Go, Do, Be.


01/02/2023  — 

Trip Down Memory Lane: Black Market Music

The flipping of the calendar is an obvious time for retrospection and brief trips down memory lane. I've tried journaling and writing but I don't really have the discipline or habits to keep that going. The mechanics of picking up a pen or putting hands on keyboard doesn't always work for me (evidence: the lack of action on this blog).

I like to keep track of the happenings in my life through photographs - the time and geo stamps are especially helpful in the storytelling. Lately I've been shooting a little video too. It's been sweet to revisit moments of life, to hear a voice or sound, to see someone's gesture that prompts a small flood of memories.

Every once and a while I stumble across someone else's video on YouTube that brings me right back to a moment, a place, a person. Here's one that happened recently...

The video below is two and a half minutes of someone's rando walkthrough of Black Market Music in West Hollywood probably in the late 90s or early 00s. There's not much to the video - it's poor VHS quality, shaky, no narration, awful sound, blurry, bad color. Totally charming.

We see a random view from the street (72 and sunny in west Hollywood), piles of amplifiers, guitars hanging everywhere, people chit-chatting (even eating lunch), racks of gear, display cases full of pedals and effects. It's a mess. It's full of action. If you know anything about music gear it's just a disgustingly opulent - absolutely ridiculous.

Black Market Music specialized in used gear and was thriving at this point. The music industry was at its absolute apex (file sharing was JUST starting - we hadn't yet heard Lars whining about Napster). Mega bands and labels were making piles of money with their recordings and tours. And if the major label music biz was a gold mine, Black Market Music was a major purveyor of second- hand shovels for all the miners.

I had the chance to walk through the shop right around that point in time when I went to LA with Steve Bell & Seth Freeman for a Little John show. I'm pretty sure it was Steve who led us to the shop. He was a master of material things - he helped me buy my bass amp and taught me about microphones, effects, amplifiers, tubes, drums. He was way over the horizon as far as his awareness and understanding of all kinds of gear.

At that point I didn't really know squat about Marshall amps or Gibson guitars. I probably didn't own a guitar amp. I had a Fender Lead II guitar and a Music Man bass, maybe that Ampeg Amp that Steve helped me buy. But I was solidly in Peavey Solid State-land as far as my understanding of amps went. I remember the smell of the place - musty, kinda sweaty, definitely dusty. I remember seeing piles of gear that had spray-paint logos from Van Halen and hair metal bands - gently used gear from tours or big shows. I remember seeing OLD guitars - like don't touch it old. Things that went for $5k (something like $12k today).

I remember a pile of Magnatone amps - I had just been introduced to Magnatone by Joe Gore who played a slide guitar through his to show me how it sounded - naturally overdriven full and juicy and perfect. They were hard to find, probably not in production at that point (though they've recently come back to life) - unobtanium, a unicorn. And here on the floor at Black Market were like 10 of them.

I remember things that were obviously used by pros - oh there's Alex Van Halen's drum cases, those are Tom Petty's amps, that's one of ELP's keyboard rack system. I'm sure there were even better examples that just went over my head.

It's one of the parts of life that I've come to appreciate lately - there are topics and subjects we can learn about that have infinite complexity. The more we learn, the more we see yet to be learned. The amount you could learn blooms and grows and goes and goes. Steve Bell was great at learning all of the stuff. He inspired me to do the same.

Through Steve and much later some of my YooToobers (Johan Segeborn, Kyle Bull, Pete Thorn, Warren Huart, the Guitologist (before he went nuts), Hermansson to name a few) I've learned just enough to realize how much gold was in that room. Looking through today's eyes, this scene is just bonkers.

Couple of droolworthy call outs worth mentioning: That droopy strat thing at 00:38, the hummingbirds hanging in the background next to the hofner bass at 00:42, the red tolex Marshall PA with two (pa) cabinets at 02:20, the pile of JCM800s at 01:03, the spread of snare drums at 01:09, the mountain of 4-hole plexis or JMPs at 01:48, the heap of old EHX pedals at 02:36, the tonebenders and similar pedals at 02:00. Gibson Jumbos sprinkled throughout. Marshall 8x10s tucked into the scenery... Park, Hiwatt... Stuff you just don't see around many places.

