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It’s almost official, summer arrives this week! I noticed last night the sky was still light at 9:15pm, the fire flies are out, bees are buzzing and I’m already well on my way to a summer tan. For me, I feel “reborn” every year at this time. There’s something about the onset of summer that’s stirs me unlike any other season, and that time is now. I’m getting itchy to leave the usual and do something “different.”

There are many summer festivals out there, but most of those either seem like going to the mall or just plain silly, and none of them really take me out of the day to day. Cochella is held in a beautiful environment, but it just feels like Brooklyn with lots of desert in place of asphalt; Bonnaroo has the vibe of one big farmers market, attended by everyone’s groovy uncle and everyone’s favorite eco-consumer brand available for purchase. And, do I really want to spend a few days with people who travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to attend events as mundane as a mosquito or cream cheese festival? No thanks.

Call me flighty, but I’m looking for something that will stir the soul and lift the mind, and also let loose a bit. I think I’m done with Burning Man. Done it enough,  and now a chance to get tickets is so complicated that they’re scapled online for up to $1,000 each. If you haven’t been though, still a great escape from consumerism and yourself. Just be very ready for heat, sun, and incredible sandstorms, with no escape from the elements, whatsoever.

An alternative to Burning Man is Nowhere, held July 3-8 in the deserts of Spain. A lot smaller and ‘softer’ than its American counterpart, it’s a true summer getaway. Since its host country and the Continent in general are going to hell, it might be a good year to attend.  Since I’m on the subject of Europe, a few people I know recently experienced the Pink Pop Festival in the Netherlands. It’s held every year somewhere between late May and mid-June. And while it’s too late to go this year, if massive live music extravaganzas with bands are your thing, this is the place to be. What’s different about Pink is the bands aren’t curtated through the lens of wonky U.S. or British hipster cognescenti, but rather by those with a Continental palate. This results is ten of thousands of people cheering wildy to bands whose names I have trouble pronouncing, never mind ever hearing from them before. A fresh perspective. Something new. A learning experience.

If you want a more dance-oriented festival there’s the Stop Making Sense Festival held August 2-6 in Croatia, right next to the warm waters of the Adriadic. Perhaps the best place in the world to dance. During your downtime you can take yoga classes or share a sailboat with others festival goers. Sounds too good to be true.

If you want something a bit more ‘cultured’ feel free to join me at the American Dance Festival (ADF) in Durham, NC held from June 14 through July 28. It’s the world’s leading venue for modern dance. Given that modern dance nowadays embodies not just dance, but also theater, performance art, multimedia, music and fashion, there’s a lot to the art.  ADF also holds a six-week dance school during the festival, so enthusiastic young people abound in a small easy-going, but quickly emerging Southern city.

If studying urban environments in quiet contemplation is your thing, I recommend a week at Arcosanti. Since 1970, Arcosant is “an experimental desert town” under constant evolution in the Arizona desert led by Paolo Soleri. Each month they hold a one week seminar where you can be immersed in the history and nature of what the city calls “Arcology.” Or, you can just rent a room and roam around on your own. Nothing quite like the place.

While in Arizona you can take a road trip a bit east to New Mexico for the Santa Fe Opera Festival, held this year from June 29-August 25. While I’m no fan of the classical “fat lady in horns” opera (too much) I’m up for mingling with perhaps the most die-hard fan base out there. There’s no audience, including Euro football, that’s more rabid than an opera crowd.  Besides, opera in a setting such as Santa Fe is a balanced affair, with its relaxed vibe. And the people you’ll meet out on the town will offer great lively discussion. Worth the adventure, I say.

Lots more too, but if you went to any two of the above I think you’ll have a summer you’ll never forget. So, even if it’s not this year, good planning for next year may make these events become a reality. Have fun!

I’m  a sucker for one-take TV spots. In a time when anything – any I mean anything – is possible with CGI, spots like this are refreshing. Careful choreography, plenty of rehearsal, and a sweet Status Quo track make it all worthwhile. Enjoy the summer while it lasts.

Indie rock band Kaiser Chiefs have put an spin on their latest album release that makes innovative and resourceful use of social networking to drive CD sales.

The band is selling a customizable CD: Buyers can select 10 tracks from an available 20 to include in their CD, and then choose combinations of and adjust several available graphic components to create their own cover art. Once completed, a buyer’s customized CD is made available on the band’s site, where other buyers can opt to select your production (plus, you get royalties for every purchase of your produced version). The site even tracks purchases made of each version produced, allowing buyers to track how their version is faring against other buyers’ productions.

It’s not only a great idea, but a well executed one – This process, if cumbersome, wouldn’t provide any type of incentive for fans to engage with it. But putting together the CD is simple and fun. Check it out here.

There’s one fewer option to pick from the next time you go to buy a car: the cassette deck. The last one rolled off the assembly line some time in 2010. The model? A Lexus SC 430.

