The Pi-Rate Ratings

December 15, 2014

PiRate Picks–Conte/Dawn Are Champions Of Their League

Filed under: News & Views — Tags: , , , , , , — piratings @ 8:36 pm

If I told you today I was going to editorialize on a subject living in the San Francisco Bay area, and I gave you 100 guesses you would not figure out what this editorial would cover.

Some of you know my wife and me from our touring of Route 66, so you would maybe guess I was going to discuss the terminus of the equally famous Lincoln Highway, a trip we shall one day take from Times Square to Lincoln Park. You would be wrong.

Most of you that know me might incorrectly guess I was prepared to discuss whether Jim Harbaugh’s 2015 paychecks will be deposited in a bank in Oakland, CA, Ann Arbor, MI, Miami, or possibly East Rutherford, NJ, maybe even Storrs, CT, home of ESPN.

When given the clue to think professional entertainment and something that has meaning to me, you would quickly guess I was prepared to discuss either Festus Ezeli of the Golden State Warriors or Sonny Gray of the Oakland Athletics, two former Vanderbilt athletes that I covered as a Vanderbilt sports beat writer when I returned briefly for a three-year fling in print journalism following a career in construction.

If I told you this editorial would include something tied to the Stanford Cardinal, you would quickly but incorrectly believe this was an editorial dealing with Vanderbilt football coach Derek Mason, who was the Stanford defensive coordinator prior to coming to Vandy.

If I further gave you the clue to think Stanford and music, you would still guess incorrectly, sure that I was going to discuss their infamous marching band, be it their numerous controversies through the years, or “The Play,” which prevented John Elway from ever appearing in a bowl game and the Cardinal from facing my Commodores in the 1982 Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, AL.

Yes, this is definitely the last editorial you would ever expect me to publish. A certain place has indeed frozen over today. Many of you reading this know me, the founder of the PiRate Ratings. If you don’t, then here is a little something about me that is pertinent to today’s contribution.

I live in Music City, U.S.A., otherwise known as Nashville. I am the outcast of this burg, as I cannot play an instrument, not even a kazoo. Vocally, the song “Hot Cross Buns” is two musical notes outside my singing range. In other words, in a town with a metropolitan population of 1.9 million, I am number 1.9 million when it comes to musical talent of any kind.

I am a math-nerd, ex-coach, sports and financial “stathead,” and maybe number one when it comes to sports trivia prior to the year 1970. You won’t stump me on naming the starting lineup of the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers, or even the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates. I can look at a picture of any Major League baseball park taken between 1904 and 1960 and tell you the name of the stadium and the dimensions of the foul lines, power alleys, and center, even in a place like old Braves Field in Boston, which sometimes changed annually or weekly. When others hung posters of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or other bands, I hung posters of The Polo Grounds, Griffith Stadium, and Forbes Field.

So, what am I doing writing an editorial about an independent music group based out of the San Francisco Bay area?

For starters, my wife is the polar opposite of me in musical talent and knowledge. She has a beautiful soprano voice and has played percussion and keyboard instruments in her past, performing on stage in some big-time locales. She once co-owned a punk rock record label, published a music industry newspaper, and studied sound-engineering in London with Nick Lowe, working in the studio while Elvis Costello’s band, The Attractions, recorded their solo album.

My sweet soul mate has also worked for some country crooner named Garth, so she knows what she is talking about when she comments on music. She also knows what goes into making it financially in the music business, “warts and all.” You could say she would qualify as an expert witness.

Let’s start in autumn of 2010. Autumn is the time of the year where you dare not turn a television set on if you loathe seasonal retail commercials being shoved in your face, even if you only watch news, weather, and sports. By December 1, it is enough to make the average person with a modicum of intelligence ill, or what I call Christmas/Chanukah “ad-nauseum.”

In the past 20 years, I can only think of two commercials where I did not mind being bombarded with seeing it repeated 10-20 times a week. One was the old Norelco Shaver ad where Santa Claus slid down the snowy slope riding on the shaver. The other was this very unique set of three Hyundai automobile ads with the cutest TV couple singing and playing instruments and showing incredible stage presence with Q-ratings that had to be at the top of the profession (unlike my Q-rating which was lower than the old test pattern.)

Three separate ads aired four years ago and featured different Christmas carols—“Up on the Housetop,” “Deck the Halls,” and “Jingle Bells.” Each ad was a breath of fresh air, the anti-establishment auto ad. Normally, both my wife and I would not glance at a TV ad, but we not only watched the 30-second mini-cinemas with total attention, we wanted more. We were sad to see the campaign end.

Thinking the two actors in this ad could not be so incredibly talented and also be the actual artists performing the music, we did what any inquisitive person does in the 21st Century; we did a search online and discovered that this couple was indeed a real couple and had performed the music. What a talented duo these two were!

Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn make up the band known as “Pomplamoose.” Pomplamoose is an Americanized spelling of the French word “pamplemousse,” French for grapefruit (see I did pay attention in Francais 404, Madame Stewart).

