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She'll Be "Coming Down From The Mountain" When She Comes
By Danny McBride - 07/24/2002 - 09:32 PM EDT

© 2002, Danny McBride. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

Itís been a summer of extremes musically in this household and yet, amazingly, proof once again that a good song is a good song no matter the format, no matter the genre, no matter the artist, no matter the venue.

I have seen live performances by Pink and Ralph Stanley- -NO!! Not together!! Lawdy Miss Clawdy, wouldnít that be somethiní!! I have seen Celine. I have seen Marc Antony. I have seen Rodney Crowell, Ricky Skaggs and Emmylou Harris. I have seen No Doubt, Michelle Branch and Alanis Morrisette. And Alison Krauss and Patty Loveless. And Will Smith and Ja Rule. I even suffered through a live performance by Kelly Osbourne. I love live music and I will see ANYONE (at least once!).

So whatís the point? Big deal, you say. You see a lot of music.

Yeah but what weíre about here is the "material"- -the "goods"- -the "tunes". Even Ms Osbourne, who, Iím sorry to say, couldnít find pitch in a pine stump, got over with the crowd anyway because that Madonna song sheís revived, Papa Donít Preach, is a great piece of material. (Note to Kelly: Your Mother needs you by her side at this challenging time in her life. We wish her all the best. Stop now, and go help out Mum.)

Now itís true a lot of what has gotten crowds on their feet this summer has to do with the quality of the performersí performances, but there is nothing like the roar of a crowd when they hear the first identifying notes of a classic, or, sometimes, even when the artist just walks on stage. I know that feeling. Itís better than sex. Okay- -a close second.

So- - -How can you make this happen for you?

Songs. No matter how great your light show is, or how green and spiky your hair, or how many times you relate to the fans by calling out to them "Youíre my people, Dude- -I love you, Man", you have got to have the tunes. When they first hear you, most likely they wonít know what you look like. They wonít know you have a light show or great costumes. All theyíll have to go by is what they HEAR, either on some college station, or at a friendís, or perhaps via some in-store music system where the sales clerks are all diggin on your tunes and blasting them throughout the store.

And whether youíre into Country Yodeling or Hip Hop (or hey! How about a combination of the two: "Gettin jiggy widíit, Ya-Hoo!!"), if the material isnít there you might as well take your seat in the audience and enjoy the show by someone who gets it.

Long before you decide to get a band together, or cut some tracks, or whatever, you must sit down (okay, stand) and think it all through and get whatís in your head down on paper or on computer or, heck, even a cheap boom box. This is so you can play it or read it back and analyze the material and be the first to decide what stays or what needs to be reworked. Phrasing, rhythm, rhyme, melody, structure- -all those things you know that go to make up a tune. That way, when you present it to the band, or record the tracks, you have a guide to refer to. You wonít be wasting other peopleís time, or your own, and you will project the image of being on top of what it is that youíre doin. It doesnít matter what kind of music youíre into- -this is the procedure that works for everything.

So when you see an act, whether itís the one you came to see or not or just the opener, watch how they put things together. Do they have it together? What would you do better?

Of all the acts I listed, and plenty I didnít, of all the acts I saw- -two stand out above the rest. And the funny thing is they each performed their most captivating material solo. Will Smith and Ralph Stanley. (No, not at the same show!!) Will Smith did use a prerecorded backing track, but it was just him and him alone getting us all to "nod ya head" and Mr Stanley, headlining The Coen Brothersí and T Bone Burnettís "Down From The Mountain Tour" sang his trade-mark O Death a cappella. You could have heard a pin drop. Interestingly, both Mr Smith and Mr Stanley were the only two performers who employed total silence in their presentation. Iíve never heard so many thousands of people be so still. True thatís the power of the performers, but without that knock-out "A" material, it would never have worked.

Okay- -Now YOU get to work on some of that "A" list material and Iíll see if I can help Kelly Osbourne into her limo- -probably the only key she can find.


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