Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Gang of Youths at the Moroccan Lounge | Lefsetz Letter

I didn’t get it at first.

Geiger says the streaming charts don’t reflect the culture, Greta Van Fleet has sold over 250,000 tickets worldwide, but their Spotify numbers are anemic, by modern standards anyway.

Danny Buch, a record guy, talks about the numbers done at live alternative shows, indicating demand, which does not show up on streaming services.

What is going on here?

Damned if I know, we’re all trying to figure it out.

First we went to dinner at Manuela:


Downtown L.A. is a mystery to me. It’s undergoing a renaissance, but unless you live adjacently, and haunt its habitats on a regular basis, unless you make a special effort, you’ve got no idea what is going on.

Kinda like the Moroccan Lounge. I was invited to Tony Hawk’s 50th there, yes, he’s that old, but he can still skate, looky here:

Tony Hawk: 50 tricks at Age 50

but I was on a flight and couldn’t make it, this was my first time there.

And I’m always concerned with parking, it’s not the seventies anymore, where you can cruise and find a space, but the Moroccan website said there was ample street parking… HUH? Hell, people couldn’t even get into the parking lot at last week’s U2 shows but at this gig I’m just gonna pull up and park?


Although I was early.

And walked to Manuela with Gang of Youths’ manager, who told me this Australian band was now living in London, but he was moving back to Sydney, since he’d met an Australian woman at one of their shows and was now getting married to her.

The restaurant was in a barn. Or a warehouse. Or a soundstage. A big open space subdivided a bit, the kind you no longer find in the metropolis. It edged into the space. Was not overcrowded and featured excellent food, especially not over-fried calamari. I can’t resist calamari, even though it’s fried, so I appreciated the light batter.

Anyway, at dinner, Danny started talking about radio restrictions. How you have to get to the chorus this fast and changes have to happen that fast and if you didn’t know better, you’d think stations were run by mathematicians, but they’re not. In other words, innovation is squeezed out.

And the representative from KCSN told us that the war was over video. They want to interview bands in the studio, but the labels won’t let them. It comes down to who is doing the monetizing. And at first it looks like a non-comm is not, but then you realize everybody wants the branding and in an era where labels don’t want to let revenue leak through the sieve, sometimes video is never made and never posted because of rights issues.

And Jen told us it was a hip-hop world, and the more we talked, the less we knew.

And about two-thirds of the way through our meal, David Le’aupepe, the lead singer of Gang of Youths, showed up to partake. But it was surprising how friendly he was, open, about his background, his Samoan blood, his love of the Dodgers, you’d never think he’s a star.

But he’s not, over here anyway, yet in Australia…

They play arenas.

Which is why the three Aussies behind us were at the gig, here in America for a three week vacation, you get four weeks off in Australia, never forget, the United States is the greatest country in the world! They were eager to see an arena act in a club.

Even though most of you have never heard of Gang of Youths.

That’s how hard it is to get started today.

And why was everybody there? It was sold out, last night and tonight.

Everybody was white. EVERYBODY!

There’s racism in music, never forget it. The whites might like the blacks’ music, but there’s little cross-pollination in reverse.

And so many knew the words, were they Aussies too?

And the audience was 25-35, and what motivated them to go out, never mind how did they know. Then again, this is Los Angeles and the band is playing a club, imagine the audience in the hinterlands!

So, it all starts with a thrash.

Here we go, I’m gonna have to stand here for ninety minutes and feign interest, I could bolt, but I don’t want to be that rude. I looked up data about the band on my phone, but could I then check the news, would I be judged?

And for three songs it was an aural assault. I’m wondering why anybody who didn’t care would. This is the fallacy of rock, they don’t understand why it won’t spread, it’s so derivative as to be unappealing to newbies.

But then the band slowed down, it was more like U2, and then you could realize, when it was quieter, that every member could play, well. This is the advantage of Australian bands, they’ve paid their dues, they’re ready.

And then there was a quiet acoustic number, the lead singer emoting his story in “Persevere.”

And then he started to DANCE!

Charisma, it’s why you sign an act, it’s why an act is successful.

This guy was writhing like Jim Morrison, he not only had the music in him, he had SOUL! Bono should give up in comparison. I was totally enraptured.

And he went into the audience and one could say it was all tricks, that it’d had all been seen before, but in an era of poseurs, very few have got the goods.

David Le’aupepe has got the goods.

Suddenly, I was interested. I didn’t want to look at my phone. My head was bopping to the music.

I got it.

P.S. Maybe the band was loaded with adrenaline at first, maybe that’s why it came across thrashy.

P.P.S. They were being scouted for festivals, hopefully said scouts lasted long enough to see David Le’aupepe’s charisma evidenced.

P.P.P.S. So is it a live business or a recorded business? Labels and agents/promoters will come down on one side or the other, but the truth is most of the money is in live, so is the record just a taste, a way to get you involved, and is the show the real thing? I didn’t get it on Spotify. But I truly get it live. Made me wonder if they just needed a tweak by Lillywhite or Spike Stent or…

P.P.P.P.S. The past is not coming back. But something is gonna come from left field and triumph. What that is…

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