bird

Last night I went to the Nelly Furtado concert at Tower City. I realize that nowadays there is a bit of a love-her or hate-her response with most people given the explosive success of her most recent album Loose. Really you can thank/blame Timbaland for that. However, I have been a huge Nelly fan since day one, way back in 2000 when her first album Whoa, Nelly! dropped. Truth be told, that album is in my all-time top 5 (the other four in no particular order: They Might Be Giants Lincoln; Fiona Apple When the Pawn...; Bjork Homogenic; Ben Folds Five).

This isn't the first time I've seen Ms. Furtado in concert. I saw her way back in 2001 as part of the Area: One concert. That line-up was incredible: Nelly Furtado, The Roots, Incubus, Outkast and Moby. Even though she was on the mainstage and had a billing, she was still essentially the warm-up act: an unenviable position. I remember how excited I was to see her back then and it paralleled my excitement for last night.

The opening act was...well...his name was Saukrates (pronounced like "Socrates"). Yeah, that about sums it up right there. He wasn't quite as good as the one-man synth band that opened for Beck, but he was better than that guy who opened for Fiona Apple. Come to think of it, I've been relatively lucky with opening acts. VHS or Beta, M.I.A. (she technically opened for LCD Soundsystem) and a few others who were at least decent. Saukrates just seemed a little green, but he redeemed himself later on in the show. The second warm-up act was Kenna, someone I had actually heard of beforehand. He was pretty good and I would recommend checking his stuff out on iTunes.

Then the main show started. I know I'm going to sound like an old fogey when I say this, but why do concerts have to be so loud? I'm not asking that in a "am I going to go deaf?!" sort of way, but rather it was so loud that the sound was getting distorted. If the overall volume was lower, it would be plenty loud for everyone to hear with the added benefit of understanding what was sung. It has to do with the venue: I had the same issue at Pat Benatar. Anyway, the set for the show was awesome. The main stage was a three-tiered white platform with a huge lite-brite inspired backdrop. And if you haven't seen what Nelly looks like, she is absolutely gorgeous. We had SRO tickets, so we were pretty far back from the stage but she just radiates beauty.

I could go on about each individual song, but there's only so much gushing that can be stomached. Everybody got their dance on, everybody rocked out, and everybody had a good time. Well, except for this one dad about 6 rows in front of us. He had brought his daughter and a group of her friends. They were having a blast -- he seemed rather ambivalent. Oh yeah, that was the other thing: the crowd was probably the most diverse concert crowd I've been a part of. Rock on!

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Friday, June 1, 2007

The Revolution will be Televised

Could someone check in on me in a week or so? 'Preciate it.

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