Saturday, October 20, 2012

Boss Looping Competition

Saturday, Oct 20, is the big day for the Boss Looping national competition.

Tim and his friend Matt Murphy are the first duo to ever compete (and might be the only live looping duo in the world--we haven't found anyone else). They are among the six finalists. The competition is, as far as I can tell, for people who use any boss looping pedal (they make a bunch--Tim uses the RC-50). All the finalists sing original music--it's not in the rules that it's required, but all the final videos are original songs, so I guess it gives you an advantage somehow? Not all the finalists do all-vocal live looping--three of the six use instruments in addition to their voices. All sing at least part of the songs.

You can see all the finalists' entry videos and read a little bio of each here: As you can see, there are some very talented people in this competition.

All six finalists flew to LA today, and tomorrow they get to perform ONE song each, up to 5 minutes long, at the competition. You can watch it here: live starting at 6:00 pm (competition itself starts at 6:30 pm, though--California time, I think, so 7:30 here at my house).

I will be watching. I have no idea what the judges are looking for. The preliminary round specified that the music had to use a loop pedal and that they were judging partially on facility with the pedal, but nobody has said anything about what the finals are judged on.

What I will be watching for:

First and foremost, is the act entertaining? I don't care how technically good an artist is if I get bored listening to the music. Looping is especially at risk of being boring because of the nature of the art--it takes a while to lay down all the loops to build a complete background for a song, and if you don't know how to do that skillfully and quickly, it gets really boring really fast. Also, looped songs are built around backgrounds that don't change throughout the songs. If an artist is really good at looping, they can usually handle things like bridges and chord changes okay, but it's not as easy as it is with a band. So the songs are always at risk of being too repetitive and of "not going anywhere." Even a good song, though, can be performed in a way that is just too boring to sit through. So the music itself AND the performance have to be entertaining. That doesn't mean gimmicky necessarily--just entertaining.

Secondly, is the act original? I don't see a lot of artistic value in cover bands. I do see cultural value in them, but I've been around the a cappella world too long to be really impressed with groups that are good mimics and not much else. That's 90% of a cappella, and I've had my fill of that. So I'm interested in seeing if the artists here are doing something that marks them as original--not just original songs, but are they doing something that makes them distinct, or am I going to watch and say, "I've seen this a thousand times before" or "Yup, that's live looping." Interestingly, groups can still do covers and feel original--like the Real Group, from Sweden, who Tim took me to see when they were in Colorado. It has a lot to do with the performance and the artists, I guess, more than the material.

Third, are they good? An act can be original and entertaining and still be musically horrible. Sometimes they're entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Sometimes they're original, but so far out there that they're not accessible or good. It's not too hard to write original crap--it's all over YouTube and filling up many an open mic night.

And finally, does the artist strike me as someone interesting personally? I'm not really into divas. An artist can be entertaining, original, and good, but if they come across as a jerk, as selfish, as egotistical, as rude, or generally as someone I would not want to meet, I  have a hard time rooting for them. No matter how great the music is, if the person behind it comes across as loathsome or self-centered, I lose interest really fast. In the music industry, being a generally nice person ends up being a really big deal.

As with every other gig Tim ever has, I hope two things: that people show up, and that Tim does a good job.

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