We discovered that the boyfriend/girlfriend duo had a couple other interesting videos and played in a few venues near their home on the West Coast. And, then we sort of forgot about them by January.

As the “season” returned again in October of this year, I turned to my wife and noted that it was sad that Hyundai did not use that cute young couple to do their Christmas ads again. So, being old enough that I could no longer remember their names, I searched online to discover Conte and Dawn again.

Here is where good ole PiRate bad luck struck yet again. I performed this search to rediscover Pomplamoose, mostly for my wife, only to find that Conte and Dawn had performed in Nashville the night before! Oy Vey, such a poor Schlimazel I am! It would have been the perfect early anniversary gift to bequeath to my utmost.

Nashville received a dose of early rotten weather soon after, and we stayed indoors a lot. My wife proceeded to find everything Pomplamoose and then what Conte and Dawn performed separately.

Her highly qualified opinion: Pomplamoose is a work of pure genius combined with supreme talent! Dawn’s voice has no equals in the genre. To be more exact, since she sings all her back-up music as well, Dawn has the five best voices in the genre.

Conte and Dawn are the 21st Century equivalent of a combination of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Their mastery of electronics gives their music a unique flair with this incredible ability to borrow from multiple songs and sew them together into what sounds like an original composition. Their own original music is even better than those they cover.

Conte is not satisfied with music alone. He is also part Mark Zuckerberg, part Perry Chen, and part Rob Kalin. He founded “Patreon,” the newest and easiest to use online crowdfunding site.

Let’s return to the present. Since re-acquainting ourselves with Pomplamoose, yours truly, the least musically talented and until recently the least musically knowledgeable resident of Nashville, has become as competent in “Pomplamusic” as he is with Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds.

I can recognize “Get That Body Back,” “Fight Back,” “Centrifuge,” and “Bust Your Kneecaps,” in three notes. Their songs are hypnotic; they dominate your subconscious, so much so that you might wonder if the two Stanford grads might know a bit about Neuro-linguistic Programming, as Stanford excels in all fields of psychology.

This 100% analytical-thinking PiRate normally arises most mornings wondering if the line on the Packers-Bears game needs to be adjusted by a half-point based on the weather forecast or whether Ted Williams was better than Stan Musial, or whether his aged bladder going on its sixth decade will hold out long enough to make the 30-foot dash to the bathroom. Since October, Ted Williams and Stan Musial have been replaced by all the exceptionally creative videos put out by Conte and Dawn.

How talented are these two? They create and construct all the props for their videos. They produce and direct themselves, showing you warts and all. They are incredible actors, better than most of the non-talents in Hollywood today. In fact, their videos are comparable with Silent Movies, and Conte and Dawn could be compared to Buster Keaton and Clara Bow, as Conte can pull off all facial expressions, and Dawn certainly has “It.”

This editorial is not an attempt to throw sugar all over the joint. I chose to write this not because Pomplamoose is a breath of fresh air in the music world; to paraphrase one of their mashups, “It’s all about the cash, no profits.”

As many of you know, I am all about the stats, and the business of music grabs my attention more than the music itself. When Conte recently published an account of their recent tour and how it financially lost money but could be treated as the best possible advertisement for their business as well as a gift to their fans, the music critics of the world piled on their contempt of his breaking down the fourth wall and letting the public know “the inside” of their business.

For what it’s worth, Pomplamoose is part of a new breed of performers relying on the Internet to generate revenue. This is their business, and they are in this business to make money, just like my wife creates and designs jewelry to sell in order to make money so she can then purchase songs online, among other things.

I find it an utter outrage that the music critics believe there is something wrong with letting your patrons know exactly where you stand. I believe it is a wonderful act on Conte’s part to reveal this. Whether they want to be or not, Conte and Dawn are mentors for hundreds if not thousands of aspiring independent artists wishing to use the same protocol to become successful at their craft. They are more than artists; they are also leaders by example. Conte and Dawn could easily put all their supportive information that the public can use into an e-book and charge $25 to learn what they are revealing as a courtesy, while also further placing themselves deeper in the hearts and minds of their fans.

Music critics differ from me in only one way. We both have no musical talent. However, I admit my insufficiencies in this realm, while most of the critics try to impress you with their knowledge and make you believe they know what’s what, when in reality, all they want to do is find whatever negative things they can find and retaliate against those that do have the talent they believe they deserved to have and didn’t have bequeathed upon them by our creator, while attempting to make the public believe they actually know what they are talking about.

Because I can in some offbeat way commiserate with Conte and Dawn, I will try to explain why I believe Pomplamoose received all this undeserved consternation from the negative nabobs of the meaningless part of the fourth estate.

Several years ago, while I was a working member in sports radio, I aired my ratings and picks against the spread, performing about as successfully as I do now—picking every college and NFL game and hitting around 75% winners and 55% winners against the spread. A couple of weeks in 1981, when I happened to hit a hot streak and extend that success to hitting around 90% straight winners and 75% against the spread, it was assumed that I was making money hand over fist and milking Las Vegas dry. In truth, I did not then nor have ever wagered actual money on any football game. The only sporting events I have ever wagered real money on were horse races—and then just claiming and allowance races, none of which would ever excite you the reader to develop an interest in reading.

