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Is the YouTube free-for-all over?

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YouTube star Jenna Marbles in a recent vlog
YouTube is a wonderful tool for procrastination, but often aimless surfing can lead to unearthing new genres and artists you'd never knew even existed. In between these discoveries are always the lovably offbeat videos of amateur acoustic covers or rants about pesky day jobs that make perusing the site feel like peeking into a stranger's living room. Recently, more news of the site's forthcoming paid subscription service made it clear that this YouTube we once knew is slowly vanishing.More »

Guess what? Your band is boring

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Dreamstime.com
Is this your band? You're so boring it hurts.

I'm writing today from a couch that I didn't choose or buy, but that I agreed to host in my living room temporarily. Temporarily now being forever, it seems. It has since hosted many guests of house concerts featuring musicians from all over the country. I was supposed to be writing from a bus that was going to take me from Des Moines to Omaha for a solo performance tonight. The show is still on, but damn that bus was leaving early and I made the executive decision to find a different way to the show. It's going to be fine.

The purpose of that introduction might make sense a bit later, but for now, let's talk about the title of this piece: Your Band is Boring. Well, that's just it, isn't it? It's boring. If you are in a band and you are reading this, then I'm going to go ahead and make the assessment that the world would spin on without your band, that 99.99% of the human population has never heard of or will hear of your band (that's a very generous percentage in your favor, by the way, but I've got a length cap on this piece), and they won't know what they're missing, which is quite possibly not much. You might even be bored by your own band.

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The 10 best rock 'n' roll pinball machines

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Internet Pinball Database
I am a devoted video-game fan and a constant cheerleader for them to be considered art, but honestly I would give up most of the compelling stories and high-definition graphics in the world for the simple pinball machines. They're crafted and mechanical, and when done with a loving hand can turn almost anything into a game of skill that homages your favorite pop-culture icon.

It's like themed slot machines, but with less crying...usually.

Today we look at some of the tables that have been based on our favorite musicians.


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Willie Nelson's five biggest gambles

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Kelly Dearmore
Willie's Gambles Can Turn Into Collectors Items

Aside from being as genius of a musician, Willie Nelson is a survivor, an activist and practical spiritual guru. Over the past couple of decades, his non-musical exploits have calmed considerably. Fewer movie roles and, aside from a minor drug-bust on the border a few years ago, a seemingly calm family and personal life have made some folks forget that Willie was once as wild as they got from the late 1950s all the way through the '80s. His inclusion in the group of so-called "Outlaws" was warranted for decisions and actions made both in the studio and at home.

For better or worse, Willie has gone with his gut and gone where his beloved sweet smoke has taken him. There's little argument to be made that some of the moves he's made over the years have been wild head-scratchers. But other gambles have turned into massive victories as well. Here are five of the craziest examples of Willie Being Willie.

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Five country artists that liberals would actually like

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Photo by Randee St. Nicholas
Miranda Lambert

Ask someone of a liberal political persuasion what they think about modern country music, and it's often a shrug you'll get in return.

Long gone are blue state-copacetic country heroes like Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash, and now that the Dixie Chicks are no longer a force, most Obama fans have no patience for anything out of Nashville. Members of the supposedly open-minded party tend to believe that the genre is completely saturated with odes to guns, trucks, whiskey, and American flags.

But that's just not the case! Mainstream country has become increasingly friendly to liberals, and these five artists are prime examples.

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Grammys 2014: MN native Rahki produced for Kendrick Lamar's good kid m.A.A.d city

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Photo provided by Rahki Smith

South Minneapolis-bred rap producer Columbus "Rahki" Smith is listed in two categories for the 2014 Grammy Awards this weekend. His production work is featured on Album of the Year and Rap Album of the Year nominee good kid m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar.

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The album is not dying, despite what you may have heard

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From the Shangri La art
Tell this guy about the death of the album.

"The album is dying in front of our very eyes," Variety columnist and music business know-it-all Bob Lefsetz wrote recently based on weak LP sales, including Katy Perry's Prism, which sold only about 220,000 copies in its first week.

"If your plan is to increase your audience, spread the word and make money, suddenly the album just isn't working anymore," he continued. "We've turned into a nation of grazers. And the artist's job is to constantly be at the smorgasbord. Not to deliver one big meal that is picked at and thrown away, but to constantly provide tantalizing bites to the public."

As if Bob Lefsetz knows anything about "the artist's job."

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Jake Bugg

Why we need to keep the Artists' Quarter open

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Photo by Andrea Canter

Dave King is the drummer and composer for the Bad Plus, Happy Apple, Dave King Trucking Company, and Halloween, Alaska. This essay is based upon Dave's conversation with City Pages music editor Reed Fischer.

As an old-school jazz club, the Artists' Quarter is a model that's dying in America. There aren't many places left where you're not four feet from a caesar salad while you're playing this music. Outside of New York's Village Vanguard and the Green Mill in Chicago, the Twin Cities has the Artists' Quarter.

It's the rare jazz club run by jazz musicians. Who could understand more about what the environment needs to be than somebody from that environment? You're entering something special here. It's subterranean and black inside, with black walls, no windows, and a bar at the back. Also, it's a condensed listening experience where it's not really tolerated to talk loudly during the music -- or to talk at all.

See Also: The Artists' Quarter is closing

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Minnesota Orchestra's Osmo Vanska: Please do not applaud

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MNChorale.org
Exiting Minnesota Orchestra conductor Osmo Vänskä added a deafening exclamation point to his farewell concerts over the weekend. Last week, he announced that he was resigning from his position after a decade as music director with the orchestra, and the performances at Ted Mann Concert Hall would be his last. For those, he gave everyone a chilling finale.

Both Vänskä and composer Aaron Jay Kernis decided to leave the Minnesota Orchestra after a year-long musicians' lockout stemming from salary reductions recommended by the board. This past spring, he wrote a letter threatening to resign if rehearsals hadn't resumed by now.

See Also: Osmo Vanska resigns from Minnesota Orchestra

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Kevin Steinman on Norway healthcare: I feel as healthy as I ever have

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Photo by Espen Willserrud
Another advantage of Norway? You get to sing in the Fjords.

By Kevin Steinman

One year ago, my wife Ina and I posted our Ikea furniture on Craigslist, watched as four strong men packed up my studio gear, guitars and piano, hugged friends and family after my farewell concert in Minneapolis, and flew to Norway to begin our new adventure here. (Read about my reasons for leaving here.)

Since then I've received six Remicade infusions for my Ulcerative Colitis, and I'm happy to report I feel as healthy as I ever have. When I first arrived in Oslo last August, I didn't yet have a Norwegian social security number, so I felt no small measure of stress as I approached their health system as a new immigrant. The doctor I visited at the University of Oslo health clinic immediately understood that my treatment schedule merited a quick prioritization, so he made up a number for me, just to get me in the system. He assigned me to a private hospital (still covered under the national insurance plan), where they have lots of experience with the kind of treatment I get, and predicted I would be very satisfied with my care. He was right.

See Also:
U.S. healthcare is too costly for Kevin Steinman, so he's moving to Norway

Kevin Steinman says farewell and thanks to the Twin Cities
Kevin Steinman's farewell show at Bryant Lake Bowl, 7/23/12

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