“Sonic Highways” Equals Highway Robbery for Music Fans


So yesterday afternoon I made a video for Youtube (the link to which should now be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-X7IjpNLVg8OpeoqML38pQ) praising Dave Grohl and his band the Foo Fighters for upcoming studio LP “Sonic Highways”. To briefly sum up that video, I saw the ever-vigilant Fighters of Foo take on late night television Monday night with Zac Brown (of the Zac Brown Band) for a scalding rendition of the Black Sabbath classic “War Pigs”. That then inspired some deep musical introspection into the inner workings of “Highways”, it’s music (8 songs in 8 separate studios) and the 8-part HBO miniseries that’ll be accompanying the buzz starting this week all the way until release day. I then proceeded to rave about Grohl’s work (that I have yet to fully see) on prior documentary “Sound City” , and how the teaser for the miniseries seems to be a heavenly collection of artists, interviews, and a look at music through the wide lens of culture that was not to be missed.

Not to spoil the video or anything, but I get pretty excited about it.

And while I’m still highly intrigued by the concept and overall hype of “Sonic Highways”, my enthusiasm has been somewhat dimmed by the worst part of the music business. Namely, that of being the consumer. Because while it may still be fun to talk about this kind of deeply thoughtful endeavor, the price tag that comes with OWNING an actual piece of it…. is a separately baffling story.

You see I took a little visit to Foofighters.com last night to look into preorders for the new album, and found shipping rates that could only be described as a hideous level of greedy. Even the simplest items like LP’s and CD’s were nearly doubled in total price, and as a frequent shopper of online vinyl it’s a rare day that I see a $23 record come tacked on with a $20 shipping rate. And while I’m sure someone somewhere might try to raise the old protest of “higher quality shipping methods protect delicate product”, the band and anyone associated with putting this out ought to be ashamed of how it’s been done.

It’s a disrespect and a disservice of fans both casual and loyal, fans who might want to give a band they love or respect money for what they’ve created that will now be driven away to Amazon or other retailers due to these steep prices. And while some of those retailers might be independent record stores so desperately deserving of the customers, the point is it’s not good or fair business. I don’t care if you offer up the Christ-like locks of Grohl himself as some sort of demented Wonka-esque golden ticket, the moment a die hard Foo Fighters fan hands over even MORE of a hard-earned paycheck to a very successful band doing arena tours just to pay shipping…. is the moment you’ve done wrong by the people that helped land you where you are in the first place.

I don’t about you, but I’d prefer to take my chances in the world of the retailers and save my money for the bands and labels that do right by the customers that love them. And while I certainly know I’ll still listen to the music of “Sonic Highways” and appreciate whatever it may be (or not), this aspect is nothing short of a disappointment.

Admiring The Scenery….


In all my years spent living in Western New York, I find myself traveling often (especially in my pursuit of the local music scene). Buffalo, Rochester, Geneva, Lewiston, even as far off as Cooperstown. But one place continuously manages to stick out above the rest, and that is Ithaca. It’s a place whose venues have not only managed to play host to some of the greatest concerts I’ve ever seen, but also contains some of the best storefronts that have music…. nearly ready to come springing out the door at you when you walk in.

Take Angry Mom Records for instance, which despite the presence of Rochester’s famous House of Guitars and underrated Record Archive remains one of the top record shops in all the area. Located within the basement of a used bookstore on Ithaca’s Commons and run by a couple of old punk rock enthusiasts, there’s a distinct sense of character and what may be a (slightly below sane) sense of humor oozing out from between the stacks of CD’s and LP’s. It creates a familiarity and a connection within the place, and as a lover of vinyl and record stores of all shapes and sizes that’s what I most often find myself gravitating towards. That environment where you can take time out of mind, and just exist within the simple joy of flipping through 33’s, 45’s, and everything in between.

It’s often all about those simplest of joys when it comes to our ties with music, and for me that inevitably always boils down to the experience of concerts. Seeing music played out live and in person surpasses the magic that even masterpiece-level albums can reach, and when it comes to Ithaca there are venues that embody everything from marquee-lit splendor to hole-in-the-wall hideaways. There’s the historical State Theatre, whose vaudevillian-era mainstage has had everyone from fresh faces like The National to grizzled veterans such as BB King, right down to The Haunt which has been an avenue for under the radar talents like folk duo Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion and punk rock icon Bob Mould. There’s even the very hushed little Hangar Theatre, which has been a backdrop for more gigs courtesy of varying acts like Richard Thompson, Cowboy Junkies, and Leon Russell.

Thanks to a very vibrant little college town (and the persistence of some very skilled individuals making it happen), my hope for the local music scene is always alive and well whenever I’m visiting Ithaca. It may not have the name recognition of nearby Buffalo, and it will never be the size of a hub in NYC, but it’s a place with a superb backdrop of culture that isn’t frequently found in Western New York. But like a good song or that record you never knew existed, sometimes it just takes a little discovery.


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