By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
The consortium consisted of nine members: three guitars, two bass players, two percussionists, a cello, and a violin; GYBE's trademark found-sound tape collage and the usual film accompaniment was MIA. (Perhaps they thought we'd had enough?) Playing mostly new material from the forthcoming double LP, Raise Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, they closed their eyes and slowly swayed to the inner reception of a higher-dimensional broadcast.
Dynamic, anthemic, and absurdly dense in both texture and melody, their meandering, haunting melodies and droning-insect crescendos are a hurricane of beautiful destruction, mixing elements of minimalism with post-rock and space-rock stylings. About half the audience left at what seemed to be the end of the performance (the fire department abruptly arrived, requesting a "break" due to the sold-out room capacity), but 20 minutes later the band started up again with "Moya" from Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada, and ended with an astounding Hendrix-ized improv version of "Amazing Grace," with both percussionists keeping a pulsing rhythm as they strolled about the audience. Considering technical difficulties and a frustrated crowd, GYBE's transformation of the "space" within the space was nothing less than sonic alchemy. David Shawn Bosler
Mo Money, Mo Problems
Why does a CD still cost $15? Last week, a coalition of 30 states and territories led by New York and Florida sued the five major music distributors (BMG, Capitol/EMI, Sony, Time Warner, and Universal, along with their subsidiaries) in federal court in Manhattan, alleging a price-fixing conspiracy that kept CD prices artificially high throughout the '90s. The suit claims that after discounters like Circuit City, Kmart, and Best Buy started using new CDs as loss leaders, marking down their narrow selection of bestsellers as low as $10 to draw in customers who might then buy other merchandise, major retailers like Tower and Musicland (which owns Sam Goody) pressured the distributors to control CD pricing by tightening their "Minimum Advertised Price" (MAP) policies. Under MAP, retailers could not advertise low priceseven on in-store displayswithout losing lucrative "co-op" dollars, payments from the distribs that are supposed to help pay for ads but often exceed the retailer's actual promotion costs. The suit says that during 1996 the major distribs had all adopted the tougher MAP rules, and cites a Billboardreport from June of that year crowing that "since [MAP] policies have come into play, sanity appears to be returning to hit pricing." The distribs deny any wrongdoing, and say the MAP policies helped save record storeswhich stock a wider range of titles than the discountersfrom a disastrous price war they couldn't win.
The labels agreed in May to suspend MAP after a challenge from the Federal Trade Commission, and the states are now suing to recover the damages, although they haven't specified a dollar amount. The FTC estimates that MAP cost consumers as much as $490 million, and under antitrust law the states could recover triple the overcharge. Consumers shouldn't expect to get any of that back, at least directly: Scott Brown, a flack for New York's attorney general Eliot Spitzer, says the state will use its share for "something music-related, like buying instruments or education programs for schools." Several individuals have filed separate suits that could become class actions, under which any consumer who overpaid could recover damages.
Will the death of MAP inspire a new round of loss-leading by the discounters? Best Buy is set to open 12 stores in the tristate area next month (that's why they're inflicting Sting on Central Park September 12), but for "competitive reasons" the company refuses to disclose how much it will charge for new records, except to say that it will try to offer the "best buy" in the market. While the savvy consumer could already get each of this week's Billboardtop five albums for a dollar or two less at the Circuit City on Union Square than at the neighboring Virgin Monsterstore, or even cheaper at online discounters like cduniverse.com, there's no sign yet of a race to the bottom. "The manufacturers have not reduced their price to us, so we can't reduce our price to the customer," says Tower's Sarah Hanson. Unless, of course, Napster wins and reduces them to zero. Josh Goldfein