Record Store Day? More Like Record Store Life.

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Record Store Day is tomorrow. So I shouldn't have been surprised when my editor said, "Hey, maybe you can write something about Record Store Day."

Makes sense. I do write under the moniker Record Store Geek.

It's just that my editor has only asked me for one specific column in the entire two years I've been here: My first one (Defending My Guilty TV Pleasure: Ancient Aliens). So I was surprised.

You think I'd be thankful I've had this much freedom (I am) and serve it up, but here's the problem: I don't want to write about Record Store Day.

But I'd love to write about record stores. Hell, I'll teach a class on record stores.


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Fender MLB Stratocaster Launch Party: Catching G. Love and Playing Guitar With Baseball Players at the W Hotel Scottsdale

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Photos by Jim Louvau
Models show off Fender's new MLB Stratocasters at W Hotel Scottsdale last night. See more photos from the party via our slideshow.

Unlike soccer and vuvuzelas, guitars and baseball don't necessarily go together. But when you're talking about two institutions as American as the Fender Stratocaster and Major League Baseball, the alignment seems a little more warranted.

Such is the case with the new MLB-approved line of Fender Strats that the company unveiled at the W Hotel Scottsdale last night when the behemoth guitar manufacture hosted a small concert and party to celebrate the guitars' official drop on March 31.

Complete with a stage set up in the middle of the W's second floor pool, it's evident that Fender takes care of its own and can turn something as seemingly trivial as a guitar release into a stylish full-blown affair.


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The Most Metal Instruments at NAMM

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John Gilhooley/OC Weekly
You break it, you buy it.
A few weeks back, I wrote about the most metal moments at NAMM, but now I'd like to touch base on some of the amazing products at the one of the largest music trade shows in the world.

Manufacturers seem to have found a way of creating affordable instruments that sound amazing, and at NAMM I discovered quite a few.

But I'm not talking about the usual brands like Marshall and Fender -- there are a ton of other instrumental purveyors that have an impressive lineup of products, and two of my current favorites are Korg and Samson.

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The Biggest Metal Moments of NAMM 2014

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John Gilhooley
Two attendees of NAMM 2014. See more photos via our sister publication OC Weekly's slideshow.
The last time I told people I was going to 'Nam, I was actually heading off to backpack through Vietnam for a month with a stop off in Cambodia and Taiwan. And the general reply was, "Why the hell would you want to do that?"

However, last week when I was heading off to a NAMM of a different sort -- namely, the National Association of Music Merchants in Anaheim, California -- the reaction was one of excitement and a tad bit of jealousy. And since I had never been to the music industry convention, I had no idea what to really expect.


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The Aristocrats' Bryan Beller: "We Are a Rowdy Musical Democracy"

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Within instrumental music circles, the majority of the talented musicians run alone -- releasing solo albums, working as sidemen, dipping deep into numerous projects. And on occasion, a handful of those virtuoso artists come together to create more than just a collaborative album, and it gets a little rowdy in the process.

Such is the case with The Aristocrats, a trio creating complex, layered music that takes the unpredictability of jazz and the vibrant energy of classic rock and fuses it with a bit of blues, soul, and heavy metal. Guitarist Guthrie Govan, bassist Bryan Beller, and drummer Marco Minnemann arrived at this sound in part thanks to their love of the same vast influences: Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, Rage Against the Machine . . . there's a shared passion there, since all the members are the same age.

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The 21 Best Heavy Metal Albums of 2013

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Ghost BC
It's that time of year where our focus is officially shifting from reflecting on 2013 to preparing for 2014. Another 365 days have swept by, full of heavy metal ups and downs, groupies and drug overdoses, mind-blowing riffs and sold-out shows. The state of metal in 2013 certainly hasn't blown my mind--I mean, bad pop music is so pervasive in our culture that it's difficult for any other genre to avoid drowning in the thick, soupy droning known as mainstream music.

However, there was interesting music being made this past year, and lots of heavy metal news and some great interviews. And it was a busy year for Metal Mondays. In tradition end of year "best of" lists, here are a handful of my favorite Metal Mondays that ran in 2013, from interviews with world-renowned metal legends to the insane local metal scene.


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Yes, America: Mexican Music Is Violent. Get Over It.

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From Movimiento Alterado's "Sanguinarios del M1"
BuKnas de Culiacán singer doing what he does best--vamping!
By Gustavo Arellano America's liberal class and MSMers are abuzz right now over Narco Cultura, a documentary about Mexico's horrific drug war and the musical movement that has risen around it. These libs (and more than a few conservatives) are telling each other and the two Mexicans they know about how Mexican music nowadays glorifies the drug trade, how artists will write songs for narcos on commission, how musicians go on stage with AK-47s, bulletproof vests, and bazookas, how those songs revel in being as gory as possible--and how terrible all of this is.

Never mind that the music groups highlighted really hit their height in Mexican culture in 2010. Never mind that almost no media outlet had reported on this new wave of narcocorridos--alternately called el movimento alterado ("the altered movement"--"altered" as in "high as shit") or corridos enfermos ("sick corridos") until now, and now everyone is tripping on themselves to report this "new" news. NPR and the New York Times did stories on Narco Cultura recently, so it's now news! And you know something is the liberal flavor of the month when they're going to Ry Cooder--the only person progressive gabachos trust for their ethnic music--so he can cluck about the sadness of it all.

SNORE. Yes, America: Mexican music is violent. Get over it.

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A Michael Jackson-Sonic the Hedgehog Conspiracy Runs Through Arizona

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All those Sonic 3 Michael Jackson rumors have an Arizona-based explanation.
There's no shortage of Michael Jackson conspiracies, but this one is my favorite: Michael Jackson was supposed to do the music for Sonic 3, one of the biggest video game events of the '90s, but the child abuse scandal that changed his career forever sent Sega running. Nevertheless, the conspiracy goes, some of his work remains in the finished product.

It's not my favorite Michael Jackson conspiracy theory because there's something that sounds exactly like "Stranger in Moscow" in there, or because I love video games, even though both of those things are accurate. It's my favorite because it makes so much sense. Now, according to Fervor Records, the truth can be told--and the way they tell it, this conspiracy runs through Arizona and Brad Buxer of the Jetzons.

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2014 Grammy Nominees: Why Metal Will Make A Strong Showing

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Black Sabbath's return earned a number of 2014 Grammy nominations.
The Grammys has never been known for supporting heavy metal. Heavy bands show up and it's like a burnout kid crashing his parents' fancy dinner party. Even when Halestorm won Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance for their song "Love Bites (And So Do I)" at the 2013 Grammys, Lzzy Hale told me that she felt like the band was the awkward red-headed step child the entire night.

Hell, the metal category isn't even a part of the televised ceremony. Regardless of that, the nominees for the the 2014 Grammy Awards have been announced, and rock and metal have a surprisingly solid presence.

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The Album Is Not Dying, Despite What You May Have Heard

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From the Shangri La art
Tell this guy about the death of the album.
By Michael Corcoran

"The album is dying in front of our very eyes," Variety columnist and music business know-it-all Bob Lefsetz wrote recently based on weak LP sales, including Katy Perry's Prism, which sold only about 220,000 copies in its first week.

"If your plan is to increase your audience, spread the word and make money, suddenly the album just isn't working anymore," he continued. "We've turned into a nation of grazers. And the artist's job is to constantly be at the smorgasbord. Not to deliver one big meal that is picked at and thrown away, but to constantly provide tantalizing bites to the public."

As if Bob Lefsetz knows anything about "the artist's job."

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