Column 97 — YouTubed; Califone tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 12:12 pm October 19, 2006

The final word on Two Gallants? Probably. Nothing new about the Houston incident went online over night. I sense the hype fading, at least until the court date. The whole thing was a good springboard to write the following column about YouTube, which really is the greatest time waster since the invention of pornography. Go to YouTube when you’re board, look down at your watch and discover that an hour has passed while you absentmindedly viewed someone’s shitty videos of their dog or tried to find every Joy Division video online.

Column 97: YouTubed
Videos are relevant all over again.
Overheard while out and about last weekend, talk of the new Ladyfinger (NE) video, the one featuring a slouched and beaten Matt Bowen — local legend and music hustler, former member of too many bands to list — pushing a broom in his role as a school janitor. I had to see it. But where?

Music videos have been around for what seems like forever, but they’ve never been a serious endeavor for local indie bands. What’s the point? You could spend thousands of dollars and hours making a video that ultimately will never be seen by anyone but your family and friends. MTV? Who do you think you are? A-Ha?

YouTube has changed all of that. Located at www.youtube.com, the website is one of technology’s ultimate time wasters right along with Madden ’07 and the Blackberry. Go there now and you’ll find linked off the homepage videos like “Sweet Tired Cat” — 27 seconds of a cat falling asleep, and “Chad Vader,” a 6-minute video that imagines Darth Vader as a grocery clerk at “Empire Market.” Funny? Well, sort of.

You’ll also find that aforementioned video of Ladyfinger’s “Too Cool for School” in all its cheesy glory. In fact, you’ll find just about any music video that you can remember seeing on MTV. Robert Plant’s “Big Log” circa 1983? It’s there. The A-Ha classic “Take on Me”? Of course. Cursive’s “Dorothy at Forty”? Yup, right along with every other video made by Saddle Creek artists, including The Faint’s “Agenda Suicide,” arguably the best music video ever produced by a local band.

Saddle Creek Records exec Robb Nansel likes YouTube. “It seems like a great way to get some additional exposure that bands may not have had access to before,” he said, adding that the website’s crappy Flash-based video technology is so poor that it won’t impact the label’s video sales. “But we have never viewed the music videos that we make as a revenue stream. We think of them as promotional materials for our bands, so the more people that see the videos, the better.”

Greg Edds, guitarist for local rock band Little Brazil, couldn’t agree more. Edds emailed me a link to their video for “Stretching Skin,” which captures the band playing in a well-lit practice space. He said the video has been viewed more than 1,300 times since it was uploaded to YouTube in September.
“(YouTube) definitely allows us and other bands to reach a world market without touring to those lengths,” he said. “It’s another avenue for bands to try something new… and free, creatively.”

But even more prolific than band-made music videos is live footage captured by fans — thousands of hours of it. You cannot go to a rock show these days without seeing those kids and their tiny palm-corders, capturing a performance that will be uploaded to YouTube the next morning.

The footage is clearly a breach of various copyright laws, but Nansel doesn’t seem to mind. “I think technically, people should ask permission,” he said, “but we have never asked anyone to take anything down.”

Those amateur indie-rock videographers certainly came in handy last Friday night for Saddle Creek band Two Gallants. Over the weekend, a number of outraged Houstonites emailed me to recount how Two Gallants were busted by the HPD during a performance at club Walter’s on Washington. They told stories of police brutality that bordered on Gestapo tactics, of people being thrown to the ground and 14-year-olds being “tazed.” However, the only mainstream coverage of the event, by Houston ABC affiliate KTRK, seemed to counter their claims, stating band members attacked the officer, who efficiently restored order. Who to believe? In the “old days,” most would rely on the ABC account.

But within hours of the confrontation, videos of the incident wound up on YouTube, capturing the frantic melee as it happened. One video clearly shows a cop taking down a band member on stage and calling for back-up. Another appears to capture a patron being pushed by the cop to the floor. Since they went online Saturday, the videos have been viewed more than 80,000 times. And that KTRK report has been updated, no longer stating the band attacked the cop.

In the end, the videos don’t capture how the scuffle began — that’ll be for a Houston court to determine (talk about your return engagements). As of Tuesday morning, the story had been covered by more than a dozen online news outlets, including Rolling Stone.com — many include links to the YouTube footage. You simply cannot buy publicity like that. And for a band that’s known in the indie music world for their song about spending a night in a “Las Cruces Jail,” they can now add a line about a real night in a Houston jail. Hopefully someone captured it on video.

Tonight at Sokol Underground, Califone with Peter & the Wolf and McCarthy Trenching. I enjoyed Califone the last time they came through here, opening for The Sea and Cake waaay back in 2003 (read the review here). Judging by their new CD, the very trippy Roots & Crowns, not much has changed. It should be a fun evening. $10, 9 p.m.

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