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A Chat with Jeff Miers

The following are edited excerpts from an online chat Friday with News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers.

Joe from DC: Are you as excited as I am to see the Flaming Lips and Tame Impala later this summer? Big fun in store. Who else is on your must-see list for the summer?

Jeff Miers: That’s my top must-see of the summer!!! Looking forward to the Black Keys, Furthur, Americanarama, JanesAddiction/Alice in Chains, Replacements reunion too, to name a few!

Dennis: What do you think of the music played at sporting events?

JM: Interesting question! Generally speaking, I think sports anthems are dumb. But they can be very effective – “We Will Rock You,” pretty much anything by AC/DC, etc. My problem is the lack of imagination in the programming – it’s just far too narrow, and we end up hearing the same stupid songs over and over.

Alex: Why has Thelonious Monk such a strong reputation?

JM: Wow. Where to start? I guess it comes down to his writing. He is unquestionably one of the great jazz composers. What an unusual take on melody and harmony and rhythm and their interplay. Still so refreshing today. And I love Monk as a soloist, though some have suggested that’s his weak point. I disagree; I find him to be such a brilliantly idiosyncratic player. There is so much joy in his playing. He was one of a kind.

Kevin: When someone writes a song, how does he check to see that it’s not violating a copyright, either the melody or the lyrics?

JM: Well, I guess if he is really worried that he lifted it, he should just be honest with himself/herself. I mean, there are only so many chord progressions; if a writer feels they are getting too close, they should change the rhythm, change the key from major to minor or vice versa, or modulate it up a whole step. Change a few notes in the melody.

OtherTim: Best Police album?

JM: “Regatta de Blanc!!!!”

Sam: Top 3 local bands in Buffalo … GO.

JM: There are so many man. I hate to mention just three. Off the top of my head … Aqueous, Universe Shark, Verse, Critt’s Juke Joint, What Would Mingus Do?, Funktional Flow, Lazlo Hollyfeld, Logo City … Ahhhh! Too many!

Joe from DC: When you are reviewing a new record, do you listen to it without anything else going on (no multitasking) or do you just live your life with it going on too and dive in for closer looks when something sounds particularly compelling? Also, have their been recent albums that you listened to a couple of times and had a completely different opinion after the second time? Just curious about the process. Thanks!

JM: Ideally, I drive around in my car with it completely cranked. That’s the litmus test. However, I only tend to do that with things that I like after the first listen. In other words, Taylor Swift is not likely to make it to the car. I can do that fine through a pair of headphones at the office. As far as the second part of your question – yes, that happens all the time! In fact, I find the third listen to usually be the turning point – either upward or downward.

Vince: Can you recommend some books on music? What biographies have you enjoyed?

JM: Oh wow. I am a readaholic. I’ve read so many hundreds of music biographies. Most recently – Parke Puterbaugh’s “Phish”; Richard Hell’s new book; Eddie Trunk’s history of heavy metal; Jack Chambers “Milestones Parts I and II,” which I’ve read five or six times now; a bio on Billy Strayhorn; “Space is the Place,” a bio on Sun Ra; Keith Richards’ “Life.”

Handel: What are your thoughts on Bruno Mars?

JM: Talented. But too safe.

The Rick: When is the last time Counting Crows were relevant?

JM: 1995.

Joe: Even great music can become a disappointing musical. “American Idiot” is one of my favorite albums of all time, but the musical seemed contrived, almost like a high school production. I really wanted to like it, but I couldn’t.

JM: Yeah. I had trouble with it too. It has too much of the “Here we are putting on a show for you now!” vibe.

Phil: What is going on with concert prices this summer? The cheapest ticket for Bon Jovi under the tent at Darien is $143?! When did tickets absolutely go nuts?!

JM: About five years ago, particularly the tickets that involve major package tours for the biggie promoters. It’s absurd. You’d have to pay ME $143 to sit through another Bon Jovi show. That’s waaaay too much money in my opinion.

Norm: Was Elvis considered a good musician?

JM: Not really. Great singer, great interpreter, super charismatic. But not a great musician.

Alex: Karen Carpenter and Judith Durham of the Seekers and Patsy Cline were 3 of the great female singers. You think?

JM: Wow. Well, I absolutely adore Patsy Cline. And I had a funny conversation about the Carpenters with Steven Wilson – he loves them! And I do too.