Mini-review: Ryan Adams in Berkeley

Before I get into my mini-review of Ryan Adams’ show in Berkeley on Tuesday night, I should state a few facts for the record about my almost-relationship with Ryan Adams. Forgive me in advance for the indulgence — I need to get a few things out of the way.

  • I grew up in Greenville, NC — about 70 miles from Ryan’s hometown of Jacksonville (not to be confused with the Jacksonville in Florida in the same way that the Greenville I grew up in shouldn’t be confused with the one in South Carolina). There was nothing between us but Kinston, and that ain’t saying much (see map). (Ryan, if you’re reading this, I know you’re at least chuckling.) Ryan put in best in his song “Jacksonville Skyline” (note: Jacksonville doesn’t have a skyline): Well, Jacksonville’s a city with a hopeless streetlight / Seems like you’re lucky if it ever changes from red to green (off Whiskeytown’s Pneumonia, one of my all-time favorite albums, period)
  • One night in the summer of 1995, I had nothing to do one night and my friend David Menconi invited me out to see a band in Raleigh that I had never heard of and really didn’t care about (I think it was this show — only their 7th outing). The band was fronted by Ryan Adams, who I only knew as a guy who played in the Patty Duke Syndrome, a local punk rock band. The transition to “alt-country” didn’t make sense to me, but Ryan explained it in the first Whiskeytown 7-inch, “Angels are Messengers from God”: I started this damn country band / ‘cuz punk rock was too hard to sing. I first encountered this 7-inch when I did the 2-5am Monday morning shift at WXDU (I followed the much-more-lively Sunday night 11pm-2am hip-hop show, and I always felt like I was breaking up a party when I arrived for my shift and segued over to my set. Well, ok, I actually was breaking up a party every time).
  • I came this close to having Whiskeytown play a house-warming party in my backyard when I lived in Raleigh in 1995.
  • Tenuous connection #345: My favorite band while I was in Raleigh (in the era of Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, et. al.) was Picasso Trigger. Lisa Cooper, the guitarist, became a good friend of mine when we found ourselves washing dishes and delivering pizzas at the same suburban Pizza Hut (see #2 in “Five things you don’t know about me“). I had a major punk rock crush on Kathy Poindexter, the lead singer of Picasso Trigger. I think Ryan did, too: he wrote “Lo-fi Tennessee Mountain Angel” for her. (side note: John, the drummer from Picasso Trigger at the time, made it on “The Price is Right” shortly after I left NC. I helped him change the tire on his van once. Another brush with fame.) Lisa Cooper, if you are out there, email me! The last time I saw you, we ended up a party in Atlanta and the Indigo Girls showed up. Decidedly not punk rock.

OK, with that out of the way, here’s the mini-review, and I emphasize “mini.”

First of all, I feel sorry for the folks who caught Ryan in SF on Monday night if this SF Weekly review is on target: “The whole atmosphere gave off the sterile vibe of a show neutered of any spontaneity. . .” The Berkeley show was as spontaneous as any Ryan Adams or Whiskeytown show I’ve seen. Contrast the SF Weekly review with what these bloggers said:

“as most of us settled into our seats, Ryan went up and down the aisles taking song requests from fans all over the theatre, kneeling down or grabbing an empty seat nearby in order to attain eye-level with them as they shared a conversation.” [link]

“Ryan Adams was really funny and made everyone laugh the whole time: he barked into the mike randomly and whispered weird things about how he gets wedgies often, and then violenlty unwegied himself.” [link]

“He was so funny throughout the show, lots of very entertaining banter between songsā€¦about Cheez-Its, his not-boxer-but-not-brief underwear that was driving him crazy, all kinds of hilarious stuff. He really seemed to be enjoying himself. It was a great night, and well worth being ridiculously tired today!” [link]

“5 stars for one of the best shows of 2007.” (Nicholas H. on Yelp)

“He was definitely the most chatty and entertaining between songs as I’ve heard in a long time. From singing an impromptu custom birthday song to a girl a few rows up from us named Summer Rae Brown (it’ll be the smash hit of her summer for sure) to making up poems about his love for Cheez-Its (me too, Ryan, me too) it was hilarious.” [link]

Aside from his engagement with the audience, this was a great show, plain and simple. The band was ridiculously tight without seeming at all mechanical, and I felt that sense of amazement that you only feel at a Great Rock Show. All I can say is: wow. Ryan is a certified Rock Star.

Here’s the setlist:

A Kiss Before I Go
Please do not let me go
Goodnight Rose
Peaceful Valley
Easy Plateau
Beautiful Sorta
Happy Birthday (Summer Rae Brown)
When Stars Go Blue
I Taught Myself How To Grow Old
Everybody Knows
Let it Ride
Blue Hotel
Elizabeth, You Were Born to Play That Part
Dear Chicago
What Sin Replaces Love
Cold Roses
Shakedown On 9th Street
I See Monsters

Congrats to Gil and Tacoda

I read this morning that AOL announced that it’s entered into an agreement to buy Tacoda. A special congrats to my friend Gil Beyda, EVP of Corporate Strategy and Development there.

