Monday, February 14, 2011

Moogis, anyone? (Relocated, original post 16 January)

I'm waiting to hear where the dollar's floating before I make the final jump, but unless it's gone south in a big way some time later this week I'll be shelling out $US 225 for a Moogis subscription.

You're entitled to ask what the hell Moogis might be, and should you venture too fat off into Google Land you'll more than likely run across a fair degree of fulmination about financial outlay, so I'll save you the trouble.

Actually, it all starts with the Allman Brothers Band, no longer (if they ever were) household names down under, and more than likely a dimly remembered part of your musical past if you're around my vintage. Having shot to stateside prominence in the seventies before fracturing under acrimonious circumstances later that decade, the Allmans have been touring on a regular basis since the late eighties, and somewhere along the line ended up doing a run of shows at New York's Beacon Theatre each March.

While they were forced to move the venue last year, 2011 sees them back at the Beacon for a run of eight shows, which may extend to thirteen and may even spread beyond that. They were down for thirteen last year at the United Palace but the last five were cancelled, so 2011 may see eight, thirteen or something else entirely.

So, Allman Brothers Band, New York, March. You could possibly go to the concerts yourself, assuming you could find tickets, but the Beacon's a reasonably small venue, and tickets are highly sought after. 

Of course, unless you live in New York, you're up for transport costs, accommodation, meals , etc., which makes the $225 for Moogis excellent value as far as I'm concerned. You wouldn't get much change out of $225 for one night's concert-going.

Moogis is the brainchild of Allmans drummer Butch Trucks, who was spruiking this concert webcast idea a few years back, and actually got it off the ground in 2009, delivering a live video stream of the shows from that year's run, including two nights where Eric Clapton sat in with the band.

That's another point. The extended season is an ideal setting for various guests to turn up unannounced. They were thin on the ground last year, but 2009's run featured, among others:

Taj Mahal, Levon Helm, Johnny Winter, Los Lobos' Cesar Rojas and David Hidalgo, Buddy Guy, The Asbury Jukes Horns, Bruce Willis, Boz Scaggs, John Hammond, Susan Tedeschi, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton, Bruce Hornsby, Southside Johnny, Jimmy Smith, Bernard Purdie, Sonny Landreth, and Bob Weir and Phil Lesh from the Grateful Dead.

As far as guests go, it's a wait and see thing, and you won't know who's there until they turn up in the spotlight.

I'd looked at Moogis for 2009, but suspected that the stream wouldn't play nicely with northern Australia's telecommunications infrastructure. As a result I watched the set-lists appear on the Allman mailing list, read the comments from the attendees and bought a couple of nights' shows through Munck Music.

A change of ISP at the end of 2009, however, produced much faster download speeds. When the early bird special offer came out at the beginning of 2010 I had a go at the Video Preview on the website and was pleasantly surprised to find that, yes, it worked pretty well, delivering a steady stream of video and CD-quality sound.

Paying up delivers access to archived shows, so I was belatedly able to watch the Clapton sit-ins while I waited for last year's run to roll around.

Now, this was a gamble since I'd been watching archived shows in non-peak time as far as the USA's concerned, so I was resigned to the fact that I mightn’t be able to get the live feed when it counted, but nothing ventured, nothing gained...

The first night, as it turned out, was a major disaster, and my initial reaction was an I thought so as the stream delivered staccato bursts of video and sound that weren't always in sync, but subsequent investigations revealed that the glitches were a global issue rather than the result of inadequacies in the local copper network, and the remaining nights in the run ran through close to glitch-free.

That meant that for much of a fortnight I sitting down around eleven-thirty in the morning to catch a show from the other side of the world live in my living room. Eleven-thirty to three in the afternoon might not be optimum timing for everybody, of course, but given the fact that they play Thursday/ Friday/ Saturday and Monday/Tuesday (New York time, so move each of those a day forward) that means this year's run will extend onto three weekends, and there's always the possibility of catching the archived footage if you have issues with minor inconveniences like work.

A $US225 outlay (up to 1 February, after that it's $250) should deliver the Beacon run, plus webcasts from the two nights of the Wanee Festival in Florida the following month plus access to all the archived shows from the last two years. Beacon alone $175/$200, Wanee alone $100/$125.

If interested, I strongly advise trying the preview video, and being prepared for disappointment, but at around the price of a decent bottle of wine per night, I think it's a risk worth taking.

And, in around nine hundred words talking about the current incarnation of the ABB, I’ve managed to avoid mentioning Derek Trucks, the no-longer an up-and-coming purveyor of guitar pyrotechnics we’re off to see in Sydney just before Easter.

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