Go watch it:

Couple parting thoughts: who's that guy sitting on the Orange cab? Maybe one of the Eels? Some of my friends have told me of their star-sightings at BMM (maybe I'll post a part 2?). Did they let just any band put their show flyer or 8x10 glossy on that bulletin board by the door. There's another walkthrough from another date that shows more purple tolex and more of the keyboard and combo-amp stock.

09/22/2008  — 

Seth Adds To His Music Store

I met Seth Freeman in Boston just before I moved out to California. We eventually reformed recorded and played as Little John in San Francisco for a few years. Seth's most recent move was to LA to pursue a career as a soundtrack composer. Seth was also a big contributor to the 29 Songs project we banged out in February.

Seth just tossed a pile of acoustic recordings onto snocap. Some of these turned up on Little John records. Take a peek in the Songs, Volume 1 section:

The Snocap service (founded by Napster's founder Shawn Fanning among others) connects musicians with the marketplace. Seth's store is a perfect example of how an artist can market, distribute, and sell work directly to consumers.

Check out Seth's site: http://sethfreemanmusic.com/ and the obligatory Myspace page.

01/13/2008  — 


Little John or blert played a show at the Stork Club a while back with a trio called Oh My God. They blew everyone in the room away with energy and fuzz. I joined their mailing list and kept an eye on their flirtations with mtv, incredibly hectic touring schedule, and growing buzz.

I was completely bummed to read their most recent email installment:

Most of you likely know that oh my god was hit head-on by a driver who had crossed into the wrong lane on Sept. 21. This was a terrifyingly violent crash that left us about half a second to prepare for a 55-mph head-to-head collision. The person who hit us did not survive, our van was instantly destroyed and we ended up with:

  1. Billy: one cracked vertebrae, three broken ribs, torn shoulder muscles and a shattered knee
  2. ig: severely broken and displaced right wrist plus three breaks in the right index finger (and, yes, I'm a righty)
  3. Bish: also a badly broken wrist (left one, the snare-hitting one)
  4. Matt (guitar player): really serious leg injury (badly broken left tibia), broken nose, fractured right hand

All four of us have been engaged in regular physical therapy and are trying to get our bodies back together. It's been a long, cold, difficult fall and winter, staying at home (and, in Matt's case, in Oklahoma for months with his parents) and not playing music and out of contact with everyone. We'll just have to see how this goes for each of us and let you know about any future prospects. Got to get these hands and legs in better shape before any talk of carrying stuff and playing instruments.

In the meantime, I edited together some footage from some of the last shows we did before the accident. We had conceived a series of "webisodes" to post on our site--sort of travelogues with a title inspired by Billy's hand-made "Legalize..." t-shirts. The show is called "Legalize oh my god" and parts 1 & 2 of the first episode are now posted at www.ohmygodmusic.com and on YouTube (search Legalize oh my god). Go watch it (it's under the "L.O.M.G. banner" on our site) and register your vote and comments, please. I think you'll dig this.

Endless thanks to the thousands of emails, texts, etc. we've gotten since the crash. Thank you to Breaking Laces, La Cacahouette and the other bands and people who put on the NY-state oh my god benefit shows.

Lastly, our good Chicago friends the Detholz started the website www.saveohmygod.com. Please go to it, spread it around and do what you can. Also, we sure had ordered a lot of Fools Want Noise and oh my god T-shirts before this cancelled tour. If you'd like to take 'em off our hands, go to the webstore at www.ohmygodmusic.com. And the CD Fools Want Noise remains available at www.splitredrecords.com.

Let's keep in touch. Go out and see some rock shows. They can be really great fun,

ig w/Billy, Bish, Matt

Send them warm fuzzies. Or money: stories of musicians with broken hands really bug me.

More here: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=brianberkowitz