I first worked with Gil back in my days when he was CTO of RealMedia. We became the first company to implement the Linux version of the RealMedia Open AdStream software, which was running on large sites like USA Today and back then. I was intimately familiar with the commercial ad serving market at the time, having been the technical product manager for CNN’s rollout of NetGravity shortly after NetGravity hit the market (aside: check out this history of ad serving on Wikipedia). When I came to Salon, I wanted something that ran on Linux/Apache. As I recall, I met Gil and asked, “Does Open AdStream run on Linux/Apache?” and he said, “Sure, we can compile for Linux and we have an Apache module that handles the ad serving piece.” After some more due diligence, we chose Open AdStream and Gil and his team provided phenomenal support throughout (his chief engineer cheerfully answered my phone calls at 3am in the days leading up to the launch). When you’re an online media company supported 100% by advertising, choosing an ad server is a big decision and working with Gil and his team was probably the most pleasant experience I’ve ever had with an outside company on a critical project.

(For you kids out there, migrating to Linux was a big deal back then! We put out a press release announcing the fact and we were featured in Slashdot, PC World, and Wired’s Webmonkey. I also did a talk at 1999 OSCON about it along with Jeffrey Radice.)

I ran into Gil at OSCON last year and we had a nice dinner where we talked absolutely none about technology and focused instead on family, travel, and my recent engagement. Gil is one of the good guys and I’m glad to see him do well. Congrats, Gil!

Going paperless: is it (finally) time?

For years now, I’ve held onto the dream of going paperless — a dream that was usually shattered with an afternoon of clumsy scanning on a substandard consumer scanner and a few paper cuts. Every couple of years, I check back in on the state of the art and think about giving it another try. In the past, I’ve mainly been scared away by a very simple barrier: the lack of a reasonably-priced scanner with a document feeder that works consistently. I definitely didn’t want to spend my limited spare time placing documents on a flatbed scanner.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing my latest round of research on going paperless and nearly every success story I’ve seen has one scanner at the center of it: the Fujitsu ScanSnap (if you’re using a Mac, the specific model is the Fujitsu ScanSnap S500M). By all accounts, the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner is the iPhone of document scanners (or, judging from the near-universal praise for the ScanSnap — which has been around for a while — the iPhone is the ScanSnap of phones?) No scanner seems to come close for going paperless.

The ScanSnap can scan up to 18 pages per minute (double-sided, so that’s really 36 pages) and the feeder tray can hold 50 pages. Judging from what I’ve read about the scanner, you can clear out your filing cabinet in fairly short order with this little workhorse. It’s definitely not cheap (~$450), but it does come with a full version of Adobe Acrobat 7 Standard (the latest version of the ScanSnap for Windows users, the S510, comes with Acrobat 8, but I couldn’t find an update to their Mac scanner).

Some other random notes from my research:

People who use the ScanSnap with the Mac seem to highly recommend DEVONthink Pro Office, a piece of software with the tagline “meet your second brain.” I’ve run across many mentions of DEVONthink in my occasional GTD spasms, so it might be time to check it out seriously. Wally Grotophorst, a librarian at George Mason University, writes a bit about the magic of DEVONthink and the ScanSnap. According to Wally, DEVONthink has a nice “see also” function as you’re browsing your documents, so if you’re looking at one of your scanned documents (which DEVONthink fully indexes for search), the software will recommend related documents. Compare this to flipping through a filing cabinet.

Other people seem to really like Yep, which is billed as “iPhoto or iTunes for documents.” Yep supports tagging of documents (it can determine the tags algorithmically from the content of your scanned documents) and even has a built-in tag cloud. While a tag cloud with terms like “insurance” and “taxes” isn’t as sexy as a Flickr tag cloud, it’s certainly more useful. Chris Gulker has a nice mini-review of Yep — check it out.

I’ve collected a few links to ScanSnap resources tagged as scansnap in my feed. Needless to say, I placed my order today and hope to be posting more about my paperless experience soon (and posting more in general — what a busy 2007 this has been!)

iPhone: resistance is futile

After days of resistance, I decided I was probably going to get an iPhone, but they were all sold out in the Bay Area, so I backed off. Then yesterday, I happened to be in Seattle with some Yahoo! Seattle geeks (did I mention we are hiring up there?) and they just happened to take me to lunch at a place that was right by the Apple Store. Then one of the guys just happened to go buy one while we ordered lunch for him. When he came back, he said they were fully stocked with the 8GB model. When I saw the pretty bag with the pretty box inside, I lost all resolve.

Originally, I told myself I was going to buy a new guitar instead — something that I could use to create rather than consume. Oh, well: consumption never felt so good!