Breaking the Record – A Long Overdue Recap
Earlier this month I set a new record, at least as far as I can tell – and I researched it pretty rigorously. Having broken the (admittedly very very obscure) record for most consecutive concerts covered by a music writer, I didn’t make a big deal about it – I started on September 7 and ended on October 8 (my journal of the entire process, with links to all my individual writeups, is here). I thought about applying to the Guinness Book, but then again I don’t know if the Guinness Book of World Records still exists. Maybe there’s a Guinness app that gets updated every fifteen seconds, provided that you provide the Guinness people with your credit card and your whereabouts 24/7. Since I started this blog to focus on the music and the experience of music from a concertgoer’s perspective, it only makes sense to wrap up my adventure from that point of view rather than trying to shoot for some kind of pathetic celebrity.
Since there isn’t an incessantly blinking forest of gizmos and gadgets on this page, if you’re reading this, you’ve already realized that this blog is for the 99% rather than the 1% that the Wall Street
protestors heroes are calling to account. If you’re one of the 1% and if for some crazy reason you haven’t already clicked off this page for lack of frantically blinking gizmos and gadgets, this is your chance to laugh at how the other 99% of us live. My intentions for this publicity stunt – my first and last – were threefold: 1) to get the blog off the ground, build some interest and have some fun in the process); 2) to reaffirm how incredibly cheap it is to see incredible live music in New York and 3) to test my ability to pick great concerts from the literally hundreds available to any New Yorker on any given night.
What were the results? Predictable, as far as I can tell. As far as getting the blog off the ground, my experience is that blog interest goes in waves: you go up, you go down, depending on the weather, whether or not there is an important football game on or what holiday it happens to be. I’m happy to say that things are looking good – which I hope means good things for all the incredible artists who’ve been covered here so far. As far as expenses go, I saw 38 shows in those 32 days and wrote about them – which has to be another record, however obscure – and spent a total of $93. Which on face value may seem like a lot of money, but when you divide it up it came to a little more than $2 a concert – and that included a $49 bottle of wine (tax and tip included) on a splurge at the Metropolitan Room, a place I’d never been before and assuredly never will go to again! So if you subtract that, it comes to an absurdly cheap $44. Whether you count it as $93 or $44, the final tally should have a couple of asterisks attached to it: for one, as a music blogger, I don’t have to pay for shows. Had I paid the door charge for all of these concerts, my total cost (assuming I always got the advance ticket discount) would have risen to $149. Still, divided by 38, that comes to about $4 a show. Admittedly, I tried the best I could to find as many good free shows as I could that would coincide with my schedule, in order to keep the overall cost down, even though it wasn’t an issue for me personally.
There were also a couple of nights where I was out with people and everybody was drinking and there may have been additional expenses that I can’t remember, but that shouldn’t change the overall expense picture by more than $20, assuming that I actually paid for that $3 PBR at Otto’s Shrunken Head instead of allowing my drunken friend to pick up the tab. End of story: as far as finding cheap music is concerned, I don’t think I did too badly.
As far as picking good shows is concerned, the final tally was 35 good shows and 3 awful ones. I think I could have been a perfect 38 for 38 if I hadn’t played it so safe. Early on, this stunt started to take on a life of its own, and I found out quickly that if you go out every night of the week, you have to do your errands on the weekend. For that reason, right off the bat, I sought out every daytime show I could find so that I could still have a life and get everything else done that needed to be done. Day three: perfect example. I had business in Harlem, and it just so happened that there was a show during the day there that coincided with where I was going to be. But while it was endorsed by the September Concert people, an organization I’ve trusted in the past for good performances, the “orchestra” I ended up seeing didn’t even have a web presence. Which should have been a red flag: the show turned out to be a church congregation attempting to play material that was vastly beyond their capabilities, at least as far as public performance was concerned. Should I have bitten the bullet and gone out into what was a miserably hot night to see something actually good? Of course I should have. But I didn’t. Four days into the marathon, and I was exhausted.
Same with my other two bad choices – notice that I’m not big-upping myself for all the good stuff I reported on here. In September and October, there happened to be a daytime outdoor concert series in Madison Square Park that coincided with some errands I had to run – Union Square farmers’ market and such – so I figured I could keep the streak alive without sacrificing an evening (which came in very handy – it takes time to write about all this!). The first was a bluegrass festival which was mostly good, but the next two Saturdays were awful. The third Saturday I’d planned on going to Lakeside Lounge to see legendary psychedelic postpunks Band of Outsiders, but I went to a party that night and as it turned out (not that I was paying any attention at that point), the subway went completely haywire and even if I’d made an attempt, there was no way I would have been able to get to Lakeside Lounge that night.
I ended the streak on a similar note. I could have counted Ninth House’s show that night as my final record-breaking concert, but I wasn’t about to take any chances: to be safe, I saw an absolutely killer, free afternoon classical show at Bargemusic to set the new record since I was worried that Ninth House wouldn’t go on til after midnight and for that reason my streak would have died at 31. As it turned out, they went on a few minutes after eleven.
Will I do this again? No. Do I think anyone else will ever break my record? I hope somebody will – can you imagine how much fun it would be to do this as a competition? – but after going out 32 days in a row, I think my record’s safe, right up there with DiMaggio (that’s a baseball reference – you can look it up). After all, the corporate media people always take Saturday or Sunday off. People who tour with bands don’t usually write about every single show, for obvious reasons, since that would get boring pretty quick. So that leaves me. From now on, you shouldn’t expect live reportage every day here – although after this ended, having taken a three-day respite upstate with some friends, far from any club or concert hall, I saw sixteen shows in the next sixteen days. If that’s not recidivism, I don’t know what is. Consider that a blueprint for the future at New York Music Daily.