The cassette tape was really the first opportunity for an individual to control their listening experience. In essence, today’s digital music behaviors are an extension of the original mix tape. A democratization of music away from the album to a mix tape that reflected moods or themes or the general angst of adolescence. Unlike digital music, the physical aspect of a cassette tape gave it currency. A tape had more value than a digital playlist and more flexibility than a CD.

And now the act of digging around your car for a specific tape that sums up the moment will fade from our collective memory.

I have earned my stripes as a rock aficionado, even ran a club for a while and was a booking agent. But I am now totally mind-numbingly bored to death with the 2/4  beat of rock music. Fifty-five years into it and still no one is really any cooler than Elvis, Jerry Lee and Little Richard. I mean, Arcade Fire? So now I listen to more jazz and patiently wait.

Well, there is hope. And that hope is in the hands of today’s young ones. I have a feeling these kids aren’t going to let me down like their forefathers. And the future, according to them, is in electronic music. Demand is now exceeding supply, and any economics grad student will show you ten reasons why that’s a good thing for any commodity.

I’m not necessarily a big fan of the genre per se, but case in point are two recent summer festivals: Germany’s Love Parade and LA’s Electric Daisy Carnival. The Love Parade received some attention when 19 died and nearly 400 were injured, due to the sheer magnitude of the event. It’s disputed how many kids actually showed; the police stating “no more than 300,000:” the promoters saying “over 800,000” counting hordes roaming the streets.  Stateside the Electric Daisy Carnival packed (sic) only 180,000 in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum over two days, but far exceeding the Coachella and Bonnaroo rock festivals. And the Carnival is now speading across multiple venues across the U.S. Are you going? No? Feeling old and out of touch? Hmmm….

Why is this occurring? Simple enough: while still (for the moment) remaining an underground movement, electronic music is solely based on communal experiences of the audience with the music, whereas traditional genres (e.g. rock, pop, country) manufacture and promote celebrity musicians, run by an industry model developed in the ’60s. These industries hold much of the decision-making, even in today’s virtual world, resulting in stimied  creativity; basically a “top down” versus “bottom up” philosophy.

There’s no room for anything new if the heads of those running the show have already charted a course based on their past experiences of what works. As Decision Theory will tell you, it’s really tough to make a choice based solely on future likelihood (that’s why there are so few really breakthrough products).

Yet, a top DJ like Tiesto can still pull down $20 million a year, not shabby. And he likely has a decent shelf-life, since he’s not media machine dependent. He’s not a celebrity, secure in his position totally due to music, not by his cover shot in People magazine. Something’s just ‘right’ about that…

If you don’t know what Spotify is already, then you should by now – especially since the new update as of yesterday will make Steve Jobs run for cover with his precious iTunes. It’s been out there for a couple of short years – exploding first through Scandinavia and further on finding its way out in Europe. It’s a music service software that let’s you stream and play any music through the Internet directly on your computer and even your iPhone. Yes, other software like Pandora and Last.fm are out there as well, but appear totally irrelevant in comparison.

Imagine your iTunes filled with everything you could ever ask for, but that’s taking no hard disk space. I know what you’re thinking – so, what if I’m out and there’s no reception on my iPhone, or I have lost Internet in my house? Well, then you can download your playlists to an offline mode that will act just like any MP3 player, even if you are connected or not. Pure brilliance. Unfortunately, they haven’t released it in the US yet – Spotify is fighting with licenses and bigger record companies for access, and it shouldn’t be too far now. My way (and many others that are living in the US) around it is; I registered for free in Sweden while I was there, and when I’m now a subscriber every month ($10) I get a premium account which let’s me ‘travel’ with the service indefinitely–otherwise it would shut me down after 2 weeks abroad.

The new update (called ‘The Next Generation’) features pure awesomeness. With your own individual profile on Spotify you can now connect with your friends on Facebook, or whomever you’d like – and share tracks, playlists and artists with easy clicks. With your own inbox you can send and receive songs – you can ‘star’ favorites and let your wireless connection share info between your devices. It’s now even more about sharing, and who doesn’t want great, daily recommendations from other music lovers around their social network? Read about the release and get excited. Soon, when the US will get access, I’m seriously saying that Apple and iTunes will have a hard time competing. This is by far one of the greatest softwares I have ever experienced, and I do like to pride myself in good things that are Swedish. Let the music free!

Even the ‘screw it all’ attitude of British punk rock had a business element to it, money was to be made. And no one was more aware of this, and arguably more important in developing, packaging, and selling punk to the world media than Malcolm McLaren. Malcolm died yesterday of cancer at age 64.

Malcolm was the original “cool hunter” for no one could sniff out a trend more effectvely. I can’t even begin to account for the ripple effect he’s had on today’s world of music, fashion, advertising, and general culture.  Like the name of the company his son founded, Malcolm was an Agent Provocateur.

God rest his provocative soul, for the business world could sure use a few more Malcolms and a heck of a lot less of everyone else…