So, in early 1982, I made a remark in passing on air that I loved radio but hated empty refrigerators. You would have thought I admitted to being the man behind the Grassy Knoll in Dallas on 11-22-63. It was just assumed that I was as wealthy then as Jimmy The Greek or today’s Billy Walters. How dare I claim poverty, when I was so successful giving out winners in advance on a clear channel flamethrower AM radio station that reached 28 states plus Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba at night and could even be picked up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, if conditions were cooperative? It was assumed I was making money as fast as Vegas could put out the odds.

To be like Mr. Conte, in 1982, I made exactly $5 an hour working in radio. I made an additional $35 per game serving as a spotter and statistician for the Vanderbilt University football and basketball telecasts, which in those days were on late at night on tape delay.

While I would soon leave the field which I loved to become a general contractor for the next two decades, when I made this quick reference on the radio, I was accused of laundering money, spending the money on a mistress, and many other options of vice. It was 100% truthful; my refrigerator was more empty than full.

The music critic ogres automatically assume that because Pomplamoose has a prior five-year track record that includes successful nationwide commercial advertisement success; millions of hits on their Youtube sites; a loyal following of thousands; and the creation of a large crowdfunding site, they must be quite wealthy.

Wealthy or not, why does it matter if Pomplamoose profits or loses 10 grand on a tour? Let’s look at some facts. First, tickets were quite affordable. In Nashville, I discovered that they only cost $12 for a really nice venue, where everybody in attendance was as close to the stage as the field box seats at Dodger Stadium are to home plate.

Let’s compare this to the cost of the Grand Ole Opry. This Friday, December 19, the Opry will make its annual trek back in time and return to “The Mother Church,” the historic Ryman Auditorium. The Ebbets Field of Nashville is equally cozy, and there is not a bad seat in the house. The special guest Friday night is Clare Bowen, the Australian muse who plays Scarlett O’Connor in the ABC TV show “Nashville.” Her voice is angelic, maybe second to Ms. Dawn’s voice. If you want a ticket to this show, the cheapest you could theoretically find if tickets remained would be $30. If you want to sit close enough to see Bowen’s eyes, it will cost $70. Bowen is quite an entertainer, but Pomplamoose is better.

Pomplamoose spent a lot of money on quality lighting for their show. In Youtube clips where I have seen their concerts, this lighting was an excellent addition, and it served as an excellent catalyst in the success of the shows.

Pomplamoose hired musicians and other crew members to work on this tour and paid them a weekly salary. What I cannot understand is why this caused the music critics to cry out like they had committed a major felony. I know nothing about operations of the music business, but wasn’t slavery outlawed by the 13th Amendment just prior to President Lincoln’s assassination (yes, I also paid attention in American History 505 Ms. Teaff)? The last time I checked, in this country, one is not allowed to contract labor and not compensate them. Yes, there are things called internships, but in reality, interns are compensated in non-monetary ways.

Still, what does it matter if the band profited or lost money on this tour? The critics should shut up and comment only on the performance, the only part of the business for which they are semi-qualified to judge. Maybe Bloomberg TV could break down Conte’s financing and Trish Regan could explain where the tour might have been able to eke out a small profit, but who is Bob Lefsetz to criticize anything in the financial world? His MBA and PhD from Harvard, Wharton, The University of Chicago, Stanford, or my beloved Owen School at Vanderbilt University does not seem to exist. Am I missing something? This bottom of the barrel critic with fewer readers of his blog than my no-frills sites has the chutzpah to try to denigrate the wonderful breaking down of the fourth wall that Conte has allowed us to enter and see the entire process, warts and all?

My conclusion: Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn are superiorly talented in multiple facets of the Independent music production process in the 2010’s. As Conte reports, Pomplamoose has not “made it,” but they are “making it.” There have been numerous successes in six years, and it has allowed Pomplamoose to tour and lose 10 grand without sinking their incredible ship. Think of it as a gift to their fans, or almost the price of one of those 2011 Hyundai Elantra’s that to this day, I can remember thanks to their most unique television ads.

I have but one piece of criticism to offer Mr. Conte—get thy right knee on the Earth and ask for Ms. Dawn’s hand in marriage. It is a myth that becoming betrothed to your beloved ruins the relationship. On the contrary, it takes something great and makes it even better. On this, I can attest to being the expert. I proposed to my soul mate 15 years ago, and it has now been 15 years of bliss. She is the 99.9% that completes me, and I am sure you feel that Nataly must do the same for you.
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The PiRate College Football Bowl and Playoff predictions, and the current NFL ratings and prediction for week 15 and the NFL Playoffs will be published at our website Tuesday afternoon—

Chanukah Sameach &
Merry Christmas
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