New Music Seminar Festival NY 2013 — Day 1: Ahmir, Etivan, 2AM Club, Baby Bee, and the Soul Rebels at Webster Hall 6/9/13

New Music Seminar Festival NY 2013

Day 1: Ahmir, Etivan, 2AM Club, Baby Bee, and the Soul Rebels

Webster Hall

June 9, 2013

The New Music Seminar can trace its history back to the 1980 when 200 music industry people met in a New York rehearsal studio to discuss and debate the challenges that they faced within the industry. After some time, the seminar grew to include a music festival/showcase originally called New Music Nights held in several New York venues. But the seminar and the festival was discontinued after a 16 year run. But the New Music Seminar and Festival were reconvened after sagging record sales and the increasing prevalence of digital distribution.  The idea was now that artists, labels, producers and other music industry folks needed to break away from the decades-long tradition of making money off concept of the physical album. 

I think that every institution needs to question itself, it’s mission and it’s purpose. And although, the New Music Seminar and it’s respective festival are decent ideas in theory, in practice it may be more problematic than its organizers thought of. In the second year of it’s New York reincarnation, the New Music Seminar Festival has it’s own problems – at least from the shows that i saw, the organizers tended to lean more towards relatively radio-friendly acts, and in some way there was still a startling lack of variety across genres – with the exceptions of Etivan (a play on the word Native, based on each member’s involvement in the Native Tongues) and Ahmir (more on them, a little later), and an electronica showcase at Piano’s, there wasn’t much variety across genres. In fact, most of the shows I saw were more rock-based. I kept wondering what was the deal with having more radio-friendly acts playing at the larger venues when terrestrial radio, much like the larger music industry is slowly dying off; if not seen as being irrelevant to making a name for yourself as a musician. Nor does this get at a point that musicians have made for the past decade or so – with maybe 5 large media conglomerates owning three-quarters or more of most of this country’s media outlets, it means less variety for listeners and increasing dependence for strict genre classification. If you’re in a band that plays music that’s difficult to pigeonhole, how does the New Music Seminar help? 

in any case, the opening night of the festival was a bit of a mixed bag for me personally. 

Ahmir is a R&B quintet that has become a YouTube sensation. After catching them live, I can’t figure out why people like them, and the fact that people like them makes me fearful and question the taste and sensibility of the American listening public. Was it nostalgia for Boyz II Men

Each member of the quintet could sing a little bit but they weren’t blessed with particularly strong voices; at best, I’ve heard better singers on Showtime at the Apollo’s Amateur NIght. And honestly, the material revealed the weaknesses behind their voices, than whatever strengths they may have had. Speaking of the material, it was cliche ridden and lacked any real emotional depth. Adding to the terrible nature of the set, the group covered that annoying fun. track “We Are Young.” Why subject me to that? 

Etivan was the collaborative duo of Pres from Black Sheep and Jairobi from A Tribe Called Quest. Having two artists from beloved rap groups from the 90s seemed, as several mentioned to me, kind of ironic, considering it was the “New” Music Seminar Festival. And I had the sense that most of the young crowd who had been there early, barely knew who Black Sheep was. Perhaps adding to the sense of irony, was the fact that this new duo’s sound wasn’t the most earth-shattering thing I’ve ever heard; in fact, it was a rehashing of the 90s golden-age hip hop sound. Admittedly, I had wished that they would do something as strange as Black Sheep’s “Flavor of the Month” sounded back then or something as bizarre as Shabazz Palaces. (Also, I couldn’t help but notice that Jairobi wasn’t as talented an emcee as Pres. Jairobi just sounded as though he was constantly tripping over his words – so unfortunate. But it was a thrill to hear “The Choice of Yours” live. 

The Webster Hall crowd throwing their arms in the air, like they just don’t care, y’all.

Getting blunted, perhaps?

 Waving their hands, cause they’re ready to rock – or something. 

2AM Club struck me as being annoying. They had a sound that reminded me of a poppier version of Linkin Park. in other words, their sound meshed hip hop and alternative rock. I can’t say that I’m a Linkin Park fan, so 2AM Club didn’t do much for me. 

Baby Bee was pretty interesting to me. They played a loud, no-bullshit rock which sounded like it owed a debt to the Foo Fighters, Joan Jett, Social Distortion and others. And they were on stage with an unusual intensity in comparison to the other bands. 

The highlight of the night was the New Orleans brass band, the Soul Rebels. Man, they just killed it with some funk that had everyone in the room dancing like a lunatic, including yours truly. I think it helped that they played with an infectious and fun-loving sense of joy, which won everyone over.  

These lovely young ladies were part of a rather fun-loving crowd that night.

For these photos and the rest of the photos from this night of music, check out the Flickr set here: