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Thursday, August 21, 2008


- Another beautiful evening in NYC last night, and yet another great night of free music, this time at the Damrosch Park Bandshell at Lincoln Center. It was a night of international multi-cultural crossover, featuring renowned Ethiopian artists performing in collaboration with bands at least somewhat more familiar to this soil, in style if not in name. Boston's little big band Either/Orchestra, led by saxophonist Russ Gershon, performed with singers Mahmoud Ahmed and Alèmayèhu Eshèté, the latter sometimes referred to as the Ethiopian James Brown. Only in NYC (and I guess in Ethiopia too) would one hear people actually singing along to these guys.

And then, the Netherland's The Ex, for almost 30 years and over 40 records pounding out its singular brand of anarcho-aggro-world-punk....or something like that....played with the 73 year old saxophonist Gétatchèw Mèkurya, and man, that was something else!! I saw people who I'm pretty confident never saw The Ex at CBGB's rocking to the beat....and I wouldn't normally be checking out artists from Ethiopia either. But it's all music, and, in this case, music with a beat. Everybody was happy.

So, in an admitted stretch to make a concert that I'm way excited over relevant to this blog, it's this kind of crossover that some may have had in mind when the concept of adding slots parlors to racetracks was conceived. Of course, it was really merely a way to expedite and justify the existence of expanded gambling to help close state budget deficits, with the collateral and PC effect of bailing out failing tracks and the industries associated with them. Most tracks with racinos haven't even bothered to try and cross their customers patrons over, and they probably have the right idea. They're both gambling, but they couldn't be more different, kinda like Sonic Youth trying to mesh with the Schmenge Brothers. On one hand, you have handicapping horse racing, an intricate puzzle requiring (if one wishes) detailed quantitative and qualitative analyzes punctuated by frequent and agonizing head scratching; on the other, video slots, the preferred form of gambling for this 21st Century (and beyond?) - no thinking necessary (or even allowed). Just plug in the account card, sit and stare at the pretty lights and you don't even have to pull a handle. Just perfect for Wall-E world.

A far, far better means of crossing gamblers over, even a possible savior of our sport in my opinion, would be sports betting. Seems like an absolute natural, a beat that everyone could dance to. Unfortunately, that's a long, long ways away for most tracks, if it ever happens at all. Sports betting is plain illegal under the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, except in Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware. So it would take quite a gargantuan effort to have that law overturned, and the fierce opposition of the NFL and other professional sports certainly wouldn't help. It's something that I can't imagine we'll see anytime soon. But it sure would make for some harmonious notes.

- The Ex last night at Lincoln Center (without the Ethiopian dude, taking a break):


steve in nc said...

I am really jealous. My oldest bestest friend was playing keyboard with the Either/Or and the vocalists, but I'm way down here in NC. Thanks for making the stretch!

steve in nc said...

If you have any video of Either/Orchestra, could you post a little? Thanks!